On Collaboration and COVID-19

In the midst of COVID, children are being homeschooled now when they have never been homeschooled before. Teachers have jumped in to volunteer. More and more often, domestic violence calls have doubled to the police. In some areas the police are not answering their phones.

What I see here is a need for collaboration, for communities that already exist online – because really, who isn’t online – to reach out to one another, to look out for each other.

It’s being aware of the world, your neighbor, and yourself.

I think we could all use a little Mr. Rodgers right now.

Simple Vegan Meals for the Coronapocalypse: Lemon Rosemary Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes with text above saying "gourmet simple"

Bear and I have the beginnings of a traditional European herb garden: marigold, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, and rosemary. He purchased the plants yesterday after we had both been dying to have a garden. Today he will purchase tomato plants to be more self-sufficient.

Before we began our herb garden, I had a collection of spices accrued throughout my college years and beyond. Between Bear and I, we created a formidable spice rack.

Bear and I are already rationing what we have to reduce waste and trips to the supermarket. We did not panic buy, so we do not have much. But we are both cooks. Thankfully, the little we have can be stretched very easily by the basics we keep and the spices we brought with us.

Today’s recipe was created with what was on hand at the time. Looking for a bag of mythical potatoes we supposedly had, we found they had been wastefully thrown away. However, we did find one sweet potato.

I don’t know about you, but there’s very few things I can eat straight and I was very hungry.

Here is my humble recipe.

Lemon Rosemary Sweet Potato

Works for regular potatoes too!

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato (or yukon, golden, idaho potato)
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • Juice of 1 whole lemon (the lemon juice that comes in bottles works too if you can’t find a lemon)

Directions

  1. Wash and scrub the sweet potato under hot water (no soap!)
  2. Place the potato on a microwaveable safe plate and hit the “Potato” button, or microwave for 5 minutes.
  3. Take the sweet potato out and slice it almost in half. Spread apart with the knife and score both sides.
  4. Douse both sides of the exposed sweet potato with the entirety of the lemon juice.
  5. Sprinkle the rosemary on both sides evenly until it is all used up.
  6. Enjoy!

This simple, fresh recipe has kind of a European flair to it. The lemon and rosemary pair perfectly together to create a sweet tang in your mouth.

Can’t say you can’t have gourmet cuisine with COVID!

Netflix Movie Review: Dumplin’

Movie Review of Dumplin' with rainbow background

Even before Coronavirus, I spent a lot of time inside having date night in with my husband due to my chronic illness. I watched Netflix’s Dumplin’ last night for the second time, and I must say, it was even more intricate than I had noticed the first time around.

Synopsis

Dumplin’ centers around Willowdean, a young troubled plus sized teenaged girl whose mother was a former beauty queen still stuck in that world. The movie begins after Willowdean’s aunt Lucy has died, who she says has raised her and her best friend Elle.

Willowdean grows up in a world that rejects her – the world “whale” is screamed at her in pools, on streets, and in the school hallways. One incident at school causes her to get suspended, and subsequently overthrow the patriarchal system of beauty by infiltrating her mother’s beauty pageant with her new oddball gang of misfits: another plus size girl who is multitalented, a non-binary goth, and her best friend Elle.

At the core of this movie is the spirit of Aunt Lucy and the love of Dolly Parton’s music she instilled in Willowdean and Elle. They form a sort of pair of fairy godmothers over the two girls and the entire movie. There is hardly any music in the soundtrack that isn’t a Dolly Parton song.

My Takeaways

Overall, this is a fun, fabulous, feel-good body-positive movie about a young teenager coming to grips with who she is and what that means.

My husband kept saying how Willowdean was messed up throughout the movie, and that was because she was growing up. She was a girl dealing with a lot of issues at home and at school. One of the reasons why he kept saying so was because of the interactions between her and the romantic lead – she kept rejecting his advances because she was led to believe no one could love her as she was in her plus size body.

I have struggled with this often, especially as someone who for all of my life was a size 0 and a former model, but developed hypothyroidism and became plus size myself. My husband calls me beautiful every day, and thank God for that, and I have a hard time accepting it. I had a hard time accepting compliments from men when I was thinner, too, because of the inner turmoil I hid inside.

This movie is not only a body positive movie, it is about the inner turmoil all women face when we realize we don’t like who we are or where we are. When we don’t like where we are, we are at odds with ourselves and our environment, and the same is true vice versa. These are the stories of all of the women, Willowdean’s mother included, in Dumplin’. I think any of us, male or female, has found ourselves there even at certain moments of our day.

To recap:

Who should watch this movie?

If you’ve ever felt like an outcast, alone, misunderstood, or listened to Dolly Parton, you’d probably love this movie.

Spoilers: If you’ve ever dressed in drag, you’d probably love it even more!

Handling Church Communications During COVID-19

For the past 10 years, I have been the Media Director for a small rural church that is somewhere between 119-120 years old. In American years, that’s super old for a church in the middle of nowhere away from the East and West coasts.

I began this volunteer position because my father is the preaching minister at this church, and a hobby of mine as a preteen and teen was learning HTML and CSS. I also enjoyed teaching myself graphic design and software tools for fun. Yes, I was a nerd. Before the days of YouTube I was on LiveJournal reading tutorials on how to use GIMP and Coral.

The church did not have a functional website, so one day in my senior year of high school, I simply decided I was going to build them one.

I have built 3 iterations of the website since, and they have all been progressively better. In addition to web building, I added on social media, which has been crucial to the church’s growth and sense of community.

So why am I talking about this and COVID?

Well, social distancing has forced pretty much everyone with a level head to quarantine. Worried about the future of the church, many churches have turned to live-streaming.

Now, all over the internet I have seen Christians bash churches going online, and I want to say, shame on you!

I am immune suppressed, and the majority of the congregation I serve is over 60 or under 2 years old – the most vulnerable populations. Never would I ever spit on wanting to keep any of these precious people safe in the pursuit of personal holiness, such as not being afraid of no virus!

Hello, there’s more than just you on this planet!

This attitude is what makes me afraid of living in the Bible belt, that my fellow Christians are going to kill everyone else off.

So, to go back to my congregation. We are less than 40 people in size, and most people are technology illiterate. The best can use Facebook and go to a website on their smartphones. Most don’t have laptops or a desktop. Many don’t have smartphones or email. The ones who do have Facebook have been posting wild conspiracy theories.

What too many churches and Christians I’ve seen online is that they take their technology for granted, as well as their urban and suburban settings. Not all churches have Twitter accounts, or laser shows, or a stereo setup in their buildings. Some flat out don’t want a few of those things.

I’d like to shed some light that the US is not the most technologically advanced country in the world. There are internet and cellular dead zones 45 minutes away from major cities – this is where the church I volunteer for is and where I grew up. People manage without it. Living there was like a time warp back 50 years, and when I moved away I hardly didn’t know what to do with myself.

Nowadays, rich folks have discovered the area, and things are slowly starting to change. But most of the people at the church are still technologically illiterate, although some of the newcomers work in IT.

My father’s question was, how do we keep the church together, how do we keep them uplifted, and how do we keep them safe while in quarantine?

We had never live-streamed before. Until about 2009 media wasn’t used at all during service – just a basic PowerPoint. The answer we knew was to livestream, however, we had to get the word out, and to convince the deacons of the church live-streaming was the answer.

After setting up and testing technology for a live-stream, my father successfully received approval from the deacons. Next was to communicate to the congregation what was going on.

We decided to use Zoom for our live-stream, because people without internet could phone in and listen to the service. That way, everyone was included. The rest of my team and I took to social media, Canva, and various word editors to create attractive, clear and concise graphics, letters, and emails to send out to the congregation. My mom called all 40 people in the congregation.

It’s been all hands on deck and none of us has gotten a break. This is to say, if your church is actively trying to communicate with you in any shape or form during the COVID quarantine, please be grateful to them. It isn’t easy on them, and they’d rather not be quarantined either – but we’re all in this together.

Wedding Regrets

With the onset of COVID-19, I’ve seen many distressed brides grieving the loss of their wedding dates. Some brides have been planning for over two years only to have their hard work and dreams wiped away. To you, I apologize for this post, and take consolation in my disappointments in my own wedding.

It’s hard to look at my wedding photos anymore because of wedding regrets. I have many, and my biggest golden kernel of advice to couples is this:

Never, never EVER let someone else pay for your wedding. Not if you’re marrying a trust funder, not if your parents are insisting, not if you can’t pay yourself. Save up your dollars and have an extended engagement, then use those cold hard Benjamins to have the wedding YOU want.

Why am I saying this?

When you pay for your own wedding, you have complete control over how the wedding goes on. If your mother or your in-laws are calling the shots because you’re too broke or you’re used to taking hand-outs from your rich parents, guess what, it’s technically their show.

My wedding was a nightmare. It was thrown together in 48 hours after my parents decided I was getting married a day early in their house, not at our friend’s venue, and our guest list was going from 80 to 20. Because of the short notice and that it was being held on a week night, none of my friends could get off work so they couldn’t come. It was me and my husband’s family, who I had issues with. There was no music, no dancing, no fun. This was the opposite of how I wanted it.

The door bell even rang as we had our first kiss.

Additionally, I was in pain the whole time, and my face looks horrible in pictures. It’s in a huge frown because of the physical and emotional discomfort I felt.

So, my parents insisted on paying for my wedding, and they forced me to jump ship on my already planned one for an emergency Bridezilla catastrophe because they held the purse strings.

So, what did I originally want?

I wanted to get married at Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World in the summer. My husband vetoed, saying his parents wouldn’t come to a theme park for a wedding. So my next step was to go the traditional route for my parent’s religion, and get married at our friend’s children’s camp. I tried to order catering from Freebirds, also vetoed by in-laws. I quickly realized I was going to have to miraculously turn beer into champagne on my meager budget.

I planned a country wedding at my parent’s behest and with their dollar. But I had been dreaming about a Disney wedding ever since I learned about them at age 13.

The Lesson?

Bear and I should have saved up money to go to Disney World, or some other place nearby. That way, we would have been in control.

If you’re unable to wait to get married on champagne tastes, or even beer tastes, please consider a court house. Halfway through wedding planning you’ll be dying to run to one anyhow.

But really, is there any such thing as being in complete control of your wedding?

Remember, wedding regrets are normal. But there’s a big way to avoid catastrophe wedding regrets: take the reins.

The best way to not have wedding regrets in the midst of COVID-19? Focus on the love of your life.

All in all, I do not regret getting married. There is a big difference between wedding and married. I had wanted to get weddinged in the summer, however, we all know this crazy coronavirus mess is going on right now and we don’t know when it’s going to end. I’m currently riding out the coronapocalypse with my sexy awesome husband who I love very much, and am extremely glad to have married! I just wish he could have been my official Prince Charming in Cinderella’s Castle, possibly in December when we had wed.

My Immunosuppressed Romance: Love In the Time of COVID-19

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With COVID-19 declared a pandemic, I became curious about it today. By curious, I mean panicked.

The reason I had been avoiding reading the news about it was to create an illusion that I’d be okay by creating ignorance. This is because I’m an immunosuppressed person, and have been so for about a year.

As an immunosuppressed person, I am among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 because of my fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. For those who have fibromyalgia and are unaware or unsure that fibromyalgia is immunosuppressed, due to prolonged high levels of inflammation, fibromyalgia does compromise your immune system, per The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan, MD.

Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, my husband frequently talked about it with me. Today I understood why – mainly because I was reading Dr. Liptan’s book – and joined in on the conversation more. No longer was I joining in on pointing disparaging fingers on social media. I was panicking inside… and a little bit out. However, I was cute about it.

My husband and I have some distance between us, and today he called me on the phone and immediately began talking about COVID-19. He spoke of how depressed he was about it, his fears for me. Then he asked me if I could come home this weekend.

My response?

“You know, with all this pandemic and my being immunosuppressed… at the end of the day I’m supposed to spend my life with somebody and that’s you. If all we have left is a short little while, I’m coming home to you immediately.”

I could hear him smile through the phone.

Earlier he expressed anxiety about my health in the midst of COVID-19, and proceeded to tell me:

“With the virus you’re better off staying in the country in one place hiding out like you’ve been doing. But yes, I do want to see you this weekend.”

Love in the time of cholera?

Try love in the time of COVID-19.

Bear and I are taking COVID-19 very seriously, as we plan to get me back home safely, but the fact that he cares so much makes dealing with the anxiety that much easier. It’s not safe to go alone.