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Fall has always been my favorite season, so I can’t help feeling a bit hopeful and optimistic at the moment. Sure, the pandemic is not going to be resolved soon, and both of my kids will be doing school entirely remotely for the time being. True, trick-or-treating won’t be happening this year. Yes, the Pac-12 canceled football (genuinely excited because it means I don’t have to watch football this year!).

These past 6 months have been really hard, and I know things will continue being hard for awhile. But I’m still looking forward to fall because:

  • My daughter will be starting consistent childcare. After a DIFFICULT spring at home (which led me to find a therapist), my daughter spent several weeks at daycamps this summer. Camp proved to be a lifesaver for our family — greatly improving my daughter’s attitude and my own. When I learned that our schools would be closed for fall, I decided that childcare for my daughter was a must. We are very fortunate to have the ability to pay for childcare, even if only for one of our children. I also feel fortunate to have found a childcare spot when there are not many options available in our community. Her childcare will include quiet time and support with online schoolwork, as well as enrichment activities including art and yoga. My heart goes out to all the other families who are struggling through this time, and I’m hoping and praying that they can find solutions that work for them.
  • My son will be starting kindergarten (remotely) at a Waldorf-inspired charter school. I’m super excited about this because they recognize that it is not developmentally appropriate for kindergarteners to learn online. (This should be obvious to anyone who has spent time around 5 and 6-year-olds, but apparently it is not). They are required to offer daily Zoom sessions, but we can opt out of those if he’s not interested, and most of their other work will be offline. Again, we’re very fortunate to have gotten picked out of the lottery for a spot at this school, and fortunate that I applied for this school last winter before we really knew what was coming down the pike. I’m also very fortunate that my mom is willing and able to support him with his remote learning so that I can continue working part-time.
  • We have a new puppy! Yes, and his name is Albus Dumbledore. In my mind, it feels like it was a spontaneous decision, but in reality, we’ve been talking about getting a dog for a few years. I was trying to work through my pros and cons list (cons: fleas, poop/pee clean up, cost, etc), and didn’t feel quite convinced, but Marie and Spencer were really advocating for a dog — so I figured we might as well go for it. He is a 10-week-old charcoal lab. He seems to be helping us all feel more positive in general, so I think it was a good decision. Therapy pup!
  • Fall colors and weather. I love fall when it is still sunny but not as hot as summer. And the colorful falling leaves are great. A good season for hiking.
  • Halloween. My kids get super excited about Halloween, and there are lots of activities that go along with it. Although I’m sure we won’t be trick-or-treating, we can still get costumes, carve pumpkins, put up decorations, and maybe have a little Halloween party with my parents.
  • A simpler schedule than my normal fall. One of the positives of this pandemic for me has been cutting back on some activities. It’s actually nice to have eliminated extracurriculars for the season. In pre-pandemic life, Marie played sports several times a week, and participated in Girl Scouts, and we also went to church weekly (and sometimes had extra church activities). This fall, our only planned extracurricular is a weekly soccer practice for each child.
Our new charcoal lab puppy, Albus Dumbledore the Second.

I’m working on trying to let go of those things I can’t control (most things), and just focus on what I can control (taking deep breaths). I also want to focus on having a more positive outlook. I will choose to be positive and focus on love and joy in this difficult season. But I will also continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing because I want to keep my family and my community safe.

P.S. What do you miss most about your life before the pandemic? Is there anything you thought you would miss and are surprised to find that you don’t?

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?

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?

 

 

 

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