This post will be light hearted. Not because I feel light hearted about COVID-19. How can I with the intense anxiety and adrenaline-ridden status of the entire world right now? Check out this incredible sermon by my pastor this past Sunday. He puts a lot of my feelings into words. I write this light hearted post because this has been SO WEIRD. My 19-month old knows that if we are going to go inside a gas station, mommy has to wear her mask, I mean, COME ON, y’all, that’s WEIRD.
So since the reality of what I am experiencing is WEIRD I need to stop, and just fall into the truth of what has happened in my life the past four months. Since I emotionally can’t handle the heaviness of writing about all the details of what my heart has experienced, I’m going to share a few highlights, logistical details and LOTS of pictures instead. This will be record to reference in 10 years, remembering this WEIRD season…dear Lord, let it just be ONE season… in my lifetime!!
Friday, March 6th, the three of us left Atlanta for St. Simons. Lukas had a conference scheduled in Colorado that was cancelled so he joined us for our mother/daughter planned beach adventure. At the time we knew COVID-19 existed. We knew it was affecting things (it was a little weird being at the chill cook off around so many folks) but our life wasn’t really changing.
On Monday, the 9th, things were a little different. Fulton County schools made an announcement about closing for a few days due to a confirmed COVID case. We were supposed to all return to ATL for Lukas to attend some big meetings he didn’t want to miss at work but with the confirmed case at a school only 7 minutes from our house we decided to keep Tabby and I in SSI until we figured out what was going on.
Early Tuesday morning, Lukas left Tabby and I with a “TBD” on what we’d do next. Tuesday night I emailed my women’s ministry peeps after having to cancel Wednesday night gathering since I wasn’t in town: “My heart aches that I’m here and you guys are there. Transparently? It’s been a tough 48 hours for me mentally. Anxiety demons I thought I had “under control” have reared their ugly heads and done a number on me…”
There was already talk of quarantining and we had to wrestle with where we wanted to get stuck — at the beach or at home. NOW, many would say we are INSANE not to choose the beach but we needed our church people. Lukas had prayed and prayed for God to put us where He could get the most out of us. They, together, chose East Point, GA, so in the middle of a crisis, despite the anxiety and turmoil, we knew we belonged back in Atlanta.
That morning on my walk with Tabby, a pelican was waiting for us at the end to the pier. A story for another time, pelicans = Pops (my grandfather who moved on to heaven in October this past year). Seeing this pelican, and then having it stay put while Tabby and I crept to only two feet away, was my “IT IS WELL” from the Lord. My head and heart (and the world) was a mess AND He was in control.
Lukas turned around and drove back down to SSI to get us on Wednesday evening. We decided to take a breather for a few days since Lukas’ office closed its doors on March 12th (for the record, they are still closed and will be until the end of 2020, at least). Schools were closed, there was still a lot of things up in the air, we needed ocean views and mom’s cooking to give our souls some time to catch up.
This was his first experience “working from home”. Something that the thought of, terrified him (and me!), more on that later.
We came back to Atlanta on Saturday, went to a party on Saturday. Deciding to do so was an epic internal battle. We finally decided, yes, we will go, and just didn’t hug people, only getting close quickly for a daddy/daughter picture.
By the next morning, Sunday March 15th, we knew things weren’t normal when in-person church services were cancelled and we watched online.
That night Lukas went out to find toilet paper because THAT was the thing everyone was buying so much of…it’s hilarious now but YALL, remember how scary real that was thinking about running out of toilet paper?!?!?! He may or may not have run ahead of a guy to grab the last roll off the shelves and was REALLY proud of himself for it — a man’s got to protect his family!!!!
Also that night, with the announcement the Chick-fil-A corporate office wasn’t opening up on Monday, we pulled out the card table to set up his make shift work space…TEMPORARY…short term…righttttttttt.
Tabby and my FAVORITE part of the week was our lunchtime run to Whole Foods on Mondays. It was Monday, we were going. At the time, masks weren’t being worn, they weren’t even really a thing yet. To this day, we haven’t gone back inside (thank you Whole Foods grocery pick up and delivery — FREE if you have an Amazon Prime account!!) She ate her apple in the cart like she always did and I searched high and low for staples while also feeding off the intense energy in the store which was “panic mode”. I bought in to the panic and walked out with easily $300+ worth of food! The photo below is a shot of the meat cooler…with no meat.
I’m not sure when full lockdown mode happened. This week I have photos on my camera roll of us with church family. We social distanced for the most part, although there was some hand holding and playground slide sliding with Tabby and her church sister.
I started cooking up a storm (Tabby helped!) because my migraine diet makes eating complicated and if one of us went down for the count COVID style, the other person needed a freezer full of food to keep us sustained through the sick person quarantine.
We were also concerned about running out of fresh fruits and vegetables so I made lots of gallons of “green drink” smoothies to freeze and thaw out if we were kept from the grocery store. We eat A LOT of fresh food and very little prepackaged stuff so there was a lot of fear for me with what “quarantine” would mean. Understanding that grocery stores were an essential business and therefore would not shut down wasn’t something we’d experienced before. At the time everything was so unknown and all I had as a reference point for “pandemic” was scenes of Atlanta from The Walking Dead.
If I remember correctly, it was about this time that we had NOT gotten into a groove yet. It was HARD. I said I’d keep this post light so I won’t dive into the details but family was hard, marriage was hard. That kind of anxiety and unknown took its toll on me. Some point soon thereafter, we decided to do weekly virtual calls with our marriage counselor. They have been our life rafts to hang on to in these stormy, very unchartered water, seas. She is a God send and blessing in every way!
Family walks also become a game changer. I’ve never been so thankful we prioritize neighboring because seeing friends who live across the street and on all sides of us, another blessing in every way! We’d walk up and down the street checking in on folks and having them check in on us. SEEING in person faces other then my daughter and husband, as an introvert I never realized I could miss physical people so much.
By March 22nd, the world was in full lockdown mode. I’m not sure when the “shelter in place” actually went into effect but our family began quarantining ourselves that weekend.
For everyone who knows Lukas you know he’s a vibes/people/adventure/not at all a homebody fella so this was a BIG learning opportunity for him. We did our best to keep his “need to get out” itch scratched by going to open parks and other creative experiences. Just looking at these pics, I remember how mentally drained and exhausted we were. How long is this going to last? We were grieving old life in powerful ways and hadn’t settled into the new normal yet.
He took Tabby downtown and it was a ghost town. He said it was eerily creepy…no one was around!!
At the start of that week, everything went digital. Everything. Even my dance work out class! In Virginia planning fashion, I developed a spreadsheet of work day options where Lukas could help me with Tabby at different points, he could get his work outs in and we could function in this “new normal”. We both needed diversity in the day and every night we’d take a look at the needs of the following day and pick what “play” we wanted to run. This helped every day not be the same and phew we needed that because in quarantine life EVERY SINGLE DAY can look the same if you’re not careful. Constantly, even now, in July, the days run together and I’m wondering “what day is it?”
Once we settled into that system it was smooth sailing. Almost scary smooth sailing. We had our life saving things: weekly counselor appointments, schedule and routine (thank you one-year-old) and our gorgeous backyard. It was the biggest selling point of our home buying process last year and was a life raft for me during the hardest moments of this pandemic.
We worked on SO MANY house projects. We cleaned every closet and cabinet in the house, organized the basement, rearranged furniture in just about every room, and set Lukas’ office up more permanently. Tabby did her projects while mommy and daddy did theirs.
Yep, we really started hitting a stride. We were connected well with our church people online, we were Facetiming family and friends, we were getting outside in God’s country and making memories as a family of three.
Then fear escalated. Case numbers stared rising, we got scary reports from other countries about overrun hospitals and death tolls rising. There was still hope. Easter wasn’t here yet and the dream of still being together as a church family was not completely lost. We were creative in seeing each other from drive bys to having dogs send hugs to loved ones we couldn’t physically do ourselves.
At the time I was still going to the grocery store myself. With delivery a tip is recommended and we were trying to save on that extra expense. OH! There’s something else to mention, as the fear mounted, the stock market started plummeting. We watched our savings held in investment accounts lose around 15% of our assets in a 24 hour period. Brutal.
At this point, wearing masks became a recommended practice, however, you couldn’t buy them anywhere. I purchased from two vendors on Amazon in April and still haven’t gotten those masks. Yep, we got scammed. Thankfully, I found some masks for sale on Etsy and we scooped up the last ones before they sold out. They were flying off the shelves. Our masks hadn’t arrived yet so I made my own following a “make your own mask” video. There’s a MILLION videos now on the topic, at the time, the instructions were hard to come by.
Due to the anxiety of that grocery trip, it was the last time I went physically into the store. Even though we weren’t going into the store we were still hauling all the bags to the backdoor and wiping them down with Thieves. Speaking of which, I’m so thankful we were stocked up with cleaning supplies because you literally couldn’t find a drop of sanitizer or cleaning solution anywhere. Last time I was in Wal-Mart two weeks ago I think the shelves were still bare… in JULY!
As I scroll through my camera roll I remember this is when things started getting mentally tough. Easter. Tabby was sick (not COVID related), we were hunting eggs by ourselves in the backyard instead of with our whole church family, and our annual Fortunato family gathering was cancelled. We were one month into the COVID reality and the light at the end of the tunnel, Easter, came and went with no new light to be found.
Despite the pit falls and mind games we were experiencing we continued to fight to make the most of the holiday. Tabby, fever and all, was such a trooper hunting eggs for the first time.
Forcing ourselves into nice clothes to take a family photo, the way we would have done had it been a non-pandemic Easter morning, was a good dose of normal. Tabby opened an Easter present from us and received a few from neighbors who showered our girl with goodies.
During COVID, we also received word Aunt Lala has breast cancer. I can’t get into the emotions of that right now because I’d be here all day writing. Since we couldn’t be there to hug her neck, we made sure we sent videos and photos of her niece so she and my brother knew we were there in spirit. My favorite was on a morning they were doctor’s appointment bound, we asked Tabby where Lala was on this family portrait and she went immediately to her aunt’s face. Melt my heart!!!!
Another light in the darkness was a visit from our dear friend’s. We put a barricade of patio furniture up in the backyard and our kiddos “played” while we soaked in the physical presence of others.
My mom and I have made a commitment to physically see each other every 6 weeks, with Tabby in the picture, it’s more like every 4 weeks. At the 6 week mark in quarantine we realized for the mental health of everyone involved, we needed to be in each other’s presence. We’d been careful, they’d been careful, we’d all be careful together. After six weeks of no physical contact outside of my husband and daughter (y’all know I’m a hugger so this is HARD!), I melted into my parents arms when they rang the doorbell. You’d have thought I’d been overseas for years with how powerful their hugs were for my soul.
There’s no way we could have one grandmother get Tabby-time without making a way for Mimi to get her snuggles too!! Lukas’ parents came up a few days later and Tabby had a blast playing with someone else other than her parents!!
Other soul filling things included participating in a virtual book club with my sis-in-love. We had a webinar watch party together and used Marco Polo to follow along with one another as we read.
Once we’d permanently situated Lukas’ work from home office, I got the card table back and instantly it became my puzzle table. Puzzles, another thing really hard to find during the pandemic!! Thank you Bits & Pieces for your never-ending supply of awesome puzzles. Take my money!
Lukas, a normal 6-day-a-week CrossFit attender, had to get creative and set up a gym in our backyard. We had barbells and dumbbells and pull up bars and jump ropes and ab things and rubber mats and other gym doohickies. He recruited me more than once to track his time during workouts which gave me a glimpse into what he did every morning for the past two years!
We finally “broke the seal” on other relatives, giving Tabby a chance to play with her cousins. That first Friday spend the night party was like a giant gust of cooling, soothing wind to my parched soul. Tabby hadn’t been around the girls since before Christmas so this was the first time they really played with her, not as a baby… it was SO fun to watch!!
Our fantastic backyard came in handy as we hosted other folks in a safe, social distanced way.
I’m realizing this post is already getting obnoxiously long and I’m only in May with my memory recounting. Cruising through my camera roll reliving these days as if they were years ago makes me want to soak up every moment again. See, it feels like it’s been more than a few months, it feels like pandemic life has been reality for so much longer than that. And I might be here for weeks attempting to capture all that I want to remember. I said I’d keep it light, and I think I achieved that for the most part, but I need to go a little more deep to close.
This has been a RICH season. One where sometimes the day has felt like a year with all that my heart has been exposed to, weathered, learned, and experienced. It’s been an active war in my soul to hang on to God’s peace when the world, the literal whole world, feels like it’s falling apart. There have been days where I have treasured my family of three being under the same roof and days where being under my own roof was the VERY LAST place I wanted to be.
There have been moments of joy as I’ve discovered small things that bring me happiness and contentment and also moments of deep sorrow as the Lord has stripped away things I didn’t even know I relied on for sanity.
God has called me more times than not in this season to “FUNCTION”. Just keep functioning. That’s the goal. It isn’t to save the world or do something the world sees as amazing. It’s to put one foot in front of the other when my feet are as heavy as VW bugs. It’s unloading the dishwasher when I just can’t stomach the thought of doing it one more time. It’s asking my husband how his day was even though I just saw him an hour ago. It’s walking over the piles of crap all over my house to go sit and work on my puzzle. It’s taking a nap in the middle of the day because my brain is tired. It’s getting in the shower even when I have no place to go. All of these things seem small and “easy”. But they aren’t. For someone who battles depression, they aren’t. For someone facing a global pandemic, they aren’t. They are BIG, mighty mountains, mountains of the mundane that will consume me if I didn’t have His strength to do them all.
As our world groans with the pain of suffering, an exhaustive list of suffering, now added on to with a global pandemic, I pray these words. I pray them even if I don’t actually believe them. I pray them over and over and over until the Truth permeates my mind, body and spirit, and His strength takes over and I can FUNCTION. I pray these over you so you can do the same:
“…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5