Back in the early spring, I started writing here and there about the things that I’ve been doing to keep myself busy and my mind off of the pandemic. I had big plans (and even an outline!) for topics centered on how COVID-19 was rolling out in the Virginia countryside.
But then, in the light of every thing that went on in 2020 (and dammit, keeps happening into 2021), I started feeling like there were so many voices out there, with so many big things to say, that I didn’t want to add mine to the pile. I drew away from social media (with one of those “Farewell Facebook!” posts) and I did even write about that here but I went on back because the truth is, you still need to keep up with stuff.
This writing blackout has continued even more intensely on my “creative” side. I took a course on writing short fiction in September and could barely bring myself to punch out a couple of stories. I started a novel for National Novel Writing Month in November but instead watched the election play out on Twitter. For hours.
And as you may have noticed, my writing here has been paltry.
So I don’t know what has brought me to toss these words up here on WordPress today. I guess I hope someone might read them and think, yeah, Anne, I feel the same way. Like the last year has wrung and twisted you to the point where you just want to curl up and regroup. Even if you know that your concerns pale in comparison to what many, many people are facing. You sure aren’t alone.
We have two kids: one attending a large university and one living in New York City. We are blessed to have them both home with us right now.
The college guy was sent home (along with many contemporaries) right before Thanksgiving, with the understanding that all of those classmates would stay put through the holiday break and into January. With our New Yorker, it’s a little more complicated.
She travels with a cat and she doesn’t care to fly (for which I don’t blame her, because there is one (1) crowded flight per day from NYC to Roanoke). Amtrak won’t let you ride the rails with a pet for more than a seven hour trip, so our system is to have her take the train to DC, where we meet her and drive her back. It’s a long day of driving but half of it is with our girl and her kitten, so it goes quickly and happily.
The New Yorker will be with us into mid-January, too, so now that we’re all here we are solidly hunkering down.
We generally spend Christmas in Massachusetts, visiting with Jim’s family. This year, like so many other people, we decided that it was safer to keep everyone here and I’ll be honest, after the long year it’s been, I appreciate foregoing the two-day drive and the coordination necessary in a family visit. Jim’s sister and her partner are up there, visiting from Texas (after negative covid tests!) with their ancient cat and a dog whose medical complications require a diaper. Our youngest is allergic to dogs. It would not have been a harmonious time.
So the point of all of that is to say that we are gratefully having a quiet holiday and this year, I’ll take it! A friend wrote on a holiday card that they hope we can find some magic this year for the holidays, but I’ll set the bar down a little lower and send you a wish that there is simply a reason for you to smile and hope.
Our old suburban neighborhood used to have a turkey trot every year on Thanksgiving morning. We’d all meet at the Haydens’ house and take a route around a little man-made lake, then come back and share some excellent pumpkin bread. Sometimes we would run, other times we would walk. Kids would come out, and older folks, and people in turkey hats, and it was a wonderful way to catch up with neighbors you might not have had a chance to see during a busy fall.
This year, they’re doing it again, responsibly distanced of course. A couple of friends were texting about going and it occurred to me that while I will miss the neighborhood turkey trot (quite a bit), out here in Franklin County I can go for a walk and have a chance to see a real turkey trotting.
Turkeys are pretty majestic and out here they just hang out in people’s yards, like deer. One day I had my own deer-reminiscent experience of seeing a turkey from the corner of my eye as I was driving. He was headed on a collision course with my car, but just as I was thinking, oh, no, I’m about to flatten a turkey, that guy launched into the air and sailed across the road, inches from my windshield.
It was a spectacular sight. I could even see his little eye looking at my thunderstruck face as he flew by. It was a striking (not literally, ha ha) reminder that you never know when you’re going to see something amazing, but also that sometimes, we’re capable of much more than anyone thinks.
Want some fun Thanksgiving facts about turkeys? Here’s an article from National Geographic that will make you the star of dinner table conversation today! I hope you have much to be thankful for, today and every day.
I have a college friend who is an author. If you have kids of a certain age you have almost certainly heard of her work; Disney turned one of her characters into an animated series and it thrills me to see merch and Halloween costumes based on my own friend’s creation!
Anyway, I follow this good lady on Facebook. There, she mentioned that she had retweeted (on her Twitter page, of course) some political revelry about Saturday’s announcement that the US elections have been called in favor of President-elect Biden. One of her Twitter followers unfollowed her over the retweet and told her to stick to her day job.
Okay, now, people need to stop it.
I live in a very “red” part of Virginia, and was it my imagination that at our little Kroger yesterday, people were extra inconsiderate? We always have our share of loud and proud mask-refusers, but hey, you fella who rammed someone else’s cart so you could get closer to the oranges, was that necessary?
Anger serves a purpose. If it spurs you to make change, it serves a really valuable purpose. But temper? Snideness? Calling people names and telling them what to do with their own platforms? Come on, y’all, wouldn’t it make sense to take that energy and work to make things better in your little corner of the world?
My friend Anne Marie had the best response to her un-follower: “I told her my day job was being human and writing was just a part of me, and I wished her well.”
THAT’s a professional! Doing her day job! And now, hopefully I can pry myself away from the news long enough to be a little more productive at my own day job this week.
Well, election evening sure was interesting, wasn’t it? As I write this I am a little tired because Jim and I stayed up a too late last night watching the returns. I bet you did something similar.
With all of that going on, I want to finish up this three-part series of the things for which I am grateful, stuff that I might have put on Facebook during the month of November if I was in more of a Facebook-sharing place right now. Here is the first list and here is the middle one.
So, generally, by this part of the month, I’d be stretching a little bit for things to write. So please forgive me if some of these are kind of out there, but I am grateful for…
Medical and mental health professionals. It’s easy to not appreciate them until you need them, but maybe one good thing about this nasty pandemic era is that we have them and the good they do right out there in front of us.
Other essential workers: the folks at the grocery store, or the folks picking up your trash. All of them.
While I’m at it, I am definitely grateful for the guys who work at the solid refuse stations here in Franklin County. When I take my stuff to the dump, I am usually also treated to some pleasant conversation and even some wisdom. Sometimes the guys at the dump are the friendliest people I’ll see all day. And y’all, people are friendly around here.
My dentist and his team. I started off the day with them yesterday and they are some of the nicest people out there.
Coffee. At home and anywhere I can get it (and fortunately, Roanoke has some fine establishments). That first sip of the morning is my favorite part of the day.
I can’t get the “make-a-list” function in WordPress to start lists at anything other than “1,” but if I could, this would be the “26” post, corresponding to November 26, or Thanksgiving. At the time I write this I don’t know who is going to be with us for the holiday (thanks, covid), but I am grateful for them nevertheless, whether you make it to our house or not.
Tortellini and white sauce. It’s my favorite meal and the creamy comforting goodness that we had for dinner last night.
Travel. It’s a memory right now, but in 2019 and early 2020 we did quite a bit of it and I very much look forward to doing it again.
Health. It’s another thing I take for granted too much, but I try not to.
Faith that sometime, hopefully soon, all of … this … is going to be behind us. I am certain that better times are ahead.
Yesterday I started my November compilation of things for which I am grateful, in lieu of sticking with an old practice of dribbling the list out day by day on Facebook.
Last year, I switched things up by eschewing Facebook and sending handwritten notes to the people for whom I am grateful. But (a) that was kind of a lot of work, albeit quite rewarding, and (b) I don’t want to do that two years in a row because what if you forget someone? I don’t need that kind of stress.
ESPECIALLY ON ELECTION NIGHT!
So, with no further ado, here are ten more things I am grateful for:
People who work to help the rest of us vote. I’m related to one of those! They get up early and hang out all day, making sure that we the ability to have our voices heard.
November 11 reminds me to be grateful for the veterans who keep us safe, sacrificing so that our communities can be secure.
Military families, too. Military spouses are incredible human beings.
We live in a place where I can see cows on a regular basis, along with wild turkeys, lots of deer, rolling hills, and all kinds of amazing scenery.
Everyone who reads this lil blog (and basically anything I write) makes my heart sing.
I am grateful when someone spells my name right. There’s an “e” at the end, y’all. And when someone asks to check the spelling? Wow, you’re the real heroes.
Hobbies. Needlework is my go-to right now, but I’ve done the scrapbooks, the card making, the quilting, the knitting. Craftiness is goodness.
Zoom. Yeah, I said it. It lets me see some beloved faces and I appreciate them now more than ever.
On this chilly evening, I appreciate that our heater is working a-okay and I can enjoy the blustery weather outside by peeping at it from a cozy house.
All the people and organizations that are out there trying to make the world a better place for folks who can use a hand.
I’ll finish up the last 10 items on list tomorrow. Have you voted yet? I am sending fervent wishes for a good voting experience for everyone, and that all of us get to have our voices heard. Happy Election Day, US!
It’s November, a month in which I have often run through a list of things in my life for which I’m grateful, posting one each day up there on Facebook.
But this year, wow, things are so weird, aren’t they? I’m not of a mind to give Facebook a lot of content these days – I even took a break from that site and still resent its psychologically-tuned addictive delights (but darn it, it’s an unparalleled place to find out about weddings, funerals, and births).
So I’m going to get it all out of the way and share a list of things I’m grateful for right here:
That we have the privilege of electing our leaders. Even when things seem to be a little screwy in our country, as they do as I write this on November 2, 2020, I believe in our system and I believe in America. Can we strive to be better? Yep. But I believe that we are worth it.
People who remember my birthday.
My sweet husband, who doesn’t make fun of me for making a big deal out of my own birthday like I’m 5.
Our couple of kids, who are now both in their 20s but still full of surprises. Mostly good ones.
Family members who make me smile and have my back. They know who they are. I love them hugely.
A group of really incredible people whom I’m lucky to call friends, people from all the way back in elementary school on up to the folks I’ve met in the last couple of years. I learn from and am inspired by each of them.
Our two very affectionate and amusing cats.
A job that lets me talk to and learn about interesting people.
Okay, that’s enough of that for now.
As I started writing the above it occurred to me that it’s asking a lot to ask people to comb through a list of 30 things. But it is a great thing in these unsettled days to catalogue the good things you’ve got going on, and I hope you can think of a few, yourself.
What clearly happened, though, is that over the last few months, I have been unable to write anything at all. I think the last time I wrote something here was in May, about the Confederate flag, but since then, nothing.
Jim is in a pretty robust writing group and reports that some of his group members have been in the same straits (not him, though; that guy’s been writing up a storm. I wish he’d share his secrets). I’ve been wanting to write here but when the opportunity has come up, I’ve just done something else, like look at too much Twitter.
But maybe I’m coming out of it – for instance, here we are. And I took a short story course that forced me to write some short stories. That was hard, y’all! And it was all I could do to keep from jumping on Twitter to announce that, well, writing is hard.
The short story course is wrapping up tomorrow night and I am going to endeavor to keep up some creativity, especially in this next week ahead of the election. There should be plenty of things to write about, no?
In this little writing break, I hope that you’ve been well and feeling safe, and that you’ve had an outlet for some creativity of your own. If so, keep at it! If not, I get it.
I’ve had the chance to learn and write a little bit about the history of the southwestern Virginia counties that border Smith Mountain Lake. I’ve learned some of the area’s darker history from Beth Macy’s excellent book, Truevine, and also from our neighbor, who grew up in Woolwine, Virginia, not too far from here.
I’ve seen the Confederate soldier manning the porch at the Franklin County Historical Society, and have been in there doing research when other folks have come in looking for their ancestors among the volumes of data amassed inside.
But this week I was grateful to the Washington Post for its article about how Franklin County, a tiny county (56,000 of us as of 2019) was introduced to the Black Lives Matter movement. “When Black Lives Matter came to white, rural America,” tells the story of three women, Katosha Poindexter, Bridgette Craighead, and Malala Penn, who are trying to raise awareness of racial justice here.
I learned that Franklin County is nearly 90 percent white, which supports what I’ve seen in the past two years we’ve lived at the lake. I learned that the Ku Klux Klan was very active not very far from where we now live. And sadly, from some of the comments on local social media pages about the women’s BLM protest, I learned that some ugly attitudes are still around.
Fortunately, I’m catching up today with a college friend who has a keen eye and ties to Smith Mountain Lake; maybe Heidi will help me sorth things out.
I first drafted this post talking about how lucky we were in our remote part of the country. Until very recently, our reported cases of Covid-19 had been very moderate. Even with the rate of people wearing masks standing at about 50-50, with the wide-open spaces in Franklin County we felt like we might miss the worst of it.
Then Memorial Day came and evidently everyone went to Myrtle Beach, including that virus. Myrtle Beach is a spot on the South Carolina shore, just about five hours south of our area. There’s a boardwalk, and golf courses, and an amusement park, and evidently lots of pent-up need for people to get out to the sand, because they opened up their businesses in June and the virus exploded.
People in Roanoke love Myrtle Beach! And they brought that virus back with them. The worst souvenir ever.
So now our local cases are creeping up. Mask wearing is a little better, but I’m cautious and more mindful of staying home. But for awhile there…
Jim and I went out to eat at our favorite restaurant, instead of doing take-out.
I made a trip to Rocky Mount for a mammogram, which is no fun but you gotta do it. Hats off to the clinic for being extremely impressive at monitoring patients’ health and getting us in and out quickly.
I started going into Roanoke on Saturday mornings to peruse the tremendous Kolsch selection at Barrel Chest, where they remember you and what you like, with always something new and good to recommend.
I would also include a stop at Roasters Next Door so I could support a local coffee shop that happens to have delicious lavender-pancake flavored lattes.
But now it looks like all of those good things might be on hold and it’s 100% worth it if we can avoid this mess spreading any more than it is.