The Tales From Home photo project, based in Kennewick, Washington, focuses on humans in various stages of self isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. My goal is to help capture this moment in time honestly by sharing how you feel honestly, even if there isn’t a resolve, through your portrait and written story. Everyone has a unique story and perspective to share during these unprecedented times. No story is too big or too small.
“With the whole world focusing on battling the here and now, my anxieties rely heavily on anticipating the future. I’m anticipating the possibility of running out of life saving ventilators, medications, and staff. Right now, the hospitals are out of masks. This is just the start. I am proud to be a nurse. I am just as proud to be an American. Our country has persevered through great adversity before and despite all uncertainty, I’m hopeful this will be no different.”
“With the whole world focusing on battling the here and now, my anxieties “There is all this free space in my days now, so not being able to fill them with my normal routines like coffee dates or my job brings up feelings of uncertainty. I am scared for the lives at risk and I know I must do my part. But I’ve realized I have to grow comfortable in what is uncertain. Perhaps there has never been a better time to be more present in my life and to live immediately.”
“My pandemic experience is one of uncertainty, one of clarity, then a grey area where they connect. Like a lot of the world, I feel the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds for us long term, but also in the information being shared in the short-term. What resources and news are correct, am I thoroughly understanding all the policies as they develop, am I missing anything? It’s like a constant search for the fine print beyond the general facts. I have always lived alone but have never truly spent this much time alone and face uncertainty in myself. When you strip away my physical presence from the world as I knew it, do I have worth beyond being a presence? When you strip it all away, as these new conditions have, how truly do I provide value to myself, my family, friends, and community? This question is my grey area that connects uncertainty and clarity. This was a question that was very heavy on my heart personally prior to this new world, and it was difficult to navigate. Having to go into my survival mode in my career, my community commitments, and for my friends and family the last few weeks to provide the support in the only ways I know how to have brought more clarity to the answers to that question, than months of my own introspective work before did. The hard work and grit I am seeing from myself, my coworkers, friends, family, and fellow community members give me hope, and give me clarity. One thing is for certain, and that is this will end someday, and we will gain power in that clarity.”
“We are currently living in a different reality than any of us are used to. I have witnessed kindness from strangers and friends, in real life and online. I have been one of the lucky ones to be able to work remotely, but I know there are many out there, including family members, who are on the front lines. (Side note: Thank you to all healthcare workers. You are the soldiers going out to battle every day and we are indebted to you.) It has been an easy transition for me. I get a sense of fear every now and then. Having worked previously in retail for six years, my mind always wanders back to that time. I think how my friends are handling this situation. How would I handle this situation? Are they being taken care of? I have spoken with a few of them and it breaks my heart to hear that there are shoppers still out and about ignoring the new protocols.My mantra lately has been, “DO NOT GO TO HOME DEPOT!”
I worry a lot. I have always worried, but I am trying to spin this in a way that might work for this reality we live in now. I have asthma, my mother is a diabetic, and my father recently had a full hip replacement. With this virus’ unpredictability, you can never be too careful; therefore, we choose to isolate. I have no children to care for, but have a quarantine buddy (my cat, Otis) and parents. We have been doing a lot of things to keep ourselves busy. Chalk has been therapy for both mom and I. It has been fulfilling to see neighbors stop and look down at our artwork and messages. This morning the garbage man even gave mom a thumbs up. Winning.
We found out yesterday that the nursing home that my uncle lives at in Yakima has residents who have tested positive. My dad tried to speak with my uncle a couple of times yesterday but he was not feeling well. Today when they talked his words were slurred. The staff informed dad they had tested uncle Richard to see if he has the virus, but we don’t know when those test results will be back. Once again, I worry, but remain hopeful.
I hold onto the hope that this will get better because I know it will – it always does. I just have this voice in the back of my head that brings me back to the real reality we live in which is full of individualists and greed; those who are worried about their own special interests and profits rather than that of the well-being of our society. I hope that when this all fades to black and things go back to being normal, it is a new normal where we get out and vote when we see injustices happening around us and that we do nice things for each other even in the absence of a global pandemic. That is what I hope for.”
“The great American singer and songwriter John Prine died this week from complications due to COVID-19. He was someone who I never met, yet was a regular figure in my life since I was a young child. As if an uncle penning personal letters from a distant part of the world, his music influenced and shaped the man I am today. “Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day. Old people just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello” is a lyric of his that single-handedly drove my career in senior care for over a decade. I haven’t told many this, but the pain associated with the loneliness that lingers near the end of life coupled with the loss of so many wonderful human beings I grew to love, finally broke me. I have been able to largely heal, returning to school and finding a new purpose in life. My education and new career has afforded me, at least for now, the ability to weather this storm. But this pandemic has ripped open scars thought long healed.
To watch many in our communities accept the loss of older human beings as an acceptable casualty as they struggle with the loss of comfort is shameful. I am not minimizing the fact that many people are suffering through this challenge, but as of 4/9/20 there are 421 known deaths in Washington state alone, and 92% are over age 60. Respect for those elders who have built the communities we prosper in has eroded.
I do recognize a bright light, in the face of gross misinformation, extreme despair, and imminent danger, many people are either putting themselves in harm’s way to care for others, or sacrificing resources, comfort, and sanity to care for their community. As a latchkey product of the X-Generation, I am uniquely prepared to exist in this isolated posture. Thinking of my elders is a daily motivator to remain quarantined, strengthened by the courage of essential workers. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I am not thinking about the individuals and families behind the empty storefronts, and continue to explore how I can best serve them now and in the future.
I remain grateful, and hopeful. In the immortal words of the now late John Prine, “Kiss a little baby, give the world a smile, if you take an inch, give ‘em back a mile.” (just hold on to that kiss until the pandemic is over.)”
“Social distancing has changed my day-to-day dramatically. I’m a dental hygienist and currently unemployed. Working from home/remotely is impossible for me. I’ve always thought that by working in the healthcare field, I would never be out of a job. I was wrong. My job creates too many aerosols, putting myself and patients at risk. I am glad the state and local officials made the decision to close the dental offices early on (except for emergencies.) This experience has humbled me and I hope it has humbled many others in my field.
My job involved socializing with people all day long and it is weird not to have that. Now, I fill that void with hanging out with my dog (which he is loving) and a good amount of cleaning since my fiancée, a police officer, is working every day. I check on friends through FaceTime and social media. I call my mom every day to see if she needs me to pick up anything from the store for her. I’ve seen her but not been near her since all this started. Being Latina, you grow up greeting everyone with a kiss on the cheek and hug. I don’t know when I’ll get to do that again, but I hope it is someday soon.”
“This entire situation can either make a person or break a person. It is forcing us as humans to look deep within ourselves and the community around us to find creative solutions to the new challenges we all face. As a teacher, I get the opportunity to transfer all of my in-person curricula to online. For me, technology isn’t really an issue. It’s second nature. I do understand though that I have students who not only struggle with the ins and outs of computer systems, most don’t have access to a machine. If they are fortunate enough to be in a school district that is lending out machines, they may not have the required internet connectivity to access their teachers’ online material. Now what?
The lock down is forcing me to look in a mirror and ask, “How creative can I get?!” when it comes to the delivery of my photography curriculum and materials for my students. They may not always have reliable internet, no access to a DSLR camera, and not enough self-control to complete schoolwork instead of binge-watching all of Netflix. (I’m now speaking of myself. I restarted Game of Thrones on HBO.)
However, on the other side of this uncertainty lies opportunity. If we allow it, this situation can help us evolve. I’m confident that together, we will get through this. Students will progress, they will learn, and dare I say, love it! And you, though it is going to be difficult, you will make it. I believe this will change the way we do business worldwide. How creative can we get? How can this challenge force us into a new normal? Is it going to be uncomfortable? Yes. But as long as we watch out for each other and stay healthy until this is over, it won’t be unbearable. YOU MATTER. Stay home, stop the spread. Save lives.”
We’ve been staying home, and it’s been fine. I know a lot of people have it harder than us, so I feel blessed that my wife and I have stable jobs where we can work from home. I feel blessed that this is happening while the days are warm and sunny. I feel blessed that my family is healthy. But sometimes, I’m not okay and I had to learn to accept that it’s okay to not be okay.
I have anxiety. Not from this, I was diagnosed before this whole thing ever started. But I recently went a week without my anxiety medication because of an insurance issue. I didn’t think it was a big deal until I started crying at the end of Horton Hears a Who. And I don’t just mean little crying, I mean big crying. Ugly crying. My wife and I were laughing hysterically because it was just so ridiculous. It happened again later in the week, but it wasn’t as funny that time. It was a rough week.
But the week passed. I’m okay, we got things worked out, and I’m back to normal. And I think the same situation applies to the current state of the world. We’re not okay, things are weird, but we’ll be okay again soon.
The days are slipping by. There are happy things happening, but a lot of sad things are too. Sometimes it’s stressful for both of us to be home all day, and our nerves are fried. Other days it’s calm, and we can sit on the back porch and feel okay. I always try to remind myself that at the end of the day, it’s about more than us. And there will be a light again soon.
So yeah, we’ve been staying home. And it’s been fine.”
“When all of this started, it felt like the coronavirus was tearing us all apart. I feel like the United States is like a puzzle and we are the puzzle pieces. We have to be all together for it to work. But now I see we are all working together by staying apart to stop the spread.
I know coronavirus has affected a lot of people personally. It affected me by closing my school and separating me from all of my friends. I am lucky to have a big family to be at home with though. I know a lot of people don’t have that and are lonely and scared. We are all missing a lot of big things like birthday parties and babies being born and stuff. But we are finding new ways to celebrate like on Zoom. It would have been harder to deal with if this happened a long time ago when we didn’t have things like that.
Sometimes doing school at home isn’t the easiest because we are all having to step outside our comfort zones and try new things. The hardest for me is staying focused and missing my friends. To stay calm, my family likes to go outside and play or go for walks or do our hobbies. I have had more time for sculpting and photography and playing LEGOs. I have also been spending more time with my family, especially more time than I thought I would get with my new baby brother Ronin. That is a win.
Even though this is a hard time and we will each come out a little different than before, I know we can get through it together by not being together.” – Elora, age 10
“When I first heard about COVID-19, my mind was like oh no, here it comes. At first I wasn’t panicking so much. I felt like it’s just like the flu. It will pass. But as days went by, I became more and more anxious because I learned how contagious it was.
I was in a residency training when it all started. We were immediately short on medical supplies, but there weren’t many cases that needed to be tested early on. I’ve been working in private clinics for a while now and even though there aren’t any cases that have high risk factors, I just couldn’t help but be worried when I came home from work. I live with my parents and they are so vulnerable to the disease.
But what is worse than the disease is people who are trapped in other cities and not in their hometown without jobs, no income, and the bills keep piling up. My government has issued some money to help, but will that be enough?
Due to our strict regulations, we have curfews at 2200 – 0400. Every time we go outside we have to wear a face mask. You will not be able to get into the supermarket or a convenient store if you aren’t wearing one. Plus, they have to check our temperature before going in. Some cities are closed so that means people cannot travel in and out of the city.
I’m grateful that people in my country always take precautions. Healthcare workers and so many other people are working hard. Things are looking up now in my country. Thailand has started to open up some of the businesses, but this might cause the second outbreak. Everyone is worried about it. But I am sure that if we keep taking precautions we’ll get through all this. Hang tight!”
“It is interesting dissecting my privilege with regards to this pandemic. I’m living in New Zealand out of my van and tent. The lockdown here is serious and quite controlled, which I am grateful for. I’m excited to be in a country where the government and people are taking it seriously.
When COVID-19 came to New Zealand, they responded by putting in place a four stage system. Level one being go about your life but wash hands and give more distance. Level four being a full lockdown. We are in our fifth week of full lockdown right now. This means no driving unless you are an essential worker, are getting groceries, or going out for a medical reason. This means all exercise must be done at home or walking from your home and you should only do low risk activities like walking, running, or an easy bike ride. The only businesses that are open are grocery stores and medical. You are unable to buy prepared food, so no takeout. At the grocery store you line up outside two meters apart and enter as someone leaves. It feels quite dystopian but is also really heartwarming seeing people respect each other’s safety.
These measures mean I lose access to public amenities that I rely on to make living in my van comfortable. It also limits my ability to work and make money. I don’t qualify for government help from Canada or New Zealand. That being said, I am here by choice. I live out of a van by choice. I have money for food and a place to sleep. My kitchen is a camp stove, but I have access to hot food. Even with my current circumstances, the great amount of privilege that I have is obvious.
Update: Tomorrow, April 27, we move to level three lockdown! People are pretty excited to move to less restrictions, but it won’t have much of a change for day to day life. We will be allowed to drive up to 30 minutes from home to recreate but it is still low impact recreation only. Restaurants and other non-essential businesses are now able to do take away or delivery. We are still restricted from traveling for non-essential reasons and meeting up with people whom we do not live with. It’s a positive progression and hopefully the numbers keep reducing so we can safely work our way through the levels.”
“The last three months have been unexplainable. So many words come to mind when I think about the time we are living in: scary, weird, unusual, eye opening, humbling, and exhausting are just a few. While most people are not working, not going to school, or not going out in public, I feel like I have been living my life as usual with just a few wild changes.
At first I was frustrated that banks were still open, but I know the regulations and all that come with financial institutions so I just learned to live with it. No one acknowledged bank employees as essential, but yet we were still here everyday. I knew we were not considered frontline but still vitally important to the community. Working at a community bank as a loan processor has always been a pretty cushy job; the hours are great and not usually high stress. I mean, who can complain too much? But once things began shutting down and being closed we felt the shocks from the community. The doors didn’t open to see regulars come in with their smiles. Everyone was in their cars with masks on.
I don’t remember the exact day the stay home mandate started but I know it was shortly after we heard that the SBA Small Business Administration (SBA) would be lending out 250 billion dollars to small businesses under a program called the Paycheck Protection Program. As a bank known for its commercial lending, we knew we had to get something in place to help our community. A fairly large team of people got together and put programs, procedures, and applications together so we could process these loans. Things were changing daily, causing quite a bit of stress to all involved but we had a ton of people basically “lining up at our door” to get their businesses in for this. We had hundreds of applications before the money had even been released.
The next four or so weeks that followed were a whirlwind. Working every Saturday and staying late some nights to get things done were the new norm. It was weird for me to see and hear people complaining about being home when all I wanted was to spend a whole day at home with my daughter and husband and just do nothing. Working all the extra hours came with the perk of keeping me less anxious which was welcome because watching the news or reading on Facebook scared me. But as the funding came in and we went full speed ahead, we slowly heard about how we were helping our community. Business owners were reaching out thanking us for what we were doing. It has been amazing. Every time we hear about a client’s sentiment of thanks or a cool story, it brings tears to my eyes. It has kept me going. We are literally helping my friends, family, and acquaintances be able to afford their bills and life in general. We have put millions of dollars into our local community and I am so glad to be a part of something that has helped give people a little bit of comfort in this uncertain time.
All that being said, I am ready to get back to normal. I want to see my friend’s newborn baby. I want to hug my grandma. I want to see my coworkers who have been at home for eight weeks. I want to celebrate my daughter’s birthday with everyone we love. But until then, I will just keep pushing on because that’s all I can do.”
“My life has extremely changed since this all started. Before the pandemic, I was working with preschoolers. I had started working for a new school that I love and building relationships with my students. When I would come into class, my day would brighten up just seeing my little one’s faces. In one day that all changed. Now, I only see them through a computer screen once a week if I’m lucky. I had to adjust working from home and building a whole new routine. I know I’m not the only one that experiences anxiety; mine took a huge hit. It is hard to accept this change. I never knew how much my preschoolers had an effect on me until this all happened. I miss them everyday. I miss socializing with my coworkers. Our new normal is meetings through Zoom. Virtual reality is what I feel this is coming to, which is what I fear the most. However, I’m very fortunate to still have a job.
I have family members that work in the medical field that I constantly think and worry about. My brother is an ER nurse, my mom works for Lourdes in Pasco, and my sister is also a nurse. My grandmother is a nurse but currently is not working at this time because she is considered high risk. I’m very proud of them and all of the essential workers working everyday, putting their lives on the line to help us get through this difficult time. Having to talk to my mom through a facemask is hard. Not being able to hug my mom or dad is the worst feeling. It is tough to stick to a new normal.
My mind constantly wonders about the “What if?” The media is not something I like to watch or hear about because it fills my head with more awful thoughts. I’m blessed that both my boyfriend and I have stable jobs and very grateful we both can still work through all of this. I know we can all get through this and we will. Just know you are not alone. We will get through this.”
“I haven’t talked about this because I feel like my impact is small compared to others, but I’m so exhausted. I am a therapist for an agency and have my own practice, and both have moved online. This was right to do and I don’t regret it, but it’s somehow more exhausting than doing in person sessions. Zoom burnout is real. I’m so happy to be helping my clients through this time, but I talk about COVID-19 all the time. When I’m done with sessions for the day, it’s hard to motivate myself to do paperwork or housework.
I’m also a theatre artist and have so many friends and colleagues doing wonderful things online despite all the closures. Play readings, singalongs, creative sessions, comedy shows, you name it, but it’s hard to log back onto a video platform after being on one all day. I know it would likely improve my mood and I have done some Zoom calls with friends that helped, but I wasn’t prepared for being alone so much. I have lived alone much of my adult life and my partner and I have separate homes. Once I came home to work and shelter in place and he kept working out of town, it didn’t feel responsible to spend weekends together. I know I’m privileged in all of this but not touching any living things for several weeks was really hard. He did come see me a few times and we’d sit 6 feet apart on my patio and talk. This weekend we made the choice not to distance and spend some time together and I still don’t know if it was right, but it helped my mental health.
Being fat during this time is really trying. Fat stigma was already bad but now social media is just overflowing with folks’ memes about getting fat during quarantine. Living in my body isn’t awful. Knowing a bunch of my peers think my body is worse than a deadly virus is though. I left diet culture and dieting long ago and found peace with my body, most of the time. All these memes and comments with my current mental state makes weight loss seem attractive. I hate that. It feels like betrayal.
Despite all this, I do have hope. In my field you learn that resilience is built from trauma; we can use it to grow. I think we will.”
“I was in class when my teacher asked us to make a circle on the floor. She started talking to us about COVID-19 and she told us that we will be out of school for one month. For the rest of the day, all the teachers were running in and out of the classrooms trying to make packets for us to take home. We were all sad, scared, and confused. It was a very chaotic day.
My mom picked me up after school and she told me the things were going to be a little different for a while. She said because of my type one diabetes, I was at a higher risk and we had to be extra careful. Mom and I live alone and because she was still working, I was home alone that first week off of school. I was very lonely and bored and I really missed my friends and school.
I have not left home since the day they cancelled school. I don’t have siblings here and I am not able to play with the neighborhood kids. Trying to keep my blood sugar controlled has been difficult because I am not as active as I would be when I am in school. Eventually they cancelled school for the rest of the year so mom started working from home and my teacher set us up for online school.
Things have changed a lot for me because of COVID-19. School work is a little more complicated because each teacher uses different sites for different assignments. I really only talk with my friends when we play video games online and even church is online now. But I am hopeful things will start getting back to normal soon. I love that mom and I have all day to spend together now but I do miss seeing and talking to other people, going to friends houses, or even just the store but I also know the best way to keep me safe is to be home for now. I know it won’t be like this forever.” – Brianna, age 10
“2019 was a tumultuous year for me both personally and professionally, so I started 2020 in the midst of an identity crisis. The pandemic and its accompanying isolation has really thrown it into overdrive. My professional skills revolve around hospitality and social gatherings and these past few months have been enormously difficult for me as I thrive on routine, collaboration, and the satisfaction of a job well done. I very much need to interact with others face to face. Who am I in a world where togetherness is prohibited and all collaboration has moved online? To top it off, my husband and I just sold our home and the process went so quickly that we weren’t all that prepared for it. It’s a good thing, but we’re in a rental for the next few months figuring out our next steps and it only makes the ground beneath me feel more unsteady.
Something I had decided to really lean into this year is working to be more authentically me. I’m still working on that during quarantine because I have to spend so much time with myself these days that I may as well figure out who I am and like that person. A large part of that is living my life unapologetically as an indigenous woman, despite being “white-passing”. My dad is Coeur D’Alene and my mother is white, and much of my life has revolved around walking in two worlds and feeling like I’m stumbling in both. I can’t deny the privilege that has come with being able to choose to present myself as white, which has made me feel deeply conflicted and uncomfortable my entire life. I dyed my hair purple because it seems the most authentically “me” and not like an attempt to prove myself to anyone.
I had planned to visit the rez in early April, but the pandemic put that on hold. I haven’t been back in about 17 years and now it will likely be another year at least. My lifelines to my indigeneity have been the “All My Relations” and “Toasted Sister” podcasts and the Facebook powwow community, Social Distance Powwow. I’ve also been beading and making moccasins, but I’ve found it difficult to feel creative and relaxed enough.
I’m keeping busy by gardening. I joke to my husband that my plants are my friends now. I spend time with them daily, talk to them, care for them, and they in turn support me by providing an outlet for my anxiety over the whole-life upheaval I find myself working through.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always working at something; that I have no chill. I remain hopeful that I’ll come through this a stronger, calmer, more grounded person.”
“2020 was going to be our year. Towards the end of 2019, we were booked for a big part of the next year; birthday parties, graduations and many weddings. The seed we planted in June 2019 was blooming into a beautiful Casa Rosita agave plant. Our food truck was on its way to being completed and ready to offer our community a space with lots of cultural elements, traditional food, and one of a kind experience.
COVID-19 had other plans for us. One after another, events were being rescheduled and most were being cancelled. As an up-and-coming business, all incoming capital is invested back into the business. Through our catering gigs we were able to fund a lot of our projects. Once this source of income was cut, we were left with uncertainty for the health of the business, which directly impacted our personal finances and emotional well-being.
We felt defeated, to say the least. We were so close.
Since leaving our home country, with everything that journey entails, we’ve always been fighting. We are no strangers to having all odds against us. As immigrant parents, as undocumented children, we are naturally always looking for opportunities, even in the darkest of times and situations because we have no other option.
We took a couple months off as we found out more information about the virus, both for the safety of our mom and the safety of our customers. It gave us time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a business and it also gave us time to plan out our vision for Casa Rosita moving forward.
Creativity flourishes in times of adversity. At one point, we asked ourselves how we can, as a business, stay relevant during the pandemic. This led us to start selling tamales one day a week by preorder. Through tamales we were able to sustain our family, and more importantly, continue to share our craft. We now also offer a variety of foods on Sunday’s. In response, our clients have been so good to us. They’ve encouraged us so much and have uplifted our spirits when we needed it the most.
We would be nothing without the support of our community. This is the main reason we decided to take such a bold stance on sociopolitical issues. Tri-Cities is a community that supports small businesses and we’ve felt that since the beginning. In turn, when our community asks for help, when they need for us to show up and stand in solidarity as a business, we have to find a way to support our people in any way, shape, or form. Our brothers and sisters are being murdered everyday. As a democracy, we have to demand for a more just society. We, the people, have the power to make change collectively. Change cannot happen alone; it starts with individuals, businesses, political leaders etc., joining forces for a greater cause. It starts with everyone coming together and standing up for one another; standing up against the system that terrorizes our brothers and sisters for the color of their skin. It starts with us calling for the dismantling of institutions of power that serve as a tool for systematic oppression. It starts with us coming together and making our voice be heard because others have a knee on their neck and are not able to defend or speak for themselves. This is what Black Lives Matter means to us. It means giving voice to the voiceless and to those who have no representation.
We see you, we hear you and we stand with you.
Being Latinx, we face our own individual struggles. And at the same time, those struggles are rooted in the same systems of oppression that affect our Black community. When one community triumphs, we will all triumph.
Tú lucha, es mi lucha.
We feel it is important to establish a culture of servitude in our young business. Moving forward, having a foundation rooted in community and the fight for justice will allow us to be intentional and purposeful with anything we take in or put out as part of the Casa Rosita Project. We hope to utilize our platform to inspire, contribute, and empower those around us.
We are so grateful for all the individuals we’ve had a chance to connect with and learn their truth. Also, we are grateful that Casa Rosita has nurtured our creative liberty and supported our innermost passions. We’re excited for our community to see us blossom, thriving, and serving up joy, one dish at a time.”
“During the pandemic I really learned to speak my truth, and LOUDLY, regardless of if I’d be rejected by people I cared about. I’ve had causes to stand up for in the past, but this time it’s about my mom, my best friend.
My grandpa was one of the first people to be hospitalized in the Tri-Cities for COVID-19 and he gave it to my mom. The several weeks that followed were the worst of our family’s lives. We didn’t know what would happen the next hour or if they’d get more sick. No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t be there to console or help in any way. Every waking minute was spent in fear I would lose one of my family members. I survived suicide in 2017 and my mom helped me through it all; my mom and dad are the only reason I am still here today. I couldn’t imagine surviving that and then losing her. But I stayed strong for her because I knew what she was going through was much harder than what I was. And she had to stay strong for her counseling clients.
At 89 years old, my grandfather was the first person to be discharged in the Tri-Cities. My mom recovered at home, while my dad was tested as asymptomatic. Imagine if he was the first to contract it. He wouldn’t have known. This is why masking up and practicing social distancing is so critical because so many people can have it and hurt others so badly without knowing it. My mom got COVID-19 from one car ride with my grandfather.
I take it very personally when people choose to not wear a mask or socially distance after hearing my story because of my personal and family experience with COVID-19. It’s like they’re saying “I saw what happened to your family but I wouldn’t have cared if they died.” Well I’d cry if your mom died. That may sound extreme to some people but that’s how it appears when you don’t wear a mask (if you don’t have a medical condition) or socially distance. It’s become as black and white to me as just removing people who are openly against following CDC guidelines from my life without a word. A silent door slam.
We need to put the lives and welfare of others above our temporary discomfort. We need to value human life over the freedom many think we are losing (by the way – we aren’t losing any.) We need to think of our neighbors, postal service workers, grandparents, newborn babies, teachers, nurses, grocery store baggers. We need to think about more than ourselves. Please don’t prove to be a nation of narcissists.”
“I think the breaking point for me during the pandemic came on my 31st birthday. I went in for a simple ultrasound because a few weeks prior, I was at work doing some arm stretches and felt a mass in my forearm. During the ultrasound, we saw a white ball. A part of me knew what it could be. A couple of days later, I went in for an MRI and sure enough that white ball was still there. I was told it was possibly a cancerous sarcoma. This isn’t something I wanted to hear or even wanted to accept. My wife and I were expecting and she was seven months along. I was really scared. I couldn’t think, eat, sleep, or do anything following the news. I didn’t know how big or small this problem was going to be. Considering everything and the pandemic, I was scared to do many things because I didn’t know if this potential diagnosis could be categorized as an underlying issue with heavy risks.
So, surgery was the next step. The doctor didn’t expect the surgery to be difficult, but this tumor turned out to be latched on above the artery, below my vein, and my muscle. The surgery left me relieved, but I still had to wait about a month to get results. The results came back non-cancerous and again I was extremely emotional. I was now able to look forward to seeing my baby born and my wife have one of the greatest moments a woman can have. Two months later, we had our first born. He was the most precious thing I had ever seen. My wife, well let me tell you. She is the strongest person in this household. I can’t even complain anymore knowing what she went through.
You know, I feel this pandemic helped shift me in a positive direction though. I’m not the most creative person, but I try. Becoming a father and having to go through that tumor experience was all I needed to turn a hobby (videography) into a business. I got my business license, promising my family I will make this work even if there were so many people doing it already. That fact didn’t phase me one bit. Then, a friend of mine messaged me to do family photos. I agreed to do it. I posted them and got great feedback. Next thing I knew, I got a couple more clients. It was really nice seeing that people actually liked my work, even though I had just dipped my toes into the photography side.
Starting to run a small business while juggling a newborn, healing from a scar, and taking care of my wife was difficult. There were times I felt like I was not pulling my weight because I had to edit my work and meet deadlines. I didn’t let myself get consumed by work though. Being reassured by my wife that the work I was putting in now will pay off later was very helpful though. This isn’t me making excuses or feeling bad for myself, it was just a thought as a parent. I didn’t want to feel like I wasn’t helping my wife take care of our newborn. Her reassurance was the confidence that I needed. I thank my wife for supporting me every day and for helping me shut down negative voices that live in my mind, you know the ones saying “you’re not good enough.” We all have them, we just have to be able to fight those words and think positive.
Right now I’m not where I want to be, but it’s not going to stop me from fulfilling a promise to my small family. To my wife and baby, I love you both and thank you for the push that I needed to keep moving forward.”
“Seeing the Quad’s famous cherry blossoms empty without students felt different this year, but not just any different. It was different with many feelings that included being uncertain, scared, confused, anxious and unpredictable. What felt like would only be a few weeks turned out to be the entire quarter quarantined at home. Suddenly we went from classroom lectures to Zoom university. We were having to transform and innovate our way of life to a virtual reality. The world was changing rapidly, and we were all part of it.
Spring quarter at the University of Washington is a busy time of the year like many other institutions. Most of the end of the school year includes events and celebrations recognizing various accomplishments. However, as each day progressed, we kept hearing we must practice social distancing confined in our homes. Six feet apart, small group gatherings, stores and restaurants closing, hand sanitizer and masks had become the new norm. People quickly went into survival mode unaware of what the future would hold.
Stay at home dates continued to extend. The Mariners and Sounders canceled their seasons and downtown Seattle became an empty ghost city as COVID-19 infections continued to rise. New changes every day made everything feel more real. Our everyday conversations revolved around the pandemic especially when the whole world was put on pause. At UW, our priority is our students and as we waited for President Cauce’s address to best support them, we were also looking for additional resources for friends and families who were being impacted.
In midst of the pandemic, I cannot help to think about our immigrant and undocumented communities who are most vulnerable during these times, especially when the DACA decision date from SCOTUS continues to be uncertain. Their decision will affect over 600,000 recipients, with 27,000 of them that work in the healthcare industry and are at the frontlines of the pandemic.
What would the United States economy or many industries that heavily depended on undocumented immigrants look like without them during these moments? Despite paying billions of dollars annually in taxes, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for the relief fund from the federal government and do not receive unemployment insurance if they lose their job during the pandemic. They often do not qualify for health insurance, paid time off, or even minimum wage, putting them at greater risk if they get sick. While some states and cities are helping to fill the gap with resources, Congress has made little to no efforts to help these communities.
Our immigrant and undocumented populations are integral parts of local communities and our economy. Washington is the second highest state of food production and it relies heavily on its contributions from immigrant populations. One in seven residents in Washington is an immigrant, a point of deep pride and diversity that should be recognized. Not only are they essential workers but they are essential people. “Tambien, hay heroes en el campo.” There are also heroes in the agriculture fields, and they are part of the frontline workers during this pandemic.
This pandemic has shown us how we have failed to recognize integral populations of our country and how economies would completely collapse without them. While my immigrant experience is singular, it is shared with so many across this country—the many immigrants before me and the many after me. With or without DACA, our immigrant and undocumented communities have always found ways to push forward with or without the pandemic. Social distancing is not something the pandemic brought; it has also been a way of living for undocumented immigrants.
While there is shared pain, we should take some time to share the joy of many achievements and the community we have built to support one another. The pathway towards doing this has not been easy. For many, it has meant crossing borders, oceans, and even language barriers. However, we have found the grit to continue to fight with the love and sacrifices from our families, friends, and allies even in the face of this pandemic.
Our dreams might have started thousands of miles away, but we are here and present in institutions and workplaces across the country. I hope we can continue the many stories of power, resilience, and goal achievers that go beyond pandemics and failed governments that recognize our much-needed essential people.”
“To be in a routine means structure, to be organized, and to be prepared. The schedule of Monday through Sunday, 6 am to whenever I get to close my eyes has been part of my everyday life ever since I can remember. The structure and madness of my everyday life would take way too long to explain, so to simplify it as much as I can, let me first introduce myself. I am a daughter of a King, a wife, and a mother of a soon to be sixteen year old daughter, a firecracker twelve year old daughter, and a full of energy one and a half year old son. Our daily routines are written out each day, either on the kitchen calendar or a dozen sticky notes inside my purse. Having daily/weekly/monthly routines made me feel organized; having structure made me feel like my family was taken care of. Having a schedule was my safe place, but I was also living every day as if I needed to meet some kind of deadline.
Then one day, my “basic-mom-routine” was hit by a bus, then ran over with a train, and thrown over a cliff (over dramatic I know, but that’s literally what it felt like.) My daughters are out of school until the end of April. My normal grocery shopping days have turned into scavenger hunts. I have had to politely excuse myself from all the upcoming family gatherings. My company had announced layoffs until May 18. I was waiting for the full blown panic to consume my home but instead I watched our lives adjust to the new norm. I am now the person in society who does NOT leave their home unless I absolutely have to. My children stay home and my husband is the “essential worker.” The unknown at first was staring me in the face every morning telling me “WAKE UP MAMA! Time to stress and time to fill with worry and anxiety, but make sure to hold yourself together so the home doesn’t go into a panic!” I had to refocus mentally and spiritually, so now the unknown stares at me and points me in the one direction I know to focus on: God.
God is so much bigger than COVID-19. God is so much bigger than the chaos surrounding me. He is bigger than the worry and anxiety that comes with all of this happening (even though there are times it really does not feel like it.) This is my hope for my family’s future and I know if even just one person gets some encouragement from this, that will be a victory in itself.
I am now thankful for the “non-scheduled” schedule bringing togetherness in my home. The constant running around to get to school, work, meetings, gatherings have come to a stop so now we are able to enjoy the days of no rush and deadlines. Facetime with my other family members is so much more these days than just a “HEY how’s it going!!” The uncertainty of how we will financially provide is overwhelmed with “God will provide” with all the resources that are literally just enough. Each time I worry we will go without, I am shown to put that fear to rest. You see, the world’s chaos will do everything it can to try and steal my hope, but something always brings me back to God’s promises whether it be a random song Alexa plays, a cheesy smile from my children, or a random text from a good friend.
We don’t know what is going to come out of this. Or when. Or how. So I’ll end this with the only encouragement I have to give: Love one another endlessly. Give thanks always. Stay off the internet; be informed but do NOT obsess. Check on friends and family. Enjoy God’s masterpieces from your window, from your backyard. It is literally everywhere! And like my new favorite song says, “Joy still comes in the morning, hope still walks with the hurting. If you’re still alive and breathing, Praise the Lord!”
“With so much time on my hands now, I can’t help but contemplate everything in my life. Some days I’m bursting with optimism, other days I let the negative climate get the better of me and I am unproductive and unmotivated. I especially contemplate about being a future physician and how healthcare should be a right for all. I envy those on the front line; I admire their courage, selflessness, and resilience. I’m not sure I’ll get to celebrate my white coat ceremony this fall. It has been what I’ve looked forward to for the last couple of years and ultimately what I’ve worked so hard for.
I feel impotent not being able to be out there, not being able to do my part how I would want to. However, I do my part by staying home and coming home straight from work, only going out for necessities or the occasional drive to clear my head. It’s hard staying home when you would like to do more. It’s hard to process that this is beyond our own control and to control only what we can: our actions. Do stay home and do take care of your mental health. Phone or FaceTime a friend. Eat your comfort food. Watch your favorite movie. Take advantage of the time with your loved ones. This is only temporary and a great example of empathy. Every single person in the world is able to relate to any and all feelings and mindset this pandemic has brought upon us all.”
“I’m sorry that it took me so long to write this. I jumped on the chance to be a part of this project because I didn’t feel like it was being taken seriously enough at the time…and now look at the world around us. I couldn’t conceptualize what I wanted to say because everyday things were changing. I would think, “OK, when does this end?” or, “OK, what about when we run out of gear, or nurses? Or patience?” It took me a minute to realize we were all fighting the same, terrified battle. At my work, this is the new normal. Any cough, shortness of breath, fever, we gown up like this and there are no visitors allowed, not even your closest loved ones. It’s such a horrifying and isolating experience for the patient. I had to almost call out of work after I learned one of the first COVID-19 patients I had didn’t pull through after a week in the ICU. I was the last person she talked to before she was intubated. It’s intensely dehumanizing. We gripe about the task of putting on all of this gear, yet we are so grateful for the times where we actually have all of it on. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the way I was before. I am forever dedicated to being the best nurse that I can be, which is a polar opposite to me thinking a year ago I wanted out of this field. This crisis was the catalyst to make me go after the goals closest to my heart and to not take my position in this world for granted. I think it did for all of us, essential and non-essential workers. They say chaos and trauma brings people closer and that has never been more clear than in this moment, even if we are all six or more feet apart.”
“I’m struggling to accept my mood swings since all this started, which is upsetting because for the past year I’ve prioritized personal growth and emotional control and was feeling proud of the small changes I saw and where I was going. Now I feel stagnant and frequently incredibly insignificant.
I was two weeks away from graduating massage therapy school and working part time as a waitress. The morning massages I gave to clients grounded me and gave me fun interactions to think about throughout the day. My conversations with patrons at the restaurant made me laugh, or just as often grumble and complain. Regardless of a stressful day or a smooth day at school or work, I was on the go. I was working towards a goal and I was passionate about my future. Now, like mostly everyone else, I’m stuck, and my motivation skips around and never sticks around for long.
My main goal now is to accept that this is our reality and make the most of it, which is proving much harder than balancing school and work.”
“Social distancing has impacted everything about our daily life. I chose to work even though daycare costs more than I make because the nine months I tried to be a stay-at-home mom felt very isolating and I felt like I was terrible at it. And that was way back when my toddler was a newborn-9 month old and wasn’t mobile yet.
Now I find myself at home trying to keep two active, extroverted kids busy and happy without access to playgrounds or libraries or anything social. I tried for one day to do a schedule that had some “academics” and art projects for my five year old, but the two year old has to be involved in everything and we just couldn’t focus. Everything went to pieces after lunch.
After a few days I gave up on trying to do any kind of schedule and now I try to do a few fun things a day but my kids are mostly just staying on tablets. I feel like that’s a big failure on my part because they aren’t learning or playing. But they’re content and not asking me about the playground or having friends over or going to McDonald’s.
In the meantime, they still want just enough of my time that I can’t do anything for myself. I used to have an hour before work and about two after work when the kids were at daycare and I could get some chores done and maybe watch some TV, read a book, or work on any hobbies. Now I don’t have that time. From 5 am – 7 pm I’m on mom duty. My husband is working from home and doing just as much parenting and professional work as I am, but I don’t feel like there’s much time I can actually take for myself. It’s all interrupted. I take walks or drive to do a grocery pickup but that’s still not the same time as having time to really focus on anything I might want to accomplish or learn. I am barely keeping the house in an acceptable condition because the kids are always trailing me making more mess.
I still feel like we need some kind of schedule that doesn’t involve screens, but without the ability to build in a break for myself, trying to enforce any schedule with little kids is more mental work for me and I’m not sure how to do it.”
“I have been in isolation at my home since March 4. I have rheumatoid arthritis and am considered high-risk. From the moment I wake up to the moment I lie down to try to sleep, my brain is constantly running full-speed. I have two little boys at home. Between homeschooling them, teaching online, trying to run the theatre company I’m the artistic director for, attempting to keep our home somewhat clean, and battling flare-ups from my RA, there is a lot in my day.
When I do finally lay down, that is when the emotions and thoughts and fears I’ve been keeping at bay during the day come crashing to the forefront of my mind. I think of the thousands of people who are dying from this virus without their families next to them. I think of all the medical workers that are beyond exhausted and keep working to help and comfort those who are sick. I think of my grandad who is stuck in his one room studio apartment and can’t leave. I try to push a panic attack away when I hear about intubation, PPE’s, or ICU’s because I can’t help but think of when my dad passed away three years ago. I feel guilty I was actually able to be there with him in his last moments, unlike so many are able to do now. I think of my mom, at home by herself, wishing I could go hug her.
Then the panic and sadness turns to anger and frustration. How selfish so many people are acting. How incompetent the president is. Being told my life is not as important as businesses reopen. Infuriated that COVID-19, and the lack of response from those in charge dis-proportionally threatens marginalized groups of people. How so many people are now jobless. Knowing so many people who have died in our country due to this pandemic, didn’t need to.
All of this runs through my mind, while trying to sleep. No wonder I wake up even more exhausted the next day. But I dive into another day that feels like a scene from “Groundhog Day” because I’ll be damned if the toxicity out there in the world reaches my boys. There are a lot of people causing harm during this time, but there are many others who are showing the best parts of humanity. It is my job to make sure my boys are in that second group of people: caring and loving others.”
“Like so many millennials, I experience anxiety. Between social media, the news, and the unknown future after coronavirus, my anxiety has been much harder to manage. I find myself withdrawing by ignoring texts or Zoom invites. I would have never thought my social anxiety could be worse during social distancing. One person says this, another person says that. People speak opinion as fact, with social media being the biggest enabler of it. You turn on the TV and the negativity is everywhere. It’s hard to escape it sometimes. I have learned to just log off, switch the channel, but most importantly, not argue. I’ve had to accept that some people cannot see outside their own bubble. As much as social media has opened my eyes to many peoples’ true colors, it also has shown me who my friends are. Some friendships have grown and others have been solidified. Instead of reading opinions, I look for the perfect meme to send in the hopes of making someone smile. Despite all this uncertainty and negativity, I know we all will get through this. Everyone is sacrificing something. Being able to see the ones you love, once this is all over, will make us appreciate our time with each other even more.
“Right now I am in a unique position as I work on cruise ships and I am currently stranded at sea. The CDC will not allow American citizens to enter, so my anxieties lie in the inability to go home. I have days where I have no hope; I have spent 48 days at sea now with no end in sight. I was under 24-hour isolation for 14 days, only then to be allowed out for meals. Now I have moved ships and am under the same lockdown. However, even in these uncertain times I have felt more support from my community than ever before. I have hope that this pandemic will bring people together, even though it’s keeping us all apart. I fear being stuck in this room for months, but with that fear I have had so many people reach out and talk to me. I have had people I haven’t spoken to in years share my posts and reach out to their senators to try and help me get home. I was mad at America until I realized that every Facebook friend, every senator, and every governor I have spoken to has been nothing but sympathetic and supportive. I have been treated so great throughout this by my peers and for that I have hope; hope that this country will be in good hands and that there really are genuine people in politics that care about the people. I hope that we have learned a valuable lesson in that we take too much for granted. I always fear that something will happen to someone back home while I’m at sea, but I always took for granted that I could fly home at the next port. I always took the nights in the officer bar and hugs from friends for granted. I think there’s things we all take for granted that we need to cherish and I believe that this will help us do that.
I have seen my friends offering to donate meals to people who are struggling. I have seen people sending care packages to others just to make them smile. I have also heard that nurses are being yelled at and attacked on the street. This should be a time where we help each other and thank hospital workers, not hurt them.
The changes I have seen in my ships have been intense. We disembarked guests March 14 and at first, we just lived without them. We barely worked. We spent most of our time at the gym and by the pool. We played card games, tanned and swam; we even made our own game up. There was even a big show on the main stage and a crew party after for St. Patrick’s Day. Then we had to start social distancing. This meant no more parties but we could still do basically everything else, we just had to sit further away from each other. Then someone got sick. The day someone tested positive for COVID-19 we went into a way more intense isolation. We all had to wear masks at all times, most people could not leave their cabins unless it was their 30-minute meal time (and then 30 minutes after each meal for outdoor time), or essential work. I was completely isolated for 14 days because I was in close contact with the person who had tested positive. Things went from a boring vacation to a total nightmare. The food got worse and worse; we were running out of it. Eventually I could eat outside again but now I’m on a different ship and back in my cabin all day. I haven’t had a hug in at least 34 days. There’s been days where I just want to go punch a bag and I can’t and then there are days when I just need a hug, but I can’t have that either.
I used to love hanging out with children, playing games and coloring with them (I work in the Kid’s Club onboard). I used to swim and tan for fun or just hang out with my friends at the bar. Now I watch the same movies while I write or play video games. I Facetime people when I’m in port but that’s rare and the internet is so expensive and slow out here. I made workout videos for the ship and workout sheets for my friends, but I can only do so many of those before I run out of ideas. I am learning Spanish which has been a great use of my time. Most days I just wait until I can sleep again. My whole world has changed, with the freedom I once had gone.
I have heard many people say that we should open everything back up and tell the unhealthy or “old” people to self-isolate. I see their point, but I also see a world that is turning against the elderly. The repercussions of this virus extend to an increase in abuse, alcoholism, suicide, and poverty which we need to try and stop. But we also need to stop the spread of this virus. We need to keep others safe by opening stores but always wearing masks and by washing our hands more often and always carrying hand sanitizer. I obviously don’t have the answers and I realize that nobody does, but those with the means to help those that need it should do just that. We don’t need a society with richer rich and poorer poor. The CDC has told us that we are cruise staff first and Americans second. They have acted like we do not count as humans let alone citizens, all the while we are still paying our taxes. Nobody should feel like they aren’t human. Everybody matters and those close to me have never let me forget that they will always fight for me. I want everybody to know that they are worth fighting for.”
“I’m an entertainment host for Holland America Line on cruise ship Zaandam. While the rest of the world started to go into lock down, we were still at sea with a ship full of 1200 passengers and 600 crew. On March 22, an increased number of people onboard began to get sick and our captain instructed everyone to go to their staterooms immediately. That announcement began a two week strict cabin quarantine where our guests could not leave their rooms at all, for any reason, in order to prevent the outbreak. Things got worse as crew members fell ill and there were not enough people to care for all the guests onboard. Then there were four deaths and nine confirmed cases of COVID-19. We could not port anywhere to let off our critical condition passengers or to disembark the guests to get them home. Eleven Southern American countries rejected us to port. After a huge fight, Zaandam was finally allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale.
Praise God that our passengers were able to get off and go home! But the crew has yet to disembark. We are patiently awaiting the day we can get back home to our families.”
“On March 19, 2020, my friend sent me a Facebook request to join a mask making for the front lines group. I accepted. Am I a sewer? No, not really. Can I sew? Yes, if it isn’t too complicated. I’ve never really gotten into it. My mom is a sewer and quilter and I spent most of my childhood turning up the TV to hear it over the humming of my mom’s sewing machine. But I thought, “I can sew face masks.” I already felt pretty helpless in the impeding pandemic and shelter in place orders that were about to be announced.
That weekend I researched the best pattern to follow, best materials, and dug out scrap fabric that was in the garage. I set the sewing machine and ironing board up in our dining room area and went to work. The first few were a little slow but then I got the hang of it.
The following week the schools closed and I started working from home. So many unknowns were starting to bubble up. How are the kids? Will they do their schoolwork? How am I going to work from home? While I still ask those questions, I know I can sit down at that sewing machine and make a couple of face masks and feel like I’m helping my community get through this.
The first week of working at home was quite an adjustment to learn how to Zoom, use Google Docs, sheets, slides, etc. While Zooming in a staff meeting, I shared a picture of my “home office” and the face masks I had been making in the evenings. At the end of the meeting, one of the staff asked if I had any extra masks for her family. This led to several staff members stopping by the following day to pick up masks for their family members. Some took one. Some took five. I am so happy they have masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The following day, I messaged my neighbors and invited them to my front doorsteps to grab what they needed from a box I had set out. Masks have also been mailed to family in Oregon, California, and Washington D.C.
While sitting and sewing, I like to listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts. I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us.” One of her first episodes, Brené discusses FFTs. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to learn what FFT stands for but I related so well to it. Working from home is an FFT. Homeschooling is an FFT. The pandemic is an FFT that is causing other FFTs. After listening, I shared the podcast with colleagues who can relate. It’s been a helpful tool to remind me that all these new things are new to everyone else, too.
Last week, masks were donated to My Friends Place, a place of worship, and a pediatrician’s office. I’ll continue to donate as much as I can. While there are still way more questions than answers to the current state of the world and what the future will look like, I am comforted each night by the humming sound of the sewing machine and helping someone feel a little safer each time they have to go out in public. That’s where I’ll be until this gets under control.”
“2020 has been an incredibly strange year as a new mother of a three-month-old. Not only do I feel like I’ve been somewhat quarantined since my baby was born in January, but my life looks entirely different than it did before. My days are spent loving a chunky baby, working an hour or so, and preparing for grad school in the fall, with a good measure of TV and books added in. Some days that sweet baby isn’t quite so sweet and it’s tough being so isolated. There have been days with no sleep and a lot of tears. It’s hard not to know the future. When will we be able to travel? When will my siblings be able to meet their nephew for the first time? Sometimes I wish I could just close my eyes and wake up in 2022. However, there have been many days with joy, laughter, and peace at home with my little family. We are very fortunate.
As a historian and social scientist, this is a really crazy experience for me. My education has focused on reading people’s primary source documents from times like these; journal entries, letters to family, everything. And now, here I am, living through a historical event that will be talked about for generations to come. I’ve realized that it’s overwhelming to record history when you’re the one living it, especially heartbreaking history. Why would I want to write about the millions of Americans losing jobs? The thousands of New York citizens struggling in intensive care? The senior citizens not getting visits and the high school seniors not getting their senior year? Even the good things like the service and love and caring that’s happening… it’s just all a bit emotionally exhausting to live through, much less try and write about. We are blessed to live in a time of modern medicine and technology.
As a religious person what is getting me through this time is my faith in a God who loves His children. My heart aches for those who are struggling physically, emotionally and economically because of this virus. I know His heart aches too. I know He is in charge, and because of that I expect miracles to come.”
“Life for me hasn’t changed much amidst the pandemic, in a logistic sense. I still go to work in a government psychiatric facility as nursing staff for 40 hours a week, and up until my “graduation” last weekend, I was in grad school online—I suppose the silver lining of the “stay-at-home” order was that I got to graduate from the comfort of my bed in my pajamas while I watched my name roll across a screen. Anyways, my day-to-day has not changed much: chores, school, work, come home to my dog, sleep.
But, then again, there’s naturally been a lot of change during this pandemic…and it goes to show our sense of community in these trying times. Adding to my laundry to-do list every week is washing/sanitizing all my handmade masks that I’ve received from coworkers or family. A local company here in Spokane made and donated 3D printed mask extenders to save our ears from 8-16 hours of pain from the mask ear loops and I’ve been able to hand them out to many coworkers. I’ve had a woman donate 150 disposable masks to me so I could disperse them to other nursing services staff who needed them. I had so much love and support from people I haven’t even talked to in years when I announced my termination of my long-term relationship and him moving out of my house. Everyday, there is some phenomenon that occurs that makes my heart overjoyed about the sense of camaraderie among us.
Yes, the pandemic and having to be sequestered from friends and family sucks. The fact that I couldn’t really celebrate this milestone with a party or little shindig or even a meal together was sad. I miss doing things with friends and family. But, our sense of community and love for one another is that light at the end of the tunnel for me; we’ve always been deemed an individualistic society but these recent acts are so collectivistic in nature. We can get through this. We WILL get through this. And maybe, just maybe, this pandemic in terms of how we treat one another will better us in the long run.”
“Throwing up multiple times a day. Exhausted. Confined to the sofa most of the month of March. These are how I spent the first few weeks of quarantine, pregnant with my second child.
Having finished my student teaching last December, I was just starting to substitute teach again when all of this happened. Though I worried about the lack of having an income, I have to admit that selfishly, I was okay with the news of school closures because of how sick I had been feeling.
My husband still has his job working at a local restaurant. That fact fills me with both gratitude and terror. I log on to our local health department web page every day, looking at the latest numbers. If my husband gets sick, then what? If I get sick, then what? Would there be any long-term effects on our unborn child? There is just so much we don’t know about this virus yet. What will the world be like in September when the baby is due? Giving birth is already an insane experience, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. I try to just breathe though each passing day. I’m focused on the future, and preparing our home for this new little life to soon join us.
Right now, my biggest challenge is constantly entertaining my three year old son. He is used to seeing both sets of grandparents every week and explaining to him why we can’t go over to their houses, and why we can’t hug anymore for the time being, is by far the most difficult part of this all. It’s all I can do to try and distract him from the fact that our lives are very different now. Reassuring him, I say, “Don’t worry, love, this won’t be forever, I promise.” My words to him have also become a mantra to myself. This too, shall pass.”
“Being killed by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America. (Sources for you below.)
When it was just COVID-19, I was fine. I’m an introvert.
But now add Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Racism is not new to this country but something about George Floyd has made everyone wake up. Possibly the casualness of the officer who killed him, mixed in with everyone being at home and how long that officer was on George’s neck.
While I think everyone ‘waking up’ now is great, I can’t help but think, “You thought we were crying wolf about racism?” before this.
On June 2 (#BlackOutTuesday) and June 3, I took those days off from radio.
1. Business as usual was a no for me.
2. I hadn’t heard anything from my owner/boss about how to move forward.
Those two days were about prayer and fasting.
As a radio personality, I believe my job is to reflect what’s going on in the world… and look at what’s going on.
Was I allowed to speak up?
Would there be some type of punishment if I said what I wanted to say?
Who do I work for? Do they care about black lives?
As the only black woman who works in my building and works for white men, I just didn’t know.
Pre May 25, 2020:
Do you care that I’m black? Do you care about my community? Those are just conversations I’d never bring up to my owner. Who does that? Race and politics are so taboo in our country… until now.
My first protest was when Trayvon Martin got hunted down and killed. That didn’t feel like this. These past few weeks have been united for the most part. All 50 states, plus multiple countries are protesting. I was on the radio in Australia discussing racism. That’s a big deal! That gives me hope there is a change coming and the unity for #BlackLivesMatter is a beautiful thing to see.
After a deep conversation with my owner AND boss, I’m relieved to say that now I know. The anxiety has been released from my spirit and now I’m focusing on bringing topics to my show that matter. So yes, that means topics about race and the ugly history America loves to sweep under the wrong!
So you woke now? Well good morning. You can listen via Power 99.1 or get the replays of “The Race Conversations” on my IG @justmeReka”
“I find myself worrying more these days. I’ve been isolated from my family and friends because my job and its lack of protective measures makes me high risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19. I worry for my patients more than anyone. I’m an oncology nurse working with highly immunocompromised people. The last thing someone actively beating cancer needs is a virus like this. People are dying alone in hospitals as we are trying to minimize the spread and visitors aren’t allowed. No one should ever lose a loved one that way. That’s why it pains me to see all the hate and misinformation being spread in the community. People are really trying to make the case that only the elderly or those with underlying health conditions are getting sick. They often are the same people shouting “All lives matter” from the rooftops. Masking isn’t difficult or political, but that’s the current reasoning many are using to justify not wearing one.
I feel such division in the community. If the poor response to COVID-19 wasn’t enough, the backlash the Black Lives Matter movement has received has all but made me lose faith. People don’t realize the overlap between COVID-19 and the virus that is racism. They don’t see the disparity in police treatment, incarceration, representation, or even healthcare for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. It’s as easy to treat people equally as it is to wear a mask in public. Yet, here we are still fighting this battle centuries later. There will eventually be an effective vaccine for COVID-19, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that racism can only be overcome by those who lend their voice to the cause, speak out, and take action. This pandemic scares me, but systemic oppression of marginalized communities scares me more. Now is the time for all people to stand together in solitude for all marginalized communities, the sick, and humanity.”
“When quarantine first started, it felt weird and surreal. Working from home became de facto instead of occasionally doing it for an afternoon or a day. Wearing masks while out was suggested, but basically de facto, too. Aside from that shift, work has proceeded as normal for the most part. And I’m OK doing it from home. Just need to move around more.
But about a month into it, a health issue that I still have no answers for occurred, affecting my walking and speech. And still does to a degree but better now than it was. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as scared as I did then to be honest. Something you’re so used to, changing in an instant and lasting, all while we’re in isolation, even though I guess it has now been lifted in Washington. That’s a lot of our stories in different degrees at this point. In the end, I was grateful for those who brought groceries, dinners and lunches, and being a listening ear, all while social distancing. It reminded me of the community I do have here, even while quarantined.
Around that time, we as a nation were introduced to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, despite him having died two months before the pandemic. I can’t bring myself to watch what happened to him. What happens to my gut when I think about it (sigh.) And the people who did it hadn’t been arrested!!? What!? And they were tied to the police too! The thoughts that go through your mind, even more so when you’re living in a pretty much white area.
But oh wait. May hit.
We then learn about Breonna Taylor and her death having happened two months prior. Plain clothes detectives kill her after going to the wrong house, only to find out the suspect they were looking for was already arrested. WHAT IN ALL THE WORLD!!!!?? Oh, and they still haven’t been fired!? The amount of deep breaths taken thinking about this and Ahmaud. Unnerving.
I’m sorry, what’d you say? George Floyd. I had to push myself to work. Was mentally done. If this wasn’t, ONCE AGAIN, a reason that police brutality needs to end, WHAT else is!! Charge them all! Not just one! Surprisingly, there were protests out here and there was NO WAY that my behind was not going. EVERYTHING I felt, I had to be there. That’s quarantine now.”
“My experience with the pandemic, although life has been slow, has felt like a roller coaster. I feel like I am caught between two worlds: one where people are scared to leave their house and the other where the pandemic “really isn’t that bad” and we “cant put our lives on hold forever.”
In Seattle, I can look out my apartment window and see people walking their dogs in the neighborhood I live in and everyone is wearing a mask. I basically stayed in my apartment for ten weeks, leaving to go to the grocery store, to go on neighborhood walks, and when spending distanced time with a friend. My living room became my work space as I do virtual therapy for toddlers on the autism spectrum. My bedroom became my gym. I adapted because we had to.
As I began venturing out of Seattle and out of western Washington to visit friends and family in eastern Washington in June, the pandemic felt completely different. People were hanging out, road tripping, doing all the things I was avoiding. It felt like the pandemic wasn’t that serious. Yet, when I posted online that I was positive for COVID-19 after a road trip to Montana, I received messages such as “Looks like we’ve got a super spreader!” or “I hope you know that if people die, it’s your fault!” and it just shows me exactly how stuck I am between these two worlds. It makes doing the right thing really confusing. Every time I leave my house feels like an ethical dilemma.
I do feel guilty for getting COVID-19, like I’m a bad person because I got it. I have a hard time with that. Traveling with a group was risky, but I wasn’t worried about my own health; I was worried about spreading the disease to small, rural communities. I believe that I followed guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I still got it. I could have done better. I definitely could have spread the virus. But at the same time, if restaurants, bars, and breweries are open, people are going to go. If it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else. I wonder why things are even open right now and why ethical responsibility is placed so heavily on individuals.
COVID-19 is real. I was lucky that I had it mild and I have completely recovered. I also feel lucky that the people I was in close contact with before getting symptoms have all tested negative. I just hate being that statistic – the healthy 20-something year old with mild symptoms who put other people at risk with her actions. Because although mean, people are right. I could have spread it and someone could have died. And how could anyone be okay with that? And how can we balance living our lives with being ethically responsible? It’s hard.
The worst part about this whole experience has been the sigma. I no longer have any symptoms, the Department of Health says I’m not contagious, yet I’m continuing to stay isolated because people are scared. I understand the fear, even though I have recovered. If you’re not scared of getting the virus, you should be scared of spreading it. You don’t know who will get it and how bad it will be. COVID-19 is real. Wear your mask, don’t share your drinks, and wash your hands. It sucks and it is not worth it.”
“Imagine not being able to eat for two and a half months. You’ve been to the ER five times over the course of three months, one of which ends in emergency surgery and others with head shakes of sadness from doctors that wish they knew how to help. You’ve lost sixty plus pounds and simple tasks like showering are now life-threatening events. Your days are reduced to attempting to nap, getting excited if you don’t puke up a popsicle, infusions at the hospital several times a week through your new PICC line, and waiting for the call that says a specialist can finally see you. This is all because of COVID-19.
My experience with COVID-19 in January 2021 started out what I thought was typical: fatigue and loss of smell and taste. By day three of quarantine, I felt like I was getting better, but by day five I took myself to my first trip to the ER for tachycardia, or rapid heart rate. Doctors said that this was a normal symptom of COVID-19, but the warning signs that something worse was to come were already showing up in my blood work at that visit. Little did we know that I was having a multi system inflammatory response. But because the blood work at the time wasn’t that abnormal for someone who was sick, I was sent home with a “get well soon.”
By the third ER visit, my liver, kidney, thyroid, and gastro system were all being attacked, a discovery made during the emergency removal of my appendix. That was January 29, 2021. I was sent home the same day without being able to speak to a doctor again. I’ve been struggling since then, trying to get to a specialist here or in Seattle. Every doctor I’ve seen says my issues are too complex and I need to see someone else.
I keep wondering how much worse it has to get before I am able to get help or at least a specialist to see me. The healthcare system is overloaded, taking weeks and even months at time to get to a specialist. At this point, my life is on the line. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. It feels like I am yelling into the void. It is hard not to feel like my body has betrayed me. Every day feels like a new battle and a waiting game. Will today be the day I get the answers I need to receive some sort of treatment?
I’ve noticed that when the news or social media shares stories of people who are really sick with COVID-19, it shows them on ventilators or bedridden in hospitals. The imagery is often graphic and sad, but it is easy to remove yourself and feel far from the situation. It’s not you, it’s not a loved one, so why should you care? For some, they think it is a scare tactic, for others it is a reminder of a recent nightmare. When I tell people how sick I really am but not able to be admitted in the hospital, their responses are full of surprise. They have no idea that someone is so sick in our area but unable to receive care. But honestly, I don’t want people to have to wait until they are super sick to care about the impacts COVID-19 can have. Why risk and take that gamble? If anything, I hope this story can show you the importance of getting the vaccine and following the guidelines in place to help stop the spread.
If you don’t know someone with terrible COVID-19 complications, now you do.”
“With the precautions we value at work, I do what I can to maintain them at home. When I come home, I never let my shoes cross past my doorway. Clothes are immediately in the washing machine and I’m jumping in the shower. I do these things not because I feel that I’m carrying this virus, but because I don’t know. Protecting those I love and care for means implementing social distancing and proper protective equipment at work.
This pandemic has given many in our country fear. As a nurse, facing what we cannot see is frightening. Being scared is reasonable and validated, and yet we as nurses remain calm. We care for those who are scared and we educate and give peace to our patients.
Caring for my community has meaning to me and I couldn’t imagine doing anything different.”
“We have lived long enough to know that these kinds of things pass. We believe in humanity and that scientists will find a vaccine – a remedy – for this virus. History teaches us that we have gone through these things before and we will live through it. It’s not the end. Another thing that gives us hope is that we have prepared for these kinds of times.
We have spent quite a bit of time calling our friends, neighbors and family making sure they are okay and have the things they need. We have friends that are unemployed; this will be much harder for them than for us because we are in a place financially that it doesn’t hurt us as bad. This is where help should come: from family, friends and community members.
We have been doing our part flattening the curve by staying home as much as possible, except for getting outside for exercise and yard work. We don’t have to go to the grocery store very often because we have food stored from our garden. I make all of our bread and we have canned and dried food and a good supply of household necessities. If you are prepared for “rainy days”, you don’t need to fear or be anxious staying home for a few weeks – you’ll have everything you need. I’m glad I know how to cut hair (marginally so my husband and son can look halfway decent.)
Social distancing has affected our daily life by restricting time spent with family (we normally have family dinner on Sunday together.) It has also changed our worship activities. We can no longer go to church and worship with our friends. We now do it in our home with just our family. Clay used to go to the temple twice a week and now the temple is closed. I lead the children in our church in singing every Sunday but now I make a video and send it to them so we can keep learning the songs. Keeping ourselves busy at home has been a great boost to how clean the house is. We’ve cleaned and organized areas in the house that have been neglected for ages!”
“I have caught myself paying attention to the things that I once took for granted or were simply a given. This slow paced life has given me so much to be thankful for. It has helped me self reflect on all that I am and all that I wish to become. As a public health nurse, I am seeing the importance of public health now more than ever. I’ve seen the importance of a community that works together and comes together in hard times. Times like these prove solidarity and empathy exist within us. I can’t say I’m not afraid. I hope everyday that I don’t bring this virus into my home and hurt those that I love the most: my family.
When I get home from work and before anything else, I leave my shoes at the doorstep, scrubs go straight to the washer and I take a shower. This is what I can do to prevent as much as I can while I follow my vocation. There is no doubt that these are hard times, but I know this will end and we will all return to our normal life that we miss so much.”
“The other day I sent my dad a photo of my dog “Why is this happening?” my little brother asked me one day. He has this perception of me that I have the answers to everything just because I major in science. I couldn’t give him an answer because I had the same question and can’t seem to find an answer. This pandemic has brought up a lot of emotions to the surface. My family and I immigrated from Iraq in 2013. I’ve experienced living anxiously for a long time. The idea of losing a loved one was always in the back of my mind until I moved here. I gained a sense of safety and I let go of any anxious feelings. Now that the world is in chaos, I am worried about my family again, worried that they might get sick, what will I do? I am worried for the people who lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet.
I never expected to get to a point of zero social interaction. It made me think of all the times that I got to hug a friend, sit in a restaurant, or talk to a stranger that I took for granted. My whole perception of life has changed. I sometimes feel small and unimportant even though I still work from home. I get the feeling that I’m not important enough to be out there. I guess it’s a false perception, but I can’t help it. However, I am hopeful and I have faith in research. Working with scientists the past year at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory gave me an insight into scientific research and how it can impact not only the community but the whole globe. Whether this is going to end well or not, I would like to cling to hope and positivity because this could be the only way to continue living. The best thing we can all do for our community right now is stay home. Who knows, maybe this is a needed lesson for everyone to look at this world differently, to sort out their priorities, to choose wisely, and to redefine themselves. At least that’s what I feel it is teaching me.”
“This is where I spend most of my time. I am fortunate enough to work remotely and in a safe space to do so, but how I hold a presence in both of these areas has changed. Working at a community college, my heart has been heavier because I know many of our students are suffering financially, mentally, and even physically. Our students were already struggling and with the impacts of COVID-19 we very quickly have worked to find ways to continue to provide services to them and improve on them. However, sometimes the most important thing to do is just be there with them.
About five years ago I started my student services experience at the same place I graduated undergrad: Washington State University Tri-Cities. From then and up until a little over a month ago, I never thought I would not only be living through a pandemic but I would be helping students navigate it for themselves.
Progress today looks very different than it did last year for myself, for students, and many others. I started working on my doctorate in education last summer and now my classes are consumed with the impacts of this pandemic. We are regularly discussing how different institutions are responding and just offering space for each other knowing that someone of us may be facing furlough or layoffs. As professionals in our area, we are trying to progress through this in new ways all while our students are also redefining progress for themselves.
Many students across the nation are scrambling to get the resources and technology they need at home to continue progressing in their classes while also juggling anything that their home life may involve. When people talk about how this is a pandemic that impacts everyone, we are not acknowledging how systematic oppression has made it so much more difficult for everyone to also find progress. When I am able to Zoom with student leadership, they are not in the same place mentally that they were over a month ago. They all live with their families, some of them having families of their own, and not always living in the most desirable areas. They are worried about their safety, money, and health while still trying to make progress towards an uncertain future that has no defined timeline.”
“The other day I sent my dad a photo of my dog to which he responded, “I miss my apfelstrudelchen.” That last word means my little apple strudel in German. Perhaps that introduction needs a little more context. I am German-American. My dad, also referred to as “grandpaw,” usually watches his grandpup Benny during the day while I am at work, and then we have family time in the evening before I head home to my place. We believe in the healing power of dogs in our family. My parents’ dog, Tucker, and my rescue, Benny, have proven time and time again that a dog’s love is the cure for a lot of things.
Katie: “I told my mom today that the past 45 days have felt like maternity leave with my firstborn. He was born at the end of December, so we holed up at home for 12 weeks to avoid the cold and flu season. Friends stayed away because they “didn’t want to get the baby sick.” Now, that’s called “social distancing.” I only went out for doctor’s appointments or an occasional coffee. I wore sweats all day. Showering was a distant memory. And what was sleep? Exercise? Healthy food? Time? Everyone I know seems to be going through their own version of maternity leave these days. It’s definitely not a vacation. It can be stressful, scary, chaotic, and sometimes downright miserable. But it doesn’t last forever, and neither will this.”
Jake: “Life feels flattened in the lockdown. Familial roles, household rhythms, intimate moments. We don’t see them the same anymore. “The Rona” colors everything in a distant, deathly gray, with red triangle vignetting. But our kids grow anyway, mostly unaware of the reason Daddy doesn’t go to the office or why we don’t get Ranch & Home trips or gym excursions. Our daughter is a smiling tyrant, burbling with chatter and resolve. Our son has become a starfighter engineer before kindergarten. He practices reading, writing and numbers. We hope it’s enough. The little moments — a great Lego build or a ball well-hit; an excited question or a “Hey Daddy!” — mean a little more, though. They’re bright spots of tactile color in the flat monochrome.”
“Today is my 28th birthday and I am alone. Missing birthdays and holidays is not uncommon in our world; celebrations occur early or are postponed. In a first responder family, that’s just another adjustment that you learn to adapt to that becomes your normal. It’s just a day. Does it matter if we eat Thanksgiving dinner a few days before or after the actual day? No, not really as long as we can be together. That’s what truly matters. There’s always been a risk when John goes to work. Not just that he will miss an important event while he’s gone for 48 hours, but a risk that he won’t come home at all or will come home sick. I grew up in a firefighter family and I know what I signed up for. My father came home from the hospital severely injured at least twice that I can remember, but he always came home. It’s now the same with my husband. Every time he leaves I pray that in a few days he will walk back through the same door. There’s always been a chance he could get hurt or bring home an unseen danger from work. In that aspect, our lives are the same.
While John works in the field with patients, I work in medicine as an ER nurse. I was born to be an ER nurse. It’s what drove me into a medical career in the first place. The first time I followed a nurse in the ER as a high school student, I knew that was where I belonged. The sheer chaos, the not knowing what’s walking through the door next, and some of the best nurses working side by side to keep people breathing…I never wanted to do something more. We are called heroes by the media, but I don’t feel like a hero. Every day I go to work I know I may have to dance with the grim reaper to fight for another life. I also know I may be exposed to a deadly disease and I take every precaution to prevent that from happening even when there’s not a pandemic. Tuberculosis, HIV, Hepatitis, Ebola, H1N1, and several others have always been a risk, but I still show up to work every night. I don’t demand an increase in my pay because I could contract something; the risk has always been there. I don’t need free pizza or discounts at stores as an incentive to go to work. It is a new disease and a new protocol as medicine continues to evolve as it does constantly. I go to work as I always have without fear and ready to put others well being before my own.
Maybe this way of thinking is just in my genetics and how I was brought up. I’ve been told by many that we deserve to be paid more and we deserve recognition for the risk we are taking. I don’t see it that way. When I was a kid my father told us a story about Abraham Lincoln. A man asked another man how he would know who Abraham Lincoln was when he went to look for him at the train station. The man replied, “He will be the one helping people.” It’s one of my favorite stories and lessons my dad taught us growing up. The most important thing you can do in life is to devote your time to helping others because your actions define your character and that’s exactly what my husband and I, my brother and his wife, and all other medical professionals and first responders have signed up to do no matter what danger we may face. We are here for our community every day, not just during a pandemic.”
“One who saves another has saved the entire world.”
“I can’t help but question whether I am doing enough to support others during this time.
We are inundated with opportunities and information on how to support individuals, businesses, organizations and nonprofits during the pandemic. Making masks, buying gift cards from locally owned businesses, donation and volunteer opportunities are just a few.
Other than ordering the occasional dinner from a locally owned business, I don’t have the capacity to consider doing anything else to support others outside my home. Providing a sense of normalcy for my children and educating them to the best of my ability, supporting my husband who owns a business deemed essential during this time, and staying engaged and productive professionally has me consumed. On any given day I feel as though I’m only doing one of these things well. I don’t have mental or emotional space to help anyone outside my home. However, I do stress about it and wonder what it says about me as someone who enjoys being engaged in the community and finds fulfillment from giving back.”
“This is a scary time for us who suffer from anxiety. I’ve had to find creative ways in order to improve my mental health. Sometimes when I have to get on a video call, I put on my Minnie ears to brighten my coworkers’ day. By putting on my Minnie ears, I feel like I’m in my happy place again. They help take me out of the world of today and move into the world of tomorrow: one with churros, dole whips, and rides. One day, two of my coworkers grabbed their own Disney ears to join with me on the fun. I laughed as my coworker even grabbed her child and had her put on a pair for me. Moments like this make me feel more connected with my coworkers despite having to move our offices to our own homes. A sense of knowing that we are all in this together I think helps us stay hopeful with one another.
When I’m not working, I’m always looking for my next travel destination. I’ve had to cancel two trips because of COVID-19 and haven’t been able to plan any for the future. I’m lucky in the sense that my best friend works in the hotel business. Because of this, we travel as soon as we have the time off and a good airplane ticket deal shows up. It helps give me something to look forward to, which keeps me going during a long week.
We need to find ways to deal with our stress and anxiety that work for us during these uncertain times. I’m thankful that when my parents heard I was having a hard time mentally, they invited me over to quarantine at their house. It’s important to reach out to those you love and encourage one another through all of this. Always remember that you are not alone, and you are more than your anxiety. Even though life right now is full of ups and downs, I’m thankful that I still have a job and am able to spend time to talk, laugh, and drink wine while still staying safe during this unpredictable time.”
“When the pandemic started, I was overwhelmed with a sense of frustration and anger. Those feelings turned to lonely, tired, confusion, and a resounding feeling of helplessness. There were people on the front lines doing the incredible work that is changing lives. What could I do to help? Just stay home?
My whole life I’ve felt a need to give back and ‘do more.’ That feeling amplified when I returned to being a civilian after four years in the military. I need a purpose. In times of crisis, I want to help.
Two weeks into lock down, I got an email from an NGO I’m involved in: Team Rubicon (TR). TR’s mission is to provide relief to those affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crises by pairing the skills and experience of veterans with first responders and medical professionals.
For the last few weekends, I sat behind a computer and filled logistics requests from hospitals, adult home facilities, first responders, and others in need of support. I filled everything from personal protective equipment, to COVID-19 testing kits, personnel requests for support at medical facilities, to thermometers, gowns, beds, and more.
The daily conversation at the EOC always started with the number of cases and deaths overnight and ended in what we had available. “We have masks finally, but now we don’t have gowns because the gown manufacturer stopped making gowns to make masks.” My most used email phrase included, “Thanks for reaching out for the status of your request. If you don’t hear for us, it means we don’t have the resources available. Please continue to submit a weekly request for these items, we will be in touch soon.”
Soon. A foreign concept in the pandemic. Time blurs together, days feel like weeks, and weeks feel like years – especially when it means telling people we don’t have equipment available to protect themselves from the virus while they serve and take care of others.
I didn’t realize how bad it was. I was very quickly humbled. I have a greater respect for those front line workers sacrificing their health and safety to continue to serve our nation. The least we can do is follow the guidelines echoed around us everywhere we look.”
“When the order was first issued I was glad to stay home with my family. I have a husband, a 22 year old son, and an 18 year old daughter. Our son is at Columbia Basin College and I was so glad he was already home and we didn’t need to call him back from somewhere else to shelter with us. Our daughter is a high school senior and I was relieved she wasn’t already at her college of choice, so she was home too. My husband works from home and at first I was prepared to not work because initially real estate wasn’t on the essential list. I looked around and my entire community was here: me and my family. That was all I cared about. My mom and brothers are elsewhere and of course I wanted them to be safe and they were, but my primary focus was my husband and children.
Two days into the order, the governor allowed real estate for sellers who HAD to sell and buyers who HAD to buy. My phone lit up with texts and notifications. I was angry at first. All I cared about were these three other people and now I had to return to caring about others and their housing needs? My husband said later that day, “It’s like you don’t want to work.” And I didn’t. How could I keep these three people safe if I wasn’t around 24/7? Which is laughable, right? They’re all adults anyway. I was surprised at my reaction. I love what I do. I feel like I have a gift for it and it’s my responsibility as someone with that gift to use it to help people. For the first time in 15+ years as a real estate agent, I wanted to stay home exclusively.
It reminded me of when I was pregnant with my daughter. She was set to be born on December 28, 2001. On December 24, I had family over for a Christmas Eve celebration. I had ordered more food than was necessary. We had ample provisions. But suddenly two nieces and a friend of theirs showed up unannounced. I was furious at the thought that they would eat all the food and then I wouldn’t have enough for me and the baby. She was four days away from being born! I could have starved myself for the next four days and she’d have been fine! Completely irrational, but still, this time was like that time. I have ONE JOB: keep my family safe.”
“Before the pandemic started, I was going to the gym Monday through Friday, had my regular job and part-time census job in the afternoons and weekends, was involved with the young adult group at church, and ballet folklorico classes. I was tired and on the run everyday. Although I complained a lot because I was tired and I wanted to sleep more, I was happy because I am used to doing something every second of the day. I could say I was doing a little too much, but I did not take the time to take care of myself because I was so used to always being busy.
When I was informed that I needed to prepare myself to work from home I was relieved because I was like I don’t need to wake super early to get ready or make food. I can be in my pajamas all day long. However, two days after working from home, the gym closed, church gathering and events were canceled, and ballet folklorico performances were canceled. For a person that is always doing something, I could not handle it anymore. I was getting so desperate and stressed because I felt like I was not being productive.
I had a lot of goals and plans in mind that I wanted to accomplish before summer and obviously it did not happen, which has been frustrating. Being in isolation, I have learned that I am blessed in so many ways that I had not realized before. I should stop complaining about everything and see the beauty in everything that God has given me. There are people that are seriously struggling through this crisis and I am over here complaining because I cannot go to the gym or I cannot go on my adventures. I am fortunate. I still have a job and be able to put food on my table and roof over my head. My family and loved ones are healthy. I am healthy.
To people that are struggling right now financially I just want to say have hope. Tengan esperanza. We will make it through. To those that have depression and anxiety, find a new hobby to do, anything that can keep you busy. I started running again. I haven’t run since high school. Something about running helps me clear my mind, find peace, and clear my mind to be able to see God’s true beauty within everything. To businesses that are closed due to COVID-19 you will make it though. I work at the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and I have encountered many small businesses owners. I can see their frustration because they cannot open their business. I just want to say do not forget about your dream. You once started at zero; you can rise again and your business will get through this. To all first responders and those who work in the medical field, thank you for risking your lives to help those that need you. To all farm workers, trabajadores del campo, ustedes valen mucho porque a pesar de todo siguen trabajando y arriesgando sus vidas para llevar alimentos a las bocas de muchas personas. Su valor es infinito y una clasificación del gobierno no los define. To everyone: have faith and do not be scared; God is with us and he will provide. God loves all his children unconditionally and he will give us strength to get through this.”
“I’ve experienced this pandemic as a medical student learning about the respiratory system. What are the odds? Learning about the physiology and pathology of the respiratory system was probably one of the funnier parts of this pandemic. There are so many pathologies that present with coughing and shortness of breath, but my learning experience was derailed by the novel COVID-19. I had to adjust to studying at home full time, which is not something I normally did. I spent most of the year picking out my favorite study spots on campus, while only going home to relax, eat, and sleep. The pandemic forced me out of my comfort zone in terms of my study environment. I didn’t know how much studying at home would disturb my focus and motivation to get things done, but it did. I say all of this while being in the lucky position as a first-year medical student. I can’t even describe how fourth year students must feel about the lack experiencing their graduation ceremony to its fullest with friends and family. There is also mass confusion and frustration around canceled and rescheduled board exam testing dates for second year students. Third year students had to stop their clinical rotations because of the virus, halting their clinical education. Despite my frustrations with everything, I find myself in a lucky position due to my current stage of training.
It has also been hard to watch how quickly misinformation about the virus and epidemiology surrounding it circulated. Skepticism has morphed into mistrust of the very experts that study the mad maze of epidemiology, public health, and pharmacology. As a future physician, it is important that I stay current with medical innovations and scientific research made to improve patient care and safety. People mistake rapidly changing results of research and statistics of a novel virus as misinformation or deception. Interpreting scientific data is very difficult. I find myself referring to my notes to make sure I understand what story the numbers are telling. This is a skill I will need as a physician to help concerned patients understand why one treatment is better than another, or why they should or should not get a screening test done. I really hope people understand the information is not simple to understand nor is it designed to deceive anyone. It’s been a wild experience in this fast-paced political news cycle. Despite this, I’m hopeful that we will come out of this experience knowing more about the process of scientific questions and investigations.”
“During isolation, I have been able to literally sit back and think about things. I hope during these times, more people will see our broken systems and work to fix them: our healthcare system, racism, left vs right culture, our homeless/addiction/mental health crisis, vaccinations issues, debt-lifestyle, etc.
Having been a nurse, “flatten the curve” to me means not overwhelming our healthcare system, which even prior to the pandemic was hanging on by a thread. If we can spread the amount of people who are going to get sick and need our healthcare system out over a longer period of time, people can actually get the best care and have a fighting chance to get well.
By calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” I think this spurred more racism in the United States. However, everyone makes their own choices in how they respond. I hope we all can see when we are being mean, rude, and ignorant and be aware of history. Consider the treatment of Native Americans, the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, the slavery of black people and Jim Crow law, to the war on drugs, Latinos and the debate surrounding a need for a wall at the border. How can we learn from history? How do we avoid repeating history? If you don’t know what I am referencing above, PLEASE take the time to research these events. We all are human and we all get sick. Let’s send out love. We don’t need more hate in this world.
It just makes me sad to see how our culture has affected our society; a “me-me” kind of culture that focuses only on the individual. I think this lends itself to a culture that has less empathy for others. We will all experience getting older (unless we die first) and people who are sick with other illnesses already have a rough time as it is. I think it is a good exercise to put myself in other people’s shoes and imagine what they are going through. It helps me to see how other people may be struggling and this practice also makes me appreciative for the things I have.
It is good to have a healthy discussion about different topics, but what I think is most important is to have an open mind and listen to people with different opinions than my own without hate or anger. This is a great way to learn and maybe find a solution to a problem, or at least hear a different perspective. It is definitely a practice. Everyone experiences the world differently and has had different experiences that shape their lives and their beliefs. Just because I have not experienced something does not mean that it is not another person’s truth.
“I LOVE CORONAVIRUS! Just kidding. I hate it! It can make people extremely sick. Some do not know how to keep germs to themselves. The last day of school my teacher read us a book before she told us we would not be back to school for weeks. One of my classmates started screaming and running around. It made us laugh, even though we were sad.
I like home school. I can sit on the comfy couch, but it makes me sad I cannot hug my teachers or play with my friends. I talk and play with my friends on my tablet. The good thing about quarantine is I do not have to get up early. I play all day with my baby brother and take relaxing baths all the time. We have lots of family movie nights and game nights. I love the game “Speak Out.” It helps me forget I cannot see my friends.
I get sad and mad when I see a lot of people out together! I do not get to go to school or see my friends so we do not share our germs and that is exactly what they are doing. My dad makes me a little mad. I miss him and my sisters, but I only go when he is acting smart. Lately, he has been with his friends at the park doing BBQs. I know he is bored, but it is not safe.
When my parents get home from work, I cannot hug or kiss them until after they shower, especially mom. At first, I kept forgetting, but now I remember.
I miss going on road trips and to the store. I was excited to do fun things with my Girl Scout troop and decorate a cookie booth, but now we can’t. When my mom takes me to deliver Girl Scout cookies, I must wear my mask and carry my hand sanitizer. I know when school starts, I will have to be careful with germs and school will be different but that is OK. I can’t wait to hug my teachers but if I can’t, it’s OK. I would rather have everyone be healthy.
I kept seeing on TV something about Black Lives Matter and my mom explained why people are saying it. It made me want to make a sign and go walk next to all of them but my mom didn’t let me. She said I’m too little. I really don’t understand why people are mean like that. We all love bacon and love bacon in different colors so why don’t we love someone if someone is different color? All that should matter is that we are careful, loving, and good humans.” – Aliyana Chavez, age 7
“I am a real estate agent and our office had to shut down its bricks and mortar locations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of my on-going interactions with colleagues has been via the web-conferencing services that have suddenly become so popular and necessary. My interaction with potential sellers, except for a physical site visit to take pictures is now virtual, including paperwork discussions and document signatures.
On a somewhat related note, the pandemic forced the Virgie Robinson Scholarship Fund to cancel it’s annual golf tournament which it uses to raise funds for scholarships given annually to alumni of the Virgie Robinson Elementary School in Pasco. We’ve been hosting the tournament since 2012 and it’s our only fundraising event. But we rescheduled it for next year and we look forward to seeing everyone on April 17, 2021.
Virgie Robinson was my mother and she had a passion for helping kids stay in school during her years as a Family Support Worker for the Pasco School District. She worked closely and intimately with the migrant families that used to seasonally migrate to Pasco to work on farms in the area during the growing and harvesting seasons back in the early 1960’s. Her relationship with those families grew closer as many of those mostly Hispanic families began to stay year-round. She was wholly committed to encouraging kids to not only stay in school but to pursue something beyond just completing high school. I am her oldest child and like her, I’m a retired social worker who began my professional career as a school teacher at the Pasco School District. I share that same passion about helping and encouraging people.
The resiliency of the human species gives me hope right now and for the future. With all that has been emerging in our society since the death of George Floyd, I am hopeful that our country can finally develop the courage to face down it’s original sin of slavery. By doing that, we can begin to emerge from all that baggage and truly become the nation that is described in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Life has presented us with many challenges and we’ve figured out a way through them, and we’ll figure this one out too.”
To learn more about the Virgie Robinson Scholarship Fundraiser, visit: facebook.com/events/573695856529027/
“I’m not a parent. I don’t know what it’s like to be stuck at home with kids when they should be in school or try to find safe childcare when I’m at work, all while enduring the constant wavering of plans, policy, and schedules. It can’t be easy. But my spouse is a high school teacher and I have type 1 diabetes and asthma, two of the top three comorbidities in patients who have died from COVID-19. I haven’t been to a grocery store in four months. Now that cases are climbing just as the start of the school year is approaching and calls for reopening are blaring, we’re left wondering what we’re going to do. Sleep in separate bedrooms? Stop kissing? It would be a sad… however many months until there’s a vaccine but it might be worth it. Teachers have a hard time getting students to take off a hat, put their phone away, and not leave dirty tissues on desks. Is it really going to be easy to get them not to shift their mask below their nose, or wear one at all? And I’ve cleaned those desks; the underside is a full-on biohazard.
A lot of able-bodied people with access to healthcare think this talk is hyperbole, but they clearly don’t have insight into the experience of those at risk. On multiple occasions I’ve had to muster every ounce of consciousness in the middle of the night to wake up my partner, who runs downstairs and back up with juice to treat a hypoglycemic episode (low blood sugar). In this state I can’t see, I have very little muscle control, and severe confusion, and my spouse saved my life. I’m afraid to sleep alone. I’m afraid to be in a hospital with someone else, even a medical professional, in charge of my insulin dosage. A slight overdose can kill me within about a half hour, not enough and I’m at risk of ketoacidosis, potentially fatal after a few hours.
I’ve read that COVID-19 is causing high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and ketoacidosis in diabetics, all of which also cause respiratory distress. Diabetics are being advised to keep their blood sugar low, just in case. With insulin at a list price of roughly $300 per vial, which for me lasts less than 10 days, 26-45% of diabetics in the U.S. are rationing their insulin. Many people are losing jobs, housing, and health insurance, keeping blood sugar under control is almost impossible. (And no you can’t diet and exercise it away, and no the $25 “Walmart insulin” isn’t the solution.)
I have so many fears about schools reopening, and reopening in general. I fear for the teachers who may not survive the year, or endure worsening health. I fear for students with chronic illness and disabilities, and for parents with their own health issues. I worry about diabetics of all types who already have a lot to fret about, and Black diabetics tremendously underrepresented in our community and therefore commonly misdiagnosed and given inadequate treatment. I fear for marginalized people seeking care, often under treated, underinsured, and under prescribed to. I fear for healthcare workers who put themselves and their families in danger to help others.
I shouldn’t be surprised that in a country where healthcare is a luxury and health complications are often seen as the patient’s fault; there’s also an attitude of “If you don’t like it stay home” and “You can’t make me wear a mask” and “It’s OK because only people in poor health will die.” What we hear is you don’t care if we die.”
“There have been distinct stages to this pandemic, like acts in a play. It began for me while I was on a trip to the east coast taking photos of New York City with my friend and fiancée. It felt like the world changed while we were traveling, and we returned to closed schools, cancelled events and an extension to the time we had taken from work. We have been incredibly fortunate throughout this pandemic not to have lost loved ones, but because many around us were vulnerable we took the risk seriously and socially distanced. The first part of the pandemic felt like it was the settling in part, and we didn’t have much trouble doing that. I had been really absorbed with my photography work for nine months already by March and did not have to adjust much from editing work and consuming photography related media at home in my spare time, which was now all of my time.
There was a hopeful optimism for a lot of people that this was a question of a week or two to slow the spread of COVID-19 and then go back to work. We were fortunate enough to be able to benefit from the measures implemented by the government to try to avoid economic disaster. The result was a boost in productivity that yielded some very positive things and experiences, like having our children at home more and more free time. As a teen, I spent years obsessed with skateboarding, and the suspension of my employment left my mornings open. It’s funny what a bout of nostalgia and a clearing of one’s schedule can lead one to. I bought a skateboard again after more than 15 years without one and have now spent many mornings rising with the sun to go and skate for a few hours each day. The daily struggle to progress has not only made me a morning person, it has begun to really change my mind and body. I found gratitude in that I can still learn and become better at something like this in my 30s, and though I have definitely taken my slams, it has absolutely been worth it.
The second act felt like a rude awakening. We continued to socially distance and waited to see if things would improve. As the effects of the administration’s disastrous response were becoming more evident, all we could do was watch in horror as the body counts rose and the situation became more dire economically than everyone expected. Because of what the world was experiencing, it isn’t a wonder that the level of volatility rose so quickly. Then George Floyd was murdered and the world changed again. The response was tremendous, and it seemed for a moment that the support for Black lives and for systemic change was swelling to new highs.
The protests and unrest began in May, and now it is nearly September. This late into the pandemic there is a sense of rushing headlong into history that feels like a third act. The utter failure of the country’s leadership to stave disaster is apparent. The response from those that cling to hate, violence, and racism is deafening at this moment. There are forces at work that want to confuse and distort events as they are happening. We have not only failed to meet the challenges of the pandemic, but it seems we have many problems that continue to stack up and compound on one another. The struggle now is not to lose hope
With an election coming up, there is so much at stake. None of that is lost on me or on those that demand progress. Although 2020 will be a dark year in all our memories, my sincere hope for the future is that all the lessons there are to learn won’t be ignored or forgotten. As we approach the curtain time for this year, I find it helpful to keep certain affirmations in mind. I have always believed that what will come is better than what came before. I won’t be discouraged by the obstacles to equality that seem insurmountable. I won’t stop speaking out in defense of those who are marginalized, overlooked, or otherwise subjected to systematic injustice. I want us to be continually reminded of what is important to our communities as a whole, and to each one of us, so that we will not let up the struggle for those essential things.”