Back to school

My daughter won’t be attending traditional school for the foreseeable future.

It wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, it was difficult, emotional, confusing and stressful.

You see she’s going into first grade and she’s pretty darn smart for her age.

She’s been very aware of the world in the midst of the pandemic and has been very concerned about the whole mask thing.

On the day that school supply lists came out, she freaked out. Her fear was the idea of going to school with people who weren’t wearing masks.

From the first time she left the house early in the pandemic to now, she goes nowhere without a mask.

It’s not that she’s afraid of the virus. She doesn’t understand what COVID-19 can do to a person’s body. She’s never seen a picture of someone on a ventilator.

But she understands that people are getting sick and there are several important ways to keep it from spreading.

Anna watches television shows and asks if they were filmed before the pandemic because there were more than 10 people in a group, they’re closer than six-feet together and they’re not wearing masks.

When it came to the idea of school, my husband and I had numerous conversations and I even spoke with a couple school board members.

We live in a school district with a very high number of children living in poverty which means for many that returning to school where they get free meals, warm buildings and solid loving adults around them is an important blessing.

So in that sense, I understand the need to have schools open in many places.

The other side of the story is that by returning students to school, the chances of spreading coronavirus to students, staff and teachers increases exponentially.

For me, the idea of endangering staff and my child is more than I can bear.

I know that having my daughter go to school at daycare rather than in a classroom with her peers wont be easy. It won’t be as fun and it will be a challenge but for my family, it’s the right thing to do.

I also am lucky to be able to afford to keep my child at a daycare where she will be taught and cared for in a safer smaller space.

Whether you send your kids to school or keep them home, you make the decision that’s best for you and your family.

I don’t judge people for their decisions. This whole “back to school” season is much different than any other in our history and is certainly difficult.

The phone in my hand

If you know me, you probably notice that I literally go no where without my cell phone.

I walk across the office at work, my phone is my hand. I run outside to check on the kids in the backyard, I’ve got my phone. It goes with me everywhere.

Some people might think I’m addicted to my technology or just a little crazy. I mean I love my social media apps and my ridiculously addictive coloring game as much as the next cell phone user. However, it goes a lot deeper than that.

It was a regular old Wednesday afternoon in July when I hopped in my car and drove it around the building from one parking lot to another. I was meeting someone that I had been in contact with through Facebook to buy a baby bouncer/saucer.

I grabbed my phone and brought it with me in case the seller called me or sent me a message prior to her arrival.

I don’t remember if I met her that day or if it was later. I just know I was glad I grabbed my phone.

It was in that instant as I sat in my car in the parking lot listening to an audiobook on my car stereo that I got the phone call I will never forget. It was the phone call from my daycare lady that my infant daughter wasn’t breathing.

That was the phone call that changed my life forever. If I hadn’t had my phone with me, who knows how many minutes would have ticked by before I finally connected with my babysitter.

Since that day, my phone has not left my side. I honesty have got a little bit of anxiety and fear when I don’t have my phone close by. I take it with me literally everywhere.

I worry that I could miss that call about one of my children, my husband while he’s traveling or another emergent call.

Of course I can’t live in the world of horrible what if’s. I know that’s true.

In some ways I think having my phone with me at all times makes me feel like I have even just the slightest bit of control over the uncontrollable in my life.

The only times I’m truly comfortable without my phone by my side with when my children and my husband are all close by and the worry seems to fade away.

Maybe the fear will grow less and the anxiety will fade with age but for now just know my phone is by my side for a reason.

Toughest day of the year

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve tried to write this post probably five times and I’ve never found the right words.

I’ve been planning this blog post for weeks knowing that today would come even though I hoped it wouldn’t.

It was six years ago today that my sweet Cora died.

Cora and Anna, my twin girls, were only four and a half months old when Cora died of SIDS.

Everything about that sentence makes me cry.

Anna lost her sister. They were mere babies and SIDS gives us no answers, not at all.

I’ve thought about writing about what happened that day, the pain of holding my dead daughter in my arms for hours, the sorrow of coming home without her.

I’ve thought about talking about what we did today and how we honor Cora.

But none of it is right. None of it is wrong either.

I just know it hurts.

Every year that comes, the day is different.

I think in some ways its harder now as her twin sister Anna grows older and begins to ask and understand more about her sister.

Today I told her that it was the day her sister died, went to heaven and became an angel.

She cried for a minute but didn’t understand. So then she talked about dying herself, something I couldn’t stand her talking about.

We put pennies into our Cora box to give her hugs and kisses.

The shining light of the day is the friends who have remembered and reached out to offer me hugs, phone calls and smiles. Even six years later, they still remember that day.

Some were there and some were quick to rush to my side as soon as they could to be there. And six years later, they’re still here.

It gives me the peace of mind knowing that my sweet baby Cora has not been forgotten. She will be remembered and loved in the hearts of many.

My daughter wears a mask

When my co-worker asked me today how my daughter was handling the pandemic, I wasn’t sure how to answer.

I’m fortunate in that she’s so young she doesn’t have a lot of close friends yet so she hasn’t bugged me repeatedly about going to friends’ houses.

That’s not to say Anna, age 6, doesn’t know about the virus to some degree.

From the very beginning, I tried to explain to her that she couldn’t go to school or dance class or to Walmart because of this virus.

I told her that people were getting very sick and we didn’t want to get sick or accidentally get someone else sick. Based on that explanation, it was pretty easy to get her to wear a mask.

She doesn’t know or understand the details of the virus and what it can do a person’s body. She doesn’t understand the inability to breathe, ventilators or death.

Yet she knows she needs to wear a mask and she asks me why others don’t.

When she returned to dance class for the last few weeks — after nearly three months off due to the pandemic — Anna put on a mask with her leotard, tights and tap shoes and hopped out of the vehicle.

In her class, Anna told me that only she and the one boy in her class wore masks. When she asked another girl why she wasn’t wearing a mask, the girl told her “My mom said masks are stupid and corona is stupid so I don’t have to wear a mask.”

Anna turned to me and said, “Mommy, corona is real and she should wear a mask.” That was all she said and she went back to playing.

In that moment, I was amazed at how much my six-year-old had absorbed and knew. She’s wise beyond her years.

Now when she watches television, Anna will ask if a show or a news program was recorded “before corona” because there will be more than 10 people in a group or people without masks. Sometimes it’s from “before corona” and sometimes it’s not.

Honestly it’s hard to explain to her why people don’t wear masks and she often asks me that very question.

I wish I could tell her that everyone wears masks, that everyone wants this pandemic to go away, that it will be over soon.

I want her to be able to go to school and have a school experience like we all knew “before corona”. I want her to be able to go to summer camps, dance class and every other thing she can.

Back to work

I went back to work this week and by all accounts, I think the week has been a bit of a disaster.

So I’ve been on furlough for three months and got the call to come back to work last week.

However, due to some appointments and my daughter’s dance recital, I had to put off the return a week.

Well apparently my return was forced by the fact that one of the other people in my department quit unexpectedly and my services were needed post haste.

However, my boss didn’t tell my of the urgency so I held off and week and now that I’m back, it’s been a hit the ground running thing to say the least.

I’ve been working like a crazy person after taking off for three months from a job I had only really been doing on my own for six to eight months prior.

My return has also been a bit of a struggle in that I had plans for changes in my career path in the month before the pandemic really hit the U.S. and before I was furloughed.

Those plans were squashed, mashed, beat and thrown out the window when I was called to return to work. I was hurt, upset, angry and a myriad of other emotions at that and at that point, I didn’t even know my co-worker had quit suddenly.

Since I received that call, I’ve taken on the mantra, “I am fortunate to have a job with a paycheck and insurance for my children and I will do my job to the best of my abilities.”

And while that’s great and I have been no less than absolutely busy in my first two days back, my heart still longs for my dream that is so far off right now I can’t even imagine it.

Work life is crazy and home life is no less out there.

My husband had been traveling during the week since early- to mid-May meaning that the kids and I have spent A LOT of time together the last several months.

My return to work meant that the kids would be returning to daycare full time. That means getting up at least an hour earlier in the morning and not getting home until evening five days a week.

While the kids do enjoy their daycare and their friends there, there is no doubt that we have become a very close trio the last few months. We all knew this time would come and I think the anxiety has been building in the last week.

My daughter, whose sleep patterns have been messed up by all the stress and changes that came with the pandemic, has suddenly found even falling asleep at a reasonable hour almost impossible. On top of that, she thinks she needs to snuggle with me every night. She’s a big snuggler.

My son, who I have found does not sleep well if he’s in my bed all night, is doing a little better in that department. However, I think all the work in potty training we’ve done in the last few months has regressed in the last few weeks.

I’m not sure what’s caused it but I’m sure tired of that mess.

Add on top of that my guilt for keeping my dog in a kennel eight-plus hours a day while I’m at work along with a variety of pool issues, including kid poop and leaks galore, and needless to say, I’m a bit of a mess.

I know that my little world will normalize and steady out in this new routine just as it did when I was sent home to furlough as well.

I just have to remember to keep breathing, take breaks as needed and remember we’re all in this together.

I wanted to call my dad today

I wanted to call my dad today.

My dad’s been gone seven years and I still have his number in my phone.

Every time I’ve gotten a new phone, the numbers just transfer from one phone to the next and it’s still there.

Over the years I have deleted old numbers of people I don’t talk to anymore or old contacts.

But I’ve never deleted his number.

Not sure what phone I had when he died. I know the profile photo I have for him was one I took on one of the first phones I could have profile photos for.

I remember when I took it.

I had gone back to the farm for the weekend for some reason or another.

I was standing in the kitchen talking about the features of my new fance phone and I mentioned that I could make profile photos for my contacts.

My dad, who doesn’t always get very excited about those things, turned to me eagerly and asked if I would take his picture.

I love the picture not just cause its my dad or because its gone but because of the memory.

There he is standing in our kitchen on the farm wearing his plaid work shirt smiling a big smile, just as happy as a lark.

You read and hear those stories of people who will text or call their deceased loved one’s old number and end up talking to the new person at the other end of the line. I’ve never done that.

I’ve never talked to that person. The line may have changed owners four times by now for all I know.

I do know that was my dad’s number. He first got that number when he had a bag phone that he would carry in his truck and carry into the house at night or into motel rooms when we traveled.

He had that number when he finally gave up the bag phone and moved to the flip phone.

I still know his and my mom’s cell phone numbers. They were posted on the front door of the refrigerator when I was growing up and I had them both memorized.

To this day, I can’t tell you which number is my mom’s and which is my dad’s. I knew them both by heart but I never separated them.

Now when I get to call my mom, because I am lucky and blessed she is still here, I simply go to contacts and push Mom.

My dad’s number is the first number listed under the letter D. It will always be there just as his memory will always be in my heart and mind.

There’s no reason to delete it. It’s not like the contact is taking up room. I think sometimes it’s a comfort to have him there

I wanted to call my dad today. Instead I remembered him fondly.

Change isn’t easy

I got called up today.

No I don’t play baseball and I’m not headed to the majors.

Instead I got the call to go back to work.

After nearly three months on furlough, I’ll soon be returning to work.

And it’s funny.

“They” say humans are creatures of habit and I am what some would call the queen of routine.

I always order the same thing at restaurants — or I did before the pandemic.

I almost always do my laundry all on the same day. I just like routine and am not big on change.

So when I was told that I was being furloughed and that I would not be returning to work for an unknown amount of time, my world was thrown off kilter.

I didn’t know what I would do, where I would go or how I would operate.

I kept myself busy for the first few days but then as time went on, I moved from that old normal into a new one.

I get up each day when the kids and I wake up. I put on my leggings or “quarantine pants” as my husband and I call them.

I let my dog out into our backyard and feed my frogs. I do work for my essential oil business, do some writing, work on organization projects around my house and play with my kids. Some days I just float in our swimming pool.

On the few days when my kids are at daycare, I get more work done and I take a little time for myself.

But for the most part, we have created this new normal where we move through our days, some with more structure than others, having fun, playing with toys, making crafts and swimming.

When my boss was offering me the job to return, she said the Tribune isn’t the same place it was when I left and honestly I expected that.

I think most of us can agree that the world is not the same as it was three or four months ago.

In the 12 hours since I received the call, I have had a million thoughts going through my head.

First and foremost, I am feeling so blessed and relieved to have the money to pay my bills and the insurance coverage for my children and myself.

My next thought is that fear of routine. The new routine will include getting the children up much earlier to be dressed and ready to be off to daycare by 745-750 a.m. each day Monday through Friday. I won’t see them again until after 5 p.m.

I will then spend my days working in the office without my canine companion at my side and the ability to check in with my little swimming frogs whenever I like.

Alexa won’t be there to play my SiriusXM radio at the demand of my voice.

While I will technically have the same job I did when I left, it will be different. I know that for sure.

The plans I had at that time for the future of my career are questionable at best. I will be some of the same tasks and some new tasks in a world that is completely different than when I was furloughed months ago.

The office has different people working in it who have created new routines and new norms without me.

I no doubt will feel like a bit of an outsider in the beginning.

While it will take time, I know that eventually I will create a new plan, a new routine in my new job in this new world.

Until then, I plan to go easy on myself and take the time needed to adjust according.

I miss my dad today

Eight years ago at this time, my dad was still alive.

He was sick and his body was again beginning to forsake him with a cancer that would win just a few months later.

But he was still alive, still here on this earth.

He was still my mom’s partner, Ivan the miniature Schnauzer’s companion and a father to my brother and I.

In his last few years, I loved giving my dad Mike’s Hard Lemonade and cashews for Father’s Day, two things he enjoyed. He was someone who always bought what he needed or wanted so a good snack was always a good idea.

Some of my early memories of Father’s Days include many trips to Ord, Nebraska for the annual Father’s Day Rod Run, an antique car show and party.

My dad was a row crop farmer meaning that we were often tied to home during the summer months but there were times he would shut off the irrigation to the crops, pack up the car and we would leave for a couple of days.

There would be conversation, cars and sunshine during the day and pizza, music and playing in the evening.

Those were wonderful times.

Now I wonder who my dad would be if he were still alive today.

Would he be bald by now or would his hair have finally turned grey?

His hair didn’t begin to change color until after his chemo treatments and his hair had fallen out. It was only then that a few of the hairs in his goatee turned grey.

Would he still be farming or have moved toward retirement?

I can’t imagine he would have given up his work on the land.

I can see him having learned the new technology and carrying iPads and computers in his tractors as he navigated the fields.

What would he think of things like the changes in NASCAR, iRacing, the pandemic, really just the new world we live in.

Of a few things I am very certain.

I know he would still be snuggling with his trusty sidekick, Ivan the miniature schnauzer.

I know he would dote over his grandchildren Anna and Ben. I can only imagine the smile on his face at his grandson’s love of green tractors, trucks and racecars.

I miss him every day. I hear a Johnny Cash song on the radio, eat french fries with fry sauce from Freddy’s, hear a reference to Dale Earnhardt Sr. or pass a corn field and he is there.

Every time I look at his sweet dog Ivan, I think of my dad and how long he has been gone.

The one big of solace I find in his leaving us when he did was than my dad was there in the great beyond to greet my dear daughter Cora when she died two years after his passing.

I know this life isn’t what I imagined in many ways but I am so thankful for the man whose dark hair I carry on my head and strong love I carry in my heart.

Love is love

My first real memories of the LGBT community outside of watching “Ellen” and “Will & Grace” were in college.

I grew up in a small town in the middle of Nebraska and I just don’t have many memories of knowingly interacting with LGBT people. It’s not to say it didn’t happen. I just don’t remember.

Those first real memories came in my first few weeks of college at Creighton University in Omaha. I was attending an activities fair full of booths representing different organizations on campus.

So when I walked by a booth for the Creighton Gay/Straight Alliance, I signed up without hesitation. You see I’m one of those people that always wants to know more. I didn’t know any LGBT people. I didn’t know much about the cause so I said why not.

It turns out that the GSA wasn’t even an officially recognized organization on campus at that time in the fall of 2000. That means for decades the organization often met underground, in secret meeting rooms, without knowledge by college leaders.

Part of that comes clearly from the fact that Creighton University is a Jesuit Catholic college and the Roman Catholic Church has and had at that time very strong views on homosexuality.

I’ll admit I don’t remember too much from that first year other than meeting a group of wonderfully funny and delightful gay men who were my classmates and friends.

It was during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year that things changed for the organization that gained official campus organization status.

I can’t say for sure but the group members and I attribute it to the fact that the new college president who had just finished his first year on the job had come to Omaha from the University of San Francisco, another Jesuit Catholic college in California.

Either way, I remember the joy and pride on the face of my classmate, a gay Catholic man who had just been given a “seal of approval” from a Catholic leader.

That fall I was elected the secretary of the organization and was thrilled to get started on making real change for the group.

It was only within days of my election that I remember receiving a pamphlet that had been shoved under the door of my dorm room. Actually I shared the dorm with my roommate and it was she who presented me with the pamphlet snootily saying, “I believe this belongs to you.”

I don’t remember all the details of the pamphlet nearly 20 years later. What I do remember was it was a tri-fold glossy pamphlet and there was highlighted biblical passages inside basically implying that I would be burning in hell alongside my homosexual friends.

I remember not so much being shocked by the pamphlet as I was by the fact I learned my three roommates were upset, angry, insulted by the fact that I would be in a group that supported “those people.”

My frustration only grew as we were appointed an advisor, a very strict Jesuit priest, who wouldn’t let us do anything to promote sexuality. We couldn’t attend PRIDE events. We couldn’t put certain messages onto pamphlets, fliers and posterboards.

By getting official campus recognition, our name was now out there but we suddenly were under many restrictions that only angered members of the group.

Back then the world was still a much different place.

Today one of my fellow Creighton grads has a six-year-old son with his partner and they are together where he runs a school in Spain.

Another Creighton grad who works for Union Pacific only came out a few years ago but honestly I couldn’t be my proud of him.

There are LGBT politicians and LGBT country music singers and LGBT teachers and doctors and mothers and fathers and children.

My children’s pediatrician is a gay man and he was recently married. I told that to my daughter and at first she questioned two men getting married and I said, “yep they can do that. They love each other.” She said “yay” and ran off to do something else. From what I hear, that amazing couple is now starting the process to adopt a child and I can’t think of another more deserving couple.

I teach my children to love all people. Love is love.

While I won’t be attending a local PRIDE event this year due to the pandemic, I will stand with my friends and neighbors in support of the LGBT community.

Not a job, an opportunity

I think I’ve finally begun to figure out some things in my life.

Haha isn’t that funny.

We all feel like at some point we’re trying to figure out who we are and what our grand purpose is.

For years, I tied so much of who I was to a job, a career. That’s who I was.

I wasn’t a writer who worked at a newspaper. I was an employee of the newspaper.

So I think that is why for so long I have struggled to even look at doing anything else with my life with or without the newspaper.

I wasn’t just married to what I was doing. I was married to the place. And that’s not all bad. I have a family of friends and co-workers there who I love dearly. But now more than two months into my furlough with no end in site, I have to look at my whole world view and not just that one.

In the last couple of years, I have tried to look at my life without it and honestly I couldn’t see past it.

I applied for a couple different jobs and was even offered one but working outside the community with two small children didn’t seem like the best idea for me.

But really I think the biggest hurdle for me was seeing myself as someone who could share my beloved essential oils with others AND make a business of it. I didn’t see how I could do it.

I didn’t know what the hurdles were. I didn’t understand my own fears — and some I still don’t.

But the other day I saw a quote on Facebook that really spoke to me.
It said: “Most people are skeptical of what I do because we’ve been taught to look for jobs not opportunities.”

I never consciously said in my mind to my recollection that this isn’t a real job; people can’t make money doing this or anything like that. Some of my dearest friends are very successful.

I think subconsciously I didn’t see this as an opportunity or a job for me.

I think a lot of it goes back to that old view that home-based businesses aren’t real, don’t make you any money, etc.

However, there is no question that in today’s pandemic world, more and more businesses are moving home. There are people in any number of careers that work from home. So that’s a silly outdated argument.

This business isn’t a job. It isn’t a place where I would go and punch a time clock. This is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for me to grow and expand as a person. Its an opportunity for me to share these amazing products with others who need them in their lives.

When this furlough of mine is over, hopefully I’ll have a job at the newspaper. I don’t know what that job will be but in a world where I need health insurance and money to pay for my home and life, I still need that job.

I just plan to also put so much more of myself in to this opportunity to change and improve my life and the lives of others.