Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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It’s hard to smile

This week it’s been hard for me to find something to smile about.

So many families with broken hearts this week.

The news was filled with awful things. The virus killing over 100,000 Americans. The protests and violence stemming from the death that reminds us of other similar deaths.

No, this week I didn’t feel much like smiling.

And then my silly girl wouldn’t sit pretty for a picture and I had to smile…just a little.

Reminding us to stop and smell the flowers.

Yes, this week I looked really hard for something to smile about.

Oh, all right mama. I’ll look at your silly camera. Sort of.

And I found it right here at home.

I hope I made you smile too!


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Remembering to breathe

I used the last onion 4 days ago, ate the last apple day before yesterday. We’d been out of bananas and garlic and salad fixings for a while. No fresh meat left in the fridge, we were reduced to eating packaged food out of the freezer last night.

Time to go to the grocery store.

Grocery shopping has never been my favorite thing to do, but on the list of household chores it used to be the least repugnant. Now it’s something out of a Twilight Zone episode.

Resenting having to be out so early, I turned into the store parking lot at 7:30 this morning, detailed list (organized into like store aisles for faster shopping), antiseptic wipes and mask piled next to me in the passenger seat.

Good. The parking lot was relatively empty.

I note two women going in, masks in place, hands covered in gloves, eyes covered in glasses. A man coming out is similarly dressed. I sigh and done my own attire.

Here’s something I’ve learned about myself: I feel claustrophobic wearing a nose and mouth mask. I start to breathe faster, my glasses fog up and then I feel like I can’t breathe. At home, practicing, I can only go a few minutes before I need to rip the mask off my face. Actually wearing one for an entire shopping expedition, especially since I’m trying to buy enough stuff for at least two weeks, will be an experiment.

I figure at worst I’ll run screaming out of the store, leaving my partially filled basket behind. I doubt I’d be the first.

Anyway.

The store wasn’t busy, everyone was going about their business, not looking at anyone else. I guess when you’re wearing a mask and glasses and gloves you’re somewhat anonymous. Apparently there’s no time for friendly when shopping these days. It’s all about survival now. In fact, as I looked down the aisles and noted that everyone there looked like a bank robber, I decided I didn’t feel very friendly either.

Fresh stuff is so welcome.

Shopping was a big adjustment for me. I hadn’t been out of the house in almost two weeks, except to walk the dog around the yard. To find myself in a store with a long and detailed list, surrounded by new signs including those designating one-way aisles was almost overwhelming.

I suddenly felt…well…elderly.

Wearing my glasses over the nose piece of the mask wasn’t comfortable, and they were no longer at the right distance from my eyes. Things were kind of blurry. Plus did I mention they fogged up if I breathed too fast? But not wearing them was worse because then everything was blurry, and I couldn’t even read my complicated list.

Time to just suck it up.

Grateful that I had segmented my list I moved as quickly as I could. I found most of what I needed, and I only had to circle around a few times when I encountered wrong way signs. Sometimes, to be honest, I ignored them.

There were fewer things out of stock than my last trip to the store, though there were still plenty of empty shelves. I didn’t go down the paper goods aisle, so I can’t tell you about the toilet paper inventory. I’ve heard there’s still a shortage.

In the end I forgot the eggplant (the produce was the most difficult for me because I was still adjusting to breathing and seeing at the same time), and I couldn’t find any baking soda or flour.

I’m chalking this trip up to a success.

Standing on the blue sign labeled “STAND HERE” at the checkout line I watched the man in front of me unload his overflowing cart. Mine looked the same, in fact it was so heavy it was hard to push. I looked like I was buying for a family of twelve.

A sea of groceries.

Two Hundred forty-eight dollars and eighteen cents later I escaped the store to the parking lot, ready to unload everything into the back of the car and get out of there. I took the mask off and breathed deep.

Everything is precious these days.

Twenty-eight degrees and sun felt wonderful.

I’ve never spent so much money at one time in the grocery store. Rarely in any other store for that matter! Lugging it into the kitchen was another adventure, but now it’s put away and I am safe, back in my cocoon of a home where I hope to stay for at least the next two weeks.

If this was a glimpse into our future I will be very sad. I hope someday to drop into the grocery store for a couple items like I once did. I look forward to smiling at other people, chatting over the produce, standing a bit to debate the merit of salmon over trout. I’d like the time to weigh the benefit of fresh versus frozen.

I dream of being able to go free-form and shop without a list.

But until then, I’ll shelter in place and reminisce about the good ole days when grocery shopping was just an inconvenience.

And when breathing was easier too.

Full


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Be careful what you wish for

Many mornings, during the 30+ years that I worked, I used to wish as I pulled out of the driveway that I could stay home. The few precious days when I was home on a weekday I’d watch the treetops become lit with rosy morning light, watch rectangles of sun slide across my living room floor, and think, “this is what happens every day while I’m at work.”

And I’d feel melancholy.

I’ve been retired for 5 years next month. The time has flown by and I haven’t always noticed when the light touches a branch or the tip of Katie’s nose as she sleeps. I’ve traveled a lot and missed plenty of light movement here at home.

And now we’re under the stay at home order, and suddenly staying at home has lost it’s luster. Maybe it’s because we’ve had mostly grey sky and rainy days here in Michigan. Maybe there hasn’t been that much light to admire.

When it’s not raining it’s snowing.

But I think it’s more than that, this sad feeling I feel deep inside. Yes, I enjoy being home, and feel guilty that I do, but there’s an underlying anxiety that picks away at me.

I haven’t been able to read a book since this started, I don’t have enough focus. I have started my current book five times because I can’t remember what I read the day before. I don’t know that I’ll try again.

Music helps, but I can only listen to short pieces all the way through. I am grateful for all the inspirational and fun pieces of music wandering the internet these days, and I’ve passed several on, but still the anxiety persists.

I thought maybe I was alone in the struggle between sad and happy, but I’ve been reading more and more blogs and articles from people that have similar feelings. Happy one day, anxious the next, lack of focus or direction. No motivation.

Just knowing I’m not alone is helpful as I watch today’s snow fall. I know things will get better. And Katie says that I shouldn’t forget I’ve still got her.

Yea, you’ve got me, mama. But could you wait till I’m done with my nap? Maybe more toward supper time.

That, and the sun shining after the snowfall, should make me feel better.

How about you? Are you happy to be home, or struggling that you’re there?


32 Comments

What was there to smile about this week?

It’s understandable if you felt like there wasn’t much to smile about this past week. Off and on these past few days I’ve been feeling pretty down too. After all, thousands of people are dying, and the rest of us, the lucky ones, are confined to our homes. Those less lucky still have to go out to work, risking their own lives and the lives of their families to do so.

No, there’s not a lot to smile about right now.

Still…I made it out to my favorite park before I realized it was too crowded to visit. And Katie-girl and I have explored our backyard and have come to a realization.

Spring waits for no virus.

So here’s a compilation of things that made me smile this week, both at the park and here in my very own yard.

I hope you were able to smile too. Stay safe everyone, and stay home.


37 Comments

Feeling guilty

I went out to my favorite park today. It was the first sunny day we’ve had in a long time, and the blue skies drew we outside. I felt like I’d be safe at the park, especially on the nature trails where I don’t usually see a lot of people during the week.

I miscalculated.

But before I get into that let me tell you about the most extraordinary thing that happened while I was in the woods. I had followed a popular trail half way around a lake. Every corner seemed to have more people and I wanted to find a quieter place in the trees, so I veered off onto an old, unmarked cross-country ski trail. I figured wherever it ended I’d recognize where I was and find my way back to the car. And no one else was walking that trail.

When I was quite far back into the woods, I noticed three red bellied woodpeckers screeching and chasing each other among the top of very tall trees. I stopped to watch. They stopped and watched me. In all my years visiting this park I’ve never had a red bellied come to my hand. Sometimes they’re interested, and they always take advantage of any seed I drop, but they’ve never landed on my hand.

Bet you can guess what happened today!

Yes, I was looking the other way, watching a chickadee decide whether to come in for a treat when I felt something with considerable weight land on my hand. I looked out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t believe what I saw. I had to really look, and I had plenty of time because he was sitting there eying me and considering which seed he wanted. He sat there and ate every single peanut out of my palm, leaving all the oilers, before he flew off.

I have no pictures because I had my long lens on the camera, too long to catch a shot of him sitting on my hand.

I refilled my hand and waited. I saw him, or one of his friends, come in for more treats from a long and high way off. He swooped down at what seemed to be breakneck speed, aiming directly for my hand, and landed with quite a bit of force. And once again we watched each other, eye to eye, as he swallowed down every peanut there.

He flew up on this tree after his snack.

Well! I decided if they were going to be this assertive I was changing my camera lens and grabbing a shot. But of course by the time I got the short lens on the camera they were long gone.

Still. It’s something I’ll never forget and I hope you can imagine.

Back to my miscalculation.

I figured the number of people at the park would be similar to most other weekdays that I’ve been there. But the parking lots were full. There were families with kids screaming and running everywhere. There were lots of individuals quietly walking too, but overwhelmingly there were groups of people tromping around the trails. It was noisy. It was crowded.

It felt like a Saturday, and then I realized that it might as well be a weekend day. Kids were no longer in school. People were off work. There will no longer be a difference between weekdays and weekends. I felt a small pang at the loss of my quiet weekday mornings at my favorite park.

And then I realized that none of us should have been there. That maybe we do need to close the parks. I know that people have been cooped up for a couple weeks, that kids are going crazy and need to expend some energy. But maybe that should be done in their own back yard.

And that’s where I’ll be staying into the foreseeable future.

Yesterday in the United States almost 1000 people died of the virus. The day before it was just over 900. When these kinds of numbers were being reported in Italy I couldn’t fathom the enormity. Now that enormity is here. Here in the states 5,713 people are dead, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So I realized, as I left my favorite park, that maybe I won’t be back any time soon. I will miss it. But it’s important that we all stay home. All of us. Stay home. That’s the only way we will get through this.

And on a lighter note, I had a successful grocery store venture this morning, though I spent twice what I would usually spend because I’m hoping not to go back for at least two weeks.

And look what I found!

Mama! I don’t know why you’re so excited about that…it’s not edible or anything.

But today’s post is not about the toilet paper…it’s about the realization that a stay-at-home order means just that. Stay at home. Don’t go to the park to walk. Walk around your neighborhood or your yard if your neighborhood is too busy. If your yard is too small then walk around your house. But stay away from everyone else.

It’s going to be hard. But we’re strong. We can do this.

We have to.

Time to clean up our act.


32 Comments

The toilet paper odyssey

Last night my husband came home from checking on family and told me that the family of 5 needed toilet paper. Dad is working more than full time and mom is a nurse and busy at the hospital. Three children are home from school all day.

So this morning I decided to be at the grocery store when it opened at 7, after all I had a couple things I could use as well. And I figured my only hope on a weekend morning of finding any toilet paper would be to look early in the day.

As I drove down the dark road at 6:45 I saw cars pulling out of driveways ahead of me. We all ended up in the grocery store parking lot at 7:01. I knew there was a problem when, while walking up to the store, three people walked out. Each of them had one item and one item only.

You guessed it. They each had one package of toilet paper.

I followed a crowd of people inside, grabbed a small cart, wiped it clean, and worked my way through produce where a store worker handed me a bag of potatoes over the huge boxes of produce she was unpacking. Luckily I didn’t need meat, as there was virtually nothing available. I picked up a loaf of bread and headed to the paper products.

And there a young man was trying to defend a pallet of toilet paper that he was pulling down the aisle. When I got there he had stopped trying to move it to the other end of the aisle where the empty toilet paper shelves waited. He stood in the center of the aisle passing out one package to each person, apologizing that he couldn’t give us more.

I waited in line to get my package, smiled sympathetically at him and headed to the checkout. I’m sure when he took the job at Kroger stocking shelves, he had no idea he’d be in a position where he’d have to ration toilet paper to crazed customers.

I thought I’d try to find one additional package, figuring that 12 rolls wouldn’t last a family of five very long. I pulled into Walgreens, noting the empty parking lot but not thinking about it. It was about 7:30. Walking up to the door I noted a handwritten sign that said their new hours were 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sigh.

Back in the car I headed across the street to a local grocery store. I was the second car in the parking lot. Smarter now, I looked their hours up on my phone before I ventured out into the cold. They opened at 8. Should I go somewhere else? Or stay there and wait the almost 30 minutes.

I waited. By 7:55 there were close to 30 cars in the lot, engines running, anxious people peering at the employees inside who were running around trying to get ready. At 7:58 we all exited our vehicles and lined up at the two doors.

Darn, they opened the other door first. When our door was opened we trotted in. I skipped the cart and went straight for paper products. There I found a crowd of people sorting through the few packages of toilet paper on the shelf. The guy ahead of me said he figured he’d take two, grabbed those and turned around to see me glaring at him. “I just need one” I said. He smiled and handed one of his over. I smiled back at him.

I think I was the first person back to the checkout lane, where an already weary cashier was waiting. “And so it starts,” I said. She smiled and rang me up. Triumphant, I walked back to the car, nodding to the people headed in. I know what they were thinking when they saw me leaving the store with one package.

At 8:03 I’m pretty sure there was no more toilet paper left on the shelf.

Score!

I hope all of you have enough of what you need. Stay home. Stay safe. It’s crazy out there.

Mama, I’m worried. Do you have enough dog food?


23 Comments

The written word

A runner friend of mine has an elderly friend who lives in an assisted living facility. She used to meet him regularly, not so long ago, for breakfast and conversation.

I went to a park one morning this week to see the sunrise.

Now she can’t do that and she’s worried about him being lonely during this scary time when he can’t get out and visit. So she posted a request on Facebook that some of her friends send him a note. And of course she has received many offers.

His mailbox should be overflowing any day now.

A lot of clouds and not much color, but still stunning.

But that, and other pieces I’ve seen on the news and online, has me thinking.

Some years ago one of you, I can’t remember who — maybe Robin or Katybeth or Kathy or Beth Ann — proposed we write letters to friends every day for a number of days, maybe 30, one letter to one friend each day.

Looking west, the hills waited to glow.

It was a way to reconnect or stay connected to people in our lives who maybe had drifted away. Maybe we were the one that drifted, maybe they were. Maybe it was a mutual drift.

Back in the east the sun was creeping up.

I remember that I wrote, some long letters, some just quick notes, for several days. I don’t know that I made it for thirty days, but it was a good long time.

Interesting things hugged my feet while my eyes were fixated on the sky.

I remember that I worried I might not have 30 friends to write. I was wrong. And I remember getting a few letters in return.

It was so good to be wandering in the hills at sunrise.

Do you remember the days of letters? The excitement of going to the mailbox hoping to see a handwritten envelope hiding among the bills and junk mail?

I do.

As the sun rose the grasses turned red.

When I was in college my mom wrote to me every week, and I loved seeing her handwriting on a postcard or envelop. When I worked at a job far from home she continued the practice, right up until emails took over, and then we stayed in touch more frequently but somehow less connected. As if emails were easier and commanded less respect.

Not to say I wouldn’t love to get an email from her now you understand. But there’s something special about old fashioned snail mail, as she called the kind of connection that comes with a stamp.

A place to sit and breath.

So I’d like to propose that during these times of social distancing we stay connected and perhaps accept the challenge of dropping a note in the mail every day for a month. Imagine the surprise. The smiles.

Time to reflect on the new day.

Maybe start with a friend you might have who is isolated now, maybe elderly, maybe with a compromised immune system, maybe just overwhelmed with kids home from school.

My favorite row of trees.

And if you’re not into paper and pen and stamps….well…an email a day to someone you can’t hang out with in person right now will work just fine too.

Deep breath. We can do this.

Stay home if you can. Stay home even if it’s inconvenient. Stay home even if you’ve run out of your favorite coffee or bananas. Stay home and stay safe.

We are strong.


25 Comments

Guilty pleasure

The big picture.


Denise commented that she enjoyed my last post, the one about smiling with the birds. She thought it was better than fixating on the latest virus news, and she suggested that I sort through my pictures from the Southwest and see what else I could find that might elicit more smiles.

Well.

When we got home from Arizona at the end of February I was so sick that all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, and sorting more pictures wasn’t even on my radar. And then days went by and I felt better but the trip west seemed to be a distant memory.

Standing strong against the winds of time.

And I figured you’d all moved on anyway.

But she has a point. I hadn’t even looked through pictures from our last days of the trip when we stood in awe at the Grand Canyon.

Who knows what’s way off in the distance.

So I thought I’d share a few of those images while I talk just a tiny bit about how I’m processing the latest news and self isolation.

Because I’m feeling a bit guilty about enjoying the time to myself.

Trying to see what’s in the future.

Sure I’m sad that band has been cancelled, our next concert in jeopardy, but we got to perform just a couple weeks ago,and I’m grateful for that.

There’s still beautiful color in the world.

And I’m sorry that the Ann Arbor Symphony won’t be doing their concert next weekend, I’d been looking forward to the program and seeing my aunt again after several weeks where bad weather and illness kept us apart.

Lots of angles to life these days.

But…having an empty calendar in front of me feels peaceful. Nothing more to do than find ways to stretch the food I have in the house as far as possible. Time to read. To watch the birds at my feeders.

To take Katie on walks around the yard.

Peaceful.

I know that I’m lucky – I’m not dealing with children home from school or trying to do my job from an unfamiliar computer system set up in the bedroom. I can use this time to learn how to entertain myself the old fashioned way, at home, with my husband and my dog.

Everyone will have to decide for themselves what is right.

So, if you can, my advice is to use this time to internalize, to settle, to work the stiffness out of your shoulders and necks.

To slow down.

We are all on this trail together but separate. There’s no way to go but forward, doing the best we can to not make things worse.

Hopefully the path isn’t all downhill.

We can use this time to watch the news incessantly, or we can use this time to grow as people and perhaps figure out just what is important.

Looking for light amid the shadows.

Me? I’m going to watch the news for a few minutes each morning, just to make sure something hasn’t blown up. Then I’m turning the TV to the music stations. Right now I’m listening to show tunes.

The sun will shine again.

It works for me. I hope you find whatever works for you as well.

Look for the colors. And stay safe.


46 Comments

We could use a smile

Things have gotten kind of crazy here in the States. No matter which side of the virus crisis argument you stand, it’s gotten crazy. I feel like I need to write something about all of this, but I also think we all need to stop and take a deep breath and maybe even smile.

This guy is a red-bellied woodpecker, showing off his red belly.

So, for now, I’m going to go for the smile.

Yesterday I took my neighbor out to my favorite park to feed the birds. She and her husband have just moved into the neighborhood and I’ve told them about the experience of having wild birds land in your hand.

The usual suspects stopped by for a snack.

This week we both had time to spend out there, and the timing was good. The sandhill cranes are back and the red-winged blackbirds arrived just a couple days ago.

This couple greeted us soon after we got out of the car.

Both are hungry.

I told her that the blackbirds wouldn’t come sit on our hands, they are always interested in the food happenings but will usually wait around until we move off and then go in for the leftovers. Just as I was saying this a huge blackbird landed on my hand.

“Thanks, Lady, this peanut is irresistible!”

I guess they were really hungry, because several of them swarmed around for a treat. I’ve never had them come in like that before, and it was pretty cool.

Of course the cranes were intent on getting lunch too. As we were feeding the little birds these two sauntered up the path behind us.

The cranes that welcomed us to their park stopped by to see if we had anything good.

We had seen them over by the parking lot, but apparently they were interested enough in us to follow us as we made our way into the woods.

We wandered through the woods, over hills and across streams. Just about everywhere we stopped little birds came flying. It was so much fun!

On our way back to the car I noticed these three coming to see us at a fast jog.

“It’s a race! Whoever gets to those ladies first gets the best treats!”

They were absolutely beautiful, look at the colors in their heads…

They almost look fake.

…and in the feathers on their back. The sun wasn’t even out and they still glowed.

Stunning!

Speaking of bird heads…I was speaking of those right? Look at these two closeups of the crane heads….one of them had more feathers making the red part look like a heart.

A heart shaped forehead.

And the other in this particular pair didn’t have similar facial feathers at all.

A more streamlined face.

I wonder if one is a female and one is a male…or is one just different?

Now, a turkey head…well…these are just weird. I think Dr. Seuss designed the turkey.

“What you looking at lady?”

Anyway, we had the best time, and we were serenaded out of the park by another pair of cranes in conjunction with our new best friends, the three turkeys!

Do you see them? They’re both screeching. The turkeys behind us were gobbling. It was pretty intense.

My neighbor shared our stories with her husband and he wanted to experience it all for himself. So this morning we headed back out. Today we had blue skies and big puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.

We were met by the parking lot greeter cranes.

Nom nom nom…

And then we ventured back into the woods. At first it took a lot to entice those little birds to come out of the trees for a treat.

“I’m not sure I’m coming down there, people!”

But eventually we found a spot with lots of the little guys and we spent a long time letting them flit around us looking for good stuff.

“Thanks, mister!”

And of course a pair of cranes came wandering up to see if we were worth investigating.

“Good stuff hiding under these leaves!”

So we had two days of smiles this week which, thankfully, eclipsed all the news on television. I guess things will probably get worse before they get better, but as long as we have retreats like this to escape into, we’ll get by just fine.

The sun always comes back.

I hope you are all finding something to smile about too. If you do, share them in your blog and link back to Trent’s smile post. He’ll post a recap on Monday of everyone’s smile.

These days sharing smiles is something of a public service.