As Coronavirus Sweeps Europe Public Heeds Medical Experts

coronavirus outbreakIn Switzerland when we first heard reports of the coronavirus in China, we only half listened, but when our neighbor Italy announced outbreaks, we were all ears.

The close proximity and community spread of a life threatening virus has Europeans on edge. Most citizens held their fears in check until the Italian outbreak, then within hours illness knocked on our doorstep. Our anxiety stepped up a notch.

coronavirus outbreak

figures valid as March 6, 2020

Surrounded by Italy, Austria, Germany, and France, hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders daily to work in Switzerland. At my former work place, the International School of Geneva, 140 different nations are represented, many of whom live across the French border. Exposure is inevitable.

Suddenly news flashed across Europe in different languages as nations grappled with how to best handle the crisis and contain outbreaks. For the first time ever, Switzerland immediately cancelled its world famous Geneva International Motor Show and forbid public events of more than 1000 spectators including popular soccer and hockey games. France limited gatherings to less than 5000. Both countries immediately shut down schools and shops where clusters of coronavirus broke out. Leaders of European countries reacted quickly, calmly and sensibly.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, Trump’s initial reaction was to minimize its impact. At his campaign rally in South Carolina, he proclaimed that the coronavirus was the new “Democratic hoax”. By promoting “fake news,” he only added to public confusion and mistrust.

COVID 19 is so new, much remains unknown: incubation period is uncertain and asymptomatic patients become silent carriers. Countries close borders, quarantine citizens, and try to curb public panic.

Medical experts have trouble understanding and predicting outcomes. Even so, international researchers are moving forward so quickly that vaccine might be possible within 12 to 18 months instead of 10 to15 years.

With medical personnel overworked in every country and the public’s anxiety rising, we need to get the facts straight. Worldwide public health and safety should be paramount on any leader’s agenda especially a leader as powerful as the US President.

Fortunately the highly respected Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, is now serving as a member of the White House coronavirus task force to provide facts and clarify misconceptions.

Global health experts like our friend, Dr. Jonathan Quick, former chair of Global Health Council and long term collaborator of theWorld Health Organization (WHO) have been solicited by news agencies around the world such as ABC .

In The Guardian, he offers valuable insights, proposes feasible solutions and provides hope for the future.

The End of EpidemicsHis book, The End of Epidemics published in 2018, predicted the present day scenario.

“Jonathan Quick offers a compelling plan to prevent worldwide infectious outbreaks. The End of Epidemics and is essential reading for those who might be affected by a future pandemic―that is, just about everyone.”―Sandeep Jauhar, bestselling author of Heart: A History

As the WHO scrambles to predict outcomes, produce tests and develop vaccines, we need to listen to the voices of those who know best.

For a world leader to put a personal spin on such a deadly and disruptive global crisis for political leverage is dangerous. Political differences must be put aside, scientific knowledge must be shared and transparency between countries must prevail to contain a world epidemic with such dire consequences.

Regardless if we live in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East or Australia it behooves us all to remember pandemics don’t discriminate.

It is in humanity’s best interest to adhere to the collective advice of the world’s best scientific minds.

no borders for coronavirus

Happy 60th Birthday Baby Sis Little Miss Me Too

Happy 60th Birthday to my almost-born-on-leap-year baby sister Little Miss Me Too. The last in line in a family of 4 siblings born 5 years apart, Mom always said, “Karen raised herself.”
“She tagged along with the big kids and figured things out on her own.”
Born 3 years apart almost to the day, we celebrated birthdays together growing up. In our younger years, I made sure she never fell off the dock or crossed the street without looking both ways. In later years, she looked out for me by driving me to doctor appointments and hanging out with me in a dark room on bad days.
Karen was born cute from the tip of her perfect toes to her gorgeous toothpaste commercial smile.
Athletic, energetic, outgoing, to an outsider she made life look easy. She starred on her state championship basketball team, made friends with everybody she met and always saw the bright side of things.
But she worked hard.

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She reinvented herself midlife, returning to college to earn a master’s degree in education while working as a recreational therapist and raising family.
She’s never shied away from a challenge. Even today she courageously continues teaching kindergartners — pulling off 23 little pairs of boots 4 months of the year — in the snow belt of Minnesota.
An adored aunt, treasured wife, loving daughter, revered mother, cherished sister, she collects people as easily as others collect stamps. Church friends, high school friends, work friends, neighbor friends, family friends. Everybody loves Karen and her jovial partner in life Dick. She’s energetic, upbeat, easy-going and down right fun to be with on any occasion.
She raised 2 beautiful daughters, but also became a Mamá Dos to her niece and nephew who moved 4000 miles away from home in Switzerland to attend university in the Twin Cities.
My little sis and I shared a love of sports. She passed me the ball on the basketball court and long after my playing days were over, she took me to my first WNBA game. When I could no longer run, she ran for me completing her first half triathlon at 50something.
She works hard, but plays harder and never passes up an opportunity to celebrate life.
Her friends call her Care Bear, but to me she will always be The Babe, my beloved little sister, blessing my life the past 60 years.

Fighting Back After Chronic Illness Knock Out

chronic illness = shadows of dark cloudsApologies to my loyal readers, friends and family for being out of touch, off line, disconnected. Estranged from everyone, I shut down, closed off my heart and buried hope.

When you suffer from chronic illness, you exist in a parallel universe of pain. A pain that is magnified when so misunderstood by the medical community like in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, environmental illness, Lyme disease and other conditions that are hard to diagnose and even harder to treat.

Awaiting answers we muddle along until flare ups knock us out again and again.

The earth tilts under my feet. My eyes roll back in my head. Shooting pains fire off like missiles in my muscles. Ants crawl under my skin. My stomach cramps. My joints throb. My throat aches. My lungs burn. My vision blurs. My head pounds.

My brain, an overinflated balloon, presses against my skull, like it will burst.

An old athlete, I can cope with physical pain, but enduring the tricks of my mind becomes unbearable. I forget what I just said. Phone numbers, street addresses, friends’ names elude me.

As bad bugs hijack my brain, I stare ahead like a deer in headlights unable to process thoughts. My tongue twists on the phrases that spew out sometimes in French, sometimes English. I repeat myself like a silly parrot, jumbling sentences, confusing words.

Trapped in bed, the walls close in. I reach for my survival kit — a Kindle, laptop, notebook, cell phone, water bottle. I calm my racing heart by counting blessings — family to cherish, food on the table, roof overhead.

Like a human guinea pig, I sign on for another drug trial, relying on an equally desperate Facebook group of strangers, who battle the same misunderstood multi-system inflammatory disease.

chronic illness = snowy lane When I can muster enough energy to go out, friends will say, « You don’t look sick, » and assume I am cured. All the while the invisible body snatchers eat away at my cells turning my brain to spaghetti, my muscles to mush.

On my worst days I enter the twilight zone of semi-consciousness suspended between life and death.

Don’t let me give up.

Hang on. Another second. Another minute. Another hour. A day. A week. A month. A year. A decade. A lifetime.

Trapped in a body that doesn’t work right, I know I am not alone. Millions suffer from invisible diseases. Do not forsake us. We are doing the best we can. When we say we are too tired/sick/weak to go out, prepare dinner, entertain guests, we are not making up excuses. We aren’t malingers; we are champions battling invisible enemies.

  • Commiserate with us.
  • Listen.
  • Let us repeat the same broken record of despair. Then repeat the same pep talk you gave last time.
  • During flare ups, we lose perspective. Remind us of happier times when we were able to participate.
  • Make dinner. We won’t be hungry, but coax us to the table.
  • Send emails, text messages or make calls. Voices uplift.
  • Hold us while we cry.

Click here, listen and be inspired

We are a society of doers until we are sidelined by injury or illness. Then we feel worthless, like dead weight, like burdens.chronic illness: Rainbow of hope

Remind us always of how much we are loved. And how maybe, just maybe, we inspire you to endure tough times because you look at us and know how hard we are trying.

Real warriors keep fighting.

Day by day.

Minute by minute.

Word by word.

I am back writing and I missed you.

Good Neighbors Add Allure to Summit Lake Wisconsin

Summit LakeWe used to be the only cabin on our side of the lake and I liked it that way, but when people built cottages next door, I discovered Summit Lake’s beauty magnifies when shared.

In 1952 my grandparents bought the log lodge peeking out from behind the pines on the point across from the island. They turned it into Camp Ney-A-Ti Boys’ Camp. The camp used to be the only sign of civilization on the western side of the lake.

In 1964, when my grandparents sold the camp and 40 acres, they had the foresight to save a 125 feet of lake front property on the far edge of their land. Then they built our little red cabin. On some else’s land. They were shocked to find out someone else owned that lot, so they lifted the wooden cottage and moved it over 50 feet.Summit Lake cabin

That landowner build a cottage on his land and generations later, we became friends with his grandchildren’s children. Then our children grew up together over lazy, fun-filled summers. The path through the woods between our cabins remains well worn. Instead of playing hide and seek of childhood, the “kids” sit on the screened in porch debating solutions to problems of the adult world.

We are the only flatlanders (Illinoisans) amongst the Wisconsinites; they accept us as long as we wear our Greenbay Packer caps.

A deputy sheriff lives on one side of us and a lawyer on the other. If we get in trouble with the lawman on our left, we could seek counsel with our neighbor on the right side to bail us out. But as grandchildren of Coach Mac, we would never consider breaking the rules.

Surprisingly, as much as I liked the idea of being alone in the woods, I discovered it is nice to have neighbors.

We hail from different cities and walks of life, but Up North no one cares where you come from or how much money you make, as long as you share the same values – respect for nature and community spirit.

kids of the lakeThe lake ‘hood children have grown up becoming doctors, nurses, plumbers, firemen and teachers. If the “kids” were ever Up North at that same time, we would have a “cabin” town of skilled professionals to cope with any illness, injury, wildfire, flooded basement, or backed up toilet.

With trees and foliage growing so thick, you don’t have to see your neighbors, who are never nosey, but if you do need anything they will be there.

At one time or other everyone has rescued my Frenchman when his catamaran capsized. All the neighbors have a story to tell about how they towed the yellow sailboat safely to shore behind their pontoon sailing Summit Lakeboat.sailing Summit Lake

Another time a neighbor helped jump-start my sister’s car at dawn in the dead of winter. And if you need to borrow a chainsaw, a shovel or a cup of sugar, just ask. Neighbors willingly share, sometimes even offering beds in their cabin when your own overflows with friends and relatives.

“You know the rule,” the guy next door says, “if my boat is out, and you want to ride or ski c’mon on over.”touring Summit Lake

Summer folks. Summer friends. Good neighbors. Good people.

Along with the wilderness and wildlife, human beings are part of the Northwood’s blessings too.Grandparents & kids

Summer Storms Wreak Havoc in Wisconsin by McKinzie Cabin

Summer Storms Wreak Havoc in WisconsinSummer storm warnings in the midwest are so routine, we ignore them, but in the era of global warming look out. After a hot day on the lake, we sat on the dock of McKinzie cabin admiring the formation of mammatus clouds that looked like upside down dinner rolls. When the rain started, we headed up hill to the cabin. Just when my friend started her stand up comedy routine, the lights blinked out. We hee hawed to her jokes by candlelight while trees thrashed and waters churned outside.

While we were yucking it up, Mother Nature was having the last laugh. When we ventured outside the next morning, we witnessed the destruction. Fallen trees downed power lines blocking every route out leaving us stranded in a zone booby trapped by electrical wires.

We tried to walk to town, but power lines lying on the road blocked us at the boat landing where one of the lake’s oldest cabins dating 1911 miraculously stood intact.

I hollered over to Roger, who picked up debris from his uprooted trees.

« I was closing the windows when the big, tree fell inches from the house. Another tree crashed on the other side, » he told me. « When I heard the gas pipe sizzle, I thought I gotta get out of here. »Summer Storms Wreak Havoc in Wisconsin

Fortunately, we had little property damage on our side of the lake, but our neighbor lost twenty-two trees. However, without running water and electricity daily life became challenging. We carried up lake water to fill toilet tanks and hooked up a generator that rumbled like a tank truck to keep power running to the refrigerator.

Every evening, we lit the house with candles and savored the absolute silence of night without any sound of modern civilization.

But in the morning, we were annoyed by inconveniences. Without water, breakfast became a 10-step process. Fill gas in the generator. Quick open the refrigerator. Remove milk and butter. Switch on adaptor to run coffee machine. Unplug coffee machine. Hook up toaster. Switch back to frig. Eat cereal. Fill bowl with water to drink, which serves double duty rinsing the dish. Wash face and hands in the lake. Brush teeth with a mouthful of water.

By day three, mold grew on my teeth and my body smelled like the septic tank. To save resources, we bathed in the lake washing with biodegradable shampoo; the guys peed in the woods.

I wanted to go to any restaurant or store, where I could wash my face and hands in their restroom, but all the towns around us remained powerless too.

I couldn’t imagine being homeless or living in a Third World country where existence depends on finding the next drop of water and morsel of food.Summer Storms Wreak Havoc in Wisconsin

The next day, we stepped across the lines down on the road to walk to the public beach across the lake. There, off of highway 45, the Wisconsin National Guard had set up a non-potable water tank for citizens and promised tomorrow they would bring drinking water.

“Sixteen different tornadoes touched down and Langlade County declared a state of emergency,” the serviceman told me, “Elcho looks like a war zone.”

Like everyone else, after 3 days of isolation, we ignored the Road Closed signs, drove over the electrical wires that snaked across roads and headed to Elcho four miles away.

Evergreen, pine, deciduous trees of every kind stood uprooted or snapped in winds that reached over 100 mph. Along County road K to Post Lake century old trees toppled on cabins and barns.Summer Storms Wreak Havoc in Wisconsin

Our power outage lasted four days, but many homes in the north central Wisconsin remained without electricity for over a week.

But after 24 hours, I was tired of fetching water buckets and playing Little House on the Prairie.

We take so much for granted.

Mother Nature’s rampage made me cherish our most valuable resources air, water and land. It also reminded me of the resiliency of the human spirit to endure floods, storms, hurricanes, wildfires and nature’s wrath

Meeting Mackenzie Clan Chief at Castle Leod

Castle Leod

Castle Leod

I trembled with excitement the day we visited Castle Leod, the Clan Mackenzie seat, located near the village of Strathpeffer in the east Ross Shire of the Highlands. In the Mackenzie’s’ hands for centuries, Leod remains one of the few castles where the original owners family descendants still live.

“For 500 years Leod was backdrop of the Mackenzie family whose dramatic and colorful lives were inextricably linked with the great events of Scottish history and the characters that shaped it, among them Queen Mary of Scots and Prince Charles Edward Stuart.”

Man lived on this land for centuries. An Iron Age vitrified fort can be seen on the hills of the Castle as well as Pictish Standing Stones.

After the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, the Mackenzie’s power expanded from the barren west coast of Kintail in Wester Ross to the fertile lands of Eastern Ross. Before the 12century,they built a crannog, a fortified stone hut, on the site.

After Mary Queen of Scots officially granted the land to the Mackenzie’s, John of Killen became the first Clan Chief to live in Castle Leod. By the late 15th century the tower looked much like it does today with further alterations. The Mackenzie’s currently live in the addition on the back wing.

Leod was also the inspiration behind Castle Leoch the seat and home of laird Mackenzie in Diana Gabaldon’s fictional series Outlander.

Castle Leod

Castle Leod

Castle Leod, open only a few days a year, has a less imposing stature and a more intimate feel. My heart skipped as we walked up the long, tree-lined avenue to the castle. Above the front door, I admired the marriage stone dating from 1605 commemorating the union of Margaret MacLeod with Sir Rory Mackenzie famous ‘Tutor of Kintail.

Imagine my surprise when we opened the door and our clan chief John Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Cromartie, welcomed us as warmly as banquet guests. He showed us the sword rack and a tapestry of the Mackenzie family tree, and then led us to a stone stairwell to the Great Hall.

“The fireplace, still used today, and the frieze above it are originals,” a guide, explained. “Of course, the wood replaced the straw floor used back in the day.”

Decorated with Regency period furniture, cabinets held family heirlooms – letters, jewelry, medals and other memorabilia. Paintings of former clan leaders hung on the walls.

“Be sure to notice the a prie-dieu, (praying table) a gift from Mary Queen of Scots,” the guide said pointing to a 2-foot- high, structure with 2 pillars, “ Unfortunately no one has figured out how you could actually use it to pray.”

Off of the Great Hall, an Edwardian style Billiard Room, contained its original wooden pool table. The room also holds century old books crumbling behind the glass-enclosed bookshelves. A map on the wall of the estate surveyed by John Leslie in 1763 remains accurate still today.

A narrow staircase wound around to the ground floor to a hall with servant’s bells and speaking tubes. Off of this, steps lowered to a tiny dungeon at one end and to a large vaulted kitchen in the other.

“My father used this as a wine cellar,” John wrote, “but by the time I inherited the estate the only thing left down here was ghosts.”

Like every good castle, Leod too has ghosts. Footsteps of the chief ghost, The Night Watchman, can be heard wandering guarding inhabitants. The Sad Ghost haunts the dungeon. After dark, soldier ghosts eerily hover at the front door. Perhaps, they date back to the time the castle was confiscated after George; The 3rd Earl of Cromartie’s fought for the Jacobites in the Rebellion.

Spanish Chestnut tree

Spanish Chestnut planted 1553, oldest tree in the UK

The castle’s gardens held natural treasures like the giant sequoia, the largest tree in the UK. Two ancient Spanish chestnut trees, planted in 1553 commemorated Queen Mary of Scot’s land grant, remain the oldest trees in Britain. On part of the estate’s extensive parkland, bordered by the Peffery River, prizewinning Aberdeen Angus cattle graze.

In previous centuries, the Highland Clan leaders held power over life or death. The Hanging Tree for male prisoners stood in front of the castle and to one side was the Drowning Pond, where female criminals met their fate.

Clan Chief John Mackenzie

Clan Chief John Mackenzie with the author

Today it is hard to imagine our present clan chief John Mackenzie wishing anyone ill will. Before we left, he graciously agreed to pose for a picture with me. With good cheer and humility, he even grinned for the camera. But my smile was even greater for this special moment will be etched in my family’s archives forever.