Category Archives: People

Random thoughts about COVID-19

Listen to Tony

Listen to whatever Anthony Fauci says. He’s likely the leading expert in this right now. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had friends and family ask my husband, (who works at NIAID) what he thinks about COVID-19, what he advised them to do. His response has been, “listen to Tony”. As of this afternoon, Dr. Fauci is saying don’t go to restaurants or bars or other crowded places, and of course wash your hands and don’t touch your face.


“You know, I would prefer as much as we possibly could,” Fauci responded. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, March 15, 2020

Our next crisis might be clogged sewers

Update:UK’s sewage system in danger of gridlock from toilet paper substitutes

With all the panicked toilet paper hording, many people have resorted to buying facial tissues and at least one Facebook friend posted a photo of dinner napkins she bought when she could find no toilet paper. I even heard that one newspaper printed 8 blank pages for emergency toilet paper. Other Facebook friends are discussing what to do when all the paper in the house is used up (take a shower for #2 was one response). My immediate thought is don’t flush those facial tissues or napkins or paper towels. Hell, don’t even flush “flushable personal wipes”.

King Arthur Flour is out of flour

Of course. The hoarders bought up all the flour in stores, but I never would expect the king of flour to run out of flour! But it has. I can deal with no TP but I really need to bake bread. If not for eating, to deal with anxiety.

I deleted my Facebook app

I had a meltdown Friday night after spending the past couple days and several hours on Friday reading articles people posted on Facebook. I was convinced I was going to die and not live to see my retirement date or sit on the brand new deck or in the brand new “lodge” in warm weather. I would tell you what the articles were, but I don’t want you to have a meltdown too. Listen to Tony…

Facebook is not all bad

I did see some amusing things on Facebook today after I recovered from Friday’s meltdown*. My favorite was someone who’d just cleaned out their deep freezer after 20 years: “Threw out old frozen foods, the freeze dried remains of two budgies and ten betta fish, and found where the good glass containers were hiding.” I told them that they should use this as the first line in a short story or novel.

*just because I deleted my app does not mean I am not reading Facebook sometimes…

Almost back to normal

We had low-key Christmas holiday these past couple of weeks. Our traditions were pretty much discarded but that was okay. Andrew drove down from Pittsburgh and stayed with us for a couple of days, then left for Atlanta to spend Christmas and New Year with Alex’s family. Clare arrived on Christmas Eve (but left a few days later to hang out with friends in New York through the New Year) and Andrew returned on January 3rd. We celebrated our family Christmas Eve that night and Christmas Day the next. Clare flew home to Olympia yesterday and Andrew drives back to Pittsburgh tomorrow. The only constant was Mingus who spent three weeks with us, loving the huge windows to the deck where he could observe squirrels feasting on peanuts I set out for him.

It was great having the new kitchen and our “lodge”. Clare adopted the lodge and made it look cozy and very Clare-like. She even slept there (on the floor) two nights, but realized her bedroom had a comfortable bed. That didn’t stop her from spending her waking hours in the lodge though. The kitchen proved to be as useful as we’d hoped and we spent lots of time as a family cooking and eating in it.

That said, it is always a bit of a disruption when everyone is here and the house usually gets very messy.

Here are a few photos of our last few weeks.

A gift

In 2000 when I graduated from George Washington University with a Master’s degree my mom, and her two sisters pooled their money and bought me a Lenox mug that featured an illustration of a cedar waxwing (by artist Catherine McClung), my favorite bird and my online persona on several forums. I knew that they’d spent a fair amount on it because Mom cautioned me that it should probably not be used.

I heeded her warning and didn’t use the mug for several years but in April 2013 I decided to start using it, a decision I documented on Facebook:

Fast forward to a little over a month ago during our kitchen renovation, when, while washing dishes in the basement, Dean accidentally knocked the mug to the cement floor where it broke in several pieces. I heard it, I knew what it was and my heart momentarily froze and when he showed me what happened, I replied, “Don’t worry about it. It was bound to happen sometime. I got lots of years out of it.” And strangely, that was how I really felt.

Of course I documented it on Facebook.

The responses were heartwarming and several friends tried to help me find a replacement, at least one even offering to buy me one.

I could not find the exact mug and felt that buying one would be cheating. Part of its appeal was because it was from three special people in my life who were no longer with us.

Two days after the mug was broken my brother commented with a photo of the mug and later said it was an early Christmas gift to me in memory of Mom. It turned out that he found a set of four Lenox bird mugs online and bought them for me.

Screenshot of FB conversation. Kevin: Mom is excited all over again, she made me do it. Love you. Me: Where did you find this? Kevin: I have my sources. It's actually a set of 4. An early Xmas present in memory of mom. Dad is represented too with the blue bird. Me: I am speechless!

I got them a week or so later and put them in my China cabinet. I’ll use them someday, but not right now.

Kevin buying them for me was such a surprise, but when I think of it, not that much of a surprise. He’s always been a kind and thoughtful person. I’m lucky he’s my brother.

True Love

My mom and dad had a couple of friends, Patti and Bill, with whom they spent a lot of time. I remember going to their house many times and they would come to ours. They had children around my age — Mark a little older than me and Kim a little younger. I was probably closest with Kim, but I also remember handing out with Mark some.

At some point — I don’t think I was in my teens yet — Bill suffered a massive heart attack at age 35 and died in the night. Since the adults talked around kids a fair amount, I heard more about it than I probably should have. Apparently Patty called to Mark to call an ambulance (I don’t know if 9-1-1 was even a thing back then) but Bill was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.

My mom also told me that Patti told her that she and Bill had such a wonderful marriage and while she would miss him, she had no regrets because the marriage was perfect. She wrote the letter of thanks after the funeral that pretty much says that.

Not long ago she and I exchanged a few emails and I meant to send this to her. I asked her why she and my folks stopped hanging out and she said she thought it was because because she had to work extra hard after he died and didn’t have much free time.

Saturday. Pat and Al, Just, thank you for shoulders to lean on and for being friends. Al, for being pall-bearer even though I know it cost you. Those years we had are worth this now, you see. So don't worry about me. Pat.
Patty’s thank you note to my parents.

Reunited and it feels so good

Original draft 2016. No changes

I met him in 6th grade. I had a bit of an major on-and-off crush on him throughout the rest of my public school years. We were friends — probably the only real boy who was also a friend I had at that time. The last I remember seeing him was when we both attended the community college in our hometown. I was waiting for the bus (I didn’t get my driving license until I’d graduated college) and he was either waiting for the bus or walking to his car. We chatted for a while. It was, if I remember correctly, a nice chat. We reminisced then that was it. I never saw him again.

Over the years I’ve wondered how he was doing and tried to find him on the Internet. I never had luck — his was a common enough name. But I had a stroke of luck earlier this week when a mutual friend of ours (someone else I’d tried to find online and ended up bumping into at a mini-reunion for our high school class) said she wished she could find him. I searched “firstname+lastname” + Elgin Illinois and came up with an obituary of/newspaper article about his grandfather in which the person in question was quoted extensively. I tried again, but used his full first name and the rest of the search terms. That brought me to his father’s obituary which listed the person in question as living in a town in New York. Searching on that brought me to a website of a Yoga instructor who shared the name of my friend.

After looking though his site I was pretty sure it was him and called my other friend to tell her I think I’d found him. I sent off an brief, apologetic email asking if he was the “firstname lastname” who used to live in Elgin, Illinois.

The next morning I got a response. It was him and he seemed genuinely glad to hear from me. He asked for the contact info of our other friend and said to give her his.

Our friend was delighted and has reconnected.

My work here is done…

This actually leaves only one person I’d like to reconnect with left. George Phelps who used to live in Colombia, Maryland and spent some time in London in the late 1970’s, I am looking for you.

My own search for Beatrice*

TL;DR: My grandfather’s cousin, Beatrice Patrick of Indiana married Wilbur Shaw but died in childbirth along with the child. She died the October after he placed 4th in his first Indianapolis 500 race. She may have been there to see the win, according to Shaw’s autobiography.


I wrote the following about ten years ago. I just found how I am related to Wilbur Shaw’s first wife, Beatrice Patrick. As I suspected she was my grandpa Patrick’s first cousin.

My grandfather, James Frank Patrick, was one of nine children. His older brother Wilbur Manville** Patrick had a daughter named Beatrice who died in Michigan at age 18. Her death certificate states she died of embolism following childbirth and her name was Beatrice Shaw and her husband was Wilbur Shaw. The parents’ names match up to my grandfather’s brother and his wife.


Original post:

For the past few days I’ve been doing some research on automobile racing, especially Indianapolis 500 kind of racing. I’m not interested in the sport. I don’t really have an opinion about it except that it seems dangerous and loud. I’ve been researching automobile racing because of something my father told me and probably everyone he knew at some time or another. His father’s cousin married one of the more famous winners of the Indianapolis 500 — Wilbur Shaw.

I can see my dad talking about this. He would also mention a book called Gentlemen, Start Your Engines. At the time it didn’t really mean anything to me. I’d never heard of Wilbur Shaw. I didn’t like racing. I didn’t know anyone who liked racing, although when I did occasionally meet someone who liked car racing, I did mention the Wilbur Shaw connection and they were usually impressed.

Last week I found out that my sister-in-law’s daughter was going to be married in Kokomo, Indiana. I remembered that some of the Patrick family lived there — I remembered visiting it as a child and I have vivid memories of a girl about my age — I’ll save that for another blog post. So I tried to find some information on the Patricks in Kokomo, but didn’t get anywhere. Maybe I had the city wrong. Maybe it was Muncie.

Then I remembered the Wilbur Shaw connection and thought perhaps I could find out where the cousin was from by searching the Internet. I’d actually forgotten Wilbur Shaw’s name, but recalled the name of the book, so searched “gentlemen start your engines book” and found that for less than $25 I could own a copy of “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” by Wilbur Shaw. So I ordered it. It arrived yesterday and I’ve skimmed it. I don’t think I’ll actually read this book — in fact I’m sending it to Dad for Father’s Day, but I found some interesting bits about Wilbur Shaw’s first wife, Beatrice, who was my father’s cousin (although now, doing the math, I think she may have been his father’s cousin).

In Chapter 7 of “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” Wilbur Shaw writes:

Living dangerously, no matter how you do it, has a certain amount of romance and fascination which appeals to the girls. I don’t ever recall being hungry for feminine companionship after becoming a race driver. Even though they occasionally infringed on the amount of time necessary to get my car ready for a race, it was nice to have them around when the pressure was off. You can’t beat them for a pleasant change of pace and an outlet for the pent-up energy untapped by the thrills experienced on the track.

No one girl, however, had occupied my attention for any length of time until a few weeks before the end of that 1926 season. Then I met Beatrice Patrick while I was back in Indianapolis to repair an engine I had torn up in a race at Akron, Ohio. It was the night of the first Dempsey-Tunney title fight. Ted Elliot, my close friend and ex-mechanic, had invited a bunch of us out to his home to listen to the radio account of the battle. But I don’t remember anything about the battle — except that Tunney won — because another friend of Ted’s waled in at about that time with a girl who took my mind completely off the fight and racing and everything else. If you can imagine a blond Irish Madonna, she was it. Five feet and five inches tall, weighting 115 pounds and built like a Greek goddess. If I had been struck by lightning, the effect wouldn’t have been more devastating than my fist glimpse of her. Every time she looked at me and smiled, I felt like a helpless puppy caught near a wet spot on a new carpet.

I don’t know whether it was the home brew or only the way in which she looked at me, but my stomach tied itself in knots and I had the first taste of indigestion in my entire life. I didn’t know whether I’d swallowed a skyrocket or a cannonball, but never have I had a more dreadful feeling. this embarrassing experience, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When she realized I really was ill, she became the most solicitous and sympathetic person in the room. Maybe the pain my tummy didn’t actually stop when she put her cool hands on my forehead, but at least I didn’t feel it anymore. The hands did something that made me forget about everything except her intimate presence.

I had enough presence of mind, however, to continue getting “sicker and sicker”. At the same time, I managed to get the idea across to her — without everyone else knowing it– that the one thing I needed above everything else in my future was to have her around all the time. I probably did it in a stumbling and awkward manner, but I meant it. And the wonderful part about it was that she believed me. She didn’t say so, but I new it by the almost imperceptible little squeeze she gave me with those soft cool hands on my forehead.

Shaw then describes how the wife of his host intervened and gave him some bicarbonate of soda which made him feel better. Just as the party was breaking up Shaw writes:

…I suddenly realized that I didn’t even know the girl’s name. They called her Bea, but I didn’t know her last name or where she lived or anything about her except that she was wonderful.

He then describes how he surreptitiously followed them back to her house, waited for the date to leave then parked the car and knocked on the door.

…but it wasn’t Bea who answered. Instead it was her father who opened the door and I could have sunk straight through a crack in the floor. I was totally unprepared for such a development and he didn’t help matters any by standing there, silently, with an inquiring expression on his face. He didn’t even ask me what I wanted or anything.

“Do you know what time it is?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered; “but I know she hasn’t had time to get to bed and I’ve got to tell her something tonight.”

“Well, if it’s too important to wait until morning,” he replied, “come right on in and tell us all about it.”

We went on in and when I met Bea’s mother I knew I hadn’t made a mistake. She had the nicest eyes of any I’ve ever looked into. One glance was enough to tell me I was “home free” While Mr. Patrick called upstairs for Bea, I pulled a chair up alongside her mother and started to tell her the full story of what had happened that evening. I didn’t even slow down when Bea’s father came back into he room. He’d be easy, if I could sell myself to Mrs. Patrick, because anyone could tell in a hurry who was boss in that household.

He then describes asking the Patricks if he could date Bea and then how he goes home and tells his mother about his evening. He and Bea were married six weeks later.

I’m not sure how much later this next passage is, but it can’t be more than a year or two. The Shaws were now living in Detroit, at least for the summer.

Bea and I were expecting a son late in the fall. Early in the season she had accompanied me on almost all of our trips, but when traveling began to make her uncomfortable, she’d made up her mind the safest thing to do was to remain at home with Mrs. Smith.

Floyd [Smith] and I were scheduled to race at Milwaukee on Labor Day and everything had been fine when we started the journey. When we registered at the hotel about seven o’clock in the evening, however, there was a message for me to call Detroit. It required almost an hour to get the call through, because of some unexplained delay, and I paced the floor of our room every minute of the time. At last I heard Mrs. Smith’s voice on the phone.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said. “I’m sure everything is going to all right. But Bea started to hemorrhage this afternoon and I wanted you to know that her doctor has taken her to the hospital so that she’d be sure of getting all of the care she may need.”

She gave me the name of the hospital and I placed another call to check direct with the doctor. The hospital switchboard operator couldn’t locate him immediately. But when I identified myself and asked for news of Bea, she said, “Just a minute, Mr. Shaw.”

Then the voice of a strange nurse came on over the wire.

“We’ve been trying to get you for several minutes, Mr. Shaw,” she exclaimed. “We have some bad news for you, so brace yourself. The baby was born prematurely and — despite everything we could do — it was impossible for us to save Mrs. Shaw.”

Shaw then describes his grief and the ordeal of bringing his wife and son’s bodies back for burial.

*You need to have read the Lemoney Snickett series of Unfortunate Events to understand the title

**My dad’s middle name was supposed to be Manville, but it was accidentally changed to Manuel on his birth certificate.