Wednesday, March 31, 2021

I Make Books

stories that I spin out in the mornings on my lap top before I head off to work at the library, 

there, where I check in books and pull books off the shelves for patron requests, bundles of books that I pass through our walk up window to children out walking their dogs through the park. Some days I weed books from the shelves, 

weeding--what librarians call culling the older books from the collection, the ones not checked out in a long while, the ones with the broken spines or loose pages. I'm always sad flipping through those books, wishing they could have more of a chance. And good news: some do end up in our Friends of the Library Book Sale, where they get another shot at being read and loved.  

And then it's home, to read books, 

the books of non-fiction essays I'm working my way through, the ones on the nightstand, stacked in the bathroom and piled on the end tables in the living room, the cookbooks and gardening books on the kitchen counter to flip through while I'm eating breakfast, whatever latest novel I'm reading. 

Lately, I am making tiny books for the miniature room I bought, a project to do with my daughter who likes puzzles. This was a total impulse buy. An ad on social media that kept popping up until I relented and bought it. (fun/sad fact: these ads work on me!) I bought two rooms, actually, a book room and a plant room. 

Oh, you should've seen my daughter and me spreading out the teeny tiny pieces, flipping through the thick instruction booklets, challenging each other to a competition-- Who could finish our micro room first? 

Cut to: it's three weeks later and my daughter has threatened to quit on more than one occasion. The itsy bitsy clipboard is what finally did her in. Meanwhile, I am plugging away on my book room. Building the bookshelves first, upholstering a chair (which took four hours and nearly killed me), a teeny vase of flowers, each bud needing to be glued and affixed to a stem the size of a pin. Until finally, 

I had to make the books! I followed the directions carefully to put together the first one, turned the instruction booklet page, and laughed out loud where it said: Make 140 more books. 

SO, I did that. 

Because that is what I do. 

teeny tiny pages

clipboard of doom

Almost finished room! 
(Note the chair that almost killed me)

Monday, March 22, 2021


8:45 and I join the line of maybe 100 people shuffling along outside Ohio State's old basketball arena. No time at all, and I'm inside, flashing my driver's license, waved forward by one of the many National Guardspeople who are directing traffic, keeping things orderly and all of us socially distant. If not for them, this could be the line for a basketball game 

or a rock concert. There's music playing. "Life in the Fast Lane" of all things, blasting out of the loudspeakers. Shuffling along inside and I spy the weight room, college kids working out. The people in line appear to be the 50-somethings, (the vaccine's open to our age group now) and this music feels appropriate.

I'm taking notes on my phone so I don't forget this experience. Profound thought this moment: 

life in the fast lane/surely make you lose your mind

My appointment's at 9 am and I'm sitting at a registration table by 9:05. My registration person is a part-time pharmacist at Kroger, she tells me. She usually works 20 hours a week but this week she'll be working every day, 7 am - 8 pm. This is it, she says. How do you feel?


She types in my information on her laptop and I type notes on my phone: now they're playing "Thunder" by AC/DC. 

9:10 and I'm in line again, moving past the National Guard and the row after row of registration tables to line up once more behind the other 50-somethings. Everyone is quiet. Are we the lucky ones who never got sick? A few days ago I was teary-eyed making this appointment. An end in sight and I was overwhelmed-- elated and anxious. Now, I don't know what I feel. 

9:13 and a National Guardsperson waves me toward a nurse with an open seat. She fills out my vaccine record and gives me the shot. I don't feel anything. Not even a pinprick. Thank you, I tell her, and then I'm moved along again, this time to a waiting area in a hallway. We're supposed to sit here for fifteen minutes in case we have an allergic reaction to the shots, but nobody seems to be timing us. 

The music is still blasting. We've moved onto Guns and Roses, "Paradise City." Is this 1980's music a conscious choice? I ruminate over rock concerts I've been to, sneak looks at the people sitting around me, everyone scrolling on their phones. 

I text my husband, who went through this same process at the same place the day before. What was your nurse's name? he asks me.

I realize I don't know. Hannah, maybe? 

He says, Mine was Emily. And you should know. This person just saved your life. 

Hannah, definitely, I tell him, even though I'm not 100 percent sure. Next time, though, next time, I will make a note of it. 

9:28 and I'm walking out to my car. It's a sunny cold day and I live only minutes away. My arm doesn't hurt and I want it to. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Our Pandemic Year

March 13, 2020 - March 13, 2021

A few days before the shutdown my husband and I were out to dinner with friends, and when we were leaving, he asked me if I'd noticed the painting that was for sale hanging on the wall behind our friends' heads. 

I hadn't, but this was not surprising. I've never been an observant person. For the most part I have always lived inside my head, one of the many coping mechanisms traced back to my childhood when my small world was intolerable and I was powerless to do anything about it. But this painting, my husband said, it was so weird and silly,

bright orange and kind of cartoon-ish-looking, a stick-like figure and the words Moderon Love written across the top. Why was the word modern spelled wrong? And what was the stick-like figure supposed to represent? Why was the whole thing orange? He was so animated just talking about it that we did something we'd never done before, 

we went back to the restaurant and bought the painting. A few days later, we were "sheltering in place." My husband turned the dining room into command central of his office and worked his twelve-hour days in there. I finished the book I was writing and then I revised it and revised it again. 

Writing, I could plainly see, was another perfect, straight-out-of-my-childhood coping mechanism. (It turns out there is a benefit to having PTSD after all, and that is: you know instinctively what to do when the world shrinks down, intolerably, and you are powerless.) We took a lot of walks with the dog and one day we saw a broken chair set out on someone's curb and my husband said, I like that chair, and we brought it home 

and he spent multiple hours sanding it and painting it. I took apart the koi pond in the backyard and planted an herb garden in its place. I read too much news and swore off the news and then immediately broke my promise and read the news again, until I felt so sick with anxiety, I stopped. Until I started again. I refurbished an old dresser. 

I followed epidemiologists on twitter and watched them, in real time, discuss studies of the virus being airborne, the efficacy of masks, and their worries that mask-wearing would become politicized. I watched daily news conferences with our governor and the state's health director until scared angry people protested on her front lawn with guns and she quit her job. I bought a set of colorful bowls. 

I woke up in the middle night in a panic, freaking out about the people I loved getting sick, dying, my kids far away, and then one adult kid home and how could all of us make it through this Thing safely, one month, two months, six, twelve. I made zucchini bread with the absurd amount of zucchini from my garden. 

I went back to work at the library after five months furloughed and worried that I'd catch the virus and bring it into my house and kill my family. I painted the front porch. 

Friends got sick. I started writing another book. 

Okay, maybe we are powerless in our own small worlds, but if I have learned anything this Pandemic Year, it's that we are lucky too, to have other worlds to escape into, pretty bowls to eat our cereal out of, fresh herbs and freshly painted rooms, 

artwork on the wall that makes us scratch our heads and smile. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The other night my daughter saw a weird bird

She was letting out the dogs. And there it was under the eaves on the back porch. A red bird, just sitting there, she said, looking down at her in a creepy way. 

It must be that cardinal, I told her. We'd seen him around the yard and this was a cold night, ten degrees. Maybe the bird was trying to get out of the cold? Was it safe for birds to be outside on a night like this? My husband immediately went into research mode. 

He set out sunflowers seeds and found a small box and put tissues inside of it and hung it up on the back porch where the bird had been. And then we all forgot about it. A few weeks went by and now we have a box nailed up under the porch eaves. A year from now it will probably still be there and one day we'll look up and think, wait, why is there a box nailed up under the porch eaves? 

It's easy to get used to strange things. 

This year of all years. My husband bopping around the house in his pajamas all day, our grown daughter living at home again. The masks and social distancing signs. Zoom holiday gatherings and virtual festivals. Sometimes I have the feeling that we're living in a simulation. 

Or maybe we're trapped in a weirdo offshoot of a multiverse. How can any of this be real? 

We're tired and we want it to be over. When it IS over, we'll pretend it never happened. We'll eat out at restaurants again and invite people into our homes, barefaced. We'll push our carts through the grocery store aisles in any direction we choose. 

I took the dogs out the other night. It was dark and cold. Something rustled above me and I looked up. There was the red bird, only a foot away from my head. It was frozen. Eyes black and staring right at me. I can't adequately describe how unsettling it was. It didn't look real. How still it was. How close. 

What world do we live in now?