After two weeks of rather one-sided conversations with my canine companions, I’ve been spending most of my time with my parents during this pandemic. It’s an interesting experience to spend this much time with your parents as an adult. And while I didn’t exactly volunteer for this social experiment, I thought I’d report back in case anyone else is considering it.

The first thing that happens when you move into a home with two retirement age individuals, is that you begin to age at an alarming rate. The other day my mom announced that I needed to learn how to play the card game Bridge because she’s missing her Bridge group. I explained that I’d already become a person who liked going on drives through the country and who looked forward to Jeopardy before our early bird dinner every night. If I started subbing in for her Bridge game, the AARP would probably proactively ask me to join.

The next thing that happens is that you really start to get to know these people. I’d been watching a crime series on Netflix last weekend and so, on Easter Sunday, when we sat down for lunch, I asked an important question: “If you killed someone and had to get rid of the body, how would you do it?”

My mom initially refused for this to be our Easter lunch conversation. But then my dad insisted on sharing his idea. Unfortunately, his idea was so bad that my mom was unable to resist. “No,” she said, “you’d be caught for sure.” And then she detailed a plan that included crushing the teeth of a burned body with a sledgehammer.

My dad announced then that henceforth he’d be sleeping in the guest room with the door locked.

The last thing that happens is that they get tired of you. That’s right! You, the apple of their eye, the one they’re always asking to come home and visit! Today, I yelled at my dad about not decontaminating a package he’d picked up. I pointed out that he was over 60 and a male, so if he got the virus, he was basically dead. And then he looked very pointedly at me and said “these days that doesn’t sound so bad.”

So, there you have it. I told my parents that I’d give their house 3 out of 5 stars on Yelp. It lost points due to me having to do all the grocery shopping, two snakes living in their gate, and no dogs being allowed inside the house. They didn’t think this was funny. But I told them that it’s looking like they’ll extend the lockdown, so they’ll have plenty of time to bring up their score. I can tell they’re thrilled.

What I Like About the New Normal

I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day and she noted that she’s starting to feel energized from all of the change—she’s not just surviving in this unusual time, she’s actually enjoying it.

My first thought was “Are you even allowed to say that you’re enjoying a global pandemic?” Doesn’t seem like it. But the conversation has stuck in my head. And it made me start to think about things that I’m actually enjoying about this time. For example, I like that…

…it’s totally acceptable to FaceTime my friends whenever I want. (I keep seeing tweets that say this isn’t true, but I’m sticking by it.)

…I’m being pushed to innovate and adapt more quickly than usual. Getting creative and moving fast are two of my favorite things.

…”influencers” matter way less right now. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an absurdly photoshopped expensive outfit post as much as the next girl, but there’s something really gratifying about vacuous perfectly-posed posts looking looking totally irrelevant right now. (Can this continue after quarantine?)

…I made my mom watch Tiger King. She hated it and is still angry at me for making her watch it. And she kept sighing so loudly throughout it that I could barely hear Joe Exotic speak. But without a global pandemic that special experience would have never happened.

…my work conversations have a little more of a personal touch. Maybe it’s hearing people’s dogs and children in the background of calls, or maybe it’s because we’re all craving more conversation, but in the strangest twist I feel like I’ve gotten to know many of my colleagues better in this time when I’m not seeing them face to face.

…it’s pushed me to be creative in the kitchen. Tonight I’m making a Japanese hibachi grill-style dinner. Before, if I was craving this, I would have just ordered it. Now, I’ll be prepared to step into the knife-tossing chef role if I’m ever at a Benihana again.

…how much time it’s given me with my dogs and my parents. (Not necessarily in that order.) After two weeks solo, I moved in with my parents because they’re better than canines at carrying on conversations. And it’s actually been kinda wonderful to have this unexpected time with all four of them.

Ok, that’s it for now. Obviously, there’s A LOT I don’t like about this. The horrifically sad loss of life being at the top of that list. And the fact that I’m actually supposed to be on a vacation on an island off the coast of Cartagena this week being at the bottom of that list. But I think making this list was more helpful. And I hope that maybe it’ll inspire you to make your own list.

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I heard this lyric the other day and have been thinking about it ever since. I keep reminding myself that while I can’t control what’s happening around me right now (my usual preference in life), I can control what’s happening in me.

And, for now, that has to be enough.

Last night I posed this question to both of my parents:

If, on January 21 (the day the news broke of the first coronavirus case in the US) you’d somehow been able to see the future all the way forward until today (April 4), what would you have done differently in the last two and a half months?

I’ll be honest, I expected poignant answers. “I would have spent more time with my grandchild, whom I can’t see now” or “I might have gone ahead and taken that trip we’d always talked about.” But that wasn’t where this went.

Without even a second of hesitation my dad responded that he would have sold all of his stocks, then he would have shorted the market. Then he would have cashed out with “hundreds of millions of dollars,” and bought a private jet and a private island with a landing strip. He would have invited his friends and “some” family to the island to ride this out. I asked if my dog Winston would be invited to the island, and he said that he would have bought a separate island for Winston.

When I asked my mom, she got this far-off wistful look in her eyes and said that she would have spent more time at TJ Maxx. And Marshalls. And Target. And Costco. And she proceeded to list about fourteen other bargain shopping destinations. And when she stopped talking about the places, she started talking about all the things she wanted to shop for at them. It was truly touching.

Anyway, if you’re like us and growing weary of talking about the sad news of the world (and Carol Baskin), it’s a fun question to contemplate.

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I have a small Winston Churchill obsession. It started about two decades ago and has culminated with me naming my dog after him.

Lately, I’ve been listening to some of his most famous speeches. I needed to hear what a great leader in a crisis sounded like—because I wanted to be that in my own little world.

I highly recommend listening to a few. No one is asking us for blood and toil, or telling us to fight on the beaches. But we are being asked to do hard things right now. And Churchill knew—hopefully more than we ever will—about going through hard things in scary times.

We held Michiel’s “Celebration of Life” service on the Sunday afternoon before Martin Luther King Day. It was the only day that those of us flying in to Seattle from around the country could all be there.

Before any of it happened, I’d had plans for the holiday. It fell on my birthday this year, and I’d intended to fly back into Charlotte after a long weekend with friends in Austin and go straight to a meeting at my church. It was going to be the first time a group of us with plans to plant a new church were gathering together.

Instead, I caught a red eye flight home from the hardest day of my life and arrived in Charlotte just after 6 a.m., exhausted and devastated. My mom had to have a minor surgery that day and so I had my birthday lunch in the waiting room of Novant Medical Center with my dad.

But I held on to my plans for the church gathering. I’d expected a simple meeting, but when I arrived, they said that we’d be walking over to our small sanctuary for worship. I almost left. “Worship” sounded emotional and I didn’t want to break down in front of all these people I didn’t know.

As we stood to sing, they began to play, “Your mercy never fails me, all my days I’ve been held in Your hands, From the moment that I wake up, until I lay my head down, I will sing of the goodness of God.” 

And I realized that I didn’t want to cry—something I’d done continuously that week. I found that every part of me wanted to praise the One who is “so, so good.” I’d felt His presence everywhere that week. I knew with certainty that He’d been there in every one of my darkest, hardest moments. And being able to stand there praising Him felt like relief—like a cool salve on the most painful burn. God created us for His glory. We were designed to praise Him.

I’m sharing this now because I know that many of us are going through dark times. We’re anxious and not sleeping well. Work—if we’re lucky enough to have it—is stressful and hard. Companions in our homes—if we’re lucky enough to have them—are driving us crazy. And, underneath it all, we’re all so scared—of loneliness, of loss, of sickness, of death.

But here is what I know: We can praise His goodness even when we’re in the middle of things we don’t understand. He is our refuge. His mercies are new every morning. And He is faithful. In Psalm 28:7, it says that He is our strength and our shield. “My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.”

When we’re trapped in our homes and tired, worried, and scared, praising Him may feel like the opposite of what we want. But it is exactly what we need. And whether that looks like helping others, joyful music, or simply a bowed head, it’s what He wants for us.

Not because He needs it. But because He knows our hearts were designed for it. And because He really is so, so good.