Friday, May 29, 2020

Racism and America

I couldn’t fall asleep last night. I just kept picking my phone back up and returning to Twitter to see updates on the protests.


I watched as rage boiled over after another Black man in Minneapolis and Black woman in Louisville were killed by police.


I watched as protesters were shot with tear gas and rubber bullets… something White protesters a few weeks ago were not forced to experience.


I watched as White protesters created a barrier of protection in front of Black protesters.


I watched as gun violence victims in Louisville’s protest were treated in the streets for their injuries.


I watched as a police precinct burned.


I watched as a president threatened violence against Americans.


I feel at a loss for words, but also understand the importance of speaking in these moments. I am heartbroken. Heartbroken over the systemic racism on which our society is built, which disadvantages and marginalizes people of color in this country. I am horrified by the implicit bias that is so ingrained in our citizens that when people see Black men and women, they are afraid. That they do not believe someone when they say “I can’t breathe”.


Or do they just not care?


I do my best to teach my students about structural racism and implicit bias. So many of them are unaware of the impact of these factors on influencing the nation’s history prior to arriving at college. How can we change if so many do not even understand the problem?


It is hard to know what to do and how to help at times like these. So many people care, but do not know how to act. I struggle with this too. But what I have learned is the importance of listening to Black leaders of this movement. To take a step back and learn. To offer support in whatever way they ask me to, and to stand with them in whatever way I can. I do that by writing. I do it by teaching. I do it by trying to provide financial support to organizations that fight this fight.


If you are on twitter, I recommend you to follow the individuals below, who continue to teach me how to be an ally in this fight.



There are wonderful books available to help you learn more about this topic. I am happy to provide a longer list, but the first couple I highly recommend are:


So You Want to Talk About Race? - Ijeoma Oluo


The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the age ofcolorblindness - Michelle Alexander


Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?And Other Conversations About Race 20th Anniversary Edition – Beverly DanielTatum


Below are links to a couple of videos on structural racism. I hope some of you take the time to take in these resources to help you understand the scope of the problem protesters fight against.

Redlining – a video by Adam Ruins Everything that does a great job briefly explaining the racist policy and its impact on the structure of neighborhoods and school systems in the nation.


Health Equity – An outstanding video by Dr. Camara Jones on Health Equity in America. It’s an hour but absolutely worth the time.



It’s hard work to teach yourself to understand how we got here. It’s hard work to process that White Americans have benefited from the same system that has oppressed Black Americans. But it is not harder than being Black in America. It is not harder than having to live in a system that was built to work against you.


It is not harder than watching someone that looks like you, or your child, suffocated for eight minutes because of a police officer's knee on his neck while he's saying "I can't breathe".

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Henry's 11th Year

Happy birthday, sweet Henry.

Dear Henry: An Eleven Year Letter

Dear Henry,

Oh my sweet boy, I cannot believe you are eleven years old.  When you were first born people were constantly telling us to take it all in and enjoy every moment because it would fly by.  At the time, it felt like unnecessary advice.  “Yes, babies don’t keep”, I thought.  Time moves, as it always does, but thanks for the heads up.  Except… I needed the heads up. Or maybe, even though I was told, I have still found myself shocked with how quickly time has slipped by.  How are you eleven?  How is this your very last year of elementary school? How have the hours and days added up to this, a pre-teen living in my house who is simultaneously my baby and his entire own person? How can time possibly move this fast, and how is a Mama’s heart supposed to adjust this quickly?

This year, if I am being completely honest, has not gone according to plan. Let’s get the big thing out of the way first; we are currently living through a worldwide pandemic. On March 13 your school closed for a few weeks to help slow the spread of Covid-19. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was your last day of traditional elementary school.  You had so looked forward to finishing out the year. Your Robotics Team had worked since September to defend their state title in March, but that was canceled too. You haven’t been with your friends or family beyond me and Papa for the last two months, and while we hope to see them soon, we will not be fully back to normal for quite some time.  You have always been so blessed to be surrounded by so many family members and friends that love you, it has been extremely hard to transition to not being with them in person.  

It’s been hard, and yet you have rolled with this as you seem to do most things. You have done well with classes online and are enjoying your time playing online with your friends. You, Luke, Zeke, Darcy, and other school friends have spent a ton of time hanging out on Roblox and Discord. I am so thankful you have that connection with them. Who would have thought your favorite pastime would have come in so handy during a pandemic?!  We have also watched a lot of movies as a family, which we have all enjoyed. You and I have been taking long bike rides every day the weather is nice and you and your Papa have enjoy baking together and playing video games. You have also started taking online piano lessons, which has been fun to listen to, and I hope you choose to stick with it once we get back to regular life.

Of course, this year is more than the pandemic. You had ten entire months of normal life leading up to that moment. So, what has happened since your turned 10?  Well, as always, we did some traveling. We went back to Florida to visit Nana and Grandpa and spend a week on Anna Maria Island. You love the trip as always and had a wonderful time with your family.  We then took Nanny to Disney World, which was amazing!  Darcy and her family were there too and we had a wonderful time. Beyond Florida, you took a few new trips this year. We went to Alabama, where you haven’t been since you were very young. We also took a trip to Washington DC for my birthday and you loved exploring one of my favorite cities. We also discovered a new love of renting cabins at state parks here in Kentucky! We went for a weekend with Grandaddy and GrandVal last fall and you had a wonderful time out on Grandaddy’s boat. You even managed to talk me into going tubing with you! You also went to Kings Island three times last summer, so it is safe to say that is one of your new favorite places.

This year you have gotten more into movies and music, and have found a new favorite video game. You and Papaw have started watching all of the Marvel movies together in order, which has been really fun. You hate that you have had to pause the movie series, but don’t want to watch any of them without Papaw.  You also watched Lord of the Rings for the first time this year, and with that you discovered your favorite movie! You also have started listening to the Beetles, who you really love. You commonly put them on loop to listen to while you sleep. You continue to love bluegrass, with Mandolin Orange being one of your favorite groups. You also fell in love with the game Undertale, and you plan to have that be the theme of your birthday party when we are able to have it later in the summer. You and your Papa have very similar taste in music, movies, and games, so that has been fun to share together.

You continue to love making video games and moved up in your Coding Club with Awesome Inc.  You and Luke love being part of that group, and you are more sure than ever that you want to design games when you grow up. You also still love to write stories, and your skill is truly amazing. You are currently working on a book, Swords of War, and so far, it is incredible.  Watching your growth in this area blows my mind, as I can watch your creativity and imagination pour out onto the digital page.

As we begin your eleventh year, you are wrapping up your time in elementary school. And while it isn’t ending as we ever would have wanted, I do want to take just an extra minute to say what your school as meant to you.  I remember on your first day of kindergarten being full of worry for you. How would you know where to go? Were you really ready for this big place? On that day, you sat next to a boy named Luke, and the rest is history. From that moment on, you have been at home at Clays Mill. You have excelled in ways we never could have imagined. You have had incredible teachers and amazing experiences each and every year.  They have all have had such a huge influence on who you are today, it is hard for me to imagine your life without CME. And as you move into this next stage, I know your new school will be the same. I worry about you heading off on this new middle school adventure, but deep down I know you are ready. You are always ready for whatever comes your way.  This year you have had some illness issues that have made the year uniquely challenging. As that slowly started to improve, you found ourselves dealing with the pandemic. And yet here you are, constantly teaching me how to roll with the punches.  You are ready, sweet Henry, for whatever middle school brings.  But for today, I am just a little sad your elementary years has come to an end.  

As always, we love you sweet boy.  While these eleven  years have flown by, it is at the same time hard to remember life before you. What did we do when you weren’t here to make us smile? How were our hearts full without you in them? You are always our joy, and through good times and bad, we are always better because of you. 

Happy birthday, sweet Henry.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why Public Health experts are asking people to practice social distancing

I posted last week on why we are social distancing, and wanted to post on it again to help encourage people to continue to stay at home. There is a little math in this post, but hang with me. I believe it helps to shine a light on exactly why public health experts are asking everyone to stay home.

An important question with an infectious disease is “how contagious is it?”. A good way to measure that is to look at how many people each infected person passes the virus on to.  For the seasonal flu, that is around 1.5 people. So, on average, each person that gets the flu infects 1.5 others.

For COVID-19, that number looks to be around 3. It may be higher than that, because our testing is limited and a lot of people may not show symptoms, but we can go with 3 for this example. So for every person with the virus, they will give it to 3 additional people.

The difference doesn’t seem huge, right? 1.5 vs 3

Let’s do a little math, and think through 10 cycles of infection.  So, one person gets the flu, they give it to 1.5 people. Those 1.5 people give it to 1.5 other people, etc.  How many people would have the flu after 5 cycles?

1 X 1.5 = 1.5
1.5 X 1.5= 2.25
2.25 X 1.5=3.375
3.375 X 1.5=5.06
5.06 X 1.5= 7.59

Now, let’s do COVID-19.
1 X 3 = 3
3 X 3= 9
9 X 3= 27
27 X 3=81
81 x 3= 243

On the 5th cycle of infection, 243 people would be infected with COVID compared to 7.5 with flu. What if we did 10 cycles? I will not write the math out, but the numbers are staggering.

Flu: 57.6 cases
COVID19: 59,049 cases

This is why we are socially isolating. By reducing the number of contacts people have, we can drive down the number of people who get the virus.

People do not give the virus to others on purpose, they spread it when they are unaware they are infected. That could be ANY of us. You may have it. By going out, you may give it to three people, who give it to three people… and so on. Or, you may not have it. But by going out, you may come in contact with someone that unknowingly does, allowing the cycle to continue.

The number 3 is too high.  The fewer people we contact, the more likely we are to drop that number. If we can drop it to 1.5, in 10 cycles of the virus we can reduce the number of cases by 58,992.

Just something to think about as you try to stay  #HealthyAtHome


Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Looks like I might be blogging again, at least in the short term :)  Turns out, I have a lot to say once I am isolated at home!

I am doing some short writing that I am posting on social media at the moment. I would like to preserve these posts somewhere beyond a constantly moving timeline.  So as if I write, I plan to then move those posts over here for record keeping.


I keep thinking of the families that live paycheck to paycheck. The ones that can’t buy extra food because they already buy as much as they can with the money they have. The ones that fear being home for long periods of time, because risk of harm increases at home. The ones that are desperately trying to file for government assistance so they can feed their families next week. The ones that are terrified of what happens when this is over, and they are out of a job.

I keep thinking about the people who have to go to go work everyday in environments that put them at high risk. Healthcare workers yes, but also grocery and pharmacy workers.  Food preparation companies and delivery people.  Gas station workers, Amazon workers, and people working to produce the medical equipment we desperately need.

I feel so very lucky to be able to work from home and not worry our bills wont get paid.  I feel so lucky that Henry can complete school activities online, and is safe and healthy and protected here. I feel so lucky my parents and in-laws are able to self-isolate, and are reducing their risk of exposure while being immune compromised. 

We are so lucky.  And I will tell myself that everyday when I am bored, or lonely, or overwhelmed.  I will tell myself that when I am sad for the things we are giving up.  These problems are so small in this moment, compared to what others are facing.

I will continue to buy gift cards to local businesses to support them through this time, and encourage you to do the same. 

I would also like to donate directly to people in town who need support. Does anybody know of  support agencies we could donate to that is helping to coordinate support for those impacted by COVID-19? 


Sunday, March 15, 2020


Hi all - Long time, I know.  But as some of you might remember, I work in Public Health. Over the past few weeks I have had many friends and family ask for information on Coronvirus-19, and I thought some here might also be interested in my response. While infectious diseases are not my primary area of work, I am happy to share what I know. My hope is to help explain why working together to flatten the curve is so critically important at this moment. Many Americans lives will be impacted by how we respond.
Let's start with disease transmission. Research is limited on this COVID-19, but projections estimate each infected person is spreading it to 2-3 additional people. Because of limited testing, that number may be higher in the US. This means for each case that exists, they are likely to cause (on average) 2-3 new cases. This is why we are seeing the exponential growth we have now.
It is important to note that infection rates can change. We can reduce this number by practicing good hygiene (wash your hands!) and by limiting contact with others. We can increase this number by coming in contact with more people, or not isolating when we show signs of illness.
Numbers out of South Korea, where testing was far more extensive that most countries, found young adults represented a high proportion of positive tests, yet they represent a low proportion of critical cases. This means they are at high risk of actively spreading the disease without realizing it. If people go out to bars, restaurants, and large social events, they are at risk of both contracting and spreading the disease.
Following initial infection, it takes on average five days to show signs of illness. Some individuals do not show signs until up to 12 days, and it appears some individuals may never show clear signs of infection to the extent that they seek testing. As these people move through other populations, they are at risk of spreading the disease.
The virus can live on surfaces for a period of time. Currently that timeframe looks to be 2-3 days. This means if someone whose is sick can leave the virus on planes, buses, tables, desks, chairs, movie theaters, trampoline parks, playgrounds, dugouts, etc. You do not have to come in contact with the person who is sick to catch the virus from them.
Our hospital systems are at high risk of exceeding their capacity. When this has happened elsewhere, it results in a drastic increase in deaths from the disease. While older individuals and immune compromised are at increased risk of severe complications, others are not immune. The average age of critical patients in France is BELOW 60. This is why you are heading so much about flattening the curve. The disease is bad on it’s own, but if we lose the ability to treat the ill, things will get much worse.
We are all in this together. We must work together to flatten the curve and keep people safe. Stay home if you can. Practice social distancing and good hygiene behaviors if you must go out. We must all do this in order to slow this disease down and save lives.
We are extremely lucky to live in a world that allows social connections during physically isolating events. Call your friends and family. Video chat. Play online games. Download books and get lost in an entirely new world. Catch up on all those shows/movies you have wanted to watch. Slow down, and understand by doing so, you are literally helping to save lives.
While some people's lives may slow down, others are not. Many are trying to figure out how to effectively work from home, while possibly also taking care of their children. Many are working in the healthcare field where they will have the most physically and emotionally exhausting days of their career. Some are terrified for what this means for their families and their livelihood. We must also acknowledge the stress this disease will put on people, and work together to support that negative impact that may have as well.
These are uncertain times, and fear and anxiety are high. Working together to support each other is critical. Pushing for state and federal policy to support workers, families, and businesses is needed. Be understanding with others when they struggle. Deadlines are secondary to health. If you have the resources, think of how to help support others. Consider donations to individuals who need financial help. Or possibly buy gift cards for small businesses in your community. Practicing social distancing will help slow the disease, but our nation will need more than just that to recover. We must find ways to love and support each other from a distance.
Our world will look different for a little while. Be kind.
*Feel free to leave some book/movie/tv recommendations below. In between reading the news and figuring out how to move my classes online, I would love some distractions.