A Whole Lot of Firsts

You already know that I’m not good with numbers, so I have no idea how many days we’ve been doing this COVID-19 thing. What I do know is – it’s more than any of us would like it to be.

I am sitting in amazement, though, at how God has prepared us for times such as these. For instance, just a few years ago grocery delivery was for the elite. Now it’s for everybody. (Except me. I can’t bring myself to do that yet. I like the grocery store. I like choosing my own produce. I may have to change my ways in the future, but not yet.)

Friday of last week I donned my mask and gloves and went to Publix. That was before it was advised that everyone wear masks in public, so it seems I was a little ahead of the times for a change. About a third of us were dressed the same. How embarrassing! Seriously, I was impressed at how kind and considerate everyone was. Publix has for its motto – Where Shopping is a Pleasure. It was a pleasure, but it was weird.

I color coded my hand-written grocery list so that I would not have to make return trips to an aisle I had already gone down. I was greeted by signs in the dairy department – one item of each kind per customer. I picked up a gallon of milk for my neighbor and a half-gallon for us. The Publix people were happy to let me do that after I explained why.

I opted out of help to my car (if you don’t have a Publix, you wouldn’t know that helping you to your car and loading groceries for you is part of their service, with no tipping their policy). When I peeled those gloves off of my sweaty hands, I thought about all of the health care people and other services where folks have to wear gloves all the time. I’m thankful for them all. (I was also thankful that I keep a small towel in my car so I could dry my hands and not have them slipping all over the steering wheel.)

On returning home, I set up a table in the garage and wiped down everything before it was allowed in the house. Some things I left in the garage for later. Honestly, it was simpler grocery shopping with toddlers, but I didn’t mind taking the extra precautions.

One reason for the extra precautions is that my mom lives with us. Bob and I are getting up there, but she is officially “up there.” (Again, full disclosure, I probably would go the extra mile of caution anyway; but having Mom with us helps me not get made fun of by my husband.)

Speaking of Mom. She has witnessed many things firsthand in her lifetime.  She was born in 1928 (she’s 92). Some of the firsts are, in no particular order:

  • Air-conditioned houses and cars
  • Televisions in homes and then color television
  • WW II
  • Microwave ovens
  • Cell phones
  • The internet
  • Man walking on the moon
  • Man-made satellites and a space station
  • Personal computers
  • Vinyl records, 4 track cassettes, 8 track cassettes, cassette tapes, CDs, downloading music
  • VCRs, Betamax, DVDs, Bluerays, streaming of movies and the like
  • Cameras have gone from little brownie box cameras to cameras on our phones
  • Fluoroscent light bulbs, LED bulbs, Smart bulbs
  • Google, Youtube, Facebook, Amazon (including the Echo Alexa that sits in her room, which she uses to sing along with her favorite hymns)
  • Hawaii and Alaska become states
  • And now a pandemic

Ten years before she was born, there was the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Mom has been through a lot – even polio as a kid and waiting to see if her brother who was a POW in Germany in WW II would return home (he did). And now she’s going through social distancing during the current pandemic.

It’s a privilege for me to witness her adapting and marveling at the technology which I can almost take for granted. Here’s a few shots of her doing just that:

 

Mom watching my sister and her son sing during their on-line church service in Georgia

 

 

Mom attending the Zoom meeting of her Tuesday morning Bible study

In a day when in a sense we are all shut-ins, my 92-year-old mom lives a life of thankfulness for the things she has and the things God set in place ahead of time for such a time as this. God bless you all and keep on looking up!

Six Degrees of Coronavirus?

 

Glad I stocked up before flu season hit!

The last week of January, Bob went to Oregon on business. We had begun to hear rumblings about the Coronavirus, but I was only mildly alerted regarding Bob’s trip. I reminded him to take hand sanitizer (which was in abundance at that time) and asked him to steer clear of anybody who may have traveled to China.

By mid-March, I was mentally exhausted from the reporting of this horrible virus. Little did I know that we’d only just begun.

We were expecting a visit from my sister from Washington State on March 11. A week earlier, northwestern Washington had become an epicenter of outbreak; and my sister was debating the wisdom of making the trip, which was to celebrate our mother’s 92nd birthday. Since she lives in northeastern Washington, we agreed she should come. By the time she landed in Orlando on the 11th, Kirkland, Washington, was all over the news.

As you can imagine, that put some stress on our visit.

The next day our other sister arrived from Georgia – thankfully an easy drive for her. We determined to and did enjoy the celebration, but there was a Corona cloud over our time together. It hung over us like humidity on a summer night. Thick and icky. We quickly began to realize that we were at the beginning of new daily and hourly updates of how our country was weathering this invasion.

It certainly has made me think twice about using the word “viral.” Nobody wants to go viral now.

In less than a week we went from hand washing tutorials to the new term “social distancing.” And the socially safe distance changed in that time as well – from no gatherings over 100 to 50 to 10 to just stay home. It was head spinning. We began to wonder if my sister and her husband would even be able to fly home. And the underlying question on everyone’s mind – is their enough toilet paper to go around?

So surreal! When my family returned to their own homes on March 18, we all breathed a sigh of relief. When things are falling apart, there’s no place like home.

Now we are looking at six feet of separation as a bare minimum and more likely being homebound (sheltering in place) as our country comes together to fight this awful thing.

But, as you maybe can imagine if you’ve been following me for a while, funny things started stirring in my mind. Things that could be funny about this but weren’t funny yet. Distance – time not social – allows the funny to seep into our life again.

For instance, I was talking to Bob last week and told him it looked to me like the cases of COVID-19 were increasing exponentially.

Bob – “Exponentially! That’s a math term.”

Me feeling proud – “I know.”

Bob – “I don’t think it’s truly going up exponentially. What exponent are you using?”

Me – “Two. I thought I could handle that one.”

Bob – silence

Me – “I hear the cases of COVID-19 are rising steadily.”

Also, did you know that going stir crazy refers to being in prison? Stir is a slang word for prison. Maybe you think you’re going stir crazy, but unless you are in prison, what you may be experiencing is cabin fever, which does not involve a literal fever. So, don’t sweat it. Remember, if you’re breaking out in a sweat, then your fever is likely breaking. Also, you don’t have to live in a cabin to have cabin fever. You can have condo fever, mansion fever, apartment fever, or even split-level ranch fever. It’s all the same. It knows no social difference – all it knows is it wants out.

So, I imagine our new normal is like yours. We are careful about everything. My 92-year-old mom lives with us, so nobody comes in our house. I spray the mail down with Lysol, for crying out loud! And you know what? That is funny. Picture me standing in the garage by the trash can sorting, spraying, tossing, and then washing my hands vigorously while singing Happy Birthday. All because I got the mail. Out of the box at the end of my driveway. Yep, that’s what it’s come to.

Then I thought about Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (the party game based on the theory that any two people on earth are no more than six acquaintances apart). That’s when I realized that I could not separate my thoughts from the Coronavirus by six degrees. If I got to two that was an accomplishment.

I conducted an experiment where I would not talk at the dinner table regarding anything connected with the virus. It was a quiet night. I guess I should have told Bob what I was doing, because it was the quietest five minutes we’ve ever had at the table. No – it doesn’t take me only five minutes to eat. Yes – that’s about how long I lasted before I gave up. And yes again – I think Bob enjoyed the silence – however brief.

I discovered I couldn’t talk about the following:

  1. My grandkids in NC. They are being home schooled now because …
  2. Our son in MI. He is teaching remotely from home because …
  3. Our local grandsons. We can’t get together with them because …
  4. Our weekly church meetings are now on Facebook Live because …
  5. You can only buy one thing of paper or cleaning products because …
  6. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (aka birding drive). We can’t go – it’s closed because …
  7. Going to a restaurant. I’m not sure I want to go where people are because … and then the restaurants closed because …
  8. The place where Mom and I get our nails done. We were there the last day it was open. It’s now closed because …
  9. Bob working from home because …
  10. Disney World. Yes, Disney, Universal, and all the theme parks are closed because …

 

So, you see we don’t need six degrees. We don’t even need two! Everything in life right now points back to that stupid virus.

When I told Bob what I was trying to do, we both realized it was futile to try to keep from talking about it. It’s affecting our daily lives and the lives of everyone we know and love. We need to talk and share and cry and laugh and pray. And that’s what we’re doing. That and a lot of reading, puzzles and games, walks, bike rides, and bird watching.

1000 pieces! I joked that this one was saved in case of a pandemic.

We have family members who are job searching, family members who are in medical and financial professions, family who are teachers. We have family who are young and old and in between. We have friends who are becoming grandparents and friends whose parents have passed during this time. It’s okay to talk about how the virus has affected all these things.

But I do want to keep my focus and not let the negative or downright scary dominate my speech. Of course, we need to discuss what the current events are regarding the pandemic, but we really need to think about and speak about more positive things.

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

Philippians 4:8 (Amplified Bible)

If any of you have family on the front lines and would like me to add them to my prayer list, please let me know. For that matter, any other needs you have are welcomed too. Thanks for reading and may God bless and keep you.

(more…)

Quieting Anxiety and a Trip to Costco

Yes, Costco is open for business. Yesterday after Bob’s first day working from home, we braved ourselves and headed there. Bob had a prescription to pick up and I had our usual list. It was completely sane there. You read that right, sane. Not only was it sane, but gasoline was $1.65/gallon, with no line.

This is one of the things that baffles the brain of every Floridian I know. From June 1 through November 30 we are used to emergency preparedness which involves stocking up on things when a hurricane is in the forecast. In order to avoid the rush, in early June I go ahead and stock up on paper products, water, and batteries and make sure our propane tanks are filled. But buying gas before a hurricane is always tricky because you can’t stock up, and when one is coming there is always a line.

So, my brain draws from past behavior and thinks a hurricane is coming, and it won’t shut up about it. Yesterday I realized that my stress is mainly because there is no hurricane. Let me explain, when we know a storm is approaching, we ready ourselves. When the storm passes, we recover. I’m waiting for the storm and that produces stress.

This realization has helped me. People aren’t comfortable with open-ended problems. Well, we’re in training for that now.

One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I am thankful that God revealed to me that the source of my stress here is not simply a virus and the economic impact, but it is the unknown timeline of it all. I hope that helps you, too.

Meanwhile, I continue to chat it up with people at Costco and that is always interesting. I bought everything on my list yesterday except for onions. I was unwilling to spend $8 for an enormous bag of onions when I only needed one. I figured onions aren’t really in the need category anyway, so that was fine. But once in the parking lot, I couldn’t help but notice just a few cars away, a man and his wife were unloading their cart, and they had onions. My mouth was salivating.

“Hey there,” I said half-jokingly, “I’d love to buy one of those onions from you.”

He laughed and after hesitating a moment said, “Do you need one?”

“Well, kind of. I just couldn’t bring myself to buy so many when I knew they’d go bad.”

At that point he ripped open his bag of onions and offered one to me. I paid him a dollar for it, which he said was silly. So, I told him to put it in his church offering. After we debated over which of our churches should get the dollar, I offered to trade a roll of toilet paper for it.

This made my day. Laughter over an onion. Do you see the irony? Usually I’m crying over onions, but this one brought joy to four people in a Costco parking lot in Altamonte Springs. I love people!

Scrabble and Sparrows

I don’t need to post about the Coronavirus. I have no information for you that you don’t already have. Interestingly, on the same day that it was revealed that Tom Hanks had the virus, WHO also declared it a pandemic. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t think that Tom Hanks is amazing, so that brings us together against a common viral enemy.

But what’s really been on my mind is the sparrows. As you know by now, I am a bird enthusiast. I have my favorites like I do actors. Tom Hanks would be a favorite actor. He’s like a mocking bird – he stars in lots of movies and I love watching him act. You’ll never hear me say, “Oh, that’s just another Tom Hanks movie. There are dozens of them. Isn’t there anybody special out there? Someone rare who I can watch?”

But I do find myself talking about certain birds like they are nothing. When I think I’ve spotted something unusual and then discover that I have not, I may say something like, “Oh, that’s just a sparrow.”

Just a sparrow! No, no, no.

If I want to think biblically, then I need to remember how God thinks about sparrows. They may blend in and look pretty plain, but they have amazing voices and are so cute. There are more types of sparrows than I can name. It’s kind of like trying to name all the Tom Hanks movies.

Hear the words of Jesus from Matthew 10:29-31:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

With regard to being afraid during the COVID-19 pandemic, I must admit to being tempted. Part of it is because it’s the topic of the day – 24 hours a day. It’s too much so I need to practice social media distancing.

I have prepared my household. I have all the necessities (and more, if I’m being completely honest). I can be at peace. There is only so much a person can do, so why fret over what I cannot control.

You and I are worth more than sparrows. God singles out the common sparrow to make his point. You may have difficulty finding the sparrow in this picture, but God knows if he falls to the ground. Amazing.

And also, I’m thankful for a sense of humor. If we don’t smile about how the lowly roll of toilet paper has become the most valuable commodity on the market, then we’re doomed.

Another example of how everything seems to point to the Coronavirus is a recent game of Scrabble that I played with my mom.

Doomed, toxic, legit, soap, warned.

To sum things up, do the following:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Do your best to have toilet paper for your household.
  3. Stay home if you’re not feeling well.
  4. Watch a Tom Hanks movie.
  5. Enjoy nature, especially sparrows.
  6. Take care of your sense of humor.
  7. Practice social distancing – both person-to-person and social media as needed.
  8. Remember that God loves you. You are worth far more than a sparrow.

 

 

 

Holy Zamboni!

I’m not a hockey fan, but after the unusual game played last week when the Carolina Hurricanes visited the Toronto Maple Leafs, well, I’m still not a hockey fan.

But I love a good story.

Thanks to my husband who keeps me apprised of all-things sports, knowing that there will be a small portion of those things that I am interested in hearing. He didn’t let me down with this story.

First of all, he had me at Zamboni, which is a fun word to say. I actually knew what a Zamboni is, because they use it in the Olympics to resurface the ice for the skaters. I guess it makes sense that they would use it to prepare for a hockey game as well. I hear hockey has a big following.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Evidently, every hockey team has two goalies. I’ve seen a little bit of hockey, so I was surprised that they only keep two, but seriously, what do I know? (Rhetorical question, but in case you’re wondering – not much.)

There is a provision in place in the event that both goaltenders become injured. It’s a weird one. The guy who drives the Zamboni becomes the goaltender. It doesn’t matter that he may be playing for the visiting team. That’s his job. (He also practices with his home team, which makes it a little less like they picked him up off the street.)

It reminds me of being back in school and learning to debate the other side of an opinion, only there is a chance you could lose teeth in the process. You have to give it your all and try to win the debate. That’s tough – hockey tough.

Well, the stars aligned and 42-year-old Dave Ayres became the emergency backup goalie for the visiting Hurricanes. He was met with great encouragement and admiration from both sides. Amazing. Carolina was leading 3-1 when Ayres entered the game. He ended up stopping 8 out of 10 shots, and Carolina won 6-3. He was the hero of the game for both sides.

Talk about stepping up to help in time of need! That’s what he did and now as a result of his 15 minutes of fame, he’s being featured in my blog! He also received $500 for his work and was allowed to keep his jersey. Pretty cool. He has an interesting story and you can read about it and more about the game here.

It all made me think about how we don’t really know what our day ahead is going to look like. Maybe we’ll have to step in for someone else doing something we’d never dreamed of doing. I’m fresh off of a conference at our church about the Holy Spirit. One of the sessions talked about such things – adventures with God. So I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open and drive my Zamboni (or Ford Escape) until called upon to step in. It almost happened as I left Costco today.

The lady two cars up pulled out of the parking lot, and her wallet went flying off of the roof of her car. Horns sounded loudly to alert the driver, but it was to no avail. The woman in front of me quickly emerged from her car, snatched up the wallet, and tore down the road to make the goal. I hope she wins. She’s a winner in my eyes.

Onward and Outward

We may not all be in the same place. We may not all believe the same thing. But every now and then we all need to be reminded to look up.

This was demonstrated to me as I watched the Super Bowl last Sunday. As the cameras panned the audience, some people were on their phones. I wonder if I would have been numbered among those folks if I had shelled out a few grand to see the game live. Watching at home we have the ability to rewind to what we miss, but in real time, we need to stay focused or we’ll miss a lot.

How has living in a rewindable world changed the way we live? (more…)

Growing Old Gracefully

When the class with the above title was announced at our church and the teacher is everybody’s favorite older woman, Shirley, I signed up. I’ve never been a particularly graceful person, so I thought, hey, maybe I can do this aging thing gracefully. You know, finish well, not trip over the finish line, stick the landing.

My youngest grandson after achieving new heights. Looks like he stuck the landing.

Not that I feel old, I typically don’t. That is probably aided by the fact that my mom, who is 91, lives with us, so I am the youngest person in the house. She has demonstrated aging gracefully and has also let me in on some of the challenges of aging. This class combined with my mom’s fine example would be beneficial.

Last Wednesday, for the first of the three sessions, Shirley covered, or I should say taught us about, our aging bodies. (The next two sessions will cover spirit and soul, as we are made up of three parts.) I am a woman in her sixties, so I am painfully (no pun intended, I just can’t help myself) aware that there is something of a decaying nature going on. That is verified in 2 Corinthians 4:16 – “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Eyesight starts going south around age 40. Some of my joints let me know when the weather is changing. And worst of all Alexa (our Echo) has begun to get confused by my commands to her. I have wondered if I’m slurring my words, but I’m also working on the theory that our Alexa is getting old, too. Perhaps Amazon wants me to upgrade her and they built that into her system. But I digress. People were designed to age, but we are also charged with stewarding the body that God has given us. In other words, we aren’t supposed to aid the deterioration that’s going on in our bodies, we are supposed to care for and strengthen them.

I don’t know about you, but I need reminders to do the things which I am supposed to do. The Bible does repeat itself a lot. I think that is because we tend to forget or become distracted. God knows that’s how we operate, so I’m thankful for the repetition.

Three days before that first class, I started feeling a twinge of pain on the lower lid of my left eye. The twinge became a pang. The pang became a pain. By the Wednesday meeting I had a sty the size of Rhode Island. And it was an angry sty – the kind that could scare small children, but I went to the meeting anyway. There would be no small children to frighten at that meeting.

By Thursday I had officially named the sty Rhode Eyeland. I figured if my entire body represented the 48 contiguous states, then my left eye was probably that size. When I saw the ophthalmologist on Friday, he said it was the largest he had seen in quite some time and added that it was “a dandy.” I told him I figured I’d go big or go home. Of course, when you have a sty the size of Rhode Island, you tend to want to stay home.

Dena (my daughter) and I caught up with each other on the phone on Friday afternoon. I had already sent her a picture of my eye when it was at its worst because she’s into gross things like that. In case you know Dena, you will understand why I made her give me her most excellent promise not to share that picture with anyone. To the best of my knowledge, she’s been true to her word.

She is also an encourager. She told me she was proud of me for going to, what she calls, the aging class.

Two things come to mind here:

  1. It’s kind of weird but okay I guess that she tells me she’s proud of me. I thought that was my job to be proud of her and her brothers, and I am, but whatever…
  2. I didn’t really care for the name Aging Class, but again, whatever…

I told her that one of the great things about being older is that you can go out looking like I did and it’s okay (except for frightening small children). Also, if I were to go anywhere with Rhode Eyeland, the aging class was the place to go. We don’t tend to major on that kind of thing. We have much bigger fish to fry than an eye with a sty.

Image result for free picture of a pig sty

I had to include a picture of a sty for you. This one’s not nearly as messy as the one on my eye, which is doing much better with drops from the doctor. Photo Credit: freepik.com

Easter Weekend – Resurrection Day

Luke 24:1-3 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24: 5-6a In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

 

Photo Credit: crosswalk.com

He is risen indeed! Happy Resurrection Day!

 

This is Post #21 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Easter Weekend – Saturday

Matthew 27:62-64 – The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

Waiting for Sunday.

 

This is Post #20 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

Easter Weekend – Good Friday

Easter Weekend begins with the most somber of days, Good Friday. This is the day that Jesus gave his life for us on a cruel cross.

Luke 23:44-46 – It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica

But this was just Friday. Sunday was coming.

 

This is Post #19 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.