Kay: Hanging in There

Breakfast food! Photo from sallysbakingaddiction.com. This woman knows her way around cake.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, some much more so than others. I’m one of the lucky ones. No one I know has died or even is sick. I’m retired, and I’m naturally a homebody. I’m making good progress on my WIP. For me personally, life isn’t that much different than it was before the stay-at-home order, although standing in line to go to the supermarket is not something I thought I’d ever see.

Of course, I’m extremely worried for our health care workers and first responders, and I’m heartbroken for all the lives cut short. I’m concerned for all the kids with lousy or no wifi and I hope that their educational opportunities will not be short-circuited. There are so many things to worry about in a pandemic.

But while I’m largely doing okay, many of my friends are very stressed. And then this morning, I woke up with a free-floating anxiety. I felt paralyzed. And I hate that feeling.

There’s a lot we can’t control in a pandemic, but some things do lie within our control. And one of those things is how we face our fears. This morning, I was kind to myself: I turned on the fireplace, put on some Mozart, and ate chocolate cake for breakfast while I read my current murder mystery. All things I love to do, except usually I try to resist chocolate cake for breakfast.

And then I read this article by Bella Mahaya Carter on SheWrites, who says that while we can’t eliminate anxiety because it’s a normal human emotion, we can get relief by understanding how it works and changing our relationship to it. Being gentle with your feelings, she says, can make the difference between panic and repose. (Chocolate cake, check!)

What’s the first thing to do? Don’t focus on your anxieties. Instead, feel what you feel. Lean in and accept. (I think chocolate cake works for this, too.)

Don’t ask yourself why you feel anxious. (That’s obvious: We’re in a pandemic, people.) Instead, connect with your immediate, physical experience.

For example, what do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel? Can you literally smell the flowers, hear the birds (taste the chocolate cake!), feel the sunshine? What can you feel this instant? Focus on immediate things that are rather than the fears that could be.

Distraction is a valid tool. Are you out of chocolate cake? Maybe it’s time to try making doughnuts! Maybe you want to take a walk after and enjoy the fresh air. Or dance like nobody’s watching. Do something you especially enjoy doing, or maybe accept a challenge and try something new. In my case, maybe I’ll try cleaning the house.

I’m happy to report that the fire, Mozart, chocolate cake, and murder mystery, plus a phone call to a good friend, cheered me right up. Now I’m prepared to brave the lines at the supermarket tomorrow.

What about you guys? How are you doing?

 

Elizabeth: Nothing’s Ever Wasted

A random pile of fabric scraps that I was able to turn into something useful

Well, okay, technically that’s not true.  Lot’s of things are wasted.  But sometimes those things we think we should just throw away can actually come in pretty handy.

As I’m sure you are aware, one recent suggestion in the ongoing battle against the current health pandemic is to wear cloth masks when you need to be out and about around other people.  Masks are, however, in short supply.  Hospitals and medical systems have spent the last weeks (maybe longer) trying to find enough of them to keep their doctors and nurses safe as they treat their patients.

Fortunately, as a member of the general public, we don’t really need a professional high-grade mask for those infrequent trips to the grocery or drug store.

Cue the home-made mask bonanza. Continue reading

Kay: That’s [Art] Entertainment!

Remember this painting at the top? The scene has been reimaged at home

Jilly wrote a silver linings post on Saturday, and we were all so cheered up by it, we decided to do more. We all could use a little extra shot of happiness, right? A splash of fun? A drop of joy? Or at least, comfort. Not bad news.

So I’m pitching in today with this entertainment post, links to three things I enjoyed last week, coming to you from the art world. First off, maybe you think you can’t make art. You’d be so wrong! The Getty Museum of Los Angeles asked people to post photos of themselves recreating their favorite works of art based on objects they had at home. What they did was amazing and hilarious. Check out the results.

Think you can’t learn how to paint from a video? Donna Fenstermaker teaches painting here in northern California, and she’s posting short tutorials for her students. I love this one about how to look at color. Even if you’re not inspired to move color patches around, her voice is pretty soothing.

Finally, 20 Dutch musicians from the Rotterdam Philharmonic stayed home and played together the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. That just never gets old.

Have a good week, everyone!

 

Jilly: Silver Linings

So how was your week?

According to the news briefings, London is the coronavirus hotspot of the UK, but so far, touch wood, we’ve been fine chez Jilly. We’re doing as instructed, staying quietly home, washing our hands, waving to the neighbors from a safe distance, watching the news, and checking up on friends and family. I’ve been having lovely long chats with friends I normally only catch up with at Christmas.

I didn’t do any new writing, but I did put together a brief for Daire’s novella, now officially called The Seeds of Exile. I had a good discussion with my cover designers about the stock photo I found for Daire, crown prince and ruler of Caldermor. The guy’s expression and pose are perfect. Unfortunately, his clothes aren’t. He’s a cool urban dude and I need a fantasy prince. I had some ideas about how he could be transformed, and I was thrilled when Deranged Doctor Design said they can make him work. Those people are a breath of fresh air, somehow managing to work with their usual upbeat professionalism even though their patch of Eastern Europe is under martial law and they’re expecting to go to full corona-lockdown soon. I really admire their attitude.

The other task that’s been occupying much of my time is chasing grocery orders. The Prime Minister suggested we should have our food and necessities delivered if at all possible. That’s turning out to be easier said than done, as the online delivery companies crumble under the sudden weight of demand. They’re beyond overwhelmed. The one I use has seen a ten-fold increase in activity, combined with a decision to prioritize ‘key workers’ and vulnerable people, which is making it basically inaccessible to ordinary customers, even longstanding ones like me.

I wasted more than seven hours trying to wrangle that online supermarket on Friday, to no avail, and now I’m done. I realized today that I’ve been approaching this challenge all wrong. Even as the big grocery chains adapt their model to help the government, this country is full of smaller independent businesses—farmers and wholesalers—who were dependent on the restaurant trade and who are now desperately trying to adapt and survive. They have families to feed, stock they can’t sell, and for the foreseeable future they’re looking to private customers to keep them afloat. From now on, until this pandemic shutdown is over, my new plan is to use my time and money to find and buy from those businesses. I’ve placed two orders with an organic farm in Devon, for delivery in May, and I have a couple of other referrals in London that might be able to tide us over for April. Those are on my list to contact tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Oh—and our friendly indie wine merchant (also reeling from the closure of the restaurant trade) agreed with us that it would be a good idea to withdraw as much of our paid wine reserve as we could manage while the bonded warehouse is still making deliveries and the merchant is still there to liaise with them. So we did. We’ve always kept our wine in storage because we have a small house and no cellar. Now there’s wine under the stairs. Under the coffee table. Under the dining table. Wherever we could find a shady space. After all, nobody’s coming to visit. And even if we have to dine on corned beef and microwave rice every night, at least now we know it will be accompanied by a glass of something nice 🙂 .

And best of all, last Friday the Eight Ladies had a virtual get-together courtesy of Zoom. We span the East and West coasts of the US, plus the UK and Japan, and in normal times the chance of finding a time where we could all sit in front of a screen is slim to none. Right now everyone’s home, which means it’s tricky but do-able, and we did. It was great!

So how was your week? It’s been another tough one around the world. I hope you managed to find some silver linings.

Michaeline: Random Quarantine Thoughts

I just want to get a little writing done. Well, and about a hundred other things. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) Inu no Koku by Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806), translated The Hour of a Dog, a print of a traditional Japanese woman writing on a long scroll and talking to a servant or an apprentice behind her. Digitally enhanced from our own original edition.

Brian Eno News Twitter (not the real Brian Eno, apparently) posts a random artistic strategy* nearly every day, and the one I saw today was: Disciplined self-indulgence. Well, I don’t do “disciplined” very well, but when I make an effort, my self-indulgence is off the charts, so here it goes.

So, first: a bit of news. Hokkaido’s state of emergency ran from February 28 until March 19, which means that as of Friday (a public holiday celebrating the equinox), we are free from government requests to stay inside.

 To tell the truth, though, I didn’t feel very much of a difference, because despite my best efforts, I’ve managed to get a sore throat. So, aside from work and a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the three-day weekend, I wasn’t out and about to feel the celebratory mood.

I’d say the crowd at the grocery store was slightly busier than usual, and I saw more Continue reading

Elizabeth: While you Shelter in Place

Are you having a little trouble focusing on your writing these days with all that is going on in the world?

I know I am.

Where I live, about three-million people have essentially been grounded and sent to their room (separately).  I work in an “essential” industry, so I’m still going into work, which has its advantages:  my 20-minute commute, which typically takes an hour, is back to 20-minutes, and there is no trouble finding a place to park.  As an added bonus, the Starbucks drive-thru window is also apparently “essential” so I don’t have to worry about caffeine-withdrawal.

Though I don’t have to worry (unlike many others) about my job (and paycheck) disappearing as a result of business shutdowns, this kind of worldwide health crisis is still disturbing, especially when there are so many unknowns.

Thankfully, there is always the internet for a little needed distraction. Continue reading

Michaeline: The World We Live In Today

Snowy road to the airport with cars waiting to pick up loved ones

On February 22, my daughter’s plane circled the airport for 30 minutes waiting for the plows to clear the runway. Here’s a shot of the blizzard from my car. The plane arrived safely, and we got home without getting stuck once. (E.M. Duskova)

Well, my dears, last week I was simply overwhelmed by mostly good things – my daughter was arriving from the Tokyo area where she goes to college, and it was my FIL’s birthday and I was determined to bake him a cake before picking up my daughter in the evening. Work had been busy, and we got a blizzard. I really meant to post a picture or something at least, but the time got away from me, as usual, and the blog was the ball I dropped.

What a difference a week makes! I am  Continue reading