I fully intended to post my intentions in January, but here we are. It’s March, my birthday month, and I’m just getting around to posting the intentions that Elie and I set in January. Such is pandemic life, I guess.
Once again, Elie and I went out our annual intention-setting retreat in January, this time to Seattle. We walked and talked and dreamed about what we want for ourselves and our family in this next year of our lives together. This year of reflection sure felt different. Our long walk was interrupted with news of American citizens storming the Capitol building. Instead of popping in and out of coffee shops and restaurants, we ordered in. Our talks were punctuated with checking news reports and discussing the state and fate of our country. There are a lot of question marks in our planning, because so much is still unknown. But our time together is still so cherished, and we made the most of it.
If you’re reading here, I hope my own reflection and intention-setting process inspires you to do your own. If you need a little help getting started, you could browse through my intention-setting posts over the past few years, from 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. In each year, I share different tips about our retreat, the process we use and the questions we ask each other.
If setting intentions brings up negative feelings around failed new year resolutions, I hope I can put your mind at ease. Setting annual intentions is not a report card, not something you can pass or fail. They simply illuminate your hopes and dreams for the year. At the end of this year, what do you want to have accomplished? How do you want to live this year? How do you want to challenge yourself? What do you want to learn? How do you want to grow? During the year, some priorities will rise to the top and some will fall away. The intent is to move forward, getting just a little better each year. Setting intentions requires self-love and self-compassion—not criticism or condemnation. Look inward and reflect on how this year will nourish the whole of you.
For me, I hope I’m constantly learning and growing, living each year with just a little bit more compassion and grace than the last. A little bit more pride in my unique self and what I can do. That’s why I set intentions each year.
Reflection on 2020
This is the most difficult reflection to write. 2020 filled our nation and world with heartache and strife. A worldwide pandemic that left so many without jobs, without homes, without resources, scared. Schools closed, forcing children to try and learn at home from a computer screen. Parents trying to juggle work and childcare. So many people secluded in their homes, forced to face the year alone. Mask-wearing became political and divisive. Over 350,000 people lost their lives to COVID-19. Amidst the sorrow of the pandemic, nationwide riots shed light on the racial injustice and bigotry that persists in this country. Black Lives Matter began a nationwide awakening for change. The caustic and contested presidential race challenged our democracy and revealed greed and selfishness. I cannot begin this reflection without acknowledging how difficult and heartbreaking this year has been for so many.
We felt all the challenges of 2020 in our home, but many of the difficulties of this year also opened opportunity for new, unplanned joys and delights.
2020 was a challenging year for my health. At the end of 2019, I was diagnosed with high levels of heavy metals in my tissues—lead, mercury and thallium. I spent the whole year on a detox protocol of supplements to clear the heavy metals. At the end of this year, my levels are still high, and I have another month to go before I retest. Because I was having such a hard time clearing the heavy metals from my system, we purchased an infrared sauna, which Elie and I both have enjoyed.
I also retested for SIBO, and I still have high levels of methane bacteria. The SIBO may be complicated by the heavy metal toxicity, which affects the gut. I also learned that my SIBO is sort of an autoimmune disorder, because I have antibodies present from prior bouts of food poisoning that are (sort of) paralyzing my gut. I’m simplifying, because it’s all very complicated.
When I complete my detox protocol, I will switch to a month-long treatment of antibiotics and then six months of pro-motility medications. Over this year, I have listened to hours of podcasts and read so many articles on SIBO and heavy metals. My intuition tells me the heavy metals in my system come from exposure during childhood, living on a tobacco farm (with well water) and on military bases (one of which is a superfund site). This early exposure to heavy metals and pesticides damaged my gut.
I share all of this in hopes that it will help someone else. I had tummy aches for years and years. I was diagnosed with the catchall “IBS.” I didn’t feel well, and I didn’t know why. I am now going on 25 months of investigation and treatment, but I feel like I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. If you don’t feel well, look for a functional medicine practitioner who can help you get to the root of your problems, not just put a band-aid on it.
In addition to these challenges, earlier this year I was diagnosed with fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD). a condition that puts me at risk for stroke. I have small tears in both of my carotid arteries, and a pseudoaneurysm in one. My heart may also be affected, but I am doing more studies in 2021 to look into this. When I first got the diagnosis, I was terrified. I thought I might die in my sleep. But as I’ve come to learn more about the condition, I am making peace. I take a daily low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke. And I am not supposed to lift more than 25 pounds. As someone who has always prided herself on being strong, this has been a very hard adjustment. I still hold Theo, but I just don’t lift him from the ground.
I discovered the FMD because I was hearing my heartbeat in my ear. I had been for quite a while. At first, I ignored it, but it started to be louder and more persistent. Luckily, my doctor ordered an MRI, which showed the FMD. And then she ordered a follow-up CT Scan to make sure arteries in the rest of my body weren’t affected. Again, if something doesn’t feel right in your body, follow your intuition.
Now for the good news for my health. I got strong in 2020. The pandemic pivot to offering Barre3 Bellingham classes via Zoom allowed me to start taking classes four or five times a week, instead of one. I hope these online classes are here to stay. As much as I love moving in the studio with my friends, I love that I can get Theo ready for school and then head to my living room for an 8:30 class. I have loved it. (I also know that this was a very stressful time for my friend, Caitlin, who owns the studio. She handled the difficulty with such grace and courage.)
And bike rides with my family! We biked more this year than ever before, taking advantage of the school closure and sunny spring weather to explore our local trails. Those rides will be a treasured memory of the early days of the shutdown.
I learned a lot in 2020. Like many Americans, I was forced to face my own white privilege and my ignorance about racism. I listened to podcasts, read books, watched movies, diversified Theo’s library of books and media, considered how and why we celebrate some holidays, had many conversations within our own home and with friends. This learning is not over.
I started counseling this year, which ended when it had to go online. It didn’t feel urgent enough for online sessions, but is something I will begin again when we can meet in person.
Every year, I set a goal of learning something new. The pandemic brought me something unexpected—floral arranging. Another friend, Steve Moore, had to pivot his wedding planning business for the pandemic and offered several virtual floral design workshops, which I loved.
This was supposed to be the year we (or at least Theo and me) started attending church. Instead, we explored spirituality and religion at home, including our gratitude practice. Every night at dinner or before bed with Theo, we say what we are grateful for that day. It has become a treasured practice.
This year at home was so good for our family.
My relationship with Elie has never been stronger. We supported each other through some difficult things this year—my FMD diagnosis (I cried a lot), not being able to cross the border to see Elie’s dad (who is 98 and doesn’t understand the border closure), having to close Samuel’s Furniture for 2 ½ months. There were tough days. We give each other grace and treat each other with compassion and kindness. I am so lucky to walk through life with Elie.
Despite the pandemic, we managed two short getaways to nurture our relationship with one-on-one time, one trip on the boat to Orcas Island for our anniversary and one getaway to the Herbfarm Restaurant and an overnight at The Willow Inn. We also did an overnight at Roche Harbor with friends.
One of our intentions this year was to do something fun together. We bought a boat! Elie had never wanted a boat before, but when we started seeing friends and neighbors out on the water during quarantine, we got curious. Theo’s excitement at boating prompted a spontaneous trip to Bellingham Yachts. Soon after, we became boaters. Not surprisingly, Elie picked it up very quickly and soon he and Theo were studying charts and becoming experts. We got the boat at the beginning of August and spent every nice day out on the water, exploring the local islands. We took friends out on the water. We did two overnight camping trips to Soucia Island, plus overnights at Roche Harbor and Orcas Island with Theo and Mimi. It was the highlight of the year, for sure.
And Theo! Theo lived his best life this year. Once he understood that he didn’t have the virus (or cause anyone else to be sick—which he thought at first), he thrived. All the extracurricular activities were canceled this year, of course. But that left room for so much play. At the beginning of the shutdown, we actually had nice weather (unusual for northwest Washington), so we spent all our time outside on the front sidewalk and lawn. We would talk with neighbors over the fence, spend hours doing sidewalk chalk, or just sit and rock in the rocking chairs. Theo and I did countless art projects and baked and cooked together. I have such fond memories of those early stay-at-home days and the peaceful, slow rhythm they brought. Theo’s teacher from Waldorf would come by and do a puppet show or drop off crafting supplies. We went on so many family bike rides and nature walks. In so many ways, it was such a wonderful time in our lives.
We got to spend so much time with Mimi. Early in the pandemic, we stared having lunch together every day, a treasured time. It is now one of our favorite parts of the day.
And then, we partnered with another family from Waldorf and our nanny (who has a degree in early childhood education) and started a homeschool. It has been the most delightful and enriching experience for all of us--children, teacher and parents. I won’t go into many details here, because I’m working on another post about our homeschool. I will just say that our school partners have become family, and we have all learned so much from each other.
Theo grew up so much this year. I’ll leave the details for his five-year post, which I’m also working on. But he has become such a mature, thoughtful, interesting little human. Of course, he’s also a normal four-year-old. He’s delightful. I felt a shift in parenting this year, a letting go of-sorts that allowed me (mostly) to sit back and watch him unfold. I still worry, but less. I still caution, but less.
This year was hard on friendships. So many rules. So many decisions. So much weighing on how, when and why to get together. I hope all of my friends know how much I love them, even in my absence.
Home took on a new meaning this year. It was our solace, our refuge. It kept our family safe and sane. As a homebody at heart, I actually loved all of the time at home. I organized. I cooked—a lot. We spent so much more time in our rocking chairs, leaning over the fence talking to neighbors, and gathering around our lunch table together.
Travel and play sure looked different in 2020. Our amazing trip to Costa Rica with Mimi in January was supposed to be the first of many trips in 2020. Instead, it was the last. We canceled all plans and stayed home. No swim lessons. No music lessons. But, we found joy in simplicity. Truly, the only trips we mourned were the ones to Vancouver to spend time with family, especially Elie’s dad.
2020 also felt like such a difficult year for community involvement and support. Elie remained active on the Board of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, and I remained involved in the Whatcom Hills Waldorf Parent Council. But, our plans to volunteer with Skookum Kids halted, as did so many other in-person opportunities. Mostly, we found ways to donate—to our local community, to help alleviate the effects of Covid, and to diverse organizations supporting Black Lives Matter.
Sustainabilty took on a new face in 2020—one of necessity. Empty grocery stores and avoiding multimple shopping trips prompted me to get creative and resourceful in the kitchen. I practiced using every last vegetable withering in the crisper. It was good for me, and for my cooking. I don’t think I will every cook the same way again.
Early in 2020, I had become inspired to return to meaningful work, partnering with my amazing friend, Sarah Murphy-Kangas, to plan a dinner series to bring women together for meaningful conversations and intentional relationships. I had dreams of expanding this series into longer retreats. Obviously, gatherings were canceled, so those plans are on hold. But, all of the pandemic cooking and the time at home sparked another vision—to finally publish my cookbook. Serendipitously, I was introduce to a consultant who helped me develop a cohesive, beautiful cookbook proposal. I am excited about this project.
For the past few years, I have picked a word for the year. In 2021, my word is discomfort. Pushing myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Part of this comes from goals I have for this year. Part of this comes from challenging my Enneagram 9-self from resting solidly in my comfort zone. This year, I want to find comfort in the discomfort. Here’s how.
Continue to focus on my own spiritual practice and continue the spiritual practices/traditions/gratitude practice that work for our family.
Continue to make my marriage to Elie a priority: being present, spending time, practicing kindness, listening, being understanding and accepting of differences, checking in regularly, having fun, giving love.
Continue to be a loving, nurturing, playful, and open-minded mama to Theo. Be present. Be patient. Help him to develop his own independence and give him opportunities to grow in his own unique way. Support him in the activities and opportunities that bring him joy. Set aside my own desires or expectations. Say ‘be careful’ less. Here are specific activities for this year:
Continue to nurture meaningful relationships with family and friends.
Continue to maintain our home as a warm, welcoming, nurturing place for friends and family to visit. For it to be a place that creates wonderful childhood memories for Theo. For it to be organized and serene, because that keeps me calm and makes life easier.
Travel and Play
We would love to resume international travel this year, especially to our family in Vancouver. However, it feels impossible to make travel plans right now. We will just have to see how this year unfolds.
Play, however, is another story. Here are some of the ways we’re planning to play this year.
When it comes to supporting our community, my heart is drawn to those organizations that help kids to thrive. Elie is also on the Board of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, and we are committed to keeping Bellingham a vibrant community of locally-owned businesses.
Be a thoughtful, conscious consumer. Try to buy less: reuse, repurpose or recycle whenever possible.
I spent a lot of time in 2019 thinking about what meaningful work means to me, and how I want to spend my time as Theo transitions to Kindergarten. I reflected on my true skills and talents, and where I need to ask for help. At the point in my life, I feel drawn to bringing women together for opportunities to develop meaningful relationships and to nourish themselves, body, mind and spirit. Here are a few goals related to my plans.
Here’s to making ourselves uncomfortable in 2021—moving past the discomfort to grow and achieve what you never thought possible.