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 anxiety, De-stressing, dealing with stress, happiness, Health, Home, mental health, stress

My Small Bubble

This weekend we had a hectic and stressful time as we considered a home purchase. When the whole thing proved to be impossible I retreated into my small bubble.

I like the idea of a bubble.

I like the idea of my own personal space.

Here is how I define my own personal space, my bubble. It includes immediate family and a few close friends, and their welfare. It excludes media. This is where I retreat when I need a fresh perspective.

In my bubble there are three things I can control, for the most part. I can control my mind–my thoughts and the decisions I make. I can control my setting, which is my home, the place where I live. I can make my home as comfortable as I want. And, finally, I can control my body–what I do, where I go, what I eat.

That is about the extent of my control.

When I retreat into my small bubble, I do homebody things. I bake. I clean. I read. I watch relaxing watercolor painting videos. I listen to soothing music. I do a little piano playing. I watch the birds outside. And I think.

I happen to like to think. I like sorting things out in my mind.

Today I eliminated everything outside of my bubble and pretended I was starting from ground zero. I saw what was most important to me was right inside my bubble. And from there I began to consider if there was anything outside that I wanted, or needed, to attend to.

Whenever I watch the birds I think about the verse that talks about God surely caring for us, if he cares for the birds. Then I think about The Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that leads me to the thought of God’s will. What is his will? How do I determine his will? My most simplified answer is the answer Jesus gave his disciples, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. This summed up the Ten Commandments, the Law.

But then I get into a difficult place. I ask myself, Does God speak? Does he speak to us today? Who is God? I firmly believe there was some form of great, unfathomable intelligence behind the design of this universe, a universe which we humans have only barely begun to understand. We are observers of what exists and from that we make our estimations and calculations and propose our theories and draw our conclusions. We build on the flawed knowledge passed on to us. We are so ignorant.

Does God speak? Has he spoken in the past? I believe he has. There have been prophetic messages that came to pass. Does he speak today? Many theologians think not. They say revelation ended after the writing of the New Testament portion of the Bible. This is something I don’t understand. I mean, how could God decide to suddenly stop speaking?

Well, enough getting out of my bubble. I’m heading back there now.

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 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 Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith, Health, Home, mental health

Surviving the Coronavirus Pandemic – Week 10

irisI’ve been home this week, after my ventures out into the community last week. On Saturday I face-timed with my son and the grandchildren. It is so lovely to see them. According to some insider information, it looks like the border will not be opening until after the July 4th weekend, so it will still be some time before we can have the grandkids over.

We also spent time with our other son and his wife on Sunday, meeting at a park and then actually having them over to our home! We haven’t had them come to visit since March 1, almost three months! In B.C. we are allowed to enlarge our contact circle, cautiously, beginning this past week.

park

There are some mornings when I wake up and almost have to convince myself that this is real. It is not just a bad dream. It’s like my mind wants to forget it’s true.

I continue to read, rather than watch the news. I’ve mostly stopped listening to the local daily updates by Dr. Bonnie Henry. I’m very selective about what I watch these days. No murder mysteries. Nothing intense.

I’m very curious to see how Sweden will fare without lockdown. Unfortunately they are seeing an upward trend in deaths. It is reported that, “while overall deaths are on the decline, Sweden’s had 6.25 deaths per million inhabitants per day in a rolling average between May 12 and May 19….the highest in Europe on a per capita basis and just above the United Kingdom, which had 5.75 deaths per million.”

The reason the world is watching Sweden with interest is because we want to be assured that lockdown is making a difference and is justified, given the high economic and emotional toll it is taking. Sweden has about a quarter of the population of Canada, so one would think that it should have a quarter of the deaths, however, at this time it has two thirds the deaths reported in Canada.

Canada is easing its two month lockdown as of this past week. My husband has noted, on his walks, that pubs, restaurants, clothing stores, hair and nail salons, and even a massage business, are open, with restrictions. Limited numbers of people are allowed. No walk-in customers. Only alternate tables are being used in some restaurants. A few restaurants have not yet opened.

I’ve been noting my response, this week, and the fact that I am avoiding the business area of town as it is opening up. While I went out to “normalize” myself last week, this week I wanted to remain home.

family

My husband brings me reports of what he observes downtown but I feel as though I need to mentally condition myself before I go and investigate what is happening. I think it is because I am not eager to see evidence of the struggle for survival I know many of these business owners are still facing. As I mentioned before, we once owned a restaurant and it can potentially be impossible to survive when you can only utilize half of your available seating. In addition, there are many people like us who are avoiding eating out and spending on anything besides groceries because we are still not working.

Don’t worry about us, though. We will manage. We’ve always been in the habit of keeping our expenses low and have little debt and a small savings to fall back on.

There is a plan to open schools on an optional attendance basis for the month of June. Some students of essential workers have been in school these past months. There will be distancing and alternating of attendance, with students only going to classes a few days a week. We will see how this will be worked out. My husband will likely not begin to teach again until September. Many of his classes are in daycares and pre-schools so his work will depend on whether these centers can remain open with reduced numbers.

As I mentioned, I try to be careful how much I dwell on sad stories. I’m glad when I see an uplifting article out there. I found a great article by AnotherSlice commemorating Memorial Day, today.

Awhile ago I wrote a light-hearted series of vignettes about the life of Dennie and Rosie in A Happy Life. “Denny and Rosie have downsized. They feel the squeeze of their small one bedroom condo and occasionally trip over one another, metaphorically speaking….After three decades together, the days are not as predictable as you might think. But for the most part Denny and Rosie have a happy life.”

denny and rosie
A Happy Life

When the coronavirus panic buying started, we said to our kids that we were pretty well stocked up. We didn’t even buy sanitizer. In February we ordered packets of individually wrapped hand sanitizer online. I like to carry them in my purse and have a supply in the car. We could only order them in quantities of 1000 from a restaurant supplier. Little did we know that we were facing a pandemic. Small things like this remind me that God cares for us in ways we could never anticipate.

I’m reminded of the verse, which is also a song, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee, Oh LORD.” I continually turn my mind back to the goodness and faithfulness of God. This is my unmovable rock of comfort.

worship cover

This week I edited a short book I published on Smashwords (above). I also improved my system for note-taking and keeping track of my progress as I work on various writing projects.

Another thing I did was create a recipe for fibre cookies to help me keep on track with my fibre intake. (I don’t think you’d like the taste so I’m not posting the recipe.) I noted that I need to cull my recipes. I’ve collected a lot of recipes over the years but we can find anything online so I only need to keep a few tested favorites.

The house is definitely getting more organized. Every drawer and cupboard and closet has been inspected and brought up to standard. I’m still anticipating the day when I apply the same diligence to cleaning up my files.

IMG_2416

Well, what’s next? Yes, we plan to tape Mr. Sheldon‘s Music this week again. One school is using the video in their classes so we will continue to create it until classes invite him back again to teach.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ravi Zacharias this week. I’ve only recently become aware of his teaching on YouTube. We have lost a great mind and an extraordinary communicator. Right to the end he was brilliant. He died of a cancerous tumor and spent his last days at home with family. I pray for comfort for the Zacharias family and so many who have lost loved ones during the past few months. Take care!

 

 

Posted in anxiety, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Health

Surviving the Coronavirus Pandemic – Week 9

white rhodos

Note the title change. I’m no longer staying at home. I am venturing out, now. I’m still distancing, but I’m not isolating.

This is the new reality. We will think twice about going out to public places and will reduce the number of times we go, maybe by half or more–one of many adaptations we plan to make.

I bought disposable masks at Canadian Tire this week – 20 masks for $27.99. We went to home Depot and stood in line, distancing. The sign said they were open for urgent needs. I ignored that. After two months at home, it was urgent for me to get back to feeling somewhat normal.

It was finally time to buy toilet paper. We didn’t stock up. A package of thirty rolls lasts three months at our house. I calculated. Walmart’s home brand was still not available, even online. So we bought Costco’s version. I wore a mask because I’d heard Costco required masks in the U.S. Half of the people waiting outside in line were not wearing masks. I saw a burly man of about sixty look around at the line and whip off his mask and stuff it in his pocket. That made me laugh as I thought about how he had probably been “convinced against his will” by someone to wear it.

“To mask, or not to mask. This is the question.” And a big question it is. In B.C. Dr. Bonnie Henry, our Provincial Health Officer who specializes in pandemics, does not think wearing masks is a significant precaution for our setting. In other countries masks are a priority, particularly in densely populated areas. So far the restrictions we have put in place in B.C. have served us well.

Wednesday evening my husband and I went to a track at a local park for our walk. I admit there were more people at the track than I had ever seen there before. They were mostly maintaining distance. A game of cricket was in progress. It looked wholesome to see people outside exercising. As we walked, the smell of freshly cut grass permeated the air while the sun sank behind the trees. It was just cool enough for a light jacket. I found the experience greatly uplifting to my spirit. I felt like I was turning a corner in this pandemic.

horse

I made a brief foray into Michael’s this week. Suddenly nothing in the store tempted me. Michael’s is nearby so I tend to drop in frequently. I wanted to do something normal, after two months, but it was a bit of a letdown. I think these weeks are changing how I see things. It has something to do with the word, essential.

I’ve been browsing articles and watching informational YouTube clips. I’m a bit of an information junkie. I actually email myself links to news and other articles I find interesting. Otherwise they disappear into a dark void and I don’t know if I will find them again. So, I’m a ‘virtual newspaper’ hoarder.

I watched an interesting conversation between Mike Rowe and Dave Rubin on the subject of language and how the current use of the words essential and non-essential might be creating an existential crisis for people who are suddenly hearing their work classified as “non-essential”. This is an unintentional result. But we might want to be thoughtful, moving forward, in our conversations.

Elon Musk just got the go ahead from health authorities to open his business. I don’t advocate carelessness and indifference, but given who Elon Musk is, I don’t think he falls in that category. I actually trust a man of his intelligence to calculate risk and come to a reasonable conclusion.

I still hear people compare the coronavirus to the flu, saying that similar numbers of people die of the flu as die of COVID-19. Well, here is the article I’ve been waiting for that explains the difference.

To demonstrate a more apt comparison of flu and coronavirus deaths, del Rio and Faust looked at numbers from “peak weeks” of seasonal flu outbreaks (not estimated numbers) and a week during the coronavirus outbreak. During the week of April 14 to 21, there were 15,455 COVID-19 deaths in the US, while the average number of counted flu deaths during the peak week of influenza seasons from 2013 to 2020 was 752.

That’s more than a twentyfold difference.

pink rose

Another subject I have seen under discussion is how much risk we can tolerate. Right from the beginning of this shutdown I have been calculating risks. Risks are low if we keep distance between us and others, particularly when we are in conversation. Risks are lower for us if we wash our hands after touching surfaces that might possibly be contaminated. Installing plexiglass shields at cash register is an excellent idea because these workers come into contact with any number of people who may or may not have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Masks? Unless they are the N95 masks, they will not protect us if we are sneezed on, or coughed on or inadvertently spit on. When people open their mouths to speak, or to eat, little spray droplets can squirt out of their mouths onto others nearby. So, this being the case, they could get into our eyes. A mask will not fully protect us. I’m not trying to make people paranoid. I walked by someone in Canadian Tire whom I didn’t see at the end of an isle. He was talking on his cell phone. His spray droplets could have reached me. I was exposed to risk. The truth is, if we want to have a normal life again, we will be exposed to risk from time to time. We now need to develop risk tolerance, while exercising reasonable precautions. It is reasonable to isolate if we have flu-like symptoms and to get tested if we suspect we have the virus.

As I said, I’ve thought a lot about this, as I’m sure my readers have. My sister had to strictly self-isolate for a month because of her cancer surgery. Five days after she came home family went to see her, practicing precautions. I think this was a good thing.

It’s time to see how close to normal we can come. This is why I somewhat forced myself to do things this week. I will not allow myself to become paranoid.

Lonsdale Quay

One afternoon I saw a long strand of some sort of leaf or grass on my balcony. It looked, at first glance, like a snake. For years I’ve been paranoid of snakes. But over time I’ve forced myself to look at them, to watch them when I see them in movies, to become familiar with their movements. Usually I still look away but I left that blade of grass or leaf on my balcony for a couple of days and glanced at it from time to time, thinking, what if it were a snake? How would I feel?

Sometimes I think about disease and death in the same way. I condition myself. I tell myself it has happened to others. I tell myself some people survive, and some don’t. I tell myself that doctors, nurses and paramedics have to expose themselves to known an unknown risk. We are all mortal. Even if I do everything possible to protect myself, there is still the risk that I could die prematurely, of the coronavirus or another disease or accident.

So, I ask myself what kind of life do I want? Do I want a life that is shadowed by fear? Or do I want to live courageously?

We’ve done our part, isolating. Now we need to take the next courageous steps.

Some of us will not be able to go to work for sometime. We can continue to do the things that this unique opportunity affords us the time to do. Below are some of the more common trends I’ve noted.

  • Reflecting and re-evaluating priorities.
  • Working on personal character building.
  • Putting new effort into relationships.
  • Learning skills and attempting new things.
  • Being more intentional about caring and responding to the needs of others.

I’d love it if you would add to this list in the comments below. One thing I want to encourage is for people to think about uplifting artists and other creatives. We know that writers, for instance, put a lot of effort into their work with little or no compensation. Consider clicking “likes” and even posting actual “comments” on blogs you read. If I feel a slight response in my heart to something I’ve read, I take a few moments to consider whether I can say a few words and make a connection with the author. This sometimes makes me feel vulnerable, but I tell myself that’s OK. My generation is not as adept at cheering others on as the younger generation, I’ve noticed. In fact, I was surprised to learn in an assessment that I tend to give few words of affirmation. Changing this is hard work, but it’s very rewarding.

One last thing, if you are reading articles on Reader in WordPress, make the effort to click Visit Site. That way the author will know an actual person stopped by to read their writing when they check their stats!

So, going forward, let’s continue to be cautious, but let’s be courageous too!

knitted sweater

This is the sweater my husband finished knitting during the last two months while he has been off work. It’s made of sheep’s wool and alpaca yarn. He is hopeful that he will soon be called back to work but in the meantime we will spend tomorrow producing another Music with Mr. Sheldon video for children.

Posted in art, Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, De-stressing, Health, Home, Music

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 6 at Home

latte
Latte delivered to my “office.”

I missed my weekly distancing walk on Sunday with family. I was sad about that, but it’s OK. I’ve been having some minor health issues, not coronavirus related. My system has always been sensitive and requires a delicate balancing act.

This past week I celebrated a birthday, in isolation, as many of us are these days. The day before I was a bit down about this, but then I told myself I would make this day great! And I did! Our son and daughter-in-law gifted us with Skip the Dishes so my husband set up the app and we ordered a meal. Another new experience!

skip the dishes

For breakfast I requested that he make us waffles. His first time.

“I gave you the opportunity to do something special for my birthday,” I smiled at him as we were in the living room later that evening. He smiled, a little tentatively.

“I had never made waffles before.”

“It’s really not that difficult. The only thing you have to do is be willing to stand over a waffle iron and know how to beat egg whites,” I told him.

The waffles and the latte (above) were his “gift” to me. We used bacon drippings in the waffles and had them with eggs. The drippings gave the flavor of bacon and eggs. It was delicious!

During this time we are trying not to waste anything, however, we pulled a glass container out of the fridge today and neither of us were able to identify what it was. It was green and furry. Well, we try.

I just finished my part in the production of Music with Mr. Sheldon. My husband has gone down from full-time work to about five hours a week, but he is a trooper. I’m glad I live with someone who insists on being optimistic. This morning when I awoke feeling really off, he had to take over the filming on his own, for the first time.

Guess what I did, after I rested today? I got out my guitar and started singing. I even printed three new songs off of Ultimate Guitar. I want to put a plug in for the site. It is one of the best investments I’ve made. Lately I’ve learned to sing Tennessee Whiskey, Chris Stapleton. Never thought I could do that, but it’s amazing what you can do if you try!

For about twenty years I stopped listening to the old Rock’n’Roll music I used to love. I think music was my surrogate parent and taking a break was actually a good thing. During those twenty years I was a worship leader. Last week I organized all of my worship music. I have a huge collection. Now, strangely enough, I’m picking up some of my old secular favorites again. I can’t say why a lot of the worship music just does not appeal to me at this time in my life. It’s not like I’m having a crisis of faith. But I am re-evaluating a lot of things.

After singing for awhile I decided I might as well put my adrenalin to use editing and I finished the Mr. Sheldon video in the bedroom, with a latte–did I mention my husband roasts his own coffee beans? He stayed in the living room to teach a couple of groups of students in a school that has gone online. Earphones come in handy these days.

I noticed flags near our place are at half mast this week. I haven’t seen any news report on this but between the coronavirus and the shooting in Nova Scotia, we have reason to give acknowledgement. Yesterday we met a lot of people applauding health care workers with bells and other noise makers during our walk, around 7:00 p.m. I became teary-eyed because I had just got off the phone talking with our son who is a health care worker in the U.S. Three people died in his dementia unit this week, but not of the coronavirus. I could hear his heartbreak over the fact that relatives were unable to visit in the past month and only came in during the final hours to be with their loved ones, outfitted in protective gear from head to toe and not allowed to touch their family member, but needing to remain six feet away. I do hope there is more leniency for seniors to have visitors soon.

One bit of good news is that my sister’s cancer is localized, so she will only require one surgery. We are so relieved that it has not spread. We are still working at stabilizing my mother’s electrolytes, with family taking her for weekly lab tests and an intravenous intervention that left her feeling unwell this week. She is a very stalwart and positive person of faith, so I read between the lines when she said, “I’ve had better days” and seemed eager to get off the phone to rest.

paintings

This week I finished a painting I’ve been working on. Two paintings, actually. I’ve recently tried my hand at acrylics, after painting watercolors for years. It’s been a challenge. Here is another painting I did this year.

roses painting

We haven’t dug out the puzzles yet. Still time for that. Cheers!

Posted in anxiety, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, Health, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 3 at Home

stevestonI feel like there is little to write about my personal isolation this week. Life continues much the same, with few changes. Perhaps that is the story.

We hear more bad news south of the Canadian border. Our eastern provinces aren’t doing so well. This week we were able to apply for financial assistance from the government and the process went quite smoothly.

What has been on my mind is how Sweden will do in comparison to the rest of the world, since they have decided to embrace the “herd immunity” approach and not put severe restrictions in place. We will wait and see. It might turn out to be a costly experiment.

I’ve been researching various mask designs. It appears we may soon be required to wear masks for going out or grocery shopping.

This week I ventured out to Walmart. It was a dismal experience. I wanted to replenish our SoftSoap but there was none in stock. I went with a bodywash instead. Liquid soaps were limited to one per customer so I bought a large bottle. The toilet paper we usually buy at Walmart was out of stock as well. So were the bagged oranges I was looking for. We walked out with the bodywash, two cans of cranberry sauce and a gallon of milk.

We cooked a turkey dinner for the two of us yesterday and dropped off a bag of “turkey dinner” for one of our kids and his wife. They came outside and picked it up at the car. When we got home we video-chatted with them while we ate our “Easter Dinner.” Our other kids live across the border. The grandkids are getting bored. I feel for their parents who need to look after them 24/7 without options for distractions outside the home. No organized sports, music lessons, playdates, going to the park, shopping, or even playing with kids in the neighborhood.

My mother has gone for repeated tests in the past weeks. There is always a concern when this happens. I can’t fly to visit her, or my sister who had a cancer diagnosis this week. She is anticipating emergency surgery.

My husband talks frequently with his parents on the phone and they are doing well and adjusting to being restricted to their suites in their seniors’ home. His father made a trip to emergency several times regarding his heart just before the lockdown. Thankfully he hasn’t needed to go again. Their biggest concern right now is both needing a haircut.

My husband and I video-taped another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. One school that remains open plans to use the video.

We are going for regular walks and enjoying cherry blossoms and spring flowers in bloom. We were scheduled to go to Victoria for a Chess Tournament this weekend but it was cancelled. Ferries are reduced to essential travel and the hotel we were booked to stay at is closed.

I’m trying to imagine how things will begin to open up again and predict when this might happen. In the meantime I try not to worry about things over which I have no control.

Posted in Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Food Security, Health, Home, sustainability

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 2 at Home

daffThis week my thoughts and prayers are centered around long term consequences of the coronavirus. These are areas I am concerned about:

  1. Truck drivers. Truck drivers are being affected by closed restaurants and bathroom facilities. With awareness growing, something is being done about this, including having food trucks at stops. Remember that truck drivers are also impacted by the stress of being distant from families who are coping at home.
  2. Farmers and crops. In Europe migrant workers are needed to harvest crops, but countries are currently on lock-down to prevent the spread of the virus. Here in Canada we also rely on migrant workers in our farming industry, particularly fruit farmers in the Okanagan and vegetable farmers in Southern Ontario. Borders to the south are closed to unessential traffic. Opening them to migrant workers is essential, unless we can fill their shoes with local workers. We may have to step up to help in an unprecedented way. We cannot afford to break the supply chain. The result would cause untold suffering and devastation. We don’t need to complicate an already difficult situation, by failing to provide for our future food supply.
  3. Cancelled medical procedures that are urgent and will permanently affect future well-being if they are not carried out in a timely manner. Wisdom and courage is needed on the part of health care professionals to make the best decision in each individual case.
  4. Safety in home situations where violence is an issue. Being isolated in close quarters, under stressful conditions, increases the risk of abuse. It is essential to practice patience, give each other the benefit of the doubt, not instigate conflict by starting subjects that are controversial, and not thinking we have the “right” to vent our feelings with aggression. Physical violence is not acceptable under any circumstance.
  5. Caregivers of children at home. I am always thinking about and praying for parents who are unaccustomed to having to care for their children 24/7. It is challenging to oversee their activities at home, to provide nourishing food daily, without the option of going out, and to help them with emotion regulation. Families are consistently in my thoughts and prayers.

This week has progressed in much the same way as last week in our home, with my husband losing more of his income sources. We are staying inside except for walks and getting groceries and essentials. We discovered a park that has wide sidewalks where we have room to social distance as we go for a walk. We went for a walk in a light drizzle with our married children one afternoon. This was a real boost for my spirits.

Spring flowers are cheering me as well. This week we also completed our third Children’s YouTube Music video with Mr. Sheldon (my husband), hoping to add some joy to the lives of children at home. My father-in-law says he watches the video when he needs a lift. This brought a smile to my face.

Please keep the above concerns in prayer. I know there are many other concerns to add to the list but this is sufficient for today. Blessings!