A Bevy of Bad Birthdays

Have you been one of the lucky ones to commemorate your birthday during the pandemic? Actually the way things are going, you might have the opportunity.

When Florida was under lockdown restrictions last spring, I felt sorry for those people whose birthdays were affected. Families felt desperate to do something special for their loved ones and began organizing drive-by celebrations. Friends waved, screamed, and honked as they drove past the home of the birthday boy or girl. Sigh…I wondered if these short-lived celebrations left the recipients feeling even more alone as they watched every car disappear from view?

I remember thinking, “Surely the pandemic will end by the time my birthday comes around in June. My birthday will be awesome.”

WRONG! Three days before my birthday, two family members tested positive for Covid-19. I spent my birthday in quarantine waiting to see if I would exhibit any symptoms. Fortunately, I was in the clear, and my family members recovered. Herb surprised me with a cake and candles, but guests were out of the question.

Fast forward to Herb’s birthday in August. We planned a family party, which is normal for us and I bought a cake mix. Then I realized, “I’d better make cupcakes because Herb will blow out the candles. I can’t serve cake to everyone after he breathes on it.”

So I did. I also gave everyone personal bottles of hand sanitizer and masks for party favors. How’s that for a pandemic birthday?

Did you ever wonder how our birthday traditions came about? Here’s the scoop.

Birthday cakes were first made in Germany during the Middle Ages as part of a child’s celebration known as Kinderfest. A candle was placed on the cake to represent the “light of life.”

Over time, people began adding one more candle to the top of the cake to represent a person’s age. We were all told to blow them out and make a wish.

Since everyone is more fearful of Covid-19 spreading, here’s a little known bit of information. A study by Clemson University in 2017 discovered blowing out your candles increases bacteria by 1400%. (Actually, this isn’t a huge problem unless the birthday boy is ill.) But in the year of the Covid, nothing is sacred.

Yum! More cake anyone? Don’t be surprised if birthday cakes will be next on the list for a Covid-conversion. I expect to see a shortage of cupcake papers in my local grocery soon. I honestly feel like the world will never be the same again.

How many candles fit on a single cupcake? Just look on the bright side. This year you can extinguish the flame of your candle in one breath—and no one will know your age.

Patience is a Virtue

Hello friends,

How are you getting along this week? Have you counted the days since our National Emergency began? That’s right. Forty-five days. Many of us have been quarantined in our homes for most of those days. I can’t believe I’m still here looking at the same four walls. Herb suggested we change the pictures in the living room in order to see some new scenery.

It hasn’t been all bad. I have plenty to do. Remember the song, “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers?

“Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.”

I sing that song to myself sometimes…but I haven’t started smoking and I don’t think this would be a good time to start.

Now, back to the subject of waiting. We’re all waiting for our stay-at-home orders to be lifted. I dream about going shopping, visiting friends, and worshipping with my church. (in person!)

But we might have to wait longer. So I try not to dream too much. That’s like inviting Mr. Discontent to come into your house and take residence. No thanks.

Waiting doesn’t mean you’re inactive. Instead you’re harnessing your mind, will, and emotions to work for you within the boundaries of your circumstances. Each day I try to do the following:

Accept the reality there is nothing I can do to change my circumstances.

Pray for the emotional strength to endure until my circumstances change.

Determine to use this time as productively as I can.

On March 13, I didn’t believe I could endure spending six weeks in my home. Although it seems like I’m stuck in time, something is happening. Even if my circumstances don’t appear to be changing, I’m different. I’m learning patience.

“Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires.” —Sheri L. Dew

Today I remembered a baby cardinal which was trapped in our courtyard a couple years ago. Its little wings were too small and weak to lift its pudgy body any higher than the patio table.

After several failed attempts to fly, the mama cardinal coached the baby higher. First it flew from the ground to the table, then from the table to the top of the garage door. Finally, it took off into the wide blue sky.

“Here I go!”

Re-opening America will be like that. Little by little we will find our way forward and enjoy all the wonderful freedoms we used to know. We will fly!

Until then, keep counting those flowers everyone.

Still Waters

Are you tired of sitting at home because of COVID-19? Are you ready to travel somewhere, anywhere?

Come with me on a journey. Although I’ve lived in my neighborhood for sixteen years, I didn’t really become acquainted with this pond until last week.

Beautiful, isn’t it? This view is very near my front door. On previous occasions, I was usually too busy to notice. Maybe I was walking Buddy, or riding my bike. Maybe I was getting the mail. I have to say, COVID-19 has forced me to pause and consider my immediate surroundings.

Our local stay-at-home order permits walking outdoors, but I wanted to keep my walk short (since I am recovering from a back injury). I discovered it takes twenty minutes to circle the pond. So let’s get started.

These bald cypress knees aren’t always visible. During the summer rainy season the roots of the tree are under water.

White ibis photo courtesy of Herb Burton.

The shallow water provides an ideal feeding ground for the white ibis. These birds use their long beaks to probe the soft mud in search of insects.

white egret

This spring the water is so low, little islands are rising. They make me think of continents pushing up out of the ocean. The islands attract snapping turtles who are eager to warm themselves in the sun. Soon after I took this photo, the egret perched itself upon the sandy mound to scan the water for its next meal.

This is the view from the western end of the pond. There have been years when the water recedes even more and the island becomes a land bridge.

Here is one of my favorite views. Standing in this spot I feel like I could be on a trail in some remote area, away from the confines of our Orlando neighborhood.

Unfortunately, my desire to walk closer to the water resulted in disaster. I picked up some dog poo-lution on my shoe. Lucky for you, a virtual trip doesn’t include this hazard of the trail.

Blue heron photo courtesy of Herb Burton.

As we near our starting point, we are delighted by the stately blue heron. During moments like these, I realize how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place. My walks have provided me the opportunity to thank God for his love and care, even during this time of despair.

I’m reminded of Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside the still waters,

He restores my soul.

I hope our journey around the pond has helped you relax a little. True, the pandemic has taken much from our lives. I trust that in this season of loss, something will be gained. My walks around the pond have inspired me to remember how God still provides for each of us.

Have you experienced God’s provision during this season of loss? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Lessons from a National Emergency Part 2

“A major disruption has occurred in our lives.”

By now you might be tired of reading anything related to our war with the coronavirus. Can anything be said that hasn’t already been said? I’m asking myself the same question as I sit down to write today.

When I walk outside the sky is still blue, birds are tweeting, flowers are blooming. The sunshine warms me. Somehow it seems like a perfectly normal spring day. It’s as if nature didn’t get the message. Doesn’t the natural world know the shadow of death is upon us?

When I wrote my last post I shared my initial reaction to our national emergency. We’ve all experienced many more setbacks since then. As the number of COVID-19 cases rise, more businesses, churches, and schools close their doors. Opportunities for socialization and recreation have diminished. Like many of you I’ve felt trapped in my home. It’s a good thing I like my husband or this could really be bad.

Herb and I enjoying another evening at home.

I commend the health professionals who risk their lives to fight the pandemic on the front lines. Those of us complying with local stay-at-home orders also play an important role. Social isolation holds back the enemy’s advances. But isolation does have a negative impact on our emotions. Every day we must put on our armor to stand against the anxiety which assaults our minds.

I think by now most of us realize a major disruption has occurred in our lives. We have changed. Maybe we don’t trust people as much as we used to. Last week my level of distress had actually escalated to the point I’ve had trouble focusing. Is this the “fog”of war?

Then I read an email from Dr. Valerie Allen, author of the self- help book, Beyond the Inkblots: Confusion to Harmony. A trained psychologist, Dr. Allen shared tips in her email for coping with the anxiety associated with the pandemic. Here are some suggestions:

Keep reaching out to people. Commit to at least one phone call, email, or text a day. Share your concerns and feelings with people you trust.

Engage in physical activity. Take a walk, ride a bike, lift soup cans if you are stuck indoors.

Develop your Creativity. Cook a new dish made from ingredients you have in your pantry. Write in a journal. Take an online class. Read about a topic you’ve always wanted to know more about.

Increase your level of spirituality. Watch live streaming videos of worship services. Pray. Engage in Bible study.

Tackle a Project. Clean out a closet. Organize your photos. Reorganize your kitchen cabinets.

I’d like to add a tip of my own to this list:

Make a Positive Statement. Encourage others by sharing something up-lifting. Post positive quotes on social media. Hang up Christmas lights in your window to send a message of encouragement to your neighbors.

Our daughter and son in law hung these lights on their apartment balcony.

Christmas lights send a message of hope. Leave a comment and share how you’ve received encouragement during these dark times.