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I'm Joelle Speranza.

Author. Lifestyle Writer. Publicist. Empowering girls of all ages and life stages.

2020: Unexpected Blessings in Unprecedented Times

My three-year-old son, Luca, has this new thing, where he asks, “Mom, tell me about XYZ.” When he says, “Mom, tell me about the virus,” I reply that someone ate a bat and it made people sick. From his point of view, the virus means he can’t go to Target for toys, he has to wear a mask everywhere, and he can’t go near other people. Imagine the world from his innocent eyes. Fear people, shield your face, home is the only place you’re safe.  

As soon as Luca became old enough to really experience the world, it shut down. No playgrounds, no museums, no t-ball or other activities like we planned, no playdates, no trips to the beach or boardwalk, no visits to Sesame Place or The Crayola Factory like we always wanted to take him once he reached the right age to appreciate them, and no more feeding the animals at the farm. It makes me sad to think about all the memories we missed out on making with Luca and his six-year-old sister, Genevieve, during this year.

But 2020 also brought so many blessings for our family. When he’s older and asks, “Mom, tell me about the pandemic,” I will tell a story of strength, creativity, and love. Because that is what we will remember most.

From COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter and all the social issues that came with 2020, I empathized with the pain, suffering, loneliness, and loss that impacted so many people. We felt it all– as humans, as parents, as friends of those suffering or fighting for their rights and lives. It bothered me so much at times that I had to take a break from Facebook. I virtually supported best friends going through miscarriages at home, sudden divorces, and family members in the hospital with COVID.

However, with a little guilt and a lot of gratitude, our family had one of our best years ever. And it’s OK to have had a good year amongst the chaos and be proud that you made it. It’s OK to celebrate joy and success in your life, even if it’s happening during the most unexpected, unimaginable time in the history of the world. Life is about being resilient, getting through the hard times and appreciating all the goodness because you made it past your struggles. Our struggles happen in God’s timing. And so do our blessings. Just wait for all the memoirs about 2020 to publish.

My husband and I both had traumatic childhoods. I went through a lot growing up, and my world fell apart when I got divorced and lost my job and some of my best friends all within a month span in twenties. I have managed life with an invisible illness for over 15 years now. I know loss, I know grief, and I learned how to rebuild. For some reason, God gave us a break in 2020. He made everything we have been hoping for and dreaming of come to fruition. I will be forever grateful that this was one year, the path we have been paving began to smooth out.

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Because I always try to look on the bright side, I am grateful for the pandemic because:

  • We spent a year together as a family. In no other circumstance would that ever happen.
  • My anxiety simmered down. Big triggers for me are health and safety. While I, of course, worry about the virus, I know that’s in God’s hands and we are doing all we can to protect ourselves. But my regular stressors ceased to exist:

            > My husband, who usually travels for work once or twice a month, stayed home. I didn’t have anxiety about him getting on a plane or being so far away while I’m at home alone with the kids. I didn’t have to worry about an emergency happening and being all alone, either.

            > Having my daughter home from school alleviates so many worries throughout my day. It’s so hard letting your child, your walking heart, go somewhere that you can’t be with them to protect them. It would bring tears to my eyes walking home from kindergarten with her and listening to her tell me about the lockdown drills she and her classmates had to do in case a “bad guy” ever got into the school. No child should have to be worrying about that, but better to be proactive, I know. She got to be a kid again this year.

  • I got to teach my daughter and watch her learn and grow. Finishing up the second half of kindergarten virtually was way easier than first grade math we’re tackling now, but we’re doing OK. I get to share an office with my little girl, with our desks side by side. She sees what mommy does for a job and it inspires her to write and be creative. I see her light up when she answers a question in class or tells her teacher a story. That light doesn’t shine as bright when she’s bored in the living room. And I would not see it if she was in class.
  • We sold our little starter house that we had been dreaming of doing for years. The pandemic boosted the real estate market and because our house was in an area and price range of high-demand, we were able to get way over asking price and enough money for a down payment on our dream house. This would not have happened otherwise.
  • We found our dream house in our dream town! We have a real bath tub for the kids. And more than one toilet. My husband has the kitchen he’s always wanted and my office is a real room, not a closet anymore. We have waited our whole lives to live in a home that wasn’t falling apart.  
  • I published my children’s book, Princess Genevieve: The Hero with Girl Power! The launch didn’t go as I envisioned due to everything going on, but it’s out there. Major online retailers including Target.com, Walmart.com, Barnes & Noble, and Indigo books picked it up. I made it to Target!!
  • We used our imaginations to create quality family time. We had a Disney Day at home, discovered we love playing board games, did a ton of arts and crafts, etc.
Follow Gracey and Griff on Instagram @pawsitivitypups
  • We got a puppy. Our Goldador Doodle, Griff, joined the squad the week of Christmas. We have 3 dogs now, which sounds wild. Dogs bring me so much joy and happiness. I want my kids to experience growing up with a puppy just like I did. Griff is lighting up our lives in quarantine and bringing back a spark in our kids that has been missing since they have been isolated from all their friends and activities. He will make our winter at home extra fun. Follow Griff and one of our other dogs, Gracey on Instagram @pawsitivitypups for a little bit of happiness and hope.
  • My friendships became stronger. I made it a point to call my friends on the phone and have real conversations as opposed to watching their social media posts or texting short messages. Sometimes I had to hide in the bathroom to do it, but hey, that’s mom life.
  • Virtual school was the best way for my daughter to transition to a new school district. In a normal world, she would have started first grade as the new girl, not knowing anyone and everyone else already having their groups of friends. But since she started her new school virtually, she will already know classmates when she goes back to in-person school. She even video chats with new friends and I have become friends with so many moms in our new town via Facebook virtual learning groups.
  • My husband had plenty of time to work on his pizza and bread making craft.
  • I made it a point to live life to its fullest and continue doing things I love. I started blogging consistently and even began publishing posts for the Today.com Parenting Community. I was surprised and so excited to see my posts featured on the Today.com Parenting Facebook page, too!
  • We kept our jobs, and the opportunity to do work we love. As a publicist, I hit career strides, like getting one client featured in the Wall Street Journal a whopping THREE times in one week. That’s basically unheard of. 
  • We got outside as much as possible. If we weren’t staying home this winter, I doubt we would be going for family walks in 30-degree weather. But it’s so refreshing and good for your body and soul.
  • We are all healthy and the COVID scare we did have, resulted in my husband testing negative.
  • I learned to really appreciate my mom coming over to help with the kids and house chores while I work. For the first three months of stay-at-home orders, we did it on our own.

Along with all of this good stuff, I really feel for my kids. My daughter yearns to play with our new neighbors when she sees them outside. She plays Barbie over video chat with her friends, which makes me a ball of mixed emotions. She can’t go to dance, karate, or art lessons anymore. She can’t wait for this to be over so she can start gymnastics. Online learning can be hard and frustrating, but I am working with her on it. She never gets alone time away from her brother and that causes tantrums and fights. A lot of them.

It’s hard.

Everyone wants alone time with mommy. No one understands that working from home means I have to work, and I’m not ignoring them.

I miss my dance moms, going on adventures with friends, our annual trip to the boardwalk for my birthday, shopping inside Target, and so much more.

But I love this time at home- our new, happy home- together.  

When my son asks, “Mommy, tell me about the time the virus was here,” I am going to tell him that he got to spend a cherished year+ together with his family (hygge to the max), while the world outside was falling apart in order to become a better place for him to grow up.

LESSON LEARNED FROM THIS POST

There are unexpected blessings in these unprecedented times. Maybe the world has to fall apart in order to create a better place for our children to grow up, for us to stop to appreciate all that we do have, to reconsider how we spend our time, and to focus on what really matters. Let’s take that with us to 2021 and beyond. There is sunshine ahead of the darkness, it’s up to you to light your own way.

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