Friday, December 8, 2023

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Lansing residents cope with life disruptions during outbreak

by Carrie Steinweg

LANSING, Ill. (March 20, 2020) – March 2020 will be talked about for years to come. Down the road, stories will be told to kids and grandkids about the time that much of the county shut down. It will probably sound as far-fetched to them as it would have to us a couple months ago.

Just about every household has been affected in one way or another. In some cases, work may have slowed down or ceased all together. In other cases, workers are busier than ever. Some may be struggling to hold a small business together while others are trying to shop local while observing a quarantine. Some families who are used to having their own routines during the day are now rearranging as kids are at home and getting assignments online. Meanwhile, many sick and elderly are isolated in nursing homes or hospitals.

Whether you are worried about loved ones, concerned for your own health, unsure of what to believe, or just facing a shortage of disinfectant and toilet paper, we all have been affected in some way. We truly are all in this together.

Families and schools

“This virus has affected my ability to get food for my family of seven,” said Lansing resident Latosha Harb. “I have to ration certain foods and household products because I don’t know if it will be available the next time I have to go out. We are confined to the house, but my kids have been enjoying being able to go outside in our backyard.”

Local school districts have been doing their best to make sure that students are not going without meals. “The school district providing the breakfast and lunch for students has helped us immensely,” said Harb. “It’s not a lot, but at least I know my kids will eat breakfast and lunch. I work for the district so I have been confined to the house as well. Overall, it’s stressful but we are getting through it and building memories at home.”

Carrie Caldwell has a high school student who attends Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights and has been keeping up with schoolwork at home during the school closures. “My son, Luke, is e-learning at home and checking in each class everyday. I’m lucky to be working from home with a company laptop and printer,” she said.

A third-grade teacher at Oak Glen School, Katie Larson is working hard to share resources with parents. “If I weren’t a teacher, I would have no idea where to begin,” she said. Larson is not only trying to teach her classroom students virtually, but she has two of her own kids at home to teach at the same time.

“I started a YouTube channel to offer ideas for learning,” said Larson. “I want to make sure my kid and parents can hear and see me if they need to.”

Darvel Stinson works for a company that operates 16 school bus companies. Although schools are closed, he said that work has been challenging the past few days. “Our corporation has committed to the schools we’re contracted with to help provide meals for students by transporting the meals to students’ homes to keep them and their families clear of the elements,” he said. “While it’s pretty much not safe for us either, our drivers are continuing to practice social distancing while providing a service and protecting themselves with gloves and masks. Of course, this is not an everyday norm for them, but as always, good health and safety first.”

Active outdoors

Shannon Krzeminski is a high school teacher who has found herself home with her two sons, which has been a big switch from the daily routine of school and sports. “The virus has changed many of our life’s structures. We are all engaged in e-learning in the morning, then outside for walks, hikes, tennis courts, or my boys’ hoop, or we help out at our family farm or complete home projects or catch up on movies or shows,” she said. “I feel like the teacher, cafeteria staff, coach and mom—a short order cook preparing, cooking, and cleaning up, then prepping again and motivating the kids to keep moving even though we have no games, practices, or matches, which all drive all of our lives and give us structure and life purpose and fulfillment.”

Sports practices have been swapped for farm chores and Krzeminski intends to keep her boys active. “I’m lucky I have the farm to escape to. I love working and being busy,” she said.

Delayed surgery

Jeri Villa had expected to be home this week recovering for surgery, but it’s now being rescheduled for the fall. “This is going to be with us for a longer time than we would like. I was supposed to be in surgery last week and now that cannot be,” she said. “I am a senior with a compromised immune system.”

She’s been tracking the news and called California’s recent state-wide home confinement order “scary.”

“The state of Washington, which has had the largest number of cases, is creating new ways to house the number of patients that will be coming. They are building tent-style hospitals on soccer fields near the hospital. How am I coping?” she pondered. “Knowledge is the best way to understand the scope of this pandemic.”

As a retiree, Villa is used to spending a good deal of time at home. “However, I cannot visit with my son, daughter-in-law and daughter. My grandchildren are under two-week containment at home,” she said. “Yes, I have been to the grocery store and Target. Those parts of my life now are very insignificant when compared to the medical reality that we now face.”

No tips

Restaurants and bars are feeling a huge impact from the recent mandated dine-in closings. Some businesses have elected to continue to stay open offering carry-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery. Stacy Mosele is a restaurant manager who has seen firsthand what a crushing blow this has been to the industry and all those that work in it.

“Work is tough. We are running with a skeleton crew and are told to keep labor as low as we can. More than 75 percent of our staff is not working right now as we don’t have hours to give them,” Mosele explained. “What makes it worse is that the people who are ordering food are not tipping these workers. They are making minimum wage for three to four hours work, tops. They depend on their tips. I feel terrible for them, but what is worse is what we are all being exposed to while we are still working with the public. Our health matters, too.”

Staying connected

Krzeminski and her family are making the best of the situation. “We’re communicating extensively with family and friends on live phone calls and social media, reassuring them to follow guidelines, stay mentally and physically engaged in some kind of routine, eat what you need, and love one another from afar,” she said.

“Kind words and a call or text go a long way.”

Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg is a freelance writer, photographer, author, and food and travel blogger who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. She most enjoys writing about food, people, history, and baseball. Her favorite Lansing Journal articles that she has written are: "Lan Oak Lanes attracts film crew," "Why Millennials are choosing Lansing," "Curtis Granderson returns home to give back," "The Cubs, the World Series, fandom, and family," and "Lansing's One Trick Pony Brewery: a craft beer oasis."