My Personal Time Capsule


2020 as a waffle

I’ve heard 2020 described as a “Coronacoaster” and that absolutely captures my own experience. I’m fine and dandy one day, then in a mental trough another. 2020—the year of emotional whiplash.

It’s easy to get stuck in those down times, but finding little joys in your days and weeks can help your emotions chug up from the abyss to the summit once again. Last Saturday I was handed one of those joys.


Whatever could this be?

The mail carrier dropped off this curious package—an overstuffed bubble mailer. The return address revealed that it was from one of my college roommates. We stay in touch via social media but aren’t in the habit of sending each other things so I had a swirl of question marks floating over my head, just like in a comic strip.

Tearing into the mailer revealed this…


More question marks.

A note from her quickly solved the mystery.

“Hi, Mary! I just spent 4 days cleaning out cases of memorabilia from the upstairs bedroom to pass some time in these boring Covid days. I happened upon loads of letters from the 80’s and thought you would get a kick out of reading some of yours!”

My own nearly forty-year-old letters were being handed back to me. What a surprise gift! What a cool chance to look back at twentysomething Mary—my handwriting, my joys, challenges, and anxieties. Here they are—pages and pages of the day-to-day details of my post-college life as I made my way in a new state and in a new job. They document a fresh start that was as exciting as it was terrifying.


I was surprised to see that a few letters were written with a fountain pen because I have no memory of owning one back then. My handwriting is better than I remember and is the seed of how I write today. I’ve definitely made some progress in that regard over these forty-ish years.


It’s embarrassing to misspell “embarrassing.”

I do remember having a “fancy” electronic typewriter—my pride and joy—that displayed a few lines of text before printing. That sleek machine felt like the pinnacle of modern technology in the early 80’s—at least to me.


Bonnie Raitt performed at the college where I now work. How’s that for the circle of life?

The Bonnie Raitt concert mentioned in this letter cost me a mere $5.00 because my cousin was a student at the college and got me in with his ID. What a steal, even then. Thanks to this letter, the memories of her performance are as fresh as if I were standing in that crowded gym at this very moment. Such is the power of the written word.


I had no idea I’d written enough letters to overstuff a bubble mailer, but what else was there to do back then without computers, phones, internet, or cable TV? My stereo system (another pride and joy) was constantly blasting Pat Benatar, Heart, Sinead O’Connor, and the Eurythmics—those powerful 80’s women. That era will always represent my favorite music because it was a huge part of my quiet little life.

I look forward to arranging these letters by date and reading about Mary. That Mary. Surely there will be some surprises, some cringes, and some laughs.

I’ll always treasure this personal time capsule. What a surprise. What a joy.

EDCC: My Everyday Covid-19 Carry

I’m not really a hardcore EDC type of person. Except for the mini Leatherman tool and Write Notepads Pocket Flip Book that are always with me, what else I carry varies with my mood. Pocket pens have become a big thing with me lately so there’s usually one of those tucked away, but that’s a topic for another post.

That said, because of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, I’m now religiously carrying my own little Covid-19 kit. Starting on March 26—once I came out of my initial pandemic paralysis—I started recording county, state, country, and world case and death counts in a pocket notebook. I use the first few pages in each log to jot down noteworthy “news”—mostly personal things like when my dad’s nursing home closed to visitors (March 13th) and when my workplace went to “minimal operating status” (March 21st). The pandemic continues as one big blur of days, months, and even seasons, so I find it helpful to mark down meaningful dates in the ongoing saga.


Cases in our county (pop. 230,000) continue to increase—usually by 20 or so a day—as do the deaths, which, though relatively low, still make my heart sink every time I record the numbers. It’s interesting to see how the statistics change with time, and though things are generally looking a little more optimistic, I suspect I’ll be filling up pages and notebooks for months to come.

I write down these statistics—remembering that each number represents a person—not only to track the data, but to remind myself of the lives altered and the lives lost. It’s a very, very simple remembrance of the Covid-19 patients, victims, and their families, as well as all of the healthcare workers on the front lines. I’ll keep recording the numbers as long as there are cases. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel less helpless by doing something, as insignificant as this is.



I recently added another pocket notebook to the same Nock Co. case—a homemade Covid-19 Location Log. Ever since the cases in New York State started ratcheting up, I made it a practice to jot down where we went and when we went there. But my jotting was pretty haphazard. Sometimes it was in my to-do list notebook, sometimes it was in my Hobonichi, and sometimes it was in my Write Notepads Weekly Planner. Sometimes I just forgot.


A couple of weeks ago, I took the free Contact Tracing course offered by Johns Hopkins. Though I may never work as a contact tracer, the information presented was eye-opening and made me realize that I needed to revamp my casual and disorganized documentation. If I ever contract the virus, I want to be able to tell the contract tracer where I’ve been, when I was there, and who I was with with complete certainty. Though I might have been able to piece some of that information together prior to starting this log, carrying this notebook all the time—so that I can make entries in one place, on the fly—has made all the difference. I’m also able to check our whereabouts when those “local exposures” lists pop up on the news. All of this to say that—NEWSFLASH!—my memory is unreliable and needs constant assistance. A pocket notebook and a $1.50 Muji pen was all I needed to fix this problem.


The 70% copper Careful Key

Do you now eye all doors and surfaces with suspicion? Do you try to open doors by touching the part of the door handle that your nervous brain judges to be the least handled part? (As if there is a least-handled part.) Do you pull your hand up into your sleeve and use that as a barrier between a handle and your hand? Me? Yes, yes, and yes.

I recently found a better solution to the door handle dilemma in the Careful Key which is made from 260 brass (70% copper). Using this tool, I can now hook door handles and pull them open, or push open the lid on a trash container—two things that I did several times today. I can also use this tool to type in my passcode on an ATM or punch an elevator button—things that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to before the pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 virus remains viable on copper for only about four hours versus days on other surfaces, so the Careful key disinfects itself naturally. I have one tucked into a back pocket at all times, but it’s quite slim and could easily slip into the Nock Case holding my notebooks.


What about masks? Gotta have those, too. I have masks stashed all over the place, but my favorite is the one pictured above—made by a friend and fellow scientist—for obvious reasons. It makes me smile and think of her whenever I wear it.

Smiles and friendship. Maybe they’re the most important things to carry with us every day.

Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. All items shown and mentioned were purchased with my own funds.

Postcards From the Edge


I do this thing when I travel—or even when I visit a local museum’s gift shop—where I buy a handful of postcards BUT THEN NEVER WRITE AND MAIL THEM. I find that if I don’t send them within the first day or two of a trip, my motivation to do so plummets. I end up carting them home then tucking them away in my basket-o’-stationery where they gather dust. I know this about myself yet I still cannot resist the come hither look of that revolving rack of postcards.

Now here we are. We can’t travel. We can’t visit friends or extended family. We can’t shake hands or hug. We can’t catch up over lunch or coffee. We are glued to Zoom meetings where we’re connected yet disconnected (the current reality that was so well put in this article). We miss our 3D people. I miss my 3D, in-real-life people.

Because of this prudent and necessary isolation, my craving to connect with others is even stronger than my pandemic-induced craving for freshly baked cookies. That’s where my stash of postcards comes in. It’s time for me to grab that stack, a pen (gee…let me see if I can find one), and a sheet of postcard stampsthen write a few every day. The time investment is so small compared to the rewards.

“I’m thinking of you.”

“I wish you were here.”

How important it is to say these words. How important it is to read these words.

“I miss you.”

I do. I really do.

Current Mood(s)


Yeah…that 1962 photo about sums it up.

Like all of us, I’m a jumble of thoughts, feelings, and emotions these days. My mood is directly proportional to how much news I watch, so I’m careful about that. I want to stay informed but not whipped into a mental frenzy. Some nights I sleep great. Other nights I’m the one in this Roz Chast postcard…


Just substitute “Covid-19” for “Ebola”

My shoulder is healing well—despite the fact that I have to be my own physical therapist for the time being. I’m out of the sling and once again able to type and write and lift light things. Thank God. If ever there was a time that I need to be journaling, writing letters, sending cards and blogging, it’s now.

Here we are in this strange new world. We’re ticking along as best we can, tamping down fear, practicing hygiene on steroids, trying to act normal in a very unnormal time. (“Unnormal” is not a word—there’s a red dashed line underneath it—but I’m sticking with it.) We’re finding ways to cope and even to have fun. Remember fun?!


The Mincing Mockingbird folks are my people

Even after the sling came off, I didn’t write a word. I fixated on the news and my plummeting retirement account, paced around the house, and mainlined cookies. I felt so paralyzed. But as the weeks go on, even though the news is not improving, I’m finding ways to feel better. I hope you are, too. My beloved analog tools are saving me.


I’m getting back to using my Theme System Journal with its 2020 theme—Stoicism. (Hoo, boy—was that a prophetic pick, or what?!) The actions I chose and began practicing in January are exactly what I need to be focusing on right now. January and February were mere warm-up sprints for this pandemic marathon. I’m so grateful that I’ve been developing my Stoicism muscles so that I can come back to these familiar and calming practices.


I’m writing morning pages again, too. Because my shoulder is still healing, I typically write one page rather than four, but that’s fine for now. At least I’m getting up early and letting the thoughts and words flow. No matter what they are—fearful, hopeful, funny, or jumbled—I’m getting them out, getting them down. (Since I’m my own physical therapist, I might as well be my own mental therapist, too. Look at the co-pays I’m saving!)


Man, these colors help. The Ellsworth Kelly stamps and this Gene Davis Retro 51 brighten even the gloomy days. Now is not the time for taupe and subtlety. I’m digging into my stationery hoard to write and send letters, notes, and postcards. If we can’t hug in person, let’s hug via the mail. To make sure I have a healthy supply of colorful stamps, I ordered these and these via the USPS website. Home delivery—it’s a beautiful thing.


Turns out I had WAY too many pens inked, so one of my decluttering projects is correcting that. Every day, I flush out and sonicate a few pens to thin the inked pen herd. What a perfect time for a fountain pen reboot. I also picked up another pen case from Pen Chalet and plan to organize my pens by brand. Restoring order—even in a small way—makes me feel less helpless.


On a more somber note, I started keeping a “pandemic journal” the other day because, after all, we’re living through a historic event. I’m keeping track of case counts, death counts, and the associated percentages as a way of tracking the progress of this thing. I can’t wait until I see those numbers stabilizing, then declining. I’m also jotting down a few lines about how I’m feeling, what I’m doing, and how I’m coping. I do fear that I’ll be filling up more than one pocket notebook.


The perfect springtime escape

And of course I’m reading. Plowing through books, actually. This is when I feel best—when I’m settled down for the night with a good book. My own worries, and the troubles of the world, melt away and I’m off on a virtual vacation—to Amherst, MA, in this case. I’ll get there one day, when we are once again free to roam about the country.

So even though, right now, the world feels very much like this…


and this…


this is also true…


Much-needed encouragement courtesy of Baux Pen Co.

WE got this.

And, hey, let me know how you’re doing.