Thursday, January 07, 2021

2020 - the year that Zoomed by


I like remembering my life - that's probably obvious if you know this blog! But I don't have a great memory (also . I mark the passage of time by creating memorable moments - like New Year's Eve. It's impossible to remember every year, so I focus on decades. I can tell you what I did for New Year's in 2010, 2000, 1990, and 1980. For my younger years I marked time by my age: 10 years old, 20 years old - and I remember approximately where I was, what I was doing. 

When New Year's 2020 was approaching, we were at home in Fort Lauderdale after a year with lots of travel (Australia, New Zealand, Ohio, Arkansas, Colorado) so I didn't want to go anywhere. How about a New Year's Eve party at our house?! That would be memorable. To my delight, several friends agreed - as long as I didn't make them stay up till midnight! So, we celebrated on Brazil time to ring in the New Year at 9pm! In the process, I learned that New Year's Eve in Brazil is a really big deal and it is traditional to wear all white.

We were so happy to ring in the new Decade with friends we've known for 30, and even 40 years.

Little did we know

We had such high hopes for the year - and it started out quite nicely. We had our normal RV rallies around Florida for Jan/Feb. We joined our dive club for a special "dive with hammerhead sharks" in Bimini in February. Our last appearance was in Sarasota on March 4. We had already declined the invitation to speak at the FMCA rally in Tucson because it conflicted with the big dive trip we booked to the Maldives. 

Were we ever lucky that the Maldives trip was scheduled for the last week of March. If it had been even one week earlier, we might have gone ... and we might still be there - stuck due to travel restrictions because of the Covid pandemic. We know people who got stuck in Fiji for 6 months! The Maldives trip got rescheduled for April 2021 - now it's looking like that may not even work. We should be able to get our vaccine sometime between March and June. We won't go anywhere until after we get it.

We start Zooming

When we're in town, we always enjoy going to our Earlybird Toastmasters club at the local Denny's restaurant in the meeting room. On March 19, we showed up and Denny's turned us away. They were open, but Covid-related lockdown orders prohibited groups of people from gathering. So, we went home and started a Zoom call - getting the connection info to as many members as we could. It didn't take long before everyone was comfortable with this new meeting space. It's not as good as IRL (in real life) but it's a helluva lot better than nothing. As we continue our weekly Zoom Toastmasters meetings we are finding delightful benefits. Our local club now has members in Spain, South Africa, Pennsylvania, and Orlando. And, all meetings are recorded, so if you gave a particularly good speech, you can remember it and share it with others.

What would we do without our Toastmasters group on Halloween!?

The Book

Meanwhile, we enjoyed our #StayHome time. I was able to spend much more time revising my Learn Google Photos book than originally planned. Instead of just updating specific references to features that had changed, I rewrote the whole thing. I even hired an editor who is very familiar with helping authors of technical how-to books. Much more than proofreading, she helped me develop the book in a way that I hope is more useful to my readers. I spent most of my summer working on it and we launched the printed book on September 1. The "Launch" deal was for a spiral bound, autographed copy. As my author friend, Nick Russell says, "Writing the book is the easy part! Then you have to market" It sold well during the launch month - a few hundred. Then we've done 50-100 each month since. I'm happy.

Chris autographing lots of books

Jim doing the spiral binding. We get them from Amazon, then he cuts off the spine, punches holes and inserts the coil.


I got Hospice's call on Saturday night, Aug 29. Our Book Launch was a live-streaming YouTube event on Sunday afternoon. What an emotional basket case I was. Understand - the call was good news. She had been in Hospice care for 3 years, her death was a relief. She had no quality of life those last few years, she hadn't recognized me for several years before that. Her facility had been on lockdown due to Covid since late March, so I had not been able to visit. She tested positive for Covid and was transferred to a Hospice in-patient facility in Boca Raton that was specially equipped for Covid. I was able to have "window-visits." By that time, she was completely unresponsive. It was so past time for her to go. If Covid was the straw that finally put her over - I guess I'm grateful. It was a relief, but I was still inconsolably sad. 

A window-visit with Mom at a Covid-equipped Hospice facility

She was 89 years old and she had an amazing life. I wrote about it here. Alzheimer's took her away at 79. We took her on RV trips and a cruise during the first few years, but she could no longer function on her own. She moved to an Assisted Living Facility in 2010, then a more secure facility in 2014, then to the last memory care facility in 2016.

Her wishes were to take her Dive Club buddies out for one last dive to scatter her ashes and then raise a glass of wine to toast her and have a party. I booked the dive boat for Dec 5, thinking that the Covid restrictions would be lifted by then, but then the Covid deaths started spiking and it was too anxiety producing to ask people to gather. SO - we had a Zoom party!

It was great! In addition to her dive buddies from South Florida, I was able to get other friends to participate from various parts of the country. I loved seeing their photos and hearing their stories of Mom. We all rose our glass and made a toast to Mom - may her spirit live on in all of us.


Our normal life is traveling around the country, going to RV rallies and teaching our technology seminars. We didn't do any of that this year. But we did meet up with some of our far-flung friends by having happy hours over Zoom.

Last year we traveled to New Zealand with Melinda - this year we Zoomed to her home in Nevada

Last year we parked our RV in Ann's driveway. This year we visited from the comfort of our own homes.

Zoom has given us the ability to get to know our Geeks on Tour premium members. We have a "Backstage Pass" meeting after our Live YouTube shows with lively conversations. It's like having Geek conventions with a fraction of the travel costs!


I need to teach, it's what I do. It's what I look forward to when we go to RV rallies or other "gigs." It's why I wrote a book on Google Photos. Now, I'm using Zoom to deliver workshops that go along with the book. Two hours with 4 to 12 people, I demonstrate some things from the book, then I use the Zoom feature called "Breakout rooms" to give them some time and space to practice on their own. I certainly prefer in person classes, but this is a pretty good alternative. These techniques have been available for many years, but it's the pandemic that has forced people to use it. Now that everyone has had some experience, it makes it so much more feasible to offer teaching over Zoom. I love it!

We're old pros

It feels like Zoom just burst on the scene this year, but we've been meeting with a couple of groups for several years now. 

If you're still new to Zoom, or just getting started and want to learn more, we've done a series of tutorial videos for you  Using Zoom online meetings.

Good-bye 2020

As the year comes to an end, the US has surpassed 300,000 deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are certainly glad to say goodbye to this year and hope another like it never happens again. 

However, for those of us who stayed healthy and are financially secure, 2020 was a gift. It was a gift of time and opportunity. The opportunity to spend quality time with family. The opportunity to spend time with ourselves - without the pressures of normal activities. For those of us who have always wished for the world to stop and let us get off, our wish was granted this year. In spending quiet time at home or on walks in the park, we got to think about what we really want from life. I was able to read some of those books I wanted but never got around to - and I feel better for it. 

I love our travels and teaching seminars at RV Rallies, but having this year where all events were cancelled was like a reboot. When we start back up, we can decide what we really want to do going forward instead of just continuing on continuing on.

From March thru December, neither of us have left the house much at all. I can count on one hand the number of times we've eaten at a restaurant, and most of those were outdoor. We get our groceries delivered. When we are in public we wear protective face masks, but we haven't needed to do that much at all. The face masks really are uncomfortable, hot, and makes talking difficult. 

As 2021 gets started, the virus is raging hotter than ever and we are now facing events where we are booked to speak that have not been cancelled. We might need some more masks, and will just have to get used to the nuisance. A vaccine is now available, but so far, it is impossible to get an appointment to get it. We keep refreshing the website only to see the message "all appointments are taken, check back later."

We'll keep trying. Meanwhile, we have a happy hour Zoom call with our friends in Arizona today. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Kayak Diving and Lobster

 We did it. Our favorite thing - kayak diving. If your work is online, which most of our is, then being locked down at home doesn't lessen your work burden AT ALL. If anything it increases it. So, we decided to take December off. No YouTube Live shows. Sundays off.

What will we do? Well, there's plenty of work around the house, website maintenance, newsletter writing, bookkeeping, etc. But - the hope is that we will have the opportunity for our favorite pastime - kayak diving. Conditions have to be perfect, otherwise it's too much work. So, we check the ocean via webcam each morning. We're looking for it to be flat calm. I call it "My Ocean." I want it to be glassy smooth.  

There were two times this month (so far) that all the puzzle pieces fell into place. Work all done. No Zoom meetings scheduled. Feeling energetic enough. AND weather is good.

We even took the opportunity to scatter some of Mom's ashes in the ocean. Just a bit, because she mostly dove in Indonesia - so we will take her ashes there when we can.

Then we went diving and Jim caught lots of lobster!!

A couple weeks later, we went again.

Jim let me take his GoPro and I took some video while he grabbed the lobster. I'll add it to this post as soon as it's ready on YouTube.

Monday, December 07, 2020

What a difference a year makes

I just got my monthly email from Google showing me all the locations that I logged in Google Maps for the past month. Pretty pathetic:

Our Google timeline documents our self-imposed quarantine

Especially compared to last year
In 2019 we were doing our normal RV travels presenting seminars

I'm definitely starting to get antsy. But with the way the Virus is spiking these days, I expect that our map will continue it's emptiness for a while to come. Our big dive trip to the Maldives that got cancelled this past year was rescheduled to April of 2021. It's looking doubtful that those dates will work. The news is that we may be able to get vaccinated in the May/June time frame, so we won't be going anywhere until after that happens. 

As of today, December 7, the Covid-19 numbers in the United States according to the Google aggregate data.
Cases: 14.8 million
Deaths: 282,000  (863 per million population)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Proud of myself

Well, I'm not proud of how I'm keeping up this blog! It's been nearly a month since my last post and that's a long time for me. BUT I am proud of how I am getting back into doing a little bit of yoga at home on a regular basis.
I like yoga and I have practiced it on and off most of my adult life. ... mostly off 😋 In the 90s I developed a special liking for Kundalini yoga. It's unlike other yogas in that it uses lots of movement instead of just getting into positions and staying there. Mom and I even got to know a Kundalini Yoga instructor and would go to her house for personal sessions. That instructor later became a trusted and loved friend who helped me take care of Mom in her early dementia years. Thank you Debbie!
Anyway - last year I joined a gym and started going to their yoga classes. It wasn't Kundalini, but I still liked it. Any good yoga is a workout for energy, flexibility and strength. Since the pandemic hit I have not gone to the gym, and I don't expect to go any time soon. I could watch a YouTube video and follow along, but I like just exercising on my own, so I sit cross-legged on the floor and I go thru a series of movements that I remember from my Kundalini classes. It only takes 10 minutes, but it really loosens me up and gets the blood flowing. 
My signature tag line is 
"Blessed be the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape."

It's not just a cute saying, it is also something I believe is true for my body. I need to stay flexible. Can you touch your toes? I can touch my toes and bring my nose to my knees. At least I can now, after getting back into a routine of doing my daily yoga!
It was a book called Atomic Habits (thank you Toastmasters Book Club and Mary Helen for making me read it) that got me started again - lots of cool little tricks in that book to get yourself to do things you want to do. I haven't gotten to any part in the book yet that gets me to clean my office though 😞

Speaking of PROUD

Especially in this time where we're hearing others speak of the Covid 15 - meaning pounds gained while stuck at home ... I am especially proud of Jim and me for keeping our weight down. 6 years ago Jim lost a lot of weight and I lost a little. We went on a very strict doctor-led diet called NutriMost. We paid big bucks for guidance, supplements, and daily checkins with the doctor. We followed it to a T. Jim lost 50 pounds during the 2 month diet, then another 25 over the next year. I lost 15, then another 10.

Every day since then, we weigh ourselves. When the weight creeps up, we smack it down with healthy food, low or no carbs, and generally not eating much. I used to be hooked on sweets. Now, I can't remember the last time I had a cookie. We go out for an ice cream cone once every couple of months.

We'll have the occasional pasta meal, and we've been getting takeout from Flanigans of ribs and potato but when we see 2-3 extra pounds on the scale, Jim makes our dinners look like the photos below. In the lower left corner - that's not mashed potatoes, that's mashed cauliflower.

And here is a recent photo from one of our YouTube shows

We could each still stand to lose 10 more pounds, but that would probably mean giving up our wine, and I'm just not willing to do that!


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Getaway for a day of play

 After the RoadTrek rally, and visiting with Alex, we left our RV with Sunshine State RV in Gainesville (where we originally bought it) for some service - new batteries, generator service. They needed it for at least a few days, so we rented a car to drive home and planned to return in a week or so.

While home, we did episode 201 of our YouTube show on the topic "What can you do with an old phone?" Then we had a couple of Toastmasters zoom meetings, a meeting over Google Meet with my Google Photos Product Experts group, and a workshop I teach on "Getting the Most out of Google Photos."  Why is it, the more retired we get, the harder it seems like we work? It couldn't be that it's because I just want to lounge around all day could it?

A Google Photos workshop I teach over Zoom

Anyway, when it came time to go back to Gainesville to pick up the van, we decided to make a mini vacation of it and contacted our friends Chris and Cherie who are living on their boat in Sanford to see if they were up for a visit. They suggested a night at Blue Springs - one of our favorite state parks. Yay!

We still had one meeting to attend, but the campground had a pretty good Verizon signal, so that worked well. The setting makes all the difference.

Attending a meeting on Zoom while at Blue Springs State Park

They even got us into the water. It was a bit chilly, but quite fun.

After a day of play, we followed them back to Sanford and helped do a little bit of Democratic campaigning on Saturday. We held signs for Biden/Harris and felt uplifted with each passing car who honked their support. Then we drove home and filled out our mail-in ballots. We determined to vote in person at a local early voting location. The mail in ballots were just for backup. 

I sure hope the results are better than last time.