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

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.”

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

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? 😉

Stories

That time I took Abby grocery shopping

The day before Abby headed to school, we had a weird weather day of rain, then snow, then more rain, then nothing, then more snow — with a forecast that was, as Eric put it, for snow accumulation that amounted to anything between a skiff and 10 feet. Knowing she would be facing snow at school, we decided to meet at the grocery store (with 10,000 of our best friends who were also freaking out about the forecast) and get her weekly groceries so she wouldn’t have to worry about that once she got back.

cats for blog

This photo of all my furry children will make more sense later. Left is Goose, Bean is center and Pearl is ignoring everyone as per usual at top.

We were in the meat aisle and I was looking at roasts for the ol’ crock pot (because I still don’t have an oven) and coming up short on the inspiration, and anyway Abby is going vegetarian for environmental reasons. But out of the corner of my eye, I see her place two packages of hamburger and one roast at the bottom of our cart, and I’m like, Hey, what did you get?

And this woman I’ve never seen before was like, Well, I got hamburger and …

And I burst out laughing because, I mean, I tend to have weird interactions with people anyway because I’m just an awkward person so this is par for the course, but wow, totally not my kid. I pointed to Abby and explained that’s who I thought she was (and my astonishment at her meat choices because again, vegetarian) and she was like, I just thought you were really interested in my selection! and I was all, I kind of was because I can’t decide what to get myself but also sorry about that, and she laughed and we wished each other good luck in getting through the store on this crazy, crowded afternoon.

And I ended up with chicken from the meat counter, in case you’re curious.

Speaking of ovens … 

We have movement on the oven front! For those of you who are new, my oven tried to kill me way back in July (I think; whatever, it was a long time ago) and we have been without one since. We researched replacement parts and other various options (and when I say “we,” I mean “Eric.” I like to make a fast decision and live with the consequences whereas he likes to take his time. Which should adequately explain why we’re six months into this oven-less journey), and finally, we decided to accept the reality that we were going to have to get a new one and ordered the thing. The drama!

Christmas sales, got a deal. Well, sort of a deal. Turns out ovens without hoods are SUPER expensive. Why did we think putting an oven in the island was a good idea again?

The oven was supposed to be delivered last week but then we had another snowstorm and it got pushed back to this week. It doesn’t actually matter when it’s delivered, though, because Eric has informed me that he’s not taking out the old one until this spring or summer. Something about retrofitting the space and online reviews that point to huge hassles and, like, not wanting to rip up the kitchen in the winter. So the thing will live in the garage for a bit.

That’s cool. It’s amazing what you can cook in a crockpot. I could write a book at this point. Okay, fine, a pamphlet.

Kitten friends

The snow has excited the boys to no end. Bean and Goose fall over themselves trying to get out of the house every morning so they can go play and hunt and do whatever it is cats do. Yes, they’re in 10 minutes later because they get cold and need pats on the head and reassurances they are good boys and to make sure the food dish is still there (it always is and that always surprises them), but then they’re ready to go back out again. And come in again. Over and over and over.

Well, they’re cats.

Pearl, on the other hand, is greatly offended by the snow and cold and wet. She turns her nose up at the open door and hides behind the couch, where she can look out the window in warmth and safety. She shakes her head at the boys’ antics. I can feel the distain just rolling off her, for them, for the snow, for anyone who is dumb enough to go out into that dripping mess.

I feel you, Pearl. We are idiots.

The end.

Goodbye, 2019

I like to do a little end of the year housekeeping and sort through the last 12 months — and damn, what a year. I can’t say I’ve been too impressed with 2019, but to be fair, I’ve never had a year so good that I wanted a repeat. I like moving forward.

My word this year was peace (um, anyone else pick a word to guide them through the year?) and I’m 98 percent certain that will be my word again in 2020. It’s been my word for like three years running and, as I was explaining to my dear friend Shannon the other day, I choose it because that is the goal, not because I am peaceful. I rarely feel at peace, although I do often feel content and maybe that’s the same thing, now that I think about it.

I use my word daily and, as I’ve shared before, there have been times I’ve had to scream I CHOOSE PEACE because it is not something that comes naturally to me. I also write it in my journal every week, no joke. The word helps me remember that I crave calm and that I don’t need to judge. To care for my inside and my outside. To look at the light instead of the dark.

I know. That’s a lot for one word to hold.

It came in handy on deadline days when chaos reigned (“Not my circus, not my monkeys. Oh wait, yes it is. Shit. I CHOOSE PEACE”). It was what saved me when my father-in-law spent four days in ICU before passing away from a traumatic brain injury. It’s what reminds me that I need to stop and breathe.

I’m a big fan. And I’d love to hear your word for the year and/or plans for next year’s word in the comments.

*

In 2019, I had to embrace change because I had no choice. And let me tell you, I despise change. Give me routine any ol’ day. But by keeping an open mind — well, really just trying to be open to the gifts and lessons of each day — I managed to have a lovely time on our trip to Canada (HERE) as well as to whatever life happens to throw me on any particular day. That’s not easy for my brain. I am terribly proud of the progress I’ve made since making this a priority (HERE).

I let go of my own crushing expectations of myself (HERE) and a lot of people — we had four deaths this year (my beloved Aunt Jan, Don, and family friends Celia and Patty). And for some reason, I let go of my walk break at work. I need to bring that back because I feel so much better when I walk. And take a break.

I’m grateful, however, for so much: My little family and the time we spend together, friends who rally when the chips are down and getting to see my Grandma so often now that she’s moved to town all come to mind. That we get to be a year older. That we haven’t gotten nuked yet.

*

It’s always easier for me to think of the year’s challenges than it is accomplishments, but here we go.

Challenges first:

The experience of days in the ICU with my father-in-law, knowing that chances were very good he would never wake up, was the biggest challenge this year (HERE). Being in that GD waiting room. And then just the aftermath of his death. What a huge hole. I still expect to see him around and it’s always a shock to realize, again, that he’s gone.

I never want to see another ICU.

Deadlines have been particularly challenging at work this year; we’ve had staff turnover, which means more on everyone’s plate, and getting the paper out on time has been more miss than hit because of various personalities and/or the realities of print.

Perimenopause — I don’t even know where to begin with this one. It affects my guts. It affects my mental stability. I never know what will happen from month to month — will I have two periods or will I have zero? Who knows!

Accomplishments:

Um … well, I did win a newspaper award (second place) for my work. That was kind of nice, even though my brain is all like, Eh, second. And I managed to get myself a raise. I still make a poverty wage but I feel less ripped off.

I nailed our Canada trip! Which I am very proud of because I am not a good traveler. I also nailed July, with all my self-care appointments (HERE). I felt awesome that month and I’m sure it was because I was taking such good care of myself.

I don’t know if this is really an accomplishment, but I got my ears pierced and now I get to wear fun earrings and feel punk. And I feel like I have some new tools to work with: Breath exercises, stopping negative spirals (HERE) and a restarted morning routine that keeps me grounded (HERE).

Well, goodbye 2019. And see you next year, internet friends.