My last trip on an airplane took place in early March when I flew to New York to speak at Rutgers University. I should have known what was coming when our outbound flight was cancelled because a dog in the passenger section of the inbound flight had gotten sick and no matter how much they cleaned the airplane, the smell was unbearable. That is the first time I have ever had a flight cancelled because of a “gift” left behind by a dog.
On the trip home our flight was almost cancelled because a flight attendant decided she didn’t agree with the captain’s decision to fly with one inoperative bathroom. I sat in the front row and watched as 15 employees came on to adjudicate the rather bitter disagreement. The flight attendant left in a huff and we waited an hour for a new flight attendant. That was also a first. I had no idea how many more firsts 2020 was holding.
After I got home, the whole world shut down, so I just stayed at home and worked on my memoir. The timing was good, but the work was tedious, with scores and scores of edits before getting my last draft to my editor at Simon & Schuster on October 5. Just two weeks before that deadline I called my editor in tears, wanting to scrap the entire book. It just was not as good as I wanted it to be. She talked me off the ledge and I wrote between 10 and 12 hours a day for the next 14 days and finally turned in a manuscript I think I feel okay about. Writing the story of your own life is not easy. I’ll leave it at that.
I’ll get copy edits back early next month and legal edits a week later. Then I have until November 24 to get my final copy back to my editor. The book won’t be released until next spring, but deadlines are deadlines.
Working on the book made the first wave of Covid-19 go relatively quickly. But it is obvious the next phase of the pandemic is going to be no easier and no faster. I was exposed to the virus once this summer, when a friend of a family member brought his sick child to a family gathering. The required quarantine caused me to miss preaching one weekend and miss our church summer camping trip. I try to remain vigilant, but pandemic fatigue is setting in for all of us.
Then last Saturday I was hiking in southern Boulder County with a friend as we watched the Calwood fire blow up just south of where I live. I took the picture above right before I realized just how close the fire was to my home. We rushed home, only to be greeted by roadblocks. We finally got home just as I received a reverse 911 call that we were in a pre-evacuation phase. I began gathering photo albums, important papers, legal documents, clothes and such, as we waited for the order to evacuate.
As darkness fell, we watched in horror as the fire came over a ridge along the mountain biking trail I ride, just four miles south of my house. Later that night the danger abated enough that the call never came to evacuate, though we remained in warning mode for the next five days, with mandatory evacuations just one mile away. The day the evacuation warning was finally lifted a much larger and more deadly fire developed in and around Rocky Mountain National Park, about 25 miles west of my home. And oh yeah, I didn’t even mention the wildfire that’s been burning for two months 15 miles north of Lyons. There are currently wildfires burning to my north, west, and south. So there’s that.
Thursday evening looked like Armageddon had arrived. The sky was red, ash was falling like snow, and evacuees from Estes Park were pouring through our town. It’s been warm most of the week and will be 60 degrees tomorrow, but Sunday we are getting 15 inches of snow. Monday’s temperature will not get out of the teens. Generally, I hate snow. This time I don’t mind. At least it will slow down the wildfires.
I’ve tried to stay lighthearted about it all, but it’s been a tough year. My mother died 11 months ago. My father died in May. From August of last year to July of this year, a great trouble happened at church that rocked me to my core. In December I stepped down as one of the co-pastors, remaining as a teaching pastor. I am now serving again as a co-pastor and the church is doing quite well, but to say we went through the refiner’s fire is a bit of an understatement. That, plus at the moment I am not crazy about fire metaphors.
I don’t mean to complain. It has also been a good year. I’ve been very busy this month speaking for corporations and conferences all over the world, including Global Care24, India’s FAIR Dialogue, Canada’s Conference for Women in Travel and Hospitality, the Marketing Research Event, Elanco’s worldwide employee conference, a national Joe Biden LGBTQ event, the annual women’s conference at Pinterest, an annual diversity conference at Mastercard, the KIN Meetup, and at least two podcasts a week. And I’ve done it all from my living room, which has been wonderful. In the next two weeks I will be doing events for TED Women, TEDxMileHigh, and three more companies, as well as preaching for Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. And again, I don’t have to leave my living room. I could get used to that. Well, I could get use to it as long as there weren’t always wildfires and a worldwide pandemic just outside my door.
I’m preaching at Left Hand Church twice a month, and our online audience continues to grow. Our live audience often includes viewers from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, England, and across the United States. A lot of those viewers have come to us via my first TEDxMileHigh talk which is rapidly approaching 4 million views on YouTube. I’ve loved our online services, but I miss our people – a lot. I can’t wait until we can meet in person again, which looks like it should happen sometime before the 2024 presidential election.
It is a stressful time. When you are speaking for an event that is paying you thousands of dollars and you lose your video connection exactly three minutes before your keynote is scheduled to begin, you don’t exactly calm down until, I dunno, about three days later. It would be bad enough if that happened once. It’s happened three times in the last two weeks. It is so 2020. But I’m older than dirt, and have lived long enough to know that life is good and ultimately redemptive, and this too shall pass.
And so it goes.