I refer to March 16 as Day 1. It was the first day that I worked from home under my kind employer’s “strong encouragement” to all staff. I had done the grocery shopping and gone to yoga over the weekend.
We felt like we knew it was coming but it wasn’t really here yet.
We were told to plan for two weeks. Our techies were about five minutes ahead of the curve in that they had deployed laptops to all employees late last year. We had a demo on the VPN two weeks before, but we hadn’t done anything close to a “live conditions” test.
Day 1 went fine – Cheers to the techies. I had planned for a couple of projects and knocked them out right away.
Day 2 was the Illinois Primary, so I left the house to walk to my polling place. There was no line.
I went into the office on Day 4.
I had a pretty serious conference call to manage around mid-day and was presenting at a pretty big meeting that afternoon and was just more comfortable being at my own desk. There were four of us present that morning, out of..90ish? And I was the only one still there by mid-day.
The guy from Accounting stopped by before he left for a “really, how long is this going to go” with HR. I told him the truth – officially I don’t know any more than anyone else but if I were guessing I’d say we’d be out for as long as the federal government and they were scheduled to be working from home until mid-April. He agreed that made sense.
As he was walking out the door, I actually said, “See you on the other side.”
Sometime that week, my esthetician, Marilyn, called to say that she’d heard that the state was going to declare “shelter in place” so if I wanted to see her, I’d better move up my appointment.
I did that on Day 5. (Note: she has a private suite and is a stickler for disinfecting anyway. I was safer there than in the grocery store.) And we watched the governor’s address while she was waxing my legs.
By Day 6, I was doing virtual yoga with my regular studio. “How are you?” the instructor asked each person joining. I wasn’t ready for reflection. I’m still not ready for reflection. “My people aren’t sick and I’m getting paid, so I am fine.” That was considered a healthy attitude. And that was the day I dusted off my blog.
According to my Facebook posts, on Day 11 I had a Shamrock Shake for breakfast. (That was the day I ran supplies in to the city for my grandfather.) Day 12, “strong encouragement” to work from home became mandatory. Day 15, my pets were breaking into my Skype meetings. Day 16 we were told this would last until the end of April. And I actually pasted pieces onto a Jewel Monopoly board.
Day 17, I woke up to the news that Pete Sakas died. I had known that someone in his veterinary practice tested positive and they were closed to do the required cleaning. I hadn’t know he was ill. I’m not ready for this, either.
Illinois’ stay at home order will go through at least April 7 (and I have been already been working from home for a week). The Chicago weather is not cooperating and I happen to be stockpiled with Girl Scout Cookies. I’m not ready to talk about COVID for real yet, but can we talk about how the hell to get some exercise? Most of mine this winter has been yoga. There is a studio I use regularly, Evolution. I just found an emergency back up studio, Samadhi, where my first ever yoga instructor now teaches. And the church where Project Linus meets has hired one of my favorite instructors to do a once weekly gig. All required to close up.
I subscribe to a streaming service called The Yoga Collective that I meant as a travel tool but haven’t really used. I figured I would try that. And then Evolution said they would hold online classes with the regular instructors at the regular times.
Last week, I tried using Yoga Collective for real. I’m already paying for it, after all. And it was ok. There are a lot of programs that focus on different areas and many are of a shorter duration so I could piece together a program that would suffice. But by the end of the week, it became certain that we were going to be in this for awhile and I’d better go back to supporting my regular studio.
I don’t have all of the regular props at home, but I have a block and a strap and I don’t normally use much else. It wasn’t always easy to see what Debbie was doing, but her cues are good enough that it wasn’t a problem. You can’t shut up my dogs or my birds, but that only kills shavasana.
It was such a relief.
Since all of my other extra-curriculars are on hold – Project Linus, library, book clubs, theatres – I might even start adding classes. So I am doing this one small thing to try and take care of myself and support a local business. Which reminds me.. I should order a pizza today.
It started with an ad on Facebook. Or maybe Instagram – I’m certain that both have me tagged as being particularly bougie. A company called Blueland is trying to reduce waste and the shipping of water-based products by developing cleaning products of the “just add water” and “reuse the bottles” variety.
I went to the website. Non-toxic, which is important for my house with dogs and birds. There was a whole explanation on the “anti-bacterial” thing which I understood was true for hand soaps but is apparently also true for household cleaners. The short version is that “antibacterial” is trying to kill the bacteria. The normal stuff is trying to remove it. Removing it is more efficient.
The starter kit contains a bottle for hand soap, one for bathroom cleaner, one for glass cleaner, one for multi-surface cleaner, and a tablet for each. The kit cost $39 and shipping is free over $35. I went for it.
The kit shipped quickly and arrived like this:
The packaging is all cardboard and the little brown pouches contain the tablets. I started with the hand soap.
Fill with warm water and drop in the appropriate tablet. It seemed like it took an awfully long time to dissolve, but I am not particularly patient. So I started on the multi-surface cleaner.
Yeah, still took awhile. I tried the hand soap. When I use the foaming hand soap from Bath and Body works, I use two pumps. With this, I use four. But the effect was the same. The standard scent was “Iris Agave” which is just..no. But the other two scents available, lemon and eucalyptus lavender, are perfectly pleasant. They need more scents. (Edit: I just saw they have added a few more. I should be specific. They need Vanilla.)
I don’t know any thing about household cleaners, but I asked my residents experts (my mother and the kind lady who helps to clean the house) and my feeling was validated. We like it. There are no harsh fumes and it doesn’t hurt the skin or eyes. Seems to work just fine.
We used the stuff for about a month and went to reorder. The refill tabs are $1.56 – $2.00 depending on how many you order. Because I am a complete sucker for the Free Shipping trick, I ordered more. It took a bit longer to arrive, which I am blaming on COVID, but that wasn’t the trouble. When I went to refill the Bathroom Cleaner, I found it was leaking. The bottle was cracked, which is really not supposed to happen, even if you drop it. So I got to try the Return policy.
I sent an email last night and received a response this morning – a Saturday. They will replace the bottle, but asked me for a picture first. To “share this feedback with our team to understand your issue better”. Also, they want me to send the bottle back, at their expense, so they can “responsibly recycle it”. That sounds like BS. They are all into reducing shipping, but want me to send back this cracked bottle so they can recycle it better? Mm.
Overall, I am happy with the product and expect to continue using it for as long as the bottles hold up.
How much do I love New Orleans? Enough that going twice last year only made me want to go again this year. Twice. In the summer.
The first time was in June for a conference. The second was a couple of weeks ago. Third week in July is absolutely as late as I was willing to go and flirt with hurricane season. Turned out to be absolutely correct in that I had the trade off of Hot as Blazes and summer season hotel rates, but I only got really caught in the rain once. But now the city is flooded again.
The idea was to go places that I don’t normally go. I stayed at the Pontchartrain Hotel in the Garden District. Right on the streetcar line. Lovely staff, reasonable rooms. Two first world complaints: They use old school keys and if you lose yours, the fee is $250. And there are no ice machines so you have to call down to have it delivered. Oh, and the mini-fridge is of the mini-bar variety so it really isn’t usable. I was at the corner convenience store at least twice a day.
So. Official Story of Summer Vacation 2017:
After breakfast one morning (doughnut at District Donuts) I walked over to the Lafayette Cemetery. At the main entrance, a man sat in a lawn chair with a cooler filled with bottled water. Selling them for a dollar each. Excellent.
I went in and wandered a bit, then heard what sounded like a crying puppy. I was all, “If this is the beginning of a Crying Puppy Vacation Adventure, I will go off. The. Rails.” Turned the corner and saw a small black cat. She had a pink collar with a heart shaped tag. She let me approach and pet her, but I couldn’t get a read on the tag. Then she strutted away and hopped up onto a tomb and I took this:
She seemed to belong there, so I walked on and saw this:
Now, I had heard of Save Our Cemeteries, so I figured this was cool, but still wondered: Where, exactly, are the remains?
A few minutes later, I saw an older man, rather sunburned but quite cheerful. He asked if I was looking for anyone in particular. Apparently, he knew where everyone was buried. I said I wasn’t, but asked if he could tell me about the cat.
“Ah, yes. Her name is Sasha. She lives in the neighborhood and is here all the time. Was she wearing a collar?” I confirmed that she was. “Good. She doesn’t like them and sometimes manages to get out of them. Very friendly.”
He told me that he was a volunteer with Save Our Cemeteries and would be happy to answer any other questions. “OK,” I said. “Can you tell me about that empty tomb? I imagine it is being restored now.” He confirmed that it was. “So where are the remains?”
“Want to see?” He asked.
I could feel my eyes bug out. “Uh. Sure!”
He led me over to a large tomb that had temporary wooden doors in front. Looked like barn doors. He looked about and said, “I’m really not supposed to do this, but.”
He opened the door and I saw several Rubbermaid containers, like the ones my mother uses to store Christmas ornaments, on the bottom “shelf”.
“Oh,” I said. “That’s very..clever.”
He explained that because of the heat and humidity, the remains (including the caskets) decompose very quickly. If I looked up on the top shelf, I could see some actual bones. I stood on my tip-toes and looked.
“You’re going to have to get closer,” he said.
“Uh. No, thanks. I’m good.”
“Yeah,” he said, closing the door. “I’m starting to smell something unpleasant.”
We talked some more..about Lafayette (I was pretty sure he had no idea what he was talking about) and Confederates and restoring tombs. And he told me that you can only visit the cemeteries by the French Quarter if you are with a tour group. I certainly hadn’t needed a tour group when last I visited..but that was pre-Katrina.
I asked how I might contribute to the work of Save Our Cemeteries. “You can just give me cash.”
Well. It took me 2.4 seconds to decide this was probably a con. But Dude gave me an official vacation story and if he was misrepresenting himself as part of a charity, that was on his conscience. So I handed him some cash and moved on.
Later (like five minutes ago when I checked to make sure it was the LaFayette Cemetery that I visited) I saw that empty tomb. It was always empty! Dude was full of it.
And I regret nothing.
My Congressional district is the Illinois 10th. We seem to identify as Moderates, which has us sending the following people to Congress:
2010: Robert Dold – R
2012: Brad Schneider – D
2014: Robert Dold – R
2016: Brad Schneider – D
There was redistricting in the middle of that, too.
Since the election, I have been rather more engaged with my elected officials, and I have listened in on recent town hall conference calls with both Brad Schneider and my state Senator. In both cases, a short introduction was made with a summary of some current events and then there was Q&A. I remember hanging up with two feelings:
Well. Today, I decided to show up to one in person. I arrived..perhaps 20 minutes early, and was the fourth person to sit. The staff was friendly, thanking us for coming and asking us to sign in. Rep. Schneider arrived, with apologies for being late (I hadn’t noticed. He said that his staff made him get a haircut.) and then dove right in to his talking points about the congressional committees on which he serves. This included a side note that the Judiciary Committee is where Articles of Impeachment happen. Smooth.
Then to the Q&A. A guy from Arlington Heights went first, with one of those multiple-part questions about health care. I stopped listening about halfway through when he said, “And how do you expect to do that without the doctors in the room?!” I might have tweeted something snarky at that point. Several questions were like that.
Nothing was particularly contentious or confrontational. Wait, there was one guy that tried to challenge Schneider’s “flip-flop” on the Iran agreement. I think I heard him ask if the congressman had even read it. I almost snorted.
I was keeping mental notes on how many men as opposed to women were given the opportunity to speak – and where in the district each speaker lived. Eight men and three women was my count. None of the women were asking five part questions, either.
The first woman exclaimed, “We are losing our rights! What are the Democrats doing about it?!” I have a Republican friend that would have dismissed her as an hysterical liberal, but the question, “What are Democrats doing?” is perfectly valid and, in my opinion, led to the only small bit of tap-dancing that Schneider did.
The second woman was rather long-winded, but asked what was being done about the hyper-partisanship in Congress right now. Schneider answered that negotiations are happening, but always behind closed doors. Apparently, some Republicans need the cover of darkness to reach across the aisle. (OK, maybe some Democrats, too.)
The third woman asked about the erosion of Voting Rights, which I thought was a great question because that is something we take for granted in our part of Illinois. Schneider noted that in some rural areas, the offices to obtain the official state identification needed to vote are prohibitively far away. He noted the rural poor in Alabama, in particular, just have no way to get to those offices in person.
Overall, I appreciated the meeting. I wish that more women were given the microphone, and that’s on the staff, not on Rep. Schneider. I will stipulate that women were somewhat more tentative in raising their hands, but there was absolutely no shortage of women looking for a chance to speak. I wrote up a comment card on the way out.
More than once over the past weeks, the writer John Scalzi has noted that what makes 2016 a particular flaming trash heap (or is it just “dumpster fire”..is there a consensus on the term yet?) is that it all started out very hopeful.
Personally, I’d been feeling a bit stuck for awhile, but hopeful that I was breaking out of it. And 2016 was a lesson about quicksand – the more you struggle, the faster you sink.
That’s an exaggeration. I haven’t been sinking. I’ve been struggling with the idea that I’m Not Doing Enough. And the more I Do, the more I see there Is to Do and I am just not satisfied. It is a very bad trap and The Election made it worse.
Side Note: If this really is the end of the world as we know it, this past election will be The Election the same way 1986 was The Super Bowl.
Meet more people. Learn (and relearn) the issues. Get out into the community. Do more to earn my paycheck. Support more causes.
It occurred to me at the bar on NYE that “drink more vodka” somehow hadn’t made the cut in 2016.
The most frustrating conversation I had with a Trump voter was while talking about Chicago and Springfield. When I said, “OK, so what is the answer? What do we do?” He said, “There isn’t anything we can do. So I’m taking care of my own family and that’s it.” I can’t live with that.
Grateful. Purposeful. Kind. Inclusive. I’m not doing anything particularly well because I’ve spread myself thin. I am reminded of a conversation I once had where a friend noted that he thinks he wants time alone but is actually happiest when he is busy and I laughed because I think I want to GoGoGo but am really happiest when I am drinking coffee and reading.
The thing is, Election Day was a game changer. I don’t have the answers but I know I can’t be sitting out the next rounds. I’m going to have to work on balance. Scott Smith, who is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter, had a great thought (the second one..I still can’t make this Embed Twitter thing work properly):
“We’ve got this,” is going to be my 2017 mantra.
I’d been in a bit of a rut with volunteering. I’ve been working toward some certification exams and my travel schedule has been hectic and two scheduled weekly volunteer gigs were suffering. I felt like I couldn’t be counted on, which is the opposite of what volunteering should be. I made a couple of changes and I am liking this new thing enough to talk about it.
I forget where I first saw Chicago Cares, but I’m sure Twitter had something to do with it. It is an organization that partners with local programs to coordinate and promote volunteer opportunities. Programs are vetted, volunteer leaders are trained, and opportunities are posted online in a calendar for people to sign up and participate.
The events are posted in a calendar form and can be sorted by type, but I just looked at the whole month. On whatever random day that was, I saw an event that evening for volunteers to bring their dogs to a senior living center to socialize with residents. I clicked in, figuring the dog would have to be therapy certified, which I am too lazy to do. But, no. Just a friendly dog with proof of vaccinations.
I emailed my vet, who sent me a pdf of Fiona’s vaccination record. I registered on the website and signed up for the event the same day. I was a little bit worried because I was new and I wasn’t 100% sure how Fiona would do with wheelchairs and walkers, but she was great. We signed up for a similar event at a rehab center a few weeks later.
Then I decided to try something different and have done two events working with – or maybe just entertaining – kids. Dog not included. It is so easy to just get online, see what is available for any given day and sign up. You know the only thing that is difficult? The slots fill up so fast!
Chicago Cares has been tweeting that they are partnering with fifty new non-profits, so I expect there will be plenty more opportunities for one-shot volunteering with organizations all across the city. Maybe in your own neighborhood, maybe getting out and seeing other neighborhoods. It’s like the video says, we should be taking care of each other.