Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Rules- Nothing New

The Rules of Supremacy

1. We make the rules. 

2. We can change the rules to suit us whenever we want to.

3. We are the only ones who are allowed to be angry about the rules (or angry about anything).

4. We will not tell you the rules. 

5. We expect you to play by the rules. 

6. Everyone has to play by the rules except us. 

7. If you don't play by the rules, you will be punished (ridiculed, bullied, ostracized, attacked, beaten, banished, murdered, fired, or soup du jour), but if we don't want to play by the rules, we will fix them so we can be comfortable.

8. No matter how loud or forceful you are in complaining about the rules or trying to change them, we don't see or hear you. It's not that we don't have vision, it's that we don't see you.  It's not that we can't hear noise, it's that we can't hear you. We can't hear or see below or behind us, either. We don't have to, because those are the rules. 

9. No matter how strong, well-researched, logical or practical your arguments are, we can't change things. Things have always been that way and that's how it should always be. And if you push back even a little bit, we will pull out all the stops to fight you to the death to keep things the same. 

10. Yada yada

What triggered me to write this today? Some big bonehead older white man in the grocery store, completely oblivious to the impact he was having on all the shoppers in a tight, crowded space. He wouldn't pick a damn lane. I was back there squashed in like sardines with a couple of other women my age and we all observed this man's behavior. A younger man who was directly behind him in line tactfully approached him to ask him to move. No luck. From his body language with the younger man, I can only imagine if one of us had suggested it to him. He certainly knew the rules. 

People appear to have forgotten social distancing and mask wearing, from what I can tell. There is still a pandemic going on, and the local hospital is full with ICU patients doubled up, and a shortage of nurses and other staff.  But it makes it everything worse when some belligerent, arrogant asshole makes the rules. 

And there are so many more rules but I'm too tired of doing lifelong workarounds to list them all...feel free to add more in the comments. 

Back to my cave...

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Nancy's Summer Blogging Challenge

fireweedNancy Stordahl is a blogging sister I met through the cancer community. She holds a yearly Blog Hop- a blogging challenge for other bloggers to share their work. I haven't blogged in months and her prompt to do this always motivates me. I see that I somehow missed last year's blogging challenge, but then last year was a blur. 

Nancy posted the following questions for this year's challenge, so here it goes. I'm a little rusty so forgive me. 

1. Who are you? What is your genre, how long have you been at it, who or what inspires you or whatever you want us to know.

I am Alene, a 57 year old Australian Shepherd mom to Velcro and Gypsy, partner through marriage to Dennis, oncology nurse now working in cancer research/data/technology, ultradistance runner, currently occasional writer/author/blogger/artist, and now recovering overachiever. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado.

I've been blogging since early 2008 at Journey to Badwater. I started the blog to record and share my ultrarunning adventures and somehow it morphed into a catch-all politicalish commentary on the state of nursing and healthcare.

I am inspired by people who speak their minds unapologetically and act in the interest of the common good. 

My life has been transformed in many ways related to cancer. I have been fortunate to not have had cancer myself as of this point in my life, but our family seems to attract leukemia like a magnet.

My dad, who was being treated for a type of chronic leukemia, and no sooner did he get in remission than he promptly was diagnosed with Parkinson's, died of Parkinson's on October 14, 2020. 

As if that wasn't enough, my stepbrother just went home a few weeks ago after having a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), after being in the hospital and healthcare facility for 107 days after his transplant. So far doing well, fingers crossed. 

So as you can see, I have been dealing with a few things on top of COVID and the political unrest in this country. It's been quite difficult and traumatic in our family. I'm just now starting to have days where I feel slightly familiar with myself again.

2. What's been your biggest blogging roadblock this year and did you come up with a way to get around it?

This was the question that really got me going, thanks to Nancy. I haven't blogged in a long time. For the past few years, maybe since 2018, I've struggled with self-expression through my usual media. I haven't written, painted, spoken, or really interacted that much with people. 

Of course all this has been exacerbated by COVID and social distancing, but it really started after I finished writing my book. Maybe it was a little burnout, too. 

It seemed like even the thought of writing or expressing myself in any way led to an exacerbation of the grief  and traumas of the past year or so, and triggered past traumas, and I couldn't face it anymore than what was already coming my way on a daily basis. 

In a nutshell, I dealt with it by avoidance. I did have a major meltdown in April (the last time I posted on my blog). Since we were still in pandemic mode, I did a few online counseling and griefwork sessions, and tried journaling to stare all the pain in the face, and it did help a lot. It's amazing how quickly I felt better.

I'm not saying I'm done with the grieving or healing and there are still layers of pain under the surface that will have to be dealt with, but I'm not worrying about it now. I'm just following what I need on any given day. I have taken active steps to make my life simpler, and it's a process, having been a lifelong overachiever. 

3. What's something you accomplished with your blog this year that you're proud of?

This is going to sound really weird, but staying away from it until I was ready to say something meaningful and not angry, has been a success. Now I'm trying to figure a way to revive it and turn it into something different. I'd like to keep it going. 

4. What are a couple of your best blogging tips?

Don't worry about what people think of your writing. Just say what you mean, even if it comes out intense, angry, or as written therapy. You set the theme and purpose of your blog. And if it changes, so be it. If people enjoy your writing, they will stay. 

Add pictures and links. Just make sure they open in a new window so people don't lose the original point you were making. 

5. How do you handle negative feedback or comments?

Well, that depends on what they say. I don't have to be right and I don't claim to know it all. As long as someone makes a coherent and halfway intelligent argument, I'll respond. If they are just plain insulting or out in left field, I dismiss it with the delete button. The spam comments are really the worst. I still can't figure out why anyone thinks penis enlargement is a viable enterprise. 

6. Share a link to a favorite post you've written RECENTLY (since last year's challenge perhaps) that you want more people to read. 

I don't have any posts that I wrote recently, but here is a fun post I wrote a long time ago that gives the essence of what makes me tick. It might make you want to read more of my blog. And if it doesn't, that's okay too. 

Thanks, Nancy for keeping the Blog Hop and blogging challenge going! 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Climbing Out of Grief: My Post-Vax Reality

I'll get right to it-I realized the other day that I've stopped doing so much of what I used to do to express myself, and I need to get back to it. Writing and running.  

Running- my own sort of therapy to buffer against everyday life's injuries-is not something I find myself NOT doing. I am in a very deep hole. I'm having a difficult time organizing my thoughts, focusing and concentrating on things.  

I'm not sure exactly what triggered it. Last month we had the big snowstorm that made the weather and conditions difficult for running. And then there was the Atlanta shooting, followed by the Boulder shooting, which was about the beginning of it for me. And I never bounced back. 

Since March, I've been unable to function normally. My brain has been a mess of fog. I feel numb. It's been all but impossible to work full days. The work I do is very detail-oriented and requires accuracy and focus, with a lot of switching between tasks and keeping track of where you are. I'm good for about 3 hours in the morning and then it all goes to hell. I was going along, doing my thing, things were fairly smooth, and then BOOM! I was down. 

Talking with my stepmom, she said it sounds like grief. I'm sure she's right. 

We lost my dad six months ago, actually this coming week will be the six month anniversary of his death. I never have processed my feelings around the loss. At the time, I was trying to help my family and was worried about my stepmom, plus worried about my stepbrother who is facing a life-threatening illness, and I had recently started a new job and was busy learning how to do it. Not to mention a pandemic and everything that went with that. 

Thankfully I have a supportive workplace. I'm able to take the time I need when I need it. I have taken a few first steps to get help and I'm looking for a grief support group. 

There is so much to unpack here. I need some support to get my ass outside, moving forward, climbing upward, and on the trails again. I need non-judgment, someone who can move along in silence when needed and listen without inserting their own world into my angst. A therapist, basically. And no one wants to do that. I wouldn't want them to do that. I wouldn't want to do it. There is so much need for mental health services these days that I bet someone could make a good living at being a running therapist. 

I've been stress eating, drinking more alcohol than I should, unable to get myself out on a regular basis to put a decent workout in, feeling my clothes get tighter by the week, spending a lot of time tuning out and obsessing about what's happening in the world, and not sleeping all that well.

I have all these plans, I'm going to Mexico in November to climb the big volcanoes. I have a whole list of 14ers and hikes I want to do this spring and summer. But right now I can't even get my ass out the door to walk sometimes on a gorgeous 70 degree spring day. 

I do need someone to adventure with. That would help. It's hard to reach out or make plans when your brain is grief-addled. 

One thing about my choices of outdoor recreation is that it's hard to find matches to my ability and interests. Nothing new. 

When I started running ultras, there were very few women so I had to run with the guys. That worked well back then because I was faster than the average woman and it wasn't hard to keep up, the men  often had to keep up with me. 

But now I'm 57, I'm a little over a month past my last hard workout, a good 20 pounds overweight, and feeling like I'm doing the chasing, except there's nobody in front of me or behind me. I'm at the back of the pack- and no one is waiting to let me catch up-it seems. This might just be grief talking, but this is how I feel. I'm an aging extreme athlete.

Everyone who does the things I do is much younger, fitter, faster, and unwilling to slow their pace for this straggler, but most people my age and pace aren't interested in 14 hour summit days and carrying heavy packs full of contingency equipment for any conditions. And it's hard to find people who can go out on the weekdays like I prefer, to avoid the crowds. Colorado's backcountry is not the same as it used to be. And I'm more hesitant, maybe smarter, at my age, to go to some of these more risky and remote places by myself. 

But I'm in Colorado. There must be other people like me out there. I just don't know how to wrap my head around finding them because of my sluggish brain. 

So... that's where I am. I'm working on it. I really hope I can dig myself out of this hole soon and start climbing mountains. Because right now, instead of being on the summit, I feel like I'm at the bottom of the crater and about to be expelled in a giant belch of ash.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Beyond Words


I can't write anymore. Not these days. I want to, but the simple act of writing is too hard because it brings up so much trauma. I don't have the energy for processing that these days. I am still angry with what has happened to this country, even though I do feel a certain sense of calm that wasn't there before January 20th. 

 I am infuriated at the sociopathy that seems to have spread like COVID across the country. It's so hard to understand why people think this is okay, that it's okay for elected officials to lie and disrespect the laws and Constitution and allow a deranged psychopath to get away with literal murder, and just "move on". 

I hope that all of these outspoken Senate hypocrites: Cruz, Rubio, Johnson, Hawley, and Graham, and all the other 38 or so silent ones get voted out of office over the next two or three election cycles. Six years is the most we'll have to deal with Graham, who just got re-elected, and is being investigated for election interference now. 

I don't expect a conviction at the impeachment trial. There's no way a third of the GOP Senate will change their votes, they are all too afraid of the rioters from their home districts, and for good reason- they are murderous nutjobs. 

There's a serious personality disorder in this country that is contagious, and there's no vaccine other than the truth, but these people are anti-vaxxers when it comes to that truth serum. 

The thought of my Representative, Joe Neguse, hiding out on the floor of the House with all the other members of Congress, in fear for their lives, wondering if he'd ever see his baby daughter and wife again, being a target of these crazed hateful shit smearing supremacists, gives me chills. 

I am in utter disbelief that anyone in this country thinks what happened on January 6th, or anything that was done to lead up to it, is okay. All the lies, excuses, squirming, and weak fingerpointing are also made up of words. The false equivalence of words is another symptom of that sociopathic contagion. 

I so want to write about fun things, good things, but I can't do it right now. I'm sorry. I hope you'll stick with me, because I do have adventures on the horizon. Right now, though, it's all just too much for me to bear. I have no more words.

Be well, get your vaccines as soon as you can, and don't take anybody's bullshit. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Breathing Again


Hi all. I've been gone a while. Like everyone else, I've been coping with 2020 and all its weirdness and misery and pain in the best way I can. 

Now that it's the middle of November and the election is over, the fires are out, Coronavirus is still raging, I've lost my Dad, restructured my life around a full-time job, and streamlined my former business into a low key hobby, I'm ready to look forward to whatever life has to offer after this bout of insanity that we've all shared.

The answer to the obvious question here is, yes, I am still running. I've participated in a few virtual events this year, and I have to say it's been more enjoyable than I thought. I feel like I am retired from formal ultrarunning events with one exception: Across The Years. That one I will continue to do, except for this year with the COVID problem. 

Yes this year has sucked very much, even with some good things in between all the madness. I would have to say that the best two things that happened this year were starting a new job, which I love, and being able to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park every week this past summer until mid-August when the fires started. 

I love my job. I can't talk about it in too much detail, but suffice it to say in a nutshell that I work on data quality in cancer research. It's very mentally challenging and intense at times and it's extremely cutting-edge. I am learning a ton. Plus it's remote so I always work from home, pandemic or not. 

The really sucky parts of this year were: first, my dad died from Parkinson's disease on October 14th. I was able to go down there for a few days in early October visiting him and spending time with him, and helping my stepmom get him set up on hospice. He was still able to talk and joke about things while I was there, so it was a good visit. He was ready. He had almost no quality of life anymore. He told us he was done. And he was. I miss him. Parkinson's is a sucky, horrible disease and I'm glad he's not suffering anymore. 

The next two sucky parts of this year were: 1) the fires that burned west of here, in the areas where I usually hike and run in the summer. It will be at least until next year before I know how much damage was done, if they open the trails at all in the next year or so because of the erosion. 

And 2) the civil unrest that really blew up after the George Floyd murder, and there is so much to say about that and everything that's happened between then and now. It's terrible that it took until the George Floyd incident on video to get people to wake the fuck up about what's been happening forever in this country, and the sudden interest in anti-racism is a good thing even though it's so long overdue, and I hope it doesn't disappear from the forefront like so many important issues do when swallowed up by the next distraction. As far as I'm concerned, this inequality of justice is the most important problem facing our country, and it hurts us ALL. Including fearful white people who are scared to death of change and have a death grip on keeping us in the dark ages and/or the 1950's. 

I am not going on a rant about politics, this year has been filled with that. I have to admit I am scared. I am scared that 72 million people voted for the orange orangutan. I do not understand the logic-free, fact-free, reality-detached world in which those 72 million people live. I am scared that if we don't make some very necessary changes in the way our government operates, we are screwed. 

I am hoping to be here for at least another two and a half or three decades and I really don't want to move to another country, but I just do not understand how people could not want things like healthcare or equal justice or affordable housing or quality education for everyone. I just don't understand the whole attitude of, "It's my right to do whatever the fuck I want and screw everybody else". 

Enough politics for now.

I have an announcement to make. I am about to get my toes wet in a new sport. I don't know where this new path will take me, but for a very long time, I've wanted to climb the volcanoes outside Mexico City. I first heard about them 30 years ago, about the time I started doing ultras. The past year or so I've become somewhat obsessed by them and I am starting to plan to climb them once this pandemic is over and we can travel safely again. 

On December 5th this year I'm signed up for a mountaineering basic skills course where I will learn rope travel, ice axe self-arrest, and how to walk in crampons. I need to learn how to do that before I can do those climbs. I'm looking at a late 2021 (unlikely) or 2022 (much more likely) trip to climb Iztaccihuatl and Citlalt├ępetl, the two highest volcanoes in Mexico. 

As far as my altitude thing goes, I did make it up one 14,000 foot peak again this past summer, Mt. Princeton. I was still Gooney Bird, but I actually did pretty well sleeping at 9000 feet the night before. I need to remember when I ascend these things, that I'm not running a race. I think I tend to go too fast, because I do have good fitness, but I don't adapt to altitude as fast as my body thinks it should. 

And there is always Diamox if needed, which I have never tried before, but will definitely have on hand before I go any higher. 

Next summer, COVID and permit process permitting, I have a plan to climb Mt. Whitney with a friend, which will be a good opportunity to carry heavy packs and get up as high as possible without traveling out of the country. 

Again, it's been a while. I've been unable to write, just sort of paralyzed and overwhelmed by all that's going on around me. Writing has so often been therapeutic, but for the longest time this year it felt like I was re-traumatizing myself by writing about 2020 and the orange scourge, because it was all I could think about most of the time anyway. Somehow just knowing that things will change in a matter of weeks, 66 days until inauguration day, is so comforting, even though I realize how difficult it's going to be until then and beyond. 

I'll check in when I can, as this winter progresses. Be well, be safe, and find SOMETHING to look forward to. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Sacred Entitlements

Wouldn't this look nice with some clay pigeons, beer cans, and off-road vehicle
tracks,with some jet skis and speedboats on the water, with gunshot sounds?
The past 3 1/2 years have been the pinnacle of misery in my lifetime. The US leads the world in stressing out its citizens and residents, including those who thought they could come here for a better life and instead were greeted with the horrors of family separation, imprisonment, and abuse.

We make the lives of not only our own citizens, but people around the world, and animals and plants and other living beings on this earth, so much more stressful, and cause so many to endure such suffering and pain, than is ever necessary. 

None of it is new to me, none of it is a surprise, and this is nothing I haven't noticed before or thought deeply about. I've endured various flavors of discrimination myself but I've always had one thing going for me- the color of my skin. I never had to worry that if I was pulled over, I might end up being beaten, wrongly imprisoned, or dead. 

I can think of dozens of incidents and events in my lifetime where our country's public responses and actions resulted in much more harm than good. This country imparts upon so many of its formerly demographic majority citizens a sense of entitlement. And I'm really fucking sick of it. 

And this entitlement, they eat it up, internalize it, and it becomes ingrained forever and ever, and if anyone ever dares to question it or suggest change, they react with anger, defensiveness, and gaslighting. They act as if they got everything they have on their own, they built it and created the wealth for themselves, not by using slave labor or abusive tactics. They defend it by turning it around on those who are just asking to be treated fairly and equally- they use the word "entitlement" to mean a handout, implying they should feel guilty about asking for help or even needing help. 

We are seeing the ugliness of these slithering creatures who have been mostly hidden from view, until now, that the savior of hate has liberated them, their entitlement has been exposed for all to see. All it takes is for the stars to line up with a pandemic and a viral video exposure of the intersection of racism and violence. Add an idiot sociopath in the White House, 300+ million people who are exhausted and drained physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and spiritually by the state of the world created by his extorted and/or equally sociopathic followers. 

And they whine about being asked or required to wear masks or being mask-shamed, and about not being able to go eat their crappy obesogenic Chik-Fil-A among other equally deranged specimens of health, not being able to get their tattoos or nails and hair done, or not being able to go out, swill beer and leer. 

What the fuck makes them so special? 

It's their sense of entitlement. 

Entitled to:
  1. their hate 
  2. their beliefs of superiority
  3. not change behaviors or attitudes 
  4. not learn new information
  5. ignore facts
  6. never admit mistakes
  7. endanger other people's safety and lives (e.g. carrying guns, spreading infectious disease)
  8. not have to think critically
  9. live in their own little bubble as if nothing they do affects anyone else around them
  10. not contribute anything to the public good by paying taxes based on a fair system
  11. special treatment or service when and how they want it
  12. buy and consume goods and services without consideration of who might be harmed by their production 
  13. take more than they need, and accumulate wealth in a way that takes away from others' ability to survive
  14. pollute, litter, and harm the environment
  15. property rights as if they were a license to destroy and harm the planet and other living beings
  16. drive violently
  17. disregard the suffering, pain, lives and well-being of their fellow citizens
  18. leave an indelible mark on the earth as a testament to their existence
What pushed me over the edge last week- and I've been over the edge so much lately I could be a cliff jumper by now- was a series of stupid, ignorant, life-in-a-bubble comments by one of my white male 60-something neighbors. Both times I was not there to hear it, but someone else told me about it after the fact. First time, he was complaining about the riots. Second time, he made a totally boneheaded, insensitive, microaggressive comment to a younger black man, who calmly brushed it off. 

I wondered where the hell has my neighbor been living for the past month? The fact that my neighbor can say shit like that and it doesn't even faze him- doesn't think twice about it- he obviously has not been watching the news (other than Fox) and has no self-awareness or empathy whatsoever. But mostly, entitled: to live in a bubble, ignore facts, ignore current events and the impact of your own behavior and attitudes on other people, avoid learning or keeping up with the times...

I know that just writing this could be construed as moral superiority, elitism, and all those other names that people like to call "the libs". But I'm not going to apologize for calling out the bullshit behavior that I, as a 56 year old barely off-white, cisgender female, queer, Jewish-born human being have witnessed and endured my entire life, that has harmed and traumatized me in innumerable ways, and that has done immensely and exponentially greater harm to generations of other human beings, my fellow citizens and inhabitants of this planet, who happened to be born with dark skin. 

And I'm just, plain, fucking sick to death of all of it. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Yes, Cancer Still Goes On in a Pandemic.

Just a few thoughts.

I've been plagued (no pun intended) with people posting things to my social media pages and sending me memes about God Bless Nurses, nurses are angels, heroes, etc. People send me all kinds of thank yous and stuff about nurses on the front lines and risking their lives in the current situation.

I wish they would stop. Not only does it show that they don't understand the wide range of work that nurses do, it borders on the obsequious when they send that stuff to me personally.

I'm not on the front lines.

I don't have to worry about wearing a mask at work, because I don't work in a hospital anymore, or in direct patient care. I work in my home office, a tiny 100 square foot space where the dirtiest thing I have to deal with are muddy paw prints in the spring. So please, don't call me a hero, angel, or any other superhuman. Save that stuff for the nurses who deserve it, or want it (I doubt 99.9% of them are in it for the praise), and who are out there daily, risking their lives, health, sanity, and dignity to keep working for a system that doesn't care about them or the patients they take care of.

Not only does it tug at my sense of guilt about not being there helping out because deep down I really do feel like somehow I still have that bedside nurse in me (with my decade-long absence from ICU to boot), but it's really not deserved. I haven't started an IV in seven years and I haven't touched a ventilated patient in ten.

I chose to leave hospital nursing in 2013 because I felt the conditions were abusive, disrespectful, a waste of human talent, and I wasn't willing to subject myself to a bunch of lying, gaslighting, insecure, self-enriching, mediocrity-enhancing people with low self-esteem thinly disguised behind suits. I still experience some PTSD-like symptoms, or responses, to certain stressors as a result of it. As much as I hope I will never ever have to go back, there is still this deep down pang of duty that I feel when I hear how hard they are all being worked.

But seven years later, here we are. It's all being exposed. Daylight has finally broken through, and unfortunately, it took a pandemic to do it. And I cringe, shudder, and feel nauseated when I think about the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this situation, now, and the toll this will take on their mental health. Our country hasn't done a good job in the past of caring for veterans who came back from active combat, physically or mentally. And I have no doubt that the mental and emotional toll this pandemic will take on healthcare workers will become a crisis in itself.

I am still an oncology nurse now. I now work in research and technology around oncology care and treatment. And I have no desire to take anything away from the nurses who are working at the bedside in this horrible situation, saving lives and comforting those they can't save, to the best of their abilities.

But cancer still goes on. It doesn't stop because there's a public health crisis. And people with cancer, even if they have been treated and have no evidence of disease, are very vulnerable to infectious diseases. The disease process of cancer, depending on what organ systems it's attacking, as well as the treatment, not to mention the associated stress, goes on. So I hope all of those people with cancer, who are out of treatment, currently or recently in treatment, know that there are people out there who have your backs. We're not all dropping everything to work on COVID-19.

Right now it's hitting home in our family, my stepbrother is just getting started on a very scary and nebulous path to get treated for a blood cancer that rarely has good outcomes. His treatment was already delayed because of waiting 8 days to get COVID 19 test results. And he's getting the runaround of the healthcare system, which I strongly suspect would happen even if we weren't dealing with this pandemic.

So remember, please, yes, this is a dangerous time, it is a dangerous disease, especially for those who have additional health issues, but there are other things that are too important to lose track of.

Cancer still sucks as much as it ever has. And it's just as important now as it ever was.

So please save the accolades for the front line workers. I'll happily stay on the back end of this and keep plugging away at cancer. I'm don't want to be anybody's hero or angel, and I'm not.

Please, if you're looking for something to praise or adulate, go above and beyond in a different way. HELP NURSES! Do everything in your power to support those front line healthcare workers and don't forget them when the dust settles and we get to go back and resume our lives. Three things you can do:

1. Write your representatives in Congress, and your Senators, and tell them how important it is for healthcare workers to be taken care of both now and after this crisis is over, and that this should never ever happen again. And tell them you will vote accordingly.

2. And then, keep your word and stick by them after this crisis is over, so we can reform healthcare and make going to the hospital a less deadly experience for everyone, whether you are a patient or you work there.

3. And dammit, wash your hands and wear a mask when you go out! (Thanks to a former ICU cowowrker who reminded me to add this in...)