Thursday, April 9, 2020

Situation Odd

We are now in week four of our personal lockdown. I count ours as beginning from the time Grace's school closed. The week leading up to the decision to close the schools was fairly stressful for me. I engaged in many online arguments with people convinced there was nothing to worry about. I did not like having the bulk of the decisions out of my hands and to decide whether or not I would have to be That Mom. For a day or two, it looked like they were going to attempt to ride it out until conditions demanded otherwise. But soon sanity prevailed. After I knew I would be allowed to keep Grace home without dreadful confrontation or a cascade of consequences for her, my stress level dropped dramatically. Aside from Grace's return to the house during the day, nothing much has really changed here. Dave already works from home. The other children are already homeschooled. We chug along as close to normal as probably anyone could be.

In the immediate aftermath of all the shutdowns, the Internet was awash in exciting ideas to fill your newfound free time. To which I answer, what free time? The bulk of my cancelled activity happened in the evenings. It's true it's been nice spending 6-9pm at home instead of driving all over creation, but 7 o'clock at night isn't exactly the best time to dive into a new household project. We caved and bought Disney Plus in order to binge watch The Mandalorian. This is the way, yall. 

Aside that, nothing is really different or new. I have always been terrible at time management so the days evaporate in the way they always evaporate. We did not have concrete plans or vacations cancelled.  We had hoped to take a day trip to the Tennessee Aquarium over Spring Break, but since we have a yearlong membership that lasts until October, this wasn't a permanently lost opportunity. It's not like we have a habit or tradition of taking a Spring Break trip anyway. We just carry on. 

In spite of all the normal, things are not normal. We have shifted our days. We stay up too late and sleep too late. I am always running after the schedule we kept a few weeks ago and failing. Schoolwork creeps along at 2/3rds pace. The laundry is still behind. 

The reason is I keep getting sucked into the internet. So much new data, information, and speculation every hour of the day. I try to pull myself away, but nothing feels as urgent. You might suppose that this means I am very stressed about the current situation, but the truth is I am not. I have my moments, of course. We all do, but I generally do not feel particularly anxious. 

I think the reason is that life doesn't feel any more precarious than it usually does. We have been living without guaranteed income for years. Many times we stare down the prospect of an extended dry spell and somehow have managed to pull together enough income to make it through without too much pain. I usually can only see three months in front of me anyway. This pandemic doesn't feel much different to me at the moment. Dave has had an alarming number of clients either cancel or put their plans on hold so I know, eventually, we might feel the pinch. Talk to me in June or July. Then I might be anxious. Hopefully, though, life will open up before we get that far. Right now, though, I don't have to think too hard about what happens next.

I feel like we are living in suspended animation. I'm not motivated to keep the more rigorous school schedule, but I don't feel free to chuck it all and concentrate on household projects since I am not going anywhere anyway. This whole situation is just odd. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Laundry in the Time of Corona**

There's a screenshot floating around Facebook that says something like, "I always wondered what regular people were doing during historic events, but it turns out I am doing laundry-barely."

I, too, am barely doing laundry. In all the minute by minute drama of last week--the increasing confirmed cases, the cancellation decisions beginning to descend--I let the laundry go. I sat and hit refresh over and over, while mentally chiding myself to get up and work on the laundry.

Finally we hit the breaking point, and I had a lot of laundry to do in very short order. As I was moving baskets of clothes around, a fresh basket from the dryer sat a little bit too long. This load was the adults' more casual but still needs a hanger color clothes. As I put the shirts on hangers, several of them were wrinkly, more wrinkly than I am normally willing to tolerate. I sighed and started to think about which shirts needed to go back in the dryer with a wet washcloth. (This is my lazy person method of ironing.)

All of a sudden, I realized we aren't going to see ANYBODY before we wear these clothes again. We can wear them a bit wrinkly and then wash them again, and all will be well without any extra effort on my part. Satisfied, I put the clothes in the closet, and moved on to the next load.

**I know it's tired, but I couldn't resist.

Thursday, February 13, 2020


One of my quirky traits is that I love linens. I like sheets and blankets of different types and weights. And I especially love flannel sheets. I love the silly prints and the cozy warmth of flannels. Every year, I peruse the sheets in Target and online and have to fight the urge to buy more and more and more sheets. This might make you think I own an overflowing closet of sheets. This is not the case.

In reality, we own two sets of plain beige flannel sheets, probably bought at Target (maybe Penney's?). We only really need two sets. Beige was chosen for its long term washing durability. We don't really have storage room for more. That's about it. It is utilitarian. I make do and flip through catalogs.

This year for Christmas, Dave decided it was time to splurge and get me another set of flannels. Not just any flannels, though. LLBean Flannels! I have read the catalog description of these sheets for years. They sound so dreamy. Then I look at the price. Ouch! But if it's a Christmas gift, I have no choice but to buy the luxury set of flannels, right?

After some deliberation, I decided which set I wanted to get and soon these babies right here in Bay Blue were in my house.

Y'all. Y'all.

I cannot describe how great these sheets are. They are everything I ever dreamed and more. They feel like the softest, coziest cotton socks you've ever put on your feet. Except they're sheets! And it's your whole body, not just your feet!

If you tend to overheat at night, these probably aren't for you, but if you shiver like a sad dog left out in the cold, these are the greatest flannels in the history of flannel sheets. It's a real piece of luxury and worth the splurge if you can swing it. They make me feel like a millionaire instead of the thousandaire that I am.

NB: I am not getting paid for this ringing endorsement. If LLBean wants to sponsor me with some more sheets, I am willing to talk. Please.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Church Music

I first saved this post in April, and I think about it periodically but haven't found the motivation to type it all out until today when two tracks converged. First Mrs Darwin mentioned on Facebook the abysmal songcraft of modern hymns which is made evident when the instrumental accompaniment is stripped away. Second, the resident 2yo is running a mystery fever. She is sick enough to catnap, but not sleep deeply enough for me to move away and do something else. So here I sit. I may as well tell you about the church music.

I mentioned a time or two a few years ago my general displeasure with the music selection at church, and my lingering guilt about not participating except from the pews. In the interim, the situation declined from there. Our regular cantor left the parish. All of our piano players left. No one from the congregation stepped up to fill the void. We were left with a capella hippie songs, one decent guitar player who alternated with one terrible guitar player, a choir who couldn't sing their way out of bucket, and an occasional beginner piano player who plunked out a bunch of fail. It was a very sad state of affairs. Notably, it was also all volunteer. Nobody was paid for anything.

Up until about a year ago, my parish priest was a believing elderly man who was a good confessor, but honestly did not give a second thought to the niceties of liturgy. He did his best and didn't worry about the rest of it. His best included singing loudly, off key and out of rhythm, into his mike. It was all part of his charm, bless him. The fact that the music program was in shambles didn't phase him much. He figured if the Lord wanted a nice choir, someone would eventually show up to make it happen. He had faith, if nothing else.

However a year ago that priest retired, and the new pastor appointed in his place had a very different life history. He had been married and had a kid and got divorced and annulled and pursued a late in life vocation. But primarily of interest to the audience here is that his prior education is in music and he spent twenty years teaching it.

When he arrived, I wasn't sure how he would address the music situation but felt sure he would do something. At first nothing changed at all. The weekly disaster unfolded without comment. But when the Sanctus was so thoroughly mangled during the Christmas Vigil Mass that Father decided to repeat it verbally to make sure it was said, I knew it wouldn't be long until he acted.

By the end of January, he made his move. He hired a singer/pianist who had previously been a member of the parish years ago, but left for greener musical pastures at the parish in the next town. The music situation immediately improved. The choir stopped falling apart. They finally had a leader who could teach them how to sing the melody, follow the piano prompts, actually play the piano. The change was so stark, it became hard to remember how poor the prior offering were within a handful of weeks. The choir is actually good.

Since this new pianst was hired, the number of people attending Mass exploded. It's hard to miss the correlation. At the beginning of the year, it was the same group it had always been, but by Ash Wednesday, there were hundreds of more people attending. The only thing that significantly changed in that stretch of weeks was the music. The Ash Wednesday Mass was one of the most incredible events I have ever witnessed. Hundreds and hundreds of people present, standing room only, even all the way back to the far side of the Narthex. There were so many people, I was worried about the Fire Marshal showing up. There were an amazing number of people. And this increased attendance continued through the summer and now into the fall. This is all an unalloyed good.

Because this is good, I feel like a heel for my following complaint.

Yall. It's all Jesus Is My Boyfriend music.

The person who was hired is a name in the Catholic music scene. He's published in OCP. He plays concerts with the current Catholic pop stars. He programs a variety of his own music along with the current hits. He is a very nice guy. He loves syncopation. We emote. A lot. So many feelz. The Agnus Dei is now permanently the Matt Maher call and response version.

I haven't been Gathered In in months, for which I am incredibly grateful, but I admit I am disappointed in the direction the music has taken. On a positive note, they have also added both the entrance and communion antiphons, which I have never, ever heard regularly in a Mass. The cantor sings them solo before launching into the scheduled song. I appreciate that effort.

Even though I am disappointed, I can't be upset about this musical direction. I wish we had more traditional music or even some chant, but I cannot compare some version of perfection in my head to our current reality. I have to compare what was and what is. What was was incredibly bad. What is is just not to my taste. There is a world of difference in that distinction. While I can argue about what "should" be, I first have to accept what's possible and who is available. It was very apparent nobody with my vision of church music was going to appear and implement such a program. It so happens within our parish boundary is a gifted musician with publishing credits, and he is willing to serve us every weekend. He is good at what he does. This is very good for our parish.

But sigh, P&W is not my thing.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Confessions of a Night Owl

I am not really a night owl, even though I claim the label. I have never been one to chase the 2am energy burst. Even in my high-flying college days, I was usually home before midnight and asleep before 1am. Although I may not be the classic night owl burning the midnight oils, one thing I definitely am not is a morning person.

Mornings come hard. It's difficult to focus. My brain feels like it is sitting in a thick fog. My eyes struggle to make sense of the words in the morning Magnificat reading. I don't bound out of bed with energy, but drag myself groggily to consciousness trying to hold the day's tasks in my mind.

When I was working full time and commuting, I never adjusted to the schedule. I could push my sleep cycle in the direction of earlier, but sunrise proved to be the hard stop on my ability to force the issue. Even while I could coax an earlier wake-up time, it only took a handful of schedule-less days to destroy the rhythm as my body slid back into its desired, later, schedule.

After I quit my job and started homeschooling the children, there was no pressing reason for me to get out of bed early in the morning so I didn't. I didn't sleep until noon, but sleeping until 8am was not unheard of. Or maybe 830. Probably not later than 9. I jest. A little. During the school year, I set my alarm for 730 with varying success. Ella complicated matters.

However, life has changed. Ever since Grace started high school two weeks ago, I have felt compelled to get up and greet her before she leaves for school in the morning. The bus runs at 630am now so I need to be out of bed by 620 in order to see her. The truth is there is nothing forcing me to do this. Dave gets up as early as he ever did, makes sure she is awake in the morning, assists in her final preparations, and sees her out the door. He is quite capable and doesn't need my help. I could sleep longer, but I want to get up. It feels wrong to continue to snooze while your child trudges off to an early morning bus.

I cannot say I am bursting with energy. I am not. I wake up and stumble to the living room. I see Grace off and then sit, drinking coffee, while praying Morning Prayer and checking in on the world. The funny thing is that even though I am as groggy as I ever was upon waking, the morning fog lifts about two hours after I wake up. This is true whether I am waking at 615 or 815. The clock strikes 8am. I have already finished my morning mental routine, and I am ready to physically get ready for the day. Oddly, this earlier start time means I am prepared for the rest of the day at an earlier time too. Mind-bending, I know.

As I work through the rest of the morning, I keep glancing at the clock, amazed at how early it is, astounded at where I am in my chore list. The day seems to stretch on beyond me and instead of having already slipped away. I am, unbelievably, finishing my daily chores relatively stress-free at a normal pace instead of cramming tasks into stolen bits of time. I still do not have copious amounts of free time, but my biggest problem has been decision paralysis in determining what to do next instead defeated resignation about what didn't get done. This is amazing.

I mean, I am not saying I am now a morning person. I'm not. I am never going to be. But I will say putting the day into motion around sunrise hasn't been half bad. I didn't quite expect that.

Monday, August 12, 2019


Grace started high school last week. Thus far she is enjoying herself, and I think the structured schedule is going to do her a lot of good. I expected the transition to be stressful for me for a variety of reasons. It is hard to relinquish control to a bunch of strangers who may or may not share your vision of education. What I did not expect is how much technology would play a leading role in my stress.

Grace, gasp, does not have a smartphone. We did not intend for her to have a smartphone. I think smartphones for teenagers are a bad idea for a number of reasons, YMMV.

We do, however, understand that the expectations for communication are different now so she does need phone access. We intended, at the beginning of July before band camp started, to reactivate my old slider dumbphone that I used until 2015. The phone is in fine working order and would perfectly fit her need to make the occasional phone call and text as necessary. When we investigated getting my old phone re-added to our cell phone account, we discovered the 3G network is being discontinued, and thus they will not activate the phone. The only dumbphone on offer with our cellphone company is one and only one flip phone. The problem with this flipphone is that the main task she would use the device for--texting--is troublesome with the three letters per button setup. We temporarily tabled the decision essentially because I was mad and needed to calm down.

How can it be possible that the cell phone companies refuse to offer a decent, basic phone for the use of teenagers and others who do not need to carry a $700 mini-computer. They must know that many parents are hesitant to dump their children into the world of constant connection. They also must know that if they withhold the lesser devices a parent might be looking for, it will push parents, who do not want to deprive their children, into buying more expensive devices. Then they offer "parental controls" to assuage concern. Good Luck! And like the Disney Channel star who spectacularly melts down, it's a feature and not a bug when the controls inevitably fail.


School began this week with the phone decision still unmade. On the second day of school, Grace forgot her premade lunch due to the early hour and new routine. I ran it over to the school, and the secretary casually told me to text her so she'd know her lunch was in the office. That's ominous. Why would the secretary expect Grace to be able to receive a text? Shouldn't she, uh, not have her phone on during school hours? Of course, she doesn't have a phone and I told the secretary such. Not to worry, she reassured me. She'd get Grace her lunch.

Grace had to charge a hot lunch because they didn't bother to call her to the office until lunch was over.


Her classes, so far, are the expected assortment of enjoyable ones mixed with frustrating ones. However in two classes, there is a very distinct and distressing trend and it goes something like this:
Class, get your phone out and...
The first class, Speech, expects the students to look up whatever the teacher tells them to find, and then they are supposed to reference it as he continues his lecture. I am vexed. Is there a reason this has to be done on individual devices? Why can't the teacher project his own device on a screen? Is the lack of a personal phone an annoyance or a hindrance?

The second class, AP Human Geography, taught by the football coach, cough, has yet to issue a textbook or a class website or much of any source material at all. He has, however, given homework assignments and copious free time in class for the students to "research" their answers on their own personal phones. (Yes, they are randomly googling and writing down whatever they find.) There are two computers in the class for student use and about 25 students needing internet access. If you don't get a class computer and don't have a phone, you are then entitled to stare at the ceiling for 30 minutes and do homework later that night.

This is enraging to me. How dare they try to force my hand in this decision. They, the cell phone companies and the school, are happily skipping down the primrose path and expect me to just follow along. The very idea that a public high school would expect their students to all have access to their own personal smartphones so teachers can lazily avoid the basic tasks of teaching makes my blood boil.

I might be overreacting.

The current decision on the table is whether or not to get the substandard flipphone or acquiesce to popular expectation against my better judgement. Dave is more reasonable than I. I am stubborn. But I am not the one bearing the immediate consequences of the decision, even if I definitely think I am right in the long term.

So what do you do? Do you shell out a large sum of money for something you don't want to buy and think is actively harmful--even if the rest of the world thinks you are crazy? Or do you fight a losing battle, class after class after class, with your child having to continually identify herself as The One Who Does Not Have A SmartPhone? I wish I knew.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

You Did What In 30 Minutes?

I disappeared again. I didn't mean to. I probably need a tag.

May was very busy. Always busier than I expect or remember. We finished up school and then took a family vacation to Mammoth Cave. A series of children were sick over the course of about a month, which culminated in Marian being tentatively diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She actually had some other moderately less horrible tick-borne disease. All's well that ends well and thank God for antibiotics.

When June rolled around and the endless rounds of sickness decided to give us a break, I began, again, my continuing purge project that spent most of this past school year on pause. I have found that my ability to clean and keep up with Ella the toddler and chauffeur kids around and type posts and maybe read a book is limited. Right now I am in book reading mode so there is not going to be an in-depth post about the epic battle with my room currently raging. Unless I change my mind. We'll see.

About my room. My room is generally the resting place of any stray paper item that wants to be kept but doesn't currently have a home. Generally the procedure is I find something I want to keep, toss it on my dresser for safe keeping, and say I'll deal with it later.

It's later:

It took me three days to get to the bottom of the giant pile where I discovered that it dates to Christmas 2016. This is immediately before I got pregnant with Ella and my cope-er collapsed. Yeah, it's bad. I am not finished yet, but the bulk of the paperwork has been dealt with. I need to figure a better system so it doesn't get this bad ever again.


As I whittled the pile down I found a copy of _A Mother's Rule of Life_ by Holly Pierlot that I borrowed from a friend in the Fall of 2016. This friend now lives out of state. Oops.

I never read the book, but I know people have strong feelings about it. They either love it or hate it. I am not sure which I'd be. I like structure, but massively fail at time management.

I flipped the book open, and my eyes landed on this paragraph:

     Somewhere around 10:00 on most evenings, I prepped for the next day. I emptied the dishwasher, quickly tidied up what was left to do downstairs, put away my laundry if Philip hadn't already done it, and took care of personal hygiene. I'd spend a few minutes in prayer and reading before bed at 10:30.

Wait, what? My eyes popped out of my head. How do you do all that in 30 minutes?

Let's see:

Empty the dishwasher: 10 minutes
Tidy the downstairs: Assuming it's mostly tame, 5 minutes
Put away laundry: Is this laundry already folded? 5 minutes.
                              Is this laundry in a heap in a basket? 15 minutes
Personal hygiene: Rushing, 10 minutes
                              Normal, 20 minutes
                              Does this involve a shower? 45 minutes
Prayer: 5 minutes
             Am I totally unfocused and rambling in my head? 10-15 minutes
Reading: 10 minutes or why bother?

So in my experience, her last minute 30 minute round-up prep takes me 45 minutes when everything is firing on all cylinders. If it's more like my normal, I'd expect her quick routine to take me at least 75 minutes.

I am thinking maybe I am not the target audience for this book.