Monday, January 03, 2022

Holiday Cards


I sent postcards with images of us in Paris at the Wrapped Arc de Triomphe as a New Year Greeting. They go in the mail today. I was waiting to see if 2022 really arrived.

We got about 40 cards from people (and one fruit cake and one box of goodies with a card inside) and a couple of electronic or email greetings. At least half included pictures of family. A couple of friends our age sent cards with only pictures of kids and grandkids. I'd like to see how gray their hair is, though. One extended family always sends huge tri-fold. There are always weddings and graduations. Three had those extensive letters that exhaust me just reading about all the activities with kids and grandkids. I sent 89 postcards. I sent one family two of them, I realized. (I knew this before I mailed them, but thought I'd just send them anyway and test the postal system.) We may get some more cards this week but the season is pretty done I guess. I get fewer and send fewer every year. Every year we get a small stack from organizations and businesses. I don't really know why they bother.

I hand-addressed and wrote a brief greeting on each of mine. I used to print labels. I have an Access database with addresses. It has 756 entries. Many don't have a proper address. There are quite a few people whose names don't ring a bell. I used to eliminate the people who had passed. I don't do that any longer and instead, just make a comment in a review column. I note on lines where I know the address is wrong or where a couple has split and, you know, who knows who is where and with whom. The database is becoming a sort of repository of the past, a time capsule. And that is OK. I think I only do this exercise and then write about it to connect briefly with some of the lives that have passed my way.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Holiday Cards, The Final Act


During the holiday season we clipped and hung cards we received (along with our stockings and some Santa bendies) to a screen in our entryway.

I sent around 45 holiday letters and received about the same number of cards and letters from individuals. (We also receive quite a few from non-profits and businesses.) This is down from 150 plus going both directions in some years.

We got two Thanksgiving cards, two or three new year greetings, I think. Many cards were personal creations with pictures of families and pets. Letters recounted the COVID year. Some were just commercial cards with poinsettias, trees, stars, wise men, doves, wreaths, presents, Santas, snow, puppies, kittens, reindeer, snowmen. There was a glittery unicorn and two (2) with glittery Thomas Kinkade painting images. (The painter of light and glitter? Um.) There were personal notes here and there, many involving hopes for meet-ups "after."

Except for one cool reindeer card, the rest are consigned to trash (photos and glitter) or recycling. I save some nice ones in the Christmas decoration box to display in the future. I'll pack up the rest of the decorations soon and the holidays will be officially over giving way to tax season.

Saturday, January 02, 2021


 On our walk yesterday this bird posed for me. It was quite close and didn't move while I took first one shot (above) and then another.

I feel like, right now, that I am posing, too. I'm posing as someone who is not completely unhinged by the chaos of vaccinations in Texas (and elsewhere). I'm posing as someone who really wants to entertain the other homebound oldies with pictures like these on Facebook. I'm posing as someone who can just be thankful that we have enough to eat and comfortable surroundings and plenty of money even though we will possibly never get to go out and dine with a gaggle of friends safely or travel and wander without fear. 

It's a pose. Today the mask (not that mask, it was firmly on my face for every second I was outside the apartment) slipped. I was a bit angry at all the know-it-alls even when I shouldn't have been. And I was mad that people much younger than I and in good health were getting randomly vaccinated. I was mad that people older than I am felt comfortable doing international travel. I was mad that it had only been one day since someone in our high rise building was admitted to have tested positive. I was beyond furious at politicians trying to overturn the democratic process and promoting violence. Of course, no one but this blog and my husband saw this slip down the anger tunnel, because we aren't around others that much. Oh, I might have been a little sharp on Facebook in some comments. As one does.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Reading and Tangents


Books I've read during the pandemic shown above. I'm a slow reader. Plus I usually only read books at night in bed before drifting off to sleep. (This usually results in reading all or part of a page or two when I pick it up the next night, too.) 

The books I read often lead me to other books. Years ago I read Last Train From Berlin by Howard K. Smith, a book published in 1942 that I borrowed from my in-laws. I found the first-person narrative of the World War II era in Europe so fascinating that I bought and read lots of old books published in the same time frame in the same vein. That slim volume entitled Skin and Bones is one I purchased in January at the Strand bookstore (in NYC) about a French WWII prisoner of war. Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile is in the WWII era vein but instead of being published in that era was published this year. However, it was drawn entirely from first-person letters, diaries, and reports and it is an absolutely stunning account of life in England during the blitz. 

The other slim volume is a translation from the French of a book published in 1795 wherein a man is confined to his rooms and makes a journey of it. (I bought this long ago. How appropriate to read during the plague!) 

The Biggest Bluff and The Improbability Principle are examples of what I like to call 'popular math' books. I love reading them. The former is about poker and the people who play it but also touches on chance and probability. The latter book is about the chances of rare things happening. I was able to use what I learned in formulating my COVID-19 risk spreadsheet. Even if there are only 4500 infected people out of 1.3 million, you have an 8% chance of encountering one in a group of 25. If you encounter 250 then the chance exceeds 50%.

Leaving the Gay Place is a biography of Billy Lee Brammer who wrote the quintessential Texas political novel The Gay Place. It was very interesting to track this infamous character and all the other characters one has heard of through Texas and D.C. 

Lastly, the book I just finished Flâneuse is one that really created tangents. Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows that I enjoy walking as a meditation and creative act as well as exercise. This book was both highly personal and off into literary tangents. The author, Lauren Elkin, had her own experiences in Tokyo, Venice, Paris, New York, and London. But she talks at length about other women including ones I'd explored a lot before (Martha Gellhorn, Virginia Woolf) and ones I'd barely been cognizant of before. For example, she explores the French filmmaker Agnès Varda. I'd watched one of her films on the Criterion Channel (Cléo de 5 à 7) but reading about others caused me to subject my husband to a couple more last night and this morning. (He said he enjoyed them.) Odd French films are a great tangent to take one away from pandemic land.

I guess this is goodbye to Holidailies. It's been fun.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Endings and Beginnings


We think that a New Year, our artificial numbering of the orbits of the sun since the possible birth of a son of a god plus a couple of days, is significant. That we have to stay up until midnight (in our time zone?) to "see it in." Our mayor has ordered that bars and restaurants cut it short for a 10:30p.m. curfew as COVID-19 surges in our community. The state has sued the city for trying to enforce this order. 

There are real events in time, birth and death, and sunrise and sunset. A year and its seasons. But we arbitrarily label them to give us a sense of control and order. So tomorrow is no different than today. Except that it's time to worry about taxes. To wind up our bookkeeping. To write a different number at the end of the thing we call a date. We try to wrap it up in the media with lists of deaths, lists of bests, etc.

The COVID-19 Pandemic does not respect your new calendar or planner. It surges on. And that has made me realize, more than ever, that there are no magic dates or deadlines except the natural ones. 

Since the pandemic we often drive somewhere and walk around outside, keeping away from people. We have walked in a cemetery a few miles away quite a bit. In the photo, FFP (my husband) looks at the simple headstones for his parents. The space to his right is ours. There isn't room for two coffins (no double stacking here, unlike where my parents are buried). We will allegedly be cremated and placed there. We have talked during the last months of isolation about buying a marker. But, perhaps, we won't even have one. 

There isn't much real significance to the day of your death. We arbitrarily assign it based on our system. My mother's day of death was August 28, 2002. August 28 was her younger sister's birthday. We cling to significance, though. I once read a book on probability that said that the chance a person died in the quarter after their birthday was much higher than the 1/4 you might expect. As if people wanted to and in some cases did will themselves to pass that marker. 

We don't age by years, though. We age by bits and drabs and tiny insults. We give the arrival of a new year an artificial power. Whereas the actual day of birth and death are significant events, their anniversaries are not, really, except in our brains. 

I am not religious, but my parents were. I put this bible verse on my dad's obituary. 

"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth." Ecclesiastes 7:1

While we celebrate anniversaries of days and the flipping of the calendar, anniversaries are our arbitrary triggers of memory. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Holiday Cards


The season for holiday cards is winding down. As of yesterday's mail, we have received 44 from humans not pimping a business or organization. We put them on a screen at the entrance to our apartment (with our never filled stockings) or on a desk with some decorations. I save really cool ones to put out the next year. A lot of them have family pictures. Some just have a tree, a star, etc. I enjoy getting them and, in some years, I have sent hundreds myself. This year we did a letter to print on our inkjet. I just sent the link to some friends (who did not send snail mail either). I mostly sent a printed letter after receiving something from someone. (This harks back to 2014 when I made the holiday card exchange a correspondence where I replied to cards I received, mostly with a handmade card.) I wrote in the blank space left on the letter this year a little personal note, maybe acknowledging the newsy letter or pictures included with their card. I've sent 45 so far I think. I fully realize that if everyone waited to get a card to send one that it would kill the habit pretty quickly!

I imagine I will leave the cards up for a week or two. Why not? As we shelter here it will help remind us of the outside world. We are trying to get our first dose of the vaccine in order to start feeling safer out there.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ruined by Reading


My husband looks in the window of a book shop on South Congress. It was Christmas Day so the shop wasn't open, but we wouldn't have gone in anyway. In fact, we were only on the street there because we figured we could avoid people pretty well on Christmas Day. We've bought many a book in that shop plus some artwork and posters. 

During the pandemic, we've continued to receive three newspapers, four of five magazines (including the almost weekly The New Yorker) and have ordered books a couple of times from Powell's City of Books, our favorite bookstore of all time in Portland, OR. Never mind that we have hundreds (more than a thousand?) books in our apartment. We do spend a lot of time reading, but we never catch up! Oh, and we received this lovely coffee table book as a present:

These were Christmas presents to ourselves (ordered from Powell's):

The newspapers pile up. The 'to be read book pile' grows. The magazine piles teeter. We do spend a few hours a day reading. I could get through the newspapers faster if every puzzle grid I came across didn't sorely tempt me. Sometimes I cut them out for later. Have piles of them now. I guess if the apocalypse comes and newspapers cease publication I'll be ready.

We never like to be without words. Inside this apartment, we ought never to be. We were leaving to take the husband's car to get a tire repaired yesterday and he went back in to get a book...just in case he had to wait! (I laughed, but tucked inside my backpack were some newspaper sections.)

There is solace in reading. (Or working the puzzles.) You forget just where you are in this pandemic.