COVID-19 Diary: A Minute on Mask Mandates

There’s been a lot in Governor DeWine’s press conferences this week about whether or not face coverings (masks etc.) are mandatory and in what circumstances.

Long story short, he announced on Monday that “face coverings” would be mandatory for all customers in Ohio, and then on Tuesday he back-pedaled on making masks “required” for customers. (They will still be required for employees, with some logical exceptions.)

Apparently there was a major backlash about the mandatory-masks-for-customers edict. I can understand why some customers might complain; people will complain about anything. Plus I’m sure there are people who are having trouble getting any masks or making masks if they aren’t crafty or can’t get supplies or are having cash flow issues (as so many are right now).

I was surprised to hear there was backlash from businesses also. They complained that the governor was forcing them to be a policing agency for this policy. I guess I just hadn’t thought of that.

My first thought on Monday when the mandate was originally announced, that customers would be required to wear masks, was, “Hooray! Now we (libraries/archives) don’t have to decide this! The decision has already been made, at the state level. We will have the force of the governor’s mandate behind this rule.”

So now I don’t know what will happen.

Businesses/organizations can still choose to require masks for customers, I guess. (Right?) But which ones will, and which ones won’t?

I understand that MY mask protects YOU, and YOUR mask protects ME. I am down with the masks, personally.

Lisa in a homemade mask on a grocery run, April 26, 2020

Lisa in a homemade mask on a grocery run, April 26, 2020

I wear a mask when I go out, and I’d like to see everyone else wearing them, too. (But I have seen people more often NOT wearing masks, than wearing them, when I’ve been out.)

Will the library/archives where I work require patrons to wear mask?

Will we have masks to offer people if they show up and don’t have a mask (not because they refuse to wear one but just because they don’t have one or didn’t know)?

If they don’t require masks, can I refuse to assist people who aren’t wearing masks, because it’s not safe for me? (Because it’s NOT.)

Is it right to ask our student workers to assist patrons who aren’t wearing masks? I mean, I guess if they know it’s a possibility when they accept the job…? But then you’re asking them to choose between their health and a job.

For that matter, I hope isn’t an issue that I myself have to face either. (I would hope that others don’t have to face it either, but I already know that many out there are — not just healthcare workers who have vowed to help the sick and chosen that as their career, but acquaintances I have in various other industries where employers just don’t want them to wear masks.)

I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is.

But I’ll be wearing my mask. “Don your cape,” as Dr. Acton says. And I hope that the people around me will be doing the same.

So It Begins: Boom, Boom, Boom

It’s happening.

“So it begins” gif (Theoden from Lord of the Rings).

We’ve known for a while that things weren’t going to look good for university budgets and state funding.

We’ve known since last week some actual numbers (e.g., 20% cuts) to put with our otherwise fairly abstract budget-related dread.

At Wright State, we got an email last week from President Edwards with a little bit of what’s coming (or already happened) and a taste of what else to watch for.

And now, as we wait to hear what exactly will be the fallout at WSU, the articles are starting to roll out about what some other Ohio universities are planning to do (or already doing) about their budget reductions.

University of Dayton announced that they are furloughing about 450 people and laying off 60, among other measures. (I’m assuming this is staff, not faculty, because unions. It’s always the staff. Article says they employ about 1000 faculty and about 2175 staff, so these cuts are about 16% of total employees and I would guess a higher percentage than that from the pool of “staff.”)

Kent State University announced that they “will temporarily reduce salaries for employees who make more than $38,000 and who are not represented by a union” (soooo, staff, again, I’m assuming?). They are doing the salary reductions in a tiered structure, so those who make more have a higher percentage salary cut.

If, hypothetically, Wright State were to do the same using the same scale, I’d be in the 2% salary cut bracket, which would be about $1,000/year. Also note, WSU hasn’t been giving any cost-of-living increases for a few years now, and let’s not even talk about inflation. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, I am not considered faculty, am not tenured, or tenure-track, and am not in any union nor is there a union that I am eligible to be in. I know at some universities, archivists have faculty status or tenure or whatever, but that is not the case at WSU. On the bright side, I also don’t have to “publish or perish.” Just perish, haha.)

This more general article has info about University of Akron, Kent State, and also Urbana University, which announced last week that it is closing entirely.

Here’s a striking quote from the “more general article” above:

Bruce Johnson, the president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, an association of the state’s public universities, estimated Ohio’s 14 public universities will lose between $290 to $310 million from March to July. That includes about $171 million in refunds to students, mostly from room and board costs. Johnson added every public university is looking to trim budgets between 5 and 25%.

That explains what President Edwards meant by “the IUC” when she kept mentioning it in yesterday’s video-conference open forum. (The amount of stuff I probably don’t know about how higher education actually works — or, doesn’t work, sometimes, haha — is probably appalling.)

Yes, yesterday afternoon, I was proverbially “double-fisting” (and literally double-listening) on public informational broadcasts — listening to Q&A with our university president Dr. Edwards on my Chromebook with an earbud (sometimes two), while also trying to listen to the tail-end of the Q&A portion of Gov. DeWine’s press conference on the TV across the room.

Dr. Edwards won, most of the time, because there really is no such thing as multi-tasking, and the “speech” part of the governor’s production was over. He had already said his bit about what businesses/industries can open up starting in early May—-and neither higher education nor libraries were explicitly mentioned (whether to be allowed or disallowed in any of what he said).

So, of course the first question to Dr. Edwards in her session — which, I say proudly, came from one of my fellow library staff members (out of the 170+ people who ultimately logged on to the video-chat), to paraphrase (because these things are blessedly not recorded): So, how does the governor’s announcement today about things reopening affect us (WSU and specifically the library)?

Dr. Edwards said (essentially): “I don’t know yet.” (And I think she mentioned the IUC.)

Another question early on was about the university’s budget, had anything been decided yet, any new details?

Dr. Edwards said (again, paraphrase): No, we’re still working on it.

As much as I know that we all want to know these things — and she knows we want to know — and I’m sure SHE wants to know — I am absolutely not criticizing these responses. Quite the opposite: I can definitely respect someone who will just tell me when they don’t know the answer to my question. Nobody wants to be bull-shitted, especially not right now.

So we’ll wait. We’ll just wait.

The university Board of Trustees has some meetings at the end of this week: a “Committee Day” on Thursday and an Executive Session and a Public Session on Friday. I see a LOT of financially oriented documents on the Committee Day page, so…maybe we’ll hear something shortly after these meetings?

Not that I’m super excited to get what I’m certain will be bad news for at least somebody (probably many somebodies, probably including me). But it’s good to know what you’re dealing with, you know? The suspense is killer.

You run over a million different scenarios in your head, and you start trying to fashion your contingency plans, and you waste a lot of energy on “what if’s.” And it’s like, Try to calm down and don’t start freaking out until you know something. But then it’s like, I do know something! I know something bad is coming! …I just don’t know what yet.

“Loosen your corset, have a drink.” (Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in Hunger Games)

BTW, I don’t really drink, but I’ve definitely thought about it lately!

Also, it is disturbing how many Hunger Games references, memes, and gifs I have seen used in relation to this whole Coronavirus/COVID-19 thing — and they are SPOT ON — and, you know, that was a pretty F’d up society. (Maybe I should write a whole post just with Hunger Games gifs…hmm.)

On that note, let’s get off this train…after just the one last explanation of the second part of my title:

As I watch these universities “dropping like flies,” or more like, dropping the bomb(s) on their communities about what is going to happen next to make up for the budget shortfalls— it reminded me of a scene from a movie I’ve seen many times: Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) (loved the movie, hated the book). So  (in the movie) this American lady buys an old farmhouse in Italy on a whim, and she hires local contractors to help her fix it up. So one of the guys is trying to convey to her (in Italian, which she doesn’t really speak much of- and he doesn’t know English) that if they take this particular wall out, the whole place is gonna come crashing down. And, making a sort of dropping/banging gesture with his hands, he exclaims, “Boom! Boom! Boom!”

And that’s what things feel like right now. That’s all the shoes dropping (not just the “other shoe”).

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

So, yeah.

Good luck, everybody!

May the odds be ever in your favor!

COVID-19 Diary: April 13-17, 2020

Back to your regularly scheduled day-by-day. I made a goal for this week to try to get “caught up” here on WordPress, but you remember what I said about having purchased a goal planner for the first time, for the year 2020…

Monday, April 13, 2020

In today’s press conference, Dr. Acton said that masks are likely to be a thing for a year or so. (I better make more.) Governor DeWine compared the virus to a monster lurking outside, waiting to pick people off – an excellent analogy, really paints a picture.

Speaking of painting a picture, I took Jack outside at one point, at his request. He doesn’t seem to “get” that it’s not fun for us to be outside when it’s cloudy, windy, wet, and cold (40 degrees). I didn’t last long. I bribed him with an art project, to get him to come inside. We tried out his watercolors from the Easter bunny. I think he liked it, even if he didn’t entirely “get” how they work.

At least I didn’t bribe him with chocolate (this time). At one point on this day, he got into the pantry cabinet in the basement (having escaped from Matt’s office, which is in the basement), found a 4-pound bag of granulated sugar, and proceeded to carry the bag upstairs to me, then declaring, “I want sugar.” Same, buddy. (How did he know that was a bag of sugar?!) No joke. (I did not give him the sugar; I took the bag away before he could open it and dump it everywhere.)

My supervisor Dawne has been interviewed by a number of media outlets about the COVID-19 diary project. Among these were two different reporters from the New York Times. The first of these articles came out today: “Why You Should Keep a Coronavirus Diary” by Jen A. Miller. The second one came out two days later: “What Historians Will See When They Look Back on the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020” by Audra Birch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

We had a staff meeting in the morning. I “arrived” at the video-conference wearing one of my masks, and everyone laughed (the desired effect).

I watched Gov. DeWine’s press conference on my Kindle Fire while working.

Watching Gov. DeWine on Kindle while working on my work computer, Apr. 14, 2020

Watching Gov. DeWine on Kindle while working on my work computer, Apr. 14, 2020

I purchased four Society of American Archivists webinars using a 20% sale coupon they have going. A lot of organizations are offering reduced rate or free access to their online training materials or publications during this time. They know everybody (OK well archivists and librarians- that is what I know about) is looking for useful things they can do from home, and boning up on professional development stuff via webinar is definitely a good option when you can’t get to your (physical) collections. I needed two more online courses for my Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) certification renewal, which is due this summer, and I bought the other two because they looked interesting and were “on sale.”

My brother-in-law Jerry asked me (via text) if I’m making masks. He said he’s been wearing one of the N95 masks (that I assume he already had just lying around the house- because you can’t find them in stores right now), but he feels guilty about it (since they’ve been saying to donate those for healthcare workers) – so I made 9 masks for their family: 2 regular ones each for Jerry, Gina, and the two kids, and a special “extra” Chicago Cubs mask for Jerry. (I still had fabric from when I made him pillow cases a few years ago.) I even modified the instructions to make the kids’ masks a little smaller. (These are from the Crafty Daily video/design.)

Masks for Gina and Jerry & the kids, Apr. 14, 2020

Masks for Gina and Jerry & the kids, Apr. 14, 2020

I took the masks straight to the post office at like 10:30 p.m. after I finished them; they arrived Thursday, and they love them. 🙂

Jack is driving us nuts. We’re probably driving him nuts, too. We’re all driving EACH OTHER nuts.

Dory from Finding Nemo:

Dory from Finding Nemo: “Oh look! Mom’s last nerve! I wanna touch it…”

Belle from Beauty and the Beast:

Belle from Beauty and the Beast: “I want much more than this pandemic life!” (Are there so many B&B memes about the pandemic because she was also cooped up for so long?)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

This was supposed to be Tax Day, but they extended the deadline for state and federal income tax returns into the summer. I had already submitted our taxes in February, I think, so no problem for us either way.

We got our federal stimulus money today (2 adults x $1200 plus 1 child x $500 = $2900). It was direct-deposited, and I popped it straight over into our Emergency Fund savings account. I guess it’s supposed to stimulate the economy, but things are so unpredictable right now, so we’re sitting on it for now.

I created a Zoom video-conferencing account and learned how to do it. I had heard that you could do a custom “virtual” background using any image, and I wanted to know what dimensions were best, how it worked, how it looked, so I could theoretically make some background images using photos from work (as an outreach freebie downloadable). I did make a few backgrounds, but the idea sort of got buried under other more important things.

Experimenting with a Zoom virtual background I created from the Wright Brothers Collection, Apr. 15, 2020

Experimenting with a Zoom virtual background I created from the Wright Brothers Collection, Apr. 15, 2020

In the evening I watched a (free) webinar about something I have literally been wanting to learn how to do for like 3 years. This is the kind of thing that you never feel like you can justify actually taking the time to do because there’s so much other legitimately more important stuff you could/should be doing with your time. Well, most of that stuff is in boxes on the shelves at work right now, and I am not one of the few people currently authorized to spend time in the library building right now, so…as I said…now’s a good time for learning new things and making an investment in your own professional development.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

It was very hard to concentrate on this day. I don’t know why, exactly. I think I read something recently that this is a “thing”: about having a few good days in a row, like thinking you’ve finally got your shit together for the way life is right now, and then suddenly you just…don’t…again. Oh, hey, here’s the thing I was thinking of:

Quarantine State of Mind: Good Days vs. Hell Zone

Quarantine State of Mind: Good Days vs. Hell Zone

The more I hear about….everything…okay, mostly, major outbreaks of the virus in food processing plants (especially meat for some reason?)…the closer I get to the “edge” when it comes to…like…living off the land, being self-sustaining. OK, let’s be real, we’re never going to do that. Unless society completely breaks down. Which it could. (These are not the right thoughts for 10:30 at night, as it is now, but…alas. This is the rabbit hole down which we tumble…)

In the past few weeks, things I have joked about (OK I am like 94% joking about these things) include:

  • Getting chickens – eggs! delicious meat! (ok yeah I’d need a LOT of chickens)
  • Getting a goat (ok that was mostly for munching the grass but also- milk!)
  • Whether the farmer whose cow pasture butts up to the property two houses down would notice if one of his cows mysteriously went missing- does he really know how many cows he has? (OK I am 100% joking on that one, I am not going to steal my neighbor’s cow- but I only mention it so you can see how weird things are getting.)
  • Whether we would need to make our fire pit bigger or smaller in order to effectively use it to cook food (for, you know, when society collapses – course if I don’t have chickens or cows, not sure what I’m going to cook over that open flame anyway).
  • Planting vegetables in all the flower beds instead of flowers. (Honestly, I’d rather have vegetable plants anyway.)

Which brings us to a thing that really DID happen.

We bought a greenhouse. Yep. It’s a Palram 6-foot-by-8-foot metal-and-plexiglas “hobby greenhouse”, with 7-foot ceiling, cost about $500 on Amazon, should arrive in a couple of days from now (like Apr. 28th). I was getting paranoid about being able to find plants for my “victory garden” by the time the last frost comes (early May is when we plant here in Zone 6) – so I thought maybe we can get things earlier if we have a safe place to keep them “frost-free”? (Well, spoiler alert, it’s still not here yet, and I bought vegetable plants this past Friday, April 24, but the greenhouse will still be good for things like strawberries I would think, and it will keep the bunnies off them. Also, I can start seeds in it – next year, if not this year – and the cat won’t eat the tiny plants! Yes, I have two cats, but only one of them is the problem – he won’t suffer a house plant to live.)

My sister Sara asked if I would make some cloth masks for her and her husband Chase. They are both medical professionals, and they have the good masks at work, but she wanted some cloth ones for them to wear on errands like the grocery store. I started those (also Crafty Daily’s) on Thursday night and finished them the next day. I made them four each because I figured out a very efficient way to fold the fabric to cut 4 masks at once with little waste. I also made a couple of little cardboard templates to help measuring and marking go faster.

His & Hers masks for Chase & Sara, Apr. 17, 2020

His & Hers masks for Chase & Sara, Apr. 17, 2020

Made a couple of templates to mark the mask measurements more quickly

Made a couple of templates to mark the mask measurements more quickly

Friday, April 17, 2020

I had a bunch of weird dreams Thursday night. One was about going to the grocery store, and then Matt showed up at the grocery store, too, and I’m like, “Where’s Jack?” Like, I know he’s not here with you because (a) I don’t see him and (b) we’re not even really supposed to go to the store any more than we can help it and we are for damn sure not supposed to be bringing kids with us to the store – so only one of us can really run errands at a time, awesome. He said he left Jack with a relative, and it was not someone that I would have expected him to have baby-sit our child (not to mention that none of our relatives live nearby). But on the bright side, we were able to get toilet paper in the dream!

Another weird Thursday night dream involved breaking up with my high school boyfriend. Again. Perhaps it was a riff on this whole Groundhog Day merry-go-round we’re all on right now? Deja vu and all that?

COVID-19 Groundhog Day

COVID-19 Groundhog Day

One of the weird dreams I had on Friday night involved learning to fly a helicopter. I’m pretty sure the helicopter tried to crash…for reasons that I’m pretty sure weren’t my fault. Just bad luck, I guess.

**********

A few more random things I saw on Facebook and saved because they spoke to me.

“You do not need to thrive right now. You don’t need to use this time wisely. It is ok to just survive it.” (I mean, we gotta work from home…and keep a toddler alive…oh, and ourselves. But other than that, sure, yeah.)

This infographic of tips for mental health was shared by my same friend who shared the thing I posted previously about how you feel like you’re doing a shitty job at parenting AND work because nobody should have to be doing all of those things at once. Anyway, here it is:

Mental Health tips infographic

Mental Health tips infographic

I especially like the overthinking one. I HAVE TO read some, in bed, before I try to fall asleep. Even if it’s 2 a.m. (and sometimes, lately, it has been) and I’m dead tired (obviously, it’s 2 a.m.), I HAVE TO read for at least a few minutes to…take my mind somewhere else, SOMEWHERE ELSE, that is not here, this, the pandemic, my job, my kid, my parents, my community…it’s just…somewhere else, something else, a distraction…so my mind can click “off” and fall asleep.

Interruption Redux

So, recounting the saga of Wright State in the 2010’s and finding all the links for those (citations needed) on the previous entry…took longer than I expected, and I was out of steam (midnight snack time!) by the time I finally got to the end part with Dr. Edwards’ email.

I had thoughts. (Obviously.) A lot of thoughts. (Of course, it’s me.) So here are some snippets I’ve clipped out of Dr. Edwards email (marked by boldface and italics) and then some of my relevant thoughts (ok mostly worries).

(Note that I will be reprinting the majority of the email but not the entirety; for entirety see previous entry. I will maintain the original order of the statements, however.)

**********

Wright State has been through a number of tough years and resilience remains the key to our success.

We get knocked down, but we get up again!
(Welcome to 1997, thanks, Chumbawumba.)
Lead with a joke, they said. It’ll be great, they said. –crickets– OK, now for the anxious and/or ugly.

In the short term, the State of Ohio has informed us to plan for a significant reduction in what is remaining of this year’s State Share of Instruction. In addition, refunds and/or credits due to students exceed $3 million and summer enrollment has been negatively impacted, resulting in a decrease of 17 percent.

Earlier this month, the university developed and announced a plan for refunds to students for certain fees and services they are not getting because they had to move off-campus mid-semester — mainly housing, meal plans, and parking permits and pro-rated to the time that students were required to stop physically coming to class or stop living on campus. I was extremely impressed with the thoroughness and (in my opinion) fairness of the procedures decided upon (which are detailed in that linked article above). Students totally deserve to be getting reimbursed for goods and services they are not getting. But, OUCH, $3 million in refunds.

And OUCH, 17% drop in summer enrollment. I’m not sure if that’s a drop in what was “projected” or an actual, literal “drop” (like people dropping courses they already enrolled for?), but…declining enrollment is never good.

We’ve already taken and informed you of a number of steps to reduce expenses in the short term by instituting a hiring freeze on all non-approved external hires and significantly curbing expenditures in numerous areas.

Yeah…so remember that bit where I said my supervisor Dawne is retiring soon? We were all so glad when the Hiring Board approved re-filling the position and the job posting went up online the first week of March. The position job posting can still technically be found on the university’s jobs web site, but now it has a big ugly “POSTPONED” with it. BIG SAD FACE. 😦

Today I am announcing the following additional measures that are being put in place:
• University leadership (President, Provost, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, and Deans) has voluntarily agreed to take a 20 percent reduction in salary.

Wow to the university leadership taking a 20% pay cut. I wonder how truly “voluntary” it all was, not because I have bad things to say about these folks. (I couldn’t even name most of them for you.) But that’s a pretty hefty pay cut, so I kind of wonder if a bit of healthy peer pressure was involved to get all of them to agree to it “voluntarily.” Or maybe they all totally did; no idea. I’m just spitballin’ here.

Omigod…. Okay, so I just (literally just this minute mid-writing-this-entry) looked up the names of some of our deans. (I know, I’m terrible. I should probably know more of these folks’ names.) And then I looked them up on the Buckeye Institute web site, where you can get salary information for a variety of public employees, including search salaries for employees of Ohio’s public universities (with available data currently for 2011-2018):

  • Brian Rigling, Dean of the College of Engineering: $219,000 in 2018. (20% = $43,800)
  • Linda Caron, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts: $186,000 in 2018. (20% = $37,200)

Holy shit.

(Also, while I’m in this database, I looked up everyone over $100k and then sorted the list highest to lowest. And…why the fuck is our basketball coach the top-paid employee, at $546,000? And he still makes over $500k as of this Feb. 2020 article from Dayton Daily News. You know what? I don’t want any explanation of “why” because it will just piss me off. Because sports worship. I digress…)

And I can tell you, the Buckeye Institute database appears to contain accurate and reliable data, because I looked up myself, and my numbers appear accurate to the best of my recollection. (Mom, don’t panic when you see the massive drop in my salary for the year 2018 – remember, I had that medical thing, and I took it unpaid; I didn’t get demoted!)

Anyway, back to the list of “additional measures”…

• Hold on all non-critical university-funded capital projects.

Shit, shit, SHIT.

I assume that puts the kibosh on our archives building project. We were pretty close to starting to really seriously think about probably starting to actually swing the first proverbial hammer on the remodeling project to transform the space into an archive.

The building is at 2455 Presidential Drive, the old Wright-Patt Credit Union headquarters, which is just on the other side of Col. Glenn Highway from main campus. The university already owns it (for several years now) and has some offices in parts of it. They currently use “our” part, which is just a big open space right now, for big events – most notably televised Board meetings and sometimes banquets.

We had already cooled off on fundraising for it when COVID-19 ramped up. More important things going on, you know? We know. It’s hard to ask folks to donate money for a project like ours at the same time that food banks even more desperately need food and folks are suddenly becoming unemployed left and right. There are more important human-life-sustaining services that need donations right at this moment. We get it.

But it still doesn’t make it easy to swallow having the brakes thrown on this project (again). As the collections manager, one of my duties is to keep track of what’s where and how much “where” we have left. And let me tell you, there’s not a lot. I’m tracking it down to 0.25 linear-foot increments. We are running out of space, by the day, it seems like. (OK not THIS day or the last 35 or so because I can’t exactly accept new boxes while working from home, but…) Before we left, I was in the process of shifting (again): any shelf containing multiple 1-Hollinger-box accessions or collections was on the list to potentially be moved elsewhere, to nooks and crannies that are only big enough for 1 Hollinger box (the little gray boxes- about 0.5 linear foot), to open up spaces large enough for record center boxes (the big white boxes – 1 linear foot). accessions that consisted of single Hollinger boxes (about 0.5 linear foot) into 0.5-foot spaces. Sorry, that’s a lot of shop talk that won’t make much sense to non-archivists, maybe, but suffice it to say, EVERY DAY I’M SHUFFLIN’. And it’s exhausting (both mentally and physically). And inefficient.

Between the likelihood of not being able to replace Dawne (and thus dropping us to 4 archivists) and the likelihood of putting a halt on the new building project, I almost cried when I read this email. I really did. I hadn’t cried about anything yet — maybe I’m numb, maybe I’m broken, maybe I’m dead inside, I don’t know — but that was the closest I had come thus far. (I actually did shed a few tears today, hence the use of past perfect tense, but that’s a different story altogether.)

• Freeze on all new contractual agreements for goods and services.
• Elimination of all discretionary non-compensation spending.
• Moving campus facilities into a low energy usage mode where possible.
• Freezing all university-issued ProCards.

Welp.
There goes buying stuff.
Not that we were buying tons of stuff as it was.
But it was nice to have the option.

To date, Wright State has been committed to maintaining all personnel and positions. The State of Ohio has indicated they will release a plan addressing the return to work for Ohio businesses this week. We will review the plan and its impact on university operations in order to determine future staffing plans, which may include reductions in force.

Reductions in force. The University Librarian (head of the university libraries), as well as our supervisors, have asked if anybody is interested in reducing their hours.

Hours? Yes.
Pay? No.
Haha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
I know it’s not a laughing matter, but…laughing helps us keep from crying, right?

I don’t even have all the data I would need to make that kind of decision right now. I know, there’s a TON of stuff that we all don’t know. Will we EVER get to go back to work? When? Under what circumstances? (What has to happen in order for us to be allowed back into our offices? I MISS THE COLLECTIONS!) Under what conditions? (What will it be like when we return? What will we be expected to do or not do? Will we be safe? I mean, I know they’ll try to keep us safe, but…will it actually BE safe?)

But back to that data thing. Yeah, so, daycare. When the hell are they going to reopen those? (I know, I know, it’s not safe. Just like it wasn’t safe for us to stay on campus.) We got a survey from our daycare provider a couple days ago – the same day as this email from Dr. Edwards, in fact. They were gathering feedback about possible options for when they reopen. They had already been planning to raise fees in June. We had known that for months — but not the actual RATES. But one of the things in the survey was that they might have to assess an extra “COVID-19 Surcharge” if they have to have lower ratios of teachers to students, which would mean hiring more teachers. Okay, that makes sense. I get it. I don’t like it. Nobody likes increased fees, but I totally get it. But we don’t know what that’s going to be or if they’ll do it or, or, or…

How are we supposed to make any decisions about anything when we are still stumbling around in the dark on so many fronts?

While we’ve made recent investments in marketing, recruitment, and retention, our fall enrollment is anticipated to be down once again. I share this with you in the context that our local competition is now increasing even more. Other local universities that traditionally recruited more out of state and international students understand that those two customer segments will be severely impacted because of COVID-19. As a result, they are redirecting their recruitment efforts to the local direct from high school, transfer, and unemployed sectors. Said another way, we are now seeing a heightened competition for the typical Raider Country student.

Down, down, down goes the enrollment. And with it, the revenue. Oh god. It just keeps getting worse.

Hey, I try to talk up Wright State to people if I see an opportunity. I even managed to put in a plug for it with the Meijer cashier on my excursion Sunday. (I asked if I could take her picture for my archiving project, and she said okay, and seemed interested in archiving. “You know, we have a program for it at Wright State…”)

And I’m not trying to disparage the university here. Even when I do have a beef, I try not to rant about it publicly. I like to think I’m very careful about that. I’m not stupid; I know about Googling job candidates. Not that I’m planning to leave. (I’m a two-time graduate of Wright State. Suffice it to say, I feel at home there.) But it’s clearly not out of the realm of possibility that I might be forced to leave at some point for reasons beyond my control. I think we’re ALL having those thoughts right now. Everywhere. Not just Wright State, but across higher education. The whole system is absolutely crashing.

But anyway, back to the “heightened competition in Raider Country.” Yes, I’ve had this confirmed by some folks I know with ties to University of Dayton (for instance- I’m sure they’re not the only ones). I mean, it makes sense – why “go away” for college if you might not really be able to “go away”? If colleges are still all-online for Fall, why go there? Why pay a bunch of money to huddle up in an apartment alone in a strange town, when you could have saved a bunch of money (or your parents maybe could have) by staying home and going to a fancy private university that’s actually nearby (again, if classes are all going to be online and you can’t live on-campus and get that experience anyway). I don’t know. Again, that’s just kind of the rationale that went through my mind. Or maybe it’s far simpler than that, and it’s literally just, Every single university is hurting for students these days, and it’s time to start courting absolutely everyone. I don’t know.

In the longer term, the State of Ohio has informed all public universities to plan for a 20 percent reduction in the upcoming year’s State Share of Instruction allocation. For Wright State that would translate into a revenue loss of nearly $20 million.

Departments submitted proposed FY21 budgets shortly we all got sent home in mid-March. Now they’re all being asked to chop another 20% off of their original submissions. Again, our University Librarian (bless her) has asked us for our input and any ideas we might have about cutting costs further. Jesus Christ, I don’t know what else we could chop. (Meanwhile, the cost of everything keeps going up; as I understand it, the prices for various library databases tend to blow up like balloons almost every year.) As for staff…when I started working at WSU in 2012, there were like 60-something employees in the University Libraries. Now we are down to…looks like…45 according to our staff page. (That’s actually more than I thought – a bit of good news!)

Anyway, we had to submit any ideas by this afternoon, and the library has to submit its revised proposal by tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.

I apologize, as I know this situation creates anxiety, and as I have mentioned in all of my Webex sessions, I do not give you this information to create fear. I am committed to being as transparent as possible and to bring you clarity as soon as we can. 

Yes, Dr. Edwards has twice-a-week “open” video-conferencing sessions. Anyone can pop in and ask questions or just listen. I went to the one on Tuesday and just listened to what was going on (while trying to listen to the governor’s press conference out of my other ear because they were at the same time). Dr. Edwards also does these periodically on-campus as well. I went to one of them once, and she jokingly invited us to “Stump the Chump.” Hilarious. Have I mentioned we love her?

I really appreciate her efforts to give us as much information as she reasonably can, when there’s so much that’s still so uncertain. It’s oddly comforting.

**********

Well, that’s more than enough out of me on this one. I’m sure there are “thoughts” that I didn’t even manage to put into words here. Maybe some of them I can’t even put into words right now. I don’t know.

To quote Mrs. Figg: The whole world’s gone topsy-turvy.

Recovery, Interrupted

We interrupt this chronological recounting for some “breaking news.” OK, it’s not really breaking news. Or it shouldn’t be. This should not be a surprise. But it’s still disheartening to see it in print.

See, a little background. The university where I work — Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio — has had a rough 5 or 6 years.

First, there was that whole H-1B visa scandal that hit the fan in 2015.

Then, in the spring of 2016, it came to light, rather suddenly, that the university was in serious financial distress, due to (as I understand it) very poor financial decisions at high levels. That was a bad spring; we lost two of the six full-time archivists in our department — due to voluntarily separation to take other jobs — but we were only permitted to replace one of them, bringing us down to 5 professional staff (including the department supervisor). We are still at 5 staff currently, and our department head is retiring in about 6 weeks.

We were not surprised when, shortly thereafter, the university president David Hopkins announced his retirement would be in June 2017. However, we were surprised (or at least I think we were- I know I was!) when he very suddenly resigned 3 months earlier than planned with almost no advance notice (at least none that most of us knew about). (In a bizarre and total coincidence, the date of the news article linked in the previous sentence is dated March 17, 2017, which is precisely 3 years to the day before the first day that we all started working from home for this current crisis.)

Around that same time (March 2017), Cheryl Schrader was announced as the next university president. She was our first female university president, so that’s pretty cool. Wait, was? Oh, right. Yeah, Dr. Schrader already retired too, in Dec. 2019 — also rather abruptly (it was announced in October).

It might have had something to do with all the bad blood that got brewed up during the three-week faculty strike, which kicked off for Spring 2019 semester, and made national news and may have been Ohio’s longest faculty strike in history. (That was my first semester teaching a full course by myself as an adjunct instructor — not part of the union and not part of the strike — it was all very awkward. Yippee!) A contract signed in Feb 2019 should get us through to June 2023 (fingers crossed!). As you might imagine, the strike did not exactly do wonders for student enrollment and retention.

But hey, it wasn’t all bad news in 2019. Things were really starting to look “up” in the money department. Over two years, we had dug ourselves out of the proverbial “hole.” We managed to avoid being put on fiscal watch by the state and even doubled cash reserves.

More good news in 2019: Our existing provost, Dr. Susan Edwards, became our new university president. AND WE LOVE HER. And even more good news: she won her battle with breast cancer before the year was out!

We were ALL on the road to recovery! Go Raiders!

Things were even starting to look really imminent for our new archives building that we have been fundraising for. Which is good, because our current space is getting tighter by the minute, it seems like.

And then.

And…then…

First it was just like a little bit of staticky background fuzz of another weird disease outbreak happening somewhere else in the world, around Christmas.

I’m thinking (maybe we’re all thinking?): What’s this coronavirus thing? COVID-19? Are those the same? What’s with the two terms? China’s far away. It’s probably like that SARS thing from a long time ago, where everybody got all bent out of shape about it for like a little while, and then nothing really happened here. We’re fine. This is fine. It’ll probably be like that.

And then, the buzzing got louder. We all panicked just a little bit in, what? early February, when they tested a couple of students at nearby Miami University for COVID-19. Their results came back negative, and we all relaxed. But still…

Then, things all seemed to ramp up very quickly in March. I already wrote about all that. And then on March 17, suddenly, we’re all working from home.

And a month later, we’re all still working from home.

We’re watching Governor Mike DeWine’s press conference every day at 2.

We’re listening to Dr. Amy Acton tell us how much the numbers went up.

We’re watching Lt. Governor Jon Husted attempt to answer yet another question about why people still can’t get their unemployment requests submitted, as the web site is choking on the massive volume of traffic it is receiving right now.

We’re hearing from our leaders and from the news about how bad this disease has been, not just for human health, but for the nation’s economy.

Just today in the press conference, Husted was saying how some modelers are predicting that unemployment rates could go up as high as 20%, which sorta makes Ohio’s unemployment rate of 10.9% during the Great Recession of 2009 practically adorable by comparison.

Shit is crashing and crumbling all around us.

And I think on some level, even a conscious level, I knew that the shoes (yeah not just “the other shoe” but allllll the shoes) would drop soon at the university as well.

But it was still soul-crushing to receive this email on April 20th from President Edwards.

Dear Wright State Community,
First and foremost, THANK YOU for everything all of you are doing for our students as we navigate these uncertain times! This is a difficult situation for all of us, for our families and communities, and for Wright State University. Wright State has been through a number of tough years and resilience remains the key to our success.
I am writing today to update the campus community on our continuing efforts around addressing the economic impacts of the current pandemic.
In the short term, the State of Ohio has informed us to plan for a significant reduction in what is remaining of this year’s State Share of Instruction. In addition, refunds and/or credits due to students exceed $3 million and summer enrollment has been negatively impacted, resulting in a decrease of 17 percent.
We’ve already taken and informed you of a number of steps to reduce expenses in the short term by instituting a hiring freeze on all non-approved external hires and significantly curbing expenditures in numerous areas. Today I am announcing the following additional measures that are being put in place:
• University leadership (President, Provost, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, and Deans) has voluntarily agreed to take a 20 percent reduction in salary.
• Hold on all non-critical university-funded capital projects.
• Freeze on all new contractual agreements for goods and services.
• Elimination of all discretionary non-compensation spending.
• Moving campus facilities into a low energy usage mode where possible.
• Freezing all university-issued ProCards.
To date, Wright State has been committed to maintaining all personnel and positions. The State of Ohio has indicated they will release a plan addressing the return to work for Ohio businesses this week. We will review the plan and its impact on university operations in order to determine future staffing plans, which may include reductions in force. It may be necessary for us to utilize Governor DeWine’s Executive Order that expands flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during Ohio’s emergency declaration period and utilize the provisions of the federal CARES Act that provide additional unemployment benefits.
As we look to next year the financial uncertainties presented by COVID-19 circumstances have exacerbated the existing financial challenges faced by Wright State. We must prepare for the economic impact of the pandemic on our students and their families and the university.
While we’ve made recent investments in marketing, recruitment, and retention, our fall enrollment is anticipated to be down once again. I share this with you in the context that our local competition is now increasing even more. Other local universities that traditionally recruited more out of state and international students understand that those two customer segments will be severely impacted because of COVID-19. As a result, they are redirecting their recruitment efforts to the local direct from high school, transfer, and unemployed sectors. Said another way, we are now seeing a heightened competition for the typical Raider Country student.
In the longer term, the State of Ohio has informed all public universities to plan for a 20 percent reduction in the upcoming year’s State Share of Instruction allocation. For Wright State that would translate into a revenue loss of nearly $20 million.
I apologize, as I know this situation creates anxiety, and as I have mentioned in all of my Webex sessions, I do not give you this information to create fear. I am committed to being as transparent as possible and to bring you clarity as soon as we can. We will work closely with the President’s Cabinet, the President’s Council, the Council of Deans, the Faculty Senate, and the Board of Trustees Finance Committee. I will keep the campus community updated as we develop strategies to address these very real financial challenges.
Best wishes,
Sue

(God bless her honesty and transparency. And we still love her; none of this is her fault. It all just sucks. SUCKS. And I don’t feel too weird sharing this now, since it’s already hit the news.)

Well, so much for Wright State’s recovery.

Although, it’s not just us.

Strangely, though, on the bright side (see, there I go trying to end on a high note again), at least this time it’s nothing we did.

COVID-19 Diary: April 9-12, 2020 (Easter Time)

I’ll be honest with you, part of the reason I wrote the “Random Toilet Paper Thoughts” entry last night was because I wanted to sit down and write something but didn’t really want to write about Easter weekend just yet. Plus, who doesn’t like a good break from the day-to-day once in a while, right?

Easter this year was kind of a shit show. I initially wrote in my paper diary that this was the first major holiday we had ever spent away from our families (who live 2 hours away anyway, so I guess that makes it easier to resist the temptation to blow off the whole “social distancing from anyone who doesn’t live with you” thing). But upon further reflection, I recall that this is not the case. When the archives was open on Sundays, we were not closed on Easter Sunday, and I am sure I worked at least one of those. And I’m pretty sure there was another Easter (or maybe it was the same one?) where I didn’t go home, and I recall a lot of crying that day for reasons I won’t get into. And then, there was my son’s first Thanksgiving, when we didn’t go home because he was sick, and we didn’t want to be those assholes who came anyway with a sick child because we “didn’t want to miss it.” Yeah, and everyone else doesn’t want you to give them strep throat or the stomach flu or whatever the hell else it might be (we weren’t sure yet at the time). I made a lasagna for us to eat, and I have this sad picture of me sitting on the floor, holding a pitiful sick baby with one arm and eating lasagna from a plate on an ottoman with the other hand.

But I digress… While I may sometimes fantasize about spending a nice quiet holiday at home by ourselves — instead of packing up everything, traveling 2 hours, and either being away from home for days or (perhaps worse?) making it a whirlwind trip of only 1-2 days (such as Easter, when we usually have to work Friday and Monday) — well, this was my chance, right?! We had our own holiday at home! We could make our own traditions — or at least do the usual ones, at our own speed and style — right? This is an opportunity!

OK.

Guys.

I did my best to make this holiday special for just the three of us.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who really gave a shit.

And I’m just hoping that Jack wasn’t sufficiently traumatized by the bad parts as to actually remember any of them.

And I realized that the real reason we get together with our families and friends for holidays is actually strength in numbers.

Facebook post: I think I know the real reason we celebrate holidays with family and friends: Strength in numbers

Facebook post, April 12: I think I know the real reason we celebrate holidays with family and friends: Strength in numbers

Thursday, April 9, 2020

This was a pretty bad day for me as far as work (and really everything else too) goes, because Matt had to be gone for a lot of the day. And, as my son is a toddler and not an infant, he currently stays awake for most of the day. So you can see my problem.

Mask and gloves in Matt's truck before he left for the day

Mask and gloves in Matt’s truck before he left for the day

Matt had to go to work for a few hours to get “up to speed” on some stuff at his new job, to increase the amount of projects he’s able to work on from home. (He was only physically there 2 days before he had to start working from home.) Then since he was already in the area where all the stores are, he ran some grocery errands. (I already talked about these in the previous entry.) He wore his new mask everywhere. He said he did not have to stand in any lines to get into any of the stores (like Sam’s Club or IGA). Then after dinner, he went out again to pick up our ClickList grocery order at Kroger (in Fairborn), and he had to wait in line (in the line of cars) for TWO HOURS. He had offered to take the baby with him so I could have some peace, but Jesus, I’m so glad he didn’t. (The previous time we did ClickList a couple weeks earlier, the entire round-trip literally only took 30 minutes!)

ClickList Pickup Line at Kroger in Fairborn, Ohio, April 9, 2020, 6:47 p.m.

ClickList Pickup Line at Kroger in Fairborn, Ohio, April 9, 2020, 6:47 p.m.

Kroger ClickList line, 8:03 p.m.

ClickList Pickup Line at Kroger in Fairborn, Ohio, April 9, 2020, 8:03 p.m.

I put Jack to bed on my own, and he was crying a lot (not wanting to go to sleep), and I couldn’t take it, so I went to the garage — where I wouldn’t be able to hear him cry because I had had it — planning to sit in my car, when realized it was gone because oh yeah, Matt took it to Kroger. (I have an SUV; he has a truck.) So I sat in a camp chair in the garage, practicing my German on Duolingo. Then after I’d sat still for too long, the motion-sensor lights went off. And I just continued to sit there, in the dark (except for the light of my phone screen), waiting for Matt to come home. When he finally got home, he was like, “Why are you sitting in the dark all creepy?”

Because I needed some goddamn peace, that’s why.

After we got all the groceries (about 1/2 of what we actually ordered- they were out of everything else) inside and put away, I insisted that he watch some Netflix with me instead of going to the basement to play on his computer. He did so, without a word.

Friday, April 10, 2020

This was a better day, work-wise. Matt made sure I got plenty of big chunks of good-concentration time, and I was able to make good progress on an important project related to our efforts to collect COVID-19 diaries (such as this one).

Mom sent Jack some Easter presents in the mail, so we recorded a video of him opening the box up. I think he was most excited about the chocolate, haha.

Mom also mentioned in a text that she would be at church from 12-1. I almost had a fit, until later she clarified that she should have put it in quotation marks (“at church”) because she just meant she was watching the Good Friday service online. She said all the bishops have closed all the Catholic churches in compliance with the governor’s stay-at-home order, so she couldn’t physically go to Mass even if she wanted to.

I started looking at buying vegetable plants and/or seeds online. (I know it’s late for seeds.) I’m getting nervous about whether I’ll be able to find what I want when the time finally comes. (We don’t plant until the first or second week of May here; our last freeze can be really late and kill everything.)

Easter Ideas (Goals) in my goal journal

Easter Ideas (Goals) in my goal journal

Jack and I (and Matt) made cut-out sugar cookies after dinner. Jack loves to bake, and making cookies was on my list of “Easter goals.” (I legit made a list in my goal journal- see above.) Jack and I mixed everything up. He loves putting ingredients in the bowl. Then we got to the rolling part, and I don’t know how I sucked Matt into helping with that part, but he did. And it was very frustrating for everyone involved. Matt did a great job rolling, it wasn’t that. But I think it was too close to bedtime when we started, and the baby is two, and he was being contrary, not listening, trying to “do it himself,” and sticking his fingers into/through the dough (like poking holes in the cookies), trying to “help” pick them up and put them on the cookie sheet.

Baking cookies, April 10, 2020

Baking cookies, April 10, 2020

Oh my goodness. There was yelling. There was crying (only Jack). I hope he either doesn’t remember or only remembers that we made cookies and how delicious they were. And they were. I have a favorite go-to baking recipes web site called Live Well Bake Often, and I consider the author Danielle to be the Muse of Baking. (Here’s the sugar cookies recipe we used.) I have literally not tried a single one of her recipes that wasn’t delicious. I even made the homemade frosting for these cookies, and OH. MY. DAMN. In hindsight, making an entire batch of sugar cookies when you aren’t allowed to take them anywhere to share with people was probably a bad decision, but oh well.

Sugar cookies with homemade frosting and (store-bought) Easter sprinkles, April 10

Sugar cookies with homemade frosting and (store-bought) Easter sprinkles, April 10

In the evening, after Jack was in bed, I needed some “sewing therapy.” I tried out a new “3D” mask pattern from YouTube (by ArtThao162). I had noticed that there were a lot of videos (for this type of mask in particular) that were not in English (they mostly appeared to be from Asia). And someone had told me that Asians really know their masks because it is fairly common to wear them over there, not just because of COVID-19. I will say, I like the mask pattern by ArtThao162 a lot. I later (Sunday night- needed more thread-therapy) found a video for a very similar but slightly simpler (and faster-to-make) mask by Crafty Daily. I think the ArtThao162 may hold its shape better after washing, but…I think I can get the creases back in the Crafty Daily one by just ironing them back in, if I find that it matters. Anyway, here are a couple pictures- the first is me in the ArtThao162 mask, and the second is Matt wearing the one I made from the Crafty Daily pattern. (I have since made several Crafty Daily’s for family members.)

Lisa in the ArthThao162 mask

Lisa in the ArthThao162 mask

Matt in the Crafty Daily mask

Matt in the Crafty Daily mask

Masks hanging by the door to the garage, Apr. 11

Masks hanging by the door to the garage, Apr. 11

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Easter Bunny got Jack’s basket ready, and I did some sewing on a drawstring pouch to hold some large wooden beads I got him. More sewing therapy! That pouch was fun. I also found the pouch pattern (by Sannari) on YouTube.

The weather Saturday was supposed to be nicer than Sunday (and it was), so we did our Easter egg hunt. I had hidden 15 plastic eggs in the front yard (with Matt’s reluctant assistance – mostly I wanted to make sure he knew where the eggs were in case Jack didn’t find them all, so he couldn’t complain later if he hit one with the lawn mower). Thankfully, Jack was able to find them all. I tried to put them mostly “in plain sight” since he’s only two years old, but there were a few that were challenging for him to find. Luckily, he never crossed the line over into “frustrated,” though. He really seemed to enjoy it. The egg hunt was definitely the highlight of the weekend festivities.

Egg Hunt 1, Saturday, April 11

Egg Hunt 1, Saturday, April 11

We all went for a ride in the car at one point. We drove down to Siebenthaler’s nursery in Beavercreek to see what we could see from the road. It looks like they have plenty of plants. So that’s definitely an option for our garden this year. We also took a ride by the stores and restaurants over on North Fairfield in Beavercreek/Fairborn. There was considerably less traffic than usual for a Saturday afternoon. The governor had recently issued the order for stores to establish a threshold for their maximum safe customer capacity in order to allow for proper “social distancing,” and so for some places that means waiting in line outside the store until it’s your turn to go inside (like that guy in southeast Asia from Matt’s YouTube video had to do!). We saw people standing in line outside of Lowe’s and JoAnn Fabrics. On the way home, we saw that the price of gasoline had dropped to $1.34 per gallon at the UDF in Enon.

Customers waiting in line outside the Lowe's home improvement store in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11, 2020

Customers waiting in line outside the Lowe’s home improvement store in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11, 2020 (notice a few masks)

Short line outside JoAnn Fabrics in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11

Short line outside JoAnn Fabrics in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11

Sunday, April 12, 2020 – Easter Sunday

It seemed like Easter was starting off okay. We all stayed in bed until 10:00. This turned out not to have been a blessing, though, as the baby had removed his diaper (again) at some point during the night and had left some little Easter eggs of his own around his room. Oh. My. God. I took him straight to the bathtub, and for some reason he hates morning baths with a fiery passion to rival the pits of Mordor, so that was fun trying to restrain him from escaping the tub AND wash him at the same time. Matt somehow slept through all of this, still. He sleeps like the dead. I later stripped the crib, and Matt ran the big carpet shampooer all over the room.

Matt did make waffles for breakfast, and those were pretty good.

And the boy seemed pleased with what the Easter Bunny had brought him. He fixed on the Legos immediately, and he has since gotten really into the wooden beads (in the pouch!). AND OBVIOUSLY THE CHOCOLATE. I got my little Chocolate Monster honest; chocolate is very important to me as well.

Easter Basket, April 12, 2020

Easter Basket, April 12, 2020

The Bunny overdid it a bit, because a few weeks before Easter when we were suddenly in need of activities…thought to save them for the basket…should have just gotten them out to play. Actually, I realize now there’s still a couple things I forgot to get out and give him – hid them in a separate place – Mom warned me about that, haha…

The rain held off for a while, and we were able to hide and hunt Easter eggs in the yard again, which Jack really enjoyed. This was (again) by far the highlight of the day.

Egg Hunt 2, Apr. 12

Egg Hunt 2, Apr. 12

We colored a half-dozen Easter eggs. Jack kept spilling the dye cups, and Matt was about to lose it. We’ve all got pretty short fuses these days. About half of the eggs somehow ended up cracked. Oh well. My salads have had some colorful diced egg in them this week. As you can see, I even wore silly bunny ears to try to make things festive. Also, as you can see, Matt is not exactly having the time of his life. At least Jack looks excited? Hopefully he was not scarred by the chaos that ensued every time he spilled that yellow dye cup. (It was always the yellow one…and to be fair, I think the yellow one had some manufacturing defects; the plastic on that one seemed thinner and flimsier than the others…just sayin’.)

Coloring Easter Eggs, Apr. 12

Coloring Easter Eggs, Apr. 12

I feel like these Easter eggs are a pretty good metaphor for the entire weekend. BUT I TRIED, GODDAMMIT.

Matt had bought a ham for dinner and wanted some cheesy potatoes. This is what his grandma usually makes for Easter and probably what we would have been eating for dinner if we had been able to have a normal Easter with family. We also had green beans and salad. It was a pretty tasty dinner.

Easter ham and potatoes (and beans), Apr. 12

Easter ham and potatoes (and beans), Apr. 12

We made a new kind of cheesy potatoes, though, and later I think those disagreed with me. Ah, a fitting end to things. Since I felt kind of funky, I was lying on the couch, thinking about reading but not sure I had the heart for it, and so I just laid there with my eyes closed for a while. My little gray cat hopped up immediately and curled up beside me. I eventually fell asleep right there on the couch and slept all night with one or both cats next to me the whole time.

And again, let’s end with a couple of jokes. These are maybe a little dark, but they both had me ROLLING. (You might have noticed that church service was conspicuously absent from our Easter weekend. I was raised Catholic but have not practiced since my parents stopped making me…) Anyway, for your enjoyment (or at the very least hopefully not total offense), a couple of Jesus jokes for Easter 2020:

Tweet from @jessecase, March 17, 2020:

Tweet from @jessecase, March 17, 2020: “The Vatican canceled Easter. You know much stuff has to suck for the Pope to be like, ‘You know what, this year Jesus stays dead.'”

Jesus, peeking head out of cave:

Jesus, peeking head out of cave: “Can I come out yet?” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine: “Nope.” Because stay-at-home order.

I know I still have lots to be thankful for and what-not, but it’s still…not how I planned it. (HAHA THIS WHOLE YEAR IS NOT HOW I PLANNED IT.)

Anyway, here’s hoping y’all had a good Easter, and maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

COVID-19 Diary: Random Toilet Paper Thoughts

So this whole toilet paper thing.

And, it seems like, other (disposable) paper products as well, right? Napkins and paper towels and tissues?

Toilet paper aisle at Meijer store in Beavercreek, Ohio, on March 20, 2020

Toilet paper aisle at Meijer store in Beavercreek, Ohio, on March 20, 2020

Granted, I haven’t been to a store in weeks myself. (The photo above is from one of my last excursions to a store – a trip to Meijer in Beavercreek on March 20th.)

But Matt went to like three places last Thursday — Sam’s Club (Beavercreek), Meijer (also Beavercreek), and IGA (Enon) — and it was like a damn victory lap when he came home with a 6-pack of Quilted Northern mega-roll toilet paper and a 2-pack of Meijer-brand paper towels. (These were both from Meijer, and he said there were several packages of both things but it was “limit 1” per customer – which is probably the only reason there were several packages left. Sam’s Club was out of toilet paper.)

Matt reads a lot more random stuff on the Internet than I do — or at least, different stuff, and he came across this article called “What Everyone is Getting Wrong about the Toilet Paper Shortage: It isn’t really about hoarding. And there isn’t an easy fix” by Will Oremus (Apr. 2, Marker.Medium.com). It had some very intriguing information in it. I’ll admit I did not fact-check this thing (bad librarian), but what he said made a lot of sense. The gist of it is that we’re all spending more time at home and doing more of our bathroom business at home, instead of at work or school. And, as you might have noticed, the toilet paper that you typically find at work or school is that tissue-paper-thin kind, often on giant rolls, right? (I have a good friend who introduced me to the term “John Wayne toilet paper” for this stuff, and it comes to mind now…)

John Wayne toilet paper: it's rough, it's tough, and it don't take shit from nobody.

John Wayne toilet paper: it’s rough, it’s tough, and it don’t take shit from nobody.

And I think most of us typically avoid purchasing “John Wayne toilet paper” (whether in big or small rolls) for home use, right? We buy the small rolls of usually thicker, softer paper.

But anyway, so that Will Oremus article makes some really good points about the whole toilet paper industry, and how there are companies and factories that are geared (literally) to produce basically one type of toilet paper or another — the industrial stuff or the home-use stuff. And that’s all well and good and makes tons of sense. But now the supply and demand is all thrown out of whack — not necessarily (or perhaps, not initially?) because people are hoarding, but because there’s truthfully a greater actual need for the home-use type toilet paper than what there usually is. So it sounds like there might actually be a real shortage, and then everyone hears there’s a shortage and starts buying it up like crazy, and then that just exacerbates the whole problem even more.

So, that’s just awesome. And here we are.

This shortage, whether real (sure seems real) or perceived, or whatever, has led me through some weird thoughts, plans, actions. OK, not SUPER WEIRD actions; this entry is still “safe for work.” But it has…changed my behaviors a little bit.

Changed behaviors:

Use less toilet paper. I have started consciously using less toilet paper than usual. Like, start with 3 squares, see how that goes. Take a few more squares if necessary. But pretty well staying with the 3-square increment. It’s made me very aware of how much toilet paper I was using before. How much money could I have been saving on toilet paper?

I used to spin the toilet paper roll like I was on the Wheel of Fortune. Now I turn it like I'm cracking a safe.

I used to spin the toilet paper roll like I was on the Wheel of Fortune. Now I turn it like I’m cracking a safe.

Every time I finish a roll of toilet paper it feels like a petal falling off the enchanted rose in Beauty and the Beast

Tweet from Stephen LaConte (@stephenlc) from March 29th: Every time I finish a roll of toilet paper it feels like a petal falling off the enchanted rose in Beauty and the Beast

Use less other paper stuff. I am trying to make a conscious effort to use wash cloths and kitchen towels more often, rather than just grabbing a paper towel or a napkin every time to wipe up something small. I have plenty of these, and I can wash them. I might have a hard time finding more paper towels when we run out. This is good for the environment. I should do this all the time. I should have been doing this all along, but I was lulled into this sense of…plenty…that is now shattering with the awareness that the supply of some things (ok all things) is in fact NOT infinite.

COVID-19 is the new Great Depression for ingraining weird actions into our lives that will stay with us forever

COVID-19 is the new Great Depression for ingraining weird actions into our lives that will stay with us forever

Not flushing (pee). Okay this one is actually less about toilet paper and more about conserving other resources like electricity and water, but since we were talking about bathroom stuff already, I thought I’d slip it in here. We have a well, so we have a theoretically “infinite” supply of water (all totally legitimate quarry-related ground-water issues aside, that’s a tale for another time), but it takes electricity to run our well pump. And we’re here a lot more than usual and using the bathroom at home a lot more than usual. And that’s more electricity, right? On top of all the OTHER additional electricity we’re probably using by being here, cooking and using electronics and stuff? So I thought, Hey, if it’s yellow, let it mellow… We’ve all heard that one before, right? Well, my husband has convinced me that it doesn’t take THAT much electricity and kindly asked me to please STOP doing this one. So I did.

Weird thoughts and plans:

Sacrificial towels. I have given serious thought to what I have in the house that we could cut up and use as “reusable” toilet paper. I have a whole basket of Matt’s old undershirts that I cut up (a long time ago) to use as dusting rags. Those would be good. Nice and soft. I also have a whole “hierarchy” of bath towels, if things get really dicey — the ones that are old and don’t match anything anymore but are still fluffy and soft — those might be good.

Practical logistics. OK, so if we can’t get toilet paper anymore and have to start using towels to clean up our unspeakables…what’s the game plan for washing those things? People who did cloth-diapering (which I did not) probably already know how to deal with this. But I’m thinking something akin to the “poop bucket” of infancy. This was a trick my sister told me about for when my son was small and more prone to get poop on clothes (although hmm that’ll be coming back again soon with potty-training)….anyway, keep a bucket with water and Oxyclean in the laundry room and just toss soiled clothing into it. When it’s laundry time, you dump the whole thing, poop water and all, into the washing machine. Run the “spin” cycle to get all the yucky water out, and then you start a new wash cycle and do what you normally do. Yes, this. The Poop Bucket Rides Again! And hmm, that would be really inconvenient to have to have three of those (and try to keep the toddler from messing with THREE of those), plus carrying the bucket of poopy water down the stairs (two of our bathrooms are upstairs and 1 downstairs) sounds like a terrible awful no-good plan. The downstairs bathroom is right by the laundry room already, and we also have a long-standing gate keeping the baby out of that area. Yes, one poop bucket in the downstairs half-bath, and sorry about your luck, folks, that’s the only place anyone is authorized to poop! (This is only if we have to enact the cut-up-towels plan, of course…until then, poop where you please! As long as it’s a toilet or diaper, as age-appropriate.)

Rationing. War. Is rationing coming next? Of toilet paper? Of other stuff? Gasoline? Flour? Sugar? Yeast? Butter? (Why are we all baking? That’s another entry.) The governor keeps making references to this thing like an enemy in a war, and that feels so true. But we can’t see it. And we can’t stop it. But the hiding in our homes and the scarcity of certain things…reminds me of what I’ve read that war can be like…

**********

Speaking of potty-training, we are doing a half-ass job of that at the moment. Our son is not quite two-and-a-half, so I know there’s plenty of time before it gets “weird” for him to not be potty-trained. But….trying to work from home and keep him alive AND deal with potty training? Hmm… I don’t know about all that. Plus, as it stands, every time he spins the toilet paper roll, he totally spins it Wheel of Fortune style (because he’s two!), and I can’t deal with that kind of gluttony under the current circumstances.

Living through a Pandemic vs. Potty training a toddler

Living through a Pandemic vs. Potty training a toddler

I feel like there have been a lot more “weird thoughts” but these are all the ones I can think of right now that pertain to the whole toilet paper thing.

I am probably thinking there should be a lot more to say in this area, because I have had a LOT of other weird thoughts….just maybe not about toilet paper. I should save those for another entry, but here’s a sampling: Should we buy a side of beef now in case the meat gets scarce? (We were discussing this at dinner tonight.) Should we buy a greenhouse to grow more of our own vegetables earlier, since the frost is so late here? (Spoiler alert: we did buy a small greenhouse, it’ll be here next week. This is currently our most expensive pandemic panic purchase.) What if society collapses, and there IS no electricity and we have to start curing meats and cooking outside over a fire? And SHIT (literally), what are we going to do for toilets…?

Yeah, things are great. Things are going well here in my mind.

Dog drinking coffee surrounded by flames, saying,

“THIS IS FINE.” (Narrator: It wasn’t fine.)

COVID-19 Diary: April 5-8, 2020

I’m slacking off on here! Fear not, everything is safely written down in paper journal nightly or every-other-nightly. You’d think that with working from home, I’d feel like I have more time, but somehow, that’s just not the case. Matt commented on this as well. We somehow feel like we actually have less time. After “fighting” our way through the work day while trying to keep a two-year-old alive (at the very least) and safe (pretty high priority) and entertained (mostly so he doesn’t destroy the house), in the evening we are still trying to catch up on our work day, instead of flat-out relaxing. I think this is exacerbated by the lack of a firm division between “work” and “home,” like there used to be. I read an article at some point in the past few weeks (can’t find it now) about people regretting their life choices with regards to those “open floor-plan” homes that have been all the rage for the last several years. I wouldn’t say that’s a problem for us; we each have an “office” space that is fairly separate from the main living part of the house—but there’s a little tyrant running around the place, banging on doors if you’ve closed them, and trying to disable your technology saying “Mommy laptop closed” or “Daddy phone away” (and trying to forcibly make these demands a reality if you drag your feet on them). So the times get blurred, and the lines get blurred too.

Actually, about a week ago, I read this article — “The Parents are Not Alright by Chloe Cooney” — that summarizes things pretty well, I think. We are not all right. And as much as we’d like to, we can’t (shouldn’t) turn to our parents for help (as much as I know they’d like to), because we don’t want to put them at risk. And we’re not really supposed to interact with anyone any more than we have to, so that rules out baby-sitters (not that we had any, other than the daycare). Another article I read recently (that I can’t remember the name of now) suggested banding together with one or two other families and taking turns watching all the kids so the rest of you could focus and get shit done. You’re still mostly social distancing because you’ve just basically made yourselves like an extended family unit. Like: “I’m taking the day off on Monday to watch 6 kids, and the other 5 of you can work. Then Tuesday, someone else watches the kids, and I & 4 others get to concentrate fully…” Then again, come to think of it, maybe I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and NOT be responsible for several children for an entire day. I have enough trouble with one, even when I’m not also trying to work, haha.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

I made my first mask, using the CDC sewn face mask guidelines. It’s extremely simple to make, but I don’t like it very much. I tried to make another one with the same pattern but used denim, and the denim was too thick, it wouldn’t “bunch” right on the sides. That’s OK; I have tons of denim. (I’ve been hoarding my husband’s old jeans for years, any time he got a hole in them somewhere that rendered them out-of-commission. Free fabric!)

Lisa, first mask, April 5, 2020

Lisa, first mask, April 5, 2020

We made chicken and noodles from scratch. I don’t think I’ve ever made homemade egg noodles in my life — okay maybe like once in elementary school for the big fancy all-school Thanksgiving or something? — but we were inspired by Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine’s chicken and noodles recipe. And OH. MY. DAMN. were those noodles good! Jack loves to “help” with everything, especially baking, and so we let him help. Matt did most of it, honestly; he mixed and rolled and cut. Jack and I took the strips and broke them up into smaller noodles. Jack was good at that, haha, just pulling off pieces of noodle to make them smaller. It wasn’t hard, just more time-consuming than opening a bag of egg noodles and tossing into the pot. But SO DELICIOUS, WOULD DO AGAIN.

Homemade chicken and noodles, April 5, 2020

Homemade chicken and noodles (and bread), April 5, 2020

We also made bread in the bread machine. That was pretty damn good too. I hear it’s getting tough to find flour and yeast. Apparently, everyone is baking right now. I don’t know if it’s “stress” baking or “I have all this time now to bake” baking or “what if the store runs out of bread, I better get flour and yeast” baking (that last one is what mine was, when I bought flour and yeast).

I have had a LOT of thoughts lately about how self-sufficient we are or could be (or rather, lack thereof). We’re so dependent on…the way things usually work. I warned Matt, only half-jokingly, that I might become a “prepper” after this. I saw someone online joking about how this COVID thing is “not helping my pre-existing hoarder tendencies.” SAME. Like, I know we used to have home hair clippers, and now I can’t find them; I think I gave them to Goodwill because we never used them anymore. We just went to the walk-in hair-cutters. And now those are all closed. And now you CAN’T FIND CLIPPERS to buy either. That’s the kind of shit that will make you want to never get rid of anything ever again. And then someday, somebody will be all, “Dude, what made you this crazy?” And we’ll say, “Settle in, kids, it’s a long story. It was the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020…” (It’s like, did you ever see or hear of an elderly person who did weird things because of the 1929 stock market crash and/or the Great Depression? And it was like, why are they still doing that? It’s been YEARS. Well, this is the kind of shit that — I expect — will scar you into that sort of thing. Like, Matt knew someone who legit buried money in jars in the back yard because of the 1929 stock market crash. DECADES LATER.)

Speaking of food stuffs, though, Matt was going to go the grocery store to get a handful of things that day. He was even willing to wear my flowered mask (since that’s the only cloth one I had made so far at the time). But I talked him out of it. We still had plenty of food, just were out of a few things we “like” to have around. I talked him into making another Kroger curb-side pickup order instead; the first available time to pick up was Thursday evening. Ugh. But we took it.

I got a little shook up right before we settled down to watch some television that night. I was cruising Twitter (as per usual) and saw some archivists tweeting about how it was…I don’t know…greedy? thoughtless? inappropriate? to be asking people to keep COVID-19 diaries and then donate them to us. (My archives is doing this very thing.) Like we are somehow preying on their vulnerabilities for the benefit of our collection development. I’m not sure I’m getting the words exactly right (I know I’m not), and I remember who it was, but I’m not going to go find their tweet because (a) I don’t want to relive it and (b) I’m not trying to call this person out. I’m just saying that I saw it, and it upset me. It wasn’t even directed at us or any particular archive in particular, but I saw it, and my stomach sunk. I had never thought of it that way, that we might be somehow taking advantage of people for our own gain. So when we were making our peanut butter sandwiches (nighttime TV-watching snack), I said to Matt, “Tell me we’re not terrible for doing this COVID-19 Diaries project,” and of course he said, “No, of course not, why?” So I told him, and he just kind of shook his head like, no way, not horrible at all. And then I thought about it some more and psyched myself up about it: I mean, nobody is making people write diaries or making them give the diaries to us. I still think people should be writing down (or documenting in an art form of their choosing) whatever their thoughts and feelings and experiences are right now EVEN IF they don’t give them to us. There’s a reason I have kept a diary since I was 13. It helps you chronicle your life, and it helps you think. Or it does me. (I was careful to put this very sentiment into my “So, you’ve decided to keep a Coronavirus diary, now what?” blog post I wrote for work — that I encourage the keeping of a diary during this crazy time, or any time really, even if you don’t give it to an archive.) Anyway. I hate when I see shit that upsets me too close to bedtime. Or ever. But especially too close to bedtime.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Another Monday, another work-from-home day. With a baby. Here’s a picture of the sort of thing that happens when I forget to lock the office door or if he knocks down the baby gate on the other side. (My “office” was originally the dining room of the house; but it’s always been my office since we’ve lived here, because I don’t need or want a formal dining room—and I do need/want an office.)

Trying to work from home on an archives finding aid with a two-year-old on my lap, April 6, 2020

Trying to work from home on an archives finding aid with a two-year-old on my lap, April 6, 2020

I watched some more mask videos and tried out a new, more fitted pattern (video by Sew Much Moore). It actually had a pattern to print out and cut out and came in four sizes. I made a big one for Matt. On Tuesday evening, I made a smaller one for me (I think I went too small actually). A little later in the week I made another for Matt with a pipe-cleaner in a pocket across the bridge of the nose (once my pipe-cleaners I ordered arrived from Amazon); wire not as strong as one might have hoped, but better. Figured I should probably try some more mask videos later. (Spoiler alert, I did, at least one more…)

Face Mask with pattern by Sew Much Moore, April 6, 2020

Face Mask with pattern by Sew Much Moore, April 6, 2020

Matt in a Sew Much Moore mask

Matt in a Sew Much Moore mask

Lisa in a Sew Much Moore mask

Lisa in a Sew Much Moore mask

My friend whose husband got laid off from a local hospital (wrote about this a few entries ago) called to chat, and she told me that he has found another job already. So that’s good news for them, hooray!

And finally, while writing one of my previous posts (the one with the Coronavirus Bingo card), I had the idea to make a Bingo game for the archives, with activities that involve our online resources (photos, videos, etc.). I’m pretty excited about it; I think it came out well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I had a series of nightmares. In one, Matt lost his (new) job. Next, I was in a library and it was raining…inside…but just over one range of shelves. (That is actually a rather legitimate fear for a library worker, come to think of it, especially one who works in a library with a giant skylight. And roof leaks do tend to be rather localized.) And the last one (the least nightmarish of the bunch), I was attempting to explain the many different parts of the Dayton Daily News Archive (our largest collection) to an extremely large group of people—like, seriously, it was like regular people sitting at the Hogwarts House tables in the Great Hall…and I wasn’t up at the front, I was just kind of down in the aisles, and I was having to yell, and it wasn’t working out very well. Great, I’m having work nightmares, and I can’t even use that collection right now.

As I said, I did some work on the face masks on Tuesday. Jack really doesn’t like it when anyone wears a mask. We learned this during a few of his doctor visits when the doctors were wearing a mask for whatever reason. He’d stare at them like they were monsters and then start crying. He hasn’t done the crying thing to us at least — I guess we are familiar enough that he knows it’s still US — but he’ll say “mask off” and try to take it off us if he can get close enough. I let him come into my sewing room one day, and we were sitting at my cutting table (all cutting tools pushed FAR AWAY), and he upset a few stick pins on the table, and we were putting them back into the container, and while he was distracted with that, I slipped my mask on and positioned my phone for selfies to catch his reaction. He smiled at first because he just saw the phone on reverse camera mode (so he could see himself), but you can see his expression change when he saw that I was wearing a mask…and then you can see him taking it off me. I’m glad he didn’t cry; I wasn’t trying to traumatize him or anything.

Jack doesn't like masks, April 7, 2020

Jack doesn’t like masks, April 7, 2020

My sister Sara, a nurse practitioner in the Columbus area, sent us all some pictures of herself heading in to work that day, wearing her mask. She also has one of those headbands with the buttons to help alleviate the pressure of wearing the elastic all day; she said a co-worker’s relative made them for everyone. (She also gave me permission to post these pictures; I asked.)

Sara in a mask in the hospital elevator, April 7, 2020

Sara in a mask in the hospital elevator, April 7, 2020

Sara modeling her nifty button-equipped headband to save her ears from the mask elastic, April 7, 2020

Sara modeling her nifty button-equipped headband to save her ears from the mask elastic, April 7, 2020

There’s not much else to say about Tuesday, except that it was a gorgeous day (sunny and 75) and we basically ate all our meals outside on the back porch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

There was a major thunderstorm about 4:00 a.m. The lightning looked like a rave. We had dime-size hail, and I found a pile of it still accumulated in a shady part of the front yard later that afternoon. And the baby woke up crying about 5:00; he was all right but had a hard time getting him back to sleep. I was very tired that day.

We had another web-conference staff meeting. It was good to see people and talk and laugh.

Archives staff meeting via WebEx, April 8, 2020

Archives staff meeting via WebEx, April 8, 2020

Did I ever mention we finally found out about Matt’s co-worker who was tested for COVID-19? He did NOT have it.

**********

Let’s end on a positive note again — I think I like doing that! Plus, it’s hard to work some of these funnies into the narrative, but I feel like it’s important to include them if they spoke to me enough that I saved them. Like a scrapbook!

“We cannot go to the emergency room right now!”

I have absolutely said this phrase (or something very similar) either out loud, or at least in my head, MANY times over the past few weeks. Usually it’s directed at the baby. But I do remember one of the times I was sewing, I tried to injure myself somehow ( I forget- probably something involving unsafe procedure with a rotary cutter), and I thought to myself, Wouldn’t it be ironic as hell if I hurt myself making my COVID-19 face masks and have to go to the hospital and GET COVID-19 because I was at the hospital because I hurt myself trying to make face masks?!

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series!

“Watching the federal government deal with COVID-19 is like watching the Ministry of Magic deal with Voldemort’s return.”

“Watching the federal government deal with COVID-19 is like watching the Ministry of Magic deal with Voldemort’s return.” ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE. (If you do not get this reference, refer to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling….after reading books 1-4 first. How have you not read this? I thought I was the last person on earth who hadn’t, and even I read them all in 2009.)

Governor DeWine as Picard with Jon Husted and Dr. Amy Acton and Marla Berkowitz

Governor DeWine as Picard with Jon Husted and Dr. Amy Acton and Marla Berkowitz

I don’t know who made this; it wasn’t me. My husband found it on the Internet and showed it to me. I have already shared a Picard “Damage Report” meme in a previous post, and although I am not what I’d consider a “Trekkie,” I have watched enough Trek to love these. I LOVE THIS. For those maybe not from Ohio (or from Ohio but currently living under a rock — not that I blame you — and not watching the daily press conferences), these folks are: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (center as Captain Picard); Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (left as Cmdr. Riker); Dr. Amy Acton, head of the Ohio Dept. of Health (right as Counselor Troi); and sign-language interpreter Marla Berkowitz (top as Worf- it’s perfect because she is usually shown in a picture-in-picture box at the upper right of the screen above DeWine’s—or whoever is speaking’s—head).

Rickey, out.

COVID-19 Diary: April 1-4, 2020

Is this entire year like one big April Fools’ joke?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020 (Stay Home Day #16)

Not much interesting happened today. We had a staff meeting via WebEx videoconferencing software. It was my turn to staff the archives reference chat for a couple hours in the afternoon; I still have not had a question on it yet, though others have had a few.

Eating lunch at my desk, with a co-worker trying to steal my turkey sandwich, April 1, 2020

Eating lunch at my desk, with a co-worker trying to steal my turkey sandwich, April 1, 2020

After dinner, we watched a press conference from the folks at WPAFB. We watched it on my husband’s smartphone, using a toy tractor as an easel, while the munchkin had run of the big TV. We have another TV, but…that would involve leaving the kid alone in the other room to run amok…not worth it.

Watching the WPAFB press conference via TRACTOR-phone, April 1, 2020

Watching the WPAFB press conference via TRACTOR-phone, April 1, 2020

“The quarantine/isolation life is dull – haha!” I know that is simplistic, insensitive, and flippant. But, we are the lucky ones, staying in a safe, comfortable home with plenty to eat and plenty to do, just waiting it out.

Saw this on April 1st. Is Ohio saving the world, or...? What a time to be a Buckeye!

Saw this on April 1st. Is Ohio saving the world, or…? What a time to be a Buckeye!

Thursday, April 2, 2020 (Stay Home Day #17)

Again, not really much to say about today. I listened to the governor’s daily press conference while I worked and while Jack napped. He extended the stay-at-home order through May 1st, and he’s calling for stores to ensure that they don’t have too many people inside at one time. (I guess they need bouncers now?)

Some of the work I did at home on Thursday was updating processing status for a bunch of collections in our collection management system. I have an existing status (“paused incomplete”) for collections that have been started but not finished (for whatever reason), so guess what status got applied to like 13 previously in-progress collections?

Sad Kermit marking collections as

Sad Kermit marking collections as “paused incomplete” on April 2, 2020

Matt follows a lot of people who are traveling the world by boat, and a few weeks ago I watched one of these videos with him. The man was somewhere in Southeast Asia (Malaysia? I think), and he was riding a bicycle from the marina to the shops, to buy groceries. He was wearing his mask, and so was everyone else. They had a guy posted outside the shops area (I think he called it an arcade? it was sort of like a mall that included a grocery store inside), and you had to wait in line to make sure there weren’t too many people inside, then have your temperature taken, and then be admitted. It was…surreal…and now similar things are happening here in the United States.

Placating the masses, I mean co-workers, I mean... April 2, 2020

Placating the masses, I mean co-workers, I mean… April 2, 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020 (Stay Home Day #18)

I worked for a long while in the morning, and Matt had a big conference call in the afternoon. My cat Will barfed on the window sill right next to my desk while I was working…so, had to take a break to clean that up. Awesome. Many of us have been joking about our pets/children being our “coworkers” now; another meme I saw going around was to refer to your pet as “that drunk at the end of the bar.” So I combined these for comic effect in a couple social media posts:

Drunk co-worker Facebook post, April 3, 2020

Drunk co-worker Facebook post, April 3, 2020

Co-worker attempts food theft again, April 3, 2020

Co-worker attempts food theft again, April 3, 2020

Other co-worker impeding progress, April 3, 2020

Other co-worker impeding progress, April 3, 2020

Jack and I went outside for a while after lunch. It was gorgeous out – sunny blue skies and almost 70 degrees. I got out the DSLR camera and took some pictures of Jack, flowers, and this one extremely happy bee. Both Jack and the bee were enjoying all the dandelions (Jack picking them, the bee doing whatever bees do).

Bee on a dandelion, close-up, April 3, 2020

Bee on a dandelion, close-up, April 3, 2020

Our neighbor was burning some brush, and the wind changed, and suddenly we were in a cloud of thin smoke, and flakes of ash were raining down on us like snowflakes. And suddenly I’m thinking of Pompeii and wondering if that’s how it started with them. Duh, I know it wasn’t a volcano, but everything is THE APOCALYPSE right now. Disasters are ON THE MIND.

A friend (and fellow parent) texted me out of the blue to say he appreciates what I’ve been writing about the trials and tribulations of working from home with a small child in the house. He said something that really resonated with me – about how work is important and all, but it won’t let you live in apartment above its garage when you’re old…but your kids might. That’s so true. When it absolutely comes down to it, your family comes first. We are trying; I swear to God we are trying to do the best we can in the circumstances, in all of our necessary roles (parent, employee, and sometimes teacher depending on how old your kids are). But it is fucking hard, man. Anyway, it was so good to talk to him.

Another friend had posted (re-shared) this “public service announcement” about attempting to parent and work during COVID-19, and it was just absolutely on point. The gist is that the reason you feel like you’re doing a shitty job at ALL OF IT right now (and you probably ARE doing a less-than-great job at all of it but maybe “shitty” is too strong a word) is because you CAN’T do three full-time jobs at once. Here’s the whole thing, though:

Public Service Announcement to Working Parents at this time, April 2020

Public Service Announcement to Working Parents at this time, April 2020

In the evening, Jack requested to go for a ride in Daddy’s truck. Jack hadn’t gone anywhere in a motor vehicle since March 16th (my last day at work). Matt declared that he was taking Jack for a ride, and I dropped whatever I was doing and grabbed my shoes and purse and said “I’m coming too!” Outside! True outside! The lands beyond the confines of our neighborhood! Are they even still out there?! The TV and the Internet say so, but I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes since, what? March 21st when I went out to retrieve my forgotten computer power cord at work, I think? (On the bright side, we are saving like $50 a week on gasoline.)

We're going on a car ride! A car ride! April 3, 2020

We’re going on a car ride! A car ride! April 3, 2020

We never got out of the car anywhere, but we just drove around Springfield for about an hour. We drove up to Bechtle Avenue, where all the stores are, and it was so weird to see so few cars in the parking lots at stores and restaurants on a Friday evening. It was about 7:00 p.m., and a lot of the stores had already closed due to their new reduced quarantine hours. And of course restaurant parking lots were mostly empty due to the no-dining-in rule, but a few had big signs that said things like “still open for carry-out!” Please buy food from us!

Empty (or mostly empty) parking lots on Bechtle Ave., Springfield, April 3, 2020, about 7pm

Empty (or mostly empty) parking lots on Bechtle Ave., Springfield, April 3, 2020, about 7pm

Saturday, April 4, 2020 (Stay Home Day #19)

We all slept in until like 10:30. Oops? I will say this for the quarantine, at least I am usually getting enough sleep. That’s one thing I don’t mind about working from home- no commute at all. I mean, my commute is nothing to complain about, typically—maybe 20 minutes in usually light traffic?—but hey, 20 minutes is 20 minutes. Also, I can work in my pajamas. I know I keep reading things recommending that you get up and get ready like it’s a regular work day and get dressed, etc., but….there’s a crazy apocalyptic plague crisis going on outside my door, we’re lucky I got up at all.

It was beautiful again – sunny and 65 degrees – and we all spent a lot of the day outside. I finally pruned the rose bushes in the back yard. I am not much of a green-thumb, and these dozen or so rose bushes “came with the house” when we bought it. I would not have planted a bunch of rose bushes and then have to take care of them. But, since they’re here, I’d like to try to keep them alive and looking good. Last year, they got all snarly and borderline rabid-mutant-looking, with all these crazy clusters of little rose flowers. It was weird, man. So I decided this year I would actually Google “how to prune rose bushes” and take a whack at it and hope they look better this year. So I gave it a go, and worst that can happen is I’ve killed them all, right?

We ordered dinner from the local pizza place Slice of Heaven again. Delicious.

I called Mom to check in, and you guys…it is most definitely the End Times, because my mother informed me that she signed up for Facebook. Apparently, our church was only live-streaming Sunday Mass on Facebook Live at first, and she wanted to watch it. (And she got all signed up on her own! I’m so proud!) But she doesn’t think she’ll really use it. We’ll see. Some of my other relatives were telling her she should, just so she can see what pictures Ye Now-Olde Millennial Children are posting of the grandchildren. So we’ll see.

And finally, I saw another funny tweet: “WTF did I buy a 2020 planner?” So, so true. SAME.

Tweet from @PeteBlackburn: Why the fuck did I buy a 2020 planner

Tweet from @PeteBlackburn: Why the fuck did I buy a 2020 planner

I always have a regular journal, but this year I bought a goal journal (which is basically a sort of planner- it’s a Clever Fox weekly planner if anyone is interested to know that). You can brainstorm a bunch of annual goals, then break them down into more manageable chunks, and it helps you check in on yourself each week, building towards getting these things done. Each week, you choose a “main goal” and some “priorities” and…TBH it’s just a calendar and a bunch of lists, so obviously I (an over-achieving, anal-retentive, list-maker) LOVE IT. But anyway, for the past, like, THREE weeks, the only thing I’ve written for my main goal is “Survive COVID-19 Crisis.” That’s literally my only main goal until this shit dies down.

Main Goal, foreseeable future: Survive COVID-19 crisis.

Main Goal, foreseeable future: Survive COVID-19 crisis.

The main goal of “Survive COVID-19” includes (unwritten) sub-goals such as:

  • Stay alive.
  • Keep family alive.
  • Work-from-home as much as reasonably possible under the circumstances.
  • Maintain sanity.

That’s it. So far, I’m not completely failing at life yet.

And to end on a high note again, here are a few more funnies…

“We have sealed the vault until the plague passes” DOES sound cooler than “Closed until further notice.”

Someday in the future: One 2-year-old headed to grandma's.....

Someday in the future: One 2-year-old headed to grandma’s…..

COVID-19 Diary: March 30-31, 2020

This week has been very dull compared to the previous one… There’s not really much new to say about work — still working from home, both of us — so I’ll just focus on the other things.

Here’s a meme I saw around that time. I profess to be a Ravenclaw, but according to this description, I’m handling things somewhere between Ravenclaw and Slytherin:

Hogwarts Houses during Lockdown, March 2020

Hogwarts Houses during Lockdown, March 2020

Monday, March 30, 2020

Matt went to Kroger in the evening to pick up our grocery order (which we placed a few days ago- they gather everything for you, and you just show up and collect the bags). They were out of a few things we requested (sub buns, certain crackers, dry milk- for bread machine recipes), but to be honest, that could just be because the Fairborn Kroger always seems to have weird inventory issues ever since it opened (summer 2017 I think it was?), running out of seemingly weird things.

Matt said gasoline was $1.45 per gallon at one of the gas stations he passed by on his way to the grocery store. CRAZY. I’m not even sure it got that low in the 2008-2009 crash. (I took a lot of pictures of the gas prices going up, up, up, to over $4.50/gallon, that summer of 2008…and then I took some of them going down, down, down… Oh, wait, nope…just checked the “archives,” and I have some pics showing it as low as $1.37 on Nov. 22, 2008.)

Wright State has announced that most summer classes, which begin on May 11, will also be held online-only.

I saw this nifty info-graphic on Facebook, summarizing the most important points of Ohio’s current “Stay-at-Home” order:

Ohio's Stay at Home Order, as of March 30, 2020

Ohio’s Stay at Home Order, as of March 30, 2020

The Ohio COVID-19 web site is pretty darn good.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

I got some good work done fully in peace before Jack woke up that day, so that was lovely. Later he wanted to steal my wireless computer mouse, and I think was trying to hack the VPN…

Tiniest human co-worker on my home computer, March 31, 2020

Tiniest human co-worker on my home computer, March 31, 2020

We watched governor, as usual. Over 2000 confirmed cases now, and I think it was 55 dead?

We (mostly Matt) made delicious Indian food for dinner: butter chicken (from a jar), basmati rice, and Aloo Matar (potatoes, peas, & tomatoes). OMG so good.

Tiniest feline co-worker begging to be let into the office, March 31, 2020

Tiniest feline co-worker begging to be let into the office, March 31, 2020