Staying Connected During Social Distancing: Tips from an LDR

Social distancing and ‘shelter at home ‘ orders have left a lot of people isolated and cut off from their friends and support networks. My fam is actually dealing with relatively little disruption, in contrast, because our families and support networks have been largely long distance for going on a decade now. We’ve learned a lot in that time about how to maintain connection with people we can’t see in person. Today, I’m going to share some of what we’ve learned, in hopes it helps other people navigate the current crisis.

Let’s start with the basics:

Phones Are Your Friends

Folks have been using phones to stay in touch long-distance for over 100 years. Don’t be afraid to use them! But don’t be afraid to use them differently either.

  1. Scheduled calls/texts — I have regularly schedules phone calls each week with my aunt, one sister, and cuilmate. My other sister and I touch base through FB messenger each Sunday to figure out what time will work for us that week. This way we can be sure of giving each other our full attention and plan things to avoid interruptions. We’re typically on the phone together for at least a half an hour and Michon and I can easily be on together for 3 or 4 hours. (That call is scheduled for after the kids’ bedtimes.) I can’t text very well, but if you prefer texting to calls, don’t be afraid to schedule those too!
  2. Don’t just talk — Do you really think Michon and I spend 3 or 4 hours at a shot just chatting? Of course not! Over the past year we have: taken turns reading Tumblr posts to each other, sang to each other, read books to each other, read webcomics together, worked on writing a book together, and more. Michael and Jaid regularly watch YouTube and Netflix together. They pick a video, press ‘play’ at the same time, and enjoy.
  3. Just be — sometimes, it’s nice to just BE together. And can do that over the phone. Put on your headphones or ear piece, set the call going, and just listen to each other as you go about your day. You’ll likely find yourselves commenting to each other about whatever is going on with you, ‘I JUST washed the dishes this morning,’ ‘I’m so glad the store wasn’t sold out of these cookies,’ ‘What do you think, chicken or spaghetti for dinner?’ Sometimes, these little bits of normalcy and just being together can make you feel more connected than all the conversations in the world.
  4. Memerific — like I said, texting isn’t my thing. But nothing stopping you from having fun with texts as well. Trade memes back and forth, play word games together, take pictures of random stuff throughout your day. Have fun with it.

When Your Computers Combine…

Thanks to the internet, there are a lot more options for long distance social than every before in history. These options do require some comfort with navigating your computer — for many of them you need to install software and have a working headset or speakers and microphone. However, many of them also have app versions that can be installed on a smartphone or tablet with the touch of a button.

  1. Discord — Okay, so, those phone calls with Michon? Most of the time they are actually Discord calls. Discord is a program (and web app, so installation NOT required) for chatting and voice calls. However, it has two major advantages over the phone: it’s free and group calls/chats are ridiculously easy. There are two ways to use Discord.
    1) You can join or set up a ‘server’. A server is basically a dedicated invite-only chat house. Each server can have multiple ‘rooms’ (channels), each with different rules (so one channel can be NSFW and the others not). Channels can be text or voice, so you can have a voice channel where folks who want to catch up on family stuff hang out and a voice channel for discussing the latest game. Or whatever. If you have a large family or friend group, a server will be a great way to keep the group going at a distance.
    2) You can use it like any messenger program that allows group discussions. Become ‘friends’ with people, message them, have voice calls, add other people to the chat or calls as you wish.
  2. Zoom — Zoom is a program that allows for voice and video chat, and screen sharing. It is one of the easier options, because once you get installed, anyone who wants to talk can just send you a link invite. As soon as you click the link, the Zoom meeting room opens.
  3. Kast — You know the watch-videos-together thing I said Michael and Jaid do? Well, Kast (formerly was designed for just that kind of thing. You and your friend(s) would go into a ‘room’ together, the person hosting the ‘room’ puts on a video from a streaming service or Youtube, and everyone can watch the video together. I haven’t used Kast since it stopped being, supposedly it also does multi-person video chat or will screenshare games you are playing now. Free and paid versions.

Roll the Dice

Okay, this is already a long post, so I’ll keep this last section short: there are lots of options for playing games together online. And I don’t just mean Fortnight. Steam Games has a ‘Tabletop Simulator‘ ($20) that “includes 15 classics like Chess, Poker, Jigsaw Puzzles, Dominoes, and Mahjong” and you can buy content for other tabletop games as well.

#BuJo Update

I’ve made the my first major bujo update of the year. For all I know it may be my last major update of the year (I only made one major update last year, adding a goal tracker).

Here is it:

Yup, I added that pocket on the front cover of my bujo.

Why a BuJo Pocket?

I’ve seen other bujo setups that add a similar pocket and always kind of wondered why. Until I walked out of my doctor’s office a couple weeks ago with five different papers and no good place to put them. (My purse is the smallest purse I’ve ever used and STILL turns into a bottomless pit where things get lost forever and a day.)

So I grabbed a regular sheet of printer paper, folded it in half, then folded the sides in. I taped it down from the inside (which was tricky, but not as tricky as it sounds). Because of the folded sides it’s got a bit of “stretch” to hold several things at once, which has already been helpful.

How’s It Work?

So far I’ve stuck a business card, an appointment reminder, a self care check list, and a few other things in there. Each day I go through what’s in there when I do my bujo review. The appointment reminders get the appointment written down and the cards tossed. Stuff that I need to do something with and can be done immediately gets done at the same time. Other stuff gets added to the to-do list and tucked back in.

I admit I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the self care check list. I’ve thought of copying it over into the bujo, but at this point it’ll be far enough into the bujo that it will be a pain to find when I need it. I suppose I could copy it onto the back page of the bujo. I don’t like using pages out of order, but it’s something I can live with as an occasional thing. And this would definitely be a good cause.

Something to think about.

For now, that checklist is staying in that pocket where I can pull it out quickly whenever I need it.

Anyway, there it is.

Honestly I hope it’s the last major update for the year. I don’t like changing stuff. Doesn’t mean I won’t change it if I have a good reason too, but I really prefer to find something that works and stick with it. And so far, the current set up is working pretty well.

(So it’s apparently V-Day again? I mean, if you’re like me and not big on romance, maybe kick back with a new book instead?)

Minimal Bullet Journal–The REAL Thing

I love my bullet journal, and I’m always looking for new ideas for spreads and monthly set ups and stuff. BUT, I can’t draw for shit, my handwriting has been described as “chicken scratch” and I really am not interested in watching someone spend 10 minutes adding pictures of daises to their bullet journal.

I tried doing a search for “minimal bullet journal” and even the people describing themselves as “minimalist” are using fancy calligraphy and stickers and talking about which pens they use to get their drop shadows on their page titles…

That’s not what “minimal” means. It’s certainly not what I’m looking for when I checking out minimal bullet journals. So for anyone else feeling lost and alone in a wasteland of bullet journals that double as art journals and scrap books, here’s a real minimal bullet journal.

My Minimal Bullet Journal

Click on images to view full size.

Standard Bullet Journal Spreads

This is the stuff that’s kinda integral to bullet journals. If you want a bare minimum bullet journal, you use just these spreads (and the index) and you’re done.minimal bullet journal 2
Future log–nice and simple.


minimal bullet journal 5
This is your basic monthly spread, right out of the original “How to Bullet Journal” video. I don’t need a full page for monthly tasks, but I haven’t found another monthly layout I like better, so I’ve stuck with this so far.


It’s a new year, so I don’t have much in the way of daily logs yet. Right page is a last minute new collection that would be under the custom spreads heading if I had thought to take two different pictures. Anyway, it’s meant to be all the books I’ve read half of and always “meant to finish”. I’m going to try to finish them this year, instead of getting new books. Wish me luck.

Custom Bullet Journal Spreads

minimal bullet journal 1
This is the first two spreads after the index. As you can see, just simple text, nothing fancy. Left page is life goals, which I re-write every year. Right page is “Week in Theory”–all the activities and appointments that repeat every week, done in pencil so I can edit easily.


minimal bullet journal 3
Left page is my 10 year future log. I really don’t need a full page for it, but some stuff that I want to remember is happening more than a year out. So I record it here. Right page is goal progress tracker. Lot of bullet journals have trackers. This one lets me record my progress on some long term goals each month. My goal trackers are the one area where I don’t do bare minimum and actual spend some time on layout and shit.


minimal bullet journal 4
I have a lot of problems with executive dysfunction, so the left page has a list of things I try to do routinely–morning routine, evening routine, weekly routine, and monthly routine. Weekly is Sunday stuff, Monthly is first Sunday stuff. Right page is kind of a backwards birthday day. I don’t know when anyone’s birthday is anymore, but FB and Skype keep sending me notices about people’s birthdays. So as they happen I’ll write them here so I know them for the future.


bullet journal tracker
Left page is my other tracker. This is a more standard bullet journal tracker, writ large, just tracks what I’ve done each day. Yes, that’s a lot of goals. Which is why this is where my commitment to a minimal bullet journal breaks down a bit. I just can’t track all this stuff any more minimal than this. Right page is music wishlist. For a couple years now, since I actually had a bit of disposable income, I’ve been saying that I need to start buying all the music I keep listening to on youtube. Well, here’s where I’m building the list of stuff I want to buy.

Take What Works, Discard What Doesn’t

The basic premise of a bullet journal is that you can use what works for you, and if something doesn’t work, do something different.

If you like all the fancy stuff, go for it! But if, like me, you alternately intimidated and annoyed by all the “how to bullet journal” videos that make itl ook like you need an art degree to bujo, this is for you. Minimal bullet journal.


It’s apparently become a thing to talk about the tools you use to make your bullet journal? Part of minimal bullet journal for me is not worrying about ” do I have my bullet journal pen with me” when I sit down to write a log.

I use a pen. Usually a black on, sometimes a blue one. Sometimes a pencil because they are handy.

My notebook is a big spiral bound thing I picked up at Walmart. It’s sturdy enough that I’m confident it will last a year, I like spiral bound more than traditional binding, and if you ask me who made it I have no clue. It’s teal, which isn’t my fave color but was better than black.

(That said, when I was drawing in my trackers I really understood the appeal of the dotted German-name-sounding journal a lot of bujo folks rave about. The dots would really make the complicated layouts easier.)

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