Tag: hope

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic

Monday was Thanksgiving Day in Canada, one of my favourite holidays. An excuse to eat too much rich food, enjoy the company of a host of friends and bask in the autumn sunshine.

Not in 2020. 

In general, this year, the population is more inclined to grumble than to give thanks. We have a long litany of complaints, not least of which is no traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Our health authorities told us to have dinner in groups of no more than six. In some jurisdictions they said only dine with the people who live under your own roof all the time. I guess some families tried to pretend that a visiting relative was “living under our roof.” Perhaps they met the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit. We worry about lost income, uncertain jobs, school openings, theatre closures and restricted travel. There is no end to our list of concerns. But that is looking on the dark side.

On the bright side, our Thanksgiving is mostly about the harvest and my garden was bountiful this year. I got about 50 pounds of zucchini from two little seeds. When I went to harvest a pumpkin for my Thanksgiving pie I found yet more zucchini’s forming on the remains of a plant and new blossoms!

The public health restrictions where I live are not so onerous. I can visit with my neighbour and even worship in person — with a spaced out congregation of not more than 50 people. I am warm and dry, entertained by old movies and favourite books, loved by my husband and tolerated by my cats.

We all live in different circumstances, yet we can look to the bright side. We can have hope. We must have hope. Without it despair overwhelms and life looses its sweetness. Prince George was so saddened by a documentary on the extinction of species he asked not to watch his favourite presenter, David Attenborough. However dire the situation, we cannot have a world of frightened, despairing children.

Hope is a gift authors can bring to the world. Writers, particularly romance writers, are keenly aware of the need for hope in the world. It’s why we espouse Happily Ever After. The mystery writer encourages her reader to see a world where justice prevails and hope is restored. Even in dystopian stories, the protagonist fights for a better world. He has hope.

I’ve read of some authors finding it hard to write while trying to cope with home-schooling, working remotely, and hearing an endless litany of bad news. But even those who are not writing now, have not despaired. They hope their muse will return. They hope the world will come around right again. They hope their children and grandparents will be safe. They look to their faith, or to science, or to history and find reason to hope.

In past years, I would wish you all abundance.

In 2020 I wish you hope.   Happy Thanksgiving.

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Social Distancing Blues

flatten the curveSo, how are you all doing with this social distancing thing?

 

 

 

Here’s how I’m coping.

  • As soon as someone says, “stay home,” I want desperately to go out.  
  • I wander about the house looking at the chores I could do, but not actually doing any of them.
  • I find myself compulsively watching newscasts repeating the same information over and over.
  • I should be glad of the extra writing time, but can’t settle at my computer.
  • I sleep too much in the day, then can’t sleep at night.
  • I want to go out for lunch even though I don’t “do” lunch on weekdays.
  • I whine that the library isn’t open, even though I have a stash of books at home.

You get the picture — I am the opposite of a heroine!

But, I want to do my part to flatten the curve, so I’m staying put. I don’t feel vulnerable for myself, but I have a lot of older friends and others with asthma or on chemotherapy. No way will I be the one that spreads the virus to them. I also have family in the healthcare system, sure don’t want to add to their workload or put them in danger if supplies of masks, etc. run out.

Now, after a week of moaning and avoiding my fellow humans–I don’t have little ones or elderly relatives in my home– I’ve resorted to my failsafe coping mechanism — lists.  

I’ll share some of mine here in hopes they’ll help others find peace at home.

  • Gratitude  — I’m warm. I have enough to eat. I have a roof over my head.
  • I have endless ways to “socialize” electronically.
  • I have some new, unread books and several shelves full of old favourites.
  • The cats are endlessly amusing and nice for cuddles.
  • There’s more, but you get the idea.
  • Chores — Adapt the old housewife’s routine. Monday is wash day, Tuesday is ironing, Wednesday is mending(sewing),Thursday is shopping, Friday is cleaning, Saturday for baking and Sunday for church. I may substitute “exercise” for “ironing” or rearrange the shopping and cleaning,  but you get the idea. Make a schedule and write it down.
  • Reach out to friends. We can’t go to church physically, but we can watch a service on television, or get one on-line. Our minister sent out a youtube of his prayers and sermon on Sunday morning. I watched it during our regular church time. Then, as if it was coffee hour after the service, I telephoned several church friends just to check in. They were all grateful for the call.
  • Keep my family close. My brothers live four provinces away, but we all managed a phone call last week. They are healthy, I am healthy, and we are reminded that we are family–a blessing like no other. 
  • Write. Just like in the days before COVID-19, my writing  benefits from routine. I’ve resolved to watch only one newscast in the morning, then go to my desk.  Somedays I stay there until I’ve reached a certain word count, other times I set a time limit. I’m not inflexible with my “rules” but it sure helps to have personal guidelines in place, especially in times of stress.

We are having beautiful, spring weather. Gardening isn’t on that list of housewifely chores, but I’ve been outside, digging in the dirt, encouraging the crocus and daffodils. I’ve walked around the property and made plans for the vegetable garden. I’ve pruned the roses and the fruit trees. Like all gardeners and farmers, I’m convinced that next year,  next month, next week, will be better. The world needs optimists!

Keep safe, everyone. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home with a good book.

If you have a great way to keep calm and useful during this pandemic, please share in the comments section. It’s a safe way to be social.♥

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New Year

What is it about a new year that makes us celebrate?  Between December 31 and January 1, war, disease and poverty remain unchanged.  Exams still loom for the student.  A hangover of extra pounds from the Christmas season can plunge the body-conscious into gloom and remorse.  The next credit card statement, rife with holiday impulses lurks in the mail.  Yet, we celebrate.  We set off fireworks, we greet strangers with a “Happy New Year,” and we hug old friends with heartfelt joy.  All because the calendar declares January 1, and the year is “new.”

We like new.  I played a drawing game with friends on New Year’s Eve and the hostess bought new pencils and new paper pads.  We were as excited a school kids to hold a full-length pencil with a sharp new point and an eraser unsullied by errors.

It is axiomatic that writers dread a blank page, but I love a new notebook, all the pages clean and inviting.  Much as an artist thrills to a fresh pad of drawing paper, or the reader inhales the scent of a new book, the pages uncreased, the story promising adventure, romance, knowledge.  Could this be the one book she has longed for all her life?  It’s possible.

We like “new.”  Did you know you can actually buy “new car smell,” in a spray?  Even if your car is second hand, you can make it smell new.  Is it pure avarice that makes us crave the new?  Are we so brainwashed by advertisers that “new and improved” is our watchword?

I don’t think so.  I believe “new” fills us with hope, and it is hope that drives our celebration. We yearn for a thing that is fresh, unblemished, full of promise.  Perhaps we hope that “new” will wipe away the mistakes of the past.  “Clean slate” is more than a metaphor for old writing tools.  We long to start anew, with all the errors of the past wiped away.  As Anne Shirley famously remarked, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a day with no mistakes in it yet.”

The writer with a new notebook hopes against all evidence that the words he writes on the page will transcend any he has written before.  That, this time, he’ll  find the words that truly portray the magic and glory of the tale that burns in his mind.  This time, thinks the artist, the picture will capture all the truth of the universe in a curving line.   The driver dreams that the  new-to-him car will get better mileage, travel smoother roads and take him on incredible adventures that transform his life.

We greet the “new” with unbridled hope.  We even make resolutions based on nothing more than a box on the calendar.

Inevitably, the new notebook is filled with blots and cross-outs, erasures rub a hole in the artist’s paper and the new car gets a ding in the parking lot.  We’ve seen it happen again and again, and yet we hope.  This time will be different.

The cynics scoff at the optimists, declaring them deluded fools for continuing to hope in the face of crushing reality.  But cynics don’t sponsor refugees.  Cynics don’t find a cure for cancer and cynics don’t work for peace.  Queen Elizabeth II in her Christmas message urged us all to do “small things with great love.”  That’s a message for optimists.

So, as 2017 opens, I say “a pox on the cynics.”  Let us hope,  and work for a better world.

As for resolutions, I resolve to love more, worry less, and greet each day as a gift from God.

            Happy New Year!

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Why Romance?

I belong to a book club whose purpose is to expand our reading experience. We make a point of choosing books from various genres including historical, mystery, Canadiana, classic, and many, many more. As a result I’ve met some authors I never would have picked up on my own, learned some obscure facts, discovered some not-so-famous people, and generally had a good time between the covers of a book.  I’ve also come across some authors I’ll never read again. The latest book was such a one.

In their statement of mission, many public broadcasters include variations on the theme, “to inform, enlighten, entertain, inspire and illumine.” Libraries have a version of the same, and I like to read with those goals in mind. Sadly, the latest book, which won many awards, failed me in all respects but maybe the last.

  • Inform:  I did not learn anything new from the book — no tidbit of information, to squirrel away in the trivia compartment of my brain.
  • Enlighten: It did not add a deeper level to my understanding of a situation or condition.
  • Entertain:  Not me. I could not find one single, sympathetic character to identify with. There was a protagonist, but I found nothing heroic about her journey. Although the language and writing were powerful, the dysfunctional relationships were more tedious than entertaining.
  • Inspire:  I was not moved to emulate any of the characters in the story, or to work for a cause or change my opinion on politics, religion or culture.  I could find no moral to the story. In fact, when I closed the book my first thought was a sour, “So what?”
  • Illumine:   Perhaps the book reflected a segment of modern society, a sad segment, with not even the hint of an optimistic future.

And that brings me to the point of why I chose to write romantic fiction.  Everyone wants to fall in love, it’s a universal theme.   The books are populated by heroic characters, (and a few villains but it is clear they are villains).  The stories celebrate positive values like kindness, generosity, forgiveness and healing.  Romances are  are encouraging: despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the love relationship triumphs.  And that, I think, is the most important point.  A modern romance novel has an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.  We close the book with a sigh, a little sorry we’ve come to the end, but content that the characters we’ve invested in, will succeed.  They will live happily-ever-after.

Literary critics slam the romance genre for its rose-coloured glasses.  Happily-ever-after is only for fairy tales, they say.  Maybe so, but we have the news to keep us grounded in the real world.  Our screens show a steady stream of mayhem, pain, disaster, sorrow — the “real” world.  We could all drown in despair.  I think we all need some optimism, hope for a better future, confirmation that lasting love exists.  For the sake of my sanity and my spirit,  I choose romance.

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