June 29, 2020 – Trauma & Organizational Culture

Today is Monday, June 29, 2020 and Hug Holiday Day. This day is designed to encourage people to give hugs to others who need them. It was obviously created before the COVID-19 pandemic. Hugs are great, but not for now. Save the real hug for after we get through the pandemic. Instead, mark the day by giving virtual hugs to people who need them. You can do this by giving them a call, sending them a note, or planning a Zoom meeting with them…unless they are totally exhausted from Zooming already. In which case, give them a hug by NOT inviting them to Zoom.


traumatic disruption and organizational culture

How does an organizational trauma impact it’s culture? This is the focus of another segment of my nearly hour long interview with Lamar Roth, Director of Human Resources at Excel Industries. In the brief conversation below, we talk about how the culture of Excel Industries was impacted by two major traumas. The first was in February 2016 when a gunman entered Excel Industries and began shooting his co-workers. Four employees, including the gunman, died.

The second began in March of this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. In the full interview Lamar talks about ways the two traumas are similar and how they are different. He also describes how the lessons learned in the active shooter experience informed and helped prepare the company to deal with the pandemic.

This 6 minute, 54 second video focuses on the impact of traumatic disruption on the culture of Excel Industries. The full 56-minute video, Leading Through Traumatic and Disruptive Events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth, includes many more insights and recommendations for organizations also dealing with COVID-19.


who will we be?

The word “existential” is defined as “concerned with existence, especially human existence.” Hence, it refers to how we are to be as humans. Who are we? Who will we become?

In barely four months we will have to answer these questions. The next general election on November 3rd is shaping up to be about more than a choice between two old White guys sitting in the Oval Office. The question we have to answer, first as individuals and then as a country, is far more existential than that. Our vote will be an expression of who we wish to be and what we want the country to become.

Okay, that’s it for now. I thought I had a fully baked thought to share on this today, but I don’t. It is still half baked so I’m going to come back to it, I hope, in the future. In the meantime, I’m going to sit with my thoughts about what I want our country to become. I invite you to do the same.


some days, it’s all just too much

I’m realizing that I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed at the moment. The news today has been devastating. Is it possible that Trump’s love affair with Putin really has caused him to hide his eyes from seeing that American soldiers have died in Afghanistan with a Russian bounty on their heads? Add to this that COVID-19 still has the U.S. in its grip.

Today we have rounded the corner on 125,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. and we are headed toward 130,000 in a few days. If nothing changes in the behavior of Americans, the death toll could be at nearly 180,000 by October 1. Even worse, if Stupid people and Ignorant policies win the day, that projection rises to a higher level. At this point, the U.S., which has prided itself in setting an example for the world on all things (not that we are arrogant or anything) is now an example of what NOT to do with regard to COVID-19. To make matters worse, word comes today that the Novel Coronavirus has mutated and scientists are rushing to figure out what the “G variant” means for us.

One bit of good news, Pence has finally said that wearing a mask is a good idea. Seems too little, too late but at least he said it and he occasionally wears one. For Trump, the only hope is a bit of advice from Randy Rainbow.


chickenman – episode 72

Chickenman attempts to fly to Europe. You can only imagine how that turns out. Yes, that’s right.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 22, 2020 – The Arc of Change

Today is June 22, 2020 and National Onion Ring Day. It only seems logical, doesn’t it, that tomorrow would be National Breath Mint day? Well, it isn’t, but enjoy the onion rings anyway.


the arc of change

I had a conversation via Zoom this afternoon with my friend Michael, a Black man who lives in Philadelphia. We got acquainted through a mutual friend, also from Philadelphia. Since that introduction, several years have passed and Michael and I have stayed in touch regularly.

Today our conversation turned to the events in the country since the murder of George Floyd. I asked Michael how he assessed things today. “I don’t really think anything is going to change,” was his response. I told Michael that I hoped he was wrong but I feared he was right.

My fears seemed to be justified by the news today. Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR, found that someone had hung a noose in his racecar’s stall at the Talledega Superspeedway in Alabama. Wallace had played a significant role in convincing NASCAR to ban Confederate flags at its races. Wallace was to have competed in yesterday’s GEICO 500. The race was postponed until today because of storms and rain.

The bad weather, however, did not deter some NASCAR fans from defying the rules. A parade of fans carried Confederate flags outside the gates and a small airplane flew over the track with the confederate flag and a banner with the words “Defund NASCAR” trailing. Confederate flag fliers are annoying, but those who leave nooses may have broken the law. Earlier today the Civil Rights Division of the Federal Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident.

NASCAR drivers, crews, and owners walk and stand in support of Bubba Wallace. Source: Fox Sports.

While I write this blog I have the television above my computer tuned to the local Fox affiliate carrying the GEICO 500 at Talledega today. Before the invocation, a long time tradition in auto racing, someone painted on the infield #I Stand With Bubba. Then everyone – racers, crews, owners – lined up behind Bubba Wallace’s car and walked behind him down the pit road for the invocation and National Anthem. Even “The King” Richard Petty of Petty Motorsports was there to support his driver. Richard Petty is the winningest driver in NASCAR history. He is also a long-time Republican who appeared on stage with Trump at one of his campaign rallies in 2016. Petty, at 82 years old, is at high risk of COVID-19 but decided he wanted to be in Talledega today to stand with his driver. Petty’s actions remind us that doing the right thing should always transcend politics.

Richard Petty tweeted his support for Bubba Wallace only hours before the start of today’s rain postponed GEICO 500 in Alabama.

My friend Michael’s pessimism, the noose in Bubba’s garage, and the confederate flag flying fans at Talledega remind me that the arc of change is slow. However slow it is, it cannot stop. Each of us can contribute to the change by doing everything we can to continue the conversation and keep it alive. That, my friend, is why you are seeing so much about this issue in this blog. I want to do everything I can to see the change through.


chickenman – Episode 66

Chickenman finally tracks down the Hummer and makes the arrest. But, is this the only Hummer?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 15, 2020 – Go Bubba!

Today is Monday, June 15, 2020, which is also Smile Power Day. Smile Power Day recognizes the power that smiles have to make us happier, make others happier, change our mood, improve relationships, send a great customer service message (if we are in business), and even help us live longer. Hey, if it does all that, I’ll take a bunch!

Thank you!

Since posting yesterday that it was time for us to let one of our miniature schnauzers go back to the universe, we received several comments of condolences and comfort. We appreciate them all. I do have an update, though. After observing that Madison has deteriorated even faster than expected since seeing our vet on Saturday and because she is beginning to experience pain, we decided to move the visit from Peaceful Passage up to Tuesday, the 16th. This blog will post at 8:00 AM on the 16th and we expect that by noon Madison will have gone to the place where all good dogs go. Again, thank you for your kind words.

Go Bubba!: a surprising move by nascar

Boomer’s ol’ #9 after a rather nasty crash in the first turn of the dirt track at the Louisa County Fairgrounds in Columbus Junction, Iowa (circa 1959).

I’ve been a racing fan since I was very young. Iowa has a great tradition of dirt car racing – especially stock cars, sprint cars, etc. When I was a kid, they were known as “jalopy races” and my brother-in-law/father figure Boomer raced a jalopy. He won a few, lost a few, and crashed a few in his run as a dirt track racer.

My oldest friend (in terms of length of time, not age) is Mark who still lives in my hometown. Mark and I started going to races together before we even entered kindergarten. Most auto racing at that time was on dirt horse racing tracks at county fairgrounds in Iowa. Since Iowa has 99 counties, there were race tracks everywhere. The Mississippi Valley Speed Club (MVSC) was the sanctioning body for jalopy races in Southeast Iowa. Racing rotated from one track to another, about six in all, each Saturday night. While refreshing my memory on this, I came across an amazing finding! Someone digitized a Super 8 reel of MVSC racing from the 1950’s and 60’s and posted it on YouTube. You won’t get to hear the roar of the engines nor smell the fumes, but you can see some of the action in this 11 minute video.

Video by Mark Kleindolph

When we graduated from high school, I bought a rusted out 1956 Chevy for $50 to convert into a racecar. Mark and I originally had started to work on a 1952 Pontiac but the thing was built like a tank. It was just too difficult to make the modifications necessary. We stripped the 1956 Chevy, Mark put rollbars in it, and, then he took the engine out of his own rebuilt 1957 Chevy and put it into the racecar. Our first race was in West Liberty, Iowa where we didn’t fare very well. Mark got forced off the track in the backstretch and ended up clipping off an infield light pole. My run as an owner lasted only one season, but Mark’s run as a driver and racecar builder lasted a lot longer. Eventually he got some good sponsorship and he competed in the NASCAR dirt circuit. He won track and season championships at many of the race tracks we went to as kids. Of course, by the time he was racing in the 70’s and 80’s, the tracks were redesigned for much faster cars with high banking in the turns.

As kids, Mark’s favorite driver was a driver named Mark Mosier (#17) and mine was a guy name Mike Niffenegger (#76). Though I’d like to think that Mike beat Mark on a regular basis, Mark really had excellent cars and usually won. However, there was this one night I remember very clearly when Mike got the best of Mark in an unusual way. It was at the start of the feature event and as the cars were accelerating, Mike’s drive shaft broke which sent his car tumbling end-over-end in front of the grandstand until it landed on top of Mark’s car. Both were miraculously unhurt, but, of course, both were out for the rest of the feature. Alas, Mike did get the best of Mark that evening. I love the photo from that accident! Notice Mike sitting on top of his car waiting to be helped down.

Growing up in very White, very rural Iowa, jalopy/stock car racing was also very White. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing any Black drivers in the sport through the years that I followed it closely, which was well into my 30’s and 40’s. When I go back to Iowa, I usually try to take in a stock car race while I’m there. In fact, Clemencia goes with me. She saw her first one several years ago and to my shock and delight, she loved it! In fact, her dog walking hat is a souvenir ball cap we got with the 34 Raceway logo on it. In the few times I’ve been back to the raceways in Iowa since moving to the East Coast, I have seen more diverse audiences but not so much the drivers.

The same is true in NASCAR. In fact, there is only one Black driver and his name is Bubba Wallace. He was born in Mobile, Alabama but began his NASCAR career at the age of 19 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. He finished 9th in that race in 2012. I haven’t followed much NASCAR for a few years but when I read an article about Bubba last year, I started following him. I still don’t get to watch much NASCAR but, when I do, Bubba Wallace is my guy.

When Bubba was 15 years old he was the youngest driver to ever win at Franklin County Speedway in Virginia. Since entering NASCAR Bubba Wallace has distinguished himself on and off the racetrack. Seven other Black men have been drivers in NASCAR but none has had the level of success of Bubba Wallace. He’s finished 2nd in the Daytona 500, 3rd in the Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis), and won the NASCAR Truck Series – and he is still early in his career. His potential was recognized by the winningest driver in NASCAR history, Richard Petty, when in 2018 Bubba Wallace was selected to drive Petty’s own legendary #43 in NASCAR.

However, last week Bubba distinguished himself off the track in a different way that took as much, if not more, courage climbing behind the wheel of his racecar. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the protests, he called on NASCAR to ban the presence of the Confederate flag at all of its race venues. To everyone’s surprise NASCAR did just that, going against all of the Southern “good ol’ boy” tradition that had perpetuated the display of the flag for so many years. Shortly after that, Wallace’s sponsor, Petty Enterprises, announced a new design for the #43, which had worn “Petty Blue” for many years. The new design would be all black, with #BlackLivesMatter on each side near the rear of the car, and white and black hands clenched together in unity on the hood.

Bubba Wallace’s new NASCAR #43. Retrieved from Yahoo! Finance.

Bubba Wallace is realistic. He has gotten a lot of support from other drivers but he also knows the support is not universal, especially among fans. Only seven other Black drivers have ever started in a NASCAR race in its 70+ years. He is still the only Black driver in NASCAR today. However, he has demonstrated an extraordinary level of leadership. At age 26 he has found his voice and seized the leadership moment. As a result, NASCAR has made a move away from its culture that I never thought was possible. The next test for Bubba Wallace and NASCAR will be in Talledega, AL for the GEICO 500 on Father’s Day, June 21 at 2:00 PM. This dad will be watching it from home and cheering on #43.


Free Resource for funding collaborations

My friend and colleague, Kimberley Jutze of Shifting Patterns Consulting, has just put out a terrific free resourse. Kimberley, who has a deep background in fund development, has drawn on her expertise and experience to write The Secret to Collaborative Resource Development. She is making it available at her website. Just follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find resources, including this paper. The paper highlights the 4Ps of Collaborative Resource Development which are intended to help coalitions, collaborations, and collective change leadership groups bring the needed resources to their efforts. It is an excellent paper and Kimberley is also available to help your group put the 4Ps into action. Check it out!


chickenman – episode 59

Chickenman prepares to race the Bear Lady to his grandmother’s house…if he can get his mind off of Smokey the Bear.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 11, 2020 – Speaking of Creepy Things…

Today is Thursday, June 11, 2020, also known as, National Corn on the Cob Day. There is no more fitting day for a guy from Iowa than this one! June seems a bit early for a celebration of corn on the cob (it usually isn’t ready for picking and eating until August). Still, any day is a good day for corn on the cob when you can get it…especially if it is fresh picked.


in praise of corn on the cob and small family farms

The ugliest worm in the world…especially if you’ve got to pick it off the tomato plant to get to the tomato.

As a kid, I don’t think I ever ate corn on the cob that wasn’t fresh picked from the garden. It was a staple in our family garden and a wonderful summer treat. We had a very large garden. It was a lot of work but it yielded most of our vegetables for the winter once they were canned. I remember there were lots of tomato plants, cabbage, rows of leafy lettuce, potatoes, carrots, green beans, rhubarb, and strawberries. Unfortunately, I also remember tomato worms. They still creep me out.

In those days my family rarely went to grocery stores, except to get flour, sugar, spices, and coffee. Our hogs, cattle, chickens, geese, goats, sheep, and garden provided everything else.

That is what it was like to live on a small Midwestern family farm in that era. We produced enough to feed ourselves and any extra was shared with neighbors. In the case of eggs and cream, they could be sold for a little extra cash.

The shifting of the U.S. economy from agrarian to industrial meant a lot of changes. Farms were industrialized too with the introduction of corporate farming. Small family farms couldn’t compete. As a result many disappeared and others became part of a corporate farm. A few, with a little help from some pretty big loans, simply became corporate farms.

Our journey to the grocery store yesterday, for the first time since March, was striking because of the absence of many items. As the pandemic wears on, my fear is that we will continue to see a growing shortage of groceries and an escalation in price. Part of the shortage is related to over-production on coroporate farms. The “just in time” corporate supply chain of farm to table is dependent on that chain remaining unbroken. When it breaks, as it did this Spring, the corporate farms can suddenly have too much product on their hands that they can’t move even if they could sell it. As a result, they end up dumping milk, euthanizing animals, and plowing under fields of vegetables and fruit. At the same time, thousands, if not millions, across the country are food insecure and going hungry.

It is unlikely that small family farms could have managed to meet the demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic any better than the corporate farms of today. However, small family farming operates under a different spirit that says we’ll not only feed ourselves, but we’ll make sure our neighbors have food too. This “can do” spirit seems absent in corporate farming except in a few exceptional cases.

Can we see a few more of those exceptional corporate farmers step up, please? People, including children, are getting hungry out here.


speaking of creepy things…

TravelFuntu! just appeared in my Twitter feed today with an absolutely irresistible promise, The Most Terrifying Images Captured by A Drone. When you navigate to the site, you find a slightly different title that has a mild calming effect, Scary Images Captured by Drone. Twitter did oversell the images but they are scary, especially as you consider what was happening in may of the photos that people in them just didn’t see. I also found the photos mesmerizing and meditative. You’ll do a lot of scrolling to see each of the photos but it is worth it. Let me know what you think.


Chickenman – Episode 55

Chickenman is duped into joining a protest against the Midland City Library, conveniently located across the street from the Police Commissioner’s office.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 1, 2020 – Another Leadership Moment Lost

Welcome to The Daily Drivel!

Today is not only June 1st, it is Dare Day! Here’s a fun and interesting dare for any day – I dare you to think about somebody you’d like to know better and then ask them this question: “Tell me one story from your life that helps me understand better who you are today and how you got here.”


another leadership moment lost

We all need to be ready for those moments when our leadership is on the line and the fate or fortune of others depends on what we do.

…I take leadership to signify the act of making a difference.

Michael Useem, The Leadership Moment (1998)

Last night we watched another leadership moment come…and go…again. We were watching our local 11:00 PM news as it covered the protests and riots outside the White House, barely 20 miles from our home. We saw protesters and police, fires and rioters in an area of Washington we know well, only blocks from where I used to commute into work each day.

Posted on Facebook by MKW

The protests in Washington, as those in New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angelese, Miami, and a many other cities were against the brutal inhumanity that murdered George Floyd (be sure to watch this video of the timeline of Mr. Floyd’s death compiled from security and cell phone video). George Floyd died on May 25th – one week ago – at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Early that same day, the day Mr. Floyd died, I wrote an open letter to the President of the United States. In that letter, with reference to the pandemic, I asked him to be his best self for the sake of the country. It would not be fair to say he ignored me because I’m quite sure he never saw my letter. I would have been pleased if he had but I my expectations are realistic. However, sometimes things just need to be said.

At the same time, I did not expect the brutal death of Mr. Floyd and the extraordinary crisis upon extraordinary crisis in which we are now living. If any President were ever a real leader, these crises were leadership moments which could not be allowed to pass. But they did pass the current President of the United States.

The President has not only ignored or been unhelpful in healing the country wracked with the deaths of over 100,000+ people from COVID-19, he has done the same in the death of George Floyd. He has played golf on one of his golf courses, traveled to Florida to watch a rocket launch, and he has hidden in his underground bunker, he has berated governors for not “dominating” the protesters, and he has preened for a photo opportunity in front of a church he rarely attends, holding up a Bible so new looking one wonders if it has ever been opened or read. The church, a block from the White House, had to be cleared of protesters by Federal authories usings rubber bullets and tear gas to make a path for the President to have his photo op. However, he has not tried bringing people together, he has not tried comforting the grieving, he has not tried binding the wounds, and he has not tried to put out the fires of the pandemic and the racism he has fueled. He has missed, again and again, the leadership moment. He has failed and he continues to fail.


What’s Your Message Now?

CBS Sunday Morning had a very interesting segment on advertising this last Sunday. Many nonprofits do not actually “advertise” but they do “promote” their services. This segment looked at the ways advertising has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I found this to be a relevant and thought-provoking segment to recommend to nonprofit leaders and their organizations. Give it a look!


truth be told with winthrop dykstra-Baum

Winthrop Dykstra-Baum here with “Truth Be Told.” Today I’m interviewing, again, Tom Klaus.

  • Me: Could you move away from me just a bit, Winthrop? When I agreed to do this interview with you, you said you’d be wearing a mask and keeping at least six feet from me.
  • Winthrop: Yes, but that was before I started taking hydroxycholriquine and now there is no danger.
  • Me: Um, that’s not true, Winthrop. You could still be a carrier and, besides, the best science says that hydroxycholoriquine could be dangerous for you.
  • Winthrop: Well, this is my show and I can do what I like.
  • Me: It might be your show, Winthrop, but if you aren’t going to mask up and keep a safe distance, I’m going to ask you to leave.
  • Winthrop: Fine! (Frustratedly putting on a mask). Happy now?
  • Me: Yes, now if you’ll take about two steps back, please.
  • Winthrop (stepping back): Satisfied?
  • Me: Yes, much better. Now, go ahead.
  • Winthrop: I’ll try but I can hardly breathe under this ridiculous mask. (Pause) I understand you are no longer writing “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” Is that right?
  • Me: Yes, that is true, Winnie.
  • Winthrop: That would be, “Winthrop,” please.
  • Me: My apologies…yes, that is true Winthrop. I’ll still be including some stories of COVID-19 but I’m changing the focus a bit of the new blog, The Daily Drivel.
  • Winthrop: The Daily Drivel?” Already it sounds more realistic and accurate.
  • Me: I’m not sure how you mean that, Winthrop.
  • Winthrop: I mean that “Stories of COVID-19,” frankly, from a journalistic perspective, was pretty lousy. At least this blog says that right up front. What guarantee do we have that this new blog is going to uphold the highest journalistic standards, like I do?
  • Me: It isn’t journalism, Winthrop. It is more like a personal journal and you and others are invited to read it. I don’t make any claims to be a journalist. I like to write, I have a sense of humor, I have a life, I have opinions, and I like to write about them in this blog.
  • Winthrop: So it isn’t journalism, yet you still expect people to take it seriously?
  • Me: Well, you claim to be a journalist, Winthrop, but not everybody takes you seriously. I mean, seriously, any decent journalist knows you don’t take hyroxycholoriquine to prevent COVID-19. There is just no science to back it up.
  • Winthrop: This isn’t about me, you are the interview subject. You can stop dodging my question anytime you like.
  • Me: I’m not dodging your question. In fact I’ll answer it right now. I expect people to take The Daily Drivel for what it is…a place to begin or end the day, to hang out, get a smile, read a rant or two, and, on occasion, even learn something new.
  • Winthrop: “Even learn something new.” There it is, Truth Be Told! You expect people to learn something new hence you are covertly trying to pass this off as real journalism!
  • Me: Really, Winthrop, is that what you think? I’m making no claims of real journalism – just real drivel. You see things when they aren’t there, Winthrop, just to be able to shout “Truth Be Told!” in people’s faces. Are you sure the hydroxychoriquine isn’t getting to you?
  • Winthrop: No, I’m fine, but, wait…I need to wrap this…it is time for my next dose.

Chickenman – episode 45

Chickenman enjoys a dinner at one of his favorite Midland City restaurants.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and keep wearing your mask.

Tom

Day 75 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

We are fighting two pandemics simultaneously. One is COVID-19 and one is racism. Through science and medicine there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the former. There appears to be no light but a deep, dank, never ending tunnel for the latter.

Friday, May 29, 2020 – Live to Blog with A Little Good News

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

Today we learned two things. First, overnight there were no new COVID-19 deaths in Prince George’s County where we live. Second, the County Executive is going to move our county into Stage 1 opening on Monday, June 1. Both are good news…but only “kind of” thanks to my doctor. 🙁


On Doctor’s Orders

This has been a week full of telemedicine visits! First, it was my opthamologist on the 26th. Then, it was my primary care physician today. I’m rather enjoying seeing the natural habitats of my physicians. In one case I watched a partner/husband/grown child come and go through a door behind the doctor several times. Finally, the doctor went to a different room. In the other case I could hear small children in the background. It is nice to see that all these folks who command such respect and who are often so aloof in their professional settings are also moms and dads with dogs, cats, and kids, who some sometimes “bomb” into Zoom.

My opthamologist has been monitoring a situation in my left eye that will eventually require surgery. Actually, it is time for surgery – but because of COVID-19 they are using their surgery suite only for emergencies. Bummer! Instead I have to go to an optometrist to get a new prescription that should allow me to see a bit better until I can have the surgery. The opthamologist typically does refraction (testing) but isn’t right now because the office doesn’t easily accommodate physical distancing. That is true. The exam rooms are tiny.

My primary care physician was following up on my annual exam (which is in October or November) and to order a follow up blood test just to make sure I still have blood. We also had a good conversation about how safe it is for me and Clemencia to go out, since our age puts us at risk and we both also have underlying conditions (Stupidity is not one of our underlying conditions, just to be clear.) Unfortunately, it was in this conversation that she broke the not so good news…because of our risk factors, neither Clemencia nor I should go out immediately once we enter Stage 1 of reopening on Monday. We should wait two weeks until about June 15th.

Her rationale was actually quite sound and I wanted to pass it on here. COVID-19 can be carried for days by people who are infected but do have not symptoms. It takes about two weeks from the point of exposure for symptoms to occur. Therefore, by waiting two weeks after reopening before venturing out, we will have a much better idea of how safe it is. If the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths spike within two weeks of reopening, then going out is not a wise choice. So, there you have it. Prince George’s County will re-open on June 1, but the Vargas Klaus House re-opening will not be until June 15. Of course, these re-opening dates are contigent on whether Stupid People decide to follow the rules and guidelines set out by the County Executive.


Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership…There Still Time to Sign Up!

Next week I’ll be joining my good friend and colleague, Liz Weaver, on a Tamarack Institute webinar titled Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership. The webinar will be on Tuesday, June 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern via Zoom and it is FREE! All you need to do is sign up here.


Registration is Open – ¡Charlemos con Clemencia!

Are you ready to learn Spanish? Not Spanish to pass an exam, but functional communicative Spanish. Communicative Spanish is the Spanish most English speakers need to be able to simply chat with the people in their communities whose first language is Spanish. It is great for teachers, social workers and public health professionals, and anyone who wants to connect more easily and better with their Spanish-speaking neighbors.

Clemencia of ¡Charlemos con Clemencia! is, of course, my spouse whom you’ve gotten to know through this blog. Be sure to ask about the special bonus lesson in Colombian Lip Pointing! To register for the Summer Session (June 15-September 4) visit www.charlemos.net. Cost is $85 per person for the whole summer session of 12 classes. Multiple class times are available.


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 42 – A youth organization representative attempts to recruit Benton Harbor (aka Chickenman) as a youth leader. Until he has to look for Benton in the Chicken Cave.


What’s Next?

Our days of sheltering-in-place are coming to an end this weekend. My Monday, June 1 posting of Stories of Covid-19 and Sheltering-In-Place will be my last. Well, unless, of course, things turn for the worse over the weekend and we get locked down again.

However, I have something in mind and I will debut it on Tuesday, June 2nd. I knew this lockdown would have to end sometime so I’ve been preparing for it. I hope you like what’s next! Stay tuned!


In Reality…and Thank You.

First, thank you. I’ve had some very sweet and kind responses to yesterday’s (Day 74) blog. I had two responses that were especially powerful to me and I will be sharing them soon. I have secured permission from the writers. They are currently reviewing the piece I have written to introduce them both to you. When they have given me the go ahead, they will appear in the blog. If you read yesterday’s blog, I think you will find these quite interesting.

Now, in reality. We are fighting two pandemics simultaneously. One is COVID-19 and one is racism. Through science and medicine there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the former. There appears to be no light but a deep, dank, never ending tunnel for the latter. The pandemic of racism in the U.S. is hundreds of years old and today it is even more obvious than ever. In 2016 Will Smith, an interview with Steven Colbert said, “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Today the filming continues to confirm the reality of racism. While both pandemics are blazing away in our country – quite literally in some cities – the President is AWOL. There has been no comment about the 100,000+ dead of COVID-19, there has been only withdrawal today from the World Health Organization. In the midst of a pandemic? Really? There has been no comment about the protests and fires in Minneapolis (and other cities as well) except for threats of greater violence on Twitter, which Twitter had to sanction.

Mr. President, like I wrote earlier this week, we need you NOW to be the best version of yourself. Is this it?

Is this all you’ve got?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, please, do everything YOU can to keep yourself and others safe in both pandemics.

Tom

Day 73 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

For every Stupid Person who ignores the rules that keep all of us safe, another person cannot enjoy the freedom that Stupid Person feels they alone are entitled.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Sunny Cloud of Disappointment

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

Clemencia threw me out of the house today. Well, it wasn’t THAT dramatic! Actually, she invited me out of the house to go golfing. The golf course I play has been open since May 15th but I’ve been reluctant to venture out because of our risk level and the incredible spread of the pandemic in our community. However, with her encouragement I decided go play golf.


Join Liz Weaver and Me for Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership on June 2nd

I’m honored to be joining my good friend and colleague, Liz Weaver, on a Tamarack Institute webinar titled Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership. The webinar will be on Tuesday, June 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern via Zoom and it is FREE! All you need to do is sign up here.

Liz is the Co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute, an amazing social and community change organization based in Waterloo, Ontario. Their work on poverty reduction in Canada is extraordinary and if you don’t know them, you need to know them. Liz and I have collaborated on articles and projects in the recent past, but this is the first time we’ve done a webinar together. Anytime I get with Liz by phone or on Zoom, I always learn something new and come away with a stronger “can do” spirit. I’m honored and excited to be doing this webinar with her. Please check it out and please plan to join us. (P.S. Liz told me today that there are currently over 400 signed up. Come on in! The more the merrier!)


The Golf Outing That Wasn’t

When the golf course reopened on the 15th of this month I drove over to see how they were handling the re-opening. I was really impressed. No one was allowed in the club house. Golfers with memberships checked in on one side through a window and those who paid by the round signed in and paid at a window on the opposite side of the building. Everyone was required to wear a mask and everyone did. Distancing was practiced quite well by everyone. You could share a cart only if the person you were sharing with was someone who lived with you (e.g., spouse, child, family guinea pig, etc.). They were carefully following the protocols established by the state and the county. Remember, the golf course is in Prince George’s County which is the hottest COVID-19 hotspot in the hotspot that is all of the Metro DC area. Ironically, it is located less than a half-mile from the state’s COVID-19 temporary morgue, which you’d think would be a powerful reminder.

From that experience I decided it would be okay for me to try to play when the weather was warmer and I had a free day. That day was today. Early this morning Clemencia asked if I planned to go golfing. I was a bit non-committal because even though I did, I have been concerned about the risk and, even worse, bringing the virus home to her. When I got dressed, though, it was in golf shorts and shirt. By noon I was strongly leaning toward giving it a try. By 1:30 PM, after I had finished the “must do” work items for the day, I was actually anxious to go. Sensing that (well, actually, she caught me wearing my golf shoes in the house), Clemencia invited me to get out of the house. After I asked her “But are you sure?” about seven times, I finally left.

The parking was nearly full at the golf course, which was surprising for a Wednesday afternoon when most people are working. But, then, I realized many people were not yet back to work. In all, I was glad the golf course was getting the business.

However, as I got my equipment out of the car and started walking to the club house I began to notice the absence of masks, the absence of distancing, and the abundance of really Stupid People. I saw people whom I strongly suspected were not related sharing golf carts. I saw people standing and sitting around the club house in groups and without masks. To get to the check-in window I would have had be in the midst of them.

Then there was the straw – you know, the one that broke the camel’s back? One of the golf course maintenance workers was disinfecting the cars (which was good) but his mask was at or under his chin. It made for a lovely decoration but it was non-functional as a mask.

Without hesitation, I walked back to my car, loaded my golf bag, and drove back home. It was a deeply disappointing experience. I’m happy to report, I didn’t cry like a baby and pitch a tantrum. But a tear did trickle silently down my cheek.

What’s really amazing and which really infuriates me about this time we are in is not just that there are Stupid People – but that many are also selfish, self-centered, and seemingly entitled. For every Stupid Person who ignores the rules that keep all of us safe, another person cannot enjoy the freedom that Stupid People feel is their entitlement alone. Golf is not the only sport with Stupid People though. Tennis, pickleball, and basketball all have people who find ways around the rules to get on the court and play their games. This makes the also prime candidates for the Stupid People Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, while Stupid People think only of themselves…

Today, at about 5:00 PM Eastern, the death toll in the United States from COVID-19 hit 100,000.

After all the Stupid People I saw last weekend in the news who were on the beaches and at parties, after all the Stupid People I saw at the golf course today, and after all the Stupid People I heard about this week, I am losing hope that we will get out of this without a death toll rivaling the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919 (which was 675,000 by the way).

God help us? Maybe. But maybe we could help God out by being less stupid.


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 41 – Join Chickenman as he christens the new Midland City Hall…kind of.


Song Parody Wednesday!

Cheryl from Pennsylvania, and avid reader of this blog (or so she says…oh, wait, maybe I paid her to say that?) wrote me to say how much she likes the song parodies. So, Cheryl, this is for you and everyone else that likes these as much as you and I do.

Let’s kick it off kids with Chris Mann, whose song parodies I’ve featured before, a singer and musician who came in 4th in the 2012 season of “The Voice” (another reality TV show I’ve never watched). Mann is originally from Wichita, Kansas where he turned down a really great offer to be a lineman.

This is a first time in the Fabulous Five for the Holderness Family. They are, well, a family that specializes in making music and music parodies and a bunch of other stuff. Strangely, they seem to make a living at it. More power to ’em!

The Kiffness, from South Africa, is no stranger to this blog though he does seem to be a little “stranger” than some of the other performers featured here. But then, they are all just a bit strange in their own way. This a fun one gang!

Whoa, look at that, the Holderness Family has another in this week’s Fabulous Five. I’m not really a fan of Disney music but this was fun to watch. I loved the costume changes midsong!

Finally, rounding out our Fabulous Five for this week is Raúl Irabién, from Mexico, who does one of the best COVID-19 parodies of Bohemian Rhapsody (my favorite song) that I’ve seen. Irabién has a terrific acapella group Invoca you can check out as well.

Why stop at five? Here’s a bonus parody from Randy Rainbow, perhaps the most prolific and political of the song parody-ists. (Is that a word?) And remember, DO NOT ingest household chemicals!

Stay safe, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep an eye on the numbers as they go up. They aren’t stopping anytime soon.

Tom

Day 71 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent.

Monday, May 25, 2020 – Live to Blog on Memorial Day

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

Today is one of, if not, the most solemn Memorial Day in the history of the United States. The death toll for COVID-19 is nearing 100,000. It is possible that it could reach this mark before the day is through. It does not seem ethically or morally right to spend this day as we have spent so many other Memorial Day holidays – with outings at the beach, family gatherings, barbecues, or a day on the golf course. For this reason, today’s blog will be different from anything I’ve written before. Tomorrow I will return to serving the usual hot steaming cup of drivel.

Golfing in the Midst of a Forest Fire

I have spent this day reflecting on what it means to have lived to witness the death of nearly 100,000 people in my country in only 86 days. The first COVID-19 death in the United States occurred on February 29th. Since then the pandemic has been a wildfire burning through the country. When we calculate the numeric average, we find Americans are dying at the rate of 1,162 per day. Let’s put all of this in perspective:

Despite this devastation before your eyes and mine, our President appears to be unconvinced of the severity of the situation, uncommitted to full disclosure, and unwilling to model behavior that shows understanding and builds confidence in his leadership. All in all, Mr. Trump is simply golfing in the midst of a forest fire. For this reason, I’ve decided to make today’s blog an open letter to Donald Trump.

I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent. By the way, if the following letter speaks your mind, please feel free to share it with others.

A Letter to President Donald J. Trump

May 25, 2020

Dear Mr. President,

Should you ever see this letter and take time to read it, thank you for considering its message.

Mr. President, our country needs you to be your best self in this moment. I do not know you at all and so I do not know you well enough to know who your best self would be. I want to believe that your very best self is:

  • A person who genuinely cares about others more than you care about yourself.
  • A person who deeply grieves the loss of 100,000 souls and has shed tears, as so many of us have already, for those we love who have died in this pandemic.
  • A person who is self-confident enough to show us the grief he feels.
  • A person who is strong and brave enough to speak the truth about the nature of this pandemic, even if it is not popular with your political base or anyone else.
  • A person who trusts the public health and medical expertise that is availalble to you.
  • A person who is humble enough to admit when misteps have occurred, errors have been made, and failures have cost valuable time and lives.
  • A person who is willing to use his words and actions to for healing in our country.
  • A person who is willing to knit together the partisan political divides that keep us from working together as effectively as we could and as we need right now.
  • A person who understands the power of example.
  • A person who understands that leaders “go first” in setting that example by publicly following the counsel of rigorous science and our country’s finest public health and medical experts without complaint, pushback, or ridicule.
  • A person who shows no favor in who gets equipment, testing, treatment, and vacinations (when they become available) and how quickly they receive them.

All in all, Mr. President, we need you to be each of these things and more. We need you to be the very best idea of what it means to be fully human. I know it isn’t fair to put all of this on the shoulders of one person. However, that is the burden of the presidency in the United States. That mantle is a heavy one. From what I’ve observed in my lifetime, only those who are capable of being their best selves, and who are willing to be so most of the time, are able to carry it well. However, they don’t carry the burden alone. They enlist the support of the country and they do so by calling on us to similarly be our best selves.

We need you to be this best self and so much more at this time, Mr. President, because the majority of people in the United States have very little confidence in your honesty and most do not trust you. I know those are harsh words and I apologize if they offend. May I, however, illustrate them with a brief story?

Each week during the pandemic I have been meeting with a group of people for mutual support via Zoom. Last week we were talking about when a vaccine realistically might be ready. One person commented, “If the President announced it was ready today and that I could get innoculated, I don’t believe I would. I’m not sure I can trust anything he tells me to be true anymore.” Everyone in the group, yes, including me, agreed. None of us are anti-vaxxers but we don’t know that we can trust anything you say right now.

Mr. President, we need to be able to trust you. We want to be able to trust you, even if we didn’t vote for you or plan to vote for you in the Fall. Why? Because our lives may depend upon it.

But our trust has been broken. I know personally how hard it is to restore trust once it has been damaged. It is very difficult to repair and sometimes it can’t be fixed, especially when there has been so much destruction and grief related to it. However, we must always try.

You must try, Mr. President. By trying to repair trust you may actually save many lives. How do you try?

  • Start by speaking truth with humiliy, kindness, and compassion.
  • Call a truce on all political wars and be the first to walk to the middle of “no man’s land” with your arms extended and hands open.
  • Find it within yourself to believe the press and the Democrats have better intentions that you can imagine. Remember, just as you feel hurt by them, they feel hurt by you. Everyone is feeling wounded and sore right now.
  • Give us an example to follow in deed and speech. Wear your mask in every public appearance.
  • Keep physical distance between yourself and others in your public appearances and news conferences.
  • Only promote the treatments and solutions that your public health and medical experts tell you are viable when they are available.
  • In fact, step back and let them speak their truth.
  • Avoid denegrating the press. Though the American press is not perfect, they strive more often than not to be accurate and fair. They are still our best source of information.
  • Avoid all appearances that you or your friends may be benefiting financially during or from the pandemic.

Finally, from one golfer to another, put your clubs away for a while, please. There will be plenty of time to play golf in the future. Right now though, on this Memorial Day weekend, it appears disrespectful and, even more, highly insensitive. It suggests you don’t care at all about the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths we may be reaching today or tomorrow.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President. I wish you success in turning things around because our lives may depend upon it. I don’t know that there is anything I can do for you but I do promise this. If you will release this best self to help us, I will meet you with my best self.

Mr. President, stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask every day, and keep trying to be the best version of yourself that our country needs.

Respectfully,

Tom Klaus

Day 45 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Seriously, where else can you go for a full load of such useless trivia? I’m glad to be of service!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 – Live to Blog from Video

On Day 13 of hiding out from COVID-19 and this blog, the Governor of Maryland announced we’d still be sheltering in place until the end of April. I was panicked…not because I had to stay at home but because I made a foolhardy pledge to keep writing this blog until we no longer had to shelter-in-place. I realized it would be Day 46 before the order would be lifted. I knew I was full of drivel (others might describe it a bit differently) but I never knew I had this much drivel in me. Welcome to Day 45…Day 46 is tomorrow…and there is no end in sight. OMG!

#alonetogether

Perhaps at a time like this it is important to remember the immortal words delivered by actor Steven Keats in the 1973 film, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, starring Robert Mitchum (of “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” fame).

This life’s hard, man, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

Steven Keats as Jackie Brown

Seriously, where else can you go for a full load of such useless trivia? I’m glad to be of service!

Yeah, all of this is harder if you are a Stupid Person (remember, defined as one who has a great lack of common sense). However, it is much worse for a Stupid Person who is also an Ignorant Person (one who is lacking awareness about a particular thing…such as…for example…just how serious this pandemic is). Now if an Ignorant Person is leading Stupid People, it can be a tragedy and very dangerous, even to life and death. (I shall refrain from naming any governor’s or federal officials specifically; allow your imagination to wander free.)


Almost Live from My Office

For the past three Wednesdays I’ve been featuring video interviews of several colleagues. Patrick Jinks, Charles Weathers, Forrest Alton, Cayci Banks, and I have been meeting regularly by Zoom to talk about how we can better serve the nonprofit sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our collaboration has produced

  • Two blogs – the most recent is coming out today on the website of TogetherSC. (It is part two of Leading Through Crisis and features 15 pratical tips and strategies for leaders during this time.),
  • Four video interviews expanding on the ideas presented in those blogs, and
  • A fifth video to be shot next week that features all five of us in a free-wheeling discussion on leading through crisis

On my website you will find a special page devoted to resources for nonprofits which are specific to the time of COVID-19. I try to keep it updated regularly so be sure to check back. On this page you’ll find links to each of the people mentioned above, links to the blogs, and links to each of the videos Patrick has produced. Please use the resources you find there and on the websites of my colleagues. Feel free to pass the links and resources on to other who work in nonprofits or who privide leadership to them.

I’m very honored to have been able to do the interview below with Patrick Jinks. I had a lot of fun and, in the process, learned a lot about myself in relation to the topic of self care. Take a few minutes to watch the video and then be sure to check out the other three.


The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 14

The Police Commissioner and Chickenman (aka Benton Harbor) has a secret messenger system set up to convey messages to Benton when he is working his day job in shoe sales. What happens, though, if the system goes terribly wrong?


Clarifying the Rules of Sheltering in Place

Adley, Host of The Adley Show

So, not sure what the rules of sheltering-in-place are? Help is on the way! Adley explains the rules.

Well, that certainly clears things up!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep following the rules! (The real rules, of course!)

Tom

Just 1 Story – Episode 2 Is Airing!

Episode 2 of Just 1 Story is now available and airing. It is titled “The Pay-It-Forward Mentor.” This episode tells the story of a man whose career and life was transformed by a chance meeting. Just 1 Story features stories of defining moments and personal leadership in the lives of people. Do you have a story that has defined your life and work? If so, consider sharing it in the second season of Just 1 Story. Click here to learn more about how you can share your story in the Just 1 Story podcast.