Tag Archives: COVID-19

Annual Contemplation

This month is when my year starts again, even though it has felt like I have lived many years since January.  But here in the month of June, my birth is celebrated by those closest to me.  And it puts me in a deeply contemplative mood.

Looking Back

This last year was almost evenly divided between growth and stepping back.  Last summer, we did a lot of travel as a family.  We went to a wedding, visited family, and toured New York City.  All things that are more difficult to do this summer.  Last fall, I joined a mom group, a second book club, and found socialization opportunities for my son.  By the end of the year, I had a small village of people who loved on my family and encouraged me as a mom. 

Then, everything seemed to fall apart.  While the very beginning of this year promised a continued growth of that village, COVID-19 spread all over the world and this country bringing uncertainty and stopping pretty much everything.  So, after a few weeks of adjustment, I had new goals to focus on, primarily keeping my son engaged without leaving our house.

And in just the last few weeks, protests of police brutality and all of the conversations around racism and privilege have been brought to the forefront.  Every discussion over breakfast or dinner between Michael and me have been about the things our city and our country are going through, and the action steps we plan to take.

One of my personal goals is to teach my son and make him aware of what is going on at his level.  He’s only two so our conversations are more focused on the beauty in every person and the value that everyone inherently has.  But I know as he grows, we will have more in depth conversations about privileges we have and the honest history of our country.

Looking Forward

It is kind of odd this year.  Usually, I make my birthday a sort of New Year’s Day with its own goals and plans.  And while I have been making some plans this month (particularly in the blogging and writing categories), I don’t’ actually know much about what will happen in the next year.  COVID-19 is still spreading through our community.  Dallas has experienced higher rates of hospitalization and ER visits connected with this virus. 

Plus, this is an election year.  I do plan to research at an even deeper level what is on my ballot, not just the president choices, but everyone up for a place in local, state, and national positions.  But I don’t know what that outcome will be.

So, that makes it difficult to make specific plans.  I do know that I want to continue focusing on the things I’m passionate about while balancing self-care and the needs of my family.  I want to embrace slowing down and taking moments to reflect as well as to look ahead, making thoughtful decisions without worrying about pleasing other people.  Ultimately, I want to do things that honor God and encourage others around me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

I am thankful for the last year and its many, many lessons.  I sort of hope that next year will be a little lighter on the challenges. But whatever may come, this last year has taught me even more that I can lean on God and my family. Life is hard, but we can definitely do hard things. And I look forward to the adventures that are ahead.

A Personal Note For The Weekend

Oh my goodness, you guys. This week has been a crazy year, hasn’t it? I remember joking that January seemed to go on forever, but then came COVID-19 and quarantine, and now peaceful protests and violent encounters happening every day across our country.

In the midst of everything, my uncle passed away this week.

I don’t talk much about my extended family, or really a whole lot about my family in general since the birth of my son. I wasn’t exactly close to my uncle. Growing up, I saw him for only a couple of days a year around Christmas. He used to make the best manicotti on Christmas Eve.

Even though I wasn’t very close to him, I know my family is hurting. This is my dad’s younger brother. My grandmother and my uncle’s two adult children are having to make difficult decisions this week, and I can’t be there in person to support them. Though I am supporting all of them from afar through phone calls, texts, and Zoom. It’s all just still very difficult.

Grief is weird. We grieve pretty much any time there is change or transition in our life. And there are a lot of people grieving right now for so many reasons. There is so much pain and sadness, that I feel tempted to put my own grief on the back burner to focus on others.

But the funny thing about grief is that it really doesn’t let you do that. When it needs attention, it demands it. I’ve felt that weight this week, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s affected my ability to carry out every aspect of my life.

So, I’m going back to the basics this weekend of making sure I have space to grieve loss, grieve with others, and still manage to do the day to day (I mean, I’ve still got a toddler running around here, I can’t let it go to total chaos). I’m still committed to learning and listening. That’s not going to stop. So I’m taking the opportunity to slow down, to pay attention to what needs to be done right now and to listen to where God is leading me next.

A Day In The Life

I have been obsessively watching Vanity Fair Does In A Day videos on YouTube. It fascinates me how celebrities and even average people choose to spend their day. Especially in this time of quarantine. So, I thought I would share a typical day.

I wake up between 5 and 6 in the morning. I get in a Bible study, wash my face, maybe shower if I didn’t do it the night before, and basically get ready for the day. If I have any time left over, I usually scroll through Instagram and check email. And if I have time after that (which I usually don’t but there have been unicorn moments) I will read one of the current books I’m reading.

Then it’s breakfast and outside activities (which include tending my garden) for most of the morning unless it’s raining. If it’s raining, then it’s usually reading books to the boy or doing puzzles or board games (there is an entire brand of board games that are mostly geared towards two years old and up. Check it out at Amazon here).

Lunch usually happens in the 11 o’clock hour, and then nap time directly afterwards. This is the time I get to really read, watch one episode of a show or part of a movie, do some laundry, maybe tidy or organize an area, or nap. Naps usually take precedence.

Then when nap time is over, it’s more time outside or maybe even some tidying up and light cleaning (especially if it is raining). There is some independent play thrown in there that allows me to focus on something else (like writing a blog post or doing some light planning like summer bucket lists or TV show/Movie bucket lists). But for the most part, it’s just play time.

Dinner prep starts in the 5 o’clock hour, depending on what I’m making. Most of my meals are pretty much either dump and go or they take about 15-20 mins to make. Sometimes I even get some toddler help (like when I make homemade pizza).

Dinner is around 6. This is when the husband is home and has some father/son bonding time. So, after dinner I either go on a run or a walk (doing the couch to 5K presently) or I clean up the kitchen. Then, if I exercised, I will clean the kitchen and do whatever else I need to do to prep for tomorrow. If it was an off day for exercise, I catch up on a video that I missed from Modern Mrs Darcy book club, or catch up on Marco Polos, or do some yoga or read or scroll Instagram or YouTube. Usually it’s some combination of a few of those. Then, I do the bed time routine with my husband and son.

Once bed time routine for the boy is done, it’s about 8 or 9. The later it is, the less I do. Lately, I’ve been taking my showers at night. I usually put on an overnight face mask after the shower and get ready for bed. Then, I will read and try to stay off my phone. And then it’s lights out.

This is probably the most typical day. There are a lot of interruptions. Sometimes my attention is desired more. Sometimes I don’t have a lot of focus. But I do give myself a lot of grace, and I wash my hands. A lot. (I use this brand of lotion to help my hands from cracking, after I dry my hands off). And of course, I didn’t include every detail of my morning routine or bed time routine or even every detail of my day.

Hope you are all finding ways to find rhythm and sanity in your schedules. Until next time…wash your hands.

How I’m Surviving Quarantine

One of my recent blog posts really got me thinking about how similar my experience with pregnancy loss and pandemic has been.  So, I started brainstorming about what really helped me during loss that might also help me now.  As always, I disclaimer this with “give myself grace” which brings me to my first point.

  1. I’m not going to do everything right.  I’m going to mess up.  A lot.  I’m going to think things will go one way when they will go in a completely different direction.  I’m going to have all the ideas and plans and goals, schedules lined out nicely on paper, only to wake up with anxiety or a headache or my period or a screaming toddler who is having a bad day or a husband who didn’t sleep well because of said toddler, or all of the above.  And that schedule is going right out of the window.  Or maybe I just lose all motivation to get anything done for no reason at all.  It happens.
  2. But I still need hopes, dreams, goals, and plans.  I need something to look forward to each day.  Maybe that’s a special face cream or mask after my shower.  Maybe it’s a bag of chocolate I break into every day at 2pm.  Maybe it’s watching Mrs. America on Hulu every Wednesday (loving that show, btw).  For my son, it’s seeing the garbage man pick up our garbage each week.  Maybe it’s looking forward to something coming to Netflix next month.  Or a long walk on a day after it’s been raining for a week.  Maybe it’s a hobby like baking that actually leads to a special treat each day for a week.  Whatever it is, whatever it may be, it helps.
  3. Reaching out has never been more important.  When I grieve, I tend to close up in person.  Being introverted, I don’t have a lot of energy to interact with a lot of friends without feeling overwhelmed.  I tend to spend a lot of time alone.  But I still make it a point to write a blog post.  To text a friend, or respond to a text, even if it is a few days later.  I talk to a professional.  I talk to my husband. Even when feelings are hard to unravel, I try to stay present and focus on the feeling I’m experiencing in the moment, even when I can’t find the cause right away.  Even though I’m not working my social muscles extremely hard, I’m still finding ways to stretch them.
  4. I stay as present as I can but give myself grace always.  I didn’t really realize when I lost my second daughter that I also quit my job just a day later, and looking back, I can see how a multitude of factors played on my grief, not just the big one of pregnancy loss.  Right now, so many people are experiencing various types of loss at the same time.  This is hard stuff.  It’s a lot to process, even if we don’t realize exactly how much we are processing.  And I didn’t learn how to slow down and stay present until I was well into adulthood.  I still feel like I’m taking remedial courses in it!  But that word, grace.  It is something I hold on to fiercely. 

Because I need grace.  I learned what grace is because of who God is.  God taught me grace in the story of his Son.  How Jesus interacted with people, saw their sin but extended forgiveness, told stories of hope, and stayed connected and present.

One of the great things about grace is that it allows the do-over.  It allows that letting go of the things I held so tightly that are no longer who I am or what my life is anymore.  Which allows me to explore the new space of my life as it has become with the hope of a brighter and better tomorrow.  I may not be motivated today, but today isn’t forever, tomorrow is a new beginning.  With a piece of chocolate and a face mask to help me get through the day, of course.

What is helping you survive?

Weekly Updates

Every day is pretty much the same in my world right now. I mean, I make different things for dinner and there are a few things that happen each week that change things up a bit. But I literally woke up today and for about 5 minutes had to really think about what day it actually is.

I’ve learned a few things from this time in social distancing and staying at home. Slowing down and being present has become so important in the survival of my relationships and my parenting. It has gotten immensely easier to be self-aware. Of course, I’m still learning how to give myself grace when I can’t distance myself from making mistakes.

I do tend to stay away from the news a lot more than I did at the beginning of all of this. I realized that my mental health needed to take priority, especially when my entire day is centered around caring for a toddler. It’s funny how the term 20/20 means to see clearly, but this year has been anything but clear.

Out of all of my hobbies, reading has managed to survive. It helps that I carry my books with me throughout the house and will read a sentence here and there as I find a moment or two. Everything else has been put on hold.

I hope you all are finding moments of joy in your day, embracing the present, and giving yourself grace. I am so thankful for this community of encouragers. To be transparent, I struggle with what to write and when to write my weekly blog, but I know that reaching out each week truly helps me stay connected. I hope this also encourages you to know you are not alone, even if you are isolated right now.

And as always, wash your hands.

Show Me The “Meme”ing Of Being Lonely

Maybe it’s the fact that it has been almost a complete two months since the COVID-19 conversation entered into our home. Well over a month since we have been social distancing. And week in, week out of stress and anxiety in a way we have never experienced before.

But I thought I would do something a little fun and share some favorite memes.

As an introvert, I haven’t had a really hard time adjusting to staying home. I’ve been a homebody for as long as I can remember. It has been a little challenging with my son. He was getting into a fun routine of playdates, trips to gyms and parks, as well as other activities. And all of those had a hard stop. Now I’m his play-date. Every. Single. Day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love spending this time with my son. Seeing him discover, learn, and grow has been absolutely amazing. It’s just that there is a limitation on where we can go and what we can do. And it’s also important for mama and son (and dada as well) to have the ability to recharge, especially if we are struggling that day, which requires some creativity, communication, and compromise. One way to combat the more challenging days is to keep from falling into a constant rut.

I am a creature of habit. I love structure, and I don’t mind doing the same things over and over again. But if I wash those dishes one more night….. Just kidding, sort of. Usually when I get to that point, I try to change up one small thing, one little interruption in the flow. The other night, when I just couldn’t see myself washing the dishes after dinner, I went upstairs and Marco Polo’d with a friend for 20 minutes. Then, feeling a little better, I started with just emptying the clean dishes from the dishwasher. And before I knew it, I was done with the kitchen. It helps to take care of myself in those moments before trying to tackle the task.

Exercise, sleep, and general self-care have mostly been met. It’s really hard on some days, knowing that I won’t be seen at all by anyone outside of these walls. I haven’t so much as put on eyeliner a single day in well over a month. I miss my workout classes, and I’m using YouTube as a substitution. It’s okay, but it’s not the same. And sleep is probably the one thing I can usually get enough of, unless my anxiety is peaking, like the night before I go to the grocery store.

Despite my own challenges, I also know I have privileges and advantages that other people don’t have. I am truly grateful to my amazing, supportive husband, my son who injects joy into my life on a daily basis, the things in my life (like my garden) that bring me peace, and the friends who are willing to check in with me, even as I slowly descend into perpetual slap-happy silliness. Also, I am adjusting to the new rhythms and finally finding some time to do a little reading which I thought was never going to happen. Really grateful for that.

I also know that everyone is having different experiences and different challenges during this unprecedented time in our country’s history. But we are all in this together. And we will get through it together. Even if it is one meme at a time.

Things I’m Learning from COVID-19

It’s been well over a month of social distancing so far. There is so much I’ve learned about myself and my family and my community, living in such an unique and unprecedented time in this generation. I’ve seen a few similarities between this experience and the experience of pregnancy loss. It makes sense because both situations contain abrupt, unexpected change and grief. But there are a couple other similarities, as well.

We are all having varied experiences. While there are cases in every state of this country, I imagine that the experience living in an urban city is very different than the experience living in a rural city. Also, different states gave shelter-in-place orders at different times, affecting social and economic communities differently. Though we are seeing more and more loss moving into all sectors, some have experienced it longer than others. Some places seem to have better access to healthcare than others, which affects both anxiety and the ability to recover from the disease

The same is true in pregnancy loss. Women experience loss at different times in their pregnancies. They may experience multiple losses. Even those losses are different from each other. And access to healthcare and support can also be different among women experiencing loss, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of medical problems.

We are all having varied responses. Primarily, I believe, because we have such different experiences and beliefs, and a lot of fear of the unknown. We don’t know how this will all play out in the months and years ahead, how it will affect our economy and our health in the future. There are people who say we aren’t doing enough, while others say we are overreacting. And in all of the confusion, there are hurt feelings and loss on both sides.

This happens within the pregnancy loss community as well. I can’t tell you how many times people had an answer for what I was going through. Whether I wasn’t trying hard enough, or there was something I wasn’t doing right that was causing my loss. Or that I was overreacting about my loss and needed to move on. None of these responses were helpful, and I can imagine they aren’t helpful in this situation either.

How I Navigate It All

Since seeing the similarities between the two situations, I decided I would try to incorporate some of the thought processes and techniques that helped me through pregnancy loss into this experience as well. These worked for me, and they are great reminders, so I thought I would share them. But, disclaimer, they are in no way an exhaustive list, or a how-to list.

  1. I trust the opinions of my doctors over the opinions of my friends. I know this is a controversial idea. It helped that the doctors who took care of me through each pregnancy had also experienced loss and high risk in their own pregnancies. I think the same is true in this pandemic. We are all experiencing this together, and I think doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers want this to be over as quickly and safely as possible, just like we do.
  2. I also gave grace to those same doctors. They are educated and, yet, they are still humans. They don’t have all the answers, but they are making choices in an effort to save lives, whether pandemic or pregnancy. I am willing to sit in the tension and support those that have made their life’s work to take care of the sick and heal them and prevent others from being sick the best they can.
  3. I practice gratitude. I wish I could honestly say I do this intentionally every day. I do it, most definitely, when my anxiety is high. And it does come naturally to me in quiet moments when I’m making food for my family or folding clothes or interacting with my son (okay, that’s not as quiet of a moment). But gratitude has to be more than just being thankful, it has to breed generosity and kindness.
  4. I use whatever gifts or resources I can to encourage others. Again, this isn’t done perfectly. I could do this better. It’s a day-to-day struggle with my tendency to introvert myself into a hole versus keeping my eyes open to the needs of others. But I’m not too hard on myself, there are glimmers of who I want to be sprinkled throughout my day, whether that is checking in on a neighbor, sharing an encouraging word with a friend, or keeping a generous mentality over my resources. Or just providing safe space.
  5. I give space for others to grieve how and what they need to grieve. Our situation is different than other people’s situations. We all seem to be grieving just a little differently, but if I have learned anything from the pregnancy loss community, it’s that everyone has a right to their grief without others belittling it. I may not completely understand their experience, but I respect it and I honor it.

Of course, leaning on God and allowing him to guide me is interwoven into each of the above 5 things. My trust begins with knowing God is in control and sees a bigger picture than I ever will. That allows me to trust others with grace, find gratitude, generosity, and kindness in all things, and give space to others in their own journey. I don’t have it all figured out, and never will, but God is greater than my understanding, and I can rest in the hope of his promises today, and every day in the future.

March Books

So, the last two months, I’ve been reading 4 to 5 books a month on average, but this month, I barely read 3 books, and two of those books I started at the end of February.

I think that’s indicative of how much has changed in just four(ish) weeks. As I was trying to figure out why my reading amount had gone down, I realized some of the differences this social distancing due to COVID-19 has brought to my life.

  1. Because my son no longer has outside activities, I no longer have that time to read, or really doing anything like write my blog, clean my house, plan meals, work out, etc. So, I have to pick and choose what I want to do during his nap times, or my early morning time or right before bed time.
  2. All of the “free” time I just mentioned is subject to change. Sometimes my son sleeps longer, sometimes he doesn’t. So, I make a list as quickly as I can and chip away at it throughout the week. Reading tends to be pushed to the bottom of the list or left off completely.
  3. And finally, the reason reading is such a low priority is that I simply don’t have the mental energy for it right now. There are bursts of time that I will read a lot, but the bursts are getting farther apart. It requires turning off the anxiety and the to-do lists that are constantly running in my head lately. Fiction seems to be a better fit for me at this time. Nonfiction can’t seem to keep my brain from wandering to a to-do list.

Now, overall, I’m doing okay, and I did manage to enjoy three books this month. Here they are:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells – This was the Life’s Library book club pick. I don’t usually read science fiction, especially set in space or dealing with half-human robots. The first half of the book (which was only 8 chapters) was a bit slow as it tried to build the world, history, and politics. But the second half of the book was amazing and well worth trudging through the first half. It follows a SecUnit who is assigned as security for a research team on an unknown planet. Several unexplained glitches happen and the team starts to realize that there may be someone or something trying to sabotage their mission. It was really good. I will definitely lend it to some of my science fiction friends who may not have read it yet.

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson – Excellent ending to this murder mystery trilogy. There were so many reveals, even at the beginning of the book. And so many plot twists. I got so invested with these characters that I was even mad at Stevie at one point because I just wanted to shake her for some of the assumptions and decisions based on those assumptions that she was making. Which, to me, indicates a good book. Highly recommend this trilogy.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi – So, this is the second book in her series based on African mythology. As always, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but this book definitely gave me that typical second movie in a trilogy feel. It had a lot of war, a lot of politics, and a lot of information about the world. And it ended on an excellent cliffhanger. I did struggle in this book as well with a desire to throttle characters who made prideful decisions that could have avoided certain outcomes. Of course, pride does that, but it was done so well in this book. Looking forward to the next one!

I learned a lot about myself through my reading experience this month, or lack thereof. I think I will be focusing this next month on more of my preferred genre, since we are living in strange times. Thankfully, I have a few on my shelf I haven’t read yet. Here’s hoping to a better reading life in my new rhythm in April!

Have you noticed a change to your reading life in this social distancing world? What books have you read lately? Do you have a preferred genre?

COVID-19

The Coronavirus, as it is commonly called.  What a week, or should I say month, huh friends?

I’ve gone back and forth about what I would actually say, if I would actually say anything about what is going on in our country, let alone the world.  But for my little corner of the internet, I thought it would be appropriate to tell my story, my experience, so far, as a little memory capsule for years to come.

So, in my normal routine, I get supplies for the house about once a month and groceries once a week.  Starting at the end of February, Michael and I decided to go ahead and get March’s supplies and two weeks’ worth of food for the pantry, plus a few nonperishables.  At the time, I’ll admit I thought I was being a little overreactive, but even at that point, there was no hand sanitizer on the shelves and very little Clorox wipes available either.

Then last week happened.  The Stock Market started tanking.  The first states to be hit with the virus started shutting down and taking more extreme measures.  The President addressed the public several times.  The CDC went from just washing hands to social distancing recommendations.  And the number of people affected by this virus in our area started to climb.

My dad works at one of the biggest grocery chains in the country.  He told me stories of people waiting by the stock room door for pallets of toilet paper to come on to the floor.  They get picked up before they even make it to the shelves.  By Saturday, every department was hit with empty shelves as people continued to buy in double the normal average amounts.

But the reality is this.  We are not running out of food.  Employees are working overtime to make sure we can get the things we need.  And I am so grateful for them.  And I’m also reminded that I need to not let myself succumb to the hysteria while still being alert and informed.

There is a lot of unknown and scary right now.  Anxieties are high.  My anxiety has gotten the best of me several times.  I’ve had to designate phone-free times during my day.  I’ve also had to designate clean-free times as well, because I will stress-clean (as my husband calls it) obsessively.  I have to be really intentional about down time and self-care.  I haven’t finished a book in over a week because every time I try to sit down and read; my brain won’t turn off.

One funny example from last week, I made myself some tea and was going to curl up in bed with a book while my son napped.  But first, I needed to clean off my bedside table, and then my headboard, and the other bedside table, and might as well wipe down the dresser.  I knew I was in trouble when I found myself kneeling on a chest wiping down the frames on the wall.  So, I have started using timers. I also bought myself some puzzles.  For some reason, puzzles can take that obsessive aspect of my brain and keep it occupied.

And of course, I’m leaning on God.  He is revealing things about His nature through this experience.  His faithfulness to our family, His love and strength.  I am so thankful that He is in control, and no matter what happens in the next few weeks and months, I know He won’t leave my side.

I hope you are finding ways to bring calm and sanity into your life.  Whether it’s gratitude for the hard-working men and women at the grocery stores or organizing and structuring your life to keep you from obsessively cleaning (or is that just me), or leaning on God morning, noon, and night.  I hope you stay safe and healthy and find new ways to stay connected to both God and the people around you.

And as always, wash your hands.