Light at the End of the Tunnel

As the world starts to attempt to come out of it’s COVID cocoon, it’s hard to not look back and take stock of the impact this year in isolation has had on my Son and I.

For my Son, who is a junior in college, a year off-campus, with all virtual classes has taken a toll on him in a very negative way. It has induced apathy and put him into a dull state of depression, something I don’t often see with him.

As an online gamer he spends a lot of time in the virtual world, so I figured he’d adapt well, but as the quarantine lingered longer, the lack of in-person learning and time with friends hanging out on campus began to wear on him.

For me though, I’ve found the quarantine and isolation time somewhat invigorating. I love being home, but up until shut down, if I wasn’t at work, I was out running errands, and when I was home, my time was dominated by chores.

During shut down I continued to work from home, but the work was limited because of the nature of the business.

SO, the in-between time finally allowed me the luxury to just appreciate being home.

I could actually ponder things that would be nice to change, or that could use a little updating: nothing over the top like renovation, but something as simple as new curtains, or rearranging furniture.

AND, purge stuff that has accumulated over the years without the necessary time to address it.

PLUS, for the first time in years I could finally start to conquer projects sitting in limbo, like my Son’s high school graduation scrapbook and framing.

In addition, I could take time to relax and read a book, which is something I can honestly say I hardly ever do despite the fact that I love to read. Up until shut down, reading the paper or an occasional magazine article was the extent of my reading.

The most important thing though, I could finally truly focus on my writing as a business. Something I knew I had to do in order to supplement my income leading up to and during retirement, which is a must in order for me to actually retire. 

Yes, this does sound like a lot to cover in any day, week, or month, but considering prior to COVID shut down I was working a 9 hour day, plus travel time to and from work, I now had 10 hours each day, 50 hours a week, and 200 hours a month to play with.

Minus of course whatever work I had to attend to, but that was never more than maybe 5 hours a day, so I still had 5 hours free, which to any mom is a like an entire day free.

Note, this extra time began to dwindle by mid-May, but any time not already plotted into my day was a gift. So I took advantage of it, and jumped head first into exploring my writing as a business.

In so doing though, I discovered monetizing a blog that is a bit esoteric, as this blog is, is not an easy feat to accomplish, without a lot of time and SEO know how, which I do not have, especially being back in the office every day since June.

Fortunately though, by the time I discovered this, I had also unearthed a new creative outlet. An outlet that I would also discover has far more potential than monetizing my blog.

And that new creative outlet turns out is something I could have never fathomed even in my wildest dreams.

Custom designed chalk creations done on my driveway.

What started out as a simple Easter greeting for my neighbors at the beginning of the pandemic has turned into a weekly thing. All it took was a passerby commenting how cheerful the creation was, noting how much we needed that, and adding I should keep it up.

Every week I tried something new, and about a year ago tried my hand with a mandala. 

Once I did that I knew I was on to something. Even during the winter I continued to create new art. Of course on a smaller scale, but I would hang it in my front window and post it on the Facebook page I created to share my art with those not in my neighborhood.

I even came up with a name for my chalk art alter ego “the CHALK Charmer” which is what my Facebook page is titled.

https://www.facebook.com/TheCHALKCharmer/

Upon sharing my creations friends commented that some of the art would look nice on mugs, or t-shirts, or bags, etc…

This got the wheels in my head turning.

Could my creations actually become something more than therapy for me on weekends?

Could they actually become a source of income?

So I began to explore the idea and I’m happy to say I’m on the precipice of starting a business to sell merchandise. 

Right now this idea is very much in it’s infancy. 

Turns out the avenue I was considering, which is a third party company that would host my shop, do all the fulfillment from printing-on-demand, to shipping, to collecting payment, may not be the route I want to take.

Although this seems like the perfect route for someone who works full-time while trying to start a side business, the samples I received may look good, but upon showing my co-workers, I discovered the quality of the base product is not up to par, which doesn’t sit right with me.

Samples of mug, pouch, t-shirt and tank top
Close up of mug

I may work in the print world, but I don’t handle merchandise like some of my co-workers do, and I trust their judgement. The last thing I want is my reputation tarnished by a poor product.

In addition, this third party company would also handle the customer service, which makes me twitch, because as someone who does customer service for a living, I know how critical it is to making or breaking a business. In general the CS reviews I’ve read are pretty good for the company I was considering, but it only takes one bad experience to screw your reputation.

With all this in mind, I’m now looking into my own e-commerce site. Of course this means I need to stock inventory, do all the shipping and payment collection, but I would be able to control all aspects of the business, starting with selling a quality product I believe in.

Starting a business is not something I take lightly, and to be honest is very scary, yet exhilarating at the same time. It is also something I would not venture forth to do without guidance, which is why I have reached out to my local Small Business Council.

After all, this is my future and I want to make sure I do everything right from the very start. I don’t want to half-ass this in any way.

SO, although this means my actual shop for the CHALK Charmer will be delayed, my vision for the future is getting clearer every day. AND, after speaking with the Small Business Council, I know it’s a valid vision, which means I can look to the future with great excitement knowing as long as I put the work in, my dreams will come to fruition.

AND, the kicker is, without my quarantine time, I could have been spinning my wheels for years trying to monetize my blog and in so doing been forced to give up on the hopes of retiring at any age, let alone 65.

As for my Son, knowing he’ll be back on campus for his Senior year has been enough to help lift him out of the funk that consumed him over his year in isolation.

Come August I’m sure I’ll be going through withdrawal having an empty house again. BUT, I’ll have my new adventure to focus on, and I’ll know my Son is where he needs to be to fulfill his dreams.

PLUS, I’ll be able to look back over our year in isolation together knowing despite all the anxiety and stress we became closer, and faced the challenges together.

AND, all of this made us stronger individually and together. 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Look Back – © 123rf – Pracha jaruprateepkul

Home – © 123rf – Vasvas

Free Time – © 123rf – Rabina Elif Aksoy

Business Start Up – © 123rf – Iryna Liashenko

Clear Vision – © 123rf – Zachery Blanton

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#Isolation

#TollOfQuarantine

#NewVision

#LightAtEndOfTunnel

#ChalkTheWalk

#theCHALKCharmer

The Toll of Quarantine on My College Student Son

March 13, 2021 marked one year since I brought my Son home from college for what was only suppose to be two weeks. 

A year later he is still home, taking all his classes virtually.

AND, my how things have changed.

When the COVID pandemic was not yet classified a pandemic, but things were escalating daily, my anxiety levels were also escalating, especially because my Son was away at school. I feared the US would go into lockdown and he would be stuck there. 

As a fan of “The Walking Dead” every end of world scenario was playing out in my mind.

How would I get my Son home if we were in lockdown? What covert operation would I have to pull off? Would I have to dodge law enforcement or the military? Would I be fined if I was caught?

The Walking Dead Characters locked, loaded and ready for action – courtesy of AMC

Granted, some of this is extreme, but a year ago so much was up in the air that anything imaginable crossed my mind.

SO, when the school sent out the plans to send students home for an extended Spring Break I was beyond relieved. No covert operation would be needed. I could pick my Son up in a somewhat normal fashion.

Once he was home I didn’t care what happened, as long as he was home with me. If the world fell apart we’d face it together, just like Rick and Carl.

Rick and Carl facing the end of the world together – courtesy of AMC

And face it we did.

When my Son first got home, I was still working full-time in the office, coming home strung out because I had no clue if I was exposed to the virus. Within a week though the Stay-At-Home Orders were put in place in our state and the official lockdown began. 

Being told I had to stay home and not venture out into the virus-infested world was a huge relief, and an order I was grateful to abide by. We’d make due with what we had and when we ran out of something figure it out then. 

The true test would be how my Son and I handled being home all day, every day with just each other. 

I had finally adjusted to being by myself after a rough Freshman year, and my Son had gotten comfortable with his on-campus college student lifestyle.

He was becoming more independent and he liked it. His visits home up to this time were always relaxed and playful because that’s just what they were meant to be. Breaks from the college workload to refresh and recharge for the next semester.

AND, of course Mom would dote on him because that’s what Mom’s do when their kids come home from college.

Now however, he would be taking classes from home and I would be working from home. Nothing at all like a normal home visit for a college break. 

Add to it, we both had to share the loft where our computers were.

Needless to say it was a bit of an adjustment, but some how we made it work. His irregular class schedule and my flexibility with work hours certainly helped.

Plus I was only home full time for about a month before I was going back into the office a couple times a week which eventually led to full time again by May.

One of my biggest challenges came when I was trying to focus and my Son would decide that’s when he wanted to give me an update on something related to a class, or even just something silly he read and thought I’d enjoy.

Prior to this it was a none-issue because I wasn’t doing work related things at home. BUT, now it mattered, so I had to find a delicate way to let him know it was not a good time and not offend him because I certainly wanted to know about school.

Note, my Son is very random when it comes to informing me about personal things or school, so I have learned over the years to pause when he gets in the mood to talk. No matter when that may be.

The last thing I wanted was to have him think I didn’t care and stop randomly spilling what’s on his mind.

Considering the fact that he still does this, I can say I did not offend him, and we’re all good it that department.

The other key thing at play with my Son home full-time again was and still is the general dynamics between the two of us.

Our relationship as parent and child has been evolving since my Son was a teen, and took on a whole new level when he went away to college. At college, he was maturing and learning to be more independent, and I was concerned being forced to move back home full-time could do some damage in that area.

Something I most certainly didn’t want to see happen.

So I have tried hard to give him space, within limits though, because after all he is still at home under my roof.

There had to be some rules. Like helping Mom with kitchen duties. Something he got out of while in high school, but not now. It was only fair considering I was back to doing more cooking on a regular basis.

When I contracted COVID in late January, my Son had no choice but to step up his game in this area, and I can say he has done it without complaining which is major sign of maturity. 

In the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, because we were both so consumed by what was going on with the pandemic, and my work ours were not consistent, there was a lot of fluidity with household dynamics.

BUT, once my hours went back to full-time and my Son was back working part-time at a local grocery store, I quickly realized our relationship was evolving into a whole new phase

The dynamics between the two of us was becoming one of true camaraderie, with a buddy-like quality, and a real sense of respect for each other. Something I happily welcomed and was excited to experience. Were there hiccups, of course, but overall things were changing for the good.

Summer hike in the Poconos

Because of this new-found camaraderie I noticed my Son more willing to open up about his emotions when dealing with being home. Which I was beyond grateful for because otherwise I would not have realized the toll quarantine was actually taking on him.

One of the biggest issues he addresses was a feeling of apathy, and lack of motivation. He noted that at least he was getting his class work done.

Apparently a lot of friends have not been.

As my Son told me the extended virtual learning was taking a toll on everyone he spoke with.

The lack of in-person classes and “real” on-campus life was hindering their desire to perform to the best of their ability. AND this was coming from friends who were actually on campus, but had at least half of their classes still virtual.

Once he told me all of this, I started to better understand some of his not so normal behavior.

My Son has always been a bit of a night owl, and would sleep in as often as he could, which is pretty normal for teens and college students. BUT, things were escalating to the point where he’d be up all night and sleep all day whenever he didn’t need to be up for classes. AND sometimes even when he did have classes. 

This concerned me because how could he be prepared for class if he crawled out of bed 5 minutes before class. Plus be alert enough to actually participate.

And to add to all of this, my Son had finally gotten his computer moved to the basement over Winter Break so he had more seclusion and privacy, which only amplified the night owl problem.

Prior to the move, he was right outside my bedroom in the loft so I could hear him, which meant I could keep tabs on him and make him accountable for his time. Something he didn’t really like.

Although he’s holding his own with classes, despite an issue with one class that’s tied to the instructors, he’s spending the bare minimal of time on his classwork, but certainly spending plenty of time gaming, and watching Anime or stupid videos on YouTube. If he’s not in front of his computer, he’s got his phone and is watching stupid videos there.

Again, I know this is pretty standard for a college kid, but for my Son it’s excessive. It’s most certainly a means of escape.

He’s always spent a lot of time online with friends, either gaming or just BS’ing, but he’d also spend just as much time socializing with his friends in-person, especially on campus.

SO, taking the personal one-on-one side out of the equation was rearing it’s ugly head.

At least when he’s working he gets some one-on-one time with co-workers and customers, but because of the amount of writing one of his classes required he decided to not work during this semester, which just added to the seclusion problem.

I’ve told him his behavior is a sign of depression, and he’s aware of it. YET, he’s making limited effort to break free of the hold the quarantine has on him, which is what concerns me.

In general he seems fine, but because he has no reason to leave the house, and has limited commitments, he’s left to just flounder. 

He is not very self-motivated, which is another issue for another post, so although there are many things he could be doing with his time, he chooses to do nothing

I toss out ideas, and make suggestion to help lift him out of his funk, but he dismisses the ideas, even when he knows it’s on him to make the change.

When he was away at college, living on campus, he was starting to get more organized with his time, plotting his days out, prioritizing tasks, etc… He was learning to create structure and order to his days. Even motivated to venture forth beyond his comfort zone.

Last performance with jazz band a week prior to coming home

NOW, all bets are off 

At least he’s getting his schoolwork done, which I have to be grateful for. And, the classes the back half of this semester seem to be more engaging, which seem to be helping his overall mood a little.

BUT, next semester is his senior year and I fear what this extended time at home has done to his overall growth. I’m hoping once he’s vaccinated and can be back on campus, he will be able to pick up where he left off, but until then, I will do my best to help him break free from his quarantine funk.

I will need to find ways to make him more accountable for his time every day. What that is I don’t know yet, BUT if he has to answer to someone other than himself about how he spends his days, maybe that will help.

This is all very new for me.

Usually my Son has had so much schoolwork, and extracurricular activities that I was not concerned about his “veg out time.” I knew he needed it as a means to recharge so I didn’t worry.

Now however all this “veg out time” is doing the opposite.

It’s slowly burning out all the stored charge that motivated my Son to succeed. Apathy is winning and despite still being in a pandemic I have to find a way to reverse this course and get my Son back on track for I hope and pray will be his best year of college, his Senior year! 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#QuarantineTollOnCollegeStudents

#QuarantineApathy

2020 VISION

As the month of June was beginning I couldn’t help but ponder how fast the halfway mark of the year was upon me?

AND, I wondered how could it creep up on me so quickly when I felt like I’d been standing still since the end of March?

OR, was that precisely why it crept up on me?

When stay-at-home orders were enacted, for all intensive purposes, time stopped. What was, was no more, at least temporary, and what would be was still up in the air.

At first this was all a bit unnerving, but once I settled into the notion of being forced to stay home, and knew my work from home would be limited, I embraced this time as time to focus on my dreams and aspirations for retirement.

I was actually a bit happy to finally have the time I needed to focus on my writing and this blog.

AND, I actually welcomed this time after the hiccup I hit in January that set me back as far as my goals for 2020 were concerned.

https://wakingthewoman.com/2020/01/31/the-best-laid-plans/#more-267

With this newfound, unexpected time, I once again had 2020 vision for 2020.

AND, not knowing how much time I would actually have, I knew I had to act fast.

Continue reading “2020 VISION”

MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Creativity

Creative –
Having the quality of something created rather than imitated: imaginative

Creativity can come in many forms, it doesn’t always have to be in the traditionally known forms of painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, composing, singing, dancing, or acting.

It’s also part of cooking, baking, knitting, crocheting, gardening, landscaping, architecture, photography, fashion design, jewelry design, graphic design, game design, interior design, furniture design, anything related to crafting, etc…

The list is endless when you actually think about it.

I’m sure you’re coming up with things to add to my list now. What I think is interesting though, is how many people think they aren’t creative, when in reality we all are, in our own ways.

Yes, there are some who excel in the classic creative pursuits and float to the top, but if you have a knack for coordinating family gatherings, organizing closets, decorating for parties, decorating your home, aiding in your kids school projects, throwing together an outfit, or even just keeping your home running smoothly, YOU ARE CREATIVE.

(Again, I’m sure you’re thinking of more things to add to my list.)

Continue reading “MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Creativity”

MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Finding Purpose When Classified Non-Essential

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had major mixed emotions about falling into the category of “non-essential.”

On one hand I’m grateful I can stay at home, and limit my time out of the house to trips for essentials.

BUT, on the other hand I feel guilty and wish I had more of a purpose other than to be at home.

Continue reading “MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Finding Purpose When Classified Non-Essential”

The Best Laid Plans

As each new month starts, I tend to take the first couple days to ponder the theme for that months post.

Sometimes I know exactly what it will be because of some epiphany I had or something that happened.

This was particularly the case when I was writing “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years – aka his teens.” When raising a teen, there is always something happening.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/twd-apocalyptic-parenting-tactics/

Other times I can spend half the month tossing ideas around, seeing what sticks, even struggling to make something out of nothing.

Which is kind of odd when this blog is about self-rediscovery. 

Am I so lost I don’t even have a clue which way to turn?

Continue reading “The Best Laid Plans”

Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

Continue reading “Signs of Growth”

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

Continue reading “Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years”

Finding Peace in Every Day

With my annual exodus to the beach to recharge my soul now behind me, I’m working hard at carrying the calm that comes from the sea air and surf with me as I face each day in the real world.

As I told a co-worker “I’m trying hard to hang onto my vacation shine.”

This is something I tell myself I’m going to do every year, but a month or two into the real world post vacation I’m working my way back into the “when is my next day off mind-set.”

I don’t mean the weekend; I mean an actual vacation day, a day with no real schedule, a day to play.

Like a day off is the cure all for the every day stresses we all endure. Granted it helps, but there has to be a way to find peace throughout every day, not just on a vacation day. Especially when they’re so few and far between.

Continue reading “Finding Peace in Every Day”

Trust the Universe

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s you can’t force things into being. Sometimes you just have to be, and let things fall into place as they were meant to be.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s you can’t force things into being. Sometimes you just have to be, and let things fall into place as they were meant to be.

You also have to learn to “trust” that everything is as it’s suppose to be and the universe will let you know when it’s time to make a move. As my Mother would say “God’s time is not our time. Be patient.”

I have learned however this is easier said than done. It’s human nature to want to find an answer or resolve a dilemma as quickly as possible. It is not that simple to “just be.”

There have been periods in my life when I truly lived this though. Sort of working at something I wanted to change, or resolve, but allowing things to flow, not forcing anything. And no freaking out when things seemed to stall.

I have also had times when my frustration with my situation had my mind constantly spinning on ways to force change or find a resolve. All this did was bring on more frustration and anguish. And, even polarization. I was so consumed by finding an answer just achieving day-to-day tasks was daunting.

To be honest, just going with the flow can be very challenging, especially when you want change or an answer so bad you can taste it. 

When I look back over the roads I’ve traveled thus far, I realize the times when I did just go with the flow, my life was more pleasant and actually more productive. Being fluid and flexible, even bending when necessary is what brought results.

At this time though, I find myself somewhere in between these two. 

Continue reading “Trust the Universe”