The greatest reward for pandemic risk

Assessing risk is hard anytime, but, in a pandemic, it’s even harder. But it’s paramount.

People should think “The coronavirus kills and is unpredictable, so I should wear a mask, especially indoors, and socially distance so I don’t transmit or get infected and become a transmitter.” But many don’t.

Especially in the US.

People aren’t socially distancing. People aren’t wearing masks.

And I think it has a lot to do with how people assess risk. Yes, it’s not the only reason the virus is rampant in our country. Sure, people are selfish. And true, people think the pandemic is a hoax. But there’s also this critical mental exercise that so many of us fail to practice that often harms us. We don’t think realistically about the downside of our actions.

And, to be honest, that’s the wonderful thing about Americans: we are optimists. We attempt the impossible because we refuse to see the impossibilities. That’s what makes us scrappy, entrepreneurial, rugged, dogged, where many of us have an I-can’t-let-some-stupid-virus-stop-me-from-living-my-best-life mindset. That’s an attribute—in a pre-pandemic world.

My mother. I love her. She’s an octogenarian. She’s old. And last week she went to a store with my sister and picked up legos for my first born son. And I scolded her for it. Because, to me, going to the store with my sister to pick up legos for my son isn’t worth the risk of putting herself in danger of getting a virus that would likely kill her. But she scoffed at me.

The virus turns optimism against us. It seizes that which is usually a strength in a non-pandemic world and turns it into, not only a weakness, but a weapon. See, my mother’s ventures into a toy store can lead to her getting herself, or me, or my son, or others, sick.

Often we don’t even know what the stakes are. We’re completely unaware. That’s especially true now. I think it’s because the virus can’t be seen and anyone who’s sick is behind hospital walls and you can’t really see what is going on with them. All we have are some stories people tell us in the media or social media. And we lack the imagination and awareness (maybe even the humility) to apply those horrific accounts to ourselves.

Till it’s too late.

The pandemic is a long view problem. Short term desires and actions only threaten and kill more people. There are no quick fixes. It needs to be handled with creating new habits, patterns, thinking that affect our lives. But too many refuse to think that way, and, instead, they do what they want when they want because that’s what they’ve always done.

But the pandemic isn’t about losing money or failure or losing a job or getting broken up with—no. It’s about death. It’s about forfeiting your life, or, worse, your actions costing the lives of your loved ones. When we are cavalier and careless, trying to live on as if the pandemic didn’t exist, we aren’t endangering just ourselves; we are risking the lives of everyone we love, too.

See, the world has changed; and in order to survive, even thrive in it, we must also change. We must adapt. What once was safe is now dangerous, no matter how optimistic we feel. And with each interaction with the physical world, we must measure it against this new reality.

And if you do, there is reward.

It’s life.


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Cookies, covid, and a confession

Three words likely have never been seen together, but there they are, in the title, all alliterated, and weird. Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago we shipped the most amount of cookies since the start of our Clean Cookie Company, but covid slowed our shipments; and we’ve got to own the fact that our packaging sucks.

When we got a surge of orders, we thought that we might need to refund close to a grand worth of cookies because we had never shipped that many cookies and performed a last minute packaging change. Yes, refunding all of those orders would have tasted bitter but we were ready to do it or ship out another round of them.

But we didn’t have to. The cookies got to almost everyone. However, it wasn’t all perfection.

One person said that USPS notified her that her package arrived but there was nothing on the doorstep. We’re still trying to figure out what happened to those phantom cookies.

But most friends, from what we’ve heard, received theirs and enjoyed the taste. Some of the cookies were uglier than others because of the ninety degree summer heat. But they got there, and they tasted fresh, which was a relief.

Covid caused massive delays. USPS had staffing issues. And what should have taken two to three days took five to seven. Not ideal. But considering the circumstances (that we’re in a, you know, pandemic), we were grateful they arrived at all.

We were also grateful that refunds weren’t necessary. But now have a different problem.

You see, our packaging isn’t great. Actually it’s terrible. Sure, it keeps the cookies fresh, which is great, but the material isn’t.

We vacuum seal the cookies in baggy plastic bags, which feels like a parachute of plastic, when we ship them.

And while I’m sealing them, my six year old is lecturing me about how much plastic we are using and how we’re killing the environment and how it’s wrong. Every word feels like a stab, because he’s right. And we’ve received similar feedback from customers, friends.

The truth is is that we’ve eliminated a lot plastic in our home. We use silicone and glass and steel instead for storage. And there’s a part of me that wants to justify that that’s good enough. But it’s not. And just because those bags keep our cookies fresh and good for our customers doesn’t make it fresh and good for the environment. We recognize that.

So we may not be refunding our generous and good customers, but we are looking to return our plastic bags. At least we are researching the best alternatives so that we can be good to the earth and still send cookies that taste like heaven.

We don’t have a good answer yet.

But, we are committed to finding one.

You can survive this time

Sometimes authority is wrong. In America, it’s woefully wrong about the pandemic.

Everything is not ok. It’s not safe.

I’m not trying to be a fear-monger. I’m just telling you the truth.

I don’t want you to get sick. I don’t want you to spread this disease to your loved ones.

Look, our leaders are failing us. When leadership fails, we must lead ourselves.

When governments fail to use reason, data, wisdom, we must self-regulate.

We must stay informed and help, encourage, challenge, and bless each other.

I’m not saying this time is easy. No, it’s terrible. It kick-you-in-the-face challenging. It’s “unprecedented.”

We must use our minds, stay calm, and not rush into a world that no longer exists. It’s not safe.

But I have hope. I believe this will pass. It will be safe again. But it’s just not now.

In the meantime, practice caution, call friends and family, eat delicious food, read books, binge a show, learn a new skill, occupy your time with healthy, socially distanced activities.

And when you get through this, you’ll be stronger than ever.

Stay well, friends.

Love,

John


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The pandemic isn’t over

It’s a matter of life or death. What is? This: Who you’re listening to. Don’t listen to the stories, the ideological frameworks, the politics, businesses, even your own urges.

Everyone has their agenda; campaigners want to win campaigns; businesses want your money; government officials want to be voted back in office; you just want everything to feel ok. They, and you, are all biased and want something from you. Don’t heed them.

This week we had a school official reach out to us to get our child to come to a meet and greet at his new school, to meet his new teacher, which would be incredible—if it weren’t for the virus ravaging our world population. And the school official emailed repeatedly, asking us to come into the classroom with other kids. Yes, it would be a smallish group, but still indoors with others. We asked if we could do it out of doors. She said no.

We didn’t listen to her.

You shouldn’t listen to them either.

You should listen to the data.

And the data is speaking loudly. It’s saying this.

The virus is alive and well.

And it’s dangerous.


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Is normal worth the risk?

Quarantining, not hugging, being isolated, fighting the virus is exhausting. All of it. We want to get back to living, normal. But friends, we mustn’t rush.

Plunging into seeing people, going to the office, traveling, all of that, isn’t safe no matter what the politicians say, governments do, how those around you behave.

I’m seeing it around me: family, friends, neighbors, in Middle America, wanting life to resume in pre-pandemic style, wishing the virus away, hoping for the best.

At the end of this month my church will resume in-person services. They said they will have protocols to keep people safe.

I doubt it.

And I hope nothing happens; but the questions are How much risk do you want to take? and Is it worth it?

Seeing people is important, so is going to church in person, but is it worth risking your life when there is no treatment or vaccine?

There are things worth risking your life for, like saving another human, your loved ones, standing up for your principles, your faith, to love, serving your country.

But seeing your friends now, traveling for business, going to church when you can do all of that virtually isn’t worth risking the lives of your community, family, friends—your life.

The reality is that the virus is still here, alive—killing.

So, friends, please be patient. I want to run out and hug people, strangers even, but resist the urge to mingle, taking unnecessary risks.

Stay vigilant.

Be patient.

Lots of love, John


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You Have Great Power

You are not powerless; you have a choice.

You can choose to avoid the news, build a routine, exercise, connect with a friend, read a great book—hope.

It’s not easy in this time, I get it.

Shifting your mind from focusing on the negative to healthier activities is your decision.

Decide to feed your mind stories that lift the spirit, move your body even if it’s just for a few minutes, take a walk outside, meditate, pray, get to sleep at a better hour, call someone and ask them how they’re doing, and turn off your notifications for the news.

Whatever you do, make decisions to further your health and, where you can, the health of others.

You have far more power than you may realize.

You are powerful enough to change the way you think and feel.

Lots of love,

John


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Finding Rest Right Now

We’re tired. Fighting a pandemic is exhausting. Even if you’re home alone or with kids or whatever, this is taking a lot more energy than we ever imagined it would.

Who knew homeschooling was like herding cats and trying to teach them math.

And then there’s the militaristic effort to sanitize everything—I mean everything—before it gets into your house. That alone can grind you down to a nub.

Lately I even find myself getting a little sloppier with my sanitization practices. Usually at the grocery store I ask the person checking me out to sanitize their hands before touching our groceries. But recently I didn’t. Staying hyper vigilant is getting harder.

Yes, we shouldn’t slack. We need to continue herding the cats, sanitizing, etc., but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to rest even in the midst of a battle.

Just because you’re working a lot or not at all doesn’t mean your mind isn’t overworked. That’s what a crisis does. It makes you worry, stress, think. That’s a lot of work no matter how busy you are. So finding a respite for your head is essential.

Find times to stop working or worrying. Watch a funny video or read a chapter of a beautiful novel that doesn’t have anything to do with viruses or a pandemic and sit back and enjoy the ride. (Need some material? See below.) Pray, meditate, exercise, but whatever you do don’t read the news.

Find ways to practice self-care. Create space for yourself or your partner, so you can do the things you need to stay as healthy as you can. They don’t need to be long moments, just long enough.

Even in a pandemic, or especially so, we need to know our limits and take the time to find restoration. Doing that will help you continue this fight.

Stay well.

Great Reads To Divert Your Mind

In These Trying Times I Want to Remind My Followers I Have A Ridiculously Hot Body :: Beware! Laughter will pour out of you if you read this. My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? :: This is related to the pandemic, but it’s an incredibly well written story that gives us all perspective. It’s strangely diverting. 

Jeff Bezos’s Lazy Saturday Morning Routine :: Another funny gut busting piece. 


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Good Grieving

It’s good to grieve. We should.

Because, you know, the new normal is too new and it shouldn’t be normal, and in general things just suck right now.

I won’t visit my mom to avoid any chances of getting her sick. But I visited a friend while standing over six feet away from him and thought that it was “intimate.” Every day I’m wondering if I got this virus and dreading that I might give it to my wife and kids. This “normal” sucks.

But I haven’t lost anyone I know. So there’s that. It’s a blessing, really. Also I haven’t gotten sick.

But there’s a strange guilt or feeling of unworthiness or sadness because I’m healthy. And it’s odd, and twisted, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Now we live in a world where those who aren’t sick feel guilty for feeling well. That’s sickening.

Then there’s the other side where those who do get the virus are shamed. They are seen as other, lesser, leper. Not only are they physically ostracized, they are emotionally as well. Loneliness kills like a killer virus. And those who fall ill shouldn’t be ill-treated.

This pandemic is sick. And it’s making us sicker than we want to be. And we’re getting desperate, even our governing officials are, too.

Just because the government is trying to open the economy doesn’t mean customers will just stroll into restaurant and grab a burger. Too many people are still afraid. And it will take more time than we think before we all feel safe again. This is not the time for desperation. We need discernment during a fight: Winning doesn’t mean we’ve won. Reaching a peak in a crisis doesn’t mean it’s peaked. When we can smell victory is when we must be most vigilant against defeat. By letting our guard down now is when we are most vulnerable to stray punch that can knock us out. This war isn’t over. We are not yet safe from this enemy.

Speaking of safety, just the idea of not worrying every time I touch some random piece of plastic or a shopping cart or whatever outside of my house or domain that I haven’t wiped down with a sanitizing wipe multiple times will feel like heaven. I mean liberty from the stress of wondering if there are invisible little bugs, on some random surface someone accidentally sneezed on, trying to kill me and stop my lungs from working would be AMAZING!

But that world is gone and it’s a longtime before we get it back.

So I grieve. I grieve for the world, for those who’ve lost loved ones, those who are still fighting for their lives and those who are on the frontlines fighting to keep others alive, for the loss of hugs and handshakes and restaurants and meeting strangers and flying in planes and touching things without wondering, “What if…?”

There is much to grieve. Let’s do it together.

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This Is the Freedom You Can Hear

A choir of birds chirp outside my window each morning. And the melodies breathe a refreshing breeze into my soul that helps me face the day. It’s a simple sound, never ceasing to surprise and delight me, reminding me of something greater.

Taking pleasure in the every-day moments, common yet majestic, can bring mirth even in the darkest times. But first you need to hear them.

It’s easy not to notice them. Some mornings I don’t because I’m too distracted or worried or something.

Awareness is key. Take note of the world around you. When you do, it makes all the difference. Noticing those small details can have big effects on your life.

Hearing the chirps helps me reframe my mind. It reminds me that there’s a whole world out there that’s still chiming, dancing from branch to branch, living as it has for thousands of years.

And just because a pandemic has struck human life, some creatures go unperturbed, singing the song of life, as they eat worms and fly and soar, freely going about their lives.

And I’m reminded that someday we will be free too.


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One Great Thing From Social Distancing

Strangers are waving at me, and I find myself waving back. They smile, and so do I. And you know what? It feels really good.

In all of this we’re learning to appreciate strangers.

There’s a longing for connection that we all have, especially when we’re as starved of it as we are these days.

Yes, Zoom is good but not enough. We were meant to grab beers and clink mugs together, shake hands, hug—be with each other. Zooming is great but it’s a bastardization of what we really want, need.

Maybe your living with family, which makes it a lot easier. But there’s still that desire to connect with other people who don’t have your surname.

Strangers are now those people. And it’s nice, you know.

It’s strange yet natural. It’s awkward, but refreshing. It makes us all feel better, somehow.

Yes, the Midwest, where I live, is a place where social norms do cultivate a higher amount of niceness from its people. But these days they’re even nicer than normal. The waves are bigger and smiles wider. It’s like we all got the message of “We are all that we’ve got left now, so let’s make the best of it.”

And I like it. You probably do, too.

You might be noticing the change, friendly greetings from those who aren’t friends. It likely makes you feel connected, loved even.

This pandemic is tragic, horrid, awful. But there is good that blossoms from shit.

And learning to love the people around us no matter who they are, is a flower I hope continues to bloom in our daily lives and never gets uprooted no matter what season of life we’re in.Social distancing has brought us closer to strangers. And it’s great. 

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