#LookingBack at 2020

Do you remember…Oh, stop rolling your eyes. This is not an “OK, Boomer” post. It’s about 2020. Do you remember when being in quarantine was cool? When we first heard about this new thing called the novel coronavirus, we ignored it. What’s that? Why was it called novel? It wasn’t because someone wrote a book about viruses. It was novel because it was new, unknown. We learned to call it COVID.

We rallied together once we realized how fast this beast spread. Kinda like we did after 9/11. We wore masks. We wore gloves. We stood six feet apart. We washed our groceries and quarantined our mail. We washed the skin off our hands.

So back when quarantining was cool, we applauded health care workers in cities at their shift changes. We banged pots and pans, clapped, and cheered these front-line warriors. We sang from balconies to lift spirits.

We looked for solace in music. Yo-Yo Ma recorded solos on the cello and posted them on YouTube free. Other musicians followed, posting new music and live favorites. Some recorded complete new albums in their home studios. Thank you, Bruce. 

Long-planned activities were upended, only to be replaced by drive-by parades: graduations, birthdays, funerals. Yes, even drive-by funerals. We made lemonade when we wanted Cabernet. We found ways to honor friends and neighbors without endangering them.

We laughed with a father and daughter who dressed up to walk the dog. When schools went virtual, this duo turned to the silly. They dressed up as Jake from State Farm and Flo from Progressive, as Star Wars storm troopers, paid homage to Indiana Jones, were Doritos. I think they missed tea bags and M&M’s, both of which became long-ago Halloween costumes for me and a friend. 

Classes adopted pen pals in long-term care facilities, hand writing letters and making birthday cards. They visited through glass and played Tic-Tac-Toe on nine-paned windows. They gave the gift of time and caring. They brought the school band for impromptu concerts.

We learned to Zoom, when that word became a verb, not the name of an app. We learned not to lean in too close, or our friends could look  up our noses. Yuck. We learned to wave, send virtual hugs, and connect. Every couple of weeks, my husband and I Zoom with my cousin and her husband near Burlington, VT. We talk about our week before turning to books we’ve read, things in the news that concern us. Every Sunday, I Zoom with my daughter born to a different mother. She lives in Kolkata and is now recovering from COVID. Zoom doesn’t replace face-to-face contact, but it maintains connections.

And now, with the New Year on our doorsteps, I’ve been collecting how my friends are going to celebrate without being together. Six long-time friends are celebrating with Champagne. One glass for each of the five time zones where they live. New York starts it with a glass; Chicago joins an hour later, with NY raising another glass. Denver joins Chicago and NY, followed by San Francisco, Anchorage, and Hawaii. Count that. Five time zones, five glasses of Champagne. My NY friends will be smashed before they get to SF!

Others are having live black-tie parties via Zoom. Couples will dress in their finest, listen to music from one Zoomer, dance, and toast the New Year.

It’s all about attitude. We need to look closer to our feet to see things we’ve ignored. We have time. Look for that fungus growing on a dead log, one you never noticed but which has been there for years. Watch earthworms emerge from frozen ground after the first rains. Smell the mud, the dust, the flowers.

2020 might not have met our expectations, but we can reset them for 2021. It’s all about what we want 2021 to be. I for one am looking for fresh experiences, whether it’s a new fungus or the reopening of my favorite restaurant for outdoor dining or finishing my next book.

Here’s to a great 2021!
Betsy out




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A Rerun of a Classic

‘Twas the Night Before Deadline
with apologies to CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

‘Twas the night before deadline, when all through the house
Not a writer was stirring, not even his mouse;
The laptop was set on the table with care,
In hopes that words soon would appear.

Images nestled all snug in his head;
Visions of page proofs filled him with dread;
With good guy as hero, a bad guy with a rap,
How to keep the right words, and edit the crap.

When out on the street there arose such a ruckus,
He sprang up in anger at loss of his focus.
Away to the window he flew like a flash,
Drew back the curtains and peered through the glass.

Red lights swirled on ceiling and wall,
Shattered concentration caused him to bawl.
When what to his curious eyes did appear,
Images of pages, blank and austere.

He wielded his pen so sure and so quick,
He knew in a moment his edits were mixed.
More rapid than eagles his cross-outs they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Bracket! now, Period! now Colon and Slashes!
On, Comma! on, Hyphen! on Quote Mark and Em-Dashes!
To the top of the page! to the top of the wall!
Now erase away! erase away! erase away all!”

Ideas that normally flowed freely and fast,
Now met such obstacles, they left him aghast;
On the screen his cursor stood still,
Hours to deadline, no words to kill.

When, in a twinkling, he heard in the hall
The shuffling gait of his wife’s footfall.
As he drew back his head, and turned to see,
Into the study she carried fresh coffee.

Dressed warmly in flannel, from her neck to her foot,
Her clothes were all rumpled, no makeup to boot;
She set the cup down with deliberate care,
Steam rising and swirling, to drink it a dare.

He wished she’d call his editor to plead
All he needed was one day to re-read.
His editor he knew would shout and decry,
He was behind in his contract, he couldn’t deny.

That editor so mean, so nasty and bold,
“Not another second,” his memory so cold,
With a nod of his head and a stroke of his pen,
He fought his way out of the mess he was in.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Delete key melt down, words appearing from murk,
Finally laying fingers on keyboard, a touch so slight,
He typed and typed well into the night.

He sprang from his chair, the manuscript to send
The deadline met, the last words “The End.”
His editor sent a note of delight,
“Happy deadlines to all, and to all a good write!”

Happy holidays to one and all.

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#Election2020

If you’re like me, you’ve had it up to here with all the election noise clogging the ether. Vote for my guy. Your guy is a crook. Take down your lawn signs “or else.” No one has to define “or else.”

This may the most divisive election in the modern era. I don’t remember one where voters were so polarized. Civil discourse has lost to shouted arguments, parroting talking points from television news, and apparent interference with false news reports from outside influencers.

Social media awash with persona attacks. Friends unfriending friends. Family unfriending that one loud mouth who won’t stop telling you you’re stupid to like your guy.

I’m sick of it. I want the election to end. And then I think about those who voted for “the other guy.” Yes, we all have an “other guy,” the one we didn’t support, the one we can’t understand why anyone liked him. I feel compassion. That’s right, compassion.

A large percentage of voters are going to be in deep despair immediately after the election. Their candidate(s) lost. They don’t know why. They may be angry. They may be sad. Mostly, they may be utterly exhausted. 

And this is why I’m calling for compassion. Each of us has been on the losing side. Each of us has been on the winning side. It does not behoove us to dance in the streets and taunt the supporters of the losing side. It behooves us to understand these people are hurting. We can and must extend a bit of compassion, a helping hand, a kind word and a smile. 

This is a time we must take the first step toward healing the rifts in our country. Even when the last vote has been counted, we still have to grapple with coronavirus, incredibly high unemployment, racial unrest, the climate, poverty and hunger.

The election isn’t going to solve any of these problems. We can and should use it to take a deep breath, figure out our next steps on each of these, and get busy. Without the election sucking the oxygen out of the room, we can find something positive to fill the void.

I hope you voted. If you didn’t, then we will get the president we deserve.

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Pods, Pods, Pods

I’ve been thinking a lot about pods lately. All kinds of pods. Pea pods, to be sure, since the harvest is in and mounds of fresh veggies are available.

Pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Some days I think pod people have taken over the airways. I’ve always enjoyed that movie, but living it gives me a whole new perspective. 

Other pods include learning pods, where groups of parents gather together to hire a professional teacher to augment distance learning.  

My favorite pod, however, is our Saturday at 6P “cocktail pod.” You read that right. Since the middle of March, neighbors have gathered at the end of our cul-de-sac for human interaction and cocktails. Strictly a BYO drinks. Oh, and chair. We do keep our distance but don’t wear masks because we are outside. 

Last week, we had 14, including a few kids and dogs, which provided entertainment by dancing in the circle. We had an unusual event. One home owner is renovating his house and nearly doubling its size. He had grown children, in-laws, and grands at the circle. Another couple came with their 6 yo girl. She usually draws in chalk and leaves her art for us to enjoy. 

The story was complex, but it began with a mention of the university the renovator went to. Two other people who are regulars also went to the same school, although a couple of generations separated them. One woman mentioned that her aunt also graduated from said university. Very long story short, the renovator and his clan and the family with the chalk artist are related by marriage and never knew it. The longer they talked, the more relatives they identified. 

When we broke up, one of the younger regulars mouthed, “WTF was that?”

That, folks, was a moment. Two families who had never met, met. So, we can be physically distanced, but can still interact socially. 

What cool pandemic things have happened to you? 

Peace, out.

#AmWriting
As a writer who is happy as a clam in her writing cave, I glad I turned this time into creative endeavors. I’m making fantastic headway on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. I can’t wait to share the cover with you.
.
#NewReadersWanted
If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them. 
Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX 
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert 
You can get all three Mad Max ebooks for $5.97 at https://amzn.to/2V4d76v. 
Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it. Thanks, and read on, right now.

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#ARoomofOne’sOwn

Let’s face it. We are spending more time in our homes than in offices or other places of work. We use our own space, our own toilet paper, our own food. We will be looking for new uses for the space we currently occupy. By that, I mean, we look for places we can set aside for work, for play, for quiet. And that’s perhaps new to most of us.

I work from home. Have for the past nearly fifteen years or so. I was a consultant for two large firms doing client-side work. I didn’t have office space at my corporate offices, because my work was done on site. When I was between assignments, I worked from my home. Once I retired and became a full-time writer, working from home became my norm. So, when we went COVID-19 lockdown, I continue to rise every morning, head down to my basement office, and begin writing. Oh, yes, and I do my hair and put on makeup first. And no, I don’t work in jammies or in my bunny slippers.

But, not all of us have the luxury of a room of our own. Many have children, who are now being taught remotely at home. Others work from home, those who can, and who need space. Most have had to put aside places in their homes to be school rooms, office spaces, and conference rooms.

Imagine the realtors who how have to recast a multi-bedroom home as having one or two home offices. Builders are designing better office space inside a new home with top-of-the-line electronics, wi-fi, and smart appliances. Space is not infinite. Quiet is not a norm. We work side by side with our kids and spouses.

One friend lives in a large city. She’s lucky to afford a two-bedroom apartment. With three children between first grade and ninth grade. Each has electronics in an older building where outlets are at a premium. In order to keep her sanity, she set aside three spaces, one in her living room where a card table serves as a desk, one at the kitchen table, and the last in her bedroom. Not optimal, but she’s thinking this is her new normal. Maybe the kids will go to school for a couple of days a week. Maybe not.

And now I have to go back to work sitting next to my husband who’s working at his own desk about six feet away.

Good luck. Stay strong.
Peace, out.

#AmWriting

I’m having way too much fun working on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. I’m turning my anxiety about what’s going on around the world into emotional responses to events in my characters’ lives.

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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#BackToSchool

By the end of July, I’d be anxiously looking forward to the first day of school, usually Tuesday after Labor Day. I know I’m weird, but I loved school. Meeting friends. New teachers. New subjects.

My mother would let me pick out two new outfits. Only two, because we couldn’t afford more. I’d also get a new pair of shoes. Patent leather Mary Janes when I was younger, white Keds as I got older.

My mother would get a letter from the school with the name of my teacher, my classroom number, and other information she needed to know.  We often had a meet-and-greet individually a week before we began classes.

So easy. Then. Now, not so easy.

No longer is it a matter of showing up when expected. No longer is it a given that children will go back to classroom learning. In this time of COVID-19, no two school districts will function in the same way. Some schools will open for two days a week of classroom instruction, paired with three days of online learning. Some children will go on Monday and Tuesday, others will go Wednesdays and Thursdays. Families have no clue how to plan for the school year.

I hear parents ask how they are supposed to home-school their kids while they work full-time. Not every family has a grandparent support system which can care for the kids and help with their education. And what if a teacher or student tests positive two weeks after classes begin? Well, one local district blithely said, “we’ll close the schools for 14 days.”

And what of those families which count on schools breakfast and lunch programs for two meals? Most districts lack the ability to prepare sack meals and deliver them.
No, this year, going back to school will not be easy. It will not be the old normal. I hope it is not the new normal, but it may very well be. My hat is off to all parents who are grappling with these serious decisions. You are my heroes.

Peace out.

#AmWriting

Still filling this stay-at-home period with an increased level of creativity in my writing cave. I’m finished a satirical essay, The Return of the Blanched COVIDians  and have sent it to various contests and online ezines.

I submitted Revenge on the Rocks this week. I hope it will be published in a new anthology, Murder by the Glass. Same folks who brought you 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Betrayal, a suspense novel with lots of explosions, is booming right along. Yes, joke intended.

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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#StayHomeAndRead

Like most of us, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing lately. My most recent book was Heath Hardage Lee’s A League of Women about the wives who refused to stay silent while their husbands were captive in Vietnam.

These women. who were raised in the white-gloves-and-hats era, shed their inhibitions and went public about the plight of their men held in Hanoi Hilton. They faced off with presidents and negotiators, used anti-war groups to get messages to their husbands, and refused to take “no” for an answer. Lee focused on the wives of POWs and MIAs. She could not write about a host of other women who were not recognized by the government.

I was one of those women. I was engaged to an Army doctor who was supposed to work out of a hospital, not in the field. An orthopedist by training, he was in demand to repair major injuries. He went missing one day. No word to his mother. No word to me. I know for a fact that I was listed as his next of kin, even though we weren’t yet married. I know his mother was also listed. We received no word, no visit from a uniformed officer with bad news. As far as the Army was concerned, we didn’t exist.

Lee’s book stirred memories. Anger. Grief. Anger. I was mostly angry while we waited for news. Grief came after 19 months when I finally pestered the Army into giving me information on his whereabouts. His status went from MIA to KIA, from missing to killed. I found myself thinking about what great work he would have done, how he would have lived his life, with or without me. I was angry anew that we women were treated like pesky flies to be flicked away with hollow platitudes.

Lee’s book is more than worth a read by those who didn’t know much about what the women experienced. I knew most of the stories, but having them packaged in a most readable book made them real all over again.

What are you reading?
Peace, out.

#AmWriting

For a writer who loves her writer’s cave, I’ve been filling this stay-at-home period with an increased level of creativity. I’m currently working on a short story, The Return of the Blanched COVIDians, an allegory, or a satire, or just a plain mess. Haven’t decided which.

Another short story, Revenge on the Rocks, will be published in a new anthology, Murder by the Glass. Same folks who brought you 50 Shades of Cabernet.

I’m making fantastic headway on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. 

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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Musings on Privilege

I used to think that privilege meant you had to have a lot of money, that you had to be born into the “right” level of society, that you had to be a mover and a shaker. I’ve grown out of those beliefs, because in the current environment, privilege has taken on an entirely different meaning.

We live in dangerous times. Millions are out of work. More millions are sick with this terrible virus. Even more are employed but working from home under conditions they never imagined.

I realized how truly privileged my extended family is. All of us can and do work from home. We are fortunate to have professions where we can transfer to online work and still be paid. We have enough food to eat, even though going food shopping can seem like a descent into the hell of the unmasked. We can go for walks, as long as we stay ten feet apart. We can run, play outside (but not in packs), meet in driveways for some human-to-human conversation. Maybe put on some music and do the electric slide. We are so very privileged.

I feel for the hourly employees who have lost their livelihoods. They can’t wait tables from home or clean houses or cut hair. They don’t have nest eggs of three to six months of savings to get through any rough spot. Many don’t have a nest egg at all.

Our government passed laws to help these employees, but when I ask my friends where I live if they’ve received any benefits from the more than $3T, that’s trillion, laws, only two have. The rest wait and eat the food they have at home, live off credit cards, or go to food banks.

I feel for the first responders and health care workers who show up every day, put themselves in harm’s way, and do their jobs. My hat is off to all of them.

What I do not feel is a sense of entitlement to walk around in public without a mask. That is the topic for a different message.

So, please join me in feeling privileged to live in a country where we have food to eat, medical facilities when we need them, and a population that is willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of keeping ourselves and others safe.
Peace, out.

#StayHomeAndRead

I just finished reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, about a pandemic that tried to wipe out mankind. Almost too close to what is  happening now, but I couldn’t put it down.

If you are looking for something a little different, these three books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And Max 3, Uncharted Territory, will soon join the $0.99 club. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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What Unties Us

You read that right. It’s not a typo. I’ve been thinking about how unmoored, how unanchored, how adrift so many of us are feeling about now. Forgive the nautical metaphors. I live on a lake, so I can’t help but think about water.

Anyway, with the vast majority of us in stay-at-home lock down, it’s hard to keep connected to the outside world. Don’t get me wrong. I love being in my writer’s cave with my best friend and husband by my side, a Velcro kitty on my lap. I don’t have to go places everyday to feel fulfilled. What I need is the pretense that I have the privilege of going shopping for more than toilet paper, of having lunch with a friend, or wearing sandals as Goldie Hawn cried in “Private Benjamin.”

I have become one of the queens of Zoom. I Zoom lunches. I Zoom critique group meetings. I Zoom chats with family and friends.  What I can’t do is give or receive a hug. A real, rib-crushing hug. Virtual ones don’t hack it, no matter how well intentioned they are.

I’m amazed, though, at the ways people are finding to stay in touch. Like the group of six late teen girls who drove to a school parking lot, pulled their cars into a circle, and hung out on the hoods. Like the comedians in England who post crazy lip-sync videos all the time to help us laugh. Like the bear hunt in suburbia for teddy bears in windows. Like sidewalk chalk drawings of hope and love.

I wear my mask whenever I go to the store. I also wear it on my daily walk, not because of the virus  but because we are at peak pollen season and I like to breathe.

I figure I have about four more weeks before I shave one side of my head and put purple stripes in the rest. So, what are you doing to stay sane and healthy?

Books You Might Like

These three books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And Max 3, Uncharted Territory, will soon join the $0.99 club. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Until my next post, peace out.

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Finding Peace in the Time of COVID-19

We’re all doing our best to stay calm in the midst of a daily tsunami of bad news. As a writer, it’s less difficult to stay home than it is for someone who works outside the home.  I mean, writing is a very solitary sport. True, some of my friends do their best work in a crowded Starbucks where the background noise of the espresso machine provides inspiration. Others prefer fast food outlets where they can act out stubborn scenes in the parking lot without fear of arrest. We’re all weird in our own ways.

I prefer writing from my home office. Familiar setting. I can control my distractions. I can turn on or off the television. I can refocus on the words on my screen and nothing else. Except when my husband, who sits six feet away and shares the home office, needs technical support. That’s an interruption I love. At least, I can get back to where I was easily. Or not.

A Few Words About the Picture Above

My mother and I read to each other nearly every night until after I was seven. As an infant, she and my grandmother read to me. Later, when I could read more than “See Dick run,” we’d take turns. The black-and-white picture was taken when I was probably seven. Mom and I shared reading one of my favorite books, Sand Dune Pony. Along with Black Beauty, we wept over and over again.

I was sorting through one of my bookshelves when I ran across that book, along with a copy of Black Beauty which has lost its spine. I sat down to enjoy both the story of Sandy the horse and memories of the hours Mom and I shared over books.

I continue to consume books in this time of “house arrest.” I have enough to keep me occupied, so I’m peacefully reading away every night. During the day, I’m writing.

Books You Might Like

I know not all of you have read my books. I’m shocked to write that, but it’s true. So, in this time of staying safe, in this time of libraries shuttering their doors, in this time of Amazon taking longer than usual to deliver to our doorsteps, you can have instant gratification. These three books are all $0.99 each. And here are the links to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX

Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap

Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Until my next post, peace out.

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