Day 66 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Today I was in service to Clemencia…and I loved it! It was a wonderfully refreshing and fun day to do nothing but help her.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Better Place

#alonetogether – just the two of us!

Now, don’t read too much into the line above. By “a better place” I don’t mean in the sense of I’ve “gone on to a better place.” I’m just saying that I got out of the right side of the bed this morning. I was disappointed to see that none of this has been a really bad dream but, hey, it is what it is, right? And so it goes.


A Day in Service

Today I decided that I wouldn’t do any of my own work. Instead, I decided to give Clemencia a hand with her fledgling business.

Clemencia – Headshot #1

In January 2018 Clemencia started volunteering at our local library to teach Spanish classes to people in the community. She had been teaching “dental Spanish” to students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry where she had taught classes and conducted oral health research for 20 years. The group at the school started quite informally about four years. A group of dental students had expressed interest in the language because they were seeing more Spanish speaking children and parents in the clinics.

That first experience with the dental students sent Clemencia down a path she had never anticipated following. She went back to school – after two doctorates, I thought she was a bit nuts. She enrolled in an online course through her alma mater – Arizona State University – to learn how to teach languages. Then it was a couple of online courses with universities in Spain and along the way she picked up many hours and certificates in teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish as a Second Language.

When she finally felt confident enough in her skills, she ventured into the public realm of Spanish instruction. That brings us back to January 2018. The night of the first class was very cold here in Maryland. She was quite sure no one would be there so she asked me to go with her so she wouldn’t have to sit alone in the room throughout the evening. She was shocked…and delighted…when nine people showed up for her first class. I was not shocked at all.

Clemencia – Headshot #2

Since that time, her classes have grown steadily, as has her passion for teaching Spanish. Her retirement dream was to teach for Prince George’s Community College at their Laurel center (only about five minutes from our house). More specifically, she wanted to teach adults and seniors. She reached out to the community college and they, in fact, did have an opening at the Laurel campus for a Spanish teacher for that group.

This past January she started her second year of teaching at the Laurel library and was preparing for her first year of teaching for the community college. She finally started her classes with the college in February and had two weeks of classes then…you…know…what…happened.

After the shock of COVID-19 passed Clemencia began to think about what had previously been unthinkable to her: teaching groups online. She contacted all of her students from both the library (which was also closed) and the college and asked if they’d be interested in online classes. All but two decided they would join her online group classes.

Now, nearly 10 weeks later, Clemencia has become on online teaching pro! Her students have become quite proficient at using Zoom and are loving the classes.

A few weeks ago it became clear that the “new normal” was not going to make it easy for groups to gather for classes again. Clemencia began to consider whether her teaching could actually become a career that paid a little bit. She had been excited about the community college position because it actually did pay some which helps in retirement.

Clemencia – Headshot #3

As long as I’ve known Clemencia she had been a studier and a decider. She does her research, gathers facts, and then, without waffling, make a decision. When she does decide to go all in, she goes all in. That’s exactly how we got to today and ¡Charlemos con Clemencia! (Let’s chat with Clemencia). After weeks of planning, she took the leap.

Clemencia is not as comfortable with technology as I am so she asked if I could help her with a website, setting up a payment system, putting together an online registration form, etc., etc. Because I will do pretty much anything she asks, I agreed.

Today I was in service to Clemencia…and I loved it! It was a wonderfully refreshing and fun day to do nothing but this. I tried to pull together all the things she needs to register students in her inaugural Summer Session – which is barely a month away. I can’t show you the website yet – it is still under review by mi jefe (my boss). However, I did use a few of the new website headshots in the blog. Plus, I have permission to share this video we shot using Zoom. Enjoy!

Clemencia Vargas explains how the classes work at Charlemos con Clemencia

In reality…

My friend Cynthia in Washington State sent me a link to an article today that is pretty disturbing. Researcher’s at the University of Washington are beginning to calculate the death rate for COVID-19. Here’s what they have learned:

A new study suggests the number of Americans who will die after contracting the novel coronavirus is likely to more than triple by the end of the year, even if current social distancing habits continue for months on end.

The study, conducted by the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, found that 1.3 percent of those who show symptoms of COVID-19 die, an infection fatality rate that is 13 times higher than a bad influenza season.

“COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest,” said Anirban Basu, a health economist at the University of Washington who authored the study.

Reid Wilson, The Hill, May 19, 2020

Good thing it’s not as serious as the flu, eh?

Oh, man, just give me some Chickenman!


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 35 – The Invisible Fearless Foul is still…well…invisible despite a rigorous regimen of aspirin. (Gee, maybe he should try Clorox, or Lysol, or hydroxichloriquine.) Anyway, he has to take a pass on saving the country. Wow, sounds like a lot of other folks today!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep hoping Chickenman becomes visible again…maybe he knows what to do with this mess!

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