Looking Back

A year ago today, the World Health Organization officially declared that the Novel Coronavirus officially reached pandemic levels. Although various experts and pundits were already saying this, the official stamp “pandemic” seemed to make it all real.

I vividly remember where I was at the time. I was driving down 27th street, going by the GFS–basically a store that sells massive quantities of food. Fearing the worst, I made a sharp turn into the lot. I quickly stocked up on what seemed like the essentials. They were already out of white rice, so I went for brown, a bunch of dried beans, several industrial size cans of mixed vegetables, and a ten-pound bag of shredded cheese. Because I am from Wisconsin, dire straits call for large amounts of shredded cheese.

I can’t say that it really made all that much of a difference. Although there were shortages on any number of things, cheese (shredded or otherwise) was never one of them. It seems like a long, long time ago that we hunkered down, trying to figure out how to leave the house, refueling the car only once in a month for under $20, and spending more time together as a family doing nothing than we had since the last maternity leave. I didn’t think so at the time, but in retrospect, it really was kind of nice. Sure, there was the overwhelming existential dread, but we played a ton of board games, and now I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies. So there’s that.

It’s so strange to be living through history. All of this momentous activity, and still I’m yelling for people to move their dirty dishes from the sink to the dishwasher. It’s the little things.

Now that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, I can look back at some of those early, knee-jerk reactions and kind of smile. Not laugh, not yet. But a sort of a winsome grimace is within my power. My early hopes for a common-good approach embraced by all kind of fell flat. But I’ve learned to find grace in my frustration, calm amidst the insecurity.

We ended up donating the beans, rice, and vegetables. The girls hate beans, and we prefer white rice and fresh vegetables. But we ate the heck out of that ten pounds of shredded cheddar. What a year it’s been.


My friend Rachel died a little over a week ago. She was younger than I am with three kids and a husband. She had metastatic breast cancer, and we knew it would eventually cut her life short. But it still took me by surprise. The last time I saw her, we waved from our cars outside of the dance studio and rolled our eyes as our respective dogs went nuts at each other from inside the vehicles. It was too cold to roll down the windows, so we didn’t talk. Not that it would have been particularly meaningful, but there it is.

Here’s what I want Rachel’s kids to know: Rachel will always remind me to be brave. She had absolutely no shame in her game. She always spoke her mind (for better or worse), and laughed the loudest. When we worked together at the clinic, she would bust out Zumba moves in the work area between patients. I believe there was even some floor work at times. She lived out loud.

Here’s the memory that I want to treasure forever and give to her kids. We were at a dance competition as dance moms, cheering on our daughters. Before they started announcing awards, the organizers turned up the lights and blasted dance music into the hotel ballroom. One of Rachel’s jams came on. I can’t remember the song, and I am pretty sure that nearly anything could be Rachel’s jam. She hopped up and danced to the front of the room where the girls sat, hands in the air, wagging her booty, much to her daughter’s embarrassment and the other moms’ delight. Now, I will occasionally bust a move from my seat, but she took it to the next level, laughing loudly and not giving a hoot who saw her. That’s how I’m always go to remember Rachel. Fearless, shameless, brave.

I’ve needed some of that spirit lately as I dipped my toe into the local political waters, where people aren’t always kind and thoughtful. But whenever I start to falter and worry about what people might say, I summon up that memory of Rachel, raising the roof with the girls, under the glittering chandelier of the hotel ballroom, while I sat in my seat filled envy at her complete disregard for it all.


It’s time that you all know that truth: I’m a fainter. Big time. I’ve gotten to the point where I can at least anticipate it and sit down when I feel the urge. I really should look into more fainting couches to scatter through the house, but they’ve become a bit passe along with the falling-out-of-favor of corsets.

Don’t worry. After that time when I fainted while making risotto (you have to stand there and stir it for a really, really long time), I had myself checked out, and there’s nothing wrong with me other than “cardiogenic vasovagal syncope,” a.k.a., a tendency to faint at the least provocation.

These days, the only time that I’m truly at risk of a full on pass-out is if I accidentally see my own blood during a medical procedure or blood draw. Just for fun, let’s review what can happen if I see my own blood, shall we?

Here is a list of times when I passed out seeing my own blood:

  1. In high school, at the spring blood drive in the gym my senior year. I was 18 and, therefore, eligible to participate. I was also wearing a cute red, polka dot dress with bare legs. When I passed out across the lounge chair during my cookie time, I sort of did an awkward backbend across it, thereby flashing the rest of the gym. At least I didn’t remember it, I guess.
  2. In Genetics class in college. We had to do a finger prick to obtain a blood sample in order to isolate our DNA and photograph our chromosomes. Guys, a finger prick did me in. I remember lancing my finger and feeling fuzzy. Unfortunately, I was not yet a professional at fainting, and neglected to just sit down when I felt it coming on. Instead, I fell to the ground between the black-topped lab tables. When I came to, I was hovered over by the lab assistant and an earnest Professor Perrault offering me water, presumably from the eyewash station, presented in a permanently coffee-stained mug. I declined.
  3. By medical school, I was savvy enough to anticipate my wooziness and seat myself firmly down whenever any potential bloodletting was to occur. When it was unavoidable, I just looked away and was generally fine. Except for during blood donations, which were simply too prolonged for me to ignore. I felt pressured to be a good bimonthly blood donor, and the Blood Center was less than a block from our classrooms. I gamely went, usually having my donation abruptly halted halfway through when I started to pass out. After the third or so time that this happened, I was politely requested to not return, as they couldn’t use an incomplete donation, and I was really just wasting supplies and juice.
  4. I was somehow okay during childbirth, likely because the blood part paled in comparison to the overall horror of the rest of it.

Why, then, did I ever think I could hack it in medicine? For whatever reason, I don’t have a problem with anyone else’s blood, just my own. I guess this isn’t really such a strange thing. I tried to see if there was a word for it, but Google just came back with a lot of sites trying to help people get over the fear of their own blood. Me, I’m just kind of secretly glad to be able to avoid the pressure of donating blood. After all, they DID tell me not to come back…