Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday Feature: COVID Vaccine Myths and Facts: Some Good Sources

Yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times about the anger that vaccinated people are feeling about going backwards. We've followed the rules. We've done things "right" and now, despite that, we're not only back to masking and fear, we're feeling helpless. 

I'm not angry, exactly, but I am frustrated. I want to stop wearing masks. I want to teach my classes without fear of illness (mine or theirs). I want people to stop dying from this disease. I want those who can take the vaccine to get vaccinated so we can reach herd immunity and go back to something resembling a normal life. 

As an educator, I'm big on information. So, today (tonight, actually, as I postponed writing this), I'm going to share a variety of sources addressing the myths surrounding vaccines. I cannot even imagine being a person of color and taking a leap of faith that this time, the system is trustable. I can't imagine being afraid of needles but getting one anyway. 

But, I also can't imagine dying from this disease, alone and afraid, when there's a viable alternative.

I can only hope that reading the facts helps someone, and that is my goal here. I don't want to take away anyone's rights, but I'd like to have a few of my own back. 

If you've got a great source I missed (credible, science-based), please include it in the comments. No one should ever take medication without knowing the facts and I hope those provided here make the medicine easier to take in order to protect those who truly cannot be vaccinated. 

From Healthline: "Here's How it Was Possible to Develop COVID Vaccines so Quickly"

From the CDC: "Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines"

From the Mayo Clinic: "COVID-19 Vaccines: Get the Facts"

From Johns Hopkins: "COVID-19 Vaccines: Myth vs. Fact"

From University of Missouri: "The COVID-19 Vaccine: Myths vs. Facts"

Thanks for reading. Back to my regular, non-political posts next week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Pursuing Balance


sweetlouise via Pixabay

Step away from the course catalog! Just say no to extra "opportunities" from school! 

As someone who loves to learn, I'm easy prey for all of these e-mails. Webinars, seminars, Zoom sessions, online courses, all promising new and relevant information that I need to succeed -- just click here.

But I promised myself that this summer, I would concentrate on relaxing and rejuvenating. I'd read for pleasure, nap guilt free and block out entire days where I did nothing work-related.

And yet, these offers keep calling out to me. 

The initial plan was to take two weeks off after summer session ended. Then, there was a virtual event through my workplace that had sessions I wanted to attend, so I decided to sprinkle those ten days over the rest of the month (actual beach vacation not included). 

Seven down, three to go, and only four of the seven were consecutive days.

I am quickly running out of opportunities to actually take a week off. (Again, beach vacation notwithstanding).

For me, work and leisure blend, even more seamlessly than I realized. Trying to step away from work cold turkey is hard because new ideas don't pop up on a neat schedule, or arrange themselves tidily on my to-do list. It's important, though, for my sake and my students', that I take some time away, even if it's only one day at a time.

As I flip the calendar page to August all too soon, I can at least say I've reclaimed my weekends. I've also read entire issues of magazines, organized spaces that needed it, made progress on multiple writing projects and finished (reading) a novel, among other things. I know that sounds pathetic -- one novel? But, since I usually have at least four books going at once, reading one from start to finish is an accomplishment, motivated in this case by the purchase of new books that are definitely summer reading.

With less than a month to go before classes start again, I suspect my whole week off (at home) isn't coming. I'm okay with that, in part because it's shown me something: that achieving balance is a process. Like so many other things, it takes longer than expected, and is accompanied by successes and failures. I can't just push reset and make it so.

If the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one and identifying it, I've at least done that much. As a counselor, I know that solutions don't usually come all at once and that quick fixes don't stick. So, instead of shaking my head and bemoaning what I haven't managed to do, I'm going to focus on the new habits I've developed. Keeping school work out of the weekends. Logging my reading so I do more of it. Taking chunks of time to do things that rejuvenate me so I can be less frazzled. 

Maybe I haven't achieved the perfect balance yet. But I'm getting closer. And the first step is reminding myself of something I already know: that "no thank you" is an acceptable response.


Monday, July 26, 2021

5 Things I Knew About Charlotte Mercer Alessio (Charli) and One Thing I've Learned

Charli is twelve when Casting the First Stone begins, turning 13 before the series' end. Being the youngest "cast member" doesn't make her the least bit reticent, though, perhaps because she's Marita's daughter, and has grown up surrounded by strong women. Perhaps that's why Charli...

...was perfectly content with how things were before her dad decided to show up and rearrange her life (although she is glad he's finally showing a little interest);

...isn't so sure about the ideas Anna has for how she should fill her time;

...feels really lucky to have Bets and Angel in her life;

...hates how weird things are with Todd and wonders if maybe she made a mistake; pretty sure it's only a matter of time until her dad kinda forgets about her (no matter what he says) given recent events. She just hopes she doesn't lose Angel in the process.

And as the series comes to a close? Charli's more creative, compassionate, and self-aware than she was a the start. Then again, a year makes a lot of difference when you're thirteen. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday Feature: The World's Greatest Places of 2021

Full disclosure: I haven't read this week's feature...yet. But, since I'm on vacation, I thought I'd share some beautiful places with you. It seemed only fair.

Have a great weekend! See you next week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

An Unlikely Destination

I am the most unlikely beach candidate. I hate heat, I don't swim, and I burn to a veritable crisp. To go onto the beach, I put on comfy shorts and a tee shirt, a hat and sunscreen, then park myself under an umbrella for the duration of my stay on the sand.

And yet the week we spend at the beach each summer is my favorite week of the year. It's right up there with Christmas and my birthday which, not coincidentally, involve some of the same people. Last year, despite COVID, we booked two weeks in the community where we've stayed since my daughter was small. It was essentially sheltering in (a different) place and getting takeout from (different) restaurants. My husband made his early morning visits to the beach while my daughter and I slept. He was at loose ends a bit for some of our trip but my daughter and I happily chilled out at the condo doing whatever we happened to feel like doing, insulated from COVID and the rest of the world in general, with the exception of one of her friends joined us for part of the trip. 

It was wonderful.

While my husband's favorite spot is the beach, mine is (as long-time readers already know) the screened-in porch at the condo. This post, in fact, comes to you directly from that spot. The sun has set, the ceiling fan is whirring overhead and the crickets and bullfrogs are, for now, competing with the sounds of traffic whooshing by. In an hour or so, the bullfrogs and crickets will dominate and I will still be out here, reading, writing or engaging in other quiet pursuits for most of the rest of the evening.

Two of my novels were born at the beach and one, which has been digging in its heels and throwing a temper tantrum for months now, has finally agreed to play nice now that we're meeting on the screen porch. I'm hoping the momentum generated here will carry into our return, freeing me to finally start putting words on the page led, once again, by the nose by the characters who are really the ones in charge. 

I've heard people say that the beach is their happy place and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. I feel a sense of calm here that is unique to this place and, while I've considered analyzing it, I fear that logic would break the spell and ruin the magic. Besides, I don't need to know why I feel the way I do. I just need to know that I do.

Though I try to keep schoolwork away from the beach (unless we're down here while a semester is in session), I feel no such compunction when it comes to my writing. I have a notebook dedicated to "beach pages," along with a stack of notebooks dedicated variously to a reading journal and individual projects in various stages of completion. When I instituted "beach pages" a few summers ago, this was my rationale:

What better place is there for me to let my mind go free and to simply empty thoughts onto the page? Faced with seemingly endless stretches of sand and sea, why shouldn't I let my mind do likewise, moving beyond the boundaries of topics and chapters and deadlines?

While that's by no means the only reason we come to the beach, it is a part of the trip I look forward to. Even on days (like today) when beach pages turn out to be more work than I expected, it seems that something always shakes loose with writing or promotion or something new and creative. As my mind whirs along with the fan overhead, I am grateful, once again, for an opportunity to recharge physically, emotionally, and creatively. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

5 Things I Know About Marita Mercer and One Thing I Learned

I love talking about my characters almost as much as I love talking about my actual flesh-and-blood child and, since Marita is my protagonist (or one of them, anyway), she and I have spent a lot of time together.

If you've read Casting the First Stone, Chasing a Second Chance, and/or Courting Peace, you might know these things about Marita, too. Or, you might disagree, or have come up with a revelation of your own. If so, please share in the comments! 

Here are five things I know about Marita Mercer.
  1. She takes parenting very seriously.
  2. Although she'll never admit it to her parents (especially Rosemarie), she'll always be grateful to them for all they've done for Charli.
  3. She regrets not at least trying college. (She won't admit that to her parents either).
  4. Her biological clock is ticking. Softly, but more insistently than she'd care to admit.
  5. She's not sure she can be the woman Lukas needs her to be, no matter how hard she tries.
And one thing I've learned? She's neither as rigid nor as tough as she wants people to think. That side she shows to her best friend Bets? It plays a big role in every relationship decision she makes, from her parents, to Charli, to Angel, to Lukas...or any other romantic interest. Wait. Is there another romantic interest in Courting Peace? Well, there just might be :-)

Any surprises? Additions? Arguments? Fire away!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday Feature: 18 Easy Ways to Take Waste out of your Daily Routine

For the past several years, my New Year's resolutions have included using less plastic, and this year, I added reducing my paper usage to the list as well. While I'm far from paperless and plastic-free, I've adopted some good habits: using washable cloths and towels instead of paper towels, cloth napkins instead of paper, and reusable shopping bags instead of plastic. I've long been the person who uses both sides of the paper and has piles of scratch paper consisting of the flip side of something else. I sometimes forget or make a conscious choice to go with paper (or plastic), I'm definitely moving in the right direction.

Today's feature, an article from the Ten Thousand Villages publication, Mosaic, quotes Anne-Marie Bonneau: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

I'm proud to be one of the millions doing it imperfectly. And, while I don't usually choose an article quite so directly tied to a business for my Friday Feature, the suggestions in this one are good, with many providing easy starting points. The photos, while clearly connected to products, offered their own inspiration as well.

What's one thing you can do to save the planet?