Free Writing

I follow therapist Hillary McBride on Instagram. I like to hear her voice on the various podcasts she’s on, and I really like the way she talks about mental health.

On a recent Instagram post, she talked about “free writing”. It’s writing without analyzing or stopping or editing. She put forth these two writing prompts: “Right Now I Am Proud Of”, and “Right Now I Need Help With”.

I thought I would give it a try. I wrote all this in about 10 minutes without thinking very hard about it. I just wrote about the first things that came to mind. I would love you, if you would like, to do some free writing and answer the writing prompts. Share if you would like. Thank you.

From Hillary McBride’s Instagram

Right Now I Am Proud Of….the way I dance. I don’t know if people understand how much I struggle. I am in a constant melancholy state and doubt myself all the time, yet I keep trying new things. I just signed up for tap dancing lessons. It’s true I did. A woman in the neighborhood is teaching dance out of her open garage. I wear my mask and my tap shoes that I bought off another neighbor, and I dance. I dance every day. I have to cook and clean and take care of the kids and help them with school, but I keep working out on the exercise bike and lifting weights. I keep dancing. I practice the routine that the dance teacher made up, and I never get it perfectly right but I keep trying. I practice until my feet hurt. I really want to get it right, not for the teacher but for myself. I haven’t told many people that I’m doing tap dancing. I don’t have endless amounts of energy, so some of my energy that goes to dancing might mean I skip the laundry or dishes. But I think about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tap dancing (she in heels), “dancing on air”, and how much work went into it. I want to put a lot of practice in my tap dancing, so I can at least say I tried my best. I’m proud that I am trying a new thing on a whim, that might be good for me. It’s been such a hard year, and I need a little bit of something different. I need a little socialization. I’m not sure where this is all going but I’m not planning too far into the future. It’s just one of those things that seemed right at the time.

Right Now I Need Help With…..everything mentally and emotionally. I see a therapist. I really look forward to talking with her each time. Not just because she gives good advice, but she seems to celebrate my small victories with me. She recognizes them as victories, when no one else does. Other people overlook them. But she makes me feel like I did something brave, like making a couple important phone calls in a day. Or driving on the highway. Or signing up for tap dancing, though I have social anxiety. I don’t know how long I’ll be seeing her. I do know that I still need help. Talking with her is different than talking to my friends or family. It’s different than talking to the psychiatrist. They just seem to be looking to diagnose me and write prescriptions. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, that’s their job. But I really need that hour every other week, alone on my phone in my room, doing a video chat with my therapist. I once saw a picture of a therapist, taking all the loose threads that unraveled from a person’s mind, and wrap them all up neatly into balls of yarn. That’s exactly what it’s like, to receive that kind of help.

I wish I knew the artist!

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2 Stories and a Letter

I’ve been back it. Writing on my laptop in my living room when I’m not helping the boys with school work or cleaning or making dinner. I didn’t use any writing prompts this time; I just started writing and let it take me where it would.

The first story is happy, the second isn’t, and the third is a letter to a man I admire very much.

Porch Sittin’

Big southern porch with blue ceiling

I leaned my head against the car window, watching the landscape go by. It was raining, but still very warm outside. It was a certain type of southern rain. It actually feels hotter and more muggy after the rain shower than before. The Sun was even out.

 “The Devil is beating his wife” said my momma, who was driving.

We were cool in the car, at least. Leaning into the AC vent, I closed my eyes and thought about cold breezes and snow and icicles and frosty windows.

“What did people do before AC?” I ask my momma.

“They would keep all their doors and windows open to create a cross breeze. And use fans and open windows. People would sit outside on their shady porch.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am. It was called ‘Porch Sittin’ and it’s a Southern tradition my girl.”

“What did people do on their porch, just sit there?”

“They would sit there yes, but they would ‘pass the time of day’ together with much conversation and maybe even some singing.” My momma replied.

“Our porch doesn’t have room for more than one person.” I said, feeling disappointed.

“True. But old time porches were large and many people could sit comfortably. And do you know, my girl, that they would paint the porch ceilings a special color?”

“They did? What color?”

My momma smiled. “A very light shade of blue called ‘haint blue’.

“What’s a haint?” I asked.

“A very angry dead spirit, or ghost. Now, let me finish my story. You see, they would paint it that color to confuse the spirits, and make them think that it was the sky. Then the spirits would fly on up through the porch without making their way into the house.”

I looked ahead at the road, my imagination carrying me away. What a time to be alive. No AC, TV, Internet, Smartphones…and porch sittin’ and haint blue porch ceilings. Life was so different then. But somehow, it sounded like it might’ve been fun too. I realized I missed just talking to people face to face, and I think it would be nice to have a big porch on which to talk.

I even loved the idea of a bucket of haint blue paint. I looked up at the sky, and imagined all the spirits flying into the blue.

Shower Curtain

Floral shower curtain

“Which one do you prefer,” She asked her husband. “Blue and white stripes, or a floral pattern?”

He barely looked up from his phone. “Blue and white, I guess.” He really didn’t care. It was a shower curtain; what did it matter?

She sighed and threw the shower curtain into the red shopping cart. “Why did you even come with me if you don’t care?”

“You forced me to,” he said. “And lower your voice”

“I just thought you could care about what I care about. I’ve been working hard painting the bathroom all weekend and freshening it up. They’re YOUR parents who are coming to visit.”

“You didn’t have to paint the bathroom. It was fine the way it was, Finley.”

“Your parents are really critical of me, and you know that, Greyson. I just know that if I hadn’t painted the bathroom they would have made remarks about the peeling wallpaper. It was time for a change anyway, I mean, who puts wallpaper in a bathroom?”

“Can we just hurry up and get what we need so we can leave? I hate this store.”

Tears came to Finley’s eyes. “You hate everything I love.” Finley said under her breath.

It was true. Greyson didn’t understand his wife, and she didn’t understand him. They were married but what were they doing? They weren’t even friends anymore.

It used to be fun. Life together used to be exciting. But now here they are, in Target, fighting over a shower curtain.

Greyson put his phone in his pocket. “Look, Fin. I don’t hate what you love. I just don’t get why it’s so important to you in the first place. It’s a freaking bathroom. And my parents are nice people.”

Finley’s hand were tightly gripping the shopping cart. “You know what Greyson? Just move out. I mean it, just….go to a hotel or something tonight. This isn’t working.”

He stood there with his mouth open. “Are you kidding me right now? It’s just a bathroom!” He no longer cared keeping their voices lowered.

“I haven’t been happy in a long time” she said. “The only thing that makes me happy anymore is to make the house beautiful. To shop. To buy things we don’t need.” Finley wiped her eyes, “Our house feels so cold and empty inside because face it, we don’t love each other anymore. I guess I’ve been trying to bring warmth to it somehow.”

Greyson stood there. He didn’t know what to say.

“Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to buy this stupid shower curtain and go home and put it up. You’re going to call your parents and cancel their visit, and then you’re going to go to a hotel.”

Then Finley reached into the shopping cart and grabbed the shower curtain. She turned and put it back on the shelf and chose the floral shower curtain instead. Then she walked toward the check out line, turning her back on him.

A Letter To Mr. Rogers

Mr. Fred Rogers always found joy in life

Dear Mr. Rogers,

I know you left us many years ago, but many of us feel we need you.

You don’t know me, but I know you very well. As a child I would watch you in your kitchen and be fascinated with the miniature Land of Make Believe set. I even loved watching you feed the fish, and I especially was interested in videos about factories on Picture Picture.

When I had children, I would put them in their play pen or their highchair, and turn on your show for them. I felt like I should start them off young.

I created “Mr. Rogers” art and gave them away or sold them, and of course kept some for my home. I wanted to be reminded that I could “Look for the Helpers”, or that we could “Grow Ideas in the Garden of Our Minds”. I love to see the numbers, “143” – your code for “I love you”.

Over the years, I noticed that people would give me “Mr. Rogers” gifts, like mugs and books and tshirts. Or they would tag me in posts about Mr. Rogers. Everyone told me about the Tom Hanks movie coming out.  I felt flattered that people associated me with you.

But I wasn’t alone in the fandom, not by a long shot. Mr. Rogers, you’re very much in vogue right now. People have always appreciated you, but I feel like following your teachings is like it’s own religion.

I then realized that we are all taking up your torch. We look back longingly at your life, and we wish you were back on earth to guide us. But I think I know what you would say to that.

You would tell us that we don’t need you any longer. Because your words, they last forever. What you put on film, that will be there forever. We have it in us to raise another generation that knows it’s special.

I’m happy that you will continue to live through us.

143, Mr. Rogers.

a long and lonely road

“You did a great job at the post office, Aaron” I told my 6 year old boy. He was sitting in his carseat, with his mask still on. I was driving toward the optometrist’s office.

“You can take the mask off now sweetie” I said. He’s so good about keeping his mask on that he even forgets to take it off in the van.

“I’m hungry” he says.

“I know, we’ll get you food after your eye doctor appointment.”

Once I park the van, I realize I had miscalculated the time needed for my errands. We had arrived early. Too early to just sit in the van.

I looked in my mirror at Aaron’s face. “I don’t want to go to the eye doctor.” He said. “They’re going to do eye drops.”

“I know, Aaron, but how about we go see something fun?”

Near the eye doctor there happens to be a walking trail. “Let’s go for a walk!”

I could tell he didn’t really want to. He even said “I wish we could go home.”

But he took my hand and we walked to the trail. It was a beautiful October day. As we walked down the trail, I looked at him walking in front of me.

He looked so big to me. His once fair blonde hair looked so dark. I took my phone out of my pocket and snapped a picture.

The rest of our day went fine. He had his eye appointment, and his prescription had improved so he’ll need new glasses. Yes, he did get eye drops, which he didn’t like. But he didn’t cry, and did a great job answering the doctor’s questions.

He requested pizza for dinner, (and ice cream). I gladly got him both, to reward him for being a big helper for me that day.

Later that night, I looked at the picture I had taken.

It looked like a lone boy headed down an empty road. And I thought about how much Aaron had grown this year.

We’ve all grown. But our children have really had to adapt, and I think they adapted so well we almost take it for granted.

Look at Aaron for example. As we walked down the trail, he spotted a person coming up behind us in the distance. He immediately asked for help to put his mask on. It’s habit now.

I try to put myself in his shoes.

How would I feel if I had gone to school one Friday, hugged my friends goodbye, and was told on Monday that I wouldn’t see my friends anymore? I wouldn’t be able to see my teacher anymore either. Now school is done over a screen. Aaron always told me his favorite part of school was eating lunch with his friends. He won’t get to do that for a long time now.

Imagine being six, and you’re told that you’re not allowed to see or hug your grandparents and aunts and uncles for who knows how long.

My kids haven’t gone to a playground in 7 months. They haven’t played in a yard with any other kids besides their own siblings for 7 long months.

I think we need to give our kids so much credit for what they’ve had to go through during this pandemic. We forget sometimes, because kids are so adaptable. There’s a lot they don’t want to do, but they just do it anyway. Don’t forget do little surprises for them sometimes, little treats.

Our kids might feel they are walking down a long lonely road. Let’s make sure we are always right behind them. Let’s even walk next to them, and ahead sometimes. Let them know you’re there.

Blue Eyes

It started with a little challenge. “Describe blue eyes without comparing them to the sky or the ocean.”

Indigo eyes

I was having one of those days, where I felt a bit restless. I just felt like writing something, anything. But I wasn’t sure what. And here was a mini challenge one of my friends had done.

I decided to try:

The blue of his eyes reminded her of the way the light catches in the stained glass windows of the church. His eyes reflected the sun’s rays like indigo glass, and she observed that they seemed to produce light of their own. When he looked up to watch the clouds, his eyes looked wholly innocent and clean.

I shared it on Facebook, and a couple others joined in with me. I then thought, “How about I try to write about green and brown and black eyes as well?”

I didn’t share these on Facebook but here they are:

She looks at me with eyes the color of sage. An earthy combination of amber and moss. I watch her as she leans her chin on her hands, and slowly blinks. Her eyelashes are blonde and give her a curious look in her alluring face.

I think of his face, and what stands out the most are his russet eyes. They are the color of hot coffee with a touch of cream, sprinkled with cinnamon. I see him smile, his gentle eyes looking at me with fondness. I could look into his beautiful eyes all day.

Even though her eyes were normally kind and warm, they were so strikingly dark that he had to look away. Her eyes snapped as she spoke to him. She expressed so much through her eyes the color of pitch. It’s almost as though he could feel the injustice she experienced. 

Once I had finished describing eyes, I went to Pinterest to look for more writing prompts. I selected the words “Angels”, “Tears”, “Leaves”, “Phones”, “Mother-in-Law”, “Time”, “Ghosts”, “Candy Wrapper”, “Status Update”, and “To Do”.

I’m a little nervous, but I’m going to share them below:

Angels

I’ve always suspected Angels walk among us.

I once noticed an old woman give me a pointed look right before I almost stepped in front of a car. It was a busy day, I wasn’t paying attention. As my foot left the ground, the old woman looked directly into my eyes. It startled me, and I stayed put on the sidewalk. The car sped past me, just inches from my face.

The woman next to me was gone.

Was she an Angel? I don’t know. But she saved my life, without a word. She only had to look at me.

Tears

I can’t stop this weeping, not tonight…maybe not ever. The sorrow I feel is solid. It’s like pressure on my eyes, my face, my head. Every time I think I have shed all my tears, my eyes well up again. All I taste is salt. Yet, the longer I cry the more I feel relief. Each tear that trickles down my cheeks takes away an ounce of trouble.

Leaves

Every step is a delight to my ears. Every crunch and crackle and rustle of the leaves underfoot. There are endless leaves in this forest. It’s the little things in life that you really appreciate. Like this walk amongst the trees. The ground is brown and dry, and up above: yellows, reds and oranges.

Phones

My neck hurts, and when I finally look up, all I see are bowed heads. But they aren’t bowed in prayer, not prayer to God. Their faces glow a little, a faint blue light emanates from their hands. A hundred different conversations. A hundred different messages.

Mother-in-Law

She can somehow make a quilt, grow tomatoes and fix a sink, all in one day. She can read to the grand-kids in a funny voice and help them do their math. She only needs a cup of tea, and then she is revived. She kept her own last name, became an engineer, and never apologizes for being who she is. She raised a good son, my husband. She’s also my friend. She’s not just my mother-in-law…she’s a mother-in-love.

Time

I want to recognize that I’m in the good old days while they happen around me. I want to be present, so present that I don’t dwell on the past or agonize about the future. So tonight I was mindful of the time, and stayed in the present. I sat and watched my kids trade candy, and laughed at my middle son’s antics. I was tickled with the way my youngest peeked into his candy bag. I took delight in my eldest son’s gentleness with his youngest brother, letting him have his best candy. I noticed it all, and took mental notes. The way they were barefoot and left their shoes scattered around the porch. The way they needed a haircut. The way they bartered and joked together. The boys were just happy to be there, on the back porch together, while my husband and I watched.

Ghosts

Every time I see a ghost, they are sad…or scared. When I glanced up yesterday morning, I saw her. In the mirror. A face, with a look that truly haunted me. She was so frightened, and her mouth was held open as if she was screaming. I dropped my hairbrush and turned around, but there was nothing there. I sense them sometimes, in my vision and my sense of touch. I feel a coldness, or I see a glowing figure. Why am I so in tune with these spirits, these ghosts? They don’t hurt me, not ever, but they hover over me and watch. I lay in the dark and for just an instant I see one, above my bed. A beautiful lady in blue. She isn’t in distress, but she’s mournful. I cry myself to sleep. The worst sighting was when I saw a little boy, with transparent milky skin, crying by himself on the street corner. It was ghastly. What happened to these people in their life, that they deserved such an unfinished and miserable death?

Candy Wrapper

My hand reached into my coat pocket and I felt it. A little candy wrapper, forgotten. Tears instantly came to my eyes, because this was from one of your candies. Grandma, you always had little strawberry candies in your pocket, and would hand them to all your precious grandchildren, even the ones who were grown. The last time you gave me a candy, I didn’t realize that would be the last gift you would be able to give me. It wasn’t long after that you fell very ill, and were hospitalized. You died of pneumonia just a few days after being admitted. It was so sudden, and so sad. Your 6 children, 8 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren all gathered around your casket. It was cold and I wore my old pea coat. It was when they lowered you into the ground that I held on tight to the candy wrapper in my pocket. I miss you grandma.

Status Update

Hello everyone. I know I don’t usually post things like this, but I’m going to take a chance and just do it. I’ve been feeling very misunderstood lately. Because of this, I’ve tried very hard to please everyone, hoping so much that people see my good intentions at least. However, no one can please everyone. And neither can I. I made the decision today that if people don’t approve of me, so be it. I will continue to be myself. I will let people misunderstand me.

To Do

My list

  1. Arrange to have an entire evening and night to yourself.
  2. Cry. You might need to listen to a sad song, but you probably need to cry my dear.
  3. Now that you’re done crying, drink a glass of water, make sure you’re hydrated.
  4. Write your feelings on paper. Put the paper in a drawer.
  5. Light some scented candles in the bathroom.
  6. Take a real bath, with scented bath salts and bubbles.
  7. Listen to your favorite soothing music while in the bath.
  8. Cover your hair with oil and your skin with lotion.
  9. Wrap up in your softest robe and fuzzy socks.
  10. Sit back and watch a relaxing show with a pile of chocolates and cup of tea at your side
  11. Don’t count the calories, ignore the dishes, don’t worry about the laundry
  12. Get a good night’s sleep
  13. Having done all this…then you will feel refreshed enough to do things for others:

List #2:

  1. Fix your husband’s favorite dinner and watch his favorite movie with him
  2. Take your kids out for ice cream
  3. Call your parents “just because”
  4. Send a letter to your grandmother
  5. Message each friend and check in with them.

Now having done all that, here’s List #3:

  1. Stop feeling guilty
  2. Stop feeling like you don’t deserve what you have
  3. Stop hating on your body
  4. Stop worrying about what others think of you

Lastly, List #4:

  1. Just be.

Toxic Positivity

Has anyone ever told you “It could be worse” when you expressed yourself about a situation? Or have you heard this one “Good Vibes ONLY!”. Or this: “Just be grateful for what you have, don’t be sad about what you lost.”

 I remember when my oldest was very little, and we were at a playdate with a few little friends. One of the children started complaining about something. His mom said, “Remember what I told you? Don’t say anything unless it’s positive!”

Friends, this is Toxic Positivity.

And I keep seeing it.

This might be controversial, but where I see it the most is among white women. I don’t know what it is, but I feel that we white women have been raised to always smile, always be polite, always say “We’re fine” when we’re not. We really have this pressure on ourselves to be A-Ok. I think we do this because we need to be in control.

It’s one thing to deny yourself the full range of human emotions, it’s another thing to deny it to your fellow humans. Take for instance what happened in the Breonna Taylor case. She was shot multiple times in her home, as she lay in bed. No officers were charged with killing her.

When Black people express rage over this situation online, I see white women comment: “No, don’t divide us! We should come together!” or “Please calm down and let’s remember we are all part of the human race.”

This is infuriating. When you are hurting, and expressing righteous anger, it is the worst when a person tells you to calm down and look on the bright side.

Listen: Jesus Himself turned the tables over in the Temple. He fashioned a whip and used it on the people there. He got angry. Jesus was not positive all the time.

This isn’t about “Speaking the truth in love”. That’s what I’m trying to do right now, speak the truth. We can be gentle when we need to be, but when something unjust happens, we can’t sit back and try to pretend everything is ok. That would be lying.

So, if someone is in the middle of something terrible, just remember to sit with them in that pain. Don’t blow it off and send them “positive vibes”. People can’t send good feelings to another person that way, it’s never been done. Saying you will pray for them is tricky. It all depends on who is hurting, and why. It may not be what the person wants to hear. Don’t say it just to make yourself feel better.

Toxic positivity is just an all around insincere way to express yourself. It’s not healthy at all, and we need to stop pretending that we’re all ok all the time. This is especially true during COVID. It is not helpful to hear a person say that COVID and quarantine is a “Blessing in disguise”, or they are really enjoying the lockdown. That is not a nice thing to hear when you are depressed and anxious.

That doesn’t mean we can’t personally look for the Silver lining , and be Creative during COVID. It’s ok to encourage people in a sincere way, as long as you validate their feelings.

Just be careful about how you express your emotions. God gave us all of our emotions, and it is not wrong to have them. As long as we aren’t hurting ourselves or others, we should be able to express ourselves freely. Don’t suppress your emotions, that will only make everything worse.

Express yourself, and let others do the same.

Found on Therapywithdrv Instagram

Is Halloween Canceled?

We all have a favorite holiday. I’m sure most people favor Christmas, but many people love Thanksgiving. The 4th of July is always fun, and Easter is wonderful too. I actually love all the holidays. But there’s just something about Halloween.

I love October and the Fall, and that whole time of year. I love the way Halloween makes me feel young again. It’s purely fun. There are no gifts to wrap and there are no awkward family meals. I still get to decorate the house outside and inside. I love taking my kids to a pumpkin patch and playing in the haystacks and slides. I love dressing up in a costume just as much as my kids love it. I love taking the boys from house to house to trick or treat, but I also love passing out candy to the lovely trick or treaters that come to our door.

I’ve noticed people decorating for Fall already. I think people are not only ready for the cooler weather, but they are ready for this year to end. I feel the same way.

But guys…I heard Halloween is canceled. It had so much potential too! It’s on a Saturday this year…with a full moon set to rise. Without costume parties and trick or treating, it must be ruined.

Winifred from Hocus Pocus

Or…..is it canceled?

Yes, COVID-19 has ruined trick or treating this year. It’s ruined many things. But we can still have fun on October 31st. And I want to share my ideas with you. (If you have any fun Halloween/Fall ideas, let me know!)

This year I plan on

  1. Decorating the inside and outside of my house. I have plenty of Halloween decorations I’ve made and collected over the years to make it feel festive. Even if you just put out a pumpkin spiced candle, it just makes everything feel more autumnal and nice.
  2. Organizing a Spooky Basket trade with friends (This year it’s our first trade and there are 11 of us to be exact; we call ourselves the Secret Skellingtons). Ask your friends and family if they’re interested, and together coordinate a fun tradition. Put together and mail a wonderful Spooky Gift Basket.
  3. Making a jack o lantern with the kids. You don’t have to have kids. I used to make jack o lanterns way before I had kids, heck, before I was married. I remember putting one out next to the front door of my apartment door in college. Pumpkins aren’t hard to find in the grocery store. There may be a great pumpkin patch you can go to while maintaining distance! Carving them always puts me in the Halloween mood.
  4. Making chocolate chip pumpkin bread. It’s so good.
  5. Making my own PSL at home. There are many recipes online. Here’s one with real pumpkin puree: https://www.inspiredtaste.net/8419/pumpkin-spice-latte-at-home-recipe/
  6. Having a family zoom meeting with the grandparents and aunts/uncles! Halloween style.
  7. Dressing up with the kids. On Halloween night, I’m going to set candy out on the porch and not answer the door. Normally I love handing out candy! And we’re not going trick or treating. But by golly, my kids and I are going to dress up in whatever costumes we have around the house.
  8. Having a dance party! Put on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your costumes on! The kids will love it.
  9. Eating candy. Candy is abundant in the stores this year, and we’re going to find our favorite candy and treat ourselves.
  10. Watching a Halloween movie. What movie floats your boat? My family has made it a tradition to watch Hocus Pocus every year in October. This year we’re going to watch on Halloween night. Oh Boooook!

Other family friendly movie ideas: “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Hotel Transylvania”, “Casper”, “Coraline”, “Corpse Bride”, “Ghostbusters” 1 &2, “Beetlejuice”, “The Addams Family”, “Addams Family Values”,The Addams Family” (animated, 2019), and “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”.

Everything is upside down this year, it’s true. If you have children, you might worry about what 2020 is doing to them psychologically. The holidays aren’t the same this year. We can’t visit our grandparents and we can’t trick or treat, and we might not be able to have fun at the pumpkin patch, etc….But If you have a good attitude about the holidays and make the best of things, your kids won’t notice much. Believe me, kids are adaptable. We can be adaptable too. Halloween 2020 can be, and will be, a lot of fun if you make it fun. Good luck!

Virtual School vs. Homeschool (in the Days of COVID)

School looks different these days. Perhaps you have children who are in school right now. They might be wearing masks, the teachers might be working double time to keep things sterilized, and the desks might have plastic partitions. There’s no more recess, no more playgrounds, and lunch might take place in the classroom instead of a cafeteria/multipurpose room).

We had the option of enrolling our kids in a virtual academy and we decided to take that path. Virtual school might even look different in the days of COVID than it would normally.

My kids have been doing school at home for 3 weeks now. Even so, I can’t call it homeschooling. There are differences between doing public school virtually and homeschooling. I was actually homeschooled as a middle and high schooler, and I can tell you that my school days looked very different. This might not be everybody’s experience but it’s mine. I just wanted to contrast and compare:

  1. As the parent, you are not the teacher with virtual school. See, in a homeschooling household, usually the mother is the sole teacher, but I know fathers contribute as well. When I was in middle school, my mom sat down with me and we studied all the subjects together. I would do my school work and she would check it for me. Later, in high school, I did a correspondence school so I would mail my work to instructors for evaluation. But still I had help from my parents.

When your child is enrolled in a virtual academy, they are assigned teachers from the school. Those teachers give the instruction and they evaluate the school work. As a parent, your job is to oversee everything.

2. You don’t get to choose the curriculum in a virtual academy. This goes without saying. When you choose to homeschool, you will need to research and develop a curriculum for your children. It’s actually pretty costly to buy an existing curriculum, but whether you do this or not, it’s going to be time consuming to plan the school year at home.

When your child is enrolled in virtual schooling, you don’t have to pay anything for the tuition (we still needed to pay for school supplies, just like any other year in public school). You leave it up to the school district to choose the curriculum, with everything being run by a company that the government funds.

3. In the best of times, you can have a great social life as a homeschooler or as a student of a virtual academy. For homeschoolers, there are clubs and co-ops, and some schools allow homeschoolers to attend PE classes.

What did my life look like as a homeschooler? I actually did attend a co-op. We did different classes together, and participated in mock trials. We also did animal dissections once a week.  I also did art classes and science club, all specifically created for homeschoolers and their families.

I also grew up in church, and had homeschooling friends. I got to spend a lot of time them, even on weekdays. I didn’t have many friends but I think my social life was pretty good.

In this time of COVID, obviously my kids aren’t able to do clubs or sports. But the option is available for students in virtual school.

4. You will have more freedom with traditional homeschooling, and the school days are shorter than virtual school. (keep in mind, this is our experience; it may differ from school to school)

My kids have a full day of school here at home in virtual academy. They need to login to class, and participate in various Zoom meetings all throughout the day. They begin at 8 am and don’t finish until after 2 (my kindergartner has a very short day, it ends at 10 am).

When I was homeschooled, I might work for hours one day and I might do just one short assignment the next day. I might begin the day at noon, or 3 or later. (as a teenager, I got actual sleep! Many teenagers need more sleep, so I was lucky) I was in control of my time. As long as I got the work done, it was extremely flexible.

This isn’t true of all homeschooling families of course. I know some homeschooling families that do “Unschooling” and don’t follow a curriculum at all, and they have great freedom throughout the day. I know other homeschooling families that take a traditional route. Their kids sit at desks and there is a specific plan each day for how things will progress.

The point is, as a homeschooling family, you get to choose everything about how school will go. In our virtual academy, we must adhere to the school’s rules.

5. This is a family effort, either way! Students have less oversight, and parents need to stay on top of what their children are doing. For parents who must work outside the home, this will prove to be very difficult. Homeschoolers and virtual schoolers need to stay motivated, and their parents/teachers need to closely monitor their progress.

Lastly, I just want to say that some days go more smoothly than others. The other day I literally screamed into a pillow because one of my kids didn’t want to learn and I’m sick and tired of the technical issues we’ve had so far. Things aren’t perfect. But is school ever perfect? Homeschooling parents and teachers alike get so tired and frustrated sometimes….it was bound to happen to me. But….I’m thankful that we have this choice to keep our kids safe at home for at least the rest of the calendar year. I don’t know what the future holds in 2021, but I can guess. More masks. More social distancing. And as frustrating as it can be sometimes, I hope we still have the option of virtual school.

We can do Hard Things…

…But not easy things, as Glennon Doyle once said.

Do you ever feel like that? I do.

Sometimes I feel like I can barely function as an adult. I wonder if people have been holding my hand through it all.

There are so many simple things that adults do every day that I seem to struggle with, and some of it’s due to my anxiety disorder but some of it’s just due to failing at these tasks.

  • For instance, math. I cannot do math in my head. My kids can, but I seem to almost have a fear of numbers. The worst thing you could do to me would be to ask me a math question and put me on the spot. It’s been like this for me ever since I was very young. I cried in math classes from grade school to college. Yes, even in college, I shed a few tears in frustration.
  • Because of this, I’m not good at handling a budget. I just shy away from numbers. I’ve never sat down and planned when it comes to money.
  • Another thing I’m terrible at is spelling. I used to get Fs on my spelling tests, and to this day I rely heavily on “Spell Check”. The English language just doesn’t make sense to me.  My handwriting isn’t good either.
  • What other adult skills do I lack? Making a phone call. God, I hate making phone calls or picking up the phone when it rings. It takes all my focus to make a doctor’s appointment for myself.
  • Resetting a password. It just fills me with dread.
  • Sewing. I can sort of sew a button but please don’t ask me to use a sewing machine. I have used them in the past but they intimidate me. I can’t quilt or darn or crochet or embroider or cross stitch or knit. I wouldn’t know where to start.
  • Keep plants alive. It is my dream to be a “plant momma” and have house plants. It is my dream to have a large vegetable garden and produce actual veggies and herbs. But I can’t seem to keep the darn things alive. I over-water them or under-water them.
  • Speaking of plants, I can’t seem to weed the garden out front without getting poison ivy. It happens to me every time! I wear long sleeved shirts and pants and gloves, plus I take a shower when I’m done. Still get it. This most recent time I actually got poison ivy on my face, and stayed inside for a week. I usually ignore the weeds until we get a nice HOA letter.
  • Getting up at a decent time unless I’m forced to. I am slow in the mornings. This summer I’ve been getting up at 9:30 or 10 while the kids get their own breakfast. I just don’t know what the point is about getting up early, but apparently successful adults always get up early and this helps them through the day.
  • Staying hydrated. Though I do drink more water ever since they came out with sparkling “flavored” water.
  • Taking a shower. I take one every few days. I just can’t seem to make myself step into the Wet World of the Shower when the Dry World is so much better. (of course, getting out of the shower is hard too, once you’re in it)
  • Giving a strong handshake.
  • Looking people in the eyes.
  • Any kind of computer maintenance.
  • Any kind of car maintenance. Changing a tire, changing the oil. If I looked under the hood of a vehicle, I would just have a blank stare until an adult came to show me what’s wrong.
  • Speaking of cars, driving. I can drive sure, but not a long distance by myself. That fills me with anxiety. Also, I’ve got the worst sense of direction. If you handed me a map I would nod and pretend I understood what I was looking at but then you’d probably turn the map right-side up and I’d smile sheepishly. And please don’t ask me to give you directions, because I’m not great at that. Thank God for GPS. Before GPS I’d print out Map Quest directions.
  • Driving on the highway. I hate it. I’ve done it, and I will have to do it in the future, but I hate it.
  • Due to anxiety, shopping at a mall, or Costco, or Super Walmart, or anything like that. I struggle with the crowds and the lack of easy escape.

 

Send help!

I can’t function sometimes.

But!

I can do hard things.

  • I’m  a good mom. I have given birth to three boys. I survived an emergency C-Section and two VBACS. I’m raising these boys. I’ve gone through a lot, so many stages of babyhood, toddler-hood, and childhood. They’re healthy, happy, intelligent and funny. We’re doing a good job. I’m going to help teach them this year for their virtual schooling. It’s going to be a lot to juggle but I can do it. I know I can.
  • I’m a good wife. My husband and I have been together 15 years, married for 13. We’re best friends, and while life isn’t perfect, we have each other.
  • I’m a good daughter/sister/granddaughter/niece. I’m good at keeping in touch, and encouraging my family members, and sending them letters and gifts. Before we moved away, I was good at hosting family gatherings.
  • I’m a good friend, for many of the same reasons. I text back quickly. I check in on my friends and I talk to them as much as I can. I try to never forget a birthday and I love to host gatherings whenever possible.
  • I can admit I need help. It’s not easy to ask for help, but I’ve done it and will continue to do this.
  • I learn from my mistakes. I am not too proud to own up to them.
  • I celebrate small victories.
  • I’m a reader. I’m not the fastest reader (I probably do 2 or 3 books a month), but I enjoy reading and I am always in the middle of a book. My favorites are nonfiction and memoirs.
  • I take care of myself through eating well and exercise. I work out every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, and I’m watching my diet. I lost 10 pounds this month.
  • My goal has never been to make money. Even when I had an Etsy shop, I was more focused on sharing my crafts with people around the world, and raising money for the Cherokee national Historical Society. I once had a free yard sale. I’m not driven by money.
  • I’m good at forgiveness. At least, in my life so far. I find it’s good for me. It doesn’t mean I trust the person again, but I am willing to let it go, whatever the thing is. It’s just good for my mental health.
  • I think I’m good at apologizing. I hope so anyway.
  • But I’m also good at letting people go. I will move on from certain people and leave them behind in my rear view mirror if they aren’t good for me. I don’t hate, I’m just closing the door on them.
  • I believe I’m a good listener. I don’t try to fix people’s problems. I (hope I) don’t try to compare my situation with theirs. I really think I’m good at sitting with someone in their pain. I’ll pray for a person if they ask.
  • I’ve been known to make people laugh.
  • I’m pretty flexible. I’m not a particularly stubborn individual.
  • I’m good at expressing myself through writing and art. Especially writing. I have 12 short stories under my belt, as well as a finished children’s chapter book and a couple of picture books. (Here’s where the adulting part comes in, the next steps! Editing and publishing. Help me Lord) I hope I express myself well with this blog.
  • I’m learning to say “No” to people. Like Jen Hatmaker says, “If it’s not a Hell Yes, it’s a No”.
  • I have gone through a deconstruction of my faith and the religion I was born with. I’m still on a bit of a journey here. But I’m glad that I don’t believe all the same things 10 year old me believed, or 20 year old me believed. It’s good to know that my beliefs can evolve.
  • Lastly, I’m always willing to learn. I’m always willing to better myself. That’s what I want to do, because there’s definitely room for improvement.

 

I may struggle with a lot of adult skills, but I’m at least trying. I may never be as fully functional as I’d like to be, but I’m nailing it when it comes to certain skills.

If you have a hard time “adulting” I encourage you to make a list of things that you CAN do. Things that you’re nailing.

Then give yourself a gold star and celebrate those victories. It’s ok, you deserve it.

Look for the Silver Lining

I’m sitting here typing with coconut lime body lotion on my skin, hair oil in my newly dyed hair, and an aloe face mask. This is because during Quarantine I am learning to take better care of me.

I’ll admit it was rough for a while. I talked about the The Despair of Saturday and the Low Hum of Peril. Really, things aren’t great as far as COVID 19 is concerned. I was pretty anxious and depressed from the whole thing.  I looked at pictures on Facebook of my neighbor who is doing a whole fun bucket list this summer, and felt like a failure.

But I’m learning to embrace Quarantine.  I’m learning that I can make positive choices. I think, if we are healthy and safe, we all should try and figure out the good aspects of Quarantine Life.

Like I said, I’m taking better care of myself. I don’t know why but there’s something about being unmotivated and depressed. You want to avoid Target, so you just decide that you want to treat yourself to online shopping. That’s where the self-care started for me. I never buy stuff for myself. But this month I bought myself comfy clothes, books and toiletries on Amazon (harem pants and joggers and quality hair care products), fun items on Etsy (including pillow spray and vintage 80’s kimono), and even makeup from Morphe. I have learned retail therapy is more fun when you shop online.

Now, with retail therapy, one must be careful and not go overboard. But when it comes to exercise and eating right, hey go crazy. Because of Quarantine and being home so much, I have upped my workout game. I’ve also decided to lose weight, and I’m doing this through intermittent fasting. It just feels good to see results.

Throughout June I just wanted to sleep. But after getting on this self care kick, (and coming off a certain medication), I felt motivated to start some new projects. It helps that I have more time. My first project was to declutter. Next, I decided to declutter my Etsy inventory by having a big sale (I’m done with it, so it’s closing at the end of the month). Packaging up 20 orders kept me busy!

Right now, I’m focused on painting – not a canvas, but the walls. I painted the guest bathroom coral, and I’m painting my eldest son’s room blue. This is helping me catch up on my podcasts as well.

But I have been more creative. I’m back to writing and I’m playing with the Procreate app on my iPad.

That’s the thing about Quarantine – it’s not so bad if you’re an introvert! My whole family is mostly introverted (except for my middle son), and my kids seem to be doing just fine. We’re spending more time together as a family. Because of COVID, my husband only has to go into work twice a week. I know a lot of spouses are filing for divorce from spending so much time together, but not us. He and I are very good about having alone time and then coming together to watch a show like “The Americans”. We may not have a summer bucket list full of fun activities, but we’re still vibing together just fine.

That’s not to say we haven’t done any activities. Recently we finished “Avatar the Last Airbender” as a family. We’ve picked strawberries and blueberries. And none of us has to get up early (though the kids insist on it) so we have been taking nighttime walks. (It’s so hot during the day).

We also spent a few nights traveling through our city to find the best spot to see the Neowise Comet. As it turned out, the best spot was behind a Mexican restaurant around the corner from our house.

One activity I am not really missing is planning birthday parties. The kids are ok with it. I make sure they get cake and plenty of presents.

The other thing I like about Quarantine, is the phone call dr appts. I love appointments over the phone! I do this with both my psychiatrist and my therapist. It’s so convenient, I don’t have to drive 20 minutes (Speaking of driving, I don’t know about you, but we’ve been saving lots of money on gas!). Also I feel like I can open up more from the comfort of my home. I hope this is something they continue to do even after we have a vaccine.

I don’t go very many places, but when I do, I get to go in Disguise!

Sunglasses and mask! Why would anyone refuse to wear a mask? (another topic for another time). Also, I’m loving the personal space. When a person comes towards me, we do a dance of the social distancing and make sure we leave each other as much space as possible. I love this trend.

What I don’t love about Quarantine is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen friends and family. But because of COVID, we are all being more attentive to each other with phone calls, and online movie nights. These never happened before Quarantine, and because I live a few states away from most of my friends and family, it’s kind of like I get to see them more than ever before. It’s a habit I hope we continue with.

Is life better than before? No. But there are some things that are actually better than before COVID 19. I didn’t see it all at first, but just taking a few moments and writing it down, lets me see that life isn’t so bad. There are positives. There are good things to be found even in 2020. I encourage you to do the same. Look for the Silver Lining.

Remember this?