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swfp-shelley-huguley-covid-b-day-4.JPG Shelley E. Huguley
A birthday party COVID-19 style. Why? Because we can!

Party in the parking lot

While so much has changed, there are some things I hope will remain the same.

As I scrolled through the Farm Press twitter account, I was reminded of how quickly life has changed over the last 10 weeks. We went from observing COVID-19 tragically unfolding on the other side of the world to staring it in the face in America. Never would I have imagined so many lives lost so rapidly or that our bustling country would come to a screeching halt. But it has.

Fortunately, our farmers and ranchers are part of the critical infrastructure industry – nothing new to us. For many, it's time to plant. Timing is critical. Seeds sown this spring hopefully reap a fall harvest, something the bare shelves at the grocery store reminds Americans is essential.

Quarantine has cleared our calendars, allowing for much-needed family time. Since March, my family has eaten lunch and supper together almost daily—a rare occurrence prior to COVID. The kids are more involved in the daily activities of managing a home and farm, from my daughter cooking to my son driving the tractor and my Little on dish duty.  We've taken more walks and appreciated the outdoors more than ever, as it seems to be the one safe place "to go" as a family.

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My Little taking a selfie at her mom's parking lot birthday party.

While there have been some changes in rural America, for the most part, it's been business as usual. The highways near my town are still busy with semi-trucks, tractors, and pickups headed to the fields. The local coop, feed store, and welding shop are open, and I've thankfully continued to work from home. I've hardly left the city limits.

But in April, for my birthday, we drove an hour to Lubbock for a curbside supper celebration — quarantine style. It was then I realized how "shut down" our nation actually is.

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My precious friend made me a birthday cake.

Originally, our plan was to pick up supper and cheesecake from a restaurant located in the mall parking lot and then head to a park for a picnic. As we entered the parking lot, I was struck by the vast expanse of deserted asphalt. Not one vehicle — no shoppers, no employees, no trash. Nothing.

And then it hit me. Let's have a party in the parking lot! Why? Because we can. My teenagers asked if I was serious. My farmer had no doubt. And my Little just listened and watched as it unfolded. She's up for a party, no matter the location.

So, on a red blanket in a vacant mall parking lot, we popped a squat and celebrated my birthday. One we won't soon forget.

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Dear friends of mine made me chocolate chip cookies and cards.

These are unprecedented times. Once life settles, I'm curious what the new normal will look like. We'll still have a 24-hour day, but how will we spend it? My hope is we'll continue to be intentional about relating, hesitant to pack our calendars, and creative about making memories, even if it means partying in the parking lot!

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