I don't know where to start, really. When I last wrote a blog post in October 2020, I was excited to share the small moments of joy, the weird stories that turn into inside jokes, the brief glimpses of normalcy that give us just enough hope to survive—even in the face of a brutal pandemic, climate change, political chaos, bigotry, hate, and the damn murder hornets.
But a month later, my mom got sick. Cancer.
She survived chemotherapy and underwent a completely successful bone marrow transplant, but she never made it out of the cancer center ICU. I spent the entirety of May 2021 driving to and from Cincinnati to spend as much time with her as I could while she fought an unknown issue that caused fluid to gather around her lungs. Her health seemed to be improving, and the nurses and doctors were optimistic. But then she had a few minor strokes, followed by a much more serious stroke, and my dad and brother and I were told to say goodbye.
My mom had been put on a ventilator and couldn't speak, but we didn't need words. I know that she has always loved me, and I will always love her. In the end, nothing else matters.
I haven't wanted to share this publicly because I still can't quite wrap my mind around my grief or put it into words. I was so blessed to have a mom who became my best friend, and it is because that relationship was so dear to me and so full of love that I will never recover from this loss.
What I can say is that I am so grateful for the friends who were with me every step of this journey. I cherish every message, every reaction to a "close friends" Instagram Story, every Panera gift card, and every long-distance hug. And to the friends who are just now catching up, you already know that I'm a blubbering ball of emotions at the best of times, so thank you for always showing up anyway.
I like sharing funny stories and sweet memories. That was true when I first started blogging in 2002, and it’s still true in the seemingly godforsaken year of 2020. I also like finding ways to learn from and grow from the uncomfortable stuff that happens between the funny stories and the sweet memories—and I’m saying this to myself because I need to hear it. I have wanted to write blog posts all year, but everything just felt too sad or too scary or too overwhelming.
But even as this country stands on the brink of arguably the most important presidential election in history—and the world is ravaged by a pandemic (and systemic racism and climate change and murder hornets)—we all still have our own lives going on and our own tales to tell. Somewhere out there, a copier repair man named Dave moved to a new state to get a fresh start. Is he happy with that decision now? Is he staying safe? Whatever became of the guy who abbreviated The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to “lodder-roddick”? Has he been imprisoned yet? Is the man with carbonated hair the kind of guy to wear a face mask in a pandemic? Or is he going to threaten the virus to a fist fight?
sonder (noun): the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
Of course, I have my own stories to tell from 2020. I reconnected with some of my favorite people by visiting each other’s video game islands. I got weirdly obsessed with pink (yes, again) and bought a pink rug, pink keyboard, and a now-legendary pink sweatshirt. I started going to Panera every Monday and documenting it on Instagram, something that other people seem to be enjoying almost as much as I am.
And I have plenty of uncomfortable stuff to learn from, too: I live in a state (and a country) that hasn’t taken this pandemic seriously, and the stress pushed me into a mental breakdown. I’ve cut off more relationships than I’ve rekindled. My grandpa died.
But I also miss the extras sipping coffee (and repairing copiers) in the background. For a while there, I was ordering from Domino’s so often that one of the delivery drivers told me I should join his wife in a “lava cakes anonymous” group. The laundromat has a new employee who yelled at some teenage boys walking across her freshly mopped floor exactly as though they were Lucifer, the mischievous cat from Cinderella. My least favorite neighbor, Goose Girl, finally moved out and took her awful boyfriend, Boink Boi, with her.
This is a long-winded way of saying that I have a lot more to say, and that tiny realization fills me with much-needed hope and anticipation. In the meantime, I'm sending love to you and yours. Stay safe, friends.
FRIENDS & FOES
Best boyfriend: J, always
Best new crush (sorry, J): Wendy from Billions
Best relationship GIF: the WWE one; he knows
Best friend: Tyler, obvs
Best brother: Adam, the only family member who might also read this list
Best inside joke: Grandma's got a mint!
Best person to cuss at (with love) when anything tech-related goes wrong: Tim Apple
Best person to cuss at (with slightly less love) when my mail gets locked in the wrong mailbox or left on the wrong porch every damn week: WHO KNOWS, but you probably shouldn't be working for USPS, missy
Best person to hate for the rest of time: the lady at the leasing office who refused to fix my air conditioning unit in a sane way, leaving me and my stressed pet in a sweaty nightmare for the hottest two weeks of the summer
Best Twitter account actually used: @BigSkirtsEnergy
Best new Twitter bio: "Bury me under the GBBO tent."
Best videos on Instagram: hedgehogs with their heads stuck in toilet paper tubes; the hedgehogs love it almost as much as I do
Best photos on Instagram: hedgehogs in hats
Best blog moved from Movable Type to Ghost: THIS ONE
HOME & ABROAD
Best new-to-me dining experience: real, actual ramen
Best “dang, I miss Chicago, but this will do for now” pizza: Mio's Pizzeria in Cincinnati, OH (at least one location makes the cut)
Best new-to-me imported candy: Maltesers
Best vacation: Dallas, TX, with J
Best mini road trip: Lexington, KY, with my mom
Best part about Lexington: a luxury apartment directly above an Anthropologie, my new dream home
Best parade attended: the Cincinnati Zoo penguin parade
Best worst geocache: the one with all of the spiders
Best can't-wait-for-more-episodes television shows: Billions and Star Wars: The Mandalorian
Best thing to come to the United States on a very slight delay (and also the best show to watch on repeat literally every week): Great British Bake Off, and Henry was my favorite
Best show that also ended in a very controversial way: Game of Thrones (holy cow, was that finale actually in 2019?)
Best moment of Wrestlemania: BECKY
Best video game watched: Assassins Creed: Origins (Playstation)
Best video game played until my arm started cramping: Mario Kart Tour (iOS)
Best book read for self-improvement: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Best book read to expand and challenge my worldview: Educated
Best book read purely for entertainment: Good Omens
Best podcast with three dudes: My Brother, My Brother and Me
Best podcast with two ladies: This Might Get Weird
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Best encouraging book: The Road Back to You (I need to do an entire post about how I'm learning to embrace my fierce, aggressive, protective nature rather than hiding it for the sake of weak men)
Best encouraging Netflix show: Brené Brown: The Call to Courage
Best tools for bad mental health days: the You Feel Like Shit website and the Sanvello app (formerly called Pacifica and recommended last year, too)
Best life hack: digital receipts (and coupons) at CVS, y'all
Best tiny splurge: pick-up ordering for groceries
Best self-care gift: a stationary bike
Best self-care purchase: vlogging camera, which is a weird but effective way to inspire myself to tidy up around the house, take care of myself, process some thoughts out loud, go on more adventures, and generally just set the bar a little higher for myself
Best self-care project accidentally abandoned: KonMari, oops
Best self-care project currently enjoying: this gosh dang blog post, y'all—may 2020 be just as award-worthy for all of us!