Monthly Goals for January

Happy 2021! It’s the first day of a brand new year, and I dearly love a fresh start. To kick off the new year, I’m making my goal list for the month of January.

Stick to my calorie count goal six days a week. This gives me one day where I can have a higher-calorie meal, but also gives me motivation to start working to building healthier habits. At the end of the day, losing or maintaining weight is all about calories in/calories out, so tracking my food every day will help me to be more cognizant of what I’m eating.

Weigh myself every day. I know some people think that this is a destructive habit, but for me it’s useful. I love data and I think it’s super interesting to see how different meals impact what I weigh the next day. And I won’t be hyper-focused on the day-to-day changes, but the changes from one month to the next.

Drink more water. I always have a 20-ounce tumbler of water next to my bed so I can drink water first thing in the morning, and my goal is to fill up my 32-ounce Hydroflask while I make my breakfast in the mornings so I can drink it throughout the day.

No alcohol. Bill and I have committed to participating in Dry January with some friends, and I think after the holidays the break from drinks will be a welcome one.

Average 7,500 steps/day each week. I’m putting this as an average daily number each week because while I love getting out and taking walks, I also know that January tends to be very cold and rainy and there will be days where the weather is just too gross to venture out.

Resolutions for 2021

Today is the last day of 2020.

At times (mostly in March, which felt like it lasted a whole year on its own), it felt like this year would never be over. And now, here we are at last, about to bid adieu to 2020. Although the beginning of a new year will certainly not set everything right again in the world, I am hopeful that having a new president here in the U.S. and the growing availability of a COVID-19 vaccine will move us in the right direction.

I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions last year and I’m seriously glad I didn’t, because it helped me give myself grace to just do the best I could to get through the more challenging parts of this year. I’ve decided that I’d like to make some this year, though. I recognize that they are cliché, but I’ve always enjoyed making New Year’s resolutions in the past and I think they’re a good excuse to set some goals to focus on. And, it’ll be interesting to look back on them at the end of 2021 to see how far I’ve come!

Set monthly goals. I think the first step to long-term accomplishments is to start with smaller goals, so I am resolving to start each month setting goals for myself to achieve that will get me to my overall goals for the year. Tomorrow I’ll post my goals for January.

Continue my good fitness habits. For most of 2020, I did strength-training workouts four days a week and walked anywhere from five to seven days a week. I’m planning to start 2021 by committing to continue this trend, and I have my work calendar blocked for a lunchtime walk every day to help me stay motivated to do it.

Make better eating habits. Although I made strides in improving my health by being active in 2020, I didn’t do a good job of eating healthy with any consistency. I really want to do better in the new year. By the end of 2021 I’d like to be able to say confidently that splurges are a treat and not a routine, and that I eat healthily more often than not.

Make daily entries in my gratitude journal. For the last few years I’ve kept notebooks and jotted down a few things each day that I’m grateful for, and while I’m fairly consistent about doing it I’d like to make it a daily habit in 2021.

Read two books each month. I used to be such an avid reader, but now I find myself just wasting a lot of time scrolling social media when I could be enjoying a good book. At one point I was reading a book a week! I’m hoping this goal will get me reading more and hopefully will also inspire me to write more.

Be kind to myself. Nobody ever accomplished goals because they were being mean to themselves and so I want to work really hard on not thinking negative things about myself and to instead show myself love and grace while I work to improve things I know I can do better.

Here’s to 2021! We made it!

10 Good Things in 2020

This week we will be saying a very gleeful good-bye to 2020, which I think most people can agree was NOT the best year ever by a long shot. And even though there was a lot that made me sad and broke my heart this year, there was also a lot to be grateful for, and good lessons to be learned. So in that spirit, I decided to make a list of 10 good things that happened to me in 2020, so I can close the door on this year with positive reflection.

I got to spend the last six months of Oliver’s life working from home and seeing him more. Prior to 2020, I commuted for hours each week in horrible traffic and my workdays were long. But in 2020, I worked from home exclusively beginning in March and that has allowed me to spend a lot more time with my sweet kitties. Although losing Oliver was by far the worst thing that happened to me this year, getting all that extra time with him when I otherwise would have been at the office meant SO much to me. I think he loved having Bill and I around more and the memories we made with him this year bring me so much comfort.

I practiced gratitude. In the early days of the pandemic and as it has worn on, it’s easy to focus on all the things we’ve been forced to give up, but I choose instead to look at how much I still have. I deeply miss spending time with friends and family, but we’ve found many creative ways to see each other either in socially distanced ways or virtually. I feel such a deep appreciation for all of the blessings in my life and I make a point to spend time every day just to reflect on those things.

I reassessed my priorities. Although I loved my life prior to this year, I admit that the day-to-day was busy, exhausting, and relentless. Being forced to stay home made me realize exactly what things bring me the greatest happiness, and what things were really just clutter that didn’t especially add to my life. Even when things do go more “back to normal”, who I am and what I make time for will be different.

I got to enjoy my home more. Bill and I bought our condo in 2018 and I’ve probably spent more hours here this year than we did in the first two years combined. It’s been an adjustment having our home also serve as our gym and our office space, but we’re making it work, and I am extremely grateful for this place.

I improved my financial health. Having more time on my hands gave me an opportunity to assess our monthly bills and to restructure them, including refinancing our mortgage to get a lower interest rate and save a ton of money per month. I also paid off my credit card and car and am debt-free (minus the mortgage, of course) for the first time in my adult life. Paying off debt was a huge accomplishment for me and it gives me so much peace of mind to finally be out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. My goal going forward is to set a little money aside every month, so that by the time I need a new car I can either pay cash for it or put down a big down payment.

I stuck to a workout routine and got stronger. When our gym closed, Bill and I knew that we couldn’t just sit around or our mental and physical health would decline rapidly. We committed to getting up before work and exercising four mornings a week (on Fridays we get up and do our housework so that the house is clean going into the weekend). We also made a habit of taking daily walks – we started off going after work, then switched to lunchtime walks as the days got shorter and colder. Although it hasn’t been a perfect practice, we’ve been extremely consistent and I’m really proud of us. I feel stronger and healthier because of our efforts and I’m excited to continue our routine in 2021.

I became less high-maintenance. I was one of those people who wouldn’t leave my house without my hair and makeup done, and for work I would usually have on a dress or a nice sweater and slacks for the office. Now I have my “nice” leggings that I wear as part of my workday outfits, and I’ve only worn makeup a handful of times since March so my skin is better. My hair is longer, healthier and shinier because I rarely heat-style it anymore. There are definitely days where I feel plain but for the most part it’s nice to have a simpler routine.

I got to eat In N Out for the first time in years. Bored and needing something pandemic-friendly to do, Bill and I drove to Oregon in November, waited in the drive thru line, and thoroughly enjoyed a lunch of In N Out Burger while sitting in our car in a Target parking lot. It may seem silly to drive four hours each way for a fast food burger, but I’m still a SoCal girl at heart and wow did it taste good!

I discovered a love of cooking and made new dishes I was really proud of. Growing up, my mom did teach me the basics of cooking, but she didn’t really enjoy it the way she did baking and our family wasn’t particularly adventurous when it came to food, so cooking was more a chore so you didn’t starve than a fun activity. When I got older and did find a love of trying new foods, I still wasn’t inspired to try and learn to cook things (in part because my boyfriend at the time, who was quite talented at cooking, was also quite talented at being unsupportive and was very critical of my efforts when I tried to make anything, so I learned quickly not to bother). Although I have since discovered that I’m not actually a lousy cook and taught myself some basics, this year was the first one in which I really found how much joy I get in making a nice meal. My friend Jeanette got me a really nice cookbook for Christmas and I’m already bookmarking the recipes I want to try first.

I got to see beautiful new places in Washington. Bill and I love to travel and were a little sad that we couldn’t take any vacations this year, but we made the best of it by planning and taking day trips in the car. We spent time on the Olympic Peninsula, drove up north for a picnic lunch overlooking the very beautiful Diablo Lake, and saw the abandoned Vance Creek Bridge (to name a few highlights).

Quarantine 2020 Pt. 2

We’re back on lockdown here in Washington state, with numbers of COVID cases climbing higher than they ever were last spring. It seems like the shutdown won’t be as bad this time;  a lot of businesses that were closed altogether last spring are allowed to remain open at 25% capacity, and a lot of places are already set up to offer curbside pickup and alternative purchasing options. But it’s still a tough hit to places like restaurants that can only be open for outdoor dining and takeout, and gyms and movie theaters that can’t be open at all. It makes me worry for my friends who are back on unemployment again, and it makes me worry for all of the places we love that were already struggling this year. And although right now the lockdown is only supposed to last until December 14th, if a lot of people go against guidelines and have big family gatherings for Thanksgiving and the number of COVID cases doesn’t drop, I don’t feel confident at all that the date won’t be extended out.

I see people on social media saying that the lockdowns shouldn’t be happening because they hurt small businesses. Others counter that without the lockdowns we won’t be able to stop the spread of the virus. To me, it seems like we’re in a position where the lockdowns really are necessary, but I can’t help but feel resentful toward the people who resist wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines because I feel strongly that we wouldn’t be in this position now if everyone had taken recommended precautions. I also am aware of the reality that there are a lot of businesses that barely survived the first round of quarantine that may not be able to make it through this one, and that people who are back on unemployment are struggling both financially and emotionally. We’re in a tough spot with no easy answers…and it didn’t have to be this way.

I’ve been feeling beyond burned out and, pandemic aside, part of that I’m sure is because Bill and I haven’t had a full week off since August 2019. Since then, we’ve taken some long weekends but not a full week of vacation time. When we first started working from home last March, we delayed taking much time off because at the time we didn’t realize just how long life would be different due to the pandemic. Now we know that we won’t be traveling anywhere too far from home anytime soon, and the latest update we have from work is that we won’t be returning to the office until at least the end of June. And so, we decided to take next week off even though we can’t really go anywhere. I want to get started on my Christmas shopping, as I have vowed I’m spending money locally this year and not on Amazon, and we have some house projects we’d like to do. I’m hoping the time off helps us to feel refreshed.

I’m trying to hold on to hope. Hope for a COVID vaccine and a return to something resembling normal life, hope that our new US president will restore empathy and rationality to the country, hope that this is as bad as it gets.

Grief

It’s been two weeks since we lost Oliver. It’s been a really difficult two weeks of missing my boy and just feeling absolutely heartbroken that he’s gone. I cry less than I did that first week, but I feel sad a lot and everything seems just so difficult to do. On the outside, I think it looks like I’m doing reasonably well – I’m getting up for work, showering, doing normal tasks. It just feels like I’m doing all of it from underwater.
What I really wanted was just to take some time to gather myself and get my head in a better place, but my job has been so busy that I wasn’t even able to take the day after we lost Oliver off from work. Every time I try and schedule any time, something happens and some deadline requires that I work it. I took the Friday off before Labor Day weekend to give myself a nice four-day weekend…and ended up working part of Saturday and Sunday. I’m beyond burned out and there’s nothing I can do about it right now. I try to look on the bright side, that I’m beyond fortunate to have a job right now and at least work is a distraction…but I feel like it’s taking a lot more effort than usual to be present and none of the quality of my work is as high as I’d like it to be. I guess I’m doing well enough, because no one I work with has seemed to notice.
I’m trying to do things that make me happy. Bill and I have resumed our morning workouts (we had taken a brief hiatus while Oliver was sick because I wasn’t sleeping much at all), and it does feel good to accomplish something at the beginning of the day. I find so much comfort in our other kitties, Saturday and Ernie. Their sweet, affectionate, and silly selves never fail to make me smile and I think they are truly the best part of me. Our friends have been beyond wonderful to us and we received thoughtful flowers and well-wishes, and a couple we’re close with even threw us a celebration of life party (just the four of us), complete with a specially-crafted menu of gin drinks because we decided that if Oliver were human he would be a gin drinker. The last two weeks have been filled with very nice times, and I do feel loved and very thankful for the wonderful people in our lives.
Last week Oliver’s ashes came back, along with an imprint of his paw in clay and a lock of his fur. Whoever clipped it even made sure to get both orange and white fur, an attention to detail that I thought was really nice. When I tried to pay the final bill, I learned that my vet had covered everything – the euthanasia, the cremation, all of it. I am beyond touched that he would do something so nice for us and so, so appreciative that when we had to go through this hard time that we had such an amazing vet and vet tech by our side through every step. Dr. Chris and Jill, you are the best. Just absolutely the best.
Grief is a funny thing and I know this, some days I feel more like myself and others I spend most of the day hurting. I try and focus on all that I have and not on the kitty I’ve lost, including the memories of him that I will have forever.
 

Oliver

On a sunny Sunday in May 2006, I drove to the animal shelter “just to look”. I was newly single and had just transferred from my old 411 operator job to working in the sales and billing call center of the phone company, and with that job came a bunch of overtime hours that I was grateful for because I needed the money but that left my Siamese, Angel, alone for 10+ hours every day while I was at work. I had convinced myself that in order for this new lifestyle to work out, Angel would need a new friend.
Of course I didn’t “just look”; I adopted a spunky little orange kitten that I knew the minute I laid eyes on that I had to have in my life and that I would name Oliver after the Disney movie Oliver and Company. He was just too cute. He would eventually grow into his ears but at that stage he definitely hadn’t yet and he looked a little bit like baby Yoda.

Angel was not even a little pleased at the new arrival and made her introductions to her new brother by biting his neck and trying to carry him around. For the first few weeks that Oliver lived with us, I had to separate them when I went to work so that I didn’t worry that she’d hurt him. Luckily things got easier as we adjusted to being a family of three, although Oliver proved to be a very mischievous little kitten. He liked to jump up on my kitchen counters and then get behind the stove. This was problematic because once he got back there he couldn’t get out, and I had to stretch out across the stovetop, stretching my arm as much as I could to try and reach him, all the while thinking that maybe this time he’d learn it was a bad idea to go back there but at the same time knowing he probably would learn nothing at all. I was relieved when he finally got big enough that he couldn’t fit back there anymore.

Oliver kept me on my toes for sure. Once he was too big to get behind the stove, he would amuse himself by opening the bottom cupboard door to my pantry and chewing a hole into the bag of cat food so that he could help himself to snacks, and getting up on the table and grabbing the dining room light fixture and ultimately pulling it out of the ceiling one night while I was at my parents’ house for my mom’s birthday celebration. He was awfully lucky he was so cute and that I loved him, because more than once his hijinks had me in tears. But looking back, I know that part of the problem was that I had never had a kitten before and didn’t know what kinds of toys and puzzles and things to give him so that he could channel his energy in ways that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. He was a very loving little guy and was super patient with me, even when I didn’t feel patient with him. I would affectionally call him my handsome lil’ man, even as he grew up and at one point was over 20 pounds.
Oliver had a lot of personality and he was very sure of himself and what he wanted. He was very talkative and would wake me up in the morning with his meows for his breakfast. Whenever I left the house, I knew that when I returned he’d come marching to the front door to tell me hello and receive pets (and, if he had his way, food). He loved napping in the sun and when I started working from home I learned that he had a routine of going into our room mid-day because that was when a sunbeam shone through the skylight in our bathroom onto the bedroom carpet. He knew exactly what time of day the sunbeam could be expected, and on cloudy days he would yell at the floor because he wanted his sunshine. When Bill and I started working out in the mornings, Oliver would march over to Bill and wait expectantly to be placed at the top of the cat tree so that he could get some morning light and snooze while we exercised.
My orange boy’s best friend was our Maine Coon, Saturday. I have countless pictures on my phone of the two of them snuggled up together, fast asleep. Earlier this year I got into the habit of letting them have a paper grocery bag to play in, and once they had had their fun of hiding in the bag they would squish it down flat and nap on it. I can’t say I understand the appeal of sleeping on a paper bag, but Oliver and Saturday believed it was one of the best places ever to nap.
Last year, while Bill and I were on vacation in Chicago, Oliver suffered what our friend and pet-sitter initially thought was a stroke but turned out to be vestibular disease. We rushed home to be with our boy at the emergency vet, scared that he wouldn’t even know who we were. But the minute he saw us he began talking to us. The first few days of his recovery were really hard; he was incredibly dizzy and couldn’t stand or walk on his own, so we would hold him up while he ate, drank, and used the litter box. I slept on the couch next to him each night so that he could wake me if he needed to get up. We weren’t sure that he would ever get well again, but slowly the dizziness subsided and he began to be able to do things on his own again. The vestibular disease left him with a permanent head tilt and his balance was never quite as good again, but every time he relearned to do something we were overjoyed. He was so brave and determined through the whole ordeal. Slowly he started being able to get up on the couch by himself, and he began to play again. As he continued to get better it was such a joy seeing him loving life and doing all the things he loved again.
Over the last year, Oliver’s health declined and particularly in the last couple of weeks he definitely wasn’t feeling well anymore. He spent most of the last week under my desk in my room, where he could be by my side while I worked and could see me when I was in bed at night. He would get up briefly to have a little bit of food and some water, but his energy was gone and he would go right back under the desk afterwards. I moved his little bed under the desk with his favorite blankets, his special little pillow, and the stuffed squirrel that was his favorite toy.
On Tuesday we made the very difficult decision to say goodbye to Oliver. We took all of his favorite things with us when we loaded him up to take him to the vet for the last time. His last few moments were peaceful and warm, as I snuggled him and told him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him.
Since Oliver died I’ve been so heartbroken. I miss my lil man desperately and I hate it that he’s gone. I know time heals all but right now I can’t make it through the day without crying, without thinking I see him lying in the hallway before remembering that I will never see him again.
I want to remember the happy times I had with my first boy, and the times that certainly weren’t funny to me fourteen years ago but make me laugh now. Oh how I loved my Oliver, my lil man, my orange squish. He changed me forever in the very best of ways.

You and me together we’ll be
Forever you’ll see
We two can be good company
You and me
Yes, together we two
Together, that’s you
Forever with me
We’ll always be good company
You and me
Yes, together we’ll be
You and me
Together we’ll be
Forever, you’ll see
We’ll always be good company
You and me
Just wait and see

 

Struggling

Despite intending to, I haven’t been doing much writing lately. At the beginning of the pandemic the world felt very chaotic, but I was doing okay. I was (and still am) grateful for my safe home to quarantine in, and my ability to work from home exclusively until things were calmer. I was settling into a new routine and things felt like they were reasonably under control.
Since George Floyd was killed in May, I’ve felt a lot less like things are reasonably under control. The US has broken out into the most intense social unrest that I can remember, and with the presidential election just six weeks away I feel like no matter what the results are that things are going to get immediately worse here. I’ve tried to do my part to learn and listen, and I feel like I have a better understanding than I ever did of systematic racism and just how much it plays a part in every aspect of daily life, from its implications in healthcare to education to housing. It feels like no amount of reform will fix an entire society built on a foundation of inequality, but how do we tear it all down and start over? The enormity of it overwhelms me. I realize now that I was able to grow up blissfully ignorant of all of this because I am white and I’m struggling with this knowledge and upset that those in charge of educating me participated in such blatant whitewashing (whether they knew they were doing it or not). I’ve tried to do my part by donating to organizations that are working to help and by speaking up, which has brought me closer to some people and pushed me farther apart from others.
I’ve lost a lovely friend I met at Zumba class to cancer, and former coworkers to COVID and to suicide. There were no funerals for them because of the pandemic and even though attending a funeral is not high on the list of things I would ever say I “want” to do it would have been nice to be able to say goodbye to them among other friends and loved ones.
I worry about people I love whose mental health is suffering from all that has happened so far this year, while I can feel my own declining as the months pass. I don’t exactly know what to do about it. I try not to vent too much or complain too much because honestly, I know how lucky I am to be in the position I am in and so many have it far worse than I do, so what am I feeling so low about? I I know all of the tricks and tools to work through anxiety, it’s just hard when it feels like I can’t even take a breath before the next crazy thing happens.
For most of last week we were shut in our house with the windows closed because of the wildfires raging across most of the west coast. Not being able to go outside or breathe fresh air was very draining to me. I went to bed a couple of nights ago and as I was trying to fall asleep I found myself abruptly feeling incredibly angry. Nothing provoked it, I was just lying in my bed, but I suddenly felt enraged and I had no idea why which just added confusion to the anger. And below all of it was guilt for being so upset when in truth I was so fortunate that I was safe and that no fires were threatening my home. It could be so much worse….but of course, that doesn’t mean it’s good.
Our oldest cat, Oliver, is having health issues again and it makes me so sad. My sassy orange kitty, who once weighed upwards of twenty pounds with an attitude roughly the same size as his body, is as feisty as ever but continues to decline physically. He is barely ten pounds and is skin and bones. He had his teeth cleaned last week and the vet expressed concerns to me about how frail Oliver looks these days. We do blood work which keeps coming back relatively normal and we have no real answers about what’s causing his weight loss but if he continues to decline I worry that we won’t have him that much longer. He’s fourteen, not a young cat by any means, but he’s been in my life since he was around six weeks old and the thought of losing him breaks my heart. I’m just so grateful that I’ve gotten to be home more and spend more time with him, even though I would never have wished for this pandemic and I am not happy it has happened.
I miss the outlets for stress that I used to have, especially dance class. It used to help so much to go spend an hour dancing with positive, amazing women and that time always helped me feel better about everything in life, no matter what was going on. But I cancelled my gym membership when the gym reopened in August because I just don’t feel comfortable going back in the middle of a pandemic, and with the way things are going I know that isn’t going to change anytime soon. But oh how I miss it.
I feel overwhelmed and I feel guilty that I feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to focus on the good in my life and take comfort in that.

An Edmonds Kind of Lunch Break

On afternoons when I don’t have a lot of meetings, I like to order tea from the Starbucks down the street from me. Although it’s only a little over a mile of distance and so theoretically very walkable on my lunch break, the Starbucks in downtown Edmonds is located in what’s referred to as the Edmonds Bowl, which is a valley about 400ft of elevation below my own house. So in other words, to get back home I have to walk up a very steep hill….so I usually opt to just drive to fetch tea.
I absolutely love downtown Edmonds. Even though I could probably find a parking spot right in front of Starbucks, I usually opt to park a block or so away so that I can take a short walk and pass by the shops and restaurants that line Main Street. Never before in my life have I had such a sense of place as I do here. Now that I work from home full time, I get to spend more time in my own community and it has really reaffirmed to me that I picked the right place to call home.
Although I usually skip the Main Street hill during the middle of my work day, Bill and I do climb it nearly every evening after work when we take our walks and on weekends when we venture into the Bowl on foot. Last Saturday we walked down, got takeout from Rory’s, one of our favorite restaurants, and ate our lunch at the beach. I was surprised that the waterfront wasn’t more crowded on a nice summer afternoon, but we were easily able to distance ourselves from other people and found a spot to sit and eat our food while we watched cars load and unload on the ferry.
When we talked about things we wanted when we were house shopping two years ago, Bill and I both agreed that we wanted to be within walking distance of downtown. We knew that finding a house or condo in the Bowl that was in our price range and had everything we wanted was unlikely, but we both wanted to be close enough that we didn’t have to rely on the car every time we wanted to go out to dinner or to the Saturday Market in the summertime. Even as I write this I’m still amazed that we were able to find our condo, which is so perfect for us and gives us the walkability we wanted so much.
Today I was in sort of a funk, so I ordered myself a tea and headed down to Starbucks to get it. I was instantly cheered up by the atmosphere in downtown Edmonds as I parked a block away and walked the rest of the way to get my drink. I admired a cute outfit on display on the front porch of Rogue, a boutique clothing store that I love. Even through my mask I could smell the delicious scents of food being prepared at the Market, a great place to get fish and chips. I could look down the street and glimpse views of the Sound. Just the experience of being there, even for a few minutes, lifted my spirits and completely changed my mindset.
The hit of caffeine didn’t hurt either, though.
 
 

The Evolution of My Feelings on Social Media

Right now, I have a very love-hate relationship with Facebook.
I still remember the morning that social media entered my life. It was 2005, and my then-boyfriend and I were house-sitting for his parents, and it was back in the day when I was still working weird shifts as a 411 operator and had a random weekday morning off. Alone in the house, I made myself some coffee and sat down at the computer in their den to check my email. I had an invite from a friend to some website called Myspace. I had no idea what social media even was, but as I curiously set up a profile and began searching the site I discovered that a lot of people I knew were also on it. People I worked with, people I’d gone to school with – the majority of them also had Myspace profiles.
For years afterwards, I really enjoyed Myspace. It was so frivolous and entertaining. You could customize the backgrounds on your page and select a song that would play when anyone visited it. There was a section where you could publish blog posts, which was how I first got into blogging. And on the bulletin board people would fill out random surveys and silly quizzes. I never got tired of the site, but over time fewer and fewer people were actually using it and it got a lot less interesting. By 2007, pretty much everyone had stopped posting on Myspace and migrated over to Facebook, and not wanting to lose touch with people I followed.
Facebook has evolved a LOT since I first joined it. The ‘On this Day’ feature that lets you see your posts from the day’s date in prior years is a humorous reminder of what the experience used to be: the reactions to posts was limited to liking (at first you couldn’t even comment, people would post on your wall and you’d go post on theirs to carry on conversations). The post feature always started off with “so-and-so is” so all our posts followed that pattern and the older posts are always such gems as “Veronica is getting ready to go to Costco”.
Ahhh, simpler times.
Now personal posts are actually rare and my Facebook timeline is filled with people sharing articles they find interesting, mixed in with some photos of pets/kids/the trademark homemade banana bread of the pandemic. There’s a lot of squabbling. People who don’t even know each other call each other snowflakes and libtards and all sorts of other stuff in the comment section of an article shared by the New York Times. I wish there was a way to hide comment sections so I couldn’t even see them. I’ve made a habit of keeping my friend list smaller, because over time I feel less like knowing the opinions of people I worked with fifteen years ago. It’s not because I don’t like those people anymore, it’s that it’s impossible to maintain emotional connections with so many people. There’s a theory called Dunbar’s number that says that human beings are only capable of maintaining a maximum of 150 connections at once. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad to have a thousand Facebook friends if that’s how you want to use social media, but for me it’s overload.
I have accounts on Instagram and Twitter too, and neither one of them ever makes me unhappy like Facebook does. I think that the reason for that is probably partially because of the way I use it and because I have fewer friends, people who I tend to be closer to, and so it bothers me more when people I love are hateful, narrow-minded, racist, or when they behave badly online. In the past I scolded my dad more than once after he left rude complaints about his service on the Facebook page of the company I worked for, reminding him that I didn’t appreciate him doing that because the company literally paid all of my household bills and that he could let me know he was having a problem and I’d get him in touch with someone to help him.
It probably seems like I just hate Facebook now and should deactivate my account instead of complaining about it, and I actually did do that but only lasted about a week before I got sucked back in. Every single day, someone would ask me if I’d read or seen something on Facebook and then I’d remind them I didn’t have an active account but I was missing out on the things that I actually did want to see, like photos of my friend’s new puppy and an invitation to a Zoom happy hour. I like those aspects of Facebook.
For now my compromise is that I’ve deleted the app on my phone but left my account active and set up email notifications if someone tags me in something or invites me to an event, so that I don’t miss anything but am not tempted to mindlessly scroll and find myself wound up either.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing those Myspace quizzes, though.

The Past, Present, and Future of Normal

Not for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living through history in the making. Years from now, kids in school will learn about 2020 the way they now learn about the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, and they’ll try to imagine what it was like to be alive for events they either were too young to remember or weren’t alive to experience at all. They’ll hear about the COVID-19 pandemic and learn about how different countries around the world responded. They’ll memorize statistics about how many people got sick, how many died, how many businesses ceased to exist. They’ll learn about protests against police brutality and racism, and I can only hope that they’ll also learn about how real change came out of them and how police were made to be better trained and better held accountable and that as a whole our country took a hard look at systematic racism and began a years-long effort of policy and social changes that moved us closer to real equality in America.
Even though there’s so much upheaval and uncertainty right now, we still go about our daily lives. It’s strange to be simultaneously engrossed in updates on the pandemic and on protests, and to also have normal daily tasks to focus on like picking up groceries or finishing a report for work. I think about how it must have felt to be alive during other historical events, like World War II. The war is raging and all you want is for life to be more like you remember it before the war, more normal, but even though what’s playing out is terrible and hopefully ultimately makes things better the normal that you remember is gone forever. That’s how I feel now, like the “normal” I knew before March 2020 is never coming back.
It’s exactly the same understanding I had as I watched the footage of planes flying into towers when I was seventeen years old. Things will never be the same after this. 
Right now, normal is working from home and mostly interacting with my family and friends digitally rather than in person. I have a select few people outside of my own household that are in our little circle now, people that I feel reasonably comfortable seeing in person. We’ve gotten used to making plans with friends that let us follow the social distancing guidelines: meeting up at a park, or in someone’s yard, or in the adorable gazebo in front of my condo building. Normal is washing my face masks as part of laundry day, then putting them in their individual Ziploc bags and stowing them in my purse so that I always have a fresh one at the ready if I am out and need to run into a store or if there’s a crowd of people where I wasn’t expecting one to be. I own enough of them now that I have a variety of colors and I know which brands fit best on my face. Normal is really weighing the risks of doing things that I used to not even think twice about, like whether it’s a good idea to get my hair done by a stylist or go to a store in person rather than ordering from their website or whether I feel like I can appropriately social distance on the deck of a favorite restaurant or if I’d be safer just getting my food to go and eating at home.
When my husband and I set foot into our lovely condo for the first time, on a Sunday morning two years ago, I instantly fell in love and knew it was where I wanted to live. At the time I had no idea just how special the place is, how grateful I’d be for this open and comfortable home that is now also serving as our work spaces and our gym. Bill and I are able to both do our jobs without interrupting each other, we have a nice-sized deck that lets us enjoy being outside together and also gives us the feeling of doing something fun and different when we opt to get takeout and then eat outside as a treat for ourselves. Sometimes I feel a little cooped up, but I guess that after being at home most of the time for five straight months that feeling is normal.
And so, we’re grateful and we’re making the best of it.
I have no idea what “normal” will look like, post-pandemic. Will wearing masks in public just become part of everyone’s routine? Will I ever really go back to working in an office building, or am I home for good? What I hope will happen is that people won’t forget about this year, forget that it became a luxury to enjoy a glass of wine on a restaurant deck or to hug a friend or to go to a party. I hope that we’ve discovered what’s really important and that we’ll live differently because of this.