I’m Jessica VanderKolk, Communications Manager for the City of Battle Creek, Mich. Join my Twitter fam and find me on LinkedIn.
What I’m listening to: My husband teaching college virtually, my son watching his 30 minutes of afternoon TV, and my dog panting after playing outside.
What I’m watching: Parks & Recreation when I can get on the treadmill. I need something light.
What I’m doing: Trying to find a decent, inexpensive desk chair that’s in stock. A pillow on my dining room chair won’t cut it much longer.
As many of you are experiencing in some form, I am under a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order from our awesome Michigan governor. (I don’t mean that sarcastically – she’s great, and has seemed to act appropriately during this COVID-19 crisis.)
Let me set the scene of my days at home.
My “home office” is set up on one end of the dining room table. Bless my husband’s tech hobby, because I have a second monitor to use with my work laptop. I’m working a Unified Command with our county, with at least two Zoom briefings a day. My husband is a college professor, whose campus already has closed for the rest of the semester; he’s teaching two courses daily from the “comfort” of his basement home office. My first-grade son is home from school through April 10 — for now — and bounces between activities I try to assign. My loving and needy dog also bounces around, naps, and tracks muddy paw-prints all over my floor.
I don’t know that I have the words anymore to make that sound as chaotic as it is. We are muddling through, and I am tired, local gov friends.
Here are the three things that have made me smile, and stay somewhat sane, during this immense chaos, uncertainty, and frustration —
Creating a written, color-coded schedule is not in my skill set, so we’re keeping it loose, around course times and municipal briefings. One thing we’re holding onto is outside time. After my morning brief, my son, dog, and I head out for a walk. After dinner, we can usually get my husband out with us.
We have a great neighborhood for walking, and one evening we even (at a mostly safe distance) got to say hi and check in with two families of friends. Sometimes we play soccer in the backyard. Whatever you do, go out and breathe some fresh air, get your eyes off your screens and work, and get some steps in.
Last night it rained, but we grabbed the umbrella and went out anyway. We need the break.
Involve your children when you can
This tip is for the parents in the room, but is also relevant to your pets. I saw a tweet awhile back that has stuck with me — essentially, our children are getting the opportunity to see us do good work. This is important to me, and I love teaching my son about my job, and local government generally.
In fact, schools closed before our stay-home order, so he got some great education right at City Hall, too.
Now that we’re home, he helped me film a short “no wipes in the pipes” video. I did have to promise he would be famous; you should have seen his face when I told him the Facebook post had over 2,000 views. He’s next to me as I write this and says, “I am so famous.”
My son knows about my briefs, and joins in on our internal city brief, along with some of my teammates’ children and dogs. We’re still a local gov family, even virtually, and it’s reassuring to start our meetings with a little fun.
Use your supports
Can you believe the technology that’s keeping us connected during all of this?! Thank goodness for all of it. When we’re asked to stay home, it’s important to reach out in any ways we can.
For me, our local gov family on Twitter has been a huge support and reassurance — I’m so glad we have each other to share the successes, exhaustion, and many other feelings. I also make sure I check in with the close members of my work family, to make sure we’re OK. When we’re not, we can at least build each other up. We all need that right now.
We can still support local restaurants providing carry-out service, so I’m taking advantage of that … no better time to drown my sorrows in a burger and fries a couple times a week! Not all of our favorites restaurants are able to stay open, but we are still working, so eager to help support our community in this way.
Chin up, local gov family! Take a walk, share a GIF with me on Twitter, and keeping supporting each other and your communities!