Time, Unlimited

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Both of my businesses were thriving when COVID-19 first showed itself in this country. I had a long list of ongoing projects through Beetle Press and had two manuscripts in the works for clients through Janice Beetle Books.

Then, clients cancelled events. Promoting them and other services became a moot point in the face of reacting to the spread of the pandemic. My Beetle Press clients were scrambling to learn how to interact with clients remotely; my Janice Beetle Books clients were watching their investments shrink. Within a week, my work load came to a complete and utter halt.

My inbox was empty, no matter how many times I checked it. My to-do list had only a few, non-essential items on it.

I spent a day freaking out, and then I got my shit back together. I decided I would relax for a change. Do things I enjoy doing, tick through projects for my own businesses, and get to those manuscripts I’ve had on hold.

I made a new to-do list, with only fun things at the top. These are some of the things I’ve gotten to so far:

My grandchildren. My daughter Sally had a baby 12 weeks premature on March 29. Phoibe Mae still weighs just shy of two pounds, and she is in the NICU of Baystate Health in Springfield for about five more weeks. My daughter was in the hospital for about a week before, and then right after, Phoibe was born; my son-in-law was at work (and grateful to have a job), and my grandson was home alone. Time spent on those days was keeping up with the evolving news, worrying, waiting, wringing my hands, checking in with Eli, trying to keep him company over the phone. Then, Phoibe was born, and, although frail and wee, she was healthy and strong. As a way to distract Eli, and to help Phoibe get to know me, I began reading picture books into the voice memo app on my phone. I text the stories to both of my daughters and Eli, and Sally reads the stories to Phoibe—one per day. Eli is 11, but I think he is listening as well—even though he will not admit it. So far I’ve read “Silly Sally,” a favorite of Sally’s; a Little Critter book about a boy with a little sister, a favorite of Eli’s; some Dr. Seuss; and very amusing, perverse stories by Florence Parry Heide in “Fables You Shouldn’t Pay Any Attention To” and “Tales for the Perfect Child.” Reading aloud to grandchildren is fun.

Phone calls. I never talk on the phone. I didn’t have time for social calls. For at least a decade, the phone has been a tool for communicating information quickly. For the past few weeks, it’s instead become a lifeline. I’ve called my mother daily about 4:30 in the afternoon. She’s in an assisted living facility and has been alone in her room for two weeks. She loves getting the call and chatting. She’s good for about 10 minutes, then she’s had enough! I’ve also spent time on the phone and FaceTiming with my brothers and their wives, once at cocktail time; with my daughters; and with Jacques’ mother, his brother, and Jacques’ children. Talking is fun.

Strolls down memory lane. In cleaning my file drawers in my office, I’ve stumbled on some fun things. Photos of a former home in Florence, Massachusetts; photos of my children when they were young; letters I’ve written to my children and others; and a printed excerpt from my book Divine Renovations that features Eli. Reminiscing is fun.

Workouts. Because the gyms are closed, Jacques and I have been working out together. Long, intense workouts that range from rowing on our rowing machine to walking and running on the treadmill. We lift weights, do boot-camp-style routines, and we are on Day 14 of the 30-day yoga challenge with Adrien. (Wanna try Adrien’s first of 30?) My daughter Molly’s friend Kaylie also has her own yoga program on YouTube. Extended workouts are fun.

Books. I’ve so far read “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult, a book on race relations that I found fascinating, and “Educated” by Tara Westover. This latter book is a breathtaking read you cannot put down. If you haven’t read it, please do. Other books on the list: “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “The Seeds of America Trilogy: Chains; Forge; Ashes,” and books by Fredrik Backman! Reading is fun.

Working on my businesses. I’ve written blogs, put out the March edition of my newsletter, managed a few incoming projects. Next up is tackling several on-hold manuscripts, including one on online dating. It’s fun to work on your business.

Phoibe. I have a new favorite pastime that involves Phoibe. It’s quite amazing.

What are you doing to distract yourself?

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