Illness in the Time of COVID – CoronaLife Day 572

So on Friday my daughter started complaining of a sore throat, stuffy nose, headache. I had all the same symptoms, too. In a normal year, we would have just shrugged it off as a back-to-school cold making the rounds.

But this is not a normal year.

For all that many activities have begun in a more-or-less normal fashion, this year is still not normal. It is normal-ish. In many ways, having an “almost normal” year is more disconcerting and disorienting than having a wildly divergent year, like last year was.

When things are nearly normal, there is a tension you never escape. You cannot relax fully, as you could if things are truly normal, yet you feel like you should be more relaxed than you are. But this normal-ish environment keeps throwing small bumps and curves in your path and there are still challenges to be met and managed. It is almost more exhausting living in this so-near-and-yet-so-far zone than when everything was upside down. Or maybe it’s just differently exhausting.

So we both had colds—but all these symptoms are also Delta COVID symptoms. We took an over the counter at home test, which are not terribly accurate for non-symptomatic cases but should register something if you are actively symptomatic, as we were. Completely negative. A relief.

For school, though, if you have COVID-like symptoms, you need to get a negative PCR test (the really accurate DNA-based type you have to send into a lab). It was impossible to get one over the weekend, so I got one on Monday. Then we had to wait to see how long the results would take to come in. Even in a normal year, I would not have sent her to school on that Monday, because she was not feeling great, and on Tuesday I probably would have kept her home, too, just to let her recuperate. But I was worried that she may end up having to stay home feeling fine while waiting for the test results.

Luck was with us, and we got the results on Tuesday. Negative, so back to school on Wednesday!

This is illness in the time of COVID, especially when you have an unvaccinated person involved. Schools have to be extremely careful to avoid an outbreak, since most of their population is still vulnerable. In five weeks of school, we have had 3 (unrelated) cases. I am thankful for the precautions our school is taking, and also thankful we live where testing is easy to get and free of charge.

Here’s hoping we don’t need to do this again anytime soon!

Finding Our Footing—CoronaLife Day 544

We have a few days of school under our belts now, and we are starting to find our footing. I am getting used to having time to myself again, after a full 18 months of remote learning/summer. So far I have not been using my time wisely, but that is typical for me at the beginning of the school year. It’s almost like having so much free time paralyzes me with choices. But I know that will settle down.

My daughter is also starting middle school, so that’s a big change for her. But she, too, is starting to find her footing in more ways than one. We are also transitioning from her walking boot to a walking brace starting today, and hopefully her ankle will be back to full strength October 1st, when the brace is due to come off.

Although I have been spending time doing a lot of “catch up” work (little things I never seemed to find time for while my daughter was home) and searching out last-minute school supplies that I didn’t realize we needed until we actually got there, I HAVE made progress on the genealogy book.

I should finish indexing the final chapter today. Whoo hoo! After that, the equally painstaking job of formatting the book properly, making sure the margins and page numbers are correct, and that page breaks do not fall at inopportune places, begins. Once that’s done, I will send it to my proofreader to catch all the mistakes I thought I caught but didn’t.

Finding our footing has been a bit harder this year, as we spent the last 18 months in a period where every day was much the same, and time seemed to stretch endlessly. Then, abruptly, on Friday, everything changed and we were back in the world. It is disconcerting and a bit overwhelming.

But we will get through it, as we do every September, and hopefully COVID will not hit our school and send us back to remote. Whatever happens, we will adjust.

We always find our footing.

Flexing Social Muscles – CoronaLife Day 173

One thing about the social distancing and quarantine…as an introvert, having a reason not to be social has been great. Staying home has worked for me on many levels. I really appreciated not having to run my daughter to her numerous activities, and just being able to hide out in my little nest.

The problem is, introverts need to force themselves to be social in order to keep up the skill. Not having to be social on a regular basis is making my social muscles flabby, as another writer said. I think there is a real risk I will not want to come back out of the house even when it is finally all clear to do so. And I might have forgotten how to have a conversation, as well.

This week I exercised those social muscles a bit. PTA meeting on Monday, orthodontist with the child on Tuesday, handed off info to the new PTA treasurer Wednesday, and picking up my daughter’s school supplies from school and meeting her teacher on Thursday. It’s a bit nerve-wracking, to be honest. I have an anxiety disorder, which has not made the stress any easier through all of this, and it makes it hard to move from a “hunker-down” mindset to a “gotta do stuff” mindset.

I am looking forward to sinking back into my cozy safe haven for the next few days, until school starts on Tuesday. It will be remote, but I expect the first week will be quite the adjustment. For one thing, night owl me will have to start getting up early again to make sure my young one is up and fed in time for check in. Still, while having no routine was nice for the summer, it is time for us to get back into it. Maybe with my daughter having a routine, I will find a groove and start getting some work done again.

Happy September, everyone!

Back to School, Back to Work

Today is my daughter’s first day back to school–which means it is also my first day back to work. Now I will have about 6 hours a day to accomplish things before she comes home. I like this schedule because it gives me quiet, concentrated time to work. Also, because I do it while she’s not home, I can be more present for her once she comes home. Over the summer it feels like a constant push-pull, wanting to spend the time with her but needing to get certain things done.

I have my plans in place (and we’ll see how those plans work out, LOL). Today I plan to catch up on PTA Treasurer stuff, and maybe squeeze in one or two other household things I’ve been putting off. Tomorrow I have to finish and send to the printer my brochure for my campaign for the local school board. I need them by Sept 22nd, and I have suddenly realized that is not all that far off!

Next week, with those large projects out of the way, I hope to settle into a school-year work routine. A couple of years ago I had one that worked well, but for reasons I still can’t pinpoint, it rather fell apart over the last year. As a result, my productivity slipped and my self-esteem as a writer with it.

I want to get back to writing every day. Doesn’t have to be much every day, but I would like to work on my fiction a little every day. Make it a priority again. Like many of us, I fall into the trap of putting everyone else first. Next thing I know, the day is gone and I’ve done nothing for me or my own work. I want to try to balance that a bit more. I know I’ll feel better about myself if I do, even though it’s hard.

So for me, back to school means back to work. Does back to school change things in your routine?

August Days: Lazy Yet Anticipatory

This time next week, my daughter will be back in school. The last lazy days of summer are winding their way past us.

Gone will be the days of sleeping in, reading for hours, spending afternoons in the park, and taking long evening walks as the sun lingers in the sky. Play dates, vacations, and excursions to interesting places and events will be replaced by early bedtime, homework, and normal extracurricular activities.

Also gone will be the days where writing time is scarce and schedules are a fantasy. As much as I cherish my summer days with my gal, I will be relieved to have my structure back. I work best with a routine, and that is brought home to me every summer vacation.

I have several projects I am dying to dive into, but I need some concentrated time to do the necessary revisions. I also have some non-writing projects that I have let slide over the summer that I want to re-energize.

The end of summer is always bittersweet. A time of enjoying the easy pace of summer and time with my girl, but also a time if looking forward to a return to productivity and focus.

Do you look forward to the end of summer?

Back To School

Back to school backpack and shoesBack to school is the time of year parents rejoice and children cry. That the same event can cause such different reactions in two separate groups is a lesson in point of view, but that is a topic for another blog. While children view school as 10 months of incarceration, parents see freedom.

Back to school restores routine and sanity to parental lives. Children no longer need 24/7 care—even when kids are old enough to entertain themselves for a few hours a day, there are still summer camps, activities, and play dates to fill the calendar. Summer writing becomes a haphazard affair—I have written at swim practice, karate, even in the car waiting. Back to school means more concentrated writing time.

Sure September can be crazy because you have to start juggling the after school activities plus the homework plus activities such as the Book Fair and Back To School Nights and Open House and PTA volunteering, but those of us who work from home get about 6 splendid hours a day to do the things we need to do.

Already my writing in September has been much better than my summer. My worst month of the writing year so far has been July. In July my word count was 11,700. August wasn’t much better at 11,900. We’re only about halfway through the month of September—school started less than 2 weeks ago—and already I have passed both July and August with a grand total of 13,600 words. Things are looking up.

For all that back to school can be an adjustment, the routine is key for me. If I get it right, a routine makes me crazy efficient. This week I had one day where I revised 3,300 words (3 chapters). In one day I did 28% of the total I had for either July or August. Color me happy!

The concentrated writing time makes a big difference for me. Yes, I can jot down words at a swim practice, copy edit, write a blog post, read the blogs I follow, but to get deep into the voice and character of the story or to revise on a large scale I find I need a block of time. Time to fall into the story world and give my full focus to it. That sort of time is rare in the summer.

Summer is a wonderful time to spend with your family. I wouldn’t pass up the memories we made or the experiences we had for anything. But getting back to a routine that gives me time to write alleviates the pressure I’ve felt all summer—that tug of war between feeling I was neglecting my kid or feeling I was neglecting my writing (which is also neglecting myself).

So here’s to back to school! It has its own set of challenges, but for those of us who are parents and writers, it’s the time when we start to feel a little bit more like ourselves.

Happy back to school (and back to writing)!




Frittering Time

My daughter went back to school this week. Yay! I have magically acquired 10 child-free hours a week in which to work. It’s like Christmas in September.

It’s not all fun and games, however–the new schedule requires adjustment. For one thing, we need to get up at 7 AM–not terribly early by most standards, but my body does not like it. I have always noticed a huge difference in how I feel just getting up at 8 versus 7. And I mean with the same number of hours of sleep. For example, I am much more awake with 6 hours of sleep (my usual) getting up at 8 than I am with 6 hours and getting up at 7. That’s just the way I am wired.

How I wake up is another factor. I am either A) jerked out of a deep sleep by my alarm, which I swear erodes years off my life, or B) awake around 6 AM and then never go back to sleep because I know I have to get up in an hour. Neither is ideal, and no doubt contributes to my tiredness during the day.

But the main adjustment I need to make is that I actually have more work time. So I need to actually WORK during that time. This first week, with this abundance of time, I find myself frittering my work time. I think, “Oh, I have plenty of time.” and then spend just a few more minutes online, or playing an extra game of Solitaire, or reading just one more chapter, or diverting time to another hobby (or sometimes even cleaning the house). And suddenly I find I have gotten no more work done with this extra time available than when I did not have it.

Now, we all need to have some leisure time to recharge, so spending a little of this extra time reading or on a hobby (or–gasp–sleeping!) can in the long run be a productive use of time, in that it keeps me from burning out. But to reach the goals I have set for myself this year, I need to buckle down and use 80% of this “found time” to forward my work. And I will.

Any time my work time fluctuates wildly, either getting more or getting less, it takes a week or so to adjust my mindset to match. So for this week, I am letting myself play a little, as long as my must-do work gets done. Next week the focus will return, and hopefully I will have adjusted to the sleep schedule as well.

10 child-free hours a week. You can conquer the world with that much free time.

How about you? Do you have trouble being productive when you suddenly have a great deal of free time?

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