Halloween or Hallowon’t

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Halloween during a pandemic. Well, at least everyone’s already wearing masks, right? My kids are in high school, so it’s less of an issue for us. They’re planning on going to friends’ houses and celebrating with a party instead of traditional trick or treating. They’ve already been hanging out with these friends since summer, so it’s equally safe as doing homework together.

On my neighborhood Facebook group, there have been some questions about neighborhood plans as well as some suggestions. One neighbor wants to do treat bags on a table at the end of the driveway, and limit trick or treating to certain hours – from five until eight. I thought that seemed reasonable.

Another thought was of a scavenger hunt with houses providing clues to their kids to find candy. The parents would do all the work and the neighbors who participated would volunteer so the kids weren’t randomly going to people’s houses who had no idea what was going on. I thought this was a great idea.

We usually have a bucket of toys and comic books in addition to candy, so the kids can choose which treat they prefer. They toys are the kind you get from McDonald’s Happy Meals or similar small items. Some are packaged, but some are gently used. We’ve decided to suspend this practice until next year (hopefully). I know our items are safe, but why put the parents in the position of having to say no to a toy if they have (legitimate) concerns.

I also thought that instead of having the kids reach into our candy bowl and choose their preference, we would have more of the same candies and hand it out ourselves. Two candies per child. We can wear gloves and put it right into their basket or bag.

I know some doctors and experts have talked about avoiding family during the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are closer than we think they are. We haven’t decided our holiday plans, but I also think that Halloween is a different circumstance. I don’t mean it’s more important than our traditional family holidays, but in some ways it kind of is. It’s fun. It’s dressing up. It’s candy. And it can be done in a responsible and socially distant way. Kids can come to the door one or two at a time. The candy givers can wear masks and gloves. There’s no hugging, shaking hands, sitting around a table talking and eating.

To be honest, it really sounds a lot easier.

Maybe we can have a Halloween inspired Thanksgiving. Drive thru. Go to Grandma’s house and she’ll give everyone a Tupperware filled with a portioned out turkey dinner. Same with Christmas; just add presents to the drive thru lane.

I don’t know. I’m still working on that one. In the meantime, let’s enjoy Halloween as best as we can. Teach our kids that we need to make some changes this year to keep everyone safe, and we can do that and still have fun. I’m planning on dressing up as a postal carrier if I can find my parents’ old work shirts.

We’ll find out in one week.

What are your plans for Halloween? Do you have any suggestions for making it fun and safe for kids in this unusual year?

Finding the Joy

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Several months ago, April to be precise, I was given a series of reflection questions related to the losses I’ve had since the March 17th lockdown. I may have mentioned this in my original post, In the Midst of Loss about that retreat session and over the course of the month following that first hour I would bring up the subject to myself and think about those losses, the reasons for them, as well as trying to name my feelings about them, and then question how to say goodbye to what’s been lost. It is obviously much harder to say goodbye to a loved one who has died during this pandemic; that loss is astronomically deeper and more upsetting than the loss of work or routine or our regular habits, although the loss of work is catastrophic in its own way and those of us struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and others will feel that some of our losses are also catastrophic. How do we accept the losses we are experiencing and move forward even in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, a pandemic that will continue to be with us for many more months to come, if not at least another year or more? What strategies can be adopted and adapted to move on; to create a new ordinary for our lives?

There were two additional, important and hard to answer questions broached during that session. The first was do we really want back what we’ve lost? All of it? Are there some things that we have lost that we kind of want to stay lost? The second was to ask ourselves what was good about this time.

While we’ve all had losses, we’ve also had gains. There were good things that were perhaps only seen in retrospect. How do we find joy in the confusion and chaos of today?

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Signs of the Pandemic

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When our state went into lockdown, school was moved online and we converted to remote learning; church was cancelled, little by little restaurants closed, libraries closed, museums closed, playgrounds closed.

We stayed home for the most part.

We did go to the grocery store and to Target for our household supplies. We did this about once a week. My husband would go out between grocery shopping trips to get milk, which we always seemed to run out of. We began to buy two gallons at a time.

We also went for drives, sometimes grabbing lunch through a drive thru and parking in the park or near the river and ate our lunch. At least we were out of the house for a couple of hours.

I began to notice some things on our drives and our trips to the supermarket: Signs.

Here, there,  everywhere signs were popping up.

Signs for delivery, signs for take-out, signs for curbside pick-up, signs for new hours, signs for limits on purchasing necessities as toilet paper and soap ran out in our houses and on store shelves. Food and dry goods also. Everyone was home and everyone needed more of what they used while no one was leaving the house for work or school.

The signs popped up like dandelions in spring.

I said to my husband: I know one business that’s doing better during the lockdown. Sign makers.

They were literally everywhere.

As the rules changed and we adapted, more signs were brought out. One way and wrong way signs in the aisles. Limited capacity signs. Xs crossed in six feet spaces for shoppers to stand in and wait for their turn to enter the store. or to check out with their purchases.

Soon, there were mask signs, social distancing signs, and after awhile, all of the signs temporary closed signs were replaced with We’re Open signs. Single entrances and separate exits. We deliver signs were joined  by Dining Room Now Open and Dine In – Limited Capacity.

I began to document all the signs I came across. The photos below are only a small sampling of what I found. Once I started this project, I discovered signs in the strangest places and for the strangest things, and I drove my family a little batty pulling out my cell phone and taking photos of the signs everywhere.

Let me know if I’ve missed any.

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The President Who Cried Wolf

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Before I write anything else, I’d like to first extend my honest warm wishes for a full recovery to President Trump and the First Lady. I’d also extend this to anyone else who is symptomatic or who tests positive for covid-19 who came in contact with them, their staff, and to any of the Senators, Judge Barrett and her family. With a virus so unpredictable once you contract it, it can add to the stress of being sick in the first place. The unknown is often a scary place.

That said, I was on Twitter until the wee hours of the morning, about 3AM, reading, getting updates, laughing at inappropriate jokes, although none were really too bad or personal. I was also not the only one who thought the report of the president and first lady testing positive was another one of his lies, another distraction from her horrifying comments about Christmas and migrant children in cages, a way to ignore the NY Times story of his tax and bank fraud, a way to move beyond his horrendous performance at Tuesday’s debate, or any of the other fifty or so things that hit the news wires yesterday before the news of his positivity became the only story of the night.

After spending six months calling the virus racist nicknames, and clouding his response in what he termed a Democratic hoax and scare tactics, I didn’t think he would claim the virus if he wasn’t actually sick and/or infected.

It also wasn’t a Friday night news dump.

He also skipped out on a phone call with NY’s Governor Andrew Cuomo this afternoon, which I take to mean that he wasn’t up to it.

Sadly, I don’t trust the news that Mike Pence is negative. He, of course, will have to be tested again.

Their constant lying for three and three-quarters years have made any statement they make suspect.

Mitch McConnell continuing his farce of the confirmation of the Supreme Court seat only exacerbates the idea that this is a distraction that they are using to their advantage.

Mitch McConnell is one of many GOP Senators who were at Judge Barrett’s roll out last Saturday, and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who was there, not wearing a mask, shaking hands, and hugging people tested positive today. The entire Senate needs to quarantine for fourteen days as does Judge Barrett and her family.

And all these people need to wear masks.

All the damn time.

Nancy Pelosi needs to be kept in isolation to keep safe the line of succession.

This is a national security emergency.

According to NBC News the President of Notre Dame, who was at the nominating ceremony at The White House has tested positive for covid-19 and Judge Amy Coney Barrett was diagnosed with covid-19 earlier in the summer, which puts her at greater risk for reinfection according to studies within the WHO.

I’m glad that the President and First Lady have made public their tests and having the coronavirus. We should also be hearing from the White House doctor which twice daily updates on the President’s condition. This is not a time for hiding things; it is a time for transparency. 209,000 Americans have died. Now, maybe the third of the country ignoring this pandemic and this very contagious and very dangerous virus will finally come to their senses and listen to the science – wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance.

Being tested does not prevent you from contracting the virus. The test is a moment in time. You could be negative this morning and the virus then sheds this afternoon and you’re positive and don’t know it. The GOP are being very irresponsible by forcing the Senate to convene, especially in small groups of committees and not requiring masks at all times at the Capitol and the White House is dangerous to the non-political staff including Secret Service, food service, journalists, and guests.
It’s irresponsible and reprehensible.

Thoughts On An Overcast Day

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I keep a planner. The monthly part of the calendar is my personal calendar of appointments and scheduling, birthdays and anniversaries to be remembered, and the weekly pages are where I plan my writing for Griffins and Ginger Snaps. This year, writing has been a struggle.

I have been more or less reliable in the publishing of posts, but these last few weeks have certainly been more difficult. There was so much going on in August and when I looked back on it, it seemed that they were all mental worries.

Not that they were all in my head, but it wasn’t that my feelings of busyness was having a lot of appointments or places to go, but it was all mental gymnastics – getting dinner planned, communicating with the school for my kids’ return, planning our vacation while simultaneously planning on not going, keeping up on election news, and so many other things. It’s been rough, and I know I’m not alone in this.

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Election Connection: 13 Weeks: A Biden Covid Response with Ron Klain

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The following video features Ron Klain, a member of the Biden campaign. In addition to his current role with the campaign, he is a two time Vice Presidential Chief of Staff (Al Gore (1995-1999), and Joe Biden (2009-2011). He is a lawyer and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White as well as a Capitol Hill counsel.

He served as the Ebola Reponse Coordinator from 2014-2015 and has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s response to the Covid-19 virus which has, as of this writing, killed more than 150,000 people in the U.S.

For a time, he co-hosted a podcast addressing these concerns with Dr. Celine Gounder.

On a personal note, when I’m asked when I’ll be taking a vaccine (how soon after it’s ready), my answer is always, “When this guy [Ron Klain] says it’s safe.

The following video was made for the Biden campaign and outlines what a President Biden would do to curb the ongoing virus and epidemic.

I Miss…..

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The five things I miss the most during pandemic lockdown are simple things; things I’ve taken for granted or didn’t realize how much I enjoyed them until they were gone. I’m looking forward to having them back.

  1. Chinese food.
  2. Sitting in Starbucks or any restaurant alone with my computer and writing.
  3. Strolling through Target rather than rushing through to only get the necessities.
  4. In person mass and in person therapy, although online/phone do have their positives also.
  5. My retreat house.

Five things I’m tired of:

  1. McDonald’s.
  2. Eating in the car.
  3. The overtaking of cans and bottles in my house and garage because the recycling centers at the supermarket are closed.
  4. The phrase, “What’s for dinner?”
  5. Empty shelves for toilet paper and soap.

In the Midst of Loss

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My retreat house recently began to offer some limited online experiences. The first one that I explored was about the losses we’ve confronted during this pandemic since March. This was a two hour session, split into two days one month apart. I know the presenter, Father K, through other classes and workshops I’ve taken through the Diocese. He’s a local priest who also works in the area of mental health and I really enjoy the way he approaches things. He also reminds me of my therapist. At the end of the first hour, I thought I had been given an extra therapy session this month! It really was a comforting hour that led me to spend the next twenty-four hours deep in thought. For the first time in a long time, I felt calm and thoughtful but also, in a way invigorated.

To start out, he asked us to think about the losses we’ve faced since March, and to write them down, and then to share a couple of them with the group. I was one of the first called on, and for me that meant that I hadn’t any time to prepare what I might say. I had a list, but it felt superficial. I began with a pseudo-apology; something that many of us do on a daily basis, especially women. That isn’t to say that men don’t do it, but women, I’ve found are the primary apologists for things they aren’t at fault for. For example, have you ever had someone walk into you on the street or in a store, and you apologize to them? I do this almost every time. Women apologize for taking up space, for taking too long, for a myriad of things that men just don’t apologize for, and really, that we shouldn’t apologize for.

I began by saying that I was fortunate that my family and I haven’t lost anyone to covid and we haven’t been ill, minimizing what we have been going through, and that while it hasn’t been life-threatening (so far) it has also not been easy for our family. My husband already works from home, so we continued receiving our salary. I feel guilty. All of my losses come from a place of privilege and I feel it’s my obligation to add the disclaimer of our privilege even while trying to be honest with the emotional and mental toll this pandemic crisis has put upon us. I mentioned a few things that we have lost since March, and as I listened to the others share their losses. I was reminded of things that I hadn’t thought of as losses and I added them to my list as well.

At the close of this part, Father K said what I already knew (and I’m paraphrasing): whatever I’m going through is just as valid as the next person. Their struggle may seem more difficult, harder to get through, having more emotional value, but my losses are still just that: my losses. These are the losses that I’m feeling every day; that my family is feeling every day and I shouldn’t dismiss them because someone else has had a more challenging time than I have; whose struggle appears more difficult or more painful.

My losses are real, and this session allowed me to accept that and confront the actual loss and how I can move forward.
What are the losses that I don’t feel measure up to others’ losses?

The loss of time. What day is it? Even trying to tell time based on a favorite television show has been eliminated with the shutdown of Hollywood and all the global acting studios. Anything that wasn’t completed before March 17th ceased production; how many season finales were postponed? How many cliffhangers left hanging? On March 31, more than one friend mentioned how long March had been. March was a year long. I felt it in my soul. Would April also be a year long?

The loss of routine. School was canceled for my kids, but their schoolwork continued. They slept until nine, did some work, took naps, grazed all day or skipped meals. We were eating breakfast at ten in the morning, and dinner at nine at night, bedtime after eleven even on a “school night”. Haphazard doesn’t scratch the surface of our “new routine”. The kids’ independent learning and creating their own schedule seemed to be working, but at what cost?

Mass was canceled, and it took a few weeks to get the livestreaming set up, so at least now I know when Sunday is. All of my spring retreats were postponed at first, then canceled entirely. Therapy moved to the phone. Meetings canceled or moved to Zoom. If school and work were gone, was there even a weekend to look forward to?

The loss of being lazy. That’s wrong and a little harsh on myself. It’s more the loss of choice. It could also fall under the loss of routines. If I didn’t feel like cooking, we couldn’t just go out to dinner. Even if we did takeout, the restaurants closed about two hours earlier than normal. Menus needed to be planned so groceries could be shopped for in a way that minimized our leaving the house and coming in contact with other people. Planning every meal. Having food for the kids to eat lunch when they would normally eat lunch in school.

The loss of of seeing and hugging my adult son. We barely saw him. He came by once every two weeks until I was exposed to covid, and then he stayed away until my fourteen day isolation was completed. He’s an essential worker and a first responder, and even if he wasn’t I wouldn’t want to expose him to something that we still know so little about. Fortunately, I did not have covid. We eventually had our family Easter dinner.

The loss of myself. I stopped being me. I had to become the covid expert. I had to tell everyone to wash their hands every time they came home from school (before the lockdown) or the grocery store after. The one time my husband needed to go into the office, it was half an hour of discussion weighing the pros and cons, and how to do it safely. I had to know how much toilet paper we needed and go shopping with all the others preparing for their own lockdown. I had to educate people about this virus and call out misinformation because if I didn’t do it, who would? I became teacher again.

And the burden that I put upon myself led to the loss or permanent change in status with some friends. It’s hard to maintain the reciprocal, balanced relationship with people when their fundamental values are so at odds with mine, like wearing a mask and isolating or simply the basic idea that covid was made in a lab somewhere to ruin the President’s term of office.

Some losses that others in the group brought up that resonated with me included the loss of purpose and the safety and peace of mind that I’d had from only a week before; the loss of trust especially in the authority of the federal government to take care of something so catastrophic as this and which they ignored so much and let us fall so far, and of course, the loss of the Eucharist and the rituals of mass, so much a part of my life.

I craved the Eucharist, but when the opportunity arrived to return to in person masses, I decided against going, and I surprised myself that as those in the pews received their communion while I was at home watching the livestream, I felt just as close as if I’d been there and received it in my hand and consumed it. I credit my parish and my priest for giving me that feeling of belonging and even though I wasn’t there in front of him and others, I was still present and G-d was still present for me. That was a good thing.

In the midst of the losses, there have been some gains, some good things to reflect on. What was good about this time as lockdown comes to a close? The last question asked in the session was how do we find joy in the confusion and the chaos? These are things I need to meditate on, to think about and discover the answers to. Reflecting more on the losses I’ve documented above and move toward accepting and then moving forward to finding the joy is a thing I want to work on between now and the next group meeting. I want to acknowledge the gains; find my joy.

In the coming days, I’ll share the one day back in March that kept me going, and then hopefully after that I can answer the question: how do we find the joy? At the moment, I don’t know, but I hope to find out.

“Friday” Food. June. Summer Salad

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Summer Salad, photo taken by my daughter. (c)2020

I’ve put Friday in quotation marks since today is Wednesday and this Friday Food is a few weeks late. It didn’t seem appropriate to continue with business as usual last week. I’m slowly returning to writing and publishing.

I mentioned in my recent quarantine and baking piece that my daughter had some assignments from her FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class during the remote learning part of the school year. In my day, I say in my best Grandpa Walton voice, we had Home Economics and we cooked and sewed aprons. Same, she replied.

The recipe she wrote, shopped for and prepared was this delicious Summer Salad. She may have called it Strawberry Chicken Salad, but I can’t remember. It was easy and overall not too expensive. I let her get whatever she wanted for it since it was a school project and didn’t complain about the price. Besides, once she took her photos, she would be serving it to the rest of the family for lunch, much better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or frozen waffles that we usually scrounge up during the week.

Ingredients and Directions:

1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken tenders. Cook in a skillet with olive or peanut oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, no more than 1 tsp. of each.

1 head of lettuce or 1 bag of mixed greens

1 container of grape tomatoes

(You can add one cucumber, but I honestly can’t remember if we did. I happen to love cucumbers!)

1 lb. strawberries

1 pint blueberries

Freshly shaved parmesan cheese

Croutons

Dressing – I chose honey mustard. (My daughter actually doesn’t use any dressing.)

Mix the salad together, add your favorite dressing and enjoy a light and satisfying lunch!

Enjoy!

Inspire. June.

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Lilacs. (c)2020

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

This pandemic has taken, but for those of us continuing to live through it, it has also given. More time with our families. More time to think of our priorities, our spirituality, our blessings, and our failings.

As President Adams said above, this pandemic has brought patience and perseverance to all of us in varying degrees of success. We all have both despite having different levels of both, and through it all, in whatever way we are and we can, we are moving through it and adapting.

It is ever with us.

Wear your mask.

Keep your distance.

We’re all in this together.

Be well.

Patience. Perseverance.