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2020 in the rear window (thank goodness)

It is December 31st and my instagram is flooded with end of year reflections and 3X3 photo grids, mostly posted by sewing friends who share their most-liked posts filled with beautiful handsewn garments. Normally that would be me but this year was like no other.

In February, after a birthday weekend spent in NYC taking a sewing workshop and staying overnight in the city with my husband, (and eating out at several favorite Brooklyn restaurants,) life changed, almost on a dime. I look back at my texts to my husband and it tells the story. Even as early as February 6th when I went to my previously scheduled doctor’s appts in NYC, I was being screened for recent travels. I was a little nervous about riding the subway and eating out in Brooklyn and bodegas were selling masks. And then the first case was in NYC and then it was in Connecticut. The hospital where I work was giving me and my colleagues daily messages, often contradictory, about how best to handle things. On March 11th, I got fitted for an N95 mask but the following week, we were told that there was a shortage and that they wouldn’t be issued to us, only ICU staff. We were told to wear surgical masks and then told that we shouldn’t be wearing them because they were in short supply. My boss asked me to sew cloth masks for staff to wear but the senior management of the hospital was telling us to not wear masks in clinic and hadn’t endorsed cloth masks for healthcare workers and I was having a hard time just managing the stress of going into work each day and didn’t have the physical or psychic energy to sew masks. To actually sew them would have meant acknowledging that the people who were in charge of keeping me and my coworkers and patients safe didn’t have the resources and information to do that and that was more than I could bear. And so for the month of March into the first week in April, I went into the hospital each day and worked in clinic without a mask. I was especially nervous walking up the 4 flights of stairs to my clinic. As I would pass other hospital employees, I would hold my breath. I pared my physical exams of my patients down to bare minimums and washed my hands constantly. I was so afraid that I might unknowingly have the virus and could infect one of my fragile cancer patients. In April, I had cold symptoms and had to quarantine for 14 days at home so overnight had to figure out how to work from home. Our clinic was short staffed as doctors got pulled to work in the ICU’s at Yale and I took over many new patients.

I realized right away that our patients, elderly cancer patients, many of whom lived at home with limited family and social support, were high risk for loneliness from social isolation so I reached out to colleagues and we created a new program where we call patients at-risk patients weekly. It helped to stay busy but the ongoing stress of worrying about my patients and family members has been a lot. Most nights this year, I have what I call responsibility dreams – I have forgotten something or someone. It has been a heavy load.

I wrote new years resolutions in February of last year because the holidays are always busy and December bleeds into January and in February after we took our weekend trip to New York, I finally had time to reflect on what I wanted me year to look like. My son lives in Chicago and I wanted to do more traveling. I had gotten him memberships to several museums and I bought myself memberships to several museums in New York and I had planned to take weekend trips to see him and to spend time in the city and thought as a sewing goal that I would plan a trip wardrobe. I had fun thinking about the pieces I would sew and how they could be mixed and matched to make different outfits. I had also started a draft of an article for a nursing journal that I wanted to finish. I wanted to read and sew some quilts. It was a relatively modest list of goals.

My 2020 Resolutions which I wrote on 2/20/20, thinking it was a lucky date and how things went.

Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned.

I did do some sewing. I had agreed to be a tester for a new pattern and it was great to have that project to focus on in the spring and I went on to sew several versions of the pattern, the Made By Rae Emerald top.

I did sew one of the pieces of my trip wardrobe, a black sleeveless knit top that I really like.

Here is my trip wardrobe plan. I still plan to take trips and I still plan to sew these garments, just not right now.

And I actually sewed several other garments and quilts, almost completing the goal I had set last year to sew each of my children a quilt. I have one more to sew but it has been challenging to find the time and space during this second half of the year, so that project is on my list for 2021.

I spent a lot of the year planning our grocery shopping and cooking. We had three grown children back in the house most of the summer and fall and so my normal relaxed approach to cooking became much more planned and took way more time. It wasn’t all bad. I found many new recipes that I use all the time now and it was a nice thing to have family meals at the table as gracious end to sometimes challenging days when we were all working or doing school from home. You can see many pictures of many things I cooked in this post.

In December, I made the most of the experience I had cooking and feeding many adults during the pandemic by creating a cooking guide as a Christmas gift for my kids. Big kudos to Alison Roman, whose recipes and you-tubes were a comfort and a source of light during a challenging year. Here is the cover:

And here is a page from the cookbook. I handwrote most of it and then photographed the pages to make an E-Cooking Guide to be a jumping off place for my adult kids who have to cook for themselves.

An example of one of my recipes below: Refrigerator Soup. I use Alison Roman’s parsley topping on almost everything now. Thank you Alison.

We ate many meals on the porch in the summer and were so grateful to have a porch. I baked many more desserts than every before. And in August, I gave a sermon for my church (socially distanced on livestream) and talked about things my patients teach me about living with uncertainty. And the numbers of covid cases started to decline and things felt hopeful.

And then it was Fall and things eased up and I saw my daughter and son in law and grandchild for the first time in 7 months and went back to swimming at my gym and it seemed as though maybe we were coming to an end of this, at least in the Northeast and I even took a week in October and went hiking alone in Maine. After all those months of carrying my patients’ worries and my worries about my patients, it was a relief to let them go, even for a short while.

And then we had enough PPE in the hospital. We went from no masks to having masks to being required to wear masks to being required to wear masks and face shields. It has been a journey. Me on Election Day below. I phone banked for the first time in my life and it felt right to not stand on the sidelines.

And almost as soon as the election was over, I didn’t feel as though I could relax for even a day because the covid cases started climbing and the politics got even more nasty which seemed really unimaginable. I found solace in watching many different preachers preach each week. I didn’t just listen to my own church service online but several others. Digital church is the one thing that has been helping me in these last hard months of a long hard year. I didn’t have the energy for reading. Although now with the year almost over, I re-read my two favorite books from 2020 and seem to be finding my way back. They are Transcendent Kingdom and Deacon King Kong. They were even better the second time.

My year ended on a hopeful note. I was lucky to get my first dose of the covid-19 vaccine before Christmas. The VA where I work was organized and had enough vaccine for any employee who wanted one and I feel so lucky and grateful to have been able to be in the first wave of those vaccinated. I pray that many more people will be vaccinated in the next several months and that it will help make our world safer for my patients and all of our families.

Every year I write a list for myself of the things I accomplished. It is just for me. I include big things and small. It helps me to look back and see progress, even when it feels like baby steps. For 2020, the things that stand out are finishing my grandson’s quilt, which is completely hand quilted with many tiny stitches and just holding it together and showing up every day for my patients and coworkers and family. I am hoping to sew more and stress less in 2021 and I wish for you the same!

I have a goodreads account where I track my reading but I will also be tracking my 2021 reads in a new instagram account dedicated to my reading life: @nursebeanreads. Feel free to follow me there.

Wishing you a healthy new year filled with grace and peace.

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