the corona diaries, day 55: may gray and being denied benefits

Not too much has changed since my last Corona Diaries post, other than more people have become infected with COVID-19 and more have died, including three young children in New York State. How sad is that?

I still am working from home, which I love. On the down side, I was denied unemployment insurance benefits because I was told the money I earn from the part-time job I currently hold–and held concurrently with the one I lost–is $9 more than my benefit amount. You read that correctly. Nine dollars! I make $9 more weekly than what the employment department philanthropists want to pay me in benefits. That’s just over one dollar a day more.

What does this even mean? Here’s how I feel: anger

  • I still lost my job.
  • I still am losing income every week.
  • There are no jobs to be had to make up for the lost income.
  • At 13 hours a week, I barely earn much as it is–it’s certainly not enough money to even afford the average monthly one-bedroom rent where I live.

How, then, can the government deny me benefits? Because I still hold down another job that pays barely much more than the one I lost? How is that OK? Should I ask my other employer to let me go too? Would that be better, to be completely unemployed, at which time my benefit amount would be much higher? I’m not asking for more than I deserve.

I have a friend who lost one of his two part-time jobs too. Because the one he lost brought in less income than the one he currently has (same as my situation), he was denied a claim as well. We are both diligent people, trying to make two part-time jobs work because full-time jobs with benefits are so scarce. Yet, we are penalized when we lose one of those jobs.

This government that is denying my claim because I earn nine measly dollars more than they think I’m worth, mind you, is the same one that has bailed out the banks and General Motors and every other conglomerate that has caused hardworking individuals to lose their  jobs because of corporate greed. Un-f*&$#ing-believable!

Both my friend and I went out of our ways to notify the employment department that we currently still hold part-time jobs so they wouldn’t overpay us if thinking we lost both our jobs. Most people would not have done that, I believe, and would have taken whatever handout they received, whether they deserved it or not (see my reference to the banks, General Motors et al. above). But in being forthright, we are without the money we worked hard for. Once again, the government shows that honesty does not pay off. I mean, just look at who was rewarded with the highest office in the land!

But I digress a little. june gloom

We currently are in what the locals refer to as May Gray, which is followed next month by June Gloom. At this time of year, mornings are overcast with a thick, white blanket of sky. If and when the sun does shine through, though, it reveals what I consider to be the most glorious weather. Some parts of town along the coast never see the sun at this time of year. We live far enough east to have (a) lower property values and (b) more sun when it’s key to brightening bad days.

With the coronavirus pandemic still hanging around, there is a lot of cloud cover above us all right now. We don’t know when those clouds will melt away, but we do know they eventually will. Yes, there will be an end to this madness. It’s just not very clear at the moment when the sun will shine again.

the corona chronicles, day 38, a birthday and memories of quarantine-like bed rest

Today is the birthday of my eldest child, my daughter. This is not the first family birthday celebrated in coronavirus quarantine. Our older son turned 27 last week. We celebrated on our patio, with takeout Italian food. His sisters and brother-in-law-to-be came over and we all managed to hang out, six feet apart.bday cake

Birthdays bring on nostalgia, and last weekend I thought about my son’s birth. After having lived in a string of small apartments with two children, we were finally in an actual house, albeit at 1,100 square feet, a small one. But we had saved up enough to put down a modest down payment. We were on our way to home ownership for the first time in our lives. It was a good feeling bringing our baby boy home to our house.

My firstborn’s entry into the world was much different. Similar to now, I was under a stay-at-home order of sorts when I had her 34 years ago. I was eight weeks from my due date back in 1986 when, at a routine OB visit, I was told that because of the condition of my cervix, I needed to immediately seek bed rest. At the time I was working full-time. (With three more kids to follow, it was, incidentally, the only time I would ever work full-time and have my own work-related health benefits.)

I drove home from the appointment, stopping at the bank and the grocery store, because who knew when I’d be able to get out again, and then came home and lay on the couch, poring over the bed rest section of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I waited for my husband to come home (this was in the days before cell phones) to tell him the news. At a mere 24 years old, adulthood and marriage were still new to me, and now I was facing complications with my very first pregnancy. It was scary times.

Bed rest was not fun. Back in ’86 and only married for a year, my husband and I lived in a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment, with a cat. We had a living room, a kitchen with a small breakfast area, and that about covers it. How I wished in those days for a place with a balcony or patio on which to stretch out in a lounge chair in the fresh air. Rather, our apartment was cramped and dark, and the only outdoor space was a well-traveled walkway that our seven other apartment-dwelling neighbors would pass through from the street to the alley.

The way our unit was situated, there was no direct sunlight at all in the apartment, save for a tiny triangular bit that fell on our opened door. At the top of the stairs leading to our and our closest neighbor’s apartment was a landing only big enough to stand on and place a couple bags of groceries or a laundry basket while unlocking the door. No room to prop even a modest-sized chair in order to sit outside.

I was thankful to be upstairs at least and not on the ground floor, staring at a fence or the alley-side parking lot. At least I could see a single tree in the property next door and an occasional bird perched in it, along with blue sky.

Inside, my one and only physical position was horizontal. Before leaving for his volunteer job at the historical society and then his actual night job as a courier, my husband would pack me a brown-bag lunch, typically consisting of a sandwich, yogurt, and fruit. He’d also leave something similar for me to eat for dinner. On the weekends, he would make dinner, which often was hamburgers, spaghetti, or soup.

I could not drive and could only leave the house to see my doctor and go to the hospital for stress tests to check on the welfare of my unborn child. My entertainment was the few books I had around the house, the daily newspaper, my journal, and the television set. We did not have cable–just four local stations and PBS. We did not even have a remote control, so I would coincide turning the channels with trips to the bathroom or to get another pitcherful of water from the fridge. My only company was our cat, who shared our lumpy, used sofa with me.

Our sole, avocado-green phone was in the kitchen, attached to the wall of course. I didn’t even have the convenience that a portable landline brings. The phone, fortunately, had a long enough cord to stretch to my spot on the couch, but I would still need to get up to answer it or dial.

My friends from work came by one time and brought a pizza and salad. That was the only face-to-face socializing we did. Easter fell during my time of bed rest, and my family, including my newborn niece and her two-year-old sister, came over and had dessert. I stretched out as best I could on the couch while surrounded by 11 people in our small apartment living room.

The night my daughter was born, my closest friend in town was over. My husband cooked up some hamburgers (what else?), and we hung out. She brought over an outfit for the baby-to-be. It was great seeing a friend. When I emerged from using the bathroom, my water broke and I realized I was in labor. Three-and-a-half hours later, my daughter was born. The birth was fast and fierce and painful, and I barely saw my baby before she was whisked off for a night in the NICU.

Those seven weeks of bed rest remind me of this time of stay-at-home orders, except it was much more difficult. Despite what some people are feeling, this isn’t a bad era to be stuck at home. We now have multiple TV sets with remote controls and access to all sorts of entertainment, from thousands of TV shows to new-release movies.

We have cell phones, a futuristic concept in the ’80s, on which we can chat or text at all hours of the day and night to anywhere in the world. We have tablets on which to read a best seller at the touch of a digital button or two. We have social media to see what our friends and even celebrities are up to, which, at this time, is not much different than what we also are doing. Coronavirus, in some ways, has become the great equalizer.

We have laptops and desktops and the Internet to do schoolwork and paid work. We have access to a world of information, including how COVID-19 is spreading. We can leave our houses on foot to take a walk or by car to take a drive. We still have access to food from grocery stores, which remain open, and health care if we need it. Most of all, we have time. Time to bond with family, time to read, time to work on household projects or crafts, time to contemplate life. balloons

Not being able to go anywhere we want at any time because we’re stuck in our homes or stuck in a bed is an annoyance–yes, a major annoyance, but still just an annoyance. As long as we’re not sick or dying, we have a lifetime to make up this time we are all at home. My daughter lived to become an intelligent, kind, productive member of society. She and I got through those seven weeks of bed rest together, and we’ll all, each and every one of us, get through however long coronavirus keeps us indoors. I promise.

 

the corona chronicles, day 22: first a pandemic, now flooding; what’s next?

As if the coronavirus pandemic weren’t bad enough, our pool was within one inch of overflowing today. I had to put my MacGyver skills to work, using zip ties to clamp two hoses together while wrangling the sump pump into the pool, getting drenched in the meantime.macgyver-richard-dean-anderson-photo.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scale

We are having a wacky, heavy storm out of Alaska that is mixing with tropical moisture in the Pacific. This weeklong bout of rain is more typical of January or February during the heavy-rain seasons that come once every several years. With climate change, though, the rain and cold in the cooler months and the heat in summer have turned our typically pleasant weather to more resemble the Pacific Northwest in the winter and spring and Arizona in the summer. (Might I add that while Southern California has a flash flood warning in effect, Portland, Oregon, today is experiencing sunny skies and nearly 70 degrees?)

Since breakfast, just an hour before, I had watched the water travel up the sides of the pool to overtake the coping and come within an inch of the very edge. My husband was on an hour-long work-related phone call when I felt the dire need to start draining rainwater out of the pool. I could not call on him for help, and my sons were practically in comas from having gone to bed too late last night. So into the garage I went, trying to not only find the sump pump but also any hoses to complete the task. I couldn’t find the hoses (my husband has since told me the one he uses was hanging from the wall above the pump–but at five-foot-one in height, I couldn’t see it), so I unscrewed two I have in the backyard attached to the bib.

Hoses and I have never been friends. It’s impossible for me to get them screwed on tightly enough, and today’s attempt was no different. But I did the best I could. A set of Dollar Tree zip ties came in handy to secure the sump pump’s flexible hose to the end of another. When I had first attached them, the flexible hose filled with water and sprang loose in seconds, flailing around like one of those inflatable men attached to an air pump. Except this was happening with the force of water, which moves a lot faster than air . . . and is a lot wetter.

When my husband finished his call, he came outside to see what was up. By then, I was drenched from head to toe. The hair I had neatly blown dry, was now dripping wet and sporting a nice wave, I might add. My sweats were soaked through and I was peeling off socks that had become like a second skin. At one point, I had kicked off my fake UGGs for good (they were a pain to put on and off every time I came into or out of the house) and just went for it, sloshing through puddles and slogging through mud with just my stocking feet slipped inside a pair of old clogs.

My husband is still outside perfecting my work. When all is said and done, the story of the Flood During the Pandemic of 2020 will have turned from a “me” story to a “we” story. But that’s OK as long as the hoses are hooked up properly and the water is flowing out of the pool and down the driveway.

Still, what’s next in this saga? We’ve been enduring a pandemic, and we now have raging storms. Could a locust plague be far behind?locust

 

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 (work)place.

woman walking toward black sedan parked in front of colorful houses
                                                              walking is the new everything                                                                                                                                              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 summer 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 any store in two weeks. My last grocery run was actually run to to me. I had placed an order from Target and it was delivered to my door.

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 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 remained open through last Thursday. The other, a 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 one 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 have a few assignments to take care of. 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 have plenty.

To get out of the house, my husband and I took a little drive yesterday. It was nice 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 a little bit 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 sprang into my mind at the time?

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.