Pain, Protest, and Opportunity – Lockdown Day 82

***Due to bad storms, we have been without power since 12:30 PM Wednesday. Sorry for the delay in posting.***

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence helps the tormentor, never the tormented.” ~ Elie Wiesel

Last week, I wrote about civilization and how America needs to revisit the meaning of community and social responsibility.

This week has seen what happens when the social contract is broken with a particular group of people again and again and again for generations. When a group of people is consistently seen as less, as expendable, as not worthy of belonging to that social contract, we end up right here. With an officer of the law coldly and deliberately murdering a black man in broad daylight, in front of many witnesses, being videotaped…and not caring. He and the 3 officers that were his accomplices  were so assured they would suffer no consequences that they didn’t mind having an audience.

America is broken. For African-Americans, it has been broken for hundreds of years—and the massive protests we have seen in the wake of this latest brazen murder are the result.

I’m not talking about the looting. By most accounts, the looting is separate, instigated by people who would take advantage of the legitimate grief and rage and fear of Americans and twist it for their own agenda. Let it not distract us from the central issue.

The real protests, the peaceful protests, are filled with people who have had enough. Enough of the injustice. Enough of the inequality. Enough of the brutality. Enough of the hate. Enough of the death.

They are filled with people grieving the needless deaths of African-Americans, but also the death of the ideals we Americans profess to believe in—equality under the law, that all men are created equal, and the inalienable right to LIFE.

History shows that African-Americans have never really lived in that America. For them, it has been a litany of broken promises. The growing prevalence of cell phones and social media is shining the light on racism like never before. It is bringing its horror and ugliness into our living rooms, much as TV did the Vietnam War, and the results are similar. With the truth right in front of us, more and more people—of every skin color—are saying, “Enough!”


The coronavius stopped the world and gave us a chance to contemplate what sort of “normal” we want to return to. I don’t want a normal where people have no health care. A normal where people live paycheck to paycheck. A normal where the lives of African-Americans are thrown away with such casual disdain.

Racism has been a cancer in America for too long. The convulsions we are experiencing are necessary to birth something better. Painful as this is, this moment is an opportunity. An opportunity to begin fixing a wrong too long unattended.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Let’s get it right this time.

I see you. I hear you. I stand with you.

Concentration Fail – Lockdown Day 26

It’s been almost a month since we have been on coronavirus lockdown. The first few weeks were the hardest, as disruption and anxiety invaded everything. This week has felt a bit better. Not normal, by any means, but…almost.

I went food shopping again last Friday. So it’s been 5 days. Most people who get the virus start to show symptoms days 5-7. So I’m in the target zone, although I have until next Friday to get to the end of the 14 day incubation and be sure.

I never loved food shopping, and now it’s become a dreadful, anxiety-producing task. I also worry about my mother shopping for herself, as she is in multiple high-risk groups, but I am not close enough to help. She finally got a spot for delivery at her local store, and we are both so happy! One less thing to worry about for the time being.

I’ve got to tell you, though. My. Concentration. Is. Shot. I lose hours a day and I have no idea where the time went. I spend way too much time on Facebook, scrolling almost mindlessly through the feed. This is at least partly a function of my anxiety disorder. My anxiety craves information—it’s part of the illusion of control my anxiety demands. But then the information is so unbelievably bad, it boosts my anxiety. So it’s a vicious cycle, and one I need to take more control over, if I can.

So I’m not focusing on stuff the way I should. Taking me forever to do basic work, and forgetting what day of the week it is. But, weirdly enough, I AM getting some writing done. Not much, not nearly what I could have done pre-pandemic, but every so often I get a spurt of creativity and get another scene revised. 4,200 words edited since lockdown started. Not too bad.

Next week my daughter’s school is on Spring Break, so any semblance of routine will likely dissolve with no schoolwork to do. I have no idea what that will mean for my sanity or creativity.

But today I am thankful for progress. Progress in my writing and progress through this lockdown. As endless as it seems, the lockdown will eventually end, and every day is one day closer to that moment.

And on that day, the world will be reborn. So let’s make it a good one.

Right Now. Coronavirus Lockdown Day 12

I’ve never been very good at being “in the moment.” My brain is always making forays into other times and places, so “right now” has always been rather hard for me. I sometimes wonder if that’s why my memory is not as strong as I think it should be—I don’t absorb enough from being there in the moment because my brain isn’t paying close enough attention.

Being in coronavirus lockdown is all about being in the “right now.” Because of the uncertainty of how long this might last, we are in a perpetual right now. Our world has become smaller as we draw inside our shells and time has changed its flow. It’s a series of right nows, rather than a timeline.

Right now my daughter needs to finish her homework.

Right now we should go for a walk outside because it stopped raining.

Right now I’ll make a meal.

Right now my blog post needs to be written.

There is no end in sight, so it all becomes an extended right now. And in an odd way, even though “normalcy” was only 12 days ago, it seems like another lifetime. A parallel universe.

The anxiety can overwhelm me without warning. My temper can spark for no real reason. The enforced 24/7 with the people I love can grate on my introvert nerves—and the forced distance from other people I love leaves a hole in my heart.

Right now is surreal. It is fear and peace and disruption and normalcy all wrapped up in one moment. Multiple levels of consciousness felt all at once. Looking out the window as if it’s a TV screen, with the outside as unreal as a Hollywood set. And when outside, almost—almost—being able to forget the invisible enemy that stalks us all.

We are struggling to find our footing still, find our balance on this new tightrope between life and death. Between living and hiding. When it gets too much, I just hang on to the fact that we are all together, we have the things we need, and we are healthy.

Right now.

Coronavirus Lockdown – Day 5

We got the call Friday—schools in our county would be closing until April 20th. More than a month away. The mad scramble began for all our families. Granted, since I work at home anyway, I was in a better position to handle my child’s sudden homebound state than many. And I give many kudos to the teachers and administration of our particular school who made this transition appear almost flawless. The children have work to do online and/or at home, and the children who relied on free or reduced meals are still getting fed. I cannot thank our school’s staff enough for everything they have done in this trying time.

Let me just say that I am not cut out to be a teacher. There is a reason I never homeschooled. However, we are beginning to adjust to the new reality. We have to do it quietly, though, as my husband is also suddenly working from home and is often on teleconferences.

This is a very strange existence, hiding from a germ. When your enemy is invisible and indiscriminant, it is very hard to combat. It puts us into a war-time mentality, and an odd dichotomy where our neighbors are simultaneously our allies and enemies. We are all in this together, helping each other out, but at the same time any person can be carrying the virus and not be aware.

I went grocery shopping today. I think I now understand what cavemen felt when they went hunting. Danger everywhere. The unknown around every corner. I have never been so stressed getting milk. Stayed as far from other shoppers as possible. Luckily, it was not crowded. Some shelves were pretty empty (mostly the meats and Club Size items), but I got everything I needed, and hopefully I can stay home the next 2 weeks. I got home and felt like I had bugs crawling all over me, even after I scrubbed my hands.

Uncertainty is a killer for me—for most people, really. We as a species do not handle the unknown well at all. I have an anxiety disorder, and the uncertainty has inflamed it greatly. I have parents who are in the high-risk age group, and I cannot be with them through this, as we live in different states. My child and husband are home all day, and although we are forming a routine, it is not there yet. And every time one of us ventures out into a public space (like the store), the 14-day waiting period resets.

I am trying to reign in my anxiety and carry on. I get outside (not public places, just outdoors) every day it’s not raining, usually with my daughter because she needs to get out of the house, too. I try not to stress-eat, but that’s hard. I stay in touch with my family and friends so we can help each other through this. But the fear still nibbles at the edges all the time, laying heavy on my heart.

The only time it lifts is at night, when I cuddle up with my daughter while she falls asleep. In that moment, she is safe, I am safe, we are safe. I listen to her breathe, as I used to when she was an infant, a lullaby that calms every mother’s heart.

Find your peace. Stay safe. Be well.

The Persistence of Pain

As I mentioned before, I have done a major revision to my YA scifi Veritas, and am now in the middle of a final read through before handing it off to my editor, the wonderful Kathryn Craft.

One thing I definitely need to address in my manuscript is the persistence of pain. When a character gets physically injured and then seems unfazed by it in the very next scene. The pain needs to carry through. It’s something I would immediately notice in other people’s writing, yet I missed it in my own until this reading.

My character breaks his wrist and is knocked unconscious in one scene. He feels the effects properly at the beginning of the next scene, but then the effects fade away. I mention in passing that his wrist was later set and splinted, but by the next day he is running around the forest with no ill effects.

Come on, Kerry, you know better than that.

I have never had either a concussion or a broken bone. My brother has had a concussion, so I know the effects can last for days. And I understand from research how painful a dislocated bone break can be. From my own experience, my C-section scar gave me pain for about a year, and even now, 10 years later, it can feel sore if too much pressure is applied.

Pain is persistent, and I need to carry that through the necessary scenes.

Perhaps my noting this in the present read through means I have fixed the larger issues with the manuscript. I guess I will find out after Kathryn gets through with it!

Mental Shutdown

Ever have one of those days (or a few) where your brain just doesn’t seem to want to work? Where your focus goes on vacation?

Yeah, that was me today.

That doesn’t mean I got nothing done. I did the things I had to. Put out the fires. Spent way too much time on Facebook. But it all got done with as little brainpower as possible.

I suppose I understand my brain’s checking out this week. It’s been a long, taxing month. Traveling over the holiday. Being sick as well. Starting my new position on the local Board of Education. My aunt dying. Traveling to her funeral. Coming home to the news a friend is very ill. The tenants in our rental house broke a water pipe.

It’s been a stressful month.

But I know how this works. The fuzziness of grief and shock will pass. The exhaustion of stress and illness will fade. And I will be able to think clearly again, work efficiently and find my creativity.

I will need to, because I have to turn in my YA manuscript rewrite to my editor in February.

Hmm, maybe this next month won’t be as stress-free as I thought!

What stress-busters do you use to get your brain back on track?

RIP, Aunt Dolores

My Aunt Dolores passed away this week. While she had been in declining health for a few months, the end came rather abruptly. She leaves behind 6 children, 11 grandchildren, and 6 great-grands and counting. Also, she leaves behind my mother, her last remaining sibling.

My aunt was something of a grandmother figure to me. My Nana—her and my mother’s mom—died when I was only 4 years old. So I really have no memories of her. My aunt was 19 years older than my mother, almost a full generation, so the parallel worked out.

I remember spending time at her house in Norristown when I was young. I stayed there when my brother was born. It was there that I learned to love Skippy peanut butter, causing many a spat with my Jif-brand loving mother. My aunt’s house was large, given that she had 6 kids, and I loved exploring what to me seemed a huge, rambling building. It was full of interesting knick-knacks and objects, a few of which made their way back to my house (with her permission) and I still have today.

We did Thanksgiving there as well, so I have the memories of boisterous family feasts (which have only gotten larger and more boisterous as the years passed). As an introverted child with only one sibling, the energy of a large family was somewhat overwhelming, but the love and welcome and warmth could not be missed. My cousins inherited my aunt’s generous spirit, and they go out of their way to help and support each other and to contribute to the wider community. I want to be like them when I grow up.

I’ll be honest, my aunt kinda scared me when I was little. She seemed so stern and strict, but I guess when you’re raising 6 kids and your husband travels a great deal for work, you have to lay down the law or go crazy. As I got older and got to know her better, I learned of her wit, wisdom, and humor, and met the real woman behind the stern aunt.

My aunt could talk. And talk. And talk. You could be on the phone with her for 2 hours and only manage to say 5 words. For an introvert like me, she was a godsend. If you stood near her at a family gathering, you never had to say a word. I believe she inherited this superpower from my Nana, although I obviously do not know from personal experience.

All that talking, though, brought to the forefront another amazing ability: her memory. I have never known anyone who had such tremendous recall of people and events from decades ago. Granted, this often meant she talked to me about people I had no idea who they were, but I still found the stories of her life fascinating. And as I grew more interested in family history, her memory was often the key to figuring out people and events in the past. My mother was so much younger than my aunt that Aunt Dolores knew ancestors better and more personally, so she was often a valuable source of information.

My Aunt Dolores was a loquacious, vivacious, generous woman to whom family was everything. She faced her not always easy life with grace and strength, and nurtured a family I am proud to be a part of and who I see as an example of what a family should be. She was a woman of strong opinion, of courage, and of faith, and she will be missed by many.

My mother is now the last of her generation, and I cannot imagine how lonely that must feel. My aunt was a fixture in my life, my godmother as well, and I still have not processed that she is no longer sitting in her living room on Long Island, watching her late night TV shows and opining on the state of the world today. My aunt was 91, and she was content to go, but that does not make her loss any easier for those left behind.

We miss you and love you, Aunt Dolores.

New Year 2020

Happy New Year to everyone out there! I sincerely hope that 2020 brings you all good things.

My own year is shaping up to be interesting. I was elected in November to the local school board, and I take office next week. I know I have much to learn, but I look forward to learning and helping our school thrive.

I also have some challenges on the writing front. This year I want to get my illustrated version of The Witch of Zal out. I also want to find homes for some of my other works. I have the first draft of The Witch of Zal’s sequel written, so I want to get to polishing that up, too.

I prefer to call them goals rather than resolutions. Psychological semantics, maybe, but I tend not to accomplish resolutions and usually accomplish my goals. Perhaps because when I think of them as goals I am more realistic and tend to choose goals that are mostly within my control. Resolutions I choose things I’m never going to achieve, even though I would like to—and I know this because my resolutions seemed to always be the same, which means I never actually accomplished them! So instead of setting myself up for failure, I am aiming for actual achievable targets.

I wish you success in 2020. I hope you find health, happiness, and satisfaction in this New Year.

The Irony of Christmas Peace

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. It’s not the gifts, it’s just something in the air. A joy, a residual magic that lingers from childhood.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was crawl in between the tree and our schrank and read by the lights of the tree. Secluded and bathed in the colored lights, it was a quiet time to bask in contentment.

An irony of the Christmas season is that while we wish peace on earth to everyone, we are often running around stressed, and peace is hard to find. As an adult, if we have a partner, we often juggle multiple family obligations, and if we are parents there’s a whole other level of Christmas crazy. If you are also a classic introvert, like me, the constant rounds of parties, dinners, and gatherings, while enjoyable, exhausts your inner resources.

So I hope this season you can find some peace, some time to relax and recharge.

I wish everyone peace and joy during this season and all year round. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

National Novel Writing Month 2019

So there’s this crazy thing that some writers do. They try to write 50,000 words in 30 days, during the month of November. For some writers, 50,000 words is a full manuscript, but sometimes it is only part of a manuscript, since some genres can be up to 100,000 words.

There is an entire organization ( that has sprung up around this endeavor, to help authors track their output and connect with other writers for camaraderie and support. If you “win” NaNo (reach 50,000 words) you get a badge to place on your website and a lot of kudos from your fellow NaNoWriMo participants.

Now, you don’t have to officially sign up for NaNoWriMo to participate. I have wanted to do it for some time, but I felt like I could never realistically do it. 50,000 words breaks down to 1,667 per day, and I balked at thinking I could do that.

But this year I decided to be crazy, and try it. Unofficially, so no pressure. I’ve been wanting to write the second book in my Oz series, but never seem to be able to get to it. My Oz books are middle grade, which are about 50,000 words generally speaking. My first book was just under 60,000 words, and I tend to draft short, so a 50,000 word goal will likely encompass an entire first draft of book 2.

I’m making good progress, much to my surprise. This is certainly not a pace I could keep up for the entire year, but it is helping me see how much more I could be doing than I am.

Anyone else doing NaNo—officially or not?

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien