I’m back!

Tracey Featured, Tracey's Blog Leave a Comment

After a fairly long hiatus I’m finding my way back to this site. Life is like that, isn’t it? (Oh pandemic, oh life, loss, learning, and … laughter.) But here I am, happily involved in so many new projects, so grateful to be finding my way through a new decade. It seems only fitting to begin with this recent piece I wrote for this remarkable woman, Suleika Jaouad, and her followers on The Isolation Journals.

Click link and scroll down to read my piece but not before you Jaouad’s story. It will grab you and not let go. As for my contribution, a life without regrets? While certainly not entirely possible, it remains my North Star. I am …

Singing Outside of the Shower!

https://theisolationjournals.substack.com/p/from-the-hospital-to-the-white-house

A Small Earnest Question

Tracey Book Reviews, Books, Tracey's Blog

I should probably begin this review with a friendly disclaimer since, prior to publication, I was asked to write a blurb for A Small Earnest Question, by J. F. Riordan. Now, with that out of the way, allow me to introduce you to a fine read. (Oh, it feels like your summer is about to get better!)

My initial attraction to this well crafted story was the setting, Washington Island, a remote bit of land in the Great Lakes. This beautiful little gem is isolated enough from the mainland that, to survive, locals have to forage strong, albeit sometimes unusual relationships. But without tourists and part-time “vacation home” residents to pour in and feed the economy, the local populace suffers. With this conundrum as the backdrop, an intriguing story begins to unfold.

The Islanders prove to be a fascinating lot. Elisabeth has renovated an old hotel to perfection. Word travels quickly on the mainland and though she’d prefer a proper grand opening, she is already welcoming guests. It’s also a shame she can’t find a way to say no to her partner Roger and his request to tend the bar. (Lacking the interpersonal skills required for successful bartending, the man does have a propensity for wild ideas … goat yoga anyone?) Oliver Robert, assistant to the Town Councilman and a lonely man in search of friends, joins a different bartender, Eddie, to form what becomes a surprisingly successful men’s book club. (They are eventually forced underground and you’ll want to know why.) And what island would be complete without its very own busy body? Enter Emily Martin, who clearly seems the happiest when her nose is in someone else’s business. Starved for attention, and status, she conjures up a literary festival and invites a guest speaker from the mainland who turns out to be a real character in his own right.

There are many more curious members of this intriguing and quirky cast of characters. Sub-plots wander through here and there in an interweaving of humanity that works to entertain while challenging the reader’s thinking. How are the suspicious fires to be explained? Who is mysteriously buying up island properties and … why? Is the elected Town Councilman, Fiona Campbell to be believed? There are spiritual encounters, a lone wolf, and a never ending  onslaught of yoga groupies camping out illegally in the local coffee shop parking lot.

A Small Earnest Question (Beaufort Books, 2020) is Book Four in the award-winning “North of the Tension Line” series. (I’m looking forward to reading the first three books.) It is an engaging, thoughtful, and downright funny read. But it is also a real testament to the meaning of community and during our current circumstances all across the nation, I found it worthwhile to be reminded about what it takes to bring people together instead of tearing them apart. 

Three books … each one will make you think but for very different reasons.

Tracey Book Reviews, Books, Uncategorized

These days, I am deep into Stamped from the Beginning, The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi. (Bold Type Books, 2016)  It’s a heavily researched read and utterly worthwhile. I’m taking my time with it as there is much for me to learn. With practically very page, I find myself considering a piece of history from a different perspective, which is leading me to new places. (That’s a bit embarrassing to admit but these days but I am all about my own accountability.) 

But there are times  when escaping into entertaining fiction offers a counter-balance to life around me. I have a couple of gems for you. 

I am just young enough to have missed the mystery and appeal of actor James Dean. Killed in a car crash in 1955, this twenty-four year old cultural icon was the epitome of teenage angst and social disconnect. Though Dean appeared in just three movies and some television programs, this handsome, brooding young man left his mark on our culture. He is the stuff of legends.

Which is why I found Cold Last Swim by Junior Burke (Gibson House Press. 2020) an especially interesting and inventive read.

In this quirky and multi-layered book, Burke reimagines Dean’s life. Set in bustling Hollywood of the ’50’s and early ‘60s, Burke’s style is reminiscent of that old series, Dragnet. His language is terse, straightforward and efficient, a written film noir set in sunny southern California. The plot moves along at a good clip. Be prepared for a curious cast of characters — record producers, teens turn sitcom stars, hustlers, song writers, and politicians all drive this book to places I never imagined.

Seemingly motivated by his unfailing dedication to New York method acting, the James Dean of Burke’s imagination walks onto the set of General Electric Theater and shoots co-star, Ronald Regan. With that, we are off to the races!

Charges are filed against Dean. But clever man that he is, he manages to avoid a possible guilty verdict by staging his own death in a high stakes movie scene involving two racing cars and a towering cliff over a southern California beach.

The rest of the novel is a tangle of plot lines, aliases, and characters that will keep you guessing.  While diehard Dean fans may not be thrilled with this fictional version of history, I encourage them to have some fun considering this intricate and inventive read. It’s just perfect for a summertime escape.

Shifting gears, I found We Have Everything Before Us, by Ester Yin-Ling Spodek (Gibson House Press, 2020) to be a deep dive into contemporary life. With all three of the primary characters experiencing some form of midlife angst, this novel will resonate with many.

It’s worth noting that the strength of Spodeck’s writing puts a fresh spin on these often addressed themes — boredom with marriage, infidelity, and dreams never realized. There is real danger in sentimentalizing this kind material but Spodek manages to keep things painfully realistic.

Consider Eleanor, the main character of We Have Everything Before Us. A woman who once nearly completed a doctoral degree, she now finds herself feeling insecure and desperate for validation. Ignored by her husband, her two sons lost in their own lives, she grapples with those commonplace feelings that grab many women her age. (Her war with annoying pigeons in her home’s eves offers humorous insight into what her life has become.)  

Her best friend Kaye struggles with similar yet different feelings. Her way of coping? Perhaps too much wine, a penchant for storytelling, and some blunt force opinions about what her friend should, or should not, do. It all falls a little short given the circumstances she’s juggling.

Now, just to mix things up to perfection, Spodek tosses in Phil, a philandering man who’s wife is in the process of divorcing him. He and Eleanor were acquaintances in high school and when they finally re-connect, lines are blurred and more questions asked than truly answered. 

What do these books all have in common? The complexities of human relationships we all encounter. Pick one to read or pick all three. You won’t be disappointed.

To mask or not to mask?

Tracey Ask Tracey, Columns, Tracey's Blog

Dear Tracey,

Can you tell my why some people are so hell bent on refusing to wear masks? I don’t get it.

My mother is in an assisted living place and she’s terrified the virus will get in there and infect all of them. She says she feels like a “sitting duck” and I don’t blame her. She calls it “The Invisible Killer” and I don’t know how to reassure her she’s safe. 

The people who work there tell me they’re doing everything possible to protect the residents but honestly, that doesn’t make me feel better. We all know this virus can run through a nursing home in a flash. 

I don’t want my mother’s life to end just because someone is too self-centered to put on a simple mask. 

Is there any way to talk sense to those people who won’t do their part?

Signed,

Mad, Mad, MAD

Dear Reader,

You have every right to be angry. It must be terrifying and frustrating to know your vulnerable mother is in a living situation that might put her at increased risk for contracting COVID 19.

Thanks to a global body of research, many of us are determined to stop this deadly virus by  wearing a mask and taking other precautions.

However, doing something like wearing a mask is a totally new concept for Americans and when something is new, people tend to approach it through their own values, experiences, and biases.

On a very simple level, some people find the masks too uncomfortable to wear and they are simply unwilling to experience any kind of discomfort.

For some, the mask represents weakness and rather than be seen as weak, some people overcompensate with a show of strength. (Think of a gorilla who pounds his chest to appear larger and more threatening. Or how about packing a rocket launcher to a protest? There’s no better example of overcompensation.)

Other people hate being told what to do. They equate wearing a simple mask as loss of personal freedom, something Americans deeply value. When an individual believes his/her liberty is threatened, we have seen people become indignant and morally outraged, often digging their heels in even further over their definition of personal freedom. 

Fear is also driving people to make bad, life threatening decisions. I was absolutely shocked to see a protestor carrying a huge sign that read, “My freedom is worth more than your safety.” My stomach actually turned. While I’m pretty sure this man would loudly deny my theory, I imagine this level of self-centeredness is likely driven by fear. And when fear takes over, the rules of a civilized society can start to breakdown 

Sadly, all of these reactions to wearing a mask are exacerbated because, for months now the entire nation has been living with incredible uncertainty. Jobs have been lost, rent can’t be paid, kids are home from school, the future looks bleak. Fuses are short. Sadly, defiance can feel oddly satisfying and even powerful. (Too bad it’s so short-sighted.)  

But we also have a long tradition in this country of looking out for one another, especially when it comes to the health and safety of the whole. As a group we’ve come to accept some personal sacrifices for the good of ourselves and our fellow Americans. We have seatbelt laws and obey traffic lights. Drinking and driving is illegal. Thanks to research on second hand smoke, there are now restrictions about where smokers can light up. 

Do we like all of these laws and restrictions? Maybe not but they certainly have resulted in lower rates of illness, injury, and death. The thing those refusing to wear masks seem to have lost sight of is this; being part of our society allows us certain freedoms but it also demands that we share certain responsibilities.

I happen to think masks are uncomfortable. So what! My slight discomfort is just not a good enough reason to skip wearing one. No, I prefer to think of it as one way I can show my fellow Americans that I care about them and have respect for them. It doesn’t feel like forced conformity or a loss of my personal freedom. Instead, I choose to think of it as a way I can show solidarity with my community. Why? Because we’re all in this together. 

Outdoor Lantern

Creating New Rituals

Tracey Columns

It’s closing in on that time of year when so many different graduations are on the horizon. We happily attend the ceremonies and then join family and friends to honor our graduate, appreciating these social rituals that mark special milestones in life. 

Whether it’s a graduation ceremony and party, a wedding, family reunion, or a funeral and a wake, rituals deeply connect us to ourselves and each other. These long established practices are meaningful, emotionally fulfilling, and richly satisfying. 

Interestingly, when we pause and consider our daily routines, we often discover another set of social rituals that are smaller, sometimes even tiny, and yet no less important to our over-all well being. 

For example, it was only after my dear old faithful dog died last fall that I recognized the importance of our morning ritual, just me, my first cup of coffee, and Bella curled up on my feet. It was the perfect way to start my day. Or how every time our children drive away from our home after yet another wonderful visit, we all lovingly wave the sign language symbol for ‘I love you’ until they disappear around the first green bend in the road. Weekly coffee with friends at my favorite coffee shop is another social ritual I enjoy, as are those first spring visits to the nursery when the yard is coming back to life and the future looks bright. And singing! Ah, now there’s another weekly social ritual I love.

Just like larger, more significant rituals, these  small, daily moments in our lives give us a sense of predictability, purpose, and stability. They define us and make us feel part of a larger community. Rituals enrich our lives and improve our mood, 

But these days? There’s nothing like sheltering-in-place to land a great blow squarely on the head of so many beloved social rituals. This loss of enjoyable, predictable activities is taking a toll on so many. 

Here’s a question for you, take a moment and identify what you are missing the most while quarantined? Is it the spiritual connection with your church community? Perhaps it’s simply chatting with your favorite checker at the grocery store? Who misses going to their choir rehearsals? Maybe it’s your monthly book club or weekly walk with your friend of many years? Who’s missing their grandchild’s Little League games? 

Though it appears sheltering-in-palace is starting to relax somewhat, the fact remains that those of us in the second half probably won’t be rushing back to our regular activities any time soon. What are we to do?

For starters, please don’t discount your losses, no matter how trivial they may seem to you. And while your at it, don’t judge yourself too harshly for feeling blue because you can’t go to your weekly Canasta game with your friends. Yes, other people have bigger losses right now but you are also juggling a host of adjustments. Talk to friends and family about what you are feeling. You might be surprised to learn about the small social rituals they are sad to miss as well.

Next, try to create alternatives to beloved rituals. Have fun thinking about how can you have a party for your high school graduate and still honor safety guidelines. (Did you see the ‘drive-by’ birthday parade for the man who turned 100? Talk about special!)  Maybe you and your friend need to agree to weekly coffee over the phone or through any number of computer sites, like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. Music can still be a part of your daily routine. Simply turn up the volume on your favorite tunes and dance your way into a better mood! (Don’t worry. No one is watching!) Want to feel more connected with your neighbors? Call around and ask if they’d like to be known as the “Rainbow Neighborhood?” Everyone then posts a rainbow in a front window to signify connection and hope for the future. 

Eventually, we will get back to our regular lives but in the meantime, partake in whatever social rituals you can. Put some thought and energy into adapting old ones and creating new ones. You’ll feel better for it.

Thanks to libraries, kids can stay engaged

Tracey Books

Are you stuck in your home, hoping your children’s brains won’t turn to mush before the shelter-in-place orders are lifted? Do you find yourself wondering how to keep them entertained without relying on too much screen time? When they ask to watch Frozen again for the 10th time, do you wish you could conjure up a book related activity for them?

Do not fear! The libraries of our nation are coming to the rescue. Though individual branches are closed, rich online libraries are at your fingertips. Ebooks, audiobooks, and articles are just a search away. 

Just for fun, I opened my local Humboldt County Library website (www.humlib.org) and discovered a wealth of resources for people of ALL ages. (If you don’t have a library card, you can obtain an “e card” in just a matter of a few clicks.)  

The website directed me to Overdrive, a service that offers the library’s largest collection of eBooks, audio books, digital magazines, articles and various data bases for adults and children, Simply download the free Libby App, enter your local library branch and card number and begin your search.

As for those kids of yours?  Overdrive also offers special sections for both kids and teens. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if your local library offers similar resources. I encourage you to give them a call.

I was especially curious about what other online activities might be available for children, especially those too young to read. I reached out to a dear friend of mine, Sharon Zaumbaris, who is both an author and a beloved school librarian in Virginia. After we caught up on how our families were managing, I asked her about possible resources for parents. As luck would have it she was just finishing up an information sheet for her school staff and graciously offered to share it with all of us. 

Here are some additional resources for you:

Listen to books read aloud

1.  Storyline Online — The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.

https://www.storylineonline.net

2.  Save with Stories/Save the Children — #SAVEWITHSTORIES.  Join a lot of famous faces as they read their favorite stories aloud.  

https://www.instagram.com/savewithstories/?hl=en

3.  Circle Round– WBUR’s Circle Round is a podcast that adapts carefully selected folktales from around the world into sound- and music-rich radio plays for kids ages 4 to 10 years. Each 10 to 20 minute episode explores important issues like kindness, persistence and generosity.

https://www.wbur.org/circleround

Sharon also included a list of wonderful storytellers from all across the nation. This kind of ‘story hour’ seems especially fitting for toddlers and preschoolers. (While listening to stories is entertaining, it also promotes a child’s emotional, social, and language development.)

1.      Bill Harley — If you’re looking for silly stories, great songs and lots of laughs, join Bill Harley every Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm PST. He will be performing a short concert in his office, and you’re invited. 

https://www.billharley.com/miniconcerts/

2.      Wow-in-the-world —NPR hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz guide curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them. We’ll go inside our brains, out into space and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology.

https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510321/wow-in-the-world

3.      Story Nory—Storynory has been giving free audio stories to the world since November 2005. They are a podcast and a website with audio streaming. … Storynory has grown into the largest and best-loved archive of free children’s audiobooks on the internet.

https://www.storynory.com/

4.      Stories Podcast—Stories Podcast performs a new story every week, drawing from a variety of sources and a variety of styles. There are retellings of classics like Snow White, some folktales, and myths from around the world, as well as original stories. Episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes, with most on the longer side. Everything here is G-rated and safe for all ages.

http://www.storiespodcast.com

5.      Planet Storytime Podcast–Offering a mix of classic stories, like those of Beatrix Potter, and less well-known content Planet Storytime aims for that mix of entertainment and education that Fred Rogers perfected.

https://568048.buzzsprout.com/

Libraries … where would we be without them?

Frowny-Faced Egg

Elderly dad refuses to shelter-in-place

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

Pease help us. My whole family is upset because we can’t get my 77 year old dad to stay home like he is supposed to. He says this is all a “big fat hoax” and that nobody is going to tell him “what to do.” He insists he “feels fine.”  

This attitude of his is especially ridiculous because both of my parents have health issues but that doesn’t seem to get through to  him either. 

My sisters and I have worked it out with my mother. She gets it!  We’re buying their groceries and doing other errands for them. 

There is absolutely no good reason for Dad to be out and about. He’s still going to his weekly poker game with his buddies. He’ll just run off to the hardware store for something too. We are really afraid of what he may be bringing back into their house. 

My dad has always been stubborn and unreasonable. He won’t listen to anybody who has a different opinion. I don’t know how my mom has put up with him all of these years. Growing up we all figured out ways to just avoid hot topics but now? He’s putting our mother’s life at risk.

What can we do?

Signed,

Three Sisters

Dear Readers,

Sadly, there are people all across the nation refusing to cooperate during this national crisis. The added tension and anxiety such non-compliant behavior causes their families and friends is more than regrettable, it’s potentially life threatening.

People unwilling to honor the shelter-in-place orders do so for many complicated reasons. For your father, it seems as though his pride and independence have merged into a reckless attitude. It’s also worth considering that for men, especially of your father’s generation, fear is an entirely unacceptable emotion, weakness is never to be exposed. Instead, some men over compensate by hiding their  natural vulnerability behind stubborn bravado.

Your father’s ignorance about the facts surrounding COVID-19 aren’t helping either. In addition, since “He won’t listen to anybody who has a different opinion,” I understand why you and your sisters are facing a nearly impossible task. 

I think you have a couple of options. However, whenever you approach him be rested and in a good mood. Your frustration and anger can seep through and these emotions will put him on the defensive.

Have you tried to approach this topic via his responsibilities as a husband? Is it possible to frame these concerns in term’s of your mother’s well being? Can you help him see that he is putting her life at risk? 

I’d also remind him that no one is trying to control him. Obviously, he can make his own choices. But try to tap into his intelligence. Remind him of all the things he taught you and your sisters to do as you were growing. Tell him you are just trying to do the ‘smart’ thing and would hope he would do the same. 

I can’t recall ever recommending the use of scare tactics but this may be the exception. Has he actually been following what’s happening in New York and elsewhere? You may want to bundle up ghastly photos from hotspots to show him. Is he aware of how COVID-19 cases are climbing in your county? Can you find some visual examples to show him about how this unseen virus is so easily spread? Try printing information from your Department of Public Health and see if these facts might get through his denial. 

If your father is unable to change his behaviors, your next step would be to talk wth your mother about the steps she must take to protect herself. How can she limit contact with your father while sharing the same house? Is there an extra bedroom she can move into? 

I realize this sounds like a drastic and less-than-perfect option but her health is at risk under the current circumstances. Something needs to change. It would be worthwhile to check with Department of Public Health for more ideas on how to help your mother stay safe. 

Books and More: ‘Off Island’ captures the lure of the unknown

Tracey Books

I’m not exactly sure when I started loading up my nightstand with books, but it’s been a practice for as long as I can remember. How about you? Is your stack full of fascinating titles, some revered, some pure escapism? Perhaps you lean toward psychological thrillers? A well-researched biography? Or, are romance novels your guilty pleasure?

I currently have four very different titles within arm’s reach. There’s “Frida” by Hayden Herrera, a richly detailed biography of Frida Kahlo that primed me in the best possible way for our recent trip to Mexico City.

On top of this sits “Words Are My Matter, Writings on Life and Books,” a powerful and brilliant collection of essays, lectures and book reviews by writer Ursula K. Le Guin. (One of my favorite essays is “The Hope of Rabbits, A Journal of a Writer’s Week.” After re-reading it the other night, I was left wondering … as a writer who now finds herself surrounded by isolation and solitude, will I manage to do the next round of edits for my novel?)

Next up in my stack is “True Grit,” the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. (The movie versions have been entertaining, but give yourself a real treat … read the book.) This one has been sitting there for quite some time. While I thoroughly enjoyed the story — what’s not to love about the fierce, courageous 14-year-old Mattie Rose — I sometimes randomly open it up just to escape into the book’s poetic language.

And finally, there’s “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty, a lighthearted and fascinating character study of nine strangers who come together for a health retreat at Tranquillum House. Promised transformation by their commanding facilitator, I can’t wait to see how it ends.

Curious about what others were curling up with during this odd period of social distancing, I reached out to a friend of mind in Portland. Mary Bisbee Beek, who is bright and wonderfully dry witted, has been a part of the publishing world for decades. (Full disclosure, she did the marketing for my novel a few years ago.) I wondered what had her attention these days and she promptly responded with this:

“Try the recently launched ‘Off Island’ by Lara Tupper. It is the perfect book for lovers of art, people who live by the sea and for transplants from New England — but it also works as just a good read.

“Paul Gauguin was a French post-impressionist artist who, near the end of his life, spent 10 years in French Polynesia. ‘Pure color!’ he wrote to his wife, Mette, from the South Seas. ‘Everything must be sacrificed to it.’

“But in his quest for new light and new color, Tupper imagines Gauguin running away to a new island, a rugged outpost off the coast of Maine. There, Gauguin leaves behind some paintings and letters, and maybe a child. This intriguing plot picks up 100 years later when another Maine painter, Pete, finds himself torn between his muses: the sturdy, reliable Molly, and the unhappy, peripatetic Karla — who promises to take him to other, newer islands.

“‘Off Island’ captures the lure of the unknown and the pull of the familiar, and questions what it means to be loyal to one’s art, one’s family and one’s home.”

This struck me as just the kind of book to add to my nightstand. Curious about the author, I visited Tupper’s website, laratupper.com, and discovered she is not only a novelist, but a singer/songwriter who lives in western Massachusetts.

Here’s a bit more from Tupper’s bio: “She has worked as a clambake waitress, a cruise ship entertainer, an academic, a yogi, a backup singer, an editor and a music booker. She remains a proud member of the BMIFC (Barry Manilow International Fan Club) and has recently become a Little Free Librarian. She has had the good fortune to live in New York City, London, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Dubai, Otaru, Hua Hin, the Berkshires and Boothbay. She feels most at home near the sea.”

Tupper sounds like someone I’d love to share a cup of tea with.

“Off Island” can be ordered directly through the publisher, www.encirclepub.com or through our local bookstores. All of the books I mentioned can be ordered locally or, hopefully, found in one of our wonderful used bookstores.

Happy reading!

Where would we be without books?

Tracey Books

Reading has always been one of my most treasured activities, and why not? A good book can transport me back to a rich time in history, whisk me off to a tropical island, make me laugh until tears run down my cheeks and even teach me a new embroidery stitch.

Why, I’m happy just walking through the front door of a bookstore and breathing in the unique blend of paper and bindings. (I’ve never been able to identify exactly what books smell like to me. It’s an earthy, smoky scent, a bit woody, too, and it’s always so pleasant, so comforting.)

Ah, books, where would we be without them … especially now, when we find ourselves in these most unusual, anxiety producing, depressing and especially boring circumstances of home confinement.

A good friend of mine shared a quote from writer Tom Perrotta with me: “I look out my window, and it’s a beautiful day, and the water comes out of the faucet when I turn it on, and my car works. The infrastructure of the world is intact, but there is this feeling of dread and grief that makes it feel entirely different than (sic) what it did a month ago. I wake up and as soon as I go downstairs and come in contact with any information, this heaviness just comes over me that I carry through the whole day.”

I’ve had mornings like that these last few weeks … until I picked up a book. For me, like many of you, reading offers such solace during trying times. A good book can be an entertaining distraction or a thought-provoking way to manage the loneliness, escape our uncertain futures and brighten our moods. Disappear into a book and when you come back up for air, the world just may look a little brighter.

With that in mind, I will be spending time each week looking for resources for all of us, adults and children alike, who are happy to escape between the covers of a good book. I’ll be sharing reviews, author interviews, recommending writing blogs and other related resources. (Writing blogs? Sure! Now is a wonderful time to explore your own writing interests!)

Perhaps I’ll come across an online book club you might want to join. (I hope, thanks to technology, that those of you in book clubs are continuing to meet. Coming together to share your latest selection will make you feel connected in many different ways. Don’t belong to a book club? Connect with a friend, read a book together and share your impressions during weekly FaceTime calls. The wine is optional!)

Take a few minutes to pursue your own shelves for those books you have been meaning to read. (I have a few tucked in here and there and everywhere!) Pull them, stack them up on a table, and then ponder how each one of them might improve the quality of your life. Grab one and dive in tonight!

Or, take this opportunity to consider something new you may want to learn. As previously mentioned, my embroidery skills are improving every day, thanks to a great book that’s been sitting on my shelf for years. (Ha, when I was a starving college student I re-built the carburetor in my 1956 VW Bug thanks to a clear, well laid out publication with plenty of useful illustrations.) Maybe you’d like to try your hand at magic? Is it time you explored Japanese silk screening? What do you need to brush up on the tender care of your roses?

Of course, as much as we all might want and need books at the moment, accessing them can be difficult. (My Saturday afternoon bookstore wanderings have come to a screeching halt.) Never fear! There are countless ways you can bring a book, either new or used, safely into your home.

We are fortunate to have a number of local, independent bookstores who are continuing to offer their services:

· Booklegger in Old Town Eureka is taking orders. Call 707-444-1344. They will either ship to your home or you can pick up your order curbside. Check out their Facebook page. Owner Jen McFadden told me they are getting a lot of special orders and that she is happy to offer recommendations to people who call.

· Eureka Books, also in Old Town Eureka, continues to stock new, used and rare books. You may order online at https://eurekabookshop.com or by calling 707-444-9593. They offer free shipping.

· Northtown Books in Arcata is taking orders via its website, www.northtownbooks.com, or by calling 707-822-2834. Books will be shipped to you or you can pick up your order at the store, Monday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. They are still taking cash, checks and credit cards.

· Tin Can Mailman in Arcata is offering both shipping and curbside pick-up. Leave a message at 707-822-1307 and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

· Blake’s Books in McKinleyville will definitely try to find the book you are looking for. Please call 707-839-8800.

Until next time … happy reading!

Abstract Art

Coping amid COVID -19

Tracey Columns, Tracey's Blog, Uncategorized

Where to even begin? When I wrote my last column my husband and I were on the brink of beginning a long awaited, 24 day adventure in Mexico City and Oaxaca. We had Spanish classes scheduled for the mornings and in the afternoons we would explore the rich culture and interact the warm and friendly people of Mexico … and then along came COVID 19.

We left the states just as this lethal virus was beginning to make its way around the  globe. While aware of its presence, it felt so far, far away from us. We had our eye on it. I had packed hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes for the plane and other surfaces, and we always practice good hand washing hygiene whether at home or abroad. But to be painfully honest, we were in full on, fun mode and we didn’t give it much thought.

However, by about day seven of our trip, we wised up. Being an early riser, I was reading the New York Times every morning on my iPad. Slowly, the reality of what the spread of Coronavirus actually meant began to sink in. Here was a disease that put elderly people at risk. ( We’re both over 65. They were talking about us? That was a shocking dose of reality.) It could live on surfaces for up to a few days. (Navigating daily among 20 million Mexican citizens, we were brushing up against people, opening doors, etc, whenever we left our apartment.) People without any symptoms were carriers. (Whoops.)

We knew we would be cutting our trip short and quickly learned our decision was fully supported by some reliable, knowledgeable resources who happened to be just an email away. Both of our daughters work in public health and my son’s partner is a medical student. (Well, he was a medical student. His university has now shut down for the remainder of the year, which will prevent him from graduating on time.) After a few exchanges with these level headed sweeties there was no doubt we had made the right decision. 

We finally managed to get a direct flight to SFO. Once home, we immediately began self-isolation for obvious reasons; we had been in a foreign country, passed through two  huge international airports, and flew on a plane home.  

But once we were safely back in our home, I still had concerns. As of March 16, the denial about the virus among some members of our community was surprising. I had read the following posts on Facebook: “We’re in Humboldt, behind the Redwood Curtain.” (You know, like that mythical barrier we all joke about was going to protect us?) And this, “We don’t have any active cases so we’ll be ok.” (That’s just not how this virus works.) The most frighting opinion of all?  “It’s a political hoax.”  (Nope, was scientific data pouring in from all over the globe.) My other concern was the refusal among some people to protect themselves and the rest of us by failing to practicing social distancing. (No, this was NOT the year to go to the bars on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Our fears were eased when, on March 19, Humboldt County Health Officer, Dr. Teresa Frankovich, issued a ‘Shelter in Place’ order for our county. This struck me as a wise and proactive decision on the part of our community leaders. The order meant people stayed home except for essential services, business, medical appointments, and travel.  California’s Govenor Newsom soon added a state-wide shelter in place. Our immediate futures looked dismal but necessary.

As both Newsom and Frankovich noted, this order was “protective of our most vulnerable and of our healthcare system.” I, for one, am very grateful it is in place.

For those of us the higher risk groups due to age and/or other health related concerns at any age, our task is to stay put as much as we possible can. This sounds challenging, boring, and lonely, so lonely, but it is absolutely necessary if we are going to stop this virus.  

That said, we can still go out for walks, do yard work, take bike rides, and enjoy other forms of exercise. We just can’t do it in a pack and we must stay six feet apart from one another.

We can stay in touch with others by phone, email, or other on-line tools, like Skype and Facebook. (After some FaceTime with my kids and grandkids I feel like a new woman!)

Now is the time to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, etc. I know this can be extremely difficult for many of us to do but it’s absolutely crucial. Seriously, sit down and make a list now … pretty please?

Still wondering if all of ‘fuss” is necessary? Here’s one more helpful tidbit my daughter relayed to me after she was on a conference call with medical professionals from throughout the entire state of California: “If you feel like you are over-reacting, you are doing the right thing!”

It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? But by taking active steps towards your own well being, you will actually feel more empowered and more in control. This in turn will lower your anxiety. 

We are all in this together and by joining forces, by altering our normal routines and behaviors, we can squash this invisible menace!