And We Start to Open Up Again

I don’t particularly care to debate whether or not opening up is 100% the right thing. Because honestly, it won’t ever be 100% the right thing until there’s better testing, tracking, and a vaccine. That’s just science. As someone who does get sick often and badly, I take a look at this in a more realistic way. Again, I know I could choose not to go out to stay safe and that’s my plan. I’m not living in fear. I’m living in protection. I’ve been bedridden by sinus infections before because they get so bad, imagine if I got this? My family understands that. My parents are in the high-risk category, so my kids haven’t gotten to hug or really see their grandparents aside from waving in the window. My husband wears his mask and takes as much precaution as he can to stay safe, but there’s no real guarantee that he won’t bring something home to us. That’s a risk that we’re supposed to be willing to take.

But just because they government is opening up the world, that doesn’t mean I’m going to participate. I watch the daily rises and falls in the numbers. Until they get to a much lower place, I’m staying home and no one is coming into my house. I honestly don’t care about anything except keeping my family safe, which includes taking the precautions I need to so that I don’t end up dead. Dramatic? Maybe. But I just want to make very clear that peer pressure doesn’t work on me and I’m not going to do something because crazies with a gun think I’m irrational and living in fear. If I’m the one living in fear, how come you’re the one with the gun?

I’ll probably lose friends along the way. I’ll piss off family members that already don’t agree with my decision. It’s not their decision to make. I’m not withholding my kids from anyone. People can call them, voice chat with them, but we already have such a short time on this earth. I’m not going to go out with tubes down my throat because someone thinks I’m trying to hurt their feelings. I’m not. I’m doing what I believe is the right thing and you’re not going to convince me otherwise unless you’re an experienced and highly educated medical professional. Because science.

If you choose to go out and let your kids run around in large masses, that’s what you think is the right move for the safety of your family. I won’t judge you for that. But I would appreciate not being judged for what I think is the safe and right thing to do for the safety of my family.

It’s Going to be Okay

That’s something I think we all need to hear these days. We’re all struggling. A lot of people have lost their jobs. Parents who still have to work through this are struggling to balance working from home and managing their children’s education at the same time. Or they are trying to manage finding daycare for their kids while they go to work, adding to their stress of worrying if it’s safe for their kids. We’re not mentally in a good place right now. Or at least I know I’m not. But, it’s going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay because you’re doing the best that you can. No one can expect anymore than your best. You’re always going to think that you’re not doing enough. But you are. You’re doing your best for that moment in your life.

It’s going to be okay because eventually things will start to feel some type of normal again. Whether it’s the new normal or getting back to what your life used to be. Normal is really what you make it to be, not what everyone tells you it should be.

It’s going to be okay because we’re meant to adapt, adjust, and change our approaches. We evolve at our own pace. Change isn’t something that everyone can accomplish at the same time. And that’s okay.

It’s going to be okay because someday it will be safe for kids to hug their grandparents again. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is all to make sure that we have our family as long as possible.

It’s going to be okay, somehow. Because we need to have some sort of reasonable optimism that we will get through this. That we are going to come out of this stronger than when we went into this.

Because that’s who we are.

So, just remember: it’s going to be okay.

It All Starts with a Character

There are so many current, relevant topics I could be discussing right now. Like how countries are seeing a resurgence in cases because they opened up probably way too soon. How if you need a 10 step strategy on opening up, it may be too soon to. People have the right to feel terrified because no one really knows anything about this virus, except for the fact that it’s death toll keeps rapidly rising and there’s no real treatment or vaccine to help people through it. Or how people who ignore these guidelines for staying safe are the reason why we’re still dealing with this.

But I don’t want to. It makes me sad and angry and all types of negative.

Instead, I will work through my brain’s struggle to come up with a story to start a series of children’s stories. I have a character that I so desperately want to see come to life. I have her personality in mind. I’ve envisioned what she looks like. But I’m not a children’s author. Aside from “Dear Child”, I’ve struggled a bit trying to get back to the genre because I know there are stories there. I know that my character is going to be a flawed character, but I want to send a message of empowerment not to just other girls, but to all kids. I have all these great hopes for the story.

Unfortunately, I have no story. I’m not sure if it’s my workload breaking into my brain’s creative side, draining any will of creativity out of me. I’m not sure if it’s anxiety over what’s going on in the world that is hurting my brain. I just know that I have a great character, but she’s just sitting there smiling at me through my rough sketches of her. It’s frustrating. I’ve never had this long of a dry spell in my personal writing.

It is probably a combination of being burnt out from writing due to my workload and the fact that with the kids home all the time with no break while juggling said workload as well as my new “school of mom”, that I don’t have that quiet time where ideas just flow from me. With everything going on, I don’t see that changing any time soon and that does make me a little sad.

Writing may seem like an easy task. But words are hard. Stories are hard. Having the will to type endlessly is hard. Writers don’t have an easy job. We are tasked with inspiring emotions and getting people to relate to a fictional character. We need readers to connect on some level to the story. And we don’t get the ability to tap into the nuances of body language and inflections that can often only be heard. We can try, but we can’t reach everyone and we know that. But you need to be able to reach someone.

Maybe over the weekend I can get the chance to sit down and work on something. Maybe.

A Writer Who is at a Loss for Words

I was sitting around thinking about what I should write about. Should I be celebrating that I’ve only gained 5 lbs during this coronavirus time of eating whatever you can get your hands on and mindless snacking out of stress and boredom? Should I go on a rant about people being irresponsible and how dumb I think the protestors are and how I not-so secretly hope that they get it and learn a major life lesson? Should I lament about how I’ll never think to myself that homeschooling would be much easier than sending my kids to school in a world where school shootings are so on trend?

All viable topics. But what does it matter? I could discuss how you’re not only protecting yourself but you’re protecting others by staying safe and following these rules. But I won’t change your mind about it. I won’t change your mind that it’s selfish to ignore mask rules or social distancing measures or how you shouldn’t hang out with family just because you miss them. This is your time to show how selfless you are. And you’re failing at it. But, it doesn’t matter because my opinion doesn’t change anything. I have a right to my opinion; you have the right to yours.

The virus topics are all played out. No one wants to read another story about how this sucks, because people read things as an escape or to find something that they relate to and find solace in. My pessimism has taken over; there’s no solace to be found here.

I have no topic. This post is just like the Blues Traveler’s “Hook”. You’re reading because I’ve engaged you. I’ve captured your attention. But there’s nothing of meaning. Of substance. It’s words, and I’m struggling to find them right now.

A writer without words. That seems crazy. What good is a writer if they don’t have the words? But they say that “you should create a schedule and stick with it, even if you have nothing to offer”. It seems silly, but this routine is as important for the writer as it is the reader. It means that the reader has something to look forward to. It makes the writer sit down and write. It forces creativity, though not necessarily in the right way. But it does.

I just have to keep up the mantra of “It could be worse”. Things could be worse. I’m told this too shall pass, but the problem is that it’s either not going to pass fast enough or it will pass too fast and we’ll just end up right back here hoping that no one you know gets sick or dies.

Zoom: It is Our New Way

This morning, I get to argue with my child over wearing pants because he has a Zoom meeting with the rest of the class. Zoom is apparently our new way of life. The last time his teacher had a Zoom session, my son was too sick to join in the fun. It will be nice for him to get that experience, at least seeing his classmates. This whole thing is finally wearing on him, making him sad he doesn’t get to hang out with his friends. I promised him he could have his friends over after this was all over. If this ever ends. It feels pretty endless right now.

Next week, I have to try out the Zoom thing myself for a meeting with his 504 team. Which is always super fun because I’m terrible at technology. You’d think for someone who freelances, streams (maybe starting up again next week some time), and games as much as I do, I wouldn’t be so terrible at figuring out new programs. But I am. Here’s to hoping. Though, let’s be honest I’ll probably fail at something.

Zoom has almost become a meme at this point. It’s like a false sense of normalcy at a time when nothing seems right. Does this new program open up doors after this whole thing ends? Probably not. Despite this current situation proving that some people can actually successfully work at home, employers will still insist on going back to normal. But for now, this gives us the opportunity to pretend that everything still goes on. Except our sanity, that’s long gone.

Families are using Zoom to stay in touch. Schools are using it to have classes, giving children some type of connection with their teachers and peers. Businesses are using it for meetings. This has become the way. As technology evolves more, maybe more people will get to enjoy working from home on a regular basis which can save everyone time and money. But, right now I’m just hoping that we make it out of this healthy and safe.

Upending the Lives of Children

My child thrives on routine. Due to his many difficulties, routine is something that is sacred to him. If things don’t go to an exact routine, his entire day is destroyed and that’s the reality of having a child like him. Even my older son prefers to stick to a routine and gets a little antsy if things don’t go according to plan. But he’s far more flexible when his routine is shaken up. This is probably one of the biggest challenges I have so far.

I do have as strict of a routine as I possibly can for him, while also managing my own work expectations. This is something a lot of parents are trying to manage right now: juggling their work commitments to their home commitments. That’s not a new concept; working parents have been struggling with this for a long time. The problem is now we are trying to do everything at the same time. Spoiler alert: We’re all failing at it. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to admit that my son has failed every science project that we’ve received because he doesn’t follow the instructions, such as “work with a parent”. I’m honestly not sure how his teachers manage to get him to listen. His teachers are saints and magicians all at once.

Their lives are, and I don’t mean to be dramatic here, ruined. They aren’t getting that social interaction with other children that they need to thrive. They don’t get to run around at the playgrounds. Seniors are missing their year-end events. Juniors are missing out on prep time for their things like college tours, college fairs, and exams. These are experiences that they aren’t going to get back. And that’s sad. My heart hurts for them. Just because I didn’t care about these events, doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the milestones. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel compassion for those students missing out on this. You only have your youth for so long and to have these major moments not be a part of them, that does make me feel bad for them.

That doesn’t mean there’s no reason for it. I keep seeing petitions about how people should be at risk to put these events on anyways. I agree about the importance of these events, but to put lives at risk for them? Until there’s testing made more available and a vaccine created, it’s never going to be safe out there. That’s science. There’s more evidence of the probability of reinfection than there is that there’s no risk of it. But this is so new that no one knows anything. If this were my kid, I wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony because it was too risky for me, nor could my parents who have a very close relationship with my son. There are safe ways to do things and there’s being completely stupid.

Some places have setup schedules where an individual student can bring a couple of family members to see them do the walk and the students get that experience, even if they can’t share it with their friends. That’s a safe idea. That’s a good approach. That allows for social distancing, while giving the child that experience. It won’t be the same as the grand graduation ceremony students usually get, but it’s better than a Zoom graduation.

People are making rash decisions because they aren’t thinking logistically; they are thinking selfishly. Your want to do something doesn’t take over the reality of the situation. The reality of the situation is that there are over 50,000 people across the country who have died and that number doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’d even be willing to bet that those places who have decided to say “eff it” and reopen are going to make those numbers jump even higher. Do I like it that I’m in charge of providing barely adequate education to my children? No. Does that mean I think the schools should open up just because I don’t want to deal with it? I’d rather have my children alive, I’m silly like that.

In a time when we should be growing closer together, helping each other, we are bickering like children. We are stubbornly following whatever our political affiliation wants to spoon-feed us and doing so blindly. This was a test to see if our country could unite to do the right thing and make the changes to become better, and I’m sad to say we failed.

Being a Joiner

I’m not a joiner. I don’t like the idea of just following along just because. I’m my own person and peer pressure doesn’t dictate anything that I do. If anything, I’m usually the bad influence. Not on purpose, but I’m not going to lie that it ends up that way. When it comes to social media, I usually stick to that. I don’t want to offend people when they invite me to do those challenges on Facebook, but I’m not going to post 10 selfies of myself. I probably only have 2 or 3 selfies and only a handful of pictures of myself. I’m okay with that. Photographs steal the soul, or something. I’m not going to just participate in something, because that’s not who I am.

I did end up in a Facebook “challenge”. Not because I felt compelled to by peer pressure. It was because the concept was intriguing to me. 10 days of posting album covers that shaped my musical upbringing? The challenge of picking just 10 albums from my younger years, even in my late teens and early 20s, was interesting. There are so many bands, songs, and albums that have touched my life. That I have related to so strongly that they are the only things that can manage to get my hardened heart to feel strongly enough to cry.

It’s also interesting to show off, as much as possible, just how eccentric my musical tastes are. People would be confused listening to my most listened to playlist on Amazon, where my playlist is so varied that it jumps around practically every genre. I’m okay with that. I don’t care if people laugh at my music. I like what I like and people being closed-minded and judgemental don’t bother me. Mostly because I don’t care. I’m not out to impress anyone. If a song has hit me in the feels in one way or another, I like it. I don’t think I need to defend myself or my choices, and if people want to make fun of me for that, it says more about them than me.

Will I do another challenge? Probably not. This is a one and done. I like the challenge of sharing my favorite music. I don’t like the stress of trying to pick people and not make them feel like they have to or whatever. Plus, I don’t like having to do the posts every day because honestly, that’s more work than I want to put into social media.

The Challenges of Being a Mom of a Teenager

In our house, these past few weeks have been emotionally challenging. Not because my oldest, who’s 17, is a challenging child. He’s not. He’s actually extremely and unusually easy to deal with. Somehow, he managed to keep his sweet and mature nature even after the dreaded puberty hit. Sure, now he’s more confident in himself and isn’t afraid to show his more sarcastic side, but he’s only stepped out of line once with his mouth and it wasn’t even that bad. It’s because the reality is coming that next year, he will be graduating.

This week, he starts lifeguarding training, something that he’s been wanting to do for a while but then talked himself out of it. After passing his initial online course and learning more about it, I watched him become more confident. He was afraid of the importance of his job. The fear of being responsible for the life of another person was overwhelming to him. I told him I get it. Try being responsible for keeping 3 people alive at the same time. (Husband included in the number. Those boys don’t make it easy.) He wanted a job that didn’t interfere with his school work and would help him pay for this swim team that his coach recommended that he joined in the off-season. His fear turned into excitement this week as he headed off to do the hands-on portion of his certification, but really he’s just happy to be in the pool again.

We also just signed him up for the SATs and next week, he’ll be all signed up for his 2 AP exams. I half joke with my husband that I’m not ready for this. I’m not prepared. I pass it off as a joke, but we both know it isn’t. Now’s the time where I just hope that I did more than just an adequate job of “momming”. That my jokes about being an adequate mom are really just jokes. The first years of his life before high school were his training; now I just hope he can finish the job successfully on his own. Be free, blackbird.

After signing up for the course, it turns out that he may potentially miss out on our mini-weekend away during his school break. I gave him his choices and refused to give him the answer: either he skips it and finds another course or he misses this mini-vacation and stay with family while we’re gone. (The vacation was a free trip that we won and was scheduled long before this.) He asked me what he should do, hoping that I was going to make the choice for him. I wasn’t. Kids never learn if you make their choices for them. I gave him advice. “Well, you get it done now or you hope that you don’t miss the next one.” Ultimately, he decided to take the risk of missing out on the vacation because this was something he needed to do.

It was the mature decision. I agreed, it was the right call. It was the cheaper of the courses and you get more from it than others. I’d say there will be plenty more vacations, but the reality is that he’s going away to college soon. Who knows where he’s going to go. Who knows if he’ll even come back to the area. One of the schools he’s looking at is close enough to the cape where he may decide to take up lifeguarding over the summer at the beach instead of coming home. He may end up renting a place off-campus with friends or his cousin. It’s really hard to tell what will happen after he graduates.

That’s where raising adults versus raising kids makes the difference. At least I know hope that I gave him the tools that he needs to make the right choices for him. I have a good feeling about him, but he’s been mostly sheltered. It’s hard to say what it will be like for him out there in the real world. I can’t read the future. I just hope that I did enough that I become this nagging little voice in the back of his head, steering him towards the right path.

I’m Brianne: A White, Straight, Female and Boxed Color Ginger Author

That title probably stirred something in you. It seems kinda silly that I distinguished myself using not only my physical traits, but also my sexuality. It’s silly because what do any of those things have to do with me being an author? These aren’t things that can determine my skill. It may be interesting to someone who wants to know read works by female authors, but there’s no other need for that. Knowing all of that about me is unimportant to my adequate talents at words.

Every time that I read something, it seems important. “Gay Actor _____ stars as _____.” “First Female Lesbian Coach in the NFL.” “Transgender soldier gave WikiLeaks confidential information.” Why can’t it just be “____ actor stars in _____.” Why do we have to use these labels as titles, as if that’s all they are? It doesn’t matter. Him being gay doesn’t make him better or worse as an actor; his talent does. I’d like to live in a time when none of that matters. Where instead of “First Female Lesbian Coach”, we get “Katie Sowers is the offensive assistant coach of the San Fransisco 49ers”. It shouldn’t matter that she’s female or a lesbian; it should matter that she’s a person who does a good job at what she does. That’s what matters.

I get it though. When you’re a ground-breaking figure. You are shattering ceilings that really shouldn’t be there anymore. They keep telling us that times are much different now and people are more accepting. But they’re really not. I like that they featured Katie Sowers so much because it shows women that there is a place for them in their dream jobs, even if it’s in a male dominated world. I like that if I ever am blessed with a daughter that she could see these women running for president and coaching in the NFL and doing whatever the hell else they want so she can be inspired to follow her dreams. But we should focus on the important things, like talent or morality. Are these good role models? It doesn’t matter what they identify as or who they love. It matters that our children can look up to them.

I remember the first time a friend came out to me. He was nervous and scared about my reaction, which was “I don’t care.” He was pissed at me and I didn’t get it. I didn’t care. He was my friend. He was kind to me. Who he loved meant nothing to me because I didn’t care. He took it as I didn’t care about this struggle. That I shrugged this momentous occasion for him off because I didn’t care about him. I understood that. This was a big moment for him and the idea that I dismissed it was rough. He understood that I didn’t dismiss it because I didn’t care about him; that what he said to me was insignificant to how much I loved him moving forward. He was my best friend; that’s what I cared about.

There are moments when making note of their gender, sexuality, and race matters. It’s fine to say that Katie Sowers was momentous because she was the first. But that shouldn’t be the focus of every article. It’s fine to say “Lil Nas X is the first gay rapper”, but does every article have to say “Gay Rapper Lil Nas X…” Maybe it should say “Rapper of that Annoying Effing Song that I Can’t Escape”.

Maybe by changing this narrative, we are getting rid of glass ceilings. We aren’t pressuring a woman to be the first female president. We aren’t telling people that they have to come out because it’s really not our business because they should succeed based on their talents. Sure, let’s celebrate those momentous occasions that are worth noting, but let’s not dwell on it or focus on it. Let’s let the ceilings shatter and focus on making sure there are none left to break.

Venturing Into a New Genre

I’ve been trying to come up with my next project. I have many that I have started, but either got tangled up in some plot knot that I couldn’t get out of, second guessed my story, or just haven’t flushed out the idea for my children’s book. Finally, something hit me that inspired me enough to do a very rough sketch of the character. A fantasy character. My first adventure into the fantasy genre. As someone who’s barely read anything in this genre aside from World of Warcraft lore/novels and Game of Thrones, this is going to be a challenge I think. I know. But one that I hope I can scrape together the time and brainpower to go through with.

The idea started off from simple inspiration: a character with a name (no spoilers) that was a nickname a beloved friend used to call me. He would say it every time he logged into the game, one we played together for nearly a decade together at that time before he suddenly passed away. He was a precious friend and amazing human being that I think about often. Lately, that name has been nagging me in my brain as if the character needed to come to life. It sounds strange, but other writers could easily understand. I’m not too insane. Mostly.

The problem is all that I have is this angsty fantasy character, a name, and a specific look. Do I turn this into a kid’s fantasy illustrations with my subpar art skills? Do I make it a middle-school aged fantasy novel with some illustrations to bring this character to life? Would it be a series or a one-off? What would the plot even be? It’s hard to navigate this uncertain world but I hope this project brings me back into doing something I love, because there is something soul crushing about spending all of your brain power into something that isn’t yours.

Here’s to hoping that I manage to figure this one out. I think my sanity needs me to channel some of that creative energy in my mind.