March 27, 2020

There have been some definite perks to this beyond-unanticipated transition from classroom to online schooling. The flexibility for twice-daily goat milking sessions, for one. And the chance to cook for, and dine with, my husband on a daily basis again.
That said, the work has to be done. The usual amount of daily work, plus the added amount we currently have, in order to make up for the week of “spring break” while the online transition was being figured out on an administrative level.
So how do I keep motivated to barrel through full days in front of a computer and a stack of textbooks when some significant, and emotionally powerful, “carrots” have been stripped from the list of things that used to keep me motivated on a daily basis (read: “a place to swim”!)?
Well—find new carrots, right?
What keeps coming to mind is a train of people held close to my heart, if I cannot hold them “close” to my person these days: those who are on the font lines right now . . . the healthcare workers risking their own health, both physically and emotionally, as they war against the raging virus wreaking havoc on our entire globe. “Courage, dear heart” I know I blogged about this C.S. Lewis quote recently, but I cannot help but repeat it now, on behalf of those I love who are doing what others of us can only think of/pray for from a safe 6 feet distance away ;-) And, I cannot help but add my own self-centered prayer that maybe, just maybe (sooner than later?), I’ll get to join in on the fight.


March 21, 2020

“How did you spend your Spring Break?” The simple, standard sort of question this year gives me a sobering pause. At the moment I am brutally aware of my narrow band of comfort, in which I am usually quite adept at positioning myself squarely inside of. I never have enough time to get all the items on my checklist accomplished, so find each day filled to the gills. And yet now, when life has become an enforced “Lent” from the sorts of things I generally do, I find the extra time to be decidedly less than desirable. The hour in which I would usually be swimming is one of the hardest ones. And this, I realize, is a shameful thing to admit when the world is full of such loss right now … for me to be saddened by my craving for a lap in the pool is self-centered, I know. But there it is.
What I’ve taken to doing, to try to ease this angst, is to waken each day with a question: an openness to discover what that particular day’s “one thing” will be. In other words, I wait to see what particular event or discovery will create a sense of accomplishment for that day that I may not have noticed had I been going about routines as usual.
Yesterday that one thing was goat food; I’d begun to fear that, with all the closures, I’d be out of luck in getting the usual supply for our beer-grain-loving kids. But I was unexpectedly successful yesterday, thanks to a heavy dose of luck (combined, admittedly, with a little bit of bold persistence).
Today the one thing turned out to be one of my new normals-the daily chat with GramBea. While we talked today, it occurred to me that something about the inability to visit combined with our similar feelings about this whole situation has brought a sweetness to our conversations-an ability to just be on the phone with each other, even if neither of us has anything worth saying (those who know either GramBea or me, regarding phone call habits, might realize the groundbreaking nature of this observation 😉).
Oh, and tomato soup. I guess I got a double dose for my one thing today. Just because it sounded good to me, I made up a chunky tomato soup recipe for us that, dare I say, is currently filling our home with a rather mouthwatering aroma.
Soup. Simply soup. So be it.


March 19, 2020

Coming in from milking the goat this afternoon I sighed, and warned Peter that I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired for cooking. Along with all other routines being taken away, my habitual kitchen habits feel lackluster. “Don’t be surprised,” I added, if we sit down at the dinner table to a bowl of popcorn (I have, after all, mastered the art of “perfect popcorn,” as a few of my friends can attest to). Peter shrugged at the idea, saying that it would make sense to him … don’t people generally eat popcorn when watching a drama unfold?
It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, since we have neither TV nor internet at home. But as soon as I got it, I gasped. “That’s exactly what this is: we are all unwitting cast members in a global performance of the most riveting-and most horrific-suspense one could imagine!”
Blurting out these words felt like a relief somehow-a slight release of the internal pressure. I still hate it. But defining the feeling for at least our little household is a bit of a balm …for today.
I guess the best we can do is try to make something good out of this one day, with this single day’s information and subsequent decisions. We might not be making the best possible calls; yet hopefully tomorrow we’ll be strong enough to do it again, with whatever new information we can, and whatever little bit of new wisdom we’ve gained, trusting that it’s good enough simply because it’s the best we can do.
And we just might discover that, in the midst of it all, we are coming home to discover newly-bloomed tulips…


March 19, 2020

00FF3A94-7693-471A-BB84-FB1D66096408And, as if the world were not falling to pieces around us, the sun sets in its usual glory this evening. My husband and I eat a normal dinner together and we sit quietly together … as usual. As if the world were not falling to pieces around us…
Lord have mercy on us as we step forward into this terrifying new normal. Let it not fall to pieces around us; yet if it does, grant us the grace to fall to pieces together, holding hands as we fall.


March 18, 2020

“This is so awful,” she said, as I talked to her on the phone this evening. “Yes, GramBea. I’m having a hard time feeling positive too.” And it’s true. I don’t like this. At all. I hate it. And yes, I’m afraid. Who isn’t, though?
She kept on, after that. “It’s real quiet here.” I’d asked about the activities and, as I suspected, along with no visits from outside, there are no internal activities anymore either-no Bingo, or exercise classes. But this afternoon she got her walk. They told her she wasn’t allowed to go out but she argued till they let her walk the perimeter of the building. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree 😉
As I was saying, though…”it’s real quiet here. Just pray I can sleep tonight.”
Yes, GramBea, I will pray that. For myself as well as for you.
Then she added, “but you know, the light in my bathroom is working, so I can see if I need to get up in the night. So that’s a good thing…”
Indeed. That’s a good thing. The thought gave me pause when I realized the gravity underneath that observation: I have lived in places where power was not a given. And in this new reality we all find ourselves in, is the electricity that powers our lights, our refrigerators, our ovens, our cell phones … our internet, not a life-giving gift?
This morning I was listening to NPR and heard that, in Spain, where the entire nation is in quarantine, they come out of their houses each night at 8:00pm, and collectively cheer. In a circumstance in which one would be sorely tempted to rebel altogether, if not at least harbor a good deal of resentment, the nation is expressing collective solidarity, and gratitude for the health care workers who remain on the front lines. This bit of news gave me a humbling pause in the midst of my own bad attitude today over the loss of my routines.
This is madness. I don’t understand it. But no one does. So may we each give each other grace upon grace in the midst of the madness.
“Courage, dear heart!”


March 15, 2020

Yesterday evening, as Peter and I were hanging out in the yard with the goats, I mentioned to him a guide I had seen for coping with Coronavirus as a faith community. He responded that we are all, globally, practicing Lent as a result of this madness. Perhaps, as he commented, “the world just needs a vacation.”
Yes, perhaps so. Perhaps we all needed to take a collective breath of air. Perhaps we all needed to stop and question where we were heading at such a breakneck speed.
I don’t know. Who really does, though? This is uncharted territory for me. For my family. For our community. For our country. For our world.
With no basis for making any sort of real predictions or plans, what can we do?
One thing that I think we can safely prescribe, no matter what direction this all goes, is neighborly care. Throughout history, we have seen people rise to the occasion, in the midst of crisis, to rally together and help those in need. Starting with those closest to us. Starting with eyes open to see the needs we may be able to help fill.
Another thing we can do is carry on, as best we can, with the routines that bring life. When things fall apart, there are a whole lot of smart and creative people who know how to make things happen. This morning Peter and I got to attend a live stream of our church service, thanks to this sort of inventiveness. There, in our place of worship, our pastor stood at the pulpit and led us through the liturgies and lyrics that had been prepared in a bulletin as usual …but that instead would be followed by those of us able to participate in this virtual gathering. I am grateful for a church community wise enough to adapt to the situation…”this rather bizarre situation,” as our pastor aptly prayed. I am also grateful for the individuals skilled enough, and willing, to make it happen.
Whether or not we are willing, the fact is that we are all called to join in on this communal “flattening of the curve.”
For most of us this means some form of quarantine, be it for illness or the simple reality of life as we know it being put on hold.
For some of us this means kicking and screaming, internally if not externally, in the face of our worst fears (loss of routine, and loss of control). But I am also humbled by the privilege that allows me to feel this fear. My basic needs are more than met. I have health, a home, a husband … so much. So much more than I need.
Lord, let me walk through this season with eyes open to what You are calling me to. May I “do justly …love mercy… walk humbly with [my] God” (Micah 6:8).
And maybe walk with some pretty good looking goats (+husband?) while I’m at it 😉

butt in chair

February 25, 2020

The honeymoon is over. It is now, as Anne Lamott wrote about the writing process, “butt in chair” (Bird by Bird)time. I feel as if I am in a tunnel, plodding forward with my head down and teeth clenched, constantly pep-talking myself to not lose focus, to not let down my guard. The only way to successfully keep up with the steady stream of learning right now is to refuse to allow myself to lose focus, even for the briefest amount of time, during the 7 hours of class each day. With the number of tests, quizzes, and assignments each day, the only way I’ve figured out to keep up is to focus all my brain cells in order to cement the information into my brain, as much as possible, while learning it. Lest I sound woe-is-me, I should clarify here that I am, in fact, rather enjoying the challenge. My nerdy side is totally jazzed about this endeavor. And my old self is discovering a new sweetness to the things I had gotten spoiled by. The time that I have to myself is now more precious than before. Weekend evenings are precious and newly-delightful. Being home for those two nights, able to prepare dinner in my kitchen and linger over wine with my husband is a beautiful thing when 5 nights of the week that time is spend in a fluorescent-lighted windowless classroom, taking bites of my Tupperware-packaged dinner in between word part quizzes and textbook-highlighting.
One fear I had, shortly after beginning this new schedule, was that I would end up abandoning pleasure reading altogether. When I get home from class, My reading brain is shot … leading to another sweet discovery, mind you: never underestimate your ability to surprise yourself; I used to think I was only good for intake come nighttime—for settling into a book until succumbing to sleep. But it turns out that now Peter and I have found ourselves enjoying a few minutes of late night chat time when we each get home from, respectively, school and work. And yes, the opposite end of that schedule shift is also affected: as I complained this morning, well past a decent “farmer” rising time, “I feel cemented to the bed.” Peter threatened to bring in a forklift. I got up.
As for that reading fear, though, what I have found now is that pleasure reading has also taken on a new sweetness. I’m still trying to decide whether to try any sort of orderly reading this year; it may be wiser to let it be purely for the sake of enjoyment. But for now I have two evenings a week in which I happily indulge in literary escapism.
This week Peter came home with one of my library requests. And this weekend I whizzed through over half of it … number 3 then in my 2020 classics. Not that I’m counting 😉


February 11, 2020



February 7, 2020

In the medical marathon I’m currently running, some parts are easier than others. Medical Terminology is pretty straightforward, given my linguistic background and, consequently, ability to figure out word roots, parts, and the like. Body Structure & Function pretty good too. Exam Room Technique has been more of a struggle, because my natural ways aren’t quite as structured as they need to be . . . I’ll get there!
One course is particularly play-time-ish for me, however: Communications. We get a spelling test each week (yes, I’m serious about my love for this :-) We also get a 5-minute journaling time, with a topic given each time. I’m not quite sure yet what the purpose of this one is, considering our coursework. But I have no complaints about the little burst of writing therapy in the middle of the 7-hour day! This is what came out of me today, given the topic:

This morning I ran into a friend who knew I’d just started school. She asked how it was going, with a comment that “You’re smart to be doing that!” “I dunno,” I replied. “Crazy might be a better word for it!”
What she actually intended to comment on, I believe, was the fact that the medical field is one that currently holds a lot of need – and, consequently, a lot of opportunities. But at this stage in the game (3 weeks in), I’m feeling pretty much, well, insane.
It is good, in the grand scheme of things, and I do not question the decision…yet ;-) But it is nothing less than a mad swirl of assignments and tests and brain-synapse-firings. Getting home late at night is quite a shift for our old early to bed habits, and Peter and I are both consumed with the effort of adjusting.
Last night we lay in bed while I tried to read something that would get my mind off textbook material; but my eyes refused to focus and my mind refused to calm down, while Peter gallantly attempted to stay awake. He has that coveted gift of being able to instantly fall asleep when in the prone position (should I elaborate with my new knowledge of appropriate medical terminology for each position one might find oneself in? Recumbent?Supine? :-); but he kindly attempts to stay awake with me on these late nights. His reading pick was the rabbit feeding book I gave him for Christmas. “Want to hear something interesting?” he asked. I put my reading down, happy for the conversational interruption. “Sure.” “Rabbits have two kinds of poop, and one kind they eat. Kind of gross, I know, but interesting.” Indeed, I was intrigued, and asked him more about it. As he talked, I sidled over closer to him. “All this talk of poop is making me ‘kerat-y’,”I said, referring to an interesting little medical terminology tidbit I’d told him about a bit earlier.
I winked. He chuckled.
And that’s all she wrote …