My daughter is graduating high school this year and for her, like so many other kids, it’s a far cry from what they imagined their senior year would look like.  Let’s face it – it sucks!  My heart breaks for the memorable events she’s missing, and I would do anything to make it better.

But as I was talking to a friend the other day, I realized a few things.  This group of seniors, whether they realize it or not,  have learned some incredibly important life lessons that will carry them far. They will be different that the Classes before them and will ultimately shape the future.  And I believe that these life lessons are way more important than any lessons they would have learned in school these past few months.

They’ve learned resiliency.  They’ve had to deal with disappointment and adapt to uncertainty.  For years now we’ve been bemoaning the generation of entitled kids, those who receive a trophy win or lose and are sheltered from setbacks. Not this group.

They’ve learned to enjoy the present moment. They didn’t know that the last day they were in school might be the final time they’re all together as a class. They will appreciate every game, competition and even party because it truly might be the last.

They’ve learned that social connections in real life are important.  For a group that spends hours Facetiming, texting, Snapchatting and living online the thing our Seniors are missing the most is spending time with their friends.  Sure, missing prom or the last day BBQ is disappointing but more than anything they simply want to be with their group of friends before they head off to college.

They’ve learned self-discipline.  Distance learning has forced kids to focus on their assignments in ways they never had to before. Without a teacher standing in front of them distractions are plenty. They will most likely be the pioneers of a generation that has less face time with supervisors and can work more productively and efficiently virtually.

They’ve learned to not take things for granted.  Just a few months ago they were shopping at the mall with their friends, going to a movie and hanging out at Starbucks and didn’t give it a second thought.  Yes, we’re a privileged society and the  Class of 2020 will recognize that more than most.  They’ve also spent more time with their siblings and parents playing games, walking the dog, making cookies and just sitting outside than most kids.  And they’ll probably tell you it’s not that bad.

This is most certainly a year they’ll be telling their kids about.  There will be stories of missed events and disappointments but hopefully there will also be stories of life lessons that changed them forever.

This Sunday is Easter.  It’s also the birthday of my sweet angel Connor, my first born who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  He would have been 23 years old.

His birthday has only fallen on Easter once before – the first year he was gone.  I still recall the pain I felt that day.  Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays.  The beauty of spring and the hope of rebirth.  It was impossible for me to wrap my head around how this beautiful day could bring me such sadness.  All I could think about was how unfair life was that my baby wasn’t with me anymore.

And now here I am 23 years later.  Does it feel different this year?  Yes. The pain isn’t as raw.  It’s more of a dull sadness that hits me at moments I least expect.  For those of you whose grief is still new and all-consuming please know, you’ll get to where I am.  As the Executive Director of First Candle I frequently speak with families who have just experienced a loss.  They look at me with hope.  Seeing me let’s them know that somehow, they will go on.

But this isn’t a typical Easter or year.  Because of COVID 19 we’re isolated from one another and witness the struggles of so many people both financially and emotionally.  That first year I survived Connor’s birthday with the help of friends and family who surrounded me with love and hugs.  My heart breaks for families who have lost a baby and don’t have that support right now.

Today my husband’s dad is being buried.  We can’t attend because it’s too far away.  His sister will Facetime us so that we can be virtually present.

This weekend we will plant a tree in honor of Connor and his dad.  For me the tree represents hope through loss.  The year Connor died I received a Rose of Sharon plant.  Over the years it grew to over 12 feet tall.  When I looked at it, it was a reminder of just how far I had come in my own grief journey.  We moved from that home so now we will plant a new tree and our grief journey will continue.

Am I the only woman out there who’s sleep pattern is completely wrecked by this quarantine? For those of us who are used to living by a schedule and keeping our family’s life running smoothly this is completely screwing us up.

Or is it?

I’m a firm believer in the universe providing teachable moments that allow us to re-adjust. OK, this is more than just a moment – it’s a giant time-out.

I think most of us needed it for various reasons but for those of us who are caregivers, moms and entrepreneurs one of the lessons might just be to ease up.

As is typical of me, I started out this quarantine with a game plan – and my trusty white board.  Afterall, I work from my home office regularly, how different could this be?

I started lists of projects my teenagers could help me with when they were done with online school.  I assigned cooking, spring cleaning and activities with their brother Spencer who has intellectual disabilities.  Spencer was my greatest challenge.  He attends a day program and routine is critical for many people with intellectual disabilities.  I planned exercise time, drawing, Facetime with his friends and “some” TV.

I also had to plan what to do about my mom who lives with us.  As with many people from her generation, she likes to go to the grocery store every day rather than do a big shopping.  She also visits my aunt in a nursing home daily.  I had recently convinced her to start doing an exercise class at the senior center a few times per week.  Even though she lives with us she has her own schedule and I was nervous about her becoming isolated.  And so, I factored her into my plans as well.  We would have game nights and I would take walks with her and look through old photos.

Then there was date time with my husband to consider.  Greg has Primary Progressive MS and uses a power chair so our dates usually consisted of going to the movies or out to dinner with friends.  Clearly that was now out of the question.  I envisioned some quiet dinners alone – which I didn’t think through given that there was nowhere for the rest of the family to go during these quiet dinners!

I even factored in my own changes.  Rather than going to the gym I’d do classes online.  I already practiced yoga at home so throwing in some cardio and weight training would be easy.

And then the first day of quarantine happened.

It felt like a snow day with the kids home.  Rather than waking up at my normal 5:30A and meditating I found myself shutting off the alarm and sleeping until 7.  I rationalized that since the girl’s didn’t have to head off for school I’d still have extra time before they got up.  Spencer turned on the TV the minute he woke up.  I figured it was the first day and I wanted to get into the new routine so I’d let it slide.  My friends and I started texting about how crazy the world was becoming and before I knew it, it was 10:30.  I started thinking about what I was going to make for our first big family dinner.  If it was our normal routine the girls would be at cheer practice and wouldn’t be home for dinner.  Now suddenly I was faced with the prospect of making dinner for six people EVERY NIGHT.

By now it was 2P and I needed to buckle down and work.  I couldn’t take the time to walk the girls through the chores I wanted them to do and they were more than happy to spend the entire afternoon watching Tik Toks.  By 4P I realized that I hadn’t gotten a workout in so I tuned in to a live Zumba session on Instagram.  I quickly learned that to do an exercise class that required me to watch an instructor on my tiny phone is virtually impossible.  By 5P my son wanted to help with dinner which is wonderful, but he can’t do this without supervision so any chance of catching up on work was gone.  When dinner was done all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch Netflix.  The idea of family game night went completely out the window. Instead baking cookies seemed like a much better idea.

And so, my carefully planned out day resulted in me sleeping in, working too little, eating too much and my kids glued to their devices. Even worse I was wide awake until midnight – something unheard of for me. Which threw me off schedule again the following morning. I could see a vicious cycle beginning and was stressed out how to make it better.  Afterall I’m the Queen of running a household efficiently. I was sure I could conquer this challenge.

But I quickly realized I couldn’t. Life has taken on a new rhythm. Days and weeks feel longer and schedules just don’t seem to work.  With my daughter going off to college next year I’m grateful that I have more time with her.  Usually she’d be off with friends or at cheer practice.  I’m happy that she also has this time with her sister and I’m sure she’ll remember that fondly. I’ve taken walks with my mom and my husband and I have done double dates on Zoom.  My mom and Spencer have been playing Xbox Bowling – something they both enjoy tremendously. We’ve also set up FaceTime so she can see my aunt in the nursing home every week. And I’ve gotten back to work and have the opportunity to focus on doing more videos with inspirational people which is something I had put on the back burner.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that life keeps moving forward, maybe a bit messier and not as efficient, but mostly enjoyable.  We’re not the family that plays games together, but we’re all assembling masks for healthcare workers tonight which to me is even better.  But more importantly we share laughs and love and in the end that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

The following was written by  Heather Borden Herve, GMW Editor

Gov. Ned Lamont issued his nightly update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic for Thursday, April 2, 2020. It was, according to the governor, the largest, single-day increase in the number of deaths since the crisis began.

By the Numbers (April 2)
  • New one-day positive cases in CT residents:  267
  • Total CT cases:  3,824 (includes 18,300-plus tests conducted in state and private labs)
  • Total People hospitalized:  827 (approximately) (381 in Fairfield County)
  • Total Fairfield County cases: 2,132 (up 146 in one day)
  • Total CT fatalities due to complications from COVID-19: 112 (27 newly reported) (65 in Fairfield County–up 19 in one day)

Visit the state’s coronavirus webpage for several additional charts and tables containing more data groups, including a town-by-town breakdown of positive cases in each municipality and a breakdown of cases and deaths among age groups.

Governor Implements New “Safe Store” Rules

Gov. Lamont instituted new rules to protect store employees and shoppers, effective Friday, April 3.

Occupancy, store layout, and managing customer flow

  • Occupancy capped at 50% of store capacity. At entrance, staff will maintain a count of the number of customers entering and exiting stores.
  • Clearly mark 6-ft. spacing in lines on floor at checkout lines and other high-traffic areas and, as much as practicable, provide ways to encourage 6-ft. spacing in lines outside the store.
  • Post conspicuous signage and floor markings to direct customers and limit bottlenecks and/or encourage spacing and flow in high-density areas.
  • Have aisles be one-way in stores where practicable to maximize spacing between customers. Identify the one-way aisles with conspicuous signage and/or floor markings.
  • Maximize space between customers and employees at checkout lines, including, but not limited to, only using every other checkout line, where and when possible.
  • Install Plexiglas shields to separate employees from customers at checkout lines and other areas in the store where practicable.

General

  • Communicate with customers through in-store signage, and public service announcements and advertisements, there should only be one person per household during shopping trips, whenever possible.
  • Discontinue all self-serve foods (e.g., salad bar, olive bar) and product sampling.
  • Allow “touchless” credit card transactions. If not possible, sanitize credit card machines (including pen) regularly and consistently.
  • Cart and basket handles sanitized between uses (by staff).
  • Wherever possible, employees will wear gloves and face masks at all times that they are interacting with customers and/or handling products.
Governor Lamont signs 21st executive order

Gov. Lamont Thursday signed another executive order–the 21st since he declared an emergency–which enacts the following provisions:

Prohibition on non-essential lodging:  Prohibits all hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and short-term residential rentals (including those arranged through online hosting platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo) from renting to customers for leisure or vacation purposes. Instead, lodging at these facilities must be limited to:

  • Health care workers, first responders, and other essential workers;
  • Workers engaged in transporting critical materials to hospitals;
  • Vulnerable populations, including those who are homeless;
  • Connecticut residents who need a place to self-quarantine away from family or roommates;
  • Those receiving long-term care or specialized medical treatment;
  • Connecticut residents in need of housing as a result of property damage, such as a fire;
  • Persons unable to return home because of constraints on travel; and
  • Persons engaged in providing or servicing lodging.

Further clarification of limits on restaurants, bars, and private clubs:  Permits, under certain conditions, food establishments and liquor manufacturers to deliver alcoholic liquor and allows additional manufacturers to sell alcoholic liquor for pick-up and delivery. This will provide additional opportunities for these businesses to safely deliver their products directly to customers and reduce travel outside the home.

Suspension of notarization requirement related to Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program:  Suspends the notarization requirement for certifying compliance with nondiscrimination laws for applicants seeking assistance through the recently created Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program for small businesses in order to ensure that applications can be completed and processed in an efficient manner.

Flexibility to maintain adequate child care infrastructure:  Provides the commissioner of Early Childhood with the authority to implement a financial package to compensate emergency child care and stabilize the child care field to support providers through the emergency response.

Suspension of rehearing rights for temporary rate increases for certain health care providers:  Enables the Department of Social Services to provide relief to various providers, including nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for the intellectually disabled, and residential care homes, by way of a temporary rate increase to address the COVID-19 public health emergency without being subject to rehearings challenging the overall magnitude and methodology of the rate increases that can, in some case, take years to come to a conclusion and expose the state to increased costs beyond those necessary to pay the temporary rate increases.

Alternative to affidavits in relation to orders of protection and relief:  Suspends the requirement that victims of domestic abuse sign an application for an order of protection under oath before a notary or attorney. Instead, the order enables them to sign an application outside the presence of a third party under the penalty of false statement. Gov. Lamont thanks the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Judicial Branch for their input and coordination on this important matter. This order, along with additional changes the Judicial Branch intends to make to its Rules of Civil Procedure, will ensure victims of domestic abuse continue to have access to our courts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Access Health CT extends special enrollment period for uninsured residents to April 17

Access Health CT–Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace–Thursday announced that it is extending the deadline for the new special enrollment period for uninsured residents to enroll in health insurance plans. The special enrollment period opened on March 19 and was originally anticipated to end April 2; however that deadline is now being extended to April 17. Anyone who enrolls during this extension period will receive coverage effective May 1.

The only way to sign up for this special enrollment period is by calling 855.365.2428. Telephone enrollment is available Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Individuals who lose coverage due to unemployment, experience certain other qualifying life events, or qualify for Medicaid/Children’s Health Program (CHIP), can always enroll online, in-person or over the phone and all help is free.

Nearly 1,500 people enrolled during the initial-two week special enrollment period.

Department of Social Services extends deadline to apply for winter home-heating assistance

The Department of Social Services today announced that it is extending the application period for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program. Residents will now have until June 1, 2020 to apply for assistance to help cover this past winter’s heating bills (the previous deadline was May 1). Application sites and eligibility information is available online, by calling 2-1-1, texting CTWARM to 898.211, or contacting a community action agency.

Department of Social Services extends Emergency SNAP benefits to 97,000 households

The Department of Social Services is providing Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) benefits to nearly half of Connecticut SNAP participants on April 9 and April 20. Authorized by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, the extra food benefits will go to approximately 97,000 households not currently receiving the maximum benefits allowed for their household size. This means that all households enrolled in SNAP will receive the maximum food benefit allowable for their household size, even if they aren’t usually eligible for the maximum benefit. More information is available online.

Department of Revenue Services extends filing payment deadline for gift tax returns

At the direction of Governor Lamont, the Department of Revenue Services today announced that the filing and payment deadline for gift tax returns is being extended until July 15, 2020. Gift tax returns reporting gifts made during 2019 had been due on April 15. This extension does not apply to the estate tax.

“This action, which aligns with the U.S. Treasury’s announcement of an extension at the federal level, will help support taxpayers and tax practitioners meet their responsibility to file returns and remit payments,” Acting Revenue Services Commissioner John Biello said.For Connecticut taxable gifts made during calendar year 2019, a donor will not pay Connecticut gift tax unless the aggregate amount of the Connecticut taxable gifts made exceeds $3.6 million.