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!

 

 

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

This past summer and early fall has been one for the books, that’s for sure. John and I did our own personal version of Love It or List It. We decided to update our house top to bottom and bring it from 1993 to 2017. The idea was either we would love the house and stay here or downsize and build an executive ranch in a different part of town.

 

This required moving our entire two-story home into our basement where we dwelt from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. Overall the project went very well, there were delays here and there and some contractor issues, but as the general contractor I had most things moving along as they should.

 

The goal was to have a Pinterest-worthy modern country industrial farmhouse when we were done. It took a ton of research, shopping online and in local retail stores, pouring over Pinterest pages, consulting with numerous folks in the industry, and a boatload of hands-on work but in end everything turned out even better than we could have imagined.

 

We ended up coming in under budget and under the original timeframe. Just kidding! Like every project on every HGTV home-improvement show, we came in over budget (about double what we estimated) and weeks later than we anticipated.

 

Our summer was spent working every day at our jobs — since I’m self-employed that meant being holed up in the basement day in and day out. BTW, how was the weather this summer? All I could see of the outside was our window wells and some grass. Every night we were either working on projects in the house or yard, or at one of the local hardware stores buying or returning things. (Here’s a shout out to the crew at Menard’s, we were there an average of once a day.)

 

To make it even more interesting, I took on two substantial copy editing jobs early in the summer. So, in addition to writing for two newspapers, educating folks about Kangen water at various events, a big R&D project, attending the CMN convention in Chicago, and taking care of our grandson as needed, I copy edited a business book (with a 48-hour deadline) that has since gone on to be a best seller (check out Why They Buy — it’s a fantastic book for anyone in sales, and really, who isn’t in sales?), and I took on the job of script supervisor for a $40 million movie that is being shot this fall.

 

I was managing to keep all the balls in the air until I got blindsided. My mom had the misfortune of having her colon rupture which required emergency surgery. At 80 years old, she’s one tough cookie. She made it through surgery, spent 10 days in the hospital, then 30 days in post-acute care. Physically she recovered well, but she went into a state of confusion that worsened as the weeks went by.

 

While I thought I’d spend a couple nights with her after she was released until she got acclimated to being on her own again it turned out to be a 24/7 job with me taking care of all of her personal  and medical needs. I had to learn on the spot such things as how to replace an ostomy bag and how to dress an abdominal wound.

 

Two-and-a-half weeks into that I was physically and mentally exhausted. I took my mom back to the ER and she was admitted to the hospital where she spent 10 days undergoing every test in the books to try to figure out what caused the confusion and memory loss. Nothing conclusive was found so it was back to a rehabilitation facility. She’s been there a week now and some days we see glimpses of the real mom and other days are pretty discouraging.

 

My friend sent me a text today that said, “You know the Lord has all the authority, He’s the one in control. Take your hands off it and let Him take care of her. It’s not your will what’s to be done but His. Sometimes we tend to get too much in the way and try to make things our way, not His. It’s hard when we’re used to controlling things and making sure everything is in order. But life is much easier when you take the control off of things.”

 

Like everything that happens in life, there’s a lesson to be learned from this. Maybe that’s it.