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Posts Tagged ‘Pandemic’

You can read too much news. I confess I’m a news addict but I don’t watch it on the square screen thank god. If you have a progressive outlook on the world and what we can become as humans then the world right now is depressing, sometimes overwhelming. It seems there is a fight over ideas, about what the basic rights of humans are and you get the picture. Throw Covid 19 in and that’s some foul smelling liquid right there.

We lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week and as happens when someone famous dies and you get to read a bit about their life. RBG’s life was amazing. There was someone who had the brains, the will and seized every opportunity. I am awed at what she achieved, starting out in a male dominated world.

Along a similar theme, I’m ready The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal and I’m being blown away by how many contemporary notes it is hitting. It reminds me of Hidden Figures a lot, except Hidden Figures was set in the real world. The Calculating Stars is an alternate past in the same era. It picks up a lot of the themes from Hidden Figures, although the protagonist is white Jewish but she mingles in the world of black America in the rocket flying world and women ‘computers’. It goes deep into the established misogyny of the period, as well as the tech, the social mores and fashion and also discusses anxiety and how it is viewed by others. It also discusses climate on this planet. I haven’t finished it yet. I’m listening to it on Audible and the author reads the story herself and I find it enchanting. No wonder it won awards!

Both of these…the passing of RBG and The Calculating Stars remind me of the remaining misogyny alive today and the fight for women to be considered human, to be equal to have a say about our bodies and our reproductive rights is still ongoing. We can’t be complacent and let laws change and go back to the way they were.

There are positives arising from being socially isolated. Not many I agree, but one that gave me pause was the stop with the travel, the spending, the doing. I don’t have a high income but all of a sudden I had some money. First I spent it to help keep companies going. Books, toys etc. But it also made me realise how focused on consuming we are. That’s the basis of our economy. Spend, spend, buy, buy, produce, produce. The pandemic gave that a big shock. I knew this before, of course, but I couldn’t think of an alternative way as it seemed to me that we were so caught up in this capitalist/consumerist merry go around that we couldn’t get off. And now we were shoved off. I think we should hesitate before getting back on. In some ways we won’t have a choice. If like me you travel overseas on discounted fares…well I’m not sure there will be cheap trips for many years. I even wonder if I’ll be able to travel again. My son is flying out with his daughter back to overseas employment. His flights were $5000 each for economy seats. That’s a flight that might have been say $1200 return previously. I’ll try to be optimistic but I’m also being a realist.

Another aspect of being forced to stay home was the focus on the home and on family. Not only was there iso baking but iso gardening. But beware of watching too many Do It Yourself Videos. To some extent a focus on what was important. In Canberra, and in this house, we had a death, a passing of a loved one, bushfire smoke that made me think the apocalypse was here and we were forced to stay inside, then a ravaging hailstorm that wreaked havoc, actual fire threat and then Covid-19. This has happened elsewhere too. Parts of the USA are experiencing the fires, on top of the Covid-19. It is a trial.

It is hard to focus on the future, on dreams. For me though I’m focussing as much as I can on things I can control. My weight, my health, my family and so on. I had a bit of glitch last week as my GP didn’t want to refer me to the specialist about my knees but she did refer me for an xray. Today she referred me to the specialist as my xray showed issues that weren’t there before. I am happy with that but for a few days I thought she had taken control away from me and I reacted to that. I pay for private health cover these days so I have control over when things happen. So I’ll move forward on that at my own pace.

Creative wise I’ve stalled (again). I’m reading and stuff but I was disrupted last week (mostly due to the knee issues) and I haven’t put my feet on the ground yet. I’ve been socialising too, almost to pre pandemic levels. It’s weird. I’m going to visit a friend this afternoon for a cuppa and then in the morning I have pool exercise with another friend. Next week I am visiting Bourke with my son and a couple of my grandkids before he leaves.

What a year it has been. Nearly the end of September. Wow.

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It’s the time of the pandemic. I’m not the only one to be swiped sideways with fear, with forced solitude and a mind that switches from baking to apocalyptic thoughts with each breath.

I try (am trying, will continue to try and tried) to be positive, to switch this situation into an opportunity. I managed to focus and work hard for weeks on my second draft of my PHD exegesis. Yay me! And then I decided to go on a short break for August an possibly into September. And that’s the snag. Freedom!

So from previous posts you can see I haven’t wasted my time completely (although that remains to be seen) as I’ve been querying agents in a time of turmoil, economic disruption and so on…Just so we are clear about the odds of success. This is not my issue. It’s being able to switch between tasks. Can I query an agent, work an hour on a WIP, do a bit of family history research and weave for an hour in a day? No!

I get into a groove so it’s only querying agents for hours…or going down a family history research wormhole. I bake bread but that’s about it. Why can’t I be focussed on other things too? I’m going to say here that I should do a schedule because I’m pretty good at sticking to them when I’m committed. But there’s the hitch. Commitment!

But maybe I’m being to hard on myself because I’ve got ideas. Ideas for new projects and they are good ones. One I’ve drafted an outline for, another is an idea I’ve had for years and suddenly got more ideas for so it’s actually starting to be a plot.

Why don’t I write the damn things? Give myself permission?

And that’s my issue. I’ve got excuses.

I’ve other projects in various states of progress. A first draft that needs a revision from scratch, a revision that I nearly finished last year that I started again, another novel that needs to be restructured into a duology, another project waiting to be revised. All these are novel length.

I used the excuse before that I must focus on the PhD until it’s done but you know I waste a lot of time not doing things. I’m not tutoring this semester and I’m probably not likely to get any more in future so the excuse that I’m brain dead or exhausted isn’t there. I’m home most of the time. What is my damn problem?

I feel I can’t go forward until I get this backlog addressed. But that’s probably not the right attitude. If I am thinking of selling then I should write the book that I think is the most commercial, the one most likely to succeed.

I was just chatting to my son about this and he was right in pointing out that it is the finishing that’s important. I like drafting novels but the hard part is the revision, the thinking, the reworking. And the more your write, the better you become.

I think this calls for a bit of soul searching. A bit of tapping into my passion and enthusiasm. I think I’m looking for hope as we all are. Maybe instead of a schedule I should set a number of time based goals. One hour of this, one hour of that and see how that goes. Yeah. I’m going to do that and see how it goes.

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It’s now May 11.

I’ve been marking assignments and have another two weeks, at least, of marking. All the tutorials for this semester for me are done and I’m relieved. Teaching online is not the same as in person. These were drastic measures for drastic times and getting up to speed was stressful.

So things though have proven okay. I sat in on some seminars and they were good and apparently the attendance rate was better than the face to face ones. So maybe I should withhold judgement. I also got some ideas about my redraft of my exegesis. Also because of said marking I don’t have much brain power to tackle it. I am positive though and that’s a good thing.

It’s getting close to Winter here. It was one degree C this morning. Lucky our Tesla battery had some charge and I could run the heater to get out of bed. We are trying to minimise using the gas central heating as it costs thousands to run and I’m the only one home and I’m not usually home so it will cost thousands more than the usual thousands. Lucky we have reverse cycle in most rooms and that runs off the solar if it is sunny and cold.

I’m a bit stiff from filling the skip with rubbish. We are doing the home isolation clearing up and landscaping the yard thing. I’ve sort of given over baking mostly although I’m still baking sourdough regularly as I have been doing for over a year. The impetus to landscape the yard is mainly coming from my daughters. My younger daughter pledged 6 hours yard work for my birthday and she’s nearly fulfilled that. My granddaughter Y also pledged time and she did a bit of work yesterday too.

Next step is getting the skip removed and ordering in a mountain of soil, mulching and garden edging. I look into my crystal ball and see lots of work on the horizon but a nice garden come spring.

In other pandemic news, my son is coming back to Australia. He’s been hold up in Edinburgh as he couldn’t get back to his job in Asia. He had to do two weeks quarantine in Melbourne and the he’s coming here to stay in June.  I see the potential for an extra pair of hands.

I have been saving for my half of a Tesla 3 EV car but production has stopped and I don’t know when we can or will buy one. Maybe 2021 now or later. So I want do use some of the $ to remodel the kitchen. You tube is great for this stuff.

I watched hours of Youtube tutorials on repairing or refurbishing the BBQ grill. I did all those things suggested and the damn thing is still blowing flames out of the air hole and not the actual burner. Last ditch effort is to use a brush and then look at the valves. OR throw the damn thing away and buy a new one. The only thing I can think of is that maybe the burner/valve got damaged when we moved as it hasn’t worked since we moved here. We had to be a new cheap bbq for the housewarming. But then, the new grill did the same thing. Flames came out the dial instead of the burner. Perhaps I’m cursed. It was enjoyable however in learning about the BBQ as it was like a car engine for me-I knew it was there, didn’t know how it worked and didn’t want to. Now I feel a little liberated and less scared for all the bits. The actual grill looks great and is much cleaner. I still hold hope that it will work.

The kitchen is more like a pipe dream because of the floors. I need to do the floors and we want to do the whole ground floor so that $$$ and TIME and backbreaking work no matter which way you look. If we do wood we have to move all the furniture out into the garage and you can’t walk on it while you are varnishing for at least a week, maybe two. If we do floating that is easier but they need to be replaced more often. If we do tile then it’s more durable, but cold and we’d need a tiler as I know from experience I can’t tile anymore. It kills the knees, the back and the hands and I’m not that young anymore.

Anyway, I may just be social isolation crazy. I’m still staying home as much as possible. No vaccine. No mixing. Lucky for us in Australia we have only a little of the virus and I’m hoping it will stay that way.

In other news, I’m still weaving. I finished these and it was hard. I totally stuffed the winding and didn’t realise until it was being warped. I tried to just adjust things without taking the unwanted threads away, then when I wound it up I couldn’t unwind the threads as the unused ones went round and round, so I had to undo it all (way fiddly) and then rewarp. The actual weaving part was very quick.

New project is a plain weave, cream and green checks for my son. But I have ideas for new projects!!

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The first thing I made with my new stand mixer was caramel slice. I made peppermint slice too but it didn’t need the mixer. I’ve given some of the spoils away but there are more plans. I want to make peanut butter and choc chip cookies!

I have a Thermomix, too, but the weighing function isn’t working properly which caused an issue with my hot cross buns. The first batch tasted great but were useful for killing chickens-so dense! The second batch had way too much flour and I ended up with huge Hot Cross buns and 14 instead of the supposed 12. They tasted great though so that’s fine.

The Artisan Kitchen Aid machine is smaller than I thought so I’m guessing it’s smaller than the original. I loved the colour of this machine too. I have yet to renovate my kitchen so it doesn’t matter that colour is different to everything else.

Anyway, here are a few pictures. Note the engraving.

And here is a picture of the monster hot cross buns.

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With regard to pandemic dreaming, well that’s an interesting thing. My anxiety levels have increased. I wake up at 3 am and then go back to sleep after I check the news. I know it’s counter productive but I’m awake. I’ve had a headache and nausea for about four days and I can’t think of eating meat. Just weird. I think it’s the anxiety but I’ve booked to do a tele health appointment on Friday so I can get a blood test and maybe talk about the stress. I have raised liver enzymes and my doctor increased the dosage of my statins and well we should check that out as well. Last time the new statin had made no difference to my cholesterol levels and they actually increased. This is an old brand because I react to the others. A last ditch effort by the doc.

And then tomorrow I start back doing online tutorials, which I find rather stressful. I can’t pinpoint why just that they are for me. Teaching online is way different than in person. Lucky the topic is not too difficult. I have to think up what I will teach for Creative Writing this week. I’ve some ideas and I hope my students are okay.

This week was an extra week off so I decided to have a holiday. Last week I was marking stories and doing things.

In February, I was lucky enough to interview Darynda Jones in Melbourne at the ARRA signing. I had started reading her Charlie Davidson series. One book came and I read it in a day. The other is taking its time. Due to quarantine etc posted books from overseas are taking much longer to get here due to less air travel. I was looking around for a substitute and remembered my JD Robb collection. I had read the first 14 books last time, some were rereads, so I picked up where I left off. You know, JD Robb (Nora Roberts) brought tears to my eyes twice in Portrait in Death. Once with Roarke and the situation with his mother and then with Crack and his sister. Well done! And the writing is great. Sometimes the world building is slightly thin in the in Death series but I still think JD Robb is clever and the books are smart and absorbing. I have Imitation in Death next up. I’ve also written down the gaps in my collection and put in some more orders. She just keeps writing them and I’ll never keep up. Over 40 books and I have like 35 of them. Book Depository is getting pricey, probably due to the shit Australian dollar. So I’ve tried to order from the local Dymocks. They are slightly more pricey but if they have them I don’t have to wait and maybe they will deliver.

I’m also hoping to focus more on the PhD this week as I think I’m going to be in isolation for a while so I need to pull up my big girl panties and get on with it.

 

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Yesterday, I started writing a blog post called Kitchen Goddess and although I talked about sourdough as an aside I didn’t really get to the point.

My birthday is this month and because of the Pandemic I had to cancel my planned birthday party at a local Ethiopian Restaurant. My big 60th. I was going to shout family and friends for a meal and feed them cake and fill their glasses with wine and/or lemonade!

While there is no party, I’m still having a birthday and I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted for a present. My daughters asked me and well… I couldn’t think of anything until I was sitting around in bed on Thursday afternoon. It was one of the those days when it was raining outside and I’d played with the toddler for a few hours and was knackered and world events are just overwhelming at times. Then, an idea hit me. I’ve always wanted a decent stand mixer. Years ago, I bought this absolutely cheap, crap one from Big W or KMart and the beaters don’t even hit the bottom of the bowl and I have to put tea towels underneath to lift the bowl and scrap and basically get cranky.

I watched a few YouTube videos to pass the time and my favourite cupcake place did a review of three types of stand mixer. Previously, I had read Choice Magazine as well so I knew what was in my sights. So after about five seconds consideration and years of lusting, I went on an online hunt for a Kitchen Aid, Stand Mixer. Locally there was a sale of 40 per cent off at Kitchen Aid. Still, they were way pricey. I started talking to my partner and he agreed to go halves.

A special deal was free engraving. On my new stand mixer in almond shade will be my name ‘Donna Maree’ and the line underneath says ‘Kitchen Goddess’! Hence the title of my previous post. I don’t have photos yet as it has not been delivered. Obtaining a new stand mixer goes against the ‘I must stop baking pledge’ and minimal socialisation means it is hard to share product if I do. Yet, I can’t help thinking about what I would bake first. I usually do all my sour dough bread by hand but the Kitchen Aid stand mixer has a dough hook. My Thermomix does knead too but it’s not quite big enough for the double loaves I make. And I like to do it by hand over the space of a day as there is something very calming about the process of making sourdough. But there are other things to bake! And there’s cinnamon rolls! Absolutely deadly!

Here is a picture from Amazon.com.au of the almond colour.  It is listed there for $629 AU. If you are interested, here is the Linkstandmixer

The prices in the USA are half this. As they are made there it makes sense. USA Amazon has the red one for $279 US link is here.

This is one heavy beast so Matthew and I had to decide where we would put it given our limited bench space. We decided to move the air fryer because that’s light and can be moved easily.

https://www.amazon.com.au/KitchenAid-KSM160-Stand-Mixer-Almond/dp/B077NTX8RY

In the previous post, I also put up a picture of an award. Now I can share the news as it has been announced. Our short film ‘Implanted’ won the People’s Choice award at the Lights! Canberra! Action! film festival. The film is about nerdy, cat-loving Nigel who is accidentally implanted with a microchip and starts behaving strangely. It’s a rom com. And we need something uplifting these days. At the time it was post bushfires and bushfire smoke and we wanted to take people’s mind of that.

This is the team, my daughter, me and my partner Matthew. A huge thank you to the team, lead actors Michael Slater and Amelia Forsyth-Smith, the crew and to Executive Producer and teacher extraordinaire, Dan Sanguineti from Sanguineti Media, where we did an intensive film making course in February.

Implanted Team Award pic (1 of 1)

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Right now I’m in the process of making sourdough bread. It’s part of my usual routine so not a pandemic hobby. Not that there is anything wrong with baking while you are stuck at home. I find it reduces stress. It’s just that too much baking makes one fat.

To combat this I am trying to increase my exercise. Twice this week I have walked to the local shopping centre-a least 25 minutes away on foot and back again with my little granny trolley. I don’t feel too scared by this as there are all these markers in the little shopping centre showing where to stand to keep your social distancing up and it’s not very crowded.

Today I went to pick up a parcel from the post office and then thought I’d get a few things from the supermarket. There was a queue to getting into the supermarket. It wasn’t long and I was inside in good time. We had to wash our hands with sanitiser and keep our distance. I headed straight to the toilet paper aisle and was victorious. I also scored two small bags of flour and a dozen eggs. I feel like beating my chest and crying out like a victorious Tarzan.

I was surprised by how much food was available and I had this queer feeling. One part of me just wanted to buy stuff because it was there and this is a pandemic and the other part was like all this food doesn’t make it seem like a pandemic. I had to tell myself that the food would be there next time. A lizard brain reaction maybe. Of course, some shelves were low or empty but now that people can’t panic buy there’s plenty. I should also say all the staff were very nice and polite and helpful. Ideally though I leave the shopping to Matthew.

My greatest challenge over the next few months besides not contracting Covid-19 and dying is not to get fat while housebound. So trying not to bake! However, my family are asking for homemade English muffins and hot cross buns and Anzac biscuits (oatmeal cookies) as well as sour dough bread.

We get Youfoodz meals delivered for most of the week and they are calorie controlled and then we cook or do something else-usually a freezer dive as we have frozen left overs meals. That helps a bit because if I totally got into cooking mode I’d cook heaps of things that I love to eat and my self-restraint ? Well there is no such thing!

However, I contrast this with many, many people in the world right now who don’t have food, or shelter or decent medical care. I might be stressed. I might be finding it hard to concentrate but I’m not in a bad way at all.

That might or might not be helpful thinking. My usual life and expectations have changed.

I’m still trying to work on the PhD (difficult) and keep my mental health in a good space. I try not to think of my publishing career and what will happen to the industry. My creativity has been squashed into a plastic bag and tossed into the back of the cupboard.

However, for those of you without books. There is a promotion of free dragon books on Bookfunnel Link

So go help yourself.

I just had a Darynda Jones book delivered this morning. I’m very tempted to start reading it right now. I was lucky enough to meet Darynda in early March as part of the ARRA signings. I like how she puts real life into her urban fantasy and her sassy lead, Charlie.

The other impediment to productivity is Gin the cat. He just plonked himself down on my lap after walking across the keyboard and wouldn’t shift. He just looked at me with those enormous eyes and stared. He also had his claws out so hugging him was like hugging a rose bush. I think it is revenge because the other day I accidentally locked him on the deck for the whole night and it rained.

IMG_1096Next this turned up in the mail. I’ll talk about this next time…

IMG_1095

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World events are just moving so fast in this unprecedented times. Ten days ago I was teaching my classes face to face. This week gone it was online. It’s a time of adaption, perseverance and hope.

I try to have hope that things will get better as the pandemic passes but one thing for sure is that life is going to be different now and for the months to come. Who knows how the world will be when this is over?

I feel for those who are under lock down and have lost loved ones and jobs. I’m doing okay at the moment. I applaud the heroes and heroines of this crisis, the health workers-doctors, nurses, first responders. I have to drag myself away from the news as it is overwhelming.

I can’t concentrate, I can’t write and I can only stumble from moment to moment. But I am going to fix that as best I can. I’m going to focus and do something besides bake, eat, clean and watch Star Trek Next Generation! From tomorrow I’m going to have a schedule but I will give myself a break if I falter.

But for some cheer! Baking results. Hot cross buns and my regular seeded sourdough bread.

One hero in all this on the political side Andrew Cuomo, Governor on New York State and Jacinta Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who both give clear, sound and emotionally sensitive advice to their people.

Here is my isolation buddy, Gin the cat, who is part Maine Coon.

To help out in the only way I can, I have updated my front page to promote the links to my free novella, Vorn and the First Comers. I have also sent a link to my short story collection, Beneath the Floating City, to my newsletter subscribers.

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Yes, I know. I should be all gloom and doom. Things are not as bad as they could be. I’m not going to say they are not as bad as they seem because that’s a different kettle of fish.

I’ve studied pandemic preparedness for my work as an auditor a while ago when bird flu was considered a threat. We got the Swine Flu instead. However, under those scenarios the ‘flu’ was going to be devastating and take a lot of people out thereby disrupting critical supplies such as food and rubbish removal and so on. However, this does not appear to be the case. This is not a widespread failure of everything we know. Food deliveries are still being made etc, food is still be produced and grown. This is not like Stephen King’s The Stand or the movie Contagion. Praise the universe for that small mercy.

The big impact here is on imported food and exported food and medicines. These disruptions to air travel etc have consequences there is no denying. However, I am convinced we will still have baked beans on the shelf. And as toilet paper is made in Australia no potential shortage. I’d like to see people not hoard that stuff. I have plenty of loo paper but I bought it one pack at a time and then found a great big packet from before Christmas in our laundry hidden under guff. As people aren’t going to be visiting in the time of social distancing and social isolation I think we are good–for a while.

We should be alert but not alarmed.

I will be delivering all my tutorials online from now and probably for the rest of the semester. I think this is doable but I’m sure going to miss my face to face classes. I have such a great group of students and I’ve been so impressed by them this year. I feel bad that their first year of university (most of them) is marred by this pandemic outbreak. In one course we have been discussing ‘adaptability’, which is not always easy.

I am also low level scared. It has been on my mind that I might die. But I’m not alarmed by that thought. I think this is because since Matthew’s dad died in December, life has been full of challenges. Bushfire smoke, bushfires and now the Covid-19 outbreak. These events have put a lot of pressure on me personally, although I did not lose my home, it did make me understand that I am not as resilient as I thought I was and that I’m mortal.

So where is the upside here? I think there’s a chance to slow down and connect with ourselves and those closest to us. There is a chance to catch up on books and movies. Social media, often called a bane, might be the only contact people have and for that I think we have to be grateful for technology. We live in a connected world–that helped the virus spread but it will also keep us together.

Today I am baking sourdough bread, an activity I find relaxing and centering. I’m also trying to work out how to put together a half lecture using different technology that is going to be delivered online. A bit of a learning curve.

Stay safe everyone.

 

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