Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Mask
So, who hasn’t been thinking about masks today? Honestly, I haven’t been, except I can’t avoid them. EVERY person I’ve seen today has been thinking about them, talking about them, and even sharing videos about them. Wait! The only person I’ve seen today is Clemencia! Truly, a sample of one!
But she is not alone. Plenty of other people are thinking about masks too…and underwear. Just watch and learn…I’ve put a few different versions of this thing for you to enjoy. Which is your favorite?
This has been a public service announcement from five people who spend far too much time on the internet. I think I like the first one best. No reason. It just seems…well…I don’t know…you know…a little less…uh…yeah, that.
I’ve got nothing today that can top these. Plus, they made Bert, Ernie, Beto and Enrique dive under the bed out of sight when they saw them. I guess they wondered what we might have in mind for them.
Really, don’t wait for me to say April Fool! Nope, not gonna happen. Sometimes an April Fool joke can’t be any better than reality. Welcome to THAT kind of April Fools Day.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and, please, just use your underwear for its intended purpose.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Sunday, March 29, 2020 Live to Blog from A Social Distance
The term “social distancing” seems to really bother Clemencia. After walking the Girls (our miniature schnauzers) today we returned to the lobby of our building, punched the elevator button with an elbow, and waited for the doors to open. At about that same moment, the son of one of our 3rd floor neighbors was coming into the building carrying a box which, apparently, he was delivering to his parent.
Clemencia said, “Let’s give him the elevator so we can keep the distance.”
“Fine,” I said, “but I did take a gigantic risk of exposure to the Coronavirus by pushing the button with my elbow and now you’re asking me to take that risk again.”
“You didn’t push the button, mi amor,” she responded. “That was my elbow.”
“Oh,” I said, but not wanting to lose the point, immediately retorted, “Yeah, but, somebody will have to push it again and it will probably be me and I could get exposed.”
At this point she gave me one of those looks that Colombian’s are famous for and even verbalized it for me, “Mucha gueva!” (Loosely translated it means, “What an idiot!”)
Putting my elbow in harm’s way nonetheless, I pushed the elevator button. When the elevator arrived, we stepped in, and Clemencia used her elbow to push the 4th floor button. Then, she turned to me and said, with a slightly indignant voice of authority, “It should never have been called ‘social distancing’ because that’s not accurate. It should be ‘physical distancing.'” Ever the scientist seeking precision of meaning and expression, the term social distancing apparently had been bothering her for some time. Having trained and worked as a therapist at one point in my career I thought this was an invitation to explore this with her. “So, how do you feel about that?,” I asked. Before she could give me the Mucha Gueva Face again, the door opened onto the 4th floor and the dogs pulled us out.
We shared dessert with good friends from Kansas over Zoom after dinner. Why not share dinner, you wonder? Because we are people of a certain age who don’t eat heavy dinners anymore, we eat early, and we eat what Clemencia calls “personal food.” (No, this is not another Colombian thing, as far as I can tell. It is a Clemencia thing but I’ve adopted it.) “Personal food” are those things we love to eat that may not hold an appeal to anyone else or that are exceedingly messy. For me, fried or whole rotisserie chicken and most pastas are “personal food.” I make such a mess with them that I don’t want to be seen eating them in public, so the only time I eat them is at home. Liver and onions and chicken gizzards are also my “personal foods”…not because they are messy but because Clemencia…and most other people I know…cannot stomach them. All things considered, and our tendency to eat more “personal foods” during sheltering-in-place, it seemed a good idea to simply focus on dessert (ice cream, brownies, and pie, by the way).
We had a wonderful time! We laughed, reminded one another of stupid jokes we had learned from each other years ago, got caught up on our kids and families, and, of course, ate dessert. Naturally we had to spend some time on COVID-19. Though we are now entering Week #3 of sheltering-in-place here, only yesterday the Kansas governor gave shut-down orders to non-essential businesses and people began to seriously shelter-in-place. I guess it makes sense that Kansans are only now doing this. If you notice on the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard, the virus is clearly, slowly, and continuously moving West across the country. Rural states like Kansas, and my home state of Iowa, are only now really beginning to see the exponential growth of it.
In Reality. No, wait, did I just write, “I guess it makes sense that Kansans are only now” sheltering in place? That’s NOT right…NONE of it makes ANY sense…not for the Kansans…not for any of us.
It doesn’t make any sense at all…given we have known pandemics start slow and, before we know it, they are overwhelming us. It took us 41 days (January 21 to March 2) to go from the first case to 100 cases. It took only 2 days (March 2 to March 4) for the next 100. In less than a month (March 4 to March 29), we are over 124,000 cases. No, that’s not because we have so much more testing going on…because we are STILL far behind on it.
It doesn’t make any sense that this Administration, or any administration, would ignore the National Security Council’s “playbook” for preparing for pandemics. (Yes, a summary of this playbook is now in the public domain and you can read it here.)
It doesn’t make any sense that the United States, with a population of 328+ million would have 124,000+ confirmed cases of Coronavirus when China, with a population four times that of the U.S.(1.4 billion), have only 82,000+ confirmed cases (Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard at the writing of this blog). Even if, as some suggest, the Chinese have not been honest in reporting, the disparity is still staggering.
This disparity between the U.S. and China only makes sense is when you consider that the four previous statements don’t make any sense but are stunningly true.
Our country’s response to the Coronavirus was too slow, it is now too little, and it may be too late. Overall, it has been a mind-boggling failure of our leaders to trust expertise, possess an imagination for the worst case scenario, and to perform their ultimate duty to protect and serve the people of this country.
The couple we had dessert with last night have been in my life since I was a teenager. We grew up together in rural Iowa, attended rival high schools, became friends through an extracurricular youth program, and have been fast friends ever since. Their youngest daughter and my son were born in the same year. I performed her wedding and they attended his last Fall. Through the two darkest periods of my life, they remained fast friends. They found a way to still believe in me and extend grace to me when I could do neither for myself. I consider them to be my most trusted friends. I have often regretted that we live so far apart at this stage of our lives but, as we are all discovering in the past few days, video conferencing allows us to bridge the distances. In reality, they and we are all in that highest risk group for contracting, and dying, from Coronavirus. We are boomers, but we are not keen on being removed quite yet.
In this blog I mentioned a friend had told me of a new term for the Coronavirus – the boomer remover, which is definitely a thing. This weekend Clemencia found a thoughtful response to it from a Pulitzer Prize winning commentator, COVID-19 as “Boomer Remover?” Let’s Talk About That. I hope you will take time to read it, whether you are a Boomer, a Gen Xer, or a Millennial.
Thursday, April 2nd BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: Regardless of your generation, you are welcome to join in. See the connection information below.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, keep sheltering-in-place, and keep remembering we are all in this together – regardless of our politics, our age, our gender, our race, our ethnicity, our faith, or our generation.
Saturday, March 28, 2020 Live to Blog from Under an Umbrella
I learned last week that Tom places Bert (left) and Ernie (right) on the deck overnight to give them a rest and to hide them from Clemencia. However, last night it rained and curious minds wonder: What happens to Bert & Ernie when it rains and are in their mumble spot on the deck? Thank you!
Winthrop here. Thank you for asking this important question. Frankly, I have not been pleased with Tom’s treatment of Bert (left) & Ernie (right) given their amazing, sacrificial service to him. In fact, I’ve been inclined to report him to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Socks, better known as the ASPCS…
Stop it, STOP IT, STOP IT! This is NOT your blog, Winthrop, and nobody wants to hear from you. Just…just…just SHUT UP!
(Deep sigh.) My sincere apologies, friends. I don’t know what Winthrop’s deal is. Now he’s opening my blog app and reading comments. In fact, I did receive that question as a comment. So, here’s the real answer…
Thank you for reading and for asking about Bert (left) and Ernie (right). They mumbled very excitedly, almost audibly, when I read your question to them. Our deck is on the forth floor of our building but it is a covered deck. Hence, rain and snow do not fall directly on them overnight. To make sure a breeze does not carry them off the deck, I take great care to use clothes pins to carefully and comfortably secure them to the back of an Adirondack chair. To ensure they can enjoy conversation with one another throughout the night, I make sure they are hung no more than about 6 to 8 inches apart. Hence, they can mumble in a whisper and reduce their risk of discovery, especially after such a close call earlier this week.
Each night I intently watch both Tom Tasselmyer (WBAL TV 11, Baltimore, Chief Meteorologist) and Topper Shutt (WUSA TV 9, Washington, Chief Meteorologist) to get the weather forecast to the North and to the South of us. (We live exactly 22 miles from either downtown Washington and Baltimore so we are in both TV markets.) Once I have assessed the risk to Bert and Ernie, I take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and well-being from the elements. Last night, per their predictions of substantial overnight rain, I took extra care. Bert and Ernie were each given their own quart-size resealable plastic bag to keep them dry. Each bag was left open just enough so the rain would not get in and so they could breathe easily. Also, the open seal assured their ability to continue their mumble chats.
I can assure you, Curious, that Bert and Ernie remain in good hands and on healthy feet, regardless of what Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum says. He may think he’s a public radio personality, but he is not and he certainly does not know truth from fiction. He is a “journalist” in name only, despite his high-falutin name and sophisticated, bordering on arrogant, tone. As always, please ignore him and his really fake news.
The Therapy of Fun: This blog series started as a way for me to manage my own anxiety about the growth of COVID-19 and being a person at high-risk. In just 13 days this dumb blog series has become a larger-than-life joyful diversion for me. It has refocused my imagination from the worst that could happen to the possibilities of imagination all around me…even though I’m confined, like many of you, at home.
Until I sit down to write this blog I have no idea what it is going to say. Sometimes it isn’t written until late at night when I’m already exhausted from the long days I’ve been working. Sometimes it is written in the middle of a sleepless night. Sometimes it is written when something serendipitious happens, like getting that wonderfully funny question from Curious Mind, who is a real person with a real name that I’m not using because I haven’t asked his permission.
Never before would I have considered writing such an odd blog series. In the past all of my blogs have addressed serious topics and issues. (You can see them on this website if you wish.) This one is about nothing in particular except that which catches my attention in the moment and makes me giggle. I didn’t start the series with the expectation that anyone else would read it. Writing is a type of therapy for me which I’m usually content to do privately when I have the time and space to do it. I have never done it for as much fun as I’m having right now. Actually, I really don’t have the time to do it, but I need the therapy of fun so I make it a priority.
I’m delightfully surprised that people, like Curious Mind, are spending a few minutes each day reading this blog series. Maybe you take the time to read my drivel because you also need the therapy of fun. Or you are a masochist; but I prefer to think you need the therapy of fun. I find myself wondering how many others facing down COVID-19 with us also need the therapy of fun through a bit of daily drivel. For this reason, I’m going to ask you to share this blog with others whom you think would appreciate it’s strange humor. I promise…you won’t be exposing them to cussin’, spittin’, or runnin’ with people who do. There may be a little bit of rantin’ but I try to keep it reeled in, and I try to keep it nonpartisan to boot. You can share it via social media using the social media buttons at the bottom of this blog page. You can also share it by cutting and pasting this link into an email: https://tenaciouschange.us/2020/03/17/day-1-stories-of-covid-19-and-sheltering-in-place/Include a personal note of invitation, if you like. In this way, I hope together we can provide the therapy of fun to a few more than the 7 (including Bert and Ernie) who already read this blog. 🙂
BYON (Bring Your Own Nose) Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: One of the unintended consequences of this blog has been the formation of a weekly gathering (Thursdays, 5:00 PM Eastern, via Zoom). It has been a wonderful way to make new friends, hear how COVID-19 is impacting life in Hawaii, Ontario, California, Washington, Colorado, Baltimore, New York City, and other points throughout North America, and, especially, to laugh together. If you’d like to join in, just use the link information provided below.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to keep your appointments for the therapy of fun.
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.
Oh, man, I really stuck my foot in my mouth today. Really, I was trying to be nice and make conversation while we stood in line – yes, six feet apart. But I think I just got it so very, very wrong.
Early this morning I had to go the bank and try to pick up some items at our local Aldi grocery store. I was thrilled to discover when I arrived at Aldi that Thursdays (today) and Tuesdays were reserved for senior citizens and pregnant women only from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM. I’ve never been more excited to be an old guy. I joined the line – keeping a social distance of six feet from the two people ahead of me. The first person appeared to be an older woman about my age. The second in line appeared to be a very pregnant young woman. We chatted together while waiting for the doors to be opened. At one point the young woman, seeking confirmation about the hour, said to us, “So it’s okay for pregnant mom’s to shop at 8:30 AM too?” The older woman assured her it was.
A few more minutes of general chatting followed. Then I looked at the young woman, smiled, and asked cheerfully, “When is your baby due?” The young woman gave me a puzzled look, with a side order of glare, and said somewhat indignantly, “I don’t know.”
I paused. No, it was not a pregnant pause…just a pause. At times like this, when I’m caught off guard, realize I’ve made a social faux pas, and have no clue what to say, I usually default to some idiotic, blathering. Today I was true to form. I responded cheerfully, “Well, uh,…I’m, uh…sure the doctor will tell you before the baby is born” and followed it with an embarrassed grin. She did not smile.
At just that moment an elderly woman, moving slowly with the aid of a cane, appeared out of nowhere from behind the young woman. “Ohhhhhh….nooooooo,” my Best Intentioned Self silently scolded my Idiot Self. Then, the automatic doors opened and I did everything I could to avoid the young woman and her elderly companion during the rest of my visit to Aldi. For added measure of I caution, I spoke to no other living soul the entire time I was in the store.
Sock Offensive update: I really wish I had washed Bert (left) and Ernie (right) before putting both feet in my mouth today. Sigh.
BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: At our second virtual coffee break and happy hour today we had many of the same folks who joined us last week. Two couldn’t make it but we gained another Canadian. With the group’s permission I captured a photo of the screen to share with you here. One helped us celebrate Clemencia’s birthday with a fun hat. (Thanks FP!) At the moment this screen shot was taken, the group was singing happy birthday to her. (Thanks group!)
We’ll be meeting again next Thursday, April 2 at 5:00 PM. Be sure to bring your own nose, hat, or anything else that lifts your spirits. Our conversation starter is an activity. Prior to the gathering, visit the Public Radio Name Generator and get your own public radio name. Then come to the meeting prepared to share it and use it throughout the meeting. See below for our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour connection information and try to join us.
Using Zoom has become a way of life for many people in the time of COVID-19, including Clemencia and me. We use Zoom throughout the day to stay connected to clients, to students, and to conduct training and classes. Today, though, we used it to stay connected to our family members. We invited our children to a Zoom birthday party for Clemencia at noon. Everyone made it on time and we had a fun visit but…overshadowing it was the reality of the pandemic. Our daughter lives in Brooklyn and we worry about her as the cases of the Coronavirus, and the body count, climb to unbelievable levels. To pass the time and be of service, she is making face masks for people who need it most. Our son is a social worker who still has to go out into the field but without the benefit of any protective wear. Our daughter-in-law is dealing with the stress of long hours working remotely as an essential IT security specialist working to protect a major hospital system from regular hacking attempts. Our godson is doing his doctoral research in Spain. He and his partner are living in a town about the size of Baltimore that has over 54 deaths from COVID-19. Even as we laugh together and celebrate the life of someone we love so much, we also feel on the verge of tears for worry. This is life in the time of COVID-19.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to let yourself both laugh and cry, even at the same time, when needed.
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 Zoommeetings. 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
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.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 – Live to Blog from Our Deck
It was a Sock Offensive close call. Last night I had just gotten ready for bed and put Bert (left) and Ernie (right) on the deck where, as I explained yesterday, they hide out from Clemencia until the next morning. We were watching the early local news (10:00 PM, WBAL, Baltimore) when she exclaimed, “What’s that noise?” and, before I could stop her, she jumped up and quick stepped to the deck. (BTW, the Quick Step is a ballroom dance that she and I do but not nearly as well as you will see in this clip. Her quick step to the deck was simply a fast walk.)
“Oh, great!” I thought to myself. “Bert and Ernie were probably chatting too loudly again and now they’re going to be discovered.” I know, socks don’t usually talk. But after a full week of being worn and unwashed, even socks begin to take on some new characteristics.
Then she called out, “Tom, come out here!”(Oh crap! I’ve been caught!) I reluctantly got up from my easy chair and shuffled tentatively onto the deck wearing the most clueless innocent face I could muster…kind of like the one Dolly gives me when she has been up to something. When I arrived at the deck, as late as I possibly could from 10 feet away, here’s how the conversation went:
Clemencia (inquisitively): Did you hear that?
Me (sweetly): Hear what, mi amor, mi corazon, mi cielo?
Clemencia(surprised that I would answer with so many Spanish expressions of love): What?!? That noise, that’s what.
Me (still sweetly but innocently clueless): What noise?
Clemencia (with a bit of impatience): THAT noise…from down below!
Momentarily I panicked. I thought Bert or Ernie had fallen off the deck.
Me (anguished): Oh, no, it can’t be!
Clemencia (really looking puzzled now):What?!?What can’t be? We have animals around here and they make noises. I heard something growling or barking and, just now I thought I saw two animals of some kind go under that car.
Fortunately, out of the corner of my eye, I had spotted Bert and Ernie still safe where I had put them for the night. I strategically moved to the railing of the deck to position myself so Clemencia would have to turn her back to Bert and Ernie. I looked to where she had pointed.
Me (with a hint of relief): Probably a coyote.
Clemencia (with more than a hint of disbelief): A coyote?!? We live in the middle of a highly populated suburban area. What would a coyote be doing here?
Me (exerting my authority on all things animals because I grew up on a farm in Iowa, even though we didn’t raise coyotes): Well, you know, coyotes are not strangers to the suburbs. Besides, I’m sure I saw a coyote one day when I was on the walking path.
Clemencia (increasing disbelief): You SAW a coyote? On the walking path? Really? When did this happen?
Me (now trying to nonchalantly win the argument with a bit of grace): You know, a couple of years ago. I told you about it but it was a really busy time for you and I bet you just forgot.
Clemencia (a bit more disbelief): Really? YOU saw a coyote? On the walking path? OUR neighborhood walking path?
Me (now feeling slightly desperate and resorting to more Spanish): Si, mi amor. And I think we should get inside in case it is a coyote.
Clemencia (now highly suspicious): WE are in danger of being attacked by a coyote? On our FOURTH FLOOR CONDO DECK?!?
Me (slowly moving her to the door while she stared – well, kind of glared – at me, which was perfect because then she didn’t see Bert and Ernie): Si, mi corazon, si. They are known to be really good climbers and sometimes they even fly.
Our night was pretty quiet after that. Clemencia spent the rest of the evening at the far end of the couch doing a lot of Googling on her phone. Occasionally she looked over at me, studied me for a moment, and then emitted a long, slow, “Hmmmmm…” Researchers are curious people, eh?
Clemencia’s birthday is in two days. After last night I better make a really good gluten free brownie birthday cake. And, since we can’t go out, maybe we can watch a short feature about flying coyotes.
I’m one of the very fortunate people who can work from home and my work continues despite COVID-19. Today I was in a Zoom conference call with social service providers in New York City. Even as they try to connect their clients with resources and services under shelter-in-place orders, they are also trying to shelter-in-place themselves, and be teachers, comforters, and playmates to their own children.
The social workers are trying to find food, diapers, and the basics of life that low-income families with infants and children need to survive – not hoard. As a result, they cannot always shelter in place with their own families. They have to find ways to help their clients, even if it means going out to use public transit to get to the homes of their clients.
We have a group of heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic which we readily recognize for the risks they take in doing their service: doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, police, and even pharmacists, to name a few. Let’s not forget, though, there are other heroes who are equally at risk of infection – if not more so – because they are not a priority for protective gear or testing. These are social workers, child care providers, janitors, grocery store stockers and clerks, drug store personnel, and the people who provide the core services in our communities. They often make far less money than those we already laud as heroes. However, these overlooked heroes make it possible for me, and many of you, to shelter-in-place. It bothers me that we don’t also see these folks as heroes on the front line of COVID-19. With no disrespect to the heroes we already honor, let’s also honor these, and the many other unsung heroes. They all make possible for many of us to have the privilege of sheltering-in-place.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember the overlooked and unsung heroes among us.
Monday, March 23, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Blanket
Why, you wonder, am I under a blanket? No, I’m not sick. I’m COLD. We had an unnaturally warm winter – I even went golfing in February a couple of times. Now it is Spring, it is supposed to be warmer, and it was cold and rainy all day. For the first time in about three weeks, we turned the furnace back on today.
Did anyone else notice that last week seemed rather surreal and disorienting? My son said it quite well yesterday: “It seems we are living in a really, really bad B-horror movie.”
Yes, I agree, and, yet, I’m not sure any horror movie has ever been as bad as Plan 9 From Outer Space. Be sure to click on the link and watch the trailer if you have never seen it. It was directed by Ed Wood, Jr., a movie director so terrible that he even got his own biopic in which he was played by Johnny Depp. (In my biopic I want to be played by Matt Damon, whom I am convinced is going to be my doppelganger when he is turns 66.) Seriously, the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards names Ed Wood, Jr. as the Worst Director of All Time.
To understand how he earned this distinction, all you have to do is watch Plan 9 From Outer Space. But, wait, save time. Just the watch the trailer at the link above. If you do watch the movie, though, here some things to watch for:
The black paint on the pilot’s “steering wheels” of their airliner comes off on their hands.
The tomb that every ghoulish character emerges from is so small that it really isn’t possible for even a single body to be placed it…plus, it looks like it was made out of plywood.
Look for the strings suspending the flying saucers in the movie – you don’t actually have look that hard.
The famous horror film star Bela Lugosi (who is forever etched in our memories as Count Dracula from the 1931 film), is in the movie, although, he really wasn’t because it was mostly filmed after he had died. A taller, younger, blond actor played his character through most of the film (which you can see even in the trailer).
Say what?!? Yep. Here’s how that happened. I’ll give you the first part of the story and then I’ll let Wikipedia bring it home. Lugosi’s success in Dracula, both on the stage and in the movie, was so extraordinary that it forever type cast him. Overall, life was not good to Lugosi in his last years. He was living nearly in poverty and had developed a drug habit. Ed Wood, Jr. found him and offered him work in some of his films. At one point Lugosi sought treatment for his drug addiction. I’ll let Wikipedia give you the rest of story:
During an impromptu interview upon his exit from the treatment center in 1955, Lugosi stated that he was about to go to work on a new Ed Wood film, The Ghoul Goes West. This was one of several projects proposed by Wood, including The Phantom Ghoul and Dr. Acula. With Lugosi in his Dracula cape, Wood shot impromptu test footage, with no storyline in mind, in front of Tor Johnson‘s home, a suburban graveyard, and in front of Lugosi’s apartment building on Carlton Way. This footage ended up in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), which was mostly filmed after Lugosi died. Wood hired Tom Mason, his wife’s chiropractor, to double for Lugosi in additional shots. Mason was noticeably taller and thinner than Lugosi, and had the lower half of his face covered with his cape in every shot, as Lugosi sometimes did in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Really, if you have never seen Plan 9 From Outer Space, you just gotta see it. It has no real plot but is so unbelievably bad you just can’t stop watching. Let yourself laugh out loud. It may be the only time you’ll ever laugh at a “horror” movie.
Sock Offensive update: Bert (left) and Ernie (right) have now been on my feet for seven days, except for when I take them off for bed. Then, I sneak them out to the deck where they spend the night so they do not become obvious to Clemencia. So far, so good. And no neighbors have complained…yet.
BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour – Thursday, March 26th, 5:00 PM Eastern. Join us if you can. If you’d like to meet up with us, check out the connection information below.
You know, though, I really do think my son has it about right. It does seem like we are living through a bad B-movie right now. Over the past week I’ve been reaching for the remote and punching the buttons to try to turn it off, but it isn’t going away. This week, as I’ve come to realize that it is not a movie at all, I’m shaking myself out of my shock and stupor, hitching up my big boy pants, and trying to figure out what the new normal is and will be in the future.
In this past week Clemencia and I have rediscovered the importance of being connected with people and, even more, helping them make connections with others. That’s what this blog has been doing, slowly but surely. It is gaining more followers and readers. I’m not sure why, because it really is an exercise in maintaining my own sanity and perspective. Still, I’m grateful, glad, and humbled. Our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour made connections among nearly a dozen people from across North America, all of whom were meeting each other for the first time. We attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship that had 17 people connected by Zoom early Sunday morning. I learned today that there were 45 Zoom screens, some with multiple people on them, connected at the 11:00 AM Meeting for Worship that followed. We’ve shared virtual meals with each of our children, one of whom is in NYC dealing with everything happening up there. Clemencia, who has been teaching conversational Spanish to active older adults and others at the local library and local community college, invited her students to join Zoom classes last week. Today she had her first three classes. But wait, that’s not all. She will actually have five, maybe even six classes, with nearly 70 people. That is one and a half times more than she had in her on campus classes a month ago. What we realized today is that we have not only connected with about a 100 different people during the past week, but we’ve also facilitated connections among them. For this reason, it has been a good week.
For a number of years I have made a point of trying to teach each of my clients this axiom: It is all about relationships. It is always about relationships. The process of building relationships is our most important work. I believe this with all my heart. I also believe this moment in time is the most important moment I have ever known to be in relationship with others. We will make it through this bad B-movie known as COVID-19, but only if we stay connected to one another – even if it is only a virtual connection.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and remember to stay connected.
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.
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!
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 PMEastern. 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.