Covid White Coat Ceremony


Our niece, Ruby, lined up with her 149 classmates to wait her turn to have her white coat, freshly embroidered with her name, held out so she could slip in her arms. After she posed for a quick photo with the University of Miami Medical School dean, as each displayed the “U’s” gesture: pointing the thumbs together and opening the palms.

Her parents and the rest of us who had hoped to celebrate in person with her, watched virtually. I love academic processions and could happily listen to Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance play for hours; I love hearing every name. Ruby’s class seems diverse in nationality; there seems to be more women than men. Masks prevented us from seeing their smiling faces. Yet we are all so proud of her and excited for her journey ahead.

The White Coat Ceremony, created by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, is a right of passage signifying first year medical students entry into the profession. Speeches by faculty emphasized the students’ commitment to study, to compassion, to scientific evidence, and protecting humanity. In short, they stressed the enormous responsibility that makes the profession intellectually rewarding and personally fulfilling.

And yet. One couldn’t help feel the pervasiveness of the global Covid-19 pandemic while watching. No audience. Families home, huddled before screens, unable to celebrate in person. These students face this pandemic as the number one threat. They know they’re entering a profession that puts their own lives on the line.

I quote the September, Atlantic magazine article, “How the Pandemic Defeated America” by Ed Yong,

No one should be shocked that a liar who has made almost 20,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency would lie about whether the US had the pandemic under control; that a racist who gave birth to birtherism would do little to stop a virus that was disproportionately killing Black people; that a xenophobe who presided over the creation of new immigrant-detention centers would order meatpacking plants with a substantial immigrant workforce to remain open; that a cruel man devoid of empathy would fail to calm fearful citizens; that a narcissist who cannot stand to be upstaged would refuse to tap the deep well of experts at his disposal; that a scion of nepotism would hand control of a shadow coronavirus task force to his unqualified son-in-law; that an armchair polymath would claim to have a “natural ability” at medicine and display it by wondering out loud about the curative potential of injecting disinfectant; that an egotist incapable of admitting failure would try to distract from his greatest one by blaming China, defunding the WHO, and promoting miracle drugs; or that a president who has been shielded by his party from any shred of accountability would say, when asked about the lack or testing, “I don’t take any responsibility at all.””

It’s that last line that resonates, especially after watching the promise of these young physicians starting their medical studies, vowing to uphold the Hippocratic Oath that dates to ancient Greece, and pivots on just that: responsibility.

My friend, Chris Rosen, shared this post by her son-in-law, a Nashville ER doctor, who appealed to the governor to enforce strict mask-wearing and social distancing, shortly after he was infected with Covid-19. Thankfully, after two weeks quarantine, he tested negative and has reunited with his wife and two young children.

The White Coat Ceremony displayed one moment in the students’education;they have a long road ahead.

We owe it to them to treat this disease seriously.  We need to vote in someone who takes responsibility.


Covid Creations –Thanks to Television

Like many, we’ve spent the past several months home, in front of screens, for Zoom meetings, for work, and for entertainment. I’m never content to just sit; the knitting needles are constantly moving.

As as perpetual optimist that we’ll have a cold winter, so I can wear my multitude  of handknit sweaters and scarves, I knit in wool. Since Covid confinement, I’ve completed two sweaters and a throw blanket.

Here’s a sampling of what we’ve watched and recommend:

Grand Hotel (Netflix).  This Spanish drama (ok, maybe melodrama), goes 65 episodes and kept us enthralled. Beautiful actors and setting, edge-of-seat plot turns, and subtitles that seem realistic.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. (Netflix). A delightful rom-com. I never read the book; loved the film.

Jayhawkers (Amazon Prime)   This historical drama tells the story of how Wilt Chamberlain became the first African American basketball player at the University of Kansas. A jazz score by Nathan Davis, a contemporary of Chamberlain’s at UK, accompanies the film.

My Friend the Mayor; Small Town Politics in the Age of Trump   (Amazon Prime) was especially exciting as we’re friends with the subject, Sean Strub, the mayor of Milford, PA where we have our lake property.

If you ever doubted that every vote counts,  watch this account of Sean’s campaign for mayor.

Finally, there’s Victoria, a Masterpiece Theater production on PBS. We had watched the first two seasons and then left it, then returned. It’s worth returning to. That prompted my interest in her and the time period. I found Daisy Goodwin’s historical fiction book based on the series poorly written and boring so switched to a biography by  Julia Baird, Victoria, The Queen.  Complete with maps of the empire and family trees, it’s approachable and compelling.

The next two weeks the national conventions will fill our time and screens. I have a couple knitting  projects underway.

What have you been watching? We’re always looking for recommendations.

My creations:


Throw Blanket

Here’ s the needlepoint I shared several months ago, now a pillow thanks to the talented folks at Needlepoint for Fun.

Women’s Suffrage: The 19th Amendment

Sometimes sons do listen to their mothers.

Take Harry T. Burns. In 1920, this 24-year-old Tennessee legislator made history.

One hundred years ago this week, women in the United States were granted the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, culminating a seven-decade long, hard-fought struggle.

In 1919, Congress approved the amendment that then required passage by a ¾ of the 48 states. By March 1920, 35 states had voted to approve and 8 others had voted no. Of the remaining states, Tennessee was considered the most likely to vote for the amendment.

Suffragists and anti- suffragists crowded into Nashville, lobbying for their positions ahead of the special Legislative vote. The state Senate approved the measure, 25-4, and sent it to the House for the vote on August 18th. A vote to table the amendment tied, 48-48. A tie vote on ratification would have killed it in the state.

Burn, from the small town of Niota, in eastern Tennessee, had joined the Legislature in 1918 as its youngest member to date. The morning of the vote, he wore a red rose in his lapel, signifying his anti-suffrage position. As the votes were called, Burn cast his vote, saying “aye” to the surprise of his colleagues.

Explaining his turn-around, he read a letter from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt…”, ending with an endorsement of the suffragist leader Carrie Chapman Catt, “be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

The amendment passed, 49-47.

Burn’s move enabled decades of slow but steady advances for American women in electoral politics. However the journey to get to 1920 and beyond has been marked by protests, debates, and campaigns for women and civil rights.

Following the passage of the 19th Amendment, Carrie Chapman Catt, an educator and activist, continued to campaign for women’s suffrage around the world. She wanted women to be able to make their own decisions about voting and not depend on their fathers or husbands to tell them who to vote for. She created the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization dedicated to educating voters and supporting democracy.

She wrote: “Women of America, the vote is the emblem of your equality, the guarantee of your liberty, the vote is a power. Understand what it means and what it can do for your country. Hundreds of women gave an entire lifetime, thousands gave years of their lives. It was a continuous chain of activity. Young suffragists who helped forge the last links of that chain were not born when it began. Old suffragists who forged the first links were dead when it ended.”

The fight for women’s equality began in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. Seventy-two years later, women received the right to vote. By the 1960’s, women, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, organized again. The fight for equality in the workplace and government continues. More women are running for office than ever before. Two years ago, a record number of women were elected to Congress. On Tuesday, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate — making her the first Black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket.

I joined my local League of Women Voters several years ago and have been involved with education programs in schools and voter services that include organizing and moderating campaign forums, voter registration drives, and getting out the vote initiatives.

My chapter has published a book, Songs of the Suffragists: Lyrics of American Feminism from 1850-2020  a project undertaken by a couple members and high school and college interns. The women’s suffrage movement used songs, posters, plays, and books to champion the cause. Many of the songs were published in newspapers and on broadsheets, and many adapted new lyrics to familiar tunes.

For example, Julia Ward Howe’s 1862 “Battle Hymn of the Republic” became “Dare You Do It” in 1909 with new lyrics by Henry Roby:

Ye men who wrong your mothers,
And your wives and sisters, too,
How dare you rob companions
“Who are always brave and true?…

“Shall Women Vote?” adapts “Auld Lang Syne:”

Shall women vote, we answer,yes
How could we answer no,…”

“How Can Such Things Be?” adapts “Oh Susannah!”

“I came from California, where the women folk are free,
I’m bound for Pennsylvania, old-fashioned folks to see!
Election night the day I left and every poll all right;
I crossed the line, near lost my breath; election was a fight.”

The book chronicles the women’s movement to present day including the 1942 “Rosie the Riveter,” (1942), “You Don’t Own Me,” (1963), “Respect (1965), “The Pill” (1975), and “Woman” (2017. Photographs and sheet music help illustrate this informative, entertaining book. The League also created a video to accompany the book and can be used at no cost. Proceeds benefit the League and is a perfect present.

Covid Diary #9 To School or Not?

My son and his three children spent 5 days with us at our Pocono lake house. We’ve been seeing them since the beginning of Covid,  and they’ve been here a couple times already this summer.

There’s been lots of wonderful activities: archery,

the release of 800 trout into the lake,


swimming, boating and paddle boarding, games both board and on screen,comic drawing, reading, watching Hamilton on tv, and eating pancakes, french toast, and ice cream sandwiches.

The conversation the past couple days has been about school. The ten and eight year olds attend public school. The town where they live is offering a hybrid option where they would attend school in person, two days a week from 9 am to 1 pm. The rest of the week would be on-line. The youngest, age 6, attends a private Montessori school; the plans for him are 5 days a week, in person. Of the three, the lack of school environment has affected him most.

In New Jersey, every school district is charged with creating its own solution to school. So you can travel from one community to the next, seeing different patterns. Kids will be attending school, walking, biking or being bused. Some will be home part time, some full time.

And every state is different. My sister Madeline, who teaches ESL in Maryland, isn’t returning to the classroom until January. She’s been on-line teaching since March, including summer school. For her, on-line has been extremely difficult. Children need to see mouths move and hear sounds to learn a language; twenty plus students on a Zoom call, make this task futile. Likewise, one of my nieces teaches special education in New York City. She too finds on-line challenging, as special needs children need personal attention and different teaching styles to advance and sustain growth.

Across the nation, districts are facing the question about opening. Already schools that have are shutting down as the virus continues to spread. As a former teacher, I know the importance of being with students in a classroom. There’s movement, activities, discussions, and grabbing a spontaneous teaching moment that can’t occur so easily in an on-line setting. I know I’d personally hate the on-line, mostly as I’d abhor sitting in front of a screen all day. I worry our students are already doing too much of that too.

And yet. Should my grandchildren be guinea pigs? Should yours?

Please share how your children and grandchildren will approach the new school year.

Note to readers: This is my first post in my new site, I previously blogged at Please check out the archives there! I’ll be linking new posts to old posts as material warrants. Thank you!

Social Distancing #8: Be a Mask Monitor!

I’ve become that woman. The one who when seeing someone not wearing a mask while shopping, will call you out on it. I take my cue from Dr. Laura Popper, a renowned Manhattan pediatrician, who posted photos of maskless New Yorkers, publicly shaming them. Her public service announcement garnered attention from a local newspaper, she’s officially the Mask Monitor.

Yesterday, I took my grands food shopping while they’re visiting at our lake house in northeast Pennsylvanian. No matter that the refrigerator and freezer are overflowing; I wanted to ensure they had the right brands of cereal, yogurts, breads they prefer.

We wore masks. As did everyone in the store, except one man we encountered in the cereal aisle whose mask dangled around his neck like a loosened necktie. While I’ve seen maskless people before, I think the fact I was with the grands, brought the whole issue into greater focus. My blood boiled; how dare this jerk toy with their health? With their futures?

I bluntly said, “Put on your mask.”

He grinned and pulled it below his nose. Not good enough. I countered, “Cover your nose, too. We’re all trying hard to do our bit, you’re putting my kids’ and my health at risk.” I walked away, steaming, and sad that my grands had to see me get angry.

Unless parents want to keep home schooling, unless local businesses want to continue curbside only sales, and restaurants want to be limited to outdoor, six-foot apart dining, and unless we no longer want to travel, attend concerts and theater, or go to a doctor’s office or get a haircut without wearing masks, Covid 19 won’t go away too soon.

Mask shaming will be my mission. It should be everyone’s.

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