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Meaningful Monday: Be a Realist

Now isn’t the time to be the pessimist, complaining about things that we have no control over. It also isn’t the time to be the optimist, believing that things aren’t as bad as they really are. Today, we all need to be realists. We need to accept the situation we are in and adjust our behaviors accordingly. We are struggling in the midst of a global pandemic, yet there are some who still don’t seem to understand that we are in a crisis. They just don’t get it. I don’t know if they are optimists or just stupid, but in today’s world, there is only one thing that matters: to accept the reality of the crisis and adjust to be safe. We must save ourselves and others around us. We must be real and accept reality. That is what a realist does.

It isn’t over, not even close. It may just come back next fall. What am I talking about? COVID-19. The respiratory illness that is killing thousands and sickening hundreds of thousands of people in the USA. It is world wide, we’re not the only ones suffering. We all need to be unified in our response, all around the globe. That can only happen when we all become realists.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work towards a better world or better situation. We should! We should also do things in our daily life that reflects our realistic outlook. Things like:

  • Wear a face mask when you go out
  • Avoid gathering
  • Stay home whenever possible
  • Sanitize and wash your hands as often as possible
  • Shop sensibly
  • Use delivery or curbside service whenever possible
  • Use touch-free checkout options when you must go inside the store
  • Plan for long term difficulties in the economy
  • Plan for long term difficulties in the healthcare system
  • Only go to the doctor/urgent care/ER when absolutely necessary
  • Use telemedicine when possible
  • Plant a garden. Even if it is on your windowsill, grow something to eat. It’s nutritious and good for your emotional health
  • Take especially good care of yourself and be careful in your daily life. This will help prevent additional strain on the healthcare system. Act as if you have absolutely zero access to a face to face doctor appointment until you get to the point that you really do need it.
  • Educate yourself about COVID-19, our healthcare system, and things you can do to minimize your chances of becoming infected.
  • Educate yourself about ways to maintain self-reliance with less reliance on the healthcare system and commercial shopping system so you are ready when you can’t get your hands on things you are used to.
  • Help out others who need it… shop for elderly neighbors, donate to research to find a cure, do anything to help without putting yourself at risk
  • Use video calls to keep in touch when you can. It helps to feel more connected when you can see each other, especially when we can’t actually be together physically.

There’s a wealth of other things we can all do. We all must do our part. When we all see the situation as it really is, we can all work together to build a better world for us all.

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DIY Series: Making Sanitizer From Scratch, Part 1: Sugar Wash to Distill to Ethanol, Recipe + DIY Fermentation Container

** IMPORTANT: Distilling spirits is illegal in many states and countries! Check with your local regulations and stay within the law!

** PSA: This tutorial and recipe are NOT to make alcohol for consumption and are not for you to sell. The materials used in this are not food-grade, are not sanitized as they would be for alcohol to consume, and it is most definitely NOT FOR CONSUMPTION! DO NOT DRINK ANYTHING MADE WITH THIS TUTORIAL!

I can tell you that I have checked the state where I live and there is a little restriction on distilling spirits. It is not illegal for a regular citizen to distill spirits, but we are not allowed to sell it without having the distillery inspected and certified, and then getting a permit to sell alcohol. While I’m not making this to sell in any way, it is always good to know the laws of your home state or country, and to comply with local and national laws. I’m not running a distillery, nor am I making anything for consumption or sale, so I should be safe to make my home brewed sanitizer.

I normally make a spray sanitizer that my family and friends use. It is a simple recipe that I use and I love that it is easy to change the scent to suit the person who is receiving it (I always gift it, and see it as giving a gift of health). But then we entered into this COVID-19 nightmare. A little bit into the coronavirus crisis, I started to run dangerously low on the isopropyl alcohol that I normally use as the active ingredient of my sanitizing spray. I went to grab a bottle from the store and then it hit me: there is no alcohol available for purchase within at least 100 miles of my home. Even online, it is sold out. I figured it would be ok, I’ll wait and just check every time we stop for groceries or anything else. It never came back into stock. It’s been over a month and a half now. The COVID-19 crisis has unfolded to the point that we go through more sanitizer now than we ever have before, and I’m running out of the active ingredient to make more! Both me and my son are at-risk for serious COVID-19 illness if we contracted the illness and are voluntarily quarantining ourselves as a protective measure. We sanitize everything that comes into the house from the outside world, even our groceries. Running out of alcohol is a health emergency for us!

So, I started researching. A friend told me earlier today that he admires my can-do attitude, and he is confidant that I can do anything that needs to be done and if I don’t know how to do it, I will learn how. It was very flattering, but once I thought it out, he is right. We can do anything! We just need to learn how to do what we need to do. So I learned the amount of alcohol that needs to be in the base active ingredient of sanitizer. I learned how to measure ABV (Alcohol By Volume). I learned how to make a basic “sugar wash”, which is a basic sugar-water mixture with yeast added that is commonly used to make moonshine. I learned how to distill spirits safely to get the alcohol turned into ethanol of at least 80-90% ABV. My target is 90% Alcohol By Volume, which would be equal to about 158-proof alcohol. Nothing that you would ever want to drink, but you could easily use it as an antiseptic… or lamp fuel… The ABV content is high enough that even mixed with glycerine and essential oils (to moisturize hands because this level of alcohol will be very drying!) and a little water added, it will still be well in excess of the CDC recommended 60-70% alcohol in a sanitizer. A good, strong spirit is something that I can dilute a little bit while still keeping the end product at safe alcohol content, so it will last longer and I won’t need to go through the process as often. That works for me! It’s a learning process, and my soon-to-be 11 year-old son is totally into learning how to make it, as well… he is fascinated with our DIY stuff anyway, he honestly thinks it is silly that we buy stuff from stores when we could make it all ourselves.

In this post, I will go over your “shopping list” for the sugar wash recipe, as well as the fermentation container. We will discuss making the sugar wash and container and I will leave you to get started. The sugar wash should be allowed to ferment for 3-4 weeks, so that is plenty of time for us to go over creating the still using stuff most of us have around the house in Part 2 (because, let’s face it: most everything is sold out from almost everywhere… we need to work with things we can easily get our hands on), and for us to go over the actual sanitizer recipe in Part 3.

Sugar Wash

Sugar wash is the liquid that ferments into alcohol. For beer and whiskey, it is often called “Mash” and contains grains, sugars, and yeast. Different grains lend different flavor profiles in the finished product. We don’t care about a flavor profile because this isn’t being brewed to be consumed and we want a MUCH higher alcohol percentage than any beer, whiskey or other standard alcohol beverage. We just need sugar and yeast for ours, and this is a recipe that moonshine distillers often use, called a Sugar Wash. The sugar you use doesn’t need to be any fancy, expensive, organic or anything else sugar. I used the cheapest granulated sugar I could find. It just needs to be sugar that dissolves in warm water. Not too tough to find, since they all do! When the sugar dissolves completely into warm water, the glucose molecules in the sugar are open to being digested by yeast that we add to the mix. The yeast eats the sugar and the waste product it produces is alcohol. Different yeast strains can handle different alcohol content before it kills them. For this reason, yeast was one of the only two products I actually purchased for this project (the other was a proof hydrometer for measuring alcohol by volume, which will be used in the second post, so if you can get one ahead of time, that would be great!). I got Red Star DADY (Distiller’s Active Dry Yeast). That is a good yeast for its tolerance of alcohol content, but it is slow-working. There are some turbo yeasts out there, but they costed a fortune and I didn’t want to invest a lot into it. If you want to fork over the extra bucks for Turbo Yeast, make sure it is a Distiller’s Yeast and not one made for wine, champagne, ale, beer or mead. Those are all lower alcohol brews and your final product won’t be as strong and will need significantly more distilling. Baker’s yeast or bread yeast won’t work for this at all, which bummed me out a bit because I always have a ton of baker’s yeast on hand (I bake all of our bread now, we haven’t bought commercially made bread in at least a year!). Also, brewer’s yeast used in food preparations, nutritional yeasts and the like are all unusable for brewing spirits.

Read this entire tutorial before you start so you can determine your rhythm for the project. You’ll want to make the fermentation container before the sugar wash, or while the wash is cooling.

You will need:

  • a kitchen scale or fine measuring spoons
  • a candy thermometer or meat thermometer. This is essential! You must be able to know the temperatures of your liquids during this process!
  • a stockpot with a lid
  • a large plastic or glass bowl for preparing the yeast mixture
  • sugar (4 lbs + 2 Tablespoons for each gallon of wash)
  • Distiller’s Yeast (4 grams per gallon of wash, approx. 1 teaspoon)
  • filtered water (i used city water from a friend’s house that I ran through a zero water filter)
  • a long spoon to reach the bottom of the stockpot, preferably with some length left!

Sugar Wash Recipe:

  • Start with making the sugar water mixture:
    • pour your water into a clean stockpot
    • add your sugar, 4 lbs per gallon of water
    • heat the water to the temperature specified as optimal for your yeast, stirring frequently to help the sugar dissolve. For Red Star DADY, it is 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • While the wash is warming, prepare your yeast:
    • in your large plastic or glass bowl:
      • 2 Tablespoons of sugar per gallon of water
      • 4 grams of yeast per gallon of water (or approx. 1 teaspoon, more doesn’t hurt!)
      • 1.5 – 2 cups of warm water at the optimal temperature for your yeast (this smaller amount is easier to warm in the microwave)
    • Stir everything together in the yeast bowl until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.
    • After a few minutes, you should see the yeast start to engorge with the liquid (see photos below).
    • After a few more minutes, your yeast should start to foam. In breadmaking, we call this “proofing” because it shows proof that your yeast is good and ready to use.
  • While this is going on, your sugar should be melting completely into the water. Your sugar water should become transparent and no longer cloudy. If it needs additional heat to accomplish this beyond your optimal temperature, you can cool it down again by placing it into a sink of cold water, or place it into the sink and wash the sides of the pot down with cold water while you stir the water.
  • When your yeast has proofed and your sugar water is at the optimal temperature, it is time to combine into the fermentation container.

Fermentation Container

This mixture will need a place where it can sit and ferment for a little while: 3-4 weeks at least. The spot needs to be warm and kinda dark… most definitely not in direct sunlight. Yeast thrives best when it is warm and moist and we want very happy yeast! The simple sugars in the granulated sugar mixture should feed it effectively, but if you really want to be sure you can also get a yeast booster or yeast nutritional mixture from brewer’s supply stores. I used a simple 5-gallon bucket with a tight lid for my container. You will want to get your hands on some materials to make an airlock if you aren’t planning to buy a brewer’s airlock. To make a homemade airlock, you will need to get your hands on some plastic tubing. I used some old tubing from my aquarium supplies that I haven’t had fish in for a few years now. Drill a hole in the lid of your container and secure the plastic tube so it is just inside. I secured mine with silicone caulking and topped it off with a little duct tape. Then, attach a small container to the side of your fermentation container. Put the tube into the smaller container, and submerge it with water when the container set is ready to sit and ferment. This will allow bubbles out (to prevent a buildup of gasses inside the container, causing it to burst), without allowing air inside. This will create a more natural environment for the yeast to grow and be happy.

The last steps are here!

Pour your sugar water into the fermentation container. Pour your proofed yeast into the container with the water. Stir it up nicely. Attach the lid firmly and as air-tight as you can. I used extra duct tape to secure the lid down and prevent air escape. It probably isn’t completely air tight but it’s darn close! Leave it in a fairly dark and warm place for 3-4 weeks to do it’s thing. I grabbed an index card and wrote the date it was made, and the date it should be distilled, then taped it to the lid. Just as a reminder because memory isn’t my strong point these days.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Stay tuned for parts two and three for the final steps, including making a DIY still out of kitchen pots and aquarium tubing! How about subscribing to the site so you get an email notification when my new posts are published! That way you won’t miss out on the next steps! Plus, you’ll get first call on all of my new articles and posts! Just enter your email in the form below and submit, then confirm your subscription when you get the confirmation email. Talk to you soon!

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Meaningful Monday

I felt that this particular message is important for us to focus on today: “Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.”

Just yesterday, I watched the news for a good portion of the day. I had the news streaming on my tablet in the kitchen while I was brewing sugar mash for home-distilled alcohol, so there was a lot of news streaming throughout the kitchen for me to listen to all day. According to the nation’s top expert in infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, we have a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.

Best Case: The entire nation practices strict “social distancing” to the point that we just basically stay home and away from everyone else unless we are considered an essential worker, going for groceries or medicines, or going to seek medical attention. Basically, we Shelter-In-Place. For a minimum of 1 more month, but realistically it will be 2-3 more months. (Listen to the medical experts, not the politicians on this!) IF we can manage to do this effectively, ALL OF US, we will have a nationwide death toll of 100,000 to 200,000. If we are very lucky, it will be under 100,000 but that isn’t likely.

Worst Case: The national economy opens back up as soon as possible because it’s important, right? We try to maintain social distancing, but it is really tough when we are all working in close quarters. Plus, there’s never an easy way to stay away from people when we’re out shopping and at the park or beach! Infections continue to grow in numbers and by the time all is said and done, we have a nationwide death toll of around 2,000,000 people. TWO MILLION PEOPLE DEAD!

Personally, I would take the best-case scenario over the worst, any day of the week and twice on Sunday! Yeah, a hundred thousand people dying from an illness is appalling. It’s hard to think of that many people dying of any illness in our country. We have good GDP. We have a stable economy for the most part. We have a strong medical and healthcare system. We have some of the world’s top doctors and research scientists. So why can’t we save everyone?

I wish we could! But the reality is that there are too many people already carrying the virus, spreading it among their community. They go to church and infect their fellow churchgoers. They go to work and infect those they encounter. They go to the movies/beach/parties and infect others there… you get the idea. We must all stay at home. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. US.

Yes, there are some people who perform a necessary job. Doctors and nurses, medical workers (including in the medical offices), grocery store employees, pet care store employees, Amazon employees, USPS/FedEx/UPS workers, fire department personnel, police department personnel and officers, utility workers, and so on… they provide necessary services and must still go to work and interact with others, though they are also doing their best to maintain safe social distances and sanitizing everything they are around as often as humanly possible. They are putting themselves at risk to provide these necessary services and for that, I salute each and every one of them!

For the rest of us, we just need to suck it up and stay home. As I have said before in other posts: yeah, it will suck and be hard. But it is a lot easier to stomach being bored and lonely than to know people DIED because I wanted to go out. DEAD. Because I was selfish. MY selfishness isn’t that important, it isn’t worth lives.

If you are one of those who think it isn’t as bad as the news reports or as other people say, are you willing to bet the lives of your friends and family on that? Are you so convinced of the falsity of the news reports that you KNOW and have scientific data to back your assumptions that you are willing to risk the lives of yourself or your loved ones? Remember, your decisions affect more than just you. They affect everyone you encounter, as well.

If you are one of those who think your faith will protect you, please remember that faith won’t protect everyone else you encounter. Faith, medicine and science can co-exist in peace if we take it one step at a time. Let’s assume that I believe you, that your faith will protect you from becoming deathly ill with COVID-19. That doesn’t mean that I believe your faith will protect you from contracting the virus and being one of the carriers who don’t develop symptoms. Do you believe it will? Will God extend your protection to non-believers that you encounter? Will He save those who are doubting their faith? Will He save those who lost their faith and haven’t discovered it again yet? Even if you believe He will protect you, please don’t assume that He will protect everyone you come into contact with. The Bible says that His ways are mysterious, His intentions unknowable to man. No one can assume to know. Anyone who says differently is obviously too self-absorbed to be a true man of God, and we shouldn’t trust such people who have given in to the ways of evil. Even if God protects you from developing severe illness, science points to the fact that so many people are carriers now, with no symptoms but able to transmit the virus to others who then become severely ill, or die. So you could be a healthy carrier, protected from severe illness by your faith. But able to transmit the virus to others. Your faith saves you, and science tells us that you could still make others sick. So, even if you have a 100% faith that God protects you, please don’t put others at risk. They may not have the same faith that you do. Even some of our faith leaders can have their faith shaken sometimes, and I would hate to see them get sick and die before they work through their crisis of faith.

I hope my words make sense to everyone, and that we can all stay busy rowing the boat of our nation, keeping us afloat. Let’s all work together to get through this. We can do this. Together.


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FREE COVID-19 SIGNS! Alert Signs For Quarantine, Self-Isolation, And High-Risk

I have created a set of free signs for you to download, print and use at home! This set of three signs include a warning that someone in the home is in the high-risk category for serious illness from COVID-19 infection (elderly, pregnant, immune-compromised, pre-existing conditions, etc), a warning that the household is in a COVID-19 quarantine, and a warning that the household is in a self-isolation period.

These are completely free, but please link to this page for others to get them instead of sending them directly to them. It really helps out my search engine ranking to get the visits and your friends and family might find other articles that they really enjoy reading!

The direct link to this page is https://www.kristensoils.com/free-covid-19-signs

Just highlight the link and press CTRL+C on your keyboard. Then go to where you want to paste the link, click in the text entry space and press CTRL+V to paste it in. If you want to make it really easy on yourself, just bookmark this page so you can come back to print more later without having to manually download them. Thanks for your help!

To use these signs, you can click on the image itself to open it in a new window. In the new window, right-click on the image and select “Print”. In the print dialogue, make sure that “Scale to Page” is selected, then print it in portrait mode (this is the default for most printers). Then, go tape it to your door or window with the printed side facing out so your visitors know that they need to be mindful at your home.

Use this sign to alert visitors that someone at the home is in the high-risk category for serious illness from COVID-19 infection: elderly, pregnant, pre-existing conditions, immune-compromised, etc. Click here for the printable version.

Use this sign to alert visitors that your household is in a quarantine period for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. Click here for the printable version.

Use this sign to alert visitors that you are undergoing a commanded, suggested or voluntary self-isolation period. Click here for the printable version.

Make sure you subscribe to my site to get an email update every time I release a new article for you! Just enter your email address in the box below and click the “Subscribe” button, then check your email. You’ll get an automated email soon with a confirmation request. Click on the link in the email to confirm and you’ll start getting email updates! It is easy to manage your email preferences, there’s a link at the bottom of each and every email and I never, ever share or sell your information!

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Finding Groceries: A New Crisis Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic

Despite what our leaders claim, the scene is familiar to people all across the country: empty store shelves and no way to find groceries to feed our families, no way to get our necessities. It is a sad situation and one that I believe is a separate crisis on its own. What’s happened? In some areas, we are under shelter-in-place orders. Other areas have strict curfews. Yet other areas have social distance suggestions, while yet other places have nothing out of the normal, other than empty store shelves and more sick people in the hospital. Keep reading to find 10 helpful points to get you through this crisis!


Without a doubt, the big cities have been hardest hit by COVID-19, but now even small towns and rural areas are being hit by the pandemic. Along with the pandemic, we have a chain of events happening that are causing our store shelves to be emptied at a record-breaking rate:

  1. People are panicking and buying more of the store stock than they need. A family that normally uses one “family pack” of toilet paper in 2 weeks are suddenly buying up 6 months worth, and so on with most things they use regularly, as well as some antiseptic cleansers (like bleach, Lysol, and antiseptic wipes) that they don’t normally use or use in such large amounts.
  2. The stores order their stock and replace items on their shelves based on their historical sales records. “X” amount of toilet paper usually sells in one month, so we only buy “X” amount from our suppliers. Once that stock is bought out, the store is out of stock until their supplier gets more to them.
  3. Panic-buying of household necessities and shelf-stable foods are causing stores to sell out of those items much, much sooner than they would otherwise. So then those of us who didn’t show up in the panic-buy early shopping spree to get our supplies are just plain out of luck and have to wait until the store gets more stock. If we are lucky, we can get what we need then, before the next round of panic-buying starts.
  4. By the time we actually find what we need in the store, we have been out of it in our home for a while and then we panic-buy and stock up on as much as we can carry, afraid that if we run out again then we won’t find it on the shelves again.
  5. Restaurants are mostly closed, except for delivery and carry-out. Fewer people are eating out like they usually do because even though they can carry-out their meals instead of dining in, they are worried that the people cooking and handling the food and packaging may be sick, and thus they would get sick from eating that food.
  6. The fewer restaurant-goers means more people are cooking at home when they don’t normally do it this much. This means more people are buying the stock that stores have based on a smaller customer base. The stores run out. Panic-buying starts on food items, too.

This all ends up with those of us who haven’t been panic-buyers finding stores completely sold out of items that we need. Don’t fret! There ARE alternatives for us! Some may be a bit inconvenient, but they work!

Point 1: Online shopping. Go online to find what you need if you are looking for shelf-stable things that could be shipped to your home. While there is a shortage of some things online, like toilet paper, other things can be found much more readily online than in-store. As an added bonus, online shopping prevents you from possibly being exposed to infection as long as you sanitize the box before you open it, sanitize the items before you bring them inside, and wash your hands after you handle the items.

Point 2: Home delivery services. There are home delivery services in many areas of the country. Just search google to see if there are any in your area. Some offer fresh foods right to your door, others can shop for you and deliver them to your home. Either way, make sure you maintain safe social distancing practices when the delivery person stops by your home, sanitize items before you bring them inside, and wash your hands.

Point 3: Special shopping hours for seniors and at-risk individuals. Many stores have set up special shopping times for senior citizens and other at-risk populations. Their stores are stocked as much as possible before their special shopping times and most do their best to sanitize their shopping areas. Check online and call around to your local stores to see if they have special shopping hours for at-risk people. Don’t forget to be vigilant! Maintain social distancing when you are shopping, even during “at-risk hours”, sanitize items before you bring them in, wash your hands and refrain from touching your face.

Point 4: Try to DIY what you can’t find in stores. Sometimes this is impractical, sometimes it is downright undoable. But sometimes it works like a charm! If you can’t find what you need in stores, check online for DIY tips.

Point 5: Try to source locally. If you live in the outer reaches of the suburbs or in rural areas, you may be able to source some fresh food items straight from farms if you reach out to them and explain your needs. There are some community gardens and rooftop gardens in the bigger cities, as well. Reach out and ask if they have any fresh food they can spare for your family. The worst that can happen is that they say no. The best that can happen is you get your hands on fresh food for your family. It may not be much, but it is better than nothing.

Point 6: Make your food supplies stretch. This is an idea that is foreign to many in today’s world, but food can stretch! Think of how many leftovers you toss out from a meal and make less to start with so you don’t have leftovers to throw out. If you normally make a meal large enough to feed your family and have everyone nice and full afterward, make a little bit less and top off with a snack that also stretches, like popcorn (a little bit of popcorn makes a big snack!), an hour or two later. We don’t have to be stuffed full to be well-fed. Acquaint yourself with different ways to make rice dishes, different ways to prepare dried beans and ways to breathe new life into leftovers. In some areas in the world, it is actually considered rude to finish off everything on your plate, because leftovers (typically meats and vegetables) are used in soups the following day! Let’s learn lessons from other parts of the world where they utilize more of their food and make it last longer than we usually do.

Point 7: REGROW VEGETABLES! You’ll be surprised how many vegetables can be regrown! Just run a google search and see! The idea is simple: plant “cores” can grow another full plant in the right conditions. Start them off as a hydro farm would: plenty of sunshine and suspended in water. This site has a wonderful tutorial on how to regrow vegetables in water, even to the point of planting them in the soil to have a full-blown vegetable garden grown from your vegetable scraps!

Point 8: Reusable and washable supplies are the way to go! When supplies are hard to find, start using reusable and washable supplies. Instead of using disposable paper towels, use an old rag or even an old shirt! After, toss it in the wash so you can get it ready to use again. I hate to say it, but you can do the same thing when you run out of toilet paper. Things like old socks with holes in them, old shirts, old underwear… things you would normally tear up into cleaning rags or toss out. Cut them into smaller pieces, use, wash, reuse. If you are using this method for toilet paper, you don’t want to toss a bunch of poopy-rags into your washing machine so keep a bucket on hand filled with soapy water. When the cloth is dirty, toss it into the bucket to soak. That way, at laundry time, you can just empty the bucket, rinse the cloths and they can be safely laundered.

Point 9: What do you REALLY need? Think about it. What do you really NEED and what can you easily go without? What can you do to cut down on your personal or family usage? Anywhere that we can conserve, we should during this crisis. Obviously, medicines should be maintained according to doctor’s orders but you’d be surprised what you can actually find to cut back on or go without. While it may not seem important to you, and inconvenient to cut down or stop using some things, you are allowing others to access these items when you elect not to purchase them. Those others who you allow to access them may actually need them, so if you don’t really need it, just leave it there.

Point 10: Think of how our ancestors lived during the Great Depression. How did they make things stretch? Back when basic supplies were rationed, no luxury items were available at all… how did they do it? I’m not saying we should go that extreme, but there are lessons there for us to learn from. When the grocery store is out of bread, do you have flour and butter? Make some bread. This is a time when we need to learn (or re-learn) how to be more self-sufficient when it comes to these things. We need to learn how to cook from scratch. We need to learn how to grow gardens. We need to learn how to substitute items in our recipes with other things that we can actually get or make. Get to know your neighbors. Everyone has their own special skills and strengths! My skills don’t answer all of my needs, but I might be able to trade some of my fresh, homemade bread with my neighbor who has the skill to make something that I don’t. Of course, maintain social distance, sanitize, don’t touch your face and wash your hands. But social distancing doesn’t mean that we can’t trade, barter and do favors for one another! This is a time when we need to proverbially pull together, not apart!

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COVID-19: Can Genetic Studies of Previous Coronaviruses Help Us Fight COVID-19?

We have experienced severe coronavirus infections before: SARS and MERS were both caused by coronaviruses. Luckily, we experienced these outbreaks during a time when genetics is a flourishing scientific industry. We use genetics for everything from cancer treatments and research to determining paternity. We also use genetics to study the spread of diseases. Fairly extensive studies were made on both SARS and MERS, both on the viruses themselves and on some of the patients who suffered through those illnesses. Genetics allows us to see just how much genetic material is shared between those outbreak viruses and SARS-CoVID-2, the virus that causes the illness known as COVID-19. It also allows us to do large scale determinations, including seeing how patients are similar and different in relation to how severe they experience the illness. To simplify: it allows researchers to find genes that make us more resilient or susceptible to severe coronavirus illnesses.

This blog post from Nebula Genomics can give you a good primer on virus genetics and our understanding of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The Nebula Genomics Research Library has a few very interesting articles comparing the genetics and genomics of SARS-CoVID (responsible for the SARS outbreak) and SARS-CoVID-2 (responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic), as well as comparisons between the patients treated during both outbreaks. If you are a technical-minded individual, I highly recommend you read through all of the linked scientific articles to learn more about this virus and the illness it causes.

The good news is that, YES, the study of genetics and genomics ARE helping us to fight COVID-19! There are several genes identified that control certain aspects of how our bodies handle infection with coronaviruses. These genes can help us to fight infection more effectively, or make us more susceptible to infection for other genes. While the research is still ongoing, there are a lot of promising datasets that we are learning a lot from!

This is an area where the popularity of direct-to-consumer Whole-Genome DNA Sequencing can help us non-research-scientists a little. If you have had your genome sequenced through a direct-to-consumer company, like 23andMe or DanteLabs, you can create a free account at Sequencing.com and import your genetic data into your account there. Then, you can take advantage of their new FREE Coronavirus DNA Health Report, which will scan your genome for the genes identified to impact how our bodies deal with coronaviruses in general.

Keep your eyes on the news as more research is released! I will keep up with regular updates as much as I can during this time, so it would be a great idea to subscribe to email updates. You’ll get an email each time I publish a new article on this site so you will always be informed! Be sure to check your email and confirm your subscription so you can start getting your updates delivered right to your inbox!

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Meaningful Monday

Living through the COVID-19 Crisis is challenging at best. As a country, indeed the whole world, we are all experiencing a certain amount of anxiety and trauma due to the unfolding health crisis. Recently, a friend told me that there wasn’t much more he could handle, that he is getting so angry at politicians acting like political party matters while people are dying. He is getting angry at leaders NOT LEADING, at the lack of preparedness, at so many people not taking it as a serious threat.

He, like me and so many others like us, is “at risk of serious illness” if we contract COVID-19. Before most people were even thinking it was a big deal, we were already practicing self-isolation and sanitizing the hell out of everything that enters our homes (people included!). Not because we were scared but because we have learned to be cautious. In the beginning, I got angry as well. I stressed out. I cried in frustration because no one was paying attention to a serious risk unfolding. I find it hard to comprehend the mindset of those who still don’t take it seriously, while we have entire countries in the midst of a complete collapse of their healthcare systems, and our own healthcare system teetering on the brink of collapse. But do I still get angry? Do I still get stressed out?

No.

The reason is simple: my anger and stress don’t do anyone any good at all. It just makes me miserable, makes my family upset, and is harder on my health. I am tired of anger. I’m so very tired of stress. I am also very tired of seeing the numbers of the infected and dead climb by the hour, while there are still some out there who just don’t get it. But they don’t make me mad anymore. They stay on their special side of reality, I stay here in the real world.

You might be asking why I am using this discussion in relation to the Meaningful Monday quote, “Happiness can only exist in acceptance.” But if you think about it, the meaning is very clear. When I was busy being angry, stressed, anxious and generally pissed off about the whole situation, I had absolutely no hope of being HAPPY. None at all. There’s a seriously small amount that I can do about the crisis. I do what I can to help who I can. But there’s honestly not much that I can do.

I can bake bread for friends who can’t find a loaf at the store because panic shoppers bought it all. I can make homemade, washable and reusable face masks for friends who need something to cover their faces. I can make homemade alcohol for myself and my friends who can’t find antiseptic at the store to use as a sanitizer. But, I am the McGuyver of my group of friends… you know, the type who has all those skills useful in a zombie apocalypse? I can preserve fresh vegetables. I can make bread from scratch. I can sew (clothing and skin, too). I know crazy kinds of first aid. I can find medicinal herbs in the back yard. I can distill sugar, water, and yeast down to almost pure ethanol with a homemade Frankenstein distillery made of kitchen supplies. I can knit winter wears and socks and blankets. I can do a lot of things that you never have to leave the house to do because I can’t leave the house very often at all in the best of times, much less now. I haven’t been out in public (excluding doctor trips) since January. I order nearly everything I use in my household and have it delivered to my door.

Basically, I live the life that most people are having a lot of trouble acclimating to. It was hard to learn to accept living this type of lifestyle. I used to be vibrant and full of life! I was a dancer (Bellydancing and Scottish dancing). I was a very social person, always out and about enjoying life! I loved laying in the grass in the sun. I now have allergic reactions to UV light, so I have to avoid sunlight. I loved running and dancing, especially in the rain! Now I have such bad arthritis in my feet, ankles and knees, as well as weak ligaments, that I can barely walk much less run and dance. I can sit on the back steps when it rains and close my eyes, remembering the joy of feeling the wet grass beneath my bare feet and let the rain wash away any sadness that I feel. I have had to accept my life, to play the hand I have been dealt and attempt to do it with grace.

I have been living this way for a while now. If people like me can do it for years, you can handle it for a little while. It’s not permanent for you. It’s not even that much of a long-term thing. It’s temporary. It’s fleeting. It’s nothing. So, sit on the couch and binge-watch every TV show you have ever thought would be cool to see. Use the time to take up some more healthy habits, like daily workouts and meditations. It’s not forever and the sooner you accept that the sooner you can be happy. Life is different when you have to live like this, but different isn’t bad. You CAN be happy, but that happiness can only come with acceptance. Those of you with kids, your children are looking to you for guidance now. They look to you to see if they should be happy or not, so let’s be good examples and show them that we can enjoy life in a different way for a little while.

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COVID-19 Social Distancing, Isolation, Quarantine: Emotional and Mental Health

What are the impacts of living in quarantine or isolation? During this COVID-19 Crisis, this is a reality that we are facing worldwide. What do the experts say? Are there any studies about this? What can we do to make isolation easier, if anything? These questions and more are topics that I explore with you here. Learn what to expect during your isolation period, how to make it go by easier, and natural non-toxic ways to reduce the stress of isolation.


Living in isolation can take a huge toll on anyone. As humans, we are social creatures and crave social interaction. Even the most anti-social of us still have friends and family that are interacted with on a regular basis. Now with the COVID-19 crisis, we are facing a new difficulty, one that not many had really thought about: living in isolation.

You don’t have to be suffering from a pre-existing mental or emotional health disturbance to experience difficulty with long-term isolation. This article on Mental Health Connecticut details some of the effects that have been observed and studied among the only population we really have a lot of information on regarding this topic: prison inmates in solitary confinement. Some of the possible effects that isolation can have on people are: distorted perception of time, high levels of anxiety, hallucinations, cognitive breakdown, decreased immune response, higher blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (presumably from the mental and emotional stresses of isolation), and can increase the risk of mortality by as much as 50%.

If you have a more technical mind, you will probably enjoy this article published by the medical journal The Lancet about the results of isolation and quarantine on individuals. In a nutshell, isolation and quarantine can trigger a wide array of psychological and emotional problems, even in otherwise mentally and emotionally healthy individuals. There are aggravating factors and ways to reduce the impact. One of the biggest lessons I came away with from that article is that in this crisis is there is strong evidence to support the importance of altruistic isolation versus commanded quarantine. When we undertake isolation voluntarily, the emotional and psychological impact seems to be significantly lessened.

Even those who undertake isolation voluntarily, the process can be very difficult. The emotional and psychological impacts can last long after the isolation period ends. Some have even been verified to have developed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from time spent in quarantine or isolation. 1, 2

I have experienced self-isolation for a while now and I’m here to tell you that while it isn’t always easy, it is something that we can and should do. Now, not later. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is lonely. But it is temporary. In the grand scheme of things, it is truly fleeting. Reminding ourselves that it isn’t going to last forever will actually help you make it through a little easier. Most of the emotional and psychological issues that we can develop during periods of isolation can be mitigated with mindset and patience. Sure, some people find it easier than others, but we can all benefit from an emotionally healthy isolation period during the COVID-19 Crisis. Here are some tips to help you make it through:

  • Remember, this is temporary! It won’t last forever and once it is over, that first big hug from a missed friend or family member will feel SO GOOD! It’s a great thing to look forward to.
  • Set up daily (isolated) activities and stick to them.
  • Use the time to make a positive change! Start a regular workout routine, change your dietary habits, spend more time bonding with family, take up yoga and meditation.
  • It may sound silly but trust me, it helps: when you wake up in the morning, remember that you are alive. Be thankful that you are alive, be thankful for the health you have, be thankful for any and every little thing in your life. Purposefully remembering to be thankful can have a huge impact on your emotional and psychological well-being, especially during times of isolation.
  • Try to stick to a regular routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time keeps our circadian cycles in check and helps to boost emotional well-being. Avoid naps, unless you usually take naps during the day or you are feeling ill. Napping when your body isn’t used to it can upset the delicate balance that controls your day-night cycles. Once it is upset, it can be very hard to regulate it again and it is very important to your health and well-being, so let’s protect it as much as we can.
  • Do the things you normally do throughout your day, at the same time that they are usually done. If you usually work from 8 am until 5 pm, find something to keep you as busy as possible during that time or work from home during your regular hours. Sure, it can be very challenging to do this in households where the kids are also home from school but given some time, you will find a balance that allows you to stay busy during your normal busy times.
  • Get some fresh air! Even if you just open a window for a few minutes and breathe it in, some fresh air can work wonders on your mood! If you have a yard, spend some time outside in the yard every day. Get out on the balcony or fire escape for some much-needed air.
  • Everyone needs alone time! Even though we are packed into our homes, no matter how big or small our families are, we all need some space and time where we can be alone. There’s a delicate balance in our social and emotional health between our time spent alone and with others, so try to do your best to set up space and time for each person in your household to be alone.
  • If you are stuck all by yourself, it can be especially tough. As humans, we crave social contact. Being isolated all alone is the hardest for our social natures. Try simulating as much contact as you can. Again, this might sound totally out in the left field, but get a stuffed animal or a pillow to hug. Which leads me to my next point…
  • Humans need hugs. We need to give hugs and we need to receive them. Hugs make us feel safe, secure and loved. Amazingly, the part that we can do without for the longest time is receiving! When we can wrap our arms around someone… or something… and give it a good snuggle, that act releases chemicals in our bodies that relieve stress and anxiety. In this time of social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, we are starting to feel the impact of a lack of physical contact. Ramp up the physical contact with simulated contact as much as you can, including hugging a teddy bear or pillow. You’ll be surprised how good it makes you feel.
  • Go online, get virtual! One of the biggest advantages in our modern age, other than medical advances, is the internet! We have made the world a small and connected place. While we can’t be with our friends and loved ones in person, we can Skype, Facetime, Zoom, etc. We can connect on social media. We can participate in virtual meetings, roundtables, and discussions. We can still connect with each other, we just need to do it at a distance for right now.
  • Keep the air in your home humid. Science Daily says that low humidity is the flu virus’s best friend. Live Science says that higher humidity lowers flu transmission. While these two articles reference the flu virus, SARS-CoVID-2 (the virus that causes the illness called COVID-19) has something in common with the common flu: they are both caused by different strains of coronaviruses. There is a little evidence circulating about how humidity can possibly reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 causing virus. 1, 2, 3, 4 The reason behind it is pretty simple: humidity causes airborne particles of the flu virus that are bound to other particles, like dust or aerosolized saliva, to collect moisture and become heavy. They are then more likely to fall out of the air where they can be cleaned off of surfaces during normal cleaning routines. Personally, I do this with the use of aromatherapy diffusers, which I will discuss below. If you don’t have a diffuser, you can order one and have it fairly soon. You can also use a humidifier while you wait for your shipment, or even simmer a pot of water on the stove.
  • Use aromatherapy. It works! There are many studies out there about the benefits of aromatherapy, so I am not going to repeat them all here or link to them all, just one google search will provide you with a wealth of information! The theory is pretty easy to explain, so I will do that instead. Do you have anything in particular that brings to mind a certain situation, memory or feeling when you smell it? Think of the smell of your favorite place. Perhaps the beach, or the forest, or the opera? Almost everything and every place have a distinctive scent. When you smell a scent that reminds you of that item or place, you also experience a bit of emotion associated with the place. That is the basis of aromatherapy, using a scent to create an emotional response. That emotional response has a direct effect on your brain and emotions. You can use scents to trigger a peaceful feeling, a happy feeling, or to help you feel sleepy. Using scents to trigger a flow of positive emotions, like peace or happiness, can actually boost your immune system! Here is an article from Scientific American about how happiness increases your immune system. This paper published on The National Center for Biotechnology Information (maintained by NIH – National Institutes of Health) explains more in-depth how aromatherapy and emotion affect the immune system. You can find some tips from me on using aromatherapy for your emotional mood and health during quarantine or isolation. For my aromatherapy tips, you will need an essential oil diffuser. These are like humidifiers, but made to use with water and essential oils and use an ultra-fine ultrasonic mist to deliver the moisture and essential oils to the air. Be sure to read doTERRA’s E-Book, “Emotional Benefits of Aromatherapy”.
  • Use the Emotional Aromatherapy wheel chart below to help you determine which blend would help you the most:
    • Identify the emotion you are experiencing in the inner wheel
    • Use a few drops of the oil blend on the outer wheel in the corresponding area that you identified on the inside of the wheel.
    • You can also identify the base for the type of scent that could benefit you using the mid-section of the wheel if you are feeling up for a DIY aromatherapy project.
Emotional Aromatherapy Wheel

In closing, just because we must be isolated doesn’t mean that we are alone. We are all in this together. You are not alone. This is temporary, only a fleeting pause in our normal lives. We can do this, together. We can do this, for each other. We can do this for each and every one of our elders, our children, our vulnerable. I will do it for you. Will you do it for me? Let’s socially distance ourselves, for each other. Let’s voluntarily quarantine ourselves, for each other. Let’s live, for each other.

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Just An Update…

I have been keeping an eye on the news and there’s so much going on, I don’t think I could touch on all of the topics without typing non-stop all day. There’s so much that I want to write about, but no time for most of them. Go figure…

But, I did decide to make a small update for you, dear readers, to let you know what I am working on.

By far, my most popular topics these days are DIY. This is completely understandable as there are SO many shortages across the country and, indeed, around the globe, for various items that we either need, feel the need for, or want badly. My focus is on using things you already have or can easily get even during times of shortage. Hopefully, I will be able to get some video walkthroughs together to go with each DIY.

Some of the things I am working on are a little risque- things like an easy DIY still for making homemade antiseptic. When it comes to building a still, check your local laws! Distilling spirits are illegal in many states and countries, I’m not responsible for you failing to check local laws! Also, the simple DIY still will NOT work to make spirits for consumption, only for antiseptic! That’s because I’m working on a design that uses things a lot of people already have in their homes or can easily get their hands on, even in this crisis. So, it won’t be a pretty copper still… more like a Frankenstein kitchen monster with plastic tubes poking out of it! Also, please note that even in states where it is legal to own and operate a still, it is still illegal to sell the distilled spirits to anyone for any reason. This publication will be for personal use ONLY. More coming on that soon…

Other things I am working on are more easy and quick- like a DIY face mask. During this global face mask shortage, it is important for us to be able to get our hands on a reliable face mask. Keep in mind that something is better than nothing when it comes to personal protection. While DIY face masks may not be as reliable or protective as a true N-99 mask, it does work better than nothing. I’ll have scientific experiments linked to on the pattern page to show how well you could expect your DIY mask to work for you.

I’m completely open to ideas! If there is something you want to see a published DIY tutorial on, let me know in the comment area below! Subscribe to receive an email when I publish new articles so you can be notified when I post these new DIY articles. You can use this form to subscribe.

To close, please remember: Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. We are truly at our best when we pull together and take care of each other. Check on your neighbors. Shop for your elderly community members so they don’t have to go out. Maintain social distance, but that doesn’t mean to completely isolate. We still need each other, more now than ever before!

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Meaningful Monday

This quote is especially meaningful on this Monday. Facing this looming COVID-19 pandemic can feel overwhelming! As Americans, we like our freedoms. We love it. We love doing what we want to do, when we want to do it and with whoever we want to do it with. All of the time. This time, however, enjoying those freedoms could cost us more than we are willing to pay!

Seeing the pandemic explode on our nation is scary stuff. People are sick, they are dying, and some are obstinately refusing self-quarantine or isolate as a preventative measure. This is serious business, people. Quarantine and isolation aren’t just for those who are sick. In addition to sick people needing to quarantine, it’s also for those who might become sick. It isn’t just for people who have traveled to another country recently. It isn’t just for people who can easily handle the potential boredom of isolation. It is for every single one of us. At least for the next few weeks.

Let me break it down simply. Experts spent the majority of Friday (March 13, 2020) telling us that the projected rate of infection will quickly overwhelm our medical system. As a country, we can’t handle the sheer numbers of sick people. We don’t have the hospital beds for everyone who would need them and we don’t have ventilators for everyone who would need one. That means a lot of people would die. Not go home and be miserably sick. DIE. Mothers, Fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. Friends and lovers. Husbands and wives. DEAD.

And it can be prevented, but we all have to do our parts to prevent it. Each and every one of us. Even you, who go on your morning run through the city every single day… use a treadmill for a few weeks. Even you, who feel the need for social contact to keep your sanity… it will be hard, but go online to socialize. Even you, who need to run your business… do everything you can online from home – Zoom/Duo/Snapchat/Skype your meetings and tunnel to your work computer.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE CAN DO. Yeah, it will suck. But the alternative is a disaster. Disaster will suck so much more. And just think… if you are the one who thought “it doesn’t apply to me, what damage could I cause?”, just remember: at the time of this writing, over 40 people are dead in Washington State and that area’s entire outbreak came from ONE PERSON. A SINGLE PERSON. 40+ dead. Is it worth it? No, it is not.

It might sound harsh, but that’s the point when I say: if you are the one who doesn’t quarantine/isolate and spreads COVID-19, leading to more sickness and deaths: that is blood on your hands. I hope you can live with it because I can’t. If you are Christian, how will you answer to that sin when judgment comes? How many lives were lost because of you? How many could you have saved if you were a little less selfish? How many orphans were created because you just had to go out for a little social time or because you just couldn’t put off that important meeting? Was the meeting more important than their lives? Seriously.

Look at Italy. This is the real world and we must be good global and community citizens. Stay inside. Wash your hands. Sanitize. Clean your surfaces. Help your kids wash effectively. Don’t hoard supplies because while you do need those supplies, your neighbors do as well. Be a good person. Stay inside. Take a staycation, have a week of home spa days, enjoy the extra family time, binge that TV show you wanted to catch up on. Do whatever it takes to keep your sanity while we, as a country, work through this difficult time.

Yeah, most people don’t like change. It’s hard. It sucks. But the alternative sucks so much more. We have to adapt or die. You probably think I’m overreacting but I’m really not. If this country’s health system totally collapses and we have hundreds of thousands of deaths due to this virus, nothing will ever be the same again. NOTHING.

So, I implore you. I appeal to your better nature. I downright beg you. STAY INSIDE. The alternative is disaster.

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COVID-19 and Schools: We’re All Homeschoolers Now

child, girl, young

As a family, we have been homeschooling for years now. In fact, our son has never attended classes at a public school! Now that the public health crisis due to COVID-19 is unfolding, many schools are closed for the immediate future. I am getting a lot of messages from friends who have kids that do go to schools, asking what to do now and how to handle their kids’ education needs at home. I totally get it- this is untested waters for many of you! It can be intimidating to us grown-ups when we face the fact that our kid’s education is now 100% dependant on us, even though we have no experience in teaching or even know where to start! So, let me start at the beginning.

1. You Need To Determine Your Child’s Learning Style

I generally find that most kids can fall somewhere into one of three categories. Most actually cross-category a lot, a highly structured learner can also be a slightly structured learner in some subjects. A slightly structured learner can also be a great freestyle learner in certain subjects! It really takes some attentive observation on your part, and trial and error until you find what works best for them. Talk to your child and explain the “experiment” that you are doing to find what way they learn best and let them have a hand in it. Some kids will just tell you plainly what works best for them, others are more open to experimenting and finding their “zen learner” place. Just try to keep the frustration to a minimum. If you are both getting frustrated, it’s a good chance that you just need to try a different approach or change subjects for a while or for the day. It’s okay. You’ll get it.

Highly Structured: These kids do great with highly structured, classroom-style learning. They thrive on lesson plans, syllabuses, testing, and exams. This involves early morning to afternoon lessons and classroom style “periods”, breaks, lunches, the whole shebang. As a homeschooling parent, I find this to be the hardest to accommodate, to be honest. Homeschooling a child who needs such highly structured lessons means homeschooling is a full-blown full-time job. Don’t expect to do housework and cooking while your kid is doing lessons because they need your full attention the entire time. If your highly structured learning kid is staying at home due to school closures, you will either need to just keep them busy until school resumes or dive in feet-first and become a full-time teacher. There really isn’t any middle room here. If you have a lot of books on various subjects that your child enjoys reading or a kindle, that could be a very good way to keep their brain engaged during this downtime and keep them out of your hair so you can get other stuff done. Most cable providers have started offering free educational programs for kids who are stuck at home if you don’t mind letting them watch a little more TV than normal. Check out below for some resources I regularly use!

Slightly Structured: Other kids don’t do so great with highly structured learning. They need a little more help, or more freeform activities to express themselves and learn in a slightly more abstract way. These kids are pretty easy to educate at home, only needing a little guidance and help with things they have the most trouble with. For these kids, set out a daily routine that includes learning and subjects to complete in the day. Give them simple assignments in each subject and the resources to complete those assignments. My son is a slightly structured learner and it is fairly easy for me to give him the guidance and help he needs, while still being able to get most of my housework done (but not usually all of it). Sometimes you just need to sit nearby and oversee their progress to keep them on track, but you would still be able to do simple things for yourself, like check your email or do basic work from home, while they do their educational tasks. Keep in mind that even though they can handle a more freestyle home education, they still need plenty of hands-on learning. Research on some printable coloring sheets, word searches, craft and science projects that they can do in addition to their basic lessons to further enhance their home education experience.

Freestyle/Unschoolers: These guys are amazingly open to learning all kinds of different things, all the time! What makes this the easiest type of kid to homeschool is that their drive to learn can totally take over. Let them learn what they are interested in learning and just keep tabs on their basics: Mathematics, Language Arts, Sciences, etc. When you feel they are falling behind in one or more topics, gently encourage them and guide them to explore those specific topics. It usually only takes a reminder of something they would actually enjoy on that subject and let them at it!

2. Expect Crossover Learning Styles

Most kids don’t stick to one learning style for all subjects. Even though my son is mostly a slightly-structured learner, he crosses over into freestyle learning quite often. His journey into learning to read was a disaster until I gave up for a while out of sheer frustration. I started watching the local news at 3 pm every day and, since my son was also interested in the current affairs, I read the ticker off on the bottom of the screen to him. One day, about two weeks into doing this, he stopped me and started reading it off to me instead! WOW! He had learned to read that fast, with a totally off-the-wall approach that I hadn’t taken as a means to teach him to read! He still reads mostly freestyle, though I do have to administer some reading comprehension exercises every so often to make sure I know the level he is reading at. So far, my 10-year-old is reading at an 11th-grade level. On his own. But he needs structured math lessons. It is totally okay if you don’t yet know what type of learner your child is, or where they need crossover style-learning. Figuring these things out can be a journey that takes time and patience.

3. Resources For Home Education

Personally, I love History Vault and Curiosity Stream as additions & resources for subjects! I have monthly subscriptions to both and regularly incorporate their materials into my daily lessons. I regularly guide my son to check their streaming services for something he is interested in under a certain topic and let him watch what he wants. I know it’s educational and that he is learning something he is interested in. Curiosity Stream, in particular, has topics to explore that make it super easy for him to find something good to watch under one of those topics. They have a good number of videos targetted to younger audiences and some especially for small children.

I use Khan Academy for my own son’s structured learning lessons. It is totally free and fairly easy to learn to use as a parent-educator to set up assignments, lesson plans and subjects for him. He enjoys the instructors in most of the subjects and finds them to be very entertaining, and he loves soaking up all that witty and funny education.

Twinkl is a great online educational resource that is offering free premium membership for a month while we have so many kids out of school. They have a TON of printables on a wide variety of subjects for all grade levels! They also have PowerPoints with talking points, videos, educational games and more. I use their resources very often and encourage you to do the same! After the free premium membership ends, your account will just revert to a free access account, so don’t worry about getting charged later for it. For new accounts, go to www.twinkl.com/offer and enter the following offer code: USATWINKLHELPS (This code will only work for new memberships.) For existing members, go to www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter the code PARENTSTWINKLHELPS at the login space. You will be able to download all the resources you should ever need, or save them to your Google Drive to print later.

In addition, I regularly google up random things he asks about and we read articles together or watch YouTube videos that are more educational. This can be anything from the dates of Alexander The Great’s reign to the tactics used by Gengis Khan, from astronomical facts to the history of the Abacus (which is what he initially learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on!), from WWI info to the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, from the moon landings to tutorials for learning languages. There’s a wealth of information online, we just have to learn how to effectively search and filter through results to find what we are looking for, and teach our kids to do the same.

The big thing to remember is that home education is a team sport! You may be great with one or two subjects, your spouse is better than you on a few subjects so you work together to give your child the best education that you can. If a friend is really great at something in particular and agrees to jump in and give you a hand with that subject, that’s GREAT! The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is really one to keep in mind. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help on subjects where you aren’t so strong. It might surprise you to see how many people are willing to step up and do their part to make the next generation become the brightest generation ever! A friend of mine, who has been a teacher in both public and private schools for many years now, gave me the best advice ever. I’m going to pass it along to you here:

“The best way to teach your child at home is to teach him how to learn. Once you do that, the rest pretty much takes care of itself!”

Barbara Carnell, Educator and Early Literacy Specialist

In closing, please remember that home education doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be fun for both of you, and you might actually end up learning a bit along with your kids! We are all in this together. Find some Facebook homeschooling groups to join and keep on researching, keep on learning, and keep on teaching! It does take patience. It will take some trial and error, and it might be frustrating sometimes but our kids are worth it!

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From dōTERRA: What You Should Know About COVID-19

* This content is copied from an email sent out at 1:09 pm Eastern Time on Monday, March 9, 2020, from doTERRA to their Wellness Advocates in the USA. I did not write any of this content myself and, as such, is copyright to doTERRA, not me.

Dear dōTERRA Family,

Our top priority is always the health and safety of our entire community. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has raised a variety of questions and concerns, and we want you to be assured that we are continually monitoring the situation to ensure we are making the best decisions and taking the right actions for you and the entire dōTERRA family.

Gratefully, we are uniquely situated with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Russell Osguthorpe, being an Infectious Diseases physician. His understanding and experience working in this field is invaluable for dōTERRA. Given the dynamic nature of the situation around the world, we advise you to adhere to the guidance offered by public health agencies in your region. This may include basic precautions or significant restrictions on travel or public gatherings.

To help manage any concerns and reduce transmission of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, in your area, Dr. Osguthorpe recommends that everyone follow these evidence-based procedures.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, including dōTERRA’s On Guard Sanitizing Mist—which contains 64% alcohol, can be used.
  • Stay home when sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects often.
  • Face masks are not recommended for people who are well. However, if you show symptoms of COVID-19 or another respiratory disease, then you should wear a mask.

What you should know about COVID-19

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Most people who contract COVID-19 are thought to be mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic (showing no symptoms). These include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

dōTERRA Events

The situation with COVID-19 is evolving, and we are continually monitoring the outbreak and how it is impacting life in your communities. The dōTERRA executive team will make decisions concerning future events and meetings based on scientific information and recommendations provided by Dr. Osguthorpe and guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and relevant agencies and organizations from countries around the world. Recommendations concerning dōTERRA events and meetings will be communicated with Wellness Advocates, customers, and employees at least one month prior to the scheduled start date whenever practicable.

Supply Chain

dōTERRA has an excellent operations team that has been careful about planning and forecasting supply chain challenges and product needs around the world. While we have seen a dramatic spike in sales of our On Guard family of products, we are working around the clock to stay in stock for all of these products. The demand for dōTERRA’s On Guard Sanitizing Mist has increased by over 400% in most markets in recent weeks and we are quadrupling our supplies of this product in the coming weeks. In the interim there may be some occasional short term stock outs of this and a few other high demand products. The good news is that due to our long-term strategic planning with our global network of growers we have stocked more than a year’s supply of most of our essential oils. Accordingly, we don’t expect any significant outages for the On Guard essential oil blend or other essential oils that are in unusually great demand during this time.

We also are working hard to ensure that our shipments reach you as fast as possible. Some delays to certain regions of the world may at times be inevitable and we thank you in advance for your patience if an order takes longer than you anticipated.

Health Claims

dōTERRA is restricted on the health claims that can be made about our products. We recognize essential oils have profound health and wellness benefits, but we do not claim that our products prevent, treat or cure illnesses or diseases, including COVID-19. We must continue to be vigilant in ensuring that we avoid all communications that claim otherwise.

While there seems like a lot to worry about, there are many reasons to be optimistic.

  • The COVID-19 virus is thought to be very similar to other respiratory viruses like influenza or RSV, and is mild in most people who get it.
  • Children seem particularly protected from severe COVID-19 disease.
  • There has been extraordinary cooperation in the global sharing of clinical data and research.

Be assured that your health and wellbeing is imperative to us and we will factor in all information to determine recommendations regarding future events and meetings.

Sincerely, David Stirling
dōTERRA Founding Executive and CEO

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Coronavirus: What You Need To Know

We’ve all heard about it. The novel coronavirus that triggers the sickness now being called CoVID-19. It all started in Wuhan, China and now it’s spread through more than half of the countries around the globe. In the United States, confirmed cases have almost doubled since this time yesterday (between March 6 and March 7, 2020), so I am spending some of my birthday, and the day after, working on this piece for you.

I am most definitely not a medical doctor, and no part of this article is meant to replace a doctor’s advice or orders. If you think you are sick with this virus, please visit your doctor/urgent care/ER. I am simply a citizen who likes to be well-informed and I think you might benefit from this knowledge, as well! While I am a Wellness Advocate and do promote non-toxic, healthful cleaning products, I have to remind you that doTERRA products are not intended to cure, diagnose or treat any disease.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a widespread, very huge family of virii. There are several different classifications of them, like alphacoronavirus, betacoronavirus, etc. The one that is all over the news and making so many people sick is a betacoronavirus, but in the grand scheme of things, it is only really important for researchers and some doctors to truly understand that and what it means. For you and me, there’s a much easier way to understand this virus.

Coronaviruses are the main family of virii that cause the flu. Yes, we get flu outbreaks every single year. They usually start sometime in the fall, peak near the end of winter or start of spring, and end sometime in the springtime. Most of us have at least some natural immunity to these flu viruses because our bodies have been fighting them off every year for our entire lives. Sometimes, though, a new cousin in this virus family emerges from the shadows and all heck breaks loose. We went through a similar time with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Avian Flu (Bird Flu, H5N1), Swine Flu (H1N1) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). All of these, including COVID-19, are known to have come to the human population through zoonotic transmission, meaning that it came from animals and was transmitted to humans. Because it normally attacks animals, our immune systems aren’t specifically equipped to deal with the exact virus and it tends to cause a more severe illness in us than other strains that we are used to fighting off every year. Simply because we aren’t used to fighting it off. While it is similar to other types of coronavirus, it is also different in enough ways that our bodies can have a hard time recognizing it and fighting it off before it has a chance to make us really sick.

What Are Good Preventative Measures?

There are several things you can do to minimize the chances that you will become infected with this virus. Most are pretty easy, too!

  • Be a diligent hand-washer. Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds each time. That’s about how long it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song slowly and calmly. If you are in doubt, use the time-honored “one-mississippi, two-mississippi, three-mississippi” until you reach “twenty-mississippi”, then rinse the soap away and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Some of my favorite cleansers are:
  • Clean your house and clothing with products that will be effective sanitizing agents. I know the CDC and WHO recommend cleaning with bleach and a specific list of products that they have promoted. I’m not going to tell you not to use those products because, to be honest, they do what they feel is best for the people under their charge within the limitations that they have on their position and office. I can tell you, though, that their recommended products are only a small list of products that have the big money, backing, and the good fortune of being produced by pharmaceutical giants who can afford to shell out the big bucks to stay in the commercial spotlight. You should most definitely clean your home and laundry with products that you feel comfortable using to sanitize your home during this time. Personally, the only cleaning products that I trust to use are shown below (hint: you can mix the Cleaner Concentrate with isopropyl alcohol in the dilution stage)

Who Can Get It & How Sick Will I Be?

Anyone can get it. Those who are immunocompromised are more at risk, naturally. Generally, at-risk people are those who are undergoing chemotherapy, the very old, the very young, pregnant women. More severe illness is likely to be seen in those with preexisting conditions that could exacerbate the illness symptoms, like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, COPD, asthma, and the like. If you think about it, that’s just like our regular flu that we face every year and it’s really common sense: if you already have a condition that makes it hard to breathe, hard to regulate your body, or makes coughing harder on your body, you are more likely to have a lot more issues with the flu. It’s the same with COVID-19, but the caveat is that COVID-19 is known to cause more severe symptoms in people who DON’T have preexisting conditions, much less those who do.

What Should I Expect If I Get Sick?

Expect to fight the flu. It will probably be a doozie of a flu! You’ll most likely feel lethargic and tired, achy, fight a fever, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. Lots of coughing because this virus causes what the old-timers used to call a “chest cold”, but on the level of the flu instead of a mild cold. If you do start coughing, you want to keep coughing as much as your body tells you to. You might have trouble breathing, or feel like you are wheezing or rattling in your chest. If you feel this, you should go to your doctor, urgent care or ER for care because the odds are you don’t have the equipment at home to help clear your lungs. The good news is that most people aren’t going to need that level of care. Most of you are going to be fine dealing with it on your own at home, but if you are having any doubts at all, please go get medical attention asap! Call before you get there and let them know your symptoms and that you are on the way so they can get ready for you. If you get sick, severely or not, please take common-sense measures to keep other people from catching it from you. Things like covering your coughs and sneezes, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, even wearing a face mask when you are around other people (even a kerchief or cloth around your face is better than nothing). If you are caring for someone who is sick (or you are sick yourself), make sure to protect yourself from becoming ill by frequent hand washing, sanitizing, hydration, face and eye protection and avoiding all contact with body fluids, Wear gloves when handling dirty tissues, clothing, bed linens, etc. Sick people should stay hydrated at all costs! Dehydration only compounds illness onto illness! Chicken soup/broth, bone broth, Gatorade and good old fashioned plain water are great choices for hydration. Do what you can to keep a sick person’s spirits up! Laying flat is as bad for your lungs as it is for your mood… sick people should sit up as much as they can tolerate, and walk around when possible. With this illness attacking lungs, pay attention to elevation and prop yourself or your loved ones up when it helps keep their airways clear.

Please, please, please! AVOID ANTIBIOTICS unless your doctor prescribes them for you for this illness!

COVID-19 is caused by a VIRUS. Antibiotics fight bacteria. Plainly, antibiotics will only do more harm than good if you have a viral infection and take antibiotics for it. In addition to not killing the virus inside your body making you sick, the antibiotics can kill off helpful gut flora bacteria and give you diarrhea. So please, only use antibiotics if your doctor tells you that you need them and take them exactly as prescribed.

Since the treatment of a viral infection is mostly supportive, the focus is on making you feel better as your body fights the virus. The biggest thing here is hydration. I can’t state it enough! Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink whatever you can tolerate best. Get as much water into your system as you can. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you get dehydrated, that is another problem entirely and can be life-threatening! Don’t get dehydrated!
  2. Your body will filter out as much virus load as it can and send it out in your waste. The more waste your body produces, the better. You want to urinate often, and the color should be a transparent light yellow. Anything darker than that indicates you need more hydration. Even if you can’t handle food, do your best to stay hydrated.

If you can’t maintain enough hydration, you may need to visit urgent care or your local ER for IV fluids to help you. You can tell if you are reaching critical dehydration if any of the following apply to you: your urine turns a very dark color; you feel weak; your heart rate is abnormal; your respiration is abnormal. Don’t wait: go immediately for help. Water is always the top choice, but Gatorade is a close second, especially if you are having trouble getting solid foods into your system. Other good choices are juices (white grape is awesome if you are able to eat, go for apple if you can’t eat so it helps to maintain your blood glucose levels), green tea and Pedialyte. Avoid caffeine where possible and please try your best to avoid carbonated beverages, especially while you are sick. Teas should be made weak so there’s plenty of water in there and if you have trouble tasting the beverage, try dipping a toothpick into your favorite doTERRA ingestion-safe essential oil (it will have a Supplement Facts label on the bottle) and then swirl it in. When you swirl in a toothpick of EO, keep in mind that mint type EOs like peppermint are good for congestion and ginger can help calm nausea.

Symptom Help

I said before that when it comes to a viral illness, the only option is usually going to be supportive care while the body fights the illness. Supportive care includes things that make symptoms feel better. Here is my go-to list of things I keep stocked up near anyone who is fighting a flu-like illness in my home:

  • onGuard Throat Drops to soothe the throat, Breathe Respiratory Drops to help feelings of congestion and Ginger Drops to soothe irritated tummies.
  • Breathe Vapor Stick to help feelings of congestion and it is also nicely cooling when you are feeling hot!
  • Peppermint Touch to rub on the back of necks and bottoms of feet of those who are feeling hot.
  • F.L.O.O.M. rollerbottle that gets rubbed over lymph nodes and/or the bottoms of the feet while you are feeling sick. To make F.L.O.O.M., get an empty roller and add in 10 drops (5 drops each for kids under 10 and pregnant women, 3 drops each for elderly and 1-2 drops each for infants), each essential oils of Frankincense, Lemon, OnGuard, Oregano, and Melaleuca (Tea Tree), then top off with a carrier oil like coconut oil. This blend is to help boost your natural immune system.
  • Ginger Essential Oil and toothpicks to swirl into glasses of water for a quick and yummy flat ginger drink when tummies are nauseous.
  • Infrared thermometer for touch-free temp checks
  • Pulse Oximeter to check for elevated heart rates or lowered blood O2 levels
  • DigestZen Touch to rub on tummies that are nauseous or having stool issues
  • Diffuser beside the sick person, stocked with useful essential oils like onGuard (suspended vapor in the air actually helps to clean the air!), Breathe (for feelings of congestion), DigestZen (for upset stomachs), Lemon (also cleans the air nicely and is a great pick-me-up). Not only do the essential oil vapors help support us through some yucky symptoms, but they also provide a nice, humid mist that can alleviate some breathing difficulties.
  • A notepad and pen to keep track of symptoms, times of symptom onset and relief, times of administering medicines, etc. Sick people tend to forget, and so do exhausted caregivers! Notes are great reminders.
  • Plenty of tissues and a small trash can or trash bag for dirty tissues.
  • onGuard Sanitizing Mist and make sure it is used after every sneeze, cough and nose blow. A few backup bottles wouldn’t hurt!
  • Deep Blue Rub for sore muscles can make a big difference!
  • 1-2 different sets of clothes and blankets. Someone with a fever should be dressed and covered lightly, whereas without a fever you might feel more comfortable in warmer clothes or a heavier blanket. Comfort is key here so you can rest easy and get better sooner!
  • Entertainment! Books, tablets, cell phones, laptops, game consoles, etc, with charging cables plugged in. Getting annoyed and bored while you are sick is a great way to be miserable, fast. For very little kids, try giving some extra screen time and encouraging them to enjoy some puzzle games while you sit for a few. Strict screen time routines can always start back up when they are feeling better and you have rested some. Mess-free or low-mess craft projects are also very fun for small kids who are sick! It is a way to keep them occupied, keep their minds off of feeling sick while keeping them seated or propped up in bed.
  • An extra big pillow to hold. Coughing is a big part of this illness and coughing a lot over many days not only exhausts you, but it is also a huge strain on your muscles. Holding a big pillow tight against your stomach and diaphragm while you cough can provide some relief to those sore muscles and make it a little easier to keep coughing.

Other Things To Keep In Mind

COVID-19 is a coronavirus that triggers a flu-like illness that usually affects the lungs more than any other part of the body. You may have diarrhea. You may have nausea or vomiting. You may not. You will probably run a fever and feel like crap for a little while. You will probably feel like you are going to cough up a lung at any moment. As with other chest cold type illnesses, keep on coughing. You’ll cough up sputum and phlegm and should spit it out. Coughing up that stuff is your body’s way of keeping it out of your lungs, so keep coughing when you feel like you need to. If you can’t catch your breath, find it hard to breathe or your chest feels abnormal when you breathe, just suck it up and go to the doctor or the ER if you can’t get to a doc. This virus is known to cause pneumonia in some people, so don’t risk it. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if you haven’t traveled outside of the country, gone to Italy, China or Iran, or been around anyone who has that you know of. Community spread of this disease is real and happening now so don’t risk it. Do you honestly know the travel and medical history of every person who you were within 12 feet of the last time you went to the grocery store or to church or to the pharmacy?

This virus is at a pandemic level, meaning a global epidemic in many countries. It is affecting shipments, trade, and stocks. Some countries, like China, for example, have totally ceased manufacturing for the time being. Be prepared for long-term shortages. Don’t go nuts and run to the grocery store to stock up on water and toilet paper! Be sensible. If you feel the unwavering desire to stock up on toilet paper, grab yourself a nice big family pack and head home, but don’t grab TEN family packs! That’s a bit excessive. Get canned and shelf-stable foods that will keep for a while. If you don’t need it immediately, it will last a bit and you won’t have to buy it again for a while, but make sure you are getting things you actually use. Frozen vegetables are great, last a long time in your freezer, and are very nutritious if prepared gently like steamed or sauteed. Pasta and pasta sauces will last a long time and go great with steamed veggies. A good source of shelf-stable protein is peanut butter! Unopened jellies, preserves, and applesauce can be kept on the shelf for months, only needing refrigeration once opened. Cloth diapers make GREAT reusable cleaning cloths, cutting down or even eliminating your need for paper towels to stock up on.

Buying sanitizer is great, but don’t get every bottle the store has! Your neighbors also need to get theirs, too. If you are unfortunate enough to have missed out and it’s sold out near you, you can make your own out of 60-70% alcohol and the rest with water. Adding essential oils can make it smell nice and add additional antimicrobial effect if you use the right ones. Aloe or glycerine added to the mix can make it more gentle on your skin. Alcohol like vodka, gin or Everclear, and denatured ethanol can be used as a substitute for isopropyl alcohol in a pinch. Put it all in a spray bottle and use it as a spray sanitizer, shaking before you spray each time.

So, in a nutshell: yes, this virus sucks and it is making a lot of people very sick. If you think you may have it and are having trouble breathing, go to get medical help immediately. If you don’t need immediate medical help, treat it as you would any other flu virus and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Avoid spreading it around and keep your loved ones healthy. Don’t go nuts stocking up on supplies unnecessarily, but also don’t feel bad about getting what you need. Just keep it within reason.

This is an opportunity for our country to love and support each other through a difficult time, so let’s do that and not give in to fear.