"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Yay! New Job!

I got the good news a few months back. A job offer! After 8 months unemployed and nearly 200 applications sent, my odd-shaped puzzle piece finally fit. I accepted immediately.

My job coach congratulated me after the arduous journey. Arduous journey is right! I have no special advice or insights. I was feeling more and more worn down with every application and rejection. It was getting harder to get up the enthusiasm to continue the search—even with the sword of financial destitution coming down.

At some times it was only the fact that Unemployment required at least 3 job related activities per week that kept me going on that week. 

The system is not set up for older workers using transferable skills to secure a position different from ones they’ve held in the past. How could I present myself for a Financial Assistant position because I know QuickBooks (as discussed with L****—she said she had listings needing QB)? Even my narrative resume crafted for administrative skills couldn’t hide the job history I’ve had in between now and the Executive Assistant-titled position (Office Manager/Admin Assistant) I had 20 years ago where I actually used QuickBooks?

Office space

The “perfect” resume needs to pass the computer programs, have all the buzzwords, to get to the HR people. I have no idea why any of the applications I filled were overlooked when I had ALL of the qualifications matched. There is no feedback, no human to talk to. If there were a National Employment Guru running the system I would mention all these points in a discussion. I’m sure I was passed over for age but can’t prove it. How many others were “more qualified” when the job description mentioned only a high school diploma and on-the-job training? Overqualified you say (or not)?  I need a job. If I made it to the interview stage, these questions amused me greatly:

“Why do you want to work at XYZ Corp.?” — I need a job. I’ll work almost anywhere.

“What attracted you to this position?” — I need a job and thought I fit the qualifications.

“You have so much experience. Are you sure you’ll be comfortable in this position?” — I need a job. I’ll be comfortable hanging upside down if need be.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  — Still working because I was unemployed so long that my savings were depleted.

“What do you want from your work life?” — I need a job. A regular paycheck and health insurance make a whole lot of “quality of life.”

So now I’ve been at the job some 4 months. Woo hoo!!!


Meaningful work leading to important public health achievements!!

Health insurance!!!

In this COVID-afflicted world I work 3 days per week at the office and 2 days from home. All of the team stagger their schedules like this; when I am onsite and the rest of the team is there (which is rare) it is delightful to see and interact with other people. We are required to wear masks, but that is something I do anyhow when I’m out.

I’m still somewhat smarting from my job search. It bit off a chunk of my soul and spit it out. Each bite said I was unemployable, not valued, off my rocker. Each rejection notice — when I received one instead of never being notified — carved another slice off my fragile ego. When I received the call from HR saying they wanted to offer me the position I was in a fog, waking up from a nap, not hardly believing the words I heard over the phone. A job!

So now, ensconced behind my laptop screen and two wide monitors on my desk at work or the laptop screen and single old monitor at my crowded home desk, I have a place to go, a job to do, people who need me, and purpose. I see my contribution to the big picture; they created this position anew and I was the person who fit it!

I have a job, no, a career… and a growing bank account that allows me to pay my bills! I’m far from getting rich, but at least I’m not going negative like I was before. I’m continuing to live frugally because that has been my way of life for so long. There’s not much materially that I need. I would like a vacation, though, a chance to travel. Hopefully I’ll have enough for retirement some day, something I can’t afford to do now.

After all, I just want self-sufficiency, to be a contributor and not a taker. I’m the oldest person on my team and I take direction from people who are younger than my children sometimes. It doesn’t matter… because I am grinning ear to ear, just happy to be there. Whatever the future holds for me, I’m ready for the challenge one day at a time, driving my computer keyboard wherever I am!


Such a simple thing, sewing a button back on the item it fell off of. Simple, if you can find the button again. I know I saved it, set it aside. The question is, where did I put it?

It’s not distinctive but it’s large. It secured the epaulet of my raincoat. A raised-rimmed edge, a nondescript, faux tortoiseshell grayish-brownish body, with four holes. I set it aside one day hoping to sew it on in good time. Then time passed.

I looked in the most likely spots: near my sewing machine, in the jewelry box, and even on the end table in the living room. It could be hiding anywhere. A niggling memory taunts me, a tactile sensation of my fingers tracing the rigid rim, looking for some identification. Though I had saved it and put it aside, I couldn’t remember where the button came from–but it was important to save it for when I would remember.

So I go out in my London Fog with epaulet flapping, visible in my periphery. A semaphore signalling that things get lost in my existence, things are not perfect and sometimes stay awry. It bothers me when I think about it. I want things orderly, in neat compartments. But alas, the lost/found button compartment isn’t where it should be, where it could be, once I sort through the clutter.

In the end sometimes existence teeters on the apex of clutter, misplaced items, and broken thread. If I could find the button again, would I make time to sew it on? Would I search for the strong, thick button thread or do a fast job with what’s on hand? Or, would I push it off another day because it’s not raining today and I’m not wearing that raincoat with its semaphore epaulet flagging its not-so-secret message that I’m so lame I can’t even sew on a button?

What’s the dialogue that I’ll play in my head? Lamebrain? Procrastinator? Dummy? Why is that thought even there? What is going on? The button fell off. End of story. Yeah, I’d like it to be otherwise, but it’s not the end of the world. A floppy epaulet isn’t making me any colder and it’s not allowing more rain on my body than otherwise. So it flaps and flops and reminds me that the button is hiding somewhere in my home. At least I had the presence of mind to retrieve it and put it aside… even though I can’t find it. This time. When I remembered to look. When I had the thick button thread at the ready.

It’s simply a neutral fact that a button fell off, I put it aside but didn’t replace it yet. A button is a button is a button. Fact, not value statement.

It’ll keep.

Vaxxed Nation

It’s nearly a year since I’ve written and I’m still in the same space, but Biden is President and COVID-19 still rages. Sort of the same space. Reluctant to write, feeling like each day is the same, I’ve been minding my own business. Despite the delta variant running wild in the country, my health department job was deemed to be redundant; I’ve been unemployed for 4 months, and am pounding the proverbial pavements again. There’s a void in my life though I spend inordinate amounts of time on the computer. Job searching isn’t as much fun as writing. So, it’s time to blog again. Well, here goes.

Catching up

COVID-19 vaccines are safe
Link to study: bit.ly/MMWR7043e2

With COVID-19 raging as of my last post, my head was filled with nothing but information on healthcare, health statistics, and medical opinions. That was hard — and unconscionable — to avoid as I worked for the health department as a COVID-19 Contact Tracer, conducting phone interviews with people who had tested positive for COVID-19, asking about their activities, symptoms, and people they had contact with. Outbreaks required additional effort as our team joined the work of the special group tasked with curbing further spread. However emotionally draining, I reveled in being a part of the “essential” workforce.

At the time of the 2020 election (my last post), there was talk of a vaccine becoming available, but the timeline was fuzzy. Around that time I moved to the Data Entry Team. From direct contact with patients, now I saw the side of the operation that generated the “leads” for the Contact Tracers. Daily the numbers rose ever higher. I entered data continuously, seeing the impossible numbers of lab reports come into the system, knowing that they all could not be processed in a timely manner for the lack of personnel.

I merited to receive a vaccination earlier than most, in January, by virtue of being a health department employee. Though I worked from home and had few forays outside and little contact with others, the vaccination gave me peace of mind and opened a mental door that I thought was locked tight. I could go out again, if needed, and be protected. Some small protection knowing the numbers of infected people were rising daily.

"The Researcher...." © Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee, 28 September 2021.
“The Researcher….” © Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee, 28 Sept 2021

After promotion to the Data Entry Team Coordinator, I had a larger view of the actual numbers and how the health departments were using the statistics. Weekly meetings painted a grim picture. Through the spring numbers continued to increase despite the burgeoning of immunization clinics. A miasma of misinformation about the virus and vaccines stunk up the country. The antivaxxers cast doubt on the scientific process, misdirected innocent, questioning people away from being vaccinated. (Some think they use cult tactics to attract followers on social media.) Social media burst with horror stories and disruptive hype. Happily, however, people began to take the vaccines in the many convenient venues set up around the country.

A lull ensued in the beginning of summer as we observed the number of infections drop. By that time the data team had processed nearly 40,000 COVID-19 laboratory test records for 2020 in our county alone. With the number of vaccinated people increasing, everyone expected the number of infections to dwindle away. Indeed, that was the case through June 2021 and my vital but temporary job ended. Little did they know, the delta variant would send numbers rocketing up again.

But the budget had been spent and I was out of a job. So here I am in October 2021 job hunting and following the COVID-19 news nearly as avidly as before.

What’s Happening Now

I received a booster shot earlier this month. As people decide whether or not to obtain boosters, there are still a significant number of people who are not yet vaccinated and an alarming number who continue to spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines. What a tragedy!

I know individuals who have been fully vaccinated and still became ill with COVID-19 “breakthrough infections.” Indeed, two immunized people previously had COVID-19 last year before the vaccines became available, presumably conferring some kind of immunity as well!! All had contact with young children who, because of their ages, could not be vaccinated. Fortunately the illnesses were not severe for all and did not require hospitalizations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated. I concur. It is for these reasons I continue to promote vaccinations and boosters. I also continue to recommend mask wearing, and observance of social distancing, especially for older people and those with other health issues. These activities are not ideal, but protection of vulnerable populations is an ethical imperative and civic duty.

So, wish me luck in my job search!

Schroedinger’s President

I have not listened to the news yet. It’s November 4th, the day after the US elections and I still do not know whether Trump or Biden is the projected winner of the election, this hotly controversial election, this disgrace of an election.  I don’t know even if there is a projected winner because all of the mailed-in ballots have not yet been counted.

My unwillingness to hear the news reminds me of the Schroedinger’s Cat thought experiment.

Schroedinger's Cat poster

“Schroedinger’s Cat Poster”, © Jay Gannett, CC BY-SA 2.0

Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist, posited this in 1935:

[A] cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor (e.g. Geiger counter) detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison, which kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality resolves into one possibility or the other.(1)

Thus, in my current state of mind, both Trump and Biden have been elected. Once I hear the news, it will resolve into one possibility or the other. OR WILL IT?

Cringeworthy electioneering dominated the news: name-calling, lies, posturing, COVID-19 superspreader events, vitriol, and fearmongering. Between the virus and the elections, I avoided news, sought escape watching comedy recordings, woodturning videos, and snippets of House episodes on YouTube. I mailed my ballot and received email confirmation that it was received. DONE! I’ve been subjected to the circus for overlong, having made my decision well before the last moment. I’ve had it. Even the Baltimore mayoral race doesn’t excite me—it’s a foregone conclusion the Democratic candidate will win.

I don’t have a TV, and only read the funnies and do the crossword puzzle in the free Sunday newspaper that lands on my doorstep every week. I mostly get my news from NPR radio and internet, but I have to choose to listen and choose to view a particular news site. Remember choice? Six second political ads bookended my YouTube viewing choices. I succumbed to watching Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers’s monologues. Although heavily anti-Trump, lampooning Biden only a fifth as much as the president, they were compelling, like rubbernecking at an auto accident or picking a scab.

Even when I finally hear the news, barring a landslide victory for one or the other candidate, the election results will be in a state of flux until the final votes are counted, contested, and vetted by the Court. Accusations of mail fraud, disputes over postmarks, lawsuits and voter roll examinations loom ahead. Thus, Schroedinger’s President.

When will the election be decided? Who knows? I shrug my shoulders and reach for my mug. This is all beyond me. Just as COVID-19 will dominate my life and thoughts night and day for the next while, this reality of this election will linger. No clear resolution presents itself. A supernatural superimposed Trump-Biden presidential state exists as long as I don’t look, as long as the results are contested, as long as the Electoral College has not cast their votes and selected the victor. But this is unprecedented; even after that point, the election could still be contested.

It could go on and on and on. Is ignorance bliss?

I’d better gird myself with a big cup of coffee before I clock in to work. Maybe later I’ll crack open that bottle of wine I’ve had for nearly 5 years after work. I think I’ll need it.


1. Source: Wikipedia, Schrödinger’s Cat, Retrieved 4 November 2020.

COVID-19 Days

This isn’t what I wanted to write, but I wanted to say something. I needed to say something. It’s just… this virus thing is… so… H-U-G-E, affecting everything. From personal life and intimacy to international politics and economics, our lives have been turned upside down. Honestly, my life hasn’t changed that much — I had been staying in mostly and didn’t socialize much — but in another way, it changed one thousand percent.I feel small, wary, and on guard.

Since March 2020, I can’t relax. I’m of a certain age and have some medical conditions that make COVID-19 more of a health risk for me than others. I’m also caring for an elderly parent and need to stay healthy to attend to her needs. In the beginning I would not go out at all. I listened to the news all day. I commiserated with my friends and family. I was consumed by COVID-19.

Toilet paper aisle at Target, March 15, 2020. © JustHavingFun

Toilet paper aisle at Target, March 15, 2020. ©JustHavingFun

And I was consumed by obtaining toilet paper for my mother when none was in the stores.

Gradually I allowed myself to go shopping every two weeks or so. It was a necessity; there weren’t enough healthy shoppers to fill the demand and the online reservations filled instantly. Shopping, a reluctant routine now, substitutes for social outings I’m missing. Hand sanitizer attached to my key lanyard, masks in car and shopping list in hand, I zip through the store. I try not to be the “mask police” but sometimes it’s necessary. I can’t avoid telling people wearing masks below their noses to pull them up, over the nose, explaining, “I’m a Covid Tracer,” as if that will bulletproof me from their surprise, compliance, anger, or whatever attitude they want to turn my way. 

Here it is October already and I’m still consumed with the virus. So yeah, COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, dominates my day. I work as a Contact Tracer for the Health Department. My job entails talking to people who have tested positive for the virus. I instruct them how to isolate properly and how long to stay isolated in order to protect their families and members of the public from their contagiousness. I interview them about places they’ve been and people they may have been in contact with in the period before they learned they were infected. I answer questions they may have about the virus, why they must stay isolated for 10 days, and how to enter back into public life. Some are really sick, others don’t feel any different than normal. Some are grateful and thank me, fewer are defensive and avoid follow up calls. I’ve encountered all types of people, all precious souls who deserve dignity and respect.

What I say to everyone all comes down to 3 basic instructions: wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance.

How to Protect Yourself & Others: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, Watch your distance. CDC.gov

How to Protect Yourself & Others: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, Watch your distance.  Image: cdc.gov/coronavirus

I talk warmly to my cases, congratulate them for taking steps to quarantine themselves before they had official results when that’s the case. I help them figure out how to keep their kids safer and send them links to CDC articles outlining all sorts of information. I tell them their smell and taste may be slower to come back after they recover from other symptoms. I tell them to have chicken soup, advice from me, the Jewish mother, and not me, the representative from the Health Department. I warn them to stay vigilant, that a person can become infected a second time, supported by a genetic study reported in The Lancet on October 12, 2020. I tell them if they feel worse to call 911, not to scare them, but to inform them.

When I get off the phone with my clients, I give them blessings. “I hope you feel better and recover soon,” and “I hope your family remains healthy.” They absorb my words and shine them back at me. I close my eyes, speak sincerely, and send these messages with love and hope.

Masked Me

Masked Me, August 2020. ©JustHavingFun

I’m grateful I can do my bit in the universe to prevent others from becoming infected. I hope my efforts have some positive effect. But oh, I suffer hearing how many are infected, how the virus is spreading, and worst, how many have died. Politics interfered with halting the spread of the virus in the United States. It shouldn’t have. Science must prevail if there is to be a level-headed way to manage this public health crisis. It’s going to be a while until an effective, safe vaccine can be developed… and distributed. The newest crisis of our generation, like Kennedy’s assassination, the Viet Nam War, or where you were on 9/11, this will be something to tell my grandchildren about: what I did during the COVID-10 pandemic.

Until then, I’ll be wearing my mask, keeping up with developments, and trying not to be consumed. My fear has abated — perhaps due to familiarity and having a routine — but I’m still staying home, choosing the bubble, eschewing seeing my friends and family in person, and staying small.

Diamonds are small, too.  

Buckeye Season

It’s Buckeye Season, that time from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to the time when all of the leaves have crinkled off the trees and lay pulverized under feet and in the streets. Buckeyes on the trees and underfoot peek slyly out of their husks, begging to be gathered. And so we did gather them, and the gathering became our annual ritual.

Ohio Buckeyes

“Ohio Buckeyes,” © J. Stephen Conn, CC BY-NC 2.0

The congregation I attended was housed in the Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh, an edifice built in the 1950s, resembling an L-shaped, two-story junior high school. Classrooms bordered the exterior of each hallway, four long hallways. Only the first floor front hall, parallel to Forbes Avenue, was off limits because that one ran along the length of the auditorium where the prayer services were being held. My friends and I were inattentive at times to the lengthy prayer services that started around 8:30 a.m. and ended short of noon on a regular Shabbos, and even as late as 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. on the holidays themselves. The moment the officiant paused for “the speech,” kids fled the room. We knew some “cranky old man” would come out and shush us if we got too wild, so we fled outdoors or scattered to the other three hallways.

Buckeyes Ready to Fall, shown in their splitting husks, on the tree

“Buckeyes Ready to Fall,” © Sean Benham, CC BY-ND 2.0

Across Forbes Avenue, and a bit past the corner, a large buckeye tree towered over the curb. Buckeyes are also known as horse chestnuts and are the state tree of Ohio. In September, timed perfectly for the holidays, the buckeyes ripened in their husks and dropped to the ground. The spiky husks could be manipulated with the sides or toes of our shiny holiday shoes to free the captive nuts. My fingers remember the prickles of the sharp pods I couldn’t avoid touching. In the mid-1960s our dresses were still relatively long, knee-length at least. That was enough fabric to fill with a good collection of shiny and slightly sticky buckeyes. Our skirts billowed with a mahogany, nut-brown, and coffee-colored fortune.

Buckeyes entertained us in myriad ways. Buckeye games could be played outdoors.”(1) Flicked like marbles, tossed at targets, and used to provoke other kids, buckeyes were all purpose fun. Once back in the building, the second floor above the forbidden hallway became a dark bowling alley. Those scavenged treasures caromed off the walls and skittered down the terrazzo floors. They rolled on the bathroom tiles. They were launched as missiles and stuffed down the unwary child’s shirt collar. My BFF even ventured into the sanctuary and lined them up on the edge of the platform where the adults led the services! I suppose she felt daring because her father was the President, so in her mind she could not possibly get in trouble.

But kids age and after a few years we no longer rolled buckeyes in the hallways and pelted our adversaries. We were too “mature” for those childish pursuits and we girls found better ways to avoid “the speech”… like flirting with boys. I still visited the buckeye tree, however, and always pocketed a few.

Even as a young adult, I visited the buckeye tree in the fall and selected a few beauties. They warmed in my palm and slid together in a satisfying way. They reminded me of those happy childhood activities, but I stayed in the prayer services, even through the dreaded “speech.” On Rosh Hashanah it is customary to symbolically cast off our sins by going to a body of water, reciting some verses, and sprinkling a few bread morsels into the water in the tashlich ritual. In those years, we collected our buckeyes and rolled them down the steep hill of Darlington Road in a tashlich-style ceremony. Gales of laughter and the sensation of our hearts lifting in frivolity followed the buckeyes down the asphalt. Their abandonment released our mirth and enhanced the holiday season.

Beautiful towering flowers in the spring yield shiny buckeyes in the fall. “Aesculus hippocastanum (Horse-chestnut),” © Plant Image Library, CC BY-SA 2.0

Another year I collected enough buckeyes to make long strings to decorate my home’s sukkah, the temporary outdoor dwelling we use for the eight-day Sukkos/Sukkot festival. Many people decorate their sukkas with fruit, gourds, and beautiful pictures. I took my drill and created an assembly line. Drill, string, push them down the cord, drill more. My sukkah boasted those happy strands of buckeyes for many years.

Even after I moved away from Pittsburgh to areas lacking buckeye trees, my friend remembered me during buckeye season. She mailed me a buckeye care package! I kept a few on my desk for a few years. In a burst of creativity last year, I used them in an art project celebrating nature which I donated to a charity auction. I hope the bidder was amazed and entertained by them as much as I was.

Buckeye season is a state of mind requiring only some buckeyes, or even photos of buckeyes, to evoke the pleasantness. These nuts are poisonous to humans so don’t eat them! But oh! they’ve nourished my soul for years. My BFF and I still play buckeye games and talk buckeye talk. Fifty years have passed since we filled our skirts with the brown treasures. That old tree is gone, but when I go back to Pittsburgh, I know the location of another one to visit. Today we laugh together about rolling buckeyes during prayer services, and it keeps us young and silly. I’m looking forward to celebrating buckeye season for a long time. We’re never too old for fun!


1. Buckeyes in the UK have been used for the game of conkers. “Roald Dahl was a big conker fan.” https://www.projectbritain.com/conkers.html, accessed October 1, 2020.

Wool Is Not Stone

Texture, a study in contrasts. © JustHavingFun

Texture, a study in contrasts. © JustHavingFun

Wool Is Not Stone

     This rose quartz begs a different touch: 
my thumb seeks a groove, a hollow,
some concavity to plumb its depths despite silent
polished, gleaming, silken surface.
My tracery leaves no mark -
a light smudge? - or not.
Immutable, cold and solid, comforting in its way. Crystal
veins river through its depth, color shifts hint
frozen thoughts, weighty philosophy within.
It whispers, and I caress its secrets.

This wool beckons my hand: Kinky and rough, gnarled, fuzzy, and chaotic I long to run my fingers along the fibers entwine my empty spaces with its strands. Craving to create - but what? What transcendence, what fabric, longs to emerge from its lengths of possibility? So unlike marble - whose immutable form hides from all but the sculptor’s senses deep within silent, impassive mineral - yarn's form yields all to the creator, slatternly, casually, and available for any pattern, any configuration of loops and tangles and dreams Knit into fashion or fancy... or raveled and reworked another time as the need or error or whim allows... Cast on and bind off, and then, the magic! Knit and crochet chains and lace, braids and cables, ribs, entrelac, eyelet and i-cord. Single, half-double, double and treble, stockinette, picots and panels, charming incantations that read like runes, the oh-so-many improbable configurations to tickle a topologist, perplex a puzzler, and mystify cats into playful kittens. Just a glance stirs longing for more and more and more - oh! feel the fiber, hear it talk - no, clamor - for my touch!

Poetry © JustHavingFun. All rights reserved.


I’m smiling. I just got off the phone after speaking with my 86-year old mother. I speak to her daily, sometimes twice a day, about nothing. What is nothing? Nothing is the little things you talk about but don’t think about all the time: the weather, books we’d like to read, whose anniversary it is, additions to the shopping list, memories. Occasionally we discuss a bill to pay or someone who needs to be contacted, but apart from that, our conversations are pleasant, a touchstone of the day. They are satisfying.

Swallowtail Butterfly on Zinnia

Swallowtail Butterfly on Zinnia, © JustHavingFun

Zinnias took over my garden, blooming madly. Their bright red heads welcome butterflies and bumblebees, neighbors and delivery people. Even a hummingbird visited one day, tasting some nectar then flitting away faster than I could reach for my camera! Looking at their beauty and lushness is satisfying.

I love a good cup of coffee. Savoring the aroma in the steam evokes a symphony of pleasure. If I add milk, the white stream swirls into the deep brown elixir in a satisfying way. Coffee drinking is more satisfying when shared with friends; I associate coffee with sociability and relationships. Just thinking about enjoying a coffee out with a friend (after the pandemic) fills me with anticipation and satisfaction.

Satisfying Coffee Break, © JustHavingFun

Satisfying Coffee Break, © JustHavingFun

Where does satisfaction come from? This quote impressed me enough to write it down when I first heard it a few years ago:

“Career satisfaction doesn’t come from what you do. It comes from who you get to be while you’re doing it. And the beauty is, who you get to be is the real you.”

—Laura Berman Fortgang (1)

For so long I thought about satisfaction largely in material terms. My identity depended upon where I went to school, what degrees I earned, my job, my salary, what I purchased, how I provided for my family, my financial security. Status, prestige, and esteem follow from those measurable markers of achievement in my hyper-commercial society. But my career was unexpectedly derailed, I don’t have much materially compared to the expectations of my society, and my finances seem shaky — none of which deprive me from experiencing satisfaction.

I believe all satisfaction, not just in one’s career, comes from being the real you. Finding who the real you is can take quite some time, perhaps occurring from a sea change in situations like a global pandemic, a spiritual revelation, or simply from maturity. Satisfaction comes from the sensual joys of hearing a loved one’s voice, observing color, scents, and nature, and enjoying a full range of feelings.

How can I compute humor? What yardstick measures delight? Two videos of babies continually delight me. In one, talking twin babies babble at each other. Perhaps they tickle my funny bone because they remind me of my own baby twins. In the other, four babies share rounds of hugs. More twins (or quads?), more hugs all around. Who doesn’t laugh when babies laugh? Squee!

True satisfaction lies in relationships and experiences. These intangibles — compassion, authenticity, optimism, loyalty, sensitivity, awareness — provide lasting value and cannot be stripped or lost. I get to be the real me when I stop to savor a conversation, gaze on my garden, waft the scent of coffee toward my waiting nostrils, or reminisce about when my children were young. When I remember this, I am being my real self, and in that, I have the greatest satisfaction.

1. “Find your dream job without ever looking at your resume.” TEDxBocaRaton, Published on May 7, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfNX1cHk-fE, Retrieved November 5, 2018.


It’s been 11 months since my last post. That’s enough silence, enough thoughts and words sent out to universe and not voiced.

I’ve had nothing to say, not even on my blog. In March 2020, when we went into lockdown, COVID-19 abruptly muted my voice, tucked me into my apartment, removed the spice from my palate. I’m voluntarily sequestered, safe among my weary possessions, washing hands and sanitizing doorknobs. My clutter has clutter; cobwebs shroud my thoughts.

COVID Syndrome: long bouts confined to home overcast with isolation and withdrawal. I avoid the news. I followed it like everyone else when lockdown first started mid-March. I shed tears over the daily death reports. Today’s reporting, ever increasing rates of infection and misinformation, cause my spirit to plummet. Too many souls departed this earth. So tragic, such a loss. Pain is anesthesia if allowed in.

I don’t go out. Hardly at all. I have health considerations and care for an elderly parent. Community volunteers, “angels”, shopped for me at first. I ordered in groceries and stocked up on staples. Now, in July, I go the kosher market about every 2 to 3 weeks. Nowhere else to go other than dropping off Mom’s groceries, my car sits idle for days at a time. Taking out the trash became an exciting activity.

“Happiness… is the right career” brochure, 1966.
Archives of Ontario, CC BY-NC 2.0

Long-term unemployment prepared me well for this new status. For over two years I’ve sat in front of my computer scanning job openings, sending out applications, waiting for incoming email to affirm I am wanted, desirable, and skilled enough — though I know my worth. Unemployment benefits ran dry a long time ago. Some COVID relief benefits elude me because I did not lose a job because of the pandemic. Fewer companies have openings during the lockdown. Still, I practice a tedious routine: tweak the resume, craft a cover letter, send the application, brainstorm with my job counselor. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Savings nearly depleted and no spare money to spend, I pinch pennies assiduously. Some charities provided gift cards. It feels bad to be so needy. The economy will not flourish from my paltry purchases alone.

Depression, my longstanding companion, clouds my vision, saps my strength. The toxic-to-me heat that my body cannot tolerate poisons any desire to step outside. Exercise? Not a priority though it might help. I’m complacent to drift. It’s a crummy attitude, but I’m being honest, and that’s inherent to the Syndrome. Otherwise, I don’t want to set foot outside; it’s too darned hot.

I’ve already slept through a Wednesday, seeing 6:30 on my clock and thinking, “Aw rats, up early again,” before going to the bathroom and returning to bed not realizing it was 6:30 p.m. not 6:30 a.m.! The days melt into each other. Thank G-d for Shabbos, the anchor of my week!

My data use soars. Yay internet! One bright spot: Zoom classes light my days. I’ve learned so much! Ravelry, the online knitting community, provides me with hours of creative imagery. Elsewhere politics, not science, muddies discussions and public opinion flares with condemnation, sarcasm, and impatience. Trained in public health, I share scientific information, writing opinions countering the falsehoods. Otherwise intelligent people spout such nonsense and conspiracies that I wonder if I’m living in a different universe. People believe what they want to see.

Window Cats

Window Cats. COVID creations. © JustHavingFun

Strangely, I’m somewhat content.

“I’m the happiest depressed person I know,” I quip. It’s true. I have faith that we will get through this dreadful time, bruised but stronger. I’ve witnessed incredible acts of kindness in my community and in the world. I witness the hand of G-d in stories of recovery, marriages and births, selfless acts, and scientific discoveries. I can still laugh, say a kind word, and help a friend.

Everyone knows someone who perished or sickened. Everyone hopes and prays for release. We’re sensitized to the suffering of others in a personal way. COVID-19 brought us together out of the confines of our communities and around the world. “Together apart” is more than a motto.

I know effective treatments will be forthcoming soon, the economy will recover, and factionalism reigns whatever political party prevails. Public discord will espouse new causes. This experience is a milestone in history like none before. Global in its extent, coronavirus brought us together as a world community, erasing some borders and emphasizing our mutual humanity. At least, I hope so.

I know that I will get a job.

Living through the pandemic carves character. Living after the pandemic depends upon what we’ve absorbed about our roles in the world. Living in my own skin requires I nurture that spark of Good bequeathed to my soul.

Tenets to live by: Gratitude. Hope. Kindness. Appreciation. Respect. Health. Prayer. Breathe in the Good.

My voice may have been muted, eyes clouded, and thoughts clogged with cobwebs, but it’s transitory. I have hope for the future and faith in G-d. I will emerge from my apartment eventually, more contemplative and patient.

I will survive COVID Syndrome. I have something to say.


We walk daily surrounded by miracles but rarely think of them. Our bodies are finely tuned machines. We think, breathe, walk, and absorb nutrients without considering the processes occurring. Nature, we say. It isn’t until something fails that we think about the loss of function, the miracle that the function even exists. When our backs go out, we suffer and moan the loss of movement. When diagnosed with a dread disease, there’s even more suffering and moaning, prayers and promises abound. For me, even a minor paper cut can be annoying and make me hyper-aware of my fingertips that I otherwise would have happily ignored. Likewise, about 30 years ago I had a knee injury and couldn’t walk for several months. Now I can walk, sciatica notwithstanding, and every step is a joy… when I think about it. I should be dancing, and in awe, of my recovery and ability to walk every day, but my attitude toward that blessing has become mundane, sadly.

Hashem provides us with gifts all the time. We just need to open our eyes to them. The following testifies how Hashem saved my life recently. Miracles were performed for me, and a gift lay at the end: my life… and great air conditioning. Here’s the story:

My bus would be leaving at 7:15 a.m. It was 7 o’clock and I was still on the highway, 15 minutes away. I’m a bit anxious; I’ve done this before — arriving too close for comfort — and made it on time, but I hate this mad rush. It’s really not me.

Metrocard in Wallet, Chris Goldberg

Metrocard in Wallet – NYC by Chris Goldberg, CC-BY-NC 2.0

It was time for my annual trip to New York City for the pleasure of visiting my sons and coincidentally renewing ny NYC “street cred.” I was on the way to the Megabus pick up site outside of Baltimore, near IKEA. New York via Megabus is only about 3½ hours and you can catch a $5 fare at times. I purchased the tickets weeks before, consulting with my sons on the date: a Monday or Wednesday were my choices. I remembered after purchasing the fare that I should have picked Wednesday so I could arrange to see a matinée, something I’d not done when I lived in the City. But Monday it was. One son, however, started a new job suddenly and was at training in Ohio. The other son would not be able to leave work early and could only meet me for dinner. Rats. Arriving in NYC at 10:35 a.m. and nothing planned. Fortunately there are plenty of coffee shops in Manhattan. Starbucks would renew my NYC street cred and give me the much needed caffeine boost I would need having woken up so early to catch the 7:15 bus.

Drive Cane Seat, image © Medical Depot, Inc.

Drive Cane Seat, © Medical Depot, Inc.

I left home a scant few minutes later than I would have liked. Packing list: a full water bottle, dry cereal & raisins to eat on the bus, phone charger & cord. Even so, I turned back because I had left my Cane Seat at home. I retrieved it only having lost 5 minutes. Still, that timing was too tight. (I ultimately left my Metrocard in my desk despite having reminded myself to take it along several times in the days leading up to the trip.)

I drove due east on the Beltway, zooming at about 70 miles per hour, in pace with the other traffic (but still was being passed by other cars whizzing by. Hmph. Baltimore drivers.). One particular black pickup truck behind me repeatedly overcame my car and fell back, and ironically, I ended up behind him at a choke point. Typical. Suddenly, a sea of red tail lights swim before me as I round a curve and face the rising sun’s mighty glare. I stomped on the brakes, the car slowed, but it felt like it took forever. My foot went near the floor meeting some resistance, and I remember thinking, “Don’t pump ABS brakes.” Traffic resumed and I took my exit about 5 miles after that.

The exit ramp led to a 4-lane highway. About a half mile after the exit was a traffic light. I could see it must have just turned green since cars were still stopped in two lanes at the intersection and cars in the the two left-turn lanes were turning. Since I was still traveling only a little slower than Beltway speeds, I started to brake. Heavens! There was no response; my foot went to the floor and the car sped along at about 50 miles per hour. Flash! I was concerned there would be a collision. My brain went into overdrive. Fortunately, there was an empty right-turn lane next to me. I think I downshifted to 3rd gear but I can’t really remember anything but laying on the horn and swinging around the corner like a racecar driver. That crossroad traveled uphill, slowing the car some. Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic at the top of the hill. I was able to make a left turn and another quick left into the parking lot of an apartment complex. Jamming the transmission into 1st gear, I pulled to a stop in a parking space.

Motor off, I sat stunned for a moment. I realized the miracles that had happened for me. Not once, not twice, but at least three times no collision occurred when there could have been one! A woman seated in her car witnessed my quick parking job. I shakily got out of the car to ask her where I was, needing an address for a tow truck. I was telling her what happened. She didn’t speak much English, but I understood the blessings she gave me in Spanish. She handed her driver license to me so I could read the address clearly. Shaking and thanking her, I went back to my car. It was 7:15. No Megabus.

The next part of the story isn’t as dramatic. I drank water and researched repair shop options in the area on my phone as my own mechanic’s shop was 15 miles away and not open. Few opened that early, but I found one that opened at 7:30 and called soon afterward. (It was a national chain and this branch had a good rating on Yelp.) Luckily they could fit me in for an estimate after a few jobs later that morning, and I was instructed to have the car towed there. When I arrived I was told there would be at least an hour’s wait, so I settled down, watched TV, noshed on my dry cereal, and chatted with an amiable 80-year old customer. I was also informed that the estimate would be free of charge, something I hadn’t even considered.

Freddie Ford's ignoble end, © JustHavingFun

Freddie Ford’s ignoble end, © JustHavingFun

My car was a 2003 Ford Focus with a 5-speed manual transmission, and I loved it. Fred. Freddie Ford I called it. I bought it used off Craigslist. It had 60,000 miles and was immaculate; I never regretted it for a moment. I put on only about 35,000 miles in 10 years, largely because I lived in Manhattan and didn’t drive much for nearly 5 years. I knew Fred was near the end of his useful lifetime but was hoping to put off purchasing a replacement for another year or so. Oh well.

My car was finally put on the rack, and after about a half hour, the mechanic emerged and gave me a worst-case estimate, redoing the brake lines, and assuming the master cylinder would need replacing. I went under the car myself, too, and saw the amount of corrosion and weak points in the brake lines. Sighed. I knew that at nearly 17 years old, Freddie wasn’t worth much more than $2,000 in good condition. The estimate came to nearly that amount. This did not surprise me, but I was hoping for a cheap fix. In this condition, the car was worth nearly nothing. Hmmm. Put money into an old car or look for a new one? Meanwhile, I phoned my trusted mechanic, agreed I could use a second opinion hoping he might be able to fix it for less, declined the service at the repair shop, and arranged to have Freddie towed there. (I sent a glowing thank you note to the repair shop the next day for the thoughtful treatment and thorough inspection they gave good old Freddie.) While I was waiting, I perused websites for used cars. I felt a replacement might be inevitable. My sister came to pick me up and I went home in a tizzy.

My mechanic called with the bad news. It wasn’t worth fixing Freddie. Not only were the brake lines shot but the thingamy was leaking, and the seals on the whatchamacallit were going. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the air conditioner hadn’t worked for 6 years and just last winter I needed to squeegee the inside of the front windshield on occasion. So I told him I’d like to check out the car I saw on his website the next day. Yep. I tried it out and bought it. No looking around. It was provided for me.

New Kia, © JustHavingFun

New Kia, © JustHavingFun

That’s how I ended up with my “new” 2016 Kia Rio, with a 6-speed manual transmission and super-duper air conditioning! Why was it value priced? Well, few people drive a stick, and worse yet, it has manual windows and door locks! How retro! It’s the same size as Freddie and fun to drive. I haven’t named it yet — I don’t think “Killer” is appropriate although it is alliterative — and I look forward to many more happy miles with it.

There are miracles.

I recognize that my life was saved on the road. Several times I could have had a serious collision. I had the skills to handle the car, but the blessing was that no other cars were close when I needed to manoeuver. Thanks to minor auto racing experience in my 20s, and having lost brakes once before, I had some idea of what to do. But that wasn’t enough. While I didn’t panic, I didn’t think to pull the hand brake. I may have been able to downshift sooner. Who knows? My health and life were handed to me on a silver platter and I acknowledge that gift. Hashem has said to me that I have more work to do on this world. It is not my time. I was spared.

I need to keep this gift of life foremost in my mind. Gratitude and praise fill me. I could be bitter, upset, or worried about the money, but that is not my nature. Hashem will provide what I need. 

I’m just glad to be here, just having fun…

… but I only told my mother that I had some brake problems and decided not to continue with the trip. Please don’t tell her the whole story. My gift to my elderly mother is peace of mind.

Please share this story where you can to publicize that Hashem is in charge and He performs miracles. Let me know your reactions in the comments.

Friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written. I took a little break to develop skills in polymer clay jewelry design, and it has been a fun experience! I’ll be posting some photos in my “Crafty Me” section sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I hope to get back to more regular contributions to the Just Having Fun blog. It’s not just about fun, it’s a way of life.

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