When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

When Should Life Go Back to Normal?

I think it goes without saying that things are a bit out of the ordinary right now. Our day-to-day life looks nothing like it used to, and it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like a couple months from now.

Wondering if Life Should Go Back to Normal

So while we all want life “back to normal,” we can’t rush it. We’re in this for the long haul, and we likely won’t ever return to life as we knew it—at least not for quite some time.

As we reach the end of another month in quarantine, there’s a lot of talk about re-opening our state (and country) and about getting things back to normal. Maybe it’s strange, but I’m not sure I want things to go back to normal.

I know a lot of hard things are happening right now. Some of us are very sick or worried about family and friends who are. Some have even lost someone special. Even those of us in good health are worried about jobs, paying bills, our children’s education and more. We’re grieving special things that didn’t get to happen: weddings, the school play, concerts, prom and graduation. As I share my thoughts, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about any of the very real dangers, stress and trauma we’re experiencing. And I know my experience might not be your experience.

The Positives of the Quarantine

All my life, everyone (including myself) whines about how busy they are. We complain about our overscheduled children (even though we’re the ones who overschedule them!) and how quickly the years go by. We work too hard, don’t get enough sleep and struggle just to catch a much-needed breath once in a while.

And so, the universe gave us a gift.

This quarantine made everyone take a step back and see what a more uncomplicated life might look like. In most cases, we’re working less and connecting more. We have stopped idolizing movie stars and athletes and instead spend time glorifying the first responders, teachers and frontline “essential” workers that have kept our country running. (We know you’re working more, and we thank you!)

We’re eating family dinner, playing board games together, taking family walks and going on bike rides. Not to mention my home life is a lot happier. While I work from home, instead of a 15-minute break to go talk with co-workers, I wash dishes, finish laundry, sweep or start dinner. I don’t feel rushed after work. I go to soccer practice but don’t have to hurry home to get household chores done. I enjoy having my kitchen for lunches and the copious amounts of coffee on hand. Plus, the bathroom is less than 10 feet away. My work clothes consist of sweatpants and T-shirts, and I wear a lot less makeup.

The New Normal

But, I do see things going back to normal. Our family went on a mini spring break vacation, and it was nice to feel normal again. And now, soccer practice and swim lessons have begun, so my calendar that was once empty is now filling up again like normal. However, when the country “reopens,” I hope the slower pace will somewhat continue. Let’s stop working ourselves to death. And can we make overscheduling our kids a thing of the past? Let’s continue to value family time over the twenty activities we could be doing.

I want our new normal to continue to have the positive memes and uplifting quotes, and in general, I want people to continue just being nice human beings!

Oh, I know the negative is still there if you look for it.

Still, I’m not sure I want the world to go back to normal. When things do finally get back to normal, I hope it’s a whole new normal.

At a minimum, however, one thing is a clear: normal as we knew it is gone. We need to adjust to our “new normal.” After all, normal is relative.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Learning How to Use New Electronics to Stay Connected

Learning How to Use New Electronics to Stay Connected

We’ve been having problems with our cell phone and laptop lately. The electronic “fix it” stores could no longer help us as our devices were so old. How old were they? They were so old that I still used the chisel on my clay tablet.

Getting Help From Our Granddaughter

We decided to ask our techie granddaughter for help and guidance. She spent several hours looking at all of our devices, and even attempted to resurrect our dying tools. After her electronic examination, she proceeded to say a prayer for each of the digital devices and began gathering them together. I asked what she was doing and the reply was she taking them to the crematorium.

Funny, I was just getting used to the old phone and laptop and frequently learned something new, whether it was a new tab or feature, of which I had never been aware. OK, our granddaughter really didn’t take them for cremation, but she strongly urged us to look into new electronic devices. My husband and I remembered we haven’t taken a trip in 1.5 years so we finally decided we could afford purchasing a new phone and new laptop.

New devices were purchased knowing there will be another learning curve, and we hope our grandkids don’t shun us in our hour of need. Our geeky granddaughter helped us transfer all of the data and even showed me more tips I will forget. I knew how to send messages, but never had the ability to choose and display a GIF. I always envied people who could message their heads in different shapes. I still don’t know how to do it, but I know I have the option.

Using Our New Electronics

Our new electronics have also made it possible for us to watch our grandkids play their volleyball and baseball games streamed online. I believe we had the option with our old laptops, but the consistency of our viewing was limited. Now, we have all the ability to watch the games and be there virtually cheering in spirit. A bonus was when one of the grandkids instructed us how to mirror or cast the live stream game to our TV. Grandkids are so smart!

Now, the COVID-19 game days are very exciting. We first verify there is actually a game and the start time on the school’s webpage. If I was watching in person, I would wear my school gear, yell, cheer and jump up and down. Watching online, I wear my gear, yell, cheer and pace around the room. I also hum the fight song. I don’t recall all the lyrics, but all fight songs include the words, “GO. FIGHT. WIN.” so I’m happy.

Watching our grandkid’s games live streamed is nice, but of course, it’s a poor substitute for in-person viewing. After a year like 2020, we’ve had no choice. We’re thankful for the ability to watch any game. We’re also truly thankful for each of our grandkids who helped make this electronic process possible to us and provide us with the wins. It truly takes a village to be our grandkids. And yes, I’ll look up the words to the fight songs and sing my heart out during future games.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

Refocusing When Life Gets Busy

One year ago this month, our world changed. My profession, like so many others, was sent home abruptly as different sectors in the world started shutting down. Everything about that time brought fear, uncertainty and disappointment. Some of these feelings still ring true today. Yet, this time also gave me something that I’m actually missing today…time.

Juggling A Busy Week

I thoroughly enjoyed not having commitments every single night of the week. This week, I have longed for those unexpected days that were given to me a year ago. This week, the supper table conversations have turned into drive-through conversations. This week, the conversations with my husband have turned into 10-minute lunch meetings just to plan out the evenings (those of you whose spouses are school administrators probably understand this). The introvert in me has wanted my husband to take me for evening drives just so I could stare out the window and listen to the complete silence.

In a world where busyness is valued and the norm, I took it upon myself to relinquish some responsibilities. However, it seems that all of the commitments I did keep on my plate needed my attention this week. Don’t take this the wrong way—I’m grateful the world is returning to a new normal. Yet, I’m so thankful that I realized how precious family time is and I’m missing that this week. The stress of the busyness just hit me and I need to refocus. Refocus on what I value. Refocus on being mindful. Actually, refocus and listen to myself.

Spending Time to Refocus

This morning, I told one of my students, “control what you can control, which is your attitude and effort.” In this conversation, I realized I wasn’t listening to myself. I was letting my negative attitude about no free time control how I was actually using my time. Honestly, two things were happening this week—I wasn’t allowing myself to recharge and I was allowing too many distractions to happen.

To help combat these issues, I need to go back to the basics of time management. I need to plan ahead. This would be the reason why there have been many drive-through conversations this week as I didn’t plan ahead and grocery shop. I need to prioritize my to-do list by making micro-goals. I need to set aside time where my door is shut and my phone is in another room, which will help eliminate distractions. And finally, I need to quit multitasking.

If there is one thing I appreciate from COVID-19, it taught me the value of time. It just so happens that the past few weeks, I let the busyness of life get to me. I need to refocus on the big picture, set micro-goals and limit distractions. In doing so, I will ultimately free up the time I so long for.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Valentine’s Day Throughout the Years

Valentine’s Day Throughout the Years

Valentine’s Day has always been special in our house. My mother’s birthday was on February 14th, so growing up my sister and I always had plenty of cake and presents in our house to celebrate both events.

I remember giving out valentines to all my classmates in elementary school. Of course, the valentines were homemade with love, but knowing me, not a lot of care. A red paper heart, a doily cut up for bling, my signature and that was about it. You had to give cards to everyone in your room, even if you were not best buddies. I’m sure that’s still the case, unless kids no longer exchange Valentine’s Day cards because some can’t afford the expense, not to speak of the COVID-19 restrictions.

How Our Family Celebrates Valentine’s Day

Keeping our family tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day has continued each year with the grandkids. When they were younger, we would make our cards and decorate homemade heart sugar cookies. We’d laugh to see how much frosting and sprinkles we could get on each cookie and then vote who was the winner.

As with Christmas cookies, not all of the cookies actually made it home, which was a good thing. I never wanted their parents to know how much sugar they actually consumed. Each February, the five of us would share our love for each other, while remembering my mom, their Nana’s, birthday.

Valentine’s Day This Year

This year will be a bit different. Since we won’t be able to get together in person, I did ask each of the grandkids what they wanted for Valentine’s Day. One requested Valentine’s Day M&Ms. I wasn’t sure if the request was for one or two bags. At our house, we historically have a bowl of M&Ms. They evidently are missing the “grab and go” routine when they would stop by our house. I was never sure if they were coming over to see us or just needed a sugar fix. A bag of M&Ms is doable, or maybe I should make it two.

Another grandchild, our entrepreneur the family, requested I purchase several of the magnets she’s designed and is selling online. Wow, what a great idea and grandma will follow up. We have lots of magnets on our refrigerator, and I know I will love them all.

Yet another granddaughter asked for us to take care of her student loans, tongue in cheek I hope. I hate she’s having to think about that problem. I also hate higher education costs being so terribly expensive. I did tell her I had a magic wand and would get right to it. I have no idea what that comment means, but I do know she is aware I have no magic wand. Our grandson was silent, but I know he’s thinking and will let me know soon.

I love our holiday traditions and am pleased we have found ways to adjust. I love knowing these traditions started with my mother teaching our daughters about baking cookies, special treats and little gifts which coincided with celebrating her birthday. Happy Valentine’s Day to the grandkids and Happy Birthday to their Great Grandmother.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

During the beginning of the pandemic, I challenged my grandkids each month to learn something new. I tried to be a good role model, and l challenged myself as well. The challenge took place mostly during the winter months of our isolation. I remember baking bread, sewing and taking online yoga classes.

It was my intent to bring a smile to their face with my crazy pictures and to laugh at myself. I was successful at creating smiles, but I was not successful at keeping the challenge going. What I discovered was that once the weather improved, I was outside more and walking as much as possible. I kept up with my weekly notes to the kids on our Zoom calls, but I forgot the challenges.

Looking Forward to 2021

I talked to my grandkids the other day, and we were remarking how happy we were to say goodbye to the year 2020 and how much better 2021 would be. We laughed and talked about how they could get back into their athletic schedules and start playing their games again. They have never complained about wearing masks before, but they did mention they looked forward to the time they wouldn’t have to wear a mask. And yes, we also talked about being able to see each other and giving real hugs, not just air hugs or elbow bumps.

I did not want to spoil the positive mood, but I did remind them that the pandemic was not over. We don’t know when they will be able to play competitive sports with grandma watching, when we won’t have to wear masks or when we could give real hugs. We don’t know what 2021 will bring.

Reflecting on 2020

As I heard the air escaped from their mouths, I rallied and asked them what positive things had happened in 2020. Sure there were many negatives, but there had to be some positives. How can we turn the negatives into something positive?

Our grandkids said they had learned from the Black Lives Matter Movement, and no, we aren’t all being treated equally. Another grandchild remarked about climate change and offered suggestions on how we should be living our lives.

Another comment was they had never realized the inequities in our country. The haves and the have nots, whether it be finances, housing or voting privileges, are now on their radar. They volunteered that they had all known about these injustices, but this year was different. This year, they felt it and witnessed it. We also had a long conversation about politics, but I’ll leave those thoughts for another time.

We all agreed what happened in 2020 was mostly negative, but reflecting back on the year, we realized that we learned a lot and will continue to learn. Will 2021 be better? I hope so for my grandkids’ sake. But if we continue to experience problems, we will continue to be positive and learn from the events surrounding our lives. I will also continue to look to my grandchildren to keep me grounded and challenged. I hope to be able to do the same for them. Bring it on 2021!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

When Chasing Dreams Changes Course

Many years ago, I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This book challenged my thoughts on chasing dreams and praying circles around my dreams and goals. It’s this time every year I go back and read my notes and highlights of the book. I spend much time reflecting on what I did and did not accomplish throughout the year. I reflect on the areas I struggled and reflect on those moments that brought joy and growth.

Reflecting on the Past Year

This year like any other year I am doing just that, however, I feel as though I missed something big this year. The stirring on my heart has been different. There are days I am quite envious of my family. I see my husband chase his lifelong goal of obtaining a doctorate of education. I watch our oldest daughter chase an opportunity to serve at a Christian camp in the summer. I see our freshman daughter conscientiously chase her goal of straight As in high school. I relish watching our son chase his goals on the golf course.

Yet, I tell myself to enjoy this moment or that I don’t have the time and resources to chase my goals. I also realize my purpose during this season is to support and encourage all of these dreams my family is chasing. Maybe this is the season of drawing my blueprint and laying the foundation.

I can’t help but think that what I’m chasing is looking different. I look through all of my big dreams that I have been circling in prayer, and I realize that during this stage of life some of those aspirations have gone to the wayside. Some of those aspirations are selfish and some I just do not want to continue chasing anymore.

Chasing a New Purpose

As I define my purpose and change my course, I need to continue laying the foundation to this stirring on my heart that’s bigger than myself. And as I reflect, I can see the blueprints had been started throughout the COVID pause as I learned that busyness is not a way of life. I gradually started taking things off my plate. This realization is going to help me clearly see what’s being placed on my heart.

Here’s to 2021—to chasing this new purpose and to circling this new dream with prayer and mediation. Before I know it, the stirring on my heart will show up in a big way and I will know exactly what my purpose will be. And right now, I need to let my family in on what’s on my heart. And as I said, when the big something shows up, I will have my family ready to encourage me to chase my dream.

I encourage all of you to see what’s stirring in your heart. How are you going to chase the dream in your heart in 2021?

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Losing a Family Pet

Losing a Family Pet

We lost our Maverick (Mavi) two days after Thanksgiving after almost 15 wonderful years with him. At this point, he was blind and deaf and didn’t have a lot of energy this past year, but he was loved and spent his last days sleeping and wandering around the house every now and then to find people.

Every time I questioned if it was time for him to go, he’d give me a good tail wagging while he rested, letting me know he was happy. His passing was unfortunately the right thing to do, and while the kids don’t know all the details, we’re all completely heartbroken and feeling his loss more than I thought I ever would.

I always knew it would be sad when we said goodbye, but I haven’t lost a pet since I was a kid. And while I’ve hugged friends with a good “there there, now” pat and tried to relate to their grief when they’ve lost dogs, I’ve never understood until now that losing your family dog is losing a part of your family. The pain of wanting them back to hug them one more time, to talk baby talk like we all do to our pets and tell them “You MAKE this family. You’re part of us, we love you so much” one more time is deep and recognizable.

A Great Family Dog

Mavi was the dog that my husband and I got in college. Was it a smart decision to get a dog in college? No but we did and he was perfectly imperfect. He was our “first child.” He was with us when we graduated, got married, moved several times and had kids. He was better with the kids though—definitely more patient.

Like a good dog he humbly partook in childhood play, letting the kids dress him in bonnets and capes and baby clothes and, while obviously mortified, always took one for the team—like he was telling me, “Go ahead. Finish cleaning the kitchen. I got this.” He loved them all so fiercely. I have countless memories of going in to check on a baby only to find him already there, reporting for duty. “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? I got this.”

He was feisty, kind of naughty and playful in his younger years. Mavi would grab stuffed animals especially the ones that made noise, initiating a good tug-of-war. He loved a walk around the neighborhood, even though he had to “water” every tree and—my favorite—running around the living room in a mad dash after a bath. In his older years, he fell into a nice rhythm of rest and companionship. While he could not see or hear, he never failed in finding us and letting us know that even when it was hard, even when he was tired, he was still there for us—fighting age and physical challenges to loyally serve for as long as he could.

A Sad Goodbye

I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night he died, searching Facebook for old photos, looking for all the ones with Mavi. And I realized as he showed up in the background in photos of so many events, so many milestones and holidays and memories, what a constant presence he has been in our family. The grief of his passing also represents the grief of the passing of time, the end of The Maverick Era.

This was also the first real experience of grief for my kids. In a way, Maverick has given my children one of the most cherished gifts they’ll have for life. The delicate, beautiful, deeply important subject of loss and grief that will be part of their future began with him. His loss will be the foundation, the first lesson that paved the way for the rest, and because of how we loved him and how he loved us, that lesson is beautiful.

While we’ve talked a little bit about death with our kids especially after their great grandmother passed away; they were both so young that they hardly remembered. We have addressed some of the questions of what happens after, so what do I tell them? I thought saying the right things about death would be a stressful challenge, but it hasn’t been.

Experiencing Grief

I know people have a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife, whether pets go to heaven and how realistically we should approach these things with kids, but I’ve found the most important thing you can do is talk about it. I didn’t plan exactly what I was going to say, and what came out was sometimes messy, but I didn’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from talking about everything. It’s important to create a safe place where my kids can create their own ideas and beliefs.

It feels so good to talk about all these different ideas—to talk about what happens after death and about the fact that the spirit of love is greater than any proven law in science. We take what we know about death and add what we know about faith and love and that it lives forever and ever. All of these discussions, ideas and memories comforted us so much.

As my friends told me the other day, “This is your opportunity to model grief for them, to show them how we celebrate and love and remember through the pain.” It’s a great privilege to take this pain together as a family and learn from it.

The house feels like something’s missing, and truly, we’ve lost a part of us that can never be replaced. I miss his quiet presence as I work alone while the kids are at school. I would do anything to feel his paws push against me one more time as I sit here on the couch.

We’ll miss you, Maverick Mitchell Connelly. You will forever and always be loved by us.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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New Holiday Traditions for a New Normal

New Holiday Traditions for a New Normal

Ever since the grandkids were little, we’ve included them in the picture on our Christmas card. We don’t send many cards anymore, but we always try to send them to family members who live out of state and some close friends. Pictures have included cutting down our Christmas tree, decorating our tree, having a snow ball fight, making snow angels and even just standing in front of an evergreen tree in our backyard.

Christmas Cards Over the Years

Family and friends who receive our holiday cards appreciate seeing how we’ve all changed over the years. I always thought we’d like to compare the annual cards to see how the grandkids grew up over the years. People marvel at how grown up our grandkids have become—they’re practically adults.

However, I now realize people are also seeing how the proud grandparents have also changed. Our friends and extended family have not marveled at how mature we are. Thankfully, they aren’t saying, “Dang, you guys look old.” or “When are you moving into a home?” Ok, they wouldn’t ask the last question, but the thought has probably crossed their minds of when we would downsize.

The Holidays Are Different This Year

This year’s holiday card will be much different. I originally thought of the grandkids coming over for a photo, and we could wear masks. They politely reminded me that we’d be getting too close together. I rethought the situation and now our card will be CDC-approved, and we’ll be social distancing and isolating just like we did for Thanksgiving.

My plan now is to ask each grandchild to put on a holiday headpiece, hat or head covering and take a selfie. Grandma and Grandpa will do the same. I’ll collect all of the pictures and plug them into an online site to create our holiday photo card. Knowing my limited technical capabilities, I think it will work out fine, but I’ll still cross my fingers.

I’m ordering most of their gifts online. The grandkids are very patient with me when I share my struggles while ordering online. I’m always asking for a picture of what they want. Deep down inside, I’m sure they’re thinking, “why don’t I just buy it and Grandma, you give me the money?”

But no, they are kind and realize purchasing their gifts is a fun thing for me to do. It seems clothes are the hottest ticket item this year. I think they’ve realized their parents are no longer at their beck and call for these purchases, so grandma’s here to do it. My pleasure!

Looking Forward to 2021 Holidays

I can’t believe I’ve been whining about the pandemic for nine months and not being able to see my grandkids on a normal basis. When we had to cancel Easter, I told everyone we’d celebrate Easter and Thanksgiving at the same time. Boy, was I wrong! Large gatherings probably won’t happen for Christmas this year either. So when we are able to get together in 2021 (I’m staying positive), we’ll be celebrating so many holidays that I won’t know what to serve.

There won’t be a time we can return to the old normal. The old normal is what caused our situation now. We need to focus on the creation of a new normal, and the grandkids are in a perfect situation to achieve an even better normal for all of us.

Children of all ages are curious, creative, more inclusive and more welcoming than ever before. This generation is amazing. My grandkids may not be the scientists who discover a cure for the next pandemic, but they will do their part to make our community, our nation and our world a better place to live.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue

The notecard says “unplug and be thankful.” Life as we knew it changed in March. Our family made a choice to seek simplicity, extend grace and find joy in the quiet. Our family made the commitment to be intentional with our time together. Yet, this fall I faltered and gave into fatigue, gave into the negative. COVID-19 fatigue is real. It was (and still is) hard to be thankful.

There are days that I miss all the family time we encountered in the spring when COVID-19 halted our worlds. And honestly, I don’t want to lose those spring memories of how intentional our family was. Now, each day brings about feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed. I could keep going on, however, I want to make a conscious effort to escape those feelings.

Therefore, I decided November was all about being intentional each new day. I want to be intentional about focusing on what I can appreciate this year instead of seeing the negative. I need to go back to the notecard, “unplug and be thankful.”

Being Intentional

When I focus on this mindset while not living my life on autopilot, I can see and appreciate how intentional my family is being right now. And seeing how intentional my family is during this time has been good for my soul and makes the feelings of being overwhelmed or exhausted melt away.

My husband and kids have made a conscious choice to be intentional. My husband has journaled every night since March reflecting upon his day. He has also been intentional about pursuing a doctorate degree in education even on those hard days. Our middle daughter has been intentional on healthy habits such as limiting her soda intake and a daily pushup routine. Our son has diligently been following his pushup routine while also finding time to read each day.

Fighting COVID-19 Fatigue Each Day

Nonetheless, being intentional is a choice. I long for simplicity. I long for love and being thankful. I long for grace. I long for a serving heart without compromising my own health. The choice is mine to make. The choice to unplug from the negativity and be thankful. The choice to not live my life on autopilot. The choice starts each morning with reading my notecard and ends each night with observing my family choosing to be intentional.

Those closest to me have been executing what I subconsciously have been telling myself I need to improve on. Their intentional natures will help me fight the negativity, fatigue and appreciate the good around me. And there is no better time to start being thankful than today.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Introducing Kids to Investing

Introducing Kids to Investing

Investing in your future is one of the best lessons you can instill in a child. Yes, I’m talking stock market, here. It’s never too early or too late, for that matter, to learn all about the stock market. It can be a fun process and you can even use play money.

Let me just start out by saying, I, myself just recently learned about investments. Me being in my 30’s, I never really understood the stock market, bonds, investments, or financial planning. I never had finances to finance. But now that I have two kids, I thought I should invest not only in my future but theirs.

So, where do you begin?

Be Sure to Ask Questions

I met with a financial advisor to explain the ins and outs of stocks and bonds. And then I realized that’s the answer, explain the nuts and bolts of investing to my children, and maybe even have them start looking into what things they like (e.g., toys, games, actual costs of things). Let’s face it, as kids we never learned the actual cost of certain things. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized how expensive it is just to have lights on in a house.

But why is investing a good idea? For me, it helps meet my financial goals. Even though I am years away from retiring, I still need to think about my future and my kids’ future, i.e. cars, college. So, I decided to introduce the concept of financial goals in ways that my kids could relate to. I introduced the concept of investing and growing their money so they have a better chance of reaching that big goal.

Learn the Basics Together

My kids have been doing chores/odd jobs for over a year now and they receive money each week. When we head to the store, I remind them to bring their money so they can buy a candy bar or random toy they think they need! This has the added benefit of teaching kids the value of a dollar; it tends to have greater meaning. It makes them think about if they really “need” that item.

Together, the kids and I learned this investment thing. Together we learned the importance of researching a stock so we better understand the associated risk. After a lot of consideration, together we picked and now follow stocks from our favorite companies and talk about how we can “invest” money by buying the company’s stock to own their very own piece. What kid wouldn’t love the idea of owning part of Disney? Together, we follow the stock price online each day and track its progress. I explained that if the company makes money, so do they. But if the company loses money, they do, too.

Don’t Forget to Set Goals

Giving my kids a reason to set a financial goal is important. This gives them an incentive and a concrete reason to save. My kids love the idea of doing something as grown-up as investing. We love doing it together. And if they see how much money can grow over time, they’re usually excited to save.

I enjoy teaching my children life skills that are necessary! It’s up to us as parents to teach our children money skills to build a healthy financial future. How and why it’s important to invest money should be right at the top. Getting my kids interested in investing early on by taking the time to explain concepts like stocks, savings, returns, risks and rewards will only help strengthen their financial skills for a lifetime. Thus, in return has helped me invest in our future.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The Cycle of Emotions During the Pandemic: What You Can Do

The world has become a very different place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s only natural to experience different and possibly heightened emotions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with anxiety, mental health or substance use. The report in June 2020 shows a considerable rise compared to the same time period last year.

This statistic is important because it provides a glimpse into what people are feeling related to the pandemic and the changes it has brought to society. Along with depression and anxiety, people are feeling grief. There are different types of grief. The grief we feel when we lose a loved one is what we think of most often, but there’s also grief over how the world and our lives have changed. Another kind of grief, called anticipatory grief, happens when we’re uncertain what the future holds.

What Can You Do?

Understand the Stages of Grief

This will help determine if what we’re feeling is coming from one of these stages. Everyone goes through these stages differently and in no particular order. Kessler and Ross identified five stages of grief. Recently, Kessler added a sixth stage.

Here are some examples of how we might move through these stages related to the pandemic:

  1. Denial – “The pandemic is not going to impact me.”
  2. Anger – “You’re making me stay home. I can’t do the things I want to do.”
  3. Bargaining – “If I stay home for two weeks, all will be fine, right?”
  4. Depression/Sadness – “When will this end? There is no end in sight.”
  5. Acceptance – “This is real and I must accept it and find a way to move forward.”
  6. Finding Meaning – “What can I learn as a result of this?”

Find a Balance in Your Thinking

It’s easy to get pulled into negative thinking which can lead to negative feelings. One thing you can do to take control is actively practice positive thinking and even write positive daily messages in a journal.

Think About What You Can and Cannot Control

You can control the things you do – like following the advice of experts. You can wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance to keep yourself and others safe. You can learn new ways to connect virtually. You can’t control what others are doing. You can only control what you’re doing and lead by example.

Have Empathy

You will encounter people who are irritable and may catch you off guard if you’re used to them being kind. Remember the world we live in right now and show them empathy. They’re going through tough times, too. Offer support and encouragement.

Build Connectedness

This is key. Research shows the more connected we are to family, friends and the community, the less violent we’ll be toward others and ourselves, and the fewer mental health and substance use issues we’ll have.

Understand When to Seek Help

You may just need to reach out and talk to a friend, or you may need to seek help from a professional. Grief can sometimes lead to depression.

Know the symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts (call 1-800-273-8255 or go to nearest emergency department if experiencing this symptom)
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Anyone experiencing symptoms for two or more weeks should seek professional guidance to determine if they’re experiencing depression. Bryan Medical Center offers free confidential online depression screenings.

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

David Miers, PhD, LIPC

Health Expert

Dr. Dave Miers, PhD, is the director of Bryan Behavioral Health Services. This includes mental health treatment and counseling, psychiatric evaluations including medication management, and substance use evaluations and treatment.

Learn More About Our Counseling and Mental Health Services

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Catching Memories with My Grandkids

Catching Memories with My Grandkids

During the pandemic, I have become relatively efficient with the process of Zoom calls. With the necessary isolation, I appreciate the ability to see friend’s faces and their expressions and hear their voices. I was on a Zoom chat with grandkids last week, and when I thought the conversation was slowing down, I brought up an event we all had in common.

On that particular day, we laughed as we recalled our trip to western Nebraska and the Black Hills. We rented a van which could accommodate all six of us and yes, with four grandkids we made frequent stops.

The Dreamcatcher

During one particular stop, one of the grandkids noticed a dreamcatcher laying on the pavement of a parking lot. They picked up the dream catcher, and we discussed the significance it had to Indigenous Peoples. Since there was no one in the parking lot, we took the Dreamcatcher as a remembrance or a good luck charm, which would connect us to the past and to the future.

During our Zoom conversation, I brought up the dreamcatcher and surprisingly we all remembered the event differently. One grandkid recalled we were at a gas station while another thought we were at a tourist rest area. Yet another grandchild thought we were on our way to Mount Rushmore, and another was sure we were returning from a zip lining excursion.

I thought it was very interesting how we all recalled a specific point in our lives just a little differently. Even though we were all there actively participating, we all had a different memory seeing common events through our own personal lens. I wondered if we all tend to adjust our memories over the years. Maybe it’s similar to “this is what I wanted to have happen” type of memory.

Remembering Memories Together

Who knows why we adjust our memories? Do we do it on purpose or in my case because I’m old? Does it really matter? As long as no one recalls getting the dreamcatcher from a friendly buffalo, I think we’re OK. Please note I have nothing against buffalos!

What truly matters is we all have many common memories of our times together. Memories of laughing, sharing family time and feeling loved. Next time we all gather, whenever that happens, we can talk about zip lining together, learning how to drive a four wheeler, visiting beaches and whale watching in California. We’ve had so many amazing experiences which has created many great memories with our grandkids!

We are reminded of the dreamcatcher at least once a year. “Our” dreamcatcher was turned into a Christmas ornament. Each year, our grandchildren help decorate our tree and the dreamcatcher still brings joy to us, even though the kids fight to see who gets to place it on the tree. The memories just keep coming whether we all agree on them or not, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is we continue to catch the dreams and enjoy our time together.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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