My front porch with dog looking out the window and rocking chair

Coronavirus Self-Quarantine: How to Stay Sane

Hello from the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus: Bothell/Kirkland/Seattle. While many people here are working 24/7 to deal with the unfolding consequences of the coronavirus, life has slowed to a crawl for those of us under self-quarantine. As someone “at high risk,” I have been under self-quarantine for six days and already have cabin fever.

In just the first week, Washington State has recorded 19 deaths from coronavirus, schools serving nearly 30,000 are closed, universities have moved classes on-line, county executives have directed everyone who can do so to work from home, businesses are laying off employees for lack of work, and the coronavirus virus is popping up in new communities every day. Friday afternoon rush hour in Seattle looked like 9:00 A.M. on a Saturday instead.

As the U.S. epicenter for coronavirus, we’re a few days ahead of the rest of the country in developing a community-wide response. Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far about dealing with the coronavirus.

Healthy people who come into contact with the virus can shed it as they go about their day–shaking hands and touching tabletops, keyboards, and card readers. They probably don’t know they are carriers of the virus. This is how it is spreading so quickly in communities and around the world. It is also why people at high risk of dying from the coronavirus must self-quarantine and people around them must be extra careful.

If you can’t find a hand-sanitizer to buy, make your own with these recipes. Keep hand sanitizers in your vehicle, handbag, and pack, Use them at the grocery, every time you use a keypad, pump gas, or exchange currency. Don’t shake hands or fist bump. Elbow bumping is safer. Open doors with your elbow or hip, if possible.

Work from home if you can. Get ready for quarantine–either mandated or self-quarantine. See below for tips.

People at higher risk of severe illness must stay home completely because the health consequences for us are severe. If you’re in a high risk group, the virus is hard to treat and deadly. Do not go into public spaces or touch surfaces that members of the public may have touched. Stay away from places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others, including concert venues, conventions, sporting events, religious services, and crowded social gatherings.

People at higher risk include Those:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • With underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
  • With weakened immune systems
  • Who are pregnant

Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for novel coronavirus should consult with their healthcare providers.

If family members or close friends are at high-risk, read this article about steps you can take to keep them safe.

Where to Find Information

Read updates and follow the recommendations of public health officials, doctors, and scientists such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) and local and state officials. Many of President Donald Trump’s current comments about the coronavirus are misleading, untrustworthy, and even untrue. This is not a matter of whether one likes the President or not, it is a matter of keeping yourself, loved ones, and your community safe. As one on the ground at the epicenter, I have found the following sources accurate and trustworthy regarding the coronavirus: the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Seattle Times, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, King County Public Health and Snohomish County Public Health.

How To Stay Healthy and Sane During Self-Quarantine

Stay calm. There is no need to panic. Check coronavirus updates no more than hourly for peace of mind. Think of what you can control and then do it. Here are some possibilities.

Soap on soap dish1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Time yourself by counting to 20 slowly, sing the Happy Birthday song twice, or the Alphabet Song once. Have other members of your household do so, as well. Use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.

2. Clean all surfaces that people may have touched or where they may have rested their hands, Clean them frequently in case the virus migrated there from a purse, toys, keys, or grocery bags.

3. Make sure you have 14 days of food available. Stock up on frozen vegetables and non-perishable foods. Buy snacks. See here for what to stock in your pantry for quarantine.

4. Buy enough pet food for 14 days. If you have dogs, get extra bones and treats to help manage their cabin fever and yours.

5. Make soups, stews, and pasta sauces. Freeze them in quart-sized containers.

6. Design a walking route inside your house and walk it several times each day. Or walk outside without touching anything that anyone else might touch. Do a few lunges, squats, and donkey kicks every day. Do stretching exercises. Movement counteracts depression and keeps the body limber.

7. Do projects for which you don’t have to go to the store. Clean the garage, spice cupboard or pantry. Sort through a closet or throw away old magazines. Do a woodworking or craft project you’ve put off. Detail your car. You’ll feel productive during the quarantine and pleased about what you accomplished.

8. Stream movies and T.V. shows. If you don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, you can get a 7-day free trial and cancel it at the end of the week. Try watching Cheers on Netflix and Hunters on Amazon for laughs and tension, respectively.

9. Get a library card and borrow e-books from home. Libraries have their catalogs available online. Read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and News of the World by Paulette Giles to be transported to a different world.

Flower garden in bloom10. Work in your yard or garden.  Fresh air, trees, sunshine, and gardening help create calm and relieve depression.

11. Watch online classes on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) or YouTube. Blueprint has low-cost cooking, decorating, sewing, woodworking, gardening, knitting, and exercise classes taught by well-known instructors. After foot surgery last year, I passed many an hour learning how to use a table saw, refine my sewing techniques, bake flaky pie crusts and make awesome pizza.

12. Call friends and family to stay in touch. Call people who are under self-quarantine. Skype and FaceTime for face-to-face contact. Go for a drive but don’t get out of your car.

If you are high risk, don’t go out in public, ever, until the coronavirus until you have medical clearance. Thinking you won’t be infected or infect anyone else if you do it just once is like thinking you can have sex once without protection and not get pregnant. You might get lucky, but you might not. Don’t risk it. Ever.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay sane.

Prayer at the beginning of War

Although the United States is not yet formally at war with Iran, this may be a difference without a distinction following the U.S. assassination of Iran’s highest ranking general while he was visiting Iraq.

The following prayer, written on the first day of the Iraq War in 2003, has become timely again. I found the original in my files yesterday and have printed a copy to carry with me so I can pray it throughout the day. I invite you to do the same and to share it with others. In whatever ways you are able, embody your prayers with action. God and the world need both.

Prayer at the Beginning of War

Almighty and Loving God of the Whole World,
Our hearts are heavy.
We had hoped for peace but are now in the midst of war.
We pray for soldiers of all nations who also long for peace
But are now called into conflict.

We pray for families whose brothers and sisters,
Fathers and mothers, sons and daughters
Are now in harm’s way.
Give them comfort, courage and your peace
As they await word about their loved ones.

We pray for the people of Iraq.
For the parents and children, for the ordinary citizens
Who want war no more than we
And who did nothing to bring this upon themselves.
Give them courage and safety
As terror drops from the sky upon their cities.

Be with all the people of the Middle East this day
And with people around the world.
Help us to see each other as your own children
No matter by what name we call you
Nor what land we call our home.

God of Wisdom,
Be with the leaders of nations.
Give them your wisdom which is far beyond our own,
Grant courage when theirs fails,
And in your providence, grant us peace
For all your children and for your world.

Barbara A. Anderson
Ash Wednesday
March 19, 2003
The Beginning of the Iraq War

Is God a Narcissist?

It was gorgeous. The highway through northeastern Oregon crossed rolling hills of range land covered in still-green grass and scrubby sagebrush. Bluffs of creased rock rose beside the road. Tall trees surrounded solitary ranch houses in scattered valleys. It was the type of landscape that makes a person seem small in the universe. Psalm 8 came to mind.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established,
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God…
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands…

Psalm 8, New Revised Standard Version

My in-laws have lived for almost 90 years on farmland in south-central Idaho and are grudgingly considering a move to a retirement community in the other end of the state. We had just visited them to hear about their decision and help them prepare for the move. Their minds tell them to move but their hearts want to stay. Their lives had meaning in Twin Falls where they were rooted and their friends lived. Could they find new meaning and purpose in Spokane?

Divine Narcissism

As I drove home to Seattle, I thought about the fragility of life, the passage of years and the meaning of life. In eighth grade I had to learn the first question of the Westminster Catechism in order to join the church and the words of the Catechism returned to mind now: “What is the chief and highest end of man [sic]? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Hearing that voice of the Catechism in my head put me over the edge. Such beauty and such sorrow just to glorify God? Really? What kind of divine being would create a world like that? It sounds like the ultimate in narcissism and selfishness.

If some human dude told me my main purpose in life is to glorify him; the healthiest, wisest thing I could do would be to laugh in his face and run the other direction. If self-denigration is a prescription for a stifling, abusive human-human relationship, why would it be different for a human-divine relationship and worldview? If it’s unhealthy between human beings, it seems an equally unhealthy way to think about God.

Another View

However, because human beings are meaning-makers, myth-makers, I needed an alternative way to think about the meaning of human life and my place in the world that would give my in-laws and me something purposeful and worth living for.  I threw my anger, questions, despair and hope at the universe as I drove on in silence and beauty, wrestling with the Divine while my husband and dogs slept. 

Just the day before, I had held a blue and white plate painted in 1765 and wondered whose table it had originally graced, for what was it used, and what stories were told at that table. I considered that in fifty years, someone may hold items I now treasure and wonder about the people owned them, as well.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8 , New Revised Standard Version

I had done my best all that weekend to be patient and kind as my beloved mother-in-law sorted through one-half of one closest. I do my best to be a good daughter as my mother progresses into severe dementia. I try to find meaning and purpose in my own life while dealing with one health issue after another. I have tried to find God and purpose for life in all of these situations. Here’s where I’ve ended up:

Plants and animals evolve. Rocks wear away in the elements. Rivers carve new paths. So, too, our understanding of that which is beyond our comprehension needs to be open to new path, new crevices, evolving into new ways of thinking and believing about eternal matters. Here’s what I believe, what I reaffirmed as I drove through the beauty of western Oregon with a heart full of love and grief:

Partnership with God

I believe that each of us in this world is a partner with that which created the universe. We are therefore to cherish the world and all its life forms. I believe that each of us and all of us together exist as partners with the Creator of the universe to bring health, wholeness, and fullness of life to everyone. To do so, we must live justly, practice kindness, and walk humbly, as the prophet Micah says. In the words of Jesus, we are called to be servants of all and to give our life for others.

I don’t know where life leads, but as surely as birds sing and flowers bloom and the sun rises each morning, humans are created to bring goodness into the world; and beauty, and joy, and love. I believe the world is still being created and that we are part of the process of creation unfolding. I believe not in obliteration of self to God, but partnership with God.

Some would say God is near. I’d like to believe that. I don’t know. In the meantime, I feel as one who has stepped off a cliff and holds on by her fingernails. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” If there is a God, he/she/it is different from anything we can conceive, so our descriptions need always to be conditional.

I continue to act my way into being. Do good. Affirm beauty. Live. Love.

So, what do you think? What would you say is the purpose of human life? Are you searching? Let me know. Let’s talk.

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