A Different Thanksgiving

We are having a different type of Thanksgiving this year. With the move and with COVID-19 soaring in different areas, we as a family unit, decided not to travel to see my parents. I mean, I’m okay with this because I know it’s the right thing to do. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

Today, I am thinking about everything I have to make. We only have one oven. In years past, we would make our casseroles, bake them in our ovens, and take them to Mom’s house to cook. It also helps that my Mom has a double oven. This year, how are we going to cook the turkey and the casserole? Darling Daughter said to just throw the turkey on the grill. As if it were that simple.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I mean it revolves around eating food. And we all know I LOVE food. But it also to me means getting together with family and celebrating thankfulness and togetherness.

As I make several of our family recipes, I will be thinking about Thanksgivings in the past where we were all together. I will think how staying away for this Thanksgiving might guarantee another Thanksgiving with my family. The best thing in the world is for us to stay safe and healthy so we can come together again in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Making Changes

Did you know there are people who have lost weight and gotten fit since Covid-19 started? I hate those people. Just kidding–sorta. I really do hate those people sometimes.

My whole life I have struggled with weight. I have never been a small person. In high school, I played tennis and had an athletic build. Of course, most of the time I looked bigger than I really was because of the clothes. I still can’t believe some of the things we wore in the 1990s.

My mantra this week is to do 5 things a day on my list. Since coming home in March, I’ve had a hard time with motivation. Blame this on my ADHD or something, but I find it hard to get off the bed, or stop binging Netflix. I have consistently walked with my neighbors. I’ve also consistently made excuses for why I packed on 15 pounds. I can tell you why I gained weight: I ate and drank too much and I didn’t move enough.

In that past, about 9 years ago, after my daughter was born I lost about 60 pounds. I did this by eating less and moving more. I know I can do that again. I am back to the same weight I weighed 9 years ago when I decided to lose that weight. It’s funny, because I consistently told myself I would never be that weight again, but here I am.

I know weight doesn’t make a person, but the truth is I feel better about myself when I weigh a certain amount. I can breathe better (I have asthma). I can keep up with the kids more. I’m happier with my body and my self image. Those are important things toward my overall happiness.

I’m sick of doing nothing, so instead I’ll do something.

Today my 5 goals:

  1. Ride my bike
  2. Clean the kids’ bathroom
  3. Write/Blog
  4. Spend Time Away from my phone and with My Husband
  5. Log my Food All Day

I think it’s important to recognize when changes are warranted and to start making them. As a person, we all grow and change as we move through life. I spent a lot of time at home once COVID-19 changed all of our lives. I am a homebody, and this is where I felt most comfortable. Unfortunately, it meant my life became more sedentary without me even realizing it. So I’m going to change for me!

Here’s to living life with purpose.

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Everything…and Nothing Sometimes

My attempts to blog more frequently have been thwarted by my attempts to do everything…and nothing sometimes. Virtual school takes up a lot of time. Not like I’m going to school, but I have to do a lot of follow-up with my kids to make sure they’re turning things in. I’m still not sure they’re actually turning things in all the time.

COVID-19 is so strange. I have been home more in the last 6 months then I probably have been home in my adult life. When I go to the CVS to pick up something, it feels like a REAL outing! Also, my husband and I are together ALL the time. I told my sister I think I have seen him more these last six months then the first 16 years of our marriage. I used to actually go to work. Now I just go downstairs to work.

Some days I do everything and some days I do nothing. Productivity during the time of COVID is hard. It’s like there’s a little voice whispering to me on certain days that streaming 9 hours of television and drinking too much is okay. And then I have what I like to call guilty days where I decide I will turn over a new leaf. On these days, I go for a run, log my food, get all my work done, read, and spend quality time with my kids. I need more guilty days in my life.

I have over the last few months been wondering if I am suffering from depression again. I went through a bleak period a few years ago where I had some familial issues. Those were dark times. I worry on days when I am feeling particularly low, but then I think of all the extenuating factors. First, the whole world stopped in March of 2020. And the U.S. couldn’t get its head out of its ass long enough to put policies in place to stop the spread or at least slow the spread of COVID. Then there became a lot of social unrest (granted–it’s about time). And don’t even get me started on politics. And then the kids had to do virtual school. Oh, yeah, and we moved away from our family and had to make new friends, move into a new house, and start all over. These are big life stressors.

My whole life I have grappled with the big question of why we exist. When my kids were born I knew I existed because of them. Holding my newborn son for the first time felt so eye-opening. But as months and months stretch on I wonder what my specific purpose is. I think about how I could have been so creative during this time. I could have really tuned into my writing, and I wonder why I chose instead to binge watch every single show on Netflix. I would like to live a purpose-driven work, but sometimes it just seems like so much work.

I met someone the other day who said her purpose in life is to make fun. Or maybe she said to have fun. I mean, how amazing is that? Sometimes I think as human beings we are too hard on ourselves for living our lives, for not being perfect, and for not being okay all the time. I struggle with my sad feelings, thinking I have such a great life that I should be happy. But what is happiness without sorrow? It simply does not exist.

Photo by vi Media on Pexels.com

I wake up each and every day with hope. I have my cup of coffee. I read or watch a little television. And then I tell myself that whatever I do today will be enough. That some days I’m capable of doing everything. And some days I’m capable of doing nothing. And that’s okay.

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Virtual School is For the Birds

Photo by Luca Paul on Pexels.com

We are in our third week of virtual school. With three kids. Two full-time work-from-home parents. Two dogs who lie around all day. And virtual school is for the birds.

I know there is not much of a choice right now. And overall, I will say my family is coping magnificently. I am still being productive. I make lists. I get my work done. I get the house cleaned occasionally. I stay on top of the kids…mostly. They are doing their assignments…mostly. We all still get along…mostly.

Today, the most-amazing teacher of my youngest child emailed me to tell me she hadn’t shown up for her small group? What? She has Whole Group followed immediately for small group. I walked into her room, and she is in bed playing her ipad. Grrr. Seriously? I had loads of work to do this morning, and I just assumed she was doing what she was supposed to do. You know what they say happens when you ASSuMe right?

I realize we are lucky, because we do have the privilege of working from home. But, geez, times are hard. It’s okay to not be okay with virtual school. Or with anything, because we are in the middle of a pandemic, and there is social and political unrest, but I I have these seriously mixed feelings. I wanted my kids to go to school, since they moved hours away from the only home they’d known and had to start over this year. But I also knew being in actual school probably wasn’t the safest place for them. So I felt okay when our district announced we would all start out virtual. Until it actually happened.

You know when you’re about to go on vacation and you have this dream that everything will be perfect. I had that before virtual school. Don’t ask me why. I must be a mostly positive thinker or perhaps I’m delusional. But managing virtual school for a high-schooler, middle-schooler, and an elementary-schooler is harder than I imagined. And the parent Canvas updates make my eyes twitch. I mean, I guess I’m appreciative of knowing whether or not my kid turns his work in, but I sort of feel like his secretary now. Pencil in your Thursday for constant nagging about that English paper that was due Tuesday at 8 AM.

For the most part, the teachers have been amaze-balls. I mean what a freaking hard time to be a teacher. Amiright? They basically went from teaching one way, to being thrown into teaching virtually in March. Then everyone hated on them, because it wasn’t amazingly perfect. I mean is it even possible to recreate the wheel in one day? No, the answer to that question is no. And now the teachers are going above and beyond. And I’m pretty sure they realize virtual learning sucks and isn’t ideal either. The teacher emailing me to tell me my kid didn’t come to class. I mean, how awesome is that. And they also realize how hard this is for the kids, and so most of the teachers have been so amazing about cutting them slack. My English teacher from high school would have circled every amazing in that sentence, besides the first one for repetition. Also, I found one of my high school papers the other day, and did you know the word “interesting” conveys nothing. How interesting.

I do feel lucky not to have a Kindergartener right now or any younger children for that matter. I have a friend who does. I cannot imagine trying to teach little children via Zoom either. My sister has that role, and I am having anxiety for her. She’s an amazing teacher, so I know she will do an awesome job. I mean, seriously, y’all. Our teachers need some serious props for putting up with all this shit. Their world has been turned upside down, just like our world. Let’s start really appreciating them during teacher appreciation week, and also during every.single.other.day they teach. They deserve mad props. Watch the video below to see why teachers are heroes. It will make you laugh, I promise.

The thing about virtual learning is it is only temporary. I keep having to remind myself and my kids that. Especially for my 10th grader, it feels like it will last forever. He’s missing out on his high school experiences, but let’s face it most of those suck. (Ha, just kidding–sort of). But we just need to tell ourselves, our kids, and our teachers every day: we’re in this together. We’ve got this. Communication seriously helps. I have had my kids email their teachers, I’ve emailed teachers, I’ve attended every optional Zoom parent call. Because I want to make this as easy on myself and my kids and their teachers as possible. Because, let’s face this, it’s not easy or even ideal. But we can get through this together.

And one last thing, if you want to be a hero you can donate to my fundraiser for NAAF. The link to the fundraiser is here: https://support.naaf.org/fundraiser/2880085. I am trying to raise $500 for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation to help them continue their research and efforts. Click NAAF to learn more about this amazing organization.

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A Quick Trip to Hot Springs

I don’t consider myself adventurous. I mean, I have had some adventures. Remember that time, Rob made me rappel into a Cenote in Mexico? Did I mention I’m afraid of heights?

Adventurous Lauren

Despite my lack of adventurous spirit, the week before school started, I decided it would be fun to take all three kids on a trip to Pisgah National Forest and camp out. Did I mention Rob wouldn’t be there?

We planned a quick trip–just drive up Tuesday, campout, possibly go tubing on the French Broad River, or go to Chimney Rock, then come home the next day. I had Chromebooks to pick up, schedules to view, and virtual open houses to attend at the end of the week for the kids.

We found a campground online called Rocky Bluff Campground. This put us about three hours away from Charlotte, and on the other side of Asheville. The trip there went well. Liam had a slight panic attack on the mountain roads. He doesn’t like heights either. When the GPS told us to turn left into the campground, I wondered how that would happen, since by all appearances we were on the side of a mountain, but the left magically appeared. The campground had wonderful stone work, and flat areas to pitch tents. Plus the other campers were at a safe distance, which also made me happy. The only minus was that we had to walk down stairs to bring all of our items to the campsite.

Also, my lack of camping-by-myself-experience led to some trouble putting up our pop-up tent. But we finally got it up, and we were all proud of ourselves.

Liam was hot and scarred from the drive by this time. Also, our tent platform was located in a shade-free area.

After we set up the tent, we went into town. Hot Springs is known for, well, hot springs. And we didn’t want to go to the springs, because they were in a spa, and also it was like 95 degrees. So instead, I blew money at the local store buying the kids lots of North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, and AT gear. Plus, Liam purchased a kazoo. Let’s just say that kazoo-player Liam is pretty talented and can match the tune to any song on a three-hour ride home.

Liam in the French Broad River

After the store, we went over to the welcome center. There a nice gentleman told Hailey and I that we could go across the street to find out about tubing, or drive 10 minutes up the road, and over the mountain, to find a trail that would run along the river. We chose the trail and planned on tubing the next morning.

Hailey in the French Broad River
Caden in the French Broad River

After the river adventure, in which I was not adventurous, we headed back to town to see if we could go tubing. We could not. The river was, in fact, too high. I was not upset about this at all. I wanted to go back to the campground to make sure I actually knew how to start a fire. So we made our way back.

When we made it to the campsite, I set up the propane stove and made hot dogs, plus corn. We also ate a lot of junk food, and played Uno about a billion times, while Caden took a nap. Liam was my savior as far as the fire was concerned. He made it, kept up with it, and we even had s’mores.

Liam, the fire starter
Liam, pretty proud of that raging fire!

Then the fun really came. Nothing will make you feel older than sleeping on the floor of a tent. I had a cushion to go under my sleeping bag and everything, but it did not help. First of all, there was a 10 year old who has no clue what personal sleeping space is. And then, Caden kept getting up, because his nap earlier had messed up his bedtime. Then it started pouring. I think I finally fell asleep at 2 AM. And I woke up at 6:30.

When I woke up, so did the kids. And they asked if we could go home. I asked if they wanted to stop at Chimney Rock, and they said no. And you know what, I was okay with that. It made me realize that trips are about the experience, spending time with the kids, and having fun. And camping–it makes you exhausted. I literally spent the rest of that day in bed watching Netflix.

I am hoping in the years to come, when my kids think of this period of COVID-19 and quarantine, they will remember these times we had together. These times I took them on an adventure, and we spent some quality time together. But you know what they’ll probably remember the most? Stopping by McDonald’s on the way home!

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Seas The Day

First a completely unrelated anecdotal story. Last night, Rob and I went to bed sort of early. Our daughter, H, is a non-sleeper. She’s 10. We used to call her Vampire Chicken Princess — it’s a long story. Anyway, she has been decidedly sleeping on our floor since we moved to Charlotte. We want to start locking the doors.

Imagine it. 2 AM. Sleeping soundly. Dreaming of hot men or ice cream, or whatever floats your boat in a dream. All of a sudden, the light goes on and someone screams, and Rob and I sit straight up and both start screaming, looking back and forth at each other, and then realizing it’s H. I’m guessing she was sleep walking. No idea.

Seas The Day. Seize The Day. Carpe Diem. What does it mean? Certainly not starting your day by waking up screaming at 2 AM.

I began running attempting to run again. The other day, I ran at the greenway, and the whole time I huffed and puffed. I see other runners, and they look like it’s the easiest thing to breathe and run. I can tell you–it is not. Sometimes, they’re not even breaking a sweat. I think these non-breakers of sweat must be some type of new super heroes or something. I certainly do not fit in the same category.

Even though I’m slow and sound like I’m drying when I run, I get a lot out of it. For one thing, it helps me clear my head. When I run, my mind catalogs thoughts and ideas. I notice flowers, trees in blooms, and also the sound of the death rattle in my lungs (ha ha, just kidding). So the other day, when I was jogging, walk/running, dying, I looked over at the fence and found this Seas The Day rock. My first thought: that pun reminds me of my dad. My second thought: Seize the Day.

What does it mean to seize the day? To make the most of the present moment. The present is a present. I think during these COVID-19 times, I have thought a lot about my past and the future. The future is so uncertain that it can leave me feeling hazy. It is hard not to look at the future when the whole world as-we-know-it seems to be falling apart. And the past. The past just haunts you. It is good to have nostalgia sometimes, but it’s not good to dwell.

As humans, I think we are always looking for more, more, more. We look to our past to teach us about the present, but sometimes we get lost in the rose-colored tint of our memories which are often mixed with imagination. Our memories can lie to us. They can tell us something was so wonderful or perfect when, indeed, it wasn’t.

Thinking too much about the future makes you forget about today. I confess, I am one of those people who gets lost in the past and making plans for the future. I try to live in the present, and since COVID-19 I have been better about it. It is easy to take life and people for granted, but this whole experience has put a lot into perspective for me.

I miss my parents and not being able to see them. I did not realize how much seeing them once a week really brought balance to my life. I am throughly enjoying my time with my kids. And for their part, they have been pretty good. They do chores, almost regularly, and there have been very few fights where I thought one of them might kill the other. I call that a victory. These are precious moments in their lives and mine that I will look back on and think of fondly one day.

Seize the Day. Remember the present rapidly becomes the past. Don’t get caught looking back too much and miss what’s happening right in front of you. When you focus on the present you make way for a better future.

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I’m Back

I am trying to start writing again. I wrote for about fifteen minutes earlier today, in between work and child care–really more like teenage care now. Like most people from the United States, we are still stuck at home. I’m hoping the masks requirements start reducing COVID-19. Until then, the kids and I will be at home doing remote learning while I try to work, and Rob tries to work too. And I try to write again. Because I have been missing my writing–time to pick up the ink and quill.

We have had a wonderful time all together mostly. Nothing like spending time with your family 24/7 to show you how much you need them. We are exploring our new home of Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are really liking what we are seeing. There are several great day trips from Charlotte, and I am starting to explore them with the kids. We also were able to get away for a few days to Todd, North Carolina, just north of Boone to a wonderful place called Camp Big Fun.

This past week it has been hot! We’ve had heat indices up to 105 or so. I decided to take the kids to Hooker Falls. It’s in the Dupont State Forest, about two hours away from our house and close to Asheville. What an incredibly beautiful place! The water was freezing cold, but oh so refreshing!

Son Number 1 at Hooker Falls

I have also spent hour upon hour of playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. This may seem like a colossal waste of time, which might be better spent writing, but actually I have been playing with some family members and we usually talk while playing. It’s been fun to catch up with them and live on an imaginary island where you can make millions of bells by selling turnips. Also, my little character pretty much looks amazing in any clothes, including bear costumes and princess costumes so that’s a plus!

The title of this post while seemingly simple was inspired by Poltergeist, which Son Number 2 and I watched together. Did you know Poltergeist is rated PG? This movie scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid, but as an adult not so much. Still such an amazing movie.

I’m hoping to start posting a few times a week again. Not all of my post will be about writing. I will probably write about whatever I’m thinking about that day, or whatever issue I wish to further explore. I hope to delve into some short fiction again too, and I want to further explore this story idea I’ve been mulling over. I may post bits and pieces of it here too.

So what have you been doing with your free time–if you have any–since COVID-19?

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Thoughts on the Situation

Today, I am really trying to schedule. Yesterday was the first day I felt restless. I think it’s because we were supposed to go back to work and school from Spring Break yesterday. We started homeschool, and after a few complaints and hiccups it went better than expected.

I wonder what my children will think about this strange time in their lives when they’re older. Last night, Darling Daughter asked about her birthday part in May. I told her it might not happen if we still have to stay in. She then went on to tell me COVID-19 was no worse than the flu. Who has she been listening to? I told her that we have no immunity to COVID-19. That it is worse than the flu, because it can spread more quickly. I told her the flu has been around for years, and therefore we’ve built some natural immunity to it.

My heart does break for my kids.. It’s so hard for them to be isolated from their friends. We are dealing with this on top of our whole life changing as we move. None of us can say goodbye to people we’ve known and cared about since we’ve lived in Alabama. That’s tough.

I took the dogs for a 2.3 mile walk today. They enjoyed it, and hopefully they won’t bark at every car that drives by. Many people in our neighborhood are having work done on their houses, and my dogs think it’s their natural duty to guard our house from everyone. I love my dogs, but they can be annoying.

I am going to start writing again. I’ve been brainstorming the last few days, and I think I have some direction. I feel like this whole situation is teaching us to put life into perspective. Writing has been important to me for most of my life, but I continue to put it on the back burner. Why is that I wonder?

Is it worth it to be so busy and have no time for people? I’ve Facetimed and Marco-Poloed (is that even a word?) so many people this week. Humans are social animals, and even though I like alone time I’m missing social interaction. My kids are chatting with their friends all the time. We’re having dinner together every night (and breakfast and lunch sometimes too). We’re truly and deeply connecting with one another again. I am so happy I have five people in my household. I feel deeply worried about people who are weathering this by themselves. I’m also worried about our government’s inability to compromise, put aside their differences, and actually help the American people who are suffering right now. There is so much to worry about. There is also so much to be thankful for.

Yesterday, I had a mini-meltdown. And afterwards, I focused on the kids. We played Red, Light, Green Light in the backyard. Then we went to the baseball field and played a game. There was no one there. We ran bases and hit, and chased the ball. That made me think about how lucky we are to be alive and to have each other. It also made me feel less restless and to thin about how sometimes the simplest things in life are the most important.

Stay safe and stay home, my friends.

 

A Great Big Time Out

I’m feeling like this whole stay-at-home, social-distancing, is a great big time out for our world. Have you seen the stories about the reduction in air pollution? About the canals running clear in Venice? Our world is healing. This morning, I went outside at 6:00 AM, because my body still thinks I need to wake up early. The birds were chirping. The sun was starting to come up. I stood out there and I listened to the birds call to one another. I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with air and just let myself be. How long has it been since I just stopped and listened to nature? We are so busy every day. We don’t take the time to do the things that really matter. This is a time to reflect, to just be, to live and love, and to recuperate from the hectic lives we have all been living. A time of healing for nature and for us as a people.

Today, after the sun came up I enjoyed my coffee and a book. Then I went for a 1 mile run and a 1.8 mile walk with the dogs. I came home just as the first fat drop of rain fell. Hubby asked how my walk was and offered to make brunch. Then I put on a dress and attended church…online. Reverend Frazer reminded me that we can use this opportunity to think about mortality and the existence of mortality in life. And also to just be there for one another. Leave notes in each others mailboxes. Be there for your family. Navigate and commiserate. We will get through this.

Scheduling Life

Today, I woke up early and I made a schedule for myself. I figure binge-watching The Last Man on Earth is not my best use of time. When stuck at home, a schedule gives you some sort of purpose, right?

So my schedule consists of walking dogs — Check! Did this at 8:30 — we went 2 miles.

Having Darling Daughter’s Distance Learning from 10-11:30.

Lunch from 11:30-12:30

Free Time from 12:30 – 2

Cleaning/Chore Time – 2-3

Done for the night?

I haven’t figured out the after 3 part. Some things I need to add are looking for a job in South Carolina/North Carolina and packing. Somehow I think finding a job is going to be more difficult with this recession coming. I’m having a lot of feels and anxiety about Hubby being the sole bread earner around here. I know a lot of people are going to be in the same spot as us.

Yesterday, the ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health) basically closed Alabama. Restaurants and bars can be carry-out/takeout only. Daycares closed. Public beaches closed. Non-essential doctor’s appointments need to be rescheduled. I’m having the feeling my kids are not going back to school this school year. This worries me as they’re not going to be able to say goodbye to their friends.

I realize this is the new normal for pretty much everyone in the U.S. and other parts of the world. I’m hoping with people starting to take this seriously we can flatten the curve, but I do think this is going to change daily life around America. Hopefully it is a wakeup call to Americans about the state of our healthcare, and also the lack of sick leave in this country. I realize Hubby and I are luckier than a lot of other people.