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How are you doing during COVID-19?

The JCR recently reached out to readers on social media and through the JCR Weekly to find out how NCRA members are coping with changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The answers ranged from worries over having little to no work to taking advantage of the unexpected time off to catch up on tasks, hobbies, and activities that, during normal times, seemed to always be put on hold. Below are some of what NCRA members shared.

I am so blessed to be in this line of work! I am a CART Provider for students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. When our spring break was extended in March and rumors of cancelling the rest of the semester were circling, I was, like, what am I going to do? Well, thanks to wonderful and knowledgeable colleagues and trainings through NCRA, I am afforded the privilege to work from home providing real-time access for my students and professors. I am amazed! I had to learn quickly and adapt rapidly, but I am so much better because of it! I have increased my knowledge and skills as a stenographer, and I am able to keep my family stabilized. It’s been an unforeseen road closure, but it has opened up so many opportunities to grow and expand personally and professionally. I am grateful!

Brandy Walthall, Arlington, Texas

My courthouse is still open. I am still going to the courthouse every day. Some hearings are via Zoom, and I report those from my office. Some hearings are in the courtroom, and I report those in the courtroom.

Rebekah Lockwood, RDR, CRR, Tampa, Fla.

Using this time to work on a seminar about the history of the Illinois Court Reporters Association to present at ILCRA’s annual convention, which, fingers crossed, will be this September, assuming the nation gets adequate herd immunity by then.

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, Caseyville, Ill.

I have taken advantage of the reduced-rate webinars to obtain CEUs.

Cathy Jimenez Phillips, FAPR, RMR, CMRS, Collierville, Tenn.

I am praying for work. That is all.

Lee Ann Bates, RPR, CRR, Hutchinson, Kan. 

Work is terribly slow, though some Zoom assignments for later in the month are slowly making their way onto the calendar. I’ve been doing lots of nonpaying busy work, such as volunteer work with the Virginia Court Reporters Association and taking care of a to-do list I’ve had for quite some time. Definitely getting more walks and virtual exercise in has become the new norm. It’s been nice to finally have time to try out a few of the recipes I had collected. The wealth of information about how to apply for PPP and SBA grants has been daunting. It seems every company I ever did business with from insurance companies to financial planning wants to have a webinar. The biggest frustration is the lack of response for planning ahead to get financial assistance.   

Donna L. Linton, RMR, CRR, Ashburn, Va.

My last day of work was March 6. All depos have been cancelled. I’ve sat in on about three or four Zoom training sessions and am ready to go! One of the reporting agencies that I generally work with has been doing demos with attorneys receiving realtime, and I’ve been sitting in on those and giving a demonstration with a mock demo, but they’ve yet to actually schedule a deposition. I have come up with an opening statement asking for all parties to agree to swearing in the witness via teleconference and have troubleshot my audio playback, working with two separate laptops. One is for my realtime and the other is the Zoom (or another platform) video conferencing. It all works great. Now we just need the clients!

Busy doing other work around the house. Cleaning out closets, purging old paperwork, getting rid of paper notes. (Yes, I’m a dinosaur.) Cleaning out 20 years’ worth of children’s artwork from school – just saving the special ones. I don’t think I need to save all the 1 plus 1 equals 2! 

I finally did one remote job this week after having three weeks off. My husband and I are exploring the hundreds of miles of bike paths. Since I have all this free time, I’m giving the neighbors concerts on my piano, and I’m decorating my house by painting wall murals. Freelance reporters are usually so busy we don’t get to enjoy our hobbies like this.

Wendy McCaffrey, RPR, Denver, Colo.

Rushing out the door to a dep, I open a closet to get something. It’s such a mess. “If I just had TIME! I need to reorganize and clean this closet.” Head to the kitchen to grab my coffee and I pass the laundry room. I see a load of laundry I forgot to fold. “I need the world to stop spinning so I can just catch up.” Thinking to myself as I walk in the garage, “If I don’t work tomorrow, I can go food shopping and do other errands.” Then it crosses my mind, “Oh, if I just had one day, one day where I could just stay home.”

Enter quarantine 2020 due to COVID-19. Here I am, home. Time and the world has stopped. So I have made it a point to try and get to all the projects I’ve had to put off all this time. Some days are easier than others. Some days I’m lazy and nothing gets done. Other days I’m on top of it. I do get dressed every day. I walk the dog, make my coffee, and for at least 15 minutes, get the steno machine out and practice my steno. I make a list every night of a few things I want to accomplish, whether it’s phone calls to take care of house things or a big project. So far I’ve deep cleaned my room and bathroom. My dining room table is piled high with my son’s clothes as we go through his closet. Today is clean the outside of my kitchen cabinets. Days go fast as I don’t wake as early as I have to when my son needs to be up for school, and it seems dinner time comes upon us. I have taken some webinars on Zoom and have been fortunate enough to take a remote dep and telephonic dep.    

I do hope when this is over that I will have accomplished all the projects that I had been waiting for the world to stop to get to. My hope for when this is over is that I use my time more wisely with busy work thrown in, and I hope to never hate food shopping again. I will definitely embrace my drives to work and hope to get back to spin class, as, when I had the time, I made an excuse. I have been logging into church services, and it’s made me realize how much I’d rather be in the actual church.   

I pray that lives have been saved, and I look forward to getting back into the world with a more positive perspective.

Diane DiTizii, RMR, CRR, CCR, Montville, N.J.

So for my husband and I, we haven’t been sitting around at all. Work is at a trickle … maybe one job a week so far … but we have been catching up on projects. Our landscaping is in full bloom; so we’ve been working in the yard a lot. We also did a patio project where we installed a beautiful tongue-and-groove ceiling and a new ceiling fan. I’ve done quite a bit of Ebay selling too. People are really looking for laptops and modems and the like, plus books and puzzles and other things too. We haven’t been bored at all!

Just trying to survive. Instead of 13 to 14 jobs a day, we have 13 to 14 jobs a week. Working with my accountant to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, so I can keep my employees and they will not have to file for unemployment, which Florida has the lowest benefit in the country along with North Carolina. Other than that, doing lots of yard work. 

Angela H. Wierzbicki, RPR, Pensacola, Fla.

I’ve not stopped since the pandemic stay-home orders began. In addition to having a one-week hearing transcript on my plate (with a self-imposed April 13 deadline), because of the notary statute in my home state, I’ve spent many hours (via Zoom) meeting with several reporting profession leaders in my state trying to clarify just what that means. 

We wrote pleas to the Secretary of State and to the Chief Justice. We contacted legislators and anyone we could think of to assist us. We shared emergency orders from other states (by both governors and high courts) and we still, as of today’s date (April 8), have only the barest hint of any relief. 

We are continuing to reach out and now are going to be focusing on the General Assembly and being sure that OUR voices, as reporters who are notaries, can be heard.

I must take a moment to thank NCRA’s government relations department, and especially Executive Director Dave Wenhold, for their experience and training for just this type of situation. I’ve attended the NCRA Legislative Boot Camp three times in the past and I’ve also covered the Hill by myself on two other occasions, and I feel so much better prepared than I otherwise would have been now that I’m facing this situation at home, on the ground. 

I still have so many pages to produce, but in the end, I’m trying to help all my colleagues. I hope by the end of the month, when the Legislature finally meets again, that we can have a strong voice to effect a positive change in the legislation that protects our notary reporters here. 

Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, Wake Forest, N.C.

The pandemic has resulted in a complete lack of depositions for me as a freelance court reporter in upstate New York. Every deposition I have had scheduled since March 11 has canceled. I have tried to encourage my clients to use remote videoconference via Zoom, but they have not warmed to the idea. I have reached out to the networking agencies that I have ties with, but they are not utilizing my services. It has had a devastating effect on my business.

Melissa A. Lanning, RPR, Central Square, N.Y.

I have been a reporter for 40 years. The work has been steady, no matter where I lived (East Coast and now the West). That is no longer the case. Despite firms touting Zoom depos, the work has completely stopped. At first, I thought maybe a week would go by and then we would see a positive move over to telecommunicating. That is absolutely not happening. I’m sure the attorneys are waiting it out and do not want things to change too much as far as depos go. It’s a wait-and-see game at this point.

Rosemary Locklear, RPR, CRR, San Pedro, Calif.

As a full-time scopist, this pandemic has been devastating. No work since the end of March and none seen for the foreseeable future. Glad I’m on social security so I can at least pay my mortgage and utilities. Ongoing medical bills have been put off for 30 days, to be evaluated then again. Worried about prescription and food bills in the upcoming days until this “no work” status is alleviated. Other bills will have to wait until I have income again.  

And my biggest stress reliever is gone as they’ve canceled all community band rehearsals and concerts until further notice, which was previously my weekly music therapy.

As for my time, it’s been spent working on taxes, cleaning and organizing house, reading and playing games (jigsaw puzzles) on Facebook, and watching TV (which I never had time for previously). Great relief not to be swamped with work as well as more “normal” daily chores, but need money soon to survive.

Lu Ann Scafe, Sparta, Wis.

When this is all over, I can only imagine how busy we will all be! Stay home, stay safe!

Lorraine B. Abate, RPR, North Caldwell, N.J.