Like 2020 wasn’t bad enough already

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Photo by Ernest Brillo on Unsplash

This close to Thanksgiving, there should be a turkey in there

A nice, big, organic, free-range, heritage bird, gently chilling out until its big day in the oven. What else should be in the refrigerator right now? Whipping cream, ingredients for stuffing, bottles of champagne (it goes with everything, after all, even turkey). Maybe a case of beer for the Philistines in the family. A bag of cranberries.

But not this year. It’s 2020, the year of plague and presidential psychopathy, the year of waking up in a hideous alternate reality that refuses to relent. There’s no turkey in the fridge because my husband and I are doing the responsible thing and staying home, just the two of us. …

Hint: from a distance

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Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite holiday of the year

I love everything about Thanksgiving. It’s the one holiday everyone can get behind, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of same. It’s entirely inclusive and apolitical (apart from the regrettable sugarcoating of its historical origins, but I will leave that to others to discuss, as they inevitably will). It’s all about gratitude, one of my very most favorite things, and food, another of my all-time enthusiams. It’s far less freighted with stress than Christmas, it involves no gift-wrapping, and it’s as liberated from commercialism as any American holiday manages to be.

Even if it is followed immediately — and, increasingly, superceded — by Black Friday. Which I deplore and eschew, but that’s another story. …

Yes, my side won, but I promise not to gloat if you promise not to despair

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(Photo by Shahan Khan on Unsplash)

I am happy that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won

Okay, “happy” is a tepid understatement. I am thrilled, overjoyed, and wobbly-kneed with relief. In this long, painful year, the stretch from Election Day on November 3 to the morning of Saturday, November 7 was absolute agony. I’m sure it was for you as well. Please believe me when I say that my elation is tempered by the knowledge that you hardly share my joy.

I know how I felt when the last presidential election went your way. On the morning of November 9, 2016, I felt as though I was waking up inside a nightmare that refused to end. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone. …

A free verse poem

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Photo by Nikhil Prasad on Unsplash

On a backpacking trip, I become separated from my party
And lost
And I end up in Middle Earth.
I know this because as I’m powering up my single-burner propane stove
Because although I’m good with roughing it
I require my pour-over in the morning,
I hear footsteps

Strange ones.
Like little kids marching with grownups
All at once, they stop
And I’m surrounded by nine persons.
I recognize all of them right away
Now it makes sense, why the landscape looks different
And why I can’t find my way back

Good morning, I say, wondering if they’ll understand me
Or if they speak some archaic form of English or ancient Finnish
Which is what I think Tolkien had in mind,
It’s been a long time since I read his stuff. Not since the movies.
The nine companions, plus the pony who I remember is Sam’s friend Bill
Regard me gravely
Would anyone like some coffee? …

Time to revive your Covid-crushed creativity with NaNoWriMo

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

In a year that doesn’t seem real, writing fiction is tough

At least it has been for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Back in March when life was upended and we were all sent to our rooms and told to stay there, our brains kicked into emergency mode. Waiting for the next shoe to drop or if the world is ending is great if you’re reading suspense, but it’s not the ideal mindset for writing stories into being.

Early on in the spring, memes circulated that encouraged writers to use their new time at home to write the Next Big Thing . . . after all, Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague. …

It makes no sense, and that’s one big reason why

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

We’re already eating candy and wearing masks, so why Halloween?

It’s the weirdest holiday we celebrate in the U.S., and hasn’t this year been weird enough? Our lives have been reconfigured in ways we couldn’t have imagined back when we were taking down last year’s Christmas lights. Add the pandemic to a host of natural disasters and a looming election in which the suspense might literally be killing us, and 2020 is already a living horror story.

So is this really a time when we want to revisit an occasion with murky origins steeped in 2,000 year-old Druidic mysteries? The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain established the basics: with winter approaching and the hours of sunlight fading, the Druids figured that the veil separating the dead from the living reached its thinnest point, so attention must be paid. …

Because I think you have the wrong idea about me

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(Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash)

Wow, it’s noisy out there

There’s so much shouting and posturing as the days tick by toward November 3 that we can hardly hear ourselves think, am I right? New day, new spectacle, from mask-whipping balcony scenes at the White House to protesters returning to Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon now that the wildfires consuming entire towns in that state have abated.

And of course, there’s the coronavirus. Whether you blame China, Trump, or 5G, it’s not making life easy for any of us. Is it okay to visit Grandma or not? How’s Halloween supposed to work this year? …

No, I’m not making this up: we can’t have both

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Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez

Here’s a recent headline you may have missed

Not about another non-debate or the Supreme Court or the latest grim viral toll, nor about the latest hurricane or wildfire. This one is about Trump’s plans for November 4.

At a rally in Georgia on October 16, our ̶F̶e̶a̶r̶f̶u̶l̶ Fearless Leader suggested that if he loses the election, he’s outta here:

“Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life — what am I going to do? I’m going to say, I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics! I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”

The famously thin-skinned Donald, who loves to dish out humiliation to those who fail to fawn on him, has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to accepting criticism, let alone responsibility. But losing to Joe Biden? …

Because the last thing you need right now is more restriction

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Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Even in non-plague times, I hate dieting and refuse to do it.

The body-positivity movement was decades in the future when I came of age as a young woman. Back then, the culture had an even narrower definition of what constituted an acceptable shape for a woman than it does now. Regardless of our natural contours or inheritance, we all thought we were supposed to be thin. As in, gaunt. In my day, the lush Kardashian booty would have been derided rather than venerated.

Worse, I had an acting career. If I heard how the camera adds ten pounds once, I heard it a bazillion times. Therefore I wasted vast amounts of energy on trying to achieve and maintain a weight that had nothing to do with what was appropriate for my body. …

Is that light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it the crazy train?

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Image by TaylorSmith from Pixabay

Election Day is less than a month away

And the closer it gets, the more unsettling and surreal life becomes. Even if you avoid the 24-hour news channels it’s impossible to ignore the tension building in the collective consciousness. We’re all under relentless, upwards-ratcheting stress.

Walking out your door has become an exercise in risk management. With contention rather than consensus coming from our national leadership as to how to navigate life in a pandemic, we’re all left on our own to determine what measures, if any, we take to protect ourselves and others. Which also leaves us uncertain as to what we can expect from our neighbors. Can you ask the guy who’s standing too close to you in line to step back or put on his mask, or will that put you in more danger than his possibly Covid-laden breath? …


Jan M Flynn

Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at

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