Guest post by Jonna Huseman
What is your profession/involvement in the community?
Working to end chronic and veteran homelessness in Washington, D.C. in my role as chief development officer at Miriam’s Kitchen; making the most of summer as board member of Daleview Pool; and doing the best that I can for my family.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
In the early weeks, I kept saying it felt like my husband and I were in a relay race where we kept dropping the batons. But the batons were our kids, who we would drop off in each other’s newly designated home office zones so we could jump on a Zoom call. Our lives have changed in a number of ways just to manage work and childcare.
I also have had to step up in my role as a leader at work, at home, and in the community. When the pandemic hit, I had to jump on daily virus response team calls with senior leaders at Miriam’s Kitchen to help pivot programs and keep our guests experiencing homelessness, volunteers, and staff safe, healthy, and informed. I stayed up late reading about best practices from countries that “got it right” to see if there were any tips that would be applicable at Miriam’s Kitchen. The tips shared were much larger scale that required collaboration across government, healthcare, and technology and made me nervous about how the U.S. was, or maybe more accurately, was NOT, preparing.
All of that work made me jump into preparation and scenario planning mode at home. My husband called me the “house expert” on COVID-19. No pressure there. On top of that, I’m on the board of Daleview Pool where we have been tackling the question of when and if we can open the pool later this summer. So I am definitely feeling a bit of decision fatigue and enjoy when others can take the lead.
Are you working more or less?
I am working more and less. It is a strange paradox. Each day, I feel like there is not enough time to complete my work at Miriam’s Kitchen and so much time to plan enriching activities for the kids. Don’t get me wrong—Netflix has been a tremendous help for when my husband and I both have meetings. Thankfully, Miriam’s Kitchen has been understanding and provided a lot of support and flexibility to staff in this new environment.
What are you most afraid of?
Besides losing a loved one, I’m afraid of making a decision that negatively impacts people.
What are you most hopeful for?
That we find a treatment and vaccine soon. That’s the only way I can see us getting back to normal. Though I hope it is a better version of normal—where we value teachers, childcare providers, social workers, farmers, medical professionals and other essential workers more. We have better life-work balance and things are just more equitable.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
There is not enough down time. The days are spent juggling childcare, work, cooking, and cleaning. The nights are spent catching up on work. And even though I am exhausted by bedtime, I stay up watching a movie or browsing Facebook just to veg out a little. I need time to turn off my work brain before I can actually go to sleep. I miss having time to hang out with friends, go out on a date with my husband and spend time with our extended family who live nearby. We have Zoom lunch and dinner dates, but things are always better in person. Now that things are settling down a bit, Jason and I recently talked about carving out time for a weekly date so that we don’t lose ourselves in all of this.
Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
We go on a lot more walks. On one of our walks, we discovered morels—a delicious wild mushroom! My daughter actually spotted the first one. She yelled, “Mommy, a mushroom!” I thought they looked like morels, but we had to phone a friend—Bubby to be exact—to verify. With her encouragement, we’ve been picking and sharing them with her. I’ve had fun looking up and cooking different recipes that feature morels. So, that has been one of the highlights of this time that we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy otherwise.
What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
The pandemic highlights how when one person is unwell the whole community is at risk. So I hope as a society, we learn to take better care of each other. At Miriam’s Kitchen, I get to see a lot of examples of that. People have reached out to sew cloth masks, companies have donated bottles of water, hand sanitizers and masks, and volunteers have sent so many heartfelt messages of support. We have been grateful to receive such an outpouring of support, and that’s what I love about my job. I get to see the generous, compassionate side of people and that keeps me motivated. I hope we—as individuals and society—use this time to dig deeper to understand root causes and use that knowledge to create a world where everyone has a safe place to call home, the air and water is cleaner, and so on.
How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
We seem to have taken up the concept of “forest bathing.” We try to go out for walks twice a day and discover new trails on the weekends.
When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
This was a crazy time that also provided an opportunity to reset our priorities. Mostly, I hope the kids will look back at this time and think, “I don’t remember much about the coronavirus, just that it was really cool to hang out with Mom and Dad.” But I guess even before the crisis, all parents hoped their kids would think it was cool to hang out together.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
Vulnerable populations are left in even more dire situations in a crisis. So check in on your neighbors, and if you are able, help those who need it. We’ve donated to a few organizations including Miriam’s Kitchen. We were surprised to receive a stimulus check and donated all of it to the furloughed staff at the YMCA where both children used to attend.
Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.
Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most.