Oh hey, y’all. Fancy seeing your bright and cheerful (and masked!) faces here on my neglected little corner of the internet. First of all, sorry I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog. I’ve never gone more than a week or two without posting since I started telling y’all my life story in 2006, but this pandemic is a whole new ball of wax so I only posted here four times since Reflections 42:
- Our Favorite Homemade Dog Food Recipe
- Redwood National Park Day Trip Guide
- Unemployment in Florida: An Open Letter to Governor DeSantis
- A Lyrical Guide to Hamilton Historic Sites
So that’s the kind of year we’re having. Dog food, ranting at the government, singing and a teeny bit of travel.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we haven’t been busy. You know I never stop working. (At this point, it’s just a matter of if I’m getting paid for the work or not.) But I just haven’t felt particularly motivated to tell travel stories not knowing if/when it’ll be safe to get out there again or if this career as a traveling storyteller is DOA. (It’s not; read on.)
It almost feels weird to call this Reflections from the Road because I certainly haven’t been on the road – not even a little bit! Not a flight, not a road trip, not a hotel night to be found since March. Despite an overhauled schedule, we have not left Q2 behind without some great highlights to share in the midst of the most universally disastrous year I can remember. Read on for the reflections… from my couch!
RICK CAME HOME
After four long and unexpected months in coronavirus-hotspot northern California, Rick is finally home for good. It was a dramatic finish to the project – it was only supposed to last a month when he first agreed – and he had to work miracles to transport 15 employees safely across the country in a pandemic. But he got it done! I’m so proud of how much he’s grown as a leader and I’m so glad that I got to quarantine with him. (And his burly lumberjack beard that he hadn’t shaved since he left in December! I’m grateful that’s gone now!)
HEALTH IS WEALTH
While several friends our age have come down with the virus, thus far everyone in our families have been COVID-free. Considering many refuse to wear masks or acknowledge that as of today, 43 times the number of people who died on 9/11 have died in the U.S. alone from coronavirus, that is miraculous and not something I take for granted.
SHE SAID YES TO THE DRESS… AND A WEDDING DATE!
Did she spend more than she intended? Of course she did! It’s RaeRae, after all. But the dress is incredible. She’s going to be the most ridiculously gorgeous bride you’ve ever seen. (And I’ll be a pretty hot matron of honor if I do say so myself.)
When life gives you lemons… you pivot. Things haven’t looked at all like I planned, but there are bright spots. We/I:
- launched a new website
- earned a certification in tourism & hospitality management from FAU
- installed a new fence at our vacation rental (ok, Rick did that)
- painted the dining room
- read In a Sunburned Country (Bill Bryson), You Are the Girl for The Job (Jess Connolly) and Open Book (Jessica Simpson)
- wrote a piece for Travelzoo
- started a lasagne business (long story)
- published a dozen excerpts from my book on Instagram
You heard it here first, friends – I signed with a literary agent! Legendary Esther Fedorkevich from the Fedd Agency, to be exact. If you don’t know the publishing world, you might not realize how massive a deal this is, but it’s the first step to getting my book published and the single most wonderful thing to happen this year. (Besides Rick coming back from California, of course.)
I’m on Cloud 9! I don’t know if it’s because 2020 has just been so disproportionately Dumpster-ific and that makes the good exponentially more incredible, or if this is just what it feels like when you get so close to your dreams coming true… whatever it is, I’m still a little bit drunk on the excitement and smiling ear-to-ear.
So… I found the weak link in my fun and fabulous tourism career – it’s widespread disease! We’re hanging in there as best we can, but there’s never been a tougher time to work in travel than right now. Not even 9/11 had such profound effects. It gives me no pleasure to say it, but we travel + tourism folks are gonna be digging out of this hole for a long time.
There’s not enough space in this section for all the lows of the past 90 days, but here are a few of the lowlights:
- We lost all paying work and every plan for this year, including multiple episodes of The Jet Sisters.
- We had to cancel our nearly sold out group trips Wine Weekend in the Finger Lakes and Jane Austen with The Jet Sisters.
- We said goodbye to Rae’s dream destination wedding in Montana.
- We had to shut our vacation rental for most of March, April and May. Two mortgages, one job – you do the math.
- We fought (and are still fighting) every day with Florida’s criminally dysfunctional unemployment system.
- We watched as our tourism colleagues lost their beloved jobs one by one. Universal was particularly heartbreaking as so many friends ended up laid off after seeming to weather the storm.
I could go on and on and on. But I don’t have to – I imagine you have been through the ringer, too.
KARENS GONNA KAREN*
Being an empath is a lot to handle in a normal crisis, but in 2020? We’ve got financial ruin, historic unemployment, a pandemic, countrywide protests, riots, wars, famine, murder hornets, earthquakes, Australia’s on fire, Kobe died – and I feel everyone’s feelings about these things almost as strongly as if they were my own.
Realistically, I’m used to anxiety. Crisis is a part of life; trials are guaranteed. Change is inevitable. The Bible warns us of all that, and none of it surprises me, despite the fact that I do process everything so deeply.
What has affected me worse than anything during this unpredictable year is the jerks just coming out of the woodwork. I remember the U.S. coming together after 9/11 – the empathy, the stick-togetherness, the grief for the incalculable lives lost. Where is that now? It feels like every man for himself, from toilet paper to masks to life itself. Immune compromised? Sorry about your bad luck. Can’t get back to work because catching COVID could kill you? Capitalism stops for no one.
I mean, people are COUGHING on each other on purpose at stores… I’m sorry, but what?
I’ve been visualizing a calm, rational response to someone coughing on me to demonstrate… I don’t know, their right to hack germs in my face? I assure you, if not for Jesus in my life, Covid Karen would catch a right hook to the face from Middleburg Angie.
I hope I don’t end up on the news for having to whoop someone in Target. Y’all pray for me – I am just wicked enough to dropkick someone in a parking lot.
*To all the good Karens of the world, I love you. Can I make you some banana bread? This has to be such a beast of a year for you.*
WE CAN CHANGE AND WE MUST
I would consider myself a lifelong ally of people of color and any population considered marginalized, but even still, there is so much I didn’t know. Mostly because I’m white and I just didn’t have to know it to succeed or survive. Most of the invisible systems I rely on are set up to benefit me. When George Floyd was murdered and I really started digging in and finding out about all these other inexcusable cases, it clicked.
There’s never been a time in my life where I’ve questioned my beliefs more than I have in the past month or so. I’m embarrassed that I missed so much of what BIPOC Americans go through. It’s just not the same experience as the white experience, and I intend to honor that in the future.
One big lesson I’ve taken away from all this is that saying, “I’m not racist” is not enough. It’s kinda like the sin of pride – it’s hard to see it in you, but there’s almost always at least some bias there to examine, even in the kindest, humblest heart. Changing my perspective from “not racist” to be actively anti-racism and anti-racist has been just one shift in the way I’m living going forward.
I couldn’t possibly dive into it all right now here, and purposefully, none of this is Instagrammable, so I’ll just say this. I don’t want there to ever be any doubt about how we do things in my house: Black lives matter. We care about justice. We strive to do the right thing, always. And we expect the same from law enforcement, our families, friends and church. Full stop.
I’ve been considering changing my political affiliation officially for years. I just don’t feel like there’s a party that represents me at all anymore; maybe there never has been and that’s why you’ve never seen me actively supporting any one candidate.
I don’t completely identify with either the Democrat or the Republican platforms – and I really can’t support anyone who bullies, belittles, mocks, condemns or otherwise demeans human beings. I identify with my Christian beliefs and the crux of that is compassionate, overwhelming, self-sacrificing love.
That is what being a Jesus follower is about. Country is not more important than Christ. This is a hill I’m willing to die on.
HATE IS BASIC, LOVE IS THE CHALLENGE
It all comes down to loving your neighbor, right? This is the second most important commandment Jesus gave us, so if we love Him, it follows that we love the people He made in a way that’s so outrageous, so deep, so radical that people take notice.
I haven’t seen as much of this principle in action as I would’ve expected to. I guess that’s the brokenness of the world we live in, but I’m an optimist in my little soul and so every time someone does the wrong thing, I hurt for the wronged person. I know I could do a better job of seeking out the good (like John Krasinski’s SGN!), but I can’t help but notice the negative stories more.
The bottom line is that not everyone has the desire or the capacity to care about anything but themselves, and it’s not my responsibility to get them to. Boomers gonna boom, Karens gonna Karen.
I’m drawing some serious lines in the sand of my life these days. Not sure what that’ll look like at the end of all this, but my tolerance for folks without mercy and compassion has a limit and I’m pretty sure I reached it this year.
BLESSED AND STRESSED
All this learning I’ve been doing the past year or so about the Enneagram and TMS and whatnot has illuminated the unsustainable relationship I have always had with stress. It’s something I have to keep a tight rein on – which might sound counterproductive!
But between Rick being gone for four months and quarantine and my unexpected unemployment, I’ve had space to create routines I never had before. If I can start my day with 30 minutes of yoga, weights or walking, bible study, prayer and journaling and at least 10 minutes of meditation (usually with the Calm app), I feel noticeably less stressed through the day.
The problem is if one thing throws me off – doomscrolling Twitter first thing in the morning, a negative phone call, the dog throwing up everywhere and knocking me off my schedule – I’ll skip a day… then two. Then it’s a week and I wonder why I’m frazzled.
Much like you come back to the breath when your mind wanders in meditation, I just have to keep coming back to the baseline to right the ship.
We can make our plans but God determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
WHO EVEN KNOWS
Travel is still a wild card for the rest of 2020. All the conferences and trips we had planned are cancelled or postponed, but I’d still like to get away with Ricky at some point if it’s safe. Our 5 year wedding anniversary (I know – how has it been that long since the destination debacle?!) is sneaking up on us in October, and we’d really wanted to do something splashy to celebrate. Tahiti isn’t looking likely and that was always the dream, but we shall see. I’d rather stay home and healthy than push it and risk either one of us getting sick. No trip is worth permanent lung damage or worse, and so we’ll stay home if we need to.
And speaking of uncertainty for the 2nd half of the year, we’ve got an election coming up in the US in November. Who actually thinks that’s gonna go well? I try to flee to Kauai every election year (after absentee voting of course) but I’m not so sure that’s going to work out this time due to the ‘rona.
Q3, PLEASE BE NICE TO ME
I’d have to be crazy to even try to guess what comes next. I mean… zombies? Aliens? It is Independence Day this week, and I feel like that’s a logical next plot point for the bad summer blockbuster that is 2020. I hope we’ve got Will Smith on standby.
Hamilton comes out on Disney Plus on Friday so while Rick and I try to avoid being blown up by our redneck neighbor’s barrage of illegal explosives, I’ll be inside singing about guns and ships and balance shifts.
Talk to me, friends: how are you coping with 2020? Have you had the virus? What’s keeping you going in the midst of the most tumultuous year in recent memory?
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