WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Take Me Back… July 17, 2020

(Day 16: Write about something that you miss.)

Here we are. Mid-July. [When did THAT happen, anyway?!] The United States has been trying like hell to fight against Covid-19 since March. And my home state, Connecticut, which began as a hotbed of infections, has led the charge in flattening the curve and getting transmission rates under control. Our reward? We’re currently on “phase 2” of Governor Lamont’s reopening plan with an eye toward “phase 3.” Great news, right? Well, yes. But there’s still a long list of things that I miss. Things that aren’t back to normal yet. Today, I’d like to talk about the number one item on that list.

Bring it in because I’m only going to admit to this once. Are you ready? I miss working from my office. In mid-March, as I was packing up a box of necessities from my desk, I felt an excitement in my belly. The plan was to work remotely to adhere to local “stay at home” orders. There was no talk of how long the arrangement would last but I think most of us envisioned a few weeks, tops. And when I locked the office for the last time four months ago, I was ready to be remote. Ready to stop incessantly pumping hand sanitizer onto chapped hands in an effort to protect those around me. Ready to let some of my anxiety over the virus fall away finally. No more co-mingling with possible carriers. No more constant worry about whether or not I’ve touched my face.

The beginning of working remotely was an adjustment, but not necessarily in a bad way. I pulled my daughter from daycare, glad to have her home safe with me. I enjoyed a fluid work station, having traded my desktop computer at work for my laptop in bed or at the dining room table or on my couch or lounging in the backyard. It felt freeing. A little fun, even. A girl could get used to this, I thought. But as the weeks became months, I soon realized the folly of my initial excitement.

These past four months have reminded me why I’ve never chosen to be a WAHM (work at home mom). And the main reason is because it’s virtually. fucking. impossible. In the beginning, I told myself it would get easier when the school year ended so I wouldn’t have to play teacher for part of the day during “distance learning.” I was wrong. In the middle, I told myself it would get easier when my daughter was able to get back to the hobbies she loves, soccer and dance. I was wrong about that, too. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that it would get easier if I just re-enrolled her in daycare. But let’s face it. The mom guilt over even contemplating sending her to daycare when I’m “just at home” is rooted too deep to ever actually allow me to do such a thing. So I forge on. Constantly distracted.

My work day begins, as it always has, at 8am. Only instead of settling into my office, firing up my workstation with its two monitors, and focusing on my tasks in a distraction-free space, things are a bit more chaotic these days. The physical space in which I work varies based on whether my laptop needs to be plugged in or whether or not I’ll need to print anything imminently. It varies based on what my daughter is doing at the time; sometimes the TV is too loud for me to answer phone calls, other times I need to be within earshot of her to thwart arguments between her and the neighborhood kids. It varies based on the time of day and what non-work-related thing is in demand at the time; has she had lunch? How many snacks has that been today? She wants to take a bubble bath at 2pm?

Sometimes I have to apologize to clients for the sound of my dog barking in the background. Sometimes I have to barricade myself in the bedroom to get enough privacy to complete a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I need to pretend like I didn’t just step over and around three thousand and twelve toys on the living room floor to get a glass of water. Sometimes I need to be okay with my daughter running the hose all. day. long. because it keeps her happy and lets me work in peace. Sometimes I’ve got to walk away from work briefly to get ice for her scrape or to help her decipher a word she can’t figure out or to let the dog in for the millionth time.

By the time my husband comes home from his office—that lucky bastard!—I’m a ball of nerves. At the end of my patience. Often on the verge of tears. I’ve spent all day being pulled in a dozen directions, trying to please everyone by filling two roles—mom and worker. And feeling like a failure at both. I give all I can, leaving pieces of myself everywhere. And by the time hubby’s home, the task of gathering all those pieces to make myself whole again feels daunting. But wait. There’s more. I remind myself to show him patience. He’s worked all day, too, I remind myself. I feel guilty that his welcome home is so frazzled (emotionally) and messy (physically). I feel guilty at not having picked up all the toys she’s taken out and for not having started to cook dinner yet. I feel guilty about being grumpy. I feel guilty about not having any more grace left in me to help my daughter with the simplest of tasks without snapping at her. And all of this leaves me feeling like a failure at my third role: wife.

I’m confident that my story is not unique. There are millions of other people in my shoes right now. Trying to make the best of juggling working from home and parenthood. Trying to give more of themselves than even exists. Trying not to lose themselves completely in the melee. To them, I say, I see you. I’m with you. And it’ll get easier when we can get back to the office. [Famous last words.]

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Day in the [Quarantined] Life May 13, 2020

(Day 15: Bullet-point your whole day.)

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THE WORRY MONSTER – Just wait. We’ll get there.

7:15am – Wake up to the sound of my alarm, which is set to play a random song from a Spotify playlist called Wide Awake. Today’s selection? “You’re Too Weird” by the Fruit Bats. Feeling attacked, I turn off the music and lay in bed a bit longer, listening to the birds outside and feeling thankful to see sunshine through the curtains.

 

7:30am – Head to the bathroom to get ready for work, which entails:

  • Brushing my teeth
  • Using my fingers to comb my messy hair into less messy bun
  • Tying a robe around my mismatched pajamas

 

7:45am – Hunt for a shaker cup in the kitchen. Find it in the last cabinet I’d expect to. Silently curse my husband for putting it away someplace weird then silently thank my husband for having put the dishes away at all. Make a protein shake using unsweetened chocolate almond milk (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the unsweetened vanilla) and vanilla protein powder (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the chocolate).

 

7:58am – Begin my commute to work which entails walking ten steps from the kitchen to the dining room, firing up my laptop, and opening all the websites I need to access for work.

 

8:00am – Cram as much of a regular work day as possible into the three hours my company has authorized me per day. Today’s interruptions were minimal and included:

  • 8:35am – Kissing my girl good morning and supervising her breakfast selection.
  • 9:40am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I don’t want her to go outside to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2** yet because I want her to do her school work first.
  • 9:55am – Bathroom break.
  • 10:00am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I didn’t like that she snuck out the front door to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 while I was in the bathroom. Subsequent to that, accepted her pinkie promise that once I was done working, she’d come in to do school work “straight away.”
  • 10:45am – Diffuse my girl’s emotional upset over an ongoing disagreement between her and Neighbor Child 1.
  • 10:55am – Agree to my girl grabbing a morning snack for her and Neighbor Child 2. She stated that Neighbor Child 1 is home doing school work. I remind her that she’ll be doing school work soon, too. She pretends not to hear and bounces out the front door with two packs of mini Oreos. She’s wearing a bike helmet. She’s always wearing a bike helmet.

 

11:15am – Call out the front door to tell my girl it’s time to get school work done. Endure a brief spurt of grumpiness from her about leaving Neighbor Child 2 to come inside. Begin watching the three required videos for the day and try my best to keep her engaged long enough to write 5 “snap words” and a list of 5 words each for -er, -ir, and -ur words.

 

12:00pm – Grant my girl a bathroom break. With her tablet. Which lasts 30 minutes.

 

12:30pm – Refuse my girl’s third request for lunch. Promise her said lunch when her last assignment is done. Continue to battle over her task of writing a realistic fiction story. Ignore huffing and pouting for as long as possible before snapping and shouting like a lunatic, “Fine! Let’s stop doing school work! You can just repeat the first grade!”

 

1:15pm – Rejoice over the fact that she finished her story AND tackled her art project: creating a “worry monster.” Tell her she’s done a great job when she proudly proclaims, “My worry monster is wearing blue and purple pajamas and he’s surprised because he has a brand new bed.” Serve lunch to my girl and breathe a sigh of relief that she’s chosen to eat at the table on the porch.

 

1:20pm – Make myself a sandwich, which I shovel into my mouth while standing up over the kitchen sink.

 

1:45pm – Sort laundry. Decide it’s time to put on actual [non-pajama] clothes and brush my hair with an actual hair brush.

 

2:00pm – Unload the dishwasher. Immediately reload it with all the dishes that have been piled up in the sink for the past 24 hours.

 

2:05pm – Hear the hose turn on. Run outside to tell my girl, who’s still wearing a bike helmet, to turn off the hose. Listen calmly as she explains that she and Neighbor Child 2 are “watering the flowers” [that we don’t have] out front. I concede and tell her to turn it on just long enough to fill her watering can then turn it immediately off. She complies. Repeatedly.

 

2:20pm – Venture out into the light of day for the sole purpose of telling my girl that the flowers are watered enough. Decide to make an outing of this trip outside by setting up a camp chair and reading a book in the sunshine while my girl and Neighbor Child 1 and 2 play outside. Encounter the following interruptions:

  • 12x – “Mom, watch me…”
  • 1x – “Mom, can I grab a snack for all of us?”
  • 1x – “Mooooom, I’m hurt!”

 

3:30pm – Let the wind get the better of me and finally relocate from the front yard to inside the porch. Continue reading until my girl follows me. Wearing a bike helmet. With her tablet. On full blast. Ask her to turn it down some, which she does. But it’s not enough. Give up. Close my book and resort to playing a game on my phone.

 

4:00pm – The husband returns from work. Breathe a sigh of relief while he takes over parenting. Escape inside to sit in solitude for the first time all day. Except for the dog. Who is whining to get outside again.

 

4:30pm – Heat up dinner for my girl, which she again chooses to eat on the porch. In her bike helmet.

 

5:00pm – Negotiate with my girl about dessert. She proposes she gets two scoops of ice cream tonight and promises to not have dessert for a week. I remind her about our weekly Family Movie Night coming up on Friday and point out that she’ll want dessert then. She insists she won’t. I know she’s lying. I counter her with one scoop of ice cream tonight, dessert on Friday, and no dessert otherwise until next Wednesday. The offer is accepted. She chooses to eat on the porch. Neighbor Child 1 and 2 bring over their dinner to dine with her.

 

5:15pm – Contemplate baking banana muffins, which would require me to get up off the couch and actually do something. But I’m enjoying doing nothing. And eating tortilla chips. In peace.

 

5:45pm – Finally bake the muffins.

 

7:00pm – Wrap up a half dozen muffins to send home with Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Shout the “one more hour” warning to hubby and our girl, who have started hockey practice in the driveway. She is not wearing a helmet. Curl up on the couch to read a little more.

 

7:58pm – Cart the musical instruments out the front door for “Bell Time.” (Every night from 8:00 to 8:02pm, residents in our town are encouraged to ring bells and/or otherwise make noise as a showing of “alone, together” during the pandemic. We participate nightly, as do Neighbor Child 1 and 2.)

 

8:00pm – Shake my tambourine while shooting a pleading look toward my husband that screams, “Is it 8:02 yet?!”

 

8:02pm – Shout good night across the street to Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Cart the instruments back inside and begin the nightly prodding that is getting our girl off to bed. This process includes:

  • Having her brush and floss her teeth, use the bathroom, and put on pajamas.
  • Snuggling with her until doomsday or until she falls asleep, whichever comes first. [Spoiler alert: It’s usually the former.] Thankfully, it was a dad night. WINNING!

 

9:15pm – Watch 3 episodes of Community on Netflix with hubby while eating dinner, which tonight is reheated cheese tortellini.

 

10:20pm – Contemplate baking cookies because why not? Decide against it and proceed to watch 3 episodes of Some Good News on YouTube with hubby while wishing I had cookies and reminding myself how much I effing love John Krasinski. Sob like a hot mess during Zac Brown’s new song.

 

11:30 – Lay on the couch and think about tomorrow. Realize it’ll look a lot like today only with 200% more Zoom calls, thanks to virtual dance class (for my girl) and virtual PTO meeting (for me). Chastise myself for not having made cookies earlier.

 

12:30am – Press “publish” and get ready for a shower and bed. Only to rinse and repeat tomorrow.

 

** Yes, we are supposed to be in quarantine. And we are. However, we do fraternize outdoors with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 (brothers, age 6 and 5 respectively) and their mom. My logic: If my [former] daycare is open and offering care to multiple families right now, surely I can let my girl play with the two boys across the street whose family has the same level of potential exposure as ours does. And that’s to say women and children stay home, dads report to work at staff-only establishments. So, yeah. Playdates for daaaaays.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Teacher Appreciation Week May 6, 2020

(Day 12: Write about five blessings in your life.)

Wednesday, March 11 was a beautiful day, given that it wasn’t quite spring in Connecticut yet. I remember it clearly. The world was abuzz with covid-19 talks but no one really knew what was coming. Work was more stressful than usual. My anxieties were already ramping up more than usual. And I’d never been more thankful to slip out of the office mid-morning to head across town to my daughter’s elementary school, where I often go on Wednesday mornings to meet her class at the library.

colorful chalks

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

When I arrived that day, though, I found her class preparing to leave the library, having moved their class time up a half hour to accommodate for a whole-school event that I was fortunate enough to attend with them since I was there anyway. All the students—kindergarten through second grade—were being rewarded with a sidewalk chalk party for adhering to the “positive behavior” covenant they all chant daily during morning announcements. So there I was, among a sea of roughly 350 students and roughly 30 teachers and staff, watching kids excitedly scribble drawings and messages in the courtyard. There was laughter and frantic running around and general childhood levity. I’m so thankful for that time and I’m so thankful that the kids had that moment to celebrate. Because none of us knew then that the following day would be their last day of school in the traditional sense.

This pandemic has affected us all in so many ways, on so many levels. But for now, I’m going to stick to describing what it’s like for me, personally. I’m working remotely. Limited hours—down to 16 weekly from what once was 38—but working still. Every day. And also trying to play teacher. And also trying to prepare three meals per day and the eleventy bajillion snacks my girl asks for non-stop. And also trying to maintain my household; laundry and dishes and floors don’t know that I need a break. And with whatever time is left in my day, I’m also trying to preserve my own sanity. Quell my own anxiety. Make sure I’m mentally up for the challenge of yet another day like the last.

I’ve helped my daughter navigate through paper packets and access multiple platforms for school work…Microsoft Teams, Lexia, ST Math, RAZ Kids. As an active member of our school’s PTO, I’ve also tried my best to continue moderating our school’s Facebook group for families by sharing relevant information and answering questions when I can. I’ve taken my girl to the “teachers parade” the faculty organized for the benefit of our kids. I’ve tried so hard to keep on top of every Spirit Day and Theme Week being catapulted our way from every direction. But it’s a lot. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I’m spread too thin. So when the rumblings of Teacher Appreciation Week began several weeks ago in the PTO groups I’m part of on social media, I initially felt a bit jaded by it all. I’m the teacher now. Who’s going to appreciate ME?! But since then, I’ve come to my senses. I’ve realized that even though we’re not physically in school and even though a lot of the hands-on “get your work done” prodding falls to me right now, our teachers absolutely deserve our appreciation. Perhaps moreso now than ever.

Today’s prompt is to write about five blessings in my life. And being that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, I felt it appropriate to pen a few notes about the teachers who I’m most blessed to have in my daughter’s life right now. 

 

Mrs. Kibbe

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Photo credit: Whoever was responsible for the slide show in our recent school newsletter.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at the start of our girl’s first grade year. Her teacher looked so young and in my mind that equated to inexperienced and ill-equipped to effectively handle our girl. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We met each other briefly at Open House at the start of the year. And I’d made small talk with her on Wednesday mornings when I’m able to join library time. But I didn’t get the opportunity to really talk about our girl with her until parent/teacher conferences in November. When my husband and I left that meeting, I said to him, “She sees our girl.” Mrs. Kibbe began fostering our girl’s leadership abilities from the beginning of the school year by giving her the title Lost Things Manager, a position that entails selecting a helper or two to put away anything that’s out of place at the end of the day; Our girl spoke proudly of that responsibility so often. She’s worked as a team with us on some personal/social struggles our girl was facing and has created opportunities for our girl to get some additional challenges to keep her stretching her mind. Since the start of the school year, she has made herself readily available to all parents and often responded to messages outside of school hours, a sure sign that her students are not just forgotten when the bell rings at 3:20. Since we began “distance learning,” she’s been a tremendous asset to not only her students but us parents, as well. Her understanding of our girl and her needs has truly impressed me so it was no surprise that when I mentioned to our girl (before I knew for sure) that there was a chance she wouldn’t be able to go back to school until the fall, she said, “That would be awful. Then I wouldn’t get to see Mrs. Kibbe anymore.” Not her friends, but Mrs. Kibbe. And my girl is right. The worst part of this quarantine is missing out on the last third of the year in Mrs. Kibbe’s classroom. 

 

Miss Donna

Miss Donna

Miss Donna & the “Minis” at Nationals (Wildwood NJ, summer 2019)

When our girl expressed interest in dance lessons at three years old, we didn’t have to look far. At the recommendation of a (practically) family member, we chose Suffield Performing Arts Center in the summer of 2016 after a short visit to check out the studio and to meet Miss Donna and her daughter/co-teacher Lizzie. We liked the recital pictures and the fact that the little girls were dressed like little girls. We liked that competitive dance was an option, not a requirement. We liked that the teenage dancers welcomed our girl in excitedly that day to stretch with them and that our girl joined them with no hesitation or fear. I cried watching her that day. And at her first dance recital in May 2017. And at her first dance competition in winter 2018. And most recently, while watching my girl follow along to her ballet technique class on Zoom from our living room. Miss Donna is a no-nonsense woman who expects discipline and hard work from the girls…but who also knows when it’s time to let loose and let them run wild for a bit. Her choice to start Zoom classes shortly after the Governor’s “stay at home order” took effect shows what I’ve always know; she loves her dancers. Remote classes have allowed the girls to not only continue dancing but also to continue socializing with each other and with her. Miss Donna probably doesn’t realize the enormous impact her decision has made on my girl because I’ve heard classes from the next room and know that my girl chooses not to talk much during these virtual meetings. But when class is over, she’s amped up and talks excitedly about what they did and what the other girls were talking about. Her whole demeanor changes. Twice per week, my girl gets to feel normal for a couple of hours. And for that, I’ll never be able to thank her enough. 

 

 

Mrs. Annis

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Photo credit: Whoever was responsible for the slide show in our recent school newsletter. 

From the start of her Kingergarten year, my girl has insisted that PE is her favorite part of school. So when I met Mrs. Annis myself during Open House in fall 2018, I introduced myself and told her how much my girl loves her class. She asked who my student was and when I said my girl’s name, Mrs. Annis’s face lit up. “I love her!” she gushed. Her comments on my girl’s report cards are always complimentary and when I’m at the school, Mrs. Annis has taken several opportunities over the past couple of years to personally tell me what a pleasure it is to have my girl in class. When “distance learning” began, it’s Mrs. Annis’s videos that my girl is most excited to see. When the “Physical Education” channel on Teams is bold, indicating that there’s a new post for her to view there, my girl’s eyes light up. I don’t know what sort of voodoo she’s done but Mrs. Annis has truly helped foster my girl’s love for physical activity, which I hope will continue throughout her lifetime.  

 

Coach Shelley

Coach Shelley

Coach Shelley (right) and assistant coach Jess (left) pose with the U6 green team, fall 2018

When our girl decided she wanted to play soccer, I’ll admit that I cringed a little on the inside. Soccer was perhaps my least favorite sport to watch, mostly because I don’t understand a lick of what goes on on the field. But what our girl wants, our girl gets. We were assigned to Coach Shelley’s U6 “green team” in the recreational soccer league in fall of 2018. She saw something in our girl that we hadn’t seen and began to foster her soccer skills in a way that neither myself nor my husband were equipped to do. She pushed her and mentored her and taught her the art of playing defense. And after two seasons, Coach Shelley recommended we look into the Academy program, a sort of stepping stone between the recreational and competitive leagues in our town. We took that leap in fall 2019, and our 6-year old was suddenly playing on a U9 team on a bigger field and with more rules in play, including assigned positions. Gone were the days of a pack of tykes swarming after the ball. Without Shelley’s guidance, I never would’ve looked beyond recreational soccer and our girl wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow on the field as much as she has since joining Academy. Though spring season is canceled due to covid-19, I’m looking forward to seeing what Fall 2020 brings for her soccer skills. 

 

Miss Megan

Miss Megan

Her smile says it all

My husband and I are both full-time workers so from the time our girl was 6 weeks old, she went to a home daycare that we absolutely loved. And when our provider announced in 2016 that she would be retiring that spring, we were gutted. Thus began the hunt for a preschool for our then 4-year old, which led us to The World of Imaginations. Miss Megan was our girl’s first real teacher. And though our girl entered preschool already knowing much of what would be covered on the academic end of things, her time with Miss Megan introduced her to the concept of “circle time” and schedules and classroom responsibilities and etiquette. It was around this time that our girl started playing school at home and participating in themed days based on what they were learning about in class. Preschool graduation day was a rough one for me but thankfully our girl was able to stay on as a “school-ager” at the same daycare. And though she’s no longer a preschooler there (known as “Miss Megan’s friends), our girl still gets to see Miss Megan daily and loves the team of teachers who care for the school-agers, too. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw our girl from The World of Imaginations because of covid-19, a decision that came after a lot of emotional struggle. I look forward to the day I can re-enroll her when the worst of this pandemic is behind us. 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

What If….: Quarantine Edition May 5, 2020

(Day 11: Something you always think “What if…” about)

“We are the sum total of our experiences.” -BJ Neblett

We’ve all done it. Slipped down that rabbit hole where we question our past decision and dream about how life may have been different if only…. But I realized long ago that life as I know it life as I knew it pre-pandemic is pretty awesome. And if I were to go back and alter any single decision from my past, it could’ve changed the trajectory of my life in a way that would’ve led me to Not Here. So are there experiences that I wish I’d handled differently? Absolutely. But I refuse to waste any time regretting the experiences that have made me me.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of us have also invested time into thinking about our futures and all their possibilities. Guilty as charged! What if I wrote that book? What if I changed careers? What if we had another baby? What if we moved to a new town? Dreaming about a future even brighter and more fulfilling than my (pre-pandemic) present is exciting. It used to leave me with a heady confidence, a sort of the world is my oyster sort of vibrancy. Nowhere to go but up!

And then Covid-19 happened. And the first few weeks felt….unusual? But bearable still. Working remotely? I can get used to this. Home schooling? I’ve always wanted to try that. Stores and restaurants and theaters and seemingly everything else under the sun is closed? Think of the money we’ll save by staying home!

And over the next few weeks, my optimism started to wane a bit. Getting my school-loving smarty-pants to buckle down and get her work done comes with a fight every day. She misses her teacher. Hell, I miss her teacher. And the PTO. And dropping in for library time with her class on Wednesday mornings. Dance class on Zoom is a welcomed distraction for her, but it’s just not the same as giggling in the back room before ballet or chasing her friends around in an impromptu game of tag between jazz and tap. Cranking the volume on the TV for family movie night is all well and fine but really can’t compare to the big screen. Dance competitions? Canceled. Spring soccer season? Canceled. Dance recital? Not looking good.

I waited as long as possible before breaking the news to her about the fact that we can’t throw a party for her birthday just yet. She listened excitedly as I laid out the plan which includes a car parade instead of a party for now and the promise of a big bash as soon as we’re able. Like this summer. I could practically see the images in her mind of water balloon fights and sprinkler play and all the water activities she asks for every May but is told that it’s too cold to have at her birthday party. Like every other covid-19 related blow, she took that news in stride in such a way that I was both in awe and insanely jealous of her resilience. And I thought, what if she loves celebrating her birthday later? What if this is a blessing in disguise? 

Over the past few weeks, my what if-ing has taken a darker turn. What if things never go back to how they were? What if I don’t have a job to return to? What if our country plunges into another Great Depression? What if the stores never restock and we’re faced with food and supply shortages? My anxiety has been spiraling more than usual. I cry. Often. I worry and stress and let my brain create every imaginable worst-case-scenario.

Today’s announcement from the Governor of Connecticut was not unexpected in the least, though that didn’t make reading it any easier. Schools will remain closed state-wide for the remainder of the academic year; we’ll continue with distance learning. The last shred of hope I had that my girl could finish her first grade year in class with her teacher was ripped from me. No field trip, no field day, no assemblies. (Side note: I can’t imagine what the parents of seniors are feeling!!) Nope. When my girl returns to school, she’ll be a second grader. Entering a new classroom with a new teacher and a new batch of friends. Everything familiar from early March will be gone. What if we can’t even go back in September? What if she falls behind? What if she can’t cope with this blow? 

I reached out to my husband at work, which I find myself doing when the day feels too heavy to lift. And he did what he does every time. He reminded me that this isn’t going to last forever. That things will start to return to (closer to) normal over time. That we’ll get through this, together. He suggested I take some time for self-care, which I haven’t really been doing at all lately. He told me to pause. To be in the moment. And to not think about the next thing on the list or the next thing to be missed. And he’s right. There are too many unknowns at this time. What if-ing is futile because no one knows what things will look like when businesses reopen, when kids go back to school, when covid-19 is a blip in the history book.

So today, what if what I’m doing is enough? What if the fact that my kid’s school work is done and she’s still smiling is all I need to allow myself some me time? What if I don’t vacuum the house or fold the laundry? What if we order dinner so I don’t have to cook and the kitchen stays clean just for one day? What if I just breathe and not try to posit what the future beyond today holds? What if I lay all my worries and stress down? What if this, right here, is what I’m meant to be doing? 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Opened Doors April 20, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
(Day 9: Post words of wisdom that speak to you.)
“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley 
Today is the one-month anniversary of the signing of Governor Lamont’s “stay at home” order in Connecticut so suffice it to say there are lots of closed doors lately.
Literally.
Movie theaters. Restaurants. Casinos. Amusement parks. Schools. All closed. There are no concerts, proms, beauty appointments. We can’t visit our family members, hug our friends, or step foot inside “non-essential” retail locations.
But today, rather than focusing on all the doors that are closed, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate the metaphorical doors that have opened for me, thanks to this pandemic.

people wearing face mask for protection

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I have a renewed appreciation for essential workers, especially those in healthcare.
This one’s important because while I’m worried about my work hours having been cut and whether or not I’ll have a job to go back to, so many others are putting on their uniforms and marching in to their jobs, where they face potential exposure daily. I couldn’t do what they do. But they’re there, doing what’s necessary to keep us moving forward. Taking tiny steps toward normalcy for us all again. And in the meantime, I’m going to focus on the blessing that is staying home and safe with my girl.
Never again will I have this opportunity to bond with my daughter on this level. 

My Two Kids

My two babies

Speaking of my girl, it’s not lost on me that this time with her is precious. And please don’t think that means this time has been all Pinterest-worthy craft projects and Montessori-inspired “distance learning.” There have been plenty of times when all I have the strength to do is slap some chicken nuggets and a Netflix cartoon in front of her so I can get a moment of solitude. Some days there are power struggles and, let’s be real, I don’t always win them. I yell more than I should. I often count the hours until her bedtime. But you know what else? We read together more now than ever. I get the chance to see first-hand (better than any report card could ever demonstrate to me) her strengths and weaknesses, academically. I’ve been able to teach her new things like navigating online apps to access school content and I’m in the beginning stages of a presentation to answer her repeated “Where do babies come from?” question. Not having to leave the house for her school or my work has afforded us more time to play games, laugh, talk, and just enjoy each other. At first, it was easy for me to not see past this “closed door.” I mourned the loss of her spring soccer and dance competition seasons. I was sad for her that she’d be “missing out” on having a birthday party or finishing the first grade IN school with her teacher and friends. But when I look past all that, I’ve realized that she is truly thriving through all this. Other than brief moments of pouting over the lack of a (non-canine) sibling to play with, she has loved every minute of all this mommy-and-me time. She’s going to look back on this pandemic fondly, of that I’m sure.

 

brown paper bag

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

It has forced me to reconsider how we stock our fridge and pantry.
We are so fortunate to be living in a time and in a country where the infrastructure already existed to facilitate changes like “curbside pickup” at stores, Door Dashing take-out to our front porch, and having grocery items delivered to our homes. Before all this, our family typically did a Costco run once or twice per month and I went to the grocery store on Sundays for what we’d need for the week. Beyond that, my husband would schlep to the store for whatever I’d forgotten and/or whatever we decided on a whim that we “needed” at 11pm on a weeknight. Now, though, stocking our house takes a bit more planning. To stay out of stores, we order groceries for delivery. And lots of you are doing the same because the typical one- or two-day delivery from Stop & Shop now takes about 14 days from reservation to delivery day. It takes a bit more pre-planning to make sure we don’t forget items and we think harder about what we “need” before taking a jaunt to the store for something, and never past 8pm since most essential businesses are closed after that. We cook more, order out less, and are more mindful of what we actually need to get by for a couple of weeks. And that’s something I hope to continue even after COVID-19 is nothing more than a mention in the history books.

 

My new schedule allows more hobby time.

background book stack books close up

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

At 2pm on a Monday afternoon a month ago, I’d be just punching back in after my lunch break. Maybe I’d be submitting payroll or on a conference call with a client. Maybe I’d be elbows deep in title transfers or planning an agenda for our staff meeting. But right now? I’m sitting in a camp chair with my laptop on my lap, blogging while watching my daughter play in her sandbox. This past month has afforded me more time for writing, more time to tackle my to-be-read pile of books, more time for binge-watching trashy reality TV on Hulu. I bake more. I relax more. I smile more. Instead of rushing home from work to whisk my girl off to whatever extra-curricular she has on her agenda and then home to get her ready for bed only to rinse and repeat the next day, we can breathe. Everything outside the walls of our home has been paused. And that has given us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue true happiness rather than obligations.

 

white printer paper with be kind text on plants

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

This is my chance to reassess and reinvent my life.
When this “stay at home” order is lifted (or even relaxed) and life starts to return to normal, I hope to not just revert to the way things were. This pause has taught me to not take the little things for granted; an over-booked weekend of soccer games and kids birthday parties, a night out with friends, stopping by to see my dad “just because.” There’s a whole list of things that I can’t wait to do again the minute I’m able. And every last one of them are things I never really appreciated doing before all this. I hope to be kinder to strangers, more patient with my loved ones, and more resolute in the pursuit of my own happiness. And I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.

 

So today, I urge you to stop what you’re doing. Put the worry and doubt aside. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do or where you can’t go. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and for your kids. Sit out in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Pause. And see things from a different perspective. Look at all those open doors!

joy painting brush

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Oh, the Places I’ll Go: Quarantine Edition April 10, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:49 pm
Tags: ,

(Day 5 – List five places you want to visit.)

I can’t be the only one dreaming up a to-do list for when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, businesses reopen, travel bans are lifted, and life can return to normal. Thinking about all the places I want to visit helps me stay optimistic, with an eye toward the future and normalcy. And had I been asked to list five places I’d like to visit a month ago, it would’ve been vacation destinations. But here we are. And here’s my list.

1) My daughter’s school.

She loves it and because of that, I love it. The teachers, the staff… They’re all missed deeply. Before all this, I joined her class for library time at least twice monthly, volunteered at every school event, and attended every PTO meeting. The truth is, I may be missing her school more than she is right now.

2) The movie theater.

We’ve had “family movie night” once per week since social distancing began. In fact, we’re having one tonight. (Hello, “Trolls: World Tour.”) It involves microwave popcorn, candy, pajamas, and blankets as the four of us (our black lab counts!) snuggle on the couch. We enjoy it, sure. But man, do I miss the experience of going to the theater. Never again will I complain about overpriced concessions or sticky floors.

3) Someone’s house.

Anyone’s house. My dad’s, my sister’s, my friends’. I want to have a party. Or go to a party. Or a hundred parties. Invite everyone. Hug everyone. Talk to people face to face.

4) Date night.

Like the rest of the country, I’ve been feeling more frazzled than usual lately. And when I feel like this, the solution is often to book a babysitter and enjoy a night out with the hubs. But now? We can’t have a sitter over. And even if we could, there’s no place to go. I miss dining out and escape rooms and the casino and concerts and paint night and bowling and the theater and all the things we like to do on dates.

5) The grocery store.

Sure, they’re still open. But we’re trying like hell to stay away. I haven’t been into any stores since mid-March but I’ve heard there have been many changes. I don’t want to have to wear a mask or wait in line for my turn to shop. I don’t want to hope the shelves are stocked. I want to interact with the cashier without a plexiglass panel between us. I want to shop leisurely and with my husband and daughter. If I forget something, I want to be able to pop in randomly or send my husband at 11pm. Instead, we’re shopping for two weeks at a time by delivery service. Hoping we’re choosing enough to last. Hoping it’ll all arrive and not be out of stock.

I’m doing my best to stay positive by limiting media consumption, getting a daily dose of vitamin D from outside time, and staying somewhat on a schedule in terms of sleeping and eating. I have faith that we’ll get through this and when we do, I’ll not take for granted all these little things. Because I realize now that these little things are actually pretty big.

 

Pet Peeves: Quarantine Edition April 8, 2020

If you’d asked me to list my top three pet peeves a month ago, you’d have gotten a very different list. But this is where I’m at now…

1) Feeling both overwhelmed AND bored. At the same time. At all times.

My day begins with three hours of working remotely. And most days, that’s not enough time to get the job done, which leaves me feeling…spazzy… for several hours after. And during that time, I also encourage my girl to start her school work, which she’s not always able (read: willing) to do without guidance. So when I’m done working, an hour or two or three of being a teacher begins.

I prepare eleventy bajillion snacks and meals daily. And pick up twice as many toys/messes.

I do my best to keep my girl connected to school, teams, and friends…. Taught her how to use Microsoft Teams, encourage her to video chat with friends, got her tablet set up with the various apps—and there seems to be a new one added at least weekly—our district is relying on for “distance learning,” and staying on top of all the email updates from teachers and coaches. Which reminds me. I still have to Venmo her dance teacher for the Zoom dance classes.

And when all this is done, we’ve got HOURS left in our day to decompress, though it never seems to be enough time.

At 8pm, we head outside for “bell time.” (Town-wide, people are encouraged to ring bells or otherwise make noise from 8:00 to 8:02 as a show of solidarity in this social distancing era.) And while we play our musical instruments, for lack of bells, my girl dances and I silently think, “One day closer to normalcy.”

After our girl is in bed, it’s time for dishes, laundry, picking up toys (again), and cuddling up with hubby on the couch. By this time of night, I’m ready for a giant glass of wine as a remedy for the anxiety that’s built up all day.

Rinse and repeat.

2) Having to repeat myself.

Here’s a smattering of the phrases I catch myself uttering multiple times per day, every day day…

– “Just because we’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush your hair.”

– “I said ONE snack.”

– “No, it’s not lunch time. You JUST finished breakfast!”

– “3:00 is NOT dinnertime.”

– “Turn off the tablet!”

– “C’mon, we have to get this school packet done before we go outside.”

– “If you want to play outside, you need to put on actual clothes. Not pajamas.”

3) People who don’t stay home.

I’m following the rules. Other than outdoor time in our yard and walks around the block, my girl and I have left the house exactly once in the past three weeks. And that was to take part in a birthday parade for my cousin’s twins, which didn’t require us to get out of the car. Hubby goes to work and occasionally the grocery store. That’s it. If everyone did the same, we’d all be able to get back to life as we knew it sooner.

 

Happiness is… April 4, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

Life feels a little…overwhelming…right now. Amid the covid-19 outbreak, we’re all dealing with a lot. Life has changed for us all and for me that looks a little like this: On March 12, my daughter came home from school for what would end up being the last time “indefinitely.” On March 20, her daycare closed its doors. On March 23, I began working from home, full-time, while also juggling “home schooling” my first grader. On March 27, my full-time hours were cut drastically. Retail establishments are closed. Restaurants are delivery only. Places of entertainment are closed. Grocery stores are limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside at once. Playgrounds are taped off, unusable. Some days, I have the presence of mind to remind myself that we’re going to be okay. That we’ll get through this. That it won’t last forever and that we’ll all be stronger and more appreciative of the little things when it’s over. And other days, my anxiety gets the best of me, leaving me irritable, despondent, and without any oomph to even get dressed. Today is one of those “other” days.

And while scrolling through Facebook today, I saw a post shared by my cousin (and fellow blogger) Sasha. “30 Day Writing Challenge.” And I’ll admit, part of me thought, “Who starts a 30-day challenge on the fourth of the month?” And then I realized that this post is exactly what my spirit needed today. And surely starting on the fourth isn’t even on the top ten of wacky things going on in the world right now. So here we go. Day 1 of 30. Beginning with…a list of 10 things that make me really happy.

  1. My girl. – She doesn’t realize how much she’s helped me hold things together these past few weeks. When all I want to do is lay in bed and feel sorry for myself, she’s my reason to get up. To cook something. To take a walk. To watch a silly movie or play a kid game. We help each other find balance; work/school and fun. We help each other find levity in every day. I hope someday when she’s older and looks back on this time, she remembers it as a bonding experience. A positive and happy time in her childhood. And I hope someday she realizes that she’s saved me.
  2. My husband. – My second savior. We’ve been together for 20 years, married for 11. He knows how my mind works and can usually help curb my anxiety. Whether it’s giving me some much-needed alone time when he gets home from work, ordering a movie OnDemand to take my mind off things, or talking calmly and logically through difficult conversations, he gets me. I’m thankful that with all the “social distancing,” he’s someone I can still hold tight.
  3. Our home. – I’ve griped about this house for almost as long as we’ve owned it. It’s too small. It’s old and quirky. It sometimes feels too full, like the walls are closing in on me. But you know what? There’s so much love here. We’ve got everything we need to keep us safe and happy inside. Plus a backyard full of activities for our girl…playscape, sandbox, yard games, her bike and scooters. If we have to be quarantined, this is a pretty damn comfortable place to do it. In fact, I recently asked my daughter where is her favorite place to go. I expected her to waver between a few places she loves but that we can’t visit right now…perhaps dance class or the soccer field, bowling, Six Flags, the movie theater. But she surprised me by saying, “Home.”
  4. My sister. – She and I have a lot in common…including anxiety. So when my husband doesn’t quite “get” how I’m feeling, she surely does. She has always been–and continues to be–someone I can call any time, day or night, to vent to. To cry to. To calm me down. I value the friendship we have and that I can say anything at all to her without fear of judgement.
  5. My dad. – I worry about him every day. His age, his health, his stubbornness when it comes to letting someone else grocery shop for him so he can stay home…they’re all factors against him in this pandemic. Plus add in the fact that he lives alone and I worry that he’s lonely. He and I had a rough go of things after my mom passed but over the past several years, there’s been a change in our relationship. And it’s been so good. I look forward to lots more family dinners and outings in the (hopefully near) future. But until then, we’ll sustain ourselves through texts and calls.
  6. “Framily” and friends. – The calls, texts, and messages just to check in or stay connected have sustained me on most days. From people I consider family to people I haven’t seen in person for years, I’m thankful for every relationship. This week alone, I wept watching a college friend’s memorial video for her dad as well as a high school friend’s welcoming home of her fiance. I’ve joked with someone I’ve considered my best friend since grade school and offered an ear to someone I view as family who is experiencing a loss. Through good times and bad, it’s reassuring to know that we’re all in this together and that even on our darkest days, there are people out there who care about us.
  7. Writing. – I realized pretty early on today that I was having a rough day. And when that happens, I don’t want to snap or take my mood out on my family. So I said to my 6-year old, “I think I’m going to take some time out to write. Because I’m feeling grumpy and writing usually helps me feel better.” Her response? “Okay, Momma. When I’m grumpy, I like to color.” She gets it. Sometimes the time alone is truly needed. And writing has always been an outlet for my feelings. Blogging, journaling, even working on the novel that I started about a year ago…writing is always cathartic. I hope this 30-day challenge gets me putting fingers to the keyboard more regularly. What better time to start a new routine, right?
  8. Sunshine. – It’s not lost on me that my mood is better when the sun’s shining versus when it’s cloudy or rainy. And this past week has brought us lots of clouds. I’m thankful that this craziness is happening in springtime (rather than in the dead of winter) so we can at least be outside soaking up the vitamin D whenever possible.
  9. Essential oils. – I’ve seen the memes. I know you all think that white women believe they can cure cancer with a little clary sage and frankincense. And for the record, I’m not THAT white woman. But on a day like today where my mind needs a little boost of optimism, you’d better believe that a couple of drops of something citrus in the diffuser gives me the pep I need. Say what you will. I’m happy.
  10. The internet. – Imagine for a moment that this quarantine was happening in the 1980s. No social media. No smart phones full of game apps. No e-books. No streaming services. No video chats. What the ever-living hell would we all do?! Thankfully it’s 2020 and my devices all allow me to stay connected with friends, music, books, movies and shows.

On that note, I think I’ll go rub some essential oil on my wrists and head out for some sunshine with my girl before settling in for a night of trashy reality TV with my husband. Stay well, friends. And for those who want to join me in this challenge (or just get a sneak peek of what I’ll be writing about in the coming weeks), here’s a copy of the 30 prompts:

30-Day Writing Challenge