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faith in a pandemic

Faith in a Pandemic

On the second week of March, Tara Hurley and her family did something that now seems strange to our sequestered world: she walked into a restaurant, sat down, and ordered food to celebrate her birthday.

The restaurant was The Cheesecake Factory, a natural choice for a family with little kids. The chain restaurant is heavy with options — “Glamburgers” live alongside a kid’s grilled salmon in a spiral notebook-like menu. 

Tara turned 34 on the last day in the free world before her suburban Los Angeles neighborhood shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Pasta Da Vinci arrived, but the birthday girl’s attention floated past her family to the quiet restaurant and the edgy waitstaff. Uncertainty clung to the air in the days before city officials issued stay-at-home orders, but on that day there was cake and a bowl of pasta swimming in wine sauce.

“That would probably taste so good right now,” said Tara, pronounced Tar-ah, like her Irish parents, Emer and Niall O’Mahony, do.

It’s been almost two months now of staying at home, right? Who can keep track? The days blur into each other like an endless ballad on repeat.

Tara is tall, slender, with light cerulean eyes. She is the kind of mom who dresses up all four of her kids — Mary, 8; Rose, 6; Finn, 3; and Cora, 1 — in their finest clothes for an Easter celebration at home to keep some sense of normalcy in a world turned upside down by the Coronavirus outbreak. They made prime rib and had an egg hunt — just Tara, her husband, Patrick, and their kids. 

faith in a pandemic

Tara watches Mass in her living room with her children. Quarantine has brought on introspection about her faith.

For Tara, this time of sheltering-in-place has brought on introspection about her faith. She is a practicing Catholic, who has always leaned into her religion for inspiration and comfort. In her childhood bedroom in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, she painted a wall with a portrait of Jesus.

Her faith shapes her kindness. Or is it the other way around? Once when Tara was about 9 years old, their family hosted a yard sale to purge the house of accumulated stuff. Tara sold some of her toys and stuffed animals for $7, which she then put in her church’s Sunday collection. 

“That shamed me into donating the $300 we made at the yard sale into the collection also,” said Emer, her mother.

As a mother herself now, Tara always reserved Sundays before the pandemic for church. It was never easy to get four little kids ready and quiet for service. Often, it bordered on chaos, but the Hurley family always made it to a pew. 

Now her church doors, which were always open to welcome the weary, were locked. No large physical gatherings meant no sacrament of the Eucharist. No squirming Hurley kids to hug and cajole in their pew.

Their church was empty, and it unsettled Tara emotionally in many ways.

“Making sure I am able to feed my children spiritually is so scary to me,” she said. “How can I give them this on top of everything else?”

Los Angeles’ lockdown came amid Lent. For Catholics, it is a time of waiting and penitence as a solemn observation of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. So for Tara, it seemed appropriate to ask her family to cancel any plans that would take them outside of their home. The way she saw it, they were being called upon to make sacrifices. But when Easter came, joy was tempered with a new reality: lockdown orders were still in place. The churches were still closed.

“It was really hard,” said Tara. “I am struggling with that every day, but not letting that drag me down.”

That Easter Sunday, the rain fell steadily. The Hurley family watched Mass online. Their oldest daughter, Mary, had a classmate with a birthday, so as with the fashion in a pandemic, a celebratory drive-by parade was planned. The parade is a new, tenuous tradition that has a razor’s edge rate of success. Often it teeters on awkward, especially when it rains and the birthday girl stands in her driveway dressed in her best, unsure of what to do.

Especially when the Hurley kids made signs to flutter out the windows of their car to bring light to this little girl’s life, only to find out halfway to their destination that the signs were left at home.

Tara is only human.

“I’m like ‘Are you kidding me? It’s the one thing that we could do!’”

So they found some American flags inside the car. Okay, just stick them out the window, she told them. It will be fine. And it was, for the most part. But it made Tara again think about her faith and her resolve, beyond anything else, to make this time a positive experience for the kids.

“I feel I am being stripped down and I can’t control what I used to be able to control. How do I operate now? The lesson is to be present. It’s here and it’s now. I can’t control more than just right now.”

faith in a pandemic

All six members of the Hurley family are sheltered in place in a snug suburban home with a muddy front yard paradise.

The Hurley’s “right now” looks, well, a little cramped. All six people are sheltering in place in a two-bedroom house, about 800 square feet. It was supposed to be a 2-year house, but then 7 years yawned by. And on any given day, a walk down their street will stop any pedestrian in front of their yellow house to drink in the energy of love pouring through the windows. And the laughter. There is so much laughter.

Patrick, an audio supervisor and technician in the television industry, is an even-keeled California boy, according to Tara. He’s like the doldrums of the ocean with no wind or waves. Pandemic? Meh. No problem. Nearby, Tara storms, her waves of emotion crash on top of each other.

Recently, the Hurleys have welcomed bedtime with a reading of “On The Banks of Plum Creek,” one in a series of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s novels about a pioneering family putting down roots in a new world. In the story, a storm of locust decimate the family’s crop, but the father carries on in the face of adversity. He just finds a way to be a steady, protective force for his family. For Tara, there are many parallels between the book and real life in a pandemic.

Bedtime reading of “On The Banks of Plum Creek.” For Tara, there are many parallels between the book and real life in a pandemic.

“As parents we have an added responsibility to shape the memory of this for our kids in a way that is not all negative and scary,” she said with optimism seemingly unrattled by all the uncertainty.

It’s a quality born into their daughter, said Emer. One Halloween, little Tara wanted to dress as a smiley face in hope that her yellow outfit with the smile painted on the back would be contagious.

It’s probably the only thing the world needs to catch right now.

In the snug Hurley house, all the togetherness and time has grown something unexpected in Tara — patience to listen to all sides of conflict between the kids and truly empathize. She is letting their feelings air out, unfettered by time or her own emotions. It’s something she hopes she can hold onto when the world returns to normal.

“All of this time to spend with the kids is such a cool unique gift to be given right now,” she said. “How can we make it a good memory and not think back and say, ‘Man, that was awful?’”

Just as Tara says that, Mary opens her bedroom window facing the back patio and giggles at her mother.

“Go to bed! I will be in in a minute to kiss you,” Tara calls out to her.

“Oh boy. Hooligans,” Tara laughs before disappearing into the night for snuggles and goodnight kisses.

 

Should you or someone you know be featured in “Parenting in a Pandemic”? Send details to llgrigsby@gmail.com

Easy Chocolate Chip Scones

Easy Chocolate Chip Scones

I said I am not wasting resources baking. What did I mean by that? It means I still have bread so I’m not going to bake any until I run out of the bread I have in my fridge. If I run out. Let’s hope I don’t because the only loaf I know how to make is super basic so it won’t look impressive on Instagram. So this week is easy chocolate chip scones because I have been making these for 25 years and I can make them on autopilot.

I do not roll them out and cut them into pretty rounds. I scoop them up with a spoon and plop them down onto a cookie sheet. I do measure the amount of dough that goes into each scone but that is because I want them all cooked exactly the same and I don’t want to waste any dough. 

You do not have to put chocolate chips in these. You can put currants or dried cranberries or blueberries or orange zest or whatever you want. Or make them plain but if you do that you might want to roll them out and cut them into rounds so you can slather them with butter and/or jam.

Give me a minute, I have to go get the recipe off the corkboard in the kitchen.

By the way, here’s what the corkboard in my kitchen looks like. It’s practically empty now that all the school notices are gone. 

Easy Chocolate Chip Scones

You will need:

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt (the smaller the grain the better)

½ cup sugar

8 tablespoons COLD butter, cut up into cubes

⅔ cup milk (whole and half are okay, I have never used nonfat or nondairy so I don’t know how it will work)

1 cup chocolate chips

What to do:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees then line baking sheet with parchment paper or one of those silicone mats or nothing. It’s up to you. Please don’t use wax paper, it is coated in paraffin wax which is highly flammable.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. 
  • Now, this can be tricky. If you have a food processor you might want to make this like a pie crust. Put the dry ingredients in the bowl of the food processor, whir them up then drop in the butter pieces. I don’t have a food processor so I put the cold cut up butter in with the dry ingredients and then using my hands, rub the butter into the flour until it’s like dampish sand.
  • Add the milk and chocolate chips or whatever else you want to add and mix. I keep using my hands to bring it all together because by now, why not? My hands are a mess.
  • Portion out into 60-63 gram drops, like in drop biscuits, by dropping spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. You can roll the dough out and use a round cutter, that works very nicely as well.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, let cool then hoard them all for yourself.
Quarantine

Caregiving During Quarantine

Our world has been upended. Navigating empty store shelves, parsing quarantine orders, figuring out how to homeschool without ruining my children’s already shaky attachment to learning…We’re all trying to figure out our new lives and how to safely care for our loved ones. One thing is clear, our work as caregivers and mothers has never been more important. 

Much of our mental and physical work has shifted to discovering best practices regarding how to provide for and protect the ones we love. And yet the laundry still has to be done, dishes washed, dogs walked and cats peeled off furniture. 

Here are some ways we know Tend can help you with your own caregiving during quarantine journey:

Maintain Order: Tend can help you to remember that some parts of our lives are still normal; the laundry, the dishes, putting our kids to bed and waking them each day. These small, ordinary tasks connect us to our first principles, that we want our children to be clean, fed and asleep.  

Remember: Tracking gives you an opportunity to look back on these days and remember what they looked like after life returns to whatever the new normal will be. 

Journaling: The Tend journal is a safe space just for you, to vent openly and freely and to check in on your mental health.

Prioritize: Make sure you’re still devoting time to self-care, personal development, and your relationship in whatever way feels right to you.

Tackle Big To-Dos: Tend allows you to add custom tasks to your to-do list, so you make sure you’re allocating time to start that book list you put together in January, clean out the garage or teach yourself a new language. Let’s all learn latin then we can understand half again more of what the medical experts are talking about!

Let us know how Tend is working for you and how we can support you!

mothering in the time of covid-19

Mothering in the Time of COVID-19

With the deep concern currently circling the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought we would talk about it. Being a health care provider and a new mother definitely has me feeling conflicted. On one end of the spectrum, my health care side is telling me to relax, continue to wash your hands (something I constantly preached way before any of this came about!), and to remain cautious yet calm. After all, I have seen a lot of sickness, trauma, and chronic health issues in my career. Then I have the mom side of me, wanting to disinfect everything, stay away from all the people, and look deeper into the issue. Welcome to mothering in the time of COVID-19.

It is easy to start to panic if you’ve been watching any type of media. It’s all the news is talking about. It’s all over social media with highlights about celebrities and major athletes testing positive, cancellations of any major or minor gatherings, and travel restrictions. While it’s great that we’re taking things so seriously, frankly, it’s scaring the crap out of everyone. The grocery stores are empty, pictures of shelves completely bare, even Amazon is out of stock. I saw a 12-roll pack of toilet paper being sold on Amazon for $78! 

I have so many questions swirling around in my head. What is the right way to go about doing things? Stay inside and ride it out until this all passes? Continue living your life in hopes that the people around you are healthy? I think the fear of the unknown is the scariest part. As a health care provider I want to see statistics, facts, and what’s happening in the other cases. As a mom I want to frantically Google everything I can to see how to best avoid this for my family. Keeping my daughter safe is my number one goal, but with a husband also in the healthcare field, keeping him safe is also important. He’s out there every day caring for people, sick or not, and doing his part for the health of others. Selflessly risking his health for others. All the health care workers are, and I hope everyone is thinking about them.

The moral of my story is this is a scary time. I know we will get through this, and hopefully fairly quickly. I tell myself to remain calm, do what you can to keep your immune system up, sanitize, wash your hands, stay away from crowds, etc. As a new mom, part of me totally understands the panic people are feeling. You just want to protect your babies, no matter what that takes. I too am feeling that panic inside of preparing for the “what if ” situations.

Just know that no matter where you are in this, whether you think it’s all ridiculous and are living your life per usual, or you are prepared to sit at home for the next month with your 10 packs of toilet paper, you aren’t alone. We’re all in this together, and we will get through this!

Box Mix Coffee Cake

Box Mix Coffee Cake

Hello fellow humans! Bet you thought I was gone for good but the internet is not that lucky because here I am! This week we need to talk about Trader Joe’s coffee cake box mix.  Read more

Grocery Shopping is a Complex Balance of Hard Facts and Wishful Thinking

Think about the last time you made a grocery list. Did you stick to it, buying only what was on it? If you did, you are my new hero and I salute you. If you didn’t, I feel your pain. Grocery shopping is a complex balance of hard facts and wishful thinking. The true victims of my grocery lists gone awry are the wee Persian cucumbers that molder away into a pile of slime and seeds in the back of my fridge. I always buy them and then the week doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would and who pays the price? Innocent cucumbers, that’s who. Read more

Laundry in 5 Easy Steps

Laundry in 5 Easy Steps

Laundry in 5 easy steps? Yes. Laundry is actually 5 separate jobs: Sorting, Washing, Drying, Folding, Putting away.  Read more

TEND

TEND

A few weeks ago, Felicia and I were in Las Vegas. We were trying to get from our hotel on the strip to Flock and Fowl, which is Fremont Street adjacent. We spent a good five minutes tussling with the Lyft app before I said, “We are app developers and we can’t figure this out!” Turns out Las Vegas is so convoluted lots of people have a hard time getting the app to correctly tell drivers where to pick you up. Anyway, our app Tend will never leave you frustrated in Vegas. That is what Tinder is for!  Read more

Helping of Happiness

Helping of Happiness

If you have been a regular reader of these notes from the home office you are well aware that I am a talker. Well, my dear fellow humans, you haven’t seen nothing yet. In person, I talk even more (if you can believe it). Hillary Hess invited Felicia and I to talk about our app Tend on her excellent podcast, Helping of Happiness Podcast Read more

Frozen Food From Trader Joe's

Frozen Food From Trader Joe’s

Ever peer into the frozen food case at all those boxes of food and think, “I wonder if that is any good?” And then you keep going because it’s expensive or you feel guilty? I do it all the time at Trader Joe’s but no more! To go along with making a bunch of box mix bakery goods, I am going to pick up, heat up and consume all the frozen foods I have been eyeing from the frozen food section at Trader Joe’s. Read more