Is the US flattening the curve? Yes and No? Who knows.

How do you describe that feeling of watching numbers climb and realizing that you’re watching in real time the most global example of what you’ve studied and taught your entire adult life?

Dread? Excitement? Existence?

When teaching about pandemics we teach students to look retrospectively at the data on the numbers of those that have recovered versus those that have died. At about 6:00PM on 27 March 2020 twice as many people had died of covid-19 in the United States as have recovered. Seeing those numbers broke my heart for a moment, so I had to talk it out to myself somewhere.

https://coronavirus.1point3acres.com/en as of 6:26 PM MST 27 March 2020

It’s too early to call what it will look like in the United States in terms of our final numbers with covid-19. At this time these numbers are skewed by post-mortem testing and testing criteria that limits test accessibility to those already in need of medical intervention over home care.

Things might look scary, but don’t give up hope.

There’s this amazing power of graphs.

I started keeping these to track the projection if we stayed on an exponential number of cases reported (aware of typo – did not plan on using this graph for anything originally)

Even as we have expanded albeit limited testing across the United States the overall rate of growth of total cumulative cases is slowing. While this hope is based on very limited data, could it be that we may actually be flattening the curve?

Equation is changing – are we flattening? I’m not sure. We added a zero. [Does some math]. I don’t know if that’s significant yet.

We’re able to see the slope change as the day to day number change. We can see when our efforts are working. This is part of why we need accurate reporting above anything else. The numbers that only require home care matter to retrospective numbers and for accurately understanding the danger of a disease. This influences anticipatory healthcare planning decisions for patients and facilities.

We can be hopeful. It’s not the fault of our healthcare workers and everyone needs to show massive gratitude. Diagnostic testing has massive barriers – Point of Care rapid testing is a luxury afforded us over the past century to strep throat, influenza, drug screenings, and other common “ailments” that bring you in to say hello to someone like me (only using quotes because I included drug screenings).

I’ll do a better analysis of my numbers as we get better testing, but for now, can I even trust that data? How many people are dying at home untested? Remember that across America we have incredibly diverse customs about death and dying. In the American South (where I’m from) families conduct home hospice even during severe illness out of pride and the cost of healthcare. Once the family member has died they will contact the local mortician. While it might no longer be legal to do home embalming and many states have prevented home burials, this has never stopped families from caring for the dead. Caring for the ones we love as a final act is one of the most essential acts as a family member that is often robbed of Americans elsewhere across the United States. In twenty to fifty years will we need to do go all paleovirology/anthrovirology (actual fields!) on disinterred bodies to get the actual numbers? Or will we go the route of China and the US during 1918 – burn it all.

Other questions I hope we answer as we roll out Point of Care testing:
Are healthcare workers on PReP faring better?

If people are interested in hearing me rant about the topics I’m actually an “expert” (by degrees and academic research/teaching background only) in let me know. If you are I’ll actually go back and edit this rant and dress it up a bit.

Thank you to anyone reading this. Without you this is just a shout into the ether.

Short Story Announcement: “Waking Up” Part 1 “The First Day” and Life Update

My first multipart series is upon us! It went live on Monday, but I’ve been preoccupied with this whole coronavirus thing and writing book reviews.

This first part is short.

I didn’t mean to time the release of a story related to waking up in a hospital with a pandemic. Today is Day 17 of a fever of ~100-101 F (37.7 – 38.3 C). I have ice on the back of my neck as I write this. There will be a delay in the release of part 2.

It’s all surreal, right?

I grew up among hardy people that believed in staying put when the hurricane came and destroyed the town (this literally happened and I was out of school for 2-3 months in high school while we rebuilt the town). One of the places I lived was almost wiped off the map by the 1918 Influenza pandemic. Entire families died – their bodies buried in mass graves next to their homes by the brave neighbors who ventured into the houses later. The houses and all of their belongings were either burned or were left to rot until us, curious, mischievous rural kids with nothing better to do broke in and wandered around those unwired houses like the generations and generations of kids before us. Look but don’t touch. The objects are cursed and haunted by the disease. Even then the belief was that the ghost of the disease persisted and could kill.

On that note, stay tuned for a short story exclusively posted here since I’m taking a week off. Don’t expect it to be edited well because, frankly, I feel like s***.

Take care and I hope everyone is staying well. As always, thank you for reading. Without you I’m writing words into a void.

UPDATE (26 March 2020):

Today WaffleHouse closed 365 of its 1,627 US locations. That thing I mentioned above about being from an area that was regularly destroyed/impacted by hurricanes and my town was DESTROYED by a hurricane?

Check out this thing called the Waffle House Index – it’s used by FEMA to determine how bad a natural disaster is in the United States based on the number of Waffle Houses still open in an area. I’m not joking. It’s a real thing. Waffle House is historically known for being open 24/7/365 and has called itself a “trucker shelter” during inclement weather.

We live in interesting times.

February 2020: "Wanting Peace: Book 2 of the Reclaiming Life Series" by Alaine Greyson

Summary:

“Wanting Peace” welcomes readers back to Bracken Point with a new romance novel! This sequel in the “Reclaiming Life” series by Alaine Greyson returns us to this small community set in a small-ish town near the Chesapeake Bay. Cassie Roberts and her sister Bex must first deal with the loss of their mother to cancer. Cassie has her own inner demons she must face, but the problems of those around her provide ample distraction. Even better, she’s an accomplished professional finishing the requirements necessary for independent practice in the local rehabilitation clinic, so who better qualified to be giving said life advice?

But when her mother’s dying wish was for Cassie and her sister to reconnect with their estranged father, what is someone in her position to do? Can they confront and heal from that abandonment? Bex begins acting out as she is unable to regulate her own emotions. All this while Cassie and Michael realize that there’s something more than friendship between them. But can Cassie keep herself from meddling and prying into everyone’s secrets?

Overlapping with the end of “Chasing Peace,” this book brings whole new light to the unique characters of Bracken Point.

Overall Response:

First off – this is the sequel to the book that inspired me to start writing reviews. Bracken Point is a fictional place that feels like home to me because it’s along the Chesapeake Bay. The premise of these books captured my attention with book one. These books are so much more than romance novels. I again want to commend the author for the incredible job she does writing these books in a compassionate and understanding way that does not judge characters. She chooses instead to focus on the complexities of mental health, recovery, and the role of the family in recovery. These books push for healthy relationships through communication, boundaries, and conflict resolution. Sometimes it’s cheesy, sometimes it’s steamy – “Wanting Peace” is everything I hoped for.

Book 2 is more graphic than the first book in the best possible ways. Greyson does not dance around the details of drug use, providing more imagery for the reader. As an example, “A waft of ammonia, smoke, and cat urine filled the air. Michael pinched his nose, wondering why he had never noticed the putrescent smell before tonight.” That snippet is one of many contained within the book that demonstrates an understanding critical for reaching an audience that needs the hope offered in this book. I recently purchased both books 1 and 2 of the series for a couple I love to read and review because they’re involved as leaders in the addiction recovery community. 

I have one discussion point that remains from the previous reviewWhat are the roles of a psychiatrist versus a therapist (aka psychologist) in drug rehabilitation, and what is the difference in their level of education? Can someone be both? (discussion relevant to the US only)

First off, I am not a mental health professional, but I do work in the health professions. This doesn’t make me an expert on something that isn’t my field. Psychiatrists and psychologists work together. People can be both. I had not done enough research in that first book review. I recommend checking out RehabCenter.net’s answer. Having never been in a rehab center and spending more time researching this question, I have learned that there are psychiatrists that specialize in dual-diagnosis. Additionally, I learned about the holistic treatment of addiction in specialized centers like the one discussed in Bracken Point. These psychiatrists call themselves “addictionologists,” according to Clearview Treatment Programs. And they are trained as therapists. Thank you to the very tolerant patient care coordinator that chatted with me. I appreciate your help explaining all of this, knowing I was reviewing a book and not seeking treatment.

LGBTQA+:

There is a recurring character in this book that is a member of the LGBTQA community. There is a scene I personally appreciated where the author presents a situation regarding disclosure and invasion of privacy. It was well done.

Grammar +:

This book is very close to meeting the 1/10,000 error standard. They did not interrupt the reading experience at all and mostly consisted of missing words.

Twilight Zone Moment:

This is a different kind of twilight zone. This is a twilight zone RESOLUTION. Remember how I got a little scared because I had no idea who lit the candles in book one? It all adds up now. I’m not freaked out any more.

About The Author And The Series:

Alaine Greyson is the author of many short stories, the Reclaiming Life series (Buy Chasing Peace here, Wanting Peace here, Preorder Finding Peace here), and will be soon releasing the Trapped Soul Series – preorder the first book here. Her publisher is Creative James Media.

Thank you to everyone that reads these. Without you I’m shouting into a void. I hope they help the indie writing community in some way.

Book Promotion! "And Then We Vanish" by D. H. Schleicher

Hi Everyone! While I finish up working on another book review, I’m going to post something a little bit different. As some may recall, in October 2019 I read D. H. Schleicher‘s book “Then Came Darkness” and loved it. I had the pleasure of beta reading a couple short stories for Schleicher’s new collection “And Then We Vanish“. In exchange I received an ARC. I feel it would be unethical for me to call anything I write a “review” given I helped with feedback. That said, I like the author’s writing style and attention to detail. They are one of the authors that helped me develop my rating scale. I genuinely enjoy the stories and as an unpaid favor I want to support their book here.

I did have the chance to chat with Schleicher about the process behind putting together a collection of short stories. The stories in “And Then We Vanish” are everything from petrifying to hilarious, but they all share a common theme: disappearing. Using a theme, he narrowed down which stories to include and edit for the collection from the vast collection of short stories authors accumulate over the years.

For beta reading, I read “Upon The Unfortunate News Of My Death” and “Blue Heather”. While I loved them both, particularly the latter, I will focus on the former because it is incredibly relevant. There’s also something poetic about having the opportunity to harpoon one’s metaphorical white whale. My teaser:

In the digital age information can get misconstrued. Between all of the likes, comments, and shares when does real action need to take place beyond the armchair activism? What if we get it all wrong? As if poor Kayla Spaulding hasn’t dealt with enough insanity in her life, here’s one more fire to put out. At least we can enjoy some sadistic revenge.

I hope you consider picking up a copy of “And Then We Vanish” to read about Kayla Spaulding and the ten other stories. Did I mention that these stories are inclusive of a variety of well-researched and presented diverse characters?

There is a story in this book that opens with a school shooting. Please don’t let that deter you from reading the story and instead act as a content warning. It is one of the most moving stories in the entire collection in my opinion and is a reminder that Schleicher is talented at painting emotions onto pages with words. I am glad I had to wait to read it.

Thanks for reading and check back soon for another book review. As a friendly reminder, wash your hands and call your loved ones.

Announcement 20 March, 2020: Rating Scale

Is Haskell is practicing the art of camouflage to avoid rating anything? Nope, that’s just me.

Initially, I *did not* want to give ratings. I wanted to write reviews and post them only here and Twitter. But life is not that way. In order to come up with some way of objectifying my scale I meditated and thought through this process methodically because I refuse to be subjective 100%. I tried to establish a rating scale of 1-5 over the course of September – November 2019. Thank you to all of the indie authors that patiently worked with me as I developed this rating system.

Then that one book by those Best Selling Authors happened that dragged on and *really* shaped the bottom of the rating scale.

I admit my biases because I don’t hide those things. I am accused by some of being too honest. Not in the “you talk too much” way – more like the “you’re too blunt” way. I refuse to do paid reviews, ever, on ethical grounds, but I understand that ethics are subjective. Every person is allowed to shape their own independent understanding of right and wrong. ANYWAYS – I wanted the whole process to be less subjective – I didn’t want to guess on what number I was giving a book. That’s not fair to the author or the reader.

As an aside, I’ve taught nursing students. Nursings students would lose their ever-loving minds if grades were entirely subjective like some book ratings seem to be. Have you met a nursing student or been a nursing student? I think of authors in the same way – intelligent, detail-oriented, hyperaware, and information-seeking. It is not fair for reviews to be entirely subjective, just like it’s not fair to anyone in the position of teaching or taking a microbiology lab for nursing students.

A bit about my rating scale:

5 stars are reserved for books where I absolutely love the story. They must be very close to meeting the 1/10,000 word editorial standard for basic proofreading or blow me away and move me. Any book I am immediately inspired to gift to someone in my life automatically gets a 5/5.

4 stars are reserved for books where I love the story, but they don’t meet the 1/10,000 word editorial standard, have some consistent problems, or have one or two major content concerns, such as a major plot hole.

3 stars are reserved for books where I do genuinely enjoy the core story, but the book does not meet the 1/10,000 word editorial standard, has many consistent problems with following sequence of events, requires a large amount of work on the part of the reader to understand the story, and/or possesses additional concerning issues. My long form review may be vague – I do that as to protect the privacy of the author. As many authors I have previously reviewed books for know, just because I don’t say the page number in the review, doesn’t mean I don’t have it. I can refer you to examples for every single concern I mention.

I do not publicly post 1 or 2 star reviews for any author that is not a “Best Seller”. Even then it may take me 4 months and I’ll need to have a good reason. I will send unposted reviews privately by request to the author only. These are NOT available to anyone else. I won’t add these ratings to GoodReads or Amazon without talking to the author first. Point is: I will still write an honest, thoughtful review with constructive criticism explaining why I had that reaction even if it’s for the author’s eyes only. When I say my reviews are author oriented – this is what I mean.

Things that never influence a the rating a book is given: the additions of content warnings or anything related to the sensitivity of the content. This is too subjective for me to base a rating on. I will mention it in the review for the benefit of potential readers, particularly if there is reason to believe that the content could be potentially harmful. I have never, ever allowed this to impact a book’s rating. If I suggest an author consult with a sensitivity reader, this does not influence the rating of a book and is because I genuinely believe the author would benefit from hearing a professional perspective. I am not a professional sensitivity reader.

Authors are welcome to request examples to be added to reviews for clarification. I can always add detail to reviews and edit them to reflect changes made if an author notifies me of what has changed in future editions.

I am meticulous in detail in my notes and am happy to share examples of the trending issues directly. My notes focus on Fundamental Editorial Standards. FOR EXAMPLE: POINTING OUT THE NEED FOR FACT CHECKING BECAUSE AN AUTHOR’S BOOK SAID THAT NASSAU, BAHAMAS IS IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE IS NOT “STUPID NITPICKING”.

I research what current readers care about – I spend hours dedicated to ensuring my review benefits both a reader and the author. Please remember that I AM NOT BEING PAID AS A DEVELOPMENTAL EDITOR, so please do not expect me to provide feedback to the extent of one. It is the job of the author to hire a paid developmental editor if their book requires one.

I’m an indie author too, y’all. I put out short stories bi-weekly and I’m working on longer manuscripts. I do this because I’m publishing a book soon and I write short stories. I make mistakes too. I open up and read my published works and think based on my own scale “that’s a 4/5” or “that’s a 3/5”. I don’t give myself a 5/5 on my own scale. I try to earn it during the editing process though.

Listen: I self-published a book in 2008 under a pen name, then pulled it from digital shelves because I was scared. I sold 1 copy to myself. My grandmother was the only human who ever read it (I don’t count dogs). I honestly couldn’t afford to take the risk of printing and distributing more than that one, lonesome pre-reader copy. I chickened out. Any indie author I’m reading is brave. They didn’t chicken out. That’s already something to be proud of.

Anyways, back to our regularly schedule programming.

February 2020: “But I Am Here” by Pamela Bettencourt

This review is going to be a little bit different for a couple of reasons. First, I received this book from the author after receiving an email asking if I would read it and consider reviewing it on my website and in my LiveTweet format. Upon reviewing a summary and the website my answer was a resounding yes. This was my answer because the author is not alone. It was good to know that I’m not alone.

Summary (Caution – Mild Spoilers):

In her memoir “But I Am Here” Bettencourt uses prose poems and free verse poetry to tell the story of her abuse, how it impacted her life, still impacts her life, her attempts to get help, and when she had to make the choice to tell her husband and the world.

The book begins with reflection as an adult, then transports the reader into the mind of a child. In each section the reader lives through Bettencourt’s eyes as she tells these stories without ever using names. Each section concludes with a reflection on the experience from the adult perspective based new insight gained through healing.

Overall Reaction:

In this powerful, moving memoir I ache for the author and her experiences. I feel very passionate about protecting children and helping those that are survivors of sexual abuse. The author does not use complex language, nor does she need to. She hides information appropriately to ensure that the reader experiences each moment the way she experienced it. This amplifies the experience of the book.

I found I had to take several breaks due to the intensity of the material. The book does not hide its content warning. It’s on the front cover. There are resources in the back for those that read it and need help processing any emotions or past trauma that may come up while reading the book. All of this is extremely well thought out.

The amount of vulnerability involved in this writing and the amount of information shared by the author is incomparable to books like “Helping Her Get Free” or “Perfect Daughters” due to the accessibility of the information. Both of these books discuss forms of abuse experienced in childhood and how that shapes adult behaviors with heavy analysis. In contrast, Bettencourt brings the reader inside her own head. We are guided through her thoughts and experiences overtime to see how she got into each head space without going into the academic view point beyond helpful information any reader can understand. This makes the book accessible to a very broad audience.

I am sad that more was not mentioned about the experience of disclosure to loved ones. I believe that part of the purpose of the book was the disclosure. This is both painful and makes complete sense.

In terms of my own personal experiences and what the book brought up for me, I will be brief. For survivors of childhood sexual assault/abuse it is a hard read, but I felt a deep connection. The book takes great care in the reflections shared to connect with the reader’s experiences and own journey, whether these realizations be new or old. It does not try to explain the realizations – they can all be explained to the reader on their own journey by the resources in the back or through therapy.

“But I Am Here” is a painful, beautiful read. Reality is stranger than fiction and child sexual abusers are a great example.

LGBTQA+

I believe this book is absolutely relevant to anyone, including members of the LGBTQA+ community, who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There is no mention of LGBTQA+ individuals in the book, but this does not impact my opinion on this matter.

Grammar & Punctuation

There are a few spelling errors that can easily be corrected in future printings of the book. These errors do not interrupt the overall reading experience.

For More Information On Getting Help

You can visit online.rainn.org or call 1-800-856-4673 (US) – these are mentioned in the back of the book.

Additional organizations that provide information, work to assist in reporting, and help victims and survivors:
https://www.d2l.org/
https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/sexual-abuse
https://thercc.org/get-support/supporting-loved-one/supporting-child-sexually-assaulted/
https://www.dvrcv.org.au/help-advice/sexual-abuse-in-childhood

I would love to expand this list – please feel free to submit additional websites to lopotterwrites@gmail.com

Want To Read More About The Author?
You can visit the book’s website here. For each copy of the book sold through the publisher’s website the publisher will donate $1 to the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. You can follow the author on Twitter here.

New Short Story And A Lot of Vulnerability: “Stronger”

Wedding picture!

Before you read this post, please take a moment to read my short story on Coffee House Writers here.

Read it? Alright then. Let me take a deep breath. It’s time for me to get vulnerable with you. These emotions are weird and difficult for me.

This piece is fiction, but there are pieces of this story that are true. I left out parts. I toned it down. I changed names, places, and made up new people and circumstances. Hannah is fictional. My partner is my best friend, he would never abandon me, and is one of the most understanding human beings on this planet – don’t you dare think that this story is in any way about him. Time to clarify some things just in case.

What is based on truth is the public transportation incident that the main character experienced as well as other aspects of trauma. I’m unusual. There was never a time in my memory before vitiligo and for that I am grateful. I never experienced loss, though it has grown. When my parents first took me outside as an infant and I started to tan it was there. Family members talked. They knew it affected me, but when I heard the words “deformed” and “disfigured” I internalized it. Growing up in very remote areas of the United States, even today there are people that believe it is a mark of demonic possession or worse. Luckily, I have a loving amazing family.

The public transportation incident in the story is based on when I lived in San Francisco. In 2016, an elderly woman beat me with her cane during evening rush hour while yelling, “Leper,” and, “Stop Touching Me!” I was not touching her. No one said anything or stopped her, but they sure stared at me. I got out early and walked the rest of the way home. Try and imagine the terror of being beaten in public by an old woman in front of a crowded light rail train car in rush hour while no one said a word. You there yet? Cool.

I didn’t include every example of vitiligo changing what someone saw or how they acted toward me in the story. I have been refused service at restaurants because they didn’t want a “leper” touching their plates or tables (this happened in Niagara Falls, ON). Questions like “when were you in a fire?” or later, after years of working in laboratories, “were you in an accident?” are always a fun time. These are the examples that come to mind.

This has been my whole life. And I’m white. Imagine what it would be like for someone with darker skin than mine. Indeed, one review mentioned, “In a study of 53 [vitiligo] patients in India, major depressive disorder was reported in 57% of patients, social phobia in 68%, and suicidal ideation in 28% (high risk 8%; low risk 21%). These findings stress the need for psychological and/or psychiatric intervention (Ramakrishna and Rajni, 2014). Papadopoulos et al. (Papadopoulos et al., 1999) reported that counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy could improve self-esteem, body image, and overall QoL [Quality of Life] in patients with vitiligo.”

Now, let’s flip vitiligo to any other visible disfigurement or disability a child internalizes as being their fault because it impacts a child’s life significantly. It’s your turn to help a kid with a completely different life face that internalization and you’re thinking of becoming involved in foster care like I am. There are additional realities that you need to face. Over 35% of children in foster care have a parent with a substance abuse disorder and have been exposed to substances. Given the age range that my partner and I are looking to foster with intent to adopt, the reality is that our future foster children will likely have been exposed (directly or indirectly) to alcohol, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines and/or opioids at some point. They could have addictions of their own. One study suggests that kids that have been through foster care will develop substance abuse issues later in life if they don’t do so while in the foster care system. It’s complicated.

We’re not looking for a perfect child. We will love a child with an addiction – even if it was a choice of coping mechanism in the moment or however it started. We already love people with addictions. They aren’t broken and they can be successful if given the support they need.

Readers don’t like ugly stories and I get it. The world is ugly enough as it is. They don’t like thinking about the fact that therapeutic foster care homes are severely underfunded. But here’s the thing, foster care produces brilliant minds if given the chance, and, as a reminder, here’s a list of successful people that survived the American foster care system. Any names look familiar? Steve Jobs? Colin Kaepernick? I have met successful doctors, scientists, and lawyers that fought their way to where they are now through this underfunded system. I love people from this system and look forward to loving more of them.

Want to help make change? Donate your time as a mentor or become a foster parent. Respite care can be for anything from a couple hours to a couple days and helps kids in foster care and families within your community that may need temporary childcare. Mentoring involves spending time with a kid to provide them with a role model and someone to spend time with. Multiple organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brother Big Sister offer mentoring opportunities. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a great way to support children going through the legal system – a terrifying process for kids. Before donating money, look to your local community first.

Anyways – this story is dedicated to an incredible young person named Olivia. There’s my soapbox. I’ll get back to writing my short stories and book reviews. These emotion things are weird.