Friday, March 27, 2020

Spring in The Time of Covid

The weather forecast was for 843 consecutive days of rain ahead, so Wednesday after work, I zipped down to Kits Beach to watch the sun set. Also? To look for signs of Spring in the form of Cherry Blossoms.

After a few hours, I sat on a secluded bench, looking out of the water, not licking anything, and called a friend who was have a bit of an anxiety attack.

This was my peaceful view as we talked.

Unexpectedly to me, but as if on cue, the peace was shattered with honking and yelling and cheering and boat blasts and whistles and it started on the beach over there, went clear across the water, and continued on the streets and balconies over there...

It was crazy and cool and fun and joyous and lifegiving and wonderful.
Me: It's goin nuts down here. SO much noise!
Her: It's 7 pm. Everyone's cheering for the health care workers!
Me: You should hear it. It's awesome.

It was such a happy sound.

Kate, Emma and Joey? (My future great grandchildren)

There will always be beautiful sounds in the midst of a world gone crazy.
And this Spring? Of 2020? Everything feels 'off' on earth right now.
Slowly, more and more countries are locking down their citizens (telling everyone to stay home) in order to stop the spread of the virus. Scientists and doctors predict massive numbers of deaths, world wide. Large portion of the population are out of work, the economy is crashing, fear and anxiety appear to be the top two emotions with raging anger a close third.

And yet.

And yet.

At 7 pm, every night, people stop what they're doing to cheer on the health - workers to show appreciation. And it's a beautiful thing.

Another breathtaking thing?
Besides the upcoming sunset pics?

Is the way people are coming together to help each other out.
I've had a close up look at how generous and willing people are, and it makes my heart sing and my elbows tingle.

I had volunteered to supply a hot evening meal on the 4th Saturday of the month for the homeless in Abbotsford. We were to prepare for 60 for this upcoming Saturday (some weeks it's as high as 80). The organization that works with the homeless is 5 and 2, so they'll do the actual serving.

I asked a few friends to help, because I am good at sending out emails. Less good at cooking. Maxine jumped on board to cook the main dish (she decided on Shepherd's Pie) and Marj, Heather, Maureen, Anne and Danica are all baking cookies for the dessert. (And who THANKED ME for the opportunity to help.) My job is to get bottled water for everyone, 5 dozen buns and a million pounds of ground beef during a time when everyone is being limited to 2 packages of meat per person.

I wasn't worried, I figured we'd get that meat one way or another.
God loves those homeless folks. He knows each of them by name. I was pretty sure He liked the idea of them getting one of Maxine's home-cooked meals.

First thing this morning I got a call. And another one. And a few anxious texts.

Her: We're not going to be able to get the beef.

Me: None?

Her: I called around this morning, no one will sell more than 5 pounds. My family will not let me drive to 8 different stores to get 8 packages of meat. It's not safe.

Me: Ok. Leave it with me.

Her: You shouldn't be going into 8 different grocery stores either. You're gonna catch it. Or infect someone.

Me: I've got to get back to work. I'll think about this at noon. There's always a Plan B. (I'm a project manager. This is what I do all the live long day.)

Her: But what are you going to DO?

Me: Pray about it, then leave it for now. I'll call you later. Don't worry. I'll have 40 pounds of ground beef at your front door on Friday night at 6.

Her: It can't be frozen.

Me: Gotcha.

Her: What are we going to serve it in?

Me: I'll figure that out later. Maybe go to Costco to see if they have something...

I worked all morning, then got some real clothes on, and make up, and drove up to my local grocery store. As I sat in the parking lot I went through my Rolodex of Friends in my mind. Who was a beef farmer? I could think of turkey farmer friends, chicken farmer friends, friends who could supply me with eggs, but I didn't think I knew anyone who might have half a cow in their freezer.

I walked into the store, went straight to the back to see how much hamburger meat they had in stock. There appeared to be lots. The refrigerated shelves were full.

"If only I could convince them that I wasn't intending on hoarding a bulk purchase for personal use..." I said to myself.

And then.

And then it occurred to me. They might not believe ME, but they WOULD believe their Director of Human Resources.

Me, texting the Director of Human Resources for this grocery chain: Heyyyyy. Any chance you could get approval for me to bulk buy some ground beef to feed the homeless? I need it for tomorrow.

Her: Gimme an hour.

Insert Jeopardy music here.

Her: There will be 40 pounds of freshly ground beef set aside for you tomorrow afternoon.

Me: I love you.

Her: What are you making? How will it be served?

(We're all hyper sensitive about staying 6 feet away from all human life forms.)

Me: Shepherd's Pie. I'm going to go to a dollar store to see if they have some sort of individual containers that we can put a scoop of pie, a bun, and a cookie on top, into.

Her: I have 120 large (900ml) yogurt containers with lids. Will they do?

Me: I have the best friends in the whole entire world. Yes. I think they'd be perfect.

Her: We'll sanitize them tonight, package them up, and leave them outside our front door for you.

Me: You are amazing.

So, Emma, Kate and Joey - the morals of the story are:

1. Don't freak out when the world is falling apart. The One who holds it all together is doing His job.

2. Don't be afraid to do things that are outside of your comfort zone (like making a meal for 60 -80 strangers and feed it to them outside, in a park, on a rainy day). It might be outside YOUR comfort zone, but your friends are itching to do the things they're passionate about, so for them, it'll be NO BIG DEAL.

3. Make lots of friends. Support them. And just watch them support you. It's the Best Feeling In The World to know your back is covered. I hope that someday, when you're sitting in a mostly empty parking lot, sifting through your CONTACT LIST in your mind, you'll feel rich because of the people in your life.

4. Pray about it. Then just watch God at work. It is so fun.

Three things I'm thankful for:

1. My team at work. SUCH talented, thoughtful, inspiring people. I set up a new conversation thread for just the Creatives and asked, "Please share the unexpected blessings/surprisingly good things that you've experienced or witnessed this month."
And all day long, as ideas came to mind, they posted Good Things.

DO you know what that feels like? To get notifications, ALL DAY LONG about the Good Things that are happening right now? Social media and the news media fill our feeds with crap stories about hoarding, or people not distancing, or businesses making money during this crisis or government leaders who're not making wise decisions ... SO much toxicity out there.

But in my little work bubble, all I read was positive, uplifting, fun, appreciative stories.

Really. It doesn't get better than this.

2. I am proud to work for an organization that prioritized our safety during this season. But also our comfort.
Earlier this week, Emily asked if there was anything still in the building that we wish we'd brought home.

I thought, seeing I sit 8 - 12 hours a day in front of my computer, it'd be nice to have my office chair (instead of the kitchen chair I've been using.) Amy came to the same conclusion for herself as well.

So Joyce, who still works in a corner of the building, wheeled them down to the underground parking garage, and using physical-distancing guidelines, put them in separate stalls, for us to pick up.

They look like they've been naughty chairs, sent to the basement for a time out to think about their actions.

3. I am thankful for a healthy body, a fridge full of food, a job to keep my mind busy, a hill to walk up everyday, kids who mostly respond when I ask how they're doing, friends who keep in touch, noise cancelling ear buds that work like a charm, and a confidence in The One who Made It All that gives me peace.

4. I appreciate articles like this one, by Bill Gates. And this one which names the heavy feeling we're all feeling. They're both easy to read and well written. I'd recommend you take a few minutes.

Also? Thankful for random people on the beach having photo shoots done.

Or random girls, practicing social-isolation, next to empty volleyball net posts:

And three old guys, each claiming their own personal space/palm tree, hanging out together, 6 feet apart, sharing conspiracy theories about Covid...

Be safe, friends,

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

New Normal

We are living through a global historical event.
And, as is typical for me, I think I should record my version of it. (For my great grandkids, Kate, Emma, and Joey, who might be interested fifty years from now...)

For me, there was such a gentle transition between cancer and COVID-19, that I didn't get overwhelmed with fear or panic. It just slipped into my life at the tail end of my other crisis that it just seemed like an extension of my season of Jane Not Being In Charge.

It, (The Coronavirus Crisis) began in late December/early January in China while I was wrapped up in my own little world, so it didn't impact me. (Kate, Emma, Joey? I was having daily radiation appointments for breast cancer.)

February was all about detoxing from a prescription drug that had messed with my body and brain because of incorrect dosage issues and recovering from the impact of those cancer treatments. I went back to work, very part time, at the end of the month, while taking many naps, going to the gym and planning our Europe Adventure in my spare time.

On March 1 I bought the last of our flight tickets; return from Rome to Vancouver.
THAT was how confident I was that the Coronavirus would be cleared up by May. Our Europe trip was to begin on May 1, which was when the five of us would fly to Paris, France. We'd celebrate Dani's birthday there, then take a bullet train to Cologne, Germany to spend a couple days with my cousins before flying to Milan, Italy.

The Italian portion of our trip included 3-day stops in Tuscany (for cooking lessons) then on to the Amalfi Coast (for rugged natural beauty) finishing up in Rome (for history and culture). The boys were going to fly home from there, while Dani and I were going to zip over to Santarini, Greece, for a week of Mama Mia-ing it. We'd fly home on May 24.

I wanted this trip to happen VERY VERY badly.
More than anything, I needed to spend some time with my kids. To be honest, it didn't matter where we went, I just wanted some extended time together. By March 1, I'd seen them exactly once since Christmas.

On March 2 I was back at work, fulltime. Eight hours a day, five days a week. I cut back on my usual evening activities because I was Just So Tired. The messages we were getting from the media was to wash our hands repeatedly throughout the day, for at least 20 seconds each time. Selling out in the stores were hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

On March 5? Our family chat took a turn sideways and we went from planning our trip, to talking about the conditions in Italy. (Lockdown in northern cities...) While I was trying to get us to consider Plan B's, Drew was insistent that we not travel anywhere for a year. (I was considering postponing til September). Clint was keeping us informed by posting news articles about Europe. There was a report card that kept track of #of cases, #of deaths, #of recoveries. We were watching the score cards like it was an Olympic event.

On March 8? I made the decision. And cancelled all our accommodation reservations in Italy, with a sad heart. What a difference a week can make. I also realized that my trip was insignificant compared to what was happening in the world. So I allowed myself an hour to be pissy and annoyed, then got on board with praying for those most impacted.

On March 9? The government in Italy imposed a national quarantine. Italy was in 2nd place for worst country affected by the virus. And our family chat was about Clint's student travel experience business. And how the virus was negatively impacting it's future. And for me? Shit got real that day. This virus was going to mess with my family's ability to earn an income. We might not actually catch the virus, but it's long arms were reaching right into my family's finances.

On March 11, someone at work was exhibiting signs of having COVID-19, so we were told not to come into the office for the rest of the week. The building was going to be deep cleaned and sanitized. So I worked from "home" at the lake that Thursday and Friday. Max moved into his dad and step mom's place to look after his younger bro while Mark n Sherry were in Arizona.

On March 12, I bought $500 worth of groceries; getting everything I needed with no problems despite all the news reports about hoarding and empty shelves. Seems everyone in Sardis was behaving well. Toilet paper, for some reason, is a world-wide concern.

On March 13, I cancelled the rest of the accommodation reservations I'd made (Paris, Greece) and made peace with having a quieter May than planned. (I asked the kids to keep that first weekend in May open so we could get together, regardless. Maybe go to Whistler? Or Victoria? Anything, really, so we'd be together... (And then I prayed that when the time comes, West Jet will have waive all re-booking fees for May flights.) Yes, there's a world pandemic going on, and I've made this all about me.

On March 15, Max came down with a flu. Fever and body ache. He was going to quarantine himself at the lake as soon as I returned to Surrey.

On March 16, I was back in the office. And Clint was in his office, laying off all the staff that work for Global. Every news report, every medical update was about "flattening the curve" and social distancing. Countries around the world were taking drastic measures to keep citizens inside their homes. In BC, school were closed for the rest of the school year. Gatherings of more than 50 people were not allowed, so churches cancelled their services and programs. Parks and public spaces were closed. Restaurants and bars were only allowed to serve take out/pick up/ drive through customers.

On March 17, it was announced at my work that the office would be closing the following day. We'd all be equipped with laptops and monitors and the necessary software to enable us to work from home. Max was still feeling lousy at the lake, but his fever was gone. He'd called the COVID-19 hotline, explained his symptoms and was told he didn't have it. (Yay, thank you Jesus.) Guidelines regarding social distancing were the message of the day: stay 6 feet apart from everyone. That evening I walked through the neighbourhood with Heather, walking single file most of the time.

Despite the lovely weather, it felt 'off'. Not normal. Heavy-strange.
People were dying/suffering from an invisible enemy, and it was coming our way, and I didn't know what to do about it. Wasn't sure how to prepare. Didn't know why I wasn't petrified. The prayer requests/things I cared about most hadn't changed since August 1 when my world crashed a little bit. It's been one long season of not knowing anything. And on my mind and heart every minute are my kids.

On March 18, we all packed up our desks, cleaned our workspaces, said our goodbyes and see ya laters (not knowing if we'd be back in 2 weeks or 2 months) ... Announcements were made about more closures; the border between Canada and the USA was closed. And Trudeau told Canadians who were in foreign countries that it was time to come home. I met Amy in an empty parking lot a 9 pm to give her her laptop and desk supplies, had (what I assume will be my last) Sushi take out (for awhile, anyways), then went home and set up my office.

My personal laptop, "Sass" (and extra monitor) are on the left. My work laptop "Cor" (and extra monitor) are on the right. Behind me, on the pool table, is a mountain of papers that will get sorted.

The plant that used to be in my window at work (a Christmas gift from the Stapes a few years ago) (and lovingly cared for this past season by Anne) is now next to the kitchen sink:

I still have three boxes of print samples, file folders and quotes/invoices/ in my truck. I thought if I had a slow day, I'd sort through them all, and start the filing process. (Please, God. No slow days ahead.)

On March 19, the FIRST DAY OF SPRING (!), I rolled over in my bed, opened up Cor, (who was sleeping beside me) and just mere seconds before 9 am was ZOOMed in for devo's with the Pres. Eventually I made my way to my desk, and at 11 am was trying out our 8 x 8 instant messaging/video conferencing system.

We were like the Brady Bunch. I'm the one with huge hands, screen capping us. Definitely not my favorite way to communicate. But the practice was good.

As far as First Days of a New Work Situation, it went fine. I obvs was more worried about it than I thought because at 6 pm I sat the couch in my TV room and fell asleep in 2 seconds. I have no memory of laying down. I woke up at 9 pm having a mother of a hot flash. It was Dani's last day of work for awhile; her salon was closing.

Clint, in Vancouver, shared a pic of his End Of The World stew:

and Max posted a pic of the chicken he'd roasted:

The O's are eating well.
(Dani's been posting pics, too, of her meals, to Instastory. I didn't grab them before they disappeared.)

On March 20, which was a Friday, and my day started with devo's in bed, again, against all advice for Working From Home articles. I am not doing anything right, according to the experts. But. Really? I can't work from bed? I should put on SHOES? And make up? And do my hair? And wear work clothes? There is just no way. I am confident I can be professional wearing stretching pants. NO ONE IS GOING TO SEE ME.

I had an appointment with my radiologist this afternoon at the Cancer Clinic. She called me instead. Apparently the Radiology Department at the Hospital isn't a safe place for people. We talked for a few minutes and it turns out I'm fine. Haha. Once this is all over, I'm to get a doc to fondle my left boob. In the meantime, I'm to try to not grow any more lumps.

I worked for about 6 hours then took a break and followed Heather and her grands through the woods and to the pond on a scavenger hunt. I stayed 6 feet behind or 6 feet ahead of them, in order to capture their adventure with my camera. Those 45 minutes were life giving. It's been way too long since I did a fun photo shoot with happy people.

and they took (an obviously candid) one of me...

Jane of the Jungle. 
I am now bald on the right side of my head. 

I went back at my desk, worked til 5:30, and then IT WAS FRIDAY NIGHT! 

I had nothing to do. 

So I walked up to the freeway, wandered around the pond, checked out the sidewalk art, stopped to smell the daff's, then popped into Nestor's for a few groceries, before walking back to my mom's. 
Wild Friday night.
8,000 steps by 8 pm. 

Clint dropped in to give me something to block out the sounds in this house that I find distracting:

... and can I just say something?
About my oldest?
He thrives in chaos and mayhem.
He is calm, logical, informed and helpful.

He'd spent the day on the road, picking up things and dropping off things. For both family and friends.

He kept his distance; we were on the front porch, at opposite ends, and he placed the box on the railing, then stepped back as I stepped forward.

Him: Mom, after you've opened the box, throw it away and wash your hands real good.
Me: Uh huh.
Him: Serious. I picked this up from Best Buy. They only let a few customers in at a time, and I've washed my hands, but to be safe...
Me: OK, yes. I will wash my hands.

Basically he was telling me he loved me.

By the time I'd made myself some supper and had a shower it was after 10. Perfect time to start a new series.

It was a six part series.
I went to bed at 4 am.

On Saturday March 21 it was sunny. 12 degrees. So I put on shorts and a tank top and suntanned in a sliver of sunshine on the back deck. The trees were bare, the deck was void of flowers and pretty cushions. And my plastic chair had a huge crack in it.

Didn't matter.

Spain was fast becoming the 3rd worst country for COVID-19, Italy was a nightmarish mess, China was recovering, Trump was making a noise in Washington, and I was just so happy to see the sunshine. I am really not taking this too seriously. It STILL feels so far away.

At 5:30, I watched church online, then went for a walk.
This time? Over the Port Mann Bridge to watch the sunset.

The only other person on the walkway that evening:

At 10 pm, I settled in to watch another new series:

Which was only a 4 part series, so I was in bed by 2.

Sunday March 22 was overcast and cool. So I did laundry while the rest of the world was reporting increasing numbers of Coronavirus patients. Every politician and medical expert talked about "flattening the curve" because if everyone gets the virus at the same time, and equires medical assistance (ventilators etc), there would be a severe shortage, due to lack of resources. Italy's hospitals were completely overwhelmed and their death count was growing.

In BC, we were up to a couple hundred cases and a handful of deaths. Everyone who'd died lived in senior care homes, had underlying health issues and got the virus from a careworker who'd traveled.

I checked in with my kids. Everyone was fine, keeping busy and didn't need me.

So I went for another evening walk...


I had the sidewalk to myself. #socialdistancing done right.

Freeway was traffic-less:

But then.

Is this my new normal?

Work during the day.
Walk every evening.
Watch TV every night.
With healthy amounts of online conversations throughout the day.
And unhealthy amounts of scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the day, evening and night,

It feels very shallow.
So starting on Monday, I will try to add some depth/meaning to these days:

Someday, when Emma, Kate and Joey read about their great granny and The Great COVID-19 Crisis of 2020, I want to them to be proud of me. I want my kids to be proud of me. I want ME to be proud of ME.

And I want God to give me the thumbs up for how I spent my time. Or, like, hear him say, "Well done, you."

These are confusing days, staying away from people that you love is the way to express love.
And lonely.

Three things I'm thankful for:

1. I am not a young mom with a houseful of kids to entertain, educate, feed and keep safe.
2. For right now, I still have a job. I can do it from home. I am getting paid.
3. I am not afraid.

Hoping you are safe and healthy and calm and know that you are loved.