This week in a nutshell

This week, I will:

Monday, aka today — help put out the best GD last newspaper edition ever.

Tuesday — be at the office for the death bell at 3:31 p.m., which for some reason I find very important. No, I know the reason. I need that closure.

Wednesday — figure out the rest.

Some well-meaning people in real life have asked what I am going to do next. I find the question as vexing as I did when I was a kid and adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I don’t have a Plan B. I guess I should have (hindsight, etc.). Also, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. All plans are out the window at this point.

I think what I am going to do next is process all that has happened in the last couple of weeks. And grieve over the loss of my old life.

And then maybe I’ll discover my own colors of light like Sir Isaac Newton (thanks, Roberta).

A few links:

THIS article that Diane shared titled “That discomfort you’re feeling is grief.” Helped me immensely.

THIS article from OPB titled “Coronavirus has upended our world. It’s okay to grieve.”

THIS is the link to “I’ve Pet that Dog” on Twitter, which NEVER ceases to raise my spirits. Also, there’s THIS one, “Thoughts of Dog,” which is a joy.

THIS article by Dan Rather titled “We are in very difficult and dangerous times.” That sounds bleak, but it’s an uplifting article.

All right, friends: Thank you so much for all the love and support, I cannot even tell you what that means to me. Please check in if you have it in you (I know sometimes it’s just too much) — regardless, I am keeping you all in my thoughts.

Dear everyone,

Today is Day 10 of being at home. I have ventured forth into the world a couple of times for groceries (pro tip, the corner market is more expensive but less crowded and picked over) and I’ll have to hit the pharmacy in the next couple of days, but I’m doing my best to stay put. We aren’t under any lock down orders (yet), but yesterday, Oregon was up to 161 cases and five deaths.

I mean, last Sunday we only had 36 cases and one death. Our county has had its first confirmed case, which means more will follow.

Please, everyone, all ages are affected by COVID-19, so for pete’s sake, stop and think and make a good choice AND STAY HOME. (Note to my mother: See what I did there?) This is about more than just you.

*

Thursday as I was proofing pages on deadline, I read about my own furlough in an op-ed by our publisher. Ah, classic. She called that evening to break the news in person, and sounded so down that I ended up comforting her.

Ad revenue is down because businesses are closed. Of course the newspaper can’t meet payroll. Of course we will have to work decreased hours. It’s one day per week at this point, although I would not be surprised if it increased down the road. There are other changes, too, like fewer pages in each edition.

Since I usually get lessons in patience, a lesson in flexibility is kind of a nice change of pace.

Ironically, now that I’m facing fewer hours and am working from home, I realize how much I do like my job. Oh, there are frustrating parts but: I get to read and write all day. That’s pretty awesome.

*

Furlough started Friday, so I put in three hours at the “office,” logged off, had lunch and then Johanna and I went for a drive. We ended up on a back road and she took the wheel. Uh, no, she does not have her permit and the DMV is closed so that’s not happening any time soon. She is a good driver if that makes you feel better (calm down, Mom!), and the only traffic we saw was two motorcycles and a Forest Service rig. Anyway, driving crimes aside, it was wonderful to get out of the house, see some new scenery and listen to Jo chirp happily from behind the wheel. I felt normal.

I am beyond fortunate to have a high schooler during this time because she’s able to self direct when it comes to her studies. (I’ve been checking.) She hasn’t been very impressed with my suggestions, i.e. cleaning her bathroom for PE. Anyway, we are working on life skills with the kid because she doesn’t have enough homework. Some things she actually already knows how to do, like run the washing machine and dishwasher. Some things are new, like expanding her cooking knowledge. We’ve been doing more stuff as a family, like playing games or watching movies. On Saturday, Jo found “Dracula” from like the 1950s or something on TV (with commercials, weird). It was awful and we had a wonderful time.

I have no idea what I’d do if I had to keep a younger, elementary-aged kid entertained. Lots of iPad time, I suppose.

Eric is still going to work; his boss refuses to close the office, which I find mystifying because yes government but not essential services. The public can only come in now for prearranged appointments but still …

Eh, one more thing to be anxious about, at this point who even cares.

*

This week, the goal is to continue with my routines, like getting fully ready for work and taking a walk after dinner. I’m going to add yoga to the list because I have all sorts of free time now and nothing to fill it with (or nothing that I would usually fill it with, I’ve learned my priorities suck so that’s been fun). Back in the day when I worked part time, I would practice with Melissa West; she has free videos that she shares each week and I really like her method, i.e. holding poses and being mindful. This isn’t, like, hardcore yoga. It’s just nice. HERE is the link to her website. (She also has a YouTube channel.)

One more link, Ryder Carroll, who created the Bullet Journal method, started live streaming writing prompts yesterday (sessions start at 10:15 a.m. EST). I participated and it was really lovely — HERE is the Instagram link. He’s going to save the sessions so if you miss one or can’t make it at 10:15 a.m. New York time, you can practice at your convenience. That’s SO NICE.

*

I think that’s all, friends. Keep hanging in there. On Thursday I’ll share what it’s like to work at home with co-workers who are anarchists. Bean, Goose and Pearl are adorable but wow, their collective work ethic sucks. And keep me posted on how you’re doing. I’m trying not to despair but damn!, it’s hard.

— TW

Self-care in crisis

It’s unbelievable to me how much life has changed just since last week, let alone March 1, and yet, this is the reality of our situation: Worldwide pandemic, numbers soaring, people hoarding toilet paper (still confused by that), working from home, kids out of school, every day life pretty much at a standstill.

Hey, anxiety! I see you!

On Monday, I asked everyone to think about ways we can take care of ourselves during this crisis. I’ve been thinking about that too. It’s slightly hilarious in a very non-funny kind of way that all of the usual things I do to take care of myself — monthly reflexology appointments, bi-monthly acupuncture appointments — have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I find that my self-care bandwidth has significantly shrunk. I mean, I still have a book going — taking the time to read every day is always on my list — although it’s somewhat hard to concentrate on the words. (Just finished my 13th book incidentally.) And I’m doing my best to stick to my morning routine of waking up with Eric, journaling and then getting ready for the day — dressed in my work clothes, with shoes on. Whether I head to the car or my reading retreat to get to work doesn’t matter. It helps me feel grounded.

As I was thinking about what to share today, I remembered a day last week when I was feeling really hopeless and out of sorts, and I went into my retreat, grabbed a stack of photos and some scrapbook pages and got to work. I didn’t have to think; I just slapped pictures on pages and got them into their respective books. (No embellishments, no writing.) Took less than an hour, but I felt so accomplished and so much better afterwards — because that was one less pile in my retreat, because now I only have Abby’s school photos to deal with and I am DONE, because soon I will be able to pack up the rest of my supplies and drop them off at the Goodwill and never have to think about it again.

(Wait, is Goodwill open?)

Maybe you don’t have scrapbooks to catch up on, but maybe you have a drawer that’s driving you nuts, or a kitchen counter you could scrub. I have heard many times of the meditative power of washing a sink filled with dishes. Seems like a weird self-care idea, I know, but we’re going for whatever makes us feel better and more sure of our surroundings.

On the physical activity end of things, Eric and I have started taking nightly walks after dinner. Every night he says, We can leave whenever, and I say, Nah, I don’t want to, and then I hear him zipping up his jacket so I get my shoes on. I really don’t want to, which is why I go — I need both the routine and the movement. With so many other routines out the window, it’s nice to have something to look forward to.

One more idea that I’m stealing from my dear friend Shannon: Movie marathon with the family. I like this one because it takes zero braincells on my part to watch a show in my living room. And I get to be with everyone I love while I don’t do anything! How is that not a win?

Um … that’s all I got. To review: Read, keep up routines, check off a chore, take a walk and watch a movie. And one of those I stole. OH WAIT! Play with kittens, that’s a good one, soft fur, purring and stress relief, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that earlier.

All right, your turn. And if you don’t have the bandwidth for this either, that’s fine, update us on how you’re doing. I really, truly appreciate all of you who checked in this week.

Let’s talk about that big (sickly) elephant in the room

How y’all holding up?

I guess we may as well talk about COVID-19 because that’s all anyone is thinking about anyway. I know I am. I can’t get away from it at my office. We have no cases in our county (yet), but as of Sunday, there are 36 confirmed cases in Oregon and one death.

It was a busy week in the newsroom trying to keep up with everything that was happening. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown prohibited any public meetings over 250 Thursday morning, and then, less than 24 hours later, canceled all schools until April. So we were trying to keep track of those changes as well as what was happening locally.

People here are taking it very seriously and practically everything has been canceled. Pressed up against deadline with notices still coming in, I put a notice on the front page that, because everything was changing so quickly, information published could (would definitely) be out of date by the time it reached subscribers. The interesting part of this too is that, with activities canceled, what do you write about? It’s a huge struggle to fill pages when the press releases you had detailing community events are no longer relevant, and the events you’d planned to cover are canceled.

Kinda hard to have a sports page when there are no sports is what I’m saying.

*

One of the first indications I had that things were getting serious was last Sunday at Mass. The priest started off by listing the changes: No holy water as you enter the church; no cup; host only, placed in your hand only; no shaking hands during the sign of peace. Catholics are all about routine and tradition and these changes were just … weird. Totally on board on a personal level, thanks bishops for keeping us safe, it’s just that I have been Catholic all 47 of my years and I have never seen anything like this. Mass rolls along on the same tracks every single week. To see that derailed was jarring.

This weekend, our priest started off with a letter written by the bishop giving everyone dispensation should they miss Mass: If you’re over 60, if you have underlying health conditions, if you’re sick, if you’re afraid of getting sick. And everything besides Mass is canceled, from donuts after the 10 o’clock service to the parish council meetings. We had maybe 60 of us at the service we went to — about a third of the usual crowd.

It’s kind of weird how quickly the human mind adapts to changes. What seemed weird last week seemed normal this week.

Last weekend, I noticed toilet paper was gone from store shelves (which I do not get, it’s respiratory not … well, you know), but everything else seemed to be in good supply. THIS weekend, it was a lot of empty shelves. I felt lucky to get a gallon of milk; bread is gone, most canned goods are gone and forget paper products or cleaning products. I’ve been adding non-perishable items to my cart for the last two weeks, so I wasn’t worried about stocking up, but I did want to get fresh fruit and veggies, dairy products, eggs and the like. And a few treats. I don’t know, a crisis just seems easier to deal with when you’ve got cookies. (No, I can’t eat cookies because of my guts. That was an act of mercy on my part.)

*

On Wednesday, we had a staff meeting that involved all of our sister papers. Blah blah blah, it’s a hard time for newspapers but also: The company president was like, some of you are concerned about coronavirus and if you want to work from home, that’s fine, just make sure you’re set up to do that and also maybe think about department hubs. And I was like, I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE.

I am thriving when it comes to social distancing!

After the meeting, I pulled ol’ Freida out of my backpack and started downloading programs. I came into the office on Thursday — deadline day — but decided to make Friday my test run at home — soft deadline, good practice, and if it didn’t work, I could go into the office and fix it.

Um, and also I just really wanted to work from home.

Long story short, I have access to my work desktop on Freida as well as all essential programs, and my test run went perfectly. The only drawback was watching my co-worker, Goose, munch a spider and then spit it back out. Dude, gross, what are you, an animal?

Incidentally, I set myself up in my newly cleaned reading retreat, which is a lovely home office space. I am so grateful that I have this area to work in. It makes me feel settled, and, with everything triggering my anxiety right now, that is a big help.

*

Abby is home for spring break. Her university has extended the break for another week and will resume with online classes. Um, except she’s a nursing student and there might still be labs? Clinicals are out — just because the hospitals are overwhelmed and having students shadow is a distraction staff doesn’t need. Anyway, she’s headed back today. She’s not entirely sure what she’s headed back to, and neither are we.

Johanna will be out of school for the next two and a half weeks — one of those is their scheduled spring break. All students have a school issued iPad, but not all have access to wifi at home, so teachers cannot assign new work. I get the feeling that things changed so quickly that staff didn’t have time to plan and everyone is winging it. It’s hard to be upset about that because let’s be honest, we’re all winging it.

Grandma’s assisted living center went into lockdown a week ago Monday as a precaution. Eric is still going into the office, but he says it’s been pretty quiet. I plan to go in today after lunch, dip in quickly for tomorrow’s staff meeting and then work from home until Thursday, when I will reassess. Mondays and Thursdays are deadline days and I want to be a team player, but also … I’m set up to work at home and why go out if I don’t have to?

But still, it feels weird to be proactive rather than reactive — which is really what all this caution is about: Staying home to ensure that those who are most vulnerable not exposed unwittingly. I might be fine, but what about the grandmas? Hey look, a soapbox: Public health is only as strong as our weakest members. That’s who we need to protect.

*

I’ve been thinking about self care in times of crisis. I’m having a hard time with it because I can’t concentrate. Let’s think about how we can bring a bit of normalcy and care into our daily lives and then talk about that on Thursday, okay? I look forward to it.

And also, tell me how you are — I am hoping everyone is hanging in there. I almost just wrote “hugs” but what I really mean is “nods in an empathetic manner from at least three feet away.”

On habits

As I was cleaning out my retreat, I found a list on the back of a sheet of paper titled “20 habits I want to cultivate.” I have a feeling I made this list circa 2018, but since I didn’t date it, who knows, really. And I am pretty sure this was an exercise suggested by someone or some site because: 20 habits? That seems like a lot. And I am generally not the type to err on the side of overachievement.

It was interesting to look back on, though, because I like hearing myself think and also because I’ve changed enough that A) I managed to succeed on some of these kind of on accident and 2) Some are no longer relevant. C) Would be: Some of these are themes that I aspire to but never quite seem to achieve.

The list:

  1. Yoga
  2. Exercise routine
  3. Meditation
  4. Nightly room pickup
  5. Nightly kitchen pickup
  6. Always have a book
  7. Write first at work, babysit pages second.
  8. Sleep thru the night
  9. Meal prep
  10. Reach for something other than a device
  11. Constantly declutter
  12. Take care of the house
  13. Always pack a lunch
  14. Eat for guts always
  15. Take care of myself
  16. DO NOT ENDURE
  17. Nightly lists of to dos
  18. Weekly lists of to dos
  19. Stay in touch with family and friends
  20. Outside time

I first noticed the tasks I always think I need to accomplish but never do because I don’t want to: The to do lists and the nightly cleaning. Boring. And I always feel a pang when I read that I want to stay in touch with family and friends because I’ve put that on a lot of lists and the fact of the matter is that I’m not very good at it; I get distracted and forget, I hate phone calls, I fail to follow up. My mother will vouch. I suck at communication.

Oh, and sleeping through the night? That seems like such a leap of faith / optimism that I cannot even fathom why I’d write it down in the first place. I’ve never been a good sleeper. Sleep is overrated.

But some items on this list, okay, I have actually managed to integrate into my routine. Maybe I don’t meditate consistently, but I do pull up the Tide meditation app when I need a little extra TLC. I’m better at taking care of myself (my doctor has declared me a Self Care Queen. Yeah, kinda proud). I’ve been awesome about always having a book going and I’m getting better at leaving my phone alone. I do always pack a lunch — and I have freezer meals I’ve made so when we get invited somewhere, I can eat too.

Maybe some of these things subconsciously inspired my three goal areas for 2020 (HERE HERE HERE). Or maybe the lesson is that I know what I need to do, it just boils down to whether or not I want to.

Thoughts, feelings, etc. welcome.

Now THIS is a room I can sit in

retreat blog

I have been slowly banging away in my reading retreat and have been really pleased with the progress I’ve made. Turns out the problem all these years has been putting off making decisions on what to do with the various items that found themselves a home in this room. Whenever I’d clean, I’d inevitably just shove those items in a corner to deal with “later.”

Well, it’s later. And I tell you this, it’s such a load off my shoulders getting through all this stuff. Even if it’s ultimately something I’ve decided to keep (why yes, that IS the Twilight collector’s box set from 2009, why do you ask?), just having space for it on a shelf is … well, it’s amazing. It’s AMAZING to be able to stand in this room and not feel like running away. I’m even writing this post at the built-in desk. (I took the photo above before I sat down.) I have not worked in this room for a decade. Turns out the light in here is really nice. Pearl agrees.

Anyway, not even what I wanted to write about, the words are squirrely this morning. On Saturday, I found myself with a day all to myself and I decided to spend it working in this room with the ultimate goal of getting it all done.

TODAY IT ENDS, I chanted to myself, like I was in The Graveyard Book hunting down Jacks (Mrs. Lupescu!). Well, spoiler alert, I didn’t get all the way through, but I got damn close. I sorted CDs and cassettes (just dated myself), something I’ve been dreading. It wasn’t so bad. I recycled the last of my Everyday Food magazines. I mopped the floor and wiped down baseboards and walls. I sorted random papers.

I would have finished if it wasn’t for a pile of photos that I still need to sort out — are they already in scrapbooks? Did I mean for them to be in baby books? Is it bad that Abby’s school book ends at third grade and Jo doesn’t even have one? (Johanna’s baby book actually ends at age 3. Um oops.) If Past Trisha was in charge, she would just shove all that stuff in a corner. Present Trisha is wise and mature (lolz) and really wants to just get this room wrapped up. It’s the last big hurdle.

I got this!

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d get this far this fast, which is why I gave myself until the end of March to finish. I’m proud of that, too.

I will post photos of the entire room when I’m finished.

P.S. I may have worried some people after my last post about tossing stuff that could potentially be saved for my future maybe grandkids. I should have mentioned that I don’t have any items that could be classified as heirlooms; I’m talking books that we bought the girls when they were younger. I caved and saved a handful that they said they couldn’t live without (even if they don’t want to live with them in their own rooms). I also saved a little box of items from Abby’s and Johanna’s births, like tiny diapers and a letter Abby wrote to Johanna on a napkin. Because it brings me joy. Anyway, it’s okay if my brand of minimalism isn’t for you. It is what you make it.

Update: Six weeks into my ‘grand plans’

It’s been six weeks since 2020 began and I have been working diligently on three fronts: To read more books, to declutter my reading retreat and to focus on healthy habits.

Here’s how it’s going.

Books

I decided the easiest way to track my progress here was a Books 2020 page, which you can find up top under the Minimally banner above: What I’ve read, what I’m reading and what I’ve ditched. (I’m learning to ditch! I’m ridiculously excited about that.) (I’ve only ditched one so far.) The eLibrary has been coming through, usually in the nick of time, which is nothing short of a miracle, but I’ve also reread a couple favorites.

I’m learning to reach for my book instead of reaching for my phone, even if I only have a couple of minutes to kill. I feel like I’ve wasted less time when I read vs. scroll around online. I don’t always remember, but I am remembering more often. I like to read when I read, so it’s different to grab a book knowing I might only have time to finish a page or two. So much is just habit and routine. I find that fascinating, but that’s another post for another time. Eh, maybe.

Decluttering

I am finding it easier to be in my reading retreat for longer periods of time. Probably because each day I’m in there means there’s less visual clutter. And less actual clutter. It’s getting there!

I did make the mistake of letting the girls in on what I was doing early in the process, and they were horrified that some of their childhood books were in the giveaway pile. The kicker: They wanted to keep certain books, but not in their own rooms. “Think of your grandchildren!” Abby said at one point, but I was like, Dude, I AM. They might not even like these books.

That’s the thing: We keep things for future generations, and the future generations are all like, Nah, I want my own stuff. I know. I am one of those future generations (I wrote about that HERE).

I’ve tackled books. I’ve tackled the box of negatives and duplicate photos (that has been on my to-do list for like seven years, no joke). I’ve even tackled the mess of gift bags and ribbons and boxes. I’m sorting through my extensive Everyday Food magazine collection and recycling. I thought that would be harder. What IS harder: I’m dealing with a fat stack of scrapbook supplies and photos that need to go into albums.

(This will strictly be placing photos on pages, no decorating, no creative endeavors, just getting it done. I still don’t want to do it, I think because scrapbooking used to stress me out — the pressure of creating perfect pages, all the supplies and tools, all spread out all over the front room. I associate scrapbooking with stress.)

It feels good to finally be dealing with this space. I cannot believe all that I’ve managed to accomplish in six week. I can’t wait to see what it looks like after the next six.

Health

Again, this one is about mindfulness rather than fulfilling a to-do list. I’m drinking more water (which probably still isn’t enough, but at this stage, we’re just going with any water that’s not coffee as a win). I’m moving around more. I’m taking breaks. Well, sort of. I’m practicing self-care. I’m going to bed ridiculously early if that’s what I need to do.

I’m talking 8:30 p.m.! This is the benefit of having older kids. They let you sleep.

My downfall is sugar — I’m still eating too much, and that’s idiotic because it upsets my stomach and makes me feel super gross. On Feb. 1, I decided to give up desserts for the week to see how I felt. I was eating blueberries for dessert, which actually wasn’t so bad. But on Feb. 8, I ate A LOT of chocolate. Dessert fast over, YAY.

On Feb. 9, I had to admit that symptoms that had taken a week’s vacation were back: Swollen stomach, didn’t sleep well that night, general feeling of ick. Um, yeah, I did finish off the chocolate with a vague plan of restarting the dessert fast today. For a bit, anyway.

GOSH DANG IT ALL TO HECK.

Well, the year is long, if I managed to succeed in all my health goals in six weeks, what would I do with the other 10.5 months of this year? 😉