What I Learned in COVID-19 Class

I have been watching the news, wondering what, if anything, constructive I can add to the cacophony the current pandemic is inspiring. I come down in a hopeful place, somewhat to my surprise, because I am learning things as result of this experience, and learning is always good (though not always happy).

One thing I learned is that having a few weeks worth of extra cat food on hand at all times was  not a bad idea. I always considered that stockpiling pet food was my Potato Famine heritage making a last gasp in the land of plenty. I also kept a big cat food inventory because I am haunted by the following thoughts: I live alone, I have few close friends and no family in the area. If I am ever out of action for any length of time, who will look after these felines whom I have allowed to become dependent on me? If the food is on-site, I can hire somebody to dish it out.

I am learning that I want everybody to have some sick leave/family leave, even if that means I have to pay a little more for my bread, cheese, travel, or phone service. Working sick is just wrong, though we’ve all done it, and expecting people to work sick, or send kids to school sick, is even more wrong. We can do better.

I am learning that we are pretty practical folk. My local grocery store ran out of TP, milk, eggs, and bread. The pasta was running low too, but a lot of “non-staples” like soft drinks, chips, cookies, and cereal, were abundantly available. That says to me that wine has not become the fifth food group, and neither has chocolate (yet). When we panic, we at least do so sensibly.

I’m learning, once again, that I live a very privileged life. I can go to the store at any hour, I can haul home a double-shop with no problem (both because I have a car and because  I can walk unassisted). I can afford to shop for two weeks at once instead of one, I can buy whatever version is on the shelves instead of having to stretch my budget by purchasing only the cheapest brands. Golly Ned, am I privileged.

I hope a lot of employers are learning that most people can be trusted to work from home. The job gets done, the carbon footprint is smaller, the employee wastes less time commuting, and HVAC costs at headquarters are reduced. What a concept.

I am learning that books are wonderful. I always knew that, but I know it now in an immediate way. I would rather have a new Deanna Raybourn mystery to read, or a Joanna Bourne novel to re-read than any anti-anxiety medication you can name. My keeper authors got me through so many difficult years, and they are coming through for me now.

What lessons do you see coming out of the current uproar–if any? To three commenters, I’ll send $25 Amazon gift cards. And PS: I dropped the price on a fourth novella anthology, Love by the Letters, which you can now pick up for $1.99. (The other three half-price anthos are linked on my Deals page.)

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44 comments on “What I Learned in COVID-19 Class

  1. I am learning that people are thinking out of the box when problem solving. Our club was scheduled to have an important membership meeting in a few weeks. The dog show cluster was cancelled. And we had to quickly resolve the issue. Lots of good ideas & a kind gesture from a club member solved the problem.

    I spoke to Chewy.com and rescheduled my dog food delivery. I am having a hard time adjusting the food needed for one younger dog and two older ones. Have had three dogs pass in 3 years and have changed foods and delivery times. The chewy person could not have been nicer. Problem solved.

    Trying to keep calm & make sure we have what we need is a balancing act. I am waiting to see if I can work from home, my daughters hours have been shortened at work and my husband is focused on the election. Lots to think about.

    I am trying a few new authors in my TBR pile and may walk the dogs this afternoon. Rose is happy to eat her kibble, go for a walk and snooze the afternoon away…she’s not worried. Maybe she’s got the right idea.

    • I’m seeing a lot of thinking outside the box too! Boston’s mayor, for example, said pretty much if your establishment sells food, you can sell it carry-out now too. That just makes sense. Arizona schools are ramping up their distance learning tech, flu cases have dropped sharply because we’re washing our hands and staying home. There are silver linings… a few anyway.

  2. I’m hoping that more people will figure out that they need a disaster plan, and implement one. We had a category 5 hurricane decimate our town (and our house) a couple of years ago, and we personally had excellent prep for it. We managed the many weeks of no running water, electricity, or cell service (we were grumpy and sweaty, but otherwise managed ok). But the number of coworkers and neighbors who had no preparation was just mind boggling to me. Even those with resources to have been prepared.

    • Absolutely what you said. Maybe twenty years ago, a tornado ripped through my yard and knocked out power for about a week. I had two horses in the backyard, one of them a ginormous draft horse. In hot weather, a horse like that needs about 20 gallons of water a day, and I had no power for my well. I have never again been without backup water for pets, and plenty of it.

      • Wow, Grace. That’s a lot of hand watering you had to do – ugh.
        Yep, things like that make such a deep impression upon one. I can look back and see other traumatic events that have warped or crafted my future behaviors, for sure

  3. I’ve run the gamut of emotions here and am amazed–and HORRIFIED–with my fellow man.

    Grocery store customers have gotten surly in some instances. I was at one of our town’s biggest markets yesterday and watched a fight over a package of toilet paper–when there was PLENTY–it just so happened both people grabbed the same one at the same time. I didn’t stick around to see how that was resolved. DH accuses me of normally overbuying but because of that, we have plenty of our staples for at least two weeks, if not more. I did shop normally this week, but bought two of some items instead of one so I think we are good. And when I did overbuy, bought products and brands I normally do.

    Art organizations–both big and small–have canceled concerts, weeks of concert and the rest of their subscription seasons. The large groups will be fine but the small, local performing organizations may never recover. I work with a local art/business alliance and many have had to cancel programs. Many gigging musicians will be devastated financially. My #3 son is a professional church musician and his congregation has canceled all services until Holy Week; he hopes to get in to practice organ since he will be expected to play as well as usual. We are afraid to ask if he will be paid eventho he is not playing services. 🙁

    My own chamber choir is lucky in that our concert is not scheduled until May 31 so we should be fine. We rehearse in my home so again, should be fine, unless someone gets sick or folks don’t feel comfortable coming out.

    We watched the Emma Thompson “Sense and Sensibility” last night. I had forgotten all the stars who are in it—Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon especially touched me. DH watched it with me and told me it’s his favorite Jane Austen. I felt so LUCKY at that point–not many folks have a spouse with a favorite Jane Austen!

    • Truly, you chose well.
      I see some churches are tele-casting services, and I know the Mormon Church is doing it’s big conference by Skype and CCTV. The interesting thing to me is, we’ve been told for years to reduce our carbon footprint, but it’s taking this virus to make many employers actually investigate how to do that.
      I know the gig musicians, house cleaners, and many others will take a terrible hit, but I’m guessing Fedex, UPS, and other delivery services are hiring anybody they can find.

  4. I’m the child of depression era parents who had me late in life, carried me around the globe with them, & I live in Hurricane Alley. Early life training of never letting the fuel drop below half a tank & keeping a month’s supply minimum of everything standing me in good stead. I haven’t yet needed to dip into my post apocalypse you’re on your own supplies thanks to having it drilled into me to never let supplies run low. I whipped out my box of Dad’s cotton handkerchiefs for pollen blowing, so laundry beats wasting paper. I’m signing for my stuck elsewhere flight crew neighbors who thought they’d be home to get their parcels. Coordinating an international network of who’s stuck in which country to match friends with info as borders come down. Being backup for a friend on the other coast with #1 child so her biz doesn’t crash in case she can’t get home as scheduled. Self-isolating as I have an upcoming procedure scheduled (outpatient, thank you!) & blessing the utilities making it all possible. I’m old enough to remember when booking a call to the Middle East wasn’t even possible. Now I can whip out my mobile & pass the word via text that Jordan just closed its borders, so don’t expect F home anytime soon, he’s staying in Dubai. Miraculous!

    I can’t help but marvel at all our blessings. Enough of us will be kind to each other & quietly drop a roll of paper on our neighbors doorstep when needed to get us all through & maybe even teach the panicked lemmings a lesson in manners.

    • Sounds like you are mission control for about 28 different time zones! I was just reflecting about how this virus is whirling around th e globe at warp speed in part because the world is so small now, but also, how we can learn from Italy, benefit from China’s charity (looking at you, Jack Ma), and otherwise become a global community for the same reasons. The world is smaller by the day, and what do you know, we really do–all of us–face a common enemy.

  5. I hope people recognize how things can change drastically so quickly and then recognize how important health is … and family and friends. I’m mostly comfortable with ‘social distancing’, but wonder if it will feel more oppressive when it’s prescribed. I’ve stayed home for the last week but will be going out in a few days for taxes and grocery store – hopefully necessary things will be restocked by then.

    • You make a good point. I saw one post from a doc, pointing out that general health has a lot to do with whether older people survive a bout of this virus, and that getting after general health is something we can all be doing every day–take the prescribed blood pressure pills even if you don’t like to take pills. Get up and move. If you’re diabetic, get serious about monitoring the numbers NOW. In two weeks, it might make a difference. Two weeks… yikes.

  6. I have realized I am equally privileged though I work for a living and must go to work everyday. I am able to stock up and buy extra to tide us over until the worst threat has passed. That my son is my rock (though he is tired of hearing about this pandemic) he is willing to allow my need to stock up and even finally admitted it wasn’t a bad habit to maintain once this is over. If we all pull together this too shall pass and yeah I’m not going out anywhere but reading all the books I have stockpiled over the years that I haven’t gotten to or watching the shows I didn’t have time to sit down and enjoy. Maybe this is a reminder we shouldn’t be on the go so much anyway.

    • Privileges I took for granted: The ability to go to the store at any hour I please, any day I please. So many people have to wait until payday, or until grandma can watch the kids.
      The ability to schlep a double load of groceries home at once–because I have a car, and can lug heavy stuff fairly easily to and from the car.
      The ability PAY for a double load of groceries, even a big double load of groceries, without having to push the bills around or go without some other necessity.
      The space to STORE a double load of groceries, including extra frozen goods.
      On and on and on.
      And how most of the public authorities foghorning about this situation, recommending that we lay in fourteen days worth of provisions, have NO CLUE what life is like for the vast majority of regular people.

  7. I’m learning to try not to worry if I can possibly help it. Worry seems like such a wasted emotion. I’m trying to reserve it for the things that matter most.

    I’m trying to watch only enough news to keep me informed. I have been social distanced for awhile now due to an infirmity – so that is nothing new. I have to depend on others to do shopping for me. So I could worry a lot about shortages if I let myself.

    I’m not worried for myself even though I am in the danger age category. I am worried for my nephew who is not quite 50, but has to use oxygen almost all the time. I worry for my sister (his mother) who was stressed even before this latest social calamity.

    Stay safe Grace. And that goes for all you other followers of this blog.

    • Mary, and because you have learned how to hermit, you are probably way ahead of many of us, public-safety-wise. I’ve been told that we’re reacting with equal parts panic and indifference because we trust neither our government nor our media.
      That makes sense to me, and your strategy of getting just the basic news makes a lot of sense to me too. Let me know if you need more books!

  8. I think the thing I’ve learned these past few weeks is that it’s necessary to take a deep breath and think before you act. I work in the travel industry and the first thought people had was to redirect travelers to “safe” destinations. My thoughts were that soon nowhere would be safe. We should be looking at helping our customers save their hard earned travel budgets by delaying and rebooking their vacations to next year. This isn’t the time to think only about our bottom line, but we need to protect our neighbors’ savings and livelihoods. We’re all in this together and this too shall pass.

    • Hugs to you and to everybody in the travel industry. And the restaurant industry, the theater industry, the health care industry… so many different impacts, and as you say: We’re learning about the difference between short-term and long-term strategies. Sometimes whether we want to or not.

  9. Most of my family live in the Greater Seattle area. For them, social distancing has become a little oppressive, especially for my 91 year old mother, who really ought not see anyone.

    Several are working from home. If this becomes a new normal, companies will need to kick in for the internet and equipment to do so safely and securely. My daughter’s work group has privately agreed to kick in to cover the one hourly team member’s lost wages, if no one else comes forward.

    I was humbled. We are probably looking at a new normal… I can’t think of what it might look like. Stay well, all of you, and for a laugh, check out an old poem my dad had memorized, Some Little Bug, attributed to Brad Kincaid from the late 1800s.

  10. My outside ventures are most going to work (few people to be around there and I don’t work with the public), and to buy groceries. I think I’m probably fairly low risk to have the worst experience with coronavirus although I may catch it.

    My son is healthy. I worry more about my husband who has all the health conditions that lead to the worst outcomes. My hope is that he will agree to stay home from work for a while.

    I just discovered I had not read an anthology of yours (still in the old title) so I have another good book to read. I hope you stay safe and sane.

    The hoarding is understandable but creates difficulties for people who can’t afford to stock up and go to the store finding that the shelves are empty. I read the saddest story about an elderly and frail couple who had gone to multiple stores just trying to buy a 4 pack of toilet paper. Our local Publix has began rationing of some item and I’m grateful for that.

    • My local grocery store instituting rationing last week and still had empty shelves. I hope your hubby will follow the common sense advice and lay low. But if YOU get it, he will probably get it, so you take care too!

  11. Ordinarily, I would be self-isolating without any trouble as I am a committed introvert and don’t like to be out much anyway. But my 93-year-old mother fell Feb. 29 and broke her leg (the one with the knee replacement) and she’s been in the hospital ever since. I have been visiting her daily but the hospital starts screenings tomorrow and I don’t know how long I will be able to visit. When she returns to the rehab center, I will not be able to visit at all due to our governor’s mandate. Even her friends who live in the same care community will not be allowed to visit her. Unfortunately, the social isolation will be a problem for her and I won’t be able to do anything about it.
    The lesson I hope comes out of this situation is that America desperately needs universal health care because there are so many people without the means to take care of themselves and unable to refrain from exposing others (if you have to go to work to put food on your table for you and your children, being sick is not going to prevent you and I cannot fault you for that). I really feel bad for the workers who make so little money and are now being told they can’t work. Who will take care of them?

  12. I have know for a long time that I am priviledged with my access and abilities (despite health issues). These past few days I have learned that the simple ablility of being able to shop during normal workday hours is a priviledge that saves a LOT of time. I have had my introversion be proven to not be a bad thing. 😉 I do hope that people learn that hoarding items is not usually a good thing – especially perishables.

    I think the lesson of the importance of sharing is being learned by many despite the examples of hoarding. I have seen many friends offer to share with others both in person an via social media posts. One friend did a Costco run so that she could help her neighbors. I know several people who have extra bodies in their home because of universities moving to online classes. There are young adults who cannot go ‘home’ for various reasons who have been offered places to stay in friend’s homes. (One of my neighbors has 4 college aged children but they added 6 people to their home for the duration of the Covid-19 situation. I bought some things that we didn’t need right now for my daughter, her girlfriend, and their roommates who all work during the times that stores are not swamped and likely to be sold out.

  13. I am being reminded how vulnerable we are individually (I would really love to see universal healthcare come out of this as well as our existing safety nets strengthened) but also how small businesses often can not weather the loss of income and I really don’t want to see my beloved neighborhood stores fold. We can help by shopping at small businesses (in person or online) including buying gift cards if we will not be able to enjoy them right now.

    There is a fascinating story of 2 shipwrecks in 1864 on the same harsh island just a few months apart but did not know of the other. One crew worked together and survived and one devolved into cannibalism almost immediately. How we approach this current challenge can make a difference.

    (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-56512-408-0 if anyone is interested. Remember you can buy online from many independent bookstores, Amazon and Jeff Bezos are not hurting right now.)

  14. I also stock-piled on cat food. There’s 3 of them and only 1 me! Mostly it’s been fighting with my family to understand why I’m not going near them. They all continue to go out and about. I work with immune-compromised children.

  15. I am learning a lot about how resourceful my kids are. And how grateful I am that we genuinely like each other and can enjoy the extra family time.

  16. Importance of contingency planning and flexibility. Reminder that despite the many idiots out there, there are also lots of good folks out there too. Lots of years of “introvert staying home curled up with a book” pays off 😉

  17. I’m learning how selfish people can be. I’m also learning to be better prepared for emergencies and how to stay calm.

  18. Happy Monday! My mother recently passed away and we are still in the beginning of the grieving process. But my brother and I thanked the Lord for His mercy that she went without pain in her sleep at the hospital because the current situation would be a nightmare. She would be vulnerable in the Rehab Center and being 89 years old with compromised health. We would be limited in access and also just worried. While we miss our mother, we are thankful that she is not suffering or potentially exposed to this virus. We also are thankful that we are practical so we avoid running out and are calm enough to wait. Because I love books and writing letters and crafts being alone is not too stressful. Thank you very much for your great books. Have a blessed day!

  19. I hope that people really learn to appreciate their children’s teachers more. My daughter is an elementary school music teacher and today she went to her (closed) school to figure out what/how lessons can be provided to her students.

    I wish people would gain a better sense of logistics. It takes time to get programs, supplies, etc in place. Cut folks a break.

    Finally, I hope people will reach out to those in need. Donate some of your precious toilet paper to the local food pantry!

  20. I am having quite the time adjusting to teaching 9th, 10th, and 12th grade High School English online now but I am doing it. This taught me how adaptable I am! It’s been quite a challenge because I love my kids and will miss them and know they need to see me , the good news, I am having fun with videos and discussion boards

    Secondly , I realized how remarkably necessary romance is to my sanity and balance in life .

    This past week I took time to settle my anxiety by catching up on the three novels I hadn’t read of yours … thank you !


  21. I am learning to look in on my neighbors. We live in an over 55 mobile home park and a lot of my neighbors are shut ins or don’t get a lot of visitors. I can order a few extra groceries if we have the money, or share what we have with someone who needs it.

  22. What I figure people might learn from this is if you ignore the rules, you make everyone suffer. Our governor was allowing bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and other recreational places to stay open, if numbers were limited to under 250. A certain group of people decided to spend the weekend pub crawling. Now all the mentioned places are closed and groups must be under 10. If you are waiting for carry out at a restaurant, only 5 at a time in the building. The universities are closed, but many students have stayed on campus and are congregating in large groups. Their attitude is the virus won’t make them very sick so YOLO. A few realize that they could carry the virus to their older, more vulnerable relatives. The rest just can’t stay in their room or go home. I am getting to the point where I want to suggest that people read about the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak or the Black Death/Bubonic Plague. Do we really want to have a large segment of the world’s population die, because people feel that the rules don’t apply to them or they want to fiddle while Rome burns?

  23. This experience has confirmed that there are still a lot of people who are caring and creative even when scared. People who reach out to others with offers of love and support, finding ways to help that are safe but effective. People willing to make hard choices for the good of many. Watching (from too far away)my kids, among many others, be those kind of folks.

  24. Mostly I am trying very hard to control my anger over this. I feel that the federal government has totally let us down. I guess we all have been complacent and complicit. Who knew our public health system was not as good as we thought. I am doing Dr. Weil’s 4 7 8 breathing. Try it. It may help you calm down too. And I am very grateful for my 2 daughters and their families who give us so much love. Take care, Grace. Love your books.

  25. `I have learned that I am middle class but I am a very privileged person. For the first time I went online and ordered groceries to be delivered to the house. I have the means to do this for months but there are people out there right now who do not know how they will feed their families in the next week.It has brought home to me how big a problem food insecurity is in this country. I am going to donate to our local food bank as I know there will be increased need for food. I do not think any lessons are going to be learned from this pandemic. We are going to hear about acts of kindness and heroism but these will be by people who are already heroic and kind.Other people are going to buy their way out of this horrible situation. I heard about the owner of a company that makes ventilators. They were speeding up production but he had made the decision not to sell to individuals for any amount of money.How many other companies are going to follow his lead and how many are going to sell their ventilators to individuals for millions of dollars? There are people who will not understand that the elimination of the office which was in charge of issues relating to pandemics severely weakened our country. Several senators changed their stocks because of their early knowledge of the coming pandemic.They did not use their knowledge to warn the public or to urge our president to order the increased production of soon to be needed medical equipment. This virus is so contagious that every day of inaction means more deaths. We will never know how many deaths will result because of each day of inaction. I do not believe people will use this knowledge when it comes time to vote in November.

  26. I’m learning that I need tonself-impose more structure! I’m a teacher, but I stopped bringing work home when I had my daughter. I instead got better at technology to streamline a lot of my grading.

    This has been awesome, because I’m far better prepared than most for this online learning we’re doing, but I’ve not balanced time well this week. Now I’m trying to do work at home, and my 1.5 year old is way cuter than my online gradebook!

  27. I’m getting a master class in opera by watching the MET’s daily livestream performances. I’ve had an appreciation for opera since I was an usher for the School of Music’s performances at Indiana University, but no one I knew shared my interest. Now I get a chance to see the incredibly beautiful MET productions with lyrics translated and it is so great!