Faith in the Face of Coronavirus Isolation

Monday, April 6, 2020

The numbers of COVID-19 infections and casualties are skyrocketing, health officials are telling us to expect it to get worse, and even our President says "there will be a lot of death" in coming weeks.  We're sewing masks and wearing them out on our essential errands, while medical personnel do not have the protective equipment they need.  People are losing jobs, taking pay cuts, unable to pay bills, going hungry.  We're sheltering in place, isolated and missing people.  These are scary times.

Where does faith fit in all of this?  I'm not talking about religion today -- I'm talking about a deep, steadfast belief that we will get through this.  How do we keep believing, when the news seems so dire?  With so much uncertainty and so much suffering, where do we find hope?  And how do we face the fear, day after day?  Surely I'm not the only one trying to figure this out. 

I've got kids in the house.  They're trying to make sense of their world being turned upside down, their expectations shifting, their routines being upended.  They're being asked to change the way they live, but they do not fully understand why.

And isn't this is true of all of us?  We're being forced to give up so much and to accept a reality that none of us want.  Anxiety is running high as we try to adapt to this challenge that seems to change daily, and as we try to figure out what our new normal looks like.  When we tune into the news, there is pain everywhere -- pain in the sickness and dying, the inadequate response, the medical realities, the economic consequences, the knowledge that this will have immense, long-lasting effects.

How, when faced with this pain and anxiety, do we keep faith?  How do we stay strong for our kids?  

When I stop and think about this, I always come back to one thing -- people across the world are taking bold action for the greater good.  Look around, and you will see signs of unity in this battle.

As far as this virus is concerned, we are all equal.  Wealth, skin color, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or identity, age, political views, fame -- none of it matters to COVID-19.  Sure, some may be at a higher risk than others, statistically, and some are better able to isolate than others, and I don't want to minimize that.  But the bottom line here is that the virus is proving it does not discriminate and no one gets a pass.  When was the last time that humans across the world were on equal footing?

Knowing that we are all at risk, leaders are making hard decisions to try to keep us all safe.  With human and economic consequences on the line, our leaders are educating people about the pandemic, issuing orders, trying to ensure health care workers have the equipment they need, and trying to keep the essential functions of our society going.

And people are making huge sacrifices.  We are staying home, washing hands, making and wearing masks, helping educate our children, finding new ways to work, giving up plans and dreams.  In short, we are accepting tremendous inconvenience and challenge in hopes of helping protect our most vulnerable and ensuring that our community health resources can manage the outcome.
So what do "flatten the curve," "slow the spread," "social distancing," and "safer at home" really mean?  They mean we care for our neighbors.  We sacrifice so that others may live.  We make choices with our health care workers in mind.  Our actions speak loudly -- we are in this together, we are stronger together, and we will get through this together.

That is where I find faith.  In our solidarity, our humanity, our courage. 

Now, I'm not saying that's all I see.  Not at all.  I see plenty that keeps me up at night and causes me great concern.  But I try to redirect my thoughts to the positive:

We are slowing down, living in the here and now, finding beauty and joy in simplicity.  We are not racing around from one activity to the next, buying so much that we don't need, feeling constantly overscheduled and overcommitted.  Instead, we take walks together, listen to music, talk.

We are finding new ways to connect with people.  Zoom happy hours, Facebook Live dance parties, Netflix party movie nights, online book clubs and recitals.  Thanks to the Internet, we can still socialize while social distancing.

Churches are livestreaming worship services, choirs are singing over Zoom, congregations are using technology to reach out to community members.  People who cannot get moving on Sunday mornings can now tune in anytime.  

Remember what Mr. Rogers said about looking for the helpers?  We don't have to look far to find health care workers, law enforcement and first responders, teachers, sanitation workers, transportation workers, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, community leaders, and all sorts of folks who are working tirelessly to get us through this.

We're still laughing.  Funny memes, ridiculous TV shows, Amazon reviews.  Comic relief always helps, even during a pandemic.

We're adaptable and resilient.  We're learning new ways to greet each other, go to school, go to work, interact, exercise.  We're figuring out how to stay productive.  We're learning to listen to our hearts and our bodies in ways we haven't in a while.  We are proving to ourselves that we can withstand change and handle hard things.

We're compassionate.  We see and understand that this is hard on everyone, so we show grace and patience.  We express gratitude.  Since I mentioned Mr. Rogers earlier, I'll mention him again -- he's got a song about the many ways to say I Love You.  Well, folks, we're all saying "I love you, neighbor" in all sorts of ways right now.

People are spreading kindness and joy.  An accordion player makes music on his porch at noon each day.  A neighbor dropped off lima beans for my son's Zoom dissection.  Teddy bear hunts in neighborhoods.  Inspiring signs in yards and chalk messages on sidewalks. There's some great stuff going on out there.

People are recovering.  There are a lot of people who have contracted the virus, their bodies have fought it, and now they have antibodies.  They will be in a position to help.  Some are even donating plasma in hopes that it will offer a new treatment option.  The number of people with antibodies will rise exponentially in coming weeks. 

There are some good reasons to be hopeful.  Keep the faith, friends.  

Positivity in the Face of Coronavirus Isolation

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Yesterday was a hard day.  Spirits were low, tension was high.  I asked some friends to cheer me up.  Boy did they.  So today I want to pay it forward because I know I'm not the only one struggling.  Here are some things that will give you hope, make you smile, help you pass the time, restore your faith in humanity.  Enjoy!

To put a smile on your face, since sometimes that's what we need more than anything:

National Cowboy Museum:  Tim, the security guy at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma has been put in charge of the museum's Twitter account.  He's delightful.

Arnold Schwarzenegger:  He has pet donkeys!  You've got to see him with Whiskey and Lulu.  And maybe get some workout tips.

Neighborhood Bear Hunts:  People all over are putting bears in their windows for little ones to spot on their daily walks.  What a great way to spread joy!  And look at this amazing worksheet to go along with the activity (courtesy of neighbor Sydney).

Artisinal Toilet Paper:  This cracked me up.

Love Sweet Love:  Berklee Music College students spreading love through music.

Neighborhood Dance Party:  Coronavirus can't keep these neighbors down.

Innovators and helpers who are putting their skills and talents to work to help others:

Instok:  Local college students on spring break put together a website that allows people to look up products and find a store that has it in stock, to help avoid people running all over town to multiple stores. 

Takeout Transfer:  Local folks set up a website to help people looking for takeout.  Shows what restaurants are open for takeout, compiles ordering instructions and menus.  Over 400 options already up!

Shopping Angels:  Student took initiative to meet a local need, created a network of shoppers to help the elderly get groceries.

Tito's Vodka Hand Sanitizer:  Making lemonade out of life's lemons, as it were.  They're not alone in this either -- Desert Door sotol distillery is doing it too, as are other alcoholic beverage companies.

American Giant Masks:  American clothing factory put usual production on hold to switch to mask production.

Covid Rangers:  Locals mobilizing to sew face mask covers for Austin medical providers.  Over 2,800 members!

Lots of companies are making free content available and streaming all sorts of cool stuff to help us get through this:

Virtual Tours and Visits:  To all sorts of places I wish I could be right now -- national parks, museums, Disney, sites around the world.  Lots of ways to feel like you've escaped for a moment.

Zoo Live Streams:  Cute animals.  All the time.

Shedd Aquarium:  They're letting animals explore exhibits while the aquarium is closed.  Adorable.

Cincinnati Zoo:  Home safaris.  Animals in action.

Royal Opera:  Streaming both opera and ballet.

Podcasts for Kids:  This is a great time to try out some new podcasts, and this list contains some excellent suggestions.

All Sorts of Classes and Memberships:  Waiving fees, giving long trial subscriptions, generous arrangements to provide content to folks stuck at home.

94 Hours of Puppies and Kitties:  Thank you, Animal Planet.  Sounds perfect.

Audible:  Unlocked lots of free audiobooks for kids stuck at home.

Amazon Prime:  Streaming kids programming, no membership required.

Austin Music, Live-Streamed:  So much great music.  Amazing.  And good for the soul.

Austin City Limits:  Video archives, free.  More great music.

And that's only the beginning -- there's some really hopeful stuff out there if you just step away from the news and tune into it.  Hope it helps you through the day.

Productivity in the Face of Coronavirus Isolation

Monday, March 23, 2020

I've been working from home for well over a week now.  Cooped up with the kids, trying to make the best of a tough situation.  Today we started doing something that resembles homeschooling.  Sort of.  There's definitely room for improvement.

I'm finding that it's tough to loosen up my productivity ideals.  Last week I started seeing detailed, colored schedules all over the place, designed to maximize children's enrichment while home.  And, certainly, to minimize screen time.  I admire the moms who can put together something so comprehensive, and even more the moms who actually implement it successfully.  But I knew that would not, could not be me.

It was our spring break, so I didn't push much.  Instead, I put together a few daily goals, same ones for each of us while home.  You can see the sheet HERE.  It basically boils down to some categories, where each person gets to choose tasks that will satisfy the goal for each category.  Just one thing, at least, from each:

Do something for the BRAIN:  Engage your brain with something educational.  Read.  Do some brain teazers or logic puzzles.  Work a crossword or soduku.  It's a great time to write a journal.  At the end of the day, won't you feel better if you know that your stretched your brain a bit?

Do something for the BODY:  Get some exercise, move your body.  Run.  Do yoga.  Stretch.  Find an exercise video and surprise yourself with how much you can do.  Start a Couch to 5K program.  I promise you will feel better about your time at home if you spent some of it being active.

Do something CREATIVE:  Make something, work with your hands, create.  Draw.  Color.  Write poetry.  Make crafts.  Sew.  Play music.  Build something with legos.  You don't have to be skilled at this.  The point is to use your hands, direct your focus, give you an outlet and another way to channel energy and feelings

Do something for the HOME:  Clean, help out.  With more bodies in the home all day, the messes add up.  Do some laundry, fold clothes.  Wash dishes, put clean dishes away.  Sweep floors.  Straighten up messes.  It's so important to stay on top of this; we'll all feel better about time spent at home if the home is in good shape.

Find something to ORGANIZE:  Obviously, this overlaps a lot with the previous category.  But I think of the other (home) as the maintenance category and this (organize) as the get-ahead category.  The idea is to find ways to use our space efficiently and cut down on clutter.  During a stressful time, reduced clutter will help us keep a calm head.  So tackle those drawers, closets, cabinets that could use some attention.  Don't get overwhelmed though.  Just one little project a day.

Do something for your SPIRIT:  This all boils down to self-care and self-compassion.  Be kind to yourself and spend some time doing what your soul needs, something comforting.  Meditation.  Face mask.  Nails.  Video games.  YouTube.  Reaching out to loved ones.  Pray.  Do something to help others.  We all need this, and now more than ever we need to make time for it.

Wouldn't you agree that you'd sleep better knowing that you put something in each of those box that day?  No matter your age, I think these are great things to shoot for while cooped up at home.

I will admit that my kids didn't take to it quite as fully as I'd hoped.  Maybe I should have offered ice cream or some other reward.  I do think I saw a bit more motivation than I would have otherwise, and I think it at least got them thinking about the fact that they are making decisions about how to spend their time.

I find that with my kids, and with myself, I'm having to redefine what productivity looks like.  I'm only half kidding when I say that everybody wearing pants feels like a real achievement at this point.  And if they're not pajama pants, then we're really winning.

If you don't check all the boxes on any given day, it's okay.  Truly.  Think about what you did do -- you survived it. 

Community in the Face of Coronavirus Isolation

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

These are trying times.  Obviously.  And we will continue to be challenged for some time.  With this faster-than-ever newscycle, there is much to process.  Part of my processing keeps bringing me back to the importance of community -- finding it, feeling it, and building it despite isolation and distancing.  

I anticipate having more to say on the subject, but for now I want to send love to some folks who I know need it.  I wish I could do more.  I wish I could offer more than support via a blog that few people ever see.  But in the spirit of community, I want to say to these people that I see you, I feel your fear, and I hope you can draw a bit of strength from knowing that I care.  And for anyone reading this, I ask that you please send these people some love as well:

Those who have lost loved ones to the virus.

Those battling the virus, who are sick and hoping not to make others sick.

Doctors, nurses, and medical professionals, who put others first even when it increases their own risk.

Scientists working around the clock to develop a vaccine or treatment, or mitigation strategy, knowing that it cannot happen fast enough or be effective enough.

Hospital administrators, who are are trying to make the best of numbers that simply don't add up.

Pregnant ladies facing birth during a time when our healthcare resources will be stretched so thin.

Parents of newborns, who are terrified both for their babies and themselves.

Parents of toddlers and young children, who are struggling to maintain some sense of normalcy when nothing feels normal.

Single parents, who know that they cannot afford to get sick.

Parents of school-aged children who suddenly find themselves in charge of educating their children.

Parents of teens.  Enough said.  Trust me, I know.

Parents of kids with special needs, who worry about the availability of resources to help care for them.

People undergoing chemo, or dialysis, or any sort of medical treatment that requires ongoing care, where continuity of care is critical.  

People needing surgery or any other sort of medical procedure at a time when the risk feels so much higher.

People with compromised immune systems, who know their bodies will struggle more than most if faced with a new virus.

Elderly people, who have lived through so much yet now face a moment like nothing they've ever seen.

People whose medical situations put them in a high-risk category.

People who rely on prescription drugs, who worry about their ability to continue getting them.

People without homes, or with less ability to isolate themselves.

People who lack sufficient food and grocery resources and wonder how they will manage.

People for whom staying at home means facing violence or other harmful conditions. 

Law enforcement, first responders, and community members whose jobs of tending to our safety cannot get put on hold.

Community leaders and officials, who are making hard choices in the midst of so much uncertainty.

Janitors, custodians, and community members who are on the front lines trying to eliminate the virus before it can spread.

Teachers, school administrators, and others who are working hard to revamp our education system to ensure that our children keep learning and don't fall behind.

Business owners forced to make drastic decisions, knowing that the bills will keep coming.

People whose livelihood is threatened or suddenly gone, who wonder how they will make ends meet.

People without health insurance, who know that getting the virus could be devestating.

People with no financial reserves, who felt one step away from financial ruin even before all of this.

People with mental health issues, who are struggling to deal with the extra uncertainty and challenges associated with this virus.

Counselors and therapists, who are trying to manage everyone else's anxiety during this scary time.

People (including kids!) who are mourning losses of important events -- weddings, proms, graduations, sports competitions, funerals, etc.

People with loved ones in any of these situations, who are so worried about what could happen.

And anyone else I missed -- I know there are lots of you out there who are feeling this consequences of this pandemic especially acutely.  

Take a good look at that list of people who are hit extra hard right now.  Even if you are not the list, you are connected to someone who is.  And if you are on the list, you can be sure that others around you are too.  These are your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, your family members.  Think about reaching out to folks more than you ordinarily would.  Check in with people to see how they are doing.  Keep empathy and compassion at the forefront of your mind and remind yourself to give people the benefit of the doubt.  While we're working hard to distance ourselves from each other physically, let's also work hard to close that distance in other ways, so that we can maintain a sense of community and connection.  We need that right now.  We're all in this together. 

Pics Fixed!

Friday, February 28, 2020

For the few of you who still visit my blog (hello, family!), you probably noticed that I had a problem with my blog formatting for a while -- all the images were blocked out thanks to Photobucket's new pricing scheme, which nearly eliminated free hosting and would have required me to pay a monthly fee for hosting my handful of blog header images.  Fortunately, I found a tech wiz who knows her way around this, and now I'm back in business.

To ease back into blogging, I'm going with bullets.  Here are a few brief updates to catch us up, and a few things that are on my mind:
  • We moved out of our house, lived in a rent house for nine months, and did almost a complete remodel of our home.  We went down to the studs, moved a wall, switched a couple of rooms around, attached my sewing room to the house, got a new roof, got new appliances, and made everything feel fresh and new but still true to the original vibe of the home.  We're very happy with how it turned out, very thankful we did the big project.  My only regrets -- we should have redone our bathroom while remodeling the rest of the house, and I wish we'd chosen different door knobs.  If that's the worst I've got to say about that, then it was a huge success.
  • High school is on the horizon!  We've explored options, weighed pros and cons, applied, auditioned, and waited. Now it’s all figured out and we can start to see what the next four years might look like.  We opted out of the really prestigious program in town, didn't even apply.  And we passed on some other really good options too. In the end, it feels like the right decision for this kid and this family.
  • We took a road trip right after Christmas, drove through Arkansas to Nashville.  First vacation in almost three years!  It's so good to be reminded that our family handles road trips well and enjoys having adventures together.  I can't wait to take another trip!
  • 2019 wasn't without its challenges.  Reflecting on it and processing, I keep thinking about don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements.  My dad was a big fan of the book, and he often reminded me of the wisdom of its teachings.  Two of the agreements, "Don't take anything personally" and "Don't make assumptions," have been popping into my head a lot.  I'm working hard to remember that we often have no idea what is really going on with people, what they're struggling with, what leads them to do what they do.
  • I haven't spent enough time in my sewing room, but I've got a project in the works and lots of ideas for future projects. 
  • My daughter has gotten into classic movies.  We've discovered that local theaters actually show a fair number of them.  We've seen Gone with the Wind, Holiday, The Awful Truth, Rear Window, and others at the movie theater.  So much fun!
  • I've been doing lots of reading.  I think I read almost 40 books last year.  That's a lot for me!  And I'm on easily track to surpass that this year.  Always looking for good books to add to my to-read list.
  • I've missed blogging.  But, honestly, I don't know exactly what this resurrection will look like.  But maybe my daughter will be up for some guest blogging...?

But the biggest update of all is that my kids are really growing up.  They've got strong opinions about things, and their privacy concerns are very real.  That means I have to be careful with what I say and what I post.  I always thought I was, but sometimes their standards are a little different from mine.