phases

Everything has a phase. Life, insects, business, illness, the moon, people. When this covid started states were given federal guidance for ‘managing’ conditions to ostensibly promote avoidance of the virus and maintain good health. The authority rested with the governors. I’m not sure this was the best plan but how could they not. Like a parent, they had to be fair. Every state has a governor.

So the country basically went into hibernation. Work from home. Shop for essentials only… if you could find them. Travel stopped. Playgrounds were empty. Churches were empty. I have to wonder if the effects would have been any different had the precautions been selective to age, strength, physical limitation. But nobody knew how it would or wouldn’t impact people. So we all sat at home.

Finally, late spring, after everyone missed celebrating Easter, graduations and other spring events some states moved to the next phase. Other states’ governors went totally rogue and power crazed. They tightened the screws. Then the riots. Chaos ensued. Everywhere. Protesting, maybe, but with violence. Not peaceful. Think what you will, I do not see what they are doing to accomplish anything aside from destroying livelihoods and dreams. We know they are organized, recruited and paid, these rioters. Some states have doused the flames. Others encourage the crazy.

So this phase 3. North Carolina just moved there this weekend having had phase 2 extended in 5-week increments since May. It does not escape me that the election is a month away. Our governor is not popular. He knows this. Ballot harvesting is illegal here yet it has been said there was evidence of it in 2018, when he ran for the office. I am not smart enough to sniff out political intrigue and aberrations. But I do know this state is tired of moving in circles. We are exhausted from frustration and boredom. Two entire seasons saw personal freedom in a straight jacket.

Whatever, we are coming up on a year since this weird virus made an appearance. I don’t normally obsess over a thing, not a nebulous one. But this was treated badly. Cancer patients could not receive treatment. Family members passed away alone. There must have been some way hospitals could take precautions so families could have spent some moments together. I know God was not surprised by any of this. I know He is fully aware of where this all is going. I just wonder if He wishes we had handled it better. All of us.

survival

When I was younger my father was about 4 steps ahead. Of everything. He talked about ‘cholesterol’ before I ever heard a doctor say the word.

He saw the importance of balancing a healthy diet, exercise and rest before there were personal trainers.

So when Dad started talking about bomb shelters I didn’t  panic but I didn’t ignore him, either.

He and my mother were looking at different places to think about retiring. Sadly, Mom passed away when she was too young, and Dad never really retired. He bought a small business after he left his corporate career and ran it until he died.

Anyway, one weekend he was really excited, he’d found an old grist mill in a (then) very obscure town in the mountains. The walls were 3-foot-thick concrete, and there was a natural spring there. I honestly believed he was going to move us all there— this place with no windows —until Mom talked him out of it.

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Pretty sure if I had to figure out how to survive on my own, in nature, I’d have a hard time. I know a bit about edibles— herbs and wildflowers, but I doubt that I know enough not to starve. I know nothing about mushrooms and wouldn’t eat one someone picked in the wild no matter how much they assured me they knew what it was.

I live in a hurricane-prone area. Since moving here there have been 4-category 1-3 storms in 5 years. So I have a generator, freeze-dried foods, many solar- and battery-powered items. As yet I have not had to use many of these. If something -or someone- were to cause me to strike out on my own I’d last maybe 3 days. My 2 rescue dogs would probably do better.

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I have known outward bound people. They take small groups of kids out at summer camp and ‘rough it’. I have been to summer camps but either this was not an option or my mother felt giving me safer experiences like horseback riding, learning to sail or working with clay made more sense for me.

So I am really hoping I don’t actually have to deal with any hyper-extreme circumstance or situation. At my age my sense of adventure may include sky-diving, body surfing and mule rides into the Grand Canyon, but that’s about the extent of it.

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So even though this picture, taken by my son, is from more than 10 years ago, they say riding a horse is like riding a bike. You never forget.

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minutia

My mother was organized, well-ordered and no frills. She could not be bothered with frivolity or trivia. When she planned something or ordered something by mail she expected it. And whatever it was generally complied.

Not so for me.

During this virus panic I have not changed much of my routine. Pretty much a homebody, I basically pattern my schedule around rescue dogs Lily and Lulu. I have a volunteer schedule that has been canceled so it’s just the dogs.

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We have our walkies, mealtimes and cookies. Since they are nearing their golden years I add supplements to their diet to keep them limber. None of which is available here, I have to order them.

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Two orders I placed since March have gone missing. I can only attribute the losses to this pandemic crisis because in over 20 years of placing orders with Amazon.com I have never lost a single one. So today I am waiting. UPS is holding Lily and Lulu’s hyaluronic acid supplement hostage. It was scheduled for delivery yesterday. Now today. They even gave me a little map to track it. An hour ago the truck was one street away from me, in my neighborhood. Now it’s across town. I don’t get it. I should have walked over to where it was when it was so close. Who knows now when it will get here?

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They still have enough supply here for a week or so but seriously? Why doesn’t the guy just bring us our supplement? It’s like waiting for a pot of water to boil. If it were for me I wouldn’t care but I am the only thing standing between my dogs and justice. I am their provider, defender. When someone makes a joke about little terrier-mix Lulu’s (slight) weight problem I take umbrage.

It’s those small things that you have to watch out for. Little fires. Put them out, quickly.

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This may stem partly from an ‘encounter’ I had with a couple of neighbors a week ago. The upshot was, kind of like the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, One of These Things Doesn’t Belong”. So I was the ‘thing’, they said, in not so few words.

Cruel.

True, I’m not like many other people. None of us is. But I am realizing I live in something a friend of mine once described as a Stepford wives neighborhood and am politically incorrect besides.

Oh well. It’s true, I don’t have a husband, grandchildren or enjoy travel, shopping or gossip. So no, on those counts I am different. But I have a feeling it’s maybe a bit more than that.

I can’t be bothered with what others think of me.

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But I really do want to know when this supplement will be delivered. Not why it isn’t. Just when. Even if it seems such a little thing.

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negative return

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(courtesy NASA.gov)

I was 14 when Buzz Aldrin and Cmdr. Neil Armstrong walked /bounced on the moon. I recall clearly, looking at the grainy, blurred black-and-white images, trying hard to reconcile what I was seeing on a small television screen with reality. The American flag, in a place with no air, little atmosphere, stretched out as though it were held with wires.

This made a deep impression on me, but at the time (and my age) I was unable to articulate.

After the program was scuttled in 2011, today, watching this launch I actually cried.

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I felt a little silly, husky-mix rescue dog Lily walked over to me to comfort me but I wasn’t sad, just incredulous. Here we live in the most prosperous country on the planet and, with riots that serve no purpose, social divisions beyond COVID-19 ‘distancing’, political enmity, and censorship of freedoms including speech and worship, we are still reaching for the stars. Somehow I suppose I see it as a sort of escape from all these earthly woes. There is a place where people can be, far away from all of it.

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I don’t imagine, with all the poverty, persecution and environmental issues that exist, that all people see this as I do, but I have no answers. I know I do what I can to help. This man in Minneapolis who was allegedly murdered, his family has a fund that people have given to. There was a man featured amidst the infernal Minneapolis riots whose sports bar was looted and burned. He watched his life’s work be utterly and completely destroyed. He cried. A go-fund-me was started, cap set at $100,000. Last I heard it had $300,000. Americans, in general, are a compassionate, giving people.
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So I won’t begrudge my government reaching for the stars. A goal the beloved President John F. Kennedy yearned for.

And I will always know, no matter what happens or who is in government, God is sovereign.

God-speed, Astronauts Bob and Doug.
Safe journey. And safe return.

 

3770A7E2-342D-43D8-AFDB-82BBDED8A7B3 agodman.com

 

refocus

In summer rescue dogs Lily and Lulu’s walkies are before sunrise and after sunset with quick outings through the day in the backyard. Has to be this way because the heat gets to them. To me, too

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So this morning, because of some lovely late cold fronts was very cool as we ventured out around six, still in the dark.

Summer walkies are an adventure. More bunnies and toads. Never is husky-mix Lily more focused than when a reptile crosses her path. When a toad stops the required hopping Lily does not lose interest. She will gently tap it with her paw until it starts to hop around again. This morning she actually tapped it with her nose.

She knows better.

Toads have a protective toxin they coat their bodies with. This causes a dog to froth at the mouth. Which Lily did. She is tenacious. She kept at the toad so I stepped in and moved it to a shrub and we walked on, Lily spitting and shaking her head.

As we turned the corner toward home both Lily and Lulu went on high alert— a rabbit jumped in the road. It waited till they were just at attack position before it bounced away.

Still, the excitement made their obligatory morning naps reminiscent of the chase in their dreams.

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So many times this week my emotions got tossed like waves in a storm, listening to armchair commentators critiquing the virus. Who to blame, wrong information, who said what, what should be done, and shouldn’t be done, until I was angry in my own head.

So I refocus. This experience is no surprise to God. Neither are requirements that are levied on our communities. So I look to Him. I ask for peace. I pray for people who need prayer. I find things to be grateful for.

So many things.

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what if ….

Maybe it’s the aloneness, though I don’t think so. I am used to being on my own (present furry canine rescue company excepted). Maybe it’s that the entire United States of America (who’d have ever thought) has come to a grinding halt.

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Or maybe the thought that, not unlike Passover, a silent death creeps among us.

Or maybe it’s all of it. But lately I have had many things brought to mind for which I need to make amends. And I have followed those promptings. A note to a kind neighbor that I may have slighted. An overdue apology to my son for hurtful things once said. Phone calls made that were put off for far too long, these are reminders to me that this is not a dress rehearsal. This life is temporal. Getting it right is not as important as grace, kindness, patience.

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What would you do if this were your last month/ week/ day to live? Somehow for me, this question has become quite real.

This viral plague that, in order to protect ourselves and others has restricted us so harshly has made me stop and think.

I have never been in a situation before where I cheated death. I have also not yet lived regret-free.

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But I’d certainly like to, if not get a do-over, at least a restart.

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E870358E-BEFB-432C-B620-C877269B0336brainbrewblog.wordpress.com

 

 

isolation

Years ago, inspired by a book I had read about inner awakenings I sought the solace of a nearby Abbey. This unique place offered retreats to individuals of different lengths of time and, completely unaware of what I would encounter I chose one for five days, the longest offered.

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I am not Catholic. I have attended and joined nearly every denomination that exists in my search for God. This five days helped me see where He is.

He is within us.

I was shown my quarters and invited to attend any or all of the monastic service or prayers. They begin at 3:00 a.m. which required rising at 2:30. I wanted the whole experience.

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The services followed an order of worship, psalms, an illumination on the readings. At 7:00 a.m. they were completed for the day, until vespers and compline in evening, 6 p.m.

Thus the whole day stretched out before me.

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I guess I had never before been completely, utterly alone. At this time I had no cell phone. There was no television, no radio at the Abbey. There was an order of silence on the grounds except for the services or times of community (meals or, for the residents, the workday). There were books and a wonderful library. There were gardens and a historic Civil War-era cemetery. So I began exploring. But I began to feel and know the impact of being in a place where God was the singular focus of life. And it hurt. I was appalled, shamed, humiliated, and, at moments, terrified. There, I was, by self-imposition held against the perfect One. In the light of His focus (inescapable) and His love I squirmed. I cried. I pleaded. I begged Him to not see me. And finally, spent, I stopped fighting. I released my fears, my selfness. I began to listen. In His complete love that exists for each of us I heard His gentle coaxing and came near. I think for the first time I realized I could come near.

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I have been back to the Abbey many times. Each visit is like going home because the reason I go there refocuses my mind, resets my heart. I find clarity. These stressful days where we are asked to voluntarily close ourselves away are not difficult for me. But I hear comments from others of boredom, anxiety. It is hard being alone with yourself, until you know, beyond who you are, Whose you are.

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At least, that’s how it was for me.
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worry

I know, worry helps no one and nothing.

Two or three weeks ago when this virus started making headlines I texted my son, who occasionally travels for his work, did he have any travel plans?

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He called immediately. “Yes,” he said. Plans to visit friends and his girlfriends’ family in Germany.

No, they wouldn’t postpone it.

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So they left last Wednesday. An hour after their flight took off there were many changes. No international flights from Asia or the European Union. I began to perspire a bit.

Then a little clarification. US citizens would be permitted to enter (but for how much longer I wondered?) So I texted him what information I had and tried to sleep.

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I heard little to nothing from him Thursday. He could not get the airline website for poor WiFi or overburdened site or both. Could not get a call through. I told him what I knew, limited flights from Europe.

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When the UK was added to the list apparently he began to work at returning sooner in earnest. He texted today saying they are returning to Frankfurt with tentative seats on a morning return flight home. Thanking God he made this choice. Not sure he’d have a job to come back to if he missed a window of return and had to wait out the 30-day hiatus. I will be so grateful when I hear his voice and Houston traffic in the background.

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Rescue dogs Lulu and Lily are way better at waiting than I am.

 

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context

Not long before I (temporarily) returned to my parents’ home after divorce my father was on a 5-foot ladder changing a burned out bulb in the lamp on the front walk to their house. My mother said she happened to pass by the dining room window and glanced outside in time to see him begin to lose balance, topple and fall onto the hard sidewalk. My mother said it was a terrible, helpless feeling. There was nothing she could do to stop the fall, so she watched as he fell, “just like a tree falling,” she said.

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One broken shoulder later Dad nursed his arm (in a sling, they could not actually cast a shoulder break) and happily welcomed me back into the fold because the entire production staff  of his small newspaper business had walked out a week before. It must be said that progeny in a small family business are not always treated well. Be that as it may I learned valuable lessons from my father, intentionally or not, about teamwork, managing stress, learning to maximize potential, manage time, and humility.

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However short-lived my tenure was with Dad’s company, I have been able to apply what I learned in many ways since, though for a long time I tried not to, feeling it would be disloyal to use it elsewhere. I realized these were life lessons and if not used I would be nothing more than inert.

Some of it is effective in survival, looking out for others and bolstering the environment with no reflection on myself. But this virus? Totally out of control. People have lost a sense of perspective over this thing.  Yes there are inconveniences. If one chose to travel someplace after the disclosure of this illness there are consequences due to normal precautions regardless of whether you think a cruise or trip out of your country would be harmless. There are other persons, no one knows where from so please keep your wits about you if you test positive for this virus about which no one knows much and have to be quarantined.

Then there are the efforts to stock provisions in the unlikely event you will be stuck at home

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Our local hospital announced it would be preparing for this virus. Sensible. Everyone should. This was even before the one case of the virus surfaced in north-central NC because for some unknown reason an individual traveled to the same retirement home in Washington state where a few people have died from this. But panic? Doesn’t help.

How is it we have lost our collective sense of humor? Is death that terrifying? Or illness? There are many things that were never hard to find, now even amazon is price-gouging. $14 (in some cases, more) for an 8-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

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At least we can still find dog cookies. And toys.

And toilet paper.

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Lent

About 10 years ago I started taking this season seriously. I have way too much baggage in my past to believe I get to skate in any aspect of my life. I did not grow up in a family that lavished luxuries on either my brother or myself. Whatever I had I had to earn. We always had more than enough. But I remember a Christmas when my mother asked my brother and me if we would welcome an orphan for that day. I did not want that. So neither did my brother. I wish my mother had sat down and tried to help us understand what opening our hearts would have meant. I remember the pain in her eyes.

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Over the years I came to understand this season. Not quite as well marked as Christmas with so much hype. There are no Easter “carols”, no beautiful trees or decorated houses, no candles lit as Advent. I only recently discovered boxed Easter cards. Anyway, where Advent is a time of excited anticipation, Lent is a time for examination. Mourning in a way of the things we did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say and a time to shed what we were for more of who we could be. Or something. So people give up sacrificially to get closer to the person we’ve buried or hidden from ourselves. I decided those many years ago to stop watching television. I never believed I’d make it the whole 46 (yes. 46 because ‘they’ don’t count Sundays) days, but I did. Each year it’s gotten easier, even a few years ago when I became so addicted to schmaltzy Hallmark movies.

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In fact this year it seemed so easy I felt like I was cheating so I looked at what others do. Give up coffee. At a fellow blogger’s suggestion I tried that last Advent. It isn’t as easy as you’d think! One year when my son was in high school we divided Psalm 119 into doable segments and read through it during the season. I realized many well-known verses are from this psalm alone, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” for one.

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Other suggestions were to add something. Pray through the psalms. To pray for one specific thing each day during the time. Another was to give up sarcasm. Another, be more mindful. For an impulsive person like me this would certainly be a challenge.

In everything I do I hope to shed some old me that is worn, fearful, outdated. Then, when Easter Sunday comes I am more me. He knows what I mean.

 

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