the corona chronicles, day 14: a lot of walking, but nowhere to go

It’s been two weeks since the governor issued stay-at-home orders. I have to admit, it’s a lifestyle I can get into. I’ve worked from home for thirty years, and although I work twenty-five hours outside the house now, I still work from home when there are publishing projects. In fact, being at my desk at home is still my happy place.

woman walking toward black sedan parked in front of colorful houses
Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

But we need to exercise, to get out and get some fresh air and sunshine. So we walk. And we walk. And we walk some more. We can’t walk in parks. We can’t walk on the beaches. We can’t hike in the mountains or even on hills, for that matter. But still, those of us who are mobile will strap on our sneakers and get outside, even for a ten-minute trek. I have always wished to own acres of land, a private place where I could walk all the time.  Wouldn’t that be nice right about now?

I’m just thankful to have a small backyard and an even smaller front yard. There’s a swimming pool in the back, which I will be ever so grateful for this summer, and I do believe this thing is going to drag into the warm months. I feel sorry for people who are crammed into tiny apartments, trailers, or living outdoors. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head where I can wait out this virus.

Yesterday, I had to pick up my dog’s insulin at a Walmart pharmacy inside a Walmart Neighborhood Market. I hadn’t been out to the store in two weeks. My last grocery run was actually run to to me. I had placed an order from Target.

But Walmart pharmacy doesn’t have a delivery service, so I braved the store. There were fewer people than the last time I ventured in three weeks ago. Some items were still totally removed from shelves, namely toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and hand wipes. But paper towels, a few packs anyway, were in the store. I grabbed one, which is the limit.

I am anxious now when shopping for groceries, so I tend to rush through. I got about 90 percent of what I had come in for and grabbed a few items I didn’t. I’ve been making dinner every night lately, and it’s actually something I look forward to–the cooking routine as well as the eating. And I want to make food we all really like. Fresh meat and chicken are still in stores, thankfully, and so are fresh vegetables. I can make plenty of good meals out of what I brought home yesterday.

It’s very likely Governor Newsom may ask us all to not leave the house without a face covering. He is doing everything in his power to tamp down the spread of this disease. He was fast to act initially, and we are benefiting from it. I will probably have to wear a mask to get my groceries next time. I will put on gloves as well. Heck, I will wear a hazmat suit if that’s what it takes to keep myself and my family healthy. Even if I have to wear it on a walk.

the corona chronicles, day 8: being thankful

I started writing a post about the new stimulus package and how it’s not fair that dependent adult students are not getting anything from the package, while parents will be given $500 for each dependent child. My son lives with us, he has a part-time job, goes to school full-time, does everything right, but he can’t get a penny from this program? Well, that’s all I’ll say about it.

air atmosphere blue blue sky
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

What changed my mind was sitting outside. After a thunderstorm last night and what seems like rain every day or two throughout the month of March, the sun is shining brightly today. It feels good to know that no matter what craziness is going on on this planet, the earth will still revolve around the sun, rain will fill our reservoirs, and life will go on.

I began thinking about what I’m thankful for right now: that rain has brought green grass and blooming flowers, that my golden retriever was sitting by my side, that my four adult kids are all safe and healthy, that I have a roof over my head and a home my two sons can live in without worrying about being evicted (barring any stupid stunts, of course), that I have meaningful work that I can do from home and get paid for, that my husband remains employed through these nutty times, that I have running vehicles, friends I can count on (and a couple I can’t–but that’s for another day), and the simple fact that I can breathe in and out.

I think of the kids who are home with nothing constructive to do, the young adults who can no longer afford rent and are not wanted back at home, the people without Internet or a way to stay in touch with others. Kids will get behind in school. Adults will lose their jobs and not be able to find replacements. Mortgages will not be paid, rents either, and people will lose their homes.

But those are negatives, and I will not go there today. I will be thankful for electricity, cable TV, Internet, computers, phones, toilets, sinks, showers, entertainment at our fingertips. Never before have I worshiped the technology that allows movies and books to miraculously appear in our hands after a few clicks. I have a safe neighborhood to walk in and a backyard to sit out in when the sun shines as it is today.

There’s plenty to be thankful for. The griping will have to wait.

the corona chronicles, day 5: parks and beaches closed

Our mayor announced yesterday that all city parks and beaches would close. The day before, just the lots were barricaded to discourage people from parking in them and to reduce the number of visitors. But now, no one can hike, hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, or take a boat out on the lake.

gray storage shed on brown sand
Photo by Guillaume Hankenne on Pexels.com

Confinement is being taken seriously, and soon it will drive some up the wall. More and more businesses are closing. People who can work from home are advised to do just that. Those who cannot are going without work and, many, without pay. My younger son works at a coffee shop with a drive-thru window. Frankly, I wish it would close, because the longer it’s open, the greater the chance is that he brings home the virus. But the Starbucks next door shut down and my son’s employer is capitalizing on Starbucks’ lost business. I hope it’s worth it to the owners. I hope my son, who just started this job in January and would probably be the first let go if there’s a reduction in customers, doesn’t come down with any symptoms.

My other son, an employee of the YMCA, is home with pay until the end of the week. The Y is still charging its patrons membership fees while it’s closed. A friend of my husband’s just canceled his membership because of this, and I’m guessing he’s not the only one. No money coming in means no money going out to workers.

I am fortunate that the city I work for is still paying its hourly workers like me, but how long will this last, with talks of budget cuts having started pre-pandemic? So far, we’ve been paid for one week without physically working. Our next pay period ends on April 3. The city was hoping to reopen the libraries by April 6, but that looks pie in the sky.

At my other library, we are still working from home, which is going fine so far. We can do research online for our patrons if they need help. We can also work on other tasks.

I am able to take my dog to the vet today. He’s diabetic and needs his insulin checked every other week. I may ask the vet to send me home with a test kit that I can use without coming in. Maybe I can report to her the result I get and she can monitor and adjust his insulin from that reading. Or I may just ask to come in less frequently. Since we’re almost all home, we can spot if the ol’ boy is doing well or poorly. So far, he’s responding very well to the insulin.

Will weddings go on? We have one to plan for. Our second eldest is getting married in October, but, of course, wedding plans are on hold. The venue, a community center run by one of the local cities, has closed its doors. Brides and grooms who had booked in March and April will have to postpone their weddings for sure and most likely find a new place for the reception. This venue is very popular and is booked at least a year out. We put a deposit down months ago, fortunately. Now we’ll see if the wedding will still go on even seven months out. Everything is so uncertain. I’m glad we haven’t booked a caterer yet.

Typically in March I’m fully in the process of planning our summer vacation. My husband was having a hard time even picking a free week this year at the very start of coronavirus. We finally decided on a week in September. Now that too will have to wait. Who knows what is in store. One thing is for sure, though, even a trip to a local beach will feel like a vacation.

Stay safe. Stay well.

the corona chronicles, day 4

Monday, 23 March 2020

It is Day 4 of being sequestered during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Both the libraries I work for are closed. One, the community health-care library, remained open through last Thursday. The other, the city-managed branch, had shuttered several days before that.

person holding covid sign
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I am still working from home for the health-care library. I have work to do for now but wonder when things will slow down. If this stay-at-home edict remains in place for, say, two or three months, I can’t imagine there would be that much to do from home. Right now, I can review a video I was sent home with, and on a Word doc, I’ve started compiling a list of medical graphic novels the library may be interested in purchasing, which is something I had started before leaving. I also have a catalog to review and pick out websites we can possibly add to our databases. I may have to get creative in coming up with activities in the future, but we have to be doing something work related to be paid. For now, I’ve plenty.

To get out of the house, hubby and I took a little drive yesterday. It was nicing getting a peek at the ocean and seeing something other than our home surroundings. We are lucky, though. We have a house with two floors. It’s not big by today’s standards, but it’s adequate. We have a backyard and a front yard, so there we can convene with nature if we need to. This morning, when I let the dog out back, I noticed three sets of paired-up birds: sparrows, a couple birds that looked like muddy-colored robins, and mourning doves. They were not practicing social distancing, but isn’t it telling that that thought had sprung into my mind?

We also live within walking distance to a large regional park. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for others, “our” park has been flooded with people. So many people, in fact, that the parking lots had to be closed off to prevent visitors. (That can only mean that our neighborhood streets will soon start looking like parking lots.) People were not practicing social distancing. It’s the same as at the beaches, whose lots were also barricaded, and some other attractions that draw huge crowds. It’s a matter of time before San Diego’s pride and joy, Balboa Park, is off-limits. What crazy times we live in.

Today, I’m trying to find enough work to fill up my typical 5.5-hour day. I’ll also take the dog out for a walk—maybe in the streets, though, and a little later in the morning or early afternoon, when the typical walkers are back home. But there’s nothing typical about our times.

To say I have zero confidence in our commander in chief is an understatement. How I wish we had a real president, one who doesn’t lie, fib, make stuff up, whatever. What a kid he must have been to raise!

Well, back to work I go. At least I have something to fill my hours. I feel bad for people who are out of work and out of pay, like wait staff and hair stylists, whose tip money was rent money. Or the minimum wage worker who, even if they are allowed to take some kind of unemployment insurance, surely it won’t be enough to pay the bills. Yes, landlords and mortgage lenders are supposed to place a moratorium on collecting rents and monthly payments, but eventually all that money is going to need to be repaid. What then if these people can’t get enough in restitution to cover those payments? There will be, in my opinion, evictions and foreclosures galore. How sad.

Be safe. Stay safe.

why I won’t think about christmas before thanksgiving ends (or, let’s try to enjoy the best holiday of the year)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And no matter that there are only twenty-seven (!) days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I will not put out one green or red decoration, not one strand of garland or one set of twinkle lights, until Thanksgiving is in the bag.

santa and clock

Yes, I am a planner. Yes, I am growing gray hair by the minute as I write this because I have a fear that I won’t be ready for Christmas. Yes, I keep dreading that short window of time to get it all done this year. I still will enjoy the most wonderful holiday ever, one in which we get together for a delicious meal, watch some football, play games, and have a good time.

Nope, I won’t even think of everything I have to do before December 24.

What is everything? Oh, only :

  • shopping for gifts (for four kids, a daughter’s fiance, a son’s girlfriend, a husband, four siblings, nieces, nephews, my best friend, and more);
  • shopping for Christmas dinner for at least fifteen;
  • putting up the decorations (on the entryway banister, on the fireplace, on the beams over the dining room and family room, on tables, on floors, on windows, on doors);
  • buying a tree (which has somehow turned into my–and only my–job);
  • dragging that eighty-pound beast into the house and putting on a dozen strands of lights, ornaments, and tinsel;
  • setting up my little four-foot artificial tree in the family room and decorating it;
  • pulling out every Dollar Tree knickknack I own and finding places for each of them;
  • digging through the CDs for Christmas music and the DVDs for holiday movies;
  • putting out Christmas pillows and throws, bathroom towels, candles, and soap;
  • decorating the front yard;
  • setting up my village of seven buildings set on a blanket of snow;
  • baking cookies and decorating them, then putting them into gift boxes for friends;
  • wrapping a million gifts as my back aches;
  • misplacing the tape or the scissors or the gift tags after every gift I wrap;
  • filling out dozens of Christmas cards and then addressing the envelopes and mailing them;
  • making gifts for family and friends;kevin
  • cleaning the house a week before (including emptying the fridge and wiping down the shelves), then a couple days before, then the day before (yeah, my Christmas Eve will stink once again), and then the day of;
  • moving seven hundred pounds of garage junk to find my card table, bring it inside, and set it up;
  • touching up the paint in the house before guests arrive;
  • planning the meal, shopping for the meal, preparing the meal a few days ahead, then a day ahead, and then the day of;
  • cleaning up all the mess my immediate family makes on Christmas morning so the house is semi-presentable when the rest of the crew comes over;
  • planning, shopping for, and making something (who knows what) for Christmas Eve dinner so we have something to eat after we all get home from Mass;
  • planning and shopping for Christmas-morning breakfast. . . .

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but you get the idea. Oh, and did I mention that I work the day after Christmas? Nine o’clock, bright and early!

My days of doing all this should be over. I should have passed the torch on to my four grown kids or my grown nieces long ago, but with today’s economy being what it is in our part of the country, none of them has anything bigger than a two-bedroom condo–and, at 36, my niece and her husband are the only ones who own the home they live in. By that age, my husband and I were paying the mortgage on the house we still call home. Although by no means large, with four bedrooms, a living room and a family room, it was big enough to raise four kids and a few pets in. I wonder if I’ll ever see our kids host Christmas. Maybe when I’m elderly and they themselves are parents of adults–or grandparents of adults.

But no matter. After I sign off from here I will not give Christmas another thought until peaceful, wonderful, bountiful Thanksgiving has long passed, which I suppose this year is Black Friday.

i am failing at enjoying life (or, don’t quit your day job)

My freelance smoggy rainbowwork is slow, and since leaving my part-time day job five months ago, I have little to do that’s enjoyable. I wish I could have a do-over and take my job back, because after all the complaining I’d done about one supervisor and how things had gone to pot, things changed after I left. A new supervisor is at the helm, and all is good at the old place. If only I’d stayed.

So here I am with a serpentine schedule, some days going left, others going right. Some people would give their eye teeth to have a flexible schedule. They’d take up a hobby or continue with one they have and love. They’d travel, laptop in hand, and work whenever it was convenient to them, maybe looking out over a vast ocean or a forest filled with ferns and canopies of green. Maybe they’d squeeze in volunteer work, helping their fellow man and woman by serving food or rocking babies. They’d possibly simply take time to breathe, thanking their lucky stars for the time they have left on this earth.

But I’m not there yet. I’m sad, and after learning last week of a chronic illness I have, I’m depressed as well. The work I now have is not the work I love. I haven’t had the editing work that sustains my being in over a year. I feel I made a mistake in quitting the part-time job too and wish I had somewhere to go during the day to make my time feel valuable. I tried to get my old job back after another coworker left, but it’s obvious that the new manager does not want to make it work, even when he had an effortless opportunity to do so.

So I’ll trudge on, hoping something comes of the jobs I’ve applied to and interviewed for in recent weeks. There is hope over the rainbow. At this point, though, I’m just waiting for the rain to end.

when the honeymoon of leaving a job is over (or, what do i do now?)

face realityIt’s been more than three months since I left my last part-time job. It was a job I took with excitement. After practically a lifetime of working freelance from home and raising four kids, I looked forward to getting back out into the “real” world, working in a field I really liked and collecting a steady paycheck. Because of circumstances somewhat beyond my control (a difficult boss, health issues, the reality of the cost of commuting to a job that paid very little), I decided to leave my entry-level job. I continued to work remotely while I held the part-time job and would have to leave better-paying work at times to drive to my barely above-minimum-wage gig. It was starting to make little sense. So, when two coworkers were promoted and replaced with inadequate substitutes and another left for a full-time work-from-home job, I began questioning my part-time career choice. So, I packed up my things and I quit, swearing to my besties at the office that I’d come by every so often.

The Honeymoon

The early couple months of leaving the job were amazing. My last day was seventy-two hours before my birthday, and I was delighted to not have to find someone to cover my shift so I could take the day off. I spent my birthday the way I wished. I did miss being out of sight and out of mind, however, when I received no happy-birthday wishes from any of my previous coworkers. My name was still on the birthdays list on the whiteboard in the break room. Did no one remember?

But Christmas and New Year’s, two and three weeks later, were quite pleasant. I had time to shop, cook, bake, buy a tree, decorate the house, and hang out with family and friends without worrying about having to run off to work or fitting those tasks in around a schedule. I also had time to have coffee with a good friend I hadn’t seen in at least nine months, go on a hike with another I hadn’t spoken to for even longer than that, and meet up with yet another longtime girlfriend. I was beginning to picture not only what I had missed while holding down that job but what I had in store for me in the immediate future and beyond, namely the freedom to do the things I wanted.

The Reality

But then reality hit. It’s now three and a half months later and not only have I not seen a single one of those three friends since, but I almost never hear from the couple-dozen people I used to work with either. I haven’t set a hiking boot on a trail, nor shared conversation over a latte, even though there’s a Starbucks on nearly every corner. I missed the constant companionship of acquaintances and good friends at work whom I could see on the regular. I also realized that people are busy, too busy to incorporate old friends who are not in the everyday picture into their lives.

The Phases of Leaving a Job

I have read that there are stages of retirement or leaving a job, something like the stages of a marriage. You start out with giddy anticipation, enjoy a honeymoon phase of doing those fun activities that had been postponed while working, and then  spiral into the reality of your new situation, which often comes with disenchantment. What at first had sounded like a permanent vacation or at least a sabbatical turns into the reality of not having enough to do to feel fulfilled. Boredom, laziness, and feelings of disillusionment can set in, and money can become an issue if the income you were used to is not there. It’s great to meet friends for lunch or a round of golf, but it’s not so wonderful if you’re on a fixed budget after a source of income has dried up.

The Next Stage

Most people do adapt to their new situation. They learn to live within their new financial means. Many fill their days with other activities to substitute for work, like volunteering or traveling.

I’d thought my freelance work would make up for what I was losing leaving my part-time job. But freelancing is a fickle work situation. (Think feast or famine.) One of my sources of income–the work I enjoy most–slowed way down this year. I had had four assignments in January and February of 2018. This year I had zero. In fact, I’ve worked on only one, single, small assignment since then.

Yes, I’m saving money by not commuting. (I spent at least $1,500 a year in gas and another $1,300 in car repairs while commuting). But when the money doesn’t appear in the form of a paycheck, it’s harder to see the savings, and many people chuck the “freedom” of being out of work with what they left: They look for another job.

A New Job?

Today, I have a phone interview for a part-time position. I’m not sure I even want this job. It sounds like it comes with a good deal of responsibility and I don’t know the exact number of hours per week or even which days and times of the day I’d be working. I also don’t know what it pays,  but from reading some of the job boards for this institution, pay likely is low, though probably a bit more than what I’d left. And the commute is shorter, not in-my-immediate-neighborhood shorter, but about half as far as the last job.

So, I’ll give the interview a go, but if I take this job or any job, it will be on my terms this time. No more nighttime work; no more weekends. I think of all the Saturdays and Sundays I gave to that last job and it kills me. That is one thing I do not regret about giving up that position.

Plus, I’ve just gotten used to my old routine of being home again. Even though I’m not bringing in the money right now, that can change, and I do like being able to throw a load of laundry in when I think of it or running to the store or walking the dog when I get the whim and not when I’m exhausted from having been on my feet and then stressed from driving home.

The honeymoon may be over on leaving my job, but I look forward to continuing in a long-term relationship with freelancing. Whether I take on a little side action is yet to be seen.