Some Great Things About Being Home

While many of us are starting to go a bit stir-crazy being confined to our homes, there are a good deal of things that I have started to appreciate. I have been home since March 12th and while it is difficult to follow all of the shelter-in-place guidelines here in New Jersey, I am doing it with a smile! Here are a few things that I can appreciate while being in this situation:

  1. Not having to apply make-up or nail polish! My skin and nails are enjoying the break.
  2. Letting my hair air dry. When I think about the last time I did not put product in my hair or dry my hair with a blow dryer, I have to go back to about 6th grade. I think that’s when I got my first perm. Chemical city! Am curious to see how my hair does with less product and residue in it an no heat on it for awhile. I am thinking it will be much healthier!
  3. Putting on sweats and leggings each day! I know. I know. Some people are saying to keep a sense of normalcy and to get dressed each day. I am getting dressed, just not wearing anything with zippers or that is too confining. This is the most comfortable I have been since I was a baby in one-sies and footsie pajamas!
  4. Doing less laundry! Normally, I would wear three outfits a day – my workout clothes, my work clothes and then my lounging clothes. Not now! I am down to two outfits a day. My husband had his work clothes and his lounging clothes but now is now making interesting fashion choices, as many people have also done, and tends to wear a work shirt for his video conferences paired with his sweats or lounging pants. He still looks cute!
  5. Leaving the ironing board in the closet. Waaahoooo! One of my least favorite chores is on hold…for now…
  6. Allowing the girls be free much earlier in the day. Ahhhhhh. So liberating!!!
  7. Having/making time to read. I love reading and am enjoying the time I would have spent commuting enjoying some excellent books – some to entertain and some to inform (will write about them another day!)
  8. Going to pee whenever I want!
  9. Attending virtual happy hours with friends and family. Thankful for the technology available to us so that we can enjoy a libation and “see” our loved ones each day!
  10. Walking my dog several times a day. My little terrier is in his glory now that my husband and are home every day. He dutifully splits his time lying in his bed in my husband’s office and lying on the couch or in his crate while I am doing things downstairs. I take him out on his normal schedule and add one or two for good measure. It is also a great reason to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air!

Think of all the positives of being at home, laugh at yourself and your situation and remember that this is temporary! We will get through this and life will return to normal!

May God bless you and keep you and yours safe and healthy today and always!

Coronavirus – A Time to be Thankful

You may be a little confused about the title of this post. Thankful? How can we be thankful for a deadly virus that has infected the world and is taking the lives of so many? How can we be thankful for the mass disruption of our lives? People have lost their jobs. Kids are not in school. Parks, gyms, restaurants and salons have closed. Sporting events have ceased and the summer Olympics are now postponed. How can we be thankful?

It’s easy. We must remember –

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJB)

We have become a society that is used to getting whatever we want almost immediately. We are a “same day delivery” culture and now that we have to wait for things and not get our overpriced coffee or enjoy our favorite restaurant cuisine, we are getting grumpy. We are used to immediate gratification in so many things. Want to watch a movie? Get it on Netflix. Out of dog food and Cheese Its? Get them delivered tomorrow from Amazon Prime.

This pandemic is horrible but it could be way worse – think Anne Frank and Laura Ingalls Wilder, two of my personal favorites that we can all learn from.

Anne Frank. I would hope all of you know who she was, but just in case you do not, she was one of the many unfortunate victims of Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust.

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/who-was-anne-frank/

She and her family went into hiding in an attic with seven other people for 25 months. 25 months IN AN ATTIC! They had to be quiet during the day, were forbidden to go outside and endured a great deal of turmoil and tension between the inhabitants, not to mention the daily terror and fear of being caught and sent to a concentration camp (which eventually happened). They had to wait until food was brought to them and there was not much to do to occupy their time in seclusion other than read, write, talk, sleep and daydream. Her diary is still in print. Get it and read it! Or, if you had to read it in 8th grade, reread it as an adult. It is a whole new perspective.

WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL! We, including our children, have plenty of things, especially technology, to keep us occupied during our shelter in place. We have television, the internet, our phones, etc. This leads to a myriad of activities we can do to keep us from going stir-crazy. We can exercise, play board games, card games, video games or games on our phones. We can grab a cookbook and cook a new meal or go on youtube and learn a new skill or craft. We can have games, books, puzzles, toys, clothes, food and many other things sent to us from Amazon, Walmart, Target and the like, though they may take a few days to get delivered right now. Be thankful we have these opportunities to keep us busy and our minds active. Anne Frank and her family did not. Nor do many others in isolation around the world.

Also, think about Laura Ingalls Wilder and other pioneer and Native American families who endured The Long Winter of 1880 and 1881 in DeSmet, South Dakota. (If you have a little extra time, read The Long Winter, it is one of her most popular books!) There was a blizzard every three to four days from October to May. They and other families went through their winter reserves rather quickly and although the Ingalls family was living in town (not on the prairie) the trains could not get through the 12+ feet of snow that had fallen. They were soon starving without much to burn for heat, not to mention limited with activities to pass the time.

https://www.startribune.com/the-long-hungry-winter-of-laura-ingalls-wilder/244068281/

WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL! We are not in the dead of winter, though some of our fellow Americans are suffering from terrible weather (my thoughts and prayers are with you). We are allowed outside (six feet apart, but we can leave our homes!)

We have indoor plumbing so we can go to the bathroom without freezing!

We can keep in touch with our friends and families via texting, phone calls and video conferencing. Back then, people did not know if their children, parents and neighbors were okay or even alive!

Many of our children are still being taught online (thank your child’s teachers for all of the extra work they are putting in planning quality lessons!) Schools were closed for months during that long, snowy winter.

In addition, we have heat, we have food and we can get our food and supplies delivered (though it is taking much longer now). We can run to the store if needed. We can pick our food up curbside. Natives and pioneer families did not have that luxury.

Finally, we should be thankful that we have what so many of us lacked before – extra time! While many, like my husband seem to be working MORE hours, a lot of us now have those precious extra hours in a day. So many of us have said, ” I don’t have time to…” Well, now you do! Try something new. Here is a quick list of ideas for adults and children:

  1. Exercise – many of us are turning to comfort foods during this time and may put on some extra pounds. Try a new workout online or download one of the many fitness apps out there. There are also great workouts on Pinterest and Youtube. Two of my favorite workouts on Youtube – HASFit and Heather Robertson. Both will get your hearts pumping and put a smile on your face at the end! Exercise is such a great way to relieve stress! And kids will enjoy it as well!
  2. Walk your dog several times a day. It gets you out and moving and your four-legged friend will love it!
  3. Take inventory of your fridge and freezer and meal prep. Chop those veggies, make the soup you only had time for on Sundays, plan your meals for the week. Try a new recipe. Include the kids! Depending on their ages, let them plan a meal one or two nights a week. Don’t forget baking a healthy dessert! Or even a not-so-healty one!
  4. Go on Youtube and learn how to do almost anything! Draw, paint, crochet, knit, change a tire, sculpt…you name it!
  5. Clean, organize, and figure out what you do not use, like or need and donate it to those less fortunate. Many organizations will come right to do your door to get your donations. My personal favorite – http://www.purpleheartpickup.org
  6. Read a book or one of the many magazines you may have stacked on a shelf.
  7. Write a poem, a song, a novel, a short story, anything to get your thoughts on paper.
  8. Teach your dog a new trick. Pets are loving having everyone home with them!
  9. Start a gratitude journal and list all of the good things that are happening in your life and in your homes.
  10. Relax and veg out with your favorite shows. It’s okay to do that too!

We need to be thankful in these trying times. I know it is not easy. I know it is tough being cooped up at home, especially for those with a big family in small quarters, but IT IS TEMPORARY. It will not last forever. We are so used to having things immediately gratify us, that it is tough to be patient and make these changes. However, to truly triumph over all of this, we need to make the best of it and be thankful for our health, the time we have together and all of the many opportunities we have to keep our brains and bodies active.

We are a part of history. We will look back one day and tell our children and grandchildren all about the time the entire world shut down trying to fight this horrible illness. We will tell them how most businesses closed. How there were no sporting events or shows in theaters or concerts. But I hope and pray that those conversations will be dominated by the things we did, made, learned and created while we were home.

I pray for all of you who are reading this to stay safe and healthy. I hope that you have a grateful heart and stay positive. Never lose hope. Never lose faith and never forget to be thankful.

As I Hung My Flag Today…

As I hung my flag today, I said a prayer, like I do every day for our military, policemen and firemen. I pray for their protection and thank God for giving us people who risk their lives for total strangers.

Today, almost two decades later, my heart hurts again remembering and thinking of what happened 18 years ago today.

I will never forget.

I will never forget hearing the news that a plane hit one of the towers. I thought it was an accident.

I will never forget hearing the news that a second plane hit and that it was a terror attack.

I will never forget trying to comprehend what that meant and what I should do with my new 5th graders, bright eyed and innocent.

I will never forget the terror I felt when I heard another plane hit the Pentagon.

I will never forget seeing the people running, covered with dust, fear and disbelief.

I will never forget seeing all of the brave and courageous firemen running into the burning towers.

I will never forget hearing that people were trapped above where the planes hit.

I will never forget hearing about and then seeing the jumpers.

I will never forget seeing the towers fall, feeling weak knowing that people were still in them but knowing I had to stay strong for my students.

I will never forget seeing the Pentagon, a symbol of our mighty military, on fire with people running out.

I will never forget hearing of a plane going down in Pennsylvania.

I will never forget seeing the unbelievable heroism of the firemen, policemen and first-responders we saw evacuating people and trying to get others to safety.

I will never forget crying and feeling a deep pain that I had never felt before or since.

I will never forget the helplessness I felt that day. And the anger.

I will never forget.

I will also never forget the mixed feelings of patriotism in the following days and weeks.

I will never forget the fundraisers, blood drives and carts of food and water we donated to at the grocery stores.

I will never forget the prayer services held for those who died and those who were still missing.

I will never forget.

I will never forget the strength and tremendous leadership shown by President Bush and Mayor Giuliani.

I will never forget hearing the amazing rescue stories and incredible bravery of people saving their coworkers, strangers and friends.

I will never forget hearing the chats of “USA USA USA.”

I will never forget the flags on cars, on doors, on homes, on clothing.

I will never forget that sense of unity we felt after.

I will never forget that day or what it meant to our country.

No one should EVER forget.

To Those Who Don’t Remember…

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those of us who lived through it know full well what happened that day. We remember the crystal clear blue sky that morning, with all of us going about our normal day, when in a split second, life in the United States and the world changed forever.

But as I learned over the years, much to my dismay, the majority of children who did not experience that day have no emotional connection to it. They see it as the day some planes were taken over by bad people who crashed them into buildings causing the twin towers to fall.  And while we cannot expect them to truly ever feel what we did on that Tuesday morning, we must try and preserve the impact. The horror. The heroism. The confusion. The disbelief. The anger.

I know not everyone agrees with me about remembering this day and that is fine.  I know there are parents who do not even tell their children about it because it is so disturbing but you cannot hide history.  I know there are schools who sugarcoat what happened because they do not want to scare students or make them feel unsafe.  I think this is wrong. We MUST remember.  We MUST acknowledge what happened that day and how we came together as a nation and how we helped each other and how we we rebuilt the greatest city in the world.  Students today should know about the amazing heroism and sacrifice of those aboard Flight 93.  They should know about the rescues that occurred at the Pentagon.  They should know. They must know.

To those of you who don’t remember – September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in American history.  You have heard that before. It was so much more than just two buildings getting knocked down. People were in those buildings. People were in their offices.  People were riding in elevators.  People were in restaurants and at the front desks greeting visitors and employees as they arrived for work. There were firemen, policemen and first-responders who went into the buildings to assess the damage and see if they could save others. I often wonder how many of those firemen knew the extent of the damage and yet, went into harm’s way anyway knowing their own lives would very possibly end.

It was more than just planes crashing into buildings and into a field in Pennsylvania. Innocent passengers were on those flights. Pilots and stewardesses with families and friends were in those seats. The heroism on the passengers on Flight 93 is something that should be celebrated, as they likely saved the lives of hundreds of others. What did it feel like for them to willingly give their lives to save others? What about those at the Pentagon? The hub of our military operations.  One of the “safest” places in Washington.  When I heard the Pentagon also got hit, my legs felt weak and  a feeling of despair and terror washed over me as I realized our country was under attack, not just New York.

More importantly, I hope that each person reading this never has to experience what we did on that day, but for those who don’t remember…

Look at the pictures and video footage  of that day- our eyes were wide with horror, confusion, helplessness and disbelief.  As we closed our eyes to try and sleep that night, our minds replayed images of people running away from the buildings, of heroes running into the buildings, of people crying, of dust and debris all over New York, of papers from offices flying in the air, of the hole in the ground left by the plane in PA, of the fires at the Pentagon.

Listen to the stories of those who were in New York and Washington, of the cell phone calls made to loved ones from the towers or from Flight 93 – our ears were filled with the sounds of our countrymen in distress, of those who knew they were doing to die, of buildings collapsing with people still in them, of sirens, of voices yelling directions.  And the most poignant for me – the wails and cries of despair. They hurt my heart to this day.

Touch a friend or person you love – strangers were grabbing and hugging each other as they went through the worst experience of their lives. They helped each other to safety. We hugged our friends, families and coworkers, yearning for some type of comfort.

We must remember.

Americans rebounded, as we always do, from that devastating and cowardly attack on the innocent and on our country. But we are Americans. We are resilient. We are compassionate. We are determined. We are strong.

But on that day, we did not feel strong. We felt despair, we felt horror, we felt helpless, we felt confusion, we felt shock, we felt anger. We felt vengeful. So for those who don’t remember, I beg you to try. We cannot forget.

The songs below are three great summations of how many of us felt that day. I encourage everyone to listen to them.  I chose the live versions of all three songs so that you can see and feel the emotion these men put into them.  May God bless all of those who perished that day, all those who lost loved ones, and all of our troops past and present defending our freedom.  We will never forget.

 

 

Always Ready

Brrrrrrrrr!! Whoooooshhhh!!  After yesterday’s temperature reaching almost 70 degrees, winter has returned. It is in the 40s with wind gusts up to 45 miles an hour.  I was up half the night listening to the wind attempting to shake the house and everything in it.  When I woke up and looked out the window, tree limbs were being tossed around like a ship in a storm. I said a silent prayer that none of the large branches would come down on our cars or house! So far, so good!

This wacky weather in New Jersey is making outdoor activities difficult.  I try to walk our dog, Scraps, every day at least once a day.  He is a terrier with a lot of energy! This morning, as I listened to the winds and watched the weather on TV, I pondered whether or not I would be taking him today.  Scraps seemed to sense my hesitation and almost immediately, his ears perked up, his tail started to wag and he looked at me with an expression of pleaing, “It’s not that cold! I’m ready! Let’s go!  It’s just a little wind! What’s the problem?”

20161230_115829_resized

So, as usual, I gave in and bundled up. There seemed to be enough time between the strong gusts that I could at least take him around the block.  I opened the door and put out the American flag as I do every morning, making sure it was secure. Scraps was anxious to get started and started to pull to being the walk. Almost immediately, I regretted not putting on my gloves.  It felt like it was in the 30’s again.  Ugh! I pulled my hat down further over my ears and started moving.

The neighborhood was littered with garbage cans since today was garbage day. I shivered a little and pulled up the zipper on my coat to my chin. BRR!  Scraps, however, was trotting along without a care in the world.  Wind? No problem!  Cold temps? Don’t be a sissy!

A few minutes into our walk, a gust of wind came and blew the top of a garbage can a few feet in front of us, just missing him. Scraps pinned his rather large ears back (I guess to keep the wind from blowing in them) stopped, lifted his leg on a tuft of grass and kept right on going, happy as ever.  For a split second, I considered turning around but then realized that Scraps is like that in any kind of weather. He is always ready to go for a walk. It could be 100 degrees out with 90% humidity (and yes, it does get that hot in NJ) and he is ready to go.  It could be snowing and even sleeting out, but he is always, always ready for a walk.  If I was willing to take him, I bet he would even walk in the pouring rain (well, maybe with his coat on).

I once read an article that we should try and be more like our dogs. It focused on their love of play, long amounts of sleep and being a loyal companion.  I would like to add one more thing to the list – to always be ready to walk/exercise and truly enjoy it as much as he does!  No matter what!

 

Whoops!

Earlier today, I wrote a post about Lent.  In it, I described the three disciplines of Lent (fasting, prayer and almsgivig) and what I was going to do to fulfill them.  I am not sure why I felt the need to share what I was going to do, other than to possibly inspire others to participate more in the prayer and almsgiving and not just the fasting.  However, after doing more research on Lent and arguments for and against observing it, I came across this from the New Testament:

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be            seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in              heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with  trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”             

                                                                                                            -Matthew 6:1-4

Whoops! After reflecting on this scripture, I decided to delete the earlier post since it pretty much went against this. Whatever we do or do not do in Lent and in life is between each of us and God.   I guess sometimes we just need a reminder. At least I do!

 

Always Loved

The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I am to have always felt loved, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of my life.  I have been blessed with many things in my life, but by far, the greatest blessings I have received are the people God has put in my life.

My first valentine was my dad.  He always made the day special by getting me a box of Russel Stover candy – the one with the deep red cellophane on top. I remember it having dark chocolate, milk chocolate and one piece each of a pink and yellow chocolate. I loved each and every one and loved my dad for making the day special!  My brother later played a role and would give me stickers for my sticker collection or a small box of chocolates. I remember one year when I was in my 20s, I had just broken up with someone and my dad and brother sent me flowers at work.  I broke down in tears and still have the card they sent.  It meant so much and cheered me up right away!

In elementary school, my classmates were my valentines. We gave each other valentines to put in our decorated paper lunch bags. I fondly remember giving and receiving Scooby Doo valentines along with the The Flinstones, Barbie, Transformers and Strawberry Shortcake! Yes, I am dating myself!  I don’t have many memories of Valentine’s Day in middle school, other than one boy giving me a flower, but he was not my boyfriend. In high school, I only had a boyfriend my junior and senior years and remember getting pink and red carnations at lunch in the cafeteria. Such a romantic place to get a gift! HA!!

My mom was my valentine a few years as well. I remember one year, I was dating some yahoo who did not get me a gift for Valentine’s Day. She felt badly for me so she bought me a beautiful silver locket with a rose engraved on it. It meant so much to me and still does to this day.

For a few years, my students and niece and nephew were my valentines.  They would give me valentines and little boxes of chocolate. It was so sweet for the kids to think of me.  Even if I was feeling lonely, their heartfelt cards and gifts always warmed my heart and made me smile.

For over a decade, my girlfriends were my valentines since we were all single! There were a few years where one or two of us had dates, but for many years, it was just “the girls.” And that never stopped us from having a great time! We would go dinner or to our favorite martini bar or wherever we wanted.  I remember one year, we all met at one of our favorite bars and every single one of us wore red.  The bartender referred to us as “the girls in red” all night. Hey, it helped us get free drinks! One of the best times was the year we went to Atlantic City to celebrate.  Our usual night of drinking, dancing, and gambling made it one of the best times! So. Much. Fun!!

When I was 34, I met my ultimate valentine, my husband! Though I didn’t know it at the time, the day we met was the day my life would change forever. Since that date, almost 10 years ago, I met the man with whom I would spend the rest of my days.  I could not have imagined that one person could bring so much joy, happiness and love into my life. He is an amazing husband and person and  I love him with all my heart and soul!

Today is a day about love. But really, every day should be!  There is love all around us but sometimes, I think we forget how much we are loved by our parents, siblings, children, friends, and significant others. I hope each of you feels love today and every day and have a wonderful year filled with happiness, laughter and smiles!