Just a minute

I needed a minute

To gather myself

Picking up the pieces I dropped along the way

I made it here in one piece

Only one piece of the jigsaw puzzle

I needed a minute

Before you noticed me

And yelled at me to come inside

Let me find my grit

And smear some on my face

For you

Or for me

I’m not quite sure

I needed a minute

To breathe

To think

To not breathe

To not think

I needed a minute

Without you

Just a minute

The post about the lack of posts

WordPress has informed me that today is my blogiversary. And this is no ordinary blogiversary, my dear psychos. As of today, I have been blogging, on and off, for 10 years on this platform. That’s pretty cool.

Also, I’m all too aware that at the beginning of the month, I boldly declared that I was gonna try and do NaNoWriMo in its truest sense – to write a novel in 30 days. And even though I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, I’m writing this more as a way of processing and documenting for myself – that life is just too much right now. I can’t do it. Not in 30 days. And that’s okay.

I do have the backbone of my novel all thought out, which was very fun – surprisingly so. And even though I only posted two chapters (I’ve begun writing the third), I found myself continuing to write the novel in my head constantly throughout the day and I was thinking about my characters, their backstories, and their motivations and how that might inform how they navigate the zombie outbreak that was brewing in my head.

So. Writing a novel is still my goal. I’d love to eventually see this idea through. I’m one of those people who can’t seem to quit, even when quitting might be the better option, so this is my lesson in humility. I’m not quitting, I’m just hitting pause, for now.

Thanks to those who read the first few chapters. What did you think? What do you imagine might happen next?

Chapter Two

One week earlier…

Makayla pushed the closet door open with too much force, and it slammed against the wall.


“Hey, babe. Cool it.” Jared mumbled and rolled over in bed.

“Sorry,” Makayla said through a yawn. She hated packing even more than she hated getting up early. “I’m not used to this new place yet. Closet doors, shower heads, the deadbolt sticking. And I can’t fucking find anything in here. You think you could do some unpacking while I’m gone?”

“Yeah. Sure. Maybe.”

Makayla rolled her eyes and unearthed her suitcase from under a pile of dirty clothes she hadn’t had time to wash. As she stood up, she felt a dull ache at the base of her skull.

Great. I really can’t afford a migraine today, of all days.

Why she had waited so long to pack for this work trip, she didn’t know. It wasn’t like her to put something off that would end up causing her more anxiety. She was constantly worried she’d forget something important. Wait, yes she did know. She’d been so wrapped up in the move and wedding planning and looking perfect at work that she’d barely had enough time for sleep, let alone anything else.

At least all of her work clothes were in the same wardrobe moving box, all freshly dry cleaned and still in their plastic bags. She grabbed three suits – two pants and one skit suit – and folded them into her case as neatly as she could. Toiletries, hand sanitizer, extra face masks. Makayla rummaged through her toiletry bag, found two Tylenol, and popped them in her mouth. After slurping down some water from the bathroom sink, she added her laptop and charging chords and some flats for walking around the city. She had never been to Seattle before and she was hoping she’d have some time between meetings to go enjoy some coffee and maybe see the fish market.

I wonder if they’ll still be out throwing fish? Is that still a thing? Shit, I really should’ve looked at out of state regulations before today. I was so focused on being prepared for my presentation that I forgot to check. Ugh. I’ll just have to see when I get there.

Makayla tugged on her favorite pair of yoga pants made to look like work pants with a button down and a navy blazer, hit the button on the coffee machine – the lone appliance unpacked and out on the counter – and flicked on the TV before sticking her head inside the fridge to search for edible breakfast items.

The TV’s volume was barely audible above the grinding of the automatic espresso machine: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programing to bring you this special report-

Makayla’s phone rang, blaring the theme song to the long-since canceled show The OC: We’ve been on the run, driving in the sun, looking out for-

“Hey Mom, I’m kinda in a rush right now. I’ve gotta catch my flight to Seattle today, remember?”

“Honey, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s going to be fine, Mom. People have been flying safely for over six months now.”

“Have you seen the news this morning? How close is your new place to that hospital?”

“The hospital is a few miles away. What news? Look, I have to go soon.” Makayla put her phone on speaker, grabbed her now full cup of coffee, and turned toward the TV.

“There’s some kind of security problem. They don’t know if it’s a shooting or what. What if the shooter is still on the loose?!”

Makayla spoke through a mouthful of gluten-free English muffin. “What? My Uber will be here in ten minutes and the airport is the opposite direction from the hospital. I’ll be ok. Wish me luck on my presentation!”

“Oh, you’ll do great, I know you will. I don’t know why you had to move to the sickest state in the country!”

“That’s old news, Mom. In fact, it’s probably safer here now as a result. You can call me again tonight if you need to, I just can’t talk right now. Love you!”

“I just might. Love you, sweetie. Safe flight! Wear your mask!”

Makayla hung up and switched the TV off. An image of the local hospital building surrounded by hazmat suits and law enforcement with weapons drawn was replaced with darkness.

Makayla wrenched her heels on mid-stride, stomped into the bedroom, and bent over to kiss Jared on the part of his head not covered by bedsheets.

“I’ll be back in a few days. Don’t you have work today? Anyway, I gotta go. Please stock the fridge while I’m gone! Love!”

“Mmmrph.” The reply came muffled from under the covers.

Okay, let’s see…purse, keys, phone, mask, rain jacket…good.

Makayla turned the doorknob and yanked before remembering the deadbolt. Several jiggles and shimmies and fucks later, the lock popped open.

Ugh! Reminder to grease that lock.

She fumbled for her mask as she walked down the hallway at full speed, stopping to pick up her suitcase before the stairs. In front of the building her Uber was already waiting, but she had to jog around a college age kid who knelt doubled over on the sidewalk, puking up the previous night’s regrets.

Argh! Makayla winced as pain shot up her right ankle. Although she had technically been cleared by her doctor to wear heels again after spraining her ankle, she still wasn’t at 100%.

Security through the airport wasn’t so bad, but times had changed since before the pandemic. The new normal included temperature checks, a vaccine passport, mask mandates, and dogs able to sniff out the virus even in the most asymptomatic. Any physiological deviation from standard CDC health metrics, or failure to follow safety protocol landed passengers in a holding cell, no exceptions. Oregon officials were extremely keen to avoid additional outbreaks, or the appearance of them, ever since Portland was deemed ground zero three years prior.

It had been hellish for Makayla to experience the effects of the rapidly unfolding pandemic before it technically was a pandemic. With a whopping fatality rate of 4-5%, city-wide lockdown in Portland was swift and long lasting. Within a few weeks of the initial reported cases and subsequent deaths, streets emptied, businesses shuttered, and Makayla’s classes at Portland State moved exclusively online. Makayla was never able to go back to campus as a student; she completed the last year and a half of her undergraduate business degree in her tiny shared apartment, even attending her graduation ceremony virtually.

Makayla stepped into the end of the TSA line and paused for them to take her temperature. The thermometer gave a chirp and the masked agent waved her through. While maneuvering her clunky suitcase around the bend in the line, she heard a shrill beep behind her.

“No! Try it again, please.” The man in the middle aged couple behind Makayla had been stopped. The TSA agent holding the thermometer was blocking the entrance to the line through security. By the looks of it, the man’s wife had already been screened and passed, as she was behind the agent, already in line.

The TSA agent raised the infrared thermometer and hit the button. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. This time, two agents materialized immediately and grabbed the man’s arms.

“NO! PLEASE! I feel fine, really! I’m vaccinated!” The man began to twist and struggle as the agents muscled him out of line. “HELENA! They can’t do this!”

The woman screamed and pushed past the temperature-taking TSA agent to run after her husband, leaving her luggage behind. Everyone’s eyes tracked the commotion until they disappeared through a heavy door next to the bathrooms.

That hasn’t happened in quite some time. Makayla shuddered and rifled through her purse. She extracted her travel size hand sanitizer and administered some liquid peace of mind, a ritual that had become automatic and obsessive.

Thankfully, the rest of the security line went smoothly, although folks seemed to be more on edge after the forced quarantine incident, and Makayla arrived at her gate and began scanning the rows of seats for her coworker, Jessica. Not hard to spot in her bright purple suit and mass of springy, wild curls, Jessica was several years older than Makayla and had become something of a mentor to her during their time at Nike. Where Makayla was new and unsure of herself, Jessica knew the ropes, didn’t take any shit from anyone, and took pride in helping to lift up other women, especially at work. Makayla was incredibly grateful and over the past year had come to view Jessica as more of a big sister she never had.

“Heeey, lady!” Jessica squealed through her sequined mask. “I saved you a seat. I even got you a coffee cuz the line was super long. You can thank me later.”

“Oh my god, you’re a lifesaver.” Makayla perched on the edge of the chair next to Jessica and pulled down her mask to take a quick sip.

“So, are you ready?! What am I saying, of course you’re ready. You’re gonna knock ’em dead, and you’ll be a shoo-in for a promotion this coming year.”

Makayla’s eyes grew wide. “You really think so?”

“Of course I do. And I’ll put a good word in, too. You have fresh perspective, and those old fogies at the top need to wake up and pay attention if they’re going to keep profit margins up. Trust me.” Jessica took a sip of her own double shot flat white.

Makayla let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. “Thanks for the confidence, Jess. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d do just fine. You’d just have less free coffee.” Jessica winked.

An announcement sounded: It’s now time to begin boarding for flight 5995 to Seattle. Half the people surrounding Makayla and Jessica gathered their things and went to crowd the general vicinity of the entrance to the gate. An older woman across from them was using a cane and struggling to stand, as she was allowed to board first. Her limbs were shaking so violently that the cane was useless and she fell back down to her seat. Jessica jumped up, ready to help her to the gate, but just as she leaned over and extended a hand, the older woman projectile vomited all down the front of Jessica’s gorgeous new suit.

“Oh shit! Oh, it’s okay, it’s okay!” Jessica hurriedly tried to sweep multicolored vomit off her suit but only managed to smear it around. Makayla, suppressing the urge to gag, immediately began rummaging in her purse for some tissue or napkins, anything to help clean up.

“Ack!” Jessica yelped. Makayla looked up. The older woman had slid from her chair and was now on the floor, seemingly unconscious. “Help! She needs medical help!”

This time, Makayla jumped up. She knelt down beside the woman and began checking for responsiveness, a pulse, breathing. “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” Makayla got no response from the woman and she was vaguely aware of some commotion over at the check-in desk. Pulse was faint, breathing shallow. Makayla’s shaking hands were about to tilt the woman’s chin up to help open her airway when she was violently pushed aside by two EMTs in bulky yellow hazmat suits. The EMTs lifted the woman into a wheelchair that was pushed by a young woman in a flight attendant uniform.

The EMTs yelled muffled commands as they worked. “Clear the area please! Give her some room!”

The older woman’s head rolled around on her neck as the EMTs attempted to sit her up in the chair. She was moaning now, and some kind of froth was still dribbling from her maskless mouth. One EMT had to hold the woman’s head in place as they began to wheel her from the gate and down the hall.

“OUCH! HEY!” The EMT’s gloved hand shot up in the air, gushing blood. “SHE FUCKING BIT ME!”

At that moment, the older woman fell forward from the wheelchair and face planted on the cold tile with a sick thwap, where her body began violently convulsing.

Makayla, Jessica, and the rest of the people in the waiting area stood transfixed, unable to look away from the unfolding trauma, although many were unconsciously backing away towards the entrance to the gate. For a split second, Makaya’s eyes instinctively shot over to the right to look out the window. The plane was still there, attached to the jetway.

Now law enforcement and more medical personnel in full PPE were pouring into the hallway. The older woman’s body was still shaking uncontrollably and the EMTs were struggling to get her onto a stretcher that had just arrived. Makayla’s left arm floated up and grabbed the hem of Jessica’s now ruined suit jacket. She tugged twice. Jessica’s eyes caught hers and she motioned her head towards the gate. Jessica’s head gave the tiniest of nods and her hand reached back to find Makayla’s and give it a squeeze.

With one hand on each of their suitcases and the remaining two clutching each other, they began nudging through the stunned crowd. People began to notice the movement and made to follow. Just as the ladies reached the flight attendant still scanning tickets, they heard a sound like a cornered animal.

Makayla turned around to see the older woman still on the ground, but now moving with purpose. The woman growled and groped and pawed at the medical workers around her, reminding Makayla of the childhood cat she’d once had to give a bath. The woman’s jaws were snapping and finally found purchase on the bicep of a male EMT. Yellow plastic, muscle, and sinew were ripped away from bone, followed by a flood of bright red blood that quickly pooled on the floor.

Screams erupted that broke the waiting passengers from their collective stupor. Makayla and Jessica were pushed from behind and had to stagger on their heels to keep from falling over their suitcases. The flight attendant abandoned her desk and ran down the jetway. The ladies took the cue and broke into a run. Their heels and suitcase wheels thundered down the jetway, closely followed by scared businessmen and screaming moms dragging crying children.

Jessica threw herself through the door of the plane and down the aisle, not letting go of Makayla’s hand. They crammed into the first two seats they found, shoving their suitcases under the seats in front of them.

From their seats, they could hear the flight attendant yelling at the front of the plane. “Seal the cockpit door and get ready to taxi! We need to get away from the gate!”

Screams echoed from inside the jetway.

Jessica moved to undo her seatbelt. “Shit. They’d better close that door and get us out of here.”

“What are you doing?!” Makayla hissed. “Sit down!”

“I’m making sure the job gets done. As always.”

Jessica slipped off her heels and bent forward, coming up with one in her right hand. “Just in case the flight marshal hasn’t shown up yet.” She winked, and fought past a stream of moving bodies to get back to the door.

Just as Jessica’s body became obscured by everyone else’s, a low growl ripped through the jetway and rumbled up into Makayla’s chest.

“JESSICA!” Makayla screamed, still buckled to her seat.

The plane’s engine suddenly rumbled to life and Makayla could hear screaming and scuffling over the captain’s announcement.

“This is your Captain speaking. Due to an emergency of unknown nature, we will depart immediately. Please take your seats and prepare for takeoff.”

Makayla could then hear the whirring mechanism of the closing door, and she craned her neck to see if Jessica was still on board. She saw the hair first, before the stained purple suit came limping back. Jessica had cuts and scratches on her face, and now her suit was also torn in places. Her mask must have gotten clawed off.

“What happened?! Are you okay?” Makaya’s eyes swept over Jessica, looking for injuries.

Jessica lowered her voice and ducked her head before answering. “That EMT, the one whose hand had gotten bit, he came running down the tunnel and fucking attacked some guy. Like, full-on body slam. And then we had to shove people back so they could close the door. The fuck is going on? I thought I’d seen it all. And those were my lucky work shoes, too.”

Jessica leaned her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes. Makayla took out her phone and was about to put it in airplane mode, but decided to try and make a quick call just as the plane lifted off the ground.


NaNoWriMo – where I boldly attempt to write a novel in 30 days with zero experience and minimal planning

2798 words

Chapter One

Think, dumbass, think. Where are they?

She tore through the stacked boxes, unable to read the neatly printed labels written in purple Sharpie through tears sloshing across her field of vision.

Makayla Burke frantically wiped the back of her hand across her face.

What’s this one? Shit, dishes.

A blue ceramic salad plate fell and shattered in her haste to shove the heavy box aside and she had to fight back a fresh wave of emotion. Those were an early wedding present. More like a housewarming, really.

She hadn’t had any time to unpack, save for her work clothes and some makeup. Like she’d be needing those now.

Shoes…..shoes…..YES!

The box labeled “Workout Gear” had been underneath piles of Jared’s stuff – video game cartridges, tools, home brewing supplies. Makayla made a mental note to check the fridge before she left. Maybe there were a few bottles still in there.

At the bottom of the box she finally found her coral pink Nike running shoes and a wad of bunched up athletic socks. She kicked off the muddy men’s sneakers she’d been wearing, quickly shedding her drenched, ripped pantsuit, and tugged on her musty running outfit before looking for her rain gear. Since moving to the Portland, Oregon area five years ago, she’d learned the hard way that you didn’t get very far without waterproof clothing in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a good thing Jared got me into backpacking, ugh.

Makayla found the camping and outdoor gear shoved in a corner and located her backpacking pack, already halfway full of supplies she usually needed on weekend trips in the wilderness.

A scream ripped through the building, and Makayla froze, listening. She could still hear some sirens in the distance and now there was some shouting out on the street, but nothing too close. Just to be sure, she got up and tip-toed to the front door to make sure the deadbolt was still in place. She peeked through the peephole and could see nothing new. Only the apartment door across the hall, a fresh red stain smeared around the doorknob.

With renewed urgency, Makayla set to work looking for things that she might need once she left. Clothes, a hat, an extra pair of running shoes strapped to the outside of the pack (she knew one day all those shoes from Nike would actually come in handy). She placed a few stray water bottles down inside along the sides.

Goddamnit. I can’t count on you to go grocery shopping, ever!

Upon opening the fridge, Makayla was greeted by a half-eaten pizza and one last bottle of Jared’s home brew, complete with the little homemade labels she’d designed for him: a little white bunny under the words Hoppy Ending IPA.

Fucking Portlanders and their fucking obsession with pinesol-tasting beer. I guess it’ll have to do, one for the road.

She wasn’t sure if she should laugh or continue crying, so she did neither and gingerly wrapped the bottle in a sweatshirt and stuffed it into her pack. The pizza she shoved into her mouth before she did a final sweep of the apartment.

Makayla walked over to the big flatscreen TV, one of the few things Jared had unpacked, along with his now vintage Xbox, grabbed the remote and hit the power button. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to see, or rather, what she was afraid she’d see, but she still wanted whatever information was available about the state of the world. At the very least, she wanted to see if the TV would turn on at all.

Static. Not a good sign.

She flicked it off and shook her head in an effort to block out the questions bubbling up about what it meant. There were way too many unknowns right now and no way to be prepared for them all.

Heading into the bedroom, Makayla shielded her eyes from the shredded, bloodstained sheets, which were pristine and full of hope the last time she saw them. They were meant for a life she’d never have. She made a beeline for the dresser. While it didn’t have clothes in it yet, and now never would, it supported her jewelry box – a gift from her parents once upon a time. Not one for wearing much jewelry, Makayla selected a gold locket that her parents had given her on her tenth birthday. She zipped it into the front pocket of her rain pants. As she turned to leave the room she caught sight of a lone item on Jared’s bedside table – the swiss army knife he usually wore everywhere.

A lot of good it did him today.

She grabbed it and gingerly brought it to her lips for a brief moment before stuffing it down the side of her sock.

After going pee one last time and making a concerted effort not to throw up the pizza she had just gorged (she was going to need the calories), she heaved her now full and heavy pack onto her back and clicked the straps closed, yanked them tight across her body like one of those anxiety-reducing straightjackets. She closed her eyes and said a silent goodbye to the apartment. It was a goodbye to a place that was barely hers, a goodbye to a life that she wasn’t meant to have, a goodbye to a person who didn’t deserve her.

Makayla took a deep breath in through her nose, and turned the doorknob open as she breathed out through her mouth. After glancing down the hall in both directions and seeing no movement, she turned around and pulled the door shut as quietly as possible. Brandishing the streak knife she had pulled from the kitchen drawer, she power walked down the hall, down the stairs, and out the heavy metal side door to the complex.

There had been a break in the clouds and rain. Makayla took a step out into the blinding sun.


NaNoWriMo Day 1

997 words

Words Down

I miss blogging. I miss writing.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m gonna do a thing.

This thing may be weird. It may not work. It may come out all garbled, out of order, not make sense.

But I’m just gonna dive in and see what happens.

November is for NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done the blogging version before, several times, where my personal goal was simply to blog something – anything – once a day for the whole month. The original spirit, however, was to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. And like, I don’t even write fiction, really. But it’s a new challenge. That, and there was this free zoom seminar on how to do this thing and so I figure I’m an expert now.

My concerns – my inner editor is big and PMS-y. I’m gonna have to shove a huge chocolate bar in her mouth and tell her to shut up so I can write. The goal here, so I’m told, is quantity over quality. My goal is just to get words down. Words out. Words. And without much of a plan or a plot planned out, and with posting little chunks each day, there may not be much continuity from day to day and post to post. Indeed, today is the first day and all I have decided on is a name for my main character.

Anyway. The purpose of this statement is to give some context for this month’s posts, and I am going to try my best not to criticize myself right out of the gate. My goal, besides words down, is to be open and curious to the experience. I wonder what will happen to my main character? Who will she meet? What will she accomplish?

Thanks for coming with me for the ride.

I’m here. I made it.

It’s dark in here. And cold. I don’t like the cold but the dark is kinda nice. It wraps me up so your pity cannot see me.

I’m not sure how I got here or how long I’ve been. I have no idea how long I’ll stay or how I could leave if I wanted to.

Do I want to? I don’t even know what’s outside anymore.


I want to drive and meet people.

I don’t want to drive and meet people.

I need to pack.

I’m excited to pack?

Leave me alone so I can pack.

What do I need again?

Put things in the car. Don’t forget.

Get gas. Wait.

Run errands. Hurry.

Maybe coffee will make me feel…how I’m supposed to feel. Why, I have no clue.

Remember. Don’t forget.

People are waiting.

Pull over. It’s too much. I can’t see.

Breathe.

Driving fast. Novel sights, new smells.

Stimulation.

Breathe.

Get there.

Missed turn. Racing heart.

Drained.

Engine cuts out, so do I.

Resist the urge to run. Keep driving.

Moving fast feels like standing still.

I’m here.

Get out of the car.

I made it.


Say hello to my new Depression Translator.

Me: “Hi. Where’s the bathroom?”

DT: “Hello, friends. I am happy to be here but I’m depressed, exhausted, and fear human interaction. I’m going to go hide in the bathroom for a moment and try not to cry and/or hyperventilate. It may take me a while to calm down and warm up to this social situation. I’m sorry if I seem weird or rude. I know how this must look. I can’t seem to fix it. But I’m here. I made it.”


I feel the need to accompany content like this with disclaimers because I’m aware that I’m writing for an audience. I want to normalize depression and anxiety and I want to suck the stigma out of it. I want to normalize expressing depression and anxiety because that’s healthy. I fear judgement for writing stuff like this, but I feel compelled to do it nonetheless. Take from it what you will, and leave your advice at the door. Thanks.

Mischief Barely Managed

Well, I did it, folks.

30 days of blogging in the books.

I think this is the third time I’ve attempted NaBloPoMo, if memory serves, and this time definitely felt the most…fun. It was a needed distraction this time, a needed outlet. It was a positive and productive way to channel my idle time spent between schooling my kids and bingeing Netflix and sneaking Halloween candy.

The best and most surprising thing about this month- I was able to create new, original content every. single. day. In years past, I’ve resorted to reblogging old posts of mine or reblogging others’ posts or posting a single, large poop emoji, but this year somehow the words they were a-flowin’. And I’m super proud of some of the pieces I wrote to boot. This one made me giggle in particular.

Another great aspect of doing NaBloMoPo as part of the Cheer Pepper community – I met some rad new bloggers and read interesting, creative and thought-provoking content.

Thank you to Ra, who orchestrated this amazing community.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on my posts.

Thank you to my husband, who fielded my daily laments of whaaaaaat should I blog about nooooow?! and listened to my mid-writing rants and pretended to care when I read sections out loud to him when I thought I was being particularly crafty and witty.

Thanks to my IRL friends for their support and some fabulous writing ideas!

Thanks to my kids for endless inspiration and interruption.

Perhaps I’ll be back doing this next year, but stick around and read me all year long (sign up to follow my posts right here on WordPress, or check me out on Twitter or Facebook – links in the sidebar); I’m hoping the creative juices I got flowing this month won’t dry up anytime soon.

I’m gonna sign off using Brene Brown’s line because it’s awesome and because I don’t think she’ll mind:

Stay awkward, brave, and kind.


Day 30 – The Last Day

Books Read Amidst A Pandemic

I’ve kept a list of books I’ve read since I was about 8. I don’t think I’ve listed every single book I’ve ever read, but it’s pretty close. It’s interesting for me to go back over the list and look at trends…which years in adulthood I’ve read the least, which I’ve read the most, and what was going on in my life that dictated those changes.

Some books I barely remember and others I can picture where I was sitting and what time of year it was and even what I was eating when I was reading.

This year, when everything first shut down in March I was reading Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. I had read Into Thin Air several years ago, and that book was so exciting, so compelling that I couldn’t put it down, so I gave Wild a go. Into The Wild was not nearly as exciting for me, but the survivalist in me enjoyed reading about the true story of a free-spirited young man who desperately wanted to live off the land on his own and paid the price for choices made. What will forever make this book stand out in my mind is that I read it amidst the backdrop of an unfolding global pandemic, stuck at home while the protagonist singlehandedly took on the world and left everything behind.

In the middle of reading Wild I had put Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel on hold at the library, just before it closed down completely for several months. I thought I was out of luck to get it any time soon, but my friend who works there saw my hold come in after the shutdown, asked her boss for permission, checked the book out to me, and hand delivered it to my door! What lovely service! This book was recommended to me by friends who know me and know that I love apocalyptic/dystopian/survival and now pandemic stories. Y’all, the similarities between the pandemic in this book and Covid are uncanny and sent shivers down my spine as I sat in my front yard in the sun reading for hours and ignoring my family one Sunday afternoon. I also appreciated how the book wove in timelines of various overlapping characters that spanned from pre- to post-pandemic.

A few books later I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah because a friend of mine thought I’d like it so she lent me her copy. If I remember correctly, she said she thought of me because it had “strong female characters,” and boy howdy, am I glad she did! This book was, hands down, the best book I’ve read in at least two years. For some reason I have it in my head that I don’t like historical fiction, but I think I need to recalibrate that notion based on this example. This book was mainly set in WWII era France and focused on how two sisters struggled and fought and lived through various atrocities. I find that time period extremely compelling, as does my husband. Usually he’s focused on the military side of things while I love to learn about the political/psychological/socioeconomic aspects of civilian upheaval, struggle, and survival, and this book did exactly that for me. This book was so moving that it had me outright sobbing at more than one point and it read like a movie. Five stars; go read it now.

After Nightingale, I needed something extra light so I picked up The Maze Runner by James Dashner from the Little Free Library. It was definitely written for teen boys, but I enjoyed the original dystopian mystery concept and it went quickly as a nice palate-cleanser. I watched the movie of it afterwards. I wasn’t intrigued enough to continue on with the series, but your tween cousin might be.

A bit later on, I escaped back into the world of Panem and it was glorious! I read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. As devout fans know, I was skeptical that this book could live up to the original Hunger Games trilogy and in my opinion it did a fine job, although the plot started to lag 3/4 of the way through. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know young Corelanus Snow and I was singing The Hanging Tree for weeks afterward.

Towards the second half of this year I started to re-read the Twilight series, which I hadn’t done since getting married and having kids. I desperately needed an escape from the world and current events. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were many details I’d forgotten about, which made the experience feel new again. Of course, after Twilight I read the brand new Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, which is the same plot as the first book told from the point of view of the mind-reading vampire, Edward. Highly entertaining and satisfying both for my inner teeny-bopper and for previous me who read the leaked incomplete manuscript of this book years ago and has been lusting after the conclusion ever since.

Sprinkled in there around Halloween, I read Bird Box and its sequel, Malorie, both by Josh Malerman. Bird Box was much creepier than the movie. Although Malorie was interesting in its attempt to answer the question of now what? at the end of the first, it fell flat for me.

Other special mentions:

  • I re-read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell for the first time since it was read aloud to me by my 4th grade student teacher. This book is an amazing jem: it features an incredibly strong and determined young female protagonist AND – what escaped me before – it’s based on a true story (of a girl left alone on her native island for years)!
  • I read Little Weirds by Jenny Slate because I like her standup and I find her hilarious and quirky and delightfully anxious, but…I hated the book. It was too weird for me.
  • I got my hands on a copy of The Power by Naomi Alderman and shoo-dang, this was a fun read. Women and girls now have the power to produce electrical current through their skin and they use it to stop taking shit from men?! SIGN ME UP! It didn’t quite go the direction I wanted, but I loved the concept. And interesting that this is a book-within-a-book, where the story is told from the future as a flashback of sorts. Read it, and you’ll get what I mean.

I could go on and on and I didn’t mean for this post to be so long but I LOVE BOOKS and the year of the pandemic calls for many.

Next up on my list: A Promised Land by Barack Obama.

What have you read in 2020 that you’ve loved? Hated? Used as toilet paper?


Day 29 – The second to last day

I’ll Eat When The Cheer Is Complete

At the beginning of this long holiday weekend, I was all I’m gonna turn a corner in my life. We’re gonna bring in some Christmas cheer and I’m gonna stop watching scary movies that prevent me from sleeping and I’m gonna get gift shopping done early sos I can kick back and enjoy watching this yule log of a year burn, baby, burn. Or something like that.

To kick off the holiday season right, but also so I could move on with my life, my husband and I watched our last 3 hours of The Haunting of Hill House right after the kids went to bed on Thanksgiving. Tis the season!! This show scared us so badly that we were dragging out the time between watching each episode and I just needed to rip this bandaid off right quick. Overall, I did enjoy the season even though I felt like it stole a few days from my life and they are now residing in the Red Room with everyone else.

The next day I asked my husband if he wanted to watch this one random movie I got from the library and he said foolishly said sure. I picked it up and showed it to him, and I have a disease, you guys. True to form, I had chosen a zombie flick because it had the word pandemic on it. It was called Alone, and it came out this year – how did I manage to miss this?! The movie was just okay, and it involved an interesting take on the classic zombie genre. Because my nerves were still fried from Hill House, I jumped way more than I should have, but I persevered, my friends. I don’t expect my family and friends to associate with a quitter.

So today – today – was for sure the day. We were gonna create some motherfucking cheer, goddamnit. We got up and had pancakes, which never fail to make my kids happy. We attended a surprise birthday car parade which was lovely and joyful. To continue the cheerful momentum, I hesitantly asked my husband not to freak out, but that I wanted to decorate for Christmas aaaaaand – gasp – play Christmas music. This, this is simply not done in our house. My husband has this thing where he won’t celebrate a holiday until the first of the month of said holiday. Lately, I’ve been asking him ever so sweetly to stop CRUSHING MY JOY when we see Christmas lights go up in the neighborhood or hear sleighbells on the television. Today, he graciously allowed me to usher in some gaiety after I shouted at him that THIS WAS ALL THE HOPE WE HAD LEFT.

I started getting the bins out and my kids actually helped put up some decorations. I left the fake, lit garlands I usually wrap around the banisters until last. I was getting a little peckish but I was determined to finish the job and so I pranced over and decided to plug them in – just to make sure they worked, you know, as a formality – before I strung them up. First one lit up the room. Excellent. The second – crap. Suddenly, my empty stomach felt cavernous. The dull, annoying headache I’d had pounded up my brainstem and beat me behind the eyes. Oh yeah, was it that time of the month too? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!

Not to be deterred in the slightest, I proceeded to expertly wiggle and jiggle each and every bulb, all while muttering devil-words under my breath. My husband could sense a change in the atmosphere in the house, and gingerly suggested I take a break and get something to eat. I’LL EAT WHEN THE CHEER IS COMPLETE was my rabid response.

Knowing my limits as a rational human being, I screamed at allowed my husband to take over to troubleshoot the light issue. Then, for reasons still unknown to me, I decided that only fools eat food or take breaks, and I proceeded to organize the liquor cabinet. This only enraged me more when I: 1) couldn’t reach the back of the cabinet and had to ask for help, and 2) couldn’t open a jar of 10 year old homemade booze that we’d never drink and had to ask for help, and 3) banged my head so hard on the open cabinet door that I had to stand there for a good 30 seconds to let the pain pass. Sigh.

After I Marie Kondo-ed the booze (it all sparked joy, save for the 10 year old Baileys that had chunks floating in it, may you rest in peace), I had enough good sense to make and eat some noodles. By that time, my husband had exhausted all options with the lights and he promptly ordered some new ones on the internet because he loves me and he effectively saved Christmas!!


Day 28

Nibbling at Your Joy

You know that feeling when you’ve discovered you put down a burden you’ve been carrying for a long time?

The relief.

The discovery at feeling that relief.

When did it arrive? What did it replace?

Like one of those tortoises that lives to be over 100 years old, it lumbers up your back. So slowly, so determined. It gets comfortable up there perched on your shoulders. Not comfortable for you, of course, but you get used to it. After a bit, the scaly creature becomes a part of you, stretching its neck and nibbling at your joy before you can have a taste, not aware of what you’re missing.

One day, as slowly and as surely as it arrived, it decides enough is enough. The tortoise turns around and crawls back down. You’re so consumed with doing all the things that you don’t notice. You reach up and absentmindedly scratch where the creature clawed at your skin. You keep going, staring straight ahead. Gotta get to the other side.

Until, for no reason you can tell, the wind shifts. Your face gets slammed with this new warm, sweet breeze. You stop in the middle of the road, close your eyes and inhale.

Your exhale escapes with frantic peals of laughter. Sudden. Uncontrollable.

Through the laughter you find that your feet have carried you the rest of the way across the road. You stop, turn around, and look back, a stupid grin still slunk across your face.

What is that, there just climbing up the curb on the side from where you came?

You squint to see through the dusty warm air.

What an odd thing. You think. What is that doing way out here?

As you shrug your shoulders, you dimly realize that they are now light enough to be shrugged.

With one last glance over your shoulder, you continue on, now with a spring in your step.


Day 27