The Office

  • Months in review: March and April 2020

    It feels weird using the word “awesome” to describe these past two months in the Twilight Zone known as quarantine. It feels so weird, in fact, that I actually started writing this piece for March, and then chickened out, feeling that it would be tone deaf and too frivolous. So, for the time being, let’s just call this “Months in Review”.

    I think we could all use some entertainment suggestions right now. Here is a super-sized list of things that either distracted me or made me feel a little more like “me” over the past two months, even with all of the craziness going on. (You’ll notice there are no books on this list. I’m putting together a special post on favorite reads later this month.)

    What I’ve been watching:

    Some Good News: John Krasinski is a national treasure. The latest proof of this indisputable fact is a gem of a weekly YouTube series entitled Some Good News, in which Jim Halpert himself shares uplifting videos and stories and makes people’s dreams come true through a mix of celebrity appearances, charitable donations, and awesome events like prom and graduation. Keep making your fellow attractive Polish New Englanders proud, JKras!

    Community:  Community is finally on Netflix, folks! This super snarky, bizarre sitcom is perfect for quarantine binge watching, because almost every episode parodies a different pop culture genre. You don’t have to watch every episode, or the episodes in order, either. Note: It is a little strange rewatching it now knowing where several of the actors are now. Donald Glover (Troy) is halfway to an EGOT, and the Simba to Beyonce’s Nala. Meanwhile, Joel McHale hosted the absolutely horrifying Tiger King “bonus” episode. (Do not watch that episode. It is far more disturbing that the rest of the series, through no fault of Joel McHale.)

    What I’ve been listening to:

    Niall Horan, Heartbreak Weather: I don’t know much about the guys from One Direction, but I do know two things: 1) Backstreet Boys are still the greatest boy band of all times; and 2) Niall Horan is my favorite 1D member. I absolutely adore this album. It is the perfect blend of 1980’s pop and 2000’s singer/songwriter guitar ballads.

    Mandy Moore, Silver Landings: I’m kind of glad This Is Us finished for the season early on in this quarantine, because I don’t think I could handle that fictional emotional rollercoaster on top of this real-world craziness. Mandy Moore’s Silver Landings album has been a great soundtrack during this time, though. Listening to these songs feels like wearing a flowy dress and floppy hat, and walking through how I picture southern California.

    What I’m playing:

    The Sims 4: Hi, I’m Megan, and I’ve been obsessed with The Sims on and off again for about 20 years (oddly about the same amount of time I’ve been listening to Mandy Moore’s music). When I saw Sims 4 was on sale for only $4.99 last month, I knew I had to have it. If you are unfamiliar with the franchise, I’ll put it bluntly: This is a computer game where you create and control people and relationships in a borderline-creepy godlike fashion. Some people think it’s funny to make their Sims miserable and suffer. Others (okay, I) always dress their Sims in trendy outfits they themselves would be way too self-conscious to wear, and get a strange sense of satisfaction whenever the characters exercise or do laundry or wash dishes or get a promotion. (See, I’m being indirectly productive!)

    The New York Times Crossword: For my birthday this January, I treated myself to a digital New York Times subscription, complete with the crossword puzzle add-on. Best. Gift. Ever. I love having the puzzles right on my phone to work on if I need a momentary break from the gift/curse of toddler TV programming. And, like the pride I get from my athletic Sims’ achievements, I also feel like I’m getting a bit smarter each time I complete a puzzle!

    What has been giving you a much-needed break during these past few months? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

    And finally, a note to all those who are on the front lines: Thank you. Thank you so much for your bravery, selflessness and resolve. You are the awesome ones right now.

    (Please note: There are affiliate links in the above post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

    Image credit: Pexels 

  • This virus has changed everything

    Have these past two weeks been real?

    Take a moment to think about how crazy the things we’ve seen and done lately would seem even a month ago:

    • Fighting with complete strangers over toilet paper and hand sanitizer;
    • Singing aloud while we wash our hands;
    • Checking online for updates on Tom Hanks’ and Idris Elba’s health;
    • Using phrases like “hunker down”, “quarantine,” “social distancing,” and “flatten the curve” not only frequently, but also in an un-ironic fashion;
    • Watching talk-show hosts broadcast from their homes;
    • Having every family, not just those who have chosen to homeschool, suddenly conducting class in their homes for weeks, frantically searching online for lesson plans and craft ideas;

    Let me put this into perspective another way. Guys, I live in Massachusetts. Tom Brady left the New England Patriots last week, and it wasn’t even that day’s biggest news story. He’s been with them for 19 seasons. Heck, he’s a football player that I actually know the name of – that’s how you know he’s a cultural icon!

    Kidding aside, though, I won’t lie – this has been a frightening time. It feels like we are all preparing for some big storm, but without a definite “start” and “stop” time. We all bought the bread and milk. Schools are closed. So when is the snow day getting here? Is it coming in a day, week, month, year?

    In many ways, it feels like 9/11: The unknowing, the eerie absence of live TV shows and sporting events, few if any planes flying overhead, and the sense that everything has changed forever, while things may immediately look the same.

    There’s a difference though – when 9/11 occurred I was a teen, a student, “protected” by a force field of teachers and parents and other adults. Now I am the adult, and a parent to a child with complex medical needs who is especially vulnerable to getting sick.

    I’m trying to stay levelheaded, vigilant and prepared without sliding into hysteria. The anxiety I’ve lived with most of my life is still there, only now others seem to have these fears, too. (Don’t these other people know I’m supposed to be able to lean on them for reassurance? How can I do that if they are also scared or vulnerable? How rude!)

    There are a few things I’ve been doing to stay somewhat calmer over the past week. I wanted to share with you, as I know it’s a difficult time for everyone right now.

    • I’ve been talking to friends and family more over the phone and via FaceTime, rather than relying solely on texting. Folks, we need all the human connection we can get right now (WHILE MAINTAINING SOCIAL DISTANCING), and hearing a voice or seeing a face of someone you care about can make a real difference.
    • Coffee makes everything better. I’ve been making and drinking more coffee at home now, and I purchased a gift card to my favorite local coffee shop to support them now when they need it.
    • Never underestimate the power of a sheet mask for your face. Seriously, they cost under $4, they are mess-free, they are individually sealed and packaged, and you can put one on and feel pampered for 20 minutes. Pro tip: When you wear glasses over your sheet mask, you can recreate the Mr. Napkinhead scene from The Holiday. Or not. Your choice.
    • Now is the time for comfort TV. If you need to take a break and watch three hours (or three seasons) of The Office to calm your nerves, this is the perfect time to do so. I personally have been feeling a bit stir crazy, so I’m watching travel shows on Netflix when I need a break from my pals at Dunder Mifflin.
    • I’ve been keeping busy by taking on extra freelance writing assignments. I found that I can manage my anxiety a bit better by choosing what news topics I want to know more about, such as individuals and organizations helping others during this crisis. Mister Rogers said, “Look for the helpers,” so that’s what I’m doing.

    If you have any ideas for staying calm right now, feel free to share in comments or on Facebook!

    Image credit: Pexels 

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  • Where the heck have I been?

    I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog lately. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been vacationing somewhere tropical, or traveling the country as a professional “90’s boy band trivia” expert. Alas, the real reason is not that exciting.

    I said from the start of this website that I’m not going to go into detail about JB’s diagnoses and health history, as that’s his story to tell (or not tell). But my story? I’m finally ready to share a bit of that.

    I’ve been dealing with my anxiety and depression these past few months.

    OK, technically I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for more than half of my life. But lately, it has been a far greater struggle.

    I feel like most of the depictions of parents are one of two things: Either they are flawless superheroes, or they are ungrateful whiny monsters. However, I think most of us, at least in my experience, fall somewhere in the middle. We all have our own baggage from before becoming parents, and that doesn’t magically disappear the moment we become “Mom” or “Dad”.

    My mental health issues were not caused by becoming a parent. I want to make that clear. Certain factors – lack of sleep, isolation, transitions, time and financial constraints, hypervigilance, frequent medical uncertainty, etc. – have made existing issues harder to deal with on a daily basis, however.

    That’s where my amazing support system has come in. I am fortunate enough to have an incredible group of both loved ones and professionals looking out for me.

    I am relieved that there is far less of a stigma now than there was even a decade ago. Celebrities from Kristen Bell to Lizzo to Selena Gomez have publicly shared their experiences with depression and/or anxiety. Heck, this year’s Emmy for Outstanding Choreography in a Scripted Series went to a song-and-dance number from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend entitled “Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal!” (Side note: I miss this show so much.)

    I’m feeling “better” (which I define as “feeling more like myself”) now, but I know there’s still a ways to go. I’m nowhere near joyful, brave or awesome at the moment, but I’m sure trying.

    So why am I telling you all this today?

    Next week is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. (Sorry, Canada, I’m too late for yours!) The holidays are crazy stressful as it is; mental health issues or extenuating circumstances (loss of a loved one, change in employment, health crisis, etc.) can make this time even more challenging. If someone seems a little “off” during this time, give them the benefit of the doubt instead of talking about them behind their back when they go to grab seconds. They may be going through something – whether big or small.

    Little acts of kindness can go even further this time of year. Surprise the person behind you in the drive-thru by paying for their order. Send a funny .gif to your college roommate. Fill a teapot with sentimental stuff like a tiny pencil and a high school photo of yourself and give it to the receptionist at your Office. (Then again, do not do this. You are not Jim Halpert, and you never will be. Accept this.)

    Finally, I’m obviously not a medical expert of any kind. But if you aren’t feeling like yourself, please let someone know and ask for help. There are people out there who genuinely want to help.

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  • Taking my first steps…

    baby shoesWell, I’ve done it. I’ve finally started a blog to chronicle my unexpected journey as a mom to a child with special needs.

    It’s called “Joyful, Brave & Awesome” for several reasons, but mainly because these are three characteristics I’m aspiring to in my life right now. They are a work in progress, to put it mildly. (Lately, it’s more like “Cranky, Overwhelmed & Sweatpants-clad”, but that didn’t have the same ring to it.)

    Joyful, Brave & Awesome is a place where I’ll focus on my attempts to stay positive (but real) as I navigate this new season of my life.

    I’ll be talking about everything from cleaning up feeding tube explosions, to understanding the secret language of medical acronyms parents are just expected to know, to what I’m reading right now.

    There also will be frequent 90’s boy band references and The Office quotes, so just accept that and move on.

    You’ll notice I did not say this blog will share my child’s story. There is a reason for that: It’s not mine to tell. I have complete faith that my son – known simply as JB on this blog – will one day be able to communicate on his own behalf. In the meantime, I’m respecting his privacy. I’ll give some background to his diagnosis in a future post.

    Other things this blog is NOT going to be the place for:

    • Shaming or judging other parents for their decisions.
    • Suggesting alternative therapies or treatments.
    • Selling products and services, unless explicitly endorsed by me. (I may from time to time include affiliate links or ads, but these will be clearly labeled.)
    • Pushing religious or political views onto others (though politics will be discussed in relation to special needs issues.)
    • Derogatory language of any kind.

    So are you still interested in joining Team Joyful, Brave & Awesome? Then read on; I’m glad you are here.

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