Gimme Shelter!

‘Shelter in place’, a term that we all will remember for a long time. The effort to maintain social distance while slowing down COVID-19 infections seemed like science fiction just six weeks ago. We ‘Three Old Guys’ skyped to discuss what we might write about in this edition. Our purpose would be not only to log our own activities during this unusual period, but to encourage others to comment on what they have been doing while sheltering. One day we’ll look back on this with a degree of amazement.

So, keep a list of what you did while sheltering and share it with us. Perhaps your list will give ideas to others who are struggling during these initial weeks of “flattening the corona curve”.

Here’s my top twelve so far:

  1. Slowed down the pace: no physical meetings to attend has allowed more discretionary time for sure. More time for meals; likely watch more TV than we have in quite some time; and more time scouring internet news. Breakfast can now span a couple of hours of eating and conversation – when was the last time that happened? Speaking of TV, I recommend binging The Restaurant, a Swedish series with English subtitles.
  2. Contact family daily: checking in is more of a priority. In our case, our sons/daughter and their work assignments, our grandkids now home from school. Perhaps this more for our own reassurance, but situations – particularly work situations – seem to change quickly at this stage of the outbreak. One son has been assigned to an emergency response center for part of each week.
  3. Check on elder family and friends – or friends that are alone: plenty of folks are single or struggling with issues that were pre-COVID. We are fortunate for the telephone, internet, and contact software – much of which is being used concurrently! Most folks simply appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation, but in one case, I needed to break out of solitary and help an older friend install a new light by his furnace. We sort of kept our distance and kept grounded.
  4. Planned alternatives to group meetings. Of course, you all would have laughed at our first attempt for an online 3oldguys meeting, but George, Hen and I had a number of disconnects setting up our group call – resulting in a lot of laughs and banter.  Similarly, Mike and Gregg posted a video of a makeshift regatta from our old college days that was hilarious. Thank goodness for longtime friends!
  5. Set aside time to analyze serious decisions: my younger son’s restaurant business is on life support – employees furloughed, take-out orders only. That’s a tough problem for a cook-to-order establishment. We have spent considerable time while sheltering determining a practical take-out menu (many restaurants are simply limiting choices or offering what they have until it is gone). Thank goodness for the support of friends and community. While we realize that closing our doors is a real possibility, we are planning as if we will survive. Toward that end, I have spent hours filling out applications for disaster loans and mortgage refinancing during our sheltering time. More meetings have been focused on changing vendors to limit overhead costs to improve services: I’m meeting with the fire suppression folks to check our equipment, the cable installers to switch service, and point of sale folks to get estimates on new credit card processor and printers. Onward!
  6. Pursue hobbies – I love woodturning, but rarely have enough time to devote to the craft. The shelter in place sanction has given an opportunity to expand studio time. More bowls, boxes, and spindles! Boy, is it satisfying to work with wood.
  7. Share resources – today, a friend is using my shop to prepare wood for a restoration project for a circa 1680 stone home. I set up the tools and he can operate alone, so we aren’t in the same space at the same time. He’s happy and so am I!
  8. Keeping the faith – was able to assist in a solution to hold Sunday services at our church. Reaching out to a friend who is a ham radio operator (thanks, Bruce!), he loaned equipment/transmitter to establish a short distance FM broadcast from our church sanctuary to the parking lot. Once I turned on the amp and transmitter, individual cars in the parking lot could tune in on an FM station to participate in the service. It was neat to see people wave to each other and sing hymns in their vehicles (and speaking as a life-long “no-tone” maybe we sounded better too!)
  9. Cleaning – oh yes, I imagine lots of homes will be easier to navigate, once we pass shelter in place! We have reorganized and winnowed unnecessary papers – I just consolidated 15 years of income tax data – always an area where I keep lots of detailed back-up. We also assembled two glass door bookcases and a writing desk and went through all of our unused tech hardware (five old computers, four useless displays, three plotters/printers, two boxes of cables, and a game cartridge in a pear tree).
  10. Caught up on banking – lots of digital movement, lots of interaction with pneumatic tubes outside closed bank lobbies. Held conversations with financial advisors to plan next steps and produced lots of Quick Books reports – yay! Not a fan favorite.
  11. Reading – of course! Just finished Jo Nesbo’s The Knife, John Grisham’s The Guardians, and started Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky. What hasn’t worked so well is my new subscription to Audible – I find that if I do this at bedtime, I simply fall asleep and forget where I left the story… during the day, I would feel like a sloth, so that leaves Audible while exercising only – not frequent enough to get story continuity… also not a good solution while snow shoveling.
  12. Getting used to the new normal – which naturally will change, once we have grown accustomed. Let’s hope it will change for the better.

My Upsides To Shelter in Place

I find it predictable but still interesting that we each interpret the mandate to “Shelter in Place” differently.  As we draw on past experiences, current and accumulated knowledge, and factor in our relationship with germs, fear, and individual versus community care, we act accordingly.  I have friends who are still meeting in small groups, running errands daily, and traveling but with adherence to guidelines for social distancing and small groups.  I also have friends who are staying at home except to buy groceries, period.  And there are those of us who decide what is necessary and what is not, and fall somewhere in-between. 

Since most of us are likely to spend the next several weeks, if not months, at home with minimal contact with others, we three old guys have each generated some things we have done, are doing, or are considering.  It would be fantastic for you, our readers, to share some of yours.

Leaning hard toward the complete isolation end of the continuum, my list is as follows:

Hen’s Wood Pile
  1. I am most fortunate to have the companionship of my dog Duke.  We don’t argue, he makes no new demands, and he seems happy to have me around all the time!
  2. Living on a large piece of property and being adjacent to hundreds of undeveloped land, I am free to hike trails every day.  Since I love the woods and being outdoors, this part is somewhat of an extended vacation!
  3. While I can’t go to the gym or play pickleball regularly for exercise, I enjoy cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, preparing garden beds, and tending to small repairs around the house.  Physical activity without having to interact with other people is readily available.
  4. Recently my son and daughter-in-law sent me a gift certificate to Sun Basket, a company that allows you to choose meals that appeal to your tastes from a wide selection. They then send all the organic ingredients with instructions, directly to my front door. Over the last few years, I have been learning to cook, and this has helped me enormously. Since each order is complete with enough ingredients for two servings, I’m finding the process most rewarding and extremely helpful in reducing the number of trips necessary for grocery runs. I am now a regular subscriber!
  5. This afternoon my granddaughter guided me via FaceTime through the installation of Netflix Watch Party. This Google Chrome extension allows groups of people to watch the same Netflix movie at precisely the same time and with a chat room on the sidebar. Tonight we will watch a film together even though we are 220 miles apart. We also decided to use FaceTime simultaneously so we can see and talk to each other while we watch the movie. Unfortunately, we each have to bring our own popcorn. 
  6. As a result of the widespread concern for friends and loved ones, I have heard from and reached out to not only my regular contacts but a much wider circle of friends and family.  I find it energizing to connect and reconnect with them and serves to remind me of what a treasure they all are.
  7. I started a diary earlier this week.  It will be interesting to look back on all of this, years from now and remember it from a distance.
  8. I’m not in a rush anymore.  Time to notice more things.  Have you noticed how bright Venus has been in the western sky just after sunset?
  9. I’m excited about the possibility of a kind of Mastermind Alliance online group.  Fortunately, the current state of technology allows us to continue supporting each other even if we can’t physically meet in the same location.
  10. Lots of books to read and reread and no longer any excuses not to!
  11. I found one small way to help out during this financial crisis.  I have had the same person and her team, clean my home every two weeks for about 8 years.  Suddenly she and her staff find themselves with no work or source of income.  Some of us have decided to continue her regular payments throughout this period of isolation.  Helping our local businesses in any way we can is critical to them and to our communities.
  12. I’m looking forward to seeing we how we deal with cutting our own hair or coming out of this on the other side looking like hippies!

Of course it’s not all fun and games.  It’s easier to list all the challenges and losses.  But that list won’t serve me nearly as well as this one does.  Until I can hug my friends again, here’s wishing you all good health and a gentle transition to the new world that awaits.

These Are Strange Times

These are strange times.  We are all hunkering down in our own caves.  It seems like a strange, lonely, solitary time.  It is hard to get into a routine because a routine forces you to do the same thing over and over again, day after day, night after night…. being productive can be hard.  And when everything you have to do is inside your own square footage diversity is limited.  Before this crazy virus, I would meet friends for lunch, hug them, slap them on the back, laugh, whisper in each other’s faces.  Can’t do that anymore.  Will that ever feel natural again?  But to put a positive face on the pandemic,  people are making up for lost time-  doing those odd jobs around the house that we have been meaning to do for years.  

It started for me on the second day of staying put.  I looked in the mirror and decided what better time to shave off my beard and stash?  If I looked weird I could grow it back before anyone would get to see me!  Can’t decide if I like it better but it takes more time to maintain so that is a plus when you are trying to make the day go by fast.  

As I look around my house there are so many things to be done but even with all this time on my hands I am not all that motivated to do them.  Then guilt overwhelms me and I find that if I take the harshest route to a task I am more likely to finish it.  As an example, I had a sock drawer that was a so out of control I could not close it.  I began taking a few socks out that prevented the drawer from closing.  I felt myself giving up so I yanked the drawer out and just dumped all the socks on my bed.  This guaranteed my completing the job before going to bed that night. I organized them by pairs, separated the single only/dryer mishaps and then the pairs I didn’t want anymore and disposed of them.  I neatly organized the selected ones and smiled as the drawer drifted easily into place.   Each night I worry about the next day’s projects until bedtime.  It has become my new routine.  

George’s Sock Drawer

I have made tomato sauce to last me for the next week.  Had a hard time finding macaroni (my Italian family never used the word pasta- spaghetti or macaroni!) in the grocery stores. What I did find really ticked me off.  All over the parking lots of 3 local groceries were blue plastic gloves discarded.  Why couldn’t the owners deposit them in the trash?  With a crooked stick I found in the cart corral I picked up about 12 discarded pairs and deposited them where they belonged.  I realized this could be a full time job, discarded my stick and continued my search for the elusive macaroni.

As my “staying put” continued I began to straighten out the upstairs bedrooms where my son had stayed.  He had all our old photo albums and what was going to be an organizational procedure wound up being a stroll down Memory Lane.  And what a great way to spend an afternoon.  So many incredible memories that allowed me to escape Covid-19 for several hours.  Now there are several other jobs that are needed— the books on the floor upstairs have to be organized and put away.  The cabinet under my kitchen hutch explodes every time I open the door and allow all the Tupperware and corning ware covered dishes to tumble out onto the floor must be addressed.  My back porch has to be cleaned and dusted so I can sit there when Spring starts to act like Spring.  My garage needs addressing once warmth settles over the area and my gardens need their seasonal grooming.  I just look with desire wanting to get out there and rake and clean but alas still too cold.  

So, many days I sit with my book or my Sudoku and the only parts of me that gets exercised are my mind and my fingers and right now I am ok with that.  Those other things will be there when the world gets healthy again and I can find legitimate reasons not to do them!  I have to stop now do that I can wash my hands and wipe down my phone with a sanitary wipe.

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