Posted in Around the House, Everywhere But Home, Family Time, Friend Time, health, I Am Traveling, I Really Do Cook, My Own Personal Weirdness, Writing

Lisa’s Writing Vacation

AKA: How I managed to spend a whole week NOT writing

This was a hard week for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my half-brother Ray passed away last month. Last Thursday I drove to DFW and dropped my car off at Katherine’s and she drove me to the airport. I hopped on a flight to California in order to help out Ray’s widow, Susan, and kids getting reading for the memorial service. I’d brought my writing stuff with me, hoping to get to spend some of my free time writing, but there honestly wasn’t any minutes to spare.

I got to their house after a long day of driving and flying and with a negative time change, I was so very tired and it was only 8pm. I tried to stay up and talk with everyone, but it was no use – I was in bed by 9:30pm PST.

The next day I woke up at 4:45am, but managed to coax myself back to sleep until about 6:30am. I went to make coffee, but my nephew ran out and shooed me away, telling me that his dad always got up and said “Make the coffee, Joe,” and he was determined to keep on making the coffee, even without his dad around to remind him. Just like that, I could hear my brother in my little nephew’s voice and see him in his every movement. I had to shoo myself away before I cried all over the little guy.

We spent the rest of the day taking kids to and from school, organizing, then cleaning rooms of the house and the patio so it could be all ready for the memorial service the next day.

My biological maternal grandparents

The next day I was again awake at 4:45am, but this time I got up, made my own coffee, and spent some time taking photos of photos in my birthmom’s room (which was where I was staying). Her walls are absolutely covered in photos, many of which I’ve never seen before. I stood up on a stool and angled myself this way and that to get the best photos possible. Once the other’s were up, I started decorating the house with photos of my brother and his family, and then put out the tablecloths, and washed up all the dishes and platters I thought we might need. An hour before people were due to arrive, the first visitor showed up. He was the ex-husband of my brother’s housemate and since he was early, we put him to work carting drinks into the house, setting up the coolers, and re-installing the door to the garage that Joe had taken off a few weeks ago (and was unable to put back up alone).

After that, everyone else started arriving and over the course of the day I manned the buffet table, meeting many members of the housemate’s family and Susan’s family. There were even some little kids there. Everyone brought fruit. It was fruitopia. The day spun by so very quickly. We were unable to have the main part of the memorial service, due to some clerical errors that kept Susan from being able to get Ray’s death certificate (and therefore also his remains), so the little tree she was going to plant in his honor remained on her front porch. A few of us spoke about Ray, even his little son Jeff, and we all cried. It was nice to meet so many people that loved my brother and sister-in-law.

Because it was also the busiest day of the band year back home, I skipped out on the early evening’s visitor (who had come late due to his work schedule). I went back to my room and watched the livestream of my kids marching at UIL Contest and then looked for photos of them from the Rose Parade earlier in the day. I texted with them, congratulating them on their Sweepstakes win. And then I went back out and joined the conversation.

My kids at UIL Marching Contest.

The next morning I did not get up early. We all got up a little later and then moseyed over to church, which was part Southern Baptist-part rock band church-part surfer dude speak. Everyone there was really nice and no one bugged me about my mask. After church was lunch and after lunch my best friend from high school came and scooped me up and we ran off to Starbucks for a while. I was sad to leave her when our time was up, but I love how easily we slipped back into that friendship for a couple hours.

After that, Susan and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for Joe and I to get thoroughly soaked from the waist down and for Jeff to lecture us on the improbability of us turning into merpeople and Susan to get creeped out by some weirdo. A couple hundred beach pictures in ten minutes, really. But it was good. I always feel better at the beach.

I am at Imperial Beach with my nephews.

Susan dropped us back at the house and stayed just long enough to say hi to the chair lady. Then she drove back out to pick up Angela. I made my “famous” chicken spaghetti and “Aunt Mandy’s” green beans for a late “fancy” dinner. I laughed at that. Chicken spaghetti is the easiest thing ever. I taught Joe my secret sauce, just in case they liked it. Oh boy, did they! Jeff said I took him to “Flavor Town” and “Delicious Land.” I’m so happy it was well-receieved.

We went to bed very late that night, in some part due to a conversation that needed to take place out of the earshot of the children. We had to wait for Joe to fall asleep. In the end, an agreement was reached about what would happen with the kids if something happened to Susan. It was a hard conversation, but necessary. I was really glad to be included.

The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn so Susan could drop me off at the airport and then take the kids straight to school. I waited in the longest TSA line I’ve ever seen, but made it to my gate all right. The flight itself was mostly okay, but there was a medical emergency towards the end in first class, so we ended up spending quite a while at the gate waiting for that to get sorted out. Then Katherine picked me back up and we had a late lunch and then went to rest at her house for a while before I drove home. I was feeling so foggy and out of it, I was worried about driving home. I did end up making it home okay, but I had to stop for a while halfway home and walk around for a bit to get my brain back online. So I didn’t get home until about 7:30pm (I’d expected to be home by 5pm).

Katherine and I tried to make up for me not remembering to get a photo with Emily.

Tuesday I spent cleaning my entire house. Being away from home on a super busy weekend makes the mess so much worse. But I was also still feeling so groggy and weird that it was hard to get anything done. I started to worry that I was coming down with a cold or something. I attended my Spiritual Practices group, but I absorbed none of the conversation, alas.

Wednesday morning was my pill box refill day. I couldn’t find the pills I needed to fill the box. I finally realized that the reason I was so out of it was that I had picked up my medicine at the pharmacy before I left on the trip, but had forgotten to put that one in the box I took with me. So I’d skipped it for a couple days by accident. (And now I know just how essential it is to my health and well being.)

I taught a lesson at the Wednesday Whatchamacalit group that day and it went well. That is detailed in an earlier post. Later. I spent the rest of the day resting/spending time with my younger kids because I knew that the next day I had some more big cleaning to do.

Thursday I went over to the David House and helped him get it cleaned up because my dad was coming to visit. David was supposed to have finished moving rooms before my dad came to town and he had not finished. Plus there was resetting the room he’d moved out of and resetting the closet of the room that stored the stuff that used to be in that room and putting stuff from the room he was moving to into that closet. If it sounds circuitous, it really was.

After that was the recycling. I don’t think anyone has taken the recycling out of the house since January. I filled my entire Jeep up from top to bottom and back to front. It was only about 2/3 of the total recycling. I had other errands to run, though, so I did that and never got back to check on the David House.

This morning I got up and realized that I’d never gotten around to doing the critiques for the Pineywoods Critique Group, which was just as well because I hadn’t sent anything in over the last weekend, either. So the spouse and I went and got haircuts, which we have literally never done at the same time before. Then we ran a couple errands and ate lunch. One of the errands was picking up all the boxes of history for the ETWG Historian position before the current Historian moved and took them with her.

This was the last thing on my To Do list for the day besides feeding and chaperoning the band. It’s also the first real writing I’ve done all week. I’m not sure I’ll have time during the weekend to write, unless I am very careful with my time. We have the game tonight, my dad in town, an afternoon church party tomorrow, dinner at my dad’s and games, then church Sunday morning, and an ETYO concert Sunday afternoon. I may not get anything sent in to the critique group this weekend either. Chapter Nine of CQ needs re-drafting. Maybe I’ll send them some more poetry.

Posted in Family Time, My Own Personal Weirdness, Speaking, The Past Comes Back to Haunt Me, What I Love, Writing

Today’s Speaking Engagement at TPLWC – Cancelled

I’m sorry, guys. I’m just not in the right headspace to teach anyone anything today. I asked the other leaders to post something, so someone should be there at the group doing just that today.

Posted in Family Time, What I Love

Devastated

My half-brother, Ray, passed away this morning. He was 48 years old and leaves behind a wife and two small children. Our birthmom has been stuck in Wisconsin, where she’d been visiting her other daughter, having had a series of small strokes. We are all really sad and scattered right now.

Posted in Around the House, Everywhere But Home, Family Time, Friend Time, Parenting, Saving Money

Feast of Tabernacles

You know how we thought the Feast of Tabernacles last year was weird? Yeah, this year is weirder.

If you are new to this blog and do not know: we are an interfaith household. My husband’s family belong to the United Church of God. More info on the Feast of Tabernacles can be found here.

David is headed off to Utah with church friends from all over. I dropped him off at the Tyler airport today after spending all day with him yesterday trying, and failing, to get his phone fixed before he left. We ended up getting him a new one instead, as T-Mobile doesn’t recognize Sprint’s care plan after their merger.

David waited til the last minute to tell us what he was planning, then the pandemic threw a wrench in things as well, with some locations deciding to limit visitors all together. So Utah was super last minute, which meant getting him a reasonably priced airline ticket was going to cause some issues. He ended up on three different planes with one eight hour layover in Dallas and one twelve hour layover in Phoenix.

He was totally calm about all of this. It was me wracked with worry. What if he missed a flight? What if the Phoenix Airport wouldn’t let him spend the night inside? What if he forgot to pick up his luggage in Phoenix and ended up in Utah without it?

My anxiety levels were already crazy, but sending my 19-year-old off on his own for the first time drove me over the edge. Hence the All Crochet All Weekend confabulation.

He got there just fine. His friends eventually picked him up at the airport. He’s great, he says.

Meanwhile, the other four of us are at home this week. Nick and Greg are going to watch videos livestreamed from other locations. They can do it in the morning with a Florida site or in the afternoon with the Utah site David is at. (Ree and I? We are doing school work or writing or practicing instruments. We’re fine.)

Posted in Around the House, Computers and Internet, Crafts, Exercise, Family Time, Friend Time, health, Lifelong learning, Music, My Own Personal Weirdness, Organizing, Parenting, Television & Film

Huge List of Activities to do with Kids during Covid-19

I started this document ages ago and have shared it with many friends, family members, and FB forums already. It’s compiled from many, many different places: lists on facebook, travel websites, space websites, family websites, school websites. It’s broken down into categories for ease of use: The Arts, Books, Celebrities, Coding, Crafts, Disney, Exercise, Food, Movies/TV/ Mental Health, Museums, Music, School Related, Travel, and Non-Internet Things to Do.

Hope you enjoy it. Here’s the link.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Crafts, Family Time, Lifelong learning, My Own Personal Weirdness, Organizing, Parenting

Summer of Themes 2020

School got out a couple weeks ago, but my family has been taking a little staycation. I spent some time working on my summer plan for the kids. With summer camps being out of the question, we went back to the drawing board and decided we were going to do another summer of themed days. We’ve done them off an on for years and I first wrote about them here and here.

A lot has changed since then– we’re down to two children at home now, both teens, the internet can be viewed on the big TV in the living room, and free videos abound about far more subjects than we’ll ever have time to watch.

Here’s a link to this year’s list of themes. I’m updating them weekly on Sunday mornings, usually. Feel free to download and change for your own needs. πŸ™‚

Posted in Around the House, Computers and Internet, Exercise, Family Time, Lifelong learning, My Own Personal Weirdness, Organizing, Parenting

Our Quarantine Home Life

Sundays are fairly normal. My husband, Nick, gets up around 6:30am and exercises, then I get up and make some breakfast. The midkid and I watch our church service online instead of driving two minutes down the road. Nick and Greg make a grocery list, which Ree and I add to once our church is over. Then Nick goes out shopping for a couple hours while the kids and I do some household chores. In the later afternoon we watch another documentary or play a board game. Sometimes Nick has to work some more. Then the Nick makes dinner, the kids set the table, and we eat dinner. Then it’s time for showers and bed.

On any given weekday, Nick gets up at 5:30am, goes to the living room and exercises with some weights my kid brought home randomly from my dad’s house. He is so thankful for that. I wake up at 6am and grab a cup of tea and a chat with him before he heads off to shower. I read the news until it’s time to swap. After my shower, I dress myself and put on makeup and jewelry because that is one little piece of sanity in my day.

Nick starts work at 7:15am in the home office I rigged up for him from the desk our college kind left behind. It’s perpendicular to my own home office. We hung a curtain from the ceiling between us so our online meeting people don’t have to see the other person in the room. I also need it there because I cannot write if someone is looking over my shoulder. I’m also not used to people being home during the day. I usually spend quite a lot of time alone and I’m going a little bit crazy without alone time.

7:15am is also when I wake up the kids. They don’t wander out until nearly 8am, so I spend time playing the new Animal Crossing Game. It’s very soothing to have someplace to go and other villagers to visit with. My brain doesn’t care that it’s not real. Once the kids come out, we eat breakfast and then take a walk around the neighborhood. I try to pick a different kind of thing to look for every day, just to keep it interesting. Sometimes it’s a kind of tree or a bug or a bird.

When we come back inside, our 7th grader  has an online meeting at 9am. The teacher says its optional, but she also texts me every time he doesn’t show up, so I try to make sure he goes into the Zoom meeting before I leave his room. Then I encourage our 10th grader to look at his assignments. His teachers haven’t posted much at all, so he’s inclined not to check unless I stand there and watch him do it. Since he has 8 classes to check, this takes a while.

At 11am,  I coax the kids away from the computers and we start looking at our lunch options. I’m usually the one that buys the lunch food, but I cannot go out because I’m immunocompromised, so we have to make do with what my husband brings home. He rarely thinks of lunch food. By noon, we’ve come up with something, eaten it, and the kids wander back to their devices for some recreational screen time while I chat with my husband, who has an hour off for lunch. Sometimes instead I hide in our now-quiet bedroom and luxuriate in the fact that no one is speaking to me.

At 1pm, it’s instrument practicing time. Each kid has two instruments, so one plays for 30 minutes, then the other, and then back and forth again. Sometimes I don’t have to monitor this time period. If I can get away with it, I sneak off to do some writing or editing.

From 3-5pm, it’s serious school work time. The middle school teachers have been assigning all the things, so our youngest has a TON of work. The high school kid does not. So I have the youngest ask the middle one for help during this time while I go do my “work hours.” I have a lot of volunteer positions — Secretary for the Tyler Council of PTA’s as well as focus person for Bell, Moore, Lee, and Andy Woods PTA’s when they need help, Secretary for the Lee Band Parents Association, Secretary for the Moore Middle School PTA, Membership chair and Assistant Webmaster for the East Texas Writers Guild, Facilitator for this group. Plus I’m a member of  two critique groups. Some of my groups have successfully transitioned to online meetings, some have not.

At 5pm, I encourage the kids to go play outside or water the garden or weed something. Soon it will be too hot for that, so we may swap our morning walk for yard work, do indoor chores during this time, and take a post dinner walk.

From there, the kids get some non-homework time until dinner set up starts. I usually try to find some artistic thing for them to do or science experiment to run instead of more screen time. Some times it works. Occasionally one of them has an online music lesson during this time.

We eat dinner around 7pm, like we always have. After dinner, it’s time for a family board game or more Animal Crossing, which we play on the big screen together in group mode. Occasionally Nick or I will have an online meeting for one of our groups instead. (He’s on the security and media teams at church and he’s also trying to host online game nights for some of his co-workers who are quarantined alone.)  Then showers for the kids and they are sent off to read in bed until they fall asleep. Nick and I go to bed around 10pm after watching Star Trek: the Next Generation.

Fridays are different because Nick only works half days. We have our eldest son over (he lives alone around the corner from us) and do some take-out for lunch. Then play a game, usually. He goes home afterwards. Then Nick’s been finding household jobs to do to keep him occupied while the kids finish their school days. He’ll make a fancier dinner that night.

Saturdays are pretty normal. We wake up later, sit around reading or playing music on our instruments, then eat a bigger brunch. Nick’s church meets on Saturday, so he and the bookend boys watch the service online while I sneak off to write. Our midkid wanders off to read. After church is over, we have a family dinner and maybe some more board games. Sometimes we watch a documentary together. Then the eldest goes home and we do our nighttime routine.

And that’s our week.

Posted in Family Time, health

My sister is in the hospital

My sister’s girlfriend messaged me late last night after I was already in bed that April had a headache, chills, and a cough. I woke up to that message this morning. Later on she reported that my sister’s fever hit 103.4. The girlfriend is a nurse and this had her rattled. She wanted to take my sister to the hospital, but my sister, a child of my mother if ever there was one, refused outright. Then her breathing started getting choppy, so now girlfriend has won and my sister is in the hospital. They won’t let girlfriend, or anyone else, in with my sister. She’s all alone.

Girlfriend (who I haven’t yet asked for permission to talk about here, hence the use of “girlfriend”) is getting text updates directly from the doctor because they are friends. April’s blood pressure is super low and her pulse fast and it all screams sepsis, apparently. My mom had that a bunch. It is definitely not good.

I’m stuck here. Both towns have shelter in place mandates. I can’t see her even if I went there, but I so want to go down there. I talked to my dad and he seems calmer than I expected. I am freaking out.

Posted in Around the House, Family Time, Lifelong learning, Music, Parenting, Writing

Social Distancing

Today was supposed to be a several things that it wasn’t.

Kids were supposed to be back at school, but the district is having what they call a “Community Mitigation Period” instead. They’re cleaning the schools and we’re supposed to be back on schedule next week. Ree is a little bit wumbly over it because he left his instruments at school because of the wisdom tooth removal. He’s already heard from his band director that this weeks pass offs are still due. *sigh*

We were also supposed to have our belated Lindale Critique Group meeting today. Since we usually meet at a McDonald’s off a busy highway and two of our members are immunocompromised, we decided we should probably all stay home this time. So we exchanged critiques by email, which is never as enlightening as meeting face to face is. Ah well, hoping next time goes better.

I was supposed to finally have at least an afternoon at home alone, which didn’t happen. Instead I talked to kids about the coronavirus and what the schedule at home would look like. We’re going on a modified summer schedule for now. Morning are quiet movies, exercise, and chores. Afternoons are video games, some outside time, instrument practice, and reading. Evenings will be mostly as normal as they ever get. One teacher has offered online flute lessons. We shall see how that goes.

Finally, our East Texas Writer’s Guild had its usual Nutz & Boltz meeting online via Zoom. We had some good conversation about things. (I have notes if anyone is interested.) πŸ™‚ At least one thing went off like normal.

Posted in Around the House, Family Time, I Really Do Cook, Parenting, What I Love

Halloween 2019

Our Halloween… over at my parents house on Woodhaven, of course. πŸ™‚ We had a pretty good turnout, but still had one whole bag of candy leftover at the end of the night. We watched HalloweenTown, but not HocusPocus because my children have decided to rebel and say they β€œhate” HocusPocus. Ah well, at least we had the traditional Taco Soup.