NEW YEAR’S EVE DAY
Driving into Topeka, I drifted into a philosophical mood and reflected on this past year—truly one like no other in my life. For me 2013 began the morning of January 2nd when I woke up gently around 8:00, not jolted awake by an obnoxious alarm at 6:30, and realized I didn’t have to get up and go to work. I retired from my job of almost 38 years on December 28, 2012. Don’t get me wrong, I liked my job. But an exciting new opportunity waited: finishing and publishing my first book. As a self-published author I would become my own marketing and promotion department, and that would require a lot of time and effort.
As I reflected on the past year I decided to launch a new blog category. If you’ve read my book, you know the first part is about my farm adventures and experiences. The second part is a collection of essays reflecting my “city girl” impressions of various aspects of farming and country life—“Farm Fresh Filosophies.” Since I’m waxing philosophical today, this seems like an appropriate title for this category.
“WOW! WHAT A YEAR!”
(I arrive at Walmart early to avoid the crowd I’m sure will swarm by mid-morning. As I grab a cart and wheel it into the store, I start writing notes about my 2013 recap on the back of my Walmart shopping list. Incidentally, my list is arranged to coincide with the layout of the store. Anal? Yes, but I’m less apt to forget critical items that will result in crisscrossing the store to get them.)
For me, 2013 began with wading through paperwork: closing out Dad’s estate after his death in November of 2012; moving Mom from independent living in Burlingame to an assisted living facility in Topeka; and my own retirement paperwork. The bulk of the tree-killing was complete by April.
(I’ve gathered up a few items from several departments and am now entering the toilet tissue aisle. I have to rearrange my cart to make room for the “36 double rolls = 72 regular rolls” package. On to paper towels to pick up “6 super rolls = 11 regular rolls.” Huh? Who did that math? No, I don’t want “Select-A-Size.” Between these two items and the six 16"x25" pleated filters for the wood furnace, my cart is full.)
By early in 2013, my manuscript was finished and I was ready to start the actual publication process. A member of my writers group had published six books, and he and his wife graciously shared their insights and mentored me during this process. I chose to self-publish through CreateSpace.com, an online print-on-demand publisher owned by Amazon.com. My mentors also recommended an editor who turned out to be not only my editor, but interior layout designer, graphic designer for printed promotional materials, marketing/promotional mentor, cheerleader and, most important, friend. We hit it off immediately!
(I need wax paper. Hmmm…I not only beat the shopping crowd, looks like I also beat the shelf stockers. Lot of empty spaces in this section including the one for wax paper. There are 18 different lengths, widths and thicknesses of aluminum foil—yes, I counted them!—but no wax paper. How can this be?)
The publishing process advanced from the manuscript stage through editing; on to interior layout and cover design; and to the proofing stage, both digital and proof copies, the latter being actual books. On August 23, 2013, I approved the final proof copy. Two days later, I was notified From High Heels to Gumboots, One Cow Pie at a Time was available for sale on Amazon.com. After four years, my book was published and I was truly an author. WOW!
(Next item on the list is rubber gloves. My current pair is starting to leak and the fingers stick together. After searching two aisles, I finally find the gloves in a display of sponges. Why are these called “Living Gloves?” I’ve never understood this. I can’t find the gloves I usually buy that cost less than two dollars. All I see are some for almost three bucks that are labeled “Limited Edition WINTER SKY BLUE”—like I’m really concerned about making a fashion statement when I clean—and “3 Layers for Superior Protection.” I hope those “3 Layers” make the gloves last longer!)
At one point during the summer, my editor put on her marketing/promotion hat and we met for a session. At one point, she asked, “Are you going to do speaking engagements?” What?! Speaking engagements?! I nearly wet my pants! The last time I spoke in front of a group was college speech class over 40 years ago. Truthfully, I already knew this was a possibility but kept pushing it to the bottom of my “Things I Need to Consider” list. Now it was front and center. Shortly after the public speaking bullet, my editor fired the other barrel: “Have you considered starting a website? How about a blog?” Website?! Blog?! Little ol’ low-tech me?! She proceeded to tell me about the web hosting site she used—it was pretty simple, user-friendly and free. As a result, you are now reading my blog on my website with my very own domain name. Whew!
(Mom asked me to buy a six-pack of small bottles of orange juice for her. I’m looking at about 50 different flavors of fruit drinks and juices and can’t find 100% orange juice. Another “How can this be?” moment. Who drinks passion fruit/raspberry/cranberry/strawberry/blueberry/pomegranate/
orange/pineapple/grapefruit/apple/mango/grape-flavored tropical punch, anyway? Ah, there’s orange juice on the bottom shelf. I’ll get two six-packs. [Later, when I dropped these off at Mom’s I discovered it wasn’t “orange juice” but “orange drink containing 5% orange juice and fortified with 100% vitamin C.” Good grief!])
The whole book publishing process has been one of huge personal growth for me—totally different than anything I've ever done. My tendency was always more introvert than extrovert, more follower than leader. The experience parallels what I said in my book about moving from the city to the farm: It catapulted me right out of my comfort zone! It’s been a blast and I've loved every bit of it!
(Next stop, the cereal aisle to get a couple boxes of Bran Buds. Don’t laugh—you’ll be here some day! Colon issues are ugly business and you don’t want to go there! Continuing on, I need a box of my favorite flavor of K-cups for my Keurig coffeemaker. The Keurig was a retirement/Christmas gift from Bill a year ago and I love it! Hmmm…can’t find my flavor on the shelf in the coffee section so I’ll look in the main grocery aisle where there is a display rack. I make three revolutions around the rack before finally finding my flavor and there are only two boxes. I grab both of them, wondering about whether or not this flavor has been discontinued or if the store will no longer carry it. I’ll deal with this issue later.
Being retired has opened up the opportunity to become more involved in the cattle and farm business. I’m available to be truck driver, midwife assistant, cattle herder, veterinary assistant when we work cows and calves, hay field box lunch provider, farm vehicle shuttle service or whatever job title is required at the moment. Becoming a "farm hand" has taught me more about our operation than was possible when I worked off the farm. I've settled into the role so comfortably maybe this was my destiny all along.
(Heading to the check-out area with my over-loaded cart. Wow...here’s an empty lane! I unload the smaller items and the gal comes around to my side with her scanning gun to scan the large items so I don’t have to pile them on the counter. What a dear!)
I’ve met some interesting and wonderful people this year, both through the book publishing process and as a result of having more time to get “out and about.” I’m finally meeting and becoming acquainted with neighbors beyond our immediate area as I attend local functions and gatherings. I joined the Kansas Authors Club and have met other authors and read or listened to their works. Reconnecting with old friends, some of whom are also now retired, has been fun as we catch up on each other’s lives.
(Getting all this stuff in my trunk will require major organizational skills. I remind myself to make sure all lids on bottles of soap and cleaning supplies are tight. I once had a bad experience with a gallon refill bottle of hand soap that fell over in the trunk: I arrived home with only a half-bottle. The other half soaked into the carpeted trunk liner. I removed the liner and attempted to hose it off on the driveway. Half of the back yard received a luxurious bubble bath!)
Moving my mom to an assisted living facility in Topeka has been a blessing for both of us. She now has the supervision necessary to closely monitor her health issues; tasty, nutritious meals; plenty of activities to keep her engaged; and new friends under the same roof. Having her live closer to me makes it easier to take her to appointments and on outings, run errands for her and just spend time with her.
(My Walmart-ing is finished and I head out to complete the rest of my errands.)
Bill—Technical Consultant on my book, extroverted marketing and promotional person (He doesn’t know a stranger!), husband and my farmer. As I said in my book dedication, “Without you, none of this would have been possible!” You had me from that gigantic head of broccoli you brought to me at work after our first date more than 30 years ago. Love you!
In this rapidly ever-changing world we live in, I take comfort in one thing that remains constant: I always get the Walmart shopping cart with the bumpy, noisy wheel. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump…