Happy New Year to everyone!
2022 seemed like a fairly quiet, uneventful year, and I wasn’t sure what this year-end post would be about. But more and more things came to mind, and I realized I did accomplish some things and cross a few milestones. As usual, I have a few things to say. Maybe this will get you thinking about your year—I’ll bet you had an amazing year yourself!
I wrote a book!
I can hardly believe it, but the first draft of my memoir is complete. I started writing in the summer and it has consumed every spare minute of my time since then, to the exclusion of almost everything else I love to do: watching movies, gardening, cooking, volunteering of any kind, writing for my blog. Face-to-face interactions with other humans. Sadly, even the Christmas cards bit the dust this year. I currently have about 125,000 words (that’s about a 500-page book) and now the really hard part begins: the brutal edit. What stays and what goes? Now I must break it up into trips-to-the-bathroom-sized chunks (I think they call those “chapters”). Decide whether to keep the narrative chronological or to jump back and forth in time, like a novel. When all that work is done, send it out to several dedicated beta readers to get some honest feedback, and incorporate what they say. More editing. At that point, maybe hire a professional editor to get an impartial eye on it that’s not mine. Then decide on how I want to publish—self-publishing or try for a traditional publisher? And then there’s the title: very important. What about designing a cover? Should I release an audio version? All this will take a year (or two) more, so don’t preorder your copy quite yet. Still: I wrote a book!
I’ll bet you accomplished something you’re very proud of this past year too, and I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a note in the Comments section. Maybe you finally dropped those pesky 10 pounds, or adopted an animal from a shelter, or learned how to cook something amazing. Or maybe you’re like a woman I follow on Facebook, @BethWhitman, who ran all four stages of Racing The Planet—four desert stage races (each 250K), with the final one being in Antarctica! (or maybe not, she’s crazy). This is the same woman who encouraged me so many years ago to start traveling alone. She’s gone a bit further than I have.
I’ve been reading
I read 48 books this year and I’m in the middle of two others—one audiobook and one Kindle book. I tried to pick a single favorite book I read and couldn’t do it, so here are my top three. All are reviewed here on my blog. They are about wildly different subject matter and I picked them mostly because of the superb skill of the writer, which blew me away in every case.
- Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction based on fact)
- Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka (fiction)
- The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story by Laura Davis (nonfiction; memoir)
What was the best book you read this past year? Or the best movie you saw? I’d love to know! Drop me a note in the Comments section.
I found a new auto policy
This may seem like an odd thing to put in a year-end roundup, but I’m pretty jazzed about it. I finally found an auto insurance policy where I can pay by the mile, instead of being penalized with high premiums just because I live in a big city. You see, I hardly drive at all, working from home. My car is 5 years old and still only has 20,000 miles on it, so you do the math. I’m not the little old lady who only drives to church on Sunday, but close to it. Why should I pay more than $1,000 a year when my car is sitting in my garage most of the time? I found a company that operates in Texas and offers full comprehensive coverage, identical to what I had with Progressive, for less than half of what I was paying because I’m a low-mileage driver. And I’m pretty excited about that. If anyone else is in similar circumstances and wants to check this company out, get in touch with me. (I do not get a commission.)
Did you find some great money-saving deal this past year? Share it with the rest of us, in the Comments section!
It was bound to happen sooner or later. But the company I’m a contract editor for kind of forced the issue when they decided to “rebrand” from Schlumberger to SLB. That transition, which was supposed to take only a month, amounted to a shutdown of work flowing out to us contractors for about 3 months. The shock to our wallets meant I ended up activating Social Security benefits a little earlier than 66 ½ years of age. But that’s OK. I’m grateful for that monthly nut showing up in my checking account and it takes a huge amount of pressure off.
I also crossed that magic milestone where Medicare will kick in after the first of the year. What will that be like? As a self-employed person, I’ve been on Obamacare since its inception, which has been a godsend. But it’s come at a steep price. I’ve had to pay massive amounts of money for health care: between $6,500 and $7,000 in deductibles each year and up to $500 in premiums each month. Now I have a Part B plan that says $0 monthly premium, $0 deductible, and $0 copay for most things…I hardly dare to dream what that will mean. Surely there’s catch somewhere. Watch this space next year: I’ll report back, as to whether the dream met reality.
How is the work/life balance going for you? Let’s chat!
I’ve been sewing
When my brain cannot edit one more sentence, or fact-check one more slippery detail, this is where I head: to my sewing room. My happy place. It’s where my mother’s vintage Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machine is permanently at the ready. She purchased this in the 1960s and it still runs as if brand new (I’ve had dealers try to buy this off of me). Having never learned to use it herself, she gave it to me as a college graduation present in 1979 and it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. This machine, along with a much newer Baby Lock Serger, keep me contented and creating. As I’m renting these days, I don’t do much in the way of home decorating projects, but I’ve made a ton of clothes for myself this year. However, the highlight of my creations was a Santa suit I made for my nephew Blain, commissioned by brother Gary. It was my first time dealing with velvet and fur, and my stress level was quite high as I worked on this project, as I didn’t want to screw it up! But it turned out fantastic and Blain looks great in it, don’t you think? He has since made a lot of little children happy (and some big ones too), showing up at homes and parties in the Seattle area.
What/where is your happy place? How do you relieve stress? I’d love to hear what others do. Drop a line in the Comments section!
I took some real time off
First to see family, at Thanksgiving. This hasn’t happened in 3 years. I was determined I wasn’t going to fly with COVID restrictions, having to wear a mask on the plane, or having to do COVID testing coming and going. So I waited it out and it took a long time. But I finally was able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family in Desert Hot Springs, California, and it was really a wonderful visit.
Then I took my first trip out of the country in 5 years in December, to the Bahamas. Not that far in reality, but it felt good to travel again. I was on Cat Island, where I went for some peace and solitude to write the final sections of my memoir. My impression was that the country is still hurting for tourism dollars—that things have not returned to prepandemic levels. For the first several days at my resort, I was the only guest there; for the last half of the week, only one other couple arrived.
Speaking of the Bahamas. It’s not always the sleepy place one imagines, where nothing happens except for reading paperbacks and sipping Margaritas on the beach. As I wrap up this year’s wrapup, here are a couple of stimulating conversations I had just as I was leaving the country. Man, you can really meet some intriguing people when you travel on your own!
I spent my last night in Nassau so I could catch my final flight back to Houston. While I’m waiting for my taxi to the airport the following day, a young guy is also waiting for a ride, with his packed bags sitting there. I’d heard him checking out earlier, so I knew he had an American accent. I asked him where he was headed. When he replied “Portland,” I smiled wryly and said, “Good luck,” and we discussed the brutal blizzards that were stranding passengers throughout the US right then. “Yeah, I’ve got a connection through North Carolina first, so it’ll be dicey,” he said.
Then I asked him if he was in Nassau for vacation or work. “Work,” he said. Well, I thought this was fascinating (who gets to work in the Bahamas?!), so I had to ask what he did for a living. He couldn’t have been more than 25 years old.
“I’m a film maker—we just wrapped up some live footage for a documentary. On that FTX business that’s going on—you know, he just got arrested down here…”
“Really?!” I was so shocked. “Wow, yes, of course I’ve been following that in the news! They kept saying, ‘He was arrested in the Bahamas,’ but they never said specifically where. So, he was right here in Nassau, not hiding out on one of the smaller islands?”
“Yeah, his business headquarters was here, so yes, his private home was here as well.”
“Did you actually get to meet him?”
“No, didn’t meet him personally, just was able to film him as he was coming and going from court, getting arrested, at the US embassy, all that.”
“Well, holy cow. How exciting for you, and so young in your career! Are you with a certain news organization, or on your own…?”
“So do you work directly for them or are you a contractor?”
“Our whole film team contracts for Bloomberg.”
“Cool. So when do you think you’ll release the documentary?”
“Hmmm, good question. I’m thinking maybe around April of next year?”
“Do you know what you’ll call it yet? Because I’m a huge documentary fan. I watch them all the time.”
“Really? No, I don’t know yet what they’ll call it. But it will be the only one Bloomberg will put out, so if you see one that they release, that will be ours.”
“Not long ago I saw this guy, Sam, I saw that interview of him, was it on 60 Minutes? I watched that. I’m sure you’re aware of that interview. I remember him saying how he’s gone from having XX billions of dollars in his accounts to now having something like $100,000. And I remember thinking, ‘I’m supposed to feel sorry for this guy?’ But he did say that he knew he was headed for prison.”
“Yes, he tries to act like he’s done nothing wrong, he’s acting all innocent. We’ll see what happens to him now.”
Then he stood up, as his ride had arrived. I wished him all the best and told him I’d look out for his documentary.
What a cool conversation that was!
Then, a few hours later, as I’m settling into my seat on my flight headed back to Houston, a young lady sits next to me. We both commented on how grateful we were that we seemed to be on one of the few flights out of Nassau that was neither delayed nor canceled, because Houston wasn’t having an ice storm! It would be freezing when we landed, but nothing like what the rest of the country was suffering right now.
I asked her if she’d been in the Bahamas on vacation like me, and she said, “No, I live here. Just going home for Christmas.”
Geez! Another one! She looked to be in her mid-20s too.
“So you work here? What do you do?”
“I work for the US Embassy. I’ve just been on the job for about 6 months.”
At this point I think to myself that I was born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and went to the wrong schools. First job out of college, and this girl lands herself in the Bahamas? That’s a sweet deal if I ever heard one!
Of course I have to ask: “What do you do, specifically, at the Embassy?”
“Well my main job is to be a liaison for Americans who get themselves into trouble, who need assistance. I’m a Federal agent. So, for example, if an American, say…gets himself arrested…it’s part of my job to see that he’s returned to American soil safely…”
My eyes widen. Are you shitting me??
“So, are you basically saying, that a certain well-known American who…got himself arrested, like, yesterday or today here in Nassau…that you were involved in that?!”
She just nods. And I just smile and shake my head. Such a small world.
I hope you enjoyed that story as much as I enjoyed telling it! If you took any fun trips this year, or had any amazing chance encounters with interesting people, tell us about it in the Comments section!
I hope your 2023 is filled with conversations that surprise and delight you, jaunts in nature that invigorate you, deals that give you a thrill, great books and movies that transport you, and moments of peace that give you rest. Thank you to all of my subscribers for staying with me another year; your support means the world to me.
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