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 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 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 7 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Sunday, March 22, 2020 – Live to Blog from Quaker Meeting

This morning, at 9:00 AM, Clemencia and I joined about 16 other members and attenders of Sandy Spring Friends Meeting (SSFM) for Meeting for Worship via Zoom. Yesterday I mentioned this was going to happen and I promised a report on it today. It was a great experience and we are both glad we were there. If you visit the SSFM website you’ll find a link to information on how to join Meeting for Worship via Zoom…in case you are curious.

Meetinghouse at Sandy Spring, Maryland

Sandy Spring Friends Meeting is located in Sandy Spring, Maryland. We have three Meetings for Worship per week – 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM on Sunday and on Thursday evening. All three of these have moved to Zoom for now.

One of the coolest things on our campus is a huge Tulip Tree (lireodendron). In the photo, you can see it peeking out behind the Meetinghouse on the left side. However, to really appreciate the size of the tree, you need to see it in comparison to something else…like me!

A Notable Tulip Tree in the graveyard at Sandy Spring Friends Meeting behind the Meetinghouse. I’m that speck of a person at the right of trunk at the very bottom.

About eight years ago Clemencia took a picture of me beside the tree. I’m that little speck of a person standing right at the base of the tree waving my hand. If you don’t see me well, I get it. But you can take Clemencia’s word on it that it’s me (wearing an Iowa Hawkeye shirt, by the way). Since that time the tree has continued to grow and I’ve continued to shrink. It is my understanding, from people who know much more about these things than I do, that the tulip tree you see here is one of the oldest and tallest in Maryland. One friend at Sandy Spring Meeting told me it is 2nd or 3rd largest (or was that oldest?) tulip tree in the state. One fact I do know for sure is that it has a circumference of 250 feet and is distinguished as a “Notable Tulip Tree” by the Montgomery County Department of Planning. However you size it up, it is a spectacular tree and worth seeing the next time you drive through Sandy Spring, Maryland.

Quakers (also commonly known as Friends) have been in Maryland since 1658, but the first record of Quakers in Sandy Spring appears in 1753. Today Sandy Spring Friends Meeting has several hundred members and attenders and it is likely one of the largest unprogrammed Quaker meetings in the U.S. The Meetinghouse was built in 1817. To the best of my knowledge, Friends have been gathering for Meeting for Worship in this simple, beautiful Meetinghouse every week since then. Until today.

Today’s Zoom Meeting for Worship (MfW) included 17 people. That number is low for a typical 9:00 AM MfW but it was a good group for a first Zoom MfW. Mike Bucci (not the pro wrestler but the retired teacher), a Ffriend with whom I have served on Ministry & Counsel committee, served as the clerk for today’s MfW. As clerk he started the MfW and closed the Meeting. Two Friends living in Italy heard about our Zoom meeting and joined us for worship. From them we also received first hand accounts of the difficulty of life in Italy with COVID-19. The 9:00 AM MfW is known as a quiet meeting, which means there are usually not many people who feel led to speak. Today there were only three.

Clemencia and I were glad we attended the Zoom MfW this morning. It was tempting to immediately get busy with the myriad things we are trying to get done but we decided pause and participate. It was a break we needed. Silence in an unprogrammed Quaker meeting is not really quiet. Even on Zoom there are some external noises – a purring cat on an attender’s lap, the Zoom operator making coffee in the background believing his microphone was muted, etc. But that is not the noise I’m talking about. It is the internal sound of the heart, mind, and spirit that you can only hear in the midst of sustained silence. The sound of that silence is amplified when you are listening with others, whether it is in the Meetinghouse or on Zoom.

For me, today’s silence was particularly noisy. I found myself deeply pondering this question: How do I balance my commitment to the greater good of our society (community) with the need to be prudent about my own health and keep “social distance” to help stop the spread of the virus? A clear answer is yet to emerge for me. I appreciate that Sandy Spring Friends Meeting is offering these Zoom Meetings for Worship. Because my brilliant epidemiologist spouse saw what was coming weeks ago, we had been practicing “social distancing” before it actually became a thing. Zoom lets us reconnect to our spiritual community as well as our friends.

Sock Offensive Update: Bert (left) and Ernie (right) attended Meeting for Worship today. Nobody seemed to notice but the cat looked at me suspiciously. Of course, cats look at everybody suspiciously so maybe I’m just projecting.

Remember, Clemencia and I are hosting another BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour on Thursday, March 26th at 5:00 PM Eastern. The Zoom connection can be found below my signature. If you join us this week you might even get to meet my friend Mike Bucci, who is far more interesting than the pro wrestler of the same name.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to take time away from the chaos of COVID-19 to listen to the noise of silence. Don’t worry. For the near future you can count on the chaos still being there when you’ve finished listening.

Tom

Day 6 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I dodged serious, maybe even life threatening, injury today from a banana. Come on in for the rest of the story and a Sock Offensive update and more.

Saturday, March 21, 2020Live to Blog from the Dog House

I dodged serious, probably life threatening, injury today from a banana. No, it wasn’t like the slipping-on-a- banana-peel-thing you’d see in a movie or on TV. (Has anyone ever really slipped on a banana peel like that? If you know someone who has, please let me know. I’ve always thought it was just a clownish pratfall.)

I’m not sure which of these was the culprit, but I’m sure it was one of them.

My run in with a banana was nothing like that. It was an airborne banana. Well, nearly airborne. Okay, it didn’t quite fly but it could have. And it might have if I hadn’t immediately apologized for the supposedly tasteless joke I made. Of course, I could have said to the banana thrower, “Geez, some people just can’t take a joke,” but I’m sure that would have really required me to actually dodge a flying banana.

In fact, the concept of a “tasteless joke” is really in the eye of the beholder. You be the judge.

It all started early this morning when I volunteered to dodge the coronavirus to pick up a few groceries at the store. I left with Clemencia’s shopping list in hand. Remarkably, I found almost everything on the list at Aldi and Shopper’s – except toilet paper of course. We don’t actually need any but, hey, since I was out shopping I may as well see if there is any, right? Only being prudent. As an aside, I was really impressed with how decently people treated one another today. Everyone kept an appropriate “social distance.” People were polite and gracious – except for one moment at Aldi when one pallet of toilet paper magically appeared. It was all gone in 2.578 seconds.

Upon returning home and carrying all of the groceries up four flights of stairs (with the help of our building’s elevator), Clemencia undertook the task of putting away the groceries while I returned to my car to retrieve my coffee mug. On the way back upstairs, I had a great idea for a little joke to play on her. (Now, for a little bit of context. Once or twice each day we take our temperature as a way of monitoring for early indications of COVID-19. I usually take mine when I first get up in the morning and again early in the evening.)

I returned with my mug, walked into the kitchen, and our conversation went, more or less, like this:

  • Me (with a solemn, slightly fearful, expression on my face): “I didn’t want to tell you this until I had been able to pick up these groceries and make sure we were well stocked. I took my temperature this morning and it wasn’t normal.”
  • Clemencia (with a look of horror on her face): “What? What do you mean? How high was it?”
  • Me: “Well, it, uh, it was a little low – 98.5.” (Followed by a really big grin on my face.)

Thank God she was unpacking the bananas at that moment and not the cans of beans. Still, as soon as she raised the banana, I immediately apologized and avoided the near certainty of banana puree on my face.

Now, really, you be the judge. I thought that was a terribly clever joke. Obviously, Clemencia did not. In fact, she was sure it was in poor taste. (The bananas, however, were quite tasty. We each enjoyed one at lunch.)

Speaking of bad taste, a friend mentioned to me that her nephew told her of a new name for the coronavirus which may be going around. The name is informed by the risk it poses to older people of a certain generation. The name is “The Boomer Remover.” Okay, it is easier to say and, yes, it even sounds kind of funny, but…I…just…don’t…like it. On this one, I agree with Clemencia.

Me…thinning on top, fuzzy on the bottom. But not fungus.

Sock Offensive Update: I’m still wearing Bert (left sock) and Ernie (right sock) each day. It is now 5 days since I started wearing the same pair of socks daily. Not much has changed except I think the socks are beginning to look a little bit like me: thin on top and fuzzy at the bottom. Is that some kind of fungus? Maybe they are picking up some of my DNA?

Quaker Meeting on Zoom: Our Quaker meeting is having Meeting for Worship by Zoom tomorrow. It is a very good public health move in the age of COVID-19. Kudos to us for doing this! However, it could be a bit odd because we are “unprogrammed” Quakers. “Unprogrammed” doesn’t mean we don’t have a plan, though sometimes it does take us forever to make a plan. It means we don’t have a pastor or priest, or a liturgy, or music, or preaching, or the usual things that go with Protestant or Catholic worship. Unprogrammed Quakers (also known as Friends) have been meeting in “waiting worship” (which looks and sounds a lot like silent meditation) for nearly 400 years. Mostly, the only sound heard in a Meeting for Worship is when a member of the congregation is moved by the Spirit to rise and speak. (Well, not the only sound – sometimes there is gentle snoring from a Friend deep in waiting worship or the rumbling of a hungry tummy as noon approaches.) When we meet in our 200+ year old Meetinghouse, it is not uncommon to look around and see people across the room with heads bowed listening for the still, small voice of God. Sometimes no one speaks for the hour. Other times there may be many messages. But Meeting for Worship on Zoom…hmmm…we’ll be able see each other very up close and personal. I’m wondering how that will go. I’ll let you know.

It is the weekend and you may be making plans for next week already. If so, join us for the Virtual BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour on Thursday, March 25th at 5:00 PM Eastern. Connection information on Zoom is below.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands and remember, please, the seriousness of this coronavirus outbreak. One week ago (March 14) there were 2,800 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. Today (March 24, as of 4:43 PM Eastern) there are 24,148 cases. This is 2,000 more than when I last checked at 1:43 PM and nearly 9 times higher than it was one week ago. Analysis of the growth of the virus in Wuhan, China indicated the number of cases would likely double every 6 days. If that were still true, we’d only be at about 6,000 today. The growth rate here in the U.S. is far exceeding that expectation. It is truly exponential. Today alone the U.S. has moved up two positions – from 6th to 4th – on the list of 167 countries with the virus. Only China, Italy, and Spain have more cases than us. This blog is intended only as a diversion, not a distraction. All of us need to remain engaged, mindful, and intent on doing everything we can to avoid spreading the virus.

Day 5 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Come on in, it’s Friday! We’ve got some warm baked oatmeal, an update on the Sock Offensive, an invitation to meet up on Zoom, and a suggestion on how we can be good to one another in stressful times.

Friday, March 20, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Couch

TGIF! I mean, really, what a crazy week! The weekend is here and it is time to relax with a delicious breakfast (snack, lunch, dinner, late night snack, etc.) of baked oatmeal.

Nothing warms the soul like oatmeal and baked oatmeal gives it that little something special. (I sound like a cooking show host, eh? However, this is the only thing I can really bake from scratch. Well, except springele.) The recipe I used was given to me by the staff of Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center outside of Philadelphia. I was attending a retreat there and found myself quite drawn to the oatmeal. VERY drawn to it. By the third day, I was found sitting in the corner of the dining room, hunched over the morning’s pan of fresh baked oatmeal, and hissing “My Preciousssss!” at anyone who came close. I just had to get that recipe! Fortunately, the Pendle Hill staff were quite gracious about sharing it with me. Of course, it might just have been to get me to agree to leave after I had chained myself to the oven. I’ll never know for sure…since I’ve been banned for life from Pendle Hill. Seems an odd thing for gentle-soul, peace-loving Quakers, don’t you think?

Tom’s Baked Oatmeal based on a recipe from Pendle Hill Conference Center in Media, PA

But, again, I am digressing. Let’s begin with a picture of the finished product from yesterday’s batch. I recommend you use either an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking pan. It can be either metal or a silicon as shown here. I prefer the silicon for durability. However, you will probably have to put it on a baking sheet before it goes into the oven as the oatmeal concoction is heavy and the silicon pan is not very rigid. For this recipe you’ll need TWO pans. Don’t worry, you can freeze one for next week…or tomorrow…or dinner tonight. 🙂

It takes about 15 minutes to mix up the oatmeal concoction, which is just long enough to pre-heat your oven to the cooking temperature of 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly stir together these ingredients:

  • 3 cups milk (I use lactose free skim milk and you can also use almond, rice, or soy milk)
  • 1 – 23 oz. jar of applesauce (I use unsweetened without cinnamon)
  • 2 oz. oil (I use canola oil)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla (You know, the bigger spoon. I prefer vanilla extract rather than the artificial flavored vanilla)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup craisins or raisins (For convenience, I buy the 6 oz. bags of craisins at the grocery store and dump the whole thing in…well…not the bag too…you know what I mean.)
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder (Again, the bigger spoon)
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg (That’s the smaller spoon)
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon (Bigger spoon)
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt (Bigger spoon again)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I have also used the “half & half” blend of Splenda and brown sugar for slightly fewer calories)

Once you’ve stirred up this very liquid concoction, it is time to add the oatmeal. You’ll need 10 cups of old fashioned oatmeal or rolled oats. (You can use the quick oaks – the stuff that has been pulverized into oblivion for “quick” cooking – but don’t invite me to eat it. You know I’ve got a thing about “quick” oatmeal.) Typically, I will put five slightly rounded cups of oatmeal into the liquid concoction and then stir it up well before adding the final five cups.

Note: This recipe does not require any toilet paper so you don’t have to keep stocking up.

Oatmeal Fact followed by Oatmeal Opinion: “Quick” oatmeal takes 2 minutes to cook in a microwave while real oatmeal (old fashioned rolled oats) takes 3 minutes. This means it is only 60 seconds between absolutely pathetic mush and the utterly delightful and delicious Food of the Gods. (Not that the microwave should ever be used to make oatmeal.)

Now that the mix is ready, distribute it equally between the pans. I’m not obsessive/compulsive or anything like that, but, just to be thorough, and exact, to the ounce, and sometimes the kilogram, I use a food scale to measure out equal portions between the two pans. Now it is ready to bake!

By this time your oven should be at 350 degrees. Place the pans on the middle shelf and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The last 10 minutes are the most critical…and dangerous. As the aroma of baking oatmeal rises it will fill your senses and you are at risk of losing all self control. Everything in you will scream, “I want that oatmeal and I want it NOW!” but resist the urge. Let it finish its mystical transformation and become all it can be for you. You won’t regret it. It is worth the wait.

Okay, that’s it. Enjoy! Let me know what you think.

Sock Offensive Update: I’m still wearing the same pair of socks – Bert (on the left) and Ernie (on the right). All is going as planned but laundry day is coming up. I may need to throw in some perfectly clean socks so Clemencia doesn’t get suspicious.

Really, TGIF. It has been a tough week for all of us. I’ve had fun writing these blogs and I hope they have been a brief but nice diversion for you too. I also hope they have inspired you to connect or reconnect with others. Yesterday Clemencia and I hosted what now appears to be our first weekly Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour. I have 100 seats in my Zoom account. Ten people showed up and that number exceeded my expectations by 10. If you’d like to join us next week, Thursday, March 26th (which also happens to be Clemencia’s birthday) come on by. The connection information is below my signature.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to leave the last item on the shelf because someone else may need it more than you.

Tom

The Refuge of Community

What is the meaning of community for us; each of us, as individual persons? This question has been nagging at me since September when I attended Tamarack’s Community Change Institute in Toronto. It has come into sharper focus for me in the wake of the results of the U.S. Presidential election this past week.

What is the meaning of community for us; each of us, as individual persons? This question has been nagging at me since September when I attended Tamarack’s Community Change Institute in Toronto. It has come into sharper focus for me in the wake of the results of the U.S. Presidential election.

The institute’s theme this year was about the role of creative disruption in system change, which, of course, could also be an appropriate topic for a post-election blog. However, at the Institute, I kept running into people for whom community as refuge seemed important, even if they did not or could not name it as such. On Thursday evening of the event we went en masse to meet with a group of Syrian refugees and enjoy an evening of Syrian food, music, and dancing. It was not this experience, though it was powerful as well as enjoyable, that formed the question that has been nagging me. It was personal interactions with a couple of people at the event.

Prefer to hear and see The Refuge of Community video blog? Click on play button below.

One was a young black man from Florida, another American, who was attending his second Tamarack event. We connected early in the conference and shared a couple of meals together. As an act of remembrance, he wore a button with the picture of his friend, another young black man, who had been innocently shot and killed only a few months before. He was surprised to meet another American – especially a very white guy with roots in the Midwest – who did not hold the biases that made him feel threatened for his own life in his own country. He was finding among the Canadians a sense of community that did not judge him by the color of his skin. We became friends and together we experienced the refuge of community we had found at Tamarack and through our friendship.

The other was a young Muslim woman whose parents had emigrated from Iraq to Canada. It was not clear to me whether she had been born in Iraq, but it was clear that she was seeking community and had not yet quite found it. We also became friends at the event and had some nice conversations at breaks and between sessions. The night of the dinner and music with the Syrian refugees, I saw her and spoke with her again briefly. With a quiver in her voice and tears welling in her eyes she told me she had not known of this group that was so welcoming to Muslim people. “For the first time, I feel like I have a place,” she said. She, like the young man from Florida, was finding the refuge of community.

When I was at the Tamarack event in September many Canadians, and people from Denmark, Australia, and other countries as well, asked me what was going on with the U.S. Presidential election. I really did not have a good answer at that time. Now that it is, thankfully, over and I have had a chance to return to my musings about the refuge of community, a narrative has emerged that helps me make sense of the election. It is about the power of community and the need each person has for a community that offers a sense of refuge from the most troubling and disturbing aspects of life.

For American’s in the “fly over” states of the Midwest, this election was about finding the refuge of community after years of feeling like others had taken control of their lives and they had been left behind. I can appreciate that feeling. I am a native of Iowa in the Midwest and I have often heard – even my friends and colleagues here on the East Coast – speak with dismissive ignorance about the people in the middle part of the United States. (Does the same thing happen to people in the middle provinces of Canada, I wonder?) For example, people I know on the East Coast confuse Iowa with Ohio, even Idaho. They assume the geography of the Midwest is all the same – flat and bland – until you get to the Rocky Mountains. Even worse, they assume we Midwesterners are poorly educated, backward, and inconsequential. The 2016 U.S. Presidential election reinforced a lesson that we all should have learned a long time ago:

It is dangerous to stereotype and to allow our stereotypes make us believe others do not matter.

The U.S. Presidential election teaches us a powerful lesson about the need people have for the refuge of community. We all need to feel like we have a place in our community. Let me say that again. We ALL need to feel like we have a place in our community. This is true whether that community is a neighborhood, a city, a state, or an entire country. It is also true even when we consider micro-communities such as interest groups, sports teams, and places of worship.

Though I do not believe it is unique for our time, our world currently has many fractured communities in which some feel “in” and others feel “out.” Those who are “in” feel like the community is a refuge for them. Yet those who are “out” feel like their communities are not safe places for them. The young man from Florida has felt “out” of the U.S. community and the young woman in Toronto has felt “out” of the Canadian community. They remind me that as individuals we will be guarded and careful even as we seek the refuge of community for which we yearn. The U.S. election reminds me that when enough individuals who feel “out” of community finally come together they will disrupt the community and its systems. This is what I believe happened in the U.S. Presidential election. We experienced the disruption of people who have felt “out” of the national community coming together to re-establish it as a place of refuge for them.

The lesson of this U.S. Presidential election is a powerful one for those of us who work with communities. We must always be diligent to establish communities in which all can find and feel refuge. I know that is a very steep challenge; in fact, it may, in the end, be impossible. It looks impossible in the U.S. right now when one candidate, representing one vision of community, handily wins the Electoral College while the other candidate, with a very different vision of community, wins the popular vote by nearly three million. Nonetheless, we who work in community do so because we see a third way in which the whole community can come together to ensure a place where all can know and feel the refuge of community. Our unique gifts and abilities are needed now more than ever; and, so, our work continues.

Be greater; Do good; Everyday.

Tom Klaus

One Year Ago…

May 2015 was an exciting month for me. First, I discovered Red Nose Day, a poverty alleviation effort begun in the United Kingdom that had made its way to the United States. Second, I wrote a blog asking people to submit their Five Words of Gratitude to someone they would like to honor. Then, I got sick and spent a couple of months trying to figure out why; until I landed in the hospital in Philadelphia and met my new best friend, Jude (my pacemaker).

May 2015 was an exciting month for me. First, I discovered Red Nose Day, a poverty alleviation effort begun in the United Kingdom that had made its way to the United States. Second, I wrote a blog asking people to submit their Five Words of Gratitude to someone they would like to honor. Then, I got sick and spent a couple of months trying to figure out why; until I landed in the hospital in Philadelphia and met my new best friend, Jude (my pacemaker).

In May 2016…

Jude is working just fine and I feel absolutely terrific. In fact, my golf scores have never been so low. Why, last week I shot a 77…on only three holes! (Just kidding, of course, it was on 18 holes – he wrote without a shred of humility.)

Red Nose Day 2016 - Cup
The Red Nose Day Coffee Mug for the Caffeinated Crowd

Red Nose Day (May 26th) is thriving. In 2015 it raised $23 million to improve the lives of children around the United States and the world. Red Nose Day supports meals for children; provides reading, educational, and after school resources; provides bed nets and drugs to fight malaria and HIV; supports access to medical care for low income and homeless children and their families; and pays for vaccines and clean water and sanitation. Red Nose Day is becoming a terrific cause-related marketing campaign in the U.S. This year Walgreen’s continues to be a major sponsor and not only can you buy Red Noses there, you can also buy accessories to complement it. The handsome guy in these photos is modeling not only the nose but a Red Nose coffee mug and lapel pin. The lapel pin is a particularly safe choice if you do not want to be caught in someone’s Smart-aleck phone photo that will be plastered all over social media.

Hey, if you are brave enough to wear the Red Nose, though, you will also want to check out the Red Nose Training Manual. The Red Nose Training Manual was written by my friend Howard Macy, a world class philosopher, theologian, and lover of the Red Nose. After seeing my own Red Nose photo last year, Howard sent me a copy of the Red Nose Training Manual. In his Red-Nose Manifesto Howard argues:

Your red nose is not a disguise, but an accessory. People will know who you are, but they will also recognize that, even more profoundly, you know who you are, too.

The little book is a quick, fun read with lots of great suggestions for making the most of the Nose. Be sure to read and let Howard’s Red Nose Manifesto sink in.

I am starting to carry my Red Nose with me when I travel for work. In fact, I am going to try to document its journey with selfies…now that I have figured out how to take one.

Red Nose Day 2016 - Button
The Red Nose Day Lapel Pin for the Faint of Heart

The Five Words of Gratitude continues to grow. My original plan had been to write a special 2015 Thanksgiving blog using the many contributions I had received. However, because I was still recovering from the close call with my health, it seemed like a good time to write my own five words. Since posting the original Five Words of Gratitude blog, people have continued to make contributions. I assume this happens as people “stumble” across the blog as they surf the web. Finally, a year later, I am able to feature some of the words that have been shared. I will not give the names of the people who shared them nor will I identify by the name the people for whom the gratitude is intended. Nonetheless, I think you will get the sense of deep appreciation that is being expressed.

Many offered their Five Words of Gratitude and let them say it all:

  • To my boss: She celebrates my unique gifts.
  • To those who share their wisdom with me: Your sharing matters…I’m growing.
  • To my spouse: I appreciate your steadfast loyalty.
  • To my colleague: Second mouse gets the cheese.
  • To my parents: Thanks for making me believe.
  • To my mentor: Your unrelenting curiosity and hope.
  • To my friend: Your wisdom, friendship appreciated always.
  • To my sibling: Thank you for graciously listening.
  • To my spouse: (Name), my love, thank you!
  • To my friend: Helping me navigate through challenges.
  • To my parents: Thanks for kindling my fire.
  • To my child: Grateful to infinity for you!
  • To my staff: You care! Mahalo nui loa (Thank you very much)

Others found five words were not enough so they provided some additional commentary:

  • To my spouse: Morning coffee, evening wine, joy.And everything in between!
  • To my parents: Support. Encouragement. Love. Humor.I do activities like this with the children and families I work with, but often forget to apply it to my everyday life.
  • To my child: Your smile makes my day!She is amazing and confident!
  • To my spouse: Thank you for being there.She has always supported me, no matter how crazy my ideas are.
  • To my friend: Go to your zen place...Love…Laugh…Learn…Celebrate

Some did not need the full five words, yet their words were full of meaning:

  • To my spouse: You make me whole.
  • To my mother: Inspiration to overcome obstaclesI remember her words whenever there was a problem: “We will just have to make do.”

One of my favorites was from a midwife, written to the mothers whose births she had attended: Honored by attending your childbirth, to which she then added: World peace begins with birth.

I hope you have enjoyed this slight deviation from my otherwise really serious blogs. My intention? To help you remember the joy in your life; to see kindness and appreciation in our world (in spite of the current U.S. Presidential campaign); and to put a Red Nose on your face.

By the way, I have decided to keep the Five Words of Gratitude site active for purely selfish reasons – I need the inspiration and the reminders to live my own life with gratitude. You are welcome to record your own Five Words of Gratitude and to cut and paste the link – http://goo.gl/forms/XT9OfgQI6K – to others as well. And, yes, I will be sure to share them with you in a future blog.

Be Greater. Do Good. Every Day.

Tom Klaus

© 2016 by Thomas W. Klaus