2020 Shelter in Place (SIP) Notes

  1. SIP Note 1 from Nancy Guarnera
  2. SIP Note 2 from Terry Tosh
  3. SIP Note 3 from Tony Pino
  4. SIP Note 4 from Sue Curtzwiler
  5. SIP Note 5 from Amber DeAnn
  6. SIP Note 6 from Tish Davidson
  7. SIP Note 7 from Scott Davidson
  8. SIP Note 8 from Rekha Ramani
  9. SIP Note 9 from Carmen Von Tickner
  10. SIP Note 10 from Anita Tosh
  11. SIP Note 11 from Tony Pino
  12. SIP Note 12 from Nancy Guarnera
  13. SIP Note 13 from Cherilyn Chin
  14. SIP Note 14 from Tish Davidson
  15. SIP Note 15 from Urmila Patel
  16. SIP Note 16 from Marie Blanchard & Tony Pino
  17. SIP Note 17 from Margot Roletto
  18. SIP Note 18 from Terry Tosh
  19. SIP Note 19 from Knuti VanHoven
  20. SIP Note 20 from Nancy Guarnera
  21. SIP Note 21 from Tish Davidson
  22. SIP Note 22 from Rekha Ramani
  23. SIP Note 23 from Terry Tosh
  24. SIP Note 24 from Sue Curtzwiler
  25. SIP Note 25 from Terry Tosh
  26. SIP Note 26 from Nancy Guarnera
  27. SIP Note 27 from Scott Davidson

Here’s your 27th SIP NOTE submitted by FAW Webmaster, Scott Davidson. Thanks, Scott!
When I was in high school, I realized that I didn’t know anything. While I was learning plenty from my excellent classes and fine teachers, it wasn’t enough, so I set upon a program of reading everything I could find.
I read cosmology, I read biology, I read history. I read very ancient history, I read the history of the middle ages, I read about the Revolution, and both World Wars. I read about movies, and classical music, I read philosophy.
I read plays – Shakespeare of course, but also Shaw, Thornton Wilder, George S. Kauffman.
All this reading paid off. It got me on Jeopardy. But there is so much more. I read Joyce’s Ulysses. I read Richard Burton’s translation of the Arabian Nights. Dirty. I just read the Decameron. Even dirtier. That was written two thirds of a millennium ago during another plague, and it is the tale of the ten stories each told by ten people sheltering in place over a period of ten days.
I doubt anything we write will last 670 years. But we all can use this shelter in place time to break the walls we are behind, and travel to other times, other places, other planets. We can dive into the atom or we can swim with blue whales.
As for me, I’m still working on knowing everything. It is taking longer than I thought.
Scott Davidson

Here’s your 26th SIP NOTE submitted by the Editor of Ink Spots, Nancy Guarnera.
the change is coming
they toil in the field
planting seeds
in the mind and in the heart
searching for fertile soil
they watch for signs
of germination
in the mind and in the heart
tending new growth
they water and weed
as the fruit ripens
in the mind and in the heart
preparing for the bounty
they rejoice with the harvest
for the change is coming
nancy guarnera
© 1993

Here’s your 25th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by our FAW President, Terry Tosh. Thanks, Terry!
The Splendor of a Moment
Have you ever caught a glimpse of something, not necessarily anything important, or earthshaking, just…something?
A certain something that exudes a spiritual fragrance of joy or peace…or any number of the fruits that our God has allowed mankind to partake of.
I think I’ll just name it “the Splendor of a Moment.”
Yeah, can you capture that?
You’re sitting in a spot of extreme beauty, or maybe not even that, maybe just driving along in your car—or just sitting, gazing off into the cosmos of your thoughts and there it is—a moment. Just a moment in time. You are suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of life—in a plant, a place, a scene. Anything, or even what anyone else might consider nothing. That Splendor of a Moment only lasts about that long; a moment. Then it subsides into the mists of your subconscious, maybe never to be reborn in your own time.
The Splendor of a Moment can only remain, it seems, at the apex of an experience for that instant. It can’t go on any longer than that, at least in this lifetime. Perhaps this little Splendor of a Moment is God’s gift to Mankind as His way of allowing us a glimpse of Heavenly realms? It would be an unfathomable potential, wouldn’t it?
Didn’t God say we only look through a glass darkly—that we cannot begin to realize just what our God has in store for those who love Him and keep His commandments? Don’t overlook that point!
Remember, please try to remember one of your Splendor of a Moment experiences.
Sometimes God will remind us of that moment anew, almost as a rebirth in our hearts and minds. It may be in a word reheard, or a place revisited, or a smell revived in our souls. Instantly we traverse the portals of time and place, once more to relive that Splendor of a Moment—just a moment—just for now.
Terry Tosh


Here’s your 24th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW Volunteer Coordinator and Hospitality Co-chair, Sue Curtzwiler. Thank you, Sue!
Red September Morning
Colors of red, orange, and fog mixed in the early morning Wednesday sky. It was eerie.
I woke up about 6:30 AM, wandered to the kitchen, looked through the window and thought—no visible blue sky, clouds, or sun—this can’t be right! I better go back to bed. Every 20 or 30 minutes I tried to get up, I just couldn’t pull myself together. I had an 8:40 AM appointment, and I literally could not wake up. Somehow, l finally made it to my appointment.
Approaching the car, there was a layer of ash dust everywhere. The sky still dim, it was like a time warp. Some people even described it as a war zone, or worse—what they imagined the apocalypse might look like. My whole day was “off.” Thankfully, a dinner planned for Wednesday had been rescheduled to Friday night.
Special air quality alerts were broadcasted all day. The red sky was explained as the layered-cake atmosphere. Ash particulate matter was blocking the blue rays of the light, causing our sky to have a range of red to orange and anything in between. Ironically, the air was safer on Wednesday than it was going to be the next few days. The redness of the sky still hung in the air, as I washed my car later that day. Saturday, I saw a dusting of ash on my dashboard inside the car. Yes, my car windows were closed. Someone in Lucky’s mentioned the inside of her car was ashy too; it must have come through the air vents.
Our air continues to be unhealthy and it doesn’t look like we’ll see significant clearing for another few days. I’m so tired of being shut in and feeling like I’m putting myself in harm’s way when I go out to run errands. I don’t feel comfortable to do my short walks right now.
These last couple of weeks, I had to let down my exposure guard going out of the area looking for a quality, but affordable recumbent bike. After a few days of shopping and scouring the internet on my own, it was either get something that didn’t quite work, or order online, and risk assembly and a proper fit for my back and legs. My nephew checked social media and found an amazing option, a sports gym-level bike at an amazing price. The bike is only two years old and immaculate. I rented a U-Haul truck; we went to San Francisco, so that I could sit on the bike and try it out—a perfect fit. A slight hiccup, the bike is temporarily in front of my sofa.
Next project during this shut-in is to clear space, yet again, to get the bike into my library/music room. This will definitely keep me busy for quite a while. It will require reworking three rooms to fix one room, but I can finally be done. 2020 has been a time of incredible challenge. I’m looking forward to 2021.
Sue Curtzwiler

Here’s your 23rd Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW President, Terry Tosh. Thank you, Terry!
…when others waiver.
unmoving FAITH, steady STRENGTH
solid, tempered ROCK
Hope, Change (but not FACADE)
Awakened Conscience; firm TRUTH
Terry Tosh

Here’s your 22nd Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member and FAW Secretary, Rekha Ramani.Thank you, Rekha!
I’ve realized for the past three months or a little more, sheltering in place at home, I have delved a lot in self-discovery. I found this out, quite by accident in daily living, instead of making it an experiment. 
I am a substitute teacher and have been unemployed ever since this started. I have always depended on subbing for mental stimulation and some creativity. I like day-to-day subbing; I like the flexibility of scheduling my own workdays. There is absolutely no pressure and no force of commitment involved. 🙂 So I had some trepidation of how I was going to fill my time during this pandemic. 
Then I found myself doing the routine chores of cooking and cleaning the house. I had to feed my husband while he was working from home, and of course our kids (now adults) who were sheltering in place with us. 
In the process, I found exhilaration quite by accident to reiterate. I never knew it would exude from simple yet mundane chores like cooking and cleaning. I was so focused and enjoyed the process subconsciously. To see sparkling hardwood floors, a gleaming kitchen sink, not a single utensil cluttering the counter, beaming bathrooms, and my capacity to organize myself came as an astounding surprise to me, unlike my usual, easy going, and sometimes even abominably lazy self. My phone calendar was now dotted with a schedule for routine chores and I actually would secretly exhale—“Ah Rekha, way to go!” 🙂 I call this exhilaration, a form of poetic happiness. 
Then my daughter, one day slipped into the kitchen and learned a few, not-easy South Indian recipes from me! She expressed happiness cooking in my company! I was so elated at her interest and it sparked a new, motherly energy from me. I patted myself on my back for being a great Mom—this feeling deep inside me was a blessing from the higher spheres. I had found exhilaration, yet again. 
We’ve been in this house for 15 years and I rarely remember myself stepping out into our backyard deck, with our apple and cherry trees casting their pristine shadows on the bright red paint of our deck. Well, simply said, I “dared” venture into our backyard, hosed down the dust laden deck chairs and daintily planted myself on one of them, the branches of the apple tree weighing down with fruit, inviting me into its awesome lair. It seemed like I had never laid eyes on an apple tree before! I picked up an empty book and started journaling; it was exhilarating with the gentle breeze, the swaying trees, and the warm sunshine lighting up my soul. 🙂 This, too, would become a part of my routine.
Then I was inspired by an article in the Reader’s Digest; a woman wrote 365 hand written notes, and mailed them to friends and acquaintances. I followed suit, not with thank-you notes, but hand written letters (also with a thank-you in them) to friends near and far. I just sent two out today. My joy was boundless. I am still continuing to have fun as I write more letters, even to folks in India. Yes! Exhilaration shone her beautiful face on me. 🙂
I remember the time when my daughter and I took a trip to Hawaii last December. It was a mother-daughter trip. I won’t say it wasn’t a memorable trip; but I was stressed out and anxious:  with the booking of several local tours and shows, and the hell-bent nature of being at these places on time, lest we were late to a show, or missed the whale watching tour, if I didn’t navigate my driving to reach on time. I even forgot at one point, how to drive our rental car. I started the engine and got confused with the accelerator and the brake! 🙁 My daughter found all of this very amusing. I panicked and she took over. Much of the time, I had my heart in my mouth, punctuated, of course, with my transient enjoyment of the different events which we had planned. I couldn’t enjoy the helicopter ride in Kauai—again my heart literally popping out of my mouth—because just a couple of days ago a helicopter had crashed while touring and not a single passenger survived! Overall, I needed a vacation from my vacation! One true enjoyment I found was the company of my daughter. 🙂 
I can take a vacation right here in the security of my home! I have found ways to get creative even with mundane chores. I have discovered niches inside my house that offer joy. In the process, simple pleasures have shown me their true, scented colors. 
I am not jealous of people who scram for vacations in these deeply restricted times, who complain of not being able to visit the beach or dine inside restaurants. 
I find exhilaration right here, inside my humble home. 🙂
Stay safe, healthy and peaceful, and enjoy the hidden, simple nuances of exhilaration. 🙂

Here’s your 21st Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member and CWC Representative, Tish Davidson.Thank you, Tish!

My Jungle Garden (see photos below)
I’ve always had a garden. My mother grew up in a large family that today would be called food insecure, but back then was just called poor. They had a big garden that they depended on for food to be eaten fresh in the summer or canned for future use. We had two gardens when I was growing up. One in the backyard, the other on a parcel of undeveloped land whose owner allowed a few families to use it to plant vegetables. Tending a garden was something you just did, like cleaning the house or washing clothes. And the habit stuck. When I was in graduate school, I qualified for a community garden plot for low-income residents. Later, my husband and I had backyard gardens in Louisiana, New Jersey, and now here in California.
Our garden produces plenty of vegetables, but I am not a good gardener. Yes, I know how to compost and amend the soil, how to plant, weed, and water. My problem is one of sentimentality. I am a sucker for volunteers—vegetable plants that come up from seed not intentionally planted. Perhaps the compost didn’t get hot enough to kill the seeds from that butternut squash we ate last fall. Or maybe we missed some tomatoes when we harvested, and they dropped to the ground only to die, then come to life again in the spring. Or a squirrel helped out by burying some half-eaten veggie. We’ve had volunteer squash, three generations of cherry and regular tomatoes, onions that escaped our notice and wintered over, oregano, and parsley that seeds down and then then springs to life with weed-like enthusiasm. Last year, two volunteer butternut squash gifted us with 26 offspring while taking over half the garden and climbing over my neatly planted rows.
A good gardener would weed out volunteer invaders, but I can’t make myself destroy them. I admire too much the persistence of these survivors who endure winter chill and rain and darkness only to emerge in spring to outcompete a new crop of store-bought plants. Their resilience and determination to live never fails to impress me, and I honor that by allowing them to grow. Now, in the time of Covid-19, a time when we are all little discouraged, a tad depressed, a touch dispirited, I look at my garden volunteers and think, yes, this too will pass. In time, our lives will come forth from sheltering in place, blossom, and bear fruit again. We are survivors.
Tish Davidson

Here’s your 20th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member and Ink Spots Editor, Nancy Guarnera.
My Dear Fremont Area Writers,
I hope that you and those you love are safe, healthy and happy.
Well, here we are in mid-August and things seem to be getting worse, not better. Not sure about the rest of you, but I’m recognizing signs of pandemic fatigue in myself and others. It seems like one piece of discouraging news after another. So many people, in so many places, for so many reasons are hurting…people we know…people we don’t know and never will. It looks and feels like the whole world is falling apart. It seems like there’s not much we can to do to make things better. There’s a helplessness that takes over, and drives away hope.
This is not meant to make you feel discouraged or weak or bad; just an acknowledgement of what some of you may be feeling right now, or observing in others. Even though we may not realize it when we see it or experience it, there are signs.
When things get so big that I can’t see beyond them, the time has come to look to the light that’s always there…within me. It’s time to refocus my attention and to lift myself and others out of the doldrums. It’s time to shake off the unnecessary isolation, and reconnect.
An 80 year-old friend, I thought was being cared for by others, called me a few days ago in distress. We had talked the week before and he seemed in good spirits, even though he’d had surgery on his leg earlier in the week. Now he was in tears and disoriented. He’s on several new meds that are affecting him in ways that are frightening to him. It’s been hot, he has no AC, and he gotten dehydrated. My husband, Robert, and I came to the rescue…got him some water and his favorite diet Snapple. We’ve since talked to a few of his other friends, and together we’re working out a plan that will keep him in the supplies he needs and provides the human contact that is vital for someone who lives alone in the age of COVID-19; especially, one of our venerated elders. It was a wake-up call for me.
Recently, I’ve had this feeling of being unstuck in time and place; no idea what day or time it is…and not really caring. I feel disconnected from the world as I SIP. Isolated. Wondering when, if ever, I’ll be able to hug the people I love and miss. After the incident with my friend, I looked at my text threads and realized it’s been months since I’ve been in touch with many of the people I care about. That’s not like me. I am not an ostrich, but recently I’ve been behaving like one.
It took a friend calling in desperation to wake me up. To remind me I have a light that I can shine on everyone and that the more I do it, the better and more alive I feel. And the world is a better place for it. My friend needed help, and I was so grateful to be able to provide it—not just for his benefit, but for my own, as well.
I started these notes, so that “even though we couldn’t be together socially, we could be together emotionally” (Thank you, Kamala Harris, for these words back in April). So today, I want to remind all of us that almost nothing thrives when neglected. Life goes on whether we’re paying attention or not…and it can change in a heartbeat. Sheltering in place is not an excuse to disconnect from others.
While the odds may seem insurmountable at times, the light within us, shared with each other, can chase away the darkness—the fear and sadness that simultaneously drives us apart and pulls us together. While we mourn, we must also remember to celebrate. None of us can solve all these “problems” by ourselves, but united, in love, we can withstand anything; we can solve anything. We just need to make the decision to do it.
When we can’t be with each other, and we can’t see each other (and we can now, with Zoom and Facetime), we can still hear each other. The human voice can be an elixir of life to the soul. We need each other right now. Reach out, connect with someone you care about; it will lift their spirits and yours. Sometimes, a simple phone call is all it takes.
Stay safe, healthy and happy!
P.S. I need more SIP notes from you. Otherwise, it will just be my “voice” you hear, and that will get boring very quickly. Send me your notes! Thanks!


Here’s your 19th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member and Vice President, Knuti VanHoven. Thanks, Knuti!
Dear Fellow Inmates:
It seems that Life is changing to accommodate the CORONA 19 lockdown.
I sing with three big bands, plus as a church soloist. When this started, ALL of the gigs I had scheduled for 2020 were cancelled, including New Year’s Eve, which is usually our biggest night.
For two months, without rehearsals or performances to go to, I wrote a lot more than I usually have time to. I even sorted my house! And to my husband’s dismay, I cooked! 
Then, the churches started calling again!  
Weirdly, they wanted me to sing on Zoom (which I discovered, was like Skype, but I didn’t know how to operate that, either.)  
The choir that my husband sings in began rehearsing together, then they’d each record their individual voice parts and email them to the “techie” who mixed them into a seventeen-piece performance—and it sounded very good!
My niece called and announced that she was completely daunted by the fact that she had to learn to do her job by Zoom. She took time off for stress, but she learned it. She’s still employed. 
My neighbors, who had the option of working at home, joined her unhappily. The “essential workers” I know expressed gratitude for the people who stayed home and lessened their exposure levels.
One by one, people I knew began to talk about visiting friends and relatives and attending performances by Zoom.
My bargain hunting pals are bragging about finding deals among the price gougers on Amazon.  
So, life is going on, even while pals who used to hug me, can only smile and wave from their cars.  
Folks on my street are surviving, and even having fun in this “new normal”  
It’s like living in a spaceship that’s eerily reminiscent of my own living room. It’s the same, yet very, very different. 
Even so, the view of the stars outside my window hasn’t changed. And many nights, because of the lower pollution levels we’ve achieved, they look clearer and brighter than before.
Knuti VanHoven

Here’s your 18th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member and President, Terry Tosh. Thanks, Terry!
President’s Message  AUG 2020
So, anyway…
Ever feel like you might just be a character in a badly written comedy/drama/tragedy in which the author couldn’t come up with a nice wrap-up, and kept erasing and rewriting the chapter you are currently stuck in? Just wondered…
I am so grateful for our phenomenal Nancy Guarnera for her unwavering dedication and talent. She single-handedly kept the fires of inspiration burning while I chilled out, enjoying the summer break and feasting on the fruits of her labor as we devoured the weekly SIP Notes, TMAS teasers, and the latest edition of Ink Spots! (Normally, we don’t publish a newsletter in July.) On behalf of the entire membership, I offer a hearty Thank You, Nancy!
It was weird not having our picnic this year, but par for the course, in this year of weirdness gone wild. I read that some groups had virtual picnics, and gave it a very short thought…then decided no, it just wouldn’t be the same. 
I trust that everyone stayed safe and healthy during this past month, and those of us that work essential jobs are keeping to the safety protocols as strictly as possible.
Now, back to business as (un)usual. Let’s continue to be “writers helping writers” in as much capacity as possible. Please renew your membership if not already done, as we need to maintain the numbers needed to qualify as a branch, as well as attempt to grow in this tough environment. Our board meeting will continue to be zoomed on the Tuesday afternoon (3:30-5:00 PM) immediately prior to the 4th Saturday General Meeting (2:00-4:00 PM), which appears to still be destined to be zoomed, as well.
Please do your best to attend our meetings as appropriate. We need your talent and interaction to achieve success as an integral part of the CWC body of writers and contributors to this creative and potentially lucrative field that we have chosen to pursue.
Here’s to a healthy and productive month for all of you, and your families; I hope to “see” you all soon.
Terry Tosh

Here’s your 17th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member Margot Roletto. Thanks Margo!
I’ve been pursuing some legal, energetic, and satisfying escapism lately. Normally, I procrastinate to avoid serious house cleaning activities, boring paperwork, or activities involving fear of failure or unnecessary discomfort. However, as a gardener and nature lover, playing in my compost bin takes me to a whole different world.
I feed a few hundred wriggly earthworms and a variety of tiny creatures and organisms. They help me turn fruit and vegetable kitchen waste, coffee grounds, green garden cuttings, and dry leaves and twigs into rich garden soil, and it all feels extremely creative.  
My tools are simple: gloves, trowel, clippers, and enough water to keep everything moist. The only danger involves back pain from prolonged bending. Sadly, this problem increases with age. Some people worry that compost will smell like a garbage dump, but because it’s kept very vegetarian, mine has no strong scent at all. As I add to the feast, I’m reminded of salads and side dishes I’ve served my husband at our dinner table, and I wonder which critters prefer which fruits and veggies. 
“Anyone for slightly brown lettuce or bright orange carrot peelings? Like a few smashed eggshells to add calcium, or how about some peels of sweet golden mango? I’m adding “Peet’s” coffee grounds, still in brown filters – no bleach used.”
This bin, with its hungry inhabitants, helps me forget briefly the pandemic situation all around me. I hope I’m not alone enjoying a creative, backyard compost escape.
Margo Roletto

Here’s your 16th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW members Marie Blanchard & Tony Pin
Hi Nancy,
I liked your comments on gratitude, so I’ll share with you the thing I have been most immediately grateful for in the past month: mucous. After emptying a vacuum canister, I accidentally inhaled a large amount of dust and grit. Coughing and sneezing were not enough. It took about 30 minutes for me forcibly coughing the stuff out, each cough producing a thumbnail size mucous glob neatly surrounding a feather-like piece of dust. Without this wonderful substance working for me, I would be dead of pneumonia instead of writing to you.
But I had to laugh when I said right after I felt my lungs open up, “I’m so grateful for mucous.”     -Marie Blanchard
Really nice piece, Tish.
You’ve touched on a hot button for me and one I’m passionate about, though have learned to keep my mouth mostly shut. Kids need free, unstructured time without manufactured playthings.
Creativity isn’t learned in putting something together the way someone else has mandated. Self-esteem isn’t built by someone saying to every motion, every right answer, “Good job,” or “That’s wonderful.
Enough rant. But thank you, Tish.
Marie Blanchard
I like your story! It shows that you don’t need endangerment to hold a reader’s interest, and that something positive can be described and narrated in an engaging way. Congrats!
Tony Pino

Here’s your 15th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by FAW member, Urmila Patel. Thank you, Mila!
Finally, I found my space
When I was working, I wished I could be home. I know I’ll be happier sitting in front of a television with a hot chocolate than at this stupid job. I’m getting goosebumps whenever I think of my couch, a friend said.
“Bang.” something invisible dropped out from nowhere, and it’s harmful. It’s all over in the news. California governor announced shelter in place. No one is allowed to go out.
Does that mean I can’t meet my friends for a chit-chat? I can’t go to the gym? That’s ridiculous. This friend said. My heart is drumming, and my blood pressure is going up. I feel imprisoned. I miss my work.
Ladies and gentlemen, this has happened to many people.
What I want to point out is that we are continually looking for happiness on the surface level while it’s within us. It’s in our creativity, our cooking, reading, writing, even looking at certain things in the house we never saw before. We take things for granted. Don’t we?
How many of us have looked at every detail in our house and said, “Wow,” I never knew this blue tile has a smiley face.
When I heard California ordered SIP, I thought for a moment. What did that mean to me? Nothing much would change except I’ll be missing meetings in person, giving hugs, and not liking wearing a mask in public.
But something happened to me during this period. I thought I was happy, but I wasn’t. There was something I was missing—a corner. For years I’ve been struggling to find that space, a small hole from where I could feel safe doing my creative work. I was running like crazy, so all I did was suppress that pain inside.
Now I was home. I had no TV cable to watch those depressing news shows and no meetings to go to. Life became simpler. With the extra time I had now, I asked myself a question and meditated upon it. Why am I feeling what I am feeling?
As a month passed by, there was something greater happening beyond my conciseness. As the atmosphere was removing the toxins away that it had gathered from our rat-race life, my mind became closer and closer to my answers. I started connecting with my house, which I never did before. How did that happen, I thought?
I painted the ceiling of a room I felt I never wanted to go in before. Guess what? I moved my office space over there. After 17 years, I released I have a balcony.
Now I wave to my neighbors passing. Evenings, I watch the light pinkish color of the sky as the sun goes to sleep, and I lay with my grandson on the balcony for hours to count the stars and watch the Milky Way as they blink at us.
That’s not all.
In the backyard, the soil in the garden started breathing. We’ve been told for generations, “When mother earth breaths, we breathe, too.”
For years, the garden was sad. Hardly any vegetables showed up to say hello. Now, tomato plants wearing their yellowish head-cover on every figure started lifting their spines as high as they could reach. “How did you get here?” I asked. Remember, they said, in the winter, you threw the bad ones away. Like these, dill, potatoes, onions, garlic, and strawberry plants filled up the space, which it never did for many years, but the mint still shows a bit of grudge. So I moved its home to the sunny area.
Now every corner is being used. Every space gets my energy. 
But what about my killer smile? No one can see it when I go shopping.
“Well, it’s okay!” I said. At least you will save on makeup, and creams that you buy to remove those dark spots from your face.
The missing space within is filled. I feel balanced!
Urmila Patel

Here’s your 14th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by Tish Davidson, member and FAW Representative to the CWC Central Board. Thank you, Tish!


Unstructured Time: A Summer Project
I live across the street from an elementary school. Normally the street teems with cars and school buses, kids on scooters, kids on bikes, kids on foot. Today it is empty. It’s late March, and we are all sheltering in place.
Parallel to the street, between a row of scruffy bushes and the playground, lies a strip of hard-packed naked dirt. A teenage boy appears with a shovel and begins to dig. This strip does not inspire visions of sandcastles or buried treasure, so I watch him. The day is hot. The boy takes off his t-shirt, hangs it on a bush, and continues to dig. His back glistens in the sun. He digs and digs then puts on his shirt, and he and his shovel leave. He appears the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and continues to dig. On the fifth day, he is joined by two more, slightly younger, kids. They move to a different spot where bushes obscure exactly what is going on. I am intrigued.
It is now the second week of April. Four kids, helmeted and masked, arrive on bikes. One boy takes off down the strip. He partially disappears into a dip, then flies through the air. He is followed by two boys and a girl. The light dawns. These kids have built a bike challenge course. After several runs, they sit on their bikes, social distancing and talking. After a couple more runs, they disappear, but after dinner two of them are back with tools. They begin to build a ramp.
The bike brigade appears the next day and the next. Then something interesting happens. Several new kids come on their own and try out the course. Then two young kids with their father come by and ride the course at low speed. A couple of adults detour off the street to give it a try. A few days later, two preschoolers appear and creep through the strip, parent at their side. By now the ramp has been extended and the older kids are getting bigger air.
By May the course has a steady trickle of users from lunchtime until dark. One day two adults on motorcycles ride through. Every evening two or three teens stop by to do maintenance.
One evening I approach them. They look apprehensive, as if they think I am going to yell at them. They tell me they have permission to keep the course until school starts. I tell them I am impressed with the diligence of their upkeep and allow them to get water from the spigot in front of our house.
This project, teen initiated, teen maintained, and used by the neighborhood makes me appreciate the value of unstructured time in young lives. Other summers, these kids likely would be in sports camps or academic enrichment programs. The oldest might have summer jobs. Instead, they have imagined and created a summer project they will remember for the rest of their lives. Perhaps we should all be more appreciative for the doors that open when routine is broken.


Here’s your 13th Weekly SIP NOTE submitted by Cherilyn Chin, member and FAW Treasurer.
Thank you, Cherilyn!
Wouldn’t you know, my computer crashed after I wrote my SIP note. Here’s what I remember saying:
As an introvert, I’ve found staying home a good thing. I always tell myself that I’ll write more, especially because I (supposedly) have more time. I try most mornings to write for at least 15 minutes upon waking, but I fail miserably when my emails beckon. I get sucked down that hole and I skip writing for the day.
But, I discovered the other week, I have a first draft of my middle-grade children’s novel about a Hawaiian girl and boy who discover that their beloved coral reef has bleached, and they have to solve the mystery of why.
I hand write my first drafts and only recently typed up a few pages. I quickly realized I have a 30,000 word first draft, the low end of a middle-grade novel. I’m not done by any means, but I can edit while I type up my manuscript.
I have put up a few blog posts on my ocean conservation blog, “Ocean of Hope,” which I invite you to check out. It’s been a labor of love for me for the past 10 years! I welcome any feedback and suggestions for future posts. https://protecttheoceans.org/wordpress


SIP Note # 12 from Nancy Guarnera


It’s Monday, and by now, you’re probably used to getting your weekly SIP Note.

I checked my folder last night and realized I had used all of the notes people have been sending me. These were originally from our Board members, but some of you asked if you could participate, so all of you were invited to submit a Note(s), if you felt like it; and some of you did. Please send some more.

We’ve had poetry and suggestions about how to use our time productively while SIPing; how to be creative with food; build a new routine; share time with others on Zoom; and occasionally, peeks into each other’s lives. Some have been very personal and others more general. Some uplifting and some not so much but hopefully made you think or even feel something that helped get you through these interesting times.

My hope, when I conceived this, was that we would share words of inspiration and encouragement with each other; that we’d stay connected emotionally over the time that we were unable to be together socially. Now we’re using Zoom to connect for meetings—a social gathering of sorts. (This Saturday is the general meeting—everyone is welcome—you should already have an invitation, with another reminder coming to you by email on Wednesday. Hope to see lots of you there.)

Call me crazy… but I think the emotional connection still needs to be encouraged. One thing I don’t think we’ve done, at least not over the last 11 weeks, is express our gratitude.

Yes, I know that CoronaV has really inconvenienced us in big ways—remember freaking out about toilet paper, needing a haircut, canceling appointments, events and trips? (Let’s remember that there are places in the world where humanity manages to live without toilet paper. Hmmm…wonder what they use there. Now here’s an interesting bit of research for someone; I suspect this may vary from place to place.)

Having to improvise toilet paper is one thing…but it’s important to remember that for many people this pandemic has meant the loss of life—their own or someone they love. Or, if you’re unfortunate enough to live in NYC, probably more than one life. And if you’re a person who works in a hospital in NYC (or some other hot spot anywhere—a nursing home, meat packing plant, etc.), you’ve probably “lost” lots of people: some you’ve loved, some were co-workers, and some were strangers to you. Now it’s not just hot spots, it’s everywhere. And it looks like it may be coming back around for a second bite at our apple, because we just couldn’t quite believe what was happening to us, and we didn’t all do what the science suggested we needed to do to flatten the curve to protect ourselves and each other. Blaming is a futile exercise that doesn’t effect change for the better. So let’s move on.

So what does this have to do with gratitude, you ask? Well, as bad as things may get, one can always look for the good. It’s always there; even with something as devastating as a global pandemic. That’s why we have the saying: “every cloud has a silver lining.” And actually, if you rise above the stormy, angry clouds, and the rain and the lightning, you’ll discover not just a lining, but bright, sunny clouds everywhere you look—and rainbows, lots and lots of them. I know this sounds Pollyanna-ish, but it is actually, physically, true: I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. Seriously, rainbows of every shape and size . . . even a round one with the shadow of our plane in the middle of it. Seriously . . .

When we look for the good, or the bad, we find it. It’s really just how life presents itself to us. So, pay attention to what you’re looking for…the good or the bad, because you will find it.

Here’s a simple exercise for you to try:  spend an hour, if you can stand that much, listening to or watching cable news. How do you feel after doing that? If you’re enjoying the experience, keep watching, you may need some extra time with it before you start to feel anxious and afraid, or at the very least, confused.

Now, grab a pad and a pen (or sit at your keyboard—if you’re a writer, your computer’s probably on) and start listing everything you can think of that you’re grateful for…here’s just a smidge of my list to get you started:

I am so grateful for . . . my life . . . my family . . . my friends . . . my life partner . . . every pet I’ve ever owned . . . every person, known or unknown to me, who has shown me kindness when I needed it . . . every house, apartment, room, shelter from the storm I’ve ever lived in     every religion, philosophy, and practice that has fed my spirit/soul . . . every opportunity life has given me to help others . . . every creative talent I was born with and have been able to explore . . . every job I’ve had . . . toilet paper . . . flowers . . . roses . . . indoor plumbing . . . grocery stores . . . healthy food to eat . . . clean drinkable water at the turn of a tap . . . clean, breathable air . . . orchids . . . my good health . . . inventors . . . books . . . colors and my ability to see them . . . smart phones . . . computers . . . television . . . movies . . . the beach . . . trees . . . mountains . . . rivers . . . people who put their lives at risk so I don’t have to . . . babies . . . all the people in my life who have loved me and let me love them . . . clouds with silver linings . . . And the list goes on without end!

Not only may doing this bring tears, it lifts my spirit and swells my heart with how incredibly wonderful my life is—even in the midst of a pandemic. It reminds me that the purpose of life is to enjoy (to be in joy) life. Being grateful for everything, puts me on the path to joy no matter what may be happening around me. For me . . . I’d trade misery for joy every day of the week . . . every day of my life. Gratitude—being grateful—lets me do that.

I used to keep a gratitude journal; tonight I start a new one, again. Every night before I turned off my light to go to sleep, I would think of and list five things from my day for which I was grateful. For a while it was hard to come up with five. Soon it was hard to stop at five; sometimes I’d fill a whole page, or more. Eventually, I filled a whole notebook. Try this, you may find it doesn’t just make it easier to fall asleep at night, it can actually change your life…or at least the way you look at it, and how you feel about it. Is it good…or…is it bad…or is it all good? The choice is yours, ours and mine.

Don’t forget to start your list…

SIP Note # 11 from Tony Pino

Memorial Day

May 25, 2020

Pale soldier, head bent backward with purple lips

and gray-green eyes, fixed on an angel I cannot see.


the young man’s feet are plugged in rubble, and

metallic flies assemble among the stones.


They sing a dirge and then depart

To visit a dying cow beyond a stone wall


Angel, can you hear me?

What year is this?


Nineteen seventeen?

Nineteen forty


Two thousand and twenty?

Elsewhere a mother and father


will receive a letter and a medal

and the testimony of friends


a ritual overseen by angels.

SIP Note #10 from Anita Tosh

I have to apologize everybody. At least to the ones who are not having a great SIPing experience. You see, I have been asking God to make a way for me to stay home and work on my writing (among other things) and He answered my prayer! He does this for me all the time. God is so good!

I used to work part time after my retirement, but I really wanted to stay home. I am one of those strange women who love homemaking. I love cooking, baking, sewing, gardening; I even enjoy cleaning the house (within reason).

My husband works part time at an essential kind of place, and I can have lunch ready for him when he gets home. I CAN. But sometimes I get busy writing and….

Best of all, I have been able to get into a routine with my writing. First thing in the morning I check how many people have viewed my “bubbles” from Bublish. It was exciting getting to 1000. Even more exciting getting to 10,000! I have written several chapters in my next book and took online classes teaching me how to use adobe audition so that I can put out an audible version of my books.

I am sorry for those of you having a rotten time, but I am loving it.

SIP Note #9 from Carmen Von Tickner

What is this thing called SIP

Some folks just say it’s a new fling

But I don’t buy all that they say

I’ll cling to HAPPY and stay that way


I call this SIP a gift of TIME

To do the things I haven’t done

Cause doing NOTHING is a crime

And I just hate to WASTE my time


Work in my garden, pull out some weeds

Feed my rose bushes, plant some new seeds

Shred tons of paper, it does pile up

Call up my sister to share memories

Read a few books, learn something new

Arrange all those photos long overdue

Write a few letters to friends that I know

Who don’t do emails, nor chat on the phone


Return to my art, my other love

Dab on a canvas with vivid hues

Creating a picture as words to a verse

Critique or redo, to blend in the mood


My list of “to do’s” seems never to end

But honestly folks, it’s life at its best

Keeping the faith, and staying strong

Today is a blessing, Tomorrow is a Gift

SIP Note #8 from Rekha Ramani

Hello fellow creative writers,

Hope all of you are safe and well.

I’ve been watching the Task Force briefing on CNN every afternoon, and it’s getting me crazy and lower by the day. Not to get political, a friend of mine suggested NOT watching the news, and stay safe hunkered down at home.

A friend of mine said that she and her family haven’t stepped out of the house since March 20th. She does her groceries completely online. She uses Instacart and for her Indian groceries she texts!! the vendor and gets it home delivered. Whereas, I step out once a week to do my groceries. Can’t push it further than that. Somehow anytime I venture online, at some point the website stalls and keeps me on hold forever. I’ve succeeded at pick-ups from a few stores. Another friend of mine who also is an online shopper, multitasks. She’s teleworking and at the same time making an online order, doesn’t matter if she has to wait an hour till the order goes through. The point is that I don’t have the patience to shop online. To set the alarm at 3 a.m to order Indian groceries!?? No way is that doable for me. 🙂 

Of course I do get nervous before I enter a store. I say a little prayer. I have my cloth mask on, a disinfectant spray and a paper napkin in my purse. If the store doesn’t carry its own wipes, I spray the cart handle with my own disinfectant and wipe it down. I have an agenda whenever I enter a store. The goal is to move quickly, more like a sprint. For example, Walmart (close to my home) which I visit very often (not as often nowadays), I know exactly where my items are. So I know my road map very well. If there are too many people along an aisle, I skip it and move on to the next aisle. It’s like playing hopscotch. I don’t linger at a shelf, just grab and go. It makes me nervous to see people standing still and staring at shelves. I am so paranoid, that I even hold my breath (even behind a mask) when I see people who are close to me, talking. Sort of a breathing exercise. But I guess online shopping is not for me. 🙁 


I’ve had writer’s block close to three months now. But today something struck me and I wrote a poem about the current pandemic. Maybe I’ll submit it for next month’s Ink Spots. It’s nice to catch up with writing again, but would be nicer if the current pandemic ends soon and life would be easier for all of us. Praying for all of us, especially our front-liners.


Stay safe and healthy everyone! Take care.

SIP Note #7 from Scott Davidson

Where has all the time gone?

Once you were forced to shelter in place, I can imagine you thinking about all the extra time you would have. No more going to the mall. No commuting. No grocery shopping (nothing there anyway.) You could finally get caught up on all those things you didn’t have time to do before.

Hasn’t worked out that way, has it?

Wow, I can finally read that stack of books by the bed. Wow, I can make all those recipes I had been meaning to try. Wow, I can binge watch that series on Netflix, and catch up on the movies. Wow, I can wash the walls and vacuum the ceilings. I can do virtual tours of a bunch of museums.

Works great if they make the day 50 hours long. That would leave time for sleep also.

We are flooded with emails and articles giving us suggestions on filling up our copious free time. Pay too much attention to them and you’ll find that when things open again, you’re further behind.

This is nothing new to me. Before I retired, I walked around the house and made a list of the things I wanted to do, which could range from cleaning out a drawer to reading my 2,000 unread science fiction books. Do that, and then you can figure out what’s most important to you, and close your eyes to all the “these 20 books that are great to read” articles.

Do that, and you might even find some time to get some writing in. That’s what we’re about, isn’t it?

SIP Note #6 from Tish Davidson

A SIP Dinner Party

For the past six months I have been part of three couples who have tried to find a date to get together for dinner. Someone always had a conflict—vacation plans, volunteer commitments, new grandchildren to welcome into the world, health problems, surgeries, more health problems. Time passed. The reasons continued. Dinner never happened.

Then along came Shelter in Place. Who would have guessed it would be the perfect time for a dinner party—a virtual one. Consider the advantages to virtual dining. No need to clean the house.  No expense of buying groceries for a crowd. No need to find a recipe to accommodate guests special needs:

  • lactose intolerance
  • gluten free
  • eat only organic
  • vegetarian
  • vegan
  • allergic to seafood
  • allergic to nuts
  • on the paleo diet
  • on the keto diet
  • on any diet

To dine virtually, pick a date and time. Each couple cooks their own food to meet their special needs. At that time, they set up their laptop on the table where they are eating. To connect, each diner or couple sets up a free Zoom account and they choose a host for the dinner meeting. Everyone connects eats and chats, and voila—virtual dinner!

SIP Note #5 from Amber DeAnn

I was at the end of my rope. Jobs and work kept eating up my time, sucking my energy and leaving me feeling drained. Worse of all, my spirit was unhappy. Deep inside me I could feel the yearning for time, space, and creative freedom growing larger and larger. I could feel my expressive inner child growing restless and impatient.


The unfinished art piece waited patiently for my return and sadly every day I walked past it saying, “maybe tomorrow.” The huge stack of unread books captured my attention and called to me, “We are here for you. Where are you?”


 Something inside was about to crack and it was not going to be pretty.


Then Coronavirus hit and soon I got the word—I was furloughed from the inventory job, furloughed from the housecleaning job, the Census job was postponed, and my coaching client was gone. My life was upside down. I stared at the walls, unable to believe the bombshell that had been dropped on me.


Slowly, I remembered my teachings — “When you are unhappy, help someone else” (AAA advice) and “Gratitude opens doors,” (all spiritual teachers).

I felt the urge to make FB Lives sharing my gratitude. Yes, I will do this. I reached for one of my favorite books from the bookcase, flipped the pages and felt a calming satisfaction come over me. I tapped the FB button on my cell phone, then the Live button, positioned the iphone in the holder and I talked. The words gushed from inside me, bypassing my brain, entering cyberworld.

I was alive and functioning again. My heart was excited, my soul happy, my spirit calmed and my passion on fire. I smiled at the books who were my savior, my support, my teachers in that moment. I sighed, realizing being a teacher of practical mysticism was my passion. It was the reason I existed, and it was the source of my inner joy.

The FB views started to grow, the comments intruded into my FB Live meditations, they flooded onto the FB pages, and popped up in my FB messages.

My heart felt joy.  My face smiled. I knew I would read the books now and plan to be a speaker and build my online community.  This was the shove I needed to move into truly being a teacher and healer.

Thanks Corona. 



SIP Note #4 from Sue Curtzwiler

With All Your Heart

Make a routine, chart your projects, create your own recipe, read, or take a nice walk in the neighborhood. These are a few things that might help adjust to shelter-in-place (SIP). Social limitations are not familiar to some of us. Think of something you really enjoy, your “go to place”. You might want to start by writing a routine. Whatever you choose — own it, do it with all your heart.

Cooking is my sandbox, my “go to place.” I love to work with new vegetables, spices, and how to combine them with a main entrée or make a solid vegetarian meal. No, I’m not a vegetarian; occasionally, it’s fun to have variety. Recently, following a recipe in a new cookbook, I needed Star Anise (a slight licorice note) to make a cherry sauce for pork chops. This was before (SIP) was our way of life, but it still was a good excuse to get out. Tonight, my own creation, I sliced a yellow beet into chicken tenders, sliced cherry tomatoes, quinoa, the juice of ½ a lemon, and a little butter. Putting together what’s on hand is how I cook with all my heart. Tonight, I fought the lack of socializing.


SIP Note #3 from Tony Pino

Dear Friends – Today is Saturday, it’s National Poetry Month and I’m “sheltering in place.” In this new pandemic, I frequently sit at a window at the front my house, grading papers and watching dog-walkers, joggers and baby-pushers as they pass by in a springy spirit, garbed in loose pastels and other strong colors. What’s wrong with these people?  Why are they so happy? It seems unfair.

Then the thought comes that I may be the problem, not them.  Yes, it’s true: It’s me, really. Once I read an essay titled “My Poet: Why Do Poets Spend More Time Waiting Than Writing?” by Naeem Murr. (It’s a great read; try it sometime). In this essay, Murr frequently finds his lover staring out a window, just as I’ve been doing this very minute—apparently watching and waiting.

But for what?   

(There goes one now: a middle aged woman walker in black pants and a dark lavender sweat jacket, walking her sweet, cappuccino-colored spaniel. I saw her just recently as I was laboring in my front yard. “Hi, Tony,” she said. Not recognizing her, I smiled in return, and waved unassurely.

How did she know my name? Is there a meaning in this? Were we friends (or enemies) in some previous existence? Was she a flower or a raging dinosaur, and I a lumbering near-extinct bird? If she had been a flower, was I a bee, come-a-courtin’ for her honey? Or was I another form of bee-ing?)

If you have time, sit at a window during this National Poetry Month and era of shelter-in-place. Send me a message; let me know if you learn anything from this passive process.

Here comes another jogger. This one is wearing a thick, black mask. Now we’re getting somewhere! It’s an ambivalent moment. Wake up, poet!

But wait. I haven’t finished grading this paper. It’s been an hour now.   


SIP Note #2 from Terry Tosh

So, Day 22

I am finding out just how true it is that those that are “too busy” are the most productive!

Since I am now in the at-risk category, and most experts recommend we self-isolate, as well as recommending to our family members to stay in other areas of the house to avoid one side or the other of the crisis, it is becoming harder and harder to get out of my rocker/bed/bathroom.

The big excursion of the day is walking the dog. Weekly trip to early admission to grocers. Yard work beckons. Rake practically jumps into my arms. Ok, so I accidentally stepped on the tines, giving it that feeling of an unexpected hug…

Ok! Did one row, is it time for a nap? YEP.

I think this probably has something to do with inertia, maybe?

Hey, I did manage to go on that super long, um, longish bike ride last week; or was that 2weeks ago, already? Yeah, when I still had some semblance of strength left. You know, the one where I only used my “pedal-assist” part of the time, on the way, till I stopped at that duck pond, way down there…at least 3-4 miles…of flat ground.

Then the migraine came on and rescue was required for the return trip. I mean, well, dinner was going to be ready! Oh, lunch? Seemed later.

Thanks, honey, for the rescue. Maybe I’ll go not quite so far this time…bike looks fine. Weather looks good. (Yawn), maybe in a little while.

Keep the Faith!


Terry Tosh

SIP Note #1 from Nancy Guarnera

March 31st

This can certainly be a trying time, scary even. I’d like to pass on something I heard today. We humans like to feel we’re in control and right now, that sense of control feels like it’s being challenged. But, in fact, we have lots of things we can control and focusing on those things can help us stay sane in this crisis. Yes, our regular routines are upended. But, we can choose to create a new routine that helps us move through our day in a way that balances the things that we all need:  sleep; companionship; healthy food; physical activity; something to replace our “work” with, that we actually enjoy doing and perhaps allows us to pursue a passion that under normal circumstances we rarely have time for; and some kind of spiritual practice — yoga, prayer, meditation, journaling, singing, music, daily inspirational quote, etc. Who’s going to stop you? Your cat, your dog, your spouse, your landlord, your parakeet? They may already be doing this. You can, too. Taking back control of your day-to-day experience can be very empowering. We are all creative by our very nature as human beings, and we can create a life that we enjoy if we choose to do so, even when we are sheltering in place (SIP). Now is a perfect time to do this.

Don’t forget to do some deep breathing, if you find yourself panicking.

I like to think of challenges as opportunities I’m being given to learn and grow beyond my currently perceived limitations. Ultimately, my responsibility in any situation, is my ability to respond to the situation. How I do that, is entirely up to me.

And this has finally happened: 

March 31st: I also heard someone suggest that we should all be wearing “masks” whenever we’re in the presence of another. Actually, wearing a bandana or a scarf will help, since masks are at a premium right now. This could become the new CoronaV fashion statement. Anything we can do to keep ourselves and others safe can make a difference.

April 5th: Gentlepeople, make a personal statement with your “Marf,” (your mask/scarf). Yet one more way we can bring a playful,creative, personal touch to our experience. Darn, most of my “marves” are in storage, I think!

Stay happy, healthy, safe, and sane…the choice is yours!