Day 21 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Sunday, April 5, 2020 – Live to Blog from the End of Week 3

Yep, that’s right! Today marks the end of the 3rd week of hiding out from COVID-19. I really don’t like the idea of hiding out. I’m considered high risk for contracting and potentially dying from COVID-19 because of my age and underlying health conditions.

Unfortunately, it looks like my risk level is not a matter of opinion but data. According to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (February 12 to March 16) from CDC (which has to have the WORST name in modern linguistics), among those COVID-19 patients whose age is known:

  • 31% of all cases are to people over 65 year old
  • 45% of those hospitalized are over age 65.
  • 53% of those in intensive care units are at least age 65.
  • 80% of COVID-19 deaths are to people over age 65.

Did you notice has how those percentages kept rising with each level of intensity? Ouch! This data is not very comforting to me as I race toward my 66th birthday in a few weeks. Oh no…I feel a non sequitur coming on…

Hey, I can still do it! Thanks, Captain Ernie!
Captain Ernie!

Speaking of the number 66…as a kid I watched Captain Ernie’s Cartoon Showboat after school. Captain Ernie was my favorite cartoon host on WOC-TV 6 in Davenport, Iowa (which is now KWQC). One of things he did was draw faces from numbers submitted to him by his young viewers. I loved watching him do those drawings and I thought he was incredibly clever! I tried it on my own. It turns out my favorite number to use for faces (probably because it was the easiest to me) was 66. I learned recently that Captian Ernie died at the age of 86 in Florida. He real name was Earnest Christopher Memos and he was orginally from New Hampshire. When he wasn’t Captain Ernie on the Good Ship Dixie Belle, he was also the station’s weather reporter. RIP, Captain!

Back to Reality: Wait a minute, let’s reframe this. It isn’t hiding out from COVID-19…it is participating in the solution to it. To shelter-in-place is to be part of the solution when we are not considered essential workers. Staying home is how we do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19. By staying home we also reduce the risk for essential workers.

I work from home and I can do so remotely. I’m lucky. I don’t have to go out except for necessities. In fact, I have not been out, except to walk the dogs, for over 8 days now. I won’t be going out again until we need to pick up necessities from the grocery store…or until one of the Girls really needs to do her doody. Even then, I’m not seeing any people on those doggy comfort walks.

The point is…we can live with this. We have, at least, another 3.5 weeks (25 days) here in Maryland. It is a pain but this is what it means to be a community and a country. Sometimes we have to do the things we don’t like, and are not convenient, for the greater good of all.

What we know about dealing with COVID-19 is that physical distancing (and not just 6 feet but up to 27 feet) reduces the risk of infections. So does washing hands, using hand sanitizer when we can’t wash our hands, avoiding touching our face and eyes, and couging/sneezing into our arm instead of letting it fly. We also know that wearing masks – especially if everyone wears them – can help. And, we know that sheltering-in-place, when we have a shelter to go to, helps. Let’s just do it!

My friend Sharon Miller is the Public Health Administrator for Madison County, Iowa. (You know, the place made famous by the book and film, The Bridges of Madison County?) On Twitter yesterday she posted a graphic she had found on Facebook. The graphic, posted here, asks an important question:

Who do I want to be during COVID-19?

Hiding out from COVID-19 isn’t helpful. Understanding why we need to shelter-in-place. Doing it. Then doing everything we can help others from our safe zone – including those who must leave their shelter for our sake or don’t have any shelter at all – makes us part of the solution.

So, who do I want to be during COVID-19? Who do YOU want to be? It’s a fair question. I suggest we both be part of the solution.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands and keep choosing to be part of the solution.

Tom

Day 18 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I’m also grateful to have retained my presence of mind to avoid playing with filters or special visual effects while on Zoom today.

Thursday, April 2, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Computer Screen

Remember to stay connected even if you are alone. #alonetogether

I’m Zoomed out today. For a full seven hours I facilitated or participated in Zoom meetings today. Don’t get me wrong…I’m grateful for the work and to be busy. Sitting in my chair and staring at a screen for 7 hours, only to dash to the bathroom or to the kitchen during breaks is a bit tedious. Still, I’m grateful. However, Bert (left) and Ernie (right) were complaining. They didn’t get a walk today. Between you and me, they can be a little self-centered and demanding.

Lizet Ocampo during an unfortunate Zoom accident.

I’m also grateful to have retained my presence of mind to avoid playing with filters or special visual effects while on Zoom today. I might have become a potato head like Lizet Ocampo. I’m also grateful that my work computer is a desk top model so I can’t take it into the bathroom with me. (This really happened but I’m not going to post the link from YouTube because I’m not sure the young person who carried their lap top into the bathroom during a Zoom meeting has had the same sense of humor about it as did Ms. Ocampo.)

BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour: We had our third gathering today and we will be continuing to meet on Thursdays at 5:00 PM Eastern for the near future. If you’d like to join up next week, send me an email at twklaus@tenaciouschange.us. When I receive your email I’ll send you the Zoom link and our conversation starter.

In Reality. We’re #1! We’re #1 Nothing like putting America first! Globally we hit a milestone today. We now have over 1 million confirmed cases AND the USA is solidly #1 in the world for the number of confirmed cases. Let’s hear it again: “We’re #1! USA! We’re #1! USA!” Come on, I can’t hear you…where’s you pride now? (With tongue firmly in cheek.)

I know there are folks who are having a hard time wrapping their heads (potato or not) around this pandemic. Some minimize it, choosing to believe instead that it is no more serious than the flu. Some have chosen to believe in one of the weird conspiracy theories that are out there. Some think it is a hoax because they don’t personally know anyone who has COVID-19 and don’t know anyone who has died.

To all these, I say, just give it time. The proof you need is coming…sooner than you know.

I’m happy to say that I don’t personally know anyone who has died. However, I know several people who have friends, colleagues, or loved ones who have COVID-19. It has come close to us as a family but, fortunately, all of us have been spared so far. However, we know that may not always be the case. We are preparing for the possibility of infection but we are doing everything we know how to avoid infection. I hope you are doing the same thing.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing you hands, and keep doing everything you can to avoid infection.

Tom

Visit Masks4All and Learn Why You Should Wear One

Day 17 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Okay, so yesterday I had a little bit of fun with underwear masks. I hope you did as well…but, really, I hope you didn’t try it. What…you did?!?! Ewwww!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 – Live to Blog Under a Mask

#alonetogether

Okay, so yesterday I had a little bit of fun with underwear masks. I hope you did as well…but, really, I hope you didn’t try it.

What…you did?!?! Ewwww!

In Reality: Today Clemencia and I made the decision to start wearing masks when we go anywhere outside the house.

Oops! I got the name wrong…it is Masks4All. Link to the video here.

What made the difference? This video – Coronavirus Masks 4 All. It will only take about 3 minutes out of your life but it could save your life or the life of another. I’m sure you know the reasons for NOT wearing a mask:

  • You might look stupid, goofy, or weird (well, all of these are true of some of us anyway without a mask)
  • Because you look stupid, goofy, or weird people might laugh at you
  • People might think you have COVID-19 already and will run away from you (that’s okay…remember, social distancing!)
  • You can’t find a mask that matches your eye color
  • You could be mistaken for a robber, mugger, or politician
  • You could be mistaken for the Lone Ranger or a super hero (neither is likely in my case)
  • Hey, if it’s not an N95 mask it doesn’t do any good anyway!

Well, those are “important” reasons to be sure. However, there are a few that are genuinely compelling and, in addition, more rational.

  • The Novel Coronavirus is continuing to spread rapidly and it is becoming even more widespread daily. Growing as it has, it is increasingly likely that we will not avoid exposure and could, at least, become a carrier of the virus.
  • It isn’t only about you. Yes, an N95 mask and medical grade masks may protect you pretty well but we have a shortage of those. They need to be saved for medical workers, first responders, and other essential personnel. Wearing a mask – even a homemade cloth mask – will reduce the possibility that you can infect others, if you happen to be a carrier without symptoms. (Yes, there are asymptomatic carriers of the virus…and you may be one!).
  • It’s also about them! Now, imagine this, if you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others as an asymptomatic carrier, then, if everyone else starts wearing a mask, your risk will be reduced as well. Remember, you cannot know when you are near a person who is an asymptomatic carrier and they cannot know if you are an asymptomatic carrier.
  • But wait, there’s more! If you are wearing a mask along with everyone else, then we are protecting each other and when we protect each other, we protect our selves.
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s thinking on mask wearing is changing. Check out this article. From the CDC to the Surgeon General to Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, the conventional wisdom on wearing masks is changing.
  • There is growing evidence that even homemade masks are more protective that we thought. Again, watch this video that illustrates how, when we are all wearing masks, we can protect ourselves and one another.

This is how one of my clients and colleagues assessed the state of things today in an email to me…

“The bottom has fallen out of hell…”

‘Nuf said.

Sock Offensive update: Bert (left) and Ernie (right) came out from under the bed when they realized I wasn’t going to make them into masks. They are back home again…on my feet…doing what they do best…though I’m not quite sure what that is. Beto and Enrique, on the other hand, are still cowering under the bed. I’m not sure why Clemencia has named her socks but she still seems to think Bert and Ernie are regularly washed. I’ve gotten them to tone down the mumbling on the deck at night. So far, so good, though they do increasingly seem to have a mind of their own.

Quarantine Humor, as seen in Facebook today:

BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour TOMORROW at 5:00 PM. To join, follow the instructions below.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and start wearing a mask!

Tom

Day 16 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

So, who hasn’t been thinking about masks today? Honestly, I haven’t been, except I can’t avoid them. EVERY person I’ve seen today has been thinking about them, talking about them, and even sharing videos about them.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Mask

So, who hasn’t been thinking about masks today? Honestly, I haven’t been, except I can’t avoid them. EVERY person I’ve seen today has been thinking about them, talking about them, and even sharing videos about them. Wait! The only person I’ve seen today is Clemencia! Truly, a sample of one!

But she is not alone. Plenty of other people are thinking about masks too…and underwear. Just watch and learn…I’ve put a few different versions of this thing for you to enjoy. Which is your favorite?

This guy is pretty good…plus I love the windmill picture behind him.
No, it is NOT an N95 mask. Do not be deceived!
Well, interesting noises in the background and, gee, would it have been so tough to put on an undershirt? But, you know, he is having a GREAT time!
Love the commentary!
Uh-uh…no…not at all. Nope! I don’t think so! But thanks for sharing!

This has been a public service announcement from five people who spend far too much time on the internet. I think I like the first one best. No reason. It just seems…well…I don’t know…you know…a little less…uh…yeah, that.

I’ve got nothing today that can top these. Plus, they made Bert, Ernie, Beto and Enrique dive under the bed out of sight when they saw them. I guess they wondered what we might have in mind for them.

Okay…well…uh…that’s it.

Really, don’t wait for me to say April Fool! Nope, not gonna happen. Sometimes an April Fool joke can’t be any better than reality. Welcome to THAT kind of April Fools Day.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and, please, just use your underwear for its intended purpose.

Tom

Day 15 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Good news, bad news time. The good news is Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place has been renewed by Mr. Trump and by Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. The bad news is…well…it’s the same. So, here we are…Day 15 headed to Day 46 on April 30.

March 20, 2020 Live to Blog from Under an Executive Order

Good news, bad news time. The good news is Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place has been renewed by Mr. Trump and by Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. The bad news is…well…it’s the same. So, here we are…Day 15 headed to Day 46 on April 30.

This afternoon we went for two walks. One with the Girls for their afternoon constitutional. One without the Girls so we could actually walk at a normal human pace and get some exercise. There is a 2.12 mile walking path around our neighborhood that passes behind the homes. It was a beautiful afternoon – 70 degrees, no breeze, perfect for golfing, except Governor Hogan has closed down all the golf courses. He must be a bowler.

There is one portion of the walking path that uses a sidewalk behind a group of houses. On that sidewalk some creative soul had written messages of encouragement. They were a lovely surprise and I’ll be sharing them throughout this blog randomly…since they were presented rather randomly on the sidewalk.

Show Compassion

Sock Offensive Update: I’m suspicious that Clemencia has heard the mumbling on the deck and might be figuring things out. This morning I walked into the kitchen to eat my daily baked oatmeal. In the middle of the floor were two socks laid neatly side-by-side and Clemencia was sitting at the kitchen table sipping her morning tea.

  • Me (nonchalantly): “What’s that?”
  • Clemencia: “Que, que? What’s what?”
  • Me: “THAT on the floor!”
  • Clemencia: “Oh, that’s Beto and Enrique.”
  • Me (surprised and a bit suspicious): “Beto and Enrique? Are you okay? Did you do your Coronavirus temperature check yet?”
  • Clemencia: “Si, mi amor. I’m fine.”
  • Me (curiously): “Sooooo….when did you start naming your socks?”
  • Clemencia: “Oh, I don’t know. It just seemed like a good thing to do.”
  • Me: “Are you getting bored? Going a little stir crazy? What’s going on?”
  • Clemencia: “Nada, mi amor, nada. I’m fine and all is good. Muy bueno!”
  • Me (playing along): “Okay, then. May I pick up Beto and Enrique so I don’t step on them.”
  • Clemencia (smiling sweetly): “No, no. They are fine. They wanted to be there so they could enjoy the morning sun coming through the window.”
  • Me (now concerned): “Ohhhhh. Well…o…kay. Whatever they want, mi amor.”

Later in the morning I heard a lot of mumbling from Bert (left) and Ernie (right). I think they were not pleased that Beto and Enrique had a such a prime place in the sun.

#alonetogether

BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: Looks like we’ll be adding a few weeks to our Thursdays at 5 pm (Eastern) gathering by Zoom. Join us if you can and if you like. Connection information is below!

In Reality: After about two weeks of trying to get people in Maryland to stop doing stupid things, the governor finally had it and made home confinement mandatory. We can only go out of the house for essential things to essential businesses which will be open only at essential times. It is a real pain! However, it is necessary because people are being stupid. I know. It is not polite to call people stupid but it does happen to be true.

I’m not being cruel. I’m being accurate.

Maintain Social Distance – 6 feet – Yes that means YOU, Stupid People!

Google Dictionary has a wonderful and incredibly accurate definition of the word “stupid” for this time. It means “showing a great lack of common sense.” But it was Forrest Gump who taught us the most practical one: “Stupid is as stupid does.” By either measure, there are a lot of Stupid People where Coronavirus is concerned. You see them everywhere.

  • They get together in groups of 9 because they think the Coronavirus can count and will stay away if the group is less than ten.
  • They are capable people who refuse to learn alternative, safe, and FREE ways to stay connected with people without actually being face to face (e.g., Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, FreeConferenceCall.com, Facetime (Apple), Duo (Android), phone, and text).
  • They go for walks in groups, taking care to stay away from each while awaiting their walking companions to arrive – then they pair up side-by-side, touching shoulders as they walk down the sidewalk.
  • They have COVID-19 parties. No explanation needed for how stupid this is!
  • They only let family come over to their house on the weekend because, heck, they know they wouldn’t infect them – they’re family!
  • They only hang out and play cards with really close friends because they know their real friends couldn’t have COVID-19 and wouldn’t pass it to them!
  • They blindly follow wolves in sheep’s clothing who profess a love of God while utterly disrespecting the Imageo Dei of humans. They stupidly bow to their false prophets and allow them to fill their minds with their COVID-19 conspiracy theory-of-the-moment. They obey their “men of God” whose edicts to attend meetings and services put them at risk but only serve to satisfy the avarice of wolves in preacher’s clothing who live for an audience and personal glory (e.g., Tampa, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland).

Do you know who is NOT stupid? Anyone who absolutely, positively, must leave their home because they have essential jobs. There are a lot people who have to risk contracting the virus every day because they do the work of:

  • caring for those that are already ill,
  • restocking our grocery stories (which stupid people continue to panic raid everyday),
  • making medical supplies and medicines available for us,
  • providing necessary mass transit,
  • providing emergency services,
  • doing the case management and investigations of social work to protect the most vulnerable of our society,
  • cleaning and maintaining buildings,
  • operating utility services,
  • delivering groceries and necessary personal items from stores, and
  • a myriad of other things.

In short, these hardworking, caring, brave, and heroic people make it possible for Stupid People to sit on their butts at home until it strikes their stupid fancy to do another stupid thing that could expose them to the virus.

Look Stupid People, it’s time to stop whining, to grow up, to be adults, and to do YOUR part to protect others…even if you think you are invulnerable. Your exposure is OUR exposure to the virus. Do you just not really get it or are you too selfish and self-absorbed to care about anyone else? Please, take a few minutes and watch this eight minute video until it sinks in.

Frankly, we have YOU, Stupid People, to thank for an additional 31 days of home confinement. Thank you Stupid People! At least do this: If you are going to continue to play stupid games with your health, please, do it away from us, okay?

To everyone who is not stupid…stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember at all times to avoid stupid people and doing stupid things.

Tom

Day 13 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Saturday, March 28, 2020 Live to Blog from Under an Umbrella

Dear Winthrop,

I learned last week that Tom places Bert (left) and Ernie (right) on the deck overnight to give them a rest and to hide them from Clemencia. However, last night it rained and curious minds wonder: What happens to Bert & Ernie when it rains and are in their mumble spot on the deck? Thank you!

Curious Mind

Dear Curious,

Winthrop here. Thank you for asking this important question. Frankly, I have not been pleased with Tom’s treatment of Bert (left) & Ernie (right) given their amazing, sacrificial service to him. In fact, I’ve been inclined to report him to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Socks, better known as the ASPCS…

Stop it, STOP IT, STOP IT! This is NOT your blog, Winthrop, and nobody wants to hear from you. Just…just…just SHUT UP!

(Deep sigh.) My sincere apologies, friends. I don’t know what Winthrop’s deal is. Now he’s opening my blog app and reading comments. In fact, I did receive that question as a comment. So, here’s the real answer…

Dear Curious,

Example of Using Clothespins to respectfully, kindly, and gently hang socks. (Representation only, not actually Bert & Ernie.)

Thank you for reading and for asking about Bert (left) and Ernie (right). They mumbled very excitedly, almost audibly, when I read your question to them. Our deck is on the forth floor of our building but it is a covered deck. Hence, rain and snow do not fall directly on them overnight. To make sure a breeze does not carry them off the deck, I take great care to use clothes pins to carefully and comfortably secure them to the back of an Adirondack chair. To ensure they can enjoy conversation with one another throughout the night, I make sure they are hung no more than about 6 to 8 inches apart. Hence, they can mumble in a whisper and reduce their risk of discovery, especially after such a close call earlier this week.

Each night I intently watch both Tom Tasselmyer (WBAL TV 11, Baltimore, Chief Meteorologist) and Topper Shutt (WUSA TV 9, Washington, Chief Meteorologist) to get the weather forecast to the North and to the South of us. (We live exactly 22 miles from either downtown Washington and Baltimore so we are in both TV markets.) Once I have assessed the risk to Bert and Ernie, I take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and well-being from the elements. Last night, per their predictions of substantial overnight rain, I took extra care. Bert and Ernie were each given their own quart-size resealable plastic bag to keep them dry. Each bag was left open just enough so the rain would not get in and so they could breathe easily. Also, the open seal assured their ability to continue their mumble chats.

I can assure you, Curious, that Bert and Ernie remain in good hands and on healthy feet, regardless of what Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum says. He may think he’s a public radio personality, but he is not and he certainly does not know truth from fiction. He is a “journalist” in name only, despite his high-falutin name and sophisticated, bordering on arrogant, tone. As always, please ignore him and his really fake news.

Sincerely,

Tom

The Therapy of Fun: This blog series started as a way for me to manage my own anxiety about the growth of COVID-19 and being a person at high-risk. In just 13 days this dumb blog series has become a larger-than-life joyful diversion for me. It has refocused my imagination from the worst that could happen to the possibilities of imagination all around me…even though I’m confined, like many of you, at home.

Until I sit down to write this blog I have no idea what it is going to say. Sometimes it isn’t written until late at night when I’m already exhausted from the long days I’ve been working. Sometimes it is written in the middle of a sleepless night. Sometimes it is written when something serendipitious happens, like getting that wonderfully funny question from Curious Mind, who is a real person with a real name that I’m not using because I haven’t asked his permission.

Never before would I have considered writing such an odd blog series. In the past all of my blogs have addressed serious topics and issues. (You can see them on this website if you wish.) This one is about nothing in particular except that which catches my attention in the moment and makes me giggle. I didn’t start the series with the expectation that anyone else would read it. Writing is a type of therapy for me which I’m usually content to do privately when I have the time and space to do it. I have never done it for as much fun as I’m having right now. Actually, I really don’t have the time to do it, but I need the therapy of fun so I make it a priority.

I’m delightfully surprised that people, like Curious Mind, are spending a few minutes each day reading this blog series. Maybe you take the time to read my drivel because you also need the therapy of fun. Or you are a masochist; but I prefer to think you need the therapy of fun. I find myself wondering how many others facing down COVID-19 with us also need the therapy of fun through a bit of daily drivel. For this reason, I’m going to ask you to share this blog with others whom you think would appreciate it’s strange humor. I promise…you won’t be exposing them to cussin’, spittin’, or runnin’ with people who do. There may be a little bit of rantin’ but I try to keep it reeled in, and I try to keep it nonpartisan to boot. You can share it via social media using the social media buttons at the bottom of this blog page. You can also share it by cutting and pasting this link into an email: https://tenaciouschange.us/2020/03/17/day-1-stories-of-covid-19-and-sheltering-in-place/ Include a personal note of invitation, if you like. In this way, I hope together we can provide the therapy of fun to a few more than the 7 (including Bert and Ernie) who already read this blog. 🙂

BYON (Bring Your Own Nose) Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: One of the unintended consequences of this blog has been the formation of a weekly gathering (Thursdays, 5:00 PM Eastern, via Zoom). It has been a wonderful way to make new friends, hear how COVID-19 is impacting life in Hawaii, Ontario, California, Washington, Colorado, Baltimore, New York City, and other points throughout North America, and, especially, to laugh together. If you’d like to join in, just use the link information provided below.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to keep your appointments for the therapy of fun.

Tom

Day 12 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Friday, March 27, 2020 Live to Blog from My Recliner

Tom goofed. He thought he had his Day 11 blog set up to post at 8:00 AM yesterday. Instead, it was set up to post at 8:00 PM. When the bonehead found the mistake, he posted it immediately at 7:31 PM. However, if you didn’t notice, don’t worry about it. You didn’t miss anything. I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum and this has been a public service announcement.

Dang it, Winthrop! Just be quiet and stay out of my blog. That, of course, was Winthrop Dijkstra-Baurm, my public radio alter ego. He is a pretty entitled guy, for sure. Please, just ignore him, especially if he begins to ask you to donate to his pledge drive.

Have you noticed, less than two weeks into the sheltering-in-place phenomenon, how days seem to be blending together? Come to think of it, the week and weekend seem to be merging as well. Something else may be merging. I’ve worn Bert (left) and Ernie (right) long enough that they are becoming a part of me. Well, not really a part of me but I’m wondering if they have absorbed enough of my DNA to start cloning me…or somebody…or something!

Earlier this week I told you the story about hiding them on the deck at night and fearing Clemencia could hear them chatting with one another. Chatting may not be the most accurate description. They don’t exactly talk…they mumble. I’m not paranoid but I can’t help wondering what they are mumbling about. I wear shoes that are extra wide so it can’t be that they are cramped. I always give them a premium spot on the deck. I keep the birds and squirrels and laundry away from them. However, I’m feeling just a bit suspicious of the mumbling.

Actually, if Bert and Ernie are getting a bit ripe, I can’t know it.

True story. Years ago I lost all sense of smell and taste. Eventually I ended up going to a neurologist. The doctor spent about 30 minutes giving me an exam that involved taking a whiff of (supposedly) really nasty smelling things. The fragrances were kept in little glass tubes which he kept in a box tucked away in a cabinet. Who knew anybody actually manufactured those things!

One by one he’d hold a tube up to my nose and say, “Breathe deeply.” So I’d breath in. He’d ask, “Smell anything?” I’d say, “Nope” and he’d say, “Huh!,” occasionally punctuated with “Hmmm, interesting.” After I had smelled nearly every tube in the box he said, “Okay. here’s the deal. You have anosmia.” Now there’s a diagnosis that begs the question I asked, “What’s anosmia?”

Okay, wait for it. Bear in mind this was a specialist and his hourly rate was probably more than my weekly income at the time. No, I said wait for it. He had just given me one of the most unusual exams I’ve ever taken and the only thing he said for 30 minutes was “Huh!” and “Hmm, interesting.” No, wait for it, I said. He just made his pronouncement of my diagnosis with the utmost clarity and authority. His answer to my question, “What’s anosmia?”:

“It means you can’t smell anything.”

Brilliant Neurologist Who Shall Remain Nameless

I so wanted to go all Lewis Black on him, “WHAT?…WHY?…WHO?…WHAT AM I DOING HERE AND WHY…HOW MUCH…NO, WHY DO I HAVE TO GIVE YOU MY WEEK’S SALARY JUST SO YOU CAN TELL ME WHAT I ALREADY KNOW???” Of course, that was my inner Lewis Black having that particular rant. Outwardly I said, “Oh, that’s interesting. How come?”

That’s when he explained to me that some time (he couldn’t say when) and some how (he couldn’t tell me how), I had had a virus that messed with the cells in my brain that control my sense of smell and taste. (No, stop it…that’s not nice, Winthrop…it was not the coroNOSEvirus!)

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THEY MESSED WITH CELLS IN MY BRAIN? AND YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHEN OR HOW OR WHY? HOW DO I KNOW THAT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN? AAARRRGGGHHH! screamed my inner Lewis Black.

To the doctor I said, “Thank you. What happens next? Is there a cure?”

“Nope.” the doctor explained.“In most cases, in about a year or so, you will begin to regain 70 to 80 percent, maybe more, of your sense of smell and taste. In some cases, though, it doesn’t come back all.” “Oh!” he said with a chuckle, “You know the funniest thing? Some things that always smelled and tasted bad to you before, may smell and taste good when your senses come back. Other things that always smelled and tasted good before, may smell and taste bad in the future. Isn’t that interesting?”

“INTERESTING?!? SERIOUSLY, INTERESTING?!? NO, THAT’S DEFINITELY IS NOT INTERESTING. IT’S WEIRD, SCARY, AND IRRITATING BUT DEFINITELY NOT INTERESTING TO BE STUCK WITH THIS FOR NEXT YEAR AND MAYBE THE REST OF MY LIFE! DUDE, I LOVE PIZZA, APPLE PIE, BREAD PUDDING, THE SMELL OF LILACS, AND LOTS OF OTHER THINGS AND NOW I CAN’T ENJOY THEM!” That was, of course, my inner Lewis Black again.

So I said, “Thank you doctor. Now, where may I pay my week’s salary to you?

Truly, there are things far worse than losing one’s sense of smell and taste. Mine did come back to, oh, about 75% or so. I’ve never gone back to the doctor to have him measure it precisely and I never will. It is what it is.

One of the worst things we can experience is happening right now as the Coronavirus continues its march across the country and world. Today, in the United States, the number of confirmed cases went over 100,000. In fact, as I write this posting the number is 104,007. Okay, the doubters and real fake news followers will say, “Well, these numbers could be inflated by all the testing we are doing.” Nope! In fact, testing has never been at the level it should be and it still is not today. Without the testing we cannot find all the case that are really out there. What amazes me is that there are still people who think this might not really be as serious as it is. Earlier today I received an email from a friend who is an immunologist at a major research university medical school. She sent me this eight minute video, What this Chart Actually Means for COVID-19. It is a clear, concise, and even entertaining video that explains what it means to “flatten the curve” of the virus and why this is important. Please share it. Share it with everyone you know who is still living in the fake news and false belief that this isn’t. The video explains why in my home state of Iowa (a flyover state in the middle of the country where at least one of our nation’s leaders assures is doing just fine) that the number of confirmed number of Coronavirus cases went from 147 two days ago on March 25 to 235 today. I know, that’s not New York. But when you understand exponential growth, which the video explains, you’ll understand how Iowa, and everywhere else in the country, is only a few days and a few doubters from becoming New York very soon. Please, watch the it, share it, and keep sharing it until more people understand.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to watch the video and share it.

Tom

Day 11 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

March 26, 2020 live to Blog with Egg on My Face

Oh, man, I really stuck my foot in my mouth today. Really, I was trying to be nice and make conversation while we stood in line – yes, six feet apart. But I think I just got it so very, very wrong.

Early this morning I had to go the bank and try to pick up some items at our local Aldi grocery store. I was thrilled to discover when I arrived at Aldi that Thursdays (today) and Tuesdays were reserved for senior citizens and pregnant women only from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM. I’ve never been more excited to be an old guy. I joined the line – keeping a social distance of six feet from the two people ahead of me. The first person appeared to be an older woman about my age. The second in line appeared to be a very pregnant young woman. We chatted together while waiting for the doors to be opened. At one point the young woman, seeking confirmation about the hour, said to us, “So it’s okay for pregnant mom’s to shop at 8:30 AM too?” The older woman assured her it was.

A few more minutes of general chatting followed. Then I looked at the young woman, smiled, and asked cheerfully, “When is your baby due?” The young woman gave me a puzzled look, with a side order of glare, and said somewhat indignantly, “I don’t know.”

I paused. No, it was not a pregnant pause…just a pause. At times like this, when I’m caught off guard, realize I’ve made a social faux pas, and have no clue what to say, I usually default to some idiotic, blathering. Today I was true to form. I responded cheerfully, “Well, uh,…I’m, uh…sure the doctor will tell you before the baby is born” and followed it with an embarrassed grin. She did not smile.

At just that moment an elderly woman, moving slowly with the aid of a cane, appeared out of nowhere from behind the young woman. “Ohhhhhh….nooooooo,” my Best Intentioned Self silently scolded my Idiot Self. Then, the automatic doors opened and I did everything I could to avoid the young woman and her elderly companion during the rest of my visit to Aldi. For added measure of I caution, I spoke to no other living soul the entire time I was in the store.

Sock Offensive update: I really wish I had washed Bert (left) and Ernie (right) before putting both feet in my mouth today. Sigh.

Participants in today Coffee Break/Happy Hour

BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: At our second virtual coffee break and happy hour today we had many of the same folks who joined us last week. Two couldn’t make it but we gained another Canadian. With the group’s permission I captured a photo of the screen to share with you here. One helped us celebrate Clemencia’s birthday with a fun hat. (Thanks FP!) At the moment this screen shot was taken, the group was singing happy birthday to her. (Thanks group!)

We’ll be meeting again next Thursday, April 2 at 5:00 PM. Be sure to bring your own nose, hat, or anything else that lifts your spirits. Our conversation starter is an activity. Prior to the gathering, visit the Public Radio Name Generator and get your own public radio name. Then come to the meeting prepared to share it and use it throughout the meeting. See below for our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour connection information and try to join us.

Using Zoom has become a way of life for many people in the time of COVID-19, including Clemencia and me. We use Zoom throughout the day to stay connected to clients, to students, and to conduct training and classes. Today, though, we used it to stay connected to our family members. We invited our children to a Zoom birthday party for Clemencia at noon. Everyone made it on time and we had a fun visit but…overshadowing it was the reality of the pandemic. Our daughter lives in Brooklyn and we worry about her as the cases of the Coronavirus, and the body count, climb to unbelievable levels. To pass the time and be of service, she is making face masks for people who need it most. Our son is a social worker who still has to go out into the field but without the benefit of any protective wear. Our daughter-in-law is dealing with the stress of long hours working remotely as an essential IT security specialist working to protect a major hospital system from regular hacking attempts. Our godson is doing his doctoral research in Spain. He and his partner are living in a town about the size of Baltimore that has over 54 deaths from COVID-19. Even as we laugh together and celebrate the life of someone we love so much, we also feel on the verge of tears for worry. This is life in the time of COVID-19.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to let yourself both laugh and cry, even at the same time, when needed.

Tom

Day 10 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

March 25, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Kitchen

Hello, I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum and this is the news.

Actually, that’s just my Public Radio alter-ego who decided to horn in on my blogging today. I had too much fun today on a couple of Zoom meetings. Actually, so did the other participants. I think we are all beginning to crack just a little bit under the pressure of COVID-19 stress. The fun, though, was my fault…I must confess.

Here’s what happened. For the multitude of my readers outside the United States, all two of you, we have National Public Radio (NPR) here, which is a terrific source of award-winning news reporting, classy classical music, jazzy jazz music, and wonderful programming that includes variety and game shows and radio documentaries. Think American style BBC or CBC. I’m actually an NPR junkie.

Funny thing about NPR. It is known for having top-notch reporters, journalists, and anchors with some of the most lovely yet interesting and fun to hear and say names you could ever imagine. The names of some of the real NPR personalities which lilt off the tongue include, David Folkenflik, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. You may also have observed from these there is quite a fondness for hyphenated names. By comparison to these, my name is terribly unexciting. Can you imagine me saying, “For NPR in Laurel, Maryland, this is Tom Klaus.” You can just imagine the sound of digital buttons being pushed to switch stations, right? Now you understand why my Public Radio name shall forever be Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum (but don’t call me Winnie).

I got my name from the Public Radio Name Generator. At the start of two Zoom video meetings today I shared the link to the generator with the participants. We each looked up our Public Radio name, changed our Zoom names to it, and went by our new names throughout the consultation. What a fun way to do a video conference! So, who was on the air with me?

  • Thema Meyers-del Barco
  • Hadassah Nakamura-Ibdah
  • Ajaya Murphy-Mori
  • Ivan Ajram-Ofili
  • Liu Zaykaothao-Ahmad
  • There was Augusto and Coco whose last names I can’t find in the Zoom chat anymore and one other whose name I can’t find at all.
  • We even had a toddler stop by a Zoom meeting who got christened Juan Rossi-Diallo by his mom.
  • And, of course, I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum, reporting live from Laurel, Maryland, for NPR.

The name generator doesn’t always work for everyone though, especially those who already have beautiful interesting names. Clemencia has tried the generator but her name is unique enough that nothing sounds more public radio-like than her real name: Clemencia Maria Vargas.

Here’s my best tip of the day: At your next Zoom video meeting invite everyone to generate their own Public Radio name and use it as their own for the duration. It will change your meeting!

Today I baked a birthday cake for Clemencia. That’s it. No fires. No messes. No burnt socks. It actually came out really great. Well, except, it wasn’t a cake…it was birthday brownies. She has a bit of a thing for chocolate.

Don’t forget…tomorrow is the BYON (Bring Your Own Nose) Coffee Break/Happy Hour at 5:00 PM Eastern. The Zoom connection information is below my signature.

I was at the computer about 12 hours today so my world revolved around a monitor, a keyboard, and an endless mug of coffee. Working 12 hours a day is tougher than it used to be but I’m grateful to be keeping busy. It’s tough for me to be confined to home. However, I’m mindful that sheltering-in-place is much tougher for many others. Others may be trying to work and manage children home from school. Many are home, out of work, and wondering how they will simply feed their children next week without any income. Many simply do not have a home in which to shelter-in-place. This time could become one of anger, animosity, turmoil, and destruction if we let it. Or, it could become a time of caring, compassion, sharing, and grace if we choose it. I hope we, as fully human beings, will be wise enough to choose this better way.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to give a lot more grace than grief to others during this tough time we share.

Tom

Day 8 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Monday, March 23, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Blanket

Why, you wonder, am I under a blanket? No, I’m not sick. I’m COLD. We had an unnaturally warm winter – I even went golfing in February a couple of times. Now it is Spring, it is supposed to be warmer, and it was cold and rainy all day. For the first time in about three weeks, we turned the furnace back on today.

Did anyone else notice that last week seemed rather surreal and disorienting? My son said it quite well yesterday: “It seems we are living in a really, really bad B-horror movie.”

Yes, I agree, and, yet, I’m not sure any horror movie has ever been as bad as Plan 9 From Outer Space. Be sure to click on the link and watch the trailer if you have never seen it. It was directed by Ed Wood, Jr., a movie director so terrible that he even got his own biopic in which he was played by Johnny Depp. (In my biopic I want to be played by Matt Damon, whom I am convinced is going to be my doppelganger when he is turns 66.) Seriously, the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards names Ed Wood, Jr. as the Worst Director of All Time.

To understand how he earned this distinction, all you have to do is watch Plan 9 From Outer Space. But, wait, save time. Just the watch the trailer at the link above. If you do watch the movie, though, here some things to watch for:

  • The black paint on the pilot’s “steering wheels” of their airliner comes off on their hands.
  • The tomb that every ghoulish character emerges from is so small that it really isn’t possible for even a single body to be placed it…plus, it looks like it was made out of plywood.
  • Look for the strings suspending the flying saucers in the movie – you don’t actually have look that hard.
  • The famous horror film star Bela Lugosi (who is forever etched in our memories as Count Dracula from the 1931 film), is in the movie, although, he really wasn’t because it was mostly filmed after he had died. A taller, younger, blond actor played his character through most of the film (which you can see even in the trailer).
Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula

Say what?!? Yep. Here’s how that happened. I’ll give you the first part of the story and then I’ll let Wikipedia bring it home. Lugosi’s success in Dracula, both on the stage and in the movie, was so extraordinary that it forever type cast him. Overall, life was not good to Lugosi in his last years. He was living nearly in poverty and had developed a drug habit. Ed Wood, Jr. found him and offered him work in some of his films. At one point Lugosi sought treatment for his drug addiction. I’ll let Wikipedia give you the rest of story:

During an impromptu interview upon his exit from the treatment center in 1955, Lugosi stated that he was about to go to work on a new Ed Wood film, The Ghoul Goes West. This was one of several projects proposed by Wood, including The Phantom Ghoul and Dr. Acula. With Lugosi in his Dracula cape, Wood shot impromptu test footage, with no storyline in mind, in front of Tor Johnson‘s home, a suburban graveyard, and in front of Lugosi’s apartment building on Carlton Way. This footage ended up in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), which was mostly filmed after Lugosi died. Wood hired Tom Mason, his wife’s chiropractor, to double for Lugosi in additional shots. Mason was noticeably taller and thinner than Lugosi, and had the lower half of his face covered with his cape in every shot, as Lugosi sometimes did in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Under Ed Wood and Final Projectshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bela_Lugosi

Really, if you have never seen Plan 9 From Outer Space, you just gotta see it. It has no real plot but is so unbelievably bad you just can’t stop watching. Let yourself laugh out loud. It may be the only time you’ll ever laugh at a “horror” movie.

Sock Offensive update: Bert (left) and Ernie (right) have now been on my feet for seven days, except for when I take them off for bed. Then, I sneak them out to the deck where they spend the night so they do not become obvious to Clemencia. So far, so good. And no neighbors have complained…yet.

BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour Thursday, March 26th, 5:00 PM Eastern. Join us if you can. If you’d like to meet up with us, check out the connection information below.

You know, though, I really do think my son has it about right. It does seem like we are living through a bad B-movie right now. Over the past week I’ve been reaching for the remote and punching the buttons to try to turn it off, but it isn’t going away. This week, as I’ve come to realize that it is not a movie at all, I’m shaking myself out of my shock and stupor, hitching up my big boy pants, and trying to figure out what the new normal is and will be in the future.

In this past week Clemencia and I have rediscovered the importance of being connected with people and, even more, helping them make connections with others. That’s what this blog has been doing, slowly but surely. It is gaining more followers and readers. I’m not sure why, because it really is an exercise in maintaining my own sanity and perspective. Still, I’m grateful, glad, and humbled. Our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour made connections among nearly a dozen people from across North America, all of whom were meeting each other for the first time. We attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship that had 17 people connected by Zoom early Sunday morning. I learned today that there were 45 Zoom screens, some with multiple people on them, connected at the 11:00 AM Meeting for Worship that followed. We’ve shared virtual meals with each of our children, one of whom is in NYC dealing with everything happening up there. Clemencia, who has been teaching conversational Spanish to active older adults and others at the local library and local community college, invited her students to join Zoom classes last week. Today she had her first three classes. But wait, that’s not all. She will actually have five, maybe even six classes, with nearly 70 people. That is one and a half times more than she had in her on campus classes a month ago. What we realized today is that we have not only connected with about a 100 different people during the past week, but we’ve also facilitated connections among them. For this reason, it has been a good week.

For a number of years I have made a point of trying to teach each of my clients this axiom: It is all about relationships. It is always about relationships. The process of building relationships is our most important work. I believe this with all my heart. I also believe this moment in time is the most important moment I have ever known to be in relationship with others. We will make it through this bad B-movie known as COVID-19, but only if we stay connected to one another – even if it is only a virtual connection.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and remember to stay connected.

Tom