Monthly Archives: March 2020

You Got That Right, Bette.

Tim and I were born on the south side, married in Chicago in 1985 and lived in the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood for ten years. Chicago was our home until we moved to Valparaiso, Indiana, in 1995. I spent that first summer living out of my van. I’d load up our four kids and hightail it back to St. Cajetan to be with my friends. I knew my friends’ parents and siblings, and many of my friends’ families called my family members friends. 

Tim used to sit on the front porch in our new neighborhood and look for new friends. He’d scope out kids our children’s age. 1995 was a brutally hot summer, and most people stayed indoors. Air conditioners moaned in chorus, and lawns morphed into yellow parchment paper. Once the kids started school in August, we planted deep roots in Valparaiso – with the help of new friends.

God blessed me with a soulmate next door, great neighbors, wonderful school families, an active church community, a great Y, and three amazing running friends.  

Last year, we moved from Valparaiso to Michiana Shores, Indiana – fulfilling my dream of living withing walking distance to Lake Michigan where the lapping water soothes my spirit. We live in the woods, and our street is very, very quiet. There are few full-time residents near our house. For most, the homes here are getaways from a hectic life elsewhere. 

When I run, I loop through neighborhoods and count Illinois plates. It’s become a past-time for me. I get back from my run, and I report to Tim who nods kindly. 

I’ve grown used to driving to Valparaiso to teach and visit with friends. 80/94 is a regular route to see my childhood and Illini friends. And until two weeks ago, I continuted to run regularly in Valpo or the Dunes with friends.

Yesterday, while roaming on my lone COVID-19 run, Bette Midler’s “Friends” tune ramped up the pace of my stride. It hit me like a wave off the Lake. I MISS MY FRIENDS! I run with friends, I work with friends, I talk about books with friends, I eat with friends, I laugh with friends, I dance with friends, I exercise with friends. Where are they? I gotta get me some!

I wrote my own lyrics to Bette Midler’s Friends 

Nancy’s “Friends” 31 March 2020 – two weeks into social distancing 

And I am all alone.

Tim is the only one beside me.

And my children have all grown,

There’s no one to run astride me.

But you got to have friends – the feeling’s oh so strong.

You got to have friends – to make me feel like I belong.

I got some friends but they’re home.

COVID  came and took them away.

And from the dusk till the dawn here is where I’ll stay.

I’ll be here until the month of May  

Waiting for my new friends to come.

Just be sure to stay six feet away. 

I’m gonna get some of them.

‘Cause you got to have friends.

‘Cause you got to have friends.



Where do I go from here?

I see a month ahead with no scheduled events outside of online courses and Zoom meetings. I am all-in on the random texts, inspirational e-mails, enthusiastic FaceTime with Eileen and Charlie, the House Party app with the kids, the informative videos, and the COVID-19 global map updates. I am following the CDC guidelines. I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do.

Yesterday, I did a very stupid thing. I weighed myself. I stepped off the scale and stepped back on – convinced that it was off from lack of use. Like my laptop, I figured it needed rebooting.

Then I did what I usually do when faced with a problem. I attacked it systematically with my if – then approach. I printed a calendar page of April and plotted how I would establish better habits by May 1st. I got this, I thought. Check marks represent glasses of water – a minimum of 8 per day. M stands for meditation, R for running, W for walking, and the dreaded number in the top left corner is my weight. Then I set goals for every three days leading up to a loss of 7 pounds by the end of the month. Feeling quite smug, I looked at my system and thought, There. Skinny by May 1st. Easy. 

The motivation worked until my butt hit the couch at 7:00pm. Then the cookies called me from the freezer. They actually shouted at me by name, and I caved.

I start again this morning. That’s what we do. We get up and start again. The weight loss doesn’t matter. I know that. And I know the desire for discipline is part of my quest for control during uncertain times. But that’s just the point. This uncertainty is now, and that is where I am going – I am right here, this morning, writing this post. 

The chocolate chips are a numbing tool. Ice cream and wine also work. I’ve learned over the last 37 years that running also does the trick. If I get out there and move, I feel better. My roommate from college Kathy told me that emotions need motion. Maybe that’s why I’m a runner. I’m loaded with feelings.

In his contemplative meditation post this morning, Richard Rhor wrote that “if we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it in some way.”

Transform pain into what? I think the answer is compassion for self and others. Forgiveness, empathy, the joy of understanding, unconditional love. I have this longing (i.e. compulsion) to create a synopsis of the writings of Richard Rhor, Thomas Merton, Mark Nepo, Anthony de Mello, St. Ignatius, holy scripture, . . . and tie it up in a bow and say, There. Now I have it all figured out. I’m good. The rationale is similar to my April calendar – it entails a concrete schedule. With this plan, I will be all set. I will be enlightened. 

It doesn’t work that way. Transformation is not something we can plot. I look at the books on my shelves, and I think if I can just absorb all the writing of these beautiful, profound authors, I will have arrived at a place of peace, self-acceptance, eternal love. Last week, Richard Rhor wrote about the power of being endarkened (vs. enlightened) as a lens to the Light. This muddle of my life offers me great opportunities to be where I am. To sit with it. That feels good.

The truth is that we are not arriving. We are here, now. And that is all we’ve got. Friends sent a text thread yesterday reminding me of the timeless words of St. Therese Lisieux:

See the source image

We can always dance in the knowledge of knowing we are loved – right now exactly as we are.

With love from GrandmaNance – who loves to dance.

Perspectives on Space

Did we really used to sit on couches cheek to cheek? Did I really shake students’ hands after meeting with them? Did I open a door without thinking that someone else had touched it? Did I greet friends and family with warm bear hugs? When I watch a movie, I think these people are standing so close to each other.

We maintain six feet – like presenters in a classroom or speakers at an invisible podium.  I’m used to giving talks to groups of people. I’m a teacher and college administrator. But I’m not used to standing apart from others in my own house. My brother-in-law Vince came over for dinner eight days ago, and he stood at the end of the kitchen counter throughout the meal. When he left, he waved, smiled, and walked out the door. I did not escort him to the porch. We kept our physical distance out of love. I wonder now when we will have another visitor to our home.

Tim and I are healthy and uninfected, as of today 28 March 2020, and we have established  territories in our new workspace consisting of six rooms. Tim is grounded in his routine. He gets up before 4:30am,  works in the sunroom, and at 8:00am, he moves to his desk in our bedroom at the back of the house. I do not see him until around 5:00pm. He stays put – focused and present for his clients and team. On weekends, instead of working at his desk, he works from the couch. Right now, he is fully equipped with iphone, ipad, laptop, and earbuds as he takes a course. I don’t anticipate talking with him for hours as he sits ten feet away from me.

I am a roamer. I gotta move. I start my day with my laptop near an east window, so I can see the sunrise. Then I move to the guest bedroom for Zoom meetings where there is little reflection. Randomly, I wander downstairs to sit by the windows facing the front of the house. In the late afternoon, I switch to the sunroom to soak in the sunlit dance on the moss in the woods. Ants in my pants. That’s what my dad used to say.

I run every morning along Lake Shore Drive near our home in Northwest Indiana, and the walkers part ways as I pass. I say good morning, but very few respond. Yesterday, a man in an Illinois sweatshirt appeared from the dune grass on the beach. I shouted that it was great to see a fellow Illini. He stopped and said that his son is a senior there and will miss U of I’s graduation this year. I could feel his desire to share it with someone who would understand. I didn’t tell him that Tim and I didn’t participate in commencement at Illinois, but I listened and nodded – emotionally connected in spite of our physical distance. We parted ways after a two-minute interaction, and it felt so good to chat as if the world was how it used to be.



Pre-school via Zoom

Yesterday, my granddaughter Eileen attended her pre-four class via Zoom, a virtual meeting software platform. Zoom enables participants to see each others’ faces on the screen while attending meetings, seminars, classes, and for some these days – parties. I marvel how young children seem to innately grasp complex technology, and I am amazed by their advanced  learning at such young ages.

Eileen listed the names of all of her classmates that she saw in “the squares.” I asked her what she learned about.

I thought she said Brexit.

I was aghast , or as my mom would say “floored.”

Then Eileen started talking about cereal.

Be where you are. Otherwise you will miss your life. – Buddha

Someone recently told me that you know you have accepted something when it is okay if it doesn’t change. 

We are not accepting the Coronavirus. In fact, many of us know that we may eventually contract it. Some doctors recommend that we act as if we have COVID-19, so we don’t infect others. Responsible citizens accept and follow the guidelines put forth by the CDC. I assume that those that don’t must be oblivious or think they are smarter than the world’s most brilliant researchers and doctors. Or they don’t trust experts. Or they don’t care. Apathy is plain scary, especially today.   

How tough is it to adopt frequent hand washing?  It’s not a big challenge for someone like me with a comfy home, bathroom, and kitchen sink. I know we are in the early stages of this crisis in Indiana, but for now, I’m grateful that I have my books, wifi, laptop, Netflix, iphone, FaceTime, relaible news sources, Podcasts, online inspiration (thank you, Richard Rhor), YouTube, Zoom classes, and yoga mat. 

I am reminded daily that I am loved by informative, encouraging, and witty texts from friends and family. I have my faith, my curiosity, my empathy, and my health. I’m blessed to be educated enough to understand the severity of what is happening, and I am surrounded in spirit by smart friends and loved ones. Most of my children check in regularly, and I am filled with gratitude for them. I choose to look past the fact that they are starting to treat me like I am old. Brendan said, “Mom, you and Dad are at risk.” I thought, “Who me? Couldn’t be.” I think I am thirty.

I am not frightened because I trust that people are doing the best they can, and I trust in God. And I have common sense and do what I can. I follow the CDC recommendations. Period. 

What about those on the street? Those that are uninformed? Those without phones? Without loved ones? Without a place to walk safely? Without a sink nearby? Without assurance of their next meal? What about those quarantined, alone and confused in hospitals? The list goes on and on. 

What about my 93-year-old mother who doesn’t know why she isn’t getting visitors? For the first time in my life, I see the teeny tiny itty bitty benefit of dementia. She is present in the now. She knows who she is talking to on the phone, but she doesn’t recall all that I’ve told her about  the recent changes in the world. She can’t seem to grasp it. She latches on to what matters – the moment she is in.