Sunday Lowdown #67

pandemic update

This past week on Tuesday I returned to work. It’s such a surreal experience because while I no longer wanted to stay home, nothing with the virus has actually changed. The governor just decided it’s time to go back, so we did. Granted, all that time off gave people room to plan and execute plans, but even that is a stretch because things change every day. I’m an anxiety-filled human — it’s always there — but it’s impossible to fear what will happen in ten days when everything could change in three and we have to rewrite the script.

If you have anxiety like me, you’re likely familiar with deep breaths. You know, to calm down and not pass out. But deep breathing inside a face mask exacerbates things; the more you breathe, the worse you feel. That is, if you’re wearing your mask correctly (under your chin and up almost to your eyeballs, making sure the gap between skin and mask is as small as possible), you’re huffing your anxiety into steam form, which collections on your glasses. Try what I do: breathe shallowly, like breathing isn’t that important to you.

Weekends can be hard. There’s no sense of celebration for going to work all week because there is no where to go recreationally. I’ve decided Fridays are horror movie night and buy a snack and a new DVD. Last week was The Dead Don’t Die, a meta-film zombie horror comedy starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver. This Friday I built a pillow fort, utterly destroying the living room, and watched Crawl, in which a college-age woman and her father try to get out of the crawl space of their Florida house before it floods in the hurricane, but all these alligators are attacking them. Fun stuff, because alligators after a hurricane can be an issue.

Saturday we packed some food and grabbed the yard blanket and drove to the movie theater, where we had a picnic in one of those grassy island thingies surrounded by cement. Movie theater parking lot picnic. This is where I am in my life, but I have to say, it’s all rather whimsical.

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

What a delightful week of conversation! Things kicked off with A Month of Flannery. We finished the first seven stories in The Complete Stories and discussed our reactions, race, the meaning behind the stories, and what we struggled with. I look forward to next week’s conversation and am glad I invited folks to do this with me. If you didn’t read the first seven stories, that’s fine. Jump in at any point of the read-along schedule. Read one story, read a few, read them all. Check out Week #1’s discussion.

#ReadingValdemar is still going strong. We’ve read twenty-one novels so far. I haven’t read that many books in a series since I was eating up the Sweet Valley books with breakfast. While the stand-alone novels prove to be better in general, Mercedes Lackey still makes bank on trilogies, so we’ll be back to those soon. However, for now, Jackie and I enjoyed Brightly Burning.

And the book I’ve been gabbing about for a week or two, Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie, finally made it to Grab the Lapels. I so enjoyed this exploration of publishing and writing, and how two writers can respectfully engage in their craft while in a romantic relationship. Gillespie just nails it.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

Week #2 of The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor will include my thoughts on the next seven stories in the book, background as needed, and publishing information. Post on Tuesday! I realized in my Week #1 post that I wasn’t completely reviewing the stories, but that’s okay. I was happier reading and responding to everyone’s thoughts.

The next seven stories are (with notes about where to procure the stories if you don’t own the collection I’m using):

  • The Heart of the Park (also a chapter in Wise Blood)
  • A Stroke of Good Fortune (also in the short story collection A Good Man in Hard to Find)
  • Enoch and the Gorilla (also a chapter in Wise Blood)
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find (you can read HERE or in the self-titled collection of stories)
  • A Late Encounter with the Enemy (also in the A Good Man collection)
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own (you can read it HERE)
  • The River (also in the A Good Man collection)

I’ll have a new review up Thursday because I’m still on that quest to find books starring fat women and girls who don’t diet or date their way to happiness. I found some good stuff in the relatively unknown book Fat Girls in L.A.: All About Vee by C. Leigh Purtill. A thespian who heads for Hollywood fights against the fat shaming and stereotypes people in the business try to make Vee accept.

BOOK I’M READING ALOUD TO MY SPOUSE:

We’re at the very end of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, and the spouse and I agree that the author quoting her husband as say he will strangle her about every other page is either a sign of a seriously toxic relationship that fits squarely into domestic violence, or Lawson thinks hyperbole is funny and writes what she believes Victor would say . . . in jest? My beef is that reading No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder last summer was a mentality-altering experience for me. In the U.S., strangling someone is a misdemeanor, same as getting caught with a beer when you’re not twenty-one, petty theft, and prostitution. What is a misdemeanor can be a felony if the person has been punished for the same behavior before, or if the action is more serious. How is literally strangling someone until they black out not serious enough?

I’m not sure what I’ll read aloud to the spouse next just yet, though we have a lot to choose from. In addition to buying (for the first time) hand-made soap, amazing gourmet coffee, and tee shirts with literary images and titles on them, I’ve bought thirty-seven books. Several, including The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner, We Want Our Bodies Back by jessica Care moore, and The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman, have come out during the quarantine. #StiumlateThatEconomy

BOOKS ADDED TO THE TBR PILE:

Thanks to Emily @ Literary Elephant and Jeff Glor of CBS Morning News for their recommendations!

43 comments

  1. Another week to look forward to! I’ll be away from home till Tues night so I’ll be late to the O’Connor party part 2, but the discussion part 1 was so interesting with so many readers taking an active part that I’ll make sure to read a couple of this week’s stories and pitch in a day or so late.

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    • Hey, not a problem, Bill! People are still writing over on Week #1, so I don’t think you’ll be late my any means. Also, Tuesday night for you is still Monday for me, so you might be just on time!

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  2. Those sounds like good weekend plans! It’s crazy how we’ve had to completely revamp our lives to deal with this virus. We’re trying to get more projects done on our house and property but it’s still limited as we’re still locked down for the most part.

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  3. I really love your Sunday Lowdown posts. I like knowing what you’re up to personally! The pillow fort is a lovely idea. Weekends aren’t as special around here either so I’ve got to come up with some cool New stuff to celebrate.

    I’d love to hear more about your library experience. Is the public coming in yet? What are the plans for that? (On furlough here, trying to envision what it might be like in two months for me.)

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      • I must have ordered just the right e-book on Amazon one day, because they gave me a hefty credit for their “Great Kindle Books” program, which I’d never heard of. And I bought the book with the credit and then had a $1 balance, for instance, I’d get another credit. In the end, I did buy several books from the local independent bookstore, but the more time goes on, the more I’m REALLY leaning toward e-books, which they don’t offer.

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    • The first week was just to get everyone back in the building. This week we started curbside pick-up for books on hold. Next week we start taking one person on a computer, but they have to have an appointment and be looking up information for employment, social services, or school, and the computers will be far apart (and only one appointment per person per week). The first week of June the two branches are supposed to open, but my main library won’t because there is construction on the roof. When we do reopen, it’s for browsing but no lingering (sitting and using Wi-Fi on personal devices, hanging out in chairs, etc.).

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  4. Good work keeping publishing going! I dread to think how many I’ve bought but I have managed to increase my reading a bit at least. Those new ones this week look intriguing and I’ll be interested to see your fat heroine review next week. I’ll be mainly working my way through more of my 908-page history of the oceans I’m reading to blog about for a history prize …

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    • Why, thank you! I took an Oceanography class in college and was surprised by how much they influence everything. Like, I thought they were just water with sea life in them, but I found myself delighted by currents and temperatures.

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  5. You have a lot of books to look forward to. You’re right about those face masks! I went to the store quickly Saturday afternoon and thought I would pass out because it was so uncomfortable but I shook my head in disbelief at people who would not follow instructions (the store I went to has signs to say one way do not enter to help with social distancing).

    I didn’t read much this weekend but baked instead (recipe reading) and will probably share that in a post later 😀

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    • Baking sounds so lovely. I rarely do it because I don’t want a bunch of dessert around all the time, but then I want comfort food so I buy things like Moon Pies anyway. I ought to just start baking.

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  6. You bought 37 books?!?! Oh my goodness. I thought I had a book problem. XD How many books do you read on average a year (or month or week or whatever duration of time makes it easiest to calculate)? I know you don’t discuss them all here, so I am curious.

    Ugh. Deep breathing with a mask is the WORST. I do box-breathing when I’m stressed out, and that does NOT happen in a mask. It makes it much worse. I’m sorry. Hopefully, this won’t last much longer…

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    • I read 75 pages per day, though things fall apart around Christmas time. I listen to an audiobook in my car on my commute and before bed. Then, I read to Nick every night, but that’s about 10 pages per day.

      I’m upset after two months, but all signs point to this lasting a year or more. People died of the 1918 flu in 1919.

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  7. I am so on board for #stimulatethateconomy with you! I’m trying really hard to purchase things intentionally that will do more good than harm, so ordering take out from local restaurants, buying homemade things off Etsy, clothes made out of recycled goods, etc. My family has saved alot of money in my child’s daycare fees (and just, not going out I guess?) so I’m trying to put that saved money to good use. And buying books is another great idea!!! I got my kids some more from our local indie 🙂

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    • We like to go to restaurants, the movies, plays, etc. Then there is the gas to drive those places. After one month of quarantine, our credit card statement was almost $1,000 lower than usual. All those coffees and lunch breaks and fun events add up. My mind was blown!

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      • Yes, it’s made me realize how many coffees/snacks/meals we had out before. Did I mention we invested in a latte/espresso machine? My husband makes me lattes now and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a cafe again (well, maybe just to read by myself and escape my house hah)

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        • Do you love your lattes? I’ve found myself getting angry because I can make something on my own at home much better. It’s like when you go to a restaurant and feel suspicious that they’ve used frozen vegetables. I could have done that!

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          • honestly my husband makes them for me, so either way I’m not doing the work (LOL) but I still like the flavoured lattes you can get elsewhere that just woudln’t be possibel at my house. I don’t have cute sprinkles or whipped cream or anything. I’m THAT person, who orders that kind of stuff haha

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  8. I hope you’re able to adjust and deal with anxiety as you’re back at work. Are you required to wear a mask all day or is it your preference? I haven’t worn one for longer than an hour and I can tell I would have so much trouble not fidgeting with it.

    I’m reading along with my copy of A Good Man is Hard to Find so I’ll be able to join in the discussion this week! As I began reading the stories, I started to wonder if I’d actually ever read the whole book before. Then I turned the page and found my receipt for my Chinese Visa and had a sudden memory of sitting in the Chinese Consulate, waiting my turn, and reading Flannery O’Connor over a decade ago!

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    • We’re required to wear masks but told that if no one is around, we can take them off (but they must be kept on your person). But your not supposed to TOUCH your mask, inside or out, unless you wash your hands first. I know people are trying to cope and do their best, but being afraid for so many months is hardening me, I can feel it.

      I’m so glad you’re reading along. And what a treat that you have this reminder from ten years ago! What did you do while in China?

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      • Yes, it’s just not normal to live at this level of anxiety over an extended period of time. Even when I think I’m okay, I’ll have some physical reminder of, Oh, yes, my body knows I’m stressed.

        I was visiting my parents! They lived in China for a few years when I was in my 20s.

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        • I was wondering last night what the long-term effects of living with stress hormones ranging through our bodies are. You can permanently damage your brain if you are subjected to repeated traumas — basically speeding up a sort of dementia. Is COVID-19 a repeat trauma? I don’t know…

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          • Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re seeing the longterm affects of this for years to come. I keep wondering what kind of emotional trauma surrounding physical closeness kids today are going to grow up with. Like, it just seems so damaging to have to tell my kids that it isn’t safe to hug or to be close to people they love. I really hate it.

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            • I hadn’t even thought of that. We will we become used to hugging? I don’t think so. Studies show that we can literally die without physical contact, and babies are especially vulnerable to it. I find myself sitting right next to my husband whereas I didn’t used to. Just bodies pressing together is comforting.

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              • We are definitely made to be in physical contact with one another. I can’t imagine that actually disappearing forever. I’ve read that in some places hospitals have separated newborns from their mothers when moms have tested positive and I really hope someone is cuddling those babies because, you’re right, they need it! I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by people who literally climb all over me but even I’ve noticed that if I see a friend while I’m out, I desperately want to hug them. And I’m not a hugger, I just miss being relaxed around people.

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                  • That sounds like something I’ve heard too. At the Children’s Hospital we’ve been to, each baby was assigned their own nurse and I think it’s partly for this reason too, so that the nurses can spend time holding them.

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  9. Breathing with a mask is the worst. Over here, they’ve allowed us to go out to exercise but required us to use masks. Are they insane? I can hardly breathe in it while walking, let alone jogging. The shallow breaths thing is a good idea, though—I’ll try that and recommend it to others as well.

    Oh my, 37 books?!?! And I thought I had a problem! I’m still reading mostly ebooks and the physical copies I have at home, because while our bookstores here are delivering, a lot of books I’m interested in are still out of stock. Plus Book Depository is still not delivering to us (understandably). Once I can get out and shop I’ll go crazy with books too.

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    • I get a lot of e-books from Google Books, which works nicely if you have a Gmail account and use the whole suite. I also bought some from the local bookstore, but she doesn’t always carry, nor can she get, what I want. Plus, I pretty frequently purchase small-press books, which will go on sale for a day or two, and I nab them then.

      Here, people go outside without masks, but if they enter an enclosed space, they need to wear a mask. Lots of people won’t, though. Stories of people beating up employees who ask them to wear masks are all over the news, and one such incident happened as a gas station near my work place.

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      • I didn’t know you could purchase ebooks from Google Books! I have to look into that as well.

        Yikes, that’s nasty. I hope you won’t get patrons like that in your library! I’ve been reading snippets of news like that—is it because those people think it’s an impingement on their freedom? I really don’t understand that reasoning.

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        • Americans stupidly think “freedom” legally extends everywhere, forgetting that businesses can’t discriminate based on certain things, but does have a right to enforce store policy (like wearing a mask during a pandemic). They think “freedom speech” means they can say anything without punishment, forgetting there is no “freedom of speech without consequences from your family, friends, or employer.”

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  10. “Try breathing shallowly, like breathing isn’t that important to you” is HILARIOUS but also sounds like a challenging way to deal with anxiety! I hope you’re doing okay back at work. Your Friday night horror fests sound like a perfect way to kick off the weekend, at least, and “whimsical” sounds like a pretty positive response to how weird things are. Also, horray for parking lot movies and new books! The little things really do matter these days. I think I saw on GR that you were already reading The Undocumented Americans- can I ask how you were liking it or are you saving your thoughts for a review? 🙂 That’s one of the titles I saw recommended a lot during the American Dirt controversy, and I’ve been thinking about picking it up.

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    • Ha! It’s a PICNIC in the movie theater parking lot. Your version does make more sense, though. Like a totally normal person going to a drive-in movie. 😀

      I finished The Undocumented Americans and need to write my review, but I have to say I did not like it. Based on Goodreads, I am super in the minority on that one.

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      • Oh right, sorry! I got to the end of reading the post and started typing without remembering properly! Drive-in movies always appeal, but I guess a picnic does seem more reasonable, especially in the middle of the day with the sun out! I suppose not many modern theaters are well-equipped to switch to drive-in services in the midst of a pandemic either…

        Interesting! I did wonder if the positive attention it was seeing was mainly a result of it NOT being American Dirt, so have been holding off in wait for trusted reviews. I’ll look forward to your thoughts!

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          • Dissenting opinions are so helpful though! If reviews seem overwhelming positive, I go for the negative ones to get a fuller picture, and vice versa.

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            • You know, I’ve been doing that more lately myself. And I hate to say it, but I tend to agree with the one person who gave a negative review. I’m often drawn to a review that sticks out on its own because that person seems to have clearer reasoning for his/her feelings. This is all anecdotal, though.

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