Getting out of the House

It’s amazing what getting out of the house can do–even for a brief period.

Yesterday morning, I volunteered on the COVID-19 information hotline at the Loudoun County Health department.

It was my first volunteering stint in a while, and just the fact of being out of the house and doing something other than childcare from 8:30am to 1pm was amazingly restorative.

A Mad Rush

Luckily I woke up to pee at about 3:30am, because that’s when I realized that I had entirely neglected to set my alarm for the morning. Bad habit I’ve slipped into the last few months…

I set the alarm, and went back to sleep, only to have weird dreams about odd deadlines.

I woke in a cold sweat at 6:00am, and my first thought was: I have to make the boys’ lunch before I leave!

Before I knew it, I was dressed, had put on some make-up (it HAD been a while!), dressed a child, and was in the kitchen with three pots on the stove. Between feeding the boys and getting their pasta salad lunch ready (why couldn’t I just give them PB&J? What’s WRONG with me??), I nearly forgot to feed myself.

Thankfully, I remembered to eat AND have a much-needed cup of tea before stuffing a hunk of cheese in my bag and rushing out the door.

On Duty

Once I arrived at the call center (this was my first shift there), it was all business.

The stress of the morning melted away, and my focus shifted entirely. I read through the FAQ materials, made a note of some important information I was likely to need, and met my fellow volunteers.

By the time the phone lines opened, I was ready.

For the next four hours, I was in the zone. My focus was entirely on the callers, on answering their questions, figuring out where they could find the information they needed.

By the time the shift ended, I felt like I’d been productive and helpful, like my energies had been expended usefully.

Return Home

I came home with a spring in my step, renewed energy and recharged batteries. When I opened the door and heard, “Mama!!” and was walloped in the abdomen with a hug from an enthusiastic 5.5-year-old, I smiled down into his face and felt excited to spend the afternoon together.

For the rest of the day, when the Bear woke up from his nap, I was game. I felt like I could take anything they threw at me.

Instead of feeling like I needed to get some alone time ASAP, I felt like I had more of myself to give. We played, we laughed, and it felt really good.

Unlike the Previous Day…

The contrast with the previous day was too marked to pass unnoticed.

On a typical, socially-isolated, distance-learning day, by the time 4pm comes along, I keep glancing at the clock. I’m exhausted, spent and ready for a break.

At 5pm I start to make dinner, and that’s when the boys are allowed to watch TV. I always feel a stab of guilt about it, especially because the Bug spends so much time on the computer for school. But it doesn’t stop me from letting them.

I pop something on PBS Kids, Amazon Prime or Disney+ and retreat to the kitchen, quietly closing the door at the top of the basement stairs behind me.

There in the kitchen, I can listen to my audiobook or some podcasts, or even sneak over to practice on the piano a bit before I get dinner going. It’s a little time to do something for me.

More Days Like Yesterday

I want more days like yesterday. Whether it’s volunteering or working, I want to have something that takes me out of the home context for at least part of the day.

Using my brainpower, energy and focus for something else gives me more of all of those for my kids.

It makes coming home to my little princes so much sweeter.

First Time Volunteering

Today I volunteered for the first time with the Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps.

What is an MRC?

Your town or county almost certainly has one.

It’s a volunteer program where medical professionals and other, non-medically qualified people can register to volunteer.

MRC members will be called upon to do any number of things:

  • Staff testing facilities for disease;
  • Be present at small & large public events to help with health information;
  • Man call center helplines to answer health questions;
  • Provide logistical support to medical professionals in an emergency;
  • And more.

I originally signed up for the MRC because I figured I could make calls for contact tracing from home.

A First Time for Everything

Today I participated in my first MRC volunteering activity, and I felt like the most useless, least qualified person there.

It was a door-to-door COVID-19 testing drive in an apartment complex. Earlier in the week, volunteers had put door hangers on all the apartment doors, and our job today was to make contact with residents who had indicated they wanted to be tested.

I was not qualified to administer the test, nor was I even qualified to handle the samples. I wasn’t even trained to be on the registration team, gathering people’s information before the test.

Most of the other volunteers were either experienced medical professionals or long-term volunteers who had way more training than I did.

I was on logistics: sweeping the buildings to identify which apartments had door hangers, restocking supplies when needed, and helping the testing teams move their kit to the different apartment buildings.

By the end, though it didn’t seem like I had done much, it felt like my hands had contributed to making light work.

More is Needed

Our local MRC will be called upon to continue staffing these pop-up testing sites.

Also, with early in-person voting starting on September 18th in Virginia, the elections board has asked the MRC to be present at testing sites to provide COVID-19 awareness guidance, ensure social distancing and provide hand sanitizer and face masks if necessary.

If you’re looking for ways to contribute in this time of crisis, this might be a good way.

Remember, you don’t have to be a medical professional (I’m certainly not!), and you can start off with a pretty basic level of training.

If you want to be able to do more jobs, you can always complete further training.

Planning to Return

As the MRC is called upon to help out, I will sign up whenever possible. Every little bit is helpful, and these groups need volunteers!

So please consider joining!