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2020: Year in Review

This morning over breakfast, we reviewed this past year. It feels as if conversations have made their way over to that topic more frequently over the past few days.

So many changes; so many random things have happened that the "2020 Bingo Card" meme became a common staple on social media.

I vaguely remember what happened to make the meme above be created. I think it got lost in the sauce of all 2020's weirdness. Just another ingredient. Zombie venison? Anyway...

I'm going to try to go month by month though, and just give a personal history of 2020 for the little yellow Hogue household.

February (because January was pretty much the "deep breath before the plunge," am I right?): We had talked about my going part time at my job, thought long and hard about it, prayed a lot about it. I wanted to have more time and mental energy for my artwork and fiddle playing. So, I went part time. It didn't last super long (officially ending in late summer because business got super crazy with Covid stuff), but it was a nice try, and I did some paintings, practiced some Bach on my violin, and watched as the virus sounded scarier and scarier as it came nearer and nearer.

March: The virus hit in full force in March, as I think it did everywhere. Around this time, my boss' husband had a stroke. It was really scary, because we all love Kevin and we were worried for him and for Olivia. He has slowly made great strides, and we are so thankful. We are still praying for a full recovery. But in the beginning, things looked bleak.

At the end of March, some of us were laid off because there was not enough business coming in. I'm really thankful for how my boss handled it, and I was able to come in three or four times during the month of April and help with some things. Matt was one of the few that wasn't laid off at his work, and I'm thankful for that. He began to work from home, which has been a huge blessing.

We got a bird feeder outside our living room window, and the bird-watching ensued. We started naming all the birds that came: Carl the cardinal and his wife, Carla. Hatch, the nuthatch, Tuffy the tufted titmouse, etc...

April: We spent the month at home. We realized that we would make a great elderly, retired couple (it makes sense because we're both pretty much 90 years old). We had campfires almost every other night with hotdogs and s'mores, which is my absolute favorite way to spend an evening. The wood thrushes arrived, and we seemed positively surrounded by them. Their song is the most beautiful, and how we'd love to sit by the fire with our s'mores, listening to the fire crackle, and the wood thrush singing its mysterious and magical song.

I read the book Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown (y'all go get that book and read it, please), and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (way trippier than I was expecting but overall pretty good and I liked it). We made some "Live From Here" videos of us playing music, and that was super fun. I got a lot of fiddle practice in that month! I started feeling a bit strange toward the end of April.

May: I went back to work after being laid off, and hit the ground a-running. I turned 31 on May 7th, and for my birthday, we got 3 rose bushes. My birthday party was basically Matt, me, and my parents around the campfire, and I loved it. My favorite picture of me from this year is probably one that we took that evening. I also knew I was pregnant at the time because I had all the textbook symptoms, but it was still just a bit too early for a test. It's really nothing special in terms of a photo, but I look at it and remember the glow of happiness I felt.

Monday after Mother's Day, I felt apprehensive about stuff that was going on with my body. That night at 12:30am, I miscarried. I was only 2-3 weeks pregnant, so there is the blessing of it not having been worse. Even so, it was hard and painful. I went to work the next day, and felt so empty emotionally... and physically. Lots of pain. Lots of tears. But through it all, the Lord’s presence of peace was heavily on me. We cried, and then we kept walking.

Late May - June: Late May and June was a month of quietude and healing in my heart. Matt being who he is, he knew just what to do to bring joy to my quiet heart: he got me around some animals. For Christmas of 2019, he had gotten us tickets to go to Kentucky Down Under, and we hadn't used them yet. So we took off one weekend, and got to spend an hour around some 'roos.

We were the weirdos who spent almost an hour in there, just being with the kangaroos, petting them, sitting next to them, and getting an occasional kangaroo kiss. I also got to touch a wolf, and got some wolf kisses through the fence. I pet a fox who was cooling himself in the shade next to the fence. After the time at Kentucky Down Under, we went to the Amish market, and got a basket of some fresh strawberries. We were in heaven just gobbling those up on our drive home. We felt happy and blessed.

Later that month, we visited Matt's family in Texas. I cannot begin to describe how much I love those people, and how much I feel that I have been family with them forever. We stayed with Doug and Ronnie West for the first part of our trip, and I got to do early morning garden chores with Ronnie again, like I had on my 29th birthday. And we drank jasmine tea and talked a lot together. I'm thankful for those conversations.

We then stayed with Naomi and Richie West, both of whom are some of my favorite people ever. Naomi and I share a love of all animals, and Richie and I both are too transparent for most people, so it works out well. I always love seeing Matt and Naomi together (they're first cousins) because the laughs and good memories don't seem to ever end. Lots of joy in that house, and lots of understanding. I always feel loved and comfortable as soon as I walk in.

We didn't take any pictures in Texas because we pretty much just spent time all together. What in the world can beat that?

The roses we got for my birthday were stunning and seemed to hardly contain the amount of blossoms they just kept producing.

July: Not a whole lot happened in July (except for zombie deer, apparently). We worked (Matt from home, me from the office).

I found out that my husband had never truly seen my favorite TV show, so I think during this time we hunkered down in the evenings after work and binge-watched M*A*S*H. He found out why the show is so amazing and became a huge fan during this time.

Matt made this insanely good black bean dip in our iron skillet. I painted a wren that I ended up scrapping, but it was good practice. That's about it.

August: We went and saw the JMW Turner art exhibit in Nashville, and that was amazing. His art was so far ahead of his time that it was absolutely dumbfounding.

I painted the zebra swallowtail butterfly, and enjoyed that.

Naomi inspired me and gave me the courage (though she probably didn't know it at the time) to work on something I've always wanted to do: write and illustrate a children's book. So in August, I started writing.

September: Okay, September was probably one of my favorite months in 2020. We finished watching the whole series of *M*A*S*H in early September, ugly-crying at the last episode, and just drinking it all in. The wood thrushes sang a while longer, and headed south again.

The one not-so-amazing part of this month was the whole run-around with my health that ended up leading us to find out that I'm perfectly fine, which I do not take for granted. My hormones had been a wreck since what had happened in May, and so in trying to get that straightened out, they found something odd with my liver, which should be fine because we eat super healthy, and that led to wondering if there was something wrong with my digestion, which led to the sweetest Dr. Patel meeting with me, going over my history, and telling me that I was fine. So there's that. I am so thankful for my state of health. God willing, I will continue in this way.

We went to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and did some hiking, and stayed at the most amazing little place, the Buckhorn Inn. We hiked Abram's Falls trail, and that whole experience of hiking together was somehow one of the most bonding things we've done for our marriage in a long time. I found three really beautiful and unique bird feathers on the trail. We talked and laughed and helped each other and marveled at the beauty all around us. And we decided that as much as we have loved being at the beach together, the mountains are where we really feel our spirits bloom as one.

We celebrated 3 years of marriage on September 17th. I post a lot of mushy things about Matt throughout the year, so I'll keep it to a minimum here. But life before was like a dream I needed to wake up from. Our marriage is definitely not perfect because we are both deeply flawed people who are trying to help each other heal every day, but man, I'm glad to be hiking this trail with him.

October: Speaking of being thankful to be hiking the scary trails with him, that sensation was very real and tangible when we went to the Grand Canyon for his birthday. I had forgotten how afraid of heights I can be.

Again, Matt totally rocked being a travel agent for us, and found a place for us to stay in Flagstaff, AZ. It had hiking trails behind it with lots of ponderosa pines that smell like vanilla and butterscotch.

We rode the train to the Grand Canyon in the historic train car, and took in the scenery more slowly, with the sound of the train tracks clacking beneath the open window.

So we spent Matt's birthday at the Grand Canyon, and we both were in awe at every turn.

The next day, we had breakfast at my favorite cafe on earth, Brewed Awakenings, in Williams, AZ. A couple that we had seen there the morning before was sitting there again, and they mentioned to us that they had appreciated us giving up our seats for an elderly couple at the pre-train show yesterday. So we got to talking, and we ended up having the most wonderful time talking to Mike and Tammy Nash. They do couples ministry in Texas, so they encouraged us and we prayed all together. We left the cafe with that sense of "wow, God. That was really cool." The next time we go to Texas, we plan on stopping in and visiting with them.

That afternoon, we hiked a bit of the Kibab trail, and I about got sick from my fear of heights. But on the way back up, Matt was so patient with me and let me just "cling to the rock that is higher than I," which basically means me putting my head against the rock wall and breathing my way out of passing out or throwing up. But I'm really glad we did it. It was terrifying, but it was another way that I learned that I can completely lean on him and he was strong and kind in supporting me.

We drove around Sedona, and gawked at the beauty of the route down the mountain there, and prayed at the beautiful Chapel of the Holy Cross.

After that, it was about time to come home. And on the plane trip back, I wrote a big chunk of the children's book, and that was lovely.

On October 24th, we had our 2nd Annual Hogue Fall Festival. It was raining, so it was confined to the indoors, but it was really a sweet time of apple cider, carving pumpkins, and eating white chicken chili while watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

The next day, we got to watch my mom be ordained as a minister in the Church of God. I am so, so proud of her and all the hard work and study and prayer she has put in.

November: Not long after mom's ordination, dad got Covid, and so he was quarantined, mom was quarantined, and I was quarantined. So November was pretty quiet. I got to work from home, which I immediately loved. I finished writing the children’s novel, and started in on illustrating it. It’s slow-going, but I am happy with the progress so far.

Thanksgiving was sweet. I liked that the gathering had way fewer people and it felt more meaningful that way.

After Thanksgiving, I started working from home permanently. I really love it. I mean, I could cry over how much I love it. We repeatedly tell each other how blessed we are that we both get to work from home at the same time, and have lunch breaks together.

December: We had our Nutcracker night on Saturday evening, carrying on our annual tradition of seeing it, only this time we were home. It isn't Christmas yet, but the tree is lit, presents are wrapped in brown paper under it, Liz Story is playing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" on the piano, and we had vegetables and fish for dinner. God willing, we plan to go to West Virginia for a sweet and beautiful Christmas, no matter how small.

Merry Christmas, merry Christmas, merry Christmas to you.

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