Monthly Archives: March 2020

Surviving Sheltering-In

I don’t know how many days this sheltering-in has now been, but it has been a while.  How are you doing?  I am doing good.  At first, I was extremely stressed.  I have two sons, two daughters-in-law, one grandson, and one granddaughter living in California, and when the governor shut down the whole state, I was really stressed.  I worried for their safety and their sanity!  On the other hand, I have two more sons, two more daughters-in-law, one more grandson, and three more granddaughters, and a step son living in Missouri, in the St. Louis area, who I also worry about.  Now that everyone there is also sheltered-in, I am a bit more at ease. COVID-19 MAP

I remember when I was still working and talking to retirees, and they told me they didn’t know how they had time to work because they are so busy as a retiree.  I feel the same way about being sheltered-in.  I feel like I am busier than normal.  Of course, I put that on me.  I had decided that I needed things to keep me busy.

bookA few weeks before this sheltering-in started, I decided to  make a quilt. I purchased all the fabric for the front and back.  Unbeknownst to me, it was perfect timing.  Therefore, I have that project going.  I am also privileged to have been chosen to be an ambassador for John O’Leary’s new book, In Awe, and have been reading it, and going online with a Facebook Live book discussion with John and the other ambassadors.  My husband is a hiking fanatic (I just like it), and so I make sure that at least three times a week I join him on the walking paths throughout our huge neighborhood or on the hiking paths at the San Tan Mountain Regional Park, which is only a five minute drive from our home.  

On top of that, I am doing all the cooking and baking—no eating out.  Since baking is a stress reliever for me, it brought great stress when I realized that I was short on flour and brown sugar.  The store shelves have been void of any baking ingredients every time I have been there.  Then I got a suggestion from a cousin that The Olive Mill in Queen Creek, AZ had flour.  Really?  I have been there several times since we have been in Arizona.  It is near our home.  This place has their own olive groves.  They press oil of every flavor.  They have a store that sells their olive oil, and other products, like pasta, wine, salsa, etc., all produced in Arizona.  They also have a very busy restaurant and bakery.  Usually when one goes there, the place is elbow to elbow with people.  There are picnic tables outside along with the indoor seating, and it is a great place to have a meal with friends and family, and the kids can run around outdoors happily,  Not so anymore.  The other day Dennis and I decided to drop by, and lo and behold, there was not only flour, but milk, eggs, butter, yeast, sugar of all kinds.  Why of course—they are not baking at this time, but they have a ton of ingredients, so they are happily selling it to us.  The place was pretty much empty, as a few people were there shopping.

I realized that baking is a stress reliever for me, but having a ton of baked goods laying around, is not.  Yesterday I washed up good, I scrubbed my kitchen, then wiped IMG_0784everything (counters, appliances, food packaging) with antiseptic wipes, and baked cookies.  Then I bagged them up in zip lock bags that were labeled with the type of cookies in the bag.  I put them in a double bagged plastic grocery bag and sent them across the street to my neighbor, who is a school teacher, and is now home schooling her two children.  I sent her a text, and told her that when her doorbell rings, to get the treats from her porch. Later in the day, Dennis and I got in the car and drove to the home the cousin who gave me the tip where to buy my flour.  She is also a school teacher, who is now home with her children.  We did a drive-by cookie drop.  I put the cookies at her front door, got in the car and called her to tell her the treats were awaiting at the door.  As much as I would like to send some to other neighbors, they don’t know me as well, and may not trust all the scrubbing down I did to make the delivery of the baked goods safe.

Along with my reading “In Awe,” I have another book on my Kindle app on my phone.  I recently discovered through my school teacher neighbor, that I could apply online for a library card in our county, and order online books.  I received my card the other day, but will wait until I am finished with the books I have in progress, but am excited to start getting free library books online to read.

I have enjoyed all the fun people have had on social media to entertain us with funny memes and sharing funny videos about being sheltered-in.  I have also enjoyed the Facebook broadcasts from the many churches that are sending out encouragement to us Image-1-1daily.  It is good to know that we are all in this together, not just in the United States, but all over the world.  It is good to hears songs of praise and hope, and messages of hope.

I spend my days texting friends and family to see how they are doing, especially those who I know live alone.  I do believe it is important that we connect with others to bring them hope and cheer, for this time shall soon be over (I hope), but in the meantime, love needs to be spread in whatever way possible. 

So there is hope.  We have a loving God.  He has gone before the Israelites as they the-cross-1-1536650wondered through the desert for years.  Things got bad for them—they whined and complained—they even started worshipping idols—they were unfaithful to God.  BUT . . . God was FAITHFUL.  He protected them, and got them to the promised land.  Was there some tragedies in between?  Sure there were.  Or move on many, many years, and the disciples who are the closest to Jesus got pretty squeamish themselves when Jesus was arrested and crucified.  The disciples scattered—Peter denied he knew Jesus when asked by someone in the crowd.  Are you kidding?  He didn’t want to get arrested and who knows what—so, he denied he knew Jesus.  BUT . . . Jesus didn’t abandon him.  We humans seem to forget who is in charge when things look bleak to us.  BUT . . . God is still faithful.  We are so easy to take things for granted when life is easy, and so easy to forget who God is . . . until we are in trouble.  Then all of a sudden we are brought to our knees and begging God for help.  “Sometimes we don’t realize that Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have.”

Image-1In 1527, the Black Plague hit the hometown of Martin Luther.  In a letter to a friend he wrote, “Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city . . . What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?”   He also stated, “If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely. . . .”  

So what does he say?  If you are feeling sick, take your medicine or call the doctor.  Be sure everything is clean—house, yard, and street—wash up (and wash your hands).  Then he tells his friend to social distance himself.  All the wisdom of the 16th century is still wisdom today!

So, my friends, keep yourself busy.  Remember that God is in control.  He loves us and he is faithful, even in our unfaithfulness.  I look forward to when this is all behind us.  What a celebration we will have — parties, barbecues, seeing our children and grandchildren again.   If you need to talk to someone, make a phone call, send a text message or email.  If you don’t know who to talk to, send me a note.  We will get through this.  I’ll be able to relax, and not be so busy! Prayer

Thoughts on a Pandemic

So, you are sitting at home today?  I assume because of the “pandemic” many people are now working from home. Some folks, unfortunately, have been laid off from their jobs because their place of business (mainly retail and restaurants) are temporarily closing.

DRP, Disaster Recovery PlanWow!  Who expected this?  I sure didn’t.  Yet, when I was working, our senior management team 10 years ago, did disaster planning.  We planned what we would do if our building burned down, what we would do in a pandemic, what we would do if an active shooter arrived at our place of business.  We discussed how we could still do business during these times.  We had to get very specific in these plans so that we would have a written disaster plan in place.  Being retired since early 2013, I am curious how their written plan is working.  I am sure some things worked well, and some things needed tweaking, because we never fully know what to expect in a scenario we have never encountered.  These weeks are huge learning curves for businesses.

There are all kinds of cute memes on social media about sheltering in, washing hands, and any other thing to make us try to smile.  I saw a meme that said we should recite the Lord’s Prayer while washing our hands, and it would be the right length of time for a good hand washing.  Shortly after that I went into the bathroom in a restaurant, and while I was washing my hands, I silently said the Lord’s Prayer, and then when I was finished I realized, that many people kneel when they pray, so what would that look like.  I made this meme and posted it on my Facebook page, because it still makes me smile when I read it.

Wash hands

shoppingDennis and I are sheltered in at our home in Arizona.  We have plenty of food in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to get us through a few weeks.  We have toilet paper.  We didn’t buy any, but we have a few packages for our two bathrooms, and now not having any guests visit, it should last a while.

I get up in the morning and I turn the news on the television.  I watch for a short time, because I find it stressful to watch for too long.  If something new or important happens, I get a notice on my phone and I can turn on the TVnews then.  I am relatively calm.  I am also sad.  I think about those who have compromised immune systems.  I think about those in nursing homes who cannot see their families, and they were lonely before, and now they are extremely lonely.  I think about the homeless and wonder how they can shelter when they have no place to shelter, or don’t desire to shelter.  I especially think about my children and their children.  I don’t live near any of them.  

I am not a big telephone person.  When I bought my new iPhone a few months ago, I walked into the Apple store and told them I needed a new camera!  Yeah, that’s what I use my phone for 99% of the time.  It has now become my communication devise again.  Yesterday I was on the phone with my sister.  She is a widow living alone.  She is having minimal contact with her one family in her vicinity, and she is stressed.

Venues that hold many people are temporarily closing.  The larger churches are streaming their worship service online.  I watched two this weekend.  The one that doesn’t usually stream had some difficulty with their streaming.  The church in Missouri that we attend, always stream their services, and the pastor, although speaking in front of an empty auditorium that holds about 2,000, looked like he was speaking to people in person—he was totally comfortable.  I remember once last year when there was a major ice storm, they cancelled in person services and streamed.  I guess he had practice for bookwhat is happening today.  Thank God for technology that we can connect with our worship, talk with friends through social media, go shopping, download books.  Only twenty years ago, this would not have been possible.  

What am I doing while sheltered in our home?  I have my book, “In Awe,” to read.  I have a couple other books downloaded on my Kindle app on my iPhone.  I am working on a quilt.  We have been taking walks outdoors along the walking paths in our neighborhood.  I have a lot of food in the house and if I get really bored, I may try some new recipes.  Of course there is the television.  Not only do we have cable, we have an Apple TV hooked up, that allows me to watch Apple TV, Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and various other streaming apps. So far I have filled my days well.  There is plenty to do here.

IMG_2019What I will miss is seeing people in person.  I am energized by being in the presence of people.  I love interacting in person, but that is temporarily stopped.  It is just for a period of time.  It is not forever.  It seems like a minor sacrifice compared to the sacrifices our military makes every day for us, or our families in the past during times of war.  We will get through this.

I believe that God is sovereign and loving.  He will hold us in place if we seek him.  He can give us peace that passes understanding.  On that note, I shall stop, because I want the last thought in your head to be one of encouragement. verse



Childlike Curiosity

bookI have been privileged with being an Ambassador for John O’Leary’s new book, In Awe, which will be released in May.  I have received my advance copy, and have started reading.  I am not very far in the book.  I related to his description about curiosity.  As we grow older, we tend not to ask all the questions we did as a youngster.  Think about that.  Have you noticed how much your toddler child or grandchild asks questions after questions.  I had a niece who when she was small, would follow my older (school age) boys around and ask them “Why?” Almost continually about whatever they were doing or talking about.  They called her the “why” cousin.  She was curious, and she was not afraid to ask why.

As we get older that behavior slows down.  I don’t think it is because we got the answers, because we never always have the answers.  In my household, as a child, if I asked the question, “Why?,” my parents’ answer was a simple “Because I said so.”  I understand that answer, because as a parent, there are just some things we have to put our foot down about, and no matter how many “why’s” we are asked or how many times we might explain the reasoning, a parent gets to make the rules.

My brain is a questioning brain.  I tend to question most everything in my life.  In the business world, I always looked for a better way to do things—why are we doing it this way?  Is there a better way?  I had a “bad” habit of looking past the decision to try to understand how it would affect the workflow or the employees.  In one of the recommendations given on LinkedIn, my former boss wrote, “Andrea had a knack for anticipating questions that someone may have had on a topic of discussion…to the point that before anyone could think of a question, Andrea would address all facets of the topic to give her audience a full scope of what to expect.”

Interestingly enough, what this former manager wrote about me also got me in trouble in the past.  It was a few years prior to working for the above mentioned manager.  I was working for a company who had been recently acquired.  We were getting ready to roll out our first year’s bonus program to the employees.  There were approximately 1,400 ?brainemployees at our location.  About 1,000 of them had been acquired in the sale.  The remainder of the employees where hired new into the company that year, me being among the latter group.

The employees who were part of the sale had been with our “new” company for a year (short one week), but were being considered employees for a full year.  I don’t remember the details any longer, but it was something like 2 weeks pay for their year of service.  That was good, but it didn’t address those hired within that year.  Those employees (including me) were going to get a prorated bonus based on the number of weeks employed the first year.  If an employee was hired July 1, they would receive 1/2 of the annual bonus.

There was a meeting of all of us in human resources along with those from accounting and payroll, to discuss the rollout of the bonus.  The director of our department passed out a letter to each of us to review.  The formula in the letter was very clear,  What was not clear was the fact that employees hired new into the company would get the prorated bonus.

In the meeting, I pointed this out.  I said the letter needs to be changed to give the 400 employees hired that year the information on their prorated bonus.  The director of the department turned directly to me and stated, “Never question me again!”  Embarrassed, I was silenced.  This should not have been a big deal to the director, except that he 01 lost bonusalready had the CEO sign and the letters were ready for distribution.  He wasn’t about to go back and say that something was missed and the CEO would have to sign a new letter. 

I couldn’t believe that all the details were not in the letter, but as a subordinate, I remained silent.  My ability to see forward and question had been squelched.  The employees received their letters and looked forward to the bonus check to be distributed a couple weeks later.  Exactly, as I had anticipated, the day of the bonus checks, employees flooded our office saying their bonus was incorrect.  These were all employees who had been hired that year and received only a prorated portion of the bonus.  Upon receiving the letter of how the bonus was calculated, one employee purchased cruise tickets, and another employee purchased new furniture, both to find out that their bonus would not completely cover their purchases.  They were livid.  Who could blame them?  

Whenever we discussed any new roll out at work, my brain would take me to all the “what if” questions that could come up.  How do we anticipate employees’ reactions to what we are rolling out.  How are we prepared to answer, to encourage, and continue to motivate them?  Although I was publicly embarrassed in front of my colleagues, I am not sorry I questioned the letter.  I am just sorry that others didn’t have the curiosity to think past the piece of paper. 

In John’s book, In Awe, he quotes Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and University of Pennsylvania professor, from his book, Originals, “Kids are inherently creative.  If you take to a five- or six-year old, they have all sorts of interesting, unusual questions.  And I think we either beat that out of them or they end up unlearning it at some point when they realize that the way you succeed, in at least Western society, is you follow the rules.  You try and get good grades, you respect your elders, you go out of you way to fit in as opposed to stand out, and that’s a great way to forget how to think differently.”

Isn’t that the truth?  We teach children to be quiet and regurgitate what they have learned.  When I was in the 6th grade, we studied the Aztec Indians.  I was so fascinated by them.  I came home from school and told my mom all about them.  Today I do not remember what those fascinating things were, but I do remember that, to my surprise, I made a “D” on the test about them.  I didn’t regurgitate what the teacher wanted us to know, but I was curious and fascinated by their history.  I wish I knew what it was that I found so intriguing about them.  My curiosity about them did not match the facts that my teacher wanted me to know.

Over the years, my curiosity got silenced.  It was still there, but I didn’t express it for fear of being embarrassed in public, or being curious about the things that others might not find important.  After hearing John O’Leary speak in 2010, I signed up for coaching sessions though John’s connections, and because of the experience, became a certified coach myself.   I learned to let my curiosity out.  I learned my life was not over as I approached retirement.  I am more fascinated by life than I was ever before.  I am willing to try new things that I had never done, like running a 5k, making quilts, and planning large events like class reunions.  This was all done in my 60’s.  I felt free to be the curious leader again.

Here some photos when I attended John’s book release for On Fire, four years ago.

I have followed John O’Leary since the first time I heard him speak to about 30 people.  Today he speaks before thousands.  Four years ago, he published his first book, On Fire.  It is the story of his life, a 9 year old boy playing with fire and gasoline, that did not turn out well.  He was burned 99% of his body, was given less than a 1% chance to live through the night, lost all his fingers from this fire, and today still plays the piano, and tells us, “The best is yet to come.” 

You can find John’s book on his website, by clicking on this sentence.  You can also find his books on Amazon and at your local book stores.

Thank you, John, for your friendship, for sharing your life with us, and now for reminding us that as adults we can still be in awe of life.