Battle of Wits

Help! I’m engaged in a battle of wits with my six-year-old rescue dog – and so far, she’s winning!

(It’s not actually a battle. I’m taking it slow and hoping we both come out winners. But meanwhile, I’d love to share what’s been happening. Maybe you’ll have some advice.)

If you’ve already read my post, Pandemic Paws,  then you know that my dog, Maya, was rescued from a home (now condemned) where she was one of 40 dogs. Yes, you read that right. It was on the news, along with a video showing the dogs being carried out in crates and being groomed at the shelter. Underneath all that matted hair was a collection of very sweet critters. The caregivers there said it could take Maya anywhere from three months to a year to adjust to her new life with me.

Well, it’s been three months and there’s been a lot of progress to celebrate. She’s healthy, eats well, cuddles with me on the couch every night, loves her walks, and is quickly learning to ride in a car without panicking. She even tolerated going to the dog groomer the other day!

The problem is that she still hides under my bed, or next to it, constantly, until about 8 p.m., and she resists any attempt to coax her out until she’s ready. There have been days when she’s stayed in my bedroom for 24 hours, only venturing out to eat, and not letting me take her outside.

I understand she might want a safe place to hang out, especially since she’s probably lived in a crate most of her life. And since I live in a small apartment (see model floor plan below to give you a rough idea), under the bed is the very best hiding place a dog could wish for. In her case, it’s the ONLY hiding place.

image05

So here’s what things have been like, and what I’m doing about it. Comments welcome!

Night 1: I made a bed for her on the floor in my bedroom. She would not lie down on it until I moved it right next to my bed. Then she promptly laid down and went to sleep. She woke me up noisily at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. by giving herself a good shake. Both times, I put her leash on and took her outside. She was perfectly willing to do so.

Since then:

At 6:30 a.m. she wags her tail and stands by the bed until I pet her on the head.  If I start to get up to take her out, she immediately ducks under the bed and stays there, even if I call to her or offer her food or treats. (For treats, I’ve tried everything, including peanut butter, banana, cooked chicken, cooked beef, hot-dog type dog treats, cut up Milk Bones, and very tiny little dog treats. After trying a new treat once, she thereafter turns her head away or spits them out.)

I feed her when she wakes me up. She eventually comes out around 7 a.m., eats, and then returns under the bed again. She later emerges to sleep in her doggie bed, which she seems to like, but if I come into the bedroom she almost always wakes up and moves under the bed again.

Around 5 p.m., I feed her. She eats and goes back to the bedroom. Then around 7 p.m., she’ll come into the living room in stages: she slowly walks out, stretches, stares at me, and if I speak to her, she turns around and trots back under the bed again. After about the third repetition of this pattern, she’ll jump on the couch and sit next to me, or will go to the door wagging her tail, her way of asking to go out. I immediately take her out. She is 100% house-trained. When we return from our walk, which she seems to enjoy immensely, she hops onto the couch and spends the rest of the night there, until it’s time for bed.

Then she hides under the bed again for an hour, emerging after I’ve gone to sleep to sleep in her own little bed.

I don’t think it’s healthy for her to relieve herself only once a day. And if I try to get her out from under the bed or pick her up when she doesn’t want to be picked up, she very strongly resists. (She’s even nipped at me.)

Yesterday I decided that, since it’s been three months now, maybe it’s time to wean her away from her safe spot. So, last night, after our evening walk, I put a very light leash on her and allowed her to roam around the apartment wearing the leash, thinking that then I’d be able to take more control over her whereabouts, and take her out on a more regular schedule, maybe 2 or 3 times a day.

Having the leash on seemed to confuse her. She laid down next to the front door with it on, apparently thinking we were going outside again. Eventually, she gave up and joined me on the couch. When it was bedtime, she went under the bed, as usual, but this time I made sure the leash was extending away from the bed. My plan was that when she woke me at  6:30 a.m., I’d take hold of the leash and immediately take her outside.

But that smart little dog had read my mind. When I woke this morning and looked at the clock, it was 8 a.m. She had NOT woken me up at all. AND, her leash had been pulled all the way under the bed. What a strong message she was sending me!!

What I did next: After placing her food bowl in the bedroom, I just bided my time (about 2 hours) until she ventured out to eat breakfast. When she ducked back under the bed that time, she forgot to pull the leash in behind her. I had my chance!

Very slowly, I approached the bed and lay down on the floor next to it. I called to her very softly. I started to pet her under the bed, and she let me. I very gently pulled on the leash and she turned her face away. I continued to speak to her softly. Every time she looked at me I praised her. Over the course of the next half hour or so, I gently nudged her closer and closer to me, until I was able to very slowly slide her out and onto my lap. After more praise and petting, I stood up, and she immediately wanted to go outside. That done, she came back in willingly and is now sleeping at my feet (with her leash still on).

P.S. My bedroom door is closed to her. I’m hoping she’ll forget about her safe spot for a while. She seems to feel quite safe right now … but I’m not going to stress her out if I can help it. Each night, she’ll get to go back under the bed. During the day, hopefully, I can get her to become accustomed to being out in the “real world.” But for her, maybe the “real world” is a world of hiding and being cooped up in a small space.

 

 

The Curious Case of Life Imitating Art

The muse must have been looking over my shoulder yesterday because, unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a case of life imitating art. Or was art imitating life?

I’d spent most of the day walking my dog, talking with friends online, and reading Anna Quindlen’s novel, “Still Life with Breadcrumbs,” the story of a photographer whose career is in decline.

In late afternoon, I decided to take my car out for a spin, since the last time I’d started it up, it had been sluggish. I feared the battery was about to reach its moment of planned obsolescence. (That would be about par for 2020.) But I hoped that if I drove around for an hour or so, maybe I could revive it.

On a whim, I grabbed my camera before heading out (something I haven’t done in a while, since it’s been too hot during the day for photography). “You never know,” I thought, imagining for just a second a chance encounter with a dust devil, or maybe a space alien. The car sputtered to a reluctant start. Before it could die on me, I put it in gear and headed north.

My destination was Oracle, about half an hour up the road – an unincorporated town whose most famous resident to date has been Buffalo Bill Cody. En route, it occurred to me to plug in an audiobook that was in my phone.

Unfortunately, I’m not too good with modern audio systems in cars (or in phones, for that matter). In fact, I was surprised I’d managed to get the book copied into my phone at all. So as not to cause an accident, I turned off the main highway, Oracle Road, and onto Biosphere Road (which, inconsequentially, leads to Biosphere 2) in order to park, thumb through my owner’s manual, and figure out how to tell my car to read a book to me.

After a few hundred feet, I came to a turnaround. It looked like an ideal place for rattlesnakes and tarantulas to hang out, but I wasn’t planning to get out of the car and join their party, even if they were wearing masks. Heavy, dark storm clouds were gathering in the distance, and a few were above my head. I was anxious to queue up my book and get back on the road.

The clouds had other ideas. They suddenly moved out of the sun’s way, and a shaft of light landed on something smooth, tall, and bright along the trail: a scarred and dusty shrine in the middle of the desert.

It seemed to be a case of life imitating art. You see (spoiler alert), on page 37 in Still Life With Breadcrumbs, that book I’d been reading earlier that day, the protagonist goes for a hike in the woods and comes upon a shrine – a white wooden cross with a glittering child’s volleyball trophy lying on the ground next to it. She takes some photos.

I felt like life was trying to tell me something, so I shut off the engine, grabbed my camera, and got out of the car. Scoping out the ground for snakes or spiders, I cautiously approached the little memorial and took a few photos. As soon as I’d finished and gotten back in my car, I realized I might have made a mistake.

It was 107 degrees out, and there I was in the middle of the Arizona desert with a car whose battery was on its last legs. I wondered how long it would be before AAA could find me. I turned the key in the ignition. The engine choked for a few seconds, and then, reluctantly, it caught.

I sighed, turned the car around, and glanced back at the shrine, but by then the sun had ducked behind the clouds again; the scene was now in shadow. I’d gotten there just at the right moment.

All I could think of on the drive home was the phrase, “life imitates art.” So today I looked that up and learned a thing or two. The idea has been around since at least the time of Plato, who believed art was a poor imitation of life, and for that reason could be dangerous. Aristotle, on the other hand, welcomed art’s imitation of life. And Oscar Wilde’s take was that life imitates art more often than art imitates life. Even Dostoevsky got into the debate, describing it as more of a codependent relationship, where art imitates life, which then imitates art, causing life to owe its very existence to art.

As for me, I was totally flabbergasted by the way my life (finding the shrine) seemed to be imitating art (the book I’m reading). Or maybe art (the book) was imitating life (its pathos) which in turn was imitating art (the shrine). It’s something I thought was worth pondering, especially when I realized one more thread:

In “Still Life With Breadcrumbs,” the protagonist doesn’t notice a certain, possibly significant, detail on the cross until she gets home and enlarges the photo. That same thing happened to me – I didn’t notice the coins at the base of the statue until I got home. Can you spot them?

Shrine 5

I’ve searched online for other photos of this shrine but couldn’t find any, so I don’t know who it’s for. I wish I did. In any case, I think I’ll return soon and add some coins to their collection.

 

 

I’m November Dreamin’

To borrow a phrase from the late great Congressman John R. Lewis, I hope to get into “good trouble” for this post.

In 1963, John Phillips woke his wife Michelle in the middle of the night to tell her about a song idea. Michelle wanted to go back to sleep, but John encouraged her to get up and help him write the song. She wrote the second verse, and two years later they’d record it with Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. John, Michelle, Cass, and Denny were The Mamas and the Papas, and the song was California Dreamin’. It was a huge hit.

I’m old enough to remember when that song was new. And now, 55 years later, I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting John and Michelle’s iconic lyrics with a new message for 2020. I’ve even recorded it in Garage Band, added video with iMovie, and posted the song, I’m November Dreamin’, on YouTube.

You can experience the entire project (including three-part harmony, artwork that I found on Pixabay.com, and video of me rapping) here. Or just search YouTube for “I’m November Dreamin’. The title is unique, so far.

I’m no Mama Cass – I can’t sing as well as any of the Mamas OR the Papas – but I suppose I might qualify as The Grandma. I might, in fact, be the oldest rapper on YouTube.

I’m not here to toot my own horn. The whole purpose of the video (and this post) is to get Americans riled up enough to vote in November (for the alternative to “you know who”). So, if you like the video, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share it far and wide. And of course, I’d love to get your likes and comments here, and on YouTube.

Just in case you’d like to sing along with me, here are the lyrics to I’m November Dreamin’:

All the leaves are green
and the sky is blue                               
I’m hopin’ for a change,
somethin’ we can do.
I’ll be feelin’ better
when this administration’s through.                                    
I’m November dreamin’
‘bout electin’ someone new …    
 
I’m gonna vote by mail,
maybe you are too,
or you can go and stand in line
where they will welcome you.
Ya know it’s time to make a difference,
Defeat old you-know-who.
I’m November dreamin’
‘bout electin’ someone new!
 
Rap:
 
This isn’t a game, and what’s even stranger is
he’s deranged. Oh yeah, he’s dangerous.
He won’t take blame, he lies and he’s lazy.
Get him outta D.C. ... the guy is crazy!
Puts kids in cages, but then he’s liable
to brag about his brain while holdin’ a Bible!
He insulted McCain, but he’s always rootin’
for his pals like Stone and Vladimir Putin!
Don’t want more of the same? Then ya gotta be a chooser.
You all know his name, let’s make him a loser.
He appeals to his base … aww … they must be trippin’,
It was a tight race, and now he’s slippin'. But
NO! This is NOT the time to relax.
Let’s give it what we’ve got up to the max.
It’s our only shot! Don’t sit around and gloat.
We’ve gotta vote!
 
All the leaves are green
and the sky is blue.
We’ve got a racist in the White House,
doesn’t have a clue.
It’s really time for an eviction
at Pennsylvania Avenue.
I’m November dreamin’ 
‘bout electin’ someone new,
‘bout electin’ someone blue,
and I hope that you are too!
 

Again, thanks for comments and sharing!

Pandemic Paws

As you may know from my previous post (“My First Pandemic Birthday”), I recently adopted a dog, Maya. She’s a sweet little terrier mix. All was going smoothly until a week ago, when her behavior changed. I’m hoping you can provide some “pointers” (no pun intended) on how I can help her out of her funk.

But first, here’s Maya:

Note: As a school psychologist who’s worked with children with ADHD, PTSD, ODD, OCD, FAS, SLD, and a multitude of other acronyms, I’m finding that my little RD (rescue doggie) is the most challenging of all. But that’s probably just because I’ve never received training in “Getting a Dog Out From Under Your Bed,” or “Getting a Dog to Stop Running Away When You Make Eye Contact.”

I think it’s important to fill you in on Maya’s history, so here’s the scoop (again, no pun intended!):

April, 2020: As a recently-retired single person coping with life during the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it might be smart (and therapeutic) to adopt a dog. I could provide a loving home, and in return I’d gain a companion. I registered with an animal shelter and met a few dogs, but they were either too big, too aggressive, or already spoken for.

May, 2020: I saw a story on the local news, described as a “hoarding case.” The owner loved her animals but felt overwhelmed and called the shelter seeking help. It’s no wonder. There were 40 dogs and 3 cats. Their coats were all severely matted. (I saw a video of them being removed from the home and then groomed at the shelter. The house was later condemned.) The dogs were said to be sweet and well-behaved, but a little shy.

June, 2020: The Humane Society called me. They had a dog from the “hoarding case” that they thought might be a good match for me. I made an appointment to see her.

July, 2020: When we first met, she was shaking like a leaf, but soon she jumped up on the couch next to me and extended her paw, pulling my hand toward her as if asking to be petted. She even licked my hand. From that moment, we were bonded. Or so it seemed.

The shelter said she was 6 years old and weighed 12 pounds. They’d spayed her, pulled some teeth, chipped her, and given her all her shots. They didn’t know her real name, so I renamed her “Maya,” which means “love,” “water,” “mother,” “courage,” or “illusion,” depending on which language you’re referencing. Besides, I’ve always liked Maya Angelou.

As soon as we got home, Maya jumped on the couch and seemed to be settling in. She started following me around and was very affectionate. She wanted to jump on my bed but she couldn’t quite reach it. I decided to see if she’d sleep on her own bed on the floor instead. I folded up a quilt and a blanket and put them down on the floor of my room. She didn’t want to sleep on it, but when I moved it right next to my bed, she immediately curled up on it and fell asleep.

That first night, she woke me up at 3:00 a.m. and I took her out. Then she woke me up at 5:30 a.m. and I took her out. After that, I decided to try getting her on my schedule. The next time she asked to go out in the middle of the night, I just said “no, lay down,” and she immediately did so! She was very well behaved and I guessed she’d been trained pretty well before her former owner had become overrun with other pets.

Then I made her a little “pen” in the bathroom area using a dog gate. I tried putting her in there whenever I had to leave the apartment for short trips to the store, but when I’d return, I’d hear her barking. I decided to switch her “pen” to my bedroom, but now I worry that she’ll chew electrical cords while I’m out, so I have to unplug everything each time I leave.

I took her for her first vet visit and she had a clean bill of health. For the first couple of weeks, things seemed to be just about perfect. Each time I sat on the couch, she’d come over and snuggle up next to me. She asked to go out about 3 times a day. Each time, she was obedient on her walk and even seemed to understand when I said “time to go home.” I did notice that she slept a lot during the day, though. She seemed to be nocturnal, getting a bit frisky at night and wanting to go out around 7 p.m. and again around 10 p.m. instead of during the daylight hours. I thought maybe it was due to the intense daytime temperatures we’re experiencing right now. And she was not the least bit interested in playing with toys. But other than those few idiosyncracies (which I attributed to her being a rescue dog), she seemed to be adjusting well to her new home.

About a week ago: Things suddenly changed. She started hiding under my bed and staying there all day, only coming out around 7 p.m. when she was ready to go outside, even though I’d offer her food at 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., shaking her bowl so she could hear the sound. When she does eat, she has an appetite, and her stools are normal; she does not seem sick. She has lots of energy at night. Things improved a bit for a day or two, but now she’s back to being very withdrawn. In fact, yesterday, she stayed under my bed, or on the floor next to it, for a full 24 hours! I wonder if she’s depressed, and maybe missing her former brothers and sisters.

Things I’ve tried: Closing the door to my bedroom so she can’t go in it (when I can get there before she does, which is rare) – that just makes her cry. Luring her out with treats (bananas, peanut butter, real chicken, hot-dog-like treats, Milk Bones) – it worked for a while until she got wise to my tricks. Now she just sniffs them  from afar, stares at me, and runs back under the bed. Gently pushing big objects under the bed to coax her out – she just moves over.

Last night: When she finally came out from hiding at 10 p.m., she let me put her leash on, went outside, did her business, and then was very affectionate when we came back in, cuddling up next to me on the couch as usual.

Today: But this morning, as soon as I made eye contact with her and reached down to pet her, she ducked under the bed and has been there all day again. I decided to try to gently encourage her to join me in the living room by moving her bed out there. I even made a trail of Milk Bone treats leading from my room to the living room, but she hasn’t even come out to snatch one. I don’t believe I should force her out of her “cave” until she’s learned to trust me more.

Does anyone have any experience with pets like Maya, and do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks in advance if you have any advice!

My First Pandemic Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday – the first one (and hopefully the last) that I’ll have spent during a worldwide pandemic. And to honor the occasion (and also, to stop myself from obsessively checking Facebook for Happy Birthday greetings), I wrote a poem about how my day was going.

But first, I just have to show you some adorable monkeys.

corona-5032904_1920

Okay, now the poem:

My First Pandemic Birthday

It’s my first pandemic birthday
And it’s really no big deal
I’m thankful for the greetings
I’m feeling all the feels
Most people did remember
And if you forgot, that’s okay
But at least you didn’t send me
That cremation offer I got today.

Yes, I walked out to the mailbox
Expecting a card or two
Instead I got an election flyer
And junk mail out the wazoo.
But that offer for cremation
Was the icing on the cake
So I threw it in the garbage.
It was just too much to take.

When I returned from that errand,
I discovered I had a gift —
My new doggie who’d been hiding
Had left me something that I whiffed.
But she’s been the perfect canine
Well, up until today
I won’t hold one mistake against her
But I hope there aren’t more on the way.

Now it’s time to plan my evening.
I think I’ll make a special meal.
Cooking can be good therapy
For emotions I’m trying to heal.
I’m making my mother’s recipe
For Uncle Frank’s spaghetti sauce
And for dessert, I’ll eat a scone or two
Then we’ll see who’s boss.

Me or the corona virus?
Just which one will it be?
I think I can beat that bugger
Cuz I’ve got a mask or three.
And soon I will be Zooming
With some Tucson friends of mine —
I’m already getting ready.
I’ve opened a bottle of wine.

Photo credits: Chairs by ParentRap; Monkeys by Chiplanay (both on Pixabay).

 

 

Do You Have a Muse?

Do you have a muse? Someone or something that inspires you to create? I guess I do, because it seems that every time I decide to post a photograph, I end up writing. Take today, for example.

I sat here at my desk with the intention of posting a photo of a hummingbird, one I’d seen while out for a walk yesterday. I usually write a few words to go with my photos, so I wondered what I could say about this one.

Before I had a chance to start typing, though, I heard a voice (my muse?) telling me what to write.

“Write a poem,” the voice said.

“About what?” I asked.

“Well, what are you thinking about right now? What are you feeling?”

“Well, duh,” I said. “I’m thinking about the pandemic, what else is there to think about?”

“Okay, but are you sure you want to write about something so intense? Maybe just write a poem about a bird.”

“I have to write about what’s on my mind,” I countered. “Maybe I can work the little bird into the poem somehow.”

“Alright” the voice said, “it’s your blog. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

You see, I’d been lying on the sofa today, feeling a sense of unfocused inertia. I’ve been feeling that way on and off for the last couple of days. Have you been feeling that way, too?

For the past month, I’ve been busy doing things like working from home, writing, making masks, talking to friends, figuring out how to safely get food, and, of course, watching Netflix. I’m not a total nerd. But I’ve also been glued to the news, and that’s okay, because I want to know what’s going on. I think it’s important that we stay on top of things. But sometimes I try to do too much, and then it seems as if my brain just shuts down and all I can do is crossword puzzles. And that’s okay, too.

Anyway, I was feeling very foggy-brained and distracted by (a) my phone, (b) a crossword puzzle, (c) my Spanish flashcards, and (d) thoughts about the pandemic. (The correct answer is all of the above.) I had  just told myself to focus on only one thing at a time when I got up to get something (I forget what) and I found myself sitting here at the computer. I know, I probably need meds more wine.

And while I’d been on the couch, I kept thinking about something Billy Collins said recently in one of his live-from-home poetry talks. In speaking about social isolation, he said we’re  living under a “futureless condition,” not knowing how long this situation will last or what life will be like afterwards. He compared it to being in 4th grade, where the only future you can imagine is “5th grade.” I thought that was a great description of how I’ve been feeling. And again, it’s okay to feel that way. I guess another way to describe it is how Bob Dylan would have put it: “no direction home.”

Then I looked at my little bird photo through the “futureless condition” lens, and I could imagine how that bird must feel, clinging to a tiny branch, swaying in the breeze, not sure why he was there or where he would be heading to next. And I knew I wanted to try and put all of those thoughts and feelings and images into a poem.

I did write the poem, but I have no idea whether it’s “any good,” so I’m going to let it steep for a while before I publish it. Meanwhile, here’s my little muse, the light little bird that inspired all this heavy thinking today.

And before you go, if the spirit grabs you, don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing. Do you have a muse?

Black-chinned hummingbird watermarked

 

 

Zooming and Blooming

Today’s post is about Zooming (video conferencing with my kids) and Blooming (photos I took about a month ago).

I haven’t been outside with my camera for several weeks, for fear of encountering someone on the trail who might sneeze on me. That actually happened to a friend of mine. Maybe my next batch of photos will be of the still life variety, taken indoors.

Let’s see … I could artfully arrange that pile of work folders that’s sitting on a stool in my living room. I might create a colorful collage from the pile of fabric rectangles stacked up next to my sewing machine. Or perhaps the world is ready for a sculpture I’ve created out of my pile of dirty laundry — the laundry I’m hesitant to do in the community laundry room. Then there’s my dwindling pile of toilet paper rolls … I really had better photograph it before it’s gone.

I’m doing okay, though. I just had a fun three-way video chat with my daughters. Tomorrow is the older one’s 40th birthday, so we celebrated by using Zoom. After the initially unsuccessful attempt at connecting, there we all finally were on the screen, looking like a pared-down version of the Brady Bunch (without the makeup, weird hairdos, or fake smiles). Well, in my case, I had put on a touch of makeup. They may have, too, but I couldn’t tell because they always look beautiful to me.

It wasn’t exactly the birthday party my daughter would have wanted, but it definitely made my day. I got to see with my own eyes how they’ve been coping during the pandemic, and it was reassuring. They even hilariously modeled their new masks, which they’ve made by cutting up the many pairs of leggings that they own, and making holes in them to place over their ears. It’s genius!

As always, they made me laugh, demonstrating how the stretchiness of the masks enables the wearer to quickly change them into long earrings, headbands, or a clever way to hide a double chin.

It was also a chance for me to visit with my grandsons. The 4-year-old (who tells his parents every day that he’s “so sick of the coronavirus”) said “I love you” (unprompted) and the almost 1-year-old smiled and waved and blew me an almost-kiss, touching his open palm to his mouth and holding it there for about 20 seconds. I have to say, it might have been one of the longest kisses I’ve ever received. It was definitely one of the best, anyway.

I hope you enjoy these photos of budding life and the promise of spring.

Bud 1Bud 2Bud 3Bud 5Bud 6

 

 

 

Learning Curve

It

was

early

in March,

nearly spring,

the season of hope,

and my grandson Elliot

would soon have a birthday —

his first. I couldn’t wait to see him.

I had my ticket. Flight 351. April 24.

 

Then, like a giant evil raptor, the pandemic

swooped in, wrecking havoc across continents.

The world was shocked. Thousands fell ill. Many died.

I cancelled my trip. Elliot would have to wait to see Grandma.

People are saying: “It feels like a sci-fi movie,” and “This is weird.”

Some say, “I’m scared,” or even, “It’s like living in the Twilight Zone.”

I watch the news. It’s real. I learn about mitigation and flattening the curve.

I live alone. The silence is deafening. When this is over, I think I’ll get a puppy.

 

We are in this together. We all buy wipes, wash our hands, stand six feet apart.

We cough into our elbows, sew masks, sing from windows, applaud helpers.

We call our parents, record funny songs, take up new hobbies, practice yoga.

We praise our essential workers. We send them big tips and free pizzas.

Our houses are spotless, our cupboards are bare. We’re okay with that.

We try to embrace love and deny fear. We don’t always succeed.

We check our wipes and toilet paper supplies on a daily basis.

We tell ourselves we’ll get through this. Most of us will.

 

When this is finally over, I will visit family.

There will be laughter, and also tears.

As for the rest of the world, will we

reflect on things? Will we know

what we did right? Appreciate

how we cooperated? Mend?

Will we ask ourselves

“What did we learn?

What

was

it?”


Written for Cheer Peppers as part of a daily writing prompt for the month of April.

From My Isolation Outpost to Yours

Greetings from Lori’s Isolation Outpost, otherwise known as my home office. My disembodied voice is coming to you through the wonders of a website called WordPress. It’s an apt name for a space that allows me to figuratively “press” you (as opposed to shaking your hand or otherwise coming within six feet of you).

Isolation Outpost is actually my spare bedroom. It has an old oaken table, a sewing table, a dresser, a keyboard, a guitar, and a fake oriental rug where I do a few exercises each morning. (OK, maybe not every morning.) This is where I do office-y things like writing and editing photos. It’s also where I do non-office-y things like online shopping, checking my Facebook page for likes, watching YouTube videos, and researching important topics like how to copy and send mp3 files via email. No home office deduction for me, not after the IRS sees this post, anyway.

I guess since this site’s called WordPress, it would be appropriate to have a Word of the Day. Well, in that case, my word for the day today is PALPITATION. My heart’s been going ker-thump and ker-thumpity thump on and off for about a week now — in fact it’s doing it as I type this sentence. Palpitations can be brought on by any number of conditions, but in my case, I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

You wouldn’t know it to see me. In fact, you wouldn’t even know it to BE me. I look, act, and FEEL very calm most of the time. But I have a feeling this pandemic is getting to me in insidious ways. It may be my new normal. But I’m going to fight it. I’ll reduce my coffee intake, I’ll meditate, I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll watch more comedy. Yes. That’s my plan, anyway.

And I’ll keep taking photos. Here’s a juvenile vermilion flycatcher. He looks pretty chill.

Juvenile Male Vermilion Flycatcher-4

Adult vermilion flycatchers are brilliant red. (I once wrote a song inspired by one.) Young males like the one shown above look like they’ve been partially dipped in a bucket of orange paint. This one’s spreading his tail feathers to sun himself. Maybe I’ll do that today — sun myself, that is. A walkabout in the Arizona sunshine would do my heart good. And maybe it’ll inspire another song!

Here’s a roadrunner I saw a few days ago, also sunning its tail feathers.

Road Runner Preening

He or she (hard to tell the difference) seemed very content to stand still and preen itself while I took its picture, although it did warn me to stay at least six feet away.

Whatever you do today, I hope it’s relaxing and good for your heart … and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Jumble of Emotions

Dear friends,

HUGS.

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I hope you are well.

To say I’m going through some weird feelings at the moment because of the pandemic is an understatement. It feels dystopian. Unreal.  It’s a little like the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some days, I experience all five. This post is going to be a jumble of emotions. So be it.

Two days ago, I think depression was winning. But I’ve been trying to cope by reading, writing, watching TV, going for walks, and taking photos. Here’s a cute black-tailed gnatcatcher I saw the other day :

Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher-2

I admire his optimism. I hope some of it rubs off on me.

I’m worried, especially when I think about those of you in parts of the world, and in my own country, who are struggling the most. Italy, New York City, nursing homes, hospitals. The unemployed, parents who need childcare, people in prisons, the homeless, the sick, the elders … it’s mind-boggling and I know we’re in for a long ride. I never imagined being here. None of us did.

And I’m sad because my family lives 2,000 miles away. I’ve even fantasized about driving there, sleeping in my car along the way so as to avoid hotel germs, and arriving on their doorsteps with sanitizer in hand (which I don’t actually have because the stores were out of it) … but I’d just be a possible carrier, adding to their problems, so it’s best if I stay away. (Which reminds me: Have you seen Mel Brooks’ video where he tells his son to “go home”?)

I guess I’ll have to rely on texting, calling, and even dreaming to stay in touch with family. I literally dreamed about my two young grandsons last night. They will each have a birthday that I will miss this year.

My city, Tucson, just closed all restaurants and bars today. I think take-out is still an option, but sadly, I’m sure that doesn’t apply to bars. Glad I stocked up on wine, but three bottles doesn’t seem like nearly enough now.

On the bright side, scientists, medical professionals, some political leaders, small businesses, ordinary people are actually pulling together and making sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.

And I’m actually pretty impressed with how many of us humans are acting humanely, and are even finding and spreading humor on the internet. Is there a reason that the words “human” and “humor” are so similar?

By the way, here’s what made me laugh today:

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In the days to come, I hope to continue with my emotional outpourings. In the meantime, please let me know how you’re doing. Are you coping? Do you need a virtual shoulder to cry on? If so, I’m your person. Comment away.