By Kellie Commons Special to OnMilwaukee Published Sep 05, 2020 at 11:05 AM

The end of summer edges out Christmas as my favorite time of the year. Back to school season has the "fresh start" vibe of spring, but with better weather, new gear and a tan. I love the piles of fresh new supplies, investigating the new schedule’s little mysteries and exploring a year’s worth of curriculum.

I am, as they say, a giant nerd.

I’ve never been sad to see summer come to a close because months of organization, plans, programs and carefully calendared hours stretched ahead. It’s neat and controlled and predictable, and I love it.

Even after I stopped having my own school year to look forward to, I could get my daughter hyped up about new gym shoes and, eventually, labor over my own tidy syllabus in advance of teaching my new batch of students.

This year has rubbed all the shine off my back-to-school zeal. For the first time ever, I’m counting the calendar boxes and dreading the empty space after Labor Day. For all the things that we’re disagreeing about lately, it seems the one thing everyone can agree on is that the school year won’t bear any resemblance to "normal."

From parents to kids, school administrators, business owners and teachers, the modified school rollout plans aren’t something that anybody wanted. In our house, we had a big year planned. My daughter will be a freshman, and it should be super exciting. HIGH SCHOOL! TENNIS! MARCHING BAND! MAYBE A JOB! But we’re having none of that. Considering how closely I’ve held the first day of school to my heart, I’ve been grappling with how to get some of groove back so I’m not a wet, heavy, wool blanket of dread wrapped around my family’s new school year efforts.

As much as possible, I’m going to stop talking about how it should have been and what my expectations are. It doesn’t matter. All those plans were rooted in Beforetimes. Lamenting that we don’t have a list of school supplies to buy isn’t helping anybody. So we’re taking each update at face value. I’m trying to be less of a control-freak and making micro-adjustments to upheavals in the plan instead of throwing the whole thing out the window.

I switched up my toolbox. Years ago, I traded in my paper planner for a collection of colorful online calendars what seamless sync together and organize a big fistful of activities and goings on. But school and events have changed, and tinkering with my Google calendars wasn’t giving me the satisfaction of seeing things in one spot, so I picked up a Distance Learning Planner from Plum Paper to make a fun project out of keeping everything on track. I even snagged a few fancy new pens, though I’ll probably end up using the one from my real estate agent (some things don’t change).

And I’m going to focus on the fun. As weird and unfortunate and difficult as it is that we’re all thrown into this, it means that maybe bedtime can get pushed back a little if the game of Rummy is getting heated, or that chores can wait until a break the next day. It can be taking a few minutes to sit down to eat lunch together or work and chat in the same space. I’m fortunate to have the time and flexibility to be here with a teenager who sometimes wants to be here with me.

Having my usual back-to-school hoopla thrown into a tailspin is a chance for me to find exciting new things to explore this semester. But, come what may, I’m still going to end up with more loose-leaf paper and index cards than I’ll ever need.

Maybe we’ll just hold them over for next year.

Kellie Commons Special to OnMilwaukee

Kellie has loved Milwaukee since before loving Milwaukee was cool, and knew this was the place to settle down and raise a family. She’s got an opinion about almost everything and loves to pick up new fun facts.  Kellie keeps busy as the Group HR Manager for Saz’s Hospitality Group, a hometown favorite, by teaching at Mount Mary, getting involved in her community and trying to play catchup on her reading pile, though she’ll never say no to a nap. Most days, she’s also trying to talk herself out of or into running another half marathon. Kellie lives in Wauwatosa with her partner Rob, who is an owner of Vennture Brew Co, and her daughter Anna.