See You Later…Maybe

You might be planning on heading out soon, ushered out by the reopening. Maybe you’ve already been out, enjoying the weather in parks or on a beach. I can’t join you. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in a higher risk group. I’m of a certain age (I’ve already admitted it so no need to say it again) and I have very high blood pressure. My BMI says I’m at risk and should be ashamed of myself. Although I don’t now, I smoked for way longer than I should have. (“You smoked cigarettes, Kat?!” “Um, yeah, those too.”)

I can’t go out with the rest of you. I have to wait for a vaccine. I don’t judge or begrudge you your decision to go out but I’m hoping that I don’t become envious and resentful. I’m hoping that I don’t look out the window and see my neighbors gathering in the common area and decide to do something stupid. I’m hoping that I don’t become so angry at what’s going on in this crazy country that I go and join the protests. Covid-19 will kill me. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to entertain myself, by myself and maintain my mental health. We’ll see…In the meantime, here’s some of the things I’ve been up to since March 13, 2020.

IMG_0346
I put together my pandemic kit

IMG_0385
I’m keeping a pandemic journal to keep track of the endless days
IMG_0371
My roommate and I are growing vegetables
IMG_0313
Of course, lots and lots and lots of cooking
IMG_0379
Occasional distance visits with the grandbabies which are scary for a couple of reasons

I really don’t mind staying here. Over the years, I’ve squeezed every bit out of life possible including trips to national parks in the US and beautiful beaches all over the world. I haven’t missed much. I have a nice home and the resources for food to keep my BMI exactly where it is. So hopefully I’ll see you later.

Strange but True

You could use a little funny right about now, couldn’t you?

Absolutely.

True.

Story.

I’d been isolated in stir  my home, alone, for about three weeks. I’d stopped bothering changing from day pajamas to night pajamas and just went with whatever until the fumes were visible.

One day after an extra cup of coffee, I had enough energy to fill my bird feeder. The seed container was half empty so I admit I was having some feelings about filling the tube feeder to the top. Less than an hour after I filled the feeder I went to the sliding door, a third cup of coffee in hand, to watch the cardinals, woodpeckers and nuthatches that regularly visit. But there were grackles instead, their weight almost pulling the feeder from the deck railing. I love birds in general but I hate grackles. They’re big thug birds with oily feathers, beedie eyes and they don’t like sharing. Outraged, I stepped out onto the deck and yelled, “Oh no, you ain’t eatin’ today!”

starling-1386095_1280
Shhh…this is actually a starling but you get the idea. (Pixabay)

Now, I have new next door neighbors. I’ve judged and disparaged them the way I do most of my neighbors as I mentioned in my doorbell cam post. I judged their social class by their clothes. I judged their decision making abilities by their apparent lack of coronavirus protection. Whelp, when I screamed at the grackles I hadn’t noticed that the new people were in their backyard playing ball until it was too late. In that moment I saw myself as they saw me; an old women in a food stained shirt and wrinkled pajama bottoms, hair sticking up on her head, shouting at birds. Karma is a bitch.

 

WordPress let me know that I’ve received 1000 likes on this blog. I don’t have many followers so I appreciate all of you. Thank you!

What Am I Doing? No Idea

I don’t have any ideas.

Like a lot of folks, I’m sheltering in place (in the house 24/7). I’m in a vulnerable group, over 60 (yeah, I admit it) and have an underlying health issue. So, I have all this time on my hands. I thought I’d spend it thinking deep thoughts and writing through the difficult situation I referred to in my last post. I also thought I might finally finish the revisions of my novel. I was already retired before the quarantine so I can sit in my comfortable home every day without negative consequences like not being able to eat or pay bills. But I’m not thinking at all. I flit from writing, reading, cooking, housework, paperwork…but I can’t focus on anything because I’m not thinking. About the only thing I seem to be able to do consistently is eat.

IMG_0409
Had this delivered

From November (NaNoWriMo) through to February I kept track of how much I was writing, reading about writing and learning about writing. I’m not doing that now. I’m not in the moment with anything. When I’m not mindlessly moving from distraction to distraction, I stare out the window without thinking. I have the TV on with the sound muted. Ordinarily, I would walk in nature to center myself. I’d like to go for a walk but, nope, can’t think about doing that either. I’m too afraid of who I’ll meet along the way.

IMG_0248-2
My desk looks like the inside of my head

Fortunately, I’ve talked to friends and family who feel the same way and I realize that my inability to concentrate is due to fear and anxiety, as is theirs. And that realization makes me angry. The pandemic scares me more than the scammer did. Obviously, lots of us feel the same way. Almost all the bloggers I follow here on WP have posted about the coronavirus. So, I’m frightened, anxious AND angry. On top of everything is the fact that I said I wouldn’t blog about the coronavirus or its effects but here I am…because I can’t think about anything else. I have no idea what else to talk about.

Stay well and healthy everyone. My prayers are for you all and your families.

 

Writing as a Salve

A fellow blogger posted this painful but beautiful poem recently to her blog, Boomie Bol. Her poems are consistently powerful but this one resonated with me in timely and potent ways.

I’m hurting emotionally right now for reasons that aren’t relevant to this post except to say it’s my own damn fault. Turning the hurt into words on the page is the only thing that makes sense to me at the moment. I’m not even sure I’m turning the hurt into words because I can’t bear to write about the thing itself. I am writing, though. I’ve been working on my novel revisions almost every day. I’ve also been making comments on the WP blogs I follow and the writing community on Twitter as I normally do although nothing feels normal. At first, I thought I was doing it all because I was trying to keep negative thoughts at bay but that’s impossible. Then I read the Boomie Bol poem and thought to myself, That’s it. I don’t want to waste my misery. I said before in another post that I don’t write because I want to, I write because I must. So, if I must write it seems natural that I should use my misery to drive the process. I think it’s what many writers do.

I didn’t want to blog because it feels like exposing myself at my most vulnerable.  But I committed to trying to post at least once a month and I take that commitment seriously. I can’t get past the distress so it was unavoidable that this post would reflect that. I’m not going to promote it the way I usually do by way of an email blast and social media. I don’t really care how many folks read it or how many “likes” I get this time. I have to write anyway, and the WordPress community has always been kind to me so why not. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you to Boomie Bol as usual, for the truth in your words.

This too shall pass…

Ding Dong

I got a doorbell camera. There have been unintended consequences.

When I had it installed a few months ago I didn’t know about the alert feature that indicates when there’s motion near the door and records it. There had been some car break-ins and package thefts in my neighborhood, so I set the detection range from my car in the parking lot to my front door. This is what the camera has detected ninety-five percent of the time:

IMG_0070

Nothing. Nada. Not a thing.

The other five percent of the time it has detected the routine comings and goings of my neighbors. This has resulted in making me what my son calls “that nosy old woman”. I know what time everyone leaves in the morning and what time they come back. I know which people are frequent Amazon customers and who still gets old school newspapers. I know what time they walk their dogs and who doesn’t pick up the doo. If the alert chimes at an irregular time during the day I run to the window to see who’s up to what. Worst of all, I judge everybody. I’ve come up with names for them like, Mr. Back and Forth, The Phantom, Weird Guy, Crooked Parking Grandma…

Anyway, it wasn’t just the package thefts and car break-ins that prompted me to get the camera. I got it because I felt vulnerable. I developed insomnia from worrying that someone was going to break into my house in the middle of the night. I think that as I’ve gotten older, I feel I can’t defend myself the way I once could. It didn’t help that racoons were setting off the motion detector on my back slider every few nights. The point is that it was all in my head. I knew it was the racoons lighting up the deck at 3am but I couldn’t shake the fear. I imagined that someone was going to get in and something terrible was going to happen to me. What my doorbell camera has shown me is that nothing ever happens in my neighborhood and that my neighbors are just plain folks. It has shown me that the problem is internal not external. Security measures are a good thing, anxiety isn’t. My therapist daughter says that I need to think about that and for God’s sake stop watching people. I think that from now on I’ll only turn the alert on at night.

Christmas Present

So, my last post was a sweet childhood Christmas memory, right? Ok, here’s what my Christmas looks like now:

IMG_0767
Obligatory trip to National Harbor’s giant tree
IMG_0774
The long wait to see Santa
IMG_0772
Christmas fatigue
IMG_0777
The inexplicably long line for a Honey Baked Ham
IMG_0745
IG photo op. I don’t really bake

I have to keep it real. Lol!

To be real, these are new memories I’ll keep forever just like the childhood ones. I’m grateful for all of them. And I’m grateful that you’re here with me.

Happy holidays!

Christmas Memory

I was having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit until I made a BLT while listening to Christmas music the other day. It reminded me of a long gone restaurant in the Porter Square section of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I used to have the sandwich there as a kid. The combination of the sandwich, the memory and the music took me back to another time and that place at Christmas. C’mon back (way, way back) with me.

954px-Christmas_ornament_1943
By Conrad Poirier – Wikimedia Commons

 That smell! The smell of the Christmas tree as Mommy dragged it off of our Volkswagen Beetle and into our small apartment, needles dropping everywhere. Big colored lights. Some of the bulbs didn’t work and she had to replace them to make the whole string light up. Round red, green, silver and gold ornaments that my little sister, Sheri, and I had to hold with two hands. We liked the way our faces looked funny when we held the balls up close and looked into them. Our favorite ornaments were the little copper colored bells. They didn’t ring but they were delicate and sweet. My sister and I threw tinsel at the tree branches. Some of it clumped together but it was still beautiful to us.

The white bedsheet that covered the tree’s stand was empty of presents. Sheri and I had a plan. When our mother left the room, the search was on for us to find money for gifts. If we could find enough change, we could buy Mommy the bubble bath from Fox Drug Store. Sheri and I first hit up our piggy banks.  Not bad, one dollar each plus some change. Then we went through all the coat pockets in the hall closet. That grossed us another couple of dollars. Next was the best place to find money, the couch! There were always some dimes and pennies under the cushions. But the big coins dropped into the back, in the crack that ran along the whole length. It was a gold mine. Seven quarters had managed to shake loose from grownups pockets and had fallen into the crack during the year. We added them to the other bills and change we’d collected. Over seven dollars! It was more than enough for the bubble bath. We could get something at the Five and Ten for Big Sis too. We went into the kitchen and told Mommy we wanted to go Christmas shopping at Porter Square and asked if we could go. It was only three stops on the trolley down Mass Ave. I was nine and my sister was seven. We took the trolley much farther to school every day anyway. Mommy smiled and said it was ok. Sheri and I grabbed our coats, hats and mittens. We were so excited that we had to go to the bathroom first.

In those days, kids could ride public transportation alone and no one called child protective services. First, Sheri and I got off the trolley a block before the shopping center and stopped at Fox Drugs. We bought the bubble bath, happy the Lavender scented one we wanted was still there. Then we walked down to Porter Square (or Pohta Sq-way-ah” as the locals called it). The shopping center was a long row of local stores anchored at the front by Dunkin’Donuts and at the back by Star Market. Halfway down was the Five and Ten. We stopped there next and bought a pair of one-dollar Christmas earrings for Big Sis. We wondered if we should give them to her early so she could wear them to her bank job.

We still had a couple of dollars left so we decided to have lunch at the deli next door. I ordered sandwiches for both of us; Tuna for Sheri, BLT for me. At the time, kids could order sandwiches alone in a deli and no one called child protective services. The place was retro even for those days. It had red vinyl booths and table side jukeboxes continually playing customer selected tunes. That day it was Christmas music with a couple of rock tunes thrown in. I loved those BLTs. I remember the white bread was always toasted lightly, the way I like it. The mayonnaise was slathered on so as to cause the crispy bacon to slip a little. The lettuce and tomato were always fresh, never limp. Before I’d take the first bite, the smell of it would waft up into my nose.

I enjoyed my BLT, the shopping and the company of my sister. We walked all the way back home because, since we were kids, we had forgotten about bus fare when we ordered lunch. We didn’t mind. It wasn’t such a long walk. it wasn’t that cold and not too much snow was on the ground (for Massachusetts). Little kids could walk four or five blocks back then without worrying about child protective services. Along the way we laughed, sang Christmas songs and talked about what we wished would appear under the Christmas tree for us. ~

I hope you enjoy the season however you choose to celebrate/observe it. Thanks for sharing my Christmas memory and thanks as always, for reading.

NaNoWriMo? Yes!

home-office-336378_640
Photo by Pixabay

I’m doing National Novel Writing Month this year. Participants are supposed to write every day for the purpose of producing a novel by November 30th. I wasn’t at all sure I could write every day for thirty days. I’ve written in more than one blog post about how I think I let things keep me from writing. And a few years ago, I wrote a post titled NaNoWriMo….Nope. In it I talked about some of the frustrations in writing my first novel. (I’m still in revisions on that work.) So I went into the challenge with apprehension. Surprisingly, there’s only one day left after today and I’m still at it! I’ve succeeded in writing every day this month which is huge for me. I’ve managed to write two other blog posts as well!

I’m working on what might or might not end up as a novel. The goal as set out on the NaNoWriMo website is 50k words by the end of the month. I’ll probably end with just over 35k. That doesn’t matter. For me, this challenge is an exercise in process not product.  Its’ been a deeper exploration of the issues I face as a writer that I discussed in the first blog post. So, here’s what I’ve learned since November 1st:

  • I’m a good writer. (That’s incredibly difficult for me to write. Lol.)
  • I use my family as an excuse for not writing.
  • Discipline takes practice. It isn’t an innate ability.
  • Practice makes me better at using adverbs, commas and quotation marks.
  • There are three themes that run through most of my fictional pieces. The roots of the themes stem from my unresolved difficulties . I heard screenwriter and actress Lena Waithe say the other day that she learned she has emotional wounds that haven’t healed but that she can fly anyway. This challenge has shown me that I feel the same.

I’m going to get back to writing my story now. It’s late in the day and I haven’t worked on it yet. I’ve proven to myself that I don’t have to worry. I’ll get it done. Here’s a little piece of the tale in case you’re curious:

Elaine and Darricka live within walking distance of Elsie, Danny and Margaret. It’s pretty safe for a twelve-year-old girl to walk the four blocks between the homes. The town is small. Elsie told Margaret that she and Elaine had picked the place because it is small, and it sits right between two larger towns that are much more crowded. The whole area is small relative to the city across the bay. Margaret wishes she could visit the city sometime. But she can’t think about that right now. She rounds the corner of Rose Hill Ave., her Auntie’s street. The house is on the actual hill. It’s a small one that Margaret treads up with little trouble. There’s a better view than from her house. She stops for a moment to look out over the trees and houses below. It’s pretty, she thinks. This town doesn’t feel like home though. Margaret can’t look out on this view and point to any connecting experiences she’s had with it. She can’t point out the hospital she was born in. That’s in a different state. She can’t look out and see the church she was christened in. That’s in a different town. The only family she has nearby are her auntie and cousin. There’re no graves of ancestors anywhere near here. Margaret has no idea where those graves are. She shrugs and turns into the walkway leading up to the only house that’s familiar to her in the town.

Minnie and Me

 

img_2213-e1573438422367.jpg
Where were we?

Her name is Minnie. She’s twelve years old and we’ve been together since she rolled off the Toyota dealership showroom floor. I know every inch of her silver full-size body. I like to think the ease with which she handles is because she knows me.

She’s a twelve-year-old hybrid that still gets great gas mileage. She and I, just the two of us, have taken so many fuel-efficient round trips from DC to Boston and back that I could do it with my eyes closed. (Actually, that wouldn’t be a good idea.) Most times we leave at 4am so we miss rush hour traffic on both the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (too early) and the George Washington bridge (too late) and make it to New York City in three and a half hours. Flat. We get behind the fastest car on the New Jersey Turnpike, crank up the tunes and roll. We listen to The Allman Brothers Band’s “Blue Sky” to cruise to as the sun comes up. Then we do some reflecting to Santana’s “Song of the Wind” during the long straight stretches. We use the high energy of Tupac’s “California Love” and Beyonce’s version of “Before I Let Go” to get us through to the end. (There are lots of tunes in between.) I’m sure other drivers see my gray braids bouncing and my lips moving to the music as we fly down the highway at I-don’t-want-to-tell-you mph and think, “What is up with that old lady!” Whereas all I’m thinking is, “Get out of my way!” We get to Boston by lunchtime if we’re lucky on the Mass Pike. Sometimes we’re not so lucky. We did the trip in a blizzard one year. It took us ten and a half hours, but we made it.

Minnie has her issues. Her last name is McSqueaks because one of her sounds is an intermittent squeak that she refuses to let Keith at Franconia Service Center hear. She usually does it after we drive over any raised surface. I told my grandkids that it’s the way she talks to me. On the rare occasions when they hear it, they always squeal, “What’s she saying, Memu, what’s she saying!” Squealing and squeaking. I have the most interesting car rides.

Another of her sounds is the flapping noise under the bumper on the driver side when we go over sixty. That one is my fault. I used to hit things. A lot. I hit concrete wheel stops regularly. Consequently, the front of Minnie’s undercarriage resembles Swiss cheese. The flapping sound is the bit hanging down as it moves in the wind. I once hit my own moving van. That one cost me termination by my insurance company. It also cost me very expensive coverage with another. I was the DMV’s poster child for how not to drive. I haven’t had any accidents since moving to the DC area. (She looks around for wood to knock on.)

So, Minnie is, justifiably, showing signs of age, wear and tear. But then, so am I. I know the time will come soon for me to think about getting to know another car. It will feel a little like a betrayal, though. My husband bought Minnie for me after he was diagnosed with cancer. He wanted me to have a good reliable car that wouldn’t require much maintenance. Minnie is all of that. I’m grateful for his gift and I appreciate her. I don’t have to think too much about it because I can’t afford another car for at least another year. So, for now, it’s still Minnie and me, two old girls rollin’.