At I Heart Lesfic, we believe the world could use a bit more kindness after one of the hardest and longest of years. Many authors have signed up to help IHL spread kindness in the world.
Today, the wonderful Victoria Janssen is here to share a story. Also, Victoria is giving away 1 ecopy of Finding Refuge. Below the guest post, you’ll find more details about the giveaway.
Take it away, Victoria.
Being kind can help the giver as well as the receiver!
This is a global pandemic story, and it revolves around my day job.
Due to having some staff who work in China, my workplace had a lot of direct contact with the early stages of the pandemic, but it didn’t start to affect us more directly until March of 2020. After about a week of debating and preparing for a possible week or two of working from home, all of the staff at my employer were sent home abruptly on a Friday, in the middle of the day. It was the beginning of a lockdown that lasted for months, and a stint of working from home that, for those in my office, lasted eighteen months. As I write, we are still only coming into the office a few days a week, and though we’re all vaccinated, indoor masking is required, because there’s still risk to our unvaccinated children and immune-compromised family.
During lockdown, most of the human contact I had (some weeks, all the human contact I had!), was with my co-workers via video conferencing. My smaller operations group regularly met twice a week. We soon became close as we shared our fears for our friends and families and our fears and uncertainties about the pandemic. We shared every small victory we could eke out.
I’d liked and enjoyed my colleagues before the lockdown, but during it, they were a lifeline. We all pitched in to send food delivery gift certificates for our birthdays. One of us led short exercise routines weekly (none of us were getting enough exercise). When my neighborhood was full of roaring helicopters for days and nights on end, during the George Floyd protests, my colleagues talked about what was happening, so we could express our grief and rage and hope within the safe space of our small group, so none of us felt so alone. Late in the year, when another of my colleagues got special permission to enter our building, to set up a piece of equipment we needed for remote work, she very kindly retrieved an item I’d left behind that last day, dropping it off at my house on her way home. She sadly reported that most of our office plants, many of them in a single large office with a wide windowsill, had died from lack of water, but a few had miraculously survived. None of those plants were mine, but I thought about that a lot.
Midway through the summer, I discovered that a local grocery store also sold houseplants. My mother had always filled our house with potted sansevieria and flowering narcissus; to me, plants help to make a house a home. The local hardware store, also within walking distance, stocked potting soil and pots. I started with a Dracaena, which turned out to be two plants inside a single pot. Eventually, I separated them into two pots. Buying and propagating plants is a soothing activity that I can do while alone. Seeing the plants grow and prosper (for the most part! I did lose a little cactus!) made me feel more in control of my life. I couldn’t stop a global pandemic, but I could definitely clip a brown leaf off that grocery-store pothos and give it a roomier pot with new soil. I shared pictures in our online chat, or occasionally via text.
After many months, and many changes of plan, our part-time return to the office was scheduled for the fall. By this point, I had a lot of houseplants because I’d been experiencing a lot of anxiety. I knew I didn’t need them all. But I realized: I could share. Returning to the office, while frightening, could be made a little less stressful if we all had plants to sit calmly on our desks, breathing out oxygen and being green. I broached the idea at a staff meeting and got an enthusiastic response. So for the rest of the summer, I carefully selected and propagated and repotted as necessary, so each member of my team would have at least one foliage plant for their desk or windowsill. I even ended up having extras when my aloe plant began to send off pups. So that was how I tried to return some of the kindness my colleagues had shown to me.
Everyone loves their plants, and I love seeing green leaves poking above cubicle walls. They’re like a symbol of our office returning to life.
A Place of Refuge: Book 1
by Victoria Janssen
They lost the revolution. But then, they found sanctuary—and hope.
After the fascist Federated Colonies crushes their interstellar revolt, freedom fighters Talia and Miki have only each other.
Telepathic warrior Talia Avi lost her home planet, her people, and their psychic communion when the FC invaded, but thanks to Miki Boudreaux, she can glimpse a life beyond defeat. Genius engineer Miki lost Talia once to FC captivity and never plans to lose her again.
Miki will risk her life and her freedom to reunite Talia with the escaped remnants of her people, on a mysterious planet far outside of FC control. But the difficult part will be what comes after…when you’ve always been a guerilla at the sharp end of death, how do you learn to make a life?
Can two freedom fighters find refuge at last?
FINDING REFUGE Giveaway
MEET THE AUTHOR
Victoria Janssen [she, her] lives in Philadelphia and writes comforting fiction in a sunny room overrun with houseplants.
CONNECT WITH VICTORIA JANSSEN
Thanks so much for stopping by today.
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