Keeping up with the news

“I read the news today. Oh, boy.”

CarolEarly in our marriage, I was mystified by how my wife didn’t know of events in recent history. And I don’t mean it happened the day before yesterday. It was a function of the fact that I read the newspaper regularly and watched at least one national news broadcast almost daily.

I won’t say it’s flipped entirely but it’s definitely changed. She gets up at 7 a.m. to get the news from overnight. I used to do that pretty much until the coronavirus struck. For me, I realized that there was a numbing sameness. The details would differ – 58,000 dead in the US, or 85,000, or 130,000. It’s surging in state X but declining in state Y.

It’s that I can no longer deal with what feels like ephemeral information. Is this part of the state in phase one or phase two? I know the “big-picture” stats, enough to know that just as Florida wanted to ban New Yorkers, now New York wants to keep Floridians out.

So when my wife asks me some drill-down questions, my standard response is “I can look it up.” Can we go inside this type of business? Since the rules will change in two weeks or two months, my brain says, “Don’t care!”

Part of the filtering involves listening to IMPOTUS, who will take both sides of many issues. Are we cutting back on testing? “Yes.” “No, I was kidding.” “I never joke about things like that.” There is no reason to pay attention when he constantly contradicts himself. My wife will ask what did he say about a particular issue. Heck, I don’t even know anymore.

Natal day

I prefer the more traditional ways my wife and I confound each other. It’s a matter of philosophy. She’ll ask me if I want to throw out the toothpaste squeezed to near empty. I’ll toss it AFTER I have replaced it. She’ll throw it out first. But her way, there’s no toothpaste until we get more. Now THAT’S an important issue!

Anyway, she’s having a birthday today. She very wisely is not on Facebook. So her friends contact me, and I convey messages to her because that’s what I do.

With chewing gum and duct tape

bad address

chewing gum and duct tapeOne of the challenges of my wife working/teaching from home is that technology can be a PITA. This all happened on 5 May.

She had an appropriate story to share with one of her students from some website. So she set up a meeting with ME to make sure the technology worked. It did not. I could hear her, but not the item she wanted to share. The next day, the same problem; the YouTube video she selected her students could SEE but not HEAR.

Later that day, she found a bunch of links with worksheets she wanted me to print. But almost every link wanted her password; too onerous. I tried to print from her computer on the old printer I lugged into her office. The computer said it was compatible with the printer. Yet no paper products were expelled.

In the end, I copied the files from her computer to her thumb drive. Then I copied them from her thumb drive to an email “she” wrote to “me.” Then I printed the documents. My friend O. says that this chewing gum and duct tape method of doing things is how things work in her house.

Later, my wife talked to a tech support guy at work. He said that getting a YouTube video to show on these platforms is tricky because they weren’t designed for that secondary viewing.

I’ll pick that up

Because she’s doing her teaching at home, we’re getting a lot more phone calls. Most of them are from her classes or the parents of her younger students. When I first answered, the kids were stunned into silence, and would just hang up. But now that I recognize some of their phone numbers and they recognize my voice, it’s much easier.

At the beginning of March, if the landline rang, and I did not know who it was, I’d let it go to the answering machine. But it’s often school employees who have those unidentified numbers, and I’ve ended just picking up the phone. Rarely is it a spammy call, fortunately.

My wife: suddenly working from home

untenable

working from homeMy wife is a teacher of English as a New Language. The word came down on Friday, March 13 that schools in New York State would not meet the following week. But a previously scheduled teacher conference would take place the following Monday. Then they spent Tuesday making packets for the students.

Thus it wasn’t until that Wednesday that she actually began working from home. Any thoughts that she would have a lesser workload were quickly dashed. Between the online meetings and the one-on-one phone calls to her students, she was giving even more effort than she was in person.

Initially, her “office” was at the end of our dining room table. That was only because that’s where a laptop happened to reside. Soon, however, this became untenable, at least to me. The dining room is connected to both the kitchen and the living room. So, pretty much every time I’d come downstairs, I felt as though I were invading her space. If I wanted to wash the dishes or get something to eat, I was in her “office.” Ditto, vacuuming the living room or watching television.

A new venue

I suggested that she set up a station in the spare bedroom, which she did. In my mind, she too immediately saw the wisdom of the move. Later, I was surprised to discover that it was only after a week or so in the new enclosed space she recognized the value of it for all of us.

Among other considerations, she was always complaining about the messiness of the house, which certainly included the dining room table/her workstation. Now she can leave her papers as needed. She could have private conversations without my daughter and me avoiding the entire first floor.

And she now appreciates looking out on the backyard, seeing the trees and grass. The view from the office, where I tend to blog from, is to the street. I can see a few branches among the utility lines.

I mention this for two reasons. One was that a friend of mine was telling me about a prominent local couple who are really getting on each other’s nerves. They have a house large enough to have their own working from home spaces. Yet they have not, to the detriment of their relationship.

The other is that today is the 21st anniversary of our wedding. A little bit of territorial boundary-setting is a good thing in a marriage, especially during a pandemic.

New routine: they’re home at work

You are what you are, and you ain’t what you ain’t – Dear Abby, John Prine

Stormy
I’m told I can’t use cat pictures on my blog. The only exception is if it’s MY cat. Here’s Stormy, seeking sustenance.
My household has established a new routine on most weekdays. There are variations but often it looks like this: The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. THE ALARM GOES OFF – ugh. At least it’s a half-hour later than it USED to go off when my wife traveled to work.

While my wife takes a shower, I check my email. I’m looking for articles to send to Jeff for his regular newsletter about COVID-19.

My wife watches CBS This Morning; increasingly, I don’t. I can’t do all COVID, all the time. But I do catch a bit when feeding the cats around 7:30 because they think it’s their right to be fed. My wife and I eat breakfast.

She goes to work in the guest bedroom. Her workload as a teacher of English as a New Language is so much greater than it was when she could actually meet with students in person. One day, she had a noon teleconference, then a 40-minute phone conversation with a parent of a student, 20 minutes to wolf down lunch, then a 2 pm teleconference. Another day, she spent about 100 minutes on the phone with two brothers.

I start writing a blog post but take a break to wake my daughter, who almost certainly has stayed up too late. Time for her to go to school too, which turns out to be on the borrowed laptop in her bedroom. Classes at 9 and 10:30, an hour for lunch, classes at 12:30 and 2. Sometimes I help her with her homework in the evening.

Old school

Time to call two people on the telephone. This has been an amazingly great exercise. Sometimes, I call people I haven’t seen in a few months, while others I haven’t been in contact with for years. (Hi, Janet!) They average about 45 minutes; some last 10 minutes, but I spoke with Bill, a grade-school friend, for about two hours. I never leave a message on answering machines because I don’t want to obligate people to have to call me back. But some see my phone ID and check back anyway.

I’ve discovered surprising simpatico with a guy whose wife also asks followup questions when he’s only reading her a news headline. A cousin of my father told me a family secret last week she had assumed I already knew. My pastors are now mailing the sermons to one of my fellow church members without a computer.

Some point, I’ll take a walk or ride my bike, take a shower, eat lunch, empty and reload the dishwasher plus washing some pots and pans, read the paper, finish the blog post, and watch the previous day’s JEOPARDY! After dinner is the daily Google hangout call of my wife’s family, ostensibly 15 minutes, but generally close to an hour. I’ll miss it because I’ll be attending church remotely on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Here now the news

Watch the evening news, which is recorded, so I can zap past all those pharma medicine ads. I either help my wife and daughter, or at least stay out of their way. I’m happy to be retired.

I should note that working on the COVID newsletter has been great. I don’t have to obsess about the issue. Oh, I still think he’s doing a bad job. I was furious that Wisconsin voters had to go out and vote in the midst of a pandemic, risking the health of themselves and others.

And I was strangely mortified that an SBA program to help small business was so poorly introduced. A CBS story showed personal information showing up on the SCREENS of the next applicant in the queue. The SBDC, where I worked for nearly 27 years, is an SBA program.

And I’m terribly sad about the death of John Prine, who was not only one of America’s greatest songwriters but apparently a really nice guy. He beat cancer TWICE only to succumb to complications from COVID-19.

Hello In There – Bette Midler
Dear Abby – John Prine
Angel From Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt& John Prine

My wife: her smart, nay brilliant solution

I started getting nervous

smartIt was the day before I retired. My wife was done with school for the semester; she’s an ENL (English as a New Language) teacher.

I got back home from the allergist, with plans for us to see a play that afternoon. She asked me if I would help her move the sofa so she could vacuum underneath. I say, “No.” Actually, I said, “NOOOOOOOOO!” I had a stack of time-sensitive tasks to do involving making sure my insurance, and HER insurance, were in place on July 1.

My work-related insurance would term out when I went on Medicare, and I was dealing with three different insurance vendors, plus the Social Security Administration. I didn’t finish the process until the following week.

So I started getting nervous. She’s going to be off all summer. I am too, for the first time since 11th grade. How is this going to work out? I’d heard stories about clashes between other married couples when she was not working outside the home and he retired from his job.

I have boxes of “stuff” to sort through after a quarter century of employment with the same entity. Where am I going to put those extra books? What do I keep and what do I chuck?

Then my smart wife did something brilliant: she left me. And she took our daughter. It was only for three days, July 2-4, to New York City, but it was long enough to get through a pile of paperwork, write a few blog posts (including this one), and start the decluttering process.

I don’t know if it was a strategic move – she DID invite me to go with them – but it was extremely helpful in getting settled in the post-employment mode. I also got to listen to the music at a slightly higher decibel than would be suitable in a family setting.

So, thanks very much, dear. I DO need your help putting up the pictures, because my eye for putting them up straight is quite terrible.

And happy birthday!