2020 Quarantine

2020 has been an interesting year, I’ll say that. Who knew that when my husband and I set out on a Caribbean cruise on February 26 that a week later when we docked that the whole world would be turned upside down? Two weeks after that our state instituted a safer-at-home mandate that remained in place almost three months.

It’s tragic how many people have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Thankfully, everyone in our immediate family has stayed healthy, including my mom who lives in an assisted living facility.

As an empty-nester and someone who works from home, the safer-at-home order didn’t necessarily alter my daily routine — at least, not in a negative way. What it actually did was free up my schedule from all outside appointments. Traditionally, I reserved Mondays and Thursdays as appointment-free days so I can work without interruption, decked out in yoga pants and sweatshirts. With the mandate, that extended to seven days a week.

Being a goal-setter and a notorious list-maker, once I knew the quarantine was going to happen, I created my 2020 Quarantine To-Do List. There were five categories that I worked on during my time off: To Read, To Finish, To Watch, To Give Away, To Do.

The most ambitious category was To Read. I found out quickly enough that I can either write books or I can read books. Of the 88 books on my list, I only got through eight of them. But, the good news is that I’m on a roll now and have dedicated at least a few minutes every day to reading. I’ve got the next six books on a pile waiting their turn to be read. This is a long-term goal, but I’m confident I’ll get through them in the next year or so and then can work on my Kindle list (which may actually be longer).

To Finish (62 items) consisted mostly of food items that we wanted to use up (the rest being beauty aids like facial masks and the like). John and I made up our minds that we would use up every item in our pantry, refrigerator and freezer during the quarantine (supplementing with fresh items such as lettuce, almond milk, eggs, cheese and bread). Tapping into my inner Betty Crocker, I got back to my cooking roots (which I had abandoned sometime around when our youngest child graduated from high school) and came up with some pretty creative dishes (with help from AllRecipes.com). We did an amazing job of clearing out our food stores so now we can start fresh.

The To Watch (37 productions) category was enjoyable, since it consisted of binge watching several series, including Scorpion, Smash, China Beach, Turn: Washington’s Spies (my current obsession, particularly Ben Tallmadge portrayed by Seth Numrich — I seriously want him to act in a limited-run series based on my Heaven Intended series. If you know him, have his people call my people :o), numerous movies, family videos, and Mentored By a Millionaire — a financial prosperity course. It was like having a mini-date with John (an essential worker) every night after he got home from work. I have to say that the series we watched were outstanding, I hardily recommend catching them if you haven’t yet.

What fun it was working our way through the To Give Away (22 categories) list. Over the last few months, we’ve gone through every nook and cranny in our house and ruthlessly purged, everything from clothing to household goods to a cupboard filled with Tupperware. I posted items on Facebook as they were ready to go and the people with first dibs were picking them up from my front porch almost on a daily basis for several weeks. While we could have sold the majority of the items on Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace, we wanted to share our blessings with friends and family and give them away. It was a gratifying experience to say the least.

The hardest category to tackle was the To Do (79 items) list, which we’re still working on. Some of the projects were as short as a quick call or an e-mail, but some other projects, such as rewriting my newest book that’s coming out this fall or catching up on my photo scrapbooks, took a good month or so to complete. Having finished so many projects, a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I honestly didn’t know when I would have made the time to do these things if my scheduled hadn’t completely cleared up overnight.

That being said, I’m ready to get back to life again. I’ve got a clear vision of how I want my career to go and how I’ll be spending my days so that I can be as productive as possible. This whole experience has given me an appreciation for everything I have in my life and gives me a different perspective on my various obligations. I’m now doing what I want, when I want and with whom I want. It doesn’t get much better than that.  

The Big Question

There seems to be a standard set of questions we get asked at various stages in our lives. When you’re a kid, the question is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In high school, it’s “Where are you going to go to college?” Once your schooling is done, the career questions start to pop up. After you’ve settled into a career the next big question is, “Are you dating anyone?” which in time turns to, “When are you going to get engaged?”

“When’s the big day?” is next on the agenda. Then after the wedding comes, “Are you starting a family soon?” Once the first baby arrives, then people ask if you’re having more or, if you have a couple children, “Are you done yet?”

After those momentous life occasions, you get a break until you turn 55 and then, like clockwork, the inevitable question comes, “When do you think you’ll retire?” Since I’ve already passed that milestone age, that question has been broached to me a number of times.

Some people seem to get offended by the retirement question, either thinking it implies that they’re getting old, or, like numerous people I know, they’ve just started a new career track and retirement is a long way off in their mind.

But, in reality, I don’t think there’s really anything at which to take offense. That question is typical small talk for Baby Boomers and those people in their lives. It’s as innocuous as asking, “What do you think of the weather we’re having lately?”

I personally can’t see myself ever completely retiring, since I have what I consider a dream career that’s a mix of writing books, articles and screenplays, proofreading, copy editing, photography, modeling, acting, and helping people obtain true health. I work from the comfort of my home office and I get to pick and choose which projects I want to work on.

Besides that, I was a late bloomer. I worked in the proofreading field after I got out of school, doing that the first four years of our marriage but, after we started our family, I took a 15-year hiatus to raise our four children. When our youngest child started second grade, I took a part-time job proofreading a series of local newspapers. Our office closed its doors shortly after 9/11 because of the instability of the economy. From there, I set out on my own as a freelance journalist and gradually expanded my business. Technically, I’ve only been at this career for 20 years — I’m relatively fresh.

That being said, I’m starting to notice that people all around me are choosing to retire, including friends, neighbors, and extended family members, so the subject has been on my mind lately. In 2019 my two older brothers (Irish twins) turned 60, and my oldest brother (the amazing comic book artist Gordon Purcell) told me that he’s now basically semi-retired and he’s OK with that.

Perhaps I’d give retirement more thought if my husband was retiring, but he’s enjoying what he’s doing so there are no imminent plans for him to hang it up. Maybe when he hits the 40-year mark in 2023, he’ll consider it, but he’s happy where he’s at for now.

As for me, I’ve got a full plate between promoting my Heaven Intended Civil War trilogy and my next series of books which is scheduled to be published later this year. I keep telling people, “You have to make hay while the sun’s shining — the sun’s shining bright on my career now so I’ll keep plugging away.” There are days when it’s a grind, but I have an overwhelming sense of feeling lucky and blessed that I have these opportunities. Besides, if you really love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work anyhow. It’s just one adventure after another.

Life at this moment is a bit of a juggling act as I’m not only putting in a good deal of hours with my career, but my parents are getting older, we’ve got children and grandchildren we want to spend time with, and we enjoy traveling and staying active.

As busy as the days are, I’m choosing to love every minute of every day, and I plan to make 2020 the best year yet. Hope you can say the same thing too. Here’s to a healthy, prosperous and beautiful new year for all of us!

 

 

‘Til the Season Comes Round Again

 

Watching Amy Grant perform “Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again” live with Michael W. Smith and Jordan Smith this past December 15 left tears running down my cheeks. I felt so blessed to be watching that performance in Columbus, Ohio with our three daughters, our son-in-law and our grandson and granddaughter.

 

Normally I may not have had that much of an emotional reaction to a song but that concert represented the beginning of the precious Christmas season with our family and the start of wrapping up 2017 — which was one of the most stressful years of my life.

 

Mind you, there’s good stress and there’s not good stress and I had my share of both of them this past year. On the good side there were the travels John and I took together — Mexico, L.A., San Diego, Columbus, Ohio (multiple times), San Antonio and Austin, Texas, Spring Green, Wisconsin and the birth of our beautiful fourth grandchild, Evelyn on September 7.

 

Then there was the huge updating project on our house which lasted the whole summer and entailed moving the entire household into our basement in June and then back into the main two stories in September. It took countless hours of work and shopping to make the house the industrial country home of my Pinterest dreams.

 

My career had challenges which led to growth and expansion into new endeavors. I had the opportunity to copy edit a movie script and eventually earned billing as the co-writer (check out The Islands when it comes to a theater near you in November, 2018). I copy edited a business book by Cheri Tree called Why They Buy that has turned out to be a best seller. In November I wrote the third book in my Heaven Intended Civil War series (Book #2, A Life Such as Heaven Intended, comes out April 2, 2018).

 

The biggest news in my career is that my first novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, is under contract to make it into a movie. It’s exciting and surreal to enter the film business as a movie producer. The director, Michael Sajbel, and I are in the process of securing investors for production of the movie and once we hit a certain threshold, everything begins. (If you have an interest in investing — or learning about investing— in a movie that will be engaging, entertaining and profitable, contact me.)

 

On the less-than-stellar stress side, for the past five months we’ve been dealing with physical and mental health issues with my mom. She went from a healthy, active 80-year-old to incapacitated overnight. On August 15 her colon ruptured which led to emergency surgery. The trauma of the surgery, combined with medication and other factors brought on a form of PTSD called hospital delirium. She has been either hospitalized or under 24/7 rehab care for five months.

 

Those months were traumatic not only for her but for me, her primary caregiver, as well. The good news is she is regaining her health, strength and mind. It’s not a quick or easy process. The next step will be bringing her back to her home. We have no idea how that will turn out but we’re very grateful to still have her with us.

 

We’re starting out 2018 with a clean slate and are looking forward to what the year holds for us. We know the highlights will be the time spent with our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends. We’ll have adventures and trials and tribulations (or growth opportunities as we like to say) as well but we’ll take each day one at a time and enjoy the highs and do our best to learn from the lows.

 

For our family and friends, new and old, we can’t really say it any better than Amy Grant did…

“May the New Year be blessed with good tidings, ‘til the next time I see you again. If we must say goodbye, let the spirit go with you, And we’ll love and we’ll laugh in the time that we had, ‘Til the season comes round again.”