Not that I ever care to repeat these past 12 months!!! But, I can say they have been positively life altering in unexpected ways.
As if the fear of contracting Covid wasn’t enough, I lost my Dad barely a month into quarantine. His only daughter (parents divorced when I was 2), I navigated the myriad steps of the obit, notary, lawyer, banks, accountant, will, girlfriend and his many other bequests… his office transferred to my dining room table, on top, underneath, and on each of the chairs.
Two weeks later I was elected President of FAR-West and attended my first regional directors’ meeting and met all the other Presidents – most of them much more seasoned than I. Our retreat in Kansas City was cancelled, the first of many events to be “put on hold” as we watched the pandemic unfold. We all had major work to be done to reformat our organizations in unprecedented times.
I muddled along – picking up pre-ordered groceries; going through Dad’s finances and memorabilia; meditating to calm my anxiety as weekly sports and social activities abruptly stopped. Saturday nights went from LIVE at the Ojai Underground to STREAMED into our living room from the Ojai Underground. My daughter performed there one night. It was just she and Bernie in the room, way over 12 feet apart, the microphone and piano keys sanitized.
We were getting accustomed to isolation; I bought outdoor furniture, as most of our life had moved there. On a Saturday morning in June, we got the call that my little sister had suddenly collapsed and passed of a brain aneurysm. My siblings took off toward northern California to be with her husband and kids. I stayed behind to take care of my mother for the next month. Just beginning to grieve my Dad, this second unexpected tragedy inserted itself into our family.
August came, and I visited my nieces and brother-in law to lend a hand in dealing with this loss. The weird thing was, during family vacations, I always spent time with my sister. Now, I was forging new bonds with her children, whom I barely knew. In addition, I learned about her incredible friends, her compassion and how much she touched everyone she knew –this wonderful, rich life outside of our family, the depths of which I had not known. Her friends who now became my friends. We came together out of grief.
October came and we pulled off our first FAR-West virtual mini conference. YAY! And I made another new friend, the kitchen. We still couldn’t go anywhere, so I got food delivered and learned how to cook it; continued to dye my own hair; paint my own toes; fixed cabinets, toilets, and sprinklers.
The holidays were upon us. What? I retreated into the garage and made new story boxes and decoupage chicken magnets which I sell at a local store here. And then the 2021 resolutions: more reading, more creativity, more self-care, drop everything you hate doing. Distance from those who make you uncomfortable. Cherish those you love. Let the small shit go. Stop judging. Be grateful for what you have. Nap. Pick up the guitar again?
I have become my mother in the sense that I now read the obits every Sunday. Mortality still hovers in the air. Today was the first time I didn’t know anyone. Luckily, those pages have diminished somewhat. Grateful to be vaccinated so I can hug my children again. Grateful I learned how to do things I couldn’t before this lockdown. Grateful for the new relationships I am forging. Grateful for Netflix and Audible and YouTube and even Zoom. Most important, grateful to be healthy, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and your president at FAR-West to guide us on this new journey. Stay safe everyone.
Yours in song,
Carey Appel is an artist, songwriter, crafter, and President of FAR-West.
You can follow her on instagram @onceuponastorybox or view her work at www.onceuponastorybox.com.
In an attempt to keep us connected as we continue to find our way through these often stressful times, some in our extended community have been sharing their experiences, lessons learned and hope as they’ve dealt with Covid, lockdown, boredom, lack of inspiration, etc. We are all looking for ways to make lemonade out of the many lemons! This column will continue on a weekly basis and postings will be released at 10 AM Pacific every Monday, so watch for them! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marlynn Block at email@example.com. Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.