Covid Clyde by Donald Turner

Dear Alfred E. Neuman,

Please sit down. I bring bad news. Clyde died. COVID got ‘im. COVID killed Clyde.

As you may recall, Clyde was a racist, a philanderer, and a tax cheat. His other faults included lying, cheating workers, carelessness during pandemics, and narcissism.

By the grace of the almighty God, Clyde eventually forsook his hell-bent journey to perdition. After his conversion to Christ, Clyde served as an example of what God can do for a wretched soul. All over the world Clyde’s testimony brought sinners to Jesus. Clyde accompanied various evangelists including Rev. Billy Smores Graham Cracker and Rev. Hell-Fire Furness.

During a recent board meeting a member suggested you, Alfred, as a replacement for the late Clyde.

In this era of fear and uncertainty, your motto: What, me worry?, may be a calming blessing to many.

Alfred, you can Make America Grin Again. Before responding, please study www.ReprobateReplacments.org  

Sincerely,

John Smith, Chairman, Committee to Replace Clyde

th-1-1

Don Turner 2Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming in California for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, for Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, & for Boeing at Huntington Beach. In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting stock market profit, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science at Fletcher, NC. from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds a  Master of Arts degree in  Physics from University of Wisconsin,  Milwaukee and a Master  of Science in  Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis. He represents his age in non-curvy digits.

What me worry?

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Filed under #vote2020, Guest Bloggers, Humor

Predictions of Election Failure by Leona Rice

tonywastall.com
I need to put my energy behind getting civil liberties.
Our party’s candidate does not excite me.
My one vote will not make a difference.
 
My $20 bucks is nothing compared to the millions the rich donate.
I have no time to help right now.
Give to one place, they bombard you with requests.
 
Nothing will change for me.
I need to concentrate on my family.
I need to focus on my work.
 
Politicians are all the same.
I don’t get involved in politics.
I can’t believe either side.
 
Let’s see who endorses them.
I never bother with voting.
I don’t know how to get involved.
 
It’s too early.
It’s too late.
I’ll just sit this one out.
 
He is “old school.”
She has an uppity stare.
They aren’t attracting the young.
 
I have enough with Covid and fires.
I’m too depressed to function.
          I’ll move to Canada.
Former California Assembly Member, Leona Egeland Rice

During her three terms in the Assembly, Leona Egeland Rice successfully championed important legislation to improve children’s welfare, public health, and access to healthcare across the state.

A native of Tucson, Arizona, Leona came to California to earn a master’s degree in education at San Jose State University. She stayed in California as she began her family and her career as a science teacher. *She first became personally involved in the public sphere through her instrumental role in the campaign to build a new sewage treatment plan to prevent ocean pollution. *After three terms in the State Assembly, she became Chief Deputy Director for the California Department of Human Services in L.A. Later she returned to Northern California to work with The Doctors Company, a physician-owned insurance company. She served as Senior Vice President of Government Relations as well as Executive Director of the company’s charitable foundation. As The Doctors Company expanded beyond California, Mrs. Rice developed partnerships with other state governments. Furthermore, she championed the Corporate Charitable program and implemented an Employee Charitable Gift Matching program.*Now Leona lives in the Napa Valley with her husband and writes about her amazing life.

(Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

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Filed under #vote2020, Guest Bloggers, Poetry, Students

United We Stand by Cliff Zyskowski

 

Certain days in our lives leave a permanent imprint, like a hot poker brand on cattle, a tattoo, charged with total recall, like it happened just yesterday.

United We Stand

9/11 I’m visiting clinical sites in Vallejo. My psych tech students are completing their internships at an out patient treatment center for folks with dual diagnosis. Autism, bi-polar, schizophrenia, developmental delays, head injuries: the students get to experience a patch work mental health quilt of many varied sizes, shapes and colors.

Ziggy cries out, “Why did they do this?” as we all watch the horror play out on the big screen TV in the day hall that morning. He has Down Syndrome. He is sensitive. He is a caring, loving human being laid to waste by tears as the story of the epic destruction of those twin towers unfolds.

Several of the participants begin to pace the perimeter of the room, their anxiety building, their coping strategies pushed to the brink. A staff person ushers Artie into a side conference room.

“Breathe Artie. Your breath like the ocean, remember? Breathe in the relaxation, breathe out the tension. You can handle this,” she implores. He’s hyperventilating, sweating, eyes open wide, piercing, pupils dilated, biting his hand, rocking back and forth at an increasing rate. She pages the off-site nurse for a PRN medication.

“I knew those Commie Pinko Fags were coming to get us. I heard them scheming last night. Their time has come. Our time is up…we’re next,” exclaims Josh.

Josh has paranoid schizophrenia. He’s hiding under a chair in the far corner of the room. Silently screaming in his mind’s eye, rubbing his head along the underside lip of the chair.

Mitch, the director, enters the room with authority. Turns off the TV. “Break up into groups of five. Today’s discussion: addressing our greatest fears. What is it that scares us? How do we cope with what we can’t control? How have we overcome obstacles in our past? How do we muster the courage and conviction to face our fears head-on? Meet back here at 10:30 before break.” 

Divided We Fall

July, 1966 Hot, muggy, Mid-western summer day. No breeze off the Lake. Mom rounds up us four kids from the yard into the house early before lunch. Me and my best friend Vinnie had planned on riding our Schwinn bikes down Rumble Hill to visit the old man with his roost of homing pigeons.  Not today.

“The blacks are marching past Portage Park to Norwood Park. They say 800 people will pass by our neighborhood and walk right past St. Monica’s church down the block from us. We’re all staying inside. People been throwing rocks at the marchers. I won’t let any of you kids get hurt. We’re not causing any trouble.” Not today. She looks worried, scared, pale. We obey without a fuss.

There are no black folks living in our neighborhood. This is the summer of the Chicago Freedom Movement. Martin Luther King is marching for equal housing rights. I’ve never even met a black person. Dad says when they move in, we move out ‘cuz, “They cause the property values to crash.”

“But isn’t your favorite baseball player Ernie Banks, a black guy?” I ask him.

No comment.

While Mom shakes Jiffy Pop with one hand and stirs the cherry Kool-Aid with the other, my curiosity runs rampant. I sneak downstairs and climb out thru the basement window. I hear hundreds of voices singing in the distance. This Little Light of Mine, We Shall Overcome, the voices gather strength, rising louder and more boisterous as the throng approaches the corner of Nottingham and Carmen Avenues and the steps leading to the entrance of St. Monica’s Church. Nobody out in the streets but them. Vinnie’s mom, Mrs. Funsch, peers out between the drapes of her front room window. I’m hiding in the bushes across the street from the Rectory. MLK, the man himself, approaches the church entrance. He silences the crowd by raising his right hand, palm open to the sky, as he surveys his followers with steely determination. Gesturing with both arms raised to the heavens, he gets down on one knee and says, “Let us pray.”

“Almighty Lord,” he cries out. “Hear our prayer,” respond the marchers, all genuflected on one knee.  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Heads bowed to the earth, prostrated on one knee, the congregation recites the Our Father…the same prayer I recite every night before bed. I find myself praying along, flushed out of the hiding brush, bent on one knee, “. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.”

They pray, they feel, they sing, they kneel—just like us. My cup runneth over with faith in humanity.

Smile a Little Smile

Fall 1969 Summer of love passes. The annual 8th grade fall dance held in the basement of St. Monica’s rectory. I’m a nerd. One of three classmates wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Teacher’s pet. Too smart for my own good. But I made the basketball team. Tom Kowalski felt sorry for me and gave a fellow Polack a chance. In class, I sit behind Joanne Arcaro, 8th grade cheerleader. I whisper her a few answers during the math exams. Sister Felice proctors the tests. She is deaf.  

Joanne believes in me somehow. When it’s time for the last slow dance, she comes up to me and grabs my arm without a word, pulls me across the room to the middle of the dance floor. The 45 drops onto the Magnavox turntable playing Smile a Little Smile for Me. This isn’t one of those tightly held slow dances. Sister Jeanette wouldn’t allow such behavior. For the first time, I feel like a man—a woman asked me to be her dance partner. I find a cure for my case of nerd fever.

tenor.com

For the first verse, we alone take center stage. She looks straight into my eyes, smiles, as we rock back and forth in unison to the song’s chorus, breathing as one, the class nerd making waves with the babe of his dreams. Loving kindness endlessly travels through time captured by a memory.

Orange sky over Bay Area

Birds, by the thousands, drop dead from the orange.
  Ravens chant Nevermore.
A robin picks at a toasted worm, upended
  from the parched terrain.
Bees labor back to the hive with ash-laden pollen.
Sunflowers strain to lift their heads to the sky.
  There is no sun.

My mask blocks the virus, filters the smoke,
 hides the shame we face:
  Profit over Planet.
“They muddy the waters to make it seem deep.”
What legacy will we leave our children?
“You guys just stood around while
watching the West Coast burn?”

Who will unite ranchers, developers,
  conservationists?
Who is prepared to build a coalition,
a consensus among polarities, concerning issues of
Black Lives Matter,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
gun control,
global warming?

“We are the first generation
to feel the impact of climate change
and the last generation
that can do something about it.”

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

              Save the Earth,
             Value its worth,
             Before we dread
         The sky bleeding red.

 September 9th, 2020 The Day the Sky Bled Orange

Cliff Zyskowski
playing John Hiatt’s Have a Little Faith at Sonoma’s Farmer’s Market

Cliff Zyskowski is a retired psychiatric technician and a Chicago native now living the good life in wine country. When not hashing out a long-winded memoir, he plays the piano for inspiration. His work has appeared in The Bohemian and The Sonoma Sun.

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Filed under #vote2020, Commentary, Fire Season, Guest Bloggers

Stain on the Soul

If you haven’t read Michele Drier’s books, you should. She’s got something for everybody—even a fan club! She writes mysteries; her corpus includes a standalone psychological thriller, and she’s written a series of  (so far) ten paranormal romances—The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles. That’s where I tuned in, with volume 1, Snap: The World Unfolds, after I met her at a Left Coast Crime* conference in 2014. What an introduction to paranormal romance! I couldn’t put it down. But I invited Michele to Building a Better Story today to talk about the first in her new series, Stain on the Soul   A Stained Glass Mystery.

Michele dubs the book a “dark cozy” for the fact it  uses little  eroticism, violence or profanity, and surrounds a “current moral issue.” As with all of her books, her themes are important and disturbing. In Stain on the Soul, Michele explores themes of homosexuality, pornography, abuse and pedophilia and the cover-ups of pedophilia within the Catholic church. Dark indeed.

The book is set against the backdrop of quiet, seaside Hamilton on the Oregon coast ,where protagonist Roz Duke, has moved after the unsolved murder of her husband, Winston. Roz is an internationally renowned  stained glass artist working on an installation for a Catholic church, and plans to “use the beach, scoured by wind and water, to cleanse her soul and rebuild her creativity” after the senseless drive by shooting. Of course, her best intentions are shattered by emergency vehicles sirens and watching her neighbor’s body being taken away. The neighbor has been stabbed by one of her custom glass knives. She joins the Neighborhood Watch group, which introduces  her to journalist Liam Karshner. Liam and the act of the murder are Roz’s entree into Hamilton’s small town life of gossip at the diner, friendly police and odd neighbors.

Roz and Liam have different reasons to want to solve the  murder, but they form a team as their friendship  grows through shared confidences. As the disturbing truths are revealed, Roz uses her rescued Greyhound, Tut, the dunes, and sunsets from her porch as refuge from her grief and troubles as the wind and surf comb her mind to untangle the truth of her neighbor’s and her husband’s deaths.

I have to agree with one reviewer who describes the book as “authentic, not contrived.” It’s the characters who bring authenticity. Both Roz and Liam are well crafted and well-rounded. They have strengths, weaknesses, biases and secrets. Secondary characters such as busybody Patsy and Police Chief Giffen ring true to their purposes within the story as well. I believed  each character, down to the former priest living across the street and the retired fisherman and town drunk, Clarence.

As far as far plot goes—OMG! I was hooked from the start and didn’t see  the ending for the tight twists and turns throughout. Stain on the Soul reminds me of a Jane Marple mystery: quiet village on the surface, dastardly deeds underneath and way too many denizens with secrets. Not surprising, in an interview, Michele lists  classic British mystery writers—Christie, Sayers, March, as well as contemporary authors,  French, Atkinson and Sanford as favorites. The book appears to move slowly on the surface (Life in St. Mary Mead!) as Roz sifts who is innocent (Liam?) and who is out to get her, but it’s  a deception of the smooth dialog and calming nature of the setting. A lot is happening, and Roz has to work it out before she’s the next casualty

Just to let you know, Roz lives to investigate another crime. Michele says, “I’m half-way through the second book in the Stained Glass Mysteries, have a third one plotted, have another two plots for the Newspaper Mysteries, at least one more of the Kandesky Vampire and two more standalones (at least as this point, though they may turn into series). After Bouchercon, I’m going back to writing two or three books a year.” And with the pandemic, Bouchercon 2020 scheduled for Sacramento has been closed down for in-person attendance., but registration for Virtual Bouchercon October 16 & 17 is now open. Check it out: https://www.bouchercon2020.org.

Roz Duke is “already well into her next adventure on the south coast of Kent, England where she runs afoul of international art thieves.” Internationally renowned stained glass artist Roz Duke takes on a challenge—recreate part of the medieval masterpiece, the Bayeux Tapestry, a needlework done in the eleventh century to commemorate the Normal Conquest of England. While spending a sabbatical in Kent, staying near the site of the Battle of Hastings which changed England forever, she stumbles across a body in an ancient church, starting a journey of international intrigue and danger. Steeped in history, she finds this part of England has plenty of contemporary terror. (And you’ve still got time to read Stain on the Soul.)

LOOK FOR TAPESTRY OF TEARS AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER! 

Michele’s tips for emerging writers:

“Read, read, read. Know the language. Understand the basics of grammar. Know how to tell a compelling story. And show not tell. And read, read, read.” She reads anything she can get her hands on, especially crime genres, Nobel, Booker and Pulitzer lists. And, of course, books recommended by friends.

Autobiography
“I was born in Santa Cruz, California to a family that migrated west to San Francisco in 1849. Unfortunately, they never found gold, nor did they buy (and hang onto) any California land. My mother named me Michael, after author and actress Blanche Oelrichs, who wrote under the name of Michael Strange. After months of saying, “Yes, she’s a girl. Yes, her name is Michael,” my mother finally caved and I became “Michele.”

I was read to as a child, and needed always to have a book with me. My maternal grandmother belonged to a writing club in San Francisco in the early part of the 20th century and wrote poems and jingles–one of which won her a travel trailer during the Depression.

I’ve lived in San Francisco, the Bay Area, the Central Valley, the Sierra, Southern California and the North Coast.

My first career was in journalism, and I spent seven years as a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News. After returning to Humboldt State University to complete school and work on a master’s, I fell into my second career, as a non-profit administrator, including a legal organization serving roughly 10,000 senior citizens in Alameda County. I’m a member of the Society of California Pioneers and Sisters in Crime and live in California’s Central Valley with a cat, skunks, wild turkeys and an opossum (only the cat gets to come in the house).”

Fun facts: She started college as a chemistry major and if she could re-do it, she’d be an anthropologist. Or maybe take up closed circuit sports car racing again? She used to drive in time trials.

Find Michele Drier at  MicheleDrierAuthor.com. Her Amazon author page lists all her books.

Michele’s twitter handle is @MicheleDrier . Please drop her an email or comment at mjdrier@gmail.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/michele.drier.

 

Editor’s notes: I’m hoping if you read and enjoy Stain on the Soul as much as I have, you’ll generously leave a review wherever you bought your copy and on Goodreads or  a readers site of your preference.

*And if you’re a crime reader—fiction or non-fiction— Left Coast Crime  is a wonderful way  for writers and fans to meet each other and share what’s new, what’s trending and what might be to come in our world in a friendly, intimate conference. I’m betting Michele will be there in 2022!

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Summer Reading

 

We’ve made it to  summer.  While coronavirus remains a threat, the weather is warm and, until fire season, we have a great opportunity to read (and drink!) So pull your lounge chair into the shade, mix a martini, and sink into a good read.

Here’s what’s on my list:

The Paris Package by A.W. Harton, set in pre-WW2 Europe. A young American couple on honeymoon in Vienna take possession of a book the Nazis don’t want  to surface, and they must get the book to its rightful owner in Paris.  The SS knows they’ve got it and are on their trail. I’m trying the Kindle/audiobook sync on this one. Too exciting to put down! I can listen while I make dinner.

 

The Blue Period by Luke Jerod Kummer about the young Picasso’s “blue period” as he bounced between Barcelona and Paris. Kindle.

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon—seven Outlander universe short stories to tide us through the season break! Audiobook.

 

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart all about the sordid lives of plants behaving badly. Want to kill, maim, intoxicate or possibly drive someone mad? Do it nature’s way. Paperback.

 

No Bad Deed the debut thriller by Heather Chavez turns my home county into a menacing backdrop to a terrifying game of cat and mouse. Hardbound.

Not for everyone on the list, Steven James, Story Trumps Structure. How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules is jam-packed with great information. It was recommended by my favorite writer of mysteries set in Paris, Cara Black. She’s written 19 books. I’ve read them all. Start with the first book: Murder in the Marais and finish with the latest, Three Hours in Paris.


Finally, the drinking part! A Drinkable Feast. A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris by Philip Greene. Did you ever wonder what the Lost Generation drank and where they drank it? A Drinkable Feast not only offers the recipes, but tells the stories behind the drinks and the artists, writers, and celebrities who drank them. My favorite so far? The Bailey created by Gerald and Sara Murphy, wealthy American ex-pats—the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s protagonists in Tender is the Night.

 

The Bailey

2 oz. Hendricks gin
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1-2 tsp. simple syrup
2 sprigs of mint

Tear up the mint leaves into a shaker, add the gin and steep for a couple of minutes, add the grapefruit then lime juices. Shake with ice and don’t allow it to dilute. Strain into a wine or cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

 Drinking and literature—a time honored pairing!

And if you haven’t already, pop open a Victoria and try out the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. Lawn chair travel—next best thing to being there! These will offer you plenty of suspense and muy rico meals. Book three, Nothing Comes After Z is scheduled for release late this year.

2SET UP postcard   +   Now in digital and paperback  +

(and if poetry is your thing, check out Nature Girl. All available on Amazon)

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Filed under Books, Reviews

The Virus and US by Russell Hvolbek

Miasma—www.stufftoblowyourmind.com

The Virus and US

So, now, a miasma here.

Not only over there, somewhere

backward, but here too in our towns,

gleaning away the soft jostling of

American life; a little money

made and spent, children maturing,

mothers and fathers dying of old age, normal

as it should be, has been, is

normal no more.

The virus roils, exposes our naivety:

Humans have no more purchase of earth

than a virus.

 

 

 

Meet Russell Hvolbek:

Russell Hvolbek is an intellectual historian with a PhD from The University of Chicago. He has written three books, the most recent, Humans: What We Are and Why We Exist, argues that language and the historical fields they produce, brought humans beyond the grooves of nature. Humans came into existence when they became able to name themselves. Humans are a language-historical creation. He is concerned that the utilitarian realm of facts and data have so overwhelmed us, we can no longer ponder what we are.

Russell now finds that people opposed to having to think through difficult ideas are more likely to engage them if they are presented as poetry. He now writes more poetry than prose.
Contact: Russell Hvolbek 818-746-0757 rhhone@hotmail.com

 

On Amazon

On GoodReads

 

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Filed under COVID19, Guest Bloggers, Poetry

Hope and Determination

 

On March 10th I walked across the border into Tijuana on an adventure to discover the best street tacos and learn firsthand how refugees are faring at our locked-down border.  And while overlooking The Wall, clinking margarita glasses,  I didn’t imagine that 48 hours later I’d be back home with my husband, both unemployed refugees of COVID-19, locked down within my own borders at home.

 

Coronavirus has slowed things down.  My days are long and task-full as spring dries into our golden summer—I’ve pulled thistles, weeded the perennial borders, mowed the oats, piled the downed eucalyptus for dump truck pick up and filled jars of delicate Cecile Brunner roses to scent the house. I’ve cleaned my cupboards, closets, pantry, scrubbed baseboards, wiped the framed artwork, washed shelves, cabinets and walls and dusted away cobwebs. I’ve tried new recipes, invented my version of the Covidtini and howled with the neighbors at 8 pm.  Now I practice yoga with a Zoom group, walk with a masked walking group, virtually chat with girlfriends over wine, talk to friends for hours on the phone  and share socially distanced game afternoons with our neighbors. Wine and Punderdome anyone?

At first fear was the driving factor. How would we pay the mortgage? The insurances? Eat? Would we catch COVID? I remembered the Guatemalan moms and children in Tijuana, emigres from gang violence and poverty—waiting, hoping—even in the face of being 4000 names down on the US Immigration interview list.

 

In TJ,  what I found was hope and determination. I’m not going to let  Coronavirus get the better of my family. I learned Zoom and Canvas and restarted two of my classes. I joined a daily “write-in” and am busy writing the third novel in my Mexico series. I landed editing jobs, created a schedule and two months later, I’m more productive than before the virus. (Hoo boy! I’m tired.)

I credit my family’s recovery to the hope I found in the faces of people who don’t have our resources or opportunities. Every day I remember these refugees as I jot my gratitude in my journal or stop to smell the roses, iris, wild asters, lavender. . . . Lockdown has turned from a disaster to a happier, more relaxed and socially connected life. Imagine, I haven’t had to put gas in my car since the 4th of April! We’re managing to pay the bills, we’re spending more time happily at home (the 8 pm howling helps) and the stack of bedside books has dwindled.

Now please excuse me, it’s cocktail time, and I want to toast you with my newest creation, the I Beat It-tini. Here’s to all you writers. Now, let’s get back to work!

ZOOM and Canvas classes start up on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday  June 8th, 9th and 11th for six week sessions. Register for on-line Summer Writing Classes Now!

Mondays 2-4 on Zoom: Vintagehouse.org Fee (707​) 996​-0311 6/8-7/13
Tuesdays 10-12:30 on-line through Napa Valley College​  Fee  (707) 302-2452 6/9-7/14
Tuesdays 4-6 on Canvas​ through Napa Valley College Free  (707) 302-2452  6/9-7/14
Thursdays 2-4 on Zoom through Rianda House  Free (707) 968-5877 6/11-7/16
                See you in class!

Better busy than bored, cabin crazy or homicidal!

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My Lockdown by Dina Corcoran

Back by popular demand and coronavirus be damned! I’m thrilled to have Dina Corcoran as today’s guest blogger. Dina’s work inspires me to find the beauty and good in any situation—excuse me while I put on IZ’s CD and contemplate rejoining my “treasures” when the pandemic is over.

th-6

My Lockdown

Old Toll Road is not a busy road under normal conditions, but under this lockdown it appears abandoned.  Alan and I walk it every day, and as we round a bend, we come upon a field of lupines and poppies busy being glorious—no one to notice them, except for us. 

A face appears, smiling a greeting from on high.  It’s the bee lady, up in the apple tree manipulating a pair of loppers as she prunes, surrounded by a few friendly bees. That’s it.  The only contact we have on the whole walk.

Back at home, the warm gentleness of IZ’s Hawaiian music soothes me.  I play it on Spotify to make it all go away—and it almost works.  IZ’s soft voice rolls over me like waves of the ocean.  When the waves break and calm down again, peace will reign.

My daughter Kim comes for weekly visits.  We sit outside on the deck, fifteen feet apart to maintain social distancing, and chat. She doesn’t even think of coming inside the house.  An attorney, she still has cases at her job; others at her firm have been let go, and she gets their work. This is sad for them, but a relief for her.  She can continue making the payments on the house she just bought. She enjoys working at home and being with her twin sons who must continue their college classes now via remote learning.

My son is an “essential” worker in Southern California for Cal-Trans.  He keeps the freeways functioning. With most everyone off the roads, the speed-demons have taken over, and its common for drivers to go 95 m.p.h. and crash into things. His mother worries about him hanging from light poles or overhangs, fixing the electricity, with this going on.  But he continues to get a paycheck.

Since we are over sixty-five, Alan and I are allowed to Email our grocery list to Cal-Mart, charge it, and have our purchases loaded into the car behind the store. No social interaction. When we get home, we don disposable gloves to unpack our supplies so we can wipe them down with a bleach solution. (Fresh produce gets scrubbed in the sink with water.) As they sit in the sun to dry, we notice that certain items have been left off the list—there’s never any toilet paper.

th-4

My friends are tucked away like treasure to be saved for later. Except for the occasional phone call, we don’t see each other anymore. This virus! Gisela sits alone in a big house, since her husband died. She is saved by her German inclination to abide by a housekeeping schedule. Tuesday is laundry day. Every day has its own obligation.  Her week has structure.​​ ​Minna, from my book club, sips wine and reads Proust. 

th-5We all cope in our own way.

I write.

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Autobiographical Writing, COVID19, Guest Bloggers

These Days by Donald Turner

As COVID lockdown continues, folks are buzzing about how they’re managing. Our habits are changing, some for the better and  some for the questionable. We’re assessing our activities, our possessions, our purposes and letting go of what no longer serves us. Today’s guest blogger, Donald Turner, is letting slip his rigid schedule of accomplishment for  new habits: sleeping, flexibility and contemplating worms. 

These Days

Awake, I check the  time. Ahh. I can’t sleep, but I’ll rest a bit more. Smart phone in hand to track my sleep, I enable WiFi, Location, and Bluetooth for FitBit—slept five hours, thirteen minutes. Yuk. I want at least six hours, especially now, during covid-19 season. I’ve got to get to bed earlier and stop stimulating my mind near bedtime.

Sleep problems looping through my brain, I conclude adequate sleep is more important than completing projects, which can wait. I’ll give up some satisfaction in how much I get done in a day. Making daily progress will be enough.

Before rising, I spend about four minutes blessing my back by doing flexing procedures of ten-second counts each. A retired chiropractor and friends suggested these movements. The flexes are listed below for later reading by anyone interested. Start gently.

On my back, I do real motions on some imaginary devices.

  1. Bike pedaling
  2. Both legs together at the ankles, pedaling a single pedal.
  3. For slight twisting torque on my back, I keep my head against the bed while I arc my bent legs from one side to the other. The legs take turn being the more bent leg which crosses over the less bent leg. The less bent leg rests on the bed. As I get more flexible I push the knee of the more bent leg onto the bed. Repeat five times for each leg.
  4. Buttocks tightened against bed, then relaxed.
  5. Plank, supported by elbows and feet, I stiffen my back as I count to ten.
  6. As I let my back sag, I do pushups from my knees, not my feet.
  7. On hands and knees I do cat-like-spine-upward arcs and downward cow dips—beginning and ending folded as if in a Muslim prayer position.

Honoring my good habits, like the flexing habit, improves my days.

Once I’m up, I write about what interests me. If I suspect others would find value, I submit the writing—after tweaking—for the comments of my writing group. I start by reviewing topical lists I’ve created from various ideas come to me as I walk or think in bed. Introspective discovery and the challenge of fiddling with words motivate me.

I know a bunch of writing rules, such as: spell out small numbers like five and thirteen instead of writing 5 and 13.  But, I want numbers as digits to stand out among gobs of words. After all, my STEM education in science and technology biased me toward numbers composed of digits with their lovely shapes. Merely 10 digits.

On behalf of the magnificent TEN, I exhibit them: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. These shapely symbols tell me, “We don’t get no respect–at least not enough.”

Now in my seventh decade, I use a repeated non-curvy digit to represent my age. The older I get, the faster I get old. To me, my remaining time increases in value. Life has been mostly good during many happy years of reasonably sound body and mind. If I falter in my seniority, may my mind be last to fall.

My life, all life, is evidence of organized matter. Entropy is increasing disorder. Each life briefly overcomes entropy. However, entropy dominates some regions of the universe. My house is such a region–temporarily, I tell myself.

When my bodily entropy is certain to accelerate, an anatomy lab can have me as a corpse—after my brain fails. Such a donation will avoid an expense to my heirs and be a contribution to medical students—especially if my parts correspond to anatomy books.

Perhaps the chap book I’ll write could be tethered to the better looking of my big toes along with an ID tag and a note about my synthetic lenses and the exceptional length of my near-sighted eyes.

Thinking ahead, I’ll be dead forever, so I’ll more than catchup on my sleep deficits. There won’t be an I, nor a me. There was an I, a me. Dust to dust. Atoms to atoms. Entropy wins, but some atoms from my body may yet come to be in another life form, maybe in an earthworm.

Maybe some of my writng group remember my wormy poem:

I’ve never been an earthworm….without a single tear.

 

I’ve never been an earth worm

Never wriggled through the soil

Never flooded to a road

Never plucked by any toad

 

Glad I’m not a worm

Glad I’m still a man

 

On my corpse worms may feed

Extend beyond an ear

Slide out a vacant eye

Without a single tear

 

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

~Mark 9:44 King James Bible version

Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming in California for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, for Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, & for Boeing at Huntington Beach. In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting stock market profit, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science at Fletcher, NC. from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds a  Master of Arts degree in  Physics from University of Wisconsin,  Milwaukee and a Master  of Science in  Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis. He represents his age in non-curvy digits.

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