2020 – Git Outta Here

I guess I should have known on New Year’s Day, when I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a Mac truck that 2020 wasn’t going to be great, but it took a few more days to realize just how bad it was going to get.

Nursing what I thought was “the flu,” I spent 7 days at home before going to the Doctor on the 8th, which led to an immediate trip to the Emergency Room and 3 days in the hospital for what at the time was believed to be bilateral pneumonia.

After a few weeks of recovery, it was time to start moving forward. Since selling my former business, I had made the decision to take my brand “Of These Mountains,” to the next level. For months I had pondered how was best to make this happen and by early February, I had my eyes set on a retail shop.

With the help of my niece, Chelsea, I found the perfect spot in Clarkesville, just 30 miles from home and went about setting up the store with a projected open date of early March.

As I went about getting the store ready to open, I was beginning to hear about this mystery illness called COVID that was affecting people and highly contagious.

I kept working and on March 2nd, set up just the way I envisioned, with great excitement my retail store opened.

We were open for 2 weeks and then closed for 5, due to COVID quarantines and closures.

Not long after going into quarantine, I had to say good-bye to my best friend of 15 years. Rosalita “Lita” Grace Rumsey, was my companion through life’s ups and downs. She came into my life at 6 weeks old and never once was there a day that I regretted the decision to invite her into my life.

Lita’s health had been going downhill for a few months, and eventually with the help of my Vet, the decision was made to say good-bye. I prepared my heart and Brett came over to prepare a final resting place for her in my bed of hydrangeas.

To say quarantine was hard is an understatement but going through it without my Lita made the time almost unbearable.

I’m one of those people that often gets way too into my head, quarantine amplified that for me. Depression, self-doubt, lack of structure all crept into my psyche and I had to work hard to make sure I stayed strong and not get bogged down by all that was bad, but find some sources of sunlight in what were very dark days.

I sunk myself into some creative marketing for work, lots of binged television and too much food; reopening my store 5 weeks after closing. To say those first couple of months after opening were unplanned is an understatement, but people’s generosity with online orders and visits to the store upon reopening got me through.

If I am honest, the first quarter of 2020 was my worst. The rest of the year was different than normal, but I was able to keep my business open and our new storefront has been successful, and we continue to get picked up by additional retailers.

With the emphasis to online shopping our website performed well, and this year Of These Mountains gear was shipped to 30 States, plus Puerto Rico and Canada, something I am incredibly proud of and grateful for!

2020 brought about many changes to daily life. Now a mask is a common part of my wardrobe, hand sanitizer is a constant and while not refusing to live in fear of the virus, I am constantly aware.

I still don’t feel comfortable in large gatherings, while I will go to a restaurant, I am selective and the thought of jumping on a plane for an overnight stay anywhere is far from my thought process.

For me, a particularly difficult part of COVID has been my distance from friends. I’m a hugger and need those interactions, I enjoy spending time with friends and family and while I still get to see those I love, it isn’t as much as I want. Much of that is my choosing, but I also believe it is the prudent decision.

While COVID brought our world to a standstill, there was more that made 2020 one that will always be remembered.

We saw the issue of racial injustice move to the forefront. I believe that every life matters, as does our nation’s history, however, I also believe that when one segment of our population is pained, we all are hurt. When we see citizens murdered simply for the color of their skin, we as a nation still have much work to do and I pray that one day we will get it right.

All Americans have a place in our society and once we embrace the mantra that all men are indeed created equal, we will be a better world for it.

With all that happened in 2020, to me the most frustrating was our national elections. We saw every segment of our nation’s institutions questioned and degraded.

I saw friends and families split over this election and my prayer for 2021 is that those divisions may somehow be brought back together. I stand by the belief that no election, of people that will never know me and from their actions prove daily they could care less about me will ever split me from those I love.

I may not agree on many things with those I call family and friends, but an election is not going to split me from them.

The biggest gut-punch of 2020, was all those who suffered and died alone. Dying alone is my biggest fear and the thought of having someone I love in the hospital taking their last breath not being able to feel the comfort of those who love them is debilitating.

2020 saw the loss of wonderful friends, family and acquaintances that deserved a homegoing celebration for the lives they led. This year robbed us all of being able to say an appropriate good-bye and providing the love to their families they so need.

While living through 2020 has been a challenge, the year also brought about much of our best.

We saw teachers and front-line workers get the respect they deserve. When cities stopped at 7PM each night to cheer for doctors and nurses changing shifts all that is great about America shone through.

Parents became teachers and teachers finally gained the respect they have so long deserved finding ways to educate our young over computer screens instead of in a classroom. I worry about what effects distance learning will have on our youth long-term, but the ingenuity of those who work in education has been nothing short of heroic.

During this year, we have all witnessed the best and worst of our world. While the bad often seems to be what gains attention, I hope we will never forget the good we saw. Neighbors being neighbors, delivering food, checking in on each other and simply showing compassion.

Yes, there is no other way to say it, 2020 was horrible, but the light that makes Americans great did shine through. 2021 will certainly have challenges and who knows what is yet to come, but I remain convinced, that as long as we share our grace, kindness, and love for others, we will persevere.

I pray that 2020 one day will be a distant memory and as we round the corner towards a new year, we will all be blessed with good health, love, friendship, and kindness that can overcome anything thrown our way.

Git outta here 2020 and Welcome 2021, I pray you do us well!

2020 – Coming Into Focus

a5649117efe5e16222a72001a4b11a73As I write this, we are just hours from a new year, a new decade.

With the dawn of a new year, comes the opportunity to look back on what has come before and to look ahead to the endless possibilities just around the corner.

Like most of you, the past year was a mixed bag, I had highs and lows, some of them had a greater impact than others.  Some of my own creation and some that I had no control over, that’s life, it will happen again in 2020 and every year that we are blessed to walk this earth.

What I have learned through the years is, I can’t always control the situation, but I can control how I react.  For 2020, my hope is that I don’t sweat the small stuff, but concentrate on the things that matter, the things that will have impact on my life and those around me.

I pray that I never lose my sense of adventure, to dream big and step into new challenges.  Some of my best decisions have been those cockamamie choices I have made that from the outside make no sense, but in my heart are the only viable direction.

For our nation, I pray that we never forget who we are, we are America, the greatest nation to ever inhabit this planet, a nation that provides hope and opportunity to anyone willing to invest in the American dream.

Moving into 2020, my greatest fear is for our country.  We have become a polarized nation unwilling to work together for the common good.  I pray that this year, we think more before we react, we learn to look beyond our own interests and to what is best for all and I pray that above all else we learn to work together once again, our nation’s future depends on it.

I pray that our world finds long-lasting and true peace.

For each of you, I pray that your dreams will come true in 2020.  I hope that all of your goals and aspirations fall into place and that your days are filled with love, laughter and health.

Above all else, for 2020, I pray that we all find grace, hope and community. I pray that we overcome the hard times with the help of others and that we celebrate our joys together.

For 2020, I will pray for you all and ask the same in return.  For 2020, my goal is to be a little kinder, a bit more joyful, more present and understanding…. for 2020, my goal is simple, just to try and be a bit better every day.

Happy New Year friends, may God bless you in 2020!

Love One Another…. It’s That Simple.

Once again, over the last few days we have been witnesses to acts of unspeakable violence and hate.

Once again, our differences have torn us apart.  I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how someone can hate an entire race, creed, orientation; I don’t understand how someone’s heart can grow so hardened that the fears of our differences bring us to such a place and I am thankful for that lack of understanding.

For decades, I suppose centuries, our differences have continued to define us.  At what point will we find our similarities are so much more important than our differences?

Unfortunately, these acts of violence have hardened all of our hearts.  We send our love to victims, we pray for entire cities and we tweet about our heartbreak, but what do we actually do?

It’s not about guns, or politics, it’s about hearts, minds and a lack of understanding.

There are billions of people on the planet, each one of us different and that is what makes the world such an amazing place.  I can’t fathom a world where everyone was like me, short, fat, bald, old white guy, how boring is that?  What makes the world so amazing is our differences, our vast beliefs, religions, races, why can’t we seem to accept that and get along?

Our society has grown so hardened that we witness these senseless acts and then go on about our day, we just keep moving along and wait for the next atrocity to happen, we then send out thoughts and prayers and wait for the next, unfortunately it seems on a weekly basis.

Like all of you, my heart breaks a bit more each time one of these mass murders takes place and I am lost, I am lost to know what to do, I am lost to understand…. I am lost.

I don’t think I am the only one who is lost, I think we all are, we are lost to find answers when the fringe of our society begins to define us.

This isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, it isn’t an American issue, it is a human issue, one that brings us down instead of building us up.

I will always believe that 99.999999999999999% of the planet is good, but sadly today that infinitesimal percentage that is filled with hate and rage define us.  Our fringe should be just that, fringe, not the voices that we hear most often, but the ones who are set aside and witnessed to about the goodness of humanity and not encouraged and held up as a voice that should be leading our charge.

What do we do as people to stamp out this hate?  What do we do to celebrate our similarities and allow good to overcome evil?  What do we do?

Several years ago there was a movement in our society, it was begun by young people and it was symbolized by four letters…. WWJD?

What would Jesus do, a simple phrase with a simple answer….. LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Jesus gave this simple command to his people, he didn’t say love one another except for those you disagree with.  He didn’t tell us to only love those who were like us, he told us to love all people, everyone.

We can’t love when we continue to allow our differences to separate us, if we are to truly love we must first look at how we are alike and then in voices of compassion, resolution and understanding we must work together to work together to overcome our differences.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have studied.  I can’t find a place in the Bible where we are told to love someone unless they are Black, Brown, Yellow, White, Jewish, Gay, Muslim, the only command I see is LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

At some point, if we are to survive as a people love has to overcome the hatred that we have for one another.  Hatred of our differences will only continue to tear us apart, continue our heartbreak and our tweets of compassion, when a tweet is simply too late.

Thankfully, all hatred doesn’t end in violence and death.  In our society today, we see people being harassed on a night out with a loved one, hate is hate.  We tear each other down over our beliefs, families are torn apart , people we value as friends are swept aside over simple differences.  Imagine how things could change if we just talked to each other, kept the temperature to a slow boil and discussed differences to find solutions like respectful humans.

I don’t hold myself aside from these actions, I am as guilty as anyone else, maybe one day we will all learn and embrace our similarities and stop letting our differences overtake us.

Sadly, there are few places where we are safe anymore.  Churches, synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, the workplace, have all been attacked.  Our places of work and play are now battlegrounds and sites of mass murder, it is truly a sad commentary on our world.

We can do better, we must do better, we must find a way to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

I don’t understand a hatred that engulfs someone, I don’t understand hatred of entire group of people, I don’t understand….. and I hope I never will.