The Eve Of A New Year

Here we are. It’s the eve of a new year, the turning of the calendar, a proverbial clean slate.

This year certainly was one for the record books and one we will talk about for the rest of our lives.

The truth is, 2020 wasn’t a terrible year for me personally as I kept my job and income, maintained good health, and even had more time for rest and relaxation.

My introverted self is perfectly happy staying home and six feet away from others. I do terribly miss traveling but understand this is for now, not forever.

This was the year I learned to truly find joy in the small things like a bird at the window, a quiet walk in the woods, and the first bite of a juicy orange.

It was actually a good year in my small place in the universe.

Setting aside my own experience, it is hard to watch people suffer and struggle. From the logistics of childcare, to lost income, illness and isolation, people are struggling. I worry for small businesses and for the families that depend on them for work. I worry for kids who aren’t in school where we know they are safe and fed and learning something. Child abuse and neglect are among the tragedies not being well explored as we are too busy with triage in other areas.

So far, our country has lost about 330,000 souls to this pandemic.

To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of Cincinnati with its approximate 306,000 people.

Imagine one of Ohio’s three biggest cities wiped off the map. That’s how many of our fellow Americans have been lost.

And we aren’t through the woods yet as experts tell us that January will be a dark month for many.

Still, I am hopeful that life will be better one year from today.

The vintage photo above was labeled “New Years” and offers some much needed levity to this discussion. To be a fly on the wall just before she took this drink!

I won’t be staying up late tonight and I won’t be drinking to dull the effects of the year. Instead, I plan to go to bed early tonight, to read until I fall asleep, and then wake up refreshed in the morning.

2020 can see itself to the door.

I’ll be ready to greet the new year with fresh, rested eyes first thing tomorrow.

Do You Believe In Resolutions?

What’s your stance on New Year’s Resolutions?

Studies show that about sixty percent of us make resolutions but only about eight percent of us follow through on them.

I’m a planner and a goal setter so I usually have two or three of varying size.

One of my 2020 resolutions was to read 100 books. Check!

Another was to travel as much as possible with a couple of big trips in mind along with some weekend getaways. That clearly didn’t work out.

And there were some smaller ones that fell to the wayside but others came to light as the year progressed. For example, I log the miles that I hike and intentionally walk every day and am very close to reaching 500 miles.

Planning is in my nature and one of my stronger skills. I’m good at breaking down a large project into small pieces that can be completed in phases. Sadly, 2020 sort of beat the desire to plan right out of me.

And yet, here I am, contemplating goals for the new year. It isn’t productive to wait for the flip of a calendar page to start but a new year feels like a fresh start and an irresistible opportunity to take a run at planning again.

The picture above is from a Denver sidewalk. Most of us will never make it to the moon. But what’s the phrase? Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Reading, walking and traveling may not get me to the moon or the stars but these things will give me opportunity to improve myself and that’s pretty good too.

Reality Check

One of the most common conversations I’ve heard for months is that people can’t wait for 2020 to be over. The idea is that life will go back to normal once 2020 ends. Like all our problems will magically disappear with the turn of a calendar page.

Friends, that’s not how this is going to go. The pandemic will not know that it’s 2021 and that we’re mentally done with all this.

Instead, on January 1, 2021 we will be in the dead of winter and it will be too cold to dine outside. It will be dark early, making it hard for us 9 to 5’ers to get out for outdoor fun. It’s going to be hard for us to social distance in the yards of family and friends when it’s snowing.

My introverted personality makes it easier for me to be alone. My enjoyment of cold weather makes it easier for me to tolerate the cold and darkness. In fact, I like winter well enough I wrote last year about my coping mechanisms that I think might help others.

I understand that I’m lucky.

And yet, I’m still worried about how hard this winter might be given that spending time in stores and other public spaces that I typically frequent won’t be advisable or at the very least, I will want to limit my exposure.

I come from a long line of worriers but refuse to succumb to worry. Instead, I prefer to use logic to think things through, troubleshoot and plan. So I’m working now to plan and mentally prepare for what’s to come.

Here’s what I’m doing to take charge of my winter.

Gather supplies– Let us be clear – I am not a stockpiler but I do live in the country so it’s smart to always have extra supplies on hand. I also live on a hill that my car sometimes can’t climb when we’ve had a lot of freeze-thaw that makes it slick. There is nothing worse than packing groceries up a big hill!

Consequently, I always prioritize keeping plenty of supplies on hand so that I don’t have to shop when it’s nasty out. That means I’ve been gradually stocking up on non perishable and frozen foods, cat litter, cleaning supplies, toiletries, laundry detergent and even weird things like light bulbs. Think about the things that force you to make a special trip to the store and those are the things you need to focus on.

If you buy a few extra things each shopping trip, you don’t notice the extra cost. I will still need to pop into the store for fresh produce but can limit my time in the store by just my grabbing the short list of needs.

Make a list – I’ve started a list of things to do in my free time. Hikes and drives are . close to home ways that I can get outside. Hiking in the winter can be amazing if you know how to stay warm and on your feet but there are plenty of ways to stay busy and entertained at home as well. For me that means fun things like movie marathon days, experimenting in the kitchen, reading, playing the piano (I badly need to start doing this again before I forget how), genealogy research, photography and trip planning. There are also projects that I want to work on. One room in my house is sort of an ongoing monster project that I’m determined to civilize this winter.

Troubleshoot – I’ve been thinking about what I need to make my life at home happier. Honestly, my home is a pretty happy place but there are small ways to improve it. For example, I can’t sit on my couch and use something electronic that needs to be plugged in. If my laptop battery is dying, I have to move to the desk or chair or somewhere else to plug it in. Digging out an extension cord that I already own will fix this. Maybe you will better enjoy cooking if you have nicer pots and pans or terrific soup bowls. Make your home more cozy with a yummy smelling candle or put a bird feeder outside your favorite window. Maybe you need to do something more drastic like paint or replace your bedding with some warm flannel. I really want a cozy chair for bedroom reading but haven’t yet found what I want. It’s been sort of a Goldilocks situation where everything is to big, too small, too expensive or too poorly made.

Adjust your expectations – I have no interest in spending much time in public spaces but still want to support small businesses and get out of the house. For me that means being selective about where and how I spend my time.

I talked to a museum manager last week who said they have very few people visiting at this time. I would feel safe visiting her museum and maybe browsing an antique or book store. These are not the types of stores that pack people in. Rather than eat in a restaurant I’ll continue doing drive thru or curbside pick up.

These are trade offs I’m happy to make so I can go out and do fun, enriching things with my free time while still limiting my exposure (and those around me) to the virus.

If you are a social person, you might want to try Zoom parties or FaceTime with friends rather than hang out in person.

Embrace the here and now – this life is the only one you have. Instead of wishing it away waiting for the weekend, for a vacation or for the pandemic to end, it’s better to find ways to simply enjoy the life you have today.

Unless you have a chronic illness or are mourning a devastating loss of life this should be attainable at least at some level.

Life is what we make of it and focusing on the bad will make it worse. Appreciating what we have and looking for the good will automatically improve it tenfold.

Let’s do that, shall we?

The Year In Pictures (Proof That It Does Get Better)

When the year began, this is is what I was photographing.

As you can probably see, my mood was dark and brooding. I spent hours stomping around in the cold and looking for anything I could find to occupy my mind and camera. My world was quite small too. My adventures took me around my own property and local state parks but not much further. Life was quiet and introspective. It was intensely focused on self betterment and on finding beauty despite the starkness and darkness that seemed to envelope my world both inside and out.

If you’ve been following this blog you know I’ve come a long way since January. In fact, I’ve come a long way since starting this blog over the summer. And I am thankful for that.

This has turned out to be a very good year. A beautiful year, actually. I’ve had so many adventures as well as time with friends and family and have learned a lot.  I’ve traveled near and far, spent countless hours relaxing on the back porch and met some special people along the way.

I still do some black and whites but have come to enjoy more playing with color and light. In fact, most of my recent black and whites exist because the color or light is poor but the conversion salvages the picture. Here’s what I’ve been photographing lately.

My eye reaches for happier things… I call this photographic proof that it does get better.

48416903_10209755131673433_8729230697920724992_nMy life isn’t what I thought it would be a year ago but that’s ok because it has turned out to be great anyway.  In fact, looking back on last January, it’s leaps and bounds more than I could have asked for or imagined.

I am cautiously optimistic that 2019 is going to be even better and I look forward to seeing what life has in store. I’m certain something special is around the next corner.

Happy New Year, my friends. Make 2019 amazing!