As we come to the last Sunday of Advent, I have finally decided to recommend an Advent book. The book itself begins with Advent but continues with daily readings throughout the Christmas season. What I have really come to share with you is the author, Michelle Frankl-Donnay.
I have been reading her reflections for a few years now, and she is by far my favorite person to read their reflections. They are a wonderful blend of spirituality and real life with the enormity of the universe for perspective. Professor Frankl-Donnay teaches chemistry at Bryn Mawr College and her science background gives an entire feeling with the mixing of the scientific and religious. Whenever I am reading her books durng the holiday seasons, I am wonderfully surprised at my reactions and how much I get emotionally from her reflections.
In addition to the current book, Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2020-2021, she can also be found at her blog:
5. Find something that’s your favorite color.
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.
Today Wednesday is was World Otter Day. Everyday should be World Otter Day!
Apparently, I had the wrong date in my planner and this makes me sad. My kids, my son especially have had an obsession with otters for several years now. There is a beaver near where we live, and for the longest time, my son called him an otter. When we explained that it was a beaver, he continued to call it an otter….or a skinny beaver. We see him throughout the spring, summer, and part of fall.
When my daughter and I went to Florida a couple of years ago for my aunt’s 95th birthday celebration we went to Flamingo Gardens where we saw real, live otters. We were so excited. They were enthralling.
Two years later, this past February, right before the pandemic, my son was able to go their with my husband and see the same otters. He was thrilled.
Mary our mother sustains us in moments of darkness, difficulty, and apparent defeat.
– Pope Francis
We’ve been slowly returning/adapting to a new normal. I don’t think we’ll go back to what we knew as normal for a long time, if at all.
I don’t think it’s helpful to be Pollyannas, but it is possible to find joy in our new circumstances.
Knowing that staying home and also wearing a mask when I go out for groceries and other supplies is my way of contributing to the mitigation and the time to search for a cure makes it a bit easier to accept my role in the effort. Each of us has a small part but all of us together can create a larger outcome.
We all have our own struggles, but I would encourage you to find the silver lining in the cloud; the rainbow after the rain; the cliche in the trope.
Three Places Where I Find Joy
1. Cool breeze
2. Mary *more below
3. Kindle – FB with family/friends, books, podcasts, writing – encompasses much of my person in one place, not quite a talisman, but a path, a tunnel from one place to the next; from one world to the next.
May is also Mary’s month in the church. There’s Mother’s Day and Mary is all of our Mothers. Marian devotions. May Crowinings. Pope Francis provided two new prayers to add to our rosary prayers for the month of May.
I will have weekly Mary posts throughout May beginning below with links to the Vatican’s Rosary pages and the Pope’s letter and his two rosary prayers.
I have been praying them when I’ve prayed the rosary this week and it truly makes me feel as though I’m doing something tangible and positive during this pandemic. I may also begin a Mary meditation, but time will tell.
What have I done today? Today, being a reflection of one day last week, April 2, 2020 to be precise. It is (was) day 18 of self-isolation/”quarantine” for our family. That is the official count since we last went out to dinner and our kids last had in-person school, which is not a phrase that comes readily from fingertips to keyboard or off the tongue. In that time, we have managed to come to some sort of happy (?) medium between the four of us who live in this house. Some days have blended into others, some pjs were worn a bit too long, too many video games, streaming services, and DVDs were played and watched, not enough fresh air, and way, way, way too many emails were received from every single email list I’ve been on for the last ten years telling me how they are addressing the COVID-19 situation in their establishments as well as many, many restaurants offering me free delivery or curbside pick up despite the fact that I am very much not in their delivery area.
But we’re all handling this in our own ways; some better than others.
As every day becomes some version of it’s Friday again as well as a Groundhog Day reboot, I thought I’d spend one day listing all of my activities or the less than active happenings as it were.
I decided to would share it here for others to see that we’re almost all coping with the same issues: limited resources, homeschooling our kids, working from home, trying to be useful, and often not succeeding, and then feeling guilty about that. Why haven’t I cleaned out my closets? Why haven’t I planted my garden? How can we possibly use that much toilet paper in a week?! No, I don’t know what’s for dinner; what are you making?
I absolutely recognize my privilege and am ever grateful in that I have a home, my children are safe, and my husband continues to work from our home. He had already been working from home for a number of years, initially requesting it because of some medical limitations for me after my third child was born. Eventually, it became his regular job to work from home. I do know how lucky we are despite having the worry that this may situation may stop or change before the quarantine is over. Time will tell.
For all of us.
I began that Thursday as I begin every day, by waking up. I have an alarm set for 8:30 from Sunday to Thursday. I set the alarm so I can “attend” Mass online. It’s hard to have an excuse not to be there when the commute is literally sitting up in bed and turning on my Kindle. In addition to masses four days a week, my parish priest is also doing FB Live storytime for the younger parishioners (but I tune in every week, and enjoy every minute of it!), our office manager is offering a weekly reflection on FB Live as well, and we’ve had soup deliveries on Wednesday for the last three weeks. Sadly, they end when Lent does. I couldn’t be more proud of my church and how they’ve handled this pandemic from the beginning in March, keeping everyone informed and faith filled, keeping our community despite the physical distance.
So, my alarm goes off at 8:30, and my day begins.
8:30am – Wake up.
8:30 – 9am – Checked email, Facebook, Twitter. Saved screenshots and links for COVID-19 information posts to get to later.
I take my morning medicine.
9am – Facebook Live. Since this is Thursday, there is no daily mass, but my friend and godmother who is the office manager for my church gave a wonderfully lovely Lenten reflection. She’s doing another one this week as well.
About 9:45/10am – I begin listening to my podcasts: What a Day from Crooked Media and Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara.
After that it’s time for breakfast, which sadly won’t come to me: a French toast bagel, toasted with melted butter.
I began reading a new book – The Boston Massacre (because clearly this is a lighter subject than what we’re living through right now.)
I went back on Facebook until …
11:30am – I watched New York’s Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing. I find his briefings calming and informative; also honest. I watch it every day that I am able to, and no, I do not watch the President’s daily briefing because those are the exact opposite of calming, informative, and honest. I screenshot many of the Governor’s slides to post on Facebook.
I cooked the meat and sauce and layered the lasagna in my crock pot for dinner.
When dinner was set up to cook for the rest of the day, I cropped the slides from the governor’s briefing and posted them on my Facebook page. (Several people have told me that they appreciate it, and it makes me feel as though I am doing something productive, something of a public service, even if it’s only in my mind.)
I then had Lunch with a Diet Coke followed by a snack. On my notes page that I kept the running diary, I didn’t write down what I had for lunch and snack, so I have no idea what it was. We’ve had sliced turkey and cheese in the house for sandwiches, we have ramen, macaroni & cheese, and often leftovers to have for lunch, so really it’s anybody’s guess what it might have been.
About now, I’ve begun to flag. I’m always tired since this situation has begun, not always physically, but I feel a constant level of worn out. My brain is going a mile a minute, but I am also paralyzed with uselessness.
I go back on my Kindle: Facebook, Twitter, some games. Things that I don’t need to think about because my brain just won’t slow down.
Clearly, I’m not writing. 😦
My daughter was on Facetime with her friends and I heard her giggling and laughing hysterically. It resounded down from her room, and I stood at the bottom of the stairs, and just enjoyed it. It was a welcome sound; one that I haven’t heard for what seems like a long time, and I relished in it.
When the lasagna was ready, my son and I made homemade garlic bread. It was delicious.
We ate our dinner, which was also delicious. We’ve been cooking a lot!
After dinner, I had some yummy Mango Dragonfruit sherbet that my husband picked up for me as a surprise when he went out to get milk.
I read Governor Cuomo’s email that he sends nightly, which caught me up since his morning briefing. Again, positive and reassuring.
9pm – The Rachel Maddow Show. She is visibly upset with the federal government’s response. I am also upset. Disappointed. Embarrassed.
I don’t know if I just realized it while watching Maddow but I did not get dressed today. PJs feel almost like business casual as quarantine time ticks by. It’s quite nearly another universe.
After dinner, I clean up the dishes. I didn’t wash them though, just got them scraped and into (or near) the sink. At the moment, there’s too many for me to get started emotionally. I don’t mind doing the dishes, but I need to really feel it.
I went to bed; not to sleep, but to read.
Then I promptly fell asleep.
I woke up at 1am and went on Twitter where Alt_Immi‘s post set my teeth on edge. He had retweeted a 9 minute video of Russel Honore’, who commanded federal troops in New Orleans after Katrina, and who had a lot to say about the Defense Production Act and the “leadership” of Jared Kushner.
I became enraged, which kept me from sleeping.
I took my nightly medicine (which I’m really supposed to take around 11pm), and then I went to bed for real. Mostly.
I know that tomorrow will probably go about the same except with the addition of a shower and minus meat (since [as of this diary’s writing] tomorrow is Friday!)
This whole thing is horrifying and demoralizing.
As the following Tweet says, this is why we cried when he won. No lie.
We will get through this. Together.
Some things have changed since March’s Inspire post. A lot of things across this country and across the world. We can still move forward while in isolation though. I’ve seen online that some people are using this time to learn a new skill, a new language, write the Great American Novel, learn to cook. And some of us are simply trying to get through another day while trying not to suffocate in the constant presence of our families. I am somewhere in the middle. I am not taking up any new skills, but I am thinking about writing more. I’ve been cooking more in the last two weeks than in the last two years, which is a welcome change to both my family and myself. I will share some of our recipes as the days go on, just as I would in a regular year. I usually spend my mornings attending daily mass (on Facebook Live) and then watching and screenshotting Governor Cuomo’s daily press briefing. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something to help my community, and I have received positive feedback from it.
On the other hand, I’ve also found myself full of anxiety, with my brain going into overdrive, and not being able to shut down for sleep. Even in the dark, I’m wearing an eye mask. I think the light pressure on my head helps calm me down enough to fall asleep. Our family has been very lucky in our circumstances so far, and I will probably write and share about that another time. Easter and Passover are around the corner, and we are preparing for both. My next shopping trip will be Thursday to gather all the goodies for Easter dinner and Easter baskets. I am hoping to see my son, but time will tell. (He is a first responder and so he is working every day. I don’t know his holiday schedule yet.) I started a new book called The Boston Massacre. You know, some light reading.
Stay Home. Save Lives.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
– Helen Keller
“…the road that we seek is often the road we have already found.”
– Fr. James Martin, SJ, My Life with the Saints
One of things I’m learning through the Cursillo movement is how I can grow in relationship to Jesus through the three principles of piety, study, and action. These are key components of Cursillo, and while I did my weekend this past October, it is still taking me some time to regularly incorporate these into my life. I believe that I’ve always done them in varying degrees, but Cursillo has given me new eyes to see what it is I’m doing.
Lent is another way, a time of the year, to reflect on my relationships and what I do for myself in spiritual ways. The picture above illustrates some of my tools for my Lenten journey.
We are all obsessed, those of us who practice with giving up something for Lent. It is usually a food or a technology – social media, cell phone during dinner, etc. A lesser known thought is to add something to your life during Lent. This is only the first full week, and I am still discerning what I will add in addition to reading the daily devotional book my church gives us.
What have I given up?
Pizza. And bacon.
I didn’t even think about it. It just appeared in my head, and once it was there, I knew it was the right choice. My family still can’t believe it.
I’m trying to journal a bit more, and heeding Brother Mickey’s advice to take fifteen minutes a day to just be with G-d. I’ll let you know how all of that goes.
In addition to prayer and fasting for these forty days, there is also almsgiving. I always support my church and my St. Vincent de Paul Society, but for this Lent, I will also be supporting RAICES, and I encourage all of you to take up that mantle. There are still children in cages; there are still families separated. RAICES is on the front lines with all kinds of help, and have been since the beginning of this nightmare.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.“
– C. S. Lewis