A garden and an online journal help Lieb focus and cope

Published 10:55 pm Friday, July 3, 2020

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Tina Lieb appeared relaxed, seated in an overstuffed chair against the backdrop of an indoor pool and a grand window view of rolling hills.  A piano, interesting artwork and books that had been read or to be read indicated the Lieb family has varied interests. A colorful cluster of wine bottles collected for an upcoming project stood in waiting. Only the mask that Tina removed from her face gave any hint that it was not life as normal at the Lieb household on the outskirts of Troy.

Tina openly admitted the anxiety she had and continues to have as she has worked through the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.

One day she was in her classroom teaching a wonderful group of children and it seemed that it was only the next instant that the school shut down without her even getting to say goodbye to her students.

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“But we are all going through the same thing,” Tina said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live  all our lives have changed because of the coronavirus. All of sudden we all had to adjust to a different way of life, to a different way of doing  things.”

Something once as casual, as simple, as going to the grocery store was a challenge. And, there was concern surrounding most every thing — where to go, what to do, how to do. There was a question hanging over everything, Tina said.

“I had to find a way to stay focused and to relieve the anxiety I was feeling.”

And, Tina found a way — a Facebook journal.

“The journal was a way to keep me focused,” she said. “I began posting every day and I also took photographs of things that I wanted to remember, exactly the way they were. At the end of each day, I would post an entry in the journal. Every day I would find something to write about, if only about the dog digging up a pot buried in the yard. I found something to write about.”

For Tina, the journal posts helped her focus on the little things in life and not dwell of the big things, the overwhelming things. The journal posts kept her from focusing on the worldwide pandemic and somewhat relived the anxieties related to COVID-19.

Then, one day, Tina’s husband tested positive for the coronavirus. Even a journey entry was no comfort.

“I was afraid,” Tina said. “I was afraid for Olaf. I was afraid for our children here at home. What if they got the virus? What if I got the virus and couldn’t care for them. What if I died?”

Tina admitted those days were extremely stressful. Adding to the concerns at home,  were those for a daughter in Birmingham and a son in New York, the hotbed of COVID-19.

“Thankfully, none of us contracted the virus and neither did any of the others who worked with the man who had the virus,” Tina said. “I think Olaf’s test was a false positive but we still went through the stresses of dealing with his testing positive and with the possibility that the virus might spread through the family.”

Tina came away from that experience with the knowledge that the postings in her journal and the photographs taken were stepping stones though it all. Her thoughts turned to her grandmother and how she must have coped with the isolation of living in a rural area. She thought about the limited opportunities to be with others and ever fewer, if any, to go into town.

It was then that Tina and her family decided to do as older generations had done. Rather than don a mask and gloves and risk going into the grocery store, they would plant a garden, much like a victory garden. It would fill their time and hopefully, their pantry.

With a “floor plan” for the garden and a saw, hammer and nails, they constructed a 20-foot square garden enclosure that would protect their organically grown vegetables from any predators. And, then, they tilled the soil.

They planted tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, squash, beans, radishes, corn, peppers, cucumbers and watermelons.

“All things Southern,” Tina said, laughing.

And the garden grew and grew and is now proving its worth.

“The garden was family project and we take a lot pride in it,” Tina said.  “The garden gave me a sense of normalcy. It relieved my frustrations. It helped me stay balanced. Watching things grow and produce give me hope in the future. That things might be different now but everything will come around in time. The garden has been a blessing. It says to me, ’Tina, just relax! Be free!”

“What we are going through now is not forever. And, just like my grandmother’s generation did, we can get through. Hopefully, sooner than later.”