It took me 19 years to love my house and now I may lose it.

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Photo by David Gonzales from Pexels

I don’t know when the ash trees died. By my estimate, it was at least eight years ago, maybe longer. That means we let them stand, dead, for nearly a decade because we could not afford to remove them.

This past spring, I finally called the town to see if there was anything they could do. Two of the trees were precariously balanced near the road. I could scarcely afford to have them both removed, but luckily I didn’t have to come up with the money. …


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Drawing by Ana Dooley

An email from my daughter’s school arrived in my inbox at 1:19 pm on October 1st that took my breath away. It was an unsigned announcement notifying parents that, due to severe budget cuts, all students in the district must resume in-person classes on November 9th.

This contradicted what we’d been told (repeatedly) since September. Namely, that her high school would remain completely virtual for the entirety of the 2020–2021 school year.

I’d tried to process the information without panicking and, after reading the email several times, found a link at the very bottom that read, simply, “Remote Instruction Continuation.” …


Face reality even though it sucks.

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Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

In his post-Thanksgiving piece titled, “The Long Darkness Before Dawn,” New York Times’ Health and Science reporter Donald McNeil writes, “Our failure to protect ourselves has caught up with us. Some epidemiologists predict that the death toll by March could be close to twice the 250,000 figure that the nation surpassed only last week.”

The piece, a response to the fact that over 6 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving last week, is meant as a warning. …


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A photo of the winter sky — taken by my daughter from her bedroom window about six weeks before she died

The season of my daughter’s death is winter. It is, in fact, the darkest part of winter. Four years ago, Ana’s oncologist told us she was terminal. That was sometime in the summer of 2016. By January of 2017, it became apparent that she would not live to reach her 16th birthday in May. As the weeks grew colder, the weather harsher, and the landscape increasingly grey, she withered and faded and ebbed.

She died two days after the spring equinox so I guess that, technically, spring is the season of her death. But so much of her dying happened during winter, that I’m able to give spring a pass. Plus, spring is the season of her birth. It’s the season I became a mother (twice over). …


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Unsplash

My family received three incredibly generous gifts this November. They will enable me to stop worrying about losing my house. They’ve also made it possible for me to more easily buy gifts and necessities. Last week, the gratitude hit me at the grocery store when I realized that I didn’t have to put anything back or feel guilty about filling my cart.

Two of the gifts were from anonymous sources (one gift arrived with a card that was signed, “A Well-Wisher.”) The third was from my parents. It will enable me to get my mortgage situation squared. My father, who I have not seen since March and who I dearly miss, brushed away my thanks and said, “Stuff happens to everyone. The courage is admitting it and doing anything you can to deal with it.” …


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My daughter Ana in Dec 2016, her last Christmas

There is real grief associated with missing out on the traditions and rituals we’re accustomed to enjoying this time of year. I truly get it. My older daughter was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2012, when she was 11. That first holiday season post-cancer was hard. She’d undergone six weeks of chemotherapy, lost her hair, and ended up needing a liver transplant.

That year, the tumor in her belly grew so large that she looked pregnant. We waited on eggshells for a call from her doctors saying they had a viable liver donor. …


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Pixabay

In March, I started following some New York doctors and frontline healthcare workers on Twitter (e.g., #MedTwitter). These select groups of (unfortunate) insiders were dealing with the initial surge of cases. Their tweets and threads helped me understand details about COVID-19 during a time when we knew very little about the virus (remember when we thought children couldn’t get sick, but no one was talking about aerosol particles as a means of transmission?)

During those early months of extreme confusion (exacerbated by mixed messages from Trump and his cronies), the doctors I followed helped me understand the virus’s severity. …


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pexels

This week, Pfizer giddily announced that preliminary results from a coronavirus vaccine trial they’re conducting suggest the vaccine is more than 90% effective. By comparison, influenza vaccines are typically 40 to 60% effective.

Preliminary findings also suggest that the vaccine is safe, so Pfizer is planning to ask the FDA for emergency authorization of the vaccine as early as this month.

Assuming the rest of the trial goes well, and with expedited FDA approval, Pfizer estimates they can have up to 40 million doses produced before the end of 2020.

It looks extremely promising. I’m genuinely hopeful that production and distribution of a vaccine will mark the beginning of the end to this nightmarish pandemic. …


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Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

When my girls were little, my writing time was pared down to a few stolen minutes in the evening. I’d scribble away in a journal, writing stream-of-consciousness vignettes that I (infrequently) turned into poems. Sometimes I’d jot ideas down in these same journals, hoping to revisit them at some point for the novel I never seemed to have time to write.

I wanted to be a writer, but my identity back then was immersed in motherhood. Writing took a back seat to more important things, including my professional work which didn’t involve much writing at all.

But what I didn’t anticipate (or fully accept) was that motherhood and writing would naturally intertwine. Indeed, I hated the term “mommy blogger” and actively rebelled against starting my own blog. …


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Photo by Parker Johnson on Unsplash

I never got around to sending out my absentee ballot. I was worried about the many things that could go wrong, so I procrastinated. Delays with the mail, the possibility of the ballot getting lost, and (if I’m being honest), my own incompetence all played a part in my refusal to mail that slip of paper.

I’d ripped the return envelope when I’d opened the ballot, and I wasn’t sure if taping the ragged pieces back together would disqualify my vote.

I held onto the ballot until today, filling it out while I sipped coffee at the dining room table at 6:45 a.m. I was determined to vote before 8 a.m., but not because I was worried about the crowds. …

About

Jacqueline Dooley

Occasional poet. Writer of sad essays. Novelist. Birder and amateur photographer. I enjoy trees.

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