Tell me a Story: December 2020

I am sitting writing my blog with my rescue Quaker Parakeet, Houdini, on my shoulder trying to eat my lunch out of my spoon. Or rather just the rice. He’s already eaten egg. I am smiling to myself, I have so much to be grateful for. He really is a pain in the you know what and he bites sore when he is in a mood, but on the days when he is in a good mood, he dances and bops and even has this screechy kind of singing or he will say words to me and talk up a storm, and it is in moments like that which I smile and appreciate the positive. This month I wanted to look back on the year and remind myself what I am grateful for.

2020 did not go according to plan, yet I am grateful for all of the positive things that came out of it.

2020 we had big plans to travel.  We saved our vacation, taking none because we knew that in August and September we were going to be on the plane to Macedonia to meet our son-in-law’s family.  Amy & Daniel planned a wedding celebration for his family and friends.  We had added to the itinerary a plan to travel with Daniel’s mom to Croatia.  From Croatia Richard and I would fly back to Berlin to spend a couple of days exploring east Berlin.  I had worked hard on an itinerary.  I had lots of ideas.  I had them all written down. One idea was even to venture into Bulgaria, while traveling in Croatia. There were what looked like some amazing waterfalls 30 minutes into Bulgaria.

2020 and Covid definitely put a dent in those plans.  The reception venue had to be canceled.  We, and Daniel’s mom and family, were disappointed.  Daniel really wanted to see his mom.  He has not seen her to hug her for 2 years.  And I know that feeling, having gone down the emigration route myself. In addition to the covid issue, Europe did not want any American landing on their shores.  We did not go.

2020 and Covid changed our lifestyles.  Suddenly there were restrictions.  Some restrictions made sense others did not.  Some I wish were stronger.  Living in the USA we found ourselves on less restrictive actions than the rest of the world.  Both my brother and his family in South Africa and my in-laws in Australia went into very strict lock down for months on end. We did not have that. I was grateful that we could still see family, but I was also cognizant of the fact I have a daughter in law who is immune compromised.  I am also immune compromised but less seriously.  Both Richard and I had a requirement to stay healthy from a work point of view.  I work with medical staff, and Richard is a director for a large medical company and oversees the warehouse and all the it entails.  We both decided to go to ground so to speak. Suddenly enjoying the sunset out back became a priority.

In March we abruptly found ourselves shifting from an office to a home environment.   I am extremely grateful that both my company, and his, chose that option.  While our clinics still remained open, we had to stagger staff on duty making sure that there were protocols in place to protect all staff working and any clients coming in.  Richard’s office had a rotation of staff system, staggering staff who were working so that there were minimum staff in the office at any given time.  A new norm began for us. For me, working from home is not a problem.  The bigger problem for me, and for Richard as well, is probably not knowing when to stop working.  Neither of us shut down.  I am grateful that my boss would remind me “it’s the weekend” you don’t need to work. However, both of us are of the opinion that when things are urgent and you have work to do, you do it.

The shift home worked for me, I simply rearranged my “home office” to become a personal and work environment.  I brought home my computers, and a large filing cabinet and all my current paperwork.  I set up the different work stations.  I saved on my time of travel by 2 hours each day, for which I am extremely grateful, and of course mileage and gas.

The whole scenario had us looking at how we were doing things at work, changing up procedures, researching new methods, shifting client visits from in person to virtual.  All of that was a major learning curve for me.  I am grateful for Zoom, and the constant upgrades they are making to make things more secure and HIPAA compliant.  They helped make our lives at lot easier.  I am grateful for the learning curve and how it has enabled me to make the work environment better for our staff. PPE became the standard for work and home. Each and everyone had to learn to accept change and move forward with it.

While I can work happily from home, Richard does not like it.  He felt like he needed to be in the office.  He was antsy. Added to that the weekends came around and there was no sport, we could not go anywhere or do anything.  For me, a book or a tv show or taking my camera outside worked.  The biggest struggle was not being able to go to some of the locations I would normally visit to take photographs.  In the later part of the year that opened up again but with restrictions, like masks, which for me make a whole lot of sense. 

I am grateful for my blog groups that kept me accountable and doing whatever I needed to do to stay on track each month.  I will be honest and say that there were weeks I did not want to pick up my camera.  Days I did not want to sit and edit images. When you are managing groups that makes it hard. However, I have made a commitment to these groups and I want to continue to be there for them each week and each month depending on the groups.  They encourage me to look at each day and find the beauty in it. I was very grateful that the National park area up the road from me did not close like the smaller wetlands did. I could still go out on some days and catch the sunset. And yes, some did not social distance, but I did.

In all of this Simba, our street rescue cat, needed to have a tooth removed, and that started the worst part of 2020 for me. While intubating him the doc heard the sound of fluid in his lungs. After a couple of X-rays (which are not cheap I might add), Simba went onto a steriod for a period of time. Between the antibiotic and the steriod he definitely seemed to have perked up, but I noticed the other day that he is a little off his food again. So a new appointment has been set up for another X-ray. I am hoping that the steriod helped and that we can get the tooth out because I feel like it may be contributing to the problem. In the meantime, I am grateful for this little man who cuddles with me each day and sneaks into bed at night. He loves his scratches and his belly rubbed. He has my heart, and I am so thankful we agreed to keep him when Amy asked us to.

Meantime Moo, the other rescue cat, has got brave enough to cuddle in the mornings with me when I am drinking my tea. She is such a sweetie but a real scaredy cat. I keep telling her she has to get a little bit more courage each day. While she is not as friendly as Simba, she is getting there and I am love the moments when she reaches out to me, and wants to hang out.

In August Key West opened back up and Richard and I decided to do a quick two night trip down there. Richard really needed to get out and I was grateful that there were not many people in Key West. It was mask mandatory and social distancing and we by passed on the sunset cruise we would normally do and just relaxed on our hotel balcony and watched the setting sun both days.

Most of all I was grateful for my family.  The covid restrictions did not make a whole lot of difference to our family lifestyle.  There are only 6 of us (family that is) living in the USA.  Not having family visit was not a big problem for us. We have always been able to gather as a group of 6. Since we did not go overseas this year, I suggested that we book a cabin in the Georgia mountains and take some time away together.  I am super grateful that we were able to do that. When I say mountains, we traveled up this long single track road to the very last house at the top. Talk about social distancing.

Time together with family, for me, is precious.  I am very aware that the 6 of us is all we have living in the US, and I want to be together with them.  The time in the mountains was a time to explore and do some hiking and some off roading for Kathryn’s wheelchair. Richard got to see Yonah mountain. I got to go to the wine farm of my choice, which I will add was the highlight for me. We got to see some beautiful waterfalls, and just relax together back at the cabin.

Cody is Kathryn’s service dog, and I was grateful for his role in the vacation as well. At some points Kathryn’s wheelchair could not go any further, or in some cases getting back downhill was a little risky in the wheelchair and Cody was there as her support system. He is an amazing dog, and does so much to help her. Sometimes he pulls her uphill, sometimes he paces alongside her and acts as a support brace, other times he fetches her water or helps her to find things. I am grateful that he can be an additional support for Kathryn besides Cameron.

I even organized a painting party for all of us, which was a whole lot of fun. We may or may not be talented but there was a whole lot of laughter, and grumbles and groaning. Wine does help. I would certainly do it again. Obviously I kept my camera away from all the paint and cellphone pics are not the same but we had fun and that is all that matters in the end.

I asked Cameron to bring up games and he brought along Pictionary, Sequence, Rumikub, Boggle and I took along Jenga. We ended off our time there with a game of Jenga. That just rounded off the  evening with lots of laughter and some serious breath holding as the tower got more and more precarious. It’s those moments when we are all connecting that are special for me. It is those moments that I give thanks for.

Quality time with family is always what I seek to have.  It does not always work out that way but that is always my goal.  I am grateful for my husband, my children, and their spouses.  Each one makes up our very small family unit and time with them is more precious than I can ever explain. It is those bonds that tie us together.

Looking back on 2020, I realize that there were a lot of challenges, but in amongst all of those challenges were so many positives to be grateful for. Gratitude goes a long way to taking you out of a bad place and into a better frame of mind.

2021 looks like it is going to be a lot like 2020.  Life is not going to go back to normal overnight.  Yes there is a vaccine, but like most I am keeping a low profile and waiting to see what the side effects may be.  I know that I will keep wearing a mask, despite how hot it gets in South Florida.  I know that I will be limiting my immediate group of people to the minimal.  I know that until they get a handle on this virus, things are going to be the very much the same as 2020.  Some days may be roses and some days may be thistles. However, I can look for the positives and be grateful for each one.   

As we move into 2021, I wish you and your family a very Happy New Year. I hope, like everyone else, that this virus will be contained and that we can move towards a more normal life. Life like we used to know it. When the days get tough, I would encourage you to look for the positives. Instead of focusing on all the negatives, look to the moments that speak good thoughts to you, that brighten up your day. Make the phone call to encourage someone. Share positive posts on social media instead of complaints. Our lives are that which we make it and we can continue to lift it up if we try.

In closing I am reminded of a small sliver of my heritage, the Irish side of the family and their sayings:

May the road rise up to meet you. 

May the wind always be at your back. 

May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again, 

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Thank you for joining me this month.  This is a small group of bloggers so when one or two are out it seems like it is a quiet month for blogs however, this is a circle blog.  Take some time to view what the other artist has for you this month. My friend Lupji Photography is up next. I look forward to reading what he has to share.