Tuesday, May 5, 2020

I've Changed

{Documenting life during the Covid-19 Quarantine}

For better or for worse, things are starting to "open up." Here in Arizona, retail is starting to return. Restaurants and coffeeshops were fast-tracked to a Monday open, assuming that certain social distancing standards can be followed. I know that more will follow.

I still don't know that we can really say that we're getting back to normal. I'm in the camp that says things aren't ever going to look exactly like they did 2 months ago. Two months ago, I took the kids to the dentist and out for ice cream without giving it a second thought. I don't think things will ever be that carefree for me again. 

Because even if everything opens up and everything goes back to "the way it was," I'm not the same. I've changed.

Here are 3 ways that I anticipate this has changed me for the long haul.

I'm a little cleaner.

I don't mean to say that things around here were bad; I was just never much of a germaphobe. We kept the bathroom and floors clean. I tidied regularly and kept up on the dishes and laundry. We weren't dirty people, exactly. Just not sanitized within in inch of our lives. But now? Now I'm a wipe everything down with Clorox wipes and disinfect the counters daily kind of girl. Even if I back off of the daily wipe (big if), I think it will still be done at least several times a week. The habit of washing my hands more has become so ingrained that the other day, I was concerned that I'd grown lax. No. Just accustomed to more frequent washings. 2 months does a habit create. 

I have a food stash.

I've long been decent meal planner. I actually get pretty stressed out if it's lunchtime and I don't know what I'm making for dinner. Accordingly, I've found it easier on the budget to buy what I need and use what I buy. I've generally kept very little on hand for a rainy day -- really not much more than a couple of boxes of pasta, some mac & cheese, and backups when I notice staples are running low.

Not anymore. Because of concerns about potential (real) quarantine, illness, food shortages and the like, I've stashed lots of staples, frozen plenty of meat and veggies, and actually reorganized my overflow pantry to accommodate. And instead of eating through that stuff, I'm buying to replace. I'm buying backup staples when I open a new container instead of when I finish one. If I'm eating pasta this week, I buy a new box, even though there are several boxes in my pantry. Same with most everything. 

I have a family to care for, and experience lots of anxiety when I imagine a rainy day without at least some basics. 

Maybe in time the stash will shrink. Or maybe they'll clean out my house after I die and find 700 cans of beans and a lost package of chicken thighs from 2020. 


A couple of weeks ago, Charles came home from a run to the store with a bottle of hand soap with a seasonal scent -- evergreen or the like. It was approaching Easter, and clearly some associate found a box in the back of a warehouse or something and knew that it would be purchased. Not even at clearance prices. ;-) It was a PRIZE! As I pumped the green goo onto my hands, I laughed at myself. It wasn't that long ago that I spent long minutes in the aisles, carefully considering whether lilac or peony or ocean water was the better scent for my buying dollars. Did I prefer orange or lemon disinfectant wipes? 

I'm sure that I will feel giddy the day I when I can worry about those minor decisions, things that really, really don't matter. But I'm sure I'll also appreciate it. 

I appreciate the feeling security when I see stocked shelves at the store.

I appreciate the beautiful, loving, enriching environment of my kids' school and teachers.

I appreciate slow(er) mornings and not making lunches.

I appreciate time with my family.

I appreciate my family's health.

I appreciate people.

I look forward to the time I can appreciate things like grabbing coffee with a friend, going to dinner, going to Mass, the Sacraments.

I appreciate a thousand little things that make life wonderful and hard and real. 

I look at people who lived through major moments in history: the Depression, the World Wars, the societal shifts of the 60s and we see how they were changed by those experiences. This is, in so many ways, the defining moment of my generation. More than 9/11 or the 2008 recession, this is going to shape the way we live, age and parent, because it is touching so many fundamental parts of life for, well, everyone. I pray that, when I look back on this time, I'm all the better for having experienced it, and that I can say it changed me. For the better.

Monday, April 20, 2020

To Thine Own Self Be True

{Documenting Life during the Covid-19 Quarantine}

You guys, I've definitely reached the point where the days are all just the same and things are either feeling hopeful or bleak, depending on your point of view -- or maybe how well you've done at avoiding the news.

Look at those cuties ready for LiveStreamed Mass.

I'm sort of over everything. Any novelty that this situation once held has worn off. Any sense of Lenten penance that it provided ended with the coming of Easter.

And yet, here we are. And whatever comes next, I'm pretty sure, is going to look very different than what we once had. This is not a battle. This is war.

Which means that self-knowledge is more important than ever.

I know that I need to be one cup of coffee in and have spent some time in prayer before my kids start scrambling down the stairs. I definitely need this, more than ever, even if it seems ridiculous when there is nowhere to be and no rush to get there.

I know that I am a get dressed and ready person. Dressed might be jeans and a t-shirt. Ready might be a ponytail and a smidge of mascara. But dressed and ready it is. 

I know that books are my jam. So we read. A lot. Reading aloud to my big kids is the best part of quarantine.

I know that crafts and I don't mix, so . . . I just don't. 

I know that I love being in the kitchen, so we bake and cook. I've tried a couple of new recipes and made some old favorites. My insistence on meal planning certainly comes in handy in these strange and uncertain days.

I know that in times of uncertainty, kids needs lots of love and security, so I do my best to provide them with plenty of hugs and snuggles and reassurance. And maybe a stray chocolate chip cookie.

I know that God is in charge, so I pray. 

I know that He is merciful, so I trust, even when it is hard.

At least I try.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Holy Week at Home

{Documenting life during the Covid-19 Quarantine}

I'm not going to lie. I spent most of last week feeling sorry for myself, and a pretty hefty portion of the rest of the time trying to convince myself to not feel sorry for myself.

I was, to put it mildly, pretty bummed about not doing all of the things for Holy Week and Easter, most especially not getting to attend Triduum services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. I was bummed that there would be no visiting. I was irked that my kids' Easter clothes are still hanging in their closets. 

While I 100% understand and support the need for social distancing and the dangers that Covid-19 presents, especially for the most vulnerable, I was still heartbroken about not receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, not worshipping with my parish, not witnessing the receipt of the Sacraments by the newest Catholics at the Vigil. 

Everyone agreed that this Lent got very Lent-y very fast. The quarantine was a twist no one saw coming. Accordingly, I was really, really perseverating on whether things would feel like Easter when we're all still trapped in this quarantine. Daily life didn't promise to look much different on the flip side. 

And as much as I tried to talk myself out of it, I kept circling around to the same thing:

I. I. I.

Me. Me. Me.

Anyone else spotting a trend here?

My mood was completely tied up in my own selfishness. I don't get to go to Mass. I don't get to receive the Eucharist. I don't get head-pats for cute pictures. I don't get to do what I want. What a spoiled brat!

Once I was able to start seeing my attitude through that lens, I started doing better. No, things this year weren't going to look the same as they have looked in years past. 

I threw myself into bolstering our Domestic Church. I decided to Make the Most of It. I made a fest that would feel festive and Easter-y.

I recognized a few things.

Easter is an undeserved gift in itself, so I don't deserve to have Easter be any particular way.

In an average year, life before Easter and after doesn't actually look that different. There is school. There is laundry. There are things going on. The trappings might be different, but the effect is the same. Day to day life. War. Quarantine. It is up to me to have Easter in my heart and to keep it there throughout the season, maybe even model that for my kids. 

We are so blessed to have been able to take the Sacraments for granted all these years.

God is with us, through all of this. He is faithful. He will not abandon us. And He will allow us to use this time for His glory, if we let Him. Even when things seem hard. Especially when things seem hard.

(I am working on being more appreciative. I really am.)

So, we streamed the services and let the kids fall asleep in their jammies.

We dyed eggs.

We prayed.

We feasted. 

I'll bust out those Easter clothes and get some cute pictures next week when we dress for Sunday Mass, even though we'll still be streaming it in our living room. 

We praise God because He is risen. He is risen, indeed.


Look! I even put stuff on my mantle!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Happy Birthday, Peter!

{Documenting life during the Covid-19 Quarantine}

Yesterday was Peter's 6th birthday. Pretty sure it was FAR fewer than 6 years ago. . . 
Happy times at the beach.

Anyway, I spent a good chunk of the weekend feeling sad that he wasn't going to be able to have a party with his friends or see his family or do anything besides . . . be home. Maybe go crazy and take a walk. Finally, on Monday, I asked him what would make his birthday special. He started describing our (now) typical day. Nothing crazy or novel. Familiar. Normal.

Peter has always been my homebody, but his description of the day reinforced that what I've been doing for birthdays all along is working.

Birthdays are not for fanfare. It is not about a Pinterest-worthy party. It is not about a pile of presents. It is not about having 700 people in one place. I mean, sure, we sometimes throw a party. But sometimes, most times, we don't.

It is about making sure that the birthday boy/girl feels loved, feels special, and is celebrated.  Usually there is a 'Happy Birthday' banner. There is plenty of favorite food. There are presents and prayers. There is most definitely dessert. Mostly, though, there is love.

Seeing how well Peter took the quarantined birthday celebration made me feel so much better about, well, everything. 

He is an amazing kid. He is hilarious. He is smart. He is kind. He has a heart for Jesus that often astounds me. He is such a blessing to our family.

Happy Birthday, kiddo! Hopefully, next year, we'll be able to leave home to celebrate! 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Disinfecting the Dinosaur in the Age of the Coronavirus

We’re just going to pretend that this dinosaur hasn’t been extinct for the last 3+ years. We’re also going to pretend that it’s not going to die off again in a month or two or ten, however long it takes this Coronavirus/Covid-19 thing to go away (or at least to reach the kind of new normal in which we’re not all constantly processing the world we live in). 

I took this picture when we stopped at the Sand Dunes on our way to San Diego. It seems strangely fitting for these crazy days. 

Let’s recap: In early March, things were rough in Italy. Things were starting to get ugly in Seattle. Dominos were teetering, but not so scary that we didn’t leave for a few days at the beach in San Diego for spring break. As Charles said, when we left, it seemed like a 2/10 level worry. We washed our hands a lot, ate out, played in the sand, got caught in the rain — you know, enjoyed a lovely little vacation before the storm.

By the time we came home a few days later, toilet paper was out of stock, Italy was a disaster, and places like New York were shutting down. It had reached 10/10 on Charles’ things to worry about scale. I went to the grocery store and bought. . . . a week’s worth of groceries and several products to flesh out our “stash.” I’ve got enough food on hand to keep us fed for about a month, but go to the store weekly-is for a week’s worth of fresh stuff/supplies to not over-deplete the stash, in the (I consider very likely) event of a full, two-week quarantine for our family.

(With regards to that pesky beast, toilet paper, I had happened to go to Costco a few days before the first, now tiny, wave of panic hit and got our family well-stocked on paper products. I am convinced that I will never be able to purchase hand sanitizer again, though.)

We wisely went to Confession and Mass that weekend, not knowing when we’d be able to go again. Sure enough, Masses were cancelled that Monday. Indefinitely. 

School closed — for a day, for a week, for 2 weeks, for 4 weeks. This last week, schools were closed for the remainder of the school year.

So here we are, we’re three weeks into distance learning, three weeks into stay-at-home-ing, three weeks into this new-never-normal.

I’m trying to see the good. I love not having a crazy morning rush every morning. I love not having the chaos of evening extra-curriculars. I love playing games, reading chapter books to my big kids, and taking walks. We’ve enjoyed the first blooms of the roses we planted. We’ve built outdoor fires for sipping weekend coffee. At moments, it has been positively dreamy.

I have grown so much in my faith. I’d already begun to open Scripture more and am increasingly grateful for that gift. I have started to pray the Rosary daily — a habit I hope to maintain when the world starts to reopen. The absence of the Eucharist makes me realize how desperately I need it. I know with more certainty than ever how much I need God. 

I have seen how blessed I am by our faith community and friends. I love our parish and our school. I feel particularly thankful when I see the extremes that people in other schools, districts, and states are dealing with as they navigate the distance-learning shift for their kids. I cannot wait for the day I see that sea of early morning plaid, but still find it surreal that my kids will be in 1st and 3rd grades when that happens.

Instead of going to the grocery store and Target and Costco willy-nilly, sometimes just because, I feel like a trip to the store is a glimpse into wartime. I only go to the grocery store — everything else is ordered online. I arrive a half-hour before store open. I stand in a socially-distant line. I buy with certainty that I won’t just “pop in on Wednesday and grab what I forgot.” This is is, guys. Today, for the first time, the store didn’t look post-Apocolyptic. Sure, the paper goods and cleaning supplies were pretty wiped out. Canned goods and rice were still pretty picked over, but you could get some. There was plenty of meat and produce and dairy. It makes things feel less dire, I guess.

But you guys, I’m aching.

I desperately long to attend Mass. I’m heartbroken not to have it. I am in stunned disbelief that Easter is next week. I went, in the blink of an eye from dreading wrestling little boys at the Triduum to tears that I don’t get to wrestle little boys at the Triduum. 

Peter’s 6th birthday is Tuesday. It will certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. I am probably sadder than he is. 

I miss people—I miss my friends and my family. I miss date night. I miss all the acquaintances I say good morning to just walking my kids in and out of school each day. My kids miss their friends and classmates. They miss going places. 

There’s no conclusion today. Isn’t that when this space has always been at its best — when there is no conclusion, just my pondering? It’s also when I’m at my best, and right now, I need to be my best, so that, even at my low moments, I can be present.

I hope to use this space that way in the coming days and weeks — to think about, pray about, and process the things that are happening in the world today; to have a recorded memory of them; and to share those in the best possible way.