Tag Archives: Masks

Stay Outa My Space!

Oreos were my go-to comfort food when my personal space requirements felt squashed.

Do you, like most Americans, value personal space?

Because my large family was stuffed into small houses, I developed an early yen for breathing room. If a genie had offered me wishes, I would have wished three younger siblings elsewhere.

But when I rubbed living room lamps, the genie never showed. So, I competed for the bathroom, the best car window, phone privacy, and a quiet place to read.

Recently, our pastor reminded me of those futile cravings. Using a room and duct tape, he illustrated how we compartmentalize our lives, attempting to bar God from areas we want to control.

My husband’s righteous elbow jabbed me.

He knew that as a child, I’d done exactly that — though I used The String, not duct tape. Another difference: I wanted to live close to God. I didn’t want to share a bedroom with my sister.

A pack rat, she never made our double bed. Her kitten never messed on her pillow. Only mine.

With that almighty String, I divided our bed and our room. “You and Kitty stay on your side,” I decreed, “and I’ll stay on mine. If we touch each other’s side, we pay fifty cents.”

She stared. “But you have the door.”

“And you’re standing in it. Fifty cents, please.”

Our parents spoiled my privacy plan. They showed zero respect for budding capitalism. How could they destroy such a profitable enterprise?

Little did I know I someday would share dormitory rooms with aliens. A fellow introvert, also smothered by a 30,000-student campus, wallpapered the inside of an appliance box. Whenever excessive togetherness made her crazy, she retreated into The Box.

Our family at Christmas 1985.

A similar box wouldn’t have worked for me as a young parent. First, I always flunk do-it-yourself projects. Second, three small children — two probably fragrant with needed diaper changes — would have crawled inside with me.

Hubby and I had stuffed our family into a tiny house. When I began consuming whole packages of Oreos, he realized something my parents didn’t get: I truly needed space.

Terribly North American. In some countries, whole families could have resided in our little home’s closet space.

Our move to a larger home provided breathing space for our family — especially me.

But we moved to a larger house. My Oreo-snarfing behavior — rather than my children — disappeared. Of course, a parent never possesses sufficient personal space. Amid slumber parties, snow days, and laser tag battles, I didn’t realize my personal space would expand beyond belief.

The pandemic provided more distance for us North Americans than we’d ever dreamed of. The pastor preached his duct tape message to a socially distanced, masked congregation.

For months, my siblings and I couldn’t visit. Now, with loosening restrictions, we will. There will be no Strings or Boxes at my house.

Unless they try to move in.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you crave space?

Pandemic Positives

Written during Summer 2020, hopefully, this piece will remind us of what we’ve learned.

Can you believe COVID-19 has stolen headlines for four months?

Many would answer, “No. I thought it was four decades.”

March through July 2020 will not highlight anyone’s yearbook. Still, some good has emerged.

You don’t believe it?

I don’t, either.

Just kidding. In a grouchy, 2020 sort of way. Despite endless complications, this bizarre experience has presented us with positives. Even if you’re grumpy, too, check out a few below:

We no longer must dream up excuses to avoid boring events. First, events — boring and otherwise — have been cancelled. Or delayed until this virus learns some manners. Second, a reluctant attendee need only cough, and both crowd and event vanish.

For some, credit card bills have dropped. Ours have diminished to 1990 amounts. Because I’ve overdosed on screens, online shopping holds zero appeal. Besides, why buy new clothes to check the mail? They don’t impress the mailbox at all.

Our cars may last another decade. Though my ten-year-old Ford has doddered so long around the garage, it may forget how to start.

As TV time has shrunk, reading time has expanded. Because of aforementioned aversion to screens, I avoid TV like an irritating relative. Instead, I read more books the past four months than during the past four years.

Canceled sporting events = big savings. Hubby and I have not blown a single dollar on Cubs games, only to sit in the rain for hours. Or watch them lose. (Usually both.)

Masks cover a multitude of greens. For chronic spinach-between-the-teeth people like myself, masks are a godsend.

Toilet paper never looked so good. The shortage has eased. Stacks lining Walmart’s back wall assure me that when a crisis arises, America will triumph.

Entertainment costs have dropped. Not once have I spent big bucks on a lousy movie with a soul-sucking ending, as theaters are closed. Nor have I squandered ten bucks — or 200 million calories — on popcorn.

Cleanliness is off the charts. Personal and business cleanliness standards have set new records. The U.S. population has never boasted such clean hands. My mom would be proud.

Finally, we’ve become a country hungry for conversation. When people do gather, fewer stare at phones and more talk to humans. When a driver stopped in the street to chat with us — a small-town practice that usually annoys Hubby’s safety sense — he welcomed the chance to talk. The young driver (gasp!) seemed to enjoy it, too.

Living through a pandemic isn’t easy. But unlike many during the 1918 flu and Europe’s bubonic plagues, most of us are living through COVID-19.

If we pilfer small positives, our days will brighten. We may even become easier to live with.

You don’t believe it?

Hubby doesn’t, either.

But if our credit card bills continue to drop, he can live with that.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What positives have you gleaned from the pandemic?

Um, This Is Church?

First, we were advised not to go to church. Then forbidden to go.

What?

I’ve attended since a newborn. As a toddler, I sat on the front pew as my mother played the piano. Mom dressed my brother and me in sleepers, as we nodded off before services ended.

Sleepers! In front of God and everybody! An indignity not to be endured.

Finally, Mom gave in, and I wore proper church attire.

Our small church supplied infinite hugs. I played hide-and-seek after services with friends more like cousins. And the potlucks! I still embrace the credo that the church supplies the ultimate food for both body and soul.

Best of all, I not only learned the song, “Jesus Loves Me,” at church, I grew in that truth.

As a teen, though, I fantasized about skipping services. Later, as a busy church music director, I occasionally longed to worship per TV, where everyone sang on key.

Sometimes, the following prayer cropped up: “God, just this Sunday, may I stay in bed?” Worshipping while wearing sleepers sounded downright spiritual.

Then the coronavirus, a dark angel, swooped in.

Watching online worship while wearing bathrobes, our shaggy-haired congregation probably looked quite biblical. So good to see our pastors. To drink in the Scriptures, living water for parched people in a COVID-19 desert.

Yet, a cyber hug can never replace a real one. When restrictions were lifted, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Except those — including seniors — considered high risk.

Steve and I took Communion at home on Maundy Thursday.

As a teen, I’d wanted to sneak out of services. Now I considered sneaking in.

Could I lie about my age to attend church? What if a bouncer carded me — “She’s got Medicare B!” — and tossed me out?

Reluctantly, Hubby and I continued online worship. The small congregation practiced “social distancing,” as if all had forgotten to shower. The long-haired, masked group resembled a gathering of hippie surgeons.

Weird.

Yet, I ached to be there. …

Finally, when seniors received a sort-of green light, Hubby and I donned masks and went to church, sitting miles away from friends we’d missed so much.

My mask fogged my glasses, causing hymn lyrics to disappear. The mask contracted when I inhaled, poufed when I sang. Still, loving the church family voices around us, Hubby and I belted out hymns with vigor.

Despite the odd, reduced gathering, Jesus was there.

We and our brothers and sisters at home pray fervently that soon, we will all be together again. Meanwhile, we connect through prayer, technology, and conversations across yards, streets, and parking lots.

Above all, we connect through joy that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Even wearing sleepers for church can’t take that away.

Upland Community Church — I’m not sneaking out now!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Has the pandemic changed your church?