Three Things About Me

  • I hate cold so much that after brushing my teeth I rinse with warm water instead of cold.
  • I seem to have inherited the strange belief that problems can be immediately and completely fixed by buying things. So I often buy things with the intention of using them to fix problems, but then never use them. It’s as if the purchase convinces my brain that the problem has been solved and that no further action is needed or even desired. I say that I “inherited” this belief, because I’ve seen my parents do exactly the same thing many times. But, now that I’m aware of the behavior, I’m trying to stop.
  • I love the flavor of real maple syrup, light or dark, but I don’t like foods or beverages flavored to taste like maple. Fake maple flavor is gross.
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Almost Ready for School

After several online shopping sessions plus a marathon hottest-day-ever shopping trip yesterday in a car with no air conditioning (ugh!), I am mostly done with back-to-school shopping. Today I purchased some KN95 masks. I wish I had thought to order them earlier. We’d gotten so used to wearing cloth masks that it didn’t immediately occur to me to buy something different. But, given how contagious Delta is and how uncomfortable cloth masks are, the KN95’s will probably be a lot better. I hope they will arrive soon. In the meantime, we have plenty of cloth masks, all washed and ready to wear.

Over the weekend, I should…

  • Find all the lunch containers, water bottles, and freezer packs, and make sure they’re clean and ready to use.
  • Plan out a lunch menu with Livia (and Marshall, if he’s interested), then go to the grocery store to buy anything we need.
  • Wash the kids’ new clothes.
  • Consider a trip to the shoe store. It needs to be done eventually, but I will put it off for a few more weeks if I can. It all depends on Livia’s sneakers, which she says are starting to break down. I’ll take a look at them, then decide.

The hardest thing left to do is to prepare myself mentally, physically, and emotionally for the coming week. I am not happy about the kids returning to school under these circumstances. It would be easier if we lived in the South, because then we’d know to keep our children home. It would also be easier if we lived in, say, Vermont, where vaccination rates are higher, because then we’d feel safer about sending them to school. Here it feels like a crapshoot. And while that is my biggest concern, I have to admit that I am also not looking forward to the early mornings. The adjustment will be painful.

At least the kids are excited to return. I asked Marshall what about school he was most looking forward to, and he said, “Not being stuck at home all the time.” Amen to that.

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Of All the Luck

We bought a Powerball or Megabucks or something like that while we were on vacation, and we still haven’t checked yet to see if we won. To go by past experience, there’s a strong possibility that my husband will bring the ticket to me after it expires and ask me to look up the numbers to see what we would have won. His theory is that we’re winners until proven otherwise, so he’s disinclined to look up the numbers, and sometimes he takes it just a little too far. I don’t think we’ve lost any money this way (except by having purchased the tickets to begin with, of course), because the odds of winning anything are so low. But, having publicly stated that, we absolutely need to check this particular ticket before expires, just to thwart Murphy’s Law.

Update: I actually wrote the above paragraph a while ago, but neglected to publish it. I only remembered it when I spotted a pile of old Powerball tickets among my husband’s things. I checked the 2021 tickets, and the one from VT was a winner (hooray!), though only for $4 and only redeemable in VT, of course. There were, as predicted, several expired tickets. My husband thinks I should look the numbers up, but I’m hesitant, because I don’t want to even think about how I’d feel if there were a big winner among the expired tickets. Lucky for me, the Powerball website is currently down, and since that’s the most reliable site, I can postpone looking the numbers up for now.

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Hurricane Update

Hurricane Henri was downgraded to a tropical storm before making landfall near Westerly, RI, just after noon. Here, we had some heavy rain this morning, now reduced to a drizzle. Our driveway is strewn with leaves and twigs, and the power occasionally flickers, but that’s the extent of the damage so far. We are neither in the path of the highest winds nor the hardest rains, so with any luck we’ll get through the remainder of the storm without much ado. That sure would be nice. Fingers crossed.

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Reading Report: Late August 2021

I finished four books since my last reading report.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Grade: A+: Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a travel writer who goes on a luxury cruise so that she can write a piece about it for the magazine that she works for. Just before she embarks, someone breaks into her flat while she’s still there. The experience leaves her scared and exhausted. She takes meds for anxiety and drinks too much, and now she’s not getting much sleep either. When she witnesses what she believes to be a murder, the passengers and crew can’t help being skeptical. But strange things keep happening, subtle hints that someone on board is trying to cover their tracks, so even though she herself begins to doubt what she saw, she can’t let it go. The wi-fi isn’t working, leaving her cut off from the rest of the world, but we readers are given tantalizing bits of information conveyed through social media posts, e-mail, etc. Based on the reviews, this seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it story. Some readers can’t get past the main character’s flaws. I didn’t have that problem. I felt like I was right there in the story with her, confused and on edge, trying to figure things out. It was gripping. I am looking forward to reading more of Ware’s work, and I have a copy of In a Dark, Dark Wood standing by for when the right mood strikes.

Witch World by Andre Norton, Grade: B+: Ex-soldier Simon Tregarth is being hunted down by professional assassins, and he knows he’s about to die, until a mysterious person offers him a way out: a portal that will take him to a world that is a perfect fit for him. Whisked away by this magic, he ends up in the land of Estcarp, a matriarchal society of witches. Estcarp is just one of several distinct lands in this new world. Most of them seem primitive by comparison to what he knew on Earth, though there are surprising hints of technology that Tregarth can’t account for. And then there are the Kolder, a race so technologically advanced that he thinks they may be aliens. The Kolder are trying to take over the world. Estcarp’s magic and Tregarth’s military skills are the only things standing in their way. I thought that this was an interesting way to blend the genres of fantasy and sci-fi, but I didn’t particularly like the story.

The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters, Grade: C+: The Curse of the Pharaohs is the second book to feature archeologist/sleuth Amelia Peabody. Though I disliked the first book, I decided to give the series a second chance, and I have to say that the early part of it was promising. Amelia Peabody in a domestic setting–as a mom, wife, and neighbor–is funny and extremely relatable. Then she and her husband leave the kid with family and take themselves off to Egypt to direct an archeological dig that is very Tut-like, complete with a curse. There they both suddenly become nearly insufferable. He’s always blustering and telling her what to do. She’s always ignoring him, getting herself in trouble, and smugly congratulating herself on every little thing. I mentioned their insufferability to my mom, and she told me that that was what she liked about the series. Go figure. I guess there’s a book for every reader and a reader for every book.

The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner, Grade: A-: I pre-ordered The Plentiful Darkness on a whim, because it sounded interesting, and then I promptly forgot about it. So, one day it arrived, as if out of the blue and, because it was short, I read it right away. The setting is a world in which people use magical mirrors to capture moonlight as a power source. The main characters are a girl, who has lost her parents and is struggling to survive on her own, and a sorceress who imprisons children in a place called the Plentiful Darkness. It was a dark story, but hopeful, just the right tone for times like these.

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Random Saturday Thoughts

  • I wouldn’t have thought that there was anything that could make me love jewelweed more, but then there it was–a hummingbird feeding on the bright flowers. My husband doesn’t see the beauty in the jewelweed, just its wild untidiness, which is too bad. There are other plants in that area that I do not love so much, though, and I have been waging my little wars against them. This week I ripped out all the ragweed. I also pulled out some briars and a rather stunning number of birch saplings. This week my goal is to remove more birch saplings, a ton of baby oaks (they are everywhere!), a few massive pokeweed “trees,” and at least some of the bittersweet, which is a very pesky, invasive vine that only recently arrived here but is already trying the choke the life out of everything else. But I will leave the jewelweed, asters, and goldenrod to grow WAF.
  • Today Twitter asked, “If you could live in any state, which one would it be?” It’s an odd question, in a way. There is nothing forcing me to live in Rhode Island. I could live in any state. So I guess the answer is, for the moment, “Rhode Island.” That will not always be the answer, though. When the answer changes, I’ll move. I can already feel that day approaching. I moved a lot during my 20s and 30s, and I became accustomed to it. Now I miss it. I have been in the same place for such a long, long time.
  • To answer my own question from earlier today, I am a little lazy, but I am also suffering from stress and depression caused by a combination of factors, one of the most pressing of which is that my kids are supposed to return on school on the 30th. The Pandemic is worse for children right now than it was last year, when we kept them home, but distance learning is not being offered this year. So I’m supposed to send them daily to poorly-ventilated buildings where hundreds of unvaccinated children gather in confined spaces, tra-la-la, while a significant proportion of their parents refuse to be vaccinated, tra-la-la, as if everything’s back to normal. But I don’t know that I can. And what if I can’t? What then?
  • As of a few days ago, the school board had not decided yet whether students and staff would be required to wear masks in the schools. Many parents were advocating loudly for “parent’s choice,” which is, as one pro-mask parent commented, “like having a peeing section in the pool.” We never got to see which way the debate would go, though, because the governor issued an executive order mandating masks in schools. So at least that question has been answered. It’s not much, but it’s something.
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Don’t Wanna

Today I feel like doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is a hurricane barreling toward us, though, and at the least I should charge my cellphone, because our power will almost certainly fail during the storm. The only question is how long the outage will last. It could be 10 minutes, or it could be 10 days. So, yeah, I should juice up the phone. But getting up, finding my phone, and plugging it in all seem like onerous tasks right now.

Damn, am I lazy, or super depressed, or both?

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Goodbye, Normal. We barely knew you.

Once my husband and I were vaccinated, we started bringing the kids out occasionally. It seemed safe enough. Coronavirus numbers were low, and children were not considered to be at high risk. Being out in the world had started to feel normal again, so normal that I even offered to bring Livia clothes shopping in person this weekend. But, reading the latest news about Covid, I decided not to follow through, even though her disappointment is going to be fierce once she realizes.

So be it. I’d rather disappoint her now than have to live with myself if she became ill. The daily case numbers are as high now as they were last November, and word is that the Delta variant is taking down otherwise healthy kids. Vaccination rates are better in the Northeast than some other areas of the country, but the risk level here is still rated high, and there are pockets of low vaccination all around us. The town that’s just down the road, for example, was still less than 50% fully vaccinated as of the end of July. I can avoid that area, of course, but the unvaccinated people aren’t going to stay in one place, so every place is dangerous. The very thought of taking Livia into a changing room, where the air smells stale and never seems to move, gives me the heebie-jeebies, but if she’s not going to try things on, then there is hardly any point to shopping in person. So I’m just not going to.

Am I being too cautious? Maybe. But it’s my job to keep her safe, and I do not take that responsibility lightly. TBH, I’m starting to get nervous about the impending school year, too. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the first day of school rolls finally around. If the situation has worsened a lot by then, I may well keep her home, and damn the repercussions.

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Random 8/4/2021

  • Today is a Wednesday, for which I am grateful, because Wednesdays aren’t screen-free days. That means I can watch as much bad television as I please tonight.
  • I worked hard today because my work project must be finished by 5:45 tomorrow. I’ll be working hard tomorrow, too. But, for now, all I have to do is throw a load of washed laundry into the dryer, make a blueberry pie, and then watch bad television.
  • Speaking of the blueberry pie, I measured out the blueberries and washed them, then left them on the counter to drain. While I was away, Livia ate a whole bunch of them. Oops. Next time I guess I’d better label them.
  • My computer is lagging badly. Microsoft is probably adding more stuff that I don’t need or want.
  • It is raining again. I don’t think we need any more rain. OTH, it will make our stream flow strong again, which will remind us how totally awesome our Bridge to Nowhere is.
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Our Vacation

We brought some of our family games with us. My father even played a few rounds of Stinker and Five Crowns with us, which was awesome, because normally he’s not a big one for games, particularly not in the evening when he is tired. He was just as good at Stinker as I had thought he’d be. But, it was my husband’s entry for the category of breakfast cereal slogans that was the most memorable. It was “Doo doo that sunrise!” After that round, every player who had the same selection of letters also incorporated “doo doo” into their answer.

We picked blueberries at a little farm on a hill. My dad made blueberry pancakes for us the next day. We had a lot of blueberries left over, and we brought them home with us. Later my husband and I made them into a blueberry pie. Yum.

We took a lot of walks. We walked around the neighborhood, down the shore, and over to the local memorial park, among other places. My dad took me and the kids down a local nature trail. He and I also found a nice area of sandy shore that was open to the public but not much frequented, as it was sort of hidden away. We brought my husband and kids back there the next day. It turned out to be a great shell-collecting site, plus there were little fishes, mussels, and shrimp in the water, and wildflowers along the edges. We had the beach to ourselves while we were there. It was pretty much perfect.

There is a deer that browses in the neighborhood. My parents have named her Flora. She got very close to the house one day. We watched her from the window for a while, then Livia and I went outside and took selfies with her in the background. Flora was remarkably chill about us being in the yard with her.

I chitchatted a lot with my parents. It was great.

We went to a maple syrup store where we sampled four types of syrup (light, medium, and dark, plus bourbon-infused). The owner poured out samples for himself, too. If it’s possible to be addicted to syrup, he’s gotta be, because I’ve never seen anyone happier to taste maple syrup. It was a novel experience for me to drink syrup, though my mom tells me that it’s a popular thing in Vermont, which explains the guy’s addiction, I guess. We spent a veritable fortune, buying three kinds of syrup, plus maple kettle corn, maple cotton candy, and maple candy. But, to our surprise, grandpa picked up the bill, so all that yumminess was free, free, deliciously free. Thanks, Grandpa!

The running joke during our stay was that every outbuilding that the kids saw, from the smallest shed to the biggest barn, was a “writer’s haven” (a place where a writer can get away from the world and write in solitude–my husband is planning to build one for me). The more dilapidated and/or less suitable the building was for writing, the funnier it was.

“Look, a writer’s haven!
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