Author Archives: Heather

About Heather

I adore my family, writing, books, cats, lazy mornings in bed, and chocolate. I'll never say no to breakfast for dinner, long talks with friends and lazy summer days at the pool with family. My life is often crazy, always awesome and one I'm so happy to be living! My side hustle is editing and proofing work. Find out more at https://heathercaryn.com/

The End of Summer

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If you have spent any time with me in real life over the summer, you know I was counting down the days until school went back. I needed the stability of our routine back, I needed dedicated time where I didn’t have to worry about which kid needed to be where at what time during the summer. I needed hours where I could just work and not multitask working/parenting/cooking/driving/etc all at the same time. I’m a much better mother, wife and employee when I have a set time during the day to do each thing, not huge chunks of time when I’m trying to do all 3, and the return to school allows me to do that.

And I loathe feeling like that because I *love* summer. Hot days, vacation, swimming, sunshine and an, in theory, easier schedule. And this summer has been wonderful- we had two great vacations, lots of family time, countless laughs and a lot of great times. The kids were a delight and, as they continue to get older, I love their company more and more. We packed a lot into our short, northeast summer and I don’t regret a single moment of it.

But this summer was also hard – the kids, at 15 and 13, very rightly want to hang out with their friends during the summer. Scorch had football conditioning and practices, the Bean had basketball and I was the one coordinating it all. There were  a lot of days this summer where I was pretty sure I was failing at everything as I tried to keep all the balls in the air. So when the kids went back to school a few weeks ago, I may have danced a jig. 😉

Bean is in 8th grade, Scorch is in 10th. They are fully vac’d and back to school full time, wearing masks. There were a ton of nerves on the first morning (mine and theirs) as I made them pose for pictures in their back to school “finest”. Both have challenging schedules this year and will be juggling a lot but I couldn’t be more excited for them. I adore them both and know that they’ll do well this year – if nothing else, 2020 showed us just how adaptable and resourceful my kids are.

So, school? WELCOME THE FLUCK BACK. Please don’t ever leave me again, you gorgeous institution, you.  Summer 2022, I’ll be counting down the days until I see you.

20 Years Down.

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A few months ago, we were out of town for a baseball tournament. The Hubs and I were tired, hot, hungry, sweaty, stressed over an ever changing schedule that day, and pretty much completely over everything.

Including each other.

Something really dumb happened and he yelled at me and I yelled right back at him for raising his voice at me. (I know…the logic astounds.) Then we just yelled at each other over stupid shit like who was right to be angry and who was wrong for like 5 minutes. We’re not typically yellers – especially with both kids in the car – but we were D.O.N.E.  Shortly thereafter, I dropped the Hubs and Scorch off at the hotel and the Bean and I went to grab our lunches.

As we pulled away from the hotel, Bean says, “I don’t know why you both just don’t get a divorce. Allllll this yelling, come on.”

Wedding Kiss

I started to giggle a little because while we were both being asshats that day, we aren’t on the brink of divorce. When I asked her why she thought we should get a dirvorce, she told me that NONE of the couples fight on the TV shows she watches- The Outer Banks, The Vampire Diaries, etc.

I started to laugh even harder because…yeah. Real life, those shows are not.

~*~*~*

The Hubs and I celebrated our 20th anniversary a short while ago- a few days after my 25th high school reunion, as a matter of fact. (Any time I still feel hip and cool, I’m going to reread that sentence a few times.) I hate to say that our 20th felt anticlimactic, but it 100% did. This past year and a half was insane between Covid, remote learning, a huge home addition, summer travels, work stress and on and on and on. The fact that we survived this one year is more impressive than the past 19, to be honest.

I’ve been trying to figure out something profound that I can say about 20 years of marriage…and I’ve got nothing. It IS a milestone and it should be celebrated – and we did by going away for a night with friends to see James Taylor in concert (10/10 would highly recommend). But there are no magic words of wisdom or secrets I can tell you.

Here is what I have learned:

  • No one has a perfect marriage and there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Anyone who tries to showcase theirs as such is lying to you and themselves.
  • Maintaining my marriage is, at the same time, the easiest and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Some days I kill it, other days I fail miserably.
  • Staying married is a choice the Hubs and I make daily. We choose to put each other and our vows first even when it’s hard.
  • Some days we suck at it – we barely speak and just go through the motions.
  • Other days I look at that man and my heart swells because I have no idea how I got so freaking lucky.

Over the course of 20 years, the days I thank my lucky stars far outnumber the days I wonder what the hell I was thinking. My husband makes me laugh every day, always has my back and is a wonderful father to our kids. I have no idea what the next 20 years will hold but I’m praying hard I walk them with the Hubs by my side.

13.

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Dear Bean-
As of writing this, you’re 13 and have been for a few weeks now. You’re annoyed that it’s taken me so long to write this, but girl, you know as well as I do that it’s been a summer. But that’s just an excuse because I’m still in denial that you’re 13. I mean, you’re my baby and the fact that you’re this old is mind boggling to me. You’ve heard me say countless times that I adore parenting older kids but that doesn’t mean I want you to grow up at warp speed.

But enough about me, your birthday is about you and you, my child, are amazing. You are smart, and funny, and quiet and loud and animated and reserved. You are ridiculously self-contained and you force me to be a better mother and person on a daily basis. You challenge me, my decisions, and my beliefs and there are days when I wish you were easier while marveling a minute later over how astounding you are.

So 12 was a crazy year, right? You moved to 7th grade which meant a new school allllll during Covid. You started out the year going to school full time, but after a series of never-ending quarantines, you transitioned to fully remote in January. You managed to avoid getting Covid when Dad, Scorch and I got it, but you did manage to get it 5 months later. You can never be simple, can you? 😉 Thankfully we all recovered relatively quickly with no long term side effects.

You took to remote learning like a duck to water- your grades were out of this world and you managed your schedule and to-do’s like a boss. I never had to worry about you when it came to school, I wish I had half your organizational skills. You also played basketball, a sport you’ve loved for years, and volleyball, a new-to-you sport. You excelled in both, made some new friends and challenged yourself which is all I can ask from you. Honestly, girl, you’ve done great this past year. You’ve shown grace during some really crappy situations, rolled with a lot of punches and grew more into who you are as a person. Have I mentioned lately that I adore you?

Now you’re 13 and getting ready to start 8th grade. Hopefully you’ll be in school, full time, with your friends that you missed all last year. Here’s what I hope for you, my wild child, as we enter this new year:

  • I hope you continue to hold on hard to who you are. Don’t break for anyone. You may have to bend a little – everyone does – but hold true to who you are and screw anyone who doesn’t like it.
  • I hope you hold tight to your friends. Your two BFFs are crazy in the best way and I hope you 3 continue to support and love each other fiercely.
  • I hope you make new friends. Two BFFs are amazing, but you can never have too many friends. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, give new people a chance and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Is that scary? Yup. Is it worth it? 100%
  • I hope you do something that scares you. Play a new sport. Join the drama club. Take a new elective. The world is getting bigger for you, embrace it, child.
  • I hope you are kind. You, my girl, are a little scary.  Quiet, self-contained girls in middle school always are – and that’s fine. You don’t have to change who you are, but I do ask that you be kind to others. Give people grace, have a sense of humor and be nice.
  • I hope you remember that your brother is your life-long best friend. Is he annoying? Yes. Does he smell? Yes. But he adores you and while you’re on the same school campus, lean into that. Love him hard and he’ll do the same.
  • I hope you know your worth. You deserve to be treated with respect and consideration – always. Don’t settle for anything else in any relationship.

Most of all, child, I hope you know how amazing you are. Because you truly, truly are. Smart, passionate, funny- you’re a blessing to our family, the piece that made it complete and one of my greatest joys. Know that we will always love you, always be your safe spot and that we are so proud of the woman you’re growing into.

All my love,
Mom

15.

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Dear Scorch-

You are now 15. And the time has finally come for you to butter your own waffles and make your own chocolate milk every morning. That was the deal – you can have social media at 15 in exchange for some self-sufficiency. So, happy birthday kiddo- the butter is in the fridge.

How are you 15 years old? How do you have friends that are driving now? How are you within spitting distance of the end of your freshman year of high school? This- all of this– is a mystery to me.

Days-old Baby Scorch

Here is what I do know. I know I freaking adore you. You are a delight 95% of the time. Hysterically funny, kind hearted, smart, witty and mostly a joy. You have shown more grace, tenacity and adaptability than most adults I know during this pandemic year. The end of your 8th grade year ended with a whimper. Asynchronous school, no sports and a hell of a lot of uncertainty. We went from 100 to 0 overnight – it was jarring and scary for everyone. My anxiety was elevated, so I worried you were going to struggle, but you rolled with the punches with a level of maturity I didn’t know you had.

For your 14th birthday, I took you on a hike (alllllll we did was hike), made you some BBQ chicken and we sat outside, socially distanced from people who stopped by. Sadly, this year looks like it’s going to be an exact repeat of last year since we’re all in quarantine. I’m so, so, sorry about this, bud- more than you can know. But a month or so after your birthday last year, life opened up a bit more with travel baseball, a family vacation and a social bubble that included your best friends. I have no doubt we’ll rebound from this quarantine with no problems either.

Cheeks for day

You entered 9th grade going to school full time in person this past September. You’re taking enhanced courses, a foreign language, and a graphic design course. You’ve learned to balance your time, prioritize, and juggle a hell of a lot all the while playing two sports. You skipped football this year since football was jammed between basketball and baseball and, let’s face it, baseball is your one true love.

All in all, 9th grade and your 14th year, hasn’t been all that bad despite Covid-19. You had your first girlfriend, you got to go to school with most of your friends, you lived through a huge home addition / construction project that netted you a new, big bedroom. Hell, we even let you get a TV in your room – something I said I was NEVER going to allow, but Covid quarantines and my need for sanity made a liar out of me. You still hang with the same amazing group of kids outside of school – you and your group of best friends really hasn’t changed since you were little. But you’re happy to hang out with who ever you’re around, wherever you happen to be. Your adaptability and complete faith that everyone wants to be your friend is one of my favorite parts of you.

~*~*~
Every year, I share what I hope for you for this upcoming year. So, sweet child, here is what I wish for you for your 15th year:

  • Never stop being interested. Ask questions, challenge assumptions and be curious about the world around you.
  • Don’t try to plan your life out. You’re 15 – you’re not supposed to know the answers. Ask questions and feel your way around. No one expects you to have your life planned out no matter what they imply – right now your interests should vary and change. I’m 42 and I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Take this time to learn everything you can, keep your grades up, and set yourself up for success no matter what path you choose.
  • Know that this life is yours. Despite us not expecting you to know everything, we do expect you to be mature enough to start making some decisions on your own. Start exercising your ability to say no or yes. Say yes to the things that bring you joy. Say no to things that you know aren’t right – for you, your friends and your safety.
  • Make smart decisions. Oh sweet boy, as awesome as it is that the world is opening up to you, it scares me silly. You’re going to be presented with situations, scenarios and decisions that you have to be so smart about. Being smart won’t always be cool and it won’t always be easy – but you know in your gut what’s right and what’s wrong. Listen to your gut, always.
  • Be kind. I say this every year and so far, you’ve done a good job of listening. You, child, are the total package and with that comes responsibility. Be kind to others. Choose to lift others up instead of stepping on them. Always punch up, never down.
  • Treat your romantic partners exactly how you want your sister to be treated. Be respectful, be polite and always, always ask for consent. Never assume liberties, take their interests into account and don’t be a douche.
  • Insist your romantic partners give you the same consideration. I don’t give a hoot who you date as long as they treat you well. Kindness, consideration, manners and consent are things that should be given in equal measures on both sides – don’t waste your time on a partner who doesn’t treat you well.
  • Know that you can always ask for help. I don’t care what you need help with, we’ll provide it. From homework to a ride home after you’ve made dumb decisions (because you will make dumb decisions), we will always, always help you. Never doubt that – you, your safety, the safety of your friends, etc are the most important thing in the world to your dad and I. We may yell, we may holler and we may huff in annoyance, but we’ll be there. But we won’t bail you out if you mess up. Bearing responsibility for your decisions is part of growing up, kiddo.
  • Remember that social media is forever. Now that you’re 15, you have social media. NOTHING you post is private. NOTHING is temporary. Be mindful of what you post, be intentional and don’t do anything that can come back to haunt you. No bullying, no sexting, no name calling, nada. Don’t learn this the hard way.

I hope your 15th year is awesome, bud! Keep being the amazing kid you are, mind your manners, be smart, and take chances. Hold your friends tight, but don’t be afraid to make new ones. Do things that make your happy, that scare you and that help you grow as a person. Keep learning, pick up a book or two and remember how very loved you are.

All my love,
Mom

Hopeful.

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Today is April 21 and it’s snowing. Frankly, this isn’t surprising in my neck of the woods – after all, it has snowed on Mother’s Day more years than I can count. We’ve had a span of gorgeous weather for the past few weeks so I’m not even mad at this snow. I can appreciate it for how pretty it is, knowing it’ll be gone in a day or two.

Sunrise

I feel like hopeful is pretty much my general state of mind right now. Last year when the world shut down, I started using Facebook as almost a daily diary to record how I was feeling from moment to moment. It was not good. My anxiety was through the roof as was my frustration and anger and sorrow. But really, it was my anxiety. I worried about everything – our physical health, our mental health, the kid’s schooling, my work, the Hub’s safety at work, friends, family, if our addition was ever going to start (and then end), money, and on and on. Some of the posts are funny, some are sad and some are self-pitying.

I’ll take hopeful over the hot mess my head was this time last year all day, every day.

~*~*~*~

I’m also feeling a tad nostalgic. My baby boy turns 15 shortly. My baby girl turns 13 this summer.

Y’all, I LOVE these ages and I’d like to freeze them right here. They are old enough to be great company, hysterically funny and a joy to be around but young enough that they rely on us for all rides and activities. So I have the joy of kids that are old enough to put themselves to bed, but young enough that I don’t have to worry about them sneaking out. #countryliving One of my kids is inches taller than I am, one is almost as tall. They are stupidly smart, determined and fully their own people and I really, really like the people they are.

We escaped to the beach in March

I am trying to find my blogging groove again. The STORIES I could tell – raising teens is not for the weak or the easily offended and they make me laugh every damn day. But these stories aren’t just mine anymore.  They are mine and the kids; and the kids are old enough to have a say in what I can and cannot share. So while I want to share dating pitfalls and period stories, I won’t. At least not publicly. One day maybe my kids won’t care, but now they do.

So sporadic updates it is until I hit the season of my life where my life is more mine and less chauffeur / cheerleader / woman-praying-she-isn’t-screwing-it-up-too-badly.

The End of an Addition

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When the Hubs and I moved to our current town back in 2002, we were *thrilled* that we could afford a house. We knew it would be a starter home – it didn’t have to be perfect, but it would be ours. We looked at a lot of homes – one of which we totally fell in love with. The bank said we could afford it, but we were a tad nervous because we didn’t want to be “house poor.” House poor was a term I heard a lot growing up – simply put it means that you have an awesome house, but because you spent so much on it, you couldn’t afford to do anything else. I didn’t want that- I wanted to travel and be able to save for our future family, not pinch every penny on a house too big for two people. So, we passed on the house we loved and moved into an apartment while we kept looking.

The gravel pit that is where our addition is now. August 2020.

We saw what is now our home a few months after moving to our town. It is my *least* favorite style of home – the very common split-entry home that you find everywhere around here. But it was on a gorgeous 2 acres of land, in a great elementary school district, with enough privacy to make the Hubs happy. So we put in an offer, got into a bidding war, wrote a heart-rending letter and finally got the house. Even if it wasn’t my favorite, it was our home and we’d only be in it 5-7 years so I could deal with the style.

Shocking no one, fast-forward 15 years, 2 kids, 4 cats and 1 dog later and we were still in our starter home and the house was feeling more than a little cramped. 3 bedrooms (2 of which were oddly shaped and quite small) and 1 postage-stamp sized full bath with a tween, a teen, the Hubs, and me was starting to grate especially as we approached the the kid’s middle/high school years and all 4 of us needing to be ready to leave the house at the same time every morning.

My poor, naked house.


After a bunch of false starts and the help of a VERY patient architect (thank you, Dave!) we finally found a builder to work with. We had gone through a bunch of drawings with a previous builder, trying to narrow down what we wanted to do and while we hadn’t nailed it down exactly, we had a rough idea of what we wanted:

  • an extra full bathroom
  • laundry inside the house (it was in the garage and the pipes froze every damn year)
  • bigger living space in our family room
  • bigger bedrooms for the kids

We had also worked with the bank and knew exactly how much they would loan us to ensure that 1) we could afford the monthly payment (see: my aversion to being house poor) and 2) we didn’t out-price our neighborhood and get stuck with a house we’d lose money on when we eventually moved. So when I called the builder we ended up working with (at 7 pm on a Friday night, in tears, while diving in a blizzard – all no joke), I could tell him very concretely what our budget was. (Hi Ian- aren’t you so glad you called me back that night?!)

Hawk, wondering what we did and why we’re doing it.

The pandemic hit roughly a month later – so this project didn’t start exactly on time, it didn’t go exactly as planned and there is still exterior work to do in the Spring – but the interior of our 900+ sq foot addition is DONE! And for that, I couldn’t be more thankful. Especially since we had to isolate in different corners of the house when we caught Covid.

I’m standing where our bathroom vanity is now.

Living through a major home renovation that affects every room in our house during a global pandemic – which meant that 3 out of the 4 of us were home during most of this, the supply chains were screwed and materials could quickly disappear – was something I hope to never, ever do again, but I’m so freaking pleased at how things turned out.

Family room mid-build

I am not anyone who has interest in interior design, color palettes, home plans or anything of the like. Hell, my living room / dining room hadn’t changed once in 18 years until this past December. This whole process scared the SHIT out of me, but if I survived, so will you. Here is what I learned*:

  • If you have a set budget, awesome! It made making decisions so much easier for both the builder and us. It allowed us to take what we hoped were our final designs and whittle them down to something that fit what we could afford. It took A LOT of wiggle room out which was annoying, but also really helpful when it came to making decisions.
  • That said, plan on spending more than you anticipated. We ended up going over budget by roughly 12% as we realized we didn’t take certain things into account. For example, we didn’t plan on redoing our front deck- but we quickly realized that 1) the house would look like garbage with the old porch and 2) it was a hell of a lot cheaper to replace the porch during construction than trying to do it after the fact. Same for our back patio – trying to do it after the fact would have cost us thousands more after the fact.
  • Don’t skimp on the important things, like your fixtures or your heating system. Tankless water heaters and a new HVAC system aren’t sexy, but we love them both!
  • Think looooong term. We put in a new entertainment systems in our family room and made sure it was wired – while the walls were stripped down to the studs – for any future enhancements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask friends, ask people who’s house you love, ask your internet friends what they love about their house, what they are glad they have, what features they love / hate and learn from them.
  • Shop local. It’s not the folks at the big-box store that are going to pour over paints with you, it’s the owner of the mom & pop store. Lowes isn’t going to sweat over botched deliveries with you, but the owner of the local flooring store will move heaven and earth to ensure you’re happy, on budget and on time.
  • Find a contractor / construction crew you trust. You’ll be making adjustments on the fly, dealing with delays and having to pivot and if you don’t trust the team you’re working with, it’ll be 1000% more frustrating. I cannot say enough thank you’s to Ian, Jeremy, Annie, Jason, Jefferson, Adam, Eric, Mike and countless others that were in and out of house over the past 6 months.
  • Be nice to the people coming in and out of your house daily. Since August we’ve had various crews at our house just about every day – since October, there have been anywhere from 3 to 11 people inside the house as I’ve been working, the kids have been doing school and the cats have been underfoot. You don’t have to be BFFs, but life is a lot more fun for everyone if you can at least be friendly. I treated the crew here to lunch a few times, got them Christmas gifts and learned about their families. They are here 8+ hours a day and liking each and every one of them made this entire process so much more bearable.
  • Speak up if you don’t like something. I trust this team immensely, but sometimes shit happens. It’s a 1000 times easier to deal with things as they crop up than waiting until it’s too late.
  • Don’t rush, but know ordering items is going to take forever. I ordered new furniture the first week of September and it was delivered at the end of December. That was the shortest delivery time I could find – some stores were 6+ months out on special orders. Now that the furniture is here, I’m taking my time picking out the accent pieces. Does my house look a little blah now? Yes. But I want to get it right since it may be another 18 years before I do this again. 😉
  • Realize that the only way out is through. Once construction starts, you can change details and colors, but the only way to the house you want is to deal with the ups and downs. Is it annoying? Yes. Did we have a few times where both the Hubs and I lost our shit? Yes. Did it make a damn bit of difference? Emotionally, yes – but at the end of the day no matter how much I hated all the dust in my house, there was no turning around. So I took up stock in dust wipes, sucked it up and got through it.
My bathroom vanity that I love more than my children some days. 😉

I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about our construction crew and the vendors we worked with! They were all kind to me, my kids and my cats so they are solid gold in my mind. I cannot overstate how much liking and trusting the people we worked with made all the difference.

Hit me up with any questions you have on the building process- I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

When Covid Hits Your Home

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Well, 300+ days after the lockdown in NY started, the Heat family got Covid in early January.

The Hub had been battling bronchitis since early December, so when he started coughing again (not a dry cough- a very bronchitis-like cough) on a Sunday night, we didn’t think anything of it because the 5 day pack of antibiotics he was on is never enough and we thought he needed more meds. The next day, Monday, he was tested as part of his pre-surgery workup for an outpatient procedure he was having later in the week. He also met with his PCP that same day to evaluate his cough and everyone agreed his bronchitis was back.

So when his Covid test came back positive the next day, we were all shocked. But then he got sicker. Bronchitis or Covid, I don’t know- but he spiked a temp up to 102 and sequestered himself in our basement.

Wednesday evening, Scorch started coughing just enough for my radar to ping. I started having some congestion at roughly the same time. So Thursday we both went to get tested and BOOM positive for both of us.  *sigh* Somehow, the Bean stayed healthy throughout this whole thing. It would have almost been easier if she got it in terms of the logistics in our house, but she stayed safe.

We were super lucky that overall, we all had a mild case. The Hubs had it the worst of all, but for Scorch and I we never felt like we had anything worse than a cold. We all did lose our senses of taste and smell which is just as odd and disorienting as you’d think it would be. Thankfully within 10 days of losing those senses, we started to regain them. They are still muted for all of us 20+ days since we were first diagnosed, but it’s getting better.

There is a TON of information online about how to manage Covid, but I figured I’d share our experience with 1 sick person, 2 people with mild cold-like symptoms and 1 healthy person in the hopes it helps you plan.

1) Stay away from each other. Even though 3 of us were sick, we still tried to avoid each other because the Hubs was being released from isolation before us and we didn’t want to mess with things and get him sicker. Obviously we all avoided the Bean unless we were masked up. The kids camped out in their rooms, I camped out in my room and the Hubs took over the family room. We all wore masks when we were outside our zones.

2) Have a plan in place to stock up on what you need. I don’t know about y’all, but I did NOT have 2 full weeks worth of food and pet supplies at home. Thanks to Instacart and our friends, I was able to get what I need. Please, please have a plan in place because once you get that call, you’re not going *anywhere*.

3) Make sure you have the meds and medical supplies you need too- thermometers, pulse oximeter, etc. We were told to up our Zinc, Vitamin D and Vitamin C intake. I can’t say for sure that it helped, but it didn’t hurt!

4) Paper towels and laundry detergent were key too. Essentially we were told that we should not be using our normal hand towels to prevent the spread – we should use paper towels and throw them all away immediately after. We also were told to wash our bath towels daily. That’s A LOT of laundry, y’all.

5) We were told to put our toothbrushes in bags and to keep them away from each other. We obviously threw them out as soon as we were deemed non-contagious.

6) I can’t speak for other states, but here in NY there were a lot of phone calls to field. The day we tested positive, I spent a little over 3 hours total talking to the state and county so they could try to do contact tracing, talk protocols with me, review symptoms, etc. After that first day, there are daily calls to check in. I was super impressed with the resources available and the kindness of each person from the county calling. I would imagine if you’re fighting this by yourself with no close family and friends around these people are literal life savers.

I’m happy to answer any question any one has in the hopes of helping others! I’m hoping this is our one and only brush with Covid and that we avoid any long-term issues.

Favorite Books of 2020

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Anyone who knows me, knows I love to read a lot. Like, all the time. As a kid, I never went anywhere without a book. Nothing has changed as, as an adult, my purse has to be big enough for my Kindle and I always have an audio book queued up on my phone. While I try to vary what I read, 99% of what I devour is contemporary romance books and I have zero apologies for that- they bring me joy, especially during such a dark year like the one we’ve had.

11 year old me, my grandmother, my mullet and my book at a family party.

My Facebook feed has been full of memories of my yearly book reviews from years past and I wanted to share my *most* favorite books of 2020. There is a quiet romance in this book, but it’s really a book about hope and acceptance and learning to love yourself. 

 The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is pure, complete joyous, hopeful perfection. This is the story of a man who lives a lonely life, following all the rules, just trying to get through each day. He has his cat and his job and very little else. His employer knows he’s a rule follower who never deviates from the manual, so they send him to inspect a home for magical children to evaluate how well the rules are being adhered to. The house is run by a man who cares for his charges with his whole soul; someone who has been deeply hurt by the world. The children in the house are extraordinary in their own way and these two men have to come together to figure out how to keep them safe from a world that doesn’t allow for differences.

I read this book in June, on the way home from a vacation we booked before the world stopped. The vacation was wonderful, but coming home was a stark reminder that nothing was the same. No sports. No camps. No hugging. Nothing really to do and so much fear. We had been in our “2 week” lockdown for 3 months at that point. The world seemed to be teeming with hate and anger as Covid was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. To read a book about a group of misfits who found each other – who found acceptance in each other – was a balm for my heart and exactly what I needed to read at the moment of time. I simply cannot recommend this sweet, funny, poignant, gorgeous book enough.

~*~*~

When I listen to audiobooks, I typically like to listen to books I wouldn’t normally read. This usually includes non-fiction books and memoirs. The biggest standout for me this year was Michael J. Fox’s No Time Like the Future. This man has been dealing with Parkinson’s for 20+ years, raising his family and living his best life. This book was an introspective look at how freaking hard that has been – and how to still find the joy even when things suck. I adored it.

The other standout for me was Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Anything by Reid is a one-click buy for me, but I purposely bought this one as an audiobook because it had a hell of an ensemble cast reading it. I hadn’t listened to a book like this with so many different narrators before so I figured I’d give it a whirl and I wasn’t disappointed. It read like an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music in the best way!

So tell me, what was your must-read of the past year?

Turning the Page on 2020

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The end of what will be one of the strangest years in my lifetime seems like a good enough time to start blogging again, no?

The odd thing is, now that 2020 is coming to a close, I’m not sure what to say.

Green and grey text on a white background saying: what a long strange trip it's been.

2020 started on such a hopeful note- we had an amazing holiday season and surprised the kids at Christmas with a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We took that trip in February with our best friends and it was *the* best trip of our lives. When we got back in mid-February, we heard rumblings of an illness across the globe, but we had no idea how badly the world was going to go side-wise within a month of our return.

Heather holding a heart-shaped shell in front of the ocean.

I don’t need to list all the things that went off the rails this year – y’all lived it too. The abrupt closure of schools, distance learning, everyone becoming a remote worker (unless you were deemed essential) overnight, the lack of contact with family and friends, the constant worry of getting sick, of someone you know getting sick, of losing a loved one while mourning with the world for all those lost. My kids went from social creatures with crazy schedules to…nothing. They retreated to their rooms as we figured out this freaking “new normal” that was anything but.

In the middle of all this came racial unrest, protests, politics and a lot of hard discussions.

We desperately missed our family and friends. I cried- a lot. I took more anti-anxiety meds then ever before. Some of us started therapy. All of us tried to find the motivation to stay healthy with our garage gym with mixed results. There were a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of small breakdowns and a lot of reassuring the kids (and each other) that this can’t last forever. Right?

But there were also a lot of laughs, a lot of pivoting and improvisation, and a lot of being really thankful for what we have. We hiked – a lot. We Zoomed – a lot. We cooked and baked – a lot. I have watched more TV this year than I have since the summer I was on a maternity leave with Scorch and had nothing else to do with a nursing baby. I read hundreds of books and expanded my group of online reader friends. I reconnected with my high school girlfriends with regular Zoom calls and got teary eyed when I ran into my aunt at Target before Christmas since we hadn’t seen each other since July.

Most of all, I’ve learned to appreciate the hell out of what we have. Our friends, our family and each other. This year would have been 100x bleaker without the support, hysterical memes and the “what the fuck is going on” phone calls and Facetimes. I was reminded again the importance of giving locally – to food banks, to clothing drop offs and to local artists – because while my little family was relatively secure during 2020, a lot of people weren’t and I don’t ever want our good fortune for granted.

We were some of the lucky ones. We have family and friends who got Covid, but they all bounced back. We had a few scares, but never tested positive. Our jobs were as stable as any jobs could be in 2020 and the kids, despite all the challenges, remained remarkably composed 95% of the time.

We added a 900+ sq foot addition to the house and remodeled, in some way shape or form, all but 1 room in our house. I…do not recommend doing this during a pandemic, but the end is in sight and we’re all still speaking to each other and our fantastic contractors.

Picture of a bulldozer sitting in my front lawn, with a pile of construction materials, covered by a blue tarp, in front of it.

We adopted a cat whom we adore beyond all reason even though for the first few days of having him home, I thought it was a terrible mistake.

Hawk, our latest addition, is a tabby cat with grey, black and white markings.

Nothing has gone 100% right since March, but for my little family, nothing has gone horribly, irrevocably wrong either. And that seems like a huge win right now.

I’m not sad to see 2020 go, that’s for sure. I’m hoping that 2021 brings good health to the world as a whole, that our lives start resembling what they once were and that the great things we discovered during this crazy, mixed-up year stay with us regardless of what’s in store.

Back to Life, Back to Reality

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(You’re welcome for that ear worm!)

How can this be one of the best summers, while still being one of the worst? How can it have gone by so fast, while draggggggging?

Mixed emotions is 100% the mood of 2020.

The good.
We had a great summer, all things considered. We managed to take two vacations – one to the Outer Banks and one to a semi-local camp ground. 3 days before we were set to go to the OBX, our governor put NC on the do-not-travel list. But, we had already sunk our money into a beach house (reserved pre-Corona) and we were ready to go with my parents, siblings and their families. We weren’t going to be refunded our money if we didn’t go- so we went.

And it was perfect – we split out time between the house, the pool at the house and the beach. There was next to no one at the beach, so we never felt crowded or unsafe. Our only outings were to the grocery store wearing masks, with Lysol wipes in hand. We had zero problems and zero regrets going.

A month later, we went camping for a week. It was us and a tent during one of the hottest weeks of the year and we survived. It was laid back, quiet and lovely to spend time with family even if it did come with a side of mosquito bites and the smell of bug spray on every article of clothing.

Scorch got to play a lot of baseball this summer, the addition on the house is officially under way and really, we just enjoyed the hell of each other this summer.

The Bad
Do I really need to talk about the bad? Thankfully my family haven’t had to deal with the reality of Covid outside of the ramification on our day to day life. We’ve been healthy, something I’m extraordinarily thankful for. We mask up in public spaces where we can’t socially distance, we kept to our quarantine squads and I carry a never-ending supply of wipes and hand sanitizer.

Given the Hub’s job, avoiding the social unrest and protests were impossible, heartbreaking and maddening. That weighed incredibly heavy on all of us this summer, but especially him.

The Reality
But, as of today, summer is officially over. The kiddos started back to school 5 days a week in person. There is mandatory mask wearing, social distancing and an abundance of hand sanitizer every where. I’m confident in our school, our administrators and our teachers that things are as ready for school as possible.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t a basketcase today though. Y’all – Bean started 7th grade. She graduated her small Catholic school and is now at the public school. When we talked about this is year in years past it was with the reassurance that her person, her best friend L would be there with her. But L is doing her work fully remote this year, so Bean is on her own. She met up with another friend to go into school today- but, my heart, y’all my heart.

Bean and her friends didn’t get their orientation, they didn’t get an organized tour, they didn’t get to meet their teachers or scope the school out ahead of time like Scorch did. Luckily, a friend gave a few kids a tour- but still. I felt like I was kicking my baby off the deep end of the dock without knowing if she fully knew how to swim today.

Don’t mind the porch- it’s being REPLACED with the addition!!!

Don’t even get me started on Scorch starting 9th grade. HOW is that possible?! Technically the junior high and the high school are the same building- but the kids from each don’t mingle much or go into each other’s areas. So while it’s not really a new school, it felt like it. Thankfully he’s pretty good with winging it and we know enough staff and teachers in the high school that I know he’ll do OK.

I hope. I pray. Please, kiddos, do OK.

These past 6 months at home with the kids have been everything good and bad all at once. I hate to say it was a gift because I don’t want to minimize the suffering, sacrifice and loss faced by so many- but for my little family, it was a pause we learned to appreciate. It was a chance to learn more about each other, a time to soak in each other’s company and a time to be thankful for all we do have.

While I’m not sad the kids are back to school, I am a little melancholy this week, missing my sidekicks and constant company. I’m wishing all our kids, teachers, staff and administrators dealing with school this year the best of luck!