What we’re doing: NSJ’s staff is also adjusting to being home more than usual

While many people have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the staff at North State Journal considers itself fortunate that it can still work to deliver North Carolinians news from across the state.

Still, with nearly all extracurricular activities canceled, there is plenty of time at home to accomplish some long-awaited tasks or try something new.

So while the news goes on, we wanted to share what members of the staff are doing to pass the time and keep busy during this stay-at-home situation.

A.P. Dillon, reporter

Gov. Roy Cooper’s statewide “stay-at-home” order began March 30, but if you have school-aged kids you had already been “staying at home” since March 15. Our family has been juggling continuing education for two boys with both parents working from home… in the same small office space.

The kids have spent untold hours playing Minecraft and Xbox. They’re also getting good use out of their scooters. I’ve used evening downtime to binge-watch cheesy shows like Netflix’s “Tiger King.” My husband spends his evening hours absorbed in watching street-food cooking and exercise shows on YouTube.

The monotony is getting to us in different ways. We’re trying to combat that by setting up things to look forward to. We’ve started movie and game nights, tried-out grilling marinades and new recipes, and have taken family walks when the weather permits.

Brett Friedlander, sports reporter

Not only are there no sports to watch and cover, but I’ve also had to adjust the celebrations for two major events in my life — my birthday on April 2 and my 39th wedding anniversary two days later — as well as the Jewish holiday Passover.

I did get to experience some sweetness on my birthday when my son and his girlfriend came over with the key lime pie they made for me (maintaining the proper social distancing, of course). It was a real treat since it was the first sweets I’ve had in more than four months.

Since my wife, Karen, and I couldn’t go out for our anniversary, we brought home some lasagna from a local restaurant and celebrated with a quiet evening at home watching rom-coms on TV (her choice, of course).

As an old dog still learning technological tricks, I have also used the time at home to master, or more accurately, gain basic knowledge in the art of Zoom meetings. It’s a fascinating tool, one that allowed me to participate in a Passover seder with family members in Florida and Georgia.

David Guy, advertising manager

I have used the time in isolation to clean, fold and sort laundry, and clean my condo. I have also spent a good bit of time reading — mostly news and nonfiction, but some fiction.

My 15-year-old miniature poodle, Beau, has been very happy having me around, and he has gotten more than his fair share of walks and playtime. He is very happy and approves of being spoiled every day.

I have spent some of my downtime relaxing and visiting with my parents, who live about a half-mile away. My Netflix account has gotten its fair share of use, and I have watched a ton of TV. Season 3 of “Ozark” was strong and did not disappoint. I have tried to use the time to be productive and have been successful in doing so. I will say, however, I am eagerly awaiting things getting back to normal.

Frank Hill, senior opinion editor

We have found we live within a three-mile roundtrip walk of four great destinations: Fletcher Park, Pullen Park, Dorothea Dix Park and The Raleigh Rose Garden-Raleigh Little Theatre.

Who would have known that Duke Forest is one of the premier places in the world to hunt for morel mushrooms unless our sons had told us about it? No luck this time, but at least we know what we are looking for next time we do venture out.

Our beehive in the backyard has chosen this time to keep us amateur beekeepers busy. First, the hive split and formed a new colony, which I had to learn how to capture and transfer. Then, an invasion of hive beetles decided to destroy pounds of frames of precious honey, so we are in the process of cleaning up and restoring the hive to new life during this Easter season.

Shawn Krest, sports reporter

My daughters have taken it upon themselves to make sure the family remains fed.

One of them is learning to cook and has made us Vindaloo shrimp and various Indian chicken. Another daughter works at a grocery store that has been very generous to its employees. When they closed their in-store salad bar, they allowed the employees to purchase the various items for $1 each. She brought home 5-pound containers of egg salad, pasta salad and coleslaw. When we asked her if she could pick up some deli turkey for us, she brought home the entire turkey breast that they slice at the deli.

A third daughter saw the restaurant that employs her close down after takeout didn’t provide enough business. They asked all the employees to come in and help clean the restaurant before closing. Then the managers cooked everything in the freezer and gave it to the employees to bring home to their families. We still have trays of steak and chicken in the freezer.

It’s moving to see them all stepping up and feeling responsible for helping the family, and to see the local companies they work for going the extra mile for their people.

David Larson, associate editor

During the lockdown, I am doing my best to support my wife, Corey, who is 5 months pregnant, and to keep our young marriage strong, having only been married last June. We both have set up “office areas” where we can work from home, and she says I’ve been a decent co-worker so far.

In the evenings, we cook and take walks together, and, like everyone else, we have some shows we have been binging on. She likes dating shows and I like crime shows, so we’ve been watching some of each. To prevent spending the whole day seated, I’ve been updating one of our bathrooms with a new vanity, light fixture and paint job. We are also developing a digital social life, with a Zoom Bible study one evening and a Zoom game night another.

Cory Lavalette, managing and sports editor

The biggest adjustment for my wife, Barb, and I has been having our two kids, high school junior Isabelle and seventh-grader Brodie, home and adapting to virtual schooling. We feel fortunate that both their schools — Enloe High and Moore Square Middle, both in Raleigh — have really risen to the occasion.

When we’re not schooling or working, we’ve been playing some board games. Mysterium — kind of a surreal version of Clue — has been a favorite, as has Love Letter and the occasional game of Dogopoly. Settlers of Catan and Splendor are in our must-learn pile.

Our backyard garden is exclusively from seeds this year, so that’s been an adjustment and an adventure, and Brodie has taken an interest in my love for backyard birdwatching.

We’ve also been slowly redecorating our dining room, and I finished another piece — a curio cabinet that had been my mother-in-law’s — using antique white chalk paint, wax and some distressing to match the table and chairs I did the same on in the past year.

Lastly, Penny — our hound mix — has been enjoying having everyone around. The kids have taken her on twice-daily walks, and she’s loving all the sniffs!

Matt Mercer, editor in chief

My wife and I got a head start on adjusting to work-from-home life. Before the statewide order, my wife’s law firm went virtual after someone who worked in her office building tested positive for COVID-19.

We are recent first-time homeowners, and the house projects are adding up. In the past three weeks, we have painted our garage and dug up all of the front yard plants and moved them to the side. We’ve received estimates for our backyard fence and are hoping to have it completed by June.

One thing that’s been hard for me is meal planning. I typically try to eat lunch around noon, but at home, lunchtime has morphed into a grazing snack period at 10:45. My four-legged co-worker has been enjoying the extra attention, though, and will ask us to take breaks throughout the day and go for walks around the neighborhood.

Neal Robbins, publisher

The school closures included in the state response to the coronavirus caught our two boys in the midst of formative years. Everett, a fourth-grader, is studying N.C. history, earth science and foundational math principles. James, a preschooler, was focused on academic preparedness and acquiring important social skills that can’t be replicated in solitude.

Our days have been filled with study, work and play. My wife, Beth, is an alumna of the Meredith College Education Department, so we have all benefited from her classroom capabilities and masterful organizational skills. We supplemented schoolwork with activities based on the educational goals of our two students. Last week, we enjoyed finding N.C. symbols around the house. We started with a beautiful cardinal in the yard and ended with rummaging Beth’s jewelry box for an emerald. Since we live in Randolph County, it was easy to find our state’s art medium, clay, in pottery around our house.

Visit nsjonline.com/statetreasures for a list of the North Carolina symbols so you can do your own scavenger hunt.

Emily Roberson, business and features editor

Now that the initial shock (read: a few epic trips to the ABC Store) has mostly worn off at our house, my family has rather cautiously settled into this new normal. I think our hesitation comes from the months and years of slavish adherence to — or dependence upon — the daily grind, the meetings, the sports practices, the strict bedtimes. In one fell swoop, nearly all those things have been ripped out from under us.

And happily so, I must say.

Each day that we get to actually experience firsthand how our daughter speaks up in her (virtual) classes, that we can literally watch our baby boy’s first teeth emerge in front our eyes, that my husband can make plans for his closed business with a renewed vision, that I am reminded that I have a job, a family and a community I adore — all of it is a silver lining. Maybe that’s what I’ll call the drink I’m working on with all this liquor in my house!

Lauren Rose, design editor

Who else has a semi-green thumb and a sudden abundance of time? We do, too! Before coronavirus, my boyfriend and I were planning a big suburban summer garden since moving into more space, and the stay-at-home orders kicked our interest into overdrive.

DIYing our way through the garden — and life really — we are finding that the current stresses of the world are ironically forcing us to slow down a bit. 

The scribbled ink is fading in all of the date squares on the calendar, and the panicked, “Don’t forget about this appointment. We also need to take your car by the shop. Let’s move things around,” is turning into a much softer “Did ya remember to water our garden this morning? We should see the second set of true leaves by next week. I’m so excited!” 

We find ourselves looking to the future like many, but not waiting for the day we can crowd into a department store and stuff our grocery carts full of all those fun nonessentials before meeting up with a group of friends. 

Instead, the Rose-Dexter household can’t wait for those sticky days of August to harvest and enjoy the fruits of our sanity this summer.