What a year! 2020 – so many wonderful things happened, but also lots of sadness and frustration and unexpected events. Throughout the year, the lesson I was repeatedly presented with was that no matter how I’d like to believe otherwise, we are not in control of life. People don’t act the way you think they should, and things don’t happen the way you expect or want them to. In the midst of challenges, I become stuck in resistance, overcome with dread that the worst is about to happen. I remember situations in which I have been sick with worry, and I remind myself that everything always works out, and that my worry has no purpose but to take away my peace of mind. I remind myself constantly that the Universe gives us challenges to learn from and to grow, so I must trust and have faith in Universe’s plan, even if it’s not MY plan. I remind myself that acceptance is the key, and that ups and downs are a totally natural state of life. But gosh darn it, how I continue to struggle with this. Isn’t there a saying that the universe keeps giving you the lesson until it’s learned? Good gosh, you’d think I’d learn that by now!
So here’s my look back on my tumultuous 2020!
The year started innocently enough. I had just returned from a wonderful Christmas with family. It was the first time Kat had come with me and we really enjoyed our time there. We celebrated Christmas with the family at my mom’s house, and then spent a couple of days in Chicago with brother Joe and sister-in-law Kathleen before heading back to Louisville. As the new year started, I immersed myself in exercise, re-dedicating myself to cross fit after a two year hiatus. I’d been battling a back injury for about 4 years, and had tweaked it the past summer. After a couple of months of physical therapy, my therapist urged me to step things up, so in October of 2019 I joined Kat at a small but welcoming cross fit gym a few miles from the house. During the cold dark mornings in January, Kat and I would set our alarm for about 4:45, throw on our workout clothes, drink a quick cup of strong hot coffee before heading out for the 5:30am class. We loved our hardworking fellow classmates, whom our coached affectionately dubbed the “Zombie Crew.”
In mid-January, the YMCA at Norton Commons contacted me and invited me to teach my old Cardiofit group fitness class again after about a two year gap. I eagerly accepted and loved making up new and effective workouts for the class. They relished working hard and it was really satisfying to my soul to be teaching and coaching again.
Back in early 2019, Kat had organized a Mastermind group. Mastermind groups are created to offer support and accountability in a group setting to sharpen skills and achieve personal and professional goals. Our small but mighty group met monthly throughout the year, sharing good and bad experiences, successes and defeats, and laughter and tears. All of us achieved most of the goals that we’d set at the beginning, along with others. In mid-February, we held our final meeting and celebrated our accomplishments!
As a result of my own work in the Mastermind group, I applied to have my master class, geared towards the mental side of performance preparation, accepted at the 52nd International horn Symposium which was scheduled to take place the first week of August at the University of Oregon in Eugene. I had previously presented my master class in early 2019 at a regional horn workshop at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, but the international workshop was daunting and totally frightening! But I faced my fears and jumped off that ledge. At the beginning of March, I was over the moon when my proposal was accepted! Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the symposium was eventually cancelled and I didn’t get to present, but I was proud of myself for applying and being accepted nonetheless.
The first Friday in April was a gorgeous warm and sunny day. The girls were relaxing in their rooms, and I started preparations for dinner. Kat arrived home from work and went outside to light the grill. A few minutes later, the propane ran out and she left to get a replacement tank. Once she returned, I stuck my head out the door to see how things were going and I saw flames shooting up from the open grill. We immediately called 911, but in just minutes, the whole grill was engulfed in flames. The flames found the fence alongside the garage, caught the side of the house and shot into the attic, and soon after that the entire house was engulfed with smoke and fire. Three fire trucks quickly arrived on the scene to try to limit the damage, but in the end it was just too much too fast. I can’t even describe the helpless feeling of watching the house burn, unable to do anything about it. Fortunately we all escaped safely, me, Kat, the girls, and my cat Tillie.
Kat, the girls, and Tillie and I all moved into the Residence Inn, intending to be there about 4 months while the house was renovated. Over the next several weeks, we settled in and got accustomed to our new home away from home. It was so nice being back in the East end of town; Kat was only about 5 or 10 minutes away from work and I was much closer as well. My schedule at the Judicial Center had changed in March due to the virus; we were working only 2-3 days per week in order to limit the amount of employees in the building at one time. As spring led into summer, I took advantage of my new found free time and went for long walks in the Parklands, arriving at the Strand trailhead at dawn and enjoying the early morning birds, deer and beautiful sunrises.
As the weeks passed, even the midst of anxiety and uncertainty caused by the house fire and the anxiety wrought by the worsening virus, Kat and I were growing stronger and closer. After over 10 years together, we decided that this was finally the time to get married! Throughout the month of May, we threw ourselves into planning the ceremony, picking out poems and readings and writing our vows. Because of the virus, we had to drastically limit the amount of people we could involve. Our dearest friend Daniel officiated the ceremony, and the rest of the wedding guests included Kat’s daughters, her sister and brother in law, and two of our closest friends. We were married on the afternoon of June 20th, a sunny warm day, on the grounds of Daniel’s church. We sat in a large circle, underneath a huge willow tree, shaded from the bright sun. Kat and I stood with our hands clasped, basking in the love that surrounded us. Daniel’s heartfelt words described perfectly the love we all shared for each other, and the words of our handpicked poems, read by our closest friends, brought us to tears of happiness. Afterwards, we headed into the reception hall, lovingly decorated by my dearest friend Barbara. We shared a delicious cake decorated with a meaningful picture of our love for each other. It was the perfect day.
Immediately after the ceremony and reception, we quickly changed clothes, hopped into the car and drove up to Naperville for the rest of the weekend. That Sunday was my mom’s 87th birthday and we decided that it would be a wonderful birthday gift to surprise her with a socially distanced visit. Although it was the first time EVER that I’d visited my mom without staying in her house, we still had a wonderful time. We spent the entire visit together outside on the patio, grilled some delicious steak, had a few drinks, and shared lots of love and laughs. I sure missed hugging her though!
Around that time, Kat broached the subject of selling our house and buying something closer to where we were staying. Although I loved being back in the east end, I was initially resistant to the idea. The logistics involved in selling our house that was being renovated, what to do with all our belongings until we found a new house to buy, and if we could even find anything to afford just tied my stomach in knots. Kat was determined to pursue the idea, though, and she contacted a good friend who was a realtor to investigate our options. Our realtors looked at our house, still a work in progress, and determined that selling a newly-renovated house was a perfect opportunity. We could probably sell it quickly and for a good price. In addition, because interest rates had fallen so much throughout the year, we could indeed afford a house in our desired area. It took me awhile to really get onboard – so much unknown and left up to fate challenged my desire to stay in my comfort zone. But the process was rolling!
Summer was now in full swing. My sweet kitty Tillie, who’d handled the upheaval caused by the house fire so well, especially loved her home at the hotel. Each afternoon the bright summer sun would stream in through the large picture window, and she would sit in the window sill with eyes closed, basking in the rays, or sprawl on the bed in the full sunspot. But as the summer progressed, she slowly started to decline. Her tendency towards stomach problems increased with alarming frequency, requiring a couple of frantic vet visits in July. After some medications, she bounced back almost to her old self at the start of August, but rapidly went downhill a couple of weeks later. It broke my heart to see her in such distress, and on August 23rd Kat and I made the terribly hard decision to put her to sleep. She was such a sweet kitty with a wonderful personality. She’d been through many travels with me and with many others who looked after her during my adventures. I miss her tremendously.
The end of August arrived and we were told that the renovations on our house were close to completion. We upped our efforts looking at available houses, but the market was hot and it seemed like every house we liked was just under contract. Finally, Kat found us the perfect house, literally 3 minutes from her place of work, just outside of St. Matthews. We put up a contingent offer on September 5th, and crossed our fingers that another offer wouldn’t be accepted before we sold our house. To our amazement, even before the renovations were complete, we received and accepted an offer on our house! Everything seemed to be falling into place for us – even the recovery company that was housing all our belongings agreed to keep them until we moved into our new house. Everyone was working to set our closings on the same day; our old house in the morning and close on the new one in the afternoon. But as the month of October went on, the movement towards our closings stalled. We’d completed everything on our end – the inspection, the appraisal, all the financing, but the buyer of our old house was waiting for a document from the IRS, needed by their bank in order to go ahead with the closing. It took so long that we needed to ask the seller of our new house for an extension – for a short period of time we thought they wouldn’t agree and we’d lose that contract. It was incredibly frustrating to have absolutely no control over what was happening. Our hearts were breaking at the prospect of losing the house. But at the last minute, the document arrived and after 8 months in a hotel we finally closed on dream house on November 17th.
We looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas in our new house, but we were saddened that the resurgence in the coronavirus prevented us from spending the holidays with our extended families. But something pretty amazing had come out of this – my siblings and I had given Mama and IPad for her birthday and she learned how to text and Facetime! So although I couldn’t actually be with her for the holidays, at least we could see each other!
Happy New Year to you all. I end with my favorite Rumi poem. It perfectly sums up my lesson for this past year.
The guest house
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent,
As a guide from beyond.
2 thoughts on “2020 – A Roller Coaster Year”
Love this post – this year was hell for sure. I am so happy that you and your family have found light beyond all of those dark days. Miss you, my friend.
Alise, I love your writing. You are a true storyteller, and I admire and appreciate that. I am so happy for you and Kat. And I miss you a ton! Claude