Q and A about this and that

I started a 30 day hugging experiment a good week before the bottom fell out of normal life. I was 23 hugs and 12 days into a whole new lifestyle, which I planned to follow with a pretty kicking blog. I had begun to write it already. It started like this:

If I go down with the dreaded Coronavirus, I’m going down hugging.

If that was appropriate when I wrote it (and it probably wasn’t), it certainly isn’t anymore. My timing has always been a little off.

On Day 12 of the 30 Day Hugging Challenge, I stopped wearing my “I need a hug” t-shirt and went inside to figure out how to be a homeschool mom.

In the meantime, I’ve watched the news a few times, gone to the grocery store a bunch, and thought about what I should be enforcing, doing, or saying in the midst of this brittle and unfamiliar new life.

What do you say during the coronavirus?

I can’t give advice. I’m not qualified to do that. There’s already a metric ton of advice out there, from finding peace in pandemic to successfully socially distancing. Besides, who’s going to want advice from someone who started a hugging challenge during a pandemic? Sheesh.

I could try to build and post a playlist, but I could never top Rita Wilson’s Quarantunes on Spotify. But there is Dancing Queen by Abba. Everyone should listen to that once a day for the rest of their lives regardless.

I could say I feel fantastic and that I don’t fear the Coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean a gazillion other people aren’t sick and scared and have every reason to be. Usually my lack of fear is anchored in ignorance anyway. My sense of brash rebellion is a little like my timing. It’s usually off.

If there are answers to be had, they aren’t had by me. And since I don’t have any answers, I’ve decided instead to write out the questions that are running through my mind daily and flying at me through the mouths of my kids. And I’ll try to answer my questions my way. I would never presume that my questions and answers are anyone else’s. These are mine.

What if the kids are out of school for the rest of this school year? What will we do then?

We will manage. And we will readjust until we are adjusted. If we don’t post it on social media, no one will know how bad we are screwing it up anyway. On the bright side, there are no more “did I wash her uniform heart palpitations” on Monday morning at 6 a.m.

What if my high school senior doesn’t get to walk across the graduation stage? What if graduations are cancelled?

I will use Colgate to brush the bitter taste of disappointment from my mouth and get over it. He’ll still graduate. And they’ll do something to make it special. It was never about me and won’t become about me in the cancellation, either. But shoot, if I won’t stamp around in the backyard a little tantrumatically if this is the case. I have aged tremendously over the years in getting the boy to do his homework.

What if I don’t get to go on my Disney cruise over the summer?

People survive without Disney cruises. I don’t know how, but they do. And I will, too, if I must.

What if we are ordered to shelter in place for a month or more?

Then we will. We will follow the rules. Without complaining. And we’ll eat dinner around our dining room table together because there’s nowhere else to be. And we’ll play Chase the Ace and Life and Phase 10. And we’ll watch the list of movies we made that we never had time for. And we’ll sit out by the river and watch boaters go by wearing masks, whether for coronavirus or pollen I can’t say. And we’ll appreciate the time when we could go anywhere. And we’ll appreciate the time we can go nowhere. The key is to appreciate.

What do I do when I’m missing my friends but can’t be with them?

Facetime them. Go stand on a socially distant x in their front yard. Write them a note. Connect. You don’t have to wallow in their sneeze droplets to connect.

What do I do with all my extra time?

Something. We have to do something. Find the names of people we know in the hospitals, whose families can’t visit, and write them. Call them. Pray for them.
Put down the CNN app or Instagram and pick up my Bible.
Set up a Zoom with the high school girls from church.
Bake. Fail at baking. Eventually succeed at baking.
Find ways to connect with my kids.
Play a board game. Win the board game. If you don’t win, continue playing
until you have won. Make sure others congratulate you on your win.
Go outside.

What if by stripping away every activity and every thing we thought we needed to be happy we become actually, sincerely happy?

Yes, what if that.

This was the view I had when I looked up last night. I find it comforting that the sun still rises and sets in brilliant displays.


In the winter of 2000, on the brink of my 30th birthday, the fact that I had no children was a tremendous source of grief and stress to me. I thought about it by the hour. I didn’t want that birthday. I didn’t feel like there was much to celebrate. By my 40th, I had 4 kids, ages 3, 4, 6, and 9. The number 40 didn’t bother me one bit, because for the first time in my life, I was right where I had always wanted to be.

But between then and now, the years sat down on me. Twinkies and Poptarts sat down on me. And under the pressure, I sat down too.

I’ve been sitting ever since.

It came on gradually, with the birth of my youngest daughter 12 years ago, and intensified in 2017 upon the death of my mother. I didn’t see it coming. And I didn’t land there with intention. But nevertheless, I let myself slide into a tunnel of grief and frustration and dormancy.
Waiting for something to happen.
Waiting for the clouds to lift or the hallelujah chorus to sing.

Sitting and waiting.

On February 6, I stepped out of that tunnel, almost as if by magic. Strangely enough, it was a casual lunch date with friends and an online article about the science of hugging that shoved me back into the sunshine.

I almost can’t believe how great it feels to be back in the sunshine.

The article I read on hugging simply stated that the average person needs 4 hugs a day to emotionally survive, 8 to maintain, and 12 to thrive. I couldn’t remember the last person I had hugged that wasn’t my 12 year old or my dog. And suddenly I felt very empty and very much committed to changing that.

So I texted one friend and asked her how much she’d pay me if I greeted another of our friends –a confirmed non-hugger–with a bear hug at lunch that day.

The answer was $10. It’s always $10.

When I arrived at lunch, I started to mentally backpedal. How could an awkward non-hugger bear hug an even more awkward one?

I gave it a shot. I gave it a good shot. The non-hugger stiff armed me like a runningback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I never had a chance. My attempt was so clumsy that the friend I had bet refused to pay me. She wasn’t getting bilked out of $10 for something as ugly as what she witnessed.

It wasn’t a hug, they said.
I should have been paid, man.

Somewhere between February 6 and March 1, it occurred to me that I had another big birthday coming. I realized that in December of this year, I’ll be 50. And unless I were to commit to some big changes, I was going to be greeting 50 in a housecoat made of sackcloth with a backpack full of broken dreams.

That’s when it hit me.

50 was only bothering me because I spent so long passed out in that tunnel. I am not where I hoped I’d be at 50 as a person.

So I sat down with my favorite pen and a notebook I love and wrote out a list.

50 things to do before my 50th Birthday

Some of them are very short and simple, like introducing myself to the homeless man that sells water on the corner of Hillsborough and 40th. Some of them are more challenging and lengthy, like losing 50 pounds. All of them are exciting.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

So on Tuesday morning, March 3, I set my alarm for 5 a.m. and got up to walk and pray. On Thursday morning, I went to my first weight watchers meeting (Oh, pardon me, it’s not weight watchers, it’s MY WW…) in 2 years. And on Friday morning, I walked up behind the man on Hillsborough and 40th and sat down on the wall beside him. When we parted, I asked him if I could give him a hug. He hugged me twice.

Every day this week I’ve walked and prayed and set my mind for the day before the sun pried itself through the oak trees. And every day this week, I’ve been smiling like I won the lottery. Because I kind of have.

50 sounds old.
But I don’t have time to worry about how it sounds, because I have 50 things to do before it gets here.
And I’m pretty excited about it.


Stay tuned for more on the #30hugsin30days challenge.