From “Buy-In” to Ownership

But First…

Keep your eyes on Kenosha, Wisconsin today. Trump’s photo op in front of the church near the White House in DC was only a warm up for today. Today he arrives in that city with military might at his side after sending in the National Guard. Few people, mostly those surrounding Trump, think this is a good idea – either to quell the violence or for his own safety. So why is he doing it? Heather Cox Richardson explains it this way in her Letter from An American this morning:

A bird’s eye view of the country today sees a president seeming to slide off the rails. Trump is exaggerating the violence in cities to the point of caricature, while his supporters outright lie to try to advance his candidacy. On Thursday, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway tipped the president’s hand on “Fox and Friends” when she said that “the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for” a candidate running on “law and order.”

Heather Cox Richardson, Letter from An American, September 1, 2020

Yes, folks, we are seeing American carnage before us. The man who said only he could fix it is the man lighting the fires, pointing out the targets, and sanctioning in real life something that seems too much like The Purge.


Now back to the planned blog on meaningful participation, co-creation, and ownership – all elements of a genuinely democratic society.

Let me state it as plainly as I can: I hate the phrase “buy-in.” It should never, ever be used in the context of doing community work, or even organizational work. It is, or should be, an abomination to every person who is trying to genuinely engage people in communities and to every person in a community who in being engaged.

Yeah, I feel strongly about that. My reaction is, frankly, visceral. So, what is my problem with it? Let me count the ways.

First, if “buy-in” is necessary, it means that someone else is “selling.” Usually the one who has the most to profit from the “deal” is the seller. And if they must “sell it” to get you to “buy-in” you may not get what you want or expect.

Second, “buy-in” usually means someone already has decided the solution or what is best for me, or you. I have no tolerance for “buy-in.” If anyone tries to get me to “buy-in” to something, I see that as a red-flag and immediately walk away. It tells me they already have something in mind and do not really want me to participate in any meaningful way. They just want me to say “Yes” and accept what they are selling. That is just how I roll with this.

Third, to “buy-in” is purely transactional, not transformational. We “buy-in” to something because we are expecting something in return, however, when the terms of the transaction changes (e.g., funding ends, no further perceived benefit to us, etc.) then the deal is done. The “seller” looks for the next product and a new “buyer” for it.

Finally, “buy-in” is change on the cheap. “Cheap” does not mean only inexpensive, it means poor quality. In this case, it means the change only lasts for as long as the exchange of something for something (“quid pro quo”) continues. Yes, this sounds a lot like my second objection but there is an important additional difference. “Cheap” change can also do lasting damage. Sometimes the damage is not immediate and acute, but accumulative and nagging. Let me give you an example of how “buy-in” can do damage.

In 2016, during the Obama Administration, I was honored to be invited to a meeting at the White House. It was a meeting of Promise Zone leaders throughout the United States with their research partners from major universities. The Promise Zone initiative emerged during President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address in which he laid out a plan to help high poverty urban, rural, and tribal communities. Promise Zones are geographic areas where the federal government partners with local leaders to do work to lift the community out of poverty. Efforts may include increased economic activity, better educational opportunities, encouraging private investment, reducing crime (particularly violent crime), increase the overall health of the community, and address other community priorities.

One of the meetings I attended that day was of researchers who were discussing the challenges of conducting research in communities within Promise Zones. Several lamented the challenge of getting community people to “buy-in” to their research and cooperate with them. Others, though, were passionately arguing that people, particularly those in communities of high poverty, were tired of helping with research and had been let down too many times. They had helped in the past, hoping their effort would result in a change in their community and lives, but they no longer trusted their “buy-in” would make a difference.

The damage? Everyone loses. People in high poverty communities may miss out on that one opportunity that does make a difference. Researcher and other stakeholders may miss out on learning how to really make a difference in those communities.

When people “buy-in” to change efforts today, they already know it is transactional – even if they do not use that word to describe it. By experience they have come to understand it will probably benefit the “seller” more than them, it will be temporary, and it probably will not be high quality.

I could rail on the concept of “buy-in” all day because I am so disgusted hearing it used in community and organizational change work. However, that would only make me feel better and do nothing to move the conversation forward. So, let me offer three ideas which are a better way: meaningful participation, co-creation, and ownership.

Meaningful Participation

Participation can mean many things. It can mean:

  • no more than just having your name on a list of stakeholders and partners,
  • showing up at occasional meetings but hanging back because you have not kept up on what is going on during your absences,
  • attending only those meetings where “big” or controversial decisions are being considered,
  • being present but remaining silent because you do not feel confident speaking up,
  • attending with the intention of contributing but not understanding the business procedure well enough to know how to contribute,
  • attending every meeting with the hope of being asked for your ideas and suggestions, but, in the end, never being asked, and
  • attending, trying to contribute to the meeting, and being ignored or blocked

These are forms of participation, but none qualify as meaningful participation.

Meaningful participation means each person has an equal and equitable opportunity to:

  • Hear and understand the same information as everyone else
  • Give voice to their opinions, ideas, and suggestions with the expectation they will be heard and considered
  • Participate in the decisions that need to be made, including those that most directly impact them

Those of who work with organizations and communities have a responsibility to do everything we can to provide meaningful participation to every member who wishes to be a part of the change effort. Yes, it can get messy when a lot of people show up to work and it can take longer to do the work. However, providing the opportunity of meaningful participation to people is the right thing to do if we want to create genuine change.

Many of us have a “default” setting we must override when we do community work. The “default” says we go first and foremost to “experts” for their help in the community. Unfortunately, we have a limited view of who the “experts” are. Our default setting causes us to look only to experts such as the formal leaders, providers, professionals, researchers, high ranking public officials, funders, and the like.

What we miss are the other community “experts” – those whose expertise is based in their lived experience with the conditions, issue, situation, or problem we are trying to change.

Years ago, while attending a Tamarack Institute conference in Canada, I heard these two types of experts described as “content experts” for the first group and “context experts” for the second. One of my clients has used a different term to describe them. The first are “experts by learned experience” and the second are “experts by lived experience.”

The key word in either framing is “experts.” We make a significant mistake when we fail to see the full range of expertise in the communities and organizations we are trying to change. Even worse is when we bias meaningful participation to “experts with learned experience,” the “content experts.” If we want to double our expertise in the work we are doing at the community or organization level, we need to at least double meaningful participation from “experts with lived experience.”

Co-Creation

The purpose of meaningful participation is co-creation. Simply put, co-creation is collaborative innovation. Ideas are generated together, shared among one another, tested, and improved upon. You may be familiar with the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. It is one approach to co-creation and there are many more.

Before communities and organizations can co-create, they need to engage with all the expertise in the community – lived and learned, context and content. However, the act of co-creation suggests the engagement is not merely for the purpose of consulting the experts. Co-creation requires all these experts to be brought together, whether via video conference or in person, to work together.

  • Together they need to define the problems they are trying to address.
  • Together they need to identify the range of possible solutions.
  • Together they need to consider all they have learned together and all their resources to affirm a common purpose and direction they need, want, and are willing to embrace.

There are a myriad of co-creation techniques and approaches available to organizations and communities. What is critical to each and all is the willingness for communities and organizations to bring all their experts together to collaborate.

Collaboration is more than just getting people together. It has numerous challenges – building trust and respect, are just two. Another is that context experts (by lived experience) do not always know how to engage with content experts (by learned experience), and vice versa. When we try to bring them together, we must be prepared to train them how to engage positively and productively with the other.

When we do bring them together, we need to make sure all experts have an experience of meaningful participation.

Ownership

For those who like formulas, here is one:

Meaningful Participation + Co-Creation = Ownership

Rather than create “buy-in” to community and organizational change, our goal is to create ownership of that change. Ownership means that members feel they have “skin in the game,” which is to say they have intentionally been involved in bringing about the change that is or has emerged.

When people feel ownership of the change, they take pride in it, they take credit for it, and they do everything they can to protect from “snapping back” to the way things were before. “Buy-in” does not produce that same intensity of feeling and commitment.

Here is the deal. I have absolutely no tolerance for anyone who tries to get me to “buy-in” to something. I also have extremely little tolerance for people who view gaining community or organizational “buy-in” as a high goal. I have only limited tolerance for people who use the “buy-in” phrase and toss it around without understanding its implications.

Community and organizational change are slow processes because we do not want people to simply “buy-in.” We want all members of the community or organization to experience meaningful participation, work together to co-create solutions, and develop a deep sense of ownership in the change. Anything less, when we are doing community and organizational work with integrity, should be unacceptable.

Yeah, I am a little legalistic about this. And a bit inflexible. It is, after all, a core value that informs my work with organizations and communities. A few years back I heard my colleagues in Canada use the phrase “nothing about us without us” when describing a mindset that values meaningful participation, co-creation, and ownership. I like it. It speaks my mind too.


Day 50 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

From this day forward, May 4, 2020 shall forever be known as the day that many people throughout the country were given permission to pee in the community swimming pool that is the United States of America.

Monday, May 4, 2020 – Live to Blog from A Kiddy Pool

#alonetogether

With apologies in advance…I’m going to use a word today you may not prefer and some imagery that you may wish to forget. It is in the interest of the greater good. Frankly, it is far less offensive than many things you’ve heard come from the mouth of the current President of the United States. So, let’s get to it, shall we?

Today is National Pee in the Pool Day!

From this day forward, May 4, 2020 shall forever be known as the day that many people throughout the country were given permission to pee in the public swimming pool that is the United States of America.

Okay, not literally…I’m speaking figuratively, of course. I’m talking air, not water and COVID-19, not urine. But the idea is the same. Why May 4? Because this is the date when many states indicated they would start lifting the shelter-in-place orders that have been lessening the spread of COVID-19. Might I highlight again that those orders were working?

Very few of us would climb into a swimming pool knowing all swimmers were free to pee in the water whenever they felt the need. For decades common sense and decency have said you don’t pee in the public swimming pool. However, on this date many states are easing sheltering-in-place orders, thereby giving people permission to “pee in the pool” and put themselves and others at risk of causing COVID-19 to spike again, or resurge, or simply continue to grow at a steady pace. At least in a real swimming pool, all of the water is confined to the structure of the pool. Not so with COVID-19.

There are a dozen states which have not relaxed the shelter-in-place orders. I live in one of those and, frankly, I’m glad I do. We are not done with COVID-19 and it isn’t done with us.

However, Pennsylvania (to our North) partially reopened on May 1 and West Virgina (to our West) started on April 30th. Isn’t that just great? Here we are, in Maryland, doing our best to keep our part of the pool pee free. But, no, Pennsylvania and West Virginia say, “It’s okay…we’ll just pee in this corner.” Really? If I know a bunch of people are peeing in the opposite corner of the pool, I still don’t want to get into that pool. Would you?

I know I brought this up before, but this is really important. Take a look at this report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, COVID-19: The CIDRAP Viewpoint. It’s very readable, very short, and very compelling. The three scenarios it lays out for the future, plus the new case and death estimates released just today, should give us pause. But, nope, we are peeing away in the pool as if we just drank two gallons of tea.

I know the argument about the economy. My family and I are impacted by it too. Life has changed for us and not for the better. I want people to get back to work, too. I want the economy to recover. I want restaurants, movie theaters, stores, malls, golf courses, clubs, bars, music venues, etc. to re-open. Our Congress and Administration has allocated $3 trillion (give or take a couple of billion cause they’re so small and easy to over look) to help people get by during this time.

Unfortunately, in the COVID-19 Great Money Grab, the funds that were intended to keep people employed seem to be missing in action, quite possibly scarffed up to satisfy the “needs” of banks, large corporations, and their stockholders. Here’s the thing: According to the Small Business Administration, there are 30 million small businesses in the United States, comprising 99.9% of all businesses in the country. These small businesses employ (or used to employ) nearly 59 million people, which is 48% of the total workforce. The CARES Act allocated $377 billion to small businesses. Still, there is not much evidence this relief is getting to the small businesses and, more importantly, to the people they employ. It is no wonder people are feeling restless because, in fact, they are feeling ripped off again, they are feeling scared, and, now, they are getting hungry.

We’ve got to fix this and we need to re-open. I got it. But before we do, we need to see fewer Stupid People (people without common sense) out running around and even fewer Ignorant People (people without knowledge or awareness) leading them. Until we do, I fear we are going to be back in this same place in just a matter of weeks.

Fortunately, the Stupid People are becoming more obvious because they are self-identifying. How do we know them? They are the people without masks and who refuse to maintain physical distance. They are everywhere! Including in our neighborhood. I spot one or two Stupid People when I go out for my daily walk. I even know some of them by name. The Ignorant People are a little harder to differentiate from the Stupid People but we still see the fruit of their labor. They are the ones who are organizing and leading the Stupid People in the protests against the shelter-in-place orders.

There is a pretty simple solution to being able to re-open and also be mostly safe most of the time, which may be as good as it gets for a while. We know it because it has worked in other countries where there are, apparently, fewer Stupid and Ignorant People. What is it?

The solution is for everyone to keep physical separation and mask up all the time and everywhere…but it requires all of us to agree to do this and then really follow through like real patriots would do.

I can hear the Stupid and Ignorant whining already, “Why do we all need to mask up?” Let’s talk about pee again.

  • Imagine for a moment that you are standing in a swimsuit, near that pool we’ve been talking about, and a little boy runs over to you, drops his pants, and pees on your bare leg. He has now exposed you to anything that has been lurking in his urine.
  • Now, imagine you are standing by the pool in long pants. That same dang kid runs over, drops his pants, and pees on you again but, now, because of your pants, not as much pee gets on you and it reduces your risk.
  • One more time. This time you are standing by the pool in long pants, the same really irritating kid runs over to you, and pees at you, but this time he forgets to pull down his pants. Ha! Nothing gets on you, it all stays with the kid…who richly deserves it since he is being such a brat.

This is exactly how wearing a mask protects you. Your mask protects others; their mask protects you. That’s it. Pretty simple, eh?

So, can we re-open the country and remain safe? Yes, but only if we act like reasonable, responsible people (including the Stupid and the Ignorant among us). It means we must be willing to do three things every day for as long as necessary and everywhere we go:

Clemencia and I are masking up – everyday and everywhere; for ourselves and others. Join us!
  1. Keep a physical distance of at least six feet from every person we don’t already live with (and if we or they are sick, keep away then too). Even when we are in groups…keep at least six feet away from others.
  2. Wear a mask every day and everywhere, even if it makes us look goofy or less cool than we want others to think we are.
  3. Religiously, even fanatically, wash our hands and sanitize them when we can’t wash.

Honestly, is this too much to ask? If we really want to re-open the country, if we really want to stay healthy, if we really don’t want to make our loved ones sick, if we really want to be patriots, then we do what science says is necessary now and we keep doing it for our country until everyone is safe, even if we don’t like it and it is inconvenient. So, is it too much to ask? You know our answer.


The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 19

Chickenman (aka Benton Harbor, shoe salesperson during the week and Feathered Fighter on the weekend) is being joined in the fight against crime in Midland City by the Masked Maternal Marauder (aka Mildred Harbor, his mother.)


A Grizzled Old Man in Jeff Logan’s Video Conferences

Jeff explains himself: During this time of social distancing I have relied on web conferencing for classes, meetings, and social gatherings. At least three times a meeting I am frustrated by the grizzled old man that constantly interrupts when I click to speak… only to realize that it’s me!!! I guess I don’t often have to look at myself talking.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and don’t pee in the public swimming pool!

Tom

Day 41 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

All cars should be equipped with LED flashing signs on the trunk. The driver should be able to change the messages on it while she/he is driving. This will allow the driver to communicate with the idiot who is tailgating (“Back off Bozo!”) and/or who refuses to dim their bright lights (“Dim ’em Dummy!”).

Saturday, April 25, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Windmills of My Mind

#alonetogether

“Bond…James Bond.” Counting the pause, these are four of the most famous words in cinematic history. I tried it with my own name: “Klaus…Tom Klaus.” Nope, not quite the same ring to it. Now, you try it with your own name and let me know how it works for you.


Potpourri of Unsolicited Opinions On Trivial Things (aka, It’s Been a Slow Saturday)

  • For many people there will never be a better James Bond than Sean Connery. However, I’m a bigger fan of Daniel Craig. He broke a pretty tired and cliched 007 mold.
  • The Late Show with Steven Colbert is usually brilliant. Jimmy Kimmel Live is better than I originally thought it would be. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon…uh, no; not under any circumstances.
  • Pizza is still the food of the gods…but liver and onions is a close second.
  • Speaking of Bond movies and songs, the Windmills of Your Mind (from the 1968 Bond flick The Thomas Crown Affair) had a beautiful melody but, wow, the lyrics read as if they were written by a drunk who just wouldn’t shut up.
  • Pepsi will always taste better than Coke…especially Diet Pepsi compared to Diet Coke.
  • All cars should be equipped with LED flashing signs on the trunk. The driver should be able to change the messages on it while she/he is driving. This will allow the driver to communicate with the idiot who is tailgating (“Back off Bozo!”) and/or who refuses to dim their bright lights (“Dim ’em Dummy!”).
  • All drivers who are caught changing the messages on their LED trunk signs while driving should be heavily fined…to help local governments make up revenue losses from COVID-19.
  • Hummers were the worst automotive idea since the Edsel.
  • The best rock and roll song ever written and performed is Bohemian Rhapsody. Be sure to watch the video below. It has had over 1 billion views. Wow! That’s almost as many as my 2015 colonoscopy!
  • The smartest game show: Jeopardy! The dumbest: Wheel of Fortune. (Both created by departed talk show host Merv Griffin. Go figure!)
  • Consistently best to worst fast food french fries: McDonalds, Wendy’s, Hardees, Burger King, and Arbys.
  • Traditional blue jeans vs. stretch blue jeans: you gotta love the stretch! (Especially if you are testing french fries.)
  • Saturday Night Live is just okay. (Why do they all stand around congratulating themselves on usually mediocre shows as the credits roll? I just don’t get that.) The really good and original stuff was on SCTV. (Watch this space for some occasional clips, like this one:)
Tex & Edna Boil were regular advertisers on SCTV in the 1970s. Their claim to fame were the free budgie birds they gave with the purchase of each organ.

The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 10

In Episode 10, Chickenman (the White Winged Weekend Warrior, aka Benton Harbor) calls Ms. Helfinger to do a name check on The Strangler.


Thank you!

I’ve received many birthday greetings over the past two days but, unfortunately, no cash. Sigh. Still, I have enjoyed the greetings, really.

Each birthday I get a call from my oldest (as in length of time, not age) friend. How long have we known each other? Since before kindergarten which is at least 60 years. We used to race anything with wheels up and down the sidewalk from his parents’ house to my sister’s house…and back…in Morning Sun, Iowa. It occassionally resulted in a bloody nose, a scrape, or bruise when our driving became a little too aggressive. This year he called me as I was writing this blog. We last talked on his birthday, which is exactly three months before mine, when I called him to taunt him for still being older than me.

Mark was one of the two guys staying over at my house when we were watching the William Shatner Twilight Zone episode I wrote about in a previous blog post. We talked and laughed about it again today. It scared us spitless but that was what made it so much fun – both in real time and as a memory. These are moments that are never forgotten and which always bring joy and appreciation for old friends, new friends, and friends yet to come. Thanks, Mark! Thank you all!


Be well, stay safe, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep wearing your stretch jeans!

Tom

Day 31 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone. Would all of this go away if we just stopped using Daylight Savings Time?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Tax Obligation – Happy (Original) Tax Day!

HEY! Can I withold MY taxes because I don’t think our government has handled the COVID-19 crisis competently and send it instead to the World Health Organization? Just asking!

#alonetogether

I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone.

It feels like the Twilight Zone, eh? There are certain moments in your life that always stay with you. The time of COVID-19 will be one of them to be sure.

Speaking of the Twilight Zone, it gave me one of those memorable moments too on Friday, October 11, 1963. I was nine years old and I had two school friends sleeping over. All three of us were big Twilight Zone fans. We were laying on the floor in front of the TV with our faces nearly stuck to the screen. As the intro music played, we all shuddered with excitement. When the “flying eyeball” appeared in the opening, we looked away. But as the narration and music built toward the beginning of the show, we became transfixed.

Finally, it was starting. We were watching the original airing of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” We had no idea we were watching TV history in the making.

The episode starred a young William Shatner who, three years later, would warp back into our TV sets as the captain of the Starship Enterprise. His nemesis in this episode of the Twilight Zone would be a gremlin whom some would credit with producing one of the most frightening moments in the history of television. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” would become an iconic episode that would inspire two remakes (one as recently as 2019) and numerous parodies and homages in movies.

We couldn’t know any of this, of course, as we lay side by side, only inches from the TV screen. Here’s what we saw (don’t worry, this is a 2 minute 15 second version of the show, complete with the scene that nearly made us wet ourselves):

Did you figure out which scene it was? Yep, that’s right! The one where Shatner can’t decide whether to open the curtain. He finally does, and of course, the gremlin is right there…pressing his face against the window looking right him.

The moment he ripped that curtain to the side, all three of us discovered we could fly. It’s the only possible explanation for how we three found ourselves on the opposite side of the room, behind the sofa, and covering our eyes. We saw that which cannot be unseen…even though we really didn’t see it that well. We were so scared and thrilled out of our minds that all we could think of to say was…“Do it again!”

Years later, when I finally got to see the episode again as an adult, I found it hard to watch that scene at first. In my mind’s eye the gremlin was absolutely hideous and my memory pushed every “stop” button it could to keep me from seeing it again. However, my courageous self prevailed and I watched the scene, leaning in for a prolonged, closer look at the gremlin. What I saw this time was a really good acting job by Shatner who built the tension in the scene up to just the right place for the surprise and, finally, I saw some dude with really bad gremlin make up.

Because of this episode, The Twilight Zone lives on in my mind, and that of at least two of my childhood friends, as the very best that television has ever had to offer.


Meet Cayci Banks – Communications Guru

Cayci Banks is a colleague and friend who is also the VP for Strategy and Communications at 1000 Feathers. She is the backbone of a team of us who produced Leading Through Crisis: A Framework for Nonprofits During Trying Times. Cayci sat down to do an interview with Patrick Jinks, another team member, to talk about communicating in a crisis. Cayci’s advice here is stellar, practical, and actionable. If you are leading a nonprofit, this is 18 minutes of golden advice. If you are not leading a nonprofit, but have a leader you can forward it to, please do. It will build some capital for you for sure!


In Reality

While the COVID-19 pandemic seems like an episode of The Twilight Zone, it is not. How we see it, though, depends on what we believe about it and how we experience it.

  • Some believe it is an overblown panic about a non-crisis and people should be able to live their lives as normal.
  • Others believe it is an inconvenience because it is disturbing their day to day lives.
  • Many believe it is a bad dream because the consequences they are experiencing are severe – lost jobs, businesses put at risk, hunger, the continual threat and worry over infection, and others.
  • Too many believe it is a genuine nightmare because they are experiencing the sickness of COVID-19 and/or have lost friends and loved ones to it.

I’m not here to tell you how you should see COVID-19. I only want you to remember that others will see it differently than you. That is because they are experiencing it differently and because they have a different set of beliefs that inform their experience.

What we have in common, though, are facts. As of today, COVID-19 has infected 2 million people worldwide and 635,000 in the United States alone. Worldwide over 133,000 have died. In the U.S. we can account for nearly 28,000 of those (that’s about 21% of all deaths).

What do these numbers tell us? They tell us this is a serious issue and people are dying, regardless of what we believe about the virus and how we experience it. All this illness, all this death deserves our best efforts to end the spread of COVID-19…whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing you hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep your eyes on the numbers because they tell the whole story.

Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who do I want to be during COVID-19?

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

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

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

Tom

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

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

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

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

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

Lizet Ocampo during an unfortunate Zoom accident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom

Visit Masks4All and Learn Why You Should Wear One

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

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

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

#alonetogether

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

What…you did?!?! Ewwww!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The bottom has fallen out of hell…”

‘Nuf said.

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

Quarantine Humor, as seen in Facebook today:

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

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

Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay…well…uh…that’s it.

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

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

Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Compassion

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

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

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

#alonetogether

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom

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

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

Dear Winthrop,

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

Curious Mind

Dear Curious,

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

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

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

Dear Curious,

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Tom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom