This blog may be a little more personal than our normal posts. But “normal” has gone out the window. The pandemic has changed life as we’ve known it – for all of us. In this blog, we’re sharing a personal peek at how we at Joslin Capital are living – and coping – during lockdown. Hang in there – we have a lot to say!
Life is different now. And perhaps will be forevermore.
Was it only February when we were free to roam? Free to send our kids off to school, mingle with people at our jobs and eat enchiladas at our favorite Mexican restaurant on the weekend? Free to celebrate birthdays, graduations and new babies with extended family and friends – all in one place? To go to church, shop at the mall, get a hair-cut and hug a friend?
And all without the fear that we could catch a virus that could sicken and kill us or someone else.
Well, no more.
Even with states easing restrictions and gradually opening up, for safety’s sake, many of us are still hunkered down in our homes, watching the world go by on our TV screens and from our living room windows. The coronavirus has turned our ordinary lives into extraordinary ones. We are all newly aware of the fragility and brevity of life. And while many of us have been more seriously impacted than others, we are all doing our best to make life in this pandemic work.
We at Joslin Capital are among the fortunate ones. So far we are all healthy. Our families are safe. And we are able to work from home, awaiting our return to the office.
Here’s what life in isolation is like for us.
Living in lockdown
First the positive – What we like
No more commute!
Let’s be real. Getting to and from work, whether by car, bus or bike, can eat up a significant part of your day. So we’re not complaining that our commute has shrunk to zero.
Instead of rushing from our homes to brave the morning traffic, we just walk down the hall to our new “office”. It takes all of one minute. (One minute!) For some of us here, our “office” is a real study, for others it’s a spare bedroom, and still for others, a dining room table. A few of us have had to juggle our new “office” with a spouse who is also working from home. This is another new dynamic.
Working from the water
But life in a pandemic is all about adjustments – giving up some things and taking on others. One of us is now living somewhere totally unexpected.
Becky, our communications specialist, was uncomfortable living in the county dubbed the coronavirus hotspot. So, with her husband’s blessing, she and one of her daughters (an Amazon employee) moved into grandma’s empty house, hours away in a county with significantly fewer COVID-19 infections.
Here’s why she’s not complaining.
Grandma lived on Puget Sound’s Hood Canal, an idyllic area sprinkled with summer homes and vacationers. So now when Becky looks out her “office” window, she beholds the ever-changing sea-water of the canal and the wildlife that live there – bald eagles, seals and blue herons. Walking on the beach, with oyster shells crunching beneath her sneakers, is one of her new favorite things.
Time with family
Like many, our lives are much simpler now. We are not pulled in a gazillion different directions. There is home and there is …. home. Of course, we have our Joslin Capital work during the day, but after that? It’s all about the people (and pets!) we live with.
The stay-at-home order has allowed our advisor Tarek to spend a lot more time with his baby boy, born in January, and his 5-year old daughter. Our staff connects daily via video Zoom meetings and there is no hiding real life from a Zoom camera! It’s a good day if we get to see Tarek’s bright-eyed smiling little girl poke her head in front of the camera and wave at us. It’s a REALLY good day if we get to see his baby boy coo from his bouncy seat nearby.
Time to play
Whether it’s settling onto the couch to watch the latest episode of “American Ninja Warrior” with our favorite person-spouse-kids-cat-or-dog, or challenging each other to a killer game of Scrabble, we are rediscovering how pleasant it can be to relax and play together at home.
Our operations associate, Lori, and her college-aged daughter have spent hours at their dining room table, painting designs you wouldn’t believe on rocks, sewing face masks for their family and assembling intricate jigsaw puzzles.
Time to get dirty
Without the pull of cafes and theaters, yard work has beckoned some of us (not all!). If the weather is halfway decent, our client service associate, Ruth, plunges her hands into her garden dirt, pulling up unsightly weeds and lovingly planting her latest purchases from Home Depot (where she wore a mask!), hoping to bring her landscaping vision to life. Mike (our CEO, who truly loves working in his yard) and Tarek, can frequently be found outside, mowing the lawn and pruning shrubs.
Being outdoors in the fresh air, getting dirty, feels like therapy after a day cooped up in the house.
What we miss
No more Starbucks!
It may seem silly, but we miss our Starbucks coffee. Most of us still drink our morning cup of joe, but it’s just a little ho-hum now without all the extra foam and syrups from Starbucks. Still, Mike rises to the challenge and capably whips up a mean nonfat, decaf, vanilla latte on his Nespresso machine before he heads to his home “office” and fires up his computer in the morning.
We may be one of those rare firms where we pretty much all get along and work well together. We are co-workers, but we are also friends. And while meeting virtually via Zoom every day is well and good, it does not replace being physically present in the same room, walking up to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question, discuss a work issue or even just share a joke or a smile. We miss that.
We do have one lone holdout.
While the rest of us have been sequestered in our homes, Charissa, our client services director, opted to remain in the office, alone, where she can work safely (and without interruption from her kids!), tackling work that is difficult to do remotely. And though it may be a little lonely, she’s not complaining about the two big computer screens on her desk or how much she can accomplish without the rest of us there to distract her.
School – the way it used to be
Like so many parents in America, the pandemic has forced Charissa and her husband to do something they feel ill equipped for – teach school. While Charissa herself was homeschooled (very successfully!), this was never something she wanted to take on with her own kids. But she is. In touch with her son’s 4th grade teacher, she is figuring out the new math and conducting Zoom classes with her son every lunch hour, tag-team teaching with her husband.
Mike’s son quietly graduated from the university with no fanfare, no ceremony. And along with the rest of the students at their colleges, Lori’s and Becky’s daughters packed their bags and left campus in a rush in April, finishing their revised coursework remotely at home. Fall quarter is a big question mark.
Like much of America, we are mourning the loss of seeing our loved ones. Parents. Grandparents. Siblings. Even children. This is especially difficult for Mike, whose elderly parents are on lockdown in a nearby assisted living facility, where no visitors are allowed. He can go no closer than the front glass-door entrance to the facility, where he stands on one side and his parents on the other, each doing their best to have a conversation. It’s something. Just not enough.
Our old routines
We miss the normalcy of our pre-pandemic lives. Quick, easy trips to the grocery store – without a mask. Running off to play kickball with our league. Wine-tasting with friends. Passing a stranger on the street without mentally calculating the distance between us.
“I miss so many things. My life has become something that is unfamiliar, and in the end, I suppose, that is what I miss the most,” laments Sydney, our client service associate.
What gets us through the day
Honestly? Thinking about our clients is a big part of what keeps us going. We are very focused on them. This is a tough time for everyone. People are worried. Worried about their nest eggs. About the health and safety of their families. Their jobs. The unknown future.
We care deeply about our clients. They are real men and women with meaningful lives, colored by births, deaths, joys and losses. People with lots of life to be lived and dreams to be chased.
And so we pick up the phone. We call. We email. We meet “face-to-face” with Zoom. We are more determined than ever to connect with our clients and have meaningful conversations about their portfolios and investment strategies, and their lives.
Unfortunately, there is no play book for this pandemic.
Still, the past is a good teacher. And Joslin Capital has been around long enough to recall many financial earthquakes that have rocked the markets and the American public. For Mike, these are experiences he draws upon.
“It has helped tremendously to remember lessons learned from prior financial crises – like the 1987 crash, the 2000-2002 Tech Bubble, the 2008-09 Debt Crisis – also 9/11, and even the bond market crash of 1994,” he says.
Indeed, past lessons are wisdom gained and, more often than not, find their way into our advice and portfolio strategies.
A comfortable chair
We have to admit our backs, necks and shoulders have protested our makeshift workspace arrangements of dining room tables, desks and whatever chairs that happen to be handy. We miss our real office chairs and desks that are actually designed for comfort. Still, we have found workarounds.
Becky discovered that a couch pillow plopped on top of her chair at the dining room table, raises her arms just enough to eliminate the neck pain she was feeling. Our advisor, Kathy, set her desk on cinder blocks to raise it to a more comfortable height. When that didn’t solve her back and shoulder pain, she broke down and bought a real office chair (that swivels!).
Exercise – just doing it
Being confined to our homes is a novel experience and – let’s admit it – grows old after a while. To combat “home fatigue” and inactivity, many of us have jumped on the exercise band wagon (if we weren’t already on it). More than ever, we get that exercise is good not only for the body but for the mind. Better than Oprah, Dr. Oz, or chocolate, it’s helping to keep us sane.
During her lunch hour, Kathy escapes her four walls and jogs a couple miles around her neighborhood. Three times a week, marathon-runner Sydney breaks free from her apartment and runs and runs, farther than the eye can see. Ruth prefers to get her heart rate up with online workouts.
Lori wasn’t about to let the pandemic stop her from running the annual Bloomsday Race, a 12-k race that happens every year in Spokane, WA. She created a map and ran through her neighborhood, “virtually”. Not to be outdone, Charissa (who competes with Lori for most “steps” taken during a day), entered the virtual race as well. With her mom joining her, they opted to walk instead of run. (Still counts!)
Baking! (It’s okay. We’re exercising!)
With no open eat-in cafes or coffee shops, our eyes have turned to our only hope for baked goodness – our own kitchens.
Problem is, our kitchens are just a few feet away. We don’t have to wait for dessert. We don’t have to pay for it -beyond ingredients. We only have to make it. And eat it.
“There’s way too much baking going on here,” Lori concedes. The best thing that came out of her oven one week was chocolate banana bread. For Becky, it was chocolate chip cookies. (Notice the chocolate theme.) Some of us – no naming names! – have avoided the scale during lockdown and are uneasy about squeezing back into our pre-pandemic work attire, once we return to the office.
Which again, is why exercise is so critical. It’s our only weapon against those pandemic pounds!
Stronger – together
Crises have a way of peeling back the layers and revealing what lies beneath. Sometimes the results are disappointing. But many times they’re not.
“Most people have a level of resilience they don’t realize until they experience a crisis like this,” Mike says.
That resilience jumps when we realize that we are not going through this crazy time alone. There are other people (millions!) stuck in the same boat with us.
At Joslin Capital we are reminded of this every time we meet as a team via Zoom. Just seeing Mike smiling at us from his desk at home, Tarek talking to us with kindergarten artwork on the wall behind him, and Kathy sharing her “wins” of the day in front of a digital backdrop of Mount Rainier, reminds us we are not doing this solo.
We may be more than 6 feet apart, but we are all in this together!
That sense of togetherness, of caring for each other – stranger, friend or neighbor – is something we all need now more than ever.
“I’ve seen so many kindnesses in my community,” says Charissa. “A friend of mine dropped off ice cream sandwiches for my twins’ birthday. My sister has been baking loaves of sourdough bread and leaving them on porches.”
And Charissa herself. Madly waving balloons outside her car window, honking and yelling, “Happy birthday!“, she helped a friend celebrate her special day with a surprise drive-by parade in front of her home.
“It was wonderful!”
Advisory services are offered by Joslin Capital Advisors, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.