Don’t. Touch. My. Knife.

The story of the asylum seekers continues to unfold. After a year of pandemic/bureaucratic stagnation and frustration, things are starting to move on some fronts. Jeb, the youngest got a renewed work permit for two years. Reluctantly he had agreed to get vaccinated and now he learns that his employer will reward him with $100 for that. Work requires a car and he is newly licensed, the only one of the three who has made it to that step. In a rush to get back to work he rushed to find a car for himself on Facebook. That did not go well and he is out quite a bit of money. However, kind souls in the Notre Dame network offered our three a 2003 Corolla in good condition, absolutely free. Jeb is the only one who can drive it so it is his for now until the others can drive. The three of them are going places in it.

Gradually they are preparing to fly the Pink Lady nest. Continue reading

Vaccine hesitance

I am having a struggle with vaccine hesitance. Half of Americans have now been vaccinated against Covid 19. Those of us who are in that half are enthusiastic, grateful beyond belief for this gift of science that promises to rescue us from this plague. We are the “low-hanging fruit,” the ones most eager to benefit from this reprieve. Many of us are in the most vulnerable categories—the aged and infirm—for whom the virus is more likely to be a death sentence. Once the scientists affirmed that the vaccine was safe and effective, we pushed to the front of the line, baring our arms.

Suddenly, however, the vaccination rate has slowed and some areas are reporting excess availability of vaccines, while half of the eligible population is still unvaccinated. My struggle, then, is with this phenomenon of vaccine hesitance. I encounter it, internally and externally, almost daily. Continue reading

A story with no end

I haven’t written for two months. I thought it was simply that I had nothing to say, nothing new, nothing that hasn’t already been said by me or others. Now I think it is more that my sense of story is being violated. I like beginning-middle-end. The story of the past 400 days is not that.

I happily wrote many thoughts and observances at the beginning of the pandemic. A new situation! What happens next? Is this a horror story, a tragedy, a heroic adventure or what? Definitely something to observe, mull over, write about. Continue reading

Limbo

I am in vaccine limbo, halfway between the two shots. I can’t do anything different yet. I can plan for the future, but that isn’t working out too well. It just makes me antsy. The only thing I have managed to schedule is a date with my hairdresser 9 days after the second shot. It will include a pedicure for the first time in over a year. I’ve had two professional haircuts in the last year and three I gave myself, more or less successfully, but I’m really shaggy again, waiting out the last days of hibernation.

We’ve been blessed with very cold weather and lots of snow in this limbo month, additional incentive to stay inside and just wait it out. We even have several resident snow shovelers who are happy to make themselves useful. They are in their own limbos, awaiting renewals of work permits and thus mostly unemployed for now.

Continue reading

St. Francis and the Trump era

According to Facebook our offer on the house where we are living was accepted four years ago today. Within the space of a month we had decided to move, sold our house, and bought another one. While we had been thinking for some time of selling our house in the woods and moving to the city it had been a vague idea. What caused us to explore that idea seriously and then take action was the election of Donald Trump. As I look back on it, the desire was to create, feed into, an alternative story to the story represented by Trump’s election. Continue reading

Gimme shelter (not)

I have been going through photos. I have been struck with the sheer level of activity and variety in my prepandemic life. Was 2016-17 typical? Perhaps not. But in the space of six months I made two trips to Africa and we sold and bought a house, moved, helped care for a new grandchild, and went to the Kentucky Derby for the first time ever. Oh, and Trump was elected right then and turned the political scene upside down.

After a year of confinement I don’t think I’d be up for that much … life any more. But a little more personal excitement would be nice, besides watching riots and a would-be coup from a safe distance; something to look forward to. In this passive life I have spent a lot of nervous energy looking forward to things. The election. The certification. The inauguration. And now, in two days, our vaccinations. But just as I start dreaming about planning a family trip to South Africa next winter, that country produces a virulent new variant of the virus and travel therefrom is banned. The wait-and-see stance must be adopted once again.

“Sheltering in place.” Remember that term? It was what we did in the first weeks of the pandemic when we didn’t know much at all about the virus except that it was pretty scary. In Indiana we kept our numbers low at first by sheltering in place and then a lot of people got tired of that and we started going out more and then the whole mask thing and the virus itself was politicized. And sheltering in place became the more political “lockdown.” We ventured out to visit our family in early July when the lockdown was lifted, and then the numbers went haywire and we went back to mostly staying home, that is, voluntarily sheltering in place. I did give up grocery delivery and started grocery shopping on my own because I needed some excuse to get out of the house, especially after gardening season ended, so I can’t say I’ve been religious about sheltering in place all this time, just about masking up.

Perhaps the smartest thing we did during the past six months was to open our shelter to two more asylum seekers, joining the one who was released to us from detention in early March, just in time for the lockdown. This move resulted in the establishment of a bicultural community in our large house, which adds life and liveliness and also a sense of purpose. Life for those three people could be extremely difficult without us. I don’t have to go out of the house to be useful—except for occasional gigantic shopping trips to Costco. Our service projects live upstairs.

Still, I keep feeling like I have regressed to laziness. Is an absence of striving the same as laziness? I have no particular focus for energy, therefore, whatever energy I have dissipates. Sometimes this feels comfortable, sometimes it feels like a great loss.

My daughter-in-law, who has also been to South Africa, and I dream of proteus and elephants and getting the whole family there. Together. Someday.

How are you all holding up?

Our Favorite Movies 2020

First, I’ll list the movies that were available to us only as DVDs on our Netflix subscription. I was surprised to see that almost all of our favorite DVDs were documentaries, docudramas, biopics, or otherwise based on real people and events. So that is what I have listed. As we have learned this year, truth is indeed stranger and more compelling than fiction. In no particular order:

Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010. Werner Herzog is given special access to film a cave in France that contains the oldest human paintings ever discovered. The cave is not open to the public.

The Eagle Huntress 2016. How do they film things like this? A documentary follows a Mongolian teenage girl who, with the warm support of her family, breaks into the all-male domain of hunting with eagles.

Maiden 2019. The first all-female crew makes its mark on deep-water yacht racing.

Kusama: Infinity 2018. The astonishing work of a Japanese avant garde artist who moved to New York in the 1950s.

Dark Waters 2019. A docudrama about a story I know something about from my environmental work. Remember Teflon?

Harriet 2019. The extraordinary biopic based on the extraordinary exploits of Harriet Tubman.

Pina 2011. A spellbinding tribute to the German choreographer Pina Bausch. I don’t recall any dialog. It’s all in the dance.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World 2017. American Indians, that is, and their unrecognized influence on rock and roll.

Official Secrets 2019. How Britain was pressured to invade Iraq, fictionalized but based on actual events.

A Private War 2018. Biopic about Marie Colvin, celebrated war correspondent whose mission was to document the true costs of war. She was killed in the line of duty.

On the Basis of Sex 2018. Biopic about the young Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her landmark work on gender equality. A good complement to the better-known documentary RBG, which we watched in 2019.

Never Look Away 2018. Based loosely on the life of German artist Gerhard Richter, who tried to get beyond the trauma of growing up in Nazi Germany—but fell in love with the daughter of an ex-Nazi.

At Eternity’s Gate 2018. Van Gogh’s last days. Who but Willem DaFoe could play the tortured artist?

And finally, for broader entertainment, true and fictional, and available instantly via Netflix streaming, here are the feature films we enjoyed. (For streaming series, see yesterday’s post.)

The Professor and the Madman 2019. Sean Penn and Mel Gibson are remarkable in this story about the making of the greatest dictionary of all time. Really. The OED.

The Midnight Sky 2020. I was ready to give up on this post-apocalyptic saga but George Clooney (who also directed? Produced?) keeps you guessing and I liked it in the end.

Wadjda 2012. I have a feeling I listed this film before but Vic claimed he never saw it. In any case we both enjoyed (re)watching this story of a plucky Saudi girl.

My Happy Family 2017. In this Georgian (former Soviet Union) film the plucky one is a middle-aged housewife who leaves her wimp of a husband and demanding family.

On Body and Soul 2017. If you have patience and can get beyond the early slaughterhouse scenes, this Hungarian story of a probably autistic woman and a coworker may charm you and bend your mind

My Octopus Teacher 2020. Another how’d-they-do-that documentary. Including how the diver holds his breath that long. My favorite movie of the year.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 2020. Based on events we half-remember. Sacha Baron Cohen is perfectly cast as Abby Hoffman.

The Social Dilemma 2020. Everybody should watch this but you will probably go back to your social networking, like I did, just a little more aware and feeling guilty.

East Side Sushi 2015. Plucky young Mexican American mom is bent on becoming a world-class sushi chef.

Adú 2020. Haunting Spanish film about plucky African kid and other plot involving immigration.

Kappela 2020. Charming Indian movie about a naïve and, yes, plucky young woman who falls in love over the phone with a rickshaw driver.

Uncorked 2020. Plucky young African American man dreams of becoming a sommelier instead of taking over his dad’s barbecue joint.

The Two Popes 2019. Did you know that conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis became friends? Yes, they did. Much pluck required.

What movies did you enjoy this last, long year?

Bingeworthy

Oh, how much Netflix we watched in 2020! It is almost embarrassing. I am going to devote this post just to the series we have consumed, often in two-or-three-episode gulps per evening. Individual movies will come later.

I’m not even listing all the series we watched, just the ones we really liked and can recommend if you share our weird tastes.

Of course, we watched season 4 of The Crown as soon as it came out, because we had already binged on the first three, and The Queen’s Gambit. Belatedly we also watched all three seasons of Anne with an E. We loved all of these popular series. But I wonder how many of our other favorites will ring a bell with you? Continue reading

Right and wrong, a year in review

I read my journal entries for the year. A lot of them turned into blog posts so you may have read them too. I was struck once again by how challenging this year has been. I don’t have to remind you of that, and history will have its own take on 2020. But after reading through my personal log of events and emotions, I am feeling pretty good. That is, I am at a really good place now, after all that. In fact, my life feels much more comfortable now than it did back in January, before the pandemic revealed itself for what it was.

A year ago I was anticipating a big year, full of uncertainties. I was wrong about some things and right about others. Continue reading

Feeding refugees

We got a fund solicitation recently from the regional food depository. We have contributed before but, ironically, we are now occasionally on the receiving end of charitable food boxes. That’s because we’re housing and feeding three asylum seekers, whom we call our kids. The donated food is for them, but this morning my breakfast came from food box items they don’t eat. I have sent notification not to put certain things in the boxes. For a while, the kids were taking the boxes to their rooms but leaving things uneaten. They finally brought tons of stuff down to the kitchen, asking what they should do with it. Continue reading