Greetings from Coronavirus Lockdown Day 29.

Today I was briefly thinking that I’d be doing better if I were quarantined alone, than if I were quarantined while responsible for managing the wellbeing, behavior, and education of my two young children.

If I were alone, I could detail clean my entire house. I could exercise whenever I wanted. I could read all day. I could write prolifically. And also telecommute for my job.

Then, realistically, I realized that by day 29 of my quarantine, I would likely not have a positive outlook regardless of being alone or with my family. 29 days is a long time, and all signs point to this being only the beginning.

Can you tell that I’ve gotten a bit discouraged this week? Hello reader, I’ve gotten a bit discouraged this week. On Wednesday I got an email from my daughter’s school district that really made it sound like school was unlikely to start again this school year. I’d already assumed that, but still, receiving that communication from the district was a bit of a blow. Then, I went to register my daughter for Girl Scout camp for July, and the website said they are holding off on registration until they find out if it’s safe to hold camp this year.

I hope you’re empathetic enough not to just write this off as the whining of a middle class white woman. I mean, in normal circumstances, yes, I am a whiny middle class white woman. But this is not normal circumstances. This is not just an inconvenience. I’m not complaining because the grocery store is out of organic fucking carrots.

This, my friends, is grief.

This is all of my lifelines severed at once. My children’s schools – gone. My workplace – gone. My church – gone. Playdates, visits with friends. All gone. I can’t even take my children to the park anymore.

Yes, true these things still exist, in a muted, virtual format. But it’s certainly not the same for any of us. Emails, texts, phone calls and even video chats are a poor substitute for in-person interactions. The Disney + streaming channel is a poor substitute for a life lived beyond the confines of our house and yard.

Yesterday, my daughter crashed on her bicycle. As I walked her back to the house, bright red blood gushed from her mouth staining her lavender fleece pullover. My husband got home shortly after, and I drove her to Urgent Care on the advice of our nurse practitioner friend. Two stitches in the upper lip. She was brave. The clinic was almost empty, and all the staff wore masks.

Afterwards, I had to fill a prescription for antibiotics. The pharmacy called to tell me that they were out of that antibiotic, and none of their pharmacies within 60 miles had it. I was able to get it filled at Fred Meyer. My husband has been doing all of our grocery shopping, so going into Fred Meyer was a bit of a shock. I wore a mask, as did a handful of others. The pharmacist spoke to me from behind a clear shower curtain. I saw two customers dressed in cheerful, clownish dinosaur suits, like they were about to provide entertainment at a child’s birthday party.

They weren’t going to a birthday party. Straight from our collective worst apocalyptic nightmare, they were using clownish dinosaur suits as personal protective equipment to prevent viral contamination.

Sure, it’s temporary, and someday this nightmare will all be over, but no one knows when.

Still, I have a glimmer of hope. We can dream of a time when this is over. We can dream of hugging our friends and family and neighbors again. We can dream of going to the park, or a concert, or dropping our kids off at school in the morning. We can dream that  maybe, just maybe, we can harness this pain into transformation.

At the window, she considers that
She is not who she was,
and she is not who she will be.
She is transforming.
She will be strong and resilient.
She will be honest with herself and those she loves.
She will have stories to tell And when she does
They will no longer shake her voice.

From here, she will see the anxiety, the worry,
paint over its bold permanence, like oil and acrylic on canvas.
From here, She HOPES, offering it to neighbors from a safe distance.
From here, she SINGS, transcending the dark somber strain
From here, She BELIEVES, we will get through this
From here, today will be good, and tomorrow will be better.
– excerpted from Social Distance, by Kwame Alexander, with contributions from NPR Morning Edition listeners.

We will be strong and resilient. We will get through this. Tomorrow will be better.

With Love,

Ursula

P.S.  “And who knows? Maybe you were called to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14.

P.P.S.  Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

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Coronavirus Lockdown, Day 16:

During this past week, our family has stayed connected with friends and family members via technology. We’ve FaceTimed, Skyped, and Zoomed to keep our social lives going. On Thursday, Paul had a Zoom chat with his preschool class. It was pure chaos, and not much was understood, but Paul had a great time seeing friends’ faces and blowing kisses. This morning Marie has a FaceTime chat scheduled with a friend, and Spencer and I are planning a FaceTime cocktail hour with two of our friends tonight after the kids go to bed.

What’s been lost so far in this crisis — our normal routines, jobs and economic stability for many. School. In-person social connections.

I don’t want to make light of a situation that is so painful and challenging for many people. Not only are we faced with a public health crisis, we’re also now having an economic crisis, and coupled with the social isolation, we could also be facing a mental health crisis for many.

It’s been painful for me to lose my routines and the lifeline of childcare that comes through school. At the same time, I feel that I have the opportunity to learn and grow through these challenges.

What’s been gained — more time with my immediate family. No more daily battles over getting out the door in the morning and arriving at school by 7:54 am in order to avoid being marked tardy. No more time spent chauffering the kids back and forth between school and extracurriculars. A pause to rest from the frenzied busyness of modern life.

Although it’s psychologically painful, this pause to rest from my normal routine is not necessarily a bad thing for me. I still have a lot of work to do between general parenting, homeschooling, part-time telecommuting, and housekeeping. But with cutting out the commutes and extracurrics, there are more opportunities to be quiet and pause, something that is lacking in my regular life.

I’m also finding that, in spite of social distancing, I have more time for social connections. I’m connecting more with my immediate family, chatting with neighbors from across the street, and checking in with friends more than I normally do. I often have to schedule get-togethers with friends 3-4 weeks ahead of time, but now, everyone is available to chat.

It makes me think about what I’d like to change when this is all over, whenever that may come. What could I cut out from my normal life to make more time for rest and relationships?

Less work is not a realistic option for me. I already only work part-time, and that’s with 2 months off per year during school breaks. Parenting and housework also need to continue.

Reducing the amount of time I spend checking personal email and news on my devices would be a good place to start. Additionally, making some changes to my work might be warranted — not sure at the moment what that would look like.

I also want to be mindful about not overscheduling the kids with extracurrics. I typically like keeping them busy, as it keeps them away from screens, and also helps reduce the number of sibling fights. But having to get them anywhere at a specific time always creates a lot of conflict. And, I’m also finding that they like just hanging out at home. Paul seems completely happy through this whole thing, and Marie has even told me that she likes homeschooling because it means she gets to spend more time with me and she doesn’t have recess drama.

Another thing, I’d like to be intentional about is setting aside time each weekend that is deliberately unscheduled. Maybe even just half a day — deliberately not scheduling anything on Saturday morning or afternoon. And I’d like to not have Marie in sports each season. If soccer’s a must, then fine, but we won’t play basketball during winter. (Hopefully someone will hold me accountable to this!).

P.S. How has this crisis made you re-evaluate things in your life? Are there any hidden blessings for you in the slower pace right now?

Greetings from Coronavirus Lockdown, Day 12:

Oregon officially started its “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” mandate yesterday, March 23. As far as I can tell, this is a shelter-in-place mandate with an less-scary title. Our family has already been self-quarantining since schools closed, to err on the side of caution. We’re all under 40 and in good health, so I’m not concerned about our health — but I would hate for any of us to be carrying the virus and pass it on to someone else.

In order to maintain sanity, I’ve been trying to maintain a fairly consistent routine with my two kids, ages 7 and 4 (with birthdays comings soon!). Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Daily Schedule for Kids

  • Morning yoga via YouTube (Cosmic Kids for the littles, and if I get up earlier I will do other yoga videos).
  • Breakfast
  • Schoolwork
    • Language Arts & math for my 2nd grader. My preschooler works on activity books which include coloring, connect-the-dots or letter and number identification. He can also have free play time during this time if he chooses.
  • Outside Play Time. Thankfully, we have a backyard swing set and slide. Sometimes the kids ride their bikes.
  • Lunch
  • Free play quiet time (no screens).
  • Science or piano or art
  • Chores
  • Screen time (We try to do educational activities and then give them some free screen time).
  • Dinner
  • Outside, weather permitting
  • Baths & get ready for bed
  • Stories (We are reading Charlie & the Chocolate Factory with P, and Harry Potter 6 with M).
  • Goodnight! zzzz (Maintaining the same bedtime we had before).

The weather was nice over the weekend, so we went hiking one day and for a family bike ride the next. We rode along the W. Eugene wetlands and saw lots of ducks and geese, two red-winged blackbirds, a hummingbird, sandpiper cranes, and a great blue heron. There weren’t too many people around, so it was easy to maintain a 6 foot distance.

Another thing I’m trying to do is maintain some sort of housekeeping schedule. Sure, it’d be great to get a bunch of deep cleaning done. And maybe we will. But as I adjust to this situation, I’m just trying to maintain a basic level of cleanliness:

Housekeeping Schedule

  • Make beds (daily)
  • Dishes (daily)
  • Laundry & put away (daily)
  • Sanitize kitchen sink (daily-ish)
  • Sweep kitchen floor (daily)
  • Wipe down kitchen counters (daily)
  • Clean bathroom (weekly)
  • Vacuum (weekly)
  • Clean up toys in living room (daily)
  • Investigate bad smells (as needed – ha!)
  • Clean mirrors (weekly. My kids enjoy doing this. I use a non-toxic vinegar and water mix).

There are many other potential housekeeping projects we could work on. Too numerous and overwhelming to list. However, my strategy for tackling those kinds of overwhelming decluttering projects is to just pick a spot to work on for 20 minutes. But for now, I’m giving myself a pass on that.

Self-Care

How to make time for self-care while on lockdown with kids? This is a tricky one, but as this season pushes most of us to the edge (or beyond) of our ability to cope, self-care is essential. I’ve been trying to do my own yoga videos and go for runs a couple of times a week while my hubby watches the kids. I’m also enforcing a consistent bedtime for the kids, so that I have a little bit of free time before I go to bed. Usually I just use that time to write in my journal. I need to get some new books to read.

And, squeezing in time to write these blog posts is an important form of self-care for me. Writing helps me to process my feelings, and it also leaves us with a record of an unprecedented experience.

Lastly, spending time in prayer is helping me. Rather than just continuing to talk to my husband about this crisis, and speculate as to how much worse things will get, I’m trying to focus on praying through my concerns. Praying is better than worrying and complaining.

During our bike ride on Sunday, I noticed a piece of graffiti on the railroad bridge. It was just one word, “Relentless.” That word could speak a lot of things to different people, but what immediately sprang to my mind was, “Be relentless in the pursuit of hope.”

In a time that feels hopeless, be relentless in the pursuit of hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

We have a future beyond this pandemic. These times may feel threatening, but we will make it through to the other side.

With Love,

Ursula

P.S. If you’re also on lockdown, what are you doing to stay busy? How are you practicing self-care right now?

 

 

 

Greetings from Coronavirus lockdown, Day 7.

I have a vision in my mind of my house as an ark, carrying my family and I along through these uncertain times. In the Bible story, the rains continued for 40 days and nights, but after that it was still 150 days before they found dry land.

We don’t know how long we’ll be in the midst of this crisis, or when it’s subsided, how long the recovery will take. As scary and disorienting as this is, all we can do is focus on the present rather than letting our anxious minds spiral into worst-case scenarios.

I did a quick run to the Albertson’s pharmacy to pick up some medication that my insurance wouldn’t pay for until today. The lady in line in front of me wore a face mask and gloves. There was a sign up that said “This store is out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and thermometers.”

I’m wavering between anxiety for the future, acceptance of what is, and grief of what’s being lost. I’m currently grieving the loss of all of my routines and social structure. But even more, I’m grieving for my kids, who (I hate to admit this) will likely be out of school until September. This was my son’s last year at his beloved preschool, and all of his little buddies will be going to different schools last year.

And my daughter, a chatty extrovert, is used to being highly scheduled with school, sports, ballet, Girl Scouts, and church. For now, all of that is gone. I am so thankful that her ballet class is continuing to meet via Zoom. I almost cried yesterday when we downloaded Zoom and were able to log into ballet class. Marie was so excited to see her teacher’s face.

These are the things I’m grieving now, before the full force of the health crisis has hit our community. Our community will have plenty more to grieve as hospitals reach capacity and fatalities rise in the coming weeks.

Still, in the midst of this storm, I am finding pockets of joy. Carving out time to write is a joy. Finding that my friends and family are still readily available by phone, email and FaceTime is a joy. I’m deeply thankful that we are going through this in a time when we can stay well connected via technology. I’m hoping to schedule some phone calls or playdates via FaceTime or Caribu for my kids.

I’m thankful to have time now to focus on exercise. Sunny weather has made it easy to get outside for walks and runs lately. I’ve also been doing yoga along with YouTube in the mornings.

I’m thankful that I have a background as an elementary school teacher, so homeschooling is not entirely outside my wheelhouse. I’ve been able to stick to a schedule and keep us pretty busy at home with reading, math, art, piano and outside play time.

I’m thankful for the gift of perspective, knowing that someday this will pass, and we’ll move into the joys and challenges of a new season.

I’m thankful for sleep. I have been through other challenging seasons of life, and at times, good sleep was not readily available to me for months/years (any other moms out there?).

Thankful that we’re all in this together.

With love,

Ursula

 

P.S. Just curious, what will you do if you run out of toilet paper? What did people used to do before toilet paper was invented? Hmmm.

 

 

Dear everyone,

On February 28, I read about the first COVID-19 case in Oregon. The next morning, on a shopping trip with my kids to Fred Meyer for a birthday gift, I threw in a few random items: extra boxes of oatmeal, Clorox wipes, children’s ibuprofen, and homeopathic flu medicine.

On Sunday, March 1, I sent my husband out to the store in the early morning to stock up on groceries and find hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer was not to be found. That day we also had tickets to see the Lady Ducks basketball team play their final home game. Go Sabrina! They were scheduled to play University of Washington. We opted to stay home thinking it best not to mix with a large crowd that would include folks from Seattle and Portland.

That week, I gave my colleague a ride home after we taught our parenting class. We’d taken care to sanitize the tables, and chatted casually about the coronavirus. “I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they say,” she said optimistically as I pulled up to the curb in front of her house. I had a sinking feeling, but I didn’t want to worry her. “I really hope you’re right,” was all I said.

Fast forward two weeks of obsessive hand washing. I can count everyone whose hand I’ve shaken during that time. One old man at church. Two parents at a birthday party. One co-worker. One at a business meeting. I knew it was a bad idea — but somehow I felt the risk of being impolite was greater than the risk of illness.

We’re taking a break from seeing my parents to avoid the risk of getting them infected. The NCAA tournaments have been canceled, the NBA has suspended its season, and schools throughout the state of Oregon are temporarily closed until April 28 (at least). I’d been reading enough news to know that school closures were an inevitability. Last Thursday, when I picked my 4-year-old up from preschool, I realized I’d left his lunchbox in the classroom. I considered taking him back in to get it. But it hadn’t exactly been a cooperative school pick-up experience (not that it ever is). The possibility of school closures loomed in my mind, but I assumed I could still pick up his lunchbox the next day.

Thursday evening, we received notification that Paul’s preschool would be closing until after spring break. Still, I figured they’d let me come by and pick up the lunchbox. No — they didn’t want anyone back in the building. The preschool director sweetly picked it up for me and dropped it off at my parents house.

I wonder about all the other personal items left behind at preschool. Do parents need the coats and water bottles? Will they be able to pick them up after April 28? In June? July?

I like to over prepare for things. I typically spend months planning for summer break, scheduling camps, swim lessons, and other activities. But I’m certainly not prepared for this. At least we got the lunchbox back. At least for now, we have food in the fridge, and money in the bank. For now, my aging laptop supports WordPress so I can write to you.

I’m trying not to worry to much about the “how longs” and the “what ifs” but of course I am. Not much to do except focus on the things I can be grateful for.

Today I’m thankful for

  • A sunny day
  • The ability to FaceTime with my parents
  • A St. Patrick’s Day visit from leprechauns last night! They left green footprints in our kitchen and bathroom, baked “gold” (cornbread) muffins, and even green pee in our toilet! Those silly little leprechauns.

Be well!

With love,
Ursula

 

 

 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined…For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulder; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2, 6

My children and I noticed Christmas lights popping up around town just after the switch to standard time in November this year, which seemed earlier than usual. Why are people putting up their Christmas lights now? my daughter asked me.

Maybe they want more light, I told her. It’s dark so early this time of year.

 When the above Scripture talks about darkness, it is talking about more than a lack of light. It is speaking of a deep spiritual darkness, one that is relevant to us today as well.

Last year I gave up reading the news for Lent, and continued my ban on news for several months longer. It was great. I could have happily gone on that way indefinitely, not knowing about migrant children being separated from their parents at our border, or the random episodes of violence that so often make the headlines. Ignorance can be bliss, at least temporarily.

But we are not called to live in ignorance, cut off from the troubles of the world. The world’s troubles continue, whether or not we recognize them. And at some point, we are all affected. We might choose not to think about climate change, for example, but it’s hard to ignore when our air becomes heavily polluted by wildfire smoke every August.

In a poem titled Good Bones, writer Maggie Smith proclaims that,

Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you though a real dump*, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

*expletive replaced

 We can’t ignore that we live in a land of deep darkness, as scripture says, or as Smith puts it, that the world is in large part terrible. But in spite of it, I do have an unshakeable sense of hope. I always picture a positive future for us on earth, just as it is in heaven.

Advent is here and with it we remember the coming of our King. Two thousand years ago our God chose to enter into our world in the most humble of ways, born in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

Do you wish that Jesus was here among us now, that you could sit across the table from him and get a straight answer about your big questions? I know I do. But Jesus wouldn’t give a straight answer anyway, preferring to teach through story and metaphor. Preferring to answer with a question.

Jesus was a light in the darkness. He came as our Savior, and he came to bring hope. Scripture tells us that when he left our world and ascended to heaven, we became his hands and feet.

This is an immense responsibility. We are Christ’s hands and feet. We are called collectively as Christians to be the light to the world. On a bad day, when we’ve read too many sad stories in the news, or when tragedy has touched us directly, we may say it’s too hard. We may say it hurts too much, there’s too much work to be done, I don’t know where to begin.

I imagine that if Jesus were sitting across from us at the table, he might simply say, This place could be beautiful right? You could make this place beautiful.

 Friends, I invite you to partner with Jesus this Advent season in bringing hope to the world. Here are a few concrete ideas for how to do just that.

Do random acts of kindness. Brighten someone’s day with an unexpected act of kindness. Write an encouraging text message or email, leave quarters at a laundromat, bring cookies to your neighbor, take time to recycle, send a Christmas card to your grandma, donate your used winter clothes to a homeless shelter. Small acts of kindness to others (and the planet) do make a difference.

 Serve your church or other local nonprofits. If you have a heart for service, there are many opportunities within our church as well as in the community. Food for Lane County, the Eugene Mission, and Habitat for Humanity are just a few local organizations that often need volunteers.

 Give relationally. If you’re like me and you haven’t yet completed your Christmas shopping, consider giving fewer material items and more relational or experiential gifts. This serves to strengthen relationships and create positive memories as well as cut down on waste — and it may even save you money. Relational gifts can vary widely depending on your budget, but it could be as simple as cooking a special dinner for family members.

Donate globally. Consider a donation to a nonprofit that helps the poor and marginalized in the developing world, where your dollars can make the biggest impact. One of my favorites is the Fistula Foundation, which provides life-changing surgery for women with devastating childbirth injuries in parts of Africa and Asia. Look for charities with high ratings from a reputable third party like Charity Navigator.

Visit adventconspiracy.org for more resources on living missionally during the Advent season.

P.S. What’s your favorite part of the Christmas season?

This post was originally published on the CitySalt church blog. Visit citysalt.org for other posts on this topic. 

 

I had several close childhood friendships that began in first grade and lasted into my college years. Every long friendship has its ups and downs, but one of these was particularly challenging. Our first grade teacher often confused “Anna” and I because we looked similar with our long dark hair and olive skin. We had a lot of fun, going to Brownies meetings, celebrating birthdays, getting muddy during soccer games, and having New Year’s Eve sleepovers where we stayed up late playing Mario on the Nintendo.

But this friend had a cruel streak. During one of my sleepovers at her house, she wiped her spit all over a toy I was just about to play with. In middle school she stopped talking to me for more than a year because one day I chose to have lunch with another friend. In high school, she put gum in her toddler sister’s hair and lied to her mom about it when she tried to explain what had happened.

Anna became the high school friend who would tell me mean things other people said about me, who would never bring me along to a party, but would tag along with my group of friends if she didn’t have anyone else to hang out with. I stayed her friend despite her meanness, and perhaps in part because of it. I knew she did not have many close friends; no one wanted to be treated so poorly. As a new Christian, I felt it was my duty to forgive and forgive again in order to show God’s love. I was a Christian doormat in my effort to be a life witness to that friend.

Still, I knew Anna was not a person I could trust. I was willing to practice kindness towards her and spend time with her, but over the years I put up more and more internal walls between myself and her. She stayed in touch with me through college, but when it came time to plan my wedding I didn’t include her in the wedding party. I know this hurt her feelings, although she wouldn’t let me see that.

That decision showed the limitations of my forgiveness. I could forgive, and I could be kind, and I could spend time with her if she needed. But as a repeated witness and victim of her mean streak, our friendship could not be restored to what it would have been had my trust not been broken time and again.

She ended up not coming to my wedding, and not returning my phone calls afterward. That was the end of our fifteen year friendship. I’ve wondered at times if I made the right choice not to have her in the wedding party. Would there have been any harm in including another person? Or does her decision not to come to my wedding or talk to me afterward prove that I made the right decision?

Maybe the wrong choice was actually in allowing the friendship to continue as long as it did without standing up for myself.

In the book of Romans, Paul writes, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12: 17-18.

Yet, there is a difference between living at peace with everyone and allowing people to treat you cruelly and take advantage of your kindness. A friendship is something that should be mutually enjoyed and beneficial to both parties. My friendship with Anna had morphed into something that was not actually a friendship; it was more akin to me subversively attempting to mentor her or be her free therapist.

This was not fair to me, but it was also not fair to her. By allowing our friendship to continue for so many years without confronting her negative behavior, I was being an enabler. For my part, our friendship was serving the purpose of making me feel like a Super Nice Person and a Good Christian.

After all was said and done, was it worth the many years I attempted to be a life witness to Anna, the times I brought her to church, the times she treated me as the ugly and forgotten Cinderella

The last time I’d seen her was a month or so before my wedding. She was visiting me at my parents’ house in Eugene. Anna said she wished she went to church because there were so many beautiful churches in downtown Portland near her apartment. That year she had gotten a cross tattoo on her ankle. We talked about my wedding plans, her job at Stumptown, about my upcoming college graduation. She said she wanted to start reading the Bible and asked if I had an extra one she could keep. I looked around and found an old one I was no longer using, with a hardback lilac cover that featured butterflies. She gave me a hug and was on her way.

Years later I bumped into her at the grocery store, when my eldest child was still tiny. I hugged her and introduced her to my toddler, then chatted briefly before taking off. She seemed bewildered — by what exactly?

My friendliness? My motherhood? My glossing over of the past?

Yes, it was all of that. All of that, and so much more.

Forgiveness and relationships go hand in hand, and both are often more complicated than expected. No friendship can be sustained in the long run unless both friends are willing to forgive each other their mistakes. And yet sometimes we are not forgiving in order to restore the friendship — sometimes the friendship unfortunately cannot be restored. In these cases, we forgive in order to bring healing to ourselves.

This post was written for the CitySalt Church blog. For more on this topic visit http://www.citysalt.org/blog/.