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This December, instead of posting just my annual gift guide, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back through my phone and put together an essay of the year 2020, and what it was like living in a time when the most commonly used word each month was “canceled”.
This year was full of challenges, to say the least, but we also managed to eek out some fun, memorable, moments, as we navigated a pandemic, a Presidential election, and a devastating forest fire.
Hope you enjoy this photographic essay of 2020. This year has definitely been one for the books!
In January my girls started playing in volleyball tournaments. They had worked hard since tryouts the previous November with practices and lessons and strength training…all preparing to begin playing games. The teams were new, the friendships beginning to form, the skills still refining. January was filled with possibility.
This photo is evidence of the last time I was in an airport or on an airplane. My daughter and I were flying to Las Vegas for a volleyball tournament, and this was taken just before we departed the Portland International Airport. Stumptown coffee on concourse C remains my favorite pre-flight stop.
My daughter and I were in Las Vegas over Valentine’s Day, and on the last day of the tournament, most of the volleyball team came down with a virus. In fact, as we were going through security at Las Vegas Airport, my daughter spiked a fever of 104. She slept the entire way home, and missed the following week of school. I ended up spending three days with zero energy and a slight fever, but never really any terrible symptoms. At the time we thought we just had the flu. Looking back, we are fairly positive it was covid. Most of our volleyball team (and club, for that matter) missed full weeks of practice and school. And parents noted that some of us were “sicker than we have ever been before”.
In March we learned that the United States expected to be hit with the novel corona virus later in the month. Our state decided to preempt spring break and close the schools, declaring a 14-day quarantine for everyone in order to “flatten the curve” of expected rising positive cases of covid. We canceled our family vacation to California. My daughter’s 16th birthday was spent alone. Schools shut down a few days before Spring Break, promising to resume after the two-week break. Sports also took a break, pausing for the quarantine. We joked that a two-week break was actually a blessing. We all needed extra time to just rest and catch up; an extra long Spring Break, we said.
Little did we know our kids would not set foot in a school for the remainder of the year.
In April we discovered the two week quarantine would be extended. Schools implemented a distance learning module, but because of connectivity issues and insufficient resources for all students, the grading system was changed to reflect a pass or fail instead of a letter grade. Many students who had strong GPA’s going into the quarantine simply stopped attending school as their grades would not be affected. Students who were struggling continued to struggle and many chose simply to ignore school altogether.
Sports remained closed in April.
In addition, hair salons were not allowed to open and services like dog groomers were impossible to find, so I decided to try my hand at grooming Henry myself. We had extra time and I thought it might help save some money. It turned out we both kind of enjoy the process, and even though dog grooming shops continue to open and close depending on the Governor’s orders, we continue to cut Henry’s hair at home. His nails though, well, that’s another issue entirely. I might have to start painting them. LOL
In May the Governor extended the state of emergency another 60 days and we learned our kids would not be returning to in-person school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
To escape the feeling of cabin fever, and to spend time with family, we took a road trip to Sisters, Oregon. The weather was gorgeous and it was so nice to breath fresh mountain air into our lungs. While there, I made a point of stopping at my favorite book store, Paulina Springs Books, to make a purchase and support a local business. Afterward, I learned they had started a Go Fund Me campaign in order to raise money to support their store. This was the first business I learned of that was facing the possibility of closing its doors permanently due to covid-19.
In June the sun decided to come out in full force. Most days were spent working from home and then sitting outside in the late afternoon sun.
Some private businesses were able to open partially, although many were forced to shut their doors forever. A recall effort began to gather momentum in Oregon as many citizens signed petitions to force the resignation of the Governor.
My sixteen-year-old daughter was finally able to reschedule her driving test (three months late) and passed without a problem. This is a photo of her after receiving her license. Definitely a great moment in 2020. Also: we were definitely tan!
I was apparently feeling feisty in July because this popped up twice in my photo album that month. I think I shared this on social media and my female friends were like, “we hear you, sista!”
July 4th in my corner of the woods was very festive; the fireworks began at least a week before the 4th and lasted for what seemed like weeks afterward. My dog did not approve.
Over the summer our volleyball club was able to work within the state shutdown guidelines to facilitate a sand volleyball program for the athletes. The girls had daily temperature checks before being allowed on the court, they were contact traced, could not high five or hug each other, and they had to practice and play in masks — during 95+ degree weather, no less. It was tough. But their desire and drive to play sports and be with their friends was tougher. I honestly don’t know how we would have survived the summer without the exercise and socialization sand volleyball provided.
Normally in Oregon we begin school the day after Labor Day. This year we began a week later, and it was not in-person. All learning was (and as of this newsletter, still is, via distance learning). This was a big change, of course, but the biggest change this month came over the Labor Day weekend when a managed forest fire suddenly combined with 50-75 mph winds, and burned 130,000 acres overnight.
Communities only an hour away from my town faced evacuation level 3 orders (Go Now) that came in the middle of the night. In the days’ following, our state fairgrounds quickly filled to capacity with displaced families and livestock. Our skies literally turned red for a week and we were advised not to go outside due to the unprecedented poor air quality.
When the fires were finally controlled around mid-October, the burned land was estimated at almost 200,000 acres. Family homes were burned right to the ground, pets and livestock were lost, and the tragedy of human lives lost in the fires touched all of us in Oregon.
This photo appeared in our newspaper and is taken from the top of our state capitol building. The color is not a filter.
In October I finally got my act together and sent my new novel, Definitely, Maybe out to my beta reading group. This was a really difficult decision for me because I never really loved this manuscript, and I knew — deep down, I knew — that I hadn’t produced my best work. Nevertheless I put it out and held my breath as my readers critiqued it. Nearly everyone who participated very graciously filled out beta reading questionnaires and I’ve come away with some really great feedback. I’m looking forward to beginning the final editing process and hopefully publishing this book in the near future.
This is a photograph of the book’s setting, Timberline Lodge, at Christmastime. If you live near Oregon, I would highly recommend making a stop at this historic ski resort. Just be sure to call ahead to check the covid restrictions.
Due to an increase in covid cases, in November our state was told we would not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with households outside of our own. In addition, our Governor stated that neighbors were encouraged to contact the police if they noticed violations in the neighborhood. We also learned that violations of the Governor’s orders could result in citations, fines up to $1250.00, and possibly jail time. Moreover, some businesses faced a second round of mandatory closures, and many local shops closed their doors for good.
Still, Thanksgiving was a time to be thankful for all that we have and to find joy and happiness in the smaller parts of life, including a visit to the place I love to see most…the gorgeous mountains of Central Oregon.
And this brings us full circle to today. While our students remain at home learning via remote connection, many of our citizens remain unemployed, and our nation struggles with the best way to handle the novel corona virus, we try to still maintain some sense of normalcy. At my house this means decorating for Christmas as soon as the last bite of Thanksgiving turkey is swallowed.
This holiday season I am hoping to immerse myself in nostalgia; of Christmases past when our biggest virus concern was whether or not we would get the flu before it was time to open presents, of traveling all over the state (and country) to visit far away family and friends, of shopping in malls and local boutiques to find just the right gift for that special someone, of late nights at office work parties, and weekend Christmas tree huntings…of all the things I took for granted in years’ past.
So this holiday season I wish you hours and hours of peace-filled love and joy with those closest to you. May we never forget all that we have in this very beautiful, and very different, moment in life.
Merry Christmas, and happy (& healthy) Holidays from me to you.