Coronovirus – Cabin Fever!

I live in Virginia. I have been staying home, in happy self-quarantine, for three weeks now, since my earlier than planned return from the Land of Sunshine. I have been okay with that. I like my house, I like ordering groceries on-line, and the weather has been warm enough for backyard campfires and cook outs. I have had no urge whatsoever to leave. Until yesterday.

Yesterday the Virginia Governor made a public decree. Because people were not following his recommendation to not gather in groups during this pandemic, he did what any normal parent would do with his rebellious children. He sent us all to our rooms.

“Effective IMMEDIATELY ! All non-essential travel will CEASE!” We are allowed to leave our homes to exercise, get food, seek medical treatment, and work (providing we have a note from our boss defining our jobs as essential.) Everybody else, STAY HOME.

This mandate is in effect till JUNE 10! Oh, boy!

While I agree whole- heartedly with his decision, something awoke deep inside of me. I think it is called Cabin Fever!

Some people get it when they are snowed in during a nasty Michigan blizzard, risking their lives on icy roads to escape the Cabin Fever wall climbing clutches. Others get it at the mere suggestion of being quarantined. I thought I was immune to this but, alas, I am not.

We had a grocery order ready for pickup yesterday afternoon and I decided to ride along. On the way we stopped at the storage lot and unloaded a few baskets of summer clothing from the trailer. May is warm here and we will need those summer things before the quarantine is lifted.

It was fun to see the trees blooming and my pretty city in the spring-time. I haven’t been out to see it since before Christmas. And today, I wanted to do it again. There isn’t really anywhere to GO; stores, parks and beaches are all closed. I just wanted to go for a drive.

There is a big difference between CHOOSING to stay home and being MADE to stay home. I feel a little bit like a teenager in class detention; I wasn’t the one acting up but everyone gets punished for it.

I’m not sure what the cure is for Cabin Fever. I am pretty much a homebody and usually have no trouble entertaining myself. I may be writing more before the June 10 quarantine is lifted!

Watching COVID19 – Fleeing Florida

My husband and I spent the winter in Florida this year. We packed up our little 16 ft travel trailer and headed south shortly after Christmas. Virginia winters are chilly, sometimes there is even snow. We chose to escape winter for many reasons, one being the lure of summer-like temperatures.

First stop was a six week stay at a private campground in Florida City, the gateway to the Keys. Our Florida State Park pass gave us access to all of the State Parks in the Keys and we visited many of them, bicycling around the parks as well as the local communities. We soaked up sun, swam in the waters, and hung out enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather. At the private campground, we participated in many activities, made friends, and were very sad to leave when our time was done.

From there, we headed north for a two week stay at Jonathon Dickinson State Park by the Atlantic Ocean. Florida’s state parks are in high demand, despite their limit of two week stays. We were fortunate to get in at all, as reservations must be made 11 months ahead. We logged miles on our bicycles on the park’s many trails and enjoyed campfires and nature. Our time ended and we moved to a private resort in Ft. Myers for the final month of our trip.

By then, we were starting to see news stories about a killer virus in China. Then reports started targeting cases in Florida, all travel and cruise related. Florida takes the COVID19 virus very seriously and nightly news reports stated how many cases were identified, where they were contracted, where the people were recovering (hospital, nursing facility, or their homes) and how many cases were being monitored for development. We kept a social distance from folks we met and didn’t participate in any group activities. Florida’s first COVID19 death occurred in a local hospital.

Our daughter back in Virginia was very concerned, especially as the news reported more and more cases of COVID19 across many states. She wanted us home!

We, however, were enjoying the 85 degree sunshine and were reluctant to trade that for 50 degree drizzle in Virginia. Besides, our campsite was paid until the first of April, with no refunds. We figured we weren’t in any danger to just stay in place.

There were only a few cases of travel-related COVID19 in our area when my husband surprised me by asking me to write out a 4 week menu for the two of us using only shelf stable foods. I don’t usually cook with shelf stable food, and figured we could eventually use it for our hurricane supplies. I didn’t think we had any reason for concern. We then purchased this food and stored it in a big plastic bin in our van. His reasoning was that we might be quarantined in the campground for a month and this way we would be prepared. I keep a pantry at home, but certainly didn’t pack food for a 12 week trip in our little trailer. We tend to visit the grocery store every couple of days, picking up milk, bread, meat, and whatever else that is running low. The shelves were full, the store relatively empty, and we gathered our lengthy list with no problems.


One week ago today we were the lone mini golf players at the resort’s golf course, arguing with our daughter by phone, trying to convince her that we were fine as she was trying to convince us that we were not. We had plans to meet friends at a restaurant the following day, but that evening Florida announced its first community acquired case of COVID19 in our area.

We prayed for direction and peace. Odds are, this wasn’t a huge threat to us, and prepared to make the 45 minute drive to see our friends. As I was getting ready, not thinking about anything except applying make up and fixing my hair, the voice of God spoke to my spirit. Clearly, I heard, “It’s time. It’s time to go home.” and a peace flooded over me. I told my husband it was time to go home and he agreed that we would leave in the morning.

We headed out to meet our friends, and on the way I developed a raging sore throat. It was almost instantaneous. With only three miles to go, we cancelled, turned around, and headed back. My husband made one stop at a drug store to buy a numbing throat spray for me, and we quickly packed up our campsite and started the drive back at 2:30 pm.

On the road we learned that three more community acquired cases had been identified in our area. This is no longer a virus limited to those who caught it while traveling over seas; it is now real, it is a pandemic, and it is in our backyard!

Because we were coming from an active community acquired area, we began practicing self quarantine while on the trip home. Usually we stop and eat at restaurants, use the public facilities and take stretch breaks. This trip was different. We used the facilities in our trailer for bathroom and meals, avoiding people as much as possible. My husband used disposable gloves for pumping gas and copious amounts of hand cleaner.

We are home now, our trailer is unpacked and returned to storage, and we have settled in for a two week isolation. Every day on the news, we see stricter regulations from our government and watch more and more businesses close. Our daughter is working from home and her computer equipment is spread over our dining room table. My husband is working on the kitchen table, filing our taxes and watching the stock market tank. I am spending lots of time in my home office, reading the Bible, writing and praying.

Every day we see more and more reports of deaths from this virus, accelerating numbers of cases and growing restrictions. We were fortunate to arrive home before domestic travel bans are implemented for civilians and military families. We hear the ever expanding time lines of projections when this siege will end.

We join the rest of the world watching COVID19.

The Gypsy Life!

Life is fluid. Just when you think you have it figured out, it shifts and changes direction. Blessed are the flexible; they will bend but not be broken!

After nearly a year of life in Tennessee, we are moving again. We became Snowbirds and spent last winter in Florida, then became “Half-backers” when we moved half-way back to Michigan and tried life in Tennessee. Despite loving my position as Connections Pastor in Sweetwater, my body did not do well with Tennessee weather. I battled sinus infections all summer and lived on antibiotics and steroids. Once cold weather moved in, my asthma kicked up and I had to go back on the drugs! Enough is enough! You can’t live where you are sick all the time when there are other options.

Our options are many. My husband has retired now, so we are not locked into a location based on a job. We can go anywhere! We revisited our original plan of moving to Florida, and brainstormed over doing something wildly different for a season. We have chosen the wild way!

Our son’s family is in Michigan, and we have a house there. We will use it as a summer retreat and a place for the family to gather for the holidays. This way we can still be involved in our grandchildren’s lives and the lives of our parents and siblings who live in the Frozen Mitten.

Our daughter lives in Virginia so we will buy a condo there. Lots of people in Michigan have a small cottage up in the north woods for vacation get-aways. Our “small cottage” will be near our daughter and we will spend spring and fall in Virginia. And, we have the option to take the RV to Florida for the coldest 6 weeks of the winter and camp! For this season of life, we will be gypsies, traveling cross country, following the spring. We realize that this is for a season; someday we will be too old and feeble to chase the sun and will need to make a decision on a residence for our final years, but not yet!

The down-side of this plan is the inability to serve full time on a church staff, but we are trusting God to faithfully open up doors of ministry where ever we may be. It is the dawning of a new chapter and a new adventure. Life with the Lord is never boring!

God’s “Suddenly”

A recurring word throughout the Bible is “suddenly.”  When God opens doors, and blasts you through them, it feels very much like  a “suddenly.” 

After three months of Snowbird life, God “suddenly” opened a door with a job offer and I found myself en-route to a new position and life in Tennessee.  We broke camp in Florida and headed north, eager to begin the next chapter of our lives.  

When God opens a door it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have smooth sailing. If the devil can’t close the door, he will try everything he can to slow your progress and distract you.  We almost made it to our destination trouble free, but all that changed about 15 miles out.  We heard a funny noise in the engine and, as my husband and I were speculating on the cause, we “suddenly”  heard a noise resembling gremlins  banging on pots and pans under the hood.  We limped to the nearest exit and started making phone calls. 

After a long evening of waiting for a tow truck, quickly packing a few days’ worth of clothing, unhooking the car from the dolly, and transferring valuables and the cats from the RV, we were on our way again: the RV towed to a shop and us to a pet-friendly hotel.   The repairs were not quick, easy or inexpensive.   Essentially, a belt in the motor broke and the cascading effects caused major damage throughout the engine; repairs took longer than we expected, and cost more than we expected.  My husband kept saying, “We must be doing something right! Look at the opposition.” 

A few nights spent in the hotel did not delay me from starting my new job and beginning the search for a place to live.  Plans were to live in another campground inside the RV until we found an apartment. Living in a campground while working is possible, especially if you don’t mind sharing the showers with 80 new friends, but it makes an apartment feel like a luxury! 

Apartments are few and far between around here, but God came through again.  We spent a day driving around the surrounding communities and happened across a for rent sign.  This unit was not advertised in the paper, and we were fortunate enough to drive by and spot the sign.  A few phone calls later, we did a walk-through and assessed the potential of a year long lease. 

The rooms are big, it is in a safe area, and has quiet neighbors, but the carpet and woodwork felt very 1980’s, and the appliances were horrific.  I struggled  because of the kitchen, but after looking for other options, I figured it was better than living in the RV and signed the lease.  God (and our landlord) surprised us again by blessing us with new, modern appliances, which significantly improve the overall quality of the apartment.

We are leaving our house up north fully furnished for when we list it  and decided to buy a few strategic pieces of furniture for the apartment.  God has faithfully led us to unexpected sales and the place is starting to look like a real home. 

I have experienced a “suddenly.”  Within a week I left Florida, moved to Tennessee, started a new job, found furniture, and moved into an apartment.  We are nearly unpacked and even have some pictures on the walls.  The week has been a whirl-wind, with meeting many new people, learning a new community, apartment hunting, furniture shopping, and the demands of a new job. Some days it has felt as if I am trying to drink from a fire hydrant, but God continues to graciously bless and surprise me.  And I look forward to being at the point where the only thing I have to focus on is my job! 

 

A slice of life and morning coffee….

Since beginning our snow birding adventure, I am often asked about how the cats are adjusting to life in the RV. They are indoor animals and now, instead of having a big house to roam and a screened in room for fresh air, they are as cramped as we are in these tiny quarters. Surprisingly, they have adapted very well, possibly easier than we humans. Here they are allowed on most of the furniture and have their people underfoot at all times, answering to their every need. It is hard to forget to feed the cats when they trip you and yowl when they are hungry! There is no escape! They are here, there, and everywhere!

We share our RV with two cats; Boots and Buster. Boots was my daughter’s pet in her childhood and is the sweetest, best natured animal I have ever met. Now at 18 years old, he sleeps most of the time and weighs only 6 pounds, a purring, grey tiger and white fur-covered skeleton. His favorite spot tends to be anywhere that I am sitting, quickly occupying the space as soon as I stand up. Consequently, I have learned to look before I sit down, to avoid landing on him!

Buster is a 17 pound, red Maine Coon. He is still a kitten by Maine Coon standards, and acts like one, despite his size. He is a bundle of energy; jumping, pouncing, climbing, and leaping. These are all highly entertaining activities unless your living space is roughly the size of a hallway in a standard suburban house. His favorite spot is perched on the dashboard, stalking the squirrels that torment him through the glass.

Because of their age differences, the cats do not play together. Boots tolerates the kitten, but remains the boss. Buster is not allowed to sit in his cat bed, nor usurp which ever spot he happens to be enjoying at the moment. Despite this, they get along with one another and never fight; sometimes it feels as if they even work together to accomplish Boots’ goals.

For example, this morning I poured a cup of coffee and sat down at my laptop to read my email, my daily Bible devotion, and check Face book. Our space is restricted so the dinette table is stacked with books and electronics, including my laptop, I pad, phone, camera, and headphones. Buster decided to join me for coffee this morning, wanting to perch on the top of the pile, like Snoopy pretending to be a vulture on the corner of the doghouse. I don’t like cats on the table or the counters so I tried verbally shooing him off, and was ignored. After telling him, “Down” several times I picked up a pill bottle and shook it, commanding him “DOWN!”

Buster startles easily and did not expect to hear the rattle. He EXPLODED in a scrambling flurry of orange fur; feet clawing the air in every direction as he frantically tried to regain his balance. Books flew off the table, knocking over my full cup of hot coffee, and soaking everything! My husband and I sprang into action, scooping up soggy electronics, mopping up coffee, and rescuing books, the dinette cushions, and carpet below.

Buster retreated to the safety of the dashboard and Boots immediately hopped into my now vacant seat and began to purr.  Mission accomplished.

Doing the Splits

We moved a lot during my husband’s career. He was utilized as a plant launch specialist and when his company wanted to start up a new factory, he was THE guy for the job. During the ten years of my children’s’ education, we moved seven times, living in five different states.

After one relocates a few times, the brain tends to switch to auto pilot. There is a mental check list of notifications, closet cleaning, and good-byes. We generally had a two week window to wrap up life in one location before moving to another. During those two weeks, we would pack up our computer, schoolbooks, and a survival wardrobe and move into a furnished apartment while house-hunting in our new location.

Notification of transfer usually came mid-December; January would find us in a new apartment, and we generally closed and moved in to our new house in early May. That left about 4 months of “doing the splits”- living with a minimum amount of stuff, away from those things that make our day-to-day life more enjoyable, easier, and fun. Inevitably, I would think I had something essential with me, would tear the apartment apart looking for it, only to conclude it must be a the other house.

I have been in Florida since January and did “the splits” this morning! I woke up with my mind made up on what I want to wear today. (Doesn’t everyone do that, or is it just a “girl-thing?” ) The object of my search is a print cotton cardigan. It has a brown and tan and orange pattern and would go great with the brown Capri’s, orange belt, and white polo that I am wearing to work today.

I tore apart all of the storage bins under my bed, my limited closet space, and even dug through the bins in the back of my van. I am convinced it is still at home in my closet.

Not having the sweater is a minor frustration. It is just a reminder that I am “doing the splits.” My life is currently split between Michigan and Florida, and will remain in transition until God opens up a firm direction for our future.

As a Christian, I should be used to “doing the splits.” I live in this world, but am not of this world. My real home is in heaven; I am just a sojourner on this earth. Someday, I will finally get to go home.

Here, in the present, living between Michigan and Florida, I am searching for my sweater.  I know that when I go back to my home in Michigan and will retreive it.  But, during our time here on earth, we spend our lives in a state of searching – searching for that illusive happiness and peace. 

The missing ingredient in life is Jesus Christ, and many of us spend our entire life searching for true happiness in all of the wrong places. It cannot be found in parties, drugs, or possessions.  There is a peace and joy in Jesus Christ that our world here cannot give.  Behind all of our searching, is Jesus.  He is what our broken, empty hearts are ultimately searching for.    He is waiting for all who seek Him.  Call out to Jesus and find that true peace.

I am the Beverly Hillbillies…

I love taking long drives with my husband because they allow us to spend hours in the car together uninterrupted by phone calls and business meetings. It gives us opportunity for great conversations while discovering places that we have never visited.

While driving around the Florida countryside on one of these get-aways, he turned to me and said, “I have something to tell you. Please don’t take this the wrong way.” ANY statement prefaced with “Don’t take this the wrong way” piques my curiosity. We don’t get many opportunities to get away from work and spend time together; what deep insights did he want to share?

Chuckling, he declared, “I’ve been thinking about this, and I have decided that YOU are the Beverly Hillbillies.”

“Which, Beverly Hillbilly, I asked.” (I have been negatively compared to Granny Clampet by my children when attempting to knock out a cold with a home-brewed remedy, but Ellie Mae is pretty, so that might actually be a compliment.)

“Not just ONE Beverly Hillbilly,” he snorted. “You are ALL of them!” He then elaborated that I am like Jed Clampet because I am frugal and down-to earth and don’t mind the idea of wild game dinners. I am like Granny Clampet because I gardening and canning and use home remedies. I like animals, so I am like Ellie Mae and her “critters” and I am like Jethro Bodine because I am always learning things and watch NASCAR! The only thing missing is striking oil on my property!

The oil companies are drilling all around our ten acres in Michigan but haven’t tried sinking any wells on our property yet, although there are new active oil wells on neighboring farms. I think it is time for me to grab my shotgun and go rabbit hunting to see if I can hit some “bubbling crude.” I hear the “Hills of Beverly” calling my name!