Reminiscing about 2020

With the ringing in of 2021, our first full year in Chattanooga has come to an end. The obvious thing to say is that 2020 was a ridiculous year.

On the surface, things looked pretty bad. I had three jobs this year, which is two jobs too many. I lost a job, resigned from a job, and had to go see a doctor to get on depression and anxiety medication. Mechanic bills for our car and veterinary bills piled up. Our cat passed away two weeks before Christmas, too. Add that all up and … ugh.

But if you dig a little deeper, I’d say things were good.

I’m thankful that we spent the pandemic in the Scenic City. We got outdoors more than ever this year, which was the safest thing to do.

I’m an adventurous soul. Not being able to travel in the past year has hurt me the most. But instead, we adventured around Chattanooga, seeing and doing things (mostly outdoors) that I had never expected to do.  

I have a Chattanooga area bucket list, and the majority of it has remained untouched. For instance, “Seeing a Lookouts baseball game” was impossible to cross off, because the entire season was cancelled. Likewise, we still haven’t taken a train ride with the Tennessee Valley Railroad. Trains are running, but I don’t feel comfortable going quite yet.

However, I did have a list of hiking trails I wanted to tackle, and that got completed, and then some.

We have hiked more in the last six months than I have hiked in my entire life. Some of the paths and trails we have done — ranging from easy flat gravel paths to moderate mountain hikes — were located at Big Soddy Creek Gulf, Greenway Farms, Booker T. Washington State Park, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Moccasin Bend, Prentice Cooper State Forest and Cloudland Canyon State Park.

It seemed like every time we finished one trail, we found another that we wanted to hike, and that is still the case now.

Getting outside kept me sane. It felt good to get our heart rates up, stretch our legs, make it to a gorgeous overlook, and feel accomplished.

We continued to hike as it got colder out, and we found that we quite enjoy winter hikes. I do not like winter time, as I get cold easily, but exercising like this is a good way to offset how our bodies feel in lower temperatures, and keep us more active throughout these months. I hope that we will continue to hike throughout January and February.

Hikes aside, I got a lot more exercise than ever before. I was averaging about three or four walks a day around my neighborhood. In September, I participated in a virtual 5K, and got a medal and a t-shirt for it. Walks were calming, and necessary for me, while I was going through bad bouts of anxiety.

Quitting my job was a huge risk, but it all worked out in the end. I was unemployed for about five weeks. Since Derek only taught two days a week last semester, we did a lot during the week days, to avoid crowds. We visited Wildflower Tea Shop for the first time, and it was nearly empty! We also went ice skating — something we had never done together — and there were only about half a dozen other people at the rink.

I hated working from home for my old job, but now I am thankful that I got to spend all of those months with our cat while she was still healthy, and I was home with her when she did get sick. All of that time that she spent on my lap every day are precious memories now.

I started my new job in early December, and I’m the happiest I have been in a long time. I thought I had wanted to leave journalism for marketing, but I discovered that journalism is where I am meant to me. This has put a lot of things into perspective.

I am cautiously looking forward to what 2021 may bring.

A new job

This year has been filled with ups and downs, with the bigger share being downs.

One good thing has happened to close out this year, and that is that I have a new job. Actually, it’s not new at all, and that’s what is good about it.

I was hired as the news editor for the Dade County Sentinel, a weekly paper based in Trenton, Ga. My first job while living here was as the editor of the Trenton Daily News, a start-up paper, also located in Trenton.

Unfortunately, that job only lasted four months, as the publication had to shut down. I reported just long enough in the community to get to know everyone, and learn the ins and outs. Now I am back, and it feels good.

I actually was offered this exact same job back in March, but I turned the offer down to work in the marketing industry.

One big lesson I learned this year was that writing is what I do best, and I needed to get back into the journalism field as quickly as possible.

I was able to get started right away, and did not require any type of training period. It will feel good to see my first set of articles published in the paper, after a nine month hiatus.

In some of my past journalism jobs, I’ve been known to do it all, sometimes doing the job of two to three people. At this job, all I have to focus on is writing, which is a nice, and slower change of pace. My job is to fill up pages 1 and 2, or the front page and the article jumps. The Dade County Sentinel has a great partnership with the community. We have lots of local columnists, and people from different organizations who submit articles in each week, which helps fill up the rest of the paper. 

My two co-workers are nice and welcoming. They have both lived in this community for a long time, so they have given me lots of article ideas, which is helpful.

I am allowed to work from home on Wednesdays. The paper comes out on Wednesdays, and there are no meetings ever scheduled on that day, so it’s a slow day. I am thankful for the opportunity to work from home because it saves me gas money, but honestly I am happy for the opportunity to go into work the other four days of the week!

I am looking forward to the upcoming weeks, months, and hopefully years as news editor of the Dade County Sentinel!

Just another mountain to climb …

The purpose of this blog is to let our family and friends know about all of our adventures and day to day life in Chattanooga. This, of course, means that there will be some bad mixed in with the good.

If you’re a regular reader of Seeing the Scenic City, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling at my job for the past few months, as well as struggling with depression and anxiety that stemmed from the job.

I went on medication in early September. My anxiety has subsided, and when the medication worked, it allowed me to look at the work problems with clarity.

All of this leads me to say that Friday was my last day at my job. I put in three weeks’ notice in early October. With all honesty, I had wanted to quit my job since the summer months, so I am actually proud of myself for making it that much farther.

I will not go into too many details, but basically I realized that this was not the job for me. I was unhappy with the work I was doing. I was trying my best, but it became apparent that my best was not good enough.

This is probably not the smartest decision, financial wise. But it was the best decision for my health.

I have a few applications already out for some other positions, and I will keep looking for new jobs on a regular basis. In the meantime, I am looking forward to a (hopefully short) resting period.

In related news, yesterday we went on a challenging mountain hike. You can read about that here. One section of the trail lead to a beautiful overlook, where we could see the mountains on all sides, the river and a waterfall.

It was a great metaphor for what I am going through right now. Yes, things are hard, but if you put just one foot in front of the other, you will eventually get to the top of your mountain. Derek and I have made it over mountains before, and we will get over this one, too.

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Soldiering on through this pandemic summer

August has been a hard month. The running theme has been depression and anxiety.

Derek goes back to work next week at UTC and I am scared. Yes, everyone will be wearing masks in the classroom, but knowing that he’s going to be around more people worries me.

I’m worried about Derek getting COVID-19 because his immune system isn’t the greatest. If someone else is sick, he usually gets it. He’s had the gamut of illnesses. It should be noted that whenever Derek is sick, I never catch it from him, but COVID-19 feels like a different beast.

I am struggling with work. It was hard to start a job working remotely from home, and to still be stuck at home almost five months later. Currently I’m working through a big project, and there has been a lot of confusion surrounding it. My anxiety is already high from the pandemic, and I’m an anxious person by default. Couple that with the confusion of the project and still working from home, well, let’s just say I’ve been a mess. My confidence and self-esteem are down. I cry a lot and I’m not sleeping well because work follows me into my dreams at night.

And then there is the long lasting cabin fever. We are still doing smaller activities in general. In a sense, one could argue that I have fulfilling weekends. Today I took two separate walks, worked on my scrapbook, read and watched The Sound of Music. But it’s not the weekend I want.

We still go to parks. We’ve walked the Walnut Street Bridge. We still eat at some of our favorite coffee shops and restaurants, or at least the ones that have large enough outdoor seating areas. But the problem is that we’re not doing anything new. My Chattanooga to-do list is stagnant. This is what I was afraid of in March, which feels like a lifetime ago.

The one good thing to come out of staying at home is that I’ve been challenging myself to take more photos with my macro lens. As the seasons progress, there are different things to photograph. I will attach some of my photos below.

I’m counting down the days until September. I want fall to come. I don’t expect anything to automatically change when the days get cooler, but I just need something to feel different — even if it is only the temperature.

The pandemic is not the only thing that has halted our activities. The heat has done that too. The only things we can do safely are outdoor things. Derek doesn’t handle the heat as well as I do. It’s just better to stay inside and stay cool.

When fall comes, there are some things on my to-do list that can be crossed off. I am looking forward to picking apples at Wheeler’s Orchard in Dunlap, Tennessee. We will also go hiking at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Dade County, Georgia.

With September also comes my birthday. We were thinking of making a lunch reservation at The Cookie Jar Café, also in Dunlap. The family owned restaurant has a large porch with seating, and, specifically for the pandemic, they also set up extra picnic tables.

There are plenty of indoor things open now, but do we really want to do any of it? Everyone wearing masks does go a long way in keeping everyone safe, but it’s better to wait it out for now.

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Social distancing day…? I’m losing track…

It’s raining today, and I’m thankful for the excuse to be forced to stay inside. Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. We’ve had a month’s worth of sunny weekend days, which is a joke when you can’t go anywhere. I’ll bet that once this is all done and over with, it will rain for a month straight.

Toward the end of the week, I started looking up possible parks we could go to. City parks are closed, but I figured that parks not in Chattanooga would still be open. People need to exercise and walk their dogs, so something must be open. This is going against what I said last week, that we would err on the side of caution and assume that we couldn’t travel anywhere for exercise. I learned my lesson. The park that we had in mind, Greenway Farms in Hixon, was closed. I was disappointed.

Derek could tell how upset I was, so he started driving around random streets, pointing out the nice architecture of the houses. Meanwhile, I got a bad anxiety attack. Have you heard stories about people thinking they were having a heart attack, and it turns out it was just an anxiety attack? Well that is what it felt like for me, except I am so used to these attacks that I know what they are. It came on fast and sudden, and it was hard to breathe. My chest hurt. I am a little embarrassed that I had a bad anxiety attack after finding out a park was closed, but this is just what my mental health is like these days.

After I calmed down a bit, I was able to enjoy the drive. We saw some beautiful houses, some with front porch columns and turrets with green ivy climbing on them. It almost made the afternoon feel normal, like old times.

Overall, the day was good. I had ordered photos for scrapbooking, so I got that started yesterday. I will work on that again today. During dinner we watched The Martian, a great isolation themed movie for these times.

Next week I will be at my new job for a month. Time flies even when you’re stuck inside and the days run together. It is the hardest job I have ever trained for. It’s not the work that is hard, it is learning the process in order to do the work. There are a lot of new programs to learn. Everyone apologizes to me because I am having to learn everything remotely, but nothing can be done to change that.

Sleeping is hit or miss too. I have work nightmares almost every night, including the weekends too, which is frustrating. When it’s not a work related nightmare, I still have vivid and weird dreams.

I am experiencing frequent headaches now, and my acne is back in full force, which always happens when I am experiencing high levels of stress.

Earlier this week, to add on top of everyone’s Coronavirus related stress, an EF-3 tornado hit Chattanooga. The tornado hit in the middle of the night, and due to a number of factors, the people had no warning. We were lucky because we were north of the path of the tornado. Our power did go out though, and was out for half of the day. Some people still do not have power.

One theme that I keep seeing throughout all of this is that, yes, we may be stuck inside, but at least we have our TV and Internet to keep us occupied. Now some of these people haven’t had that for a week, and that is if they are some of the lucky ones, who hadn’t sustained much damage to their homes.

I am just trying to take this day by day. Everyone is.

Coronavirus and life update

So much has happened in the two weeks, and yet nothing has happened at all since I have last written. When speaking about the Coronavirus, I’ll bet that you understand what I mean.

Derek and I are both adjusting to working from home. He works upstairs in the office, while I have made a spot for myself at the dining table. We joke that this is the most use the table has gotten since we bought it about eight years ago.

I started training for my new job. It is hard to learn everything from home through video chats, but everyone has been kind and gracious. I have been assigned a mentor, and we check in with each other daily.

I am trying to keep as much of a routine as possible. Even though I am not commuting in the morning, I still get up at the same time in the morning as if I would be commuting. I take that extra time and have my first cup of tea and browse social media. I try to get up once an hour for two minutes and walk about 150 steps around the apartment, so I am not sedentary. When the weather allows, I take my lunch break out on the balcony, so I can get fresh air and sun.

It may sound silly, but I find that I am missing a daily commute to the office. Having that drive time makes for a good transition. Home is home, and work is work. It’s odd to close my work laptop at 4:45 p.m. and then be on the couch at 4:45:25.

I have been taking a lot of walks around our apartment complex, and two weekends in a row we went to the Walnut Street Bridge, and got to-go drinks from Rembrandt’s Coffee House.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, and while there were a lot of people also out, we managed to keep our distance from everyone because it is a wide bridge. Now we are not so sure that we should have done that.

A photographer with the local newspaper took a photo of everyone walking on the bridge, the same weekend we were there. The photo was published on the newspaper’s website and social media sites. A lot of people were angry, telling others to stay home in the comment section. The issue we both had with this was that the photographer used a tight shot, making everyone appear closer together.

There is a lot of gray area here. We are human beings, and we want to go outside. But now everyone is going outside, more so than usual. This makes it harder to stay safe. And some people have different definitions of safe.

As of this post, there are 1,140,327 confirmed cases in the world, and 278,568 of those are in the United States. There are 3,068 cases in Tennessee and 68 cases in Hamilton County. Eight of those have died.

Most recently, both the mayor of Chattanooga and the governor of Tennessee have executed a Stay at Home Order. We are not allowed to go anywhere except for to get groceries or to seek medical attention.

There is more gray area here and a lot of confusion. Exercise is considered an essential activity, but if we’re not allowed to drive, then can we really go to some of these parks? Some of the city parks have closed, such as Coolidge Park and the Walnut Street Bridge, but others are remaining open. I have seen some media reports that we are allowed to exercise in our neighborhood. I am choosing to think that if we have to drive to get to a place to exercise, then it’s not allowed. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

My parents visit, which was supposed to be in two weeks, is effectively cancelled. We were also planning to go to the Smoky Mountains for a week in May, and I’m assuming that is cancelled too. I received an email last week from the hotel that I had booked, and they had cancelled my reservation for me.

I have this illogical fear that the whole spring and summer is going to go by and we won’t have explored and checked off any of my “Chattanooga to-do” list, and therefore we’re not going to do any of these things ever. Something bad will happen like all of these places will close down for good, or we will have to leave Chattanooga for whatever reason, leaving us with no time. I am trying to reason with myself that this will not happen, and a lot of things can still be done in the fall, if things are back to normal then.

A new job

All of my pre-employment checks have come back clear so now I can say that my new job is officially official today.

Next Tuesday I start as managing editor at a marketing agency that specializes in health care clients. I see a lot of coronavirus articles in my future…

I have been wanting to leave the traditional newsroom for YEARS, but couldn’t break through until now. I am thrilled! After almost 10 years of working for newspapers, I am burnt out, and my mental health has seen better days.

No more breaking news! No more election articles! No more reporting on car accidents and fires! No more evening council meetings!

After being a “jack of all trades, master of none,” it will be good to focus on just a few specific things, and hone my skills.

The job offers generous compensation, plus great benefits and office culture too. What is also beneficial is that the office is only 8 miles away, whereas I was commuting 28 miles to Georgia for my previous job.

Accepting this job is going to be life changing for us. For most of our marriage we have been barely keeping our heads above water, finance wise. Moving around a lot, having a ton of student loan debt, and losing my job (twice now) will do that. It will be a relief to be able to catch up and then some.

I am a frugal person by nature, but it will be nice to not have to tighten our budget so much anymore, because now we can enjoy more of what Chattanooga, and the surrounding areas have to offer.

Because of the Coronavirus, employees are working from home right now. All of my training will be virtual which should be interesting. I am so excited to get started!

Hunkering down to prevent the spread of Coronavirus

I haven’t written anything for the month of March yet, and there’s a good reason for that. Much of the United States, and the world, is in the middle of practicing “social distancing” in order to further prevent the spread of Coronavirus, a respiratory illness.

I have been at home for a week and a half, and that has not been on purpose. Last Monday was my last day of work for the newspaper I worked for. The paper had to shut down due to lack of financial stability. However, I do have a new job lined up and I will start next Monday (more about that in a later post.)

Derek has also been home for a week and a half as well. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was on spring break last week, and then the university decided to cancel this week’s classes. Derek and his colleagues have been using this time to figure out how to best structure their classes in an online format. Classes will resume online next week, and will continue that way until the end of the spring semester.

I am glad that our circumstances lined up this way, and that we are doing our part to try to keep ourselves and others healthy. In the past two weeks we have only gone out for the essentials.

My Aunt Susie was supposed to come for a long visit this weekend, but we have decided to cancel that trip. We are both disappointed, but we know it is for the best. My parents are supposed to visit next month, and we do not know if that will have to be postponed as well.

All of the major attractions in Chattanooga are closed down for about a week to a two week period, and a lot of restaurants and bars are either closed down, or are only offering delivery and to-go services.

As of this post, there are 79 Coronavirus cases in Tennessee, and three in Hamilton County.

The first confirmed case was a priest of a prominent downtown Chattanooga church. Before he knew he was affected, he attended conferences, officiated a wedding and a funeral, and shook hands with everyone at his church services. It really makes you think about how many people you come in contact with on a daily basis, and how great that number can differ based on your profession.

There have been a lot of jokes on the internet that this self quarantine period is the kind of thing that introverts live for, and I am an introvert, but I have been going stir crazy. Last week was worse, not knowing if I had a job or not. I enjoy getting out of the house and doing activities. I would have been checking out a different hiking trail every day, but the weather has not been ideal; raining just about every day. I am sure a lot of us in the Tennessee Valley area would perk up if we saw the sun.

I have been walking around our apartment complex to get my step count up, but after doing that so many days in a row that becomes boring too. Today I took out my macro lens and photographed little bits of nature. It helped break up the day a bit. I am posting the photos below.

Tomorrow calls for warm weather and cloudy skies, but no rain. We will go outside, and probably head to Coolidge Park and walk the pedestrian bridge. It will be good to get some fresh air and exercise, and a change of scenery.

I don’t know how long the outside world will be shuttered in. No one does. Derek and I can easily do our part, but what about all of Chattanooga’s small businesses? I fear they may have to reopen soon, whether the amount of Coronavirus cases have slowed or not.

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Reflecting on the past decade, new year

So much has happened in the last 10 years, and in just 2019 as well. I’m sure everyone has claimed that, but Derek and I have gone through so many changes.

From 2010-2019 we went from being engaged to married, we bought our first house (and then subsequently had to give that house up when we felt we had no choice but to leave Pennsylvania), we started new jobs and careers and then got laid off from jobs.

We added two bachelors degrees in graphic design to our education, and then moved cross country to Houston, Texas, for Derek to get a masters degree in fine arts.

We enjoyed life in Houston for three years while he was in school, and I had a job that I loved. We had hoped to stay in Houston for a few more years, but when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offers a job to teach graphic design, well, you pack up again for another (at least smaller) cross country move.

Derek moved out here first, on August 1, and I joined him on Sept. 12. We were apart for about five weeks, with a one week visit to Chattanooga in the middle of that time period.

It was rough to be separated from Derek for that long, but the time ended up going by fast, and now we’re better off for it.

I always enjoy starting over, for the sense of adventure, but with it also comes feelings of depression and hopelessness. Derek got to move to a new place, and have a plan in place for himself, whether it was starting school as a student or a teacher, but I had to worry for two months about finding a job.

We’re finally over those hurdles, and I’m happy that we’re starting the new year and decade with a little bit more of a permanent plan in place, or at least a longer term plan.

Chattanooga feels more like home to me than any other place I’ve lived in, and we won’t be ready to leave any time soon.

It would be great if we could stay here permanently, but because Derek ultimately wants a tenure track position, there will possibly be another move in our future. The nice thing though is that it won’t be in the near future.

Derek and I seem to do things in twos or threes: We lived in our first apartment in Pennsylvania for two years. We owned our house in Pennsylvania for three years. We went to school for the second degree for two years. Derek went to school for three years for the masters program. We were in Houston for three years. We were in our first apartment in Houston for two years.

It will be a relief to break free from that cycle for a while. No more moving, no more schooling. No more new jobs. I am quite happy with my current job, so I hope this rings true for me as well as Derek.

It’s comforting to know that, with any luck and barring any unforeseen circumstances, a good part of this decade will be the same, with no changes.

So far the first month of 2020 has been quiet for us, and I expect most of the winter to be quiet as well, but we’re enjoying our time together, and enjoying getting back on track.

For this year, I’m looking forward to spring coming, and with warmer weather comes more exploring. We have already seen so much of the Chattanooga area and I’m excited for all the things we still plan to do.

Thankful for a job, and for living in Chattanooga

I’ll admit, Thanksgiving is not one of my favorite holidays, for various reasons that I won’t go into detail here. Judge me as you will, but I can do without it.

This year felt a little different though. Three weeks ago, I got a job.

Thinking that some form of a job needed to happen soon, I decided to post on Craigslist. I wrote a short post saying I was an editor and a designer seeking employment, with a link to my resume.

I am thankful that I decided to think outside of the box. I thought that Craigslist would mostly attract scammers, and it did, but it also landed me a job.

That night, my now boss emailed me. He is the publisher of the Trenton Daily News, a new paper that was started last spring in Trenton, Georgia.

I am both reporter and designer for the paper. It is a small magazine sized paper that is printed in our office on a large printer.

The first week on the job was a tough adjustment period. While I have always written in some capacity, I have not had to cover meetings and events full-time, for some time now. This means that I have to cover evening meetings and some other evening events that come up from time to time. After working an 8 a.m.-4 p.m. shift for the last three years, and only writing 1-2 stories a week, I found this to be difficult.

My first meeting was a commissioner’s meeting, and it lasted until 8:30 p.m.! Everyone told me that it went an hour longer than usual. Because this job is in Georgia, I had to add a half-hour commute home on top of that. I was not happy to get home at 9 p.m., eat a bowl of cereal for dinner, and go straight to bed. I understand that this will happen from time to time, but it was almost shocking to me that this happened my second day of work.

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the meetings got pushed up a week. Also, I went to the mall one evening to report on the high school students gift shopping for underserved children. So, to summarize, my first week I worked late three nights in a row. Since then, it hasn’t been like that though. I just need to take it day by day, and be thankful for the days when I can work an earlier shift.

My boss is impressed with my work, and has said so many times. It’s nice to go in to the office, do my job as I normally would, and have someone be thankful for the work I’ve put in for the day.

We also have a sports reporter and video guy, and we’re going to get two interns from UTC next semester. Things are looking up.

My desk area at the office.
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The issue of the paper that we put out this week.

We were originally not going to do anything on Thanksgiving. Normally, I will try to make a somewhat special meal, like butternut squash soup or a gumbo, but I did not have the time to get the groceries or prepare due to being busy with the job.

I suggested Cracker Barrel, and it ended up being a good decision. The food was delicious and it made the day seem a bit more special. I have missed going to Cracker Barrel; there were not any nearby in the Houston city limits.

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My plate at Cracker Barrel. Not pictured is a big slice of pumpkin pie that I took home.

I am also thankful to live in Chattanooga, especially now that I have a job (in my career field no less), because it was the last part to be filled in order to be truly settled. This is what I posted on social media on Thanksgiving morning:

“This year I am thankful for finding a place to live that truly feels like home. I am thankful that Derek loves his job at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I am thankful that I recently found a journalism job. I am thankful for the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, I am thankful for the abundance of grits and I am thankful for drive times through the mountains. I am thankful for Clumpies Ice Cream and thankful for Coolidge Park. I am thankful for Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria and I am thankful for hikes on Signal Mountain. I am thankful for Civil War history sites, the Mountain Opry, and the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. I am thankful for chai teas at Milk&Honey. I could go on and on! Happy Thanksgiving everyone.”