Day 63 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

When I first started this blog…62 days ago…I wrote these words to explain why I was writing it: I’m mostly doing this for my own sanity and well-being. In fact it is more true than you might have imagined when you first read it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020 – Live to Blog from the 4th Wave

#alonetogether

Zoom had a system wide problem today. Can you believe it? We attempted to join our Quaker Meeting for Worship at 9:00 AM but to no avail. FYI, there is a service you can sign up for with Zoom that will alert you if there is a current issue with Zoom. For those of us who depend on Zoom these days (that’s pretty much all of us, right?), it is an invaluable service. You can sign up here.


The Fourth Wave

Victor Tseng is a medical doctor working in a VA hospital in Georgia. The first thing you may notice about him from his picture on his LinkedIn profile is that he looks young. He is. When you examine his LinkedIn profile closely you’ll see that he started university at age 13 in Washington State in 2003 and graduated in 2007 in bioengineering with honors. His minors (or maybe additional degrees?) were in music composition and mathematics. On his Twitter feed (@VectorSting) he featured this illustration titled the “Health Footprint of Pandemic.”

Illustrated by Victor Tseng, MD. Follow @VectorSting on Twitter

Fiona, a friend and colleague from Canada, first shared this illustration with me. From the first time I saw it, it resonated with me. A health segment on a local television station in Denver featured another medical doctor who used Dr. Tseng’s illustration and explained it in breater depth. The video of this segment is less than four minutes in length and is worth watching to more fully understand the meaning of this graphic.

The first three waves have specific implications for the health care system. If we escape the health challenges presented by these three, the 4th Wave remains as a threat to all of us. However, we all can have an impact on the 4th Wave, too.

The 4th Wave is about the adverse impacts of trauma on people. We can expect that the various traumas associated with the pandemic will be so significant for many that they will experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for some time to come. In some cases the stress of the pandemic will impact the brain health (language many are beginning to prefer over the term “mental illness”). These may also be exacerbated by the economic injury many will suffer as well as burnout, among first responders, essential personnel, and, more generally all of us, related to the stress of simply enduring the pandemic and “getting by” day to day.

There are two things about the 4th Wave that I’d like to highlight.

First, the 4th Wave does not happen after the first three waves. It actually begins in the midst of the 1st Wave – right now. Since it has already started, it means we are actually living in the midst of two waves.

Second, while it is principally our health care system that is tasked with mitigating the impacts of the first three waves, each of us can help mitigate the impact of the 4th Wave.

Our mitigation efforts may be as simple as checking in on people whom we know well to find out how they are doing and how we can offer them support. For example, a committee at our Quaker meeting has been doing this by phone. We received a call a couple of weeks ago from a member of the committee asking how we were doing and if there was anything we needed. A pretty simple act, huh? I reported that we were fine (we are) and still Clemencia and I really appreciated the call. Also, Clemencia and I both host weekly Zoom groups of people we know and each time we gather we always do a round of check-ins.

Another way we can help mitigate the impact of the 4th Wave is to reach out to people we may not know as well but whom we are concerned about. These may be the neighbors we know by sight but have never really talked with. They could be the people who pick up our garbage, deliver our mail, deliver groceries or prepared meals, mow our lawns, and clean our buildings. When we reach out to these folks the conversation may start a little differently. Instead of saying, as we would to those we are closer to, “I’m calling to check in…” we might say something like, “You’ve been on my mind recently and I’m wondering how you are doing and if there is anything you need that I can help you with.”

If we want to take our involvement up another notch, we can even find ways to help people whom we don’t know at all but who are in significant need. We can do this by volunteering with organized groups and service organizations. With the economic injury that is being sustained by our country there are a lot of nonprofit organizations which could use our hearts and hands, as well as our donations. These include organizations serving homeless populations, jobless people, disabled persons, immigrants, and those who are struggling with brain health issue (mental illness). These organizations, as we navigate the 4th Wave, will need our help now more than ever.

Because of the stigma of mental illness it may be most difficult for us to reach out and help those struggling with brain health issues. My friend and colleague, Patrick McNamara, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who worked on the front lines for many years. Today he is the President and Chief Executive Office of Palm Health Foundation in West Palm Beach, Florida. However, he retains and acts on the lessons he learned in the field.

Recently Patrick was a guest columnist for Stay Thirsty Magazine in which he recounts those lessons from the field which inform his work today. I’ve known Patrick for over two years and have been privileged to work with him and his staff at Palm Health Foundation. I have seen for myself how he lives out these lessons in his professional role. It is an excellent column and worth reading, especially if you want to make a difference in addressing the 4th Wave.


On a Very Personal Note about the 4th Wave

I was knocked down by the 4th Wave after the national trauma of 9/11. I was vulnerable already because I have had throughout my adult life a formal diagnosis and an informal diagnosis related to my own brain health. My formal diagnosis is PTSD resulting from ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). My informal diagnosis is a mild case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It is an “informal” diagnosis because it is one that I’ve made of myself based on my training as a mental health therapist. It is expressed by “checking” behavior, particularly in the kitchen. It is not unrelated to my ACEs as I can trace it back to a time when my father, an alcoholic, tried to cook while drunk late at night and, on several occasions, nearly set the house on fire. My anxiety, of course, is that a fire could start in our kitchen putting us all at risk; hence my checking is related to making sure nothing in the kitchen can cause a fire.

Irrational? Of course it is…now. However, one of the things I have learned about PTSD and it side effects, including some OCD, is that it is a normal response to abnormal circumstances. Overtime we learn to manage the PTSD. We do this by learning that the anxiety and behaviors of PTSD originally served the purpose of self-protection and preservation. Even more, we learn over time that we don’t need them any more. We also learn to spot and avoid the triggers, the things that remind us of the trauma and which can throw us back into it. However, some triggers are not always known.

The 9/11 tragedy was a horrific trigger for my brain health issues. It set into motion a series of personal events that included rapid, extreme loss of business revenue, ultimately the loss of my business and bankruptcy, and – even worse – a total loss of my sense of self. I fell into a personal hell that was deep and frightening, made deeper and more frightening because of the decisions and choices I made in that period. The losses I sustained in family and other important relationships were staggering. Though I have received grace and forgiveness from many over time, the sense of shame and disappointment I feel with myself remains at a very deep level. They fuel the nightmares which occasionally haunt me in the darkest hours of the night. My journey into that hell and back is one I never want to make again. My former father-in-law kindly explained it to my son as a “break down.” At the time, I wasn’t very appreciative of that interpretation, but I now know it was accurate.

When I first started this blog…62 days ago…I wrote these words to explain why I was writing it: I’m mostly doing this for my own sanity and well-being. In fact, as you now understand, it is more true than you might have imagined when you first read it. My understanding of my own brain health issues has continued to expand and grow over the past 19 years. When the trauma of this pandemic hit, I knew I would face a similar trigger to what I faced in September 2001. I did not want to be unprepared this time. I knew this blog would be a therapeutic intervention for me and it has been.

I know. This seems a very personal thing to share with you in a drivel blog. I share it fully expecting that the stigma which exists around brain health (mental illness) may drive a wedge between me and some who read this blog. That would be unfortunate. I also expect, though, that it will connect me even closer to some readers.

I began to think about sharing all of this when I first saw Victor Tseng’s illustration a few weeks ago. I wrote earlier that it resonated with me. Even more, it spoke to my condition and described something I knew was true from my own experience. I chose to share it now because I know the reality of the 4th Wave. I felt compelled to raise the alarm as strongly as I can to get your attention to say five things to you:

  1. It is real.
  2. We are not waiting for it to hit, it is hitting many already.
  3. Realize you can also be taken down by the wave, even if you’ve not previously had a brain health challenge.
  4. If you feel yourself going under the 4th Wave, do not wait to seek the help of counselors or friends who can help you set an anchor.
  5. Be aware of those around you who may be getting pulled down by the 4th Wave and consider how you can help.

If you need help connecting to local resources, let me know and I’ll do what I can.


Now Back to Our Usual Drivel

The spread of Covid-19 is based on two things: 

1. How dense the population is. 

2. How dense the population is.

With appreciation to Cynthia

The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 32, the Maternal Marauder takes her son, Benton Harbor, the now Invisible Chickenman, to see Dr. Marco Polo to try to restore him to visibility.


The View from Jeff

It’s Sunday, which means another comic from Jeff Logan to start the week.

Jeff Explains: I always get a great farmers tan in the summer – I think it is a genetic disposition from my prairie upbringing. I think that there will be a new addition to the usual tan lines from wearing masks. Although it snowed today so we may be a ways off from beach attire!!

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep aware of the 4th Wave.

Tom

Day 62 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I got in the driver’s side and he, of course, rode in the passenger’s side. Though seatbelts were now mandatory in all vehicles, Boomer refused to wear one. I waited, like my driver’s instruction manual said I should, for him to buckle up but he didn’t.

Saturday, May 16, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Deck with Argumentative Socks

#alonetogether

Okay, new HVAC system installed. The house is quiet again. Everything is working just fine. I awakened to a beautiful day, went to the deck, and then it happened.


The Sock Rebellion – Part 2

As you know, Bert Left and Ernie Right are retired each night to our deck. They are gently hung up on the back of my Amish Made Poly Adirondack chair to dry and air out. I’m surprised at how many readers inquire about Bert and Ernie’s well being. In fact, they are doing very well given they are being worn daily and are still unwashed for 62 days. I’m rather surprised. In fact they may be holding up better than me and I am washed daily.

The downside of this great unwashed experiment is that Bert and Ernie have become increasingly belligerent and irascible. A couple of weeks ago they wanted to get away from the house. I had to put my foot down and tell them no. Today I ran into more trouble with them when I went out to the deck to retrieve them to start the day with me.

  • Bert: Hey bonehead. What are you doing?
  • Me: Me? I’m doing the same thing I have done every day for 61 days. I’m coming out to get you, put you on, and go work.
  • Ernie: Yeah? Well, we ain’t budgin’.
  • Bert: Yeah, that’s right. We ain’t goin’ nowhere.
  • Me: Wait a minute…two weeks ago you two were trying to bully me into taking you out of the house for a movie or dinner, or something like that.
  • Bert: So what, bonehead? We can do whatever we like. And now, we ain’t budgin’.
  • Ernie: Yeah. We ain’t budgin’. Nope.
  • Me: Look guys, what’s going on here? You’ve never had a problem being moved from the deck until now.
  • Ernie: Well, bonehead, that’s cause it hasn’t been warm and sunny until now. Did you know the sun was out yesterday and it got to be about 90 degrees?
  • Bert: Yeah, man, that felt so good! And today it’s going to be in the 80’s!
  • Ernie: Look, I’ve already started to get a tan.
  • Me: Socks don’t tan.
  • Ernie: Who says, bonehead? That’s a tan line if I ever saw one.
  • Me: No, it’s not. It’s a dirt line. It’s right at the point where the top of my shoe comes up on you.
  • Ernie: I’m not going to argue with you, bonehead. I know it’s a tan line and I know you’re stupid.
  • Me: Look, Ernie…and Bert…I’m getting tired of your complaining and your calling me names.
  • Bert: Really bonehead? Isn’t that your name? (Ernie laughs outloud.)
  • Me: Bert, you know it isn’t. Come on, guys, be more civil, will you? We’ve got too much incivility in our world right now.
  • Ernie: Whoaa! Fancy word, bonehead! “Incivility,” I like that!
  • Me: Apparently you do. In fact, I’ve never known socks to be so incivil.
  • Bert: Well, thank you very much, bonehead! We appreciate that!
  • Me: I need you two to come off the chair now and get to work.
  • Bert: Why? Are we going somewhere today?
  • Me: No, of course not. We still have to shelter-in-place.
  • Ernie: So then what’s the hurry? You ain’t goin’ nowhere. And we ain’t done soakin’ up the rays, man.
  • Bert: Yeah, we’re still chillin’. Hey, Ernie, what did I do with my sunglasses?
  • Ernie: They’re already on your face, dummy!
  • Bert: Oh, yeah, how’d I miss that? Okay, ready to sing?
  • Ernie: Count us in, Bert!
  • Bert: One, two…one, two, three, four…
  • Bert & Ernie:I wear my sunglasses at night, So I can…

Some days it just isn’t worth the fight. So I closed the door to the deck, went to my closet, and got out a pair of sandals. It’s supposed to rain tonight. I think they can just stay on the deck! Ha!


Driver’s Ed with Boomer

Earlier this week I introduced you to my brother-in-law, Boomer. In that earlier story you learned that he was a biker, a street fighter, and a father figure to me. In addition to his bike, he loved fast cars. He had a 1968 Plymouth Road Runner that he would drag race (if you are only familiar with RuPaul’s Drag Race, you may wish to look this one up). Boomer’s car was no longer “stock.” It had been upgraded to make it go even faster and look even better.

This 1968 Plymouth Road Runner looked very much like the one Boomer had and which he let me drive…once..but what a ride!

The Plymouth Road Runner was named after the famous Warner Brother’s cartoon character and its horn would make the character’s “Beep-beep” sound rather than the usual blaring car horn sound. I always liked that feature!

Shortly after I got my learner’s permit, Boomer let me drive his Road Runner. At that time in Iowa you got your learner’s permit at age 14. I got in the driver’s side and he, of course, rode in the passenger’s side. Though seatbelts were now mandatory in all vehicles by that time, Boomer refused to wear one. I waited for him to buckle up, like my driver’s instruction manual said I should, but he didn’t. When I asked why he wouldn’t buckle up he replied, rather loudly with at least one swear word, “Why should I do that? I pay taxes! If I’m in a wreck, the ambulance drivers need to come find me. I’m not going to make their jobs easy by strapping myself in!” Boomer was a fount of such irrefutable logic.

By the time I drove the mile to the edge of town I was so nervous I was already sweating through my tee shirt and sticking to the vinyl seat. As we pulled up to the stop sign near the Shell station, Boomer said, “Let’s go West on 78 and see what you can do.” So I turned right onto the highway. State Highway 78 is a two-lane highway that goes over rolling hills with only a few curves. (Yes, much of Iowa is actually rolling hills, not flat prairie like Nebraska.)

Having successfully made the turn and started down the highway, I was careful to observe the speed limit. After a minute at about 60 miles per hour, Boomer, apparently bored with the slow pace, swore again and said, “I said let’s see what you can do. Open it up!” So I began to press the acclerator down.

The speedometer (which registered all the way up to 155 miles per hour) slowly climbed…70…75..80…90…I was really beginning to sweat now. I glanced over at Boomer. He nodded and said, “Keep goin’.”

95…100…110…I glanced over again as my heart pounded. He said, “Yeah, that’s right. Go on!”

115…120…125…and on the next hill I felt the car begin to come off the ground as we topped it. I couldn’t take it anymore. Plus I was scared of what Boomer would do if my frightened bladder gave way on his car seat.

I let up on the gas and when I did I heard a string of expletives come out of Boomer’s mouth and then this assessment, “Oh my god, I could crawl faster than that!”


SCTV’s Take on Perry Como

Perry Como was a crooner whose career spanned seven decades. He was known for his beautiful, smooth baritone voice. If you have never heard of him or heard his voice, it worth listening to his rendition of “And I Love You So.” Once it starts to play, you may remember it. His longevity inspired SCTV to create this interesting “tribute” to him. It is one of my favorite sketch’s from the SCTV archives. Eugene Levy, most recently of Schitt’s Creek fame, plays Como in this sketch.


The Adventures of Chickenman

In Episode 31 the Police Commissioner breaks the news to Midland City of Chickenman’s accident with the Chicken Dissolver.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep avoiding arguments with incivil, irascible socks…and the people in them.

Tom

Day 53 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Fingerpointing is like failing to understand why we have a headache all the while we repeatedly hit ourselves over the head.

Thursday, May 7, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Edge

#alonetogether

I woke up this morning with insanity on my mind. No, I didn’t say I was insane…only that it was on my mind. Of course, why wouldn’t it be on my mind? These are crazy times, man, crazy! On the other you hand…


You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy But I Just May Be The Lunatic You Are Looking For

Now THAT is a classic Billy Joel song, is it not? I found the “official video” of it on YouTube and it is at least as fun to watch as the song is to hear. You’ve got to love Joel’s hair, glasses, tennis shoes…his whole outfit really. Take a look and then we’ll get back to insanity:

So, why is insanity on my mind? Because I thought I had awakened in 1984…not the year, the book. George Orwell’s book 1984, published in 1949, is a post-World War II dystopian view of the world. At various times it has been banned (even in the United States), hailed as one of the best books in the history of world literature, and even viewed as a prophecy for the world to come. Whatever you think of it, it is a fascinating story.

In 1984, I am the shadowy figure interrogating and torturing Winston Smith, played by my friend Leonard. This photo appeard in Dramatics magazine (October 1971).

(Non sequitur alert!) In high school I was a member of the International Thespian Society. I credit our drama coach, Ms. Bacon, and the Society for giving me my love of theatre and the opportunity to break out of my introversion. Some now may regret that they did this for me, to be sure. It seems I got a lot of “heavy” roles in high school theatre: Dr. Chumley who has kindly Elwood P. Dowd hospitalized in Harvey; a righteous serial murderer in Dr. Cook’s Garden; and a brutal inquisitor, O’Brien, in 1984.

Look, ever since the 2016 election many people have been trying to draw a comparison with 1984. I’m not going there. All I’m saying is that the world portrayed by Orwell in his book was an insane place and it was allowed to become that way. It is a shocking story because it seems incomprehensible that it could ever happen in civil society.

The most insane aspect of the story had to do with the reframing of language to mean its opposite through “Newspeak.” That is “new speak” not “news speak,” just to be clear in this age of “fake news.” No where was this more clearly seen than in the names of the government’s four agencies:

  • Ministry of Peace – which waged war and provided for the defense of the country;
  • Ministry of Plenty – which dealt with the economic welfare of the country and its people – who were living with rationing and starvation;
  • Ministry of Love – which assured law and order through torture and brainwashing; and
  • Ministry of Truth – which melded news, entertainment, education, and art into propoganda.

There was no Ministry of Health in Orwell’s 1984. If there were, I wonder what it’s mandate would have been? Assuming Orwell used the same convention as he did in naming the other four ministries, it would not be about health at all. Quite the opposite.

Frankly, I awoke this morning wondering if our public health system isn’t devolving into an Orwellian Ministry of Health. I do not say this to offend the many friends, colleagues, and clients I have who work in public health. In fact, I may be saying aloud what many of them are already thinking.

Clemencia and I have worked in the public health sector many years. We believe in public health and know what it can do when it is allowed to work, especially in the midst of a health crisis. We admire and appreciate the efforts of Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and Robert Redfield. As we have watched them during the torturous Coronavirus Task Force updates we can see they share our pain and agony. Despite their valiant efforts to communicate accurate public health information to us, I fear the devolution continues.

Why do I fear this? Because I believe we are seeing evidence of it in this moment. Think about it a moment. If public health had won the day:

You may say, “Tom, you are crazy. The public health system has not devolved, it is just marginalized.” Well, whoopy ding fine! And marginalization is just a step toward devolution and devolution leads to irrelevance.

Marginalization or devolution, who is to blame? Some blame the CDC and the public health system itself. Others blame the Trump Administration. Still others blame Congress. In truth, there is a lot of blame to go around and all of us are really good at finger pointing, eh?

You know the problem with finger pointing, right? When we do point a finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back us (remember, the thumb is not a finger). We get so busy with finger pointing that we lose sight of our own responsibility.

Fingerpointing is like failing to understand why we have a headache all the while we repeatedly hit ourselves over the head.

If the devolution of our public health system is to stop, it is on us to step up and make a difference.

Or, you may be right. I may be crazy. Maybe it is just marginalization. But if I’m right and it is devolution, could I just be the lunatic you are looking for?


The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I think the lettuce wrapped hamburger trend is actually funded by the laundry detergent industry

The Adventures of Chickenman

In Episode 22 Chickeman and the Maternal Marauder visit Clyde Crushman in and effor to reconcile the criminal with the Winged Warrior, who put him behind bars.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, keep physical distance, and especially keep away from Stupid People – because all are good public health practices.

Tom

Day 52 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

She found one student, let’s call him Pirate Juan, who knew the game and was willing to participate in an hour long tutorial. Clemencia and Pirate Juan would play, the others would observe, and then give it try. That was weeks ago now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Battle Zone

#alonetogether

Today is the day it always happens. My loving, caring, pacifist spouse turns into the commander of a fleet of battleships. She takes no prisoners in a fiercely contested battle that rages over Zoom.


The Saga of Battleship Wednesday

As the dawn breaks Admiral Clemencia Vargas stands on the deck looking up into a foreboding sky. She shrugs, turns away, and steels herself for the calamity that lies ahead. In only a few hours she will launch her Zoom meeting controls, take command of a novice but dedicated crew, and lead them into the fray. Who will emerge victorious? What will be the toll on ships… and language?

Battleship (Batalla Naval) game board image by Marco Verch.

Yes, it’s Battleship Wednesday in our house! Each Wednesday, at 4:00 PM Eastern, Clemencia gathers a group of her students to play Batalla Naval (Battleship) in Spanish via Zoom. You know how it’s played, right?

Well, if you don’t know, it doesn’t matter. It all started because Clemencia was using occasional Batalla Naval exercises to teach her students vocabulary. However, there were several students who had never played Battleship. They just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept – even when the classes were still meeting in person way, way back in February. When the classes moved to Zoom, Clemencia wanted to still find a way to use Batalla Naval activities. She decided to have a Battleship tutorial.

She found one student, let’s call him Pirate Juan, who knew the game and was willing to participate in an hour long tutorial. Clemencia and Pirate Juan would play, the others would observe, and then give it try. That was weeks ago now.

Batalla Naval has turned into its own thing. Each week Clemencia produces a battleship grid on paper and distributes it to the students. As the Zoom meeting begins, the students take sides with her against Pirate Juan. (This week, though, for the first time, Pirate Juan had two students who defected to his team.) As the battle begins, so does the noise. I’m two rooms away and still I know when Clemencia’s fleet takes a hit and when they have a successful strike. There are roars of laughter, groans of dismay, and incesssant chatter with and among the students. Last week there were 14 who played. Even veterans of Batalla Naval are showing up now and re-enlisting to play.

Batalla Naval – Clothing & Colors

The grids Clemencia creates have Spanish terms on the left side and across the top. (See two of her recent game grids in the images.) First, the students and Pirate Juan place (draw) their ships on the top part of the grid (Mi ropa or Mis verbos). Each team, in turn, gets to “bomb” the others ships. They do this by indicating, in Spanish, where their bombs are being dropped on their opponents grid by calling out an item and a color (e.g, “La camisa es azul” – the shirt is blue). Where those two items intersect on the grid is where their bomb lands. Teams keep track of where their opponent’s bombs hit on their grid (top) and where they are dropping bombs on the other’s grid (bottom).

Batalla naval – Pronouns & Irregular Verbs

While the game etiquette does not suppress the noise of war, it does require opponents to truthfully report out to the other the result of their bombing – agua (water), tocado (hit), or, finally, hundido (sink).

In addition, Pirate Juan has to agree not to look at the other team’s collaborative Batalla Naval grid on Zoom. At first he didn’t have to. He was cleaning up each week. Recently, though, the tide has turned and now Pirate Juan has been getting thrashed. Perhaps this is why he has lured away a couple of others to be his crew. Dastardly Pirate Juan! You will pay for this treachery!

Batalla Naval Wednesday has taken on a life of its own now. It is the 7th Spanish class of the week for Clemencia. It is so popular I can only imagine – and fear – it will grow into other days and times of the week. So be it! I’ll just steer clear. Bert Left, Ernie Right, Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum and I will enjoy it from afar. Beto and Enrique prefer to be near the action.


Nonprofits in Crisis: A Wide Angle View

Madeleine McGee is the President of TogetherSC, South Carolina’s association for nonprofit organizations which is 800 members strong. Madeleine and TogetherSC inspired Forrest Alton, Cayci Banks, Charles Weathers, Patrick Jinks, and me to collaborate to produce the Leading Through Crisis blog and video series. In this video, Madeleine, while addressing some specific issues in South Carolina, also takes a wide-angle lens to the challenge of leading through crisis.


Getting to Transformational Change

My friend Elayne Greeley, whom I met through our common affiliation with Tamarack Institute, has a very unique gift. She is able to translate high level concepts into easy to understand, sensemaking graphics and images. Here is one of her pieces that breaks down challenges often facing community partnership efforts. It reminds us that transformational change is not something we can do all at once. When it is broken down into smaller manageable pieces, we get there faster than we could have ever imagined possible. Thanks Elayne for your good thinking, your good work, and for allowing me to share some of it here!

By Elayne Greeley, with appreciation to the Partnership Brokers Association

The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: As an introvert the idea of being stuck in my home for the foreseeable future wasn’t entirely unwelcome – I had great plans for how to use this time! Sadly it is not going as planned…

The Adventures of Chickenman

Now that he has exited the Chicken Cave, Chickenman (Benton Harbor) finds himself locked in the dark, official looking halls of Midland City City Hall. How is he to get out?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, and keep using your imagination for good!

Tom

Day 51 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This morning I opened my email and found this subject line in preview: Love your daily posts. “Who could that fool be?” I wondered. After running through a list all the fools I could think of, I finally opened the email.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Hot Oven

#alonetogether

Yes, it is Cinco de Mayo and it is also Tuesday – which at Taco Bell is Taco Tuesday so, I guess it is Cinco de Mayo Taco Tuesday but that all sounds way to confusing. So, I’m going with pizza…a taco pizza.

How to Avoid Being a Guava on Cinco de Mayo

Unfortunately, most of us Americans who are native born, white, and of Anglo Northern European heritage know very little of other ethnicities, cultures, and languages. Let’s face it and be brutally honest with ourselves. Overall, when it comes to any of these, we are ignoramuses. This is especially true with regard to what we know about Latinos and Hispanics.

Case in point: Cinco de Mayo is a strictly Mexican holiday because it remembers Mexico’s victory over France on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. To be clear, it is not Mexican Independence Day. To be even more clear, over the years it has evolved to be a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture, not ALL Latino and Hispanic culture. Still, we wander around on Cinco de Mayo wishing a happy holiday to anyone with a Spanish accent or, we just appropriate the holiday as another reason for drinking beer and eating nachos.

Being an ignoramus, I risked my life when I once – and one time only – wished Clemencia a cheery Happy Cinco de Mayo! The first time I did this I earned a rather lengthy “explanation” (read “lecture”) on the origins of Cinco de Mayo, why it was not her holiday as a native Colombian, and what a gueva gringo I was for not understanding all of that already. Actually, she was right. We gringos are not very good at any history, geography, culture, or language other than our own – and, of course, we tend to think it is all vastly superior to any others.

While Mexico is a Latino and Hispanic country, not all Latinos and Hispanics are Mexicans. Also, just because people identify as Latino does not mean they are from Mexico or even speak Spanish. There is a difference between being Latino and being Hispanic. Latino is an abbreviation of latinoamericano, hence it refers to people living in Latin America. Hispanic, though, refers to countries which are Spanish speaking. Worldwide there are 20 Hispanic countries and 33 Latino countries. Here’s your puzzler for the week: How can a country be Latino but not Hispanic? For a hint, check out this fun video tutorial:

So, to all our Mexican friends, Happy Cinco de Mayo! We wish you a fun, joyous, and safe (socially distancing) celebration!


Love (And Pie!) Makes the World Go Round

I met Beth M. Howard as a result of reading this article in the New York Times. I was captivated by her story, immensely proud to see an Iowan in the news for something good, and decided to connect with her anyway I could. The article also reminded me of a period when, living in Des Moines, I was doing some work in the county next to the one where Beth and her Redheaded Farmer Doug live. My trips from and back to Des Moines would always take me by the American Gothic house and I always loved seeing it.

Intially I reached Beth through her website and then we connected through email. We corresponded for a time and then, on my last trip back home to Iowa in late 2018, I had the opportunity to have dinner with her and Doug. It turns out that Doug and I graduated high school at about the same time and were even on competing high school wrestling teams. We Iowans just love “it’s a small world” stuff like that!

What captivated me about Beth was how she was contributing to the greater good of our world through one of my very favorite things: pie. Beth uses pie and pie baking as instruments of peace and healing in the world. That’s as much of her story I’m going to tell you here because there have been articles written about her, she has a TED Talk, she has written books, and she has a YouTube channel – and most of these are accessible from her website. You can learn more about her in her own words. She has a wonderful story and I hope you’ll take time to learn more about her.

Actually, Beth and Doug have been on my mind a lot recently as I’ve been following the creep of COVID-19 toward my home state. I count them as friends and I’ve had good intentions to drop them a note just to check in but never got around to it with everything else going on.

This morning I opened my email and found this subject line in preview: Love your daily posts. “Who could that fool be?” I wondered. After running through a list all the fools I could think of, I finally opened the email.

I was delighted to find it was not from a fool at all, but from Beth. I felt honored, and a bit embarrassed, to learn she was reading my drivel. But the really exciting news is that she is back to caring for others through the power of pie during this pandemic. She has done six YouTube episodes to teach people how to bake different pies. In episode #7 (below) she features all the pies people have been baking using her lessons.

Check out Beth’s website and subscribe to her YouTube channel, The World Needs More Pie where you can find Episode’s 1 through 6…and start making pie! I bet your mouth is watering anyway so you might as well bake your own, right? Look, Beth has Doug to test the pie she makes and you need a taste tester too. Just sayin’! So, to help you out, I’m volunteering! Email me for my address and box up a piece of your pie. 🙂

Beth, thanks for all you do for the greater good through the power of pie and your caring spirit. At a horrible time like this, the world does need more pie and the love it conveys.


The View from Jeff

Jeff Explains: I have to admit that I feel self-conscious doing my regular “7-person family” grocery shopping trip. It may look like I’m getting ready for the zombie apocalypse but it’s just a normal week in a big family!!

The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 20

Our Fearless Feathered Fighter calls Ms. Helfinger from the Chicken Cave in dire need of her assistance. Will Ms. Helfinger be able to help?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and bake two pies – one for yourself and the other for someone who needs a pie today.

Tom

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

The experiment that came to mind was: How long can I wear the same clothes without laundering them? Clemencia didn’t think that was an appropriate home experment…except for a junior high boy who was a gueva.

Sunday, May 3, 2020 – Live to Blog in the Midst of a Rebellion

#alonetogether

When you least expect it those closest to you suddenly turn on you. Isn’t that the way it goes? You prioritize them, you love them, and you care for them (okay, maybe you don’t launder them). One day you turn around and there they are – Bert Left and Ernie Right – staging a rebellion.


The Sock Rebellion

On March 16th I put Bert Left and Ernie Right on when I got dressed in the morning. I had returned the night before from Mississippi, my last work related trip to date. Governor Larry Hogan had issued a state of emergency order on March 5th and by the 16th he was strongly advising people at highest risk (like Clemencia and me) to stay at home for 14 days. We were compliant and believed it would only be those two weeks. Seemed like a great time for a homegrown experiment to me!

The experiment that came to mind was: How long can I wear the same clothes without laundering them? Clemencia didn’t think that was an appropriate home experment…except for a junior high boy who was a gueva. After we discussed it for a while, I did what I knew I was destined to do: give in…and then find another way to do it. The answer appeared on my feet.

Bert and Ernie are wool socks. Bert resides on my left foot; Ernie on my right. After 49 days it is almost challenging to confuse them now. They remain unlaundered but, that’s okay, they hang out all night on the deck, pinned to the back of my Amish Made Poly Adirondack chair.

Over the past 49 days, the personalities of Bert and Ernie have begun to emerge. Honestly, it’s been a contentious relationship from the beginning. At first, they tried to keep everything secret from me by mumbling to each other so I couldn’t understand them. Eventually they began to speak to me and even argue with me. Now, it seems, everything is an argument.

  • Bert: Hey, bonehead!
  • Me: Are you talkin’ to me?
  • Ernie: Who else around here is a bonehead…besides, you answered didn’t you…bonehead?
  • Me: What do you want?
  • Ernie: We got rights, you know.
  • Bert: Yeah, rights! We got those!
  • Me: I’m not sure I understand. You are wool socks. You shouldn’t be alive and you definitely should not be speaking.
  • Bert: That’s what you think, bonehead. We’ve picked up enough of your DNA that we could reconstitute it and, guess what, now we’re alive…and we can talk!
  • Ernie: Yeah, we can talk! Tell him, Bert!
  • Bert: We can talk, we can think, “cogito ergo sum,” as Descartes would say.
  • Me: Really? You’re going to quote René Descartes at me?
  • Ernie: Yeah, bonehead! You’re not the only one that studied philosophy. “We think, therefore we are.”
  • Me: Well, I don’t think YOU think very clearly.
  • Bert: US? What about you, bonehead? You’re the stable genius that came up with the idea of wearing us without washing us for 49 days. See, we can even count!
  • Me: Well, it’s worked hasn’t it? Not only are you doing fine but, look at you, you’re alive…or at least you “think” you are alive.
  • Bert: That’s right…and that’s the issue. We are alive and, you know what, we can’t get COVID-19 so we want to get out. We’re tired of walking the same trail and the same sidewalk. We’re tired of being confined to the deck at night. We’re tired of living in your smelly shoes. We want to see a movie, go out for dinner, and even go dancing. We can’t get sick, why should we be made to suffer?
  • Me: Wow! You two sound like some Stupid People and Ignorant People I see in the news these days!
  • Ernie: Watch it, bonehead! Don’t call us Stupid or Ignorant.
  • Me: ME? What about you? You’re always calling me “bonehead.”
  • Bert: We’re only speaking truth, man. You’re name calling!
  • Me: Oh, brother!…Look, let’s get back to your demand to go out. I’ve got a simple answer: No.
  • Bert: What do you mean, bonehead? It’s our constitutional right!
  • Me: Wait a minute…you don’t have any constitutional right when it puts me and other people at risk.
  • Ernie: Yes, we do! We’re alive. We live in the United States. We have constitutional rights. USA! USA!
  • Me: Okay, let’s “say” our constitutional rights allow us to do any stupid thing we want to do. And, let’s say that I want to put you two on and walk on burning coals. Does that work for you?
  • Ernie and Bert: No way, bonehead!
  • Bert: That could kill us!
  • Me: Exactly! My rights end when they infringe upon your rights…and vice versa. When I have more to lose than you, then you need to consider whether it is in the greater good to assert your rights. Likewise, when you have more to lose than me, I need to reconsider asserting my rights.
  • Ernie: What a crock!
  • Bert: A crock of crap! My rights are my rights, not yours! USA! USA!
  • Me: Fine. Go out. Take in a movie, get a pizza, have fun! I’m not going to stop you. But…how are you going to get there? You need my feet to move you.
  • Bert and Ernie (silence, as they stare at each other and search for words, then): We’ll get back to you on that.
  • Me: I’m sure you will.

The Doodles & Art of Jeff Logan

I met Jeff Logan in September 2009 attending our first class in the PhD in Organizational Leadership program at Eastern University. The first small group I was assigned to in the first class included Jeff and me. In that small group I learned a fascinating fact from him about Ghengis Khan but that story is for another time. More importantly, I learned I was in the presence of an amazing, diversely talented person. He is an academic, a linguist, a minister, a humorist, and an artist. His medium is pen and ink cartoons which he shares on his Instagram site. Through the Eastern University program we became, and remain, friends and colleagues. Jeff has given me permission to post some of his cartoons here. This week I’m going to feature two of them, but I’m also going to try to share one a day going forward. Some will be related to COVID-19 and some will just relate to life in general. Jeff tells me he is a regular reader of this blog, which embarrases me a bit because I think my humor pales in comparison to his. Thank you, Jeff! Stay safe, be well, and keep drawing please!

Jeff writes: I have always enjoyed the diversity of my local Walmart – seeing the different takes on masks has been inspiring for stepping up my own mask game!!
Jeff writes: Quick evening doodle while making some notes for a video in my anthropology classes.

The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 17

Benton Harbor (our Fantastic Fearless Feathered Fighter) appears at a “father and son” banquet in Midland City…with his mother. What could go wrong?


Sharing a Guilty Pleasure

Local news bloopers are a guilty pleasure of mine. Each month a number of different YouTube sites post the best of previous month’s outtakes and bloopers from local television news from around the world. The April 2020 bloopers were particularly good because so many local news reporters and anchors were trying to do their reports and programs from home because of the sheltering-in-place orders. As a result, there is a treasure trove of very funny bloopers and outtakes that will help us remember…more fondly…the otherwise horrific month that April 2020 was. Here is my favorite:


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep your socks in the house, please.

Tom

Day 48 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

It all gives me a screaming headache…which is a shame on such a beautiful day. If I had some hydroxychoriquine I’d take a dose and lie down to rest. I’m fresh out, though, so I guess I’ll just swig some Lysol.

Saturday, May 2, 2020 – Live to Blog Almost From My Deck

#alonetogether and together alone

So far in 2020, this has to be one of the most beautiful days we’ve had. It is a little on the cool side or I would be on the deck. The Amish Made Poly chairs are wiped down and are ready for our hineys. I can’t wait!


Blue Skies, Blue Angels & Thunderbirds

Today the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds did a flyover Baltimore and Washington as a salute to the frontline workers who are caring for COVID-19 patients. It was a nice gesture and we expected we could get a very close view of them. At the link above you can watch the fly over from Baltimore in a 10 minute video. There is no sound, though, so you can enjoy their flight without the noise of the jet engines.

At 11:45 AM they were scheduled to fly from Baltimore down into Prince George’s County to fly over one of the hospitals just outside of Washington, DC. Laurel, and the UM Laurel Medical Center, the state’s only exclusively COVID-19 hospital, are en route. We were ready and waiting at 11:30 AM as the flyover began in Baltimore. By 11:40 AM we were standing on the deck. We thought we might even hear the jets before we saw them. We heard nothing but kept scanning the skies. At 11:43 I spotted two flocks of birds in the distance to the East. They were flying an unusually tight formation and heading due South. I picked up the binoculars and saw it was the “flyover.”

Indeed it was a “flyover” but it was far more like a “fly past.” They completely missed coming by the Laurel hospital, and the Laurel Gardens Ice House which is serving as the state’s temporary morgue for COVID-19 patients. I was deeply disappointed and mildly irritated.

I always enjoy watching the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds perform but that’s not why I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that the people working in these two facilities apparently don’t count. It’s not that they haven’t been front line workers during the pandemic. The UM Laurel Medical Center was being prepared for closure. It was to be razed and replaced with a new building. Operations were at a minimum. The people working there now, and at the Ice House, were likely reassigned from other UM facilities where they gained their experience in caring for COVID-19 patients. They have been on the frontline but, now, they are forgotten and disrespected.

As disappointing as this is, I’m not surprised. The flyover was purely political and part of the “smoke and mirrors” game of which we’ve become much too accepting over the past few years. It is yet another in a series of things designed to make it seem as if something of real substance and importance is being done…when only the bare minimum, if anything, is actually being done except when it benefits a select few.

It all gives me a screaming headache…which is a shame on such a beautiful day. If I had some hydroxychoriquine I’d take a dose and lie down to rest. I’m fresh out, though, so I guess I’ll just swig some Lysol. As I’ve heard somone on TV who plays at being a doctor say, “What harm could it do?”


The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 17

In our next exciting episode of Chickenman, the Fantastic Foul is, finally, summoned by the Police Commissioner to fight the diabolical forces of evil in Midland City that are wreaking havoc.



For all the Boot Scottin’ Garth Brooks fans!

To my friend Howared in Indianola, Iowa: Remember when we did our best to learn to line dance to this? My knees still hurt!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing a mask, and don’t get too close to your imaginary friends either!

Tom

Day 47 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

We’d begin the prayer and sneak glances at the Presbyterians to make sure they weren’t preparing to cheat – though I’m not sure what that would have looked like anyway.

Friday, May 1, 2020 – Live to Blog under a Blue Sky

#alonetogether

Wow, after so many hours of nothing but rain, it finally stopped and the sun came out. It made me want to go naked (without a mask, that is) and dance in the street! Nope. Not yet because it is May Day! (More appropriately, it is “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”


May Day

May Day is a festival of Spring and it is also celebrated in many countries as a day to honor workers. One of the traditions of May Day I remember as a kid was preparing May Baskets. I don’t exactly remember what went in them, but I do remember being “asked” to drive around town with my mother and then “asked” to walk them up to the doors of people I didn’t know and leave them there. I was never quite certain whether we were leaving something what was supposed to be good or bad for them or whether they’d actually appreciate it. But, like any small child who is “asked” to do something like that, I did it.

Later, when I learned the tradition of May Baskets and May Pole dancing were hand-me-downs from a European pagan festival celebration of Spring, I was curious that so many God-fearing Iowa United Presbyterians, Reformed Presbysterians, and United Methodists engaged in the practice.

That was the diversity of faith in my community – three different Christian congregations, though rumor is there was a small Baptist congregation for a while. I went to summer Bible School at the Reformed Presbyterian Church where it was immensely popular to carve the Jerusalem Temple out of Ivory Soap. I must have made three or four of those over as many summers.

The really exotic faith in our community was Catholicism. But, then, to the best of my knowledge, I only knew one Catholic family and they seemed pretty okay. I’ve been told, by my family members, that their daughter was my first girlfriend in grade school…before she moved far, far away to the big city (20 miles, population 25,000 approximately). I never saw her again.

My family’s church was the United Methodist Church…though I eventually became a Quaker. The real excitement at our church was the annual God’s Portion Sale and Dinner each Fall. There was an auction of donated items and a huge community dinner with unbelievably good homemade pies and hand-cranked ice cream. I think they even let in a few Presbyterians, or maybe they just sneaked in. The concept of “God’s Portion” eluded me for quite some time. I wondered if this was the only time each year when God got something from the Methodists.

This is pretty much as I remember the interior of the Centenary United Methodist Church. I always loved the stained glass windows. I’m curious about the TV in the corner. Does it automatically come on when the service runs over into an NFL game?

Summer church-going was fun when either the United Methodist or United Presbyterian ministers went on vacation. The two churches were directly across the street from each other, and each had their own congregations and their own ministers. Seems like each had a limited understanding of the concept of “united.” Except at vacation time. When one of our ministers went on vacation all theological divisions were put aside and we attended the other’s church. It worked well for everyone. We could have the experience of knowing what “really” went on inside the Presbyterian Church on Sundays, they had a chance to show off their service to us, and our minister could hang out guilt free in Las Vegas, or wherever Methodist minister’s vacation. Vice versa when it was time for the Presbyterian minister’s vacation.

What was really cool, though, was the battle of the Lord’s Prayer. It is typical in both the Presbyterian and Methodist services to recite the Lord’s Prayer aloud as a congregation. However, there is one, teeny, tiny, and wholly insignificant difference between how the two groups say the prayer. For the Methodist’s the line is: “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” (Sometimes, when we’d recite this in church, all those S’s made think of snakes.) The Presbyterians, on the other hand, were completely apostate in their desecration of the Lord’s Prayer. Their line was: “…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” There you have it! “Trespassers” v. “Debtors”! Let the battle begin!

When we visited each other’s church we’d sit waiting in anticipation for the Lord’s Prayer. Call to worship…yeah, fine, let’s get to it…hymn…got it…yep, another hymn…okay, now the offering…and, finally, the Lord’s Prayer. We’d begin the prayer and sneak glances at the Presbyterians to make sure they weren’t preparing to cheat – though I’m not sure what that would have looked like anyway. Just as we reached that all important line, we’d brace ourselves to whisper/shout it over the Presbyterians as they tried to whisper/shout us down with their apostate nonsense. Everyone knows we are “trespassers” not “debtors.” Who do you think God is? The local banker? Geez! The big moment would pass and each was satisfied and certain they had won the whisper/shout battle until the next ministerial vacation.


Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

The international distress signal is “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” said three times. Just in case it hasn’t been said already: “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!”

Folks, we’re in trouble. More technically, “we’re in deep doo doo.” We are rushing back to “re-open” America too quickly. I’m not a doctor (well, actually I am, but please don’t call me for anything medical). However, I do read, analyze, process, and, more importantly, think (because that’s the kind of doctor I am). What I am reading and seeing tells me it is too soon and we are going to experience some pretty nasty “snap back.” That is, by re-opening so soon we risk having to come back to sheltering-in-place and the next time it may be worse and longer.

The recent decisions to “re-open” are being driven by politics not facts. No surprise there. It is true for Mr. Trump and for each of the governors who fear being protested by Stupid People and the Ignorant People who lead them. (See Day 45 for respectful but accurate definitions of both types of people.)

In my reading today was a brief, nontechnical, but eye opening piece from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP). (With appreciation to my friend and colleague PM in Florida for sending it to me.) It is titled COVID-19: The CIDRAP Viewpoint, which you can download and read for yourself. The paper compares COVID-19 to influenza epidemics and pandemics. It explains why COVID-19 is different. It describes lessons learned from the past and it outlines three possible scenarios for the future. Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that none of those three scenarios would encourage anyone to make vacation travel plans for a couple of years.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a way out yet. People don’t want to be at home. Too many people are out of work. Politicians and large companies did their usual “money grab” and squeezed out small businesses who employ so very many of those who are now out of work. Despite what we’ve been told, too little testing is taking place. And we are still 18 to 24 months from achieving the 60 to 70% immunity needed (either through immunizations or herd immunity) to make it really safe for us to hang out together again. In the meantime, people are still getting sick, people are still dying, and the helicopters are still flying over our house.

Our home is four minutes by auto from the COVID-19 hospital.

What helicopters? Yes, we are a mile from the exclusively COVID-19 UM Laurel Medical Center. About three miles from the hospital and our home is the temporary morgue for COVID-19 victims at the Laurel Gardens Ice House. The medical center is the only hospital designated as such in the state of Maryland. Since it opened for COVID-19 patients only last week, we’ve had a steady increase in the number of medical helicopters flying over our house en route to the hospital’s heliport. Each one that I hear outside (and I just now heard another) reminds that it is “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!”


The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 16

Benton Harbor (Chickenman) visits the home of a childhood sweetheart. Together they fly off into the night.


It’s Friday! Time for Some Good News!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing a mask, and keep yelling “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!” until we are saved from the Stupid and the Ignorant.

Tom

Day 46 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Maybe I won’t so much cruise as just slowly roll along down the middle of the road, looking to and fro but never straight ahead, and make lots of turns without using a turn signal.

Thursday, April 30, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Rain Cloud

#alonetogether

Actually, a real rain cloud. It has been rainy all day. It was predicted that we are going to get up to three inches of rain, and maybe more. What a GREAT day to have dogs!

Dog Walking in the Rain

Even though it isn’t Monday and dogwalking is Clemencia’s job, except at night, she “let” me take the Girls out for their afternoon walk so she could get ready for her Spanish class. Yes, it was raining…hard.

I’m sure if someone did a study on it they’d find a positive correlation between the intensity of rain and the length of time dog’s think they should stay outside in it. The harder it is raining, the longer they want to stay out. I hate it and even Bert Left and Ernie Right begin mumble loudly about it. I suppose they may feel like they are at risk of being washing. Hey, after 46 days of unwashed wear, they really are beginning to be more human than sock.

When I walk the dogs it seems I revert back to that very early time in my life when I had an extremely limited vocabulary – you know, like 12 months old. All I can be heard to say is “Leave it!,” “Leave it!,” and “Leave it!” If you have a dog, you know that is the universal short command for, “Whatever rotten, stinky thing you’ve sniffed out and now want to eat, leave it alone!”

Dolly and Madison
Madison and Dolly hard at work…between walks.

Miniature schnauzer are not water dogs. Especially Madison and Dolly. Madison is a “pillow” and Dolly is…well…Dolly. Both are very tempermental. When they go outside and it is sprinkling…and they feel a drop of water hit their heads…they start straining to go back inside. However, when it is a downpour, they wander about as if there is nothing better to do.

Speaking of wandering, it reminds me of one of my favorite Iowa jokes though, honestly, I do find it a bit offensive.

Question: What do the letters in Iowa stand for?

Answer: Idiots Out Wandering Around

I’m not very proud that I actually told that joke but there is, as in all jokes, an element of truth. I love my home state and I especially love to drive there. In fact, living in the Baltimore/Washington corridor, which has the second worst traffic congestion in the country (after Los Angeles), I really, really miss driving in Iowa where you can actually drive the speed limit…and maybe a little bit more. It is exhilirating to drive in Iowa, usually.

Until you come upon an I.O.W.A. In my experience, it is the person who is driving less than the minimum speed limit, down the middle the road, and who is looking around outside without paying attention to the road ahead of them. And, then, when the I.O.W.A. sees something of interest, they jump on the brakes and turn abruptly without the fair warning of a turn signal.

The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa, where it once asked, “Is this Heaven?” To which the response, “No, it’s Iowa” was given.

To be absolutely clear, there are I.O.W.A.’s everywhere. They are not limited to that beautiful piece of Heaven (because it’s Iowa) in the middle of the country. They can be found whereever there is a road. I’ve spotted several I.O.W.A.s in Maryland though, not recently, because I can’t go anywhere.

However, there is coming a time again when I can venture out in my Hyper-Blue (yes, that’s the name of the color) Subaru and cruise the highways again with Dolly and Madison securely harnessed in the back seat. Maybe I won’t so much cruise as just slowly roll along down the middle of the road, looking to and fro but never straight ahead, and make lots of turns without using a turn signal. I’ll fit right in!


Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook

You heard me right…there is such a thing. Really. It is published by The Wellness Society and it is free. It is a tool that is designed to help build personal resilience during difficult times. The Wellness Society has a unique mission that is focused on making mental health wellness resources available to people who find professional help unaffordable. The Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook is The Wellness Society’s attempt to get a mental health wellness resource to people who need at most during this difficult time. The Workbook is not copyrighted and, in fact, The Wellness Society is encouraging people to share it and, like me, put it on their websites. All they ask is they be credited with its development and a link be provided to their website.


The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 15

Oh no! Benton Harbor’s (Chickenman) true identity is known to very few…until today…thanks to his mother.


Tex & Edna Boil Remind Me of…

Tex and Edna Boil, of Tex and Edna Boil’s Organ Emporium, advertised frequently on SCTV. Tex was played by Dave Thomas and Edna by Andrea Martin. In the series they were always trying to sell their organs with bonus items, such as budgies or rhythm aces. Their commercials were parodies of the worst of locally produced and aired television commercials. When I moved to Maryland I discovered there was a flooring company in Baltimore that must have gone to the Tex & Edna Boil Academy of Television Commercial Production. They were so incredibly bad that I couldn’t wait for one to air. I’m not sure I would ever buy anything from the company but I’ve often wanted to go to the store just to see if I could meet the two stars of the commercials. Who says lousy ads don’t get people into the store?

Rhythm Aces only $199.95 with an organ!

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