Day 56 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Wow! Over the past seven weeks several hundred folks have found this blog and now follow it through various media. I’m honored and stunned. I never knew there was a such an appetite for drivel!

Sunday, May 10, 2020 – Live to Blog with Three Mothers

Dolly, Clemencia, and Madison

Indeed! There are three mothers in our house! There is Clemencia and there are Dolly and Madison. Dolly and Madison were both breeders in a puppy mill before they rescued us. Of course, we also have good reason to believe Dolly is one of Madison’s pups. So, all of this to say, Happy Mother’s Day all around!


Lessons Our Mothers Taught Us On How to Survive a Pandemic

Our mom’s probably never imagined we’d be living through a pandemic (unless our mom was a germophobe conspiracy theorist). Think about it though. All those things our mom’s kept telling us not to do, or to stop doing, now come back to us as our best defense against the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.

  • Keep your hands to yourself!
  • Don’t touch anything! I said ANYTHING!
  • Eww! Stop picking your nose!
  • Do NOT wipe snot on your sister!
  • Stop spitting in your brother’s face!
  • Don’t pick that up! Leave it on the sidewalk! You don’t know where it’s been!
  • No, you cannot chew her used chewing gum!
  • Stop trying to belch in my face!
  • Don’t lick your hands!
  • Don’t lick her face!
  • Don’t spit at me!
  • Stay away from your brother!
  • Keep your mask on! We don’t want anyone to know who’s kid you are! (This one, of course, is specific to Halloween and Trick or Treat night.)
  • Will you PLEASE stop wrestling with each other!
  • Just stay away from him and he’ll stay away from you!

I asked Clemencia to review this list and offer additions. She read it thoughtfully, shook her head slowly, and gave me another “Que gueva!”

  • Me: What? Why? What do you mean “que gueva?”
  • Clemencia: Mi amor, these are from the mother of a son. Not a daughter!
  • Me: Wait a minute, do you mean to tell me that only sons would do these things?
  • Clemencia: You were a son and you are writing from that perspective. It just isn’t accurate for daughters…besides, honestly, you still do many of these things, mi amor.
  • Me: That sounds a bit…What? No I do not!…You sound a bit sexist for a progressive sociologist, don’t you think?
  • Clemencia: No. Not if its true, and it is. My sisters and I would never have done anything as gueva as these.
  • Me: Okay, fine. Then what are the kinds of things mothers would say to daughters?
  • Clemencia: That’s easy, mi amor. There is nothing.
  • Me: What do you mean there is nothing?
  • Clemencia: Mothers would not have to say any of those things to their daughters. We just don’t do them.
  • Me: Oh, come on! Give me a break! None of those things? Nada?
  • Clemencia: Si, nada.
  • Me: Why not?
  • Clemencia (smiling mischievously) : Because it is Mother’s Day and today we are perfect.

Okay, we need some help settling this. I’d like to know two things from you. First, are you a son or a daughter? Second, what lessons have you heard from your mother in the past that are now good lessons for staying safe in a pandemic? Follow this link to a Mother’s Lessons for Being Safe in a Pandemic (a Google Form) where you can answer the question. I’ll share responses, anonymously, in a few days.


The View from Jeff

I have always loved the Sunday newspaper comics! In honor of that, and because I don’t see this sheltering-in-place ending any time soon, and because I don’t want to over tax Jeff who is also in the midst of dissertation writing, I’m going to share his work each Sunday instead of everyday going forward. This will also be a way you can keep time during a this period when time seems to have been altered. You’ll know it is Sunday if there is a piece from Jeff Logan.

Jeff explains: We take our social distancing seriously in Canada!!

The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 25: The Winged Warriors Mommy, the Maternal Marauder, calls the Police Commissioner to negotiate a new pay scale for the services of Chickenman.


Let’s Start the Week with Some Good News


Thank you…that’s it, just thanks.

I really don’t know when it happened but I’ve got several hundred folks now following this blog through a variety of media. I’m stunned and honored. I never knew there was a such an appetite for drivel! Of course, not everyone is reading the blog each day but even the daily readership is slowly rising. I don’t know what to say, really. Thank you for sharing the blog…and feel free to keep sharing it. Thank you for reading. Thank you for making me feel like I’m doing something that is helpful to others in a time when it is so easy to feel helpless.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and remember to listen to your mother!

Tom

Day 54 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count.

Friday, May 8, 2020 – Live to Blog from Weekend Euphoria (Wait! Is it actually the weekend?)

#alonetogether

I feel funny today. No, not sick funny but funny funny. You know…it’s the way you feel like you want to be funny and think you are funny even if nobody else does? For too many people this is usually associated with having one too many drinks of an adult beverage. Me, I’m just drinking generic diet soda and still feeling funny. So, without further delay…let’s get on with “What I Think Is Funny Friday.”


COVID-19 Humor I Think is Funny from BoredPanda.com

A wonderful COVID-19 take on Grant Wood’s classic “American Gothic.” This one is for my friend Beth Howard, a former resident of that famous house and whom you met earlier this week.

What I Think is Funny from The Tonight Show (but with Johnny Carson)

This is a comedy classic. It makes me laugh everytime. Jack Webb was famous for his deadpan delivery on Dragnet. Here, working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, his deadpan makes this whole sketch work.


What I think is Funny from The View from Jeff

Jeff and I met in the doctoral program at Eastern University. Reading, research, and writing are the three primary activities of any doctoral student – for years. Jeff captured the most frustrating of that triad of tyranny.

What I Always Think Is Funny from Chickenman

Episode 23 – Chickenman attempts to give two scoff laws (his grandparents) a parking ticket. How does that go down?


But, in Reality…a bit of Perspective

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count. It is not intended, however, to distract us from our current reality. God knows there are a few people who work about 20 miles Southwest of me who would like nothing better than to do that.

Throughout this period we need to maintain perspective. I will not lie and say that it has been easy for me to do this. I tip off the rails too like many other people and sometimes it is a bit challenging to right myself. After all, we are in the midst of the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. Many people are dying. As of this moment that number is 76,368 in the United States. More than 325 of those are from the county in which Clemencia and I live. Over 275 of our neighbors in our small zip code have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, all of us have to find a way to move forward with our own lives.

Keeping perspective is something that helps us do this. One helpful perspective is this: we may be alone at home and we are sharing this experience together with many others who are staying at home too – either by choice out of fear or by mandate. Another perspective that we haven’t considered as much is this: we are not alone in history. I was reminded of this recently by something shared with me by my friend Cynthia. I tried to find a source for it but cannot trace it back to its origins. Each place I have found it also credits the author as being unknown and I will do the same here. Even if you have seen this before, it is worth revisiting. It reminds us that those who have come before us, including some of our parents, have “been there, done that,” survived, and we will too.

Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.

Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33.

The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, should have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that?

When you were a kid in 1985 and didn’t think your 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. And how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art, refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try and keep things in perspective.

Author Unkown

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

Tom

Day 29 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Oh, nuts! Dog walking confusion and controversy again! Even Bert (Left) and Ernie (Right) didn’t quite get it. But they stuck with me (or maybe that’s to me) and we did our duty.

Monday, April 13, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Thunderstorm Warning

The Monday Morning Dog Walking Controversy

Keeping Social Separation
#alonetogether

We awakened this morning to thunderstorms and tornado watches throughout the day. At 4:00 AM we had a very heavy rain that awakened me. I went to the deck to check on Bert and Ernie and to make sure the wind was not blowing them about too hard (they were fine, by the way). At 6:00 AM, when the alarm went off, it was still raining very steadily. Clemencia looked out the window and started our conversation.

  • Clemencia: Are you going to take the Girls out in the rain or will you wait to see if it stops?
  • Me: I don’t think it is supposed to stop all day so I better just…HEY, wait a minute! It’s your job to take the Girls out! Remember?
  • Clemencia: Yes, but it’s Monday.
  • Me: Yeah, it’s Monday. So?
  • Clemencia: So you take the Girls out on Monday mornings.
  • Me: What? Since when? We just decided you were walking the dogs in the morning so I could get right to work.
  • Clemencia: That’s right, mi cielo. We did. And we decided you’d take the Girls out on Mondays.
  • Me: Oh, sure! Only the Mondays when it is raining and storming, right?
  • Clemencia: No. Every Monday. Including this one.
  • Me: What? Why?
  • Clemencia: Because I start my first online Spanish class on Mondays at 9:00 AM. We talked about it. You agreed to take them out on Monday mornings so I wouldn’t feel so rushed to get prepared.
  • Me: No, that’s not correct, mi amor. I’m so sorry. But remember you were annoyed that I took them out once last week and you insisted it was your job…each day…every day…rain or shine.
  • Clemencia: That’s correct, mi corazon. Except for Mondays. We talked about it and we agreed.
  • Me: I don’t agree and I don’t agree that we talked about it.
  • Clemencia (smiling sweetly): Yes we did. It is right here…in my calendar.

As I stood in the pouring rain waiting for the Girls to do their doodies I began to think about how I could get a look at that calendar. I hate that calendar!


Pardon the Interruption for…

“Truth Be Told” with Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum, public radio’s voice of integrity. This is a new segment in Tom’s blog starring me, Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum. It appears only when needed because Tom is being less than honest. “Truth Be Told” is dedicated to correcting the record whenever Tom feels it is in his best interest to stretch the truth a bit in his stories, especially where Clemencia is involved. Remember, there is always the story as he tells it and the story as it really is. “Truth Be Told” is my eyewitness account of the conversations he has with Clemencia.

In this case, he agreed, last week when they discussed it, to not only take the Girls out for a walk each and every Monday morning but any time it was raining, snowing, blowing, or below 40 degrees fahrenheit because Clemencia is a “tropical girl” who, after nearly 35 years in the Northern Hemisphere, is still not used to cold temperatures.

That’s the truth…and you can count on it because you can count on me, Winthrop Dijkstra Baum. I’m now returning you to Tom’s drivel.


Actual Humor

I’ve been doing this blog series as a diversion for myself and for anyone else who wants to ride along. My recipe is simple.

  • 1/4 Cup Attempted Humor
  • 1/4 Cup Personal Stories (at least inspired by true events)
  • 1/4 Cup Truth (see above)
  • 1/4 Cup Rant (though I try to make them coherent and rational)

All of this adds up to a whole cup of drivel, of course. But that’s the way it is today in the time of COVID-19. It is the drivel that sometimes helps us get through.

Some folks…but not me…have been at home long enough that they are beginning to go a bit off the rails.

This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I felt a bit sorry for her but went back into our house, told our dogs anyway…and we had a good laugh.

About three years ago I saw a sketch on Saturday Night Live that made me laugh until I cried. I know…that is not often the case with SNL sketches, right? It may also be because, as I get older, this one had a certain ring of truth about it and so the only choice was to laugh or cry.


Back to Reality…

Used by Permission – Copyright 2020 Dave Granlund.com and Political Carttons.com

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

Tom

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

Friday, April 3, 2020 – Live to Blog from My WFH Space

#alonetogether

Our next door neighbor (with whom we share a wall) alerted me to a new problem that has arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic (like we needed another one, right?): the noisy people who are supposed to be working from home (WFH). It seems to be an issue especially for people who live in apartments and condos. The loudest problem sounds are coming from people who are new to working at home. They either don’t know they are being loud or don’t care they are being loud. Let’s assume good intentions though. As a public service in support of all those who are being disturbed, I will use this posting to educate the noisy among us to the etiquette of working at home.

To do this, I decided to turn to an expert in working at home, Clemencia. So I went to her office where she has been busily working to prepare her Zoom Spanish classes for next week to engage her in an interview.

Authentic Cowboy Boots
  • Me (walking into her office, sitting on her couch, and kicking off my boots): Mi amor, sorry to interrupt but I need your help on the blog I’m writing today.
  • Clemencia (looking up, slightly annoyed): Que, que? Really? Now, what are you going to write about me?
  • Me (sweetly): Oh, mi amor, only the most wonderful, truthful things you could ever imagine!
  • Clemencia (with a raised eyebrow and a long pause): But I get to approve it first, right?
  • Me (with my hand over my heart): Absolutely! I promise!
  • Clemencia: Fine then. So what’s this about?
  • Me: I want to interview you about what it is like to work at home.
  • Clemencia: Cielo, you know I’m retired, right?
  • Me: Si, me amor, but you have been working on preparing your Spanish classes and then teaching them online from home. It seems to me you are working nearly as hard as you did when you were at the University.
  • Clemencia: That’s sweet of you to say. So, what do you want to know?
  • Me: You are an expert at working at home but not everyone is. What’s it like to try to work at home and have noisy working neighbors?
  • Clemencia (puzzled): Cielo, we don’t have noisy neighbors. Everyone on our floor is retired, except you and the woman across the hall, but she works at home all the time…like you say you do.
  • Me: I know and it would be GREAT if you could talk about how you manage the noise that comes from her place, since your office shares a common wall with her unit.
  • Clemencia (now looking suspiciously at me again): Tom..she isn’t noisy.
  • Me (disappointed): Are you sure? I think I can hear her.
  • Clemencia: That’s not her. That’s the snoring dog under my desk.
  • Me (still disappointed): Oh. Well, I was wanting to write something about the etiquette people should follow when working at home. You know, so they don’t disturb others.
  • Clemencia (sudden engaged): Oh! That I can help you with! What do you need to know?
  • Me (excitedly): Just give me some basic rules of etiquette people working at home should follow so that they don’t disturb their neighbors, who may also be trying to work from home.
  • Clemencia: Okay, here’s the first one: Don’t blast the radio news in the morning, even if it is NPR.
  • Me: Great! That’s a good one! What else you got?
  • Clemencia: Don’t stomp across the hardwood floors in your cowboy boots.
  • Me: Yes! That’s right! What’s next?
  • Clemencia: If you haven’t played your alto saxophone for nearly 50 years, this is NOT a good time to take it up again.
  • Me: Oh, yeah! Your on fire! Keep going!
  • Clemencia: Do not yell from your office to other people in your unit when you’ve got a question for them. Get up and go ask them. You need the exercise anyway since you can’t leave the house…but don’t stomp across the floor!
  • Me: That’s really good…it has a positive health message too!
  • Clemencia: Here’s my last one…Do not interrupt people with stupid questions, period. Do not open the door and walk into their office without knocking. Do not call them on your cell phone or text them. Just let them do their work in peace until they come out and join you for lunch, as was discussed and planned less than 30 minutes ago.
  • Me: Oh, mi amor! These are excellent! Thanks so much! I think I’ve got what I need. You’re great.
  • Clemencia (with an impatient smile): I’m glad to help, cielo. Now, I really need to get back to what I was doing.
  • Me (pulling on my boots): Absolutely! Thanks for your time! I’ll see you at lunch in about 15 minutes.
  • Clemencia: Yes, cielo, I’ll be out for lunch soon. (Pauses, sniffs) Have your boots always smelled like that?
  • Me (hurriedly pulling on the last one, forgetting I had exposed Bert and Ernie): Oh, yes, yes, they have. They are cowboy boots you know. These I got in San Antonio and they were made to recreate some of the authentic fragrances of the farm and Old West.
Radio that gets only National Public Radio

I left her office, stomped across our hardwood floors, turned on my radio to NPR, sat down to write this blog, and, just before starting to write, yelled out to her: “Mi amor! I forgot again…what are we having for lunch?”

BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour, Thursday, April 9, 5:00 PM. Send me a comment or email if you’d like to join.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to be a good neighbor while you work at home.

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

Day 12 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Friday, March 27, 2020 Live to Blog from My Recliner

Tom goofed. He thought he had his Day 11 blog set up to post at 8:00 AM yesterday. Instead, it was set up to post at 8:00 PM. When the bonehead found the mistake, he posted it immediately at 7:31 PM. However, if you didn’t notice, don’t worry about it. You didn’t miss anything. I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum and this has been a public service announcement.

Dang it, Winthrop! Just be quiet and stay out of my blog. That, of course, was Winthrop Dijkstra-Baurm, my public radio alter ego. He is a pretty entitled guy, for sure. Please, just ignore him, especially if he begins to ask you to donate to his pledge drive.

Have you noticed, less than two weeks into the sheltering-in-place phenomenon, how days seem to be blending together? Come to think of it, the week and weekend seem to be merging as well. Something else may be merging. I’ve worn Bert (left) and Ernie (right) long enough that they are becoming a part of me. Well, not really a part of me but I’m wondering if they have absorbed enough of my DNA to start cloning me…or somebody…or something!

Earlier this week I told you the story about hiding them on the deck at night and fearing Clemencia could hear them chatting with one another. Chatting may not be the most accurate description. They don’t exactly talk…they mumble. I’m not paranoid but I can’t help wondering what they are mumbling about. I wear shoes that are extra wide so it can’t be that they are cramped. I always give them a premium spot on the deck. I keep the birds and squirrels and laundry away from them. However, I’m feeling just a bit suspicious of the mumbling.

Actually, if Bert and Ernie are getting a bit ripe, I can’t know it.

True story. Years ago I lost all sense of smell and taste. Eventually I ended up going to a neurologist. The doctor spent about 30 minutes giving me an exam that involved taking a whiff of (supposedly) really nasty smelling things. The fragrances were kept in little glass tubes which he kept in a box tucked away in a cabinet. Who knew anybody actually manufactured those things!

One by one he’d hold a tube up to my nose and say, “Breathe deeply.” So I’d breath in. He’d ask, “Smell anything?” I’d say, “Nope” and he’d say, “Huh!,” occasionally punctuated with “Hmmm, interesting.” After I had smelled nearly every tube in the box he said, “Okay. here’s the deal. You have anosmia.” Now there’s a diagnosis that begs the question I asked, “What’s anosmia?”

Okay, wait for it. Bear in mind this was a specialist and his hourly rate was probably more than my weekly income at the time. No, I said wait for it. He had just given me one of the most unusual exams I’ve ever taken and the only thing he said for 30 minutes was “Huh!” and “Hmm, interesting.” No, wait for it, I said. He just made his pronouncement of my diagnosis with the utmost clarity and authority. His answer to my question, “What’s anosmia?”:

“It means you can’t smell anything.”

Brilliant Neurologist Who Shall Remain Nameless

I so wanted to go all Lewis Black on him, “WHAT?…WHY?…WHO?…WHAT AM I DOING HERE AND WHY…HOW MUCH…NO, WHY DO I HAVE TO GIVE YOU MY WEEK’S SALARY JUST SO YOU CAN TELL ME WHAT I ALREADY KNOW???” Of course, that was my inner Lewis Black having that particular rant. Outwardly I said, “Oh, that’s interesting. How come?”

That’s when he explained to me that some time (he couldn’t say when) and some how (he couldn’t tell me how), I had had a virus that messed with the cells in my brain that control my sense of smell and taste. (No, stop it…that’s not nice, Winthrop…it was not the coroNOSEvirus!)

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THEY MESSED WITH CELLS IN MY BRAIN? AND YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHEN OR HOW OR WHY? HOW DO I KNOW THAT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN? AAARRRGGGHHH! screamed my inner Lewis Black.

To the doctor I said, “Thank you. What happens next? Is there a cure?”

“Nope.” the doctor explained.“In most cases, in about a year or so, you will begin to regain 70 to 80 percent, maybe more, of your sense of smell and taste. In some cases, though, it doesn’t come back all.” “Oh!” he said with a chuckle, “You know the funniest thing? Some things that always smelled and tasted bad to you before, may smell and taste good when your senses come back. Other things that always smelled and tasted good before, may smell and taste bad in the future. Isn’t that interesting?”

“INTERESTING?!? SERIOUSLY, INTERESTING?!? NO, THAT’S DEFINITELY IS NOT INTERESTING. IT’S WEIRD, SCARY, AND IRRITATING BUT DEFINITELY NOT INTERESTING TO BE STUCK WITH THIS FOR NEXT YEAR AND MAYBE THE REST OF MY LIFE! DUDE, I LOVE PIZZA, APPLE PIE, BREAD PUDDING, THE SMELL OF LILACS, AND LOTS OF OTHER THINGS AND NOW I CAN’T ENJOY THEM!” That was, of course, my inner Lewis Black again.

So I said, “Thank you doctor. Now, where may I pay my week’s salary to you?

Truly, there are things far worse than losing one’s sense of smell and taste. Mine did come back to, oh, about 75% or so. I’ve never gone back to the doctor to have him measure it precisely and I never will. It is what it is.

One of the worst things we can experience is happening right now as the Coronavirus continues its march across the country and world. Today, in the United States, the number of confirmed cases went over 100,000. In fact, as I write this posting the number is 104,007. Okay, the doubters and real fake news followers will say, “Well, these numbers could be inflated by all the testing we are doing.” Nope! In fact, testing has never been at the level it should be and it still is not today. Without the testing we cannot find all the case that are really out there. What amazes me is that there are still people who think this might not really be as serious as it is. Earlier today I received an email from a friend who is an immunologist at a major research university medical school. She sent me this eight minute video, What this Chart Actually Means for COVID-19. It is a clear, concise, and even entertaining video that explains what it means to “flatten the curve” of the virus and why this is important. Please share it. Share it with everyone you know who is still living in the fake news and false belief that this isn’t. The video explains why in my home state of Iowa (a flyover state in the middle of the country where at least one of our nation’s leaders assures is doing just fine) that the number of confirmed number of Coronavirus cases went from 147 two days ago on March 25 to 235 today. I know, that’s not New York. But when you understand exponential growth, which the video explains, you’ll understand how Iowa, and everywhere else in the country, is only a few days and a few doubters from becoming New York very soon. Please, watch the it, share it, and keep sharing it until more people understand.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to watch the video and share it.

Tom

Day 11 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

March 26, 2020 live to Blog with Egg on My Face

Oh, man, I really stuck my foot in my mouth today. Really, I was trying to be nice and make conversation while we stood in line – yes, six feet apart. But I think I just got it so very, very wrong.

Early this morning I had to go the bank and try to pick up some items at our local Aldi grocery store. I was thrilled to discover when I arrived at Aldi that Thursdays (today) and Tuesdays were reserved for senior citizens and pregnant women only from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM. I’ve never been more excited to be an old guy. I joined the line – keeping a social distance of six feet from the two people ahead of me. The first person appeared to be an older woman about my age. The second in line appeared to be a very pregnant young woman. We chatted together while waiting for the doors to be opened. At one point the young woman, seeking confirmation about the hour, said to us, “So it’s okay for pregnant mom’s to shop at 8:30 AM too?” The older woman assured her it was.

A few more minutes of general chatting followed. Then I looked at the young woman, smiled, and asked cheerfully, “When is your baby due?” The young woman gave me a puzzled look, with a side order of glare, and said somewhat indignantly, “I don’t know.”

I paused. No, it was not a pregnant pause…just a pause. At times like this, when I’m caught off guard, realize I’ve made a social faux pas, and have no clue what to say, I usually default to some idiotic, blathering. Today I was true to form. I responded cheerfully, “Well, uh,…I’m, uh…sure the doctor will tell you before the baby is born” and followed it with an embarrassed grin. She did not smile.

At just that moment an elderly woman, moving slowly with the aid of a cane, appeared out of nowhere from behind the young woman. “Ohhhhhh….nooooooo,” my Best Intentioned Self silently scolded my Idiot Self. Then, the automatic doors opened and I did everything I could to avoid the young woman and her elderly companion during the rest of my visit to Aldi. For added measure of I caution, I spoke to no other living soul the entire time I was in the store.

Sock Offensive update: I really wish I had washed Bert (left) and Ernie (right) before putting both feet in my mouth today. Sigh.

Participants in today Coffee Break/Happy Hour

BYON Virtual Coffee Break/Happy Hour: At our second virtual coffee break and happy hour today we had many of the same folks who joined us last week. Two couldn’t make it but we gained another Canadian. With the group’s permission I captured a photo of the screen to share with you here. One helped us celebrate Clemencia’s birthday with a fun hat. (Thanks FP!) At the moment this screen shot was taken, the group was singing happy birthday to her. (Thanks group!)

We’ll be meeting again next Thursday, April 2 at 5:00 PM. Be sure to bring your own nose, hat, or anything else that lifts your spirits. Our conversation starter is an activity. Prior to the gathering, visit the Public Radio Name Generator and get your own public radio name. Then come to the meeting prepared to share it and use it throughout the meeting. See below for our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour connection information and try to join us.

Using Zoom has become a way of life for many people in the time of COVID-19, including Clemencia and me. We use Zoom throughout the day to stay connected to clients, to students, and to conduct training and classes. Today, though, we used it to stay connected to our family members. We invited our children to a Zoom birthday party for Clemencia at noon. Everyone made it on time and we had a fun visit but…overshadowing it was the reality of the pandemic. Our daughter lives in Brooklyn and we worry about her as the cases of the Coronavirus, and the body count, climb to unbelievable levels. To pass the time and be of service, she is making face masks for people who need it most. Our son is a social worker who still has to go out into the field but without the benefit of any protective wear. Our daughter-in-law is dealing with the stress of long hours working remotely as an essential IT security specialist working to protect a major hospital system from regular hacking attempts. Our godson is doing his doctoral research in Spain. He and his partner are living in a town about the size of Baltimore that has over 54 deaths from COVID-19. Even as we laugh together and celebrate the life of someone we love so much, we also feel on the verge of tears for worry. This is life in the time of COVID-19.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to let yourself both laugh and cry, even at the same time, when needed.

Tom

Day 10 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

March 25, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Kitchen

Hello, I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum and this is the news.

Actually, that’s just my Public Radio alter-ego who decided to horn in on my blogging today. I had too much fun today on a couple of Zoom meetings. Actually, so did the other participants. I think we are all beginning to crack just a little bit under the pressure of COVID-19 stress. The fun, though, was my fault…I must confess.

Here’s what happened. For the multitude of my readers outside the United States, all two of you, we have National Public Radio (NPR) here, which is a terrific source of award-winning news reporting, classy classical music, jazzy jazz music, and wonderful programming that includes variety and game shows and radio documentaries. Think American style BBC or CBC. I’m actually an NPR junkie.

Funny thing about NPR. It is known for having top-notch reporters, journalists, and anchors with some of the most lovely yet interesting and fun to hear and say names you could ever imagine. The names of some of the real NPR personalities which lilt off the tongue include, David Folkenflik, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. You may also have observed from these there is quite a fondness for hyphenated names. By comparison to these, my name is terribly unexciting. Can you imagine me saying, “For NPR in Laurel, Maryland, this is Tom Klaus.” You can just imagine the sound of digital buttons being pushed to switch stations, right? Now you understand why my Public Radio name shall forever be Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum (but don’t call me Winnie).

I got my name from the Public Radio Name Generator. At the start of two Zoom video meetings today I shared the link to the generator with the participants. We each looked up our Public Radio name, changed our Zoom names to it, and went by our new names throughout the consultation. What a fun way to do a video conference! So, who was on the air with me?

  • Thema Meyers-del Barco
  • Hadassah Nakamura-Ibdah
  • Ajaya Murphy-Mori
  • Ivan Ajram-Ofili
  • Liu Zaykaothao-Ahmad
  • There was Augusto and Coco whose last names I can’t find in the Zoom chat anymore and one other whose name I can’t find at all.
  • We even had a toddler stop by a Zoom meeting who got christened Juan Rossi-Diallo by his mom.
  • And, of course, I’m Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum, reporting live from Laurel, Maryland, for NPR.

The name generator doesn’t always work for everyone though, especially those who already have beautiful interesting names. Clemencia has tried the generator but her name is unique enough that nothing sounds more public radio-like than her real name: Clemencia Maria Vargas.

Here’s my best tip of the day: At your next Zoom video meeting invite everyone to generate their own Public Radio name and use it as their own for the duration. It will change your meeting!

Today I baked a birthday cake for Clemencia. That’s it. No fires. No messes. No burnt socks. It actually came out really great. Well, except, it wasn’t a cake…it was birthday brownies. She has a bit of a thing for chocolate.

Don’t forget…tomorrow is the BYON (Bring Your Own Nose) Coffee Break/Happy Hour at 5:00 PM Eastern. The Zoom connection information is below my signature.

I was at the computer about 12 hours today so my world revolved around a monitor, a keyboard, and an endless mug of coffee. Working 12 hours a day is tougher than it used to be but I’m grateful to be keeping busy. It’s tough for me to be confined to home. However, I’m mindful that sheltering-in-place is much tougher for many others. Others may be trying to work and manage children home from school. Many are home, out of work, and wondering how they will simply feed their children next week without any income. Many simply do not have a home in which to shelter-in-place. This time could become one of anger, animosity, turmoil, and destruction if we let it. Or, it could become a time of caring, compassion, sharing, and grace if we choose it. I hope we, as fully human beings, will be wise enough to choose this better way.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and remember to give a lot more grace than grief to others during this tough time we share.

Tom

Day 8 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Monday, March 23, 2020 – Live to Blog from Under a Blanket

Why, you wonder, am I under a blanket? No, I’m not sick. I’m COLD. We had an unnaturally warm winter – I even went golfing in February a couple of times. Now it is Spring, it is supposed to be warmer, and it was cold and rainy all day. For the first time in about three weeks, we turned the furnace back on today.

Did anyone else notice that last week seemed rather surreal and disorienting? My son said it quite well yesterday: “It seems we are living in a really, really bad B-horror movie.”

Yes, I agree, and, yet, I’m not sure any horror movie has ever been as bad as Plan 9 From Outer Space. Be sure to click on the link and watch the trailer if you have never seen it. It was directed by Ed Wood, Jr., a movie director so terrible that he even got his own biopic in which he was played by Johnny Depp. (In my biopic I want to be played by Matt Damon, whom I am convinced is going to be my doppelganger when he is turns 66.) Seriously, the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards names Ed Wood, Jr. as the Worst Director of All Time.

To understand how he earned this distinction, all you have to do is watch Plan 9 From Outer Space. But, wait, save time. Just the watch the trailer at the link above. If you do watch the movie, though, here some things to watch for:

  • The black paint on the pilot’s “steering wheels” of their airliner comes off on their hands.
  • The tomb that every ghoulish character emerges from is so small that it really isn’t possible for even a single body to be placed it…plus, it looks like it was made out of plywood.
  • Look for the strings suspending the flying saucers in the movie – you don’t actually have look that hard.
  • The famous horror film star Bela Lugosi (who is forever etched in our memories as Count Dracula from the 1931 film), is in the movie, although, he really wasn’t because it was mostly filmed after he had died. A taller, younger, blond actor played his character through most of the film (which you can see even in the trailer).
Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula

Say what?!? Yep. Here’s how that happened. I’ll give you the first part of the story and then I’ll let Wikipedia bring it home. Lugosi’s success in Dracula, both on the stage and in the movie, was so extraordinary that it forever type cast him. Overall, life was not good to Lugosi in his last years. He was living nearly in poverty and had developed a drug habit. Ed Wood, Jr. found him and offered him work in some of his films. At one point Lugosi sought treatment for his drug addiction. I’ll let Wikipedia give you the rest of story:

During an impromptu interview upon his exit from the treatment center in 1955, Lugosi stated that he was about to go to work on a new Ed Wood film, The Ghoul Goes West. This was one of several projects proposed by Wood, including The Phantom Ghoul and Dr. Acula. With Lugosi in his Dracula cape, Wood shot impromptu test footage, with no storyline in mind, in front of Tor Johnson‘s home, a suburban graveyard, and in front of Lugosi’s apartment building on Carlton Way. This footage ended up in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), which was mostly filmed after Lugosi died. Wood hired Tom Mason, his wife’s chiropractor, to double for Lugosi in additional shots. Mason was noticeably taller and thinner than Lugosi, and had the lower half of his face covered with his cape in every shot, as Lugosi sometimes did in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Under Ed Wood and Final Projectshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bela_Lugosi

Really, if you have never seen Plan 9 From Outer Space, you just gotta see it. It has no real plot but is so unbelievably bad you just can’t stop watching. Let yourself laugh out loud. It may be the only time you’ll ever laugh at a “horror” movie.

Sock Offensive update: Bert (left) and Ernie (right) have now been on my feet for seven days, except for when I take them off for bed. Then, I sneak them out to the deck where they spend the night so they do not become obvious to Clemencia. So far, so good. And no neighbors have complained…yet.

BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour Thursday, March 26th, 5:00 PM Eastern. Join us if you can. If you’d like to meet up with us, check out the connection information below.

You know, though, I really do think my son has it about right. It does seem like we are living through a bad B-movie right now. Over the past week I’ve been reaching for the remote and punching the buttons to try to turn it off, but it isn’t going away. This week, as I’ve come to realize that it is not a movie at all, I’m shaking myself out of my shock and stupor, hitching up my big boy pants, and trying to figure out what the new normal is and will be in the future.

In this past week Clemencia and I have rediscovered the importance of being connected with people and, even more, helping them make connections with others. That’s what this blog has been doing, slowly but surely. It is gaining more followers and readers. I’m not sure why, because it really is an exercise in maintaining my own sanity and perspective. Still, I’m grateful, glad, and humbled. Our BYON Coffee Break/Happy Hour made connections among nearly a dozen people from across North America, all of whom were meeting each other for the first time. We attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship that had 17 people connected by Zoom early Sunday morning. I learned today that there were 45 Zoom screens, some with multiple people on them, connected at the 11:00 AM Meeting for Worship that followed. We’ve shared virtual meals with each of our children, one of whom is in NYC dealing with everything happening up there. Clemencia, who has been teaching conversational Spanish to active older adults and others at the local library and local community college, invited her students to join Zoom classes last week. Today she had her first three classes. But wait, that’s not all. She will actually have five, maybe even six classes, with nearly 70 people. That is one and a half times more than she had in her on campus classes a month ago. What we realized today is that we have not only connected with about a 100 different people during the past week, but we’ve also facilitated connections among them. For this reason, it has been a good week.

For a number of years I have made a point of trying to teach each of my clients this axiom: It is all about relationships. It is always about relationships. The process of building relationships is our most important work. I believe this with all my heart. I also believe this moment in time is the most important moment I have ever known to be in relationship with others. We will make it through this bad B-movie known as COVID-19, but only if we stay connected to one another – even if it is only a virtual connection.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, and keep washing your hands, and remember to stay connected.

Tom

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

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

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

Meetinghouse at Sandy Spring, Maryland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom