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Grief 101

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Grief 101

See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown. (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

Grief is part of our world. Love and sorrow twist together in our lives.

To love, to open our hearts to others? Is to be vulnerable.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.                              C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Grief takes a toll on us all: Men and women and children. So many of us are responding to this in “Social Isolation.” But how do we experience it? 

Elisabeth Kübler- Ross did extensive studies on grief, and it helps us understand what is happening to us now. She envisioned grief as an inverted bell curve, 5 stages.

Shock & Denial

In this stage we can hardly believe what is happening. It is like nothing we have experienced so we do not have a frame of reference. 

Shock gives way to surprise as news unfolds of the event. In this Pandemic, it is disturbing and unsettling. It is frightening and brings on fear. It is a jolt to our system. Trauma intertwines with distress.

Denial comes hard on the heels of shock. Certainly, these reports cannot be true. The Pandemic may be effecting Europe; but how could it ever reach America? We are a medically sophisticated society, and surely our medical community will stop this in its tracks. The facts and figures coming in from China, Italy and Spain must be exaggerated. And as we examine the statistics on American soil, it seems negligible.

And it can’t be worse than the flu—can it? A bad flu.

We experience this every winter. And this, too, will pass.

Anger

The anger stage is multifaceted. How did this Pandemic get out of control? How can it be happening here? In our Country? State? County? Borough?

The invisibility of this beast adds to out exasperation. Give me a visible enemy, and perhaps I’ll be able to take him on. But this? Just how many times do I have to wash my hands? Studies have shown we wash our hands a total of 6 seconds. So there has been a suggestion of singing verses of “Amazing Grace”, or your favorite rock song or “Happy birthday. Tell me: exactly how many verses do I need to sing? Clever methods calm my annoyance for a short time, but give way to irritation.

I become more irritable as time goes on. Do not tell me where I can go. And the distance I have to stand from my neighbor. And how I have to handle my groceries. Or when I shop.

Irritability gives way to annoyance. I may have never baked bread before, but now I insist on buying yeast and bread flour. How dare the store be sold out! Never mind that there are plenty of Pepperidge Farm loaves on the shelves. And the bread dilemma is national in scope. Yeast cannot be found throughout the land.

I may have lost my job, been furloughed, or reduced hours. My finances will be a mess.

Or, I may be working in the medical field, delivery for UPS FEDEX or supply chain. Can’t I stay home like everyone else? Just how much exposure can I have without exposing my family?

Bargaining

Bargaining is subtle in nature. As if we could bargain with a Pandemic! But we try. It is hard to predict how long this will last. If I pace myself for 2 weeks, perhaps the worst will be over. If the extension of “Social Isolation” is for 4 weeks, I can manage. But no longer. That is all I can promise. I’ll make an agreement for the end of April, but surely not into May.

Let’s make a deal! I promise to stay isolated, but how can I see my family? My children? Don’t tell me we can’t have Easter dinner!

Perhaps all of us can have our own Easter dinner, and meet “virtually” through Zoom. That is the solution. I’ll barter with this Pandemic.

Depression

The longevity of this Pandemic begins to wear on us. 

I want out! I want my independence back and I want my freedom! I feel dejected as my routine has been disrupted. A sadness prevails, as I pace from room to room. There is only so much that I can take of these 4 walls! Cabin fever abounds.

I’ve fallen out of the rhythm of life. I may not get up in the morning, but instead, lounge in bed in despair. After all, why get up?

I am despondent as I look at myself in the mirror. My hairdresser is not open, and my roots are beginning to show.

I’m eating or drinking to console myself, feeling guilty about the comfort foods that try to ease my internal ache and melancholy.

Being “in the dumps” has never felt so real.

The internet is ablaze with jokes:

“If I hold a glass of wine or a beer in each hand, I can’t touch my face.”

“Pretty soon I’m going to need a magician, not a beautician!”

“Breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID-19 but to prevent eating.”

We laugh at them, knowing there is a deep truth here. We see ourselves. And we know that others feel the same way.

Acceptance

As this Pandemic drags on, we recognize that we have to do our part.

To successfully shelter in place means nothing will happen today. But the decreasing numbers of infections will be the reward of our patience. A commitment to other’s safety will become our foremost concern.

We know there will be a “New Normal.”

Learning to manage the home front, even with humor, helps us through the “daily days.”

There are innumerable sites for parents and children to engage in fun activities.

For adults? Netflix, reading, and perhaps video games. But these all point to being at home. Alone and isolated. 

The ideal: time spent in God’s Word and with Him.

And so we reframe this time: Instead of being stuck at home? We are safe at home.

The end is in Sight

Perhaps you’ve seen yourself in parts of the Grief cycle. Perhaps this is a moment, of “Aha! Me too!”

It is not linear and most often, we take “two steps forward and one step back.”

We offer grace to others, knowing that we are each on an independent journey through this time. There may be similarities. But there are also differences.

“We may never know the treacherous journey people have taken to land in the pew next to us.” (Rosaria Butterfield)

We receive this time in faith, being confident that He is at work in us, and in His world.

We trust Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His good will.

And while we may not have a definitive date for this Pandemic to end, we do know that we have a Savior who is doing all things well.

“The tomb, normally a place of endings, became a place of beginnings. Out of if came the new hope of Resurrection life.” (Paul Tripp 4/10/20.)

Let us live in this time anticipating the resurrection He is doing within us.

A Dog’s Life

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

08/17/2020

A Dog’s Life

We never really expected to get a dog. We’d had cats before. And even the cats belonged to our son: more of a “stopover” until they could be returned to him.
There are major differences between cats and dogs. Both are cuddly and fun. But they are different:

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods” Christopher Hitchens (Author, The Portable Atheist )

And we didn’t time it for Quarantine. It just happened that she was ready to be picked up in February.
So when we got our Cavapoo Ella? We were surprised by how quickly we fell in love with her winsome ways.

Puppy Love

You know how cute they are as puppies. They are roly-poly and soft with little squeaks. The first few days are for bonding: laying with Ella on our chest.
It is enough to melt your heart.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” – Charles Shultz (cartoonist, Peanuts)

But they also pee and poo on the rugs and floors. They want constant attention. They chase after your feet. They steal your shoes and nibble down the laces to little nubs.
They steal your heart.

What Ella Teaches Us

Perhaps you all know these dynamics. But these are new to us. It is like having a child—and now that she is 8m., like a teenager.

Talking Back

Honestly, if she doesn’t like what we are saying or doing? She literally “talks back” to us. She yips and barks, leaning her head forward for special emphasis. Perhaps she thinks if she barks loud enough and long enough she will get her way. She comes close enough to feel her hot doggy breath on our leg or knee.

Such attitude! Adolescence at its finest.

Water

Some dogs like to swim.
Ella is not one of those dogs.
We take her down to Ambler Boro Park creek and she gets her paws wet, or muddy to be more exact. This requires cleaning in the water before we leave, or a quick wash when we get home. She loves the creek. But not in the water so much.

But drinking? She loves to drink from the creek. She has a fine dish of water at home. But she prefers drinking from the creek.

Or the hose. She barks at the hose while I water the plants; she runs back and forth frantically. When I stop, I allow a trickle of water to drip. This is the drink she wants. Somehow it is preferable to her food dish.
And then she belches.

Appetite

Dogs will eat almost anything. Out veterinarian tells us Cavapoos think their name is “Drop it.” She picks up sticks, pinecones, and acorns along our walk. It is a constant battle to pry it out of her mouth. And if she is in the house? She runs with the item: most often Kleenex or napkins. Frequently she takes refuge under the dining room table where we can’t reach her. Or she darts out and we have to corner her in the living room.

Which brings me to the point: anything that you are eating is better than what she has in her dish. This brings in the aforementioned dynamic of barking. Or jumping. Insisting on her own way. On the other hand, it is a good clean up for the crumbs on the floor.

Walking

Having Ella requires time outside to potty, and walking. This has been an experience. In our many walks she has discovered birds, bunnies, cats and squirrels, oh my! And once she has seen them? She remembers exactly where they reside. So any walk requires a quick check in to see if they are there.

When she sees them she assumes her “attention” stance. Followed by a flurry of barking and pulling. Often she buries her head and shoulders in shrubs or flowers, and all we see is her frantic wagging tail as she tries to sniff out her prey.

Social Protocols

It is important to let the doggos sniff appropriately. A sniff to the rump is most often the preferred choice. And most dogs comply willingly. We have learned early which dogs are not so eager to fall into social etiquette. A short growl might simply imply a bad day.
Hackles raised mean we should stay away.

But if a “match” is made? Happy yipping ensues. Tails wag enthusiastically. Circling around each other, often their leashes intertwined.

BFF’s

Ella has her favorites. She stands on the sofa and looks for Toby and Luna, her BFFs. She knows them by name and knows where they live.
It is quite like joining a dog fraternity.

Neighbors and Friends

Lest you think that this blog is all about our love for our dog? Let me get to the main point. By far, what having a dog has taught us is the neighborhood. We’ve lived here for 27 years. We know many of our neighbors. But now we know people from blocks away. Never before have we known their dogs. We have met a plethora of new people.

She loves all people. Children up the street see her and begin chanting: “Baby Ella! Baby Ella!” And now those little children are dear to us.

I have not mentioned politics in this blog at all—but here is one I cannot resist:

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Harry Truman (former president of the United States)

Neighborliness

And so we’ve met so many wonderful people, with wonderful dog stories. What is the best leash? What harness works for front pulling?
Where do you go for grooming?
The required walking has gotten us out of the house, and out of ourselves.

A Balm

During this quarantine time, this has been a balm to our souls.
A balm is a fragrant ointment used to heal or soothe. Something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect.
While keeping “Social Distance” (A dog leash is 6 ft. long) we are able to interact with our doggy neighbors. Not seeing friends and family has been hard.

But now, new neighbors and new friends have been made.

And it makes me think, to refer to a common theme of rescue organizations: “Who rescued who?”

Cancel Culture 4

Cynthia L. Eppley

08/12/2020

Cancel Culture 4

This is my 4th and final installment on Cancel Culture. Check out Cancel Culture, Cancel Culture 2, Cancel Culture 3.)

When we were little our mothers may have told us: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
But now we have moved on from childish things.
While we cannot be naive, there must be other ways to deal with life.

A Better Way
Col 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

How Can we Stand?

Rather than promoting hatred and vitriol, can we stand in horseshoes?
Can we be includers?

“If you are standing with other women in a circle and there is a woman standing alone in your circle’s vicinity–the thing to do is notice her, smile at her, move over a bit and say, “Hi, come join us!” Even if she decides to to join your circle–even if she looks at you like you’re crazy–inviting her is still the thing to do. Widen you’re circles. All the time. Also: Horseshoes are better than circles. Leave space. Always leave space. Horseshoes of friends > Circles of friends. Glennon Doyle

This was posted on Facebook over a year ago, and yet it rings even more true today. (Maternal Mental Health Research Collaborative—MMHRC)

Micro Scale: The Personal Level

Reflecting back from Cancel Culture 3 ( Cancel Culture 3) if our tendency is to sin, then we would be wise to seek Scripture in how we interact with others. We must examine ourselves.

James 1:19
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Proverbs 18:13
To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.

Proverbs 18:15
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Proverbs 18:17
In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

Entire books have been written on communication. In our vitriolic culture, Scripture speaks into out hearts.

Outrage Culture

John Piper recently posted an article that was timely:
John Piper, 08/03/2020
Brokenhearted Boldness: A Christian Alternative to Outrage Culture
Without a broken heart, our boldness can become brash, harsh, severe, cruel, angry, impatient, and obnoxious—all in the name of Christian courage. https;//www.desiringgod.org/articles/brokenhearted-boldness?

“Today, the need I see for Christian boldness is a little different. It’s not so much that evangelicals are grasping for so-called “Christian America.” Rather, it’s our being drawn into the callout culture, the outrage culture, the cancel culture, the coddled culture. However you name it, it is very angry. And behind the relative safety of social media, it is very bold.
This boldness is seldom beautiful. But some Christian culture warriors are drawn into it and shaped by it, with the result that their boldness is distorted toward the brash, angry, contentious, coarse, snide, and obnoxious. What is needed is not less boldness. No. The world is not suffering from too much boldness in the cause of truth. Rather, what’s missing is the beauty of brokenhearted boldness.

But we know something of our own sinfulness and how quickly we can strike back in the name of boldness. Our prayer is that God would spare us from the distortion of the courage he made to be beautiful, by creating something even more beautiful: brokenhearted boldness.”

Macro Scale: Brokenhearted Boldness

Psalm 51:7
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

James 1:22
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Can we be broken by this life but pour out our life for others? This would be Jesus’ mission.

And in the midst of Cancel Culture, anger, violence, riots and hurt—what can we do in a practical sense?

Youth Life Foundation of Richmond http://ylfr.org

My friend, Heather Goodlett, saw this need in inner city Richmond. And she answered the call.

“The Youth Life Foundation of Richmond operates Learning Centers to develop leaders by making long-term investments in children from at-risk communities. By supporting students academically, developing their character from a young age, raising expectations, and investing in their lives through committed mentoring relationships, these youth will rise above their circumstances to become tomorrow’s leaders.

“Heather began teaching at Glen Lea Elementary School in the fall of 2000 where she was a Title One-Reading teacher and yearned for real change in the futures of her students. In 2000, Mrs. Goodlett became aware of the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation (DGYLF) and Learning Centers in Washington, D.C. She soon began the process of fact-finding, researching, and relationship building, and in late 2001 attended a National Training Institute for DGYLF to begin launching an affiliate program in Richmond.

“The Youth Life Foundation of Richmond was founded in August 2002 and in 2003 became an affiliate of the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation (DGYLF), a proven education and leadership development program started by former Washington Redskin football player Darrell Green. The first Youth Life Foundation of Richmond Learning Center began operating in the Delmont Plaza Apartments, a government-subsidized community in eastern Henrico County, in July 2003.

Heather Goodlett, the founder, was a Title One Reading teacher at Glen Lea Elementary School. She desired to develop a program that could make a long-term commitment to help the children and their families, and ultimately rebuild their community. With the help of the owners of Delmont Plaza Apartments and numerous private donors, this vision became a reality.
In 2008, YLFR opened our second center in the Highland Park community partnering with the Northside Outreach Center. In March 2013, we started a Middle and High School program in Northminster Church called LC Remix. The following year, YLFR started a third after-school elementary program at this church now called Atlee Church Northside Campus in September of 2014. In September 2017, YLFR expanded once again – this time to the Southside of Richmond. Southwood Learning Center for elementary students opened in Redemption Hill Church’s building, The 400.
We currently serve about 50 families and 90 children – and our growth continues.”

Micro and Macro Together

On a micro scale, and on a macro scale: Where can our lives reflect Jesus and where can we be His hands and His feet?
Where can we make a practical difference in someone’s life? In Richmond? In Washington? In Philadelphia? In our neighborhood?


In our violent world right now? This may be the perfect answer.

Cancel Culture 3

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

08/11/20

After writing Cancel Culture 1 and 2, I have been thinking more on this subject. It seems that violent speech and action are ever more increasing. (See Cancel Culture, Cancel Culture 2)
What are we to do?

In Cancel culture 1 I spoke of the dynamics of “canceling someone”:
Shaming, Stonewalling, Snubbing.
It is to our shame that we know these too well. Remember the book “All I Really need to know I learned in Kindergarten?”
Doesn’t it seem that this behavior was learned early in life?
Are we no better as adults than we were in Kindergarten?
I read books to our 7 year old granddaughter about how to deal with bullies and rumors.
The American Girl “Smart Girl” series has helped greatly:

A Smart Girl’s Guide: Friendship Troubles (Revised): Dealing with fights, being left out & the whole popularity thing (American Girl: a Smart Girl’s Guide)

A Smart Girl’s Guide: Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies & Bossiness and Finding a Better Way
https://www.amazon.com/Stand-Yourself-Your-Friends-Bossiness/dp/1609587383/ref=pd_sim_14_8?

I began this series when she was 5. It saddens me greatly that this is the world that she—that WE—live in.

A Deeper Problem

And yet: isn’t that deep seated niggling in the back of our mind clear evidence that we have a bigger problem than Kindergarten? or Adolescent Misbehavior?

Scripture is clear and will forever be so:
Romans 3:22-24.
For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

We can all be reduced, it seems, to children behaving badly. We can all be reduced to defending ourselves at the expense of hurting others.

POGO

A very old cartoon character spoke to this eloquently and succinctly: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Scripture is clear from Genesis through Revelation. Left to our own devices, we turn towards the worst—to sin. We are in desperate need of a Savior.

Hope

Romans 5:6
6 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Jerry Bridges:

Your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace; your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.

One of my favorite quotes was used by my brother, H. Keith Lippincott, and was on his desk:

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or deescalated, And a person humanized or dehumanized.
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.
If we treat people as they out to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming. Goethe

More on this in Cancel Culture 4.

Of Baseball, Whiffle Ball and Family

July 25, 2020

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Whiffle Ball during COVID

There is a Whiffle Ball Tournament going on around the corner. This might not be notable on any other hot day of the summer, but this summer is different. This is a COVID summer. And sports are off limits.

Not to be deterred, a group of young men got together and formed the CWA: The Cimino Whiffle Ball Association. This is nothing new for these guys. They went to high school together in Atco and Blackwood, NJ. The brothers and cousins began playing whiffle ball when they were 6-7 yrs. old. Then they added corn hole, and eventually, they played football in high school. Friends were added into the mix. They connect together on Snapchat on Sunday evenings.

Family Affair

This began as a family affair. The Cimino sisters lived in Atco—Jacqueline, Karen, and Gabrielle. Close knit as a family, they played sports together and did the things that bind us together. One member of the family, Joe Tripoli moved to Ambler several years ago. There happened to be an empty lot next to his house.
Now, that lot could have been sold. But Joe knew a good thing when he saw it: a field in the making.

Field of Dreams

I remember it being full of weeds and tall grass years ago. But over the past few years, it was mowed. Then a stone driveway was laid. This past Spring I noticed tall yellow poles to mark foul balls. Then came a backboard. And a scoreboard. And “Sponsors” logos were added: Mountain Dew. Flood lights were placed. Umbrellas were added, as well as seating for the teams.

A “Field of Dreams” was in the making.

A Tournament

Just yesterday Joe added chalk lines to mark off the official measurements for a whiffle ball field. If you are going to play the game, play it right. They have teams of 3 people. Each game is 3 innings, and there is a 5 game series. Today, the 1st cede team played the 3rd. And the teams?

The Boss brothers, Hot brothers, and Cool brothers. They have their own team shirts, numbers, and even a Commissioner.


The sidelines are a grouping of Moms, sisters, littles, and the grandfather of all of them: Gabriel. Can you imagine the pride Grandpa feels as he watches these young men take the field?

These young college students are varied:
Joe Jr. is 21 and attends Penn State Main Campus. On my “interview” with him he explained that he is studying science. Many science courses later, he has landed on a passion: Physics. He explained that as he pitches, he understands the velocity, the wind movement, and the curve. It has a direct application to life. And a good solid hit? Physics come together for a home run.


Orlando, Matt, Jake, Biagio (Italian for Benjamin), Dalton, Luke, and Brando round out the teams.

Warm Welcome

It is 90 here today, with high humidity. The game goes on. I was warmly welcomed by Jackie, Joe’s wife. I asked her about the field and mentioned the large azaleas that seemed to be blocking 1st base. “I love the field! And I love that the kids play here! But those azaleas? They are my heirloom azaleas. They have to stay!”

First hotdogs were on the grill. Then hamburgers were being handed out. Next came Gatorade and water, and finally refreshing ice pops.

The Details

The details count. I was getting ready to walk over when I heard strains of singing. The Star Spangled Banner was being sung by Bianca. She did a beautiful job.
As I came upon the field, I was welcomed warmly by Biagio. He manned the announcement table, just behind home plate. They had heard that I was coming, and were excited to meet me. But as most things that are fun, this began to spin out of control. He asked if he could announce my arrival:


“Hello fans, and welcome to Cynthia, from the Ambler Gazette.”
That got a lot of attention, but it is not true.
I had told Joe that I wanted to write a blog about this event
Not to be discouraged, the next announcement came: “Welcome to Cynthia, who is here from Fox News.”

“Welcome to Cynthia, here to cover the tournament.”
And as a plane flew over, “Thank you for Cynthia for arranging a fly over.” And as I walked towards my home, “Thank you for Cynthia a great woman.”

Play by Play from the Press Booth

What is a game without a great play by play? Each batter had their own walk up music.

Biagio outdid himself:

“The tension continues to build between these brothers….” “Ouch—that pitch hit on the left “cheek”….that’s gonna leave a mark.”

“That ball is in the azalea bush!” (And an aside: Is that 1 or 2 bases?)
“That ball is gone! A grand slam! And it’s over the Green Monster!” (The backfield wall)

“Orlando here has won for best shoes in the league….over 120. These are camouflage pattern. Orlando, can you speak to the chances of your winning?”

Orlando, wisely responded: “No comment until we hoist the trophy.”

And finally bantering back and forth with Joe Sr.:
“One whiffle ball in the hand is worth two in the bush…..What does that even mean???”

I am not a fan of baseball, but even I recognized Matt imitating a combination of Harry Kalas and Merrill Reese.

Baseball, hot dogs, Apple pie and Chevrolet

The most famous use of “baseball, hot dogs and apple pie” was as a jingle in a 1974 Chevrolet commercial. It’s definitely a catchy tune! A commercial made well before these kids entered the world.
But today, during COVID, baseball never started.

And so in this season, perhaps the Cimino Whiffleball Tournament takes on new meaning. The things that tie us together are not really baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and cars.
It is the stuff of family.
The stuff of friendship.

The Field of Dreams and Kids

This entire field is somewhat surreal. Located in Ambler, it is used by the neighborhood kids. Then a tournament happens.
I asked Joe why he did it?

Why did he build a field?

Was it for the love of the game?
His simple, poignant answer: “No, it is for the love of my kids.” There you have it.

Playoffs

Tomorrow at 12 noon is the playoff. If you should happen by Joe and Jackie’s home on Belmont Ave in Ambler, they will warmly welcome you.
They will give you a water or gatorade.
The guys will cheer on each other and give a High Five. The fans will cheer as the guys run the bases. COVID has no hold on this.

Cancel Culture 2

Cynthia L. Eppley

My most recent blog addressed the current “Cancel Culture.” I think we’d all agree that our culture is being warped and twisted by the current events around us.
But if we look more closely, we will find that “there really is nothing new under the sun.” There have been World Wars, Spanish flu, Depressions, and so much more.

Is our current culture—and the reactions we see—that much different?

Cancel the Person

A recent article from Abdu Murray, The Gospel Coalition addresses this well:

“It was once the case that differing opinions—including ones that challenge culturally approved mores—were debated with facts and sound argumentation. Now when a person does or says something that runs afoul of current cultural preferences, we cancel that person. We shut her down with names, epithets, and ad hominem attacks. If she’s a musician, we call for boycotts of her music. If she’s an athlete, we delight in burning her jersey and posting the bonfire on social media. We now hoist the socially guilty onto a pike for all to see as they writhe, justly deserving what they get for having offended the collective. Be warned: we won’t engage your ideas; we will engage you and shame you out of existence. You will be canceled.” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/canceled-understanding-eastern-honor-shame/

Labels

If I can label you, I can dehumanize you. I put you into a small box with my understanding of what that particular label stands for—and usually I’m wrong.
But in our feeble attempt to understand others, we marginalize them. We reduce them and isolate them. We trivialize them and their ideas and cut off discussion. Alienation ensues and is followed by discrimination. This is the work of judgement.

And this is a slippery slope.

Mothers

One of my favorite teaching tools is Youtube. And a Similac commercial in particular shows many Moms (AND, ahem, Dads) taking care of their young children at the park. They look down their nose at the other groups, assuming, KNOWING that their way is best. From how the baby is fed, to how they sleep, and how they are diapered? There is a group for that. And the groups feel content and secure as they judge the others….until disaster strikes.

Our own Devices

Left to our own devices, this slippery slope and labeling would be a sad world indeed. The only true hope lies in Jesus Christ.

Borrowing from Murray’s article: “In cancel culture, a single mistake is perpetually unforgivable because it’s not simply a guilty act. Rather, the mistake defines the individual’s identity, turning them into a shameful person—someone who can be “canceled.” How Eastern! Juliet November summed up what used to be the differences between Western and Eastern cultures: In a Western framework, I would feel guilty because I have “done something bad”; in an Eastern honor-shame framework, I would be guilty because “I am bad” in society’s eyes. Becoming someone bad means that redemption doesn’t come by fixing the mistake. An apology isn’t enough.”

The Root of the Problem

Our problem goes far deeper than judging others. Do we realize in our judgements and in our labels, we also condemn ourselves?

Matthew 7:3
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

James 2:1,9-10,12-13
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,
13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 1:19
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Mercy Triumphs over Judgement

And there we have it. Because we have been redeemed and bought by the blood of the Lamb, we ourselves have been shown mercy.
And mercy triumphs over judgement.

Choose well

What does this look like?

Deuteronomy 30:19
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

We have choices every day. What would it be like to choose life for ourselves, and for others? To bless rather than to curse?

Again, from Murray: “Where others would respond to our shame with indignation, Jesus responds with love, forgiveness, and grace. Many are searching for a recovered or even redeemed identity. The culture will not give it to them. But Jesus can.”

Kumbayah

Are we looking for a Kumbayah moment here, where we hold hands and sway around a fire pit? No. The Cross was far too costly.

Grace & Dialogue

But what if we dialogued with others, honoring them above ourselves? What if we searched them out to ask their opinions and why they felt that way?
Grace has been described as giving others what they don’t deserve.

What if we came from our separate corners in the ring, together, and took off our gloves? Would families and workplaces be transformed?

Better Angels

Abraham Lincoln gave his 1st Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861. The nation was torn at that time, but he appealed to us:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Can we appeal to the better angels of our nature in times now? Can we show grace and mercy to those around us, and to those who think differently than ourselves?

May God let it be so.

Cancel Culture

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

These are strange times in which we live. 2020 will be remembered for many things: COVID, protests and discourse, and “Cancel Culture.” Every year seems to add new terminology to our lexicon. This new term has been around for awhile, but with new meanings and applications.

Understand, reader. I am not offering debate and dialogue. Instead, I am offering what I observe as I watch the culture.

Cancel Culture

So what is this?
Here is one definition: “Cancel Culture is the phenomenon by which people or entities are publicly boycotted or divested from because of callous words, actions or ideas they have promoted, or have been associated with.”

This involves harassment and shame:
Online shaming is a form of public shaming in which targets are publicly humiliated on the internet, via social media platforms (e.g. Twitter or Facebook), or more localized media (e.g. email groups) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_shaming#Cancelation

Callout Culture

“Callout culture” describes a form of boycott in which an individual (usually a celebrity) who has acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner is boycotted.
This happened to JK Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter series, when she made controversial statements.

We find it in our culture: celebrities, authors, politicians, TV shows, boycotts on companies. Statues and monuments. And even us.
Harper’s magazine has published a letter July 7 in defense of free speech signed by more than 150 public intellectuals, which has already fallen victim to the kind of virtual mob-rule that it decries. Ironically, a number of signatories have asked that their names be removed after either being attacked for having signed or learning the names of other, presumably intolerable, signatories.” https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/canceled-by-the-cancel-culture

Fear

What we are seeing now is a culture of fear. Dissenters have the power to ostracize you. Perhaps we can accept this dynamic. But now, they have the power to have you fired.

Mob Rule

In one very sad case, a 16 yr old was sharing memories of her father, a policeman, who was ambushed and killed in a domestic violence call. It was one way for her to give voice to her grief. But the daughter of slain McAllen Police Officer Ismael Chavez was attacked on social media by anti-police critics for posting a heartfelt tribute to her murdered father.

A friend of mine on Facebook posts her political beliefs. She is regularly slandered and called horrible names. “Shut up, you’re so brain washed!” “Did you take your pills today, dear?”
These are, of course, the only ones I can print here.

And just today, another friend has changed her name on FB because she accidentally responded to someone using the wrong gender. (Chris can be female or male, correct?) It was an honest mistake, and she apologized. But the backlash she received on social media was not worth it.

Really?

Is this what we have come to? Is this the best we can be?
Truly, this behavior is not new.
Throughout time we’ve used many methods to diminish others: Here is a beginning laundry list of “people behaving badly.”

Bullying

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. It includes physical, verbal, relational and cyber-bullying. And it is not limited to school age children. We see it everywhere around us.

Shunning

Shunning is the act of deliberately avoiding association with, and habitually keeping away from an individual or group. Think of the Amish.

Snubbing

Snubbing is to rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully.

Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a persistent refusal to communicate or to express emotions. It is common during conflicts, when people may stonewall in an attempt to avoid uncomfortable conversations or out of fear that engaging in an emotional discussion will result in a fight.You might know it by another name: ‘the silent treatment’ maybe, or ‘freezing’ someone out’. It can involve one person saying ‘I’m fine’ even though something is clearly wrong, or simply refusing to speak at all. As a counselor, I’ve described it as “a sanitized form of murder.”

Shaming

Shaming is to publicly humiliate or shame for being or doing something specific.
In Pandemic times? Shaming has become rampant. From having a party in our backyard, to going to the Jersey shore:
“We get this image of half a country having a party that most of us are not doing,” Tangney said. “It’s natural to become angry and also be afraid and to want to shame people, because we believe if we shame them, they’ll stop doing this bad thing. But unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/06/us/pandemic-shaming-wellness-trnd/index.html

Time after Time….. As I write these things, it takes me back to Junior High. Those were hard days. Fear reigned and the pack mentality was always present.
Where do I belong in this pack?
Am I accepted for who I am?

If I make a statement that is not in the general consensus, will I be shunned or humiliated? I remember well giving a public address in my English class–perhaps 1965. I presented my case. I don’t remember how the class responded. I DO remember that the teacher began to berate me, my viewpoints, and position. She even berated my clothes, stating that it was in keeping with my position. Clearly, my stance was not the status-quo.

Or maybe NOT so far back. In my working life, if I entered the room, there might be a certain “frosty” reception. People might not look up from their desk. No “Good morning.” In reading body language and lack of interaction, I knew I was in trouble. It was only a matter of time, or putting my ear to the ground to the rumor mill, to find out the issue.

And in the church? I would hope we would not fall into these categories. There have been times I’ve seen dissenters or those with differing opinions marginalized or even intellectually dismissed. This should not be happening.

Nothing New under the Sun

Not much has changed, has it?
2020:
The difference is that today we have the Cancel Culture on hyperdrive.
With Internet, Social Media, Instagram, Twitter, Tic-Tok, chat rooms, and numerous other venues, we have the power to bless or to curse. And our response goes ‘round the world with a simple click.

Labels and their Power

Take your pick.
We so easily throw them out there:
Racist, Bigot, Hater, Liberal, Conservative, Alt-Left, Far Right, Republican, Democrat, Fascists, Marxists, Communist.

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names can never hurt me.” Not true.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
In my next blog I’ll address these issues more specifically.

Hugs: Be the Last One to Let Go

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Hugs These are strange times in this changing world. COVID has kept us home and isolated. Even though many areas have gone to “Green”, there are still restrictions and face masks are mandatory in public places. And although the numbers have been decreasing, there are areas where they are slowly rising.

What to do? It is well known that hugging has inherent value. If you’ve been “Sheltering in Place” since March, it is almost unbearable to be without human contact. And more than just social interaction, the touch of another. The first weekend that “Outdoor Dining” was allowed? The restaurants were mobbed. Why? Getting out for a meal was one aspect, but even more, the social value of being out with others was finally realized.

Touch We long for human touch. The cotton industry began a campaign long ago with this foundational fact. “The touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives.”

What’s so Special about Hugs? If you’ve ever held a baby, you know the value of that human touch. It calms and soothe a fussy infant. And it helps us as well. Hugging induces oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” thats renowned for reducing stress, lowering cortisol levels and increasing a sense of trust and security. It makes sense then, that hugs strengthen the immune system. As the Pandemic wears on, the desire to be with others, and the desire for human touch has only strengthened.

Perhaps that is why we are getting more irritable and “cabin fever” is sky high. That pent up feeling has reached a climax.
Another friend has been expecting his first grandchild. He just turned 71. He and his wife purposely were COVID tested: negative. This set the stage for a long road trip to see that dear little boy who was just born.

Such longing and expectation! That first embrace will surely be magical.

Books: A dear friend saw this dynamic of “Socially Distant Hugs” and wrote about it:

If You Can’t Bear Hug, Air Hug: A Book Inspired by Social Distancing Paperback – May 23, 2020, Katie Sedmak (amazon.com)

“Join fuzzy bears, flapping owls, and more adorable animal friends as they prove that distance can’t overcome love and friendship!
“If You Can’t Bear Hug, Air Hug” is an uplifting book of rhymes for children that explores the creative ways animals might show affection while socially distancing and delivers a reassuring message of love and resilience.”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0578700670?pf_rd_r=Q6RGKY9SCNNZXNY44FSA&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee

Visit theairhugbook.com for more info.

Different groups For singles, the desire, or even the need for physical touch has become paramount. How do they handle that strong need? I know of several groups who have become a “family” together, basically “sheltering in place” with a small group. It brought socialization, fellowship, and interaction.

For the elderly, there is a unique risk. To become too close to others may expose them to the virus. Since the discovery of asymptotic carriers, this is a very real threat. How many babies have been born since March? And how many grandparents are yearning to see those new babies? And more than just to see them, but to tenderly enfold them in their arms?

And with nursing and care homes locked down, the isolation the elderly feel is very real:

Beauty for Ashes- Hope and Healing in Jesus Christ May 26 at 6:59 PM

“She’s 98. And the isolation and loneliness came over her in a river of tears at my visit. Not able to see her son or daughter for 6 weeks. She wants to die. Because at 98 the waiting is too much. I offered to FaceTime her son. She cried more. She wanted a real hug. I in my PPE said enough. I too bent over into her arms she wrapped so tight around me. I broke the rule. I hugged her till she could breathe. We both had a healing. I’d do it again. Love matters most. The older folks in long term care haven’t been touched or hugged. It’s causing failure to thrive. Hugs are a necessary part of living. “ – shared from a nurse from a Covid healthcare workers site, because THIS right here is what the world needs to see page2image56588720(shared with approval or said nurse…thank you)
Jennifer Rose”.

Innovation: The Hug Tunnel Necessity is the mother of invention. (Plato) Take note:
“A care home for elderly people in southern Brazil has come up with a creative way to bring some love to its residents amid the coronavirus pandemic, by creating a “hug tunnel” that allows relatives to safely embrace them. The idea emerged last month, shortly after Mother’s Day, when staff at the Três Figueiras facility in the state of Rio Grande do Sul noticed some residents were feeling down. “We noticed that our senior residents were feeling sad,” Luciana Brito, one of the owners of the facility, told CNN. “We thought they would be much happier if we found a way for them to hug their relatives.”

 A son hugs his father at  Três Figueiras via the "hug tunnel," which staff developed to enable loved ones to embrace.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/americas/brazilian-care-home-hug-tunnel-scli-intl/index.html

In the Beginning…. It is not surprising that we have an inborn need for touch and belonging. God Himself instituted this within us when He created us:
Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

This is the picture of an intimate creation, not a mechanical engineered slurry of atoms that instantaneously formed man.

“Social Distancing” Hugs We have gotten to know many of the neighbors during this time of Pandemic. To our delight, there are 2 little girls up the street that love our new puppy….and we have formed a close friendship. Hugs are out of the question. But then one day this appeared at our doorstep, with a gift bag:

“Sending Hugs your Way”
“In a world full of darkness we could use more light, a little more love and a lot less fright.
So let’s take it day by day. God will surely help us through. And in the meantime, here’s some socially distant ‘hugs” just for you.”

And in the gift bag? A package of Hershey Hugs, of course. It was a “Social Distance Hug” and it made my heart melt.

The Velveteen Rabbit “What is Real?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
“Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse, “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “Or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, but the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because when you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

At long last After a very long wait, we were finally able to see our Granddaughter. The time of quarantine was over. We anxiously awaited their arrival. When their car pulled up? She nearly burst from her seat and rushed to throw herself into my arms.
It may have been the best hug ever.

The Last Hug My mother was near the end, and we knew the time was near: about 6 weeks. I remember saying goodbye, and she was standing in her walker. I gave her the kind of hug where you don’t let go. You wait for them to release the hug first. One of my hands was on her head as I felt her soft, grey hair. One hand was on her waist. I drew her near and held her close. I felt her warmth. I caught her scent. I didn’t want to let go. I wanted this hug to last forever. This hug would have to last until the next time in glory.

Until then….. Oh how we long for COVID to be over! We long for the day of full healing and restoration. Perhaps our hugs will be nestling a fresh newborn. Or it will be the soft aged skin of the elderly. When we can hug then?
Let’s make sure our hugs are long and lasting and firm. Let’s make the hug last a little longer and a little more closely. Let’s be the last one to let go.

Of Masks and Men

Masks

This is the season of Covid. If you haven’t been able to buy a mask, no problem. Home shops are popping up all over, with a variety of custom made masks. Churches have “Sew-ins” to provide masks. Personally, a neighbor made us two. And we were so grateful because we didn’t have any until that point.

Serve and Protect

What is it for? It is to serve us well. It is to protect ourselves as well as others and it plays a vital role. A mask made of an old sock, or an old sweater, or even a scarf works better than nothing.

Something’s Lost but Something’s Gained

Certainly the use of masks has been pivotal in this Pandemic. And for those who work as essential workers and in public health they are a necessity. But have we lost something as well?

Communication

55% of communication is visual. Traditional masks block faces and prevent our ability to see facial expressions and emotions, catch visual cues, and communicate.
The first time I became aware of this dynamic I was at a store with my mask on. My glasses were steaming up, as I’ve heard is a common occurrence. And then I saw her: was it my friend Alice? Of course, we were standing 6 ft. apart, so I wasn’t sure it was her. We both wore glasses, mine getting foggier by the moment. Looking through the haze of the mask I was keenly aware of the lack of interaction—the lack of touch—the connection. No eye contact. It was almost as if there was a shame within us.

When I got back to my van I wanted to cry. This Pandemic had eroded a human connection that we all felt, and all needed.

A Human Connection

Genesis 4:6
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?”

Which brings me to the point of the Mask.
So much of our human interaction is through our facial recognition, our eyes and our speech. As we are getting older, the need for hearing aids is looming in the distance.

For those who are hearing impaired, this dynamic is everyday.
Facial coverings muffle sounds. And there is no lip reading. Perhaps I can hear you, but can I understand you?
It is so tempting to raise my mask to clarify what I’m trying to say.
And I’ve noticed that as soon as I am out of the store, I rip the mask off.
Hearing impaired individuals do not have this luxury.
We recently had a relative admitted to the hospital for a procedure; this person is deaf and can only relate through signing and lip reading. Imagine the difficulty of his situation: unable to see the care giver’s lips move. Unable to hear. And unable to have a care giver with them to interpret.
The world is a tough place for those with disabilities. The Pandemic has made this abundantly clear.

Proverbs 27:19
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Masks and Other Masks

This Pandemic has taken so much from us. Many are in isolation, unable to see friends and family. They see care givers with masks on. In some cases, robed up with protective gear from head to foot. It is like a horror movie come to life.
And for those dear ill ones, is there no succor?

The Clear Center

And so there is the mask with the clear center. In this way, we can see the mouth and lip read to a certain degree. It is the beginning of effective connection and communication. Companies are now producing these masks in response to the hearing impaired. And there are numerous youtube tutorials on how to make your own.

The Face Copy Mask


In rough first tries, the care taker has made a copy of their face and taped it to the front of the Personal Protective Equipment. When they are caring for the ill patient, the patient can see who is “behind” the mask. Now, companies, are creating these masks:
“We make respiratory masks that look like your face. While our N95 TrueDepth compatible masks are still in production, our first product to market will be a fabric mask that resembles you, making it easier to recognize you during a viral pandemic.”

Of course, if the picture of the face is immovable? And the person is speaking? It seems this would be a surreal dynamic.

Funny Masks One clip on Youtube had a woman with a mask that seemed to be a simple smile. But when she pulled the top and bottom, it revealed a toothy grin. She took immense pride in the mask. You couldn’t help but laugh: her joy was full. You could see the sparkle in her eyes, and we knew she was laughing behind the mask. Despite the mask, her humanity came through.

Despite a Mask, Humanity comes Through

A New Normal

We are nearing the opening of many of our states. Face masks are still required. We long for the day when we can come and go freely without restrictions, without fear. We do not know when that will be. But if nothing else, this has taught us the limitations we have with masks, and the limitations of the hearing impaired community.

And we know that God, in His great mercy, turns His face upon us unclothed, unfettered, and full of peace.

Numbers 6:24-2624 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

1 Cor 13:12
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And to be fully known? Isn’t this the desire of our hearts?

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. to be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller

Special Needs and COVID

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Special Needs and COVID

The Pandemic of the past 3 months have been challenging for all of us. Restlessness, boredom, fear and anxiety abound. Haircuts and coloring are needed by many. But a special group—those children with Special Needs, goes beyond this scope.

Routine

We thrive on routine and predicability. The Special Needs child is no different. The safe and expected environment helps them feel secure and in control. And the past 3 months have been so out of control. The changes to their routine has been fearful and confusing for them and may lead to behavioral changes. And these are things they may have a hard time articulating.

School

Most of these children have been in structured schools that help them. With schools closed, they may have a limited understanding of why they cannot attend. Parents of these children are trying to manage these dynamics without the typical structure to their child’s day. There is loss, grief, and isolation. Quarantine has not been easy.

I have two dear friends I’d like to introduce to you. Perhaps this will give you a window into their world:

Luke

You wanted to know what being quarantined with a child who has special needs is like. In one word – HARD!! And that is not just from me, but from ALL my friends who have kids with special needs. All the kids are anxious and need calming. All the kids need almost constant attention. All the kids are confused and lonely. Parents who work are having a difficult time trying to do their jobs and keep these kids occupied. If you walk around neighborhoods you see typical kids outside playing with each other. Luke and others don’t have friends to play with. The parents are the friends. There is lots of grieving going on.

It is hard because of the limited understanding of these kids. Luke knows there is a VIRUS out there, that means people are sick. So why does school have to end? People are sick all the time. Why is this different? He is scared and anxious that he will get “THE VIRUS”. I am constantly assuring him that he will be ok. The only way to ensure that is to keep him home.

Luke is used to following a schedule. Everything is different now. I quickly came up with a daily schedule for him to follow and we stick to it. No deviations. Ever. It keeps him calm, which is one of my main goals.

It’s hard to have them home because they are hard to handle. Luke has more frequent tantrums, can change moods on a dime. Some of the kids need constant action and activity, some are loud and screamers, some make constant noise, some throw things.

“Home becomes a place of chaos for all instead of a pleasant type of quarantine.”

The other thing about this “quarantine” is that it is more of the same for parents of kids with special needs. We are already isolated from many activities in the community so this is not exactly new, but much, much worse. It is a constant grieving for losses that are immediate (no school means no break from Luke), Special Olympics was cancelled (lots of crying over that), to future anxieties – Extended School Year might be cancelled, which means no break from Luke ALL SUMMER). That is a very bleak outlook for parents like me. It is exhausting and you can’t just call a babysitter to help.

That is the HARD part but there are blessing. I have gotten to know Luke better than I did. I know now how he learns and why he doesn’t learn. I am teaching him to tie his shoes. We go on walks every day. He notices every blooming tree. He points things out that I would miss. He laughs with his dad and is delighted to be with dad all day. He is also forgiving and kind and fun to be with. He makes me feel beautiful because he tells me I am beautiful. Any husband could take lessons from Luke. He enjoys the smallest things. We Facetime his friends and they just delight in looking at each other. It is so sweet!!!

One things many parents have said is that it is like being locked in with a 12 or 13 or 14 year old toddler!!! That says it all.

Jesse

I think the best way to describe the impact of the pandemic is to give you a little background on Jesse and then tell you some key things that have happened since our lives were suddenly and abruptly changed.

Jesse’s diagnoses of Pitt Hopkins has many issues to it. However one of the biggest for us, and the reason we fought to move him to Camphill School, is his breathing issues. He will hyperventilate and have apnea episode that are brought on by being disoriented, anxious and out of routine. So you can imagine the concern we had with the closing of the schools and how that will impact Jesse.

A little more history before I go much further. When Jesse was in school in our district he was having close to 500 apnea episodes a month at school. In the 2 years he has been at Camphill he has had almost no apnea episodes. His routine and expectations are very clear and familiar so his anxiety is down, he is not disoriented and is thriving there.

So the first day, a Friday, of the schools closing, Jesse had a tough time understanding what was happening. Why his routine was not happening and was very disoriented. He had a number of apnea episodes and was clearly very anxious. So throughout that day I gathered as much material of educational and chores we had around and made a visual schedule for him so he would know what his day would look like and what the expectations were for the day. This helped a lot for the next two weeks as Camphill, a total hands on life skills school with very little technology in the classrooms, adjusted. As they started planning Zoom meetings and such, I just adjusted the schedule.

Jesse has actually done pretty well by keeping him on an expected schedule and he is making gains on his IEP goals and everything. A couple things are still difficult. He has had more aggressive behaviors since the lock down. The cause and length is not as important as the fact that it has increased a little.

The other issue that is hard is he continues to ask to go to places or see family and friends. He doesn’t understand why and asks for the same things almost everyday. Go to the mall, soccer baseball, pool, church. We continue to remind him that none of them are open right now. He wants to go see grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, class mates. Zoom is a quick glimpse of them, but not enough for him.

Zoom classes and meetings are not productive for him either. He will recognize who is there but won’t interact like he would if he was in person with them.

I have enjoyed working with Jesse during this time and we have bonded even more than before. However he NEEDS to get back to school cause they can provide things I can’t. I can teach him the academics, occupational therapy, speech by following the direction of the teacher and therapists. I cannot teach him social skills and social interaction with his peers. It is just not the same doing those skills with your dad and siblings or on Zoom.

Conclusion

This is such a hard time for these dear families. If you are feeling restless and bored? Peek into their lives:

  • Isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Fear
  • Schedules
  • Routine
  • Expectations

These families juggle the Pandemic as we do, with Special Needs tossed in. For Jesse, wearing a mask brings on episodes of apnea. This is even more restrictive and isolating.

Where does this leave us?
There are no easy answers, but there is an abundance of compassion and mercy. 

Abundant Honor Ministries https://www.abundanthonor.org

This is a ministry that works with those with disabilities. They take their name from
1 Corinthians 12:23 “those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor.”

God takes the things we think are broken or weak and builds his Kingdom with them.

1 Cor 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Perhaps in this time of Pandemic, the “least of these” and this ministry may teach us much in how to honor and value persons.

An Interview Concerning COVID

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Pastor Douglas Dwyer, Addisville Church asked me to do a Q&A session around the Pandemic of COVID-19. We sought to address the following:

How disruptive is the experience?

Is there something wrong with feeling anxious?

What are some side effects or symptoms of anxiety, such as frustration, feeling of being overwhelmed, short fuse, etc.

What are some self-care suggestions that people can do?

How do we deal with isolation?

How do we help our children?

The video was posted on Youtube, and shared with several churches. I have posted much of this content in blogs, but the video is here if you would like to view it.

Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

Tim Challies

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Christ Counseling and Life

For Younger Pastors

Musings on Lessons Learned Along the Way

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