Every time I talk to my dad, he reminds me to make sure we are all following proper handwashing techniques. The first time he suggested this to me, I laughed and told him that of course, we are. While washing hands you pray one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” and by the time you are finished you have hit the 20-second mark. Later, I looked up a video on “proper handwashing technique” and learned that I was missing some steps! So, I had all the kids sit down and watch the video twice. The teenagers weren’t pleased. There may have been eye-rolling.
My dad’s routine when he comes home from the hospital is to drop his shoes outside, enter the laundry room and put his scrubs in the wash before heading to the guest room shower. He has two pairs of scrubs and rotates them. I think he’s sleeping in the guest room as well. He is one week into his current three weeks on. He is no longer an ER doc, and was told he will not be working on the COVID-19 floor of the hospital because of his age. Still, there are so many precautions. He’s very calm and matter of fact about the situation and has lots of information. I’ve always been very comforted by information.
Staying home feels safe and we are very aware of our privilege in being able to do so. Yes, it’s hard not seeing anyone, but it’s a small contribution to be asked to make and looking back these long days will seem quite short. I am staying mostly calm, but definitely have my anxious moments, if not days. I’m thinking there must be an adjustment period for this new way of life. I’ve never liked grocery shopping, but now more than ever shopping feels stressful. My stomach gets all knotted as I pull into the parking lot and try to gauge how crowded the store will be based on the cars in the parking lot. Once I get in the store, I feel better and quickly grab what I need. A woman entering one grocery store (with her two teenage daughters along) as I exited, exclaimed, “Oh my, gawd!” at the sight of my face mask. I wasn’t upset by her words but a little surprised by her bad behavior. It’s as if my mask dehumanized me and made her feel as if it were acceptable to shout that within a few feet of me. Yes, I wear a mask when I go shopping, and I’ve been sewing them for others over the past week. It seems like a good idea to wear one if you have one and can (and know how to use it properly) for the sake of others, and I’m not the only one of this opinion. Quite opposite of the rude woman, an elderly man approached me in the grocery store and asked where I bought my mask. I sewed masks for him and his wife later that day and dropped them off at his house. I think that this is a time for small acts of kindness even if they feel like they will have minimal impact. Perhaps, the most important thing we can give is hope. There is hope in a handmade mask from a stranger, I feel certain of that. When we give hope, maybe we gain it as well? My baby sister is sick now and has serious underlying conditions. She will be tested for COVID-19 this week. I refuse anything but HOPE.
(Edited to add: Several of you have asked for the pattern I am using to sew masks. I should have thought to include that to begin with. My local hospital posted a list of items they need and included the patterns they would like people to follow when sewing masks. There are links to the patterns here. There are a few different designs. For those who don’t have a mask at all, I have made the ones that have a wire across the bridge of the nose (I used pipe cleaners for the wire.) Keep in mind that these are a sort of last resort. There is some thought out there that they do help to prevent the wearer from transmitting the virus, but less as far as protecting the person wearing them. The other pattern I have sewn is the cover mask for wearing over an N95. I think these are useful for healthcare professionals who are having to reuse their masks. The sewn cover can be worn over the N95 and be washed and reused.)
As it became clear a couple of weeks ago that we would not be going back into the world after recovering from the flu but instead, heading into a much longer period of self-isolation with so many others, I recognized that I needed some sort of routine. I’m not a schedule person. I’ve written about my attempts to follow one in the past. I’m always very enthusiastic about getting started, but typically cease to follow the schedule within days. The situation we are in now is different. With absolutely no outside activities, no one going to work, or lessons, or homeschool co-op, it’s like we are floating through our days. We really need anchors. With the exception of meals, the only thing I had holding me down was praying a rosary first thing in the morning. That’s a habit I formed a few months ago and I’m so grateful for it. When I started to sketch out a very loose schedule, I started with that rosary. Every day, our priests are saying Mass at 9 a.m. and praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. and sharing via Facebook live, so I added those things next. What a comfort to be able to join them in this way while we are unable to attend Mass. And what a gift to be able to structure our days around prayer. I scheduled in a block of school time in the morning ( I noticed that a walk outside before we start school helps Silas and Job focus on their work better than if we save the walk for after they are finished.) And I have a block of work time in the afternoon that I can fill with whatever I need to. I followed this routine all last week and it worked. Let’s see how week two goes.
As far as more frivolous coping mechanisms, I’ve been thinking that it would be awfully therapeutic to have a little purring kitten to curl up next to me on the bed… Of our cats, two belong to Larkspur, and two to Seth. My two outdoor cats moved into the neighbors’ garage a few months ago (It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that Intruder’s name should be changed to Traitor, though I think the neighbors call him Stripey.) A kitten (or two) sure would be nice. I have a friend with some rescues she will be looking for homes for in a few weeks. In other words, I have a few weeks to come to my senses.
In the meantime, I’m trying to make do by having bunny therapy sessions with Larkspur’s pet rabbit, Gus. He is the most hilarious little animal, like a dog, really! He gets excited and comes hopping over to see me when I walk in the room and will snuggle next to me while I pet him. Both Larkspur and Beatrix have a rabbit obsession right now. They have become experts in rabbit care and follow bunny extremist youtube channels. There is wheatgrass growing in the kitchen window for the bunnies and lettuce planted in garden beds dedicated to them as well. They are talking about starting their own Youtube channel all about rabbits and other pets. The thought of this is giving Keats actual nightmares, which is hilarious.
So, this is how I am handling the uncertainty right now, and the potential for this going on for many more weeks or months: prayer, a bit of sewing, pets, and my garden. It’s a very good time for meditating on Padre Pio’s words, “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” I would add, “And try to restrain yourself from getting too many more pets.”
I’m also considering ducklings. Please tell me again how messy and stinky they are? And try not to use adjectives such as, “funny” or “delightful.”
p.s. Almost forgot to include these photos of Gus’s cute audience this morning while he ate his breakfast.