Tag Archives: COVID

Thank You Very Much, But I’ve Had Enough Fear

I have recently been thinking a good bit about fear. When teaching Public Speaking to college students, my goal is to help them overcome their fear of speaking in front of people, their fear of judgment, of making mistakes. And over the last few weeks and months, we have all been facing and processing pandemic fear—infection fear, election fear, fear of losing our freedoms, fear of returning to school, fear of those who don’t wear masks, fear, fear, fear.

I have to say, I’ve had about enough of fear.

In 2017, Mary D. Moller, (Ph.D., DNP, ARNP, PMHCNS-BC, CPRP, FAAN), spoke at a session during the Neuroscience Education Institute (NEI) Congress. She discussed the physiology of fear and its long-term effects on human well-being. I recently read a summary of her presentation, and I learned what extended periods of fear can do to us.

There are three predictable stages the body uses to respond to stressors, called the general adaption syndrome. The first is, obviously, alarm. The first reaction to stress recognizes there’s a danger and prepares to deal with the threat. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system and autonomic nervous system are activated. Primary stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and nonadrenaline are released. This is the “fight or flight” response. I felt that in March when Governor Jim Justice shut the state down. I remember where I was, who I was with when I watched his quarantine press conference. Do you?

The second body reaction to fear is resistance. Homeostasis begins restoring balance in the body, and a period of recovery for repair and renewal takes place. Stress hormones (that fight or flight response) may return to normal–but there may be reduced defenses and adaptive energy left. We feel tired, less inspired, and our immune system is weak. I went through that too. All that quarantine project energy I had in March and April? The manic energy of May? Yeah, well, all that petered out about halfway through June. In July, I became a slug, sloughing through my days, binge-watching Netflix, and avoiding the heat. And now here we are in August.

The third stage of processing continual fear is exhaustion. At this phase, the stress has continued for some time. The body’s ability to resist is lost because its adaption energy supply is gone. This is often referred to as overload, burnout, adrenal fatigue, maladaptation, or dysfunction. I don’t think I’m in the third stage yet. Yes, I’m tired. Tired of masks, hand sanitizer, my due diligence to others’ recklessness. I’m tired of politics, tired of press conferences, tired of video meetings, tired of talking about it. I think of Madeline Kahn in the movie Blazing Saddles singing, “Tired, tired of playing the game, Ain’t it a crying shame, I’m so tired.” I’m tired of it all, but I’m not yet exhausted.

So, Dr. Moller, with her numerous degrees, also tells of the physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms of long-term fear. And you know, it isn’t good. The potential effects of chronic fear on overall health include immune system dysfunction, endocrine system dysfunction, autonomic nervous system alterations, sleep/wake cycle disruption, and eating disorders. I am sleeping well, but I’ve gotten quite tired of cooking. I had a boil (infected hair follicle) during July’s dog days, the first I have had since childhood. It was as unpleasant as I remember.

The potential effects of chronic fear on emotional health include dissociation from the self, inability to have loving feelings, learned helplessness, phobic anxiety, mood swings, and obsessive-compulsive thoughts, continued fear of leaving home because of paranoia. The potential consequences of chronic fear on spiritual health include bitterness or fear toward God or others, confusion or disgust with your higher power or religion, loss of trust in your higher power and/or clergy, inactivity or lack of responsibility while waiting for a higher power to fix the issues, despair related to a perceived loss of spirituality. Without making this into a sermon, I must say that I still have faith. I have always believed in some higher plan, though I may not understand it or like it. Plus, I’m more likely to place blame for most messes in this world to human error, narcissism, or greed.

I have a t-shirt in my closet that is now too small for me to wear, but I cannot part with it. On the front, it says, “fear less, hope more.” I’m trying to make that my mantra. I want to get past my defeatist prayers of “thy will be done,” and get to the point where I’m making plans and decisions – not based on fear but based on hope. I hope this virus ends. I hope for economic stability. I hope for a smooth election, a safe school year, more tomatoes, Christmas travel. I hope I don’t have to take the vaccine, I hope our country survives the election. I hope all of this passes. I hope.

I know that sounds cheesy, even as I write it. I’m a cynic at heart, with an inherent distrust of authority, traditional medicine, and government. I have faith in some people, but little faith in mankind. I see no reason to believe a higher power would favor us over the animals of the land and sea, or the flora and fauna we trample on. Even so, I cling to hope. I have had enough of fear this year.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not an anarchist or radical. I have every intention to remain vigilant and cautious. I have masks of all kinds and colors, and several face shields. I’ve got multiple bottles of hand sanitizer in my car, purse, home, and workplace and I use them. I will work, I will vote, I will live. Caution and diligence are not fear, and if there’s anything I am tired of–truly tired of–is fear.

Hope with me. Don’t lose your faith. I know you are scared of the classrooms, the virus, and the decisions our leaders are making. I know you fear being infected, quarantined, hungry, homeless. I don’t mean to dismiss any of that. But I try to remind myself, “this, too, shall pass away.”* Nothing, good or bad, lasts forever. The current situation will not last forever. “Fear not,” is in the Bible 365 times, and now that I know that long-term fear can do, I can understand why. The Renaissance followed the Black Plaque, and the Roaring Twenties followed WWII and the Spanish Flu. So we can hope that brighter times are coming.

*   *   *

       *From a speech by Abraham Lincoln: “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.”

If you would like information on Normantown Historical Community Center, visit nhccwv.com or facebook.com/groups/Blair58. If you have any submissions for 25267 news, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com. You can subscribe to my email newsletter at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Dog Days 2020

Oh, this heat. The Dog Days are upon us, the most oppressive period of summer, between July 3rd and August 11th. Why are these days called “Dog Days?” The Farmer’s Almanac tells us it is because, during this time, the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog, and this is why Sirius is sometimes called the Dog Star. (It is also the likely reason why Sirius Black of the Harry Potter books can turn into a dog named Padfoot.)

Canis Major as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set
of constellation cards published in London c.1825.
The bright star, Siris, marks the dog’s nose.

I discovered during this heat how much ducks need water—and of course, after one being bitten by a turtle, my ducks just flat refused to enter the lake out back. After refilling a kiddie pool twice a day for a week or more, I decided to find the ducks a new home. Of course, I still have my four young hens, who are nowhere near as messy or demanding. This heat is also hard on the garden. We have taken to watering at night with soaker hoses to keep the tomato plants from dying. I forgot about a lovely hanging basket on my front porch, and by the time I remembered to water the basket, it was far too late.

I worked from home for ten years. Maintaining ducks, flowers, chickens, and the garden was much easier when I could address their needs as they arose. But animals and plants do not care if you have to go to work all day. When plants need water, they need water. When fences need mending, delay can cost you the whole garden. And when animals have a crisis or problem, a lack of immediate attention can cause injury or lost lives.

I think about the farms and gardens when West Virginia’s “outmigration” began in the 1950s when fathers, brothers, sons, families began leaving the state to find work elsewhere. “Outmigration” means leaving a region or community, to move or settle into a different place than one’s home territory. Outmigration is a significant problem in West Virginia. What started in the 1950s has continued since.

A statistical brief from the West Virginia Health Statistics Center said more than half the Mountain State’s overall loss from outmigration during a 50-year period (1950-2000), occurred from 1950-1960. When the major 1950s outmigration started, over 40% of the nation’s produce was grown and harvested from family gardens and farms, and I imagine the percentage was higher in West Virginia. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, and meat at the store was almost always sourced from a location less than 50 miles away.

Imagine the West Virginia farms and homestead in 1950 — especially after President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged every American to fight food shortages of World War II with a home garden. In 1943, twenty million “Victory Gardens” existed in the United States. But then the war ended, the demand for coal bottomed out, and the outmigration of people essentially drained a whole generation from West Virginia. Victory Gardens were neglected or abandoned, and workers here were forced out of the state to make a living. Gardens, hayfields, and meadows and hills were left in the care of those who stayed behind – or were simply left untended.

Singer Steve Earle wrote a song titled “Hillbilly Highway,” recorded on his 1986 album Guitar Town. The Hillbilly Highway refers to the emigration of Appalachians to industrial cities, primarily in the years following World War II. While most often used in this metaphoric sense, the term is sometimes used to refer to specific stretches of roadway.

Why? Because, during long weekends, holidays, and lay-offs, workers who left along the Hillbilly Highways returned home. More than any other migrant industrial workers in America, Appalachians traveled home. During layoffs in Flint, Michigan, as many as 35% of the Appalachians left for the hills. I often think they came to help put up hay, harvest the garden, and mend fences — literally and metaphorically. They returned to the homestead, but many came home to unkempt and unchecked environments.

Since then, family gardens in Appalachia have declined, at first in tandem with the levels of outmigration, and then (as land and knowledge were passed less often to the next generation) nearly disappeared. While industrialization and commercialism made our lives busier and “easier,” Americans handed nearly all our food production concerns to a few massive corporations. Who has time to grow and weed a garden? Who has time to water ducks when the ducks are less than 50 feet from a lake?

This heat reminds me: we don’t control nature. Nature controls us. If you have a garden, you must constantly respond to the garden’s demands. If you have livestock or pets, you must diligently provide for their health and safety. I know what a neglected garden can look like after being abandoned for three weeks. Imagine the Appalachian migrants who left these hills for months or years and what they found when they returned home. How much changed in their absence? How much was lost?

Happy Dog Days. While you are staying safer at home for COVID, remember to stay safe in this heat. Avoid strenuous activities and take frequent breaks. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, and avoid direct sun. Drink plenty of hydrating fluids–alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks can hurt more than help. And of course, NEVER leave people or pets in a closed car. Come mid-August, it is likely we will experience fewer days at peak heat and humidity and Dog Days will be behind us. We can only hope it’s the same for the virus.

End of Quarantine, Spring Re-Opening

Spring has now arrived with full force, and it matters not if human-kind has re-opened or not, the world of wildlife is ready for business. Oscar, the largest of the resident snapping turtles, returned to the lake in our back yard this week to spend the summer as he always has. He comes up the driveway in the muddy ditch line, then crosses the side yard and climbs up and over the bank around the water. It’s only by luck that we ever witness this silent quest, and in our 20+ years here, we’ve caught the crossing maybe three or four times. I believe the local goslings are perhaps now big enough to avoid becoming his dinner, but that remains to be seen. The parental geese still are keeping the young ones off the water for the most part, so perhaps all eight young (five from one nest, three from another) will survive the season.

Some who read this column will remember that our last hen went missing in December as we were visiting family in Virginia. Winter is not a good time to start chickens, but the moment the quarantine hit, I ordered more hens. Nothing like a pandemic to make you feel like you need your own supply of eggs. I know some people order chicks by the hundred, but I selected four hens of select breeds and paid extra for them to be sent at 6 weeks of age. I’ve named them Sassy (Buff Orpington), Lacey (Silver-lace Wyandot), Coco (Easter Egger), and Simone (Australorp). Frank has been working to increase the fortitude of our chicken pen against ground and sky predators. We also purchased a battery back-up for our automatic chicken door, having realized that there are enough power outages here to skew the timer on the door and cost chicken lives.

Our beehive caught us off guard this week, producing three swarms in three days. Two swarms gathered low in a raspberry thicket along the garden fence and were captured. The third swarm took to the air and very quickly moved across the field, around the barn, and off into the wilds of Bear Fork. Keeping bees is more challenging even than keeping chickens. Some predators and diseases can wipe out a hive in just a few hours, and the warm-cold-warm-cold tendencies of West Virginia early springs can be tough on a hive. We thought we had lost our last hive in March, but now we have three hives in place again.

We are starting the garden late this year, but I have peas and lettuce in pots on the porches and have been harvesting asparagus for a few weeks now. Once “serious” gardeners who worked from home, we now do the best we can in the spring and wish the garden luck. Our jobs prevent us from winning most of the battles against weeds and invasive insects, and typically by late July, we have lost the war. As long as we get to have a few tomato sandwiches, I’m happy. I notice the asparagus patch is thinner this year, and also that my patch of chives is thin this season as well. Perhaps the winter was too wet? Either way, I will attempt to place some new plants in each of the patches. We love asparagus, and I am accustomed to constantly harvesting fresh chives throughout the growing season.

A deer came through one night and nipped the buds off of most of my Asiatic lilies, my most prized and beautiful spring blossoms. I typically spray them with a mixture of dish soap and water a few times in the spring (along with my hostas) but I got sidetracked by other quarantine projects and was too late. I will have to be satisfied with the more fragrant blossoms of the peonies which will bloom soon, but the sweetness of their flowers draw ants, and I have to shake out the insects before bringing cut blossoms inside to place in a vase.

I am glad to have these diversions from national and worldwide current events. The chickens do not care if I’m wearing a mask, and the bees are not out to murder or infect anyone. Even seeing the snapping turtle, Oscar, as grouchy as he is, was like a reunion with an old friend. I can sit and watch the chicks for hours, mesmerized, like watching a fire, a lava lamp, or a fish tank. I’m so grateful to be in rural West Virginia, especially now. I feel protected from “the outside world” here, and the world outside my door offers entertainment, distractions, and opportunities for restoration and calm.

Next week, the world re-opens even more, to a new normal, a world that requires safety measures and sanitization. But today, this weekend with the sun shining warmly on my shoulders, it feels so good to get my hands in the soil, to scrub afterward to wash away poison ivy oil and not some infectious disease. I can almost feel my body absorbing Vitamin D from the sun, my immune system building a defense against the stressors of life. Somehow, I find myself believing that everything, at some point, will be all right.

Normantown News: Why Did it Have to Be Germs?

Just as I was getting used to quarantine, the push to end it comes barreling along. At my age, I’m a proponent of the “better safe than sorry” perspective, but I also know we can’t stay home forever. Our economy cannot bear it. I watch the numbers of those infected, of those who have died, but I also watch the state’s revenue numbers, the numbers of people applying for unemployment, “forgivable loans,” and other assistance.

When a human being experiences a traumatic event, that person is permanently changed. We may wish to return to normal, to the being we once were, but we have been altered by the event and there is no reclaiming our former self, no un-doing of the changes made to us. Just as it is so with human beings, I believe it is so for human cultures.

During quarantine, I have heard and myself have expressed, a desire to “return to normal.” But in a world contaminated by a virus that is 1000x more contagious than others we have dealt with, zero percent human immunity to it, at least 15% error in the testing data, and no sign of a vaccine in sight, I believe our society has been permanently changed. There is no “back to normal” after this socially traumatic event. Even when the vaccine comes (and it will, though predicted to take up to two years), telecommuting, telehealth, remote work, video conferencing, and an entire generation of children who have been trained to social distance will continue to exist and propagate. I have read articles that note that the ingrained social handshake of greeting will become as frowned upon as smoking.

My father was a Navy Medic who served with the Marines in the Korean War. As a result, personal hygiene and cleanliness (and thus sterility) were important to him all his life. He showered twice a day, every day, and washed his hands more than any man I have known. He had hand cleansers, degreasers, and soaps, and little scrubby brushes that cleaned in the creases and beneath his fingernails. My father was not above getting his hands dirty, but they certainly never stayed so for long. I was raised knowing the proper way to wash my hands–twenty seconds at least and including the thumbs, which are most often overlooked.

During 9-11, I often wondered what Daddy (who left us the year before) would have thought of the events. I longed for his advice, input, commentary for comfort. During COVID, I know how freaked out my father would be. I think of Indiana Jones when he realized the floor of the tomb was covered in snakes. I can hear Daddy saying, “Germs, why did it have to be germs?” (“Germs” being a catch-all term that covers bacteria, viruses, etc.) I imagine he would have had us all on lock-down, with military attention to all methods of sterilization and safety. I know what Daddy would say. Wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, clean everything constantly, stay home. I have no doubt Daddy would be wearing masks and gloves. I can even imagine him in a homemade protective bodysuit of some sort just for a run to the grocery store.

As a library director, it falls to me to develop a plan to re-open the library with the virus still out in the world. Along with my board, I am suddenly responsible for ensuring that our employees and patrons are protected from an invisible enemy of which none of us are immune. I can honestly say, this is the heaviest burden ever placed on me when serving in a leadership position. I cannot insist that our employees wear masks to return to work, but they have all expressed willingness to do so, and the library has purchased n95 masks for all of them, and a cloth mask to wear when washing the other. We have also purchased disposable gloves and masks and will be asking patrons to wear them while interacting inside the library. This is my father manifesting in me. This is me, following my father’s advice.

This morning, I almost cried when I read that two governors re-opening with “mandatory masks” in their guidelines were withdrawing their mandates for masks due to rioting and the concept of violating personal rights. As a librarian and a child of a war veteran, I carry a respect for personal rights that ranks even higher than my personal respect for safety. Like everyone else, I have “thrown caution to the wind” a time or two (likely too many) in my life. But I have been suddenly saddled with the burden of protection. Protection for myself, my employees, their families, our patrons, their families. To my count, that includes about 2,000 people—many of whom will not want to wear a mask to execute their right to library access.

This is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Trust me. I’m a librarian. I’ve done the research. We will not be “returning to normal” any time soon, and masks quadruple protection if BOTH parties interacting (not just one) wear one. If you are not wearing a mask, bandana, or scarf in public, you should be. As West Virginia re-opens, please respect those who ask you to wear protective gear in their establishment. Of course, you have a right to go without one, but don’t the rest of us have the right to feel safe?

From Normantown Historical Community Foundation president Blair Wright:

NHCC will be giving EMERGENCY FOOD BOXES on May 8th, 2020. All workers will be selected volunteers and volunteer firemen. Don’t come before the scheduled time, and if you are not from West Virginia, do not come at all. All special health regulations apply–no loitering, visiting, etc.. You must remain in your vehicle; do not get out of your car until you are told to do so.

ALL VEHICLES MUST LINE UP ON THE WEST (STUMPTOWN) SIDE OF RT. 119. If you are traveling West towards Stumptown, after you pass NHCC, turn around in a safe and legal location, and join the client line from that side. Traffic flow must be maintained as much as possible.  Have your vehicle’s trunk clear or your truck bed reasonably empty. Food dispensing will begin at noon or as near as possible to that time. Questions? Call 304-884-6962.

A special thanks to Calhoun Banks and to Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for contributions to purchase food and to fund operations of the NHCC Food Pantry. The pantry averages nearly 100 families each month. NHCC was recently awarded a $2000 grant to assist with the operation of its pantry by Kroger Company. These donations are greatly appreciated.

Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for October 17th, 2020.

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share or any personal messages you want to be posted in local media, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.