Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pandemic Diary Entry #14

The sky from our deck on Saturday, May 30th

Week of Sunday May 24 to Saturday May 30: It's been a week of protests and violence in the US, after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, by a white police officer who kept his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, even after it was apparent that he had died. It's just the latest in a long line of murders of black men and women at the hands of white officers. No, not every police officer is racist. But too many of them are. And too many white people have stayed silent about this kind of treatment for too long.

The protests in Minneapolis have gotten the most attention, but what started as peaceful protests over Floyd's death turned violent. Mostly from outside agitators, many of whom came from out of state and are apparently white supremacists, hoping to foment a new civil war. This is horrible and outrageous. And no, I don't have words enough to deal with this.

Instead of talking about my own white, admittedly privileged, existence this week, I'm turning this blog over to Black voices.  Let their words be heard!

From an unknown author on Facebook:

You want to know why Black people are angry...
We can’t be handcuffed and put in the police car unless we are dead (#GeorgeFloyd)
We can’t go bird watching in Central Park (#ChristianCooper)
We can’t go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).
We can't ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
We can't have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
We can't leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
We can't play loud music (#JordanDavis).
We can’t sell CD's (#AltonSterling).
We can’t sleep (#AiyanaJones)
We can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
We can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
We can’t go to church (#Charleston9).
We can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
We can’t hold a hair brush while leaving our own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
We can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
We can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
We can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
We can't break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
We can’t shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
We can’t have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
We can’t read a book in our own car (#KeithScott).
We can’t be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
We can’t decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
We can’t ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
We can’t cash our check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
We can’t take out our wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
We can’t run (#WalterScott).
We can’t breathe (#EricGarner).
We can’t live (#FreddieGray).
We’re tired.
Tired of making hashtags.
Tired of trying to convince you that our #BlackLivesMatter too.
Tired of dying.
So very tired.

Here's the late Toni Morrison on Twitter:

"If I take your race away, and there you are, all strung out. And all you got is your little self, and what is that? 
What are you without racism? Are you any good? Are you still strong? Are you still smart? Do you still like yourself?" —Toni Morrison

Here's a Democratic activist, Abdul El-Sayed, talking in the Guardian:

“Look, the police have been executing black men in this country for a long time. We’re just now understanding it in the last five to 10 years because everybody’s got a camera in their pocket,” El-Sayed said. “I think people are sick of it but then it’s not just that, it’s the fact that you look at Covid-19, which has been the story for the past four months, rightly so, 100,000 lives lost. Those lives are disproportionately black folks’ lives. As a function of the same exact structural forces that have allowed black people to be executed by law enforcement.”

(Edited May 31 to add:) Here are some powerful words from YA author Kekla Magoon on Facebook (thank you, Nicole Valentine):

"Living through an uprising is upsetting for white people because the tables have been turned. Seemingly random violence is occurring, and you don’t know when, where, or how it might affect you. There are people moving through the streets who you fear may not take your needs or your humanity into consideration before they act in their own interests.

Welcome to how it feels to be a Black American.

The difference is, what you’re getting is only a glimpse. It’s temporary. You can watch the horrific news and fret-tweet your attempts at allyship with the confidence that the system itself will find a way to protect you. Black Americans have no such confidence."

Kekla Magoon from her website

And here's Shola MRichards, talking on Facebook about what it's like to walk his dog around his neighborhood, and how if he takes his 8-year-old daughter with him, he feels safer.

Next week, I'll go back to talking about staying home during the pandemic, which is still very much with us.

COVID-19 World Stats as of May 30 (From WHO):

Confirmed cases: 5,934,936
Confirmed deaths: 367,166

US Stats as of May 30 (From the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 1,737,950
Confirmed deaths: 102,785

How have you been this week? Does this news affect you as much as it affects me? Do you want to help? Do you want to try to be anti-racist? Here are some suggestions.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Pandemic Diary Entry #13

Sunday, May 17 (Day 67):  Finished reading The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King (Oct 2019, Levine/Scholastic, 272 pages, for ages 8 to 12).  Gorgeously written, as all of her novels are. And if your middle grade reader is reading this, they'll probably be grateful for the short chapters.

My favorite lines, from p. 51:

                        "... some kids join band or play sports.

                         I just think about the stars. Usually by myself.

                         I'm probably from another planet."                       

Support authors! Buy this book from  Or your local indie bookstore (you can even choose one while you're on Bookshop's website). Also available at B&N. 

It's beginning to look like summer in our back yard.

Our rhododendrons next to the deck get prettier every day.
And here you can catch a glimpse of our Accidental Garden!

Monday, May 18 (Day 68): Our Giant delivery was due between 9:30 and 11:30 am. Nice of them to let me know last night, via email, so I didn't have to get up at 5:30 and check. The food arrived around 10:30. Only 20 bags this time! Still far too much plastic. We didn't get any ground beef this time, so no hamburgers this week. Think someone's trying to tell us to become vegetarians? We also didn't receive the milk, the lemons or the Dawn dishwashing liquid.

Another long walk today. It looks like summer everywhere.

I realize these are weeds, but they're pretty!

The trees at the top of the hill from us are green and lovely

Lemon chicken and zucchini parmesan for dinner. Watched an old Goldie Hawn movie that, surprisingly, was not a comedy!

Wednesday, May 20 (Day 70):  Warm and partly sunny. I have to admit, the days have begun to run together, to blur in my memory as if they're all one. If I don't write in this journal every day, I immediately forget what we did. So I'll start skipping days and only write about the ones where something different happens.

Went through the first half of my manuscript again. Not making very many changes any more. Reading and re-reading my lovely editor's comments and occasionally changing one word in the text.

Started reading Turtles All the Way Down by John Green.  Wow, am I glad I didn't read this before writing my novel in verse! Aza, the main character, suffers from a mental illness. At one point, she eats her sandwich in quarters, as my character does.

In the afternoon, our younger son called! This is always an occasion. I love hearing his voice!

Thursday, May 21 (Day 71):  Got through part three of my manuscript. It's written in four parts, so I'll finish up tomorrow. This is the third time I'm going through my editor's line edits, so I think it'll be as complete as I can make it for this round. Hope she likes what I've done!

Veggie pasta for dinner. It turned out better than I thought it would. Zucchini, mushrooms, and chopped tomatoes sauteed in olive oil and served on rotini. Lots of oregano and basil and pepper.

Here's something you probably never knew about me: I'm allergic to garlic and onions (my maternal grandmother was too). It makes cooking difficult, especially anything Italian. And every commercial salad dressing or pasta sauce or soup contains garlic powder and onion powder.  So I have to get creative. Any recipe ideas that are free of garlic and onions would be most welcome!

Friday, May 22 (Day 72): Woke up with a headache. Then the rain started after breakfast and eventually my headache went away.

In the afternoon, I finished going through line edits (for the third time)! Yay! Feels like an accomplishment in this time of crisis (and headaches). I loved working on them because it was such a beautiful escape.

Keeping my fingers crossed that my editor will like and accept what I've done.

Leftovers for dinner. A few episodes of Cheers on Netflix.

COVID-19 World Stats as of May 22 (from WHO):

Confirmed cases: 5,105,881
Confirmed deaths: 333,446

US Cases as of May 23 (from the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 1,595,885
Confirmed deaths: 96,002

What about you? Have the days blurred together, so you don't even know what day it is anymore?

Tell us about any good books you've read this week.

And if you have any favorite recipes that don't involve onions and garlic, please let me know. Thanks!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Pandemic Diary Entry #12

Sunday, May 10 (Day 60): Mother's Day flowers from my sons! Younger son delivered them Saturday evening, and stood on our deck in the freezing cold. We saw each other briefly through the window. It nearly broke my heart when we both put our hands up on either side of the window.

That's all I'm saying about Mother's Day.

Monday, May 11 (Day 61): Spent a few hours working on line edits. I'm getting more and more excited about my novel in verse. I know the world has changed, and we're in a crisis, but the fact that this is still happening has me giddy. I won't be at all surprised if my book launch in Summer 2021 will have to be virtual, as all the books coming out this spring/summer have been and will continue to be. But it will still happen. (Early on, in mid-March, I had a meltdown and thought we were all going to die and nothing would ever be the same, including publishers and books. Now I'm calmer about the whole thing. Does this mean I've reached the Acceptance phase of the Five Stages of Grief? Not sure.)

Chicken and roasted vegetables for dinner. Roasted vegetables have become my new favorite food. If my mother had cooked them that way when I was growing up I would have loved vegetables instead of hating them.

Started reading, The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King. It's middle-grade and totally absorbing. Twelve-year-old Liberty Johansen tells her story in present tense. Her parents have decided to separate, and her world is falling apart. Liberty makes star maps, and sees new constellations that no one else sees. With the author's signature splash of magical realism, this is a fascinating read.

Watched a few episodes of Cheers on Netflix. Yes, we've seen them all before, probably twice, but it's been years and we've forgotten most episodes. Most importantly, it's making us laugh, sometimes uproariously.

Tuesday, May 12 (Day 62):  Woke up with a headache. Should have known not to spend so many hours on the computer yesterday. Luckily, it went away on its own during the morning.

Long walk this afternoon.  Rhododendrons are blooming! And dogwood trees. I love this time of year.

Wednesday, May 13 (Day 63): Spent nearly two hours on line edits. And I'm finished! Woo hoo! I'll go through the entire ms again next week, but for now I'm taking a break.

Crab cakes for dinner, and homemade potato salad (haven't made this in years!). The potato salad was much better than the crab cakes. Should have known not to use canned crabmeat. Ick!

Read several chapters of The Year We Fell From Space. I feel so fortunate to be able to buy books from I hope you do the same thing if you can afford to buy books. It benefits local indie bookstores, instead of, you know, the behemoth. 

Read a fascinating article from Vox on how to beat Covid-19 and save the economy at the same time. The people in charge should read this!

Thursday, May 14 (Day 64): Sunny and warmer. Finally! It's been so cold, we've had to cover the tomato plants in our Accidental Garden.

Made pancakes for breakfast for the first time in ages. This pandemic is forcing the cook trapped inside of me to come out and play. I miss being able to go out to lunch once in a while. But we have yet to try take-out food. Soon, I think.

My husband is finally beginning to realize we might be living like this, unable to visit our family and friends, for another year of more. Why did I sense this back in March? 

I'm also making an effort to stock up on non-perishables. Seriously. Some people hoard TP. I'm starting to build up a supply of canned goods. If this virus is still with us in the autumn, we'll need provisions. 

Tuna salad for dinner.

Friday, May 15 (Day 65):  Spent hours skimming through the entire manuscript on my laptop. I know, I know, I was going to take a break! 

Rain in the morning but cleared up by afternoon. 

Our rhododendrons are finally blooming and the bumblebees love them!
More azaleas. Last week I showed you the red one that's our best.
This white one is in good shape too. It's close to the house.

These azaleas, on the other hand, have been attacked by those bullies, the deer herd!
They love the flowers. Must taste like a gourmet salad to them.

Saturday, May 16 (Day 66): Just when I think I'm handling this pandemic, thriving, even, I wake up in pain. An aching jaw, so bad that even with massage, it hurt like hell. It went away after breakfast, but I still couldn't stand to read. This is the same jaw pain I've had before, and it's undoubtedly from anxiety over Covid-19.

Talked to my mother on the phone for a long time. She admits she doesn't really read books anymore, just the daily newspaper (she subscribes to the Inquirer and it's delivered to her door). She says by the time she reaches chapter two she can't recall what happened in chapter one. I remember when my father was at that stage. And it makes me sad. But after all, she is 92. If I'm still alive at 92, it'll be some kind of miracle.

COVID-19 World Stats as of May 16 (from WHO)

Confirmed cases: 4,525,497
Confirmed deaths: 307,395

US Stats as of May 16 (from the CDC):

Confirmed cases: 1,435,098
Confirmed deaths:  87,315

How's your week going? Are you continuing to stock up on food and supplies? Are you venturing out of the house more?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Pandemic Diary Entry #11

I'm thrilled to have a wonderful job to do this month: going page by page through the edited manuscript of my novel in verse, reading and reacting to my lovely editor's comments. This is a new step in the writing journey for me. Line edits! And it's actually fun. I put in an hour or two a day on this. Any more and I develop a headache.

Because it's so time-consuming, the journaling had to take a back seat. Shorter entries this time (you're probably relieved! Thanks for reading this diary).

Monday, May 4 (Day 54): Our two-week grocery delivery arrived around 9:30 am. And we received most of what we ordered! Twenty-four bags. Such a waste of plastic. So many of the bags contained only one item! Unfortunately for my husband, no potato chips. Guess everyone who gets food delivered is looking for their favorite snacks. I told him he can share my sweet-potato chips. They're healthier! (Yeah, right.)

Besides the potato chips, we didn't receive TP, naturally. We haven't actually purchased any since March 4th. I'm amazed we haven't run out yet. About six rolls left.

Yes, this is the same son in the photo from my last entry, who was three then and is now 30!

The other (and most important) event of the day was a visit from our younger son in the late afternoon! Haven't seen him since early March. We sat outside and talked for about half an hour. He was heading home to the city from his new job working at a fulfillment center for Gap. It was fantastic to see him, even if I couldn't hug him (He insisted on wearing the mask, even though we stayed at least six feet apart).

Tuesday, May 5 (Day 55): Put in my next grocery order and was able to grab Monday, May 18th starting at 6:30 am. Just under two weeks!

Talked to my mother on the phone. She's still okay, and there are no new cases of the virus at her lifecare facility. Thank goodness! Her mind is not what it used to be, but she knows there's a pandemic.

Two hours on line edits. Making great progress.

Then received an email that made me smile. The 36 rolls of TP I ordered direct from the manufacturer have shipped! Woo hoo! Never thought I'd be so excited to get TP.

If I've learned nothing else about myself during this pandemic, it's that I desperately need something to look forward to. And it can be as simple as a delivery. Or a visit from my son. Or even a good movie or TV show. Or a snack. As long as I have something to look forward to every day, I can get through this.

It's sobering to think of all the people who can't afford to buy groceries while they're out of work. Or don't have the internet. Here's an essay about the disparity. I fully realize how fortunate we are and I'm grateful.

Wednesday, May 6 (Day 56): Worked on line edits for two hours and had to stop because I was getting bleary-eyed. Cloudy and cold today. Too windy for a walk.

I'm almost finished reading This Is My Brain In Love by I.W. Gregorio (my friend Ilene Wong). What a wonderful story!

Fish and roasted vegetables for dinner.

Thursday, May 7 (Day 57):  Cold but sunny. My husband worked on the garden for hours. We're calling this "The Accidental Garden". (Remember, there used to be a huge spruce tree there until the storm blew it down!)

Progress on the Accidental Garden

He was too exhausted after setting up all that deer fencing and spreading topsoil, to go for an afternoon walk with me. So I went on my own.

All the trees up the hill from us now have leaves! I love this time of year.

Our prettiest azalea. Now that the daffodils are finished, it's nice to have
something else flowering. The deer have decimated most of our azalea bushes.
My husband had a fence around this one the past two weeks, but he needed it for the garden!

Watched the last episode of "Godless" on Netflix in the evening. Now we'll need to find something new to watch, preferably something less violent.

Friday, May 8 (Day 58):  Finished reading Ilene's book!

If you buy only one YA novel this year, make it This is My Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio (Little, Brown, published April 14, 2020, 384 pages, for ages 12 and up). What a delightful read! Jocelyn and Will feel like real high school students to me. Their sweet love story draws you in, and then the obstacles they face -- racism, mental health issues, the struggling restaurant Jocelyn's family owns (and where Will takes a summer job) grip you, right through to the satisfying end of the novel.

Order it from bookshop here!

An hour on line edits. Salads for dinner.

Watched the first three episodes of Cheers on Netflix, after searching for something new to watch. We both lit up at the idea of Cheers. It started in 1982, when we were dating, and we both remember it as being entertaining and funny. We definitely need entertaining and funny right now.

Saturday, May 9 (Day 59): 

Sunny but too cold for this time of year in Pennsylvania. Good thing my husband covered the tomato plants in our garden last night.

Worked on line edits for almost two hours. Cleaned out a kitchen cabinet that had become way too crammed.

And then, this arrived:

Woo hoo! Four packages of 9 rolls each. We're in great shape!

COVID-19 World Stats as of May 9 (from WHO):
Confirmed cases: 3,925,815
Confirmed deaths: 274,488

US Stats as of May 10 (from the CDC):
Confirmed cases: 1,300,696
Confirmed deaths: 78,771

Tell me: what do you look forward to the most?

Monday, May 4, 2020

Pandemic Diary Entry #10

A carnival (source)

Wednesday, April 29 (Day 49):  Woke up with an aching jaw this morning. Cloudy and cool. But I remembered a dream for the first time in a long time! Only bits of it remain, but I was at a carnival and it was too crowded. I couldn't get away from people. Everywhere I went, there were too many people, too close together. So I guess you could call it a nightmare. Whew! At this point in the pandemic, I can't imagine going to a carnival ever again.

By 10:00 am I was feeling well enough to attend a virtual #HFGather, an online chat from the Highlights Foundation, with Sarah Aronson, the host, talking to Erin Entrada Kelly, the Newbery winner in 2018 for Hello, Universe. Her new book, We Dream of Space, sounds like an excellent read. It's set in January 1986, when the Challenger blew up. Remember that? I do! The book pubs in May and I'm definitely ordering a copy from Bookshop.

Today is also my younger son's 30th birthday.

This is my younger son when he was 3 years old. Now he's 30!

It hardly seems possible. He's my baby! And suddenly he's no longer a twenty-something. We had a wonderful, hour-long video chat with him and his older brother after dinner. He thanked us for all the gifts we sent him, which were all e-gift cards. I know what it's like to have a pandemic birthday. But he seemed quite cheerful and he's still healthy, so that's what counts! It's not the same, seeing your son on a screen, because all I want to do is hug him. But this is how we live now.

Barbecued chicken for dinner. Yes, we eat chicken frequently. We should probably become vegetarians. What do you think? Can't see my husband ever agreeing to that. And I like chicken. He prefers steak, which we certainly don't have often!

Thursday, April 30 (Day 50): Rainy with high winds all day. That high, constant wind knocked over several trees in our neighborhood. And one of them was our spruce tree in the back yard! No damage, thank goodness, but it was a shock. The wind blew it right over around 2 pm.

Our spruce tree (yes it had two trunks, actually three, but the third one's hard to see)

Read four chapters of This is My Brain in Love. I'm still in love with this YA novel. It almost makes me want to be back in high school again and be friends with Jocelyn and Will. And the author deals so well with first love, mental health and racism. It's an important book and one you should all read! 

Yesterday, I received an email from my editor at Holiday House, with the attached manuscript of my novel in verse, which she's been line-editing since March.


Line editing is all new to me, so I'm learning as I go. She wants it back by the end of May, so I have a month to go through it line by line, read her comments/suggestions and respond if necessary. In some instances, I'll need to write a few new lines. In most cases, it's just one word that needs to be replaced. Who knew I used the word "heart" and the word "stomach" so often! Also the word "all"-- which she says everyone uses all the time overuses.  😄

Leftovers for dinner. Then had an hour and a half video chat with my fellow brain aneurysm survivor and friend in Australia. It's mind-boggling that they're going through the exact same things we are going through with this pandemic. It's hard for them to find TP too! But they're generally much better at keeping the virus contained. They have such strict laws against, and high fines for, going where you don't belong.

Friday, May 1 (Day 51): Cloudy, but the sun was trying to come out. All morning, we heard chain saws from up the street and later walked up to investigate. Obviously, we weren't the only house that lost a tree or two in that freak storm yesterday.

Up the hill from our house, they lost two trees!

Read several more chapters of This is My Brain in Love.

Worked on the line edits of my manuscript for an hour. I'm starting to really get into a rhythm. But if I work on it too long, I get a headache.

Tuna salad for dinner. Yeah, we're getting low on fresh food and our next delivery isn't until Monday.

Watched an episode of Godless on Netflix. What an unusual Western. It can be violent at times, but also thought-provoking. And the acting is fantastic. Have you watched it?

Saturday, May 2 (Day 52): An absolutely beautiful spring day! The weather couldn't be more perfect. We spent a lot of time outside. Took a walk in a different direction and met some new neighbors who moved in sometime in January or February. They had an unfortunate event on Thursday, during that windstorm. Their detached garage got smashed by a falling tree. It seemed to be the only property damage in the neighborhood. They were pretty philosophical about it, as we stood more than six feet away from them in their driveway and talked briefly. 

The neighbor's detached garage, damaged by a fallen tree on Thursday

After dinner, we watched "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" on Netflix. Have you seen it? It has a stellar cast, including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others. It got great reviews, but we found it... surprisingly slow. And I had no trouble guessing who the mole was.

Sunday, May 3 (Day 53):  The landscaping company came to cut up our tree, the same company that cut up the neighbor's two trees on Friday.  You'd never know there had been a tree there. And now... room for a garden! Which we wanted to do anyway. The seeds my husband ordered arrived yesterday! Perfect timing.

I got an email from Giant Direct, telling me it's my last chance to add more items to my order, which is being delivered tomorrow. I added a few things, including the bag of potato chips my husband begged me to buy.

During this pandemic, I'm constantly assessing and re-assessing the food situation. It's astonishing how much I look forward to a delivery now. Partly because we're only shopping every two weeks, but also because we don't go anywhere. So it's something to look forward to. Like the Wells Fargo Wagon coming to town in "The Music Man", you know? It's an event! 

Chicken casserole and baked potatoes for dinner.

Watched another episode of Godless. Then went outside to look for the Starlink satellites -- a "train" of tiny moving lights that are actually briefcase-size satellites bringing the internet to rural locations. They're from Elon Musk's company, SpaceX. We saw at least 12 of them in the ten minutes before the clouds moved in. It was cool! And something to talk about besides the pandemic. Here's a link to an article about them.

Have you seen Starlink?

COVID-19 World Stats as of May 3 (from WHO):

Countries or territories affected: 215
Confirmed cases: 3,442,234
Confirmed deaths: 239,740

US Stats (from the CDC):
Total cases: 1,152, 372
Total deaths: 67,456

This post is getting too long, so I'll say goodbye for now. What are you watching this week? And what are you reading?