The Week That Wasn’t (or How A Virus Made Me Wiser)

On last week's menu

On last week’s menu

I got slammed with something last week – the doctor called it an “influenza-like virus,” though it felt an awful lot like the real thing.  It was a whole cocktail of symptoms: fever, chills, aches, sore throat, cough, congestion.  It started on a Sunday and went on for the rest of the week, and because of it I missed four days of school in a row.

That is the first time I have ever missed that much school.  I didn’t even miss that much when I had an ectopic pregnancy; I didn’t miss that much when I had a miscarriage.  It felt like The Week that Wasn’t, a huge black hole in my lesson plans and a complete cessation of my normal routine.  Trust me, this virus was nasty.  (Is nasty: I still have the cough and some of the congestion.)

But everything in life is  a learning experience, isn’t it?  As painful as it was to suffer through this lost week, I did gain some useful insights from it.

Here they are.

1.  It is easier to be a sick mom now than it was when the kids were younger.  I wouldn’t say it was easy, just easier.  Last Sunday afternoon, when this thing hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, Scott was at an event at work and I was home alone with the kids. I gave them two things —  the remote to the TV and permission to watch any mom-sanctioned show they wanted — then burrowed under the covers in my room and tried very hard to get warm.  I spent most of the afternoon under layers of quilts, shivering to the sound of  “Wild Kratts” from the living room, and the kids for the most part left me alone.  This scenario could not have happened when they were babies, or even toddlers.  It does get easier, this parenting thing.

2.  I do a lot in my life as a mom.  Because I was essentially non-operational for the first two days, Scott had to do all the things I usually do in the afternoon/evening: pick up the kids, see them through homework, stay on top of the notes from school, pack lunchboxes for the next day, make dinner, find the clean laundry for the next morning.  That first night I lay in bed feeling guilty for being sick and dumping all these things on his lap. And then I thought, “But wait!  I do those things all the time.”  And I suddenly realized that I’m actually kind of a badass.  It was a good thing to discover.

3.  Morning TV shows vary widely in quality.  I never watch them because I’m always at work, but last week, I did.   I learned, somewhat to my surprise,  that I can’t handle Good Morning, America; it’s  too flashy and has too many graphics.  I was much happier with the more sedate CBS This Morning.  (I’m the world’s youngest old fogey.)

4.  Makeup helps one’s mood.  I didn’t wear lipstick for three days straight, not even to go out in public to the doctor’s office.  By Day Four I decided that I was tired of looking like death warmed over and put on some makeup, even though I was just hanging around the house.  And you know what?  I actually did feel better.  Maybe that just means I’m a slave to society’s standards of beauty, but whatever.  It worked, and that’s all I cared about.


5.  “All About Eve” is every bit as good as I remember.  Nothing like witty one-liners and sparkling repartee to clear your head.


6.  “Enchanted April” is even better than I remember. I first saw this movie when it was in the theatres, which was back when I was in college.  I enjoyed it then, but I can relate to it more now.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s about four English women in the 1920s who answer an ad to rent a dreamy Italian castle on the coast.  All sorts of renewal and rebirth ensues.

The movie has many scenes of the main characters sitting in deck chairs in the sun or lying in the grass of an Italian meadow or on the rocks along the coast, just dreaming.  Though that sounds like boring cinema, it was riveting.  I want me some of that, I thought, some of that silence and solitude and just lying there and doing nothing.

And then I realized  – odd though it sounds – that my illness was, in a way, exactly that.  It was a forced chance to do nothing.   I spent many hours last week just lying around, staring at the walls, not even with the stereo on, just being.  Once the worst of the symptoms had passed, it was undeniably renewing.

And it made me think about how I can work more of that downtime into my non-sick life.  I made a little resolution to work more “being time” into my routine – more time where I am just daydreaming, not on my phone or on Facebook, but just letting my thoughts wander.  (It would be more fun to do it in an Italian castle, admittedly,  but I’ll take what I can get.)

Overall, for a lost week, I guess I gained a few useful insights.  Now the trick is to remember them not just in sickness, but in health.

Bright wings



I saw this little terracotta dove and these beautiful words came to mind:

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

– From “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Praying with the senses, January edition



There’s something about primroses. Their color is so beautifully vivid,  a pop of color in the brown yard of January.  This is the second year in a row that I’ve made a point of planting them shortly after New Year’s, and that little bit of effort pays off big-time.  My mood is lighter when I can savor this little splash of color outside my bedroom window.  (Bonus: when you get really close to primroses, you realize they smell like jelly.)

Speaking of beautiful sights, on our little getaway last weekend Scott and I went to Point Reyes National Seashore for a hike. To get to the coast, you  hike through beautiful, Lord of the Rings-style forests with ferns and little creeks and redwoods, and it’s all so bucolic and lovely.

And these plants, whatever they are, caught my eye. Look closely, and you’ll see a raindrop in the center of each cluster of leaves.  Each drop was just resting there in the middle, looking like a diamond solitaire in an engagement ring.  Just one of those lovely little miracles I so often miss.



There was such a glorious smell at Point Reyes, that mix of vegetation and damp earth and a hint of the ocean.  I must have mentioned it at least eight times to Scott during our hike.  I don’t realize how much I miss the smell of nature until I’m back in the middle of it.

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My boys have very short hair, but I love tousling it with my fingers.    My cousin once remarked that Matthew’s hair feels like feathers, and it’s really true.  I know there will come a day when there will be an invisible protective bubble of adolescent space around my boys, and they won’t let me ruffle their hair as I pass by their chairs.  But for now, I absolutely love doing it.

Where are YOU finding God these days?


One of the only things that I’ll miss “Downton Abbey” for



I had to wait a night to watch “Downton Abbey” this week, but it was for a good cause.  Scott and I were living our own little English historical drama, all without leaving the Bay Area.

We left the boys with my parents (I love you guys!) and stayed here, at the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach.


We’ve been here before, and we love it.  If you want a rustic little inn that makes you feel like you’re in a Daphne DuMaurier novel, this is your place.  Everywhere you look, there is something quaint and intriguing to catch your eye.


There is an English pub downstairs, and a dining room with a massive fireplace and wood paneling and delicious food.


Best of all, it’s a five-minute walk to the beach.



And you can hike up the hills for a great view.


There is nothing like getting out of your normal routine to get refreshed, to get a new perspective.  And looking at the ocean does that, too.

Best of all, I got to spend quality time with my guy.  We not only started conversations, we finished them.  When you are a parent, that is huge.

Of course, we talked about the kids a lot.  And it was so great to see them again tonight, to hug them and hear about their adventures with Grandma and Grandpa.  We all had a terrific weekend (though I’d say my folks could use another one after watching the guys for thirty hours straight).

And when we got home, we caught up on “Downton.” What a season!  I’m loving it.  Love how Mary may be reconsidering Tony (I like the other guy sooo much  better), and how Lady Violet has had a romantic intrigue in her past, and how Edith may be edging closer to telling the truth to her family (just let it all out, girl!).  Good stuff.

What is making you happy this week?  (And if it’s “Downton,” what did you think of this last episode?).

What a little rain can do


We’re almost two weeks into 2015, and somehow, I still have that January 1 attitude.  I can’t help but feel that new things are waiting in the wings, that life is somehow full of promise.

What are those things?  How and when will I find them?  I don’t know.  I figure that everything will become clear as I continue down the path of 2015.

About a year ago,  I spent some time at the labyrinth at a nearby retreat center.  Last January,  I wrote about it as a metaphor for life, for following the path and enjoying the journey.

A few weeks ago, I stole some time to go to the labyrinth again. It looked markedly different from the last time I’d been there.  Green grass and moss grew around the edges of the path, the result of the rains we finally had last fall after a seemingly endless stretch of drought.


It all looked so different with the green contouring the edges.  A labyrinth is always a hopeful place, but this evidence of new life made it even moreso.

I also noticed green spears already breaking through the ground, bulbs getting ready to bloom.  What kind of flowers will they turn out to be?  I have no idea.   I guess that means I’ll have to go back in a few weeks and find out.


I loved this new,  green version of the labyrinth.   It was visual evidence of both the journey and the fruits of the journey.  It was a reminder that if we walk in mindful faith into this new year, we’ll find surprises along the way, and subtle beauty, and life.

And that makes me happy.