The pandemic’s put new words and phrases on our lips

Sometimes we need to state the obvious. So just to make sure we’re conscious of one impact, here are ten words and phrases the pandemic’s added to our everyday vocabularies over the past year.

  1. Coronavirus. (Of course.) We even learned to spell it.
  2. Covid. (Ditto.) Upper- or lower-case.
  3. Zoom. The word existed, just not in the context we now think of first.
  4. Shelter in place. This one still strikes me as strange.
  5. Self-quarantine, self-isolation. I suppose it’s supposed to sound voluntary. Or else.
  6. Social distancing. Specifically, six feet or more.
  7. Vaxxed. Which leads us to:
  8. Moderna. Not as a chic word for contemporary.
  9. Pfeizer. As a synonym for a vaccine, rather than the pharmaceutical giant.
  10. Fauci. Dr. Anthony.

There are more. What would you add to the list?

Some things to reflect on as we’re coming out of Covid restrictions

  1. We learned to Zoom. As much as I missed face-to-face and the subtle interactions there, Zoom did spare us a lot of driving. Sometimes it was a treat not having to leave home.
  2. We saved a bucket of money, apart from takeout. Well, Amazon made out like a bandit, but local retail took a big hit.
  3. We used less cash, if any, while credit card use for small items exploded.
  4. Kids lost a year-and-a-half of the growing-up experience. School events like the homecoming, prom, and graduation, as well as classroom learning, team sports, summer camp. I really feel for them, and their teachers. Can we make it up to them now?
  5. For worship communities, shut-ins and folks at a distance could tune in and be part again. But we definitely missed singing together.
  6. It’s triggered a big population relocation and a real estate frenzy. So how do we feel about working from home rather than an office? Or the opportunity to live anywhere we want and dial in?
  7. Arts, artists, and arts organizations suffered most of all. They need our renewed support, bigtime.
  8. As our astute son-in-law quipped, it was a year without culture. He was talking about sporting events, but it really fit across the board. We couldn’t even really get together as a book club.
  9. Going about without those masks feels refreshing. Or even naked.
  10. What’s your reaction to going up to the checkout counter and noticing the plexiglass barrier isn’t there anymore?

And, oh yes, we learned to spell coronavirus and even pronounce it.

What’s high on your own list of takeaways?

Bewildered by the big real estate bubble

Admittedly, it’s a national problem, but one that’s especially acute here in New England. Home prices are soaring. Wannabe buyers far outnumber sellers.

For once, my wife and I hit this one right.

The place we just bought, as I’ve been saying, is in a remote location, and it needs some work. There are reasons potential buyers passed on it. As one I’ve met reacted, “It was more than my husband and I wanted to take on.” But thanks to our elder daughter, we have a vision, and, as we are finding, the place feels right. Besides, the bones are good. To our surprise, our bargain bid was accepted, so here I am.

And then, the city farm we just sold is in a very hot market. Readers of the Red Barn have been following some of the reasons – small-town pedestrian-friendly scale and New England character combined with proximity to Boston in one direction plus beaches and mountains in the other directions.

We watched as real-estate prices kept rising, buffeted by only one big downturn, and wondered how young couples and families could pay the mortgages. Well, rents were going out of sight, too, as are mobile homes. Around the neighborhood, the running joke was that none of us could afford to buy our own residences at the current prices. Only it wasn’t funny.

Covid, however, ramped all that up. Many people with professional jobs found that in working from home, they can live anywhere – and in working from home, they need a home office.

The real-estate collapse I had expected didn’t happen, thanks to the federal stimulus checks, extended unemployment compensation, and anti-eviction laws. Not to say there won’t be a delayed reaction.

Still, with Covid limiting a lot of ways to spend money – dining out, movies, travel, athletic events, concerts and theaters, for starters – there may be a lot of cash in reserve. Who knows if that’s a factor.

We had nine bids in five days, all above our asking price. Some were accompanied by love letters, even an excellent loaf of homemade bread, and selecting just one from that array was difficult. As was the disappointment of those who wondered what they’d done wrong.

Some of the push is coming from people from other parts of the country, who are buying sight-unseen, like the Texans with two Mercedes whose bid for a smaller property down the street was $65,000 more than the original asking price. That had a positive influence on our own property when it officially went on sale three days later.

So where are most of the hopeful buyers in Dover coming from now?

New York and California, we’re told.

Did anyone see that one coming? Or have a clue just where it might lead?

Moving past Covid

Yes, we were Zooming, as our monthly gathering of religious leaders in town has been doing for the past year, but the suggestion did come as a jolt.

For decades now, the largely informal group has been a way of supporting each other, clergy and laity, as friends and neighbors, and out of that has grown joint activity, such as our community-wide Thanksgiving, Blue Christmas, and Martin Luther King services or overnight shelter for the homeless in the depth of winter or recognition of challenges we face as congregations. It’s one of the things I will especially miss in moving from Dover.

“We need to think carefully about how we come out of Covid,” the Congregational pastor mused. “We need to give it the same attention we did going into the restrictions.”

We still haven’t had the conversation. Maybe we will on our next agenda. But she’s right. Our new normal won’t be the same as the old.

I’ve been hoping that when the restrictions are lifted and we’re all immunized, we’ll be hungry to be back in public get-togethers more than ever, including worship. But there’s also the reality that we’ve fallen out of social habits and may cling to our newer stay-at-home routines. There’s a recognition that for some, continuing the online connections may be beneficial – for invalids or people living at a distance, especially. In addition, a Zoom session can be more convenient than driving hours to a committee meeting, as we’re finding, though it also has drawbacks.

As organizations, we appear to have kept a loyal core but also seen, I sense, newer participants drift away. Can we find ways to lure them back or attract others once we’re “open again”?

~*~

You’ve probably already seen the report that for the first time since the figures were kept, church, synagogue, and similar membership in the U.S. has fallen below 50 percent. Some of the reaction has noted a difference between joining in a congregation in contrast to unaffiliated “spiritual” identity. Some other commentators have derided religion altogether, but we should also be aware of declining membership in various associations across the board. One of the things that struck Alexis de Tocqueville about American society in his travels in 1831-1832 was the degree to which we were joiners. Not just in churches but also trade and economic associations, fraternal societies, political parties, lodges and clubs, sports teams, choruses, bands, and theatrical groups, and more.

While I don’t consider myself to be especially “social,” I’m still a member of a half-dozen groups, and I’m not counting those that are essentially an annual donation and a membership card or magazine in return.

Not so for the younger generation. One daughter does belong to the county beekeepers’ group, but that’s it.

As others have noted, that’s not a good sign for building democracy or community.

~*~

But folks are understandably restless. Already, everyplace seems to be booked up for vacation travel. (Glad we have a place that’s suddenly “in.”)

That transition from lockdown to normal now promises to transpire over the summer, giving organizations a chance to anticipate the changes and readjust more slowly. There’s so much we don’t know, after all.

And we haven’t even touched on the future of retailing and other local business.

What are you looking forward to post-Covid? And when?

Think you’ll miss Zoom?

 

Yay! I got my first Covid vaccination!

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I got the phone call asking if I wanted to move my appointment for my first Covid shot up from April 23 to February 12. I didn’t mind that the call came just a day before, when I was 311 miles away. I was overjoyed.

Besides, I had already planned to be back in Dover that day, I just had to be sure I got an early start and didn’t get delayed by weather or the like.

Better yet, it would eliminate the complications of one more trip later, likely after we’d sold the house.

Mine was the Moderna vaccine, and it went very smoothly. Yes, my shoulder was pretty painful that night, at least when I rolled over, as well as the next day. As for achiness, much could be blamed on all the packing and cleaning and a few runs to the city recycling center we were already doing. We’ll see how the second shot goes, though I am bracing myself.

The idea of being out from under that cloud by the beginning of April rather than early June is exhilarating. Here we’ve been under what one Friend who lives beside a lake in Connecticut calls Covid cabin fever, and I’ve been pretty much hunkered down through most of the duration, apart from the month-and-a-half I was a Census enumerator.

Still, there’s so much we don’t yet know. How long is it good for? What continuing precautions should we take? When will we all be able to move out and about freely, if ever?

How about you? Had the vaccination? Which one? How did it go?

A few big things in my life in the past year

Safe to say, it’s been unlike any 12 months before it.

  1. A hunkered-down lifestyle. Shelter-in-place and other Covid-19 social measures. (OK, we all have that much in common.)
  2. Learned to Zoom. But it’s not the same as face-to-face meetings.
  3. Tripped over my wife more than usual. More likely, found myself appearing unintentionally in her Zoom meetings.
  4. Appreciated a six-hour Smashwords writers’ conference online back in April. Those folks are amazing. Which leads to …
  5. Saw my novels become available in paperback at Amazon. Eight of them! Alas, book signings are still on hold, as are public readings.
  6. Missed having weekly choir practice, my daily laps swimming, and in-person Quaker worship and committee work together.
  7. Watched a lot of Met opera streaming. A different performance every night (or sometime during the following day, depending on my schedule). More than a hundred different works, in addition to the same pieces in different productions or castings.
  8. Returned to the workplace, part-time, as a Census enumerator. We were supposed to start in May, but that got pushed back to August before being cut a month short. Don’t be surprised if it has to be redone in two years.
  9. Missed the Greek community, Orthros and the festival, especially.
  10. Drank too many martinis.

~*~

I’m not counting the big move, which really fits more into the coming year. For now, it’s feeling more like acquiring a summer home, except that our adventure starts in winter.

What’s been big in your year?

Cash in a time of Covid

Well, this used to be the start of the Christmas shopping season, and with Coronavirus I’m assuming that our Thanksgiving gatherings are smaller than usual. (Anyone sitting down to a turkey TV dinner rather than a family gathering?)

Traditionally, today is a day when we’re supposed to think about what we’re grateful for during the past year, but we’re more likely reflecting on what we really miss.

Those face-to-face times when we’re altogether, especially. (Including those casual opportunities to pass along treasures to others, too … as I’ve pondered while culling my bookshelves.)

It’s even having me admit how little cash I’ve used since March, instead putting most of my small purchases “on plastic,” the way, say, most kids have long been doing. For just a cup of coffee?

I’m wondering what else, besides cash, has been a victim of this pandemic.

High on my list would be communal worship, singing together, dancing, concerts and plays, swimming and similar exercise as well as sporting events with live crowds, study groups, parties.

For the record, I’m grateful nobody among my family or friends has come down with Covid and that none of us has been evicted. Also, for one in particular, being furloughed opened the door to an even better position. So the list of positives begins to emerge.

How about you?

One more thing on the plate

Covid caused us to put off last spring’s anticipated yard sale, which was to help us reduce some of our excess possessions. Now we realize if we sell this house before May, when the yard sale seasons begins, we need to choose whether to move our excess items to our daughter’s and have a yard sale there or to take them to Goodwill or the dump instead.

Quite simply, do we feel we’re up for investing the time and effort in preparing and conducting a sale? (As well as the tedious job of cleaning up afterward?) How much do we want to reasonably rake in if we do?

In either case, I don’t want to pack up a bunch of stuff “to get to later,” meaning sometime after hauling it five hours northeast. Or wherever.

Note to self: Energy applied now saves double or triple that amount later.

Now for a rash of Covid novels

Word on the street reports that with all of this downtime, wannabe novelists have turned to the No. 1 topic of conversation as their prompt, and already literary agents and editors are turning off at the first reference to coronavirus.

My take? Besides the fact a reader can devour only so many volumes, even if interested?

I think it’s too early to tell the story. We’re only in the opening round of this affliction, which was supposed to drop off in the face of warmer weather. Only it hasn’t. Let’s see what happens around the corner, likely the real whammer come September.

Though, as one writing buddy suggests, that first book could be the beginning of a series, if you do it right.