Pandemic 2020-21 ~ January

Be Gone the Old and Begin the New

COVID-19 cases continue to grow here in the United States. This is over-shadowed by 50% of the country that continues to protest our election results. More and more voices of integrity call on the Trump to stop feeding the Stop the Steal machine. All of his efforts to overturn the election results failed and tension has been building up to the day that Congress meets to certify the electoral votes. Trump continues to organize his followers around that date and calls for a massive protest outside the Capital Building.

A sense of dread was building up in me as January 6th drew closer. The president’s rhetoric clearly was a call to his followers to ‘take back their country’ and to stop congress from taking the final step to making President-Elect Biden the 46th president of the US. When the morning arrived, it was clear that the huge crowd that gathered were determined to ‘stop the steal’.

It was also clear that most of the massive crowd weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. As the 45th president ended his speech, the mob – acting as one – stormed the capitol where congress was in progress. The assault on the Capitol left the nation stunned yet many of us were not surprised.

Meanwhile, we were getting increasingly urgent warnings that the next three months were going to be the worst in the pandemic. It was predicted that the death toll in the US by the end of March would be 500,000. We were encouraged to stay home and return to the level of precautions that we had back in the beginning of the pandemic.

Worldometer.com January 30, 2021

Our local Health Department opened up phase 1a and 1b for the first vaccination and I completed the survey for 75 and over. I was one of the 5,000 given an appointment for the pilot program through the local University Medical Center. The process ran smoothly and my second vaccine is scheduled for February 12th. I soon learned that I got in just before the vaccine shortage was announced and many are now forced to wait maybe months.

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Pat and I continue to be a daily comfort and support to each other. He’s set to have his first vaccine at his long-term-care facility next week. It’s hard to believe we’ve been living this pandemic life for almost a year now. We’ve been able to be together three times since it began and every day I feel hugged and loved when we talk on the phone.

Since the new administration has taken over there’s been intelligent and thorough briefings of where we are when it comes to this pandemic. President Biden’s first actions have been directed at the people of America who are truly suffering from loss of jobs, housing and basic needs. There’s a feeling that he gets it!

Martin Luther King Day was January 18th. This year it had even more meaning considering the unfolding of Black Lives Matter Protests along with the impact that COVID-19 has had on the African American communities. I read a few of his sermons and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. This man was a prophet filled with truth and wisdom and continues to lead us.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King Jr.
(1929 – 1968)

2013 – Then Vice-President Biden and my son at the Memorial for the Granite Mountain Hotshots 9 Firefighters who perished in the Arizona fires.

Pandemic 2020 – September

Well here we are! Nine months since the very first reports of this dangerous virus. For most of us, awareness came in the beginning of March when we were learning how it was spread. And when our president, here in the US, came before the nation on March 11th. And here is some of what he said:

Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.”

If we are vigilante and we can reduce the chance of infection, which we will, we will significantly impede the transmission of the virus. “

We must put politics aside. Stop the partisanship. And unify together as one nation and one family. “

None of this happened! He didn’t practice what he preached.

One month out from our presidential election we’ve learned the president has tested positive for COVID-19. He’s been admitted to Walter Reed Hospital. Each day more of those in contact with him are turning up with positive results. October promises to be filled with drama and October Surprises. I’ve already mailed in my ballot and confirmed it has been received. That lifts some of the stress surrounding these crazy times.

As for me, I continue to wear my mask when I go out among people. My source of trust is the medical profession, my son who is a cardiologist and, of course, Dr. Anthony Fauci. I’ve tuned out the politicization of this terrible pandemic. I’m doing the best that I can over the long haul.

The assisted living facility where Pat is living has cautiously opened the doors for visitors again. Wearing a mask, having your temperature taken and being asked covid-related questions is all a part of the routine. My first visit with him was on a beautiful fall day. It didn’t seem like six months had passed by as we have been talking on the phone every day since this all began. What a gift it is to have him for support and encouragement. 💚😷

Lets All Drink to Lockdown
By Jan Beaumont ©

I’m normally a social girl
I love to meet my mates
But lately with the virus here
We can’t go out the gates.

You see, we are the ‘oldies’ now
We need to stay inside
If they haven’t seen us for a while
They’ll think we’ve upped and died.

They’ll never know the things we did
Before we got this old
There wasn’t any Facebook
So not everything was told.

We may seem sweet old ladies
Who would never be uncouth
But we grew up in the 60s –
If you only knew the truth!

There was sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll
The pill and miniskirts
We smoked, we drank, we partied
And were quite outrageous flirts.

Then we settled down, got married
And turned into someone’s mum,
Somebody’s wife, then nana,
Who on earth did we become?

We didn’t mind the change of pace
Because our lives were full
But to bury us before we’re dead
Is like red rag to a bull!

So here you find me stuck inside
For 4 weeks, maybe more
I finally found myself again
Then I had to close the door!

It didn’t really bother me
I’d wile away the hour
I’d bake for all the family
But I’ve got no bloody flour!

Now Netflix is just wonderful
I like a gutsy thriller
I’m swooning over Idris
Or some random sexy killer.

At least I’ve got a stash of booze
For when I’m being idle
There’s wine and whiskey, even gin
If I’m feeling suicidal!

So let’s all drink to lockdown
To recovery and health
And hope this bloody virus
Doesn’t decimate our wealth.

We’ll all get through the crisis
And be back to join our mates
Just hoping I’m not far too wide
To fit through the flaming gates!

Pandemic 2020 ~ May, June and July

I decided to combine May, June and July because of ‘brain fog’ and also I wanted to catch up to the present month of August. It’s easier to journal as it’s happening than to attempt to go back and recall these surreal events over the last five months.

School Bus COVID19 View from my Window

One by one school systems made the decision to close all schools. It was surreal because Spring was arriving and if we didn’t have the news reporting the pandemic we wouldn’t know that the threat was there.

Here in my apartment complex the county school bus would stop by around 11 a.m. and drop off school lunches for the children. The first nice Spring day that I sat outside in the patio there was a lot going on with cars pulling up to the school bus and the sound of the driver greeting those who came to get theirs.  There was a little girl running up and down the bank of the running creek, calling out to her mother.  The decision was made that by delivering the school lunches, the children would have a feeling of connection to their school while classes weren’t in session. At the present time, in August, there are plans to continue this program.

On May 25th the world witnessed a video of George Floyd being slowly killed by one of our civil servants in law enforcement.  Millions of people took to the streets in peaceful protest all over the world. My family members among them.  The message was clear. There needed to be reform that addressed the ongoing brutality by some in law enforcement that crossed over the line.  The call for reform concerned the lack of swift action on the part of law enforcement to bring accountability to the offenders within their ranks.   This message began to get lost when radical left and right took advantage of this and provoked violent confrontations.

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By May 27th, the Worldometer recorded cases in the US that were growing at an alarming rate:

May 27 Worldometer

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I was attempting to find ways to take my mind off of what was unfolding day after day. So many unknowns. So much confusion of facts. The president continued to minimize what we were hearing from the medical professionals. the States that were the epicenter of the pandemics surges were met with criticism and partisan resistance to needed federal action. He blamed everyone but himself.  It was exhausting and infuriating to watch his briefings.

Trump Who's Fault

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For most of May I enjoyed participating in an Audubon Webinar on Drawing Birds. Most of my time was spent watching birds coming into my bird feeder and they brought me a lot of joy. It was a wonderful distraction to see the sketches of the other artists and share my attempts on artist Facebook Pages.

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By the end of June it was obvious we weren’t mitigating the spread of the virus here in the US:

When business shut down and we weren’t able to get a hair cut, I decided I was going to let my hair grow for as long as COVID-19 kept us staying home. I had long hair when I was young and my grandmother wore her hair pulled back in a twist when she was older.  Being I’m not going anywhere, what do I have to lose and I’m saving the price of a hair cut.

Just as I had predicted, the fashion industry jumped on board and began marketing all different styles of masks. We were learning just which masks provided the best protection. I finally gave in and ordered two masks from AmazonPrime. It was looking more and more like we were going to be dealing with this virus for a long time. There was a growing anti-mask rebellion by those who were listening to the president and the conspiracy theories. Dr. Anthony Fauci continued to be the Voice of Reason for those who looked to science and the medical profession for the clearest advice and guidance.

Mask COVID-19 August

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By the end of July, Worldometer continued to record ever-increasing numbers of positive cases and deaths around the world:

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Every day Pat and I talk with each other. I’ve come to love (and need) this connection with him. I’d love to be with him and he keeps asking me when I’ll be able to come for a visit. It’s been over five months since I’ve been with him and the information coming from the Virginia Health Department isn’t very reassuring. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I carried the virus with me into his Independent Living/Assisted Living facility. We are both strong and offer each other a comforting and supportive love. His birthday was in July and I look forward to the day when I can have him over for a nice birthday steak dinner and raise a glass of wine to another year. ❤

Pat's Birthday 86 #1

To read Pandemic 2020 ~ March

To read  Pandemic 2020 ~ April

Me in the Middle of Facebook

 

Facebook

Facebook “likes” can tell a lot about a person. Maybe even enough to fuel a voter-manipulation effort like the one a Trump-affiliated data-mining firm stands accused of – and which Facebook may have enabled.

The social network is under fire after The New York Times and The Guardian newspaper reported that former Trump campaign consultant Cambridge Analytica used data, including user likes, inappropriately obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to try to influence elections.” ~ Associated Press

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I’m hanging in there with Facebook.  It’s the only social media that I consistently use and that I believe provides the best connection to a lot of information.  Bottom line, the user has a choice in what they read and what they believe.  It falls on us to be responsible enough to do our research to the best that’s available to us.   What more can we do?

Below are a few of the articles I read so that I could remain informed about how all this is developing.  I’ll give Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg the benefit of the doubt in that what had started out as a fun adventure with Facebook friends has become much more than any of us ever could have imagined.  I’m hoping they prove me right by adapting with integrity to every new development along the way.

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Facebook is not the problem. Lax Privacy Rules are.

 

 

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Me in the Middle of Leadership Part I (Reblog)

free-leader-3

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The past ten months of the presidency under the current administration has left many exasperated and alarmed about where we’re heading as a country.  Last year, when I decided to do this Leadership series, I was getting increasingly alarmed as the campaign for Election 2016 was drawing to a close.  What kind of Leadership does the United States of America need during these critical times?  Each of the three posts are long yet provocative and inspiring.  Beginning with Part I, I’d like to invite you to comment below on this critical question (You can read the comments on the original post 10/2016 HERE.) :

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This post, along with my next two posts, is going to help me explore my thoughts about what qualities make a good leader.

My good intentions have been not to get political on this blog.  I hope to explore these qualities without picking a particular candidate or bashing a particular candidate.  It seems the campaign season here in America has gotten way off track.  It’s become almost impossible to explore what Leadership means much less what kind of Leadership America needs at this time.

Today I’ve chosen a post by Heather Plett @ www.heatherplett.com.   I’d love to hear what you think of Heather’s definition of Leadership and the qualities to look for in that person.

“We need leaders – at ALL levels of our governments, institutions, communities, and families – who can dance with complexity, play with possibility, and sit with their fear. We need leaders who can navigate the darkness. We need leaders who can hold seemingly opposing views and not lose sight of the space in between. We need leaders who know how to hold liminal space.” 

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What kind of leadership is needed for our time?
By Heather Plett ~ www.heatherplett.com

“Can’t you just give us clear direction so we know what’s expected of us?” That question was asked of me ten years ago by a staff person who was frustrated with my collaborative style of leadership. He didn’t want collaboration – he simply wanted direction and clarity and top-down decision making.

What I read between the lines was this: “It makes me feel more safe when I know what’s expected of me.” And maybe a little of this: “If you’re the one making decisions and giving directions, I don’t have to share any collective responsibility. If anything goes wrong, I can blame the boss and walk away with my reputation intact.”

I didn’t change my leadership style, but it made me curious about what different people want from leadership and why. While that staff person was expressing a desire for more direction, others on my team were asking for more autonomy and decision-making power. It seemed impossible to please everyone.

I’ve been thinking back to that conversation lately as I watch the incredulous rise to power of Donald Trump. No matter how many sexist comments he makes, no matter how many people with disabilities he makes fun of, and no matter how many small business owners he cheated, his support base remains remarkably solid. As he himself has said, he “could shoot someone and not lose votes”. (I’m glad I’m no longer teaching a course on public relations, because he’s breaking all of the “rules” I used to teach and getting away with it.)

It seems implausible that this could happen, but this article on Trump’s appeal to authoritarian personalities helps me make sense of it. 

“‘Trump’s electoral strength — and his staying power — have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations,” political scientist Matthew MacWilliams wrote in Politico. In an online poll of 1,800 Americans, conducted in late December, he found an authoritarian mindset — that is, belief in absolute obedience to authority — was the sole “statistically significant variable” that predicted support for Trump.”

“Authoritarians obey,” says the author of the study, “They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened.”

Authoritarians hold strong values around safety, and they expect a leader to give them what they need. They don’t mind following a bully, as long as that bully is serving THEIR needs for security. Hence the popularity of Trump’s proposals to build a wall on the Mexican border and to keep Muslims from entering the country. They might even put up with some of the bullying directed at people like them (hence the surprising tolerance of Trump’s behaviour among his female supporters) if it means those who threaten them are kept at bay. Take, for example, the times when Trump told security to throw the protesters out of the places where he was campaigning – he made his supporters feel safe because he was roughing up “the enemy”.

Where does an authoritarian mindset come from? According to the article quoted above, there is evidence that it is passed down from one generation to the next. Religious views can also play a strong role. Those who were conditioned by upbringing and religion to obey the authority figures at all cost are more likely to vote for someone who reflects that kind of leadership. If you grew up never allowed to question authority, no matter how illogical or unbalanced it might seem, then you are more likely to have an authoritarian mindset.

There is also a correlation with how fearful a person tends to be. Those who are, due to personality and/or conditioning, frequently motivated by fear, will be more inclined to trust authoritarian leaders because that’s what makes them feel more safe.

Does it matter that some of us prefer authoritarian leadership over other styles? Shouldn’t the rest of us simply adapt a “live and let live” attitude about it and not try to change people? Don’t we all have a right to our own opinions?

Though I am deeply committed to holding space for people in a non-judgemental way (and I tried to create that environment when I was leading the people I mentioned above) I am convinced that it DOES matter. Yes, we should respect and listen without judgement to those who look for authoritarianism, and we should seek to understand their fear, but that doesn’t mean that we should allow their fear and social conditioning to make major decisions about who leads us and how we are lead. That authoritarian mindset is a sign of an immature society and it is holding us back. It must be challenged for the sake of our future.

Around the same time as my staff person asked for more authoritarian leadership from me, I was immersing myself in progressive teachings on leadership such as The Circle Way, The Art of Hosting, and Theory U. These methodologies teach that there is a “leader in every chair”, that the “wisdom comes from within the circle”, and that “the future is emerging and not under our control”. Though these models can (and do) function within hierarchical structures, they teach us to value the wisdom and leadership at ALL levels of the hierarchy.

Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze (two people I had the pleasure of studying with in my quest for a deeper understanding about leadership), in this article on Leadership in the Age of Complexity and in their book Walk Out Walk On, say that it is time to move from “leader as hero” to “leader as host”. 

“For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her.”

This style of leadership may have served humanity during a simpler time, but that time is past. Now we are faced with so much complexity that we cannot rely on an outdated style of leadership.

“Heroic leadership rests on the illusion that someone can be in control. Yet we live in a world of complex systems whose very existence means they are inherently uncontrollable. No one is in charge of our food systems. No one is in charge of our schools. No one is in charge of the environment. No one is in charge of national security. No one is in charge! These systems are emergent phenomena—the result of thousands of small, local actions that converged to create powerful systems with properties that may bear little or no resemblance to the smaller actions that gave rise to them. These are the systems that now dominate our lives; they cannot be changed by working backwards, focusing on only a few simple causes.  And certainly they cannot be changed by the boldest visions of our most heroic leaders.”

Instead of a hero, we need a host. A leader-as-host knows that problems are complex and that in order to understand the full complexity of any issue, all parts of the system need to be invited in to participate and contribute. “These leaders‐as‐hosts are candid enough to admit that they don’t know what to do; they realize that it’s sheer foolishness to rely only on them for answers. But they also know they can trust in other people’s creativity and commitment to get the work done.”

A leader-as-host provides conditions and good group process for people to work together, provides resources, helps protect the boundaries, and offers unequivocal support.

In other words, a host leader holds space for the work to happen, for the issues to be wrestled with, and for the emergence of what is possible from within the circle.

Unlike a host leader, an authoritarian leader hangs onto the past as a model for the future. Consider Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Instead of holding space for emergence, he knows that his support base clings to the ideal of a simpler, more manageable time. It’s not hard to understand, in this time of complexity, how it can feel more safe to harken back to the past when less was expected of us and the boundaries were more clear. Don’t we all, for example, sometimes wish we could be back in our childhood homes when all that was expected of us was that we clean up our toys before bedtime?

But we “can’t go back home again”. The future will emerge with or without us. We can only hope that the right kind of leadership can and will arise (within us and around us) that will help us adapt and grow into it. If not, our planet will suffer, our marginalized people will continue to be disadvantaged, and justice will never be served for those who have been exploited.

In his book, Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer talks about leadership not being about individuals, but about the capacity of the whole system. “The essence of leadership has always been about sensing and actualizing the future. It is about crossing the threshold and stepping into a new territory, into a future that is different from the past. The Indo-European root of the English word leadership, leith, means “to go forth,” “to cross a threshold,” or “to die.” Letting go often feels like dying. This deep process of leadership, of letting go and letting the new and unknown come, of dying and being reborn, probably has not changed much over the course of human history. The German poet Johan Wolfgang von Goethe knew it well when he wrote, ‘And if you don’t know this dying and birth, you are merely a dreary guest on Earth.’”

What he’s talking about is essentially the liminal space that I wrote about in the past. It’s the space between stories, when nobody is in control and the best we can do is to hold space for the emerging future. We, as a global collective, are in that liminal space in more ways than one.

With Wheatley and Scharmer, I would argue that an important part of our roles as leaders in this age of complexity is to hospice the death of our old ideas about leadership so that new ideas can be born. Authoritarianism will not serve us in the future. It will not help us address the complexity of climate change. It will not help us address racial or gender inequity. 

We need leaders – at ALL levels of our governments, institutions, communities, and families – who can dance with complexity, play with possibility, and sit with their fear. We need leaders who can navigate the darkness. We need leaders who can hold seemingly opposing views and not lose sight of the space in between. We need leaders who know how to hold liminal space. 

This is not meant to be a political post, and so I won’t tell you who to vote for (partly because I am Canadian and partly because I’m not sure any candidate in any election I’ve witnessed truly reflects the kind of leadership I’m talking about – they are, after all, products of a system we’ve created which may no longer work for the future).

Instead, I will ask you… how is this style of leadership showing up in your own life? Are you serving as host or hero? Are you holding space for the emerging future? And are you asking it of the leaders that you follow and/or elect? Or are you still clinging to the past and hoping the right hero will ride in on a white horse to save us?

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Hero ~ Mariah Carey

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And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you