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.

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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.