Breathe

The weather turned unexpectedly cool yesterday. March had been very warm in south Louisiana. Much of the month had days reaching the upper 80s, shattering records. It felt more like early summer than early spring. Then, yesterday, I woke to a morning in the 40s here on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. I opened up windows, and let the cool breezes blow in. I breathed in the fresh, spring air.

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These clumps of grass have small lavender blooms. Does anyone know what it’s called?

I spent a fair amount of time outdoors enjoying the mild day yesterday. I pulled up clumps of flowering grass that are threatening to overtake portions the flower beds. I don’t know the name of the plant as it was planted by the former owners of my house, but they produce precious little in way of flowers, but rather spread in large grassy clumps, crowding out my spring bulbs and rose bushes.

I wasn’t able to dislodge much of the roots. A shovel and a strong back will be needed to stop the spread. I’m hoping my yard guy is not afraid in this season of social distancing to tackle the aggressive grassy clumps. I texted him earlier this morning.

Sitting outside early this morning, drinking a cup of coffee, I breathed in the cool air once again. There was a sense of peace and calm, as traffic noise on the nearby highway has lessened considerably in the past few weeks. Some of my neighbors are home all day now, so the neighborhood is quiet.

I thought about the words from a Facebook Live message I heard last night. How am I going to use this time of an unexpected sabbatical of sorts? Do I want to fritter it away with anxious thoughts and actions? Can I dig deep and find peace? What about seeking the presence of God in the mundane tasks of the day? What good can come from this unprecedented time in our nation and world? Will I emerge with a stronger sense of purpose? That’s my hope.

I don’t want to spend my days endlessly scrolling on social media, or mindlessly filling up on snack foods or media binging on streaming shows. I want to emerge with something better. Because one day, the pandemic will pass.

I leave you with a song and lyrics. The worship song, Peace by Casey Corum ends with a chorus that enjoins us to breathe in positive attributes and breathe out negative ones.  You can find the song on YouTube.

Breathe in peace, breathe out strife,

Breathe out death, breathe in life,

Breathe in love, Breathe out hate,

Breathe out fear, breathe in faith.

Lead Us Not

One of the hallmarks of the age of the coronavirus is the absence of hair stylists. In Louisiana, hair salons are considered a non-essential business, Non-essential businesses are closed.

I visit my hair salon often for a cut and color. On my own, I can handle coloring my roots. What I can’t do is cut my own hair. I keep my hair short so I get my hair cut often. Things are going to get real around here soon.

Laurie with bad haircut
What’s up with the zigzag on my shirt? One of my mom’s sewing creations perhaps?

 

I remember when my mother used to trim our hair. Most of the time, we went to a local hair dresser for a cut, but occasionally my mom trimmed the bangs of her three girls. I hope I don’t yield to temptation to cut my own locks anytime soon.

I suspect that my mom cut my bangs for this picture for school photos. I was in the third grade. I think this was in 1972.

O Lord, I beseech thee, lead us not into temptation!

 

 

One Day at a Time

This morning I began my day as most days since the stay at home order for Louisiana started. I rise at 5:30, get the coffee brewing, take the dog out for a short walk, and then settle down at 6 am for a 30 minutes session with Facebook live streaming. The broadcast from my church features worship songs, a short devotional, and a group prayer time.

Then, I check the news online as well as skim Facebook for a short time. After that it’s time to take the dog out again, since she’s generally refuses to do her business outside without repeated coaxing on my part. When I get back inside, I drink the rest of my coffee and eat a bowl of oatmeal.

Everything I had been doing before this crisis has been cancelled, so I need a new routine. No more tutoring, ESL classes, nor food bank. There’s more time for reading, blogging, and cooking.

I confess that through the years since I returned from Honduras, my cooking skills have atrophied. When I lived there, I cooked occasionally for our kids’ project as well as doing most of my own cooking at home. There were few places in Honduras that had high hygiene practices in Honduras, and I seldom had a dining partner for the few nicer restaurants in town that earned my confidence.

I am doing basic cooking here now in the age of Covid-19. I have prepared, among other things, jambalaya, grilled chicken, saffron rice and steamed veggies. Thus far, I haven’t fixed a gumbo, but my mother has prepared gumbo twice in recent weeks; a seafood and okra gumbo and a chicken and sausage gumbo. I ate some of the seafood gumbo at her house.

I have mixed feelings about visiting with my mother. She is almost 87 years old. She lives alone. She doesn’t drive. I have picked up groceries for her last week, and we visited most of the day. However, I found it really tough to keep social distancing in the house. I totally failed at it actually. I suppose I will head to her house later this week, despite my misgivings.

I am debating whether to keep the foster dog at my house. Today is day eight for Daisy. She’s not responding well to my attempts to housebreak her. Most days she has at least one accident in the house. I don’t think accident is the right word, since it all seems quite natural for her to do her business on my wood floors. We’ll see how the day progresses today. I’ll make a decision soon if she can stay or not. I didn’t want this to be a forever dog, anyway. She’s too big to stay with me forever, since I don’t have a fenced yard. I can’t imagine walking her as often as she needs walking each day.

This afternoon I will take the dog out again a few times to encourage bathroom breaks. I will read a bit more on my Kindle. Right now I am reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History.  The choice was quite incidental, as I had already started the book before the present pandemic became the big news story. One thing I should do is do some gardening. Spring came early to Louisiana, and the weather is now almost summer like. That means the glower beds need constant attention.

How has your life changed with the coronavirus changes? How has your life routine changed? What are you cooking in the kitchen?

 

Ups and Downs

The U.S. attained the #1 spot in the number of reported corona virus infections. We’ve jumped ahead of China and Italy. We’re up to more than 82,000 infections as of last night.

As everyone knows, the stock market has been mostly down. I have some retirement accounts that I haven’t given much attention because I don’t want to see the downward slide. I just have a bit in stocks, but still, who wants to see even a modest dip?

Louisiana now has over 2,700 infections, mostly in the New Orleans which is just a hop and skip from where I live. Again, another statistic I would prefer to be down, not up. New Orleans is in the higher category of infections nationwide.

Personally, I am doing well. My general mood has been up, not down. Aside from a slight obsession with paper towels, which are in chronic short supply in the stores, I am doing fine. I don’t feel the same obsession with the other paper product, toilet paper, which seems to occupy the minds of many Americans. There’s enough toilet paper in my cupboards to last a month or two.

In fact, during this present crisis, I have been mostly upbeat. Facts have not been my enemy, although perhaps, I am just a little over informed. However, I haven’t had a turn downward toward fear or panic.

My state of mind hasn’t always been upbeat. In fact I have experienced a lifetime of ups and downs, highs and lows, upper swings and lowest lows. My doctor calls the condition bipolar disorder. I often don’t see myself as bipolar, but I have to admit, something in my wiring is not quite right. I think, though, my case is somewhat mild.

My highs are rare, but not very much out of the ordinary. Just fleeting times of rapid thoughts and speech. When under pressure, sometimes my thoughts are illogical, even a tad grandiose.

More frequently are the black dog days. I have weeks and months when everything seems dull and moribund. Sometimes, I feel like death would be preferable to living. My lows can be quite low.

So there. The cat is out of the bag. Since my diagnosis 30 years ago, I have been rather private about my condition. It didn’t seem to warrant much discussion. I accepted it. I have lived my life as well as I could.

Now, the news is out for anyone who care to read and comment. I’m not publishing this post on Facebook, where I have a different set of friends than here on the blog platform. I’ll pause a bit before writing that post.

It Will Be Alright

Several years ago, I downloaded and read A Journal of The Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. Defoe wrote a fictionalized account based on his early childhood memories of the plague that swept London in 1665, claiming over 67,000 lives. It was a memorable read. I never expected to write, or contemplate, even facetiously, about a plague in modern times.

Of course, our plague year cannot compare, even in a joking manner, to the Black Death. Mainly, it’s just quiet around here as the schools and most businesses are closed. The nearby city of New Orleans is emerging as the epicenter of the Louisiana outbreak. It seems like Mardi Gras was our undoing, causing the city and surrounding parishes to give rise to a troubling number of afflicted residents. Currently the state has over 1,700 reported cases and 65 dead. In the city of New Orleans, 827 cases are reported, and thirty-seven have died from the virus.

I’m introverted by nature, so solitude hasn’t been a hardship although I haven’t taken the warnings to stay home that seriously anyway. I find reasons daily to get out and about, whether it be to our local small market, the drugstore, or the post office in my small town. While I am not hoarding food or supplies, I do tend to buy stuff almost every time I venture out. My cupboards are overflowing with soup cans, pasta and lots of dairy creamer among other things.

Last night, I participated in a Zoom telecast with a group, Seeds and Souls, for an Ignatian Meditation. The idea is to listen as a moderator reads a passage of Scripture repeatedly and slowly. After the readings with pauses to reflect, participants reflect on what stood out from the reading.

Last night, the leader, Brian, chose verses from Matthew 6. The theme was not to worry about tomorrow. What stood out to me as he read from the Message translation of the Bible was the phrase, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax.” In my mind, I pictured Jesus gently chiding me and offering me the chance to relax. I don’t need any more soup cans, nor do I need to worry about getting paper towels. I am worried, you see, about paper towels as I only have one extra roll in reserve. The local market doesn’t have any in stock. Neither does Walmart or Costco, at least according to their online sites.

Where will I get paper towels? I don’t know. When the time comes the store may have some or not have some. I can always clean spills with a towel I suppose if none are available. Funny thing is, I don’t use paper towels very often. That’s why I have only one extra roll in the house. I prefer to mop up spills with rags or a mop. So why worry about it? As Jesus’ words say in the extraordinary Message translation by Eugene Peterson, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax.”

Early this morning, after my 5:30 am coffee and 6:00 prayer service online, I took Daisy, my foster dog, for a walk. We took it slow, as she is recovering from a hip injury. I gave her ample time to put her nose to weeds and flowers growing along the ditches that line our streets. I gave myself time to notice the beauty of the wildflowers, some white, some yellow, and some a beautiful shade of lavender.

In the same batch of verses that Brian read repeatedly last night, he said, “walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp nor shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? . . . If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers . . . don’t you think he’ll attend to you . . . do his best for you?” 

I am going to do my best to avoid looking for paper towels today.

Foster Love

Non-essential workers in Louisiana are asked to stay home. That’s me – a nonessential worker. I am trying to keep that order to stay home as best I can. Thus far, I have not been able to stay at my residence as much as I should, as I generally find an excuse to leave my house and mingle in the public almost daily. I know I can do better.

Yesterday afternoon, I picked up a foster dog from the local humane society. Maybe a dog around the house will help with my restlessness to leave the house. Daisy is a medium-sized mixed breed who is recovering from a hip displacement. She loves belly rubs above all things. I’ve had her less than 24 hours thus far, but aside from begging for belly scratches, she mainly wants to nap. I suppose the kennel at the humane society wasn’t a peaceful place to recover from an injury.

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Daisy the foster dog 

Daisy isn’t the prettiest girl, but she has a certain charm. She is affectionate, docile, and somewhat obedient. We are working on the obedient part.

We got up before dawn. I had set my alarm for 5:30 to prepare for a 6:00 a.m. prayer service online with my church. That gave me time to fix coffee and take Daisy out for a brief bathroom break.

After the thirty-minute prayer service ended, I read the news online a short while. Prince Charles of England has the virus. Our Dear Leader, Trump, wants to relax social distancing. His goal is to have the churches packed on Easter morning. I don’t think that’s realistic as virus stats for places like New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans are climbing quickly each day.

After reading the news, Daisy and I took a walk down the street. She’s pretty good on a leash, but she’s going to need practice to walk with me. She needed lots of prompts to stay to the right, but I wasn’t overly forceful, at least not yet. There’s time to break her into a proper leash walk.  There were plenty of stops along our residential street, as she smelled the wildflowers growing along the ditches, and of course, mailboxes and light poles got a thorough inspection. Aside from a lawn guy cutting grass next door, we didn’t see a soul. Even my neighbor’s chickens were mostly quiet as we walked by.

Maybe my normal activities are considered non-essential, but at least for now, I have one essential duty. I am taking care of Daisy. And that’s good enough for me.

Nonessential Services

I am normally involved weekly in a number of endeavors: tutoring kids at Sylvan Learning Center, teaching English as a Second Language, and volunteering weekly as a receptionist at the local food bank. None of these are considered essential in Louisiana right now. The food bank is still serving clients, but the lobby is now closed. Instead of having a bevy of opportunities to serve and work during each week, I now face an empty calendar because everything I did is now considered nonessential.

What can I do then? I am filling my time with walks in the neighborhood, weeding my flower beds, and catching up on household tasks. Yesterday, I brought my bicycle to a bike shop for a tune-up. I can ride the pathways on the Tammany Trace, a dedicated hiking and biking trail that was once a railroad line throughout the parish.

I can read the book that I can’t return to the library. I checked out A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines before the tsunami of state closures shuttered the library system. I planned a few reads by African American authors for the month of February. The Gaines book was on the list but I didn’t check out the book until March. Last month, I read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass.

Since I live alone, I thought it would be a good time to share my house with a pet. I planned on fostering a pup from the Humane Society, but I haven’t received a call back from the good folks there. Repeated phone calls go unanswered. I may drop by later today, and I can ask if my help is needed at this time.

I don’t think I am overreacting to the situation at hand. If anything, I have been somewhat lackadaisical in my response to the virus. I was eating out the very day that the state closed restaurants, limiting them to takeout and delivery. I am still visiting my eighty-six year old mother, despite my misgivings. I get out nearly everyday, interacting with the public in some way: getting groceries, visiting the hardware store, etc. It’s been nearly impossible for me to spend an entire day at home.

The governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, shared news and advice in a one-hour broadcast last night. He has been active in directing the state response to the corona virus. As of yesterday, there were 1,172 positive cases of COVID-19 in Louisiana. Most of Louisiana cases, 562, are in the city of New Orleans, 562 cases. Louisiana is one of the leaders in the country with infection rates when the number is case rate is considered per 1000 people. Louisiana only has about 4.5 million people. The city of New Orleans has about 400,000 residents

Governor Edwards shared that today he would be in fasting and prayer for the state. I can do that. I suppose something I do today will be essential as I join many in Louisiana in prayer.  Here’s the Bible verse that Edwards used to end his remarks:

I am the Lord your God,
    who holds your right hand.
And I tell you, ‘Don’t be afraid!
    I will help you.*

I suppose I can feel like I am doing something essential today. I am joining the governor of Louisiana in prayer and fasting. What could be more essential than a moment or two of meditation and asking God for favor in these times?

*Isaiah 41:13 Easy to Read Version