COVID chronicles: The need to know, and the need to do something

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Dear friends,

Hello!  How are you holding up?

I’m curious to know your level of news consumption during this pandemic.  Are you a person who has the news on all day?  (That’s me).  Do you check once a day?  Or are you trying to tune it out as much as possible?

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I’ve always been driven to face the worst.  I figure if I do, then I can start absorbing the blow, and I can’t be blindsided by outcomes. (I don’t do very well with reading mysteries … I get partway through, and then I just have to flip to the back to find out “who done it!”)

I suppose, deep down, it’s a control issue.

I’ve been sewing masks for the local hospital, and again, I think it’s a control thing, a way of feeling like I have some agency over what’s happening.  Keeping busy helps me avoid crossing the line into helplessness and despair.

Could there be a bright side to all of this?

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I believe so.  We have all been asked to put our lives on pause, and this gives us time to reflect on what’s most important to us, and to appreciate all that we have.  I realize how much I value my ordinary life, teaching my classes, interacting with my students.  I miss my church community.  I miss feeling carefree enough to run to the store without worry.

I hope we can all find something constructive to do during this difficult time – start a journal, learn to bake, deep clean the house (that’s on my list too).  We’re allowed to be frightened, too, to cry and to worry – but let’s do our best to keep ourselves and each other from crossing the line into a state of despair.

Storms always pass, and you will find the strength you need.

Blessings,

Annette

COVID chronicles: How are ya?

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Hello lovely friends,

In our Interpersonal Communication course, we talk about secondary meanings of certain words and phrases – such as the question, “How are you?”  In our culture, it’s a throwaway line, a form of saying hello.  When we say it, we are not inquiring after the other person’s physical, mental, or spiritual health.  We just say “How are ya, how’s it going?” and walk on by without even getting an answer.

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The past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed something interesting happening.

People are checking in on each other (mostly by mediated means).  We’re asking “How are you?” and we mean it.  We want to know.  Are you feeling well?  How is your family?  Is there anything you need?

In the discipline of Communication, we emphasize the interdependence of people, the ways in which we live in community with others.  If anything good comes out of this time, it will be a reminder to us all that yes, we are our brothers’ keepers.  We succeed and fail together.  We must look after “the least of these.”

I miss you, my friends.

Annette

COVID chronicles: Kidney surgery in the midst of all this other excitement

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Hello friends,

On Tuesday, I had a surgical procedure to remove a large and impacted kidney stone (some things won’t wait, even in the midst of a pandemic).

I’ll tell you about the process, but you might want to stop reading now if you’re squeamish.  It’s not too graphic, but still.

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Fortunately, this surgery didn’t involve cutting me open.  The surgeon passed a tube up through my urethra to the kidney, then lazered the kidney stone into pieces and removed the pieces through the tube.  So it’s gone, but there might be some little particles / shards left over that will have to pass through – and that might be uncomfortable.

The procedure itself was painless.  I was very nervous, but it really wasn’t bad.  I remember dozing off from the anesthetic, then waking up thinking I had just drifted off.  I asked the nurse, “Is it time to go into surgery?” and she answered “It’s over!  You’re done.”  I was surprised, and there was no pain.

I’m recovering really well.  I haven’t had to take many pain pills – I’d call it more “discomfort” than pain.  When I “use the restroom,” there’s a little discomfort, similar to a cramp, but otherwise I’m feeling fine.

I had heard stories from people who’ve had this procedure, and have told me how terrible it was for them.  Everyone’s experience is different, but I really had no problems.  The worst part was the kidney stone (it was 9 mm!) and now it’s gone.

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Going to the hospital in this time of COVID was a bit scary, but they were extremely careful.  There were people at every entrance door, screening those who came in.  Sanitation procedures were being followed carefully.  I did not feel I was at risk at any time.

Thanks to those who sent prayers.  Please keep praying as I’m recovering.

Fondly,

Annette

COVID chronicles: This is real life, and we can still do stuff

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Hello my lovelies,

Entering week 2 of this self-isolation thing.  It’s starting to get to me a little.  I miss people.

I’ve been thinking about something I often hear my students talk about, and I’m also hearing the phrase a lot on the news nowadays: the “real world,” or “real life.”  It’s the idea that these days are just an interlude, a pause, and one day we’ll get back to routine.

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When students talk about the “real world” as though it’s something that comes later, something that’s “out there,” I like to remind them that this is life, right now.  Today is a day in your life that you’ll never get back.  There’s a lot you can do, today, to develop your mind, body, and spirit.  You, and your one precious life, are not on pause.

I keep thinking about this as I hear news items about COVID, and the talking heads on television speak of this time as something to be endured, to be gotten through.  I see a lot of similar memes on social media.  While I understand that many of these are meant to be encouraging – “Just hang in there!” – I wonder if we’re missing out on precious opportunities to live our best lives.

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This is an uncomfortable time for many of us.  It’s also a unique opportunity to reflect, to slow down, to rest, to get to know ourselves in a way that we usually don’t have time for.  Have you always meant to start a journal?  Learn a new skill?  This might just be the time.

Sending special love to all of those who must continue working, and interacting with others, during this stressful time.  I see you, and I appreciate you.  Your sacrifices are not going unnoticed.

Have courage, my friends.  I am keeping you in my prayers.

Fondly,

Annette

COVID chronicles: What’s that sound?

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Hello friends!

Just another day in paradise ::snerk::  But really, thankful for all my blessings, including YOU.

Last night, I fell asleep in the recliner.  I had my phone in hand at the time.  Woke up this morning to the alarm going off from somewhere inside the chair.  Jumped off the chair (startling Winnie, who was in my lap) and frantically groped around for the ringing sound.  Had to extend the whole chair to find my phone in the depths.

So that happened.  I’m awake now.

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I am thinking of all of you, and miss seeing my students!  Please, everyone, stay in touch with friends and loved ones, and let me know how you are doing.  We can lift each other up.  This is just a season in our lives, and it will pass.

Fondly,

Annette

COVID chronicles: Introverts and Extroverts

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Hello friends!  The odyssey continues.  Hope you are looking after your physical and mental health.

During this period of seclusion, I’ve seen a lot of people posting on social media about introversion and extroversion.  The introverts are the most content, of course.  The extroverts are getting lonely, especially if they don’t live with others.

Back in the day when I took the Myers-Briggs, I was right on the line between introversion and extroversion – an ambivert.

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I can see both qualities in myself.  I enjoy my own company, and am content with being alone, but I also love interacting with others (in person … I’m not fond of talking on the phone).  Right now, though, the extrovert part of myself is starting to feel lonely.

I’m keeping in touch with family and friends, but I really miss the human contact.  I miss going to church in person, rather than via livestream.  I miss teaching my students in the classroom.  This might be easier if I lived with others, but I live on my own (well, there’s Winnie), so I’m feeling pretty isolated right now.

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^ With some of my high school friends

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?  How are you coping with this time of seclusion?  I hope you are well.  I’m thinking of you.

I’m about to have dinner – homemade chicken soup (comfort food for all occasions) and a piece of cornbread.  Life is good, and I’m one of the lucky ones.

Blessings,

Annette

COVID chronicles: Permission slips, Saturday times, and Switchbacks

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Hello my lovelies!  How are you?

First, a permission slip for you:

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I think it’s important to recognize our privilege, and realize that most of our difficulties are “first world problems” – YET – I believe we also need to give ourselves permission to feel what we feel.  You’re not “wrong” to feel sad, or frightened, or angry.  I’m not trying to jolly you out of it.  We are entitled to our feelings.

Don’t judge yourself right now, these are unprecedented times.  You’re going to learn new things about yourself (so am I).  All I ask is that you be kind and patient with yourself.

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We’re in the midst of Saturday times right now.  It’s a Christian metaphor, but accessible to everyone.  The crucifixion took place on a Friday, and the resurrection on Sunday.  In between there was Saturday, a time of confusion and uncertainty.  A time when everything you thought you knew was called into question.  A time when faith was tested at the most fundamental level.

Then Sunday dawned, and it was a new world.  In this new day, some questions were answered, and new ones were raised, and life would never be the same.

So it is for us.  When we emerge from these Saturday times, the world will be changed.  Saturday times are scary.  During interludes of uncertainty, like now, I try to remember this metaphor, and it helps me.

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This picture shows a series of “switchbacks” on a mountain hiking trail.  When the route is too steep to climb in a straight line, you must use a zigzag method to reach the summit.  On some mountains, you can’t see where the switchback leads, and your instinct is to cut across it – but if you do, you’ll end up in the weeds (literally).

Life has switchbacks, no?  It’s frustrating when we really want to charge ahead to the summit, but have to take a zigzag route.  Sometimes we have to trust the path, even when we don’t want to.

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(Pluto isn’t good at social distancing).

I’m thinking of you and wishing you all the good stuff!

Blessings,

Annette

 

COVID chronicles: Cake mix and miracles, being present, and everyday heroes

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Hello my beautiful peeps!

Another day of social separation, although I did go out earlier.  Stopped at the optical place on campus to drop off my eyeglass Rx and pick out some frames, so I can finally get new glasses made.  I’ve been spending so much time on the computer that these old ones just aren’t cutting it anymore – by the end of the day I have eye strain and watering.

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Tried on a bunch of fancy frames, colored ones, etc., but in the end I decided to go with this rather plain tortoiseshell.  Goes with everything, right?

Let me share something I learned about cake mix (sorry, can’t remember where or when, but trust me, it’s relevant).  Back when it first went on the market (early 20th century), most women were homemakers, and took pride in their baking.  “Just add water” mixes didn’t sell well, so manufacturers expanded the instructions, having the user add an egg and oil.  Powder versions of these ingredients could easily be included in the mix (and were/are still included in the “just add water” varieties), but manufacturers found that people wanted to feel like they were DOING something, that they were BAKING something, that they were MAKING something for their families.  So, having the user go to a little bit of bother was a payoff.

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When Pillsbury first started marketing mixes in India, they ran into a similar problem: the Indian housewife took pride in homemade baked goods.  Advertising made for the Indian market emphasized the love and care a mother had for her family, and how happy everyone was, eating these baked goods.

Miracles are kind of like this.  I believe that God is entirely capable of creating miracles on God’s own, but God involves us a little, working through us.  We become co-creators in those moments.  Consider the verses in John where Jesus restores the sight of a blind man.  He mixes some mud, smears it on the man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash it off.  When he does, he can see.

The man’s part in his own miracle was washing off the mud.  Was this whole mud exercise necessary?  No.  But I believe God gives us “something to do” in the realm of miracles.  Look, I’m not saying that God caused coronavirus, or is sending it to us as a plague, or anything like that.  But through this experience, I believe many of us will learn important lessons about living in community.  And that will be the miracle.

We have all been given something to do.  It’s up to each of us to figure out what that is.

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I’ve been pondering the idea of “being present.”  It’s really hard.  Many times in our lives, we just want an unpleasant experience to be over with.  I’m trying to remain in the moment, truly feel it, try to understand it, rather than wasting it wishing for something else.  It’s hard to be present in this current crisis, but we are strong enough.  Look inside.

One positive outcome: I think our culture is gaining a new appreciation for people who work in the service industry.  They are unsung heroes in our society; they keep our world going, and for very little pay.  I’m worried about those whose jobs are in jeopardy right now, and staying aware of my privilege in being able to work from home.  Check in on your friends and neighbors, and make sure they’re ok.  Maybe you can buy someone a bag of groceries.

Take courage, my friends, the rain always runs out and the sun rises again.

Blessings,

Annette

 

Desiderata

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Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

– Max Ehrmann

COVID chronicles: Online exams, fearlessness vs. courage, time to refocus, and narcolepsy in my cushy recliner

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Dear friends, family, students, and other loved ones,

Hello!  How are you hanging in there?  I’m here if you need to talk.

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“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
– Some food for thought from William James (1842-1910), one of the first Americans to champion the discipline of psychology.

My students are taking an exam right now, on our E-Learning system.  Took me quite a few hours to convert it, but now it’ll self-grade and those grades will go to the gradebook automatically, so there’s that.  Just took a peek, and the majority of them are doing well.

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Some of us are scared right now, and that’s ok.  You don’t have to be fearless.  In fact, I don’t WANT you to be fearless.  As I tell my students, as human beings we’re wired up for fear (anatomy lesson: there’s a little gland in your brain called the amygdala, and it’s the center of the “fight or flight” instinct).  Fear is necessary, it keeps us safe.  IT’S OK TO BE SCARED.

If you were fearless, you wouldn’t have a “danger filter,” and you’d run reckless.  We don’t want that.

Courage, on the other hand, means that you feel the fear, but carry on anyway.  You realize that your animal instincts are at work, and you take a more critical look at the situation.  You realize the odds are really in your favor, and if you are careful, you’re likely to be fine.  You also realize you have limited control over the situation, so you control what you can, and leave the rest to God / fate / the universe.

The lack of routine right now is disorienting, and I feel a bit bored and a bit frantic at the same time.  But I think this lack of normalcy is a good opportunity to reflect on what’s really important to us, because parts of our daily lives have been stripped away.  It takes courage to look inside ourselves and reevaluate life, but this may be a perfect time.  What really matters most to you?  What can you do differently in the future?

Every time I sit down in the recliner, I seem to nod off.  These past few days, I’m exhausted, which is strange, but I think it’s more mental than physical.  I often have to evict the furry one from the big chair, though.  She knows all the comfy places.

I miss you all!  One day, my classroom will be full again.

Be well,

Annette

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