#AtoZChallenge 2020: F Is for Face

 

The good thing about going themeless through the A to Z Blogging Challenge is that the field is wide open: You can write about anything you please.

The bad thing about going themeless through the A to Z Blogging Challenge: see “good thing,” above.

There are days when the brain is empty.

There are days when nothing pleases.

There are days when both of those conditions occur simultaneously.

You’d like to blame it on twenty-five days of sheltering in place but that would be wrong.

You’ve made it for five days, can’t cop out now, so you browse Dictionary.com for something, anything, that would start a spark.

And you scroll down . . .

Aha! face mask! So obvious! So timely. A post about Sheltering in Place Day 18, when you realized you would be going to the doctor on Day 21 sans mask, and you decided you had to have one, so you would buckle down and make one.

But then you think back over the experience, the tea towels, the patterns, the videos, the having to ask David for needle and thread because, manual dexterity not being your number one attribute, you gave up on that kind of thing years ago, and he’s a better seamstress than you ever were anyway.

You remember how fast you gave up on mask-making, and just as fast, you give up on writing about giving up on making them.

And you resume scrolling down through

and you come to

And that sends you directly to Youtube and Nat King Cole, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, and Ginger Rodgers.

You’re welcome.
***

Image of face masks by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

#AtoZChallenge 2020: E Is for Egregious Error

All right, let’s try again.

In “B Is for Bowser,” I announced that I would write about a mistake I’d made. In Part 1, I said I would get to the heart of the matter the next day. Then things (Day C and Day D) happened. I didn’t get to it the next day or the next.

On Day E, however, my egregious error will be revealed.

I’ll recap (“B Is for Bowser”) as fast as I can:

There’s an old narrative poem entitled “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” about young Bessie, who saves her lover from a death sentence by climbing to the top of the bell tower and clinging to the bell’s clapper, preventing curfew from sounding when the rope is pulled.

Famous in its time, the poem is almost forgotten now. Its best-known modern use might be Katharine Hepburn’s recitation in the movie Desk Set.

Now to the Egregious Error:

Years ago, I ran across a parody of “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight”—”Bowser Must Not Bark Tonight.”

It tells the story of Bessie, a young woman who fears the family dog will chase away her boyfriend when he comes courting. Papa says the dog must guard the melon patch and therefore cannot be tied. To ensure that John Henry gets all the way to the front door, Bessie takes matters into her own capable hands.

I don’t know why I thought about the poem—maybe I was running through mental files for a B-word and came up with Bowser—but I love the parody and thought it a likely topic for a post, so, before looking for “Curfew,” I googled, Bowser must not bark tonight.

Nothing.

Bowser shall not bark tonight. Nothing. Bowser will not . . .  Added poem and parody and other likely keywords. Nothing.

Or not exactly nothing. The very first hit, before all the methods of teaching a dog not to bark, was Exodus 11:7—”But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” (New International Version)

Talk about dreams shattered and balloons burst. Google, access point to the universe, was a big, fat liar. Second only to the knothead who failed to enter “Bowser” into the database.

Coming up: one spoiled B-post. “Curfew” alone was nothing. Without the parody, why bother?

In a nasty state of mind, I went ahead and googled “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight.” And from Amazon.com, access point universe of retail, popped up Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’ & ‘Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight’ Audible Audiobook – Unabridged.”

Oops.

“Bowser Must Not Bark Tonight.”

Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight.”

Bowser = dog’s name.

Bowser rimes with Towser.

Bowser / bark = alliteration = Towser / tied.

A mistake, a mistake, a palpable mistake. But a reasonable one.

Had anyone been looking over my shoulder, I’d have blushed from shame. Because I was unobserved, I ate a Cadbury egg and determined to turn shame into a story.

Authorship of “Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight” is attributed to Anonymous, so, assuming it’s in the public domain, I include the entire poem. Blogger William Lee says, “As far as I know the writer is still unknown and if still living probably wishes to remain ‘Anon.’ but I would have loved to meet him or her because it is the kind of poetry I like.” I’d love to meet the author, too.

 

Towser Shall Be Tied Tonight

Slow the Kansas sun was setting,
O’er the wheat field far away,
Streaking all the air with cobwebs
At the close of one hot day;
And the last rays kissed the forehead
Of a man and maiden fair,
He with whiskers short and frowsy,
She with red and glistening hair,
He with shut jaws stern and silent;
She with lips all cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur,
“Towser shall be tied tonight.”

“Papa,” slowly spoke the daughter,
“I am almost seventeen,
And I have a real true lover,
Though he’s rather young and green;
But he has a horse and buggy
And a cow and thirty hens, – –
Boys that start out poor, dear Papa,
Make the best of honest men,
But if Towser sees and bites him,
Fills his eyes with misty light,
He will never come again, Pa;
Towser must be tied tonight.”

“Daughter,” firmly spoke the farmer,
(Every word pierced her young heart
Like a carving knife through chicken
As it hunts the tender parts) – –
“I’ve a patch of early melons,
Two of them are ripe today;
“Towser must be loose to watch them
Or they’ll all be stole away.
I have hoed them late and early
In dim morn and evening light;
Now they’re grown I must not lose them;
Towser’ll not be tied tonight.”

Then the old man ambled forward,
Opened wide the kennel door,
Towser bounded forth to meet him
As he oft had done before.
And the farmer stooped and loosed him
From the dog-chain short and stout;
To himself he softly chuckled,
“Bessie’s feller must look out.”
But the maiden at the window
Saw the cruel teeth show white;
To herself she fiercely whispered, – –
“Towser must be tied tonight.”

Then the maiden’s brow grew thoughtful
And her breath came short and quick,
Till she spied the family clothesline,
And she whispered, “That’s the trick.”
From the kitchen door she glided
With a plate of meat and bread;
Towser wagged his tail in greeting,
Knowing well he would be fed.
On his well worn leather collar,
Tied she then the clothesline tight,
All the time her white lips saying:
Towser shall be tied tonight.”

To the melon patch she took him
As he bounded at her side
To an apple tree she led him.
And the knot she firmly tied.
“There’s Pa’s melons, you must guard them
All day long you stay right here
When John Henry comes to see me
He’ll be safe and have no fear”
And her steps were light and happy
As she thought of joy so bright
When her lover would be coming
Towser would be tied tonight

Up the path the young man sauntered
With his eyes and cheeks aglow;
For he loved the red-haired maiden
And he meant to tell her so.
But her little brother, William
In a fit of boyish glee,
Had untied the slender clothesline,
From the harvest apple tree.
Then old Towser heard the footsteps,
Raised his bristles, fixed for fight, – –
“Bark away,” the maiden whispers;
“Towser, you are tied tonight.”

Then old Towser bounded forward,
Passed the open kitchen door;
Bessie screamed and quickly followed,
But John Henry’d gone before.
Down the path he sped most quickly,
For old Towser set the pace;
And the maiden close behind them
Showed them she was in the race.
There’s the clothesline, can she get it?
And her eyes grew big and bright;
Then she sprung and grasp it firmly;
“Towser must be tied tonight.”

Often times a little minute
Forms the destiny of men.
You can change the fate of nations
By the stroke of one small pen.
Towser made one last long effort,
Caught John Henry by the pants,
But John Henry kept on running
For he thought that his last chance.
But the maiden held on firmly,
And the rope was drawn up tight,
All the time her white lips saying
“Towser must be tied tonight”

Then the father heard the racket;
With long strides he soon is there,
Where John Henry and the maiden,
Crouching, for the worst prepare.
At his feet John tells his story,
Shows his clothing soiled and torn;
And his face so sad and pleading,
Yet so white and scared and worn,
Touched the old man’s heart with pity,
Filled his eyes with misty light.
“Take her, boy, and make her happy, – –
Towser shall be tied tonight.”

***

“Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight” sometimes appears as “Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight.”

***

The Blogging from A to Z Challenge master list appears here. It’s up to 510 blogs. Something for everyone.

***

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

#ATOZChallenge 2020: D Is for Disinfect & Darn

 

This Challenge is not going as I intended.

Part 2 of B Is for Bowser was to run on Day C.

A spring allergy attack, however, turned Day C into C Is for Consequently & Can’t.

I then promised to finish Day B on Day D. Day D would have been titled D is for Dog.

Unfortunately, this afternoon, I sprayed a solution of Clorox and water in the wrong direction and disinfected my eyes. And thus Dog turned into Disinfect. And Darn.

Seven hours later, my left eye isn’t in the best of shape—it sees but doesn’t feel like seeing. According to the reflection in my hand mirror, it doesn’t feel like being seen, either.

Furthermore, applying a cold compress to the left eye precludes typing with the left hand.

I hate to do this, but Day B, Part 2 will post on Day E.

I don’t know what E will be for.

 

 

 

 

 

***

A to Z Challenge master list is here.

***

Image by agnesliinnea from Pixabay

A to Z Challenge badges designed by Jeremy Hawkins.

#ATOZ Challenge: B Is for Bowser

 

In my A post I mentioned the mistake I made in signing up for the A to Z Challenge: I registered my blog as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir),” instead of “Other and Miscellaneous.”

It really doesn’t matter. I mean, there are mistakes, and there are mistakes.

For letter B, I’m writing about another of my mistakes. It’s more of a mistake. But I can’t go right to the heart of the matter. There’s backstory to be dealt with. If you’ll be patient for just a little while, I’ll get there.

Here goes.

I planned, as much as I ever plan these posts, to write about a parody of the narrative poem “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written in 1867 by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, when she was sixteen years old.

Set in 17th century England, the poem tells the story of Bessie, a young woman whose lover, Basil Underwood, has been imprisoned by the Puritans and sentenced to die that night at the sound of the curfew bell. Oliver Cromwell is expected to arrive that night, but after the bell has rung. Bessie begs the sexton not to ring the bell; he says he’s never failed to ring curfew and that he won’t fail to ring it tonight. But Bessie is determined to save her lover. The next lines describe her heroic actions.

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
‘At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.’
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. ‘Curfew must not ring tonight!’

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he’d trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, on which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

She has reached the topmost ladder, o’er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; ’tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

Out she swung – far out. The city seemed a speck of light below ―
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, as the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil’s funeral knell.
Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart’s wild throbbing: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

It was o’er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

When Cromwell arrives, she tells him her story, and, touched by her heroism, he lets Basil live. Basil emerges from the prison expecting to die but instead finds Bessie holding his pardon. And—

In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, ‘Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring tonight.’

For years, “Curfew” was exceedingly popular: A favorite of Queen Victoria, it provided inspiration for a play and and for three silent movies. It was recited by one of the characters in Anne of Green Gables. It also serves as the basis for chamber music composed by Richard Cohn for the Music & Magic Lantern Slides project. View a performance on Youtube.

Now. I know I haven’t gotten to Bowser and Bleh yet, but the hour is late, and I am tired, so I’m off to bed.

In other words, B Will Not Be Writ Tonight.

#AtoZ Challenge 2020: A is for April (Fools’)

 

As I wrote in Monday’s not-Theme Reveal, my A to Z Writing Challenge has no theme. Officially, it’s listed as “Other and Miscellaneous.” The Archon’s Den blogger claims “chaos and confusion” as a recurring theme. I wish I’d thought of that.

Anyway, the obvious and easiest A topic is April.

On April 1, 1968, my junior English class put out a special issue of the school newspaper.

(The school was small; we twelve were the only juniors.)

One article reported the purchase of new and badly needed uniforms for the girls’ basketball team. A drawing of the outfit was included. The shorts were of your plain garden variety, but the top featured cap sleeves, a bib enhanced with vertical pin tucks and  pearl buttons, and a Peter Pan collar. There might have been a ruffle somewhere. They would spend off seasons in cold storage.

Image of Ford Mustang logo. By zopalic. Via Pixabay.com.
Ford Mustang logo.

A second article reported that the school would buy two new Ford Mustangs for use in an onsite driver’s ed. course in the fall. At the time, students had to travel ten miles to a larger district to earn the credit. Driving a Mustang, which Ford had been producing for only four years, was a Certified Big Deal.

A third item announced that the girls’ choir would sing at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign rallies that summer, which, of course meant nationwide travel. Dredging up words from the junior English vocabulary list, the reporter quoted the choir director: She said we’d been spuriously honored and that the tour would go a long way toward ending the mal de mer running rampant through the student body. I think she also said the girls were proud to be invited, and that she was sure they would continue to prosit.

Copies were distributed at the beginning of first period. Paper staff, mouths shut and expressions innocent, waited. The response was more than gratifying.

Sitting in the front row of geometry class, the co-editor and I watched the teacher/girls’ coach, brow wrinkled, examining the new basketball uniform and wondering aloud who had chosen it and why she hadn’t been asked for input. She didn’t say it looked gosh-awful, which must have taken immense restraint. While she was puzzling, the team, most of whom sat behind us, showed no restraint. They said plenty.

In the hallway between classes, students raved about the Mustangs. The district was small—high school enrollment numbered no more than fifty—and had to watch its pennies, so its splurging on two sports cars was almost too good to be true. One 1950 Chevy would have made a splash.

Image of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. By Yoichi Okamoto.  Public domain. Via Wikipedia.
Johnson greeting a crowd, 1966.

With the exception of the co-editors, choir members hadn’t been informed that they would sing at political rallies. They appeared confused but accepted the story. It made sense; we knew a number of patriotic songs.

No one mentioned that the night before, President Johnson had announced on national television, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” No one asked why the student body was seasick. The choir director, who doubled as our English teacher, issued a compliment. She said the quotation sounded just like her.

Finally, about noon, someone noticed the date on the first page—April 1—and we were busted.

Readers were good sports. They laughed; no one chewed us out.

Some were disappointed: The choir wouldn’t sing at rallies, and the business about the Mustangs was too good to be true.

But sighs of sorrow were as nothing compared to the sighs of relief: Peter Pan collars were out.

***

Note: The choir would been happy to sing for a different candidate, but Hubert Humphrey forgot to invite us.

***

I hoped last fall’s Great Unearthing would produce a copy of the April Fools’ issue. No such luck. I would like to read it again. I would love to see the drawing of that uniform. It would make a fine illustration when U rolls around.

***

I just checked the A to Z master list and discovered that I slipped up and registered my theme not as “Other and Miscellaneous,” but as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir).” That is unfortunate, because the only things I know about craft are that it would be wrong to put a colon after the are in this sentence, that the lack of a properly placed Oxford comma drives me crazy, and that the price of a dedicated, supportive critique group is above rubies.

***

Here’s are links to the A to Z Blogging Challenge master list. (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/edit#gid=1617533974

Themes appear there. If you visit some of the blogs, you’ll make the writers happy. If you click Like, they’ll be even happier.

***

Image of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. By Yoichi Okamoto.  Public domain. Via Wikipedia.

Image of Ford Mustang logo. By zopalic. Via Pixabay.com.

 

 

Still Sheltering, No Theme

 

For the second year in a row, I’ll participate in April’s A to Z Writing Challenge—twenty-six posts, one every day in April except Sundays. So far, nearly four hundred blogs appear on the master list, here. About half have announced themes: history, books, education, animals, gaming, parenting, personal, women’s interests, and on and on.

I didn’t do a Theme Reveal post, because because that would require me to know the theme. I registered under Other and Miscellaneous. I’m not about to say, “I’m going to write about _____,” only to get stuck at Q. If a theme emerges, we’ll know in May.

If I were going for the obvious, I’d spend April posting about sheltering in place. This is day 16. David has picked up groceries at the Walmart parking lot several times. We’ve placed small orders, trying to fill some gaps. Tonight I found myself considering which I would prefer, Wolf Brand Chili or sardines. The surprise was that both sounded appetizing. I chose something else.

Federal social distancing guidelines now extend through April 30. Davis household guidelines were extended that far two weeks ago, and we’ll go further if necessary. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the contagion, and we don’t want to expose anyone else. We’re grateful for those whose work allows us to retreat.

I hope reading this post isn’t as dull as writing it has been. If it has been, please don’t mention that in the comments.

As to comments, I want to thank the folks who’ve been reading, liking, and commenting while I’ve been doing none of those. I’m on my way to get a good night’s sleep, after which I’ll work on getting up the gumption to do better.

We saw a couple social distancing in the green space yesterday. A walk in the park can be gumption inducing. I’ll put it on tomorrow’s agenda.

Here are a couple of cats.

Sheltering, Sanitizing, & #ROW80

 

Day 10, 11, or 12, I don’t remember, of sheltering in place. I stayed in for a week earlier in the month, then went out twice, the second time unnecessary and stupid. Anyway, it feels like more than 10, 11, or 12 days.

But self-quarantine is necessary for David and me, and for the rest of the city, the state, and the country. I could look on it as my patriotic duty. Because it is.

I fell off #ROW80, in part because I’m so good at falling off challenges, but I shall pick it up now.

My goal, after a late start, was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Tomorrow is check-in day. Well.

I got the goal down to something like 2100. I can’t do that much in 23 hours–or maybe I can; I think I’ve produced that many words in a day before. Once.

Best case scenario, I’ll get down to business tomorrow and write a couple of scenes. Last month I did two without dithering to get them almost perfect. I might do that again.

We shall see.

Now about Sheltering Place.

I’m good at it. I’m good at anything that allows for sitting around. I’m beginning to have an itch to get outside and walk up and down the sidewalk. The small outdoors on the other side of my window is usually empty. A few people walk their dogs up and down the sidewalk. I could walk all over the complex without meeting anyone. Or could, when people were working elsewhere. Maybe they still are.

I’m also getting the itch to write. I think about the WIP every day and have mentally composed a lot. Mental composition doesn’t always transfer to the page, though, especially when I look at the blank page and forget what was in my brain. Characters stop talking and there goes the sparkling dialogue.

That’s what I haven’t been doing. What I have been doing.

Cheese. Mine was cheddar, but cheddar obviously doesn’t interest photographers.

Washing cheese, frozen entree packaging, and cottage cheese.  We leave delivered and picked up food in the trunk of the car for the time it takes for the virus to die, and longer to make sure, but perishable items come inside, where they meet soap and water.

I used hot water, of course, and in so doing probably cooked the cheese. The frozen entrees are in the freezing getting freezer burn. The boxes collapsed from the scrubbing, so I trashed them. The thin sheet of plastic covering the food doesn’t provide adequate protection, hence freezer burn. But I don’t mind a little freezer burn. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

When David, the shopper, tried to buy hand sanitizer, shelves were already empty. I ordered some from Amazon. It was supposed to arrive the 13th, then the 16th, then the 29th, but it showed up on the 23rd. I soaped it up. This brand was the only one with 70% alcohol available when I ordered. I bought several 17-ounce bottles and two small ones we can carry with us. The labels are in Chinese. There is some irony in that, but irony is all it is. I’m grateful to have it.

Alcohol wipes are on the way. The 29th, I think today’s email said. We have some isopropyl alcohol (70%); our alcohol swabs are about an inch square. Not the best for disinfecting more than an inch square.

Tonight I wiped down the recliner with sanitizer gel on a paper towel. I don’t know if that’s effective in the first place, and in the second, I don’t know why I picked on the chair, since I’ve been sitting in it forever without concern. Anyway, after a while, Ernest the Cat jumped onto the footrest and lay down and stayed for about thirty minutes. When he jumped down, I realized there might be a problem. I wetted a towel and managed to wipe down his right side before he gave me a dirty look, flew down the hall and disappeared under the bed.

Ernest

Knowing he was capable of holing up there for hours, David sprayed some calming mist under the bed–we use it to get him to the doctor–and later I found him in the living room. I was able to wipe down his left side and his paws. He didn’t like the paw part but was too calm to get up and leave. I was still worried, because I don’t know that rinsing with a not very damp cloth is sufficient, and I didn’t get between his toes. He sticks his right paw in water several times and licks it before drinking.

On the other side of the issue, by the time I got to the footrest, the sanitizer had receded into the paper towel, there wasn’t much on it in the first place, and the paper was almost if not completely dry when I finished. I don’t think much was transferred, if any. And I’ve never seen him wash anything except his face and paws. Guy cats don’t appear to bathe as often as girl cats.

I thought about putting him in the bathtub and shampooing him. Under the circumstances, he would be justified in shredding me, and I would take it as my just due. It’s a small bathroom with a small closet. Nowhere to hide. But it wouldn’t have been pretty.

I worried. Then I didn’t. Now, thinking about it, I’m worrying again. I wonder if we should take him to the ER (his second home). He seems fine. I don’t know whether to go to bed or sit up and worry. It’s already after midnight, and I need sleep, but he’s my baby. And I’m programmed to worry.

So here we are. A 300-word post about #ROW80 becomes a post about decontaminating packages of cheese becomes another cat post. And words, words, words.

Not necessarily a positive. Composing anything gives me the feeling that I’ve written. And it satisfies the itch. Getting down to business tomorrow may be more difficult that I thought.

But in difficult times, I think about the British. Bombs aren’t falling. This isn’t the Blitz. They did what had to be done. So will I.

Texas Spring: Loveliest of Flowers

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

~ A. E. Housman, “Loveliest of Trees”

Image by gmoyer via pixabay.com

“We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us”

 

In the early 1970s, I watched the British series Upstairs, Downstairs—the original, which was called the best depiction of the effects of World War I on the upper and lower classes that had been produced up to that time.

In one episode, James Bellamy’s wife, Hazel, contracts the Spanish flu. A brief synopsis of the next episode, published in the TV section of the newspaper, said James and Hazel would leave London for a quieter life in the countryside. At the end of the show, however, Hazel dies.

I cried for a half-hour. Maybe the shock value was worth it to the producers, but I felt betrayed by the false publicity.

That was my introduction to pandemics. At that point, I was protected by both a television screen and time.

A hundred years later, the world faces another pandemic. Experts said ten, twenty years ago that we were overdue for it. There’s no vaccine. We’re told to wash our hands, disinfect surfaces, and avoid contact with other people.

This isn’t Pogo, and he doesn’t live in a swamp, but it’s as close as I can get. See note at the end of the post.

But we see from the experience of other countries that personal measures alone aren’t sufficient; governments have to take action. The U.S. lags far behind in attempts to delay the spread of infection.

To quote Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

What to do? Keep Calm and Carry On. Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands.

One psychologist says—I wish I could remember who and where I read it—that instead of Keeping Calm, we should feel some fear, because fear can prompt action, such as admitting the gravity of the situation and acting on the advice of medical experts.

And if you’re elderly, recognizing their advice as a warning.

My husband and I are elderly—I don’t know when that happened, but the experts say we are—so we have soup, tuna fish, TV dinners (for junior citizens, frozen entrees), canned everything, frozen fruit and vegetables, orange and cranberry juice, and other non-perishables in the pantry for self- or government-mandated quarantine. And Cheetos, of course.

We’ve also stocked up on medications and other necessities.

We’re not hoarding. We’d have trouble if we tried: David, the shopper, says shelves normally housing toilet paper and hand sanitizer are empty.

We canceled a trip to Florida. We’ve reduced—practically ceased—our out-and-about. I’m sorry about Florida, but we can reschedule. I’ll hardly notice the out-and-about; it’s not like I get out much anyway (lazy). Maybe I’ll finish that eternally-budding novel.

There is a certain irony in being more concerned about a contagious disease than about cancer. The cancer belongs to me alone; I continue treatments; I’m in remission; I don’t worry about my husband contracting it; I can be in a crowd without catching or transmitting it. At some point it will recur, but I don’t often think about it. Uncertainty exists, but within limits.

With this virus, uncertainty has no boundaries, for any of us. It’s everywhere.

But about fear: We need to smile, too. It’s good for the immune system.

Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles, says that smiling has been shown “over and over again” that happiness boosts the body’s resistance.

From and article on NBC News Better”:

“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

In a sense, the brain is a sucker for a grin. It doesn’t bother to sort out whether you’re smiling because you’re genuinely joyous, or because you’re just pretending.

“Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate,” adds Dr. Sivan Finkel, a cosmetic dentist at NYC’s The Dental Parlour. “A study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”

And there are plenty more studies out there to make you smile (or at least, serve as reference for why you should). 

And then there’s laughter. From WebMD’s “Give Your Body a Boost—With Laughter”:

Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response. . . . Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.

When I was in chemotherapy, I tried to maintain a smile (a beatific one I like to think). That may be one reason I’ve done better than my oncologist predicted. It at least seemed to make him feel better. My radiation oncologist appears genetically programmed to smile. She made me feel better.

Anyway, I take the advice of these experts as seriously as I do the epidemiologists’: We’re washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, stocking up, staying out of crowds, and laughing as much as we can.

Marx Brothers 1931
The Marx Brothers, by Ralph Stitt. Public domain. Via Wikipedia

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For anyone too young to remember, Pogo was a comic strip by Walt Kelly, featuring a possum and his friends, who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp. Children enjoyed the animals and their adventures; adults enjoyed the“layers of political satire.”

To see why Pogo said the enemy is us, click here. The strip ran on Earth Day in 1971.

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Image by daynaw3990 via pixabay.com

Buoyed Up, Parasite, & #ROW80

 

Friday I announced the goal of

a) adding another 1,000 words to my Work in Progress; OR,

b) rewriting the oatmeal,

and said I would say which I’d accomplished in my Sunday A Round of Words in 80 Days report.

The oatmeal refers to the 1,000+ words I added last Thursday.

Report: I accomplished neither, and this is Monday, not Sunday.

I do not despair, however. I’m buoyed up by the thought of those 1,000+ words extant.

My next goal is to do b), above, and to submit to Austin Mystery Writers, my critique group, by Tuesday night. Monday night would be better, but a Tuesday submission is not to be sneezed at.

Here are two pictures of Ernest. In the first, he’s trying to damage a USB device.

In the second, he’s pretending he’s not leaning on the keyboard while I’m reading K.P. Gresham‘s Ink-Stained Wretches post, “Read a Book, Save the World.” 

If you have—or haven’t—seen the movie Parasite, you’ll be interested in K.P.’s post.

1,188 Down; 2,812 to Go: #ROW80

Here’s my A Round of Words in 80 Days report for Wednesday, March 4. It’s currently Friday, March 6, but this is my Wednesday report.

Last Sunday, I reported that I had not added 1,000 words to my Work in Progress, and that, as a consequence, I would “have to add 1,333.3333333 words per week to meet my goal” of 4,000 new words by March 26, the end of #ROW80.

Well. On Monday, my powers were under a cloud, so I didn’t add anything to the WIP. On Tuesday, the cloud thickened into pea soup, and I didn’t add anything to anything. My body was slightly improved on Wednesday, but my brain was still mush, so the WIP remained unaltered.

Yesterday, however, I added 1,188 words.

They’re bad words, slapped down off the top of my head, thrown at the page, forming one big, glutinous lump as mushy as my brain. The literary equivalent of oatmeal.

That isn’t my usual process. I write slowly and usually get it almost right the first time. This thousand words will have to be kneaded and turned and completely transformed. Into oatmeal cookies, as it were.

I hate that.

But the WIP is longer than it was two days ago. Can’t complain about that.

The next goal:

a) add another 1,000 words to the WIP; OR,

b) rewrite the oatmeal.

On Sunday I’ll report which it is.

1,333.3333333 X 3 or 160 X 25: #ROW80

I’m running a little behind in my attempt to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26.

I didn’t add 1,000 words last week.

Which means I have twenty-five days in which to add the 4,000 words.

Calling that 3 weeks, and dividing 4,000 words by 3, I’ll have to add 1,333.3333333 words per week to meet my goal.

Calling it 25 days, and dividing 4,000 by 25, I’ll have to add 160 words per day.

If the math is wrong, please don’t tell me.

I tried to find a picture associated with goals but found nothing but goals associated with sports. So I’m displaying a picture associated with nothing at all.

A Harbinger of Spring & a Video Fest

Today we saw the first sign that spring is upon us.

It wasn’t a robin. It wasn’t a bluebonnet.

chameleon on screen 2/29/2020
Chameleon on window screen

It was a chameleon, the first one I’ve seen in years. Once, a zillion lived in my yard in Fentress, crawled across window screens, sneaked into a bedroom and blended into the leaf-patterned draperies, causing minor panic when discovered.

Then Ms, my Siamese cat, went on a lizard binge, causing more havoc. If you think it’s unsettling to see, without prior notice, a lizard running across the bedroom floor, try opening the door and finding one lying belly up, dead, often minus the skin of his soft underbelly, right where you were planning to plant your foot. I appreciated Ms’s thought, but the gift, not so much.

Ernest focusing on chameleon

Anyway—maybe because the chameleon population had been decimated, maybe because survivors got wise and relocated—by the early ’80s, they were gone.

They didn’t frequent our former apartment, either. But now that one has appeared outside the window at our new place, more will surely follow. I hope.

Ernest hopes so, too. He saw the visitor before I did, jumped onto the window sill, stood, and batted. Stood down, stood up, and batted. Again and again.

Ernest not looking at chameleon 2/29/2020
Ernest not focusing on chameleon

Watching a beloved pet hunt and not gather is heartrending, up to a point. Mostly it’s a grab-the-camera-and-holler-at-David-to-come-see moment. We focused on the scene as closely as Ernest focused on his prey.

The hunt ended when the lizard scooted eighteen inches to the right. Ernest lost him.  He lay down and stared out the window. David tapped on the window and pointed but failed to catch his attention.

A few minutes later, we abandoned him and headed downtown to the Violet Crown Theater for CatVideoFest—”a compilation reel of the best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic internet powerhouses.”

Most were short-shorts, amateur cats being cats, filmed by their owners. A few were scripted. I’ve included links to two of those—”An Engineer’s Guide to Cats 2.0—The Sequel” and “Henri 2—Paw de Deux.” Cat lovers—crazy or not—have likely seen them online. Crazies might think they’re worth watching again.

Here’s a link to a list of theaters (nationwide) where you can view the movie. Today’s showing was the last in Austin, but if you’re elsewhere and interested, you can look it up.

CatVideoFest raises funds for “cats in need.” Part of the proceeds from the three Austin showings will go to Austin Pets Alive, an animal rescue and advocacy organization that fosters homeless animals and finds them forever homes.

 

Bonus: Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog with “Caturday Funnies”

Years ago, I closed my first blog, Whiskertips, because it had, against my will, become catcentric. The title was the only one I could think of that wasn’t already in use, and I’d just acquired William and Ernest (from APA) and so had cats on the brain. I suppose the name constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’ve vowed this blog will not fall into feline paws, but lately I’ve been walking a very fine line.

Why I (Don’t/Didn’t) Write #ROW80

Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.

I didn’t want to work anyway.

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Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.

I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.

The goal I stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.

At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000  words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.

On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.

In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.

Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretcheswas never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened. 

A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.

Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.

See § 2, ¶ 3  above.

Onward and upwards, I guess.

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He’s back.