Year In Review: Highlights (and Lowlights) From 2020

Well, friends. It’s officially 2021!!!

No, the world didn’t suddenly return to “normal” overnight, but I am so happy that 2020 is now officially in the rear view mirror. It is a year I do not care to repeat for so many reasons.

In fact, I have so much pain and sadness and confusion and disappointment associated with 2020 that I came this close to not even posting a Year In Review at all.

But there were also unexpected blessings and precious moments that I’ll treasure, and I can’t imagine NOT doing this post, so here we are.

2020 Year In Review

January

January started off with a bang. There was so much going on, and I had such high hopes for 2020. Oh, the irony…

I started intermittent fasting in January, and that’s been a game changer for me.

On the blog, I did a 5 Ways to Wear a Grey Sweater series, which was very popular. I’m thinking of doing a similar one with a camel sweater this year.

Jo-Lynne Shane shares 5 ways to wear a classic grey sweater for women over 40, with other wardrobe basics for a variety of fall/winter outfits you can recreate from your own closet!

I also had my eyebrows microbladed in January, which is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

Here’s a before and after picture of my first session. You’re supposed to go back six weeks later for a touchup, but I didn’t make it back until June! #thankscovid

We also started our kitchen makeover project last January. It’s hard to even remember how this space looked before… Here’s a picture I took the day we closed on the house.

Paul and I saw Phil Phillips in concert at the end of January, and that was so much fun. He puts on a good show.

And Caroline finally got her driver’s license. (On her third try, poor kid! That parallel parking got her every time.)

February

February was a little more ho-hum. I finally got around to addressing the hip/bum pain I’d been having for a while.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t able to run and work out like I’m used to, and that was a bit of a bummer, but I used the opportunity to take up yoga. I’d like to get back to that this month.

On the blog, I did a series on 5 Ways to Wear Black Cigarette Pants, and I also teamed up with Tania and Deborah for a Valentine’s Day Style Collab.

March

And then there was March, when terms like “social distancing” and “shelter in place” became household lingo and #stayhome was a trending hashtag.

Here in the Philly area, we went into lockdown on Friday, March 13th. I got the news as I was driving to pick up Becca from an after-school jazz band rehearsal that Thursday afternoon.

They waited to make the announcement until after schools let out, and they didn’t give the kids (or parents) so much as a warning. I had a feeling it was coming, so I had warned Becca, but the lack of closure was disconcerting, and she struggled with that for the rest of the school year.

David was home from his sophomore year of college on Spring Break when everything shut down, and he never went back to his apartment after that. His room down there is still sitting empty to this day.

Caroline was the least affected of my kids since she already does online schooling, but even her cyber charter school was affected by the lockdown. The staff and teachers operate out of a brick and mortar building, so they had to shut down for a time, but they were able to get things back on track and continue teaching from home fairly quickly.

Meanwhile, she did a lot of baking and taught herself to make sourdough bread. A good friend of ours surprised her one afternoon by dropping off a 25-pound bag of flour when it was so hard to come by.

Of all the kids, I think Becca struggled the most. She missed out on so many 8th grade end of year activities and middle school rites of passage, including a trip to Quebec with her French class that had been planned for June.

But David struggled too, in his own quiet way. His newfound freedom (living in an off-campus apartment) was pulled out from under him, and a job he had lined up was also canceled.

As for Paul and me, our jobs continued on, but there was definitely a period of uncertainty as we waited to see how things would play out. He set up an office in the basement, and of course, I already have a beautiful office setup here at home.

Due to the nature of my blog, I was able to pivot pretty quickly. My content suddenly became centered around Social Distancing Outfits, What to Wear for Video Conferences, and Work At Home Tips.

We also wrapped up the kitchen makeover in March. That was a huge blessing because we could have gotten stuck with it partially finished during the lockdown.

Kitchen Makeover: quartzite counters, subway tile backsplash, painted cabinets, new appliances

April

April is when we got word that PA schools would be closed for in-person instruction for the rest of the school year.

That was also the month that Becca’s June Quebec trip got canceled, we canceled our Easter weekend family vacation at a resort on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and Paul and I rescheduled our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Paris for May 2021…but I’m not holding my breath for that happening.

To give us a happy distraction, we decided to get ourselves a pandemic puppy. Becca had been begging for a second dog for a long time, and this seemed like as good a time as any.

Ozzy was supposed to be a bright spot in this crazy Covid year, and we didn’t know it at the time, but our puppy venture would become one of the most heartbreaking aspects of 2020.

May

In May, some states started opening up, but we remained on strict lockdown here in Pennsylvania. I watched from afar and waited anxiously for our restaurants, salons, and retail stores to reopen.

The weather finally got nicer, and we were able to enjoy our backyard, which helped us power through. I’m so thankful for this space.

The Front Porch Project became a thing during quarantine, and Alison took a picture for us to commemorate this insane year… not that we will ever forget it!

(And no, David did not lose his legs… it was an unfortunate oversight that he was kneeling behind us, not sitting with us on the step.)

We celebrated Mother’s Day here at home (of course) and I managed to corral the kids for a picture.

By this time, I knew things weren’t looking good for us being able to keep Ozzy. I talked to both my family doctor and an allergist and was trying out several medicines to control my asthma, but I was still having issues, and the side effects of the meds were almost as bad as my allergy symptoms.

I didn’t see any way we could manage to keep Ozzy without sacrificing my health and quality of life, but I didn’t feel like talking about it publicly yet, and even the kids were still in denial at that point, so I held it all inside.

I remember being so sad on Mother’s Day as I sat on the deck sipping my wine while the girls made chalk drawings by the pool with their dogs resting beside them… It was a rare moment when they coexisted without fighting. (The dogs, not the girls… well, both, actually!)

And if that wasn’t enough stress and sadness, Paul’s father was sick (not Covid-related) and declining rapidly. He passed away the Friday after Mother’s Day.

We couldn’t have a proper service for him at the time, and it was all very unfortunate with the way the timing worked out. I wrote more about it here.

And then the next weekend is when we decided to rehome Ozzy. I wrote about that here.

I took this picture the morning I told Becca that I’d found him a new home. The grief and sadness in this picture is almost palpable, isn’t it?

Telling her she had to part with her dog shattered my heart into bits and pieces, and I still can’t think about it without choking back tears. In fact, if I’m being totally transparent, I just sat here and had a good cry.

I do want to add, though, that she took it like a champ. She was devastated, but she never once got upset or blamed me. Of course, I’ve beaten myself up enough for both of us.

I realize there are many things more devastating than losing a pet, but the way it happened and the timing of it all just added insult to injury in a very trying year.

Meanwhile, the show must go on, and I kept working and pumping out blog posts through it all. That was actually a much-needed diversion.

June

Cyndi and I decided to bring back 22 Days of Summer Fashion in June, and you guys were thrilled. We were all seeking some kind of normalcy in all of the chaos around us, I think.

We were starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, as Covid numbers were falling and more and more states were starting to open up… ours included.

The kids all finished up their respective school years, and we started making plans with small groups of friends outside, as soon as our Stay Home orders were lifted.

But our country was going through a lot of turmoil due to the murder of George Floyd and other current events. It was, well, a lot. Social media was a rough place to be. I wrote more about that here.

In light of all that, it was a relief to be doing 22 Days of Summer Fashion. Outfits posts are the easiest posts to create, and I welcomed the busy work at that point.

I spent most of June trying to spend as little time as possible online, and as much time as I could outside. I was definitely in the pool more last summer than the previous two combined.

I was also able to make some long overdue appointments, as our governor moved us into the Green phase at the end of the month. I have never been so happy to get a mani/pedi in my life!

And I took Becca to visit Ozzy in his new home. He crawled right up into her lap like he always had. Even though it broke my heart to watch, I think she was comforted to know he remembered her.

We’ve visited him several times since, and it gets easier every time. Seeing him happy and thriving there is a balm to our wounded hearts. We still miss him and wish it had worked out differently, but we can look back at pictures and videos of him when he was with us, and laugh and rehash those days.

July

I turned 48 in July. Our restaurants had recently opened up for outdoor dining, so we went out to eat with some of our best friends. I even got a picture to commemorate the occasion.

And the next night, we hosted a July 4th cookout. That was so much fun.

It’s weird to look back on those social gatherings now. We’ve been back on a semi-lockdown again for the past few weeks, and our weather prohibits most outdoor gatherings, but I’m glad we got a little reprieve there for a while.

The other major event that happened in July was the passing of my grandfather. He was 103, and while it was not unexpected, the timing just really stunk. Much like Paul’s dad, he lived a long, full life and had lots of friends. He would have had a large service, and it would have been really cool to witness that.

And then on the other hand, sometimes I think the small family funeral we had instead was so appropriate. He lived a quiet life, and his family was always his #1 priority. The people who really mattered to him were there, and were able to be together, and that’s what counts.

(I decided not to attend, worried about travel and Covid and all that jazz. But I watched the livestream on YouTube, and it definitely helped me feel a part of things.)

August

August brought with it the iconic Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, although in true 2020 fashion, we had a freak summer storm sweep through the area the day before, and we ended up without electricity.

At least our malls were open, and while the shopping experience was different with masks and social distancing, I was able to share it with my girls, which was fun. I thought for sure I had a selfie of the three of us, but I can’t find it.

Paul and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on August 5th with a nice dinner at a French bistro — a sorry excuse for the Paris trip we had to cancel back in May, but we decided to count our blessings and enjoy being healthy and together… and able to dine out again!

Also in August, Becca got her braces off and started high school marching band camp. She was beyond thrilled with both developments.

Staying true to 2020, I posted 10 Ways to Wear Joggers in addition to all my #NSale content.

10 Stylish Ways to Wear Joggers for Fall

September

In September, Cindy and I partnered up again for 22 Days of Fall Fashion.

And the kids all went back to school… remotely, of course.

Becca was getting really sick of being at home, so we took her into Philly one Saturday in October to see the sights, and that was fun. (The older two declined to come.)

At the end of September, we finally had the memorial service for Paul’s dad. It was small, and we had to wear masks, which was so weird at a funeral, but it was good to be together. It was well past time for the closure the service provided.

October

Becca turned 15 in October, and her present was to go shopping with a friend and get a 2nd ear piercing.

And we were finally allowed to see a couple of her marching band performances, once our governor expanded the number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings.

Also in October, I started really running again — with no walking intervals. There was a time when I didn’t know if I would ever be able to run again, and I’m so happy to be back out there!

But we also got word that David’s spring semester would be all remote, so that put a damper on things. I encouraged him to take some time off and work instead, and go back to college whenever in-person classes resume, but he’s decided to keep plugging along with the remote learning.

In fact, he also told us he plans to continue living at home and commute for his senior year, assuming they are having in-person classes next fall. (We would have had to renew his apartment in November, had he decided to live there for his senior year.)

That’s not what I pictured when we moved him into his dorm as a freshman. I wanted him to have the full college experience away from home, even if though he chose one that isn’t very far away, but I guess that wasn’t meant to be. I’m learning that there’s only so much I can control as a parent, and if that’s what he wants to do, so be it.

As far as the blog goes, my work really started ramping up in October. Even though 22 Days of Fall Fashion was over, I still posted a lot of fall outfits.

Luxe Meets Sporty: A Casual Monochromatic Outfit for Fall

The general theme was casual, layered looks for outdoor dining and other socially-distanced activities. This monochromatic outfit is one of my favorites.

And I got the memo that a lot of you wanted to start your holiday shopping early, so I started rolling out my 2020 Holiday Gift Guides.

November

David turned 21 in November, and my parents came for a visit. It was so good to see them!

Also in November, Caroline and I took a trip to Boston for a college visit at my alma mater. She got an email a few weeks later that she was accepted!

And later in the month, we celebrated Thanksgiving quietly at home.

On Black Friday, the girls got up early and went shopping with friends, and then we went to a local tree farm to get our tree.

The next day, we visited Paul’s mom and helped her set up her Christmas tree, and that was a nice time. I got some good pictures of Paul and the kids with her, looking through some of the ornaments my father-in-law made through the years.

December

Ahhhh, December, it was so good to see you!!!

Paul got a backgammon tournament going this month between him, David, and Becca. They play almost every night, and it has become quite the competition. I love how it gets David out of his room and brings everyone together.

And we didn’t get the white Christmas we were hoping for, but we did get one good snowfall earlier in the month, so that was fun.

Our holiday celebrations were small and quiet this year, and the kids struggled with that a bit, but I was perfectly happy with this laid-back holiday season. I am busy enough with the blog and trying to play Santa to my own crew, and I kind of enjoyed not having any hosting gigs or parties to dress for.

To be honest, I’m just over 2020 and wanted to see it come to an end as quickly and uneventfully as possible.

Holiday looks and winter sales dominated my blog content. This post was my favorite… maybe of the whole year. I just love how these photos turned out.

And because 2020 is the year that keeps on giving, two people who at one point in our lives were close friends passed away this past week — one due to Covid, and the other after a long battle with cancer. I haven’t even fully processed that yet.

Meanwhile, we celebrated Caroline’s 18th birthday Christmas Eve with sushi takeout and a movie… and chocolate cake, of course! As you can see, I’m not much of a cake decorator, but it sure does taste good.

And we had our usual quiet Christmas morning celebration with cinnamon rolls for breakfast and presents afterwards.

(David is doing this new thing where he won’t smile for pictures… I swear, he is not as sassy as he looks.)

We had a steak dinner later on that day, and we were able to see Paul’s mom, which was really nice. She and David played double solitaire, and Caroline showed off her knitting (a new skill she has taught herself — I’ll have to get a picture of the cardigan she made!)

And then we rung in the New Year last night at about 9PM with chocolate fondue and champagne. We watched some of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve before giving up on that and going to bed.

I don’t have any pictures of last night worth sharing here, but there are a few I can put in our family photo book whenever I get around to making that. (I do one every year.) I usually like to start that on New Year’s Day, but we’ll see if that happens today…

So yeah, that’s that! Today we get to officially say buh-bye to 2020! For such an arduous year, I have to say, it kind of flew.

2020 Reflections

I’ll just put this right out here. When people talk about how 2020 gave them time to slow down and focus more on family and reflect on what’s most important, I simply cannot relate.

It’s been a whirlwind for me, quite frankly, but I’m not complaining. I think I would have gone stark raving mad if I’d been bored in addition to the losses and disappointments of this past year.

But I have to admit, right now, I am tired. Like, really tired.

I get plenty of sleep, it’s not that kind of tired. But I am mentally drained and emotionally spent.

I was doing my devotions this morning, and this verse from Isaiah really hit me:

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and today I handed over all the stress and disappointment and pain of this year to the only One who can give us true peace and joy.

I’m certainly hoping for a better and brighter 2021, but there are no guarantees in this life, so no matter what this year brings, I am putting my trust in His words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And finally, if you made it to the end of this post, thank you! Thank you for your comments and encouragement during this trying year, and just for being here and reading along. You are appreciated more than you know.