Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disrael

Author: Laura G Owens Page 1 of 15

vaccine passport

Vaccine-passport debate shows middle-ground thinking is dead.

Vaccine passport

Orginally published by the Orlando Sentinel – Guest columnist

My daughter recently attended a Harry Styles concert at the Amway Center in Orlando. As required by the venue she showed her vaccine passport (or a negative COVID-19 test 48 hours prior).

Now, the Amway Center and other establishments in Florida, are under investigation for violating Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on vaccine passports.

When will it end? The politicization of everything vs. decisions based on critical thinking and common sense?

Norwegian Cruise Lines defied DeSantis’s vaccine passport ban. Of course they did. Cruise ships are giant moving superspreaders.

So why is our hands-off-business governor fighting this no-brainer?

Politics. And some voters on all sides are following suit.

Coming down on an issue solely in opposition to the other party. If they’re for it, I’m against it. But are they really against the issue across every angle?

Never mind nuance. Never mind science and common sense. That uncomfortable middle ground that makes our head hurt.

God help you if you ponder the practicality of mask mandates and vaccine passports in all situations. Party treason.

And when the vaccine was first released if you had a legitimate concern (vs. a ridiculous conspiracy theory) you were a selfish moron.

Where’s the nuanced thinking in statements like, “Wear masks even if you’re vaccinated!” or “Vaccine passports are like living under the Gestapo!”

On vaccine passports I’m not totally against or in favor. In other words, it depends.

I support (temporarily) requiring proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test) at large crowd and travel venues. I support a vaccine mandate in schools, for frontline workers and in health-care settings. Lots of people, close together, spread lots of germs. That’s not political. That’s science.

But I’m against requiring them at every business, e.g. every retailer and restaurant. Common sense knows this isn’t practical. And it’s invasive. I say that and I’m a Democrat.

I support businesses encouraging but not requiring the vaccine as a contingency for employment (or a negative COVID test).

I personally have no issue showing my vax card (I have yet to be asked). It’s not like I’m revealing I had an STD. But if I had to show my card everywhere from now until who knows, it would get old. Of course I’d pull it out without pitching a fit. It’s how I feel about masks.

I hate them. Yes, we all do. But I hate masks a lot. Except I know they help stop the spread so prevaccine I politely complied.

Okay, you got me. Masks, like vaccines, aren’t 100%.

But when we scream “Masks don’t work!” we’ve willingly stopped using common sense, never mind respect for established science.

Masks do workThey help.

The word help doesn’t mean prevent. It means to assist. Vaccines assist in stopping the spread.

I’m concerned we’ve lost our will to even consider the nuance behind issues. Shades-of-gray thinking doesn’t fit into a tidy party narrative of Us vs. Them. And our cognitive dissonance is astronomical.

If a business still requires a mask I politely wear it, otherwise I forgo because I’m vaccinated. Uber still requires masks. So last weekend, I privately grumbled to my husband, put on my mask, got in the car, and kept my mouth shut about it to the driver.

I keep strengthening my immune system with a supplement regime I’ve done for years. And once the stay-at-home order was lifted in Florida in May 2020, my husband and I went out — a lot. I tested and quarantined before I visited my elderly stepmom, reminding her that a false negative was a real possibility.

I’ve tested three times including one antibody test. All negative.

Some people might call me selfish for going out so often before I was vaccinated. I’d ask them to consider what I’ve been doing to strengthen my immune system.

Either it worked or I’m lucky. I got sick plenty before I started on this regime years ago. Now I don’t. Or at least not for long.

We owe it to each other to care about the collective. We also have the right to take individual calculated risks. My husband and I are one of those messy middle-of-the-road people during the pandemic. We don’t fit one box or the other.

At this point during COVID-19 we might consider mandates in context of where and when they make sense.

We teach our kids to be good citizens and critical thinkers, shouldn’t adults do the same?

Image credit

bed alarm

“Bed alarm” – a poem in my father’s voice

Published on the Feminine Collective

I don’t tremble, but they assume I’m Katherine Hepburn’s kind.
We share our Parkinson’s frozen mask, expressionless, involuntary
deceit of emotion.

My shuffling gait halts while I calibrate my balance, refusing my wife’s arm
even as my committee of limbs won’t comply.

Stiffening, my six-foot body cracks against the shower door that night.
Cubes of blunt glass explode. I am bare, crooked. Fetal once again. Read entire poem…

Photo credit: John Towner

setting boundaries

Are you sacrificing the peace within you to keep the peace around you?

Over the years I’ve noticed that my threshold for dealing with drama is remarkably low. Not that sort of “oh I’m getting older and less patient” low. I mean that chaotic people who seem to live for chaos make me intensely uncomfortable.

The last couple years I’ve been part of a spiritual book club at my Unitarian Universalist church. Now with COVID we meet through Zoom.

Our readings run the gamut of ancient and contemporary teachings. Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching. Currently we’re reading Donna Cameron’s “A Year of Living Kindly.”

To sum up the latter:

Being nice is easy (polite and pleasant) but being kind is hard, that is — going out of your way to help someone, especially people who aren’t easy to like.

Perhaps you invite the cranky neighbor or incessant complainer friend to lunch because you know that deep down they’re lonely, sad, angry or scared. You put yourself in their shoes. You suck it up and do the right thing.

You call your bigoted friend with a big heart who you repeatedly have to correct when she offhandedly refers to “those Jews.” You clean out the elderly neighbor’s garage even as she criticizes how you stack the boxes or sweep the floor.

No matter how excruciating, you listen to incessant complaining about the minutia of minutia of the minutia.

The point is — kindness takes time, energy, courage and infinite patience.

I take great pains to avoid spending too much time with extremely difficult people: the racist relative, the self-centered high maintenance friend, the relentless complainer or critic, the snobs, blowhards and narcissists, all people you might like well enough in small doses, but who are generally a pain in the ass.

During book club we often find ourselves grappling with what we’re each willing to put up with around people we love but who do some pretty crappy stuff. Boundaries, and all that.

Like everyone in my book club I believe that “to love” is better than “to hate,” and that to forgive is better than to resent someone forever. But unlike many in my group, I find myself exploring these topics less from a spiritual point of view, and more from a psychological one.

During college I majored in psychology mostly as a reflex to growing up in a somewhat dysfunctional family (to no one person’s fault I might add, and I was loved immensely). For years I thought I was semi screwed up and in turn I became obsessed with why I was the way I was (anxious, insecure, the quintessential people pleaser) and — with why humans sometimes treat each other in the most despicable ways.

My father and his first wife Peggy adopted me when I was a few months old. At some point when I was in Kindergarten Peggy met and fell in love with a married-with-children well-established world wildlife photographer while on a bird-watching cruise to the Seychelles.

From her brief affair, my mother immediately left my father and five kids and never came back. She forged an exotic life away from elegant housewife and busy mother in a small upper-middle-class NJ suburb, to wearing Birkenstocks, camping across the African Plains and shooting spectacular pictures for National Geographic and the like.

I’m told for a short time after Peggy left that I stopped talking, which if you know me for five minutes isn’t something I’m known (my family nickname was “motor mouth”).

My father, a remarkably demonstrative man for his era, made it quite clear that he loved all his kids, although he admitted later in life that he was often too harsh with my out-of-control brothers. A single working dad commuting an hour into New York City every day, raising a brood of five bereft children, despite family therapy and a grandmotherly nanny, is in the end, up against too much not to lose it from time to time.  

Two years after Peggy left my father remarried. His second wife Pat was a remarkable and resilient woman who brought with her, two wonderful boys from her first marriage. But by the time Pat came to the rescue there wasn’t much she could do to repair what Peggy destroyed.

I for instance, was a nervous little thing, briefly mute, refusing Pat once told me, to hug back, my arms peeled to my side, in unconscious defiance, I guess, of ever getting close to another mother. My oldest brother Mark, I learned after his death in 2012, started using drugs in high school, possibly even heroin (more on Mark later). At least once he called Pat a c….t which isn’t exactly the foundation for the Brady Bunch.

My middle brother John, a sweet anxious smart introvert, battled a stutter, and my youngest brother Chris was picked up by police for selling drugs near a sub shop and hiring a prostitute. Of all the kids my sister appeared the most unscathed although I realized later in life, that wasn’t the case.

I have vague memories of the boys (probably not John) rolling dog food cans at our kitten down our kitchen aisle, their version of delightful cat bowling. This was likely one step past “boys will be boys,” like when Chris lit firecrackers inside sunfish from our pond while my parent’s party guests looked on – and behavior that teetered on sociopath. Seven years after my father and Pat married, they got divorced, a marriage for many reasons, was destined to fail from the start.

As such, over the years I’ve noticed that my threshold for dealing with high drama or difficult people is remarkably low. Not that sort of age-predicted “oh I’m getting older and less patient” low.

I mean that chaotic people who seem to live for chaos make me intensely uncomfortable. Sensing the faintest whiff of high maintenance (e.g. people often in fights, narcissists, drama queens, those constantly incensed or in need of inexhaustible attention) I will ever so politely back away until our interaction is seamlessly next to nothing.

My brilliant, funny, addict brother

My brother Mark’s opioid addiction got worse when he hurt his back after a fall while he worked on an oil rig in Arizona. Mark was a big bear of a guy, Paul Bunyan-like, brilliant with a wicked dark sarcasm. Even in the midst of peddling his worst addict lies, I laughed at his jokes and knew without question, that he loved his family. He once sent a letter to Pat, the same woman he battled and called the c-word, to thank her for taking care of me and my sister after Peggy left.

For years Mark worked as a public defender and later in private practice with a partner, who I can’t fathom how he managed to keep his practice afloat while dealing with Mark’s obvious addiction. Still, his partner kept him on until it got so bad that despite repeated warnings, he had no choice but to turn Mark into the Bar, who after a review, revoked Mark’s law license.

One afternoon in January 2012 my father’s third wife Mary, who I’d grown close from the moment we met, called and told me “You won’t believe this, but Mark’s dead.” An autopsy revealed that my brother died from opioids and advanced arteriosclerosis.

Shocked and gut-punched, I didn’t cry. Not then, not at his service, not once in nine years.  I wasn’t angry at Mark anymore, I just grew numb to his lies and without consciously realizing it, numb to Mark.

At one point my brother was so far gone that during a flight home from Orlando after visiting (when during lunch with my toddler by my side and Mark’s client across from me in a booth, Mark slurred the whole time) the pilot had to make an emergency landing in Houston. Apparently Mark’s seatmate tried to wake him so he could navigate around his body to go to the bathroom but Mark was unconscious.   

“Your son’s a big guy,” the ER doctor told my father and Mary, “anyone else with this level of alcohol and opioids in his system would be dead.”

Mark eventually landed in prison after three DUI’s (a felony in Arizona). Incarceration kept him alive for a while and when he got out he was sober. In time he started using drugs again, then entered multiple re-habs paid for by my father and Mary. Ultimately Mark settled into using opioids at a level just low enough to fake being sober.

A few years before prison, during one Christmas visit to my house, after a few beers and whatever drugs he took that day, as usual Mark’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, the whites flashed across the room, and his inevitable pronounced slur rolled in as he cranked up his brash humor, “So how the hell are you, Laura? Your patient husband sick of your bullshit yet?”

Despite my horror when Mark reached that level of intoxication, I still managed to laugh at his blunt comments. Because humor was stable, humor was who Mark was. Sober or otherwise.

But as the night went on he’d stir the pot. He’d lean back with his beer, smirk, then casually bring up issues between family members long forgotten or resolved. “So Laura you still pissed after that beach trip you guys had with Mary last year?” Because if Mark could dig up drama about someone else, the spotlight temporarily moved off the fact that he was drowning in his addiction.

One night during a Christmas visit while everyone ran around cooking dinner in our crowded kitchen, setting tables, TV blaring, music on, without asking Mark took my toddler daughter for a night walk on the golf course behind our house. It was only five minutes, but neither my husband nor I knew he took her, or that perhaps in the flurry of dinnertime activity, distracted, someone told him he could take her.  

I ran to the backyard, intercepted Mark and asked where the hell he’d been. When he walked inside he announced that he’d “hoisted Taylor on his shoulders to take a walk and with all that bouncing that she probably had her first orgasm.” Then he roared laughing, oblivious to how disgusted I was at his irresponsible behavior and pedophilic words about his niece. In his stewed brain my brother actually thought a pedophile joke was funny. I wanted to kill him.

I never sensed any inappropriate looks or behaviors towards our daughter, but from that moment my husband and I never allowed Mark alone in the room with her. When I told my father what Mark said that night he gently asked if I was sure “I heard right.” What else can a father say as he’s trying to process the most reprehensible comment imaginable made by his son, about his grandchild, as told by his daughter?

These were the years when Mark mysteriously needed to “get on my computer” to “check his emails” and then ask me to drive him to the nearest drugstore. A well-practiced cover-up by which Mark stockpiled pills from here to Mexico, courtesy of a rotation of more-than-willing doctors who back then, handed out pain killers like aspirin.

A small part of me felt sorry for Mark. I mourned his lost potential and the relationships he destroyed. He repeatedly broke my father’s heart and while in prison somehow caused a permanent rift with my middle brother for reasons I’m still unclear.

Once I became a mother, Mark-the-addict felt like an unintentional monster with a twisted sense of humor I no longer trusted. His filters were anesthetized, his sense of decency blurred by brain-thrashing opioids. I was vehemently protective of exposing my daughter to her uncle who although he clearly loved his niece, had mastered, as addicts do, deceit.

After prison Mark claimed he’d quit using drugs although I often heard the distinct faint slur, undetectable to anyone who didn’t know better. One morning in December 2011 he called to ask if he could visit in January.  “You sound like you’re on something,” I told him right away. “I’m just really really tired. I even had to check myself into the hospital for exhaustion last week,” he claimed.

I told Mark that he could come but that he better not be on drugs because I’d know. Nor could he stay with me or create drama with our stepmom Mary who’d he’d recently been fighting.

Mark agreed and said he’d email me his flight information. A few weeks later he was found dead on the community pool deck at his condo after a night hike in the hills, a new habit I once told him I admired (as well as his recent pursuit of a degree in pharmaceutical law which I found perfectly ironic).

Clearly my brother was more than just the “extremely difficult person” I mentioned earlier. He was an addict, menacing and toxic. I had to set clear unwavering boundaries or cut him off.

Difficult people on the other hand, are merely a thorn in our side. An inconvenience, annoying, insulting or exhausting. To extend acts of kindness to difficult people rather than to simply be nice is a feat. It’s noble.

And yet we all come to this moment with a different history of emotional pain and family chaos. As a result our threshold for dealing with drama and difficult personalities, our boundaries, are wildly different.

For one person regularly interacting with an extraordinarily difficult person is a spiritual challenge to showing radical compassion. A challenge of character. If we show enough compassion, patience, love and understanding, in time, maybe that person will become less difficult.

But for others, inching away from extremely difficult people is how we protect ourselves from what feels threatening to our peace of mind.

I recall a woman who every time I saw her at a party, trapped at least one person for an hour or more to recount tales of her downtrodden life. Nothing good, nothing positive despite clear evidence to the contrary, only the world stomping on her at every turn, big or small, real or perceived, past or present — every tale of woe.

And while I genuinely sympathized because I think she was lonely and struggling, as well as a nice person, I didn’t want to go down the same Rabbit Hole every time. All her stories were stuck in victimhood, and any advice I gently suggested she politely but repeatedly dismissed. So after 15 or 20 minutes suddenly I’d need some more wine or a snack. And off she went to find a new sympathetic ear.  

If we ran into each other when I walked my dog, I’d smile, say a brief hello then keep moving down the sidewalk like I was in a rush, enthusiastically waving goodbye as I said “Have a great day!” She wanted to talk, I wanted to escape.

Boundaries, I’ve come to realize, can be explicit or implicit. “If you do drugs when you come to my house, you’re out” is explicit. Inching down the sidewalk while you smile and wave goodbye to a chronic complainer is implicit. It says, hey I want to be polite, but I’m not investing too much of myself into you.

Boundaries are how we teach people to treat us, and how we decide to treat ourselves.

I know people willing to spend far more time with extremely difficult people than I am. I admire that. These people are saints. They reach into the lives of the most challenging over and over and over. They bear the pain of the snarly, hostile, impatient, cranky and critical, while also setting boundaries, like for instance, reminding The Difficult Person that cursing out the cashier or saying the n-word isn’t okay.

Personally I’ve forgiven myself for why, even if I extend a small kindness to a difficult person, a visit, a meal, that I need to bid that person goodbye before I get sucked in for the long haul. And frankly, maybe she’s bored with me anyway. Likely I won’t expand our 15 or 20 minute conversation into making any future plans. I’ll be polite, brief and vague.

Because what sounds like selfishness on my part, is protecting myself from excess exposure to certain kinds of people. So I extend one foot in the door, while I gently pull the other foot out. It’s the best I can do. Correction, it’s the best I choose to do.

Parenting through a pademic

A mother’s need for control in a pandemic

It struck me recently that my daughter is handling the uncertainty of the pandemic much better than I am. She accepts not knowing exactly when the world might return to normal.

When we won’t need masks and hugging will be safe again. She makes peace with the unknowns while I feel simmering anxiety over a pandemic with no clear end in sight. “Mom you just have to deal with it,” she tells me over and over. “You can’t control when things will change.” 

I envy Taylor’s ability to let go of the invisible strings of control while I grasp for them. I suspect this flows from my childhood when I craved stability during constant family turmoil.

My mother abandoned us when I was five, two years later I had a new stepmom and two stepbrothers who my other three brothers, emotionally scarred, viciously battled.

I recall family therapy, lots of screaming and in the end, another divorce. While I always knew my stepmom and father loved me, I also had the sense that any minute my foundation might crumble. Chaos felt inevitable and entirely out of my hands. Read More

Let's stop talking about Trump

It’s time to stop talking about Trump

It's time we stop talking about Trump to our loved ones.

Underneath our seeping political wounds over the past 5 years is an unsettled feeling no one on either side knows how to fix.

Because we can’t. Ever.

I’m an optimist and even with my abundance of wishful thinking I’m 100% sure we can’t move past this. By “this,” I mean finding “political common ground” with Trump supporters as we’re charged to do to “heal the nation.”

Don’t misunderstand, we’ll get back to decency and normal partisan political scuffling now that Trump is (almost) off the world stage. But the Trump Factor, aka those who love him, and the rest of us, can never discuss that man again if we want to get back to normal times with our loved ones, neighbors, etc.

This may not be the feel-good answer, but it’s true.

Because if we stop talking about Trump with his supporters we no longer have to feel like we’re trying to convince people that the blue sky they insist is yellow, is in fact, blue. It’s crazy-making to see something others don’t or won’t see.

One of the greatest tragedies of Trumplandia is that there’s no going back.

Now we know who supported him (twice), which includes some of our favorite people in the world. Family, friends, our dry cleaner, our pharmacist, our sweet neighbor (still sweet, btw). For a faction of Trump supporters, it was rabid zealot love from the start.

For others it was an insidious growing tolerance for his string of horrors, a numbing effect if you will, combined with full rejection of the Democrats. Either way, sad.

It’s deeply painful that our once benign political foe, say our opinionated Uncle Frank who used to be relentless with his trickle-down Reaganism vs our grassroots approach, isn’t who you thought he was.

Pre-Trump Uncle Frank was just a different sort of patriot than you or I. Not better or worse, but with an alternate point of view about what he thinks is best for the nation.

Except now Uncle Frank thinks what’s best for the nation is Trump.

A certifiable malignant narcissistic, racist, sexist, xenophobe, demagogue and autocrat in bed with Putin.

A president for who lying to is the norm and for who using superlatives (biggest crowd!) and bullying (loser!) is used to rile and divide rather than to keep calm and inform, as presidents are called to do.

A president who on the daily panicked the world (and his staff) with rogue tweets designed to feed his fragile ego and elevate his delusions of grandeur. It’s not a good strategy to keep people guessing “What next?” on the world stage. It’s a dangerous mind screw.

Trump politically and personally pulverized his own party naysayers until they retreated or crawled up his ass. He knowingly and repeatedly downplayed a deadly pandemic, smirked while he stoked hate in proud racists, and diabolically worked to dismantle democracy.

And in his latest flagrant act of corruption, Trump asked Georgia’s Secretary of State to ‘find’ him votes.

Trump does all this with the smug conceit of a megalomaniac convinced his power transcends the sanctity of facts, the Constitution and civility.

Come on, that person is better than a Democrat?

So no, with all due respect, I can’t reconcile a 2020 Trump vote. And frankly, I don’t want to. Not out of pride, because of my moral compass. Of course I’m no saint. I don’t see myself as better or worse than anyone out there. I’m plenty flawed.

But I’m damn proud that I sensed from the moment Trump mocked a disabled journalist and said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” or that McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured or that Megan Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes. Or blood coming out of her where ever,” that I knew in my every cell, that this guy wasn’t presidential material.

This is unquestionably a sick man. A “stable genius” isn’t prone to referring to himself as a stable genius.

Still I’ll never show a hint of unkindness to a Trump supporter. Never. That’s just basic Golden Rule 101. Like with all my opposing views, my disgust or disappointment will never come up in conversation. My relationships are a million times more precious than the Divider-In-Chief’s dark shadow of evil (and evil he is).

It’s easy to say now that Trump’s no longer a grave threat. Although his devout will undoubtedly keep him relevant by rallying his Trumpian views and a 2024 run.

Yet I’ll never forget that Trump voters and too many politicians thought he was a proper role model for our kids. Neither would they if they were honest and dealt with their boatload of cognitive dissonance.

Trump repeatedly showed the emotional maturity of a toddler. He lacked integrity, stability, humility, contrition and a commitment to the truth. He’s nothing more than a schoolyard bully who beat the nation’s soul to a pulp. He’s a psychological abuser I’d kick out of my house, nevermind hire him as president.

It’s an understatement to say our nation wasn’t left A Better People thanks to this president. In time we became a pitied laughing stock the world over.

Lately my small church groups and I have been talking about how to heal the great divide. How we might come together. I have no doubt we can, but not in the way we did before Trumplandia. Instead of facing head-on where we disagree (about Bush, Clinton, Obama) over the dinner table or in moderated town halls, we have to pretend Trumplandia never happened.

This means we politely change the subject if someone brings it up.

Because what I’ve failed to successfully convey in five years of posting about Trump is that the problem doesn’t begin with his partisan politics.

The problem is first and foremost him. His character. The buck stops there. Trump is inherently a very bad person.

This is the sole reason I won’t talk to his supporters about their leader. Because either A) They think he’s a good person or B) They know he isn’t a good person but they don’t care.

It goes without saying that’s not a foundation for a reasonable discussion. I think he’s evil. You don’t. Exactly how do we progress from there?

So if we ever want to remember how life used to feel in politics before Trumplandia, we have to at least pretend it never happened.

Of course we’ll never fully escape Trump’s blustering that the election was stolen. His devout see him as the victimized Chosen one (some literally) and Democrats as a dangerous bunch of radical lefty socialists (despite the President-elect’s clearly moderate platform).

So sadly our Trump vs Never Trump divide will remain a gaping wound best not aggravated into further oozing infection.

So for the love of peace with our Trump-loving friends, family and community, let’s stop talking to them about he who shall not be named.

Jeff Flake: ‘Trump Can’t Hurt You. But He Is Destroying Us.’

Trump Banned From Twitter. Faces Possible Impeachment

The pandemic and depression

2020: The perfect storm for depression.

Depression

Since the pandemic started so many people told me they can’t quite put their finger on how they’ve been feeling.

Anxious, yes. This is a terrifying surreal time. But also a little down. I recently suggested to one of my friends that she might have low-level depression.

It’s this simmering underlying feeling where you’re not exactly miserable but you don’t feel like yourself.

In the early months of lockdown, while some people were baking bread, biking, walking or painting bathrooms to fill the hours, my friend couldn’t motivate herself to do much.

And it’s not that she’s been socially isolated during COVID. She has her family. Nor is she at risk for serious COVID complications or in financial distress. In fact my friend is a million times luckier than most people right now.

She’s not one to wallow in self-pity. She’s grateful for her life and counts her blessings, especially now. And yet she feels blah, unmotivated, a little down and has zero energy.

I think that’s how a lot of people feel right now. There’s also thousands of people struggling with severe depression. The kind of debilitating, soul-crushing despair.

These people are overwhelmed every moment of the day trying to pay their bills and keep their kids from going stir crazy. Then once school started after parents spent weeks wondering whether to send their kids face to face, online or some combination, half the time their kids couldn’t logon to their classes because of some technical problem.

And for some kids who generally don’t do well with virtual learning, homework assignments might now demand more help than either you or your child’s teacher can give right now. Everything feels out of control and in chaos.

People are terrified their aging parents might catch COVID. They’re terrified they might catch COVID, or their husband or their sister on the front line. Widows and senior citizens are falling deeper into social isolation and loneliness.

Eviction seems inevitable for some and for the first time — or maybe again, thoughts of suicide creep in for thousands of people trying to cope.

A recent study from JAMA finds that depression has more than tripled during the pandemic.

Everyone is grieving the loss of someone or something precious right now. I think that’s the inexplicable feeling my friend was feeling. Loss. The loss of normalcy replaced by dread.

Our collective mental health is in serious crisis.

2020 has been the perfect storm for depression. A nightmare of many stressors converging all at one time to beat people down to an emotional and psychological pulp.

– Social isolation
– Grieving a death
– Loneliness
– Fear of COVID based on age and/or underlying health conditions
– Financial distress
– Pre and post-election stress
– Estrangement of a loved one due to the election
– Fears about healthcare
– Seasonal affective disorder

Some people are experiencing all of these right now. Every. Single. One.

So if every morning you find yourself just trying to hang on or you don’t feel like yourself, please consider talking to a mental health counselor.

Of course we can’t compare losing a loved one to “just” feeling a little down, but everyone deserves empathy right now. No matter how seemingly insignificant your pain it’s still pain.

Don’t beat yourself up because others are “suffering so much more than I am right now I have no right to complain.”

Complaining all the time about COVID inconveniences while others suffer isn’t cool. But talking about how you feel emotionally and psychologically because you’re have a tough time is a whole other story. In one way or another, everyone is having a tough time.

Maybe you’re not comfortable seeing a mental health professional in person right now. If that’s the case please consider a telehealth service.

Telehealth mental health resources:

LiveHealthOnline – Psychiatric care
Inpathy – Psychiatric care, medication management, and therapy
Talkspace – Individual therapy, couples therapy, therapy for teens
Betterhelp – Individual, couples, and teen counseling
Regain – Individual and couples counseling focused on relationships
Online-Therapy.com
 – Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT (read more about e-therapy here)
Pride Counseling – Counseling for the LGBTQ community

See: Covid Depression: Prolonged Lockdowns, Political Unrest, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Holiday Depression Create a Perfect Storm

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4 supplements to strengthen immunity during COVID-19

A strong immune system begins with a healthy diet, minimizing toxins, getting adequate sleep and exercise, reducing stress and taking science-backed supplements when appropriate.

I often hear people talk about vitamin C, D and zinc. Those are all helpful, but in many cases, not enough.

I take COVID-19 very seriously. I also leave the house a lot.

I know this sounds flip and contradictory.

Believe me I’m not arrogant enough to think I’m superwoman. I know I can get COVID. I’ve had enough colds, flu and health issues in my life to know I’m anything but invincible.

Since the start of COVID-19 I’ve felt something coming on at least three or four times. I didn’t have a cough or fever but I was run down with a slight scratchy throat and stuffy nose. Just on the cusp of something turning ugly.

I slammed down my supplements for a few days and whatever was lurking went away.

Of course I followed the CDC guidelines when I left the house. Mask, distancing, hand sanitizer constantly. But I’ve been out countless times (after lockdown ended in Florida May 1st).  I’m not high risk. I’m 54 and in good health as are my husband and daughter.

But as you know with COVID-19 that’s no guarantee.

I’ve been tested three times for COVID-19 before I visited my stepmom and had one antibody test. All negative.

So, I have to think either my test results were false negatives (certainly possible), I’ve been incredibly lucky or my immune-strengthening supplements have something to do with why I haven’t gotten sick.

I have no way of proving my theory except to say that since I started taking a specialized silver called Argentyn 23 years ago I don’t get sick (or seriously sick).

(Want to cut to the chase? Head to the end of this post)

Argentyn 23 to strengthen your immune system

Argentyn 23 is a unique form of silver. A refined, improved colloidal silver.

Please don’t stop reading because you read the word “silver” and said “oh helllll no, quackery alert.”

I felt exactly the same way.

I refused to try any form of silver. Because while I’m serious about alternative medicine, I didn’t trust drinking a liquid version of my favorite sterling silver earrings (obviously an exaggeration, there’s no comparison).

But Argentyn 23 is safe, non-toxic and *effective for bacterial and viral infections. It’s a bio-active hydrosol form of silver. In a nutshell this means super small (nano) particles with positively charged ions. It’s unique molecular makeup makes all the difference in safety and efficacy.

See: Types of silver and why it matters
See: How Argentyn 23 compares to other silver

I need to say upfront that the FDA issued a warning to companies that claimed their silver products prevent or cure COVID-19.  Dietary supplement companies are prohibited by the FDA from stating that their products prevent or cure disease.

The company that makes Argentyn 23, Natural Immunogenics, follows FDA guidelines to the T. They don’t claim to cure or treat because they’re not allowed to make those claims.

This isn’t a snake-oil company. There’s peer-reviewed science behind Argentyn’s form of silver (see “Research” below).

Silver has long been shown to have antibacterial properties. And in more recent years scientists discovered that silver also has antiviral properties.

It has been reported that silver nanoparticles interact with virus, bacteria, and the immune system…the size, shape and composition of silver nanoparticles can have a significant effect on their efficacy.

Silver Nanoparticles Interactions with the Immune System: Implications for Health and Disease.

The one thing my doctor recommended to prevent colds and flu

A few years ago I asked my integrative MD if she had to pick one supplement to help prevent colds and flu what would it be? She said Argentyn 23.

I’d never heard of it and was pretty skeptical. I’d read about some people turning blue (argyria) from talking silver so I wanted nothing to do with it.

But it works and it’s safe. My husband and daughter also started taking Argentyn 23 and these are the last two people I’d put at risk.

I know my words means nothing without science and safety assurances to back up my claims.

See: Why Argentyn 23 is safe, pure and *effective

The 4 supplements I take religiously when I’m getting sick

I take these the second I feel a scratchy throat. I mean I’ll crawl out of bed half asleep and make myself. Sometimes I still get a cold, but rarely. And if I do get sick my symptoms are less severe and I get over it faster.

The trick is to take these immediately and repeatedly (according to directions) until you feel better (generally 5-10 days depending on severity).

  1. Argentyn 23
  2. Black elderberry syrup  
  3. Vitamin D
  4. Vitamin C

See: 3 Quick Ways to Reduce Anxiety During COVID

Research

Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials

Vitamin D effective for reducing flu and colds: study

Can vitamin C prevent or treat COVID-19? Peer-reviewed studies: antiviral effects of silver

Silver Nanoparticles Interactions with the Immune System: Implications for Health and Disease.

Application of Silver Nanoparticles in Viral Inhibition: A New Hope for Antivirals

Silver Nanoparticles as Potential Antiviral Agents. 

Statement of Argentyn 23 safety by former Science Assistant to the Associate Bureau Director, Division of Toxicology, US FDA.

Antiviral effects of nano colloidal silver, water catholyte, oxidal with methylene blue. possible effects of influence over coronavirus SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2

 Nanoparticle-based antimicrobial paper as spread-breaker for corona virus

Inhibitory effect of silver nanomaterials on transmissible virus-induced host cell infections

Efficiency of silver nanoparticle against virus coronaviruses

Application of nanomaterials in treatment, anti-infection and detection of coronaviruses

Could silver nano-particles control the 2019-nCoV virus?; An urgent glance to the past

Glutathione-Capped Ag2S Nanoclusters Inhibit Coronavirus Proliferation through Blockage of Viral RNA Synthesis and Budding

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Have you lost any friends or family over politics?

Don't make me unfriend you | Gina Trapani | Flickr

After Trump won we turned on each other and we’ve never been the same as a nation.

If we see someone wearing a MAGA hat or Biden 2020 shirt we know that person is one of them. A traitor to our values and to all we hold dear.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

In one night our good friend of 20 years or sweet Aunt Alice turned into either a “namby-pamby liberal snowflake” or a “heartless racist Trump-lover.”

Remember when you used to have friendly conversations with that guy at the gym and you never thought twice about whether he was a Republican or Democrat? Who cared?

But then after the 2016 election he made an offhanded comment like “well you know how it is with that lyin’ Hillary (or Trump)” and suddenly you knew all you needed to know about that guy.

Our candidate now defines who we are, or so we think.

Listen I know all the reasons Trump won. Some of it was the Dem’s fault. I know all the reasons his fans are doubling down on their Trump love. It’s what we do when we’re attacked. The more we hate your guy, the more you love your guy.  

Because if we hate your guy it must mean we hate all that you stand for. But it’s just not that simple.

You’re Mars and I’m Venus

In the first year or so after the election it was all the rage with pundits and town hall moderators to insist that we at least hear each other out. The idea was that if we at least listened to the other side maybe we’d come to some new understanding (if not agreement) and stop screaming.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

In theory I still believe that, but at this point we can’t even politely agree to disagree like we did BT (before Trump).

The best we can do now is smile, nod and zip it. Like the Hippocratic oath, at a minimum “do no harm.”

My stepmom, a lifelong Democrat activist thinks it’s tragic that we can’t bring up politics at the table anymore. I don’t think we’re doomed to never again politely talk partisan politics, but while Trump is still on the world stage we can’t come to the table hold hands and have happy happy epiphanies about Trump vs — everyone else.

The best we can do right now is agree that you’re Mars and I’m Venus (remember that book for struggling couples?). And then we need to move on and talk about things that have nothing to do with politics.

But unfortunately the pandemic is all we’re talking about right now.

I get it. It’s a really scary time. But even a pandemic that should have us “all in it together” has turned into another divisive political bloodbath.

Defend your values, don’t defend your candidate

Last month I told my daughter about a friend who I found out from another friend, has some pretty prejudice, maybe even racist views about people of color. I was pretty shocked and disappointed. My daughter said to me, “Mom, you need to stop being friends with her, she’s racist!”

But it’s just not that simple.

I really like this friend. She’s thoughtful, nice, a good listener and really fun. She has a good heart although we see the world really differently. I mean like her version is somewhere in the 1950’s where all (good) moms stay at home.

Now, if she ever says something supremely judgmental or racist in front of me I’ll be sure to calmly but firmly tell her how I feel. I have no problem standing up to my values.

But if my friend mentions she likes Trump (she hasn’t) I’ll just smile and move on. I won’t talk about Trump with people who love him.

The mere mention of DJT guarantees the room will go cold. People squirm, they look away, the fun dies and whatever relationship you had with that person is now a little awkward and a little tainted.

I can’t tell you how many people in the last four years told me that the election destroyed relationships, or at the very least put a serious wedge in between. Someone got political at the holiday table, the insults flew and someone unfriended someone or stormed out of the house.

Personally I never had an issue (until last year, more on that later). But it’s only because I make a point to never talk partisan politics in person.

But I do post politics on my Facebook page. All the time. I don’t attack friends who voted for Trump (but I do ask why? why?). I unmercifully go after Trump and his long list of GOP enablers.

Okay so about six months ago a close relative who’d never commented on any of my political posts decided she’d had enough of my Trump rants. Fair enough. I figure if I put my opinions out there some people will want to debate me.

But the problem was this close relative didn’t want to debate Trump’s policies. She wanted to rile me up and get personal.

And she wanted to get personal because I told her that I’m open to debating policy but I’m not open to debating Trump’s character. That pissed her off. Because if someone attacks our beloved candidate’s character, doesn’t it feel like they’re attacking our character?

In my view Trump’s sorely lacking in the character department. My relative 100% disagreed, citing as proof that Trump’s done plenty of good for the nation, that his wife loves him and that his kids turned out really well (I’ll leave all that alone).

But our Facebook disagreement really got going after I posted an article about Pence where he said we need to “spend more time on our knees than on the internet.” I wrote: “hee hee I know what he means, still this is funny stuff.”

Okay I know, not exactly mature. But sometimes childish irreverent humor is all I have left to survive the insanity.

So then one of my friends commented that “Pence is an ass” to which I “liked” his comment (Pence isn’t an ass, he’s a prince compared to Trump but his archaic LGBTQ views are indeed, asinine).

My relative was incensed that I supported my friend’s “ass” comment although her response to my friend was: “You’re an ass.” To which my friend wrote “You’re a troll.”

Yeah it went like that. So I stayed out of it.

Why I had to finally unfriend my relative

I tried to rationally explain my views about Trump and Pence. After a few futile back and forths my relative posted, “I’m bored now” adding a bunch of laughing emoji’s.

She posted laughing emoji’s in response to my sincere effort to explain my view on Trump which is first and foremost to focus on his character, and then on his policies (which I also don’t agree).

She wrote that her husband (who I’ve always adored) was also laughing at me. She said I needed to lighten up and that I had no sense of humor since Hillary lost. Gaslighting, however unintended.

I was so hurt and angry that I decided I had no choice but to unfriend my relative. People unfriend people all the time. I don’t. She’s the only person I’ve ever kicked off my page and it felt absolutely horrible.

But to stop the madness I had to do it. She’d started posting articles on my timeline about guns and Trump’s accomplishments saying that “my Trump haters and I needed to read this.”

When I told her it’s not cool to post opposing articles directly on someone’s timeline she said, “I don’t don’t care. You can do it on my page.”

I finally told her “clearly we shouldn’t have a relationship on Facebook.” Since then it seems we have no relationship which is pretty sad but I guess it’s what she wants.

My relative couldn’t separate the personal from the political so after 50 years of love and memories we’re done.

I decided a long time ago to never Facebook friend people. I mean why subject the unsuspecting into my world of inappropriate humor and Trump-bashing?

But if someone says she’s going to friend me I warn her that my page is stuffed with politics and super controversial stuff that might very well offend or piss her off.

If she still wants to friend me fine, she’s been warned.

Here’s my feeling about my Facebook posts:

It’s my page.

If you disagree with what I post then by all means present a counterpoint. I really don’t want to exist in a bubble which is why I watch Fox News sometimes or post Fox articles that seem balanced.

But I insist on two rules if you comment on my posts:

  1. Use facts and credible sources. I recommend checking sources for bias and factual rating on Mediabiasfactcheck.com or allsides.com.
  2. Be respectful. No “libtard” or “mask-wearing sheep morons.” This of course goes for everyone. No “racist Trump-loving stupid assholes.” And you won’t catch me insulting Trump’s hair, tan, body etc. Granted insulting looks is one of his favorite past times but I don’t want to act like Trump. Going low diminishes credibility and the argument. If you want to guarantee the other side will tune you out or get nasty — sling personal insults.

You also have a few other options if my posts make you spitting mad:

Delete, scroll or unfriend me.

I honestly don’t mind if someone unfriends me. Do it loudly or do it silently. We can still be friends in person if you want. Easy enough. 

So I’m wondering, have you lost any family or friends because of your pro or con feelings about Trump? What happened? Or have you made a pact to avoid talking politics with friends and family?  Please share your story. No judgment.

More: Trump Nation. Yes We’re Divided, But You and I Are Fine.

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Mask shaming

Masks work. Shaming doesn’t.

Surprise, surprise, wearing a mask has turned political.

It was only a matter of time when masks became a symbol of either forced conformity or deference to science.

My sense is that most people favor wearing masks. Pro maskers are posting charts and personal pleas to please cover-up.

While a vocal minority are upset that their personal freedoms are under attack. They’re also worried that if the government makes masks mandatory, the assault on freedom won’t stop there (e.g. forced vaccines).

But masks work. They’re not foolproof but they help.

This review of 172 studies across 16 countries and 6 countries is pretty convincing.

These data also suggest that wearing face masks protects people (both health-care workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses.

Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID -19: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Believe me, I don’t want to wear one.

Does anyone? They’re hot, mildly suffocating and they hide my summer pink lipstick.

They also hide when I smile at a random stranger or the hardworking sales clerk across the aisle. The latter just happened to me yesterday.

I smiled at this clerk then thought, well that’s stupid. So I said “hi” instead. We’re an expressionless society right now except for the glimmer of empathy in our eyes as we pass a fellow masker.

But I wear a mask anyway. And not because I’m scared.

I haven’t been scared of contracting COVID or getting seriously ill since day one. No I don’t think I’m blessed with extraordinary Godly protection or have superpowers.

I’m healthy and under 65.

And my husband and daughter are healthy and under 65. Also we’re fanatics about boosting our immune system. Especially now. So if any one of us caught COVID while I’m reasonably sure it wouldn’t be a picnic, it probably wouldn’t be serious.

So wearing a mask isn’t about me or my immediate family.

It’s about others.

It’s about getting this superbly contagious virus under control for the sake of those at risk and our potentially overwhelmed healthcare system.

That’s it. That’s the reason to wear a mask.

Even if you don’t believe the science. The mere act of wearing one tells your fellow man, I got you.

But no way am I going to shame you on social media or give you the stink eye if your face isn’t covered. As one of my good friends sums it up, “you do you.”

I mean I strolled an (almost empty) mall the other day without a mask. But you won’t catch me in the essential or crowded stores bare-faced.

So instead of citizen shaming I’d like to see our local, state and national officials regularly encourage citizens and businesses to cover up.

Flood the public with service announcements until more people change their behavior (Temporarily. I mean, I’ll never be on board with becoming a mask-wearing society. Nor will I give up hugging and handshakes).

Shaming friends, family, neighbors or strangers on social media and in-person won’t work. If anything people will double down and 100% refuse. It’s what we humans do.

We vehemently defend our convictions. Especially in a time of political divide so heated that I’m not sure we’ll ever return to a time when partisanship was mostly civil.

So please wear a mask. Thank you.

More: The role of community-wide wearing of face mask for control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic due to SARS-CoV-2

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Past research suggests melatonin may help coronavirus treatments

Homemade Liposomal Melatonin for Sleep and Brain Detoxification by ...
Melatonin is naturally produced in the brain at night

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the brain’s pineal gland in response to nightfall. As we age our levels drop. Melatonin supplements are often used as sleep aids.

Side note: I’ve never had success taking melatonin by itself for my adrenal-related sleep issues. Melatonin isn’t really a sleep aid or sedative. It helps the body regulate a disrupted circadian rhythm (involved in sleep). This is why it’s useful for jet leg. But two months ago I decided to test adding 6mg (rather than my usual 3mg) to my sleep supplement regime. The higher dose worked like a charm.

A couple weeks ago I was researching evidence-based natural treatments for viruses and I found this March 2020 analysis:

COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment

Previous research has documented the positive effects of melatonin in alleviating acute respiratory stress induced by virus, bacteria, radiation, etc. [1,2,3].

Herein, we review the evidence indicating that melatonin will have supportive adjuvant (assisting in) utility in treating COVID-19 induced pneumonia, acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment

That got my attention.

Also my holistic MD regularly recommends that her older patients take melatonin at night, not only to regulate sleep disruption but for its important health benefits.

Because in addition to regulating a disrupted sleep cycle (e.g. jet lag), melatonin has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune assisting and indirect anti-viral properties. All of which may be useful for respiratory illnesses and viral infections such as COVID-19.

See: “Studies Show Melatonin May Help Fight the Coronavirus.

Benefits of melatonin

Melatonin reduces inflammation, which can contribute to the respiratory failure and other systemic effects of the illness.

Melatonin supports the body’s cells, by promoting the growth of cells under normal circumstances. Discretionary actions of melatonin allow it to benefit normal cells and tissues while supporting the body’s defenses against pathological cells and tissues.

In addition, research found evidence that melatonin appears to stop apoptosis — a process in which cells infected with a virus actually kill themselves in an attempt to stop the spread of a disease. Although this apoptosis response can be helpful in some diseases, it can cause even more misery in some illnesses such as coronavirus.

Melatonin is known to stimulate the immune system. Although it does not directly attack viruses, it helps our body’s own defenses to act more efficiently. This can lead to fewer symptoms and ultimately a better chance of surviving this feared disease.

It’s too soon to say whether melatonin might be a useful addition to COVID-19 treatments. But based on earlier research that found melatonin was beneficial for respiratory illnesses that have similar responses as COVID-19 (excessive inflammation, depressed immune system and a cytokine storm) it looks promising.

References:

  1. Wu, H. Ji, Y. Wang, C. Gu, W. Gu, L. Hu, L. ZhuMelatonin alleviates radiation-induced lung injury via regulation of miR-30e/NLRP3 axis Oxidative Med. Cell. Longev., 2019 (2019), p. 4087298. 
  • H.-K. Yip, Y.-C. Chang, C.G. Wallace, L.-T. Chang, T.-H. Tsai, Y.-L. Chen, H.-W. Chang, S. Leu, Y.-Y. Zhen, C.-Y. Tsai, K.-H. Yeh, C.-K. Sun, C.-H. Yen. Melatonin treatment improves adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cell therapy for acute lung ischemia-reperfusion injury J. Pineal Res., 54 (2013), pp. 207-221.
  • S.-H. Huang, X.-J. Cao, W. Liu, X.-Y. Shi, W. WeiInhibitory effect of melatonin on lung oxidative stress induced by respiratory syncytial virus infection in mice J. Pineal Res., 48 (2010), pp. 109-116. 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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