It’s been a while.
How are you?
These are questions I want to ask you all personally, as I know you all have stories and lessons from your time in quarantine. We all do.
You’ve probably been too busy to notice — what with the world falling around our ears, children at home, unemployment, and worse, the loss of loved ones — but I haven’t been posting lately. It’s not that I have some grand excuse for not creating, in fact, quite the opposite. I have plenty of time, stuck at home and wedged between two kittens, but it has felt a little wrong to be creative right now. I like it light, funny, or sweet, and I’m not sure if the time is exactly calling for that now. Actually, I know it’s not. Many of us are struggling with uncertainty, loss, confusion, and never-ending fatigue. So posting fun, happy content doesn’t feel genuine. Especially now, in the depths of winter when we are, quite literally, under mountains of snow.
I’m coming out of hibernation today to check-in, see how you’re fairing, and share a little about what has kept me going these past few months. I have also made a long list of things I am looking forward to after the quarantine. Things like, oh, I don’t know, going to a restaurant again. How’s that list of yours looking?
Well, the best news I can share is that I’ve had my first vaccination shot! I am thrilled that my county could organize an exceptional rollout that included someone like me — an immune-compromised, under 65-year-old, with a health problem. Frankly, it has been the only time my health has been an advantage in any system, so I am taking it as a win! My parents have also gotten their first shots, and I look forward to feeling safer from this virus that has taken so many older adults around the world. For those of you who are curious, the needle itself barely registered in my arm until an hour later where it felt like a gorilla punched me. Otherwise, I have had no problems and urge everyone who can get vaccinated to do it. My final shot is scheduled for next week, so fingers crossed they don’t run out before then!
Spring is just around the corner, and I am stupid happy about being able to plant in my new vegetable garden rather than potting up plants on the patio like I did last year. Plants in pots dry out much faster, have restricted growth, and some just weren’t as healthy as they would have been in-ground. I’d like to give a big shout-out to my sister’s boyfriend, Connor, who, while quarantining during a visit last summer, built me a literal garden from scratch, organized delivery of gravel, and even installed a fence around the whole thing! I designed a baseball diamond-shaped garden that nestles against our backyard hill with southern light all season long. These 9 raised beds will allow my seedlings to develop healthier, bigger fruits, and I know I’ll get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my garden growing. If any of you start seeds from scratch, I’m sure you’re getting yourself ready! I’m planting my tomato seeds this week, along with a few other vegetables and flowers. However, with the garden literally under pounds of snow, I’m trying to use my imagination to envision everything green with the warmth of the sun, even though it seems ridiculous to be growing anything in this weather. It always feels bleak at this time of year, but boy, am I holding on for the delights of a garden in spring!
This month, I’ve been participating in a 30,000-word writing challenge. I’m more than halfway done, but I’ve recognized that it’s hardly about the number of words I produce — rather, it is the drive to push myself to create more stories, to have the urgency to explore topics, and to flesh out new, complex characters. It’s been great. Great, but hard. I don’t like to write every day, as my brain seems to favor every few days, so trying to keep accountable has challenged my discipline and pressured me to continue writing. I am working on several new short stories and projects I will be sharing here in due time, but it’s exciting to be in the throes of creating again. After I finish one more short story, I will be diving so deep into my book re-write that I’m not sure when I will surface from that abyss again. That’s probably why I’ve been avoiding book edits this past year!
So, I don’t know about you, but self-care has carried me through this pandemic. A combination of walks, meditation, medication, and a whole lot of baths has brought me back to a place where I can manage my stress and the occasional panic attack that flies into my brain like an uninvited bat. I wrote this article about my self-care obsession a few years ago, and I know I have only gotten more vigorous in my rituals. Reading is essential, but I try to find a balance between (snobby voice) literature and romance novels that give me warm fuzzy, happy feelings. The same goes for Netflix and Chilling, as I try to avoid heavy documentaries or true crime when I’m feeling sluggish or glum. It’s a balance, and I feel like we all need to do a good job to care for ourselves. Other things I enjoy doing include: gardening (when the season is right), organizing/tidying, any kind of skin or hair care activity, and of course, eating Girl Scout Cookies. Join me and my no-guilt self-care philosophy! Huzzah!
In other news, I have been working painstakingly on a print website for all my flower photographs, and I am super excited to share that with you guys very soon! I know I’ve talked about this before, but flower/plant photography has been a hugely beneficial activity for me, and it’s something I love doing especially when we travel. I hope to continue to photograph flowers and plants around the world, to find peace in nature’s beauty, and to share that with you on my blog here. And, as I’ve shared many flower photographs with you, I have gotten countless numbers of Pinterest pins, tags, and kind words about my work. So, after many prints made and requested at the behest of family and friends, I have built a proper print shop for you to enjoy some of these images in your own home. Each photograph looks better in person, more captivating, and vibrant than you can see in an online image. I can’t wait to share when the site is done!
Covid might not be the best time to go on a diet, but here I am, doing it anyway! I started at the end of December and am pretty happy with my progress. I don’t think the change has been particularly noticeable, but my clothes (when I put on real ones and not sweats) are fitting much better; I’m eating fewer sweets (well, I was, but then I bought the Girl Scout Cookies mentioned above), and my family has said that I look thinner. I didn’t plan to actually share my weight loss journey on here, but since it’s become a big part of my daily life, I thought I’d give it a mention.
Along with the dieting — which I use lightly because it’s more portion control than limiting any type of food — I have been picking up on activities. I try to walk a few miles every day, which is fantastic for my health and strength and a necessity for keeping sanity indoors all day. I even take my kittens out for a leashed stroll around our property. They really love it! Though it is dark and cold, I find that I always feel more refreshed and happier when I return from a walk around the park or to a local coffee shop for un chocolat chaud.
Speaking of French, I am still taking classes each week, though it is rather slow going because the French have so many rules. BUT, I am getting better. I have a new teacher, and though she is not as strict or scary as my last, I still find my stomach aflutter before each class, knowing that I will be speaking for an ENTIRE HOUR in French. Who wouldn’t be stressed by that? All the mispronunciations, improper conjugations, and pulling words out of thin air — it’s a nightmare. But at the same time, it is an absolute dream. A dream because I have always wanted to speak French. And not only speak it but speak it well, fluently, effortlessly, and on-location (wink, wink). My house in Provence is still just a writer’s dream (un rêve d’un écrivain), but with each class, short story, or book written, I hope it’s just a little bit closer to reality.
And with classes on my mind, I have signed up for a few gardening courses online at New York Botanical Garden. I did several last year when the quarantine began, and while they were considerably less fun to do in my living room as opposed to the beautiful gardens, I enjoyed them immensely and learned a ton. I am about halfway through an actual Gardening Degree from NYBG, which I didn’t expect to happen so fast, but the school is too much of a joy to not go back for more. Soil Science for Gardeners is my next course, and I’m looking forward to all I have to learn about soil complexity. It’s exciting how science and the beauty of flowers can come together in such a satisfying way!
I’m sure you can tell that overall I’m doing okay. I’m managing, like many of you, as best as I can. I am keeping busy, making even the smallest of daily tasks a win for motivation. Some days I do better than others, and some days I get overwhelmed and rest. We lost my beloved Uncle at the end of December to Covid, and while I’m looking forward with life, my heart is with my family. It has been a strange time for loss, and I know too many people who are struggling, not only because of the pandemic but because of the parallel continuation of life that is happening for all of us. Grief takes time even though life goes on.
Please be safe, get vaccinated, and take care of yourself and those you love. Wishing you all the best during this time. <3
If you want a place to vent or share how you’ve been coping, please join or start a conversation below.