Pandemic Diary, March 5th, 2021: Broken Together

One of my favourite songs is a duet by Amy Grant and James Taylor called Don’t Try So Hard (even though I consider myself an agnostic, I still love Amy Grant’s voice and I am still a big fan of her music, which I listened to endlessly as a teenager in my church youth group days).

So, I tossed it into YouTube Music to spin up a radio station of related songs, and up pops a song from Casting Crowns, Called Broken Together. It’s actually a good song:

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light…

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together?
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us?
The only way we’ll last forever is broken together

And “broken together” seems like an apt two-word description of what all of us, collectively as a society, are going through with this soul-crushing, dream-deferring coronavirus pandemic. I find myself wandering through my rarely-left-behind apartment like a zombie. I pause on my way to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, and suddenly feel the weight of painful reality come crashing down upon me again, and I lean against the wall and close my eyes for a minute, and steel myself to continue. Keep going, keep moving, keep breathing. Keep living.

The next three to six months of the pandemic are going to be hardest stretch of the marathon yet, I fear. It doesn’t help that I have little to no faith in Brian Pallister’s incompetent, pompous, and adversarial Conservative provincial government here in Manitoba, which has largely mismanaged this crisis almost from day one.

For example, take a look at this map showing the locations of vaccination clinics in two neighbouring provinces, Saskatechewan to the west, and my Manitoba to the east:

God, when you wish you were living in Saskatchewan, you really know your life is going sideways. 😉

(OK, I was joking, people. It was a joke. Check the emoji! Please put your pitchforks and your tar and feathers away. I already got almost-cancelled last week, and I have zero wish to repeat that experience.)

Sometimes my anger, verging on pure volcanic outrage, is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, the only thing that propels me through my day. But anger is exhausting, and I am already bone tired. So sometimes—often—it slips into depression. I took three sick days from my paying job last week, something I am not proud of. But it was necessary. I need to take care of myself. I am broken.

So many of us are now feeling broken, yearning for the simpler, pre-pandemic times, and that brokenness, and that need to connect, is expressing itself in society in unexpected and weird ways. We now gather and commiserate on Clubhouse and in Twitter Spaces instead of our local community bars and coffee houses.

Last night, as I was listlessly scrolling for some much-needed socialization on Clubhouse, I came across one room with Lindsay Lohan and her acolytes, and a second room where Paris Hilton was presiding over her minions (what, is this 2006 again?!??). All we need is for Britney Spears to pop up on Clubhouse (Free Britney!) and then we’d have the Unholy Trinity riding together again…I mean, if that isn’t a sign of the impending apocalypse, what is?? (Thank God, Margaret Cho was discussing female comedians and comedy with her usual acerbic wit in another room. Some sanity still prevails.)

Everything old is new again: two-thirds of these people were in Clubhouse rooms last night (surely this must be a sign of the impending apocalypse)

Use whatever technology you can muster—Clubhouse, Twitter, FaceTime and Zoom, and yes, even social VR and virtual worlds—to maintain our connections, our togetherness, in this time of brokenness. Reach out to each other. Comfort each other.

We can be broken, together.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

Pandemic Diary: January 23rd, 2021: Happy Birthday to Me

My brother called me this morning at 9:00 a.m.. I had slept in, and he left a message for me to call him. When I did get up later this morning, I saw that he had called, and since he telephones me so infrequently (we usually text), my first thought is that it was an emergency, and I called him back.

Only to have him wish me a happy birthday! I had completely forgotten that today is my 57th birthday!! I told him on the phone, as we shared a good laugh, that every day is so much like every other day while I have been working from home in self-isolation for my university library system during the pandemic. All my days tend to run together!

As a birthday present, the Manitoba government has slightly lifted a few restrictions in our province-wide, code-red pandemic lockdown, which has been in place since early November.

Each household can now have a maximum of two external visitors (and no, they can’t be two different people every time; it has to be the same two people). And stores selling non-essential items (books, clothing, consumer electronics, etc.) can now reopen, provided they operate at 25% of their normal store capacity and practice social distancing, face masking, etc.

The timing is perfect, as my trusty iPad 2 has finally bit the dust. I had used it almost every day for the past ten years; the thing was built like a tank! I often would use it to watch Netflix movies or TV, while lying on my sofa in the evenings.

There is a (single) Apple store way up here in the frozen prairie hinterlands of Winnipeg, but I may opt to do my shopping online instead, as I did for my Valve Index. I really don’t feel comfortable walking into any shopping mall right now, even with a face mask and practicing social distancing.

Canada is experiencing delays in vaccine production and delivery, and I am becoming extremely worried about all the new coronavirus variants popping up in the U.K., South Africa, and many other places. It is possible that many vaccines and vaccine candidates will have to be rejigged to handle at least some of these mutations of the virus. The very thought makes me anxious. We are not out of the woods yet! A Manitoba doctor tweeted the following disheartening update yesterday:

Oh, and the Manitoba provincial government also announced that barbers and hair stylists were allowed to reopen, too, provided they adhere to the same restrictions as stores, plus take contact information on all their customers, in case any contact tracing is needed. My mother will be so happy; she has wanted to get her hair cut and styled!

So, next weekend, I will drive across the city to pay a socially-distanced visit to my mother and stepfather at their seniors life-lease condo, and we will finally exchange our Christmas presents, a month late! And I will receive my mom’s birthday present; I told her cash would be a perfectly acceptable gift! (I don’t want to set foot in a bank, or touch a germy ATM number pad, if I don’t have to, and having a little spending money in my wallet can come in handy at times.)

I am still struggling with depression and anxiety at times, but I am coping as best as I can. I hope that you are staying safe and healthy!

Pandemic Diary, December 13th, 2020: When Life Gives You Bananas, Make Banana Bread

It is officially Day 273 since I began working in self-isolation from my apartment for the University of Manitoba Libraries.

Here in Manitoba, we are seeing widespread community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The 5-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is stubbornly hovering around 13 to 14 percent, 25 days into a province-wide, code red pandemic lockdown. In the past couple of weeks, I have only left my apartment to throw out the garbage in the nearest dumpster (although I should put on a face mask and go for a few socially distanced walks in my neighbourhood near the University of Manitoba).

While I am hunkered down in my messy man cave, I am routinely horrified by local news reports and social media. Local Winnipeg news website ChrisD.ca shared the following video via Twitter, showing the crowds lined up at the Regent Avenue Costco on Friday:

Sweet minty Jesus, Winnipeg is doomed!! We’re not going to see the test positivity rate go down if people keep doing stuff like this. And what the hell happened to the one-person-per-Costco-card rule they were supposed to be enforcing? I see a lot of families here.

I haven’t set foot in a Costco (or for that matter, any retail establishment, except my local drug store to get my flu shot) since mid-March. Shoppers Drug Mart delivers my prescription medications for free, and I recently learned from a coworker in a Zoom meeting that they will now deliver non-prescription items as well.

I shop online for my groceries on the Walmart website, then book an appointment for grocery pickup. Wearing a face mask, I drive into one of the designated parking spots at the back of the store, get out of my car, and stand a safe distance away while a sales associate loads up my car, then drive away, liberally applying hand sanitizer just in case I picked anything nasty up.

I indicated in my most recent Walmart order that I would consider substitutions for items which were out of stock. Most of the time, these substitutions are pretty minor: one brand of chicken rice soup for another, canned pineapple rings instead of crushed pineapple (which I mix with plain, fat-free yogurt for a Weight Watchers-approved snack, even though my dieting went completely out the window when the pandemic started).

But the last time I picked up my grocery order from Walmart, they were out of strawberries, so I received…two bunches of bananas. Now, bananas are not my favourite fruit, but I ate a few, and sliced up a couple to mix with my bran flakes.

But I now still have one bunch of overly ripe bananas, so I am Googling banana bread recipes (I had stocked up on flour, sugar, and other baking ingredients in my pandemic shopping before I began working from home for my university library system on March 16th, 2020). To rephrase the popular saying, when life gives you bananas, make banana bread.

When life gives you bananas, make banana bread…

So, how am I doing? I still struggle with anxiety and depression, but I do have supports in place (antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, biweekly cellphone chats with my psychiatrist, weekly sessions with Kira). I am also beta-testing a social VR group therapy platform*, so instead of getting into my car, I slip on my VR headset and talk about my problems with other people in a small group. I have found it to be just as effective as a real-life therapy session. Lack of physical exercise aside, I am taking pretty good care of myself, and coping as best I can.

I have to keep reminding myself that these are not normal circumstances, and that it’s OK to feel anxious, depressed, sad, upset and angry at times. I am currently going through the worst bout of insomnia I have ever experienced in my life. After three nights of fitful sleep, I was such a wreck that I actually took a sick day from work last week, and spent the day in bed, trying to catch up on some Z’s.

I am currently struggling with the worst insomnia in my life, and every morning I wake up feeling tired (photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash)

Most mornings, I start my day by writing up a blogpost (like this one). It does give me a small sense of accomplishment, and its helps get my neurons firing again after a restless night’s sleep. I just brew a big pot of black coffee, plunk myself down in front of my computer, open up WordPress, and start typing away!

And yes, I know that I have been neglecting other social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and writing almost exclusively about Second Life lately. I make no apologies for that; SL is one of the things that is helping me stay sane during the pandemic. To a large extent, socializing in social VR and virtual worlds has replaced potentially life-threating socializing in the real world.

And, during an unseasonably warm and unusually snow-free December here in Winnipeg, I am truly appreciating my visits to the various Christmas sims in Second Life, such as the beautiful, peaceful ‘Tis The Season sim (SLURL), complete with gently falling snow and tiny, twinkling lights on the trees:

‘Tis The Season Christmas sim in Second Life

Bray’s Place has become my community of choice in Second Life, and recently, I actually gave up my Linden Home (well, OK, one of my Linden Homes**… 😉 ) and moved into a rented home on the Bray’s Place sim, something I thought I would never do. But Bray’s has become an important community to me, and I intend to support Bray Preston-Rising and her work as much as I can, in any way that I can.

Bray’s Place Blues Club in Second Life

Stay safe, and stay healthy!


*Because this is a closed, invitation-only beta test, I am not allowed to name the platform or talk about it in any way other than in the most general terms. Those of you who are social VR aficionados may be able to make an educated guess, which I unfortunately will be unable to confirm or deny. When they are ready, and give me permission, I will blog about it.

**I have three Premium Second Life accounts at present and (until last week), a Linden Home for each. I used to have only two, but I upgraded one account from Basic to Premium to change that avatar’s name, and to snap up one of the lovely new Victorian Linden Homes, which I have yet to decorate! I’m saving that particular task as one of my Christmas projects. After setting up my newly rented house on the Bray’s Place sim, I have discovered a hitherto hidden talent for virtual home decorating! It makes a refreshing change from my usual passion of shopping for fabulous freebies and styling my small army of alts.

Pandemic Diary, December 3rd, 2020: “If you don’t think COVID is real, right now, you are an idiot.”

Today, beleaguered Manitoba premier Brian Pallister (who is currently the least popular premier in Canada because of his government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic), made an emotional plea to Manitobans to avoid holiday gatherings:

One commenter on Twitter said:

The problem isn’t that he’s the bringer of bad news; it’s that his government failed to have the foresight to prepare for the inevitable second wave of the pandemic back in the summer when things were relatively under control. It’s also his and his cabinet’s arrogance.

To see his arrogance first-hand, all you have to do is watch the following recent CBC News interview with Rosemary Barton, which is a total cringefest:

The CBC’s Rosemary Barton rightfully grills Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on his woeful mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. You can watch him deflect, blame the people of Manitoba, boast about his government’s response, and squirm. Brian even goes so far as to blame Rosemary herself for not having any ideas on how to respond to a pandemic (and she is NOT having it, rightfully reminding him that she is not an elected official).

Today, Brian was also complaining about aboriginal Manitobans getting a share of any coronavirus vaccines delivered to the province by the federal government, when they become available. CBC Manitoba reporter Bartley Kives tweeted:

Pallister insists Manitobans will be short-changed on initial vaccine deliveries because of our large Indigenous community. Indigenous communities are more vulnerable and need to be served early. Says per-capita distribution won’t take that into account.

Dr. Victoria Austen responded:

Indigenous Manitobans ARE Manitobans. Pallister’s point is only true if you don’t believe this.

Racist, dog-whistle politics has zero place in a pandemic. Brian Pallister should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. And I dearly hope the Conservative party will get their asses kicked in the next provincial election, and that the opposition NDP, under their party leader Wab Kinew*, forms the next government.


Meanwhile, south of the border, at a Michigan hearing looking into election fraud, part of Donald Trump’s quixotic quest to get the U.S. federal election results overturned, Melissa Carone (a contract worker for voting technology company Dominion Voting Systems) gave such unintentionally hilarious train-wreck testimony that it quickly went viral.

You simply have to watch the following three-minute video (I simply cannot WAIT to see what Saturday Night Live does with this…is Victoria Jackson still around to play Melissa?):

I have now watched this video several times, and I still completely crack up when Melissa says to Rep. Steven Johnson on the House panel (who is a Republican), “…And I signed something saying that if I’m wrong, I could go to prison *tongue pop*. Did you?”

And, of course, the Twitterverse is giving Melissa Carone the roasting which she so richly deserves! Comedian Kylie Brakeman promptly posted the following hilarious video to Twitter:


Feminist website Jezebel has reported:

According to [Melissa] Carone’s Wednesday night testimony her life has been “destroyed” by speaking out. “My life has been completely destroyed because of this,” Carone said, claiming that she and her family has been threatened and that in addition to having to move, she’s “had to get rid of social media.” (Carone seems to continue to have a Facebook page, where she describes herself as a proud #boymom and #girlmom, as well as a LinkedIn account.)

“I can’t even get an actual job anymore, I can’t,” she said. “Because Democrats like to ruin your lives. That’s why. Just like they do to Trump.”

Oh, honey, NO.

Melissa, the reason you can’t find a job anymore is not because of the Democrats. It’s because you’re a delusional, pathalogical liar and a lunatic. I mean, you made Rudy Giuliani—Rudy Guiliani!— look relatively sane by comparison, as he tried and failed to shush you in abject embarrassment. That’s a pretty mean feat!


*Wab Kinew is an indigenous man, and if he were to be elected, he would become Canada’s first aboriginal premier.