What's the deal with it?
I get that the calendar shows a quarter of a year has passed since the turn of the new year, but my head seems to have gotten stuck in the page of that turn because if you told me that today was January instead of April I would be inclined to believe you. My kids swimming in the pool beside me, the buds on the trees that have long since turned to leaves, even the baby quails bouncing along my back fence still can’t fully convince me that time is marching along.
So, in an effort to catch myself up with the calendar and to close the chapters that need closing, I have decided to catch this blog up on the happenings of this year. Starting at the new year and ending... well, we shall see.
The new year this year needed a celebration. Not because I was anxious for 2020 to end like so many others were, but because I had been stuck in my home for so long that I had begun to forget that there were such things as celebrations. Which is why we decided that, in spite of the pandemic, we would go to Flagstaff to be with the Birdno family.
It was a calculated choice. We have been so careful through this pandemic - closing our doors a bit more tightly than those around us in the name of protecting the geriatric patients that Brian works with every day. We have taken very few risks and so going to another city (in another state) was not a decision that was made easily.
We oscillated back and forth, weighing the risks involved with Covid, of course, and also with a secondary issue involving a painful foot that at this time had been plaguing me for an entire six months. It made me rather anxious about the hiking and walking that I knew I would want to do up in the beautiful mountains of Flagstaff.
But in the end, we decided that the risks of exposure and extra foot problems were less important than the risks of mental stir-craziness that were galloping through our brains. So we went.
And came back with Covid. And a painful, swollen foot that left me on crutches for several weeks.
But I get ahead of myself.
The kids and I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and met Cami and her wide open arms on her doorstep. Those Cami-hugs are so real, and as I wrapped myself into one I felt so blessed to have a friend that hugs like that. It made another entry in my head under Things You Appreciate More Because of Covid. She was congested and a bit sniffily but waved it off as allergies, which made sense to me as she's had allergies for as long as I've known her. We migrated into the kitchen and began our days-long conversation about all the deepest things in our hearts.
And the kids fell into step with each other without a single heartbeat passing.
Cami's oldest daughter, Mikayla, was working at Sonic that night and our kids, unwilling to wait the four hours for her shift to finish, hopped into the car to drive through and grab a drink so they could say hello.
Two hours later, Mikayla called from her car in sobs with terrible news. Her routine, college-required Covid test had just come back positive. She felt fine - completely symptom free - but she was sent home from work immediately and would not be able to come over that night, or for the entire weekend, to celebrate the new year with us.
Honestly, we probably should have left then but we’d only just arrived, and our suitcases had four days worth of clothing. Plus... friendship! And it felt so good to be out of the house. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that Mikayla hadn't spent any time with her family but for one measly little hour on Christmas Day which had been an entire week previous and, who even knows if she had been positive then?!
Anyway, we stayed.
And we partied.
Even Eliza made it 'till midnight!
There was a lot more than just personal excitement surrounding the turn of this year, there was global excitement. The hearts of the world
were are tired, broken, worried, frustrated, lonely and anxious, and thinking about and anticipating the turn of a new year infused those hearts with hope. For me, I’m always excited about a new year, and I'd say that I was not much more or less excited for this particular new year than for any of the other new years in my life.
Carson caught on to the global new year anticipation and voiced his own opinions - unprompted - in words that were wise beyond his 14 years.
"I don't get why everyone is so excited for the new year this year," he said. "It's like everyone is expecting to wake up on January 1st to a world that is somehow changed. But everything is going be the same because we are all still the same. It's like they don't get that in order for your life to change, you have to change, and in order for the world to change, we have to change. Everyone is still going to be mad about politics, everyone is still going to be stressed about the pandemic, everyone is still going to be aggressively opinionated about the Black Lives Matter movement, it's all going to be the same..."
It opened up a great conversation about self-improvement and goal setting and how external cues (like the start of a new year) can provide the motivation to work towards those goals but that, ultimately, he was insightfully correct.
But we might as well party 'till midnight anyway!
The next day we slept in until the sun was high in the sky and then the men took the older kids canyoneering for the rest of the afternoon while Cami and I spent the day sitting in her kitchen. At first I was quite disappointed I couldn't join in the adventure (dang foot), but the disappointment dissolved quickly because, well, maybe you're like me and you don't even need an explanation to understand why sitting in the kitchen with one of your best friends for an entire day is the most wonderful thing.
She and I went for a slow walk that evening in the forest by her home and made a quick trip to the grocery store to grab food for poor, symptom-free, Covid-laden Mikayla and her boyfriend. We dropped the groceries at their doorstep and left without even a knock. Covid is weird.
The next day was Saturday and I couldn't stomach the thought of letting everyone else head to beautiful Sedona to do another hike without me. So I iced my foot extra well that morning, took a couple ibuprofen, laced my tennis shoe in just that way, and climbed into the car.
The hike was full - full - of beauty on both a micro scale and a macro scale.
And my soul soaked it up like a withered, dying leaf would soak up the rain.
The pain in my foot originates from the base of my second toe - right in the joint - making it difficult for me to bend my toes in any direction. Walking, therefore, is no easy task as it requires a consistently flat foot to keep the swelling at bay. My gait is short, and my pace is dreadfully slow, and at one point where it was necessary to dig toes into rock to climb, I had to turn around and scoot up the surface on my backside using my heels instead of my toes. Here's McKenzie hiking up the rock the normal person way:
Scooting up on my backside was not so graceful.
Thankfully I was accompanied by patient, loving people who didn't seem to mind waiting for me to catch up. There did come a time, however, that I couldn't continue because the path upwards required functioning toes, so Merrill and I turned around with the two little girls and started the 2.5 miles back towards our car while Cami and Brian took the older kids on up with the charge to 'see if you can reach the top and make it back down to us before we reach the car!' Which turned out to be a pretty easy task since Merrill and I got helplessly lost and wandered around in circles through the tall bushes for about 15 minutes as we looked for the right path.
Somewhere along the hike, Merrill and his son, Josh, mentioned that they were feeling a little... off. Which, given the exposure to their daughter, got us a bit concerned. But there wasn't much to do about it right then. By the end of the hike, their symptoms had intensified and they were sure they were, indeed, getting sick.
Cami’s ‘allergies’ had gotten worse along the hike, too, and we realized with a sinking pit in our stomachs that we had probably been personally welcomed into the new year by a highly contagious virus that the whole world was panicked about.
We drove straight to their home, packed up our things as quickly as possible, and cut our vacation a day short. I iced my foot again on the drive home and we prayed that we 1) wouldn't get sick, or that if we did get sick that 2) it wouldn't be too bad.
Well, we did get sick. And it wasn't too bad. We felt blessed that we knew exactly when we’d been exposed, so when we arrived back at home we wasted no time and started our isolation period immediately. My biggest concern throughout this pandemic was never that our family might get sick because we are not in any high risk categories, but that we might spread it to someone who was. And I felt so grateful that that didn’t happen.
My right foot, on the other hand, got much angrier and it left me hobbling around on crutches for weeks.
So I'd say that 2021 started off on the
wrong... right.... well, it started off on my left foot anyway.
A Few Extra Pictures