All posts by Dona

My year of being religious

Growing up we rarely went to church, and when we did it was painful for me. I was extremely shy and the Sunday school kids seemed to be mean.

My parents tried to make up the lack of religious education by giving me Bibles over the years. First a tiny book full of Bible verses, at least one that I memorized. Then a huge illustrated Bible whose drawings alternately fascinated or horrified me. They also gave me a regular King James bible and a Living Word Bible.

I am not sure how old I was when I decided to pray for the soldiers in Vietnam, but when I told Mrs. Wewell, our next door neighbor, she said that I should pray for her instead. I did and the next day her beloved dog was killed by a car. When I tried again a few months later, her hand was caught in the ringer of her old ringer-washer, making that hand useless for the rest of her life. So I quit praying, certain that God misunderstood my requests.

I discovered C. S. Lewis’ Narnia in my teens. I considered them my favorite books for a very long time but knew no one else who’d read them, although eventually my British boyfriend, Jeremy, read them too and loved them as much as I did. I guess I knew they were based on the Bible at some level, but it didn’t bother me, nor did it make me religious.

Fast forward to 1996 or so. We’d bought a new computer and one of the first things I did was look up C. S. Lewis. I joined an email list called Mere Christianity where people talked about Lewis and all of his books. Among the other members was C. S. Lewis’ stepson, Doug Gresham, who invited me (and my family) to his Irish retreat when I mentioned I was trying to believe. Other members also tried to give me advice on how to find faith. A few sent me books they’d written.

Something clicked in my head and I felt that maybe, just maybe, it had all worked. That I was now among the faithful. I recall looking at my students in a different way, even feeling I could see their souls on one occasion. My one-time teaching assistant at work belonged to the LDS church and we’d have long conversations about faith.

Also about this time Dean was taking the kids to church because he felt they needed a religious upbringing. And also to be able to tell his mother that they were getting a Christian education. I didn’t accompany them very often, but sometimes I did. It turns out the congregation thought I was Catholic and that’s why I rarely went to their church.

This lasted about a year and the feeling of having faith, of believing faded and eventually went away.

I think that part of my search for religion and faith was assuming that when I died I would need a minister or some religious official to officiate at my funeral. I’ve since realized that is not the case and it’s definitely made me breathe easier that I don’t have a church. Or faith in a supreme being.

I’ve had some blips now and then and even started a blog about it just after my father died because at that time I guess I still hoped to eventually find my religion. But not now.

Tiny Furniture

Sunday is the day I usually go shopping. I am not shopping today for obvious reasons so I turned my attention to my cluttered attic kneewall.

Near the kneewall door on top of the box of old family bibles I cannot bear to throw away but also don’t know what to do with was a purple bag holding dollhouse furniture from the 50s and 60s. The furniture came with a vintage dollhouse that my mom gave my daughter one Christmas, thinking it was worth money. It may have been, but Clare never really liked it. We donated the dollhouse a few years ago, but kept the furniture. It’s dusty and dirty from years in the kneewall and then more time in a bag that once held muddy boots.

I remembered I’d bought a mini light box, fished it out and decided to take photos of the furniture and the couple who lived in the dollhouse. There is more furniture in another dollhouse that we still have. If this isolation period goes on long enough, you’ll see that too!

Dinner at Jacobi's

Welcome to the Northwoods! Dean and I heard about Jacobi’s from the Pasholks (who hated it but thought we might like it). We did. In fact we liked it so much we chose it for our 30th anniversary dinner (instead of a trip to New Zealand or Newfoundland). Really good restaurants are hard to come by in Northern Wisconsin, but Jacobi’s is definitely a really good restaurant. I chose it because I have history in the area and I love the restaurant. I think you will too.

It’s Saturday, August 18, 2021. The United States has a new (Democratic) president and both the House and Senate have Democratic majorities. As for COVID-19, social distancing worked and the spread of the disease slowed. There is now a vaccine for the virus as well as highly effective treatment. It’s still out there, but with the vaccine and treatment, the world is back to normal.

We step out of the 2021 Subaru Outback equipped with the time and place travel module in front of Jacobi’s of Hazelhurst in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. The Outback stopped at each of our homes on March 21, 2020 (March 22 in NZ) to pick us up for a dinner in a better future.

The outside of Jacobi’s is unassuming, but when you walk through the door and see the beautiful (and fully-stocked) wooden bar, you know you are in a special place. We have a seat at the bar. I order an old fashioned, and encourage the rest of you to do the same. Susan, who has given up alcohol, has sparkling water (unless, because this is a fantasy, you would like an old fashioned as well?) We’re loud, we know that, but we’ve been friends for over ten years and most of us have never met.

We’re seated in the back room. The one with the fireplace. Even if this is summer, let’s say the fireplace is lit and we’re near enough to it to feel cozy but not close enough to be too hot. Wisconsin late summers can be cool. We examine the menu.

The server brings us fresh baked bread and butter along with a complimentary appetizer of fresh watermelon, feta and balsamic vinegar. She asks us what we’d like for drinks and if we want appetizers. Helen orders dry red wine (a whole bottle!), onion rings and garlic bread (to share). Mali orders spinach artichoke dip to share and a glass of California Chardonnay. IB and Bridgett both order a boulevardier. Maureen orders something, but I cannot hear her over the talking. Susan sticks with sparkling water with a twist of lime (unless, since this is a fantasy…) and Kim orders a drink I’ve never heard of with top-shelf gin. I decide to move onto wine, and order a chardonnay.

Our drinks and appetizers arrive and we talk about our lives and how happy we are finally together in the same place. The food is exquisite as always.

The server returns for our dinner order. Helen orders spinach and garlic tortellini, Mali decides on the blackened chicken pasta but substitutes the chicken with blackened shrimp, I choose the pan fried walleye because walleye is one of my favorite fish. Susan asks if the chef can make her a salad for dinner because salad is Susan’s favorite food. The server assures Susan the chef will make a special salad with berries, nuts, heirloom lettuce, blackened chicken and hard boiled eggs. Bridgett chooses the black angus ribeye — because it is unadorned except for au jus. Maureen orders the pork tenderloin after making sure there were no almonds or anything made with almonds in the dish. IB selects the shrimp and tenderloin en brochette. Kim decides on the honey ginger grilled salmon. We order another bottle of dry red and chardonnay to share.

Our dinners arrive, and a few minutes of quiet descend on us while we enjoy our meals, the only sounds are murmurs of appreciation and a sigh or two. We’re all curious about Susan’s salad, it looks so delicious and healthy.

When the server asks if we would like to see the desert menu, Mali and Helen both order the double chocolate truffle pie. Maureen and Bridgett order the blueberry pie (which contains no almonds so Maureen is safe). I convince the rest of you (except Susan) to have ice cream drinks. I order a pink squirrel and Kim and IB order grasshoppers.

After dinner we sit back in our chairs and talk some more, more subdued now. We want the evening to go on and on, but we are needed back home. We hug goodbye. We climb into the Outback and are whisked back to our individual isolations in the midst of an unbelievable pandemic.

Guest Post: Why social distancing works

NOTE: Updated 3-21-20 — 8 months in the second to the last paragraph was incorrect. Dean asked me to change it to 8 weeks.

My husband is a biostatistician for the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He sent my kids and me an email explaining why social distancing works. (Emphasis mine)

Here’s something I wrote up about social distancing.

If life continued without change, on average, someone with COVID-19 might infect somewhere around 3 others. And it takes about 6 days, say a week, for someone to infect others.

So in two months just from that one person we go from 1 to 3 to 9 to 27 to 81 to 243 to 729 to 2187. All from one person.

With social distancing suppose that we reduce this to 2. Now in 2 months we go from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 to 32 to 64 to 128. Still explosive growth but 128 is about twenty times less than 2187. While most people who are infected don’t need to be hospitalized, there are still twenty times as many hospitalizations if we do nothing.

In fact we want to reduce this number (called R0 or R-naught) to way less than 2. If it is 1.25, then after 8 weeks we expect about 5 cases. And if we keep it less than 1, the epidemic will die out.

That’s why governments are introducing drastic measures. If we keep the growth down, the hospitals can better handle the cases. We can better learn how to treat cases. We can do studies to find what treatments really work and which give false hope. And it buys us time to evaluate vaccines.