Getting Back to “Normal”

Alberta Health has a phased-in approach to re-opening its economy after the Covid-19 lockdown. Last week my husband had his first haircut since March. I wasn’t going to attempt to cut his hair, both of us acknowledging my lack of prowess with handling scissors. So his hair sprouted with wild abandon over the last several weeks, and as soon as the barber shops reopened in our small town, he was one of the first to make an appointment.

He’s been the one out and about over these many weeks while I stayed at home. My cancer treatments last year left me with a compromised immunity, so I’m considered to be more vulnerable and at risk for complications if I should contract Covid-19. At least that’s what doctors tell me. So I’ve stayed home to stay safe and my kids and my husband have been diligently looking after my well-being.

I had thought once my second journey with cancer was over last year, and my energy started to rebound, I’d be able to return to some semblance of normalcy. Then Covid-19 hit. In some ways I have felt even more isolated, and vulnerable than when I battled cancer! In fact, when both my husband and I came down with a 24 hour bug a couple weeks ago, that had us both coughing and sneezing, I was convinced we were infected. It turned out to be allergies. Pre-Covid, we would never have given our symptoms much thought. However, now when we sneeze or have a mild headache, we get nervous. Paranoia is a terrible thing.

Normalcy, according to my husband is “a constant state of change”. Cancer last year, forced a new “normal” in my life as we adapted and accepted new realties. Our lives changed dramatically after my diagnosis. Plans changed. Daily schedules changed. My appearance changed. I am still dealing with the fall-out. (Did you catch my attempt at tongue in cheek humour there? 🤪) My chemo curls are just one of the many things I am adapting to in my new reality after cancer.

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced our country and the world to take extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, I can’t say I was particularly upset with the stay at home orders. In fact, in mid March, Alberta was still in the grips of winter, so it was like having an extended “snow day”. We curled up in front of cozy fires, binge-watched Star Trek episodes, and enjoyed the solitude. However, it wasn’t long before the endless snow days started to wear on us, so we did what everyone else was doing, we cleaned house! That led to days of sorting, organizing, and cleaning out closets, storage rooms, and garage. It was satisfying and productive work, but only kept us occupied a couple more weeks, and then we were looking for other distractions to pass the time. In the midst of all this, I felt an almost overwhelming sadness being separated from my children and grandchildren. I am blessed all my children live only minutes away from me, but that only accentuated the separation from them more. To be so close to them, and yet unable to be physically anywhere near them broke my heart.

I have come to abhor the term “social/physical distancing”. When it was first defined at the start of this pandemic, I thought it a necessary protocol to help prevent the spread of the virus, however it has now developed into a societal fear of proximity to people in general that I believe will have far-reaching implications long after Covid-19 is gone. Cases in point: my daughter recently got into an unpleasant verbal exchange with a lady in Walmart who yelled at her for being in the same aisle as her. The lady was determined no one could be in the same aisle with her. I guess she needed way more than the 2 metre distancing to feel safe. My sister-in-law was accused of stalking a lady because my sister-in-law happened to be following her around a store, while maintaining distance, but still needing to follow designated arrows to move about in the proper direction. Basically this offended the lady who didn’t like this “follow-the-leader” approach to grocery shopping. My husband has had several encounters with people who looked panicked if he happened to pass them even with the 2 metre distancing between them strictly adhered to. Breathing the same airspace seems to rattle people! It’s not unusual for people out for a walk to cross the street to avoid getting close to anyone else. It just saddens me to see fear in people’s eyes rather than a friendly smile of greeting.

I am concerned that physical distancing will be our new normal now, not because we need to, but because Covid-19 has made us fearful of having any human contact whatsoever. We will become a touch less society, where individuals will go to great lengths to avoid one another. We already interact with one another so much through technology, will conversing through social media, and video conferencing be even more prolific and more acceptable in our post-Covid world? Will that become our new normal rather than in-person, face-to-face interactions? Oh, I hope not!

I honestly don’t know what “normal” will look like in the next few weeks and months. Everything has changed in such a short amount of time, and it keeps changing almost daily. We have had to adapt to all the new health protocols. Businesses have had to change how they do business. Travel restrictions and safety protocols will affect future travel plans. Education and teaching will have to be modified to accommodate student’s needs in a post-Covid world. Churches and their leadership will have to adapt to the new challenges of ministering to people who may fear congregating together even after the pandemic is over.

It may interest those from outside of Alberta to read the current protocols churches must follow here in this province. (See Alberta health protocols for churches.) Take special note that we cannot congregate in groups larger than 50 people, children are not to attend kid’s church or be in nurseries, and there are to be hand washing stations, as well as numerous other safety rules we must follow in order to meet in our church buildings. We can’t perform Baptisms, take communion (Lord’s Supper), or participate in congregational singing at this present time. Oh, and no sharing of food! As a Baptist, the idea of no potlucks is truly discouraging. 😁

Seriously though, this is our current reality. It’s a whole new normal, and it takes some getting used to.

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Today is the 1st year anniversary of my surgery that marked the beginning of my battle with endometrial cancer last year. It was a hard fought battle I documented on Journey Thoughts last year. I still have a few nagging chemo and radiation side effects, but for the most part I’m pretty much back to my “old” self and today I celebrate this anniversary praising God for restoring me to full health. God is good!

When I was diagnosed for the second time with cancer, I cried out, “Why me?” I had battled breast cancer in 2001 and I wondered why I was plagued with cancer again. I questioned why God would allow this to happen to me again. What was His purpose in this? I didn’t blame Him for my circumstance but I certainly wondered what He was doing in the midst of it. I knew He was going to use this second bout with cancer to challenge my faith. Could I praise and continue to trust Him, have joy and peace throughout another out-of-control situation? Would I be able to say I had complete trust in Him throughout the experience? Looking back over all my blog postings last year, I can answer with a resounding “YES!”

It was a hard year, to be sure, but God showed Himself to be faithful and trustworthy every step of the way. I am so thankful to have gone through that experience with Him!

A month ago, I received results from genetic testing I had done in December 2019 to see if there was a genetic reason for my two cancer diagnoses. I was surprised to learn, I did not have the breast cancer or uterine cancer genes. It’s good news for my two daughters because they have a lesser risk of developing those two types of cancer since there’s not a genetic link. That said, it’s still not a guarantee they might not be diagnosed in the future. After all, as the doctors kept saying, it was just dumb “luck” I got cancer not once, but twice! We don’t have a clear medical explanation why. I just pray I won’t have any more “luck” like that ever again!

So, now we are in the season of Covid-19. I was looking forward to spending time this summer with family and friends and enjoying activities I missed out on last year when I went through cancer treatments. It was my plan to travel, to camp, to enjoy my kids and grandbabies every chance I got. Unfortunately, for the last nine weeks my plans, as well as everyone else’s in the world have changed. The world may never be the same again, and I’m still working through that, trying to decide if that’s a good thing or not. God is teaching me so much while I am confined to home. I still have what my oncologists say is a compromised immunity. I have to take extra precautions to isolate myself away from others to protect myself from getting Covid-19. My husband does all the shopping, and I don’t venture out much. I miss spending time with family and friends. We interact and stay connected through phone calls and video conferencing. It is not the same as face-to-face conversations, and I crave their hugs!

So many plans have changed due to Covid-19, the major one being my daughter’s upcoming wedding in July. A few months ago, I prayed for my hair to be long enough to be coiffed for her big day. It seems such a minuscule worry compared to what we are facing nowadays. She and her fiancé have been forced to cancel the ceremony and reception, in favour of eloping on what would have been their planned wedding day. Instead of one hundred guests, they are only allowed fifteen according to our province’s Covid protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. We honestly don’t have any clear idea how we will celebrate the day. Covid health protocols prevent or limit how we may gather together to witness their nuptials. Please pray for Carmen and Jack, and our families, as we readjust our plans, modifying as we go, while we still face so much uncertainty about how to do life during this season of Covid-19.

Alberta is scheduled to start re-opening the economy tomorrow after a nine week provincial shutdown due to the global pandemic. So much has changed, it’s hard to fathom this new reality, this new “normal” of life in this ongoing season of Covid. It has been so challenging and yet, one thing I’m absolutely 100% certain about is that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and He will guide us every step of the way through these days, weeks and months ahead. I have grown closer to God in this time. I spend a concerted amount of time praying and being in His Word. I find solace there. I am sure there will be many “God Stories” to be told and re-told post Covid.

Today, however, I’m alone at home, and blogging. I rejoice that I can celebrate my one year anniversary free of cancer, and I give thanks to God! Life is good!

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Keep Your Hats On, Alberta!

Even before this global pandemic hit, Alberta was struggling economically. An oil-rich province hit hard by falling oil prices, the ensuing domino effect has thrown our economy into a tail spin. My husband, an oil executive, has faced job upheavals for years. People we know have lost their livelihoods, to be sure, not one Albertan has not felt the impact of this oil downturn in some way or another. The Covid-19 crises just adds to the economic chaos here.

When the Calgary Stampede was cancelled last week due to Covid-19, it was “a punch in the gut…” to all Calgarians. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth brings in millions of tourism dollars each year. The annual celebration, that includes a million dollar rodeo, chuck wagon races, a midway, a world-class grandstand show and a multitude of other spectator events, has survived two world wars, and a devastating flood in 2013, but Covid has finally forced it all to be reined in.  With its cancellation, other large festivals and events province-wide have also been cancelled.  The domino effect rides again and hurts the entire province and all Albertans!

My parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1952 and settled in Calgary. I was a baby when I went to my first Stampede. Some of my fondest childhood memories is seeing the parades, and being absolutely fascinated by the horses, cowboys and cowgirls, as well as the colourful pageantry of the First Nations peoples in full regalia. I remember my first straw cowboy hat, red in colour, with a little white, plastic whistle tied onto the end of the chin cord. Going to the Calgary Stampede meant we all had to dress western, and I loved my cowboy hat, boots, and the little fringed leather vest I wore on parade days.

When my kids were young, we would try to go to the parade each year, and spend at least one day of the ten day event taking in the Calgary Stampede. Over these past few years, our grandchildren have accompanied us. We are four generations of Stampeders!  Stampede 2020 was on our calendar this year, but Covid-19 robbed us of yet another event we were looking forward to attending this summer.

The other day my husband and I decided to go for a long drive just to get out of the house. We’ve been in isolation mode over eight weeks. We’ve followed all the recommended health protocols. We have stayed home, but stayed connected through online means with family and friends. I haven’t hugged on my kids or grandbabies since March 14th, and my arms ache to hold them. Going for drives, especially when there is little else to break up the long days, is a welcome distraction. On our way home, we drove by Stampede Park and I noticed a neon sign flashing, “Keep Your Hats On, Calgary!” It was supposed to encourage those who are disappointed by this year’s cancellation, and to look towards next year’s Stampede to be even bigger and better.  I turned to my husband and said, “Everyone in Alberta should keep their hats on! The whole province has been through so much!”

I thought about the dear people in Fort McMurray, whose community is being threatened again with another disaster.  Four years ago it was a wild fire, this week a devastating flood.  I thought about falling oil prices, pipelines that still need to be built, the ramifications to family and friends when the oil sector collapsed.  Floods, fires, and a myriad of economic disasters, Alberta has faced its share of challenges.  Finally, this deadly corona virus threatens us all.  I wonder if our world will ever be the same again. 

When we got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of “keeping hats on”.  At a time when there is so much to bring us down, I thought I would go ahead and wear my cowboy hat anyway over those days in July that would have been Stampede “week”.  I was sure I could get my family and even some friends to join in the fun too.  Then it struck me that perhaps many more people might do the same as a way to encourage one another.  The idea blossomed into my imagining every Calgarian might want to wear their cowboy hats on the days that the Calgary Stampede would have been held: July 3rd – July 12th.  Then, I thought about the entire province joining in.  It would be a way to show our Stampede spirit, province-wide.  Yes, I’ve even thought all of Canada could join in the fun!

I went online to see if anyone else had come up with the same idea, but was astonishingly surprised when search results came up empty. So, I prayed, asking God if I should just pose the idea out on social media and see if it catches some interest.

I have had great feedback!  So, I invite all my readers, whether Albertan or not, to join my Facebook and Instagram groups and wear a cowboy hat whenever you’re out and about July 3rd – 12th, 2020. Wearing your hat will greatly encourage all of us here in Alberta and unite us all in the Stampede spirit!

Facebook Group: Keep Your Hats On Alberta!

Instagram: @hatsonalberta

Use the hashtag: #keepyourhatsonalberta


Posted in Canadiana, Family Life, Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment