2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

It’s my pleasure to introduce Author Rebecca Heflin as my guest today. Rebecca captured my heart with her dedication to help others, to help organize the blogs for Soul Mate Publishing, and read on for the other million things about this amazing working woman.

Author Rebecca Heflin

This time last year I was making my holiday preparations, which included the honor of presiding over the marriage of my nephew and his fiancée on Christmas Day—a truly joyous way to spend the holiday. This time last year, I was looking forward to a new year, fresh with the promise of a new start. Which meant, this time last year, I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come. Instead, I was naively planning two international trips, a local canoe and camping trip, several charity events, two weddings, countless family and social gatherings, and the celebration of my 25th wedding anniversary.

Who could have imagined it wouldn’t be long before the world would be living the plot of some sci-fi thriller?

January and February bumped along as normal, with work, exercise classes, dinners with friends, and preparations for the release of my 10th novel. By the end of February, the dark edges of the coming storm were visible.

The first weekend in March was my birthday. I celebrated it that Friday with dinner out and a show at our local performing arts center. There was also an out of town wedding that Saturday, which my husband and I attended. Looking back, being in those very public venues probably wasn’t the smartest decision on our part, but the tidal wave had not yet hit our area. March 17th was my last day in the office, as the university I work for shut down and sent its employees home to work remotely. It would be only a day or two later when the entire state would go under lockdown.  Again, in my naiveté, I thought things would be back to normal in a month or so. Silly me.

Zoom meetings would become a regular occurrence in my daily life, and the next few months were a blur of fear and adjustments, as my husband and I created new routines for ourselves. We limited our grocery shopping to once a week. If we didn’t pick up an item during that weekly visit, we just lived without until the following week. Toilet paper (when the store had it) was priced at roughly the equivalent of a gram of gold. Preparing for grocery shopping felt a little like preparing to enter a contaminated laboratory: masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes at the ready. After returning home, it felt like entering a decontamination unit: washing hands, wiping down groceries, and disinfecting everything we touched.

We watched in horror as the numbers rose and people died—many of them frontline workers. I obsessed over the daily case counts, horrified when we hit 1 million cases in the U.S., not even considering that we would reach double-digit case counts in a few short months.

It wasn’t all bad, however. We also watched the world come together in a common experience. Music and voices rose from city terraces. Drive-by birthday, anniversary, and graduation ceremonies became a thing with horns beeping, lights flashing, and signs waiving. Humanity found a way to celebrate life’s milestones even amid a pandemic.

For me, working from home meant no commute. This freed up time for other things. And the lack of social engagements and other commitments meant time for jigsaw puzzles, minor home improvements, and gardening. Not to mention more quality time with my husband. We had a beautiful spring—cooler than average temperatures, and beautiful low-humidity days—which gave us the opportunity for more outdoor activities like corn-hole games, bike rides, and long walks. Life slowed down, and I couldn’t complain about that.

2020

As we learned more about how the virus was spread, and businesses opened up again, we developed a routine that gave us a little more flexibility. Masked and otherwise following the public health guidelines, we gradually began to leave our sterile cocoon. We had friends over for outdoor socially-distanced dinners (BYOF). We began supporting our local restaurants with take-out or delivery, eventually feeling comfortable dining outside at our favorites.

In May, my husband and I celebrated a quiet, but romantic 25th wedding anniversary—not exactly how we had imagined, but nice just the same.

We took three short driving vacations, 2 to the mountains of North Carolina, and 1 to the beach in the Florida panhandle. The change of scenery provided a welcome respite to the sameness of the daily routines.

After working remotely for 6 months, I returned to my office, but still isolated from my co-workers. I only see them masked and walking in the hallway or on Zoom. It was surreal when I entered my office in September to see the calendar still on March.

Here we are again with Christmas past and New Year’s fast-approaching. There is a light, in the form of vaccines, at the end of this long dark tunnel that is 2020. It will take some time, and more patience is necessary, but we will get there. We will overcome this. The world did it in 1918-1919, and we will do it in 2020-2021.

But will the world ever be the same again? I, for one, won’t be. I am forever changed by this experience. I will never again be blissfully ignorant. I have lost my innocence.

Even so, not all the changes are bad. I have come to appreciate so many things I took for granted: my health, my family, freedom of movement, hugs and kisses shared among family and friends, big gatherings and shared social experiences. And my good fortune. Throughout it all, I have wanted for none of life’s necessities. I can’t ask for more than that from the crappy year that was 2020.

Rebecca Heflin is a best-selling, award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a large state university.

Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.

Rebecca can be reached at rebeccaheflin@hotmail.com. Feel free to touch base with her.

All of her books are available on Amazon
as well as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Eden Books.
The third book in Rebecca Heflin’s Seasons of Northridge Series, A Season to Dream, will be released mid-2021.

Beating Heart of the City

Beating Heart of the City

New York City Hall, a beauty in classicism with its touch of Palladio! I studied interior design and architecture many moons ago, but my passion has not wained. New York City Hall is featured prominently in my upcoming book The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin. The cornerstone of City Hall was laid in 1803. Construction was delayed after the City Council objected that the design was too extravagant. In response, architects, McComb and Mangin reduced the size of the building and used brownstone at the rear of the building to lower costs. Labor disputes and an outbreak of yellow fever further slowed construction. The building was not dedicated until 1811 and opened officially in 1812. The original skin of the building, Massachusetts marble facade, quarried from Alford, Massachusetts, deteriorated and was replaced with Alabama limestone in 1954 to 1956.

City Hall, Park Row and City Hall Park, 1911. The structure on the right is the Manhattan station for the cable cars which ran across the Brooklyn Bridge

Steps of City Hall

The steps of City Hall frequently provide a backdrop for political demonstrations and press conferences concerning city politics. The heroine in my book meets the hero on the grounds of those steps while attending a women’s suffrage rally in 1886.

Rotunda

On the inside, the rotunda is a soaring space with a grand marble stairway rising up to the second floor, where ten fluted Corinthian columns support the coffered dome, which was added in a 1912 restoration by Grosvenor Atterbury. The rotunda has been the site of municipal as well as national events. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant lay in state there in 1865, attracting enormous crowds to pay their respects. City Hall is a designated New York City landmark. It is listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The area around City Hall is commonly referred to as the Civic Center. Most of the neighborhood consists of government offices (city, state and federal), as well as an increasing number of upscale residential dwellings being converted from older commercial structures. Architectural landmarks such as St. Paul’s Chapel, St. Peters Church, the Woolworth Building, Tweed Courthouse, the Manhattan Municipal Building, the Park Row Building, One Police Plaza, and the Brooklyn Bridge surround City Hall. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Law and Order, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Until next time, Gail.

Thank you, Wikipedia for the facts and links.

City Hall Park

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released when she’s done revising, I’ll keep you in the know. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on Amazon.

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New York City’s Grid

New York City’s Grid

It’s easier to determine in Manhattan since all the blocks here are designed on a numbered grid. From Street to street, it’s 20 blocks to a mile. So from say, 40th and 3rd avenue to 60th and 3rd, it’s one single mile. Avenue blocks don’t follow that sort of conformity, are much longer, and so miles divided by avenues tends to be problematic, depending on through which part of town you’re walking or running.

A good way to determine is how I was taught in the Marine Corps. Find a distance of 100 meters and measure out how many average paces it takes for you to cover that distance. Then count that number of paces 16 times in one direction. That’ll give you a mile. See more below.

Love, Gail

by  

This was posted in 2010, but these are the basics. While writing my new book, The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin, my characters move about in New York City often. I find myself explaining to those who ask, so here’s some helpful information. Avenue blocks are longer than street blocks. Generally 10 blocks between the avenues equal one mile.

No matter where you are from, your hometown has streets. Maybe some avenues, parkways, calles, boulevards, roads, lanes or rues. In most cases, there is no real rhyme or reason behind why a road has a particular classifying name, it’s simply thrown up there by whoever happens to be planning the surrounding construction. In New York, however, the difference between streets and avenues is very critical and it’s definitely something everyone needs to understand. This post is focused mainly on navigating and understanding Manhattan because it’s very standardized.  Let’s hit the pavement.

The Basics

The most basic thing to remember is that avenues run north and south while streets run east and west (…ish, Manhattan does not a perfect compass make, but don’t try telling any New Yorker that). Most streets and avenues only accommodate one-way traffic, but there are some thoroughfares (14th, 23rd, 42nd, etc…) that do have two-way traffic and are a bit bigger (I’ll fill you in on the history in my next post). This might not seem all that important now, but eventually, you will be sending a text, reading a book or just generally not paying attention as you walk down the street and suddenly find yourself in the middle of two-way traffic because you only glanced down one direction. It happens.

Also, in case you don’t know already, most of Manhattan is a giant grid, so people will give you directions like “it’s on 52nd Street between 5th and 6th”. From that you know the exact block you are going to: the block of 52nd Street that falls between 5th and 6th Avenues. Having a grid is also pretty handy for measuring distance: . So, if you are on 50th Street and 6th Avenue and need to go to 30th Street and 2nd Avenue, you have about 1 mile to walk south and 1 mile to walk east. Remember this when judging whether or not a subway ride is worth it.

Gail Ingis is an author, artist, and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in summer 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

 

Revolutionized Boston

Revolutionized Boston

ChartHouse from our room in CustomHouse (Marriott)

It’s been two-hundred-and-fifty-five years of ChartHouse’s existence in the Gardiner Building on Long Wharf in Boston harbor. It’s been one week since Tom and I dined there—and we can’t wait to go back. ChartHouse originally served as the office of Thomas Hancock and subsequently, his nephew, John Hancock. Once referred to as “Hancock’s CountingHouse,” it’s the oldest building on Long Wharf.

staircase to 2nd floor

Over the past two hundred years, while Boston evolved, Long Wharf and its granite and brick warehouses fell into neglect. In the 1960s the Boston Redevelopment Authority acquired the wharf with the aim of revitalization, encouraging private rehabilitation of the Gardiner building and CustomHouse Block, another historic building now dedicated to guests of Marriott.

After a four-month-long renovation in 2011, the Gardiner Building was preserved for years to come. The vibrant and refreshing new décor still boasts many original elements such as Hancock’s safe, broad-wooden beams, red-brick walls, and the original staircase.

Lava cake

Coconut shrimp served with a fan made of rice.

I don’t want to leave out ChartHouse dining experience. The food rated in the five-star category with the coconut shrimp, and lava cake topped with ice cream and fudge. The complimentary dessert was a perk of our stay at the Marriot CustomHouse.

I love New York. It’s my hometown. But I think Boston is now a big contender for my favorite city. It’s easy to get around on foot, little Italy (the North End) our fav. Until next time, Love, Gail.

Gail Ingis is an author, artist, and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in summer 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

Little Italy

G&T and the tallest building CustomHouse

 

 

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A work of art

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to ChartHouse’s Legendary Dining (scroll publication). On the front of the scroll is a brief history of ChartHouse and on the back our ConstitutionChartHouse is located at 60 Long Wharf, Boston, MA. Chart-House.com.

 

Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore House by Gail Ingis

Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore House by Gail Ingis

Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore

Christmas at Biltmore House is unlike any other. When you are there it’s like you have traveled back in time to the Gilded Age. Tom and I visited Biltmore House a few years ago while I was researching my first book, Indigo Sky.  Biltmore House, was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, the youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, near Asheville, North Carolina in 1889-1895. At 178,926 square feet, it is considered the largest privately owned home in the United States, It is still owned by Vanderbilt family.

Biltmore House has become famous for its celebration of Candlelight Christmas, which is celebrated  every evening throughout the holiday season, starting just before Thanksgiving, presented as though the Vanderbilt family are your hosts. Tom and I spent three nights at the Inn at Biltmore on the grounds of the estate and enjoyed tea in the afternoon, lunch at the Bistro, dinner in the dining room. Five star accommodations, five star food and five star grounds.

The Vanderbilt rail empire was created by Biltmore’s George Vanderbilt’s grandfather, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877. It was Commodore that bought out LeGrand Lockwood after Black Friday gold panic in July 1869 when Lockwood lost his empire. The same Lockwood who built the Lockwood Mansion (now the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum) in Norwalk, Connecticut. The same Lockwood who commissioned Albert Bierstadt to paint “Domes of the Yosemite.”

Most of my readers know about my journey writing about the life of painter Albert Bierstadt. My visit to Biltmore Estate was inspired by my research while I was painting a copy of Domes of the Yosemite and henceforth, inspired a fictional historical romance novel.

If you ever get the chance to travel to Biltmore House, you will never forget it. It has become one of the most popular destinations for weddings and other special events and for Tom and me, it was a truly memorable and special Holiday visit.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released on Valentine’s Day. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

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