What Will the New Normal Look Like?

I’ve heard much chatter of late as to what the world will be like once we’ve finally developed herd immunity from COVID-19. Some people seem to think everything will revert back to the way it was when we were all more naïve about viruses, their transmission, and their impact. I don’t see that as a possibility. First of all, sorry to say, but COVID-19 will never be completely eradicated. And other pandemics are sure to follow sooner or later.

So this gives me the opportunity to make some predictions about our new normal. I’m sure I’ll look back on this blog post someday and either laugh at my foolishness or think, “Dang, you’re good!” (That’s one of the drawbacks of blogging. There’s nowhere to hide from your past idiocy. But sometimes you also get to say “I told you so!”)

The reason I’m fairly certain that we will not return to days of yore is that when my boss suggested that we’ll all probably be vaccinated by the end of the month and should therefore be able to revert back to our old shift-change-in-a-teeny-tiny-little-room habit, I had a visceral reaction. Panic, if I’m honest.

First of all, due to HIPAA, we’ll never know for sure if everyone has been vaccinated. Second, as of this writing, the scientists are not yet certain that vaccinated people cannot still be carriers of COVID, and even they say that these vaccines are not 100% effective. The news changes daily, but until I have more reassurance than that, I don’t feel like marinating in my coworkers aerosol, thankyouverymuch.

The smallest lesson from this is that a lot of us are going to find it hard to unmask. I’m struggling with the concept, and I HATE wearing a mask. I’m tired of my glasses fogging, and I feel claustrophobic. But I do it because I know that it has been the safest, most responsible thing to do. It will be difficult for me to gauge when that safety and responsibility is no longer needed.

We’ve all been changed in various negative and positive ways by this past year. We’ve slowed down. We’ve isolated ourselves a lot more. Many of us have worked from home. We’ve all learned that it is possible to do these things. Some of us have liked it, and some of us have not. I suspect that a certain percentage of those who don’t like it will find that they like it a lot more when it becomes voluntary, and they’ll adopt a sort of hybrid lifestyle.

I suspect a lot of people who have been telecommuting will resist going back to the office 5 days a week. That, and businesses will have learned that there’s a lot less overhead to pay when you don’t have to maintain as much office space. And, surprise! The work still seems to be getting done.

On the real estate front, many people who have been allowed to telecommute have sold their houses in the big cities and have moved… well, anywhere they’ve wanted to move. A lot of people have gone rural. It’s going to be really hard to persuade them to come back. (It’s sort of the opposite of, “How will you keep them down on the farm, now that they’ve seen ‘Paree’?”)

And now that I’m more aware of virus vectors, I don’t see myself ever being as comfortable going to large concert venues again. Don’t get me wrong. I miss live performances. I just don’t miss sharing my airspace with a thousand strangers.

I’ll never get used to being crammed into a crowded elevator or subway again. When people cough, I’ll feel a flashing red alert inside my head. I doubt I’ll ever enjoy long air flights again. (But then, they’ve been going down hill since the 80’s, anyway.)

Now, when I forget my mask, I don’t get very far. I feel naked and exposed and vulnerable. I’m horrified. I turn right back around and I get it. I think it will take more than a minute for me to get past that feeling.

I suspect that this virus has changed us in ways that we have yet to see. Personally, I’ve enjoyed not having a single solitary cold all year long. I wouldn’t mind continuing to wear a mask in more crowded places if I could stay on that path.

I suspect, at a bare minimum, a certain percentage of us will continue to wear masks, at least some of the time. I also suspect that those of us who do are going to get bullied for it by various factions. But we are living in a different world now, and that’s just a hard fact.

These are my predictions. What do you think? In any event, time will tell.

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My Interpretation of ProLife

The other day I was watching Biden’s speech on the one-year anniversary of the declaration of this pandemic. It was streaming live on Facebook, and as per usual, the comments were going by so quickly that I couldn’t keep up with them. I did note that some were really supportive, but a lot were from a hostile, angry, lunatic fringe. I decided to focus mainly on the speech.

I struggled to understand why what Biden was saying in this instance was so divisive. The man was talking about his plans, moving forward, to battle this pandemic, and said we all needed to work together for this to be a success. He hoped that the vaccine rollout would continue to be even faster than he first anticipated, and he prayed for those who have lost loved ones. He encouraged us to keep wearing masks and socially distancing, and hoped everything would be more normal by the 4th of July.

After hearing that speech, I felt compelled to throw in a comment of my own, so I typed:

“So nice to hear calm, reasonable, and reassuring words. We’re not out of the woods yet, but progress is being made.”

The comment did get a lot of likes, and also a few laughs, which confused me. Did they think I was joking, or was that their rude way of saying that they thought what I said was a joke? Whatever. Concentrating as I was on what was being said by the president, I didn’t notice the responses to my comment until long after the comment ability had been discontinued.

One guy chimed in:

“bet you do like being told what you are and aren’t allowed to do…..speak for yourself”

A second guy responded:

“uhmmm she is speaking for herself”

To which the first guy replied:

“lol…touche….hoping nobody would see that…bad wording….”

Reading this, I thought, “Why would you assume, based on my comment, that I like being told what I am and am not allowed to do? What prompted you to respond to my positive, yet relatively generic statement? That’s really weird.”

But like I said, comments where turned off by this point, so I kind of had to let it go.

Only I couldn’t. I lost sleep over it, even though it was rather trivial. The only way I was able to get any rest was by telling myself that I do, indeed, have a voice, and a forum on which to express myself. I’d be blogging about it in the morning.

So here’s the response I’d dearly love to give this guy:

I think it’s safe to say we can both agree that nobody likes being told what to do. But here’s where we part company: I most definitely do like being advised by scientists, experts, and leaders on what the best practices are to keep my community safe and healthy.

I was raised not to be selfish. I instinctively try to work toward the common good at every turn. Wearing masks sucks, yes, but I feel that the need not to kill anyone supersedes my desire not to have my glasses fog up every time I exhale.

I also stop at red lights, so as not to kill myself or anyone else. I wear seatbelts. I don’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. I don’t storm capitol buildings or try to overthrow duly elected presidents. I don’t cause riots, I don’t wave guns around in public places, I do my best to keep the environment safe for future generations, and I pay my taxes so that others can be helped in times of need. I also don’t tug on superman’s cape, because I’m just that considerate. If this pandemic has a silver lining at all, it’s that it has given us a visual indication of who is considerate and who is not.

My point is that when choosing to do things, I don’t think merely of myself and how the thing might inconvenience me. I think about the wider world. I think of consequences and how others will be impacted. I think of friends and family, young and old, people yet to be born, and total strangers, even those I suspect I wouldn’t like or agree with. That’s what you do when you’re truly pro-life. You look at the big picture, not just your very narrow, selfish agenda.

Hoo. Thanks for listening. I feel cleansed.

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Bits and Bobs about the COVID Vaccine

Having just received my first dose of the Moderna COVID Vaccine, I realize that I’ve got so many disjointed thoughts on the subject that are bubbling up to the surface that it’s time to set them free.

First of all, so far, so good. I didn’t even feel the shot going in. Now, a day later, the injection site feels a little bruised, as if someone had given me a noogie. No big deal. And no other side effects. I’ll take a noogie over a horrible death, gasping for air, like a carp on a sidewalk, any day. Of course, your results may vary.

I was really impressed by how well the King County Public Health System is handling this herculean task. My vaccination site was a hockey stadium down the street from my house. I was able to book the appointment online, and I was in and out in 20 minutes. That includes the 15 minutes, post shot, that they made me sit there to make sure I had no adverse effects. They operated like a well oiled machine. Registration, vaccination paperwork, shot, post shot observation. Every single person was professional, patient, kind, and willing to answer questions. There was more staff on hand than patients, and they were cranking out the vaccines at lightning speed.

There is no charge for the vaccine here in the US, and if you get it at a doctors office, and your visit was only for the vaccine, you will not be charged for the visit, either. I can’t speak for other countries, of course.

Yes, I fully intend to continue to do the right thing and wear masks and socially distance until this pandemic is just a bad memory. It’s the responsible thing to do. And it also means you’re being a role model for others. Those who are refusing to do the same are being selfish and irresponsible.

I would like to point out that it’s important to be patient. There are a lot of vulnerable people out there who are getting vaccinated first. But if you can get vaccinated, please do so, for all of us. The sooner this public health crisis is addressed, the safer we all will be.

I am mildly frustrated that I see so many people online interrogating people who have had the great good fortune to get the vaccine. Even if it’s simply that they happened to walk into a pharmacy just as it was closing, and said pharmacy didn’t want the vaccine to go to waste, why is our first instinct to say, “Why were you able to get it when I can’t yet?” rather than, “Lucky you!”

It’s nobody’s business what someone else’s risk factors are. And when anyone gets the vaccine, it should be grounds for all of us to celebrate. The more people are vaccinated, the fewer people will get the virus, so it’s reducing your risk of getting COVID, too. That’s nothing but a good thing. So instead of quizzing people as to their status, give them three cheers.

And, lest we forget, let’s give all the front line workers three cheers for making the distribution of this vaccine even possible. These folks are half killing themselves so that we don’t die. That’s pretty darned heroic, if you ask me.

There are a lot of really wild rumors flying around about the vaccine. I can’t address them all here. Here’s an article that debunks a lot of common vaccine myths, which is not directed specifically at the COVID vaccine, but it will give you some idea about the foolishness that abounds.

Oh, but I have to talk about this one. If you think that the virus contains the foreskin of aborted male babies, or any version of that, you’re completely devoid of critical thinking skills. We’re giving out more than a million vaccines a day at this point. There’s not enough foreskin to go around. Trust me. I’ve done the math. And it would be a logistical nightmare to obtain said foreskin, and that would be impossible to hide from the public. I can’t even believe that there is a need for me to write this paragraph. I’m doing it for the lunatic fringe out there who are gullible enough to believe such absurdities.

And if you had been through that fast moving, efficient vaccination factory that I went through, you’d know that these millions of medical professionals aren’t conspiring against you to poison you or fill you with microchips. They’re too busy saving lives. Nor do they have time to suss out whether you’re a member of a minority to then inject you with poison or whatever outlandish thought you may be having along those lines. There’s no time for that, nor should there ever be.

Sheesh, people, look at the science.

And if you do get your first dose of the vaccine, follow through and get your second dose. Otherwise it has been wasted on your selfish butt when someone else who is really taking this seriously could have had it. I will say that I am more nervous about the second shot. In my very unscientific query of friends and family who have gotten these vaccines, none of them have mentioned having much problem with the first shot, but about a third of them felt like crap for about a day and a half after the second. No fun. But still, I maintain, it’s better than death.

Here’s a big one, so I will shout it: THE VACCINATION DOES NOT CONTAIN COVID. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO GET COVID FROM THE VACCINE. If you’re interested in how vaccines can be made to fight COVID without using actual COVID, check out this fascinating explanation of the Pfizer vaccine process. Nary a foreskin is required. Imagine that.

And I also suggest you listen to Dolly Parton on this subject. She’s persuasive and comforting as all get out. It makes you want to run out and get vaccinated right this very minute.

I will leave you with one last thought. When I got vaccinated, I actually got a little choked up. Tears in my eyes, for real. That’s because it has been one long scary year, and my life has only truly gotten good in the last six years, so I’d really, really like to stick around for as long as I can and enjoy more of it. As the needle entered my arm, I was thinking, “This shot is giving me a shot at living.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to science, and so relieved, in my entire life. I’m kind of proud of myself for not having a big old ugly cry right then and there.

If I can do it, so can you!

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The Upside to Face Masks

Yeah, face masks fog up your glasses and make it a tiny bit harder to breathe. Yeah, some fools think they violate their rights, or that they send some form of political message. (Such as, “I care about your life?” Beats me.) Yes, it’s a pain when you forget to wear one and have to go back to your car or house to get it. And I haven’t seen the bottom half of the faces of my friends in so long I’ve forgotten how they look. But I’m beginning to realize that there are quite a few upsides to face masks.

For example, it suddenly occurred to me today that I haven’t gotten my annual nasty winter cold. I’ve come to resign myself to it every year, but so far, knock on wood, I’ve gotten off scot free. No complaints here! (And I haven’t had the flu in decades because I get the vaccine every year.) I may have to wear masks every Autumn and Winter from here on out.

I’ve discovered other benefits as well. Masks keep your face warm when it’s cold outside. I’ve also been using one to hide an unsightly pimple on my nose for the past week. Bonus points! And I can stick my tongue out at people I don’t like and get away with it. It’s very satisfying.

I never thought, this time last year, that I’d have a favorite mask or an obscene collection of masks, but I do. How quickly fashions change. How quickly priorities change.

Of course, the primary upside to face masks is their ability to protect those around you from this deadly pandemic. That alone should be all the reason one needs to wear one. Personally, I’ll move heaven and earth to avoid killing people, but that’s just me.

No, this isn’t me. Just some random pic from the internet, but I like her attitude!

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Out of Eden Postponed

I was practicing my daily self-torture by reviewing the numbers out of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. I realized that as of the time of this writing, there have been more than 1,900,000 reported deaths worldwide. That’s an horrific number, made even worse by the fact that it’s probably on the low side.

Suddenly I sat up straight in my chair, thinking, “My god. Where is Paul Salopek?”

I’ve blogged about Mr. Salopek a few times before. He’s the guy being sponsored by National Geographic to do the Out of Eden walk, and write dispatches along the way for our reading pleasure. His path follows the migratory route of humanity, and started in January, 2013.

He began his walk in Ethiopia, where humans first evolved. From there he went to Djibouti and crossed the Red Sea. That took 5 months. From there he spent 14 months walking through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. It took him a further 20 months to make his way through Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. From there he crossed the Caspian Sea and traveled along the Silk Road, through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That took him 22 months. From Pakistan he went to India, and into Myanmar. That was a further 23 months, and then (insert sound of record scratch) he was stopped cold by the pandemic in March, 2020.

He’s been in Myanmar ever since. I was glad to see that he’s alive and well. At the time I wrote this, his latest dispatch was only a few days old. He’s passing the time by writing a book.

Salopek must be the world’s most patient man. Personally, as much as I adore travel, after about 12 days, I want to go home. For him, it’s been nearly 8 years, and he still has a long way to go. The entire journey was only supposed to have taken him 7 years.

His plan, from here, is to go up through Asia, across to Alaska, down the west coast of the United States, into Mexico and Central America, and then all along the West coast of South America, ending in Tierra del Fuego. But first he has to wait out this pandemic.

What must it be like, being away from loved ones that long, and only having the friends you meet along the road as you’re passing through? What must it be like to live with only what you can carry on your back? What happens to your concept of stability and permanence and home?

That, and his feet must be killing him.

Just as with the rest of us, I’m sure this pandemic took Salopek by surprise. But he seems to be coping with it. In the meantime, he has a lot of fascinating stories to share. I highly recommend that you check out the Out of Eden website and enjoy his journey vicariously just as I have done.

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A Hateful, Clueless Meme

You may have seen this disgusting meme floating around on social media. A friend (Hi, Jen!) pointed it out to me, and I was instantly repulsed. The message it seems to be trying to get across is, don’t follow the mask-wearing sheep of the world. Resist. Do what you want. As if not wearing a mask makes you some kind of hero.

This meme seems to be quite popular amongst the foolish people who think that by not wearing a mask, they’re exercising a constitutional right. That is patently absurd. None of us have the right to put the lives of everyone we come in contact with at risk. We all have a responsibility to maintain public health. If that weren’t the case, we’d be pooping on the public sidewalks with impunity. Because holding it doesn’t feel good.

There are certain standards that have to be maintained in order to have a healthy society. You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it. Selfishness does not pair well with being a member of a community.

But even more offensive is the fact that this historical photograph has been appropriated to make an ignorant, hyper-conservative meme with its own agenda, when the man in the photograph was anything but a poster child for that ideology.

Let’s start with the one indisputable fact about this photograph. It was taken in 1936, during the launch of a German military training ship called the Horst Wessel. All the witnesses to the launch are giving the Nazi salute except for this one man, who defiantly keeps his arms crossed. That must have taken a great deal of courage.

Historians now think that this is a photograph of either Gustav Wegert or August Landmesser. More and more people are starting to believe it was Wegert, as there’s more evidence that he was working at the time at the shipyard. Alas, if it is Wegert, it isn’t as compelling a story. Wegert never experienced Nazi persecution. He wasn’t imprisoned. He survived the war. He was simply against the Nazi salute because he was a devout Christian. This is admirable, but not particularly exciting.

If this is a photograph of Landmesser, on the other hand, it makes for a fascinating tale. Landmesser did join the Nazi party in the hope of gaining employment, but he was later kicked out of it when it came to light that he was engaged to a Jewish woman, Irma Eckler. They were married, but the union wasn’t recognized under the Nuremburg Laws. They had two daughters. He was thrown in jail for “dishonoring the race.”

He was released from jail in May, 1938 for lack of evidence, as they argued that nobody was sure that his wife was fully Jewish. But two months later he was imprisoned again, and sent to a concentration camp. His wife was also sent to prison, and in fact gave birth to their second daughter there. She was then sent from one concentration camp to another until she finally died in 1942.

Landmesser was released from his concentration camp in 1941, but in 1944 he was drafted into a penal battalion and forced to fight. He finally died in battle in Croatia eight months later. He was 34 years old. His daughters grew up in an orphanage, and later in foster care. His oldest daughter published a book about the family’s persecution for “racial disgrace”.

Whether the defiant man in the photograph is Wegert or Landmesser is irrelevant to the message, as far as I am concerned. It is evidence that somebody was willing to stand up for their principles at a time when a lot of people were being brainwashed and following blindly or acquiescing due to fear. This photograph gives me hope. But when I look away from him and at all the others, it makes me despair. That’s why the photo is so powerful to me. It shows me that I can hold both feelings at once.

The very idea that this picture has been twisted around to make doing the wrong thing, the selfish thing, the life threatening thing seem heroic is disgusting and outrageous, and insults the memory of the man, whoever he may have been, who was brave enough to be on the right side of history.

If you created this meme, shame on you. I added the x to the meme so it couldn’t be copied and used. Not from this blog, anyway. Not today.

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All I Wanted

 I ripped my jeans today. 
 The kind of dry rotting rip that can’t be patched.
 And unless you have a slammin’ body, 
 you can’t buy jeans online. 
 You have to try them on. 
 You have to be able to see how your butt looks in the mirror.

 Even worse, these were work jeans. 
 I refuse to pay retail for work jeans 
that will only get greasy right off.

 So I went to the thrift store.
 Do you understand?
 I went to a thrift store, 
 Full of screaming, snotty children.
 In the midst of a pandemic.

 I found three possible pairs. 
 Not the ripped up kind that the young ‘uns wear.
 But not Mom jeans, either.

 Only to discover that the fitting rooms were closed.
 Due to COVID-19.
 I had risked my life for a pair of jeans.
 Now I couldn’t try them on.

 I hung them on the nearest rack (of shirts), 
 and walked out.
 I got in my car. 
 I drove home.

 En route, I thought about how everything 
 is just so damned hard now.
 You can’t eat out.
 You can’t hug.
 You can’t go to the movies.
 You can’t breathe freely.
 You can’t count on the government.
 You can’t go anywhere or do anything.

 We live in it daily,
 but sometimes it sneaks up.

 I sat in my driveway and cried.
 One of those hard, cleansing, chest-heaving cries
 that confuse and irritate men.

 Now I’m exhausted.

 And the pandemic still rages on, 
 grinding us all down without remorse.
 Leaving casualties in its wake.
 Things will never be the same.

 I’m scared.

 Still sniffling, I went inside.
 And then someone drove up to our garage 
 and stole some tools.
 Looked me square in the eye
 he drove away
 In his 60k, brand new SUV.
 Just like that.

 And all I wanted 
 was a stinkin’ pair of jeans. 

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The Side Effects of Spreading Joy

I’ve often thought that if I had to stay in an emergency shelter due to some natural disaster, I’d volunteer at that shelter. It would sure beat sitting there, feeling terrified or in shock or completely and utterly helpless. What can I do? Scrub toilets? Do paperwork? Read to children? Pass out toothpaste? Anything?

I’m now even more convinced that I’d want to do that. I created a project for myself recently, and it was even more satisfying than I anticipated. I learned so much from it. Much of what I learned I wasn’t expecting.

It occurred to me that due to the pandemic, a lot of people would be struggling to give gifts this holiday season. Having identified a problem in my mind, I set about trying to think of ways to solve it. Gazing out the window at my little free library (I do that more than I care to admit), it occurred to me that books make great gifts. But I’d want people to be able to give brand new books, and they aren’t cheap.

Okay, first I needed to obtain the books. So I set up a Gofundme campaign, asking for donations. I set a goal of $500. It started off slow, because folks were more focused on the election and all the stress that was causing. But once that was behind us, people really became generous.

When I got 550 dollars, I was thrilled! I started doing research as to where I could get the biggest bang for my buck. I asked people on the Little Free Library Stewards Facebook group, and got a lot of great suggestions about bulk sellers and scholastic type organizations. There are dozens of publishers out there if you search.

Finally, I settled on Usborne Books, because Jordan, their independent consultant, contacted me and said that for every dollar I spent, they’d give me an additional 50 cents worth of books! So my 550 dollars turned into 825 dollars just like that! Woo hoo! And I have to say that the quality of the books I received was outstanding. (Here’s Jordan’s webpage, if you’re interested in working with her.)

With Jordan’s expertise, I was able to focus mainly on book collections where the individual books could stand alone. I didn’t want books that required reading book one before you could move on to book two. But book collections are much more affordable per unit than individual books are. After I placed the order, two big boxes of books arrived at my door in no time flat. They were for a variety of age groups. I was so excited!

And then, after that, another 50 dollars rolled in. What to do? Get more books, of course, but where in this short timeframe? I went to the dollar store and got a bunch there. Then I happened to look at the books at Costco, and found some collections there. Not as cheap as I’d like, but not bad. So I threw in a collection of Dr. Seuss books and a collection of Newberry Award books, such as Charlotte’s Web. I received a few donations of new books as well.

I went home and piled all the books on the dining room table. 180 books in all. Holy cow. That’s a lot of books. The pictures below are only a few of those.

I knew I didn’t want to gift wrap the books in advance, because every child, every person, is different. I also knew that parents would prefer looking at the books to make sure they were appropriate to their values and their child’s interests and reading level. But the theme of this whole project was that books make good gifts, so I decided to cut some Costco wrapping paper to the proper size for each book, and put that wrapping paper inside the book. Once the gift was chosen, they would then have the wrapping paper to wrap it with.

Speaking of the appropriateness of this project, I wanted to appeal to the widest audience possible, so I made sure that none of the books were religious or political. And I also used neutral, or, at the very least, winter-themed wrapping paper. These books don’t have to be Christmas presents. They could be for Hannukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Festivus, Birthdays, whatever. That was very important to me.

Not for nothing, cutting wrapping paper for 180 books is quite the undertaking. Yes, I watched Netflix as I worked. Even so, thank goodness Dear Husband lent a hand, or I’d probably still be sitting there, aching back and all.

Here’s the part of the project where I started to panic. How would I get these books into the hands of people who needed them the most? This was more of a challenge than I first thought.

Not even in my wildest dreams would 180 books leave my little free library within a month, unless I really advertised. Unfortunately, if I spread the word on community forums, I would also risk attracting book resellers. These resellers have been known to steal the entire contents of little free libraries, and then sell the books on Amazon. That would defeat my purpose of getting these books to people who couldn’t afford to buy books. All my work would have been for naught. So I would need to get creative.

Where would I find families in need? Hmm… my first thought was the local women’s shelter. And then after listening to a heartbreaking story on NPR, I also thought of the food bank. I contacted both agencies, and they were quite happy with my idea. So I divided the books into 3 piles: 60 books for the women’s shelter, 70 for the food bank, and 50 for my little free library.

The women’s shelter was easy. I simply dropped off the box of books with the director. They were very happy to have them. Done.

The food bank turned out to be a lot of fun. We were allowed to set up a table, outside, next to the food bank line, and we could talk to people as they came in. “Would you like to give someone a book? It’s free.”

There was a bit of a feeding frenzy at first. Some people took more books than they had children. I had to put a stop to that. I wanted to spread the love. Some people were really shy, and had to be encouraged to take one for each child. Others thought they’d have to pay for them.

A great deal of the people in line at the food bank barely spoke English, and were thrilled to get books so their children could assimilate into the culture in advance of going to school. And reading those books to the children would help them practice the language, too. I could just imagine a mother sitting with her toddler, saying, “See? In English, a dog says ‘woof’.”

In about 2 hours time, the food bank books were gone, and I had a silly smile on my face. Now I was left with just the 50 books for the little free library. I didn’t want to put them out all at once, because of book resellers. I decided to put out about 8 at a time and replenish as needed.

Unfortunately, they weren’t moving. I even did a big sidewalk chalk sign that said, “Books make great gifts!”. Still nothing. Sigh.

Finally, I decided to post information about it on my little free library’s Facebook group page and hope for the best. After chatting with a few of the regular patrons, they asked for some books for families they were trying to help out. They gave me the ages of the children in question, and I put together packages for them to pick up. It was fun, choosing the books for each child. I felt like Santa’s helper.

I also reached out to a few local educators that I know, and asked them to spread the word among parents. I have about 30 books left, and that’s a workable number for my little free library. It’s amazing. I’ve given out 150 books so far!

As I said, this project has taught me much. First of all, I’m getting back just as much joy as I’m giving out. This has been a truly gratifying experience. Second, I’ve met a lot of amazing, generous, and hardworking people that I would never have talked to otherwise, and that has been a thrill during all this isolation.

That leads me to the biggest lesson of all. I’ve been spending a lot of time, just like everyone else, stressing out about the pandemic, the social unrest, the political unrest, and the environment. I have been in a very dark place, as have we all. But while I worked on this project, I didn’t focus on any of that. I didn’t think of Trump even once. I just poured everything I had into this positive act, and I can’t begin to describe how good it felt.

So my recipe for getting out of a dark place is to shine a light. If you do that, it will come back to you. And there’s nothing like it. Those who are obsessed with greed and hate have no idea what they’re missing.

Happy holidays, dear reader.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

An Horrific Insight

There are actually three versions of this story. The first version was my initial, gut reaction. The second was my instant reaction after obtaining more information. The third was my conclusion after some calm, pragmatic thought. Be sure and read to the very end if you want to see how quickly your point of view can be altered!

Version One:

It was your typical Pacific Northwest November night: raw, wet, cold, and basically gloomy. But I was inside, warm and safe and dry, beside a crackling fire, watching Netflix. All was right with the world, even though I was totally taking it for granted.

And then came the knock on my door. I nearly jumped out of my fuzzy pajamas. We almost never get visitors unannounced, especially in times of pandemic. Our house is relatively isolated and not close to the main street, so it takes some effort to get here. Here’s the perfect litmus test for that: There have been no Halloween trick or treaters on this front porch in decades.

It was a young man, asking for food. Not begging. Not giving an explanation or an excuse. He was just hungry and in need. He looked wet and disheveled and had nothing with him but a backpack.

My husband had him wait on the porch (safety first), and went in and made him a big sandwich. He threw an apple, a Pepsi, and a tuna snack for later into the mix. He then sent him on his way.

A wave of sadness washed over me. It was the sadness of knowing that we’d be seeing a lot more of this in the coming months. Desperate people. Cold, wet, desperate people, everywhere. And there would always be this feeling of not having done enough. There are just so many of them, and only one of me.

There’s also this sense of survivor’s guilt. I’m considered an essential worker, although I have no idea why. So my income hasn’t decreased in this pandemic. I’ve managed to stay relatively isolated and healthy, and I still have my health insurance. I suspect I’ll stay warm and dry throughout the winter. Even my dogs will get to stay warm and dry. I’m not at all accustomed to being one of the haves.

I wonder where that young man slept that night. I wonder where he’ll sleep tonight. For me, he is the leading edge of a wall of hundreds of thousands of people out there, just trying to survive. This is the wall that has been built, and it’s an ugly thing to behold.

I can’t shake the feeling that this is only the beginning. How privileged so many of us have been, secure in the knowledge that survival was likely. Now everything seems much more fragile. And a heck of a lot more scary.

Version Two:

The next day, without us even having broached the subject, some friends from 1/2 mile down the street said that the same guy came to their door that night. That time he was turned away and the theory that he was casing the neighborhood, seeing which houses don’t have men and/or dogs, for later burglary, was posited.

I was instantly furious. Had we been used? Are we now unsafe? He could see our TV through the window. I hate being taken advantage of! People suck!

Version Three:

After I had a chance to calm down and climb out from under my massive pile of righteous indignation, I realized that in both versions above, I was drawing conclusions from facts not in evidence. I will never know what that young man’s motivations were.

Was he a saint or a sinner? My most pragmatic self assumes that, like most of us, he is something in between. From that concept, a new theory has emerged for me.

It was a wet, raw, miserable night, and most criminals are lazy. If he had been casing the neighborhood, I suspect he’d have waited for better weather to do so. No one would be out in that weather without a good reason. So I suspect he was, indeed, in need.

But I also now suspect that like most panhandlers, he was hoping that if he asked for food, what he’d really get was money. Money is a much more flexible commodity. With it you can buy food you actually like. Or you can pay the rent. Or you can buy drugs or alcohol. Or you can take care of a sick child.

He did stand out on the porch and wait for the food. If he had been casing the neighborhood, that would have slowed him down. If he was hoping for money, maybe once he realized that my husband was actually fixing him food, he hoped that some actual cash would also be slipped into the bag.

The money theory makes me sad, because I feel mildly manipulated. But at least there was still a need there, whatever it may have been, and we did our best to help. I hope drugs or alcohol was not a factor. There’s no way to know.

But what’s the point of speculating, really? Our motivations were pure. If his motivations were not, that’s on him. I just hate that we live in a world where we feel the need to question and theorize. I hate that this might taint our desire to help our fellow man in the future. The bottom line is that we’ll never know the whole story.

What do you think, dear reader?

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Things to Be Thankful for in 2020

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday. Good food, no pressure to give gifts, and, if this were a normal year, an opportunity to see loved ones.

I realize that most of us are not getting to celebrate it in the manner in which we are accustomed, but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. We can all focus more, if we choose to, on the many things we have to be thankful for. And we get to avoid all those awkward political conversations that would surely be happening right now if this were a non-pandemic year. Maybe we should view this as the time and space this country needs to heal its rifts.

Here are the things I’m thankful for in this crazy year:

  • My loved ones value my health enough to stay away, and are staying safe themselves, even if it’s hard.
  • Everyone I know personally that I have crossed paths with since March has had the decency and the sense to wear a mask, and because of that, so far, I am COVID-free.
  • I am quick enough on my feet to back away from the maskless strangers that I encounter, thus protecting myself and my husband.
  • I’ve had the opportunity to spend even more time with my dogs than usual.
  • I have a renewed sense of how important people are to me, and how precious life is.
  • I take nature even less for granted than I did before.
  • I am more focused on exercising than I ever have been in my entire life. (It’s a great way to work off COVID stress.)
  • I am constantly reminded of the importance of patience. It is a lesson that I have always struggled with, but I’m definitely getting more practice this year.
  • It is very easy to tell who cares about others and who only cares about themselves these days, and that information comes in handy.
  • I’m feeling very patriotic because I’m doing my part to maintain public health.
  • I’m also proud of the fact that so many of us voted for the first time, and I’m proud that no evidence of election fraud has been presented, and that just saying does not make it so.
  • I’m glad that this year is almost over.
  • I’m touched by the amount of generosity I’ve seen. Times have been tough on everybody, but they’ve been even worse for some, and I’m glad that people are stepping up and helping out at a time when the government is not.
  • I’m grateful to still have a job.
  • I’m looking forward to hate being something that is less acceptable and comfortable in this country again.
  • I value all that this year has taught me.
  • I’m grateful for all the front line workers who have seen so much horror and done so much this year, and yet still keep showing up for all of us.
  • I am grateful, most of all, for those of us who have managed to survive thus far. It’s taking a village, but we can do this.

This has been a long, exhausting year, and we’re all on the ragged edge. No doubt about it. But I hope that you, too, can still dig deep and find things to be thankful for. Post some of those in the comments, if the spirit moves you, dear reader, and know that I am thankful for you, too.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5