I usually do these yearly roundups before the new year, but I didn’t quite get it into my calendar. Better late than never. It’s one of my favorite traditions– this is my twelfth year doing it– and I love looking back on past years to see how things change. Here are my favorites from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
It goes without saying that 2020 was… rough. All things considered, though, I had so much to be grateful for. It made the small wins feel bigger and made the big wins feel extra special. We had a lot to celebrate this year personally and I really don’t take that for granted one bit.
ONE // MARRIAGE
Mike and I were certainly not the only ones in the world to have their timeline totally upended. We had a rough idea of what we wanted to do and when, but then when the pandemic hit, all certainty went out the window. Ultimately we just looked at each other and realized we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and to not let anything stand in our way of that. Mike proposed in June and we opted for a teeny tiny backyard wedding with our immediate families only. It was really important to me that my 93 year old grandma be in attendance so everyone (gratefully) agreed to go into quarantine for two weeks beforehand, and my family (and grandma!) drove up.
I hired a florist and had my photographer come (after quarantining too) but other than that we did everything ourselves. From putting together a Spotify playlist that we played over our Sonos speakers to a family style barbecue we cooked ourselves, it was such a special day that felt even more special. I could watch our little wedding video every night and it feels like I’m reliving the night again and again.
And as for actually being married? It’s great! We spend pretty much all day every day together right now because we’re not going anywhere and we’re both working from home. I really love it. Being married doesn’t feel completely different than it did beforehand honestly… which I take as a good thing! We are taking advantage of all these long days together. I’ll honestly miss it when he eventually (maybe? someday?) goes back to an office.
TWO // PHOTOGRAPHY
One of the most challenging parts of my business this year was having to figure out what to do for photography. For years, I have worked with a photographer who came to my home a couple of days a week to shoot content for my blog. We had a schedule! I always had stuff to shoot and then photos to post! I relied heavily on outsourcing this because it wasn’t a strength of mine. And I never want to make Mike feel like he works for me (he has his own career). I was panicked because imagery is such a huge part of what I do.
It took some trial and error but somehow… I made it work. For nine months and counting, I’ve been taking almost every photo by myself with a tripod. Are these magazine and billboard quality? Umm no. But during a pandemic where social distancing is crucial? I’ll take it.
The tripod part is the hardest because I have to run back and forth to get the framing right. But I have learned a lot about cameras and I feel SO MUCH MORE confident shooting in manual mode. For years, I have tried to figure it out. Watching Youtube videos, taking courses online, asking friends for tips. There was something about having NO CHOICE but to figure it out that made everything “click” for me. I’ve been taking photos of my nieces (no tripod, god bless) and it brings me joy. I hope to take this skill with me and create more memories beyond my iPhone’s camera.
THREE // SEWING
ANOTHER totally random skill I learned thanks to the pandemic. I bought a sewing machine last year for myself, but was so intimidated by it. I had tried a few projects and enjoyed it, but also felt kind of frustrated. (This is probably one of my worst qualities as a person… if I’m not “good” at something, I’d rather not do it all… constantly working on it, but it’s the truth.) When there was a need for cloth masks at our local hospital, I pulled that machine out, found some fabric in my basement, and went for it. Not without tears and not without some FaceTime and Instagram DM help. At a time when I felt so helpless and there was so much uncertainty in the world, it felt good to to something that felt like it was going to help someone.
And the perf from learning how to sew those face masks was that I ended up absolutely loving to sew. It was such a great hobby to pick up because projects take time and I had nothing but time to kill at home. Are all of my projects that I did perfect? Far from it. But every time I started a new project, I learned something new. I’m excited to continue to learn how to sew– I hope it’s something I’m able to keep up with as I get older too. I have a laundry list of projects I want to tackle (quilts, more clothing, curtains/pillows, etc.).
FOUR // PELOTON
Who freaking knew I’d become such a Peloton addict??? When gyms closed, Mike and I did our best to come up with an at home routine. I turned to barre and Mike turned to weights in our garage and running. One day he told me he ordered a Peloton (this was just as the rush started kicking off) and a couple of weeks later, bam, we had a Peloton. I really wasn’t happy about it if I’m being totally transparent– I thought it was going to be one of those workout machines couples buy that end up collecting dust. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Despite hating spin classes, I love the Peloton. I don’t think you need an expensive machine to be happy working out from home (though I do think working out and MOVING every day is incredibly important, especially during uncertain times). But the Peloton served as a wonderful community and a fantastic workout. I loved every ride I did and can’t wait for another year!!
FIVE // STORYTELLER APP
A somewhat new addition to my morning routine is reading Morgan Harper Nichols’ app Storyteller. Every day there is a new piece of art and a brief daily message to read. I find her words so…. calming. It’s a great way to set an intention for the day and she even includes a journal prompt at the end. I am not a journaler, but I spend some time thinking up the answer in my head before going about my day.
Having these daily reminders and nudges have been such a blessing. It’s worth every penny for the subscription (trust me). It’s like having a hot cup of tea and getting a warm hug!
SIX // FINANCIAL ADVISOR
After largely managing my finances by myself, I finally got set up with a financial advisor. We connected at the end of 2019 and spent a couple of sessions getting everything set up and coming up with goals and everything. I was incredibly nervous to do this. I have so much anxiety around money and finances that I’d rather do just about anything other than open my bank account and walk someone through where I am. With some encouragement from a friend over text message, I sucked it up and walked in for the first meeting. THE RELIEF I felt cannot be described. Just knowing I was going to be able to lean on an expert and professional to get everything in order was the best. We came up with a plan and then during 2020 basically executed on everything.
At 30, it was the best thing I could have done for myself and for my future family. I already feel so much more confident… and I like that I can ask someone questions whenever they pop up or ask for advice for big purchases and planning for the future. This had been looming over my head for years, knowing it was something I should do and it is just great having it checked off my list.
SEVEN // TIME AT HOME
I kept revising the “stuck at home” mentality to “safe at home.” Mike and I both have jobs where working from home and staying home was totally doable and a blessing not everyone else had. We didn’t take it for granted. I didn’t love every minute. But for the most part, I knew it was the best thing we could do for our neighbors who couldn’t stay home. Staying home was our best bet to stay healthy and keep our community as healthy as possible.
We played games. We cooked. And we did projects around the house. We lounged in our backyard in the summer and roasted marshmallows on the fire pit this fall. We got to know every street of our neighborhood. And we cuddled the pups all day every day. We read books and watched a lot of Netflix and ate a lot of Oreos. (I think Oreos will always “taste” like April 2020 to me because of how many I ate that month…) Mike and I worked side by side, which I can’t think we’d ever have that opportunity before or again, having breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. We had an afternoon ritual of taking turns making each other espressos. Then we got engaged and married right in our backyard!
We may have canceled trips and had a different year than expected. But I think we’ll ultimately have a ton of great memories of being home together.
EIGHT // THE ELECTION
Putting this on my favorite thing list, solely because of the outcome of the election. The actual lead up to the election, during a pandemic, was absolute torture. I watched way too much news and it was really an unhealthy experience. I hope we never have to live through something like that again… that first debate? Nearly did me in.
But…. it’s over and I’m grateful for the outcome. I think it’s the best thing for our country. When it was clear Biden was going to win, I let out a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t even realize just how tense I was, just how stressed I was, and just how much I was holding my breath. Until it was over and I could just…. breathe. I don’t think every problem is going to be solved and I don’t think it’s going to completely fix our country overnight, but it’s step in the right direction and, for that, I’m grateful.
NINE // BLACK LIVES MATTER
I know I’m not the only person to have had a serious wake up call in May when George Floyd’s murder set off a massive movement. I’m embarrassed to admit just how ignorant I was (and frankly continue to be, though I’m learning). It was uncomfortable and my first reaction was to just say “well I’m not like that.” But then I listened…. and read…. and learned… and I realized just how wrong I was. Again, it’s ultimately embarrassing because it’s not like this is a new issue, it’s just that this was the first time where I had to truly look in the mirror and face my own biases and what part I was playing in systemic racism. It didn’t feel good.
Obviously this is still a huge work in progress for me. I know I’m not perfect and that I will make mistakes and say the wrong thing sometimes, but I am committed to not backing away from hard conversations (with others and myself). Here’s what my action plan is. So You Want To Talk About Race was the best book I read and Brene Brown’s podcast interview with Austin Channing Brown (author of Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness) was the best thing I listened to.
TEN // VOLUNTEERING
I signed up to volunteer at our local food back at the end of 2019. I was officially trained at the beginning of 2020. But just as I was supposed to start my first shift… the pandemic happened. Because I was new, I was put on hold essentially and then brought back in this summer to help bag food for clients. Once we bought our home and planted roots here, I knew I wanted to commit to volunteering my time in person. I love it so much more than I was expecting to. I go in once a week for a couple of hours and (safely) bag food– my one big outing of the week!
Pre-pandemic clients would come and shop the “store”. But now it’s all drive through so we pre-bag everything to get picked up. I’m just so impressed with the organization and love absolutely everyone of the people I’ve met. It’s kind of a solitary job because of the pandemic (we each have our own aisle). But you do get to know each other as the weeks go on. I think food banks are so incredibly important all the time and they’re needed more than ever right now because of the pandemic. Seeing the need first hand is humbling and, while I also financially donate, I’m glad I am able to commit my time to serving as well. Highly recommend looking into a program local to you to if you have the time.