The Blessing of Time

Time is a blessing. Every day we have on this earth is a blessing. It might not always seem that way during tough times, but sometimes with a new perspective, those tough times weren’t so bad. Right now, life feels good because as I write this, I’m sitting on my deck swing in the beautiful early spring sunshine listening to the birds chirping in the trees. One bird is even watching me from the tree branches.

Ever since my father died, I’ve known that time with family and friends should never be taken for granted. For people who suddenly find themselves thrust into situations where they’re spending more time with their family and/or loved ones than they ever expected, being grateful for such time can be a challenge. But for me, it’s been a wonderful gift.

You see, with my oldest daughter is graduating high school this year, I was feeling like time was moving far too quickly. I’m not ready for her to go off to college and leave the nest, I’ll probably never be ready. My daughters and I are very close and we’re similar in many ways. My oldest daughter is who I chat with about common interests, who plays Warcraft with me, who reads my stories, who gets me as so few people do. Contemplating not seeing her half the week like I do now makes me sad and uncertain.

But then the world abruptly changed, and my daughters’ school closed for a month and I suddenly found that I had a lot more time with my girls than I’d expected. I was thrilled! No more missing time with my girls as they did band, sports, or other afterschool activities. Now suddenly it was like summer break early except that they had homework they needed to do every day.

My youngest daughter getting help with homework from her kitty, Owl.

While many parents might be unprepared and not as excited as I am to have more time with their children, I hope eventually they see what a blessing it can be. Yes, it’s hard to balance working from home with taking care of kids, but I’ve been doing it for almost seven years, and I can assure you it’s possible. Not necessarily easy, but possible. Sometimes the dishes don’t get washed for days, I only vacuum once a week, and the house is always in a state of chaos but trying to achieve “perfection” while balancing so much seems like a waste of time to me.

I don’t know what the future holds, and I do worry about my finances now that my online transcription work has slowed down considerably, but I’m still so very happy to have more time with my girls. Children grow up so fast and we can’t slow down time no matter how we try, but we can at least savor the moments we have and try to remember that the things we took for granted yesterday can become the things we yearn for today.

Avoiding the Frenzy

Now that my state has issued a stay put order effective tonight, I knew the big grocery stores like Walmart and Wegmans would be even crazier than before. So I made the decision to shop at my local grocery store Friday instead and alter the usual Saturday routine I have with my girls.

Before this current situation all started, on my weekends with my daughters I’d pick them up from their dad’s at 9am and we’d go to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, get groceries at Walmart, and then head to my mom’s to do laundry and visit. Having no desire to subject myself or my girls to empty shelves and crowds of people who may or may not be behaving like decent human beings, I shopped local in my town ahead of time.

Knowing also that local restaurants are no longer allowing inside dining and wanting to avoid a line at Dunkin Donuts, I ordered ahead on their app and just ran in and grabbed my order without a wait. I’d seen online that they didn’t appear to have their usual containers of chocolate milk available so I picked a couple bottles up Friday and brought them with me Saturday morning for my girls. My daughters were fine eating in my car and I was happy to at least provide their usual Saturday morning breakfast even if I couldn’t provide a complete sense of normalcy.

The only grocery store I went into Saturday morning was a store called Tops because I’d forgotten a package of instant potatoes to go with the rotisserie chicken I’d purchased Friday for dinner Saturday. I left my girls in the car to enjoy their breakfast and ran in alone so I could quickly grab what I needed.

Tops was busier than usual and their were bare shelves and such but people were behaving themselves and I was able to find what I wanted. I still hope eventually stores will have toilet paper in stock again but I’m okay for another week or so.

Having acquired what I needed while completely avoiding going near Walmart or Wegmans, I was content and pleased. Perhaps Walmart wouldn’t have been horrible but I didn’t need to subject myself or my girls to it if it was. I don’t usually shop at Wegmans anyway because I don’t feel they’re as affordable as they once were so I wasn’t even tempted to go there. Plus it feels good to support my local grocery store in these times.

With our errands done, I headed to my mom’s house to continue the usual routine. I go very few places on a weekly basis and they’re all essential so the stay put order won’t alter my life noticeably and hopefully won’t get stricter. As long as I can get my girls for my half of the week, visit my mom every weekend like I’ve been doing for years, and get groceries, I’ll be okay.

My continued hope is that my friends and family stay safe and healthy, this all doesn’t last too terribly long, and that people remember to be kind and patient with one another. We can all get through this and come out wiser and more appreciative of the little things that don’t seem so little anymore.

The Comfort of Bird Songs

In these troubling times, it’s easy to lose sight of the good stuff in life and get caught up in all the fear and anxiety. I am not immune to such feelings and I think it’s quite human to be afraid and uncertain about the future right now.

I am guilty of checking Twitter and Facebook for updates on COVID-19 far too often throughout the night because I’m afraid of things like lockdowns and shelter in place orders. Mind you, I already don’t leave my house much because I work from home and don’t have a social life to speak of, but somehow the idea of not being “allowed” to leave my house is unsettling. However, no matter how much tunnel-vision I periodically feel when reading the news, there’s always something that widens my view: the continuing arrival of spring.

There’s one thing that always helps to ease the fears I’ve built up overnight and that’s the coming of a new day. As the sky begins to lighten with sunrise, and even before sometimes, the birds begin chirping in the huge maple tree and pine tree outside my bedroom windows. The first birds are always the robins and they’re followed closely by the eastern bluebirds which stick around all year on my property.

It’s not just in the mornings that I hear bird songs, I hear them all day long and I know who sings most of them. I have a nice flock of goldfinches that are always happily chirping away, some cardinals that sing “pretty, pretty, pretty” frequently, blue jays that sing/screech in their unique way, red-winged blackbirds, wrens, crows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, tufted titmouse, a variety of sparrows, and many more.

Some of my resident goldfinches from a few years ago.

I’m happy that I’ve figured out as many bird songs as I have because I remember growing up that my dad knew lots of bird songs. I remember walking through a park somewhere and hearing a rather distinct bird song and not knowing what it was. Without even seeing the bird, my dad said it was a Scarlet Tanager. We walked a bit more and sure enough, we eventually saw the bright red body of a Scarlet Tanager high up in the pine tree branches.

Scarlet Tanager image courtesy of All About Birds.org

I remember being so amazed that my father knew the bird by its song and I promised myself that someday I’d have that same ability. I’ve spent years listening to and figuring out bird songs and now whenever I go on walks with my girls I can tell them which birds they’re hearing. I feel an immense sense of pride knowing that I’ve managed to follow in my father’s footsteps in that regard.

Hearing my feathered friends singing brings me great comfort throughout the day and reminds me constantly that the world is still spinning and life continues to renew with spring. When the weather permits, I will continue to go on daily walks and take in and enjoy the beauty of nature around me. Nature is receiving a bit of a break with less people driving their cars and such and I’m sure it appreciates it. We must never lose sight of the blessings around us and the fact that we’re just a very small part of a vast, unknowable universe.

The Sun Still Shines

blue sky

With the state of the world today, it seemed like a good time to start writing in this blog again. There seems to be so much, fear, chaos, anxiety, and panic that I can only hope my optimistic words will help somehow.

I live in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and yesterday I received the news that my girls’ school is going to close for a month. While this has been happening across the country due to COVID-19, there haven’t been any cases of it reported in this county yet. I can understand the school districts wanting to take precautions to protect everyone, but it’s just so hard to fathom that something like this is happening in my lifetime.

Having seen the chaos and pandemonium at grocery stores due to fears about the virus and self-quarantine, I headed to Walmart before the sun was even up yesterday morning because I just needed basic groceries. I was most worried that I wouldn’t be able to get milk for the week but when I checked their grocery app it was still in stock so I was hopeful.

Although I was anxious to get my milk and other essentials for the week, I still took the time to stop by Canandaigua Lake and take some pictures. I think it’s vital that in these “dark” feeling times we still remember and see the beauty that remains all around us and that the light still shines strong. The only eerie part about my visit to the lake was the abundance of seagulls circling overhead but that’s really not unusual for them and perhaps they sensed something amiss about the humans around them.

When I shop early on Saturday mornings, there are usually very few people in the store and as a well-practiced introvert, I’m okay with that.

But yesterday morning there were more people than usual and indeed, the toilet paper, tissue, and paper towel aisles were completely empty. Fortunately, I bought a package last week that will last me and my girls a couple of weeks. Hopefully, by the time we run out, people will have regained their sanity.

I was able to get my gallon of milk and the other essentials I needed for what I thought would be a relatively normal school week. There were odd things missing from shelves such as frozen pizza, pasta, dish detergent, and macaroni and cheese. But when I went to the vitamin aisle, the only vitamin that seemed depleted was vitamin C. Also the bread aisle was nearly as empty as the toilet paper aisle.

While I did my shopping, there were employees dashing around fulfilling grocery pickup orders and people filling their carts. There was a sense of nervousness and uncertainty in the air and I tried my best not to let it infect me. To perk myself up a bit, I bought a colorful spring-themed bedspread and some flowery bell-bottom pants that are far too young for me. But in these trying times, a girl does what she must to lift her spirits.

When I finished shopping, I headed to my mother’s house for the usual Saturday visit which involves doing laundry and watching The Good Witch or something else we can find streaming. I usually play World of Warcraft too and my mom and I have interesting conversations.

Neither of us is panicked about COVID-19, we’re just being smart and taking precautions. My mother is in her 70s and has underlying health conditions so she’s at a higher risk but I pray to all the powers that be every day that she stays healthy and that this all blows over eventually and life can return to normal.

As far as the whole social distancing thing goes, as an introvert, I’ve been doing that for years without an issue. I work from home already so I’m fine with having my girls home from school. I do worry that more people working online might mean less work for me, but time will tell how that plays out. I’m hoping the work from home surge will actually benefit Rev.com and their online transcribers like myself.

I’ve been spending time by myself for many years because on days I don’t have my daughters, it’s just me and my four cats and one dog. I tried being more of a social butterfly in the past but it really wasn’t for me. The only social events I seem to thrive at are the pow-wows hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) and I’m hopeful those will resume and continue when it’s safe.

One of the most important things I do for my mental and physical health is to take the time to stop and appreciate the world around me. I go for walks, I sit outside on my deck, or I even just watch the birds out my window. Today the sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. The world hasn’t stopped spinning, the sun still shines, and I have a lot to be grateful for.

I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will hold, but I remain optimistic and hopeful and always try to find the upside of any situation. Just last week I was grumbling about the time change and how the early school mornings were dark again. Well now there is no physical school for a month and we can all sleep in until it’s light.

By the time school resumes-and it will resume, I have faith in that-the mornings will be light again, it will be spring, and life will begin its annual blooming. I don’t know about you, but I plan on enjoying every moment and focusing more on the light than on the dark.