Category Archives: COVID-19 Diary

Turbulent Times

Nearly 900 wildfires are burning in Canada right now.

It’s easy to let panic get the upper hand when we consider what is going on in the world. Rapidly transmitted variants of COVID-19 are continuing to spread and cause illness and death. It is scary to think about how many people won’t believe scientific evidence and refuse to get a miraculous vaccine that could save their lives. Wildfires and heatwaves are stark reminders of an impending environmental catastrophe that climatologists have been warning us about for decades. A whole string of events has provided proof that racism is still alive and well in North America. What turbulent times we live in.

President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963

I am working on a new novel set in the 1960s. Those were my childhood and teen years. Possible topics I might cover are the Cuban missile crisis that easily could have ended in an all-out nuclear war. Americans witnessed the assassinations of President John F.Kennedy, his Attorney General brother Robert Kennedy and civil rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Then there were the events that would lead up to the FLQ crisis in Canada, the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and the construction of the Berlin Wall in Germany. Violent race riots occurred regularly in the United States and the sixties scoop was going on here in Canada. Thousands of Indigenous children were being taken from their homes by welfare workers and placed with mostly non-Indigenous families.  What a turbulent time!

My parents survived the turbulent years of the great depression and World War II.

My grandparents survived the turbulence of the Russian Revolution and famine and World War I.

We are almost always living in turbulent times. Perhaps our current times seem more turbulent than in the past because of the way we have such comprehensive coverage of them in the media now.

It is important to keep our perspective and remember that turbulent as our times may seem those who came before us have survived turbulent times and we will too.

Other posts…………

They Wore Masks Too

The Berlin Wall in Toronto

A Where Were You Moment

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Reflections

The Unvaccinated Hair Stylist

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

I had gone to the same hairstylist at the same salon for quite a number of years before the pandemic. I really liked the place and the stylist. This past week I called for an appointment and asked the receptionist if she could tell me if my stylist was fully vaccinated. She said she couldn’t provide that information.

Since I hadn’t had my hair professionally cut or colored for such a long time I was told to come in for a consultation before making an appointment. I did. That gave me the opportunity to ask my stylist directly if she had been vaccinated. She said she’d had COVID and so she had natural immunity.

I figured I needed to do some research to see if that was true but went ahead and booked an appointment for the following week so I’d have a spot reserved. I learned from doing some reading online that even if you have had COVID and have recovered, epidemiologists say it is still important you get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.

A few hours later I got a text asking me to rate my consultation experience at the hair salon and make a comment. So I did. I said I’d like to visit a salon where I could be assured that all the clients and staff were fully vaccinated. The salon owner called me almost immediately and said she agreed with me but legally she could not force her staff to be vaccinated or ask her clients whether they were.

I told her that I was fully vaccinated, but that I spent time with a grandchild who was not, and so I wanted to be extra careful. The owner said she understood and offered to book me with another stylist who she knew for sure would be fully vaccinated. I told her I would think about it.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The next morning I canceled my appointment. I just didn’t want to spend several hours inside a building with an unknown number of unvaccinated people. My feelings about that might change once a larger percentage of people in my province are fully vaccinated, but until then I’m going to err on the side of caution.

I think people have every right not to get vaccinated, but I also think the general public has a right to know who isn’t vaccinated in the places where they do business, so they can protect themselves and their families. I do applaud my stylist for telling me the truth about her vaccination status but I wish I would have had the courage to ask her if she realizes that almost all the patients who are taking up ICU beds in our hospitals are unvaccinated and that they are preventing people who are waiting for surgeries and other important medical procedures from having them. I wish I had asked her if she understands that until everyone is vaccinated businesses like the one where she works can’t get back to their pre-pandemic prosperity.

In the meantime does anyone know a good hair salon where everyone is vaccinated? If not, my hair will just have to get a wee bit longer before it meets the shears and gets a professional color job.

Other posts……….

Should there be Mandatory Vaccines For Long Term Care Workers?

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

The Tsunami and the Pandemic

My Polio Vaccines

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

They Wore Masks Too

Kids going to school during the dust bowl

COVID -19 isn’t the first time children in Canada have had to wear masks. The children in the photo above are setting off to school in the 1930s when a series of severe dust storms and long periods of drought caused great hardship. This era has come to be known as the Dust Bowl. Although the pandemic has been a difficult time for Canadian kids the Dust Bowl was much worse in many ways.

If a dust storm was advancing everyone tried to stay inside and if they had to go out they wore masks because people could choke to death if their lungs filled up with dust. If there were any cracks in the walls or floors of a house the dirt and sand would find their way inside and into food and onto furniture. Children sometimes slept in clothes and beds gritty with sand and dirt.

Family walking in a dust storm

Kids continually had red irritated eyes from the dust and some contracted dust pneumonia when too much dust got into their lungs. Babies had wet clothes placed over their mouths and noses to keep dust from choking them. Children often went hungry because no crops or produce could be grown and stores were forced to close as were schools, sometimes for weeks at a time.

School children covering their mouths and faces during a dust storm in the 1930s

There was no weather forecasting so people just had to watch the skies and many parents didn’t send their kids to classes because they were scared they would be caught in a dust storm going to and from school. If children were at school when a dust storm started their classroom could suddenly grow dark like it was nighttime and teachers had to light lanterns in the middle of the day so children could see to read and write. Their classroom could quickly fill with a kind of dusty fog. If they thought it was safe enough children and teachers would walk home with towels over their faces, but sometimes students were kept at school overnight to make sure they didn’t lose their way walking home or choke on the dust.

If children couldn’t go to school and had to stay inside there were no televisions, video games, or even many books to entertain them. Most children lived on farms and they also witnessed their parents’ distress about their devastated crops and gardens. They watched the family livestock die due to a lack of food and water.

An abandoned Dust Bowl farm.

Countless children became homeless as crops failures led to their families losing their houses and property. Sometimes the roof of a home would literally collapse under the weight of the sand and dirt on top of it. On the Canadian prairies, some 250,000 families simply abandoned their homesteads. Some families wandered nomadically looking for a new place in a different province to make a home and have a chance to start over.

Migrating family during the Dust Bowl

The pandemic has been very hard on children there is no question about that, but we may take at least a little solace in the fact that children from another century experienced much greater hardships and survived, going on to build meaningful lives for themselves and their families.

Other posts……….

An Inspiration For Our Time

My Grandmother’s Childhood

The Remarkables

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Filed under Canada, COVID-19 Diary, History

Snitches Get Stitches

‘Snitches get stitches’ is a term being bandied about in Manitoba as people discuss the current government restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The person who mentioned the term to me said in certain neighbourhoods in our province, residents feel free to violate lockdown protocols because there is a ‘snitches get stitches’ ethos in the community.  

Spying on neighbours illustration from the India Times.

I had to look the phrase up in the urban dictionary to learn it has its roots in gang culture where it means that snitches -people who report on others to the police or government agencies, will receive stitches- some kind of abuse usually of a physical nature, for betraying them.  I suspect that ‘snitches get stitches’ may not actually be happening in Manitoba neighbourhoods, but it is a dramatic way to describe the prevailing attitude of the folks living in some communities. If you report neighbours to the authorities for disregarding the limits imposed by the lockdown you will damage your reputation and your actions may be subject to public criticism. 

A friend on social media passed on a post about why you shouldn’t report neighbours to the police if you notice them violating government COVID-19 regulations. It reminded people that it is your neighbours and not the government who will come to your aid when you need to borrow a garden tool or a cup of sugar.  They keep an eye on your property while you vacation and their children are probably classmates with yours. Is it more important to maintain a cordial relationship with your neighbours than to follow government regulations albeit ones with the intent of stopping the spread of COVID-19?

So, what would I do if my neighbour wasn’t following the mandated health regulations? I know what I should do.  I shouldn’t call the authorities.  I should talk to them myself. I should have the courage to let my neighbour know their violations of the COVID-19 regulations make me uncomfortable, and I should explain why. If my neighbour and I have had a cordial relationship in the past and I was a good neighbour before the pandemic, odds are they will listen respectfully as I voice my uneasiness about their actions. 

We may have to text our neighbours about our concerns or talk with them on the phone.

I think I’d need to be personal in my approach indicating that my request for them to follow regulations stems from worry for a family member who is an essential worker, or a friend who is immune-compromised or a child who has not yet been able to receive a vaccination. I might point out how rapidly variants are infecting people. A face -to -face conversation could be awkward, if not against lockdown rules, so I might opt to do it by phone or even leave a letter on their front porch along with a plate of home baking. I would start by stating some reasons why I appreciate having them for a neighbour and then voice my concern. 

Sometimes a neighbour may just need a helping hand in order not to break restriction rules

Someone told me about their neighbour who was violating health mandates, but they knew it was because of a family medical emergency and the neighbour’s lack of financial resources. They decided initiating a discussion about regulations would only add to their neighbour’s stress. In an instance like that offering a meal, some money, or connections to community agencies that could provide support and help, is undoubtedly the preferable course of action. 

I think there are times when we will have to report a neighbour because we have tried other avenues and they continue to violate regulations in a way that puts the health of our community in jeopardy.  But hopefully, it can saved as our last resort. 

Other posts……..

Aren’t They Holdable?

Drawing on Past Experiences To Quell Anger

The Long Year

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The Missing Piece

Can you spot the missing piece?

I have become pretty much addicted to jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic. I get a little panicky if there isn’t one spread out on my dining room table for me to retreat to when I need to get away from the computer screen and rest my brain or just zone out for a bit. My son told me not long ago that if I need to be addicted to something jigsaw puzzles is a good choice.

For pandemic puzzle #22 I chose a summer beach landscape. Perhaps it was a kind of wishful selection, hoping that scenes such as the one depicted in the puzzle might actually be possible by July. This was a brand new puzzle and so when I finished it on Monday and one piece was missing I was pretty upset.

I looked high and low for the piece, lifting rugs, moving chairs and peering under couches. How could I have lost a piece? My husband Dave had just vacuumed and I accused him of sucking up my missing piece. He was affronted. He said he would have noticed if he had done something like that.

When the pandemic is over I plan to donate my puzzles to the Thrift Store and I knew I would feel guilty about giving away a puzzle with a missing piece. Where could it be?

Yesterday morning I put on my bathrobe after I got out of bed and for some reason I slipped my hand into the bathrobe pocket. And there………… was the missing piece! How in the world had it landed up in my pocket? Was I sitting at the table in my bathrobe and it somehow slipped in? That didn’t seem possible. Had I picked it up off the floor at some point and absentmindedly put it in my pocket? I had no idea, but I was overjoyed to put the final piece into its place and complete my puzzle.

American novelist Luanne Rice writes that……. “Missing pieces do more than complete a puzzle. They fill an empty space.”

In my case the quote would have to be turned around to read, “Missing pieces do more than fill an empty space. They complete a puzzle.”

Other posts……..

A Puzzling Speech in Parliament

Hugo Bartel’s Puzzles

Puzzling A Family Tradition

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Aren’t They Holdable?

Dad watching some birds in the garden of his personal care home this week

One of the things my Dad and I do when I spend time with him these days is look at a book of family photos I’ve compiled. Dad has dementia and although he still knows me and my sister because one of us is allowed to see him every day he often struggles to recall the names of all the other people in his family, partly because he has not been able to visit with most of them for almost a year.

He particularly enjoys looking at the last page in his family photo book because it is the one with the faces of his great grandchildren. I have photos of seven of them in his book and after I tell him each of their names I point to the photos on his wall of the two great grandchildren he has never met because they were born during the pandemic. Of course he has not seen his other great grandchildren in a very long time either, some not for a year and half or more.

Dad’s dementia means that although I explain over and over about the pandemic and what it is and why it prevents our family from getting together he doesn’t really understand and each time I visit he will ask me again. His dementia also means that he sometimes struggles to find the right words and will invent words of his own often very creatively.

Last week after we had gone through all the photos of his great grandchildren once again he looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked, “Are these children not holdable?” Then he stretched out his arms to show that they were ready to hold a child.

Dad holding one of his great granddaughters before the pandemic

I know Dad meant that he wants to hold his great grandchildren and doesn’t understand why he can’t. I explained again about the pandemic and how I hoped it wouldn’t be too much longer before his great grandchildren could visit him.

The pandemic has changed the lives of so many people but has perhaps been the most cruel to those who are nearing the end of their time here on earth. That we have been forced to deny them the simple comfort of a ‘holdable’ child is incredibly sad.

Other posts……….

Tears In A Bottle

My Globe Trotting Parents

Down on the Farm

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Family

Drawing on Past Experience To Quell Anger

Each year I choose a signature word. Acceptance is my 2021 word.  One goal I’ve set is learning to accept people who have beliefs different than mine.

I have to admit that kind of acceptance is a bit tough for me right now when it comes to people adamant about not getting vaccinated.  They make me angry because their choice could mean others will get sick and maybe even die, and their decision may ultimately prevent us from getting back to a normal life.

In a recent newspaper interview, pastor Kyle Penner suggested using friendship and positivity to convince folks who are vaccine- hesitant to change their mind. I agree. But if social media comments are any indication there are still many people who aren’t just vaccine- hesitant they are adamant their families won’t ever be vaccinated for COVID-19.  How do I accept that without getting angry? 

When my first child was born in 1979 I wasn’t able to receive extended maternity leave benefits from the school district I worked for

Luckily I have some experience to fall back on. Decades ago when I had my first child, I was angry at the school division I worked for because they didn’t have extended maternity leave benefits like other jurisdictions.  I was angry local churches didn’t recognize the leadership gifts of women and that few women held political office or higher executive positions in my area. I was angry inclusive language wasn’t standard in my local newspaper or my church constitution.  I learned from that experience being angry didn’t do much good. 

Instead, I had to try and accept there were many in my hometown who didn’t believe women were equal to men or deserving of the same opportunities and recognition. I had to try and understand people’s fear of change because I realized they were convinced women’s equality would negatively impact the way their families and communities operated. I had to try and understand that their ideas were grounded in uncompromising religious beliefs. I had to learn people didn’t want to be forced by a law to treat women equally, that it threatened particularly men’s feelings of power and importance. 

And so, instead of getting angry, and I will freely admit initially I did, I had to learn to accept people with differing views but at the same time try to be true to my own convictions in as non-confrontational and engaging a way as possible.  So, I wrote about women’s contributions, challenges and rights in my newspaper column, in other publications and in the curriculums I was asked to author.  I accepted invitations to speak in area churches about female leaders in the Bible even in churches that told me I couldn’t stand behind the pulpit because that was a spot reserved for men. I tried to be careful to always use inclusive language in my speaking, teaching and writing and I served on the teachers’ salary and benefits negotiating team engaging in a lengthy process to extend maternity leave. 

Photo by Phil Noble

I want to remember that experience when I’m angry at those who won’t accept the reality of the pandemic or the value and safety of vaccines. As people did at the start of the women’s movement many now feel their personal freedom, their religious beliefs and their ability to control societal change are being threatened.  I have to accept that and be true to my own personal convictions in as non-confrontational a way as possible. I have to continue to engage with everyone.  

At the beginning of the pandemic, I responded angrily to a social media post that refuted science. Someone called me out on my anger.  I’m glad they did. I erased my comment, apologized, and have tried to be more circumspect.  Anger can fuel change, but I think in the long run acceptance and engagement, and living your own truth as best you can, is healthiest and most effective. 

Other posts………

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

The Tsunami and the Pandemic

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Health

One Reason I Am Hopeful

As Manitoba moved into another strict lockdown this week many people weary of the restrictions and yet another surging wave, this time of COVID-19 variants, wondered, “Will this ever be over?”

It is easy to get despondent and think that life will never will return to normal, but one reason that I am hopeful is because we witnessed a city come back to life after a pandemic first hand.

Photo from the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic

When we moved to Hong Kong July 15, 2003 the city was still reeling from the SARS epidemic which had only officially ended on July 5th. Beginning in March of 2003 the people of the city had become virtual prisoners in their homes. Hong Kong medical professionals had died risking their lives trying to save their patients. Businesses were recording millions in loses. Real estate prices had plummeted. Tourism had ground to a halt. Schools, places of worship, restaurants, race tracks, museums and concert halls had all shut their doors.

Men playing Mahjong in Hong Kong in 2004 – Life returned to normal after SARS

Yet during the six years we lived in Hong Kong we watched the city make a remarkable recovery. Expanded sanitation and security departments quickly restored the city’s reputation as a clean, safe place to live and visit. Slowly the tourism industry blossomed and the economy improved. Schools, temples and cultural venues reopened and people confidently returned to the routines of life.

I often get despondent about our current situation. Will I ever see my grandchildren again? Will I ever I be able to hug my children again? Will we ever be able to entertain friends in our home, attend church, or go and see a play or a concert? Will we ever travel again?

When I am in one of those pessimistic slumps I think about Hong Kong and how we witnessed that city come back to life after the SARS epidemic. It can happen! I’ve seen it for myself!

Other posts………

Memories of San Kung

Hong Kong Inspiration

The Swimmers of Tolo Harbour

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Hong Kong

Puzzling Jane Austen

I have been taking photos of the jigsaw puzzles I’ve done during the pandemic and the one I just completed is my 20th! It’s also my favourite!

I am a Jane Austen fan. I have read all of her books, many more than once, and I think have watched every movie and television version of a Jane Austen book ever made.

So I was delighted to find this Jane Austen puzzle at McNally Robinson Booksellers. I have been working on it off and on for the last two weeks and it is finally done.

The puzzle comes with a guide so once you have completed it you can find all your favourite Jane Austen characters in the puzzle.

Elizabeth the heroine of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice visits Mr. Darcy’s grand house Pemberly. Elizabeth is in the white dress and Mr. Darcy is right beside her

You also get to see the puzzle designer Barry Falls’ vision of what the various houses mentioned in the novels look like.

Catherine the protagonist in Northanger Abbey sits in front of the house reading her book. Catherine is a brave young woman who explores the secrets of the house.

I like Jane Austen’s books because her main female characters have an assertive and independent streak I admire. Another reason I like her books is that they always make me very thankful we no longer live in a world where women are of necessity dependent on men for marriage and financial support in order to make their way in the world.

This is Jane Austen herself in front of her home in Chawton, Hampshire working on her writing. Jane’s mother sits on the bench in front of the house.

It was great fun to do The World of Jane Austen puzzle and guess what? I’ve found another couple of puzzles online featuring Jane’s books as well. Since it looks like all those nasty variants might make it several months longer before life returns to its busy pre-pandemic pace another Jane Austen puzzle could definitely be on my horizon.

Other posts………

Six Things Jane Austen Books and Movies Have in Common

Pandemic Pastimes

Advice From Nick Hornby

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We Are Vaccinated But…….

Sporting my vaccination sticker just outside the vaccination clinic

We are now among the vaccinated. My husband Dave and I got our Pfizer vaccines yesterday at the RBC Convention Centre. I admit I got a little teary when they were giving Dave the vaccine. I hadn’t expected that. There is definitely a sense of relief that within two weeks we will be protected from the worst effects of COVID-19.

Dave chose to change his Winnipeg Jets hat into a I’m Vaccinated hat

Everything at the Convention Centre was very organized and each person who directed us professional. We were back on the street 20 minutes after our scheduled appointment time and that included waiting the mandatory 15 minutes after our injections to be sure we were okay. I know there have been many glitches reported at the mass vaccination site downtown but we experienced a smoothly run operation.

I am very glad to have been vaccinated but my anxiety has not really been diminished by much. With the variants on the rise and those variants hitting much younger people I now worry about my sons who have jobs where they interact with the public. My older son is a school vice principal in Saskatchewan where a third wave of COVID-19 has already hit. Yesterday nearly 300 doctors in the province, including my daughter-in-law, signed a letter to Premier Scott Moe asking him to start vaccinating essential workers like teachers. Mr. Moe is taking their recommendation under advisement. I would gladly have given my son my spot in the vaccination line if I could have.

Dr. Joss Reimer who is coordinating the vaccine effort here in Manitoba warned us yesterday that the third wave is upon us in our province and we need to be extremely vigilant about not spreading COVID-19. She suggested wearing masks even when we are together with others outdoors. Talking on Face Time with friends last night who have also been vaccinated, Dave and I realized we are not being as vigilant as they are, since we still go into stores with masks and take our masks off when we are outdoors. Perhaps at least till this third wave abates we need to go back to curb side pick up only, and wear our masks for outdoor activities with others. Dr. Reimer implied that if people don’t show more caution, the government will have to implement stricter regulations.

Last April I posted a picture on my blog of me ready for a bike ride on a chilly April morning. It seems like things haven’t changed much since then.

I am happy to be vaccinated, but even after two weeks from now when our dose will reach full effect, I think we will need to continue to be very careful as long is there is a chance we could still spread COVID-19. For over a year now I’ve kept thinking that a more normal life is just around the corner. But probably till many more people are vaccinated that corner is still down the road.

Other posts……….

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

Family Pandemic Firsts That Make Me Proud and Happy

My Polio Vaccines

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary