What are you Reading?

Quarantining is made for reading. What an opportunity to make some headway on that pile of books next to your bed.

So many books, so little time.

Frank Zappa (also me)

The Goodreads app is (free! and) a great place to keep a running list of books you’ve read, and more importantly books you want to read, so if you find yourself at the library, boom, there’s your list. You can also see what your friends are reading, thus inspiring new reading choices (“Whoa, if Melanie is reading that book, it must be good!”). On the other hand, everyone can see that steamy summer read you just added to your Goodreads list. (Go ahead, live a little! No judging here!)

Goodreads is also a great source for quotes, like this one:

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

Jimi Hendrix

I also grabbed the Zappa quote, above, from Goodreads. Though I kind of thought that I’d made that up myself, so witty.

I mentioned the other day that I am currently reading Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, about Winston Churchill and the Nazi bombardment of London during World War II. This book became very timely yesterday, when the US president used a Twitter post to compare himself to Churchill.

DT: When I walked over there to St. John’s Church to get my picture taken, I was being like Churchill visiting the bunkers. [Anne here: I’m paraphrasing.]
Twitter: Nope.
Erik Larson on Twitter: Seriously, nope.
Twitter to Erik Larson: OMG I JUST READ YOUR BOOK AND IT’S AWESOME!

And it is a good read. But I am also reading too much Twitter.

I am trying to dial back my social media, though, by looking away from Facebook. That seed was planted by another book: Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. Feeling that I was spending way too much time on Facebook, I disabled my account a week ago. I don’t miss it, but I fear that now Twitter is becoming my time-suck, so I’ll have to work that out. I try to keep my Kindle handy for when I feel like I need a break and my Twitter-finger starts itching.

I hope you have something good to read (and I’m — as always — grateful that you’re reading this)!

I grabbed this from Buzzfeed


Meeting the People

We have been pretty good about staying away from folks with all of the Covid quarantining, but with restrictions loosening up around Virginia and a set of balding tires on my car, it was time to head in to the city to get them fixed.

Slowed down by the tractor man

The car dealer where I was getting the work done is a 45-minute drive from home, so I planned to camp out there. I brought along my trusty computer, hoping to get some work done. It was not to be.

People in Southwest Virginia are loquacious, and everyone has a tale to tell. I enjoyed some stories from a nice lady, a retired nurse who worked at the huge Veterans Administration hospital in Salem, and I admired pictures of Buddy the car salesman’s geodesic dome house (and learned the story of how he was able to buy it for cash) (hint: it had been a “hippie house”). I had a great talk with Theresa, who has a son the same age as that Reynolds boy who is now back in Kentucky (neither of us know what to do about those darned video games that keep the kids up all night). We all talked about wearing masks, and how we didn’t like them covering our noses. We talked about current events, with Buddy observing that we all bleed red.

Some of these folks were white. Some were Black. Chatting with all of them was much more enriching than burying my face in my computer (even if not, well, literally). And anyway, I got my chance because evidently the mechanic liked my car so much that he found more things wrong with it and I got to stay longer than any of my new friends.

My home for much of today. I was soon joined by some kids who turned on the Disney Channel very loudly on that TV. Bless their hearts. And also bless their dad’s heart: he wanted to talk about his political opinions. This finally did prompt me to find a quieter place to work.

I have not yet met a southwestern Virginian introvert.

Write it Down

I have been reading Erik Larson’s book, The Splendid and the Vile, which is about Winston Churchill and England during World War II. One of the things that I’ve learned from the book is that the English government prompted people to write about their experiences during the war.

Once all of this Covid-19 stuff is over, I imagine there will be a lot of narrative about it. At least I hope so. This morning, I stumbled on a really good motivation to add to it, #1000WordsofSummer, where for the next two weeks, you write 1000 words each day. And if you sign up for the daily emails, you’ll get some inspiration to go with it. It’s not too late! Go sign up here — enter your email and start writing. Author Jamie Attenberg (@JamieAttenberg) is the force behind this cool project. Use the hashtag. I’ll see you on Twitter.

Today’s inspiration was telling yourself that your words matter. You’ve got to believe that, right? Otherwise it’s hard to get yourself to sit down and pound them out — at least, it is for me.

The program started yesterday, so today I’m trying to write a little (or maybe a lot) more than 1000 words to play catch-up. And heck, there’s 209 words right here.

2020 Graduations

It’s thick into college graduation season, and because of the work I do, it’s a busy time. With all of us trying to do our work remotely, there is a little bit of extra tension this week.

But the tension we’re going through is, of course, no big deal compared to what the students are dealing with. And their moms and dads, too. You want to assure them that their kids’ experience over the past four years was the real cause for celebration, not just one day.

On the other hand, I am mindful that I was lucky enough to enjoy (in person) our daughter’s graduation back in December and I’m truly sad that the class of 2020 is missing out on a very special time.

The creativity that I’ve seen this spring, with families’ celebrations of their kids’ graduations and the hard work I’ve seen my colleagues put in, has been so incredible; I know that they must feel very much the same way that I do.

I’ll leave you with this: these are some of the faculty members at the college where I work (we’re the liberal arts college within a large university). When our director of student outreach asked them to send in video congratulations messages, he got more than 60 responses! That makes me like these folks even more.

I know you don’t know them, but once you watch this video, I’ll bet you’ll like them, too.

Just a List (Part 1)

I can’t write these days.

I can do it for my 9-to-5, more or less, but I have to almost tie myself down (in the form of promising a deadline) to do it. But I can’t seem to write here.

I thought, wow, won’t it be fun to tell folks about how we’re spending the Covid days, out here in the country? But then it just never seems to happen. I told you about going for socially distanced walks, and I told you about making beer bread, and I know we’re doing other things but it is just so hard to start something, work on it, and finish it.

But today I got a bit of hope from another writer who is kind of going through the same thing in her own way. Check out this post on Sanctuary, from the Brevity blog, and in the meantime, I’ll be over here trying to start myself a list of the things I’ve been doing. And a list of the things I should be working on. And a list of the things I should be grateful for…

Sharing Covid-19 Experiences

I’ve been writing about how the pandemic is affecting my immediate environs, and social media is a rich resource for learning about how everyone is trying to stay healthy and mentally checked-in while quarantined. But there are two groups of folks who would love to hear what YOU are going through!

I’ve mentioned that I do some work with George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. A couple of teams I know are working on projects that study how people are getting along in these challenging times. They would love your input.

Personal Coping Strategies

The Anxiety, Stress, and Relationships Lab (part of the clinical psychology program) has an online survey about Covid-19’s effect on interpersonal relationships. Do you have extra people living in your house right now? Are the stresses of the news and changing circumstances impacting how you might be getting along with them? These folks want to know how you are coping. The survey is completely confidential so you can be totally honest about how you might have been eating more cheese, bourbon, or ice cream over the past month. They will not judge you. The survey form also offers resource information to help you out if you need it, and the information they learn will help other people find positive ways to be resilient in the future.

Faith Communities’ Response

Another group at Mason, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, is conducting a survey of how religious communities are adapting in the face of the pandemic. The religious studies department is teaming up with the digital history folks to gather input from churches, synagogues, mosques (tell your own community!), as well as from individuals to learn how they are making due when they can’t get to services. If you go to the Pandemic Religion: A Digital Archive site, you can also read about the experiences of a variety of religious communities. And then add your own experience. It’s not only interesting as heck but is also a solid reminder that we are all in this mess together.

And if that doesn’t make for a community, I don’t know what does.

Art Therapy

When you are quarantined because of a worldwide pandemic, you really appreciate your resources.

For my birthday back in November, my sister got for me a whole new experience: a custom paint-by-number set. She sent a photo to a company that sent back a detailed canvas, twenty-five little tubs of paint, and some brushes.

We had some quiet time before family FaceTime calls on Easter Sunday so it was the perfect opportunity to get to work!

I was really surprised that it was so INVOLVED. It took me quite a few evenings of work to get all those little shapes filled in. Also, I found that painting those little shapes with a tiny brush is extremely relaxing.

Aww, guess who?

And I was very pleased with the finished result!

I just hope Jim doesn’t want to take it to his office.

I’m really appreciative of Sarah’s gift, which not only gave me some serious fun but also resulted in a piece of art that is truly one of a kind!

From Here? Come Here?

I am doing some work with the Smith Mountain Arts Council — just press releases, but that’s enough that they invite me to monthly board meetings — and it’s a sad time for the arts council because we are having to cancel all of our events, of course. This was the subject of some conversation at our last meeting (on Zoom); the council comprises many talented and energetic people (mostly retired) who want to offer some kind of outlet for performance and give their neighbors a chance to get out for an evening.

One of the guys in the group finally spoke out, confessing that he and his wife would absolutely not be going out until they were completely comfortable that it was safe. There was much agreement.

Then I ran into a neighbor this morning who expressed some exasperation that businesses aren’t opening back up quickly enough. I was a little surprised by her reaction, and I’ll admit that was because she is well into her sixties, in a demographic that I assumed would be more on the side of keeping things locked down a little longer.

But that’s just my oversimplified thinking, obviously.

I do a lot of thinking about the people who are “From Here’s” — whose families have lived in Franklin County for hundreds of years, who have Confederate soldiers in their family trees, and who have seen the fortunes of this place rise and fall with manufacturing, tobacco, the railroads, and farming. On the other hand, a lot of us folks around the lake are “Come Here’s” — people who are mostly retired, and who have moved from places in North Carolina and Virginia, certainly, but many of whom are from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (where my neighbor mentioned above originated).

Items like this little fella are available for purchase at a local gift store.

I fall into the trap of thinking that the Come Here’s think one way, and the From Here’s think another. But my conversations over the last couple of days once again illustrate that that’s more than a little naive. Then I default to thinking, gee, I wish I was a historian or sociologist, just to try to make sense of it all.

Tomorrow, I promise, I will lighten up and talk more about fun quarantine activities and pondering if our college son will ever get out of bed before mid-afternoon.

Covid’s Creep to the Country

I think I’ve mentioned that where we live is fairly rural.

As with some rural communities, there may be some sense of insulation from the effects of Covid-19 as it sweeps around the world. In fact, someone I know was teased a few weeks ago at a local gardening store when he told the cashier that he would load his own mulch in order to maintain some social distance. “A CUSTOMER IS COMING TO THE LOADING AREA,” she announced over the store’s loudspeaker. “BUT HE DOESN’T NEED HELP BECAUSE HE WANTS TO SOCIAL DISTANCE!” There was chuckling. This person now buys his mulch from the Lowe’s in Rocky Mount.

(About ten days after this interaction this same establishment went to curbside-only service. No more loitering in the garden store, y’all!)

And indeed, today’s Roanoke Times reports only 16 cases of Covid-19 in Franklin County, with 19 in Bedford County just across the lake.

However, a large population of our neighbors are retired and are very respectful of the threat that the coronavirus presents. You see some folks wearing masks in the stores, and appreciate businesses’ attempts to distance their customers.

The Burnt Chimney Post Office is not playing around.

We are supporting our small businesses with take-out orders and only venturing out when we need to. But if we went to our windows to bang pots at 7 pm in support of health care workers, I don’t think anyone would hear us.

When I talk to friends in the DC area or our daughter in New York, it is clear that they are living in a world that seems very different, even if I suspect strongly that it is not.

Escape!

Over the next week or so, I thought I’d write about what things are like here in the Virginia countryside with all of this quarantining, and what I’ve been doing during the lockdown.

One of the things I try to do is get out and walk. Where we live, it’s very easy to take a walk and remain socially distanced.

Even when you walk with someone else.

I walk on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a neighbor, Jane, and her dog, Max.

He is not convinced that he wants to walk with me

We usually get on the road around 7, which is now just as the sun is coming up. Our loop is just about two miles. We see all kinds of critters.

That’s a deer I saw this morning, peeking at
me from over the hill

On the other days, I mix it up with different routes or maybe a little jog. But I try to get out there every day because — a true confession — I want my pants to keep fitting.

Here’s a guy who’s been walking for a cause and he’s awesome.

Here’s a news article that was in yesterday’s Roanoke Times about how regular walking might even help you survive a bout with the ‘rona! Yes, please!

I hope that whatever your situation, you’re able to exercise, even in (or especially in) a low-key way. I’m reading a book, Keep Going, by artist Austin Kelon, who sees walking as an antidote to the barrage of information flying at us every day: “you get outside and you start walking and you come to your senses … people smiling, birds chirping, clouds flying overhead … all that stuff. There’s possibility. Walking is a way to find possibility in your life when there doesn’t seem to be any left.”