Ohio COVID-19 Journal Day 16

If you came looking for words of wisdom, I’m fresh out of those today. All I can tell you is somehow we are 16 days into social distancing here at home. Everyone is still healthy and in good spirits, the five of us. I count it as a miracle, a blessing of the craziest kind. Then again, Ohio is only just getting started.

We’ve been holding family dinner every night this second week at home and it has improved considerably from that first night, the one where my oldest was horrified to learn about my online honesty over our collective dinner behavior.

It’s a toss up: I really don’t want to share my children’s stories as those are theirs to tell, but I am a writer, and authenticity is my deal. So believe me, it’s hard to know where to draw that fine line sometimes. My story often includes them. And as I’ve said many times, poorly paraphrasing Glennon Doyle, if I share my foibles and my family’s foibles, maybe people will feel less like a freak for things not being perfect in their own lives. Consider it my service to you. Because really, whose life is perfect?

I digress… Back to dinner.

Each of us endures some gentle ribbing and there is ready laughter among the group. Nice. This is how it should be. I’m glad we got there.

We play “Categories” where you pick a category and then take turns naming something in the category without repeat or else you’re out. First we did presidents, and then our oldest wanted “famous battles” since he’s a war buff. We Louies went a few rounds…I’m proud of us, as obscure of a topic that normally is for our age ranges and interests. Even our youngest and our daughter could go a few rounds.

The kids clean up the dishes, and they even volunteered a thanks to their dad for cooking the meal. Our daughter baked cookies during the week and her older brother actually thanked her, without prompting from us. Do my ears trick me or have the fights subsided?

The boys play basketball with their dad and chess with each other. Our daughter does online ballet and Facetimes with her friends. My husband has a growing list of students willing to take online percussion classes and is teaching them, but he’s finding that each day feels like all the rest and the students don’t remember that they have a lesson.


I joked that we should start each day doing something like the Walmart cheer, except we’d spell out days of the week so we could tell the difference.

Give me an “S”! Give me an “A”! Give me a “T”!…..What’s that spell?

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y

Then again, Saturday feels like Wednesday, feels like Monday, feels like Friday… blah blah blah.

I miss the old routine, as winded and hectic and insane it normally makes me feel until I emotionally overeat and blow all the weight loss progress I otherwise try to make. I cannot catch my breath any given day or week when we are all engaged in our normal routine.

They said I would miss it, miss that crazy schedule. Gretchen Rubin said it best:

“The days are long but the years are short.”

What I didn’t expect – at all – was a respite from that craziness, years before it was to happen.

I mean, now it’s just a new type of craziness.

Now I just wake up, sit in that chair in my home office for several hours of the day, participate in web conference call after another, thinking about how I am as disappointed in the appearance of my neck as Nora Ephron was about hers, watch the number of infected people in the world, the US, Ohio, go UP UP UP…

The US is now #1 in the world. I wonder if that’s what Trump meant when he says we’re “winning”.

That’s me being sarcastic. He’s a complete and utter disgrace. Thank God there are adults in charge elsewhere in America.


I spent the week personally connecting with people via web cam as much as possible. My brother-in-law, a cousin who was hospitalized recently for post-surgery complications, two friends from high school I haven’t seen in years and years in a first-ever virtual happy hour (highly recommended), another couple of friends who live alone, and another long-time friend who got increasingly, noticeably wistful as we talked.

Our conversation struck me the most. We talked about our loved ones and spouses who fit the early-defined category of “most vulnerable”, and strategies to protect them. What would happen if one or both of the parents in a family were knocked out for a period of time or permanently. How most certainly we would know someone who would die – very likely many – including older family members who are and are not heeding the orders for social distancing and the surprise younger people who otherwise look like a picture of health.

I heard fear in his voice, anger that some employers were putting people at unnecessary risk in an attempt to stay afloat. I sensed it in my own too. It’s almost like you can feel the Grim Reaper moving in slow motion throughout our communities. Who is he going to take next?

I mean shoot, I have a firefighter cousin who works every day with healthcare providers, other caregivers, EMTs, etc. and he admitted that several of them are “getting their affairs in order”.

Mother of God. That sent chills down my bones.

To all of them, these many essential workers, I sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart.


It’s a war. We need more masks, more personal protective equipment (PPE), more beds, and more ventilators. We need healthy caregivers of every kind. I don’t see us reporting these numbers anywhere, not percentages or capacity or shortage or anything. Not in Ohio yet. Maybe they are scrambling to put it together. Maybe the numbers are abysmal and they’d rather report it when there is hope of the numbers being reassuring. Who knows? But data is key.

I hear talk of ramping up production of necessary items, but I don’t see the president ordering it to happen. Instead I hear a president in disbelief over the numbers of equipment being requested in New York in anticipation of a surge yet to come, and see him appearing to withhold the necessary aid. Are you freaking kidding me?

Why does it feel like the commander in chief is aiding and abetting the enemy?

Oh, because he is. Wittingly or unwittingly. It doesn’t matter. He is.

It will sicken me endlessly if when millions of Americans become ill and die. This did not need to happen. A leader doesn’t dwell on the “mess” he claims he inherited. A leader would go about fixing it if he thought it was a real problem.

Aaaaargh…I said I wouldn’t go there. I wouldn’t talk about 45. But how can you not at a time like this?

I did encounter a funny post, from someone who said she learned a lot about her spouse working two weeks from home during this age of social distancing. He microwaves food items for exactly 44 seconds.

When she asked her husband why 44 and not 45, his response was, “For Obama.”

The wit in things like that give me joy.

And with that, I bid you adieu while I gently coach my daughter why we will not adopt a baby otter any time soon, no matter how cute they are.

Go webcam with the people you love.


First Photo by Ruth Reyer on Unsplash

Second image courtesy of Wilddhearts.com

Total Magic

Oh you guys: as I mentioned in Eternal Memory this past week, we celebrated Dia de los Muertos at our house Friday night. Yeah, yeah…we’re not Mexican. I know. My oldest kinda rolled his eyes and said the same thing. The teenager in him was skeptical about my plans at first but since it involved doing something together as a family, he was game.

jarl-schmidt-557318-unsplashWe gathered in our family room, brought a bunch of candles in and lit them. Three on the fireplace, three near the fireplace, and three more scattered throughout the room. I love candlelight and it made our little gathering feel sacred.

We really didn’t know how to begin so my husband Ryun started off with a brief prayer. I made a comment about how those we know in heaven are gathered around us, at which point our oldest remarked that if he saw an extra face in the TV or in the corner of the room, he was outta there, which made us all laugh.

I didn’t know where to start, but I brought in several picture albums that my sister made for us siblings, copies of the photos my mom had in her stash. And then I started to talk about my dad, how he was one of seven kids who made it to adulthood, and how three had died as babies. I talked about his character, his parents, who he was close to, what he did in WWII, what he did for a living, and his courtship with my mom. How he had a booming, nasally singing voice such that I felt bad for the woman who sat in front of him in church as her ears had to be ringing by the end of service! How I’d stand next to him in church every Sunday, not much taller than his kneecap, and he’d peer down at me during the sung responses to say, “I can’t hear you”. Dad was the one who expected me to sing from the moment I could.

I told of how he was indebted to his older sister Sue for getting him his job at the local steel plant, a job he kept for 40+ years, and he repaid her year after year for decades by spending his vacation time traveling to Cleveland and working on whatever needed done at her house – like tiling the bathrooms. How he was laid off for a time before I was born and painted houses to get by and provide for his family of four at home. How he never advanced to foreman despite his obvious intelligence and work ethic, because he made the bold mistake of telling his boss that he was a liar….and I have no doubt his supervisor must have been all that and more for my dad to say so to his face. How proud he was to get a watch from the company upon his retirement.

I told our kids how dad broke his collarbone in his early 50s before there was physical therapy and had a hard time getting his arm above his head ever since. How much he hustled and worked hard. If something broke in our house he was ON IT immediately, tearing apart an entire washing machine, for example, until he could find the mechanical piece that wore out so he could run to the store for its replacement. My dad had a work ethic like NOBODY I’ve ever seen.

He was strong, quiet, sensitive, stubborn as hell, smart, hard-working, but a big old softie too. The first time I ever remember seeing him cry was my aunt’s funeral where he broke down sobbing. He had a genuine soft spot for kids too. He preferred to rent the little house behind our home to single mothers as he knew they’d be safe under his watch and they’d take good care of the place. He always kept the cookie jar in our kitchen filled to the brim and the kitchen door unlocked during the day so little kids could help themselves any time they wanted.

I told our kids that once dad made up his mind, you would not change it no matter how compelling your case. How he really disliked conflict but he would still make effort to right a wrong. How when he was in the hospital for the final time, he was unfailingly kind and grateful for the care he received.

Telling these stories was so cool.

Then I did the same for mom, who was one of eight kids. I talked about her twin sisters, her divorced, unapologetically bachelor, gambling, drinking brother Andy with the jet black hair who everyone called Blackie, her adored kid brother named Louis (Louie), a guy who loved to draw, who died way too young at 32…and it’s not lost on me what my last name is. How all her siblings were good-looking, well-groomed, and well dressed even though they didn’t have a lot of money to their name.

I talked about the Cut N Curl beauty shop that my Aunt Mary operated with her twin Nancy and mom during the war. Three tiny, drop-dead gorgeous, oh-so-feisty, lively women engaged in riotous laughter with the customers/friends – how that salon had to be THE place to be. Women worked in the factories while the men were gone off to war but the women didn’t sacrifice beauty: they got their hair done every week no matter what. How my beloved Aunt Nancy would squeeze my cheeks to give me a kiss followed immediately by a full-on bite, leaving a big old wet imprint of teeth marks that would hurt for a full minute after. So gross. Our kids begged me to demonstrate so I did, and they were as horrified as I always was when I was done. We broke down in a fit of giggles.

I told them how the best memories of my mom were when somebody would grab her at a wedding to polka. She loved to dance but dad didn’t know how. How I can still picture Sundays in our house, the sun pouring through the windows, and mom in our big kitchen heating up dinner in the early afternoon after church with the Polka Party blaring on the radio and the Steelers playing on TV in the living room. She’d walk in to tell my dad something and stop right in front of the TV, blocking the view every single time, and we’d all have to yell at her good-naturedly to move since she was completely oblivious to the game unfolding behind her. I can still picture her with a bandanna on her head and a giant heavy ceramic bowl on a chair while she bent over and kneaded dough for nut roll or pierogies a couple of times a year. It was always an all-day endeavor but these specialties of hers were delicious.

Unfortunately with mom comes very sad memories, like the time her sister Nancy died when I was all of ten years old. My mom never overcame her grief. So many of her siblings died too young. They had made it through the Depression, through life with a violent, alcoholic father, through the war, through weddings for most of them, and through an accident that left their mother invalid and wheelchair bound with my mother as her caretaker until grandma died. After making it through all of that, life was supposed to be grand but then tuberculosis, heart attacks, cancer, and cirrhosis took her siblings one by one.

My mother spent the last 10 years of her life crying virtually non-stop, head in hands at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee before her, or laying on the sofa, trying to sleep her life away. Society didn’t talk about mental illness or depression then in any sort of positive way – there was such a stigma – and the only sort of treatment for her condition was Valium, which I am pretty sure she took. She couldn’t focus on her husband, her kids including me, or her grandkids no matter how much joy they inherently brought. Her mother and her siblings were the most important part of her life and the joy of that life fizzled out for good when her best friend, my Aunt Nancy, died. In a year’s time, I was the only child left at home, with my brother off to college and my older two sisters married adults on their own at that point.

I told the story about how my grandfather ran a still during Prohibition, had horrific anger issues, and tried to kill his wife and kids on Christmas day with a shotgun, leaving them all to hide in a barn for their lives. The only reason I even know that story is because my godmother, his youngest daughter, shared that news in a rare moment of honesty in her elder years. Over the years in hushed tones, I learned how he ran off to New Jersey where he may have done something unspeakable. Who really knows.

My other grandfather hurt himself in the mines and couldn’t work after that; he couldn’t walk without the aid of a cane. There was no rehabilitation or social security at the time. He asked to borrow money from my dad under the premise it was needed for the family, and then used it to buy alcohol. My dad really never forgave him for it.

Not surprisingly, neither of my parents drank a sip of alcohol, and neither one ever spoke of their fathers. It was only at the end of my father’s 80-year-old life that I got him to tell that story of his own father, and he had a difficult time sharing even that tiny bit about him.

Their mothers, on the other hand, were revered, absolutely adored, practically worshiped. I told the kids how my grandmothers couldn’t have been more than 4′ 9″ tall. Our 10-year-old daughter is probably taller than they ever were and yet these women popped out how many kids? There’s a picture of maternal grandmother with a twinkle in her eye, one kid hitched to her hip, and a few of the others gathered around her, the oldest maybe 13 and as tall as she is. My dad is positioned in front in shorts, maybe three years old, and he looks antsy. This photo astonishes me and makes me laugh whenever I look at it. It is so unlike other photos of the time, nearly 100 years old at this point, taken outside, in a very candid and casual pose. Who would have taken this photo and under what circumstances?

I would much rather remember my mother in happier times, so I mimicked how my mom would hop on my dad’s lap, hug him, rub her hand on his face and bald head, and say “oh honey”, and dad would shake his head and admonish her, “You’re gonna break the chair!” but he wouldn’t push her off, and our kids giggled in fits. How I found my dad’s WWII love letters to mom one holiday gathering. My dad threatened to ground 10-year-old me if I read them, and I defied him by saying, “It’s worth it” and proceeded to do so so my sisters and brothers-in-law would hear. He was so mad he gathered up every last letter and burnt them! This was the same dad who crouched in the back of a car to surprise my mom who was asked to go on a car ride. He presented her with a rose-gold watch…one I believe I still have. This is the same man who wrecked his car for the first of only two times in his 80-year-long life, when he craned his neck to look at a pretty woman and hit a parked car. He was staring, apparently gobsmacked, at my mother.

We then started flipping through the albums. And the pictures came to life. My dad in his Army uniform, wearing an apron, drying dishes at my grandmother’s house while my mom, his girlfriend, washed. Mom is standing at the sink with long, wavy brown hair casting a silhouette that could just as easily been me. The pictures show that same house, the one I grew up in, before and after my dad remodeled it with his own hands, as well as the little house behind our house that my parents lived in at first. The pictures show my kitchen growing up, my grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, my parents, and my siblings and I when we were younger. Uncle Andy, or Blackie as they called him because of his jet black hair, dressed to the nines. My grandmothers side by side at my parents’ wedding. Our yard when it was my grandmother’s house and she made it into a huge flower garden. My mom, with her giant smile and dimples, and how much she looks like my sister and my niece today. Mom and Dad’s wedding day, kissing in front of the church.

The kids ate it up. Every last bit. But one of our kids had returned from an overnight camp and slowly began to drift off, so we had to call it quits for the night and resume later in the weekend when we could celebrate my husband’s family later on this weekend. We had planned to watch Coco… to cap off the night because it’s about music, and family, and well, that’s us too. We ended up watching it later that weekend as well. Next year we’ll build up it more, prepare some ancestral foods like Eastern European kielbasa and pierogies, or maybe some Chinese and Hawaiian food to celebrate.

As we wrapped things up, our youngest suggested we close with a prayer so Ryun asked him to do it. He didn’t want to at first, being unsure of what to do. But instead of succumbing to embarrassment, he gave it a go. That little heart inside of him thanked God for all that we have and then he closed the prayer by asking God to bless “all the souls in the world”. OMG. The tears. The pride inside my heart. He’s EIGHT. He gets it.

We don’t know what we’re doing as parents but we’re gonna keep doing it.

This was, hands down, the coolest thing we’ve done in a long time. I suggest you give it a whirl. You see, we pray for the dead all the time at church, but we don’t often celebrate them. And we Louies don’t live around a lot of family here in our part of Ohio, so the stories my husband and I tell are one of the only ways our kids will ever know about their family history. Ryun and I had huge extended families, and certainly on my end, there are so many stories that make me chuckle, and cry, and everything in between.

I plan to do it again this coming July, but focus entirely on my dad as this coming July would have been his 100th birthday.


There’s another reason I wanted to celebrate Dias de los Muertos. I’ve watched Mexicans get a bad rap in this country with this ridiculous political climate we’ve been in these last two+ years, the whole “they’re rapists, murders, etc.” claim which is false. My friends know how much that ticks me off but you, this blog audience of mine don’t necessarily know that.

I think what Mexicans do with this holiday is amazing. I have always thought we can learn from each other and borrow the best of what each of us has. For heaven’s sake, we turned St. Patrick’s Day into its own thing that even the Irish don’t recognize! We’ve hijacked Cinco de Mayo too and we Americans don’t even know what that’s supposed to be. Maybe I can be accused of cultural misappropriation here, but I think what our neighbors to the south do is remarkable. It reminds me of when we visited my mother in law’s hometown cemetery in Hawaii right after Memorial Day. The Hawaiians set up lawn chairs and flowers on the graves and hang out there all day, eating and telling stories about their loved ones who died.

Let’s embrace beautiful traditions we have and the stories about our loved ones on the other side of the veil. One day we just may learn that the thinnest of matter in the universe actually separates us from them at this moment in time.