What Have I Done Today?

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What have I done today? Today, being a reflection of one day last week, April 2, 2020 to be precise. It is (was) day 18 of self-isolation/”quarantine” for our family. That is the official count since we last went out to dinner and our kids last had in-person school, which is not a phrase that comes readily from fingertips to keyboard or off the tongue. In that time, we have managed to come to some sort of happy (?) medium between the four of us who live in this house. Some days have blended into others, some pjs were worn a bit too long, too many video games, streaming services, and DVDs were played and watched, not enough fresh air, and way, way, way too many emails were received from every single email list I’ve been on for the last ten years telling me how they are addressing the COVID-19 situation in their establishments as well as many, many restaurants offering me free delivery or curbside pick up despite the fact that I am very much not in their delivery area.

But we’re all handling this in our own ways; some better than others.

As every day becomes some version of it’s Friday again as well as a Groundhog Day reboot, I thought I’d spend one day listing all of my activities or the less than active happenings as it were.

I decided to would share it here for others to see that we’re almost all coping with the same issues: limited resources, homeschooling our kids, working from home, trying to be useful, and often not succeeding, and then feeling guilty about that. Why haven’t I cleaned out my closets? Why haven’t I planted my garden? How can we possibly use that much toilet paper in a week?! No, I don’t know what’s for dinner; what are you making?

I absolutely recognize my privilege and am ever grateful in that I have a home, my children are safe, and my husband continues to work from our home. He had already been working from home for a number of years, initially requesting it because of some medical limitations for me after my third child was born. Eventually, it became his regular job to work from home. I do know how lucky we are despite having the worry that this may situation may stop or change before the quarantine is over. Time will tell.

For all of us.

I began that Thursday as I begin every day, by waking up. I have an alarm set for 8:30 from Sunday to Thursday. I set the alarm so I can “attend” Mass online. It’s hard to have an excuse not to be there when the commute is literally sitting up in bed and turning on my Kindle. In addition to masses four days a week, my parish priest is also doing FB Live storytime for the younger parishioners (but I tune in every week, and enjoy every minute of it!), our office manager is offering a weekly reflection on FB Live as well, and we’ve had soup deliveries on Wednesday for the last three weeks. Sadly, they end when Lent does. I couldn’t be more proud of my church and how they’ve handled this pandemic from the beginning in March, keeping everyone informed and faith filled, keeping our community despite the physical distance.

So, my alarm goes off at 8:30, and my day begins.

8:30am – Wake up.

8:30 – 9am – Checked email, Facebook, Twitter. Saved screenshots and links for COVID-19 information posts to get to later.

I take my morning medicine.

9am – Facebook Live. Since this is Thursday, there is no daily mass, but my friend and godmother who is the office manager for my church gave a wonderfully lovely Lenten reflection. She’s doing another one this week as well.

About 9:45/10am – I begin listening to my podcasts: What a Day from Crooked Media and Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara.

After that it’s time for breakfast, which sadly won’t come to me: a French toast bagel, toasted with melted butter.

I began reading a new book – The Boston Massacre (because clearly this is a lighter subject than what we’re living through right now.)

I went back on Facebook until …

11:30am – I watched New York’s Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing. I find his briefings calming and informative; also honest. I watch it every day that I am able to, and no, I do not watch the President’s daily briefing because those are the exact opposite of calming, informative, and honest. I screenshot many of the Governor’s slides to post on Facebook.

I cooked the meat and sauce and layered the lasagna in my crock pot for dinner.

When dinner was set up to cook for the rest of the day, I cropped the slides from the governor’s briefing and posted them on my Facebook page. (Several people have told me that they appreciate it, and it makes me feel as though I am doing something productive, something of a public service, even if it’s only in my mind.)

I then had Lunch with a Diet Coke followed by a snack. On my notes page that I kept the running diary, I didn’t write down what I had for lunch and snack, so I have no idea what it was. We’ve had sliced turkey and cheese in the house for sandwiches, we have ramen, macaroni & cheese, and often leftovers to have for lunch, so really it’s anybody’s guess what it might have been.

About now, I’ve begun to flag. I’m always tired since this situation has begun, not always physically, but I feel a constant level of worn out. My brain is going a mile a minute, but I am also paralyzed with uselessness.

I go back on my Kindle: Facebook, Twitter, some games. Things that I don’t need to think about because my brain just won’t slow down.

Clearly, I’m not writing. 😦

Emails.

My daughter was on Facetime with her friends and I heard her giggling and laughing hysterically. It resounded down from her room, and I stood at the bottom of the stairs, and just enjoyed it. It was a welcome sound; one that I haven’t heard for what seems like a long time, and I relished in it.

When the lasagna was ready, my son and I made homemade garlic bread. It was delicious.

We ate our dinner, which was also delicious. We’ve been cooking a lot!

After dinner, I had some yummy Mango Dragonfruit sherbet that my husband picked up for me as a surprise when he went out to get milk.

I read Governor Cuomo’s email that he sends nightly, which caught me up since his morning briefing. Again, positive and reassuring.

9pm – The Rachel Maddow Show. She is visibly upset with the federal government’s response. I am also upset. Disappointed. Embarrassed.

I don’t know if I just realized it while watching Maddow but I did not get dressed today. PJs feel almost like business casual as quarantine time ticks by. It’s quite nearly another universe.

After dinner, I clean up the dishes. I didn’t wash them though, just got them scraped and into (or near) the sink. At the moment, there’s too many for me to get started emotionally. I don’t mind doing the dishes, but I need to really feel it.

I went to bed; not to sleep, but to read.

Then I promptly fell asleep.

I woke up at 1am and went on Twitter where Alt_Immi‘s post set my teeth on edge. He had retweeted a 9 minute video of Russel Honore’, who commanded federal troops in New Orleans after Katrina, and who had a lot to say about the Defense Production Act and the “leadership” of Jared Kushner.

I became enraged, which kept me from sleeping.

I took my nightly medicine (which I’m really supposed to take around 11pm), and then I went to bed for real. Mostly.

I know that tomorrow will probably go about the same except with the addition of a shower and minus meat (since [as of this diary’s writing] tomorrow is Friday!)

This whole thing is horrifying and demoralizing.

As the following Tweet says, this is why we cried when he won. No lie.

We will get through this. Together.

Writing in the Pandemic (Updated 4/13/20)

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As a writer, I’ve hit the proverbial road block. It is so hard to just sit down and write about anything that isn’t coronavirus related. I spend my entire day reading Twitter, watching Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing, finding interviews with Dr. Fauci, and listening to relevant podcasts. It’s exhausting.

But I feel that I need to stay informed.

However, my writing also needs to continue. Whether that means weekly election connection posts or finally sitting down to get serious about my two books or any number of writing projects that I want to work on. I need to re-balance my life to include my writing, and for better or worse, some of that writing will need to be about what I am going through now.

I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve discovered on my online sojourns and internal discernment.

The Writer Magazine Writing Contest Short Story Contest due June 2, 2020. (There might be a fee to enter.)

Historian Suggests Keeping Record of Life During Pandemic

Journal Assignment. Graphic posted below. Link is to other assignments and a place for students to upload their work. This was originally from Bryan Shaw of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in California

Podcast from Writing Coach, Ann Kroeker: One Thing Writers Can Do in a Pandemic: Document the Days

From Actor, Misha Collins:

Breathe in what?

Breathe out what?

“I was explaining one of the simplest meditation techniques to the kids: “Sitting, eyes closed, you breathe in good things you breathe out bad things.”

Maison [his daughter] said, “So you breathe in sparkly rainbow unicorns and you breathe out broken guitars?””

Remember to respect Authors

Haiku Writing with John Pavlovitz

30 Day Writing Challenge beginning tomorrow (April 1, 2020) from IngramSpark, a self-publishing company. They will send daily emails for the writing challenge from The Writer -30 Day Writing Challenge – these are daily emails from a self-publishing/pod (publish on demand) company.

Camp Nanowrimo for the month of April!

Camp Nanowrimo – nanowrimo.org

Journal Assignment by Bryan Shaw. (c)2020

What is Compound Time and Why Should You Try It?

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For many of these types of posts, I would skim through the article, decide whether or not I thought it was beneficial to share, and then share it. However, after skimming through this one, I realized that I was already doing two and a half of the six hacks they recommended. With that knowledge, I wondered how my time spent was comparable to their other recommendations.

I sat down at my dining room table, cup of tea in hand, Kindle propped up, and read the article carefully, taking a few notes in order to be able to express what it was that I liked about the concept of compound time and why I thought it was worthwhile to share.

Beginning to read this article took minutes for me to convince myself that I wzsn’t wasting time and that it was important for my writing as well as my life. That’s the first conflict for most of us in reading an article like this. Take naps? Seriously? I already waste enough of my day staring into space. But what if that staring into space is something that jump starts a project? Or a thought that takes us to a new idea to work on?

We’re constantly being told that daily rituals are good for our creativity as well as getting us motivated to start our day. For the last couple of years, I’ve read what I call “daily books;” books that are meant to be read a page a day, whether they be devotionals and religious, prayerful or secular, they are something short to read to begin the day; to know that the day has begun, and we can go on.

Some of those past books have been:

Through the Years with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President

Three Hundred Sixty-Five Happiness Boosters by MJ Ryan

Women of the Bible: A Year Long  Devotional Study by Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda

365 Saints: Your Daily Guide to the Wisdom and Wonder of Their Lives by Woodeene Koenig-Bricker

Currently, I am reading G’Morning G’Night: Pep Talks for Me and You by Lin-Manuel Miranda, illustrated by Jonny Sun. Every morning, I read the G’morning passage, and then before bed, I read the corresponding G’night. There aren’t enough to get through the whole year, but the beauty of this book is that I can restart it. The messages are universal, positive, and uplifting.

What is compound time?

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Sundays in Lent – 5th Wednesday

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​Collect

Enlighten, O God of compassion, the hearts of your children, sanctified by penance, and in your kindness grant those you stir to a sense of devotion a gracious hearing when they cry out to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Use this liturgical prayer as a journal prompt.

Sundays in Lent – 2nd Wednesday

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The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said,
“Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah.
It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests,
nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets.
And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue;
let us carefully note his every word.”

Heed me, O LORD,
and listen to what my adversaries say.
Must good be repaid with evil
that they should dig a pit to take my life?
Remember that I stood before you
to speak in their behalf,
to turn away your wrath from them.

Jeremiah 18:18-20

Read the above Scripture from Jeremiah. Can you think of a time when you stood up for someone in your life only to have to ask them to defend you later? Jeremiah didn’t speak up for G-d as a pre-payment for Him to rescue him later, but he does remind G-d that he was there for G-d and these people who have turned against him.

Find something in the above passage to journal on, whether it be service to G-d, friendship, betrayal, or anything that comes to your mind.

Mental Health Monday – Keeping a Journal

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Living with mental illness or mental health issues or as I like to refer to it, recovery lends itself to keeping a journal. You don’t need to be a “real” writer to keep a journal. My kids all keep notebooks of some kind, and I’ve kept travel journals for trips and retreat/spiritual journals. I’m about to embark on my second Lent journal.
There are also so many options out there for any style of journal-keeping, whether longhand, calendar diary, record-keeping, bullet points, or sketching. Or you can dabble in all kinds, both to keep it fresh but also to experiment and see which type suits you better. I do several types all in the same physical book.

Pinterest is a great place to find and explore the varieties of journal styles that are out there as well as discovering journaling prompts to help you along. We can all use a little push now and then.

You can buy premade journals for specific areas or fancy blank journals or create your own with a small three-ring binder. These can be found online at Staples, Target and online as well as local boutique shops.

The possibilities are nearly endless.

Types of Journals

BulletBujo (this is a brand and a style), Dear Diary, Travel, Sketchbook, Prayer, Memoir, I even have a writer’s planner journal

Evernote is a good way to keep a journal digitally.

Things to Record:

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Sundays in Lent – 1st Wednesday

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Journaling

I’m always one to recommend a journal. This is the second year that I’ve kept a Lenten journal. Each week, I will introduce a prompt for you to journal on.

Think about Jonah in today’s readings. What have you been asked to do that you’re first answer was nope, not gonna do it? And then you relented.

This is pretty much the story of any project I have taken on, so I can absolutely relate.

Journals. (c)2018

New Year’s Intentions – Resources

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The Weekly Prayer Project – this is a book that my husband got me for Christmas. I’ve only just started reading it this morning. It’s divided into seven sections, and can be used in order or jumped from one to the other. My intention is to read the week’s pages on a Wednesday, and then contemplate what it’s asking me to journal. I will probably do the journaling before the weekend, and then read what i’ve written in the days before the next Wednesday. I have decided that I will read from each section for seven weeks, and then go back to the first. For example, today I read week 1. Next Wednesday (1/10) I’ll read week 8. On 1/17, I’ll read week 15, and so on. On 2/21, I’ll go back to week 2, and begin the format again.

365 Days to Happiness – These are nice, short blurbs offering suggestions to finding happiness. They are little things to do or not to do. Again, as I keep coming back to this week, choose what works for you. When I skimmed through the first couple of pages, I read on Day 2 to fill in your planner. I laughed because I do that literally at midnight on the first. When yesterday arrived, and I actually read day 2, I discovered that in addition to filliing in my calendar, there was a surprise suggestion that I thought was wonderful, and so I did that yesterday. My point is, even the most mundane, seemingly routine thing can surprise you.

Grace by Max Lucado – another daily prayer book with prayers for both the morning and the evening. The version I have has room for a few lines of journaling. I have such a hard time writing in books that I usually just read this one. It is still filled with inspiration and time for mindfulness.
The Word Among Us – this is a worship aid that my church gives out every month. It lists all the daily prayers, and has a few articles for the cover topic that are usually very interesting. I have had a digital subscription for about three years now, and I enjoy it very  much. Since I would take the paper copy from my church, I thought this was a way to go paperless.

Give Us This Day – Similar to The Word Among Us. This has a daily reflection as well as a daily introduction to a person of faith. There is also an app that can be used to read your subscription. I’m trying out the first thirty days free for this month to see how it fits into my other meditations.

The Writer – This is my professional go-to, and the only writing magazine that I subscribe to. Like the planner below, it has taken me years to figure out what works, and this magazine is the most comprehensive, covering every writing topic imaginable and of use.

Mead Day Planner – this link take you directly to Mead’s website. The photo is similar to the planner that I have and have been using for a couple of years now. I got mine at Target. I use the monthly for whatever needs to be on my calendar, and I use the weekly for writing and blog planning. It’s taken me years to figure out this system and discover that it works for me.

[Editor’s Note: When I’m including links, I usually will use Amazon, mainly because I use them for most of my online shopping. I receive no compensation from them. That is true of all recommendations unless otherwise stated.]

44/52 – November

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​November is that month.

We’re hopped up on Halloween candy, if we haven’t already, we’re about to turn on the heat, raising our utility bill that’s given us a break since we turned off the air conditioner, and we look at the calendar and see how many days off the kids have from school because of holidays, staff development days, and parent-teacher conferences and then realize that it’s fifty-five days until Christmas and there’s only a couple of paychecks left in the year to get it all done.

And Facebook post after Instagram post after writing prompt, we’re expected to be grateful and show gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal for thirty days.

What are you grateful for? Thankful for?

Go around the Thanksgiving table and express what you’re thankful for. And then everyone looks at you.

Sunday’s prompt for The Daily Post was gratitude.

Most of us feel grateful, even when it’s not the holiday season. For some of us, expressing that in a meaningful, non-eye-rolly way is not easy. It puts us on the spot; the focus is entirely on us, and if we forget something that someone did, we offend people.

Our gratitude is not only for us, but for our kids, and knowing that we’re raising good-most-of-the-time, decent, compassionate people who won’t think twice about helping others and getting nothing in return.

Our gratitude is to let others know that we appreciate them, and through that, they feel gratitude and appreciated.

So, this year, I have a different gratitude journal in mind.

Two blurbs a week from now until December 1st. Why December 1st? Because gratefulness doesn’t end with Thanksgiving dinner.

One blurb, choose something simple. Getting to work on time all week. Sticking to your diet (if that’s your thing.) Getting to worship.

And one blurb, choose a bigger one. My husband does all of the laundry. This is a huge thing that doesn’t get acknowledged, and it should, right? Using my coping skills for my depression recovery. We all have our own things that we find important, so this second blurb will give us something to think about.

I’ll start.

November 2nd:

1. I actually started Nanowrimo yesterday.

2. I’m grateful for the amount of time my husband “lets” me write without the guilt of needing to do something else. I say let, but it’s not permission; it’s opportunity, and if often goes unthanked.

39/52 – Three Days in Wales

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I didn’t do the spiral journaling while I was overseas, but I thought it might be a nice idea to go back and just do the three days I spent in Wales. Some of it is the basics of where we were and the towns we visited, but there were also some reflective moments that came through despite the small writing space. It was also amusing to find that I wrote more as the days went on despite not really having done more. I think I got more comfortable in describing my thoughts and feelings, and on the last one, I really ran out of space. Continue reading