My Hot Mess: Gini DietrichIn a series called My Hot Mess, inspired by the Wall Street Journal, we’ll speak to communicators around the globe about the things they’re doing right now to get through this hot mess we call life.

Gini Dietrich launches the new series by talking about how she’s muddling through. Check back every Friday to learn about a new victim communicator and how they’re coping during this crazy time.

Control What I Can Control

Natalie Hastings posted this meme in the Spin Sucks Community and it is my everything.

Dolly Parton

I am an introvert so, at the start of this, I thought, “How bad can it be?”

I don’t get my energy from other people and I already worked from home.

It didn’t feel like it was going to be that much change.

It turns out, it’s a pretty big deal.

Not only do I have ZERO alone time right now, I miss my routine. Sorely.

I crave routine and structure and that has all been upended. And, even when you try to create routine, it lasts maybe four hours.


The other night, as my kid climbed into bed with us for one more story—and used my body as her pillow—I said, “Bean, I’m with you all day, every day. Could I maybe have two hours to myself and you can have the other 22?”

She said, “OK! The 22 hours starts now!”

There are people around literally All. Day. Long.

To boot, I feel like women have a harder time in this because we’re still expected to work a normal day, homeschool, meal plan, cook, clean, take care of ourselves, and still parent and be a spouse. Even for those of us who have partners in our relationships, this has become impossible—as the Dolly Parton meme suggests.

There are some things I do every day to help me feel like I’m in control and have some semblance of routine.

Mind you, it’s still stressful and it changes every day, but I can control these things.

  • Shower and get dressed every day. A bunch of my friends have admitted they haven’t worn pants that button or bras with underwire in days. Girlfriends, more power to you! I cannot function that way. Maybe it’s because I have worked virtually all these years, but showering, getting dressed, and putting on a coat of mascara helps.
  • Keep a clean house. My friend Nick was teasing me about this the other day. He said, “I’ve been in your home and know how clean it is. It must be spotless right now.” I mean, yes. Yesterday afternoon, I cleaned out the fridge because there was nothing else to clean. It’s something I can control!
  • Plan for the future. I typically wait until the end of April to start planning my garden. Not this year! This year, with the help of a Master Gardener friend, I have started seeds for veggies, fruits, and herbs. I have a postage stamped sized garden—and most of it is in containers (I do live in the middle of the city, after all), but by golly! We will have food growing this year.
  • Warehouse food. When Trump was elected, I freaked out a little bit. I grew up Mormon and it’s a thing they have to be prepared for something like, I don’t know, the end of the world. So I called my mom and asked her to send me a starter list of food to buy. When this all hit, I was already prepared! I was joking with my friend Carla that all I need is a robot for my warehouse to inventory and fetch things for me, and we’ll be set. It’s a slight exaggeration—remember I live in the middle of the city—so my “warehouse” is really more like three shelves. Bu it makes me feel better that I didn’t have to hoard toilet paper along with everyone else.

Daily Journaling

When true isolation started in Chicago on March 16, I started an isolation day journal on my Facebook page.

(I have it public so everyone can see it.)

I had visions of doing it via video, with the camera close to my face—Blair Witch style—while I whispered about what the natives are doing to take control.

But I’m just not that ambitious right now.

Instead, I journal the highlights of the day and include a photo or GIF to illustrate what I’m feeling or what has happened.

I started it because I want to be able to look back years from now and see how far we’ve come.

But it’s become cathartic (it also helps that people think it’s funny and keep coming back for more—or at least egging me on).

I look for normal things throughout the day to include.

In the past, I never would have posted on Facebook that I smashed my finger in the car door or that my kid locked me out of the house, but right now, it’s the right amount of honesty and realness we all need.

Cooking and Baking

Cooking and baking have always been major stress relievers for me.

I don’t love meal planning and cooking three meals a day—it’s just one more thing, you know?

But because we can’t leave the house, the weekends are spent filling the freezer with lots of goodies.

Right now, we have pizza dough, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and salted corn cookie dough, French bread and ciabatta, pasta sauce, different types of pasta meals, and cupcakes in there.

This weekend, I’ve promised three friends I will send them some of my sourdough starter—his name is  Horace—so I will feed him and then freeze dry him to be mailed.

Soon, Horace will be starting bread in multiple states across the country.

Of course, I’ll ask for photos and videos of this bread making so I can feel like Horace and I are there virtually, if we can’t be there in person.

Fitness Switch Up

I’m a major cyclist and, right now is the time I should be preparing for my season.

Instead, the outdoors have been closed.

(It’s a slight embellishment. We can go outside, but anywhere that has trails long and far enough to ride is closed.)

And, while we do have a Peloton, I’d have to do three or four classes a day to keep up with my training schedule.

That would be pure torture.

So, instead, I’m giving myself a break and switching up my fitness routine.

Sure, I won’t be in racing shape should we get to race this year, but it’s helping to break up the monotony.

Bean, the new puppy (gulp!), and I get outside for a walk every two hours.

We have started taking her bike, which I ride, she stands on the back, and Tulip is learning to trot alongside us.

Is it racing-worthy exercise? Of course not!

But I am riding a bike that’s way too small for me with an extra 45 pounds on the back and a dog pulling every direction.

It works for now.

Monitoring News Consumption

Last March, we took a vacation—my first in many years—and I removed the social media, news, and email apps from my phone.

(Mostly because I cannot be trusted.)

Slowly, some of those have made it back on my phone—except for the news app (and Facebook—I still haven’t added it back on there).

If I want to know what’s going on right now, I have to consciously open a web browser and do some Googling.

I also live with a politico so I know more than most, just by osmosis, but I try to limit my news consumption best I can.

I talked with a client yesterday who said, “I have been so sucked into finding information that it’s affecting me negatively.”

Yes. Every bit this.

It’s just too much and this is one more thing I can control right now—and I do.

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino