Reflections from Your Neighbors amid Covid-19

The Jensen Community Spirit asked Tomorrow River Area residents to share some reflections on their lives over the last two months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are their responses.

In the last two months, we have been caught off guard with a threat that would have been hard to imagine just a few months ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has effected all of us, in many different ways. Some of our lives have been turned upside-down, some have been hit hard financially, some mentally and emotionally. The grief that we all share is immense, no matter what view you take on it. And since it’s happening globally, it’s hard to escape it even in our little corner of the world. For this issue, the Jensen Community Spirit asked Tomorrow River Area residents to share some reflections on their lives over the last two months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are their responses.

Cullen Family

Grateful for Family Opportunities

by Melanie Cullen

These last two months have given my family the chance to learn how to disc golf, geo-cache, and play cribbage together. We’ve been able to do more fishing and turkey hunting than we ever would have otherwise, and we’ve been able to have dinner together as a family every single night. There are days when my eyes start to well up with tears and I get a big lump in my throat, because of how many new changes all of us have had to process; online school, working from home, and no spring baseball/softball, just to name a few. I have a big range of emotions on a daily basis, but mostly, I’ve become even more grateful for my family, our school, and our community, because we have all grown closer, and we seem to have a new appreciation for each other. I’m very grateful to live where I do!

Wendlandt Family

Reflections of Safer at Home

by Doreen Wendlandt

As a nurse, I am very fortunate to have a job that can be done from home. Looking back, my first few weeks at home are a complete blur. My workdays were long, and I had zero ability to offer real support to my family. Their lives had literally come to a halt. Normal days where everyone is gone for 12-plus hours at a time, between work/school, sports, volunteering, etc. were over.

We all started in a headspace filled with grief, and I am thankful to say we have evolved. We have spent more time together than ever, and I can see that our compassion for each other has grown. My heart is full and has been nourished by this quality time, especially with my oldest.

We have embraced virtual campus visits together. And as he prepares for that next step in his life journey, I am a mixed bag of emotions regarding this rite of passage, which makes me even more grateful for this time together. Juggling work and home schooling for my 8-year-old has gotten more challenging as the weeks go on. So we have adjusted priorities; we get done the schoolwork that needs to get done but unapologetically are more focused on his emotional needs to feel safe and reassured that he will get to go to school again and see his friends. Snuggles and hysterical entertainment with him are endless, and for that I am thankful.

My husband is a teacher. Immediately I saw that the part of teaching that brings him the most joy, being in the school building with his students, was gone. He has accepted this new way, while it’s not his preferred way, and he is very thankful to continue to have a job. He has so much empathy for those that have been turned upside down, financially. Plus, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor, and for all of that I am thankful.

I am thankful for this slowdown in life, thankful for the creativity that boredom brings, thankful for a new way of socializing via virtual games and hangouts with friends and family and, yes, I am even thankful for Fortnite, but mostly am thankful for the hugs and laughter that grace our home daily. As summer approaches we are so hopeful to not only spend time together and with friends, but to recoup all the lost hugs. Get ready, they are going to be long and uncomfortable!

Martin Family

Ready for Anything

by Jenny Martin

Spring for us is usually rather chaotic. We are running in a million different ways doing a million different things we love. This spring was different. We spent countless hours laughing together at home while finding unique ways to break up the day. Every day would start with a trip to the school to pick up our breakfast and lunch for the day and then it was time for online schooling. Once school was finished we would try new recipes, bake cakes, and play countless yard games and board games. Every member of our family learned how to do a Zoom Meeting, a Google Meet, and we even taught the Grandparents how to do video calls seeing as we couldn’t visit them. There were days we would look outside at neighbors and be overcome with sadness that we weren’t able to spend time with them and there were days that were spent with hours of laughter.  No matter the mood of the day, we were always happy and thankful to be healthy and with family, a luxury some didn’t have.

We always knew we were a strong, close family, but somehow through all this, we became stronger and closer. And we now know together we can make it through anything life throws at us.

The Faldets

by Johnna Faldet

Although I miss seeing my students at school everyday, I am so thankful that technology has helped us keep learning together. I have loved getting to see their faces and interact with them during our digital learning time. I'm so impressed with how hard our students and their families are working. It's great to be able to teach in this awesome, supportive district! With the extra time at home, my husband and I have finished a lot of projects in and around our house. Our most recent project has been planting our first garden together. I've also been finding more time to do some things that often get pushed aside, like reading, going for walks, baking, and being out on the water. It's definitely not the spring that we expected, but we're making the most of it.

Maggie Stern

by Maggie Stern, Planet B

I’ve used this time to get out from behind the eight ball. Living in a space (Planet B) while working on that space, I can never ‘catch up.’  But I’m lucky to live above my little shop; pajama days and workdays overlap, and time is off the clock. Feelings count, not just the numbers. I miss the hugs from friends, that physical connection is medicine to me. I want to respect each individual’s social distance space, but I’m very happy to be part of a larger community again.

The Singer-Brown Family

Our Space on the Planet

by Mariah Singer-Brown

While some days are emotional and we are slowly taking each day at a time, our family has been extra close at this time. I notice how excited we get when we see friends/neighbors from a distance. We’re spending more time in our yard, grilling meals and eating outdoors even when it’s a bit chilly. When someone walks past our house that we know (and sometimes that we don’t know), we open up the front door and yell, “Hello!” We have been creative and going out of our way to support people we love; local businesses and farmers. I have taken multiple bike rides, learned a TikTok dance with my kids and have found more beautiful hiking trails around our area where we can maintain a good distance from other hikers. We are even more thankful for the little space that we occupy on this planet. We are looking forward to being with others again and will have a whole new appreciation for community and connection.

This New Life We All Share

by Nina Cass

With a gush of approval and the roar of applause, the audience warmly and enthusiastically took to their feet in response to the students’ performance of “Dragons and Knights and the Princess of Lights.” March 13th, the Tomorrow River Acting Club closed their 2020 theatrical season with the rousing reaction of their families and community. As the “curtain came down,” we were told that there could be no cast party, and we would not see each other again for weeks. The costumes, props and staging were left in place as a haunting reminder that something particularly social, the theater, had been disrupted. Lingering with hugs and exchanges of longing and affection, the students left the stage bearing the bittersweet burden of actors and crew bedding down their hard-earned creation. Those were the last hugs I provided and received…

In the, now, months that followed, we’ve spent much of our time reflecting on the blessings of that moment. How lucky were we to have a group of talented and loving students to share in the sudden need for adjustment to a unique and curious circumstance. I read and re-read the notes from those students and found more tucked into the make up boxes when we finally worked up the courage to pack up the gear for storage. Those notes are links in the chain that binds us all together.

Counting blessings nourishes our appetite for social contact. As the weather warmed and outdoor activity increased, we planted seeds in the garden and mulched the plants for protection, all the while realizing that these endeavors were analogous to what we’re doing in our community, everyday: Phone calls to friends we cannot see, letters to those far from Amherst, sewing facial masks for those who need them, bike rides, carry out meals from local restaurants, relishing the bird song of those species returning each week, delighting in beauty of the daffodils and tulips, planting trees and shrubs to replace the loved ones lost in the July 20th storm.

Most recently, I’ve been painting at Amherst’s Own Child Care. With hope that the center will be able to reopen in June, I want the children to return to a fresh, clean environment. There will be adjustments to make and bright, cheery walls may help ease the need to do things differently. A fresh coat of paint, a friendly note or phone call, an order of food and the recounting of memorable moments have each blessed our adjustment to this new life we all share.

River & Annie Oleson

by Sherry Oleson

Some days feel totally normal and others feel better than normal.

Both my husband and I leave our home to work everyday. School is very lonely without kids and the laughter they bring. My boys are having to complete school work at home.

You may be asking, what in the world would be better than normal in times like these? The time I get to spend seeing my teenage boys at home is wonderful. We don’t have a million places to be each evening and weekend. We are spending every night eating dinner together as a family, and sometimes the boys even help!

We are completing home projects together that have been put off far too long, going for walks and playing fetch with our new puppy, River and her big sister, Annie. We are blessed to have the health that we have taken for granted all these years and are taking things in stride. As wonderful as this time has been, I am looking forward to our busy “normal” soon!

The Whitefeather Family

By Tony &Laura Whitefeather, Whitefeather Organics LLC., Custer

Having the whole family home from school all the time while farming has been both challenging and a blessing. We are fortunate to be able to place ourselves in the open arms of the community and can stay busy with our noses to the ground! Although we have lost some business we have taken this as an opportunity to adapt and to strengthen our family through change. Thank you for letting us let you let us feed you!

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