My Mild Case of Covid 19

I have now lived, with one brief exception, in my master bedroom suite for thirteen days. You could argue that for a writer, it is a gift to be able to experience personally this virus that is currently plaguing the globe. I can work with that. However, take it from me: this disease is no joke.

I don’t know where I got it. I had been volunteering at weekends for the Andy Kim Congressional campaign at Willingboro HQ. All the volunteers and staff wore masks, but members of the public were less assiduous. So, maybe there? It doesn’t matter. New Jersey was spiking, the virus was out there, and it found me.

On Wednesday October 28th, I was teaching the second of my two college classes—online, of course, as everything has been this semester—when I surprised myself with a dry little cough. “Ha! Maybe I have the virus!” I laughed with my students, then thought nothing more of it. However, the next morning I awoke feeling hot, clammy and spacey. I coughed before getting out of bed. Downstairs, I located a thermometer and checked for fever while the kettle boiled for tea: 100.5. I packed a bag with essentials—my laptop and charger, notebook and pens, water flask, vitamins, DayQuil and NyQuil—then went to give my husband the bad news that he was moving out of our bedroom space until this situation could be resolved.

Neither of us really thought I had the virus. But we knew what needed to be done. I ordered a test from Pixel Labs and took DayQuil so I could feel relatively normal while teaching my Thursday afternoon Poetry Workshop. Hubby delivered my dinner on a tray outside the door. My cat, Juno, kept trying to break in, and we blocked her access with a laundry basket.

I took the nasal swab test (my second) on Friday morning and hubby dispatched it via FedEx. I still didn’t feel that bad. My fever fluctuated between 99.3 and 100.9, depending on how recently I’d taken the meds. The cough was annoying but not painful. No sore throat. I kept checking my sense of smell was still there. I taught my Friday afternoon Poetry Workshop and my students expressed doubt that I was sick. I told the Andy Kim campaign I couldn’t work my weekend shifts because of quarantine, and they made me promise to keep them updated.

We decided to treat ourselves to takeout curry from our favorite Indian restaurant for Friday dinner. And that’s when things got weird. I love Indian food, and I was hungry, for sure. One of the things about being shut in a room is you just don’t have access to snacks when you want them. But after just a few mouthfuls, my stomach just revolted. “No,” it said in no uncertain terms. “Stop eating now.” That was the end of me having a normal appetite.

I woke up on Saturday morning—Halloween—with the worst stomach cramps of my life, and spent the next four hours running back and forth from the bathroom. It was around this time that I realized I had indeed lost my sense of smell, although this had its upside. That evening I sat by the window watching the neighborhood children Trick Or Treat, feeling wiped. I was in bed by 10:30 p.m., the latest I would be up for a while.

The gastric issues were the last clue I needed—I can google. When my Pixel test results came back positive on Sunday afternoon, I cried for five minutes, told my family, and then prepared myself for the long haul. I had become a statistic in the Coronavirus pandemic.

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of the next six days. Besides, every day was similar. I would wake up feeling vaguely okay with a fever of only around 99.5 and eat a normal breakfast. With the help of drugs, I would eat a small bland lunch and teach if I had to in the afternoon. But by each evening my fever would be back over 100.4 and I would struggle to contemplate food. My husband did his best, and served me ever smaller portions which I pushed around the plate. Twice, I went to bed without eating anything. I got used to dosing myself with NyQuil and tucking up about nine o’clock. Three times, I woke at two a.m. in soaked sheets with my hair dripping with sweat. Rinse and repeat.

Meanwhile, Election Day came and went. Mail in ballots were counted at a glacial pace. With the prospect of four days off teaching, I promised my husband (who had tested negative at CVS) that I would do nothing but rest to try to shake the damn virus. I sat on my bed watching the MSNBC pundits and marveling at the stamina of Steve Kornacki.

That’s where I was on Saturday November 7th when they called Pennsylvania—and thus the Presidency—for Joe Biden. With feel good hormones surging, I agreed to join my husband on the deck at five p.m. for a champagne toast. Mask on, I came down the stairs for the first time in nine days, straight out the front door and walked round the house to the deck. We toasted our new president and talked about the future, and I felt almost normal…for about thirty minutes.

By the time I was back in my room I thought I was going to die.

My fever went up to 101.3 and every inch of my skin felt scalding hot. I wanted to watch Biden address the nation at eight, but didn’t know if I would make it. I got a damp washcloth and laid it on my forehead then curled in a fetal position on the bed. In the end I made it through Kamala’s historic speech, then caved in to sleep, again without food. I woke up at four to find that at some point I’d pulled the washcloth off and dropped it on top of my cellphone, which was fortunately none the worse for wear.

That was a low point.

So, where am I now? It’s Tuesday, November 10th and my sense of smell started to come back yesterday, by which I mean that if I put my strongest perfume on I can get a vague whiff of something floral. I still have not managed to make it twenty-four hours without my fever spiking above 100, and I still have a cough, so according to Burlington County Health I’m no closer to leaving my isolation. Having said that, last night I ate what felt like a (small) adult portion of food and stayed up till 10:30 p.m. Today, I felt well enough to sit down and write this.

I want to emphasize that at no point have I felt in fear for my life, or even that I needed to seek medical attention. Hubby bought me a CVS oxygen finger monitor, and it’s never fallen below 96%. DayQuil and NyQuil have done their jobs.

This is still the sickest I’ve been since maybe six years ago when I had a bad case of flu, and it’s the most depressing illness I’ve ever had because of the isolation. I’m a writer, so I can spend long swathes of time alone. I have done so many times productively in writers’ colonies. But this wasn’t productive. I’ve been barely holding on.

Wear a mask.

Please Note!

With the General Election approaching, and given the involvement of an unscrupulous outside individual in my opponents’ campaign (Jason Carty), I have chosen to make “Private” many of my political blog posts from before the Primary. If anyone has any questions about events in Hainesport from last year’s campaign or in the run up to the Primary, please contact me directly. Thank you!

West Chester Poetry Conference Founder Dana Gioia Scrubs Bio

Last week, West Chester Poetry Conference Founder Dana Gioia was named Poet Laureate of California. I am not here to pass judgment on the man or the poetry (Noting in passing that I love the triolet sequence “A Country Wife,” if nothing else) but I do want to call attention to the remarkable omission of Gioia’s achievement in co-founding the West Chester Poetry Conference from the bio in the article covering his selection.

As others have said to me, maybe this isn’t such a big deal? After all, who in California would have heard of West Chester? Maybe it just wasn’t relevant to the people involved?

But I investigated further. Although the Poetry Foundation website and the Academy of American Poets website (venues over which Dana has no control) still talk about his co-founding of West Chester, his wikipedia entry no longer does. Someone has edited it out. Even more interestingly, the bio on his personal website no longer mentions it either.

Why has West Chester Poetry Conference Founder Dana Gioia scrubbed this fact out of his bio?

Let’s be fair here: all writers continually tinker with our bios. Sheesh, as an editor, I can’t tell you how often a Barefoot Muse Press book or a new issue of the Raintown Review is about to go to press and I get a request to change a bio.

But to remove the fact that you co-founded (with Mike Peich) an important Poetry Conference which ran successfully for 20 years suggests to me that you might have insider knowledge about a soon to be breaking scandal.




If I “Worked” Maybe I’d Be a Better Blogger…

Yesterday at my lovely dentist’s (I have to say that–he’s my Facebook friend. Hi Rick!), his charming receptionist made an unwitting blunder. As she was making my next appointment she asked, “Do you work?”

After a slight pause I replied, “I work my butt off, but I don’t have a job outside the home, if that’s what you mean?” Of course she apologized profusely and no harm was done, but let’s just analyze that concept “work” for a second, shall we?

I have an eighth and a sixth-grader. The eighth-grader does 20 hours of Gymnastics a week (Regular readers know this!) The sixth-grader has come into her own this year, and is in Field Hockey pretty much every school night, plus two hours of Dance, Guitar and Girl Scouts. Mom’s taxi provides the rides and Mom’s laundry service washes the kit. Mom’s kitchen shops and caters, and Mom’s cleaning service cleans.

My husband started Global Bridge Consultancy in August this year, after parting company with Twinings. Yours truly is, as we jokingly call it, Vice-President of Everything Else. What this means is that I do the administration, the accounts, run the website and other computer-based issues, and am generally on call for anything else the Boss needs! Paperwork for a Visa to India, anyone?

I am trying to build a career as a teaching artist/poet-scholar, and indeed, have some workshops coming up with West Windsor Art Center: four Fridays, Oct 22, 29, Nov 5, 12, 1-6 p.m. Tomorrow I will be “Editor speed-dating” at Push to Publish from 10-2. I am running the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Panel at AWP in February, and the Seminar for the same project at the West Chester Poetry Conference next June, where I will also be moderating a Publishing Panel.

As a founder member of the Quick & Dirty Poets, I am heavily involved in the local poetry scene. We have a reading featuring Tony Gruenewald next Friday October 22nd, 7 p.m. at The Daily Grind, High St., Mt. Holly, NJ. We are also currently reading submissions for the 6th issue of our print journal, Up & Under. I am the online architect for the Schuylkill Valley Journal and attend events such as the Mad Poets Review Vol 23 Book Party next Saturday, October 23.

I am, of course, the Managing Editor of the Barefoot Muse, and the Editor of The Raintown Review. If you’re waiting for a response on a submission more than a few weeks old, a) that means it cleared the slush pile, because my assistants are way more on top of things than I am, and b) now you know why.

Last time I checked, I was a poet. Erm, I did actually write a poem this week, but the thought of having an hour to put a submission to a journal together right now, let alone generate an entry for a book contest, is so daunting that I think maybe I’d better put that part of my non-“work” on the back burner right now. I mean, I could give up Ice Skating and going to the Gym, maybe? But I can’t help thinking that those two things are what help me sleep at night.


And no, I won’t serve on your Eighth Grade Dinner Dance Committee, or be the Girl Scout Cookie Mom, or start re-decorating any part of the house.

Did I mention I have 2 dogs?

The Worst Blog Hiatus Ever!!

Over three months. What can I say? It’s been a busy summer? Well, that’s certainly true–I’ve had the kids off school since June 14th. They are renovating Hainesport School and so not only was summer break extended, but there was also no township recreational program. All of which means the driving has been crazy, and I’ve had very little free time that wasn’t urgently required by editorial firefighting or ice skating.

So, what’s new? Well, importantly, I’ve just brought the new issue of The Barefoot Muse online. Do go and check it out! The featured poet is Jehanne Dubrow, and there are poems by familiar faces such as Carol Taylor, Peter Branson and Maryann Corbett, as well as some new names I think you will love, like Eric Norris, David Hirzel and Laura Maffei. My editorial also sheds more light on my lackluster blogging!

Three of my NaPoWriMo poems have already been accepted for publication! Tilt-a-Whirl took “Triple Lutz” and “Waiting for the F Train,” and US1 took “April 6th.” Soundzine also took three poems, although I don’t think the issue is up yet, and Atlanta Review took a sonnet, “The Pre-History of Music.”

My panel proposal for AWP 2011 was accepted, which I’m really excited about, and I probably have a gig teaching formal poetry at the West Windsor Art Center in the Fall.

In over five years I have never been late getting The Barefoot Muse online, and today is no exception, despite the fact that we are leaving for a ten day trip to the UK tomorrow. Let me go finish packing! When we get home and the kids go back to school, then I promise…aw, heck! No promises…!

From the Center of the Epi-panic…

Last night the kids’ school contacted all parents to inform us that the school will be closed Monday and Tuesday due to two possible cases of Swine flu. Oh joy!

Seriously, I do understand that one must err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of a community’s children, but I also doubt that these are really cases of Swine Flu, or that closing the school would have any more benefit than simply quarantining these children, if the diagnosis proves true.

What I do know is that I was planning to start the first draft of my Emily Bronte essay today (It’s due May 20) and that is now looking unlikely to happen. Sigh!

In more positive news, I have two events coming up in May that are worth publicizing. On Monday 11th May, Rachel Bunting and I are reading for the Delaware Valley Poets at Barnes & Noble in Princeton. That starts at 7.30 p.m. And on Sunday May 17th I am reading for the Journal of New Jersey Poets at the West Caldwell Literary Festival, which runs from 1 to 5 p.m.

I hope to see some of you there!

Techno Geek I Am Not But…

…I have been meaning for a while to write a brief entry which might prove useful to other MacBook users.

As you may recall, I got my MacBook in early 2008, and fell in love with it straight away. Like many a dreamy-eyed lover in the first flush of romance, I was at first able to forgive its little foibles. In particular, the wireless Internet connection had a nasty habit of dropping.The connection could usually be re-established by rebooting the cable modem, wireless router, laptop or all three, but the phenomenon interfered with IM conversations, viewing Youtube videos, and confused my Mail application.

Now, this problem is widespread and pretty well documented online. But no one was offering a solution I felt technologically competent enough to implement. Apple, too, were keeping remarkably silent. My husband asked their support folk when he went in to purchase his iPhone right before Christmas, but they implied it was a hardware issue with my computer and that I would have to bring the MacBook in.

Then, as part of a Christmas present upgrade (which has also FINALLY got me wireless printing) I received an Airport Extreme Wireless Router, in other words, a wireless router made BY Apple and specifically designed with Airport in mind. It works perfectly. In fact I don’t think my Internet connection has dropped once since.

My purpose in blogging this is partly to offer it as a solution to all those frustrated MacBook users out there who are experiencing the same problem I was, but also to point up an important fact Apple seem bent on suppressing. Your MacBook is NOT as compatible with technology designed primarily for PCs as Apple would like you to think. Clearly, the problem was NOT with my MacBook (which now works just fine) OR with my older wireless router (My husband’s Windows based laptop never lost connection in the same way) but with some basic incompatibility between the two. A little honesty wouldn’t go amiss here, Apple! Happy New Year!

Post for a Birthday

I’m 38.

I don’t know how I feel about that. On the one hand, everyone tells me I don’t look it. I’m probably in better shape than I was ten years ago.

On the other hand, several of my favorite poets had written their best work and/or killed themselves by now.

I was going to go out for lunch with some girlfriends but one of them is having a crisis so we’re going to convene at another’s house with all the kids and try and give her some support. I don’t know how I feel about that either. What’s the line? I want this to be about ME for a change?

I guess I’m just having some birthday blues. I’ll get over it.

NOTE TO SELF: Vodka shots solve nothing…

Quick Bennington Update

So I’m here, and it’s great so far! Everyone is very friendly and smart. The two faculty readings we had tonight were fantastic – Jill McCorkle’s story almost made me cry.

I’m having some issues with my Ethernet connection, and I need to buy a mug and some milk for my tea. But I’m going to sort those out tomorrow. Right now I’m going to bed.