Some Days, I am a Porcupine

Life can deal you a pretty crappy hand sometimes. I was having a fantastic week, a little exhausted from a fun weekend, but still fantastic. Then, it hit. I left work yesterday, excited for a day off, playing golf with one of my favorite people. Days with him are always amazing. I got to my car and a flat tire. I was doing okay. Got roadside assistance and was able to take my car to the shop. They didn’t have the tires needed. Okay, I was offered cars. I was able to find a ride. But I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I wanted to be home early and get some much needed sleep. I was way overtired. It was already 7 PM.

Miscommunications and misunderstandings on my part led me to not have a car. Which led to lots of feelings. Mainly, the feeling of being alone. Since COVID became a thing, I have felt alone. It’s wonderful to see family. But there’s no more freedom. Wearing a mask stinks. I hate that feeling of not getting enough air. Of being really hot. But it’s most important to protect the ones I love. But watching everyone sit with their family, while I sit at a table alone, it’s just a reminder that I am alone. Normally, I can laugh and joke about it (doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt). But exhaustion changes everything.

I become a complete porcupine. My quills go up and I push everyone away. I’m a jerk. And I am a jerk to the people closest to me. I’m sorry for that. If anyone tries to be nice, my quills get shot out. I want to be alone. I want to push people away. And then, I back pedal. I regret it and I’m sorry for how I acted. But, when I apologize, I minimize my feelings of aloneness. Just because I’m sorry…just because I’ve gotten past it…doesn’t mean those feelings are gone. It just means I have tucked them away for another day where I am exhausted.

I am so blessed to have friends and family I can call on when I need them. In these times, it’s hard. The people I love don’t need to be put at risk and there will always be a bit of hesitation. But I know they want to help. I’m grateful that I have people that teach me that I really don’t need to be a porcupine. I know I don’t. And I try to work really hard on that. But, when I’m exhausted, I lose sight of all the things I’ve learned in the last few years. I can’t see past this insecure person I used to be. Old habits die hard.

To my mom, my sister and my favorite golf partner, I’m sorry for pushing you away and being a jerk. I’m so thankful to have all of you in my life and even more grateful that you recognize that I’m not really a porcupine. In fact, when it seems like I am shooting out quills, that’s probably when I need you the most. When I push you away, it’s not a test and it’s not meant to hurt you ever. It’s me hurting myself because my insecurities come flooding back. And I don’t want you to see that I’m not always that Wonder Woman I worked so hard to become.

Never Have I Ever…

Never have I ever learned to open up as much as I have in the last year and a half.  It’s been a journey, for me, of self awareness.  I have always had an issue with really telling people what I need or what I am afraid of.

I have always lived my life worried that someone wouldn’t approve of me.  That people would walk away if I showed who I really was.  I would bottle up my feelings until my anxiety set in.  Then it would all come out when I couldn’t take it anymore. 

I have made some amazing friends.  I don’t have to pretend I am something I’m not, nor do I have to hide who I am.  I don’t have to hide from my family either.  I am good enough.  And with their help, I have been able to build a healthy relationship with an amazing man.

Never have I ever been able to share my fears and insecurities with someone the way I do with him.  I can say it, and he never makes me feel small, or stupid, or treats me like I am crazy.  He accepts my insecurities and validates them, and works hard to make sure I don’t feel that way.  He has never given me reason to not trust him, but he totally recognizes that I do bring baggage to the relationship and that I am always working on it.

Never have I ever been able to have a relationship with someone where I can accept the baggage they bring in.  Let’s be honest.  When you’re middle age and you are in the dating world, there is always baggage.  Maybe not bad, but there is always something we bring from our past.  He doesn’t come without baggage either.  And I completely accept it.  And I am there for him and try to help him through his stuff too. 

Never have I ever been so afraid in my life. I don’t have anxiety. I am not lacking in trust. I am not even afraid of being hurt. In fact, my insecurities have almost all disappeared. I am terrified of how I feel. This was supposed to be a completely different kind of relationship. A relationship that had a specific emotional box that it fit in. Never did I ever expect that he would slowly start filling my other emotional boxes. That he would be the one I call when I am really excited by something or having a really bad day. He has become my person. I can’t speak for him, but he makes me feel like I am his person too.

Never have I ever been able to be unapologetically me.  I can act silly.  I can make gutter brain jokes.  I can tell him when I am down and he always makes me feel better.  I can tell him I want to do something new, step outside my comfort zone, and he encourages me.  I can go out with my girlfriends and he loves that I have friends like that. 

Never have I ever been with someone who would stop an entire conversation to tell a room full of strangers how wonderful I am.  I wasn’t in a bad frame of mind where he was trying to make me feel better.  He just said it because it is how he feels.  And never have I ever been made to feel like that before.

Never have I ever felt like I could give my heart to someone, yet keep my independence and be a strong woman…until now.

Bridging the Gap…Healthy Communication in a Country Divided.

Let’s face it.  2020 has been a year like no other we have experienced.  Pandemics, a country’s economy brought to a standtill for quarantine, murder hornets, cicadas, racism and the worst political divide I have seen in my lifetime.  The unrest can make people angry, sad, afraid and hopeless.  I have been angry.  I have posted angry things.  All things I have believed, but angry.  We all have a right to be angry.  We all have our own beliefs and our own morals and we cling to them.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Until we find ourselves so closed off that we cannot grow.  I never used to look at my friends and think, liberal or conservative.  I have never been one to talk political.  But I will speak my mind about things I believe in.  I have found, more and more, that it causes a divide in friendships and relationships.  Heck, when I was on the dating sites people say, don’t swipe right if you associate with one political party or another.  What ever happened to decent, healthy conversation?

After my last relationship, I swore up and down I could never have a boyfriend that is conservative.  But here is what I have learned in the last year or so.  I have some amazing conservative friends with whom I can have very healthy conversations.  We can disagree on things, yet be respectful and actually hear each other.  We can also come together to find common ground where we stand together.  I enjoy hearing the other side of things, where I can take information in.  I can question without anger.  I can get honest and kind answers.  I may not change my thinking, but I can soak in the information I have received.  I can do the research.  I may come back with other research, and hope that person can soak that information in too.  Often, I may come back an say, “wow, you make some great points.  That is definitely food for thought.”  But I might also come back with information about my lived experiences, especially in conversation about social justice.  While I may not have experienced social injustice, I have certainly witnessed it through years of work. 

My boyfriend (yep, he is conservative) and I have talked quite a bit these last couple of weeks about what’s going on.  What’s amazing is, I don’t feel like I can’t speak my mind.  We have total respect for the other’s viewpoints.  He shares his military experience, I share my social work experience.  We have very different perspectives.  And we do hear each other.  While I consider myself liberal, I do not find that I consider my agenda a liberal agenda.  I alway try to follow my path and look at humans as individuals who deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.  I think my boyfriend feels the same about that, and that is why we can have these conversations. 

I have also had people that post terrible things on both sides.  “Conservatives are racist.”  “Liberals are idiot.”  These are on the kinder side of what people are saying.   I will admit, I do shut down when I hear these things.  When people are close minded and refuse to hear anything, I have to be honest, I dig my heels in and don’t want to hear what they have to say.  This shuts off healthy communication. I have no desire to be around people like that. They are part of the problem.

What is the saying? “United we stand, divide we fall.” Just look at our country, the United States of America. We are hardly a united country. That does not mean we have to agree on everything. But it does mean we have to work together. Right now there are some pretty powerful people (politically and economically, on both sides) that are benefitting from the country being divided. Don’t let them do that. Open your ears. Open your hearts. Understand that just because someone has different beliefs than you, different morals, if does not make that person bad. It makes them different. Don’t just listen to the media. Listen to what every day people have to say. Listen to lived experiences. That is a life changer. Let us work together to make this country a better place for everyone here. Let us work together, through healthy conversations, through healthy disagreements, to make this country a place of peace and unity. That starts with you and me.

White Privilege……Not a Political Post, a Humanity Post

George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many, many more.  As a white woman, I can never understand what a black man or woman must feel when they see and hear of these injustices.  I feel infuriated.  I feel sad.  I feel heartbroken. But that cannot compare to what someone of color must feel. 

This is not meant to be a political post at all.  To me, humanity should never be politicized.  We were all raised on the Golden Rule, or something similar.  Treat others the way we would like to be treated.  Where did people get so lost with this?  What was it that made people decide they could choose who got treated that way and who didn’t.  Why are people so quick to criticize Colin Kaepernick, yet not quick to stand up for those killed in cold blood. He never protested our military. He protested the fact that there is a hypocrisy that is too big to ignore. The fact that people say “All lives matter” yet their actions say “Only white lives matter.” That is definitely something worth protesting.

I am so grateful for all the people who have served our country, to make sure we have freedom. They fight for the freedom of our entire country, not just our white people. They fight for freedom of blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, non-English speakers and so many more. It is so sad how we re-write the plot to suit our needs.

I am a recipient of white privilege. I know it. I cannot deny it. What is white privilege? The first thing that comes to my mind is being a mom. That is what I relate to the most. White privilege, moms of white boys ranting and raving last summer because parents are expected to teach their boys not to rape. Willing to fight against survivors so their white boys are not held accountable for sexual assault. I have raised white children, so when I speak about raising black children, these are just from me being open to hear the experiences of others. I don’t have experience with it, but I can stand with those that do. What I hear, and take from conversations, is that mom’s with black children live in fear when their children go out. Will going for a run cause someone to think they are running from police and deserve to be shot. A fear that they may go to cash a check and get handcuffed for fraud, and, while handcuffed, be strangled to death with a knee on the neck.

I have sat, safe in my home, naive. And saw pictures of children in other countries with automatic weapons, and thought how lucky we are to live in a country where we don’t have to live in fear like that. WHITE PRIVILEGE. No matter how much I can stand for humanity and human rights, I will not be a hypocrite and say I don’t have white privilege. I am not immune to white privilege, but I have to be honest with myself so I can stand with others. These issues are black and white, but humanity issues are not just about black and white. Its about treating people with respect.

Before some of you say, what about murderers and pedophiles and other people who have done horrific things. I am not referring to these individuals. But I do believe the individuals that do horrific things deserve the same punishment, no matter the color. You see, there is white privilege in the justice system too. They should all be brought to justice in the same way. But many of these individuals were killed first. The color of their skin sealed their fate.

I have found myself thinking about one of my favorite books, “A Time To Kill.” A book filled with white privilege. You can say, it was a different time and a different place. But you are kidding yourselves. Many of my friends won’t need to do this. They are outraged. I try to keep company with those who stand for humanity. But those of you upset about having to teach your children not to rape. Those of you upset that you are asked to be mindful of others and wear a mask, during this time, yet donlt speak up when unarmed or restrained black individuals are being murdered, I urge you, go back to those videos. They are hard to watch…disgusting. if you have a hard time seeing the atrocity, if you are questioning, I wonder what he actually did…these were unarmed individuals. It doesn’t matter if they even did do anything. One was already restrained. If you don’t see that, I urge you to look at that video again. Now, watch it, and imagine those individuals who were killed were white. If you feel the outrage then, and only then, take a look at yourself in the mirror. You are the root of white privilege and that is a very sad place to be.

Unconditional Love…No Strings Attached

Those words…I think everyone longs to have that unconditional love.  But what does it mean to give it?  What does it mean to love someone so much that nothing can make you stop loving them?

I will never be able to say that I love perfectly.  But, unconditional love…many of us do that every day.  And it’s hard, when you love someone that can’t seem to receive it most of the time.  When you love someone that seems to dismiss the love you give.  Who doesn’t realize that the pain doesn’t come from horrible words spoken.  It comes from being dismissed.  It comes from using the things you love as weapons.  There are highs, when the love you give is received and even reciprocated for a brief moment.  But then, the you get kicked again. 

My hope is that my unconditional love is known and that I am the safe person.  Able to dismiss because the love I give will always be there.  I need to be dismissed, because the need to impress others, fight for the love of others is the most important thing right now.  Or maybe only one side of the story is known, and because I won’t share my side, there is anger. 

But the thing with unconditional love is that you can give it, but you don’t have to lie down and take the hurt.  You can stand up for yourself.  You can dish out tough love, let them know you are hurt.  Be willing for them to walk away.  And, through that pain, you can still find that sparkle.

Why is sparkle so important?  Well, that’s the source for unconditional love.  If you don’t sparkle, it is going to be so hard to not be a victim, but to accept the circumstances and try not to take it personally.  I can be kind, yet firm. At the end of the day, no matter how far gone, I will always be here to give you love, when you are ready to receive it, and to accept your love, when you are ready to give it. So, I won’t ask to spend time with you, not because I don’t want to see you (I have tried asking), but because I am tired of the rejection. I won’t call or text to see how your day was, because there is never usually a response. But, will message you every day to tell you I love you. I won’t expect much, as I have learned that only gets me hurt. But it is more so you know that when you are ready to give and receive love, I will still be here. I have always been here. I have always loved you, even though sometimes it has been from afar. I will always love you.

To My Rock On His Graduation Day

Your first day is still a strong memory. I thought nothing of the cramps in my back, but everyone told me I would know. Riding to the hospital, I thought to myself, I’ll get fluids and be home in time for the fireworks. I have always loved fireworks. The sound, the brilliance, the kind that are so loud you can feel them in your gut. My fireworks, on July 4, 1998 would be life changing.

You were so small. I was terrified. What if I break you? Your cry was like a little bird. Your dad and I did not know that we would have a rough first couple of months. A medivac to the hospital, sleepless nights in the hospital. But you were so strong. You struggled to breath and you fought so hard. You were born a Rock.

Watching you grow was such a joy. You were so kind and caring. You had a sensitivity that I just adored. Your hunger for knowledge was incredible. The dinosaurs…boy did we learn a lot about dinosaurs. Going in to meet your preschool teacher, I can remember you looking at the dinosaurs she had. You were looking at one in particular and she said, “It’s called a bone head.” You looked at her and said, “Actually, it’s a pachycephalosaurus.” Your teacher and I had a good laugh over that. But, on the first actual day of preschool, I was the proud mother she kept after all the other kids got picked up, so she could let me know you ate the fuzz from your sit-upon. Tone set for the year. You were never rude, and mostly very kind, but you had a devious streak. I was worried you would have a tough time making friends, but, when I expressed that to the teacher, she said, “You have nothing to be worried about. All the kids love Joey.”

It took you some time to settle into elementary school. You always wanted everything to be perfect. But, in second grade, you got Mr. Cochran. That was your turning point in school. You found a joy in learning. He was fun, yet he also didn’t let you get away with a lot (especially sitting on the back two legs of the chair). How often did you have to stand at your desk?

When your cousin was diagnosed with food allergies, your world was turn upside down. You were always making sure if we had nuts in the house everything was cleaned up to make sure she was safe..

And Christmas, do you remember leaving out cookies for Santa. And then you came down from your room and gave us some of your money and asked us to leave it for Santa so he could make sure the kids that really needed it, got toys. So strong, so kind, so giving.

Big brother. I cannot think of a single person that would be a better big brother to Sophia. I loved and still love watching you with her. You helped teach her to read (but I am still convinced that was so she would read to you), you tutored her in math. You are always looking out for her. Even now.

Once you found your way in school, you made it look so easy. You had a love for learning. It was such a joy to watch you eat up all the knowledge you could. But even better, you shared it. You helped Sophia, you helped other friends.

What a teammate you were. Watching you play football was so much fun. The littlest guy on the team, playing on the line and making a difference. I loved it. Watching you score your first touchdown in High School, proud moment. But, you didn’t get an opportunity to play a lot. It wasn’t what you did on the field that was most impressive. Off the field, I watched you be strong enough to go to coaches and tell them what you were seeing on the field, and the coaches respected your perspective. I watched you go up to teammates and cheer them on. Coaches would ask your help to teach the starters they playbooks. And you did it.

I can remember going through the hardest time of my life. You never quite knew what to do with my tears, and I never blamed you. I didn’t know what to do with them. But when I started studying for my real estate exam, I would fall asleep in bed studying. I always felt you come into my room and cover me with my blankets and turn off my light. You will never fully understand how much that meant to me.

You leaving for college was hard. It was time to let go a little and watch you soar. You persevered through really tough classes. You learned how to cook (and very well, I might add). And you were accepted into the Masters Program of Engineering at Penn State.

Today, you should be walking to Pomp and Circumstance as the family celebrates your undergraduate success. We won’t be able to celebrate your graduation today, know that I am so proud of the man you have become. You are not just my Rock, you have been a Rock to so many around you.

So, Joey, on your graduation day, I want you to know that I am so absolutely proud of you and I am shouting it to the world. I love you more than the stars in the sky. WE ARE…….

Forgotten Purpose

I promise, this is not another pity party post. The last one was doom and gloom. We are all suffering through this pandemic. Social distancing and isolation (alone or with family) are tests of our spirit. Being told to stay home is difficult. My first thought was home projects. But, that requires trips to Walmart or Home Depot or Lowes. At some point, that may be essential to my sanity, but I am just not there yet, to take that risk. So, when I am home, I do some cleaning, but mostly, I stream shows and movies. And I think, there has to be more purpose to my life right now than watching TV and doing puzzles. This was a conversation I had with my girlfriends the other day, in our group chat.

One of the asked if we all felt we were losing a sense of purpose. The monotany of being home. Waking up and doing the same thing that day as you have done the past 30 days makes it difficult to see the point. But, another woman spoke up with, “just curious what you felt your purpose was when things were normal.” Wow!!!! It’s not a question I visited daily. Yes, I have thought about the things I have done in my life and thought about it. But, what this made me do is revisit what I was living my life for prior to all this.

What I learned is that what I saw as my purpose was on a much larger scale. It was very broad. For a living, I help people. I provide them comfort when they are seeking help for mental illness or substance abuse. I am a mother and a friend. I support the people I love. I did have a sense of purpose. And how are those things different than now?

For starters, I feel like I don’t always have the ability to support the people I love. We are all going through such different emotions. When I am down, I know I don’t have the capacity to actively help someone through their emotional valley. Not because I don’t care, but because I am clawing my way out too. Loss of purpose. I am considered essential at work, however, I can no longer see clients face to face and right now, very few people are calling in. The connection is not the same. Loss of purpose. My kids are in their house up in State College. I don’t hear from them very often at all. Loss of purpose. Dinners, game nights, drinks, dates (human connection)…all gone. Loss of purpose. But, are all these things really a loss of purpose, or do I need to rethink how broad my thoughts on purpose are?

Another friend very wisely said, “I have definitely had days where I had to go even smaller scale.  When you’re really challenged, and finding too many days of doing nothing, just say to yourself, what is my purpose today? Or before bed, on a bad day, plan your purpose for tomorrow.  Make it small and easily achievable, then build on it.” I have spent years working with clients and telling them to break their goals down to smaller ones. But I couldn’t see it for myself. I needed someone to tell me.

So, I have started breaking it down. What a difference that has made. Also, I have to remind myself that to carry out my purpose it may look different than a month ago. But the purpose is still there. So today, my purpose is to work from home and help those who reach out. I can also reach out to others, but sharing with all of you. My purpose as mom is to reach out to my daughter, who is celebrating her 20th birthday today. To make sure she knows that even though there are stay home regulations, just because she is out of sight, she is never out of my mind. I will reach out to my loved ones and make sure everyone is doing okay. I have a plan to do an online Zumba class, to stay healthy.

Our purpose is way bigger than today, or tomorrow or even this month. But, during a time like this, or any other time, when it’s hard to see the big picture, break it down. You do have a purpose, things may seem mundane right now, but they are not hopeless. We are not the first to go through quarantine like this. But we are the first to be fortunate enough to continue to have outside communication, with all the technology we have. I have learned that web meetings and video happy hours are absolutely no replacement for human contact. But that is what we have for now, and we are not alone in that. Our purpose, is to make the most of what we have right now. Learn from it. Take care of ourselves and to make sure the people around us are okay, when we have the capacity to do that. Be kind to yourself. If the day is bad, let others take care of you. That is still a purpose. People want to be needed. So, if you are down, you may just be helping someone else with there sense of purpose too.

So, be kind to yourselves and take care of yourselves. Stay home, stay safe. I cannot wait to see everyone when we come through this.

Loss…It’s Everywhere

I can honestly say that I don’t believe I know anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19. But, the truth is, there is not a single person that has not been affected. Life has completely changed as we know it.

Education seems to be a mystery right now. Kids are not just missing out on school work, but a chance to be with their friends. Seniors are not just losing the last days they will be with their friends before moving on, they are missing graduations and goodbyes.

Countless people have lost their jobs. They have no idea where rent or mortgage payments will come from, or even the money to buy groceries or pay other bills. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed. Small businesses have had to close.

“Go out, get exercise and fresh air,” they said. Trails are closed, parks are closed. The world is closed.

We are all experiencing a loss of a safe place. Nothing seems to feel safe anymore. I get groceries and it takes an hour to put them away because I wipe everthing down. Little things have become big things.

There seems to be a loss of hope, a feeling of helplessness. For me, I can feel everything slipping through my fingers. Family, friends, love, just the feeling of motivation. I go to work, and am alone. I come home and am alone. I have been told I am not alone, but the truth is, I am. I can feel myself losing interest in reaching out. I don’t have an appetite anymore. I start to feel hungry and my stomach just turns. I created a list of projects, and I find that I am sitting on my couch, in a dark house, not doing anything. Just sitting. What am I waiting for? I have no clue. And whatever it is won’t be here before June 10. I have moved past the anxiety and the fear. I am just sad.

When this is all done, I will be a different person. We all will. What will that look like for each of us? Should I look for a roommate so I don’t feel so alone? How do I teach my kids how important it is to never take for granted the family you have? How do I get past these thoughts that no matter how exciting my social life is, I am alone. It is not that people don’t love me or care about me. It is not that I don’t care about others. But when it comes down to it and a fucking pandemic hits, I don’t have anyone to hold me when I lose my shit. I don’t have anyone to stroke my hair and say it will be okay. I don’t have anyone i can just fall apart with.

So, I apologize for the pity party. We are all entitled and I think we all need it. I think we are in the Neverending Story and stuck in the Swamps of Sadness.

The Power of Four Legs

I am on what seems like day 1,256 of isolation. At work, we are in our own offices with doors shut an only meet via webcam. At home, it’s just me and Marshall (my 65 lb furry friend). I cannot imagine what it’s like being quarantined in a home with a house full of people. With young kids that parents are now homeschooling. I can say, being alone is super hard too. Those with a house full can’t run away from their family. Those of us living alone, can’t run too our family. Anyway, I wrote about the lack of human contact last time. But before getting into the heart of my post, funny story time:

I have been talking with friends and family over video chats. Lots and lots of video chats. That’s how I do my work these days too. The other night, while sleeping, I got hot. I ended up stripping down to just my panties while sleeping. Hot and cold, blankets on and off, all night long. Well, every time I kicked my blankets off, I jolted awake, grabbing for the blankets, thinking someone was going to see me on our webchat. Yep, my brain is in webchat mode even when sleeping.

So, back to the blog. About a year and a half ago I found myself searching for a four legged companion for my wonderful Spyder dog. I am pretty picky when it comes to dog searching. I believe in rescue, and I truly believe the dog picks you. I always have in mind what kind of dog I will get and that’s never the dog I end up with. Marshall was no different. I was determined I was going to leave with some sort of pit bull. But I saw him online and on a whim, wanted to see him. It took about 2 seconds for me to realize we were meant to be together. I jumped through all the hoops and Spyder got to meet Marshall. It went really well and Marshall became a part of my family. I didn’t know then, just how much I needed him.

With Spyder no longer with me except for summers and breaks, I am so grateful to have him for a companion. And now, with the quarantine, he is my apocolypse partner. I think he totally feels my needs for hugs. Since the first day I had him, I realized he gives hugs. The first time he put his paws on my shoulders I thought he may be a humping dog. But he isn’t. He puts his paws on my shoulder and leans his head into my neck. It’s just a loving act. When I come home from work every day, he gives me a hug to greet me before running to go outside. I have said, multiple times, that I miss human contacts and I just need a hug. The truth is, I am getting hugs from Marshall. And he seems to know I need really big hugs.

Our four legged friends are family and the love they give is unconditional. I have always known that and always loved having pets in my life. But now, when I am stuck in my house alone, I have gained an entirely new appreciation for what Marshall brings to my life. I have conversations with him, we eat together, and when I need to cry, he’s my shoulder. He was not put in my path by mistake.

Work has been extremely stressful. We are working so hard to make sure we continue to support people with substance abuse issues and serious mental illness. But the processes to keep everyone safe are different and we are adjusting to the system and trying to remain positive for our clients. There have been days I have just had to come home and cry. One hug, one nuzzle, one tail wag from Marshall, and I can feel the stress begin to melt away. That unconditional love these pets give have a way of removing the stress of a really tough day, week, month even a year.

Living in an Ever Changing World

A week and a half ago I wrote about my debit card getting declined, and the embarrassment of having to leave behind an entire cart full of groceries. Little did I know how much I would need those items. The issue with my card was fine, but that set back left me without essentials, that are now impossible to find. The toilet paper I needed was not deemed essential at the time. Days later, toilet paper is the new gold. I am just praying my 8 rolls last until I can scavenge some more.

In the last week, a new concept has been born. “Social Distancing.” We now give air hugs and stand back 6 feet from everyone. Only 10 people allowed in a restaurant at a time. I haven’t seen my parents in a week, and it’s been days since I have seen my sister (we went for a walk outside). My daughter, deciding to stay at Penn State for Spring Break, suddenly became very scary. I am so grateful her dad was with her for several days and stocked her up on toilet paper and other grocery items. My son and many other high school and college seniors, suddenly have no closure and no graduations to look forward to in the foreseeable future.

I continue to go to work in a public building on a daily basis. That puts me, and many others in the same boat, in harm’s way. What does that mean for me? Isolation when I go home. Lots of Netflix. Working on a puzzle. And house projects. It also means getting creative. I am a social person. I need people in my life. So, one of my girlfriends and I go walking each day. My dog, is loving me being home so much. I have been working on his training. He is horrible on a leash. He is getting better and better every day. My girlfriends, well, we have discovered the awesomeness of FB Messenger group video chat. The first night we just had drinks together. Last night we had a dress up party. We all wore costume jewelry and tiaras. And I am at work today still sparkling from my glitter spray. Tomorrow night, we have game night. We are maintaining our social life, it’s just different. It’s a new world.

You see the best in people and the worst. I prefer to focus on the best. Murlarkey Distillery is using their sanitizing alcohol to make hand sanitizer to give out for free. Catoctin Creek Distillery is providing free sanitizing alcohol and will be making hand sanitizer soon. I have seen tip jars being posted in order to help bar and restaurant workers as they are unable to work. School food service and bus drivers are working tirelessly to make sure students in need get at least 2 free meals a day. The world is full of amazing people rising to the occasion.

There is fear. A lot of it. What’s next? How are people going to survive when they have no work? What happens when this is all over? Will we go back to who we were before all this happened? Will we take for granted how easy it was to by a roll of toilet paper or to be able to pick out the brand of bread we want? I can honestly say that what I miss the most, other than seeing my family and friends, are hugs. It’s wonderful to have Facetime and FB messenger. But I haven’t hugged anyone since I saw my boyfriend on Monday. Okay, I am lying a little. I have a dog that hugs. But it is a bit different than family or friends or significant others wrapping their arms around you and just holding you for a moment. Virtual hugs are nice, but not the same. I look forward to getting back to those intimate rituals we have with family and friends that we are missing out on.

For all the first responders, medical workers, people still working in bars/restaurants, people working in grocery stores and for the schools and food pantries…anyone still working to meet the needs of others, a great big THANK YOU! The world has made a shift. Suddenly, the world of Fortune 500 companies, the corporate world of mega bucks is no longer as important as the indivuals who continue to come in constant contact with strangers, amid a world-wide pandemic, to provide us with what we need.

What I hope to take from all of this, is to enjoy all the moments we are given and never ever take for granted the “things” we have in life. Because, in 1 day, the entire world could change before my eyes. We never really think that could happen, because very few can say they have seen that happen…until now.

I hope everyone stays safe. And when this is over and life gets back to normal, take time to really appreciate every hand shake, every hug, every person in your life.