perspective

Pandemic Dilemmas

(A note: sometimes posts for our blog sit on the backburner. There’s all kinds of reasons for this. The post below was written in April 2020.  It has lived in the drafts folder ever since.  Current news and trends brought it back to mind these past couple of weeks, and it seems as relevant as it was then, if not more so. The resources I worry about most now are our health care workers, but as you can read, those worries were already bubbling up last April.)

It was the classic problem.

Hans has a sick child.  Hans is poor and can’t afford the medicine his child needs to live.  Is Hans morally wrong for stealing the medicine his child needs to survive?

In the eyes of the law, sure he would be wrong.  Stealing is a crime. He doesn’t have the right to take what belongs to someone else.  But is he blameworthy?  If he does it, should he go to jail for it?  If he doesn’t steal it, isn’t there a different kind of penalty?

I was a philosophy major in college, specializing in ethics, or figuring out right / wrong / morality. I shouldn’t say figuring it out, since we rarely if ever got to the bottom of anything.  But we spent a lot of time thinking about Hans and these sticky situations, where different people have different rights and those rights cross or conflict.  Moral dilemmas.  So many of the ones that interested me most involved relationships, deciding who is more important, and trying to figure out a good reason why.

I’ve had my moments of anxiety during the course of the coronavirus so far.  But it’s the dilemmas that trouble me most. I get deeply, truly sad when I think about health care workers being forced to make decisions about who has access to life saving medical equipment if supplies are running out.

Here’s an example: Two 50-year old men come in to the ER at roughly the same time, in roughly the same condition, same medical history. About the only meaningful difference is that one of them has three kids, one of them has none. Should that be the deciding factor if only one of them can have a ventilator?

Of course, it only gets more complicated.  What if the one with the kids is overweight and pre-diabetic while the other is in good overall health.  Or one is married, the other is a widower (and what if the one with the kids is the widower, or the one without kids…does that matter?)  One is an affluent business owner with many employees who depend on him, the other is on public assistance.  One is insured, the other is not.  One is African American, the other is White. Add in factors of gender, age, medical history, addiction, other ailments that might be seen as patient life choices (like smoking) and others that are genetic.  You can see how the picture gets very complicated very quickly.  What matters?  What doesn’t?  Who decides?

In our medical ethics classes, we would talk about assisted suicide and the problems with a doctor “playing God,” deciding who lives and who dies…or in the coronavirus case, who even has the chance.

I know a taste of this, from when I was the one who made the decision to take my father off of breathing support to effectively end his life.  Even though he had prepared me to do it and I felt confident it was the right thing, it still stays with me. I will just say that all of this is simpler when it is clear cut.  Still, it is not simple and never easy.

I know there are people who question if this whole pandemic is real.  If all the staying at home and disruption of our daily lives is necessary.  As a member of a family who is supported by a restaurant, I face the same economic uncertainty that has so many people anxious, restless, angry, and scared. I can’t minimize that suffering, but I hope that the help in our communities and from our leaders will sustain us for a little while until we can get the virus more or less medically managed.

What wakes me up at night, though, is thinking of the doctors.  The nurses.  The medical heroes whose hearts and minds will be scarred from watching people die that they truly wanted to help.  That they could have and would have made a valiant effort to save in nearly any other circumstance.  The people they eventually had to walk away from because there wasn’t enough equipment to go around. The trauma to their hearts and minds is immeasurable, not to mention all the people who might not have a chance to survive if we run out of ICU resources.

I believe these moments say much about our values as a culture, as a society. Can we just sit tight for a little bit? Can we help our neighbors and loved ones survive this strange and challenging moment in history?  In my mind, if we can prevent the damage to those who care for us and give everyone a chance to get access to care, as they say flattening the curve can, we should.  If you doubt that this is a real thing, please find a health care worker and listen to them.  Please.

There are a million other issues with this situation.  Reasons to be angry, stressed, depressed.  Some day I may write about my worries over my students now trying to learn at home.  Or the heroism of medical workers who continue to show up and do their jobs when they are inadequately protected.  Or the many other front line workers, often forgotten and in high risk but low-paying jobs.

Surely, some day soon I may be writing about an actual Hans, who lost his hours at his job and needs medicine for his kids. Those stories are out there and more are coming.  The economic, social, mental, and physical impacts will be spinning out for years and years. Once this initial crisis has passed, we will turn our full attention to the suffering of many other groups who need help, who need heart, who need solutions. We will be writing about this for a long time. This is an endurance test. Both our patience muscles and our helping muscles must grow, strengthen, and sustain throughout this marathon.

But for now, in this initial fury, I worry for the doctors and nurses and patients.  It takes me back to those college classrooms, before I had kids of my own, when Hans’s predicament was nothing more than an interesting little thought experiment to ponder. Now I have kids.  And a lot more to lose.  I don’t wish true dilemmas on anyone.  While there is a choice, there is no win.

perspective

Doctor Doctor

A not-so-well-known fact about me: I’m a doctor. No, not the kind of doctor that prescribes medications or carries a stethoscope. I’m a doctor of the mind – a PhD. Earned in 2012 in Language and Literacy Education from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!)

Why do I bring this up? Recently I read an op-ed and surrounding arguments about our incoming First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and whether or not she should own her “Dr.” title. The author raised all kinds of small-minded reasons why she should drop the Dr. title, even calling her “kiddo” at one point, as if her using the title she earned was childish and deserved a patronizing pat on the head. The arguments he made only showed his own shallow thinking and aren’t even worth reviewing here. Still all this made me mad, and also made me reflect on my own title.

I’m not going to bother to defend the work it took to earn my title. Six years, countless courses, teaching, publications, awards, etc. I have an obnoxiously long academic vita that does that. In some ways the PhD is a measure of stubbornness and I earned that through and through. I also won’t argue that all Dr. titles are worth the same. Especially now, when we see even more brightly how health care is heroism, I can’t even begin to equate what I have with what they can do.

What my PhD shows is that I have learned how to think. I have learned how to collect data, analyze it, theorize it, and write about it at length. When I earned that title, I knew that it was one of the few things no one could take away from me. I am one of the two “Drs.” in my building. Maybe it won’t surprise you that a school actually makes a big deal about a doctorate. Yes, my kindergarteners call me Dr. Friese. (Sometimes, with a wink at Southern custom, they call me “Miss Dr. Friese.”) For a while I wondered if the students should use my title or if it really mattered, but now I think it’s good for students to see that thinking is valuable in all areas of life. If they love that kind of advanced-level thinking and intellectual work / play, it can be pursued in countless contexts. Doctoring isn’t just in an office or hospital. We don’t all wear scrubs (and special props to those who do!) The more people see different possibilities, especially kids, the better.

On the flip side, Dr. has its downsides. I can be a total snob about things. I can’t unsee typos on a professional document. I ask too many questions at times, which can lead to the “analysis paralysis,” or being so stuck in overthinking I don’t get anything done. (I’m trying to remedy this with my OLW this year: DO!)

I also know that titles aren’t everything. Several people I know are much smarter than me learning from the school of hard knocks or lessons from in the trenches. I’ll be the first to argue that my classroom smarts doesn’t always help me “in the streets.” I embody the absentminded professor stereotype in many areas of life. Many will make a better living and a happier life taking paths that don’t necessarily lead to titles, certifications, or initials. So a Dr. isn’t everything, but it is something and it was the right challenge for me. Whether it’s initials or just more digits in your bank account, I’ll honor what you have earned.

What bothers me most about how this writer treated Dr. Biden is the tone and the underlying sexism of it all. As if being First Lady should make anything else she does or has done take a back seat. As if prioritizing her work as a highly educated educator is sort of laughable. As if the title conferred by marriage is the one she should favor over the one she earned for thinking, writing, and persisting. How many times have I gotten mail directed to Dr. and Mrs. instead of Mr. and Dr. or even Dr. and Mr.? Why does doctoring default to men? Why should women minimize what they earned when it takes nothing from anyone else? Sometimes I even minimize what I have earned myself, if I let the opinions of others invade my mind and erode my confidence.

When I taught at UGA, my students called me Beth. It was a personal choice and I had my reasons. These days, if someone calls me Mrs. Friese at work, I don’t correct them but my bosses often will if they hear it. Although my interests have taken me elsewhere, all this has revived my thinking about that title, what it means, and what it’s worth. Some might say I don’t use my doctorate, but in many ways I use it daily. I think. I write. I argue. I reason. I plan. I observe. I analyze. Every. Single. Day.

So yes, you may call me doctor. If you don’t, it doesn’t change who I am or what I’ve earned. In the mean time, I won’t waste energy worrying about what you think of me or my title. I’ve got too much to plan and DO to fret over small-minded guys.

business

The Deal

The deal is dead so I guess I can write about it. The deal I wanted to wrap up in 2020 with a pretty bow is in the toilet. Gone just like that.

Instead of celebrating the new deal in my portfolio, I am reviewing how it got squashed. It wasn’t just squashed once. It was squashed many times. Why? No lenders want to take a risk in this particular industry thanks to COVID.

Despite a rocking year of financials and long standing history, the market is considered volatile. This is crazy to me because the housing market is booming. Lenders will lend people money for a $400,000.00 home but they can lose their job just like that. As an entrepreneur you need to make things work, not just collect a paycheck.

For this deal I was willing to bet my blood, sweat and tears on an opportunity that is solid and immediately generating revenue but that’s too risky for the stuffy bankers in their suits and ties. 

This is just an example of what’s wrong with today. It’s okay for me. I have other irons in the fire so I’m going to keep on fighting and maybe revisit that opportunity later. Maybe later I won’t want the deal because I wanted it when others saw the odds were down. I like the underdog shots. The come-from-nowhere wins. The opportunities others will toss to the side because it takes grit to get the outcome desired.

For now I’ll watch. I’ll listen. I’ll soak in the experience. I mean I do say you have get some nos before you get the yes. I also believe in karma, timing and gut feelings.

In my gut I know when the time is right for me, the deal of a lifetime will pass by and I’ll be ready to sink my teeth in. For now I’ll wait. I’ll watch. I’ll learn. I’ll keep putting those coins in the piggy bank so I’m ready when opportunity comes knocking.

Can you say Corona has put up a wall for you in 2020? How did you handle your challenge(s)? What, if anything, are you doing now to be ready for traversing the wall. Hopefully your wall is just temporary like mine.

A new day. A new opportunity to get better. Moving on to greener pastures. A little farewell to bankers. I’ll don’t like government loans anyway. I’d rather start with a $20 bill and see how much I grow it.

Starting something from nothing is far more gratifying but not for the weak. Maybe you now know something about me. I will always be chasing the next version of me.

challenges, fitness and nutrition

Duathlon DIY-Style, and 2021’s OLW

One of my goals last year was to challenge myself to a duathlon. I ended up registering for a summer triathlon which was pushed back until next year.

I had all but given up on this goal at the end of the summer. After the race was postponed, I lost my excitement and drive to train and learn for the event. It wasn’t until a friend rallied a group of gym women around an engine building cardio challenge that I found the will to run and bike again with any kind of regularity.

I knew I wouldn’t tri this year, but a duathlon wasn’t out of the question. I decided not to register for an official race at year end. But I wanted to at least complete a “ceremonial” sprint duathlon to have a benchmark and a check mark. So I went for it one frigid December morning just after sunrise. Just me, my playlist, my essentials and my mileage counters. On my mark, get set, go.

3.1 mile run. The mist was rising off the lake. Bridges were still slippery from the chill and the dew. Three loops, making my way along. Not too fast, but not too bad

Transition to the bike. Fleece hat off, helmet on. Legs adjusting to the pedals. Skittering along. Ups, downs, loops. The sting of the cold on my face. Losing feeling in my hands as I watch the miles tick, tick, tick away. Singing along while avoiding potholes and traffic. I finally found a quarter mile loop for a soccer field off the beaten path. Rode it again and again and again for about 8 miles. Only a quick stop for a carb boost in the middle. Then back to dancing on the pedals. Saddle soreness set in at mile 8. Toe cramps began at 10. I held on to finish the 12.4 mile stretch. Ended this leg averaging 10.9 mph which is actually a decent pace. If I had been on flats the whole time it would have been quicker. Lifting and loading my bike with frozen hands was a challenge all its own.

Then the final crunch. The one you train for. The one that hurts. Off the bike and into the last run. When I trained for the tri early this year, I read about this transition and how brutal it is. The quick pace of the bike makes that last mile grueling at best. I started pretty well then it quickly deteriorated. As the mile wore on, I just willed myself forward. I passed a committee of vultures. Keep singing. Dodged piles of goose poop on the path. Keep moving. Step after step. One at a time. No stopping. Knees hurting. No breaks. Just all ahead as much as I can.

I finished. No crowds no medals no beers or cokes. No parades or high fives. No banana no T-shirt. But I checked it off. I don’t need festivities to know what I have done. Didn’t quite make it under my two hour goal, but sometimes completion is the victory in that moment. I will get that goal next time. I’ll take my imaginary participation ribbon thankyouverymuch.

A DIY-duathlon gives you a lot of time to think. My mind couldn’t help but wander as I looped around and around. As much discomfort as I felt, I thanked my body for carrying me through those 17-plus miles. My mental and physical stamina made it a successful effort. A year like this one makes me realize all the more how much these different types of health are worth.

I’ve shared many times how much I love words and wordplay here on the blog. In those bike miles, I found my mind playing with the word duathlon. I bet many people didn’t even know that was a word. Then I broke it into do-athlon. Which led to a good long think about the word “DO.” I am such a thinker, often an overthinker, and not always such a do-er. I decided in those miles that my word of 2021 will be DO. It will be my year to jump in and get things done. I’m still settling into this word and what it will mean for me. I hope you’ll read along wherever the path leads.

dare to be different

Change

Change impacts people in many different ways. Many don’t like change. Some fear change. Others crave change. Where do you fall in the mix?

For me, I crave change. I like variables. I dislike the hamster wheel feeling. Running in circles with no end in sight. I enjoy challenges that come with change. The unknown. What’s around the corner. How will I react?

Amidst a change in ownership at my gym, I learned my daughter doesn’t like change. What an irony since we have been living in constant change almost the entire year thanks to the pandemic. She said she likes things just the way they are. She doesn’t like to change the paint on the walls. She doesn’t like to move things from one side to another. To test this theory, I asked her to change bedrooms with me. She thought about it. She seriously contemplated. Can I have your bathroom too? Yes. She debated. The final answer is no that’s too much change! I will be missing this. I would need to do this different. The list went on. It was all the negatives and no positives.

I learned a lot during this process about her and how I can help her adapt to the change she faces in school due to the pandemic and other unexpected scenarios. I also learned that I again love change and thrive at even thought of changing rooms. The excitement was in the air. Would I like the new environment? How would I change the layout. What fuels me, panics her. 

Are you the type to live in the same house for 50 years because you don’t like change? Is it the inconvenience of change or the stress of change? Since some may fear change is that the same as not liking change? I don’t think so. Some truly fear change and get anxiety over change. While others just don’t like change as it’s uncomfortable or just an inconvenience. An annoying interference in your normal life.

Are you the type to keep the same job through retirement because making new friends and adapting to new environments is too uncomfortable?

How many kids struggle with change if their parents move because of the unknown?

The sooner you test your tolerance to change the better. Knowing where you stand is important. Knowing how to adapt or help others around you see the positives of change. Especially when change can strike without notice forcing you to learn a new skill or may mean new friends. Changing environments or scenery may be just what the doctor ordered for your life.  

Can you adapt or pivot if you got laid off from work or would you fall into a dark space? This is a change many can’t predict. Happiness is a choice. Choose happy. Where you are today is sort of tomorrow’s history lesson. You can visit the history at any time but change is in front for you. A forward progression. You chart your path ahead when you embrace change. You already know what history gave you, why not see what change brings to your future?

Thought post #1121. Hope you are enjoying your new year.