Each New Year I spend some time reflecting on the year behind me and looking forward to the year ahead. I usually spend time recounting happy memories and listing my favorites… but this year is so wildly different. Never in a million years did I think that I would be living during a pandemic. And yet…
This year was a challenge from the start. Chris tore his meniscus, ACL, and labrum in November of 2019 and had the first of his two surgeries in January. Shortly after a painful ACL/meniscus repair surgery, he returned to work only to be knocked on his butt by what we thought was the flu. He was out of it for days with a high fever (incredibly rare for him), zero appetite, no sense of taste, and so much body soreness that is “hurt to blink.” After a few days a mild cough developed, but he was well enough to go back to work. I caught a more mild version of this and the cough I’d had since August was exacerbated.
By the end of February, I had 7 trips planned, I was crushing my goal for the school year to not stay on campus past 4:30pm, and I was going to the gym again. Despite being sick in January and trying to keep Chris’ morale up through healing, things were off to a pretty good start. But then everything changed. On March 13th, we got word that campus was closing for an extra week after spring break so we could prepare for a week or two of distance learning. Our annual Spring Training trip was cancelled, and the rest of my plans soon also fell like dominos. I couldn’t find pasta or oatmeal or flour at the store and suddenly, hand sanitizer was being marked up about 500%. My freshmen and I were starting a Dystopian unit, and suddenly the line between the fictional worlds about which we were reading and real world began to blur as there were riots in the streets across the country, hospitals flooded, and the lines for food grew longer. Needless to say, my anxiety was sky high and my mental health was astoundingly low. And yet…
Despite the many lows this year, there were some positives as well. I don’t believe in toxic positivity, so I won’t pretend like the past 10 months were all somehow a blessing in disguise, but there have been some high points during this long, draining, uncertain, frustrating year. For example, I completely paid off two credit credit cards, I got more creative and outside of my comfort zone with photography and content creation and even completed my first series (maybe worthy of it’s own post?), Chris and I moved to a bigger apartment, my sister got married, I won the Masonic Employee Recognition Award, I got a new spin bike, and I learned to make sourdough… like, a lot of sourdough.
This year may not have been what anyone could have fathomed or hoped for, and I may not be in the same bright-eyes and hopeful position as I was when I wrote my Best of 2019 post, but there were still plenty of people, moments, and things that brought me comfort and joy in 2020.
And now, here are my 2020 “bests.”
Since the book came out, I’ve heard nothing but great things about Trevor’ Noah’s Born a Crime, but for some reason I never got around to reading it until this year. It was phenomenal, and I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long. Trevor is funny and smart and shares his first hand experiences and insight to apartheid, the impacts of colonialism, racism, and the people and events that helped shape him into the determined, successful, and witty man he grew into. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Earlier this year I joined a book club that promptly fell apart. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was on the short list for our potential second read, so I decided to read this novel on my own after the club dissolved. After reading it, I promptly tried to get all of my book-loving friends to read it (and succeeded to get a few to). I was obsessed with this book. the characters were well-developed, there were love triangles, sex scandals, unrequited love, and raw passion. It was a book about love, lust, friendship, and wrestling with one’s own identity, place in the world, and morality. 10/10 recommend.
Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is in no way a new book, but it had a revival moment this fall when Netflix turned the gothic novel into a movie. I rushed to read it so I could watch the movie… and then I forgot to watch the movie lol. I’ll be honest, I was so close to dropping this book. I don’t feel compelled to read a book if I give it a fair shot and am still uninterested, but around chapter 12 (yes, 12… I reeeeaally wanted to find out why this was made into a movie lol) the plot erupted and I couldn’t put the story down. It’s a slow start, but the explosive twists and ending made this book rank among the best that I read this year.
I know that Armchair Expert topped my list last year, but what can I say? I’m a loyalist. Dax and Monica are candid and witty and ask great questions of their incredible guests. This year they had far more “Experts on Experts” episodes, featuring experts in their fields. I always come away from this show having had some good chuckles and with new knowledge.
Listening to Armchair Expert introduced me to Life is Short with Justin Long. Justin was a guest on Armchair, and like Dax, Justin is a witty, curious, and down-to-earth host who hooked me immediately. He’s humble and genuinely curious. He has intriguing guests and asks questions from mundane to existential, and I love every second of it, right down to the post-show discussion with his equally charming brother Christian.
I’ve been listening to Ridiculous History for years. This usually comes close to my top-ranked podcasts, but I think I get so excited about the shows that are new to me, that I leave this one off the list. That’s really such a shame because Ben and Noel make history so fun! They research and discuss little-known tidbits from the ages… like the time Napoleon was attacked by rabbits and the time that Puritans canceled Christmas and so much more.
Like most people in 2020, I binged a LOT of TV. I was a late-comer to Schitt’s Creek, but I’m actually kind of glad about it because it gave me plenty to binge. This show truly had it all: humor, character development, love stories and heartbreak, and heartfelt moments. One moment Chris and I were laughing, and the next we were in tears. Not to mention the one-liners, gifs, parodies, and merch this show has provided is everything. I was sad to see this show end, but it did so at the right time. This show is absolute perfection.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this show, but we quickly got swept up in The Queen’s Gambit. The acting was remarkable, the story captivating, and as someone who has played chess only a handful of times in my life, I was very happy to learn that I needed no chess knowledge whatsoever to be invested in the story and characters.
We ended up getting Apple TV specifically to watch Ted Lasso. Chris loves soccer, and we both love comedy, and all Chris’ friends were raving about this show, so we caved. Best decision ever. If you liked Schitt’s Creek, I’m willing to bet that you’ love Ted Lasso too. This show has an amazing heart. It has us laughing and crying and holding our breaths. There’s not a single weak actor in this show, and the story is fantastic. We watched the entire first season in a day and can’t wait for season two to come out!
Normally I don’t rank my purchases from the year, but with little to do by work, binge shows, and shop online, I bought some pretty amazing stuff. My Schwinn ic4 in particular has truly changed my. If you’ve followed me on Instagram for a while, you know that in the early days of the pandemic I was working out daily, replacing my gym time and spin classes with home workouts. As the pandemic grew worse, and my anxiety and depression with it, I fell off the fitness wagon. After doing tons of research, I invested in my Schwinn ic4 (the ic3 was a strong runner up, but ultimately, the ic4 had a few features I really wanted). It’s relatively inexpensive, connects to my Pelaton App, and has a small footprint. I love that when I finish work I just change, hop into my cleats, and get in a killer sweat sesh.
After Chris and I moved, we decided to redo the furniture situation a bit. We previously had an inexpensive metal and glass table set. We hated it. It got dirty easily and it just didn’t have a warm and comfy home vibe. We bought this gorgeous lift top table to replace it. It’s a beautiful color and we really needed this extra bit of storage. This one piece of furniture has given our living room a whole different vibe and look (and has stopped our complaining to each other how ugly the furniture is lol).
The last purchase that ranks high on my list of best purchases is a lot smaller, but it’s gotten tons of use over the last year. I bought an electric tea kettle in 2020, and I drank more tea than ever before. A few years ago, my dad bought me a small countertop espresso machine, so the addition of the kettle was perfect for my little tea and coffee bar. I loaded up on teas from Chado Tea Room (a local shop that has an amazing online selection) and Chris even bought me a beautiful tea set for Christmas this year. I’ve had a cup of tea nearly daily in 2020… it was the year of tea in our house… 20twen-tea 😂
Best of the Blog
I intended to make more time for blogging and content creation this year, but that (like much else this year), didn’t go quote as planned. I started a number of posts and the notes section in my phone is full of ideas, but I just couldn’t seem to get any of them down. I think that’s fair. I was busy trying to figure out how to navigate an entirely new way of teaching and, well, surviving.
I may not have been as active on the blog this year as I intended, but my numbers did improve, and I have all of you to thank for that. By the numbers, this was my best year of blogging. I reached readers in 46 countries, had nearly 3,000 views, and had nearly 2,000 visitors (which I realized is fairly low, but it’s an improvement for me!). My top three posts (aka, your favorites) this year were Cherry Amaretto Cheesecake, Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, and 50 Small Businesses to Support This Holiday Season.
I’m so proud of the *small amount* of growth I’ve made this year, and hope to continue to growing with your support! ❤️
Before creating a set of annual goals, I always spend some time reflecting on last year’s goals. In 2020, I wanted to feel more comfortable in my body, reduce my debt, spend time getting more creative, particularly with photography and writing, I wanted to manage my anxiety better, and I wanted to reach 5,000 page views and complete more collaborations. I started off pretty strong on most of these, however I definitely ran into some hiccups. I blame the pandemic, and although I realize the New Year finds us still stuck in the middle of it, I hope that 2021 brings me more courage, strength, and better circumstances under which I can grow and achieve more.
I want to read more for pleasure this year. In 2020 I only read about 7 books, including three that I reread to teach. I guess if I take into account that I’m a slow reader and I was navigating a pandemic and distance teaching as an English teacher who already has a massive amount of reading from work alone, 4 isn’t the end of the world. Still, I’d like to bring that number up to 10 and, with the help of Audible, I think that is a very reasonable goal. (If your mind wanders or you’re a slow reader like me, I recommend listening to the audio version of a book as you read. It helps me stay focused.I give my students the same tip.)
I will keep growing my creative muscles. Last year I planned to take a summer creative writing course with a friend. That didn’t happen because *gestures at the dumpster fire of a year.* This year, I’m doing it for real. I’m going to take advantage of the fact that classes will likely still be online and commit to a summer writing course. Throughout the year, I will continue to develop my photography skills. I’ve grown a lot in 2020, but I still have so much to learn about photography and editing. And I love that process. I also want to explore other means of creativity. As always, I’ll keep experimenting in the kitchen and with my self portraits, but this year I’d like to revisit hand lettering and try my hand at water color painting.
I want to keep growing as a blogger and content creator. I’m keeping the same goal as last year regarding blog numbers: I want to reach 5,000 views and hope to double the instagram following. Regardless of audience size, my goal is to get more sponsorships and collaborations. In 2020 I had my first paid content with Empress 1908 Gin. I was (and continue to be) an ambassador for Kodiak Cakes and KIND Snacks, I made my first liketoknowit sales, and became a brand rep for CallMeThobs (Karissa15 saves you 15%😘 ) Not bad, but I’m hoping to get more paid work this year. Ultimately, my goal is to supplement my teaching income with sponsored content income and copy writing, editing, and/or product photography. I hope to get to a point one day when I can teach part time and write/shoot/create part time. I’ll be quietly manifesting this all year long.
I will move my body more and mindfully. I want to move with purpose more this year. In the past, I’ve skipped working out because *cue major eye roll* “I walked a lot at school today.” This year, I will make it a point to move my body 5-7 days per week. Maybe that means a 45 minute spin class. Maybe it’s 10 minutes of strength. Maybe it’s 5 minutes of stretching. Whatever it is, I will move more, and my body and mind will thank me for It.
I will make more time for my mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. This year I plan to be even more cautious with my time. This was a goal a few years ago, and I did a great job protecting my time by setting boundaries, leaving work on time, and prioritizing what was important to me. The pandemic disrupted all of that, so this year I want to get back to making my job easier on myself and bot taking up all of my energy, making time for myself to rest and reflect, and being selfish with my time if that’s what serves me best.
I have a lot to work on this year, but 2020 has taught me resiliency, adaptability, and to remain hopeful. I know 2021 is going to be another tough year, but I hope that it brings me opportunities to grow and improve myself and my life.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reflect with me. I look forward to another year of learning and growing together! 🥂