Hello my lovely readers!
How have you been these last several months? I hope all is well for you this year, and I apologize for losing touch with you. It has been a trying year for me and my creativity and desire to write suffered greatly. I listened to my body and took the break I was needing, but it took me a lot longer than anticipated to feel ready to go again.
How was that for a lead into my year-in review? As you can probably guess from that intro, 2021 hasn’t been my best year. In fact, it’s been the hardest I can remember in a really long time. This was the year that the hits kept coming, piling up one after the other. I would no sooner get out from under one thing than I’d be hit by another. There was a lot of stress in about every area of my life. Of course as with all things in life, there is always some good to be found even in the hardest of times, and I will talk about those things too.
The pandemic lead to another round of SBA PPP lending in my day job, which meant working overtime and struggling to keep up. That came before Spring, and seemed to kick off a string of distressing events that followed over the next few months. During that same time my oldest son turned 16 and started doing the stereotypical adolescent testing of limits and boundaries, which left me exasperated. Parenting is hard work, but it seems to be paying off. He is being more responsible and even has a new job that he is loving. He’s beginning to find his footing in the bumpy road between adolescence and adulthood.
Michael and I met head-on with some challenges in our relationship during the Spring as well, which I’m happy to report that we not only overcame, but grew to be the strongest and healthiest as a couple that we’ve ever been. For all of the struggles of this past year, I can honestly say that I feel blessed in my relationship with him and look forward to each day yet to come.
In the summer of 2020, the SBA department at work underwent a restructure and my job duties changed. I was moved from processing to packaging, which was a lateral move but allowed me to use my strengths in time management and organization. At the first of May 2021, the department restructure at was cancelled and I was abruptly reverted back to processing. Fortunately I enjoyed both packaging and processing so the work itself was fine, it was just another sudden and unexpected change in the midst of so many other things that were happening simultaneously. After a department change and a couple of supervisor changes that followed, I landed in a content and secure place and am rounding out the year happy and settled in my work life.
A string of financial hits also came starting in the Spring (really, the months of March through June were just one big shit-show). I discovered the real value of having “emergency savings”, as it turned out to be needed this year for various unforeseen circumstances. I was grateful to have savings, but also felt the stress of having that savings depleted and having to build it up again. In fact, of everything that happened this year I think the financial stress was the worst. It is mind-boggling how easily money can create stress and anxiety for us. On the other end of this, I was surprised with some unexpected funds later in the year that not only replenished my savings, but set me up for a worry-free future. It felt a little like whiplash after everything that had occurred in the months prior. In the midst of feeling down about all of the hard things this year, I also feel very blessed and fortunate to now have this kind of security.
Michael and I took our first family vacation with all of our boys the first of June, to Savannah, GA. Just before we went, I made a quick decision to trade vehicles. When my aunt passed away, I purchased her 2007 Ford Explorer which was in pristine condition and had third row seats. As well-taken care of as it was, it was still an older vehicle, although low miles (150k) for the year, and issues began to arise. The dome lights would turn themselves on while driving down the road and the only way to get them to turn off was to open and close the door. The actuator in the passenger dash quit working so the air blew hot on that side when the AC was on, and cold when the heat was on – not ideal for a summer vacation trip in the south. Finally, just six weeks or so before the trip, it began to have a slight misfire and was only averaging 14pmg. In all likelihood it was the spark plugs needing a change, but that was enough little headaches for me. I had already put new tires on it, and rather than let it nickle and dime me to death I decided it was time for an upgrade before we traveled cross-country for vacation.
The market for used cars hasn’t been the best this year, although it was better in late April than it is right now. My favorite vehicle I’d ever owned was a Subaru Forester, but my dream car is an Audi Q5. I found a Subaru in my price range first and scheduled a test drive. Then I found an Audi, so I rescheduled the Subaru so I could test drive it first. Then I found out it had already sold, so I moved my appointment back to test drive the Subaru. After this I came across another Audi that was even better than the last one because it was black instead of gray. But I had already moved appointments around so many times that I decided to let it go and just go test drive the Subaru that I already knew I loved.
A couple of weeks after I bought it, I was dropping my boys off with their dad, who knows mechanics. I started the car, then he came around to my window and said “it sounds like you might have an exhaust leak”. After three trips to a muffler shop and mechanics, a Subaru dealer confirmed that it did, in fact, have a cracked header, and that the warranty wasn’t going to cover it. I had a 90 day guaranty from the dealership I bought it from, so I called them. I feel they should have covered the entire cost of the repair, but they instead would only agree to cover half of the cost. Grandpa said I should fight it, but I likely would’ve spent more on court costs than I would to just pay for half of the repair – a repair which cost $3,000.00 because the piece that was cracked included the catalytic converter. This, following the money I put down on the car, and then the surprise at the DMV when I discovered they hadn’t financed the taxes in with the loan so I had to pay an additional $1400 in taxes to get the car licensed. I love my Subaru, but part of me wishes I’d just gone to test drive the Audi!
Around the same time I had the exhaust repair done, I took my dog to the vet for a dental, which took another chunk of my savings. At the beginning of August she was back at the vet because of diarrhea and swelling in her abdomen. She was diagnosed with a strange digestive tract disorder and began treatment. She started doing much better initially, but only 10 days later she took a sudden turn for the worse and I woke on Sunday morning, August 15th, to find she’d passed away during the night. I took her out to the family farm and buried her near my grandpa’s old hunting dog under the white pine.
In early November both of my teenage sons decided to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night – not to do something fun like go to a party, but to walk to the gas station and buy snacks (kids these days). At any rate, I caught them and hauled them back home, then grounded them for the whole month of November. I know most all teenagers do things like that – lord knows I did plenty of it when I was young – but being a single parent, my patience has definitely been tested. I found myself actually preferring the toddler years to the teens!
There were more than enough trials and tribulations over the course of eight months to leave me feeling depleted and defeated. I would do what needed to be done to resolve the issue at hand and could physically move forward, but mentally and emotionally, it took its toll. I started feeling depressed by mid-summer, and while things were going well aside from one major head-butting with my youngest teen who resisted going to a church retreat in July that was required for his confirmation, I was in a great place for a little while. Regardless of this, I just couldn’t seem to get my mood to match my circumstances. When you’ve had a history with depression, it’s somewhat easy for it to return when the situation allows. And overcoming it is hard work.
I’ve been through it before and knew what I needed to do, but the continued challenges and misfortunes, which thankfully slowed in frequency after June, brought with them some recovery setbacks. I allowed myself the time and grace to feel my way through it. I spent a lot of time alone, with no desire to do anything but get lost in my favorite shows. I didn’t feel guilty for it, nor did I judge myself for it. I just gave myself a designated amount of time to do this. When time was up, I wasn’t feeling any better off, so it was time to push through the resistance and force myself back into a healthy routine. Structuring my days, organizing my environment, exercising, eating healthy, going to mass and singing in the choir, and pushing myself to get out and do the things that I enjoy.
It was a struggle for a little while, but finally something shifted. My energy has returned, I feel joy in the things that I’m doing, and I’m looking forward to fun things again instead of dreading them. I’m back to feeling creative and have taken some food photos in the last few days to share to Instagram. And as you can see, my desire to write has returned as well. I took full pleasure in this past weekend’s self care Sunday (something I’ve started doing this year that I will share more about in upcoming posts), and am ready to start thinking about the new year ahead. Never have I felt more ready for a fresh season of my life.
I’ve overcome hard times, I’ve snuffed out depression for what certainly wasn’t the first time in my life, and I can look back on this year with a sense of accomplishment in the end. I’m excited about life, and I can’t wait to share more with you as I move into what is next. So now let me say thank you. Thank you for reading this far, thank you for following along with me, and thank you for your continued support even in my lengthy absence. It means the world to me to have this outlet, and I appreciate you coming along for the ride.
I wish you all the best in this holiday season, and I look forward to sharing with you the new year that lies ahead.
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