My Quarantine Life: Week 27

Jude & Jolene spending time together.

It is now officially over 6 months that I have been in quarantine. I have to admit, when this all started back in March, I thought it was something that would just end in a few weeks and everything would go back to normal. I thought it was going to be like Y2K or the Mayan “End of the World” or something, where we all roll our eyes after and laugh about “those few weeks in quarantine.”

Unfortunately, this virus is the real thing. It is here, it is bad, and it is lethal.

Everyone talks about “the new normal.” After 6 months of living with this virus, I don’t think this is “the new normal” anymore. Things will never go back to how they were before. This is our normal. It has changed drastically, but here we are. We need to figure out how to live with this virus, as there seems to be no end in sight. 

From the beginning, I have said that I can survive the pandemic as long as I can get food and I am employed. I am very grateful to still be employed and pray that nothing happens to my job. I know that many people have lost their jobs and are hurting. I am very privileged to not only still have a job, but that I have a job that is able to accommodate my needs and keep me safe from exposure while still allowing me to work.

Onto the food issue … I’m not going to lie. The past 6 months have been the most difficult time I have had getting food since I grew up as a child and had to ration my weekly $1 food stamp to try to get food. I had explained this in The Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 1. I never thought I would need survival skills I used as a child in the 1980s as an adult, but here we are.

Instacart is the best service ever. I have now had two Instacart deliveries, and am looking to schedule my third in the next week or so. Instacart is helping me to feel normal again. I am able to get allergy-friendly food when I need it so that I am not hungry. God bless Instacart. It is literally saving both my life and my sanity in this pandemic right now. 

Thanks to Instacart, I am now able to get food on a regular basis for the first time in 6 months. This is the first time in half a year that I am not worried over when I am going to be able to eat again or if I have enough food left in the house for tomorrow and how I am going to get food again.

Now that my need for food has been taken care of (again, God bless Instacart and the Instacart shoppers), I am able to better focus on the priority of work. I need to work to be able to pay my bills.

The fantasy of working from home for a few weeks is officially over. Working from home appears to be reality for the foreseeable future. I currently still have a box of “work things” near my front door. I had this idea that the pandemic would be over in April and that I would just put that box in my car and return to the office. That hasn’t happened, so time to face reality.

Working from home has been a struggle this entire time because the rural area in which I live does not have the infrastructure to best support work from home. Broadband internet service is not available where I live. I get internet from a work provided hotspot that received very spotty and very little reception. Even though I have the internet for basic searches and email, I lack the internet to be able to do anything strenuous such as video or any type of conference meetings. I can’t even watch a Youtube video.  I have also lacked hardware to be able to work from home. 

Maintaining adequate work-life separation has been hard. My work life has invaded my home, which is my “safe space.” Early in the pandemic, I tried changing my designated work area. This resulted in multiple challenges. I chose an area upstairs, but had no table or chair to work from, so I was sitting on the floor with the laptop on a box. The phone was downstairs and I cannot go up and down stairs all day (with my disability, I can typically do stairs once a day). This meant I could not get to the phone for phone calls. When the weather got warm, the upstairs is the hottest part of the house. I really needed to work downstairs to be close to my AC unit and to be able to reach the telephone.

Unfortunately, working downstairs means I work from my kitchen table and my work life invades my home life with negative consequences.

Working from home is less than ideal and has been a struggle on multiple levels. I would much rather work at work, but no job is worth my life.

After 6 months of enduring these challenges, I finally decided to make an investment on two items that will hopefully improve my work from home situation.

First, the ideal place to work from home is upstairs. This would create a more definitive work-home separation that I so desperately need. Now that the weather is finally cooler (we are getting frost tonight), working upstairs is more feasible temperature-wise.

I need to be next to the phone to work from home. My employer helped by providing me with an extra-long phone cord so that I can take the phone from where it is plugged into the phone receptacle downstairs and take it upstairs. This requires taking the phone through 4 different rooms, and creates a tripping hazard not only for me, but for the cats. They run and get caught on the cord, and then the phone goes flying and slams into the wall. After I personally had 3 falls due to this phone cord, resulting in bruises and other injury, I decided this extra long phone cord is a bad idea.

So I decided to spring $25 and ordered a cordless phone. It has yet to arrive, and I am not sure if it will even work. I don’t think I have a wall outlet to plug it in. This idea may be another dead end, and I may have wasted $25. I will find out when it arrives. If it works, it will solve my problem. I will be able to have the phone near my work space. If it doesn’t work, then I will just continue to suffer as I have been for the past 6 months. At least I am employed.

The second thing I have done to try to move my work space upstairs is that I ordered a table for $25 also. That has yet to arrive. If I have a table, and take one of my lawn chairs upstairs, then I can use the table and lawn chair to create a work from home space upstairs that is not my kitchen table. I am pretty sure the $25 table will work. I am just waiting for it to be delivered from the place I ordered it. 

The last thing I wanted to do was to spend that $50 in this pandemic. I do not have $50 to spend with all the money I am spending on groceries (3 times more than usual due to price increases). However, I have to do something different so that my work stops invading my home. 

Putting a table and chair upstairs will allow me to create a work from home space upstairs that is out of my living space. The only thing missing is the phone. Hopefully the cordless phone idea will work. I have to wait a few weeks to see. 

I was talking with one of my friends recently who is also working from home. She expressed similar sentiment about her work from home space. It is important to have distinct separation between work and home. She had said that she had been working in her garage this summer, as it was cooler in there. She just moved her work space back into the upstairs of her home for winter, now that it is getting cooler. It appears that other people are moving their home office spaces seasonally as well. 

If I can get my plan to work, I think I am going to be in a similar situation. In the winter, I will work upstairs and have a good work-home separation. In summer, I will have to work downstairs. This means that work will be invading my safe home space, but it is unavoidable due to temperatures. At least this winter, I will get some respite and have better work-home separation. 

I don’t want to even think about having to work from home next summer. I am trying to concentrate on right now. Right now, I need better boundaries between my work life and my home life. I am hoping that I can manage to make the transition to a new work from home space. We will see if the technology and the logistics cooperate to make that happen.

Right now, I am able to be self-sufficient. I can now get food with Instacart, I can cut my own hair,  I have plenty of things to do at home. I am definitely not bored. As long as I am able to continue to work from home, I am set up to ride out this pandemic safely. 

At the end of the day, I am so grateful for this time I have to be home with my cats. Even if I do catch COVID and die, or end up unemployed and lose the house, I hope that my cats remember this time we have together and know how much I love them.

This pandemic is still going to get worse before it gets better. Numbers in my county have been doubling daily. We have more COVID cases in my town right now than we did back in April. Many more people will die.

Right now I am grateful that we are together and that we are safe. It is a relief to be able to get food again. I am so happy to be employed. We will keep taking one day at a time until it all ends. 

 

Hello, again

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Kickin’ it old school with a landline home phone

Hello, again. It’s me. The year is 2018 and I have a landline again like it’s 1993. The house phone is a french blue 1960s type with a receiver that actually sits in the cradle and push-button dialing. If no one is home, there is no machine and no voice mail to leave a message. You just have to try again, or text my cell phone.

The house I bought is in a rural part of the county, where only one cell carrier has service, and that “service” is spotty at best. Luckily, my cell phone is already affiliated with the one carrier that offers the occasional service. The phone constantly oscillates between no service and one bar. I can generally send and receive text messages. If a cloud goes by in the sky, then service is completely disrupted and text messages have to be sent again. Welcome to rural America.

The funny thing is, I don’t consider my house location to be rural. I am actually closer to my work location in the city than where I was living previously. My commute time has literally been cut in half. The house is in a village where I have a store, library, laundry, churches, parks and schools all within walking distance. My apartment was located on a busy highway on a dead end street – you literally had to drive everywhere and could only walk as far as the end of the driveway.

I considered the apartment to be rural and cut off from services. Especially the winter where we were literally snowed in for about four days because even the snow plow truck got stuck at the end of the road. I do not consider my house to be rural at all. Apparently, though, when it comes to cell service, I am rural.

This is the first time in 15 years that I have a landline. The phone was just connected today, and it is comforting to have it there. I can now fully communicate with the world by all means – text by cell phone and voice by landline.

The house phone was connected at the best time. Today I had the day off for various doctor appointments. Apparently one doctor office was tying to get a hold of me for additional blood work. Because my cell phone does not receive voice service at the house, I did not receive the message they left on my cell phone until I was already in the city at the doctor office. The cell phone never rang at the house and only indicated it had voice mail when I drove the four miles into the city for the appointment.

I’m sure the novelty of the landline will wear off once telemarketers figure out the line is active and start calling. That is pretty much a given in today’s day and age. For right now, I am enjoying the peacefulness of knowing that if I have an emergency, I can call for help. I can call for anything, really. I can even call the library to register for craft class without having to walk over there to register.

When the snow starts flying this winter, I will have phone service to be able to call and talk to people. This is key because I am pretty sure that in winter, I will lose the ability to text from my cell. If I have to resend a text message because a cloud decides to float by, I can only imagine what it will be like with snow flying.

Speaking of snow, what did people do back in the day before treadmills were available for winter running? Well now, they ran outside, and shoveled snow, of course.

I have not used my gym membership in about 6 months, since maybe March. That is over $400 a year I am wasting on something I don’t use. I am still running, but I run outside. Now that I live in the village, I can literally lace up my mizunos and take off from my front door. At the apartment, I would always have to drive somewhere to run because it was too dangerous to run the busy highway on which I lived.

I basically cancelled my gym membership to pay for my monthly phone service. I am no longer going to drive someplace to run. How ridiculous is that? It’s it ironic to sit in traffic waiting to drive someplace to run on a treadmill? Now I can run right out my front door and down the street. If the weather is bad this winter, I can workout indoors. The house is big enough and I no longer have neighbors below to worry about. I can make as much noise jumping around to Jillian Michaels doing mountain climbers and burpees as I need.

I’m also looking to get back into the pool this winter and do some swimming. The off-season is typically when I go hard on the cross training to prepare for the next running season. This year, my goal is going to be swimming. I will run outside all I am able, and swim when it’s below zero out. A pool membership in my area is a lot more affordable than a full-on gym membership with access to all the facilities. In fact, I will probably just pay-per-visit or get a punch card.

It’s also time to get back to basics for my health. The four months of hell I lived through trying to address my housing crisis really did a number on me. I have had mini-strokes. The doctors are now watching me to be sure I don’t have another full on episode like I did a few years ago. It’s kind of important that I follow the directions and am able to communicate with the world.

Hello, again. It’s me. We’re trying to get this home ownership thing under control and back on a normal schedule again. Let’s hope for a quiet fall and end of 2018. I’ll be partying like it’s 1990-something with a throwback landline phone. That’s about my speed.