Yay! I got my first Covid vaccination!

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I got the phone call asking if I wanted to move my appointment for my first Covid shot up from April 23 to February 12. I didn’t mind that the call came just a day before, when I was 311 miles away. I was overjoyed.

Besides, I had already planned to be back in Dover that day, I just had to be sure I got an early start and didn’t get delayed by weather or the like.

Better yet, it would eliminate the complications of one more trip later, likely after we’d sold the house.

Mine was the Moderna vaccine, and it went very smoothly. Yes, my shoulder was pretty painful that night, at least when I rolled over, as well as the next day. As for achiness, much could be blamed on all the packing and cleaning and a few runs to the city recycling center we were already doing. We’ll see how the second shot goes, though I am bracing myself.

The idea of being out from under that cloud by the beginning of April rather than early June is exhilarating. Here we’ve been under what one Friend who lives beside a lake in Connecticut calls Covid cabin fever, and I’ve been pretty much hunkered down through most of the duration, apart from the month-and-a-half I was a Census enumerator.

Still, there’s so much we don’t yet know. How long is it good for? What continuing precautions should we take? When will we all be able to move out and about freely, if ever?

How about you? Had the vaccination? Which one? How did it go?

A few big things in my life in the past year

Safe to say, it’s been unlike any 12 months before it.

  1. A hunkered-down lifestyle. Shelter-in-place and other Covid-19 social measures. (OK, we all have that much in common.)
  2. Learned to Zoom. But it’s not the same as face-to-face meetings.
  3. Tripped over my wife more than usual. More likely, found myself appearing unintentionally in her Zoom meetings.
  4. Appreciated a six-hour Smashwords writers’ conference online back in April. Those folks are amazing. Which leads to …
  5. Saw my novels become available in paperback at Amazon. Eight of them! Alas, book signings are still on hold, as are public readings.
  6. Missed having weekly choir practice, my daily laps swimming, and in-person Quaker worship and committee work together.
  7. Watched a lot of Met opera streaming. A different performance every night (or sometime during the following day, depending on my schedule). More than a hundred different works, in addition to the same pieces in different productions or castings.
  8. Returned to the workplace, part-time, as a Census enumerator. We were supposed to start in May, but that got pushed back to August before being cut a month short. Don’t be surprised if it has to be redone in two years.
  9. Missed the Greek community, Orthros and the festival, especially.
  10. Drank too many martinis.

~*~

I’m not counting the big move, which really fits more into the coming year. For now, it’s feeling more like acquiring a summer home, except that our adventure starts in winter.

What’s been big in your year?

Cash in a time of Covid

Well, this used to be the start of the Christmas shopping season, and with Coronavirus I’m assuming that our Thanksgiving gatherings are smaller than usual. (Anyone sitting down to a turkey TV dinner rather than a family gathering?)

Traditionally, today is a day when we’re supposed to think about what we’re grateful for during the past year, but we’re more likely reflecting on what we really miss.

Those face-to-face times when we’re altogether, especially. (Including those casual opportunities to pass along treasures to others, too … as I’ve pondered while culling my bookshelves.)

It’s even having me admit how little cash I’ve used since March, instead putting most of my small purchases “on plastic,” the way, say, most kids have long been doing. For just a cup of coffee?

I’m wondering what else, besides cash, has been a victim of this pandemic.

High on my list would be communal worship, singing together, dancing, concerts and plays, swimming and similar exercise as well as sporting events with live crowds, study groups, parties.

For the record, I’m grateful nobody among my family or friends has come down with Covid and that none of us has been evicted. Also, for one in particular, being furloughed opened the door to an even better position. So the list of positives begins to emerge.

How about you?

One more thing on the plate

Covid caused us to put off last spring’s anticipated yard sale, which was to help us reduce some of our excess possessions. Now we realize if we sell this house before May, when the yard sale seasons begins, we need to choose whether to move our excess items to our daughter’s and have a yard sale there or to take them to Goodwill or the dump instead.

Quite simply, do we feel we’re up for investing the time and effort in preparing and conducting a sale? (As well as the tedious job of cleaning up afterward?) How much do we want to reasonably rake in if we do?

In either case, I don’t want to pack up a bunch of stuff “to get to later,” meaning sometime after hauling it five hours northeast. Or wherever.

Note to self: Energy applied now saves double or triple that amount later.

Now for a rash of Covid novels

Word on the street reports that with all of this downtime, wannabe novelists have turned to the No. 1 topic of conversation as their prompt, and already literary agents and editors are turning off at the first reference to coronavirus.

My take? Besides the fact a reader can devour only so many volumes, even if interested?

I think it’s too early to tell the story. We’re only in the opening round of this affliction, which was supposed to drop off in the face of warmer weather. Only it hasn’t. Let’s see what happens around the corner, likely the real whammer come September.

Though, as one writing buddy suggests, that first book could be the beginning of a series, if you do it right.

Just what more can go wrong in 2020?

Here we are a full six months into the year, and the surge of record-breaking goes unabated.

Racist police brutality is unmasked nationwide, along with the violent suppression of peaceful protests and free speech.

Russian bounties on American soldiers goes unchallenged in the White House.

Wall Street is living in a disconnect with the economy in general while new Covid-19 cases and deaths soar to their highest levels yet – and promise to rocket quickly.

The widespread resistance to public health measures, and then their lifting, threatens to turns the economic hit of the earlier self-quarantining into a wasted expense. Now brace for the truly hard impact when we see what a full outbreak adds up to in costs, including lifetime chronic health problems for many survivors.

And we thought toilet paper and chicken or pork shortages were big?

Already, a wave of evictions is hitting renters who suffered from the mandatory unemployment in April and May. Where can they go? Looks like a lot of vacancies for landlords, too, not that they get any sympathy.

Here where I live, state government revenue is down 20 percent. The next budget round will be a bloodbath.

Who knows what’s going to happen to the crucial election season. National conventions? Door-to-door campaigning? Rallies?

Gee, remember the Senate’s so-called trial of Trump on impeachment charges back in February?

Oh, yes, drought or near-drought in June.

Curing my lifetime of writing headlines, I often felt I’d already seen everything. Nothing could brace me for this.

And now there’s an outbreak of rabbit Ebola, fatal in 80 percent of the cases. Yes, that’s what they’re calling it. Seriously. Wild or domestic, they’re doomed. Bunnies!

Forget the MAGA hats, it’s time for the sackcloth and ashes, friends. We need to repent and be saved. How about some true leadership, based on hard facts and courage?

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

No, gardening is NOT ‘relaxing’

You’ve no doubt heard cliché quips about the stress-relieving blessings of having your own garden. I want to know, compared to what? A day at the beach or in the mountains? Kicking back with a brew on a deck overlooking the river? Listening to music or dancing? Sunbathing on your own deck? Reading a book?

Maybe you’re one of the newbies who decided the year of Covid, with its upsets to the food chain, would be a good time to lay in your first home produce. Welcome, and good luck. Now, for the learning curve.

Veteran gardeners to some degree enjoy what they do, the way any obsessive does, and the activity does provide a common topic for conversation with an in-crowd, or one that’s “in” at the moment. Otherwise, it’s usually old folks looking for some diversion.

Either way, don’t consider relaxation to be among the benefits.

Here are ten reasons gardening is going to raise your blood pressure instead.

  1. Weeds. You can never stay ahead of them, especially if you’re growing organically, which is your ethical alternative. I could do a long list of these nasty invaders alone. Weeding usually comes down to triage, depending on your available time and anger.
  2. Weather. It’s either too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry, and not just for the plants. For you, too, when you’re out there. And watering, in our city, costs a fortune.
  3. Woodchucks. They can mow down your beds overnight. Squirrels, as a subcategory, can also take quite a toll. Even our beloved birds can wipe out most of our berries.
  4. Garden slugs. We have clay soil, and the slimy (expletives) proliferate, taking bites out of everything in their path. You should see what they do to strawberries, for starters, as well as the tomatoes.
  5. Heartbreak. Something you’re really anticipating instead croaks prematurely. There’s always at least one sacrificially crop each year. Sometimes it’s a perennial that died off over the winter. Sometimes, something entirely new.
  6. Heavy harvests. Crops that survive usually roll in like a flood. How much zucchini can you eat at once? Do you really have time to home can or freeze the rest? How much can you actually give away? You bring it inside and watch it start rotting on a kitchen counter, which points back to Heartbreak.
  7. Skeeters, sunburn, and bleeding scratches. Remember, those raspberry and currant bushes have stickers, as do the roses … especially the wild roses that pop up as stubborn weeds. They’re not alone, either.
  8. Your knees and back. You’re not doing sets of hatha yoga asanas while you’re out there, often in cramped spaces where you’re trying hard not to crush the plants around you. Plus, you’re getting older. Let’s not overlook all those muscles you didn’t know you have, or the ones you wish you still did.
  9. Long lines and crowds at the nursery. Even if you order your seeds from your favorite catalogs at the beginning of January, something’s going to be out of stock. Besides, you’ll need something, maybe six-packs of a plant that died under your grow lamps or a bag of vermiculite, which means heading to the greenhouse same time everyone else is. Circling around the parking lot just trying to find a spot is a huge aggravation.
  10. Expenses. Even without factoring in the cost of your own time (I argue it’s not free), you’ll find that your produce and flowers can be pretty costly. Yeah, you’re already paying property tax, but don’t overlook that when you’re being realistic … that’s part of the reason you bought or rent a place with some ground, right? Good tools aren’t cheap, either (now where did you last see that trowel you need now or the nozzle to the hose?), and cheap tools break pretty fast. Cheap? Neither are those bags of everything from potting soil and starter mix to fertilizer and peat moss. Oh, yes, you may need to replace that hose and, while you’re at it, pick up another soaker hose to try to save on that water bill. And you’ll want rolls of plastic or bales of mulch hay or bags of bark to keep those weeds down, and skeeter spray and band-aids and more gasoline for the weed-whacker and …

All that said, before adding guilt or shame to our list, let’s return to the amazing taste of asparagus or strawberries or real tomatoes sped straight from the garden to the plate. There’s no other way to get this. We’ve really earned it.

Would the novel work with a Covid-19 twist?

One of the joys of publishing ebooks is that they can be updated easily and quickly.

So I had a flash, maybe while I was in the shower, and wondered what would happen in What’s Left if Cassia’s father died of a coronavirus complication instead of an avalanche.

It was tempting until I started realizing that it would have to be an entirely different story. She couldn’t grow up, for one thing, not unless I wanted to project that into the future, up to 30 years from now. Right now, everything just a year from now’s looking fuzzy.

And it couldn’t work with the premise of her having to go back through photo negatives – we’ve been digital too long now. As for the hippie, Buddhist, or AIDS epidemic dimensions?

The very thought, though, has me looking at some of the daily news reports through fiction-oriented lenses. Who are the villains and who are the heroes? Where do you want to set this – the White House, an intensive-care unit, a multi-generational household? What focus would you take? Would it be romance, young adult, sci-fi, fantasy, children’s?

I don’t see myself getting to this anytime soon, but good luck to any of you who feel free to tackle a Covid-19 big tale. There are certainly plenty of angles to consider.