Mom Grief

My youngest went back to in-person schooling on Monday, four days a week. Wednesdays are “asynchronous” days where kids are expected to do some homework, and it gives teachers time to work on lessons and strategies for doing the in-person/virtual combination. Most of the kids in our county are back in elementary school now, although my daughter said a few kids are still virtual through the end of the year. The older two will go back April 5.

Dropping my daughter off, I felt a crazy mix of emotions. I went through all the stages of grief between dropping her off and driving home. The renowned psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, first published the five stages of grief in 1969, and they still make sense. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That’s a lot of emotions for a fifteen minute drive.

The emotions started with a sense of denial that this was even real. In the car line, masked teachers opened car doors, sweet little kids popped out, wearing masks, marching into the building where they were going to use hand sanitizer before entering classrooms. Based on the communication from the school, the kids would be sitting apart, not sitting close to each other at lunch; they would be letting only one kid go through the lunch line at a time (which is why we are packing lunches), and everyone would be cleaning and hand sanitizing all day. It’s a scene I never, ever imagined would happen. It’s like the Twilight Zone.

After she went inside, and as I was staying out of the way of yellow buses, I briefly felt anger. I was just angry that COVID happened, that we’ve had to do school at home for a year, that the kids didn’t get a normal school year. That she wasn’t on a bus! (We decided that would be additional opportunity for exposure). But I didn’t stay angry for long because the tears came as I was rolling out of the school driveway.

The next stage is bargaining, which is somewhat like protesting or making promises to God if He could just change something. But bargaining can manifest as a feeling of helplessness. I felt like there was nothing I could do about any of this, and that’s an overwhelming feeling to have, especially when driving. This is the stage of loss where we dig up regrets and wonder if we should have acted differently with loved ones. I felt angst that even though we were together for a year of virtual schooling, I could have done better. We had talked about doing extra things, like making our own baking class and extra field trips, but we didn’t do it regularly. I should have read with her more. I should have been more patient with her (especially with her writing). I should have quizzed her more on math. I should have not started my nursing blog because that pulls me away from kids. All the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s slammed me like running into a school bus.

When the panic subsided, and I was driving passed cow farms, I just let myself feel sad and depressed, and I recognized that I missed her, but I knew she was getting back to where she needed to be, with friends, with teachers, and figuring life out without me around all the time.

By the time I was back home, I had accepted the new reality. I shifted to thinking about my hill workout and how I could pop into the grocery store afterward to pick up my corned beef and cabbage without too many people smelling me. Hey, it’s a valid concern.

The day flew by, and it wasn’t long before it was time to pick her up again. In the car, she animatedly talked about her school day, assuring me that everyone kept their masks on, informing me as to who she played with at recess, telling me about her art class, and about how hungry she was by lunchtime. And at that moment, I couldn’t stop smiling.

So, I Did a Thing

I did a thing.

Have you noticed people saying this lately? I’m jumping on board.

I finally bought smart phones for my 16- and 14-year-old daughters.

You are probably thinking, why the heck did you wait so long? And geez, lady, most 8 year olds have them, and you’re just getting them now? Yes. It’s been an ongoing struggle between parents (literally, between two parents) and kids in this house. And there are definitely pros and cons to these devices; the argument could go back and forth for decades. My biggest concern was cost: I just watched our monthly AT&T cell phone bill (with veteran discount) jump from $139 to $375. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. My husband’s concerns were usage, personal information sharing, and security.  He wanted them to wait until they were out of the house (18+) to get a smart phone.

I couldn’t wait that long.

Give me some credit; I’d waited longer than most people.

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Coffee + Book = Happiness

My 14-year-old daughter gave me a writing prompt book for my birthday. I’ve challenged myself to do at least one a week. I have to keep responses short so they fit into the spaces provided in the book, but that’s actually a relief, and the exercises are fun. The one I did today was interesting so I shared it with my kids, and you readers might want to do it too!

The challenge is to come up with a mathematical formula to express something you know or believe (see title). And then see how many you can come up with. BTW, colored gel pens make this exercise even better.

Here are some of mine:

Running + long, hot shower = bliss

Warm blankets + no alarm set = heavenly

Laughter + good food = ecstasy

(Chores x days)/not enough time = stress

Negative morale + work stress = not fun

Anxiety + God = manageable

Hiking + wilderness + kids = memories

Clutter + mess = chaotic mind

Plans + follow-through = satisfaction

When I asked my youngest what she could think of, the first two she said was . . .

Sweets + fruit = happiness

Hope x love x faith = God

My oldest said . . .

Marvel movies + iced coffee = good vibes

And my middle child . . .

Weekend divided by homework = sad

Creativity to the power of Sarah = Art

Oh! I discovered that this is a good exercise for summarizing concepts. I just printed out an article about nursing resilience, so I will use this math method to summarize: Personal competence + tenacity + tolerance of adversity + positive acceptance of situations & change + feelings of being in control + spiritual influences = resilience. Phew, that’s a lot of math.

What about you, readers? Care to share?

Faking It

I ran a 10K race yesterday in Rendono Beach, California! Look at that sunny place, the bright blue water, the palm trees. Do you see me? I’m the one with the gray capris and bright green shirt and Saucony Guide 7 running shoes . . .

No? Even if you squint? Well maybe that’s because my view looked more like . . .

That’s not really my basement. I don’t have authorization to show a picture of my basement–it might give away our location and personal identification and someone could come steal all of our . . . oh, wait, maybe that would be a good thing.

Anyway,

can we appreciate how hard it is to mimic a race these days?

I tried to get excited about this virtual race. I payed $30, and I look forward to getting my medal and t-shirt when they come in the mail. I did several training runs with my goal race pace in mind. I had a pasta dish the night before. I timed my breakfast; I warmed up with a jog and stretch; I ate my pre-race fruit strip for fast carbs. I had my ipod charged. And I tried to picture a beach, a boardwalk, seagulls, smiling people handing out cups of water, another runner coming up behind me, pushing me to compete, people cheering at the finish line, a post-race restaurant outing with a margarita!

But.

What really happened was I ran on a treadmill and stopped it at 6.2 miles, took a picture of the console, and wrote my time down in my running log (47:31). Because that’s what we do now, especially when it’s snowing outside.

I likened this race to what the kids are trying to do with virtual schooling. They are trying; they are streaming classes two days a week; they are sending emails back and forth to teachers; they are setting alarms and eating breakfast. But darn it’s hard for them to generate energy for a virtual school day. It’s hard for them to eat lunch on a schedule instead of just munching all day long. It’s hard for them to put on shoes every day when half the time they’re on their beds or curled on a couch to do their work. Even my middle daughter who doesn’t complain about much told me how much she misses school, especially the library. I fear for how much they are missing with learning and socializing.

I keep trying to get my youngest excited about science and history, but it’s a challenge. Both those subjects involve reading and discussion, and that’s not what she wants to do. She wants to quickly look for the answers to posted questions and move on so she can play. I keep reminding her that she is only getting about a 50% education right now, but she looks at me like she has no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

I want to yell–

IT MEANS YOU USED TO RACE AT REDONDO BEACH, CALIFORNIA, BUT THIS YEAR YOU GET A TREADMILL IN A MESSY BASEMENT! THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS!

I am looking forward to the days when the kids are back in school, when races are in person, and all the other great things we probably took for granted. Someday we will look back at this virtual stuff and maybe even chuckle and reminisce at what we did and how we made the most of it. Until then, I’ll be picking another destination race for next month. Where should I go? Daytona? Honolulu? New York?

So, readers, what have you faked since covid started? A movie outing? A party? A concert? A family get-together?

What Did You Want to Be?

When you were in preschool or kindergarten, what did you want to be when you grew up? What changed your mind (assuming you didn’t make an accurate prediction)? What if you grew up to be what you had wanted back then? What would your life look like now?

When I was in kindergarten, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic School, we made “All About Me” journals. On one of the pages, we were asked to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew a picture of me as a . . . nurse (sorry, a bit anti-climatic), a nurse with a red cross on her nurse’s hat, holding a bowl of ice cream for my imaginary patient. I wanted to be a nurse thanks to a pop-up book (remember those?) about a boy who had to go to the hospital to get his tonsils out. In this book, the boy’s nurse brought him ice cream for his sore throat. I wanted to be that nurse! That nurse who got to bring ice cream for sore throats!

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They Say It’s Your Birthday

Today is my birthday. Thank you, thank you, oh, you are too kind. I wish you a Happy Birthday too, whenever that is. Birthdays make me smile. I am privileged to share a birthday with my twin sister, and we can sing the Beatle’s birthday song to each other and it still makes sense. Not many people can do that.

I look forward to every birthday in our house. Although covid put a damper on what we can do to celebrate, there is still an anticipation, still a sense that the day should be special somehow. Typically the birthday recipient picks a special meal and dessert, which I seriously look forward to, almost to a fault. I have to admit, if I didn’t get a special meal, I would be disappointed, maybe act out, maybe do something crazy like stick a candle into a tub of peanut butter and threaten to eat it. But I won’t have to do that today. Today we’ll get a variety package from our local barbeque joint which has curbside pickup and memorably good pulled pork and cornbread. I’ll be making a chocolate mousse pie with my youngest daughter today too. I’m so happy!

For birthdays, we also pull out a fun birthday inflatable cupcake, a gift from a dear friend when we lived in Indiana (Hi, Judy!). It’s become a part of our tradition. I woke up this morning and my oldest had gotten up before me and had it up in the living room to brighten my day. The inflatable has been a prop for many birthday photos, although yearly pictures with the kids growing up are much better than yearly pictures of myself, which would only document how much grayer I’m getting and how much more stubborn I am not to dye my hair. Yet.

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Resilience . . . are you there?

I felt the need recently to look up the word resilience. I had several reasons for wanting to do this. The American Psychological Association’s website has a page on “Building your resilience,” and they define resilience and give advice on how to strengthen it. We are probably all vaguely familiar with the term—it’s being able to get through adversity, stress, or trauma, and come out of it on the other side a stronger person. It helps us grow as individuals, grow in wisdom, spirituality, improve physically, mentally, emotionally. Resilience cannot be developed without going through those hard times. It’s one of those virtues that has to be tested. Like patience. You can’t have patience unless you actually use it. Darn it!

Similarly, with resilience, if we never experience adversity, especially while growing up, we would not have it. We would have no use for it. Resilience is only achieved by going through.

Interestingly, we value resilience in our heroes, role models, news stories, friends and family, but it’s not something we necessarily seek for ourselves because, let’s face it, you have to go through crap to build it. We are naturally trying to do things to avoid the stress, adversity, trauma, and hardships of life.

But . . .

We are all human and we are all living the human experience, which means we face adversity. We must expect it. God even promised it in John 16:33. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

I felt the need to use the King James version. It’s been a while since I’ve used the word “ye.”

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Fiction at a Time Like This?

Did you ever have that one project or dream that you just can’t seem to get the time to do? Or some other limitation has prevented you from getting to it (like, say, a pandemic?!?!). And every time you do think about it, it’s so far from what you wanted it to be by this point that it’s easier to just kick it down the road again than to deal with it?

This year has been the perfect setup for this kind of stuff to happen.

Since I haven’t written on this blog for a while, you can probably guess what my disappointment has been: writing. Writing and I have a complicated relationship. I tend to wait to write fiction only if certain conditions are met:

  1. Quiet house
  2. Chores done
  3. Workout completed
  4. Big chunk of time available
  5. Motivated

The pandemic blasted through the previously quiet, generally clean house like a storm that won’t settled down. Honest to goodness, I never imagined the kids would be out of school and doing virtual schooling for this long. Remember at the beginning of this virus era when we thought it would end after a few weeks, then a month or so, then maybe by summer? I don’t even want to look for the light at the end of the tunnel anymore; I’m sick of false hopes.

In October, I started a nonfiction nursing blog for lots of reasons, and it’s been what I write lately. It’s also a safe(ish) subject, with some exceptions. On Facebook, I posted about the virus transmission between people wearing masks and got a snide comment from what I assumed was a mask-protestor. Don’t even get me started. Last night when I left our little community hospital, the covid floor and the ICU were maxed out with positive patients. Mask protestors need a little field trip to their local hospital to see what they don’t want to see. But for the most part, the nursing blog is doing well. I got 44 followers, LOL. And even if only a few stragglers stop in to read my posts, I am learning things as I do my research and writing, and several times I’ve been able to provide additional education to my patients, coworkers, and student nurses. So this has been a bright spot for me.

With fiction however, what’s happened more this year is that feeling that “it doesn’t matter.” When there are such grave concerns going on personally or in the world–between the pandemic and people out of work and political messes and civil unrest, working on my story about a teenage actress who secretly hires a stunt double to do her kissing scene doesn’t seem relevant anymore. Writing about anything that touches the serious issues scares the crap out of me. I can’t even write a black or brown character into my stories without feeling like I’m going to be scrutinized and criticized for anything I make them say or do. Actually, I could probably get criticized for worrying about criticism. So what usually happens is . . . I don’t write. I give in to the fear. Then focus on the dishes.

But . . .

I do love buts 😉

But, we are getting to that brilliant time of year when we get to make New Year’s plans and resolutions, reshaping our goals and hoping for a better year. Dear Lord, next year needs to be better. And maybe, just maybe there will be something besides EKGs and dementia and anticholinergic medications to write about. Perhaps something magical will happen in 2021.

What about you, readers? Are you ready for a new year?

Mom Versus Tik Tok

This morning I set out to research what scientists and psychologists are saying about election anxiety, but I came across a very brief article from Fox News, “Viral Tik Tok challenge highlights stress, depression, anxiety test.” My immediate thought was: Oh my gosh, this has got to be the most ironic viral challenge there has ever been in the history of viral challenges. Has anyone else identified the irony yet?

One of the Gen Zs’ and Millennials’ greatest contributors of stress, depression, and anxiety–social media–is conducting a test on stress, depression, and anxiety with its users. The program behind #15minutes4me was designed (by doctors, we are told) to raise awareness of mental health disorders. As of Monday, 1.4 million people have taken the challenge. Results are shared by users, and they include a happy/staged/filtered photo. It’s supposed to give the message that you really don’t know what’s going on with someone because their online presence can be totally different than what they are feeling.

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To My Dying Houseplant

My dearest, humble houseplant, you must fight to live. You give so much to this family. Your gift provides us with life-sustaining oxygen. You keep us alive and healthy, and we are eternally grateful. You have a wonderful life here. You should have no complaints. You get to sit comfortably in the window, watching the birds and the trees and the nighttime moths fluttering at the glass. In the daytime, you get to feel the warmth of the sun and soak up its rays without getting sunburned. Your roots rest in the moist dirt, sipping water at a leisurely pace as though you’re relaxing poolside at a five star resort. (I posted a picture so you could see what a pool looks like since we don’t actually have one. And I got it off the computer because we don’t actually go to resorts either, but we can all appreciate the beauty of a nice swimming pool). Seriously, live it up! Let the water restore you. Let the sun refresh you. Truly, you must fight to stand upright again; fight to photosynthesize like you’ve never photosynthesized before; fight to restore your life of luxury and ease. We promise to keep you healthy. We promise we won’t forget to water you. We’ll even talk to you and breathe carbon dioxide on you. And you are so kind and unpretentious, you don’t care if we recently brushed our teeth. Listen to me. This is a matter of life and death. Don’t let death win, dear houseplant. Fight! Fight! Fight!