Quarantine Self-Care: In the Toilet!

I have a special button my sister gave me once; it says, “Mom Off Duty.” She gave it to me as a suggestion, rather than a joke, cause she knows I’m not the best at taking time to recharge my batteries. This morning I found the button in the toilet. Yes, actually in it–and that pretty much sums up how my self-care is at the moment.

I’m sure this is the case for many people…working long hours from home while parenting and homeschooling, or braving the front lines in the hospitals. I loved this image my mom sent me, because it’s so fitting. Real life superheroes walk the halls of every hospital right now! Thank you brave nurses and doctors and all health careworkers!

IMG_6856.JPG

There are so many heroes right now…but even Wonder Woman needs a bathroom break (alone!), or a shower, a quiet walk, or a few minutes for a favourite hobby to restore her weary soul a bit. These moments have been scarce for me, as I homeschool my seven kids and try to make magic from what remains of rice and dried in beans the cupboard until our next grocery order comes. The other day, for example, since we were out of bread and milk, we had homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and fishy crackers for breakfast, not that the kids objected much to that!

Anyway, as I’m not the queen of mamma self-care, I’m going to share a few ideas friends of mine have mentioned doing. Please comment and share your tips, too!

  1. Going for a quiet walk alone, and calling a friend to catch up.
  2. Having a daily time set aside to practice music alone, behind a locked door, without interruption “unless anyone’s eyeballs are bleeding!”
  3. Dates at home, while the kids babysit each other in another room. Snacks and a movie with your spouse, without your littlest kids climbing all over and talking the whole time.
  4. Walks with your spouse…if you’re lucky enough to have kids old enough to babysit that is. Some friends of mine in Saskatchewan even braved the rather chilly park for a lunch date!
  5. Visiting friends over Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, to have a laugh together and feel less alone. My friend Monique had a knitting date over Zoom, and I’m planning a writing one with my writer buddy Lisa Rumple, who bravely blogs about her mental health journey at The Resilient Catholic.
  6. Taking a class online to feed your mind and grow.
  7. Exercising. As a family, we like to do the daily workout with the Body Coach, Joe Wicks, on YouTube. He is funny and accessible, and requires no equipment for his 20 minute workout (30 minutes when you include the breaks). Even our toddler joins in, and likes doing jumping jacks, or as they call them in England “star jumps.” It helps that every Friday is Fancy Friday dress up day!

I think all these are great ideas to help release the pressure that builds up from being “on” 24/7. Sometimes it feels very spoiled to talk about being stressed right now, when some people are in situations that are so much more devastating. As my friend Laura asked, “When have people endured epidemic isolation from a place of such luxury and connection?”

While we are indeed so lucky to be able to connect with others from the safely of our homes, it also means that we are more aware of the suffering of others all around the world. This collective stress affects us all; I don’t see the use in pretending it doesn’t.

So we need to find ways of releasing that stress, so it doesn’t silently build up like the little bricks in Tetris, until they are almost at the top of the screen and falling faster by the minute. If like in the game, we can find ways to organize all the little bricks that cause anxiety into little rows, plugging in the empty spots, they can disappear and leave us more breathing room. It’s not that we won’t have more stress factors coming our way, but if we can acknowledge them and fit them into our life, maybe we can rob them of some of their destructive power.

Right now, some of the strange things like working and schooling from home, not being able to visit friends, travel freely or go out as a family to socialize are the new normal. It takes energy to readjust; we are mourning the loss of the innocence of a world where people didn’t hesitate to shake hands with strangers or hug a friend who stopped by.

So whatever your situation right now, however much you feel affected by this pandemic, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, as well as others. Don’t drown in your to do lists. Try to pause and savour the little good things that happen each day. Pray for the grace to endure this storm, and to grow better from it, but little by little. Don’t be harsh with yourself.

And if it helps, and you’ve got insomnia, too, eat pumpkin pie ice cream at midnight, like me.

Big love to everyone!

Toddler Security Services: Your Isolation Solution!

Stress got ya down? Toddler Security Services is your solution to feeling safe all the time!

Here at T.S.S., we offer:

24/7 Surveillance. Don’t worry; day or night, we are ALWAYS watching you.

  • Z.P.S. Zero personal space. There’s literally no where you can go without us!
  • Sonic Boom Alarm System: no alarm is louder than ours! It’s ear-piercingly effective in obtaining immediate assistance. Friendly Staff. You will love us, and we will love you! In fact, being smothered with affection is the only “danger” at T.S.S.!Affordability. We have very flexible payment plans, and accept all cookies, candies, pancakes and mini-yogurts. We even accept hugs.

    So what are you waiting for? Sign up and get your own personal security assistant today from Toddler Security Services! T.S.S.: your isolation solution! Never feel alone again (whether you like it or not)!

    Misadventures in Housekeeping, Part 2: Magical Hummus Goes “Poof!”

    Lately, I’ve been trying to be resourceful about using up the food at the back of the cupboard, since our grocery delivery service is so busy they can usually only make it once every two weeks, and we are trying to avoid going out as much as possible. If our pretending we live in our little house in the big woods, and making homemade bread instead of running to get some can, help less people get sick, then we are going to do it.

    So, even though we actually live in a big house in the city, with seven kids instead of three, I’ve been trying to find my inner “Ma Ingalls,” because she could make do with almost no stores and make everything from scratch. With varying results–my attempts that is! The most explosive result, so far, came from making homemade hummus.

    If you know my husband at all, you will know he is a hummus connoisseur. Yes, that’s actually a thing. Having been to Israel, and tasted the real deal, he is pretty hard to impress. Not that he won’t eat store-bought or homemade hummus quite cheerfully, but he will often make reference to the truly amazing hummus he had in the Middle East. Probably it’s partly just nostalgia. Doesn’t everything taste better overseas?

    However, like the rebellious obliger that I am, I felt two things:

    1. A challenge to create a really great hummus at home, so it’s not always just “alright.”

    2. The pressure to make it good enough to compete with holiday memory hummus.

    Kinda silly the whole thing. In any case, all we had was dried chick peas, so I soaked them over night. Then, I followed the instructions for “Magical Hummus” from my husband’s Israeli cookbook step by step. Mostly. Ish. After rinsing off the soaked chickpeas, I was supposed to cook them in a pot with baking soda for 40 minutes or so, until super soft and soupy, all the while skimming off the foam bubbles in the top.

    I don’t have time for that; I’ll just do it in my instant pot.

    Famous last words. Normally, I absolutely love my instant pot. It’s so handy! You can whip up dinner all in one pot in less an half an hour, even if things are frozen, and it comes out tender and delicious. It’s the closest thing to having another woman in the kitchen without polygamy.

    But! I shouldn’t have ignored the instructions about scooping off the foam…and when I flicked open the pressure release valve to let the steam out after cooking the chickpeas for 25 minutes, out came sputtering hot and foul smelling yellow scum!! Aaaagggghhh!!

    I had to throw a towel over the pot to close the pressure valve without getting burned by my hissing, volcanic pot. After wiping chick pea scum off the cupboards and floor, and letting the pressure release naturally, which is what I should have done, I opened the lid to see a mass of bubbly, frothy soupy greyish chick peas, and to smell…. awfulness!!

    Mom, what’s that gross smell?! Eeewww!! Are you making fart soup??

    The house did indeed smell like one giant diaper; the kids weren’t even exaggerating. So I went around laughing like an idiot and opening all the windows and doors and putting the fans on. My poor neighbours!!

    That Eastland family, what are they up to now?

    I thought this attempt at homemakerliness was going to be a total fail, but here’s the suprising part: after I partly drained, then blended the chick peas with lots of tahini, some lemon, garlic, and salt, it turned out great! Except quite a bit too salty…as I was worrying about masking the imagined awful taste…but after I added some water, more lemon and olive oil, it was lovely. And it made a great dressing for homemade falafel, the next day, which surprisingly, turned out just fine, and even satisfied my Middle Eastern loving hubby.

    All’s well that ends well. Sometimes it just really stinks along the way!

    Happy Easter from the Eastlands

    This Easter we are grateful for simple beauties, being together when so many are alone, and for having a garden for our children to play in since we can’t go elsewhere! All of these are huge blessings. Wishing you all many caresses of tenderness and hope this spring! Let’s stay in touch; I’m always so happy to hear from family, friends, and even ‘strangers,’ for who can really be a stranger when we are all in this together…

    God bless you and keep you safe and grant you peace of heart! Happy Easter! 🙂

    Easter Sunday, 3 am

    It’s Easter Sunday

    long before dawn.

    The moon lies low in the horizon,

    looking slightly harried

    from it’s all night vigil.

    Across the road,

    the forsythia is silent–

    it’s bright yellow hues

    dampened by the darkness.

    The children are sleeping,

    except for the toddler,

    who briefly wakes

    for a bottle, then curls up

    and returns to her dreams.

    The world does not yet know

    that the glorious resurrection

    is about to take place–

    the silence of Holy Saturday

    continues throughout the night.

    With Mary, I watch and wait in hope

    for the tomb to be unsealed

    and Life to burst forth

    in triumph.

    Easter Accompanies the Suffering Heart with Hope

    When I was in the depths of grief after losing my baby daughter Josephine five years ago, I found it was very hard to go through holidays that focus primarily on being joyful. The pressure to be happy was too much. Christmas is cosy and lovely and normally a huge favourite of mine, but not when the pain is still too raw. In times of struggle, I prefer Easter.

    Why? Those of you who know me might be thinking of one thing: chocolate! All the chocolate without all the work of Christmas. I am definitely a believer chocolate’s ability to comfort and to express affection when given. I almost always include some chocolate in the grief baskets my friend Julia and I make for bereaved moms, along with my baby loss poetry book and other encouraging books and self-care items, but no, chocolate isn’t the reason.

    Although these days, when things are extra stressful around the world, there are times when I’d like to simply bury my entire face in a Tuxedo chocolate layer cake, there is something chocolate cannot do: accompany me in my suffering. Share my grief. Give dignity to my tears, by saying, “I, too, have suffered. You are not alone.” This is something God can do. This is something Jesus does from the cross.

    “There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.” – St. John Paul II

    Despite all the wild and crazy things that happen in a complex world where there is human freedom, and also the realities of pain and death, we can be consoled by knowing that we do not suffer alone, for we have a God who is compassionate. As I would tell my kids in homeschool, compassion comes from the Latin “cum” (with) “passio” (I suffer). But why would God want to enter our mess, instead of remaining “aloof in icy splendour,” as the archbishop of Toronto poetically asked yesterday?

    Love. A personal love for each person ever created. A tender love for you and for me individually. A desire to accompany us in our hardest moments, and to help us bear them.

    I have experienced this same desire myself. After losing Josephine, I had an intense desire to be with others who were in pain, to accompany them in their mourning, to hold their hands on the long road to recovery. I could not make their pain disappear, but I could feel it with them, and let them know their grief was valid–was in fact a beautiful sign of their immense love for those lost.

    So if you are in mourning this Easter, I encourage you to reach out to the source of love through prayer. God truly cares about your struggles, and wants to help you carry your crosses, as once he carried his own: with blood, and sweat and tears, but also with the dignity of one who gave his life for others freely, out of love. By reaching out to console others in pain, you, too, share in the healing power of God’s generous love, a love stronger than death.

    Stardust

    Yesterday, my sweet neighbour’s only daughter died of cancer, leaving behind a loving husband and two little boys. I am so crushed by this news, so in her honour, and in honour of all the many precious people who have recently died, I thought I would share this poem from my book unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope.

    As some of you already know, I wrote this book of poetry after losing my baby daughter Josephine. Peace be with all of you who are suffering the loss of loved ones in this crazy time.

    Stardust

    If it’s true that we are dust

    and that from the moment of birth

    we are heading towards death,

    then are not all our words

    like a dying breath—

    an exhalation of hope

    that our voices will be heard

    after we’re gone?

    Like the light of stars

    shining for years,

    sending light across the universe

    long after the star has burnt out.

    Are we perhaps,

    though weak and frail,

    yet destined for eternity,

    little flurries of stardust?

    Loving Through the Fear: A Mortal Mission

    It is strange how this virus has woken us up to a very obvious but often ignored fact: we are mortal. This reminder of our fragility has caused us to panic and scramble, as if it were possible to avoid this inevitable outcome of our lives–their ending. The ending has been there all along, but not in such a prevalent, “hiding around the corner” kind of way.

    So how should we respond to this intense affirmation that our lives are a brief and precious gift?

    With love. With love that is stronger than death. With love that connects us all. With love that can reach across the globe into every trembling heart. With many, many, concrete acts of love. It there were ever a time for “random acts of kindness,” it is now. Except they are not random; they are very much the point of our existence: to affirm the irreplaceable nature of every human life, and to honour each person with our little acts of affection and and kindness, to find in the face of the poor, the lonely and the stranger, the face of God.

    Imagine for just a moment what might happen at this uniquely uncharted point in time if we all choose to set aside politics, agendas, finger pointing, conspiracies, and our own (very real & very different) fears.

    What if we choose Right Now to take care of one another and put compassion, love, and service above all else? What if we turn our necessary distance into something even bigger than saving lives?

    An Open Letter to Humanity

    Everyone will do this in their own way, living with a sense of personal mission to serve their families, their friends and their communities with all the talents and passion they can muster. It is by loving that we mortal beings unite ourselves to the Immortal One, the fount of life and source of love, and come to share in a life beyond the fragile one we have here.

    Let us burn our life’s candle brightly and share its light with those around us. Then, whenever its light is snuffed out, we will continue to glow in the hearts of people whom we have loved.