Wednesday, April 8, 2020

My 500th Post

It feels kind of weird to be celebrating anything right now, but I figure that I should focus on any positive thing that I can. And I guess talking about writing 500 posts isn't exactly celebrating - but it does feel like a huge milestone that I want to acknowledge!
Writing this blog was something that I did kind of on a whim, after a summer conversation on my deck with a friend. I had toyed around with the idea before, but after that conversation, decided that I should just... do it. I didn't really know what I was doing, and I still feel that way a lot of the time. So it's a little hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I've written 500 posts here - I could never have even imagined writing that many posts that day on the porch.

Sometimes I'm so excited to sit down and write, and have so many thoughts that I want to share... and sometimes I sit here, wracking my brain to come up with something that I think other people would be interested in reading. I think that's going to get even more interesting in the next few weeks/months - there definitely won't be any sharing of places I went, or things that I went out and did. But I'm kind of excited to come up with things to write about now, and think (and hope!) that more people will be reading blogs now that our lives are centered around our houses.

I also think that this pandemic is going to change the world and the way that we live our lives when this is over. I'm not a journaler, so this is the closest that I'm going to come to capturing what it's like right now, and how things change. Living through this is going to change us. And I don't just mean the immediate things - the willingness to make plans and see people, to make up for what we've been missing out on - but I think it's going to have a larger-scale impact than that. I just don't think we can live through something this major and then immediately go back to our lives like they were before. So I'm glad to be documenting it in some way.

So here's to the first 500 posts, and hopefully, the next 500, too. I continue to be so honored that you're here, along for this ride with me!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Workng from Home Tips

I've always wanted the flexibility to be able to work from home occasionally. I know that it's a common perk of lots of jobs these days, but for me, it's a little more than that. So many people with disabilities look for jobs that have at least some ability to work from home, because it can make things so much easier. I've written before about how I'm already tired by the time I get to work, because of how long it takes just to get ready. Being able to work from home simplifies a lot of that.

When I was interviewing for my new job, I made sure that I'd have the option to work from home at times. I definitely did not expect things to turn out like they did, though - I had been working in the new position for less than a month before everything changed, and we were all sent to work from home for the foreseeable future.
Not only am I working from home now, but my mom, dad, and sister also are, too. And I didn't have any real work space set up - I have a desk in my room, but it is... kind of a mess, and working there didn't really make me feel like I was "at work." So it took some time to figure out the best way to make working at home work for me. It's been a few weeks now, and I feel like I've got my routine figured out now.

Now, to be clear - this is what works for me. I know that my work-from-home routine won't work for everyone! But I thought I'd share what I have found, in case it helps out anyone else who is new to working from home, too.

Create a Work Space
Like I mentioned, this has been key for me. Working from my room just didn't feel different enough - I found out that I really needed a separate space. So I have taken over a room in our basement and made it into my "office." All that really means is that I bought a desk from Amazon - since this isn't going to permanently become an office space, I bought a desk that could fold up and be put away easily when I'm not using it. It's actually a really nice size, and I even have room for a second monitor on it.

Have Some Sort of Schedule
I don't think that your schedule needs to be the same as it was if you were going into the office, but having some sort of routine creates the feel of a work day. I am not someone that is going to wear real clothes when I'm at home, but I change into what I've named my "day pajamas," I shower or wash my face, brush my teeth, etc. - all things that I'd normally do in the morning. It helps me feel like my day is starting. I also try to work regular-ish working hours - I'm not starting at 8 AM, but I'm not working on Saturday, either.

Take Advantage of the Flexibility
I guess this one flies a little bit in the face of my last point, but that doesn't make it less true. I think it's even more true given with the coronavirus - the reason that we're all working from home. If it's a nice day, get outside for a little bit, even if it's during working hours. If a workout video is more your speed, do that. I think we need to do whatever keeps us healthy mentally right now, and sometimes that means taking a short break during the work day. If you feel like you need to justify it for yourself, think about the time that you're not spending going out for coffees and lunches right now!

Figure Out How to Communicate
There's no more popping by someone's office for a quick chat, so you have to figure out the best way to communicate with your coworkers. Make sure you stay on top of your e-mail inbox if you can, and get behind the new Zoom/Skype meeting trend. My team has started using Slack for quick, day-to-day talking, and it's working really well for us.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday Favorites

I'm trying to figure out the best kinds of things to share on Fridays right now. The public health professional part of me wants to share resources about COVID-19... but I also know that I JUST talked about limiting your viewing of the news to help manage stress and anxiety. So I think, for now, I'm not going to share the "hard news" about coronavirus... no hard statistics or articles that spell out the scale of this. But maybe I'll change my mind in a week or two - I'm taking all of this one step at a time. Also - get ready for lots of pictures of my dog and cats and scenery, because I haven't looked camera ready in quite a while.
I will say, though, in general - if you can, please just stay home. Even if you don't think that it's a big deal - just do it.

Okay, on to the favorites.

ONE - Oh, Hello: The P'dcast
My love of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, and their show Oh, Hello is well-documented now. Their show on Broadway was truly hilarious, and I can't believe that I got to see it. If you're also a fan - or if you're just looking for something to lighten up your days a bit - listen to their new podcast (or "p'dcast," as they would say). I can't wait for the first episode!

TWO - Types of Zoomers
I have had more Zoom video chats - for work and with friends - in the last few weeks than I have basically ever. This is a fun look at what type of Zoom user you are - my current Zoom background is the Hamilton stage, and I haven't worn makeup once, so I think that answers that question for me.

THREE - Ben Platt
Ben Platt and the cast of Dear Even Hansen sang one of the show's well-known songs at the end of one of James Corden's shows, and it's just perfect. It's so fitting right now, and just so beautiful.

FOUR - Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Each night, Dolly Parton is reading one of the books from her Imagination Library live, as a goodnight book for kids. I saw the tweet and then found out that kids who live here in the city of Pittsburgh who are up to 5 years old can get a free book mailed to them each month from Dolly's Library! Such a great program.

FIVE - Harry Styles Tiny Desk concert
Harry Styles is such a great performer, and so charming, too. His Tiny Desk concert, unsurprisingly, is excellent, and is a great break from reality. Makes me hopeful that I'll get to hear live music again sometime in the future.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Coping

I think for many of us, this is an incredibly anxiety-inducing time. I have moments where I'm totally fine, and things seem normal, and then moments where it all seems like SO much - fear of getting coronavirus, fear of it spreading, and just the uncertainty about everything surrounding this situation.

During my first week of self-quarantine, I got anxious a lot. But it has slowly, little by little, gotten better since then. I wanted to share what I've done since then to keep anxiety at bay, and to make the current situation seem a little bit more palatable.
ONE - Limiting the news
The first week that I was home, and even before that, I was reading the news all day long. I was reading Facebook posts about coronavirus, scrolling through Twitter constantly, and texting with my friends about it the whole day. But reading all of that was incredibly overwhelming. It was information overload. So I've started limiting the number of times I check coronavirus-related news. I'll look through Twitter a few times, but not all day. I won't read every article that I come across. And it's helped, a lot. It feels so much more manageable when I'm not inundated.

TWO - Headspace Sleep
I recently discovered that Headspace has an entire section devoted to sleep. There are options for drifting off, for winding down at the end of the day, for waking up in the the middle of the night - there's something for everyone. Each night, I've been putting one of the drifting off meditations, and I've actually been falling asleep before it even ends. It's such a calm, peaceful way to fall asleep.

Headspace actually has a whole section of meditations available for free to help people deal with increased anxiety right now. If you haven't tried it yet but have been interested, now's the time.

THREE - Getting fresh air
I have been trying to get outside every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. Even though I can already tell that my allergies are going to be bad, taking a few breaths of fresh, crisp air is just so calming! When it's been nice enough, I've even been taking my laptop outside onto the porch or deck (depending on which one gets the most sun!) to work for a bit. It's made a huge difference in helping me feel like I'm not too cooped up.

Four - Talking with Friends
While I'm lucky enough to be quarantined with my family (mom, dad, and sister), I've missed seeing my friends! We've been making an effort to stay more connected virtually since we can't physically see each other - Zoom happy hours and lunch dates, and more daily group texts going on. One of my friends has a son who is a little over a year old, and he now recognizes my face on the screen when I FaceTime her! I'll take it.


Monday, March 30, 2020

The New Normal

I decided to take a few weeks off here because it just seemed like things were changing in the world so much, and so quickly, that I needed to take some space and time. But I'm back now!
I can't believe that my last post was about how busy my month was going to be, because just days after I wrote that, everything just kind of... disappeared. No more shows, no more weekends at my leadership program - I even had to miss my friend's bridal shower. I was only two weeks into my new job when we switched into working from home for the foreseeable future.

One of the major impacts that SMA has on my body is a very weak respiratory system - even at my best, my lung capacity is much, much less than someone without SMA. So if I got a severe case of COVID-19, it could be incredibly dangerous for me. Also, studying and working in public health, I understand the scale of the pandemic that we're in. I know how terrible it could be if we don't stay at home, and we overwhelm the healthcare system with cases all at the same time - it could be catastrophic. All of this is to say that I'm taking the current situation incredibly seriously. I'm staying home - we're having all of our groceries delivered, limiting our take-out food, and I've even given up my Starbucks cappuccinos. The farthest that I've gone is for a walk around my neighborhood, where I haven't come less than six feet (really, probably less than ten feet!) from another person outside my family. I think it's really, really important that we all take this seriously NOW, to keep it from being worse later.

In many ways, I'm very lucky. My job is safe, I'm not cramped in a small apartment, I have a yard and a deck to get some fresh air, I'm in self-quarantine with my family and my dog and cats, and I have access to almost every streaming service available (and I've been taking advantage, too). And I have some amazing friends and family who have offered to drop off things that we need.

But it's still weird, and strange, and unsettling, because there's so much uncertainty. Honestly, I don't mind being "cooped up" that much, because I'm cooped up with a lot of space. But there's no way of knowing how long this is going to last. It's strange to think that, for now, this is the new normal. And I think it's okay to take some time to adjust to the new normal, and to allow yourself to take that time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

March Madness

I think that part of the reason that January seemed to go so quickly for me is that I knew March was going to be particularly crazy for me. I always have this thing where I see events that I'm really excited for, buy the tickets/commit, and then don't realize what it will do to my schedule! When I enter them all into my Google calendar, though, it becomes clear quickly how packed things actually are.
Now, I'm not complaining - these are all things that I'm excited for! But I think the anticipation, both in a good and bad way, of March made February really seem to fly by. It's here now, though, and I thought I'd share a little peek into my life for the month.

Quick note, though... I wrote this post over the weekend, when I was less nervous about the Coronavirus. Life with SMA means that I have to be more cautious that someone who doesn't live with a condition that affects their lungs. All of this is to say that now, all of my plans are really up in the air. I'm trying to balance living my life with being safe and cautious, and it's a struggle (and very anxiety-inducing, too).

This past weekend was actually one where I had no plans, which I did on purpose once I realized what the rest of my month looked like! Everything really starts this coming weekend, when I have tickets to see the The Band's Visit when the tour makes its stop at The Benedum on the 14th. I have been looking forward to this show since I saw it perform on the Tony Awards a few years ago, so I'm excited that it's finally here. And to close out my weekend, I get to celebrate one of my best friends at her bridal shower! I'm so excited for her and for all things related to her wedding.

The weekend may end, but my plans do not, because I have tickets to go to the Series Announcement from the Cultural Trust on the 16th. This is their annual event where season ticket subscribers are invited to the Benedum, where they announce each show in next year's subscription, usually with some type of little performance, live or recorded, from each show. I went two years ago and it was so much fun, so I'm really looking forward to going back!

This next weekend is when things really start to get hectic. On the 20th, I have tickets to see Mandy Moore!! I have probably watched A Walk to Remember at least 50 times, so I cannot wait to hear her perform live. I have to brush up on her new album before I go, though! On both Saturday and Sunday, all day, I have my training for the New Leaders Council. I've been participating in this since January, one weekend per month, and it's such a great opportunity to grow my leadership skills and meet like-minded, passionate people. I actually have to leave training early on the 21st, because I'm being named as a Distinguished Highlander from my high school at their Gala! It's such an incredible honor, and it will be fun to go back "to my roots."

The final event on my calendar for the month (for now... ) is the MDA of Southwestern PA's Toast to Life Gala on the 26th. I went last year (you can read about it here), and I'm so happy that they invited me back again this year. We were really involved with the MDA when my sister and I were younger, so it's nice to be involved again as adults.

Whew! All in all, one of my busier months, especially knowing that hanging over my head is the fact that I have to finish my essay for my MPH this month. Busy months like this are always a little bit of a mixed bag for me. I'm so excited about all of the fun things that I have planned, but I also know that having SMA means I get tired (physically) easily and I really do need my sleep. So here's to hoping that things go smoothly and it's just the right amount of fun and plans!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Spring Ahead

I know that I'm supposed to be excited about the time change this weekend, because it means more hours of sunlight... but it also means I got one less hour of sleep. And as much as I love the sunshine, I really, really love my sleep. So while I'm looking forward to brighter days, I need a little bit of convincing that I'm actually happy about it. So as usual, I'm turning to my wardrobe! I want allll of the bright things to remind myself that sunnier, brighter days are ahead.

With that in mind, here are some bright things that I have my eye on for the months ahead.
Green Ruffle Wrap Front Dress
I could wear this to work, or to brunch on the weekend. I love the very subtle print, plus the ruffles and the wrap front details.

Red Handkerchief Hem Dress
The hem of this dress is so fun, and the belt adds a little extra something to it, too. It would definitely still work with tights in chillier temperatures.

Pink Pleated Skirt
I'm really into pleated midi skirts right now! I like how this one almost looks striped, depending on how you look at it.

Pink T-Shirt
I'm not usually a t-shirt person, but this looks really cool. They call it reverse printed, and while I'm not exactly sure what that means, I love the end result.

Green Off-the-Shoulder Dress
This is probably the most "me" of all the options. I love the color, I love the off-the-shoulder neckline, I love the eyelet - I just love it all!

Red Linen Dress
I have absolutely nothing like this dress, but I think I like it! It looks so chic and simple, and so perfect for spring.