down the rabbit hole

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” ~ Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

 

Down

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Down

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Down —

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Oh, hello! Didn’t mean to be rude, but I only just noticed you. πŸ™‚

Happy September!

We’re finally back at ye ole’ blog, and I’ve missed you. Hope you’re safe and well. Before we have a little chin wag, see if this poem doesn’t describe how things have felt for you lately.

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Anthony Browne (Alice in Wonderland, 1988)

 

ON THE OTHER SIDE
by Lynn Ungar

Through the looking glass,
down the rabbit hole,
into the wardrobe and out
into the enchanted forest
where animals talk
and danger lurks and nothing
works quite the way it did before,
you have fallen into a new story.
It is possible that you
are much bigger — or smaller —
than you thought.
It is possible to drown
in the ocean of your own tears.
It is possible that mysterious friends
have armed you with magical weapons
you don’t yet understand,
but which you will need
to save your own life and the world.
Everything here is foreign.
Nothing quite makes sense.
That’s how it works.
Do not confuse the beginning
of the story with the end.

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It’s now been about six months since life as we knew it was suddenly upended. Crazy, scary, unbelievable times.

Up is down, down is up.

Do you feel like you’ve been in freefall too — spinning, confused, worried, frustrated, unable to focus?

Each day there’s a new challenge, yet another outrage, another reason to adjust and readjust as we try to navigate this neverending nightmare. Choppy waters, impossible mountains to climb, crawling through broken glass, drowning in a pool of tears, you name it.

 

Anthony Browne

 

As Ungar’s poem suggests, we now find ourselves stuck in the middle of a strange story we never chose to be a part of, one we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams. Talk about dystopia.

Because all bets are off, we’ve been forced to make things up as we go. We shop, eat, clean, communicate and connect differently. Companies have changed how they do business. Educators have had to ramp up their superpowers to refine remote learning. Families have set new parameters for work, play, and privacy as they strive for peaceful coexistence. Frontline workers of every stripe, from healthcare employees to delivery people to grocery store clerks, now routinely risk their lives.

We’re all mad here.

 

Charles Robinson (1907)

 

We don’t take much for granted anymore either, not healthcare, safety, financial security, mobility, dependable mail delivery, truth in reporting, or that anchor of steadiness, predictability.

I find anti-maskers sadly foreign with their defiant denial, business-as-usual selfish behavior, and sheer lack of respect or caring for other human beings. A simple act can help save lives. Shouldn’t that be a no brainer?Β  I keep wondering what happens when they get sick. Do they see a real doctor or call up the My Pillow guy?

Off with their heads!

New buzz words: Zoom, social distancing, quarantine, rapid results testing, contactless delivery, curbside pickup.

Pipe dreams: shaking hands, hugging, airline travel and vacations, anxiety-free restaurant dining, concerts and sporting events, a classroom full of happy, chattering, maskless kids.

Curiouser and curiouser.

 

Anthony Browne

 

More and more, we realize we have to be the heroes in our own stories. After all, it’s a time when finding yeast or toilet paper at the store is a small victory, when getting your hair cut is an act of bravery.

So how are you finding balance and staying sane? There is simply no right or wrong way to cope. We all do the best we can, armed with a personal cache of magical weapons.

For me it’s been all about following a simple daily routine, staying positive and expressing gratitude.

And there’s a lot to be thankful for, mainly, that I have the option and privilege of staying home. I know there are social animals out there who are struggling with self isolation, but I’ve never been one of them. As an introspective writer and homebody, I’ve had years of intense training — thriving in solitude, cultivating patience, living on hope.

 

Tea Party Clock by Jill Klenck/thewhiterabbitcom

 

I’ve come to appreciate the things I’ve always loved even more, and in this time of quiet “slow down,” I’ve read more books, listened to more music, watched more films, and discovered many inspiring, new-to-me artists. Immersing myself in the good and the beautiful has been the best antidote for anxiety, stress and uncertainty.

 

 

Of course my main fallback strategy is a jolly good British fix, as in:

β™₯️ Jenny Colgan books. I know I’m late to the game, but Colgan’s books (escapist, romantic, charming) are easy to love and just what the doctor ordered. I’m currently reading the Little Beach Bakery books, which are set in Cornwall with a foodie theme. Main character, Polly, has a pet puffin named Neil. Can you smell that fresh rosemary focaccia baking? πŸ™‚

β™₯️ Ricky Gervais. Whaaa??!! This one came as a big surprise. I knew him mainly from his ballsy, sometimes cringe worthy gigs hosting the Golden Globes. Irreverent humor that made the stars squirm in their seats. But then I watched several of his black comedy TV series: “Extras,” “Dexter,” and “After Life,” as well as his stand-up show, “Humanity.” Wowed by his chops as writer, actor, producer, and director. His dramatic scenes are very touching. Who knew? My excuse: living on the wrong side of the pond. His podcasts/YouTube lockdown chats are good too. The guy is just so real (interesting accent too).

β™₯️ Lady Colin Campbell. Though she’s written extensively about the royals, I have yet to read any of her books. But — I’ve been watching her YouTube channel, which is quite informative and entertaining. Currently, her son Misha co-hosts, passing on viewer questions. Lady C seems to relish dishing the dirt on Harry and Meghan (her latest book about them was just released in July). Her British accent and studied elocution are positively mesmerizing. Who knows for sure if what she says is true? The allure is that she keeps you guessing.

β™₯️ The English Game. Netflix historical sports drama 6-part miniseries developed by Julian Fellowes. Tall, hot British guys running around a soccer field in the 1870s (need I say more?) πŸ™‚ Did you know British football was originally played only by wealthy upper crust types? True story about what happened when an amateur team recruited two working class players, helping them win the FA Cup for the first time. This changed the game forever, as professional players were subsequently allowed to participate. Can’t say I’m a big soccer fan, but well, Julian Fellowes!Β  . . . and aforementioned hot British guys. πŸ™‚

β™₯️ Elton John’s Autobiography. Ever since seeing “Rocketman” last year, I was keen to learn more about Elton’s life. I’ve known bits and pieces here and there, but it was interesting having him describe all the mayhem and madness in his own words. Truly, it’s amazing he’s still alive and was able to survive his drug and alcohol addictions. Rock biographies/autobiographies are a longstanding guilty pleasure. Did you know Elton and Rod Stewart have pet names for each other (Phyllis and Sharon)?Β  Yeah, I live for this stuff. See also: “Elton John: Uncensored” on Prime Video.

β™₯️ Colin Firth Movies. I’m always surprised at how many Colin movies I’ve yet to see/have never heard of. He has quite an oeuvre! This summer I saw three of his oldies, “A Single Man,” “Genova/A Summer in Genoa,” and “The Mercy,” as well as his latest, “The Secret Garden” (more on that in my next post). Also watched “The King’s Speech” and “Bridget Jones” again. Someday I’ll sit down for “Valmont,” “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “Easy Virtue.” So many films, so little time . . .

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Hope and Happy Things

Perhaps you’re wondering what Mr Cornelius and his cohorts have been up to all this time.

Well, he’s been welcoming special friends (don’t worry, they were all pre-tested before entering the Alphabet Soup kitchen). πŸ™‚

 

We fed him some pizza since he’d forgotten to eat again.

 

We were absolutely thrilled when Dr. Fauci Bobblehead dropped by. Cornelius had “invited” him way back in April, and with his very busy schedule, it took the good doctor until July before he was able to squeeze us in.

Man, he was certainly worth waiting for. Briefed us on the latest in vaccine development, and assured us he would continue to do podcast interviews, etc., even though the WH has largely sidelined him from mainstream TV.

 

 

We had a good laugh over his throwing out the first pitch of the MLB season at Nationals Park. Ever since, he’s been consulting with Paddington Catcher for tips so he can do better next time.

And then . . . when we thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, Vice President Biden joined us!

 

 

 

You may remember when Kamala visited us last Fall; we were rooting for her as she campaigned to be the Presidential nominee. Well now, of course, she’s running for Vice President and we’re positively ecstatic!

Such a great team. We love these two, as they are so down to earth in addition to being eminently qualified to be our next President and Vice President. We’re starving and desperate for good leadership — elected officials with decency, empathy, and compassion. For the first time in ages, I have renewed hope that all is not lost.

 

 

 

Mr Cornelius was star struck, and after sharing some treats with his special guests, they all had a lively discussion about the most pressing issues.

 

 

 

 

 

While this was happening — DING DONG!! — someone ELSE came calling (never a dull moment around here).

 

 

Imagine our surprise at seeing Dr. Fauci Plush at the door! Oh my, oh my. Since we truly believe one can never have too many Dr. Fauci’s in the house, we invited him in and practically hugged him to death.

 

Somebody’s not wearing her mask properly!

 

Little Lulu and Ramona were especially taken with him, listening carefully as he explained the proper way to wear a mask. There were plenty more hugs all around and with him here, everyone now feels calmer, safer, more centered (he’s very cuddly and his hair is SO soft!).

 

That’s much better.

 

He did remind us not to let our guard down, because even though some fools think the pandemic is over and like to pretend we can all go back to our pre-pandemic lives, that is simply not true.

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

 

 

This topsy turvy story, he says, has just begun. How it ends comes down to all of us — working together, on the same team, to defeat this invisible enemy. The powerful virus has already killed or sickened far too many, and it’s made us feel small and humbled. But collectively, our actions can have a big impact if we listen to the health experts, believe in science and data, and resolve to play the long game, rather than succumb to impatience for short term gratification.

 

 

And so the plot thickens with the upcoming election, voter rights, racial injustice, natural disasters, and a nation divided. We will see many more subplots, evil characters, everyday heroes, conflicts, rising and falling actions.

 

 

But right side up, masked up, and side by side, we can do this. Wishing everyone a good autumn, especially educators, parents and students, whether you’re braving in-person school or doing remote learning. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can all step through the looking glass and find a safer, healthier, more equitable and peaceful world.

Welcome back, and thanks for being here as we enter our 14th year here at Alphabet Soup. We look forward to more delicious adventures with our new best friends Joey, Kamala and Tony. As always, there’s a special place at our table just for you. πŸ™‚

Do not confuse the beginning
of the story with the end.

 

Especially for you!

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β™₯️ New and Notable:

 

JOEY: The Story of Joe Biden
written by Dr. Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull
illustrated by Amy June Bates
published by Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, June 2020
Picture Book Biography for ages 4+, 48 pp.

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KAMALA HARRIS: Rooted in Justice
written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Laura Freeman
published by Atheneum BFYR, August 2020
Picture Book Biography for ages 4+, 40 pp.

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β™₯️ Feel Good Takeaway: Dr. Fauci Interview on BrainPOP News. He’s especially adorable as he talks to kids about the pandemic. Don’t miss the Five Trivia Questions at the end. Lots of smiles (you will love him even more)!

 

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The lovely and talented Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink. Pop over there to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served around the blogosphere this week. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

 


Copyright Β© 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

58 thoughts on “down the rabbit hole

  1. I so enjoyed reading this! Now I am intrigued to find Anthony Browne’s and Charles Robinson’s Alice illustrations! Lovely photos and plenty of food for thought. Can’t wait to have a seat at your table again. Thanks for brightening my day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan!! Thanks for noshing with us today. I love Anthony Browne’s work. There have been so many wonderful Alice illustrators over the years. I also like Emma Chichester Clarke’s version :).

      Like

  2. SO glad you’ve returned to us Jama!!!!!! Your blog is always a treasure and an uplight! I can’t wait to check out the books you mentioned. However, I must disagree with you about travelling. . . . we have gone several times to our lovely Door County up north (known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest!) and stayed in a charming cottage, and our daughter FLEW home from California for several weeks to be with us. .. all it takes is common sense: she wore a good mask And a face shield! All is well. Love and good feeling are as good for the immune system as anything after all. . . πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, but I know you and your family are responsible travelers who do practice common sense — can’t say that for everyone. As per Dr. Fauci’s recommendations, I still think it’s wise (esp. for those over 60) to avoid non-essential plane trips.

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  3. Loving every nook and cranny of your post Jama, ❀️ heartfelt thanks for this refreshing adventure you so artfully and richly created!!! Your cast of friendly characters are delightful, especially loved seeing Dr. Fauci in the arms of Raggedy Ann! And the Joey book with art by Amy June Bates. So happy you are back to lighten our topsy-turvy day. Sending many hugs πŸ€— for this extra special post! 😘πŸ₯°πŸ¦‹πŸπŸŒ»

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi MIchelle! It’s nice to be back, though back in June when I signed off I had high hopes the school situation would be much better than it is. I was happy to receive a signed bookplate with my Joey book. πŸ™‚ My Raggedy Ann is almost 50 years old — received her as a birthday gift in my college dorm. She’s the largest I’ve ever seen — about 3-1/2 feet tall (I once wore her “dress” as a blouse to class on a dare). πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this much anticipated blog. I too have enjoyed some of the solitude of books, music, and film. I recently started watching The Marvelous Mrs Mauser which I am enjoying. I am also enjoying many if the zoom meetings with my friends and the special zooms featuring Susan Branch and Fiona Davis from the New York Public Library, the setting for her new novel The Lions if Fifth Avenue. Welcome back!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Joanne! I love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Such a wonderful ensemble cast, but I especially like Tony Shalhoub as Abe. I did see part of Susan’s Zoom with Fiona. Need to watch it again.

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    1. OH, thanks so much — hadn’t seen that video (Elmo’s my fave SS character too)! Ricky looks very clean and scrubbed in that. πŸ˜€ Hope all’s well with you and yours.

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  4. Hi Jama! So nice to see you back! One first notice: I love that Anthony Browne Alice illustrations-he’s great! You clearly have a full house, but it’s lovely to see that they’ve all arrived at just the right time. I haven’t read “Joey” yet, but shared that new book about Kamala this past week. And I have to say I needed some of those “magical weapons” & took a few! Hope that’s okay! Have a lovely weekend with all the gang! Also, FYI – Carol lost some of the early links, so you are no longer on it. Come back to check in again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for letting me know about the lost links (I did leave mine last night and hadn’t noticed it had disappeared).

      Yes, we have a full house and feel much better with our new best friends around. Hugging Dr. Fauci Plush has the same effect as a security blanket. πŸ™‚ I like the Joey book (have been a fan of Amy’s art for a long time), and have always admired Dr. Biden, so it’s a wonderful title to own.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So delighted to have you back, Jama! I’ve missed your wonderful and whimsical posts!

    Ah, a haircut! Haven’t had one since February. Luckily I decided to grow out my bangs last year ;). I managed to give my husband a pretty decent one with clippers. I feel grateful to have a home to shelter in safely, and a tree-lined yard filled with bird song and a place to meet family and friends safely outdoors. Preparing for and going through an interstate move during COVID was quite challenging, and I’m happy to now be nesting in a new home, and getting ready to dive back into a writing routine.

    Virtual hugs & stay safe!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad your move is behind you — it’s quite challenging to pack up and move to another state in the best of times, so I’m glad things went smoothly and you’re settled into your new digs. Looking forward to all your new books!!

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  6. Welcome back, dear friend – isn’t Alice in Wonderland the most apropos of all books during this time? Love the Dr. F dolls!

    You’ll be pleased to note I’ve been cutting Himself’s hair with… clippers. And a razor blade. Yes, be afraid, be VERY afraid…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re BAACK! Missed you, and the lovely gang here, & delighted to see you’ve made welcome such important guests. Yes, please – let’s let all of them run the country. We’ll even find something for the Mad Hatter, but he can’t be in charge.
    You’ve expressed so well what we’ve all been going through. On our side, it was strange continuing in the surreal cultural continuum while also dealing with personal stress. Jeff’s dad died July 1 from complications of dementia; (& probably had an undiagnosed case of Covid-19, because…) Jeff got sick with Covid a few days later, and that meant we all just dropped out of regular life for a bit. (I had no symptoms). Then Jeff’s uncle, sadly, of the anti-masker contingent, contracted Covid and was put on a ventilator and died days later. All of this in less than four weeks.
    We’re getting back in the swing, but writing like yours helps me process. Thanks for all the insightful goodness, and – much-needed fun! XO

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    1. SO sorry to hear about the tough times and loss of loved ones!! That’s a LOT to process in such a short period of time. Is Jeff pretty much over the COVID now? Glad you didn’t suffer any symptoms. It must have all been scary and worrisome in addition to the grief.

      To your other point, we already have a Mad Hatter in charge. There’s the problem right there. . .

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  8. I don’t know how you did it, Jama, but you made me smile from beginning to end of this post! Ungar’s poem is all of us right now. I’ve SO missed you this summer. I’m glad to hear you are staying on this side of healthy and sane – your survival tips are as brilliant as they are doable: “For me it’s been all about following a simple daily routine, staying positive and expressing gratitude.” And your guests, Joe, Kamala, and Tony – swoony-swoon-swoon! (I really want to feel the plush Fauci doll’s hair! πŸ™‚

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    1. Glad this post made you smile, Bridget. Missed you and the rest of the PF gang too. It’s so comforting to be able to find like minded, caring people online to share concern and support. I will stroke Dr. Fauci’s hair a few extra times today just for you. πŸ˜€ Have you heard Tony on any recent interviews since he had his vocal chords surgery? A clearer voice and even cuter. How does he do it?

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  9. Your whole post was

    “Do not confuse the beginning
    of the story with the end.”

    I love how you began with chaotic images (that mirror my brain right now) and ended with calm loving order (worked some magic on my anxiety).

    Welcome back, Dear Jama. You are a force for good in the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your posts are works of arts! I so love your characters, like Dr. Fauci and his adventures. Thank you for your recommendations and I look forward to seeing a few more Colin Firth movies. I do feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Janice. It seems like one can never run out of Colin movies. Such a range of roles, some minor, some major. I will tell Dr. Fauci that you said hello. πŸ™‚

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  11. Welcome back, Jama, and thanks for this treat for the eyes and heart. I do believe I need to add Jenny Colgan to my reading pile–I could use a little escape. And yes, yes, yes to Joe and Kamala (and to turning the Senate blue)!!!! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Linda, thanks for the welcome back! Jenny’s books are a great distraction from all things evil and frustrating. I was surprised at how many books she’s published so far. I’ve read about 4 and plan to indulge in more. And YES, we do need to turn the Senate blue in addition to electing Joe and Kamala! We absolutely HAVE to . . .

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’d heard of the Dr. Fauci bobbleheads but not the plush and not that you could get Joe Biden and Kamala Harris action figures!! That’s so cool. I also didn’t know about the Joe Biden picture book. I will definitely be suggesting both of those for our school library if (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) they win. Because I just cannot stand the thought of him dragging our country down into a dictatorship for another 4 years. I may just move to a desert island so I don’t have to hear any more. πŸ˜›

    I started library school this past week! So, that will keep me busy for awhile. The public schools start this week, too, and even though we’ve decided to keep our son home, opting out of the hybrid program, I may still end up substituting. I can’t volunteer in the library yet, though – no extra people allowed in the building. My daughter has had to start college from home; two weeks before she was to move on campus they changed their plan to 100% remote.

    I’ve been reading m/m romance as my brain candy, among other books.

    Glad to see you back again! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I feel the same way — cannot stand the thought of another 4 years of this President. Sad part is, even if we wanted to move elsewhere, so many countries have banned U.S. citizens from even visiting.

      Good luck with library school. Can’t believe your daughter is old enough to attend college! That’s sad and disappointing to have your first college experience be a remote one. At least you had the option of hybrid program or not for your son. Sounds like quite an academic adventure for your entire family this fall. Wishing you all the best.

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  13. Perfect poem and post for these topsy turvey times. It does feel as if we have fallen down a rabbit hole and through the looking glass. Glad to see you back and have missed your scrumptious tea parties.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kay, hope you’ve been having a good summer despite all. It feels nice to be back in this space, trying to create a little normalcy in the midst of all the chaos. The next two months will be even topsy turvier as we approach the election. Hang on tight!

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  14. Oh, my goodness have I missed my weekly dose of Jama. Thank you for the fun photos and visit with so many friends. We will try hard not to confuse the beginning of the story with the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Linda! We’re all hoping hoping hoping for a good ending to this crazy story. Though we didn’t have any say about the beginning, realizing that we definitely have the ability to effect the changes we need (vote vote vote!) for a satisfying ending, is quite empowering.

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  15. Oh, how I’ve missed you, Jama! Your jam-packed posts, your wit, your compassion, your fire, and now…a Fauci *plush,* too?! And Fauci sitting with Ramona?! Perfect. πŸ™‚

    I could chat here for hours. πŸ™‚

    Btw, we watched Extras and After Life, too β€” love Ricky Gervais.

    Welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Missed you too, Karen! Glad you agree about Ricky Gervais. Just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get wise to his many talents.

      Ramona has a huge crush on Dr. Fauci Plush. Can you blame her?

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      1. Couldn’t blame her in the least! πŸ˜€ Of course, I forgot to mention that I love the Lynn Ungar poem you chose for your return. So fitting for what we’re all living through. And, back on the subject of Ricky Gervais β€” you’ve watched his original Office series, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Jama, so sorry it has taken me a few days to write you a comment. I am drowning in to do lists since the quarantine has not afforded me down time. I’m still trying to build our new family home in VA (closer to the granddaughters) virtually while selling our Long Island home in real time but pandemic style. I am so glad to be here with you today reading your newsy piece that lets me know you are enjoying a slower pace. I am so in tune with your thoughts:
    “and nothing
    works quite the way it did before,
    you have fallen into a new story.”
    Here’s to a fall of the new normal way of life. Peace to you and welcome back.

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    1. Absolutely no need to apologize, Carol! Good luck with everything — selling of the old, building of the new — projects that are stressful in the best of times, so can’t imagine the even bigger challenges during the pandemic. Thanks again for hosting; hope you stay safe and well and enjoy the fall despite your busy schedule.

      Like

  17. WOw, it’s a party of a post! I’m with you on Ricky Gervais. He’s amazing. I need to read both of the picture books you showed. I know it’s bad that I’m afraid to get my hopes up…Anyway, thanks for the visual feast, Jama. You brightened my Monday morning!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Monday, Laura. I know what you mean about getting your hopes up. I am SO worried about the election. We can’t take anything for granted or believe the polls. Nice to hear you’re also a Ricky Gervais fan. I do like his brand of black comedy; also wasn’t aware of his musical talents/interests.

      Like

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