It’s Thanksgiving week, a week we all typically spend eating, drinking, shopping, football watching, and perhaps even swimming with friends and family. This year, my parents were planning on driving down from Pennsylvania to Florida to spend the week with us, but alas, Covid. Their small rural part of PA didn’t get hit very hard this past spring when other parts of the country were in crisis, but now, the tides have shifted a bit and they just didn’t want to risk bringing any germs across states lanes (or risk a Florida quarantine in a makeshift bedroom in our tiny house 😂).

It’s been a tough year, no doubt. Because I’m part of a military family, we’re the only ones down here in Florida, so it’s been a long time since we’ve seen aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, cousins, brothers & sisters, nieces & nephews, and far-away friends. It would be really easy for me to sit here all week and feel sorry for myself about all the things I’ve missed out on this year, but instead, I’m trying taking some time to think up some awesome things that 2020 has brought me. That’s not to say I don’t lie awake at night like the rest of us and worry or stew about what hasn’t gone right this year, but it hasn’t been all bad. Really, it hasn’t. Here goes:

  1. My family came back together. Last fall around this time, my husband left on what was supposed to be a 4 or 5 month deployment, which because of the pandemic, turned out to be about 8 months. All spring, I watched as other families embraced time on lockdown that they were able to spend together with, if I’m being honest, pure jealousy. I know there were so many others like me separated from a loved one this year because of the pandemic, and I’m thankful that we were one of the lucky ones fortunate enough to come back together (and that he actually made it to Memphis before we moved to Florida – that would have been next-level pain in the butt to do alone). To all those still apart – stay strong.
  2. Swimming returned. I remember being on spring break with our swim friends in Pensacola while the country started shutting down and thinking, surely they won’t cancel swimming for more than two weeks! That was March – it was June before we all stepped foot on a pool deck again (and for only 45 minutes). I know a lot of swimmers out there still haven’t returned to normal, or have just gotten word of shut-down part 2. For now, just being able to have intra-squad meets, small dual meets, and full length practices is remarkable. This past weekend my daughters had a swim meet and it was really a milestone for them – especially my older daughter. She got within a 10th of a second of a FLAGS qualifying time and really looked like she was back in the swing of racing. It all really put a smile on my face.
  3. I busted the myth that I’m not meant for land. Look, when I say that I spent my WHOLE life believing I could not run – I mean it. I have tried running so many times, and I always end up injured or feeling awful and quitting. The first time I had to get timed in a 1.5 mile run for my Navy fitness test – I dry heaved the entire time. But when the pools closed and we were stuck at home, I took to the half mile loop around my neighborhood and gave it one more shot. Thanks to the help of my Memphis besties, I finally got some great advice on how to start slow and build up, how to be consistent, and actually invest in shoes that didn’t make all my joints and muscles seize up. I started in March, and low and behold last weekend I ran my first real race and ended up in the top 5 overall and an age group win. I still don’t enjoy it as much as swimming, but there are days I actually feel like going for a run, which is huge for me. I plan to stick with it.
  4. Swim friends…. are the best friends. Since I started masters swimming and this blog, I have made so many virtual swim friends, and it’s not just because we’re in a pandemic. I know that if this were a regular year, I’d probably be meeting all of these lovely and amazing athletes in person and sharing a post-meet beer after a fun day of racing at some masters meet. It really is amazing how far reaching and supportive our community is.
  5. Postponed, not cancelled. One of the biggest disappointments of this year was that we had tickets to the Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha (last year’s Christmas present to my 11 year old). My friend and I were planning on taking our daughters (who are swim besties) for the experience of a lifetime. Explaining that it wasn’t happening was so heartbreaking, but for now – I’m holding out hope that because our tickets are just carried forward to 2021, fans will be allowed and we’ll get to go. Fingers crossed 🤞.
  6. High school swim season! This one was dicey! Back in August, we were just thankful that our kids were able to go to school and not have to do it virtually like so many kids around the country. When the Florida High School Athletic Association made the decision to allow a fall sports season, it was a major unexpected bonus. My daughter is just in middle school, but they are allowed to participate and it was SO fun watching her fall in love with high school swimming and have the experience to go to Districts and Regionals. She was really nervous about the season because she didn’t quite understand how it differed from USA Swimming, but she ended up absolutely loving it. My heart goes out to all the athletes that had their seasons cancelled, this was truly a blessing.
  7. Florida weather. Moving in the middle of a pandemic was not ideal, especially when I had really fallen in love with Memphis and all of our friends in Tennessee. That, coupled with the shutdown made it really impossible for us to say proper goodbyes when we left. Thankfully, the beach fixes (almost) everything. I’m not incredibly stoked to be back in Florida and experiencing 80 degree Thanksgivings (I’m from PA, seasons matter!), but we left behind some very dear friends when we moved to TN and it’s great to be back with them in a place where we can sit outside, socially distanced in the winter months. A lot of my family in the North and Mid-west don’t have the option for outdoor dining again for quite a while. I’m not saying I won’t complain if it’s hot on Christmas morning (I will), but if you have to live through a pandemic, Florida isn’t a bad place to be. We can swim outside, run outside, bike outside… you get the picture. Lockdown isn’t so bad when the weather’s ideal and there’s a plethora of safe outdoor activities to choose from.
  8. Working from home. There’s a favorite quote of mine from a favorite Dr. Seuss book (Horton Hatches the Egg), “But Mazy, by this time was far beyond reach / enjoying the sunshine way off in palm beach / and having such fun, such a wonderful rest / decided she’s NEVER go back to her nest!” I know there are some people that really miss the interaction and energy of being around other people in an office – but I am just not one of them 😂. It’s nice to be able to flex my schedule to kids activities and pickups, workouts, and chores around the house. I’m actually a more productive employee working remotely, go figure. So, if I ever have to “go back to my nest” (and I will), it’s going to be a sad, sad day people.
  9. FaceTime and Zoom. Really the internet in general. Last December, I got a new baby niece and to date, I have only met her twice 😢. Thankfully, I can still see her over FaceTime and just last week, she blew kisses and waved at me. I know she probably still has no idea who the crazy lady on the other end of the phone is (she really just wants the phone), but it makes me feel good to see her and my other niece and nephew, parents, in-laws, friends, family, etc. On my dad’s side of the family, we set up an Easter Zoom meeting and it was really fun to talk to my extended family when we hardly ever get a chance to get together these days, even in pre-pandemic life. There’s no replacement for hugs and baby snuggles, but thankfully we live in the era of technology and we’re never really fully disconnected from loved ones.
  10. My health. And the health of my family. I have had a few members of my extended family affected by Covid, but to date, all have thankfully recovered. I know there are so many that haven’t, and so as hard as this year has been, things could always be worse, and I’m thankful that we’ve been able to stay protected. It’s a bummer I can’t spend Thanksgiving with my parents (really was banking on my mom being here to deal with the damn turkey, now it’s a job for my husband), but I know they made the absolute right decision to stay put and stay safe. Most of the people I know and surround myself with (within 6 feet) follow the guidelines of scientists and experts, endure the small inconvenience of wearing a mask to protect others, and believe we can get through this together if we all do our part.

So there you have it – 10 reasons to smile, to be thankful, to march forward to a better and healthier 2021. My wish for everyone this Thanksgiving and holiday season is good health (both physical and mental), and even just one thing that you can look back on in 2020 and say, “it was hard, but this part was good.”

*Dedicated to all the swimmers out there that have double practices on national holidays 😉*

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