The Good Things so far in 2020

I have been quiet lately.  It has been a lot, obviously, for everyone. I want to give a short update on our family and how we’re all doing in these unbelievable times. (Ha! Who am I kidding – it’s long!) But to do that, I have to backtrack a bit. I was blessed with a whirlwind trip to see our kids in California and our granddaughter in Colorado just two months ago – seems a lifetime! It was the first time any of our family have thought of a trip, bought the tickets and flew just weeks later – amazed now as I look back and see what a gift it was, and while it felt crazy at the time, we also knew I was supposed to go. I left from Budapest on Jan. 30th and had two full weeks and three weekends with my kiddos. It was short, but precious memories were made.

The day of my flight back from the US, Feb. 19th, a spot on my lower back began bothering me. I actually had the fun experience of tracking down and buying bandaids in LAX, you get two for like $3, it’s totally ridiculous. After a week of it not healing I made an appointment to see a dermatologist and she had me schedule a surgery to remove it right away. My surgery was on the 10th of March – smack in the middle of Europe waking up to the reality of the Covid-19 virus. All that week there were new safety measures being enacted – large gatherings over 100 were forbidden and many of the big event/gathering locations began closing, such as museums, movie theaters, etc…  We’re not that far from Italy, and our awareness of what they’ve been going through has been constant and heartbreaking – so the possibility of a more serious lockdown was in everyone’s heads, except maybe mine. I don’t deal with physical trauma very well. Yes, I had three homebirths with no medication – but bring out a needle or draw my blood and I get quickly near to passing out. A ‘minor’ surgery was always going to set me back for a while.

March 16th was the first official day of ‘quarantine’ in Budapest, not nearly as drastic as in other parts of Europe, but then, Hungarians aren’t as social as Italians – you don’t need to threaten them with fines to get them to stop meeting up for coffee! Schools had closed the week before, and now shops and restaurants were closing by 3pm, businesses were adapting work-from-home procedures and everyone was told to stay home except for necessary outings. Gatherings were limited to 10. By Sat the 28th they would alter the rules a bit, creating a 9am-noon shopping time for only those over age 65, and have all restaurants convert to take-out only. But since the 16th it has been pretty quiet outside – at least, the little bit I’ve seen from our window or on the very few outings I’ve had since March 10th. That was the start of my at-home time, first in recovery, and now in quarantine like the rest of the world. And I would not learn the histology, or if my spot had been cancerous or not until the visit to remove the stitches, two weeks later, on March 24th. It was not, hallelujah.

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Spring still comes to Budapest

The reaction in the US has been very different State to State, our awareness has been mostly for LA and California, and Colorado. LA made sweeping lockdowns before the state did, and our kids’ lives were effected pretty soon into everything. Disneyland closed on March 14th, though we are all so very thankful that the Disney company has kept paying Josiah’s salary, not all companies have done so or are able to do so. He will be eligible for unemployment as a furloughed employee once Disney stops payment, possibly after April 19th. His wife Julia works in the deli section of Sprouts Grocery store – so you can imagine her life got incredibly chaotic, stressful and scary. We are so proud of her for going into work, smiling at scared people and getting it done. Both Siah and Julia are in college too, Siah was already in online courses, so his school world hasn’t changed, but Julia is enrolled at CSUN and it’s been a hard shift for her extroverted self to adjust to online classes. We are beyond grateful that both Siah & Julia are still employed, still have income coming in, and have each other through this time. They are also there living behind Grandma’s house, though, with Julia’s job and her possible exposure they are keeping their distance, but are still nearby.

Things have been a bit more unsettled for Anna and Shiloh. Anna’s job was in a small coffee shop located inside a courthouse, she was the only employee. She lost her job pretty quick, as the courthouse had to lockdown and limit entrance to essential employees; she’s not sure how long the owners will be allowed to keep it open. She loved her job and the couple who own it, we saw up-close and personal the effects of quarantine on businesses and it’s heartbreaking. Shiloh has been working for a Sweetgreen restaurant, and as most restaurants, his hours were cut drastically – coupled with Anna’s job loss and the crazy high rents that are the only options in LA they knew early on they would need to make changes to survive. They moved in with Shiloh’s family in Murrieta, about 3 hours south and inland from Grandma in LA. It had been a goal and dream to resettle in Murrieta eventually, probably as soon as this summer, so it’s not a complete life re-direction, just sooner than planned.

Joshua and Norbert’s work has continued, both for the same online-based company. It has been interesting to watch Joshi, in the UK, experience virus-related changes slower than any of the rest of us – even behind LA and over a week behind much of the rest of Europe.  Joshua has also taken on a new role at his church in Norwich, figuring out how to manage their services going live as the resident tech on site for their live-streaming Sunday mornings now – we’ve joined in watching online and that’s been a fun new peek into his life in England.

Spring is always the season for the pastor’s retreats we host each year, and it was with sad hearts that we had to cancel this year’s retreats. Besides the annual Coffee Break with the Serbian pastors, Norbi would have hosted the first all Hungarian retreat for all the Calvary Chapel pastors, the men’s turn after I hosted their wives last fall. Both would have been in April. Also planned for this spring is a visit by Siah, Julia & Joshua. Their airline tickets were bought in January, arrivals May 18th & 19th. At this point we have a sliver of hope, but are mostly resigned that they won’t be able to come.

It has also been strange to watch the American people’s reaction to this tragedy from outside, and I’ve had a hard time not comparing it to what I’m experiencing in Europe. We had no panic here in Hungary, our stores have remained fully stocked. Places are empty, eerily so, but where you do run into people, such as the grocery store, it’s calm and everyone automatically gives each other lots of space. Always calm. Calmly resigned. Maybe we’re that much closer to Italy. But no one is questioning the need for quarantines or self-distancing, no one is debating if this virus is really all that bad. Europe isn’t really all that big, geographically speaking – Joshua attended Bible college for a semester in Italy, and we drove there to bring him home afterward, it took us just a day’s drive – maybe 8 hours. Maybe news in the US just hasn’t shown enough of what has happened in Italy, and now Spain, France, etc… – but no one here is questioning how deadly serious this virus is. I’ll get off my soapbox now, but please, stay home if you can.

Like others, I’ve been clinging to the good, and there has been much to be heartily thankful for. I remain in awe at the timing of that sudden trip I made to see our kids in the US, coming home just weeks before borders closed and flights stopped. In the midst of my minor-surgery visits I also had my annual check-up with my regular Dr. and repeated the tests and blood work from last spring that began last year’s health changes.  This time, after all those changes, I had the best blood work she’s ever seen from me, my insulin levels are ‘healthy/normal’, and I was told to keep doing what I’m doing. It was such encouraging news and at a much-needed time! I have also, often, been thankful for where all my favorite people are in their lives. They are all not alone right now, in these uncertain times – our two newlywed kids have their awesome spouses, but beyond that, Joshua is in a house with two great roommates and my sister got engaged to her Daniel just back in January. My brother Noah and his family are in South Korea, and while they experienced safety measures before anyone else I knew, I have great peace now that they’re in a country that handled things so very well. We’re in touch with Norbi’s family here in Hungary, they’re all staying home and are well, we even managed a short visit to his mom for her birthday just before quarantine in March. My parents and brother Zac’s family in Maine are all well – in short, I’m staying focused on those good, good things.

It’s also spring, my favorite season, and I’ve stopped and breathed deep under blossoming trees and we did one non-grocery-store trip two week ago – to a garden center, and I now have some flower boxes full of growing happiness. Spring always reminds me how seasons change, and things that seem dead and depressing can suddenly ‘spring’ back to life – tangible evidence of God’s Faithfulness and Goodness. May you all find those Good Things in your life right now too, stay home as much as you can, and find me on Facebook a bit too often…