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Save the Date

It was a marvelous Christmas for me, as I hope it was for you. The grandkids were a joy to watch squealing as they opened their presents – they are great ages now (11, 9, and 5) with each having their own “style” of reacting. I was happy to evoke several reactions out of each with their gifts. For me, I was thrilled to receive a forge from my son. Yes, a forge!! I’ve always enjoyed watching the show “Forged in Fire” and have wanted to try it myself for a few years now, so my son noticed and got me a forge. Small and portable, but large enough to handle up to 10”, it is perfect. I can’t wait to fire it up, but I need a propane tank and more importantly, an anvil, to forge my first piece (which, by the way, will be a railroad spike knife).

The nation continues to writhe and convulse with criticism, contempt, and a complete lack of compassion or understanding for any view not aligned with their own. Politics, economics, the pandemic, stimulus measures, the climate… name it and we’re divided over it. Even those things you would expect to be universally applauded are rending us apart. Cas in point, the vaccine. I would have bet good money on an almost universal rejoice on the development of a vaccine against this virus. Finally, a chance to be rid of the fear and anxiety, a chance to (safely) go back out to the movies and restaurants, a chance to live fully again. Right? But no. It is being opposed by many for a wide spectrum of irrational reasons: government is actually injecting microchips to track us or control us, genetic modifications, infringement on personal rights, and a myriad of equally absurd reasons.

Let’s see – why are vaccines bad? Well, there’s prevention of smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, hepatitis, tetanus, chicken pox, whooping cough, and… wait… those are why they are good. Upon further consideration I find no reason to consider vaccines bad! Pardon the melodramatic method in my writing here, but I wanted to drive home the point; we have had essentially zero negatives associated with vaccines but thousands of millions lives saved thanks to them. Yes, there is the rare adverse reaction here or there, but the percentage is incredibly low. Why take the risk of almost certain illness or ever death over the infinitesimally small chance of an adverse reaction? There has been a fairly recent (and unexplainable) push back on vaccines in general over the last ten years or so, I suspect solely fueled by lunatics on YouTube and certainly not based on any science, and as a result diseases not seen in decades are reemerging. And children are suffering and dying due to the irrational decisions by the parents.

To be fair and balanced here, there is a wee bit of science driving some of the fear and aversion to this particular vaccine. This vaccine is indeed genetic altering; it modifies our RNA. Now before you run screaming into the night, please read this carefully – rather than paraphrase it, I did a copy paste of the CDC’s definition because this is extremely important. “COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the immune cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them.

Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.

At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.”

This is 21st century science but it is not really new, the mRNA vaccine technology has been used in the fight against cancer for some time now with good results. To me, it is little different than training my muscles by exercises specifically targeting certain muscles. We modify ourselves all the time with training, forcing our cells to alter themselves to achieve our desired result. This is really not much different. But some of those that have heard about the science behind the vaccine have deemed it governmental genetic modification and have propagated quite a wave of fear among people who have note taken the time to research and understand it. Sad. I hope there is a concerted effort to get better and more understandable information out to the public in a calm and rational manner and with no politization.

The peace and joy of Christmas has now passed and has left a bit of a hole, just as the tree did when we undecorated it and relocated out into the woods. The stress and strain of the exhausting and seemingly never-ending pandemic is wearing on everyone in one way or another. People are short-tempered, depressed, and many (most?) are generally having a bad day pretty much every day.

As I mentioned above, vaccinations are already underway here in RI, with I believe over twelve thousand done so far. Oddly enough (to me anyway) some number of these initial inoculations are being – have been given – to prisoners in our state prison. Ahead of police, fire, rescue, transportation, health care, and other essential workers. I’m sorry, I see the prisons as the last tier for the vaccine, not the first. Another irrational decision by our governor. Unfortunate in that people may well die waiting for a vaccination given instead to a prisoner in jail.

Despite all this, optimism abounds – well, perhaps not abounds but is readily visible – across the state and the nation. We are surely a calendar date driven people; it is our nature. We celebrate holidays as you would expect, but we also attach significance to dates that matter to us: birthdays, anniversaries, deaths of loved ones, and so forth. And one we all seem to rejoice in is New Year’s. The end of one year and the start of a new one. In reality of course, it is just another day and little else, a restart of the finite numbering system developed to keep track of our planet’s rotation about the sun. It does mean we start over again with January 1st and that we increase the year count by one. But it does not mean everything is reset and we start anew. If you are out of work on December 31 you will likely still be out of work January 1; if you go to bed sick on the 31st you will likely still be sick on the 1st. And if you are in a pandemic on the 31st you’ll still be in it on the 1st. Yet people a pronouncing New Year’s as the start of the way out.

And why not? We will find our way out of this and that journey begins somewhere – somewhere and sometime likely to remain eternally intangible. So why not look to the start of a new year as that point? Given how stressful this year has been, we all deserve a reason to be hopeful and joyous so why not view New Year’s as the beginning of the end? But it will be slow, likely peppered with setbacks, and will remain as difficult as the last months have been. But perhaps by the advent of summer, we’ll be back in the restaurants and bars and movie theaters without fear that doing so will make us sick. Won’t that be nice? I have a friend in Belgium currently in lockdown. For him, for them, lockdown means going almost nowhere except out to get food and medicine; and alone at that, only one can go on the errand. He has been given a May vaccination date and has booked a trip to Switzerland in July to celebrate his birthday.

But as with everything else in life, don’t wish your life away. Don’t spend all winter wishing and waiting for the spring and then all spring hoping for the summer. Enjoy what we have – every day – as you never know when today is your last and there will be no tomorrow. This is hard, yes. But we’ve come this far and we can make it the rest of the way. We know how to stay safe and healthy – wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance from others, minimizing possible exposures, and hand washing. It is not always easy, not being able to safely go out to eat gnaws at me almost daily. But such is life and I just try to think of other things and look for something to distract me, much like when you are on a diet and hunger pangs strike – you find something to distract you.

I will probably not get out another post before New Year’s but will make sure to put one up that day. Until then, go forth and make your plans for your safe and healthy New Year’s celebration. And stay well dear reader!

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