Grasping for Objectivity in Probiotic Social Distancing.


I’ve spent half the week trying to understand the coronavirus. All of the conflicting reports and graphs have just confused me and forced me to keep digging to find some objectivity in all the mess of opinions and prophecies and, of course, legit funny memes. After words left me boggled, I finally went to my most trusted friend, numbers. I googled some numbers for myself, connected the dots, and now am starting to grasp the whats, the whys, and the ifs. To understand both the “it’s not a big deal” and the “it’s a big deal” and the “why all of us playing our part matters.”

Disclaimer: I am no expert, I could be wrong, but I share my thoughts because it’s the chain of logic that finally helped me understand what was happening, and I thought it might help someone else as well. (Also I needed to unload my brain.)

First: Stay Calm. This isn’t the end of the world. Do Not Panic.

The population of Hubei, the province in China where all this started, where they didn’t even know they had a new disease for nearly two months (details: they are now saying Patient Zero contracted around mid-November, Chinese officials told WHO they had dozens of cases of unknown pneumonia on December 31, they identified it was a new virus on January 7, and didn’t quarantine the city until January 24)….the population is 58.5 MILLION.

Of that 58.5 million, 67,790 people have gotten the coronavirus as of today. That’s 0.1% of the population of the most caught off guard people group.

Once that 58.5 million started following strict social distancing guidelines, their rate of spread fell dramatically.

So in that way, these numbers make it seem like not a big deal. And it isn’t – as long as we don’t get it all at once. Note that they QUIT getting it AFTER they social distanced. Meaning that social distancing is the only way to slow/prevent the exponential growth the virus has if left to its own devices.

Second: Pay Attention. It is a big deal.

Italy is at the moment the example of the worst case scenario. The numbers are why.

Four Fridays ago: 21 cases of coronavirus.

Three Fridays ago: 1,128 cases – a multiplication of 53.7 times more cases.

Last Friday: 4,636 cases – a multiplication of 4.1 times more cases.

This Friday: 17,660 cases – a multiplication of 3.8 times more cases. Or, in three weeks, a multiplication of 841 times more cases.

This is a serious issue because their medical infrastructure cannot handle this, and their death rate is higher because they simply cannot treat everyone. The doctors are having to make horrific decisions of who gets treatment and who dies for lack of treatment.

The exponential power and especially speed of this virus is dangerous if left unchecked. Yes, it’s not dangerous to everyone, and it’s still a small percentage of the population, BUT when numbers are increasing at that rate of multipliers, it takes mere weeks to be a severely dangerous situation.

Third: Have Hope. We can be proactive and prevent the worst case.

If we socially distance now, before we know if we have it and how many people have it, we prevent the multiplier.

*** We are not sheltering in place out of fear, but out of prevention. ***

The best case scenario is that, in a couple months, all the people who said this virus is a political sham are laughing in our face and saying “See? I told you so.”

Fourth: Don’t Be Selfish. It’s not about you.

Yes, the virus can be very mild – so mild that you don’t know you have it. Yes, the death rate for younger people is drastically low.

But all lives are valuable. ALL lives. And if we, as “younger” people, can get it and not even know we have it, then we have the potential of spreading it to someone that is older or that has secondary health problems without even knowing we did it. That makes younger, healthy people not just a null value in this equation – it makes them a weapon.

If you cannot be motivated to practice social distancing for yourself, practice social distancing for your grandmother. For your elderly neighbor. For your friend with diabetes. For your uncle with heart disease. For my grandmother. For that stranger’s grandmother. Because every life has value.

If we preventatively limit our social interactions (not necessarily our leaving home – just minimizing our close proximity as many people as we practically can), then we prevent the exponential growth, and we prevent being a part of the cause of suffering of others.

So. Am I going to my friend’s 45th birthday dinner, consisting of a small group of friends? Yes. Am I going out to eat randomly just so I don’t have to cook? Probably not, but I might send Chris to the drive-thru. Am I going to keep running and hiking? Yes, because there aren’t large groups of people involved in that. Am I going to church, or sporting events, or to hang out at the mall or the movies? Nope. That can wait.

Those are my personal decisions, and certainly not black and white guidelines. Everyone needs to weigh their personal situations and make informed decisions.

Numbers both alleviated my fear and inspired me to do a large amount of social distancing to keep the numbers low. But it’s not out of fear. It’s more like eating yogurt. It’s a Probiotic.

Books For a Time of Personal Distancing.

Book Recommendations for Coronavirus

I mean, they’re not books about personal distancing, because what we all need right now is the feeling of community, even while we’re preparing to avoid community. But I’ve read a bunch of books since my last book report, and for such a time as this, thankyouverymuchcoronavirus, we all need a healthy stack of books (or five) for our time of forced snuggle-up-in-bed-and-wait-it-outness.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I need some serious escapism between my bouts of corona-research.

(As a side note, I’ve been pointedly ignoring the Coronavirus until Wednesday, at which point I started researching heartily to try and sift the hype from the reality, and for 36 hours I couldn’t decide which was closer to the truth, that truth that was surely somewhere in the vast murky middle. But yesterday, I finally decided that despite my generalizer persistent optimism, I’m starting to believe the Clear and Present Danger, and regardless, the best thing we could all do is follow the social distancing protocol as best as we can (I’m not stopping my whole life but being wise and cutting out what I can) and hope that we all laugh heartily about this in a year when it comes back up on our Timehop. I’d much rather remember fondly all of our silliness than the alternative. And, plus, the introvert side of me is super cool with the idea of a forced couple weeks of cuddling up in bed, on the couch, and in the armchair and reading. But that’s just my opinion and I do not claim to be an expert. Read my further thoughts here.)

So let’s read, shall we?


Once Upon a River – I read this book before The Thirteenth Tale, not realizing that raving fans of The Thirteenth Tale were disappointed by Once Upon a River. I’m glad I read this book first, because I found it to be intriguing and delightful, weaving a unique story that very much feels like it is carrying you down a magical river of words. It’s a great mystery to escape into.




The Thirteenth Tale – So THEN I got her first book, which was so impressive as a first book that it created a bidding war between quite a number of publishers.

It. Was. Spectacular.

It was so good that I wanted to immediately go back and reread it to figure out “How tha heck did she just do that??”

In fact, it may warrant a Corona-induced second read.

Wildwood – My positive review of this book is apparently quite questionable. I loved this book, but Ali has not loved it, and I had another friend who also didn’t love it. Also, I didn’t like the two sequels nearly as much. BUT the first book was magical and lovely and meaningful and fun and deep. It had traces of Narnia, but with a few beautiful deep thoughts and lessons in it. The book is also magically illustrated. I felt like the tone of the book was happy and magical, but Ali felt it was dreary and depressing (though she hasn’t finished it and I’m hoping she changes her mind.) If you’ve read this book, I need to know if you’re #TeamAli or #TeamRachel.

A Gentleman in Moscow – This might be the perfect Coronavirus book, because it’s long and slow and a drawn out tale of an entire life. The first section, though fine, did not draw me in. But by the end, I was fully committed, and since finishing it, I have sorely missed The Count and his life under house arrest (except it was actually “really fancy hotel arrest”) in communist Russia. It’s upbeat and optimistic in a dark time. It tells tales of a time and place that I really know very little about, starting with the Bolshevik revolution in the 1920s and going through the 1950s. But it’s a very vague retelling of events, as if you, too, were under house arrest and removed from the action.








Kate Milford’s Books – I went on a serious Kate Milford bender in the fall and winter. I had read Greenglass House a couple years ago and enjoyed it, but didn’t read the rest of her books right away. Then I got one, then two, and before I knew it I had hungrily read every book she’d ever written (except for the one that only had 50 copies and is impossible to find.)

(Except that there’s one copy on Thriftbooks for over $100 and I’m all like “uh, no. ThriftBooks. I love you but no.)

(By the way do you know about ThriftBooks? It’s the most amazing thing for my bookbuying addiction. Or worst thing. Depending on how you look at it. It’s like having access to the world’s thrift store books without having to sift through dusty copies of outdated cookbooks to find what you want. And you earn points for buying books and get a free book every now and then. Which is super sweet of them.)

But back to Kate. Her books are unique – they happen over many different time periods and settings, yet they all weave together in a beautiful, complex, thought-provoking way. Some are more magical than others, and there is a LOT going on in all of them. She’s the opposite sort of writer from JK Rowling, who is a preparer – you know if JK describes some new setting or piece of magic at the beginning of the book, it’s going to play into the end of the book. Meanwhile, Kate just jumps into her worlds with zero explanation, all the while turning and waving at you and yelling “Keep up! You’ll get it in a minute I promise.” If you like a complex world with many strings, you will love her books.

It’s a bit confusing to figure out what order to read them in, since they happen across many time periods, but here’s my input:

    • Read Greenglass House first. Important context: Nagspeake is a fictional sovereign city on the eastern coast of the United States, of whom all industry (and government) is controlled by the evil Deacon and Morvengarde, who have a monopoly on all the things. So naturally, smuggling is a must.
    • Don’t read The Left-Handed Fate before Bluecrowne, and maybe read both of these before The Thief Knot, though not required.
    • Don’t read The Thief Knot before Ghosts of Greenglass House.
    • Expect The Broken Lands and The Boneshaker to be very different, yet connected, to the rest of the books. These have some violence in them – I wouldn’t recommend Broken Lands for sensitive children.
    • Don’t miss the fact that some of the other books are just part of the role-playing-game (i.e. a legend) by the time history arrives to the present, which is when Greenglass House occurs.

There Will Be Stars – This was a random find at Ollie’s (by the way – Ollie’s has amazing book deals and a shockingly good selection of even new releases), and I knew nothing about the author or the book. It was quirky, a little rough around the edges, but created an eerie, interesting world and scenario that definitely pulled me in and made me think. I’ve only read one Stephen King book ever (11/22/63 – the one about JFK), but this book reminded me of it in some ethereal way.




The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – This is one of the most engrossing and fascinating nonfiction books I’ve ever read. It tells the story of the first ever human tissue ever grown in a lab and the story of the woman the cells came from, the effect on her family, and the fact that 70 years later, her cells are still being grown and used in laboratories all over the world. Although she never knew nor gave permission for her cells to be taken or grown, they were in the atom bomb, went to the moon, helped cure polio, make vaccines, and have been reproduced and grown so much that Henrietta Lacks’ cells on this earth right now is estimated to weigh 50 million metric tons. There’s a LOT more to the story, and the easy to understand scientific explanations and implications are woven beautifully in with Henrietta’s story, then with her children’s stories as they had to grapple with the fact that their mother was “saved and grown” without her permission or knowledge, and without their knowledge for over 20 years.

I Am Malala – I read the young adult version of this book first (a lot of my reading is to fill my kid’s literature choice shelves – they each have a shelf full of “quality literature” – both fiction and nonfiction – to pick from for their school reading), and upon finishing it, immediately ordered the adult version, which I haven’t read yet. Malala is a Pakistani young lady who, in 2012, when she was fifteen years old and on the school bus, was shot in the face by The Taliban. They targeted her because of her stand for girl’s rights to education in opposition to The Taliban. Her story is gripping and eye-opening to how the Taliban can come in and control entire regions out of fear and terror. But ultimately her story is one of optimism and change and the impact of one person on an entire nation. Malala was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and continues to work for peace and freedom.
Two Miserable Presidents – Another read for the kid’s bookshelves, this book is full of fun, weird, bizarre facts about the Civil War. In the introduction, the author Steve Sheinkin admits to being a frustrated textbook writer, because all of his interesting facts always get cut. So he’s been saving them and has now released a series sharing real history, but also all of the fantastic stories that give history its depth and interest. The book does a good job of explaining both side’s perspectives on the war, how the war came about, and describes all of the complicated issues that often get glossed over. Noah has also read the book and really enjoyed it.


King Leopold’s Ghost – This book is engrossing, insane, unsettling, and eye-opening on so many levels. It tells about the atrocities of King Leopold II of Belgium, who lived between 1825-1909, and his calculated, cold, and extraordinarily propaganda-coated takeover of a giant swath of Africa. While he was charming America and all of Europe, who gave him accolades for his charity and goodness, he terrorizes and tortures millions of Africans, steals all of their resources, forces them into slavery, and ultimately kills an estimated 10 million Africans. Unsettlingly, the premise for going into the continent was that these Africans, who supposedly practiced cannibalism and such, needed to be “civilized” so that they could advance as a people. What happened instead was that the Belgians “in charge” went on a power trip of hatefulness and cruelty and became the savages against the people they went to “help.” The book is not as horrific as it sounds (though in fact the events are indeed horrific), and it’s a good reminder that unchecked power breeds the worst of evil and savagery.


What I didn’t enjoy – the books in my Bottom Shelf. It has hereby been titled The Bottom Shelf because if we run out of toilet paper…well, these will be the books that get used first.




When Life Gives You Lululemons – This book was annoying. It tried to be gossipy and catty, but it just achieved whiny and awkward.

A Series of Unfortunate Events – I read the first two books of these (more kid shelf research) and found them to be way too train-wrecky and anxiety-inducing for me. I suppose the title should have been a clue, but somehow assumed the hype around them would make me like them. Nope.

Alex and Eliza – This is a dumb fictionalization of the story of Alexander Hamilton. It veers too far away from the actual story, is ripe with coincidences, and was disappointing.

I Capture the Castle – I found this book on a list of “happy reads” – and oh my goodness – WHO were those people and how were they so sad that this book made them happy. The first half was fine and fun, but then it spiraled into a horrific simpering pity party and depression and ended horribly. I was angry when I finished it.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – This book had promise (I usually love endearing old men books), but it was too “easy”, too coincidental, didn’t dig into characters enough, and just had too little depth.

That’s it – for now. Thankfully, though I haven’t stockpiled toilet paper, I have accidentally stockpiled large amounts of unread books. So you know where to find me for the next month – reading and inventorying toilet paper squares, wondering when I have to break out The Bottom Shelf.

What do you plan on reading?

Diary of a Tired Mom – The Please No More Words Edition

It’s been a weird month for me.

My subconscious wants to write very badly – I have dreamed about writing blog posts multiple times in the past month.

And those dreams have not been limited to when I was asleep.

When I got my first dose ever of “the gas” at the dentist, I was so trippy that my entire being was spinning out in staticky, multicolored, 8D spirals, and as the galaxies orbited what was left of me, I began realizing deep truths such as “I don’t even exist anymore. But I faintly hear the dentist still drilling on my teeth. I wonder if she realizes I don’t exist anymore. Someone should tell her she’s wasting her time except it can’t be me because I don’t exist anymore. But wow this would make a great blog post. Wait until I describe these new colors and sensations to the world. It will CHANGE IT.”

(Right after that, I came back to existence enough to rip off the gas and vomit three times.)

(I’m pretty sure my dentist will not allow me to have such services again.)

So yeah, a weird month. But despite my desire to write, I have had a rough month health-wise, so I haven’t been able to write. I’m getting better, so I’ll try to document some of my jotted-down notes from the month.

(Except not the rest of my thoughts from the dentist’s chair. Because those would change the universe too drastically and I’m not ready to pull the rug out from under y’all like that.)

Tiers of Childhood Monologue.

In case you haven’t noticed, kids talk a lot.

They ask a lot of questions, tells the same things over and over, and LOVE to, once they can read, tell you everything they are reading.

The prime ages for this phenomenon, I believe, is between 6 and 10. Which helps me understand a little more why toddlers are middle schoolers are my jam.

(But, Noah is the snuggliest nine-year-old boy that ever lived, which entirely makes up for his endless words. Most of the time.)


(Also he’s prepared for anything. Which comes in handy more often than you’d think. Though I did tell him I was afraid this particular preparation belt would keep me from having grandkids if he fell at the wrong angle.)

Car rides are especially difficult for words with me, because the multi-tasking of operating a large machine AND listening to my kid (because I learned long ago that I am entirely incapable of tuning out any words ever) is tricky. So I have tried to hone the quality of words that come out in the car.

And so, there needs to be a helpful chart – a continuum if you will – of the things read or narrated to a parent while said parent is driving.

Level Negative Ten: iPad narration. I DO NOT CARE what your Monsters are singing about. THAT IS GREAT that you just killed all your Minecraft villagers and goats, but is it really? Did those angular goats really deserve that slaughter? But whatever you want to do to the goats, do it – just don’t tell me about it while I’m driving. (We even have a family code word (more on that later) for QUIT NARRATING YOUR IPAD GAME TO ME.)

Level Negative Eight: Unnecessary and/or repetitive questions about the future. This seems like a placeholder in conversation that my children love to use to fill space. Thankfully Ali learned my terror of answering questions about the future a couple years ago and ceased doing it most of the time, but it’s still a favorite hobby of Noah’s.

Level Negative Six: Jokes from a joke book. Or worse, jokes they know and have already told you ten times. Jokes are excruciating 99 out of 100 times. But then there’s always that one joke that catches you off guard and actually makes you laugh, which makes it not so bad.

Level Negative Two: Trivia books and Guinness Book of World Record books. These facts, read aloud, can be sometimes interesting. But then they seem to read the same pages over and over and they begin to feel like jokes.

Level Positive Two: Hearing about the books they’re reading, or their school books. I like knowing that they’re interested and involved in what they’re reading. Although Noah sometimes gets too involved in his history book, throwing his book on the floor and screaming at our forefathers for their prejudices, poor decision making, and foolish life-ending dueling. But that can be entertaining as well, giving this oration an overall positive rating.

Level Positive Four: Family Feud Cards. This is the one random Car Conversation Savior that I’ve found I enjoy. Someone got these for Christmas, and Noah loves quizzing Chris and I on Family Feud categories. They’re actually entertaining with the same magic that Family Feud is entertaining as a show – magic I don’t necessarily understand but appreciate nonetheless. But what makes them most fun is the children’s uncertainty about whether they’re inappropriate or not when they don’t understand them.

I present this example:

Noah: “Name things that start with the word ‘skinny'”

I snorted. My first thought was “Skinny B**ch”

I wondered if it was on the card, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask.

Chris and I got a few right, then trailed off.

Noah: “Do you give up?”

Us: “Sure.”

Noah:”There’s only one left but I think it’s inappropriate.”

Me: “Oh here it comes.”

Noah: “It’s ‘Skinny Late’ with Two T’s.”

Chris and I thought for a second, then exploded with laughter.

And immediately dared each other to go into Starbucks and order a Skinny Late with Two T’s.

I’m learning how to live with an apparent extrovert.

I held out hope for a long time that Noah was just an outgoing introvert, but the evidence continues to suggest a strong strain of extroversion. The amount of sounds that need to come out of his mouth at all times is staggering. It’s mostly questions but also comments, sounds, random thoughts, and just a stream of consciousness.

As such, over the past few years, we’ve created a collection of Callahan Family Code Words. I only have to say one word, and he knows exactly what I mean, rather than me having to use up all my words telling him to use less words.

Here is the legend to the Callahan Family Code Words. We haven’t copyrighted them, and so we offer them free to help you, too, have a less verbally overwhelming life.

Rubiks – “You’re making random, repetitive, completely unnecessary noises and I let it go for a while but I now need you to cease.”

Honda – “That question is either a.) a question about the future, b.) a completely unnecessary question, or c.) you’re just out of questions for the day because you’ve asked more than my brain can possibly handle. So I’m not answering it.”

Blubbermuffin – “NO ONE wants to hear your narration of your iPad game. If you don’t want your iPad to disappear forever, you’re gonna have to keep your mouth shut while playing.”

Banana – “Quit using your mouth and start using your eyes. We’re on a hike forgoodnesssake can we enjoy the sounds of nature PLEASE.”

The nicest part of these words is that I have to be less rude as a mother. There’s much less emotional content to just say “Honda” rather than “FOR THE LOVE DO NOT ASK ME ANOTHER BLOOMIN’ QUESTION, CHILD.” He knows what I mean and he accepts it without emotion. AND, the magic of the code word keeps him from arguing with me – it just ends the conversation.

But despite my code words’ helpfulness, I do assume this blog post has fully informed you of where my headspace has been going and why I haven’t had any words left for writing.