Trying to survive COVID however we can with pumpkin pie, prayer and all

Millions of Americans are trying to make their way through COVID however we can manage—and, in Lucille Sider’s case, that involved a lot of pumpkin pie. While that idea may make us smile—it certainly gave Lucille a much-needed smile—the truth is that COVID is a deadly predator. Resiliency in the face of COVID takes many forms and does not always guarantee we will survive. (This image shared courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

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By LUCILLE SIDER

Twelve days ago, I told my friend Barbara, “I am so blessed. I know no one who has had COVID—and certainly no one who has died from it.”

Then, 11 days ago, I learned that Brittany, a 27-year-old friend had died from pneumonia and COVID. And David, age 75, had died from COVID in an absolutely heartbreaking story. Refusing to be vaccinated, David and his wife Rita also avoided medical care. Their children who lived far away begged Rita to get him to an emergency room. They called an emergency van to take him—but Rita refused to let him go. David died that night.

I was reeling. I knew David from long ago and I am very close to his daughter, age 50.

Ten days ago: I learned that I had COVID. I was scheduled for minor surgery and the COVID test was simply the ordinary precaution in such situations.

I was hit with extreme fatigue, sore throat and other symptoms—and panicked. More than the symptoms, I panicked because I am an extrovert who needs lots of contact with other people to maintain my wellbeing.

For three days, however, I slept most of the time—except for the time I spent virtually with my friend Frank, who I have written about in earlier columns. We share morning meditation, which continued to be grounding for me. We read scripture and other sacred readings. We pray for our loved ones and for the world. Giving our worries to God frees us to carry on the work we are called to do.

I told my Facebook friends that I had COVID and they surrounded me with love. They called. They wrote to me. I heard from people I hardly knew. I felt so blessed. So grateful.

Then, I made two pumpkin pies and not just any pumpkin pies. Mennonite pumpkin pies. The pie I grew up with. The Mennonite recipe is lighter compared with the typical, fairly dense pumpkin pies that are so common across the country. My recipe also has a distinctive blend of those spices we all love: ginger, cinnamon and cloves—just enough to truly taste them but not too much to overshadow the pumpkin.

As always, I bought whipped cream for the top of the pie, the kind that comes in the can. I loaded each piece of pie with at least a cup of whipped cream. It was heavenly!

For two and a half days I ate pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know Frank loves this pie and considered giving him a few pieces—but I must admit: I really wanted it all for myself. I justified my decision by speculating that my pie could possibly pass along COVID germs. I later confessed my greed to Frank and promised to make pumpkin pie for him when I am well.

Finally, I regained just enough strength to care for my plants, which I also have written about in earlier columns. And, yes, the giant coleus did survive. My plants bring me such deep joy. When I walk into my living room garden each morning, I am greeted with a multi-colored garden of all different stripes and colors—red, orange, yellow, green, brown and pink. They are beautiful, they are easy to care for and they grow so quickly. If given a good amount of water, fertilizer and sunshine, they just take off and grow right before your eyes!

But COVID is a relentless predator. Frank did get COVID, too—truly terrifying news. Frank has diabetes and recently recovered from brain cancer.

The good news was that Frank had a very light case. He had mainly fatigue so he slept most of the time. We were too tired to cook, so had lots of carry-ins.

On the last day of my isolation I remembered a prayer we had recently read. It gave me hope in those moments that I feared death for myself and for others:

“Lord, you have conquered death.
You have gone down to the depths of Shoel and risen again to life.
Help us to remember as we suffer with you that we will rise with you to a life that never ends.
Amen.”
From Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

 

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

 

Lucille Sider Shares a Creative Coleus Christmas with her Community

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By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

My Christmas Coleus is a centerpiece of Christmas harmony, bursting with red and green.

It’s actually six plants all growing together in a big pot and has become a Christmas Coleus that truly represents my community.

Here’s how this unusual Christmas story unfolded: In the spring of this year, 2021, I drove by St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois and was stunned—truly stunned—by the deep red coleus garden. The garden was almost a half-block long and 6 feet wide. I had never, ever seen a coleus garden so big and so utterly beautiful.

I was smitten!

A week later I took my friend Barbara to that amazing garden. She has a beautiful outside garden and is always on the look-out for new flowers. She was immediately mesmerized. I then carefully instructed her to snip off some coleus slips. Slips are a single strand of the plant. When placed in water for a few weeks, they grow roots. Then all you need is a little pot, a little soil, a little water—and BINGO—you have your own, beloved coleus plant!

A week or two later, I visited my friend Daryce and we sat on her deck, listening to the birds and delighting in the plants. I immediately learned that she, too, loves coleuses and had quite a variety. In fact, she gave me a large plant, over a foot in height. It was more like a small tree with a trunk than a typical coleus plant. The leaves were a vibrant green with dark red stripes. Absolutely gorgeous!

I could not wait to get home, snip some of those long branches, place them in water and watch the tiny roots grow. Before I knew it, I had eighteen coleus plants, nine red ones and nine green ones with glorious red stripes.

When Barbara dropped by I gave her some of the green plants with the striped leaves. She planted three of these and three of the red coleuses in a big pot. That is the origin of The Christmas Coleus.

By mid-September the coleus was almost three feet wide and three feet tall. Of course I posed with it for pictures and immediately became the “The Coleus Queen” on Facebook. In retrospect, Barbara should have posed with me because the beautiful coleus is as much from her TLC as mine.

My friend Barbara with her coleus-packed wagon.

In early October Barbara and I knew we needed to move the plant inside to avoid an early frost. Barbara had just purchased a new wagon—a blue canvas beauty! Four feet long, two feet wide and one foot high. Perfect for transporting our coleus!

On moving day, we carefully lifted the coleus into the wagon and started walking four blocks from her house to mine.

Part of the plant drooped over the side of the wagon, which was truly precarious.

We had lots of questions and stares as people walked around the wagon for it took up two-thirds of the sidewalk. No one had ever seen a coleus this big!!

Finally, I was thrilled to have the coleus in my apartment where I could experiment with how to care for it in the winter months. We placed it in front of the window in my bedroom.

As soon as Barbara left, I found my “sunshine lamp,” which I knew I needed to provide sufficient light for the coleus. This lamp is rectangular, about one foot high, two feet wide. It produces rays that are like the rays of the sun. I have used it when struggling with seasonal depression in the winter months. It helps me get through those long, dark days and I was sure it could help the precious coleus as well.

I was right about that!

Providing light for the coleus has been a long-running experiment. There is no standard guideline. Perhaps this is more intuitive than any other aspect of caring for the coleus. And of course, the amount of light from the sun is always changing as winter approaches. Thus the time with the sunshine lamp is getting longer.

It soon became clear to me that the dark red coleuses needed much more light than the green ones with the red stripes. In fact, the red ones look somewhat faded and have developed some light green lines along the circumference of the leaves. Thus, I carefully rotate the plant so those faded red leaves get maximum light. It has helped considerably.

As we are nearing Christmas, I have established a routine that is clearly working for it has grown over a foot higher and a foot wider than when I brought it to my apartment. Some of the leaves from the red coleus have exploded in size and thus are 7 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Amazing! Beautiful!

Of course I love to show the coleus to friends and neighbors. They always congratulate me for my “green thumb.”

I insist that the secret of growing plants is more about “the pointer finger” than the “green thumb.” Let me explain. About every four days, I reach my hand into the top of the pot touching the soil with my “pointer” finger. If my finger is dry, I water the plant. If it is moist, I wait a day or two. About once a week, I fertilize the coleus using the standard Miracle-Gro fertilizer for indoor or outdoor plants.

At one point, I observed that the branches of the coleus were very brittle and could break easily. I struggled with how to protect them. Finally I bought wooden stakes about five feet high and carefully pushed them deep into the ground. Next, I took green string and tied the brittle branches to the stakes. This has worked very well and so far. as not one branch has broken off.

Then, I had an idea for a Christmas decoration.

I draped red and green tinsel from stake to stake. Later, I added another stake into the middle and placed a Christmas star on top of it. Perfect!

Now, I awaken each day to the beauty of the Christmas Coleus. Seeing bright rays of the sun gently bathing the plant brings a deep peace. Off in the distance is Lake Michigan with its ever-changing colors. Will the water be turquoise, baby blue, dark blue or gray? Such joy!

I get up, make my coffee and sit in the rocking chair just four feet from the coleus. It is the best meditation spot I have ever had! There was so much joy in gathering the red coleus slips with Barbara, receiving the green plant from Daryce, which has exploded into many beautiful plants, and now we have this glorious Christmas beauty.

Sometimes Barbara comes and we delight in the coleus. We remember that first day when we picked red coleus slips from the garden at St Francis Hospital. Some of our friends say we “stole” those slips but we insist that the hospital would have gladly given them to us. After all, it is a hospital of Saint Francis, the who preached to the birds and danced with the animals! And now my statue of St Francis stands close to the coleus, blessing it and sending it love.

Barbara and I chuckle about the four-block trip from her house to mine when we transported the coleus in her beautiful blue wagon. How we apologized to neighbors for taking up most of the width of the sidewalk. We just shake our heads as we remember their amazement at our little procession.

But most of all, Barbara and I cherish the beauty of creation.

We remember the story of creation in the Bible.

We wondering if that “fig” leaf that Adam used to cover himself was perhaps the original coleus!

A Christmas Coleus!

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

Mindy Corporon on Responding to the Oxford Shootings in a Loving Way

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mindy Corporon is a nationally known advocate for the thousands of families affected by tragedies each year—drawing on hard-earned wisdom she has gathered after a terrorist attack struck her family. Now, Mindy’s life’s work has become a multi-faceted effort to share spiritual solace as well as very practical ideas for coping with trauma and loss. Her podcasts and her community-outreach and training programs already have helped men, women and young people nationwide. So, this week, when a 15-year-old gunman unleashed a shooting rampage inside a Michigan high school, Mindy immediately responded with examples of the many practical ways neighbors can respond. (Wikimedia has more background on the Oxford High School incident and its aftermath.)

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Responding to a horrific tragedy starts with the simplest of daily challenges

By MINDY CORPORON

With deep respect for the lives lost and the lives shattered in the shooting at Oxford High School this week, we pause and ask ourselves: What can we do?

Crying, prayer and sharing your feelings with your family and friends is always a good place to start. From there, there are different actions depending on whether or not you know the victims.

If you know the victims of the tragedy, you can help by gathering together, being present, assisting with the necessities of daily life, such as laundry, grocery shopping and caring for the family pet. Drop off paper products. Organize a long term plan for meals, beyond the initial days following the event. Their grief will leave them needing help with food and day-to-day needs for weeks and perhaps for months down the road.

If you don’t know the victims, but are hurting for humanity, you can send a letter to the victims’ families to the funeral home.

You can send notes to the high school for students and faculty to read when they return.

Make a donation to the high school for the services they may need, to help with the grief and healing.

Plant a tree or have your own candle-lighting for the victims.

It is important to remember the students at Oxford High School when they return to classes in January. Letters, flowers and cards will help the Oxford community as they reassemble and face their new reality.

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Care to Learn More?

Mindy writes about the legacy of her own family’s trauma after a terrorist attack in Healing a Shattered Soul, which is available from Amazon.

A popular speaker, teacher and writer, Mindy has dedicated her life to encouraging kindness, faith and healing in congregations, companies and communities. Among the programs she has co-founded with this vision are the Faith Always Wins Foundation and Workplace Healing, LLC.

The emphasis on healing, which is right there in the first word of her memoir’s title, is the core of this book’s power to inspire readers and spark fresh engagement in our communities.

Looking for Joy, When Grief Bowls Us Over—Again

By SHAUNA WEIL
Contributing Columnist

Grief provides passages in life that can as easily steal your breath as give you breath.

Either way it exposes your soul in the midst of the tumultuous ways of this world. It brings vulnerability to the surface and that is something we so don’t want to allow ourselves to feel.

Barbara Crumm (then Yunker) with one of her favorite horses in San Antonio, Texas, during World War II.

I am coming close to the first year anniversary of the death of my mother, Barbara Crumm, and grief has bowled me over again. In my experience, I have discovered that most people do not want to talk about grief and all the many things beyond death that cause us to cycle through grief again and again.

We shutter it away; some even lock the shutters.

I say blow them wide open!

Let yourself experience it; let yourself talk about it; let yourself listen with ultimate compassion to those who are going through it. We’re often afraid to share. Perhaps you didn’t share when you grieved. If so, I am sorry you didn’t or couldn’t share. I am sorry if you didn’t find a compassionate listener to hear, really hear, your grief.

I had a very thought-provoking conversation yesterday with someone I really respect. So this morning, with my eyes brimming as I drove to Grand Blanc for something as mundane as a grocery pickup, I thought about my mom who spent her final years living in Grand Blanc. I thought about her breath span on earth. She had some very traumatic things happen in her life. I spent a little bit of time being sad over those hardships she endured that affected who she was her whole life. Then I spent a bit of time trying to be glad that she was free of some of those weights now, even though I keenly feel her absence.

But as surely as I hurt, I also just as surely want to know joy. Oddly, they are not an impossible juxtaposition.

I wanted to think about the joy my mom knows now. As I drove, two memories of mom’s life which she had shared with me came to my mind. Her eyes were an unusual shade of blue, striking, for they held both depth and an intensity. As she aged almost to her 96th year, her smile became even more gentle, lovingly conveying messages without even the need for her to speak. (That’s kind of a joke because we always teased mom about how much she loved to speak.)

Memory One: Mom especially loved her grandfather on her dad’s side of the family. He had a wonderful big car and her grandpa liked to go driving. Even more, Grandpa liked to pick up little Barbara and take her along. She loved to ride along through the Indiana countryside, standing on the wide floorboards so she could look out the windshield. Coming from a family of six children loving  as it was, this was a treat for little Barbara to be the pick of Grandpa for these excursions. Mom could still remember the feel of the car and the freedom she felt in being with Grandpa zooming along; she could also remember the delicious taste of ice cream that always seemed to be part of the journey. (I come by my penchant for ice cream honestly! Genetic, who knew?)

Memory Two: Mom moved to San Antonio during WWII to live with her big sister Helen, who owned and operated Breckinridge Stables right in town near a large park where they often rode. Helen’s husband was at some points gone as he served overseas during the war. Mom learned to ride there and her voice would become different when she spoke about riding horses. Mom joined in some of the Moonlight Rides the stables offered to the many servicemen who came through nearby Fort Sam. She enjoyed riding with friends or her sister. Anytime she rode, her world felt different to her. Even in her 90’s, no longer able to walk, if someone talked about riding or a fear of horses, mom would always say something joyous about riding like, “Oh, don’t be afraid, you can never feel as free as when you are riding a horse!”

I heard these two memories in particular come up many times. I recognize now, that, for my mom, these were two earthly experiences she had that maybe reached what she could possibly conceive divine joy might be like.  Her voice always changed on these two memories. They were important to her and expressed a freedom and joy she might not have been able to always feel in her daily life.

Even if she couldn’t always feel it, she was one to always seek out joy and one to choose it. Well, I am still here on earth with, God willing, miles to go on my spiritual journey before I sleep. But with eyes still brimming, I couldn’t help but whisper a prayer of praise to God for the glimpses of joy God showed my mom here on earth, which she held in her heart for a very long time and praise for the joy she now knows.

I pray today that our grief journeys and our joy journeys intermix as they are likely to do and we are able to realize God in all of it.

God is our most mindful of gifters. He knows the grief journey can’t be done without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and raw nor without the gift of joy peeping through now and again. I could even see it with eyes full of tears today. I know you can, too, whichever you are: a griever or a gift to a griever.

Walk on whether you are breathing or breathless. God knows your pain and provides your joy. No wonder they are intermixed.

It’s a Goddity.

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Care to see more?

This column originally was shared through the Devotion Ministry of Goodrich United Methodist Church. At the close of the column, Shauna shared the following video with the comment: Need some company in your walk? Listen to the popular musical number from the movie Carousel, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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ABOUT THE WRITER: Shauna Weil, at is, at heart, a giver of care, a musician, an author and a seeker of joy. She and her family own and operate a multi-generational dairy farm and run a summer sweet corn stand in southeast Michigan.

Do you have an animal friend in your life? They can help you make even more friends!

By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

Do you have an animal friend in your life?

If you don’t, I’ll tell you one of the most rewarding experiences pet lovers discover when they bring a cat or dog into their lives: They start to make new friends in their neighborhood. Of course, dog walking instantly makes us more visible, but even cats have a way of making new connections across a community.

Here’s how my cat PJ wound up making those connections.

This happened two months after my home in Binghamton, New York, was devastated by a flood, sending both of us—me and PJ—fleeing from our house on that dreadful evening. My friend Anita had insisted we come to live in her building where she knew there was an empty apartment below hers.

Anita had a real phobia about cats, so I was extremely grateful that she welcomed PJ. PJ seemed to be adjusting just fine—until that Thursday afternoon when I came home from work.  He was not at the door to greet me as he always was.  I became a bit anxious so quickly entered the apartment hoping to find him asleep on the sofa, his favorite place when he was home alone.

He was not on the sofa so I checked closets.

He was not there so I checked behind all of my furniture.

After fifteen minutes of searching, I called Diane, a deacon from Northminster Presbyterian Church where I worked as Pastor of Visitation. I had thirty seniors I visited monthly and Diane had accompanied me in visits that were complicated.  Such was the case with several seniors with Alzheimers.  Diane was a cat lover and had a sign in her yard, “Cats Welcome Here.”  She had visited me and PJ and PJ took an immediate liking to her.

When I called with the news that PJ was missing, she was there in ten minutes to help me search.  After scouring my apartment she said, “We have to make signs and post them in the neighborhood.  We sat together and designed a sign that said:  “Lost Cat:  PJ.  A small beige cat.  Call Lucille (and my phone number).  Reward.”

We rushed to the neighborhood printer to make 30 signs.  Then we set out in the neighborhood to post the signs wherever we could find an appropriate spot.  We also gave signs to people we met on the street.

After two hours on the street, Diane left and I started calling people.  I called my pastor at the Methodist Church and he immediately put PJ on the prayer list.  Diane put him on the Presbyterian prayer list.  I called my relatives in Canada and my son and his wife, Soren and Amanda, who lived in Washington, DC.  They had given me PJ as a house warming gift one year ago.

PJ’s real name was Panama Jack, the Third.  Both his father and grandfather were named Panama Jack.  The breed was Tomkinese which is both Siamese and Burmese.  While he looked Siamese, his personality was gentle and loving like Burmese.

The next day Soren told me that he and Amanda cried the night before, crying for me and PJ.  Soren also bought a service that put a message about PJ on 250 telephones in my neighborhood.  That night my cousin, Twila, from Pennsylvania called me and said, “If PJ does not come back, I will give you Lucky, a wonderful cat that just appeared in their yard about six months ago.”  While I did not want to think about PJ not coming back, her call and her offer were soothing.

The next evening Twila came to help me search for the cat.  We went all around the neighborhood, asking everyone if they had seen PJ.  We looked in garages—which was not really wise in retrospect, but no one seemed to object.

On Thursday morning, however, Anita received a call from the neighbors next door and they said that a small beige cat was at their door and they took him to the basement.  Anita and I hurried over with the cat carrier and there he was.  He immediately came to me and we carried him home.  He was not interested in food and water; he just wanted to be held.  I lay on my sofa and he crawled on top of me and put his paw on my cheek.  He had never done this before.  I knew he was telling me he was happy to see me.

After a while I started calling friends and family telling them that he was home.  Some of them cried for joy with me.  I called the churches who had him on their prayer list and they rejoiced with me.  On Sunday I went to church and at announcement time I reported that PJ was found.  They clapped and clapped.

As I was driving home from church, tears of joy fell on my face.  Joy because I would see PJ.  And  joy for all the love given to me from all of these friends, family and churches.

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

National Family Caregivers Month: Two Helpful Online Resources

Click on this snapshot of a larger free chart you can get from the Caregiver Action Network. On that CAN webpage, you can right-click and save a higher-res version of this chart to share—or you can simply use social media links on that page to share it with friends. In addition to this chart, you’ll also find many other links to resources provided by CAN.

Celebrate November as National Family Caregivers Month

Raise Awareness of More than 50 Million Americans

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EACH NOVEMBER, a White House proclamation calls for all Americans to help raise awareness of the more than 50 million men and women who tirelessly provide caregiving services to their families.

Our publishing house asks readers to consider ordering one—or more—of the many caregiving-themed books displayed in this special section of our online magazine. You can see their covers, linked to Amazon, along the left margin of this page.

In addition, we recommend that you check out the resources you can find on these two online clearinghouses that share resources for caregivers.

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Administration for Community Living

FIRST, FREE SOCIAL-MEDIA GRAPHICS YOU CAN SHARE are provided by the Administration for Community Living, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This website also explains some of the popular hashtags you can use to boost your sharing across social media.

Click on this sample graphic to visit the website of the Administration for Community Living, where you will find more resources.

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Caregiver Action Network

FIND MUCH MORE AT THE CAREGIVER ACTION NETWORK! You don’t have to take our word for it. The Administration for Community Living—and many more online nonprofits—recommend links to the resource-packed Caregiver Action Network. Visit that website and you’ll discover a treasure trove of materials.

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Care to Learn More?

Please look at the books showcased along the left margin of this webpage. Find one that interests you and order a copy today. Find another book that might interest a friend or loved one—and “gift” them a copy as your way of encouraging them.

Finding Resilience in the Midst of The Winter Blues

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By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

When I turned 33 years old, my life felt perfect. My husband and I were a great team as we cared for our three-year old son and as we each were working on doctorates. Our son already had a best friend as well as several other children on our block on the north side of Chicago.

But seemingly out of nowhere, in early November, 1979, an inner darkness gradually crept into the core of my being. I lost a sense of purpose. I felt exhausted. I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

Thankfully, I knew of a female therapist who worked especially with women. Immediately, she identified my aliment as “The Winter Blues.” Loss of purpose, exhaustion, and inner darkness hit the nail exactly on the head. Some simple statistics then helped to relieve some self-incrimination. The first was that approximately 10 million Americans suffer from “The Winter Blues” and that women are four more times than men to be afflicted. This helped me to not feel so alone.

The reality was that I had many friends but when The Winter Blues struck, they seemed so far away. Without realizing it until later, I had been withdrawing from them.

My therapist then reminded me that the technical name for “The Winter Blues” is “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” which is shortened to SAD.

Since “sad” was exactly the way I was feeling, this information again helped me to not feel so isolated.

Throughout that first winter, my therapist guided me every step of the way. She helped me stop blaming myself for how I felt. She gently nudged me to have coffee with my female friends. She nudged me to find a walking partner along our beautiful Lake Michigan. She encouraged me to go to church even if my husband could not go.

While that winter was the first time I truly understood the depression I felt, it has taken several years to really manage it.

Perhaps most important, I’ve learned that unless one masters how to manage SAD, it will creep into the psyche when the days grow short in November and it will sit there until March, when the days grow long. My motto became: “You take charge of The Winter Blues, or they will take charge of you.”

As the years have gone by, my own winter blues have weakened. I have found many ways to defend myself. The most powerful is to turn on the lights.

Light Therapy is quite a simple response and is widely recognized as effective.

I now live alone except for my cat, PJ. When I wake each morning, after a long snug with PJ, I walk directly to the living room/dining room and switch on the ceiling light. The light from two 100 watt bulbs greets me warmly. Since the light emanates from the ceiling, it feels like bringing in sunshine directly from the sky. Then, I switch on the ceiling fan. The movement of air in the room brings some sense of aliveness—like a gentle wind.

After that, three more lamps greet me. Two of these are standing lamps, with glass bowl-shaped shades turned upside down to direct light onto the ceiling. Again, this feels like sunshine from the sky. And finally, I turn on my table lamp with a stained glass shade. The shade of green and red accentuates all the plants that adorn the room.

With all the lights on in my main room, I make a pot of coffee in the kitchen. With a cup in hand, I move to my study, a small room with two big windows. I sit on my cushy glider and peer at Lake Michigan through one of those windows. While I live four blocks from the lake, I can see it from my windows, all five of them.

The question always is: How will the lake look today? Will it be a light blue, turquoise, dark blue, blue green or even gray? Will it be smooth or choppy? And what about the sky? Will it be clear with no clouds? Will it be full of those fluffy white clouds?

After sitting on my chair and absorbing the beauty of the lake I write down how I am feeling. As a person who struggles with depression, this is very important. I actually rate my level of depression with a numeric scale that goes from about 1 to 3. 1 is very little depression and 3 is a great deal of depression. If I am at 3 for several days in a row, I am in danger of having a depressive episode. I call my psychiatrist to make an appointment and we decide how to manage it. Usually an adjustment in medication is part of what I need. An extra session with my therapist may be needed also.

Then I return to the living room with a second cup of coffee in hand. I sit among the plants. I have two small trees in the corners of the living room, gracing the large windows straight ahead. The rest of the plants are coleuses, famous for their variegated leaves that come in many colors. Some are a deep red, while others are a light pink and green. Some are striped green, red and white. They vary in size, with the biggest ones standing over two feet tall. They are arranged on plant stands of various heights, displaying each one in all its glory. The 20 coleus plants make me feel like I’m in my own personal garden—I call it “plant therapy.” With the morning sun pouring through the windows, the darkness fades significantly.

Finally I plug in my water fountain, strategically placed among the plants. With its three tiers, flowing water ebbs gently in the room as a white, lighted ball turns gracefully on the top tier. This is the perfect setting for my second cup of coffee.

Halfway through that second cup of coffee, (about 9 am) my dear friend Frank knocks on my door, ready for our morning meditation. We live in the same building in Chicago, and have been meditating together for six years. While the practice has changed over the years, it always includes The Lord’s Prayer, spiritual readings, intercessions and 15 minutes of silence.

We begin with The Lord’s Prayer. This is not the traditional English text but one that Frank himself translated from his study of the Aramaic language, the language Jesus would have spoken.

In our time together Frank and I read scripture and other spiritual writings. We sing a short song. Then we pray. Our prayer list has at least 50 people on it. It is so enriching to remember each one. We let them know we are praying for them, which brings a certain intimacy into the relationship.

Finally, we have 15 minutes of silence. The silence brings together all of the previous words and actions. Furthermore, it settles any restlessness we might have, thus preparing us for the day.

After Frank leaves, I sometimes use my “light box “to combat any remaining darkness. This rectangular lamp is designed to emit rays just like the rays of the sun. I sit to the side of it so the rays land at an angle to my face, which feels soothing. If the Chicago sun doesn’t show itself, I also shine my light box on my plants. Giving them an hour of light therapy picks them up and helps them get through the Chicago winter. And on occasion, even my cat sits in front of the light box. I chuckle as I realize that even he needs some help to get through Chicago winters.

In addition to this routine, I have three other practices that are foundational for warding off the winter blues.

Music is the most important of these. I usually awaken each morning with a hymn running through my mind. I write it down and make a practice of singing it throughout the day. To remind myself to sing I have placed several small pink paper squares around my apartment. I feel very blessed that I wake each morning with a hymn. I discuss each one with my therapist just as we discuss dreams. The hymns are always affirming, reminding me of God’s love. A recent one was this: “Oh, the deep, deep, love of Jesus, Love so amazing so divine. For he loves us, ever loving, binding all of mankind.”

As noted above, I receive weekly counseling. My counselor and I discuss not only practical matters, but also my dreams and hymns. Dream interpretation keeps me attuned to my unconscious mind, which guides me in everyday situations and in understanding deeper psychological tumult. I love interpreting dreams.

Finally, I often pamper myself during the winter blues. I give myself permission to splurge by eating out and carrying in. I buy bouquets of flowers for myself and my friends. I shop online. Even the notification of a package arriving perks my spirits. Of course this splurging can easily get out of hand—especially during the pandemic. So managing it so it does not manage you—that’s the key!!

Finally, let me share with you Frank’s translation of the Lord’s Prayer, which you may want to include someday in your own spiritual reflections. It is:

Beloved Mother/Father of the Cosmos, awaken our hearts, minds and bodies to your loving and radiating presence.
Give us your empowering vision that all is one, earth and heaven together.
Remind us that we are your children, being fed by an eternal wisdom now.
Loosen the knots that form within and between us, freeing us to forgive.
Keep us aware of the flow of your goodness through us that we may bear fruitful lives.
For you are the vision and power of the unfolding new creation on which we stake our lives.

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Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. Here are some of her earlier columns:

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