Look for the Silver Lining

I’m sitting here typing with coconut lime body lotion on my skin, hair oil in my newly dyed hair, and an aloe face mask. This is because during Quarantine I am learning to take better care of me.

I’ll admit it was rough for a while. I talked about the The Despair of Saturday and the Low Hum of Peril. Really, things aren’t great as far as COVID 19 is concerned. I was pretty anxious and depressed from the whole thing.  I looked at pictures on Facebook of my neighbor who is doing a whole fun bucket list this summer, and felt like a failure.

But I’m learning to embrace Quarantine.  I’m learning that I can make positive choices. I think, if we are healthy and safe, we all should try and figure out the good aspects of Quarantine Life.

Like I said, I’m taking better care of myself. I don’t know why but there’s something about being unmotivated and depressed. You want to avoid Target, so you just decide that you want to treat yourself to online shopping. That’s where the self-care started for me. I never buy stuff for myself. But this month I bought myself comfy clothes, books and toiletries on Amazon (harem pants and joggers and quality hair care products), fun items on Etsy (including pillow spray and vintage 80’s kimono), and even makeup from Morphe. I have learned retail therapy is more fun when you shop online.

Now, with retail therapy, one must be careful and not go overboard. But when it comes to exercise and eating right, hey go crazy. Because of Quarantine and being home so much, I have upped my workout game. I’ve also decided to lose weight, and I’m doing this through intermittent fasting. It just feels good to see results.

Throughout June I just wanted to sleep. But after getting on this self care kick, (and coming off a certain medication), I felt motivated to start some new projects. It helps that I have more time. My first project was to declutter. Next, I decided to declutter my Etsy inventory by having a big sale (I’m done with it, so it’s closing at the end of the month). Packaging up 20 orders kept me busy!

Right now, I’m focused on painting – not a canvas, but the walls. I painted the guest bathroom coral, and I’m painting my eldest son’s room blue. This is helping me catch up on my podcasts as well.

But I have been more creative. I’m back to writing and I’m playing with the Procreate app on my iPad.

That’s the thing about Quarantine – it’s not so bad if you’re an introvert! My whole family is mostly introverted (except for my middle son), and my kids seem to be doing just fine. We’re spending more time together as a family. Because of COVID, my husband only has to go into work twice a week. I know a lot of spouses are filing for divorce from spending so much time together, but not us. He and I are very good about having alone time and then coming together to watch a show like “The Americans”. We may not have a summer bucket list full of fun activities, but we’re still vibing together just fine.

That’s not to say we haven’t done any activities. Recently we finished “Avatar the Last Airbender” as a family. We’ve picked strawberries and blueberries. And none of us has to get up early (though the kids insist on it) so we have been taking nighttime walks. (It’s so hot during the day).

We also spent a few nights traveling through our city to find the best spot to see the Neowise Comet. As it turned out, the best spot was behind a Mexican restaurant around the corner from our house.

One activity I am not really missing is planning birthday parties. The kids are ok with it. I make sure they get cake and plenty of presents.

The other thing I like about Quarantine, is the phone call dr appts. I love appointments over the phone! I do this with both my psychiatrist and my therapist. It’s so convenient, I don’t have to drive 20 minutes (Speaking of driving, I don’t know about you, but we’ve been saving lots of money on gas!). Also I feel like I can open up more from the comfort of my home. I hope this is something they continue to do even after we have a vaccine.

I don’t go very many places, but when I do, I get to go in Disguise!

Sunglasses and mask! Why would anyone refuse to wear a mask? (another topic for another time). Also, I’m loving the personal space. When a person comes towards me, we do a dance of the social distancing and make sure we leave each other as much space as possible. I love this trend.

What I don’t love about Quarantine is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen friends and family. But because of COVID, we are all being more attentive to each other with phone calls, and online movie nights. These never happened before Quarantine, and because I live a few states away from most of my friends and family, it’s kind of like I get to see them more than ever before. It’s a habit I hope we continue with.

Is life better than before? No. But there are some things that are actually better than before COVID 19. I didn’t see it all at first, but just taking a few moments and writing it down, lets me see that life isn’t so bad. There are positives. There are good things to be found even in 2020. I encourage you to do the same. Look for the Silver Lining.

Remember this?

Bridge Building

Yesterday I watched my husband leave for his run. It has never occurred to me to be worried for him. Why would it? He’s an innocent person going on a jog.

But today the thought occurs to me that if my husband was Black, I would be worried every time he left the house. Especially for a run.

The thought saddens me. I don’t have to worry about my husband and sons, not in the way a Person of Color will.

I’m a white woman, and as each day passes, I become more aware of not only my privilege but the blind spots.

Thank God, I have fewer blind spots than I used to. You see, years ago I was blind to what People of Color go through.

I have a strong sense of justice. I used to think of myself as a fighter for the underdog, and I still do. But I was too naive and sheltered.

Thankfully, I was called out.

At the time, I hated it. When I was called out for my opinions, I was embarrassed. I felt vulnerable. I meant well after all! Don’t all lives matter? Don’t police lives matter?

Deep inside I knew I was probably wrong. And that was the spark. The spark that started a change inside of me.

It’s where it all started for me. It’s how I changed my mind completely.

I’m thankful for the people that called me out. They were not strangers. They were loved ones. They did the emotional labor and took the initiative. That takes courage, to tell a loved one they are wrong.

Now here I am, and I believe I’ve come a long way. After all, if you go through life and never change your mind, you’re doing something wrong.

But I want to do more. What action can I take?

I feel that I can start by 1) Calling out racism when I see it. 2) share what I have learned with fellow white people. And 3) start conversations with my kids about racism in America and set a good example for them.

To my fellow white people, I’d like to share with you what I’ve been learning here in this post.

The following are small actions we can take . I got this list off of Rainn Wilson’s Facebook page and I’m putting it in my own words.

– First of all, if you’re on Facebook or other social media, please don’t share any videos or pictures of violence against Black people. That’s traumatic and exploitive.

– Don’t ask Black people what we can do. Do the research and educate yourself.

– Buy and read books by Black authors. Share them with your white friends. Just yesterday I dropped Austin Channing Brown’s book “I’m Still Here” on my neighbor’s porch. (Don’t worry, I asked first!).

– We have to accept that we will get it wrong sometimes. We might get feedback that we weren’t expecting but we still need to be open.

– Vote! Hold local/state/national officials and institutions accountable.

– We need to face the facts: we have white privilege. We need to use our privilege to help and not hinder others.

– Normalize conversations about racism with friends and family. The other day I sat my kids down with me to watch Ruby Bridges on Disney +. It was a good movie to start a conversation. Not an easy watch but it was important for my kids to see it. I plan on showing them Hidden Figures next.

– Be aware that it can be dangerous to call the police on Black people. Try to build relationships with neighbors and avoid inviting police into your community. I’ve seen it happen in my neighborhood Facebook group; someone is suspicious of a “strange Black individual” and they might even call the cops.

The other thing I would encourage you to do if you are on Facebook, is to join the group “Be the Bridge”. It’s no ordinary group. It was started by author and speaker Latasha Morrison. It’s a non profit organization and community with the goal of creating dialogue about race.

All members must be silent for 3 months, no commenting. White members are given units to complete during the 3 months. The units include required reading, watching and listening.

They also have 16 tips for White members when it comes to having online conversations . Each tip is several paragraphs, but I would like to at least share these in my own words below.

Tip 1: People of Color (POC) should not be your only source of education.

Tip 2: Don’t take up too much space in the conversation.

Tip 3: You May have suffered but don’t compare your experiences with a POC’s experience.

Tip 4: Don’t explain racism to a POC (“whitesplaing”)

Tip 5: White tears do not build bridges and it shifts the focus to your feelings instead of the problem of racism.

Tip 6: If you make a mistake, humbly apologize and do better next time. Don’t try to justify yourself.

Tip 7: Don’t play devil’s advocate. Take a POC’s word for it.

Tip 8: Don’t start a conversation with “Not all…” (men, white people, evangelicals, cops, etc).

Tip 9: Don’t demand proof of a POC’s lived experience.

Tip 10: Don’t blame the victim. A POC’s change of behavior or dress or attitude, etc, will not eradicate white supremacy.

Tip 11: Don’t be dismissive of a POC’s message just because you think it’s inappropriate or impolite.

Tip 12: Even if you were a minority in your setting (your neighborhood or overseas), it is not the same experience as a POC in America.

Tip 13: Your words have power and lasting impact.

Tip 14: Racism isn’t just a problem for POC; it’s everyone’s problem. But it’s our job as white people to dismantle it.

Tip 15: If you’re called out, don’t get defensive. Just stop, and don’t get sarcastic or aggressive.

Tip 16: Don’t give up! This is not an easy process and the work is lifelong.

So I want to end this very long blog post with this:

To my friends and family who are white, I want to say that I’m very proud of how you’ve been speaking out! And thank you for reading what I had to say. I want to provide two more links here below, so we can put action behind our words:

White people. Do something.

Anti-racism Resources

I hope all this was helpful.

With peace and Love,

Caitlin

The Parable of the Long Spoons

I heard a story today and I want to share with you. I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, and she had David Kessler on as her guest. He shared the parable of the Long Spoons:

A man dies and finds himself in a new place. He sees a long table, with many people seated around a delicious looking banquet.

The man sits down and reaches for a utensil. But all he finds is an extremely long spoon.

The spoon is so long he cannot feed himself. “I must be in Hell”, the man says.

But the person seated next to him shows him that these spoons are for feeding each other.

The man looks around and sure enough, everyone is feeding each other. “In Hell, no one cooperates. Everyone looks out just for himself, and everyone is starving.” Says the person next to him.

“This isn’t Hell. This is Heaven”.

The difference between Heaven and Hell is how we look out for one another.

Society is grieving right now.

Not just from lack of leadership. Not just from the tanking economy. Not just from the many deaths from COVID- 19.

Society is grieving because we miss each other.

It’s not natural to live like this. In some ways, it’s Hell.

But there are bright spots of Heaven. People are finding ways to show others they care, even while social distancing.

I’ve experienced it myself.

You see, I forgot it was Sunday again, waking up today.

Since we’ve been in Quarantine, every day feels like the one before it. It’s been months since we’ve gathered together to worship.

Sunday used to have a different feel to it. I can’t quite describe it.

I used to think it felt different because it was set aside as a Holy Day. But now I realize that it’s the gathering of people that meet in a certain place, in a certain way, that makes a Sunday feel differently than a Monday or a Tuesday.

For me, the only thing that makes Sunday feel special now are the special people in my life. My close family – my parents, siblings, and their spouses (my new siblings). We gather together to talk for an hour every Sunday afternoon on Facebook Chat.

I leave the conversations feeling encouraged and loved.

I have decided that this is Church.

Keep doing Church in your own way. Keep doing things to feed others while you are also fed.

Keep meeting together over video chats. Keep sending cards and letters. If you’re able to, donate money and volunteer.

Though we are isolated, remember those long spoons.

We really are in this together.

A Letter to the Mothers in my Life

Part 1: A letter to my Mother in Law

Dear C,

As I get older and look back in time, I think about the girl I was when you first met me. I had just turned 19.

Your son and I had a whirlwind romance after we met, getting engaged just months after we began dating. Now that I’m in my mid-30s and a mother of sons myself, I can imagine what it was like for you!

Your 21 year old son put a ring on a stranger’s finger. I’ll tell you what went through my mind: “I hope they like me”.

15 years have gone by since then. You’ve shown me through the years that not only do you like me, you’ll always be there for me and my family.

You accepted teenage me, and you accepted me as I grew up through the years. Throughout the 15 years on my time with your son, you’ve always stood by us.

You know I’m not a hugger (especially during a pandemic). But this letter is my way of embracing you and telling you I love you.

Caitlin

Part 2: A letter to my Nana

Dear Nana,

This is a letter full of thanks.

I was looking at pictures of you today, and thinking about how thankful I am for all the photographs I have of my loved ones. Many were taken by you. Thank you for always capturing the moment.

Everyone’s been baking bread lately. But you’ve always baked bread for your family. I remember each Thanksgiving there would be baskets of your homemade bread. And I remember sitting down at your table all through the years to meals you made for us. From simple sandwiches to banana pudding to thanksgiving dinner. Thank you for the memories around the supper table.

When it’s my birthday, I know some things for certain: I know my Nana will not only send me a card and a gift, she will call me and sing Happy Birthday to me. And speaking of birthdays, you always remember Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and my wedding anniversary too! Every year, you remember everyone and you make everyone feel special. Thank you for remembering.

Every so often, I get to read one of your essays, letters, or poems. I know that every time, my heart will be touched. I might even cry! Each time you write, it’s a window into your past and into your world. Thank you for every time you put pen to paper.

Finally, I want to thank you for your loyalty to all of us, and for being so loving. Everyone loves you for many reasons. One reason is you make everyone feel good about themselves. You do this in the way Jesus taught.

I love you, Caitlin

Part 3: A letter to my Mom

I’m glad we live in the time period we do now. Sure, the world is a dumpster fire. We have a global pandemic, UFOs, and even murder hornets, but I’m still glad we live in 2020.

Because in this era, I’m able to talk to you each day, throughout the day (thank you Internet).

It’s not always easy living a few states away from your mom. Growing up, I never thought I’d move much further away than an hour long drive, if that.

But life brings change and things you never expect. As a mom, I imagine it’s not easy living far away from your child either.

I’m going to be honest, during this time of social distancing, one of the hardest things is not knowing when I’ll see you and dad again.

So I’ve thought of a plan! You and dad drop everything, and travel across multiple states until you get to us. Next, you get quarantined in the guest room for 2 weeks. I will leave you meals at the door. After that, we can experience quarantine together! Don’t you think that’s a good plan? Maybe?

O well. We’ll see each other again someday. Until that day comes, please know that our Sunday FaceTime chats and direct messaging conversations are the highlights of my week.

I just miss you, that’s all. I miss you doing my nails. I miss seeing you interact with the kids. I miss going antiquing and finding treasures. I miss game nights and watching movies. Mostly I just miss talking face to face.

For now, we have to wait for life to return to a new normal.

Love you mom!

Caitlin

Check in

Every day my dad checks in with us, me and my siblings. It’s so nice to see a message on my phone that says “daily check in. How is everyone? We’re good here.” My parents live a few states away so not only has it been a while since we’ve seen them, it’s going to be a while before we see them in person again. So, we communicate every day online.

Checking in with your family and friends is so important, especially now. Everyone feels isolated, and the state of everyone’s health (physical and mental) isn’t guaranteed to be great.

Check in with your friends and family. Ask them how they’re doing and let them know you’re thinking about them.

Also…check in with yourself.

Listed below are just some examples of questions you can ask yourself while social distancing.

I want to add that these are helpful to me personally as a SAHM during social distancing; they might not all apply to you if you have more on your plate. You may be a first responder or a single parent just trying to navigate “quarantine homeschooling”. You may have lost your job. If you check in with yourself and find that you’re just surviving, THAT’S OK. We’re surviving a pandemic. We’re all on a different journey during COVID-19, and our days look different.

So the first question you should ask yourself is…..

– Who will I/ have I connected with today?

It’s very important first and foremost to talk to another person each day. We live in a day and age where we can communicate so easily while being apart. I talk to my friends and family throughout the day via text/direct messaging/Facebook. Don’t forget it’s most imperative that we are communicating well with the people we live with.

– When and how will I get outside today ?

You need to get some fresh air and sunshine. Go take a short walk or just sit outside on your porch or balcony. Every day I sit outside in the sun for 15 minutes or so while the kids play. Unless you are truly under lockdown where you can’t go outside, it’s possible to maintain social distancing and follow the rules and get some outside time. We may not be able to go to the park or a hike, but getting outside should be a priority for all of us.

– What did I/will I learn today?

I believe it’s important, no matter what’s going on in the world, to keep your brain busy. I binge watch shows on Netflix with the best of them, but I make sure I read each day. Even if it’s just a couple chapters of a book. The other thing I do is Khan Academy. Not every day but I get on there a couple times a week. It’s free and you’ll find every subject matter you can think of. Reading and studying is a good distraction these days.

– How did I/will I move my body today?

It’s not good to be sedentary. Your health is important. I know you can’t go to the gym, but working out at home is great! The best investment we made during this quarantine was get the Beach Body App. There are so many workout programs to choose from. I am on my second round of 21 Day Fix, and I do recommend it. They are 30 minute workouts: a mix of cardio, upper and lower body, pilates, yoga, and plyo. But you don’t have to pay to exercise. And if you simply go take a walk, that’s going to be so good for you physically and mentally!

– Have I/ will I improve my surroundings?

If you’re like me, maybe you have some decluttering to do. I included this question because last night we decluttered the kids’ books, and rearranged the living room furniture. It really improved my mental state! As a person with depression, I know it’s hard to find the motivation to even do the dishes each day, but try to make sure you keep on top of chores. Do one task at a time. When it’s clean in your home, you will feel better.

– How can I have fun today?

Having fun is, I think, a necessity. Make sure you have something to distract you in some positive way. Any kind of hobby will do. What I do for fun these days is drawing, listening to podcasts, watching Netflix, including with my friends online. I have a new random hobby…recreating paintings through photography. I think I might make that a separate post someday.

And lastly….

– What am I thankful for today?

Even in the midst of a pandemic, there must be something you are thankful for. Maybe you’re thankful for your cat, or your health, or that second mimosa you’re enjoying. There’s always something.

Remember, this pandemic isn’t a time where we should all expect to improve ourselves. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s not a time where we necessarily have to have fun. But it’s possible.

Please check in with your friends and family and yourself. Think about how you can practice self care, in big and small ways.

That’s all I wanted to say: take care of yourself.

The Despair of Saturday

Even if you’re not a Christian, you are familiar with Easter. It’s the most important holiday that Christians celebrate. It is the day Jesus rose from the dead, as He said He would.It is a day of hope. It is why Christians meet on the first day of the week.

Another important day Christians observe is Good Friday. This is the day Jesus was crucified. A day of darkness and horror, Friday delivered a stunning blow to His followers.

And then there’s Saturday. Also known as Holy Saturday or Black Saturday. It’s the day Jesus lay dead in the tomb. What happened that day?

In the Bible there are detailed accounts of Friday and Sunday. Saturday is a little different. All we know about Saturday is found in Matthew 27:62-66. Pilate ordered that there be a guard to stand at the tomb. This was after the Chief Priests and Pharisees complained that someone might steal Jesus’ body.

But other than that…nothing. What do we know? We know that Saturday was the Sabbath, the day of rest for Jewish people.

But we don’t have an account of what went through the minds of Jesus’ followers. What was his mother Mary going through? We don’t know the despair they went through that dark, quiet day.

Nothing happened. It was a day of waiting. But waiting for what? Though Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection, His followers didn’t understand. All they knew was that their king was dead. He had led them with authority and had given them hope and had performed miracles…but now He was dead.

What a day that must’ve been. That Saturday. Full of sorrow and anxiety. A day they were forced to rest at home; they couldn’t take action.

I can’t help but feel our world is living one long Black Saturday right now.

We are told the best course of action is to stay home. It is a time of helpless waiting.

We hear on the news each day that more people have died. More people died alone, with no loved ones surrounding them. Even our funerals have changed. They must be postponed. Cemeteries don’t allow graveside services.

What a dark time. And we can do nothing except be forced to practice a very long Sabbath day at home.

Yes it feels hopeless right now. But just know that the despair of Saturday will end. It won’t always be this way. The day of hope is coming. We don’t know when, but we know this can’t last forever.

You might not feel despair. Maybe all you feel is boredom. Maybe you feel like nothing is happening. Please know it’s ok to feel that way, but remember that this time will be in history books not only for all that went wrong…but also for all that went right. I believe good things are also happening.

Mr. Rogers told children to look for the helpers. This is a great thing to do, but so many of us are being helpers ourselves.

In my neighborhood, there are people writing out encouraging messages with sidewalk chalk. People are making masks and other gear that hospitals need. Animal Planet ran nothing but soothing videos of baby animals this week. Landlords are waving rent. Doctors and nurses are coming out of retirement to combat Coronavirus. The climate is improving; there is less pollution.

You’re helping by staying home.

The Saturday after Jesus died was dark. It was a day of waiting. But it was important too, though His followers didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes.

Also…we humans are resilient. All over the world, people are going to celebrate Easter tomorrow. Even though we can’t come together, we still celebrate hope.

Keep holding on for Sunday while you wait in this long Saturday.

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

A Low Hum of Peril

“Stop! You need to back up!” I yell across the yard to my son who’s straying too close to the neighbor’s kid. He’s supposed to stay 10 feet away at all times, but kids will be kids. They forget. They want to play.

I’m sitting outside on this beautiful Spring day here in Northern Alabama. I’ve been cooped up due to the rain. Though I didn’t let the rain stop me the other day when took a walk, umbrella in hand. I have to get outside sometimes.

I haven’t gotten into my van and driven anywhere in two weeks. I look over at my van and wonder if I’m going to forget how to drive.

The kids are laughing as they talk to the neighbor children. Kids are so adaptable. I don’t know about how other kids are dealing with the Coronavirus and quarantine, but my kids aren’t worried about it. We’ve talked to them about it, though maybe leaving out details. About how people who have died from Coronavirus struggled to breathe, lips turning blue, with a weight on their chest that feels like 50 pounds. I didn’t tell them about how there are so many dead bodies in Madrid, they had to start storing them in an ice skating rink. And I haven’t told them that I’m scared.

The kids play in the afternoon sun. I sit back and listen to my podcast. A neighbor walks by, walking his dog. Another one goes by, on a bike. On the surface in this peaceful neighborhood, everything is fine. But under the surface of life right now is a low hum of peril.

I felt it on Friday the 13th this month, the last time I was out and about. The last day the kids had school. There was a sense of hurry, and “take everything you can grab”.

I hate that we also have a feeling of scarcity now. It’s needless. People don’t need to hoard groceries right now but it’s contributing to the nation’s sense of panic. “If those people are hoarding, we better start hoarding…”and so the cycle continues.

We ordered groceries the other day, and they came two days later. But the poor man delivering our groceries felt guilty that he couldn’t find everything we asked for. He handed us our milk and cereal with gloved hands, muttering that it makes him not want to do his job at all. We told him it wasn’t his fault and thanked him for all he did. Grocery store workers are in the front lines right now, and I admire them. I saw something on twitter the other day that said “grocery store workers didn’t know they had signed up for the draft”. Indeed, they did not!

I carry in our groceries to the kitchen. There’s a lot of things I have to be thankful for right now. I mean first of all, we’re healthy. My kids are doing fine. My husband won’t be losing his job. We aren’t going to starve.

But I can’t be the only one that feels that hum, the feeling of something dangerous lurking. It’s in the people around you, innocent people with smiles on their faces. I can’t be the only one who feels that sense of scarcity. I used to take it for granted that I could get anything at the grocery store whenever I wanted. This is something that is silly, but for my birthday I wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. But there was no chocolate frosting to be found when the man shopped for us so I settled for vanilla. It wasn’t a big deal by any means but it was just one of those reminders that things were different right now. Things are strange and we need to adapt.

But it’s so hard to adapt. This evening I got the news that schools are canceled in Alabama until the end of the year. I knew this was coming, and I believe it’s the right decision…but it really upset me more than I thought it would. Tears sprang to my eyes as it hit me….my kids had no ceremony in their last day of school. They didn’t get to say goodbye to their teachers and friends. They won’t get anyone to sign their yearbook. I was especially sad to think about my 5 year old and his pre-K class. Those are precious times, being in preschool with your friends, eating snacks and taking naps with your nap mat. Bringing your stuffed animal to school on Fridays and learning your letters and numbers.

I remembered that Friday the 13th, when I picked my son up from Pre-K. Usually I would walk him straight back to the van. But for some reason my son was very adamant that he get to play with his friends for a few moments outside in the little patch of grass. So many preschoolers were running around on the grass that afternoon after school, little social butterflies. The parents stood around watching and talking. I’m so glad I let him play with his friends that day.

After getting the news about school closing, I stood next to the stove and cried as I waited for the water to boil for pasta. Why was I so upset about this? But I wasn’t alone. A little later I got emails from the heartbroken teachers who also didn’t get to say goodbye. My sister, who teaches in Virginia where school was also closed, was very sad about the decision. Of course everyone understands why it had to be done, but we all have mixed emotions over it.

I call in my boys for dinner. In they come, with their buzz-cuts and their glasses. Their hair was getting very long, but we didn’t know when we would be able to go to Great Clips again. So last night I took some hair clippers and gave them a hair cut myself. I smile when I think about it, how they all stood around, each watching their brother get his head shaved, laughing and exclaiming how short his hair was now, and how much hair was on the bathroom floor! I put them all in the shower and the bathtub while my husband swept up the hair. The next day they proudly showed off their new hair cuts to their neighbor friends.

I guess that’s the important thing during this strange time we live in. Try to make the best of things and keep making memories. It’s not all bad. With my husband home, and my kids home, we’re getting a lot of family time. And I’m still able to call and text my family and friends. We called and texted before, but for some reason right now I seem to cherish it even more.

People are getting inventive right now. Teachers are using the Zoom app to have meetings with their students. My middle child, who is in karate, also has Zoom meetings with his instructors and watches his karate instructors’ YouTube channel. Grandparents are going on Facetime and Skype to talk to grandkids. Stories are being read over the internet and people can connect again. Pastors are streaming church services over the internet. Just last weekend I was part of a “Quarantine Netflix Movie Night”, where my friends and I watched “Blade Runner” together (on Face Time) while riffing on it. It was so nice to feel like I was with a group of friends again, watching a movie together.

There are a lot of things that we’ve realized about ourselves as a nation since Coronavirus became a threat. We’ve realized that a lot of those meetings at work could have been emails. How much we touch our face. We’ve realized how hard teachers work and how little they are paid. How much we took for granted, such as going to the movies or restaurants. But If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of since COVID-19 became a household name, it’s that our relationships to other people are so important. When you have to social distance, because it’s a matter of life or death, people with either ignore it, or they will find a creative way to continue to nurture the relationships in their life.

That’s how we’re going to get through this time, by helping each other through it with our words and actions. We may feel helpless sitting at home, and maybe it’s making our anxiety or depression much worse. Or, we may feel overwhelming stress at having to be on the front lines. Either way, we need to continue to encourage each other and lift each other up.

If you don’t mind, I want to share this scripture verse: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Anxiety, Social Distancing, and Me

“How’s your anxiety these days?” the doctor asked me.

I sat in the middle of the couch, pondering this question. How was my anxiety right now? It’s not easy to put it into words but I do my best.

“I feel the same as I normally do. I have social anxiety but I make myself go out. I make myself go to the store and to my Bible study group every week. I guess the hardest part is actually getting in the van and leaving.”

The doctor agrees. It is difficult to force yourself to leave the house when you have anxiety, but once you are actually out and about and socializing, it feels easier.

I clutched my phone in my hands. It’s a comfort thing, to actually keep my phone in my hands as much as possible. Especially right now in the psychiatrist’s office.

“Also…” I added, “I’ve been feeling kind of anxious about the state of the world. This whole Coronavirus thing. It just feels…like everything is out of control.”

She nodded and smiled. “I’ve been getting a lot of emails and calls about this. It’s understandable. The world feels chaotic right now.”

What I didn’t say, but what occurred to me later, was that in a way the pandemic gave me an excuse for my anxiety.

I’ve always felt this way. I’ve always felt like I didn’t have an excuse for having an anxiety disorder. I have a good life. I’ve never been through a real traumatic situation. Why am I so prone to panic attacks? It’s been this way since I was a kid.

In a weird way, having a global pandemic happen is making me feel justified for being anxious. This is how I felt on 9/11 actually. Or when we had the threat of the DC Sniper. The chaos in the world is strangely grounding me, reminding me that it’s now appropriate to be anxious. I’m not a freak for being anxiety ridden right now.

Life is complicated but, in a way, it’s simple because we are reminded of what’s really important.

Yet, I can’t deny that times like this still make anxiety worse than usual. It makes me feel mixed up.

The session is soon over, and I leave the doctor’s office. I pass by the people in the waiting room, and make my next appointment. A month from now, as usual.  I wonder how things will be in a month. The hand sanitizer sitting on the counter is almost gone. It’s precious stuff right now.

The date is Friday the 13th. I’m not superstitious but as Michael Scott said, I am a “little Stitious”. There’s  been a strange feeling in the air today. The kids are in school right now but not expected to return until April. My husband tried to get toilet paper last night but there was none to be found.

My phone buzzes.

It’s my husband. “See if you can get toilet paper today. Trump is probably going to declare a National Emergency….so you have an hour. No pressure!” he jokes, and adds a smiling emoji.

Driving past the grocery store, I see that the parking lot is completely full. Same thing at Walmart…no parking spots. It’s the middle of the day and everyone is here getting groceries, and panic buying.

My anxiety kicks in and I decide I can’t make myself go into this zoo. But I do head to Walgreens. Maybe they’ll have toilet paper?

People are throwing cold medicine into their carts, and zooming by me at the drugstore. I find the aisle that normally has toilet paper and of course there is none. I do manage to find some baby wipes. I only get 2 small packs because I don’t want to take too much of something that other parents need more than I do.

After I get home I check Reddit and there are multiple posts of people catching others with shopping carts full of toilet paper. People selling their Toilet paper and hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes for an exorbitant price.

I shake my head. Why is it that in this trying time of history, some people decide to be selfish and greedy? Why does it bring out the worst in some people?

 

As it turns out, Trump did declare a state of national emergency. And the kids will not be going to school until April 6th. Sadly my husband still has to go to work. His workplace didn’t make any real decisions but I shouldn’t be surprised.

Today is Monday the 16th. These past few days feel like 8 weeks. Life felt so different just a few days ago. I’ve been stuck in the house with three kids. Trying to get them to do some educational material online, and trying to have some sense of routine. My husband sighed as he left for work, promising himself that he wouldn’t go near anyone.

And yet I can’t help but feel lucky. We’re safe at home and we’re healthy. We should count ourselves lucky to be bored at home. Life actually isn’t that different than a long long weekend. I feel bad for those people who have to work right now, especially first responders. And people in retail or grocery stores. And those with health issues and the elderly who are more at risk.

We’re lucky.

Yesterday Church was cancelled and the Bible study group is also cancelled. It saddened some of the ladies but I was glad. Not only have I been training my whole life for social distancing due to anxiety, I’m proud to be part of a smart Church family. Some churches didn’t close yesterday and told people to trust in God. Some churches still served communion and drank wine out of the same wine chalice. Not smart.

I just listened to a couple podcasts that are having special “Self-Quarantine” episodes. It’s good that people can still make the best of this situation and laugh. Plus I have a few new books to read, and Khan Academy, and Netflix and Youtube…

I’m feeling a strange combination of calm and anxious right now. I feel lucky yet worried for our family. I feel blessed to have lots of food in the house but deprived of toilet paper. Well, we installed a bidet yesterday. It’s the newest trend of 2020. I imagine the symbol for 2020 will be a shiny bidet. Either that or a roll of toilet paper.

What I’m saying is, we live in strange times. And it’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling right now. Goodness knows I’m still processing it.

 

And now for a few tips.

Stay safe, wash your hands, don’t hoard, and practice social distancing. Sneeze and cough like a vampire – into your elbow. If you want to support small businesses, see if you can buy gift cards or certificates to use at a later date. Just get take-out. Don’t meet your UPS man at the door, but let him get some distance between you and him before you grab your new bidet at the door.

Some people are asymptomatic. So just because you feel fine, and just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you can’t spread Coronavirus. You need to think about other people who are more prone to getting sick.

As the weather gets warmer, some people believe the virus will be less of a threat. Yet in some countries where it is hot, coronavirus is still spreading. Warmer weather might influence it but it might not.

If you have anxiety like me, try not to read or watch the news so much. I know, easier said than done. Keep practicing self-care. While you’re at the store buying rice and beans, get some ice-cream or chocolate.

And if you’re the praying type, pray for those who are suffering right now with this virus. And the people who aren’t rich enough to stock up on food or take off work. Their kids might rely on the food at school, and now school is out. These are hard times for some people.

 

And finally, if you have anxiety in general and are feeling oddly calm…it’s understandable. Those of us with social anxiety are being told to stay away from people. And those of us with anxiety have a reason to feel anxiety.

But what I want to really remind myself as well as anyone reading this, is that it’s ok to feel anxiety even though you have no reason. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have an anxiety disorder.

Too bad it took this whole global pandemic to remind me of that.

Our Baking Project

Baking with children. Not baking with children as ingredients but baking alongside children, I should say. What can be said about it? Well, it’s an adventure. For Christmas I got the boys this book, “Super Simple Baking for Kids” by Charity Matthews. Is it simple? Not the word I would pick. I mean yes, the recipes are easy to follow, but baking alongside children is never simple.

However….

I’m so glad I got them this baking book. There’s something very satisfying about teaching your children a new skill. I’m someone who does all the cooking, and I make dinner every night. I will occasionally bake too. It seems to me that my boys need to learn how to cook and to bake, and they need to know that they don’t need to rely on their significant other to do all of this for them.

Plus at this age (my older two are 10 and 8), they are excited about baking with me. If I wait too long, they might be too old and too cool to learn how their way around the kitchen.

So it is my mission from now on to get them in the kitchen and to watch me do my thang, and to learn. My kids now know how to preheat the oven, grease and dust the cake pan with flour, measure out the ingredients, whisk, and blend with the electric mixer. We have made 2 cakes, a pizza, and cupcakes.

Every weekend for we have tried a new recipe, and together make a new baked good. I thought I’d share these recipes with you. If you have children it might be a nice thing to bake these goodies together.

First recipe: Lemonade Cake.

It was late afternoon on a Friday, January 10th that we attempted our first bake. I had the older boys choose a number between one and 10, and the boy who chose the closest number to mine…you know how it works. Anyway the winner was my oldest, and he chose “Pink Lemonade Cake”.

Wait, you might be saying. You called it “Lemonade Cake”. Yes, and here’s why we didn’t make it pink: No pink food coloring. Simple as that.

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup butter, plus more for greasing

2 ½ cups of flour, plus more for dusting the pan

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

4 large eggs

4 lemons, juiced

Zest of 2 lemons

½ cup milk

Yellow food coloring

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare the cake pans with butter and flour.
  2. Mix dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and baking powder
  3. Add butter. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the ¾ cup of butter one piece at a time. Increase speed to medium and mix for 1 minute until mixture looks crumbly.
  4. Mix wet ingredients. Whisk together in a separate bowl, eggs, juice of 2 lemons, lemon zest of two lemons, and milk.
  5. Add half the wet ingredients to the dry, and blend with the electric mixer. Add the rest and continue blending.
  6. Add the yellow food coloring.
  7. Pour batter into pans and bake for 25 minutes.

For the frosting:

I used a can of ready made vanilla frosting, but added the juice of 2 lemons. This makes the frosting more of a drizzle, but it’s still good. Also, add yellow food coloring. For some reason, making this cake yellow makes it taste more lemony.

Here’s our cake!

My husband and I really liked it, but the boys weren’t big fans because of the texture of the lemon zest. If your child is big on textures being smooth, this might not be the best one for them.

 

The next weekend it was my 8 year old’s turn to choose a recipe and he went for the old fashioned chocolate cake. This was a very rich cake FYI.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of butter for greasing the pans

1 ¾ cups flour, plus a little more for dusting the pans

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup oil (we use melted coconut oil)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup hot water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare the pans.
  2. Add the dry ingredients. Flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add wet ingredients to the same bowl: eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat the mixture for 2 minutes.
  4. Add hot water; stir about 12 times until incorporated.
  5. Add batter to pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through baking.
  6. Make frosting. (I didn’t use their recipe, which was melted chocolate chips and yogurt mixed together. I used the chocolate frosting recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa container.)

Frosting:

Ingredients:

½ cup butter

2/3 cup cocoa

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Melt butter.
  2. Stir in cocoa.
  3. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
  4. Stir in vanilla

Here’s how our luscious cake turned out!

All of us liked this one. But like I said, it was very rich. Just take a small piece!

The weekend after that, it was my eldest’s turn to choose and he decided on something savory: Pizza Dough! Clean as you go, there will be a lot of flour.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups warm water (like bathwater)

2 packages of dry active yeast (4 ½ tsp)

2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp garlic salt [we used regular salt]

4 ½ cups flour plus more for kneading.

  1. Bloom the yeast:

Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar, and set aside for 5 minutes.

  1. Add remaining ingredients. Using a whisk, mix in oil and salt. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
  2. Let the dough rise. Coat a separate bowl with olive oil and place dough inside. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside somewhere warm until it doubles in size, for 1 hour.
  3. Knead the dough. Sprinkle a handful of flour onto a clean work surface and place dough on top. Using your hands, knead the dough. Press down with the heel of your hand then fold the dough in half. Press down again, then fold. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball. Cut in half with a pizza cutter (this recipe makes 2 medium pizzas).
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  5. Using a rolling pin sprinkled with flour, roll out the pizza into a circle that is ¼ inch thick [I found it easier to do this directly on the pizza pan because I had no idea how to transfer the pizza onto the pan from the work surface].
  6. Brush the pizza with olive oil. Add marinara sauce, cheese and other toppings.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes [it turned out a bit underdone for my taste, I would do 15 minutes].
  8. You’re going to want to eat it right away, so don’t burn your mouth! Let it cool a couple minutes.

We ended up making one pepperoni and one pepperoni and mushroom pizza. My eldest and youngest sons really loved it, but my middle son said it was “too floury” and he only took a couple bites. O well! More for the rest of us. Like I mentioned above, it was good yet a bit underdone so I would bake it longer than 12 minutes.

There’s something about homemade pizza that’s so much better than getting a frozen pizza (which is what we normally do, it’s cheaper than ordering pizza). Making the pizza was educational for the kids, as they got to see yeast do its work and dough rise. It was good to make something savory for a change, as much as I like cake. It was a little challenging (working with dough always is), but worth it.

I’ll do one more recipe. My middle child’s turn to choose the following weekend: “Cookies and Cream Cupcakes”!

We made these the day before the Superbowl, so I was happy we were going to be sharing something sweet at our Superbowl party.

INGREDIENTS:

1 package of Oreos

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup oil (we used coconut)

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup sour cream

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk

1 can of vanilla frosting

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line the muffin pans with paper baking cups.
  2. Crush the cookies. Put 30 cookies in a zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin, crush them into small pieces (there should be about 3 cups). Set aside.
  3. Make the batter. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the sour cream. Beat for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. While mixing on low speed, gradually add the milk. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the crushed cookies. Fold 2 cups of crushed cookies into the batter until evening distributed. Set aside the remaining cup for the frosting.
  6. Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool.
  8. Make the frosting. While the cupcakes cool, mix the remaining cup of cookies into the frosting in a mixing bowl.
  9. When cupcakes are completely cooled, decorate with a dollop of frosting. They say to add an Oreo to the top of each cupcake! But I think that’s overkill. However, I got a picture of one with an Oreo:

 

I think I will stop there. It’s been something to look forward to each weekend, this baking ritual. My kids are all about it!

 

BONUS BAKED GOODS:

On the first Saturday of February, I  had a Cupid’s Tea party and we had a pink heart shaped cake. It was boxed strawberry cake with a can of pink vanilla icing (and sprinkles).

And on the weekend of Valentine’s Day, my husband got us this giant box of donuts:

With that said, we are taking a break from baked goods this weekend (maybe!).