Monday, January 4, 2021


 RHYS BOWEN: I realize I am hosting what could be a really stressful week: the Georgia election tomorrow, and the ratification (or not) of the Electoral College votes on Wednesday. These are enough to turn anyone to drink!  So I’m going to make sure all my posts are sweet, calm and harmless.

At least we are in a new year. We made it through 2020 without being attacked by Murder Hornets or being struck by a passing meteorite. It is now behind us. We can look forward to a time beyond Covid, a time of vaccines and future hugs, travel and dining out again.  

But I am trying hard to be positive this week so I’ve been thinking what good things might have happened during the pandemic. Here is my list of FIVE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED DURING COVID. I know other people have become experts in sourdough bread, have reorganized their closets, purged their clothing wardrobes. I have not.

But I have discovered the joys of working in bed. How sinful is that? My son made me this brilliant lap desk for Christmas. In fact he made one for every member of the family. I can’t really write propped up on pillows but I can go through my email and social media.

Second good thing: My hips were getting sore from sitting and writing so I found a seat cushion that is like part of an exercise ball. It’s wonderful because you can’t sit in one position, you have to continually readjust yourself. This brings me to the bigger category: you can find anything you need on Amazon.  I craved Wheatabix cereal that can no longer be found in the US. Lo and behold I can get it from Amazon, delivered the next day. Brilliant!

Third Good thing: We walk twice a day. We are lucky to live in an area of great natural beauty so I’m able to observe winter bird migrations and most recently a nightly murmuration of starlings. The fresh air, the sun shining on water and the glorious birds are enough to lift any spirit.

The fourth good thing is Zoom. Whoever invented it should get a medal or a knighthood! My family chats every Sunday evening. My Jungle Red Sisters and I Zoom regularly, so do other groups I belong to. I’ve listened to Zoom lectures, I’ve done Zoom bookstore presentations, I’ve even Zoomed with my choir. On Christmas Eve the family played charades on Zoom. So special.

And the fifth good thing?  We can now go into a bank, wearing a mask and not get arrested. (Just kidding. The fifth good thing is that John and I haven't killed each other but actually enjoy our time together and manage to laugh daily.)

So let’s hear it from you: What are your silver linings in this time of dark clouds?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, I’m laughing at going into a bank and not getting arrested. I glimpsed myself the other day, masked (of course!) wearing sunglasses against the bright winter sunshine and a heavy knit cap against the cold. I looked like the Unabomber!

First good thing: I read a LOT more this year. After the first few months, when I couldn't concentrate on anything except horrible news stories, I found refuge in novels and nonfiction. Blurb requests plummeted (probably as a result of publishers holding back books til next year) and so I had very little I had to read. I’ve rediscovered the soothing joy of reading away the evening in the company of my daughter, which leads me to

The second good thing: Having the Maine Millennial live with me. She brought a cat, a dog, and her delightful personality when she moved back in, and she’s helped to keep me sane as we inch toward the one-year mark of the shut down.

The third good thing: realizing how much of my wardrobe I actually wear day-to-day, versus how much is taking up space for social occasions. I’ve been thinning things out, and the winnowing will continue.

The fourth good thing, and like unto the third: 100% casual wear, baby. I haven’t worn anything except sneakers, boots, slippers or flip-flops in a year. I like it. 

Finally, the fifth good thing: appreciating the simple blessings we don’t often count. I was so grateful to have all my kids home for Christmas. We were all healthy, all employed, all earning enough to provide food and shelter and extras like presents and some small donations. I don’t usually think like that, and I hope I can hold on to that point of view in what will become the After Time.

LUCY BURDETTE: First good thing: Lottie puppy! Oh yes, she’s in a terribly annoying pesky chewing everything stage, but she makes us laugh and laugh.

Second, I agree with Zoom, so grateful to have been able to stay in close touch with our kids and grandkids and siblings and extended family and friends, including my beloved Reds!

Third good thing, yoga classes with my favorite two teachers online. In ordinary times, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them while in Florida, but now I can do the classes from anywhere. And I swear I owe half of my sanity to Ali and Jo.

Fourth good thing, I’m so, so grateful to have a life partner whose company I enjoy, almost always. And the people I stay in touch with I’ve stayed in close touch with because nobody’s going anywhere!

Fifth good thing, I’ve let my gray hair grow out and after that first truly ugly couple of months, I’ve grown to love it. I will never go back to coloring every four or five weeks, but I wouldn’t have done this if I wasn’t afraid to go to the hair salon. I’d love to get some sparkly silver streaks put in to celebrate getting vaccinated though!

And ps Rhys, I almost always write in bed--it’s the best!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, I'm so glad you've had the Maine Millennial for company this year!

Which brings me to the first good thing, sharing a house with my hubby, who makes me laugh every day. We have not been tempted to strangle each other--at least not yet!

Second good thing, the dogs and the cats. They are endlessly entertaining (at least to us) and endlessly generous with their affection. We've especially enjoyed watching Lucy, the neighborhood formerly-outside cat, integrate herself into the household. The dogs are her slaves!

Third good thing, books books books. I'll admit to doing a lot of rereading these last few months, but that has been such a comfort. And when crime novels have seemed a bit too close to reality, I've discovered a slew of British romantic comedies. Just the ticket.

Fourth good thing, my inner slob to the forefront. I LOVE living in yoga pants and t-shirts/hoodies, and I'm dreading the day I have to get back into "real" clothes. And like Lucy, I've let my hair color grow out, which I'd never have done if not forced. I've discovered I don't mind the gray at the temples nearly as much as I thought I would, and while I'll probably go back to some highlights, no more all-over hair color for me.

Fifth good thing, appreciating the little things, every day. I've really loved the slowing down and not rushing from one activity to another, savoring walks and meals and evenings in front of the fire.

JENN McKINLAY: This is my own personal annus horribilis, so I don’t know that I can actually come up with five things because everything is shrouded in grief and the stages that accompany it but I will try.

One: Yoga pants. I’ve never worn yoga pants before. They’re so comfy! And now I own five pairs. I fear there is no going back.

Two: With all of our lives on hold, my family of four has spent the past nine months in tight quarters and we discovered we really like each other. I mean I suspected that we liked each other before, but it turns out that we really enjoy each other’s company. 

Three: Home improvement has been happening all over the house. Those pesky chores we could never seem to manage, we finally had the time to get it done. Then the bathroom flooded, because 2020...but I digress.

I think I’m tapped out now. So long 2020! Not gonna miss you.

HALLIE EPHRON: The best things that happened for me during COVID were getting closer to and appreciating my:

1. Husband

2. Daughters

3. Grandkids

4. Sisters

5. Neighbors

6. Friends

...My cup runneth over.

(Rhys: that is six, but Hallie is allowed to have her cup running over!)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I’ve thought about this so much. It feels strange to talk about it, when things are so awful, and every day is more insane and terrifying. But yeah. I agree. And in no particular order.

One: Not rushing. The constant pressure of potentially being physically late for something was such a part of my life. Traffic, and expectations, and deadlines, and driving driving flying driving and  appointments and appearances, and weather, and airplane delays and ….all that. I could never just--sit there. (So yeah, careful what you wish for.) I’m working harder than ever, somehow, don’t get me wrong, which is so weird. But it’s all from right here in our house.

Two: Leggings and hoodies. WIth t-shirts and blazers and necklaces for Zooms. Seriously, I think the clothes in my closet are sobbing as I walk by and ignore them. I truly wonder if I’ll ever go back to those--I see my elegant heels, SO pretty, and I really enjoyed them. But yikes. I wonder what will happen to fashion. But for right now, it’s amazing to ratchet down. You cannot believe what I wear some days--I look in the mirror and laugh. And love it.

Three: Lunch with my husband. Jonathan has hit this out of the ballpark. He makes lunch every day, and then comes into my office, and says “lunch is ready.” Can you believe that? And we have lunch together.  I mean--that is GREAT.  I make dinner every night, and happily, and he is so enthusiastic. But wow, lunch is a joy.

Four: A new frugality. And gratitude. I am careful with paper towels, toilet paper, paper in general. Food--I use everything, every bit of everything, and think about how I used to be a little careless about that. Never ever ever will I take food for granted again. And a corollary to that--the people who grow the food, and make the food, and stock the food,and drive the food, and deliver the food.  It makes me cry with gratitude.  We are SO lucky.  

Five: Okay, yeah, Zoom. We started The Back Room, and I do First Chapter Fun, and so many interviews and events and classes, and honestly, it’s great. I’m sure we wouldn’t have expanded our worlds so much without this, and I hope that we keep it on the other side. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, and I hope we find out soon.

RHYS: Dear sisters, these are all so wise and so true. Appreciating the little things, the daily gifts, and someone to share this with. All priceless. And Hank--I agree with you so much about the lack of pressure and rushing. No delayed flights, slow traffic, noisy hotel rooms...bliss!

So how about our dear Jungle Red clan? What are your five blessings?

Red hot deals and news: Lucy Burdette's ebook THE KEY LIME CRIME is on sale for a limited time for $2.99. DEATH ON THE MENU and A DEADLY FEAST are on sale for $1.99.  

Hank Phillippi Ryan's THE FIRST TO LIE is now in gorgeous trade paperback!


  1. Five blessings and good things?
    First . . . gratitude and appreciation for things we often took for granted
    Second . . . more time with my sweetheart
    Third . . . more reading time
    Fourth . . . Zoom and video phone calls
    Fifth . . . comfy clothes

  2. I am an OPTIMIST by nature although I have become more cynical as I get older.
    That being said, it is good to try and find 5 positives from this past COVID-year.

    First good thing: I am still here and almost back to normal! Frankly, when my COVID symptoms lasted waaay longer than the originally projected 2 weeks. Getting COVID in mid-March, there were so many unknowns. The Ontario health care system (like others) were figuring it out as they went along, and frankly, the advice they gave me was not very helpful. STAY INSIDE might work for 2 weeks but I self-isolated alone for 47 days and frankly, I think my mental health was affected in a not good way.

    The second good thing: Enjoying both solo and group walks (8-10 km) on a regular basis. Daily exercise of at least one hour, or going up to 2.5-4 hours has been my salvation. Pre-pandemic, my walking group only had scheduled walks twice/week. But after the spring lockdown, our walking group leaders increased the number of walks to 6/week (not Fridays). And now, with the outdoor group limits reduced back to a max of 10 with this second lockdown, there are now 12 walks/week available (at either 10 am or 1 pm). So I visit JRW first thing in the morning, and then I tend to disappear mid-morning or afternoon, since I'M OUT WALKING.

    The third good thing: I have really enjoyed cooking new recipes. I am an eclectic eater and pretty good cook at home. Living solo does not mean that I deprive myself in anyway when it comes to food. But like others during the spring lockdown, I went on the sourdough starter, baking bread phase for the first time and enjoyed it.

    The fourth thing is related to the third. I doubled the size of my balcony garden since our local Farmers Market did not open until late May and when they did, there were only about half the vendors I was used to buying from. And I learned to grow more veggies from seed, and with the addition of 2 grow lights, I am extending my edible garden into the winter in a bigger way.

    Finally, the fifth good thing: participating in a variety of virtual events. I have been going to Left Coast Crime (2000) and Bouchercon (1992) for years and I enjoy interacting with the mystery fiction community. So the pandemic did provide a wide range of virtual book launches, author interviews, Noir at the Bar, a Virtual Bouchercon, Crime Bake and MMM in 2020. I also did virtual walking tours of far-away places such as Iceland and New Zealand and China to appease my natural wanderlust.

    1. Seeing Dru's answer below makes me notice that I forgot to mention a couple of great virtual events in #5 led by HANK:

      First Chapter Fun (FCF) has been great. I have discovered several new authors and reads in 2020. Thanks, Hank and Hannah!

      The Back Room, I am signed up for my first events in January and February. I missed the one I registered for in November due to that ill-timed power/Internet outage at home. Again, thanks Hank and Karen for creating a unique way for us readers to interact with authors in a more intimate/interaction way.

    2. Grace, I am impressed. I honestly think you have gotten so much out of the pandemic lockdown, despite dealing with covid and such a long period of isolation. Those are all great and life enhancing habits to take up!

    3. JULIA: Thanks but I still hope to get fully better one day. I know you joked about wanting Canada's universal, provincially-funded health care system but this pandemic has certainly shown the cracks and flaws in the system. About 10% of people who survive COVID have lingering symptoms (long haulers). My doctor and the Ottawa health care system did no follow-up after I finally got two negative COVID-19 tests. There was no antibody tests or any support for long-haulers. I found much help and support by joining some FB long-hauler groups because the system is lacking.

    4. Grace, it's still better than here. I am 99% sure I had COVID in March, and am still experiencing symptoms, but my doctor's office would not see me until July because I was coughing (still am, periodically), and did not have a fever. Which meant, to them, that I didn't have the virus. My mother is at this moment recovering from a horrible, nearly fatal bout of COVID, and she never had a fever throughout the entire experience.

      No follow-up, but not even any initial care. It's disgusting, and horrifying, especially to think how the numbers must be much lower than reported, considering.

      I'm grateful that you're doing so well, though. Here's to continued improvement.

    5. KAREN, I know that Canada is handling the pandemic much better than what is happening in the US, but I think there is still a lot of room for improvement here. This second wave is causing our health care system to come close to reaching its tipping point, and we don't want to see the long-term consequences that would follow.

      And now, the slow rollout of the vaccines and differing approaches each province is using once again highlights some of the fundamental weaknesses in our health care system.

      I am sad to hear so many of your extended family members were affected by COVID. But thank goodness your mom has pulled through. She is a fighter for sure.

      And I hope that both of us will continue to improve, and reach the optimal level of health we both want and deserve.

    6. Grace, you and I are cooking sisters in spirit. I applaud and understand your comment about not depriving oneself when eating alone. Have you got or read Judith Jones book, The Tenth Muse? She was Julia Chidl's editor, and the editor who went to bat to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The Tenth Muse chronicled her life with food and publishing. Then in 2009 she wrote The Pleasures of Cooking for One. It has great ideas and recipes in it.

    7. I don’t know which major university you are closest too, but here in California the best place ti get covid care and follow up is at the major universities especially UCSF. However, out local doctors have linked with infectious disease doctors and much care is available through those channels too. I realize we have many more resources here, including one of the best public health systems in the US. Care in the Midwest is so varied, but the Mayo Clinic also has local programs too. I hope you find the care you need!

    8. CELIA: No, I have not read either one of Judith Jones' books. I will search for them.

      One of my goals while stuck at home last year was to make at least ONE NEW RECIPE every week. Although I also did cook my normal repertoire of meals, trying new dishes was a way to keep my brain-fogged mind challenged and to maintain my passion and excitement for food.

      DEBS' podcast suggestion for the Milk Street podcast was just what I needed. The selection of world cuisine discussions and recipes are just up my alley.

    9. also look for Ruth Reichl's memoirs, Save Me the
      Plums and My Kitchen Year. I swear I could taste the food she describes!

  3. First: not having to climb the steps to the subway
    Second: Instacart and Amazon Fresh
    Third: Virtual events, Zoom, Crowdcast, The Back Room and any means that let me see my friends, including authors
    Fourth: My mom is okay
    Fifth: I'm going to be okay

    1. Yay on your fourth and fifth, Dru!

    2. celebrating the return of good health to both of and your mom Dru!

    3. So glad about your fourth and fifth, Dru.

    4. Dru, sending positive vibes for a better 2021 for you.
      And I do get the added challenge of facing these issues living alone.
      We are often stronger than we think we are.

    5. Sending you and your mom good wishes, Dru!

    6. Your four and five are just the best news, Dru!

  4. One: Having someone you really love spending time with to spend time with.

    Two: JRW! The authors, the regulars, the guests. My community because I am not seeing anyone else.

    Three: Books. Stories. Series. Audible. Kindle. The library. All I have done is read. Watching TV or even movies hasn't worked for me during the pandemic.

    Four: Zoom for my Hebrew Ulpan class and Skype and FaceTime and all the other ways to see other people.

    Five: My own determination to keep busy and find things to do, even if it's just baking cornbread to go with the chili.

    1. I so miss your first blessing in my own life, Judy. I mean, I really love my dogs and cats, but it just isn't the same. Family and friends rush to reassure me that they love me, but it just isn't the same.

    2. Oh, Gigi, I am so sorry. I can't imagine a time when that loss would not be painful. I actually considered not posting today because of the fact that so many of our friends are facing this difficult time without their loved ones. I do know that we are lucky to be together and I am grateful for that.

    3. We may not get over it, Judy, but we do get on with it. It's okay. Cherish what you have. The thing that hurts me most is when I hear happily married people dismissing their spouses as if they weren't important. You never do.

    4. Thanks, Gigi. Every couple has their moments, but I firmly believe that you can only control your own attitudes and behavior. That has certainly gotten me through any rough patches and I know better than to complain about something I wanted more than anything else before I met him.

  5. 1. Zoom for seeing my sons, my very old uncle in San Francisco (still has all his marbles), my cousins, my Quaker community, and so many author events and friends. Wow. Crowdcast, too.
    2. Secretly enjoying not decorating much for Christmas. Hardly anything to put away, always the worst part.
    3. For some months, the joy of garden gatherings. Plenty of distance, plenty of fresh air. Not so much now, but spring will come by and by.
    4. Not having to worry about conference clothes.
    5. Having my son and his wife move to MA and exploring parks halfway in between for bracing fall walks.

    1. Yay for that last one, Edith! And put me in the club of secretly glad I could have a very low-key Christmas this year.

    2. I'm so glad you had your whole clan home at Christmas, Julia. That's the most important part. Ours was over zoom, alas, but we met up with Allan and Alison a few days later for a hike and exchanged gifts out of the trunks of our cars in the parking lot! Ya do what ya gotta do...

    3. I forgot our pandemic kitten! Ganesh can be a terror, but it's been wonderful to have a cat sleep on my lap while I read. Or nap...

    4. Edith, I am glad to see Ganesh made it into your top #6 spot :-)
      His daily photos bring a smile to my face.

    5. Edith, nice to know I wasn’t the only one with that feeling about holiday decorations!

    6. Amen to the decorations, Edith. We left our huge, hard to assemble, tree in the box and bought a tiny one, pre lit and pretty. Put out pine cones and candles and that was it! Also blessing of kids nearby!

    7. I did the tree and pretty much all the decorations, and I was glad I did. Until I had to take them down. Why is putting away the Christmas stuff so much harder than putting it out??

  6. Love this, Rhys. My five:
    1. We have returned to Maine. There is something to be said for the State slogan of The Way Life Should be.
    2. Yoga pants. I'd always read about them, never owned them - what a great invention.
    3. YouTube -it's how I attend yoga and exercise classes and a great way to practice crafts.
    4. Speaking of crafts - having the time to craft without schedule. Before it was a case of gotta run, stained glass class is at 6:30. Now it's on YouTube and available 24/7.
    5. ZOOM - it's the new face to face! I love that it's possible to participate in conferences in California and catch up on author appearances in distant cities.

  7. I have so many things good that it's hard to reduce to five only, but here goes.

    1. The pandemic puppy, Sergeant Pepper, a miniature black poodle who came to live with us the end of July. He is pleasure everyday, has drawn Penny Lane and all of us out of the deep black dog shaped misery that arrived with the loss of our Toby. Can't be sad when there's a puppy in your life. Julie says he was an early birthday present. She always knows just what to do.

    2. The birth three weeks ago of Griffin Alexander Allaun, my first great grandchild, first child of my first grandchild, and first grandchild of my only daughter. New life new hope. And maybe a trip to Raleigh this summer!

    3. "Enough to eat and enough to wear and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing." I can't put it any better than Jerome K Jerome did in 1889. Julie and I say every day how lucky we are to have each other, not to be dealing with the pandemic alone. She's perfect.

    4. Internet connection not just with old friends and Facebook friends, but with a local group of like minded people who have banded together virtually to get thru this plague. It is second to JRW for my favorite place to hang out.

    5. Virtual cons of all kinds and sorts. This enabled my first attendance at Bloody Scotland plus Bouchercon and many Noir at the Bar experiences, meeting up with many of you, hearing you read or otherwise hold forth. And finding new authors to read or meeting up with old friends and catching up with their writing.

    6. And if Hallie can have six, so can I. Celebrating that dreaded event, my 80th birthday! It was something that I hadn't looked forward to in the least, but with the help of JRW and Catriona McPherson, Julie turned that all around. I got cards from all over the world, and i treasure every single one of them. Hank's came first and unsuspecting, I marveled that she had someone known my birthday. As more and more arrived, I began to get the picture. And then one came from London. Who did I know in London? OMG, a lovely card with a lovelier note from Louise Penny, wishing me well and telling me I would be F.I.N.E.!

    How much better it is to start the day with five positives -- well six -- instead of dwelling on the fright that is spewing out of Washington. Thank you Rhys.

    1. OMG, Ann. Your #6 is the best birthday present!

    2. Ann, I am so glad that #6 ended up being positive for you with those nice surprises from afar, including Louise Penny!
      And of course, Sergeant Pepper is adorable.

    3. Puppies and happy birthdays: things to celebrate, for sure. How lovely. And inspiring...

  8. I live alone so the first blessing has to be my cats. I have two, two-year old siblings who are affectionate, playful and a bit crazy. Now if I can just convince them that I don't need to get up at six a.m. every day...

    Second, grocery store employees. I've continued to do my own shopping throughout this time and have by amazed by how consistently helpful and cheerful they've been in the face of all the craziness.

    Third, Zoom and other video platforms. And the people who have made those platforms work for us. I belong to an Osher Lifelong Learning program and we had to close down in March. In three weeks, the staff and course leaders figured out how to use Zoom and shifted our entire program online. The first few weeks were a little bumpy and we still have the occasional "Dave, you have to unmute yourself" but it's working very well. Our winter term starts next week and this time I'll be teaching so I hope I don't screw it up too badly.

    Fourth, COVID has left my family alone. May it stay that way!

    Fifth, backyard birds. I've spent a lot of time watching the birds that visit the feeders in my yard (I'll admit that I went a little nuts and added more feeders this fall). Other than the usual species -- the sparrows, finches, bluejays, etc. -- I've had a small flock of bluebirds visit a few times. I even saw a brown creeper, a first-time ever bird for me. Small but very real pleasures.

    1. Yes, exactly! Grocery store employees, I am in all. And the birds! We always loved them, but now they are so much more precious.

    2. We have become good friends with the delightful woman who checks us out at the supermarket during senior hour. She is well traveled, husband a chef and she opens her till especially for us

    3. I agree on the birds and the grocery store workers, Chris, with a special shout out to Trader Joe's. It is the only place I've shopped in person during the pandemic. Their safety precautions are first rate, and the staff is always so friendly and cheerful. I look forward to seeing their familiar faces every week, even in masks.

  9. My 5:

    1. I'm now an official remote employee. I worked at home before, but now my work location is "REMOTE-PGH" in the HR system and there is no expectation I will ever have to go into an office again.

    2. Following on #1, I got a second monitor for work and boy, does it make a difference.

    3. No rushing! No "I have to be at X in five minutes." No "I'm stuck in traffic and I'm going to be late."

    4. Zoom. It's allowed me to keep in touch with a lot of people, including my critique group (who I haven't seen in person since last February - sob).

    5. Despite everything, I still stuck to my writing schedule and got two books completed.

    1. Liz, congrats on sticking to your writing schedule! You are amazing!

    2. Well done, Liz. It’s not easy to be creative

  10. So many of these reasons echo my own. Glad to be where I am: family nearby for some masked facetime and phone calls, two youngest nephews not quite fledged from the nest so didn't have to be alone. Having a 5-year-old in the house--can't be thinking of yourself and your fears all the time and boy, can that kid beat the pants off me at Parcheesi! And the cats, each with a different personality, yet each became extraordinarily loving--and the oldster--the mini-dachshund actually became playful WITH THE CATS!! A small miracle! And last but not least, thankful for the outside contacts--friends, JRW, far-flung family.

  11. There’s also, and here’s my sixth :-) a sort of built-in excuse. Yeah, I’m not doing that this year because… Covid. And no one cares. It’ll be pretty fascinating to see what things never return, you know? A silly example: we change the slip covers in our sunroom from winter to summer. This year we didn’t, because, whatever. Every single holiday gift was late. Because, whatever. Time is bizarre.

    1. Confession: I didn’t gift wrap the presents I ordered for John and me that came from Amazon. Nobody else saw them and it was only more stuff to throw away!

    2. HANK: True, gift buying and shipping has been both positive and negative. Great to be able order so many items online. BUT there must be something wrong with the USPS and the courier system down in the US. I am still waiting for 4 orders from Black Friday/Cyber Monday that seem trapped either in Nevada or California!

    3. Oh no---so annoying! And yeah, I have things that havent arrived, but well, they will someday, and then that will be fun!

  12. It's back to work for me today, so I'll scoot in here with just a plain list --

    1. My partner, Val, who says she loves having me work for home. That makes me lucky, for sure.

    2. My uninterrupted pay cheque. No financial worries in this house. That makes us incredibly lucky.

    3. My mum's health: She came through unexpected surgery in May and continues to soldier on, even during lockdowns in her seniors residence.

    4. My front yard: It got a spruce up in late spring and gave me tremendous joy through the summer with its renewed green growth and general abundance

    5. My craft table at which I spent untold hours playing with paper and scissors and glue to create collages that helped me make meaning of COVID and all it brought with it into our lives. The creative urge has kept me going.

  13. 1. Lunch and dinner with my husband, during which we talk about politics and constitutional law.

    2. Our kids are healthy and employed. We have hilarious family FaceTimes.

    3. Our two standard poodles are with us, 24/7. Walks, playtime, underfoot in the kitchen. Despite a new elk antler for Christmas, chewy Louie would rather destroy a new bottle of face moisturizer.

    4. I'm using up my stash of stationary, greeting cards, and special soaps. No time like the present. I send elderly shut-ins frequent cards and notes.

    5. Instead of a mad scramble, I have time to focus on on-line classes. Jaden Terrell is starting up a new "Supercharge your writing: book of the month discussion". I enjoyed her last class and am excited to read a new list of books.

    1. I love our family weekly Zoom. It has kept us so close and loving

  14. My blessings are:
    My physical and emotional health
    My home in a beautiful surrounding
    Being able to walk everyday in this beautiful and peaceful surrounding and occasionally with a friend ( no problem for the distance in the country )
    Family and friends that I can reach by phone, FaceTime, Skype and visiting with JRW everyday
    And Zoom for my yoga class and for events like The Back Room and others

  15. What a wonderful bunch of grateful people we have here! I am sorely tempted to get another puppy or a pair of kittens because they would be so much fun but I am going to do my best to resist!
    1. My family is still healthy.
    2. I am healthy too, outside the occasional flareups of sciatica, Achilles tendinitis, and knee pain, but probably all of that is to be expected at my age.
    3. My cats and dog are wonderful companions and I cannot imagine a life without them.
    4. The library, while no longer open for inside browsing and other things, will still deliver my books curbside.
    5. The neighbor who comes and clears the snow from my long, steep driveway.
    Seems I could go on and on but I'll spare you all and just remember to count all my blessings.

  16. Not counting JRW, which I assume is on all our lists, my top five blessings are:
    1. Realizing how easily my husband and I get along even when cooped up together, which has made me really look forward to our retirement in a few years.
    2. Daily walks averaging about 14,000 steps daily. That most often takes the form of one long and one shorter walk plus being mindful to move more throughout the day.
    3. Wonderful neighbors who have all looked out for one another and been very supportive in an appropriately social-distanced way.
    4. Circumstances that led to my son living with us for this whole year. A purely positive thing, because he is working and taking care of himself, but it is such a blessing to know on a daily basis where he is and how he is doing.
    5. The HUGE blessing of uninterrupted employment and benefits for both my husband and me, meaning that we really suffered very little economic impact.

    Honestly, when I look at how huge those blessings are, I am both humbled and deeply grateful. I feel like I need to express this gratitude a lot more often.

    1. Susan, we Reds have all agreed how easily we are getting along with our spouse. Amazing, right?

  17. 1. Zoom calls with my sisters and cousins every Friday
    2. Working at home - hopefully permanently
    3. Not having to drive anywhere on freeways or in the dark. I hate driving.
    4. Almost unlimited time for reading and puzzles
    5. Almost unlimited time for walking with my dog, Zoe

    1. SO agree about the driving! And when I do drive, everyone is going SO FAST because the roads are so much less crowded. Argh.

  18. Happy New Year rather belatedly to all the great JRW & R. Even though I don't post too often, I do treasure this community. But now to our muttons. Well 2020 was a year to appreciate and build a gratitude list. In fact at the start of lockdown I actually kept a gratitude list for about 3 months, and I think it saved my sanity.
    So, I am most grateful for (no laughter now), in no particularly order either:
    - My hair cut. Yes last week my lovely hair stylist, Danilo, drove from MA, with his partner and one of their pet bunnies to our house. We masked and did not hug and then Danilo cut off my 11+ months of long, straggly hair into a shorter, more becoming look with the sides shaped for my face (round), and the back layered to stay out of the way. Then he trimmed up Victor who deserved it having been hacked at by me.
    - My food hunters and gatherers. I've mentioned before that I haven't been into a supermarket, and thanks, thanks to Toni at the bottom of the hill, and Sarah (essential worker), who have done the bulk of my food shop since last March. They are heroes indeed. I count in with them the local chickens who provide our eggs, my summer CSA & farm stand, plus a big shout out to curbside pickup.
    - My Victor, bless him, coping with memory loss at 94 isn't a walk in the park but his good nature, the fact that he still makes me breakfast most mornings and a drink at night. But he also realises the additional work that I have assumed and are learning to manage. I am blest here indeed
    - My Olivia, who with her own difficulties is standing and supporting mine, and whose wise words 4 months ago were, "You need a therapist mom". Well it took 4 months but I found one, starting this week, wish me well Reds.
    - Julia, and her library. Julia can lift ones spirits instantly. I look back on all the joy the three of us had through the early months and the summer with meals and laughter on our deck. Recently we needed to quarantine from each other but I know she will be back.
    - Lastly, a shout out of the inanimate objects that have made our lives brighter: Zoom, and lots of new communities, my Cubii and much easier way to workout with live classes etc. Masks - they really do make sense, and I have made them for us which was a learning curve.
    I could go on but no. It's time to take this piece and build it for my memoir class on Wednesday, another group of women I am grateful to have in my life.

    1. Celia, I was tickled to see your name in Julia's new book!

      So glad to hear you found a therapist. And that your daughter encouraged you to seek such help. I hope it makes an enormous positive difference. Hugs.

    2. Rhys - thank you so much. The Reds has been such an encouragement, laughter source and just plain fun last year. Perhaps we have to go through years such as 2020 to become fully conscious of how blessed we are.

      Karen, thank you so very much. Julia and I are Maine neighbors, that means we live within an hour at the least of each other! Actually we are about 30 minutes apart. Yes, I am happy about the therapist too. My daughter is the best of daughters, like everyone else's daughters but she is really giving me her time which is precious.

  19. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed today, with car trouble and computer trouble and looming deadlines to darken the start of my new year, so it's good to count my blessings.
    1. I'm so happy to be off the daily commute and out of the moldy building where I officed and be able to work from home.
    2. I love having more time to spend with my critters. They are now, more than ever, true companion animals.
    3. I'm glad I can now eat what I want when I want instead of being tied to an external schedule and saddled with restaurant portions. Now I cook for myself and find that two small meals a day, with loads less salt and fat, have made me happier and better hydrated.
    4. I like the way distancing has forced us all to think more creatively about reaching people. We live-streamed our Christmas concert, and I've attended several of the Zoom and live-streamed author events. We are all reaching audiences we could never reach before, and I hope the trend continues even after we can go out in public again.
    5. I really like to just put in an order online and then go pick up my groceries. Do I get everything I want? Nope. Do I miss out on those serendipitous finds I might impulse buy if I went into the store myself? Oh, sure. But it is so much faster, and shopping wasn't ever a favorite activity. I've gotten to know my shopping team, and I appreciate them all.

  20. Love this idea, Rhys. It has not been easy to find silver linings, but this is a good exercise to go through right now.

    Steve and I have never spent this much time together, since he traveled so much for work, and I also used to travel. We've found how much more we enjoy one another's company than we even knew. That was a gift, after 42 years together. Steve has been a rock, and did a yeoman job of building raised garden beds for me last spring.

    Zoom gatherings have made such a difference. My far-flung children are hilarious, and always rise to the challenge of making our meetings fun. And it has been the only way I could see the daughter in Oregon. She gave me a tour of her new house back in the spring, and I've met her cat and her chickens that way, too. The daughter who just moved to Kenya also gave me a house and garden tour on her very first day of living in Africa. My book club has only been able to meet via Zoom, but we had a very fun Christmas party this year. And my siblings and I were able to Zoom with our mom as she was in a COVID ICU in early December. I'm convinced it was the turning point in her recovery, after two weeks of isolation.

    I'm grateful for my mom's continuing better health, but also for the nine other family members' recovery from COVID. And that even though I seem to have had some level of it myself, that we are fairly healthy now.

    Eternally grateful for a home that is warm and comfortable, and has enough space around it for privacy, wildlife watching, and so much gardening potential. Proof of how much I've used that last bit is in the 300 plant pots stacked in the garage.

    And where would we be without the Internet? JRW, Facebook, instant information, Google, and reading and entertainment materials galore, whether through Kindle or Nook, the library websites, a myriad of sources for music, podcasts, Netflix, and on and on. Isolation has never been so well cushioned from loneliness or boredom.

  21. 1. FaceTime chats with my eleven-year-old granddaughter Izzy. That an eleven-year-old actually enjoys spending time on the video chats with her sixty-six year old grandmother, that we have fun, and she shows me projects she's working on, it's just a treasure.
    2. Being able to at least see my son through the magic of video chatting has been wonderful, since we aren't able to get together physically and spend time together.
    3. Reaching out to friends in our amazing mystery/crime community and friends reaching out to me to keep connected. I have some friends who I now regularly talk to on the phone. Not knowing when we will see each other in person has made us realize we don't want to wait until then to be together, even if it's virtually. I'm in a chat group with some women, one from England, that has kept us sane since the election.
    4. Zoom and FaceBook Live events. What fun it has been to see so many from our book community in author events and cocktail and other party events. Hank, you have helped so many with your many virtual events.
    5. No makeup. Woohoo! How liberating this has been. For someone who thought she had to wear makeup whenever I go out, I've found that, well, who really cares. I know that wearing a mask has made makeup a moot point, but even without a mask, I have found a freedom in no makeup that will carry on after the mask. That doesn't mean I won't ever wear makeup, just that I know I don't have to all the time.

    I know that my first four items all dealt with virtual communicating, but they are truly four separate blessings of their own importance. I am also grateful that thus far we have been COVID-free in our immediate family, but I didn't list that because I can't truly say that we are past that danger. However, I am most thankful that we have been spared thus far.

  22. 1. Selling my house and getting moved before lockdown. And being closer to family
    2. Zoom, etc. to keep connected with family and friends. Especially my niece who discovered she is now battling chronic cancer.
    3. Ebooks, British television, all the writers on Facebook. Thank you.
    4. Riding my bicycle and clocking almost 600 miles around town. The health benefits from the bike riding.
    5. My daughter has a job. And even though she’s working in a grocery store she is healthy.

  23. These comments remind me there is much to be thankful for. :)

  24. I'm so late - 7pm in California but I wanted to add a little something. I actually have been thinking about what I would put on my list, it wasn't easy but here goes:
    1) Being able to purchase a home. My sister finally got our mother's estate settled, not an easy process, Mom didn't write a will and even she lived in California her whole life, we had to follow the rules in Oregon because that was where she was at her death.
    2) My sister - walked me through the buying process and pushed me out of my comfort zone, she stayed and then had her daughter come to help since I had to go to work, and then my brother-in-law took time off work his work to move me.
    3) Carol - our choir director heard me singing on a Sunday back before the pandemic and lockdowns, remember there was a couple of months of normalcy back in January, February and March, and she wanted know why I wasn't singing in her choir. Carol let me sit in on the last rehearsal of Faure's Requiem. And then the 3 people in the choir who knew I used to sing in the choir, (two of actually sang with me, cornered me in the kitchen of the parish hall and asking me to stay.
    4) My boss, who opened her home to me when I had to evacuate during the Glass Fire. She just let me stay for as long as I needed.
    5) I've spent the past 11 days moving the Wise Men at "Sanctuary Desert" and posting the movements on Facebook. This little escape has helped keep me level these past 11 days.
    I have to add a 6th one - I got the first half of my inoculation last week.

  25. We grieved through the deaths of three loved ones last year, which would have made a terrible time even without the general malaise. But I also feel blessed. Here are my top five:
    1. Good health.
    2. Walking in the park with my beloved.
    3. Falling in love with an odd-duck couple (yes, real ducks) at the lake. Wish I could show you a photo. They lift my spirit every time I see them.
    4. Saving money by not buying clothes I don't need and not eating out nearly as much, which is a long way of saying that we're learning to live more simply.
    5. Paying attention to small joys. Reading JRW is one of them. Thank you!

  26. What a wonderful idea, Rhys. I read every single one from every single person. A great exercise in remembering to appreciate the gifts we have instead of dwelling on the things we don't have right now--and may never want again!

  27. Well, thanks to Rhys, I've now bought a wobble cushion! Let's see if that helps me stop slumping!/helps abs.

    Looking forward to reading all the comments.

    I'm so sorry for the loss of loved ones.

    Blessings: family, general health, warm home, plenty of food.

    Tiny treat to self: to combat the dark days blues, I got twinkle branch lights with a timer, and popped them in vases in various dark corners of the house. I also got a 'smart plug' for the mantle lights so I can set a timer. Now sparkle lights pop on all over our house at 6:00 p.m., which not only combats the darkness, but reminds me to stop working, get up and stretch, and make dinner!