Did 2021 Stink?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read and noticed countless posts or memes about how awful 2021 has been. As I would scroll pass, I would be reminded that there were almost the same types of posts and memes shared at the end of 2020. Were these years bad? Hmmm….

First, let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room? Or should I say the virus in the news. Covid-19 stinks! It really does. It’s tried to steal Christmas 2020 and Christmas 2021 from my family. In 2020, my oldest sister was battling for her life against the virus and its impact. This year, my vaccinated & boosted mother has battled it and her other health issues while isolating at home. A year ago, the rest of my family exchanged gifts and shared a phone call with Dianna while she lay in the hospital away from all of us. This year, I spent most of the day alone except for going to my other sister’s for dinner. We’ve postponed the family celebration until Mom is stronger and can be around others. However, I refuse to let IT be the reason I deem an entire year (or two) as awful.

Maybe…I’m too Pollyanna? Maybe…I have rose-colored glasses on? But, as I tell my students, there’s good to be found in every negative…you just have to find it. Let me explain.

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Spring, 2021

My sister Dianna was on the ventilator twice, was hospitalized from the beginning of December 2020. She was in two different hospital ICUs. She was in a step-down facility (I think that’s what they call the place between a hospital and a rehab/nursing facility) then a rehab/nursing center. She and her husband decided that she would be home by their anniversary in May 2021. Is she back to where she was before? No. But…I’ve seen a woman who couldn’t move her legs walk through her trailer with the use of a walker. I’ve seen her work in therapy until she could climb a few stairs with great effort. Yes, she’s still in a wheelchair currently, but last winter…someone had to hold the phone for her, had to feed her, and had to help her to the restroom. That’s the good. The progress she’s made. The story she can tell. The testimony she will be able to share about how God has helped her to regain strength.

As for Mom, she’s gone a couple days without a fever. She’s still highly fatigued and sleeping a lot, but a few steps forward and another step back. I could focus on the “step back,” but instead…I’ll focus on the steps forward. I’ll trust that she will continue to regain strength. If you pray, please join me in praying for her recovery.

But….2021 can’t be only identified as the year of Covid.

You see…my personal journey to “Finding Jodi” has continued. My “healthy mid-life crisis” has continued too. I’m not the same Jodi today that I was last year…and certainly not the one I was in 2020. So, as this new year begins….I will reflect on who I am now and the journey ahead.

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First, I’ve gained and lost the same five pounds ALL 2021. No joke. It was discouraging. Yet, mid-December I tried on my “next size down” in jeans. They fit. Granted, another inch off will make them fit more comfortably, but I was pumped. You see, last December, I remember going out to my nephew’s and wearing a pair of jeans that were one size smaller than the start of my “get healthy” journey. These jeans…were two sizes smaller than that pair. So, I decreased in jean-sizes two times…even though I didn’t lose more pounds. I joke with my nephew (who’s the voice in my head when I’m working out solo) that I’m “reconfiguring” just like a map ap when you miss your turn. I’m looking forward to the day when the scale’s needle starts moving again, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. I’m proud that my “mid-life crisis” has become my “normal”. For that…I’ll celebrate and acknowledge that there was some good in 2021.

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One of my favorite workout shirts is white (I’m not a fan of white shirts). It’s my favorite because it says #confident. Why? Because…I’m not. I mean…I certainly wasn’t when this journey started, but it’s gaining. Don’t get me wrong…if I walk past people while wearing leggings and a tunic, I still think they’re talking about how bad I look if they start quiet talking to each other. If someone doesn’t text back, I wonder if I’ve done something to make them mad. However, my confidence is gaining. How do I know? I’m glad you asked. First, I will grab a meal in a restaurant by myself. Not daily, that would be a waste of money. However, if I have an appointment and there’s time after my workout, I’ll go grab dinner before the appointment to avoid eating too late afterwards at home. Plus, when this started, I would try to always go to the gym when my sister or nephew could go with me. Now, I often go solo. It doesn’t bother me at all. My music and I go in and get’r done. Goodness, this morning I even shared a 18 minute conversation with an old friend while I was rowing. He noticed me as he was getting ready to leave, and he stopped by to say ‘hi.’ The greeting turned into catching up and my 2 miles were rowed by the time we said good-bye. In the past, I would’ve been too self-conscious to continue rowing while having that conversation. Progress. I mean, I still have a ways to go, but I’m getting there.

This past year, I accomplished something that I had never done before in 25 years of teaching. I picked me over an extra thing at school. When a book club meeting was required to attend a conference, it would’ve messed up my workout regimen with my sister. When told if I didn’t participate in the book club that I would need to give up my spot at the conference, I returned the book. Now, if you know me, I LOVE reading. I also LOVE my career. But at that moment in the year, it wasn’t worth it to me. So, I picked me. I had friends tell me they were proud of me because they knew it took a lot for me to do. In retrospect, I’m glad I made that call. I would’ve enjoyed the conference, but I see the time commitment that those teachers are expected to give weekly…and I’m thinking…nah, this was the right choice for me.

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Plus, the book I told myself I’d write back during my undergrad years at Carson-Newman College was FINALLY accomplished. I picked 25 lessons I have learned during my first 25 years in the classroom. I don’t know anyone outside of family and friends who have purchased it, but “Lessons Learned Behind the Teacher’s Desk” was a labor of love. It may be the book I’m most proud of writing…even if it’s probably sold less copies than any of the other 8.

Oh! A love that began in high school was rekindled this past year too! Now, if you’re my friends or family reading this, you’re probably shocked. But…alas…remember who’s writing this. That rekindled love is….poetry. Yep. I started writing poetry in high school. I continued writing poetry in college. However, after graduation, the busyness of life pushed that affection on the backburner. As I started typing poems I’ve written for “Kaleidoscope of Poetry,” I also started penning a few more to be added. One day, my book of poetry will be ready to publish, but I didn’t realize how long it would take to type them…and how often other things would pull my attention away from that task.

Let’s see…more positives?

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Oh, my favorite nephew “in the whole entire world” (who is also the illustrator of my picture books) graduated from Western Kentucky University back in May. He had a job in Louisville, KY, lined up before graduation. Plus, his girlfriend (Hmmm, they’re adults now. Is there a better word?), Sarah, graduated this past December and has a nursing job starting this month at Norton’s. Love them both, and those were certainly positives about 2021.

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Hmmm, I could sit here and list more positives of 2021, but…2022 has begun. New goals are set (I don’t do resolutions). Life is beckoning to be lived. So, my friends, make the most of your 2022. Don’t let Covid or politics steal the positives from your journey. Be a Light and shine bright!

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My goals for 2022…
1. Exercise no less than 3 times/week, but shoot for 6.
2. Decrease soda intake and increase water intake.
3. Increase confidence…do things by yourself without overthinking.
4. Publish “Finding Home” – first chapter book in “Tales from Two Kitties.”
5. Work on “Kaleidoscope of Poetry” and pen a few more poems.
6. Grow a new ministry – Calvary Crew for Kids – at church.
7. Accomplish 5 100-mile challenges in 2022 since I did 4 in 2021.

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