Let’s be blunt. We’re supposed to stay isolated, if we can, so we don’t die. Gets you thinking, doesn’t it?
No, not about how much toilet paper you’ve socked away. It gets you thinking about what’s truly important.
For me, it’s love. Love of life. Love of family. Love of work and play. Love that I get to write this letter to you, and you’re reading it.
I already know what the character Emily learns in the play Our Town. She’s dead in a cemetery when she realizes this:
“Live people don’t understand, do they?” she asks. “They’re sort of shut up in little boxes. … I never realized before how troubled and how in the dark live people are.”
In my favorite lines in all of American literature, she adds, “Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”
“The saints and poets, maybe,” she’s told.
How can we celebrate life as we stay home these next days to put an end to this virus outbreak? I started making a list of things I’d like to do around the house. I came up with a few ideas and the list kept growing.
Then I asked readers of my weekly “Watchdog Nation” newsletter if they had any ideas. The goal is to offer smart tips about smart tasks that you’d usually not get to do. No time.
Now there’s time.
Things to do while quarantined
Interest rate reduction. All those credit cards you have? Have you seen the interest rates on them? Whoa. They don’t reflect true interest rates, which are startlingly low. I bet if you call those card companies and ask them to lower the interest, some will say yes. But you gotta ask.
Lock your home title. You’ve heard of these creeps who go in and put their name on your house title and steal ownership of your home? If you live in Dallas, Tarrant or Collin County, your county clerk’s office offers what’s called a “Property Fraud Alert.” If someone other than you hijacks your home title, you get an alert. If your county doesn’t offer it (I’m looking at you, Denton), there are private companies that offer the same service. Do a Web search for your county name and “property fraud alert” to learn more.
Make a video of your possessions for insurance purposes in case of a disaster. I’ve put this off for years, but I intend to do it while home.
Insurance expert Mark Hanna of Shafer, Wood & Associates, a catastrophe claims company, told me in the event of burglary, theft, fire or tornado, a video “saves you weeks, if not months on your claim. People who have this can speed up their claims so much faster in the event they’ve lost everything.”
How do you do it? You walk around your house with a video camera and describe your items.
Hanna showed me what to say: “This is a big-screen TV I bought in 2017 at Costco for approximately $600.”
He says to do it with all big-ticket items like refrigerators and computers, but also open your drawers and your closets, too. Store the video in the cloud or away from home.
What do readers of my weekly “Watchdog Nation” newsletter suggest? Here are some.
Work on your family tree on ancestry.com. – Michiel de Wit
Re-grout your bathrooms. – Rachel Deering
Take an online class. – Linda Fielder
Update your will and make sure all of your beneficiaries are correct in your financial accounts, especially for insurance and pension. – Bobbie Baumgarten
Keep a daily diary of my thoughts. – Carol Mattern
Plan your funeral service and compile all information your grieving family members will need. – C.C. Johnson
In the event you exit suddenly, prepare a list of assets, insurance policy numbers, phone numbers, bank accounts, credit cards for your grieving spouse or children. – Leonard Joe McCown
Call the credit bureaus and put a freeze on your credit so no one but you can open a new account. – Nancy Callaway
Call or write your elected officials about an issue you care about but have been too busy to do. – Lindsey Perkins
Do home workouts. Lots of them on YouTube. – Karen Huber
Clean out closets and donate clothes that no longer fit but you’ve kept too long. – Bette Price
File your taxes. – Bill Mottinger
Catch up on magazines you subscribe to, but never got around to reading because you were too busy. – Susan Nehez
I love these, just like I love life!
By the way, if you want to join the thousands who get my free Wednesday night newsletter with bonus tips and fun stories, the easiest way is send me your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll add you.
Have a good week, and I mean that in a big, loving-life kind of way.
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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the top prize for column writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. The contest judge called his winning entries “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”
Read his winning columns:
* Helping the widow of Officer J.D. Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, get buried beside her late husband
* Helping a waitress who was harmed by an unscrupulous used car dealer