Many of us have been stuck at home for four months or more. Those of us who are chronically ill are going to be stuck at home for even longer. This isn’t the most motivating situation for remaining fit, but taking care of our health is really important. There are things you can do to stay active, even if you’re stuck at home. Here are some ideas.
Travelling is out of the question for me for a long while yet, but a girl can dream. I’ve been missing cycle touring. I’m not sure how much more of that I can do, but I’d still like to try. We learned quite a number of lessons when we went on our family cycle tour in 2016. One of them is that the setup we had for our bikes wasn’t the best for our situation. If we take the road on by bike again, I’d like to try something different. Do you also dream of family cycle touring? If so, check out the ideas below for some awesome touring bike setups that are designed with families in mind.
Since the pandemic began, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut. Now more than ever, it’s evident that managing your money well is extremely important. If you’ve never truly sat down and focused on where your money goes, it’s time to learn how to create a budget.
How to create a budget that works: Separate needs from wants
Remember: Needs are things you must have. There are only 3 types of needs: food, water, and shelter. All the rest is extra. So take care of these things first. Ensure there’s enough money in the budget to cover your rent/mortgage, utilities such as water and electricity, and buying food.
After this comes everything else. Make sure you budget for those things, too.
Preparing for budget creation: Write down how much you earn and when you earn it
If you have regularly recurring income, write down when the money comes in and how much you get. If you’re a freelancer like me and your income is irregular, look at your records for the previous year and figure out an average of what you earn each month.
How to create a budget: Write down the things you spend money on
Write down all the things you regularly spend money on; don’t leave anything out. These will be your spending categories.
Some people recommend not having too many categories in your budget. They say it’s best if you have your fixed expenses listed and put everything else under “spending money.” I disagree with this advice, at least for myself. When I put everything under “spending money,” I forget what I was setting money aside for in the first place, and end up spending that money on something else.
The budget that works for me is having each item that I’m saving up for listed as a separate category. As we get paid, we put money aside under each category. I have a header category for recurring savings. These are things that I only spend money on about once a year, such as Christmas and birthdays. And I have a separate header category for one-time savings. For example, if we need to replace an appliance, it would go in the one time savings, since this only happens once every many, many years.
How to create a budget: Assign Jobs to Dollars
To make your money work for you, you must assign a job to every dollar. In other words, you must make a plan for your spending before you actually spend the money. To do this, look at the amount of money you earn each month and start distributing the funds you earn into each category. The money you place into the categories, when added together, must not exceed the amount you earn monthly. If it does, you have to make one of two changes: lower your expenses, or find a way to earn more money.
Working with your budget: Write down how much and when you spend
This is the harder but absolutely necessary part. You must write down what you spend. There are two types of expenses: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are those you get a bill for regularly, such as your rent/mortgage, utilities, life insurance, etc. Variable expenses are those that you do not get a bill for regularly but that you spend money on, such as groceries, gifts, spending money, etc.
How to create a budget that doesn’t take up all your time
Budgeting is kind of a drag, and no one wants to spend three hours doing it every day or even every week. That’s why I use software to make my life easier. A long time ago, a friend told Dan and I about YNAB, short for “You Need a Budget.” It’s a great app that allows you to enter expenses as you go. You spend time setting it up, but once that’s done, you can do budgeting on the fly. Set aside just 20 minutes or so on the day you get paid to distribute funds, and you’re good to go. Then, enter your expenses as they happen by using the app on your phone. If you’d like to give it the app a try, they give you a full month for free to see how you like it. I recommend using the free get started guide they provide to familiarize yourself with the software, and then giving it a shot. It’ll change your life. And no, this is not an affiliate link. I just really, really like this software and wanted to share. YNAB does have an affiliate program, but I have not signed up for it.
Children’s Non-Fiction Books We Borrowed during COVID-19
We borrowed so many library materials during the pandemic that I felt the need to break our materials review into several post. If you missed the first post all about the children’s picture books we borrowed, you’ll find that here. This post is all about the children’s nonfiction books we borrowed. Here’s what we read and what I thought
June 22nd, 2020 marked the day on which I have been with my husband for half my life. We started dating when I was 19, and I’m now 38. We have been married for nearly 14 years (we’ll be celebrating our 14th anniversary on July 29th). We are very happily married, and we make our marriage work. But being happily married doesn’t mean we’re always happy. Actually, I believe we’re happily married because we’re willing to be unhappy at times.
We’re happily married, but we do have unhappy times
We’ve frequently received compliments about our relationship. At least one couple who has gotten separated has wondered aloud how we make it work. The truth is, we are committed to making it work, and we do some difficult things to make it happen. Dan and I have tough conversations, and we have them frequently. We have conversations that some couples may not feel comfortable having outside of therapy (or even in it). And back when the world wasn’t under quarantine, we were actually comfortable going to therapy too. But going to therapy was easy for us because we were already very open in our communication before getting there. We didn’t wait for some huge blowout to get help.
Marriage means give and take.
Dan and I have had this conversation. When you get married, you give up some freedoms, no question about it. Marriage is give and take; both spouses give up some things to make a marriage work. Sometimes, this will make one of the parties unhappy. The key is asking ourselves: is only one of the parties always unhappy? Is only one of the people in the marriage having to give up things to make the relationship work? That’s when those tough conversations come in… when you decide to have a frank, calm, and quiet conversation with the person who’s “your person.” Neither of us bottles up emotions and then blow out; we have those uncomfortable conversations before they become even more uncomfortable.
Marriage means not listening to the naysayers.
The way we do marriage doesn’t sit well with some of the more conservative people in our lives. It doesn’t sit well with the ultra liberals in our lives either. I’m often judged for leaving my kids and taking a weekend off each year (even though my husband does the same thing and not a peep is said about that). And I’m also judged for taking my husband’s opinions and feelings about what I do into consideration. It seems like you can’t win. So we just do what works for us, and we ignore the naysayers. We have our own beliefs about marriage, beliefs that some folks may not agree with. And that’s OK. We do what works for us. If others disagree, it doesn’t matter.
Marriage means commitment
Perhaps it’s because we’re practicing Catholics, but from the moment we were married, we knew divorce would never be on the table. When we married each other, we made a commitment to stay together forever. Both of us believe that. Many a divorced person has told me that they never planned on divorcing, either. I get that. But as far as we both know, divorce is not something either of us is interested in. We love each other, so we have those tough conversations before they become even bigger problems. We’re committed to making things work. I know that this isn’t possible for every couple, and that’s OK. But this is what works for us. And this is how we stay happily married: by knowing that in every happy marriage, there will be unhappy times. As long as we’re willing to support each other through those times and figure out solutions together, we’ll stay happily married.
We don’t know everything
We’ve only been married 14 years. There are couples in our lives who have been married for much longer and have happy marriages, too. We are still learning as we go. We don’t know everything, and we know that. We don’t pretend to have some great advice to give every couple out there for a happy marriage, neither do we pretend to be love gurus. I’m just sharing what has worked for us. As long as we’re willing to keep learning together, to keep having tough conversations, and to remember that our spouse is our priority, we’ll continue being happily married for another 14 years and beyond.
Before I deactivated my Facebook account and decided to give social media a rest for a while, I kept seeing posts about all the things you could do during quarantine. And I was really puzzled: do these people have kids?
My life became busier, not more open, since quarantine. Our kids can no longer do their activities in the evenings, and they’re still young enough that they need me a lot of the time. So no, I did not have time to clean my whole house from top to bottom, or sign up for a new course, or do all the wonderful things (hopefully) well-intentioned souls on social media tell you to do. As a matter of fact, I’m catching up on my blogs because my husband and I agreed that when he took a vacation week, I’d work during the day. When he’s working, I barely have time to catch my breath. But I have been learning to set more time aside for myself, guilt-free. And it feels good.
I’m still a multi-passionate person. I’m still and will always be perpetually curious and genuinely interested in just about anything. I still remember a time when I asked someone about the research about their PhD, and they wouldn’t tell me, citing that no one is interested in what they study. That was a frustrating conversation. And being a multi-passionate person during the pandemic, especially a person that has to be stuck at home while other people resume their lives, is also frustrating. It’s frustrating because there’s never been a better time to learn something new. All kinds of places are making their content free, there’s a plethora of new places to learn online, and society is finally encouraging people who have long ago graduated to study again. But… I just don’t have the time to take all the courses I’m interested in. Pandemic or not, that’s always the case. I have so many interests I can never quite satisfy all of them. So I must pick and choose.
Here’s how I’ve been able to feed some of my interests during the pandemic, despite being more encumbered than ever:
I talked about Habitica in a previous post. Habitica is making me do stuff. It’s a little voice in the back of my head that says, it’s OK to take 15 minutes to study French. Your kids can entertain themselves for that long. It’s that little voice int he back of my head saying, it’s OK to take 25 minutes to read a book. Your kids can do the same. And the best part? I got the kids to buy in to Habitica, so they want to get their extra things done as well. Which means a little extra time for me to do the things I’d like to do. And I’m doing them with a lot less guilt these days.
If you’re multitalented, actually have time, and are bored, stay tuned.
I have previously compiled lists to learn just about anything online, and I’ll be sharing them in a post soon. For now, check out the list I’ve already shared for free homeschooling resources, and don’t forget to visit your local library’s website. Despite most libraries still being closed to the public, the majority offer a plethora of online services for anyone with a library card.
So the world all of a sudden grew perfectly OK with homeschooling. After being harshly judged, interrogation-styled questioned, and being scoffed at for my choice to homeschool, parents everywhere saw themselves without any other option than to teach (or not teach) their kids at home. I saw posts everywhere about how homeschooling is going, and I had two reactions. The first was “well, hopefully after this is all over, people will be more open to and less judgmental about homeschooling.” My other reaction was… “people still have no idea what homeschooling is.”
Homeschooling During the Pandemic: We’ve become the stereotype
One of the questions I got ad nauseam any time some new person learned I homeschool my kids was: “what about socialization?” Apparently these folks think I keep my children locked at home all day long. My kids socialize during swimming lessons, acting lessons, sports sessions, art classes, nature walks, homeschooling socials, when they just go into a store with me, and the list goes on. They did, that is… until the pandemic began. We have now become the stereotype that’s often believed about homeschoolers. We don’t go anywhere and we don’t see anyone.
It’s been tough for both the kids and the parents in our home not to be able to take part in activities, but we know it’s what’s best for everyone. And we’re trying to make up for this by having lots of video calls with friends and family, and by doing extra special things with our kiddos. For example, each night of the week someone chooses an activity to do together after dinner. The kids all look forward to their night and we all enjoy the time spent together. We also don’t do as much “school” as we were doing before the pandemic.
Homeschooling During the Pandemic: Being adaptable is the name of the game
We’re fairly eclectic homeschoolers. We do what works. We have three children with wildly different personalities and levels of ability. One of our children has ADHD, is on the spectrum, and has Developmental Coordination Disorder, while another child devours books, and the other is more interested in playing and climbing anything that can be climbed. Being adaptable was already a necessity in our household, but when the pandemic hit, it became even more so.
We stopped “doing school” long before the school year was over. We let the kids have some real vacation with no expectations other than doing their chores, saying family prayers, and doing some exercise together. When a child’s world gets turned upside down, you have to be OK with change in your own world, too. No, I’m not worried about my kids “falling behind“—whatever that means.
Where We’re Going From Here
Because I’m high-risk and we’ve chosen to be overly cautious, we’re not doing much this summer. We’re not travelling and we won’t be going to places where people conglomerate. So we’ve decided to start the next school year earlier, and then take a 4-month vacation when the 2020-2021 year is over. If we play our cards right, we’ll be done our school year by the first of May 2021. That means we’ll have all of May, all of June, all of July, and all of August to enjoy the warmer weather and free time. With any luck, the pandemic will be over by then, and we’ll be able to do some travelling.
My hopes for the future of Homeschooling after the pandemic
After the schools closed during the pandemic, many parents took up what they believed to be homeschooling. This was done without much warning, and most people were unprepared. As a result, many parents still have a skewed perception of what homeschooling actually is. Also, most parents were teaching their children at home but were completely isolated from any homeschooling community due to the pandemic. I really hope this doesn’t mean that people will continue to believe that homeschooled children don’t get any “socialization.” This is simply untrue. I also hope that parents who were forced into “school at home” will be a little more open to homeschooling and the different varieties it comes in. From classical to eclectic to unschooling, no homeschooling family does things exactly the same way.
Homeschooling during the pandemic became the norm, not the exception. It’s my hope that now that more people have had a chance to try different ways to educate their children, more respect will be given for the different choices parents make. It’s my hope that when I say “I homeschool my children,” it won’t be an indication that strangers can interrogate my kids on their math skills, or that people feel the need to check my qualifications. I hope that some good things will come out oft his pandemic. Because there have been enough bad things.
At one point, I refused to write about my chronic illnesses. I decided it was about time I was more open about them. I came to this decision for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s no longer easy to hide my symptoms. Secondly, I’m no longer ashamed of who I really am, and I’m at peace with cutting out of my life those who are bothered by that. And finally, I have personal, safety, and health reasons for staying at home and saying no to visitors at this time. Being chronically ill during a pandemic means making some hard choices and knowing that some people won’t be happy with you. I’m finally at the point where I know I can’t keep everybody happy, and I don’t want to, either. My health and my family’s health comes first.
Being Chronically Ill During a Pandemic: Nothing Changes, and Everything Changes
I’ve explained my illnesses in an earlier post. For this post, suffice it to say that I have asthma, an auto-immune condition, respiratory problems, and a connective tissue disorder that’s robbing me of my mobility, little by little. These are just the major issues. There are other, lesser chronic problems as well. While my asthma is mild, it has become worse over the last couple of years. I also have more triggers for my asthma. All this is to say: I’m high-risk. If I catch this virus, it won’t be pretty. And as I keep saying, I have enough health issues. I do not need something else to add to the list. That’s why this extreme extrovert, anything-but-homebody is perfectly willing to stay home and talk to people via phone, video call, or whatever way I can talk to them without touching them or being near them. And I thrive on hugs, so that’s saying something. I’m fortunate to have my husband and little ones to still give me lots of snuggles. And they also are the reason I’m being overly cautious.
Here’s how nothing changes during a pandemic for those who are chronically ill: we are still chronically ill. Our conditions are chronic, so they don’t go away. We are used to being left out of the conversation (especially as young people with chronic illnesses—and by young I mean “not elderly”), so we’re not surprised when nothing is said about us. We’re not surprised when people are protesting that they don’t want to use masks, because we’re used to not being a consideration. Healthy people’s “freedom” and desire to live always trumps ours. So really, nothing changes. But everything changes.
Being chronically ill during a pandemic means that most of us who rely on therapies to cope with chronic pain no longer have access to those therapies. While my physiotherapy office and massage therapy office have finally reopened, I am still not going to them. And as uncomfortable as what I’m about to say might makes some people feel, it needs to be said. I’m right, and while you’re “sick of the quarantine,” I’m sick in the quarantine. I’m sick always. I don’t get to say “screw the recommendations, I want to go out now.” I can’t afford the risk. And here’s just one example of how I’m right about staying home and saying no to visitors.
Surge in Local Cases Solidifies My Choice to Stay Home
For those who have been living under a rock, here’s how a pandemic works: someone gets infected. They infect other people. Those other people infect other people. And those people infect more people. And it keeps going, exponentially.
Kingston, ON, where I live, had been doing well: in two weeks, we didn’t have any new recorded cases. Then businesses reopened and some people threw caution to the wind, assuming that if businesses were open it was OK to resume life as usual. Except it wasn’t. Two businesses that reopened had workers who got infected. They infected customers. Who then infected people they lived with.
Remember when I said that I wasn’t going back to physiotherapy even though my clinic had reopened? The business where the outbreak happened is a business my physiotherapist frequents. I don’t know if she did go back to that business during the pandemic or not, but it doesn’t matter. Our little city is the perfect example of what happens when you let your guard down during a pandemic. We had no cases for almost two weeks. Then nonessential businesses reopened, didn’t follow proper protocol, and people got sick and infected a bunch of other people.
I know I sound like I’m paranoid. But it’s what I keep saying. If there ever was a time to be paranoid, this is it. And paranoid isn’t even the right word. Overly cautious. We all need to be overly cautious. We all need to understand that just because government says businesses can reopen, does not mean the pandemic is over. Just because we’re doing things to try to get the economy running again, does not mean the pandemic is over. And just because I’m staying home doesn’t mean I can’t support local businesses. As far as I’m able, I’m still doing business with local folks—I’m just getting things delivered, or only going to places where curbside pickup is an option. I wear a mask when I go out (to protect others), I keep my distance always, and I try to limit my outings to once a week for essentials and less than that for non-essentials.
I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life. I’m just saying that as someone who is chronically ill and who can’t afford more disease to add to the long list of illnesses I already have, I’m going to be staying home, and I’m not going to be allowing people into my home. As awful as this may sound, this is what I have to do.
I spent years of my life hiding my illnesses to keep people around me comfortable. I’m done with that. I’m a chronically ill person. My illnesses will never get better, will never go away, and some of them will get worse as I get older. This is who I am, and I have finally accepted it. It also means I’m learning to say no, especially when it comes to protecting myself and my family. People may think I’m being paranoid. I’m OK with that.