Thoughts On An Overcast Day

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I keep a planner. The monthly part of the calendar is my personal calendar of appointments and scheduling, birthdays and anniversaries to be remembered, and the weekly pages are where I plan my writing for Griffins and Ginger Snaps. This year, writing has been a struggle.

I have been more or less reliable in the publishing of posts, but these last few weeks have certainly been more difficult. There was so much going on in August and when I looked back on it, it seemed that they were all mental worries.

Not that they were all in my head, but it wasn’t that my feelings of busyness was having a lot of appointments or places to go, but it was all mental gymnastics – getting dinner planned, communicating with the school for my kids’ return, planning our vacation while simultaneously planning on not going, keeping up on election news, and so many other things. It’s been rough, and I know I’m not alone in this.

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Writing Prompt – Pandemic Days

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I am missing my writing workshops, but that doesn’t stop me from writing. (There are dozens of other things that keep me from writing!) The age-old (and ofttimes wrong) direction is write what you know.

Many of us have been home for over one hundred days. Some of us are just coming under the auspices of quarantining (Texas, Arizona, Florida, etc).

How have you been holding up? Have you adjusted to life at home?

It might be time to take out a notebook, journal, or keyboard and begin writing about your experience. Even if you won’t be professionally publishing your writing, this kind of document is so valuable to your future families.

Here are ten questions to get you started. You can begin by simply jotting down quick answers, but then take your time and expand your thoughts. Include your five senses, talk about your feelings, talk about your family’s feelings and reactions. There are no wrong answers; these are your experiences.

If you think of other questions, send them, and if you want to share your experiences, comment with your thoughts and/or links to your writing.

1. Are you still working at your job? At your place of work or at home? How has work changed with the covid outbreak?

2. Do you have children and are they now home from school? Are you involved in their schooling? How much? Are they working independently or do they need a lot of parental input?

3. How has your grocery shopping and cooking changed? Were you someone who ate out a lot or had you already been cooking every day? Are you trying new recipes? What are you go-to favorite recipes? Write down the recipes so your family has them.

4. What have you done for entertainment? Are you watching more television? Netflix? Are you playing board games?

5. What are you reading?

6. Are you listening to podcasts? Are you watching more or less news?

7. How has your religious life changed? What are some of the things that you’re doing that you weren’t doing before? What are you continuing to do?

8. What was the last thing you did in the public world before the pandemic arrived (in the US approximately March 13, 2020)?

9. What do you miss most from being home all the time?

10. What are you surprised that you miss the least and are thinking about keeping out of your life when the pandemic is finally over?


Inspire. July.

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Original art. kbwriting. (c)2020

“There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical

Throughout this pandemic, I have written and arted and journaled and prayed, usually with no rhyme or reason, letting the time at home and the mood of the day take the lead.

Last week, I volunteered, but was also asked and encouraged to write something for our weekly Cursillo newsletter. Our lay director decided to start it during the pandemic to keep everyone in touch.

I was happy to do it, but it took forever to start it. I had three drafts about online retreats; just a paragraph each. I skipped two lines to try again, and then it was July 3rd.

Our day revolved around watching Hamilton on Disney+. It was the premiere and for those of us unable to see the Tony Awared winning Broadway or the traveling shows, it would be the first time to view its magnificence.

I woke my family with shouts of “It’s Hamiltime!

And that began the piece that would eventually make it into the newsletter.

It was inspired in subtle ways, and then it just came to me while sitting at the keyboard.

Inspiration is everywhere.

Let it catch you when you’re least expecting it.

What Have I Done Today?

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What have I done today? Today, being a reflection of one day last week, April 2, 2020 to be precise. It is (was) day 18 of self-isolation/”quarantine” for our family. That is the official count since we last went out to dinner and our kids last had in-person school, which is not a phrase that comes readily from fingertips to keyboard or off the tongue. In that time, we have managed to come to some sort of happy (?) medium between the four of us who live in this house. Some days have blended into others, some pjs were worn a bit too long, too many video games, streaming services, and DVDs were played and watched, not enough fresh air, and way, way, way too many emails were received from every single email list I’ve been on for the last ten years telling me how they are addressing the COVID-19 situation in their establishments as well as many, many restaurants offering me free delivery or curbside pick up despite the fact that I am very much not in their delivery area.

But we’re all handling this in our own ways; some better than others.

As every day becomes some version of it’s Friday again as well as a Groundhog Day reboot, I thought I’d spend one day listing all of my activities or the less than active happenings as it were.

I decided to would share it here for others to see that we’re almost all coping with the same issues: limited resources, homeschooling our kids, working from home, trying to be useful, and often not succeeding, and then feeling guilty about that. Why haven’t I cleaned out my closets? Why haven’t I planted my garden? How can we possibly use that much toilet paper in a week?! No, I don’t know what’s for dinner; what are you making?

I absolutely recognize my privilege and am ever grateful in that I have a home, my children are safe, and my husband continues to work from our home. He had already been working from home for a number of years, initially requesting it because of some medical limitations for me after my third child was born. Eventually, it became his regular job to work from home. I do know how lucky we are despite having the worry that this may situation may stop or change before the quarantine is over. Time will tell.

For all of us.

I began that Thursday as I begin every day, by waking up. I have an alarm set for 8:30 from Sunday to Thursday. I set the alarm so I can “attend” Mass online. It’s hard to have an excuse not to be there when the commute is literally sitting up in bed and turning on my Kindle. In addition to masses four days a week, my parish priest is also doing FB Live storytime for the younger parishioners (but I tune in every week, and enjoy every minute of it!), our office manager is offering a weekly reflection on FB Live as well, and we’ve had soup deliveries on Wednesday for the last three weeks. Sadly, they end when Lent does. I couldn’t be more proud of my church and how they’ve handled this pandemic from the beginning in March, keeping everyone informed and faith filled, keeping our community despite the physical distance.

So, my alarm goes off at 8:30, and my day begins.

8:30am – Wake up.

8:30 – 9am – Checked email, Facebook, Twitter. Saved screenshots and links for COVID-19 information posts to get to later.

I take my morning medicine.

9am – Facebook Live. Since this is Thursday, there is no daily mass, but my friend and godmother who is the office manager for my church gave a wonderfully lovely Lenten reflection. She’s doing another one this week as well.

About 9:45/10am – I begin listening to my podcasts: What a Day from Crooked Media and Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara.

After that it’s time for breakfast, which sadly won’t come to me: a French toast bagel, toasted with melted butter.

I began reading a new book – The Boston Massacre (because clearly this is a lighter subject than what we’re living through right now.)

I went back on Facebook until …

11:30am – I watched New York’s Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing. I find his briefings calming and informative; also honest. I watch it every day that I am able to, and no, I do not watch the President’s daily briefing because those are the exact opposite of calming, informative, and honest. I screenshot many of the Governor’s slides to post on Facebook.

I cooked the meat and sauce and layered the lasagna in my crock pot for dinner.

When dinner was set up to cook for the rest of the day, I cropped the slides from the governor’s briefing and posted them on my Facebook page. (Several people have told me that they appreciate it, and it makes me feel as though I am doing something productive, something of a public service, even if it’s only in my mind.)

I then had Lunch with a Diet Coke followed by a snack. On my notes page that I kept the running diary, I didn’t write down what I had for lunch and snack, so I have no idea what it was. We’ve had sliced turkey and cheese in the house for sandwiches, we have ramen, macaroni & cheese, and often leftovers to have for lunch, so really it’s anybody’s guess what it might have been.

About now, I’ve begun to flag. I’m always tired since this situation has begun, not always physically, but I feel a constant level of worn out. My brain is going a mile a minute, but I am also paralyzed with uselessness.

I go back on my Kindle: Facebook, Twitter, some games. Things that I don’t need to think about because my brain just won’t slow down.

Clearly, I’m not writing. 😦

Emails.

My daughter was on Facetime with her friends and I heard her giggling and laughing hysterically. It resounded down from her room, and I stood at the bottom of the stairs, and just enjoyed it. It was a welcome sound; one that I haven’t heard for what seems like a long time, and I relished in it.

When the lasagna was ready, my son and I made homemade garlic bread. It was delicious.

We ate our dinner, which was also delicious. We’ve been cooking a lot!

After dinner, I had some yummy Mango Dragonfruit sherbet that my husband picked up for me as a surprise when he went out to get milk.

I read Governor Cuomo’s email that he sends nightly, which caught me up since his morning briefing. Again, positive and reassuring.

9pm – The Rachel Maddow Show. She is visibly upset with the federal government’s response. I am also upset. Disappointed. Embarrassed.

I don’t know if I just realized it while watching Maddow but I did not get dressed today. PJs feel almost like business casual as quarantine time ticks by. It’s quite nearly another universe.

After dinner, I clean up the dishes. I didn’t wash them though, just got them scraped and into (or near) the sink. At the moment, there’s too many for me to get started emotionally. I don’t mind doing the dishes, but I need to really feel it.

I went to bed; not to sleep, but to read.

Then I promptly fell asleep.

I woke up at 1am and went on Twitter where Alt_Immi‘s post set my teeth on edge. He had retweeted a 9 minute video of Russel Honore’, who commanded federal troops in New Orleans after Katrina, and who had a lot to say about the Defense Production Act and the “leadership” of Jared Kushner.

I became enraged, which kept me from sleeping.

I took my nightly medicine (which I’m really supposed to take around 11pm), and then I went to bed for real. Mostly.

I know that tomorrow will probably go about the same except with the addition of a shower and minus meat (since [as of this diary’s writing] tomorrow is Friday!)

This whole thing is horrifying and demoralizing.

As the following Tweet says, this is why we cried when he won. No lie.

We will get through this. Together.

Writing in the Pandemic (Updated 4/13/20)

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As a writer, I’ve hit the proverbial road block. It is so hard to just sit down and write about anything that isn’t coronavirus related. I spend my entire day reading Twitter, watching Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing, finding interviews with Dr. Fauci, and listening to relevant podcasts. It’s exhausting.

But I feel that I need to stay informed.

However, my writing also needs to continue. Whether that means weekly election connection posts or finally sitting down to get serious about my two books or any number of writing projects that I want to work on. I need to re-balance my life to include my writing, and for better or worse, some of that writing will need to be about what I am going through now.

I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve discovered on my online sojourns and internal discernment.

The Writer Magazine Writing Contest Short Story Contest due June 2, 2020. (There might be a fee to enter.)

Historian Suggests Keeping Record of Life During Pandemic

Journal Assignment. Graphic posted below. Link is to other assignments and a place for students to upload their work. This was originally from Bryan Shaw of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District in California

Podcast from Writing Coach, Ann Kroeker: One Thing Writers Can Do in a Pandemic: Document the Days

From Actor, Misha Collins:

Breathe in what?

Breathe out what?

“I was explaining one of the simplest meditation techniques to the kids: “Sitting, eyes closed, you breathe in good things you breathe out bad things.”

Maison [his daughter] said, “So you breathe in sparkly rainbow unicorns and you breathe out broken guitars?””

Remember to respect Authors

Haiku Writing with John Pavlovitz

30 Day Writing Challenge beginning tomorrow (April 1, 2020) from IngramSpark, a self-publishing company. They will send daily emails for the writing challenge from The Writer -30 Day Writing Challenge – these are daily emails from a self-publishing/pod (publish on demand) company.

Camp Nanowrimo for the month of April!

Camp Nanowrimo – nanowrimo.org

Journal Assignment by Bryan Shaw. (c)2020

Blog and Personal Update

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I wanted to update my readers on what’s been happening since my last post.

We’ve been taking this pandemic seriously for some time in our house. I had been forcing my family to wash their hands when they returned from school or shopping or outside of our home for a number of weeks. Our church had eliminated handshaking for the sign of peace, and receiving communion from the chalice. I told my daughter that she couldn’t go to her friend’s birthday party, which I truly hated doing. (The mom ended up postponing.)

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New Year, New Retreat: How’d I Do?

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Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? How did I do this weekend?

I’ve reproduced the quixotic list I put on the New Year, New Retreat post. I think I knew as soon as I hit publish that the list was a bit grandiose for the amount of time I had left in the weekend. It was too much to get done in half a weekend. Half of the list has been on a list in some form or other for the past six months. I did get some of it done, though! And as I went back through my notes and thought about it, I did pretty well. Here are the results:

1. Set up editorial calendar for the next three months from my personal Book of Days.

DONE

2. Finish planning and research the rest of the tea series for January.

DIDN’T EVEN TOUCH IT

3. Plan out Election Connection through Leap Day.

TENTATIVELY PLANNED WITH PRIMARY DATES AND MOST RESOURCES

4. Write stories from Canada that I’ve been meaning to write since the summer.

I DID ONE.

5. Wales book outline.

STARTED A LIST, NOT NECESSARILY IN ORDER

6. Labyrinth book outline.

DONE-ISH

So, actually not bad with the admission that I did some finishing touches this afternoon between grocery shopping and a church activity. And I now have some things to concentrate on for the next few weeks.

Happy New Year!

New Year, New Retreat

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My first retreat of the year. A weekend devoted to writing memoir. I’m glad that it’s occuring at the end of the first full week of January. As you know from my previous writing and posts, I try to assess my life, goals, and writing at various times throughout the year and recalibrate. And coming at the traditional New Year, after all the major holidays are winding down and finished, January is always a good time to reassess nearly everything.

From past experiences, I know that this weekend’s retreat will be prayerful, but in addition to that it is primarily a writing weekend. This is the first retreat that I’ve brought my computer to, partly because it’s a newly acquired computer, and partly since it was offered as an option for our writing this weekend. I hesitated because despite my bringing my Kindle on retreats, I still try to unplug and get back to basics, but here I am: pad, pen, headphones, and computer.

I feel like this is an opportunity to jump start my commitment to writing, whether here on Griffins and Ginger Snaps or my ongoing book projects, journaling or what have you that I keep listing on assorted organizing apps. As I prepared for this weekend, I considered what I might want to accomplish before I returned home on Sunday afternoon. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with a to-do list or unrealistic expectations, but I also want to get things done. I’ve started a few ongoing series that I want to keep fresh and consistent. Talking about my Election Connection series on Twitter got me two likes (one from Alyssa Mastromonaco and one from Jon Favreau), and as you may remember, I collect likes just as I used to collect autographs when I was a kid. It was thrilling to get that small acknowledgement from two people I respect so much. But I digress.

As I thought about this weekend, made my packing lists, and prepared my mind, I really wanted to put a spotlight on my priorities and my intentions, and the three things that immediately came to me was

spiritual
political
writing.

This weekend allows me to remind myself that my writing is so many things for me. It is a creative outlet of course as it gives me space to express myself, my thoughts and beliefs. It lets me share with others and absorb new ideas. It is therapy. It is spiritual, prayerful even.

What do I want from this weekend and this ongoing year?

Do I really know?

Spiritually: Well, I definitely want to increase my spirituality and my faith. I want to use what I learned on my Cursillo weekend more consistently and routinely; pursuing persistently.

Politically: I want to encourage friends, family, and strangers that being political is life-saving. It is life-empowering. While politics can seem a far off, abstract, divisive, talking aimlessly without really listening, doesn’t affect me in real life, it actually affects our daily lives and trying to respond to that and protect ourselves from the current climate of racism, lies, and disinformation (propaganda) is all of our responsibilities; to ourselves and to each other. This is an election year. Well, they all are, but this presidential one has serious ramifications and consequences. The GOP is taking away Americans’ health care, women’s autonomous rights, LGBT+ rights, fair and free elections, and so much more that I can’t even get it all out without screaming into the void. I will not be silent.

Writing and Publishing: I want to write. Well. Constantly. Consistently. Be published. Finish a project and then start another one.

This retreat is one way, the first step to get that focus, write what I need to write, what I want to write, center on my personal priorities, set up my writing, schedule my goals and subjects, and just get shit done. And it’s only the start of what could be a great year.

I arrived here on Friday night in the dark amid a mixture of rain and sleet. It was cold, but I was pleasantly warm once I entered the building. I was greeted by familiar faces and the hushed tones of others settling into their rooms. I expected to be assigned my regular room, the one I had requested, and was taken aback and surprised to be given a different one. Simultaneously a short, internal struggle and confusion took place while outwardly, I took it in stride. As much as you read my rants, I’m not much of a complainer, and this new room was just as comfortable as my regular one, just as close to the bathroom, and included a recliner next to the window. I checked out this different recliner in this different room, which was mainly what I was looking forward to in the old one. This one was blue, rather than red, and slightly too close to the wall (which I rectified immediately), and it worked out just as well, just as comfortable, and after unpacking and settling in, I sat down, reclined, and got out my kindle. Before long, it was time to meet the group I’d be spending my weekend with. As an aside, after lunch, my intention to write was undermined by the comfort of the chair as it put me to sleep, easily for an hour. I was lucky that I set an alarm or I would have missed the next session.

Three things I noticed that were unusual for a retreat weekend: First, I made dinner (homemade chicken pot pie, and it was delicious) and ate before I left for the retreat center. We often grab something on the go or I eat in my room while my husband takes the kids to Sonic or McDonald’s. Second, I brought my computer, which made me feel odd at first. I’ll get used to it, but it’s such a different mindset to be in. And, third, I’m in a different room (which I may have mentioned), and that will take a little time to adjust to.

Morning brings bright sunshine to make up for the night rain, warm oatmeal, inspired daily readings, book recommendations for writing and for writing memoir, prompts, and then writing. What’s seemingly wonderful is the time given to write, think, pray, rest; whatever needs to be in order to get the mind in the writing place. There are no wrong answers. A bottle of soda, a handful of M&Ms, reading my devotional, listening to Saturday’s Lovett or Leave It, also the first for 2020, stepping out into the cold courtyard for a moment of fresh air. Inspiration is everywhere. Motivation, however…

How will I tackle two sessions before mass, and one after? Will lists be enough? Will focusing on three separate topics keep me going? And once this weekend is finished, how will I keep the momentum moving forward?

I’ll leave you with a list of what I plan for the rest of the weekend, and I’ll check in on Monday (another “New Year”) with what I actually got done, word counts, new words learned (thesaurus.com is a lifesaver), and other motivation that I hope you can use for your own writing or New Year’s goals.

1. Set up editorial calendar for the next three months from my personal Book of Days.

2. Finish planning and research the rest of the tea series for January.

3. Plan out Election Connection through Leap Day.

4. Write stories from Canada that I’ve been meaning to write since the summer.

5. Wales book outline.

6. Labyrinth book outline.