Hands down this is a difficult mandate

While the pandemic is flattening in some areas and surging in others, the fundamental caution remains in place: Do not touch your face.

The bad news is that the world is divided into two sorts of people—those who constantly touch their faces and those who do not.

I am a face toucher.

My face and hands were made for each other. My chin nestles into my palm and my hand stretches out like a soft, comfy recliner custom-built for the side of my face.

Other times I touch the sides of my face rubbing my temples attempting to awaken brain cells. It hasn’t worked so far, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying.

Sometimes I touch my face brushing away stray hairs, pushing my glasses up or pulling at a glob of mascara on my eyelashes.

Then there is the itching. My eyebrows itch, my eyes itch, my ears itch, my nose itches, and sometimes I imagine things crawling on the back of my neck.

This morning, I tried removing a semi-colon from a sentence three times before I realized it was a tiny ant parked on my computer screen. Now I feel like the ant, although no longer with us, is crawling across my feet and circling my ankles making them itch, too.

I am a face-toucher itching from head to toe.

Of course, you know what happens to people who touch their faces when they put on face masks. They contort their eyes and wrinkle their noses attempting to scratch an itch and even rub the sides of their faces on their shoulders.

Most itching is caused by cold air, dry air, heat, outside air, inside air, allergens, pollens, dust mites and dry skin.

Two other things cause skin to itch as well – hand sanitizers and excessive hand washing, both of which happen to be extremely popular global pastimes these days.

I have often wondered if face touching and itching are contagious and was pleased to learn that scientists are researching what they call “contagious itch,” an itch that is visually transmitted, much like yawning.

My skin has been itching like mad this week. Now since I know that itching can be visually transmitted, I can blame it on others.

A good friend developed a terrible dermatitis of an unknown origin on her torso, arms and legs. Every time I hear about it, my arms and legs itch, too.

Then one of our sons-in-law developed an allergy to sunscreen. He has a terrible rash on his neck and arms that keeps recurring, swelling and itching and making him miserable. I call to see if he’s improving, get a report, hang up and immediately begin scratching my arms and neck. Then I wash my hands for the 345th time of the day and dry my skin even more.

You’re feeling it, too, aren’t you? Back of the neck. Left side. A little lower. There you go.


Flip flopping over vacation

To vacation or not to vacation, that is the question.

Some say “go” and some say “stay.” People are divided—and not just by 6-feet, which is the current social distancing guideline.

Many are making travel decisions based on distance. How far can we go without stopping to use a public restroom? Some can make a five-hour car trip to see family without stopping and some can’t. Who knew bladder control would one day be a key factor in summer travel plans?

One summer we drove 750 miles to a seaside rental with our son-in-law at the wheel. He is a great son-in-law, a wonderful husband to our daughter and fabulous father to our grandchildren—but he also considers stopping on a long-distance drive a sign of weakness.

I sat in the far backseat with a GPS app open on my cell phone whispering to it, “Find a restroom near me.”

Fortunately, one of the kids asked to stop before I had to. That third bottle of water I gave her did the trick.

With many vacation rentals iffy and vacation hot spots telling tourists to stay home, some are choosing to extend their three-month staycations and utilize nearby resources.

A neighborhood pool sent an email to homeowners announcing the pool would open but people must wear masks. Then they sent out second email clarifying that people should not wear masks while swimming.

At least one public park has sprayed white circles on their grounds to enforce distancing. It looks like aliens have used giant cookie cutters on the lawns. Other parks require groups be limited to 10. What happens when a family of five meets up with a family of six?

The rules are constantly changing and sometimes confusing.

The X spot feature is utilized everywhere—groceries, post office, hardware stores. An X on the ground or floor shows where you should stand. It seems to work well, but I’m not sure that would work at popular tourist spots. Mark Xs on the beach and the tide washes them away. You could carve Xs for distancing on mountain trails and in national parks but bears and buffalos have never been big on following the rules.

Some families are adding special features to their backyards to make them more attractive for at-home vacations. Sales of above-ground pools are making a huge splash. Some families are adding outdoor projectors. If the kids don’t get enough time inside sitting watching screens, they can now go outside and be sedentary. Something is so wrong.

Experts say if you do travel and stay in a rental or a hotel, you should clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, remote controls, toilets and sink faucets.

That’s what I’ve been doing at home for the past three months. It hardly sounds like a vacation.

Three cheers and burgers on the grill for dads

A cousin sent an email saying she had been out mowing for two hours in the hot Nebraska sun and the smell of new mown hay was in her nostrils. She said it reminded her of her dad “alone in a hayloft, waiting for the next hayrack full to be ‘dropped’ on him to scatter.

“Not a breath of air in there, work shirt buttoned at the neck and cuffs, unbearable for all the crew but Dad. At lunch break, Dad would have a couple of sandwiches and skip the iced tea. He’d have creamed coffee right out of a glass jar wrapped in a tea towel. That was my hero, my life example . . . my Daddy – loyal, very, very hard-working, so wonderful. Funny what a whiff of new mown hay does.”

Her dad and my dad were brothers. There were five boys and four girls in the family. The boys were cut from the same cloth. Every one of them enjoyed hard work. I have an idea they took after their dad. He died shortly after I was born, but the stories still live.

Picture taken of four remaining brothers after one was killed in WWII.

It wasn’t easy raising a large family during the Depression, yet their farm was the first one for miles around to have electricity. Their dad cobbled a small power station together using batteries. Resourcefulness was second nature.

When my parents married, they had a card table and two orange crates for furniture. When they got a dog, Dad built a doghouse from scrap lumber using the only tool they owned – an ax. Nobody claimed it was pretty but it did the job and the dog never complained.

This is my parents on their honeymoon, a bit different from today’s expectations. Makes the story about building a doghouse with an ax and starting with a card table and orange crates believable. They lived life full throttle.

I think of my dad when I see a charcoal grill flame. He loved to grill. Burgers, dogs, steak, ribs. For years, he and Mom hosted a huge Fourth of July brunch and he’d grill pancakes and sausage before the neighborhood parade.

He loved grilling out most of all when the temperatures soared – 90 was good, even 100 wasn’t daunting. That was also his favorite time to mow. He and all of his brothers were most comfortable outside. It came from the farm imprint, spring planting, summers in the fields and fall harvest.

At my dad’s retirement party (they used to have such things), at a large university where he had worked his way up to purchasing director, he was standing by himself, looking at the crowd, having a good time when he chuckled and said, “I never did want a desk job.”

Switched from this wardrobe to suit and tie

I don’t think I realized until that moment how much our dad had loved us. Oh, he had enjoyed his career and the people he worked with, but ‘til the day he died there was nothing as beautiful as a stand of wheat or a field of corn.

Here’s to dads everywhere who work hard and do what needs to be done for the love of family.

Now somebody light the grill.

Middle children becoming a rarity

There’s a new addition under consideration for the endangered species list – the middle child.

Researchers who track such things say that more couples are having fewer children, often stopping with one or two. Middle children are disappearing, to which middle children everywhere respond, “We’re surprised anybody noticed!”

Middle children will tell you that theirs is the most forlorn place in a family. Squished in the middle, theirs is the birthday Mom is frequently confused on, the one for which Grandma forgot to send a card.

They claim nobody notices that they even exist. Or gradually cease to exist in this case.

There’s even a movement to formally recognize Middle Children Day. For a group that claims to be overlooked, they do a good job grabbing the spotlight.

When our middle child said she felt invisible, we told her that being the middle child was special—like being the filling in a sandwich. Her siblings were simply the bread on either side. Which would she rather be—the yummy filling or plain ol’ bread? We told her not to tell her siblings we had referred to them as plain ol’ bread.

We told our oldest that he had a special place in our hearts because he was our first, the first baby we held in our arms, our first tiny miracle. We also told him to keep that to himself and that, no, he could not put a sign on his bedroom door that said, “A Miracle Lives Here.”

We told our youngest that her older siblings were like the first pancakes—test pancakes because you’ve got the skillet too hot or not hot enough. But by the third pancake, you’ve got it down to a perfect golden brown. She smiled knowingly. On weekends she’d ask for pancakes and turn up her nose at the first two.

I come from a family of two children and am the firstborn, the proverbial bossy big sister, three years older than my brother. I had some size on him and gladly wielded my power over him for a few brief fleeting years. They were good years as I recall. Then he shot up, grew to be a good foot taller, a great deal larger, and is still paying me back.

Middle children help shape a family in a unique way. They keep life off balance. When there are three or more children in a family, kids learn how to scramble for a window seat in the car. Singles and pairs never get that opportunity. They grow up thinking everybody gets a window seat. Life is setting them up for disappointment.

Three or more siblings learn how to form alliances. One day you side with an older sibling, the next day you may team with a younger sibling. It’s great training for the business world or a career in politics.

My sister-in-law grew up in a family of eight children. She has amazing coping skills, quick reflexes and is fearless—all of which she learned sandwiched smack in the middle of four brothers.

Never underestimate the value of the middle.

Revisiting the basics in time of crisis

In a time of crisis, it is helpful to review the basics.

The most trustworthy basic I know is the Golden Rule. An expert in the law heard Jesus debating in public, admired his answers and so asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

It sounds so easy; but we all know it’s hard.

For starters, we’re terribly busy these days. That “love the Lord your God” business gets pushed down further and further on the To Do list.

Then there are our “hearts and souls” shriveling from poor nutrition and outright neglect.

Our “minds” are occupied with social media, browsing the net, online shopping, and streaming Netflix.

“Strength?” It sounds so, well, tiring. Maybe someone will make an app for it.

Moderns have put a spin on “love your neighbor as yourself,” claiming the verse is actually a command to love yourself first because you can’t love others until you love yourself. That might be true for a few but, for most of us, love of self comes naturally. Often, too naturally. Dangerously naturally. It is our loving others that needs cultivation and examination.

C.S. Lewis, author “The Chronicles of Narnia,” once wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal . . . ”  It’s a shocking claim on the surface, but the reason there are no ordinary people is that we have been created in the image of God.

Lewis went on to say that our greatest joys in life come from relationships between people who take one another seriously with no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption—relationships in which people think before they act or speak. If only. Yet, things impossible to man are possible with God.

There is one more “basic” that keeps running though my head. It is the prayer that never fails. It was told to me by an older gentleman, a former Marine thrust into World War II as a young man with brief preparation. He and his fellow Marines were basically abandoned on the battle-entrenched island of Guadalcanal. They were sick with dysentery and malaria, surviving on meager rations. When one of them threatened mutiny, he knew he had to act quickly, so he prayed the prayer that never fails, “Lord, help.”

A fine prayer then and a fine prayer now.