(HELPS FOR GETTING THROUGH TODAY)
7:09 AM and I bolted upright in bed. In less than a millisecond, I realized what was happening. The rumbling was too loud to be a construction truck, too long-lasting to be thunder. Our furniture and windows were not just rattling, they were shaking. And (what the heck) our bed was moving.
Doug sat up the same second I did. “It’s an earthquake,” I said. “Yep. Tell the kids to get dressed and get shoes on.” I yanked off the covers and grabbed my phone. Before I could even pull my sweatshirt over my head, the kids had opened our bedroom door. Ali was in tears. Spencer too.
Our whole family sleeps on the second floor of our two-story colonial and the quake had woken every one of us in a matter of seconds.
Doug and I were worried there was something bigger coming, that this was just a foreshock. We had the kids grab their backpacks from the hall closet and throw in some extra clothes and their inhaler meds. Doug grabbed our emergency supplies from the basement and loaded them into the car, and we turned on the news for more info. 50 minutes later another shock came. Not as long lasting, but we were on the ready to exit the house.
Rumors flew via texts, marco, and tv stations, that a bigger one was coming. Within minutes, however, the rumor was confirmed false. The worst was over. We could expect aftershocks for the next couple days, but it was time to calm down and regroup.
The quake was a 5.7 magnitude – the largest earthquake Utah has experienced since 1992. Later in the day, around 1PM on March 18th 2020, another shock hit us at a magnitude of 4.6. It was unnerving, surreal. On top of all this corona-crazy it felt like too much. I’ve been hearing about “the big one coming” since I was a kid. And honestly, during those terrifying 15-20 seconds at 7 AM, I thought this was it.
I feel like we are living in a dystopian novel. Global pandemic, social isolation, empty grocery store shelves, toilet paper apocalypse 🧻, and now an earthquake?!
Images from The Road by Cormac McCarthy kept flashing into my mind. It’s one of my favorite books, the writing so desperately beautiful. On Wednesday, however, those images started to feel a bit too close to home. I was so jumpy the rest of the day. Sami accidentally dropped a plate on our tile floor and I nearly leapt through the roof.
Moroni, the statue that famously stands vigilant atop most temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dropped his golden trumpet during the quake. 73,000 people have been without power. Some businesses and homes, closer to the Magna epicenter, suffered significant damage. And a large water main at the airport burst, grounding all flights in and out of SLC.
What a way to wake up to Day 6 of COVID-19 isolation.
It’s weird. All of it. The whole world seems inside out. Instead of out and about, we are in and without. Without school, without activities, without friends, without sports and entertainment. All in an attempt to slow the spread of this novel coronavirus. But at least we are with our families. With devices and the ability to connect. With the assurance of a God who loves us.
I’ve actually been excited about this time to be with my kids and teach them things I’ve always wanted to teach them, do some things we never have time to do because of our busy daily pace. But we’re not even a week in and I can already tell, this is gonna be hard.
I have to remind my kids, this isn’t just to protect ourselves. It’s to protect others. It’s our way of “flattening the curve,” assisting our brave health care providers, and beating the virus.
So how do we cope? How do we establish a new normal that will keep our kids feeling productive, happy, calm, positive, and healthy (both mentally and physically)? Here are some thoughts and ideas. I trust you’ll have some great ideas too. Please share yours in the comments.
First and foremost:
1 – Believe in Tomorrow.
This quote by Audrey Hepburn landed in my inbox a couple days ago and it was one of the most uplifting things I’ve seen roll across my phone in the last month.
My heart latched right onto this truth.
Some days I have to pause for a minute and take a deeeeeeep breath. . . then consider the future. There will be a day when there is a vaccine for this virus. There will be a day when we drop our kids off at school again, tell them “Have a good day! Love you!” and heave a big sigh of relief in solo serenity. There will be a day when toilet paper is back on the shelves — when fear, stress, and anxiety are no longer the undercurrent of our lives. There will be a day when the word “virus” is no longer in the headlines of every top news story. There will be a day when we return to church and sit next to families and neighbors we love, shake hands, and hug.
Believe in tomorrow. Plant your gardens.
Make plans for the future. Find something to look forward to and be excited about it.
Recently we started working on house plans for a remodel of our home. Now that everyone is feeling rather cramped and crushed we’re letting the kids help us by dreaming as big as they want. (Doesn’t mean we will deliver.) But, it’s so good for them to engage in looking forward to something happy, getting creative, using their imagination, and letting it run big. We’re also talking about small things to look forward to — like our “Frozen II” Movie Party, cool hikes when the snow melts, a family 3 on 3 basketball tourney, and Game Night with muddy buddies.
A couple days ago, Spencer, Eliza and I went on an outdoor exploration for signs of spring. The rain was coming down but we had to get out.
We found the most beautiful colors and blossoms.
Spencer jumped on our neighbor’s wet trampoline.
We watched raindrops ripple in the canal water,
and examined the lovely rocks the Nagels had painted.
Later that evening, just before sunset, light burst through the dripping pines. Signaling the very thing we must hold fast inside our chests: Hope.
Hope for better days. Hope for healing and recovery. Hope for the sunset of all things corona and the sunrise of normal days.
Yes, believe in tomorrow.
2 – Create a Schedule
Kids aren’t in school and most parents are working from home, but we can still establish a routine and structure for the day. This will give our kids purpose, help everyone feel productive, minimize boredom, and reduce the potential for complete anarchy (at least at our house.) Here are some things you could build into your day:
- A Healthy Sleep Schedule – wake at a decent hour in the morning and make sure kids/teens get the recommended 9-12 hours of sleep each night
- Exercise (hike, run, do workouts at home)
- Personal Gospel Study and Family Study time
- Specific hours for School or Work
- A Nature Fix – even just for a few minutes in your own yard
- Creative Time
- Family Dinners
We’ve been holding a nightly family meeting where we share compliments about each other, discuss worries or concerns, then write up the schedule for the following day. This helps everyone to feel a part, and keeps us (sort of) organized.
Other Ideas to Feel Productive:
- Help your kids set some screen limits for themselves (parents too!)
- Read that stack of books you haven’t had time to read
- Get out in the sunlight and soak up some Vitamin D
- Daily Mediation or Stretching (Try Insight Timer App)
- Make some new recipes
- Practice your instrument(s)
- Play Board Games with your family
- KiwiCo offers really cool STEM kits for all ages. My kids look forward to these coming in the mail.
- Complete a puzzle
- Organize your room
- Set some goals on the new LDS Gospel Living App
- Complete a home project
- Lisa @ Hand Lettered Design is offering 60% off her courses right now. (Eliza loves working on these. Good for teen girls.) CODE: BRIGHTSIDE60
- Look after your Elderly Neighbors (One of my darling Young Women sent out fliers from a bunch of our girls who are willing to be “Shopping Angels” for shut-ins and elderly.)
- Take a Virtual Museum Tour online
- Watch a Musical Performance Online
- Learn something new (like juggling, watercolor, photography, embroidery)
- Take a long bath with candles and bubbles (when do you have time to do this?)
- Nerf Gun Wars – Thanks to Uncle Mike who sent the boys fresh supplies.
300 Nerf darts arrived this week with new guns. Not sure if we should thank Michael, or kick him in the shins. 😂
Just teasing. We thanked him. And the boys are having a BLAST wreaking utter havoc on the home front.
3 – Connect
Recent research has shown that connection is key to positive mental and emotional health. So it’s imperative that we find ways to stay connected during this time of extensive social distancing. It requires thinking outside the box.
- Start a Virtual Book Club with Friends – Pick a book and discuss weekly on FaceTime
- Have a weekly FaceTime chat with friends. Same time every week so you can look forward to it.
- Do school work with a friend via FaceTime. Any connection at this point is helpful!
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems (love him! Get some friends to join you virtually!)
- Share Coloring Pages via email with friends and then share your finished masterpieces.
- Lego Challenge with Friends – My friend’s junior high son is doing this. They choose something to make at the beginning of each day, like a plane, space station, or warship, then he and his friends create their own lego masterpiece and send pics or videos to each other.
- Have a Dance Party – dial in another family via Skype or FaceTime
- Pajama Recital – We chose not to attend Gordon’s cello recital this week, so we had our own recital at home. In our pajamas! I mean, when else do you get to wear your pajamas to your recital?! Then we emailed the videos to grandparents and family.
Other Ideas for Bonding with your Family:
- Spa Night – no phones allowed. Paint toenails, soak your feet, do some yoga, relax, massage train, and basically disconnect from the world.
- “Just Dance” Challenge or Mario Kart Tourney
- Your own March Madness Tournament
- Play Non-Board Games. Like Charades, or Doo-Doo. (Doo-Doo is a game where you write down the names of a bunch of popular songs on slips of paper. One at a time, draw a paper and play “guess that tune” BUT you can only sing “Doo – Doo.” No words. It’s hilarious!)
- Read aloud as a family. We’re just finishing this classic in prep for Easter. I adore this story.
- Lastly, we just started this course from Build Your Teenager on Communication (Erik and Michelle Lehnardt). It’s SO helpful! We are trying to figure out better ways to communicate as a family, now that we’re all together, all. the. time. Lots of great tools on their website!
4 – Laugh
Laughter has never felt so important. It helps me find that feeling that “everything is going to be okay.” I’ve been collecting my favorite memes to send to my Young women (who I am missing terribly! Can’t believe it could be a couple months before we can meet again.) Here are my top 10:
And my favorites to follow on IG for a good laugh? My cuz, Kelsi and her hubs Caleb @fullmhouse (all kinds of hilarious family and couples challenges to do – adore them) and @johnsonfiles.
5 – Pray with Gratitude
Research shows that grateful people are some of the happiest people on the planet. In addition to praying for our health care providers and a swift conclusion to the spread of the virus, we can make the majority of our prayer a gratitude prayer. When I mention lots of things I am thankful for and focus on my blessings, I absolutely feel more peace, more calm, and more happiness.
6 – Consider How You Can Help Others
We have to look at this new normal – the challenge that dropped right in our laps unwanted – is actually an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to come together (even at a distance.) I saw a sweet phrase today that said, “Hands-Off, Hearts-In.”
Over the weekend our family left some spring blooms on our elderly neighbors’ doorsteps with a note telling them we’re happy to do any shopping for them, pick up medications, or run errands if they don’t feel comfortable going out.
My friend, Susie, once had a friend in the hospital for a long period of time. She mailed her a note of encouragement every day she was hospitalized. This friend still talks about how much that meant to her. Think of someone who could use a note in the mail. Consider writing a card a day. Choose someone different each day to send it to.
Other Ways to Serve:
- Focus on doing kind things for your family and strengthening those relationships
- Text a compliment or kind words to a friend
- Write to a missionary or grandparent
- Pick up take-out for someone
- Utah Food Bank is in desperate need of volunteers to pack emergency food boxes. They’ll take anyone ages 12 and older during the hours of 9-7:30 PM Monday-Friday. Call to confirm.
- Serve Refugees of Salt Lake City needs cleaning kits and essential kits. You can just drop them at their share house, which is staying open. More details @serverefugees
- Rake a neighbor’s leaves (I saw a family doing this last week.)
- Sew masks for Health Care Providers.
These are unprecedented and uncertain times, but I feel this is when the best of humanity can shine through.
All week long I have thought about God’s love for us. Paul told the Romans in chapter 8, verse 28 that “all things work together for good to them who love God.” Even this unique and volatile situation can work together for good in our lives. I encouraged my Young Women to pay attention and pray for eyes to see these good things. I promised them if they did, they would begin to notice how this unique situation will end up bringing more good into their life.
Our Heavenly Parents usually let the laws and consequences of our fallen world play out. People get sick, small babies don’t survive, evil individuals do awful things, storms beat down homes, earthquakes literally rock our world, and viruses spread. But all of this is not evidence that they do not love us.
Last week Sami asked me, “Why does Heavenly Father let this kind of thing happen?” If we try to understand God’s mind and heart, we discover that when He allows any challenge or heartache to happen, He does not turn His back and walk away. Instead, he steps a little closer and waits patiently for us to reach out to Him. He knows that when “all is not well” we are more likely to lean on Him and seek His help. This, to me, is evidence that our loving Heavenly Parents have infinite knowledge, as well as foresight. They know that hard things present an opportunity for us to draw closer to each other, to them, and to our Savior.
I hope during this difficult time, you are gathering strength from your families and rediscovering the love you have there. I am already so touched by the ways others have reached out to us and are making efforts to stay connected. Let’s keep the positivity going, watch after one another, and hold on hopeful.
Plant your annuals, and believe.
Tomorrow is already on its way.