Overcoming Writing Anxiety

As I write more news stories,  I’m struggling with this hurdle: anxiety.

There’s no rational basis: I haven’t received any negative feedback. 

It’s not writer’s block– this is different. It’s about pervasive insecurity. Journalism is important- thousands of people read it. Every story needs to be detailed and correct. If you misspell someone’s name or worst– get something wrong– it’s brutal. You will be judged not just by your editor, but by your peers and the community. 

You build trust as a reporter by consistently getting it right. Exhibiting tenacity. Quoting people accurately. Treating your interview subjects well. Remaining unbiased. You’re better off double or triple checking your facts and quotes. But at the same time, you have deadlines. So you do your best to be fair, accurate and quick. And hope it’s enough.

Also, inevitably there will be opposite opinions on your work: some love it, some are haters. That’s just the nature of the business. So you can’t worry about approval of your sources, subjects or the public. You listen to your editors and peers, who give you constructive  criticism about an angle you might have missed or a compliment when you nail it and write a great lead.

You aim to be honest above all. 

The motto of The Daily Eastern News, my college newspaper, is “Tell the truth and don’t be afraid.”

I’m working on it. I’m persisting. 

I have to psych myself up for interviews before I make contact to schedule them.

I don’t know why this is happening now– I was never like this 15 years ago as a journalism major and then cub reporter.

I suppose it’s because I’m coming up on 40 and I HAVE been away 15 years. Luckily right now I’m a stringer, which means I’m not on a daily deadline like a staff writer. My editors give me freedom to take a little longer to write my stories. But the surprise has been that during this COVID-19 chaos, journalism has been the most steady work.

I’m like a singer who can only sing with her eyes closed. Afraid to play an actual venue, though I know I’m good.

All the feedback has been good. I was even told for my current and last assignments to write what I need and not worry about word count. That demonstrates trust in my abilities and professional judgement. That is a win for me, however you look at it. But I never realized this until a friend pointed it out to me today, a bestie. A sister who always reminds me who I am when I feel inadequate or frustrated with myself. I worry that my stories are merely average, that it could have been done better.

I fret about my assignments precisely because my writing is sacred to me.

I want it to be excellent, remarkable, creative. Above all, accurate and objective.

I feel I need to pray over this. Ask Jesus for focus, confidence, decisiveness.

Maybe pray to St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers.

Lord, bless me with insight, objectivity, courage to ask the right questions and resolve to write the best article possible. Grant me power and speed so that I can write more stories quicker, and make more money in doing so.

I ask this as your humble child,

 

Amee

A Stolen Breakfast and Quality Time

The past three days, I’ve enjoyed lunch with my father, wearing masks except to eat.

Saturday I needed to buy new tires for my car, and he met me while I was waiting.

I had gone in Friday to have my car evaluated since my tire blew Thursday night. I apparently ran over a nail, and it slowly flattened. I didn’t even hear anything or notice any weird dragging like it normally would– he noticed and pointed it out to me. We got the spare on and made it to Discount Tire. They said there was no repairing it, two others were looking terrible. The fourth was okay because it had been replaced about six months ago. So it was more economical to just get three.

My Dad was there as always, ready to go to bat for me if they were going to overcharge. But I told him it’s okay, it’s a good deal and I can cover it. Thank you, stimulus check! I even said he didn’t have to be there Saturday, I would handle it all. But then Saturday I got there for my appointment was sad to realize he didn’t go, and I missed him.

So I called and asked if he wanted to have lunch with me while I waited on my car. And he was happy to go. The shop is about five minutes from his home anyway.

The best thing about my Dad is that he’s always excited to make plans with me, however simple or dumb they may appear. We just like spending time together. How lucky am I?

So we went down the street to Braum’s and that was great!

Yesterday we went to Dollar Tree and purchased some silk flowers to take to my mother, my sister, and my aunt’s graves today. After that, Village Inn.

And THAT is when it gets funny.

He ordered an omlette like he often does, which came with a side of pancakes. I got french toast with bacon! I haven’t done that since December. I only ate two of four.

Things were SO different. There were what seemed to be white plywood boards fastened above all the booths. There was blue tape on the tables. The laminated menus were gone and instead it was just a smaller sheet of paper with a reduced menu. No salt and pepper on the table.

I was driving and in the parking lot, he realized he’d forgotten his leftover box.

He was positively indignant!

“Why didn’t they stop me?”

I teased him with a reminder that he’s always in a rush. I call him “White Rabbit” sometimes because he’s always in a hurry even when there’s PLENTY of time! lol

But that was no excuse, in his mind.

“Go back in,” he asked me. “They stole my breakfast!”

I laughed and obeyed. As I suspected, the table was cleared.

“I’m sorry Dad,” I said, still giggling.

Today we went to the cemetery and the convent for Memorial Day and place the flowers we bought yesterday. And had lunch at Nu-Way, a local loose meat joint.

He always wants extra napkins and I never remember usually.

“I will be your napkin ferry,” I volunteered, and he was happy.

We ate greasy sammiches with pickles, mustard and onions and large ROOT BEERS!

We toasted.

He had on a red shirt, which really is a great color on him.

I feel very lucky indeed to have all this time with my father, three days in a row.

Not everything is bad in this pandemic world.

 

Retail Therapy: Five Days a Stocker and Why I Loved It

This week I worked 12-hour shifts as a stocker in a local store and I loved it.

When my temp agency e-mailed me last week about the opportunity, I only hesitated for a moment. Would I be able to lift and carry 50 pounds? Could I handle the long shifts? But the pay-off and the total hours superseded my doubts. I accepted and was ecstatic!

The store was on the West side of town– about a 22 minute drive.

My shifts started at 10 a.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday- Thursday.

It was so different from any work experience I’ve had prior– usually I’m a fastidious note-taker when training in a new job. But this was just five days and it was mostly labor rather than mental work. There were no computers, no cash register screens to learn.

So I just asked where I could be helpful and I was paired up with a veteran by the manager. I just followed her directions and kept up her fast pace. We started by putting together rolling containers, which were all together in the back room. They needed to be opened, then fitted with a cardboard piece at the bottom to help pack them. They were wheeled either inside the store to be loaded with products or outside to the pod.

Some roll containers were already packed and needed to be unloaded onto the long shelves spanning the aisles, called gondolas. But first, we had to pack up the existing products to move them and make room for the re-set.

It’s very active work– I was pushing the empty roll containers, reaching above and using my shoulders. Or I was pulling them backwards, since that was easiest for me if it was loaded. Then there is squatting to pick up boxes, using step-ladders to reach the shelves if needed. Twisting and moving. Carrying the totes and boxes and products.

I was paired with Rebecca.  She was about my height with red hair she wore in a long ponytail with two hair ties. She was in her 60’s as she told me later. She was mostly serious but I also patient and encouraging. I respected her hustle. We worked as a team for most of the assignment.

Rebecca knew exactly where different categories of products were in the store and how much to put in the gray plastic boxes called totes. In the past I would have asked if we could pack more inside them but I just accepted her decision. When she asked for more totes, I got them. They closed with two flaps that had a jigsaw interlocking system. When were out of totes we moved on to assembling cardboard boxes with tape and labeling them. I liked the simplicity.

We also were cleaning the metal shelving on the gondolas and removing the shelves. Sweeping the floors and collecting all the debris and dust. Most of them wore soft gloves to protect their hands and give them a better grip. Everyone wore casual t-shirts and jeans, with some type of sneaker. Some wore masks. I started out wearing mine but quickly discovered it was too hot and put mine away. I wore it if I was cleaning with fumes or sweeping with a lot of dust, however.

Some shelf units were kept intact and put onto the roll containers, so that we could load up products in the same order and transfer to the new displays, as dictated by the plan-o-grams, visual maps of exactly where every product should be placed as well as how it the shelving or display should be assembled.

The shifts dragged a bit at first, but our manager was good about giving us breaks on time. They would say exactly what time to be back, which I appreciated. Each day we had a full hour and two fifteen minute breaks. I started off bringing a Bento box packed, and it sufficed the first day. But the rest of the week I craved more protein, and ended up getting fast food from the nearby establishments.

I wasn’t sure how that would fare with my Diabetes, but surprisingly I didn’t spike. I even had iced coffee, some soda, and a Snickers bar– which I have avoided since December when I was diagnosed. I’ve followed the rules and majorly overhauled my eating habits. My doctor was impressed at my first A1C visit in March. It seems that I’m healthy enough and obedient enough that my Diabetes has mostly reversed. I will make a second A1C appointment this month and he said if the result was similar again to the 5.4 I got the first time, we can cut my meds in half!

There was a core traveling team who only do re-sets– each week they are in a different state. They work two weeks on, one week off. They were always moving- each person seemed to have a preferred task that they had mastered. They functioned together well and were welcoming and patient in showing me how to assist them. They were affectionate and clearly very close– like a family. I heard them saying “Mom” often– and I think they meant Rebecca. She was very maternal and encouraging.

On my last day, I over-slept and woke up in a panic. My alarm hadn’t gone off. I called my temp agency and she confirmed I could still go in. When I arrived no one gave me any grief, even the manager and the man from corporate. They just greeted me as normal and I got to work. I thought for sure I’d be let go. But maybe they understood what a hard transition it is to suddenly work 12 hour days. Especially since due to COVID-19 I have not been working at my store job for about a month. I have been doing my best to write news articles, but that was only income. I missed leaving the apartment every day. I missed the self-esteem that comes with putting in a hard day’s work.

I’m fascinated to find that people have so many negative stereotypes about retail workers, namely that they are un-skilled, low-class people. But I was treated with more respect and trained more thoroughly in this job than any other I have experienced. It’s equal parts labor and mental work– there are many steps to completing a successful re-set.

Once the gondolas are in place and the shelving is assembled again, the plastic strips have to be taken off, then new ones applied. Each strip has has a track where a paper strip is inserted, spaced the perfect distance for the incoming products and where they will fit on the shelf. The displays have to be put together with peg boards, with metal hangers strategically placed in the right peg hole so everything is spaced to fit. Then the products need to be transferred. Pushers are installed on some displays, for things like canned beverages, shaving cream, cologne, deodorant, etc.

On my last day I got to help install the pushers. By then I was picking things up quicker, working faster and with more energy. It was satisfying to snap them into place on the plastic tracks. As we worked side by side, I got to know my co-workers. They were relaxed, yet focused.

My biggest take-away from this retail experience is the value of team work. It felt incredible to be collaborating with others on almost every task. There were so many things on our agenda, there was no other way to achieve them but in sync.

Also, the entire time I was working, I was never worried about COVID-19. The job was a respite of normality where people were just hustling and I was too busy to obsess over what the news might be or my own risk being around these people. I felt safe and got through the week without any symptoms. Three days later, I’m still healthy.

People think all retail workers do is punch a cash register or fold clothes. But there is so much unseen work that is behind all that you take for granted when you enter any store.

Having done that work myself, I am humbled. I will never again idly take a item for my cart and then leave it somewhere random if I change my mind. I’ll consider with more thought if I really can afford or need it first. And if I notice I need to wait on that purchase, I will turn around and put it back myself.

Matching up products with the stickers is more difficult than you’d imagine. The names on the stickers don’t always correspond with the brand label. If that doesn’t work, then you look at numbers. Each allotted product on a shelf specifies how many spots on the shelf that product should occupy, and how many of those items are in the package. Everything needs to match.

I got super frustrated when doing one of my last tasks– unloading the paper plates from a packed roll container and then several boxes. There were so many small variations in the packaging and the types of plates.  Luckily I had someone helping me– it was like a game of memory once you got a few figured out. The chief thing I needed help with was the top shelf and placing the overstock even above that. We helped each other but didn’t chat. It was a companionable, productive silence.

And I’ll never forget the girl who tried to dissuade me– “Paper plates are confusing,” she warned me. “You should do something else.” She’s at least 15 years younger than me– a bit uncouth, dressed sloppy and with a loud a mouth. She snapped at me another time when I asked her if I could help her. “Ask a manager, ask someone else,” she retorted.

I knew better than to trust her. And honestly, paper plates are very light compared to a lot of other products that would be heavy to lift. How did I know she didn’t want that job for herself? I wasn’t going to let her convince me I couldn’t handle this.

“I’ll figure it out,” I said, and proceeded.

And I did. We got everything in it’s place and then moved on to toilet paper.

It was a good way to end the shift. I stood up for myself and proved her wrong.

I’m proud of myself for embracing this assignment. I’ll happily accept another like it if I’m so blessed! I checked in with the manager and he said I’m definitely rehirable!

So I learned the job, adjusted to the hours, and completed the work to satisfaction.

I learned that I can do more than I expected. I just need to be willing.

 

 

 

 

 

A Gifted Mask: A Gift of Love

Just now I picked up a free sanitary mask from my Aunt Linda, whose friend made several. Because I’m working retail, she saved one for me and sent me a text asking when I could come get it.

I feel taken care of and loved. Many people around the world are making free masks to combat coronavirus exposure, but most are being donated to hospitals and healthcare workers.

My hours have been cut, but I need one anyway because I’m immunocompromised due to transplant medications I need every day to live and also Type II Diabetes. I’ve been staying home as ordered.

I drove to her home where it was in a plastic bag on the porch. She waved at me from inside the garage. We did not hug although normally we’re both big huggers.

It’s so pretty– baby blue with pink flowers, and a filter! It’s comfortable to wear.

These moments are making this time of Stay-at-Home and quarantine bearable.

Thank you, dear Linda.

Tiger King by Text

My younger sister Catt and I watched “Tiger King” tonight from Kansas and Illinois!

I wanted to try Netflix Party but she doesn’t have it anymore– so we compromised. She has a fire stick, which gives her access to anything on Netflix. We made plans to watch “Tiger King” at 8 p.m. together. We made this plan earlier in the week and it was great having that to look forward to. We only watched the first episode, and it was just as epic as everyone’s been saying!

We decided to watch it “together” by texting and sending short Marco Polos in real time.

The funny thing is, we could do this any day. I’ve been in Kansas now 1.5 years– and I really miss her. We’ve been inseparable since high school– 1997- when we met at the bus stop. I was a junior, she was a freshman. For some ridiculous reason after school we would often just hang out on the sidewalk for two hours talking when we could have easily just gone to one another’s homes instead! We have the same stupid sense of humor and both have dark features, so people often mistake us for sisters.

I was SO excited about Netflix Party when I heard about it, she was the first person I thought of and I told her about it! Primarily because the thing we usually did together was go to movies. We’re both pretty chatty and would comment and giggle the whole time whilst snacking. So now this is a way to spend time with her and sort of recapture that mutual past time.

Joe Exotic, his peroxide mullet, the Tiger King underwear line, his abiding HATRED of Carole Baskin, deep affection for guns, and weird symbiosis with big cats is COMPELLING indeed!! Nothing about this disappoints. Every single person interviewed is odd and fascinating.

I CANNOT BELIEVE HE IS A COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST. I MUST WATCH HIS MUSIC VIDEOS.

Especially “I Saw a Tiger.”

We will resume next Friday night and maybe get in two episodes!

But I love this new chapter in our friendship.

When I moved we began Poloing a lot– several times a day. When she had her son, Nico, it was hard because prior we had these glorious rambling phone conversations. But every new mom has a lot of demands on her time and thus we transitioned to texting unless we were in person, and we still got together often! It helped that we lived just down the street from each other after I moved back to Joliet in 2006. She in a home with her husband and I in my apartment.

I love how this quarantine is forcing to crave more connection. I hope we keep up this new tradition long after this virus crisis is over!

Toilet Paper Victory!!!

I now am the proud owner of one six-pack of LAVENDER SCENTED Angel Soft TP.

This morning I scouted two Dillons locations before finding it, just after 9 a.m. On Tuesday afternoon I had been to one Aldi, two Dillons, Target and even Costco with zero luck. I had wanted to cry.

As I entered the second store this morning, I saw three different shoppers with TP in their carts. My heart soared. I asked where and was told aisle 47: I practically SKIPPED.

Most of it was bare, but there were three different brands. I chose the best deal. Me and another woman were both shopping, and we laughed about our good fortune. The sign specified one package per customer. I took a picture of myself smiling against the shelf.

I wanted to ask her to take a picture of me, holding the TP over my head, Mary Katherine Gallagher style.

But– social distancing. So I didn’t.

I’m down to two rolls otherwise. Now I have eight! My usual brand is Charmin’ but I may switch after this, who knows??

I work at noon, I’ve turned in and gotten a news story published today online, and I have toilet paper. I’ve been up since 6 a.m. and Marco Polo’d with some friends and seeing their faces makes me joyful.

LIFE. IS. GOOD.

Rosary by Zoom Meeting: Bible Study Squad!

Yesterday my Tuesday night small group chicas and I “got together” courtesy of Zoom. Formally we gather for a bible study but this week we decided to just pray a Rosary and chat a bit, amidst all this COVID-19 insanity.

It was enormously calming for me. Usually we have six-seven members but it was just four of us last night. I’d never used Zoom before, so I enjoyed learning to use this new social media technology. A teacher friend of ours, Erica, took action and set this up since she is used to attending these meetings for work.

It was a bit of a twist because normally, I’m the one who has trouble hearing others; I have a severe hearing loss and wear hearing-aids in both ears. But they’re not magic.

For some reason, the mic in my pc must not have been functioning fully, and they all could barely hear me. I was annoyed to be the only person in the group who couldn’t figure this out, but they didn’t get annoyed with me. They were all good-natured and helpful and we even got some laughs out of it. There’s also a chat function and Erica pointed that out. If I wanted to say something, I would type it out! You even have options to address the whole group, or individual chats.

We all just talked about how we’re feeling and what’s happening with our jobs.

Being able to see video of my friends in their homes was so uplifting.

And then we got to business and prayed the Rosary with the Luminous Mysteries– because wanted to focus on the positive in this heavy time, especially considering the deep hit the economy is taking with so many businesses closing or reducing hours and services.

It was very well organized, and Jeanna gave us all a screen shot of the Rosary guide we should all follow, since there are different prayers used and small variances. There’s more than one way to pray a Rosary.

We all started praying together and I could hear them all so clearly. I felt emotional and almost cried as we began. Closing my eyes, it felt like we were all in the room together.

It was exactly what I needed.

I had laughed when I saw the screen shot Erica sent us of the Zoom invitation we would all be getting and the link we’d need to click in to join.

It was labeled, “Bible Study Squad.”

I laughed and felt so lucky! I have some faithful, innovative, hilarious girlfriends.

“Essential” Retail during Quarantine

Upon clocking in today I was asked if I’ve taken my temperature before my shift.

“I don’t have a thermometer,” I said honestly.

Immediately my supervisor gave me one. It took several minutes but finally beeped. She then said I could keep it. THAT is impressive.

My employer, a family-owned local pharmacy, cares about protecting all of us.

Another new development was the table immediately inside the door to the East entrance, the only operational door right now. The front door has been locked to customers for over a week now. There are signs assuring people that yes, we are OPEN.

But the boutique has been closed since at least Wednesday, when I noticed it.

I feel so fortunate. I started just over two weeks ago, right when all this hysteria hit.

My employers could have easily just been like, “Sorry, you’re new,” and let me go. But instead, they’re keeping us on. That may change– or my hours may be cut. But for now, I’m still working.

That’s how we’re all living — day by day.

Since we’re no longer ringing up sales in the boutique, now my co-workers and I are helping out the over-flow in the pharmacy. We ferry medicine orders to the curbside pick-up customers waiting.

They have to call ahead and tell us what they need, and pay with credit cards over the phone.  They have to trust us. Even if they pull up not knowing, they can’t come in.

As I cleaned the door glass with Windex today to keep busy, I felt sad watching an elderly man peering inside. I wanted to go help him, but I had done that Wednesday and been scolded for approaching a customer. There is to be no contact between us if at all possible. If they need to show ID, we have to approach them with a small plastic bag and they drop their ID card inside.

I did this today with a woman– “Keeping things safe!” I said, smiling.

“I HEAR THAT!” she agreed. She felt taken care of. She was impressed with our vigilance.

We also are not allowed to touch our faces, and if it happens accidentally we must immediately wash our hands. We also have hand sanitizer for between sales transactions at the register– since money itself is considered “dirty.” Our hair is to be pulled up, out of our faces.

The only times we enter the boutique now is to ring up orders if the pharmacy register is in active use, or to clean. We dust, we vacuum. We Lysol.

In the pharmacy between orders we check products for expiration dates and mark out those we find.

I’m happily surprised to report that I actually LOVE working retail thus far.

I admit, until this point I always thought it was something to be avoided. I sold Blue Buffalo dog and cat food for five years as an in-store food rep– but that’s not quite the same. My job was to approach existing customers in PetSmart or Petcos in my area and chat them up. I would get to know about their pets and what made them special– then make a recommendation for products that fit their lifestyle and preferences.

I would carry up bags of food and face products, but I only had two aisles and the treat section to work. I didn’t handle money or work a register. It was part retail but mostly sales. I had goals to meet. My manager would come in for coaching sessions– but mainly I was autonomous. Of course the store managers were my superiors and had to sign off on my sheet each shift to prove that I had actually shown up and worked. I had to follow store rules, but I had no real “co-workers,” except other food reps– my competition. Most of us were friendly, except for the Bill Jac and AvoDerm people. They were savage.

I needed to know about our products to answer questions and reassure any doubts they had. I was there to convince them our product was better than whatever brand they may have previously been loyal to– it was mostly fun but quite exhausting socially. It was all talking and walking.

In straight retail, there’s a lot of variety. In the past two weeks I’ve learned how to sticker products, been assigned to put away orders — because that’s the best way to learn where things go and how I can locate them quickly for customers. I’ve learned several different transactions and how to move between them. I’ve made bank deposits. I’m primarily a closer, so most shifts I and another co-worker close down the tills and balance the drawer, then bring them up front. We lock the doors, turn out the lights. Clock out.

I also genuinely enjoy greeting customers and making small talk. Showing them products when they are looking for a gift. This week I’ve sold latex gloves to an older man who was concerned about the progress of the virus– he came in looking for a thermometer, as many do. It gave him visible comfort to buy something that was going to help be safe.

Now I have no idea when the boutique will re-open, when we will have actual customers in the store browsing again. I look forward to that simple return to normalacy.

People all over the world are getting laid off as businesses are forced to close their doors by national mandates.

But I am deemed an employee in “essential” industry– pharmacies, hospitals, grocery stores, truckers, gas stations, restaurants with curb-side, or delivery meals. Social services, bankers, child care, government agencies, teachers, and many more.

Never in my life did I think that these jobs would be the most table in a global pandemic.

After a year of unemployment, I am so blessed to have landed this job at this time.

Granted, I acknowledge my privilege.

I work in a safe, central location of Wichita. Our store is an upscale boutique with a local family-owned pharmacy since 1976 in the back.  None of our customers are dangerous. We have good hours and close by 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Even when I’m a “closer,” I’m never getting home at late hours. When I previously worked at Starbucks for five months in 2007, I was a closer. My shift was 4-11 and if we were lucky we got done about 11:30, sometimes closer to midnight. My drive to work is also only about eight minutes.

God, thank you.

Protect our business, our customers, and our family, friends and neighbors.

Let us obey with safety recommendations and restrictions.

This is NOT the time for pride or impulsiveness.

This is the time for humility and sacrifice.

 

From Detachment to Acceptance: A Journey into the Need for Self-Quarantine

Note: I wrote this March 19. National events since then have not been included.

By Amee Bohrer

At 5:57 a.m. 14 of us were waiting outside my neighborhood grocery store to open March 19. Anxiety about not finding any ground beef to accompany the Hamburger Helper I bought whilst panic shopping March 18 left me unable to sleep. I had finally began to feel afraid myself of what COVID-19 means for my future. For the past week I had been continually grocery shopping in spurts, but now I wanted to round up the few practical essentials I still needed– dish wash soap, dryer sheets– and stay at home.
As the store opened at 6 am., the carts were all aligned to the left. It was beautiful and quiet.
I swiped my cart handle with the sanitary wipes provided by the store.
We all dashed forward with our carts resolutely, clearly having an agenda of which items to grab first.
In the deli section, a petite woman loaded up half her cart with meat only, wearing latex gloves. I struggled to determine how much meat I truly needed and how much I could spend to have enough left for the other products on my list.
“You need help?” an employee asked me. But only I could answer that question, after several minutes.
Hot dogs were on sale two for $5, but there were no buns when I made it to the bread section next. So I put them back and grudgingly spent more than I had wanted.
Just the week prior, I had been unbothered. Then the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the dying of the Chicago River green was canceled and I knew things were getting worse. As a longtime former Illinois resident I know what a strong tradition that is and if that’s changing, it’s certainly unlucky.
Yet March 14 I had gone to a party with friends for “Fake Patty’s Day,” and it was all still normal. Sedgwick County had banned gatherings of 250 or more, but our group is not that big. We had a “Quarantine Playlist” going and wore as much obnoxious green as possible. We hugged and took pictures. On March 15 I attended Mass and was dismayed to see only a smattering of the faithful. There was no holy water, no altar boys helping the priest, no ushers. No Sign of Peace. Then all Masses are canceled in Diocese of Wichita indefinitely.
Next, Governor Laura Kelly mandated the school year end for all schools k-12 March 17. Classes will continue, but teachers will now teach remotely to avoid exposing students, parents and staff. Whoa.
Subsequently restaurants closed nationwide or reduced to drive-thru and curbside only. Major artists canceled entire concert tours.
People are wearing masks vigilantly. Customers at my work came in searching for thermometers and hand sanitizer.
President Trump declared a state of national emergency at a White House press conference on March 16, limiting social gatherings to 10 people or less.
Now I’m glad I attended those events last week because there’s no ignoring that for now, this *is our new “normal.” We are now making plans to have online joint Netflix Party movie sessions.
I can’t hug my father, who I normally see several times a week. Luckily, we talk on the phone anyway.
I greet my social circle daily via status update, everyone becoming a reporter on social media of the breaking news and how it’s disrupting the careers and routines they’ve cherished. Our psyches are becoming exposed as we witness which of our family and friends are coping and which are in rampant denial. Some stay home, some insist on traveling.
Since I work retail, there is no working remotely. But I’m just grateful to still have a job.
My initial amused detachment has eroded. I have come to acceptance.
As much as I intensely dislike having to ignore my impulses to go into the community or making plans with my family and friends, I know that self-quarantine when not working is the right thing to do.
At least give it a try. Please, don’t ignore it, even if you’re in prime health and youth.
I feel grateful to live in Kansas, where the government is working pro-actively to protect us.
When the virus has been contained and people are recovering sufficiently, we will become ecstatic for the most mundane aspects of human interaction. We will embrace unabashedly, go to the movies, see our favorite bands play again! Crowds will blossom all over the country at house parties and public places we considered landmarks of our daily lives prior to this pandemic.
Until then, I’ll be making phone calls and cooking meals at home.

Mass in the Time of Corona

I attended Mass tonight at Blessed Sacrament, grateful that I still could.

The Diocese of Wichita sent an e-mail informing us that while we are pardoned from obligation to go to Mass, it will still be available to us. And after hearing about cancellations in Chicago and Joliet, where I moved from, I am so grateful.

I can’t imagine a more lonely world than knowing even God’s House is empty and that we are barred from visiting Him there.

I take Mass for granted. Not today.

There were no altar boys. No ushers. Only one Eucharistic Minister.

No holy water. No wine. No Sign of Peace, though that was already in effect.

Today it certainly felt different. But I was gratified that some of the faithful wanted to gather, in God’s House.

I did a little grocery shopping first, so was late. But it was sad indeed. Very sparse compared to usual. Normally if you’re late there are a few spots but they are awkward to get to and so most people just hang out at the side entrance or in the back, standing.

Tonight the priest gave us a message of hope in his Homily. He said God is there with us, and for us. To let Him be the rock in this storm. He could have taken it in a different direction– one of guilt and punishment.

I recognized a friend with his girlfriend, so I went to say hello after. I kept more distance than I normally would. He said that even during the Plague, he heard they hadn’t canceled Mass or the obligation to it.

As a Catholic, you are reminded of sin often. I joked that never in my life did I imagine I would be told it’s okay to not go to Mass! Especially in an official e-mail from my Diocese.

Quarantine is happening, nationwide.  In Illinois, bars and restaurants will be closed by 9 p.m. tomorrow to dine-in customers, as declared by the Governor.

Now any gatherings of 50 or more are supposed to be canceled for the next 8 weeks.

Until today, I was pretty logical and untroubled by all this. Last night I was with my family and then friends for a “Fake Patty’s Day” party.

But on my way out, I thanked the priest. I told him I appreciated his positive Homily.

And I drove home and unloaded my groceries.