March Madness! The Coronavirus is Here.

March Madness is here…and I’m not just talking about basketball. I feel like I’m living in the twilight zone. I suppose lots of us do. The TV shows me arenas filled with college basketball fans celebrating their teams ahead of the NCAA tournament. Then it tells me maybe I should practice social distancing to avoid COVID-19. Forget thriving. It’s hard to figure out how to live reasonably at this moment.

Right now, things are normal in my city. I realize that if/when that changes, it could change rapidly. With a medically fragile granddaughter, my family must carefully consider how we will measure the risks of exposure to this new virus.

Within my social circle, there is a self-isolator who returned from Asia a few weeks ago and a current traveler to Florida. One of my sons is flying from LAX to Hawaii next week. And I spend several hours each month in meetings at the local teaching hospital. Does any of this put us at extra risk?

The way things are going, the government may step in to tell us to stay home before we have a chance to decide for ourselves. I have the distinct impression that’s where we’re headed. I think we’re past the point of preventing the spread of coronavirus. The next step in controlling a pandemic is mitigation or nonpharmaceutical interventions to slow the spread. This is important to achieve so that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed.

Yes, even the US healthcare system has limits. During this time of rapid spread with no treatment available, it’s important to remember that our behavior affects other people. Some personal inconvenience may be necessary to protect our elderly, medically fragile, and other vulnerable populations.

Social distancing is a mitigation measure. Voluntary home isolation is another mitigation measure. Long-standing recommendations from the CDC include the following personal nonpharmaceutical interventions:

NPIs that can be implemented by individual persons include the following personal protective measures for everyday use:

Voluntary home isolation or self-isolation
This means staying home while you’re ill or when you have been exposed. With the familiar flu, the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after a fever or signs of a fever (chills, sweating, and feeling warm or flushed) are gone except to obtain medical care. To ensure that the fever is gone, patients’ temperature should be measured in the absence of medication that lowers fever (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen).

With this new virus, self-isolation may mean staying home longer – until all symptoms are gone or for two weeks after suspected exposure.

Respiratory etiquette
Cover coughs and sneezes, preferably with a tissue, and then dispose of tissues and disinfect hands immediately after a cough or sneeze, or (if a tissue is not available) cough or sneeze into a shirt sleeve. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to help slow the spread of germs.

Hand hygiene
Regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water (or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% ethanol or isopropanol when soap and water are not available).

Hand hygiene is a good practice all of the time, not just during flu season or during an emergent pandemic.

While I haven’t curtailed any of my normal activities, I am carefully considering travel and I’ve added more staples to my pantry. If I’m suddenly faced with the necessity of staying home for a couple of weeks, I want to be able to do so with no last minute scrambling for supplies.

I have an ample supply of my favorite gluten-free baking supplies: sweet white sorghum, tapioca, arrowroot, potato, oat, almond, sweet potato, and brown rice flours; honey and maple syrup; cocoa; butter; eggs; vanilla; baking powder and baking soda; and herbs and spices.

I’ve added extra rice, beans, tuna, gluten-free pasta, Pomi tomatoes, chicken stock, raisins, mandarin oranges, avocado and hummus minis, peanut butter, cereal, crackers, yogurt, frozen vegetables and meat to my regular stock of food. I also purchased some self-safe milk and formula for the grandkids. In addition, I’ve stocked up on toilet paper and laundry sanitizer.

I didn’t go crazy. I don’t have a lot of extra storage. I didn’t spend a fortune, but I also didn’t worry about a larger weekly grocery bill because I’ll use the supplies at some point.

It does feel like March Madness. The next few weeks, perhaps months, will bring a puzzle of decision making. I’ll stay armed with ample supplies and as much solid medical information as I can gather. I’ll look at any personal inconvenience as an opportunity for something different. And eventually I’ll learn to thrive within whatever restrictions may be required.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday Musing

Monday musing = It is Monday and I am musing. Sometimes things are simple and mean what they seem to mean. Let’s keep it that way.

In fact, I’ll muse about simplicity for a moment.

mountain view
Height of Land in Bethel, Maine

I prefer simple communication.
I prefer simple, straightforward communication to flowery flattery or free flowing expressions of affection. I’ve had too much experience with ridiculous euphemisms and vague hidden messages. I CAN handle the truth…and I prefer it.

I like simple solutions.
Often I find them by improving the process. The time, energy, thought, and effort put into planning and organization pay off over and over again by preventing convoluted outcomes. Process solutions free of secondary complications can be as layered and responsive as required. And they can keep me from spending all of my time fighting fires.

Simple solutions can also be found in the moment.
When I left the butter out overnight, I realized I automatically use less when it’s easy to spread. Now I keep some salted butter on the counter and some in the refrigerator.

When my brand new roof leaked and I discovered a tiny bit of mold, I learned I could kill it with vinegar. I didn’t need the hassle and expense of a hazmat-suited team armed with chemicals.

In the middle of an argument, I quickly remembered I can eliminate most food disagreements with a toddler by offering limited choices. When I give my grandson DJ a choice of oranges or grapes and hummus or cottage cheese, he happily chooses one from each category and eats them without fussing. (While this is more difficult to accomplish with my two-year-old granddaughter who has Down Syndrome and cannot talk, we are working on a choice between milk or water using sign language. She also needs to learn that she has options and can determine her path.)

Many simple solutions are obvious.
I can walk more by parking further away. I can drink more water by carrying it with me or drinking only water in restaurants. I will have more time to read if I turn off the TV. I will have more money to spend later when I save now.

Great food can be simple.
I ate a harvest vegetable risotto last week that was scrumptious. The flavor came primarily from the sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes amidst the rice. No heavy seasoning or sauce was needed. In fact, making the flavor profile more complex would not have improved my enjoyment. I love dishes like that!

A workout can be simple.
One day I decided walking up and down my stairs would be an easy way to get some aerobic exercise. I figured 10 trips up and down would be fast and easy. There are 24 steps. I set out at a quick pace. Three flights later, I was huffing and puffing. Walking stairs is a simple workout, but it’s not necessarily easy.

Fun can be simple, too.
I don’t really need bright lights, loud music, and lots of people around to have a good time. Give me a gorgeous mountain view, an uncrowded swimming pool, a good book, a spirited discussion, an inspiring performance or exhibit, and the uninhibited giggles of a grandchild and I can have a wonderful time.

Difficult decisions can be made using a simple process.
Narrow your options to those that align with your intentions and values. Review each remaining option asking: Does this option solve a problem, accomplish a defined goal, benefit my finances, make life more pleasant or peaceful? Rarely will each option have an equal number of benefits.

If all options seem equal, review the options again asking: Does this option benefit my family as well as myself; does it put me in a vulnerable or questionable financial position for a period of time; which choice will benefit me more in one, five, or ten years? Again, it will be rare for every option to be equally weighted.

Break down the complicated.
If you still find yourself stuck or paralyzed and simply can’t make a decision, you are most likely caught in some issue other than the decision at hand. Recognizing this frees you up to move away from spinning your wheels trying to make a particular decision and put that energy toward examining the source of underlying paralysis. Once that’s addressed, the decision will become simple.

The simplest actions can mean the most.
Take the time to let your children know you see them. Look your friends, family, colleagues, and enemies in the eye. Actively listen. Say thank you. Stay home when you’re sick. Choose kindness. Apologize. Be dependable and reliable. Say no when you mean no. Give time.

Well, I mused so long it’s now Tuesday. Time to stop musing and go vote!


Getting to Zero

What is the process for getting to zero? What does getting to zero even mean? Let’s call zero the point of self-determination. Reaching the point of self-determination may not sound important to you now, especially if you’re young, but as more and more of my friends reach their late 50s I see them shift.


I’d describe the shift as a change in focus that comes with a desire to make a contribution to the community and an impatience for the senseless. It’s a time to repeat the question, what am I going to do with my life, but from a very different point of view than that of a teenager.

At a later age, the answer to this question must align with our inner truth or it causes distress, anxiety, and activity I can best describe as flailing about. This struggle is often identified as a midlife crisis. Getting to zero early can result in a more satisfying life and prevent a state of crisis in midlife.

Why do so few of us confidently follow a path of self-determination throughout adulthood? There are many ways to get distracted by everyday necessities. We spend time doing what’s needed by our parents, children, bosses, colleagues, teammates, and friends to the degree that if feels as if there’s no time to get to zero.

Sometimes this is by subconscious design. If we reach the point of self-determination, we must then make choices. Many of us have learned to fear making choices.

Choices come with inherent accountability. If we become accountable for our own destiny, we cannot blame others for our failed plans, foibles, miscalculations, distractions, delays, or regrets. We must embrace our uncertainty, roll the dice, and do the best we can with the information we have at the time.

Sometimes we’ll choose well. Sometimes we’ll wish we had known more before we made a choice. If we have courage, we’ll be willing to learn from each experience and do better in the future.

This is the process of showing up and living with intent. It puts us at risk of living with our own decisions and any resulting guilt or shame. To do this takes resolve, courage, and strength. It also makes us feel vulnerable.

I don’t know if it’s due to our diminishing sense of community, shrinking churches, the rise of social media bullying, or aggrandization of the shallow, but we seem to have lost the connection to our core strength, our moral substance, our character. I say this collectively because it feels like a cultural shift.

I know there are individuals of great courage and character in every community. They just seem harder to find. They’re not the media sensations the badly behaved have become.

The relevant point is that you may feel alone when you begin down a vulnerable path. That doesn’t mean you won’t find support or mentoring along the way. It just means that if you wait for support to show up before you begin to live intentionally, you may never get started.

You can live a whole life of going along to get along. This will limit the positive impact you can have on your health, in your relationships, in your friends’ lives, in your neighborhood, and on the community. You simply can’t be an agent for growth, improvement, innovation, advancement, reform, or progress by going along.

Build Internal Strength
A step toward getting to zero is to build internal strength and faith in that strength. How you build strength will be an individual journey.

Begin by finding an avenue that builds your sense of having something to offer the world. Some will rely on religious faith. Some will find grit and resilience by drawing on stories of their ancestors. Some will connect to themselves through collective experiences they find in books. Some will find a community that recognizes, acknowledges, and reinforces their value.

Evaluate How You Spend Your Time
Part of living with self-determination is deciding how you will spend your time. That decision can’t be made until you know how you’re currently spending your time.

One way to get a handle on this is to keep a timesheet. I know you probably think you can just wing this, but keep track in writing for a couple of weeks and you may be surprised.

Once you see where your time is going, you can determine whether that time allotment reflects who you want to be and how you want to live your life and/or what you want for your family. Anything that is not in alignment with your values can go.

No, really…it can go. That’s such a scary idea! We find comfort and security in the routines we create. And we know our friends and family may grumble with any changes. Kindness, consideration, understanding, compassion, and sometimes concessions are important during big shifts. Nonetheless, grumbling itself should not throw you off course.

A balanced mix of work, family, self, and community leads to a feeling of meaning and contribution. If any area gets out of balance, it prevents us from being our best selves or making our greatest potential contribution.

Even self-care can be allotted too much time. I’m not saying self-care is bad. It is essential, but if most of your energy is directed toward yourself, your impact on the world will be limited.

Appropriate Time for Stillness
Once you’ve set aside activities that do not align with your values and intentions, fill some of the holes in your schedule with stillness. Breathing techniques, meditation, or somatic experiencing may help you find an avenue to stillness or they may not be available to you until you have already mastered it.

How you get there and how quickly you get there are not important, getting there is. Without stillness, it is impossible to know yourself.

Know What You Know
Once you’re internally strong and have made time for and embraced stillness, you must be willing to know what you know. This is the most difficult emotional task I’ve ever tackled. It is an unraveling of the stories we tell ourselves in order to deal with the world we have experienced.

We are all remarkably adaptable. When we are forced to endure difficult, stressful, or traumatic events early in life without adequate emotional support, we create stories that allow us to survive but do not necessarily reflect the truth of our experience.

A small child cannot bear the idea that her mother watches her boyfriend beat her because the mother values the boyfriend more than the child. Even reading that, you may excuse the mother’s behavior to some degree by reasoning that she’s probably afraid of the boyfriend. Unfortunately, she may not be afraid at all.

The mother is not afraid and she does not intervene. Ouch! That is a truth that feels unbearable, mind boggling, unreasonable, and wrong. And yet, it is the truth that her child knows on a very deep level and, simultaneously, actively avoids knowing in order to feel loved.

Being willing to know what you know means both seeing and accepting cruelty as cruelty, humiliation as humiliation, neglect as neglect, verbal abuse as verbal abuse, manipulation as manipulation, and violence as violence. Knowing what you know can change your life because it changes your story.

Knowing what you know frees you from the fiction that prevents you from making the specific choices that will serve you best, but it is not easy. Our story defines how we view ourselves. Changing that story can feel like losing our identity. But a story isn’t who you are and it can be rewritten. In this rewriting lies freedom, meaning, and redemption.

You have the power to write your own story. You just have to get to zero.

If Your Work Does Not Garner Attention, Is It Worth Doing?

If your work does not garner attention, is it worth doing? In 2009, my son’s friend Ester directed the documentary film, Butterflies. The film follows the lives of six people dubbed weblebrities for gaining fame for doing nothing but appear on a website called YouTube. At the time, YouTube was only four-years-old and there was no such thing as an influencer.

In fact, although the film explores the power of the internet to challenge the future of traditional media, I don’t think anyone took the weblebrity phenomenon too seriously. I know I didn’t expect that 10 years later a 7-year-old could make $22 million in one year reviewing toys on YouTube.

As timing would have it, there was a synergy in the effects of the Real Housewives, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, smartphone cameras and YouTube. What was initially viewed by most as distasteful exhibitionism morphed into acceptable and then a model to emulate.

Growing alongside those franchises were FaceBook and Twitter soon followed by Instagram. While these are marketed as ways to connect, they are equally ways to garner attention. Clicks and likes became a measure of whether you matter in the world. The fact that likes are generated by the lewd, violent, or dangerous as well as the cute and cuddly lost any distinction.

Ten years after Butterflies, being a YouTube star has become a career goal. This is not inherently a bad thing. Using YouTube to showcase art, music, spoken word, fashion, dance, interior design, cooking, scuba diving, sailing, rowing, gymnastics, workouts, gardening, auto repair, appliance repair, history, 3D printing, and new technology is a great use of the platform. Showcasing new products is fine too. But hoping to be famous for being famous or outrageous has limited value to society.

On the other hand, being famous for being famous or outrageous now pays really well. Because we use money as a primary measure of success in this country, celebrity for celebrity’s sake has been legitimized. So what if you create an algorithm that improves hospital efficiency, design an improved washing machine, engineer a safer bridge, or improve the delivery mechanism for chemo? What if your true talent is caring for a disabled child or fragile senior?

What if the most significant contribution you make does not get any attention at all?

The truth is that the most important work you do in life may not garner much attention or much money. We used to know and accept this. We followed internal guidelines that focused on hard work, dependability, honesty, integrity and doing our best at any task we were given. Our sense of accomplishment was based as much on HOW we did the job as it was on what we achieved or how much we were paid.

When we tried hard and failed, we weren’t crushed as long as we had done our best. We absorbed the experience, learned something, and moved on. We expected less from others and more from ourselves.

During the past decade, there has been a shift from primarily internal to primarily external motivation and validation. And the shift hasn’t been to external validation from people who can look you in the eyes or hold you when you’re crying, but to validation from total strangers who only know a one-dimensional version of you and only care about you when you stand out from the digital noise.

Depending on someone else for a feeling of accomplishment or measure of success takes away our power. It leaves us vulnerable to a sense of self based on fickle trends and short attention spans. With more exposure to that vulnerability we are seeing skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, and mass killing. And why not?

When your sense of self is based on other people, how do you know you matter if you don’t get any likes? How do you know you’re living up to your potential if you turn off your phone to focus on your kids and can’t see whether you have any new followers? How can your accomplishments matter if only your boss knows you wrote the code to make a driverless car stop? If your friends aren’t DMing or tweeting you, do you even exist?

We can shift back to internal value systems, but it will take courage and introspection. It will take parenting differently. It will mean making a conscious decision that it’s more important to make a contribution than to be known for making that contribution. We can take back our power and choose not to react if our achievements are hidden, overlooked, or under-appreciated.

  • What if the only thing you accomplish in your career is making everyone else’s job easier? Is that a bad thing? Wouldn’t you appreciate someone else who makes your job easier or more pleasant?
  • What if your courage allows you to stop the line more often than anyone else when you see something amiss? You may be considered an annoyance to your supervisor, but you are contributing to quality and safety.
  • What if the only thing you give to society is making sure your children feel not just loved, but valued? That single accomplishment could save lives. When we have been valued, we are more likely to value others. Valuing ourselves and others makes it much more difficult to take another person’s life.
  • What if you never make much money, but give comfort and assistance to those who are struggling on a regular basis? Is this not a valuable and badly needed service?
  • What if your accomplishments are to keep your home clean, organized, and peaceful? Those are significant contributions to your family’s well-being. They provide a foundation for the family to excel.
  • If you are an agent for change, you may get more negative attention than positive. Does that mean your work is not worthwhile or that you should stop pushing for change?

Our sphere of influence may be as large as the universe or as small as our nuclear families. Within either realm, we have power and responsibility. What we do and how we do it matters. It feels great to have our accomplishments noticed and appreciated, but if the reward is not in the work itself we will never feel satisfied.

Considering our current focus on external response, it’s worth asking whether your work has to get attention for it to be worth doing. If it does, are you setting yourself up to feel perpetually dissatisfied?

Big questions may be hard to ask, but they’re so easy to answer! It’s just fear that keeps us from asking. I feel strongly about doing something that comes with internal motivation and reward. It’s the way to feel as though you haven’t worked a day in your life. And if you choose something you know is worth doing, it won’t matter a whit whether anyone notices or posts a like.