Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts

Friday, June 5, 2020

One Week


It was approximately a year ago when I began marking "lasts"..."this is the last time I'll..."

My job has distinct seasons. Summer is more laid back and allows one time to think and create. It was approximately a year ago that I formed my events committee. My goal was to form a cohesive unit out of a gaggle of hermits who kept their faces glued to their screens 99.9% of the day. Together my work group devised activities that made people laugh and actually converse with one another. Also, food helped. Maybe the biggest mark I made on my department was the formation of the Star Catchers (not my name ~ it was a group vote).

As winter approaches, the department becomes busier and scurrier. There is much to be accomplished before the year ends, and long hours ensue. Many days I alighted at my office before sunup and left for home in the dark. This was not my favorite time of year. So, one of my countdowns was "one more year of reinsurance".

I naively thought I could count down other day-to-day activities, but that was before Corona showed up and made us all flee to the confines of our homes to work remotely. I'd envisioned a going-away party, during which I would tell everyone how much I treasured them and would miss them. Ehh. I guess I can email a few people next week.

Today as I was working, it suddenly hit me how much I know about what I do. I'm not normally a claim examiner ~ training is my responsibility ~ but in these times, I do whatever needs to be done. So as I was processing claims, I was transported back to the many weeks I sat next to a new employee in the training room and guided them through the intricacies of their brand-new job. I found today that I'm pretty good at it. Some like to know how to follow each step; the good ones also can intuit when to question something. It's not an easy skill to instill. Maybe it only comes with years and years of experience. In a week I can discard all of that, I guess. 

I feel inexplicably sad, but I must remind myself of the alternative. How many more years could I carry on with this? Every single thing has to end.

Tomorrow I shall go into the office for the first time since March 16. I will clean out my desk and dump my belongings into a cardboard box. The office is deserted, so I'll be able to say goodbye to my cubicle unimpeded. Tomorrow I will cry a tear.

Things I did this week:

  • I don't even know how Monday zoomed to Friday. This was the fastest week in history. 

Things I learned this week:

  • The Ace In The Hole SiriusXM channel is no more. It was delicious while it lasted.

So I did little and learned even less. That's how it goes when things are winding down. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Two Months

In some ways it's felt like forever. Then again, it's but a blink of an eye. My home office has existed for two-plus months. March 17 was my first day as a telecommuter, and here's the deal: I like it. I would have to be dragged back into the office, and even then I would seek out every opportunity to bolt for the door. Why didn't I know this before? Who is the fool who enjoys toiling inside a cubicle? Granted, my job doesn't normally lend itself to telework, but "in these troubled times" all rules have been abandoned. I'm just as productive at home as I was in the office ~ I have good days and not-so-good days. It all evens out.

As I approach my last three weeks of employment, I've tried to remember everything I need to tell my boss about my job that she doesn't know (which, honestly, is about one hundred per cent. I've done this for seventeen years; I am long past the need for supervision.) No one has been promoted to my position yet, so I am unable to share my wisdom with them ~ they're gonna have to learn the way I did, by making it up as they go. I am not opposed to that. In 1991 when I was promoted to a supervisory position at a former employer, the assistant told me on my first day, "I'll tell you how we do things." I replied, "Okay, and I'll tell you how I do things." Everyone must put her own stamp on a job, and God, fresh blood can only be a plus. It's true that I'm somewhat territorial, but that will subside, once I no longer care.

As I pass the two-month mark, I've thought about things I no longer do:

  • I have not set my alarm in two months.
  • I've only blown-dried my hair once.
  • Since March 18 I've not once strapped on a bra.
  • I've poured myself convenience store coffee only twice.
  • Not once have I pulled on a pair of jeans (thankfully ~ chances are they would no longer fit).
  • I haven't eaten a salad.
  • I have not washed clothes on a Saturday.
  • I applied makeup once ~ to look more presentable for a video meeting. Then I stopped caring.

Things I now do:

  • Listen to a local talk radio show that I never before gave a chance.
  • Mourn the loss of Josie at least once a day.
  • Walk every day at 9:00 a.m.
  • Retrieve the mail daily ~ to get out of the house.
  • Smoke too much.
  • Stitch my fingers sore once my shift is over.

As I hit the milestone of age sixty-five this week, my husband bought me art supplies. I'm an artist, but not a dexterous one. I'm not ruling it out, however. I never rule out anything. I'm a late bloomer ~ constantly surprised by the things I am able to do.

 So here's to art and feeding one's soul.

This song catches my breath, but it's about moving on, so it fits. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Telework - Week 9 - Sliding Into Home

My Lone Beautiful Tree

Spring is here.It had taunted us briefly with temperatures in the sixties, but then the chill returned and brought a smattering of snow with it. This time it's not a trick. Spring is hard-fought in Minnesota, like most everything. We're used to being deceived and we try to accept it, much like our quarantine. I don't wear a mask when I'm taking my lone walk to the mailbox, but I don't glad-hand people, either. I want them to keep away from me, much like in my pre-COVID life (unless they're walking a dog). My neighborhood is rather transient -- people come and people go -- I don't know any of my neighbors except for a nodding acquaintance with the lady next door. I'm not being rude by passing them by. I like solitude. I like smelling the apple blossoms and comparing my front-yard tree's magnificence to the other spindly trees on the block as I shuffle home, bills and circulars in hand.

Mostly I don't go out. I don't like serpentining around the casual walker, wary they might breathe on me. I traveled to my local convenience store on Tuesday morning, the first time I've been anywhere in more than a week. I got to say, "hi" to folks I know and then I went home. Five-second personal interaction.

My seventeen-year-old cat spends most of his day under the bed and I work eight hours a day, so I see my husband at breakfast time and during our nightly news-watching hour.

When I was younger, I was perfectly content with my own company. As the years ticked by, I found that people can be fun. I miss shooting the breeze with my work friends. Email is not the same. Texts are three-word missives.I'm afraid that as this isolation goes on I'll revert back to isolation, which is mentally unhealthy.

I've finally concluded, after two months of irrational fear, that staying away from people is stupid. Sure, I'm soon-to-be sixty-five years old and catching Coronavirus could be a death sentence -- or not. But this scene has become ridiculous. I'll take care of me; let other people live their lives. This is going to be a perpetual earthquake. Nobody, or mostly nobody, wants to conjure the devastation that will result from lock-down. I guess I'm lucky that my biggest concern is the apple blossoms.

Things I've done this week:

  • I submitted my retirement date to HR. It was harder than I expected -- it's so final. But I'm feeling pretty good about it, once I finally pulled the trigger.
  • I tweeted too much, but really, some people are so imbecilic.

Things I've learned this week:

  • Humans are pliable. I can't even fathom returning to the office at this point. Home is my workplace now. I could probably be held hostage for eighteen months and I'd eventually be okay with it. 
  • There's truly no one better than George Strait. I do wish SiriusXM would do a deeper dive into his album tracks, however. I miss my computer and all my favorite music

Friday, May 8, 2020

Telework - Week 8

I don't know what week this is. I barely know what day it is. I never leave the house.I did take a ride to Culvers on Saturday. I marveled at the green grass and the curve of the road. I walked down to the mailbox today -- the temperature was 36 degrees. I wore shorts. It really didn't matter. Probably should have shaved my legs, though.  At least I got to feel actual air. 

I can't fathom what normal life would be like. It'd probably be pretty good.I wonder if the hairdresser will hold a lottery once its doors are allowed to open. It's not that anyone sees me, but I see me. Old ladies should not wear their hair long; it's not a good look. My husband found some thinning shears in a long-forgotten dog grooming kit. He used them on himself and he looks pretty good. I'm going to give them a whirl tomorrow, along with the last remaining hair color kit I found stashed inside my bathroom vanity. If things spiral out of control, I do own a variety of hats.

As for work, I'm playing out my time. Come Tuesday, I will be down to 30 days. Oh, I'm still putting forth effort. I do have my pride. But I'm cognizant of every workday and how they're dwindling. My boss doesn't acknowledge that I will soon be gone; it's better to let it lie. Retirement will be exactly the same as working, except I will have no schedule to adhere to.TV, here I come.I wonder how long it will be before I become a crazed closet-cleaner.

I publish a monthly department newsletter, and I've decided that this month's will be all "me", albeit subtly. I won't acknowledge that it's me, but after twenty-plus years, I deserve to give myself a send-off. I won't get a going-away party, after all. A monthly feature of the newsletter is "Do You Know This Person". I send twenty questions to the chosen victim to complete and then I write up a little story about them. People used to sometimes guess the person was me, and I said, "The person will never be me." Guess what? Yes, it will. Some of the regular features include submissions from team members, but this time they'll all be from (anonymously) me. Deal. I'm not going to get a gift or anything.

Things I've done this week:

  • I searched online for face masks and Amazon has none that can be delivered before June. Really? I could potentially be paroled by June. And forget hand sanitizer. I finally found masks on Walmart's site and I should see them in a couple of weeks. Shipping costs? Pffft. This is a pandemic! Money is no object!

  • I did find a bunch of stuff I really want on Amazon; not things that will save my life, but might save my sanity.

  • I briefly pondered getting back into songwriting, as my husband is urging me to do. If I do, I already have a song title -- "Desolation Angel" -- don't steal it.

  • I ordered groceries via Instacart. I've found that the anticipation is far better than the reality.

Things I've learned this week:

  • Listening to George Strait's Ace In The Hole Radio makes me happy. I don't even click on my other favorite stations; I just keep it on George.This confirms that I've long had excellent musical taste.

Your musical selection tonight, from the album, "Beyond The Blue Neon", one of George's best:

Friday, May 1, 2020

Telework - Week 7 - Forever?

Today is the first day of May. 2020, in case you forgot what year we're in. It seems like forever that I've been working from home, and it feels like a day. I don't know what happened to April, other than that I've gained more weight than I care to acknowledge. Let's call April the "forgotten month". 

I do know that I've had more meetings while at home than I ever had in the office -- and I hate meetings. Just when I'm getting into a work groove, I need to stop for a meeting. Meetings are a means of tricking the initiator into feeling a sense of accomplishment, but they are in actuality useless. I have to admit, I do like the personal connection, albeit via video chat. Left to my own devices, I would become a ragged hermit.

Speaking of meetings, today was our quarterly all-staff meeting, held via Microsoft Teams. Naturally, we employees had tons of questions, so this was one all-staff I was actually interested in attending. I learned that our return-to-office date is "sometime after Memorial Day". Keep movin' it boys, and I will never actually return. I've begun making a list of personal items I will need to retrieve, which will occur on a Saturday, to avoid human contact. My retirement date is tentatively June 12, so I'm thinkin' I'll never actually go back. It's okay. Not really, but I try to accept the things I cannot change.

I have a month and a half to finish out my work life. This is not how I imagined it. 

How did my week go otherwise? I, for whatever reason, am not sleeping. I've dealt with the problem, intermittently, my whole life, so I don't obsess over it, although it is annoying. On the plus side, I don't interact much with people, so it doesn't matter. I was a bit testy during another endless meeting, but that was due more to "what the hell?" than to my physical exhaustion. A funny thing happens when one is nearing the end of their career -- they realize how much useless crap they are subjected to and rebel against it.

I briefly connected with my boss via phone this afternoon, and she asked me if I had plans for the weekend. I said, "Every day is the same". It's not that I'm a gadfly, but knowing that I can't go anywhere scrapes against my nerves.I would kill to simply browse the aisles at Target.

Things I've done this week:

  • Laid awake and asked God to please let me fall asleep
  • Half-listened to talk radio.
  • Rearranged my chair configuration fifty-three times
  • Watched cable news and furiously stitched my current cross-stitch project
  • Ordered a face mask from Etsy.

Things I've learned this week:

  • SiriusXM has some new limited-time stations: George Strait, The Eagles, and Prince among them; although the Prince channel seems to only play "Manic Monday" by The Bangles. George, however, has enough hits to fill a full week without any repeats.
  • I miss my personal computer. I miss my bookmarks and I miss my in-progress novel. I'm sick of jerry-rigging this office computer to access my usual sites.

Week 8 is going to be awesome (yea). 

Stay tune. I know I will.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Telework Week 6?

Has it really been six weeks? The days all seem to run together.The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I hit the stages somewhat out of order, but I think I'm definitely in stage five now. Acceptance. Home is my new workplace. It's akin to starting a new job -- one has to learn the lay of the land, get to know one's "co-workers" and their foibles. Remember where to find coffee. Feed the cat -- oh, I guess that only happens in this workplace.

I've saved money on gas, now that gas is at its 1973 price (naturally). I haven't saved money on anything else; in fact, I've spent into oblivion and I don't even care. And that's just on groceries and vices. Clearly I don't buy anything else. But groceries are very, very important. My husband is retired and I used to shake my head at the minutia he obsessed about. I understand now. This week I ordered two tomatoes from Instacart - two. I got a whole bag of tomatoes delivered. A bag of tomatoes is not like a bag of Lay's chips. Eat 'em now or lose 'em. I despaired at first, but actually, tomato sandwiches are pretty good. My entire life now revolves around the grocery lotto. 

The weather is finally turning nice. When I last left the office, a scuttle of snow covered the ground and the wind was biting. Today it's 66 degrees and sunny and I'm cloistered indoors.Seasons come and seasons go, and no virus will change that.

Working remotely poses challenges -- the remote connection is temperamental. This week was worse than most, but I have chosen to go with the flow rather than pound my keyboard. At least I am employed. 

Things I've done this week:

  • I walked down to the mailbox every day.

Things I've learned this week:

  • I'm still fiddling with my radio choices. I hit upon a local talk show that's preferable to the drone of the syndicated radio host I was listening to before. The personalities laugh a bit too much, but they have local coronavirus news and some good song parodies.
  • My only bit of entertainment is watching the first half of Tucker Carlson before I get sleepy and turn it off; then lie awake for another hour. I could just as well watch the entire show.
  • I really need to submit my official retirement date to HR, but I haven't quite accepted it yet, nor do I want to go out this way.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Telework Week 5 - Apathy

I may never go back to the office again. I wonder if my plant is still alive. Has it really been five weeks? The days tend to run together.

Humans are such adaptable creatures. I've unwittingly settled into a routine -- wake up at 4:00 (yes), totter down to the kitchen with my cat, fix him breakfast while I simultaneously attempt to brew a pot of coffee, trip back up the stairs (with my cat), will the coffeemaker to drip faster. Smoke a couple of cigarettes, check the local news, go back downstairs and fix myself a bagel, then slump up the staircase to start work, coffee mug in hand. Hot coffee is the highlight of my day.

Like virtually all industries, the shutdown has infected my job. No one is going to the doctor, no one is having elective surgeries; thus, medical claims have dwindled to a dull ooze. The hourly employees in my department were coldheartedly informed this week they would be "furloughed" for a week (a fancy term for "poor"). No one told me directly, but I got a screen shot of the letter from a friend and it stated, "as a non-exempt employee", which was my only clue that the hammer wasn't about to drop on me.Being exempt actually has an upside! My bank account is already overdrawn, so I thanked God for small indulgences.

Who ever said working from home was a money-saver? Perhaps if one didn't have to order superfluous amounts of grocery items in the hope that something might appear on the doorstep; maybe if one didn't have to stock up on nicotine on one's rare excursions outside the house or didn't have to get liquor delivered in amounts that spared delivery fees (c'mon; you do it, too.) I used to spread out my expenses; now it's all or nothing. And, BTW, where the hell is my stimulus check?

Work-wise, I'm floundering. Mornings aren't so bad, but the dearth of work for others creates a chasm for me. I do the second claim review, and if there's no first review...

In my first couple of weeks of working at home, I relished those fifteen-minute breaks and the opportunity to escape outside for sweet clean air and a chance to stretch my cramped bones. Now my mind doesn't even register breaks -- I stay inside and keep working. It all seems like too much effort. And there's always someone about who doesn't understand the six-foot rule and I have to look like an anti-social jerk and hold back while they pass in front of me, simply to slide a key inside my mailbox and retrieve worthless direct marketing mailings (could we put a quarantine on those?).

Trying to order my life has been inordinately difficult during this time. I have no access to a scanner or even a printer, so I had to beg my insurance broker to mail me a Medicare Advantage application. My dentist office is closed and I sorely need work done before my dental insurance ceases. I'm going to be cutting it perilously close.

We were informed today that our new return-to-work date is now May 18. Guess it's time to pull the trigger and submit my retirement date to Human Resources. I guess the retirement  party is out.

Things I've done this week:

  • I ventured out to my local convenience store on Monday. I made sure to bring along my bottle of hand sanitizer and waited until no customers were lurking about. My workday friends at the store now stand behind plexiglass. I spent $200.00 I don't have to stock up on cigarettes.

  • I ordered groceries online. I was suffocating in a Microsoft Team meeting and missed my shopper's messages, so I didn't get the most vital items. 

  • I ate anything and everything that caught my eye.

Things I've learned this week:

  • I despise my chair. No configuration of pillows and quilts provide any relief for my back and legs. I went on Amazon tonight and ordered an ergonomic cushion. What's one more overdraft in the scheme of things?

  • After thirty years of working at a computer, I'm developing carpal tunnel, so I've employed my friend Barb's sock/mask. She informed me she could use it as a combination wrist rest/coronavirus mask. I located one of my husband's orphan socks and rolled it up. It's gold!

  • All those wondrous things I swore I would do in "my free time" aren't happening. I've done next to nothing. And never will.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

"An Artist Of His Time"

I read an article today about Joe Diffie's albums hitting the charts again since his tragic death from coronavirus. The story stated that Joe is considered "an artist of his time". I know that was meant as a dis, but what artist isn't considered of his/her time? That's kinda how time and music works.

The intimation is that Joe Diffie could never make it in today's country environment. Absolutely true, but that's more an indictment of new country than of the artist. The Beatles would be dismissed as a garage band today; thus no one should ever listen to their music Sinatra was a flash in the pan.You know how the forties were; people were such rubes.

I fully acknowledge I have a bias toward nineties country music. In my defense, I've been around a long time and I've heard approximately a million songs in my lifetime. I venerate nineties country because it was the best. I have things to compare it to. It goes like this: nineties, sixties, eighties, seventies (which was overall bad), nineties (which was overall worse), and whatever the hell today's music is.

For the most part, music is tied up with our life experiences, but if one takes an unjaundiced look and they're willing to admit it, some musical times were superior. If I solely judged music by the times of my life that were the most momentous, I'd worship seventies country. In fact, I stopped listening to country in the late seventies because it was so putrid.There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the nineties for me, other than the sublime music poring out of my radio speakers.

Unlike some, I'm not a musical snob.I like music that's good, or at least good to my ears. I don't politicize it; I don't subscribe to what's hip or dismiss what's unhip. I have nobody to impress.

So, an artist of his time? I'll simply fold it into my heart and enjoy it, no matter what any "woke" critic dismisses.Music is one of life's few purities.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Telework - Week 4 - Settling In

Week Three was my low point, but I'm resilient.This week I've experienced neither highs nor lows -- life's temperature has lowered to a simmer. I hate cliches like "a new normal", but it's apt. No longer is ascending the stairs to begin my work day alien. It's...normal.

I'm not saying being imprisoned inside my house is enjoyable, even though I'm a homebody at heart. A simple trip to the convenience store and human interaction seems like a dream. 

My husband and I ventured out to the supermarket Saturday -- he sorely wanted ground beef and our Shipt shopper couldn't locate any at Target. Any. Of any kind. We donned our N95 masks (yes, we own two from my husband's former job) and grabbed the hand sanitizer and motored out. The market felt like an amusement park -- thrilling new air and a crisp ambience. It was exciting! The six a.m. hour is supposedly reserved for seniors, but it clearly isn't enforced (rules; pffft). Every other person in the store had arrived early, hoping to avoid human contact, but it almost felt like an apocalyptic club.Most of us were masked, like paying bandits. We left the store with two paper bags worth (apparently) forty-two dollars each, but it wasn't the end result so much as it was the experience.Bank account be damned.

Grocery delivery is a crap shoot. I truly appreciate those who venture out in public to fill a cart for someone else, but the end result rarely matches the shopping list.It's always a surprise, almost like a casino excursion, only I always pay the house.And it's become a second job awaiting the inevitable texts: "Sorry; the store is out of microwave bacon. Do you want the fifteen-dollar Hormel?" "There is no toilet paper of any brand. Sorry." I feel compelled to reassure. "Thanks so much for checking," I reply. I've ended up with some unanticipated purchases, some good; some awful.

Work-wise, I've settled in. It probably shouldn't surprise me that many people don't communicate -- the same people were mostly uncommunicative in the office, too; but I am attuned to each email I receive as if it is woven in gold thread. The solitude I should relish has become a lonely prison.

The novelty of eating is beginning to abate (luckily for me). Maybe it's simply boring. I do worry, however, about how I will replenish my tobacco supply. States are so dumb about certain things. I can get alcohol delivered, but not cigarettes? I could probably buy weed more easily (if I was of that persuasion -- sadly I'm not). 

Things I've learned/discovered this week:

  • My husband dug out my old transistor radio -- the one I kept in my office in the nineties. Unfortunately it has the peccadillo of working for a while; then dying. I thus added the iHeart radio app to my phone and searched for some non-annoying stations. I've listened to talk radio for ages, but ever since Bill Bennett retired, his replacement is clueless and irrelevant, so I needed to find something to take its place. 
  • Did you know that many iHeart stations play the exact same songs at the exact same time? How awesome.I searched for "classic country" and located some independent stations. The one I'm currently listening to is from my home state of North Dakota, and it's not pre-programmed. I almost feel like I'm back in 1995 -- I heard "What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am" and was transported back to big shoulder pads and stirrup pants. Did you know that nineties country is now "classic?" I didn't.
  • Podcasts are great, but they need to do new programs more than once per week. What else do you people have to do at this time anyway?
  • Corporations really, really want us to know how much they care. Sad piano music is our cue that a very concerned corporate message is forthcoming. Look guys, nobody is leaving their house to buy anything. Unless you have a truckload of toilet paper, maybe just save your advertising dollars for our parole date. The worst is the Lincoln ad. Buying a luxury car that I can't drive anywhere is tops on my list.. And the guy delivering the vehicle doesn't even practice social distancing! Maybe rich people are immune. In fairness, the best of the lot is Kellogg's. Thanks for an ad that actually says something.
  • Microsoft Team meetings are glorified phone calls.


  • I'm still not sleeping. There is no rational explanation for it other than unacknowledged anxiety. 
  • Breaks are sometimes forgotten. I'm online; I might as well keep working, right?
  • My normal routine has been cast to the winds. I don't wash clothes on Saturday; I don't pay bills, either. What if I forget something important?

Time to dig in. This "new normal" is going to go on for a while. Adaptability is a wondrous thing, though. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

What I Thought Versus What Is Real

When I was a kid, I sometimes thought about where I would be, who I would be, on a particular year in the future. For example, by 1995 I would be elderly and my life would be for all purposes over (I would be forty). In 2020 I would turn sixty-five if I even lived that long. My hair would be a wiry silver and I'd perhaps have taken up knitting, which would occupy my muddled mind as I creaked in my wooden rocker, peering over bifocals at the fuzzy TV screen.

Well, here I am and I still have all my faculties. Thanks to good genes, I barely have any grey at all. I've battled with weight since sometime around age fifty-five, but up 'til now I've mostly won.

Life can be roughly separated into decades. In my twenties and thirties life was being a mom and I embraced it wholeheartedly. In my forties (when I was old and decrepit) my career seemed like the most important, vital, essence of my existence.

When my fifties rolled around I suddenly became a songwriter. I'm not a bad writer, but my aspirations far outweighed reality. No, my husband and I did not hit the big time. Sometime around age sixty I thought, hey! Why not write a novel? Shoot, I'd been blogging for years; I knew how to write. How hard could it be? My two completed novels were sub-par, to be generous. I still have one in the works that holds promise, but I've temporarily lost my computer and thus my manuscript, so that little dream remains incomplete.

Now 2020 has arrived and surprise! I'm still here. 2020 was supposed to hold the promise of a new chapter, albeit the last chapter of my life. I would retire, I'd cry at my going-away party, realize how much I would miss people I've known for twenty years. Some of them would shed a tear, too. My send-off would appropriately fit the occasion.

Well, I'm sitting here tonight two months away from that momentous event and I'm confined to my home. I don't know if I'll ever return to the office. 

Far worse, I lost my best pal two weeks ago and I've dreamed about her three times so far, which should be a comfort, but just causes me to awake depressed. Josie has been on my mind all day -- sometimes I think I'll alight the stairs and there she'll be, resting her chin on the landing, her fluffy tail waggling in anticipation. Saying goodbye to her and seeing her lying as if asleep was the hardest thing I've ever had to endure.She was my buddy for seventeen years. I pray to God to take care of her every night.

Everything brings me to tears now. SiriusXM is playing "John Deere Green" by Joe Diffie and I mourn the loss of him, too.

Maybe rather than sad, I'm simply angry. Life sure isn't fair. I knew that in theory, but in practice, reality sucks.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I'm searching for hope, but tonight that light is dim. This new reality is a dystopian hell.

I thought about adding a song that was hopeful. I'm too exhausted to do an extensive search. This is what came to mind:

Friday, April 3, 2020

Joe Diffie

Nineties country music is the soundtrack of my life. The sixties were important to me because they're an imprint of my formative years, but ahhh, the nineties. There was something so optimistic, yet soulful about country in the nineties. Joe Diffie was a huge part of that.

Joe began his career doing the expected mix of ballads and catchy camp that soared to the top of the charts, but make no mistake -- this man had a set of pipes rarely equaled.

Joe Diffie was an artist who was always there on the radio, but not always noticed. In another time he would have been lauded as a musical phenom, but the nineties was so rife with shooting stars, he was but one of a multitude.

I purchased many Joe Diffie CD's -- I bought a lot of CD's; not all of them stellar, but simply owning one or two superb songs satisfied my musical cravings The first Diffie song that really hit me was this:

Then he had this one that really made me sit up and take notice:

1993 was Joe's year, although I wasn't entirely cognizant of it. I'd essentially brushed this song aside until I attended the Mandan Fourth of July parade and spied a float featuring a tableau of this song, and it has stuck with me to this day. Sadly, there is no CMT video available, but here it is:

This is one of those catchy camp songs:


Here is one with some meat on its bones:

Learning the coronavirus took Joe away seemed like a cruel joke. He was younger than me and it wasn't fair. But life isn't, is it?

Somewhere Joe knows, though, that he touched hearts. 

That counts.

Thank you, Joe Diffie, for indelible memories.

Telework Week 3 -- Drudgery and Depression

Organizing and decorating my home office no longer carries the cachet it did during weeks one and two. I'm used to the room now and like everything else in one's house, it's rarely even noticed. I have found, however, that all those special office supplies we think we can't live without are simply trinkets to collect. I use a small legal pad and a pen. Sometimes a sticky pad. That's it. And I barely use those.

In Week 3 many people's nerves are fraying. I only know this via email communications, of course. Attitudes that were once excused or ignored are now confronted. I know because work friends have forwarded me some of their email exchanges with other people. For my part, I have endeavored to remain upbeat in my correspondence, knowing that others aren't having any fun, either. I did receive one snarky response today, and I took a few minutes before deciding how to reply. (I let it go.)

Wednesday was my worst day. My system slowed to the point of complete inertia and then froze up completely several times (shut the PC off, re-log in, authenticate my login, try again; lather, rinse, repeat).I finally shut if off and walked away; did some laundry; tried to lower my blood pressure. Worse, I knew I'd have to face the same imbroglio the next day. I can't expect my IT Department to solve my problem; I think it's simply a matter of fifty million people or so gobbling up bandwidth.

Working from home has become complete drudgery. It's no longer novel; it's tedious. Telework does not bring freedom -- I rarely leave this room. I probably walked around -- no, I know I walked around -- more in the office than I do at home.

Shall we talk about depression? It may have been Tuesday night, and it was my own fault. I flipped on the TV when I lay down for the night, and as the minutes ticked by, the reports grew increasingly horrifying. I understand why cable news does that, but mitigate, people! Any rays of hope at all, folks? What I gleaned was, don't leave my house under any circumstances. If I do, it's essentially a death sentence. And maybe I've already contracted the virus -- the incubation period can be up to fourteen days.I visited my local convenience store twice in the past two weeks. Should I be drawing up a will?

What no one on TV will (or can) answer is how long this will go on. May 4, our original return-to-work date, now seems like a cruel joke. My tentative retirement date is June 12 -- will I even be able to return to the office to retrieve my personal belongings? Is this called "going out with a whimper"?

Things I've learned this week:

  • Online grocery shopping is the highlight of my week, as frustrating as it is.Why is there such a shortage of paper towels? The hell with toilet paper -- I have a cat who barfs regularly (as cats do) and paper towels are an essential item. I've begun weighing whether I really should be wasting a half-sheet of paper towel for tasks I previously whipped off a good-sized wad to tackle.Luckily I can blow my nose with toilet paper, because facial tissue is non-existent as well. I do tip my Shipt shopper well, because that's a thankless, health-endangering job. But all in all, I'd be tickled to do my own shopping.
  • I've spent all the bill money on groceries. The piper will be piping soon, but right now I need snacks.
  • There are things I'd like to order from Amazon, but I'd feel too guilty making a driver deliver my impulse buy when there are people who really need stuff, like paper towels (there aren't any, by the way; but I'm just saying.)
  • "The Office" reruns are the highlight of my week.
  • Being able to do my regular job anytime soon is a pipe dream. The whole reason I applied for the trainer position in 2003 was because processing claims all day made me want to hurl myself off a high precipice. Guess what I'm doing now.

Things I've done this week:

  • I gained probably five pounds.
  • I took a shower almost every day.
  • I downloaded a prayer app, but I keep forgetting to reference it.
  • I slept fitfully and my dreams were all disturbing.

There is always tomorrow (I say rhetorically, since tomorrow is Saturday and I won't be working). I have fits of despondence, but my fallback outlook is positivity. Raise a glass with me that Week 4 will be a revelation.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Aesthetics - The Home Office

If only mine looked like this.

It's not as if I had any advance warning. I found out on a Friday and by Monday afternoon I was hauling freshly-configured computer equipment and hastily snatched manila folders and legal pads and sticky notes out to my car. I dumped everything in our second bedroom, dreading the colossal task of crawling under my desk and unplugging six hundred twisted cables and dusty power cords and sticking every loose plug into the back of my new computer; crossing my fingers that God would have mercy on me and make everything work. Everything didn't. The whole process consumed one and a half hours, and I found I had a worthless second monitor that chose to flash red, blue, and green bars instead of the anticipated helpful work screen. I actually worked with that monstrosity on my desk for half a day until I decided to ditch it to an empty corner of the room.

Thus I had a room littered with spare computer parts and cables; a room that already was filled to overflowing. This was heretofore my kick-back room, where I smoked and watched TV and blogged on the weekends and paid my bills online. And listened to music.Now it was suddenly my workplace for eight hours every day, and it was ugly.

Sitting in a tiny room for an entire work shift, one not only feels claustrophobia creeping in, but they notice everything that's aesthetically wrong. And it begins to grate.

Our townhome is tiny -- there is no "magic closet" where extraneous items can be stuffed. And people give me things. It's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but there are only so many knick-knacks I can accommodate before the whole place implodes. Add to that mishmash hideous ominous "black things" - spare monitors and hard drives and speaker cables - and you can imagine my depression. Today I disguised the detritus as best I could. At least I can now glimpse it and not be horrified. The boxes the fake plant is resting on have been swaddled in leftover Christmas wrap. The guitar is disguising cardboard Amazon shipping boxes holding spare computer parts.

My setup is far from ideal. Maybe by the time I get to go back to the office, I'll have it configured to my satisfaction. I'm thinking there will be several tweaks between now and then.

My bottom-line advice: make your work space as tolerable as you can. You've got to live with it.

But it's only Saturday night -- I can be messy and no one will be the wiser.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Teleworking - Week One!

I remember the days before computers existed, but that seems so much like ancient history it strains my cortexes to try to conjure the memories. I remember performing my job duties on an IBM Selectric typewriter. I remember when the only means of contacting a co-worker or a boss was by the telephone plugged into the wall. And if their line was in use, oh well; try again later. Answering machines? What? Call waiting? 

I never planned to work at home. Sure, I wanted to, but the nature of my job made that prospect impossible. Until now. Now anything goes. At least as of this week. 

This week everything we ever knew changed. I'm confined to home (unless I want to risk my life, which I don't). Monday, I brought home a hastily-configured work computer because My Old Trusty isn't exactly trustworthy and I couldn't afford to gamble that MOT would actually allow me to connect to my worksite. I spent an hour and a half unconnecting MOT and five minutes hooking up Work Computer (Why do home computers have so many moving parts and connections? Hello, PC companies!)

I'm used to working with two monitors, but alas only one of the monitors I brought home actually works. I'm not going to bitch about small annoyances; our IT Department had approximately four hundred employees to set up in three days. I'm keeping my mouth shut.

Using a strange computer, though, has its challenges. When I need to do my personal tasks, like banking, Work Computer doesn't know any of my logins. It took me far too long to locate and sign into SiriusXM, and when I did, I found that Work Computer's speaker (one speaker) is so tinny it was more annoying than soothing. I quickly signed out. So instead, I listen to cable news all day long, and hear the same stories about Coronavirus over and over; and because there is no new news, I tend to tune it out. It's simply background noise; something to mask the silence.

What have I learned about teleworking? There is good and there is not-so-good.


  • I don't need to set an alarm. I get up early and sign in when the system allows me to. 
  • I only wash my hair when I feel like it.
  • My makeup drawer has not been pulled open all week.
  • I don't have to pick out clothes in the morning. I wear the same combination of yoga pants and pullover every day.
  • No commute! When my day is over, it's over. Look! I'm home already! 
  • I'm more focused, because I have no one to chat with (see "bad").
  • I'm saving money -- no frozen dinners; no gassing up the SUV.
  • My laundry (and dishes) are done! Saturday laundry day is a relic of the past.


  • I need a better chair, seriously. My back and legs are killing me. I've tried several configurations of throw pillows and foot rests and still haven't gotten it right.
  • Diet: I'm eating too much. And the wrong foods. I keep telling myself to get it together, but my only break is when I can grab a meal from the kitchen, and we're not healthily stocked.
  • No fresh air. I will resolve this issue as soon as the weather and wind allow. I will take walks. I need to get out of this room!
  • Social interaction withdrawal. Dang, I'm not even an extrovert, but I miss talking to people! I email them and they don't answer right away, and I don't understand why they're not as needy as I am.
  • No dividing line. The workplace, at least, was a different environment.I didn't necessarily like going there, but it was different from home.

I will try to offer tips for surviving the work-at-home experience in my next post (hint: have plenty of caffeine on hand), but for now, this is where things stand with me. 

All in all, the pluses outweigh the minuses. But that's week one.  

I've got at least three more weeks to go.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Thanks, Virus -- Thanks A Lot

Get It Now! Prices Slashed! Unlike Hand Sanitizer!


I'm old enough to have lived through some trying times. I was eight years old when our president was shot and killed. Even my parents hadn't experienced that before. Granted, they'd lived through World War II, which was traumatic enough. But an assassin propping his rifle atop a window ledge and firing it at the president? It became a tired question:  "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" Of course, no one asks that anymore, except perhaps inside nursing homes.

In 2001, we all felt like the world was exploding. I was at work that Tuesday morning, headphones plugged into my portable radio, when I heard about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. The internet was clumsy then. The only news site I could maneuver to was MSNBC. My workplace's workout room had one TV mounted on the wall, and little by little, a cluster of us converged beneath it. We didn't know what was happening -- no one did. As the morning ticked on, reality sank in. Some of us trundled outside for morning break and we scanned the sky for wayward airplanes. Suddenly the question became, "Where were you on nine-eleven?"

I've never experienced a pandemic. Neither did my parents. My grandparents did. There were no antibiotics or ventilators in 1919 -- there was palliative care administered by nurses wearing white caps and white hosiery. There were priests conducting last rites. In 2020 we suddenly have another one. What? In the twenty-first century?

I'm someone who always thinks everything will turn out okay. When news of the virus was first reported, I felt it was completely overblown. I might have even clucked my tongue while watching the reports. In my defense most of the news is overblown. Then suddenly my workplace began asking strange questions, such as, what's your phone number; do you have a computer at home? My pitiful timing caused me to take today off, and lo and behold, we received an email that informed us we would need to prepare to work from home for a month. I'm not prepared! My computer won't connect to the workplace system -- something about an authenticator app that's not configured correctly (I learned after three hours of trying various remedies and finally reaching someone from our IT Department). I'm counting on my fingers the number of vacation hours I've stored up, which I was counting on as a dollar cushion for when I retire in June. I'm finally resigned to going in to work on Monday (to a ghost town) to get the needed system do-dads in order to slink back home, away from the germs and (fingers crossed) do my job from home.

I'm in the vulnerable category -- over sixty; lungs compromised. I have a stuffy nose -- do I have it??

And I don't have enough coffee! I'm going to run out of coffee and if I have to work here at home, how will I exist? I can't send my sixty-five-year-old spouse out to buy me coffee. I wasn't prepared for this! How did this thing happen? My Amazon packages that will be delivered to my workplace will sit on the shelf for a month. HR sent an email that said someone lives with someone who was potentially exposed to the virus. Who is this person?? The one who sits in front of me?? Someone I sat in a meeting with yesterday, blissfully unaware??


All over a stupid-ass virus. Thank you, Wuhan.

I was trying to think of songs to calm me, and for some reason I came up with this. Maybe it's the tinkling intro.

I'll be better tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow will look brighter.

It has to.