Simple Living

After 5+ weeks of shelter-in-place, my schedule, like everyone else’s, changed dramatically.

We’re not supposed to travel, so I’m around home a lot more. I don’t have to commute to work, and I don’t have to chauffer the kids to school or to extra curricular activities. No sports are taking place, so that’s less stuff to read and watch that would normally occupy my free time.

Now my days involve either working my day job or hanging out with my family. Cooking tons, because we can’t go out to restaurants. Sleeping more. Just basic and important activities, things I’ve always wanted to do more of but couldn’t fit it in.

A lot of my usual choices were taken away with shelter-in-place. Luckily, I’ve found plenty of good choices to be had.

Community Immersion

Shelter-in-place continues.

Staying close to home has made me feel closer to the people that live close to me. My family and friends for sure, but also businesses and neighbors. Part of the reason is knowing we’re in a static physical proximity even though there’s social distancing. But a lot of that closeness comes from an emotional sense.

I must go through a cycle of worry and resolve a dozen times a day. I want to help those around me, and yet I also have urges to withdraw into despair.

I know others feel the same.

I think about the local bookstore and nearby restaurants and friends that live on my block. We’re all struggling. We’re all fighting. All I want is for everyone to make it through this.

Cooking up a Storm

Extensive family time at home has led to the cooking of nearly all our meals.

Sure, we still throw an occasional frozen pizza in the oven or do occasional take-out. But the desire to use the food we have (to do less grocery shopping), plus the urge and space to spend more time in the kitchen, has given us an opportunity to do more meal prep.

We started with going back to the meals we’ve had before that everyone has liked — hamburgers, and certain salads, soups, casseroles and the like. Since then, we’ve tried new recipes (this chipotle salad dressing is now a favorite) and even experimented with some drink recipes too.

And in addition to enjoying eating what we make, we’re eating healthier and saving money too. When I’m not rushed, I enjoy cooking a lot.

Staying at Home and Saving Money

A mandatory shelter-in-place means less driving around and using gas.

It means paying for less curricular activities for the kids, like sports and piano lessons.

It means less eating out.

We’ve only been shelter-in-place for two weeks now, but our family’s discretionary expenses project to be around 25% less for this month compared to the previous one. That’s pretty big.

That’s also pretty useful, considering we’re currently experiencing a huge economic downturn. Increased cash reserves will help us weather the storm.

Resetting the Schedule

This past Monday, a mandatory shelter order was put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

So for the prior 7 days, there’s been no school, no extracurricular activities for the kids, no driving to work. That will continue for a couple more weeks at least.

We still have certain scheduled obligations –work-related meetings mostly for my wife and I– but most of the existing family time constraints were erased. Weekends are now wide open with nothing specific planned.

It’s been wonderful not having to be somewhere at a certain time, day after day.

I’m enjoying the option of doing what appeals to me in the moment, including doing nothing at all.

There’s now space between events. Which means I’ve felt less rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed.

When the coronavirus pandemic is finally over, we may well go back to a packed calendar. For many of those activities, such as school drop-offs and pick-ups, we have no choice. But in the short week of having our schedule reset, I’ve already developed an appreciation for less hecticness in our lives. For now, I’ll relish the slower cadence.

Two Kinds of Hope

There’s the hope of wishful thinking, a prayer to a higher power that circumstances will somehow turn in your favor.

There’s also the hope that comes from encouraging developments, such as people acting more generous during a time of need.

Hope is being able to envision the future we want. It’s easier to believe when you’re actively part of the movement.

The TOS Issue

Practically no one reads the binding agreement presented during the sign-up of online services. Known as the TOS, they’re too long and too complicated, filled with legal speak. There are studies that show most people accept the terms without knowing what they are.

What I don’t understand is why companies don’t make it easier for users to consume this information.

Sure, the service owner has the legal leverage if someone signs up without fully understanding the TOS. But in practice, wouldn’t everyone be better off if users simply understood what the agreement actually entailed?

I’ve seen a few companies summarize the TOS into a digestible format, and that’s smart. One form is a short, bulleted list, briefly describing each major part of the contract, with links back to the corresponding section of the TOS. For example, a summary bullet could say “don’t steal content from the membership site,” while the specific scenarios could be detailed in the TOS.

Unless companies are intending to bury “gotchas” in a TOS, then they should be motivated to earn trust with their users and avoid expensive legal battles. And as consumers, we should be motivated to applaud and acknowledge companies willing to be more transparent of what we’re agreeing to.

The Rise of Political Hobbyists

I learned about this term a couple weeks ago.

Political hobbyists keep up with the news, and are willing to form opinions, debate, and (perhaps) complain about what’s going on. And vote, of course.

But that’s the extent of their political involvement.

Their interest is not about activism. It’s about cheering for a side, and experiencing the highs and lows of winning or losing. Much like sports fans, they are spectators and not participants.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being a political hobbyist. I would consider myself one, in fact. I’m just wondering if we’re like this because we don’t believe we can move the needle much.

It just seems like for anyone that cares about a political outcome, you can’t complain if you’re not willing to act.

Pursuit of Happiness

I think of happiness as consistent contentment. Day after day, feeling generally good.

A healthy perspective helps with happiness. Smiling does too.

I’m not fond of the idea of chasing happiness. As if it’s achievable once the right circumstances align.

Happiness is always in reach. One of those things I try not to forget.

Holding It Against Someone

We all say and do things we regret. For much of human history, these missteps were forgotten with the passage of time.

That’s becoming less true every day.

Smart phones now allow us to capture behavior on video with ease and ubiquity. The internet preserves digital files while enabling broader access. The result? Bad moments can be plucked from just about anyone’s past.

My takeaways:

1) Understand there’s the potential to be scrutinized for anything you’ve done that’s recorded digitally. You will be held accountable for your actions.

2) At the same time, character assassination is a popular sport these days because it’s easier than ever to dig for dirt. I just don’t think it’s healthy to seek glee in other people’s transgressions.