Distance learning, bear hunts and window hearts…

Our cat, Toothless sits by the window next to a bear and a bunch of hearts. The bear is in the window in case any kids in our neighborhood go on a “bear hunt” while out for a walk. We also try to go for a walk every day. We keep our distance, but enjoy the fresh air and exercise. We are adding more hearts to our windows as part of #aworldofhearts. Hopefully it brings someone else as much joy as it brings to me.

Part of me wants to document this pandemic and the impact it’s having, but another part of me is just overwhelmed. My anxiety has eased somewhat by being able to work from home. But I still worry about my family and their health & safety. In the last 12 days, I’ve been in my vehicle twice. Once to mail packages and once to deliver FFA fruit and see my friends from their pickup. It’s all so strange. Yesterday, we tried distance learning for the first time… us and a million other kids and teachers. The system crashed a few times, but hopefully they will get it figured out. All 4 of us online & at home was interesting, but we will get through it.

Some things I’m not doing:

  • I’m not driving daily to work. I save 40 minutes per day, at least. I’m thankful to work from home.
  • I’m not wandering around Target and spending $100 when I only came in for shampoo. My husband picks up what we need, with no browsing.
  • I’m not filling my vehicle (see bullet point 1). I’ve gone on more walks in the last 2 weeks than I have in a long time.
  • I’m not spending extra time walking to the lunch room or restroom. They are both pretty close by in my home (hence the need for walks!)
  • I’m not taking a lunch, going out to eat or having snacks all day. I’m able to eat at home & surprisingly snack less.
  • I’m not seeing many other people. My family may get kind of sick of me.

I’m also not making a chore chart, learning a new skill or organizing my closets yet. I am trying to make sure we have the resources to function in the “distance learning or e-learning” environment as much as we can. I’m trying to be as productive as possible and still remember to get up and move. I’m a planner. I’ve planned things for as long as I can remember. There is no “standard work” or set of instructions for what we are going through. It can be overwhelming.

I wish I had some inspiring words. I guess I will leave you with the things I’d want to hear: 1) You are loved. 2) You are safe. 3) You are enough. Hang some hearts in your windows, put a bear for kids to find, and wash your hands. We will get through this. Peace be with you on your journey of enough. (And don’t forget to breathe!)

Sheltering in place?

Our world has changed so much in the past 3 months. What seemed like a “virus on the other side of the world,” has now appeared on our doorstep. My sister in CA is currently “sheltering in place” and trying to teach her class remotely. My sister in ND is trying to keep her dialysis patients, her nurses and herself safe and healthy. I started working from home last Friday while my kids are both at home.

It’s all new territory. Very few businesses had “in case of pandemic” procedures in place. I doubt anyone had heard of sheltering in place or social distancing. Restaurants are closed or doing take out/drive through only. Bars, salons, massage, and many other small businesses are closed. Teachers are trying to figure out how to teach their kids online and parents are trying to figure out how to help. Shelves are bare at the grocery stores and hospital workers are worried and stretched thin.

Last week, I was spinning with anxiety. You’d think an introvert would love the idea of quarantine. But I was still going to work and each day left me emotionally exhausted. I felt out of control. I worried I would transmit to someone even though I wasn’t infected. Any cough or sniffle made me cringe. A few online groups started up with the purpose of helping others. I joined, sent a couple of packages to people in need, and when I helped someone else, something neat happened. My mind stopped spinning. I felt useful.

No idea of how to do math with your kids? It’s ok, there are people to help. Working from home and just want to stay in your pj’s? It’s ok. Meals and chores planned or just winging it? It’s ok. What isn’t ok is putting others at risk. It’s not ok to be rude to the grocery store employees or to hoard essential items.

All across the country there are people coming together like never before. Even though we are isolated, we are hanging hearts in our windows. We are having Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours. We are going on neighborhood “bear hunts” for teddy bears. I cannot control the people who go out when they shouldn’t. I cannot make all of the kids safe. I can do my part to limit my exposure and keep my family safe. I can reduce my chances of spreading something to a person who is at high risk or immune compromised. You can too by staying 6 feet away from people, being aware of what you touch or staying home if possible.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. If you’re sheltering in place like my cat, you can still reach out… send a note, pick up the phone, do a conference call or a Zoom meeting, hang hearts in your window. Come together while staying apart – if we all do it, hopefully it will be enough.

Jesus take the wheel…

Before Covid19 quarantined us, my sisters and I took a trip to Texas. We decided to rent a car so we’d be able to drive around while my niece and her husband were at work. Our flights weren’t at the same time since we were flying from different parts of the US. Two of us flew together and met the other one at the airport. We got our luggage and found the rental car shuttle. As we sat down on our shuttle bus, we looked up and saw this sign. Yes, our shuttle driver was Jesus. We had to take a picture to remember our Godwink.

We are now in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic. Our MN schools are closed until the end of the month, and possibly longer. Classes are moving online to reduce the risk of exposure. Last night, they ordered bars & restaurants to close unless they are drive through or pickup. There is so much unknown, so much misinformation and it’s changing rapidly. The maximum group gathering quickly went from 500 to 250 to 100 down to 10. In other words, stay home. This isn’t an option for everyone and it creates a lot of logistical issues. Healthcare workers, delivery drivers, first responders, grocery stores, gas stations and many manufacturing businesses will be open. Our kids are going to school just for today so they can get their Chromebooks and other supplies, then they are home until the end of the month.

I’m not throwing my hands up and letting Jesus completely take the wheel. I will certainly let him steer the way though. I will keep my kids at home, even if I’m not able to be. I will limit my errands and try to support my local businesses when I can. I will try to fact check the things I read to be more accurately informed. I will watch my church online from my home and be thankful they care about my safety. As an introvert, this won’t be much of a challenge for me. I worry about those who crave interaction, those who will go out anyway and cough or sneeze or not wash their hands. I also worry about the kids who do not have a safe place to be during this time. I worry about those who are at a higher risk of infection.

Worry and hope cannot exist at the same time. So, I’m trying to set down my worry, calm my fears, and pick up hope. I will do what I can to limit my exposure and risk for others. I gave blood yesterday because I’m sure there will be a shortage due to cancelled blood drives. Small stuff adds up. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Stay home if you can, cover your cough, don’t touch your face and wash your hands. Be a lighthouse for others in this time of need and hopefully Jesus will help steer us to shore.

Sticks & stones…

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Whoever came up with this saying must not have been a teenager at any point in their life and certainly didn’t raise one. I still remember names I was called and rumors that were spread about me as a teen. It’s an age where you are trying to find out who you are, and when people put negatives into your head, you start to believe them. I am a different person than I was in high school, but why can’t I shake those labels? Why don’t I have excellent advice to give my sons?

My 17 year old son also has labels put on him and rumors spread. With social media, peers are able to message ladies to “warn her” about him and fill her with lies before he even gets to know her. They stalk where you are, who you’ve added to Snapchat or Instagram, and bad mouth anything you post. I know the pain of feeling alone and yet I don’t have the words to comfort him.

My 13 year old gets called “gay” and “pimp” because he wears suit coats to school. While I would love him regardless of if he’s gay or straight, I’m quite certain he isn’t a pimp (since he didn’t know what it even meant). Kids in his church group even pick on him and he has stuff thrown at him at school. I don’t know how to explain these things to a kid who got a kindness award and gets A’s.

It’s not a journey I wanted my kids to take. It’s not a lesson I wanted them to learn. It’s not something I was prepared to re-live. I can’t “mama bear” protect them and yell at these kids. I can’t fight their battles for them. And now we’ve changed to “distance learning,” where their online presence is all that is seen. Does this make it better or worse? Plenty of adults have hurtful things to say online too. Would they say them in person? To your face? Not sure. It’s honestly one of the things that has delayed my book writing… fear of rejection, of being seen, of putting my heart out there and being told it wasn’t good enough.

While other moms are using this time to create cute time capsules, or learn something new, or make lasting memories, I’m just getting by. We are watching movies at night and all working on computers during the day. We have home cooked meals and sack lunches from school. I’m not going to lose 50 lbs or get my book written during this time. I cleaned out my refrigerator door over the weekend and I was pretty proud of myself. My house isn’t spotless (partially because I know nobody is coming over). But hopefully, through all of this, my kids will know they are loved.

When I was looking to take a picture of actual “sticks and stones,” I ended up placing them in the shape of a cross. I didn’t realize it at first. This seems fitting since last Sunday was Palm Sunday and this Sunday is Easter. Jesus dealt with sticks and stones, palm branches and praises, thorns and nails. He sees our hurting hearts, and just like my momma bear instincts, he wants to make it better. Sometimes we have to go through the difficult stuff to come out stronger on the other side.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Stay home if you can, wash your hands, stay 6 feet away, don’t touch your face, and be a kind human. Don’t judge the person at the grocery store or the person online- “keep your eyes on your own paper.” We are all in uncharted territory, and you are enough!

Put your right foot out…

I’m not talking about the hokey pokey, but that’s a good guess. I (almost) always sleep with my right foot out of the covers when I’m sleeping. It could be winter or summer, at a hotel or at home… but it’s just the right foot. It’s one of those things you don’t think about. You might also assume everyone does it. My husband does not. My oldest son does. So this made me wonder… is it hereditary? I know my grandma Lil did the same thing. We aren’t unique. If you Google it, there are a bunch of articles about how this helps regulate your body temperature. Maybe the reason my hubby doesn’t do this is because his body temp is always below 98.6. I’m not sure.

I’m fascinated by the different traits we inherit. I can only wink my right eye but I can raise my left eyebrow. Watch someone try to do the opposite, it’s funny. I can roll my tongue like a tube, but someone who can’t will just stick their tongue out. It’s not something you can learn (to the best of my knowledge). Have you been around family members who have the same laugh or mannerisms? When you get extended family together, that can get pretty interesting. My boys got my left eye dominance, blue eye color and my teeth. Few people say they look like me.

Aside from genetics, there are other things I hope to pass on to my kids. I hope they continue to love animals. I hope they believe in a higher power. I hope they hold the door open and remember their manners. I hope they treat people with kindness and look for ways to help. They both have my husband’s sense of humor and love of movies. They have his work ethic, even though he doesn’t always see it. They love to be outside and experience nature. As we are getting closer to having a high school senior, giving them life skills is increasingly important. Can you do your own laundry? Can you mow the lawn, fix a meal, grocery shop and build something on your own?

Giving them life skills will help them put their best foot forward, but it means giving up control. It means you might end up eating a homemade nacho pizza experiment or having to explain rewashing clothes if you forgot to dry them. It means they will have to learn the lessons of asking for help and independence at the same time.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough… and sweet dreams.

In the face of tragedy…

Our downtown area had a fire last week. Before 5 am on Tuesday, a lady in the apartments above the businesses smelled smoke and called 911. The historic building quickly became engulfed in flames. The streets were closed off and smoke could be seen for miles. Firefighters from Alexandria and surrounding towns worked for hours to get the fire out. In order to stop the spread of flames, they had to knock down part of the building. Years of history, thousands of dollars of inventory, life investments, small businesses, apartments… gone. Everyone was evacuated safely.

In the face of tragedy, our town (and neighboring towns) came together. Alexandria, MN has a population of 13,592 people. We are a lake/vacation town. Our population triples in the summer, but in February, it’s still just “the locals.” With small businesses struggling to survive, the loss to our downtown was difficult to see. The day they were fighting the fires, local businesses brought food, water, coffee etc to the firefighters and other workers. People shared videos of the fire. People prayed for safety and for the fire to be extinguished. The displaced apartment residents went to the Red Cross to get help. Fundraising started for businesses and residents. People lost their homes, their businesses, their jobs, their livelihood. Yet, in the face of tragedy, we came together. The local mall offered rent discounts to the businesses, a fund was started to help people impacted, people donated pet supplies to those with displaced pets, food and clothing drives were started… the list goes on.

Sure, you can still find naysayers and people who complain or say something wasn’t good enough or a donation wasn’t enough, but I choose to look for the good. Rose colored glasses? Maybe. But I also believe that if you focus your energy on the negative, that’s what you’ll find. These weren’t just buildings. It was more than that. When I stopped at the local bakery to get some banana cream pie treats, I had to take a picture of the building across the street. The apartment above with the curtain hanging and the rest was ripped away… the antique shop that was a loss, the tattoo parlor, now gone…

It must be overwhelming for the businesses, the tenants and all those impacted. In times like this, I remember Mr. Rogers saying, “Look for the helpers.” There were so many helpers that day and there will continue to be helpers until the rebuilding is done. It certainly makes us aware of our small businesses. I know Amazon is easy, and I use it also… but I also shop downtown. It means so much more to the person who lives and works here than it does to a big company.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you come together in the face of tragedy. Many small acts of kindness can make a big impact.