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It’s been a hard month… a few months. I have been working on almost nonstop. I worry about the families with kids — what will they do come September? The choice of sending your children to school (and thus risking COVID exposure not only to the kids but to the whole families) and keeping them home (at the risk of jobs and emotional stability) is stark. I’ve proposed a few solutions, you can find them here. I hope this will help some families. I will continue to post more curriculum (but perhaps not at the breakneck rate I’ve done in the past months). I will also share some ideas and their implementations for families who will make the decision to rethink how they want to approach educating their kids. Everything is on the table now — at times of crisis and chaos, the most change is possible.

I have put all writing and editing on hold for the moment but will get back to it this month. I will release my AI novella and start to push my next novel towards the finishing line. Given how everything, including the publishing industry, is in flux, I think I will stick with indie publishing this story for now. I have tons of ideas for new ones, there’s always the next one to try to do something different. I’ve decided not to stress over it.

In the meantime, I’ve lost an uncle, my aunt got diagnosed with COVID, I’m losing a dear friend to cancer while watching another struggle through chemo… It made me think about memories. We had a Zoom wake for my uncle (a strange experience, all be told). Everyone told stories of how he influenced or affected their lives in some way. I was trying to think of what was my strongest memory of this man that I knew all my life. And I realized that it was one particular moment, just one, but very vivid. He was a geologist and he gave me a green calcite and a piece of amber shaped like a drop. I’ve never seen rocks as cool as these, it was like holding pure science in my hand. I don’t have the calcite anymore, but I still know exactly where that piece of amber is and I can put my fingers around it in seconds. Of all the moments, in all the decades of knowing this man, it was that one early childhood exchange that burns bright.

It struck me as very strange. How can just one memory define the entire lifetime of knowing someone? Is that common? So I tried to think of other people whom I knew my entire life and realized that I have one defining memory for them, too! For my aunt who was just diagnosed with COVID, I have a memory from when I was five — I know precisely because my sister was just an infant. It was the summer we came to visit her and her family. My finger got stuck in the key of her wardrobe. It was a brass key with a small hole in it. I have no idea why I put my finger into it, but I did. And when I couldn’t get it out, I was terrified. And that is my strongest memory of that aunt. For her husband (who died many years ago), my memory is him serving food on the occasion of my meeting my husband. If I had to bring that uncle up in my mind’s eye, that’s what I see. I was older then, so these memories were not just childhood bound. For my other aunt (who had passed some years ago), I remember a conversation about birth control — apparently sitting on a toilet after sex is a preventative measure. It was a silly advice but given in kindness and warmth. For my grandfather, my most vivid memory is him taking care of my skinned knee when I was six. I was bleeding a lot…he made it better. For my other grandfather, it’s the bouncing on his great big stomach as he held me by my armpits…I must have been just a baby then, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Perhaps this is unusual — I don’t really know — but I seem to have a defining memory for everyone. One memory that floats to the top when I think about that person, the one that blankets thousands of other moments and gives them warmth and comfort (or pain). These memories are like well-worn paths — the mind simply turns down the familiar road. There may be thousands of other snippets of memories, but they don’t lie on the easy to reach roads. I have to work to get to those. I can still go there, but it takes effort. I don’t know if we choose which memories lie at the end of well-worn paths and which don’t. Perhaps if we did, we wouldn’t need therapy as much. If we can choose to remember the positive, choose to walk only on the roads that lead to happy recollections, we would all be very well adjusted individuals. But I didn’t consciously choose how to map my memories, how to make some accessible by a four-lane highway while hiding others at the end of the roads less-well traveled. This is actually a pretty good analogy for how memories work. Those memories that come up again and again will come to mind more frequently. It takes effort to extinguish a painful memory because we worry that path, walk it over and over again (changing it slightly every time). The more we remember something, the stronger we make the neural pathways that connect that memory.

And this brings me back to writing. One of the things about making up stories is developing memories in the readers. I’ve read books that have completely slipped my mind and I’ve read books that stayed with me. But those that stayed didn’t do so in their entirety. I seem to keep only snippets of memories that found a way to wriggle deep inside my psyche and make a well-worn path. I have an emotional memory of books, rather than a memory of their story content. I guess I can always look that up or reread the story. The memories that put up big signs on my mind map will give me keys to finding those books that are worth returning to. I hope I can do the same for some of my stories, for some of my readers. I hope I can make leave little signposts in their memories.

So happy reading. You can check out some of my book reviews on Goodreads — I try to review any book that’s worth giving at least 3 stars to. I’m also on another virtual book tour, this time for “Becoming Animals”. I had to make a visual blog for one of the stops. I’ve reposted it below.

Stay healthy! Keep reading — it’s a way of squeezing many lives into our one given.

Becoming Animals Comic Strip