Category Archives: News

There Is No Them, Only Us

I am a fifth-generation Mainer on my mother’s side, descended from French Canadians who came to Maine in the mid-1800s. Many of them had dark hair and olive complexions. They were all Catholic and spoke French. (My own mother did not speak English until she was six.) My ancestors were part of a larger French-Canadian migration that spread out through New England as well as to other parts of the country.

I would like to be able to report that these hard-working French Canadians were eagerly welcomed to Maine, but I cannot. Our story is a sad familiar story of prejudice and discrimination. In 1889, according to the British-American Citizen (Boston), we were  considered to be “a distinct alien race.”

This xenophobic attitude continued to trickle down even to the 1960s. As a small child, I was keenly aware of an “us vs. them” attitude in Maine, with we Franco-Americans being “them,” and the Yankee population being “us.” It was understood that “them” did not really belong in Maine, while “us” somehow had a magical right to be here.

Merriam-Webster defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Because of my experience, I have an intense aversion to anything that smacks of xenophobia.

For example, this incident on Vinalhaven, an island off the Maine coast, where according to the Kennebec Journal,

an armed group of residents cut down a tree to block access to a road to keep three people from leaving their home on Cripple Creek Road.

Deputies investigated and learned there was a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek residents were supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19.

Deputies learned that the trio had been residing on Vinalhaven for about 30 days, which is outside of the guidance issued by state officials, and none have any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

Uh-huh.

And then on Facebook, an acquaintance shared this gem: “STAY HOME…Do Not Come to Maine. It’s just Not Fair. Go back where you came from and kill your Own People!”

As it happens, three of my “own people” live out of state.

While I completely agree that folks should hunker down and stay in place, I so object to the wording of the above sentiment. I made this clear to the person who shared it. Unfortunately, as is so often the case on Facebook, that person was unrepentant.

As the coronavirus rips around the world, hitting country after country, the high and mighty and the low, it is clear to me there is no them.

Only us.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 275

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 3

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

Does it seem like time has slowed to a crawl since you’ve been holed up in your apartment, riding out this pandemic? Well, time marches on all right — to the same beat it’s always kept. But these days, your brain may be processing time a little differently. In fact, according to David Eagleman, one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, your brain tends to slow things down when you’re under extreme stress.

From CNN

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” President Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested last week that a win was near, announced yesterday that nationwide social distancing measures would be extended for another month, days after floating the possibility of getting Americans back to work as early as Easter (which is when deaths are currently projected to peak).

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 732,153

Global Deaths: 34,686

My take: I’ve already written enough.

Waste Not, Want Not

Even before the coronavirus struck—when I could go to the grocery store without fear of contracting COVID-19—I was mindful about food waste. I tried very hard to use all the food we had before it went bad. However, if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit I was not always successful. (Remember what Yoda said about try.)

Mostly it was because I’m not very organized. Some people have a lazer-like focus when it comes to keeping track of what’s in the cupboard and the refrigerator. I am not one of those people. Sometimes food in containers would get pushed to the back of the refrigerator, and when I finally opened them, I would recoil in horror at what I saw. The last few slices of bread would get tucked behind the brand new loaf, and green grew the mold.

But a pandemic has a way of focusing the mind, and now I am absolutely focused on every bit of food that is in the cupboard and refrigerator.  I want to put off going to the grocery store for as long as possible, and I don’t want to waste any of the precious food we have.

This picture tells the story of my old ways.

I bought these rosemary crackers last summer. The fresh date is August 2019, and they were 50% off. I had never had Carr’s rosemary crackers, but I have had other Carr’s crackers and have liked them a lot.  I also like the taste of rosemary. Because the crackers were on sale, I bought several boxes, probably not a wise thing to do if you have never tasted a particular kind of cracker.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. These are probably my least favorite of Carr’s crackers. I don’t hate them, but I certainly don’t love them either. We did go through two boxes, but the box above languished in the back of our closet pantry.

Until last week. When I was going through our food, I found the box and put it in the front of our food cupboard. Yesterday I had some of the crackers with some leftover cheese.

Believe it or not, the crackers are still crisp and are not stale at all. If they had been stale, I would have used a trick I learned from Clif’s mother, who grew up during the Great Depression: Put the crackers on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350° until they are crisp again.

I will be having the crackers again today for my lunch, and even though I’m still not wild about them, I will repeat the process until they are gone.

I am truly sorry that it took a pandemic to make me more mindful about wasting food, and I hope it’s a lesson I don’t forget when this terrible time has passed.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From centralmaine.com:

The Legislature approved a supplemental budget package worth about $76 million Tuesday, with funding earmarked to help the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The package includes funding for the Maine Centers for Disease Control to beef up its workforce, increased rate reimbursements for those working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, additional funding for adult education programs and job training, and another $38 million for the state’s public schools.

And perhaps most important:

The bill also expands eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by the virus, while also eliminating the one-week waiting period for benefits to start.

From Maine CDC:

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 43

From NBC:

Gov. Janet Mills issued an Executive Order Wednesday mandating a statewide ban on dine-in service at restaurants and bars, as well as a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people effective Wednesday at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

From Our Small Corner in Maine

Normally, I publish three posts a week, with one of them being a photo for wordless Wednesday. But these are not normal times, and for a while, at least, I will be publishing more posts than usual. This will help me make sense of things in my small corner of the world and leave some kind of record of what we did and what we thought. It won’t be complete, of course. No one record ever is. But it will be my contribution to these extraordinary times.

As of this date—March 17, 2020—President Trump is finally taking the novel coronavirus seriously. It took him a very long time to figure out that he couldn’t bully the virus into submission. The virus doesn’t give a hoot about President Trump. It will go where it can and infect the powerful as well as the weak. Now, let us hope that President Trump actually does something useful. There’s talk of a stimulus package, and I’m praying that some of the money will go to people who really need it as opposed to all the usual rich suspects.

Maine is fortunate to have a strong, smart woman—Janet Mills—for governor. Today, according to NBC News, she “has requested that the Small Business Administration help Maine small businesses get supportive loans to overcome the loss of revenue during the COVID-19 concern….Additionally, Mills sent emergency legislation that would temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.”

In Maine, as of today, thirty-two people have tested positive for Covid-19, and three are in the hospital. So far no reports of death, and may it stay that way.

Our children are well. (Picture me knocking furiously on wood.) Dee, who lives in New York City, is working from home and can do so indefinitely. Shannon and Mike, who live in Asheville, North Carolina. Tomorrow, Shannon will begin working from home, and Mike will, too, unless he is considered a mandatory employee.

Clif and I have been staying safe and sound in our own snug home, and so far, at least, life isn’t really that different for us than it usually is. We are both introverts and homebodies. Even in normal circumstances, most of our time is spent at home. We cook almost every meal that we eat, so we can’t even say we miss going to restaurants. Although we are introverts, we do miss getting together with our friends, and I have been staying in touch electronically, through messages and phone calls.

While we are well supplied with food and toilet, I have found that there are some things I didn’t think of. For example, the Sunday newspaper to read and then to use as a starter for our wood furnace. As a result, we have been scrounging various sources of paper.

But yesterday I looked outside and saw a solution from nature—pine cones scattered throughout our backyard.

Out I went to gather them.

Clif used some pine cones this morning, and he said they worked really well. Because of the pine cones, Clif didn’t have to use nearly as much paper as he usually does to start the fire.

A moment of triumph for me. I spent a happy hour in the backyard in weather that was brisk but pleasant. The yard is mostly free from pine cones, and they have been put to good use.

What have you been doing in this time of the novel coronavirus?

 

March Giveaway: Two Free E-books from Our Very Own Hinterlands Press

Let’s face it: What with the coronavirus and politics, it has been a rough month. To help you stay home and out of harm’s way, for the next five days—starting on March 10 and ending March 14—we are offering two of our e-books free of charge from Amazon. The books are my YA fantasy novels, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost.

Plucky fifteen-year-old Maya, who travels across the universe with a Book of Everything, might just take your mind off your earthly troubles. Enjoy, stay safe, and be well. Here is the link to the ebooks on Amazon.

Due to Amazon rules, we can offer this for only five days. So act now, and please share this with anyone who might be interested.

Brooding about Politics and Coronavirus

“It appears we are in the chaos that churns in between more stable eras.”  –Heather Cox Richardson

As an American, I know I have a cheerful reputation to maintain, especially for my blogging friends across the pond. And mostly I am pretty cheerful, no small thing for someone who worries. A lot. But there you are—we all have contradictions, and for the most part, I am a worried optimist.

However, lately events have come together to leave me completely frazzled, worn out. First and foremost, there is politics. Between the Democratic primaries and Trump’s responses, everything is on full screech. What got us to this point has been building over the years and isn’t likely to go away soon, but how I wish this country would regain its footing. Everything feels off-kilter to me, off balance. And oh so ugly.

Therefore, when something like, say, the Coronavirus comes along, it makes everything feel even more unbalanced. I know. The virus isn’t supposed to be that bad, no worse than a usual cold or a mild case of the flu, at least for most people. (Some people have indeed died from it.)

But do I have any faith in the leadership at the top to steer us safely through what will more than likely be a pandemic, however mild it might be? No, I don’t. So I do what I can on a small scale. I have a nice stockpile of supplies, and because I am someone who is, ahem, more than a little food obsessed, this makes me feel secure. Dry milk, cereal, canned pineapple? Check. Green lentils, plenty of chocolate, and eggs? Ditto. If things go to heck in a hand-basket—and I sure hope they don’t—we are well stocked. If things don’t go to heck in a hand-basket, then I won’t have to go grocery shopping for quite a while. No harm in that.

Along with having plenty of food, I also live in a beautiful place. For me, the Maine landscape always provide great solace—the blue of the sky, the trees in every season, even when the branches are bare, the hushed feeling of the winter-white woods, the lush green ferns. Every season brings something different. All I have to do is look out my windows to see it.

So I’ll end with a picture of a tree by the town’s public beach, about a mile from our house. Right now, the tree is stark against the sky, but soon spring will come, and with it buds. Then green leaves to provide shade in the summer followed by a glorious burst of fall colors. The leaves drop, and we are back to dark branches against blue sky. A lovely cycle to console me.

 

 

 

Ice Storm Follow-Up: All Is Well

All the finger crossing must have worked because we did not lose our power. Oh, happy, happy day! However, in southern coastal Maine, where the storms always seem to hit hardest, around 20,000 people lost their power. As much as I love the ocean, I am beginning to think that in this time of climate change, it is best to live a little inland.

Anyway, here was the peaceful scene in our yard this morning when I got up.

Monsieur Crapaud was smiling his enigmatic smile. I bet he, too, is glad the storm wasn’t any worse. You can see that he is edged with a bit of ice, but he does not seem to be any worse for wear.

Finally, our wonderful neighbor across the street cleared the snow away from the front of our mailbox before embarking on his own driveway. He knows the limits of Little Green, our corded electric snow thrower. So nice, so nice!

Green, Green with EV Envy

Just before Christmas, my friend Dawna called and asked, “Could I stop by for a little while? I have something to show  you.”

“Sure,” came my answer. “I’ll put the kettle on for tea when you get here.”

Dawna is a talented photographer and graphic artist who sells cards at various local shops and online through Etsy.  (Do check out her beautiful work if you get a chance.) I thought she was going to show Clif and me a new line of cards, which I always enjoy seeing.

Therefore, as soon as Dawna came into our dining room, I said, “Let me put the kettle on, and you can show me what you brought.”

“Well…” she said in a hesitating way as I trotted into the kitchen to put on the kettle.

When I went back into the dining room, Dawna was grinning. “I got a new car.”

I’m sure there was a click, click, click as I processed this information, looked out at the new snazzy blue car in my driveway, and understood exactly what she meant.

“Oh, my God!” I exclaimed. “You bought an electric car!”

“Yes, I did,” Dawna said, and if my knees weren’t so creaky, I would have jumped with joy.

Here is a picture of her new EV beauty, a Hyundai Kona:

All thoughts of tea were forgotten as Clif and I went to admire the new car

“After Christmas, ” Dawna said, “I’ll take you for a ride.”

Dawna kept her promise, and last Friday she took us into Augusta, where we had brunch at Downtown Diner, which serves breakfast all day long.

As we ate, Dawna’s spoke about her decision to buy an electric car. Her previous car had become unreliable, and the time had come to replace it. She asked herself, why buy a polluting ICE (internal combustion engine) car? Dawna knew that the range of EVs had  improved, and when she did some research, she discovered that the Hyundai Kona got a peak mileage of 258 per charge. (Less, of course, when the weather is really cold.)

And that was that. Because there were so many rebates available, Dawna bought the car in December, not wanting to take the chance that the rebates wouldn’t be there in 2020. (Let’s face it: The current administration in DC is not exactly concerned about the environment.)

Here is what she got:

$2,500 from Efficiency Maine.

$500 from a Hyundai rebate.

$7,500 from a federal government rebate.

Her Hyundai EV Kona sold for $38,000, and the rebates brought the cost down to $28,000.

And how does Dawna like her new EV? Very well, indeed. As Clif and I noticed, the Kona is smooth and quiet and has great pick-up. Even on a cold Maine January day, Dawna can take the Kona to Portland, about a 120-mile-round trip, and still have 50 miles left on her battery. The Kona’s seats are heated, and Dawna and her husband, Jim, take advantage of this, which means they don’t have to use the car’s heater as much.

While most EVs come with a charging cord that can be plugged into a standard receptacle, charging this way is slow, and Jim has installed a charger that does the job much more quickly.

Southern Maine has a number of places to charge an EV,  but as you head north, their numbers dwindle. Dawna has decided to become an advocate for EVs, and she is writing a letter to encourage Governor Mills to support the installation of more charging stations.

Go, Dawna, go! And kudos to you for taking the leap into our electric future. I hope that someday soon Clif and I can follow your example, and I also hope many others will, too.