I’m going to blog from time to time about my family’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d love to hear about your experiences, too. Blogging gives us all an opportunity to share this experience of isolation, so we can feel less isolated. If you have a blog, please consider doing this too. Or start a blog for it. If you do this, let me know and I’ll link to you in my future pandemic reports.

I’m in my second week of working from home now. It’s not too bad, I think because my wife, Margaret, and three of our (adult) kids are here and so it doesn’t get lonely. I remember about six years ago I was a snowstorm stranded me at home for a week, all alone, and I was stir crazy by the end of it. I’m mighty introverted and adore being alone, but I do need some human interaction. That week didn’t meet my minimum requirements.

Our kids all had lives that saw them seldom home. They’re all home a lot now, except for the oldest who’s an apprentice plumber and is still working during the day. The younger two worked in restaurants and are now unemployed. They’re fortunate as their lack of income isn’t a crisis for them thanks to our roof and our food. We have shared more family meals, and more time just hanging out together, and it’s been lovely.

Indiana issued a stay-at-home order this week, to run through at least April 6. Since Margaret’s workplace was considered nonessential, it closed. Generously, they’re paying her until that date, but there are no guarantees beyond that. She can do some of her job from here and will as needed, but mostly she’s going to work on personal projects. Good for her; she’s not had much time for them in many years.

Margaret and I reflected the other day on how privileged we are right now. Our lives are different but not actually worse. We both know people who are now out of work and are scrambling to pay the rent and feed their families.

Our situation will change if this time of isolation lasts more than a couple weeks. Because of the nature of what Margaret’s employer does, I feel sure they will have to start laying off or furloughing staff if the stay at home order continues. Like I said last week, we’ll tighten our belts and be okay.

Leadership at my company is thankfully being mostly transparent about our financial situation. We’re okay now and will be for “some time.” But we’re eliminating nonessential spending and cutting some budgets to give us a longer cash runway. It’s prudent, and I’m glad. We are also exploring what we can change about our service offering, and what we can build into our product, to meet changing demand and find opportunity in this adversity.

Tension is high at work. We all feel some level of worry and we all feel real urgency to deliver fast on our initiatives.

Even though they haven’t said it plainly, it’s clear from context that after some while of revenue not meeting projections, hard choices will have to be made.

It’s always there, in the back of my head: the worry about being unemployed for the third time in five years. I worry that if it happens, economic conditions will make it incredibly difficult to find another job at all, let alone near my current salary or in my field.

I try to deflect that worry, or if I can’t, leave it on low simmer on the very back burner. I can’t control whether it happens. The best I can do is focus on my work, which is aimed at bringing in additional and new revenue in these changed times, and deliver it as well and as fast as I can.

I do most of the family shopping. I’m a meal planner, and go to the store with a solid list, and make each day the dinner I planned for that day. That’s all changed: we go to the store and buy what is available and figure out what meals we will make out of it. For example, I’ve never prepared pork ribs in my life, but they were one of the few available meats when I last shopped and so I brought some home. I’m going to make them today. Thank heavens for the Internet, which has instructions for everything.

There may be a blessing hidden in this: that I might become more flexible and fluid. That’d be nice.

I’m trying to get out for a walk every day. I don’t always succeed — work has been unusually demanding and time consuming. But I try very hard to do it. I usually take a camera along. I’m also shooting stuff around the house more. It really does take the edge off my stress to fire a few frames. I’m still shooting film and I’m focusing on black-and-white so I can develop it myself and save a lot over sending it to a lab. Here’s a photo I made at home just the other day. Just my car in the driveway, but I like how the plane of my car intersects with the plane of the houses across the street.

My vee dub

Sort of speaking of which, for my fellow photographers, a fellow in the UK named Andrew Sanderson has started a blog called Stuck At Home Photography which you can see here. He wrote a lovely book many years ago called Home Photography that extolled the virtues of, and gave many practical tips for, finding great photo subjects all over your home and property.


23 responses to “Report from the pandemic”

  1. Gerald Greenwood Avatar

    I’m really glad to see you blogging about this Jim. I think we can all help each other with our shared experiences. You’re an introvert like me, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need any social interaction!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Actually, I get a lot of my social interaction needs met online just like this!

  2. Marc Beebe Avatar

    My wife and I are retired. As a rule we don’t go out much anyway. The most it has affected us is in our interactions with the rest of the world. The kids are all “self-isolating” some 500 miles away, the stores have occasional outages of goods, and we have the threat of stupid people traveling into our yet-free-of-the-disease area from the germ-laden south in order to “escape” COVID (because our Premier won’t lock down all unessential travel.
    Ironic considering I was the first person to be tested for it here after a set of circumstances which indicated a slight possibility. It came out negative, but not before I’d been slandered around town as a plague carrier.
    Otherwise I have attempted to educate people on the matter, and have given up. I can’t even fight that kind of battle anymore.

    1. Khürt Williams Avatar

      Hi Marc, so sorry to hear that you are being treated like a pariah. 🤗

      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        Hi Khurt; the problem has pretty much passed now, as this happened almost at the very start of the problem here. Foolish how people behave sometimes.

  3. DougD Avatar

    More family time together is great so far. We have family game night so everyone takes turns picking the game. Also I try to “walk to work” each morning by going around the block before I turn the computer on.

    My biggest worry is the near certainty of my wife getting it, since she’s a nurse practitioner and will be deployed to the covit ward once it hits. We don’t have any monthly payments on anything & have a bit of money in the bank so we are in a much better position than many in that regard.
    Stay well friends!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish we were in a debt free place. That would take so much worry out of everything! Because if worse came to worst I could get a job at Walmart just to feed everyone.

  4. Khürt Williams Avatar

    My blog is about all things me and yes, I have been documenting my experiences thus far; sometimes with photos and words, and sometimes I let the image do the “talking”.

    I don’t blog about my kids in that regard as they are both college age adults. They have to make their own adjustment to remote schooling now that all colleges have been closed.

    My wife goes into her office each day to submit insurance paper work for her boss’ telecounseling clients. Fortunately, the’s the only one in the office. Her isolation is different than mine but at least she’s working.

    Claims for unemployment insurance jumped more than 20% last week compared with the same week a year ago — and that was before the governor of New Jersey ordered most nonessential businesses across the state close their doors.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, the fallout from all of this after we’re all able to go back to normal life should be felt for a looooooong time.

  5. fishyfisharcade Avatar

    Wishing you well for your job security Jim. These are, as the saying goes, “interesting” times and it’s shocking just how quickly the veneer of normalcy can slip away from the things we take for granted.

    I’m not blogging specifically about the current pandemic, but my recent posts have all featured it to a greater or lesser extent as, I think, this will be the way of things for some time to come.

    I do think it’s important to try and remain positive at times like these. It’s a very serious predicament we’re in but, other than making the best plans you can to protect yourself, your loved ones, and those around you, speaking from experience I’ve found there’s little benefit to be had from worrying about the things over which you can have no control.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve always had some level of irrational insecurity over staying employed. I’m trying to just tamp that down right now and stay focused on my work. What will be, will be. I agree, best to stay positive right now, as much as we can.

  6. M.B. Henry Avatar

    What times we live in. I’m glad things are going well for now and I hope you and your wife are able to keep your job. We’ve been doing alright here too, although we both are stressed and worried like everyone else :) We also try to get out for walks every day, we’ve been pretty good about it so far. Hope you stay safe and busy over there!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks my friend. We’re all doing the best we can to cope and enjoy life. I hope the worries don’t get to you too much. Be well!

  7. J P Avatar

    I have proven to myself that my at-work productivity far surpasses my at-home productivity. So I would rather be in the office. Because the State deemed my field as “essential”, I suppose I could go there, but would probably be all alone there too.

    It is just the two of us here. We are cooking more and miss eating out. But other than those things, I’m doing quite well. My introverted nature has become my superpower. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m about as productive either at home or at work. But I walk less and eat more when I’m home, evidenced by the four pounds I’ve put on in the last two weeks.

      I find I don’t miss eating out as much as I thought I would! I miss it hardly at all. I miss ordering an old fashioned and sitting at the bar, though.

  8. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Yes! The word is changing irrevocably right before our eyes. I have blogged about this myself this week….I work in support of the airline industry so I suspect my retirement plans are about to be brought forward a little. We have been in lockdown with both of us working from home for two days now, if this works it may only be four weeks, and I am grateful that our government here in New Zealand has acted quickly and fearlessly. Even so many will have their world turned upside down. There are many travellers stranded in foreign countries far from home with no support whatsoever. The list goes on. This will pass. Perhaps the world will be a fairer, kinder place afterwards, and perhaps we will have learned that the movement of money is no measure at all of success or wellbeing!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This will indeed pass. I hope the world we knew is largely intact when it does!

  9. Nigel H Avatar

    We are so lucky that both my wife and I are able to continue our jobs from home with minimal adjustment and so (at least for now) we are financially stable and occupied. The downside is that we are both fully occupied and with a 10 month old baby that makes juggling her care between us tricky and we are struggling a little with that,
    But in the grand scheme of things and compared with a lot of people out there it is a very minor issue that we can count our blessings to have.

    I have a significant birthday in a couple of weeks and we had planned a trip to somewhere I had been longing to visit but that all had to be cancelled and we now have to just do whatever we can at home. Again, compared with hardships others are suffering this is not something I can complain about.

    Photography-wise I am doing almost nothing and can’t really get into the mindset for it – but that was somewhat the case before and is what it is I guess.

    I hadn’t really considered blogging about my confinement experience but perhaps I will – thanks for sharing your experience Jim; I hope all goes well for you and your loved ones.

    (BTW Jim, I couldn’t connect to WordPress in order to comment as my normal user)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, those of us employed through this are the truly lucky ones. This is stressful enough without unemployment and inability to pay the bills.

      I’ve shot a couple rolls of film the past couple weeks. Mostly stuff around the house and from my walks around the neighborhood. I wonder how long before I get tired of the same subjects.

  10. Read.Count.Craft Avatar

    Oregon has expanded unemployment benefits already to help those who can’t work due to virus. I’m still a pt nanny/now homeschooling which is thrilling for me I get to use my whole skill set incl. dealing with 7 yo defiant behaviour. ha ha. Husband works at local college grounds, he’s also representing union employees during this time. College is online like the rest of the state and only pertinent personnel. One of the reasons we are “stuck” here is that job which is almost nonexistent nowadays with benefits etc. At least on the west coast and the college is now moving to contracted employees for new hires, pre virus. i love my outdoors so my life hasn’t been effected. My personaility is such that I am over prepared so we still have our supplies and are only needing things like milk. I really don’t want powdered milk unless i have to ha ha.I really feel like the Lord set us up well, we have simplified and re prioritized since I was fired last year. My mental health is gr8 as my employer values me and accepts my quirks. My sister and I are closer then we have been in 15+ years. My 14 yo grandaughter texted me for the 1st time in 2 years so I am thrilled- I dropped a care activity package for the boys I took care of for over 2 years, helping her maneuver the system as she is pregnant & should recieve unemployment. I hadn’t heard from that family in 3 years but reached out. For me, I am in a good position to help others and that makes me happy. Church is closed tho Our street is distantly tightly knit, lots of seniors. I hope for nationwide, global wide spiritual renewal. I am focusing on my own walk with Christ, and, deeper connection with nature. I have to watch my info intake, but I really enjoyed this status post and the positivity! Wishing well to you, wife and co. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like you have plenty to do during this time of isolation! That’s marvelous.

  11. Christopher May Avatar
    Christopher May

    I haven’t really dug into my thoughts about the pandemic yet; I think it’s a combination of still sorting out what I’m thinking and feeling and fear of confronting what I might find when I really start delving into my thoughts on the matter. I hope to get there someday.

    For the time being, I’ve been content to focus on my thoughts about one of the big projects that I’m undertaking during shelter-in-place — organizing my Lightroom catalog to something that makes sense. I’m going to try to post ideas and thoughts about that process along with some resulting pictures in my blog. Not sure if that qualifies for what you’re looking for but here’s my latest effort:


    Thanks for making posts like this. I didn’t doubt that I was the only one with a lot of the feelings that you are having but it does help to see that other people with the same fears are able to work through it through blogging. That gives me hope that I’ll get there at some point.

    Take care and stay safe!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The great thing about the Internet is that it makes it so easy for us to share our experiences. That’s what I use my blog for, that and to process through things in my head. But no worries if you don’t have the words to write about your experience during the confinement — or if you ultimately choose not to write about it. For some, going on as normal is the best way to cope.

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