Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Solving Problems in the Time of Corona

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One problem I’ve solved in the Time of Corona is how to stay busy…

her name is Daisy.

In truth she creates as many problems as she solves, but on balance – I’ll keep her! Or our daughter Ruth will reclaim her, once Ruth is feeling better. Or my mother-in-law will adopt her. We might share fractional interests in the puppy.

It’s also possible that this will evolve into a Kramer vs. Kramer situation. Pepper would be delighted for the young miscreant to be whisked away by a possessive relative. She’s not sure how to solve the problem of Daisy.

In other news – I’m delighted for Brent and Shelby Moody to stop in and share their problem-solving skills in the Time of Corona!

Brent is a dermatologist and surgeon and active in politics. Shelby is his highly capable wife, each of them friends I respect and admire…

Photo from Fall 2019, approximately 100 years ago

Hi Brent and Shelby! Thank you for spending some time at Bacon today, in challenging times all around. I really appreciate it!

Brent, how is Shelby doing?

Jennifer, thank you for inviting us to Bacon. We are honored to be here. Shelby is doing a great job of managing day to day matters while still trying to navigate the future uncertainties, especially as it relates to our daughters. Shelby is a CPA by training and temperament. Making and executing a plan is part of her DNA, so the myriad of uncertainties required some adjustments. 

Shelby, is he right?

What is a CPA temperament? Wait, I don’t think I want to know the answer. I really don’t enjoy the nuts and bolts planning as much as Brent thinks I do. I do love problem solving though. Usually I can find a solution. In the time of Corona, not so much. 

So Shelby, how would you say Brent is doing?

Brent is certainly complex. He absorbs much information about coronavirus (from a medical perspective), the global pandemic, financial markets, and social unrest. He’s always thinking and asking difficult questions. However, from a personal view, he identifies what he can manage (often me!) and takes action. Within our family, he is positive and encouraging. He even undertook vigorous exercise with our youngest daughter, which resulted in a stress fracture. I’ve introduced him to the world of low impact exercise.  

Brent – is she right?

Indeed she is. However, Shelby is unmanageable. 

I don’t have much luck managing my husband either!

You’ve had your daughters home all summer – the older one home from college, the younger one about to launch. How are they doing? How are you all doing under the same roof?

Brent:  For our college sophomore, who had been on her own somewhat in Los Angeles, coming home at spring break and not going back was an unexpected occurrence. For our high school senior, once she came to the realization that her final year was going to end with an anticlimactic online experience, she took it in stride. I think people are growing weary of an online virtual world. 

Shelby:  It has been a rollercoaster. On March 8th, we were all in LA for an event with the older daughter (she attends University of Southern California).

Daughters on March 8th…

By March 11th, we were all home – for the duration. Online university and high school are in session! With courses and friends on Pacific Time, older daughter adopts nocturnal lifestyle.  Younger daughter leads us all in ambitious exercise regimen. We are all acutely aware of who we see, where we go, cleanliness and wearing masks, mainly out of concern for each other and Brent’s patients.  

Then, as things relax, so do we. However, the adjustments linger. With internship cancelled, older daughter begins online summer school. Younger one anticipates college but will it happen in person? We don our masks and attempt to move forward.  

“Active Life while Safer at Home”: We babysat some baby chicks during the power outage. You can see that our daughters and dog are enthralled. The weights, tennis shoes and leash in the background are a reminder of how we spent those days. The iPhones in the periphery are a commentary on life in general.

What does breakfast look like at your house? Dinner? (This is another way of asking: are you cooking more, cooking less, ordering in? And is that good or bad?)

Brent:  With activities of all sorts scaled back, both at home and related to travel, definitively more meals at home. Our youngest daughter embraced it and discovered a knack for baking. 

Shelby:  Everyone eats on their own schedule. I remind myself that we did have family meals once upon a formative time. In this time, as long as everyone’s needs are met, I’m happy. There is a touch of humor in meal prep for daughter who texts her online order in the midafternoon. She’s very polite, “May I please have a BLT?” We sometimes try to guess what her online order will be.  

We have embraced curbside pickup and supporting local restaurants.  

What is a “normal” day for you all and your family right now?

Brent:  My medical practice started to tail off in March and reached its nadir in May. I’ve seen a slight turn around in June and things are slowly returning to a normal schedule. There were some unintended medical consequences to the shutdown. The only thing that has been atypical is when I get home from work, most days, somebody is at the house rather than being out and about. 

The most abnormal part of Covid for me is that work-related travel has disappeared and shifted to online platforms. Essentially all in-person medical meetings have been cancelled. I sympathize with the teachers and students forced to online learning. Online interaction can be good and is certainly better than nothing, however, in my opinion, it cannot replace the power of an in-person experience. As a speaker, teacher, and moderator, online platforms have been a challenge as they do not allow me to read body language or sense when somebody has a question. 

A big change is that Sunday has looked very different. We watch church services online and they have been very well done. However, the actual process of getting ready for church, going to church and the fellowship involved with being in the physical building is an anchor that we miss. 

Shelby:  “Normal” has changed dramatically since mid-March. Brent is back to regular work hours. Younger daughter has a summer nanny position. I’m still trying to keep order at the house. Older daughter attends college online while spending the month in Colorado with her college roommate. It’s nice for them to be together and for the short order chef (me) to have a break.  

Our eldest daughter ‘social distancing’ in beautiful Colorado. I told you I am living vicariously!

How long is it going to look like that? (Who knows, right?) We’re all guessing. Best guess…

Brent:  From a medical practice standpoint, I do not see us going backwards.  I don’t think we are going to see the clamp down on medical services that we had in March and April.  

What the schools do in the fall is a hot topic right now. Resuming in person school with be a huge step toward normalcy. I do not see medical conferences and meetings resuming anytime this year. 

I hope that churches can get back to normal soon.  

Shelby:  Tough question! It was looking like the girls would be off to college, with a dramatically different on-campus experience. Now, online studies will be the default. I know they want to fly out of this nest! I will do everything that makes sense for that to happen. Best guess is that we are wearing masks and dealing with outbreaks for the next year.  

Will you travel this summer, or hunker down?

Brent:  We have been turtles in our shells this summer, looking for a sense of security until things improve. We took one small trip when things opened up a bit and before the Covid numbers started increasing again, but by and large we think the safest place to be in this storm is in the harbor. 

Shelby:  We did escape to the beach for a few days. We stayed as distant from others as possible. The change of venue was encouraging. To my disappointment, we cancelled the trip to Albuquerque to see my parents. I am living vicariously through our older daughter who took her online experience West for the summer.  

Brent, you and Shelby are serious-minded and attentive to our community as well as the larger world. 

What are you most worried about, now and going forward? Both locally – and more broadly? 

Brent:  Wow, where to start. We have serious issues both locally and nationally. I love Nashville, it is our adopted home since 2003. I worry about our city finances and leadership. Our financial difficulties have created a reactionary posture and put us on our back foot. The challenges we face will require a degree of political thinking that I just don’t see right now. 

More broadly, we have to come to grips with Covid. We seem to be learning and reacting as we go. The politicization of this situation is truly mystifying. Even something as simple as treatments for the disease are subject to political posturing. I am disappointed by this. We should be unified and supporting each other, helping each other come to the best possible solutions rather than seeking personal advantage.  

In addition to work matters, Covid changed my plans considerably. I intended to run for political office again this year. I was at the point that I had a nominating petition signed and ready to submit to the election commission. Once it became clear that Covid was going to have a major impact on physicians and our patients, I knew that this was not the year, so that is on hold until 2022.  

Shelby:  I am deeply worried about mental health and civility. Corona has upended life for everyone as we know it. Life was fragile pre-Corona. There are clearly so many pressure points now. As we move forward as a society, I think we need to care for others and ourselves, with a mind toward mental health and kindness.  

What have you learned about yourself in the Time of Corona? 

Brent:  I do not like being idle. I like planning and preparing for what is next and Covid threw the entire concept of what is next out the window. 

Shelby:  I want things to be neat, orderly, organized and peaceful. Those desires are not only impossible to achieve, they are transient. So, I’m learning to give myself grace.  

What gives you hope?

Brent:  I am inspired by the quiet resolve of people around me. Those who do their part without expectation of praise or recognition. These are our friends and neighbors who provide the footings of our society. They will carry on.  

Shelby:  We have enjoyed our weekly Zoom sessions with our church small group (as an aside, we need you and Gus in this group – Wednesday nights). I have also enjoyed reconnecting with oldest of friends via Zoom. In 1999, our husbands were all in medical residency and we were all parenting our first-borns. We supported each other at this vulnerable time of new babies and marriage to residents. We were in similar shoes again when college went online and those babies were heading back to the nest. Our weekly Zoom calls connected us as mothers again but also gave us an understanding of the effects of Corona in different areas of the country. We were also able to lift up our husbands who are on those healthcare front lines. I long for the days when we can gather again in real life.  

I think this is the right place to say how encouraged I am by all of the essential workers out there. Each one is a special soul. I am so grateful for their vision, their presence and their care for all of us.  

Of course let’s not forget that we’re at Bacon. 🙂 What are you reading/watching/listening to? We all need recommendations! 

Brent:  I’ve discovered some great Latin American economic and political philosophers recently. I’m currently reading Capitalismo: Un Antídoto Contra La Pobreza (Capitalism: An Antidote Against Poverty) by Antonella Marty. She is part of a group of young and very smart thinkers doing some amazing work in this area.

For fun, I watch murder mysteries of all sorts, from the classics such at Agatha Christie to nearly anything on Masterpiece Mystery. We have certainly gotten our money’s worth from Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

Shelby:  I just finished re-watching all 10 seasons of Friends with our daughter. We are now watching Dead to Me, which seems to be the ultimate tragicomedy.  

It has been difficult for me to focus on reading these days. I’m reminded of the saying: “The days are long, but the years are short.” I pray this time of Corona is short.  Anyway, these long days leave little time for reading like I wish. There are some books that I’ve recently revisited (reading comfort food, in more ways than one).  

Alice Randall’s Ada’s Rules inspires me to remember that change unfolds at its own pace. Exercise regimens begin one step at a time. Dietary changes are a discovery and journey. I’d like to read her other novels again as well.

Younger daughter is reading Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. Randall’s book highlights some of these principles.  

This summer, our church lectionary has focused on Philippians. Reverend Sarah Bird leads our small group and commented that our first lesson was to learn how to spell “Philippians” – ! As a young adult, I read Laugh Again by Charles Swindoll. It has been a joy to revisit Swindoll’s insights into Paul’s letter.  

Really – at the end of the day – each of us, most of us, can only affect our local communities. What can people in Nashville do to help each other get through these challenging times?

Brent:  I think that the principle of the Little Drummer Boy can guide us in turbulent times. All we can do is offer our particular gift, talent or skill to the best of our abilities, quietly, confidently and consistently. If we all do this, we will be fine. 

Shelby:  Of the various places I’ve lived, Nashville has the highest levels of engagement and giving. There are so many ways to be involved that it is almost overwhelming.  

Also, support those local restaurants and businesses. They are the lifeblood and future of our great city. I don’t mean just shopping, by the way. Even with masks and social distancing, show an interest and be kind. The encouragement you give might be just the words needed that day.  

And now for some speed dating questions to wrap up…

Favorite snack in the Time of Corona?

Brent:  Fritos Scoops are a runaway favorite snack in the time of Covid and Non-Covid alike.

Shelby:  Oatmilk Vanilla Latte. I’m still perfecting my recipe. Any recommendations for a good one locally?

Exercising?

Brent:  Quarantine and being home from work allowed me to start practicing yoga with my wife and daughter. I am a new yogi and think that it will stick. 

Shelby:  Walking the Greenway and yoga.

Creative outlets?

Brent:  I should be painting, but the uncertainty of our current situation has stymied my creativity.

Shelby:  I haven’t been able to tap much creativity of late. Much to my daughters’ chagrin, I take most joy in trying to plan their next steps. I think they’ve got it down, but I just can’t help it!

Favorite place to be outside?

Brent:  Our wonderful neighborhood

Shelby:  Walking the dogs on our street

Guilty pleasure?

Brent:  Milkshakes

Shelby:  Watching Friends from start to end with my daughters

Most proud of?

Brent:  Shelby and our daughters

Shelby:  Brent’s optimism, our 2020 high school graduate’s resilience, and our college sophomore’s flexibility

Miss the most?

Brent:  Travel 

Shelby:  I miss that we couldn’t gather our extended family to celebrate high school graduation  

Least proud of?

Brent:  Not painting more during the down time.  

Shelby:  My lack of creative endeavors!

Best advice for staying sane ~

Brent:  Look both inwardly and outwardly. Figure out what you want to do today and take these unsettled times day by day. 

Shelby:  My youngest daughter and I started Gratitude Journals. At the end of each day, we write three things for which we are grateful. Even when everything seems wrong, it helps to document something right – whether a delicious smoothie or just a fun walk with the dogs – or answering some challenging questions for Bacon!  

Jennifer, we delight in the platform and voice that you’ve established at Bacon. You have been generous to include so many friends during this Time of Corona. When you began the series, did you have any idea about duration or the impact on your community? What gives you hope? We are grateful for you and appreciate the opportunity to observe and share this time with you and Bacon. 

 

Dear Shelby ~ how kind! I hope someday that this Bacon in the time of Corona is part of the historical record of our time and place. That’s certainly not why I started the series, which began instead out of fear and some measure of desperation – for connection – in terrifying times. My hope, and faith, is in God.

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