Driving down roads is a funny business sometimes. When you're alone in the car, the mind can go anywhere. I've solved so many of the world problems, written poems into the talk-to-text feature on my phone that later sound like a John Cage piece of music thanks to autocorrect, planned out what I will say when I get where I'm going and determined what I should've said if I were as clever in person as I am driving away alone lamenting not having wittier retorts.
The mind is free of judgement when you're alone at the wheel. "There is nothing that the road cannot heal," Connor Oberst
Today I got to thinking about libraries.
I won't say I never think about libraries. I do miss sitting on the floor of the library, thumbing through old art books and looking at some of history's great works and photography. But today I was thinking about their importance. Probably because a friend posted an article I still need to read and in all likelihood share... this friend usually posts pretty quality articles.
The gist of the article, based on the headline (which is not a good reason to share by the way) was how detrimental it is to society that cuts have been made to school libraries.
It made me think about the ridiculousness of several area school board members who got all worked up about books about being gay being on display during Pride month and that information about Critical Race Theory exists at all.
I remember taking out Mein Kampf, an English translation, from the library. Not because I admired Hitler or wanted to shore up my white supremacy chops, but because I felt knowledge is power. I learned a little bit about how corruption and hate can grow through reading that book. I even read a bit of the Bible in the library. Oddly I read more of the Bible in the library than I ever did in a church. (To be honest, most of the Bible I have read, the old King James Version I think it was, happened under a tree.)
Knowledge is power and having resources to that knowledge is extremely important.
For instance, perhaps if any of the school board members took the time to look up Critical Race Theory so they could actually define what it is, they wouldn't be creating such ridiculous policies and putting hard working, intelligent teachers fearing loss of their jobs for teaching knowledge and resources.
A library let's one have the ability to be alone in one's thoughts and look up information unjudged - even school board members.
I admit, I don't take enough advantage of the library myself. Most local library art sections are pretty weak.
College library art sections, at one time, were amazing. One local college recently got rid of stacks and stacks of their books and expanded their online offering. I didn't have the heart to ask if they got rid of their art books.
All that said, if we continue to lose these institutions or allow them to diminish, then we are going down a very dangerous road. And the Wikipedia future is not one to place complete trust.
The Oil Region Library association is fundraising this week. In the past, they participated in the Bridge Builder's annual Week of Giving, but that program was discontinued last fall.
So the library is taking it on themselves to raise $14,000. The first $6,000 that will be be matched to give them a $12,000, of the overall total.
What prompted me to take my car ride rant, and yes they are often out loud to myself, to this blog was number three on their list of reasons to the donate.
"When you give to the Founders Fund you are supporting... Centers of Democracy – In a polarized world, drown out the noise by researching ideas on your own through accessible resources representing views from all sides of the aisle."
Knowledge is power.
From the ORLA newsletter
In the absence of Week of Giving, we are inviting you to continue your generous support during National Library Week, April 3-9.
Seven years ago, ORLA was founded with a dream of uniting all three Venango County libraries to offer and preserve quality services across our region. ORLA seeks to continue enhancing cooperation, creativity and generous community spirit through our new Founders Fund.
When you give to the Founders Fund you are supporting:
1 Library Across 3 Communities – Oil City, Franklin & Cooperstown - Experience the same quality service at any location to access over 150,000 shared items. Pick up and drop off at any location with most resources provided free of charge and no late fees. In the future, we seek to become more involved within our region via a traveling bookmobile.
Community Centers – We are centers of wit, insight and collective wisdom. In an average year, your libraries offer approximately 1,000 free educational and community programs.
Centers of Democracy – In a polarized world, drown out the noise by researching ideas on your own through accessible resources representing views from all sides of the aisle.
Thanks to the support of the ORLA Board, ORLA Committee members and the Oil City and Franklin Friends groups, there are matching funds that will automatically match all donations received up to $6,000!
Donate online at https://oilregionlibraries.org/founders-fund/, or in person at your library!
Please make all checks payable to: ORLA, 2 Central Ave. Oil City, PA 16301.
We thank you in advance for your support!
You are helping to maintain ORLA’s status as your community centers throughout our county while paving the way for future growth and development.
Eight & 322 photo illustration
Watching keyboard vigilantes respond to this has been interesting I must say. Some called it pathetic to still have the tree up this far after Christmas has passed.
I'll admit it, I've tossed around several barbs about this tree and wonder why it hasn't come down yet. I contended that a reason some folks are complaining is the symbolism it displays. The seemingly forgotten, definitely decaying tree in the center of a town that has many other signs of seemingly forgotten and definite deterioration.
What was once a great symbol of community - lit up during the holiday showing pride and care of place, is now faded and just looks like another thing not being taken care of.
One of the spokespeople responsible for giving the gift of this tree wonders what the big deal is? He said it is a "green" tree in the middle of the park. He also mentioned that volunteers and people stepping up to do this do it for the community and that they are always looking for more to join in and help out. The Oil City Rotary Club, which organizes this gift to the community, would love more people signing up to help with all their community efforts.
He brought to light several very good points. The green tree perhaps not as it is now greenish brown with a blanket of needles underneath. One can see from the road that is it well passed its prime.
All of this was supposed to be a moot point by today because the plan was to take the tree down on Sunday. If you've driven around Town Square today you would've noted that it was not. Here is what organizers say happened - weather.
The City of Oil City Fire Department helps the Rotary and everything was set to go with them to bring their ladder truck down to help take down the lights and tree. The cold and snow made this an unnecessary risk of equipment and personnel. It was postponed again.
So it stands still until it can be organized with it's many moving parts again.
A couple folks on social media mentioned planting a tree instead of bringing a chopped down one each year. Though on the surface this sounds reasonable there are many reasons this isn't the best of ideas.
For one, Town Square Park is a multifunctional park. A tree in the center limits the ability to do many of the things they currently do there.
Earlier this season I had a discussion with another person who spends countless hours to get a tree for their town (you do realize most towns don't even go through this effort right?). She brought up a few great points why a live tree isn't ideal.
To transplant a permanent tree you have to live for several years with a less than spectacular much smaller display at first. Then you get a handful of optimal years and eventually the tree is either too big to decorate or it is time to take it down. Then you can't just plant another tree there because the old root system is still there. So, though it seems like a logical solution it is not.
Loits of things to consider.
But let's try to consider the overall picture here before we cast too many stones. To put the tree up for the holidays takes planning and coordination with the city, whoever donates the tree, folks with cranes and the Oil City fire and police departments, not to mention the other volunteers who help set up the lights, decorate the park, coordinate the light-up night festivities and so on.
They do this to give holiday hope and joy to their town, as well as all of you who swing by the city. Perhaps that effort needs to be applauded and not berated? Perhaps folks could join the Rotary and become active in their community instead of just being keyboard warriors? There are a lot of perhaps's to go around.
We all know the absolute least glamorous part of any task is the cleanup. You can imagine the excitement of the build-up, but, unless you're the youngest brother of brothers who liked to build things, you probably can't imagine the cleanup. From the youngest brother perspective, let me tell you cleaning up sucks.
So its easy to complain, it is harder to pony up some effort to help.
That said, on the other side of the coin perhaps an exit plan does need to be a part of the whole volunteer planning stage? Maybe getting the little brothers lined up ahead of time to clean up isn't a bad idea?
In any event, I do know that several stories I tell about truly positive things in our community I wish garner half the attention of this hubbub over a tree that just hasn't been taken down yet. Truly far less attention was given to a story I did about folks trying to raise money to help the children who tragically lost their mother.
So what does that say about us?
I have found myself over the last few days going in and out of crying over people I don't even really know.
My heart is absolutely broken.
The war in Ukraine has me wondering why I even care to shovel my driveway to go out and live this world where so much hatred exists.
My despair for what I see there is just a hopeless journey of what we feign as empathy... will I do anything about it? I'm not going to travel there to join in as a freedom fighter.
So I sit mouth agape watching my TV screen or looking at articles and photographs online; feeling helpless like I always do. Then I make a social media post hoping that makes me feel better - like I'm doing something to at least make others aware.
But... nope... that didn't help. In fact, it probably jarred someone to politicize some philosophical difference and set up some polarized responses.
That is the world we live in now.
So I try to turn to life I can control at least a little - the world more closely around me.
We live in extraordinarily good times if we choose to see it that way. Here in northwest Pennsylvania, we are blessed where you can you live a good life, you can be left alone and go on day to day just about as safe as you can anywhere in the world.
Then I pick up the local paper.
Swear words abound!
A very disturbing story about a woman who appears to have a suspicious death and was stuffed in a large garbage-can-like drum.
More swear words.
We are an educated civilized democracy and we are beyond such things, I think.
But no. No we are not.
When I first read this story I admit having a somewhat callous reaction. The local paper report was matter of fact and was detailed without emotion - like news stories are supposed to be. The reports mentioned drug paraphernalia or the manufacturing equipment for drugs, so it became easy to judge. A man was arrested on homicide and other drug-related charges. But at this point, it was hard to know about what transpired at the home to this based on available public data.
Then I read further that the woman had children. OK this changes things for me. Even without more information as to whether or not it was careless adults, what did the children do to deserve being involved in this at all?
Over the next couple days more information came out, including the name of the woman who was found dead. And the name was familiar to me. So I looked her up. Then my heart went into my throat.
I had met and spoken with her several times since I began working in Venango County at seven years ago. The first time I met her, she was taking her 2- or 3-year-old daughter to one of the many community events around town.
She indicated to me that despite her lack of money at the time it was important she let her daughter experience as much as she could. The woman was very stoic and stepped back away to let her daughter truly experience what the event had to offer. Every time I'd see her over the next few years she barely cracked a smile other than when she watched her little girl.
Thining of this, I actually began to cry. My limited knowledge of this person was just how much she wanted for her little girl.
Over the last few years I hadn't run across her as much, possibly because I wasn't in Oil City as often. I learned she had two more children and I can only imagine she wanted the same things for them.
I just have not been able to stop thinking about her and her kids.
I still don't know all the circumstances that led to her death but I can say with utmost certainty that her children did not deserve this. Whatever the circumstances, their mother's life was taken from them.
A life that inluded her role as a daughter, a sibling, a community member and... a mom.
Today I woke up to see a post about two Oil City convenience stores being closed from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Further reading I learned it was because this person worked at the store and the store managers closed to honor her memory and ensure her co-workers could show their respects.
My faith in humanity is slightly restored, but why should we have to have to restore faith at all. These poor kids, this poor little girl who must be around 9 now. Why the hell should she have to endure this? The community has set up a GoFundMe account to help take care of these little souls. Not that money fixes anything, but there is now someone else who wasn't expecting to need to care for them while they too are likely grieving.
I know I will miss seeing the look of love from this mother as she watched over her little girl experiencing the joy of life. I truly am sad that I will never witness this again.
Photograph of the Country Fair sign courtesy of Jim Marshall.
What a fiasco of non-sensical blathering has taken place since last Sunday regarding the halftime show at the Super Bowl.
Before I go on, I didn't even really watch the game other than having it play on my phone as I worked, and I didn't watch the halftime show. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever watched an entire halftime show in my life. I feigned interest in The Rolling Stones years ago, I caught glimpses of Aerosmith and Michael Jackson, I ashamedly admit googling Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction(don't judge), but the halftime show is not my bag. The TV camera-work and quick cuts from this angle to that angle and the sheer chaos is really not enjoyable at all to me.
I will get to this photograph in a minute.
The line up of this year's halftime show appeared to be like many before in my mind. Folks who are nearing the oldies list appealing to the demographic of Super Bowl watchers who have money... well not the boomers, but the middle-aged, middle-income folks. Folks who grew up listening to hip hop before they even knew what it meant - like rock-n-roll in the 50s and 60s, punk in the 70s (I try to forget disco and the 80s entirely), grunge and hip hop changed music. In so many ways for the better because they opened up sound once again. They opened up poetry to a new generation.
OK country music folks calm down. I didn't mean you when I said middle-aged, middle-income folks. Hip hop has spurned generations of listeners just like the Beatles did, just like Michael Jackson did, just like Garth Brooks did. Music of many divergent individuals has made an impression at one time or another.
There is enough music going around for everyone. It was time to recognize some folks and why not do it in L.A.
Now I'll talk about the picture above.
You know what most people who play music have in common? Music education. Not all, but most musicians took some sort of music in school or were helped by someone who could teach them a few things.
So if we want good music for generations to come... maybe even during half-time shows here is an idea. Instead of polarizing ideas of this genre or another... why not celebrate music in a way that pays tribute to the beginning of the super bowl where high school and college marching bands performed, but also helps educate the public, create awareness and generate funds for why music is so important anyway?
What I think next year's Super Bowl planners should consider is this... bring back the marching band.
Hear me out. I know a survey of the top halftime shows lists all the Super Bowls prior in the age of extravaganza (1990 ) are big name acts. But before that marching bands were brought on to show there wares... though not much was broadcast as we had to endure the first half again in analysis.
What if we take the marching band idea and give it a twist?
How many famous folks played in they high school marching band? What if we approached these millionaire celebrities, musicians and politicians to donate their time and money for one year to music in education?
In fact why not get 100 famous folks to join a nation-wide collection of high school marching band members and put on a halftime show? All with the purpose of raising.... let's just say 500 million dollars for musical education in k-12 schools across this country?
It's a drop in the bucket for what a Super Bowl Sunday generates. A quick search indicates that revenue from the Super Bowl exceeds five billion for those pretty directly involved and more than 20 billion overall. Hell advertisings could get on board too and design ads supporting this cause.
Seems like PR win all around.
It would be fun to see Bill Clinton playing the sax in the same line with someone from Franklin High School and on the other side is maybe Jennifer Garner?
The flute section could have Gwen Stefani and Halle Barry.
Now I'm getting interested.
Clarinets could get Gloria Estefan back in a halftime show playing next to Julia Roberts and 30 high school clarinet players.
I wonder if Steven Tyler can still play the trumpet? Who cares, just get him out there with his scarfs dangling off one anyway!
Why not let Tommy Lee bang away in the drum line (no pun intended) with Trent Reznor with a drum line made up of kids from Hawaii to New Jersy?
Seriously, the list could go on and on.
It would be fun, it would be a great PR thing for the NFL and whichever network and their advertisers. If done right it could maybe lead to a better philanthropy from one of the most outrageous gluttonous days of the year.
Just a thought from someone who doesn't give a .... about halftime shows.
Oh I guess that's not true since I just wrote all this down.
"You can't call us about your trash pick-up," said Venango County Commissioner Chip Abromovic. He went on to list other things like potholes on neighborhood streets, water, gas and sewer issues. "The most important issues that affect our day to day lives, that's what these elections are about." His fellow commissioners Mike Dulaney and Sam Breene nodded affirmatively.
Tomorrow we elect mayors, school board members, city councilors, judges and sheriffs. These are the folks you go to when we have a problem at home. These folks decide budgets, taxes and how protected we are through fire and police, clean water and sanitation, local roads and downtown parking as well as any number of local ordinances and permits from folks trying to do community events.
According to Venango County director of elections Sabrina Backer, the last municipal election numbers were abysmal, though she was too nice to use such a word. Of the Republicans registered in the county, only 29 percent of them turned out to vote. Democrats were even lazier with only 19% seemingly caring who was elected.
These elections are supposed to be what makes America something special. We decide who gets to governs from within our trust. It is a reflection of who are as a whole when an individual sits on council for our ward or on a school board representing the needs of our district.
So township and city councils could be changed or remain the same based on Tuesday's results. Our lives could be dramatically changed come swear-in day based on tomorrow's results.
This really is a big deal.... too bad less than a third of us gives a crap.
Edited 6-13-12 to correct and include more information on meetings
I've struggled trying to figure out how to write this opinion post. A week or so ago I became aware that several people in the PENNCREST school district community were in the midst of dealing with philosophical differences.
That's the nice way of putting it.
Hate is another way of putting it.
Narrow-minded, short-sighted, hypocritical, it's really none of your business, get a life and shut the fuck up is another way of putting it.
And I am holding back here.
Apparently a dude named Glenn Wright took a photo of a display at Maplewood High School's library where a handful of books about being gay or LGBTQ are presented on top of the book shelves. "I realize this makes me a hater, but I am totally ok with that label..." his post read.
Ok this is a dude has either a problem with gay people or a school's acceptance of information and willingness to actually provide those materials..... I'm not really sure. But at least he is ok with it.
There are narrow-minded people everywhere. Sadly I've grown accustomed to this being a norm.
But..... enter a couple school board members getting involved with this post.
David Valesky shared this post adding his own commentary. (Glenn is not on the school board, but David is, I want complete clarity in this).
David wrote that "Besides the point of being totally evil, this is not what we need to be teaching kids. They aren't at school to be brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is okay...."
WTF! Deep breath here Rich, Deep breath.
This is where I struggle to keep my cool. Who the hell is this David Valesky and what authority does he have to decide anything about what is or is not evil and how does that even come closets how one associates their gender? Really, who the hell does he think he is? Claiming it's not something we should be teaching our kids.... well for one, its a display in a library, and two, why the hell not? People are individuals with unique experiences and perspectives. Valesky has his own unique perspective and that is fine. But now he throws down a gauntlet as a member of a school board saying information is inappropriate. Mind boggling that he thinks he should be in a position to decide appropriate information when he appears to be spewing antiquated hate speech that is, in fact, in the bible he professes as THE word.
Mind boggling as well that he goes on to use the term brainwashed.
In The Titusville Herald a few days later he stood behind his remarks. I give him credit for standing behind his opinions..... but again I ask, who the hell does he think he is?
Another School board member Luigi DeFrancesco also shared Wright's post but did not offer further commentary. A third school board member, Bob Johnston, chimed in saying the matter of the display will be investigated.
These are grown men. I want to emphasize this point. And they are in a position to decide the actions of the school district. Before getting too deep into the hypocrisy of citing evil while speaking in a vile tongue, are they advocating for knowledge to be squelched here? Are these books teaching "pure evil?" Or are they giving acceptance to a marginalized group being oppressed by neanderthal thugs?
As I said before, I'm struggling to find words to address this feeling I have that we have a few members of a school board who think they are speaking for God. They are, in fact, speaking for a group of oppressors who have no justifiable reason to get involved in the lives of people they not only don't understand, but really don't have any claim to decide anything about the way they choose to live. The funny thing is at least one of these folks adamantly opposes interference of the government into his life.
Ah- ha moment?
No not likely.
I'm frustrated beyond belief here. This one school board member calling anyone other than his own post evil is beyond me. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!" And this assumes one could truly know sin, or what constitutes sin.
I read several comments on these posts and was appalled at how much piety laden hypocrisy there truly was and beyond that, how much self-proclaimed scholars of the bible there are.
The truth is, knowledge is power. We need to read books that challenge us and we need to discuss viewpoints unfamiliar to ourselves. And we need authors sharing what it is like to be marginalized so someday, perhaps, we'll be better humans.
I guess until then, campaign against oppressors and vote.
Last weekend the photo on the left appeared on Facebook. A few hours I drove out to the school and this is what I saw on the right. I don't have any knowledge of the origin of each, but I found it interesting none-the-less.
The article in the Titusville Herald had a few interesting points. One Valesky stood his ground. We now know exactly where he stands. Defrancesca thought the story should be about how cell phone photos on the internet have a way to get out of control. Really? That's the story here?
The next PENNCREST School board meetings are a work session on June 14 at 7 p.m. and and board meeting on June 16 at the same time. People wishing to address the board must request a spot with the school board secretary by Monday. The meetings have been moved to the high school auditorium because of the larger than usual expected turn out.
Many members of the public supporting the LGBTQ community are organizing to have many voices present. I'm guessing there could also be supporters of Valesky's brand of Christianity present too.
I still cannot believe, in this day and age, we are forced to still deal with this level of bigotry veiled in christianity. It is mind boggling!
Pandemic 2021 Eight & 322 Illustration by Richard Sayer
I like to get criticism.... well, maybe "like" is not the right word. Let me rephrase. I learn from people pointing out things to me they notice and don't like. I can either decide to get upset when someone criticizes my work, or I can confront the issue like an adult by educating others or, and this is important, I can learn something from another's point of view.
I recently received a message from a reader who was very concerned about photos I've taken, published and spread through social media of people not wearing masks.
"I'm struggling with frustration at the lack of attention to the responsibility of mask-less events and activities found to be contributing to this community's viral spread. As a healthcare provider, I can't help but find the community photos depicting mask-less games horribly offensive. Everyone who has been tirelessly working all along to keep this virus at bay, risking our own and our loved one's health and safety everyday is pained when we see such irresponsible behavior at non essential activities."
This reader was very nice and just wanted to express their concern. They explained they feared my depicting these folks may be normalizing or giving acceptance to the practice of not wearing masks or social distancing.
I replied by explaining I am documenting life around me, and that is simply what is going on. Whether I was there making photographs or not the people were still at the events without masks. Documenting the activities is simply showing, good or bad, what is going on in the community. I try to make no judgements, I try to be fair and I try to be safe myself while documenting the events.
In other words, I wear a mask to be as safe as I can and to protect others in case I unknowingly contracted the virus myself. I know the risk. I accept the risk, but I take a lot of precautions.
I have posted columns and updates on COVID and really thought I was balancing my coverage. But I truly didn't think that the photos of people without masks I've taken could be taken as a means to "normalize this behavior and desensitize the public to the very real, powerfully negative impacts. It is possible that these photos make it seem like everything is ok and encourage others to behave in that manner," as reader pointed out.
I'm not sure how I can do what I do in covering the life of a community without documenting exactly how people are living. I guess, though I understand and even sympathize with this reader, I just cannot se how not covering something will change anything. Perhaps, by covering these events dialogues can be opened up if folks are bothered by what they are seeing. Again, even if I were not there, this would go on.
I offered this reader, and many others a chance to give their opinions, either through public comments or letters to the editor. I also invite many to write columns and believe we truly can be a place, at Eight & 322, for lively debate and discussion. Discussion is how we learn.
I extend this offer to everyone, I will listen and consider publishing letters and columns on the subject of masks or other COVID-19 related thoughts. Hell, on any topic really.
I explained to the reader that even though I offer this often to folks, many just won't engage in the conversation for one reason or another. On social media we've all seen why. Opinions are so divided on the subject that the threads often lead to name calling and then no one learns a thing.
I try to offer as many sides to a story as I can. I was up-dating the local COVID-19 numbers on a webpage here on my site(link below,) especially when they were rising and rising. Our area seemed spared for a long time from the high numbers, but not spared from the virus. In Venango County we recorded our first known case on March 29, 2020, almost a year ago. In the first six months we didn't even average a single case a day. Since October 1 we have had over 3,000 new cases and 83 deaths.
In recent weeks our daily numbers are once again down daily from what they were a few months ago, but what is not evident in those numbers is the positivity rate. In the area about one in every four people tested are coming back positive. That is a 25% positivity rate.
So the reader, who is a healthcare worker, has a point. The fact is, people are getting out and about without wearing masks, without social distancing and by doing so are putting themselves and others at risk. Including the athletes playing, though school's have protocols to follow to keep their students as safe as possible, even when teams are wearing masks they are not staying well in place.
As a journalist, I find myself checking what I believe with what I observe. I told this reader that I had a story early on in the pandemic where I indicated in my caption 'a mostly mask-less crowd.' I caught myself after I published this realizing by my saying 'a mostly mask-less crowd,' I was leading the discussion based on my beliefs instead of just observing life and letting the photograph just stand on its own.
It was after that moment I decided I needed an opinion section on this website where I could express my concerns and invite others to do so as well. I've reached out to many people to write columns or submit letters. So far, few have taken me up on this opportunity. I'd love to have folks, like this reader express these opinions and have them discussed civilly. It's the only way we get better as a community.
Anyone interested in commenting in anyway I'd love to hear from you. As you can see by my maked photo, I'm all ears (I've learned ear have few useful muscles when it comes to masks!)
Send letters, or columns to firstname.lastname@example.org about this or any topic really.
If you have a story to tell or an idea for a story please also send that along. Putting a neighbor's face on a story is perhaps the most powerful way to get a point across within a community. Hard to face a neighbor in the face at grocery store after telling them you don't care about their health on social media.
Below are several links to pieces done by Eight & 322 about the importance of mitigation efforts, but I'll leave this column with a very poignant part of this reader's message that I think is worth all of us reading and trying to absorb.
"I am longing for the breathe-easy days where I don't have to wear a mask throughout the whole work day and rethink every single motion...just in attempts to keep our patients and my own circle safe. I am tired of losing patients as a consequence of poor choices made by others."
Plus several stories about the pandemic since March 2020 can be found looking back at the Eight & 322 page in the menu above.
To see how the numbers have been please check out 8and322.weebly.com/crawford-and-venango-cases.html
Not the “forever” kind of break, but it definitely feels like it.
I have a job in healthcare. I’m not a nurse. I’m not a physician. I don’t wear a cape. Though I agree wholeheartedly that nurses and doctors should come with a cape as a standard part of their uniform, there are more heroes than just those in the headlines.
There are those who are tracing the virus, testing people, cleaning the facilities, working tirelessly to get the caped heroes what they need to take care of patient – the supplies which are virtually impossible to find, the modified rooms to meet the special requirements to care for Covid patients, etc., etc., etc.
There are those who organize and coordinate the response, manage the drugs needed for treatment and prevention and register patients at all hours. Many of these workers have not had a true day off in close to a year. These are new duties added on in addition to an already full-time job.
This is the Covid support team.
I am a member of this team. These amazing individuals have become what I consider “family.” We have worked side by side for 12 hour days, cried together, laughed together, stressed and brainstormed together, and overall, we made it work.
It just doesn’t feel right to NOT work all waking hours if we have an ability to make sure those who need help get it. As melodramatic as that sounds, that is how I have approached my job.
We all have.
We have done a job we, and our community, are proud of and appreciate.
But, we are also human. We have lives, and families. And that is something incredibly hard to balance.
I am not going to say much about my family, but I have one that depends on me. And they didn’t sign up for this. I did.
They deserve more of me than I have been able to give them for a very long time, and I miss being able to focus on them, and only them, for at least a portion of my day.
I have reached the point where my mental and physical health, my family’s wellbeing and happiness, and my sense of worth is absolutely priceless. It is incredibly difficult to do, but I need to make big changes.
I am not choosing to quit, and I know that is going to be difficult for a lot of people to understand; I am, instead, choosing myself and my family.
I know personally that there are many, many exhausted and hurting individuals just trying to do their best - to do good. They are incredible people who have made immeasurable sacrifices over the past year.
So, as I am stepping away from this team if I could ask for one thing from everyone - please… be kind.
Remember we are all one team. Please help those struggling, even if they appear to be composed. We all have our own battles.
And please be compassionate.
I may not be a nurse, but as one of the “other” people involved in healthcare who made it possible for the whole system to function during this difficult time… this is a disaster during which the hospital staff is doing everything imaginable.
People are sacrificing to an extent you will never know in order to help this community.
Don’t let the people I have worked with who remain on the front lines of this, my second family, break.
Be their light. They need it.
I love my dad. He was perhaps the kindest man I've ever met. He embodied the compassionate soul of his mother and the snarky perspective of life of his father. I trusted his opinion and his thoughts on life perhaps more than anyone else my entire life.
He thought Donald Trump was a good president.
As the Trump presidency is winding down and I am thinking about my dad wondering how he would feel about him now? My dad died a couple years ago so he wasn't around to vote for him this time, which I believe he would have, nor was he around to witness this seemingly off-kilter transition of power.
When I was kid I spent a lot of time with my dad. He would tell me about the world and his views on what this country needs. "A good dictator," he would say. He felt progress was often halted or slowed by politics. He was, of course right on that, but I'm sure he knew that one: a good dictator would likely eventually be corrupted by power and two: that's not how this country was put together. And he believed this country to be the greatest idea so far put forth. But I knew what he meant. The last fours years I wondered if dad considered Trump this "good dictator?"
75 million people still believed in Trump more than Joe Biden to lead us the next four years. On the news these supporters appear to be militant sort with guns ready to start a civil war. Surely not all 75 million who voted for him feel this way. I know a good many Trump supporters who believe in the constitution far more than they do a single man, but I think they are feeling a tad disenfranchised because they believe the stories of fraud and do not trust the media is covering it fairly. Social media seems to show us the far extremes and that is also being reported.
As a member of the "media" I defend the practice of what we do, because frankly, the alternative scares the hell out of me. Even at a fault, a free press is better than a controlled propaganda machine.
I'm a pretty harsh critic also of our profession. For instance I have watched reporters on on network news blatantly state the president's claims as false. Are they? Evidence seems to show they are but can we, as reporters, state without a doubt that they are false? I believe we need to report them similar to the way we report criminal charges.
"Alleged claims by the president is more accurate than "false claims." Or unproven claims, unsubstantiated claims. There are so many ways to report this that is more accurate than stating they are false.
To state they are false we leave ourselves open to being biased and wrong. Iif determined later to not false, the profession suffers damaging credibility to its foundation. The foundation is already cracked. If we use language that we should be using we are not risking damage and also not stating something as fact, even if evidence shows it as such. Socrates taught us a fact isn't so easily determined, and yet here we are still so blatantly egotistical that we claim to know truths.
We need to do better. I don't know for certain that the president, who by the way is privy to the best intelligence in this country, doesn't know something I don't? Do I believe him? No!
But can I say he is wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt? No!
I don not have access to all the court documents or evidence.
As a reporter we can say the president's claims have been deemed not worthy of further action by the courts. And so far he has lost nearly every case and the pending ones don't appear to be backed by any further evidence that will change the outcome of the election.
We need to be better. Journalists need to understand our job isn't to know a damn thing, our job is to not know answers, but question everyone else's answers to seek the best possible information to present the public. I think most of us do this, though the constant barrage of tweets and what has been determined over and over again to be inaccurate information from the president has made us all a tad salty and fatigued. We have all made mistakes. Me for certain.
I don't know!
It's a statement I use a lot because based on the best information I obtain on any subject, it is always peppered with unanswered questions as well. I do not believe our president for 17 more days is a trustworthy human being. This stems back way before he took the oath of office and he has done nothing to change my mind, in fact, listening today to his phone call with a team of folks in Georgia, it confirms even further he isn't fit for the office in my opinion. He continues to offer no viable evidence to back his claims and rants on and on, then doesn't believe others who do have facts to back up their claims the election was not a giant scam.
I'd truly like to hear my dad right now. What would he think? Good dictator?
I don't know.
As far as the overall Trump presidency there are some good things that can be said. I believe he inherited a slow growing economy that was positioned to remain slow, steady growth. He enhanced and sped that up. No questions about that. If the Dow etc... are true indicators of progress he excelled for sure. History seems to tell us however that such rapid and unchecked growth is dangerous. We'll see.
I sure as hell don't know.
I believe he is actually a peace president. I fear some of his actions will lead to conflicts we cannot avoid in the future, but I love that he managed to not start a Great War we cannot get out of like G.W. Bush did. For that I am forever grateful to him 9fingers crossed for the next 17 days.)
Escalating tensions in Iran seem to have me a bit nervous, but at the moment, I applaud this president's restraint in using force. I even applaud his meeting with North Korea. I thought this was a bit of a proud moment in terms of U.S. history and diplomacy. Again we'll see if the intensions were as good as we can hope. Again, I do not trust the man and it is really unclear what the result of this meeting will be.
I don't know.
I like to look for the good in anyone, and it has been a real struggle the last few years. I applaud the notion of rapid deployment of vaccine testing and production of much needed supplies. I fear this could've been handled better to prevent the deaths we have had, but it is impressive what this country can do if tasked. I'm pissed at the president for not understanding the problems of community spread and acting more responsibly as our leader, but he did institute a rapid response finally. Could he have positioned us better? Yes, but every president has been caught with their pants down on something.
I don't know.
I won't go into this president's failures here, this is already too long and frankly, I could write all week and not cover what I feel are tremendous failures with long term repercussions I believe the Biden presidency will have challenge after challenge just to fix problems and that's only if the world stabilizes and nothing else becomes an immediate problem. That's not how the world works and we're already looking at potential problems rising up in the Middle East that will likely rear its ugly head within the next month.
The president continues to act like he's not interested in a smooth transition of power and I feel internal strife that will hamper the next administrations efforts to proceed.
Biden will have to be flawless, and history shows no human who could be that good. So this is going to be a rocky time.
Though I don't know.
Dad, if you're listening, I could use your guidance. Though I'm guessing you'd tell me something like,"that'll be up to you do figure out, I taught you what I know, now it's up to you."
I miss you dad. I don't think this was your "good dictator" though I feel he would like to be a dictator by his actions. I pray for a peaceful or at least manageable transition. I think as we move forward I'd like to ask the country a question my dad's dad would ask, "are you helping or hindering?" I guess we could ask ourselves this no matter who is in charge?
I don't know.
Technically it was Irving Berlin who. wrote "White Christmas," but it was that masochist Bing that made it famous.
What I believe was actually a propaganda piece written at a time when real estate was cheap in Southern California to stop us all from moving there to get away from the snow and cold.
Oh yeah its a beautiful song and it warms your heart. You know what else warms your heart? How about the searing hot blood trying to get through all that bacon fat wrapped around turkey legs served with stuffing and gravy that has been lodged up in your aorta since thanksgiving while you're out shoveling feet fulls of snow just to get your car out.
That warms your heart a plenty thank you very much.
If Bing was still alive I'd drive to California and give him a good smack in the puss!
The smug irony of all this.... are you ready?
Bing lived in Southern California where they barely ever saw snow. All those TV shows showing him inside by the fire with snow falling out the window or singing to a pretty girl on a sleigh in "the park," was all generated by some little dude standing on scaffolding above them with a box of fake snow.
And while we shovel this stuff by the foot back here he was poolside laughing his ass off counting all those "White Christmas" royalties.
So can you guess what I was just doing?
I sure as hell wasn't singing "White Christmas!"
On Christmas 2020, almost 80 years after Berlin penned the classic tune, we got 750 feet of snow in Northwest Pennsylvania. We actually only got about a foot, but I count by the shovelful as I slip my way down the driveway clearing it inch by inch. The entire time I picture my doctor sitting down as he had me pick up my pace on a treadmill, wearing a white lab coat and oddly talking about cows as he watch my heart rate rise. As I huffed and puffed and questioned my decision to go to the doctor in the first place, he calmly and pleasantly said that my heart was in good shape.
So that pounding in my chest must have been rage then? He didn't have a piece of equipment that could answer that.
Actually, as much as I wish my body was still twenty-something, this shovel-fest wasn't horrible.
I got to thinking about my dad. He taught me how to shovel snow, ironically while whistling songs like "White Christmas." He also taught me to get a stress test, but that's another story.
When I was 12 the Northeast had a helluva winter. We had a weeklong-ish power outage due to an ice storm and that was followed soon after by the famed Blizzard of 78.
Yes we refer to it exactly that way. Books have been written about it.
Shoveling out after this storm seemed like an daunting task. Too much snow, hell it was higher than I was at the time.
My dad was calm soul.
A job needed to be done, so, take a breath and start. Just do the job.
I don't remember him complain that it needed to be done, he just did it. (You should've heard me this morning as I couldn't find my gloves and realized somewhere in that big mound of snow outside there lie every winter coat I own in the back of my car.)
My dad taught me to do one shovel at a time and to cut the snow into manageable chunks. That storm back in my youth dropped over four feet on us so we had to take each shovel width apart in layers.
Each shovel width took 3 to 5 scoops and tosses high over the bank to clear down to pavement. A long driveway, like my grandparents, took six of us over for hours.
I'd say it wasn't fun, but I think about it every year and that makes me think of my dad, and my little shovel they got me. I also remember learning of family dynamics and the ability to control emotions.
Remember I said my dad was calm and never complained. The most I ever heard him complain came that day in that long driveway owned by my grandparents. We helped dig them out. Grampa was out there too. He sorta started at one end and met us somewhere in the middle. My dad and I started at the road and my brothers traversed across the deep snow to reach grampa.
After several hours we managed a more than good car width path to their garage. Good, they can get their vehicle out in case of emergency. As a reward we knew there was some soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, the best of all snow shoveling meals ever.
We were packing up shovels when Grampa said "after we warm up we'll dig out rest, we need to be able to turn the cars around."
"You're kidding?" my dad said.
Grampa wasn't kidding.
So before we packed up dad, visibly pissed but not saying a word, decided not to take a break. So we kept on digging. I'm not even sure he had soup and sandwiches at the end because he wanted to leave before saying something he'd regret later. We dug enough to turn a semi around in the driveway before we got the ok that was enough.
I thought a lot about that today as I shoveled 750 feet of snow to free my car. By the way I have a garage, but it is up behind the house which would easily add about 1,000 foot of snow to shovel more, especially once I finished the turn around area.
Of course this is all in jest. I don't hate Bing or Irving or any of the other people who have sung this song over the years (though once Bing did, it almost seems worthless to try to do it again.) And I don't hate the snow, especially after my stress test this summer.
As I was writing this I decided to look up a little about the song and I read a story about Crosby visiting the troops in Germany during World War Two. Apparently he was asked by a commander if he planned on singing "White Christmas" and he said sure. The commander reportedly told me that he would listen from behind the tents because he didn't want his men to see him cry. As Crosby performed the song he too had difficulty holding back tears as he watched the soldiers in the audience tearing up. It wasn't long after that show that thousand of the men and women in the audience died in pivotal and famed Battle of the Buldge.
So Bing Crosby was not a jerk
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