quarantine

Groan Tubes

Remember? About twelve inches long, cylindrical, brightly colored. You’d find them on the shelves in toy shops and as prizes when playing carnival games. I remember exchanging tickets for the annoying noise makers later left behind in back seats.

 

I relate to the little weight, pulled down into a groan by gravity.

The rollercoaster of pandemic emotions pulls me down from the crest, and as I descend down the tracks, I realized I’ve forgotten to raise my hands. We aren’t screaming in excitement.

It takes more energy and focus to live in joy right now. I have to be intentional in saying yes to following what I want to safely participate in.

On Saturday, our Colorado blue skies were peppered with plumes of smoke from the forest fires near by. I woke early, determined to follow through on a reservation I made to go pick strawberries at a local farm.

Standing out in a field, far from others, I picked ripening berries, and snipped stems to fill my bucket with sweet smelling fruit.

“This is so fun!” I said to Dylan, realizing it was the first time we’d been around others for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

An outdoor activity had turned my tube upside down, groans going up into smiles. We came home and I arranged flowers and popped fresh fruit right into my mouth.

We’ve kept our windows shut this week. Smoke is heavy and the AC is on, and fresh air is tainted with the knowledge that the mountains I grew up in are burning.

I woke this morning – sadness touching my heart with soft fingertips. It’s my husband’s birthday. We don’t have plans. I’m trying to prepare a special dinner and I know, another meal, just the two of us, will unfold without much to say because we only interact with each other.

The weight slides back down.

I have to honor the tender spaces created by the wishing what is, isn’t.

Tonight, we’ll make cannoli and watch a favorite show. We’ll celebrate another year here on earth and toast to what’s next. And we’ll miss those who aren’t around the table. We’ll keep the windows closed.

We’re taking things moment by moment here.

Honoring the missing. Wondering and waiting and remembering that at some point, we’ve got to tilt the silly stick back, right side up. Perhaps that’s a beautiful thing.


If you believe in the pursuit of beautiful things, have ever come back from a set back in life, or hold firmly to the belief that we can all be kind to one another, invest in this on-going project.

If you like what you’ve read, please share the piece with a friend.

This is it.

I was doing my best to stay back from the people in front of me as my face covering kept slipping. My efforts to create the six-feet distance seemed silly as others swarmed around me in the busy store. Like a salmon unsure of how to swim upstream, I tentatively wrapped my little fins around me wondering if this big ol’ river was safe. As I followed my husband through the aisles, I looked ahead and watched a man pause.

As he stood still, I did too, waiting to move forward as I kept my space.

This man removed his mask, sneezed, and then put the face covering back on.

I was furious.

“You wear the mask to stop the sneeze!” I thought to myself “Ohhhhh my Gosh!”

I wanted to pull my hair, to yell at him, to shriek what the heck he was missing! I felt my muscles tense and my annoyance rise. I’ve never hated being around people more. 

I stood still longer, silently praying thanks for my own face mask and wondering how long it takes for germs to disperse before I walked through his invisible, fearful cloud of possible germs. 

I continued forward and was uncomfortable for the next twenty minutes we spent in Home Depot. Get in, get our supplies, get out.

I know I can’t be the only one worried in public places and at the same time, by the looks of things, there are thousands of people not worrying as much as me.

Our neighbors are gathering and stores are busy and friends are posting pictures of time spent on the lake. I’m still sitting, writing from my couch, wondering what dials will have to turn for me to feel safe again out in the world. I miss my mom and want a hug and wonder when my brother will be able to go back to work. This isn’t fun.

We drove back home and washed our hands and wiped down the cans of paint we purchased with off-brand, lemon-scented cleaner because Clorox wipes are still nowhere to be found.

Later in the evening, I turned on an old favorite movie, About Time. The main character Tim has the gift of being able to travel back in time and can re-live any day he chooses. There are consequences of the re-dos but mostly, his gift gives him the ability to live less anxiously, be more present, and delight in the extraordinary ordinary things around him. The things we worry about are easier to face if we know the outcomes don’t cause us pain.

I kept thinking while watching the movie, if I went back to today two weeks from now and stood in that same concrete, box store would I be kinder to the man who sneezed if I knew I wasn’t infected. I would have gone down a different aisle. I would have pulled Dylan closer and slowed my breathing. Or would I have chosen to avoid that store all together?

What would I do differently if I knew now what I’ll know in two weeks? The exercise is exhausting, isn’t it?

Here’s what I know now.

This is it.

We don’t get a do over. I don’t get to go back.

I may have to spend much of my thirty second year in my house, wondering, waiting, worrying.

When they say it is safe again, I’ll wander out and get emotional about sitting in a public park and plan vacations and toast champagne at weddings and still, new anxieties will present themselves. The world will give me something else to be scared of.

Moving through things doesn’t erase fears – the process of arriving on the other side means I’ll place my anxious claws into something else. Worrying and wondering just wastes my time today.

This is it.

How can I live differently here in these pandemic days while I wait?

I asked my friend to pray for me – may I have compassion for the people who aren’t taking this as seriously as I am. Compassion for myself and my family. May I be at peace. May I use my creative energy to invest in the things I love to do, even while home. May I honor the outbursts and fits and tears coming from the stress of this global melt down.

Our world is changed and my little world, here on the big blue couch with the sun streaming in, still offers a chance for peace. I may be missing out, but this won’t be forever.

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The sun is up. The garden is being watered. The coffee is hot. Books begging to be read beckon. I’m breathing.

This is my life, here and now.

As Tim says, “We’re all traveling through time together every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”

What a beautiful thing.

Because of you.

Yesterday I woke and wept. Just a little bit. I miss him.

I made his favorite coffee and shuffled down the five steps into my ground level office to work. I wondered if others would think of him and tried to remember the way he started his birthdays.

Quiet. Like most mornings.

So I started that way too.

Through out the day these acts of kindness buzzed into my phone and I’m forever grateful for the people who did something kind in remembrance of Roy. There’s still time.

Because of you, the following energy and acts of goodness entered the world.

#1. A donation was made in his name to the Rhett Syndrome Foundation

#2. A neighbor was brought fresh scones

#3. Another family was given hand-me down clothes

#4. A woman left a Starbucks gift card on a car parked in spot # 63

#5. A friend received potted flowers in a homemade arrangement

#6. A friend who just lost his dad to COVID received zucchini muffins and a listening ear

#7. Two kids were read to online

#8. A teacher stayed online just a bit longer because she could tell he needed to chat

#9. A friend was gifted a t-shirt

#10. Coffee and doughnuts were delivered to two Bay area hospitals. Special request for Pikes Place

#11. Cheerios and bagels were brought to the Food Bank in Milliken

#12. A neighbor’s sprinkler was fixed

#13. A brother brought the Corvette into the garage

#14. A friend downloaded and made pretty an online planner for a surprise gift

#15. Cupcakes were brought to a boyfriend’s best friend’s wife

#16. Fresh cookies were given to the delivery guy

#17. A friend gave out snacks and water to a homeless person

#18. Cookies were dropped on an aunt’s porch

Thank you for helping me remember. Thank you for being kind. If you feel inspired, keep up the random acts of kindness and send them my way.

Day 51 – 52 Good Things

So close to 52. I didn’t think we’d get here and I’m rather surprised the amount of energy it takes to make a mental list of good things still surrounding us. But I continue searching and invite you to join me as we stay home and stay safe.

I’m called again, in whispers, to remember the choices we make when things seem the bleakest are opportunities for our wondering souls. What we focus on, while not ignoring painful realities, makes or breaks our spirits.

In conversations with friends and co-workers and texts and Instagram conversations, I’m reminded to look for the good.

181. Seeds for plant starts

182. Fingernails covered in dirt

183. An evening breeze through an open window

184. Aleve for back pain

185. Grocery delivery

185. Peanut M&Ms

186. Cacio e Pepe

187. Signs of support (contributed by Christine C)

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188. WhatsApp

189. Letters to children read via Instagram

What good and beautiful things are you seeing in your life these days? Please send them to me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com

 

Blursday Favorites

Recently, someone I love received a meeting request for time on Blursday at 2 pm.

Blursday. That about nails it.

I’ve been here 46 days now and in the blur, forgot to share a few of my favorite things. Here are some items getting our tiny family through quarantine.


Artisan Sourdough Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Delicious Handcrafted Bread

Yoga with Adrienne videos using this mat and this bolster

Starbucks Pike Place Coffee with Vanilla Torani syrup– they also do instant if you are into the whipped coffee craze

Health supplements including Tumeric, Zinc, Echinacea Sleepytime Tea, and Power Adapt for my anxiety

We’ve attempted to play Scategories and Catch Phrase online with friends

I’m late to the Schitt’s Creek party, but it’s hilarious and I now want to buy this mug. While Stevie is my favorite character, David is close behind. These stickers are fun.

My at home desk now has these pens, this notebook (pages come pre-numbered!), and I’ve been using this light to fight the basement blues.

I’ve also read the following books:

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

In Pieces by Sally Field

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Turtles All the Way Down by John Greene

The Year of Living Danishly:Uncovering the Secrests of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

This new song by Jason Mraz says it all:

What are you relying on for fun, sustenance, and comfort these days?

PS – don’t forget, there’s a virtual writing session tonight and you still have time to sign up.

Day 44 – 52 Good Things

Still here. Still counting good things.

What’s good and beautiful in your life right now? What are you thankful for? My list continues here.

171. Sourdough cheese crackers

172. Clean sheets

173. Being vulnerable

174. Canned soup

175. Waiting for lilacs

176. Choosing how we want to “commute” to work

177. Orange nail polish

178. Hair ribbons

179. Plush carpet

180. Virtual Writing Workshops – there are still spots available for the Thursday evening session. Will I see you there?

What good and beautiful things are you seeing in your life these days? Please send them to me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com

Day 40 – 52 Good Things

Quarantine has roots of the 40 days it takes for plague to pass. I’m at day 40. I know we will be here longer and that’s ok. I want people to be safe. Stay home. Still. Please.

Here are a few good and beautiful things from my week. Let’s keep counting.

160. Attempts at making powdered sugar – fine dust coating counters

161. Chocolate buttercream

162. Leslie Knope is coming back

163. Birthday celebrations from curbs with cupcakes

164. We sent FatHeads of ourselves to my in-laws. This is making me laugh EVERY TIME I see our picture.

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165. Time to write

166. Sharing eggs

167. Dinner prayers

168. Flowers blooming

169. Still sourdough

170. Virtual Writing Workshops – there are still spots available for tomorrow’s session. Will I see you there?

 

Day 31 – 52 Good Things

I’m back. My spirits are lifted a bit and I’m encouraged by the neat things people are still doing. Yesterday I was sad. Today, I asked a friend to pray for me as I stood in line to get into the grocery store. And then, I snapped out of it when sitting waiting for a Zoom meeting I heard something familiar.

136. Children laughing in the backyard next to ours

There are still good things. I needed to remember to look. Maybe you do too right now. We’re still here. We can still breathe deep and tell people we’re loved.

Here are a few more.

137. Cocoa puffs and cereal milk

138. Second City is hosting free improv shows 

139. Pink tulips in vases of fresh water

140. Belly laughs

What good and beautiful things are you seeing in your life these days? Please send them to me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com

 

Bread of Life

“You and everyone else,” she said through her little square box framing her face on the Zoom call.

“It’s delicious. I have plenty of time to practice the craft.” I said to my friend from college through the computer connecting us.

On Sunday last, I spent an hour talking to six women who walked through college with me. We haven’t connected as a group in four years. A pandemic brought us together as schedules opened and boredom crept in. From screens on kitchen tables in Denver, in Brooklyn, and in Spokane, we spent an hour catching up during the oddest life pause we’ve experienced.

She was making fun of me and the seemingly thousands of others in quarantine who have discovered the joy of making homemade bread kitchens world wide.

Starting bread is simple. Flour, water, salt. Cover in dampness and let the air do its magic.

Mix.

Let it breathe.

Add heat and watch it crisp and bubble and morph into sustenance.

Three weeks ago, I was given a jar of white goo from a friend who had kept her starter alive for decades. The building block has grown and multiplied over the years and by miracles of community and connection, parts of the original landed on my doorstep in small glass mason jar.

In my dark kitchen on an unremarkable week night, I pressed connect to launch another video call. My mom walked me through the steps to make a scraggily dough. I called again after the overnight rise for guidance on amounts of flour, moisture, and time required to make something edible.

I’ve followed the steps on my own four times now. Bread is in the oven as I type.

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This week, a friend received another jar of the same white goo from the same legendary start. On another unremarkable week night, she called me via video chat to walk through the same steps my mom taught me just days prior.

The dough, and the love, are multiplying.

My friend sent pictures of her process. My incorrect direction to add extra flour caused her mason jar to overflow. Excess bubbled over and marking her counters with sticky residue.

In my small community, we’ve been texting recipes and getting on video calls and cheering from our kitchens far away.

This bread is connecting people.


Last night, Jesus ate the Last Supper of bread and wine.

Flour. Salt. Water. Grapes.

Simple ingredients connecting us through history.

They tell me Jesus is the Bread of Life.

While I slept and my dough rose, Jesus knew what was coming. Prophecies of betrayal and sacrifice and death led us here to Good Friday. Things we fear and want to avoid came to fruition.

From my home, I’ll sit down and watch a church service online. Maybe dim the lights to get the theatrical effect mega-churches seem to have mastered so well over the years.

“It is finished,” he’ll scream this afternoon and I’ll break my bread in remembrance of Him. I’ll sip my wine and feel the tannins gloss my throat as I swallow down the pain.

We must wait three days until everything changes.

Things feel finished. I feel sad and broken and scared for the ones I love. I know this is going to take more than three days to resolve.

And yet, what is finished in death rises on Sunday.  Even in quarantine.

I can’t help but thinking there’s something to this powerful resurgence of sourdough.

Dough rises. It’s connecting us.

This mix of simple things give rise to something powerful. New life with a crusty chew.

Beautiful things.

 

Day 13 & 14 – 52 Good Things

I skipped yesterday so here we are – day 14.

How did today go for you?

Here are a few more good things – even still.

87. People taking the llamas for a walk (submitted by Cathy H)

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88. Homemade hamburger buns

89. Bike rides

90. Cutting up old t-shirts for crafts

91. Cubes of ice dancing in gin

92. Recipes on the internet

93. Support from family members

94. A full bottle of ketchup

95. Sleeping in

What simple, beautiful things did you encounter? Let’s keep this list going for as long as we need to.

As a reminder, send me a note with the good in your world at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com or a DM on Instagram. Keep em’ comin.