The year 2020 was a butt kicker for me. I have, however, already covered that. If you need a good read on how this year was super challenging for me, I encourage you to read my previous post. To counteract that post, though, I think it’s only fair to recognize all that went right for me in 2020. I teach social emotional lessons to middle school students on a weekly basis. The summary of many of my lessons is how we have to intentionally find the achievements and positivity, as it’s very easy to get swallowed up by the negativity. This is my opportunity to do just that, to recognize that 2020 was not an entire poop show, and did have some positive outcomes. By recognizing those positive outcomes, I hope to center myself, and not live in the poop show.
So, this is a bit of a brag post. Brace yourself, it’s a long one, but that’s a good thing, right? It’s not to brag about my accomplishments to you the reader, though. It’s more of a brag post to myself. If, amidst all of the craziness, I can stop to notice my accomplishments it helps me to remain centered. I hope by reading this, you can stop and do the same thing. 2020 may have been a royal poop show for you, but were there accomplishments that have been drowned out by the negativity? Take a minute, and do the same. I can almost guarantee it will help you feel more centered as well.
As I did in my last post, I want to recognize the privilege involved in this post. Especially with the frivolous nature of some of it, I am aware that some of this frivolity is a direct result of the privilege I have in my life, and I want to honor that. I have a lot of privilege that others do not have, and I want to honor that.
So, below is a list of ten accomplishments that occurred in 2020, and that I am proud of. Listing it first, for those who do not have the stamina for the entire post. I appreciate those of you who are supporting my journey, and read along wifth me as I go.
- Our Home
- Living Creatures
This summer I took a course on marriage, which I’ll reference later. One key to this course was focusing on self-care. You can not be a good wife, mother, employee, etc., if you are not taking care of yourself. I always knew that this was the case, but never really knew how to make it a priority in my life.
This course encouraged making a list of twenty things that you consider self-care. Some of these things may be hard things that make you feel good. This might include working out or catching up on the budget. Others might include things that are simply for pleasure. For me this includes taking a walk, taking a bath, listening to a podcast or watching a show on Netflix. The point is, when your bucket is full, you feel better. When you feel better, it’s easier to cope with life’s challenges.
My goal every day is to accomplish three things from the self-care category. This may sound daunting, but self-care does not need to be large earth shattering activities. Self-care can mean taking five minutes to breath before turning your computer on in the morning. One simple example for me is walking to pick up my son every day from his after school program. It takes about 10 minutes to get there, which provides time to clear my head, get some fresh air and move my legs. When I’m working from home, I still try to accomplish a quick walk. It fills my bucket, which is something I have learned to appreciate in 2020.
This is one category that I am incredibly proud of. Since 2014 we have been on a debt free journey. With the help of a good friend, the budgeting program You Need a Budget (http://www.youneedabudget.com) and Dave Ramsey (http://www.daveramsey.com), we have slowly made progress. When I say slow, I mean slooooowww, and at times it has felt like we were crawling towards being debt free. Many times I wanted to give up, but we kept at it.
With all of the hardships that 2020 brought, we were also fortunate enough to have some financial windfalls. I know how fortunate this is, as many people have lost work and have been hit hard financially. With some of these windfalls we were able to make significant progress in our debt free journey.
In addition to the typical debt that we pay in a year, we were also able to pay off both vehicles, and my husband’s student loan. This progress feels absolutely amazing, and allows us more money to work towards other debts. At the time of writing this we only have our mortgage, my massive student loans, and some credit card debt. The credit card debt is next to go, and I’m so proud of the journey we have made towards financial freedom. The fact that a good chunk of our progress happened during 2020 matters to me, as it is a big deal for us, and something positive to remember about this year.
This is by far the most frivolous part of this post. It’s all about vanity and beauty, so if that bores the heck out of you, feel free to move on. Since August of 2019 I have made conscious decisions to take care of aspects of my life that I previously had not. These areas were 100% due to vanity, and I’m not ashamed of it.
In August of 2019 I was beyond frustrated with my hair. It was brittle and breaking, no matter how I styled it, it looked dry and damaged. I could literally use a half of a bottle of conditioner, and it was still incredibly dry. I have naturally wavy hair, but in the 36 years of styling it, I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Therefore, I either straightened it or wore it in a pony tail every single day.
This led to incredibly dry and damaged hair. Add to that, I was coloring it monthly. My hair was rebelling, and for good reason!! I recognized that I needed to break up with my straightener, but had never figured out how to embrace my waves. I somehow stumbled upon the Curly Girl Method (more info here) of hair care, and it changed my relationship with my hair almost over night. From that day forward I started embracing my curls, and only partaking in styling that was beneficial to them.
To say it was a long haul, was an understatement. I almost gave up regularly, and transitioning damaged hair back to wavy hair can be quite ugly. Finally in February of 2020 I made the big chop, and cut it some what short. This was a game changer, and my natural waves started flourishing. Then, I did not color it for 8 months, allowing the gray to sneak in. My hair has never been healthier, and I am so confident rocking my wave. The single best part for me is how little effort it takes for me to do my hair in the mornings. My routine has been cut from about 20-30 minutes, to less than two minutes. If you have naturally curly or wavy hair, I implore you to invest time in this method, it is a life saver!!
On the point of vanity, let’s talk skin care. In February of 2020 my baby brother got married. It was an awesome day, amid an awesome week of travel through Georgia and Florida. The one downfall for me was that I could not believe how old I looked in the pictures I was taking. Yes, I was tired. I was vacationing with my family of five, and my two youngest had just gotten over the flu. However, I looked way older that I felt, and knew that I must be able to do something about it.
After some research, I put serious effort into changing my skin care routine. At 37 years old, I knew that things were not going to get any better if I didn’t really make some major changes. So, I did. I started slow, and then each month or two added another product to the arsenal. I thought it would be overwhelming and time consuming, but it’s not. It’s also a daily form of self-care that I make a priority as often as possible.
Ten months later, I can not believe the difference in my skin. I have always had uneven toned, acne prone skin. The only way I knew how to manage it was to cake on the foundation, and would not even go to the store without it. I have not worn foundation since April. In fact, I hardly wear any make up at all, and my skin looks way better than it did when I was wearing it regularly.
My make up routine now consists of brow filler and mascara. That is it. Bonus points, it literally takes me two minutes to “put my face on”. To look in the mirror and see beautiful skin that I have worked hard to achieve does not make me feel vain, it instead makes me feel proud that I have taken the time and effort to take care of myself.
My current skin care routine can be found here.
I have been pretty honest about the fact that our marriage has had its ups and downs. What I haven’t opened up about is the work that has been involved in getting us to a place of peace. Early 2020, things were going better, but it still did not feel like we were at our best. The book The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle was recommended to me. I was extremely skeptical, as I am the last thing from “surrendered”. Laura Doyle wrote another book called the Empowered Wife, and that is a much better name. This book took me to another level in my marriage.
This book teaches six skills that tremendously improve relationships, specifically marriage. The gist is to let go of control, become the best version of yourself through self-care, and be thankful for the gifts you have in your life. I listened to this book on repeat for weeks in a row, and then signed up to take the adjoining course. The adjoining course helped to make the hopes of the book into a reality. It provided me with a step by step guide on how to integrate the six skills into my life, and maintain stamina with it.
Due to the skills I learned through this program, my marriage has hit the next level. The self-care alone has made me a happier person, and easier to be around. Combine that with no longer feeling “in charge” 24/7, and letting go of control, my mental health has improved. My husband loves this new version of me, and we are now the happiest we have ever been. I can’t believe this all happened through me reading one book, but it did, and I couldn’t be more thankful. For more information on these skills visit Laura Doyle’s website at www.lauradoyle.org.
In 2019 we started renovations on our oldest daughter’s bedroom. This was long overdue, as her room was incredibly dated and worn out. The process took longer than we expected, but turned out absolutely beautiful. We finished in July of 2020, and I’m proud that we were able to stick with it despite the uncertainty of the pandemic.
For Mother’s Day this year, my husband built me the back deck that I have always wanted. It was a simple floating deck, as the costs of lumber rose, but it has added to an already great back yard experience. I can sit under the shade of our canopy and watch my kids play, or drink coffee admiring the beautiful view. My favorite activity is dinner out on the deck, allowing the kids to run and play when we are done. It’s been a great addition to our home, and I’m incredibly thankful for it.
For a few years now, we have considered adding chickens to our family. In March we became the proud owner of 6 pullets (essentially preteen chickens). Unfortunately, we lost two to coyotes, but have proudly kept four alive ever since. Our chickens started laying eggs in August, and they have brought nothing but joy to our lives. Our children love to feed them and take care of them. I love having fresh eggs every day, and the process of caring for them and keeping them healthy. They have been an amazing distraction to the ever present ominous nature of 2020, and for that I am extremely grateful.
I have also always had a huge desire for plants in my home. I’ve been drawn to them, but had no idea how to care for them. Our stay at home orders in March gave me the opportunity to dive into becoming a plant mama. I asked around trying to discover the easiest plants to keep, and became the proud mama to a few aloe and spider plants.
This led to more and more plants, and at the time of writing this my house is full of greenery. This makes me so incredibly happy and proud. To go from having a black thumb, to have a house full of greens is incredibly fulfilling to me. I still do not know the in’s and out’s of plant care, but I’m proud of keeping my plant babies alive, and continue to be obsessed with growing more and more.
We have been wanting to buy a pool for our children since our oldest was 7 years old. She is now 14. All three of our children have summer birthdays, so we decided to go all out and buy them a pool for their birthdays. The problem was, everybody else had the same idea! We could not find a pool anywhere as it was a highly sought after pandemic item.
We finally found one from a friend who had bought it and was planning on returning it. We purchased it from her, and set it up in early July. This proved to be one of the best things we could have done for our family, and provided many moments of family bonding throughout the summer. It is only four feet deep, which is perfect for our two youngest children. They were hesitant swimmers at the beginning of the summer, and became extremely confident by the end. In a year that provided many challenges for both the adults and children in our family, this gift brought a great deal of joy as well.
To have the opportunity to write about travel in the midst of a pandemic makes me feel incredibly blessed. We had two opportunities to travel this year, and are incredibly grateful to have made them work.
In February of 2020 my brother and sister-in-law got married in Georgia. At the same time, my parents were on their annual vacation to Florida. We were able to attend the wedding, and then spend the following week with my parents in Florida. The community that they stay in is extremely relaxed and family friendly, making it the perfect vacation. We enjoyed lots of beach time, relaxing on the porch and swimming in the pool. Looking back, it was an amazing last hoorah before the world shut down, and we feel incredibly blessed.
In July we were also able to make a family camping trip work. We spent a few days at Fair Haven State Park, just outside of Oswego, NY. This park is right on Lake Ontario and offers an amazing beach, playgrounds and views. We were able to take advantage of all of these things while social distancing, and it helped bring a sense of normalcy to our summer.
We currently are in the process of growing two small businesses. Our first business was in year three at the beginning of the pandemic. We have been renting our tear drop camper as an investment to building and renting larger custom built campers. Although the rental side of our business was slower than typical this year, we were able to generate enough revenue to finish our first custom camper build. Both of these campers will be available to rent in the summer of 2021, with the hopes of generating enough revenue to complete the third.
In late summer, I also decided to take the leap and turn one of my hobbies into a small business. I have played around with my Cricut machine for a few years now, and felt confident enough with my skills to start making products to sell. I started with custom face masks, and quickly moved on to more clothing and home decor options.
I had absolutely no idea how this would be received in the midst of the pandemic. I was blown away by the amount of support I received, and am starting 2021 with the confidence that I can grow even more. I’m thankful for those who supported me and helped make this dream a reality.
Flexibility is probably my biggest accomplishment of 2020. I have always been somebody who needs a plan, thinks years in advance, and gets rattled when the plan changes. Due to all of the uncertainty of 2020, I have done a complete 180. My work life changes quickly and regularly. More than once I have found out that I will be working from home within 24 hours. I have learned how to pivot quickly, and not get wrapped up in planning ahead. There is no point in planning ahead, as there is no way to tell what the future holds. For somebody who is used to planning years, months and weeks in advance, this has become quite the accomplishment.
I am proud of all of these accomplishments, big and small. In a year that felt like one disaster after another, I can honestly say that I have also had a lot of joy and fun. 2020 has definitely changed my perspective on life a lot, and I’m proud to say that many of the positive changes are definitely going to stick. I have a newfound appreciation for a lot of things in my life, including many of the small things that I have detailed here. I’m proud of the life my family and I have, even if it has been flipped on its head due to COVID. I know that we will be on the other end of COVID at some point, but I truly hope that we all are able to take some of these positive points with us as we move on.