A New Normal

It’s a strange new world.

On Sunday afternoon I ventured out to my favorite grocery store. Normally, this would be a fairly routine experience, consisting of a grocery list and reusable bags. But “normal” went out the window about three weeks ago.

This trip felt more like an excursion to a foreign — and hostile — land. I had to decide what to carry with me, what to touch (and not touch), and how to disinfect myself and my purchases once I was safely home. Since our supply of nitrile gloves is running low, I left without them.  And I don’t own a mask. So the plan was to sanitize my cart, keep a safe distance at all times, only touch the merchandise I intended to buy, and get out as quickly as possible. I stuck to that plan, and managed to find almost everything on my list. Thankfully, TP was not on it. (Note: this photo was taken two weeks ago, when Scott brand was still considered a last resort.)

Ironically, “Under Pressure” was playing over the sound system as I made my way to the checkout. (Who selects these grocery store playlists?) I had to remind myself it was Sunday. There were no lines at all, giving cashiers time to sanitize the conveyor belts between customers. I think I was in and out in about 30 minutes . . . no small feat for Wegman’s, no matter when you shop.

Have you seen the YouTube video yet instructing us how to safely unpack and sanitize groceries and take-out meals at home? Again, that was my intention, but not exactly what happened. I was more concerned with the milk spoiling than viral contamination. I did, however, put all the bags on the kitchen floor as I unpacked them, and wiped the contents with disinfectant wipes before putting them away. And I washed my produce. Then washed the kitchen floor.

By the time everything was put away, I completely exhausted from what used to be an everyday task. The rain finally stopped and the sun was shining brightly.  By all appearances, it should have been a typical early spring Sunday afternoon. Kids should have been out playing with their friends. Neighbors should have been chatting together on the front porch. But kids aren’t outside unless they are in their own yards. And neighbors are keeping a wary distance, offering only a wave from the safety of their driveways. More notably, our busy DC suburb is devoid of nearly all traffic. The roads are quiet, as is Dulles Airport, which is literally 10 miles from our home. On a normal Sunday, a jet would be flying over our house ever few minutes. The silence is eerily reminiscent of 9/11 when all air traffic ceased.

This is the new normal.

It’s as though someone hit the Pause button on life. Everything has slowed down to nearly a halt; everyone is hunkered down waiting to hear the “all clear” call to resume their lives. The most difficult part for me has been missing my mother and brother, and also my church family.

But amidst all this chaos and the heart-wrenching stories of lives cut short by COVID-19, there are also truly amazing things happening all around us. There are stories of strength, generosity, and human resilience.

Until two weeks ago, no one had ever heard the phrase “social distancing”. Now it’s the law of the land. Schools and churches have closed, businesses are shuttered, and vacations have been cancelled. Loved ones have been separated by an invisible enemy, and are not sure when they will be able to hold each other again. Yet from this situation, parents — now working from home — have suddenly become teachers; restaurant and store managers have adapted to take-out and meal delivery options to stay afloat. Churches have begun live streaming or recording their church services, opening their virtual doors to the entire world. With the help of the internet, the human race has discovered unique ways to stay in touch and share the love while observing a 6-foot boundary.

Social network sites, usually an endless source of snark and satire, have now become a launchpad for creative ideas to keep both kids and adults entertained while sheltering at home. (My personal favorite is the Teddy Bear Hunt, catching on ’round the world.)

Battle Lines

Those fighting this disease, from hospital ER’s to research laboratories, are nothing short of heroes. They are on the front lines every day, battling a virus that doesn’t play by the rules. I hope they know how many people are cheering them on, praying for them, and scrambling to help find needed supplies.

As so many have reminded us, this is only temporary. But it will last longer than any of us want it to, and will end only when it is safe to resume our daily lives.

Normal, when it returns, will be very different. We have all been touched by this illness in some way. My hope is that we will one day soon emerge from our homes and realize that we need one another. We cannot fight these battles alone, and we are stronger together than we are apart.

You Surpass Them All

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today is the very best day to focus on the blessings in my life, and the beautiful family that the Lord has given me.

This will be the most quoted scripture of the day, but Proverbs 31:28-29 sums up the blessings of being a wife and mother . . .

My day began with Sunday worship, followed by a surprise Mother’s Day brunch, alone with my husband.

This was the view from our window seat overlooking a soggy West Market Street from Casa Nostra. (Definitely worth checking out, NoVa friends!)

I neglected to take a photo of my first course Caesar salad, but it set the stage perfectly for the main course of pan-seared salmon with ricotta gnocchi and a pesto cream sauce. And, no Italian brunch would be complete without Tiramisu. It was a decadent meal!

I returned home and was showered with Mother’s Day cards from both children, flowers, goodies and a Kohl’s gift card. (My son knows me well 😉.) And no Mother’s Day would be complete without a long, lazy nap.

My own mother and late mother-in-law are examples of women who deeply loved and sacrificed for their families. They were both raised during the Depression and knew the meaning of hardship. I believe this helped them raise their families on a shoestring budget, while creatively stretching every dollar. They were frugal shoppers, skilled seamstresses, and round-the-clock nurses. Multi-tasking wasn’t a term in the 60’s and 70’s, yet they were the pioneers. Many mothers left their homes when the kids went off to school, and took up careers of their own.

Mother’s Day looked very different when we were kids. I don’t remember bringing Mom breakfast in bed, but she usually got a break from cooking. That meant going out to dinner or ordering takeout, which was a special treat for our family.

And even though it was a holiday in her honor, like all other moms, she still did a lot of the usual tasks that day in preparation for the week ahead. In that spirit, I made my weekly run to Wegman’s today, and am knee-deep in laundry as I type.

So, thank you to all the moms who came before my generation, setting the bar and guiding our feet in paths toward the future. You have inspired us, guided us, and made us proud to bear the title of mother — or mentor — to the children in our lives. 💕