The Journey

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

 

I have been fortunate in my life to live in one of the most beautiful spots on the globe — Lake Country, BC, Canada.

Lake Country is a district municipality which combines the towns of Winfield, Oyama and Carr’s Landing. We are located in the Central Okanagan of BC, with Vernon a 20 minute drive to our North and Kelowna an equal distance to the South. The town, at a population of 13,000, is still largely rural and somewhat agrarian, with orchards and vineyards within minutes of our city centre.
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The name, Lake Country, is derived by the three main lakes we nestle between — Okanagan Lake, Wood Lake, and Kalamalka Lake. Lake Country is the type of place where, if you let it, the beauty of the natural setting will settle into your bones and nourish your soul.

 

With our proximity to larger communities, Lake Country becomes an excellent starting off point for daytrips and entertaining journeys, and in this blog, I will share mine with you.

Featured post

Gratefulness Therapy

Yesterday, Goodreads sent me an update on one of my favorite authors — Nora Roberts. From what I can tell, Nora keeps a blog through Goodreads, and yesterday, her post discussed all the things she is currently grateful for. She then told her readers to take turns posting their own lists. Most people posted in the comment sections. I thought I’d post mine here.

In these moments of uncertainty and actual physical jeopardy, I’m first grateful for my health and that of the people around me whom I love. I am fortunate to be able to say that no one in my family is currently ill, and although both my daughter and I were earlier this Spring, everyone is now healthy and (in my case) getting my pre-summer fat on in full swing.

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I’m thankful for the amazing place where I live, and the gorgeous Spring weather we have been having. There are few places more beautiful, in my opinion. Right now, with the reduction in traffic, I’ve also noticed that the air is incredibly crisp and clear, the lake cleaner than I remember it ever being.

I’m thankful that we live in a technological age so that while I’m home for an unknown period of time, I can take advantage of Zoom meetings so I have a reason to comb my hair and wear makeup, long drives in the car to keep us healthy but sane, social media communication to keep me in touch with the free world, telephone, music, microwaves, toilet paper, internet, laundry machines, electric lighting and plumbing… you name it. We are so fortunate at this time in history to have so many conveniences at our disposal.

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I’m thankful I discovered Matt Harnacke and his gorgeous horse Emporio a few months back. Eye Candy for the quarantined soul. https://www.instagram.com/p/B-48UGkn6gS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I’m so thankful to have writing in my life. I absolutely love having the opportunity to tell stories, and right now, I’m very grateful that the novels I’ve been writing are being well-received. I’m thankful to the readers and to those of you good enough to leave your kind words of praise. You have no idea how inspiring that is, and how it keeps me going with the next project. Recently, I watched a Kenny Chesney video that spoke of the one thing you’d like to give the world. At different times in my life, that would have been differing things. Right now, I’d give stories. Story lets me take the world that is, imagine the world that could be, and link the two.

I’m grateful that my dog loves me unconditionally. She is my little buddy. She is loving this time with us home all the time. She is loving going for walks with my daughter. I’m also grateful that my soft, fluffy, uber-handsome cat has learned some personal boundaries and no longer sleeps on my head at night.

I’m grateful to have a teenage daughter who, although hating being stuck at home when she could be out with friends or playing volleyball or soccer or being at the mall or even being out finding a job, is doing her best to keep her spirits up, and her attitude positive.

I’m thankful for free Ebooks, and for reruns of The West Wing and Bones, and for other people’s music playlists, since I’m sort of sick of my own.

I am thankful to have time on my hands — probably for the first time since I was a teenager. I have finally had a chance to catch up with all the marketing I needed to get done, to update my website, to write some E-letters. I have finished writing one novel, and am 15,000 words into the new one. I also released a third earlier than planned. Next week I start editing the novel launching in July, and yesterday I started taking business courses through Linkedin learning. So far, I’ve had a quick info session on how to use Gmail better, a course on story telling for marketing, and a documentary on urban planning through technology. (That one is for a character in a book. I don’t have plans to tackle this myself any time soon). Soon, I’m going to buckle in to learn how to use Instagram for business.

I’m also thankful to own my own home and have low associated costs of living in this time of financial uncertainty. I’ve been making plans for low-cost home improvements I can tackle these next few weeks. I started hacking away at the overgrown bushes in my yard, and also plan to create a garden area. I am going to re-purpose a pair of truck rims left over from when my son sold his beater truck and turn them into summer planters for flower gardening. I’m going to repaint the peeling paint on my front patio, get the staple gun out and fix some spots where the patio carpet is coming up, and fix the screen door so that if we are still quarantined here once summer hits, we can get a breeze flowing through the house without letting the dog get out.

I’m also going to have a go at fixing the roofing on the patio. The corrugated roofing panel blew off in a wind storm awhile back, so I’m going to have a go at replacing that. I’m going to get some inexpensive patio furniture and a new barbeque and set up a little outdoor eating nook.

I’m thankful because I haven’t had the time to even catalogue all the things needing to be repaired around here, let alone tackle them, and now, for the next few weeks, I actually have time to start attending to them. As well, I’m thankful that I work for a company which prioritizes the health of its staff, so my needs are being provided for during this crisis.

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I’ve been thankful to have the time to cook proper meals, although with just myself and Sheena here, they sure do stretch a lot longer. So, I have a freezer stocked with leftovers — and I’m thankful for that, too. I’m also thankful for this book of muffin recipes that I get to try.

I’m very grateful to have people who are still working while I am home. On the flip side, I’m thankful to finally feel rested after a long time of working one job, then coming home and working a second.

I’m thankful for all the health care workers and the essential service workers, and I am so glad to be Canadian. We live in a great country with universal health care, and a government who has been proactive and also has been reflective enough to re-work assistance which has been incomplete or inadequate. I live in a country that is taking care of its citizens, with a leader who is taking this virus seriously. I am thankful for Canada, and for the job Trudeau and our other leaders are doing.

I know there are people who are grieving, and I know there are tough times ahead as the economic engines of our world start to reignite. For now, all my needs are met, I am healthy, I have time to accomplish so many things, and I live in a wonderful part of the globe.

So, that is me. What, in the middle of these stressful times, are you thankful for?

 

 

How To Make America Great Again

  1. Tell the truth, no matter the personal cost.download (5)
  2. Take care of the people under your command, no matter the personal cost. download (4)
  3. Tell your story, no matter how hard. images (2)
  4. Don’t be like this guy. download (8)
  5. One word: accountability. images (8)
  6. Ask the tough questions in the face of aggression.download (10)
  7. Care as much as this guy. Work as tirelessly as this guy. images (7)
  8. Work together. 5e87c0e1ee36b.imageScreenshot 2020-04-07 14.55.13
  9. Say thank you. Screenshot 2020-04-07 14.55.59
  10. Go into battle with courage — even at great personal cost. images (5)images (4)
  11. Remember the sacrifice of the fallen. No greater love…images (3)
  12. Stand up to corruption, even at great personal risk. download (9)download (6)

 

Today, listening to Nicole Wallace, I heard her say something about Chicken Soup for her tired and battered soul. (I probably butchered her exact quote). But it made me think, yes, I imagine that is how you feel. It is rough enough watching the oddity which is the United States in 2020 from my nice, safe home in British Columbia. It must be absolutely heartbreaking to be in it. For all the news stories where blatant corruption seems to win the day, today I am reminded that there are heroes among us. Maybe this past year I have forgotten, to some extent, that the real story isn’t that there is corruption and incompetence in the White House at present, the story is all the people of virtue which that corruption has revealed.

I get to sit at home and ride this virus out in self-isolation while others fight on the front lines, while some fall, others are weary and battered. But, so much of life is in the framing. Yes, they fired the Vindmans, but the Vindmans showed that there are people out there who tell the truth. Yes, they fired Captain Crozier, but… Captain Crozier! Yes, the conservative leaders who purport to being Christians showed blatant and callous disregard for human life and for human decency all the way up to the level of the Supreme Court yesterday, but the heroes of Wisconsin are VOTING TODAY!

I am reminded that you can only recognize the light because it shines out of the darkness. Sometimes you have to get good and angry before you are ready to fight. Be, as the Bible says, angry and sin not.

Today, I stand with my American neighbors to the South. God be with you, may His greatness shine through your dark time. May your country be the great example of never surrendering the fight for who you know yourselves to truly be. May light stand up to darkness. And, may virtue triumph.

Writer’s Block Sucks

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I’ve always felt like the key to writing is an 80% happiness quotient. Any less, and you’re too messed up to think, any more, and you’ve got nothing to write about. Cynical? Maybe. True? Oh yeah. For me, at least.

This week, though, I’ve realized that another impediment to writing can be too many unfocused thoughts vying for attention. That’s where I find myself today.

Last night, as those of you who saw my rant on Facebook this morning already know, I fell into a Twitter wormhole. I’ve been doing that all too often lately. Last night it was over racism directed at China. The post was a news post about Andrew Cuomo thanking China for donating ventilators to New York. If I’d left it right there, it would have been a feel-good story moment, but no, I’m not smart enough and/or disciplined enough to do that. I have to proceed to the comments.

And they were vile. Why is he thanking China and not our government? Uh, your government hasn’t delivered? They probably won’t work anyhow. Uh, like the ones that were sitting in the warehouse your government left unattended? China started this virus, anyhow. Uh, I got nuthin. You’re just dumb and racist and I don’t like you. By the time I got to the one quoting the scripture verse, Faithful are the wounds of a friend but the kisses of the enemy are deceitful, I was out of control, full rant. And like always happens when I vent like that, I felt better immediately, then ashamed.

I want to be a loving person. I want to be kind. I don’t want to be out of control and rising to twitter bait. I also don’t want to be afraid to speak the truth. Doing it in love, though, now that’s the catch. So, I deleted Twitter. Not my whole account, but the app on my phone that lets me access the crazy way too easily. Until I find the self-control to use social media responsibly, I shall not participate. I could be gone awhile.  So, that was last night. Well, 2:30 ish this morning.

I actually set an alarm this morning — trying to mend my nocturnal ways before they are too entrenched to ever remedy — and even got up when it went off. One of the first things I did was check on my Facebook rant. I’d left it up, see, which I generally don’t. Somewhere inside me, I am aware that I am not a politician, and that is not my fight. This view wars with the view that I am a global citizen, and my responsibility to foster and promote human decency occasionally gets the best of my self-censoring survivalist ways. So last night, I left my rant up, fully expecting to be taken to account. Instead, there were a lot of hearts and even a nice reply. The likes came from some unexpected sources. Conclusion: I am not the only Christian frustrated with some of the behaviors being termed Christian these days.

I had a list in mind of today’s activities. I was going to start with yoga. The dog put the kibbutz on that before ten minutes was up as she constantly dropped her wet-from-doggy-mouth toy on my face every time I bent over.

I was actually going to listen to online church, too, because I refuse to allow myself to be robbed of faith just because some have weaponized it to substantiate their ungodly, disgusting, racist world views. Except, I flipped through several different sermons before finding one that wasn’t all about coronavirus, and avoiding coronavirus was kind of the point. I finally chose one by Ravi Zacharias — who my older sister introduced me to — only to have my son settle in for a chat.

I love chatting with Brian. When he’s in the right mood, he can talk and philosophize for hours. We covered drugs: illegal and prescription, religion versus faith, God versus man, relationships, familial history, the history and future of the world… etc. Amazing chat. Not originally on today’s agenda. At one point as we talked, I decided this highly theological conversation was clearly the sermon of the day. Which reminded me of a time when I used to start my day saying, what do You want me to do today, God? I don’t really roll like that so much anymore. I some days feel the loss more acutely than other days.

This week, I’ve been posting a song of the day on Instagram. After my chat with Bri, I decided that in honour of Sunday, I’d post a faith-themed song. I tried to find a gooder. I wanted something upbeat, something positive and uplifting but not overtly, don’t-worry-God-will-save-you. ‘Cuz, sure, the ultimate destination’s covered, but when you’re going to arrive is up in the air, in my opinion. Some days it is good to say God will save you. Other times, like when people are dying from a global pandemic, maybe it is arrogant and insensitive and presumes facts not yet in evidence. Only God knows who God is going to save. – Just sayin. And there’s this pale horse in the book of Revelation I’ve been thinking about lately… All this to say, ultimately I posted a song I had recorded myself, in 2016, shortly before my band broke up.

The song I posted, which I called Hand, was an acoustic arrangement of Put Your Hand in the Hand by Gene MacLellan. One afternoon, I was sitting at the beach with my guitar in hand, and next thing you know, I was strumming the chords to MacLellan’s song. I don’t know why. I mean, I grew up with the song in the house, but it’s not like it is on any playlist I’ve created ever. It was just in my mind. And as I played around on my guitar, I ended up creating this little ultra-simple chorus to go with MacLellan’s, and then I fooled around with my version (not good, really bad, actually) of rhythm guitar. I bang on the face and tap the strings and generally have a whole bunch of silly good fun. It sounds, eh, but whatever. It was fun.

I take the song up through three key changes, which is how we always played it live. On the album, which I recorded in just over a week (as I recall) I do all the vocals — three part plus a freestyle echo in one spot. I also had met this guy who played the spoons, and he agreed to come out and play them on the song. Then Luke played some slide guitar and some banjo, and all in all it’s a right hillbilly good time. So much so that at the end of the recording I laugh and say Yeehaw, and we kept it in the track. Every time I listen to it, I laugh. Every. Single. Time. And that was the vibe I wanted for today.

When I listen to my old recordings — which occasionally I will do — I don’t hear just the song. I go back to when I wrote it, what was going on in my life that day, who sang and played it, where we did it live, where we recorded it, the process of making a video (for the songs that are on youtube), the fights or laughs within the group of band members on that given day. I hear every cringe worthy moment; I hear every perfect note. I know exactly where my skill level rested and what it had grown from that day. I know all my musical history, from piano lessons as a child, to singing in the car with my family, to high school ensemble, to choir at Vernon Alliance with Shelley’s dad leading, to dropping out of college to sing with my first band, to Perry playing Van Halen licks instead of helping me learn the keyboard parts, to Andy breaking my heart on tour, to starting all over, to forming bands, to writing songs, recording songs, to fundraising concerts, to people who the music touched, to the ending, refrain, out…

So, as you might expect, once I whipped off the Instagram post about Hand, I didn’t stop there — I kept listening to old songs I had written, we had done. From there, Facebook sent me a memory — a picture of three of us leading an outdoor Easter service five years ago. That picture reminded me that the week prior, I had broken off an engagement. After we sang for the people that Easter, everyone else went inside for food. I stayed outside in the park, alone — and bawled. The show must go on. You don’t get to break until you are off the stage.

Which, now I am.

With all of these various stimuli coming my direction this morning, how am I supposed to bear down and focus on the novel I am writing?

I stopped going to church in 2016. I mean, I’ve been back, but nothing regular. My mom told my sister it was because people were mean to me, but that simply isn’t true. Church is like any other place — some people are good, some suck. Some have been amazingly kind, loving and generous to my family and myself. Some have been competitive and have started ridiculous rumours about me. Status quo for human interaction, I guess. Is what it is.

I stopped going because in three of the four churches where I did a significant amount of singing, there was adultery in the leadership at each church within a three year period. That’s what started my exit, at least. I mean, people are human, I get that, but church association is voluntary, and it’s supposed to make you a better person. If it’s not doing that, there are other places I can be. Like, my warm and comfy bed with my dog curled into my hip. So, I was well out the door, and then Donald Trump was elected and the evangelical community backed him. One of the most immoral, incompetent human beings of all time, and you all said God told you he was His guy. Well, hey, you do you. Things is, I just stopped relating to what you all were telling me it meant to be Christian. I don’t recognize my faith in yours. And I can only be responsible for mine. So, I left. And I can’t seem to find my way back. Not that I’ve particularly tried. Every time I’ve thought about it, somebody posts on Twitter, and I’m like, nah, JK.

Now, I find a firm distinction in my mind between faith and church, or as I put it to my son today, faith and religion. Faith, to me, is a precious gift not everybody has, and it gets me through bad times and motivates me to try, at least, to be a better human being. Religion misappropriates scripture to mask fear and hatred — and it makes me think of the illustrated Children’s Bible I had as a kid and the picture of a white-robed, long-haired Jesus furiously overturning the money lender’s tables on the steps of the Synagogue. Man, I relate to that Jesus.

When I was singing and leading worship, I always felt I was part of something bigger than myself. I felt a sense of purpose and solidarity that extended beyond my own selfish interests. I miss that feeling some days. Just, not enough.

And now I am a writer. I look at a blank page and think, what will I fill it with today? Why will I fill it today? Am I a moralist? A historian? An educator, semonizer, blasphemer, prophet? Or am I merely an entertainer? and if so, is that enough?

My thoughts on faith, on spirituality, on God are a huge part of who I am, who I have been, who I want to be, choose to be. Yet, those thoughts aren’t represented often in my current writing. I’d like to, though, at some point. I’d like to write the stories of people in the 21st century working through the hurts religion imposes on them. Stories of people separating that pain from the love of God. Stories of 21st Century men and women working through the intricacies of relationships contextualized by faith and ethics. Stories of what it feels like to be gay — and believe in a Christian God. Stories of what it is like to be or not be sexually active in the Christian dating pool. Stories of what it feels like to be a Muslim in a society which considers itself, at least, Christian. Okay, that last one I am working on. The rest, though, might be beyond me right now. I might not have Christianity figured out, but I do believe in God. I can’t write these stories unless I can do them authentically without doing a disservice to Him. I haven’t even got that balance figured out for myself, let alone for my characters.

If I ever do get it all figured out, you’ll be first to know. In the meantime, it appears I may have voided enough of the distractions in my mind to now return to Cassidy and Ian, and the love story they are just beginning to walk. So, thanks for listening to me ramble. Wishing you all good health and love — and a faith that gets you through.

 

 

 

Local News: Local Setting in the novel Sunflowers and Sweet Peas

 

 

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Last night I finished the first chapter in book two of a series set in the town of Peachland, British Columbia — Sunflowers and Sweet Peas. I’m excited to be working on this new series, and am excited to start publishing them in 2021. Mind you, when  I do, disclaimers will seriously apply. I’ve been excited to feature local events, local locations to some extent, actual local bands, local concerns, and today, Castanet gave me ideas for local news. When using real names, I’ve gotten consent — such as with my friend, Lowell’s band, VonReason ( https://youtu.be/tXmH8OEZxdc ), and everything else is pretty much made up or embellished for the sake of fiction.

My goal with this series is not only to showcase a town I love, but also to discuss on a very micro, fictional level, real issues in the Okanagan, where I live. Subjects such as homelessness, forest fires, housing costs, urban planning and development, resource management, as well as recreation, arts, small business ownership, health and wellness are all fair game for within these novels. So, when it happens, is real local news.

This afternoon on Castanet there appeared an article about vandalism in Peachland. This is the sort of thing which builds a novel. First, I get some characters, some basic themes, then I fill in the details. This tagger just added one to Sunflowers and Sweet Peas — you will have to read the book when it comes out next year in order to get my assessment on what he did here.

https://www.castanet.net/news/West-Kelowna/296145/Peachland-mayor-frustrated-with-vandalism-of-public-mural#.XoUjMCFGWjg.email

News stories like these also focus the research I do with a novel. I hadn’t particularly planned to talk about murals — well, actually, I had, just not in this book — but now that I will be, I need to learn how to deal with removing paint from a mural. And so, I found this link, which, although technically a commercial, is also pretty cool.

 

Rock Bottom Ranch – eBook 5 days free no

Ebook FREE on Amazon March 30,2020 - April 3, 2020

 

 

Originally scheduled for a January 2021 launch, I have decided to release the stand alone romance Rock Bottom Ranch early. I decided to release it in eBook format on Amazon only, and wanted to offer it for free as my little way of contributing in these difficult times. I’m not a doctor or even a grocery clerk, I’m a writer — this is what I have to bring.

I don’t generally launch straight to Amazon, though, and so learned that I can only do a five day free promo. With that said, Rock Bottom Ranch is now available in eBook form on Amazon. It will be free to download from March 30, 2020 until April 3, 2020. Enjoy!

Former Rodeo queen Pearl Robinson made one mistake in life — she married the wrong man. Now, divorced and barren, she is returning to her hometown of Armstrong, BC. She has a new job as an instructor and wrangler at Rock Bottom Ranch — owned and operated by former town bod boy, Tim Wenger. Rock Bottom is a place where troubled teens can find help and comfort through equine therapy. It doesn’t take long for Pearl to catch the vision of Rock Bottom. She has fallen in love with her new job, her new students — and possibly her new employer, as well.

Check out the youtube promo video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEdY4Q50EGk or at my website https://www.leighmacfarlanecreates.com.

Stay well everyone!

Leigh Macfarlane

 

Sunshine and Staying Inside

Today, I am having an odd reaction to self-isolation — I am feeling an intense sense of gratefulness and love which I can’t seem to shake.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t felt that way everyday, but today, the sun is out, and even if I am sitting inside, my heart feels as bright as the sky outside my window. I’m going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts. I know it might not.

My elder daughter turned 23 on February 23, and that morning  a group of us all went out for breakfast at Denny’s. My younger daughter woke up that morning with a serious headache a sore throat and no appetite. She was annoyed, because she’d been looking forward to the breakfast. We didn’t really think much of it beyond that. She’d been to a volleyball match down at the Coast and I figured she picked up the flu at the tournament. I knew she was really sick when she voluntarily stayed home from the afternoon’s practice.

She missed several days of school and another practice mid-way through the week, and I played nursemaid. Even after she got better, she was exhausted and finding it hard to keep up with the volleyball training. With her being an A-type personality, I reminded her she had been sick — she should expect to be dragging a bit until her energy fully returned. It took her over a week. Eventually, though, she was back at full-power.

Approximately two weeks later, I had an appointment to get my taxes done, and for no apparent reason, I couldn’t stop coughing all the way through that appointment. I didn’t feel sick at all, but as luck would have it, I’d been scheduled to have an interview for a promotion that afternoon before my shift at work. People had started to talk about Coronavirus — it was already significant in China and heading that way in Italy — so I called in to see if they still wanted to go ahead with the interview. She postponed.

But I wasn’t sick. So, I went to work. I kept going all that week. By Thursday, I felt like maybe I was coming down with something — achy, and my temperature regulator seemed off. But, I certainly didn’t seem to have any of the dramatic symptoms being described in the news. Friday the 13th, I woke up with a crazy headache, and nothing I threw at it helped. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that by the end of my shift that day, I knew I was sick. My throat was raw, felt a lot like strep throat. I got my shift covered for the following day.

And I really was sick. It felt like the flu — but different. I honestly don’t know what I had. But to make a long story short, I missed another shift, then another, and I was still coughing. By then, the virus had started to explode around us, and I really didn’t know what to do. Ultimately, I drove into work, then once I got there told my boss, I just don’t think I should be here. It felt socially irresponsible. She sent me home, 811 told me to stay there, and my company committed to paying two weeks of salary so I could self-isolate. Then, three days later, my store location closed completely. Which means, now instead of two weeks of salary, they have me covered for four weeks. After that, I suppose I am with the rest of unemployed Canada — thankful for Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to keeping the population cared for.

At first, I was too sick to do be anything but tired. Then, my appetite came back. Then my energy. Then I started to get productive.

My daughter’s volleyball league cancelled first one match, then another, then all of them. Season over. Her school, which is on spring break, is also on indefinite leave. The possibility exists that they might go online, but with libraries closed, this may not be a solution for everyone. Sheena is used to going mach ten at all times, and now she is home, no school, no sports, no friends — she has been amazing about it, but it is hard. Could be worse — we both recognize that — still, if I don’t find her something else to do other than bake, I am going to weigh 300 pounds before this is over.

Like everyone else, I spent way too much time watching news reports. Because of my novels, I recently joined Twitter, and that place is like a warzone — one I find myself too easily pulled into.  The Stupid Things People Say may just be my next book title, and it is going to be based on the anger all over the Internet.

I’ve kept in touch with a customer from work. I follow his photography on Instagram. He recently said to me, “I don’t think things are going to be the same after this.”

I think that might be true. I think after this, there is going to be a lot of grief and anger people are dealing with. Some people are going to lose a lot. That is going to be hard to accept. I mean, how do you get angry at a virus? Or a DNA sequencing glitch, or whatever this thing is. How do we get angry at something so small stripping us all of our facades of invulnerability, our vanity and arrogance, our beliefs in superiority and invincibility? How do we get angry at an illness when it shows us that the world is not what we thought it was and reminds us that our place in it is so insignificant?

It is so much easier to be angry at the guy who bought out all the meat, or the toilet paper hoarders, the politicians, Donald Trump. Not that there aren’t consequences to actions, not that people don’t say dumb and objectionable things on Twitter and Facebook, not that some leaders aren’t more adaptable than others, more wise than others. The thing is, as I’ve listened to the news, perused social media, stayed indoors despite the sunshine and have limited my social interactions with family to virtual ones, I keep realizing that we are all in this together. Some people are taking this more seriously than others, some are sick and some are not, some may lose and some may not, but I’ve realized, people say dumb things and do dumb things because they are human. Because underneath the bluster, they are afraid. No one knows how to handle this perfectly.

I’ve realized that underneath the hoarding, the bulk buying, the social media venting and cursing there is selfishness, yes, there is ugliness and frustration, also yes, but mostly there is fear. It is one thing we are all experiencing. It just looks differently on some of us than on others. Maybe not everyone is afraid of getting sick and dying, but everyone is wondering what it all means, what will our world look like after all of this ends.

We are the same.

There seems to have been the beginnings of a shift — or maybe today was just a good news day or I am more optimistic now that I am feeling healthy again — but I am reading more good news than bad today. People who have been fighting the illness are recovering. Others are finding creative virtual ways to connect through online arts groups, chat groups, etc. Whitespot had a drive-thru breakfast to raise funds for the food bank, someone organized a drive-by birthday party parade for children who are unable to have birthday parties — and complete strangers are parading their vehicles past birthday children with banners and balloons. Bauer is now making masks, a family run vineyard is teaching their children about business in their vineyard while they home school.

The police, other front-line workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks and other essential workers seem to be getting more veneration than I’ve personally seen at any other time in history. As is right. I’m sure people will be back to hating soon enough, but right now, I feel so much deep gratitude for these people who are continuing to work to keep us all safe and healthy and fed — even while their own lives are jeopardized and their own families are experiencing all the strains the rest of us face. Perhaps Americans experienced some of what I am feeling after 9-11, but this is a greater level of awareness of all the societal elements working to improve my personal well-being than I have personally experienced before. Within these moments of stress, I feel this undercurrent of gratefulness for the country where I live, the policies we live by, the politicians and others working to get us all to the other side of this pandemic. It is a warmth of feeling that supersedes the daily worries.

I had a video chat with my co-workers this morning, and it was great. I miss them all. Today was a moment of connection I didn’t even know I needed. Yesterday, one of the members of my book club sent out an email saying let’s go virtual, and one of the technologically inclined guys in the group suggested zoom — says it is easy.

This morning I felt a degree of appreciation for being part of these social groups that I normally overlook. I mean, I always like everybody, and I’m glad to know you. This morning, I just felt like I had to restrain myself from gushing out how much I love everyone — which seems to be my mood of the day. Hey, family, hey friends, hey complete strangers I’ve never met — I love you! We are all part of the same team — team beat the virus and team human and team Earth. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced this sense of universal connectedness in quite the same way — and it took dismantling everyone’s daily lives and putting us all into isolation to make it happen.

I’ve spoken to my sister more this week than probably in the past month. Normally, we both live very busy lives. Right now, we get to check in everyday.

My eldest son’s wife called me for a soup recipe last night. They are stuck in a tiny bachelor suit apartment and there is a confirmed quarantine in their building, yet they seem happier than ever together — which is amazing to see.

My elder daughter’s boyfriend told me he loved me (you touched me, David – sob).

I learned something I didn’t even know about my younger son — he likes to do puzzles. What?? I hate puzzles, unless it is the puzzle of figuring out what happens next in the book I am writing. He does not get that from me.

He got it from my mom. She was sappily thrilled when I called her this morning to tell her about the mark she’s left on her grandson.

And my youngest? Last night when I was going to bed she was up making these amazing chocolate chip cookies. I had them for breakfast. Help. Somebody save me.

Last night I stayed up late playing on Canva and generally procrastinating on novel writing. I created a new release announcement — and seven bookmarks featuring the covers of seven different novels. They are my next series. I’ve only got one written so far, but I’ve got plans.

The night before that I was up until — well, I am not even going to tell you that. I started off researching the costs of hiring someone from Fiverr to read my books in order to create an audio book. When I realized how expensive it would be plus listened to a lot of really droning narrators, I decided, hey, I used to record songs, I have all the gear, I will just download Reaper and narrate the things myself. So, then I was up for hours recording myself narrating snipets of my novels onto my phone just to see how I sounded.

It is not the easiest thing to do, lemme just say. I speed up. I stumble over words. I add verbal stressors in places they don’t really belong — hats off all you actors! You make it look easy. And yet, after awhile, I thought, hmm, not too bad. I could do this. My favourite was the snippet I wrote for my art heist novel. Every third word was an f-bomb. Apparently, I make a decently convincing villain. Of course, then I thought, hey, why not call up my friends from the actor’s studio. Delphine. Jerome. I work with one of them. I watched the other grow up. They could do this…

I vibe on the creating. I get lost in the creating. I don’t even notice that it is two in the morning and I am still creating. I’ve informed my boss that I have reverted back to my preferred sleeping patterns and will need to be reintegrated gradually when that day comes.

I know that this pandemic fight isn’t over. There is a longer struggle ahead. I know I may not feel this cheerful tomorrow, and even by tonight I may be back to the unbearably snarky comments people who are afraid make to one another on twitter. Fear, I’ve realized, often looks a lot like hate. But right now, for today, I keep realizing another level and another of what is truly important and what is not. People are. Toys are not. Health is. A tan is not. Friendship is. Family is. Encouraging others is. Creativity — whether in innovative ways to fight this disease, in traditional ideas of writing, singing, painting, drama etc. (adapted to a virtual stage) is. Drive-by birthday parades definitely are.

Trying to love better and understand better and empathize instead of villainize — these all are. So, maybe Dan will be right.

Maybe, when this is all over we will remember what is and is not important.

And life as we know it will never be the same.

 

That was Then, This is…

 

woman wearing face mask
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

So, as of yesterday, I was convinced I was a recovering flu-victim in a Coronavirus time in history. When last we spoke, I was headed back to work today. So, here’s what went wrong…

Here are the questions which have spooled through my mind this week:

  1. Do I have Coronavirus or just your average everyday kind of bug?
  2. Do I return to work now that I am improving?
  3. Is it more irresponsible to go to work or to stay home?
  4. If I stay home, will I have a store to return to in two weeks?

So, I’m an old veteran of the flu. I know what to do to beat that bug down. I know what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like. Okay, forget I said that last part out loud. I’m no doctor, but I’m telling ya — I’ve got the flu. Except… if you put the symptoms list side by side with the Coronavirus symptoms list, there is just no way to really know I have the flu without going in and having a stick shoved down my nose. I would do it, honestly, I would. But other people need to more. Besides, from what I’ve read, in BC they have to send the swabs to a lab in Alberta and a fast estimate for results is four days. So, if I’m going to stay home four more days, I’m going to need help on my paycheck, anyway.

I work for Starbucks. They are amazing, and are paying two weeks salary for any employee affected by this pandemic. Kudos. Proud and glad to be working for you. Still, you don’t want to abuse an employer like that. You don’t want to take that money if you don’t have to. This is what was weighing on my mind last night as I contemplated the should I stay or should I go theme of my work life. Around 7 pm I called my mother for advice, but advice was absent. As of 8:30 pm, I was wrestling with, do I call my boss at home and get her advice — but since the store opener’s day begins at 4:45 am (ugh!), I am not even sure if she is still awake at 8:45, 8:47, 8:49…. make a decision already, Leigh!

I don’t want to risk waking Vanessa. I don’t want to bother her at home at night unless I must. I am a grown up. I can make this decision. I am going to work.

Tuesday, Maybe 9:30 (?) pm. Chapters and Indigo stores from around the country post to Instagram that they are closed. THE. WORLD. IS. DOOMED. Actually, all kidding aside, this kind of shakes me up. I mean, not in a scary way, but in a this truly sucks kind of way. Good thing I have a full bookcase of unread books to get through. Still, this news suggests the world as we know it just may be over. Also, it occurs to me that I have yet to collect my books from Bookland in Vernon, which was originally closing at the end of March, and I better remember to do that asap.

Wednesday, 6:45 am. Alarm on snooze.

Wednesday 7:05 am. Must. Get. Up. (shoves dog out of the way).

Wednesday, 7:35 am.  I’m headed into work, and in my car, the news has announced that P.M. Trudeau is going to speak. I listen as I drive, and he is very serious and solemn, and once again as I sputter out a cough and feel the back of my chest burn, I think, “What you are doing is irresponsible.”

And how backwards is that? When did it become irresponsible to go to work? This is a first for me. Uncharted territory. I do not know what to do. Honestly, I just want someone else to make this decision for me. Please! Someone tell me what to do!

I think that as lovely as she always is, my boss is not 100% happy with my showing up and saying, yeah, I’m not really sure I should be here. She wants to know why I didn’t call. (See above). But she gives me a kind-hearted smile (because she is awesome) when she tells they will be okay and I should go home and call the 811 health line. If they tell me to stay home, Starbucks will pay me to do so.

I dial 811 on my phone. For 15 minutes,  I continuously hit the redial button every time I get the all-circuits are busy message or the please call again message. Finally, I am connected. I am asked to hit a number if this is Coronavirus related — so I do — then I am put on hold.

person holding black smartphone near white ceramic mug on brown wooden table
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Except, hold sounds a lot like dead air. I put my phone on speaker phone. Periodically, I hit the edge of the phone to ensure I haven’t been disconnected. Even more periodically, a disembodied voice tells me they are experiencing higher than normal call volumes and if I am having chest pain or heart pain, call 9-11. I am reasonably certain I would have figured that one out for myself, but I suppose it is good to know.

Once in a while, really bad elevator music plays in-between the disembodied voice message, but not every time. That concerns me at first. I keep thinking I’ve been disconnected, and then the same four bar song comes back on line.  After over thirty minutes of waiting, I get a real live human, and she asks how she can help me. I tell her my little story (minus the self-diagnosis) and she says, I am going to send you over to a nurse to talk to.

Wait, like, directly?

Well, not exactly. Thirty-four minutes later, another real-live human speaks in my ear. At that precise moment, I am in the middle of a coughing fit, and it becomes one of the shortest conversations on record. Oh yeah, that right there, she says. With that symptom, you are home for two weeks.

Seventy-five minutes of hold music. Two minutes of dialogue. This ratio is off. Still, she is cheerful in the midst of what I am sure will be a very long day in a longer month, and she wishes me a speedy recovery to good health. I thank her, and in the meantime, my boss has texted me with instructions on her end. I am to call another number and Starbucks will instruct me on what to do next in order to guarantee my paycheck.

After one hour, twenty-four minutes, and a bunch of seconds, I am answered by one person who forwards me to a second person, who tells me my boss must fill out the paperwork and then I will be paid. They, too, wish me health, which is nice. Everyone is being very nice. Also, the Starbucks hold music is a significant improvement over the government’s.

While I’ve been on hold, I’ve been in group Facebook chats, informed the fam about what’s up with me, listened to part of the Economic Minister’s speech, and researched what to do if you need to file for Employment Insurance. Not for me. For a self-employed customer who runs Karaoke — not so much, right now — and for my daughter, who — crap — I drove home from work two days ago. Flu or no flu, she works for Indigenous Bloom, and since they will have to throw out all their product should an infected person breathe on it, she has now just been laid off for two weeks. Oops and double oops and no good deed goes unpunished and all that. Fortunately, she works for Indigenous Bloom — she has money in the bank.

And so, just like that, I am off for ten days with pay, which HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN MY LIFE EVER, or until that day passes plus I have no symptoms for 72 hours. And with this time, I shall read, cuddle the dog, sleep so as to get healthy again, refuse to stress about the future, and the obvious. Write.

God bless you all — may you stay healthy and be well in all aspects of life. To all impacted by the Coronavirus in all its potentially devastating ways, good luck. Thoughts and prayers be with you all.

 

Stranger than Fiction

So, here’s the T — I’ve been sick. My last shift at work was Friday, although I will be going back tomorrow (Wednesday). Because of this, I’ve got some thoughts on March of 2020 and the Coronavirus world as we know it.

On Friday morning, I woke up with a nasty headache. But, I get headaches, so for me, that was nothing new. Also, on Friday, the North American continent hadn’t fully exploded yet. I headed in to work.

By about 10:30, my throat was feeling a bit raw. But, I talk all day at work, and sometimes that happens. By about noon I knew something more than that was going on. Shortly after that, my boss asked if I would be willing to cover a shift at a different store the following day. I had to tell her, unfortunately, I’m not feeling great. She gave me lozenges and asked if I would like my next shift covered. I gratefully said yes.

By two, she had pulled me off the floor to work in the back. Again, I was grateful. My throat was sore. It was hard to talk. I could feel the energy dissipation happening. By the end of my shift at 4:30, I ordered a big honey citrus mint tea, drove home, then sat in my car and tried to find enough energy to get out of the car and walk inside my house. Once in, I snagged a blanket and pillow and collapsed on my couch while feeling grateful that the day before I’d hit the grocery store and managed to purchase everything we needed except — you guessed it — toilet paper.

I slept all night. Slept until noon on Saturday. Slept on and off throughout Saturday. Slept Saturday night and into Sunday. I also fielded contradicting opinions from loved ones. You should go to get checked for the virus. You should call first and then go get checked for the virus. You shouldn’t bother calling — you won’t get thru, anyway. You should definitely not go get checked for the virus. You shouldn’t bother going to get checked for the virus because you haven’t been out of the country, and you aren’t over sixty. They wouldn’t even check you for the virus even if you went in to get checked for the virus.

What was a girl to do? By Sunday I was pretty sure I just had a seasonal something or other. I didn’t have a fever, my cough was present but mild. I felt crappy. That was my most significant symptom. Yet, that nasty word asymptomatic was circling in my head. I must have read and reread the list of Coronavirus symptoms a dozen times. And, since I was home, awake but not feeling healthy enough for the mental acuity required of novel writing, I watched the news and social media posts of a world systematically closing down — all while my teenage daughter wondered what this all would mean to her Spring Break, her Volleyball league, her grade eleven classes, her social life.

By Sunday afternoon, I had started to feel like I was improving. Say what you will about our grandparents going to war and we’re just sitting on a couch, I might not be so great at quarantine. Both my daughter and I were hugely restless after being confined to the house for only two days. We took our “quarantine” on the road — and just took the car out for a drive in the sun. By the time we got back an hour later, I was out of energy, and realizing my health might not be as improved as I had believed. Well, crap. Back to the blankets for me.

I tried to write. I tried to read. I tried to avoid social media. And while I’m on that topic, lemme just say, when there is a global pandemic going on and you are home with the flu (90% sure), stupid-ass memes about the non-lethality of Coronavirus are offensive, not funny. So stfu people. All I’m saying is… Also, a status post from my friend, Trevor, gave me the jarring bit of info that thanks to my December birthday, I have jumped the fence into a higher-risk age category. I mean, still low, but not as low as five months ago. So, yeah, thanks for that, Trev!

My boss called to see how I was feeling. I told her the truth, mostly by now I am just exhausted, but I don’t see how, given the world’s emotional climate, I can return to work quite yet. I’m still coughing, and I sound congested, and I would freak people out. Fortunately, I wasn’t meant to return to work until Tuesday, so I had another day to make that decision. She let me know there were changes at work, there was also a pledge from the company that they would pay the salary of any staff member needing to self-isolate. I love my employers. Honestly, I came from a difficult work environment. Now, I work for a big company who treats its people like gold. So thankful. Insert heart emoji here.

That still left me with a conundrum. Do I stay or do I go? With the symptoms I have, I would never normally not go back to work. I’d just power through. I mean, that first shift, yeah sure. But four days later? Get real. But, these aren’t normal times. I haven’t been tested to rule out Coronavirus. So, I don’t know that I don’t have it. But, I’m not exactly sick, either. And apparently, I am wanted back at work at my earliest convenience. Something about being a steadying and reassuring presence yadayadayada. (JK. I was touched she said that.) So, how do you decide if you should self-quarantine or not? I have no idea.

And it starts to make you a bit paranoid. Which is why, Sunday night, with my sleep schedule by now completely shot and out the window, I lay in my bed taking deep breaths and listened to the slight rattle I perceived coming from my lungs. Was that pneumonia? What about that? How about that? What does pneumonia feel like? Oh, the curse of being a generally healthy human being!

Monday. I FOUND TOILET PAPER!

Monday. All Alberta and Saskatchewan schools closing and students getting an immediate pass. How is that fair? Sheena informs me that should her classes go online, she is immediately dropping Chemistry and Spanish. Still not 100% healthy, I save that fight, slot it into the should-that-day-come category of parenting.

Monday. Restaurant closures. Neighbours reporting being laid off. Theatre closures. Pool closures. Library closures. Curling club closures. OK Corral closures. West Jet closures. Basically, if it’s fun, it’s closed. I inform work I need one more day off.

Monday, tragedy strikes: Volleyball is cancelled. Teenage depression off the charts. And then…

I send out a group email to my older children. Sheena’s volleyball just got cancelled and she is sad. Anyone wanting to console her should do so. All three siblings immediately send empathetic notes. Brian and his girlfriend come over with fast food. I go out to drive my eldest daughter home from work. We compare stories. She works for Indigenous Bloom. Even they are talking about potential closures. I tell her I feel people will really panic if even the legal pot dispensaries close. We laugh. It feels good.

I return home and the youngest child greets me at the car. This means she thinks if she produces a smile cute enough, I will take her out for a drive. I balk. The fourty minute visit with the eldest daughter has exhausted me. Sheena then informs me, I am not allowed into the house as Brian and his girlfriend are working on a surprise. I drive the youngest child to 7/11 where she buys Slurpees for them, coffee for me. We return home, and the youngest son and his girl have cleaned my kitchen. As John at work says, it sparkles. Apparently, it was even my son’s idea, and then Daelyn took the reins and things got done right — fridge and stove pulled out and mopped under and everything.

I crash back onto my couch and the dog jumps on top of my hip and settles in for her nap. Brian, Sheena, and Daelyn all go out to Dae’s house. Sheena is happier than I’ve seen her all weekend. My little extrovert daughter finally has someone to talk to other than her boring, flu-y mother. I zone out, post the thirteenth picture on my phone on people’s Facebook walls. Stumble across Keith Urban, live streaming on Instagram. He’d had a concert cancelled, and it bummed him out. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all. So, he rigged up some background tracks and some lights in the warehouse where he keeps oh so many beautiful guitars. And with wifey Nicole Kidman dancing around audience of one style, he played a thirty minute live-stream set which absolutely lifted my spirits and reminded me that the world hasn’t ended yet.

This morning, I’m at 90ish percent healthy. I get up and ready for my day, and jump onto Castanet. American news isn’t fun right now since hating Donald Trump doesn’t seem the most productive use of my energy — despite the fact that he rates his response to this crisis as a ten. That’s cool. The world can use a good laugh right now.  And to be fair, I wouldn’t want to be the leader in charge of a country right now, so yeah, whatever, Castanet it is. Micro-news is likely the best way to go at present, anyway.

And Castanet, this morning, rises to the challenge of improving my mental health.

Apparently, Keith Urban isn’t the only musician doing free concerts. Chris Martin and John Legend did, too. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively donated a million dollars to food banks — half in the States, half in Canada. Tom and Rita were released from hospital. An Okanagan College exchange student has decided to stay in Spain so she doesn’t risk travelling and making people at home sick. She talks about people in Spain sharing items with each other, talks about people cheering the health care workers at the end of their shifts.

And I think, we get to choose who we want to be, how we want to respond. I think, we get to celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit, we get to support those in our community who are suffering as a result of March 2020. We get to take a look at what is really important, what really matters, and hopefully, carry that reminder with us through April and May and into the future when we are all up off our couches and getting back to the work of being part of both local and global citizenry.

 

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