“Go forth in joy and get on with it.” (read through to the end and you’ll understand)
Yeah, we all know it was a crappy year for just about everybody. I’m certainly ready for it to be over with but I gotta tell you: 2020 wasn’t all that crappy for me. Not that the events didn’t feel like a ton of albatross around my neck, but I was pretty good about focusing on the here-and-now of my daily life.
Well, except for some family issues that were complicated enough without adding COVID to the mix. Or when I had critter health crises to deal with and couldn’t shake the worry. Or when I allowed myself to poke around on social media for any length of time — for what a drag doing that turned out to be this year.
I don’t want to dwell on the negative, so all I’m going to say is that I’m ready for a new, improved year ahead. One in which the compost that was 2020 supports amazing growth in 2021.
So in the spirit of wishing 2020 begone and inviting fabulously wonderful blessings in 2021, I’m going to share five rich composty things that happened in my life in 2020 that I believe will encourage a stronger and healthier 2021 and beyond because… well, because that’s what I believe will happen.
1. I got a good dog
In late June Rosie (my rescue dog from 2019) and I adopted Bubbaz from Round Valley Animal Rescue, a no-kill shelter in Springerville AZ. Bubbaz is maybe a Great Dane/greyhound cross. Or something else. He’s a long-bodied, long-legged, long-tailed 8 year old that acts like an overgrown puppy.
For the record, he was “Bubba’s” on his adoption papers, so that explains his name, or at least why I call him Bubbaz. Or Bubz. Or Good Dog. Bubz is not just a good dog, he’s a great dog. By nature or by nurture, he’s the happiest, most unburdened, well-behaved dog I’ve ever been blessed with. Now don’t misunderstand — all my dogs are happy dogs, even when they don’t arrive in my life that way. But some of the many rescues I’ve had have come with baggage that has colored their personalities forever — Rosie, for instance. She’s improving, but she still cringes and looks down too much, apologizing for behavior that she assumes she’ll be punished for even when she hasn’t done anything wrong (Rosie is not a dog who is bold enough to do anything wrong on purpose). In contrast, Bubz is a happy dog with no baggage AND he amazes me with his intelligence and his desire to observe the house rules.
Long and short: I adore him. I adore Rosie, too! How great is that, to have two dogs I adore!
2. I made some good food
Like so many others this past year, I baked bread (photo is not of bread, it’s a chocolate dessert I made for Christmas dinner). I successfully grew my own sourdough starter from juniper berries and baked some perfectly fine bread with it, though it never came out quite the way I wanted. That’s because I’m a pantser, not a plotter. Oh, you want to know what that means? Those are writer terms: Pantser = a writer who starts with the first word and just lets the story flow however it will. Plotter = a writer who makes a plan — usually an outline — and follows it till The End.
I’m a pantser writer and a pantser everything, really. I’m loosey-goosey about ingredients, given how far I am from the nearest store. Or even the nearest neighbor who might have a cup of sugar I could borrow. I figure if I know the principles involved, then the rest is opinion rather than rule. Substitutions-R-Us.
Yeah, it means that sometimes a loaf of bread I produce could work as a door stop, but most of the time — when I’m in practice — the bread tastes just fine. Not San Francisco sourdough fine, but Lif’s kitchen in New Mexico fine. When I get into the swing of bread baking I’ll make a couple of loaves a week and never walk down the bread aisle in the grocery store.
But then I get tired of baking bread and the starter turns ugly and ends up in the compost pile.
My neighbor rancher gave me a lovely Christmas bag with home-baked cookies and four hard-frozen packages of ground beef (no doubt a former resident of the allotment I hike around nearly every day). I thawed one of the packages and the day before yesterday made something… the closest I guess would be Beef Bourguignon. The classic Julia Child recipe calls for bacon. I had no bacon. It calls for onions, garlic, tomato paste… nope. But so what. The end result of an afternoon’s worth of slow cooking on my wood stove was to die for, and here’s what I did:
Ground Beef Lif Style
Sauté in olive oil:
2 largish diced potatoes
2 diced carrots
Add and sauté some more:
2 bay leaves
a handful of dried (homegrown) basil
ground beef. Brown, then cover and let cook a while on medium low heat
about half a cup red wine
whatever’s left in the pot from the morning’s coffee
Let simmer on the wood stove all afternoon.
3. I took some good photos
By “good” I mean photos I’m happy with for whatever reason.
I have a perfectly fine digital camera, but I take 99.9% of my photos with my cell phone, which is easy to slip into my pocket and which also offers other tools, such as a pedometer, a recorder, a GPS, and like that. I’ve pretty much decided to become a dedicated cell phone photographer, which means maybe upgrading from my iPhone 6, which model came out in 2014 and so is ancient tech now. Since my bank account doesn’t support the purchase of a new iPhone, I’m working with what I have for the foreseeable future. Which is fine. I’m learning how to make-do with photography just like I do with cooking, so it’s all good.
[Note that the photo on top of this page is a perfectly normal sunrise coming up through fog. But when I accidentally saturated it… well, it looked so much like 2020 I had to go with it.]
4. I published a good book
I don’t know how it’s possible that anyone who reads anything I write anywhere hasn’t gotten saturated with reading about my first traditionally published novel, Evolution Device, but too bad. It took me about a decade to write the blasted thing, so until my next book gets published Evolution Device is what I’m gushing about.
Releasing a book in the middle of a pandemic was a good news/bad news bit of timing. Good news is that people couldn’t go to work so they have been reading more. Bad news is that people couldn’t go to work so they had no money to buy books. Also bad news is that people who couldn’t go to work and couldn’t buy books wrote books and published them in 2020.
I’ll get my first sales report and royalties in the next few weeks. I have no idea… well, I’m not going to think about sales. I did my best. I worked promotion like a crazy woman and all I can say is, the book is good but then there are lots of books out there this year.
Time will tell. A good book is a book that will sell for decades, not just months.
My contract with the publisher didn’t include audio rights, so I decided to go ahead and take care of that myself. I used ACX, which is an audio publishing arm of Amazon’s. I probably won’t ever do that again for a bunch of reasons (Amazon, for openers, and ACX is a headache of a platform to use). But through ACX I found the most incredible voice actor to narrate my book: Naomi Rose-Mock. And guess what? Naomi was born in England but raised in the US and if you’ve read my book you know how absolutely perfect she is for the audiobook of Evolution Device, because the focus of the novel, Eddie Edmunds, was born in the US and raised in England. Boggles my mind thinking about the odds of finding someone so perfect as Naomi!
5. I maintained good relationships
2020 was a year that tested relationships with family and friends, not to mention perfect strangers. When people are stressed it doesn’t take much — an ill-considered word, a too-strong expression of opinion, a thoughtless action — to break the ties that bind. I tried to be careful but I’m just as human as the next person and I know I had to have messed up way too much. I vowed to take the high road but nevertheless I got a little crazy now and again on social media, spewing my opinions about politics and COVID and a few other issues, all without filtering. Oops.
But, you know, relationships are two-way. My family and friends are extraordinary people. They forgive me my trespasses and how can I not love them for that? So here it is just hours from midnight and I not only am still speaking with every single family member I started with in 2020, but I’ve retained all the friends I already had and made bunches of new ones. For a hermit like me that’s pretty awesome.
I’m proud of us.
Bonus: I survived for more than a year without a working fridge and it was good
But that’s a story for another time.
HAPPY NEW YEAR. HERE’S HOPING 2021 BRINGS YOU THE BEST OF EVERYTHING!
There is nothing for you to go back and live over, or fix, or feel regret about now. Every part of your life has unfolded just right. And so —now — knowing all that you know from where you now stand, now what do you want? The answers are now coming forth to you. Go forth in joy, and get on with it.
~ Abraham (excerpted from Virginia Beach, VA on 4/12/97)