The Great Reset

As we enter week eight of our shelter in place it’s becoming very apparent things will never return to normal, it feels like we will never go back to our pre pandemic days, our lives have been forever changed. Sometimes it’s even hard to think back on how things were before the lock down. I think when this is all over, when a vaccine is readily available, we’ll segment our lives between what life was like before and after this pandemic.

Our little guy, 8 weeks out of school and away from his friends commented that perhaps this virus was the result of years ignoring the damage we’re doing to our planet. As I see images around the world of the smog lifting and the clear skies, I think, maybe he’s onto something.

As spring is in full bloom, it’s weird to go by the school and see the flashing signs but no sign of life in the parking lot or playground, to wait in line to get into a super market and obey the one way trail around the store, to be very aware about staying a minimum of 6 feet from one another, even when that one another is one of your children, grandchild or an elderly parent, or go to Zoom church on a Sunday morning while still sipping coffee, and to always have on your person a mask and hand sanitizer. It’s hard to be living in this new reality.

For the first few weeks I went into a full on cleaning organizing mode, hubby and I tidied up the basement, and then I went through all the closets and junk drawers, spent way too much money on the Container Store website organizing the new pantry and even managed to unpack moving boxes left untouched for 20 years, or 5 moves….thankfully that phase has passed and things are back to normal, whatever that is!

I watched a piece on PBS about what people were doing with all the time they were spending in isolation, it was an interesting look on how people are dealing with our new reality, between making music videos, to sewing masks, to mastering the art of cooking to learning new games and languages….it ran the gamut…from the overachievers to the folks who find it difficult to just deal…the ones that are coping day to day juggling home schooling their kids with trying to work from home…and then let’s just throw in there the anxiety about keeping our elders and our high risk population loved ones safe, or the sadness around missing graduations, weddings, birthdays and other milestone events or watching those we love on the front lines battling this disease, or losing a job or the business you’ve put your heart and soul into….or the absolute worst, losing someone you love and not being able to say goodbye… It’s easy to see how depression can begin to take hold.

And in the darkness we do see some light, people coming together in their own ways to help, they make masks, cook and deliver meals, make check in phone calls, offer to pick up groceries for neighbors, make an effort to support local businesses, drop off a basket of goodies, participate in a drive by birthday celebration, the list goes on and on….everyone doing their own part for the betterment of all.

I wonder when this is over, will we jump back to how our lives were before? Or will we bring the best parts we’ve learned forward?  We will have lots of time to think and ponder and my hope is when this is all said and done we’ll have a greater appreciation for what’s really important and my guess is what’s really important can’t be found in a store or a restaurant or a gym.

Be safe, be well and let’s lean in on one another in the dark times to help each other through this hot mess…it’s the only way we’ll make it through.

Look for the Helpers

We’ve all heard this phrase made famous by our beloved Mr. Rogers, and in these hot mess times, his message resonates loudly.

Covid19, or Corona virus has our country in the thick of a pandemic, people are going back and forth between fear and uncertainty. Schools and places of worship are closed, professional sports have been put on hold and through all of this we have a leader more obsessed with the optics rather than the good of everyday citizen. We find ourselves in a moment where we are looking for guidance, who do we trust, where do we get our information, and where do we find our hope?

Right now, I’m finding my hope through the posts and interactions of my neighbors and friends. On a recent community FB post, someone posted that they would be willing to run errands for the elderly, another offered to give food away to any family that found themselves hungry, and that offer was soon matched by several other people. Posts offering to babysit for the families scrambling to find childcare now that the schools are closed,  posts about the best places to bring kids to hike and one of my favorites, a list of so many really cool things to do with your kids to keep them busy over these next few weeks.

My faith community was mobilized 12 hours after the decision was made to close our building. Many in our faith community are elderly, or have an autoimmune disease or various other issues. A phone bank was set up to check in with every single member over the next few days to asses any needs and once the assessment is complete, a bevy of our wonderful volunteers will spring into action to help as needed. Our worship services will be virtual, but the love given and received from one member to another is most certainly real.

Since coming home from South Carolina earlier this week, hubby and I have felt a bit under the weather, nothing major, just extra tired and low on energy so we’ve made the decision to self-quarantine. And because we’re staying in, I missed my weekly coffee date with some of my besties…..but they were thinking of us and one of them stopped by to bring us this lovely basket of goodies….I will pay this forward in the near future.

People are good, really good and when faced with a situation like we’re in right now, it seems the best way to cope is to reach out and help others, as opposed to clearing the shelves at Costco of toilet paper and hand sanitizers…….

I’m finding my hope in the caring and love of my neighbors and friends, each looking out for one another. Where do you find your hope?

Stay safe my friends, wash your hands with soap and as my Italian Grandmother would say to me “cover your head and don’t take chances”, seems pretty good advice for this crisis.

 

Club Sandwich Anyone?

My husband and I were in his mother’s room at the nursing home visiting with his father and the Director of a nursing agency that will provide home care for my mother-in-law when the call came in from the elementary school Principal. Seems the 8 year old got a bit carried away in art trying to recreate a Jackson Pollack masterpiece by shaking down some paints and making an enormous mess. That’s after he slammed down on a ketchup packet at lunch, which when released, found its way into the eye of a classmate…not his best day….As I stood there listening to the call, I just kept thinking, please, please don’t ask me to come and get him…I need to be with my hubby and his parents right now..

Our little grand guy is 8 years old, and my husband’s parents will both turn 95 this year so we we are most officially members of the club sandwich generation. A sandwich generation is defined as taking care of your parents and children at the same time, a club sandwich just means you’ve added an extra layer of another generation to the mix.

I am blessed to belong to a family where there is so much love and respect for my in-laws. Together they raised three sons, who produced 5 sons and they now they have 3 great grands, and thankfully 92 years after my mother-in-law was born, one of the great grands was a girl!  They will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary in June. They’ve had an amazing life together, in retirement they traveled throughout the USA in their Road trek and joined active travel groups to see sights around the world. They were always very active, hiking, birding, walking, volunteering, and making new friends along the way.

Currently they both reside in a local Continuing Care Retirement Community, with mom living in a nursing home and dad residing in an independent apartment. Our current plan is to spring mom from the nursing home and put her in her own place with a full time care taker.  It’s been quite an ordeal working through all the options, but in the end, she’ll gain back some of her independence which will in turn make her happy. Her wants are small, she wants the option of having a poached egg for breakfast, an occasional bowl of fresh steamed clams and sleeping in until she wakes on her own and not being aroused when it’s convenient for the staff. We hope by her 95th birthday in April, she’ll be all settled in her new place.

We have to look at this time in our life as our time to give back.  My husbands parents and my parents were the type of folks that always had time for their children and grandchildren. One thing my husband and I had in common walking into our second marriage was the incredible bond our children had with our parents. That’s the type of bond, the legacy we hope we leave with our children and grands.

In the meantime, we’ll find the joy in caring for the oldest and youngest members of our family, taking each day as it comes, the good and some…..well, let’s just say we’ve banned ketchup packets from the house!

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye

It’s been a rough season of five losses within my extended circle of friends, two husbands of friends that passed in circumstances that were unexpected, another friend succumbing to cancer after several years of struggling, another one dying peacefully after enjoying a very long and full life and the one buried today was most likely making dinner a week ago, never in her wildest dreams thinking it would be her last day on earth.

As I sat through the funeral today, I couldn’t help but think are we ever ready for the end of our life? Will it be sudden, or will it be the result of an illness, or will we fall asleep when we’re 100 and never wake up?

We think we have forever to go through our to do lists, to make a will, to leave detailed instructions, buried or cremated, open or shut casket, what songs to play, what verses to be recited, what pictures to select, the list is endless and we go to all lengths to avoid the hard conversations with our loved ones hoping things will just work out on their own, because in the end, someone takes control and makes it all happen. And of course, that someone is the person who loves us the most, be it a spouse or a child, or a parent.

Funerals give us an opportunity to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, while we  think about the impact their life had on others, their accomplishments, how they loved and cherished their families. I think funerals also serve another purpose and that is to remind us each of our own mortality.

What changes would we make in our life if we knew that in the near future our life would come to an end? And I guess the bigger question would be, if we know what the changes would or should be, why are we so reluctant to make them now?

Have you heard about “Swedish Death Cleaning”? It’s a term for the cleaning and de- cluttering you do when you think your time is almost up. Getting rid of the stuff in your house that your kids don’t want, think fine china, your books, your antiques, your collection of…fill in the blank… the list is endless….The upside to this practice is that once the cleaning and de-cluttering is done, your life is more organized, which makes the running of your everyday life run more smoothly…..

Which brings us to where this all started, how do we prepare for our last day on earth? We can plan, and organize and clean and de-clutter but I think the most important thing we can do is live life to it’s fullest, enjoy the sunsets, the times with our friends and family and to always make sure our loved ones know just how much they mean to us and how much they are loved.

Because in the end, love is the only thing that really matters…

 

 

 

Let it Go

We managed a brief 48 hour Staycation thanks to the help of little man’s other set of grandparents who offered us a brief respite from full time parenting.

The day we dropped him off was a bit dreary, too cold and damp for a hike, so we decided to visit the city of Lowell where we both had some roots from way back when. Hubby and I both attended the same college in Lowell, although at different times. Hubby graduated in June, I started the following September and at the ripe old age of 19 instead of continuing with my studies and receiving letters after my name, I acquired the initials of Mrs. preceding my first husband’s name.

The second of our Staycation days, we embarked on a trip to the High Ledges to see some beautiful foliage in western Massachusetts. It’s a hike I first went on with my children and members of my church close to 30 years ago and the spectacular views of bright fall foliage from high atop a ledge overlooking the valley below, never cease to amaze me. As with any woodland walk in the fall, the ground is covered in a combination of pine needles and fallen leaves, still colorful. With the light filtering through the trees, it’s like a magic carpet.

It was nice to have a few days in our home of normal retirement life, I find it’s the little things I miss, like sleeping with all the lights out, not supervising homework and shower times and able to watch whatever we wanted on Netflix without worrying about the effects on little ears and eyes.  It felt good just to be a couple in our own place for a few short days.

In my life, there have been so many expectations of how the path should have gone versus the actual path, those pesky what-ifs. Beginning way back when I started college, I fully intended to graduate with honors and begin a music career, but life got in the way and instead I got a head start in the marriage and mommy race. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing because if I had, I wouldn’t have my daughters and I couldn’t imagine my life without my gang of girls.

The what ifs are the stuff that can make us crazy…what if I had done things differently as a parent, would I be raising another child in my retirement years? What if she had made different decisions, would she be with her son today? Every now and then I find myself wanting to wander into that crazy space if for just a moment.

As we walked through the woods this past weekend and enjoyed the trees in all their splendor, we accept that the foliage season is short but very special, and after the vibrancy of the color the leaves drop and fade. The trees let go of their leaves on the promise of new life to come.

I wonder why it can be hard for us sometimes to let go of what is or what was planned to make way for the new life that is yet to come? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that we need to let go sometimes to make room for what’s to come. Seems like pretty good advice, after all, it does work well for the trees.

Happy Fall

 

The Great Upheaval

We just returned from a relaxing, enjoyable week in beautiful Nova Scotia. While there we had the opportunity to visit the Acadian Village in Lower West Pubnico, Nova Scotia. The village was a delightful living museum where we learned about the history and culture of the Acadian people and enjoyed Rappie Pie for lunch, a traditional Acadian food made of potatoes, picture the consistency of potato jello covered with molasses…needless to say we were full until wine and popcorn time at 5:00…

As we made our back to our little cottage we talked about Longfellow’s Poem, Evangeline and how even after 50+ years after reading it for the first time, we were both struck by the impact the poem made on both of us as middle school kids. I couldn’t get out of my head the profound sadness of the poem, how finding and being betrothed to your one true love, only to be pulled apart on your wedding day and then to spend the rest of your life looking for him only to find him on his deathbed…how tragic..and I apologize if you were never forced to read the poem in middle school and I just gave away the entire story line!

The history of the Acadian people is long and complicated, and somewhere along the way it resulted in the forced removal of 10,000 Acadians by the British. British soldiers rounded up the frightened villagers, burnt their homes and crops and put them on boats and scattered them far and wide, with some ending up in Louisiana and known as Cajuns. Many did not survive, as men, women and children drowned or succumbed to illness. In the end, this great upheaval was deemed inhumane, brought about by man’s greed, confusion, misunderstanding and fear. (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-deportation-of-the-acadians-feature)

As we toured the bucolic historic reenactment of this perfect Acadian village and learned about the Great Upheaval, I couldn’t help to think about what’s happening right now in our country. Like with the Acadians, the history of the folks seeking asylum in our country is long and complicated. Our immigration process is badly broken, used as the proverbial can kicked down the road by both the D’s and the R’s until there’s no road left. The Acadians were placed in boats and sent away, our seekers are being placed in wire enclosures, cages, and forced to wait to learn of their ultimate status…..will history look back at this time and call our leaders inhumane? Will future Americans look back and wonder what they would have done if they had been alive during this crisis? Is the cause of our immigration debacle due to greed, confusion, misunderstanding and fear? History will be the ultimate judge.

I wonder just how many Evangeline’s and Gabriel’s are out there… now named Jose and Maria, betrothed and now separated by unspeakable violence and poverty, one coming to seek asylum here in the USA to carve a way to a better life, while the other waits, and waits never to see or hear from their loved one again. I fear we are so caught up on all the underlying issues we are forgetting these are real people, with real dreams and not just nameless pawns caught in our broken system.

Now off my soapbox….and looking forward to the next adventure..and my next history lesson. BTW, we also visited the home of Alfred Fuller, the original Fuller Brush Man…more about him later!

Our Summer Solstice

It’s the longest day of the year and we’re in a little cabin on a beautiful clear pond in the middle of no where New Hampshire. Members of our village have taken little man for three nights and we are beyond excited.

With less than a weeks notice we were able to book an idyllic 3 night stay in a very quaint cabin on a little pond. I booked the place on Home Away, and this time we really lucked out, from the sweet front screened in porch with rocking chairs from the 50’s to the massive stone fireplace, to the bedroom with views on all sides of the water, to the western water view sunsets, to the absolute quietness with the exception of an occasional bird cry, to the no cable, no internet, no cell service.

The moment we arrived we looked at one another and said, “I feel the stress lifting”…we were so chill we didn’t even venture out for dinner, we traded plans for a fancy meal for crackers, cheese, hummus and grapes accompanied by chilled wine with a water view and an occasional cry from a loon.

For the next 3 days we had a race to see who could be most relaxed, who could sleep in the latest, who could read the most pages…who could get up the earliest and take to the pond in a Kayak…yeah, that wasn’t me! I won the prize for most cups of morning coffee consumed in the rocking chair on the screened in porch overlooking the water.

As much as we love our crazy club sandwich lives between grand-kids, kids and aging parents, it’s so good to have the opportunity to escape for a few days with the only goal to be as chill as possible. I forgot just how good it felt to have a few days where we didn’t have to do anything or take care of anyone but ourselves, it seems like a lifetime ago that was our life.

But now it’s back to summer 101, with the color coded calendar. We’re packing for vacation, juggling rides to camps, moving elderly parents, getting in the appointments and before you know it, in just 9 very short weeks, it will be time to go back to school. And we all know what that means, Dunkin Donuts will bring back the Pumpkin Spice Coffee and the Halloween Candy will displace the school supplies.

It’s such a short, sweet season, and for now, I’ll look forward to campfires and lobsters in Maine, the warmth of the sun, vacations with the people we love, the fresh strawberries from the garden and the trips to Rota Springs for Ice Cream.

Enjoy your summer