Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 7: May 4-10

On May 1st Yolo County extended the shelter-in-place order that started in on March 18th:

Some of the county is opening up, with certain outdoor activities such as golf and archery now permitted. Drive-in religious services are also open as of May 4th. 

Lori and I have been posting a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.

This is week 7 of the lockdown.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Wonder Woman I Knew–A Mother’s Day Poem (Lori)

I will start with Beauty,
You always were that to me—
Green eyes, copper hair, and long flowing dresses,
The color of your lipstick and faint smell of hairspray,
Fill my early childhood memories with good things. 

Then there was the test of Strength, 
Mom, you got really sick. 
The doctors couldn’t figure it out, 
Some even believed you made it all up;
But we found a doctor who helped us understand 
As you lived with a chronic health condition for many years. 
You kept on going, living your life and in that resilience
Found a way to help others with similar conditions. 

Ohh my dear mother, you were the Love. 
I rarely had reason to doubt it. 
You were constantly by my side, 
Through every up and down I faced.
In my teen years you showed me that 
Love must sometimes be tough, 
But always believes and hopes for the best,
In me—your only child. 

The Grace and dignity you showed,
You extended it to many others. 
No one was excluded from your circle 
Of friendship and loyalty. 
You laughed with others in times of joy,
You held the hand of a friend suffering from terminal cancer. 
You taught me how to connect with people in meaningful ways. 

I speak the Truth,
I testify,
To these things that you were and still are, 
Even though you have left this earth. 
You never wore a cape or carried a lasso, 
But you were a wonderful woman,
A Wonder Woman to me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Quarantine Nail Party (Lori)

Those who keep in touch with me on social media know I enjoy giving myself manicures. Manicures (and occasionally pedicures) are fulfilling to me in two ways: self-care and to show my creative side.  I am happy to share my most recent manicure in this entry. 

Why nail polish? Isn’t it sticky, smelly, time-consuming, and troublesome? If I am being completely honest, it is all of those things. If you can pull off the perfect at-home manicure, it seems to start chipping or peeling off as soon as you get it done.

Why bother? 

My struggle with anxiety began in childhood. I made a friend in elementary school who lived across the street from me for a few years. She and I became close friends almost right away. We had a lot of common ground—similar interests, of course—but namely we both found our home lives somewhat stressful. She had two older sisters and they were all within three years apart in age.

So, when I went over to play Barbies at her house, there was a lot of slamming doors and yelling between sisters. Over at my house, we watched TV in a home where a chilly silence had taken over. My family members avoided each other either physically and/or emotionally and I had no siblings.

We both struggled with anxiety—and both bit our fingernails hard and deep. Sometimes my nails would bleed and I needed to use band-aids. 

My friend and I shared some kind of deep understanding of our own personal struggles—not something nine and ten-year-olds are able to articulate but we could sense the feeling of deep camaraderie between the two of us. It seemed okay to bite my fingernails and I knew someone else who did the same thing, so why not? It relieved a lot of anxiety for me. 

When I started getting negative comments about my nails from family members and classmates at school, then I knew something was wrong. All the other kids in my class seemed to have short, evenly clipped fingernails. Not jagged, torn nails like mine or my friend’s nails. With my friend learning in a different classroom the next year at school, it gave me the space to consider how I could stop this habit. What could I do?

We both struggled with anxiety—and both bit our fingernails hard and deep.

Sometimes my nails would bleed and I needed to use band-aids. 

Enter the new girl into my classroom in the middle of that school year. She had short blonde, curly hair, an infectious laugh, easygoing manner and wore light blue nail polish. With glitter in it. Wow! I was completely enraptured by this.

I had seen my grandmother wear clear nail polish and my mom—on occasion for a fancy dinner—wear a pale pink color. I didn’t even know this light blue glittery color existed. I made friends with the new girl at lunch that day and I when I went home after school, all I could think about was that nail polish. I had to get myself invited to her house and grow my nails out long enough to paint them with the coveted color.

It took about three weeks of cold-turkey no-nail-biting resolve, but I finally had baby stubs for nails. And sure enough, she invited me over to play one afternoon and I polished my nails a glittery baby blue. I never bit my nails on a regular basis again. 

I decided to give myself another quarantine manicure two days ago. My last one chipped after doing lots of dishes, so I decided to start over. The main color is “Storm” by Zoya. It’s a black nail polish with flecks of multi-colored glitter in it.

I looked off and on for this nail color for a few years and finally found it at a local store. It reminds me of this uncertain time we are going through with the pandemic—sort of like a storm on the sea or in the sky. It suddenly comes and goes without warning. It is dark but there are glimpses of light and brightness during storms. That gives me hope.

The bright pink color on the accent nail is from China Glaze, a nail polish brand that I love. I didn’t realize it was from the Sesame Street collection they have until after I purchased the polish. Well, Sesame Street was born the same year I was and the color is named, “Fur Real Though.” It’s a happy color and I also have some daisies and miniature roses that are blooming in my garden in the same vibrant hue. 

I hope you have found some activities during this time of shelter-in-place that are fun and meaningful to you. And maybe after this is all over, I’ll put my 50+ bottles of nail polish on display. You can come over and borrow a bottle or two!

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Illusion of Control (Howard)

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to control my environment and future. I attribute this neurotic personality trait to what felt like a chaotic upbringing. Outside of my home I experienced bullying for being Chinese and having a visible skin disease. Inside the home I felt unsafe for reasons I won’t go into detail here.

The chaos from without seeped into my heart in a way that led me to feel insecure and anxious within. The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown are showing me how far I’ve come, but also how much I struggle with control issues.

A Child Needing Order in Chaos

As I entered my teenage years I began to make more decisions for myself. I naturally sought to limit uncertain outcomes and surprises. Of course, I couldn’t control everything so I focused on a few areas.

I became a straight-A student, preparing tirelessly so I could do the best on the exam. I avoided awkward social situations. I stayed out as long as I could each day, mainly going home to sleep and shower.

The chaos from without seeped into my heart in a way that led me to feel insecure and anxious within.

In college I took classes designed to my academic strengths. I sidestepped courses that required oral presentations or long papers, opting for problem sets. This way I could minimize the ambiguity of subjective grading. Even though my psoriasis spread out of control, I diligently treated it everyday according to what my doctor prescribed. At least that much I could control.

Addressing a Lack of Control

At various stages of my life I’ve continued to try to control my environment and outcomes. I finally asked a therapist whom I saw in 2011 for about two months for a major depressive episode why I felt so angry and anxious about what I could not control.

He helped me see the ineffective ways I coped with the insecurity and fears in my heart. Some negative habits I could attribute to poor coping skills. But my strong drive to control outcomes and avoid risky situations appeared to directly correlate with my internal struggles.

A great example of my need for control came up in a therapy session. I planned to join my mentor on a trip to the UK to explore starting a project there. So much was out of my control: would I travel well alone; would my skin hold up on an international trip; would I adapt to a new culture (a car almost hit me on a country road when I looked the wrong way before crossing); would I speak well; etc.

[My therapist] helped me see the ineffective ways I coped with the insecurity and fears in my heart.

I wanted to know how to best approach this anxiety inducing situation. He told me I needed courage and faith.

Courage and Faith

As I look back on an incredible and productive trip to England a decade ago, I’m struck with how right my therapist was. I tend to shrink in fear when I enter a situation with as much ambiguity and variability. But facing it with the courage that God gives, an expression of faith really, I made it through that passage in much better shape.

In the coronavirus pandemic I’m once again faced with so many uncertainties about health, future plans, and family (Lydia took a Covid-19 test this week; we’re awaiting results). Once again I sense the need to call up the courage that comes through faith in an awesome God to face down these giants.

It’s a daily struggle, and I am genuinely fatigued like so many others with lockdown measures and fears of getting sick with Covid-19. Just a reminder to take life moment-by-moment as the veil that is the illusion of control is ripped off by this virus.

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 4: April 13-19

On March 19, 2020 California Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:

Recently both the county and state extended the lockdown to May 1st. With the president and governors talking about opening up the economy again, there is hope this lockdown will end soon.

Until then, Lori and I plan to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.

This is week 4 of the lockdown.

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Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 3: April 6-12

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 5: April 20-26

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Family Connections During the Lockdown

I’m amazed at how well the family is able to stick together during the lockdown despite the distance between us. With children in two different places, and grandparents also in two different locations, it takes effort and persistence to connect. But we do in so many valuable ways.

I especially felt blessed by last week’s Easter Service over FaceTime. The girls led songs while I guided us through readings from John 20 and Matthew 28. During the discussion on fear and faith over Mark 8 everyone participated in sharing their thoughts and personal application.

Today’s interactions showed me just how dynamic and fun family chats and calls can be.

This afternoon Lydia forwarded to the family photos of my parents wearing the masks she made for them. Of course Ye Ye and Nai Nai are thrilled at their granddaughter’s ingenuity and love.

The photo of my parents inspired me to call them. I talked to my dad, George, for almost forty-five minutes. Somehow we started talking about the tenth anniversary of his retirement this month and memories from his time working. We also discussed the recent lockdown protests in his town, Huntington Beach, and how we’re managing staying at home.

Later, Lydia and I exchanged blogs for each other to edit. She worked faster than I, although her writing carried much more depth than mine. I edited my blog before posting the draft in the WordPress account.

Lori and I spent some time in the backyard during a perfect afternoon. We first roasted coffee together (which I summarily dumped on the concrete while cooling them), and placed garden lights around the pathway. In the early evening we cooked dinner together–a new pasta recipe.

Before eating Tim and I played some Pokémon Go (well I played and he coached me in battle league). He then turned on the Nintendo Switch to play Animal Crossing. Our dinner music included songs from K.K. Slider (it’s Saturday Tim reminded me when K.K. takes requests). He asked me if I had any songs for K.K. to play, and I just stared blankly at him.

I don’t always take note of these interactions among family members, but today it struck me how we can still be a close family despite the staying-at-home in different places.

Of course, I still prefer times we can all be in the same location. Hopefully one day soon (Memorial Day? Earlier?) we’ll be able to gather together for dinner around the table partaking a meal and catching each other up on the latest.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Fleeting Nature of Life–Psalm 39 (Howard)

I chatted about dying from Covid-19 with a friend during an interaction I had early in the coronavirus lockdown. I had delayed processing the possibility of dying from the virus. They, however, could say with confidence that their life is in God’s hands.

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Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 3: April 6-12

On Thursday, March 18, Yolo County, CA instituted a shelter-in-place order to begin the next day until April 7th. Here’s a tweet where I marked the event.

On that same day the Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:

Recently both the county and state extended the lockdown to May 1st, and it could be even longer. I plan to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Happy Good Friday. Here’s a tweet with a link to a message I shared in 2017 at Davis Chinese Christian Church:

Dr. Francis Collins Prayers from Science and Faith in Pandemic Times

Dr. Francis Collins, the current NIH Director, gave an interview on a webcast Monday. In Science and Faith in Pandemic Times, Collins provided timely information on the coronavirus pandemic. About half way in he begins to address matters of faith.

Near the end, he shared what he is praying for. Lori and I have used his thoughts for our own prayer times, which I share here.

  1. Healthcare providers who are putting themselves in harms way and many quarantined from their families.
  2. Families who have lost jobs and are in severe economic distress.
  3. Researchers working night and day to come up with a treatment and vaccine to save lives.
  4. Church, that this would be a time where church fellowship can provide spiritual nurture.
  5. Myself, that I would understand something about myself and learn from it. Joshua 1:9 to be strong and courageous, and not to grow weary.

How are you praying during the pandemic? Is it difficult to pray in the face of so much tragedy?

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Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 4: April 13-19

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Week 5: April 20-26

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Creative Art During the Covid-19 Outbreak (Lori)

Recently, I recalled a creative exercise I did with a small group last summer. I was looking for a way to incorporate an artistic element into reading an excerpt from the Bible.

Although I’m not the best at drawing or painting, I modified the exercise for myself so that I could enjoy it and remember what part of the reading impacted me. I repeated the exercise during this pandemic—it’s the same reading from the Bible: Psalms 1. Using leftover scrapbook pages, I created the background and banner that I wanted.

In the future, I feel depicting Spring in full bloom will remind me when the coronavirus outbreak happened. I have confidence that I will look back on this unusual time in my life and remember how my faith in God sustained me like a tree planted by streams of water.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Treating My Lungs While Not Worsening My Skin (Howard)

One of my biggest concerns during the lockdown is needing to go to the medical clinic or hospital. I want to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus if at all possible. That even means having groceries from Costco delivered to our house where we disinfect before putting them away in the kitchen.

It especially means avoiding medical facilities.

Two weeks ago my breathing became quite labored. As the tree pollen counts elevated, my asthma flared. I needed the rescue inhaler two to three times a day. The steroid inhaler couldn’t control my asthma any longer. With Covid-19 attacking the lungs, I desperately wanted my breathing to improve just in case.

I then remembered asking my primary care doctor for a stronger asthma inhaler last June. Fortunately, I stored the filled prescription in my drawer for the combination steroid powder inhaler. It took about five days after starting treatment before I could breathe easily without the rescue inhaler.

In the back of my mind I wondered if the inhaler photosensitizes my skin. I still use ultraviolet light treatments at home to mainly control my atopic dermatitis. I didn’t want to create a new problem when solving another.

My skin slightly burned from the first phototherapy treatment after starting the new inhaler. I backed down the dose about a third for the next treatment. Again my skin burned. And again the next time. I concluded that the asthma medication photosensitizes my skin.

In the back of my mind I wondered if the inhaler photosensitizes my skin. I didn’t want to create a new problem when solving another.

I’m taking a break from phototherapy for a few days to let my skin recover. I don’t want to stop my asthma medication since it’s working so well. I’ll try to step down my dose even more to see if I can still control the rashes on my skin on half or less of the dose I used before.

I’ve missed my dermatology check-up appointment already due to the pandemic. Good thing my doctors are quick to reply to messages. Hopefully, I can control my asthma and eczema without the need to see them in person.

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