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Year of COVID-19 August

2020 is flying by, sometimes dancing and spinning with activity, sometimes napping and walking slowing, trudging along.

We went on what we call our Hole-In-The-Ground-Tour starting in Colorado, which is decidedly not a hole, but a valley to the east of the Rockies, drove to Durango, Colorado, then to Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon.

Durango is an “old west” town, the kind I love to visit. When I was young I remember asking my dad why we couldn’t live in the “west.” I meant the old west of television shows like Rawhide and Wagon Train (okay–I had a childish crush on Clint Eastwood). Dad laughed, but never explained that I DID live in the west–just a different one than the one that lived in my imagination. Durango lives up to all those images–old wooden buildings mixed in with new restaurants and buildings; old shops and new; every opportunity to hike and river raft (if you like).

From Durango, we drove to Mesa Verde to marvel in relative isolation (not many people there and you can’t walk into the ancient builds right now) to marvel at the remarkable houses chiseled out of the red rock, hanging precariously as if ornaments on a tree. You have to wonder while there, who were they really? What did they look like? Why did they so suddenly leave?

We drove to Grand Canyon and stayed at the El Tovar hotel on the South Rim. Breathtaking and miraculous–the most natural Disney World of American, I like to call it. Condors flying overhead looking for roadkill. Hummingbirds slurping the last of the nectar out of desert flowers. Deer and Elk sauntering onto the lawn of the El Tovar because there are few humans out. A few guests rocking on the front porch, tugging at medical masks that cover their smiles.

We drove quickly through New Mexico, the vast and seemingly deserted Navajo Reservation (how do they have a COVID problem while so widely separated?). We drove to Windlow Arizona (Standing on a Corner), where my husband got some great pictures. Stayed at the La Posada Hotel (means “inn” in Spanish). A one-of-a-kind hotel with artwork everywhere, rooms decorated in Spanish style, and a great restaurant where we tried deep-fried squash blossoms for the first time.

So, in this year of COVID, this year where time is slow and fast, life is dangerous and care-free, the future is certain and up-in-the-air, I’ve decided to do that which I have no other choice but to do–wait, watch, wear my mask and self-distance.

A Disneyland for Adults–Our National Parks

My husband and I just got back from a “COVID19 Road Trip” from our home in Denver to the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.  This is our second trip to the area (DH grew up in Tucson, Az) and we affectionately call the excursion “the hole-in-the-ground trip. because of stops in the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde cliff dwellings and the not-so-famous meteorite site in Arizona.

This trip was different and seemed the littlest bit risky because we were leaving the relatively low-COVID-rate Colorado to Arizona and New Mexico, which were experiencing surges in rates.

We felt safe and there weren’t many people in the parks or on the road. Where ever we stopped, people wore masks and practiced social distancing (with the exception of a few cowboy-types, who tipped their hats at us while keeping a safe distance away).  We ate a lot of take-out and had little picnics. Nothing better than a bottle of wine, a loaf of good bread and a wedge of cheese.

We both get little bits of inspiration while on any of our trips, and while this one didn’t bring anything earth-shattering to me, I did have little insights. Such as, I forget how fortunate we are, how much we have, how healthy we are. I remembered to be grateful each day. We drove a couple of miles into the Navajo Indian Nation and were were struck by the simple houses, which were spaced so far apart that you wonder why the COVID19 rate is so high in New Mexico and Arizona given the sheer vastness. Is it the presence of the casinos? Are “outsiders” bringing in the virus to the Native Americans in much the same way we brought Small Pox to them so many decades ago? I hope not.

I was also struck by the appearance of poverty on the reservation. It’s easy to say that they have so much land, so much space that they must be happy, but when people don’t have money to build and sustain their homes and businesses, it’s hard to work their way “up” in the world.  I’ve always said that money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure helps prevent unhappiness when basic needs aren’t met.

What can I do to help? I have an aunt who taught for years on a reservation in South Dakota while living in a trailer house, suffering brutal winters and adopting abandoned dogs in the process of teaching youngsters to read and write. Food for thought for me.

On a lighter note: On our way back home to Denver, we were forced to cross the border from New Mexico back to Colorado to avoid a quarantine order in New Mexico. Once across the border, we discovered there weren’t any available hotel rooms even though their must have been ten hotels in the area. Also, there was a party atmosphere. DH figured out that the crowd had crossed the border to access the recreational marijuana (which is legal in Colorado now). We finally found a room, overpaid for it because we were too tired to travel farther, and made our way home the next day.

I’d much rather visit these places, including the National Parks, which to me are much more interesting, awe-inspiring and fun than a place like Disneyland.

Is There a “Code” for Writing a Bestseller (or Even a Book That Makes it to the Midlist)?

I recently read a non-fiction book titled: The Bestseller Code (by Archer & Jocker). As I came from a computer background (having worked with computers from in the corporate world for years), the book tickled my curiosity for both technology and books. The premise is that there is a “code” or set of formulas for writing a best-seller, the ultimate goal, it seems that a computer could write a bestseller some day. Why am I reminded of the saying that a million monkeys pounding on a million typewriters can create a bestseller? (I’m too lazy right now to Google it, but the gist is there).

The book is fascinating, a I passed it along to my computer-expert husband & so far he’s interested in the concept too.

The authors have devised a computer program to analyze any manuscript (and, you too can pay to have your manuscript analyzed here ). Inexplicably, one of the books used in many of the examples is E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, which it turns out compares favorably with books written by Baldacci (thriller), Patterson (suspense/thrillers), and Jodi Picoult (women’s fiction).

It’s an interesting book.

The “Lost” Year?

My husband recently referred to this year (2020) as the “lost” year; he’s no longer able to conduct his business at the “brick-and-mortar” office, but is fortunate that his employees (fewer than 10 in all) are able to work from home offices. That’s one of the beauties of a software business (he owns and operates KnowWare Intl, which provides software, books and training). We’re all now in a new normal of working from (or trying to) work from home, trying to stay safe while maintaining some kind of normal life, trying not to gain too much weight from our new hobbies of candy-making and/or bread-making, trying out new hobbies and planning for a life hopefully beyond being quarantined.

I have to feel for children and young people (and the parents of those little people), for whom this has become a new frontier of growing up in a world that seems just a little more dangerous.

Maybe this isn’t a lost year, but a “found” year where we find new resourcefulness, new resilience, new hobbies, make life-changing decisions and make new connections.

On Motivation

I have a couple (okay, two and a half) projects to work on, but although I seem to have more time (due to 2020 Corona Virus), I also seem to have less motivation. Why is that? Is it because there seems to be more time to get things done and therefore I can be more lax about it? Is it because there are more distractions (such as husband being home a lot more & more news on t.v. and more shows to binge?).

My new tactic is to give myself more stringent deadlines, set a better schedule, try to ignore distractions. I feel many of us are in this situation, and hopefully things will get back to normal (and all of us will be healthy and safe).

2020 Will be Remembered as a Rough Year

Between navigating the dangers of a “new” virus, COVID19, and then on top of that, racial divide and protests, we will remember this year as one of big changes, fear and hope.

For me, I hope that this virus brings new changes in the way and speed in which we create new vaccines and treatments, changes in how we manage group homes and assisted living facilities, changes in education and schooling. (I’m noticing that we’re not hearing about school violence these days).

I don’t pretend to know or fully understand the agony and frustration around being black or brown in America, but I’m striving to understand and to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And, if I was ever part of the problem in any way, big or small, I plan to do better.

Reading Tastes

I’ve been thinking about how my reading tastes have changed over the years beginning from my childhood love of books. We had only three television stations where/when I grew up in Western Colorado. We didn’t spend a lot of time in front of the television, so did games, played outside, and read.

The first time I remember falling in love with words and books was in fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Foster, used the entire last three months of the school year reading us books. I remember the wonderful stress-free time, gazing out the window, listening to her calm melodious voice reading from L’Engle (The Wrinkle in Time, Dr. Doolittle, Little Women & and couple for the boys (something about pirates). Mrs. Foster died that summer and the parents talked about it in hushed tones–something about cancer–and I never forgot her and never got over my love of books.

I graduated to books I found in the school and city library; Nancy Drew and then the Hardy boys; numerous other series and random books. During this time, it never occurred to me that there was a person behind these books–an author or authors. That came later and I became intrigued with the idea of actually writing a book. It took much longer than I would have imagined to make that happen.

Later on I moved on to more moody types of books; Edgar Allen Poe; Dickinson; Little Women, and yes–series romance books (although it didn’t take–I’m not very romantic).

I moved on to poetry, Sylvia Plath (although I was disappointed in her demise), Virginia Woolf and various other female authors.

These days I like series mysteries as they are predictable and easy-to-read (not so easy to write, I’m finding). I love non-fiction too and especially biographies (mostly auto-bios–I like to hear it from the horse’s mouth).

There is nothing like a book to carry you away–a movie might do it, but reading allows you to put your own images beside the words.

Being a “Bird Geek”

Colorado is rich in wildlife, including many varieties of birds. I’ve put out bird feeders for years and have gotten familiar with different species: raptors such as varieties of hawks, blue jays, flickers and woodpeckers and many other species.

I started watching the Boulder Osprey Cam this year and continued (through this COVID19 crisis). It’s a good stress-reliever (as is listening to music). The Boulder Osprey nest resulted in two babies this year. Here is one:

Boulder Fairgrounds Osprey Cam

So…I continue to surprise myself with new interests, and now bird-watching is one of them.

Are You Reading More During Quarantine?

Anxiety levels are up, we are all restless; it’s hard to concentrate through the news (that seems to change each day), the uncertainty, and the heightened emotions that this situation has caused.

I’m trying to read more; I’ve load my Kindle with five new books and I’ve ordered a couple of hard-back books to read. So far, I’m half-way through one book. My husband has read probably ten. He seems to be able to turn off the outside noise and deep-dive into a book (and also his work). He also reads more than anyone I’ve ever known.

I’m trying that strategy, but so far I have to force myself to turn off my favorite “binge” shows and read–or write.

Some of the books on my Kindle: Traps by Mackenzie Bezos (I admit I’m curious about how she’s doing); Dark Paradise by Tami Hoag (nothing like a good thriller written by a woman); Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima (president of Sisters in Crime Colorado); Get Real by Westlake (a caper); Pest Control by Fitzhugh (a good comedic caper); various non-fiction books about Colorado; some freebies like Gone With the Wind; numerous others that I may not get to.

Every day is a new day, a new opportunity to read, to write, to garden, to talk to my loved ones, to try a new recipe… so much I should be doing.

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