Deb (Nelson) Boelkes

’81, M.B.A. ’82

Business administration

My life as a business leadership author and speaker has changed in many respects, although since I do virtually all my writing from my home office, that hasn’t changed. In fact, I have actually had more time to write magazine articles as well as work on my third book.

But the rest of my business life has been turned upside down. Every public book event and paid speaking engagement scheduled through the end of the summer has been cancelled. I had to cancel three book launch events, from Florida to California, for my second book, Heartfelt Leadership. I now know online book launches don’t hold a candle to big parties! I’ve also had to postpone the face-to-face interviews I had scheduled with some amazing female CEOs I plan to highlight in my third book (coming early 2021), Women on Top: What’s Keeping You from Executive Leadership? I’m adapting by living the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I have also accepted the fact that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

I now visit family and friends and attend church remotely. My parents, who are in their 80s, live down the road in a senior community. We used to attend church and have brunch together every Sunday. We also used to have at least one mid-week meal with them and we’d occasionally just stop in to say hello, or drop off little gifts, or chat over a glass of wine, or whatever. Since their entire community has been on lockdown since mid-March, we haven’t been able to visit at all. I really miss those moments with them. The entire family (32 of us, from all over the country) finally had a Zoom video with my parents on Easter, which was quite fun. We might even make that a family tradition going forward.

Rather than always around racing to meet absurd deadlines (constraints I put on myself!), my husband and I now take time every day to go outside, walk 3–5 miles on our lovely community trails, and appreciate nature. It’s so peaceful and gives us a chance to catch up with each other. We also have a “social distancing happy hour” with our neighbors every Saturday at 5. We get together on the front porch or back patio of one of our homes. Each couple brings their own beverages and glasses, we sit 10 feet apart, and we chat and laugh for an hour. No one has to worry about making appetizers or cleaning the house. It’s low stress, low effort, and we all enjoy and appreciate the time together.

I struggle with wearing a mask in public, especially when I go into a bank! Rather than a surgical-type mask, I wear a red bandana, cowboy style. Last time I went into my bank, I told my banker I would have to start wearing a cowboy hat and boots and a holster whenever I come into town. Might as well have a little fun with it!

I miss the freedom and joy of traveling and visiting family whenever and wherever we want to. I’ve reluctantly cancelled two vacation trips to Europe and one trip to South America planned within the next year.

One silver lining in this situation is that our social life is far less effort than before. While I love to cook and have dinner parties and big get-togethers, all the planning and prepping and cleaning can be a great effort. I’ve realized that everything doesn’t have to be a big production. Another silver lining is that we’ve learned to appreciate the little things more. Just yesterday, my husband and I were out for a walk in our neighborhood when some friends drove up, rolled down their window, and said, “We’re so excited. We are going out to dinner!” How wonderful it is to see people excited about dining in a restaurant!

Free time? I don’t have much of that, even now, but we certainly spend more time cleaning the house these days. Thankfully, my darling husband shares that “new” responsibility with me. We make quite a good team and the house is cleaner than ever. But, I must admit, we aren’t nearly as efficient as our regular housekeeper. I’ll be very glad to have her back with us soon!

I think people very much want to get back to the lives we all knew and loved pre-pandemic. I actually think that will happen sooner rather than later, at least for those who are in good health and under the age of 65. I hope people will continue to appreciate the little things in life and stop taking the most important things, like family and friends and our freedom, for granted.