The 55 Stages of COVID Grief.

1. When you first hear of other countries’ lockdowns.

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2. Reading the new rules that apply to you. Every day.

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3. What you think of the rules when you first hear them.

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4. Arguing with the new rules.

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5. Realizing the rules are happening with or without you.

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6. When you find out you’re non-essential.

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7. When you realize you’re actually essential.

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8. Resolution that this is us.

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9. Determination.

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10. Doing what needs to be done.

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11. Denial.

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12. Every day, every news story.

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13. Surely there’s something we can do to fix it.

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14. Worst case scenarioing to make yourself feel better.

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15. Remembering relaxation is actually what you always wanted.

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16. Attempting to enjoy the relaxation.

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17. Reading too many articles.

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18. Trying to sort out what’s true.

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19. Thinking you had it all sorted out.

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20. Realizing you definitely didn’t.

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21. Having a news hangover.

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22. Realizing that every day has 24 hours that you will spend in your house.

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23. Accepting it.

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24. Realizing you will see no one but your spouse for the next 13 months.

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25. Renewing your physical touch consent agreement with your spouse.

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26. Accidentally seeing news.

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27. Perfecting laziness.

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28. Regretting laziness.

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29. Finding yourself talking to the inanimate objects in your house, and giving them new personalities.

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30. Realizing you have to go to the grocery store.

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31. Wondering if you can ask your doctor for a three-month coma.

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32. On your 153rd text to your best friend before 10am on Monday.

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33. Remembering what it was like to go to a restaurant.

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34. Telling yourself it will get better.

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35. Losing all sense of time, space, purpose.

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36. Crafting the grief away.

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37. Trying to figure out what you miss the most.

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38. Describing your complex feelings to your family.

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39. Bargaining.

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40. Depression.

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41. Acceptance.

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42. Rebellion.
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43. Being informative on Facebook.

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44. Not actually replying to informative friends.

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45. Being Judgy McJudgerson on Facebook.

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46. Not actually replying to judgmental friends.

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47. Being whiny on Facebook.

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48. Not actually replying to whiny friends.

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49. When you forget for just a minute…then remember.

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50. When your former life no longer exists.

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51. When your spouse arrives home from work.

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52. Forgetting completely how to people.

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53. Your daily undoing.

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54. When this is all over, how we wish we could greet every stranger we see on the street.

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55. How we will actually greet people for the rest of our quirkaparanoid lives.

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Diary of a Tired Mom – The Please No More Words Edition

It’s been a weird month for me.

My subconscious wants to write very badly – I have dreamed about writing blog posts multiple times in the past month.

And those dreams have not been limited to when I was asleep.

When I got my first dose ever of “the gas” at the dentist, I was so trippy that my entire being was spinning out in staticky, multicolored, 8D spirals, and as the galaxies orbited what was left of me, I began realizing deep truths such as “I don’t even exist anymore. But I faintly hear the dentist still drilling on my teeth. I wonder if she realizes I don’t exist anymore. Someone should tell her she’s wasting her time except it can’t be me because I don’t exist anymore. But wow this would make a great blog post. Wait until I describe these new colors and sensations to the world. It will CHANGE IT.”

(Right after that, I came back to existence enough to rip off the gas and vomit three times.)

(I’m pretty sure my dentist will not allow me to have such services again.)

So yeah, a weird month. But despite my desire to write, I have had a rough month health-wise, so I haven’t been able to write. I’m getting better, so I’ll try to document some of my jotted-down notes from the month.

(Except not the rest of my thoughts from the dentist’s chair. Because those would change the universe too drastically and I’m not ready to pull the rug out from under y’all like that.)


Tiers of Childhood Monologue.

In case you haven’t noticed, kids talk a lot.

They ask a lot of questions, tells the same things over and over, and LOVE to, once they can read, tell you everything they are reading.

The prime ages for this phenomenon, I believe, is between 6 and 10. Which helps me understand a little more why toddlers are middle schoolers are my jam.

(But, Noah is the snuggliest nine-year-old boy that ever lived, which entirely makes up for his endless words. Most of the time.)

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(Also he’s prepared for anything. Which comes in handy more often than you’d think. Though I did tell him I was afraid this particular preparation belt would keep me from having grandkids if he fell at the wrong angle.)

Car rides are especially difficult for words with me, because the multi-tasking of operating a large machine AND listening to my kid (because I learned long ago that I am entirely incapable of tuning out any words ever) is tricky. So I have tried to hone the quality of words that come out in the car.

And so, there needs to be a helpful chart – a continuum if you will – of the things read or narrated to a parent while said parent is driving.

Level Negative Ten: iPad narration. I DO NOT CARE what your Monsters are singing about. THAT IS GREAT that you just killed all your Minecraft villagers and goats, but is it really? Did those angular goats really deserve that slaughter? But whatever you want to do to the goats, do it – just don’t tell me about it while I’m driving. (We even have a family code word (more on that later) for QUIT NARRATING YOUR IPAD GAME TO ME.)

Level Negative Eight: Unnecessary and/or repetitive questions about the future. This seems like a placeholder in conversation that my children love to use to fill space. Thankfully Ali learned my terror of answering questions about the future a couple years ago and ceased doing it most of the time, but it’s still a favorite hobby of Noah’s.

Level Negative Six: Jokes from a joke book. Or worse, jokes they know and have already told you ten times. Jokes are excruciating 99 out of 100 times. But then there’s always that one joke that catches you off guard and actually makes you laugh, which makes it not so bad.

Level Negative Two: Trivia books and Guinness Book of World Record books. These facts, read aloud, can be sometimes interesting. But then they seem to read the same pages over and over and they begin to feel like jokes.

Level Positive Two: Hearing about the books they’re reading, or their school books. I like knowing that they’re interested and involved in what they’re reading. Although Noah sometimes gets too involved in his history book, throwing his book on the floor and screaming at our forefathers for their prejudices, poor decision making, and foolish life-ending dueling. But that can be entertaining as well, giving this oration an overall positive rating.

Level Positive Four: Family Feud Cards. This is the one random Car Conversation Savior that I’ve found I enjoy. Someone got these for Christmas, and Noah loves quizzing Chris and I on Family Feud categories. They’re actually entertaining with the same magic that Family Feud is entertaining as a show – magic I don’t necessarily understand but appreciate nonetheless. But what makes them most fun is the children’s uncertainty about whether they’re inappropriate or not when they don’t understand them.

I present this example:

Noah: “Name things that start with the word ‘skinny'”

I snorted. My first thought was “Skinny B**ch”

I wondered if it was on the card, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask.

Chris and I got a few right, then trailed off.

Noah: “Do you give up?”

Us: “Sure.”

Noah:”There’s only one left but I think it’s inappropriate.”

Me: “Oh here it comes.”

Noah: “It’s ‘Skinny Late’ with Two T’s.”

Chris and I thought for a second, then exploded with laughter.

And immediately dared each other to go into Starbucks and order a Skinny Late with Two T’s.


I’m learning how to live with an apparent extrovert.

I held out hope for a long time that Noah was just an outgoing introvert, but the evidence continues to suggest a strong strain of extroversion. The amount of sounds that need to come out of his mouth at all times is staggering. It’s mostly questions but also comments, sounds, random thoughts, and just a stream of consciousness.

As such, over the past few years, we’ve created a collection of Callahan Family Code Words. I only have to say one word, and he knows exactly what I mean, rather than me having to use up all my words telling him to use less words.

Here is the legend to the Callahan Family Code Words. We haven’t copyrighted them, and so we offer them free to help you, too, have a less verbally overwhelming life.

Rubiks – “You’re making random, repetitive, completely unnecessary noises and I let it go for a while but I now need you to cease.”

Honda – “That question is either a.) a question about the future, b.) a completely unnecessary question, or c.) you’re just out of questions for the day because you’ve asked more than my brain can possibly handle. So I’m not answering it.”

Blubbermuffin – “NO ONE wants to hear your narration of your iPad game. If you don’t want your iPad to disappear forever, you’re gonna have to keep your mouth shut while playing.”

Banana – “Quit using your mouth and start using your eyes. We’re on a hike forgoodnesssake can we enjoy the sounds of nature PLEASE.”

The nicest part of these words is that I have to be less rude as a mother. There’s much less emotional content to just say “Honda” rather than “FOR THE LOVE DO NOT ASK ME ANOTHER BLOOMIN’ QUESTION, CHILD.” He knows what I mean and he accepts it without emotion. AND, the magic of the code word keeps him from arguing with me – it just ends the conversation.

But despite my code words’ helpfulness, I do assume this blog post has fully informed you of where my headspace has been going and why I haven’t had any words left for writing.

Spit and Polish.

My Mom has chickens. And as such, I know way too much about chickens. I know that the rooster shows his love by plucking a ring of feathers off of his favorite hen’s backs while he’s also…on their back. I know that you can buy aprons for favorite hens to protect their poor feathers from being brutally pulled while they are en flagrante. And I know that washing poop off of eggs is the wrong way to go about cleaning eggs – you do not wash poop off of eggs, because that also washes off the bloom which keeps bacteria from entering the porous egg shell – the bloom for which that poor, featherless hen put her life and soul into creating. The way you get rid of chicken poop is by sanding it. You go after those eggs with the same sander that you might use on your kid’s matchbox derby car.

Now let me clarify – if you are the owner of such chickens and well used to chicken poop and the avoiding therefore, you don’t bother sanding it at all – you just artfully crack the eggs, making a seam where there is no poop, and don’t let the inside of the eggs touch the outside. But if you’re giving your eggs to others, who may not be so intimately acquainted of the excrement of egg-laying fowl, you get your sander out and you sand that deuce right off.

(My mom would like me to clarify here that she only sands / gives away the cleanest eggs that have a tiny spot or two. All regularly pooped-upon eggs are used in her own kitchen.)

(And let me add that she makes a seriously fantastic breakfast. Never once has it tasted like crap.)

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a lot of time at my parent’s house in 2018, hanging out with my Grandmother. My Dad was undergoing a cancer study that required he and mom to stay downtown near UAB for days at a time, and then later in the summer, my parents were in a battle against his failing liver, doing everything and going everywhere they could (including driving to Pennsylvania to see a renowned specialist before they even had an appointment) to try and preserve his life.

Mammaw and I talked about so many things I’ve always wondered – we talked about how she met my Grandfather (who passed away when my mom was 10 years old), we talked about why she never even dated, much less married again in the more than 50 years since then, we discussed her real-life memories of what I was watching on The Crown (my Grandmother and Queen Elizabeth are the same age, so it’s fascinating to hear memories of Queen Elizabeth’s younger days from Mammaw’s point of view), and we talked about the doll that she always wanted for Christmas but never got. (I looked it up on eBay for her – a 1920’s Shirley Temple doll – but I did not, sadly, buy her one for Christmas, as it was $500.)

But Mammaw also napped a lot, and so I found myself wandering around my parent’s house, reading or editing photos or helping the kids with school or staring at the patina of my parent’s lives. And one day, during the especially dark days after my Dad had gotten terrible news and things were looking very bleak and desperate for all of us, I noticed a picturesque sight – a sight that spoke to me at a primal, ridiculous, find-humor-in-the-darkest-days kind of way.

It was this.


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Immediately I pictured it as the front of a poetry book. If I wrote poetry, it would sum up my worldview perfectly: Cynical. Sarcastic. Yet desperately optimistic.

This is my poetry book that will never exist.

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As an added bonus, a friend pointed out that it sings perfectly to the tune of “Standing on the Promises of God.”

Go ahead.

Take a second.

Sing it.

Sing it aloud – it really lifts the spirits.

Don’t forget to go high for the refrain at the end.

So the second half of 2018 was marked by pain I’d never experienced before. My Dad passed away in September. It’s something I still struggle with daily, and I’ve come to recognize my coping mechanisms well: when I feel sad and don’t realize it yet, I love to obsessively online shop for deals. I immerse myself into a book. I crave sugar. I want to watch a mind-numbing television show (preferably British Dramas – we’ve made it through The Crown, Victoria, and are now working through Poldark.) I sometimes do all of these things at once. I’ve tried replacing my shopping with selling now, and have found that it is just as therapeutic to sell things on eBay and Poshmark as it is to buy them, and way more healthy for the budget. I’ve explained to Chris that I’m not exactly selling things to make money – I’m selling things to feel better. How bad can that be?

But I’d like to take a moment, and sand off the free-range chicken shit of the year, and talk about the good things that happened.

…The kids and I started a Hiking Club. It grew to 50 families by the end of the year, and we hosted 174 hikes and covered 657 miles. My kid’s love of the outdoors, along with their endurance, increased dramatically. And, in those hundreds of hours in the woods, we all grew stronger friendships and made new friends.

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…The kids and Chris set state running records for their ages (pro tip: find a running length that doesn’t have a record yet for your age.) In October, we took part in the Endless Mile race with our friends Christen, Luke, and Levi. The race was beyond fun – I highly recommend joining us next year. Chris ran the 48 hour race, and ran a total of 101 miles, snagging the 100 mile record for his age. Ali and Noah, along with Luke, Levi, and Christen, ran the 6 hour race. Ali ran 18 miles – but only 17 counted in her 6 Hour state record because she finished the 18th mile 10 seconds too late. Noah and Levi tied for 6 Hour the state record and ran 14 miles. Luke also got a 6 Hour state record for his age at 17 miles. Christen ran 23 miles. I had signed up for the 6 hour race, but ended up bumping up to the 24 hour race to help Chris finish – I ran for 15 of those hours, and did a total of 42 miles (no records for me, alas – except for a personal distance record which I don’t plan on besting anytime soon.)

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…I found a near-miraculous solution to my back pain and improved my running abilities.

Picture Birmingham grew incredibly, being able to donate three times what I’ve donated every other year. God brought about many fantastic opportunities to design art for corporate spaces and to be able to do much bigger projects with my photography. By the end of the year, over $33,000 total had been donated to The WellHouse, and $14,000 of that happened in 2018.

…I got to spend all of the aforementioned wonderful time with my Grandmother, and was able to get to know her better. And through that opportunity, she blessed me greatly by allowing me a reason to regularly be with my Dad in his final months.

So was 2018 a bad year? Yes. It was a bad year. It was a terrible year. It was a year I never would want to experience again, and still brutally marks my every day. But was it a good year? Yes. It was a great year. It was a year I’ll never forget and a year I’m thankful for.

Because I’m cynical. Sarcastic. Yet desperately optimistic.