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.

Strange, Quiet Days

Lately, I have to focus on keeping fear from being the biggest thing I feel, thanks to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Some days I’m good. Others, I feel like I’m fighting off a heavy fog of anxiety. This is bad, this virus and its rapid progression across the world. I know. We should all be worried. But I also know that I have to find a balance between responsible worry and sheer panic.

I could never have imagined living in such strange times, and how quickly things escalate. Just a month ago, Jack and I, along with four friends, left for a week’s vacation in Mexico. We’d been hearing news of the virus in China for several weeks, but it still seemed so far away and somewhat irrelevant to us. Looking back now, I realize how easily my mind can brush off such grim warnings. Media hype has become so common that my first reaction to most news is skepticism. I remember while packing my suitcase, questioning whether we should cancel and stay home. The vacation was fully insured and we could have received almost a full refund had we chosen not to go. But just as quickly as the question came, it was swept away. I knew plenty of others who weren’t canceling vacation plans, and no one else in our group appeared to be worried. And so we went. The airports were busy as ever. The resort was full, and while there were daily reminders of the spreading virus, our tropical and relaxing surroundings kept it from weighing heavy on my mind. Our vacation was lovely and life seemed to march forward unperturbed.

One week later, by the time we were back home, the virus suddenly had the country’s and my full attention. Had our trip been scheduled one week later, I don’t think we would have gone.

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She likes to hold “hands.”

I’ve been working solely from home for the past two weeks and expect to continue to do so for at least another month. Maybe longer. Who knows? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to expect the unexpected. I’m grateful that working from home was already an option. It means that I already had a comfy workspace set up at home, and I’ve long been familiar with logging in to the company network through the VPN and managing my workload away from the office. Lucy Pie keeps me company and seems to appreciate having me around all day long, though I worry how all of our pets will handle our transition back to normal workdays when the worst of this has passed. Fortunately for Lucy, I have the benefit of working from home whenever I like and have typically done so one day per week. I have space in the company’s office here in Minnesota, but since the rest of my team is in Wisconsin, it makes no difference to them where I work. I’m contemplating staying at home more regularly in the long run. I’ve begun to really appreciate the extra time and sense of calm I gain simply by not having to leave the house for nine or more hours a day.

Since the rest of my team is usually together in the same space, they are battling feelings of disconnectedness and loneliness. Our boss set up a daily team meeting to allow us some virtual time together. We can talk about work, or things completely unrelated. I struggled a bit to relate to her during my early days on the team, but it’s become very apparent to me now how hard our boss works to make sure we are all in good places. She’s hyper-focused on her team’s mental well-being. Even before all of this, she always made it a point to begin meetings by asking how everyone is doing. When something is off, she wants to help fix it. She’s interested in our personal lives and likes to hear about our families and pets. She’s big on mindfulness and even went so far as to buy a meditation app for each of us, which has been a godsend for me during these past few weeks. Having worked in the past for a supervisor who lacked any sense of compassion, I feel fortunate to have landed where I am. This pandemic has allowed me to be much more in tune with my team than ever before. Feeling disconnected is my norm. The daily opportunity to bond with the team has been a significant blessing for me.

I’m also grateful that a year ago, I quit my gym and joined an online fitness community instead. I’ve had all of this time to gradually build a supply of weights and other equipment. I’m already part of an amazing online community that encourages and uplifts one another on a daily basis. My daily morning workout has been a lifesaver in helping to manage stress and anxiety.

Being somewhat of an introvert, as well as a homebody at heart, I know that social-distancing has been easier for me to manage than most. One of my coworkers is an extreme extrovert, and this is really taking a toll on her. I try to call her often, rather than email or send an instant message. She’s made it clear that actually talking with others is a necessity for her.

I worry about my kids and my hubby. Somehow, all of their jobs have been deemed essential and none have the option to work from home.  While I’m grateful that all are fortunate to continue earning a paycheck, there’s a part of me that would rather just pull them in under my roof and keep them safe with me. The world is going to be a very different place very soon. I worry about their financial well-being and alternately remind myself that nothing else matters except that they stay healthy. Jack has autoimmunity with the potential to develop into an auto-immune disease. His doctor is closely watching it but I worry about his increased risk. Our kids have youth on their side, though we’re quickly learning that’s no guarantee either.

We’ve supplied ourselves with groceries over the past couple of weeks, but are by no means hoarding. Thankfully, I always buy a Sam’s Club package of toilet paper and had just purchased one before the craze ensured that TP would become such a hot commodity.

I’m trying hard to focus on gratitude during these days of isolation. My house has never been cleaner and the laundry is always caught up. And quite honestly, over the past few years, I’ve had a constant sense of unexplained pressure. My kids are all grown and I expected to feel more relaxed, and yet I always seemed to feel as if I was falling short somehow. If I was keeping up around the house, I felt bad that I wasn’t putting enough energy towards relationships with relatives and friends. The pace at work has been almost frantic at all times. And the more I heard about others’ experiences eating at new restaurants, seeing movies, visiting fun places, the more I felt as if I was falling short if I was living a quieter existence.

If there’s one thing that’s become apparent to me, it’s that maybe I needed to slow down and lower my expectations. I’d become so embroiled in trying to keep up with everything and everyone else that I’d abandoned almost all of the things that fueled my own soul. During these quieter days, I’m reading again, listening to audiobooks, online sermons, worship music, and podcasts that nurture my mind. Jack and I have found a series to watch together (rather than him spending time in front of the downstairs television while I sit in front of the upstairs t.v.) I’m so grateful that we had a relatively mild winter. The snow is gone and the temperatures have been warm enough to get outside and go for a walk, something I haven’t done in a long time. My neighbor and I have been meeting up during our lunch breaks to walk together (a healthy distance apart) and breathe in some fresh air while enjoying a change of scenery.

Something that occurred to me this week is that while the outlook seems so dire, many people are coming together, working to keep spirits up and support one another in whatever ways are possible. While there will always be many divides in this country … and the world, I appreciate the way people are virtually locking arms and creating a sense of community. I know the worst is yet to come, but we have to do the best we can to focus on the positives while we ride out this storm.