Lessons learned in elementary school

This morning I was thinking about the class elections we held in school, particularly elementary school. They didn’t mean much as far as any “governing,” but were frankly a popularity contest.

We took them seriously until they were over, and then we went back to arguing who held the title for the most jacks scooped up while bouncing a small rubber ball during recess.

We had rules for our elections. They weren’t written on the chalkboard, but we knew what they were.

First of all, you never, ever voted for yourself. I have no idea how this came about, but it was firm. The worst thing you could say about a winner was that she voted for herself.

I realize now that this is ridiculous. If you believe you’re the best candidate, of course you would vote for yourself. But we were kids, and this seemed to us the height of conceit. A leader should be modest and open to the idea that someone else might be just as good as we were.

The second rule was that once the votes were in, that was that. If you were disappointed, you kept it to yourself. If you grumbled about it not being “fair” you were called a sore loser. Not something anyone wanted to have tagged to their name.

The third rule was to remember that that there was always a next time. You could run again, maybe for another class office or an afterschool club. There were always opportunities to test your leadership,, particularly as we grew older and went to junior and senior high. We began to realize it wasn’t a popularity contest, and voted for the person we thought most capable. And yes, if that person was us, we cast our vote accordingly.

And if we lost, we shrugged it off and volunteered to help on committees.

I think we have forgotten the lessons we learned in school, and I’m not just talking about classes in government or civics, although I think those should be mandatory for every student starting at about the fourth grade with grave emphasis on the Constitution and what it means.

And perhaps it should be a mandatory sentence for those caught up in the sore loser mindset as well.

Good Intentions Meet Baby!

Well, I certainly chose the ^perfect^ year to have a baby. 2020… Moving to new house, Covid, surrogate adventures, selling house, driving back and forth to Florida, having a baby in a pandemic hotspot… and then everything that goes with a baby! I had such hopes to write, paint, organize new house, and dance like a fairy on a pin point.

this little, tiny human takes up a lot of office space!

I could easily write a book on any of the above adventures, if I had the time; but, wow, a baby! My friends have literally ROFL’d any mention of baby-brain, exhaustion, or lack of sleep, amid the covid fears. I’ve been told it eases up after 6 months, others say a year. On the 23rd of January, the Tigger is 6 months old and an absolute joyful, mysterious little human, so it’s comforting just knowing for now, things will eventually settle into a new manageable normal. Sleep is getting better for all three of us; and due to the pandemic, a zoom visit is the new normal with grandmother. Although, I might have to wait for hell to freeze over before I figure out the logistics of juggling formulas, diapers and laundry. Basically, our little human thinks footie pajamas are a uniform and my husband has taken to cutting off the feet if he accidentally tries to put on one she’s out-grown. Fancy dresses and endearing outfits are never worn because she grows so fast and there doesn’t seem to be a fancy dress event in this house. No going out, no. one coming in – visits to the doctor for shots are a big adventure.

It’s hard to fight baby brain – the snuggle is so addictive!

I wake in the middle of the night with an idea or plot solution for one of my WIPs but it just goes into the notes app on my phone. Several art projects are prepped and ready to start but they can wait. It’s not an agonizing decision, it doesn’t weigh too heavily on me, as her welfare and care is without question our new mission in life. It’s almost like a magical spell cast on our lives.

That said, she now naps in her room twice a day for at least 90 minutes and she is adjacent to my office, so I can actually do something. For the next six months, she still sleeps in our room, husband thinks it’ll be less time -we seem to bother her more than she bothers us. Another break is she really enjoys watching Teletubbies as I writer draw. Sitting at my computer and having time to actually do something feels so new – I find myself wandering the Internet, reading emails or erasing a ton of spam and it’s a treat. Discipline is elusive, when the little human is master of my time and interrupting me mid word for a bottle or clean diaper is one thing but changing clothes due to spit up is a new twist.

There is also the overwhelming temptation to take a nap when she does…

Still in the Game

I realize I haven’t written much lately about my … writing. From what I have been seeing on social media, many of my fellow writers have also been so dispirited by this past year that not much of anything is being committed to paper — I mean, a Word file.

Being a committed genre-hopper, this new work is a completely different direction for me. I don’t choose the stories in my head, they just take up residence there. So I am struggling a little figuring this out. I’m not complaining. I’m having fun getting to know the characters and being constantly surprised at where they are taking me.

I’m actually up to 83 pages of my first draft.

And, steadfastly ignoring the housework, laundry and other chores, I’ve embarked on yet another project. I decided last year to record one of my books and see what happens. Yes, Cleanreads has put all three of my novels on Audible, for which I am grateful. When I saw how the audio sales outstripped the ebook sales, I knew that was a market I wanted to tap.

My first attempt through Amazon’s ACX studios didn’t go very well. My son, who has home-recorded several music CDs, is helping me get the equipment I need for a professional sound. Honestly, until now I had never heard of room noise, clicks, or clipping–the pesky things that kept my first attempt from being accepted.

I am determined to make it work, though.

My last project ( in addition to my desire to paint the guest bedroom in lighter color) is another cross-stitch. I love to sit down in the late afternoon, pick up my Aida cloth and floss, and add more stitches while listening to an audio book downloaded from the library. As you can see, Daisy, one of my four cats, is helping.

Soon enough it will be Spring, the pandemic will be on its way out because people will be wearing masks, washing hands, keeping six feet away from each other, and getting the vaccine. I’m getting my first shot tomorrow.

Because I want to be around to keep on writing and recording and stitching.

A little death

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. As my friends had promised, the grief was still there, but not the wrenching sense of loss I experienced that first year, or the sudden bursts of anguish that characterized the second. Yes, my grief had lessened, bit by bit, only to come back full force at unexpected times. But these bursts came further and further apart. As promised.

So I felt a little sad but not bowed down. I put one of my favorite pictures of him on Facebook without saying why. No one seemed to connect the picture and the day.

One friend called because she had remembered. I was grateful for that, for her words of comfort.

I thought I was doing well. I stood at the kitchen window, looking out over the winter-bare yard. I’d trimmed the blueberry bushes so they were red-leaved shrubs adding bright spots of color against the faded grass.

A movement caught my eye, a gray and orange flutter. A bird at the feeder, hanging upside down. At first I thought it was a nuthatch, a bird that eats upside down for whatever reason. But this bird was not feeding. It was in distress.

I walked outside and into the yard to investigate.

In the spring I had put two shepherd’s poles side by side and connected the poles with a squirrel baffle. It solved the thieving squirrel problem and I was pleased. I had not thought the two poles would become a trap. But here was the bird that I now recognized as a tufted titmouse, caught. One leg had slid between the two poles and he could not get away. He stopped struggling as I reached out and easily pried the two poles apart and freed his leg. I held him in my hand, stroking his tiny head and murmuring, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

The leg dangled from his knee (if that is what you call the joint in a bird). It was all but torn loose, held by one thin ligament. It could not be fixed.

My grip loosened and he flew away. I knew he could not survive with one leg. He would die of shock or loss of blood.

My heart ached. A thing I had done to afford me the pleasure of watching the backyard birds come and go had become a murder weapon. I had not meant for this to happen.

I took a roll of electrical tape and bound the poles together so this would not happen again, saying over and over, “I am so sorry.”

Grief and guilt. Beauty and death. Sorrow and loss.

And in the end, tears of regret for all that is gone.

The greatest gift

It is inevitable that today we are thinking of Christmases past. In the quiet, we recall the frenzied preparations that preceded the day itself.

My memories include taking a day off to drive 50+ miles to Eastland Mall in Charlotte. Most of the gifts for the three boys had already been ordered from the Sears’ or Penny’s catalogs. They had not-so-subtly put check marks on dog-eared pages to let me know their hearts’ desires. But there were other friends and relatives to buy for, and I guess I just wanted the experience of shopping by myself, my three rowdy boys at home with Jim.

The trip got me into the spirit of Christmas more than decorating the tree (a chore with a certain amount of satisfaction) or baking a dozen different kinds of cookies and allowing the boys to decorate them. (One year we had blue icing on the bells, stars, and trees.) There was just something about the happy crowds, children lining up to see Santa, teenagers walking arm-in-arm, laughing and carefree, people staggering under the weight of gaily wrapped packages. There were the decorated store fronts and carols sent out from loudspeakers that could be heard all over the concourse. And of course, the skaters whirling around on the indoor rink. You had to stop and watch, maybe sipping a hot chocolate.

I would lug my purchases home and spend another day wrapping them in preparation for our family gathering. Mom and Dad, my siblings and their families, a laden table and too-full stomachs, laughter and teasing …

The mall was empty for years before it was finally razed to make room for something brighter and shinier. And our family members are gone or scattered from from Vermont to California, from Pennsylvania to Florida. It would take a miracle to get us all together even without the travel restrictions and pleas from the CDC.

This year, all my shopping was done on-line. Instead of choosing toys for now-grown grandchildren, I sent them a check. Other gifts were order not from catalogs, but from the giants of the Internet, Amazon and Walmart sent directly to the recipient.

It may sound as if I am feeling sorry for myself, but that is not the case. Looking back and comparing Christmases past and present, I became aware that this year we have been given the gift of time. Time to pause, time to reflect. Yes, Christmas is celebration, gifts, food, and family. But what are we celebrating?

On Christmas Eve, I joined the members of my church in a virtual communion service. We had been told to set up our worship table with a candle, grape juice, and bread.

As I sang the songs and partook in the Eucharist, I knew in my heart that I was not alone. Other members of my church were with me in spirit. And people all around the world were with me and my friends. It was a gathering of millions, all celebrating the wonder and glory of the birth of Christ. A divine connection that transcends our mortal understanding.

Yes, Christmas came this year. You couldn’t stop it, not by pandemic or isolation or fear or anything else. It tiptoed in or came with a shout, but it came. And we know we are blessed in that we are never truly alone.

The things we keep

Our state is under a “stay-at-home” order — again! I didn’t like it the first time, but understood the reason behind it. This time I am resigned. But it does make me a little mad when I stay home, wear a mask when I do go out for a hurried trip to the grocery store, and then see pictures in the newspaper of people socializing sans mask, sans distance, and sans common sense.

Anyway, I decided to use my enforced time out in a constructive way, so for the past week I have been cleaning closets. Anything I haven’t used or worn since I last cleaned closets got tossed.

Mostly I was strong enough to let go, but when it comes to pictures I just can’t do it. Pictures of my Mom and Dad when they were young, my wedding photos, the grandkids at that goofy age … Nope, not gonna. Someone else will have to be strong. Maybe it won’t be hard for them as they probably won’t know who half of the people in the photographs are.

I inherited from my first husband’s family a variety of very old photos. I kept them for their beauty: babies in elaborate dresses and bonnets, women in full Gibson Girl attire. There are tintypes, fading no matter how carefully I have kept them from light. And these two, which tell a s tory of times gone by. They were faded and dull, but a program in My Heritage enhances and colorized old photos, so I went ahead and did it just to see what the effect would be.

One is of what must be first first bridge crossing the Niagara River and connecting the United States and Canada. There appears to be a trolley line if you look closely. I can’t tell you a date on this photo, but maybe some sharp-eyed historian can.

The second is of four young women picnicking by the river. I have no idea who they are, but they seem to be enjoying a carefree moment.

Nope, not gonna throw them away. I sort of hope whoever sorts out my stuff after I’m gone won’t discard them, either.

Ah, technology.

As you must have realized by now, I am somewhat challenged by technology. I once thought I was fairly adept, but technology grew faster than my brain’s ability to absorb it. I decided to stay with what I knew and not try to learn any new tricks, just like old dogs.

However, sometimes you have go with the flow. I had just about figured out how to slide my credit card without holding it upside down or backwards when I got a chip card and had to learn to insert it. Because every machine is different, I was often confused as to which was required, earning me pitying looks from teenage clerks.

Yesterday I received a new card in the mail and this time I have to tap it. A new learning curve — how do I hold it? When is it required?

At least I have learned to make a deposit at the ATM instead of driving 20 miles to the nearest branch of my bank. That’s only because I was held up in line at said branch and read a sign telling me I had just wasting an hour of driving time. (Not in those exact words, but when I read all the things you can do at an ATM, I got the message.)

I recently purchased a new, smart TV. I love it, and was pleased I was able to hook it up without calling one of my sons for assistance. One feature I wanted was the ability to cast something from my iPad to the big screen. This is because my provider dropped both ABC and Fox due to a controversy with their provider. It worked exactly once with the season premier of “Grey’s Anatomy.” I was thrilled.

Then, it stopped working. The familiar wheel goes round and round, but nothing happens.

I had an epiphany the other night after trying and failing to view “A Million Little Things” on the TV screen. As I said in my last post, the Internet was down for six days due to poles and lines being taken out by a car. I have friends who still can’t get or stay connected. My iPad drops the connection after a few minutes of non-use. It has tried for a week to get updated, but with no connection every morning it tells me it will try again tonight. Good luck with that.

So I am guessing my failure to cast has nothing to do with my ineptitude, but with the Internet signal not being strong enough to do the assigned task.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

What to do when your Internet is out

I am not exactly sure what happened, but those who know said it was a speeding car that took out several poles along with their lines and cables that flung me back to the pre-Internet era. I didn’t lose power, but I did lose my telephone and Internet connection for six days.

You would imagine I used my time writing, but I did not. The story in my head isn’t quite ready to transfer to the page. I’m still in the mulling stage, which means I think about it a lot. That’s how it usually works with me. Then one day I will sit down and let it flow.

No, instead I cleaned out dresser drawers and closets, rearranged furniture, and even built a piece of furniture.

Truth: I didn’t build it, I put it together. I ordered a new TV stand and it arrived two days before I expected it, which was hurdle #1. If I hadn’t stepped outside, I would not have known it was there. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining, and I would have eventually have seen it lying up the steps.

Yes, UP the steps. Hurdle #2. The package was at least six feet long and weighed more than I could handle. I couldn’t even budge it, let alone get it inside. So there it lay, sprawled from the sidewalk to my front door like a drunk who had collapsed while trying to enter the house. And, I might add, effectively stopping me from opening the door.

What to do? Luckily, I have two front doors, which is a little odd, I admit. One opens into the den (the blocked one) and the other into the living room. So I grabbed my cutter and went out one door and over to the other. I cut open the box and removed some of the pieces. Now that it was lighter, I could shift the carton enough to open the door and ease the pieces inside.

Then I got rid of the cardboard and foam that threatened to blow all over the yard.

Hurdle #3. I enjoy jigsaw puzzles, so this wasn’t quite the challenge #1 and #2 had been. I laid the pieces on the floor, took up the instruction manual, and identified each one — sides, top, middle shelf, divider. So far, so good.


Then I opened the box of parts. I wish now I had taken a picture of “before” and not just “after.” No less than a dozen little envelopes fell out of the box, each holding screws, bolts, different screws, wooden dowels, wedges, pins and objects I never saw before — cam bolts and cam locks. And of course one of those L-shaped wrenches to secure them all. Hurdle #4, not all the objects were numbered correctly in the instructions. However, by comparing the screws to the pictures, I figured out which was which.

Then I sat down and read the instructions through before starting to assemble the pieces.

Hurdle #5 was something I hadn’t foreseen. I have a tool box and tools including several sizes of Phillips screwdrivers. None of them seemed to be the right size. When I tried to screw the dang things in, the metal X on top of the screw was threaded (if that is the correct term) before I got it halfway into the hole. I resorted to using a pair of pliers to finish the job.

But finish I did, one step at a time. It took about four hours of a Sunday afternoon, but I got it done. The piece is sturdy and does the job. I am satisfied with it, but if I had a complaint, it would be to provide a better quality screw. I became a fan of cam bolts and locks.

Then it was time to unhook all the cables from the TV and DVD player, push them through the holes in the back of the stand, and reconnect them. This took some time because I couldn’t remember what went where, even though I had disconnected them all not ten minutes earlier. But I did get everything up and running. That was hurdle #6.

The final hurdle, #7, was rearranging the furniture to accommodate the new addition. I ended up moving a rocking chair to the bedroom.

Mission accomplished. I am almost as proud of myself for doing this than I am of completing a book.

Which will be my next project.

Those few words

While some are rejoicing in victory, others are weeping the bitter tears of defeat.

But emotions fade and reality comes into play. We all have work to do, and we need to do it together, no matter our individual ideologies.

To work together to ensure justice.

To lift up those in poverty and give them hope for a better future.

To provide a path to higher education for those who want it.

To help the sick, the lost, and the forgotten, and to welcome the stranger.

To come together to heal the planet, the only home we will ever know.

Most of all, we need to remember the vow we make, perhaps without thinking, when we face our country’s flag:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

A brief statement that means so much.

May the next time we say it, we say it like we really mean it.

In the moment

A month or so ago, I complained to a friend that I had nothing to read. I’d exhausted my store of books — physical books, that is. I had plenty on my Kindle. Who can resist the allure of “Free?”

She kindly allowed me to browse her bookshelves and choose a few to borrow. In fact, she recommended several of her favorites. The last one I wasn’t too sure about, but took it anyway. It was non-fiction, and I read to escape.

The book languished, all but forgotten, as I read the others. I finally decided that if she had found it worth recommending, I should at least try it.

The title is “Soul Gardening: Cultivating the Good Life,” by Terry Hershey.

To be honest, I thought it was a book about gardening (not having quite taken in the title). I don’t garden. I did plant some shrubs and perennials out front because I like color. But honestly, just keeping the yard mowed and the bushes trimmed is enough for me. In fact, for two years in a row my pretty pink hydrangeas have succumbed to brown spot in spite of my best efforts to save them.

The book is about gardens. The author describes the various gardens he has visited, and how he grew to appreciate the lush, unplanned gardens where flowers are allowed to bloom not just where they are planted, but pretty much wherever they please.

But it is about so much more. I haven’t finished the book yet, but in reading I began to understand being in the moment. This is something like meditation, which I have never been able to master. I start out trying to make my mind a blank slate, only to have random thoughts litter the landscape like so many buzzing mosquitoes.

My late husband knew how to be in the moment. He would sit on the deck, looking out over the lawn, not reading, not listening to music, not doing — anything.

“What are you thinking about?” I’d ask.

“Nothing.”

“Ha!” I’d think to myself. “Impossible. You can’t just sit and not think about something.”

But lately, I have done that same thing. I sit on the deck and let my mind go blank. It is this moment, this point in time, and nothing else. I look at the blue sky and marvel at the clouds, how different each one is. I can stare at clouds for as long as several seconds now.

Or watch a dove searching for seeds on the ground, spilled from the feeder by a cardinal or jay.

Freeing my mind from tasks that must be accomplished in my busy life. Little by little, learning to appreciate the now that will never come again.

Like meditation, it takes practice. Too soon, I grow impatient. Who has time to gaze at clouds or birds?

Yet, Hershey says, it is not time wasted. You cultivate your soul just as you cultivate a garden. And sometimes, you need to stop and appreciate the world around you. You just need to spare a few seconds and look.

I have another friend who wanders the back roads with her camera, taking pictures of wildflowers, butterflies, toads, mushrooms, or whatever catches her eye. She has learned to capture the moment, not just with her camera, but with her entire being. She, like my husband, knows how to be still and be in the moment.

I am trying to imitate them, to stop, to listen, to really see what is around me. And, for a while, a span of seconds, stop thinking and just be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting away

Given the current climate … not the weather, but political … I jumped at the chance to get away. Not that I couldn’t turn off the TV, grab a good book, and go into home isolation.

Oh wait, Already doing that due to the pandemic. I enjoy my back yard, but I needed a physical change of view. So I said a resounding “Yes” when offered a chance to go to Cumberland Island, GA. I have wanted to go there ever since I read about the former summer residence of the Carnegie family. I wanted to see the ruins of Dungeness for myself.

And the wild horses. (By the way, the term “wild” is not how to describe these animals that own the island. “Feral” is the correct term.)

My son, daughter-in-law, and I took the ferry, the Cumberland Queen, from St. Mary’s. Passengers are limited in number and required to wear masks and social distance.

The ride takes about 45 minutes on the intracoastal waterway. Once we docked on the island everyone dispersed to follow their own inclinations. We chose to walk the beach path and were gloriously alone for long stretches of beach surrounded by untouched dunes. There were shells all along the way. I found a conch, but on picking it up I discovered that it was inhabited, so I gently replaced it in the surf. And, there were dolphins feeding near the shore, and gulls following a shrimp boat. Everything you hope to see at the beach.

Untouched is the keyword here. The island has been left alone to manage itself. Fallen trees, from magnificent live oaks twisted into fantastic shapes by the winds to palms and laurel, are allowed to lie where they fell, home to fern and mushroom. Walking the boardwalk through the marsh or the narrow path along the river, we felt as if Nature was only allowing us to visit and not to linger.

We saw the horses, which are also left unmanaged to forage the marsh grass or the manicured lawns of the Dungeness estate. They ignored their human guests, knowing they were safe from harm. We met a mare and her yearling offspring on a path and stepped aside. They clearly had the right-of-way.

The ruins of Dungeness are both amazing and tragic. Twice destroyed by fire, the outlines of stone and brick tell a story of years past, when it took a staff of 200 to serve the family.

There are informational signs to explain the island’s rich history throughout the War of 1812, the Civil War, and present times.

After walking for six hours, with water and lunch breaks, we were ready to return to “civilization” via the return ferry. It was a day where we could forget the turmoil and stress, and I felt a renewal of mental and spiritual energy. The world is not such a bad place when It contains such wonders as a tiny red mushroom, a purple flower growing in the dunes, playful dolphins, and feral horses grazing peacefully along the edges of a marsh.

We all need to step away occasionally, away from the anger and tension that is presently the norm, take a deep breath, and realize our human concerns mean nothing to Nature.

I’m guessing that in the long run, She will prevail.




A promise — or a hope?

Fall is my favorite season. Maybe it’s because each postcard-perfect day may be the last before winter comes. Trees are bright with red and gold foliage one day and bare the next. The cerulean sky becomes ash gray. The warm temperatures plummet to near freezing. So I cherish every morning that promises another glorious day.

One way I celebrate the season is to buy a mum. Not a little one, but the biggest I can find. I want it to make a bold statement on my front deck. I want it to holler, “Look at me! I’m the best of all Fall can offer!”

So I went to the garden center as soon as they said their mums were in. There they were, in neat rows, all buds tightly furled.

“I want a yellow one,” I told the clerk. He shook his head. “They aren’t labeled. l don’t know which are yellow and which are  orange.”

I inspected several.  I thought I detected just a smidgeon, just a speck of yellow on one bud. A promise that the rest would be the same vivid hue. “l’ll take this one,” I decided.

“It might be yellow,” he said, squinting. “But you can’t be sure.”

“I know. I’ll take the chance, and if it isn’t yellow,  I promise I won’t bring it back.”

I brought it home and set it by the door. After several days of hoping and waiting, the first buds began to open.

Yellow. Definitely yellow. That hint of a promise gave birth to reality.

Sometimes promises are hard to believe in, especially now when we wonder when this pandemic will end. There is a promise of a vaccine, there is the promise that numbers will drop if we follow the rules and wear masks and social distance. There is the promise that we will be reunited with our loved ones before too much more time goes by.

But when we can see that tiny, tiny speck of hope in the darkness, we can start to believe that the promises will come true.

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote this in 1849. The first time I read it, I knew it would become my default philosophy,.

Translated, it means, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Many things have changed in my lifetime, physical things such as jet planes and the Internet and Iphones, the climate… But — and this is a big but — people don’t change. I expect a Neanderthal and a Wall Street tycoon would, within minutes, find common ground.

No matter what situation we find ourselves in right now, there has been a similar situation all through history. Tyrants rise, people eventually see through their (naughty word here) and topple them, begin a new and just world view, and then, when things go wrong as they inevitably must, elect a new savior who becomes a tyrant…

Ad nauseum.

So I’m not going to get too upset about contemporary politics.

Not too disinterested to vote, of course, and not too old and tired to care about the outcome. But realizing this, too, will pass, even if I don’t live to see it.

The next four years will be interesting.

And here’s another quote, this time, I believe, from the ancient Chinese: May you live in interesting times.

It’s actually a curse. Think about it.

Stay well, stay safe.

Waiting for the rainbow

I meant to write this post on Wednesday. Or was it Thursday? It’s hard to tell when you wake up Wednesday morning and don’t know if it is Monday or Friday.

With everything that is going on, or not going on, the days seem to merge together. I do keep track of Sunday because Sunday night I have to take the trash to the curb to be picked up Monday morning. Or afternoon. Or whenever the city decides to send out the truck.

The months are acting the same way as the weeks. August is  nearly over, and in my muddled mind, it had just started. Where did it go?

The projects I initiated seem stalled in the water. I write a page, decide it doesn’t work, delete it, and start again. There seems to be no hurry about finishing it or the chapter.

Everything stopped in March and doesn’t seem eager to start up again.

Yes, there is the election. Four years ago, I resigned from the party I belonged to since I first registered to vote, but the candidates have not received the message. Every day the mail carrier delivers large advertisements printed on shiny card stock extolling the virtues of office seekers I wouldn’t support if the world were ending (which it may very well be).  If I had a parrot, I could use them to to line the bottom of its cage, but I don’t. I have cats. Maybe I could shred them for litter? Worth a  thought.

Even the election, fraught as it is, pales in view of the events nature is throwing at us. Fires out west, hurricanes and floods in the south, out-of-control storms in the middle of the country. We even had an earthquake here in North Carolina. Preachers are thundering about end times, as if we weren’t depressed enough.

I got to wondering what could be next, and then remembered the volcano slumbering underneath Yellowstone Park, long overdue for an eruption.

No wonder this doesn’t seem the right time to begin new endeavors.

And yet, we do. In spite of all that is wrong, we strive share a little light and volunteer at food banks and in schools,and take elderly neighbors to doctor appointments.  Churches, synagogues, and mosques are finding innovative ways to include their members in worship.

Halloween will come and kids will find other ways of collecting goodies besides going house to house. Families will celebrate Thanksgiving via Zoom. The election results will surprise us or not, and then we will settle down to business, and life will go on.

And songs will be sung, and poems written, and we will find that rainbow after the storm.

 

 

 

 

My take

When I was asked to write something about the COVID-19 pandemic, my first thought was to check statistics. But then I thought, anyone can check the numbers, whether from the CDC or WHO, or their local health department.
Numbers mean one thing. How the virus impacts us up close and personal, is another.

In our age group, we have nothing to fear but the virus itself. We’re mostly financially secure, living on retirement benefits and/or Social Security. How long these will be safe is another thing, but we aren’t going to worry about that. Yet.

So we don’t need to worry about losing our jobs, or whether or not to send our children back to school. But lest you think we seniors are living in our own, comfortable bubble, think again.

We are the age group most likely to have a loved one in a nursing home. Perhaps is a husband or wife, or a sister or brother, or a dear friend. A loved one we can’t visit, can’t touch or kiss. A loved one who is confused when the nurse holds up a phone or iPad to “visit” their family and friends. A loved one who will most likely die alone, after which we will hold a funeral no one can attend.

Or let’s go in the opposite direction. We may not have children in school, but we do have grandchildren or great-grandchildren. And we worry about them. What advice can we give their parents? We’ve never faced this situation. We have no advice to give.

We may not be worried about jobs, but all of us have someone we know who lost theirs and is looking for work. My grandson graduated in December with a nice, new diploma and a dream job interning for a nationally known company. By March he was out of work and living back home with his parents.

But what about us? How is the pandemic affect our generation?

Seniors are socially active, for the most part. We have our clubs and organizations, and we volunteer, and we “do lunch” and take day trips together. All that is now out of the question. We visit virtually and stay in touch by telephone or email or text. We admit that a cocktail hour by Zoom is a poor substitute for the real thing, but it’s what we have. Who here doesn’t admit they long for a good, old-fashioned hug?

So we find ways to fill up the days, with crafts and movies, reading, playing endless games of solitaire, wondering when all this is going to end and we get back to normal.

I don’t think normal is ever coming back, so keep those masks handy.

I have seen two things come of this pandemic. One is that people are more giving, more generous, more thoughtful. We are calling or writing old friends we haven’t talked to in months or years. We donate to food banks. We reach out to each other. “Call me if you need anything” is how we end our conversations.

But there is another, darker side. The same disease that brings us closer is also driving us apart. Call them the non-believers who think the whole thing is a hoax, or that it can’t affect them. The ones who refuse to social distance or wear a mask. Who resort to tantrums because their “liberty” is threatened or God save us, draw a gun when asked to protect themselves and others.

The voice of reason is strangely silent. No, make that unheard or ignored.

I imagine the stress has affected everybody, and that it has affected everybody differently. I go from staying home for days on end until I can’t stand it anymore and take my life in my hands to go to the grocery store. I have visited family and then worry I may have infected them, or vice versa. I have too many projects started and abandoned because I can’t seem to stay focused.

I think if I hear “we’re all in this together” or “during these uncertain times” one more time I will scream, no matter how comforting the words are meant to be.

So … that is my take.

Change is inevitable –but frustrating

Someone once said the only thing you can count on is change.

I believed it then, and I believe it even more fervently now. It isn’t just the big changes COVID-19 brought, such as not being  able to visit friends and family in person, or if you do see them not being able to give them a big , warm hug. Social distancing and wearing a mask are pretty big changes, too. But we are getting used to it  now, accepting the necessary measures to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy.

And then there is working from home, if you have a job, and wondering if it is safe to send the kids back to school, and when it will be safe to go back to church.

Compared to what is going on, the little changes seem more aggravating. Like a paper cut compared to a broken arm. A paper cut is a minor thing, but it can annoy the heck out of you.

First, our Walmart closed without warning. It came as a blow.  We are a small town, and shopping choices are limited.  Now we have to travel to another county to shop because our only clothing store is also closing. (To be honest they, have been closing since before Christmas 2019, but inventory has steadily dwindled.)

Then, my bank branch closed. They left the ATM, thank goodness, but now any business requiring going inside means–you guessed it–driving to another county. After calling to make an appointment, of course.

I had just about accepted these inconveniences as another new normal, when I heard a rumor that my neighborhood pharmacy, which I can walk to if I feel ambitious, was closing.

I found out the rumor was true when I called in to renew a prescription and was directed to another pharmacy, a big chain one.

I tried to give my RX number to the robot on the telephone, but gave up after four tries. I got in the car and drove across town (not all that far, but still–).

After getting my name wrong several times, the clerk finally found me in their system. She said it would take 10-15 minutes. I said, “Okay, I’ll run to Food Lion and come back.” I picked up some ice cream among other purchases and the checkout guy said he’d double bag it in case I wasn’t going right home.

“Oh, I’m going to swing by and pick up my prescription at (name withheld to prevent my being sued).”

“Oh, they are so slow,” he said with a commiserating look.

When I returned, I was told it would take 15 minutes and did I want to wait? I didn’t because of the ice cream, so I said I’d come back the following day.

Which I did, and it only took 26 minutes in the drive-through lane to get my prescription. And then, I was told how much it would cost.

“WHAT?” I screamed. “I  have NEVER paid that much.”

She disappeared to re-check. (Apologies to the cars that were behind me). At last she came back and said they had  made a mistake and quoted the usual price. I paid and  drove off, missing the friendly woman at my previous pharmacy who got my prescription out as soon as I walked in the door.

A little change,  in the midst of chaos. But of all the changes lately, I think this one has bugged me the most.

I can’t wait to see what the next upheaval will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIP, faithful computer

My computer died.

A small calamity when you look at the big picture. I don’t think I lost anything important, but I won’t know until I check my external hard drive to see what was saved. I believe I updated it a few weeks ago,  or did I tell myself I’d do it later?

I got the external hard drive some years ago when a friend lost the first draft of her novel. That was enough warning for me. But I have gotten lazy, and didn’t update as often as I should have. When I get back up and running, I will pay the money to update my free version of the backup program and have it done automatically every night. Lesson learned.

Meanwhile, it will take a few weeks for my new computer to arrive, as it is being built to my specifications and not purchased off the shelf.

I can make do with my iPad and iPhone. I spent some time this morning searching for my keyboard so I could type this on my tablet. It is so small, it was hidden under some papers on the bookshelf. Then I had to find the charger and get it going again.

So, instead of sitting at my computer and writing this, I am seated at the kitchen table and  typing on this very small  keyboard. My fingers are clumsy,  so I am making many corrections.

In the midst of my woes, like a ray of sunshine, I received a lovely note in the mail from a reader who let me know how much he had enjoyed my three historical novels, Riverbend, Morven, and Bethann. I never thought of male readership when I was writing about Forester and Pope families in 1820’s Anson County, N.C., but I have had quite a few men tell me they liked the books. Good to know.

I do hope everyone is staying safe and, if you are from my part of the country, staying cool.

And remembering to save your work. Someone once told me About computer failure, “it isn’t if, it’s when.”

So true.

 

 

 

Biding my time

I haven’t gotten my new computer yet, so here I am typing with two fingers on my iPad.

It has been an uneventful week. Just keeping up with the yard work has taken up much of my time. I work a little, come inside to cool off and rehydrate, then brave the blazing sun again.

I am still waging battle with squirrels. In spite of my generously scattering corn and sunflower seeds for them to forage, they still think the bird feeders offer better fare. Or maybe it’s the challenge. I was told a stovepipe around the shepherd’s hook would deter them, but it took only a week for them to figure out how to get their tiny claws in the tape that held the seam together and use it like Route 66.

So I broke down and bought a squirrel baffle. It’s a cone-shaped piece of metal that fastens around the pole. Much bigger than the aluminum pie plate I had been using, and that they scoffed at.

I am curious about how long it will take before they figure out a work-around.

As for me, no work-around to update the websites I manage until said computer is delivered and installed. But no one seems to mind. Like me, they are staying put this summer  and waiting for things to return to normal … or whatever our new normal is going to be.

Stay safe out there.

 

Waiting to resume

A friend just delivered two masks that I had ordered. These have pockets for a filter and a side ventilator for easier breathing. I will add these to the four I bought on-line, the three I got from the drug store, and the one I made early on from one of Jim’s cotton handkerchiefs.

Would I have thought four months ago that I would ever need more than the home-made one? Not a chance. This was to have disappeared by summer, right?

Wrong.Hope you are all hitting the pause button and reconnecting with ...

My friend said she felt like the world had hit the Pause button and we were all just waiting for the order to hit Resume. I don’t think that time is coming. I’m beginning to think we will need masks, and social distancing, and all the rest of it for some time to come. I will be more than happy to be proved wrong, but they haven’t yet found a cure for the common cold or influenza, so why should this virus be any different?

We will find a way to work around and through it, and life will continue, if in a somewhat altered state.

I do wonder, though, what stories will come from this pandemic. Will there be a novel that encompasses it all in a way that touches our hearts and souls? I’m thinking something along the lines of “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Heck, the author only has to change one word.

I have had several people ask me how my next book is coming along. I tell them my poor brain has not even had a tickle, much less a fully-formed idea for a book. I don’t think it is writer’s block. I think my brain just needs a rest. It is on Pause like everything else.

I did have one of those falling-asleep ideas about a time-travel story set both in the present (of four months ago) and during the American Revolution. The twist would be the hero is a Tory, not a Patriot, and travels to the 21st century to escape being hanged.

But my vision didn’t tell me any more than that, and I fell asleep.

Besides, Diana Gabaldon already wrote a great series involving time travel and the Revolution, so that is that.

I have been reading a lot, which I understand is something authors do when not writing. I went to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and came home with two shopping bags (the big, brown paper ones with  handles that we used to get at the grocery store) filled with books.

And there are always the stories on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Brit Box, Acorn, and Disney. I know there are many other streaming services, but these are the ones I have access to.

Before  you ask, I did watch “Hamilton.” Thank you Disney for sharing the performance.

All I can say is that the rave reviews didn’t do it justice. If you have a chance, watch it. Someone suggested that you turn on closed captioning before you begin viewing so as to catch all the words. I couldn’t find out how to do that, but only two songs went so fast my ears couldn’t keep up. However, I got the gist of them.

Of course, all is not pleasure. Today I washed the car and picked blueberries in the hot sun.  The VERY hot sun. I wore a hat and lathered on sunblock,  and the sun giggled before turning up the heat another notch.

So, while we are on Pause, we keep busy and entertained. And wait to hit the Resume button

Presuming that button still works, or will ever work again.

 

 

 

The time between

I sold two books Friday morning. Not a big deal, but I love delivering a book to someone who really wants to read it. So far the feedback has been very favorable. Of course, no one is going to tell me to my face they hated the story, but you can tell if the response is lukewarm.

After dropping off the books, I went to our local library, which has finally opened. Masks are required, and someone is at the door to write down your name (I’m guessing for tracking purposes), and there is a screen between you and the check-out person. I  was told no new books had been ordered during the shut-down, so I donated a copy each of Morven and Bethann to the library. I figured I could at least help them out with a new book or two.

So, the book is written, published, and available. I mailed copies to my beta readers as a thank-you for their help. I submitted a copy for review. I know better than to keep checking the sales records as that leads to thoughts of “why do I bother!”

Yes, I know the next step is marketing. In fact, marketing should have been on the agenda all along. Alas, although I have read all the articles and books on the subject, I just don’t have the energy it requires. But I will keep on dropping hints on Instagram and Facebook. I should Tweet more often but I have never gotten the hang of it.

Instead of tending to business, I have been working outside. Both the front and back decks received a new coat of paint. I had to throw away the shirt I wore during this project as I am a very sloppy painter. But the job is done, checked off my list of home improvements I mean to do this summer.

Miss Daisy waiting for the early bird breakfast. Luckily for the wrens, I chased her inside.

And, I have been relaxing on said back deck, which I have adorned with flowers and plants. The wrens are raising a family in the birdhouse I tacked on the post where I put my hanging baskets. It was supposed to be decorative, but hey … I watched the male wren try to entice his lady love into taking up housekeeping there, but she inspected the premises and refused. Either he got another mate (but someone said they mate for life) or another pair decided to move in. The cats, naturally, are mesmerized by the activity and I have had the dickens of a time keeping them indoors.

And so it goes until that old devil gets in my mind and tells me I have to write another book. I have no plans at present, and could be content just to market the ones I have written, but once that idea gets in your head, writing it down is the only way to get rid of it. I don’t know when or if this will happen, but meanwhile I am content.

If you are curious about my books, please visit my website http://www.sandrazbruney.com for descriptions and excerpts. And if you’d like a signed copy of any book (except the three paranormals, which are ebooks only) just put it in a comment or message me on Facebook.

There. I’ve done my marketing for today, and I can go back to my reading with a clear conscience.

 

 

 

Silence is violence

I saw those words — Silence is Violence — on a poster carried by a protester as I watched the news. At first, I wondered what the protester meant. It didn’t seem to make sense.

Violence is action, right? And silence is …

Action. Not inaction.

It took me awhile to understand, but when I “got it,” I couldn’t agree more. In fact, it fortified my post of last week, even though at the time I hadn’t realize my silence was a form of violence.

When I saw those three policemen standing silently by as one of their number calmly murdered a man in full view, it brought it home. Their failure to speak up made them full and committed partners to the violence that was being committed.

We all need to understand this. Violence is being perpetrated every single day, both overtly and physically, and by the failure to speak up and condemn  it.

There is a long — too long — list of victims and I know people who can recite every name. Each time we said, oh, how awful, and went on. Until the next time.

Then suddenly, the next time became the time too many. One man’s very brutal and public death was the snapping point. It wasn’t just blacks who protested, as they have so many times before.

This time, they were joined by their white, Asian, and Native American brothers and sisters. By children and octogenarians. WE were joined by people all around the world. Somehow, we realized that what was done to one of us was done to all.

I wasn’t the only one who woke up and knew, with sorrow and guilt, that by our silence we were as much a part of the violence as the rogue police, simply because we had refused to add our voices to the outcry for justice.

I hope and pray that this time, real change will come. Certain practices such as choke holds will be outlawed. Police will receive training in de-escalating a situation, and how to recognize that a person is not a criminal, but mentally ill and  in need of compassion rather than bullets. That being poor shouldn’t mean you languish in a jail cell because you can’t raise the money for your bond.

These are real changes that can and must be made. And if they don’t happen, we will elect new legislators who will listen to the demands that have been unheard for too long.

And that America will finally become the land of freedom and JUSTICE for all.

 

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