In January a friend of my daughter’s who had seen some of my artwork, asked if I would do a portrait of her recently deceased dog. I did, and then she commissioned me to do one of her daughter’s dog.Then two of her friends wanted portraits of their dogs. Then my granddaughter in Boston posted one of the portraits on a local website, and two more commissions materialized. So I have been busy with a new specialty. Here is a sample of my work.
Rather than succumbing to the callousness and intolerance that we have witnessed over the past year, I have seen my daughters bloom into caring and responsible adults. I have also observed the resiliency of the parents and students who have miraculously adapted to the complexities of virtual learning. I am so proud of my family and our Jewish community!
This has certainly been an eventful year for my husband, Boris, and me: in August we sold our house in Northern Virginia and moved to Arizona! We are now living in Tucson, Arizona, and thankfully for technology, we have maintained our connection to NVHC… I have continued to study Hebrew, I have participated in other classes and listened to speakers. I have watched or more actively participated in services. What a blessing to have that connection during this time of transition! At the present time, I am starting to participate with a congregation here, but I will always remember and value my relationships with the readers of The Glance.
I retired April 1, 2020 and now own my time.
I’m teaching myself banjo.
Before the pandemic, my daughters and their husbands got me the game ‘Zelda’. Since then I’ve learned how to kill monsters, solve scary puzzles, and find treasure. I’m also mad that the Zelda clothing fairy took almost all my money (rupees).
I’m learning how to be a better house husband.
I want to learn Yiddish.
I miss being with my NVHC friends.
The last year has been Epic for our family. In March my middle brother got married in Tasmania and it was an amazing gathering of my paternal family allowing me to spend time with cousins I haven’t seen in years. We made it home on one of the last flights. Eric had significant surgery on his foot to allow him to get back to us ultra-running passion pain free. We packed up our home of 10 years in Centreville to move to Reston. We are unpacked and settled. Moving and surgery recovery were made much easier by both of us home all day, and remote meetings with agents, brokers, banks, and design centers meant no schlepping! And everyone staying safe at home meant that we didn’t have to decline invites as we spent every weekend packing instead of having FOMO.
I wrote a book! On 4/18/20, my Wyoming son and his family Mark, Rachel, Avi (14) and Zachary (9) began a weekly Zoom meeting to play Dungeons and Dragons — a role playing game using a twenty sided die among a total of seven multi-faceted dice that determine outcomes. We each became a character of our own design (I am a stout Hobbit /Rogue named Jillian Hilltopple with a criminal background and silver streaks in my otherwise brown hair). Mark is the Dungeon Master, Rachel is a Human Paladin (Jalana Truthspeaker), Avi is a Dwarf/Monk (Gardain Ironfist), and Zachary is a Gnome/Druid (Zook B’Garnak).
After each week’s adventure, I wrote up the narrative version of what happened into a chapter. In this book, our adventures centered around the small mountain hamlet of Frosthaven, its inhabitants, and its nearby caves. Eventually we worked our way to the climactic battle at Battle Axe Mountain. Along the way, we vanquished mind-controlled bats, goblins, lemures, wyverns, stirges, the Evil Construct, and a legion of vampires. Of course we could not do this alone. We were befriended by Drykryl, a Dwarven leader from the Iron Hills, Ironwing, a gargoyle, Ksniss, a kobold, Lorde Peters, and the five mysterious members of The Kin.
Twenty eight chapters later, I published the book via Shutterfly. And we are now seven chapters into our next campaign that takes place in the city of Goldenhall. Oh, and I have hired an amazing editor (@ $.50 a page) who greatly assists in the story telling write-up: Zachary Bergman.
What have I accomplished over the past year?
I think my greatest accomplishment over the past year has been to realize that I do not have to accomplish, that crossing things off my endless “to do” list does not have to be my measure of success or happiness. Cantor Caro’s weekly Mindfulness sessions have helped me look, feel and just be in the moment … with curiosity and not judgment. I have walked greater distances than ever before with a heightened awareness of my surroundings during this pandemic year. I have witnessed the beauty of every season with new appreciation. I have taken more breaths to let myself experience the range of emotions –the connections that have brought joy, the longing to see family & friends in person, the highs, the lows and all the ambiguity in between.
I learned how lucky I was to have friends nearby so I did not feel completely isolated. I missed seeing people at exercise classes but some were now given online. I missed seeing my family but we probably communicate more via text and phone and zoom. Instead of planning vacations for my clients I was in a state of perpetually canceling and rebooking vacations, trying to get refunds, and reassuring people that it would soon be safe to travel again.
I made Apple Fritters for Hanukah and Hamantashen for Purim.
I felt a real sense of pride knowing the postcards I sent to the voters of Georgia helped bring about a victory for the two new senators from Georgia and the Democratic party.
And I learned to ZOOM! I now zoom with my family, my Chavurah, my book club, my neighborhood discussion group and especially with NVHC.
When the pandemic forced us all to “freeze” where we were, we got a reprieve on our rapidly emptying nest. Our oldest, a college junior, was home for spring break, and stayed for the next 5 months. Our High School senior did not disappear into the powerful vortex of social gatherings of teenagers that feel very ready to leave their families but already dread leaving their friends. And our youngest, a sophomore, did not start every day bickering with her sister about what time to leave for school. No one was going anywhere. It was great!
We rediscovered the joy of board games and puzzles. We ate dinner together every night. We went for walks. We discussed current events.
It was not perfect. We argued. Somebody gave herself a buzz cut (it wasn’t me). And it seemed as if 154 pairs of shoes were scattered over the entire house.
But those months were a gift, a treasure I hold in my heart even now.