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Hoping for a Better New Year


One of the things I've missed most during the pandemic is "Group Power," my weightlifting class at Timberhill Athletic Club in Corvallis.  I stopped going before they actually had to shut down, and bought my own set of weights to use at home.  What was the use of going if we had to wear masks and couldn't smile and greet each other and chat, one of the big benefits of working out in a group, as opposed to alone, in your own guest room?


When covid numbers improved in the summer, I made it to three maskless classes before it began to look dicey again.  But we're all constantly weighing our risks and benefits, right?  At some point in the fall, fully vaxxed and boosted, I decided it might be worth it to exercise in the mask, just to get out of the house and see some  people I wasn't related to.


Good call, because it turns out the experience of working out in a group of masked women of a certain age, doggedly determined to keep our strength up, has been  a real upper.


This vacation week, I got the bonus of running into my grandson's beloved second grade teacher, Jennifer Rodriguez, at this class. Please understand that Nolan being assigned this talented, empathetic and experienced teacher has been one of the best things that's happened to our family recently. The first time he came to the farm after school had started, he happily put it this way: "My teacher has a such a good way of seeming to understand exactly what I want and what I need."  I said, "Really?  So what do you want and what do you need?"  He thought a moment.  "I don't know." Then he grinned. "But SHE does!"


So, on this last bleak day of the year, with our covid numbers rising across the nation and right here in our own county,  I navigated the icy roads to the gym in a decidedly gloomy mood.  As I loaded weights onto my bar next to Jennifer Rodriguez, I said through my mask, in what I now fear was probably a pathetically downer of a tone, "So are you feeling okay about having the kids back in school Monday?" This lovely woman didn't miss a beat.  She said, "Oh, sure.  I'm just gonna go for it!"


What a gift, this spark of optimism! No wonder Nolan loves her so much!  I think I'll try harder to talk optimistically to others myself!


Happy New Year, everyone!  It's just  gotta get better, right?       


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9/11 Anniversary

Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11.  It was a beautiful September day here at Wake Robin Farm, just as it is today. The twins, Mary and William, were 15, getting ready for what was supposed to be a routine day at Corvallis High. The odd part? It was. When they came home, they reported that nobody talked at all about planes flying into the two towers of the World Trade Center. No teacher said a word.


Personally, we were preoccupied by the fact that my mother was on a trip in France and our oldest son Miles, 22, was in Beijing, spending a term there to study Chinese.  We heard from him immediately by e-mail with this prescient prediction:


I'm very worried about the aftermath of this. The Muslim community is probably going to get it….And when they figure out who's responsible, I pity that particular country's citizens, because I'm afraid we might really let them have it.


Well, he was right, and many horrible things have happened in these twenty years.  But many good things too. Miles himself was just about to meet his future wife that Fall, and twenty years  later to the day, he sends pictures of himself with his two sons, our darling grandsons, building an amazing sand fort on the beach at Neskowin. Life can still be good.


Coverage of the anniversary invariably talks about us losing our innocence that fateful day, and things never being the same afterwards.  Of course we've already been hearing plenty about things never being the same after the Pandemic. Um, people? Things will never be the same in the future no matter what happens. Life is nothing but change. You can't step into the same river twice. 


As for losing our innocence, isn't that what they said when President Kennedy was shot?  No, wait, I guess we lost it all over again in 1968 when  Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kenny were assassinated in the space of a couple of months. What about Watergate? The Iran hostage crisis? The Pandemic and, most recently, the January  6th insurrection at the Capitol?


The truth is, we've never been innocent. What people mean when they say that, I think, is more like, "Wow! Sure didn't see that coming! What a shock!"  Well, who knows what shocking thing we're not seeing coming next? In the meantime, instead of languishing in nostalgia for a lovely past that never was, our best bet is to make today the best it can be and try for better tomorrows.


Our current challenge is simply to outlive and endure the sadly stubborn and uneducated people who refuse to get vaccinated and wear masks in the face of Covid-19. I'm feeling grateful that our Oregon county, Benton, is like an island of sanity in the pandemic, and, locally, we are all clinging to this goal of being able to keep our precious children in school.



It's beautiful and peaceful  here today at Wake Robin Farm, and I'm going to enjoy it. I feel like more of a Buddhist than a Christian these days, but I've always liked this Biblical line: Today is the day which the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! 

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Apparently  lots of people show up in the offices of therapists without really knowing what their problem is and they need somebody to help them figure it out.  Not me. When I went to Corvallis therapist Madeline Rubin in the horrible summer of 2013, I knew exactly why I was there.  I was physically sick from the effects of Oxycodone and Xanax, and my poor fried brains were making it tough for me to cope with everything and everybody.  Having long since absorbed the idea that we can't change others, we can only change ourselves, I figured I was the one who ought to be signing up for therapy.  Long story short—it's all in Accidental Addict—her sessions were my lifeline.


So when I heard therapist Lori Gottlieb being interviewed on NPR about her new book—Maybe You Should Talk to Someone—I was intrigued.  Her subtitle explains it: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed.  Gottleib is apparently a good therapist but also, she's a great writer and storyteller and her book is a winning combination of memoir and non-fiction treatise on exactly how therapy works.


The thing I valued most about talking to my own therapist, Madeline, was the way she would tell stories in general about people and human nature.  Without betraying anyone's privacy, she would simply share what she had learned over the years by listening to her patients.  "If a person says, 'That's it, I'm outta here,'" I remember her saying one time, "Nine times out of ten the other person is going to say, 'Well, I'm outta here too!'  That's just how people are. They have to defend themselves."   I never really thought she could explain me to myself and I didn't need that, but I was a rapt audience for her hard-won wisdom in helping me try to understand everybody else.


Gottleib likewise delivers, and in a highly readable fashion.  She tells her own story intertwined with those of a handful of her clients.  In her introduction she points out she has knocked her lights out changing details to make the characters unrecognizable as the real clients in her life and, in reading it, you have to feel she may have taken liberties to shape these stories into what amounts to entertaining fiction.  I, for one, completely forgive her, since the principles of human nature she's explaining ring so true.


Some critics like to denigrate a book that makes for such fun reading.  How can we take the author seriously?  Well, not me!  If an author can be thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time, more power to her. 


If you have any interest at all in the idea of therapy and how it works, maybe you should read  Maybe You Should Talk to Someone!

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OMG!!! You're Reading My Blog!!! Congratulations!!!


I guess it's traditional to get cranky with age over the changing use of language. But even when young  I was something of a Grammar Nazi, thanks to my degree in Journalism and classes in which a reporting assignment would be knocked down a full grade for each spelling or usage error. I hope I've had the good sense to not go around correcting people in person, but I mentally "edit" all newscasts, and never fail to be bothered by such things as the ever common use of "less" for "fewer."  As in "Benton County has less cases of Covid this week."  No, that would be "fewer cases," because this is something you can actually count. 


Linda, nobody cares.  Okay.


My mother complained repeatedly about newspaper accounts describing a person as having "gone missing." Not sure why it bothered her, but it certainly did.  My husband cannot bear being told somebody is "reaching out him," so keep that in mind if you are trying to persuade him to make a charitable donation.  He will not feel charitable.


But personally I try to remain open to new expressions that seem to improve communications, and when a forester with whom I was consulting on a potential thinning job assured me that the loggers he works with are "totally dialed in," I rather liked that.  I'd probably seen this new slang in writing but I don't know that anybody had ever spoken it to me before.  And since we were talking about the plot of Doug fir we had planted, thinned and limbed for twenty years ourselves, it meant something to me  to have it confirmed that these guys with the equipment would have a good grip on which  trees to cut, which to leave.


I'm thinking that the annoying trend of congratulating people for their purchases  started sneakily with waiters approving a diner's  choice of  entre; it's actually been so long since I ate in a restaurant, thanks to Covid, that I'd kind of forgotten!  But where I really felt smacked with it was when I started publishing with BookBaby and began receiving this message:  "Congratulations!  We've sent you a payment!"


Yeah, okay.  That's what you're supposed to do, right?  You're publishing my book and when people buy copies on Amazon or at their local independent, you eventually forward me the $1.80 I get on the $18.00 book.  Why is that cause for congratulations?  When I get a nice check from Random House for my Children of the River royalties, do they enthuse with congratulations?  No, they do not.  They made the decision to publish my book over thirty years ago and it's been good for both us.  They send the money, that's it.


Somewhere, I suspect, some youngish person in marketing came up with the notion that it would be good business to try to make people feel clever for their purchasing decisions, and it's alarming to see how this has apparently caught on. Far too many on-line purchases now  come with this unpleasant condescension. 


Today I got this message: OMG! Your package has been delivered! Congratulations! 

People, we are talking about a package of underpants. Enough already.  Have others found this annoying or am I just getting old?


Whatever, as the kids got us saying a couple of decades back. 


But please don't let this stop you from buying my BookBaby published books!   When they eventually congratulate me on paying me for your purchase, I promise not to hold it again you, my eventual reader, for whom  I have nothing but goodwill.


Or should I get with the younger generation's program and say OMG! Congratulations for being smart enough to want to read my books!

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Glennon Doyle, My Take

A couple of weeks ago my husband asked me if I had heard of a writer named Glennon Doyle, because he was reading a big profile of her in The New Yorker magazine.  Well, I hadn't, but with a million and a half Instagram followers hanging on her every word, maybe I should have?


So I started her most recent book, Untamed, to see why so many people were drawn to her advice.  For a few chapters I was like, well, okay.  Her writing was punchy and readable and certainly much more fun than Eckart Tolle, whose classic, The Power of Now, had been my previous read.  She was good at setting up scenes, how she met and fell in love with soccer star Abby Wambach.


Apparently some readers have been upset by the ways she changed since her first books; they liked the Glennon who was saved from bulimia and alcoholism by Christianity, by getting married and becoming the mother of three children.  They didn't like the idea of ditching her husband for a woman and dismissing a lot of her own previous advice, particularly since they had taken so much of it so fervently to heart.


Well, I didn't have any problem with the lesbian relationship or ditching the paternalistic aspects of Christianity.  I didn't disagree with her ideas about being honest with yourself, living your most beautiful, most authentic life and all that. The causes and charities she directs her followers to support—immigrant children at the border—are important.  So I kept reading, entertained, only  brought up short occasionally by her hammer-on-the-head style of attributing quotes to herself and others that just don't sound like things people IRL would actually say. Canned sermons forced into dialogue grate on me.


Untamed was beginning to seem to me like an odd new hybrid.  We've long had a tradition of the trainwreck memoir, the author describing the trouble she got into and how she survived it, leaving the reader to take what she can from it by way of inspiration.  I'm thinking of  Anne Lamott's charming first memoir,  Operating Instructions, in which, with endearing self-deprecation, she describes her experience of having a baby on her own.  Another was  I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can, Barbara Gordon's  1980 memoir about her addiction to Valium. It was just her story, without further prescriptions for the reader.  I thought I was doing the same thing with Accidental Addict:  Reader, here's what happened to me when kindly, well-meaning doctors prescribed me Xanax and Oxycodone. Heads up!


Then we have our trusted  advice columnists—Dear Abby and Ann Landers, of course, and, more recently, Amy Dickinson and Carolyn Hax.  Cheryl  Strayed's  answered queries collected in Dear Sugar were particularly insightful, I thought.  But the advice of these women is valued because they have wisdom.  They seem intuitive.  In the case of the popular Brene Brown, her advice comes from years of research and interviews with other people.


But here's Glennon Doyle, all navel gazing. I suppose she intended to be disarmingly confessional in telling how she cheated at vote counting to be a  homecoming princess in high school.  I wasn't worried about the cheating, I just thought it was sad and baffling that she somehow thought being a homecoming princess was such a worthy goal in the first place. She's mistaken if she assumes the rest of us all started from a place as clueless as she did.


Now she lives her life at breakneck speed, writing it all down as fast as she can, with precious little time to look back and reflect and give events some perspective. Hey, she's pretty sure she's solved last week's problems; she'd better get it down and explain what she's learned.  People write her, "Oh, Glennon, what shall I do?" and then she tells  them.


One of her biggest tenets seems to be that we should live without caring what others think.  Okay, except nobody cares what others think more than Glennon, especially since she's commercialized her private life.   She says she's now strong, happy, and confident, but claims that makes it harder for other women to like her.  Somebody got up at one of her talks and said as much, and clearly that bothered her. She complains that women just can't like other strong, happy, and confident women.  Not true!  I admire them greatly and am always looking to befriend that kind of positive energy.  I just don't see her in this category.


Still, I kept reading along, a half-hour each morning on my Kindle while pedaling my stationary bike. If other younger women found her helpful and comforting (and that definitely seems to be the case) who was I to be so judgmental?


And then, in a chapter called Invaders, Glennon writes about her struggles with depression and anxiety and gives "five pro tips for those who live too high and too low."


1.       TAKE YOUR DAMN MEDS "Jesus loves me, this I know, for he gave me Lexapro." So cute.  If anybody judges you for taking  your prescribed medicine? "Tell them sweetly to fuck all the way off."

2.       KEEP TAKING YOUR DAMN MEDS  She likens going off meds because you're feeling better to folding up and throwing  away your  umbrella because it's not raining anymore.


Um, how about finding a way to get well enough mentally that once in awhile you can stand in the rain? Standing in the sunshine is more fun without the umbrella anyway.


Having struggled with the effects of having been on  Xanax, Oxycodone, and yes, Glennon, Lexapro, and resisting that "return to myself" she touts by going back on the meds, I want to say that I feel a lot more empowered by having healed myself than by having my doctors keep up the prescriptions.


I absolutely would not judge another woman for taking psych drugs if she felt she had to, but it seems to me that Glennon Doyle's defensiveness is just as judgmental in reverse.  It takes a whole book to explain how psych drugs can be bad for people in the long run, and Robert Whitaker did it beautifully in Anatomy of an Epidemic. Glennon Doyle is trying to be the patron saint of empowerment for women and then encourages them to stay drugged? Robert Whitaker asks how it is we came to be a society where something like a third of the women have been convinced they have a brain imbalance that needs "correcting" with pharmaceuticals. Wouldn't it be better to find out what it is about our lives that has so many of us so depressed?


Taking or not taking anti-depressants or anti-anxiety benzodiazepines is not a moral question.  It's not even a question of empowerment.  The question is, in the long run, are these drugs helping your precious brain or hurting it?  I know how I voted in my own case and I'm so glad.  I don't care if Glennon Doyle needs to take Lexapro or her pal Elizabeth Gilbert wants to reference the casual tossing back of Xanax as she did in Eat, Pray, Love , (which I remembered as I suffered the tortures of the damned in withdrawal from that poison) but she is in no position to be advising  women they should follow her lead and stay drugged. She's as judgmental of people trying to go off their Lexapro as she feels people are of her staying on it.


I imagine this beautiful, no doubt charismatic woman will continue to live her life in this very public way, and it's bound to be entertaining.  So watch if you want—she definitely wants you to—but please ask yourself if she really seems like a person worthy of providing the guidance you might seek.   



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Me Too, Meghan

I honestly never had a Me Too moment on the subject of sexual  abuse, but now I'm having one regarding suicide.


I like watching The Crown as much as the next person, but I haven't followed the Royal Family closely, and even with all the build-up, I didn't watch Oprah's recent  interview with Meghan and Harry.


But when reviews quoted Meghan as saying she'd felt she just didn't want to be alive anymore, I sat up straight.  Her words had the ring of truth.  In fact, they were the same ones I said to my husband more times than I care to remember: I just don't want to be alive anymore.  Thing is, I've been in that darkest of places and I know. You're not trying to threaten or  frighten people, you're not saying, If you don't do such and such I'm just gonna kill myself! No, you're only trying to say, Hey, this is the only way I know to express how bad I feel.  And if you feel this way, you're supposed to tell somebody, right? You're supposed to give people a chance to help?


But what if you try to put it into words, your despair, and people want to imply that you're a drama queen? Piers Morgan obviously does not have a clue how truly horrendous it is to feel you literally don't want to be alive.  Great Rx: a public mocking.


I'm not revealing any big secret here, the fact that I've suffered bouts of suicidal depression; I wrote all about it in Accidental Addict.  I know all about being in that dark place, and whatever combination of circumstances and chemical imbalances puts  a person in that pit, what she needs to climb out is loving support, not to be ignored or shunned. Not to be made to feel she is being difficult.  


Meghan is fortunate to have in Harry a husband with the courage to do the right thing and get her the hell out of England. To break away from what was supposed to be his own support system must have required extraordinary courage. I hope their speaking up will help others suffering in this way, and I wish for them a real life happy ending that a fairytale princess story obviously does not provide.

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Pandemic Blues


Nobody's trying to be poetic around here, but when I looked out this dreary morning and saw my little grandson's red wheelbarrow left down in the swale where brown flood waters rushed three weeks ago, this famous piece by William Carlos Williams came to mind:


so much depends



a  red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white




Well, our family's chickens all live in Portland, sheltered by a sturdy coop our daughter, Mary, built under the fir trees.  We haven't seen the gorgeous granddaughter who likes to help feed these chickens since August, and we have never yet been able to meet and hold in our arms her baby sister.


I'm sorry,  can anybody tell me what the big deal is about this poem?




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Impeachment Day Flood

As I write, Nancy Pelosi is explaining to the House why President Donald Trump ought to be impeached and, in the night, the Mary's River spilled its banks and flooded our lower meadow.  The new John Legend song comes to mind, the one which has become my private Pandemic/Trump-era anthem: "Never Break."


As the water rises

And the mountains shake

Our love will remain

We will never break.


Because here we are, still together, still watching history go by. We fell in love the Spring of the Kent State shootings, and bought our first TV the summer we were married, specifically to watch the 1974 Watergate trials.


This fine man I signed on with forty-seven years ago is not wasting time being romantic, though.  He's taking up the electric cords for the outside Christmas lights which we've been leaving on purely as a mental health measure.  He's worrying who's in charge of warning the occupants of the ever-growing sprawl of tents at the homeless encampments  two miles downstream in town that they'd  better move.  At Wake Robin Farm, though, his first priority, our four-year-old grandson, has just arrived to set up the wooden Brio trains.


As for the pandemic, our daughter-in-law, a vet in Portland, got her first shot yesterday, so we know the vaccines are out there.  We have hope.


Hang on, everybody! 

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Announcing Family Trees: a Novel of the Northwest, by Linda Crew

I'm happy to announce that my new book is finally out, available in both ebook and print editions through Bookbaby and on Amazon Kindle.  Other print-buying options through independent book stores and online sellers will be available February 1st.


No, I did not hunker down last Spring at the start of the pandemic and knock out Family Trees--I think most writers got the word about Shakespeare writing King Lear while he hid out from the plague--but the focused time at home did allow me to concentrate on finally finishing it.


I actually began work on this novel in 2009. That September to be exact.  If I got out a calendar I could probably nail the day and hour the story sparked to life in my brain. My husband and I had gone up to Dallas to attend a large church funeral for a logger who'd recently been working for us. A question I often ask myself when starting a book is whether it's really my story to tell.  Could there be someone better positioned? That hot afternoon as I watched slides of guys with their hunting trophies, it hit me that maybe I was the writer uniquely suited to tell a story set against the backdrop of Oregon's timberlands and the business of tree farming.  Because, look—I was in the middle of it all.  My first grade true love was cul-de-sac neighbor Bruce Shepherd, whose daddy logged in the area around Valsetz.  I'd grown up knowing the families who owned the timberlands, and now my husband and I were among those who tended small acreages of trees and knew each other through the Oregon Small Woodlands Association.


My parents took me camping and taught me to love the forests, but figured trees were for walking under, never for cutting down.  I don't think they ever quite understood why my husband and I would want to use planting and limbing trees as our excuse for being out there in the fresh air of the forest. Why not just go fishing and have happy-hour martinis at a lake-front campsite?  But now, here we are, card-carrying members of the Nature Conservancy, but also people who sometimes hire loggers to cut down a patch of trees.  Like I said, I'm in the middle of it all.


Family Trees  is set in 2009-2010, and I wrote it in real time so that the concerns of the day for my characters were true to the current issues. After a couple of years, my work on the story ended up being sidelined by real life and personal stories that felt more compelling for me to write, but when I revisited it a decade after I began, I found my beloved characters waiting for me, and I was newly intrigued by my pre-pandemic depiction of life in Benton County, Oregon. Now my job was only to improve the telling of the story, adding the nuances that only ten rather difficult years of living can add to a writer's sum of wisdom.


My characters feel like real people to me, and I've enjoyed spending time with them so much, it's hard to finally put them into the computer and hit SEND once and for all.  I've noticed, though, that characters only truly come to life when you commit them to the page and the bridge is formed between the writer and the reader.


So, it's time.  To let them live, I need to release these characters to the page and the  world.  A trusted writer friend once called Family Trees "a good read."  That was about 27 versions ago, so I hope my loving labors have done nothing but improve it in the interim.


This isolation has been rough. On everybody for their own reasons. They say it's going to be worse for awhile.  I'm hoping my book might serve as a comfort-food-type read for these coming dark days.


Hang on, everybody.  Stay well.  It's going to be the best Spring ever!



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Random Thoughts in Random Pandemic Times

Early in the summer I received an email from a frantic woman in Texas.  She was halfway through reading my memoir about prescription med withdrawal-- Accidental Addict--and had to know, DEMANDED to know: Was I well?  Honestly well?  She needed me to answer her immediately or she just couldn't go on.


Of course I was happy and grateful to be able to deliver the prompt reassurance that yes, despite the desperate depths of my illness in those years, I am now fully healed, and she will be too, given time. In our subsequent exchanges, I asked about the state of the pandemic in her area. She thought the whole thing had been exaggerated, and she was out the door to meet a friend for lunch at a restaurant.  I asked if she didn't find it pretty convincing  that  60,000 people had died, the tragic number at that point.  She didn't answer this directly, but in a later letter referred to my "fear of the Covid."


I wasn't afraid of Covid. I just believed it was real. And I've been determined from the start that I wasn't going to get it. I bring this up because it made me realize this was my first and only personal contact with a person outside the lovely bubble that is my own very blue Benton County, Oregon.


I'm proud to say we still have one of the lowest infection rates in the country.  Why?  Because we're a highly education and solidly Democratic population and nobody believed President Trump for one minute when he said we had nothing to worry about.  We hunkered down immediately and when masks were shown to be helpful, everybody started wearing them. That's it.  We are blessedly free of yahoos in jacked-up trucks, flying flags and Trump banners, mocking  masks and calling people chicken for trying to keep themselves and others safe.  In fact, my friends and I have noticed the handful of Trump lawn signs actually coming down in recent days.


As the lockdowns began in the spring, prescriptions for Xanax and other anti-anxiety medications soared, and I shuddered for those people who started desperately swallowing the poison.   Of course Xanax helps immeasurably right this minute, and who hasn't been freaked-out over everything this  crazy year has delivered? But I'm so hoping those folks stopped these meds after the recommended limit of two weeks and found other ways to cope; otherwise there is going to be hell to pay as a sizeable portion of our population who may have eluded  or survived Covid now go into benzodiazepine withdrawal.  Watch: It won't be long before people are posting reports that their benzo withdrawal is way worse than anything Covid anxiety or even Covid itself delivered.


A haunting parallel to the sufferings of benzo withdrawal  are stories from the so-called Covid "long-haulers" who can't seem to fully recover.  Neurological damage seems to be involved.  The chronic fatigue and brain fog they report sound eerily familiar to benzo survivors  and so much like what I went through after stopping Xanax.  These victims of Covid are appalled to still be sick after three or four months.  I was sick like this for several years.  Not interested in a repeat.


Damage to my precious brain is nothing I care to mess with, and as much as I miss restaurant lunches with friends, it's simply not worth the risk to me. The silver lining here is that my "long-haul" recovery from Xanax served as training for this pandemic lockdown.  I was actually more isolated in those times, being sick on my own, than I am now when everybody's going through this together, if separately.  My self-care plan of yoga first thing every single day without fail etc. was already firmly in place when all this hit, and "working my program" while I feel perfectly fine as opposed to  doing it while sick is a great contrast and serving me well.


The first order of business for our poor country  is to get rid of a President  who has made this whole thing drag on so much longer and be worse for so many people by insisting we pretend Covid isn't out there.  If ever the expression "blood on his hands" applied, it's here.


My heart breaks for the elderly who are locked in solitude and dying of isolation so that Donald Trump can keep up the fiction of his thriving economy.


Special place in Hell for him, I think.


Or jail.  


In the meantime, let's hunker down, wear masks, and get this over with.


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