Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Reading All Seven Harry Potter Books in a Row—Life in the Time of Coronavirus

Writer brain, braincation, thinking, story
Sweet Escapism my friend

Escapism is why I decided to reread all of the Harry Potter books in succession. It didn't take me very long to read them on account of the fact that I did little else, plus I didn't have to wait for J.K. Rowling to finish writing them this time.

The virus chaos has been taking its toll around here, so I decided to get OUT of that mess by going to Hogwarts again.


It worked. I'm happy to report the series by J.K. Rowling has as much magic as it ever did. I liked whatever book I was on better than the last, and I didn't want to do anything else while I was deep into them. If I had to do anything else the past two weeks, I did it with a book in hand. It wasn't easy. My copies didn't all hold up to the test of time. Broken bindings dropped clumps of pages in my path and so what if I burned more dinners than usual? Who can eat in the middle of a war against evil anyway?

Chocolate isn't food. It's magic. 

The most important thing about reading the Harry Potter books is that once you get to the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, you need to have a bar of chocolate! It's just WRONG to read that book without any chocolate. I suffered.

It's also wrong to endure a pandemic without any chocolate to ward off those Coronavirus Dementors. By the time I got to the last book, the Easter bunny—looking a lot like an Instagram shopper coming from Target—brought me a Lindt dark chocolate bunny (it's the only gluten free one I could find!).

After I finished reading all the books, I reread the last couple chapters of The Deathly Hallows (the seventh and last one) a couple of times. I did NOT want it to end. Despite all of the information provided I needed more! For instance, what happened to Voldemort's body? SPOILER ALERTS FROM HERE ON OUT! They left it separate from the other bodies at Hogwarts, but my mind kept going back to things like, they'd better be careful not to bury him somewhere so Death Eaters can make a shrine of it.

Details matter!

In my mind I decided to fan-fiction an ending for my personal satisfaction. It was much more satisfying than leaving Hogwarts only to return to Coronavirus. After much thought on how to get rid of Voldemort's body, I decided that Professor McGonagall should transfigure him into a toothpick, pick him up with a handkerchief (she wouldn't want to touch him even as a toothpick), toss both the toothpick and handkerchief into the air and cremate both with a flash of fire so hot that not even ashes would remain. It is a waste of a perfectly good hankie, I admit.

From there I thought about what Harry would do next. After everything he's been through, he's got to be worn out completely. Hermione will probably want to head for Australia and fix her parent's memories, remember she altered them by wiping all memories of having a daughter and sent them away to protect them from the Death Eaters? Maybe she could spend a year down under snorkeling the reefs and visiting New Zealand with Mum and Dad. Once I got thinking about these things I thought there's likely to be a reward from The Ministry of Magic for capturing Voldemort. I'm thinking a million galleons would be a tidy sum. Harry, being the fair soul that he is, would surely split it with Hermione and Ron. Let's face it, they helped and it would mean a lot to Ron.

Avoid Reality!

Something that stuck with me about the books is the wrap up chapter. Remember nineteen years later Harry and Ginny are taking their kids to catch the Hogwarts Express? Hermione and Ron are there with their kids. We all wanted that happily ever after ending, but after reading that I was left with feelings of hmmm. They all married their person from school? I get it. Even after investing a whole lot of time thinking about that I decided that ending makes sense.  After all the main characters have been through maybe no one else would really understand them after enduring that war on Voldemort. Harry, who's never wanted fame, would never be able to trust that future friends are real or influenced by his reputation. No one else will really get them.

But in my mind I wanted to give them time in those nineteen years before they wind up all together together, to think about things, explore options, and make sure it's what they want.

That's how I ended up deciding that Malfoy would run a chain of coffee shops.

Yeah, my Harry Potter friends are already ripping into me about that one. But once the name Starlucks hit me, it became Draco's financial empire. After the Ministry had their way with his family fortune based on ill-gotten gains, he had to do something for money. Sure, he may have stolen the idea from Luna Lovegood, but he's making a fortune on Butter Beer with a Froth of Felix Felicis.
S.R. Karfelt
It gives you about ten minutes of good luck and makes Starlucks stores popular to hang around due to their cheerful atmosphere. Even Hermione, who still can't stand Malfoy even years later, frequents the Starlucks off the lobby at The Ministry of Magic. She likes the non-magical but ridiculously strong coffee called the Muddud.

Draco came up with that one himself.

Yes, I've put a whole lot of thought into Malfoy's wildly successful chain of coffee shops. Several locations, Diagon Ally/Hogsmeade/Beaubatons have evening hours. They offer such popular specialties like the Parry Hotter. It's popular with young men because it makes men temporarily hotter than they really are. The Hairgrid is big with bridal parties. It gives the drinker a lovely unmanscaped face of facial hair for a couple of hours. Young women out for a night with their girlfriends like it because they get hit on less, and they can enjoy their friends' company for the evening.

Sometimes a writer brain comes in handy during a stay-at-home pandemic, even when we're not using it on our OWN stories. I could do this for the next two weeks, except I'm running dangerously low on chocolate and Froth of Felix Felicis is nowhere to be had what with all of the Coronavirus Dementors here in New York.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Why I Took A Hammer to a Bottle of Opcon-A Bausch + Lomb Eyedrops—Life in the Time of Coronavirus

how do you open a bottle of Opcon A Bausch + Lomb eyedrops

It's not like it's getting to me (it is), the whole COVID-19 Coronavirus thing. I'm in the current epicenter, but I'm deep in the forests of the shire. It's far from New York City. It's a nice place to be on lock-down, if you have to be on lock-down. I can get Instacart here, so I don't have to venture far very often. Plus, I write, so I can do that from home no worries—except I'm deep into rereading the entire Harry Potter series and not writing a thing.

Escapism, just do it. Fantasy has never been more crucial than now. 

My other big stress reducer has been yoga. I'm not very good at it. In fact the only pose I know I can do properly is the Corpse Pose. It's what it sounds like, sprawling flat on your back and not moving. I do that pose a lot. Sometimes I do it for half of my allotted yoga time.

Whatever works for you.

For the first time in weeks the sun has shone here in the shire. I spent hours outside. Most of it was spent dragging dead tree limbs out of my yard and throwing them into the woods. At some point I wondered why all those tree limbs were in my yard. There's always some in the spring, but this was a bit absurd. I noticed that the bark was falling off a good many of the trees. It lay in strips around the base. I asked google, wtf is up with my trees? Google said, they have a fatal Ash Tree problem. They'll need to be cut down. Your Elm Trees are goners too. Sucks to be you. There goes my personal backyard forest. It's like Sauron going through the shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings series (in the books, they skipped that part in the movie) and killing all the green things.

After realizing my trees are dead, I got a cold drink and sat outside looking at my doomed woods. That's when I realized that about a trillion little black bugs were crawling all over me. I took it well (totally freaked, all I can say is that I didn't light myself on fire, but I did consider it).

It's always the little things that break you.

You know how you think you're handling things just great/not so terribly? You may even have been cleaning and organizing your house with all this extra time on your hands? Then you walk into the bathroom in the middle of the night and there's a FREAKING cockroach in there? So you calmly think, well, I've been cleaning so much that's how you get cockroaches (I've always suspected this). Anyway, you're a together person so you pick up a bottle of shampoo and slam it down onto said roach so hard that:

  • The bottle cracks, blows apart, and shampoo flies everywhere.
  • So does said roach.
  • Your entire arm goes numb.
  • Your husband wakes up and yells, ARE YOU OKAY? WHAT WAS THAT?
  • Since he's up anyway, you discuss the possibility of moving RIGHT NOW.

At least it's spring, nice and early thanks to climate change.

The thing is, spring hates you. Every year spring has tried to kill you. You can't breathe in the spring. You sneeze into your elbow all day and at night you try not to drown in your own sludge, and there are no tissues left to be had in the world. BUT, Wegmans has allergy eyedrops so you can at least stop scratching the eyes out of your head.

You order them on Instacart. It's popular now so you have to wait a couple days for delivery. That's no sacrifice, I mean big deal boo hoo, you have to wait for your groceries. That's such a first world pandemic problem. You are not allowed to bitch about it. Wow, do you look forward to those eyedrops arriving though. Yay, Instacart, because they end up coming an entire day earlier than expected!

That's when it happens. 

I'd ordered the tiny multi-pack of eyedrops. That way I could have an extra for my office. Life is so good. I made myself put the groceries away first. My husband helped. He's the best, even though he was doing it all wrong. I mansplained the proper way to unpack groceries in the time of a pandemic to him. (If you think a woman can't mansplain, well, I beg to differ and I think he'd back me up on this one.) He didn't hold this against me when I later found where he was hiding and asked for his assistance in getting my eyedrops open. 

Keep in mind that I'd already been at it for a good twenty minutes, including using pliers and getting on google. Google is a know-it-all BFF sometimes. This time google said, here's the reviews from tons of other people who can't get it open either, stupid. Those reviews said things like, "it can't be done" and "good luck with that".

My long-suffering husband stopped what he was doing to help. This is a guy who does NOTHING half-assed. If he's going to close a bottle or jar he's going to close it like a freaking OLYMPIAN. That means he can also open them with no effort. It's both embarrassing and helpful when he uses two fingers to easily open a bottle I can't and pats me on the head. (I'm joking about the pat, but he might try it if he didn't know he could lose a finger.)

My Kahtar-like husband couldn't get it open either!

That's when I got the other bottle of eyedrops. After having gone at the first bottle with pliers and my personal terminator, the cap was striped and not going to open without a saw. I was thinking about a saw, but decided to try the other bottle first. Same thing. Rinse and repeat. 

By now I was saying all the words. Hubby had disapparated or gotten his invisibility cloak out (Harry Potter reference). Something like that. For some reason he vanishes when I start saying all the words. I slunk off to my office and was mad for a minute. Then I looked at those bottles and thought, like hell dammit. I went back out, got my hammer—yeah, just like Thor—and I went out back on the stoop and beat the ever-loving IF YOU SEE KAY out of it. 

When liquid started splashing onto the concrete stoop, I knew I HAD WON. HAH! The cap came right off. No worries. If you need help opening your Opcon-A Bausch + Lomb eyedrops, be sure to rotate the bottle as you beat the hell out of the lid with a hammer. The plastic is mallable and won't give, you're flattening whatever is holding it down on the inside of the cap. 

It was annoying, but rather satisfying to hammer that cap off.

Maybe I should add hammering stuff to my mental coping with a pandemic list. By the way, the product seems to be helping quite a bit. The bad thing is it dilated my pupils and now I can't see up close very well. I may have overdosed on it by squirting way too much into my eyes during my victory celebration. The other problem is that I guess I need to store it in the refrigerator now. For some reason the cap won't close tightly. What's up with that, Bausch + Lomb?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Nothing Normal to See Here—Life in the Time of Coronavirus

My eye has been twitching for two weeks now. How's yours? Today I left my cellphone on the charger and I'm not looking at it or the news. Unplugging has become mandatory. I'm on lock-down here in the shire. This is week number three. I'm in as good of a position as anyone can be. I live deep in the forest. There are places to walk where I don't see anyone else. But I am living in the epicenter. The shire is in New York. 

During the first week of lock-down I cleaned more than usual. I ordered stuff on Amazon so I could organize my life. I had grand plans. I bought the stuff and WAXED MY OWN ARMPITS. Don't do that. I destroyed a bathroom. The wax got rock hard. I couldn't yank it back off. I mean you only have one hand, the other is in the air with wax under it. It's an angle thing, not to mention the fear factor. I chased my husband down. Help. He's great and very scientific no matter what weird thing I throw in his path. But he didn't want to hurt me so he pulled it off nice and slow. Yeah, ouch.

It's been a big writer thing that an NPR article promoted a National Emergency Library offering free ebooks. Isn't that nice of them? Writers everywhere were like, er, did you just pirate all of my books and give them away? Free stuff is great and I'm all for free stuff. My books are available at the library. The difference being that the library buys your books to give them away. This story is the tip of the iceberg on why so many writers/artists give up. This is why I've known authors with multiple books on the New York Times bestseller list who sell Plexus on the side or quit to take a job at Office Max. We have bills too. Though I looked over the list and was like, WHAT? Why aren't my books on here? They're on all the top pirated sites! What am I? Chopped liver?

Nothing makes sense right now, but I have found a few things that have helped. Instacart is epic for having your groceries delivered right to your home. It makes life easier and I tip the shopper big for working through this tough time. They definitely have earned hazard pay. I am reading, not the piles of non-fiction I have waiting, but I'm rereading Harry Potter. I didn't download it for free. I dragged out the copies my kids read. I'm on the Order of the Phoenix now. These old Scholastic copies sure did not stand the test of time! The softcovers are yellowed and brittle and the spines on the hardcovers have fallen apart. It doesn't matter much, they're still full of magic and escapism. 

I'm doing yoga and working out lightly. My energy level is too low for much else. So I'm allowing myself to do what I can and let everything else go. I'm rereading the unpublished fourth and fifth FOREVER, The Constantine's Secret. It is available in softcover and ebook. 
Covenant Keeper books I've written. Eventually I'll clean them up and move the big slow wheels along to get them to you. I love that some of you have asked about them. I've not forgotten. I know exactly what Kahtar is up to at all times. I've tried to shove him to the back of my mind as I worked on a big Alzehimer's project the past months. Now that project is on hold due to the virus. It's easier to spend time with Kahtar now anyway, rather than Alzheimer's, so once more I've turned my writer energy to that world. The third book is out if you haven't read that one.

I hope you've found something that helps you endure, and that you're not putting too much pressure on yourself. This pandemic is traumatic. Be nice to you, and each other.