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Ambition: Don’t Get the Flu

Y’all. I’ve had some sort of respiratory ailment since late November. Complete with separated ribs before Christmas and a cough that won’t quit. It’s not the flu. Not pneumonia. I’ve been to my doctor and stayed in contact electronically with her. We adjust course and keep going.

I haven’t moved as far or as fast on my theme as I have wanted. I just don’t feel great. Or even decent on some days. But today, still with plenty of snot and coughing up stuff – today was a good day. I even roughed out thumbnails on a picture book.

But my main ambition so far this year has been to get healthy. To stay healthy. To not contract the flu or some specific and ugly infection.

I had done pretty well staying off the news until someone a few weeks ago innocently asked me how crazy the flu was. It has become my new obsession. Not in a good way. I refresh the stories. What is the data? What are the tragedies? How do I keep a tragedy at great distance? Can I even if I try?

Meanwhile, I’m pushing my family to their limits on my germ mitigation programme.

Let me back up. I’ve often described myself as not a survivalist. As the character in a horror film who sees the badness coming and sits down to receive it rather than, well, do anything else. Now, for the first time I really feel like a survivalist. I want to survive. It’s a new feeling. And not a terrible one.

But comes the anxiety. Not being a survivalist allowed my anxiety to focus on other things. Now, here we are.

Intellectually, I know that we can do everything we can do and it still may not be enough. Emotionally, I know that if I don’t try, nothing will ever be enough.

So here’s how I’m managing my flu anxieties:

  1. I read about the 1918 so-called Spanish flu. Why? Perspective. For those suffering this year, there is no comfort. For those waiting, watching, hoping – it can be a useful thing to differentiate between that calamity one hundred years ago and the severity of today’s flu.
  2. I read things written by doctors or researchers. I tend to find these articles and papers more balanced and practical. [Note: You are currently reading something NOT written by a doctor or researcher.]
  3. We maintain our ordinary supplements regimen. Since 2012, everyone in our household has taken a vitamin and probiotic daily. This year, we added vitamin D3 daily. It’s a bit like a superstition. One I’m okay with.
  4. We try to wash bedding, backpacks, and coats/jackets once a week. I say try because life doesn’t always cooperate.
  5. Our afterschool routine has adjusted with time.
    • All school year, the kids are to wash hands and use nasal saline spray as soon as they come in from school every day.
    • A few weeks ago, the kids started showering immediately after school/sports – before homework, before snack. School clothes straight in the dirties.
    • Last week, the kids started dropping all their gear and their shoes at the door before showering. I Lysol their shoes (tops and bottoms), book bags, and horn case. I use a Clorox wipe on personal items: phones, glasses, ear buds, keys.
  6. One chore in our house is to wipe down knobs/handles/remotes/switches. Each boy does it once a week. It is what it seems. They use Clorox wipes and clean each commonly touched fixture as well as remotes and controllers.
  7. We drink water. The kids are expected to drink a bottle of water while at school, one glass before school, and at least one glass after school. We treat dehydration as our enemy in league with the germs.
  8. Broth. So much broth. All the broth. I make it in rolling batches: beef, chicken, lamb, pork. Frozen in pint jars, broth becomes an easy addition almost every day. I cook rice in it, make soup with it, add it to sauces, cook green beans or blend potatoes with it. Sometimes, just heat and sip. Honestly, I started with broth because my three preteen boys are forever hungry, and broth was a good way to boost some nutrition. In cold and flu season, broth has the added benefits of letting you breathe in steam and maybe (in reality or my placebo-affected imagination) helps reduce inflammation.
  9. We also got flu shots in October. We teach and preach hand washing and keeping hands to selves / off faces, inner elbow coughs, and elbow bumps to replace high fives.
  10. We pray. For our health. For everybody else’s. For the research being done to advance flu prevention and its tangle of devastating consequences. For those who grieve. Those who strive. And the grace to believe we’ve done our best and so are most people.

If there was a to-do list to prevent the flu, guaranteed, I’d do it. In the past, that would have included withdrawing from life in the name of protectionism. Now, it’s more of an approach-with-caution situation. Meanwhile, eager to aspire to something more than survival.

Best wishes to you and yours!


Follow-up to Matt Walsh’s First and Second Posts, in re Suicide

My most recent post was my shell-shocked and hasty reaction to a post by Matt Walsh, though I can’t say that my opinion has much changed.

Matt followed up his post with a second, longer post, in which he considers opinions that have been shared with him and, perhaps, insinuated as his own. He also confronts the cyberbullying that has torrented his direction since the first post.

Let me be clear: I am passionate about this topic. I disagree with Matt on some issues. I don’t lend my voice or my support to any bully who would threaten a person for speaking, even when that speech feels offensive or any other emotion-laden word. Don’t be a bully. It’s unbecoming.

I’ve read both posts and no comments.

After reading Matt’s second post, I submitted a comment. The last time I saw it, the thing was awaiting moderation. There have likely been many, many comments posted in the interim.

Unlike my first post, an email I wrote to my sister, this post was written not as a reaction but as a response. What’s the difference? Well, the first was my gut issuing forth through my fingertips. The second was my brain searching for the words to give Matt pause, to help him reflect on a different perspective. I shared the first, and I was super nervous. I am about to share the second, and I’m super nervous. Though I have a tiny readership and love you all, these are big ideas to put out into the world. I’d think maybe I was sick if I wasn’t nervous : ) 

My comment on Matt Walsh’s second post regarding suicide, 8/13/2014, approximately 9:00 pm:

I can tell a cancer patient to fight and the cancer can still win. I can tell a suicidal person to fight and the suicide still wins. Doesn’t mean I should stop telling people to fight. It does mean that the complexities of life tend not to listen to third parties, including dictionary definitions.

I don’t know if you read my response to your first post on this matter, since it was posted to my own blog, but I think something bears repeating.

“Expecting a depressed person to make a sound decision is not unlike asking a person with dementia to make a sound decision. It may happen by coincidence but not by design. So when choosing life or death, the whole difference between the suicidal and the not suicidal is the depression. The depression colors everything, including life and death decisions.”

Outside suicidal ideation, it is fairly straightforward to apply a textbook definition to suicide as a choice. Inside suicidal ideation, things become much less clear.

In 2010, my nephew was in basic combat training. He ran a five-minute mile. Then he turned 18. Then he was flown to a hospital and diagnosed with leukemia – a blast crisis. Three weeks later, he died. The drugs had done their best and killed the leukemia. My nephew died from sepsis. I was confused. I simply couldn’t understand how the body could betray him so quickly and so thoroughly.

In 2008, I had a plan to commit to suicide. I planned it. Seems, pretty straightforwardly, a choice. My plan was interrupted by the most random thing. The interruption meant the difference between death and life. Now I can hardly believe my reasoning at the time. I was going to kill myself to avoid hurting my children. Postpartum depression turned me very nearly into one of those mothers on the news who is carted to prison for killing her own children. My body had betrayed me – my mind had betrayed me. It betrayed me with thoughts too horrid to contemplate. It convinced me that I would kill my own beautiful children in my sleep. And it betrayed me again when it told me my options were to kill them or kill myself.

I don’t write any of this as woe competition. I write this because I’m trying to elucidate a major flaw in your logic. The choice in suicide is a whitewashed tomb. Sanitized on the outside and rotten on the inside. The family, friends, onlookers of a suicidal person see the sanitized shell of a choice. The suicidal person lives on the rotten inside of that choice. A choice made rotten by disease.

So when you, coldly in my opinion, say that Robin Williams died from his choice, you leave a metric ton unsaid. It is the stuff unsaid that is vital to the conversation. Decisions are poisoned all the time. Sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. Drunk driving is a choice, a choice poisoned by overconsumption of alcohol. The driver who made that poisoned choice must still bear the consequences of the choice. One who dies from suicide bears the consequences of a poisoned choice. Poisoned, not by alcohol, but by disease.

Don’t simplify it. Don’t sanitize it. Don’t make it so academic that it fails to capture the empathy and compassion possible in unspoiled human nature.

Tell a person in your sphere – loved one, caller, emailer, guy on the ledge – tell a person that he has options. Lead him to them. Love him through them.

But please don’t come online and tell the world that suicide prevention is as straightforward as a rational, clear choice between life and death. To do so is a disservice to the people suffering from their own and others’ choices poisoned by disease.

People of the world, if you are dealing with suicidal thoughts and impulses, your choices are poisoned by disease. You can seek to be healed. Medical science can begin to draw the poison out of your choices so that you can see them clearly, so that you can be informed. Spirituality, family, support structures can help draw the poison away, too. Please don’t choose suicide today. Please seek help. Please seek medication, counseling, and other things that can free you from a poisoned choice. Delay choosing death. Wait and try and fight until you are freed from the poison of depression. And then keep living. Please.

1.800.273.TALK (8255) or

That’s it. That’s what I wrote. If you are leaning Matt’s way, know that this isn’t a contest. You can take in all of the perspectives and discern for yourself what is true, what is beneficial, what is worthy.

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