Catching up with Lisa Stice

Since checking in a year ago, I did finish a poetry manuscript before the pandemic hit. Some of the individual poems have been published in journals, some of them quite recently. One of those poems, “Pursuit,” won first place in the military family member category for Line of Advance’s Col. Darron L. Wright Award, and my poem will join all past and current winners in an anthology – Our Best War Stories – that will be published this month. Other than an honorable mention, I’ve never won an award before. To say the least, I was excited. I could count all the contests I’ve entered on one hand, so maybe now I’ll be a little more confident to enter some future ones.

Other than that, my writing has been pretty stagnant. In mid-February, my daughter and I both came down with fevers and were sick for much longer than normal. I took her to the doctor where she tested negative for strep and flu, but couldn’t get a Covid-19 test because we answered no to both: “Have you recently traveled to China?” and “Have been exposed to anyone who has had a positive test?” Of course, that was in the beginning of it all and so tests weren’t easy to come by, and we were being told it would all go away. I don’t even remember if it was still just being called “the coronavirus” or if it had gotten its name yet. I had an unsettling feeling, though, and wrote “Fever.” It was accepted by The Sea Letter for their issue #9 (published in September).

I wrote “Fever” on February 16, and I stopped writing. I stopped reading, too, other than reading chapter books and novels to my daughter. I had a gut feeling that things were going to get bad although I had no idea just how bad they’d get. 

Because of the abnormal physical structure of my daughter’s sinus cavity, respiratory infections are quite serious for her. My husband was already working, and all of the training he’d be doing and supervising off-base had been rescheduled to be done on base, so he wouldn’t be leaving the state for many months. He became the designated shopper on his way home from work so that I wouldn’t have to take my daughter to the store with me. My daughter’s school went on virtual mode (which was quite chaotic and also made it very difficult for me to find any free time with all the prepping). 

And, this is basically how things have continued. Now, though, I am homeschooling to keep a continuity of routine and to keep her safe (at the school she was attending, the policy is that children don’t wear masks inside or out and that adults don’t wear masks when outside). We decorated our loft area with education-related posters and set up a space that looks and feels like a classroom. I used to teach high school English, had to give it up because of all of the moving and difficulties with license transfers in some states. I feel energized to get to lesson planning and teaching again. With a second-grade curriculum, we get to do fun things like dissect owl pellets, collect and compare tree bark, make visual art, create maps, and all sorts of other things I didn’t get to do when I taught composition and American Literature. I’m very proud to share, though, that my daughter lists grammar (along with everything science) as her favorite topic to learn. I’ve felt so good lately that I began writing poems again in September. It’s starting off slow, but it’s a start.

We still rarely leave the house, but I’ve been devising ways to try to keep things exciting. Weekdays are pretty well covered by school. Nature also decided to give us a thrill (one we very well would have rather done without) in the form of Hurricane Isaias. It was the first time we hadn’t evacuated. We camped out together in the living room. The terrier and I didn’t sleep at all. My husband slept off and on, but my daughter slept right through everything. When the storm was at its peak, she briefly woke to accuse us of being the ones to wake her. Then, she laid back down and went right back to sleep.

The weekends were just so dull at first. They were giving us reminders that we are stuck. I decided to get creative with making themed weekends. Each weekend, I come up with a theme: vacation to Cuba, Kentucky Derby, Hawaiian luau, and such. We come up with a menu, activities, movies and shows to, books to read, games to play, and anything else that would go along with that theme. Our favorite so far has been Murder Mystery Monday, which we did on Labor Day. We made blood orange scones and London fog lattes for breakfast, British tea sandwiches for lunch, steak and kidney pies with blood orange soda for dinner, and delicious death chocolate cake for dessert. For the fun, we read from the Bunnicula series, watched Father Brown and Miss Marple, played Clue, wrote our own mysteries, and solved each other’s mysteries. It took up the entire day and was jolly good fun.

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