5 Ways Zoom-ationships are Rocking It!

Digital interactions are nothing new. For the past couple of decades or so, we have had access to AOL Chat Rooms (RayneDreem@aol.com used to be my ScreenName), MySpace, Facebook, FaceTime, etc. Until now, these platforms have been a novelty. A luxury, even. But never have we been in a scenario that leaves these avenues as our ONLY option for maintaining relationships- personal and professional. With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Digital Connection became vital overnight. Although it can in NO WAY replace the satisfaction and need for face to face bonding, I have managed to find the Silver Lining on this unusual Cloud.

I am what our church would call a Youth Coach. I serve as a leader in our youth group with several other awesome adults, who have quickly become like family to me. I, along with a few other ladies, focus particularly on serving Middle School aged girls. These past couple of weeks, not seeing any of them has been a bit of a downer. I miss their energy and colorful perspective on life. I also worry about them. I generally feel like a vital part of me has been surgically (albeit temporarily) removed.

But then slowly, we started hearing more and more about people substituting their gatherings on Zoom! To my delight, our Youth Pastor jumped on board and we will be having our second group meeting tonight.

Beside that meeting, we have had several practice meetings with just the youth coaches (roughly 10 or more of us). During these times I have come to love Zoom. It’s still a budding relationship. We are exploring and adapting to this new dynamic. But one thing I have come to truly enjoy is THE POWER I have over these interactions.

1. “The Power! The Absolute Power!”-Jafar, Aladdin

I was incredibly nervous to do Zoom. If I must interact digitally, I prefer text. Being an Introvert however, I quickly noticed the advantages.

A.) I have the option of NOT letting people see me. That’s right! I can turn the video option OFF and still participate. I can see and hear everyone else, and they can only hear me. I have not yet used this escape hatch, because so far, I’ve been able to make myself presentable-ish.

B.) I control what you see! This time I’m talking about my surroundings/background. Sadly, my laptop is not new enough to accommodate the option of adding a green screen background- which could be anything, btw! Perhaps some of you have seen this teacher who now instructs from Hogwarts? I’m so jelly.

But I CAN create a set, so to speak. Instead of cleaning my entire house, I need only clean a space that will be seen in the rectangle of my camera. Now, I know I’m showing my hand here. But at the risk of you disowning me due to my messy room, I took a couple of pics to illustrate this for you. Because I love you. I do this for love. Remember that.

My bedroom is the last place to get cleaned, because only myself and hubby really see it. I store dirty laundry, don’t put things away, participate in Savage Stations (see previous post here), etc. You might even spot a tortilla on my dresser. (Don’t worry, it’s fresh. We just used it for communion while watching our church service online.) However, my bedroom has a lock on the door, and it’s the only place I can go where my 4 children won’t accidentally cameo the meeting half-dressed, with their latest disaster. So here it is. What my respected colleagues don’t see.

I know. I know. Some things you just can’t un-see. But more to my point. This is what they DO see.

Check out that gorgeous headboard! You even get a little bit of that trendy curtain on the side. If for some reason I need to walk away momentarily, you would notice a tidy nightstand with a candle lit behind me. I mean, I’ve totally blown my cover now. But it’s not too late for you…

C.) I can mute myself! During my meetings, my husband is left to manage the hoard of children living in my house. Although my door is shut and locked, it is not sound proof. Occasionally there might be a blood curdling scream, a cat screeching, loud bangs, my hubby’s booming ‘Big Daddy’ voice, attempting to control chaos through intimidation.

Things the kids from my youth group just don’t need to hear. So I subtly hit the mute button and smile through the armageddon that is clearly going down right outside my door.

2. Snooping is Acceptable

I am an observer, by nature. I have this insatiable desire to figure people out. Every interaction, content shared, tone of voice, body language, clothing choice, just anything and everything that widens the scope of who a person is, is like a drug to me.

Okay, so maybe not that level of creepy. But I had to throw in some Twilight. Yes, I am a fan. Another crime you can add to my rap sheet. I’m on fire today! #teamedward

Don’t pretend that you don’t get what I’m talking about here. We all have our own levels of curiosity. It’s human nature! And here, my friends, is a prime opportunity to SNOOP!

Cast aside the shame, these folks are granting permission to let you in. At least into their rectangle of visual representation. You get to see into their HOMES. Consider it a field trip while on lockdown.

Not only that, you get to see them. This may not seem any different from your normal face to face opportunity for observation. But here, no one knows if you’re looking directly at them, or at any of the other half a dozen or more people Brady-Bunching with you.

It takes the pressure off. I’ve noticed after 5 minutes in or so, people start relaxing and letting down their guard. Especially if someone else is talking. In a traditional space of meeting, everyone will focus on the speaker. But in Zoom, your boxes are all the same size and any movement in another box might draw your attention. Expressions and body language go unguarded. This may not be the case for everyone, but I love having access to a more raw version of someone.

3. Pants Don’t Matter!

I don’t recommend NOT wearing pants, because you never know when you might need to leap up. But you know what, that’s totally up to you. Today for my meeting, I would have normally worn jeans with my shirt. Then I thought, “But why?”

I knew I would be sitting for this meeting. Jeans aren’t the most comfortable of bottoms. So instead I threw on some mismatched loungy pants that I would never wear outside of my house. Because I could. Because Zoom is freedom. And no one is the wiser. Unless you’re me. Because now, potentially all of my zoommates will know. Will that stop me? Don’t count on it.

4. Your Pet Will Finally Get Their Day in the Sun!

Generally speaking, most of us are required to leave our animals at home. But Alas, NO MORE! Come one, come all! And we WANT to see your fur-babies! Because seeing animals feels goooood to our brains. Don’t believe me? There have been studies done that have found a link between seeing cute animal videos and our stress levels decreasing, among other benefits. You can read more about it here.

So next time Fido leaps onto your lap for a wet kiss, or Felix struts by in the background as if by accident (we’re onto you, cat…), let them. At least for a moment. Or until your host politely clears their throat to reacquire your attention. Those love bugs deserve a little limelight!

5. Cure to Lonliness

I am an introvert. Not a little bit. Like, a lotta bit. I score very high on that spectrum. That means I need and enjoy quite a bit of alone time to recharge my batteries. You know those things that pop up every now and then asking if you could live alone for a month without human interaction, receiving a kabillion dollars in compensation at the end? No peopling for a month!? Sign me up! No problem. Give me a few books, Netflix and food- I’m good.

I was wrong. I was so very wrong. I miss people.

Although I frequently and voluntarily isolated myself in short bursts as needed, before this all went down, now I feel the vacancy normally occupied by human interaction. This is a new and unpleasant sensation for me. I almost loath to admit it, but I need people. This isn’t news to Extroverts, I’m sure. I can’t imagine the strain of need they must be suffering at this time.

So it’s no surprise, that every time I hop onto a Zoom meeting, I feel a little bit of that normal social anxiety, but it’s almost immediately obliterated by the relief of human connection. I don’t even care what we’re talking about. How to unclog a toilet? Fine! Just be with me. I miss you so much!

There is something to be said for physical proximity. Something major, I now realize. But in it’s absence, I am incredibly grateful to be living in a time of technology. A time where we need not be completely cut off from one another. Zoom has allowed us to maintain our communities, and to do it without pants. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

5 Things You Can Do When Figuring Out Your Kids Virtual Classroom Setup

The time I have dreaded has come. Now, not only am I forced into isolation with four tiny humans who make me long for hearing loss, but I must teach them. Somehow, I am to fill the shoes of a qualified, seasoned educator, and deliver what once was 40 hour/week of classroom instruction, in the chaos of my crowded quarantined home.

But don’t worry! They have apps! No less than 542 of them, none of which seem to want to function properly.

But it’s okay, I only had to delete 10 years worth of family photos to fit them all on my device. I’m sure someone can help me figure these things out though. Right? Someone? Anyone? No? I must now become a computer technician? Super awesome! So glad I went to school for Theatre!

This is NOT a knock on teachers. I respect the daylights out of them. They were blindsided and then forced to alter the entire landscape of their career.

I imagine they are suffering similarly while transferring everything over to virtual teaching, keeping track of a couple dozen students and their confused parents. Perhaps while also teaching their OWN kids. So this is for teachers as well!

Here I was thinking, oh no…the government has forced me to cancel all of my plans and stay home. I guess I’ll have to wear sweat pants, throw my hair up and enjoy the simplicities of life.

What? I’m sorry, can you repeat that? I have to meet virtually with all of my kids teachers once a week? Do I need to be dressed for that? Can they see me? Are you sure? No, no, it’s fine. I just need to go change.

I don’t know about you, but I can feel my mind slowly unraveling. I’m smiling as a hurricane of frustration and confusion batters the walls of my resolve. I’m holding it together, but I’m not sure for how much longer… So here are a few ways to perhaps release a little bit of that building pressure.

1. Carbs

Yes. That’s right. Carbs. All the carbs.

A.) Grab the nearest bag/bowl/even your shirt will do, to collect your cornucopia of junk.

B.) Growl at anyone who may try to shame you out of this medicinal gluttony.

C.) Find a remote area in or near your home. This could be in a closet, behind a curtain, hunkered down under a large box in the garage, or a locked room. Consider the bathroom. Since you’re upping your food intake, the proximity of a toilet couldn’t hurt.

D.) Forget the world and give in to the ecstasy of irresponsible eating. After all, we’re allowed to gain a Quarantine 50! Or was it 15?

2. Lose Control

In a controlled environment, of course! This option will need some pre-meditation. But it will be sooooo worth it.

A.) Pick a safe room in your house. Your bedroom is usually a sound choice.

B.) Set up what I like to call Savage Stations around the room. What is a Savage Station? It’s really whatever you need it to be. But here are a few examples to get you started.

-You know those hideous old t-shirts your hubby has that you would give your right arm to make disappear….? Grab a few. (preferably ones he won’t notice are gone and hold no sentimental value. You’re not a monster!) You may need to give a little cut to the edge to get it going. Now give in to the dark side and tear those shirts to shreds! Bury the evidence in your backyard. Or for a more dramatic conclusion, find a metal trashcan (can be found in any Batman film), place it in the middle of your backyard. Deposit the shirt shards, squirt some kerosine in there, toss a match and then stare at the rising flames as if it were a haunted past.

-Lay down on your bed, on your back. Look up at the ceiling and hone in on the angry bees buzzing in your head. Take a deep breath, then let your body express that chaos. I’m talking legs kicking, arms flailing, tossing around the bed. Maybe even stuff a sock in your mouth and holler a bit. Continue until you’re worn out.

-Have a seat on the edge of your bed. Then smile. Really big. It’s okay if it’s insincere. After a few moments, start laughing. It will be forced at first. But eventually, you’ll be laughing in earnest. Do this as long as it’s sustainable.

-Build a body out of pillows. Dress it if you can. Then put the ugly face of Covid19 on that pillow. Lay it on your bed and straddle that no good lowdown sorry excuse of a virus. Then you give that jerk a piece of your mind, occasionally slamming your fists into it feathery soft case…I mean face.

I think you get the idea. If you don’t question the absurdity of your actions at some point, you’re not doing it right.

C.) Okay, so now that your stations are ready, you only need wait for an opportunity. You feel that stormy chaos of blind rage starting to rise inside? That’s your cue. It is time.

D.) Use what self-control you have left to smile at your family. You may have insanity in your eyes, but perhaps they won’t notice. Or maybe they will. Good. Then they won’t follow you when you leave the room.

E.) Enter whatever room you have previously chosen as your controlled environment. When you’re ready, go full Hulk! You’re welcome.

3. Violent Singing

This one is pretty self explanatory. Instead of yelling things you may regret, get that urge satisfied with some explosive random tunes. This crazy guy with a British accent gives a great example here.

There’s a few ways you can do this. Write a list of songs that would meet the explosive criteria. For example the opening to Disney’s The Lion King’s Circle of Life. “AAAAAYYEEE SU VEN YA WANNA VA VICCI WA WA!”

Those may not be the right lyrics, but who cares!? Accuracy is not the goal here.

Or if you’re more improvisational, belt out the first song that comes to your head! Don’t worry about insignificant things like skill or talent. This isn’t American Idol. As a bonus, your kids might think you’re just trying to have a bit of fun.

4. Avoid Reality

This is one of my favorite pastimes! Old faithful right here. SO many ways you can do this! Seesaw, Google Classroom, bingo bango bongo .com, just let it all slip away. Mental health care professionals might call this disassociation. I call it a brain-cation. Will your problems still be there when you get back? Absolutely. Will the confusion have died down? Not even a little. But do you feel better after indulging in a little YOU time. For a hot minute. But it’s a minute that stands between you and twenty to life. ‘Nuff said.

A.) Binge Watch a Show or Movie Series

If I’m in someone else’s world, I can’t possibly be in mine! So bring on the next cold case, supernatural phenomenon, dilapidated house that has potential, or a crazy tiger guy.

B.) Podcasts!

This way I can at least convince myself I’m being productive. So many self improvement shows to ingest! I need to hear about how an Ennneagram Type 4 personality can deal with stress in a healthy manner! Is it a crime to invest in my own education? Let’s watch NCISLMNOP to find out.

C.) Video Games/Phone Games

Ah, yes. An area I can accomplish something. Every level up is the “Atta boy”, I won’t be receiving for every year of life lost helping my son with his Common Core Math.

D.) Take a Bath

I’ve noticed that my husband never questions me when I tell him, “I need to take a bath.” He also seems to understand that his job is to keep any of my spawn from disturbing my temporary Oasis. So set up that safeguard, grab a sweet drink, maybe a snack (no one’s judging) and climb in. You can soak in silence or float to some tunes. Refresh the hot water as needed. Only thing that should drag you back to reality, is that irrational fear of your skin pruning you to death.

5. Attempt a YouTube Dance Workout

Exercise is good for you. This is also good for anyone in your house who might have the opportunity to witness it.

Because entertainment is hard to come by when you’re social distancing. This may take some research, but I promise it won’t be boring. If you’re really brave, consider attempting this while on FB Live. We could all use a good laugh. Of course keep in mind your level of athleticism. You break a leg, you may not be seen by a doctor until July.

All joking aside, despite our frustrations and fears, we must do our very best to extend grace to teachers, parents, ourselves and our sweet kiddos who are all doing their best to make these sudden changes work. Okay, now that that’s done, I need to go update my ipad, because apparently, the app I need for my primary school kids IS NO LONGER COMPATIBLE WITH MY DEVICE!!!!