They Said I Do!

Our baby girl is married!

Chesney was a gorgeous bride, absolutely radiant. Farm Boy was so handsome, literally beaming every time he looked at his bride. I felt as if I might burst with the joy I felt for my daughter and new son-in-law.

Also, can I just say? My family cleans up nice!

Oh, how I prayed about this day, and not just the usual prayers for a young couple committing their lives to one another. I stacked prayers on top of prayers because while planning a wedding can be stressful during the best of times, no one could have imagined a year ago when they were engaged, what it would mean to do so during a pandemic.

Last spring after having already set the date, the venue informed us that due to the pandemic it now had to operate at a lower capacity. Lucky for us it’s a large venue and our guest list fell comfortably below those restrictions. Many guests declined their invitations from the start, but we were happily surprised that most others were still willing to attend. We worked with the staff at the venue to plan extra spacing between tables, making use of both the upper and main levels. We planned to seat guests either by household, or small numbers of those in the same bubble. The invitations stated that everyone should plan to wear a mask and we bought extras just in case, along with a multitude of hand-sanitizer.

Their wedding day would surely look different than what they’d dreamed, but Chesney and Farm Boy handled themselves with immense grace and patience (with just a few tears shed) along the way.

But as the November wedding date loomed closer, the impact of COVID-19 was rapidly increasing in our state. Three days before the wedding, our governor was to announce new restrictions. I sat on the edge of my seat the afternoon of the press conference, waiting to hear whether this would require us to cancel with only three days to go, or if we could somehow go forward. All along the way, the venue held us to the scheduled date, because as they explained, they were still allowed to be open. And we truly sympathized when the owner explained that if they rescheduled or refunded everyone who asked, they would go out of business. Long ago I told my daughter that while we’d already invested significantly in this wedding, money isn’t everything. If they wanted to cancel, we’d figure it out. Jack and I maintained this stance even now, but Chesney and Farm Boy decided to just roll with things as best they could.

As it turned out, there would be new restrictions for weddings and receptions, but not until just after our event. Still, I didn’t feel good about things. The governor had simply drawn a line in the sand. On the date of this wedding, we could gather a couple hundred people together in an enclosed space. Just a short time later it would no longer be allowed. I could not stop thinking about how the virus didn’t care about dates. People would still be at risk at this wedding. And in the days just ahead, upwards of forty guests called to tell us they weren’t coming. Some had already been personally impacted by the virus, others simply didn’t feel safe coming. At this point, I’d have been happy if our immediate families could just be there, but a good number of guests weren’t backing out. I felt like we were on a freight train racing out of control.

I’ve always been champion worrier, but now I was experiencing true and severe anxiety. That evening after the governor’s announcement, my brain kept reminding me we were being selfish to forge ahead. The remaining hours of that day dragged on for me and I lost the ability to focus on anything else. I began to feel a burning sensation in my chest which traveled up my throat and into my mouth. I was convinced I had the virus and I can’t describe the devastation I felt at the thought of missing my daughter’s wedding day. I frantically searched online for locations where I could be tested, but without displaying any of the typical symptoms, I couldn’t get a test before the wedding day. I kept all of this to myself until I burst out crying, telling Jack my worst fears.

Jack assured me I didn’t have the virus, but I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t sleep that night and woke up in the morning with the burning feeling still raging in my chest. Then I had a revelation … and took something to ease the effects of heartburn. Voilà! I quickly felt so much better. I had literally worried myself sick.

I felt a bit less anxious the day before, and on the day of the wedding I forced myself to pack my anxieties away in a dark corner of my brain. While my fears never truly went away, I’m happy to say that I was able to rejoice in and fully celebrate my daughter’s wedding day.

In the end, the number of guests who attended was just over a hundred, about half of the number we’d invited. People were really good about keeping masks on. We had to forgo hugging and handshakes, which was hard for a hugger like me. Some people left right after the ceremony, and some as soon as they’d finished dinner. Some of us still danced and it was FUN! But the whole thing wound down by around ten o’clock. Those who stuck it out told us how much fun it was, how good the food was, how happy they were to help us celebrate this amazing event.

Most importantly, my prayers were answered ten-fold. In spite of it all, my daughter got to marry the love of her life. The newlyweds were truly happy. I’ve said something to Chesney and Farm Boy many times throughout this year, and in my toast at the wedding reception, I said it again. If Friday the thirteenth is suspicious during a normal year, in a year like 2020 when we celebrated their wedding day, it can only be a magical day filled with blessings for the years ahead.

A Wedding Will Go On

It was just about this time last year that my baby girl got engaged.

Early this year, I enjoyed spending a day with the Chesney and Farm Boy, touring potential wedding venues. After seeing several very different options, they picked a beautiful barn venue, (so fitting,) and set the date for November 13th, 2020.

Much excitement and anticipation followed as we looked forward to the day that was sure to arrive before we could blink. And then?

We found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic.

Not surprisingly, this has made wedding planning a bit of a challenge. Being the mother of the bride, I’ve been heavily involved in the planning of this wedding. Being the parents of the bride, Jack and I also have a financial investment in the big day. We’ve all spent much of this year increasingly worrying and discussing how, or whether to proceed. We considered at-risk family members and friends who wouldn’t be able to attend plus the fact that more than the typical number of guests might decline an invitation. After much thought, the kids told us they had decided it would be best to postpone the wedding to a later date.

Funny thing. It wasn’t quite so simple. As it turned out, the venue wouldn’t allow them to reschedule. And because of the payment requirements, we had already paid in full. So we could cancel, but we wouldn’t get our money back.

That all sounds so bad, I know. Believe me, my initial reaction was, “Oh yeah? I work for two lawyers! So think again!”

But in the long run, the kids and I had a phone conversation with the venue owner. It was honest and it was good. The owner explained that with a slowdown in new business due to COVID-19, and if they allowed everyone who had already booked a date to reschedule, they simply couldn’t accommodate all of the changes and were in danger of going out of business. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her position. She explained that under our governor’s requirements, the venue is allowed to be open. They are following the requirements in regards to social distancing and masks. And since it is such a large space, one that our guest list won’t come close to filling up, we will easily be able to create the necessary distancing between guests. And in the end, the owner offered to allow us to reschedule (only) between January and March if we really felt we couldn’t stick with the November date. She asked us to talk it over and let her know, but that she would hold the initial date until she heard back from us.

The kids discussed it with us and with Farm Boy’s parents. We told them that if they wanted to cancel, we would fully support them. (Though if they did cancel, we would lose a chunk of change that we might not be able to offer again towards a future wedding.) Farm Boy’s parents were reluctant about holding the wedding during a pandemic, but upon hearing the options, told the kids that they would be in attendance if the wedding went on as originally planned.

Finally, realizing that not much is likely to change in regards to the pandemic between November 2020 and March 2021, and not wanting to put their lives on hold for another year or more, the kids decided to make the best of the situation and keep the original date. And I knew exactly why my daughter wants to spend the rest of her life with Farm Boy when he said, “I am going to be there on November 13th, and I am going to marry you, whether or not anyone else shows up.”

And so the wedding shall go on. The kids have resigned themselves to the fact that their special day won’t look exactly as they had dreamed it would. Everything requires some extra thought, from the catering, to how to serve dessert. We have purchased disposable masks and hand sanitizers in bulk. Making a seating plan will require some extra thought. But we are doing this. Will it be different? Definitely. Will it be something people will remember? I’m quite sure. While I’m saddened by the ones who won’t be able to join us, I’m actually quite surprised at the number of people who have told us they are excited and planning to be there.

In the end, all that matters is that my daughter and my future son-in-law are able to commit their lives to one another, and that they are happy.

And yes, we are well aware that November 13th, 2020 is Friday the Thirteenth. For a bride who was born on the thirteenth of April, and who wore the number thirteen proudly on her sports jerseys, there are no suspicions of bad luck. Besides, if Friday the Thirteenth is suspect during a normal year, I’m banking it holds some kind of magic during this crazy year.

Blissfully Peaceful

I didn’t sleep well last night for no particularly apparent reason. I was awake this morning long before the alarm went off.

I work out each morning before I start the rest of my day. The physical activity gives both my body and mind a boost and helps me feel more prepared to face whatever may lie ahead. And if I get up on time, I might also have a few minutes to spare after a workout to meditate before the day’s demands start piling up.

I started exploring meditation in the past couple of years with the help of some free apps. I quickly found that it can help alleviate a general sense of anxiety that I seem to hold onto. My boss is extremely invested in wellness and self-care of all sorts. She’s big into yoga and encourages us to schedule daily breaks from work to go outside for a run or walk, or to meditate. So I considered myself very fortunate when she spent part of the department’s budget on HeadSpace subscriptions for the entire team. I use it often. I’m not consistently good at it, but I’ve found a sense of calm through these meditations frequently enough to want to keep working on it.

In spite of my lack of sleep, I didn’t feel fatigued or out-of-sorts this morning. It probably helped that today’s workout wasn’t so much a workout as a recovery routine, a yoga-inspired series of flowing and stretching. It helped me unwind and put me in a good frame of mind. I had plenty of time afterwards before I had to feed Lucy and then take a shower, so I pulled up my HeadSpace app and selected the day’s featured meditation.

Unlike so many other times, today I didn’t have to fight the constant interruption of thoughts or remind my muscles to relax as I tried to meditate. My eyes closed easily and my lungs filled slowly and deeply with each breath. Finally, a deep calm settled over me along with a sense of floating on clouds. It was blissfully peaceful, almost a high. I wanted to stay there forever, but of course, I couldn’t. Still, I realized how wonderful it was, even if only for a short time, to let go of the need to leap from one thought to the next, the constant list-making, and the compounding of expectations that so often occurs in my brain. All I felt was a deep sense of quiet and peace.

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This was the first thing for which I was grateful today. If nothing else went well, at least I had this.

Practicing Gratitude

I’m feeling funky lately. Everything seems to be getting under my skin. I rarely want to wish away precious time, but lately, I keep wishing this year would just fast-forward and go away.

My fitness accountability group so often helps me keep my head above water. This is usually a daily opportunity to check-in online to seek or offer support in regards to exercise and nutrition goals. But self-care is also a frequent topic and lately, it’s often simply about helping each other be okay. A lot of us are struggling right now.

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This week brought a reminder that no matter your size or how well you eat, no matter how many pushups you can do or how much weight you can lift, if stress weighs you down, you just aren’t healthy.

I looked through the list of tips for living more happily and immediately recognized that I’ve been allowing myself to get sucked into the fear, the anger, and the frustration of the world today. Even typical daily hurdles sometimes feel monumental. I picked out a few things to work on, with my main focus being to express more gratitude. I’ve not been very grateful lately, even while I recognize that my life is relatively easy and peaceful.

IMG_0002[3420]A few weeks ago while doing some shopping, a small notebook caught my eye. I remember thinking it could be a gratitude journal but (typical me) I’d tossed it aside and hadn’t done anything with it. But now I’d found some motivation and have since started writing in it. And I’m reminded that gratitude takes practice. I’ve allowed my mind to sink, to wallow just a bit too much, to hang onto darkness and a sense of helplessness. Finding reasons to be grateful has taken some real effort. But I’ve been making myself write some things down almost daily. I try to find at least three things a day to write down, even if what I’ve written feels stupid or mundane. Sometimes I only manage one thought. Sometimes I don’t write anything. But I do it if at all possible. 

One of my fitness friends shared that she often has to find reasons to be grateful in the most unlikely of circumstances. She tripped over a bunch of shoes in her house one day. Instead of being annoyed that no one could put their shoes where they belong, she told herself that she was lucky to have a houseful of big-footed teenagers who just so happen to have great taste in athletic shoes. Following my friend’s lead, I’ve been grateful to wake up to the sounds of birds singing outside my open bedroom window. I was thankful for a busy workday, particularly after a recent lull made me worry about job security. I professed how much I love my dog, Lucy, and how I appreciate her constant companionship while I’m stuck have the privilege of working from home. I appreciated a text from a friend that simply said she was thinking of me and wanted to say hi.

I would really like to deepen my sense of gratitude. After all, it’s kind of hard to be sad and mopey when you’ve got pages of things for which to be grateful. I’ll keep working at this.

I’m Still Here

I haven’t found the time or inspiration to write much lately. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but let’s just blame it on the weird world we’re living in right now, shall we? My brain and my spirit have apparently been stuck in a strange place, one that’s not necessarily depressed or unhappy, but that has stifled any desire to express myself in writing. Still, there appears to be at least one person who still comes around here looking for some news from me. And maybe that’s all the encouragement I need. And right now, at this moment, I have the day off work and I’ve got some time.  So here I am.

All things considered, things are good in my world. About a month ago, things were tense and scary. George Floyd had just been killed in Minneapolis, resulting in shock and anger, protests, and riots. Minneapolis is not all that far from where I live and we watched all of that chaos unfold on television. And as it turns out, the officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck? He lived here, just about a mile away from our house. There were protests in the following days, and thankfully the ones near us, the ones in front of his house were very peaceful compared to what occurred in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

I was thinking recently how much weight is on our collective shoulders right now. Almost daily, I think to myself that the world has gone crazy.  Absolutely bat-shit crazy! I think about racial issues and it feels unbelievable that we aren’t doing better than this by now. I mean, really! Why can’t we reach a place where we’re able to look at any other human being, regardless of skin color, and recognize that person as someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, friend? … As someone who is loved and important to another person and deserves to be treated as such?

And then there are political tensions.

And we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

And I think, this world is just going to break apart! But it’s not. We’ve been here before, I’ve realized. I think this is just the first time in my life I’ve been old enough or mature enough to see it, to contemplate my role in it all. To really worry for my children’s futures.

I sometimes wish we could get back to normal, and I often have to remind myself that my good normal was someone else’s miserable normal. I shouldn’t want to go back there. I wish the answers were obvious and the solutions quick and easy, and that we could just get to the business of fixing all of the world’s problems.

I went to my local bulk-shopping store this morning. It was surprisingly busy, although maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised considering that Independence Day is just around the corner. My visit was all pretty uneventful until I got to the check-out lanes. People were stacked up like cordwood waiting for their turns to pay. I stood in a self-checkout line and when it was finally my turn I pulled each item from my cart, scanned it, and then transferred it to the waiting empty cart at the end of the checkout. I had some heavy items on the bottom of my cart – bottled water, and a case of sparkling water. When I pulled the sparkling water out from under, the plastic wrapping holding all of the cans together ripped apart in my hands. Cans went rolling everywhere! And with so many others waiting for me to finish, I simply picked them up and piled them in my cart for the time being.

As I was moving my cart out of the way to make room for the next person and be on my way, an employee called out, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” When I realized who was calling out, and that she was calling to me, I looked at her questioningly. With one hand on her hip, she pointed to the floor near me. I looked down to see a piece of the plastic wrapping that had torn off my package of sparkling water. I reached down to pick it up and tucked it into my cart of groceries.

“Thank you!” she said. It felt like she had said it with a sneer, but I wrote it off. Maybe she was just having a trying day. Maybe I was just having a trying day! But since she had my attention and I had hers, I rolled my cart towards her and pointing to the now-destroyed package of sparkling water, asked if it would be okay for me to go grab an intact package and swap it out. She looked me directly in the eye, grabbed a nearby cardboard box for no apparent reason, and simply turned away from me.

I was confused and stood in my place for a moment wondering what was happening. But then she turned back towards me and just looked at me again, her lips stretched in a tight line across her face.

“Um… is that okay …. if I swap this broken package for a different one?” I asked. I was feeling really uncomfortable at this point, but I had two dozen loose cans rolling around in my cart and was hoping not to have to move them one-by-one from the cart to my car. I mean, things like this happen at grocery stores now and then. Right? Was I out of line to ask for an undamaged case?

The employee asked me, “Are any of those cans open?”

“Uh, no.” I said. “None of the cans broke open, but I was hoping I could swap this pack for another because … it will be easier to transport them to and from my car?”

I was feeling like an idiot at this point. She rolled her eyes, and waved her hand away,  saying in an exasperated tone, “Just go get me another one.” I now felt like a spoiled child who had just badgered her mother into getting what she wants, but I was in too deep at this point. I left my cart and started to walk back to the aisle where I could get a new case of sparkling water and suddenly just felt myself give up. “No!” I thought. “Just no.” I had no desire to interact with that woman again, and if I continued, I would have to speak to her again and subject myself to her scorn. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, grabbed my cart, and pushed it toward the exit.

“Just forget it,” I thought. Anyway, as I walked back past where I had spoken with her, the employee had disappeared, so clearly she was going to make it a challenge for me to find her again and make the exchange. Luckily, I had several reusable grocery bags in my car and after fuming my way through the parking lot, I simply loaded all of the cans into a canvas bag.

I was so mad! So humiliated. How dare that woman treat me that way?

Then again, was I being selfish? The package had ripped due to my handling of it. Technically, it was my own fault.  Still, I wished I’d had the guts to stand up to her in some way. Even if I was asking too much, did she have to be so mean to me? I wished I hadn’t let her treat me in such a condescending way. But that’s always been me. I don’t understand how people can be rude and disrespectful to another’s face, and even when I’m on the receiving end, I’ve never been good at giving it back. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

As I got the last of my groceries into the car, I noticed tucked in among them the ripped piece of plastic that the employee had directed me to pick up off the floor back in the store. I pulled it back out of my car and put it in the cart. I hoped she was back in the stood wondering where I’d gone. And I hoped she’d see the piece of plastic in the cart when it was pulled from the cart corral and returned to the store.

Petty. I know. And highly unlikely. But it made me feel just a smidge better to think she might see that piece of plastic …. even recognize that piece of plastic … and think of me. It would serve her right!

I stewed about that woman all the way home and for a long time afterward. I wanted someone to know how wrong she was and how offended I felt. But finally, after cooling down a bit, I realized that I probably wasn’t really her problem. I was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe she’d been treated rudely prior to the time I’d interacted with her. I realized that this experience was one minor and rare experience for me. And there are people in this world who are made to feel small all the time for much less than what I’d experienced today. I decided that instead of sulking, I would remember this situation and instead go out of my way to be kind to someone else today. I just have to try not to think about her too much because I’ll just get mad all over again.

Anyway, the whole thing made me realize that people are struggling. People have lost jobs. They are isolated. They are tired. They are scared. And here’s me, enjoying a day off work because I have so much PTO accrued that I need to use it or lose it. Here’s me, shopping and cooking and packing for a long weekend at the family cabin. Here’s me looking forward to floating around the lake in the summer sun, drinking cocktails, sleeping in, reading books, playing games, and celebrating a holiday with family.

So somebody was rude to me today. In the grand scheme of things, so what? I will definitely get over it. I’m already well on my way. Maybe it was just a minuscule taste of what others experience every day, all of their lives. And if so, then I need to remember this and do whatever I can to help ensure that every day, this world becomes more and more a place where all people get to live with dignity, courtesy, kindness, and respect.

Coping, Cooking, and Missing My Kid

We’ve started our spring yard clean-up. It’s taking forever.

Jack’s workday begins at 5:00 am, so he’s home by mid-afternoon while I still have a good hour or so work. Every day, he pokes his head into my “office” and says hi, then goes outside to “do yard work,” which is code for “hanging out with the neighbors.” I can see Jack through the front windows. There’s rarely much actual work happening. Instead, I hear the loud conversations he carries on across the yards with the neighbors. They keep an appropriate social-distance and yell back and forth to one another. Jack will be out there for hours, with all of the necessary tools close at hand; the lawnmower, the leaf blower, work gloves, etc. Still, other than my corner memory garden, no yard projects seemingly ever reach completion.

I can’t really complain. We have friendly, good neighbors. And everyone has to find a way to cope with staying at home. Jack has found his. Work a little. Chat a lot. Do it all again the next day. I mean really … what else have we got to do?

Me? I’m walking. Every day around lunchtime, I go outside and head toward the nearby walking path. My neighbor-friend joins me and for thirty minutes we walk, share work stories, talk about the good books we’re reading, or ponder the complexities of life before we go back home to finish the workday. This is what gets me through these days. Sometimes I walk after dinner as well, earbuds in with an audiobook streaming from the Audible app on my phone. It helps me breathe and minimizes the sense that the walls are closing in.

Now I need something to spark my interest in cooking again. Actually, it’s not the actual cooking that bothers me. I just haven’t planned meals very well lately, and without a plan, cooking feels like such a challenge! One of my weekend goals is to spend time sifting through recipes and deciding on the week’s dinners. Also, I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket (reward for participating in my company’s wellness program,) so I ordered an InstaPot. I’ve heard great things, so I’m hoping this will bring some life back to our meals. InstaPots not being considered an essential product though, I’ve got a couple of weeks to wait until it shows up on my doorstep.

Another weekend goal is to see my youngest. I’ve been extra-specially missing her this week. Our oldest son, Jaeger has stopped by a few times to pick up his mail that still comes to our address. He just moved in with his girlfriend last weekend (YAY!) so maybe he’ll officially file a change of address soon! Middle son, Ryker is living here, so I’ve been able to stay well connected with my boys. But I haven’t seen Chesney in person in … over a month? Six weeks? Feels like forever. We text a lot, call sometimes, and FaceTime now and then. I still miss her. She sent me a great picture this week though. Her transition to farm girl is coming along well!

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We’re going to try to connect this weekend, halfway between here and there. Farm Boy’s chores and the weather might dictate whether we manage to pull this off. But if all goes well, I found a park that looks good for us to have a nice social-distance picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Distance Visiting

We haven’t been able to see Jack’s mom in person since early March. She’s been in an assisted living facility since late last fall. Just before Halloween, she’d fallen at home and laid all alone on her laundry room floor for several hours, waiting for someone to realize she needed help.

I hate that this happened. And it wasn’t even the first time. This time it was a broken hip. After surgery and recuperating in a transitional care unit, Mom-in-Law and the family agreed that a senior living situation might be best. She took to her new digs easily, made some friends during her daily visits to the dining room, and all-in-all seemed to be doing much better than she had been at home. She was smiling again. She had a new enthusiasm because she had things to talk about when we visited. We all felt some peace of mind that had been lacking for a long time.

As the Coronavirus crept into the U.S., precautions were put in place at the facility. First, Jack was questioned upon entering the building a few days after our return from Mexico. Upon admitting we had been out of the country within the past fourteen days, he was told we could not come back for two weeks. (Luckily we had squeezed in one visit the day after our return from vacation before things got really serious.) Before our fourteen days were up though, the building was closed off to all visitors. And not long after that, residents were no longer allowed to leave their apartments.

We call Mom frequently, and she insists she’s fine. She says she’s not bored out of her mind and the Game Show Network keeps her entertained. She has a favorite caregiver who she mentions frequently, and that gives me some comfort. But we’ve been missing her.

Seeing the occasional story of others visiting their elderly loved ones at a window, we thought we’d try something similar. Mom’s apartment is on the backside of the building. She’s on the main level if you walk to her place through the front entrance. But the property slopes downward to the back of the building. On that side, her apartment is two floors up since the lower-level memory care apartments sit below at the ground level. However, there’s a little parking lot just beyond the back of the building which offered some promise. We made a plan with Mom, telling her we’d call when we arrived on Saturday and she could come to the window and see us while we talked on the phone. Son Ryker came along, and so did Lucy Pie. Grandma loves Lucy Pie!

The visit went well, even though it didn’t go exactly as planned. When we pulled in to the lot, Jack called and told Mom to go to the window. She said, “Okay. Just a minute.” And then she hung up.

Mom appeared in the window, without her phone, and she waved at us. We waved back. She waved again. Jack held up his phone and put it to his ear, trying to signal to her to get her phone. She waved again. “Just call her again,” I suggested. So he did.

We could tell the moment Mom heard her phone ring. She raised one finger at us as if to say, “Hold on!” And she ambled away from the window, returning shortly after she’d answered the phone. “You were supposed to stay on the line and keep the phone with you, Mom.” Jack said. “Oh,” she replied amiably. Jack put his phone on speaker and we all chatted with her for a while. A few geese were nearby, honking nervously at Lucy. Lucy pulled on the leash that Ryker held tightly and rumbled back at the geese. Mom thought this was quite funny.

Before we’d left home, I’d found an old box of sidewalk chalk in the garage and tossed it into the truck. As we chatted with Mom, I took it out and drew a few simple pictures on the asphalt, hoping she could see them. I guess it wasn’t obvious. She asked Jack what I was doing. He told her I was drawing for her. She laughed but was appreciative.

Watching us from the window required Mom to stand with her walker. She tired out after about fifteen minutes, so we said goodbye. After hanging up, Jack helped me put the finishing touches on the drawings, and before we left, we heard someone shouting from above. We looked way up to the top corner of the building where a window was open and two employees were waving and calling down to us. “Thank you! Thank you!” they said. “You guys are awesome! Can we take your picture for our FaceBook page?”

We proudly posed behind our artwork and allowed our pictures to be taken.

Those two employees made me feel so good! I realized that our efforts for Mom might brighten the day for a few others. Maybe I should get some more chalk and make this a regular thing!

Handling Things

The novelty of a reclusive lifestyle has begun to fade. I’m trying not to let my mind go too far in that direction though since the reality is this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been working hard to maintain a healthy mental balance between being responsibly informed about the impact of COVID-19 and becoming over-saturated with information, opinions, and falsehoods. I think it was Tuesday when the evening news became just too much for me. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, but I recognized the need to walk away sometimes.

Exercise helps. I work out every morning, except on Sundays. I shower, get dressed, do my hair and put on some make-up every day. I listen to an audio-book or an online sermon while I’m getting ready for my day. I’ve made a habit of saying a quick prayer while washing my hands, asking God to keep us safe, or asking for peace for those who have suffered losses. I remember that I’m fortunate to be able to continue working. At home. All of this helps. I remind myself that my struggles are far, far less than some are facing right now.

Jack and I started watching a series together on Netflix, one that was highly recommended by a friend and is very popular. I’ve struggled to stick with it lately. It’s great historical fiction, with fascinating, beautiful main characters. During normal times, I might completely lose myself in it. But some of the scenes are so graphically violent that it’s more than I can stomach. I walked away from that this week as well and started writing letters instead. When my mom passed away and we cleaned out her townhouse, one of the things I kept was a huge stash of greeting cards, the kind that charities send to their donors, I suppose in the hopes of ensuring additional donations. I chose a few colorful cards with pretty birds on the front and a thinking-of-you sentiment. I wrote to my mother-in-law and two aunts, filling the cards with chatty words and news about our family. It helped me feel connected to them, and I hope that receiving some personal mail will bring each of them a smile, especially as two of them are confined in senior living facilities. All are single and none can have visitors. Maybe I’ll make this a regular thing. For the elderly, who tend to be very lonely anyway, this must all be tremendously more difficult than it is for the rest of us.

So I’m trying to keep my sense of humor. If there’s one thing Facebook is good for, it’s the memes!ZYX

ZYXZ

This particular Saturday morning arrived with sunshine after a day of snow and chill. It holds the promise of a warmer day and I have plans to get outside and stretch my legs.

So we’ll keep getting through this. I’ll keep getting through this. One day at a time.

Why Am I So Hungry?

My sister texted me yesterday, just checking in to see how I’m doing. She told me that her sister-in-law’s husband, a doctor in the Chicago area has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Sister-in-law is a nurse and has been quarantined due to exposure. Her husband is pretty ill, but the family hopes he’ll be okay. He’s generally healthy, my sister said but is almost sixty-five years-old so, there’s reason to worry. Already, it begins to hit close to home.

Dire news aside, my sister really just wanted to chat. She said that she spent her weekend crocheting, crafting, cooking and listening to old Randy Travis gospel music.

Sidebar. I just have to add that the previous sentence probably does not paint an accurate picture of my sister who can also rock a pair of jeggings, down a few beers, and go shake her booty to a good rock band! She’s nothing if not eclectic. In a good way! 🙂

The more domestic side of my sister spent the weekend enjoying a slower pace, appreciating, as she said, the diminished self-absorption, and self-indulgence. She’s been cooking a lot and loves having her boys home for family dinners. 

Me too. I’m relishing a sense of calm for the time being. I’ve been planning meals and spending more time in the kitchen making home-cooked meals. We’re not spending needless money on take-out and we’re eating healthier. But the downside is that since I’ve been home, I feel like I’m hungry all the time! Why is that? I could call it stress-eating except as I said, I’m not stressed. So right now this is probably the one thing I miss about leaving the house to go to work. On going-to-the-office days, I plan and bring my food to work. I only pack relatively healthy stuff because once I’m out the door, what I’ve packed is what I get. There’s no room for mindless snacking … unless my cubicle neighbor, Paul decides he’s hungry for cookie and buys an entire box as he is wont to do, eats one, and leaves the rest in the break room. And even then, I can often just say no and walk on by. But not so much at home. Clearly, I’ve got some habits to work on.

So as my self-control was spiraling… On Sunday afternoon, I was tidying up the kitchen and putting a few things in the dishwasher when I noticed the bananas were overripe. “I should make banana bread,” I thought. Yes, I’m afraid to step on the scale, so why not make a cake that pretends to be bread? Good idea!

But really, I’ve been making better use of what’s around the house and didn’t want those bananas to go to waste. There are already more frozen bananas in the freezer than I know what to do with. So baking ensued.

I usually use a banana bread recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook that I received as a shower gift before our wedding thirty-ish years ago. But my bread always comes out with a big section of goo in the middle. (Chesney says the goo is the best part, but it’s just a little too raw for my liking.) If I leave the bread in the oven long enough bake away the goo, the outer part gets too done.

I have countless cookbooks on my baker’s rack, including my mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook, copyright 1961. It’s a book that’s been well used, and after Mom died, I wanted it mainly because it’s filled with notes in her handwriting. I decided to see what this book had to say about banana bread.

The old cookbook offered a basic “white nut bread” recipe that could be modified to make other types of bread. (Although, who ruins their baked goods with nuts? Not me.) This recipe called for more flour than my usual one, two tablespoons of shortening instead of a lot more butter, one egg and some milk instead of two eggs, and way more baking powder than I’ve ever used while baking.

But the end result was good! Different, but tasty. There was still a little bit albeit acceptable amount of goo in the center. The bread was lighter in color, and less cake-like than my usual bread, but it had good banana flavor and got a big thumbs-up from both Jack and son, Ryker.

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Thankfully the bread won’t be around long. I know I can count on the guys to make it disappear quickly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear the ice cream calling my name…

Isolation Activities, Including Cows

Since Minnesota’s shelter-in-place order just became effective on Friday night, this is the first weekend we are officially expected to isolate ourselves. But like so many others, Jack and I had pretty much already been doing just that. Although he still goes to work every day, so he may not have as much of a sense of the walls closing in as I do. Still, the formality of the order has had a positive impact on him. He spent Saturday rearranging the furniture in our bedroom, deep cleaning the room, and purging things that are no longer needed. This wife is not complaining!

IMG_9517[2825]Me? My special project was to unpack, inspect, wash, and repack three dozen twelve-inch cylinder vases that were delivered this week.  Chesney and I ordered the vases last weekend. We’re going to make table centerpieces for her November wedding, which at this point, we still hope will happen as planned. (Our niece just canceled her May 9th wedding and is trying to figure out how and when to reschedule. She’s handling it all with grace and humor. Good for her!)

The vases were covered with a light film of dust, so the washing, drying and repacking helped pass a couple of hours. I was seriously impressed that only one was broken since all of this glass traveled from Texas to Minnesota. And the seller has a good replacement policy, so no worries. Each vase was packed in bubble wrap inside of its own box, then packed by the dozen in a larger box, which was packed inside yet another box lined with packing peanuts. I will definitely give this company my highest reviews!

This weekend’s weather hasn’t been ideal for the collective time-out that’s been imposed. It rained all day long on Saturday and Sunday arrived still very wet and gloomy. The temperatures dropped overnight so the day’s forecast includes snow. Needing to get outside of my own walls, I decided to go out this morning anyway and take a quick walk. If nothing else, I could breathe some fresh air, clear my head, maybe talk to God a little bit.

A steady sprinkle of rain was falling when I went out. I pulled my sweatshirt hood up over my head and made tracks in spite of it. Avoiding other people on the walking path was not a problem today. However, as I came near the farm just up the road, I realized that we humans may not be the only beings craving company these days. A few cows were out in the fenced area near a pole barn, but as soon as they caught sight of me, they came bounding over to the far border of the fence like a bunch of rambunctious puppies. I was tempted to pet them but thought better of it. So I just chatted with them a little bit. (They’re not great conversationalists, so I didn’t stay long.)

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Today I plan to cook a good old-fashioned Sunday dinner of turkey breast, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I might venture out to the grocery store for some salad fixings. Other than that, I have yet to figure out what activities will fill my day. And, wow! Just like that, I’ve realized that for the first time ever, I’m not dreading the end of the weekend and the return of the workweek.