Homing in: Tips for a 24/7 home life

By , Daily Memphian Published: March 25, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Buffy Langford had not been a stay-at-home mom before COVID-19.

She is now, big time.

Langford oversees the care, entertainment and much of the home-schooling for daughters Mia, 13, Annabelle, 6, and Adelyn, 5, and twin boys Finlay and Graham, both 10 months.


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All while still working from home as director of Holy Rosary Catholic School’s Angel Program, for children on the autism spectrum who are immersed in classroom settings.

“I’m in contact with our families and making sure my staff is in contact with the families,” she said of ongoing web-based work through the Angel Program.

Call it sheltering in place, safer in place, quarantining, isolating, hunkering down or just staying home, this new way of life forced on most of us has its silver linings.

That’s the word from a mental health therapist, minister, businesswomen and others as Memphians adhere to Mayor Jim Strickland’s emergency order to stay home starting at 6 p.m Tuesday, March 24.

Home routine

Langford has worked out a daily routine for her kids: 

Up by 8; breakfast; morning yoga; the girls’ morning classroom work online that includes Bible stories, calendar time, phonetics and more; walking the dog to get outside; returning for more schoolwork; snacks; cooking instruction for simple things like eggs, grilled cheese and rice; nightly hikes with flashlights and her 57-year-old mom with whom they all live; bed for the babies by 7:30 and for the girls between 8:30 and 9.

Inserted into those activities are regular FaceTime calls to family in Germany and elsewhere in Memphis. “It helps keep us connected outside the house,” Langford said. “… It’s very difficult being stuck in home and not having activities” like the Memphis Zoo and Memphis Botanic Gardens.

Langford believes years from now when she recalls the days of COVID-19, she’ll remember the stress of finding empty store shelves, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer, balancing work with making sure the girls didn’t fall behind in school, and figuring out something for the children to do different each day to keep boredom at bay.

“But I think, overall, I’ll remember being able to watch them blossom,” she said.

After all, during the pandemic she was at home to see Finlay take his first steps and to witness Annabelle and Adelyn figure out by themselves how to build a fort so no light gets in.


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The restrictions affect different families in different ways.

Memphians who don’t get paid unless they are at the workplace face financial challenges not imposed on those who can work from home.

Some may see the unexpected free time as a “lemon” with which to make lemonade. But Rev. Alexander “Sandy” Webb II says in some ways the downtime is lemonade already.

Rest

Memphians of different faiths can use the time to strengthen their faith, said Webb, rector of Church of the Holy Communion at the southeast corner of Walnut Grove and Perkins.

“Monastic monks and nuns for centuries have isolated themselves so they can pray,” he said. “… You need to rest and pray and work every day. It’s all about rhythm ...

“Setting up a schedule that involves rest, work and prayer and treating them all as equally important is an important part of how we get through all this,” Webb said.

“You could say we’re going back to a better way to live. This is ancient wisdom, not a new idea.”

Go ahead, call

Within Webb’s Episcopal congregation is a volunteer effort to call every member of the church. The idea is to ensure people don’t feel alone.

“If you are thinking about somebody, call them up. Just do that,” Webb said. “We don’t need any more texts and emails, but pick up the phone and call.”

He suggests asking the question, “What do you need?” or “What can I do for you?”


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Trips to the crowded grocery stores can be difficult, so offer to pick items up for a neighbor or friend. And those financially able should consider simply giving the groceries to their neighbor, Webb said.

“The connections with other people are equally as important as the food. It’s the well-being of the soul. Let’s not let people be alone,” he said.

Mempops for parents

Like so many others, the president of the Downtown Memphis Commission works from home now.

So in addition to work, Jennifer Oswalt often walks the dogs for the sunshine, keeps up her exercise with equipment checked out from the gym, finds home projects to do, picks up meals from her favorite restaurants and creates some pleasant surprises of her own.

“I had Mempops delivered to my parents for a little treat for them,” she said of the Memphis-made ice-on-a-stick.

Mental health

Therapist DeAvila Bennett, a licensed clinical social worker, says Memphians feeling anxious or becoming depressed under the shelter-in-place restrictions can consider therapy sessions over the phone or computer. The telehealth sessions can include face-to-face time with therapists who have established video-chat platforms that are compliant with privacy regulations.

Bennett also recommends using platforms like Zoom, Google Meetup and FaceTime for livestreaming exchanges with friends and family.

“This is a way to connect with friends,” Bennett said. “That’s what I recommend as well, if social isolation is a problem.”

The opposite – when a house is filled with people 24/7 – can be problematic, too. “Taking breaks away from each other is good,” she said.

Also, limit time spent with electronic screens and social media, she said, adding, “Play some fun games like Monopoly. It’s being able to interact.”

Sheltering in place does not have to mean wasting time.


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“What I’ve seen a lot of people doing is using the time to rest, to work on a business you’ve been wanting to do, writing a book. You can focus on a project that is completed when all this is done,” Bennett said.

Memphians also can read books instead of writing them. It requires a library card, but Bennett recommends taking advantage of the Memphis Public Library’s Libby by Overdrive app to access e-books and audiobooks.

Money

The stock market plunges can be rattling, but Celia Brugge advises to have some perspective and not to panic.


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“Which I know is a terribly hard thing to do sometimes,” said Brugge of Dogwood Financial Planning. She is an independent financial adviser who is paid by the hour.

“I know it’s tempting to want to go entirely to cash with your retirement accounts. The job of a financial adviser is to stand in the gap when you have something like this going on and say ‘You’ve got to stop and think and have perspective.’”

Past health-related market scares have caused short, sharp drops in the stock market and were followed by recoveries that happened more slowly than the drops.

“If this situation is anything like those, you don’t want to be out of the stock market during those recoveries,” Brugge said. “Because those recoveries often happen not gradually, but you get several days of really big recoveries. … You don’t know when those will be.”

For people short of cash and who have more pressing needs, it’s a great time to have a good budget, she said.

“Just try to sharpen your pencil and eliminate any excess spending. If you have a timetable for paying off debts like credit card bills, now is probably not the time to be paying down the debt.”


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And consider trying to negotiate with the credit card company for a better rate.

People needing cash can also temporarily stop contributing to their retirement plans and college funds, Brugge said. For some, a home equity line of credit may be appropriate, but Brugge added, “That is not my first choice.”

When the markets stabilize would be a good time for investors to consult with a financial adviser to rebalance their portfolios, she said.

Banks may have temporarily altered the way they operate during the pandemic, but they remain open and deposits, loans and banking advice are still be accessible, said Bo Allen, president of First Horizon National Corp.’s West Region.

“While we are trying to get as many of our bankers to work from home as we can, they are still available to speak to customers,” Allen said. Calls to their business phones are forwarded to their cell phones.

First Horizon’s drive-thru operations remain open, and customers can call branch personnel and brokers.

“We do have programs where we defer payment for businesses as well as consumers,” Allen said. “If you have lost a job and maybe your income has changed, you can defer that payment for 90 days, both principal and interest. That will give people some flexibility and help.”

COVID-19 in Memphis & Shelby County: March

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COVID-19 coronavirus
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.


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