The Better Normal

Occasionally, in the midst of a trying time, my sainted mother would catch me whinging and whining, and one of her stock responses was, “Well, yeah, it’s hard right now, but what do you learn on your good days?” She was making a backhanded reference to silver linings, teaching moments, or some other danged constructive perspective which I was usually incapable of appreciating at the time.

I’m looking around at this pandemic, and thinking, “This is the biggest, baddest snow day I have even seen in my life. It’s definitely new terrain for me personally and for my society. What useful insight can I take away from this?” In other words, how will this pandemic change the way I go about my life? How do I want to see it change my society for the better?

One thing I want is paid sick leave as a norm. If somebody brings enough to my organization that I’m hiring them as an employee, then they bring enough that I can cover them for a few weeks a year when they’re under the weather. People get sick, and we’re learning to our sorrow the cost of expecting that those who make the smallest wages–handling our food, looking after our old folks, staffing day care centers–should just work sick. Who ever thought that was a smart idea anyway?

Um, we did. Apparently?

For me personally, that means I should always have enough provisions on hand that I can stay home for a week or ten days if I’m sick. I wasn’t really thinking in those terms before, but I will now. It means keeping a few, “Been meaning to get around to it,” classics in my TBR pile. It means updating my will. (Still on the to-do list.)

I came across this article, which warns us that many highly motivated interests will encourage us all to forget this ever happened, and get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. But normal–full of distrust for the media, contempt for basic science, indifference to the planet’s welfare, relying on of some of the worst health care in the developed world (through no fault of our health care practitioners)–is a significant part of how we got here.

We have a chance to re-examine whether normal was working for us, and to decide what to do about the normal that wasn’t working. What lessons will you take away from our big snow day? How will this experience motivate you to build a better normal?

I’ll put three more commenters on my Advanced Reader Copy list for A Duke by Any Other Name. (Book comes out April 28, eARCs will start going out about April 17.)


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28 comments on “The Better Normal

  1. I’d like to be on a lot better terms with my technology. Fast, secure internet is important, too. The learning curve has been steep for working from home.

    • I’m thinking about all the families trying to work from home, remote school a couple kids, order groceries on line… and something like a quarter of our rural population STILL does not have high speed internet. Definitely goes on the do-better list.

  2. During my stay at home in isolation week’s I have cleaned out cupboards and have had a good clearout.I came across a bag full of my art work and poems,which I did when I was a teenager back in the sixties.Then I wrote about how my generation were going to make the world a better place,end wars,feed the hungry and live in peace.Make the world a fairer place to be.Such Ideals for a young mind but relevant then and relevant still.Many young people today want the same things but are blindsided by all that is going on.
    So much fuzz and scrappy stuff being out there,I hope the young realise when we get through this pandemic what is important and what is no use whatsoever.They are the future.

    • One of my friends told me she has run out of things to clean. I hope she decides to use some of this time to read a book or two, and I hope your poems and art inspired you to maybe get back to those activities. Poetry is not only for the young and idealistic.

  3. One good thing to come out of this is it has forced my hubs to acknowledge that I am correct and we need to be planning our menu more carefully and with an eye towards zero food waste. I hope I can make him keep that up after this passes!
    I keep campaigning for growing some of our own food, but unfortunately have not been able to get him on board with that idea yet. I would prefer to be much more self sufficient. This pandemic is exposing all the dangers of our screwed up supply chain, in foodstuffs, medications, and other goods. What a mess!
    And I have zero hope that we as a society will learn much of anything from this, or modify our behavior. People suck, in general. Our society is so broken, and it fills me with despair.

    • The sick time issue is of great concern for me as well. Coworkers come to work sick all the time. They want to bank their PTO time for vacation so, they work sick. Something went through my department in December and I ended up with bronchitis and then pneumonia in January.
      My daughter works at a coffee shop and no one calls in sick, they call out if they have something else to do.
      I understand the trend towards PTO, all of your sick and vacation time is in one “bucket” but there’s a negative as well.

      My husband had stocked are pantry before the virus. The extra bags of soup and laundry detergent drive me crazy. The pantry shelves are full and the rest is disorganized.

      I am meal planning. It’s easier to use what’s in the freezer, check the pantry and figure out how many meals I can put together. I am on Weight Watchers and trying to stay with the program.

      I am going to clean out the pantry shelves, organize them and figure out what’s missing. I can not survive on Progresso soup and beefaroni. Besides TP, water and wine what else do I need?

      There are positives to this virus. Families are reconnecting. The three of us are eating dinner together, talking and watching movies. I am listening to my daughters suggestions for upgrades and changes that need to be made here.

      Great blog…it’s one that will keep me thinking.
      Have a good week!

    • I’ve been against food waste since I was a teenager. Money was tight after my dad died, and we grocery shopped very carefully and used what we bought. Then when I went to college, I had to provide quite a few of my own meals so again, was very careful.

    • I’m looking at putting in a garden this year too, not that I think I will get much out of it calorie-wise. But it’s more than that. It’s reducing the carbon footprint on the produce I do eat, reducing my toxin-load (nearest organic market is 30 miles away), and varying my daily activity level. If nothing else, the deer will thank me.
      One of the reasons I CAN put in a garden is because I won’t be traveling anywhere until Fall… and maybe not even then.
      I understand your cynicism, but I also know that spreading despair is a tactic used by those who want to control society’s wealth. If we give up, the trolls can run the tollbooth, and I’m just not quite ready to let that happen.

  4. When my youngest was about 18 months or so, he developed a high fever in the middle of the night. I went to the medicine chest for the liquid Tylenol and there was none! The drugs stores weren’t open and we brought his fever down by cool water sponge baths. I vowed that night to never to be without some sort of fever reliever in the house at all times. This developed into us having a *sick box* which I consciously replenished every August, just before school started.

    Out *sick box* had one bottle of fever relievers of all types, several 2 liter bottles of ginger ale, Pepto Bismol–liquid and tablets, Gatorade power, Vicks Vapo-rub, extra tissues and various other things for being sick. As the kids grew up, no liquid or children’s versions any longer, but we always had the adult versions of things. Right after I decided to put the box together, I got sick and we had no regular adult Tylenol and had to take double of the kids tablets!

    Sounds like a good idea, huh? And in this Pandemic, it would be great, right? Except I haven’t replenished it for about ten years, not since the kids became adults and because there is always a 24 Walgreens near. So, I’ve been trying to put it together again, but with hoarding shoppers and just the CRAZY of our whole situation, it’s been difficult.

    Like you as this whole thing plays out, I vow to not only have about ten days of shelf stable meals in my pantry but also to renew the whole *sick box* properly. And replenish it every year in August. And to replace what is used up as we go. I also vow to always have plenty of toilet paper in the house. 🙂

    Have a blessed Easter, Grace!

    • Because I live in the boonies, I do keep basic first aid stuff around, but in recent years, I’ve been bitten by both a European hornet and a brown recluse. Do I have antihistamines? Benadryl? Noooooo….
      If my little Surface laptop dies, or my washing machine… won’t be pretty.

  5. I’m one of the lucky ones – I get to work from home and get paid, and my family insurance coverage is secure. The sick and dying are awful, but to me, those who lost their employment because the business shut down are even worse. If they were living from paycheck to paycheck as most probably were – and now have no child care because that has closed too – it’s too awful to even think about. I read a news article from China about people who were shut in their homes – to starve.

    For my family, who are among the lucky, the positive I find is that we are spending more time together – peacefully – which is nice. And yes, I also need to make a will.

    • The data I’ve seen is that on average, across demographics, 75 percent of us CANNOT work from home. For white people the stats are a little better (70 percent), for minorities, the stats are even worse (85 percent). I am like you among the lucky, lucky few who can work at home, but I’m reminded how much more difficult this whole thing would have been ten or fifteen years ago, when even more people lacked high speed internet, schools had no clue about remote learning, and only freelancers worked at home.
      I know I have friends who had asked repeatedly to work at home, and HR was like, “Can’t do it. Nope. Stop asking.” Now?
      The whole office is working remotely. Guess we could it after all.

    • What you say is true!
      Also, the media should stop accusing us of hoarding when the issue is supply-chain greed.
      What do I mean by that?
      Take toilet paper (if you have any). About forty percent of TP is usually used commercially, meaning at schools, offices, gyms, and so forth. This is a lower grade product sold in big rolls. The fluffy domestic stuff is made at different plants from the commercial stuff. Now, much of that commercial demand is stuck at home, significantly increasing domestic demand, but the industry won’t revamp any plants from commercial to domestic production, just to have to un-vamp them again in a few months. That would cost money.
      So we’re left pointing fingers at each other, when in fact, hoarding is not the problem.
      I’ll be quiet now. Maybe.

  6. Think I may have read the same article.

    Really really enjoy your blog!

    Have you written Stephen Went worth’s story?

    • Yes, I absolutely have written Stephen’s story. He keeps trying to weasel in on his sisters’ happily ever afters, and I can take a hint. You will see more of him in The Truth About Dukes (Constance’s story, comes out on Election, heaven help me), and then next spring, How To Catch A Duke sees Lord Stephen falling love. Finally.

  7. Personally, I will be forced to take away how haphazardly I live my life. I am amazed at how much time I am wasting, time that I thought was the core piece I was missing in my failed efforts to get myself both material and internal in order. I am taking little baby steps toward plans for a workable plan to achieve my goal.

    Socially I think our greatest concern should be the apparent trend to treat dishonesty, fraud, and treachery as a legitimate way to behave in our culture. Am I making any sense? I am not just talking about the federal government here. – sigh

    • I think I know what you mean about haphazardly. I need new specs. I’ve known this for a few months, but, “Oh, well. I’ll get around to it…” And now I’m squinting at the screen and hitting Control+++…. Maybe should have made my VISION a priority, seeing as I can’t do my job without it?
      But noooooo. That kinda haphazard.
      I also know what you mean about ethics. I am on many author loops, and invariably somebody will get to complaining about the major ebook platforms, and somebody else comes back with, “They are in business to make a profit. Of course, they are going to lie, cheat, manipulate, misrepresent, invade customer privacy, and behave unethically. Why does this surprise you?”
      When did a reasonable profit–which I begrudge no one–ever become a defense to scurrilous behavior?

  8. I am generally quite conscious of food waste and am quite good at reinventing leftovers etc., but I would like to start composting and really be brutal in cutting out single use plastic.

    • I have to say that I pretty much don’t waste food. I live alone, so I can buy exactly what I want, and prepare it in the quantities I can consume.
      I’ve gone a fair distance to cut my carbon footprint. The plastic footprint is next and it is tough. There’s so much of it out there, and not just in our food packaging.
      Good luck, and the planet and I thank you!

  9. I read that same article—-it just has to be the same one. It was interesting but kind of jolting as well….how can anyone think we will forget this? I’m furious that the same people who aren’t ‘worth’ a decent living wage are now ‘essential workers’. America, you’ve got a lot of nerve.

    If I am feeling warm towards my country, I think: oh, wait, we still remember 9/11. We observe the date, and donate to the charities for the first responders. If I am feeling cynical, I think there are less flags flying and we roll our eyes at taking our shoes off in the airport.

    Of course we won’t forget…some of it. Of course we will want to put a lot of it behind us ASAP because a lot of it was not so good. Americans are good at remembering *sometimes* and forgetting *too often*.

    I don’t know where we will go from here, meaning when we get out of quarantine. Just getting out of isolation scares me—how safe will we be? I’m 63 with a couple of pre-existing conditions. I want to go back to my post-retirement job, but honestly, I’m afraid. Maybe it will be like that first time I got on a plane after 9/11…just had to do it, with some faith and some prayers. And again I will be depending on politicians to tell me if it’s safe or not. No, no, no, just no.

    Either way, whichever way we go, however long stay-in-place lasts, I’m pretty sure many of the predictions of that author will come true.

    • Somebody did an empathy experiment. They asked people to estimate how severe the pain would be for a person enduring ten minutes in a subzero cold room. The control group just took a guess (and their estimates were wildly not severe enough). The next group took a guess while their arm was in a bucket of ice water. Their estimates were pretty close to accurate. The third group took a guess ten minutes after plunging their arm in a bucket of ice water. In other words, they stuck their arm in ice water, pulled it out, waited ten minutes, made an estimate.
      Ten minutes was enough to erase most of the empathy gained by sticking an arm in a bucket of ice water.
      This experiment is reviewed with medical students to warn them of their own lack of empathy, and the human tendency to minimize pain they themselves aren’t suffering, but I think it bears pondering in our present circumstances too.
      We could easily forget the suffering and death, the bewildered children, stressed out parents, decimated savings, frightened old people (raises hand), and loneliness of weeks at home. Or we can learn from it.

  10. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how little food I actually need when I’m not wasting it by nipping out for impulse buys. I’m going to keep on with my organic produce shipments as it’s keeping my budget healthy. If I can find a supplier of organic eggs & dairy who also ships, I’ll add that.

    Especially infuriated by local farmers having to dump everything because corporate supermarkets all have contracts with international corporate farms. Who the pluperfect Hades ever thought shipping Mexican oranges & tomatoes to Florida was a good idea, much less needed? *mind blown* Food rotting in the fields locally because it’s earmarked for restaurants, not lowly consumers who can’t afford to eat out! And too expensive to repack so we could drive by & buy direct.

  11. I’ll continue to vote for candidates who support healthcare for all, however that comes about. I also support a safety net. It’s really easy to become homeless and hard to recover.

    On top of the pandemic, we had bad weather this week, with trees and power down. I have a pantry of canned good, but was low on flashlights and batteries. I scrounged around last night and found two small flashlights and two lanterns. I need more flashlights, more batteries and some kind of charger for our cell phones and e-readers.

  12. I absolutely love your books and try to keep up with each new one published. One of my favourite series is the Lonely Lords, I admit I have read all thirteen – Ashton. I would like to ask if you have any plans for any further tales in this series – Valerian, Oak, Grey come to mind the whole family would be great.
    I also wanted to say that I cried over the Captive series, everyone says I am too sentimental, but who cares if you can empathise with a character. Please keep writing and stay safe during this terrible time in our lives.

  13. On a personal level I think this pandemic has taught me what I need to survive- to better distinguish a need from a want.In the future I will be more thoughtful in my purchases.On the national level the old normal was not working for a large percentage of Americans.We are seeing how many people were living close to the edge.Unfortunately I do not think anything will change for the better.Our political system decides who gets what.Too many people with a lot of power and money will not want to see anything change. If we want change we need to get rid of the lobbyists and the electoral college.Stop the revolving door between government and lobbying jobs.Get rid of the electoral college so every vote counts. The middle and upper classes are dependent upon a permanent under class in order to keep their lifestyles.If the under class has a living wage,sick leave and health care then that will take away from the other classes. The CEOs make so much more than their workers that there is no fairness.The middle class is rightfully worried about losing gains they have worked very hard to attain.There is a large portion of our population that no longer cares about ethical behavior and the truth. Trump’s bullying and racist comments and lies make them feel better. During the pandemic we have been witness to great acts of courage but also the opposite with people who believe they have the right to do anything they want even if it leads to the deaths of other people. If the new normal is to be better than the old normal then we will need Americans who value truth , justice and equality and who are willing to fight for it. I think my new normal will be a stronger commitment to justice in all its forms.

  14. I am a Canadian with full health care coverage. Yes sometimes we have to wait for specialists but we don’t pay. It breaks my heart to hear stories such as that man in the US that they were trying to put a ventilator on and he kept saying who was going to pay for it. Your country needs universal health care, maternity and paternity leave . Sick leave , livable unemployment benefits etc. God Bless Stay Safe. I love your writing

  15. Are novellas something we can read. And if so where do we obtain them? I’ve read a few reviews and they sound great. I love your books and have read almost all except current books. Keep up the good work. ❤️