Monday, August 30, 2021

We Bought a Farm: Harvesting Beans

I think everyone, everywhere, at some time, needs to experience harvesting beans in the blazing hot sun. 

Honestly, it doesn't have to be beans. But it needs to be hot. And you need to imagine how it must have felt to be an early pioneer. Or a slave. Or a sharecropper. 

And these are beans. They aren't cotton -- which are much worse. And we were only out there for 90 minutes, and it wasn't even the worst part of the day.

But it's HOT. And the plants are gnawing at you. And you just want to be DONE. 

Don't get me wrong. It was a lovely Sunday together. John had a short break, and he did NOT want to drive into town. So instead, we stayed around our house. We relocated the chickens and checked on our "food surplus" farm which is located at the Kotynski's house. John, myself, Jacob, and the kids harvested beans. Then, Zach and Zoey and some other family members in town visiting helped us shell them. 

Here is the final result:

A Shift of Focus

Once upon a time everything seemed so simple ... nearly 30 years later, it felt completely and utterly hopeless.

Up until this weekend, if you asked me how we were doing with handling the COVID crisis, I had very little good to say.

In truth, John and I were completely empty. We were done. There was a heaviness in our chest that wasn't going away.

And that was scary. How could we do this for many more months (years?) if we were already feeling so incredibly burdened and broke.

During the first wave, we had hope that once the vaccine came out, this would end. At least the really bad parts would.

But to see the "bad" return even worse than before felt so incredibly defeating. It felt "hopeless."

I kept thinking about Ecclesiastes: "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

We believe in God, of course. We knew this life was but a vapor. But to watch so many people die, and for John to feel he was having to defend his life's work hour after hour while working an ungodly numbers of hours as his staff kept quitting and people yelled at him in the waiting room because they weren't being seen fast enough even though they believed this was a hoax only an hour earlier while we at home were left with just remnants of him when he came back to us ... we were done. 

The only thing is: we couldn't be done. With five ER docs, John cannot quit. It isn't like saying "I can't quit" to other things. This time, He really couldn't. There's no way he'd be physically able to stop going to work while the ER totally went under. This community would completely sink. There is no one else. Everyone that can be a doctor or a nurse right now is.

I met with my counselor last week. I spoke to many friends. My pastor/cousin Josh called me. John spoke in long detail with my dad. Many friends sent care packages or cards or notes. A friend just stopped and prayed with me for ten minutes. God was sending so much, and yet I could not get this heaviness in my chest to lift.

And even worse, John couldn't either.

John and I spoke about it. I asked him what this feeling we had was. It wasn't anxiety or depression really. It felt different.

It was burnout, John said. He was sitting across from me after fighting with a husband about his wife in the ER. She would die. And the husband thought he knew more about viruses than John did. (He didn't.)

And we both were at the end of our rope. Many times one of us and the other can pull one back up. But this time, we were both just hanging there. 

So weary. 

And there are still many miles to be run.

But Joy comes in the morning and by Sunday morning, God got to John. And John was able to give that to me.


We cannot do it. 


But we have Jesus.

I Thes 4:13 tell us: "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope."

John and I have both encountered a mind shift. God. That's the part we were leaving out. Not on purpose. We were asking others to pray and mumbling prayers ourselves, but we truly just felt so hopeless. This burnout couldn't go away when it was getting worse and more waves would be coming. Our family misses him so much. He is so spent by the time he gets to us. We are so done.

But we aren't. 

WE are. 

But with God, we aren't. With God, truly, all things are possible. Isaiah 40:29 says: "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."


Beyond description.


So, so, weak.

Remove this from us Jesus. We don't WANT to fight in this battle anymore. We were at the bottom. We had begun to think: "How can we end this? How can we stop fighting on the front line?"

And God, through many voices giving us the RIGHT WORDS, HE renewed our strength!

Isaiah 40:31 says: "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." 

Nothing has changed. John left this morning for three shifts in a row he wasn't supposed to be doing because they don't have enough people to cover things. He's still not sleeping well. Either am I. We are tired beyond belief.

But GOD IS SUSTAINING us. We know the end of the story. We know who God is. We know He can carry us.

So we are renewed. 

We can only do today. We can't even look at the big picture. God is giving me enough for today.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Beauty and the Beast

Abigail and Hannah had their tryout for the January 2022 production Beauty and the Beast. Abigail is a "junior" now. I love this picture of her below with some of her friends. (She's the one with the red mask on.) This picture includes (from left): Abbie, Bailey, Alyssa, Emma, Abigail, Sophie, and JohnnaBeth. 

A close up without the mask on:

I didn't get to watch Abigail's tryout but here is a picture I found on the website: 

Genevieve and Hannah tried out as well. (Actually ever Kotynski kid tried. And my Sidge will be backstage and Isaac is going to be in a battle scene.) Here are the two little girls below with the stickers they got:


Friday, August 27, 2021


It’s not anxiety. 

It’s not depression. 

It’s burnout. 

That’s what we are feeling. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

I can't put into words ...

I cannot put into words what COVID is like for us. I woke up in the middle of the night, my husband in the hospital working (again), and just started sobbing. The pain and the loss and the hardship and the stress is simply ... suffocating.

I keep thinking: This is just Wendi. She is just dramatic. She's prone to anxiety and depression.

But then I got a text message from John's co-director's wife. And her words mirrored mine ... perfectly. She feels exactly like I do. The fear. The frustration.

I actually reached out to an old counseling friend and have started some online sessions with her. She explained to me that when you have "skin in the game" the actions of others become 




They aren't personal of course. But to me, they feel that way. And the ramifications of what is happening is resonating through our house in ripples.

Don't they see it?

Don't they feel it?

Kim (my counselor's name) reminded me that that skin is what makes it real. She used the same example my friends "Stebbs" told me about what's happening in Afghanistan right now. Afghanistan is real to me because so many of my friends fought there. Erin's husband, Craig, fought there. To watch everything you fought for "go down the tubes" is incredibly painful. There is a lot of frustration and blame with how things were handled. To many people, they are touched by the Afghanistan videos/pictures, but they don't understand what that feels like. To have your spouse fight for a year of their life for a cause that seems like it didn't matter ... that's hard.

And that's what I feel like. I know people appreciate him and are thankful. We get tons of texts of encouragement and support. But we are SO SO wounded and winded and wondering ...

... can we truly keep doing this wave after wave after wave?

If the vaccinations would get up into the higher numbers, this wouldn't be happening. Kim reminded me that everyone has their "truth" and they believe that truth vehemently. I get that. 

But when your husband SEES the tornado and feels people don't believe that it can be that bad for THEM until it IS that bad, it's so, so hard.

So hard.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Homeschool update

In addition to homeschooling the Kotynski kids and the Kitsteiner (my) kids, I have the incredible pleasure of homeschooling these two amazing ladies/ballerinas/Christians:

The gal on the left is Maryah. (She's my nephew Gabe's girlfriend, and I love her!) This is my first year helping to homeschool her. The gal on the right is Katy. This is my second year having her join our class. She is about as lovely as they come and has great aspirations of being a professional dancer. I am teaching their Bible/History/Language Arts to these two and Gabe as a high school class. We are doing SONLIGHT Christian History and British History. It's tough stuff.

I am also doing a 7-9th grade class for my boys, Ana and Kari. In addition, I am teaching the Language Arts portion of their class in co-op. Unfortunately, I had to give up teaching PE at our co-op which is sad for me. But being a former English teacher, I want to help the co-op by providing high quality classes.

Aunt Hannah Kotynski is teaching "the quad squad" which is Abigail, Hannah, and her Genevieve and Eoin. So I handle the big kids, and she handles the little kids. Uncle Eddie is teaching Spanish/Chemistry/Geometry to Ana, Gabe and Katie. And my John is teaching science to Sidge, Isaac, and Kari.

In addition, with our friend Erin here, they are participating in some classes with us. In fact, little 4th grade Zoey is taking a 7th grade English class with us. And Anni is doing sewing on Saturday mornings.

School is underway, and we are having a ton of fun -- and working hard!

Get vaccinated. Please.

Four shifts in a row. 

His shifts are supposed to be 12-hours.

But he's gone more like 14. 

That leaves just 10 hours to spend time with us, fall asleep, get up, and get back into work.

I feel unable to put the emotions of COVID into words. John collapsed on the bed this morning and said, "Wendi, I can't even explain what this feels like. Patient after patient after patient without the vaccine. Many will die."

Get vaccinated. Please. 

If I already had COVID, do I need the vaccine?

If I already had COVID, do I need the vaccine?

(This is a significantly updated version from a post I wrote 8 months ago)

The quick answer: Yes.

The long answer:

I used to be in the “I had COVID, so I may not need the vaccine” camp. 

Although, I was actually in the “I had COVID, I don’t need a vaccine… not for now at least, and maybe not ever, but we will see” camp. 


I was a few hours into my 12-hour shift in the emergency department in late November 2020. As a physician who had been treating COVID at every shift for about 10 months at that point, I knew what I was feeling now was more than just fatigue. 

Waking that morning, I felt like I had just not slept well. But as I got to work and started seeing my first few patients, I was dragging more than a cup of coffee would turn around. Then I started to feel achy and a little lightheaded. 

I pulled the charge nurse aside and told her, "I think I'm sick." I took a swab and went into the staff bathroom to use the mirror. I stuck that q-tip as far in as it would go. Eyes watering, I did it a second time to make sure I got a good sample. 

I then waited for about 45 minutes for the results, looking at the schedule to see who would be available to cover for me if my test came back positive. Knowing my already tired colleagues were going to have to pick up my slack. 

Then the call came. I was positive. My partner was on the way to cover the rest of my shift, and I was going home for 10 days.

I went into the breakroom with my mind whirling. Honestly, I almost started to cry. But it wasn't out of fear or anxiety. It was a mix of emotions, but the strongest was probably relief. 

There is a scene in the movie Waterworld where a very old man is forced to daily work at the bottom of a large, dark oil tank, every day, alone, likely for decades, floating on a little boat, measuring the oil level. Hour after hour. Year after year. Someone drops a flare into the tank from the opening at the top. The old man has a few seconds left to live. He knows that as soon as the flare hits the oil, his hell will be destroyed, him with it. The old man just stands in his boat watching the flare fall and says, "Thank God."

That is obviously way more dramatic than what I was dealing with, and I knew, based on my own age and health, that I was very low risk and likely would do very well with this infection. I had been fighting this beast for months, day after day, hour after hour, and I was tired. I was worn out. Physically and emotionally. A forced, 10-day reprieve seemed like a gift. Being sick seemed almost worth it. 

But I also knew that my infection was, and likely already had, exposed my family, including my older parents and my son with asthma. Working in the emergency department, I was seeing the sickest of the sick, those with every risk factor. But I was also seeing the exceptions to the rule, those with no risk factors. And I was seeing a lot of death. Again, while most people survived, I was seeing the worst results of this pandemic. I knew that while the odds were still in our favor, it was still a gamble as to who in my family could possibly be one of those exceptions.

Within a few days, my wife and kids all developed symptoms. My wife and I, following the statistics, had much worse symptoms than my kids, including my son with asthma. They bounced back within about 2 days. My bad symptoms lasted for about 7 days. I slept 15-18 hours a day for a few days in there. But then I recovered. I had lingering symptoms for a few months, mostly fatigue and reduced stamina for the farm work I would normally do through the week when I wasn't working in the ER. But my family and I had a relatively quick and uneventful recovery.

That’s my COVID story. I am sure you have yours as well. And they are important.


When I was an active-duty Air Force physician, one of my jobs was to manage the immunization clinic. I did this for four years at smaller bases overseas. The military is very prevention minded, and we gave (and got) a lot of vaccines. We also reported any adverse reaction into the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This is a national vaccine safety surveillance program. Most of these adverse reactions were very mild, but we reported them. We had a few more serious reactions, but these were not severe. All this to say that I understand vaccines are not without risk. Any medicines, including lifesaving, beneficial ones, have the risk for side effects. And sometimes, these side effects are very significant. 

With that experience and knowledge, considering what we were dealing with in my local emergency department and what was happening globally, I was thrilled that we had a COVID vaccine coming. I was closely watching the data from the clinical trials. I was planning on getting the vaccine as soon as I was eligible. 

But then I got COVID.

And about 2 weeks after I was diagnosed with COVID, the first vaccine (Pfizer) was released to the public.
By then, I had poured into the data on what the human body does after a COVID infection.

The data showed those who had moderate to bad symptoms of COVID had very good immune response. 
Let me briefly elaborate on this for a minute. 

Remember that COVID-19 is the manifestation of symptoms from infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus… sort of like HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) causes symptomatic AIDS (AutoImmune Deficiency Syndrome). 

Based on the data, those who had SARS-CoV-2 infections with very mild to no symptoms seem to have shorter-lived antibodies… the immune system basically said, “That wasn’t so bad. I don’t need to store a response to that infection for too long”. 

Those who had very bad symptoms, like extended hospital stays, intubated, etc., also have shorter-lived antibodies… the theory is that the immune system was so beat down that it basically was too exhausted to mount a good response. 

But those in the middle, those with moderate to bad symptoms, seem to create the strongest and longest lived antibodies. It’s a Goldilocks type thing… not too mild, not too severe, but just right in the middle. 

Well, that’s what I had. Moderate COVID symptoms. So, based on the data, I knew I had a very good chance at being protected from this pandemic. In fact, when I write this in August of 2021, it appears that those with moderate symptoms likely have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 that will last for at least 18 months, maybe longer still. 

(With that said… newer data show that even those with very low levels of remaining antibodies will probably have some protection, but it just may take longer for the immune system to mount an effective response.)


Vaccines works by making our body think it was infected by a bad virus or bacteria that causes a disease (tetanus, rabies, polio, influenza, etc.). When our body is infected (or thinks it is infected), it creates special cells called antibodies that remember what the bad virus or bacteria look like… it’s kind of like the antibodies are the “Wanted Posters” for the bad guys.

The next time the antibodies see the bad virus or bacteria, they recognize and attach themselves to that bad virus or bacteria. This prevents the virus or bacteria from entering cells to cause an infection, but it also calls in other immune cells to attack and kill the bad virus or bacteria.

If your body encounters the real virus or bacteria, the immune system attacks it. The result is that you get a very mild infection with very mild symptoms or even better, you don’t get the infection at all.

Now there is always the possibility that any virus will mutate... that’s honestly very common with viruses, and we had no reason to think SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) would be any different in that sense. I said this 8 months ago, and this has proven to be true.

So when other strains (variants) of COVID develop, will that new strain be recognized by our immune system if we already had COVID. Another way of saying this is, “If my body developed antibodies to one strain (variant) of COVID, will my immune system (antibodies) recognize the variant and appropriately respond to it?”

Well, it depends on how much the virus mutates. Remember, a vaccine (and natural immunity) causes the development of antibodies that “recognize” that bad virus. If the virus mutates a little bit, it’s likely that the virus will still be recognized by the antibodies. Kind of like if your best friend cut their hair... you would still recognize them.

Many virus mutations are almost entirely unnoticeable. They are small changes that don’t do much to the virus or the host. Kind of like if your best friend changes their socks. No one really notices or cares. 

But occasionally, a virus may mutate a whole lot, and then maybe the antibodies won’t recognize the virus. Sort of like if your best friend cut and dyed their hair, completely changed their wardrobe, wore a big hat, and spoke in a foreign accent. You may still recognize them, but maybe you wouldn’t.


And this finally brings us to my change from waiting to see what would happen (and not getting the vaccine yet) to finally deciding to get the vaccine.

We are now seeing patients who are getting COVID a second time... this means that either their antibodies didn’t last long enough or the virus mutated enough to fool the “wanted ad posters” (antibodies) of our immune system. And all evidence points to the latter. 

The COVID virus has finally mutated enough (in my educated opinion) that the vaccine is needed. Again, this is proving out in the national data and in my local emergency department.

There have been dozens and dozens of mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (if you skipped ahead, this is the virus that causes COVID-19). Again, this is no surprise. It was expected by everyone who knows and understands virology. Honestly, there have likely been thousands of times that number of mutations, but the vast majority of these are unnoticed without full genome sequencing. There are currently (August 2021) four “variants of concern” and four additional “variants of interest” that are being tracked by the experts. The current variant that is causing so much trouble, and is responsible for the current spike in the U.S., is Delta… also known as Cars-CoV-2 Variant Delta B.1.617.2. 

This Delta Variant is very contagious and seems to be effecting younger people more than the initial virus did. Again, this is also what I am seeing in my local emergency department. I recently had to admit my first under-18-year-old patient with COVID, and I have been treating patients with COVID for over 17 months now. 

Right now, almost all cases of COVID in the United States are caused by the Delta Variant.

Currently, greater than 90% of the deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. 

Let me say this again… almost all the deaths from COVID-19 now are in UNVACCINATED people!

Current data show that if you’ve had COVID previously, you are TWICE as likely to catch SARS-CoV-2 a second time if you are unvaccinated than if you had the vaccine.

And again, to be clear, the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting COVID, but it increases your chance of staying out of the hospital (and my emergency department) and increases your chance of surviving it. 
As I have said previously, the COVID vaccine is like wearing a bullet-proof vest in a gun fight. You could still get shot in the head (and die) or get shot in the leg (and be seriously injured), but your chances of survival are greatly improved.

I would want a bullet-proof vest if I was in a gun fight. 

This is why I had the COVID vaccine, even though I had COVID.

This is why my wife had the COVID vaccine, even though she had COVID.

This is why my children (12 and older) have had the vaccine, even though they had COVID.

I encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Today is the day

There is just no way to pick "a few" pictures of this day! It's a right of passage for any dancer. Of course, I never did anything even remotely close to this as a kid. I am NOT a dancer. But I'm having so much fun learning and growing along with Abigail.

Our friend Erin (who once was a professional dancer) went with us. As did my niece Kari (who got her own first shoes today too) and my niece Ana (who needed another pair of her shoes.)