The List

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


“What’s on our schedule today?”

Ted woke me with the question for the fifth time in as many days of adhering to the stay-home recommendations. For the four previous days, we kept our regular daily routine, but both of us found we had more open-ended time than was customary. Before the COVID-19 worries, we rarely stayed home an entire day, and our household chores were organized around errands, meetings, and social get-togethers. Because our ages place us in the more vulnerable category, we took the guidelines seriously as soon as they were announced.

Day one, I began to mentally list tasks I would be able to accomplish while staying home. They included cleaning closets, shortening hems on some of Ted’s trousers, working in the yard and other chores I’d successfully put off. Ted and I could easily fall into doing nothing but reading or watching TV if we didn’t find ourselves a goal for each day.

My response to Ted was, “We don’t have anything on our schedule. Why don’t we make a list of what to do while we’re staying home?”

Ted and I are both list-makers, so he agreed. By the time we finished breakfast, we had 28 items on our to-do list. Wash clothes, practice guitar, write, work on hobbies, pull weeds in the yard, clean closets, prep for remodeling of our bathroom, hem pants, go to the beach. I also found around the house two jigsaw puzzles we had never unboxed. That day we began working the list and started a jigsaw puzzle.

The first two weeks with the list went well. Ted made bread, checked on his percolating wine, began organizing the storage room, and started a second jigsaw puzzle. I prepped our bathroom for its upcoming remodel, wrote, organized my clothes closet, and we both sat on the beach one afternoon social-distancing from the few others nearby.  We congratulated ourselves as we crossed each item off the list.

By the third week, Ted ignored the partially organized storage room to focus solely on the jigsaw puzzle. The 1,000 pieces were so tiny he needed a magnifying glass to determine if each one was in its correct spot. Similar colors made it difficult to decide on which part of the board a piece should be. We often had to correct a previous placement of a single piece. It was finally completed with a couple of known mistakes, but we took a picture to prove our perseverance in puzzle-solving. I was happy he was busy while I worked on my writing so I ordered another 1,000-piece puzzle, not as tricky as the previous one.  

By this time, we were arranging our schedule around the daily updates. Breakfast updates were on our cell phones from news agencies and Johns Hopkins. Lunchtime was WAVY local and national news. White House updates were late afternoon or early evening. We became coronavirus experts. Our evenings were usually spent free of COVID-19 while we watched a few favorite TV shows or contacted friends and family. Even though the updates helped organize our days, we hadn’t yet received the next puzzle. We began to veer away from our schedule and the list.

We started watching TV programs past our usual bedtime which meant getting up late. ­­­­Some days no chores were accomplished. Why did I need to set up the sewing machine to hem pants when I knew I would have time tomorrow? The storage room would be there to finish organizing when Ted felt like it.

As we saw the days before us stretching into weeks, maybe months, it became less important to accomplish anything other than eating and sleeping. Virus conspiracy theories and safety information flooded our brains. The updates were more of the same, more cases over many states, more deaths, more cancellations, no good news. There was plenty of time to complete items on the list.

At last, though, the world outside our home broke into our lack of motivation and spurred us to restructure our days around online meetings rather than virus updates. My two writing groups set up video meetings; we began a weekly thirty-minute video chat with a church group; our pastor scheduled weekly video worship services for the next two months; we face-timed with family. I began writing more than I had since the pandemic started, but my motivation hasn’t yet transferred to anything else on the list.

As we await a fourth jigsaw puzzle, I’m writing and Ted is staying busy making face masks using shop towels, rubber bands, and paper clips. We still have time to pull those weeds, organize the storage room, and hem those pants. 

Submitted: May 02, 2020

© Copyright 2021 PelicanLou. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



It can be very hard to stay motivated when there's so much time to do everything. It's almost like the less time there is the more that gets done. I think your list is a great way to put a bit of schedule and motivation into the day. Enjoy the jigsaw puzzles

Mon, May 4th, 2020 3:12am


Thank you for reading The List. I'm sure many people can relate to it during this time. We've ordered a sixth puzzle, but not yet received. Stay safe!

Mon, May 4th, 2020 8:29am

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