A new normal routine

April 17 will mark one month since I started working from home as a precaution against spreading COVID-19. I was lucky—my job is pretty portable. As long as I have my laptop, cell phone and reliable WiFi I can work. And, considering that we have staff members who have varying health conditions, I didn’t see the point in coming into the office and possibly carrying the coronavirus in like some invisible serial-killer hitchhiker.

In the past month I’ve learned quite a bit about myself, my co-workers and my four-legged roommate Maggie Mayhem. You just never know what a pandemic will bring out in you. Take for example my mini schnauzer Maggie Mayhem. This 6-pound ball of fluff is a self-sufficient, all-day-napping fool. That is, until I turn on my laptop for a video conference call with my co-workers. The sound of the connection is her signal to come and paw at my leg until I pick her up and sit her on my lap so she can see. I can try to ignore her, but then she decides that the next way to garner attention is by racing through the house, tags jangling, until I give in just so I can hear the call.

Some people juggle working from home with home schooling their children. I have a needy schnauzer who thinks she’s a field editor.

I’m learning a lot about myself in this isolation period. I stick to a schedule each day, and keep busy with my to-do lists just as if I was going into the office, although my dress code has changed a bit. Yoga pants and t-shirts have taken the place of dress pants and button-down shirts.

If you’re like me, though, you might want to throw on a pair of your jeans at least once a week. Just to remind yourself that the stretchy yoga pants are liars about your new calorie intake.

Speaking of which, considering that I’m just limiting myself to one trip to the grocery store a week, how is it possible that my jeans are just a little more snug than they were a month ago? I’ll tell you. It’s because my new “office” is just six steps away from the kitchen/break room. And I’ve made more banana bread in the past 30 days than I have the whole previous 365 because I can’t seem to get them eaten before they turn black. And, much like my grandma and mother taught me, I don’t want to waste anything.

This new normal routine of mine is taking some getting used to, to be quite honest. I will never take a trip to the grocery store for granted ever again. The days of just popping in for a missing ingredient are behind me. Now, a trip to the store requires signing up for one of the precious grocery carryout spots at the big box retailer 24 hours in advance. Or, barring that, suiting up in a mask, carrying sanitizing wipes and tracking every surface I touch like I’m trying to cover up a crime scene.

I miss the days of wandering the aisles, frittering away an hour or so, no list in sight. I miss the certainty of knowing that everything on that list will always be on the shelf and in the quantities that I need. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s a whole new meaning of “essentials.”

Also, that Grandma Clark was right—always throw a package of toilet paper in the cart, even if you’ve got some at home, because you never want to run out and not have any on the shelf. The woman was a prophet.

Here in Dodge City, Kansas, we don’t have nearly the grave situation that many people outside of our rural bubble are facing. I have college friends in the nursing field who are doing tremendous work keeping patients alive and still keeping sane in the face of insanity. COVID-19 has affected my fella’s immediate friend circle, with one of those friends finally home after weeks of fighting the virus in the hospital on a ventilator, and a former neighbor, sadly, losing her battle with it.

I know that my inconveniences are enviable among those who don’t have jobs that allow them to work safely from home, who have no one to keep them company, who have situations more dire than I can or want to imagine.

And so, even with this new normal, there’s still one thing I continue to do. Pray.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].