Category: Health

A Flashing Sign

Another short story inspired by what’s going on around us:

She had always considered herself a true American. A patriot. A law abiding citizen. She sang the National Anthem with as much gusto as anyone.
But today she had stopped to think about the words she was singing. She was struck by the ones that came at the end: “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

What was happening around her this spring didn’t feel like freedom or bravery. She drove through the deserted streets of what had once been a busy shopping area. She knew many of the owners well. She had shopped in most of these small stores often.

It was the middle of the day. A work day. Or at least it should have been a day for businesses to be open. But where there should have been a row of “Open” signs, there was now only darkness. Every storefront had a sign saying “Closed” and she wondered yet again if many of them had been open for the last time.

Her heart hurt as she drove. Who had decided that these businesses were “non-essential”? Non-essential to who? Certainly not to their owners! Nor to their customers. She didn’t like to shop in the big box stores. She preferred to give her business to the local shops. But that choice had been taken away from her.
The insanity of it all. She could “safely” go into Walmart or Lowes, where dozens or hundreds of people were shopping, but not into one of her friends’ stores, where there were seldom even a dozen people at a time. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the insanity of it.

No, this did not feel like freedom at all. When and why had her country become so un-free?

And bravery? No, that was gone too. She had been shocked by the number of healthy people she knew who were refusing to leave their homes, some even to walk outside and smell the fresh, spring air.

It was a sad time to be an American. Though from what she was hearing on the rare occasions she turned on the news, it wasn’t any better in most of the rest of the world. But the lack of freedom here in her own country was what hit her the hardest. We really had been “the land of the free and the home of the brave” at some point in our history, she thought.

She had stopped her car momentarily, needing to compose herself when her thoughts had become so melancholy. It wasn’t like there had been a shortage of places to pull over, every parking space on the street stood empty.

But she was ready now. She would continue her tour of the deserted downtown for a little longer before heading back to her lonely home. Well, to be honest, the street wasn’t completely deserted. She had seen quite a few people out walking. She had shuddered at how many of them were wearing masks as they did so, since hers was NOT one of the states that had gone that far in their strict requirements.

Turning the corner, she expected to see more of the same on the next block. After all, this was just another street of businesses that her governor had somehow determined were non-essential.

But the block wasn’t deserted. There were cars everywhere as people tried to find their parking spots. What was going on? What had she missed? Then she saw it. The flashing sign. There had been plenty of those on the previous street. But this one was different. It was not flashing “Closed.” It said “Open.”

As she stopped to let an unmasked pedestrian cross the street in front of her, she realized which business it was. It was the local gym. She was confused. She knew it had been closed the last time she had come this way, locked up as tight as all the others.

What had changed? She didn’t remember hearing gyms on the governor’s newest list. She pulled into the last available parking spot and hurried across the street. She had noticed another sign in the window next to the “Open” sign and she was anxious to see what it said.

She had to grin as she read it: “We are an essential business. We exist to help people become and stay healthy. We will not comply with any more government orders that keep us from doing that work. Please join us if you feel safe in doing so.”

Smiling, she crossed the street back to her car. She was going home to get her gym clothes and her checkbook. It was high time she joined a gym.

Through the Window

I made a more upbeat post a couple weeks ago. I will apologize in advance that today’s is more melancholy than the last one. But it’s what I felt led to write on Mother’s Day. This one is a fictional story, but it is based on what several women I know have been going through.

She sat down on her bed slowly. Of course, she laughed to herself. She seemed to be doing everything slowly these days. What would be the point in doing anything quickly? There weren’t enough things to do in a day as it was, so there was no rush to do any of them, now was there?

She stared out the window again, but couldn’t see anything different outside. She wondered why she bothered to look again and again, since the view never changed. Slowly she moved away from it. Something had made her look out the window earlier that day but she was having trouble remembering what it was.

Slowly, it was coming back to her. Her daughter. That was why she had gone to the window earlier. Her daughter had been there, waving at her, and holding a lovely bouquet of flowers. Her daughter’s mouth had been formed in the shape of a smile, but she had seen the tears flowing down her face.

She remembered being confused by that. Her daughter shouldn’t have been smiling and crying at the same time. And she certainly shouldn’t have been crying while holding those beautiful flowers.

She had wanted to go outside and hug her daughter and make the tears go away. But for some reason she couldn’t do it. That bothered her. But again she couldn’t remember why.

Her daughter used to come to visit her regularly. She did remember that. It was always sometime around lunch time, she remembered that too. Sometimes her own lunch had already been eaten, but sometimes it came while her daughter was visiting.

She smiled again. She could remember those meals the best. She liked it when her daughter sat in the chair and talked to her while she ate.

Slowly she turned and looked at the chair. Was her daughter sitting there now? No, the chair was empty. Again. It seemed like it was always empty these days. Why wasn’t her daughter sitting in it anymore? She had known at one time what the reason was, but now she couldn’t remember. It seemed there were alot of things she couldn’t remember these days.

She stood back up, slowly going back to the window. It was a big window and she was glad about that. It let in lots of sun on sunny days. But lately it seemed to be raining alot. Or was that her tears? She was having trouble telling them apart.
She found herself standing in the window again. Her daughter wasn’t there now, but she could see the spot where she had been standing earlier. Standing there holding a big bouquet of beautiful flowers.

She turned around slowly again, looking at her dresser across the room. Those flowers, she thought, as the smile on her face came back. Those were the flowers her daughter had been holding outside earlier today.

She crossed the small room again, carefully going by the empty chair and then reaching the dresser and the beautiful flowers. She thought she remembered seeing a card with the flowers. But had she remembered to open the card? She didn’t know.

She found the card and carried it carefully back across the room. Sitting down in the empty chair, she opened it. It’s beautiful, she thought. There was a rainbow splashed across the card. And in beautiful letters she saw the words “Happy Mother’s Day.” She smiled at the rainbow. I think I saw one of those recently she thought. Didn’t I?

Slowly she opened the card. She recognized her daughter’s handwriting. Her daughter hadn’t written much, just a few beautiful words, “I love you, Mom. I look forward to giving you a hug.”

She read the words again. A hug. I haven’t had one of those in a long time, have I? Why not? Is there a reason she can’t give me a hug like she used to? I know she told me. But I don’t remember.

She heard the rain starting outside her window and she glanced that direction. I haven’t felt the rain in a long time, have I? But I don’t know why. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been outside this room in a long time.

She sat trying to remember what she had been told. There were reasons her daughter wasn’t sitting in the chair anymore, reasons that she couldn’t go outside anymore, reasons that she missed the hugs, but she couldn’t remember what they were. She hoped they were good reasons, at least.

She sat for a long time, looking at the beautiful card and the lovely rainbow and listened to the rain. She like the sound of rain when it was like this, not too hard and not too loud. She wasn’t fond of the loud noises that sometimes came with the rain, she remembered that. She did like the bright lights that sometimes accompanied it. They lit up the sky like a show, and she enjoyed watching them out her window.

Carefully she put the card back with the flowers, hoping she remembered it was there. She would like to look at it again someday. She stood in front of the flowers for another long time, enjoying their smell. And their pretty colors. Her daughter made sure they were each a different color, just like she liked them.
Her daughter? Was that who had brought the flowers earlier today? Yes, her daughter, she was sure of it.

She walked slowly back to the window, looking out at the spot her daughter had stood with the flowers. Every day she stands there. At least I think she does. I sort of remember that. But she doesn’t have flowers for me every day. Just on special days. So today must be a special day.

What was special about today? Did she know? Did she remember? Yes, that’s right, the card had told her. It was Mother’s Day. A special day.

She looked out the window again. The rain had stopped and the sun was starting to shine. As she gazed again at the spot her daughter had been standing, she saw the rainbow. The beautiful rainbow peaking out from behind the clouds.
She smiled again. A rainbow. Just like the one on her daughter’s card. No, on her card from her daughter. The card that promised her a hug. That was something worth remembering. One day, at some point in the future, hugs would come back.

Lights on the Horizon

I had planned to write my next blog post on what the first two years of retirement had been like, or maybe even one on the joy of writing with writing prompts (something I’ve been doing alot of lately!). But as often happens, my plans this spring have been in a constant state of flux. So, instead, I break my fast from blogging with a short “story” I wrote yesterday as I celebrated the beginning of my 64th year.

I wrote it as a third person account, because that’s how it developed in my mind. After sharing it with several family members, I was encouraged to change it to first person, because it really is my story of how the last six weeks or so have affected me and those around me. But I just couldn’t get it to work as well in the first person, so I’ve stuck to third. Have no doubt, though, it is very much my thoughts on this current craziness:

It had been a dismal start to the spring. All was doom and gloom with the predictions about a virus taking over the world. Politicians had jumped at the prospect of not wasting a good crisis and had pulled out all the stops on taking people’s liberties away from them in the name of “keeping them safe.”

The virus didn’t scare her. Her neighbors didn’t bother her. But the idea that a country could be turned upside down inside mere days and weeks, based on few facts, many assumptions, and countless fear-mongering, that worried her! She lived in one of the greatest countries in the world. But she was beginning to doubt that it could stay that way.

Fiction masquerading under the guise of facts had scared people into what only months before would have been unthinkable: Trips were being forced to be canceled, stores were being closed, jobs were being lost, and activities were being called off at alarming rates.

Meanwhile people were being told to stay home and stay safe, while no allowance was being made for how to keep them sane at the same time. As the time stretched on, she started hearing stories that made her want to cry: people living alone who were slowly dying inside as a result, kids who couldn’t go outside anymore, even as the spring weather was becoming more and more beautiful, people with so much time on their hands, and few good ways to fill it, folks who had lost their jobs and wondered where the money for their next meals would come from, never mind the rent or the mortgage payment that could never be paid. Small businesses were closing their doors, some in hopes that it would be a temporary closure, but many knowing this would just be the beginning of the end. She had owned a small business once and could too well imagine what even a month or two of forced closure would have done to her bottom line. It was painful to think of the harm being done.

She was personally faring fairly well during all of this, at least in the short run. Her health was good, she lived in a home with someone else, rather than alone or in a tiny apartment, she had family members close by that could still come for visits, and even had a backyard she could go into anytime she desired. And as a retiree, at least for now, her finances were in pretty good shape. But her heart ached for all those she knew and knew of that were suffering greatly through all of this. What were the uncalculated damages being done to family, friends, and strangers throughout this shutdown? It made her heart hurt to think on it.

But then slowly, just as it seemed that all would continue to spiral downward based on lies being touted as truths, she began to see small lights of hope appearing on the horizon. They were small and infrequent at first. There had been the lone representative that had dared to speak out against the socialist “stimulus” bill that had raced through Congress at the end of March. But that light seemed to go out almost as soon as it had been lit, and she was back to wondering where and when this would end.

Then there was the epidemiologist from a prestigious university questioning the assumptions being made in the doom and gloom models. Followed by a professor (also from a well known university) who came out and dared to analyze the facts and point out the fiction that too many people had been accepting as reality. Listening to them, hope had welled up temporarily once again. But each time someone came out with such good news, it seemed that those peddling darkness were stepping up their attacks.

And then, wonder of wonder, she saw the group of doctors from a small southern state who had risked discussing the false “facts” that were being used to scare people into accepting this scenario, followed within two days by two doctors in California raising similar points. In both cases their analysis of facts versus fiction had really made hope rise within her.

So as the second month of craziness was speeding towards a close, she could almost smile again. Almost hold out hope that the lies would be revealed and that freedom might actually not be gone forever. She considered the fact that so many were pushing for more testing, when the reality was we didn’t need to know how many had already had the disease. Enough tests had been done to show us that the number of people who had gotten the virus and recovered from it was much larger than we had ever suspected. To her that fact alone had done more to disprove the doom and gloom prophets than it had done to prove them right.

She wanted to shake those who kept pointing at these numbers as if they were evidence of a big, almost insurmountable problem. Of course the numbers were rising, the number of tests were rising! How could people not see that? But as long as political figures at every level were allowed to use those figures to frighten people in their county, state, or country, we would not be making forward progress.

She didn’t know what blinded some to the realities, but she was ready to stop focusing on what had been being thrown at her from so many directions for so long. She wanted to start watching the horizon for more lights. Surely more would come, little by little, and eventually the sun would rise again and put an end to all of this! And that was where she would need to keep her focus in the days and weeks to come. God help her country if the lights did not continue to shine brighter on the horizon!

Dealing with the Winter Blues

Explanations or Excuses?

(And does it really matter?)

I hadn’t meant to go almost two months between blog posts. But much of the last two months have not gone the way I thought they would. (Testimony to the idea that we can make our plans, but ultimately God is in control.)  I started the year thinking I would be having knee surgery on the 8th of January. Instead, in having lab work done for the surgery, I discovered that I had Diabetes. The past two months have included seven doctors’ visits, three trips to labs for blood work, and a surgery for a brand new issue that crept up in the midst of all this. So the past two months have primarily been about making the adjustments needed as a Diabetic, and recovery from all the various-related health issues. Which, needless to say, hasn’t meant much writing or traveling.

Improvements – Finally!

By the end of February my blood sugars were more or less stabilized where they needed to be, and my energy was slowly returning. During the difficult winter months of health-focused days, I did manage to finish the rough draft for novel #6 in the da Vinci series (hopefully it will be available to readers later this spring) and I took one small trip – returning to Montgomery with students for my last official event as a Youth in Government adviser. (For more on that trip, see last week’s Creative Learning Connection post here.)

Moving Forward

I also spent as much of February as I could manage doing research for my next book. I really need to get started on book 7 in the da Vinci series, but I’m taking a slight detour first – and writing one on Michelangelo next. A dear friend of mine from church has been waiting for me to write this book for some time. So here I go, at last. It’s not a completely different direction from da Vinci – Michelangelo even had bit parts in my last several da Vinci novels. But I have had to learn quite a bit more to write an entire book from his perspective. I still can’t say that Michelangelo has surpassed Leonardo as my favorite artist, but I have certainly come to appreciate more of his work through all this research. I think writing this book should actually be fun. Starting March 1 my goal is to write at least 1,000 words/ day towards that book – as of day 5 I’ve written more than 5,000 words. I’m still working out what directions parts of the story are going, but it’s definitely moving along!

March Goals

If March goes more like I’ve planned than January and February did, I might accomplish the following goals:

*Get back into my swimming class and start swimming laps again (after a two month absence)

*Write at least 31,000 words on the Michelangelo book (about ¾ of the goal total – what can I say, I write short novels)

*Start using Scrivener and get past at least the first part of the learning curve for it. (The new laptop arrived today, and Scrivener was the second program I downloaded onto it. So far so good.)

*Make some plans for several of the trips I’ve got scheduled for later this year.

But whether those goals are met are not, I’m sure it will be an exciting month!

Keeping on!


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