2020: looking back, looking forward.

2020 began feeling like any other year…and then it went….well, you know how it went. You know how when you’re little and a day or a week feels like it takes forever? This year felt more like that to me.

There was also a lot of change, day to day, week to week. While I rarely left my neighborhood, there was so much physically going on in the country and the world. The pandemic and varying degrees of lockdown and protests and the election and….you know, you can probably read a more succinct summary of what happened that was considered newsworthy this year. Like here. And here. Here’s some of NPR’s global stories from 2020 that are not about the pandemic.

There were the weeks of transition for me where all my classes shifted online in March — both the one I was taking and the one I was doing supplemental instruction sessions for — and that was a lot to deal with all at once. And then experimenting with teaching Nia online…I still feel that I’m in the process of learning what works best as far as the technology goes.

There were moments where I wondered what I would have thought last January had someone told me how this year would unfold. Also, have you seen Julie Nolke’s YouTube shorts about talking to her past self about the pandemic? Four episodes total and worth watching. Start with the first episode here.

The true highlight of this year for us personally was getting our dog from a local dog rescue organization. He has brought joy and laughter (and walks outside!) to our lives at a time when we really needed it. He’s willful and zany and sweet and goofy…and totally the right dog for us.

See all the cuteness? He’s really great.

I tend to get annoyed by taglines about “How to make 2021 your year!” or other similar statements. Granted, I’ve never been much of a fan of resolutions or high doses of ultra-positive affirmations, particularly not in the past few years. And then looking at the silver linings of 2020…they are there, especially on an immediate personal level. But they are also there with a lot of miserable and awful stuff. I had quite a few moments of breaking down and grieving and being frustrated and feeling helpless this year. I miss my family. I miss New Mexico. I want…well, I want things to be different than they are. But I also expect that it will take a while for life to change to something resembling the normality of the past, and I don’t have an expectation for a timeline on that.

So I will end with this: I am grateful that my family and I are currently healthy. I am grateful to have work that I enjoy and tentative plans for the future. I am grateful for regular dance and monthly hikes. I am grateful for the companionship and love of my husband and our relationship; we are truly a team even when times aren’t easy. I hope this next year will have more highlights than this one, both personally and on a global level. My hope is to take one day at a time, to see as clearly as I can…and hope. I can’t always hope for the best, but I can hope for better.

So, goodbye 2020. Welcome, 2021! Happy New Year!

11/6 link roundup

Blog post on the U.S. and our current character as a nation.

From Anti-Racism Daily: On the history of the electoral college and the case for abolishing it.

From Today: 10 books that gave the recommenders hope.

From Salon: How to fix the country’s empathy problem.

From Vogue: How Stacey Abrams is turning the tide in Georgia

Published this summer and still relevant if baking reduces your stress level: 30 stress baking recipes that bloggers recommend.

From NPR: 5 ways to deal with stress while waiting for election results (also probably good things to do when stressed out in general)

From CNN: 50 ways to get through election week.

Link roundup 10/30: Please vote! 2020 edition

November 3, 2020 is Election Day in the U.S and it’s only a few short days away! For those of you who are eligible and haven’t voted yet, please vote! If you have already voted, thank you!

Not registered? These states offer same-day voter registration on election day.

Locate a polling place, where you can drop off your ballot, and more here.

Why vote? Here are 5 reasons why.

How to respond when someone says their vote doesn’t matter.

What will my ballot look like? Ballotpedia has a sample ballot look-up tool.

Take care of yourself: Conscious self-care during the election season. 10 self-care ideas. Make a post-election self-care plan.

Bits and Pieces: an update

I haven’t really been feeling the inclination to blog much. It’s also that sometimes I think and feel like there’s simultaneously so much to say, although perhaps less to update on a day-to-day basis. So this post is a gathering of things.

Where I was almost a year ago with my mom. This was our view from our hotel room in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion National Park. I would never have imagined then how much would change in a few short months, and I am so grateful that we had this time to spend together.

Near Sedona, Arizona, end of December 2019. Since 2015 we’ve (my spouse, my father, and I) spent a few days over the holidays here. As it looks like now, 2020 will be the first year in many years that we won’t go anywhere for the holidays.

Posting these photos brings joy, nostalgia, grief. So many feelings at once. These times were wonderful and I don’t know when I will see either of my parents, who both live in different states.

It’s challenging to have spent so much of the time over many months within the same four walls; so much changes, and so much stays the same. Perhaps that is true for non-pandemic times as well, but now the contrast, or lack thereof, is clearer or harsher.

End of February, 2020, Lake Mead, to celebrate my birthday. My memories of this outing are even more sweet — and bittersweet — because it was so close to the time of the lockdown and where everything changed. I was aware of the pandemic, it was there, but it didn’t seem quite real, not yet.

And there were highlights even then: the hummingbird broods nesting on our porch (two broods; a total of four birds fledged) in April/May and July. The picture above is from May and these two were about to fledge.

Like many people during these quarantine times, I baked bread. It generally tastes better than it looks, so I don’t think I have any pictures on hand. I did that almost weekly for a while. Like many things, the novelty wore off.

While we’re more used to having a pet member of the family now, his novelty hasn’t worn off. This is our dog. We adopted from a local rescue in late July. He’s a four-year-old Shiba Inu. Among other things, Shibas are known for their independence (read: willfulness and self-containment, sometimes almost to a catlike extent), as well as their fox-like appearance. They are the smallest of the Japanese snow dogs, the largest of which is an Akita.

He deserves at least one full post devoted to him alone. He’s a bright spark in our lives. He has given us many reasons to go outside, find delight in play, and live in the moment. He’s a wonderful addition to our quirky household.

Also, our dog absolutely loves hiking, which has given us more motivation to go ourselves. We love hiking, but often don’t make time for it, so it’s great to have him to give us that extra push to go. Hiking and being out in nature has been such a great way to get away and take a break.

Pictures from two of our hikes:

I think I’ll end this update here for now. Perhaps I’ll post more soon.

Link roundup 8/14

So I’ve been continuing to gather links…and then I don’t post them. Which means that a lot of what I have may be outdated. So I’m going to post a few things here today and resolve to post it before I leave the room and/or get caught up in other things.

A book I’ve recently read and would recommend: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Premise: Two half sisters in Ghana with no knowledge of each other; one is sold into slavery while the other is not. This is their story and the story of their descendants.

Six ways to help save the post office that take less than two minutes.

Write postcards to help encourage people to vote! You can sign up with MomsRising (who will provide postcards and sample content). Postcards to Voters is also looking for volunteers to write postcards.

From Vice: Talking to friends about whether to hang out during the pandemic.

Want to add a little surprise in your life and something to look forward to receiving? Check out these reviews of 20 Best Subscription Boxes under $15.

From Politico: 55 things you need to know about Kamala Harris (her life, history, accomplishments).

Link roundup 7/18

A Black medical student created a handbook on how certain conditions appear on darker skin.

From The Atlantic: The role of cognitive dissonance in the pandemic.

Top feminist organizations plagued by racism, 20 former staffers say.

Six positive developments about COVID-19 from The Washington Post.

Asheville, North Carolina’s city council has voted to provide reparations to Black residents and their descendants for the history of slavery and discrimination.

A new study shows that working moms have reduced their working hours 4 to 5 times more than dads during the pandemic.

Some amazing pictures of birds from the Audubon Society’s annual photography awards.

Link roundup 6/7

Anti-racism resources, activism, on being an effective ally

Dear white people, this is what we want you to do.  This blog post by Kandise Le Blanc includes ideas for concrete action.

From Salon:A list of do’s and don’ts for white allies.

5 Racist Anti-racism responses “good” white women give to viral posts.  Also tips on what would be more helpful to say or write instead.

Why it’s important to say “Black Lives Matter,” and why saying “All Lives Matter” is problematic.

What to bring to a protest to help protect yourself and mitigate risk.

Can’t go out and protest but want to support the movement? Here are several ideas on other things to do to help.

From the Skimm: A brief explanation of mass incarceration in the U.S. prison system and its history.

From Vanity Fair: 9 podcasts that demand your attention this week.

 

Businesses:

From Glamour: A list of Black-owned businesses you can support.

A blog post with a growing list of Black-owned Etsy shops.

Looking for something to read? Here is a list of Black-owned independent bookstores.

 

Books:

A list of books on race, racism, and anti-racism that you can read for free (Note: I found that at least one of the ebooks was free for one day, so it’s worth checking to see if they are still free).

More book recommendations.

 

To donate:

A list of some organizations here.

From Insider: More ideas on what to read, do, and where to donate here.

Links to community bail funds across the U.S.

The Loveland Foundation: a therapy fund for Black women and girls, founded by activist Rachel Cargle.

Note: These are some of the links I’ve gathered over the past week or so. If you have other links and resources, please feel free to share in the comments.

Link roundup 5/29

About teaching children life skills.

On cultural memory — or lack thereof — of the flu pandemic of 1918.

A reopened restaurant in Germany gives patrons hats with pool noodlesto help with social distancing.

As places reopen, here is an NPR article that rates infection risk of various activities, from haircuts to restaurants to camping.

Things white people can do for racial justice.  A great list with a variety of things to do and steps to take. 

On white women, black people, and power.

31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance.

An article from 2017 for white people desiring to be allies.

Live updates on the George Floyd case, protests, and more from the Minneapolis area.

 

 

 

Odds & ends

It’s been two weeks since I took my final exam for Anatomy & Physiology II. Since it’s a two-part, yearlong course, it’s a little strange to be done with it. Part me goes: yay! Another part of me goes: I want more biology! I want to learn more!

That said, it’s also been nice to have some down time before summer session starts.

Some things I have been doing lately:

Making fruit infusion teas. I boil water in the electric tea kettle, put several tea bags in a jar/container, and then put frozen or fresh fruit in it. After letting the tea cool down a little, I put it in the refrigerator and later drink it as an iced tea. The result: a fruity version of the tea of my choice.

Baking in general. This isn’t especially special or unique, as baking bread, cookies or whatever is definitely a trend in these quarantine times. I’ve done several quick breads, such as lemon and chocolate (not together, separately). Since yeast is scarce in stores here right now, my mother-in-law sent us some and I’ve made several loafs of regular bread. I’m perfecting — or at least getting better — at creating a loaf that is the size and consistency I want.

Poetry dates. My love and I have done this twice now. We pick up a few poetry books from our shelf and take turns reading each other poetry. It’s fun and sweet and a great way to spend a small block of time, especially in the evening.

Posting some items on Etsy. I haven’t done this in a long time, aside from renewing my oracle card listing. I’ve been doing a little bit of organizing and sorting through my jewelry and art inventory. I’ve been creating listings that include a piece of jewelry, a print, a sticker, and a few other surprise items, all at a reduced price. It’s sort of a grab bag/”choose your own adventure” type of thing. Check them out here if you’re curious or interested.

jewelry and art set
Recently sold jewelry and art set. Each set includes one piece of jewelry, a print, stickers, and more (like cards from the first proof of my oracle cards)!

Doing art for the sake of doing art. Creating things to sell has definitely encouraged me to intentionally make art over the past few years, but that has lost some of its charm for me. Just creating and seeing what emerges is a totally different experience for me. It’s much more about the process than the final product.

Some things I need to continually remind myself about:

Drink more water. I know that I’ve upped my caffeinated tea intake quite a bit. Sometimes it’s about consistently feeling tired/draggy. Sometimes it’s meant as a mood boost, and sometimes it’s both. As usual, I do generally stop drinking anything caffeinated before 3:00 p.m. so it doesn’t affect my sleep. And I’ve been feeling better since I’ve been reminding myself to drink water along with my tea or any other beverage.

That it’s okay not to feel okay all the time. That’s true at any given time, and it’s especially true in the middle of a pandemic. I am prone to periods of feeling down; it comes and goes in waves. It helps to breathe through it rather than fighting it or trying to analyze it.

That any productivity is good. And that there’s value in doing nothing or not much too.

That spending too much time on social media and reading people’s comments (whether on social media or articles, etc.) is not good for my mental health. I often feel heavy after I’ve been scrolling for a while. I’ve been limiting my time on Facebook over the past week and it’s been helping my mood overall.

Speaking of mental health, it’s now been six years since I checked myself into a hospital for suicidal ideation. It’s a great reminder of how far I’ve come in that time and how much I appreciate the life I’ve created.

 

Thoughts, reflections, update.

In terms of being and staying at home due to COVID-19, I have to say it’s a great time to an introvert. While I do miss doing things in person, namely my supplemental instruction sessions and my anatomy & physiology class, being alone or just hanging out with my spouse feels good and natural to me. I have far fewer times of just needing space and downtime because, well, I have a lot.

That being said, I do miss seeing friends and family, too. I am sad that I didn’t get to see my longest-term friend (who lives across town) before all this. I disappointed that I didn’t get to go to Albuquerque for spring break (which is now!) to see my dad and friends. And so it goes. I see some video calls in my future.

As far as sensory processing issues go, as always, it’s mixed. On one hand, there’s less external stimulation. Life is generally quieter, there are fewer places to go, etc. On the other hand, all the change and upending of my routines has been challenging for my nervous system. This was especially true in the week where everything changed from in-person to online, where I couldn’t anticipate what would change next from day to day and I often felt overwhelmed and overstimulated. Days often feel long, like several days are packed into one; and at the same time, it’s amazing to me to realize it’s been three weeks since my classes went remote (it feels like both a short and long time). Now that I’m on spring break, I’m letting down somewhat, too, which has led to more exhaustion and emotional release.

Here’s a great article on how emergency remote learning is not the same as planned online learning. The current switch to remote learning takes classes that were in-person to virtual and was incredibly abrupt. I, for example, am taking a biology class with a lab. While the professors are doing the best they can, the lab especially translates less well to an online format because it completely changes the hands-on element. I’m now watching videos of a professor pointing out structures on anatomical models and projecting histology slides. He’s doing a great job and making it as entertaining as possible, and it’s really not the same at all. Plus, some of the more experimental parts of lab have to be taken out altogether because his time to film these demonstrations is limited and it’s much different to watch an experiment than actually perform it. Still, I’m glad to still be getting to learn as much of the material as I can.

As I said, I’m leading my supplemental instruction (SI) sessions online. Here’s some more information about supplemental instruction in case you’re curious. As an SI leader, I sit in on a class I’ve taken before (and done well in) and then create activities based on the material. This semester, I’m doing Anatomy & Physiology I; last semester I did Introduction to Life Sciences. I’m more of a peer support activity leader than a tutor; I ask far more questions than I answer. It’s much, much different to conduct sessions online. In person, I’m able to respond to students’ nonverbal cues or see when they’ve completed an activity. Online, I have no such ability to do that. On the live conference platform, there’s still the ability for students to draw out processes and mark on the presentation, but it’s not the same as handing a student a marker and having them draw or write something on the board. On the plus side, I’ve getting to learn new software and have regular meetings with other SI leaders and coordinators, and that’s been nice.

Some things I am grateful for:

  • That I completed a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) program and have a wonderful therapist. I have an arsenal of coping skills that come in handy when working with fear, anxiety, or lack of acceptance. Acceptance is often a challenge for me, but practicing it now comes in handy. I can think things like: “I don’t want things to be like this,” and there’s not much else to do about it (unless I want to expend a bunch of energy) except accept what’s happening.
  • That I have a wonderful spouse that I adore and I’m incredibly compatible with and that we enjoy both spending time together and doing our separate activities quietly around each other. I’m especially grateful that he’s working from home now.
  • Getting to see music concerts online for free or inexpensively! Some have been on Facebook; others have been on another platform. The Shut In & Sing festival has a great assortment of folk and Americana singer-songwriters and groups. Many of these musicians don’t come and perform in Las Vegas, so it’s been wonderful to see and hear them. Also, here’s a link to NPR’s running list (that’s regularly updated!) to online music shows of many genres.
  • Doing more Nia. As a Nia teacher, I get NiaTV as part of my annual membership package, but it’s now doing 30 days free for anyone if you want to get a sampling of Nia while you’re stuck at home. It has full-hour active workouts as well as shorter ones and some Moving to Heal routines that are either standing or in a chair. I find doing Nia incredibly calming and invigorating at the same time. For me, Nia is as much a tool (or perhaps more so) to regulate my nervous system as it is to stay physically active. Doing Nia daily during this time has definitely helped soothe my anxiety. I’ve also been taking a few virtual classes with Nia teachers around the country, and that’s been a great way to both dance and feel connected.
  • The hummingbird that is currently nesting on the plant hook on our porch. I don’t know if it’s the same bird as last year (I’d have to know her specific markings for that). It’s nice to have this visitor, this sweet reminder of spring. The nest has been there since we moved in nearly two years ago, so she mainly made a few additions and changes and settled right in.

So things for me right now are mixed. Definitely some highlights and some upheaval as well. I don’t really expect anything different, though; life as I (and we) know it has been upended. I’m doing my best to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, and take each moment as it comes.