Hopes for Covid19 Aftermath

Although right now the pandemic that is covid19 feels like it will never end, I’ve been trying to figure out the good I want to remember from this unprecedented event in world history. I’m still learning and making sense of what is happening, but some things have caught my attention, and I’ve thought, “Yes! I hope people will remember this when this thing is over.” Here are some of them. I’d love to know others you’ve thought of.

  • Teaching children is hard work and those who do it well should be richly rewarded. Any time people are skilled in their professions, they make what they are doing look effortless. Teachers are the same. The effort is hidden beneath preparation and years of training and practice. Teaching is a science, yes, but it’s also an art. Good teachers are worth their weight in gold as many parents are finding out.
  • Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are underappreciated in the best of times and heroic, brave, and selfless in the worst of times. Don’t let anyone tell you that the government rather than private practice doctors should be in charge of our healthcare. Doctors spend years learning how to practice medicine. They know what is possible and what isn’t. They know which patients will benefit from particular treatments. They also have the knowledge to try new (or old) treatments to see whether they work. Can you imagine the governmental bureaucracy that would have kept the experimental therapies doctors are using to treat covid19 from being used? I sure can! Take a moment and thank God for all our health professionals.
  • Social media should be used for social connection and not for politics or tearing one another down. Can we make Facebook and Instagram fun, uplifting, and supportive places forever? During covid19, people have been witty, creative, and generally excellent to each other, and I, for one, have loved it!
  • People should always stay home from school, work, and worship if they are sick. If people stayed home for even minor colds, those who are vulnerable wouldn’t die from complications from viruses like the flu or the common cold or the novel corona virus we’re dealing with now. What is merely a nuisance for healthy people can become deadly for those with underlying conditions. Companies should remember this and offer PTO with this in mind.
  • We shouldn’t let work be the focus of our lives. Work is a gift from God that allows us to feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but it can never replace our relationships with our families and friends. Work life balance was just a phrase before this virus. I hope it becomes a reality. Just because people can work from anywhere, doesn’t mean we should.
  • Walks–preferably outside–improve our health. Nature is a natural stress reducer. Just take a look at what this article from the American Heart Association says, “Whatever you call it – forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time or the wilderness cure — humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature.
  • Family and friends make life worth living. Full stop. Call your mom, your grandmother, your dad, your grandfather, your friend from childhood or high school you’ve lost touch with, or whoever you hold dear. Get in touch. Life is fragile and precious and lovely and meant to be shared.

We haven’t reached the peak of covid19 infections in the United States yet, but we’re all in this together. If you’re feeling sad, reach out to those you love or to the health professionals in your area or to a clergy member. They will help. In the meantime, know that you are a child of God and that you are loved.

Coping during Covid19

I’m sitting at my desk at the start of week 3 of the Safer at Home order in Wisconsin. Apart from an underlying uneasiness of this virus making its way into our towns and cities, being isolated and dealing with the unknown feels familiar. To be honest, the first two weeks of staying at home didn’t bother me too much. Many people don’t cope well when they’re isolated and can’t enjoy an active social and work life, but over the past 11 years, I’ve become used to those things.

At the beginning of the Great Recession, my husband lost his job and has been laid off five times since 2009. During that time, I was a public school teacher and was also laid off because of declining enrollment. We had two children in college, house payments, taxes, insurance, car payments, and many other expenses. To survive, we tightened our belts and learned to do without things that we had once taken for granted.

Now, all these years later, I’m working from home as a Beautycounter consultant, and he has once again been laid off. It seems like the uncertainty and layoffs will never end, and the worst part is coping with the unknown. When will he get another job? Will we have enough in our emergency fund to tide us over? How long will this time last? Now that the virus has become a reality, we’re all coping with those same questions.

If security seems like a thing of the past to you too because you’ve been laid off or closed your business because of Covid19, I’d like to help you think about ways to save money and maybe change your perspective from one of lack to one of possibilities and action. Here are some of the things that my family has done over the past ten years and will continue to do to get us through hard times.

Learn to cook from scratch. It’s better, cheaper, and healthier than going to restaurants. How? Crack open cookbooks or look on the internet for recipes, especially ones you can stretch with potatoes or rice. Cooking is a matter of following directions. If you can do that, you can cook most anything! And cooking is a great outlet for creativity! The recipe below is from Half Baked Harvest!

Homemade coconut milk braised chicken with naan from Aldi!

Pick up the sale flyers from your grocery store and plan your menus for a week or longer. To be as healthy as possible, avoid the aisles of packaged food and buy fresh produce, meat, and frozen foods that you can turn into recipes. I like to prepare big batches of soup, chili, barbecue, pot roast, and other things that freeze well. Use fresh foods that will spoil easily first.

Buy different items at different stores (use the information from the sale flyers to help you). For example, I often buy fruits, vegetables, olive oil, spices, and cheeses at Aldi. They have lots of organic foods and often their regular produce is cheaper than at other stores. If you drink milk, their half gallon organic whole milk is delicious! Make sure you check Aldi’s special buys too. They are often on clearance.

Get rid of cable TV. We have an antenna for TV or stream shows from the internet when we want to watch movies or other shows. Streaming offers many more shows than cable anyway. I also have come to love our local PBS stations. They offer commercial free watching and British television like Masterpiece Theater!

Homegrown radishes from my garden

Plant a garden. Plant flowers in pots, window boxes, or the ground. They bring butterflies, bees, and beauty into your life. Or grow your own vegetables! Eating what you grow is rewarding and far better than what you can buy at the supermarket. If you’ve never eaten a homegrown carrot, you’re missing out! If you don’t want to garden or can’t for some reason, make friends with your local farmers. Many offer CSAs or sell at farmers’ markets. They are happy to give you suggestions for how to cook unfamiliar vegetables too!

Be creative with your wardrobe by shopping your closet or thrift stores and learn to wear what you’ve already got in new ways. If you can’t afford to buy a whole new outfit, maybe you can buy a scarf or new earrings to make older shirts or dresses feel new. Also learn to mend what you have and keep your items fresh and clean. This includes shoes. If you’re really ambitious and crafty, teach yourself to sew or knit or crochet.

Make your own cleaning products. It’s easier on your wallet and the environment, especially when you have a septic system. To kill corona virus, however, you need to use something proven to kill the virus.

Use the internet to learn new skills such as meditation, yoga (I recommend Cole Chance Yoga and Yoga TX), cooking, sewing, or gardening. Also watch Khan Academy videos and Ted Talks, or listen to podcasts. They will keep you informed and busy learning something new and just might help you with home-schooling your children.

Exercise, especially outside! Go for lots of walks and reacquaint yourselves with nature. Being in nature is a stress reliever. As John Muir once said, ““And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

Summer in Wisconsin

Rediscover board games and learn to play cards. Play with your families! If you don’t know how to play cards, you can find tutorials on the internet.

Read some great books! There are so many I have read and want to read. Here are a few. The first two I’m looking forward to reading. The last three I’ve already read. You and Me and Us by my friend Alison Hammer, Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes by my friend Kathleen West, The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell (there are about ten in the series and the series is The Last Kingdom on Netflix), A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer and its sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti, and anything by Katherine Center.

Use Facetime, Skype, What’s App, Google Duo or learn Zoom so you can meet with your family or friends for a virtual happy hour or for morning coffee. It makes the distance melt away when you can see each other in real time and talk.

Zooming with writer friends!

If you’re religious, or even if you’re not, trust that God will help you through this! Because He will. Tune in to services at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waupaca, WI or any other church that is broadcasting services right now. It helps to know that you can count on a higher power in times of stress and anxiety.

This virus won’t last forever, even though it seems like it will. There are many smart people who are working as we speak to invent a vaccine or reliable treatments for us, and isn’t that a wonder. Selfless doctors and nurses are taking care of people made helpless by this thing. There are too many people to count or name who are helping others in this crisis. I’m thankful for all of them.

I hope you can change your thinking from having to stay home to getting to stay home. I hope you’ll discover how creative and resourceful you can be as you keep your family safe. I hope you’ll keep a journal so that you and your children can look back one day and remember how you endured this pandemic with grace and strength. Before you know it, we’ll be buying normal amounts of toilet paper and canned soup at grocery stores and going out to dinner with friends. Until then, stay safe at home, rediscover how much you love your families, and read some great books!

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April’s Blizzard: (Part 2)

After my neighbors (I thank God for them!) helped me dig out, I went to the grocery store and restocked my food supply and spent a lot of time on the computer looking at pictures of the snow on social media and watching the weather to get snow totals. (We ended up with about 36 inches!) I saw a post on Facebook from the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisconsin, that explained what was happening to migratory songbirds that had returned to the Midwest before the blizzard struck.

blizzard

The Group advised readers that birds which allowed people to approach them were in trouble. They were freezing to death and had nothing to eat. I immediately filled our feeders with sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and suet for the variety of birds we get here and put out frozen fruit for the robins and other fruit eaters. The hardiest of birds ate and survived, but some didn’t as I was soon to find out.

As Stella and I took our daily walk, I kept my eyes open for animals of all kinds in distress. About a mile from home, I saw a bird sitting atop a snowbank on the side of the road. I took a couple of steps toward it, but it didn’t fly away. Stella bounded over to it to make friends. It didn’t move, even when she was nose to beak with it. It was in trouble. I couldn’t let it die there, so decided to pick it up. When I cupped my hands around it, it tried to hop away but was too weak. I rested my thumb over its feet to keep it still, unzipped my parka, and nestled it against my stomach to keep it warm, then zipped the jacket up as far as I could.

hermit thrush stomach

I hoofed it back home and called the Raptor Group. The lady I spoke with asked me to take a picture of the bird. She identified it as a hermit thrush, an insect eater whose song I’d often heard on my long, country walks.

She instructed me to gather a small box, a towel, and a heating pad to make a warm place for the bird to rest. The lady also told me to give the thrush water if I could coax it to take some. She said someone in Wisconsin Rapids could bring the bird to Antigo the next day if it survived the night. All I had to do was to keep the bird alive until then.

Thrush side view

I did as the woman said and tried to give the bird some water, which it wouldn’t take. I turned the heating pad on low and set it in a box covered with a towel to make a warm little home for the thrush. I carefully put the bird in the box and closed the lid so it remained calm and warm. When I checked on it a couple of hours later, however, it had died. I called the Raptor Center again and let the woman I had spoken to know what had happened. She said it must have been too far gone to survive.

That little bird’s death pained me more than I thought it would. It seemed a symbol of more than just the cruelty of nature. I felt a kinship with that tiny creature. We both were trying to survive in an inhospitable place, where unwanted snow, instead of flowers and leaves, arrives in the middle of April. Just as I did during that  unexpected blast of winter, I’m sure that sweet-voiced creature wished for the warmth of its southern home.

The Blizzard of April 2018 (Part 1)

By mid-April in the South, temperatures routinely reach the 70s and 80s. Dogwoods, red buds, and azaleas bloom, grass turns green, and leaves green up the spectral branches of trees. To get my fill of warm weather that is still to come in Wisconsin, I usually watch the season in its glory as I watch the Master’s on TV. Living in the Midwest, I miss that slow unfolding of the spring every year, and here in Wisconsin I wear wool sweaters and pour over seed catalogs dreaming of warmer days.

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Bumblebee on a Red Bud tree blossom

Even after 20 years in the Midwest, I remain an eternal optimist that spring will reach Wisconsin before May, but that’s rare. This year, like last year, we had an April snowstorm, though not nearly as bad in Wisconsin as it was in the plains. The threat of a snowstorm this year brought back vivid flashbacks of last year’s blizzard. You’ll see why when I share the pictures. Today is the one year anniversary of that epic storm.

Beginning at night on Friday, April 13, 2018 (how appropriate) and ending on April 15, a blizzard vanquished our spring in one weekend. Mother Nature showed off by dropping every kind of precipitation on us, beginning with rain and ending with a blizzard. Snow on snow on snow. So much snow fell for so long it felt apocalyptic.

Sno on Snow
What I saw after the blizzard when I opened my front door.

On Sunday evening after the snow had stopped, the weather in Green Bay recorded 33 inches of snow on the ground. At my house six foot drifts covered everything. I’ve never seen so much snow. It piled up so high I couldn’t leave my house. And except for my Stella, my loyal Labrador, I was alone. My husband was in South Korea for the entire month on his last deployment there. Before he left at the end of March, we had a six inch snowfall, and while he was clearing that away, our snow blower broke. He parked it in the garage and said, “You won’t need that while I’m gone.” Right.

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Hubby’s car is under here somewhere!

The world was white and cold, the snow too deep to walk through. I tried and sank to my thighs in the backyard. I shoveled the back patio so Stella could go out and use the bathroom. She sank to her chest where there were no drifts.

Stella and drifts
Stella exploring the drifts.

I tried to shovel the path out my front door, but the snow was too heavy. I ended up paying a neighbor kid fifty dollars to shovel my front porch and a path from my back door to the garage entrance. I waited for help. Before my husband left, he’d talked to our neighbors and asked them to help me if I needed it while he was gone. They called and let me know they help as soon as they dug themselves out. Then my closest neighbor’s snowblower broke. Keith, our further away neighbor, tried to use his machine, but it wouldn’t even make a dent in the huge amounts of snow in his driveway. We were all stuck.

car under snow

Finally, when I thought I might be stuck there until it melted, one of the neighbors from further away show up with a skid steer.

Skid steer to the rescue
Skid steer to the rescue!

It took awhile but I finally could see the driveway. I could finally get out of the house and walk around the neighborhood. But I had no idea what I would find a couple of days later.

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“Profusion” Zinnia

This Friday Flowers edition is from my vegetable garden where I planted zinnias, petunias, and marigolds to bring beneficial insects to the garden. The butterflies love them the zinnias! Here is a Pearl Crescent, one of the most common butterflies, but I had never looked closely at it until I took this picture. Just look at those lacy markings!

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Phosphate Mining at River Oaks

This is the first Wednesday’s Words post I’ve written in a long time. I’ve been busy revising my first novel called FAITH CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS and drafting my second.

Most people who’ve read my pages aren’t familiar with Charleston, South Carolina’s phosphate mining past. During the late 1800s after the Civil War, rich deposits of phosphate rock provided those who owned land on the area’s rivers with much needed money after the Civil War beginning in about 1867-1868. The rocks were mined and processed into a relatively cheap fertilizer. In my book, the main character is convinced mining will save her home from bankruptcy,but it comes with a cost to the land.

This brief excerpt comes from chapter 6. The image is from Robert Boessenecker’s blog The Coastal Paleontologist, Atlantic Edition

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“Mining was backbreaking, dirty work, but already one section of the pit was fairly deep and wide. The men had exposed a variety of sizes of tan phosphate stones along with coarse grained sand and the rounded bones and teeth of strange animals from some long ago age.”

Early Fall Wildflower

This may be my last Friday Flower post until next year because our weather is rapidly growing cooler. Most of my cultivated flowers are gone. Even my pots and hanging baskets look pretty shabby, but about a week ago, I found this flower when I was walking Stella. It was nearly the color of the sky next to early fall foliage. If anyone knows what it is, please let me know!

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Love at First Sight

How love begins fascinates me, probably because of the way I fell in love. Sometimes people know each other for only a short time before they find they can’t live without each other. Sometimes they know each other for most of their lives and slip into life together seamlessly. Sometimes people meet and know almost immediately that they were meant to be together. That’s what happened to me. I fell in love with my husband the first time I saw him. I have no idea why, but something about him resonated with me, long before I ever spoke to him. He was my fairy tale, my Prince Charming, my knight in shining armor.

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I remember the moment I saw him like it was yesterday. I was in summer school, my last quarter of college, finishing the last two classes I needed for graduation. My friend Laura wanted me to go to O’Malley’s bar with her, but I didn’t want to go out that night. Laura could be very persuasive, and I went. I’m awfully glad I did. (Thanks again, Laura!)

O'Malley's

O’Malley’s on the Oconee 

Located on the Oconee River, O’Malley’s was a bar with a split personality. Inside a dance bar throbbed with music and crowds of people. Outside, young men and women enjoyed fine summer weather on the deck overhanging the Oconee. The first time I saw my husband, I was walking out to the deck from inside. I looked across the wooden expanse of deck filled with people and saw a man in a sky blue polo shirt sitting on the top rail talking to his friend. He had a beautiful smile and an honest face. When I saw him, I nudged Laura and said, “You see that guy over there in the blue shirt? That’s my husband.”

I can’t tell you why I knew that, but I did, as surely as I knew my own name. Only a few times in my life have I been struck with absolute certainty of the outcome of events, but each time I’ve had that feeling, what I’ve foreseen has come true. I was certain about him.

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Engagement photo: We were so young!

During the course of the night, I literally ran smack into him inside the crowded bar area. He said hi, and I said hi. Then he said he was going to get a drink, and I thought my chance was over. Later that night, the man I thought I liked asked me why the guys I was talking to were all guys he knew, which really meant I shouldn’t hit on his friends, I suppose. (I wasn’t.) I saw my future hubby sitting close by, and worked up some courage. I walked over to him, and the first thing he said was, “There you are,” like he had been looking for me. I was smitten.

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Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston

We talked the rest of the night. I found out he was only in Athens for three weeks. (the horror!) He was there for a class at the Navy Supply Corps School. Thank goodness I met him the second night he was there! He asked me for my phone number, and I gave it to him. But with drunken helpfulness, I tried to help him memorize it. Three days later, my friend and I were “laying out” by the pool at my apartment complex, and I wondered out loud why he hadn’t called. “He was so sincere, ” I said. “He just didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would ask for my number and not call.” Then I recalled our conversation and my “helpfulness.”

Once again, I worked up some courage, but this time no alcohol was involved. I called the Navy school and asked for him. The person who answered took my message. It was simply my name and the correct phone number. He called about 20 minutes later to ask me out for a date. That was in July. I proceeded to skip two weeks of summer school to spend time with him. I even missed an exam. When i went to plead my case to the professor, I told him the truth. I said I had met the man I was going to marry and had spent all my time with him. He allowed me to make up the exam. We became engaged the following January and married the following October.

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Marine Corps Ball 1986

Today, October 3rd, we have been married for 30 years, but it feels like we’ve known each other forever. He’s my best friend, the love of my life, and the man I will always follow wherever life takes us. We are living our happily ever after!

sword arch kiss

Happily Ever After!

 

A Red Hot Sin

It’s early in the morning, and Faith is leaving for Charleston to meet with Josiah Hamilton about mining phosphate rock at River Oaks. She feels guilty about having written a letter  pretending to be her father, but not guilty enough not to go through with her plan. #WIP #1linewed #amwriting #amediting

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“The sound of trickling water from the spring house rose from the floorboards, the smell of the mossy darkness below permeating the air. Faith’s spirits lifted as she knelt before the cross. She loved the liquid quiet of this place, the peace it offered. The letter to Josiah Hamilton tucked into her skirt pocket felt as conspicuous as a glowing ember, a red-hot sin barely hidden.”