Remembering The Pandemic of 2020

Here’s my story that begins in March 2020!

Let me say this from the beginning! Posting this was and is hard! It may look easy but trust me. It took many of my friends along the way listening to me and encouraging me to write this. It’s hard to find the bright spots when looking on Facebook and seeing so many families, my perception, looking as though they are not physically distancing to say the least. It’s been a struggle as a single person with a dog. It’s just plain hard living in a very small bubble. Let me assure you though, I would do this over and over again for my country and for you and certainly for my son and his family.! But let’s get to the matter of the 5 months! I’m still working on the celebration of August to the current state of affairs. That’s another blog post!

I love to tell stories! I am a huge believer that stories help to enlighten, to bring my thoughts alive. I listened to a Ted Talk the other day and the speaker used this phrase, ” we are unreliable narrators of our own story.” I’ve given myself some time to think about this. I think she’s correct if, and only if, I’m not conscious; mindful. If and only if I’m not willing to face myself honestly. So here goes. Here are the facts.

I drove to Richmond, Virginia on March 5 to present at the Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children conference and then flew from Richmond to Fort Worth, Texas to train for a day. That Saturday training was the first of what was suppose to be 2 days of training. I then flew to San Antonio for 2 days of training. I love the travel and even more I love training new folks and getting to know their stories. Next I flew to Little Rock to train in Kingsland, Arkansas. Did you know this is the birthplace of Johnny Cash? There’s a huge billboard announcing this news and welcoming you to this very small community with no stop light. I’ve been training in this sweet community for three years and made some dear friends! The first case of the coronavirus in Arkansas was reported on this day March 13. After a full day of training I drove back to the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Little Rock. That was the first sign that I knew that something was changing. The entire hotel was pretty much shut down except for checking in guests and very little choices for food. The valet assured me that my car and the keys would be cleaned. Something was changing. 

Flying home to Charleston, South Carolina on March 14 was even different. Students from the University of Alabama were on my flight from Charlotte home. They were evacuated from their dorm and left most of their belongings behind. Something was changing. Oddly enough they didn’t seem phased. I think we were all hoping that this was going to be short lived. Right? 

I’m home and my youngest son calls me and we talk about the news and what’s happening. He thinks that the country is going to shut down and soon. “Mom would you consider flying to us in Morristown, New Jersey with Bailey?” Of course I said “yes” because really how long can this last! Right? Something was changing. 

So off Bailey and I fly to JWF and his family! 

Bailey and I at the Charleston Airport ready to fly to Newark Airport.
Bailey prefers the window seat!

The first 10 days were exhausting to say the very least. I walked into a home full of anxiety. No judgments here! It was all worthy of anxiety! It was imminent that New Jersey was about to lockdown. There is no traffic on the interstate! I had flown into the eye of the storm. Both my son and daughter in law were busy figuring out how they were going to go forward with their work; one is a doctor and the other is a real estate agent. My job was to hold the fort down with a five year old while they figured things out. Have I already stated that I was exhausted from not only the travel and training but the uncertainty that was ahead of me?

And then there was THE Zoom meeting at the end of March with my Conscious Discipline Certified Instructors mentor group. I was stunned with all of their responses to a question, “What is the adjective that describes where you are at the moment?” That’s the gist of the question. I was literally stunned at their adjectives. Now remember that the lockdown had only been in effect for maybe 3 weeks. Their adjectives were all positive until it came to me and I just remember exploding. “Are you f*c%ing kidding me? What planet are you living?” I immediately received a text from one of my friends that wonders if I am grieving. “BOOM” She’s right and what a relief to name it. That Zoom meeting helped to get my brain in a helpful place. I am grieving at what I left behind.

The next day was different. It was still hard but I was different. So everyday for 5 months I set my alarm for 6:30 AM allowing myself to hit pause twice; walk Bailey quickly and come back to shower and have breakfast and take over with my grandson, JTF. Structure was important for all of us. A favorite phrase of JTF’s was “is this Daddy time or Yaya time?” Every morning JTF and I would write out our schedule so that he could refer to it during the day.

I never ever entered a store or restaurant in that five months. JWF’s job was to keep me safe. I rode in a car 5 times. My world consisted of the following memories and photos.

I made sure that my grandson, JTF, had a healthy dose of left and right brain activities each day. I then became aware of my focus each day. I’m going to be honest. It was hard and yet I believed this to be critical for my survival. 

So here are the memories! 

In the beginning of the Pandemic!

JTF working!
The finished product!

Then there were gross motor skills everyday!

Playing hopscotch. Learning how to jump on one foot was an important skill to learn.
Do the crab walk on the blue tape!
Learning Yoga! Core strength is important.
JWF with JTF’s first time on his bike!
I would run with JTF for a mile each morning, weather permitting.
Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for the new play structure!
Climbing up the wall!
Looking for trumpet swans!

Every Thursday afternoon was ice cream with Grandma!

JTF reads a story to Grandma!
Grandma read a story!
And there is always ice cream!

Shabat every Friday! An opportunity to see the overlaps in faith and to have gratitude for this. Did I mention Passover?

Image may contain: 3 people, including Jessica Shields Flowers, people sitting, table and indoor
Passover 2020

Jack had piano lessons every Monday and I got to listen to them practice everyday.

JWF and JTF practicing piano.

Bailey learned to walk on a leash. She did not like the NJ Transit train though. I learned to know the schedule and not walk that way if a train was expected. I’ve continued walking since returning to the island and walk 3 miles each day.

Bailey always looking out to keep everything safe!

Did I mention JWF’s cooking? I think we had delivery 5 times in my 5 months!

Inspired by the movie, Ratatouille!
Image may contain: food
Bison, mushroom ragout, sunchoke purée, grilled leek, roasted cherry tomatoes
Eating on the deck was a treat!
JWF always supplied good wine!

This is probably the biggest memory! Introducing JTF to chapter books!

Frog and Toad Series Both of my boys adored these three books and I was so excited to introduce them to JTF.

Frog and Toad Are Friends (Frog and Toad, #1)

From writing letters to going swimming, telling stories to finding lost buttons, Frog and Toad are always there for each other—just as best friends should be. Frog and Toad Are Friends is a Level Two I Can Read book, geared for kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

The classic Frog and Toad stories by Arnold Lobel have won numerous awards and honors, including a Newbery Honor (Frog and Toad Together), a Caldecott Honor (Frog and Toad are Friends), ALA Notable Children’s Book, Fanfare Honor List (The Horn Book), School Library Journal Best Children’s Book, and Library of Congress Children’s Book.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. 

Loved this book. . . .Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm! It was the first book that JWF read all by himself.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump, #1)

Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!

Stuart Little

Stuart Little

A paperback edition of E.B. White’s classic novel about one small mouse on a very big adventure! With black and white illustrations.

Stuart Little is no ordinary mouse. Born to a family of humans, he lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. Though he’s shy and thoughtful, he’s also a true lover of adventure.

Stuart’s greatest adventure comes when his best friend, a beautiful little bird named Margalo, disappears from her nest. Determined to track her down, Stuart ventures away from home for the very first time in his life. He finds adventure aplenty. But will he find his friend? 

E.B. White became a favorite author.

Beezus and Ramona

Beezus and Ramona (Ramona, #1)

Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she’s taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble–and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona.

My Father’s Dragon

My Father's Dragon (My Father's Dragon, #1)

Elmer Elevator (narrator’s father as a boy) runs away with an old alley cat to rescue a flying baby dragon being exploited on a faraway island. With the help of two dozen pink lollipops, rubber bands, chewing gum, and a fine-toothed comb, Elmer disarms the fiercest of beasts on Wild Island. 

The Magic Treehouse

We loved this series. We didn’t make it through the 49 books though!

Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House, #3)
Jack and Annie don’t need another mummy. But that’s what they get when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient Egypt. There they meet a long-dead queen who needs their help. Will Jack and Annie be able to solve the puzzle, or will they end up as mummies themselves?

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web

This beloved book by E. B. White, author of Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, is a classic of children’s literature that is “just about perfect.” This high-quality paperback features vibrant illustrations colorized by Rosemary Wells!

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his litter.

E. B. White’s Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. This edition contains newly color illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E. B. White’s Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, among many other books. 

This book really resonated with JTF, so much so that we went looking for pigs. He was adamant that there was a pig out there to find. We would go out looking for pigs with a bag to carry the pig home. There is a lovely film that we watched at least three times.
Charlottes’s Web

Trumpet of the Swan

The Trumpet of the Swan

Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can’t trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can’t even make a sound. And since he can’t trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him.

Louis tries everything he can think of to win Serena’s affection—he even goes to school to learn to read and write. But nothing seems to work. Then his father steals him a real brass trumpet. Is a musical instrument the key to winning Louis his love?

This was the last chapter book we read. We both learned so much about trumpet swans. Where they live and how they sound. What a lovely book to end our time together.

Here are books that we studied during the summer.
Thank goodness I knew about the book Story Stretchers. The author is Shirley Raines, my graduate school professor. JTF and I were able to “stretch” each of these stories.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are

We loved “stretching” this story! New word was a sceptor!

On the corner of Bishop Court and Canfield Road! Where The Wild Things Are at this corner!
King of the Wild Things

At The Beach

At the Beach

This book was lovely to read. We learned about the authors. They have a daughter who carries on the tradition of lovely illustrations and text. I ordered shells from Amazon and we played in the sand. In addition JTF had fun painting with sand.

Mouse Paint

Mouse Paint

I can’t believe that I didn’t take photos of JTF’s foot prints. . .oh no wait! I would have to be an octopus to do this. So much fun for JTF. I think it was his first time to have paint on his feet.

Color Dance

Color Dance
The girl in red, the girl in yellow, the girl in blue, and the boy in black and white are all set to stir up the rainbow. Watch them create a living kaleidoscope, step by step by step.

This book provided so much fun for days and days. Look at the book that he wrote and yes I sewed the book together.

JTF knows the importance of the author and the illustrator at this point. We even read about their lives.
Love that he learned to tear construction paper and glue it very much like Color Dance.

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back

Sadly I didn’t take photos of our hats as we had ice cream with Grandma!

Art was an important part of each day!

JTF painted this all on his own! This is from the book, Take Me To The Zoo!
Sand painting that went with the book, At The Beach.
JTF loved to paint with his water colors!
More water colors!

Painting outdoors and then there was a box!

This box became an integral part of our time outdoors.
It was important to decorate the inside also.
It was a great escape place to create.

Sweet Spot!

So where’s the sweet spot in this? I think that the photos speak for themselves! Right? All of the memories that were made are engraved on my heart for a lifetime.

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Thanks JWF for capturing this photo!

But I think there’s a bigger sweet spot! I discovered myself again in the midst of this! I’ve always loved reading and the past ten years I’ve been consumed by my work; coaching and training that I love so very much. I never made the time to read.So I re-discovered my love of books and my new love affair with podcasts. Click on over to Ripple to read about the books and podcasts that I discovered.

I did not mention this series of books that have kept me going each day since I was in New Jersey. Louise Penny has written a series of murder mysteries. I loved Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys growing up. So of course I would love Armand Gamache in her series of 16 books. I just finished the last one and have been grieving ever since.

So please comment below about your Pandemic thoughts. I’m curious to hear from you! No judgements here for sure! I’m still working on my thoughts since I arrived back on the island mid August.

3 Replies to “Remembering The Pandemic of 2020”

  1. What beautiful memories Jessica! Even the hard parts – the grief was and is real. 2020 was full of loss that was balanced by moments of joy. I’m grateful that small moments of joy could outshine all the bleak moments of suck. My FB profile pic for much of July until November was one of Steve and I at the beach in July. Often when I considered changing it, I decided to keep it because it reminded me of a space and time of joy for our family. Like you, our family is healthier and happier when we establish and follow a daily routine. When things feel overwhelming and chaotic, it’s often because we’ve veered off routine. I enjoyed reading the memories you shared of reading chapter books with JTF. Reading brings me joy, too. Brian and I finished reading the Harry Potter series this year and also enjoy the Magic Treehouse series. Hannah and I devoured the Keeeper of the Lost Cities series and are impatiently waiting for the next installment. We’ve also enjoyed the Eragon series and are about to embark on the final book. Over the break our family started reading J.K. Rowling’s new fairy tale, The Ickabog. Reading your writing helps me pause and reflect on my own story. Grateful for you my friend.


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