SoCS: calendar

Maybe I should toss out my calendar.

One of my least favorite tasks at the end of the year is transferring dates from my calendar for year X to my new calendar for year X+1. I still use paper calendars, a large one in a central location in the house and a pocket one that I carry in my purse. I diligently try to keep them coordinated and updated, but now there have been so many crossouts and changes that it gets daunting to deal with them.

The latest long-time calendar entry that needs to be corrected is the annual Boiler House Poets Collective residency week at MASS MoCA. It is scheduled for early fall, so we had hoped that at least some of us would be able to gather, but we got the news that we are cancelled for this year. MASS MoCA will re-open next week, but many of its programs will be running at reduced capacity, if at all. Residencies will be cut way back because the artists are generally housed in four-bedroom apartments with only one bathroom and relatively small kitchen/common area, which wouldn’t allow for social distancing.

I know that this is the responsible path at this point, but I’m still sad. I only see all but one of the Boiler House poets during our residency, so I’m bummed knowing I won’t see them for two years instead of one.

Selfishly, I’m also sad about losing the opportunity to sequester myself in my studio in building 13 and work on my collection that centers around the North Adams area and its history, which is entwined with my family history. In 2015, when I first went to a MASS MoCA residency through a program with Tupelo Press, I had hoped that I might be able to craft a chapbook around my own relationship with the area. Over the years, it has morphed into a collection, which has been torn apart and re-configured more times than I care to admit to already. I was looking forward to having concentrated time to work on the manuscript during residency this year, hoping that I would be able to find the mental space and creativity and energy to make major progress while I was there with the support and feedback of my poet-friends.

Theoretically, I could try to shut myself in my bedroom for a week and try to hash it out on my own, but it’s hard to imagine managing it. There are enough chores and responsibilities here that it’s difficult to see how I could block out that much time. Even if I could, would I be able to do it effectively without being in that place and with the generous advice of my fellow poets?

We are able to schedule a residency for early fall 2021, but I know that is too long to put off my manuscript work. I’m going to have to get my brain in gear to work on a plan to work on the manuscript.

Maybe, I need to put it on my calendar.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “toss.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-4-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley

SoCS: fail

Ummmmm…..

Hhhhmmmmmm….

Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “Coffee, tea, or me?” or some other flirty phrase.

And I’ve got nothing….

On the flirtiness scale, I’m right down around zero.

This could be because B and I were high school sweethearts and just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, so I never learned to flirt.

It’s hard for me to even go on about the coffee or tea part, because I never learned how to drink adult beverages, which is just as well because my body doesn’t do well with acidic things.

So, I guess, this time around, I’m an SoCS fail.
*****

Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-27-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
 https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: catching some zzzz’s

Zzzzzz….

Zzzzzz…

Oh, I guess it is time to get up.

Sleep has not been one of my better skills for, um, more years than I care to count. There have been lots of reasons for this, some of which I can identify and some of which I can’t.

The last few weeks, though, I’ve slept better than I have for quite a while. I think a large part of it is having gotten through several months’ worth of firsts since Nana’s death last year, including the first anniversary of her death.

I’m sure that some of it is also that the COVID infection rate in my state (New York) and especially my region (Southern Tier) is under control and we are able to carefully progress with opening more stores and services. The vast majority of people realize that we have to continue to wear masks and maintain physical distancing and not have large gatherings, so there is hope that we can keep our case number very low, using extensive testing and contact tracing to keep any cases from becoming outbreaks.

I will admit that, although I’m sleeping better than I have been, I’m still not up to seven hours a night, which is – or, at least, was long ago – the amount of sleep that seemed to work best for me. Will I get there eventually or revert to more severe insomnia? I don’t know.

For now, I’m just grateful to be catching some more zzzz’s.
*****

Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is a word with zz, which I kinda-sorta did. Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/19/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-20-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley! 
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: New York State re-opening

I live in the Southern Tier region of New York State (USA), where we are undertaking a methodical re-opening of businesses after we successfully drastically lowered our number of COVID-19 cases.

Every day, I listen to the press briefings from Governor Cuomo. He has been very transparent on what the state is doing and what the role of the public is in protecting public health during our stay-at-home period and now our phased re-opening.

The Southern Tier region is about to enter Phase 3. One of the services that is allowed in phase 3 is nail salons. Hair salons were allowed to resume, with masks and other safeguards in place in phase 2, but nail salons had to wait for phase three as it involves longer face-to-face interaction.

I don’t do manicures, but I do have an appointment for a haircut in a couple of weeks. After that, I’ll be able to go without the headband that has become part of my wardrobe in order to keep my bangs out of my eyes.

Long bangs is an infinitesimal price to pay for what has been great news for New York State. Unlike other states that were less careful about re-opening businesses, our infection rates have continued to decline. The numbers are constantly monitored with widespread testing and contact tracing for positive tests so that we know we are not starting an outbreak. As soon as the numbers in a region start to creep up, there are plans in place to cut back on the re-opening until the infection rate is under control again.

I’m proud of everyone in New York and our leadership team for the thoughtful, caring, science-based, and successful way we have tackled this challenge. I hope that more states and countries, seeing our approach working so well, will follow our lead and be able to save their people from further suffering from the pandemic.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “nail.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/06/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-13-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
 https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: new editor

Change is good.

Change is difficult.

Change is necessary.

Change is easier when you have a choice about it.

Obviously, many of us have made a lot of changes due to the pandemic, but this is not going to be another one of my pandemic posts. (Silent cheering.)

Instead, it is about being faced with WordPress retiring the classic editor in favor of the block editor. Those of you with newer blogs are probably already using it – and, I’m sure, many of the people with older blogs are, too.

I admit to not being especially tech-savvy, but I learned to use the classic editor well enough to be able to keep Top of JC’s Mind going for six years and counting. I admit that it has been frustrating at times, especially in getting poetry to format properly. White space is not a friend of the classic editor. I had to learn to add photos, but I tend to post text only most of the time. My brain processes words better than images and I don’t like having to think about copyright issues and such when I’m posting.

I did do a bit of experimenting with the block editor a few months back when I began to set up a new website for the Boiler House Poets Collective. [Note to self: Get the site public soon.] I found it very confusing, so I swapped back into the classic editor. “It” in the prior sentence meaning the block editor.

Yesterday, when I logged in to post about the first anniversary of my mom’s death, I was faced with the news that the current classic editor is being retired as of June 1 in favor of the ever-so-superior block editor. I was not in the mood to experiment at that point, although I did read the short article about it and opened a tab with a longer article for future reference.

Later in the day yesterday, I wrote a post scheduled for tomorrow, using the classic editor.

And here I am on Saturday morning, writing this post using the classic editor.

I’m promising myself to read more about the block editor later today. I’m really hoping I can learn to use it without a long and painful learning curve.

If push comes to shove, though, I do have the instructions to revert to something that is very close to the classic editor.

I’ll try not to wimp out and use it, though.

Promise.

Change is good. Right?
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is basing the post on a word beginning with ch. Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-23-2020

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: re-opening?

I want to believe that our region’s re-opening of some businesses will not spark more cases of COVID-19.

I wrote earlier in the week about our area of New York State qualifying to re-open certain businesses. As of yesterday, non-essential retail can be open for curbside pick-up. Some construction and manufacturing can start up with appropriate precautions to protect workers. Plans have to be filed with our regional commission to make sure that they comply with CDC and state guidelines. This is stage one of four. All seven metrics that govern re-opening have to be met at all times. If something slips, signalling a possible outbreak, businesses will have to close again until conditions improve.

It’s bothering me that the media are lumping New York State in with the other 47 states that are ending stay-at-home policies. The vast majority of those states have not met the CDC guidelines for two weeks of declining cases, making public interaction much more dangerous. Those states are not trying to contain the virus but to mitigate it.

New York is putting in place a much different strategy. Only those areas of the state that have the virus contained are eligible. There is a requirement to do a certain number of tests weekly and there are contact tracers, so many for every thousand residents, so that if a case is detected, they can quarantine all contacts that have been close to the infected person so that we don’t get community spread. We hope that the testing, tracing, and monitoring will keep the virus contained, allowing more businesses and services to re-open over the coming weeks and months, while protecting public health. If the program is effective, we won’t need to back off and go back to stay-at-home, but we can if infection rates go up. More importantly, we would know that infection rates are climbing before they get out of control. It turns out that the reason New York had so many cases is that the virus was already out in the community months before anyone realized, coming into New York/New Jersey airports from Europe when everyone was thinking that it was only travel to China that was worrisome. Even now, the downstate region is still under stay-at-home for at least another month. The other area of the state that is still under stay-at-home is western New York, including Buffalo.

Because New York State’s plan is so well-thought-out and relies on science and the experiences of other countries in re-opening, I am hopeful that we will be able to protect public health while gradually getting more people back to work.

I am very afraid for the states that are re-opening more haphazardly, which is, sadly, most of them. They didn’t even follow the CDC guideline to have two weeks of declining infection rates before opening businesses. Many places also opened high-risk businesses, such as hair salons and bars, where social distancing is impossible. The experts who model suspected outcomes have all raised their estimates for infections and fatalities because so many states are taking such a risky path.

I’m sad and scared.

I want New York’s path to work. If it does, I want other states to adopt similar plans, so that we can save as many people as possible from illness and death.

Is that too much to ask?
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is using the word “want” within the first three words of the post. Join us! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/05/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-16-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: looking for meaning

I, along with millions of others, am searching for a deep, inner meaning in these troubled times.

I’m fortunate to be affiliated with a number of organizations that center on social and environmental justice. While these organizations are working on ways to help in the immediate circumstances, they are also looking forward toward lessons to take away from these times and ideas to transform our social systems to better support people and the planet in the future.

Here in the United States, it is easier than ever to see the impacts of income inequality. So many people don’t earn enough to have any savings cushion at all that the sudden loss of work immediately puts them at risk of hunger and/or homelessness. As we rebuild our economy in the coming months/years, I hope the US will finally institute some kind of living wage protocol so workers can afford to live a dignified life and support their families, with some ability to save for future needs. We also need a stronger social safety net to help people who, due to age, health status, location, caregiving responsibilities, etc., are not able to have paid work.

At the moment – and for decades before now – the United States has had economic policies that have favored business owners and stockholders over the rest of the population. Money is taken to be a form of free speech and politicians have been showered in money by the powerful. Many of them are representing these monied interests more so than their human constituents. As we take stock of the pandemic and post-this-particular-pandemic world, we need to return to the founding principle that government exists to “promote the general welfare.” (That’s from the preamble of the US Constitution, for those not familiar with the phrase.)  It’s also often called working for the common good.

Scientists have noted how much clearer the air is, especially in major cities. With people in many countries staying at home and with a large number of businesses shut down, there are a lot fewer emissions that cause air pollution and that add to the climate crisis. Those of us who have been working on climate issues have been hearing for years that there isn’t political will to change our lifestyles to cut carbon for the sake of the planet, but the pandemic shows that our world can mobilize on a large scale – and quickly – to change business as usual. Obviously, emissions will rise when more businesses are able to re-open, but, perhaps, the pandemic will lead to some permanent changes that will keep emissions lower than what had been the status quo. Perhaps some employees will work from home most days of the week, coming together physically only on certain days to better work out solutions to problems. Maybe there will be less business travel in favor of teleconferencing. Maybe the reorganizing of the economy will include more local/domestic manufacturing and food production to cut down on shipping and boost supplies. Maybe the US will follow the lead of Europe and use this juncture to institute a “green deal” that promotes both climate/environmental and social justice causes.

So many possibilities.

There is a lot of work that many are doing to meet the immediate needs of people in this time of pandemic and I commend all of them for their deep sense of duty and service. I also appreciate those who are able to analyze the past and the present and use those insights to help us prepare for the future. If we are wise and brave, we will build a safer, better, sustainable, and dignified life for all living beings and our planet.
*****
Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday/A to Z prompt is “deep.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/04/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-4-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: Aunt Dot’s desk

Beside me when I read this prompt was a maple desk. It is part of a bedroom suite that once belonged to B’s Aunt Dot. Actually, Great-Aunt Dot. B only had one aunt, but he had a bunch of great-aunts, several of whom lived close by enough that he saw them often when he was growing up. Because we were high-school sweethearts, I also had the privilege of getting to know them.

Aunt Dot had lived with B’s mom and her parents and grandmother when B’s mom was young. When I met her, she was still living with B’s grandfather, who was by then a widower. She was retired from Sprague Electric and knew one of my aunts who worked there.

Aunt Dot loved to travel. I remember there being many souvenirs in B’s home that she had brought back from trips in the US and Europe.

She was also a force to be recognized with! She was a no-nonsense sort who had her own ways of thinking about and doing things and didn’t really feel compelled to change them – thank you very much! She was good-hearted and generous, though, and a good caretaker. Though she had never had her own family, she was certainly used to family life in a multi-generational household.

When she was in her 70s, she developed liver cancer. She was ill when I was pregnant with my first child. She bought a teddy bear as an early gift for the baby. He had a tam and scarf in tartan and was named Angus. E was born on April 6, a bit earlier than expected. By then, Aunt Dot was in a skilled nursing facility because she was so ill. She passed away on April 29, E’s original due date. I remember thinking at the time that maybe E had arrived early so that Aunt Dot would know that she had a new great-great-niece before she died.

For many years, Angus lived on a shelf in E’s room. When a pregnant E moved home while waiting for her spousal visa to come through, B and I moved into E’s old room upstairs, so that E could be on the first floor near what would be the baby’s room. Given that E’s old room was still outfitted with a twin bed, we needed to have a double bed. We moved Aunt Dot’s maple bedroom suite into E’s old room. It had come to us via B’s mom who had inherited it and was using it until she had passed away. It has a double bed, a tall dresser, and a desk with drawers. I use the desk for storage and as a nightstand.

See, I did eventually stream-of-consciousness myself back to object that started this whole thing…

With E and ABC now in the UK, B and I will eventually reclaim the downstairs master bedroom. We want to do some re-decorating before we move back in, so we had delayed moving in. It’s just as well because it has now been re-purposed as B’s workspace during the coronavirus shutdown. We have the feeling it will be his office for months, so I think it will be a long time before Aunt Dot’s maple bedroom suite becomes available for guests.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about whatever was beside you when you first read the prompt. Please join the fun! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-28-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley! https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: making welcome

In these days of social distancing, how can we make each other feel welcomed?

We have been used to meeting in person, hugging, kissing, shaking hands, or whatever local custom and closeness of relationship between the people indicated, but, with fears of infection mounting and lots of restrictions in place depending on your location, it is hard to get within six feet of a person who is not a member of your household.

It seems to be a good time to use our voices. In some places in Europe, people who are not allowed to leave their homes are singing to each other from their balconies. That requires a certain kind of city to work. If I sang from my front porch, I don’t think any of the neighbors would hear. Then again, I don’t have a very loud voice.

I do, however, have a renewed appreciation for phone calls and the much more recent videochats. I especially love being able to hear and see E and ABC in London. After our visit in December, we had thought we would be able to visit again this spring, but there is about 0% chance of that with the travel restrictions in place now and any reasonable projection of the spread of COVID-19 in both the US and the UK.

I’m also even more appreciative of notes and messaging and emails. I admittedly have been doing a lot of that in recent years, but even more so in these recent weeks. Groups from whom I receive emails are busily trying to strengthen online connections. Two big in-person actions planned for this spring – major climate/environmental action centered around the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in the US in April and a world-wide Catholic women’s strike in May – are now re-imagining their activities. Even retailers are writing about what they are doing in terms of store closings and online shopping, while also expressing concern for the health of their employees and the communities they serve.

I also truly appreciate all the friends and family who are posting to social media or sending private messages, letting others know they are okay and checking up on people.

Later today, I will be welcoming people to a review of my chapbook manuscript. Until a few days ago, it was going to be a small in-person party. Now, our plan is to meet via Zoom. We will safely be able to see each other and talk about the manuscript, each from the safety of our own homes, places where we are safe from both the virus, which is not widely prevalent in our county yet, thank God, and from the very real fear that we might unwittingly pass it to someone before having any symptoms or ideas that we are infected.

It will be different than the prior manuscript reviews our circle of poets have done in-person, but, in a way, it may feel more precious and more connected, precisely because we know we won’t be able to gather in person for weeks or months to come. When we are allowed, I hope that we will be able to have a much-delayed party with everyone gathered in one room.

If I am very, very ,very, very lucky, maybe one day we can celebrate its publication.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “welcome.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/20/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-21-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

SoCS: barbed wire

When daughter T was working in Clinton, Missouri, we visited the local museum. The collection was very eclectic with unexpected things around every corner.

One of the exhibits was a barbed wire collection. I hadn’t realized there were so many different styles.

Having grown up in rural areas, both my spouse B and I were familiar with barbed wire fences. B had grown up maintaining a barbed wire fence around the pasture. I grew up with a barbed wire fence that ran along the edge of the reservoir behind my house.

Both of those were meant for protection. It saddens me to think of barbed wire being used to keep people away, though. It especially hurts to think of people who are fleeing war and violence being encountered with barbed wire and other barriers. Instead of finding protection, they find exclusion.

Barbed wire fences never seem to have gates.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “wire.”  Join us! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-14-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/