Quarantine Playlist

Music is the soundtrack of your life.

Dick Clark

Last night I tuned in to watch One World: Together at Home, a two-hour program of music and uplifting messages from musicians, comedians, and other stars each coming from their own homes.  This morning I planned to write about what lessons I had learned this past week of quarantine, but now there is a new twist. After making a list of some of my favorite performances, I realized that my lessons match up perfectly with some of the songs on my new playlist. I am very thankful for the lessons I have learned this week. 

“Smile” sung by Lady Gaga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCNM706Iv8M

The current situation is difficult, but it does not mean that I have to spend my time wallowing in gloom and doom. Smiles are contagious and laughing rejuvenates the soul.  Several times this week I was lucky enough to have experiences that had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. These were brought to me courtesy of my daughter, my granddaughter, and my husband.  Thank you.

“Lean on Me” sung by Stevie Wonder (originally by Bill Withers) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vgfBJhlEEo

Most of us pride ourselves on being independent but in this time of uncertainty, I am finding that I need to lean on other people for a variety of things.  I am leaning on my family and friends when I am feeling frustrated or fearful and on my colleagues when I need help navigating distance learning. Everyone is so generous and patient.  Thank you.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” sung by The Rolling Stones https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7pZgQepXfA

I have been very fortunate in my life, not rich, not without financial worries, but fortunate enough to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a soft pillow on which to lay my head at night.  When my husband and I make a list for grocery shopping these days, we are not sure if we will be able to get everything on our list, and sometimes we don’t, yet we have not gone hungry. My priorities are starting to be rearranged, and I am re-learning the difference between needs and wants. “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.” Thank you.

“The Prayer” performed by Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, John Legend, Lady Gaga, and Lang Lang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYJCYr1I-Sk

“Lady Modanna” by Sir Paul McCartney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUL7K7RQ8HM

Prayer has always been a part of my life, but in these days of quarantine, it has increased and taken on a new dimension.  I am praying more often and for more people. Praying the rosary to Our Lady, Mary the Blessed Mother, is a powerful Catholic devotion.  My mother prayed it faithfully, and I hope to be a fraction of the example she set for me. Thank you.

“What a Wonderful World” sung by Camila Cabello & Shawn Mendes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32uSO-1zBL4

Despite the tragedy and devastation of COVID-19, the frustration of stay-at-home orders, and the derision caused by dueling political powers, this is a wonderful world.  The news is filled with the good works of healthcare professionals, grocery store employees, and other essential workers. People are rising to the occasion and having drive-by birthday and teacher parades. Neighbors are shopping for the elderly, children are chalking uplifting messages in driveways and on sidewalks, and people are finding new ways to stay connected while still social distancing. If we look for the good and the wonderful, we will find it.  Thank you.

“A Change is Gonna Come” sung by Lizzo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVr-Iqr0GTs

These are just a few of the lessons I am learning during these challenging days, and I am sure I have many more to learn in the days ahead, but I want to leave you with my hope. You may have seen lists circulating on social media about hoping that we don’t go back to “normal” when this is all over.  It is my hope that there is a change in the world beginning with myself. My list has just two words on it – gratitude and respect. It is my hope that we no longer take things for granted, that we are thankful for every minute of every day because nothing is guaranteed nor deserved. I also hope that there will be a new respect for “essential workers” who so often go unnoticed such as healthcare workers, therapists, police and fire personnel, and EMTs, and for the essential workers who get little respect: trash collectors, bus drivers, grocery store workers, mail carriers, delivery persons, and truck drivers. I hope we learn from this that every person in this wonderful world has a special purpose and that each is deserving of our gratitude and respect.

The Great Pause

Over the last couple of weeks I have been seeing the words “The Great Pause” in news articles and blog posts. It has been used in reference to the pause that the coronavirus is causing in our lives, the economy, the world.

The pandemic has caused chaos and closures, confusion and grief. Having stay-at-home orders and school closings is beyond our imaginations. This incidious virus is wreaking havoc and endangering the lives of not only of those who contract the illness but all of those healthcare professionals and essential workers who are still working. This is definitely awful, yet there is a silver lining.

This “Great Pause” is forcing people to stay at home with their immediate families, to spend more time with their children, and to rethink everything they thought they knew. This pandemic is much more than an inconvenience; it is really an eye-opener for those who are ready to see.

Today is Easter Sunday, a day I would normally have spent with my kids and grandkids at the home of my brother and sister-in-law with their family. Instead, we all ate separately in our own homes. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it because I knew I would be missing the egg hunt and the kidding and laughing that family gatherings bring, but it actually turned out better than expected. Why? I think it was because we knew we weren’t going to be together, but we made an extra effort to connect.

Last night my sister set up a Zoom meeting with my siblings and spouses. We spent over an hour talking and laughing. It felt good.

Today, we watched church services live streaming from our parish, and had our traditional Polish breakfast of kielbasa and eggs. Then, there were early morning video chats with my grandkids who were so excited about what the bunny brought them, and that made me so happy. It felt good.

This afternoon our niece set up Zoom meeting with some of my husband’s siblings living in three different states. There was the typical sibling bantering and laughing. It felt good.

We played Houseparty with our kids and grandkids, and there were many calls and video chats back and forth with them over the course of the day. It did feel very odd for my husband and me to be the only ones seated at the dining room table, but dinner was delicious because it was made with such love. It all felt good.

I know that there are so many people suffering right now, some more than others, yet I keep thinking that there is a lesson to be learned here. I am a beliver that everything happens for a reason even when I don’t know the reason. I am searching for the lessons I need to learn. The one I learned this weekend is to just be happy in what is and stop worrying about what isn’t.

Stay well.

Control


Today is Holy Thursday, probably my favorite day of the year to be in church. For many years I played string bass as part of the music ministry at my church; lately I have been in a pew. This year I will not be sitting in a pew but in front of my TV watching the mass streamed from an empty church.

It is out of my control.

Today I learned that my school will be closed for the rest of the academic year. For over 30 years I have shared in the bittersweet end-of-year activities that signal the moving up and moving on of my students. This year my classroom is empty way too early, and I am not getting the chance to say goodbye in person.

It is out of my control.

This Sunday is Easter when we would normally have dinner with my brother and his family followed by an Easter egg hunt for my four grandchildren. This year they will be hunting for eggs in their own homes.

It is out of my control.

These are difficult days for everyone, and each of us is coping the best we can. Just how are we coping? Some people are drinking more, eating more, crying more, or watching more TV. No judgment here, just observations.

This is within my control.

I joke that I need to put a padlock on my fridge and pantry, but it’s no joke. I am a stress eater, and watching too much TV news and not being on my regular schedule is causing me to forage like a bear just waking up from winter hibernation.

This is within my control.

Life has thrown us a curveball, and all we can do is try to stay in the batter’s box. I have learned during these past four weeks of isolating at home that I am not in charge; I have control over very little in the big picture, but I do have control over whether I spend my time worrying and being afraid, or making the most of this situation and keep moving forward.

This is within my control.

I am very aware that I will have good days and bad days, and that’s OK. What is most important is that the bad days don’t string together. I can control what I do with my day, how I take care of myself, and how I keep in touch with my family and friends. It’s time for me lean into my faith and get on a better schedule now that I know life will be like this for awhile.

What is in your control?

What are you going to do to reliquish control over the things beyond your reach? How are you going to take care of yourself? How are you going to stay connected?

Control what you can; let go of what you cannot.

Stay well.

Elegy for the World, Opus 19

Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.

Kahlil Gibran

Our world has come to an awkward cadence.
Poco a poco an invisible virtuoso has taken hold.

We are sheltering a-cappella – one or two or a family
without our daily accompaniments.

We long for a melody in this new atonal reality
with its ostinato of rising cases and death tolls.

The daily recitative of politicians and medical professionals
has become an eerie refrain to a mournful dirge.

We lament in unison for those whose requiems are postponed
and hope for an accelerando in recoveries of the stricken.

This poem was inspired by a prompt by Stacey L. Joy on ethicalela.com. They are posting a prompt each day for the month of April in celebration of National Poetry Month. The challenge was to use musical terms in a poem.

The Wind

April is National Poetry Month, so I am trying to focus on my poetry writing. I am an eternal optimist, but these days you need to be a realist. This poem didn’t start out being about our current situation; it was about the weather this week, but the poem had other ideas.

The Wind

The whipping wind,
with its invisible
yet massive arms, pushed full force
against the side of the house
pelting the siding with pebbles
lifted from the empty flower bed.

But the house stood firm on its foundation.

The wind circled round
to the back of the house
wanting to rearrange
the deck’s chairs.

But the deck stood firm on its frame.

The wind raced around
to the front of the house,
knocking and knocking
on the front door.

But the door hung firm on its hinges.

Homes were being attacked
by an invisible nemesis
carried by the wind
person to person.

But the people remained firm in isolation.

Laughter

Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.

Walt Disney

Last night was the best night I have had since the start of the stay-at-home order. I have been trying to think of ways to connect to my grandkids, especially the two older who are six. We have been video chatting, but there hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about with all of us being at home. So, I thought that maybe we could play a game of Pictionary via video.

The first one to try this out was my grandson, Parker, and his parents (my daughter and son-in-law). We set a time to Facetime after dinner, and the fun began almost immediately. Parker was armed with his paper and pencil; I was working with a small whiteboard and dry-erase marker.

It was so cute to see the top of Parker’s head as he diligently worked on his drawing and quietly whispered details to his mom; he wanted to get it “just right.” I, on the other hand was having difficulty manuevering my marker (that’s the excuse I am using) and getting my drawings to look like what I intended them to be.

The first outburst of laughter was at my expense, and it was well deserved. I tried to draw a minion, but the guesses from Parker and his mom, Angela, were a popsicle, a tongue depresser, and a thumb. I am glad that I was using an erasable marker, so there was no evidence of my drawing deficits.

Since Parker and I were having so much fun, Angela and Ryan had to get in on the action. First there was a giraffe and a flying squirrel, the Titanic, and a Death Star (I had no idea what that was). Then the game took a turn towards religion. Ang and Ryan were trying to out do each other. There was the Last Supper, The Resurrection, and a Pope’s fancy mitre (Ang has been reading Parker a book about the Vatican). The funniest of all was when Parker correctly identified his dad’s drawing of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I couldn’t believe he knew what it was.

Evidence of the game
Parker’s picture of Jesus.

We were on our call for just over an hour. The last drawing was a recreation of my husband asleep in his recliner. I was laughing so hard; I could hardly breathe.

Last night I learned that Walt Disney’s quote is true. Laughter is timeless; we can laugh through the stress of the times. Imagaination is ageless; Angela, Ryan, and I were having as much fun, if not more, than Parker. Dreams are forever. I am dreaming of the time when we can play games in person again, but until then the memory of last night will have me laughing for weeks. Maybe next time it will be charades.

Stay well.

Happy Little Things

I think it’s important to find the little things in everyday life that make you happy.

Paula Cole

Today, my Target order arrived. In it were things that made me very happy – little things. Since I am two weeks past my last haircut appointment, my hair is getting a little unruly. I am not worry about it getting long (can’t get an appointment until at least May) but the in-between stage is challenging when you have a slight wave and cowlicks. Getting hairclips and headbands in my package today was so exciting!

On top of that, also in the box were new marker pens. I couldn’t wait to get them out of the package and start using them, but I forced myself to wait until my schoolwork was completed!

One thing I have learned over this past month is that nothing is certain or guaranteed. Life as we know it can change on a dime, and it has, and when things you have taken for granted are taken from you, you need to find joy in the little things. This is what we should have been doing all along. I hope we all learn that lesson and continue to find joy in life’s little moments and treasures.

On this the last day of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge, I am feeling sad that it is over. This community of writers and the challenge has given me a purpose for writing each day. During these unsettling times writing each day is something that has made me happy. I am committed to keep writing although I’m not sure if I continue the every day posts, but I will do my best.

Stay well.

A Recipe for Surviving Home Isolation

#SOL20
Day 30/31

A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, have to bring soul to the recipe.

Thomas Keller

Ingredients

  • One large pack of patience
  • Several pounds of prayer
  • About 7 hours of sleep
  • 20-30 minutes of movement
  • A bunch of virtual connecting
  • At least one self-care activity
  • A smidge of news viewing
  • A sprinkle of humor
  • A dash of flexiblity

First, take as much patience as you can possibly find and mix it gently with a large helping of prayer. Next, stir in about seven hours of sleep combined with 20-30 minutes of movement combined with a self-care activity. Add a bunch of virtual connecting with family and friends, and a smidge of news reports. Place it all in somewhat of a schedule, and let it rest over night.

Take a healthy dose of this mixture each morning until it fills your soul. Be sure to top it with a sprinkle of humor and a dash of flexiblity.

Repeat as necesssary.

Stay well.

Security Blanket

#SOL20
Day 29/31

When someone loves you, it’s like having a warm blanket all around your heart.

Helen Fielding

Although we have turned the heat off for the season, there a some times in the evening when the living room feels a little chilly, so I have taken out a couple of throw blankets just in case.

One night last week, my husband questioned why I was using my blanket as I sat in the recliner watching TV. He was certain that it was not cold enough for a blanket. I just gave him a stare. Then he went on to say that he thought that I wasn’t really cold, but that I was using my blanket for security. He made me think.

This is the blanket I have been using lately. As you can see it is definitely an autumn blanket. While autumn is my favorite season, I usually put those items away before Christmas. But this blanket is special. It was given to me by my kids and grandkids as part of a larger very well thought out gift for my 60th birthday.

These days I really miss seeing my kids and grandkids in person and being able to give them kisses and hugs. So I guess my husband was right (don’t tell him I admitted that!). I am wrapping myself up in the closest thing I have to those I am missing the most, and being reminded to give thanks and count my blessings even when it is difficult.

Stay well.

Safe at Home

#SOL20
Day 28/31

You will not be the same after weathering the storms of life; you will be stronger, wiser, and more alive than ever before!

Bryant McGill

It is a rainy day in Pennsylvania, and I found myself going through old magazines and cutting out words and phrases to use as writing prompts. As I spread the various magazine clippings on the coffee table, words started to pop out at me and take shape. I carefully arranged and rearranged them until their message took hold. I pasted them in my notebook, and the result is pictured below.

I am not “stuck” at home; I am “safe” at home.

Stay well.