I guess what I can say about this awful time is this: It is a remarkable opportunity for spiritual growth. We would be wise to receive it as such. I have a mental picture of humanity entering into a chrysalis and eventually emerging transformed into something better and more beautiful. The transformation process itself is painful, but there can be something beautiful waiting for us on the other side if we allow change to take hold.

I know that we are all antsy for things to reopen. We’d like to move on from this and go back to the way things were before. Unfortunately there is no going back at this point. Reopening is not a magic wand that will make this all go away. If not done wisely and with an abundance of precaution, reopening will simply lead to a lot of unnecessary suffering and death.

I have compassion for the desire to reopen because I am feeling that as well. Even though I do not agree with the decision for faith communities to reopen, I understand the desire to do so.

And yet. While my faith is essential, attending a large church gathering is not. I like going to church and it has been an important part of my life for more than 20 years. I especially like dropping my kids off in childcare so that I can breathe for an hour without being pestered. But it is not necessary for me to attend church in order to connect with God, or even to connect with other people in my church. Since our lockdown began in March, I have stayed connected to my faith community through zoom chats, phone calls, texts, and YouTube livestreams. I have dropped off groceries for homeless youth at our church building (while wearing a mask) and chatted with several other women from church who were also masked. The church can continue and even flourish without a large public worship gathering. God will not be stopped by our sheltering in place. God is not confined to a church building. God is with us wherever we go.

When considering whether or not to attend a church gathering, I would urge you not to look at it through the lens of your constitutional right to gather in worship. Rather, look through the lens of how Christ’s teachings can inform your decision.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:12-13

How does this verse speak to you in light of the question of whether or not to attend or reopen your church?

Different interpretations are possible, but in the current context it speaks to me of laying down our rights to gather in order to protect the lives of the vulnerable in our community. I would also point out that choosing to reopen church doors may not be the best way to share Christ’s love with your community. Many people have been choosing to shelter in place not out of concern for their own health, but as an act of kindness to slow the spread of COVID and save the lives of the vulnerable in their community. Reopening churches = more community spread = putting vulnerable people at greater risk even if they are not choosing to attend gatherings. Alternatively, why not consider gathering with a handful of church friends to watch a livestream of your service or study scripture together?

My family and I will continue sheltering at home for now even though this is making me lose my freaking mind. I will use this opportunity to become more grounded in my faith and emerge on the other side of this stronger and more resilient. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Hope to see you on the other side, butterflies.

 

 

 

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P.S. Not sure why exactly, but this post makes me think of the song Let Go by Frou Frou from the Garden State soundtrack. “It’s alright, cuz there’s beauty in the breakdown.” What song would you choose for this chapter in the soundtrack of your life?

I feel like a marathon runner hitting the wall when it comes to being quarantined at home with two kids, trying to work and homeschool. It’s a completely overwhelming situation. So many emotional ups and downs. It’s literally impossible to feel competent at anything right now, when being required to do so many things at once.

I guess other people are also hitting the wall, which is why my county is entering Stage 1 of reopening today.

To be clear, Stage 1 of reopening will probably not affect my life much. I will continue working from home, playgrounds will remain closed, churches will not be meeting, and of course, schools are still closed through the end of June. But it may mean that we’ll have friends over to visit in our backyard, or meet up for a walk. Even that would be nice.

Being quarantined doesn’t give me much to write about. The same thoughts and feelings have been circulating through my head since this began in March. Mostly I cycle between anger and grief that this is happening and then over to gratitude. I’m thankful that my family is currently healthy and in a financially stable situation. I’m thankful that Oregon has done an excellent job of slowing the spread of this virus. I’m angry and grieving this worldwide pandemic and economic crisis, and for me specifically — being stuck at home with my kids. It’s unsustainable…and no one really knows how long this will last. It’s just so taxing on everyone’s mental health. In further grim news, my workplace is anticipating a 17% budget cut. So I have that looming over my head as well.

So anyway…here are some fun things we’ve been doing!

  • Family Movie Nights: We used to have a lot of arguments about choosing movies. My daughter came up with the idea that we do a rotating system where everyone gets their own night to choose. So far this has been working well. Tonight is Paul’s turn…so we’ll see what his 5-year-old mind comes up with!
  • Baking. A very popular activity in our house. We even challenged ourselves with a lemon meringue pie a few weeks ago.
  • Listening to podcasts. I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve been enjoying Brené Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us. I also recently discovered some podcasts for kids! My kids have been enjoying NPR’s Wow in the World. I also found some others I want to try, including Radiolab for Kids.
  • Making Oobleck. Just corn starch and water. Marie gave me a good lecture on non-Newtonian fluids. The kids had a blast playing with Oobleck, although it did devolve into an Oobleck fight (which led to a double bath as well as me wiping down my whole kitchen).
  • Finishing Harry Potter. We finally finished Harry Potter 7! I am sad because we had so much fun reading the Harry Potter books over the last year. But, Paul didn’t listen to much, so maybe I can read them to Paul in a few years. We’ve started on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and both kids seem engaged with that story.
  • Walking and more walking. Walks in our neighborhood, walks in the forest, walks through the filbert orchard, walks in the oak savannah.

Have you been finding some ways to have fun and take care of yourself through this?

 

 

 

 

Hello world, are you still out there?

I’ve spent most of the last 6 weeks trying to stay positive. I’ve stopped obsessively reading the news. I’ve been gratitude journaling, and going for long walks. Upping my weekly run mileage. Practicing yoga and silent meditation. Discovering a new favorite Netflix drama.

I’ve been checking items off my to-do list. Celebrated the kids’ birthdays and Easter. Filed our taxes. Stained the garden boxes. Deep cleaned bedrooms.

And yet. It’s hard to keep it up. It’s exhausting.

My children are not with the program of staying positive or helping accomplish to-do list items. They seem unwilling to listen unless I yell at them, which goes against all of my positive parenting training. I have been teaching positive parenting classes for awhile now, and at this point one would hope I could successfully implement it in my own life. Not only that, I don’t like yelling at my kids because it makes me feel bad and it’s exhausting. It also goes against my personality — I don’t like yelling. I don’t want to yell at anyone. If I’m upset with you, I’d much rather write you a strong worded email. Better yet, I’ll just remove you from my Christmas card list and be done with it. Passive-aggressive works much better for me than straight out aggressive.

I suppose there’s not much to do except soldier onward, and maybe just pay the kids a little less attention. Perhaps redoubling my attempts at praising desired behavior and ignoring annoying behavior could be useful. Who knows?

What I’m into lately:

Books: Finishing reading Harry Potter 7 to Marie. Also, I discovered checking out audiobooks from the library on my smartphone. I’ve been listening to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a novel about a blue-skinned packhorse librarian in Applachian Kentucky during the 1930s (Yes – apparently the blue-skinned people of Kentucky were real). Also reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle and The Esther Anointing by Michele Mclain-Walters.

Podcasts: Unlocking Us with Brene Brown. NPR’s Up First.

Movies: Lately we’ve been watching the Disney+ streaming channel and enjoying the many offerings of Disney and Pixar films. Most recently we watched Monster’s Inc.

TV: Outlander. A tale of a 1940s English trauma nurse who falls through time into 18th Century Scotland (and into the arms of a handsome young warrior).

Exercise: Hiking, running, yoga. We’ve been discovering some new walks around town. Yesterday went for a long walk in the woods and Paul ran and ran.

New found appreciation: For phone calls. Texts and emails had replaced most of my phone calls, but now I’m enjoying hearing voices. Plus it can really be a more efficient way of conveying information.

Nonprofit: FOOD for Lane County. There are lots of great nonprofits out there, but if you’re looking for an organization to donate to, please consider your local food bank. Hunger will continue to be an increasing problem during this pandemic, and food is the most basic of needs.

Gratitudes: I’m thankful to have less rushing in my days, particularly in the mornings. I’m thankful for good Internet access, and the ability to do my job remotely. Thankful that my husband has been enjoying cooking for the family, and that we are all healthy.

Wishing you well,

Ursula

P.S. What are you doing to stay positive through all this?

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.