Ohio COVID-19 Journal Day 47

47 days. So far, it’s been 47 days. Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm says we’re in the 2nd inning. Let that sink in for a moment.

Maybe he’s right. Let’s see: we’re physically safe. You could argue we bunted and made it to first base, maybe even stole second.

But I’d rather not be playing baseball. I’d much rather be sitting in the park on a sunny afternoon drinking a beer, eating a dog, and cheering on our favorite team. Wouldn’t we all?

Cheering on the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Love that view. Photo courtesy of Joshua Peacock

But oooooh no. We’re playing ball. And if it had to guess, we just arrived at the top of the 2nd. I hear the famous words of Tom Hank’s character Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own,

“There’s no crying in baseball.”

I want to cry but the tears aren’t flowing.


The monotony of it all. Oh, the monotony! Every day like the rest. I get up, clean up, grab some caffeine, and within 20 minutes tops I sit in that home office chair and pound away at the computer just like the day before. The days are a blur.

Lent? It came, it went. Easter arrived. I hardly knew it. I know some people really embrace Lent. They slow down, get reflective and spiritual. I’m not that person. I slowed down in other ways, to be sure. But this year? I missed the rituals and opportunity to commune with other people on the Lenten journey. Deep down, it became clear that it is something I actually crave. I’m embarrassed it took a pandemic for me to realize it.

School is “back in session”, online. You would hardly know it either. My kids check their assignments on Monday and complete most of what is required for the week in just a few hours. Granted we have a bit more visibility to what the younger one is required to do but it doesn’t feel like much of a work load. No way are they getting the same level of instruction as they would in a physical classroom, however in no way am I blaming the teachers or the school administration. Parents are a child’s greatest teacher, so it is my job to fill in whatever gap I believe is missing.

The teachers and administration have to develop and issue the assignments fairly. Nevertheless, I’m sure there are kids on an individualized education plan (IEP) who aren’t getting the support they need. I feel bad for those students and their parents, but this chaos was thrust on everyone. We can only hope that the education and guidance we give our kids in other ways makes up for what they may be missing out on these few months. I know it doesn’t but it helps to show some grace toward parents and kids who are struggling now.

A few days ago Ohio officially announced that children will not return to physical classrooms for the remainder of this academic year. We had a hunch that would be true the first day of social distancing, 47+ days ago when the governor broke the news about the shut-downs. The school news still hit like a gut punch when it became real. While my heart breaks for seniors who may miss the rituals of their final year of public schooling, what really got to me was the realization that the monotony of the last few weeks will remain virtually unchanged until August, quite possibly. The only difference is the weather will be slightly warmer.

I’m not kidding. Chances are excellent I’ll continue to work from home because I can do my job just fine from here. My percussion teacher husband can continue his lessons online. We will have to come up with some seriously creative ideas for the kids to keep them occupied this summer. It’s daunting to think about. My fear is boredom and plenty of food to eat without self-discipline and constant supervision can make for a dangerous combination.

I feel for my friends, family, and coworkers with little ones, trying to navigate work under these circumstances. I know how exhausted I was when things were normal and I left them for 9-10 hours a day. Being with them 24×7 every day, trying to parent them while working? I hope we all lean toward grace for people in that situation.


I’ve tried socializing online. Held a variety of “happy hour” sessions with friends, family, coworkers, using whatever tools are at our disposal: Facetime, Messenger, Zoom, Teams. People as far away as England and Moscow, Florida, Cincinnati, Lexington, Raleigh, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh. I really do need to chat with my friend in Japan next. I am pretty glad this way of connecting exists even if it means sitting for a spell yet some more while we chat.

Although I am definitely not bored, I am helping co-produce a recurring Zoom webcast for a doctor friend who is sponsoring women’s health conversations. It’s been fun to put my webcast producer and interviewer hat back on.

I’m grateful for guided meditation, books, walks outside, my sweet little doggie, take-out, video-conferencing, social media, Amazon Music, and Netflix guiding me through this time, and for all the curiosity and twists of fate that led me to experience a pandemic with these stress outlets at my fingertips. I may or may not have become an Outlander fanatic over the last two weeks or so.

I remember when this whole thing started, I challenged people to do something meaningful with the time. Now I realize how ridiculous that was. Not one soul needs pressure, to feel bad about what they are or are not doing. Everyone has their own circumstances with an inherent set of challenges built in. We do what we can do, nothing more. No guilt, just grace.

The only goal? Survive. Just make it through to the other side of this, however long it takes.


Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash

Heartcheck

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Admittedly I’ve been a bit busy as a new puppy mama. If you only knew how I have a half-dozen posts in the works and ideas for countless more that I haven’t even started yet but I do. Hopefully I can find my groove and hit the publish button a bit more often here.

Stay tuned. You’ll hear about our spring break trip to Nashville, Birmingham, and Atlanta, how I decided to start therapy (and I’m proud of it), how I’m failing miserably at anything that resembles Lenten preparation, how I’ve fallen off the CrossFit bandwagon but hope to get back, things that make me crazy, my breast biopsy (the sequel), some classic non-fiction books I am reading, the art of Facebook unfriending, the ridiculous satisfaction of finishing everything on my to-do list, and maybe even my review of Cuba which was a trip we took a year ago this month. Of course you’ll hear about the puppy. We got it going on here, brothers and sisters!

What do you guys think? Should I prioritize a certain post over another? I’m all ears. Or you can even pose a topic or a question. Why not!

I get this is bit unusual for a blog post, but I figure a quick heartcheck is a good thing. Hope all is well wherever you happen to be.

Photo by Rawpixel on Pexels.com

Controlled Chaos

Monday evening. Sitting here trying to figure out how another weekend blew by. I can’t believe February is almost over and I wonder what I have to show for it. I am just exhausted from the never ending stream of things to do for myself, our family, each individual kid, our extended family, friends, the house…..it’s endless. And I feel guilty because I don’t volunteer for anything in our community…but I have no idea how I could possibly squeeze that in along with the demands of my job. I don’t have the stamina and I don’t want to let people down. It’s just non-stop crazy.

For the longest time I’ve been fascinated with the concept of a patron saint, someone Godly that represents a body of people or maybe even an individual. I often wondered who my patron saint would be. Then it hit me. If I had a personal patron saint, it would have to be Martha, always the busy body. Mary Magdalene sat and visited with Christ because she realized the gift before them all, while Martha huffed and puffed that there was so much to do to and no one offering to help.

Yeah, Martha’s my home girl.

You should see my massive “to do” list. I scare people when I show it to them. I break it up into three buckets – the stuff that I really want to tackle this week, the stuff that needs to happen fairly soon (maybe the following week), and a third list of stuff that needs to happen eventually. I write all of it down so I don’t forget about it, and I have a version for work and for my personal life.

I keep all of it on Microsoft OneNote on my work computer. I discovered this life-changing tool maybe about five years ago and can’t believe I had not found it sooner. All you need to do is type…everything is automatically saved. You can easily drag and move around whatever you type on the page, so whatever I put in one bucket can easily move into another if the timing changes.

As things pop in my head throughout the day (at the most inopportune times, of course), I can write them down on the respective lists, and then organize them by theme (different projects at work, meeting agenda planning, action planning, vacation checklists, blog ideas, home projects, etc.)

If you have access to the Microsoft Suite on your work computer, I urge you check this software out because it has made a world of difference in how I stay organized, versus writing tasks and ideas down on random pieces of paper and then transferring it to a master list that I would write over and over, like you used to do with those Franklin Day Planners once upon a time. I can’t do it justice in explaining the value of OneNote in this blog. Really, I can’t. You just have to see for yourself.

85fifteen-323873-unsplashFor some crazy reason I also started using a personal planner last year, Ink + Volt. I now have a red 2018 Ink + Volt planner. I don’t know why I use both methods to stay organized, but I do. I know there are all kinds of planners out there but I don’t need a cutesy one with stickers. Mine has a substantial cover – book quality – with page markers and prompts to ponder. It’s big enough to be easy to write in and small enough to throw in my purse. It has a section for you to plan your year, each month, and each week.

I enjoy checking off a task that I teed up for the week but lately I keep carrying over the same stuff from week to week. True, I’ve been making minor progress on each of my tasks but I am not getting the satisfaction of being completely finished. That bugs me.

March is almost upon us and in my planner, there is a prompt for what I will focus on in March. I feel so scattered. I don’t know what to do.

On one hand, it’s Lent. Lent gets all kinds of bad rap from people who don’t observe it, and I’m not exactly a role model when it comes to my personal observation of it, but one of the purposes or benefits of Lent is to close yourself off from outside distractions and draw inward. Many people use this time to pray, to fast, to break from the demands of the outside world. This is a good thing, a very necessary and helpful thing. Good thing it comes around once a year. And I suppose I could do that. I probably should do that. If you only knew how scattered and fractured my mind was, you’d know why this is a good idea.

But March is also my husband’s 50th birthday, and a way to celebrate and honor him. This is a man who at this point has lived eight years longer than his own father, a topic comes up quite often for an event that happened 42 years ago. No matter what I do, I don’t do enough to honor my husband. He deserves every good thing and I continually fail him as a wife, supporting him the way I ought to. I’m still really selfish and let my needs come first. Right this very moment I should be ordering a cake but I may very well just go to bed, at 7:30 pm.

I’m also having mixed success with the detox I started last month (see Detox Day 5), and feeling kinda bad about that. And I still haven’t cured the wanderlust that hit me pretty hard 10 days ago. Which leads me right back to Help Wanted. Sometimes you just want to call up your mom, wave the white flag, and ask for and get the help you need. But I don’t have that option. I’ve never had that option. I’m not looking for pity – it’s just the way it is.

So today I’m tired. And feeling a little uninspired. And wondering what March has in store for us. Will it feed our souls or punch us in the gut? Will it be the punctuation needed at the end of winter’s monologue? And why do I feel the need to control chaos anyway?

Nitey-night…

 

Image by 85fifteen on Unsplash.com

Simplify or Magnify?

Regarding that last raw post of mine, you are probably asking yourself again,

“Hey uh….Where is the ‘Laugh Love’ part of the blog name???”

Yeah…you’re gonna have to get out your wide-angle lens when you read this blog.  I know I’m all over the map with topics. I definitely cover life, the love part is sometimes tough love, and there are definitely loud, long laughs. Maybe all of them don’t translate to the written page, but we make a point to inject humor as much as we can.

So believe me, events like the Florida school shooting this week leave me virtually speechless, there is SO much that I want to say but I’m exhausted just trying to get the words out.

It’s times like this that I want to circle the wagons and just focus on my immediate family. That’s kind of my default mode as it is…just focus on us, just the five of us in this house. Maybe because we didn’t grow up where we live now and our closest family is a few hours away so we don’t have a ready social network where we live, and our travel schedules once upon a time didn’t allow tight friendships to form. I don’t get caught up in a bunch of parties and drinking, I don’t have a ton of extra time to devote to things like the PTO…and believe me, if I had a bunch of free time, I’d be focused more on my own health and developing desperately needed friendships, and that’s proven very hard to do without a lot of drinking involved. I’m so tired, I’m afraid I’d fall asleep. I just can’t hang like I used to, like the moms who are 15 years younger than me.

But back to the whole “circle the wagons” concept….for many Christians it is now the Lenten season and for some denominations like the Catholics and Orthodox, it’s a time for quiet reflection, closing out the distractions of food, drink, entertainment, and obsession of every kind including politics. To look inside your own heart and understand what you personally can do to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to those in the storm, and so on. Directly and indirectly. Figuratively and literally.

Maybe some people think this inward focus is quaint, old-fashioned, or dogmatic on the part of the church. Ok. Regardless of whether your church or your religion is commanding you to do it, I do believe there is value in scaling back, simplifying your life to the bare necessities so you can channel your energy first toward inward reflection and then finally to outward action, to wherever your heart says it is needed the most.

I struggle with this myself, with ways I can be most effective, most impactful. I had this conversation with a superior at work, and she told me that my purpose in life was to live a happy life with my family and to go have adventures with them.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that but 1) it sounded a little hedonistic when she said it to me, and 2) I personally have always longed to be and do something more, and I struggle with my ability today to do more than influence my own family. And if I fail to do that job well, what business do I have trying to make a positive impact elsewhere?

This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Maybe in light of the events in Florida, this is a time to just stay home a little bit more, and hug your family. Spend time with them. Listen to what’s going on in their hearts.

And if you can’t do either of those things – figure out how to be still with your own family or how to help those who need it most – then spend the time helping yourself. Start there. Be still and just be you.

Maybe you think that sounds selfish. I’m telling you it is not.

God knows when my children were much smaller, there were days of utter exhaustion, endless chauffeuring, laundry, baths, homework, shopping, doctor appointments, and on and on, that I wanted to fall into a heap and cry. I wanted anyone, anyone at all to come to my house and stay for a week or a month or a couple of years to help me out. Other than my husband, there was no one.

I wanted to cry but there were no tears. My self talk was brutal. Like hundreds of thousands of mothers before me I told myself I needed to buck up and shut up. Just do the job. Hundreds of thousands of mothers before me had it much tougher than me. But still, I would have given anything for just a little bit of help. Someone to hold me and tell me it would get better and everything would turn out ok. That mothering in this insane world would get a little bit easier as your children got a little bit older and self-reliant, even if the risks got a lot scarier.

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So if you’re wondering how in the world to get through your days, whether you should simply your life or magnify your contributions – and I’ve heard some of you ask this very question – I’m here to give you permission to do whatever you are called to do. And if you need a break, then take one. Cancel appointments for yourself or the kids and rest. Or cancel those routine appointments and responsibilities and take that extra time to expand your reach beyond what you usually do.

If ever you have wondered what choice to make, you’re not alone. And whichever choice you make, including none at all, is fine.

 

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash