When I think back to making these resolutions in January 2020, the woman who wrote that list feels like a completely different person. When I typed out those goals, I had no idea we were just a few weeks away from a global pandemic, a lockdown, and so many other unforeseen changes.
While this year has been an emotional rollercoaster, it's also had some pretty major milestones. I was very lucky to fit in not one, but two international trips at the start of the year.
In January, I went to Israel to visit my aunt, uncle, cousins and one of my oldest and dearest friends.
A few weeks later, in late February, I went to Curacao with three girlfriends and had one of the most memorable trips of my life.
In June, one of my best friends moved in around the corner. After weeks of only seeing each other outside for walks or ice cream, we bubbled up and now I get to enjoy hanging out with her multiple times per week.
Though many of the trips I had planned for this summer were canceled (Lake Winnipesaukee, Cape Cod, Maine), I was able to spend nearly every weekend with my aunt, uncle and cousins in Hull, MA on Nantasket Beach. My dad grew up in Hull and my grandparents lived here my whole life, so it's always been a special place to me. I decided to take that to the next level, and in November, I closed on a place of my own, just a five-minute walk from the beach.
Setting the house up has been a major source of joy during these otherwise dark times.
As you can imagine, some of my resolutions were completely thwarted by the pandemic, while others got unexpectedly accelerated. For a quick refresher, here is my original list (published in January) and here is the progress update I shared in April.
There were two resolutions that I carried over from previous years:
1. Stay home / stay in at least one night per week during the work week (a goal since 2016)
2. Send one piece of snail mail to my grandmother every week
Given the pandemic, the stay home resolution feels absolutely laughable. That's all I've been doing for the majority of the year! In a surprise to no one, I have kept this resolution successfully every single week in 2020. For reference, the past two years I was at 50 out of 52 weeks.
I have also written to my grandmother every week. She's very hard of hearing, so I find it's the best way for her to really "hear" what's going on in my life. I love picking out the card or postcard each week, and my mom always tell me if she's put one on display in her apartment. My grandmother rarely writes me back, but when she does, she includes cute things like these smiley face stickers.
Not bad for a 92-year-old woman!
Ok, now onto the official year-end report for my seven resolutions for 2020.
1. Improve my Hebrew
Status: Massive success. When I left Israel in January, I felt strongly about brushing up on my Hebrew in advance of my next trip (which was supposed to be in December 2020). I downloaded the Duolingo app and set a daily goal for how much time I would spend practicing.
As of today, I am on a 317-day streak! The app is so easy (and fun) to use that I really look forward to my daily ritual.
I can tell my vocabulary has greatly expanded and my sight reading is getting much better too. When I learned Hebrew as a child, I relied heavily on the vowels to sound out words. Thanks to Duolingo, I am learning to read without them (which is how the Israelis do it!).
I also now have a Hebrew keyboard on my phone, so I can continue practicing by texting family and friends. They were pretty shocked when I started sending those messages!
Am I fluent? No way. Will I finally be able to hold my own in a restaurant? Yes indeed!
2. Take the ice cream-making class at Gracie’s
Status: Frozen in time. At the start of this year, I was so excited to find a time to schedule a private ice cream-making class at Gracie's in Union Square in Somerville. I'm a huge fan of the shop, its owner and his team's unique flavors. In my mind, I was thinking I would do this during my birthday month.
Well, in the pandemic, Gracie's transitioned to 100 percent takeout. You placed your order online, selected a pick up time and then waited in line to get your bag of goodies through their tiny window.
When that shift first happened, the pints were selling out in minutes. It took me three weeks of attempts to finally get some!
While I wasn't able to take their class, I was able to support them during these challenging times. If you live in the Cambridge / Somerville area, you can order directly from the Gracie's website or you can find their pints at Broadway Marketplace, Dave's Fresh Pasta, Formaggio Kitchen and Pemberton Farms.
3. Eat at Orfano
Status: A restaurant miracle! Over the past few years, I've singled out one restaurant I really wanted to try (or return to) as part of my resolutions list. Last year it was Pammy's in Cambridge and this year it was chef Tiffani Faison's new spot, Orfano.
When I made this resolution in January, it seemed totally possible that I could get to Orfano within 12 months time. When I did finally get there, the date was March 11. That was the last week before Massachusetts went into total lockdown. I feel incredibly lucky I was able to dine inside and enjoy the experience without the stress of COVID.
Here is the blog post that recaps my visit. I'm sharing a few favorite photos below.
4. Finally make it to Charleston, SC
Status: No Southern Charm for me. Ugh, this one hurts. I've never been to Charleston and I've now made this resolution twice. First in 2018, when I didn't wind up getting there, and then again this January.
My cousin, her husband and their kids moved to Charleston in December 2018 and I've basically been trying to get there ever since. This year, we had planned that I would come down in May, when the weather was hot, but not unbearable.
The pandemic made this goal feel impossible. While other people feel safe to travel (by car or by plane), I don't. The idea of going into an airport or sitting in an enclosed plane with strangers makes me so anxious I can't think about it for more than a few seconds.
When we have some return to the good old days of airline travel, Charleston will be high on my list. In the meantime, I'm getting my fill of Southern drawls on Bravo TV.
5. Read 30 books
Status: Bookworm level achieved! Last year, I read 28 books. For 2020, I wanted to challenge myself and up my goal, so I decided on 30. I knew it was ambitious, but with all the travel I had planned (ha!), I thought I could hit it.
Little did I know, living alone during a global pandemic would give me more reading time than any beach vacation ever could! As of this present moment, I have read 32 books and just started number 33.
If you're interested, here is the full list, linking to each of my reviews:
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
- On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
- The Gifted School by Bruce Hoslinger
- The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler
- Sadie by Courtney Summers
- Open Book by Jessica Simpson
- Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (I hated this book, so decided not to review it)
- Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
- We Should All Be Mirandas by Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- Writers & Lovers by Lily King
- Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
- Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
- Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
- The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
- Luster by Raven Leilani
- One to Watch by Kate Strayman-London
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
- The Bright Lands by John Fram
- The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs
- The Comeback by Ella Berman
- Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
- In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (review to come)
After this many books, I have learned a few things about my reading style. First, I think 220 pages is the ideal length for a work of fiction (much like I think 90 minutes is the ideal length for a movie). Second, I like books with short chapters. It makes me feel like I'm making progress, even if I only have time to read a little bit each day. Third, I cannot stand when writers choose not to use quotation marks to indicate dialogue. It makes conversations hard to follow and I found myself re-reading passages to make sure I fully understood who was speaking.
Before we wrap this mini book club section, I wanted to share that as an extension of this resolution, I made the decision to stop ordering books on Amazon. Every single book you see on this list was either purchased from a local, independent bookstore or loaned to me by a friend.
When this pandemic is finally over, I want my favorite bookshops to still be around! I hope you'll consider making the same choice going forward.
6. Listen to more music
Status: Dancing in the street. For me, 2019 was the year of podcasts. Whether I was walking Scout, driving, or sitting on a plane, I always had a show playing. It took me a while to realize how much I missed listening to music, because at first, I didn't even realize that I had stopped.
At the start of 2020, I was committed to changing up what was in my headphones and getting back to singing and dancing along to some of my favorite tunes.
When I shared my progress report in April of this year, the top five songs I'd been streaming on Apple Music were:
- Nice to Meet Ya - Meghan Trainor
- RITMO - Black Eyed Peas & J Balvin
- Dance Monkey - Tones and I
- Shape of You (Cover) - Jamie Cullum
- Love on Top - Beyoncé
From May - December, my top five were:
- Say So - Doja Cat featuring Nicki Minaj
- Don't Start Now - Dua Lipa
- Make Me Feel - Janelle Monae
- Texas Man - The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks)
- Hamilton - The Cast Album
On that last one, I have to admit that after watching the Hamilton movie on Disney+ over the July 4th weekend, I became obsessed with learning all the words to the musical. I listened to the soundtrack in the car for months. While I'm still working on the full memorization, my favorite songs to sing along to are Helpless, Guns and Ships, and Dear Theodosia.
Choosing music over podcasts is still a conscious decision I have to push myself to make each day, but I'm always happy when I do.
7. Expand my list of dog sitters
Status: Moot! In 2019, I traveled constantly. While I took so many memorable trips, I always spent the month before stressing about who would care for Scout. So, in January 2020, I resolved to expand my list of dog sitters. I wrote to friends who had watched Scout in the past, coworkers who were dog lovers, and anyone else I thought might help surface a new lead.
Thankfully, that act of desperation did spark me being connected to a friend of a friend, who would wind up watching Scout while I was in Curacao. She loved being with him (texting me that "he has the cutest personality!") and I felt completely at ease knowing he was in her care. This felt like a great first step towards this goal!
By the time I wrote my resolutions update in April, I shared, "Ironically, what was once my biggest stressor, is now a non-issue during quarantine. I don't have any travel plans until July and I am not even sure if those will still happen, so the pressure is off in a sort of wonderful way."
Who could have known that every single one of my travel plans for the year would get canceled?
In the end, I feel lucky that I got all this quality time with Scout. I started to take him everywhere with me. He loves the car and gives some of his biggest smiles while hanging in the backseat.
He got to spend nearly every weekend of the whole summer in Hull, a place he loves. He is noticeably happier there. Look at that grin!
As the temperature started to drop, we did some seriously snuggling. He's obsessed with the faux fur throw I have on my bed. It's this one from West Elm if you'd like to snag one for yourself!
I took this picture of us on Thanksgiving morning and I think it perfectly captures the quarantine mood. We start and end every day together and I honestly can't imagine surviving this pandemic without him.
I am calling this resolution complete because in the time I had to try and expand my list, I did. I am sure my anxiety around this will one day return, but for now, with no travel on the horizon, I am just enjoying being with my boo.
There you have it! My year-end report. Let's see the final tally:
5 resolution complete
#1 - Improve my Hebrew
#3 - Eat at Orfano
#5 - Read 30 books
#6 - Listen to more music
#7 - Expand my list of dog sitters
2 resolutions yet to be tackled
#2 - Take the ice cream-making class at Gracie’s
#4 - Finally make it to Charleston, SC
As this calendar year comes to a close, I'm on the fence about sharing resolutions for 2021. With so much up in the air, it feels impossible to even set goals. Will I get the vaccine? Will travel become easier and safer? Will I be able to visit my family in Miami? Will dining inside restaurants be possible again?
I would love your input. Do you still enjoy reading these New Year's resolutions posts? Would you like to see my hopes for 2021, even if they all hinge on things I can't control?
I would so appreciate your feedback. Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me. 2020 has surely been a year like no other. I am wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe New Year.
*Charleston image courtesy of Pinterest. All other photography by Molly Galler.