Corona Chronicles: Reading as Escapism

In 1990, when I moved to Covert, Michigan to live with my grandparents, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about living in a remote town of fewer than 2,000 people. There was nothing I could do about not seeing my father. And there was nothing I could do about missing my friends, some of whom I’d known since I was six years old.

I had little control over my life, and I’d succumbed to the idea that I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring or how the next day’s unknown events may disrupt whatever today’s new normal was, kind of like now.

So, in between finishing high school, working at a bank as a 10-key data entry clerk, and messing around with my new boyfriend, I read.

img_3543I read Stephen King novels. There was something about reading scary-ass narratives that could never happen to me that was more comforting than reality.

Misery helped me focus on a crazy nurse, who held her favorite writer hostage and tormented him.

Firestarter swept me away to unbelievable events centered on a father and daughter who’d gained telepathic powers and the ability to set fires.

The Dark Half is a little harder to explain, but let’s just say reading about a fictional author with dissociative disorder was captivating and kept my mind on other things, kind of like now.

img_3500I’m always reading, but lately, I’ve  been reading more, faster. I started Octavia Butler’s Kindred right at the beginning of our country’s serious discussion of the pandemic and finished it just as Florida’s restaurants were mandated to do take-out only, about two weeks.

Right after, I was compelled to find another book. As I’m writing this, I’ve decided on Jasmine Guillory’s The Proposal. It’s a light read that shelters me from 24-hour news cycles and fear-based social media updates.

Unlike when I was seventeen, I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m fully aware of how I feel and what’s going. I sense the world’s pulse. But I’ve easily slipped into a coping mechanism and I wonder if that’s the way we all function.

Hoarders hoard and fearmongers spread fear because they’ve been triggered. Folks who call others “dumb” and “stupid” for attending Mardi Gras or other group activities may be repeating phrases spoken to them during their childhoods. Like me, they’ve been here before on a smaller scale, but maybe they’ve not been able to process their emotions to understand other ways to function. Being triggered is a thing that’s real, inherent. 

Usually, I write for others, but this piece is more so a reminder from me to me not to judge how others are handling social distancing, quarantines, and death. However, I’m sharing because I do hope in some way it also reminds us all that we’re each doing the best we can, considering our past backgrounds and current circumstances. Even though it may look a little different, we all seem to be in survival mode.

So, if you have some book suggestions to help me escape, add them in the comments below.



Parts were written for this essay published on The Mighty: How Reading is Helping Me Fight Through Feeling Powerless Over COVID-19.

Monday Notes: Be My Guest (Blogger)

February 2018, I relinquished my blog to friends and family who answered one question: What is self-love? Each day revealed a different answer and these inspired others to evaluate, or re-evaluate how they defined the term. Thanks to those who participated!

This year, I’m asking for fourteen guest bloggers to answer another question: How did you learn the importance of self-love?

What is expected? Please send to me a nonfiction essay or piece of narrative nonfiction that describes/explains how you began to love yourself? What happened? Was it a mate who showed you what it should (or shouldn’t) look like? Did your parents instill the importance of self-love in you? Did a specific situation lead you to self-love? Was it something you were just born with? Poetry or fiction is not appropriate.

How long should this be? I follow the blogging rules of no more than 750 words. I also believe anything less than 500 words is too short, so let’s keep it between 500-800 words so people want to actually read what you wrote.

When is the deadline? Please send this to me no later than 11:59 P.M. (EST), Thursday, January 31, 2019. I do not take deadlines lightly. Submissions received on February 1, 2019 will not be considered.

Where should you submit your writing? Please email me at or use the contact form at the top of this blog.

Other formalities: Please include your social media contacts as well.

More questions? Simply ask below.

The Red Sweater (fiction)

Ever since I’ve retired, I’ve taken up several hobbies. Crocheting kept me busy in my early 60s. By the time Christmas 1995 rolled around, I was able to crochet everyone in my family a nice scarf. I made a small cute one for the baby. Well, she’s not a baby anymore. Her name is Tina. She’s 20 and in her second year at community college. I made a purple one for Tanya, Tina’s older sister. She’s going on 25. The best one I made, I like to call it “my masterpiece,” was a bright red, two-strand, chunky cowl for my only daughter, Therese. Sixteen rows, a few slip-stitches and half-double crochets later, and there it was, “my masterpiece.” Therese doesn’t know this, but she almost didn’t get it. I was so proud of that thang that I thought long and hard about keeping it for myself.

After I mastered crochet, I settled on learning how to needle point. You know the library gives what they call continuing education classes to anybody in the community. All these years, and I had to wait until I was retired and nearly 70 before I found out. Every Wednesday, Elder Helpers would pick me up at 10 A.M. sharp and take me five miles to the library. I spent two hours a week with the group learning how to work the pattern. All I needed was my different color yarn, a pattern and a needle. By the end of the few weeks, I had made me a nice pink and yellow butterfly. Gave that one to Tanya, so she could hang it up in Tayler’s room; that’s her baby.

Now that I’m almost 80, I decided to take up knitting. The library didn’t have the class, so I signed up at Michael’s. It wasn’t too far. The classes last ‘bout two and a half hours. I guess I took to needle point and crochet so good that knitting didn’t seem to be too hard for me. Learned just in time too cause Tina called the other day and said she’s expecting a little boy. I got so excited I called up Elder Helpers to ride me to the park every Saturday so I can work on this little, red sweater for him. Oh dear, I dropped one of my knitting needles.

“Here, ma’am,” a middle-aged man picked up the fallen knitting needle.
“Thank you, baby,” she replied. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said.
I wiped away the tear that nestled in the corner of my right eye. I knew if Pam saw it, then it would start a fight. She never understood why certain triggers made me well up with emotion. The sight of the small, red sweater reminded me of the stillborn baby my first wife and I had to bury. His name was Reginald, Reginald Junior. We were going to call him RJ. She had miscarried twice before, but this time there was hope. The doctors promised that if she relaxed and stayed off of her feet, then everything should go well. We were so hopeful.

Shelley made it all the way past 24 weeks. We figured it was safe to start buying things. We painted RJ’s room red and navy blue. Shelley’s dad came over and helped me put together a cherry-wood, four-in-one crib. It was supposed to be one of those beds that stays with him and converts into a toddler bed and then a full-size bed with a headboard. RJ would have it for a long time.

Towards the end of November, Shelley’s best friend gave her a baby shower. The Thomas the Train theme helped to finish the rest of the room’s decorations. RJ had sheets, a blanket, curtains, a nightlight, lamp, and even a carpet. The mini-train set that Shelley’s dad put together was set up on a circular table off to the side. Shelley’s mom had tucked a special gift that she’d been working on deep into her emergency hospital bag. RJ had everything a little boy might want.

Shelley was 30 weeks. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was December 1, 2000. We just knew that we would be bringing RJ home that day. Shelley said she felt different. But I didn’t know what she meant. Her face was so swollen that she was unrecognizable. She couldn’t hold any food down. I grabbed the emergency bag and drove us to the hospital. What happened next is a blur. It began with the doctor admitting her for an emergency C-section and ended with RJ being born, but not breathing.

We more than cried. We held each other close. We held RJ’s lifeless body. We wailed that day. And when Shelley was finally able to rest, I reached into the emergency hospital bag and found the special gift from her mom: a small, knitted, red button-downed sweater, just big enough for RJ. We buried him in it.

“Are you crying?” Pam asked.
“No. It’s my allergies. You know it’s pollen season,” Reginald answered.
I know he’s lying. Every time we pass by a baby stroller, baby, baby store, or anything baby related, he breaks down in tears. If we’re watching a movie and there’s a baby in it, then he sobs. I told him a dozen times that if he cries one…more…time…I’m out. He told me all about losing the baby, but that was fifteen years ago! Even his wife, what was her name? Sherry or something, even Sherry left him because he couldn’t get over losing their child. That’s what he told me anyway. All I know is as soon as we get back to his condo, I’m packing up all of my stuff and leaving. Six months of his out of control emotions is enough.