What worked (or not,) 2022 version

The medical system and our health insurance: we gave our medical system (and health insurance) a work-out in 2022, with my mother-in-law’s multiple hospitalizations, our son’s ankle fracture and ankle reconstruction, my multiple knee injections, Sam’s PE, my dad’s heart attack and my mom’s two hospitalizations. We used to be the people who paid in and never used our insurance… no more! Nonetheless, we are hoping for a much healthier 2023.

most of our family at Judy’s 80th birthday in March: this worked!

Counseling: we continue to work with multiple therapists who by God’s grace have been a good fit for our family. I am grateful for their care for us and our willingness to let others in. Unfortunately, our health insurance does not have adequate mental health coverage, and we pay a second mortgage in therapy. We are incredibly blessed to be able to do this, and it’s totally worth it.

Finishing homeschooling. We ended on a good note, graduating Mo from high school and finishing middle school with Phoebe and transitioning her successfully to our local high school. It was never all roses and pony math, but we had a good run, and I’m grateful for it.

Exercise: despite my knee problems, I managed to stay active, with more strength training than previously. I rode my bike to work consistently through the spring and summer. It wasn’t ideal (I would love to be running,) but it worked.

walking the Mac n Cheese 5K with friends

Writing: I published the third book in my medical suspense series this October. The book was a challenge to write and grew me in ways I hadn’t expected, but I am proud of it and the work that went into it. I’m still finding my way with my newest book in progress, but I continue to enjoy writing. Thanks to you who have supported my writing with your reading!

writing in the middle of the day, in the kitchen! (note the zinnias)

The garden: I didn’t have a huge yield, but what did grow made me really happy, especially the herbs. Also, my neighbor introduced me to a local food coop we used instead of our CSA share, and between that and the farmer’s markets, we enjoyed a ton of local food. Also, I had enough zinnias to have a bouquet in the kitchen continuously from August to October.

Dilly beans from August

My work: I started tracking my hours spent working at my job. Doing so allowed me to see how many hours I was really spending on it, which allowed me to see when enough was, in fact, enough. I had the opportunity to mentor a few of our newer providers, which I love doing, and took on a medical student this fall. (We haven’t been able to have medical students in the clinic since spring 2020.)

Youth group: our church has a small but lovely group of teens who meet with me regularly for youth group. As we regathered post-Covid (mid-Covid?) one of them asked to do a regular Bible study, which I had been reluctant to suggest. (Why? I’m not sure.) We started with Mark 1 in the early spring and are nearing the end. Our priest gave me an amazing commentary to guide my study, and it has been fascinating and challenging for me and the kids. They have great questions and observations, and meeting with them Sunday morning is a highlight of my week.

at The Bookworm in Edwards, one of our favorite bookstores

Reading: I had more time to read this year and made the most of it, finishing 104 books in 2022 and abandoning more than a few. I supported indie bookstores, discovered new-to-me authors who had long backlists to enjoy, made the most of the Denver Library’s incredibly accessible online system, read in multiple formats, didn’t beat myself up for rereading favorites, kept multiple books going at the same time and didn’t feel any pressure to finish anything I wasn’t enjoying. It was great.

The short trip: we used to be people who saved up our vacation days and went away for as long as we possibly could, but this has become very difficult with of multiple different school schedules, the challenges of Covid-19, and the cost of putting kids through college. We have become fans of the short trip and managed to get some of us to Chicago, Vail, Wheaton, Columbus, Guatemala City, Champaign, and Estes Park.

one perfect day in Rocky Mountain National Park

All right, friends, that’s a wrap! I wish you the joys of savoring the good in your year and looking ahead with hope.

Holiday Traditions

‘Twas three days before Christmas, and all through the house, the children were laughing along with her spouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, with hopes that the cat would not steal them from there.

I have been thinking about traditions- which ones we’ve kept, which ones we have let slip away. The old me (the younger me?) would have lamented this hard. After all, traditions are meant to be kept, right? If I let that tradition go, I must be cheating my family out of joy/peace/faith/connection/etc. I don’t think that way any more. A tradition is a tool, not an heirloom. They may be passed down to us from generations past, or made from fresh cloth, but they are only the means to an end.

The traditions we are keeping this year:

  • singing O Come O Come Emmanuel for our Advent grace (c. 2007)
  • a family Christmas alphabet of gratitude (c. 1996)
  • putting up the Christmas decorations Thanksgiving weekend (c. generations)
  • reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever together (c. 2005)
  • visiting the Botanic Gardens Blossoms of Light (c. 2021)
  • a sibling gift exchange (c. 2016)
  • church on Christmas Eve (c. generations)
  • Sam’s making Aunt Jen’s coffee cake on Christmas morning (c. 2000)
  • our Christmas movie marathon (c. 2020)

We let lots of other traditions go: Nutcrackers, elaborate cookie exchanges, the singalong Messiah, so many crafts, Jingle Bell Runs, new pajamas on Christmas Eve, a million different Advent calendars, gingerbread houses, traveling… they may or may not come back in the future. But this year, for right now, these traditions are the tools that are serving us.

Do you have a new favorite holiday tradition, or one you have let go?

Back to School Daybook 2022

Outside my window: Darkness (but green.) We had a ton (by Colorado standards) of rain in August and everything is very green. As an attempt to thwart the beetles devouring my roses, I didn’t prune them after they bloomed, so I’m not going to have a second set of blossoms. But the black-eyed Susans are reaching for the sky, and the zinnias and other pretty flowers I put in the herb garden are lovely.

very, very green backyard. It never looks like this in August

In the kitchen: I’m finding a new rhythm. There are only four of us here for the next few weeks (and after that, only three!) Already I’m realizing my recipes are all too big. I have popped a few half-recipes into the freezer, and I’ve figured out how to adjust my pizza dough recipe to make just two large pizzas.

My favorite thing right now is fresh herbs on pizza. (Our favorite: skip the sauce. Just brush the dough with olive oil, sprinkle on herbs from the garden, and top with a grating of parmesan.) Last night’s version: rosemary, thyme and oregano.

kitchen table bouquet of flowers from the garden

With the kids: this is the section formerly known as “In the school room.” They are still in school. I am not, though so far, school and its requisite forms and supplies and schedule are still occupying a large amount of headspace. This year I don’t get to make any of the decision- I just have to keep track of everyone else’s.

In mid-August, Sam drove with the older three to Chicago, where I met them after P’s volleyball tryouts. The family gave Jonah a lovely graduation party. We visited Judy, added some of her furniture to the moving van and drove to Champaign. The best decision we made was hiring two hours of moving help to unload the truck and carry everything up three flights of stairs. We spent two days nesting with Jonah. There is a great Thai restaurant around the corner from his apartment, and a large bookstore a few blocks away. It was a very short, intense and valuable trip. Since our departure, he has had to do lots of adulting (dealing with a gas leak, trying to get his internet set up, finding a car mechanic) and I have had to do lots of Nothing Useful to help him. It’s an adjustment.

grad school kitchen with his bird statutes

Owen has another month here before going back to school. They finished their summer job and now have time to make lots of music and hike with me.

Selfie at an overlook near the beginning of the hike. We didn’t look nearly as fresh at the end!
Owen playing the beautiful piano at Grandma’s senior living home

In the whirlwind that was August, we also moved Mo to college. Surprisingly, everything fit in the car (and more importantly, in her room.) We like her roommate and are excited for all that’s ahead of her! (Unfortunately, she came down with Covid-19 this week and is pretty miserable. Ugh.)

road trip to college
the stunning garden in front of the building where most of Mo’s classes will be

Phoebe has had two weeks of school, three weeks of volleyball practice, two games and a tournament. She is exhausted but is really enjoying volleyball. So far, so good. And we are hugely grateful for that.

In my shoes: I’m still not running, but I’ve been riding our exercise bike a ton, first through the Giro d’Italia, then the Criterium de Dauphine, Tour de France, Tour de France Femmes, and now La Vuelta a Espana. So fun.

Grateful for: It’s very easy when all these major leaps in life stage are happening to see how far we have come, but I am even more grateful for all the healing and risk taking that happened in fits and starts over the past few years, and all the support we received along the way.

Mo, practicing on the school’s concert harp

What I’m reading:

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died Twice. Linda Villarosa’s Under the Skin.

Praying for: Judy. Mandy. Lori. Quick and complete healing for those who are sick. Patience. Good friends for my kids. Hope.

End of School Daybook 2022

The first pink bloom from this peony.

Outside my window: the garden is amazing right now. We had rain last week and a cooler weekend, and everything is acting like it’s England. Just lovely. (Except for the aphids on the roses. Between the aphids and the Japanese beetles, I wonder if it’s time to take the roses out altogether.)

Early June is always a time of great abundance in the garden- not of food, but of flowers- and I love it. We traveled a lot when I was a kid, and I remember my mom saying she didn’t want to travel in June because she’d miss everything in her garden. At the time, I thought she was crazy, but now I understand.

A profusion of purple clematis.

In the kitchen: Part of this June abundance is a profusion of eaters with opinions about what we should be eating (mostly: not leftovers.) This is what my fridge looks like right now.

Refrigerator with mountains of leftovers and no order.

The house is likewise a mess of abundance as the kids are going through luggage brought home from school, seventeen years of school supplies, and old books they want to pass along to make room for new ones. We have no routine yet. We have five drivers with plans they don’t share and only three cars. I proposed a very basic weekly food plan that was received like a deflating balloon. Something has to be done, or I’m going to have to run away to the circus. (Correction… from the circus.)

In my shoes: I had fluid drained from my knee yesterday and almost passed out. The rheumatologist said I must be a “lidocaine super-metabolizer.” Whatever, but next time please put ALL THE LIDOCAINE in there before you stick the big needle in my knee.

There is no photo of this. You’re welcome.

What I’m reading: I’ve been posting lots of book reviews at my other site.

In the school room: We’re done. I have retired. For the ultimate kick in the teeth, Sam and I got Covid-19 the week we were supposed to fly to Ohio for Jonah’s graduation. His roommates’ parents took lots of photos for us and took him out to dinner, but it was lonely and anticlimactic, and I can’t figure out how to turn it into something else.

Our first college graduate with an ornithological anatomy specimen from his lab.

We were out of our isolation period for Mo’s graduation and well enough the next week to host a breakfast for her, so her graduation felt like the real deal.

Proud parents and high school graduate.

I managed to pull myself off the bed for our final week of school, and Phoebe did a great job with her written exams. (These were Charlotte Mason-style exams, in which she answered questions in essay form about what she’d learned, e.g., “Explain the differences between ionic and covalent bonding.”) We finished our seventeen years of homeschooling with a poetry tea. It was lovely, and I had all the feels.

Grateful for: our friends in Ohio who were Jonah’s family for us, especially this hard semester with his broken ankle and our Covid-19.

The village who has helped us educate our kids these many years:

  • Sam’s unwavering support for this work
  • my parents who spent years coming to care for our kids on my work day and later, asking my kids hard questions and listening through all the answers
  • nannies who likewise made it possible for me to continue to work and school
  • my work’s willingness to take a chance on a part-time doctor (a weirdly hard sell)
  • the kids’ godparents, and our friends at church & elsewhere who prayed us through
  • the friends homeschooling and learning alongside us
  • tutors (Latin! Arabic! French!)
  • piano, cello, violin, and dance teachers
  • the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Barr Lake State Park and Bluff Lake Nature Center: places that made our experience so rich
  • soccer, swimming, diving and Robotics coaches who have mentored our kids
  • climate activists who have welcomed our child into their work
  • friends who shared joys, sorrows, books, skills and adventures
  • wise teachers who helped us sort out learning differences and how to accommodate them
  • the writers of the living books who shared their passion and knowledge with us
  • these four kids who made this journey such a joy

I am so grateful.

Four little kids on a blanket.
Four big kids at a bookstore..

hooray hooray it’s spring!

The birds are back. Yesterday they started singing at 6:40. Everything was silent, silky darkness and then all of a sudden, multiple birds woke up and started to chatter. Our tulips are up, the daffodils and crocuses are abloom, and the earth smells fresh and new.

The winter wasn’t even that long, but my winter habits were dragging on. I needed a reset, and this week I made one in the form of renewed goals (a couch-to-5K program, a better writing plan, less time on my phone) and spring routines (hanging laundry outside, after-dinner walks or street volleyball.)

We are looking forward toward graduations (two of them!) and lots of changes ahead. I’ve been homeschooling for seventeen years, and it will end in May. I’m sure there will be both mourning and celebrating ahead, but right now the ending feels good and right. A job well done that I can be grateful for and lay aside.

lesson on gastropods, 2006

engineering lesson, 2008. (the best engineer=the only one wearing safety goggles correctly)

<img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/8019/7309988416_9469483dcb.jpg&quot; width="500" height="375" alt="Morning work">
morning work, 2012
table time, 2014
homeschool P.E., 2016
poetry tea, 2019

bookstore run, 2021

Daybook: Holding things lightly

Outside my window:

fiery feathered clouds

The sky has been really beautiful. I’ve been walking a lot and trying to notice.

In the kitchen:

watercolor painting (unfinished) by Phoebe on the kitchen counter
peppermint bark (unfinished) by Mo in the fridge

In the school room:

We are finishing up the semester. Today there was a field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Owen and I took a walk. They told me about Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935.) We talked about Charlotte Mason’s homeschool philosophy. And Owen told me I had prepared them well for a college literature class. (There are not enough heart emojis in the world to put after this statement.)

Grateful:

dragon sculpture at the Denver Zoo’s Zoo Lights

We have a few things planned this month, though we’ve already had a cancel or reschedule a few of them. Phoebe, Sam and I made it to Zoo Lights two weeks ago during the Members’ nights. It was warm and not crowded. The porcupine was super active, and the llamas and elephants were all out. It was lovely.

The Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light is on the schedule, as is the Lion King at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (these are the tickets we bought as a family Christmas gift 2 years ago!) Our rescheduled date for the Wonderbound’s December performance, Winterland, is this week. And this weekend was Mo’s Nutcracker, which was delightful. It sounds like a lot, but it works out to one outing a week. The rest of the month we are watching Christmas movies together and playing games. (If you’re looking for suggestions, check out Connie Willis’s list of Christmas movies at the end of her book of stories, A Lot Like Christmas.)

Mo as Cake Pop in The Nutcracker

On my mind:

When my kids were little, I had a lot of plans. Not just long-term plans for what I wanted our life to look like, but also small plans. When we finish x, we move on to y. A lot of that was survival as a mom surrounded by small people, but much of it was an illusion of control. I might had control over where all the bodies were at a given moment, but I never had control over what my kids learned from our time together.

Both our college students were home for a week at Thanksgiving. Double bonus, they’ll both be home over Christmas. As they’re growing and reflecting back on our years together, I get to hear more of what they really thought as we learned together. I get to share the Why behind the How. Sometimes, it worked out the way I wanted it to. Sometimes, it backfired.

Anyway, these next few weeks I am trying to hold things lightly. Plans, secret hopes, get togethers: they may happen, they may not. I am trying to have open hands, so that I can receive what comes rather than looking for something different. And I am trying to be open to letting go of my expectations.

Praying for:

People to choose life by getting vaccinated.

me in PPE

This was a hard week at the office. We have enough PPE now, but not enough staff to take care of everyone who is sick. There were lots of people with COVID and not enough mAb to go around.

It doesn’t matter if you have COVID or knee pain; you’re going to have a hard time getting in for care. It didn’t have to be this way, and I am discouraged.

All right, friends, that’s all for now. I wish you a cup of tea and a good book to keep you company.

Daybook: mid-October

Out my window: our maple tree is in its full glory. I love this tree.

A red maple tree against the blue sky.

In the kitchen: Mo made me this fantastic birthday cake topped with maple leaves. We were watching Little Women (2019) yesterday, and I requested Marmee’s cake. (I don’t know what flavor hers was, but mine was carrot.)

Marmee’s cake
My cake

Also, Sam made these amazing beef satay skewers from one of Martha Stewart’s cookbooks. The rest of the week I’m planning red lentil dahl with naan, brown butter and butternut squash pasta with sage, sheet pan chicken thighs with cauliflower and purple potatoes, and frozen pizza.

In the garden: Last week there was a freeze alert. The clouds moved in, six snowflakes swirled around without actually touching the ground, and Phoebe and I ran outside to bring in the last of the tomatoes and herbs. The kitchen was covered in rosemary, sage, chives and thyme. Bunches of rosemary are hanging in Phoebe’s room to dry, and I had trays of them in the oven. Then Sam turned on the oven to make the satay. Three minutes later the whole house smelled of rosemary. Anyway, today I have to crush all the dried herbs into jars to reclaim the counters.

Beets, rosemary and a random medical journal I should have moved before taking the photo.

Pro tip: fresh herbs in flower bouquets smell amazing.

Fresh bouquet of zinnias, oregano, rosemary and basil.

In the school room: Mo is putting the finishing touches on her essays for the Common App. Colorado has a free day (this year, it’s been extended to three days) for applying to the state colleges. It’s a good nudge to get the application done early. We are reading Annie Dillard for English and have moved into the 19th Century in US History.

This week’s topic in 8th grade Economics is inflation. Yesterday we tried to find the exact items included in the Consumer Basket of Goods, which is surprisingly hard to find. Phoebe’s going to make her own basket of “essentials” and compare prices from three months ago. We will use this same basket later when we talk about purchasing power parity.

This week’s Chemistry includes Nova’s Beyond the Elements, hosted by David Pogue. We’ve also been reading Sharon Creech’s lovely One Time together.

We also have lots of volleyball on the schedule this week.

Phoebe on her knees, receiving a serve.

On my reading table: In addition to the above school books, I’m reading two (as yet) unpublished novels for fellow writers and Elizabeth Hoyt’s Not the Duke’s Darling. I just finished Margaret Mizushima’s seventh Maddie Cobb novel, Striking Range. So good.

On my mind: I’ve been working hard on an essay about the idea of “American freedom” and its effect on the pandemic.

Grateful for: friends loving on my kids who are far away. So many birthday messages (thank you!) Miles on my feet. Snuggles with my kids at home. Sam (a million times, Sam.) Our mental health team. All the folks at church who are putting our youth space together.

We went to Wonderbound’s October ballet, Penny’s Dreadful, last Friday. Wonderbound is a local dance company known for their collaboration with other artists and their contemporary choreography. We love their shows. They bought a new performance space last year, and it was set up as a café in Paris. The ballet was a vampire story. I don’t even like vampires, but I loved the show, and we had a great night.

Two masked girls waiting for the show to start.

Praying for: friends with big decisions on their plates. That my kids would know how much they are loved. My aunt. Those who work, or watch, or weep this night.

Daybook: Week 3 of School

Out my window: It’s harvest time. The peach tree has been heavy laden, and we’ve been harvesting and freezing peaches as quickly as we can. The days are still hot, but the nights are fresh enough to make the house cool again.

In the garden: uh, peaches. And my tomatoes are slowly coming in. Our fruit trees all managed to bloom between the terrible snowstorms last spring, so we also had a bounty crop of pears, which were delicious. We ate pear upside down cake four times and ate pears for days.

In the kitchen: Sam pulled a bunch of long-frozen meat out of the freezer to make room for the aforementioned fruit, and we had a highly successful brisket he made in the Instant Pot. Tonight will be red lentil dal and naan, just to balance out all the meat.

Schooling very hard.

In the school room: School has been a mixed bag thus far. Calculus at the community college is good, except for the parking situation which is disastrous. Volleyball starts this week, and anxiety is high- but we have been playing volleyball almost daily, which is fantastic. My cousin (who is an actual volleyball player) and her BF came to play with us. They even brought their own net. We can’t wait to do it again.

Literature has been good: 8th grade is reading Shakespeare this month, and we’re watching lots of adaptations for comparison. (Two thumbs up for 10 Things I Hate About You; She’s the Man didn’t have enough soccer and was pretty cringe-worthy. And why wasn’t Title IX a thing in 2006? Next up: The Lion King.)

We finished Garlic & Sapphires (Reichl) for senior English- so good. It has inspired lots of exploratory college essays (i.e., describe an event/place you participated in from two different perspectives. How was your experience different in each case? How were you different during the two experiences?)

I completely miscalculated 8th grade Chemistry and chose a textbook that requires tons of high school math. So this weekend I scrapped it and redid my curriculum. While that was a pain, I loved going through all the archived episodes of Science Friday to find ones that would supplement my lessons. (Next up, World-Class Tips for the Home Fermenter!)

We are gathering college dorm supplies. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have bought a used bike when we were in Chicago in the spring and figured out how to store it. Instead, I will be looking for a used bike 3 weeks AFTER every other college student in Chicago just bought one.

In my shoes: No running. I’m still walking, riding my bike to work and playing lots of volleyball. One of our favorite races is back- the Mac N Cheese 5K– and it’s supporting our favorite charity, Foster Source, so come join us!

From a previous Mac n Cheese 5K

Grateful for: Sam and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary. He is such a gift to me. Also: we played croquet in fabulous hats at youth group on Sunday, and on Saturday some of us put carpet in the new youth room. (It’s coming together!)

That’s a lot of glasses. Apparently we were very thirsty.

Praying for: Haiti. Afghanistan. Refugees everywhere. Those affected by Ida. Those who mourn. The isolated. The lonely. The sick. Health care workers (I see you, lab techs and chaplains and respiratory techs!) caring for those with COVID-19 and all the other viruses going around right now. Jen. Mandy. Judy. My kids.

Pandemic Games

The longer I go without writing in this space, the more overwhelmed I feel about trying to dive back in. So I’m going to ignore how deep the water looks (and how much life has changed over the past 10 months) and just start writing.

Early on in the pandemic, Sam’s family decided to connect via Zoom, but given the sheer number of us and the age range (ages 1-77) we had to be creative about how to do that. We came up with some great ideas, and I want to share them here in case your family has been struggling to make your group Zoom (or Hangouts) time a success.

The Name Game

This is a game we play often when we get together, and it works online as long as everyone also has a phone (or an adult nearby has a phone.) We choose a theme (eg, Disney characters, or historical characters, or desserts) and designate one person as the Writer. Everyone else chooses a name (eg, Gaston, Rasputin, or Tiramisu) that fits in the category and reports it to the Writer one by one. The Writer records them all (just the names- no need to write down who chose each) and then reads the list twice to the assembled group. No worries if three people chose the same name: there will just be three people named Elsa.

It’s very important there’s no table talk about the names during the reading (i.e., no one asks, “Who’s LaFou?”) because that will cement the name in everyone else’s head, and there’s an advantage to choosing a forgettable name.

Once all the names have been read, the guessing begins. The goal is to be the last person guessed.

Player 1 guesses by asking another player if they are one of the names that were read. For example, “Phoebe, are you The Beast?” If she is, she joins Player 1’s team, Player 1 whispers their name to her, and they address another player to see if they can guess their identity and gather that player to their team. If she is not, then it is her turn to guess someone else, and so on. Each time an identity is successfully guessed, the players join together, creating larger and larger teams, until there are only two teams left trying to guess the still-unknown player’s names.

In person, we move around the room and reassort based on who the teams are. On Zoom, that couldn’t happen, but it still worked. This is a good game with lots of kids and adults of different ages. Only one person has to be able to read, and the slight timing disconnect online didn’t matter.

The Great Family Bake-Off

Five groups took part in this, and each one was tasked with making a dessert within a time limit using only the ingredients they had on hand. One household was designated as the judges. (They judged mostly on presentation, since we had people participating from multiple states.)

Movie Trailer

One challenge was for each household to make a trailer for a summer blockbuster movie. (We used an app, but several other groups made theirs simply by cutting a pasting video footage.)

Scavenger Hunt

I made a scavenger hunt, in which each household had fifteen minutes to find/make as many items on the following list as they could. (I recommend assigning assigning points generously.)

  • greatest number of mismatched spoons (1 pt each)
  • dirtiest stove
  • funniest t-shirt
  • smallest Christmas tree
  • best pet costume
  • moldiest food
  • most inspiring fridge magnet
  • weirdest keychain
  • Easter candy
  • keys (1 point each)
  • condiments from take-out restaurants (1 pt each)
  • creature from outer space
  • most complete puzzle
  • most expired food
  • beach sandals
  • a snowball
  • the most Draw 4 cards from Uno
  • a rainbow of somethings (crayons, t-shirts, etc.)
  • the most annoying toy sound

The best part of this challenge was enjoying each other’s offerings for each category.

Board Games

We’ve played a variety of games over Zoom: Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary being the most successful.

After schools restarted in the fall, many of them virtually, more serious Zoom fatigue has slowed down our online adventures, but we’re game for some more, if you have some to recommend. How has your family used technology to connect while far apart?

New Year’s Thoughts, 2021

Normally at the close of a year, I spend a little time looking back at what worked and what did not. I like to examine the year’s goals (which recently have been hopes for tweaks in my routine more than resolutions, per se) to see what was “successful.”

But 2020 isn’t a year I can evaluate that way. I haven’t even looked back at last year’s “goals.”  Any metric I would normally apply to 2020 feels pointless. Did Sam and I increase our giving to causes that are important to us?  If we did, I’m sure it wasn’t enough. Did we move the needle toward a more sustainable life at home? Did I write as much as I’d hoped, or meet my exercise goals? No, I didn’t: there was an f-ing pandemic. I didn’t exercise, or write, or spend quality time with my people in any of the ways I had hoped in 2020.

But 2020 was still a success, and I know this because I wrote it down in real time. Day by day, I recorded in a 10-cent spiral notebook (3 of them, actually) exactly what happened last year. In excruciating detail. I can look back and tell you the day that school was canceled. The day that one of my long-time patients died. The day my daughter and I were supposed to leave for Spain (and instead stayed—you guessed it—at home.) The day my friend entered isolation for COVID-19, and the day she emerged. The day I ran/walked a 10K by myself instead of in solidarity with my BRF and 998 strangers.

I can tell you that one of my kids became an activist and somehow used the pandemic as a vehicle to fuel her work. One of my kids had the courage to start working through years of hurt I’d caused him and honored me by letting me do that with him. One of my kids wrote some fantastic college entrance essays and is seeing it pay off.  One of my kids asked for help, and we listened.

Whether you are a Big-Picture Goals person, a Small Habits Reap Big Rewards person, or a person who thinks New Year’s is a crock, I’d encourage you to write it down.  Instead of (or in addition to) looking forward at goals we may or may not accomplish this month or year, take a few minutes each day and record what did happen.  It might be a list, or a doodle, or some stream of consciousness notes. You don’t have to start it January 1, or even the first of any month.  Start today, whenever that is.  Write down three things you’re grateful for, even if those are as mundane as indoor plumbing, a really good apple and the morning quiet before everyone else wakes up. At the end of the week, or the month, or the year, you might discover amid the chaos there was more to celebrate than you thought.

What worked for me in 2019

What didn’t work for me in 2019

What worked (or not) for me in 2018

What worked in 2017

What worked for me in 2016

What worked (or not) in 2015?

What worked (or not) in 2014

Do you keep a journal? What is your favorite part of it?