(Feeling like a child on Christmas morning when my first published novel arrived in paperback.)
2020. Wow. What to say of this unique year? Or even the end - or beginning - of a decade? Just wow!
I usually do a decade retrospective, like you can read what I wrote at the end of the year 2000 HERE, or the long conflicted decade update in 2010 HERE. These last ten years have been one heck of a ride, culminating with this strange and, out of a sudden, a year that caught everyone by surprise. I’ve also written a year retrospective sometimes, and I can’t let 2020 itself go. In summary, this retrospective is long, so please bear with me.
In the last ten years, so many things happened. Life as parents usually revolves around our children’s lives, and mine isn’t different. So, many of my updates this last decade have to do with my offspring.
I survived the years of my son’s high school, a horrible recession, and many other life changes. I feel like these last ten years went by so fast that I am still trying to figure out how we are already here. Unlike the other two decades I described looking back and having mixed feelings, situations that just remembering brought many tears, and some victories in the midst of it all, these last decade has been mostly good. I’m thankful for the blessings I’ve had. Not all have been that great, but looking back, I can see Heavenly Father’s hand in each.
As I mentioned in previous posts, in 2015, my son graduated high school and left on a religious mission for our Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was called to serve in the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. It was the time that I was the closest to my Heavenly Father, praying for my son, and He answered every single one of my prayers. He returned home in 2017, went to work, started college, and soon enough found a beautiful young woman, getting married at the Logan Temple, as I mentioned briefly in my 2019 retrospective. By the way, he just graduated last week with his first Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Finance, Business, and Leadership in Management. I know. I am not sure if I deserve it all. He completed two majors and two minors in three years, graduating with honors, Dean’s lists, tons of scholarships, and all!
Personally, trials still exist that I am trying to resolve with my Father's help. I am now an empty-nester, which I haven’t spent much time thinking about because work keeps me busy, but some days I enjoy having more time, space and enjoying the fact I now have a beautiful and talented daughter that makes my son smile—a lot.
The recession turned my world upside down. That was brutal. Now, after 4 years of restored growth and peace, here we go again. God save us!
I guess, if you know me a little bit, you know that I always try to find the positive in each experience. I’m sure that I have started this with a list of good things that happened this past ten years, but I have to mention specific things that occurred during 2020 itself, even with COVID-19 and quarantine.
We were hit the hardest with the virus here in Utah in mid-March, and it increased exponentially later in November with winter weather. Thank goodness, we didn’t lose our employment, and our work even let us do our jobs partially from home. When we work with higher education, the flux of people in and out is absurd some days. Public areas like bathrooms or halls have been monitored to the best of our abilities, but it is still scary if you are high-risk or live with those that could be fatally affected by a virus like this.
For me, after all, it has been great the chance to be home and slow down a little bit. Sometimes we fill our every minute of the day, and the prospect of virtually participating in the world opens endless possibilities no one could see coming.
It was indeed a quieter year. A lot of good things happened, but also many sad and vital losses. This year shifted my line of thinking and living in several instances. I will start with the good ones.
Professionally, working at home alternating with days in-office has been great. I wish I could go back to working only from home. The many regional and federal conferences I usually travel to were all done virtually. While I missed the interaction and the open-mind experience travel brings me, I enjoyed more conferences than usual. For work, I’d be in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., or Southern Utah, but I didn’t need to. I’d be in Phoenix and Provo for my writing, but I also didn’t need to. I was able to experience and learn A LOT in the comfort of my home. The highlights were the Federal Student Aid National Conference from the Dept. of Education with Betsy Devos, the Storymakers, and the American Night Writers Association Conference. I enjoyed these so much and considered myself privileged to have had the chance to participate in each of them.
Having more time at home increased the time I could dedicate to my writing. I was able to finish and publish one of my novels, The Scotsman - Upon the Altar of Roots and Rocks. As I’ve said before, this is not the first novel I write, but the first one I publish. In fiction under Christine Ayer, I have published short stories, novellas, and novelettes so far. I have five novels written, but they all need some work still and talk about some heavy subjects that I feel I need to prepare my readers for. Upon the Altar is one of those stories that brought me much pleasure in writing, and I believe it establishes a good foundation for my writing style.
Spiritually, I believe I have developed a closer relationship with my Savior, having the time to study and ponder more, pray and fast more, but at the same time, I miss temple work. As a genealogy lover, if there’s a place in this world, no matter where I go, where I feel home, and a glimpse of my former home in heaven comes to mind like a deja-vu, it is at one of His temples. It made me repent for all those times I could have spent within those walls, and life got in the way. It made me even more grateful to have the Priesthood available to me through my son and husband with the impossibility of going to Church. I don’t know what would be of me without the sacrament. I’m a sinner by the minute, so I need the reality of my knowledge that I’m washed over all over again and that my Savior’s Atonement is real. I look forward to entering a temple again; after all, I am sad for my waiting ancestors. I hope they also decided to stop postponing their repentance when I get there.
The highlight of my studies this year has also shifted back to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I have tens of notes that I might put all together in a booklet, as I did with Os Dois Evangelhos: Apenas Um Verdadeiro. It’s been one of those subjects I enjoy learning and can’t wait to happen.
Personally, this has been a year of discoveries. I had worked at home before and enjoyed it, and the opportunity to get back to that made me happy, even amid the pandemic chaos. I’m not one to feel alone or depressed, and I learned to enjoy my time. Of course, I miss normalcy, but I’m quick and eager to embrace the new and adapt quickly. I keep my house as a temple, and the more time I spend at home, the more time I spend cleaning, cooking, organizing, and transforming things. I love to simplify, and this was the year for it because once you better things, no more waste of time spent doing these same things. I have also dedicated more time to writing, studying, and especially talking to the people I care about. It’s nice to have a little more time to catch up with old friends and long-time missed family members. Zoom has been a great tool this year for work, writing, and family! I have had time even to sing a little more. I’m not professional or anything, just like it, and one of the nicest surprises that happened even these last few weeks was finding an old friend I admire and look up to on this journey. Sharing our passion– and discovering how many forces we have in common - has been a beautiful feeling I cherish and treasure.
For the things that happened this year that are not so good, if I stop and think about it, I find it was a year of losses. Loss of some essential human beings that were part of my story.
In January, I lost a dear uncle, who was my dad’s younger brother, to suicide. A retired navy seal, struggling with his Parkinson's disease diagnosis and health decline, decides not to be a burden to his family. I still can’t believe some days. He helped me so much with genealogy and was the one who inspired me to love everything and anything related to the military. I appreciate every word of advice he gave me throughout my life. When I was six years old, he came to spend Christmas with our family and brought me some Air Force and Navy souvenirs I still have. He is missed more than I can explain that I am so far away, but mostly by my aunt - his wife, daughter, and grandson, of course. I hope our temples reopen soon.
Throughout the year, more losses. An old friend who was the Patriarch of our Church on my mom’s Ward and Stake in Brazil died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving a legacy of love. One day, I will be a witness on Jesus’ feet for his generous and soothing heart and soul that helped me be the person I am today.
A few days ago, a sweet older lady I once was responsible for in Brazil, also from Church, died, and my heart mourns just thinking that the next time I visit, she won’t be there to hug me. She always made me feel loved in her simple ways, and I will never forget how many times that innocent smile brought light to my days.
(Please join me in prayer for this beautiful lady, my dear Mother. She will have a major fight against cancer again in these coming months.)
My major heartbreak this year has to do with my mom’s cancer returning. She had surgery in March to remove metastatic lymph nodes after the 2018 surgery. A few weeks ago, cancer returned for the third time, so here we go, as she starts over more surgeries and treatments with the new year. If you can join me, please pray for my mom. Pray that it’s just a local and fast removable and healing process, and she will be strong and healthy after all she has to go through again. Hopefully, this is also God's will.
I noticed my goals for 2021 are about the same ones I had for this year, because some of them were not fulfilled due to the pandemic. Maybe I will publish another novel and a few shorter works, continue improving my health, visit my family, and juggle what comes. I am a firm believer that come what may and love it because Sunday will come again.
Well, friends. That’s it. If you read it all, you're a champ. I can say that, during this last decade and year, again, I had to reinvent myself. I agree that life meets us at our level, and I yet have so much to learn.
One thing I definitely discovered, though, is that we can control our narrative and rewrite our own life on how we want our new year to be. I encourage you to do it. Write – or ponder – what inspires you and makes you feel alive, in love, and excites you! Live what makes you grow. For that’s the essential part of life -to never stop learning.