Life goes on in self-isolation

March 26, 2020

I remember a common phrase from my childhood that one could be “all dressed up with nowhere to go”. That phrase certainly is apropos for today’s mandated “stay home” environment. Unlike some that I see posting on Facebook, I just can’t sit around in my pajamas all day. To be fair some posted that they had “day pajamas” and “night pajamas”; so, I guess they did change for the day.

Personally, I just can’t seem to sit around in my PJ’s past noon. I have to have a shower and get dressed. Lately, I have admitted to myself that I’ve been putting on a normal business casual outfit each morning, but that I have no appointment or calls to make. I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go. Both of the jobs that I work at have been designated under the Executive Order as non-essential, so I am directed to stay home.

Zoom meetings on line have taken the place of real meetings. I had two yesterday and one scheduled for today. Meeting on-line like that take more discipline that most have, so these meetings can devolve into a calliope of people vying to be the one speaking at any time. The Zoom app allows for about 40 minutes of meeting time free; however, it can take almost that long to get everybody signed into the meeting and quieted down when it is first used.

My wife and I have ventured out to get gas and a few groceries that we needed – she stays in the car and I run in and get what we need. Then, there is always the search for toilet paper or other items that have struck the fantasy of hoarders, such as eggs. I wonder if the hoarders wrapping their eggs in toilet paper to keep them safer.  We also take rides through the local Metropark almost daily, just to get out of the house and to see if there are any deer out. I walk my dogs 4-5 times a day, which provide great opportunities for fresh air and a little exercise. It is amazing how many birds one can hear when there is so little road traffic to mask their songs.

We are in the mid to late fear and anxiety phase that I wrote about a few days ago (see March 20 post) . You may recall that I postulated that  there are four phases that we all will go through in this crisis – Phase 1 was shock and awe; Phase 2 is fear and anxiety, which most are in right now; Phase 3 is frustration and anger, which coming rapidly for many that have been forced to stay home (especially those with children).  The cute aspect in this situation probably wore off by day 2 of the stay at home experience. Next, we will all enter phase 4 and figure out how to live in this new reality. That will include businesses figuring out how to continue doing at least some business during this shutdown.

I can do some parts of both of my jobs from home, but both ultimately involve personal contact with clients – listing houses and showing houses or selling advertising for the paper.

The housing market has been impacted by the fears of sellers and buyers about visiting homes that are for sale. Would-be sellers are holding off because they fear showing visitors bringing the virus into their homes. Buyers are staying away because they are justifiably concerned about the sanitary conditions in homes that they might visit. The real estate industry is responding with virtual showing visit apps and other technology-based solutions.

There is no app-based solution for advertisers whose businesses have been shut down pulling their ads. They, too, will figure out how to do business during this time. Most have some Internet presence, which they ae beefing up or they are adding E-commerce apps and capabilities.

The promised government intervention in the form of checks to everyone will help some and give the economy a little boost and the other programs of loans or loan payment hiatuses and other measures will help some. Just as the health system is prepared to enter triage mode, if the wave of Covid-19 cases overwhelms its capacity; the financial world and government emergency aid programs will have to triage the applications by small businesses for help. Some just will not make it.

This crisis is really an unprecedented test of the will of the people and the nation. We are used to weathering other types of crisis – hurricanes, tornadoes, other natural disasters and even wars. This is vastly different. We usually crank up the American business machine in response to those things, but this crisis threatens to shut that machine down completely. If, or when, that happens, it will be just the people vs. the disease. I have faith that the American people will prevail and then they will go restart and rebuild the American business machine. We are not hunkering down in fear; we are hunkering down in resolve to defeat this enemy.

God bless America and keep us all safe.


It’s time for that courage…

March 24, 2020

Some time ago, pastor Freed used this quote ion his blog Jack’s Winning Words

“Sometimes it takes courage not to be discouraged.”  (Ben Ferenze) 

That quote seems very appropriate right now, as we enter day two of our state’s lockdown order (I count yesterday as Day 1, even though the Governor’s Executive Order didn’t technically go into effect until Midnight). The events of the last 2-3 weeks have been like shoes dropping – you just kept waiting for the next one to drop. They were dropping so often and so fast that it began to sound like a tap dance number from a Broadway musical.

Now, we’ve all become virtual prisoners of the virus, confined to our homes. As I wrote a few days ago, that does not mean that we allow ourselves to become victims. We must summon up the courage not to be discouraged. One way to do that is to keep busy in positive and constructive ways. We may have been forced into situations that could seem to be boring, but it does not have to be. A good number of us have to try to work from home. All of us have those small projects or jobs around the house that we have been putting off. One of our church members has reported that she finally has the time to do the cleaning and pantry organizing that she has been putting off. I know that my workbench is a mess. I better get on that.

Most of us probably have family or friends that we’ve been meaning to talk with or write a letter to, if only there was time. Well, guess what? Now you have nothing but time. Get busy and knock out those projects and jobs, write those letters or make those calls. You will be surprised how welcome your letter or call is and good it makes yo feel to finally get around to doing it.

For those who don’t have a lots of the things listed above to keep them occupied, I would recommend creating some for yourself. If you belong to a church, organize a calling circle among the congregation members to keep in touch with and check up on fellow members. If you are a tech-savvy person , use Skype to make calls to other tech-savvy people. There is something uplifting about seeing and interacting with another person that way, even if it is on-line. There are groups that write letters to troops stationed in war zones – find a group in your area and start writing.

If you are well and able, volunteer for charity groups like Meals on Wheels or other groups that deliver goods to shut-ins. Even though you may have to talk to them through a closed door as a precaution, it is better than just sitting at home and talking to yourself. I’m assuming that Meals on Wheels is exempt from the shelter in place order – it certainly should be. I’m sure that there are otgher volunteer organizations that could use your help – if you are well and able to help.

For some this may be the opportunity to try something new that you’ve been putting off. I have an app that I bought over a year ago that I’ve just not taken the time to learn. Now is that time. If you’ve read this blog and thought to yourself that you might like to try blogging, if you had the time – now is the time.  There are all sorts of good advice blogs on how to write a blog.

Almost any of the ideas here will be more satisfying than sitting and mindlessly watching TV or playing endless games of solitaire. Many involve interacting with others, even if electronically or through a letter. Some just involve the self-gratification of finally accomplishing something that you have had in the back of your mind. None of them involve sitting around feeling sorry for yourself or seeing yourself as a victim.

Have the courage not to be discouraged and get busy! You’ve got things to do, people to talk to or write and maybe places to go. You don’t have time to be discouraged.


It’s there if you look for it…

March 23, 2020

It is easy in these unsettling times to allow yourself to be dragged down into the doom and gloom that seem to be all around. Many find comfort and guidance in music and song. I found this classic performance by Judy Garland with a message of perseverance and hope. The words are simple and straightforward , set in the context of a housewife engaged in the daily drudge of washing dishes.

As I wash my dishes, I’ll be following a plan

Till I see the brightness in every pot and pan

I am sure this point of view will ease the daily grind

So I’ll keep repeating in my mind

Look for the silver lining

Whenever a cloud appears in the blue

Remember somewhere the sun is shining

And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

A heart full of joy and gladness

Will always banish sadness and strife

So always look for the silver lining

And try to find the sunny side of life

In this time of unprecedented disruption in our daily lives, it is perhaps hard for some to see a silver lining or find he sunny side of life. Perhaps the key to finding the silver lining amidst the gloom that surrounds us is knowing where to look.  A good starting point is the Bible. The silver lining that is revealed in the Bible is not a sunny day, nor does the Bible promise that all of the troubles that you face will magically go away. What is does promise is relief from fear and anxiety for those who believe.

Belief in Jesus, and why He was sent to earth by God, takes away the fear of death. That doesn’t mean that you have license to do foolhardy things. It just means that you don’t have to waste your energy worrying about death, because you know what happens next. A strong belief frees you to do positive things with your life and not spend it hunkered down in fear.

You could choose to spend your time while you are sequestered at home  watching movies or reruns of TV shows or you could revisit your Bible and find the silver lining in the words that you will find there. Just Google “Bible verses dealing with adversity”, if you need help getting started.

The silver lining in this and all things is there if you know where to look.


Don’t permit yourself to be a victim…

March 21, 2020

In times as tough as the  ones that we are all currently experiencing there is a natural tendency to see yourself as a victim; however, that is something that you can fight and control. Don’t give yourself permission to be a victim, to wallow in self-pity and to let yourself be swept down into the pit of despair. Instead, see yourself as a fighter who will overcome the adversity at hand and defeat pessimism through courageous acts of defiance. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

Once you adopt the attitude that you refuse to lose, you can turn your energies and creativity to the task and hand – moving from surviving to thriving during these tough times. Hunkering down into survival mode is the first thing that most people and small businesses do. You start to notice almost immediately the people and businesses that have decided not to be victims. The people who have decided that fight rather than fright will rule their lives, start forming or joining volunteer organizations to help others. 

The small businesses who are on the offensive, rather than hunkered down in defense, shift to new and innovate ways of doing business and appealing to customers. I have already seen that locally with the Milford Pilates Club, where Tisha Ortiz was forced to close her gym, but has already begun leading Pilates workout using on-line streaming. Tisha refuses to give up and see herself as a victim. Is it easy? No. However, the alternative is much less attractive. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

There are lots of things that need to be done that this current lockdown situation actually facilitates. Taking this time to do those things that you’ve been putting off will help the time pass and reward you with a sense of accomplishment. My daughter used some of her downtime last week to finally get around to updating the scrapbooks that she has started years ago for each of her boys. That may sound silly or trivial to you, but there are tins of things that you’ve been putting off doing, both large and small, that you can get to right now. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

The same is true on the small business world. There are always tasks that we all push off because we think that there are more important uses of our time. We have time now. Boy, do we have time. So get that inventory done or clean up that storage space that you’ve just been tossing things into. Rearrange the displays that you’ve allowed to go stale. There may not be anyone in your store to see them right now, but that will change and you will be more ready for them that you have been. Now that you have time, sit down and plan for the months ahead – for the holidays, the events and the sales that you know that you’ll need to have. View this as a “time-out” opportunity to finally get caught up and to get ahead of the curve in your marketing.  Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

An even more pro-active approach for the small business owner is to view this crisis as a reset opportunity. You most likely would not have voluntarily brought your on-going business to a halt; nor would you have challenged yourself to completely rethink your business model. This crisis has forced  and enabled both. Can you think outside the box and maybe move some of your business to the Internet, as Tisha did? Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

If you already have an Internet presence, can you take it to the next level, so that it makes up for the reduction in traffic in your store? How can you present the same personal service experience on the internet that works for you in the store?  How can your Internet presence and your brick and mortar facility complement and enhance each other? How can you use modern technologies and media like streaming video, blows and podcasts, social media and instant messaging services to reach your potential customers and entice them into buying online or in your store? Don’t permit yourself to be a victim.

All of those ideas are much less expensive to implement that you might believe. Not all fit your retail or service environment. The key to getting started with any of these ideas is that initial decision not to see yourself as a victim. Victims don’t do these things…fighters do. Be a fighter. We might not all get through this crisis, but I can almost guarantee your that the ones who do make it through will be those who decided to  fight, not those who allow themselves to be victims. Don’t permit yourself to be a victim. Be a fighter!


Be the aspirin to your family and friends…

March 9, 2020

“Friends seem to be like aspirin; we really don’t know why they make a sick person feel better, but they do.”  (Letty Cottin Pogrebin)

That was the quote that Jack used in a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words.

To paraphrase a common old doctors’ saying – “Talk to two friends and call me in the morning.”

Why does it help? Perhaps because we are all social animals and being able to share our miseries with someone who can commiserate with us has a “Placebo effect”.  Maybe there is something to the old “healing touch” beliefs that the laying on of hands can help. Some believe in being able to transfer “energy” between people. Whatever you believe, there is certainly something good and helpful about having someone else to share your pain or discomfort with; If nothing else, they may allow you to take your mind off your suffering for a while. Be the aspirin.

I’m sure that scientists could find something to attribute this effect too; perhaps the release of endorphins of some sort.  You really don’t need a scientific explanation of why a visit to a sick friend can help them feel better…just do it. It’s a whole lot more helpful than just sending them a Get Well card. Be the aspirin.

I suspect that, if you thought about it for a moment, you have friends who could use a visit. Perhaps they aren’t “sick” in the sense of having a disease.  Maybe they are just lonely, because they lost a loved one.  Maybe they are a shut-in, unable to drive or visit with anyone anymore. Perhaps they are in recovery from some incident that caused injury. Maybe they are suffering  from depression over a lost job or the end of a relationship. Whatever the reason for their current state of health or mind, they could use a visit right now and you can be their aspirin. Be the aspirin.

In most cases, you really don’t have to “do” anything other than be there to listen and offer encouragement. You roil is to assure them that they are not alone, that someone else cares about them. Now, in our current state of concern about the Corona virus, it may not make sense to endanger yourself by making a personal visit to someone who is infected and in quarantine; however, you can’t catch the disease over the phone and a phone call is a lot more helpful that just sending a card. See if they are able to take your call. Be the aspirin.

Just like in life there are many brands of aspirin, there are many ways to help and show support for those  in need of some help – taking food over to their house, offering to drive their children to things, offering to do their food shopping or to do their laundry. Sometimes all you can do is go sit by a bedside and listen, but that is enough to make a difference. Be the aspirin.

An interesting side-benefit of all this is something that the real aspirin never gets to experience – it will make you feel better, too. Doing something for others, serving others, helping others is an aspirin for your soul. It will help remove aches and pains that you may not have realized were there – those prickly little feelings that keep saying to you,  “I know I should be doing something to help.” Now, you are doing something.  Be the aspirin.


What is your religion?

February 13, 2020

“When I do good, I feel good.  When I do bad, I feel bad.  That’s my religion.”  (A. Lincoln)

Those were the words of wisdom from today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write that Lincoln was not a member of any organized religion, but he certainly did a lot more good in this world than many of his era that were church goers. Religion is sometimes defined as the practice of one’s faith, what one believes in. One would be hard presses to find a better example than Abe Lincoln of someone who practiced what they believed in.

So, the question, “What’s your religion”, really boils down to what do you believe and do you practice what you believe? Churches tend to build complex sets of rules and rituals for the practice of beliefs, turning them into dogma which cannot be challenged. Disagreements over that dogma has lead to the splintering of churches or religions, not matter what beliefs  they were originally based upon. That is why we have so many different faiths and denominations and sects within faiths. At their core, most are defined by a belief in a supreme being (God in whatever name is used). Once you get past that simple core belief, one begins to encounter the hand of man in the accepted practices of worshiping that God. Let the dogma begin. Most practitioners of religion eventually find a set of dogma that they can accept and settle into one of these groups, secure in their knowledge that they are practicing the one, true religion, while all others are doomed.

At least the religion that Abe Lincoln professed has very simple and straightforward rules – do good and feel good about it or do bad and feel bad about it. Jesus put it that we should love others as He has loved us and do unto others as we would have them do to us.  I suspect that you would end up doing good if you accepted that as your religion. Leave the dogma stuff to the people who are more concerned about perpetuating their institutions than about the faith that underpins their religions.

Perhaps you can reinforce your religion by saying a little prayer each morning asking God to help you practice what Jesus preached – love one another. Another of Jack’s posts came to mind as I am writing this. As much of a reach as it may be to see the connection here that quote from Emily Post was this –

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” 

If you are sensitively aware of the feelings and needs of others and do something to help (do good) you have good religion, no matter what church (Sect/group/denomination/etc.) you worship in. Just keep the faith and all else will take care of itself.

What is your religion?


Don’t forget to forgive…

January 17, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Jack Freed used this quote –

“Not the power to remember, but the very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence.”  (Sholem Asch)

That may well be good advice; however, it is the power to forgive that is a necessary condition for true peace. Forgiving others is a key point in the prayer that Jesus left with his disciples – The Lord’s Prayer.

I have posted here a few times about how amazing the nightly news stories are about people who have been the victims of injustice or sometimes even savage violence saying that they have forgiven the perpetrators. They didn’t forget, but they are able to move on with life because they were able to forgive. Not surprisingly, many of those stories involve church members who suffered some atrocity or wrong while at church.

The first step to forgiving is to put whatever it is into the perspective of time. In most cases, one can say, “It happened, but it is over.”  So, put it behind you in time and then focus upon dealing with your feeling of the need for retribution. We often her people say that they are seeking justice; when, in fact, they are seeking payback. They seem to think that they will find peace in the fact that someone goes to jail or in the payment of some amount of money. Neither really brings the closure or peace that forgiving brings to the situation.

All of us have the ability to forgive, even if we can’t forget. Not being able to forgive most often means that we hold on to not just the pain of the event, but the feeling of the need for retribution. We keep a score to settle in our minds. That sense of need for payback keeps open the wound of the original incident, rather than allowing the wound to heal. We see life as a zero-sum game in which we need to inflict some sort of pain back in order to cancel out (zero out) our own pain.

Perhaps a better way to keep score is to see our ability to forgive as the means to zero-out things. We need to be able to forgive ourselves as well as others in order to avoid living in a negative state of mind. The Lord’s Prayer tells us to ask for forgiveness for our trespasses (sins) as we forgive the trespasses (sins) of others towards us. If we can do that to zero out the bad things that we do to ourselves or the things that others do to us, then we are left with only the good things in life to remember. That is a much happier place to reside than the dark pit of despair and vengefulness into which not being able to forgive leads.

As you start out today, think about the trespasses of others against you that you may be holding onto and focus not upon retribution but on forgiveness. Maybe saying the Lord’s Prayer will put you in the right frame of mind. At least you will have the comfort of knowing that you have asked for forgiveness of your own transgressions, and that is a great start to any day.

Don’t forget to forgive.