Make Me Think Monday

6 07, 2020

Move Over Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizers, There’s a New Coronavirus Shortage

By |2020-06-27T10:28:55-05:00July 6th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you’ve had a great weekend. Mine was spent working this patriotic puzzle I purchased before the COVID-19 pandemic started, thank goodness.

Media focused on the toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages, but there’s another shortage going on—a pandemic jigsaw puzzle pandemonium.

As people tire of binge watching Amazon Prime and Netflix, they’re doing jigsaw puzzles. Worldwide puzzle sales are up more than 370% since March.

It’s understandable. Fitting puzzle pieces together is a diversion. And during these months of social distancing and sheltering in place, heaven knows we need diversion.

Jigsaw puzzles aren’t a new thing. John Spilsbury, a map engraver in England, mounted a world map to a sheet of hardwood and used a hand saw to cut around country boundaries in 1760. He called them “Dissected Maps” and sold as a tool for teaching geography.

Centuries later, I used map puzzles in my classroom for the same thing.

With the invention of the foot-pedal jigsaw in the 18th century, puzzles became more easily produced and new cardboard die-cutting techniques created puzzles like we see today. Styles have advanced with more technology. Modern 3D block puzzles let you create multiple puzzles using the same pieces.

Jigsaw puzzles provide cheap entertainment because they can be completed, scrambled, and passed around within a family or community. With increased pricing and limited availability, people have come up with creative ways to share puzzles.

The Irish Athol Congregational Church created a drive-thru puzzle swap.  You stay in your car, drop off a puzzle to be disinfected and move forward to pick out a disinfected puzzle.

In Omaha, Nebraska  a bookseller runs a puzzle exchange. You trade a puzzle for a puzzle or a donation to the local food bank.

This puzzle mania may be to relieve coronavirus boredom, but psychologists say puzzles are so much more than just a way to pass the time.

Angela Garcia, PhD, a professor at Bentley University who has been researching puzzles for more than 20 years, says, “Puzzling lets us experience the closure and success we do not always get to experience in real life.”

I’ve always been a puzzle lover. There’s always one working around here . The enduring lure of puzzles is they’ll always be an escape.

Want to try a puzzle? Here are some sites that offer free online puzzles:

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Canada has a variety of puzzle sizes and shapes. You can even upload your own pictures and make them into jigsaw puzzles or send a jigsaw puzzle postcard. My favorite feature is the daily jigsaw puzzle in my email.

8 06, 2020

What to do while in Coronavirus Chaos

By |2020-06-07T09:26:51-05:00June 8th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

We’ve been cooped up now for weeks and, while restrictions are loosening, we’re still stuck with time on our hands.

But, on the plus side, confinement has given us opportunities. These are things I’ve done:

  • Learned technologies like Zoom, Skype, Facebook video, Facetime, and so many others.
  • Attended online tours, lectures, and conferences from the comfort of home in my pj bottoms.
  • Read new authors and re-read favorites.
  • Watched documentaries, movies, and series and revisit favorites.
  • Discovered new hobbies and lots of new recipes.
  • Toured familiar and faraway places online.
  • Organized and sorted junk drawers, pantries, garages, closets, bookshelves, photos, etc.
  • Work in my yards weeding and trimming. Planted flowers and mini-gardens.

COVID-19 continues to lurk about. New cases are on the rise again. We need to do what we can to curb the continued spread.

Practicing social distancing and wearing masks is a major part. Staying home is still the safest.

Still, finding energy and focus during the coronavirus chaos can be hard. Staying positive and keeping yourself occupied is a key to getting through.

Maybe you haven’t been able to do some of the things on my list above yet. Why not try your hand at a few?

1 06, 2020

Quarantine Isn’t Something New

By |2020-06-01T07:58:55-05:00June 1st, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

These COVID-19 pandemic days of self-isolation have made quarantine a common part of our vocabulary.

But did you know the word’s been around since the 9th century?

Its quad root dates to the Proto-Indo-European or PIE language kwetwer, and linguists trace the PIE language to between 4500 BC to 2500 BC. We hear quad in words like quadruple and quadrilateral.

Quadraginta is the Latin word for forty. Quarantena referred to the desert where Jesus fasted for 40 days. In both Italian and French, the word also applied to Lent.

Today we we use the word to mean a period of isolation to prevent the spread of contagious disease.

The use of isolation traces to Middle Ages and Renaissance and the plague-ridden 14th century when Venice required the crews of ships from afflicted countries to remain at anchor offshore for forty days before docking.

According to The Visual Thesaurus, being quarantined isn’t all bad. There are famous cases of creativity that have risen from periods of quarantine.

  • Shakespeare wrote King Lear
  • Isaac Newton worked on his theories of optics and gravitation
  • Giovanni Boccaccio wrote The Decameron, a book about people telling each other stories during quarantine

And stay-at-home authors create word origin searches like this to blog about. Which, if you were honest, is probably more than you wanted to know about quarantine.

What have you done while you stayed at home or quarantined during this COVID-19 pandemic?

25 05, 2020

How to celebrate Memorial Day During the Coronavirus Quarantine

By |2020-05-24T18:15:25-05:00May 25th, 2020|Holidays, Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

Memorial Day is the holiday set aside to remember the men and women who gave their lives while serving this country. To say thank you for their supreme sacrifice.

Because parades and gatherings are cancelled this Memorial Day weekend, retired Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva and CBS News “On the Road” correspondent Steve Hartman are asking buglers and trumpet players across the country to stand on their porches this Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time and play “Taps.”

The rest of us can pause for a moment to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice serving this country as well as all the victims of the coronavirus pandemic while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

If you’d like to dust off your trumpet or bugle and sound the call, click here for directions on how to participate.

If you’re not a bugler then perhaps you can play a version of Taps from YouTube like this one.

27 04, 2020

To Mask or Not to Mask – That is the Question

By |2020-04-27T12:20:47-05:00April 27th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

Our local county judge issued an order requiring residents ages 10 and over to wear some sort of protective face covering when in public places. It goes into effect today.

Face coverings may be a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief, as long as it covers the nose and mouth. And there are exceptions for eating or drinking, exercising, or doing physical activities outdoors, and if wearing a face covering posed a mental, physical, safety or security risk.

Still the order raised all kinds of social media chatter and protest. Within the day, a legal challenge was issued. Did she have the authority to do so?

Consensus seems to be a resounding NO. But, so far, there’s been no rescinding.

Which led to this to-be-or-not-to-be Shakespeare question blog and my favorite thing – research.

The answer lies in the reason behind wearing a mask. Is a mask worn to protect the wearer from getting infected or is a mask worn to protect others from being infected by the wearer?

And understanding COVID19.

Research seems to show a key transmission route of COVID-19 is via droplets that fly out of our mouths — when we speak, not just when we cough or sneeze. Coupled with the known fact that people can infect others before they themselves display any symptoms — even if they never develop any illness.

Imagine the coronavirus pandemic like a wildfire. People breathing out invisible embers when they speak, cough, or sneeze. Studies show sneezing spreads embers farthest, coughing second, and speaking least.

That’s a scary image and wearing a mask begins to make sense.

Wearing a cotton mask dramatically reduces the number of virus particles emitted from our mouths by as much as 99 percent. Fewer virus particles floating around means a better chance of avoiding infection. And if infected, a better chance of only a mild illness.

Mask wearing is like the emission filter on car exhausts and chimneys. My mask protects you; your mask protects me.

It’s called public good — something we all do to that eventually helps everyone. But how much public good depends on the level of participation.

In a perfect world there be lots of good mask wearing. Unfortunately, emission filters had to be mandated to cut air pollution. I suspect that’s why our county judge put out her order mandating mask wearing.

6 04, 2020

Finding Inner Calm in A Coronavirus World

By |2020-04-05T10:04:04-05:00April 6th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

We’re living in a pandemic world filled with distraction and stress. That’s a big problem for our bodies that crave homeostasis (a relatively stable internal state despite changes in the world outside).

So how can we reconcile our body’s need for inner calm when what’s happening in our world is out of our control?

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Here are some experts’ suggestions I found to consider:

Have A Morning and Evening Routine

  • Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Our circadian rhythm (aka our internal clock) sets itself by the time at which it sees daylight each morning. Our bodies need consistent sleep.

  • Eat Breakfast

Eating breakfast keeps our hormones from crashing and helps fend off anxiety and depression later in the day.

  • Soak in Sunshine

Light combats depression. If you’re not comfortable walking with a mask, or can’t, open the shades or blinds and stand by a window or door, or pull a chair outside.

  • Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night

This maybe even harder than getting up at the same time every morning. But disciplining ourselves to a regular bedtime that allows for ample sleep (at least eight hours according to experts) does make a difference in our daily health and energy.

  • Shut Off Electronic Devices Early in the Evening AND turn Off the Screens

This will help ward off Internet brain and stop your devices’ blue light from causing your body to be confused about the fact it’s nighttime.

Avoid spiraling into the black hole of news and social media

Yes, we need to be informed about important virus details and our responsibilities in dealing with it. Yes, we need to connect with family and friends.

Truth is, too much time online and listening to news only increases anxiety and worry.

Be wise. Give yourself a shield against the unnecessary anxiety triggers and information overload by setting limits to news watching and social media time.

Most important, Be Kind to Yourself

We’re all under enough pressure right now. When your chest and stomach clench with tension, your neck and jaw stiffen, tears build, and thoughts won’t settle, acknowledge you might need to chill for a while.

Stop what you’re doing. Read or watch something that makes you laugh. Maybe stretch out on the couch and do nothing.

Do what’s works for you at any given moment. To be of any use to others, we must first take care of ourselves.

None of these expert suggestions will make the virus go away but trying them may help calm the chaos.

30 03, 2020

Finding Happiness in a Dark Time

By |2020-03-29T19:11:53-05:00March 30th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

Today is Happiness Day. It’s a bit of a strange topic when we have a pandemic going on and death tolls rising. Still, we can all use a little happiness with all this craziness bombarding us.

Where can we find happiness?

First, and foremost, turn off the news. Quit watching every single newscast all day long. Stay informed but take a break.

I think we’ve all gotten the message. This is not getting better. If you listen to the experts, it’s going to be worse.

Truth is we do not know. So why, listen to all the speculation that only fuels a pervasive dread of what’s coming next.

And, because you’re stuck inside try some of these ideas to find a little happy…

  • Now that you’re living twenty-four/seven with all your stuff, bet you’re finding there’s hardly room for you. Clean out that sock drawer. Get rid of what you don’t need, haven’t used. You’ll feel lighter for it. Happier.
  • Escape to another world via reading. Try a new genre or a new author. Do a search for your favorite author.
  • Our local library offers free downloads of eBooks, magazines and newspapers. Check your library to see if they offer the same service.
  • Call people you haven’t talked to in years, just to say, “Hey. You okay? I want you to be okay.” It’s a good thing to do. Something we should be doing even if there wasn’t a pandemic lurking outside.

Find happy in diversions…

  • Go online, not to check the latest news, but to learn things we’ve always meant to learn, like Spanish or Gaelic, yoga or basket weaving, and how to play the ukulele.
  • Walk through prestigious cultural institutions, like The Met and The American Museum of Natural History or visit any one of the zoos offering tours. Need a list of virtual tours? Check here.
  • Work a jigsaw puzzle
  • Do a free crossword puzzle

Consider the good that’s happening.

  • Neighbors are stepping up to help one another. Desperate times are bringing out the good in people and renewing the belief we once held that good people help each other.
  • Our hopelessly divided government is worked out bipartisan legislation to help.
  • Pollution is easing with less cars on the road.

Yes, people are dying, but people are also recovering from COVID-19. Civilization is not going to end. Life will change as the emergency eases, normal will be different, and likely better.

Focus on the good stuff, and do something frivolous or fun.

Like a virtual ride on Disney’s new Frozen II roller coaster.

Be safe. Stay healthy. Find something that makes you happy.

23 03, 2020

Coronavirus – Crisis, Chaos, and Change

By |2020-03-22T17:31:37-05:00March 23rd, 2020|Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Crisis, chaos, and change are the three components of every major event.

Remember the existential edginess of 9/11? It’s returned.

During that crisis, we hunkered down at home with loved ones close, glued to our televisions, as the world around us changed. Our hearts trembled in fear that day. We survived.

Crisis, along with its bedfellows of chaos and change, happened again during the Colorado wildfires of 2013.

Maybe not everyone, but edginess and uncertainty ruled with mandatory evacuations for us. We piled two cars with our most precious belongings, two dogs, and ourselves. Our home was spared, but our world changed. We survived.

Crisis struck again in 2017 when Harvey dumped torrential waters and once again uncertainty, losses, and dramatic life-changes swirled around us.

Now a pandemic called COVID-19, coronavirus swirls worldwide crisis and chaos.

There’s nothing good about this crisis. Fears are rampant.

No one escapes the chaos of bare grocery store shelves or quarantines, voluntary and mandated. NO toilet paper, really?

As we grope our way along through the chaos, here are six suggestions (paraphrased by me) from Writer Unboxed blog contributor Sarah McCoy.

  • Buy Flowers. Splurge on a bouquet at the store or pick some wildflowers or plant some seeds.
  • Get Outdoors. Self-isolation doesn’t mean we are locked in jail. Isolate yourself with a walk in nature. Drive to a nature trail, if necessary, where there are crowds.
  • A Song. Listen or sing your own. Songs are the medicine of angels, and it will resonate in you for hours… days… however long this quarantine takes.
  • Cook. To create a nutritious, virus-free dish for yourself and your loved ones is a simple recipe for joy.
  • Write A letter. To another person or yourself in a journal. According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus can only live on paper for 24 hours. Letters sent through USPS take 2-3 days. It’s safe.
  • Read. For a writer like me, that’s a given. It’s my way to escape even when there’s no chaos.

Choose one or all of Ms. McCoy’s suggestions. Doing so requires nothing and will offer great relief from “the toxic fear plaguing us as tenaciously as this microbial foe.”

Take heart in knowing we got through 9/11, wildfires, and floods and so many other crises. We can rest in the assurance this darkness will give way to the light too.

Be safe, dear ones.

16 03, 2020

Which is it – Supper or Dinner?

By |2020-03-15T17:09:40-05:00March 16th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

In the grand scheme of things this is not even a blimp on the radar, only I recently had the word supper changed to dinner by a copy editor. Even with everything else going on in the world, that troubled me.

The editor said dinner is used more often. I responded in the South we eat supper and go to dinner.

That didn’t help.

Not to be defeated, I did my favorite thing—research—and discovered dinner doesn’t refer to a specific time of day but refers to the main meal. The word supper comes from the Old French word “souper,” meaning “evening meal.”

In her NPR interview, food historian Helen Zoe Veit says, “[In the 18th and early 19th centuries,] Americans regularly ate a light supper as their evening meal because they were eating dinner—the biggest meal of the day—around noon.”

(Who knew there was such a thing as a food historian?)

Anyway, Veit further explains the reason for eating the biggest meal at noontime was so farmers would have more strength and energy to get through the rest of their workday. When Americans began working away from their homes and farms and couldn’t easily return home to cook and eat in the middle of the day, large noon meals disappeared too. Having the main meal of the day in the evening meant they could spend more time enjoying their food and spending time with their family.

The word supper is more commonly used in Southern and Midwestern states. Mostly likely because those regions are agricultural.

Nowadays I think most folks eat meals at all hours, not necessarily by the clock or large meals. You can have brunch between breakfast and lunch and lupper between lunch and bedtime.

Heads up here… you’re not going to find that word lupper in the dictionary. It’s a word I made up to explain to my children why lunch was skipped and there’d be no supper.

In my research I ran across this fascinating blog on the supper vs dinner question. Lovely vintage photos. Take a peek, you’ll enjoy it.

P.S. The word supper stayed. After all, the story takes place in rural Texas. That is supper eating country.

9 03, 2020

Disruption and A Black Swan Named Coronavirus

By |2020-03-09T09:59:31-05:00March 9th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

I’ve lived long enough to know that life is never smooth. And, I know what’s happening around me can disrupt my writing brain. I’ve accepted that and adjust accordingly.

I can settle into a writing routine sans television and social media and pump out the words on my next work in progress.

Then whammy. World events erupt tossing an unexpected curve ball. The stock market sank 1,000 points.

Now, I don’t follow the stock market. But I do know enough to recognize a huge dip like that means there’s trouble in River City.

On goes the news again. I discover the cause. And this disruption is a Wowizer— coronavirus COVID-19 is threatening a pandemic. Fear over the impact on the economy is rampant.

Scary stuff.

All the journalistic sensationalism is troublesome. I’m not being blasé. I do realize the inherent danger and have amped up basic hygiene routines per CDC instructions.

But I’ve watched in utter amazement as media coverage has created its own pandemic.  Shelves in stores are bare as people hoard assorted items named as potential to be hard to get. Prices of these necessary items are being raised to ridiculous amounts. (And, people paying those prices!)

That’s sick.

I had a moment of reality when news came that the virus had spread to communities near me. I’m not carelessly believing I’ll be fine. I’m taking precautions.

But I’m not panicked.

We have food and supplies stockpiled (comes from years of living where grocery stores were a long way away and being snowbound happened too often). We’ll share toilet paper and Kleenex.

Whatever happens will happen. Nothing I can do stop to it or avoid it.

In her blog Kristine Kathryn Rusch that called the situation a Black Swan event being fed by overenthusiastic journalists.

I didn’t know the term Black Swan. Business Major Hubby explained it was a term for an unpredictable event that causes catastrophic damage to the stock market.

Well, this disruption certainly qualifies.

Surely the mad dash to secure hand sanitizers, disinfectant, and toilet paper is straining supplies, depleting stock, and ultimately effecting a company’s bottom line. What manufacturer could have known the virus COVID-19 would increase  demand and drain their supplies?

Never mind, too many of these products come from China where the virus has pretty much shut things down. The way COVID-19 is spreading worldwide the whole supply chain is being affected.

The term Black Swan itself originated from an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist then had to be reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.

(Probably much more than you wanted to know about the term, but what can I say, I’m a writer. I love research.)

The scariest thing about this Coronavirus Black Swan is the isolation that’s being created. We’re instructed to avoid physical contact-no handshakes or hugs, large crowds, and travel, particularly any foreign travel. Major events are being canceled. Cruises and conferences are canceled. Even the Olympics is danger of cancellation.

Disruptions that go way beyond my writing time!

This blog is not to tell you how to prepare or explain why companies should have known to have larger stock of certain items. It’s a gentle warning…

Sometimes, in our hyper-vigilance, we focus too much on news and social media. Neither of which are not the most reliable sources for accurate information.

I urge you to get your information about the situation from solid sources like the World Health Organization and/or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Please be safe out there and take care of yourself.

Me, I’m turning off the television and focusing on getting this work in progress finished.

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