Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

Guilt in the Time of Covid-19
By Lois Winston

As many of you know by now, I spent most of my professional life as a crafts designer, which explains Anastasia Pollack, the eponymous amateur sleuth of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Write what you know, right?

For several decades I designed fabric crafts for the craft book division of the McCall’s Pattern Company, creating projects for everything from appliquéd baby quilts to Christmas tree skirts to flowerpot dolls (Yes, that was a thing at one time.) I even worked as one of their editors.

A perk of being a designer in the crafts industry was the free craft supplies manufacturers constantly sent me, hoping to get their products featured in books and magazines. My craft closet is chockfull of yards upon yards of cotton fabrics as well as elastic, ribbons, bias tape, lace, and enough thread to circle the globe many times over.

If I were home, I’d be putting all those supplies and my sewing machine to good use making face masks for all the first responders, hospital personnel, and anyone else who needs one. But I’m not home. Since the second week in March I’ve been 800 miles away, taking care of my two little grandsons while my son and daughter-in-law work from home. And that’s where the guilt comes in. People are desperate for something I could supply if only I were home.

But I still had to make a face mask for when I return home. However, I’m staying in a house where the only sewing supplies consist of an emergency travel sewing kit I gave my son years ago when he went off to college. From the looks of it, I doubt he used it more than once—if that. And forget cotton fabric, elastic, or ribbons, let alone a sewing machine.

However, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. I cut the wide waistband off a pair of yoga pants sitting in the Goodwill pile and asked my son to buy some shoelaces on his next trip to the supermarket. I knew there was no point in asking him to buy elastic. No one has had any for weeks.

Anyway, the resulting mask, hand-stitched under less than ideal conditions, won’t win any fashion awards, but at least it will keep me safe until I get home, even if it does fog up my glasses. At least I don’t have to wear it while I’m driving, only during rest area pit stops and gas station fill-ups. Once I’m home, since I’ll have to self-quarantine for two weeks anyway, I’ll whip up some classier looking masks—for me and anyone else who needs one.

Meanwhile, I’ve had to set aside working on Anastasia’s latest adventure while I’m back in 24/7 childcare mode. I’ll get back to her once life returns to whatever our new normal will be. I’m sure she’s happy to have a break from all the murder and mayhem I drop at her feet.

How are you dealing with this crazy new world of ours? Are you doing a lot of yoga? Listening to Mozart? Whittling down that TBR pile? Stress-eating? Spending as much time as possible locked in the bathroom away from everyone else in the house?

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Comments

  1. Ms VIVIENNE says

    Dusted off the arts and craft bin and started making face masks in the community, and taking a few webinar seminars.
    By the way, I think your mask is awesome, and I too tend to be a bit of germaphobia!

  2. I’m struggling with my reading. But otherwise, I’m working remotely and crave human interaction.

    • Hi Dru! I think we’re all feeling the same. I’ve been trying to lose myself in books but find my attention span isn’t what it should be, and I so miss getting together with friends. Virtual get-togethers just aren’t the same.

  3. maggietoussaint says

    Hey Lois, I much admire your creativity in making your yoga pants mask. I keep getting distracted from editing to make more masks. It was bothering me at first that I couldn’t focus on editing, but then I remembered the passage “to everything there is a season” and realized I need to keep making masks as I can. So many elderly in our county and many of them do not sew, are in dire financial straits, and need masks. I’m not fast, more like a tortoise, when it comes to sewing them. I keep experimenting with the design and found items around my household.

    • Maggie, I’ve been playing catch-up all week and haven’t started making any masks yet, but I did pull together a large shopping bag of fabric, thread, and bias tape for a friend who is busy sewing. Turns out I had no suitable elastic. My friend is part of a group of women who have a social distancing assembly line worked out. Some cut, some sew, some deliver–each step being left on a porch for the next person to pick up. So I’ll probably start off by cutting fabric this weekend until I can get my hands on some elastic.

  4. cminichino says

    Thanks, Lois, and thanks to all your readers. It helps to know what others are doing — forming a support community this way is quite a benefit. I have the same focusing problem for sure and use my phone as a timer, allowing myself breaks between dealing with my WIP and other chores. Keep safe everyone! <3

  5. bellwriter says

    I’m writing, exercising and wearing my mask. I am so glad you’re home and can finish this book. One positive I find about wearing masks is we don’t have to wear makeup! Great post, Lois, you continue to impress.

    • Thanks, Donnell. Yes, we’re finally home–after 8 very long weeks. I probably should have stated that earlier in my replies. The post was written while we were still in Nashville. My brain is having trouble catching up! I think there’s such a thing as corona-brain that many of us are becoming afflicted with, and it has nothing to do with actually having the virus. I know I’m not the only one having trouble remembering what day it is!

  6. I offered to teach our daughter how to sew on a button next time are there. Her sewing skills are nil. I used to sew in high school but don’t have the patience now. I’m occupied with revising my backlist titles, reading, and binging TV shows. We’re also cleaning the house until we let our maid return, taking walks, and …yes, stress eating. At least as writers we are used to working at home. I sympathize with your grandma duties. That takes incredible energy. Your kids are lucky to have you. Ours are four hours away, so we visit via Facetime or Zoom.

    • I wish our grandkids were only 4 hrs. away, Nancy. Two are a 2-day drive, and the other 3 are a 6 hr. plane ride away. No telling when we’ll get to see them in person again, but at least we have FaceTime. 🙁

  7. Lots more phone calls than ever. But living in the epicenter our anxiety level is high.

    • I know what you mean, Jacqueline. NY’s numbers are going down, but NJ is still pretty bad. We’ve had 35 deaths so far just in our small commuter town. That’s more than some states!

  8. You would think I’d be making good progress on my TBR pile, but I’m finding it hard to concentrate on much of anything. It’s very distracting when all you can think about is how the book characters should be better at standing six feet apart!

    • I have made the decision not to address the virus in my WIP, Maria. I’m working on Book 9, but the first 8 books took place over the course of a year, and this one is only a few months after Book 8 ended. Since the first book came out in January 2011, my fictional characters are really in 2012 if anyone cares to figure it out by looking at the copyright date. I’ve never established a year in the series to keep the books from becoming dated.

  9. At times it’s been easy, other times tough. I enjoy having the extra time at home, but sometimes I feel panicky over what the future will bring. So I take a lot of deep breaths, mediate, and run. I’ve also attended many Zoom meetings with friends and family and that’s been nice.

    • I feel your panic, Kathleen. What the future will be like is so scary because we just don’t know how this is all going to play out.

  10. I was able to get good masks from a group of volunteers at our local Senior Center because I no longer have a sewing machine at home. So many volunteers doing great works make me feel a little useless at times, so I compensate by donating. In this case, I’m giving these volunteers a gift card to JoAnn Fabrics so they can replenish their supplies.

  11. I’ve rediscovered the telephone and am having long phone conversations with friends I used to email and text.

    • Well, this comment was in reply to Debra, but apparently WordPress doesn’t like me this morning because it didn’t post under her comment. 🙁

  12. Lois — I think your mask looks fab! I am still working, so no extra time to fill. By now I have a nice collection of various face covers that I can rotate through and even match my outfit. And since we long since switched over to a Keurig for our coffee, it is nice to have a use for the big stack of coffee filters I had stashed away in a drawer. Two sizes, so I can either make the “filter within a filter” version with rubber bands in case of an emergency, or else stick them inside the mask pockets to make my cloth masks more effective. I am starting to like wearing masks. I’ve always been a bit phobic about close talkers, so I may just keep wearing one even after the COVID retreats until next year!

    • Diane, those people who “spray it” instead of “say it” have always bothered me as well. I kind of like the idea of continuing to wear a mask in public. I’ve become much more germaphobic as I’ve gotten older!

  13. cherylhollon says

    I’m coping from day to day. I live only minutes away from my sons and their families, but its tough not to see them. It makes you feel so isolated. We’re ZOOM meeting tonight and I’ll get to see their faces. That helps. I’m also making slow but steady progress on the current book. Trying to make the best of things by keeping on keeping on.

  14. I’m focusing in spurts; doing too many zoom calls of all types; and taking long drives.