Covid Cascade, an essay

It is clear there is more to covid than scientists realized with its evolving variants. Now we have something called Monkeypox, which somehow indicates it comes from contact with monkeys. And it does, sort of. To be better informed about Monkeypox, check out this article from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Photo by Lorenzo Martinez the night we were evacuated.

I am not going to embark on a discourse about viruses and their dangers/impact on society. What I want to ramble on about is uncertainties we all face and how we are changed for better or worse by circumstances beyond our control.

In the recent fires in our area, we were evacuated for eight days from our home. Not because the house and property were in danger, but because the air quality was so dense, we could scarcely breath. And we didn’t know our house would be unharmed, especially when we looked to the hills behind the house and saw great plumes of grey smoke and flames leaping in blended slashes of orange and red and yellow heat.

We’re weeks past the declaration of containment and we should feel at ease, but we don’t. We know many people displaced by loss who are further devastated by flooding that takes destruction to a new level.

And it’s not these destructive fires and floods that weigh on us. It’s the unsettling mountains of shifting dialog about where to go for help and whether or how much help will be available. In the middle and immediately following the fires, the outpouring of love and support were beautifully staggering. Food. Hot meals. A place to stay. Clothing. Resources galore. As time has marched on, the tragedy of many has been left behind. The kindness remains but it is woefully disconnected from the specific needs of those most impacted by the devastation.

The thing is, we have all been hit with multiple tragedies: covid, the deaths of loved ones, illness, a senseless and devastating war in Ukraine, people at our borders struggling and suffering, Monkeypox for crying out loud, violence at every turn, mass shootings, an insensitive and cruel political environment, global warming/climate change… I could go on, and so could you. In a recent sermon, Pastor Katie Palmer likened it to Russian stacking dolls. See a summary here. We are individually at the core of layers and layers of influences over which we have no control, but they affect us in unimaginable ways. No wonder we’re edgy.

The other side of that are the acts of generosity and neighbor helping neighbor, strangers stepping up to help, a community taking in those in need, powerful acts of kindness unselfishly given.

One thing we can agree on: thanks to firefighters and first responders the response to the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon fire was phenomenal and kept a horrific situation from being worse. The community took them in as well.

Personal loss is just that – personal. Typically, most of us have a support network to see us through dark times. Where do we go when so much in the world seems to be so wrong?

It may sound simplistic, but live as best you can. Help in the ways you can. Go to the polls come election time and vote.

Happy New Year

Happy New YearThe clock striking midnight on Dec. 31, 2020, will not bring about a magical return to “normal,” whatever your definition of normal might be. We still have a largely uncontrolled virus, political stress and strife, and the economy is a mess. Many will start the New Year with a boatload of Old Problems.

So, how do we move forward? Well, that’s somewhat dependent on how one approaches life.

How do you see your strengths and weakness? Are you a naturally confident, can-do kind of person? Are you self-motivated or do you need a kick in the pants to get going? Are you resilient? Empathetic? Optimistic? It has been said that if you believe you will succeed, you probably will. If you think you will fail, you probably will. Between the two, which choice will you make and how will that form your strategy for getting from where you are now, to where you want to be in 2021?

My magic formula for positive change is simple. Show up.

  • Show up for your family when they need you.
  • Show up for friends who are going through tough times.
  • Show up to celebrate important occasions.
  • Show up to help in soup kitchens, or food banks, or clothing drives.
  • Show up in the coffers of a charity that will make life better for others.
  • Show up in local small businesses who are struggling in these tough economic times.
  • Show up for yourself through self-care.

Show up.

When I think of our small community, I’m thankful to report that many of my friends and neighbors have done just that, shown up and delivered. At the beginning of the pandemic, when there were no masks to be found anywhere, folks dusted off their sewing machines and made masks, then gave them away.

Our struggling food banks had lots of support from locals. Was it enough? The need for food and personal items for those affected by job loss or homelessness never goes away. The good news is, people are still showing up to help.

Blankets were given to those who needed them. Elders were given boxes of food and necessities. There is so much more I’m not aware of, but I thank every one of you who stepped up and showed up. The difference you made rings through into 2021 and resonates in the hearts of all you helped.

So, what does “show up” mean? Whatever it means to you, but here are some ideas:

  • It’s the simple things that add up. Samaritan House always needs socks, scarves, woolen caps, and masks for distribution, especially in cold winter months.
  • A telephone call to a shut-in or a friend or a neighbor you haven’t seen or talked to in a while can make a big difference. If you think you don’t have anything to say, be honest and say you just wanted to touch base and say, “Hi,” and let the conversation go on from there.
  • Send a card. In the mail. With a stamp. Or a letter. Or a thank you for a kindness. It’s the connection that matters.
  • The most important truth our friends and neighbors need to know is the very truth we need to remember: we are not alone. We have a tribe, a team, a family, a network, friends we can turn to. Lean on faith and friends as you look to the future.
  • Think of all that you can do and don’t worry about the things you can’t. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I read recently that 97 percent of the things we worry about, never happen. That’s a lot of wasted time that could be spent breathing deep and chilling out and showing up. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to have a big impact.

Please note that when you “show up” in the company of others, be safe and adhere to appropriate protocols to protect yourself and those you encounter: mask up, social distance, wash your hands.

I wish for each of you a blessed and happy and stress-free 2021. When you show up for others it has an amazing effect on you. Try it; you’ll like it.

Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at,, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to


Writer Sharon Vander MeerCovid-the-curse of 2020 may soon be one for the history books as more meds are created to slow the pandemic down and maybe even bring it to a halt. In the meantime, the battle rages about whether to mask or not, gather or not, be vaccinated or not.

It appears abundantly clear that masks do work, social distancing does work, and vaccines can get us back to what passes for normal. Are there risks? Perhaps. One thing we know is that the pandemic has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide and left many survivors with lingering symptoms. The good news is that 97 percent of affected patients did survive.

For me, 2020 can be distilled down to things more personal. Our best friends died in a horrific accident in February; my son went through multiple health problems and continues to struggle; my husband fell at the end of June and broke his right femur, had surgery, and ended up in rehab for three months. He’s home now but needs in-home care. Mentally he’s 100 percent; physically he fights the good fight… with help. I developed chronic back pain, which is proving to be harder to get rid of than I’d hoped.

This is not the great whine, the 2020 Vander Meer pity party; this is the reality we’re living with. You have your reality: sickness, loss of a loved one – perhaps because of Covid, but likely from some other illness or circumstance; your plans have been harpooned because of the pandemic, moments lost forever, never to be regained. The political absurdities of 2020 I will leave for someone else to talk about, as well as racial inequality, which is a systemic barbed wire woven into the fabric of – not just our nation – but the world.

So, where is hope? It is found in every dollar given to feed the hungry. It is every first responder, nurse, doctor, and health care worker logging hours of overtime (for which they will never get adequately compensated). It is in all the agencies finding help for the homeless and in every person who puts on a mask to protect those he or she may encounter. It is the scientists working on a cure. It’s in the phone call you make to check on a loved one… Hope is everywhere and bolsters us now when we need it most.

The holidays are upon us, and by all accounts, there will be less giving in the gifting sense, but there will be lots of sharing. We have found within ourselves – it would seem – wellsprings of generosity and kindness. Perhaps by entering 2021 with a spirit of hope, we will find in others that something special that sets them apart, and help them celebrate that.

There is a public announcement, I think it originates in Albuquerque, but I’m not sure, that asks everyone to look within themselves and find their unique gift or skill and find ways to put it to work. Giving isn’t just about dollars donated; it’s also about how you engage with your community, following safety protocols, of course. We all have something to give. We can all point to people in our town who have made a difference, whether it’s collecting food for distribution or making masks back when there was a huge shortage. Giving and helping and reaching out are not activities limited to times of trial. My particular local heroes are the visionaries who are working on the natural waterway that runs through the heart of Las Vegas and creating a beautiful Gallinas River Park along the route. While the heavy-duty work is paid for by grants, a lot of volunteers are showing up to help when and where they can.

We have lots of reasons to be hopeful about the future. This year has been a test, but it has not broken our spirits. If anything, it has given us reasons to look around and appreciate living in our small town. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.

There will be less spending this year, so the talking heads say, but may I suggest that whatever you spend this year, try your very best to spend it at a local business. We need them to be strong and able to weather this financial storm. They are braver than any superhero and made of stouter stuff than you can imagine. Let them know you appreciate them. Spend your shopping dollars in Las Vegas in small businesses. Find out more about hometown merchants at the Las Vegas First Business Alliance website or by emailing

Have a blessed and beautiful Christmas and look to the New Year with hope in your heart.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at,, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to

Tears are not enough

Sad situation

I’m working on an article for the Las Vegas Optic about animals – mostly dogs – in the most recent incident of a woman accused of animal hoarding. All I can say is, it’s heartbreaking. We do not have an animal in our home. The last dog we shared our house with was killed when he wandered out of our yard – despite our best efforts to keep him confined – and got run over. It was horrible. That was more than two decades ago. Our youngest son was in high school. It broke his heart, and ours. I vowed to never have a pet again. It was like losing part of the family.

The photo above is an aerial shot of the compound where 60 animals were sheltered, if that’s what you want to call it.

It is sad that anyone would knowingly create a situation in which animals were underfed (starved), medically neglected and caged in poor excuses for shelter. More troubling is the snail-pace judicial system that has resulted in a lengthy road to justice. The first incident occurred in January of this year. A second incident just a week ago, involved the same person. More than 60 animals were added to the 32 already under the care of the local animal shelter, a community resource that is stretched past its limits. Look for the Optic article, which will appear in the next week or so, which will talk about how you can help. In the mean time, if you are a Facebook user, you can find out more here. Looke for the DONATE button and conveniently give online.

Please help. Donate money or food. This is a serious situation. I commend the Animal Welfare Coalition and all it does to protect the animals who share this planet with us, but they can’t do it alone. They need our help.

Note: Photo of Rowe property from AWC Facebook page.

Follow Sharon at:
Amazon Author Central


The purpose of purpose

In a recent study, researchers at University College London found that, for people over the age of 65, a sense of purpose and overall well-being meant that they were 30 percent less likely to die over a period of eight and a half years. This study followed over 9,000 English people and found that, at the end of the eight and half year period, only 9 percent of people in the highest category of well-being had died, compared with 29 percent of those at the lowest level of well-being. Those who reported the highest level of fulfillment lived, on average, two years longer. From a Psychology Today blog article. Read more…

Golden YearsWhat is your purpose? Do you have one? It’s important for everyone to have a reason to get up in the morning. It’s important for businesses and organizations to have a purpose, one that goes beyond making money. As you get older, purpose is crucial to well-being and having a healthy lifestyle, even when you may struggle with physical challenges. You don’t have to jump out of a plane to make life interesting.

So, what is purpose? Purpose is that thing you dedicate yourself to that shapes who you are. That’s not the Webster definition, but that is the essence of what it means to have purpose. When you have no purpose, ­ no goal – life becomes dull and meaningless. Not having purpose can rob you of joy.

Your purpose may be as simple as sending notes of encouragement to people in your family or social group, or as grand as creating art or building a business, or being in a profession that by its definition is one that serves others.

My purpose is to write something every day, and most of the time, I do. When my husband and I went through recent bouts of health issues, I scarcely wrote at all and the result was a descent into negativity and gloom. When I went back to writing, my spirits lifted and my outlook improved dramatically. How often have you heard about retirees who after they no longer have their jobs – their purpose – they go into decline, to the point of giving up on living.

Those who do best are those who continue to contribute in some way to society and to the lives of those around them. Sitting in a chair waiting to “get better” or get back what you once had, is not the answer. Getting up to the degree you are able and getting with it – whatever “it” is for you – will make a difference for you and those around you.

Stuck for something to do after you’ve done it all? Here are some suggestions to give you food for thought.

• Take classes: Check out the activities and events section of your local newspaper. Are there classes offered you might be interested in? The senior group Our Healthy Circle at Alta Vista Regional Hospital here in Las Vegas, offers a wealth of opportunities. Check out the classes and become an active participant in their dinners, travel events and other activities.

• Visit a nursing home: If you have the gift of song or art or anything else creative, check with a nursing home in your area to see if they would welcome you to give a class or provide entertainment for the residents. Or they may need other volunteer help you are well suited to provide.

• Check with your church: Most churches have volunteer programs to provide meals for the ill or visitation to the home bound or those in hospital. What skills do you have that would be helpful? In our church we provide prayer shawls for people undergoing trying times. We always need more shawls. Want to volunteer to make one? Perhaps your church has a similar program. Check it out. See how you can help.

Write your memoir• Write that memoir: What a gift for your family. Your history is something only you can tell. Even if you have orally told your stories time and again, much will be lost to misinterpretation or plain old forgetfulness. With the advent of self-publishing ( as an example), you can write it, upload it, and – once you’ve approved the proof – you can affordably order as few or as many as you like. (A little sales pitch here. If you need help with formatting and uploading, I’m available. 🙂 ).

• Learn how to use a computer: It will open a whole new world of information for you. Caution, don’t let it become the only social interaction you have. Face-to-face is better than Facebook any day.

• Write a recipe book: You can publish it in paperback for your family, or do it digitally. Either way this is a gift that will keep on giving, which is really what having a life purpose is all about. Reaching out and making a difference.

A recent study followed nearly 1,500 older people for 10 years. It found that those who had a large network of friends were about 22 percent less likely to die during the 10 years.

• Maintain friendships: There is a tendency among elders to isolate themselves. It becomes a challenge to get out if you are on a walker or have other disabilities. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort. According to one study, elders who remain socially active are happier and healthier. Unable to drive? Check resources in your community. You might be surprised what is available at low or no cost to get you to activities and events.

• Get a part time job: If you have time on your hands and don’t know what to do, consider working part time. Older employees are valued for their work ethic and reliability. Don’t believe for a second your age puts you out of the running, especially for part time work.

These are a few suggestions; I’m sure you have plenty of your own. Your purpose today may not be your purpose tomorrow. That’s okay. The point is to have a reason to arise in the morning and do something during that day that will put a smile on your face at night. Benefits? Countless, the most significant being that you are opening the gift of life each day and making the most of it.

Woman to woman, okay? And men, too

Sharon Vander MeerBy the time this posts, I will be in the midst of an operation, or in recovery. This is by way of telling every woman to be alert to changes in your body and unusual occurrences for which you have no reasonable explanation. Don’t wonder if that worrisome anomaly is something to be worried about or not. Make an appointment with your doctor and let her or him help you understand whether it is something that needs further treatment.

My anomaly turned out to be cervical cancer and the recommended treatment was removing stuff from my body invaded by this sneaky beast. Fortunately, it was caught early – partly because I have a history of this cancer in my family so I was on the lookout for signs, partly because I’m more scared of what I don’t know than I am of what I do know. The medical team is top notch and I’m confident the next time you see me I’ll be pretty much back to what passes for normal in this upside down world we live in. Okay, maybe not normal, but on the road to recovery.

This message of medical follow-up isn’t just for women. Men are the worst for putting off going to the doctor. It may “be nothing,” but whatever your symptoms are may be “something” that can be treated when caught early. That seems to be the key in the successful treatment of most ailments. Early detection.

I read the other day in a post from Max Lucado, that if you want to put life in perspective, make a list of all the people who will be affected by decisions you make. He was talking about life-altering decisions like cheating on your husband or wife or doing drugs or relying on alcohol to get you through life’s trying times. That same philosophy can be applied to putting off taking care of your health. Make a list of all the people who will be affected if you choose not to seek the advice of a doctor when you know you should. The sicker you are, the more difficult and costly it will be to treat whatever ails you.

Listen, I’m not trying to over-simplify diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, but if you have symptoms and ignore them, you help neither yourself nor your family.

I take part in an online prayer ministry and I’m surprised when people say they’ve been “feeling bad for months,” but are afraid to go to a doctor and find out what’s wrong with them. Their prayer requests may be for healing or for the problem to simply go away. What I pray is that they will let go of fear and beat a track for the nearest doctor or health clinic.

I am a believer in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I have no fear of surgery. I trust the medical team taking care of me. And I appreciate prayer. It works. It heads the list of the best medicine has to offer. So, say a little prayer for my speedy return to wellness.

 I’m stock piling posts, which will appear on a schedule during my recovery. I love to hear from followers and subscribers, so please comment, like and share.


Chicken Anyone? Not For Me!

Chicken YellYou can apply nut job to my character profile. My ever so slight wackiness has to do with food generally, and chicken in particular. This if from someone who has included chicken and eggs in meal preparation since forever.

…And then I found out chickens eat meat. Meat. Chickens eat meat. They are carnivores. AND, they eat pretty much any kind of meat – frogs, snakes, other chickens. The most alarming meat they eat is – I looked it up on Google, so it has to be true – mice. Chickens. Eat. Mice. This is information I could have done without. I am phobic about mice. I have not been able to eat chicken or anything related to chicken since I found this out. Do you have any idea how many products have chicken, eggs, or chicken products in them? A lot.

I’ve tried to reason with myself.

Sharon, you’ve eaten chicken all your life. It is no different today than it was the last time you ate it. Chicken didn’t kill you then and it won’t kill you now.

And yet, every time I lift something to my mouth that has eggs or chicken in it, I see a mouse tail trailing out of the beak of a chicken. I KNOW. It’s completely unreasonable. My husband says I’ll get over it. Maybe, but at the moment poultry of any kind is off the menu in our house.

To make matters worse, I just found out through a “Reader’s Digest” article entitled 50 Things Food Manufacturers Won’t Tell You, that the bacteria responsible for sourdough bread originally came from – GET THIS – rodent feces. Excuse me? Rodent feces?

I can live with crushed bugs – barely – providing the red color in some products. I can accept – marginally – that it’s okay for manufacturers to have up to 30 insect parts per 100 grams in peanut butter. (Before I read the article, I had just bought a 28-ounce container of JIF!) I can believe without question that labeling on products is not to be trusted. I can’t abide the idea of putting MY FAVORITE BREAD OF ALL TIME down my gullet knowing it’s “starter” involved rat shit. Sorry. Just can’t do it.

So here I am in my food fog of not knowing what to eat, because let’s face it, as my dad used to say, “If you don’t eat the food they say is bad for you, you run the risk of starving to death.” At the moment I’m eating fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains. Turns out those are all pretty good for me, so I guess that’s what I’ll be living on for now, unless of course I start obsessing about genetic changes made to seeds to enhance growth and longevity, or about the pesticides used to ward off bugs, fungi, and plant diseases of varying kinds.

Oh, Lord above, I’m going to starve to death!

I would love to say this is all tongue in cheek, but I just threw away my last loaf of sourdough bread, and I haven’t knowingly eaten anything chicken-related in nearly a month. That jar of JIF may never see the light of day.

I know, nut job, right?

Happy eating!

(Author’s note: I wrote this in June 2016 and I’m back to normal – whatever that is! Chicken and eggs are back on the Vander Meer household menu.)

Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.

Follow Sharon at:
Amazon Author Central