THE clear path out of poverty

The path to higher earnings, future financial stability, home ownership, and out of poverty is education.

The decision to pursue education beyond high school happens at 18 years of age, a time when young adults are too young to make the decision alone.

If parents push for college, it is more likely to happen and the path opens.

If parents don’t, the young adult is likely to remain in the same socioeconomic status as their parents.

It only takes one generation in a family to leap to the next level of education for future generations to follow.

This is simple cause and effect. It is logical. You may argue loudly with your emotions but your yelling cannot dent this fact.

If you want to argue that higher education is too expensive, you are dodging the challenge and casting blame instead of stepping out of your situation. There are loans and grants and scholarships available.

If you want to argue that you didn’t get into college because of poor grades, poor SAT scores, poor reading comprehension, poor math skills, or whatever, you have to look to your previous choices. Was it not cool to appear smart so you didn’t even though you were? Was it easier to get through school by avoiding college prep courses? Were there kids in kindergarten who could read and add while you were learning letters and numbers and colors–so you always felt behind and it wasn’t fair? Did you drop out of high school for a minimum wage job that will keep you in poverty for the next 70 years of your life? FOR THE NEXT 70 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE. You can’t change the past or the financial situation of the family who raised you, but you can learn the way for your future children by blazing the trail for yourself.

There are technical colleges, 2-year colleges, that you can go to at any point in your life. If you are 30 and think your chance for college and a better life have passed you by, you are wrong. Go to school. Find a path out to a better job and higher pay. The 2-year school can get you into the 4-year school and then into graduate school. Do not tell me you hate school. Find something you like to learn and study that. It will be very different from being forced to study everything in high school when you were an immature teen with social pressure to be like the crowd. Adults do not care about that. You are an adult.

Arguing that you are down and out and sad and poor can make the world pity you when you want respect. You deserve equality and respect is abundantly available to be earned. You are just as intelligent as those other 18-year-old high school graduates whose parents made them go to college when yours did not. You know you are. I teach students just like you, so I know you are too.

No matter where you come from, what successes you skipped in the past, what fears and doubts you use as a shield to keep from trying, you have the capacity to do as much and as well as anyone else in the world. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. I know you so I know you can do it.


fortitude and diligence

The scene: a doctor’s office during a pandemic. At the building door, aides check temperatures and ask about symptoms. They hand out masks. At the reception desk patients hand paperwork to a nice lady in a mask. She sits between two other ladies without masks. In a doctor’s office.

In the waiting room, ten patients sit and watch a TV show about ghost hunters. They sit spread carefully apart from one another. Five wear their masks pulled down below their nose or chin. They know they aren’t contagious and it’s too hot and uncomfortable to breathe through those things. They heard on another show about how this whole virus thing is just a hoax anyway. They don’t believe any of those numbers. One patient in a mask gets up and waits in the hall. They watch her go and wonder what’s wrong with her.

In the examining room, the doctor wears a N95 mask throughout the appointment. He uses the same mouse and keyboard bare-handed as the nurse before him. He uses his cell phone to check his texts. He uses hand sanitizer instead of soap. No gloves. He half-listens and checks his watch.

At checkout one lady wears her mask and the other does not. The patient who waited in the hall earlier must check out with the mask-less lady. She stands far back from the desk and stretches out her arm comically to receive the discharge paper. She uses hand sanitizer twice on the way out.

Sometimes all the effort to be careful feels futile, like only a very small minority of us in this country truly try not to spread this virus. Like maybe there are 17 of us against the 330 million of the rest of you. Since childhood we carry a hopeful notion that the people in charge are careful. They care. They are taking care of us. They wouldn’t let anything bad happen to us. They don’t exist. We must take care of ourselves and each other.

I watch the numbers and try not to watch the news all day. New cases of COVID-19 in the US this week did not drop from last week, as they had been for three consecutive weeks. Get ready: we are about to see a bounce, where the number of cases starts trending back UP instead of down each week. june 2 2020


The bounce was expected, what with the very early, very optimistic, very ignorant re-openings, and people partying on the Memorial Day weekend, going to restaurants and getting haircuts. Add to that the mass peaceful protests of this week over the horrific killing of George Floyd and America can expect a resurgence by mid-month. My heart hurts for the brave protestors who will die from COVID-19.

Obviously I am afraid for all of you. Last week the right hand slope of my model predicted hope for a safe end by the end of December. With the inclusion of this week’s data, the end is delayed well into January 2021. Next week with the coming resurgence, we could be looking at February. It is hard to fight a virus with only flimsy weapons like fortitude and diligence. We need shatterproof weapons like science.




Freedom rings

My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Give me liberty or give me death.

The land of the free and the home of the brave.

God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam, God bless America my home sweet home.

How fragile our country seems. No leadership. Racked by virus. Splintered by work-from-home. Lonely. Tired. Hungry. Poor. Sad. Neglected. Alone.

After just four months, we can’t remember how good we had it before, and we can’t see a path to after. It’s no wonder so many are sticking their heads in the sand and denying the existence of humanity’s dire predicament. Like a small child denied a treat, adult humans stomp and yell. They have tantrums about unimportant irrelevant have-to-have-it-NOW desires, leaning on their inalienable rights to ignore cause and effect, to have their way over the best interests of anyone and everyone else.

If every human thought as much about others as they do themselves, we’d have had this mess wrapped up and gone months ago. Our insistence on what is ours and what we deserve gives a boost to the bad guy–that crowned, spherical, sticky beast of RNA that hunts us.

I have no good news. No advice. I drown in fear each day and all night. I am here to confirm for you that someone somewhere is still in isolation, still doing what is best for all of you by staying home. Don’t thank me. Don’t mock me. Do it with me. Without new hosts, the virus cannot survive. Don’t give it a ride on your body to infect my mother. Do not do it.

All right, it is number time. This week the virus will have taken 100,000 Americans. Gone. Soon there will be 400,000 deaths on Earth, and 6 million cases worldwide. And up, and up, and up the numbers go.

Last week, there were 152,946 new confirmed cases in the US. Remember we locked down the country on a week in March with less than 1000 new cases. We are opening up with a spread rate 150 times worse, with leadership that refuses to acknowledge the pandemic or the steps required to stop it.

Politics. Dollars. More important than American lives. How did we get here?

New cases weekof may 26 2020

Reports by state indicate some states have declining cases and others have increasing cases, but as a nation, the number of new cases is shrinking. A linear best fit model of the right side with the negative slope confirms last week’s prediction: we could reach zero (0) new cases at the end of December. But only if we stay home and refuse to play for the virus’ team. Stick with the home team and save a few humans.

God bless Earth, our home sweet home.


Crying COVID tears

These days it isn’t merely ‘ok to cry.’ Crying is necessary.

Crying after days of trying to hold it in is like popping the cork on a warm fizzy soda. The pressure build up is too great to contain. Too much stress. Too much worry. Too much fear. Not enough laughter. Let it go.

My dam busted today, completely by surprise. An hour before I’d have insisted I was doing all right. First a tear slipped out. Then I sobbed.

I’m still wobbly after a few cycles.

Why did think I was ok?

  • I sent flowers to my mom and they got to her.
  • I sent yeast to my daughter and it got to her.
  • I sent birthday presents to my almost-nine-year-old grandson and they got to him.
  • I saw my family on Google Meet.
  • I talked to my two-year-old grandson.
  • I played horse with my husband.
  • I played ping pong and laughed my head off.
  • I drank a lot.

Why am I clearly absolutely and completely not OK?

  • There is no way for me to get to my mom.
  • There is no way for me to get to my daughters.
  • There is no way for me to get to my almost-nine-year-old grandson and his sisters.
  • There is no way for me to get to my family.
  • There is no way to get to my two-year-old grandson and his puppies.
  • Everyone beats me at horse.
  • I hadn’t laughed in months.
  • Drinking does not relieve pain or sustain sleep.
  • I sleep about once a week.
  • I’m crying again.

I think I understand the furious and broiling anger so many are spewing, though I don’t have room to feel anger. A pandemic that kills family and friends makes us feel helpless. We are empathic to human pain all around us. We know that same pain is coming for each of us. Anger won’t stop any of that. I think anger is a cloak against all of the other feelings. I wish I could sustain such armor.

Enough of my deep dive into the emotions of COVID. This is so not about me. It’s about our species. Let’s look at data. Here are this week’s numbers of new confirmed US cases, an updated graph, and some predictions based on simple math.

May 19 2020 graphReasons to hope? There were only 159,428 new confirmed cases this week in the US. Only 1.53 million Americans have suffered from this virus (so far). That’s only five of every thousand Americans (probably five in every hundred is more accurate). Heck, we are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than sick during this pandemic. (Sorry. Sarcasm and snark are my crutches. I’ll slink back to my tears now.)

Reasons to fear? There is no intelligent leadership or comprehensive plan in place to stop this. Modeling the declining right side of the graph gives a linear curve fit that predicts ZERO (0) new weekly cases in 30 weeks. That’s Christmas week 2020. The model predicts a total of 2.4 million infected Americans by then and, with the current death rate, the total dead will be 150,000–that is, of course, without the expected spike.

But let’s be optimistic and diligent: If 60,000 more dead Americans is the minimum that will happen by the end of this year, let’s not let that number grow.

Crying doesn’t solve anything. Neither does anger. But humans are soft-gooey-centered animals, right? We hope. We love. We hurt. We possess the intelligence to understand that the only way out of this mess is by listening to the science and plugging our ears to all of the other noise.

When the misinformed die from COVID-19, their families will demand why we did not warn them. We tried. They could not hear us.

Pandemic etiquette

I walked alone on the country road, Billy Joel singing in my ear, ignoring the world and worry and all reality. Just for a little while.

I saw them approach from far down the road. Two of them. Walking. On my side of the road. On the wrong side.

I kept walking. They did too. Closer and closer.

I realized we were playing chicken. Well, I was. They were just walking, I think.

I had to think fast. They were two telephone poles away. Should I put on my mask? Should I cross the road? Should I walk down into the ditch and let them pass? Should I wave my arms so they see me? Should I yell, “Hey! Get on your own side!”?

Dumbfounded, I stopped walking and watched them come. They did not slow. They had no fear of me.

So I leaned my face into my shoulder.

And I coughed.

(Melodramatically. Into my sleeve.)

And they crossed the road.

Data collected. Experience stored. Now I know what to do.

The etiquette of taking a walk in a pandemic is simple. Stay on your side.


It’s Tuesday. It’s the 17th Tuesday. Almost 1.4 million Americans (x10, I know) have suffered from this virus. More than 82,000 dead in our country. No plan to fix this. Nobody is in charge. The virus is winning. The human Achilles heel is the dollar. The virus doesn’t care about dollars.

A sliver of good news: only 164,000 new cases this week. That’s the fewest number of new cases since March. I’ll keep monitoring this and will report back in a week. Stay safe, and walk on your own side of the road.

may 12 2020 17 weeks