I got my first shot of the Moderna vaccine last Saturday. Prior to showing up at the drive-thru clinic, I read articles, talked with family and friends, listened to countless doctor statements, and ruminated on my own reservations about the rushed nature of the rollout and unanswered questions about side effects and efficacy. I showed up anyway.
I showed up because it is the only weapon we have right now besides the everyday precautions we take. Because the prospect of an extra layer of protection was something I couldn’t pass up. Because I was genuinely surprised to be offered the vaccine so soon in this rollout given that I live in a rural, oft-forgotten area of the State. Because I am 72 years old and have underlying conditions. Because the very idea of getting the vaccine made me relax a bit more than I had in over a year.
I marveled at the level of organization our small Public Health Departement (one doctor and three nurses) had managed to pull off and the lines of cars coming and going from what was a community event. Afterwards, all I had for side effects was a bit of tenderness in my arm that lasted for a day. I also had a transient headache that may just have been from my ongoing battle with sinus allergies.
Now I listen to the news reports of the variants coming our way. The UK and South African ones have already been identified in my state as well as our very own L.A. variant. It is sobering to ride this continuing roller coaster. One day I felt high because I had finally gotten the first shot and maybe, just maybe, I could see a tiny bit of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Then, over the next few days, I listened to and read more about the variants reducing the effectiveness of the vaccines, the advice to double mask, the probability that April and May will likely bring another dangerous surge.
I look at the numbers by State, in the US, and globally. I can’t even digest them anymore. I am grateful that so far our small forty-nine bed hospital has not been overwhelmed by cases. I wonder when we will see any semblance of normalcy again, how far into the future that will even be, and what the new normal will even be like.
Meanwhile, I won’t be abandoning my masks and other precautions soon or changing the mostly stay-at-home routine I have established as my norm. Tourists will be arriving in droves starting in May to overrrun the beautiful parks and campgorunds we have locally and line our beaches. Most likely the influx will bring us our own local surge over the Summer and into Fall.
Meanwhile, I am grateful for being an introvert and not craving social content at the level of some others around me. I live on an acre of wooded land and can be content walking the paths and looking at all the new bids soringing up on plants and trees ready to hearld Spring. I have a lot of old hobbies and some new ones to help me pass the time and feel like I am at least accomplishing something. I am appreciate the drive to write in my journals and otherwise as a way to communicate, to vent, to ponder, to express my gratitude.
Recently a friend gifted me with a large collection of embroidery thread from a family estate she inherited. Knitting for any length of time aggravates the arthritis in my hands these days. Embroidery has been on my learning list for some time. I pieced these small hearts and am using them to execute the stitches in the TAST challenge each week. Progress so far:
I love hand sewing. It relaxes me and learning embroidery stitches is a great brain and visual exercise.
I’m writing again. I don’t mean the journals I have been writing in all along. I have five of them for different purposes: goal tracking, morning pages, pandemic and political venting, haikus, and gratitudes. Usually near bedtime I choose which the ones I want to write in and make entries for the day. It helps relax me before I go to bed and has become and end-of-the-day ritual.
For two years before the pandemic hit I worked on a co-writing project with a close friend. It came about as an idea over lunch one day. The two of us are retired and love to get together to share ideas and often problem-solve. We each were looking for a long term project and had written joint projects when we worked together. The idea for a book was born that day. Co-writing was more of a challenge than either one of us had anticipated. We learned new things about each of our personalities and styles as we persevered through the project. We put the finishing touches on it and self-published it the end of February 2020, right before the pandemic hit. We never followed through on any of the loose ideas we had for marketing our work, It had served its pupose of giving us a reason to get together more often, share some interesting discussions, and complete a challenge we had set for ourselves. That seems to have been enough.
Other than my journals I haven’t written much since then. I have thought about projects, but none had gelled. A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on an offering by a writing magazine. I could get a writing prompt every day in February to write a piece of flash fiction. By definition, flash fiction pieces are short, usually a few hundred words. That sounded doable. Lately I have been sorting a couple of boxes of old letters and cards I saved over the years with the thought that the letters could be writing prompts for a memoir. Somehow both of these ideas fit together. I could experiment with the prompts to give me some structure and accountability for February. Maybe I could develop a writing habit again and go on to apply it to those boxes of cards and letters later.
On February 1st I dutifully went online and read the first prompt. Write a story with no dialogue. Seemed easy and broad enough. At first I was more interested in reading the sample story. I did so and left the page. But I found the prompt filtering through my brain at odd times during the day. By dinnertime I had a semblance of an idea. I decided to sit down with pen and paper after dinner and see what happened. Lo and behold, before I knew it, I had three pages of flash fiction. And the magic had happened. I had an idea with only a vague plan for where I woud take it and how it would end. As I wrote, my words took on a life of their own and went to a place I had not even guessed as I began to write.
Reading the promts in the morning and writing in the evening has worked well so far. I have written five selections according to the prompt for each day. I have written them as memoir of sorts but in the third person which somehow gives me permission to be more creative with how I develop the story. I don’t know if what I am writing is any good. That’s not the point. I am writing for me. for the challenge, for the sheer joy of writing again. So far so good.
I realized this morning that somewhere along the line I made peace with ironing. My abhorrence of ironing developed a long time ago. When I was growing up, one of my weekly chores was to spend a block of time every Saturday ironing the family clothes. With four of us in the family, the laundry bag was always daunting. Added to the laundered clothing were numerous handkerchiefs, pillowcases, linen towels, table runners….you get the drift. To take the ironing to another level my mother would use a sprinkler bottle liberally on the entire load to dampen everything and help the iron more effectively banish the wrinkles.
So there I would sit for what seemed like an endless sentence on a Saturday when I felt more inclined to be amusing myself in any number of more enjoyable ways. My mother would come in periodically and check the things I had finished for any dampness. If she found any those items were returned to the pile for another go round. The layers where the collrs of my Dad’s dress shorts met the body were particularly pesky and often merited a rerun.
I came out of my adolescence hating ironing, never wanting to iron again. For many years my viewpoint was this: If coming out of the dryer was not enough for a garment or household item it was banished to the thrift store.
Then I became a quilter and now I am expanding my hand sewing to learn more embroidery stitches. It is counter-productive to a nicely finished end product to put all your painstaking handwork into a wrinkled piece of cotton or linen. So, like it or not, ironing became a necessity.
This morning I found myself once again at the ironing board with my spray bottle and cotton squares. This time it was for an ongoing online group project of learning and refining a different embroidery stitch every week this year. The blog and Facebook group are the TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) project guided by Sharon Boggan. As I ironed the square I would use for this week’s chain stitch challenge and a few extra squares for future stitches, I realized I was actually enjoying the task! I painstakingly used my spray bottle on any creases and watched the iron glide across the fabric and obliterate all the imperfections to create a perfect embroidery surface. I carefully stacked each 8×10 square on top of each other imagining all the colorful stiches I would fill them with in the coming weeks. I was even more thankful for the activity when I realized how relaxing it was after the chaos of this week, how it kept me in the present moment and away from the endless news cycle.
I am happy to take solace in simple things now more than ever, but who ever thought I would see ironing as part of my salvation?
This year I had cataract surgeries done to each of my eyes. It took four months from the time of the first surgery to when I received my new glasses. Since my near vision was the challenge, I could not work my crafts as detailed as I might have liked.
This is a pillow that I made during that time period. The Japanese Boro technique of stitching was perfect for someone with compromised vision. I enjoyed the colorful and spontaneous nature of the project and found it a very relaxing way to stitch. It was also very relaxing and helped me play through these stressful times.
I have been setting my intentions for 2021 and I am rededicating this blog. I established it years ago to follow my spinning, knitting, and quilting adventures. At best I had only mediocre success with that goal.
Since then I have detached into a world of co-writing a book, chronic arthritis/tendinitis that impedes my yarn adventures immensely, aging dogs needing lots of care, intermittent depression, my own aging, etc. and of course the pandemic age. The etc. is because I could go on and on with reasons/excuses for ignoring this blog. It is time to put it to some use again.
I have researched ad infinitum techniques for watercolor painting, various embroidery techniques, and calligraphy as I navigated my cataract surgery journey. I got my new glasses the other day and am back in focus!! So my themes for 2021 will be self-realization, growth, and new directions. The book is done, the yarn endeavors are taking a lesser role in my life, the last dog is winding down. I crave color, challenge, quiet endeavors, and pursuits that will be easier on my worn out joints.
BTW I taught myself a tai chi sequence months ago. I highly recommend it for navigating this crisis time physically, mentally, and spiritually. As I go forward into 2021, I do so with high hopes of what I can accomplish in the new year. Watch this space.
I am not one of those people who gets energy from socializing a lot. To the contrary. I have to monitor the amount of social contact I have to avoid depleting my energy. This was one of those weeks when I had at least one meeting outside of my home everyday for 4 days in a row. That was way too much living on the side of my brain that processes written and verbal information. Besides that, spring rains continue here. Even though the sun breaks are starting to balance off the showers, it still means more gray than I would prefer in the atmosphere. So, after having a day of rest and chores yesterday, I was able to immerse myself into color therapy again. These are two photos of a piecing project I am doing for what is going to be a quilt. I have learned over the years that I do not enjoy cutting fabric into little pieces and sewing them back together again. What I enjoy is a riot of color! I love batiks. I love simple lines that lend themselves to hand-stitching or embroidery. Thank you Aloe Blacc and Michael Franti & Spearhead for the musical accompaniment to my b
The days have turned gray again after some teasers of the warmer weather to come. I got up feeling as gray as the sky. After my morning walk I decided some color therapy was in order. I unpacked some precut fabric squares that I had sorted awhile ago to make some quilted placemats. I spent the afternoon gazing at a riot of color as I connected squares one to the other on my sewing machine. My eyes took in the kaleidoscope of colors. My soul sang with the vibrancy and excitement of a new project. I was saved once more from the gloom.