Sunday, March 22, 2020

Isolation Innovation

I've noticed a number of positive attempts at keeping people engaged or connected or just looking up during the Coronavirus isolation that we're all working through. Here's a rundown of 10 of them, some I've heard of, some I've participated in.

  1. Visual and Word prompts for writing. A friend posts a picture and an inspirational message and people are encouraged to write a paragraph, story or poem about it. Great for writer types and writer wannabes
  2. Art: A friend posts a digital blank picture and friends are encouraged to color it using MS Paint, Photoshop or real art materials.
  3. My digital art!
    Hatpy Hour where a bunch of friends all get a hat and a drink and hang out on Zoom.
  4. Virtual Church gatherings using Google Hangouts
  5. 5:00 Happy Hour outdoors & "meet your neighbor". A friend parked his lawn chair on his lawn with a couple on either side 6' away or more, in hopes a neighbor would sit down and chat.
  6. Virtual writing critique groups using Zoom. Writers share work by email then talk about them in Zoom. Same thing for Book Groups.
  7. Video sharing of an angry love song lyric as a recited poem. You take an portion of a famous love song and speak the lyrics in an angry voice. It's like poetic karaoke. Fun!
  8. Mini Concerts: Someone on Facebook posted that once a day at 6:00 PM or so, they put their big speakers on their porch and blast one song really loud. The neighbors all go outside and wave their phones like it's a concert. As long as the music is good, sounds fun!
  9. Musicians that were schedule to do live events at bars are broadcasting them on the web instead.
  10. Family Connection Groups. My extended family created a temporary facebook group that anyone of us can post to. It is a way of checking up with one another, encouraging family interaction and story sharing.
Despite all of the bad that this isolation is bringing upon everyone, it is also bringing about some innovation by people in order to stay connected (and sane, I would add.) Some cool ideas to go along with all of the hilarious memes I'm seeing and sharing on social media.

If you have any other ideas, share them with me on Facebook. I may or may not need them.

In the meantime, hang in there. We'll get through this.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

This Is Not A Drill

I can't seem to fathom what is ahead for all of us over the next several weeks. Working from home, everything under the sun is closed, no gathering, no social events, and on and on.

If I think about it too hard, I want to go fetal and rock in a corner. Of course, as an introvert, the ability to say no to everyone without guilt is sort of freeing, so that part is welcome. But beyond that, the seclusion, isolation and distancing are not even the hardest parts. It is the loss of routine and balance. It is the ripple effects of a stagnant economy. And, maybe most of all, it's the unknown - the not knowing what's coming next. No one seems to know, so here we sit. Alone.

On Tuesday, most of the Parks and Land Use employees who could work from home were told to do so. I quickly set up a home office and after changing out some old equipment, have made myself comfortable upstairs. And these first two days have been strangely productive. It's amazing what a person can get accomplished with no one else around. So, in that respect, it has been good.

Work aside, I take daily walks outside during which I am occasionally overcome with a sense of apocalyptic dread. The reduced traffic (added to by the construction on Barstow, a main street near us) makes everything eerily quiet. There seems to be less planes in the air as well. Streets are empty or close to it.

Much of this is a good thing, don't get me wrong. It's opened up my eyes to how frantic we've become as a society. With no where to go, life slows down. If nothing else, it has made me aware of how packed my schedule was - and I'm not even that busy most days. It is nice to kind of chill and not fret about where I need to be tonight, next week or next month. It is freeing.

There's no place like work...from home.
This seems like the world's biggest social experiment, and people are stepping up to the plate. I do see more people out walking and running, which is refreshing. I have also seen more online activities and social networking than ever, much of it involving creative endeavors. The social media memes and videos are hilarious in the midst of the plight we're all in. Everyone is pulling together, figuratively at least, and when this blows over, we'll all have a better understanding of who we are.

In the meantime, keep your distance, wash your hands and slow down.

We'll get through this.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The View From The Bunker

Typically today I would post a "Picture My Life" post on this blog. Those posts started as a creative exercise a few weeks back and I've had fun with them.

But I'll be honest, like many of you I've been sorta obsessed with the impending doom of the coronavirus pandemic we're all facing.

It has occupied my mind space worse than anything ever has, I think. I google about it. I check Twitter and Facebook for updates about it. And worst of all, I can't not think about it. It's right there - all the grim reports and updates - staring us down as a country and a world.

The closest thing I think I can compare it to was Operation Desert Storm, when I would come home from work and watch the war on Kuwait on the news. EVERY NIGHT. We had not had involvement in a war like that in a while, so I was fairly obsessed.

So it goes today, except with Coronavirus. 

I am of an obsessive enough nature that I know I am going to have to find something constructive to do with my time, or I will go insane. Especially if we are told to work from home. That really sounds like a mixed blessing at this point. I love my work. But just as much, I love my workplace, my coworkers and the environment. 

But I realize in order to save lives, we will be asked to not do what we once did. We will be encouraged to isolate and distance ourselves from people. 

More anxiety and dread with your salad, sir? Oh, yes. Heap it on.

I hate what this pandemic has revealed about the humanity we have become. A selfish, panic stricken bunch of toilet paper hoarders. Me first. I got mine!

So it will be my aim in the coming weeks and months to remain level-headed, compassionate, and as calm as I can. I need to limit my news, maximize my creative outlets and make the best of a horrible situation.

This weekend my daughter surprised us by coming home from Minnesota with her boyfriend, Sam. My son Ben was down from Madison as well. It was SO good to be together with them again. It was a reminder that no matter what happens out there, we are a strong, loving family. We've got each other and a half a dozen ways to keep in touch. I aim to do more of that as we all weather the storm together. 

Because right now, that's about all I've got to lean on.

Stay safe, stay home and stay strong.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Picture My Life - 2004

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This shot comes from 2004. It was taken by a stranger because I wanted to capture the moment together with Ben at a Brewers game. We had a seat in left field - not sure how I got tickets, but it's not like me to go to a lot of games, so I probably got them free. 

I do remember that Ben Sheets pitched out of his mind and threw at least 11 strikeouts, if not more. 

The picture reminds me of my days in the Big Brothers program in the late 80s when I had a "little brother" that absolutely loved the Brewers, and the game of baseball. We went to a ton of games together because BB/BS always seemed to have free tickets. This kid, Michael, was a baseball nut. He quoted stats and knew the history of most of the guys on the team. All during a time when the Brewers were brutally bad. It's  nice to have them back winning, though, as I said, I'm not much of a baseball fan.

I'll always treasure these moments with Ben, though at the time, I think he had as much or more fun at the little playground they had at the stadium, than he did watching the game. I remember another game that he and I and my father in-law attended where the kids got to run the bases, which was another pretty cool moment for him, his grandfather and me. 

And now it seems with all the mania that is coronavirus, the season may never start. I'm not sure what to think of this whole hysteria, but I do know that going to a stadium with 45,000 other potential carriers is probably one of the worst ideas ever. So it goes.

Blogging off... 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

International Women's Day

With today being International Women's Day I'd like to call out a few that have impacted my life in significant ways. There's really too many to count, including Elizabeth Warren who just dropped out of the Presidential race. She was my first pick in part because I think it's high time we give a woman a chance at running the country. Lord knows there's been enough middle of the road or downright inept men running it at times in our history. Well, evidently we're not ready for that yet, so maybe as a VP.

I'll start with the obvious, my mom. She'll be 87 in a few weeks and is still kicking. In fact when I typically call her on a Sunday evening, she's usually entertaining or on her way out the door to some social event. She almost single handedly raised 7 of us right and lived to tell about. A feat of human strength if you ask me.

Of course there's my wife. The past three years we've been adapting to an empty nest around here with both our kids out on their own. I was a little worried about the transition and how we'd fare, but it's be nothing but good as we've rediscovered what brought us together in the first place. She keeps me sane and puts up with my need for creativity, exercise and fishing. I am blessed.

My daughter, one of the kindest, smartest and funniest souls I can think of. I am incredibly proud of the woman she's become and can't wait to see where life takes her.

I'd have to say my sisters and sisters in-law for all they've done in their part as the village that helped us raise our kids. They love our kids like their own, and much like we did with their kids on college, they helped ours out during their time at the U of M and UW Madison.

My nieces with kids for the mothers they've become.

The women I work with at the County, whether behind the scenes or on the forefront, their work is as important as the highest elected official.

The women of my writing community. They cheer me on and call me out when my stories go astray, which is like every fourth sentence or so. I appreciate their attention to detail and their cheers when I have success.

The women of CollectiveMKE, my church community. Strong women muddling their way through their faith walk with the rest of us. I love laughing and learning alongside them.

All of the women politicians who stand up for what is right and just. Those who question the patriarchy and keep them accountable. Our country needs good, strong leaders from both male and female.

My mother in-law as she courageously battles dementia. For all she's done in the past to raise her kids, I am forever indebted. I miss her laughter and connection but know she's still doing the best she knows and loves us all.

So, to all of the women in my life, thank you for all you do!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Picture My Life - 2003

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

The picture for this post came from 2003. It was taken at my in-laws house at Christmas time. There is so much to like about it. So much joy. So much energy. So much happiness. So much anticipation.

Back when the kids were young, we used to drive out to New York every other year or so for Christmas. It was always a grueling 12 hour drive across 6 states, a feat of strength when you're toting 2 kids in a car or van. But when we arrived, it was all worth it. Just watching the cousins play together was payment enough. 

The photo shows my sister in-law, Jill flipping her daughter Halle over her head in what looks like a dangerous move, but is actually harmless. As a gym teacher by profession, she was always active and rough and tumble with our kids. It was all good as you can tell by the line of kids waiting for their turn at the maneuver. 

Some other things I like about the picture is the sparkle in the kids' eyes. They shine with the twinkle of Christmas and excitement. This moment is an escape from the wintry weather and the struggles of school. Kids need play and horse-around time and this game embodies both. I used to treasure wrestling on the living room floor with my kids when they were younger than this. Nothing better.

The matching shirts is another noticeable thing in this photo. There was a day when my parents in-law had matching sweatshirts made up that had a Christmas tree and a Cornucopia stitched on them. We all wore them during our time together known as "Thanksmas", the weekend after Thanksgiving when we celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas together either out here or in New York. When the kids outgrew the sweatshirts, we went with a single matching color, namely Christmas red. (Though these shirts look pink, they were really red.) It was one of those quirky family traditions that I'm glad we had. One the kids will always remember.

There are times I'd like to go back to these moments for just a few hours. They were hard times as a parent, but rich times in the memories department. 

We did our best, and from the looks of this photo, the kids were happy to be there.

Blogging off...