Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, dealing with stress, faith, Health, Leadership, stress

Surviving the Pandemic – Family with Covid-19

Snow Globe Jar

Our snow globe broke this week and I was out looking for a replacement and saw this interesting ‘do it yourself’ idea.

Now that I look at the photo I realize the globe has a church, which somehow seems significant. This Christmas I’ve wanted to get a T-shirt that says, “Don’t hate my holiday and I won’t hate yours.”

Has anybody been getting Christmas hate? Last year I was stunned when I was at Michaels and saw a nativity scene where someone had replaced baby Jesus with a pig. My husband tried to explain it away. It was probably kids goofing off. It could also have been staff, I said. The little plastic pig was in a separate department away from the display, so how did those responsible come up with the idea, was my question? It wasn’t just, “Oh, here’s a pig, let’s take baby Jesus out and put it in there.” They had to walk to another area and get the pig.

My girlfriend and I performed Christmas music at seniors’ homes a few years back and mostly we were very well received but there was one location where the coordinator was angry with us for coming to play Christmas music in December during their “Happy Hour.” Some residents wouldn’t come, she told us, even though this had been set up in advance as a Christmas special. She clearly let us know how inappropriate this was.

I grew up in a time when Christmas was a “hallowed” season. Each year schools and churches would re-enact the nativity or have a similar, uplifting play or program that always referenced the birth of Christ.

The truth is I don’t really like Christmas today without the sacred focus. The songs grate on me when I hear them played over and over again in stores that set out their displays way to early. Watching Hallmark movies where people dance to “Silent Night, Holy Night”??? And have you tried finding a Christmas card with any message related to Christ, lately? Impossible.

For awhile I immersed myself in the Hallmark version of the “spirit of Christmas” where the focus is on good things like love and generosity. There is merit to this, but in the end it still rings hollow for me, a season reduced to tinsel and activity and commerce, with a nod to family. Christmas, of all seasons, is about worship–come and worship Christ the King. Without worship, life is empty and void of meaning.

Do you ever feel like your nerves are a bit raw? Well, that’s how I feel. I try and ignore it as I put up more lights in the hope of adding brightness and joy to my part of the world.

But my nerves feel on edge. This past week my mother was hospitalized for Covid-19. The hospital was full and her bed was needed so she was sent home the next day. She had fluid in her lungs and could barely walk, she was so weak. There is a very serious outbreak in her area of Manitoba. People don’t believe the virus is a real thing to be concerned about. It looks like the medical system is collapsing. Nurses did not have time to check on her when we called to ask how she was doing. I admit I was relieved that she could go home.

My sister who cares for my mother was diagnosed with Covid-19 first and she thought she got it from my mother who probably contracted it at the lab where she goes weekly for tests. My sister said it was way worse than any flu she had ever had. She isolated in the basement of her house and is recovering now.

A family member has been checking up daily on my mother. We are aware of the risk, but we cannot leave her uncared for.

At my husband’s parents’ assisted living residence there is a total lockdown, starting this week, because of an outbreak. My father-in-law walks 35 minutes every day, down the halls or outside, weather permitting. He had open heart surgery and he does this for his health but he’s not allowed to walk now.

What I find heartbreaking is that care homes are not getting any better at meeting the needs of their clients more than eight months after the first lockdowns.

And in the middle of this we have the slow motion drama of U.S. election results. Biden talking about healing feels to me like an abuser talking about healing to his victim. After all, it was his party that called Trump voters the “deplorables” and worse. It was his party that spent four years invalidating the Trump administration. It was his party that controlled the media narrative the whole time. And his party is currently talking about reforming Trump voters. How do you heal that?

There is still a God in heaven. I remind myself.

Back to my mother, I’m extremely grateful that she is doing a little better this week.

The anti-dote to the distress we feel is to find beauty and be grateful and take note of the many small blessings we experience every day. I’ve been trying to do that.

I suspect that I may have had the virus, as I was sick for four weeks and now I still feel tightness in my chest, several weeks later. I could not endure the thought of waiting in line with a lot of other sick people for a covid test, so I just monitored myself at home. My husband was sick first but only for a week.

During the time I was sick my sisters took a road trip to visit me. When I told them I was not well, the morning of the day they were to arrive, they turned around and didn’t come. This is really not the time to be travelling and seeing family. Even though I was sad not to see them, I felt relieved.

I was getting better earlier that week, but I re-used my mask without washing it and I think I re-infected myself.

I’m trying to do all the right things to stay healthy and to keep my spirits up but there are difficult days. I find myself lacking in energy, which means I don’t get out as much to exercise. Exercise and movement are so key, as is cooking at least one good meal a day and getting quality sleep. When one area falters there is often a ripple effect. I just tell myself to do my best. Tomorrow will be different.

I mentioned the church at the outset. How is our faith influencing our covid response? I, for one, am praying. I am trying to be supportive of others who are struggling. I am holding on to my firm belief in the goodness of God. However, there is a flip side I am only too aware of. God does not smile on evil and injustice. The pandemic could be a sign of his displeasure. One religious leader has said that if this is so, then there is more to come.

I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs and am impressed by these words, “The fear of the Lord, is the beginning of wisdom.” We need to see more wise leaders in this world.

Rex Murphy writes today: Governments have caused us to lose faith in our pandemic response, “…the inconsistent messaging, the exceptions granted to certain activities and the disparity of its impact on private sector workers compared to those in the public sector have broken the faith citizens had in our overall response. The common spirit that was present at the beginning of the crisis is not here now.”

Covid has magnified the importance of good leadership. The double standard of our leaders is one of the saddest things I’ve seen. Those advocating for lockdowns and penalties are found traveling and attending large gatherings and protests as though they are exempted from regulations. This does not feel like pulling together. In the absence of corporate leadership we will have to assume leadership as individuals.

The truth is that if it were not for the overwhelming of our health care system and the deaths of the vulnerable elderly, we could probably go about our lives as usual, save for the fact that it is now becoming apparent that there can be long term organ damage from covid among those who recover. None of us want to be super-spreaders. Every day nurses and doctors and care workers are falling ill. They don’t have the option of isolating. I read this week that the doctor in a small town who was “assigned” to be the covid doctor just contracted the virus. What happens then? Another doctor is “assigned”?

Is there a silver lining? The saying comes from a “sliver lining” around storm clouds, reassuring us that there is sunshine behind the clouds. I do believe good can and will come out of this.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, Health, masks

Using Masks With Common Sense

When I walk into a public place where I will encounter people at close distance, particularly if it inside a building, I wear a mask.

Let’s talk about the common sense of mask wearing.

  1. First of all, we can still get Covid while wearing a mask, because a mask is only partially protective. Since the virus is spread by droplets coming out of the nose while sneezing or out of the open mouth while talking or eating, a mask will catch some of the droplets. But only an N95 mask is designed to catch all the droplets, because of its construction.
  2. The point is to avoid getting droplets in your eyes and your mouth. This is where the virus can enter your body. So far the evidence indicates that the coronavirus is not spread via airborne particles, meaning it is not just floating around in the air. However, if someone sneezed into their hand and then touched a surface, another person can come by and touch the same surface and then touch their mouth or eyes and contract the virus.
  3. Washing or sanitizing our hands before we touch our eyes or mouth can help prevent contracting the coronavirus. It is important to wash our hands after being in places where others have touched or transmitted droplets onto surfaces. This can happen even when they are not coughing or sneezing because our mouths can spray tiny droplets when we talk. Washing our hands is a way to rid our hands of the contaminants we might have touched.

Now let’s translate this information.

a) If you are alone in your car or your home, you do not need to wear a mask because there is nobody who will dispel droplets in your direction.

b) If you are going for a walk outside and are keeping a six foot distance you do not need a mask.

c) If you are going for a walk and you pass someone coming toward you, but they have their mouth closed you are virtually safe from any transmission. In other words, the risk of transmission from one person’s mouth to another’s face is really only there once we open our mouths to talk, cough or sneeze. It is estimated that droplets don’t travel further than six feet at the most. This is why health officials have given us the recommendation to stay six feet apart.

d) We can still get the virus from touching surfaces that contain the virus if we touch our mouth or eyes after touching these surfaces. Once again, this is the reason for hand washing when we have been in places that others may have touched. Sanitizing our hands as we walk into a store protects others from the virus if we are carrying it. Sanitizing our hands as we leave a store protects us if someone in the store touched anything we touched. I have sanitizer with me and sanitize my hands after leaving a store, when I get in the car. The thing to remember is to only touch your face with clean hands.

So, common sense tells me that if I walk around the corner in a grocery store isle and someone is talking on their cell phone, facing my face, their droplets could reach me. This is why I choose to wear a mask in a store. It prevents some of their droplets from getting to my mouth. If the other person is also wearing a mask, there are two layers of protection. But remember, the virus can still get through each of the layers. It is just a greater protection than no mask at all.

If I have glasses, then my eyes are more protected than without glasses, but consider, for a moment, the trajectory of droplets. They will travel in a downward line, not upward. Essentially they would likely only hit your eyes if the person’s mouth is eye level with your eyes. However, a plastic shield will be more protective than a mask.

In summary, a mask provides some protection if we encounter someone with the coronavirus. If we are with people who don’t have the virus, there is no need for a mask, because there is no virus to transmit. The trouble is we don’t know who has the virus. People can have the coronavirus without having any symptoms.

However, anyone who knows they have the virus should definitely isolate, so as not to spread it to others.

There is a very good chance that we will not encounter someone with the virus when we go out without a mask, but we cannot be sure. It makes many people feel more comfortable if they see others taking at least a minimal precaution like wearing a mask.

Are we over-reacting? Maybe. Are we creating a false sense of security with mask wearing? To some degree we are. But masks offer a level of protection. For this reason, and to make others more comfortable, I think it is a good idea to wear a mask where distancing is a problem.

One more important precaution to consider is that if you do encounter someone with the coronavirus and the virus gets onto your mask, then you want to be very careful while removing your mask. When you remove your mask, remember to wash your hands as if they are contaminated. When you remove your mask, you have to act as though it has the coronavirus on it. Chances are that if your mask is contaminated you will get the virus even if you are careful removing it, but once again, if you are careful to wash your mask, or discard it, after using it, and to wash your hands after touching and removing it, then you reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.

If I walk around inside a store without a mask, I might make other people uncomfortable. If nobody in the store has the virus, including myself, then I am not at risk and I am not putting anyone else at risk. But we cannot be sure of this.

I don’t like to see mask wearing become a divisive issue. My guess, and this is only a guess, is that we still stand a 50% chance of getting the virus if we wear a mask and encounter the virus.

Use common sense and consideration. Personally, I think that it is reasonable to expect mask wearing inside grocery stores and places where there are a lot of people and it is difficult to distance. The risk of the virus being present multiplies with the number of people.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, Depression, faith, Friendship, happiness

Surviving the Pandemic – When I’ve Exhausted My Creative Resources

My Desk

So, I’m a pretty creative person.

I tend to have a lot of ideas. I’m not easily bored.

I think of myself as a resourceful person who can find solutions.

I used to say to our kids that if they were bored it was because they lacked imagination and I still think that people with a good imagination are not likely to be bored. Lately, however, I’ve begun to lack imagination. Or, put another way, I’ve begun to exhaust my creative resources.

It’s not exactly the same as burnout, because I’ve been there. It’s more like ‘dry out.’ I’ve squeezed every drop out of this sponge of creativity or imagination or resourcefulness. I’m in the, “just put one foot in front of the other,” stage. Methodical.

This has its merits. At least the things that need to be done, still get done.

I’ve been here before, in some measure, maybe not exactly to this extreme. I recognize the territory. I tell myself this is not permanent. It is a phase. I will emerge, once again, and there will be creativity and passion.

When I feel this way, I tend to ask if there is a cause. If I can identify a cause, maybe I can find a treatment or an antidote. There are things I can pay attention to, like getting more sleep, eating better, relaxing, lightening up.

But this is about a deeper need.

I remind myself to delight in the little things. This adds sparkles to my day. Sparkles are beautiful and distracting and they make me happy.

Are sparkles enough?

And there is the constant rub. That word–enough. That sense of something missing. Maybe even a latent guilt over the very fact that I question whether I have enough, whether I am enough.

I’m not pursuing happiness, exactly. It’s just that happiness and contentment is a byproduct of something greater. It’s how I feel when my cup is full.

So, what goes in my cup?

And when do I know it is full?

It might also be helpful to ask, how do I know it is not full?

And why is it so important for my cup to be full?

Is it really necessary for me to always be concerning myself with having a full cup?

Can I live, fairly contentedly, with a less than full cup?

The last question is one I can answer and the answer is, yes.

If there is one thing I have realized during COVID-19 it is that I can do with less than. I can adjust my expectations.

My husband just brought me coffee in a fancy cup. His response when I asked him, why the fancy cup, was, because it’s Sunday. I asked, what flavor is it? Coffee.

COVID-19 has caused me to distinguish between the things that nourish and the things that add flavor to my life.

I like flavor. I like pretty things. I like stimulation. I like entertainment. And these are really important and even necessary. But they can be delayed. I can wait for them.

What makes me really sad is when people have to wait a very, very long time for ‘flavor’ in their lives. I don’t live in a bubble. I feel the pain of humanity. I think about what others are suffering, not in order to compare and rationalize, and console myself by telling myself my situation could be so much worse, but simply because I have compassion.

One of the most meaningful things in life is knowing we are making a difference, however small or great an impact it is that we are making.

My mother is in her eighties and recently when I have spoken to her on the phone she has frequently alluded to the thought that she is no longer making a difference. I say things to her like, “As long as you can smile and speak an encouraging word, you are making a difference.” Or I remind her of the things she has told me she has done recently.

Her days stretch long before her and I know that what makes the most difference for her is if her time is punctuated by visits from others. These are the highlights of her life. I remind her that she bakes muffins or cinnamon rolls or pies and this is a special thing she does for the people who visit her. In our family we have used common sense and not cut off visits to our mother during COVID-19, since the place where she lives is not on strict lockdown and she has a patio door, so people do not need to walk through the building when they visit her. Staying connected fills her cup.

It is something that fills the cup for most people. We are designed for connection. I think about the many people who cannot go to their place of worship, the place where they meet their extended “family.” This is a difficult time for them. Others connect by going to clubs and parties. Some connect by going shopping. A senior friend told me, during the strictest COVID-19 lockdown period, that she would go grocery shopping almost every other day, just to be around people. Unfortunately my mother no longer drives and barely is able to walk, so she depends on people coming to her house.

Visits with my grandchildren fill my cup like nothing else does. They expose me to so much spontaneity, so much personality, so much unconditional love, so much amusement.

It takes a lot of work to remain connected in this world. I come from a family where we easily back away from others when there is a slight altercation. We don’t like conflict. But even more, we don’t like the sense that our views or our person is not respected. I have to keep going back, keep trying to connect again, keep believing in the importance of maintaining the path, not letting it become overgrown with weeds. This requires courage and sometimes humility, but most of all faith in humanity.

Without these connections, I think we dry up. Without the sense that we are able to make a contribution, even a smile or a kind word, I think we dry up. It is not unreasonable to expect and desire this nourishment in our lives. I have not seen my grandchildren for months, or my mother. COVID-19 means we cannot travel to see one another. But a phone call helps.

I can spend my life employing all my creativity and all my resourcefulness and still come up short, lacking, feeling a need. For me this is not always about having enough, but about being enough.

In my life I have had periods when I have not lacked for friends and meaningful relationships and then there have been other months and years when friends seemed to be impossible to find. As the apostle Paul said, ‘I have learned both how to be abased and how to abound.’

I watched my husband during the months when he had no work. He teaches children music–a very stimulating and emotionally rewarding job. He is the optimist who will always talk about the cup as half full, not half empty. But I saw the truth when he wasn’t working. He felt the emptiness. Life wasn’t enough and it made him come to the conclusion that he will never retire. He will teach as long as he is able.

I have seen doctors and teachers and caregivers become depressed in retirement because they can no longer help. My husband’s father has nightmares of being back in his managerial position. He, on the other hand, loves his retirement.

During COVID-19 I have thought a lot about addictions. Some of us are addicted to helping. We get “high” only if we are helping others in some way, whether that is through our job, making our boss happy, volunteering, cooking food for our family, creating something to bring joy to others, or any other ‘helping’ activity. We have to be making a meaningful contribution. And when that well dries up, and we are no longer giving, we become depressed. In some ways this depression is a good thing, because it signals to us that things are not as they ought to be, and we ought to be contributing in some ways with our lives, but it does not signal that our lives are insignificant if we are not giving in the usual ways.

Work, itself, can be a drug. A stimulus. We get that sense of accomplishment. That high feeling that accompanies completion, after the rigorous employment of our mental and physical resources.

During COVID-19 we have to find substitutes. Some people are more creative and imaginative in filling the gap. Others have more energy to burn and feel frustrated because of this. If ever there has been a time to reflect and to come to know ourselves, this is it.

I’ve been engaged in a number of self-improvement exercises in the past months, which I will not go into here. I’ve also looked at what brings me joy, what is life-giving. I’ve watched to see how I am impacted by the various things I do. I’ve analyzed why I do them. I’ve asked if they are helpful? Are they truly me?

So what do I do when I’ve exhausted my creative resources? When it becomes difficult to motivate myself? When I don’t seem to be able to fill my own cup?

When my children were young and used to get cranky I would ask myself if they were hungry, tired, or needed a diaper change. If these were all looked after, then I asked myself if they were in pain or some sort of discomfort. Sometime they were teething. Sometimes a bath helped to ‘refresh’ them. Sometimes they needed a cuddle and a lullaby.

These are still the basic needs we need to address in our own lives and the lives of others, young and old. We need self-care and we need comfort.

There is another thing we need as adults. We need to feel like we are enough, and like we are good enough. If we live our lives being less than kind, we will feel disturbed, understandably so. This is contrary to our design, which is to be life-givers. Because we are designed to give life, not doing so makes us feel like we are falling short.

There is a longing in all of us to have the sense of being really valuable human beings. If I live my life reasonably well, I might still come under a sense of guilt, a feeling of not being adequate, maybe of not doing enough. Often this is a false guilt.

I’ve battled these feelings and I think most people do. If not, then I would tend to question if there has been any real introspection.

I’ve been interested in why some people are so quick to reject Christianity, when Christianity, rightly applied, is really a very hopeful religion. Wrongly applied, it can result in despair, so maybe this is the reason for objections.

Probably the central unique and attractive feature of the Christian faith is the introduction of forgiveness. The Bible is full of stories of men and women constantly failing and falling miserably short of the ideals God has specified in the Ten Commandments.

God can look like a stern judge, condemning us, but in reality he is a shepherd, guiding us, trying to keep us from falling off a cliff, trying to keep us from destroying ourselves.

When Jesus came on the scene he essentially brushed away all the extra rules that were added to the commandments and condensed them into two laws–love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus taught about the importance of having a good heart–keeping our heart attitude right. And of course, we all know that it’s impossible to keep our attitude right, so he introduces “redemption.” Essentially he tells us that we will never be free of the sense that we are failures, so we need some help. He offers forgiveness.

I’ve had to forgive myself. I’ve had to realign myself with the truth I know. I’ve had to learn to trust that I am enough. To believe that I am loved.

My mother has to embrace a new way of living in which she cannot derive her value from her ‘works.’ She has to derive value from her essence. The person she is. The person people meet when they visit her.

We are enough. I am enough. And when I fail, there is a remedy. It’s called forgiveness.

I still have resources at my disposal, even though they seem rather depleted now. My creative resources may feel like they’ve dried up, but it helps to remind myself that no matter what I feel, or what I experience, I, as a person, am still enough.

Even if I was paralyzed in a wheelchair, the very fact that I have life in me is enough to tell me I am worthy. I like to meditate on the miracle of life. This helps fill my cup.

This sense of worthiness, of knowing my life has value, restores my hope. It is a well from which I draw sustenance. So, when I feel like my creative flow is down to a trickle, I remind myself it’s not about doing. It’s about being. Everything I do flows out of the person I am and I am enough.

Things will turn around again. My strength will be renewed. This restful “nothing” phase is probably an important part of my recovery.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, happiness, mental health

Surviving the Pandemic – Coping When the Props are Removed

Available at Art’s Nursery

If there is one thing that seems to be common to everyone, as a result of COVID, it is that this has presented us with time for reflection. I have looked at my life and identified a number of props I relied on for my contentment. Your props will be similar in some ways, yet different. For instance we find various ways of meeting our need to be with people. We have different forms of entertainment to occupy our time. We take care of our physical needs in different ways. We find a variety of ways to refresh ourselves. Many of our former options are not open to us now.

I’ve slowed down and had time to look inside, to evaluate my choices and my lifestyle. In a sense I’ve taken stock of the “essential services” in my own life—the things I can scarcely do without.

My greatest burden these days is for people who are responsible for caring for other people. They have to do this while postponing their own needs. My hat goes off to the parents and care givers.

I’ve looked inside and had a sort of crisis of faith. Or, put another way, I’ve seen that in crisis, faith is all I have. I can only continue to cast my cares on God and believe he will make a way. And if he doesn’t, I have no alternative but to wait and see what happens next, still trusting for a good outcome down the road.

I want to give answers, but I don’t have anything besides what I am doing. What I am doing is looking at my life when the props are gone, when the things I relied on for a good life are stripped down, or stripped away.

Who am I without props? How do I face my day without these “helps”?

Many times I have gone back to thinking about pioneers, people who came to a strange country and built it up. The props we’ve relied on are things others have put in place for us. They were instituted by people who had little to work with. I find it encouraging to think about the basics. In some ways I find myself at a kind of “Ground Zero.” This is when I become aware of the importance of inner resources like faith, courage, steadfastness, hope, insight, creativity, resiliency, perseverance.

These are the building blocks that are still available to us for the future even when we have lost many familiar supports. I’ve seen the importance of doing all I can to preserve my inner strength and I know nobody will do this for me.

I think we will find that some of the props we relied on will not be as necessary to our well-being, going forward. Life is going to be more about essentials and inner strength.

Posted in anxiety, Children, Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith, Health

Teachers Return to Work

Teachers are returning to work today in the province of British Columbia. They asked for more time before starting classes, in order to prepare, and were given two extra days before classes open on September 10.

Many, if not all, are filled with trepidation. This is understandable, with their concern for their own safety and that of their students, not to mention the vulnerable people in all of their lives.

It is a great blessing that the coronavirus does not affect children and young people as severely as those who are older and have underlying health issues. But we are still afraid because children can be asymptomatic. They can have no symptoms and yet carry the virus and be capable of spreading it.

Many of us have a faith background and believe in the power of prayer in these times. Some do not. Some may have become cynical after years of unanswered prayer. The truth I have experienced is that my prayers will not always be answered and I will not always get what I pray for. God is not like some magic wish-granting genie in a bottle. We may pray and still not be assured that we will escape harm.

Last week I prayed fervently for someone in need and even asked others to pray. On the weekend I asked this person how their week had gone. It had gone very badly. Much worse than before. I was shocked, because, after all, we had prayed.

Yesterday as we drove along the road we encountered two accidents less than a mile apart. Emergency vehicles blocked portions of the road and first responders stood next to the damaged vehicles, assessing the situation and providing assistance. As we continued on I became anxious. What if we were the next accident victims? In quick succession a couple of drivers made dangerous and unexpected moves in front of us. I was on high alert. The sight of actual damage reminded me of my vulnerability.

We’ve probably all been on high alert for months now. Each day we make choices that we hope will reduce our vulnerability. We decide when we need to wear our masks. We avoid certain high traffic areas. We are conscious of maintaining distance between us and others. We hear of the virus at a place near us, or near our loved ones, or perhaps someone we know has the virus or has died of it and this makes us anxious because we wonder if we are going to be affected next.

As we drove along I had to calm myself and reassure myself that there was no reason to expect we would be accident victims. Yes, the possibility was there, but the probability was low. It was no higher than on any other day and I needed to remain calm.

Anxiety itself has health risks and although we cannot entirely control our anxious response, we can do something about it. I know, because I have tried, and it has worked.

I wish, for the teachers, that they could avoid the situations that are causing them anxiety. But this is not reality for any of us. For months we have cheered on medical staff, first responders and essential workers. They are our heroes. They have worked on our behalf. Maybe you have been one of them. We are intensely grateful for the work of these brave souls. Now it is the teachers’ turn to step up to the plate. And it’s a scary thing to do.

Stepping up to the plate requires bravery. It means taking risk. There is the risk of harm.

All of the essential workers we have acknowledged and thanked during the past months have taken risks. They have been brave in the face of adversity. Somehow they have moved beyond fear to serve the public.

Bravery is what we need in the face of adversity. It is not the absence of fear, but the control of our fear that we need, so that it does not paralyze us.

I don’t want to have the coronavirus and I pray that my loved ones don’t get it. I do the sensible things I know to do to protect myself and them, and I hope this is enough.

As teachers prepare their classes, they are doing the same. They plan how the students and staff will take measures to protect themselves. After preparation, all we can do is hope for the best. The outcome is out of our hands. We have been faithful to implement the protections we know to have in place. The rest is beyond our control.

It’s very difficult to live with a life-threatening virus. It is frightening indeed when we increase our exposure to risk by going back to work. Having studied cognitive behavioral therapy I understand that there are ways in which we can alter our thoughts and our behavior that can make us more calm as we face the things we fear. In other words, we can have rituals and we can talk to ourselves to allay our fears, even if we cannot rid ourselves of them entirely. There are also unhealthy ways of coping that we need to reduce or eliminate.

One unhealthy way of coping is to not be honest about the actual risk. In other words, pretend that the risk does not exist. It is actually healthier to be honest about the risk, but not be overwhelmed by this realization. The reason for this is that then we can prepare ourselves appropriately. This means we take responsibility for seeking out information and get as complete a picture as possible so that we know what to do and what not to do.

Some say that this increased knowledge will also increase fear. If we habitually avoid facing up to hard truths in order to feel safe, then this will be difficult to do, because it can initially increase our fear. Facing up to challenging facts can be very frightening. It is easier to shield ourselves and to live in a protective bubble. Knowledge of the bad things that are happening in the world can overwhelm us. But not knowing certain facts can be dangerous and can put us at risk.

Dealing with disturbing information requires a few basic skills. I’ve already mentioned one—honesty about the truth of the matter. And I’ve alluded to another—limiting how much time we spend thinking about the problem and also limiting how many times we allow the problem to enter our thoughts.

When I think about teachers returning to classes, I think to myself there are probably two groups of people among the teachers. There are the ones who rely entirely on their own understanding of the situation, without any consideration for faith, or prayer or a divine will. For them this is probably the safest way to be, because I don’t think they would willingly choose this path if they did not believe it was best. They don’t want to rely on something or someone they do not understand and cannot see.

The second group opens their minds and hearts to the possibility that there is indeed a divine power or person that operates in the universe, outside of human sight and beyond our understanding. Their belief is in the goodness of this divinity. They may have derived their understanding from teaching in a church, or it may have grown as a result of observing the intricate balance and beauty of all that surrounds us. How could this world exist by accident? It does not seem reasonable to think so. There must be something, someone who is wise, who is insightful behind its design. And it follows that the author of life might ultimately care about matters pertaining to life. Therefore it is reasonable to trust this entity, beyond our comprehension, to actually look out for the good of the earth and its inhabitants.

This thought has brought me comfort. I embrace words I read in my Bible, such as, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whole shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” And, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling.” And, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27)

I find that these messages anchor me. They help me face adversity with courage. I can choose to trust God with the outcome, even when my circumstance is challenging or unpleasant. In the face of sickness, or debilitation, or even death, I draw strength from this knowledge.

There are things in life that can cause us to lose faith. I’ve been tempted to abandon my faith in God when I have not understood how a loving Creator could allow evil, suffering, and decay. Although he allow this, he also promises a remedy that counters the difficulties of life and enables us to endure them. It is not his will for evil and suffering to prevail indefinitely. He is about the business of restoration and we can participate in this.

I prefer to live my life believing that the same God who looks after the intricacies of life and keeps nature in balance, who created the ecosystem, and the biome, whose wisdom is so infinite that we can spend a lifetime of study and still only scratch the surface in understanding the solar system, or microbiology, or human anatomy—this God is worthy of my trust.

As we go forward in the coming months, we can also draw courage from those who serve us daily, those whose services, we are reminded, are essential to our wellbeing. Today I specifically want to acknowledge the significance of the role of teachers in the training and care of our children. Parents need you. We need to work together and support one another as we train the future generation. Thank you for stepping forward in these incredibly challenging times. We wish you well as we entrust our children into your care.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Health

Surviving the Pandemic – Change Happening Here

cypress hike
Bowen Lookout on Cypress Mountain

The other day I was thinking about my “Home Body” Daily planner and how appropriate it is during this time of isolation. When I bought it I debated getting a more motivational organizer. However, I didn’t write in my planner for the month of July. What happened?

I have a bit of a habit of falling off the face of the earth for awhile. I see it in all of my journals, how I keep disappearing for chunks of time. But last month I had a reason. I went to the doctor and my fasting blood sugar was too high. So, I decided I needed to do something. I began intermittent fasting. I watched a couple of videos of Dr. Jason Fung who gives a pretty convincing presentation in which he claims that weight loss, low carb eating and intermittent fasting can reverse type two diabetes.

Last month I lost ten pounds. I recorded my blood sugar and my weight, daily. I still have another ten pounds to go, and maybe another five after that. I will see how I feel. This was my focus and the reason why my planner got neglected.

sympathy

I also experienced the loss of two family members, an uncle and an aunt. They were from two different families. One had just celebrated their 60th anniversary and the other was not far behind. I can’t imagine losing someone after so many years together.

I was distracted thinking about how we wait too long to get in touch. They lived in another country and I always meant to travel to see them. Since I don’t live near family, I am not around when relatives come to Canada to visit, so I don’t see them then. Even though our contact was minimal, what there was endeared them to me.

I discovered that I am a bit more interested in extended family than some of my siblings and this might be because of my long absences from the people I love and care about. COVID sort of highlights lonely times. I groan at the cliche, We are all in this together.

sympathy 2

This month I did something remarkable. I paid off the major portion of my credit card and will have the remaining $1000 paid by Christmas. I reviewed my spending record in the past five years and saw I have a habit of spending an extra $200 a month, on average, above budget on gifts, Christmas, travel, writers conferences and furniture/home decor. I see now that these are things I can’t really afford, so something will need to change, because I’ve decided no more delayed paying.

Another change that happened is my doctor set me up for a colonoscopy as a result of my sister’s recent colon cancer diagnosis and surgery. This is not a pleasant topic, but a necessary one. Look after your health. I had to change my eating during the week leading up to my test. I didn’t realize how much my body needs high fibre nuts and seeds and whole grains for balance.

I received a COVID screening phone call from the hospital and was asked a myriad of questions. If I have any symptoms, or if I’ve had any suspected exposure to COVID-19, my procedure will be postponed. I do hope I get everything right so I can get this over with.

my bonsai

On the fun side of things, I’ve started some small bonsais. I’m amazed how relaxing the process is for me. I think I seriously needed to spend some time planting and pruning and playing in the dirt. I grew up doing a lot of gardening. This time of year we would be harvesting vegetables in our family garden and there would probably still be strawberries and raspberries to pick. I miss it.

The difference between me and my husband is rather apparent when I look at our approach to bonsai. He has two quality projects going while I managed to get seven for the same price. We kind of went above budget this month, but it is our anniversary month and we are doing this instead of going away for a weekend or out to a fancy restaurant. I didn’t realize how therapeutic bonsai gardening could be, but of course, bonsai combines art and design with gardening, and there is no time pressure. What more could I want?

We see some activity going on next door and I think things are gearing up for a construction project. This will mean we lose some lighting on the side of our condo, as we will have a building next to our balcony. It will also mean losing my distant mountain view. I am grieving this. We knew this would happen when we bought and are actually surprised at the delay. Since the project was planned as part of the completion of our complex we expected it to start immediately after our condos were sold. Once again, my husband and I see this whole thing differently and he is excited that we will have a view of another courtyard and there will be a walkway beside us.

rose bowl

In addition to bonsai, I cut back a small rose bush and put it in a planter. It seems to be doing well. We also bought a trellis for our star jasmine. I love the scent of jasmine on the balcony.

We went out for Two for One Seniors Tuesday at Ricky’s this week. I’ll just let you know that this is false advertising. First of all, the price is higher for one senior’s meal than any other menu item. The meals are smaller, and you don’t get the “deal” unless you purchase two beverages. But you do get your choice of a tiny dessert that is included with the meal.

While we were at the restaurant we saw a nice family gathering of fourteen people seated at three different tables. There were lots of hugs and photos after the meal. I wanted to offer to take a group photo but my husband discouraged me. I guess this is not the time to do so. On our hike on Cypress Mountain, a couple of weeks ago, someone asked my daughter-in-law to take a photo and she got out her wipes and cleaned her hands before she handled their phone, and then cleaned them again afterward. There are still options.

patio at gc
Inviting Patio at Cedar Rim Nursery

We’ve had a lot of fun going to local garden centers and checking out bonsai plants and containers. Touring Garden centers is a great activity during COVID, I’ve discovered. Restaurants, not so great, unfortunately, although it’s important to give what support we can to local businesses. We made our first visit, after lockdown, to our favorite Pho restaurant. We don’t want them to close. They have the best spring rolls!

I watched a couple of YouTube videos of Dr. Debra Soh, who is a sexual neurologist, as she talked about her new book The End of Gender Identity: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Identity in our Society. An Amazon review summed up the following myths debunked in her book:

  • Gender is a social construct. (No, it ain’t.)
  • There are no real differences between trans-women and cis-gendered women. (The height of absurdity.)
  • Children with gender dysphoria should transition. (No, they shouldn’t.)

Giovanna Roma posted this in the comments:

If gender is a social construct then how can you be born in the wrong body? Also they don’t want to be defined by gender, but are willing to let gender roles define their sex??

We wonder why we are even having this conversation? Why are we having a lot of crazy conversations these days? My tolerance for some subjects is seriously disintegrating. I don’t know if this is due to lockdown. It’s a possibility.

Go J.K.Rowling! I identify with your unique experience as a woman. And thank you to Dr. Soh for pointing out the damage we are doing by transitioning children. Keep having these conversations, even if I’m losing patience.

crescent beach aug
Crescent Beach in August

Posted in Communication, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Home, Love, Marriage & Family

Surviving the Pandemic – 12 Good Things That Have Happened

condo

Good things that have happened because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown:

  1. I’ve slowed down to think. I feel like I have more room to think. It’s like the bookends of my life have moved out. They were pressing in on me. I have more space now. I can take my time, and it’s alright. I’ve been forced off the high speed treadmill of my life. I’ve opted out of the rat race–the crazy habit of busy, busy, busy. The “busy” was in my head. My brain has found a lower gear, now, and I like it.  More “frames” have been added to the movie of my life, stretching out the scenes. It’s not flash/flash to the next scene.
  2. I’ve arranged my house the way I like it. Each room and the balcony give me joy.
  3. With my husband being home, he has learned what it is I do as a writer. He has seen my rhythm and grown to appreciate it. It took awhile for me to ignore him and go about my business. But we settled into a groove of sorts.
  4. I’ve reassessed my role with my grandchildren. I’m taking a more long-term approach and planning games and activities that will not only entertain but prepare them for the future once we can be together again. I’m also realizing that there are stories of my past I need to share with them. Most importantly, they will learn by watching how I interact with them and others and how I live my life.
  5. My husband has learned it is possible to “plan” a once a week grocery shopping trip instead of just hopping over to the grocery store when we need something multiple times a week.
  6. I’ve learned to “tame” my compulsion to go out and I now have a greater appreciation for the activities I am able to do outside the home.
  7. We cut out eating cakes and cookies and ice cream, for the most part, and are consuming healthier food on a daily basis.
  8. We prioritize going for daily walks, even if they are short.
  9. I understand my husband better as a result of being together, working on projects and talking. For example, when I was videotaping his children’s music videos I only suggested improvements when it was absolutely necessary. Otherwise I would suppress his artist instinct.
  10. My husband calls his parents more frequently now and they appreciate it. Previously if we called more than once a week they would be surprised and think there was an emergency.
  11. The biggest conflict we’ve had as a couple has been around watching and listening to news and commentary, and talking about reports. My husband has a much lower tolerance level and over the weeks I’ve learned to adjust. Sometimes I watch when he is not around, or even suggest he go for a walk while I watch. I’ve reduced the amount of conversation time around certain subjects. Our children, like me, want to talk, so we’ve had to modify our conversations around their dad.
  12. I’ve consciously tried to add humor to our days and this has made life more fun.
Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith

Mostly Ignoring the Pandemic

deep pink flowersI’ve poured myself a cup of tea. I’ve watered the flowers on the balcony and finished a few other morning chores. Now I’m ready to sit down and write a little.

I’ve been mostly ignoring the coronavirus pandemic these past weeks. It’s as though I think it’s run its course and has taken up enough of my life. However, it is still around, and I am reminded when I go out. This week I went to Fabricland and needed to wear a mask to enter the store, after waiting in a line outside.covid signsWe made some changes in the bedroom and now I am eager to clean up a few boxes that are still sitting on the floor, so that I can see the new look. The boxes contain files from the last few decades which I need to go through and sort and organize. This is not my favorite task. That’s an understatement. I wish a fairy would just swoop down and touch it with her magic wand and the job would be done. But instead, I will have to toil through it.

As I was thinking about this I looked outside through a crack in the open door to our patio and saw a hummingbird lingering above the petunias in our hanging basket. It was so lovely and reassuring. God cares for the birds and the flowers and he will care for me.

Earlier I couldn’t find my phone. I looked everywhere and then I said a little prayer and immediately I saw just the edge of my phone peeking out from under a blanket on the sofa. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had exactly this experience when I’ve looked for something. Almost before my prayer is spoken, I have the answer and I find the thing I am looking for in an unexpected place.

It doesn’t happen every time. When I don’t get an answer to my prayer, or don’t get the answer I want, all I can do is wait and see what will come next. Last week I exhausted all the places I could look for an item. My husband suggested it might be in our storage room which is in the underground parking area. He went to look, and sure enough, it was there. All the praying and looking I could do would never help me find it until I went down there.

I’m forever trying to discover the reasoning or logic behind answered and unanswered prayers. There isn’t really a formula, I’ve learned. It seems this whole process is about just that–the process. In other words, what happens as a result of asking and seeking.

I don’t know if anyone else has this kind of personal experience around finding things, but for me finding things when I need them is really important. That is why I don’t want to throw out my papers. One day I will need to find something I have in those boxes. For example, yesterday I found a selection of songs I wrote before I was married. As I looked through the songs I noticed that they were in the wrong sequence in the notebook. The songs were dated a few years earlier than the entries before them. I must have copied them from notes, at a later date. It occurred to me that the New Testament books, recorded around 80 AD, were most likely also a collection of notes taken over years and compiled at a later time.

On Sunday our son and his wife were over for a BBQ. For the first time, ever, my son sat down at the piano and began to play around on it. He probably sat there for half an hour. He’s a computer programmer. Maybe he thought he could unlock the code to the piano. Or maybe he’s creating a piano app. I’d love it if he persisted but of course I didn’t urge him, because some things are so delicate you can destroy them if you talk about them.

bear treeWe went for our customary walk after dinner. It’s precious how our son and his wife have made a point of inviting us out for a walk every weekend since COVID-19 began. At first it was a “distancing” walk. Now we are more relaxed.

We video-chatted with our other son on Saturday. Our youngest grandchild has learned how to drive a bike this past month and yesterday he showed off how he could ride a scooter, lifting one leg. It’s not quite like being there, but it’s so fun to be able to share these moments. They had a few fireworks for that day–the 4th of July–and lit a some small ones for us.

Last Monday a friend invited me to go for a walk in a local park. It was a gorgeous day. The rest of the week we had rain, so sunshine this weekend was especially appreciated.red maple close upThe news continues to disturb me when I read or watch various reports. I don’t write much about news on this website but use my tinafriesen.com blog for occasional commentary on news.

This morning in my Bible reading I read about King Solomon building the temple in Jerusalem. Does anyone else ever think about God’s design? I think about it all the time. Not only the plan for the tabernacle and the temple, but how everything else in nature works together so perfectly.

We finally received a long awaited personal update from Jordan Peterson, author of Twelve Rules for Life. It sounds like he is finally on the other side of an unbearably harrowing experience trying to get off of benzodiazepine. Incidentally, thinkspot has an interesting, and somewhat disturbing, for me, June 15 article entitled, Why People Hate Jordan Peterson so Much.

Although there are objections to the Bible, most people accept the teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. If the world only lived by these words.

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, Travel

Surviving the Pandemic – Travel

pink rosesWe continue to go for our regular walks and now we have added restaurants and travel. This week we drove to Hope and Kelowna but we did not stay overnight.

As we started out, my husband checked a tire that was low the day before. We decided to go to Mr. Lube and see if they could fix it. It turned out to be cracked, near the rim, and could not be repaired. Mr. Lube did not have the tires we needed in stock, but recommended we go to Costco. Costco was not opening for another half hour, and I checked the ratings online which were not very good, so we went to Canadian Tire. They were open, but it was going to cost us $40 more per tire. My husband recently had the front tires replaced at Kal Tire so we drove there. They didn’t have the tires we needed, either, but found them in Abbotsford. It was on our way and we were able to get an appointment.

Kal Tire in Abbotsford offered excellent service. However, even tire repair centers have to abide by COVID-19 regulations, I noted. In the waiting area there were three chairs set about eight feet apart. Some of the display area was closed off and there were signs regarding the number of people allowed inside at one time. In order to drive our car in and out of the garage, the steering wheel was covered in plastic as well as the entire driver’s seat. I also observed there was no complimentary coffee.

no complementary servicesWe stopped at a gas station and my husband asked if the washrooms were open since there was a sign, “temporarily unavailable.” The attendant handed him a key, without comment.

We stopped at Rolly’s in Hope for breakfast. They are known for their excellent pies, clam chowder and Eggs Benedict.  I asked when they opened and was told on Thursday of last week. I wanted to take a picture, because they placed plants on every other table that was not in use. This still made it feel homey, unlike signs or tape. I enjoy Rolly’s because of the good service, as well as the food. Waitresses are mostly elderly women, I’ve observed, which brought me to a realization. Many women who have had to stay home with their young children are having a difficult time returning to work. Not only is there still risk, but it may be that women actually like not having to work and take care of a home and family at the same time. At Rolly’s, though, it looked like they were fully staffed.

The beach in Kelowna wasn’t very full. We grabbed some take-out and had a “picnic” of DQ double cheeseburgers.

kelowna beachAs usual I was looking for subjects to paint. I didn’t want to be too obvious as I took a photo of this bicycle, so I photographed and followed a seagull in that general direction.

bicycle on beachDriving, we kept seeing signs, “Avoid Unessential Travel.” By this time we had concluded that this was essential travel for us. The following day our BC health authorities began to encourage “smart, safe, respectful, local travel” so we were just a day ahead of the plan. National travel is still discouraged. I guess we will forego our annual trip to see family in Manitoba.

We concluded our Mr. Sheldon Music series after twelve weeks of recording. My husband is teaching at a few more centers, now, but many still have not opened up and others are closed for the summer. It will be a lean couple of months, as his usual summer job, booking space for overnight conferences, is not going ahead this year either. But we will manage.

My sister’s CT results came back clear after her colon cancer surgery at the beginning of May. We are very grateful. Now it is my turn to get myself checked out, so that is in the works. I had a phone appointment with my specialist today.

It’s sad that the already tragic situation with COVID-19 is being exacerbated with violent demonstrations and attempted takeovers of sections of cities. One hardly knows how to respond because there is not innocence on either side. This is indeed the time for tolerance, forgiveness and love. We need to work together towards peace, with each side bending a little.

In the meantime, support your local coffee shops. This is Crema in West Vancouver, only a skeleton of it’s usual self, but bravely open.

crema

the seawall
West Vancouver Seawall

Posted in COVID-19, Leadership, trust

Surviving the Pandemic – As the pandemic drags on, governments shouldn’t take our trust for granted

Instead of writing about my week, I am posting a link to an article that expresses some thoughts I’ve had this recently. We, the people, can be trusted with information. Here are two quotes:

Canadians have demonstrated that they’re prepared to sacrifice a lot if the evidence shows it will protect their neighbours and grandparents. But the onus is on political leaders to communicate the evidence and their underlying policy objectives in a clear and dispassionate way….

Tell us what the objective is and what we need to do to get our lives back. Be honest about the trade-offs. It isn’t about choosing between saving lives and saving jobs. That’s rightly regarded as a false choice. Instead it’s about understanding our objectives and the plans to get there.

Nothing will erode our confidence and our willingness to cooperate as quickly as learning that we have been deceived or manipulated, or treated as if we don’t have the capacity to understand.