Traveling through the Coronavirus


Image from Pixabay

Notice I wrote traveling through, not traveling with. Although I wouldn’t know if I have COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I haven’t been tested, I’m not showing symptoms, but yes, I could be infected. After all, I was in the midst of thousands of others this past week, at Boston’s Logan airport, Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport, Zürich’s airport, the train from Zürich to Fribourg. Then the markets and coffee shops and restaurants and stores in Fribourg. And, sadly, just a few days later, the packed train from Fribourg to Zürich, a flight from Zürich to Dublin, four hours in the jam-packed Dublin airport, six hours on the full airplane to Boston.

My little vacation and book research trip was cut short after president Trump declared Wednesday evening that, effective Friday, all travel from European countries to the US, was banned for 30 days. That’s what he said, what he supposedly read off a Teleprompter. (Yes, I know that Homeland Security later clarified it, but he’d already stated the mistruth.) I watched the speech, at around 2:00 in the morning in my hotel room, with a sense of dread. I was scheduled to be in Fribourg until Monday, 16 March. Under his directive, I would be stuck in Switzerland for another month. Now, you know I love Switzerland! But I couldn’t stay for a month. So, at 2:00 am Thursday morning, I began packing. I thought, just in case. I sent an email to my husband, letting him know I was awake and aware of the situation.

A half hour later, he called me. After a few choice words for Trump, he implored me to come home. “Do whatever it takes,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Just come home.”

By 3:30, I was dressed and packed. I sent messages to my friend Barbara, with whom I’d spent a lovely day on Tuesday, and to my friend Fabiola, with whom I was supposed to spend Saturday. I had friends sending messages to me. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘I’m worried about you.’

Fribourg train station
Thursday, 12 March 2020 5:45 am

I checked out of the hotel. Four nights unused, and although the guy at the desk said he’d look into it, I don’t expect a refund. I walked through dark and quiet streets to the train station (that brought back memories of my student days!), purchased a ticket from a smart machine, and rolled my bag up a ramp to track 3. The 6:04 train left on time – of course – and filled up at Bern, its next stop. Every time I heard someone cough near me, I pulled my scarf up over my nose.

I arrived at the airport by 8:00 and traveled up escalators to the departures area. When I inquired about where to find the Icelandair check-in desk, I learned that Icelandair doesn’t have a desk in the airport. (Note to self regarding discount airfares: sometimes you get what you pay for)

I was sent to FinnAir. I tried calling Icelandair and was told I was number 76 in the queue. After twenty minutes, I was number 72. I asked the woman at FinnAir if Swiss was flying to Boston that day. She directed me to another counter, where a very nice man looked up flights available Thursday to Boston. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was operating on zero sleep, one cup of coffee. I had last eaten at 4:00 Wednesday afternoon. He told me my best option was on Aer Lingus, Zürich to Dublin, Dublin to Boston. $1,397.00

I handed over my Visa card. The crowds at the airport, my understanding of exponential growth, and my intense desire to be home propelled me to the Aer Lingus check-in counter and down to the waiting area.

Both flights were full. Two women who had arrived in Prague on Tuesday and were flying back to Seattle, a nine-hour flight. “We had one day, yesterday,” one of them said. Four male college students on spring break, heading home early because their parents were “freaking out,” one said. When I defended the parents’ concern, they grinned and acknowledged it was the right thing to do. Most of the passengers, it seemed, were there because of the speech. Even the officials at passport control understood.

Only one time I was asked if I’d been to China or Iran. No one cared that I’d been in Switzerland, where there are nearly 650 cases and 4 deaths. That was on Wednesday. One day earlier there were only 500 cases.

I am home. My husband was at Logan last night to pick me up. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours straight. I’m going to self-quarantine while I monitor myself. I hope others do, but many won’t.

Photo M. Reynolds

As for Fribourg, it’s been in my memory for over 40 years. It’ll stay there, even if some of those memories aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. And the book? It’s still going to be written. A self-imposed quarantine gives me plenty of time to write.

A Decade of Writing


Happy New Year! And happy new decade. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were freaking out about Y2K??!

Ten years ago, on December 31, 2009, I was still working as a fraud investigator. My work environment wasn’t good, but it would grow worse throughout 2010 until I finally had enough.

We lost our little pug, Jessie, in May of 2009.

While we were dog-less, we took a trip to Lugano, Switzerland, in September that year.

Then by October, my husband indicated he was ready for another dog, and our little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bonnie, arrived in early November.

After I finally quit the job that was making me physically sick, I began writing my first novel in 2011. And here, on the final day of 2019, I’ve published nine novels and one non-fiction journal. And I can’t wait to begin my new book!

Thank you, all of you, for reading these blog posts, for taking a chance on an unknown author, for being a loyal reader, for buying my books as gifts for yourself and for others, for posting reviews, for letting me know that I write books you like to read! I am grateful, so grateful.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-two


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I can’t claim to have been successful this week. My ‘Big Three’ ~ the garage, my office, and the extra bedroom, look the same. They all need major purging, but I didn’t touch any of them this week.

Some weeks, Thursday rolls around and I reflect on what I did, what I didn’t do, and what got in the way. Sometimes there are good and valid excuses for not making the progress I’d hoped to make. Some weeks, I can’t find an excuse. This was one of those weeks. Sure, I kept up with the day-to-day necessities. But I didn’t accomplish anything related to this project. And I have to own that.

I’ve written previously about this Christmas being particularly minimal, and I’m happy with that. I thought I was done – mostly food gifts for siblings and friends, a few asked-for books for my husband. Then, this past Sunday, I met a friend for breakfast – yay! – and afterwards, she suggested we stop in to one of my favorite boutiques. She had a little shopping to do. I was feeling confident – my shopping was done, and as much as I love the place, there was nothing there that I needed.

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But then…..I was surrounded by stuff. Fun stuff, shiny stuff, sweet stuff, adorable stuff. Buy me! No, buy me! Wait, buy us both! Okay, not really. But I felt something inside – pressure? guilt? – something that kept telling me I could buy just a few more things for the people I loved. So I did. Forty bucks of stuff – true, it was all food, and the recipients will enjoy everything, but still. I bought only because I felt an internal pressure to buy, not because anyone told me to, not because any of it was necessary.

And I’m not saying it was wrong! Giving gifts is fun, and being with my friend was a treasure. I even got a kick out of watching her choose items, ask for my opinion, knowing she’d make others happy. And the boutique is a small business, so I’m very happy to patronize them, even if it was just forty dollars’ worth.

This weekend, with nothing else on my calendar, I’m determined to tackle my office space. I’m not even sure I can take a ‘before’ picture. It’s horrendous! But check in with me next week, and together we’ll see what I was able to accomplish. 😉

 

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fourteen



Yes, there’s stuff – a ceramic dog, a broken chair, a heavy glass ashtray. We filled the St. Vincent de Paul donation bin, and we filled the dumpster, too. We’ve hauled bags and boxes to the curb, where ‘pickers’ have picked and taken their share. We had walls painted and carpet installed.

I’m writing this post on Wednesday morning (10/18). Four weeks since my father-in-law died unexpectedly. Nearly four weeks since we began this massive clear-out. The house is almost ready. We’ve been so busy, every day. 

We’ve reduced Ray’s house to a shell. 45 years of living, making memories, gone. Ready for someone else to breathe life into it.


Our footsteps echo throughout the empty rooms. On Thursday, we contacted our realtor and locked the door behind us. 


Now, I turn back to our own home. Next week’s post will focus on whatever I can manage to accomplish. One thing I am sure of – living minimally is the way to go.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Six


This week, it was time to go big.

Goodbye, bench. You were falling apart and, sorry, quite useless.

Our old neighbor made this bench about fifteen years ago, and we bought it. It looked sweet on our back deck, and when we sold the house and bought a condo, we picked up the bench and put it in the back of Jim’s truck, and carted it across town to the new place. But we didn’t use it – I never sat in the back – there was no shade. ☀️ The wood might be recycled, but not if it’s been treated with chemicals. 


The dining room table and chairs! Yep, gone. Hey, I’m serious about this project. And no, we’re not going to eat the rest of our meals while sitting on the couch, nor are we going to eat out every day. I have a smaller table (Eastern Butcher Block, any locals remember?) and chairs upstairs. They’re going to be repurposed for our dining room. We’ll have more space. And we don’t host large eating events anymore. (And we took care of this ‘heavy lifting’ project on Wednesday, since I knew I’d be out of commission from Thursday).

I posted this photo on a community Facebook page and within hours, the table, chairs, extra leaf, and pads were carted away by a grateful stranger in my town.

Cut It Out


And they did. The malignant melanoma on the back of my thigh was excised yesterday afternoon.


It was no bigger than a nickel. Discovered three weeks ago during my first-ever total body scan, I received a few shots of Lidocaine, then a shaved sample was removed for biopsy.

The results came back the following Friday – cancerous. The spot that never scabbed over and continued to weep had to come out. My appointment was scheduled for Wednesday the 23rd, just shy of three weeks from the initial assessment.

I don’t know why, but I always thought of skin cancer as a ‘lesser’ cancer. Breast cancer is bad. Colon, pancreatic, ovarian, liver, lung – all really bad. Very scary. Why did I think of skin cancer differently? Is it because I could see it? (Well, not this one, on the back of my thigh). Would a nickel-size spot on my mammogram have me as calm? On my lung? I know in my heart I’d have been panicked.

And that’s not to say I wasn’t worried. Two Valium an hour beforehand did little to allay my anxiety. The procedure was over in about an hour. The lidocaine lasted into the evening. I slept last night without any sleep aids.


Today it hurts. I’m taking Tylenol, extra-strength, and resting at home. I’m very much aware that there was trauma. And I am leaving the bandage on for now.

Is all of this TMI? I’m a relatively private person (and here I am, showing you a picture of my thigh!). I guess I just want you to get your checkups. I don’t think this is the last of my skin issues. But I plan to be diligent. Be like Martha, at least in this. ❤️❤️❤️

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Three


I should have titled this series “The Year to Living Minimally.” (Can you tell I’m doing revisions on my seventh novel?!)

Last week I cleaned out some drawers. This week I cleaned out some more. Don’t worry, though, I have plenty more!


Utensil drawer and gadget drawer. What I tossed out from the top left photo is not really visible, but there were packets of salt, pepper, soy sauce, ketchup, etc. all in the back. Old. Ugh.

I used to love collecting kitchen gadgets. Some things I never even used – vegetable curlers and brown sugar softeners. A cheap little microplane and a spreader with a chipped handle. I’m keeping the Pampered Chef turkey lifters, even if I only cook one turkey a year. 😉


I hate these drawers! Truly the junk drawers, filled with screws and tape and batteries and tools. They’re really my husband’s domain, but I fixed them up, and put a pile of operating manuals (for small appliances we no longer possess) into the recycle bin.

This next one was more emotional…



I donated my piano last year, and was happy to see it find a new home. It wasn’t the piano I’d grown up with, so I didn’t have an attachment to the instrument. And I hadn’t played in a very long time. But I still have an antique sheet music cabinet (my mom was so happy when she found it for me!), and it was filled with music. Look at the close-up at the bottom left of this collage – my sister and I took weekly piano lessons from Mrs. Bowser, and in April 1969 (I was 10), she rewarded us with the musical score to Oliver!


My sheet music collection includes pop favorites from my high school years, hardcover, spiral-bound books (Great Songs of the Sixties, Big Bands, Timeless Classics), as well as all the classical music I practiced so hard to get right. “Rhapsody in Blue” – I never mastered it. Now I’ll listen to it on CD or through my iPod or Pandora, and I’ll enjoy it.

My friend Lila is accepting the sheet music. She’s the Music Director at Providence College, so I’m glad it’s going somewhere good. There is one book of music I can’t part with, though.


I mean, I tattooed my name on his chest! 🎶💙🎶

Our Day of Remembrance


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I wasn’t sure what to title this annual tribute. My previous posts about December 13 are listed here, if you want to revisit them:

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2012/12/12/ten-young-women/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2013/12/13/bring-all-the-priests/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2014/12/12/what-december-13th-means-to-us/

https://marthareynoldswrites.com/2015/12/12/the-memory-of-sense/

We were all affected by the Aquinas fire in 1977, whether we slept through the event (as I did) or witnessed it first-hand and survived. 39 years later, that memory is as sharp as it was then.

My classmate Michelle Dumont Vezina ’80 writes, “I experienced December 13th somewhat as an outsider looking in. We stayed up late that night studying for finals. We must have been in a deep sleep when everything was happening.

“I remember calling my parents to tell them. They had heard that morning that the largest dorm at Providence College was on fire. They assumed McVinney was the largest because of its height and thought I had been in the fire. They were relieved when I called.

“My mother picked me up that morning for what became the beginning of Christmas break. The campus was quiet, eerily so. I remember looking at Aquinas Chapel from my dorm room window, thinking about the girls who died.

“At that time, I had never experienced death of anyone close to me.  I didn’t really understand the feeling. No one really understands until they lose someone close to them.”

*****

A survivor, Kim Fasolo Martin ’80 writes, “December 13, 1977 changed every part of me down to my soul. For many years, I tried to figure out a specific event in my life that I was saved for, such as my marriage or the birth of my child. It took me decades to realize that I was saved for many reasons. I try to give the lessons that I learned from that terrible night to anyone who will listen. These are some of these lessons that I live by:

“Be kind to people. Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and how much you love them every chance you get. Never go to bed mad at anyone. Cherish your friends. Do not judge people for how they act until you know what has happened in their life.

“There are so many more lessons that I learned and am still learning.

“All the women who suffered this tragedy on December 13, 1977 share a bond that cannot be broken even if we have not spoken to each other.

“Sometimes, out of tragedies, there is good and when this happens,  we have to share this good to anyone who will listen.”
*****

The Aquinas fire claimed the lives of ten women living on the north end of Aquinas Hall’s fourth floor on Dec. 13, 1977. Katie Andresakes ’80, Jackie Botelho ’79, Barbara Feeney ’81, Donna Galligan ’81, Sallyann Garvey ’81, Gretchen Ludwig ’81, Cathy Repucci ’81, Laura Ryan ’81, Debbie Smith ’78, and Dotty Widman ’81.

Book-a-Day #Giveaway! All the Rest of her Days by Jane McCarthy


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In All the Rest of her Days, Jane McCarthy captures the difficult emotional realities beneath the 1950s patina of rectitude. A point brilliantly made that when tragedy befalls a family, there is a happy ending but rarely a happy ever after.

Sixteen-year-old Maggie is pregnant and the fabric of her family is shredded. The secret must be buried and lies must be told.  It will sadden you, excite you, and make you weep for the characters and rejoice in the successes.

“With sensitivity and empathy, Jane McCarthy tells the story of a boy given up for adoption in the 1950s, when an unwed mother was a pariah. Maggie Porter’s decision to give up her baby has ramifications across generations and continents, and McCarthy explores all facets of this 20th century tragedy.”

~ Betty Cotter, author of Robert’s Woods and The Winters

“All the Rest of Her Days is a poignant and provocative tale that touches our hearts as well as our minds. McCarthy’s epic-like, multi-generational saga confronts its characters with difficult choices that challenge their sensibilities in a way that’s every bit the equal of such genre stalwarts as Judith guest and Alice Hoffman. Wonderfully crafted and beautifully written, this is a tale certain to engage and enthrall.”

~ Jon Land, USA Today best selling author of the Caitlin Strong Series

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Jane has always been an avid reader, preferably accompanied by a cold glass of Pinot Grigio. As a Registered Nurse she learned much about the human response to sadness and joy. Friendships are important to her. She admires loyalty, integrity, and a sense of humor, which are the framework of who she is. All the Rest of Her Days is her first novel and she is writing her second. She lives in Narragansett with her husband and is willing to travel reasonable distances for book signings and discussion groups. Find her book here.

You can WIN a copy of this book! Just leave a comment below. One winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication.

 

A Winding Stream


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I’m in the habit of doing ‘soft’ releases – minimal fanfare and proclamations. Nevertheless, I’m incredibly proud to announce the publication of this new book, and the first in my portfolio that’s non-fiction.

A Winding Stream chronicles the two-week canoe and camping trip that my maternal grandfather, Earl R. Handy, made with his friend, John B. Hudson, in 1924. 1924!  Five years before the Great Depression, seventeen years before Pearl Harbor. In June of 1924, the Snyder Act granted US citizenship to all American Indians. George Mallory and A.C. Irvine died attempting to climb Mount Everest. And on the last day of June in 1924, the Democratic National Convention adjourned at midnight with William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith deadlocked in balloting.

This little book (54 pages) may be of interest (outside my family!) to those interested in the region, canoeing and camping, the environment, local history, or to anyone wanting to take a quiet journey back ninety-two years. Paddle down the rivers with Earl and John for fourteen days. And if you think you might like to re-create this adventure, please let me know!

Pick up your copy at Amazon and come see me in December at one of my book events!

Thursday, December 1 (6:00pm) – Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library in Harrisville, RI

Saturday, December 3 (11:00-5:00) – RI Authors Expo at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI