April 2020

On Podcasts and Pandemics and a Wedding,


Being a guest on a podcast is frightening for a kid whose skill set is limited to reading a room through smiles, smirks, grimaces and gesticulations. A gift of having grown up in a family of ten.  Voices just don’t cut it - I am much better face to face. But, when Dr. Tim Uhl emails and says- “It’s time,” you acquiesce. So, I did; but not without safeguards. I am only 62.9 years of age and need to work for a couple more years. Danielle, my right- hand associate, wielded a large poster stating: DON’T ANSWER which was my insurance against an early forced retirement.  


The podcast- it was fun talking about leadership in the ADLA and the Onward Leaders Program.   And I am a good guest not because of my conversational skills, but for the potential exposure for Dr. Uhl.  I was really proud that I sounded exactly like Meg and did- which is who I am. I was very concerned that my siblings would listen and say, “Who are you?” I have seven sisters and two brothers with 26 kids ranging from 22 years to 52 years of age.  My husband is one of nine with four brothers and four sisters with 16 kids ranging from 17-26. The Samaniego’s count is a bit lower, but they win with a Jesuit as the eldest son. Because I sounded exactly like me, I sent the podcast to all of them.  If Dr. Uhl does the math, that’s a good 75 hits just because it’s little old me. Then add in all my other friends and mentors with huge families. We are what in the old days of Catholic parish schools one would call “rent a crowd”. If you were doing a fundraiser at your church and you were short on people, 15-20 from this crowd would always show up gladly.  You're welcome, Dr. Uhl! 


So how does this relate to COVID-19?  I grew up in a rent a crowd home with ten kids and two parents where a pandemic was imminent if not already alive.  My father lived his entire life as if in a pandemic- so we all picked up tips. He wasn’t crazy and actually incredibly successful as a surgeon.  But he came back from WWII with dysentery and my mother barely recognized him. He was stationed at Iwo Jima. Since we don’t study history anymore- take a look here https://bit.ly/2xM9BVz 

His chosen profession and the dysentery distilled into what would become numerous hilarious realities in our home.  Today, they would be appropriate, if not outright recommendations from the CDC in the midst of COVID-19.  


I was running the other day after Safe at Home orders-appropriately spaced and there were three other people waiting for the light with me, and we all hovered six feet apart nervously pondering should we touch the bar that would minimize our wait and I, by instinct, used my elbows to push the bottom.  My elbows were covered and would not pick up germs. I learned that from my Dad. Elbows rarely touch your face, so an excellent alternative to hands. And although the legendary jokes about my father’s embrace- no hands were used- shoulder hugs or knuckles were the preferred method of showing intimacy, we are all thanking him today.  Here is what I learned from my dad that may help others today.


  1. Only eat the food that doesn’t touch your hands.  This is like a French fry that you pick up with your fingers- absolutely eat the part that your fingers don’t touch- leave the remainder on the nearest napkin.
  2. Sandwiches- follow protocol from the previous recommendation.
  3. Use a bar of Ivory soap only once. It doesn’t go to waste, my mom would have bags for us to take back to our dorms- so if you were lucky enough to go UCLA, Mt. St. Mary’s or LMU during the 60’s or 70’s you never had to buy soap if a Greaney was in your dorm.
  4. Toothbrushes- you use the ivory soap on the toothbrush and then put the toothpaste on and brush your teeth.  Another perk- I think it was in the late 80’s before I did not have a bag of toothbrushes that I could use. Boil them and they are good to go! 
  5. When ordering cocktails, emphatically state you do not want a swizzle stick.  You can’t back track who touched it before it went into your cocktail. They may not know the finger touching mentioned in Tip #1 and Tip #2.  That includes Shirley Temples.
  6. Use paper towels to open all doors even in your own house.
  7. Greet all visitors with a vigorous handshake and an equally vigorous hand washing immediately after so they can see you.  Even if that person just asked one of your eight daughters to marry him.
  8. Leave clothes outside if they may be contaminated.  He often came home from surgery so his “greens” were not appropriate to bring into the house. It helps if your garage has a door directly into the house.  Ours didn’t but that’s a different blog.  
  9. Wash all electronics-if touched by people known to carry disease- even if that disease was prevalent in the War of 1812 only. (We went through a lot of electronics- part of the deal- no one would think twice today about what we laughed about in those days!)


As I was putting the finishing touches on this piece, I received a text from one of my sisters who updated us on the status of public restrooms in California-closed.  I was never in a public restroom, and my sister reminded me about the empty Maxwell coffee can rattling around the back of the Chevrolet that served as the girl’s public restroom.  Resentment toward our two brothers who did not need the can still courses through our veins. 


Understand that all this perceived craziness is based in science.  My younger sister Beth was diagnosed with Meningitis in 1960 and here is the research that documents the historical data https://bit.ly/2X35T4F about this deadly disease in those days that left children deaf or blind or dead.  According to my Mom- my father who did pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital thought he had brought it home and was guilt ridden about it.  He had 9 children at that point and my parents would have one more a year or so later.  


Which brings me to my son and walking this time with him and his fiancé whose wedding was to be April 4, 2020 at Sacred Heart Chapel at LMU where they met.  Do we send the note of cancellation and when? How? Vendors- some gracious and quite smart and others who may not exist after COVID 19 and worried about their bottom line.  Heart break abounds on so many levels. But we are Irish and have a bent toward laughter in the most somber moments. It is just what we do. When my son finally came over after two weeks (afraid he might infect us- even though his dad is a physician who is still working-the irony in that tells you a lot about us) and showed me how to wash my hands like a surgeon- top of hands- then below, hands air dried upright arms bent at the elbow.  I burst out laughing. Who would have thought his grandfather who could quote Shakespeare peppered with Latin; the brilliant, erudite, articulate, arrogant and deeply flawed man who was his grandfather had quirks valuable enough to guide his 26 grandchildren through this very uncertain time?  


God Bless,