Top Ten List – in which Daisy is under the weather

Remember the Daisy Reality Show? It was the fictional creation of a reality show featuring yours truly, a television producer, and the producer’s bumbling assistant. Creating “Reality Show” posts lets me experiment with point of view and reassure myself that my life, in reality, is quite ordinary. Here’s a potential discussion between the producer and her assistant.

Producer: We won’t get much today. Daisy isn’t feeling well.

Assistant: Really? I hadn’t noticed. How can you tell? Give me one good way to tell that Daisy isn’t at her best!

Producer: I’ll do better than that.

  1. Daisy didn’t label or put away the applesauce she canned three days ago.
  2. The kitchen compost bucket is full.
  3. She stepped outside, said,”The container plants need watering,” and stepped inside without watering anything.
  4. The large hot water bath canner, full of water, still sits on the stove, taking up space.
  5. Daisy made coffee this morning and only drank half of what she brewed.
  6. Daisy ate popcorn for breakfast – stale popcorn, at that. Easy on the tummy, I guess.
  7. She didn’t empty the dishwasher, either. That’s one of her pet peeves; a dishwasher full of clean dishes, and a counter with piles of dirty dishes.
  8. The newspapers from the last two days are still in their (stupid, wasteful, plastic) delivery bags.
  9. Bunny didn’t get fed until quite late this morning, and the litter box still isn’t clean.
  10. And the biggest piece of evidence that Daisy might be ill: It’s Saturday, and she didn’t go to the downtown Farmers’ Market.

Assistant: Oh.

Health Care – It’s Personal

A few years ago, I posted this:

Strong Enough Now

 

Without access to health care, I might indeed have died or become severely incapacitated a few years ago. Thanks to health insurance through my employer, I was able to see the doctors I needed, get my stroke diagnosed, and then go to physical therapy and slowly but surely teach my left side to communicate with my brain. Ironic, I know. I lean left figuratively, politically, so leaning left literally Рhey, why not? 

The stroke was only one item in a long list of illnesses and near-catastrophes. Had I not been covered through my job, I’d either be bankrupted by medical bills or – gone. Done. Deceased.

The vote on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon allows the bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act to be discussed, debated, amended, and eventually, it could be voted into law. Make no mistake, my friends, repealing the ACA will be catastrophic.

It’s time for us, the voters, to learn exactly what’s in this bill and how it will affect each and every one of us. Pre-existing conditions, maternity care, disabilities, mental illness, vaccinations, birth control, and more: learn what they mean and why these pieces matter in the puzzle as a whole.

It’s time for us, the voters, to pay even closer attention to our elected officials. What are they saying? What are they doing? And how do their actions affect us? And then we need to let those elected officials know that we’re watching, and what they do matters. Their votes on this bill will affect people nationwide.

For me, it’s time to get out the postcards again. I plan to remind my senators that being able to see a doctor is not an abstract concept. Without insurance, without access to medical professionals, people will die. Health care, indeed, is personal.

 

Working from home? Or not?

The discussion comes up each time we get a new teacher on staff.

“Can we work from home?”

The answers begin as vague, and end as…well, you’ll see.

“Well, it’s teaching. Of course you’ll work at home sometimes.”

“Um, kind of. I like grading tests on the couch with my laptop. Essays, I’d rather grade at my desk with the two monitors.”

“On snow days, I answer emails from home. That’s all.”

“Work from home? If you call in sick, you’ll use a sick day, but you can keep working at home if you want.”

“Truth be told, you can work from home, but you won’t be paid for it. You’ll still need a sick day.”

And therein lies the dilemma. How much will a teacher do for free? I fell victim to the New Virus on the Block and missed almost a full week of school. But I teach online! I can do a lot of my job from home! And we don’t call subs at my online school (well, most of the time). I don’t have to leave sub plans! So…how much will I accomplish in between medication breaks and naps?

Follow this with a deep sigh and a gulp of whatever fluid is in the glass at my side. I’m really messed up either way. If I dig in my heals and do nothing because, well, I’m not being paid, I will really suffer when I go back to work. If I do too much from home, I’m setting a precedent I may not be able to meet in the future. But if I…and what about…and I really should be able to…oh, heck.

I did what I do: I made healing my priority. I remembered the day in the Emergency Room when the doctor wanted to keep me overnight and I said “No, no! I’m a teacher! I have to leave sub plans!” To make a long story short, I went to school at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night to leave plans. I made appointments for follow-up testing and rested all day Monday. My class behaved abysmally, and I caught hell for it. I vowed never, never again would I put my work before my health.

My home page looked like this.

Translation: 48 items my virtual red pen.

Translation: 48 items my virtual red pen.

I graded a lot, and I replied to a few emails from families. And then, I took medicines and rested. A lot.

I have virtual mountains of virtual papers to grade and a long, long list of phone calls to complete. I will bring fluids with me in the form of Snapple or cranberry juice, and I will pack a large orange in my lunch. If the additional drinks and vitamin C don’t help me recover physically, they’ll remind me that I’m still healing. I’ve been sick for over a week, and it’s okay to spread the catch-up work over the span of another week.

Meanwhile, I’ll make sure Amigo has all the fluids he needs. He’s the next sufferer in the New Virus on the Block.

State Count Day – a semi annual event

In a brick and mortar school, State Count Day is simple. Encourage your students to show up, take attendance, and sign the attendance to verify its accuracy.

In a virtual school, we need to document attendance in slightly different ways. I send out an email first thing in the morning (from home! before I get to work!) reminding parents of the numerous ways they can prove that their children are enrolled with us.

  • email, including names of students
  • take online attendance (Mark P for Present)
  • call the school or teacher to verify enrollment
  • Attend a virtual class (I held a homeroom meeting for just that purpose!)

I sent my instructions out with a Read Receipt so as soon as a parent clicked on the email, I received confirmation. We only use those as documentation if we’re desperate.

Meanwhile, I taught three virtual classes: a homeroom meeting, my regular Friday morning Social Studies, and my high school music class.

It was a busy day. (hahaha, Captain Obvious, I know)

On top of this, I was starting to run a fever. Chuck has a virus of some kind, and I’m afraid it’s my turn. Neither one of us likes being ill. The one who is relatively healthier cooks up the chicken soup, basically.

In conclusion (I’m already sounding like an English Language Arts teacher), I wasn’t the most pleasant to be around, so I posted a guard outside my cubicle.

Hee. Hee. Hee.

Hee. Hee. Hee.

The Dystopian Novel That Wasn’t

I toyed with the idea of writing dystopian fiction. I had a plot in mind, a set of main characters, and the major events that would set the plot in motion.

The first draft was junk. Trash. The dialogue was stilted, narrative felt forced, and basically, it was a piece of crap. I didn’t hit delete (I could have, easily), but I set aside my lousy work in a Draft One folder and started over.

This time, I thought and thought hard about what attracts me to this genre. It’s not the disasters, it’s not the End of the World philosophy, but more the survival aspect. How do people cope? How far will they go to feed the family and keep them safe? What kind of teamwork or individualism seems to be most common? Most successful? And finally, perspective. How do I hear this story in my head, and how can I pass that on to my readers?

I started again with these elements in mind. And then, I had to quit. Again. For good, most likely.

My plot premise was turning out to be too close to truth. I had an election in mind with a candidate who couldn’t take losing. This candidate would lose by a landslide, and then he (wouldn’t be she, that’s for sure) would announce that the system was rigged. Sound familiar? At this point, the loser would call for his followers to riot in the streets. His followers, most of whom lacked the ability to think independently, would follow directions and start the craziness.

I think I’ll still to nonfiction. The dark underside of this election is truly frightening.

Influenza – I spoke too soon.

It’s my turn. I cared for the boys, washed my hands frequently, stayed out of range of their coughing as much as I could — and it wasn’t enough. I’m on my second day home today. Chuck is back at work, but Amigo is still suffering.

In the category of Simple Pleasures, also known as For What it’s Worth, there are some reasons to feel (almost) good these days.

We have a new couch – with dual recliners on the ends. With this set-up, two of us can lean back and relax with the tissue box between us. No one fights over the couch because we can both stretch out.

Spring weather might return late in the week. Right now, none of us want to step outside into the cold air for fear of setting off a coughing fit.

I did the shopping last weekend, and I stocked up on chicken noodle soup. I’ve also thrown together crock pot meals to tempt our meager appetites while not spending precious energy in the kitchen.

Positives aside, I need a nap. After that, I need chicken soup.

 

The Dreaded Influenza A

Most of my family members faithfully get the flu vaccine each year. Chuck doesn’t. For some reason, he doesn’t seem to be as vulnerable to the annual flu virus. This year, flu season is different.

Flu season this year came later than usual. Here it is April – April! – not November, not January, and both Chuck and Amigo are down with diagnoses of Influenza A. Chuck ended up in the emergency room a few days ago, struggling to breathe. After a chest x-ray, a nebulizer breathing treatment, and a flu test, the official word was Influenza A. Flu. The upper respiratory virus from hell.

Amigo got his a few days later. We were a little bummed; he’d been ill with some sort of virus for about two weeks, and I thought maybe that was his flu. He gets the shot every year, and that might have mitigated the severity somewhat. No such luck; he is currently curled up on the couch with pillows and blankets and a humidifier on high. Well, the humidifier is on the floor nearby. He’s not curled up with it. Yet.

Chuck most likely came in contact with the virus Tuesday night. His symptoms started in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Tuesday night he was out late covering Ted Cruz’ primary election event in Milwaukee. Governor Walker was there, too. Can I blame Cruz and Walker for my dear hubby getting sick? Maybe not, but I do like to blame the governor for anything and everything possible.

Meanwhile, he brought home the bug and got quite sick, too. I’ve been taking care of him the best I can, treating the symptoms and cooking up comfort foods.

Amigo’s symptoms turned up overnight Friday. His diagnosis was confirmed over the phone with the nurse on call. Once again, we’re treating the symptoms. Chuck was too late for the famous Tamiflu. Amigo couldn’t get an appointment within the magic first 24 hours, and the nurse told me many doctors are hesitating to prescribe it these days. There is some doubt as to its true effectiveness.

Meanwhile, I’m still healthy and knocking on wood and washing my hands and trying not to breathe near either of my guys. If I make it past this week…well, let’s not chance anything.

Readers, I’m feeding the sick ones (and myself) chicken soup and other sources of fluid and nutrition. Advice is welcome – for treating their symptoms and keeping myself flu-free. Add your prescriptions for comfort in the comments.

Stormy Weather

I think I’ve used that title in the past. It’s Wisconsin, folks. We get blizzards, tornadoes, ice storms, floods. We don’t see earthquakes – not very often, anyway.

Consider the current disasters. Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes, those annoying pests. According to the local newscast, no worries here! The tropical mosquitoes can’t take the cold and unpredictable weather. We get a different breed of mosquitoes here. Frankly, this Zika virus is scary. I’m no longer of child-bearing age or condition, but my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors – I don’t have to be personally at risk to care and to worry. Let’s say what I heard was correct: our northern mosquito doesn’t carry the virus. I’m going to add a word: yet. Viruses mutate. Mosquitoes probably mutate, too.

I think I’ll stock up on mosquito repellent.

Then there’s the ever present risk of a major snowstorm. This one is real. We’re used to it, we know how to plan for it, and we take pride in coping with the situation. There may be a big storm next week. A major weather event. After the latest Snow-mageddon on the east coast, ¬†forecasters are calling this one “Our Turn.” If it’s really going to be a Major Storm, I’ll do my usual prep. Grocery store: bunny food, milk, eggs, bread. In fact, if we have bunny food, I can make or fake the rest. Well, maybe not eggs. But I have powdered milk, bread flour and yeast, and jars of homemade jam to go with anybody’s peanut butter. If I have bunny food for Buttercup, we’ll be good.

If there’s risk of a power outage, we’ll make sure that anything that needs charging has a full charge. We’ll replenish the firewood in case we need heat. I’ll visit an ATM ahead of time in case we need cash. We’re good at this Prep for Snow routine. So whatever’s coming, we’ll be ready.

We’ll be ready, that is, as long as I stock up on bunny food.

Any other disasters looming? We’re tough, we northerners. Mosquito repellent, bunny food, and we’re good. Bring it on.

Water.

I often feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes basin where fresh water is plentiful and treating it for human consumption is relatively cheap. I’m more water-conscious than many, with my rain barrels and the way I reuse dishwashing water and cooking water to water my herbs and flowers. I still have moments where I’ll be running the shower to let it warm up and I think how lucky I am to live here. I could save the water in a big bucket and use it well, but I don’t have to. I’m not forced to value every drop.

When I’m hearing about droughts in California or Texas, I’m grateful to live in a climate where rain and snow are the norm. Rain fills my rain barrels in the summer while it nourishes the soil, and snow insulates the perennial plants all winter long before it melts and – you guessed it – soaks the soil and replenishes the water table.

It’s so easy to take water for granted. Turn on the tap, and it’s on. Stick a glass under the faucet; get a drink. Should be an automatic, right?

If you live in Flint, Michigan, wrong.

Flint is in the Great Lakes basin, too. Michigan, like my home state Wisconsin, is smack dab in the middle of this climate of rain and snow. And yet the good people of Flint are facing – have been facing – a water disaster of major proportions. And I think to myself, how could this happen?

To make a long story short, the city of Flint changed their municipal water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in an effort to save money. Lacking a crucial chemical treatment, Flint River began corroding pipelines and sending iron deposits, among other minerals, into the homes and schools and businesses of Flint. Along with the discoloration and rust from iron came a silent enemy: lead. Excessive lead in a child’s bloodstream can cause brain damage and nerve damage that will last a lifetime. Flint pediatricians noticed a trend of rising lead levels in their patients. Flint residents noticed poor taste and major discoloration in their tap water. I said I’d make it short: Flint leaders and state officials brushed off concerns. Thousands of Flint residents, including children, have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

Details are all over the web and the national news sources. At this time, the question is less “How could this happen?” and more “How could the Powers That Be ignore a crisis of this magnitude?”

I still feel fortunate to live in the Great Lakes region, where water can be plentiful and the climate keeps it so. But I have to wonder: if this happened in Flint, could it happen here?

Learning from Dystopian Fiction

Things I’ve learned from reading the popular genre of dystopian fiction:

  • Honey doesn’t spoil.
  • Food and medicine shortages are likely.
  • Dried milk powder also lasts forever – or for a really long time.
  • Goats are worth their weight in gold.
  • Rain barrels – or a Rain Containment System – can be lifesaving.
  • A wood burning fireplace or stove is priceless.
  • Generators only have value while fuel is available.
  • Communication may be precious – or impossible.
  • Day lily bulbs may be edible (does anyone know if this is true?)
  • Chickens are more than pets.
  • Barter keeps the pantry stocked.
  • Feminine supplies can be trade bait.
  • Electricity and running water may be luxuries.
  • Friendship and trust continue to be worth more than money.

I’ve noticed that no matter what the cause or the premise of the disaster, hunger becomes the focus. Whether the moon is knocked out of orbit or a pandemic plague spreads or a war changes everything, survivors will worry about feeding themselves and their families. Rationing food, stashing food packages, even stealing food becomes a main thread in almost every apocalyptic novel or series I’ve read. There is the short term goal: get everything you can into the house and lock it up or hide it well. Then there is the long term goal: plant a garden. Raise chickens or goats. Preserve everything possible. As plots evolve, the characters move from short term to long term survival tactics.

You might notice I haven’t mentioned anything about government, local or otherwise. With communication sporadic or down completely, any form of government would be more difficult to maintain. But that’s more than a blog post; it’s a whole book!

Readers, have you read any dystopian fiction lately? What was it? What did you think?