Monday, March 30, 2020

The Coronavirus Chronicles: Part Two

It’s been two weeks of working from home, social distancing, and wondering, “When will this end?” The good news is, we’ve survived. The bad news is, we still really don’t know how much longer this is going to last.

I have felt suffocated by that feeling of the unknown many times since this quarantine began. I am a planner, people (we’re talking color-coded with stickers), so not having a definitive date when life can return to normal is too much for me to handle (especially in isolation). When can I watch sports again? Travel? Most importantly, when can my family be in the same room together again?
It goes against my nature to dwell on any negativity, so each time that feeling of suffocation has come on, I have tried to focus on the things that ARE in my control. The laundry, my next meal, work, PhD classes, a walk around the neighborhood...these are the things I can control and in focusing on them, I’ve realized a few things this week.

First, walking around my neighborhood is giving me life right now. Yes, I’ve enjoyed some binge-watching time in the recliner, but I’ve also made sure to work out each day (thank goodness for this gorgeous Spring weather we’ve had). Sunshine, trees in bloom, and good music coming through my headphones is keeping my positivity alive.

Second, I have learned that my crisis foods are pizza and chocolate. It’s a good thing I have exercised each day because my diet has gone off the rails (as my friend Katie recently said, “Calories are units of joy”). At first, I felt guilty about all the carbs of comfort I have been taking in. But you know what? We are in the middle of a pandemic, and this is not the time to deprive ourselves of delicious foods (sorry I’m not sorry, Weight Watchers).

Third, I have realized that I actually enjoy working from home (hello, quick commute!) and that my house is super adaptable. No makeup, ponytail + baseball hat, and yoga pants—I’m living my best life when it comes to my remote work wardrobe. With my desk being used for storage, my dining room table has become my desk, my recliner has become my dining room table, and my living room is my dance studio. Cleaning, organizing, and decorating has commenced, and I suspect this condo is going to be in tip-top shape by the time this is all said and done.

Fourth, and most significant, I have realized just how much I have been taking for granted over the years, and I’m feeling especially grateful for the “little things”. My health, my family, conversations with friends, my job, sports, toilet paper...I never imagined not being able to spend time with my family anytime I wanted. Not being able to hug my niece and nephew is the hardest part of all of this. I’m grateful for the technology that has allowed us to stay in contact and “see one another” even if we can’t be in the same room right now. Shout out to my Aunt Terry, who read my last blog and found some toilet paper for me (did I ever think I would be treasuring TP? No, but here we are).

I’m grateful to be able to keep my job during this difficult time, to be able to work from home, and to work with such supportive colleagues. I am in awe of how everyone at my university is handling this challenge, keeping our students’ needs at the forefront. Also, Microsoft Teams for the win!

I’m grateful for the texts, phone conversations, and walks with friends—the honesty keeps me grounded and the laughter keeps me going. I’m here for all of the virtual happy hours and the memes!

Last, but certainly not least, I’m grateful for my health. At this point, I know two people who each have a loved one that has tested positive for COVID-19, and as far as I’m concerned, that is two too many. I appreciate the actions our governor has taken to keep our community “healthy at home” and I pray that someone (far smarter than me) develops a vaccine soon. In the meantime, I cannot say thank you enough to our healthcare professionals, grocery store staff, and all of the essential employees helping us to navigate through this terrifying time.

The past two weeks have felt like a roller coaster; one minute, I’m feeling like I’ve got this, and the next, anxiety strikes. The not knowing is the worst, but there is still so much to be grateful for. I’m doing my part to stay at home—I’ve replaced watching sports with watching all of the Marvel movies in chronological order (I had only seen Black Panther so this is a whole new world for me; Disney+ pun intended)—and I’m supporting local restaurants on the weekends with carry-out orders. I’m going to keep walking, texting & talking with family & friends, eating fabulous foods, working hard at home, and hoping for health. Let’s not only survive, y’all, let’s thrive. And when all of this is over, I’m going to give each of you a huge hug.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Coronavirus Chronicles: Part One

Note: This post was written on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

Last week, my mom and I were treating ourselves to the food and fashion of Franklin, TN during a little Spring Break getaway. This week, I’m preparing to hunker down in my condo and work remotely for the unforeseen future, stocked up on frozen foods but unable to find toilet paper in any store—a stark contrast from one week to the other.

Everything has changed so quickly, I haven’t really had time to process it all. In a meeting on Tuesday, March 10th, we learned that our student-athletes would not be participating in postgame handshake lines. But by Thursday, March 12th, the NCAA decided to cancel all remaining spring sporting events. I still don’t think it has sunk in that I won’t be watching any March Madness or College World Series games this year. I’m sad for our student-athletes, and I’m honestly a little lost without any live sports to watch on TV.

As I usually do in stressful situations, I went into logistics mode once we heard that students would be leaving campus and classes would all be online. How can we serve our students remotely? What programs do we need to cancel? What can we do to support faculty? What files on my computer do I need to transfer over to the cloud? I forgot initially that I’m also a student, and later wondered how I would finish my own PhD coursework this semester. 

Having a grasp on the details and putting a plan in place gives me peace of mind in a time of chaos. However, it didn’t hit me until Friday evening just how tense and tired I was. I fell asleep at home, sitting up in a chair, around 7:30 p.m. I woke up at 10:00 p.m., unsure of what day it was (I have a feeling I’ll experience this many times in the weeks to come). I was then awake until 3:00 a.m. worrying about all of the things I hadn’t taken the time to consider during the whirlwind that was this past week. Everything from, “Do I have enough Coke Zero?”, to, “How can we make sure my dad doesn’t get exposed to this virus?” 

On Saturday I barely moved from the recliner, binge watching the miniseries Four Weddings and a Funeral on Hulu (Thank you, Mindy Kaling!). I had such high hopes for a productive weekend of cleaning and organizing, but my body wasn’t having it. I finally left my house around 8:00 p.m. to search for TP, but to no avail. On Sunday, I spent time with my friend Ruthie, both of us wondering if this would be the last time we’d get to hang out for a while (please say it isn't so). I also saw my niece and nephew for a little bit so I could give them their St. Patrick’s Day treats. My sweet niece has decorated the dining room like a classroom in preparation for weeks of homeschooling, complete with a wall calendar, weather chart, lunch count, and chair tags—it really warmed my former elementary school teacher heart. Honestly, the thought of not seeing my McNuggets for an unknown amount of time is too much for me to handle right now, so I’m not allowing my mind to go there. I'm grateful for my friends and family, and for the technology that allows us to stay connected.

We haven’t even officially started working remotely, but I already miss my work peeps. Also, my sister just started working with me, but it looks like our regular lunch breaks are going to have to wait a little while. This extrovert is going to STRUGGLE without daily face-to-face connections, y'all. Meanwhile, how is this all going to work? Do I get dressed in business casual clothing like I would normally or do I just roll out of bed to my desk/dining room table each morning in yoga pants (Spoiler alert: it's the second one)? I miss my students already. I hope they are all safe and well, able to adjust smoothly to life away from friends, faculty , and staff with all online classes. I'm grateful to work for a university that has acted calmly but swiftly in the face of these uncertain times to keep our campus safe.

In this unprecedented time for our communities, I hope that everyone is finding strength and joy while adjusting to a new "normal". It is comforting knowing that we are all in this together, even if we can't actually be together in the same room. With new information coming in daily and circumstances changing so rapidly, I'm sure things will be different even by the time this post is published. Nevertheless, I believe it will be interesting to look back and read about these days once we get through this, so I'll continue to blog as time allows (um, obviously time is going to allow-let's not kid ourselves). In the meantime, if you need some meatballs, I'll trade you for some toilet paper (right, Jenny?). Stay well, friends. 

P.S. Here are some helpful websites I've seen on social media over the past few days, especially for my educator and parent friends:
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems (One of my favorite children's authors!)
Storyline Online (Celebrities read stories to children-love it!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Impact of 2019

I am blessed to say that there were many moments that I appreciated in 2019, but here are nineteen that were most impactful (in no particular order):

  1. My little sister turned 30 in March and to celebrate, my family toured two bourbon distilleries, Evan Williams and Old Forester. I appreciated the history and entertainment, but mostly I am grateful for the time our family spent together. 
  2. I started my PhD in August, and while it wasn't easy, I'm proud to have achieved a 4.0 GPA this semester. I'm grateful for all that I learned this semester, and especially grateful for the friends that I made in my cohort. 
  3. I had the opportunity to visit my friend Linh in October. We spent one day in Philadelphia (my first trip) soaking up our nation's history and of course eating Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. We spent the next day in NYC, and while it wasn't my first time in the Big Apple, I can tell you that I will never forget seeing Lion King on Broadway for the first time. Linh and I also got to celebrate her engagement, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with her for her upcoming wedding. 
  4. "For all those times you stood by me, for all the truth that you made me see..." Jenny and I treated ourselves to our first Celine Dion concert and we were not disappointed. Celine is truly a legend, and she made it seem so effortless as she belted out both classic and new ballads. 
  5. My dad's side of the family gathered to celebrate the marriage of my cousin, Tim and his wife, Annamaria. It's always good to catch up and laugh with them, not to mention breakout the sweet dance moves that my cousin, Angie and I worked on this year in our dance class. 
  6. More bourbon distillery tours happened in June when my Uncle Bart and Aunt Katie came to visit. We spent time at Woodford Reserve and Castle & Key, but Buffalo Trace was by far our favorite stop (Bourbon Cream for the win). 
  7. In June, our Student Affairs team went on retreat, and I was awarded the Pineapple Award for Hospitality. It meant a lot to be recognized by my colleagues, whom I respect very much, especially as a relatively new Student Affairs professional. 
  8. After 89 beautiful years of life, my sweet Grandma Phyllie went to Heaven in April. I know she is at peace with my Grandpa Jack, but I miss her dearly. In August, I was able to visit her home one final time. It is as unique as she was, and such an important part of my life. 
  9. My Uncle Gus' lake house is such a source of joy for our family, and I treasure our times there. In May, Mom broke the perch record, and I caught my first crappie. In August, we celebrated my sweet niece's 7th birthday, and I was able to capture this beautiful sunset. 
  10. Baseball has been a large part our lives, so when our alma mater held its annual alumni event at the Bats Game, our entire family attended. I can't tell you how much it warmed my heart to see my niece and nephew in baseball hats, enjoying the game we all appreciate so much. 
  11. Although we no longer teach together, every July, these lovely ladies and I gather together to catch up. I cherish these annual reunions and our long-time friendship. 
  12. It's not everyday that I find myself in the presence of such important women as Lonnie Ali. It was an honor to attend the Daughters of Greatness breakfast series, and hear from the fabulous president of the University of Louisville, Neeli Bendapudi. It was truly an inspirational day. 
  13. I'm grateful for the time we had with mom's side of the family this Thanksgiving. It definitely wasn't the same without Grandma, but I believe she was happy that we gathered together. 
  14. There is no doubt that I inherited my love for shopping from my mom, and I'm glad that the two of us were able to spend a long weekend together doing just that in Cincinnati. From the outlets to the antique malls, we certainly boosted the economy in the Queen City. 
  15. I'm grateful for my team everyday; we were fortunate enough to spend time together this year visiting the Giants of Bernheim Forest, and escaping from the Mystery Mansion Breakout Room. 
  16. My friends, Erin and Jenny, and I always celebrate Christmas together, and this year was especially festive as we attended the Holiday Edition of Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens, written and directed by our friend, Tony. There were not enough sequins to celebrate the occasion, but then, I can never get enough sequins. 
  17. Unfortunately, I was involved in a car accident in September, in which another vehicle ran into the back of mine. It took until the end of October for my precious CR-V to be repaired, and I couldn't have been more relieved to have her back. 
  18. While we were attending a conference downtown, Joey and I were able to have lunch with my brother near his office. I don't remember the three of us ever sharing a meal like that before, and I'm grateful for the time together with my two brothers. 
  19. I set out to read at least one book a month this year, and I'm happy to say that I was able to meet that goal when I finished my twelfth book in December, Michelle Obama's  Becoming. In addition to this book, I really enjoyed One Day in December, Big Little Lies, and Educated. I intend to continue to read as many books as I can, in between PhD program assignments, of course.  
Thank you for the opportunities to grow, for the lessons, and for the time with family and friends, 2019. Here's to the 365 days ahead (well actually, 366 days since this is a leap year)! I'm not Barbara Walters, but this is 2020.