Thursday, April 30, 2020

April Reads

In March, when our quarantine began, I found it hard to read. Every time I sat still, I felt guilty. Surely there as some kind of preparation I could be making to shelter my family against the coming storm. There must be someone in need I could be supporting. Restless energy made it difficult to lose myself in story, but eventually, I returned to my roots as a reader and picked up short, escapist works.

I continued that theme in April and it's working for me.

I began with a few light romances. K Leigh and Ashley Cade are authors I befriended on Instagram. It was a great escape to lose myself with characters in danger of having their hearts broken instead of worrying about paying their bills or avoiding illness.

Something That Could Last is a world's collide kind of story, about a young man and woman from very different backgrounds finding ones another. Four Day Prince Charming is an older woman-younger man romance with a save-the-world theme I really loved. One Week Queen is a hate-into-love story with dogs! (He's a veterinarian). All three were short, sweet, and distracting. Just exactly what I needed and wanted.

That's not to say that everything I read was short. I also read The Annotated Alice and Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. I confess though that I wouldn't have read either of those this month were it not that I had committed to do so for my First Monday Classics Book Club, which I help run for my local library.

You might think the giddy silly attitude of Alice in Wonderland would have been perfect escapism, but it didn't jibe with my mood at all. Then again, I've never been that fond of Alice. There's not enough story to her story, and the humor is so self-congratulatory in its cleverness that it doesn't make me laugh. Not my cup of tea, with or without dormouse.

In contrast, An American Tragedy worked pretty well for me. While the story certainly goes dark  enough to earn its dire title, the story is not relentlessly sad. In fact, the ending is all the more effective because so much of the book is about hope and ambition and striving for something more. Even though I feel the book is flawed, I can see how it has earned its place in the canon of great works, and I'm glad I finally read it.

I can't entirely say I *enjoyed* Dreiser's classic tome, but I did stay engaged with it, and I'm still thinking about it several days after finishing reading it, trying to decide exactly how I feel about it. I even sought out the 1950s movie adaptation, A Place in the Sun.

I don't think I would have stuck with it if I were reading it in paper or on Kindle though. I listened to it as an audiobook over the course of six weeks, in 10-20 minute increments while I cooked or took care of household tasks. It wasn't the kind of book wanted to sit down and devour.

For both these longer works, I was happy to get off screen. Now that I'm teaching from home, I feel like I'm on screen time 20 of every 24 hours--for the day job, for fun, and for writing. I was glad to read Alice on paper and Dreiser by listening.

That might be why my next five reads were all short and why I read them in paper editions.

Dreadful Penny and Unsettled Spirits by J. Matthew Saunders, and two graphic novels: The Sixth Gun: Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers and The Sixth Gun: Book 2: The Crossroads by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabree.

Interestingly, these also all came to me via family members. My sister lent me Dreadful Penny and Unsettled Spirits, having purchased it at a convention sometime last year where Matthew and I were both convention guests, as well as sharing Raven. My husband suggested The Sixth Gun series.

All were violent, but non-realistic, with magical elements and interesting heroes. I read all of them sitting on a swing in my yard, in the sunshine, too. Quite a contrast to the content. (I must have really liked The Sixth Gun, because I immediately ordered Book 3. Looking forward to reading it when it arrives!)

I finish the month in the middle of three more books, but I'll tell you about them in May. I'm about 1/3 of the way through Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea on audio book, 3/4 of the way through Bill Blume's Gidion's Hunt on paper, and just started The Reckoning: A Time Travel Thriller by DM Taylor on Kindle.

How is your reading life going?

Did you read my latest yet? Friend or Foe came out in late March. It picks up literally moments after the end of Going Through the Change: Book One in the series (book one is on 99¢ sale, too, BTW).  It's a novella, available in digital or paper formats, so you can choose your poison.

I'm also excited to announce that you can get the next in the series on May 7, 2020!  The Good Will Tour fits in the Menopausal Superhero universe right after book 3, Face the Change, but can be enjoyed as. stand alone story as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

COVID-19 Birthdays

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My youngest daughter and I both have April birthdays.

The last time I had a birthday party, I turned forty-two. She's still in the party-every-year phase of life.

I had a Douglas Adams themed birthday party, including petunia and whale related art, and had friends over to play games with us. Some wouldn't have considered it a real party because no one got drunk and it was overall pretty quiet, but it was exactly the kind of celebration I wanted. Good food and good fun with good friends.

It's been a few years since then, and I've been fine without another party in the intervening years, so clearly I'm not anyone's definition of a party animal.

I didn't plan to have a birthday party this year. Forty-nine didn't feel like a milestone or anything. I am hoping to celebrate bigger next year, when I hit the big five-oh. But still, knowing that I *couldn't* have a party felt strange. Knowing I couldn't invite my parents down for their usual visit made me feel cut off, even though I'm introverted enough to not really feel that sting as hard as some.

But my daughter . . .well, she turned thirteen and that was a rough one to spend in solitude. It should have been a big sleepover extravaganza with so much giggling. Dad and I should have woken up the next morning bleary eyed and grumpy, but happy that our girl had a great time.

Lots of us are celebrating different milestones in quarantine: important birthdays, anniversaries, big moments of life like retirement or publishing a book. It's harder to make those moments shine when a lot of our go-to celebration ideas are just not available to us.

So, here's what we did for our special days:

My girl was allowed to "skip" school on her birthday and sleep until lunch.

Lunch was the takeout of her choice (Chik-fil-a). Dinner was the mom-and-dad-prepped meal of her choice (pot roast, mashed potatoes, and broccoli).

She helped make her own birthday cake because she likes baking almost as much as she likes eating sweets: Mexican chocolate cake with cinnamon frosting.

We wrote out a treasure hunt set of clues and followed her around the house while she figured out where her presents were, and then built her a fabulous pillow fort from which she watched Wall-e with the dog (Mom and Dad watched from the couch). 

I can't describe how much it lifted our hearts that our baby turned thirteen and wanted a treasure hunt, a pillow fort, and an animated film for her celebratory activities.

We still plan to give her that sleepover with her friends, in a few months, when it's safe to do so. And Grandma has promised her a pet snake and the apparatus to take care of it, too. But she said she felt pretty spoiled, and I believe her.

As for me, I also chose skipping school--a personal day spent to just ignore my teaching responsibilities for a day.

I spent the evening before my birthday dying my own hair pink (I used Overtone and it went pretty well!). Usually, I get a salon day around my birthday and get a cool color for convention season, and this was my substitute.

Sweetman made me breakfast and left me to eat in alone in my quiet office watching sunlight on my plant and glass window and daydreaming. I usually have to hit the ground running, even on quarantine--schoolwork happens early--so taking the morning slow was a treat.

Then, we went for a walk in my current favorite wooded area, picking up some supersweet coffee treats on the way. The weather was perfect: neither hot nor cold, neither cloudy nor sunny. I laid on a fallen tree trunk for a while, watching clouds and enjoying the sound of wind through the leaves and my girl talking about the bugs she was tracking.

My chosen lunch was takeout from Tacos Los Altos, a local taco truck/restaurant with nice people and awesome food. I splurged on a Mexican coke to go with my tacos. A FaceTime call with my sister so she could see me open her gifts, left for me on a touchless drop off.

Then the hubby and the girl went upstairs to do her school from home activities and let me have the "big TV" to watch the Miss Fisher movie on Acorn, which was fabulous!

Another walk in the late afternoon, a shorter one this time, so I could take the elderly dog with us, this time riverside. Then some writing time while Sweetman fetched my Turkish dinner from Talulla's in downtown Chapel Hill (a favorite date and special occasion restaurant for us), enjoyed with ANOTHER movie (two in one day? what!) with my family and then my raspberry chocolate cake from Weaver Street.

Throughout the day, I responded to texts and social media birthday wishes. At some point my publisher sent me my latest book cover which definitely felt like another present! (The book comes out in May!)

It's the first day in many a moon that I can remember entirely setting the pace myself, based only on what I wanted to do.

My older daughter is quarantined separately, so I'll see her tomorrow for a six-feet-apart walk and talk.

Were these the birthdays we would have had in a non-COVID world? Not a bit.

But were they still good? Definitely.

There are joys in quiet pleasures, too, and at the end of the day, I am relaxed and pleased to have a day that was all my own.  What's working for you when you have something to celebrate in quarantine? How are still making these moments feel special?

Monday, April 20, 2020


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April is normally such a busy month in our family. 

We have two birthdays and our dating anniversary to celebrate. 

My parents usually come to visit, which usually means taking on a home improvement project (it's DANGEROUS to leave my dad very long without a project). 

Depending on where Spring Break falls, there might be a trip. 

I often attend a convention for my writing life. 

We usually pack a LOT into those four weeks. 

Needless to say, this is not our typical April. 

And you know what? 
I'm glad. 

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a big source of anxiety for a lot of folks during this time. What does it mean to our relationships and careers if we don't do all the things we're "supposed" to be doing? This is probably why every organization I have any connection to is inundating me with invitations to video meetings and "live online" events. It's more difficult to feel connected if we don't see one another and that's harder for some folks than for others. 

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I, on the other hand, am happy to have more limited interaction with the world. I get a little restless here and there, and there are some events that I have been truly sad to miss out on during this time, but really the quiet has been good. It's been YEARS since I had a proper introvert recharge time--I mean a *really* long one, that refilled my well completely. I probably haven't had one in my entire adult life.

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When I talk to people about my teaching life, they often express jealousy about my "summer vacation"--my weeks of not working. That time away from the classroom to recover really is essential to my ability to keep coming back. 

And each year, I find that I come back a little bit less charged up. Maybe two months used to get me back up to 90% of normal me, but these days? I get back maybe half the energy I lost (and how much I lose seems to grow each year, too) and the build-up pushes me into dangerous burnout territory. 

My running joke is that I've been teaching for 26 years and that the necessary recovery period from that is…26 years.

I've been reading a lot about how this time is helping the earth recovery--people staying home is reducing the strain on the environment and wildlife and air quality are thriving. So, in my next month at home (at this point, I know I have at least one more to go), I'm looking for the JOMO--maybe I'll see a me I haven't seen in years thanks to the slower pace and recovery time. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

What I Would've Done at Jordancon

Followers of my blog already know that I go to a few conventions every year and that I *love* this stuff. I get to talk writing and books and geeky wonderful content with writers, creatives, and fans all weekend. Sometimes, there are games and drinks and delicious food. Often, there are presents to buy in the vendor room.

Next weekend, April 17-19, I was schedule to go to JordanCon in Atlanta, Georgia, named for Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series. I haven't attended JordanCon before (a little further away from home than I generally go for weekend events during the school year), so a new convention for me, This is the first big event of my author life to be cancelled for COVID-19 quarantine, and I'm feeling its loss, especially after a month of being home.

My sister, me, and a Wookie at Conapalooza 2019. Guess which is which!
So, Friday, 17 April, I would have gotten up early, excited, happy, and a little sleepy. It's a 5.5 hour drive according to google maps, and I like to get there by lunch time when I can. I would have been happy about taking a day off of school to focus on my writer life.

I'd pick up my sister, who often goes to these events with me, and we'd hit the road, Stevia soda, nuts, and other vegan-friendly snacks in tow (she's vegan; I'm on omnivore). While I drove, we'd talk and catch up and sometimes sing along to power ballads from the 80s.

Nicole Givens Kurtz is one of the big reasons I applied to be a guest at JordanCon; she's attended this and other Atlanta events and talks so happily about her experiences there that I wanted in! So I would have been plotting to meet up with her on Friday, maybe catching lunch before the con really got rolling with her and her husband. Since she's also a publisher, she might have been busy at her table, but I could always bring take out to her if she can't get out.

Assuming I got there early enough, I'd walk around the con for a while, checking out the dealer's hall offerings and looking for con-friends to collect "long-time-no-see" hugs from, and locating all the rooms I had scheduled events in. I'd check in with my publisher, Falstaff Books, and arrange a time to come staff the table and sign books.

John Hartness, my publisher, when I said, "Look like someone
people would want to buy books from." 
Since my first scheduled event was "An Hour With . . ." session, which I gather to be an open author-chat session, with opportunities to interact with readers and maybe do a reading, I'd have been looking for Venessa Giunta because we were supposed to share the time and we've never met. Based on her website, I'm betting we would have hit it off. This time slot is kind of early in the convention, so we may or may not have had much audience. If we didn't, I'd ask my sister to record me doing a reading so I could post it to my YouTube later

At a lot of conventions I attend, I offer ten or twelve hours of programming, but I was pretty lightly scheduled for JordanCon. In fact, that was my only Friday commitment, so my sister and I would have chosen some other events to attend, gotten dinner with friends (new or old), and maybe found some music or dancing to end the night with. She's more of a night owl than me, so I might have gone to the room earlier than her, to get a little quiet and recoup time. While I love conventions, I have to allow myself proper introvert recharge time or I fall apart. 

Saturday, I love to start my convention days with room service breakfast, so assuming the hotel offered it, I'd enjoy some bacon and eggs with some fruit and coffee before venturing out into the world and having to be nice to people. My sister knows, so she wouldn't talk to me until after I consumed the coffee. 

I had a 10:00 a.m. panel scheduled on Character and Theme, in particular: superhero stories, character flaws, and how theme relates to internal and external plots. My fellow panelists would have been Bobby Nash, Aleron Kong, James Maxey, and Robyn Huss, so one acquaintance, one friend, and two strangers. From a promotion standpoint, I'd have been looking forward to this one. James knows me well and would "throw me a bone" if I had trouble getting in the conversation, and I was neither the least nor the most published author on the panel, which is a middle ground I'm comfortable in. 

Character flaws are so much fun to work with in superhero stories. In fact, each of my menopausal superheroes has been her own worst enemy in different scenarios, acting from the gut instead of from the head and making situations worse. 

No one illustrates this better than hot-headed, self-assured, and used-to-being-in charge Patricia O'Neill, the Lizard Woman of Springfield. 

I'd have been looking for an opportunity to talk about the time she got Leonel shot, or Suzie kidnapped and the self-blame and guilt she dealt with afterwards. 

Since my next panel wasn't until after 2:00, I'd have tried to have a writer lunch and talk writing life and life in general with interesting people before getting my head together for This Body Ain't Mine! a panel on body horror with MM Schill, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Nicole Givens Kurtz

I'm only a dabbler in horror, having published only some five or six short stories in the genre, but I'm a fan. Emily and Nicole are friends, and I was looking forward to meeting MM Schill, especially since she has an affiliation with Pseudopod, a venue I'd love to place work in. Nicole and Emily are both passionate, articulate women I'd talk about *anything* with, so I know the conversation would have been fierce, and, given the content, I'd have shuddered at least once. 

My contributions would probably have included references to movies like John Carpenter's The Thing, the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and 2006's The Host as well as books like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Lauren Beukes's Broken Monsters.  

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Almost right after the body horror panel, I'd have hopped over to talk about The Active Protagonist with Nicole (yay! two panels in a row!), Milton J Davis and Kyoko M. I haven't yet met Mr. Davis, but I know about him through Nicole and was looking forward to meeting him in person. After checking out the website, I was excited to meet Kyoko M, too. She who writes monsters? Heck yeah! Sign me up. 

The Active Protagonist doesn't have a panel description in my calendar, but I'd expect us to talk about the importance of agency for characters and some of our favorite take-action characters. I'm often bored by stories where a character just kind of sits and waits for something to happen and then reacts, so I have some strong opinions on this topic. 

Passivity is a hard sell for readers, and if the passive character is a woman? I'm likely to toss that book across the room (I break more Kindles . . .just kidding). A character doesn't have to be an overpowered machine to be the person who takes action; they just have to try something besides waiting or hiding when it comes to conflict. 

My panel day would have ended at that point, and I'd already be with Nicole, so if my other panelists were available, I'd propose dinner and further conversation and then look for some gaming or music fun in the evening. I probably wouldn't have found time to write yet, so I'd head back to the room kind of early and put down a couple hundred words on my WIP before sleep. 

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I only had one event on my Sunday calendar and it was a game! I'm a pretty avid boardgamer, and this was going to be my first time running a game at a con. Gloom is a storytelling card game with an Edward Gorey vibe. Each player receives a family of oddballs (circus freaks, eccentric misfits, etc.) and tries to kill off with the most negative points. 

The game uses transparent cards that stack atop one another covering points and adding life events to the story of each character like "was badly burned" or "was diverted by drink." There are some inherently hilarious ones like "was mauled by manatees" and "pursued by poodles." 

For me, the fun comes in the storytelling--elaborating on what the cards say to create a narrative for the short and unhappy lives of your characters as you gloom them to death. Mostly, I don't even care if I win.

I was really looking forward to my first time leading a game for strangers at a con like this, and hope it's something I'll be invited to do at future events. 

All in all, it would've been a great weekend and I hope for the chance to be a part of JordanCon (and other cons) in 2021! 

In the meantime, if you're a would-be con-goer, don't forget that your creatives rely on these events to sell their wares. If you have the means, consider still supporting the authors, game creators, clothing designers, jewelry makers, and collectors of fine geeky wares with online purchases. If we don't keep each other going now, some of our favorites won't be able to keep doing what you love! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Disney+ Project: Part 9: the 1980s

More Disney! (See our earlier thoughts hereherehereherehereherehere and here)

We've hit a few Disney movies I hadn't seen in this batch. While I remember The Fox and the Hound through a veil of tears, I had never seen The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, or Oliver and Company. I'm guessing it's because I was a young teenager right as they came out. I'm sure I thought I was "too old" for "kid cartoons." Luckily I grew out of that misconception not long after. I was looking forward to seeing Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid again. 

I still know *all* the songs in the Little Mermaid. For me, that's when Disney became a double threat hitting my musical nerd and fairy tale fan buttons all at the same time.

My daughter had seen NONE of these, though she's familiar with the music from The Little Mermaid since our middle school put it on as a musical a year or two ago.

So here's what we thought of 80s Disney:

Fox and the Hound: We knew we were set up for heartbreak from the outset. Heck, Todd's mother didn't last as long as Bambi's! We sat and talked about this one for a while when it was over because it was pretty morally complicated.

The hunter and his dogs weren't just simple villains (though the movie is pretty solidly anti-hunting), but what hope was there for the doomed friendship between natural enemies? And what a bittersweet ending. Way more adult and nuanced than we were expecting.

The Black Cauldron: So, is Gurgi actually Smeagol? The vocal resemblance was uncanny, even down to some of the lines (munchies and crunchies? talking about himself in the third person?) This Disney film had a very different feel than any of the previous ones. It wasn't a musical--no songs at
all, actually. It was darker and more directly scary than any of the others, too. We found it a little sloppy in building character arcs, so lacking in the emotional impact it might have had, but definitely worth seeing. While we enjoyed it, it didn't feel like a Disney movie to us.

The Great Mouse Detective was definitely more for me than for my twelve year old. She knows who Sherlock Holmes is only vaguely, and certainly didn't know about Basil Rathbone, so some of the Easter Eggs remained hidden for her, while I was cackling with inner glee. We both love Vincent Price, though, and he was magnificent as Ratigan. Still she found our Dr. Dawson charming in the same way as The Rescuers' Bernard. A very satisfying little gem we would watch again.

Roger Rabbit, too, was filled with references that went right over my girl's head. She's not steeped in noir like I am. 

On the other hand, she is a fan of old animation, so she had a blast identifying old characters as they wandered through and where they are from. We were both so pleased to see Betty Boop. 

When I watched this one for the first time (when it was new), I had not predicted the big bad guy reveal until just before it happened, and I was pleased that my daughter didn't guess ahead of time either. She's far too good at guessing where a story is going, so she's hard to surprise with a twist!

We were both lukewarm on Oliver and Company. We liked the relationship between Fagin and the dogs, and Sikes was a strong villain, but the whole thing just felt a little lackluster. Maybe too polished? It's the first time Disney used established singers like Billy Joel and Bette Midler as opposed to voice actors. It didn't feel like the characters were singing the songs, but like they were lip syncing, if that makes any sense. In fact, writing this now, a few days later, I can't remember a single song from the film. I guess music is a bigger part of what we love in Disney than I realized. 

That made The Little Mermaid truly welcome. It's the first of a new style of Disney princesses that dominated the 1990s and still continues today: spunky women with agency. 

It really feels like a stage musical, too, hitting all the expected notes: a yearning ballad for our heroine, a gloating moment for the villain, a comedy number (the cook), a setting piece (Under the Sea), etc. 

Instead of the musical numbers being a break from the action as they often were in older films, the songs are the major vehicle for the emotional highpoints. We're only missing the hero and heroine singing their love together, but in most of the screentime they share, her voice is stuck in a seashell, so there are some limits there. 

My daughter commented repeatedly on how strange Ariel looks--giant headed with shockingly skinny arms, ridiculously small waist, etc. I have to agree--even in a long field of unrealistic portrayals of female bodies, Ariel stands out (swims out?) as ridiculously proportioned. 

And, as a Greek mythology buff, my girl was confused by this version of Poseidon, who seems to be less of a god of the sea and more of just the king of the merpeople, but who has some of Poseidon's traditional attributes and powers. 

But we really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to enjoying 1990s Disney with her. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What I Was Reading When the Pandemic Hit

Focusing on reading in March proved difficult for me. I started strong, with Margaret Atwood's The Testaments and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, books I had begun right as February became March. (click the links to see my full reviews on Goodreads).

I had just finished Silenced by Nicole Givens Kurtz when the Corona crisis hit. All three pleased me in different ways: The Testaments made me think. Wide Sargasso Sea washed over me with tragic poetry. Silenced fascinated me with its futuristic gritty noir world.

But, I couldn't seem to find the stillness for reading for a while once we went into lockdown. Too much uncertainty. Too much feeling like I should be *doing* something, something more obviously productive than reading. Something that made my family more comfortable or eased someone's suffering (someone else's suffering apparently: because reading really does make me feel better). That restless energy doesn't work for a reading life, at least not for me.

I was still able to write--I guess I see that as productive, since it does earn me some income and builds my second career. I returned edits on the next novella for The Menopausal Superhero series, promoted the release of the first one (Friend or Foe, book 1.5--came out just 2 days ago), promoted the 99¢ sale of book 1 in my series, and made some forward progress on my WIP, a gothic romance, The Architect and the Heir. Steady, if slow progress, my normal pace.

Reading-wise, though, I've slowed way down. I've been working my way through Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass for a book club selection, but it's not charming me like it should. I think I'm just in the wrong headspace for punny nonsense without a plot.

I've also been listening to Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, and quite liking it, but it's a 34 hour book, so I've still got some 20 hours to go. I'll probably finish it while it's still April.

I finally decided that what I needed was short, escapist work. That's working for now. Feathers by Jorge Corona and Captured by the Alien Vampire Highlander by Crymsyn Hart both distracted me by immersing me in fantasy worlds with unusual main characters. I think this is a trend I'll continue into April, looking for fun distractions and remembering that brevity can indeed be the soul of wit.

What are you reading? Does being at home have you reading more or less? Any suggestions for my immediate TBR? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

IWSG April: Pandemic Edition

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the April posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, JH Moncrieff, Anna @ Emaginette, Karen @ Reprobate Typewriter, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard! I hope you'll check out their blogs as well as some of the others on this blog hop after you see what I have to say.


April 1 question - The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

In the larger scheme of things, we're fortunate here at la Casa Bryant. We're all in good health, the adults are able to work from home and be paid as usual, the larders were well stocked before the crisis hit. 

We're all introverts and have great technology access and plenty of distractions in stock. Our child still at home is twelve, which makes this way easier than it would have been if she were two. The hubby and I are solid in our relationship and united in this fight. 

Complaining, when I know how much harder this is hitting others in the world, feels ridiculous. 

My day job is teaching, so I see firsthand our families struggling to feed themselves and children struggling with isolation. Even if I try to stay away from news poisoning--limiting my news sources and time spent reviewing them--the wider problems poke sharp fingers into the corners of my awareness and I can't be blithe and ignorant, even if I'd like to be in some ways. 

I have a constant restless energy beneath my skin, fueled by anxiety and worry. Although finding time to write is easier than it usually is during the school year, finding focus and using that time well is harder. We're trying to balance preparing for the worst with generosity to others. 

I'm staying focused on the positives. My recent blog posts try to highlight the good: I have time to try new recipes and cook better meals. We're getting so much family time! My house is slowly coming into better order than it has been the entire time we've lived here. 

I'm taking nature walks every day, and the time among trees, flowers, and running water calms the wild panic to manageable levels, leaving me better equipped to care for my family. 

I hope all of you are safe and well, and able to find some cause for joy during our forced isolation. I pray that our nation and communities will learn lasting lessons that make us a better people--a people who value the work of our service industry and recognize that the pace we're trying to keep is killing us. When we get back to normal, may normal be better than it was in the past!