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Monthly Archives: November 2020

Here we are, eight months into the pandemic and Oregon is entering another lockdown. I’ve never been superstitious about Friday the 13th, but it strikes me that our schools originally shutdown on Friday March 13th and have not yet reopened. Then last week, on Friday November 13, Governor Brown announced another set of lockdowns for a “two week pause.” Seeing how the last Friday the 13th lockdown announcement turned out, I can only surmise that our two-week pause will turn into a two-month pause, easing up slowly as a vaccine begins to roll out for essential health care workers.

Either way, it doesn’t affect me much as I haven’t been participating in any of the activities that are now banned, such as eating at restaurants — or socializing with groups of more than 6 people. No, the only piece of lockdown that significantly affects me is the ongoing school closure. With COVID numbers rising exponentially, this is not likely to change anytime soon, obvi.

We are entering the worst phase of the pandemic, but I do feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m feeling optimistic that my children’s schools will reopen in a hybrid model this spring as vaccines become available. Perhaps by next fall, life will be more or less back to normal. Seeing this light at the end of the tunnel puts me in a much better psychological space than I was last spring.

The school closures have been the aspect of this pandemic that’s been most unbearable for me personally, but at this point we’re in a routine with online school and it’s going okay. Online school now provides us with a fair amount of structure, something we didn’t have from March 13 until school began in late September.

Something that’s been surprising for me is that I haven’t particularly struggled with feeling isolated during this pandemic. Probably because I have a very busy and chatty household! Emphasis on the chatty, my children literally will not stop talking. I also see my parents regularly as we swap Paul back-and-forth (which is a necessity for my survival). But I’m surprised at how connected I still feel to friends just through occasional texts, phone calls, zooms, and rare outdoor in-person visits.

Maybe another way to look at it is, I was already used to being isolated in my life as a mom. Now most people are experiencing some form of isolation, so I’m less alone now compared to everyone else. Either way though, quarantine doesn’t have to be a completely lonely time, and you can get a lot of connection with others just through a simple phone call.

Since my firstborn was a few months old, getting out of the house has been my number one survival strategy as a mom. I was constantly planning outings in an effort to avoid feeling depressed and isolated. Frankly, I was not cut out for being a stay-at-home mom. During the years I wasn’t working, I lamented my lack of career, and whenever I was working I lamented that my career-trajectory was not “successful” enough. Now I find my world has flipped, staying at home is now a survival strategy, and the chronic stress of trying to manage work and parenting during the pandemic has proved beyond my capacity to manage.

I look forward to the time when schools reopen and I can slowly piece my life back together. Hopefully many of us will have grown stronger and gotten to know ourselves better through this process. For one, I know that I need to be pursuing my own goals. Living my life in service to my family is pretty much a necessity for this season, but in the long term I need to balance this with my own life.

“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.” — Carl Jung

I have some big career decisions to think about, like whether or not to pursue a return to teaching. And if I don’t want to return to teaching, what are my long-term goals? And what are my goals with writing? Am I content with just writing this blog where I process my thoughts for a small audience of friends and family? Or do I actually want to pursue writing for a larger audience?

Meanwhile, we just need to survive this winter. I think one of our regular activities during semi-decent weather will be family soccer practice. We took the kids yesterday morning to practice soccer on a turf field near our house, and Paul invented the “owl swoop” wherein he runs and dribbles in a large arc before swooping into make a goal.

We also might buy a fire pit for some socially distant outdoor gatherings. And I’m reading Lord of the Rings aloud to Marie. What are your plans to get through this hardest of winters?

This has been a dark year, and with the switch to daylight savings time, we now find ourselves rapidly losing daylight. So our physical environment now matches the psychological and spiritual darkness we’ve been experiencing these many months. Now is the time to increase my Vitamin D intake, and find the happy light I purchased on Amazon last winter. The lack of light can have a big impact on mood, and this year it’s already hard enough to have a positive outlook.

I think it’s important to be able to name the things we’ve lost and grieve them. My children have lost 5 months of in-person school and counting. This includes my son’s last year with his preschool friends, and the beginning of kindergarten. We’ve lost birthday parties, playdates, sports, visits with relatives. My favorite special occasion restaurant in Eugene went out of business. I’ve had to take two months of leave from my job to help manage things at home.

But — I’m continuing to feel cautiously optimistic about the future. For all that’s been lost during this pandemic, it’s given me an opportunity to focus on the things I still have. Much has been lost, but perhaps some things have also been gained.

I’ve managed to fill almost an entire journal with gratitude lists since March, in an attempt to stay focused on the positive.

In July, my family and I took a weekend trip to Central Oregon to stay at a lakeside cabin. We’d been there a few years before, and had fun, but this time I was struck by just how beautiful the surroundings were. I hadn’t realized how beautiful it was the first time I’d visited — but after months of quarantine, it seemed spectacular.

As I write this, my daughter is doing online school at the kitchen table, and I’m thankful for how far we’ve come. My daughter and I both hated the online school experience in the spring — it was just a horrible experience for our family. Now I’m just filled with gratitude that it’s actually working for us on so many levels. I have the ability to be at home with her to help support and supervise. The district provided her with an iPad to do her work on so she has her own device. She’s actually learning and has in fact made fantastic progress in her reading since schools closed in March, and seems to be above grade level in math. Online school is even fulfilling some of her social needs, as they’re providing lots of quick opportunities for chatting.

I’m thankful for the opportunity I have right now to take leave from my job. I’d been trying to just keep going and try to make things work, and suddenly a few weeks ago I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I was getting chronic headaches, the kids were watching way too much TV, Paul has been sneaking sweets everytime I turn my back, and my house looked like a disaster zone. So I made a plan with my work to take November and December off (with partial pay). On my first official day off and I spent most of the day doing chores. I tackled the bathroom over the weekend, and am now working on a deep clean of the kids bedrooms (not a project for the faint of heart). I could devote the bulk of my time off to housework, but I’m hoping to be mindful of also taking time for myself for things I enjoy like exercise and writing.

As for my candy-sneaking son, he’s been spending a lot of time with Grandma, which is another thing I’m thankful for. I’m also thankful that he is enrolled in a low-tech, play-based kindergarten program. He only has three 15-minute Zoom meetings per week, compared to my 3rd grader, who spends about 5 hours per day completing schoolwork on her iPad. I think he’s a bit bored and understimulated, but I’m trying to make up for that in other ways. The kids are taking a PE class two afternoons a week this month, so hopefully that will be a positive experience for both of them. I’ve also discovered that Paul loves crafts! Part of his kindergarten curriculum involves a weekly sewing craft, and it is his favorite part of kindergarten. This month I also purchased a package of 16 craft projects for the month from our local children’s museum, and each of my kids will get to do eight of them. Paul and I had fun making a toy watch for daylight savings time and various other crafts over the past two weeks.

Yesterday was my birthday, and to kick off the day Spencer made me a special breakfast — cornmeal biscuits with shiitake mushroom gravy, topped with fried eggs. This was in remembrance of my favorite breakfast place in Portland, where we lived during our twenties. I had a sweet day with my family, and challenged myself to a long (for me) run of 3.5 miles. I also got some new books that I’m super excited to dig into. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson, The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion (the end of a hilarious trilogy), and The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow (loved her last book), and Freckled: A Memoir of Growing Up Wild in Hawaii by TW Neal. Dark and stormy days ahead means the perfect time for curling up with some good books.

Are you able to find gratitude in these dark times?

“People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself, and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness.” — Henri Nouwen

Bringing light to the darkness on a lantern walk this week. Lantern walks are part of the traditional celebration of the feast of St. Martin (Martinmas), and a precursor to modern-day jack-o-lanterns. We made lanterns in a Zoom meeting with my son’s kinder class. And — I learned that Martinmas happens on my birthday!