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During these past months of tribulation and isolation, many of us “of a certain age” feel that perhaps we have been robbed of a year of our lives. The isolation and the lack of social contact have been painful. The pandemic has stolen a big segment of our lives.

During this time in “suspension,” I have spent hours thinking about my own legacy. Have I done enough, accomplished enough? Has this “lost year” been simply weeks of nothing but reading books and watching television, interspersed with laundry folding and looking out of the windows?

What will people remember me for?

I remember attending the funeral of a woman who was known to be unpleasant. She was accomplished, and she did a lot of things in her life–work in the community, church choir, volunteering. She kept busy and was well known in the community. But she was a virago.

I was brought up short at her funeral.  After the minster gave the customary glowing but generic remembrance,  her son went to the pulpit to eulogize her, and he obviously had a struggle coming up with positive things to say about his deceased mother. He looked around at the folks in the pews, cleared his throat, and told us that the thing he most remembered about her was that she always made really good Sunday dinners. Chili was mentioned, as I recall.

There wasn’t a ripple in the congregation, but I felt as if I had been hit by lightning. What would my children say about me at my funeral? Would they have to resort to saying how much I liked cats? Would they say I made a good tuna sandwich?

I have felt at a loss this past year, as I have not been very productive. I wander around the apartment, looking for projects. I color my own hair now, and do my own manicures. I have a book going, but not well. My mind is full of politics, pandemic concerns, and thoughts of my own legacy.

I never knitted a sweater. I didn’t bake anything from scratch. I was never a room mother. I fell asleep reading bedtime stories. I was never known for my patience.

But I loved my children and supported them, from speech tournaments to horse shows. I sat in waiting rooms, signed permission slips for tattoos, and kept my mouth shut about dubious boyfriends.

I wrote things. Those things turned into books. I gave some talks, tried to be inspiring, and most certainly failed. I wasted a lot of time daydreaming. I furnished at least a hundred different homes in my imagination, and even traveled by myself. I fell in love with New York, and wrote part of a book in the New York Public Library.

I stood by my friends, some of whom did not stand by me. I remained true to my marriage, despite many difficult times. I made a salad every night to go along with dinner. I did a lot of hugging.

But when I read about people like Jane Goodall, Marie Curie, or read a book written by Margot Livesey or Ursula K. Le Guin, I feel deflated, less-than. What have I been doing with my time, for heaven’s sake?

It’s something that haunts me. At my funeral, all I can hope for is that nobody will remember me for my tuna sandwiches.

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I don’t like to promote myself too often. It gets old.

However, this time, I will. The photo above is of the second edition of my third novel, The World Came to Us. It is a very interesting and of course, irreverent story of a mother and daughter who decide not to leave their house for a year.

This seemed like such an unusual premise for a book, before the pandemic happened. Who on earth would choose such a thing? As it turns out, virtually the entire population of the planet in 2020. However, this isn’t a pandemic story, and I think if you haven’t read it yet, you would enjoy it. It could just take your mind off the vaccine waiting lists, N95 masks, how dry your hands are from all of that washing, and if burpees really do reduce pot bellies.

I had a very good time writing this book. I had to rewrite it three times, due to the fact that I had the very best editor in the world working with me on it. The general public doesn’t perhaps realize that absolutely NO books make it to market without extensive re-writes. If only all a person needed to do is type around 100,000 words, have a proof reader check for comma splices, and then it shows up in bookstores and Amazon.

Nope. An editor reads the manuscript, thinks about it, tears it to pieces, and then sends it back to you. You sigh, remove thousands of words and add hundreds more. It takes months. Then, happy,  you return it to your editor, who does the same thing all over again.

What readers read is the end of a very long and arduous process. Every book I have written has taken two years. I admire the terrific writers who can turn out a book a year–they are masters of discipline and creativity. I am just a slogger, doing my best, taking long breaks, and wishing I were a better plotter. But that is just the way it goes.

So. If you haven’t read this, go to Amazon and buy it. Read it. Laugh. Post a review on Amazon. I would be so appreciative!

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Everything seemed so promising. The end was in sight. All we had to do was haunt the internet sites, make endless phone calls and “remain on hold; your call is important to us,” to schedule our vaccine appointments. First the very old people, then the kind of old people, and then the regular old people.

We thought we would get our two shots, wait a month, and then get on planes. Eat out. Hug our vaccinated friends. Wear masks, but halfheartedly.

Then the boom lowered. Variants. First in the UK, then Brazil, then South Africa. Dr. Fauci said the vaccines would hold against them. Maybe. Then other variants began springing up–too many to keep track of. We are told that as many of us need to get our shots asap–despite the fact that arranging a slot to get one is a Herculean task that many older people are simply not up to, due to their lack of internet expertise.

But that doesn’t matter, because now it seems that even the ones of us who are fortunate to get both shots are still being counseled to do all of the things we have been doing for a year. On top of that, we have to double mask. So the vaccines will “help,” but the damn virus will mutate all around us, extending the pandemic, forcing vaccine scientists to come up with a booster shot, and sentencing us to another year, maybe two, of living in isolation and with no plans to go to the movies.

This news is so, what can I say–unsettling. Is there something I, or anybody else, can say to make us feel better? Yes, maybe. Read this list and see if it buoys you up. If not, I have done my best.

  • Just think of what all of this would have been like without FaceTime and Zoom. Yeah, they are tiresome, but at least we can see one another’s faces. None of us likes writing letters these days, and the USPS is doing a tepid job at best. So we can reflect on that.
  • Bingeing.
  • I like to daydream about what kind of wartime woman I might have been. Civil. WWI. WWII. Rationing? Making bread out of sawdust? Powdered eggs? My God, I would have gone insane. Although I would have been svelte.
  • Speaking of svelte, none of us are, because there is a whole lot of wiggle room in sweatpants. Thus, see below–
  • Comfort food. We are all allowed to have it whenever we need it. No judgement. So macaroni and cheese is a yes. White bread. It builds strong bodies what is it, four ways?
  • Small talk. Nobody has to make it!
  • Naps. Highly recommended, with no guilt attached. Grown ups are supposed to be taking them!
  • Door dash and Uber Eats. GrubHub. Bringing restaurant food to our doors. I had never even heard of these things, but now we use them all the time. And did you know you can use these apps to send meals to your friends and relatives, even if they live across the country? Surprise dinners and lunches for people–this is really fun.
  • Books. You can read all day if you want to.
  • My books. You can read them!
  • And last, but never least, are the pandemic pets. Shelters have run out of dogs and cats. When did you ever think that would happen?

I hope you feel better. What are you having for dinner?



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I don’t know how other people spend their pandemic days, but I watch a whole lot of television. The shows a person watches reveal a lot about that person. As a homebody, I prefer to watch shows about houses. Renovation shows. Tiny houses. Stay-or-sell shows, you know the ones. But lately, I have fallen down the rabbit hole of watching a certain category of home shows–the ones about the homes of the fabulously rich.

I found these shows  using the word “architecture” in the search bar. The number of tv series about architecture, I discovered, is staggering. Homes built in the rainforest. Homes built in large cities taking up entire blocks. Homes underground. Homes jutting out over canyons.

Here is the thing: the majority of these homes, and they are inhabited, mind you–these homes are virtually empty. As you can see in the stock photo above, which is a home that actually contains some furniture, space is the goal. If you are rich enough to build a home costing more than the gross national product of a small country, you apparently need space to breathe.

Our apartment is 1700 square feet. We have no trouble breathing in here. And when we want to sit down, there are chairs. In one of the houses I have seen in these shows, if you want to sit down, there is an area inside the house  that is entirely grass. Just grass. You can sit down in the grass or even lie down in the grass. This grass is evidently extremely comfortable. And if it rains, go into another room and watch the rain hitting the grass. Of course, watch it while standing up.

Modern mansions these days are built so that it doesn’t look as if anybody might actually live in them. For instance, in one of these homes, every single appliance is hidden. If you want to make a cup of coffee or a sandwich, or even get a drink of water, you have to move walls and pull the kitchen out of a hidden niche. My God, that is a lot of work for a glass of water.

Another home has a bed that has no sheets or blankets. It’s just a huge rectangle. I guess those people have servants who come in every day after dinner, open up some hidden doorway into a linen cache, and then these servants make up the bed. And I guess they have to come in the next day and hide all of that. Over and over. My God.

Another home, inhabited by just one woman and her two tiny dogs–the house that takes up an entire city block–has an entry staircase that would take about five minutes to climb. Every damn day. The ceilings are curved and vaulted, and the light hits things at different angles during the day, so that the entry looks very much like, I guess I would call it a combo of  opera house and airport. Not a stitch of art on the walls, no carpet, or anything, because it’s all about the light.

In this house, once you climb the stairs and catch your breath, you enter the dining room with a table that seats 60. This is not an exaggeration. The room contains just this table with the 60 chairs. There are windows. But that is all. Let me say again: this woman lives here alone.

On this house tour, she took the host into her kitchen, which was just a mile of empty countertops. One huge sink the size of a bathtub, with a container of humble hand-pump liquid soap, which looked so inconsequential sitting all alone in that huge space. I wondered why she left that out. There was also a stove. Not a dish, not a flower, not a towel, nothing but the tiny little bottle of hand soap. Again, she stressed the beauty of the countertops, which were made of some sort of extremely precious stone–probably from a mine somewhere in a country where all the miners are under the age of six.

What do these people do when it is cold? Where are the blankets and the candles? What do they do to get cozy? Are all the chairs stored in a room out of view? Do they have to haul them out when they are sure nobody is coming over to see that they actually have some furniture?

I cannot fathom why emptiness has such cachet. I do get that during the pandemic we are all a bit claustrophobic from having to stay home. But if home consists of miles and miles of marble floors and rooms with just grass, claustrophobia is not an issue. Comfort is.

I may be way too plebeian. I admit it. But here’s the thing: these people who build the huge, empty homes filled with nothing but air–who are they fooling? Themselves. Because I cannot imagine that all of that emptiness is actually fulfilling. Life as art. Phooey. Go to a museum for that. Then come home, put on sweats, and plop down on the sofa and put your feet up on the coffee table.

I am willing to bet that the people who live in these open air houses?  They have bean bag chairs under lock and key.



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We have been at home virtually 24/7 for an entire year. We are so excited for the vaccines; the first thing we want to do is hop on a plane to see our grandchildren (ok, and our own child) in California. Maybe by August. We can see that light at the end of the tunnel.

Meanwhile, I have been spending a lot of my time on Instagram and leafing through online home magazines looking at the insides of other people’s houses. For me, looking at cozy images is soothing. Seeing those firesides and bowls of fruit makes me happy. Oh, and the candles. I love a good candle in the window.

What do I do all day? I exercise on the bike in my closet for hours. That was, until I got an overuse injury that took me down temporarily-my knee. Damn and blast.

I read books. My lord, I have read so many books. Writing books is another matter. With all of the world in turmoil, I have temporarily stopped creating. I just don’t have the concentration for it.

I like to daydream about what it would be like to live in the country with a great big dog and no major roads nearby. I would pull on my boots, open the door, and the dear pup and I would take long walks in the heath. American daydreams can include heath, because daydreams have no parameters.

In my daydreams I would be able to eat tons of baked goods. So I would have scones and croissants for breakfast and lots of carbs for dinner. All that walking would cancel out the carbs, and anyway, in my daydreams I am  thin and ropey.

Any daydream worth its salt would include a fireplace, which I no longer have. Also, good daydreams have an abundance of cozy things such as plush throws, dark walls, floral curtains, and farmhouse sinks. I don’t have any of those, either. The best daydreams also feature dining rooms lined with bookcases full of first editions. Nope to that as well.

I like to watch all the renovation television shows. Those wonderful end results. I wonder what those houses actually look like when the actual occupants move in with their own furniture–I bet those houses look a lot different and so ordinary! But I love those fantasy interiors staged by those talented young designers with good eyes and warehouses of home goods at their disposal.

I also nap.

When we get our vaccines and feel invincible, I will put on my mask and go grocery shopping in person. It will feel like Christmas. And finally, I will be able to choose my own food. Guessing online how many grapes is in a pound is so hard, and I can’t tell you how many times we have had enough tilapia to feed an army.

So. When I can go out more, I will. However, staying inside my apartment, virtually all alone while my husband spends time at his studio playing the accordion–it hasn’t really been that hard. We are very fortunate to have what we have, and I know it.

So I go on about my life, hoping that next year will be better. So much better.

Oh, and this little spirit has helped so very much:

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All the words have been spoken or printed.

I have nothing to add.

I fervently wish we will make it until January 21 without further chaos.


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Remember back when the whole COVID thing started? When we were told to get enough food on hand to last two weeks? And we thought that would be hard?

Remember when they told us to sanitize our surfaces, our groceries, and each other? And masks were something they wore in Asian countries?

Remember when I had to remind my husband to wash his hands when he came home? And when we had to have a sanitizing tutorial?

Oh, we were so naive back then.

It has been a year of COVID. Not two weeks. We locked down. We wore our pajamas all day, and still do, because we are going nowhere. We have been isolated with only our spouses (those of us lucky enough not to live alone).

So, you ask, after all these months of seeing only my husband and the occasional drive-thru employee, how is our marriage doing? We are still married, by the way. Of course, splitting up would involve one of us leaving the apartment, so naturally, staying together was the only option.

Here is what I have learned about our relationship during this unusual and once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) pandemic:

  • All those people who touted “family game nights” and “movie nights” to make the pandemic palatable are not married to my husband, who won’t watch a movie at home with me “Because you constantly interrupt to ask questions,” and who grew up in a game-playing family, thus hating all board and card games from an early age.
  • Puzzles. We have a cat. And I have that husband (see above).
  • Apparently, staring into space is an actual pastime.
  • Sandwiches aren’t for dinner.
  • Eggs aren’t for dinner.
  • Taking a “drive” is one way to get out of the house. However, my husband thinks I appreciate tours of industrial parks, dump sites, and blighted neighborhoods. I am not sure if these are meant to make me appreciate our privilege, or just that he likes dumps.
  • I never realized how much my husband loves pickles.
  • It is not a nap if you are sitting in a chair. Thus, he declares that I am the only one in the relationship who takes naps, despite the fact that I hear snoring coming from the living room every day at 4:00 pm.
  • After nearly one year in isolation, there are virtually no conversational topics that haven’t been covered multiple times.
  • We both love Judy Woodruff.
  • He thinks that I might just be embracing agoraphobia.
  • I think he is so desperate for social interaction that he is making it a habit to lie in wait  for the mail carrier. He denies this, despite the fact that he starts looking out the window for the USPS truck every afternoon at 3:00, rushing out of here the moment it arrives. Our mail carrier is named Howard. He has three children. His wife is a teacher. She hates the whole online learning thing. Howard’s favorite color is blue, and his guilty pleasure is kettle corn. I rest my case.
  • We both have developed a tremendous fondness for flannel.
  • Pancakes are not for dinner.

When this is all over (if it ever is), we wonder how long it will take before we will be able to get closer than six feet from a friend, if we will be able to set foot in a theatre or restaurant without some panic, if the idea of going to a party won’t seem incredibly foolhardy, and if either one of us will want to shake hands with anybody ever again.

But we both agree that this year hasn’t been all that bad. But let me say this: if anybody tries to cut in front of us in the vaccine line, that person will live to regret it.


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This will be the holiday season to remember. We are apart, zooming our hearts out, eating roast chickens instead of turkeys, and looking wistfully out the windows.

We will talk about this one in the years to come: “Remember the horrible holidays in 2020? When nobody got to see anybody else, and there wasn’t a vaccine yet?’ It will just be one of those holiday seasons when we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing, sort of like on 9/11 or when JFK was assassinated. We won’t forget the loneliness and the strangeness of being locked in without anybody to visit, no one to hug, and not a single person within six feet.

We will still, those of us who are privileged, give a toast and be somewhat merry. Those of us who can afford to stay home and not worry very much about where our next dollar is coming from. We need to be aware of ourselves this year.

So I have an idea. Not an original one. Give something to somebody else. Donate to a cause. Make some cookies and drop them off at a neighbor’s door. Think of someone else. Feel better about the world because you are in it.

Happy and merry to all of us.

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As I drove home from getting my usual curbside groceries, a beautiful Christmas song came on the radio. The Gloucestershire Wassail Carol is a favorite from my childhood. All of a sudden, a wave of sadness so potent washed over me that I almost had to pull over to the side of the road. All the things we would miss swam into my head: my dearest grandchildren, whom I haven’t seen in a year, my daughters, evenings with friends. I thought about the wonderful Christmas Eve service we attend in my daughter’s church in Los Angeles, ending with all holding lit candles and singing a carol together. The kids running in the aisles after their little pageant. The velvet dresses, the holly sprigs, and the wonderful dinner after the service.

I thought of the little dinner I have planned for just the two of us. The tiny tree we have in the living room with just the few gifts under it. I remembered large dinners with five kinds of dessert. Riding in a car with friends to look at the neighborhood lights.  Ladies’ holiday lunches. None of that will happen this year.

If I were 40, this would just be a blip in my radar. There would be so many years ahead to look forward to. But there aren’t that many in front of me; I don’t know if there will be even a dozen holiday seasons. Might there be only a few?

I let the self-pity run its course. I turned my car radio off.

I took a deep breath, adjusted my mask, and drove on.


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