Spring is the season of renewal. Sometimes renewal is the good feeling of a much needed bath or a deep massage. Sometimes renewal is the responsibility of a library book or the dues we pay to heartfelt causes.
Spring 2020 is the ninth year that I've found myself managing the grounds at Wofford's Goodall Center. The past eight springs have prepared me, yet I never dreamed of these circumstances. I feel a sense of loss because students aren't here. The excitement leading into graduation is a powerful force and it's strength always surprises me.
From 2005 to 2010 Wofford faculty, administrators, board members, and donors wrestled with planning and building the Goodall Environmental Studies Center at Glendale Shoals. One of the biggest challenges was how to allow public access to a spectacular natural resource. The decisions made in that difficult time are providing a benefit to the public in this difficult time.
Each spring, as the business of lab study, exams, and graduation winds down the public begins pouring into Glendale. At first they come to revel in Spring and later they come to find relief from summer. Spring break is usually a practice session for me since Wofford's schedule coordinateswith Spartanburg schools. Mother's Day weekend usually marks the beginning of a very busy time.
This spring it all started early with the sudden closure of schools everywhere. The subsequent closure of restaurants left lots of people looking for something to do, and Glendale is often the choice of where to do it. A sudden shift to "take out" food means they are coming with their disposables.
To my pleasant surprise their disposables are piling up at the trash cans instead of scattering across the grounds. I've set up recycling bins at the trash cans and they are being used with more efficiency than I expected. To a skeptic like me this is a beacon of hope.
As the coronavirus shutdown evolved, I was surprised that some agencies closed access to parks, trails, and waterways. Outdoor recreation can be so good for physical and mental health. I spend most of my time far from other people anyway. I think it is best that Wofford never closed their access to Glendale Shoals.
I've worked outside most of my life; the passing seasons offer predictability while the weather creates uncertainty. I've usually known where I was headed, but rarely knew how I would get there. Now I'm seeing lots of other people cope with that uncertainty. We know that things are going to change even if we don't know how.
The spring of 2020 has become on the job training for cyber school. If this is a future trend, then access to labs, studios, stages and rivers will become more limited and more precious. The coronavirus has already changed expectations for travel. Traveling to the Goodall Center may seem risky in the confines of the van. Or traveling in the van with people you know may be a safe alternative to flying in a plane with people you don't.
For me and many others, the renewal of spring in 2020 has been responsibility and paying dues. I trust that if we pay our dues and hold up to our responsibilities, a future spring will bring us a much needed bath.
I was getting very upset and depressed with all the news stories and Facebook stories of death, sickness, exhaustion, and most of all sadness. I wanted to do something, but what?
I have a sewing machine and heard of the need for masks. They may not be CDC approved, but they do cover your face and have a pocket for a filter, and most importantly I CAN MAKE THEM. It gets me away from the TV and my cell phone (Facebook). I have been feeling much better knowing I CAN do something. As little as it may be, I am doing something I enjoy and feel like I am helping someone.
My family has always been very close, but this past year or two with me going to college we haven't got to spend as much time together. This unexpected family time we now have has given us the chance to do silly things like plan "quarantine spirit weeks", play board games, learn new recipes, etc. Obviously, these circumstances are not the greatest and it's easy to get pulled away to the negative side of things, but I am appreciative of the time to create forever lasting memories with my family.
As we endure difficult times, I have been reminded how blessed I am for my health and my family. My mom was sent to the emergency room amidst the craziness of COVID-19 and we were all at a loss for words. God's timing is not always what we expect but she's recovering and is a lot better than she was before her procedure. A lot of people are struggling right now, but what I have been reminded of is to continuously love each other no matter what. No one knows what someone may have going on behind the scenes. Your kind words may change someone's day dramatically without you knowing it. So continue to love one another and stay safe, Wofford family!
March 23, 2020 was to be my first official day at Wofford College as the new Lifelong Learning Director. I had accepted the job a couple of weeks before and had sold my house in Pawleys Island to make the move up to Spartanburg by the end of the month. March 23, 2020 was the first day staff were told to work from home. Ironically, I had sought the job at Wofford because I had been working remotely for a company did not like the isolation of working from home in my empty nest.Through it all, Wofford friends and friends of friends, staff, and faculty have supported me personally and professionally beyond belief.
Accepting a new job and moving are already stressful enough. Throw in starting a new job remote as the program is cancelled for the term and moving to a new town as orders to shut it down came daily and you've got a perfect storm. However, as I look back in the calm moments I see a pattern.
My ties to Wofford have carried me when I thought it was just too much to manage. My Wofford KD sorority sisters and friends for 30 years reached out to their Spartanburg parents and found me a place to live (after dozens of tries) and dog sat, fed, and housed me during house hunting and the interview process. Wofford staff I've never even met, except via email and Zoom, indoctrinated me into the Wofford World so that within a week I was sending out communications to our distraught members promising them the show would go on. I was also able to get processed through HR, get a wellness check, secure a parking pass, Wofford ID and computer access to myWofford, Slack, Slate, ZOOM, and ITS! Lifelong Learning members on the advisory committee committed to bi weekly calls that have been equal to a shoulder to lean on while relaying a constant message that you can do this we've got you.
We are not through this yet, I still have the move, that got delayed a month and half due to the work from home mandate, but it has been scheduled for a third time. That's the charm, right,? So I am hopeful this one will stick. Lots of silver linings through this adventure but the best is that my displaced college aged sons and I could still live at our home (and not in a new city) through this uncertain time. I have felt so lucky to work for Wofford and live at the beach simultaneously. That is one for the books! I can't wait to eat lunch in the dining hall, meet all the people who have helped me thus far, and simply walk through campus again. Until then, I live hour to hour adjusting plans, and making do, but knowing whatever happens my Wofford ties will keep me strong.
In middle school, Bath & Body works mini hand sanitizers were all the rage. I used hand sanitizer religiously, to the point where I would use it just so the good scents would stay on my hands. But then we were told to not use it as often because using it so often would create a super germ essentially immune to hand sanitizer. So I started using it only when soap and water weren't available.
Now, we spend at least an hour sanitizing groceries we bring home or that are delivered. We have gloves and industrial-grade cleaners on a table in our garage. We have plates too so if we get takeout, the food can go on the plates and we can throw the boxes in the trash. We get hot meals so we can microwave them when we get inside. We have a mini bottle of sanitizer hanging on our door so we can sanitize our hands before we touch the handle and the knobs on the sink to wash our hands once we're inside. I've watched my mom spend almost a whole day going to different groceries stores donned in homemade masks that she stayed up late to make (but that don't do anything for [her] hair) and gloves. I'll go with her to the store if I need an excuse to sit somewhere other than my desk. When she finishes her shopping, I'll open her car door from the inside. She has bags in the backseat ready to put the un-sanitized goods in. She has Kleenex she lays out on her console so she can put her debit card and receipts on it to sanitize them before they go back in her wallet. She doesn't touch anything else until her gloves are off and she's sanitized her hands. When she gets home, a towel is laid out for the groceries to be placed on. My brother with asthma is in charge of taking the sanitized things inside. The other brother helps unload the un-sanitized groceries and doesn't go inside until everything is sanitized and inside our pantry. Produce gets put in a big bowl that then gets taken inside and put in the sink so it can be washed while we have gloves on. I usually wash the produce. And these are only the groceries for my grandparents. My grandfather had triple bypass surgery, has high cholesterol and diabetes. My grandmother had a brain tumor and gets bronchitis and pneumonia ritually. My mom won't let them leave the house. This is the first time they haven't gone to church in the 21 years I've known them - the 50 my mom has known them. We're all scared they are going to catch something and we won't be able to say a proper goodbye or give them a proper burial. My parents rarely shield me from family matters concerning wills and funeral arrangements, but conversations about what to do if they pass have happened late at night when none of the kids are around to hear.
I have hand sanitizers everywhere now - my car, my room, my pocket. And in the back of my mind, I can't help but wonder about whether this is going to create the non-zoonotic supergerm I was told about in middle school.
I'm pretty sure Elizabeth knows more about me than anyone else in this world, and she's only 11. I started picking Lizzie and her older sister Katie up from school my freshman year at Wofford, and have arranged my class schedule around doing so ever since. I'd rush from class to reach the elementary school at 2:20, and then Lizzie and I would drive to the middle school, sit in the carpool line, and wait for Katie to get out at 3:15.
My sophomore year was a difficult one. I came out of an abusive relationship, and spent the year struggling to define who I was again. Sometimes, picking up those girls from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays was the only thing that kept me from dropping out of college and running home. I convinced myself that they needed me to show up, but really I needed them.
About this time was when Lizzie started asking for "stories" while we waited in the carpool line for Katie. And by ask, I mean badger. They needed to be stories from my own life experiences; preferably funny, but sentimental worked as well. Over the course of my junior year, I recounted to Lizzie tales from high school, childhood, and some from college. I told her about moments of heartbreak, embarrassment, and bravery. She would listen, ask questions, and provide surprisingly wise commentary. If I thought of a memory during the day, I would write it down in the Notes app on my phone, so I'd be ready to recount it in the carpool line. Little did I know that our carpool ritual was actually helping me remember and redefine who I was. As I told her more about myself, I too was learning more about me. I felt braver without realizing it. I was becoming "me" again.
This developing bravery led me to travel to the Middle East as the Presidential Scholar during most of my senior year. I picked Lizzie up from school the Friday before I left the country, and promised to bring back plenty of new stories. I missed her and Katie so much during the fall semester, and the feeling was mutual. The "stories for Lizzie" note on my phone grew and grew over those 5 months. I returned to Wofford for the spring semester on a Saturday and picked Lizzie up from school on Tuesday. As an incredibly mature 11 year-old, Lizzie had a handful of discussions with me about making the most of the last semester that I'd be picking her up from school. She requested better stories, less time doing homework, and more time playing outside. We were doing well, until COVID-19 sent me home. I stopped by their house the Tuesday I left for home to say goodbye. I cried on the drive home knowing I'd never pick her up from the elementary school again.
But, that doesn't mean the stories have to stop. She does have to text and remind me some days, but Lizzie and I have kept to our ritual. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I record myself telling a story and send it to her as a voice message. She'll text back a response. Sometimes its an emoji or a selfie. Yesterday it was, "I've heard that one before."
I was really going to treasure this last semester being their "big sister/babysitter/Uber," and I wish it was a "normal" one. Still, this has shown me that my girls are pretty resilient and so is our bond.
So, let the storytelling continue.
It was around January when I started talking regularly about the Coronavirus spread with one of my coworkers; we did not foresee how impactful to our lives it would quickly become.
As days kept passing by, the updates on the virus continued getting increasingly alarming yet, as someone who lives by themself in a small studio apartment, I naively refused to seriously consider the imminent situation of things.
Thursday March 5th came around, past noon and already tired from a busy work week, I was excited to go to gather hour that night and enjoy a nice meal and a few drinks along my colleagues and friends. Sadly but understandably, the announcement came late that day detailing the cancellation of gather hour not only that, but it was also shared with the company that an employee at the headquarters had been contacted by the CDC, informing them about potential exposure to an infected person.
Things quickly shifted from that day on. The week after, the company issued a strongly suggested Work From Home policy, which later became mandated as all the offices were temporarily closed. The situation did not feel that bad yet my gym was still open, I had an appointment to get a haircut and even one to go to the dentist! Then the City of San Francisco became the first city in the country to institute a shelter-in-place order. That was the moment I realized how serious this was going to be.
Now I found myself going from living a very active life to being confined in a studio with my cat. After spending months tirelessly working on developing healthy and sustainable routines, I was now sitting at home wondering what to do. I was in a state of shock for the days following the shelter-in-place order, I continued working from home while not fully digesting the situation.
My co-workers, all significantly older and more mature than me, would constantly reach out and not only ask me how I was doing, how I was getting used to working from home, how I was developing new routines but more importantly, they would show me their care. Them being people I look up to, my mentors and many of them my friends, made their efforts deeply reassuring. It opened my eyes to the fact that we are all getting used to significant changes on our daily lives.
This situation has made me feel more connected to everyone in the world than I previously had. You see? We are all navigating a new set of challenges nobody had under the same circumstances. Every day we are making decisions the best we can, some will be good, some not as good but ultimately, we are all doing the same.