1 in 1000

covid
Image Description: A picture of the globe, shaped like COVID-19 in space with stars.
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

In the United States, 1 in every 1000 people has died from COVID-19.

I try to let that sink in, and it’s difficult. How do you begin to grieve such enormous losses? That’s a shocking statistic, but people are also much more than statistics. Some are missing at the dining table. Some are no longer picking up their kids from school. Some are no longer being visited in care facilities. All are particular people with names, stories, personalities, preferences, and quirks. All are loved and missed — by people with names, stories, personalities, preferences, and quirks.

And in addition to the 1 in 1000 people who have died, a much larger number of people are dealing with ongoing symptoms that are affecting their respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems in persistent ways. This is known as Post-COVID Syndrome.

We have authorized vaccines, and many of us eagerly await the occasion to receive them. But we also have other protective tools and measures. We have masks, physical distancing, and for those who can do this (this can be a privilege, I realize) we have the occasion to stay at home as often as possible. We need to use these wisely because vaccine distribution is going to take a significant amount of time, and the numbers are still on the rise. Our healthcare workers ask this of us because they are stretched so thin with hospitals filling to capacity. In many places, hospitals are beyond capacity with patients receiving care in hallways and in what used to be gift shops.

What we choose to do impacts people beyond ourselves.

I heard a podcast earlier this week about how contract tracers are having difficulty in following up with people who have been exposed to the coronavirus. I feel for them because this sounds like hard-wrought, emotional work. While listening, I was surprised that one of the locations featured was Washtenaw County, Michigan where I live. While precautions are needed everywhere, our transmission rate numbers are pretty middle-of-the-road. There are growing challenges right here, and of course, in all the “right here-s” wherever we may live.

I encourage people to listen to this 12-minute story: Contact Tracers Struggle to Keep Up as Coronavirus Cases Surge from Holiday Travel.

We’ve come this far, and the road has been difficult. I certainly understand that desire to gather and socialize. I feel it too. But we’ve also come this far with these losses; we know that more will continue if we let our guard down. We’re worth it. Our neighbors are worth it.

Renee Roederer

Winter Wonderland

When you stay home a lot due to the combination of COVID and a cold climate, you forget to look at the weather report. Yesterday morning, I awoke and felt some wonder as a I gazed out the window. It was a winter wonderland outside with snow resting on every tree branch. The beauty surprised me.

I thought I would share the view with you.

Image may contain: tree, snow, plant, sky, outdoor and nature
Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature

Images: Snow resting on tree branches and on the ground.
Photos, Renee Roederer

Sometimes, Just Ask

January Calendar - free high resolution photo
Image Description: A January Calendar.
Public Domain Image.

I often like to pick a theme for a month — something to focus upon or practice. I prefer this because how often do we actually keep new year’s resolutions? Also, what if you want to try something different midway through the year?

In January, I’m seeking to notice abundance in its various forms. After living a year like we just did, it’s easy to focus on scarcity. At the same time, a year like 2020 also brings into sharper focus what’s most important to us. There are still forms of abundance around us — connections (even if distanced), love, resources, ideas, and possibilities. We don’t need to deny the pain, of course. More often, we need help noticing the gifts.

Connected to my birthday, I launched a Facebook fundraiser over the weekend for the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. IRT is one of the communities I serve. I also sent an email to friends and family members and invited them to give if they would like to do so. Facebook fundraisers can be a bit overdone these days, I realize, but this one is meaningful for me. I believe in the vision of IRT and the ways we are able to bring neighbors together for connection, dialogue, mutual support, and interfaith cooperation.

In a short period of time, we raised about $1300, and I think we’ll raise a bit more in the next few days.

This is a huge form of abundance — not only in the amount raised but also in the amount of people who are contributing.

I found myself thinking… Wow. Sometimes, just… ask.

Renee Roederer

If you’d like to contribute to this IRT fundraiser, you can do so on Facebook or you can give here. Thank you!

39 So Fine

Birthday Cake Candles Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
Image Description: A birthday cake with yellow icing and candles.
Public domain image.

Today is my 39th birthday. I find myself reflecting on my 30s and how I’d like to spend this final year in a personal decade of time.

I have talked about the 30s with more affection than just about anyone else I know. I have truly loved being in my 30s, and I’ve reflected on this in writings and conversations quite often. This is just flat out a great set of ages. And yet, when I look over the landscape of my 30s, I also think, wow, I waded through a lot of difficult experiences in this decade of time. Like, a lot.

It’s kind of interesting how a set of ages can be felt in particular ways despite the challenging experiences that happen within those ages. Maybe this is also a testament that we can come to learn some of who we are and who we want to be in the midst of stress (though I wouldn’t say stress is necessary or somehow, a great gift for formation). This is definitely a testament to goodness accompanying our stress, sometimes surprisingly.

Because alongside a number of big hardships in my 30s, I see abundance. I see relationships coming into being and deepening. I see creativity emerging. I see generativity growing. I see a sense of home continuing. And as I move toward another year, I see possibilities forming.

I don’t experience any of this with rose colored glasses. I just believe in renewal.

So I have hopes for age 39. I don’t expect it to be easy because… just look in any direction.

But these are just flat out great ages, and I intend to close them out well.

Renee Roederer

Catharsis and Connection

Crying Blue Eyes Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
Image Description: Crying, blue eyes.
Public domain image.

“I know it’s so arbitrary, but I am so ready to cross over into 2021.”

I said this repeatedly to a number of people over several days.

I’m a realist, and I know that the challenges of 2020 persist. But I’m also appreciative of the fresh start effect: There’s power in moments when we collectively agree that time is renewed, even if it’s an arbitrary change in the number that marks our calendar year.

But when I got about two hours away from the ball drop, I just wept. I didn’t expect this. It was a catharsis. The last year felt violent. It felt painful. And some are living with the absence of loved ones in tangible, persistent ways.

After crying, I remembered that some things can be renewed. Grief remains, and I don’t need to put a silver lining on it. But our stories continue, and we can surround each other emotionally and energetically in the midst of these challenges.

Sometimes, in fact, connection emerges spontaneously… I want more of this in 2021.

One hour later at 11pm, I dialed a number for a conference call. On Thursday afternoons, I facilitate a support group for the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan over the phone. On December 31, we connected during our typical afternoon time, and we began to talk about our New Year’s Eve plans.

“We want to ring in the new year together!” they said.

“Okay, let’s do it,” I said. “Who wants to call back at 11? We’ll cross into 2021 together.”

We did.

Without much planning ahead of time, people called from across the state of Michigan. We connected and found some things to celebrate. We sang a Christmas song together just because we wanted to do it. Why not? We played a game and laughed hard.

It was lovely.

If we’re feeling catharsis, it’s valid. We may need it.

If we’re feeling celebration, it’s valid. We may need it.

The challenges remain. And… we begin again.

Renee Roederer

My Little, White Elephant

A white, ceramic elephant. Black background.
Image Description: A white, ceramic elephant. Black background.
Public domain image.

When I was 9, I heard about a white elephant gift exchange for the first time. My friend’s Mom was having one. I no longer believed in Santa, but for about two weeks of my life, I sincerely believed my friend was about to receive a small, white elephant as a pet.

And because I was over there all the time, I was about to receive a small, white elephant as a pet.

I was so very excited.

I still enjoy white elephant gift exchanges, but this one had the cutest expectations.

Renee Roederer

A Ballad for Quarantining Families Everywhere

I once heard someone say, “Everyone is quarantined with the wrong amount of people.”

I laughed at that. If you’re alone and can’t get any time with other people, that is difficult. And, if you’re like this hilarious, precious kiddo (or many parents) who are quarantined as a family, it seems as though you can’t get “even one time” alone.

Enjoy this amazing song from the son of one of my friends from high school. He sings it from the heart for himself, but this is a ballad for all quarantining families everywhere.

Sharing with permission of parent and kiddo. In fact, kiddo hopes it goes viral. 🙂

Inequities

Download free photo of Crack, concrete, break, broken, cracked - from  needpix.com
Image Description: A crack in concrete. Public domain image.

I’m a care worker. During the pandemic, in various care roles, I spend a lot of time with people on the phone. And it’s beautiful to add care and connection.

But do you know what many people need most? Money. Simply put, money. That’s what would change their difficult situations.

We live with such inequities in this country. This is also why I believe in communities coming together and caring for each other.

But goodness, the inequities are steep.

Renee Roederer

Benedictions

words.jpg
Image Description: A pile of magnets with various words on them.
Public domain image.

During this season, I’ve been listening to the daily Advent podcasts of Blue Ocean Faith, a congregation in Ann Arbor. They are really lovely. Each one ends with the same benediction:

“Go in peace. Wash your hands. Love your neighbor. You are not alone.”

Those are four helpful phrases for this season.

When we come to expect a particular benediction, it can take on greater meaning. It serves as a reminder that we belong to a relationship or a community. We might also find ourselves repeating it as a reminder or as comfort.

Before he died, my chosen Dad and I had a benediction we’d say at the end of our phone calls. He’d start with..

“Now remember, you’re loved as strange as you are.”

And I’d say,

“And you’re loved as strange as you are.”

This was said playfully with affection. I smile even as I type that.

Lately, when I’ve ended worship services or reflection groups on Zoom — religious or not, just a sense of depth in community — I’ve found myself saying this:

“There’s a love you can’t lose. So you might as well live it.”

That sounds so matter of fact when I type it on a blog. Or it reads like a phrase resignation. But if you can imagine an inflection of a joyful discovery that sounds warm instead of cheesy, that gets close to it.

I enjoy saying it.

Benedictions are Belonging.

Renee Roederer

Dichotomy

vaccine bottles
Image Description: Vials of vaccines.
Public domain image. Source: FDA.

We’re living such a dichotomous time: Vaccines are becoming available, and we’ve started distribution. This will take some time, no doubt, but since these are no longer merely hypothetical, but actually being administered, we can begin to do some dreaming… What will our post-pandemic lives look like? Scientists have developed a highly effective set of vaccines for a disease we didn’t even know about one year ago. This is astonishing. What might be possible for us after this pandemic is over? How might we connect? What might we reengage?

And… on the very same day that the Pfizer vaccine received emergency authorization, we crossed the threshold of 300,000 deaths from COVID in the U.S. We may see light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still thoroughly in the tunnel. Many people are suffering, and many are vulnerable.

We enter the holidays with this sense of grief and hope mingling together.

We may need to nurture both and care for ourselves in both.

Renee Roederer