Are We Really Too Busy?!

We are really trying, aren’t we?!

It goes without saying that many of us have been struggling through the pandemic. We miss our favorite activities and our loved ones. Some miss going to restaurants and travelling. Some miss income, having lost jobs that may not return. And even worse than all of these, some miss loved ones whose lives were taken by COVID. While we are struggling, regardless of the specific struggle and how we are coping, communication becomes even more important than during normal times. And I am afraid that some people are not paying attention to the need to communicate, and to do so in a timely manner. Are we really too busy?  Or are we so focused on our own stuff that we fail to reach out and touch someone? Maybe, just maybe, we have forgotten some of how and when we should communicate. If so, consider the following a brief primer. These are not intended to be all inclusive, but they are a good starting point.

A promise worth believing.

Texting

More people are texting than calling, and that presents some challenges. When we speak with someone on the phone, we have our voice to help us deliver the message. A text is the written word, without the benefit of our tone of voice to soften our message. On the phone, we can hear the response, and gauge what ours should be. Not so with texting.

Texting is here to stay, regardless of its complications. We can communicate better by texting remembering a few simple texting “rules.” First, be careful when texting that you send the text to the right person! Some reading this can give an example of when this rule was not followed, and the problems that were created.

Texting is sometimes done so quickly that autocorrect “corrections” change the meaning of the intended message. If we do not review the text before it is sent, we can be very embarrassed and have to take more time to get out of the mess we created by speed and our lack of attention to detail. 

Group texts present a different kind of problem. They should be used to send information to more than one person, saving time for the sender. When responding to a group text, we should be careful and assure that our response should go to all, and if not, send a separate text to whomever it applies to.

Usually all on a group text should reply, if for no other reason than to let the sender know you received it. Yes, even if you have the info already! To not “weigh in,” especially if the info is important, can be considered uncaring. Are we really too busy to reply?

Timeliness is important in all communication, and especially so with texts. Most people send texts to get info quickly to other people and expect a timely response. Some people do not have their phone tied to them like some others, and their time is important also. But it takes little time to check our texts several times a day, so we do not miss important information, and can reply in a timely manner. If we are not willing to do so, we should let those close to us know, and perhaps even tell them how best to get important info to us.

What about Bitmojis?

Emails

What about emails? Emails are also the written word, and share the same challenges mentioned about texting, other than they do not have the same expectation of a quick response. But they should receive a timely reply. The standard for a timely reply to an email is twenty-four hours, whenever possible, and earlier than that if the subject warrants.

When communicating in writing, it is important which words are used. Our words should be clear, yet kind. We should use direct or indirect language intentionally. Our use of qualifiers (words or phrases used to either soften or change our message in other ways) should be intentional. The desired or expected action from us should be clear.

I haven’t read the book, but many of us are living the title.

Phone Etiquette

Some of us still communicate by phone, at least occasionally, and at least, my generation! There are a few phone etiquette rules that can make our interaction with others pleasant.

A friend of mine who is very bothered by this would want me to mention that we should not be doing other things while talking on the phone. This includes cleaning out the dishwasher (my favorite!) and making noise that is magnified on the other end.

At the risk of my daughter thinking this comment is intended for her (it really isn’t,) when we miss a call from someone close, we should return the call, and in a reasonable time frame, preferably the same day. Especially when a message is left. This does not include what we know may be a “pocket call.”

Granted, there are robocalls that annoy all of us. The car warranty people are the biggest offenders. There are robocall blockers that are effective, yet they also block legitimate calls, such as those from doctors’ offices. I have found that if a call is legitimate, a message is left, and the call can be returned.   

Kindness

Kindness is a thread that should be throughout all communication. How do we show kindness through communication? First by considering the style and desires of the other person. Do they like brief and to-the-point information, or a lot of detail? We should communicate with others using the Platinum Rule. (See the blog on this in the March 3, 2015 post on www.fralixgroup.com.)

We should take the time to be friendly, being careful to not waste the time of others. We are being friendly when we make a comment such as “I hope that you are having a good week,” or “Thank you for your assistance.” 

I will show kindness by stopping this primer, and letting readers decide how to use the information. While I do the same thing. As with much of my writings, this is about “me too.”

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Clear and Complete Communication

Communication has long been an interest of mine. I have spoken about it, written about it, and even fussed about it! I have often told audiences that most of us think we communicate well, when in fact, very often we do not. Too often we are communicating without thinking through what the other person needs and/or wants to know, for we are too focused on what we want to say!  This is such an important topic that I could spend a year’s worth of blog posts on the different aspects of it. But I will limit myself to the communication particulars most on my mind at the moment.

A clear and complete roadmap for living a meaningful life.

Like many of my posts, I am interested in this subject today due to an experience. Today’s experience was with our cable/internet provider. I spent at least an hour today troubleshooting and fixing a problem created by ineffective communication of several Spectrum people, a problem that began two days ago. It does not really matter that it was Spectrum. It could have been any business. The experiences are fairly universal.

Clear and complete communication is more difficult when texting. And avoid group texts for anything other than passing along simple information, not for conversation!

Mike and I needed to move the internet equipment from one of our beach condos to the other beach condo next door. The internet equipment has served both units, but we have sold the one that housed the equipment. I called Spectrum and found out what we needed to do to make the change, and we made the change two days ago. Mike made sure it was working in the unit before leaving it. That condo is currently rented.

We happened to be at the beach today for other business and received a call from the rental agency saying that the internet in the condo was not working. I called Spectrum and they said the problem could be that one screen on their end was not activated, and they activated it. The person said all was working on their end, but there were no devices connected at the time, so they could not determine if it was working on the user end. So, obviously, Mike and I needed to test it. We went to the condos and tested the internet from the parking lot, and it was not working. Since I could not even see our personal network name, it occurred to me that the internet network and password may have defaulted to the factory settings. The reason I even knew of this possibility was because we have had this problem previously. Sure enough, that was the problem. The Spectrum person corrected the problem, and we were able to connect.

The 9/11 Memorial is filled with clear and complete information.

I was left with questions. When does the internet default to the factory settings, and what causes it to do so? Why is this information not provided to the customer? When an internet is not working, why does the internet provider staff not verify the network and password, and do so early in the troubleshooting? In all of my calls to the internet provider for several years, this has never been done, although more than these two times the internet has defaulted to the factory settings. If this is so common, the customer should have this information so the problem can be solved efficiently.

Even this applies to communication.

To their credit, Spectrum staff are courteous and knowledgeable. I am not a techie, and I have never felt inadequate dealing with their technical staff. But it takes too long to solve a problem which they usually have caused, and the problem could be avoided or solved much more efficiently. If they asked enough of the right questions and/or provided more information to the customer early in the conversation, problems would be solved quicker and with less frustration.

Daughter Chatham and grandson Drew celebrating Drew’s 3rd birthday!

Enough about Spectrum. How about you and me? How are we communicating what other people need to know?

The 5W1H Model can help us to communicate well. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Did you know that these words that you know so well are actually a business model? All of these words are not needed in all communication, but some of them are needed in all communication.

Grandson Drew and his strawberry birthday cake.

Think of “Who” as who needs to know what you plan to communicate. (And in what order, if there is more than one?) “What” specifically do they need to know? (How much detail?) Do they need to know “Why?” (Younger generations want to know the “Why,” not just the “What” of decisions.) “When” do they need to know? (Before or after something is to be done?) “Where” do they need to be when they are told? (Sometimes the setting matters.) “How” do they need to be told? (Direct or Indirect communication?)

Clear and complete communication.

When we are communicating something to others who are at a different knowledge level about what is being discussed, we need to talk on their level, without talking down to them. We need to clarify what was heard and make them feel safe to ask questions. Like the Spectrum staff do every time I speak with them. Which I will likely have an opportunity to do again!

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Heart Health

February is Heart Month for another reason; Valentine’s Day.

February is Heart month, and not just because of Valentine’s Day. As important as it is, celebrating Valentine’s Day is not as important as celebrating that vital organ, our Heart. We dedicate all of the month of February to a focus on our Heart, and for good reason. We can credit the American Heart Association with Heart Month and should be grateful for the focus on this important subject. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Mike and I had this lovely and delicious dessert offering on Valentine’s Day at Duffers at Oak Island Golf Club. It is fine for us to treat ourselves with dessert like this occasionally.

Heart disease is one disease that we can potentially avoid, or at least, improve our outcome, with good attention to our diet and exercise. Yes, there are genetics involved in heart disease, as I well know. My mother, father, and other relatives had severe heart disease. I cannot change the impact of my family’s genetics on me. But I have a lot of control of my morbidity, and even my mortality, other than the role that is played by genetics.

Oatmeal and nuts are heart healthy.

So, what are the diet and exercise variables involved in heart disease? Diets low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium, and high in fiber, are heart healthy. That means more fish, beans, and greens, and less red meat. It also means fewer total calories. It means being at a healthy weight, especially not having a large girth. There are other diet variables that are thought to help reduce the incidence of heart disease, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A diet low in sugar is best, due in part to the strong connection between heart disease and Diabetes.

Healthy eating is eating well.

Exercise is also important; in that it strengthens the heart muscle and helps to keep weight in control.  The best exercise for heart health is aerobic because it improves circulation. Brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, tennis, and jumping rope are types of aerobic exercise. Resistance training is also important for heart health, helping to reduce fat and creating leaner muscle mass. Free weights, resistance bands, and push ups are great ways to build up resistance.

A woman exercising on the beach, which is probably also good for stress reduction.

I hope it is unnecessary to mention that smoking is a strong risk factor for heart disease and is to be avoided at all costs. In fact, smoking is one of the worst habits we can have and is a culprit in many diseases. What about the connection between alcohol and heart disease? That is not as clear. While drinking in moderation may provide some health benefits for some people, alcohol has so many bad effects that the potential health benefits for some people are not worth the risk.   

The ideas mentioned for heart health are not meant to replace the advice of physicians and other health care workers. A routine physical is important as a baseline for heart health and having a health care professional monitor our heart health is recommended. Nor are the points made intended to be all inclusive. But they are some of the most important variables, and a great place to start.  

A message from the ocean that can help us alleviate stress.

What about stress? What about sleep? Is there a connection between these and heart health? According to the experts, yes. Stress can cause us to use unhealthy behaviors to manage the stress, such as overeating and eating certain foods in an amount that is unhealthy. Not getting enough sleep or the right kind of sleep can increase certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure and stroke. 

We have little control over the incidence of many diseases. Such is not true about heart disease. Many of our daily behaviors are either heart healthy or heart damaging. If we can, why would we not do everything possible to improve the likelihood of a heart healthy life? 

The secret to a Heart Healthy Life!

February and Heart Month are more than half over. It may be time for you to get serious about that most vital of all organs, your Heart. Your life depends on it.     

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Finding Love in all the Right Places

Valentine’s Day, the day of Love, is soon approaching. Many couples will be celebrating, although many will celebrate indoors due to COVID concerns. While you are preparing for how you will celebrate, think about what this day will mean for many others. Also think about what Love really means.

Three women friends are on my mind who recently lost their spouses due to death. I am sure that Valentine’s Day will forever be sad for them, and especially the first Valentine’s Day after their spouse’s death. While good memories will also be with them, their loss will most likely be more pronounced on this day. I wish I had thought of this and them in time to send them a note, but I didn’t. One receives many cards and notes soon after a loved one’s death, then after a few weeks and months most of us go back to our normal routines, failing to remember that for those who suffered the loss most directly, routines will never be normal again. Yes, life goes on after a loss, and as the years pass, the loss is not as acute, but it never goes away. I am thinking of two other friends who lost their spouses to death eight years ago, and I am sure that they feel their loss very acutely on Valentine’s Day. And that has nothing to do with roses or chocolate.

Love in action. Virginia gives Drew so much time and attention.

Almost forty years ago, when I was without a romantic partner, a coworker gave me a Valentine’s card. I don’t remember exactly what was written on the card, but something about believing that I would find love again, and that she was thinking of me at that time. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness, and this many years later, I am still touched by it. What a thoughtful expression of kindness. Whenever I think of that co-worker, Geri, her kindness is my memory. Geri was right, I did find love again, but had I not, I hope I would still have had a full life, like my friend I mention below.   

Valentine’s Day is about Love and does not need to be just for those who have Love with romantic partners. We all need Love, and on this day set aside for Love, we can broaden our thoughts about how to show Love to our family and friends. I sent our grandchildren Valentine’s Day cards, but why did I not send our children, their parents, a card or a note telling them what they mean to me? Because I did not think about it. I hope to do better, and not just for Valentine’s Day.

Love in action is daughter Tara spending countless hours in the car taking daughter Elsie far and near for soccer.

I have a good friend who has never married and who has not had a romantic partner in the thirty-five years that I have known her. She has a full life without romantic Love. Last night she even commented that she is one of the happiest people that she knows! I agree that she is, and that she has a wonderful life. She is financially and emotionally independent, and has several families that have adopted her, (ours being one of those!) and whose children she cares for deeply. She is my best example of someone who has found happiness without being legally connected to anyone else.

Friend MoMo (L) is more family than friend. She and Gisele (R) have been family for more than forty years, across the countries of the U.S. and Canada. Our family has claimed MoMo for thirty-five years

As I think about my friend, I analyze what she has that many others lack, those legally connected to others and those who aren’t. I think I have found the secret, which isn’t really a secret at all. She is happy with herself and doesn’t need anyone else to complete her. She has healthy self-esteem, knowing at her core that she is a person of worth, and treats herself and others well. She has not lamented any loss by not having a romantic partner in her life, having found happiness within and through her many connections. She also has a career that she loves and is very competent and confident in it and committed to it.

My 2020 Valentine’s card from Mike, which I have enjoyed having on display this week.

Some people want and even need the Love of a romantic partner. There is nothing wrong with that. There is good solid research that married people are happier and even live longer than those who aren’t married. The problem occurs when that need is not satisfied, and the person feels incomplete without someone else.

Cousins, Bridget and Mary Grace, showing love in the age of COVID.

Love, on Valentine’s Day and all days. Love those to whom you are connected, legally or otherwise. But also Love yourself. Believe that you are enough, just like you are, with or without anyone else. For only when we are complete within ourselves can we really be our best with others.

 Buy yourself flowers, often!

Be enough for yourself. Then reach out and show Love to others. For you know, “What the world needs now………”  

       

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Letting Go

Our home in Raleigh.

This past year has found many of us at home more than ever. While there is always much that can be done at home, many, like me, avoid doing those things. I have never really enjoyed housework and have been fortunate enough to be able to have someone else do that. During this past year with more time than disposable income, I have done more of our housework. I have come face to face with areas of our home that heretofore I had avoided, such as my closet. I have been shocked at what I found.

The changes chronicled in my 2017 book (available on Amazon) prepared me for other changes.

I was not surprised to find too many clothes, shoes, and accessories in my closet. I was not even surprised to find some of those that had never been worn, with tags still on them. But I was surprised at the few clothes and shoes that I wear, and the many that sit unused in the closet collecting dust. I was actually shocked at the sheer volume of unused items taking up space.

My closet tells the tale of my spendaholic behavior!

With all of the time that I have had, why have I neglected to purge those things that I will probably never wear again? Especially those items that I hope to never be able to wear again, because they are a size that I hope that I have left behind permanently.

Thankful for all of our blessings, more than any of our “stuff.”

In the past year, I have spent more money at the tailors than in stores, and not because I have been afraid to frequent stores, or because stores weren’t open some of that time. The reason I have spent so much with tailors is because I had clothes that had to be altered to be able to wear them. Some of the clothes could not be altered, and I consigned those, or gave them away. Even so, I still have too many clothes that need the same attention. Why have I not taken care of that? What is it about stuff; clothes, shoes, accessories, collectibles and many other things that I hold onto? While I do not know “why,” I have long known that I have a problem letting go. Whether the “letting go” is stuff or people, it is very difficult for me to do.

There is fear in letting go.

Mike and I are trying to decide if it is time to sell our home in Raleigh. Well, we know it is (at least, probably) time to sell, but we are struggling with the decision. It is entirely too much home for us at this time in our lives, too much space, too much upkeep, just too much. But it is still a hard decision. While we make the decision, I am taking this time to prepare for selling it, so if/when we do, it will be ready. That involves cleaning out those closets and getting rid of lots of stuff. I am letting this be stage 1 of what I hope will make selling the logical next step. We will see. This is tough. Letting go of clothes and stuff is a miniscule decision compared to letting go of our home that we built, raised our family in, and have lived in for thirty-three years.  

Indeed.

In the past two years I have let go of alcohol, and do not really miss it, at least, not often or much. I have also let go of 57 pounds, and I do not miss those at all.

If walls confine, it is time to let go.

But our home? Now that is a loss of a very different magnitude.    

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Human Capital

Research shows us that the happiest people are those with close relationships.

When you are deciding who to give your business to, how do you decide? What traits are most important to you?

One of the most important human skills of all.

Is knowledge of the product or service important? Of course. But this is a given, for you would not trust someone to represent your interest if they lacked knowledge of the product or service. So, if you were selling a home, you would probably want a realtor who has knowledge of the area and who has sold homes like yours before. But would this knowledge alone be sufficient for you to hire her? Maybe, maybe not. You would prefer someone who has a proven track record, who has experience, although you recognize that to get experience requires that others be willing to be a part of that person’s training.

An example of technology replacing some human skills.

Is technical ability important to you? Do you prefer that someone be social media savvy? Is competence important to you? Depending on whether you are buying or selling, and the exact product or service you are buying or selling, may determine the importance of these areas to you.

An anniversary gift from our MoMo, one who excels in human capital.

There is one area that supersedes all others. That area is what I refer to as human capital, which is a professional word for “people skills.” This is often referred to as “soft skills,” but I do not use “soft skills “as a descriptor. In American society there is a ranking order for “hard skills,” which is technical and professional skills, and “soft skills,” which is human skills, such as relationship building skills. Soft skills are often not considered as important as hard skills. I maintain the opposite opinion. If one has technical ability yet lacks relationship building skills, she will not be effective in many situations.

This 8-year-old granddaughter has better human capital than many adults!

Being able to communicate with and get along with all types of people gives one a clear advantage over those who lack this ability. This is more important today than ever before in our world of increasing diversity.

Eating together without technology present is important.

Do you make eye contact well and easily? Do you smile? Do you engage others in conversation about themselves? Do you show gratitude for what others have done for you, such as writing warm and specific thank you notes? Do you put your phone and computer down and connect with others? Do you ask good questions, and listen well to the answers?

These examples are just a starting point for describing human capital, or human skills. How well do they describe you?

“Love, Welcome, Serve,” a great book, and a wonderful mandate.

Thankfully, it is never too late to change our behavior, although behavior change is one of the hardest changes to make. If we want to improve our relationship building behavior, we can.

If we do not want to, we won’t.

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A Very Important Week

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday that honors the life and legacy of Dr. MLK, Jr., which was a bright spot in what can be a very dark week. Today, Wednesday, January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. Our nation’s capital, the District of Columbia, is on lockdown, preparing for violence surrounding what should be a peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next. Many are worried about violence as Trump leaves office and Biden assumes the presidency. The Capitol riots of January 6, 2021 are our most recent and best example of our very divided nation.

The walls in our heart can be like walls of sand, dividing us from each other.

All of this is going on as our world continues to struggle with the coronavirus and its effects, including business shutdowns, job losses, and other widespread economic woes. The vaccines we thought would improve things greatly are having a difficult rollout, and as such have not yet improved things. It is unknown when things will improve, either our political divide or our experience with the coronavirus. So, what are we to do about any of this? Even with the vaccine on the way, experts tell us our best defense is still masks and social distancing.

While at times it can be “too peopley,” many miss  being able to be with loved ones and friends during COVID.
Indeed it does!

We can do our part to repair the racial divide. While Black Lives Matter is an organized effort to do just that, we do not have to participate in an organized movement. We can be a movement in and of ourselves. Every action we take can help or hinder racial inequities. We are part of the problem or part of the solution. What we say and what we do speaks volumes to others about our values. I had an experience last week that reinforced that to me.

“May you always do for others and let others do for you.” Bob Dylan

I was in a doctor’s office, dropping off some papers. As I left and got on the elevator, a man who also got into the elevator started talking to me. He told me that his doctor’s appointment had just been cancelled because he did not have $25. He had assumed that his visit was covered and did not realize that he needed $25 cash. He said he offered to go and get the money, but they would not wait, and cancelled his appointment. The next appointment they made for him was two months away. He said he knew he did not need to wait two months, but he didn’t know what to do. I immediately knew what I should do. I said to him, “May I give you the $25?” He was shocked and replied, “You would do that for me?!” I replied, “I am glad to do that; I can, and I am glad to.” He replied, it’s a God thing,” and I believed it was. I believed at the time and still believe that the man was only sharing his heart, he was not asking for money.

Of course, “man” is generic.

Since I only had a $50 bill, he and I went back into the doctor’s office, and I tried to pay the $25 for him. The receptionist said she had already cancelled his appointment. Had I not been insistent that it had only been five minutes, that surely, she could reinstate his appointment, I am convinced, money or not, his appointment would not have been reinstated. I am sure that the reason I did not have the $25 to give him, that I had to break the $50 bill, was so that I could intercede on his behalf and have his appointment reinstated.  All the while my new friend was filling out the paperwork (on an iPad) and change was being made to pay the $25, he was thanking me, repeating over and over that it was a God thing. He asked for my address so he could send me a thank you note, and he wanted to repay me. I told him he did not need to repay me, just to pay it forward. Although I normally pay attention to social distancing, I did not worry about that when my new friend hugged me.

I left the doctor’s office and five minutes later went back in to get an address. A woman came up to me and said, “That was a wonderful thing that you did for that man, he has been singing your praises since you left, telling everyone around what you did for him.” I thanked her, and left, knowing that I had only done what any of us should do, if and when we can; help someone else. The fact that the man I helped was black should not matter; it did not matter to me. But to others looking on and knowing what had been done for him, that a black man was aided by a white woman, including the white woman who told me how wonderful it was, it may have mattered. This might be an example that some can relate to more than the marches they see. Maybe. The personal is political.

Love in action with Virginia and Drew

What can we do about the political divide in our country? Instead of trying to change the opinion of others, we can listen more and better, trying to understand the depths of unrest that put us where we are in this country. We can stop trying to explain our position on social media and recognize that anything we say about this issue will not change any minds and can further divide us from others. We can let time begin to change some hearts, even ours. We can develop more compassion and empathy for those who think differently from us and begin to build bridges with them over common ground. 

We can walk a mile in others’ shoes.

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Mistakes and Miscommunication

Have you noticed an increase in mistakes being made by service staff? How about misinformation, inaccurate assumptions, and errors in communication of information? I have noticed all of these and attribute them to our current challenges due to the pandemic. While I do not want to “blame” things on the pandemic just because it is our reality, I do believe our current state of affairs caused by the pandemic results in some particular problems. My purpose in bringing this into our awareness is so that we will all be more careful, kind, and diligent.

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Looking Back

Before we get too far into 2021, I want to look back on 2020, specifically the COVID time, March to December. I do not want to forget this time. This will be my month-by-month chronology.

March 2020 started out as any March; windy, cool, and some days sunny. Mike and I went to Georgia to celebrate with our granddaughter, Mary Grace, for her 15th birthday on March 12. The next week, with the advent of the pandemic and restrictions caused because of it, our world changed. From March 23 to April 22, I cooked with abandon. Most of my days and evenings were spent nesting, trying new recipes from cookbooks I rarely used as well as cooking recipes from old favorite cookbooks.  Mike and I ate well, and I filled the freezer with meals for later. There was no eating out, since most restaurants were closed for eating in. I have never enjoyed take-out, so even when some restaurants opened for take-out, I chose to cook and eat in. My outings were mainly to the grocery stores. I maintained my daily walk routine, glad to be outdoors and away from a mask.

 Celebrating Mary Grace’s 15th birthday March 12 before the pandemic changed our world.
One of the less complicated meals I cooked in March, but so delicious and nurturing.

April came and I still cooked. Mike and I started a ritual of going outside for an hour each afternoon, both to get some sun and to break the monotony of being indoors. After that I would usually take my walk, then have a cappuccino. April was the first month that I missed seeing our grandchildren (credit to COVID) in fifteen years. Mike and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary at home with a delicious take-out meal from our favorite restaurant, Margaux’s, compliments of our special family friend, MoMo. Later that evening our family’s world was changed forever with the news of the death of our son-in-love, Stephen’s, 41-year-old brother, Robby. Our anniversary will never be the same; it will always be shared with Robby’s passing. Hold tight to your loved ones, for we never know when we are having our last time with them.

Mike sitting outside on our daily outing.
Mike sitting outside on our daily outing.
One of my favorite new recipes from a cookbook I rarely used before COVID.
One of my favorite new recipes from a cookbook, Milk Street The New Home Cooking, I rarely used before COVID.

May began with our governor putting NC into Phase One of a closing/reopening plan.  Restaurants remained closed other than for takeout, and bars, salons, and gyms also remained closed. Many people isolated themselves from anyone outside of their bubble, including family, and we did also, until late May. We saw our daughter and her family who live in Raleigh periodically, careful about our exposure to or from our grandson who was in daycare. Our daughter and granddaughters came up from Georgia in late May. We remained safe from all of these visits, thankfully. My dear hairstylist, Anne, came from Durham and set up shop in our home, and gave a haircut to our granddaughter, Mary Grace, and cuts and color for MoMo and me. May 30th Mike and I checked into a condo in Hilton Head ahead of other family members for our family’s yearly vacation. The next morning, we discovered that someone had broken into our van during the night and stolen some valuables that should not have been left in the vehicle.

My Mother’s Day cards.
My Mother’s Day cards.
COVID made this even more true.
COVID made this even more true.

While our vehicle break-in was not a fun way to begin our weeks’ vacation, we managed to enjoy our time away, and all stayed COVID free. We were so glad to begin to resume some of a normal lifestyle in June. We began to eat in restaurants as those opened up, yet not at our normal level pre-COVID. We travelled to Georgia the last weekend in June to celebrate with our youngest granddaughter, Virginia, on her 8th birthday.

Our bubble: Mary Grace, Elsie, Bridget, MoMo, and Virginia at The Salty Dog Cafe in Hilton Head.
Our bubble: Mary Grace, Elsie, Bridget, MoMo, and Virginia at The Salty Dog Café in Hilton Head.
Fun times boating in St. Marys, GA the weekend of celebrating Virginia’s 8th birthday.
Fun times boating in St. Marys, GA the weekend of celebrating Virginia’s 8th birthday.

July began with our daughter Tara’s family from Georgia in Raleigh for the 4th of July holiday. We felt very fortunate to be able to be together, while remaining safe from COVID. So many people for various reasons were separated from their loved ones for months, and we (obviously) were not.

A 4th of July family celebration.
COVID gave us the opportunity to do more of this than ever before.
COVID gave us the opportunity to do more of this than ever before.

August found us travelling to Alabama for a very sad gathering, the funeral of a good friend, Jim Townsend, who passed away on August 22nd at 48 years of age after a long and brave battle with cancer. My wonderful friend for fifty-three years, who lost her husband eight years ago and now lost her oldest child, remained steadfast in her faith. I remain in awe of her grace.

Miracles abound, even during the pandemic.
A promise worth believing.
A promise worth believing.

September began with granddaughter Mary Grace coming to Raleigh for a visit for the Labor Day holiday. Mid-month Mike and I went to Key West for our annual vacation and were pleased to find social distancing and masks in full force. We ended the month with a visit to Virginia to celebrate with my uncle for his 90th birthday. Again, although we definitely pushed the envelope with all of our travelling, all of our family remained COVID free, thankfully. Most of our travelling was by car, and when the family was together, we were usually only with those we considered in our bubble.

Key West was serious about social distancing and masks.
Key West was serious about social distancing and masks.
Uncle Barry’s 90th birthday celebration.
Uncle Barry’s 90th birthday celebration.

October was filled with the upcoming U.S. presidential election discussion, disagreement and widening division. Given the increased vitriol, many people just wanted it to be over. The middle of the month we went to Lake Gaston with a group of friends who normally get together in July, which COVID preempted this summer. It rained all weekend, which did not dispel our enjoyment of being together. Mike and I went to Blowing Rock, NC for a few days at the end of the month, arriving home on Halloween to see our grandson, Drew, dressed out.

Walks on the beach centered my soul.
Walks on the beach centered my soul.
Many people threatened this if the outcome of the election did not go their way.
Many people threatened this if the outcome of the election did not go their way.

The outcome of the November 3rd presidential election is still being debated by some, but Joe Biden will be installed as President on January 20, 2021. There is already discussion of Donald Trump running for President in 2024. Thanksgiving 2020 was a quieter event than usual for our family. Usually more than sixty people gather in Raleigh for the holiday, but all agreed that the pandemic precluded that this year. A small group of us gathered for Thanksgiving in Georgia.

The children’s table at Thanksgiving in St. Marys, GA. MoMo is always requested at the children’s table!
The children’s table at Thanksgiving in St. Marys, GA. MoMo is always requested at the children’s table!
Thankful for all of our blessings, even during COVID.
Thankful for all of our blessings, even during COVID.

December 2020 brought family together once again for Christmas. Although experts warned against families gathering, our family came together in Raleigh. We were not unconcerned about the risk in doing so yet chose to be together as safely as we could. While the number of people diagnosed with and many dying from COVID or its complications continued to climb, we stayed safe, and are so grateful for that. If this year has taught us anything, it is that life is fragile, and we should not take it for granted.

Granddaughter Elsie and daughter Tara at Elsie’s soccer tournament in Savannah. GA has had in-person school, sports, and activities since August.
Granddaughter Elsie and daughter Tara at Elsie’s soccer tournament in Savannah. St. Marys, GA has had in-person school, sports, and activities since early August 2020.
Patti and granddaughters Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia at a Christmas luncheon at Raleigh City Club.
Patti and granddaughters Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia at a Christmas luncheon at Raleigh City Club.

Many people are touting 2021, glad to leave 2020 behind, yet not much has changed. While there are two vaccines approved for use in the U.S., vaccines will not be available for widespread use until mid-year. Many parts of our economy are not yet recovering, and some never will.  Many people are struggling financially, and in other ways as well. Weight gain and alcohol sales have increased. Stress is at an all time high.

What will 2021 bring us? Will we be able to leave the pandemic behind, strengthened by the lessons it taught us? Or will we continue to struggle with the unknown, not knowing when things will return to (what many believe will be a new) normal?

The answer will come. But when?           

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The End and Beginning of a Year

Just two more days to go and we will say goodbye to 2020. It has indeed been a difficult year.  2020 will go down in the history books as the year of a worldwide major pandemic, one that caused the deaths of many people. Many families were disrupted, unable to see their loved ones for almost a year. Many businesses closed, never to reopen. Economic conditions for many people have been dire. Food lines were longer, and more people than ever before struggled with poverty.

Yes, 2020 has been a very difficult year. But as I write this, I am aware that we still have much for which to be grateful, especially life. For we should not forget that some we love did not survive this year, and not just from COVID. If we are able to lament the conditions of 2020, we are alive, and have hope for things to improve, while we greive the loss of those who are no longer with us.  

Our family friends Bryan and Jim Townsend, reunited in heaven with the passing of Jim in August, joining his dad Bryan, who left us eight years ago.
Robby Kinney, our son-in-love Stephen’s brother, passed away suddenly in April, reinforcing to us the importance of holding tightly to our loved ones.

With two vaccines being dispensed in the U.S., hope is on the horizon. Predictions are that by mid 2021, many of our current conditions will be greatly improved. While we may have social distancing and masks around well into the new year, gradually our lives will be able to return to a (new) normal. It remains to be seen what we will want to keep from this COVID time, while we gladly shed many of its restrictions.

The COVID Experience recorded by 29 freelancers of the Triangle Association of Freelancers. Available on Amazon.

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one has some people reviewing their progress in the year ending and planning for the new year. While doing so this year with so many unknowns still with us is more difficult, it is still a worthy endeavor.

Lunch at City Club Raleigh with daughter Tara and granddaughters Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia.
Grandson Drew loves dinosaurs, and received at least 30 for Christmas!

Reviewing my blog from this time last year, I have some successes that I can celebrate. A year later, I am still a non-drinker. I have not just kept my weight off that I had lost, but I have lost even more, now at a weight that I plan to sustain. I have had success with these two commitments in spite of this year’s challenges. I am not prideful about these successes, just grateful.  

The table set by 8 year-old granddaughter Virginia. Virginia knows the rules about silverware and napkin placement, and chooses to break them!

Managing my money better in 2020 was also one of my commitments, one with which I did not have as much success. I did have some improvement in this area, but not as much as I planned. COVID gets some of the credit/blame, but my spending habits are really the culprit. I once again plan to improve in this area in 2021.

This year’s family ornament. Only family who sleep over on Christmas Eve are on the ornament.

How has 2020 been for you? If you made some resolutions, in reviewing them, how have you fared? Are you proud of your progress, or did you fail to keep your promises to yourself? Other than the obvious, the pandemic and many overall challenges, what reasons do you have for your progress, or lack of it?

Where do you want your life to be this time next year? It is time to make those decisions and put in motion actions that will help you to be successful. Time is to be treasured, and a year is a long time in one regard, and a short time in another. Once gone, we can no longer recover what that time could have been for us.

Mike and I wish you the happiest of New Years!

Would you not love to have even a few more minutes with your loved ones who are not able to welcome a new year? Sadly, that is not possible; that time is gone. It is possible, however, to spend time with yourself, grateful for the ability to say goodbye to a difficult year, and hello to (hopefully) a year full of promise. Do we not owe that to those we love, both those who have passed and those who are still with us? Time, and life, are to be treasured.

Happy New Year! May 2021 be all that you want it to be.   

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