2021 Year-End Progress Report

Typically, my year-end progress report would have come last week, but I was still rebuilding my website. (If you haven’t seen it, take a look.) I had intentions for 2021. Nothing could have prepared me for what would happen. But in reviewing the year, I’m heartbroken at what 2021 took from me and grateful for the good things 2021 brought.


Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life gets in the way of your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.


 My intentions were that If I Should Die would have been celebrating its first publication date birthday. February changed everything.

During the following 90 days, I did whatever I felt like doing. If I didn’t feel like doing anything, I didn’t. At the beginning of May, I returned to my writing desk. My focus wasn’t back to normal. But I plugged away at the keyboard.

Mid-May I woke with my second bout of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. The first episode had been ten years earlier. I had forgotten it was possible that it would recur, so it took a few days before I figured out why I was so dizzy I didn’t dare move. That kept me from the keyboard until I figured out I could dictate to the computer without looking at it.

It took 90 days of therapy to get to where I could drive the car again. It took longer to get to where dizziness didn’t interfere with what I was doing.

In September I could finally endure longer days at the computer. I completed the first revision of If I Should Die the Saturday before Thanksgiving and sent it out to my beta readers.

I posted 75% of the posts I’d intended.

One of the wonderful surprises 2021 sprung on me was an invitation to take part in the Writers In the Storm blog. (I accepted, of course.)


Ongoing computer issues got worse, or maybe less tolerable, over the first half of the year. I tried several fixes and finally resorted to making a backup of everything, then wiping the computer’s memory and reloading everything. That seems to have worked brilliantly.

Redesigning my website became a necessity when the makers of my previous theme dropped it from being a supported theme. It took a little longer to get it functional with the new theme and there are things I want to fix or add in the future, but I am happy so far. Take a look. 

Sadly, I only read five books in 2021. The focus and connection and joy had disappeared.

In happier news, I won a partial scholarship to the 20Books Vegas Conference in November. It took some scrambling to afford to go, but it worked out. I connected online with the kind and supportive J Lynn Hicks, author of YA dystopian novels, and we agreed to be roommates.

Before I went to the conference, I decided to focus on learning more about marketing there. Even if I attended them back-to-back, there were more panels about marketing than I could attend. I reveal a little of what I learned at the conference below.


With everything else going on, I had little motivation or energy for creating new ads. I focused instead on the ads I had. I studied them one-by-one, removed keywords that weren’t working. It didn’t take long for me to see better results from the ads. Sales trickled in.

Thanks to COVID, there was only one in-person book sale I could have attended. But I did not take part in the book sale day at 20Books Vegas. 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my sales increased over two hundred percent from the previous year.


I am deeply grateful for dear friends who have reached out in very supportive ways this entire year. You know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Life after a spouse’s death is full of decisions and changes. Don’t worry, I’m not making big changes like selling the house or anything. Instead, I’m deciding what possessions that were my husbands do I keep, sell, or donate. I don’t need to bore you with the all the details. But there are a couple I will share.

I’ve decided to make my work environment healthier and more efficient. Yes, as if I don’t have enough other things to do. My office is a spare bedroom. It is a disorganized mess. This project will take months to complete. My newsletter readers, Burrows Bookwyrms, will get to see some of what the process looks like.

Like many middle-class couples, we had my car and his car (an eight passenger van really). After my husband became wheelchair bound, I bought a wheelchair van. Selling his old van would have distressed him. So, we had three vehicles. Before COVID, I used my car for quick errands. After COVID, I think I used the wheelchair van twice. So in September and October, I sold the old his and her vehicles and traded in the wheelchair van for a new car. 


Of course, the biggest event for 2021 was my husband’s death.

Plumbing issues, washer and dryer issues, reseeding the lawn, and the gas company’s decision to dig up my new grass to replace the gas meter filled much of my summer. 

My trip to Las Vegas for the 20Books Vegas conference was my first trip anywhere in way too many years. There were uncomfortable moments during which I’d retreat to my room, but there were also many amazing moments of learning and connection.

Plans don’t always proceed the way we had intended. So it was with my trip to Memphis to meet my brother and his family. They had a last-minute event arise and could not meet me. They had paid for the VRBO house, so I packed up my dogs and went, anyway. The ten-hour drive there and back weren’t terribly relaxing, but the days I spent in Memphis were wonderfully restful.

What I Learned

The top ten most popular posts on my blog during 2021 are:

My 2021 focus word was productivity. Yeah. Didn’t happen.

Turns out I had two focus words. One was learning. I learned far too much about writing and publishing to share here. I’ll limit myself to share only a few nuggets.

Did you know? Vertigo can stubborn and not respond to therapy. Also, it can be caused by shifting crystals in both ears, but the therapist can only treat one ear at a time. That’s one of the things I learned last year.

Give Yourself Permission Not to Do It All. 

Marie Forleo

Permission was my second focus word. I learned I cannot do it all, especially while grieving, but even when all things are good. Most importantly, I learned to give myself permission to focus on my health and happiness. It’s not that I didn’t care about myself before. I did many things to care for myself through the years. But as the months marched onward, I thought I didn’t have time. Many times I didn’t. But that changed. Going to Vegas, listening to all the authors and presenters, finally made me understand I needed to give myself permission to do that.

I didn’t need permission to do what I loved. I still loved writing. It was a place of refuge, a place recharging, a place where the me I like flourished. I will never need permission to write. But focusing on myself, allowing myself to push past previous self-imposed limits—both personally and professionally—that was where I didn’t even see that I had set firm limits. Giving myself permission to go to a writer’s conference was the first step to identifying those subconscious limits I’d set. Attending the conference made me understand I need to give myself permission. Permission granted. Within reason. *smile* 

Going Forward

I’m focusing on growth this year. Read my statement of what that means.

I will finish this second revision by the end of January and submit If I Should Die to my editor. After polishing the words, and proofreading, I will publish it this spring. I’ll have a date soon. 

I will outline the third book in the Fellowship Dystopia series and begin drafting the rest of Miranda’s story.

Giving myself permission to focus on my business and myself is liberating. And I think it’s a lesson all of us need to remember. We can get so very obsessed with what’s going on, so busy taking care of details, that we forget to take care of ourselves. Especially when we’re in the second year of world-wide crisis (COVID, fires, earthquakes, severe weather events, etc.) I hope that this posts helps you to give yourself permission to let go of some of your stress in the coming year. Give yourself permission to feel joy or peace for however long you can. Give yourself permission to be kind to yourself and others. Feel the freedom and peace granting that kind of permission gives.

Did you enjoy this year-end progress report?

Is giving yourself permission an issue in your life?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The First Ninety Days of Being a Widow Sucks

I’ve been a widow for a little more than 90 days. Widow. I loathe that word. It’s a word that defines someone by the loss of a loved one. Typically, I want my Monday posts to be inspirational or motivational, so why write such a negative title? Because it’s true. The first ninety days of being a widow sucks. But perhaps I’ve learned a few things that might help someone.

low light photograph of a bronze statue woman with a "tear-stained" face because the first ninety days of being a widow sucks

My First Days

During the first days, grief consumed me. Waves of grief hit over and over and over again. I had things to do: arrangements to make, family and friends to inform. Ten or fifteen minutes, maybe a half hour of effort, exhausted me. If I wasn’t crying, I sat in a mental and emotional fog that nothing seemed to penetrate. 

Friends said, “If you need anything, let me know.” Guess what? I didn’t know what I needed or how to ask for help. I couldn’t call anyone because reaching out was more than I could do. All I could think about was that my husband died.

One friend of mine texted me every few days for the first couple of months. She’d ask how I was feeling. Then, she let me rant and rave and share more than I should have. It was lifesaving. She still reaches out, just not as often.

Personal Event Days

There are so many things that are difficult as a new widow. Everything is new and painful. Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, routines…all are reminders that my husband died.

He died four days before Valentine’s Day and forty-eight days before our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. To say those were difficult days is an understatement. Each event took at least a week of messed up emotions to “get through.”

image of colorful flower arrangement

My son bought me flowers and cards. Other family members sent cards or called. I used my husband’s shirt as an over shirt. I paged through memory books blind with tears. Leaving the house or doing work was impossible.

It will be his birthday at the end of May. That day will be one hundred three days after his death. And it will be difficult.

Getting Help

My inclination was to climb into a hole and grieve. But one needs a balance of being alone and getting support from friends and family. Often, one needs professional help as well.

I am fortunate. My husband received hospice care. The nurses were wonderful for both of us. Hospice services are available now and any time during the thirteen months after my husband’s death. These services are available for my whole extended family.

My longtime friends reach out to me. It’s almost as if they worked out a schedule between them.

I keep a journal routinely. Believe it or not, writing about my feelings these past few months has helped.

I’ve also had the advantage of my training as a nurse, Nurses learn about the psychology and physiology of death and dying. I’m sure that’s made a difference. Though, sometimes it’s resulted in me being harder on myself than is kind. 

It Sucks

Photograph of a bronze statue of a woman sitting on the ground and bent over in grief because being a widow sucks.

There is no easy way to deal with grief. My training and some different personal experiences taught me that avoiding feelings only makes it more difficult later. So I live with my grief in whatever way it needs to be expressed. Sometimes it’s crying. Other times a sort of numbness takes over. I sit down and what I thought were minutes turned out to be hours.

But no one can endure raw emotions 100% of every day. So I’ve also allowed myself to take breaks, to play mindless games or watch B- action movies. 

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me is to be patient with myself. I’m learning to listen to my body and respect that my energy levels aren’t up to my intentions. And I’m learning to let that be okay for now.

Life Goes On

Over these past three months, it’s gotten easier but it’s not over. The one person to whom I could turn to for advice or a hug or to share frustrations or celebrate a small win with is dead. That sucks. Always.

Slowly, I am able to work on my next novel more and more. Some days, it doesn’t happen.

By the way, about the word “widow.” I am not a widow. His death does not define me. I am a woman whose husband died. Words make a difference to me.

I wanted to share this portion of my journey to remind myself and anyone else who needs to hear it. Life is a journey. And the first ninety days of being a widow sucks. It does. But it doesn’t suck all the time. Not even for a new widow. For now, I’m taking it the same way life comes at me, one day at a time.

I’m Stronger than I Thought

In January, I had strong intentions for the quarter, but I anticipated very little of what happened and my plans went awry. My life and my writing feel like a jumble of puzzle pieces that don’t fit where they used to fit. It’s the end of the first quarter of 2021 and it’s time to evaluate what I’ve accomplished and where to go from here. And the biggest lesson learned over the past three months is that I’m stronger than I thought.

image of a jumble of puzzle pieces that symbolize my life & writing right now--but I'm stronger than I thought and I'll find the new order they belong in.


Unsurprisingly, revisions of If I Should Die are off course. Only six chapters farther than I was at the end of January is disappointing. I made adjustments to the timeline, which meant shifting chapters around. When I revise a novel, it’s like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle that get’s redrawn in the middle of my efforts. (Does that make sense?)

Creative thinking takes more energy than blogging. For both, I struggle with focus and energy, but focusing on writing a blog post is easier because of its length.


A friend helped me keep the website updated during February. Since then, I’ve maintained the website.

Focusing on the rewrite and blogging, the managing area of my business suffered the most.


This area suffered from inattention. With a little attention, it’s already bouncing back.

A special thank you to my new readers of both my books and my blog, you brought me joy during a tough time.


Of course, the biggest thing that took place was my husband’s death. Multiple difficult phone calls and adjustments had to take place quickly. Still, much needs sorted then given away or sold, which will get done bit by bit as I can.

I spent a few happy hours with my grandsons.


I got my first COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago and I’ll get my second one tomorrow.

Next Month & Quarter

image of a table with a jar of pink mums, a jar of chalk, and an open planner planning and knowing I'm stronger than I think

My intentions are to improve my focus and energy. As those things improve, an increase in progress should follow. I intend to work hard toward publishing the next book by the end of the year, even it if it happens on December 31st. My success will depend upon how much I can accomplish these next three months. Stick around. I’ll keep you updated.

What I Learned

Grief is part of my day, every day, and it’s exhausting. Those of you who have lost someone close know grief doesn’t go away entirely. You finally find a bit of peace in your walk along the beach, and a tidal wave hits you from an unexpected direction. Everything and anything touches off the next wave. Sometimes they are gentle, sometimes a tsunami. It doesn’t matter. Each one is exhausting. As it should be. I’m learning when to lean into it and when to step back.

I’ve made less progress than I had intended, but more than I thought grief would allow. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m stronger than I thought. And when I think about it, I’m guessing that nearly everyone can reflect on the past year and say, “I’m stronger than I thought.” Hang in there, folks. We’ll get through this.

A Grievous Loss and a New Life Journey

Why have I been absent from blogging? I’ve had a grievous loss and a new life journey to travel. My husband, Robert W. Burrows, died on February 10th. His death was quick and unexpected, though we’d been expecting it for years.

Image of a red candle burning in the dark--a remembrance for a grievous loss and a new life journey

Prepared Yet Unprepared

When death comes, no matter how prepared you think you are—it’s unexpected. First, there’s a kind of numbness. Then a deep sharp twisting unrelenting pain. Grief is uncomfortable and messy and an overwhelming tidal wave.

When a loved one dies, you go through the motions of daily life, find paperwork, eat, and sleep— if you can. You have moments when you feel almost normal then a small thing, often a ridiculous thing, triggers a tsunami of emotions. One friend likened this to walking through a field peppered with landmines. For me it feels like I’m trying to swim to shore—one wave carries me closer to solid ground and the next one slaps me down to the bottom of the ocean, drags me through the sand and silt, spins me in circles until I don’t know up from down, and drags me further from shore than I’ve ever been before.

And yet, sometimes I make it close to shore. Waves lap against my legs. The sun peeks between the clouds, and I can see beauty and small glimpses of joy.

Love Gets Me Through

My husband’s love was a forever and always love. As was mine for him. He was my number one fan, cheerleader, and hero. He had many chronic illnesses, all of them life-limiting. And his greatest fear and regret was that his illness and dependence on me held me back from writing.

For me, his illness was sometimes frustrating. My patience thinned. But I didn’t and don’t regret one moment I spent caring for him. Our love was worth it. And love gets me through today stronger than yesterday.

Why Share?

I share this because I wanted you, my readers, to know why I disappeared. That I’m still here. And I deeply, deeply appreciate you for still being here, too. Thank you.

While work on the next draft of If I Should Die, book two in the Fellowship Dystopia series, is slower than I had hoped, it is continuing. And I’m back to blogging. I will have good days and sad days. Productive days and not so productive days for a while. But while I’m navigating a grievous loss and a new life journey, I will keep working. It’s what my number one fan would want.

Alone for the Holidays

It is Thanksgiving Week. There are many, many things for which I am grateful beyond words, but this isn’t a post about gratitude. It’s about being alone for the holidays. 

The holidays can be particularly stressful for those people who believe the holiday is about what should be done, for people who cannot be with family, for people who have had recent personal challenges or tragedies, and for people who feel alone.

I have spent holidays mourning and struggling. I have spent holidays alone. It took years before I felt comfortable doing what I needed at those times. I know I would have appreciated a few tips during that time, so I’m offering these few to you.

If you are among those who are struggling with personal challenges or losses, remember it’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling at this time. I think Karen Mcfarland says it best: sometimes Reality Bites.

Self Care

If you are alone for the first time this holiday, be kind to yourself. Sheila Weinstein reinvented her life after the death of her husband of 50 years. Her blog is about the holidays after the loss of a loved one, however, it applies to anyone who needs suggestions on how to be kind to yourself at this time of year. Here she shares ten tips on how to Make Your Holiday a Good One.

Perhaps, you simply do not celebrate Thanksgiving or you have chosen to be alone. August Mclaughlin gives us some hints on learning to enjoy time alone. Her post is about writing but it can apply to anyone who needs a little Sweet Solitude.

No Rules

Holidays have a lot of emotional baggage attached to them. Family traditions, co-workers, television shows, even commercials pound us with expectations for the holiday. Remember, there are no rules about this or any other holiday. You don’t have to give the holiday the power to make you feel worse in any way. The holiday is what YOU make it. Take charge of the holidays. Make it what you need it to be.

Whatever is going on in your life, my wish for you this Thanksgiving and holiday season is a moment of peace, a moment of gratitude, and a bounty of blessings.

alone for the holidays, lynettemburrows.com


First posted 11/24/11    Reposted and edited 11/20/17

This is the first in a week-long series of posts for the holiday.