Fun things to do during a Polar Vortex

The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles. It ALWAYS exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. The term “vortex” refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles.

Translation: Canada is very, very cold. Very cold. Cold. Cold. Cold. I cannot type cold enough to explain how cold it’s been lately.

As a Canadian, cold weather isn’t something that shocks me. We’re basically groomed to grow up tolerating cold when we live in this country. It comes with the territory… literally. The polar vortex, though… it’s a different kind of cold. This special weather occasion only happens every few years and my, my, my is it ever cold.

Presently, at my house, it’s -39 degrees Celsius(translates to -38 degrees Fahrenheit). Overnight we’re supposed to drop down to -49 degrees Celsius (translates to -56 degrees Fahrenheit). In case I haven’t said it enough yet, it’s really fucking cold right now.

We’ve been dealing with this weather about a week now. Temperatures aren’t supposed to warm until Sunday/Monday of next week, so we have at least four more days until we get tolerable cold (-15 degrees Celsius/5 degrees Fahrenheit). Being well used to this weather at this point, I’ve compiled a list of fun things to do during a polar vortex…

  1. Play a rousing game of ‘will my car start today?’
  2. Play a rousing game of ‘why is my garage door frozen shut?’
  3. Play a rousing game of ‘why is my front door frozen shut?’
  4. Stay inside.
  5. Seriously, going outside is painful. The air… it hurts your face. You get this overwhelming urge to keep your eyes closed because it’s so damn cold, it hurts your eyes.
  6. If you do go outside, watch your eyelashes freeze together and become icicles. Pretend you’re a Yeti and start grunting a lot. Partially out of grumpiness for the cold, partially because it’s hard to do anything but grunt when you’re so cold and struggling to breathe.
  7. Put on your best parka, go outside and flash your hands towards frozen objects whilst singing ‘Let it Go’ at the top of your lungs. If anyone bothers you, tell them you’re practicing for your future as Queen Elsa.
  8. Move to Bermuda.
  9. If moving to Bermuda isn’t an option for you, going for a ride on a polar bear is always fun. Though you’ll have to ensure it’s quick ride as if you’re outside for more than five minutes in this weather, you could very well wind up with frost bite
  10. Drive to Starbucks and get a Frappucino (provided the answer to #1 was yes) because what sounds better than a frozen drink when it’s -39 outside?

If all else fails, complain to the internet about the cold. Because they’ll feel for you.

In the words of the Mighty, Might Covers… “I said BRRRRRR, it’s cold in here”.

Life Lessons from Me

It is not appropriate, acceptable, okay, or EVER warranted to tell a woman she’s beautiful in a professional setting. It’s not now, it never was and it won’t ever be. That’s not a compliment.

Women do not go to work to be eye candy. They don’t want comments about their appearance made in the workplace.

Women work long and hard to reach the levels they reach in their professional careers. When a man is willing to interrupt a meeting to refer to a woman as beautiful, what he’s doing in that moment is telling her that no matter her education, no matter her work experience, no matter her skills, her intelligence, her professionalism and her ability to change the very face of the company, workforce and world, he will never see her as an equal. He won’t ever see her as anything more than a shell.

A woman’s appearance has not a single fucking thing to do with how well she can do her job.

Just don’t do it. Just don’t comment on a woman’s appearance in the workplace. Please don’t. EVER.

GameStop in layman’s terms

If you’re confused about what’s been going on with stock-market news lately, especially that tied to GameStop, I tried to explain it as simple as possible.

IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS

Hedge Fund – A hedge fund is an investment fund that trades in relatively liquid assets and is able to make extensive use of more complex trading, portfolio-construction and risk management techniques to improve performance, such as short selling, leverage, and derivatives.

Hedge fund manager put A LOT of eggs into one basket that has the possibility of being dropped and all eggs being smashed and ruined

Short Selling – Short selling is an investment or trading strategy that speculates on the decline in a stock or other securities price. In short selling, a position is opened by borrowing shares of a stock or other asset that the investor believes will decrease in value by a set future date—the expiration date.

If I bet stock ‘Vee Co.’ will decrease in value, I can borrow it at a price of $10. When I borrow said stock, I immediately sell it, hold onto the $10 and wait for Vee Co. to decrease. When Vee Co. stock does decrease, it’s new value is $5 so I immediately buy back the stock I borrowed. I sold it last week for $10, but I bought it today for $5. So, when I give the stock back to whom I borrowed it from and I’ve put $5 in my pocket. Multiply this by tens of millions and this is what happens on Wall Street.

Basically, short selling is betting on stocks losing. If you bet a stock loses and it does, you get rich, rich, rich!

On the flip side, if I borrow the stock and immediately sell it for $10 and the price of that stock rises to $15 then I have to buy back said stock for more than I’ve sold it for. I sold it for $10, but I have to give it back, so I have to buy it back at that $15 price, and I’ve now lost $5. This is why short selling is so risky. If you bet on a stock losing and it increases, you could be out a lot of money.

WHERE GAME STOP / REDDIT COME INTO PLAY

Wallstreetbets on Reddit is a platform for regular folk who try to help each other predict trends in the stock market for their individual trading. These people are what Wall Street refers to as ‘Dumb Money’. It’s possibly someone’s savings. Maybe someone else’s retirement funds. Maybe it’s someone’s inheritance. It’s just regular folk, there’s no hedge funds, these aren’t millions or billions of dollars worth of trades. It’s hundreds, or thousands.

Back in December some members of Wallstreetbets recognized that two prominent hedge funds were short selling millions upon millions in GameStop stock. These hedgfunds were betting on GameStop to fail in 2021. Which, in theory, is not a bad assumption to make, since video games can all be downloaded these days, brick and mortar stores selling hard copies are to 2021 what blockbuster was to 2010.

These Redditors said ‘No way, this is not happening on our watch’. They banded together like a small army knowing that if enough of them purchased GameStop stock, it would drive up the popularity of the stock and drive up the price. Initially the price increases were small. These hedge funds weren’t in hot water yet, because the increase in value of the stock wasn’t anything they couldn’t cover. But, this army of Redditors expanded, both with people hearing about what Redditors were doing, but also with people just noticing that GameStop had had a slight, promising rise and that could be good for them to get in on the ground floor with.

Over the past few weeks, the price per GameStop stock has gone up from $19 per stock to over $400 per stock at one point. Presently it’s hovering around $289 per stock, from what I can see.

So, doing the math with the present value of the stock… if someone borrowed the stock when it was valued at $19 and immediately sold it, they now have to purchase it back for $289. They are out $270 for that single stock in order to purchase it back, to return it to who they borrowed from. Why this is making Wall Street quake is because they don’t trade in hundreds or thousands, they trade in millions, tens of millions and hundreds of millions.

Let’s say, one of these two hedge funds that bet on GameStop losing value borrowed 10 million stocks at $19 each. Their short sale earned them $190,000,000 in December. Now that the GameStop stock is $289, they have to buy back that stock for $2,890,000,000. These Wall Street Hedge Funds are BILLIONS of dollars in to the negatives and they don’t have that money stored away in a shoe box to cover themselves.

One hedge fund has already liquidated assets and begun filing for bankruptcy.

Those hedge funds that weren’t even involved in this particular short-sale fiasco are quaking because they’ve now realized if Redditors have the power to do this one stock, they can do it to any stock. No stock is safe. No short sale is safe. Redditors can do it with any company that Wall Street undervalues. Essentially, Wall Street is Goliath and Redditors are they underdog, and the underdog has just let Goliath know they’re watching every move and they have the power and propensity to knock all of them down like dominoes, if they so choose.

THE ROBINHOOD (AND A SLEW OF OTHERS) ISSUE

There’ve been a few different companies doing this, but RobinHood has gotten the most notoriety, so I’ll share it from the perspective of RobinHood.

RobinHood is an app where individual regular folk like you and I take part in commission free stock trading and investing.

As GameStop stock continued to rise, regular folk like you and I flocked to ‘RobinHood’ to their already existing accounts, or went so far as to make brand new accounts, to get in on this amazing increase in value. Millions of people continued purchasing GameStop in the hundreds or thousands of dollar values. RobinHood, a stock trading application that prides itself on catering to regular folk, something that Wall Street refers to as ‘Dumb Money’, realized that purchasing GameStop was causing Wall Street to bleed. So, RobinHood stopped allowing people to purchase GameStop. You could only sell GameStop on their application, you couldnt’ purchase it.

If RobinHood and others stopped allowing people to purchase GameStop then no one could have access to it. If no one had access to GameStop, the price won’t continue rising, essentially trying to soften the landing for Wall Street. So, RobinHood, that caters to regular folk, blocked regular folk from making money in an effort to protect Wall Street.

CONCLUSIONS

Wall Street is crying foul. They’re crying market manipulation and that what happened should be illegal.

Legally speaking, what Redditors did is not against the law. It is a grey area. Regular folk have realized they can take on the 1% and win.

Why this matters?

  • Millennials and are a hell of a lot fucking smarter than people give them/us credit for
  • The one-percenters are not ‘untouchable’ like they’ve perceived themselves to be
  • No short sales are safe, ever again…
  • A small group of people have the power to vastly effect and change the world which we live, the Redditors have proved that
  • If Redditors could take down Wall-Street so easily, seemingly without them realizing until it was too late, are any industries safe?
  • Your reach is farther than you could imagine. One day you’re a regular joe reading reddit and the next, the stock market is in tears directly because of your forethought

FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

If anyone else has tidbits that I missed, please let me know.

Edit: Sorry for all of the spelling mistakes. I’m fixing them. Slowly.

Letters to Anyone

Never underestimate your power, your potential and your ability to change this world for the better. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the one’s who end up doing so. The people who talk themselves out of it will spend their lives wondering ‘what if’.

If you want to make a difference, do it. If you want to have an impact, do it. So many people believe their circumstance limits them to nothing more than being average or chasing mediocrity, when in reality that mindset alone is their biggest roadblock to leaving a meaningful legacy.

Make a change.

Chase your passions, dreams and desires. Stop underestimating yourself.

Yeah, you heard me, stop underestimating yourself.

Cutting down on food waste

For 2021 one of my goals is to waste less food.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. You purchase something from the grocery store and you just don’t get around to eating it on time. It goes stale, or it goes bad and inevitably winds up in the trash.

When I throw out food I feel like I’m throwing cash directly into the garbage. To be quite honest, I’m not a huge fan of doing such. So, one of my main goals for 2021 is to waste less food. I want to eat what I buy and I want to minimize trash made.

Here are some steps I am taking to help combat my own personal food waste:

Only buying what I eat. It sounds more simple then it is. When things are on sale, when things are a good deal, or when I tell myself that I’m boring and I need to ‘change it up’, I often wind up with things in my cart that I don’t want and won’t eat. If it’s not something i eat regularly, I’m not going to buy it on a whim. Odds are, it’ll go bad while I’m deciding whether or not to make it.

Utilizing my freezer. Things like vegetables can be frozen when they’re reaching close to their expiry date. If I don’t make it to those carrots in time, I’m going to freeze them. If I don’t make it to that cole-slaw mixture in time, I’m going to freeze it. If I don’t eat that spinach in time, it’s going in the freezer to. All of these things can then be baked, cooked into fried rice, or put in smoothies.

Using scraps to make broth. Utilizing broth is actually incredibly healthy for you. And, when you have the power to control what goes into it and what doesn’t, you can make it healthier than that you’d find on a store shelf. When I cut the ends off my veggies or take the bones out of my meat, it’s being turned into a broth. Broths can be used for soups and stews, or you can use them as a replacement for water when making rice.

Composting. Composting is something I think everyone should take part in. That’s my own personal bias, but it’s just so easy. If you have a yard, you can compost in your yard. If you live in the city like I do, check google for local composting options. Even if you don’t have a yard, or a composting option, if you have indoor plants, doing something so small as adding your egg-shells to the soil of any potted plants you might have. There’s so much calcium in egg-shells that the shells can help your plants thrive. The neighbourhood that I live has a composting program where we provide all of our compost and they use it ground up in the soil they use for the flowerbeds each year.

Utilizing stale food. This sounds silly at first glance. Truthfully though, there are a lot of ways to utilize something that might be a little too stale for you to just grab and eat as is. For me, if a cereal is stale, I’ll put it in my yogurt. It doesn’t taste stale when you put it in yogurt like you would granola. I have a bad habit of eating half of a protein bar and then leaving the other half until it’s stale. In that case, I’ve realized that I can blend it into little bits and mix it into the muffins I make for myself. Stale chips and pretzels make great coating for chicken.

Speaking of blenders… if you have an immersion blender… like a Vitamix or a Ninja blender… you can actually blend the peels of fruits directly into smoothies. Banana peel or apple peel… the blender is powerful enough to just blend it into the smoothie so that you don’t even know it’s there. Not all blenders are powerful enough to blend in the peels. But, if you have one that is, the added nutrients you’ll get from those peels is worth testing. If you can get past how weird it is to think you’re consuming a banana peel.

Air Fryers make great leftovers. I got an air fryer for a Christmas present last month. One thing I’ve noticed about the air fryer is that it heats leftovers evenly and doesn’t make them rubbery like a microwave can often do. I use my air fryer for a lot of leftovers, and I highly recommend it to anyone who owns an air fryer.,

Not buying single serve food containers from the grocery store. This one isn’t really to do with food waste, more to do with packaging waste. I don’t like those individually wrapped sandwiches or single use packages of side dishes at the grocery store. They’re usually 2-4 times more expensive then if you were to just buy the item individually and make it, and there’s so much packaging. Packaging that, because it’s been holding messy food, likely will never get recycled. I’d rather get bread and ham and lettuce/spinach for $4.00 and make twelve sandwiches than buy one pre-made sandwich that’s $4.99 or more with clunky packaging that goes right into the trash after ten minutes.

I know there are many more ways to cut down on food waste and I know that I’m definitely not perfect. What are some ways that you cook/eat to ensure you use as much of the food as you buy as possible? How do you minimize food waste? And if you don’t already do any steps towards minimizing food waste, do you think it might be something you consider in the future?

Transitioning to only accepting digital payments is a form of classism

Fair warning: It’s Friday night and I have been thinking a lot this evening. While I follow this train of thought in my head, I question my ability to adequately convey the thoughts.

Prior to COVID, the western world was already deeply entrenched in digital payment systems. Credit cards, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Crypto Currency, these are all forms of digital payments that have been driving the economy for several years now. This transition to digital payment mediums was only exacerbated by the pandemic when many businesses transitioned away from accepting cash because they wanted to limit their employees handling cash.

Cash carries germs. Germs could get employees sick. COVID is bad. COVID comes from germs. Therefore cash is the enemy. At least around here it has been.

I can’t tell you the number of businesses I’ve been to since March in which digital forms of payments are the only payments they accept.

Eventually, even after we’re all vaccinated, digital payments are still going to be the norm. We know this because this was already a transition happening prior to COVID.

This is classism.

We’ve already played the ageism card and told seniors and the elderly they need to get with the times and learn our technology. Now we’re playing the classism card and telling people that if they cannot pay for something digitally, they cannot pay for it at all.

We are (as a society) developing a system for people of financial stability and resource to be able to easily purchase their goods and services with digital means, ignoring the fact that technology is a luxury. Technology is not something that everyone has. Despite what people say, it’s not even something the majority of people have. I know that we like to pretend everyone has a cell phone and everyone has a bank account, but factually, that’s not the case.

What will homeless people do when they’re no longer able to take their cash to purchase… well… anything? What are they going to do? When they can’t even buy a freaking banana, or a hamburger or whatever it is they might need and would have otherwise in the past used cash to pay for? They’ve had a hard enough time finding businesses that accept cash during the pandemic. So what happens when we transition to a fully digital payment system for good?

Banks treat homeless people as liabilities and very few banks actually provide (very few) homeless people with a bank account (I’ve only ever seen one bank here in Canada that seeks to give homeless people a bank acccount). If they don’t even have a bank card they’re definitely not going to have the newest iPhone to use Apple Pay. Are Apple or Samsung going to step up and provide technology for the homeless and a system for a reloadable balance?

Please don’t say ‘Well they shouldn’t be homeless anymore’. That is a form of classism. You and I have no idea why, or how, someone wound up homeless and we don’t deserve the right to judge them. We can help them if they would like help, yes. Judge them? Hell no.

What about people who live in abject poverty? Because, while people don’t always like to admit it, there millions of Canadians, and tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of Americans who don’t just live below the federally or locally determined poverty line, but actually live in abject poverty. Their roofs are caving in, their meals are few and far between, their resources are almost non existent. These people don’t necessarily have bank accounts because, quite frankly, they don’t have money to put in a bank account. Even if they do have a bank account, though, if they don’t have any money in the bank account, they may not be so inclined to take what little money they do manage to get from a family member, friend, neighbour, side hustle or whatever source they’re getting it from, to put in a bank account in order to pay for milk and bread.

Banking fees are no joke. If someone’s already dealing with an extreme budget, or lack thereof, forcing banking fees upon them is only furthering the burden they’re already bearing.

Please don’t say ‘well they shouldn’t live in poverty, then.’ If it were truly that simple, then no one would be living in poverty.

I’ve really only begun scraping the surface of what issues come from not having, or using cash any longer. I don’t know who else has noticed but a lot of charities are only accepting digital payments these days (unrelated to COVID). That means for every charitable donation made, banking fees will be incurred. There are A LOT of organizations who relied heavily on an extra dollar here or an extra five dollars there from a lot of people. It might not seem like much if you’re well off, but what would normally be providing an extra $5 bill now has the possibility to incur a $1.25 (or more) banking fee, depending on where someone banks. That’s enough to turn people away.

This future that we’re building around cards and smart phones, wireless transfers and so on… it’s a deeply flawed system being built for the financially stable, the resource rich and well off people of this world.

Everyone else? I guess they’re out of luck.

Silver Linings in 2020 (Collaboration)

2020 has been hard; there’s no shying away from that fact. The entire world has experienced varying amounts of pain this year. Whether it is from a cause related to the global pandemic, including loss of loved ones, debt, social alienation and so much tragedy, or it has nothing to do with the pandemic, including fires, floods, volcanic eruptions… the world has kept spinning through each devastating blow. Through it all, I think each of us have learned just how tough we are.

I know I certainly have.

As the world enters 2021 — with all the hope a new year brings, multiplied by a million — were there any positives to this 2020? Did anything good happen? Bill from the blog ‘A Silly Place’ sought to answer that question, and to remind each of us that we had our own silver linings in an otherwise painful year. Bill asked his blogging friends to provide their silver linings from 2020 for a collaborative post on New Year’s Eve.

Each of the blogs linked within this post are sharing their own silver linings from 2020. If you’re reading this I encourage you to check out each one of the blogs included in this collaboration.

Bill — A Silly Place

We like Canada and we like trains.

Passions have surely been built on less, right?

The truly best thing to have happened this year is that (knock on wood) I and all the people I care about most are healthy, but if I’m going to put aside my tendency to look for the worst in everything, I’m going to have some fun.

That Canadian train journey we found on a local public TV station  introduced us to Michael Portillo, a former Tory member of the British Parliament with a booming voice, taste for brightly colored clothing, century-old travel guides and love for trains of all types — be they luxury cross-country liners or heritage railways that only go a couple miles — along with a willingness to laugh at himself whether he’s attempting to stitch a hat in Vietnam or do local dances.

At the start of the pandemic, Thursdays were devoted to streaming National Theatre Live shows, but once those ended, they became “Pizza and Portillo” nights. As we’ve watched him explore the Northeast and West Coast of the United States, the width of Canada, Alaska, India, Australia, Alaska and Southeast Asia, I’ve realized two reasons why he appeals to us so much … well, three if you count some amazing scenery.

The first is that — perhaps a visit to a jelly bean factory in California aside — he seems endlessly and genuinely curious about everywhere he goes. Everything seems to fascinate him, and that fascination pulls you in. Before you know it, you’re learning something about the history of Thailand, or Alaskan villages that hold onto their Russian heritage.

Secondly, it flies off the screen that in his second career as a teller of travel tales, he is having the time of his life.

And isn’t that the point of traveling … to have the time of your life? Here’s hoping we can do it again in 2021.

Pea Green — Smelly Socks and Garden Peas

Everyone says that 2020 has been a disastrous year, that everything has gone wrong.

For us, its nowhere near as bad as even the first month of 2019 alone. It has been a rollercoaster, a huge adjustment, abound with privations and upheaval, new challenges. But January 2019 was still worse, for us.

That personal perspective aside, despite all the challenges of 2020, I’ve rather enjoyed this year. Because all the hard things we’ve gone through have given us other opportunities, too. No rushing around to swimming and rugby? Well, we discovered new local treasures to visit. No trips to attractions 20 miles away? Well, we savoured our local woods as the seasons changed and enjoyed watching the spring and summer blossom with weekly arrivals of leaves and flowers. No summer holiday to France? Well, a wonderful two weeks with our parents making up for missed visits.

I feel a bit like lockdown has taken us back in time to the days of the last great flu pandemic. At that time, my grandma wasn’t born but my great-aunt was 9 years old, her three sisters between 2 and 7. Her family was all closed up together, just as we have been, unable to see their grandparents despite being close by. We’ve spent months with only each other’s company, hardly seeing another person some weeks. 

Technology means that that isolation has, for us, been so much less heavy than it 

must have been for my great-grandma and her family. Conversely, I doubt my great-grandma was trying to run home learning at the same time — and boy did we absorb some lessons from that experience!

My great-aunt died several years ago at the grand age of 103, and my grandma was telling me about her a couple of weeks ago. Whether their family contracted Spanish flu, we don’t know, but they did suffer from a diphtheria outbreak. The two youngest girls died and my great-aunt was confined to her bed for a year. She had to learn to walk again and ended up going up to secondary school in the same class as her younger sister.

Reflecting on the pandemic experiences of my grandma’s older sister brings me huge gratitude for the world we live in. Today, we’re all vaccinated against diphtheria and many other diseases that would have been fatal 100 years ago. In the coming months, we’ll be vaccinated against COVID-19, too.

There’s a lot of chatter on the interweb about corners being cut, but really I think it’s just timelines that are compressed. Those quarterly review meetings have been daily 

instead, the waiting for authorities to get to the next things on their long list has been bypassed with the vaccines going to the front of the queue.

So for us, 2020 has been filled with many tiny silver linings, new experiences, new closeness of the family, new gratitude for our situation and new appreciation for the benefits our modern world has to offer.

Lindsay  — Live, parent, teach, repeat

From the moment I became a mother, time sped up. It was constantly measured and it somehow just disappeared. Once the baby was born, every second, minute, hour seemed to be counted. First home visit, six week check up, jabs at three months, weaning at six months. He should be crawling now. Time to start potty training. You need to apply for a nursery before the deadline. Time whizzed by. 

As a character in a Heinrich Böll novel once said, another day that your child is alive is another day closer to you dying. A bit depressing, I know. Which is what the 16-year-old me thought when she was reading the story in a German A-Level lesson. For some reason, I’ve always remembered this quote (amazing given how I’ve managed to forget the majority of the curriculum I was taught at school.) And I think it’s true. As soon as you become a parent, you find yourself hurtling towards milestones at a greater speed and there is no option to put on the brakes. Until 23 March 2020.

 The best thing about lockdown for me was that it stopped time. In the words of my musical hero, Billy Joel, I suddenly had the longest time. The longest time to live again. I owned time rather than the other way round. It couldn’t dictate to me any longer.

Mornings were unusually leisurely. No frantic school runs. Recipe books were located, meals were cooked from scratch and enjoyed (well, mostly) as a family.  No pinging of the microwave to signal food was available. Conversations were longer and uninterrupted. No shouting an incomplete sentence as you dashed out of the door, to be finished later via text. We had hours to walk to our destinations. No need for the car, which stood idle on the drive. 

And with the longest time, I somehow found myself writing daily and gaining an audience by way of my daily Corona diary. Admittedly, most readers were already friends or acquaintances, but the odd unknown person did slip through the net and discover my ramblings. As a child, I had been both an avid reader and writer. I would write for no reason but for me. But school and university stole this from me. Evaluate this prose. Analyse this poem. Dissect this source. Writing became prescriptive and unenjoyable. 

But, with the help of the longest time, I rediscovered writing. I did not feel guilty escaping into a solitary room to either type frantically on the iPad or scribble untidily into a notebook. No one made demands on my time during lockdown, so I was unrestricted with how I used my passing seconds, minutes, hours. I had time to think. Words could flow towards me like bubbles and I was able to convert them into letters before they popped, lost to me forever. The long-held ambition to write a book, which had been lost to the realities of daily life, rose like a phoenix. With encouragement from my appreciative audience, sheets of paper gathered in an old folder. Soon, a title page was added and the longest time meant the pieces of white A4 began to resemble a book. And I had done that.

And I also think of others who benefited from this time. A relative who didn’t have to leave her baby and rush back to work. My parents, newly moved, seeing neighbours for the first time and starting conversations. A old friend with a terminal illness who had that special extra time with her children.

So that was the silver lining of 2020 for me. Luckily my family and I have been spared from the relentless cruelty of this disease.  But as the year comes to end, it is clear the war is far from being over. A fresh battle is upon us and the fervent hope that 2021 will herald a healthier period is dwindling day by day. But, as the daily infection rates increase, so does my yearning that I may be granted the longest time again. Time for the world to rid itself of this vile virus once and for all. And time for me to live.

Renata — Buffalo Sauce Everywhere

One facet of my life where 2020 has been truly pivotal for me is my professional growth. Back at the beginning of the year, I committed to doing something that I had been considering doing for over a year — getting my coaching certification. 

In March, I started a six-month program to get my certification as a life coach. It wasn’t until I was a few months into the program that I realized how much I really needed it. While I discovered that I don’t currently have any interest in building my own business, coaching classes have given me some awesome new connections, improved listening skills and some newfound confidence. Even if I don’t start my own coaching practice, I learned valuable skills and earned a certification that I can always use.

In September, I actually hit the five-year milestone at my current company. Since this is the first job that I had directly out of college, this milestone was a very big deal for me. This also means that I have been out of college for five years…but I don’t want to talk about that … . 

My tenure at my current company has been so fulfilling, with five years, three positions, two buildings and countless new relationships and lessons. I am blessed to have spent my first years in the professional world working for a company that I love and respect so much.

Another part of my professional life that has changed is that I, like many people this year, have started working from home. As a social person who thrives on building relationships and being near others, I never expected to ever be able to successfully work from home. I thought that I would feel too lonely and disconnected from my coworkers to feel comfortable working from home. (This was especially distressing as someone who would like to pursue a career that involves writing, a largely isolated profession!). 

As it turns out, I was able to successfully work from home as well as keep my work relationships intact. This was made monumentally easier by the fact that Dan and I still live with my parents, so I was fortunately never alone. Like any other relationship in life, relationships with coworkers (whether they remain only colleagues or become friends) take effort, and honestly, I believe that relationships are one of the most important places to expend that effort.

Now that I’ve learned that I can successfully work from home, I have been able to open myself up to careers that involve working from home exclusively, namely writing! I have been doing freelance work for a company called TĒONAN that I’m really excited about, and I recently agreed to start working with them full-time. As someone who has worked full-time for only one company in the first five years since college, this is going to be a huge life change for me. 

While I am excited about the prospect of doing something I love full-time, my ridiculously nostalgic and sentimental self is already missing my old coworkers and the memories I’ve made with them. But 2020 is my year for professional growth, and I am ready and grateful for the opportunity to move forward in my professional life toward something that more closely aligns with my ultimate career goals.

Savannah — Sunshine With Savannah

If I’m being honest, 2020 had just as many highs for me as it did lows. If it had been a normal year, it’d probably be one of the best of my life. It’s incredibly hard to pick just one silver lining, so here’s a roundup of the biggies.

Kicking off the year, my husband and I promised ourselves to spend as much time as possible outside, in a quest to make the long winter season feel more bearable. (It’s almost poetic that we set the stage for an entire year where the outdoors would be the only escape possible.) We discovered a new passion for cross-country skiing and downhill skiing (snowboarding for me!) and that was an incredible way to embrace the Colorado snow and cold.

Though I’ll always remember the layer of sadness on my birthday in March — cancelling a trip, celebrating 25 alone and isolated to our small apartment — it also brings memories of intense excitement as we went under contract for our first home. Sure, the house-buying process was odd and uncomfortable with disinfected tours, digital reliance and an extreme anxiety that we were making a giant mistake, but Chad and I made our dreams come true. This was huge for us, and I’m so proud of the accomplishment.

In addition to making our house a home (which I’ve found to be incredibly fun and a worthwhile project), we also added a new member to our family. Our goldendoodle puppy, Wally, has been the greatest gift I could have (and have, for many, many years) asked for. The first stressful weeks of dog ownership — late-night visits to the yard, chewed-up valuables, repetitive barks of a puppy finding its voice — were totally worth it, as we’re closing down the year with a giant best friend who reminds us daily how much he loves us.

During all this change, another big one hit: I lost my job. My tourism-industry PR position was just not jiving with a global pandemic. (Go figure.) And while at the time it seemed like a crashing heartbreak (that impending mortgage payment was ominously looming over my shoulder), it turned out to be one of the highlights of this entire year — the kick in my pants I really needed professionally. After a dark window of stress and rejection, I redirected my efforts and energies and threw myself into my own content-creation business. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I’ve worked with some incredible clients, created some good content and have surpassed my previous wages, and then some. Above all, I’m happy.

The past year brought many opportunities for growth and knowledge. I learned to listen and be a better ally, the perfect mechanisms of a cover letter, to run a business full-time, how to apply for a mortgage, the ins and outs of raising a puppy, the nuances of Zoom meetings, the importance of face-to-face interactions (you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone!), how to be a better spouse and partner and how to make a damn good whipped coffee.

Becky — Strikeouts + Sprinkles

If I had to come up with one good thing that happened this year — which is actually the point of this post — it’s that I had a valid excuse to stay home. I’m the queen of the introverts, and I’m not one for socializing or really leaving the confines of my house. So knowing that it’s OK to stay home, it’s kind of great. I don’t feel like I have FOMO or have to worry about if I’m not making enough plans with friends.

I know that I have the privilege of staying home and being able to work from home. I’m thankful and grateful for the health care workers, first responders, front-line workers and everyone who has been working and doing their jobs during all of this. I’d like to think that I’ve been doing a very small part by staying home to keep myself safe, my family safe and other people safe.

I remember at the beginning of the pandemic and the shutdowns, people would say, “Oh, yeah, we’re staying home a lot more now and it’s different,” and my response was, “Uh, this is the normal amount of time that I usually spend at home?” As I’ve said to friends, I’m thriving during all of this because I don’t have to see anyone.

A sub-good thing I’ll include that’s related is that I’m glad I’m still living at home and was able/still able to quarantine with my parents and my pets. In March, when everything shut down and my dad and I started working from home, I wasn’t sure how it would go, but after working out a few things, it hasn’t been bad at all. I don’t think I’d want to be living alone during this time.

Once we’re allowed to go places again and see people safely, I think I’ll have to slowly ease myself into that because it has been nice to just stay home. But I also enjoy doing a few things here and there and having a bit more structure to my life. Until then, though, you’ll find me on my couch with a book and a coffee.

Rosie — Rosie Culture

If you look at my 2020 one way, you would see that nothing went right for me. I lost my job, had to move out of the state I loved and lost many family members. And then from another point of view, everything went right for me. I got a new job and was able to move closer to my family during a time where family is so important.

The silver lining to 2020? Well, it’s hard to see, but it’s there. I will always look back at this year as the year I saw the worst in humanity. But I will also see it as a year that despite all the difficulties, I was able to power through. I was able to secure a new job doing something I love way more than my old job. I was able to move somewhere close to my nieces and nephew who light up my life. I can see my friends again (socially distanced and safely of course).

2020 was a dark cloud, but my friends, my family, my successes have been such bright lights and made all of the pain truly worth it. I miss the family members I lost and I still mourn New Hampshire from time to time, but there truly was a bright side. It makes me believe in everything happening for a reason just a little more. And I’m so happy to see New Jersey’s cases drop and the vaccine make its way through the country.

From here on out, I think I will appreciate life a little more. A year indoors and a year without travel was not ideal. But it forced me to settle and accept all that I have — which is actually pretty great. I’m looking forward to 2021, to washing my hands of a lot of the hate I’ve seen throughout the last year. But I will definitely be taking those silver linings with me.

My Own Silver Linings of 2020

I had $7.61 in my bank account on Jan. 1, 2020, and absolutely zero idea of what was about to hit my life in the next 365 days. I was unemployed, struggling and early on lost one of the most-important people in my life in a very tragic circumstance. I pawned a lot of my possessions just to be able to pay my bills. And I’ve spent the majority of this year feeling painstakingly lonely and absolutely alone.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I need that recorded for the record books, because when I look back on this year, I want to remember that good came from it. There have been some silver linings amidst this year.

I landed a new job. A great job. A job where I’m appreciated, where my opinion matters and where I’m treated like an equal. In my 32 years, this is the first I’ve experienced being treated as an equal and it means so freaking much. I won two awards because of this job, and it offered me opportunities that I never thought I’d have the chance at.

I also found out that I’m going to be an aunt again. Which… babies are great. I love babies, especially when I can adore their cuteness and give them back to their parents when they start to cry.

Oh, and I was published. Me. Can’t check my spelling for anything, little ol’ me got published. Can you believe it? I still can’t. Seeing my name printed in that tiny font on that page meant so much to me.

It has been a shitty year for just about everyone. I, for one, am so ready for it to be over. As that date on the calendar changes, I’m wishing for a new start, a fresh start. I’m wishing for health, happiness and prosperity for everyone. After all that everyone’s been through this year, everyone deserves a better 2021. 

I’m sending my best to you and yours and hoping that, when we look back on this year in the history books, if there was anything good that happened, even if it was the smallest of details, if anything good that came from this year, please make sure to remember it.

Happy Thanksgiving

More than anything this year, I’m thankful for people. The people who’ve kept our society going, the people who’ve proved to the world that the essential nature of someone’s job does not necessarily correlate with how much they are paid to do said job.

I’m extremely thankful for healthcare workers. Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, EMTs, Dentists, Surgeons, Counselors… every single health care worker who’s continued to do their work to look out for the health and well being of the general public through this weird, unprecedented time… in a lot of ways putting themselves in harms way to do so.

I’m thankful for bosses who were able to coordinate their employees working from home. I’m thankful for employees who turned into full time teachers and finally realized just how not easy it is to be a teacher. I’m thankful for a government that leapt into action to ensure that people had programs and funding options available if they needed it, even though they knew some could/would likely take advantage of the system. They knew that looking after the many was far more important than worrying about the few in the heat of the moment.

I’m thankful to my parent’s neighbours who continuously brought them food and necessities to try and make them stay home so that they didn’t have to go out and put themselves at risk. With my mom being in remission and my dad having surgery in February, the neighbours did all that they could to try and ensure my parents would stay put and stay healthy.

I’m thankful to the anonymous donor who gave $20,000 to a local women’s shelter about two months back and asked that it be used to pay for the expenses of as many families living there as it could. Whoever they are, wherever they are, that’s some serious generosity to give to a family in the middle of a crisis of their own in the middle of this pandemic.

I’m thankful to the oodles and oodles of people who read this blog and give me pep talks, send me kind words, leave me motivational notes or just reach out to see if I am okay. I think on some level everyone wants to know they’ll be missed if they were suddenly not to show up. The fact that so many people reach out to me, even if it’s just two or three days that I don’t sign on here, it’s a very nice feeling. So thank you to all of you.

I’m thankful for family and friends. Oh, my friends. They’ve heard me cry, they’ve helped me through some of the hardest times of my life the past year and a half and they never backed away once. I’ve got really incredible friends and I don’t tell them that near often enough.

I’m thankful to the person who gave me the dozen rainbow roses currently sitting in my kitchen windowsill. I’m thankful to the person who so generously, without question, paid my cell phone and credit card bills in February and March when I was so broke I didn’t know where to turn. I’m thankful to person who drove through the night to help me move, so that I didn’t have to do it alone. Some things, small gestures or large, they’ll stay with you forever.

I’m thankful to those who wear masks, who keep their distance, who say no to attending parties, weddings, vacations and who understand that precautionary measures are not about you, they’re about everyone. While the selfish might be one’s making the headlines on the news each night, there’s been a whole lot of selflessness this year that hasn’t been talked about. I see you, I appreciate you and I admire you. Thank you for what you’ve done.

In spite of all of the bad that has happened this year, there’s also been a lot of good as well. I’m going to have a new niece or nephew soon. I’ve got a new job, something that’s challenged me in ways I never thought possible. I’ve got a new home, a new car, a new life essentially. And hey, I may not have done much more than stay home the past eight months, but it’s been one hell of a ride.

It’s October 12th and it’s snowing.

Happy Thanksgiving, world.

I’m rambling again.

Just because there are some things that I am unhappy about does not mean there isn’t good in my life. Just because there are some things that I am insecure about does not mean that I don’t like myself. Just because I have doubts does not mean that I don’t have certainties. Just because I’m an idiot when it comes to some things doesn’t mean that I’m an idiot when it comes to all things.

It’s okay to not have all of the answers. It’s okay if you don’t have a clear path. I don’t care what people say about trying not being good enough. Trying beats the hell out of being stagnant in life.

It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to screw up. What’s not okay is refusing to learn lessons from those times in life that seem so damn bad, you don’t ever know how you’re going to recover. Acknowledging your missteps and learning from them is literally the first step towards recovering, carving a new path and ensuring you don’t fuck up the same way twice.

Often times we treat these situations in life as though they’re rules. Rules we cannot break. We cannot possibly be insecure, unsure, uneasy or unhappy because if we’re any of these things it means we’re not secure, sure, easy-going or happy. That’s simply not the case. The world isn’t black and white. There are so many shades of grey and being able to understand that will bring a lot of peace, I promise you.

Don’t let people tell you how to feel, your feelings are warranted. Don’t let people tell you who to be or what to believe. You are who you are for a reason. That doesn’t mean that who you are is who you always have to be. Human beings are a work in progress and it’s well within you to change, if you want to. If you don’t, though… be proud of who you are. Flaws and all. Uncertainties and all. Insecurities and all. Uneasiness and all. No one else in this world is you.