Inside the gate of the Mahali pa Maisha property in Kenya, you feel isolated and protected from the real world.
But it was while we were secluded inside MpM that we began to realize the impact that this new virus would eventually have on our lives.
While I do have a few more fun posts about our Kenya trip to come in a few days, I wanted to be sure I documented this unique time in history on my blog, as much for my future reference as anything. If you're sick and tired (who isn't?!) of hearing about COVID-19, you may want to skip this post and check in with me tomorrow. But until this season passes, I will be doing periodic posts as my way of photojournaling through this craziness. Warning: long post ahead...got a long timeline to cover....
So...here goes Part 1 of my COVID Chronicles...
Early February 2020:
I had heard of this new strong virus plague that had hit China, but really never gave it much thought. After all, China is half a world away from the US, the other side of the globe! I'm not a news junkie and honestly my only real concern was that I hoped it wouldn't interfere with our February 12-26 travel plans to Kenya, as it was already beginning to have effects on global travel.
We ran into a few international travelers wearing masks. We laughed at them, especially a group of monks with shaved heads and wearing orange robes, complete with their masks taking selfies in Frankfort, Germany. Paranoia. I thought it was ridiculous. Then on February 13, when we landed in Nairobi and deplaned outside (as we always do in Nairobi), before entering the airport there were 6 Kenyans in full hazmat gear checking our temperatures before we could enter the airport. We were tired and just ready to get through Customs, and I wondered how much good that was going to do. That moment would be the first intrusion of COVID-19 (although it didn't have that name at the time) in my life.
One of the best parts of our time in Kenya were long talks with Dave and the rest of our team. After dinner (it gets dark early in Kenya) we would sit around and tell stories, solving the world's problems, laughing together. Bill (in the middle) would give us briefings via his phone on the latest US news and current events, including daily updates on the virus that was bringing China down (at that time...has it really been only 5 weeks ago???... we had never even heard of "Covid-19") in staggering numbers that grew each day. We listened and sympathized with their plight, but I think we all believed that COVID-19 was a China problem that would not touch us.
Even when Bill announced on February 19 the stock market nose-dive, Kim predicted if it was "only" virus-related it would bounce back up quickly. We all know now how accurate that prediction was...
February 27-March 11:
The following two weeks were life as we considered normal...little did we know that many of the things we did during that time would be our "lasts" for a long time....
Wednesday, March 4 was my "last" visit with Barb and Mama together. We went to Cracker Barrel for lunch and had a great time as we always do.
Thursday, March 5 was my "last" Euchre Club meeting. Eight of us got together at my friend Robin's house. We were already beginning to sense our worlds shifting...lots of talk about this new virus which was now in the US
Friday, March 6 I took Mama out for the "last" time, to get her taxes done (so glad we got that in!) then Kim and I met Kara and her children and Dana at the Iron Kettle for lunch. Kara spent the afternoon with us...the "last" time I would see them in person.
Saturday,March 7 Kim and I went on our "last" date...Melting Pot for dinner and then drove to Hagerstown and watched the Shenandoah Raider boys' basketball team play their last game of the season, winning the sectional championship. Kenny sat with us during the game...the "last" time we'd see him.
Sunday, March 8 we attended our church service then went out to Applebees for lunch with Kristoffer's family and Emily's family. A pretty normal Sunday. We were clueless that the bottom was about to drop out this week.
Tuesday, March 10 Kim and I saw our "last" movie together, Call of the Wild, and had our "last" ice cream treat at SubZero.
Wednesday, March 11 I played indoor tennis with my ladies' foursome. We touched elbows instead of shaking hands...then realized how ridiculous that was because we had all been touching the same 3 tennis balls for 2 hours. Word was the people were hoarding toilet paper! Really???!!! I stopped by Payless Grocery for a few items and they were right...the toilet paper aisles were empty. Yowzie!
Thursday, March 12:
This is the day that my world as I knew it began crumbling around me. I went to my "last" Saturday Club meeting at my friend Phyllis's house and our small group of 8 (3 others cancelled due to COVID-related stuff...2 had to move their college kids home and the other is a bus tour guide/coordinator) sat around the table wondering how COVID might affect trips to Florida and Disney and how whether schools might close early for Spring Break.
I stopped by Forest Ridge to visit Mama on this "last" day before the visitor restrictions set in. I filled up her pill box and had a wonderful visit with her. She watches so much TV and had already heard way too much about COVID-19. She's not by nature a worrier, but I assured her there was nothing to be concerned about, that she was in a safe place with everything she needs. (And was SO GRATEFUL that we had moved her there before this health scare broke out!)
That evening the social gathering and travel mandates began to come down from the statehouse. No more than 50 together at a time. Lots of hand-washing and less face-touching.
But you know things are getting SERIOUS when the Indiana High School Athletic Association CANCELLED the regional basketball tournament that was to be held on Saturday...AND the NCAA CANCELLED the remainder of the Big Ten (and every other conference) Basketball Championship as well as postponing (later cancelling) the National Championship Tournament. THAT is when I think I realized this is not going away any time soon...messing with basketball in the Hoosier state is VERY SERIOUS stuff!
Saturday, March 14:
On the day after Kim was supposed to go with Kristoffer to the Big Ten Tournament and the day we had planned to go to the Shenandoah boys' regional, we stayed home all day and pouted because there was no basketball to watch. Until our "last" normal Saturday evening dinner out at Texas Roadhouse. We left early, expecting it to be crowded but even when we left there were still plenty of tables. Eerie...
Sunday, March 15:
We attended our "last" normal church service. Pretty good attendance, but a few stayed away. We had lunch with Kristoffer's and Emily's families at Red Lobster. The restaurant was nearly empty...turned out to be the "last" time we ate out.
Monday, March 16:
My "last" weekly coffee with my friends at the Iron Kettle. All restaurants in the state of Indiana were ordered to close their dining rooms at 2:30 pm. that day. YIKES!
That evening, the Governor of Indiana encouraged everyone to self-quarantine for 2 weeks to stop the COVID-19 spread. Indiana had just a few cases and no deaths, none in Henry County.
Tuesday, March 17:
With mixed feelings, our Bible study group met for the "last" time.
Knowing they would not let me interact with her, I stopped by Forest Ridge and had staff member Tiara bring down Mama's pill boxes and medications and mail for me to take care of. It was sad...I never even saw her (I found out later she tried to come down to the lobby, but got stopped in the hallway talking and didn't make it down before I left).
Desperate times call for desperate measures. I felt at loose ends with nothing to do...
...(although there is a house FULL of projects, like these boxes from Mama's house that need to be gone through, just awaiting my non-existent-at-the-moment motivation), so I pulled out a 1000-piece puzzle. Kim didn't want me to, but he ended up working on it as much as me.
AMAZING!!! God knew we needed a little miracle to brighten the gloom.
Wednesday, March 18:
Indoor tennis again with our foursome. I sure needed that!!! Fellowship Branch meeting at church, with our largest attendance in several months...I think we ALL needed to get out and talk to some different folks.
Thursday, March 19:
I had been planning to spend the day with Kara and the kids in Harrison, but due to the self-quarantine restrictions, Kyler thought it best that I didn't come. I was disappointed, but totally understood.
So my morning was free when my hairstylist Laci asked if I'd be willing to move my hair appointment up a day, so I had my "last" hair trim. While I was at the salon, the owner got notice that all salons would be required to shut down. Which happened that evening...
On the bright side, I made the final payments for our family Hawaiian cruise in July!
See those windows on the top passenger deck at the very front of the ship? Those are our rooms!!! What a view we'll have...day-dreaming already! Always wonderful to have something fabulous to look forward to...this cruise will be even more special considering the chaos around us now. Bring it on already!
Friday, March 20:
Edict from the Statehouse...all non-essential businesses to shut down as the quarantine ropes tightened.
After a last minute delay in the closing on Mama's County Line house, I really felt down and very frustrated. Enter donuts and grandkids!
I already had donut supplies that I'd planned to take down to make donuts with Kyler's family, so to raise our spirits we decided to go ahead with a donut party with Kristoffer's and Emily's families, who we've seen several times since this whole nightmare started.
Truly, nothing soothes a frustrated Gramaw's soul that time spent with her grandbabies and fresh donuts! Dad would have loved this...his favorite phrase rang through the evening..."they are better now than they ever will be." Daddy LOVED a fresh, warm donut!
Sunday, March 22:
After a week of struggling what God would want us to do and despite the reluctance of some of the Elders, CJ decided to go ahead with church and make the option of online live viewing on Facebook available. I sent out a digital bulletin for everyone, as well as printed out a few. Kim and I went to the regular 8:30 am. service...there were only about 30 people there, which included Kristoffer's and Emily's families. They all came over for lunch.
Monday, March 23:
This is my regular fasting day. Normally a 24-hour fast is easy for me, but I struggled all day wanting to snack my frustrations away. I wasn't hungry, just bored and stressed. So I got out another 1000-piece puzzle to occupy my mind and hands...I struggled but made it through.
That evening, the big announcement we were all awaiting yet dreading. Mandatory quarantine officially begins in Indiana on Wednesday. Only essential travel allowed.
I taught Mama how to FaceTime, and had a nice visit with her. She had seemed down the last time I talked to her, but she was smiling and content today. Feeling better about her situation. I think I miss her more than she misses me!
Tuesday, March 24:
Starting to feel like I'm living in a police state under martial law. I NEED my freedom!!! On my "last" day to freely travel, I ran errands...to the bank, grocery (can't find any yeast, flour, or toilet paper). Drove to Mama's house to take some final photos before the closing rescheduled for this Friday.
Stopped by to see the Summit lake eagles...could not find the male but saw the girl in her nest sitting on her eggs. An uplifting sight for me!
Wednesday, March 25, DAY #1 of "Official State-Mandated Quarantine":
And so it begins, the Stay-at-Home mandate. I HATE this feeling of living under martial law...I really think the government is way over-reaching their authority and boundaries. And yet, we allow them... I will be smart and careful, but I will not be a sheep.
Sunshine and warmer temperatures sure helped my mood!
Speaking of helping my mood, today is Abram's 6th birthday!
We had a digital birthday celebration...my first Zoom experience!
Another first...determined not to let this craziness derail my new way of eating, we ordered our first cauliflower-crust cheesy bread and pizza from 1000 Degree Pizza. I could skip the cheesy "bread" (nothing compares with REAL cheesy carb-loaded BREAD!), but the pizza was really quite delicious!
Another Zoom meeting that evening...Elders monthly meeting...was not so up-lifting. I hate seeing our Elders and CJ grappling together on how to handle this situation.
Thursday, March 26, Quarantine Day #2:
Puzzle #2 complete. Don't let Kassie fool you...she talked to us while we put together the puzzle. I don't think she put in a single piece.
Been reading a lot...making my way through this 500-pager now.
Friday, March 27, Quarantine Day #3:
Excited about finally closing on Mama's house...plus an excuse to get outta this cabin! But a last-minute phone call from our realtor put a screeching halt on that. Soooo disappointed! Rescheduled for Monday...I keep worrying that this deal will fall through before the papers are signed. But it's totally out of my control.
Fasted all day. The one thing I CAN control is what I eat. I want to emerge from this season better and healthier than ever! That keeps me going.
Third puzzle completed. This one only had 500+ pieces...but they were very special pieces!
Saturday, March 28, Quarantine Day #4:
Kim and I went to church at 10 am to hear CJ prerecord his Sunday sermon. Kamaron came too. So glad I went...NEEDED to worship in God's house! After a tough week of decision-making, the church doors will be open on Sunday from 8 am-noon for prayer, with the sermon shown on the screens at 11 am for those who wish to come.
The Sulphur Springs Post Office is always a place where you run into people for a little friendly conversation or hug. No more. Only 1 person allowed in at a time. Sad times we are living in....
We thought they weren't going to return...we hadn't seen them for 10 days! But they are BACK!!! And seem to be building a nest! Thank you God for the little things...sometimes they are the big things we need just at the right time!
Kristoffer and Dana invited us to join them next door for supper. A much-needed break from the outside world...and a delicious meal too!
Sunday, March 29, Quarantine Day #5:
Our church service being cancelled, we took the opportunity to worship at Kamaron's church and hear him deliver a fantastic and convicting sermon to about 15 people. God is working in this nation and world through all of this... So thrilled to see how God is using Kamaron!
VERY WINDY today...the wind nearly blew me off the steps of Kamaron's church. WOW!!! Windy all day long....
To add salt to the wound, President Trump has just declared that all the restrictions will be extended THROUGH APRIL 30!!! Another WHOLE month of this...I'll be going bonkers by then! Talk about cabin fever!!! Hopefully spring will arrive for good and at least we can get outside more...
Monday, March 30, Quarantine Day #6:
Singing the Hallelujah chorus today at 4:30 pm....
Mama's house sale is CLOSED!!! What a long ordeal, but SO GLAD it's over (I'll be posting about that tomorrow...). Papers signed, check in hand, a DONE DEAL! Whew...what a weight off my shoulders!
And in other great news, when I went to Forest Ridge to pick up Mama's mail and fill up her pill boxes, they let her visit with me in the "quarantine" room! I hugged her neck, kissed her cheek, and had a wonderful personal visit...we video-called Barb and the 3 of us enjoyed being "together" as much as possible under the circumstances.
Also...God answered my prayers to show me where Mama's garage door opener was so we'd have it for the closing. I know it's a minor thing, but my God majors in the minors as well as the majors! And He came through once again.
Another positive to the day...while I was in town on essential business :) I filled up my tank with the lowest gas prices in years and years.
All things considered, it was a great day.
But every day God still paints the sky with glorious sunrises and breath-taking sunsets, I believe to remind us that He is still on His throne.
None of this has taken Him by surprise and He is in total control of the situation. I can rest my trust in Him always...even/especially in the craziness of...