Finding balance in the second half of life

Life in the Time of Coronavirus (Week 2)

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2020 at 12:43 pm

This is how four writers pass the time (and stay connected) during their isolation. Join us by adding your 6-word stories in the comments.

Striped pajamas look like prison garb.
First rule of coronavirus: Get dressed.
On her checklist: Make another checklist.
During week two she downloads Minecraft.
“If we’re going to live together…”
Baked three dozen cookies. Uh oh.
Baked six perfect cookies. Only six.
Lockdown is no time for Luddites.
Hated social media; now seems poignant.
New exercise routine: bouncing off walls.
Kiss dying aunt through a mask.
Long walk to mailbox yields disappointment.
Mom forgot about the virus again.
Schitts Creek, because we’re up it.
Finished the mini marshmallows. What’s next?
Dad’s 85th birthday party via iPhone.
Cemetery run: the dead don’t cough.
She’s staying busy growing her hair.
Laundry day! She has a mission.
Need granola two days early. Snacker!
New diet: too stressed to eat.
Doctor friends are updating their wills.
So excited to see mail truck!
Madeline’s birthday; we FaceTime group hug.
She cannot believe it’s still March.
Writing, we forgo articles, add colons.
Forlorn, Dad asks, “Where’s my family?”
Separated by distance, united in grief.
Sober silver lining: no school shootings.
Screen addicted teens miss real contact.
Made some cookies. Chocolate at last!
(Recipe only makes 12, thank heavens.)
Deafening peepers: Check for open windows.
New best friend: Heather Cox Richardson.
Shouldering fear and sadness, she runs.
Bryan dropped donuts at back door.
I want Bryan for my friend.
Times crossword: it must be Sunday.
Stress points: safety guidelines and playlist.
Brad misses Nixon, “garden variety terrible.”
(The bar is so very low.)

Life in the Time of Coronavirus (Week 1)

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2020 at 9:00 pm

Loyal readers (all five of you)—we know it’s been ages since you heard from us. Life was complicated until it became suddenly and agonizingly simple and we found ourselves with time on our hands and a deep craving for communitas.

In an attempt to calm our existential anxieties, the four of us—Christine, Debra, Lois, and Lorna—have been texting each other every day with six-word stories about Life in the Time of Coronavirus. Since the plague seems to be the only thing on our minds right now, the exercise has given us a way to creatively channel our obsession. And it has helped us laugh together.

So we’re sharing the stories we’ve complied so far, with the hope that you’ll add some of your own. We’ll keep posting them until we are all safely on the other side of the pandemic. Or until we can think of something else to write about.

Be well.

Hand washing beats back hand wringing.
Mom forgets why she’s locked up.
Tuesday writers’ group cancelled. Why live?
Jigsaw puzzles are fun! (Day One)
Childhood wish granted: no school forever.
Without showers, social distancing is effortless.
Last supper with sons: no hugs.
No nailbiting when I need it.
Tulip Time is cancelled! Klompen solo.
Lorna Jane: a six-word story machine.
You opened Pandora’s box, not me.
Who knew six was so easy?
The president speaks. Our confidence crashes.
Cleanliness next to godliness? I’m sainted.
Aimless wandering leads nowhere good.
Free toilet paper with hot dog purchase!
‪‭Millennials have mortgages: tip for takeout.
‪‭Tip: Stay home. Servers: no tips.
‪‭Who knew focus would elude me?
Niece being tested. Just got personal.
Groundhog Days: coffee…wine. Bed. Repeat.
‘It’s unreal.’ ‘So surreal.’ Too real.
He coughs. I freeze. False alarm.
Sequestered with books! Can’t read yet.
Dad is nervous. Mom blissfully ignorant.
(Woke early. Wrote six word stories.)
Linkedin: “you appeared in three searches.”
Corona-wary, I run upwind of others.
Required reading: “How to Do Nothing.”
No time for a confirmed telephobe.
Same clothes for how many days?
We’re all in this together, alone.
Evidence-based lifehack: Swap Twitter for Rosy.
Time for rationing: chocolate, news, anxiety.
Sudden realization: these walls need washing.
Pants? Leggings? Long underwear? Nobody cares.
No bra. Why did I ever?
Six words. All I can manage.
Lorna quit. I still bite, pick.
I lied. Biting as we speak.
Trump is talking. I can’t manage.
Corona win: Washed that gross curtain.
I read three pages, remember none.
Our dog Zeke remains blissfully unaware.
Geese honking on this peaceful morning.
Considering sticker chart to keep moving.
Slept nine hours; my new hobby.
God drives Brad back to Facebook.
Madeline reminds me: Just show up.
On my walk, avoiding friendly people.
Corona bonus: Shower stays clean longer.


In Family on March 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm

“Why does it have to be in downtown Detroit?” I thought, as my husband and I drove down the Lodge Expressway in a small U-Haul carrying a bed, a futon, and three hand-me-down bar stools. Our 20-year-old daughter was somewhere on the road ahead of us in her second-hand station wagon, loaded with clothes and books to last her six months. It was a cold, gray day in February, and we were moving her into an apartment in downtown Detroit for an internship.

DetroitMy husband had grown up in a suburb of Detroit in the 1970s. One of his favorite childhood stories involves his brother watching out an upstairs window as his Dodge Dart was getting stolen out of their driveway. (“A Dodge Dart,” he always says, incredulous.) Detroit was a little scary. Over the next few decades, it got a lot worse.

In 2012, Forbes named it America’s Most Dangerous City—for the fourth year in a row. Its crime rate, which was more than five times the national average, had a ripple effect. People and businesses moved out, eventually leaving 78,000 abandoned buildings.

In 2013, it became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. For a while, it looked like the city would sell off some of the art in the Detroit Institute of Art to help pay its debts. In the 2013 book Detroit: An American Autopsy, Charlie LeDuff wrote, “It is the country’s illiteracy and dropout capital, where children must leave their books at school and bring toilet paper from home. . . There are firemen with no boots, cops with no cars, teachers with no pencils, city council members with telephones tapped by the FBI, and too many grandmothers with no tears left to give.”

I knew that Detroit had been slowly improving since then. I had heard about Quicken Loans founder and Detroit native Dan Gilbert and Detroit Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Illitch pouring millions into redevelopment. Still, as we pulled off Exit 2B, it was my old notions of the city that I held onto. People had tried to revitalize Detroit before—most notably in 1976, with the Renaissance Center—and had failed. Out my side of the U-haul, I saw new shops and restaurants, renovated buildings, and an outdoor rink filled with young skaters, but I was unconvinced.

As I helped unpack the flotsam and jetsam that makes up my daughter’s world—a half-knitted scarf, succulents she named Maeve, Calvin, Mini Stanley and Mega Stanley, and a poster “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”—in her new apartment, I still had no idea how I could bring myself to drive away, leaving her without what I consider to be the basics—friends, life skills, and an alarm she doesn’t sleep through.

I watched her hang up a photo of herself the first time she’d been on a horse. She still looks the same, mostly. When she was a baby, she had a heart defect. I rocked her to sleep every night, willing the small hole in her heart to close. She had a fighting spirit even then. Her hole went away; the fight stayed. She punched me in the nose when she was three, ran away regularly when she was six, and started jumping horses—and falling off them, and getting back on them—when she was nine.

In high school, her struggle with anxiety and panic attacks began. I recently asked her what the hardest thing she ever did was. She thought for a moment, then said, “The hardest thing I ever did happens every time I have a panic attack.” In spite of that, she hasn’t let anxiety get between her and living.

When an entire class of students who had been her friends shunned her during every class for a semester, refusing to sit at her table even when all the seats at the other tables in the room were taken, she could have dropped the class. She didn’t. She went to every class, sat alone, participated in the discussions, completed group projects by herself, and aced the class.

There’s a famous Chrysler car commercial that aired during the Super Bowl in 2011, called “Imported from Detroit.” Maybe you remember it. It starred Eminem and shows scenes from around Detroit, not all of them pretty. In one part, the voice-over says, “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know? More than most. It’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel.”

As my daughter lifted her arms to hug me goodbye at the door of her new apartment, on the doorstep of her new life, I caught a glimpse of the nautilus tattoo on her left bicep. ShetattooBW got it last spring, at the end of a particularly difficult year. I cried when she got it—cried at the permanence of the ink on her tender, alabaster skin. But now the tattoo strikes me as the mark life has literally left on her. She has taken all comers, living and learning faster than her peers, and she’s still standing.

And that’s why she has to be in Detroit. Because every day she will see its grit, its perseverance, its fire in the belly. She will see herself, and she will remember that she already has everything she needs.–Christine MacLean