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.

A different kind of loss

I lost my job yesterday.

This week has been rough, you guys. I am up and down mentally, physically and emotionally. I sink into despair and rally; I embrace routine and then ignore it.

Wednesday was especially rough because a LOT of people company-wide lost their jobs, including the woman who does composition for us — the person who takes our words and photos and puts them on the page and makes it all look like a newspaper.

Yesterday was one of my up days. I was purposely following my routines, getting up with Eric, journaling, taking a shower and getting completely ready for the day (including makeup and shoes, because no, no one was going to see me, but I could see myself). I logged in remotely; I almost immediately discovered our sportswriter had been let go.

Thursday is a deadline day, so I concentrated on that. We were combining our paper with a sister paper for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it was going — it is a solid issue and our two teams were working well together. I wasn’t so sure how this was all going to go, and that was a nice sense of accomplishment to have it work out so well.

Our publisher put out a message that she wanted to have a conference call at 4:30 p.m. We had finished deadline; I knew, with all of the loses we had been suffering, that it was not going to be a pleasant phone call.

And it wasn’t.

Our parent company is dissolving as of March 31 at 3:31 p.m. (someone is a poet). All of our company newspapers are therefore defunct. Payroll will be met through March 24. We will publish one more issue — ironically, the April 1 edition — out of the goodness of our hearts, and that’s it.

I will find out more today about whether or not our publisher thinks she can keep our local paper going. Last night she thought we had the local support to make it work, but needed to figure out a few more things. I was like, well, count me in, because honestly, what else am I going to do? One of the reasons this week has been so hard is because we were furloughed last week and I haven’t been able to work my normal hours.

I do much better when I can work my normal hours.

So we’ll see. I have nothing to lose by working to get that launched.

I think this emotion I am feeling is grief: I’ve lost my coworkers, I’ve lost my work, I’ve lost my schedule and routine, I’ve lost Friday Lunch at the sandwich shop and breaks at the coffee shop. I had no idea when I did my test run for working at home two Fridays ago that things would be so different today, and I feel stupid that I didn’t see the signs or understand how much coronavirus would upend everything for so much longer than I originally thought.

I miss my old life. And my old life was, like, what I had two weeks ago. It’s CRAZY to think everything has changed so much in 14 days. And it’s scary to think how much more it will change in the coming days, let alone weeks and months. I miss visiting my grandma and seeing my parents. I miss knowing what I was facing when I woke up each morning.

I am trying to focus on what hasn’t changed: I still have Eric and the girls, the kittens, our home. I still have my friends. Books, I guess. Coffee at home. Um …

Um …

So, how are you?

Working from home: A COVID-19 tail (ha ha get it?)

IMG_2375

I am incredibly lucky to be able to work from home. I am grateful to our administrators for allowing us to do so.

I am finding, however, that I have traded one set of personalities for another. My new co-workers are furry and, quite frankly, adorable. I admire their unceasing hope in this time of crisis and their willingness to to help me with my tasks.

But wow, are they terrible at this.

One of my tasks is compiling a Yesteryears column, which details the history of our town 110 years ago to 10 years ago. It’s a fairly simple concept: You find something hilarious or historically noteworthy (ah, so THAT is why we have some of our street names!) and then you type it out, word for word. I brought these delicate tomes home and figured this would be a very simple project for the boys, who have a keen sense of curiosity.

IMG_2286

Not quite what I had in mind, Goosie.

I thought, too, that they could help me messages and phone calls — we cannot come to the people, so the people must come to us. But they’re just not grasping the concept of simple phone etiquette, let alone speaking clearly.

IMG_2408.JPG

That’s not even the phone, Bean! It’s the remote.

There are many, many breaks by the water cooler and staff fridge. I don’t mind chatting and think it’s nice to get along with your co-workers, but you get a 15 minute break every four hours. This every 10 minutes nonsense is out of control.

IMG_2398

And why am I the only one who ever brings snacks?

I’ve noticed, too, that no one has really gotten the hang of this social distancing thing except for Pearl.

IMG_2324

That’s not really news. She’s always like that. She was social distancing way before it was cool.

Bean is, perhaps, the worst at this. He likes to get up close and personal.

IMG_2338

Also, my new co-workers refuse to sit at their desks and work; they are always going off-site for “interviews” and honestly, I’m not sure how much they’re actually managing to accomplish.

IMG_2359

Their attention to detail matches their attention spans — which is to say, non-existent. The boys are especially bad. They will start a simple task, such as tossing around a hair tie that they’ve stalked and killed, and the next thing you know, they’re taking a bath. IN THE LIVING ROOM.

IMG_2384

I mean, I’ve had my share of quirky co-workers over the years, but this trio really takes the cake.

— This post is for my mother, who perhaps did not request this particular format, but at least I got the story part right.

F7ABAC5D-7373-4E5D-A7A8-54A3928875BE

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

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.

Dear everyone,

I’m feeling kind of all over the place this morning, so letter it is! I’m back writing in my reading retreat this morning; I was setting up in the kitchen as I usually do when I remembered I have a quiet spot I can go now. So I here I am.

I like the smallness of this space.

I still have a couple of tasks to complete in this room before it is completely finished: I found my great-grandmother’s notebook (mostly recipes) and it is falling apart, so I need to find some sort of box to store it in; I have a collection of postcards I want to frame; and I still have some loose photos to file into scrapbooks. THAT is what’s going to take the longest and what I’m least looking forward to. But any progress is still progress and I’m trying to keep that in mind.

I haven’t had much time to read lately — or anything else. I feel like I’m sinking but really, I can touch bottom (the benefit of being tall, I suppose, and also not actually being in water). If I’ve learned anything about myself, it’s that when the going gets tough, I give up. I’m not much of a fighter. But the dumb thing is that I give up in the least productive and healthy ways, and THAT is not okay. Last week, I spent a lot of time on my phone trying to numb the tiredness. THIS week, I am going to remember that I take care of myself and chose the better option. (Why that continues to be so hard, I do not know.)

It’s just: Late night basketball games. After-hours events to cover for work. Being off my routine. Feeling tired and out of sorts because I am off my routine. Too many work projects and not enough time. Not knowing where to start at work or home because I don’t have the bandwidth left to sort it out.

Ah well.

Lent begins on Wednesday and this year, I’m giving up desserts. I should NOT be eating sugar anyway because it aggravates my jerk of a stomach, but I have a sweet tooth and that’s my weakness. I am not giving up coffee because Jesus does not want me to suffer that much.

Um, what else? I don’t even know. This has taken way too long to write, considering that I’m not even saying anything.

Maybe that’s a sign I need to wrap this up. Real post Thursday hashtag question mark.

–TW