It's been a over five weeks since we've been isolated and I've mostly kept it together. Working from home, writing these blog posts, exercising, reading, doing jigsaw and the NYTs crossword puzzles, trying some new recipes, and zooming with family and friends has all helped keep me sane. But that doesn't mean I haven't experienced isolation freak out.

I imagine you've had at least one freak out too. I'm no expert but some mental collapse during this time seems pretty normal. Thing is, like most freak outs, it appears to be brought on by a mundane occurrence. Then, when it's over and you have your wits back, you blush with embarrassment by your overreaction, knowing what had occurred was a small part of a bigger picture. 

My freak out came from such a mild appearing event. With hindsight, it was a whole lotta nothing. I was digging into a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of felines. At least 50 different kinds. Intent on finishing the Savannah breed, I searched my carefully arranged pieces. I had placed browns and whites in a box top, greys and blacks were in that plastic container, blanks were situated over here, pieces with letters on them catalogued over there. When not working on the puzzle, I kept the various storage boxes high on a bookshelf, knowing Dante and Bruno would like nothing more than to bat the pieces all over the wood floor.

I was looking for a piece with two ins and two outs, that was a little thicker in the middle and that would complete the Savannah's tawny colored hind leg. The piece I searched for also had a pinch of a dark rust colored spot on it. While I was sorting through hundreds of inch-wide pieces, a thunderous sound transported me back to last July when I was with my family at TooJays Deli in Plantation. We were about to dig into our bowls of matzoh ball soup when there was an explosion followed by a tremor. Outside the restaurant window, smoke and debris soared and then billowed down like a meteor shower, a bombardment of metal, wood, roofing material, cement, pieces of furniture and fauna. The stunned silence of the restaurant patrons and employees did not last long. I moved mom away from the window and waited for the next blast I was sure would follow. People were crying and screaming. A mother next to me tried desperately to calm her frightened son. The causes of the explosion careened through my head. Terrorist attack? A plane crash? 

Another explosion never came and within a few minutes we hustled out of the deli. Mom gripped my arm. I grabbed a chair and carried it in my other hand. I imagined we were going to be there for a very long time and feared mom wouldn't have a place to sit. Remarkably, I was soon able to retrieve my car and mom and I, along with our relatives, were able to head home. Not a terrorist attack, not a plane crash. A gas explosion. 

Turns out, being home in isolation has emotional similarities to experiencing an explosion. Senses are heightened, we try to stay calm and purposeful in our next moves, but in reality much of it is out of our hands. 

It's hard not to be on edge during this unnerving time so when I was looking for the piece to complete the Savannah cat's paw and heard a crash, I jumped. My heart bucked like a bronco. I looked to mom who was seated on the couch watching one of her murder shows. She was okay. I scoured the rest of the living room to see what new disaster was upon us and saw the remnants of the Toyager, Turkish Van and Burmese cardboard cat shower. Then I spotted Bruno, my striped American shorthair brat, um, I mean, cat, seated on the table next to me. He had knocked over the box top where I had carefully sorted and placed all the browns and whites.  A look of not me on his face. I looked to mom who was now staring at me, and smiling. 

"It's not funny," I spat.

In a frenzy, I scooped up pieces and tossed them back into the box top. I moved the table and the couch, looked under the rug, got a long ruler and swiped under a bookcase. Did I get them all? I would not know until I completed the puzzle.

Freak out over, I looked at mom.

"It's just a puzzle," she said. She pointed to Bruno who watched from the orchestra section of the dining room table. "And he's just a cat."

I got it. My isolation freak out turned to laughter. Not because what Bruno had done was funny, no, he was in time out for quite awhile (which for a cat looks the same as the rest of his day). I laughed because I saw the big picture. My freak out had nothing to do with the puzzle pieces scattered around the living room and everything to do with the frustration, sadness and cooped-upness we are all experiencing. I took a long, deep breath and resumed puzzling.

I wasn't even upset when I finished the jigsaw and a piece was missing. 

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Joanne Lewis Blog



joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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