QC Life in the New Normal Writing Project: Phase I

2020 has been a chaotic year for all of us. Each person has had their life disrupted in some way from working from home, not being able to see loved ones, and so much more. At the beginning of the Pandemic, we wanted to create a writing project where people of all ages could express how they are feeling, coping, and managing to live through this unexpected, life-changing event. This would also help us to capture this period of history through the words of the people in preserving real-time reflections about life in the Quad Cities during the COVID-19 era.

We asked that people submit a writing piece of at least 200-500 words about how they were coping. We gave examples of the various creative writing formats for different age groups, but participants could write in the format of their choosing.

We started off thinking that this project would just last a few weeks, but it garnered interest from the community and we extended the project with another phase that recently ended at the end of June.

Phase I astounded us because we had 28 entries from all age groups.

Some of the writing prompts included: What am I grateful for? Who have I come to admire? How have I changed?

We created videos to help the community come up with ideas about what to write about and to learn more about this project. In this approximately 14-minute chat, Kathryn and Lynn talk about the importance of this writing project, suggestions for writing pieces, and how to submit them. Watch their chat here: QC Life in the New Normal Writing Project Conversation.

Phase I entries have been judged and we are pleased to announce the winners of the QC Life in the New Normal Writing Project Contest: Kate James, Lily Campbell, and Audrey Hayden. Each winner received a $20 gift card either to the Book Rack or Crafted QC. We have listed their entries below for your reading pleasure.

“Then It Happened” by Kate James

With the dawn of the New Year came hope for new beginnings. I was just trying to get by since 2019 was especially challenging. It was the second week into 2020 that my son became so ill he couldn’t eat, drink, or stay awake longer than 30 minutes at a time. I was tempted to take him to the hospital since nothing I was doing was helping.

I called my father and he told me this: “Katie, sometimes all a child needs is his mom to be there to love and protect him.” 

As Spring Break was around the corner, increasing news coverage about a virus that originated in China began to make many nervous. When I stopped at a Dollar General before heading out of town, every customer had a package of toilet paper. 

“Buy it when you can! They predict there will be a shortage!” a customer warned everyone in the check-out line.

That’ll never happen, I thought, still buying a package, though.

Spending a few days in rural Missouri without internet left me unaware of the magnitude of paranoia back home. As my father in-law watched Good Morning America I overheard the term ‘social distancing’ used for the first time: closures, cancellations, quarantine.

“Yeah, that’ll never happen!” I said as I rolled my eyes. 

As we set out for home we heard news of the district I taught in delaying school for an additional three weeks following spring break due to the efforts to contain the virus. We then heard on the radio of two states that had cancelled school for the rest of the year. 

“Boy, you’d go crazy without work or shopping or being out and about for the rest of the school year!” My husband chuckled. 

“Yeah, but that’ll never happen,” I replied anxiously.

I began the new normal. Lucky for me, this Covid-19 crisis was not the first difficult circumstance I had to adapt to over the previous year. I was becoming more malleable to challenges I thought would never happen.

What made 2019 especially challenging took place eight months earlier: my beautiful, sweet little boy was diagnosed with Autism. I thought it would never happen. I knew Autism wasn’t a death sentence, for which I was grateful, however it felt like a life sentence. As I struggled accepting and processing this diagnosis, I was thrown into a new way of life that included 30 to 40 hours of intensive intervention therapies for my not even three-year-old son. Did I feel great? No, but I was learning how to cope. 

With the emergence of the Covid-19 Crisis, something that I said would never happen forced me to change, but it was okay because this wasn’t the first time. One sunny, warm afternoon a month after the social distancing order went into effect, my son and I walked along a path in Bettendorf at Devil’s Glenn Park. Typically I was terrified to have him walk without tightly holding on to his hand. As many Autistic individuals are prone to wandering and running off, the fear of losing him kept me from letting him go. However I knew that someday he would be too big, too strong to keep a firm grasp. I had to let him learn. I took a deep breath and let go of his tiny hand. He stopped, looked at me, and slowly, a bright smile spread across his tiny, round face. We walked together, side by side. We saw fluffy clouds in the vibrant blue sky, birds chirping as they flew by, and the sounds of the babbling stream guiding us along the way. As we walked back to my car, I peered down to see my precious, golden-haired boy still paddling alongside of me, and felt an epiphany. I had been so devastated and overwhelmed by a diagnosis that I felt should never happen that it took a global pandemic to make me stop and realize all the beauty that was still around me. 

Uncertainty can be terrifying. We don’t know what will happen by the time this pandemic comes to an end. We can live in fear and be miserable due to the way in which our lives have had to change, or we can take each moment in each day and try to see it through a lens of optimism, even in the darkest hours. It is the most difficult skill to acquire, but over time you become better at it. The uncertainty of Hunter is what keeps me going. I don’t know what will happen in one year, five years, 10 years—but I have right now. While the future could be as equally wonderful for Hunter as it could be terrifying, right now is what can make the difference. While I didn’t think I was capable of providing what a child like Hunter needs—a child with Autism—the Covid-19 Pandemic of the New-Era Roaring Twenties has shown me that as long as I love and protect him, he’ll be okay.  

“Maxie’s Story” By Lily Campbell

Here we go again all standing in our starting positions. Little did I know this would be my last performance with my team.

The music started and the crowd began to cheer. It was all so loud and I loved it. We had practiced this routine so many times but I still got nervous for my stunts. 

The girls threw me up in the air and I soon felt lots of hands underneath my foot. I hit my double back tuck.  I smiled so big when the crowd started to cheer even louder.  Next was the pyramid.  We all had to hit our marks or it would be a disaster. I felt hands on my feet again and then got thrown.  I tucked and flipped and hit again. Everything else fell into place and we hit the whole routine!  We have one more competition before the championship.  

 I was in my dorm getting ready for practice. I started walking down to the gym when I got a notification that said that school was being cancelled until April 1st due to a virus called Covid-19.  I was in shock and did not really know what to think about it. I walked back to the dorm and called my parents. They told me that I could just come home for those two weeks and just to pack what I needed.  They said that school would resume after all of this was over.  Not to worry about anything.  

My teammates all started texting about what was going on.  All wondering what this would do with our competition coming up soon.  Would we still have it or would it be postponed?   They certainly would not cancel the championship.  They would not cancel an event that we have all been working so hard to get to.  We were all so uncertain about what would happen.  I told my roommate that I would see her in a few weeks and I left for home.  

That night at dinner, we all sat down and watched the news.  All kinds of new reports were coming out about the virus.  Reports about how this virus was killing people.  It was scary to hear.  The reports were telling people to have little contact with others.  After hearing these reports, I had a feeling that I would not be going to my last two competitions.  How can you social distance yourself from your team?   A few days later we got the news that our competitions were cancelled.  It was so disheartening that it brought me to tears. I would never get to cheer again since I was a senior.  I would never be with my team again.  The following week, school decided that we would have to finish our courses online.  I would not be returning to finish out my senior year.  I was beyond sad.  I thought I still had a couple months. I thought I still had time.   I thought things would be different.

“QC Life in the New Normal” by Audrey Hayden

            Coronavirus has changed everything, life as we know it! Everyone is stuck at home, and now more than ever, our community needs one another but we cannot help each other, because then we would be putting one another at risk. My life has definitely changed, not for better or worse, it’s just become different.

            Before Coronavirus started affecting my life, I’d get up at 6-6:10 every morning to make breakfast for me and my sisters. I would do my morning routine, and then walk with one of my sisters to her bus stop, and wait for her bus there. I would always bring my dog, and then after her bus came me and my 7 year old sister (she’s homeschooled) would walk about ½ mile with Scout (Dog). By then it would be about 8:00 so I’d get my stuff together for school, and play outside with Scout, or my 7 year old sister, and if it was too cold for that, we’d watch TV. At 8:27 I would go to my bus stop, and when I got to school I would wait on the eighth grade side. When I got home I would walk Scout, and then probably play outside with my sisters. We would eat dinner, go back outside, and then we would come in and just hang out for a bit. 

Now, I get up between 6 and 7, eat breakfast, walk my dog, watch TV, or make a Tik Tok. Then I do online school from 9-11, go to sudlow and get lunch, Dance or go outside until dinner, continue dancing or being outside, come back in and hang out. It’s a bit boring but it’s not that bad. I am going to try to write a book about what’s going on right now. I’ve gotten really invested in staying in shape for the softball season, and I have new personal records for a lot of different things. I really miss going to school, but I’m glad that I can focus on things non school related, things that I don’t learn about in school. I know a lot more now than I did at the beginning of this. I read 50 fun facts everyday, and select a few each time to post in my Honors English optional learning classroom. Did you know strawberries can taste like pineapple? Or that the military uses dolphins to find underwater mines? MIT has free online courses that you can take, so I’m currently trying out Linear Algebra, but I am thinking about maybe doing a different one. I do wish that I could have said bye to my teachers, because next year I will be in highschool and will not get to see any of them again most likely. I wish that life could go back to normal all ready, but for now we can just make the best of it.

(posted by Kathryn)

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