The Humanity of Fear

Spring-like weather has finally hit our fair province and it has everyone feeling a little giddy.  The entire month of April has been fraught with rain, drizzle, and fog. A bit of sunshine rips through the heavens and everyone is out raking lawns and arranging the patio furniture. I participated in said frivolity against my better judgement. May 24th has not arrived which usually brings an extreme dip in the temperature and a mini version of Snowmaggedon.  I’m happy with the sunshine and the above freezing temps, but still anticipate donning my parka and wading through waist deep ice crystals by the time June rolls around.  We remain ever hopeful of Winter’s demise, but we know better. Our shovels stand at the ready in porches, and our snow blowers continue to remain on active duty until, well, always.

The lockdowns and restrictions continue as the plague rages on, ravaging through communities and ICUs with a vengeance rivaled only by that of an Australian wildfire. We are shielded here, to some degree, from the overwhelming contagion that has infiltrated Ontario and other more western provinces, but we continue to remain cautious. We listen to Health authorities. We understand the COVID fatigue. It’s getting harder and harder to remain isolated from the ones we love and remain six feet from embracing our friends and families, but for their sakes we take a step back.

I felt the first impact from COVID on a simple trip to the grocery store, last year. It turned out it was more complicated than I had expected. Line-ups, directional arrows, do I bring my own bags?  No browsing, get what you need and get out.  I remember walking into the store, and everyone was wearing a mask. It wasn’t Halloween and it wasn’t funny. The fear of talking to each other was palpable. No one dared approach someone or invade their personal space lest you risk the onslaught of public scorn and the attack of a deadly disease. I hated it. I sat in my car and cried. This wasn’t the community in which I had lived for sixteen years. This wasn’t how we existed. We were a chatty, friendly, hospitable bunch. We helped each other with the carts that stubbornly stuck together. We said a friendly ‘hello’ and shook hands without fear of catching something. We reached out to pat someone on the back or give someone we haven’t seen in a while a hearty hug. Remember those?  Hugs?  This disease has taken lives, but it has also taken our humanity. That’s the worst part. People are too afraid to reach out and care. Too afraid to be kind. It may cost someone his life to shake your hand. Facial expressions are hard to read behind a mask. Is she smiling? Is she frowning? I can’t tell. The emotional connection between strangers is lost in the hazy fear of catching a deadly disease. And it’s heartbreakingly necessary.

Normal, whatever that may look like in the future, will return slowly. We will again be able to be with family and reunite with more friends, but we will always remain wary. That little voice warning us to stand a little farther apart, to keep our hands to ourselves, to wash and sanitize at every turn will be forever yelling at us. Years ago, the biggest threat to kids going to school was head lice. “Don’t share hats,” the teachers and parents had warned. “Don’t share your combs or hairbrushes. Keep your hands to yourselves. Stay apart from each other. Don’t share locker space.” It’s now a common practice to stay apart, not so much for the sake of head lice but for survival.

Moving forward, our grace under pressure may crack, but let’s not lose it altogether. We continue to save lives by staying apart. We continue to care for each other by being distant, no matter how off-putting that may appear. The compassion is now in the words we speak and in the actions we fulfill. We can recover our sense of humanity and community by reaching the common goal of a COVID-less society. Get vaccinated. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Stay alive. Those are your choices and your responsibilities. Let’s get this done.

Take care and stay safe,

KJ xo

The Waiting Game

As I continue to take a deep dive into writing the sequel to False Hope, I find I get lost in the idea of writing a perfect story. There is no such thing, of course, but the expectation to write a better or equally enthralling tale hangs steadily over my head. I bat at it to get it away, but it returns ready to study over my shoulder and comment on the already hashed out plot or dialogue. “Why is she saying that?” or, “Who is THAT?!” 

It’s a never-ending battle between the imaginary hangers-on who trod on my words and try valiantly to fool me up, and my characters’ wills to be authentic and allow their voices to be heard over all the objections. It’s a little crazy over in here.

I plod on; however, some days are better than others. On the days I feel the weight of eyes following my fingers over the keyboard, I tend to meander over to an online puzzle to divert the attention. Sometimes it works, but often it ends up in time wasted doing puzzles instead of figuring out dialogue. My characters end up hanging around in unfinished scenes. It’s like they’re suspended in mid-air and mid-sentence unsure as to where to go next or how to get out of there until I write them out.  They’re standing around waiting for the writer to get them moving on or something big to happen.  “Oh, boy here we go again she’s gone over to the puzzles and left us here stranded in the woods with crickets and ne’er-do-wells about. Could be a long night,” they say, and tap their watches and stomp their feet.

That’s how I imagine them, anyway. I try to finish an entire chapter so no one is left waiting for me to decide if they live or die, move on, or move out, or just plain eat the sandwich they bought a few paragraphs ago.  Characters live in my head an on my screen. I can’t just leave them hanging, that wouldn’t be fair.

The perfect story is far from perfect or complete. Yet. I’m battling COVID fatigue, procrastination, and online puzzles to get a few chapters out. In the meantime, I will do my best to get these people to bend to my will and to say what they need despite the expectation of perfection hanging around.  He’ll have to wait it out and stop nagging if any real writing is to get done. 

Maybe he’ll go on and do a puzzle….

Stay safe and stay tuned,

KJ

On The Edge of An Ocean

The black and white photo of my parents sits proudly next to my wedding picture on my mantle. They were younger, huddled together with arms secured around each other in a joyful embrace. That’s how I like to remember them. Laughing. Together.

Both have since gone. My dad succumbed to cancer that ravaged his fifty-six-year-old body until there was nothing left. Memories were taken at the end. I heard him ask my mother as we stood at his bedside about the red-headed girl who was crying.  “Who is that?” he had asked. My mother looked at me, confused. She turned to his questioning face. “That’s Karla. You know her,” she said quietly patting his hand and willing him to recognize his only daughter.

My Dad was from Nova Scotia. “I’m a Bluenoser,” he would say. We would crinkle our noses and laugh, “Your nose doesn’t look blue!” I had no perception of Nova Scotia. A scant picture of a foreign landscape and of a Nana I didn’t know were my only introductions to an East Coast so vastly different than my Southwestern Ontario upbringing.  I possessed no concept of life outside my little townhouse in Chatham. He would tell us tidbits of his life in Digby. My dad was an only child. His stories of eating seaweed and sardines made us cringe and laugh. When he was in his teens, my grandfather urged him to work on the fishing boats. Hard work to which my Dad gave an honest effort, but it wasn’t for him. He had other plans. A three-year stint in the Air Force and then off to Ontario to find work. By 1954, he and my Mother had married, and they had started a family.

I’m fifty-four and I have lived in Newfoundland and Labrador for twenty-five years. I married a Botwood boy out of college. We met in Toronto, married, and started a family. As fate would have it, we were destined to an island, again, very foreign to me. It took a few years and a few kids later, but I adjusted. I understand the Bluenose reference. My ears have become acclimated to the various dialects and nuances of Newfoundland vernacular. I have even said a few, “Go on, b’ys,” myself. I appreciate the ease of becoming part of a community that is innately communal. Generations of families living close and welcoming ‘mainlanders’ into their fold. An expedition to stomp around the homestead of my late father is never far from my mind. A bucket-list item that heads the top, it should have happened years ago, but with babies comes responsibilities. The leisure of visiting a place of my roots was put off for something more immediate like a school trip or dance lessons. Now, the notion of a no-travel ban has raised its steel toe boot to my bucket- list and I lament not having made the trip. I had the luck to visit the Maude Lewis exhibition in Halifax last year before the ugly virus drove us inside. I felt at home sitting outside her house, thinking my Dad may have driven by her little painted dwelling on his way out of town. Maybe my grandfather knew her. The mere idea of a connection makes me feel at home. I’m part Bluenoser, part Newfoundlander and part Chathamite. Fractions of places that feed my identity as a whole woman at ease living on the edge of an ocean.

Top Ten Tips for a Happy 2021

With the uptick in COVID-19 cases in our province and the heightened alert of everyone regarding isolations, I think it necessary to concentrate on what we can control. We can control our behaviours, ie, wear a mask and wash our hands. We can also control how we react to situations, ie, restraining the urge to gossip about how cases evolved or how someone was irresponsible with lax protocols. We can also choose to remain positive and upbeat, and maybe spread a smile instead of a virus.

In the spirit of maintaining sanity and spreading joy not disease, I’ve concocted a Top 10 list to lighten your spirit. Or make you drink. Either way, it is a real mood enhancer. Enjoy!

 Now go wash your hands!

Top 10 Tips for a Happy 2021

10.  Last year is so last year – Resist the urge to look into the rear-view mirror with horror-stricken eyes on a year that dragged its ass into your world and ate your last donut. Instead, look ahead to all the possibilities that are laying at your feet. “What, a new brand of wine? How nice!” See?  POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

9. You don’t have to visit family, unless you want to – “Uh, I can’t come over, Aunt Martha.  COVID, remember?” Sometimes, it’s better to stay away from family. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that. Maybe Aunt Martha was nasty to you one too many times, so visiting her can be off the table with no guilt. A GIFT FROM THE UNIVERSE.

8. Outside doesn’t have to be scary- Even in the grips of winter, the outdoors can trigger all kinds of good feelings. Go for a walk in the woods, (not in the creepy woods, but in the nice bright ones with sunshine) snowshoeing (Hubby bought us both a pair to try. Should be interesting) or take the doggo out for a trot. The fresh air will do wonders for your body and your mood. You won’t act like such a twatsicle when someone asks you a simple question, if you’ve just spent half an hour laughing at your neighbour for falling on her ass in the snow. See? I’m helpful.

7.  You can choose to tell, ‘Dry January and February and every other month’ to Fuck-off – It seems to be all the rage, now. People are posting about not drinking for the next few months because everyone consumed copious quantities of alcohol during the initial COVID lockdown and thereafter, BECAUSE IT WAS NECESSARY TO KEEP LIVING.  STOP THE MADNESS. We are still in a pandemic and while I applaud the do-gooders who are keeping themselves ‘dry’ for a cause or just for themselves, I am choosing to drink my face off. I’ll be posting my weekly posts about how much wine I consumed on the weekend. I’m helping to keep the liquor stores stocked and the wine prices lowered while the rest of you ‘dryers’ are abstaining now, so when you do return to drinking, there’s not a shortage. Can you imagine if everyone stopped drinking? The liquor stores would stop ordering supplies, because of lack of sales. People will be laid off. The public would resort to standing outside the liquor stores wondering where all the wine went and why the shelves remain empty. They’ll be brandishing cocktail forks and little paper umbrellas protesting the government and their lack of response to a dire situation…I JUST SAVED ALL OF THAT FROM HAPPENING BECAUSE I KEPT DRINKING. YOU. ARE. WELCOME.

6.  Try something new – It can be a new hobby, a new tv show, a new movie, a new hairstyle, a new spouse…I kid. I kid.  A little bit of change can make a big difference, so embrace the time to try something you’ve always wanted to try. Paint, draw, write, dance; something that’s different and maybe challenges you. I’m going to try drunk snowshoeing. See? Add alcohol and ANYTHING can be fun. See #5.

5. Redecorate – I’m talking rooms in a house, here. I redecorated the front room of our house and although it was a lot of work, it’s one of my favourite places to hang out, now. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Hubby has decided to take it one step further by redoing all the floors in all 3 bedrooms on the second floor. With hardwood. Meaning he is responsible for tearing up the carpet, because he wanted to even though SOMEBODY told him not to.  Yay. So, he’ll be tearing up carpet and I’ll be drinking because nothing says, ‘support for Hubby in his new endeavour’ like a wife standing by with a full glass of wine repeatedly reminding him, “I told you not to do that by yourself.”  So much fun!

4. Rest – Sometimes, just taking a day to sit and watch the snow fall or watch a mindless tv program can ease your brain and give yourself a much-needed break. No need to work endlessly or try to keep yourself too busy. There’s such a thing as burning out and you do not need to be everything to everyone all the time. Take it easy. *sip, sip*

3.  Get some exercise – I’m not talking about a marathon or the World Body Building Championship, just move a bit. Go for a walk, take in a yoga class or something to get your heart rate up. You will be surprised how much better your feel afterwards…and, you will have burned enough energy to have that glass of wine. Or five. It’s all about balance, people.

2. Clean up – It’s a large task and one that I abhor. It’s time-consuming and tedious, however, decluttering has advantages beyond a tidy house. The process of purging gives you a sense of purpose. You have a task that keeps you focused on the activity of improving your space. AND, what you decide to toss may still be appropriate for donation. Check with your local Salvation Army or Diabetes Association for their guidelines during COVID. You could be making a big difference in someone else’s life, not just your own.

1. Choose to be happy – I read this somewhere and there’s elegance in its simplicity. You can choose to be happy instead of lamenting the situation you find yourself in. You can choose to smile instead of frowning your way through the day. You can choose to lift someone up with a positive word or a kind gesture instead of begrudging her. It’s simple. And it doesn’t cost anything. A win-win all around.

Those are the tips to keep your spirits up and your mood in-check. When in doubt, there’s wine.

Always.

Stay safe and stay healthy,

KJ xo

Stumbling Onwards

I often feel like I’m flailing hopelessly in anything I set out to do. I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’ve resolved to keep my head down and concentrate on the project ahead of me, instead of focusing what I’ve done. Putting out more work and aiming for something better than the last, helps me to continue moving forward. The compliments and the accolades are nice and it’s good to garner feedback, but in the end, it’s only the work that’s important. It’s what lines your shelves or fills your inbox. It’s a confusing and often challenging process. I’d like to think there are other people who feel the same, and we have mutual struggles. Everyone is kind of wandering around trying to do the best they can with what they have and work hard. We are all trudging uphill and holding on to the belief the hill will eventually even out and we can just stop and rest for a bit; have a gander at the view and take a deep breath. I do a lot of research, read as many how-to’s as possible, but it’s tedious. It’s not always useful nor the best plan for me. I often end up doing my own thing and hoping it works out. Best put, I fly by the seat of my pants and I hope I don’t crash and burn.

In the meantime, if you feel like you’re the only one struggling up that hill, you are not alone. I’m right there with ‘ya. I’m the one with my head down and my sturdy shoes strapped on tight so I don’t trip over a pebble and roll back down. Also, I bring wine. Lots of wine…

Stay safe,

KJ xo