Heeeeeyyyy…. How y’all doin?
It’s been approximately 84 years since I wrote a personal blog post like this, but I couldn’t let this doozy of a year tick away without creating SOME kind of record about it. Warning– this post is hella long. Y’all don’t have to read it all, but for my kids and grandkids sake, I’m going to try to document what all has happened to us in the year 2020.
History will long remember the major headlines of 2020- the pandemic, the riots, the protestors, the polarizing politics, the election, the vaccine.*
What I want to remember the seemingly insignificant, everyday events that happened to MY family in this unprecedented year. For this reason, I write.
Since I could fill an entire trilogy book series on everything that’s happened over the past 365, I’ll try to keep it short and concise. Let’s take it month-by-month, shall we?
In January, I unboxed the most useless but beautiful daily planner that I’ve ever purchased and began filling it with all of our upcoming events.
Just six days into 2020 I was invited to tour the HGTV Dream Home, so I called a group of blog friends and met up at a BEAUTIFUL private beach house on Hilton Head Island. Thank goodness I did, because that turned out to be the last major trip I would take all year.
The HGTV Dream House was in fact a dreamy home, and I got the chance to meet Brian Patrick Flynn, so that was fun. Even better was catching up with long-time friends that I hadn’t seen in years.
After we toured the house, we hosted a really fun party where 30 people chatted late into the night over our glasses of wine and recklessly shared food from charcuterie boards with our bare hands.
How very 2019 of us.
Nobody knew it yet, but I just had signed a non-disclosure agreement and had several phone interviews to work as a design assistant with Ben and Erin Napier on HGTV’s Home Town Takeover. They would be filming in Wetumpka, AL, and I was absolutely bursting to share the news with the whole group, but the threat of being sued for a million dollars really helps keep your mouth shut.
On our last day there, my friend Carrie and I took a long walk on the beach and I couldn’t keep it inside any longer. I swore her to secrecy and told her all about it. But it was not a done deal at that point, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up.
I left that conversation with a “We shall see.” and headed back home.
In February, we celebrated Garrett’s 12th birthday and I surprised him with a trip to Mardi Gras in Mobile.
By that point, I had been reading about this scary new virus coming out of Wuhan, China that had the potential to be pandemic-worthy, but I did NOT let that deter me from screaming in a giant crowd of people and begging for beer-soaked beads to hit me in the face.
Here is photographic evidence of the last time Garrett and I will be going out in a huge crowd for the next um… year? Decade? Who knows.
Thankfully, we had a wonderful time and made it home from that trip unscathed. After this super fun highlight, things began to take a turn for the worse.
I became obsessed with reading Reddit forums about Coronavirus and could clearly see that Covid-19 was going to hit different than previous SARS-type outbreaks.
I watched leaked video footage from Wuhan, China of people dying in the floor of hospital waiting rooms and being welded into their homes during their lockdowns. It was very scary stuff and those Reddit forums were jam-packed with eye-opening info from all over the world that was not being talked about ANYWHERE on main stream media here in the US.
I consider myself to be a fairly levelheaded person, but I could feel in my bones that it was going to be bad. My gut was screaming at me to get prepared, so that’s what I did. I over-prepared. Then I went to my parents and told them about what I had been seeing. I tried not to be overly Chicken Little but I also wanted them to be ready just in case. They trusted me and listened, and we all stocked up on extra food, water and toilet paper in case there were lockdowns here. I ordered face masks from Amazon and found the last N-95 mask that Lowes had on a clearance end-cap.
When my anxiety began to skyrocket, I deleted the Reddit app from my phone and focused my attention on things that I could control.
I had been waiting months on a call back about HGTV show, and had pretty much given up on that ever coming to fruition.
But then, late one Friday night in March, the call finally came. I was asked by the show producers if I would be available to be in Wetumpka that next Monday to help the producers and the construction company scout out potential homes for Home Town Takeover. I said yes immediately, hung up the phone and jumped for joy at such an exciting opportunity!
By Sunday night I was sitting in a hotel room in Wetumpka, excitedly nervous about what the next week would bring. It turned out to be a whole lot of this right here:
Lots of walking, talking and poking around dark, moldy corners to make sure the homes/buildings were structurally sound enough for construction. Meet Terrell from Russell Construction- he helped me measure every building from top to bottom to get accurate dimensions of everything. You’ll get to see him quite a bit on the Hometown Takeover show. He, Josie and the rest of the Russell team were so awesome!
Like I said, I could fill multiple novels with everything that has happened this year and the HGTV chapters could fill a whole book on their own. Look for another post about all that once the show airs later in 2021. I promise I’ll tell you more about it then.
The day I drove back home from Wetumpka, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some weekly essentials. What I saw there astonished me. There were no bananas. There was no toilet paper. There was no milk or bread.
It was apocalyptic.
It was way worse than the average milk and bread cleanout before a snowstorm in the South. There were entire aisles of grocery store shelves laid bare. Not a can of beans or a bag of rice to be found. I have never in my 40+ years on Earth seen anything like this. It looked like a grocery store from 1980’s Soviet Russia.
While I had been busy with HGTV, lockdowns had begun happening around the US.
As I stumbled around this dystopian Publix, picking over the last of the bruised fruit and vegetables, I was SO thankful that I had already spent all those weeks obsessing, fretting and preparing my family for what was to come. I had already done all of my freaking out back in February, so I was already in a whole other place mentally than most of my facebook friends.
This global pandemic did NOT come out of left field for me.
Friday, March 13th was Garrett’s last day of school before quarantine began. If I had known it would be the last day that we ever saw the inside the sweet elementary school where he spent 1st through 6th grade, I might have taken a selfie, but I did not. I have nothing to mark that occasion but the memory.
Lockdown quarantine began, and we took it very seriously. Aside from one of us getting groceries once a week, we didn’t go out in public at all.
Thankfully, we live next door to my parents, so we formed our own little safe bubble and hunkered down. In it’s own way, it was a sweet time. We baked bread and made a special treat every Friday night to mark another week completed in lockdown.
The kids rode their bikes between our two houses, we fished off their pier and enjoyed a fairly normal spring, aside from the fact that we were all home 24/7. We are also very blessed to have our little lake house in the middle of nowhere Alabama, so social distancing was not much a problem.
For the end of March and beginning of April, I spent every weekday on all-day conference calls with the HGTV team, drafting blueprints of the potential houses. For a month straight we worked all day, everyday and met all the brutal deadlines, and then we said our goodbyes and it went dark. Complete radio silence. Everything was so up in the air with Covid restrictions that the show got put on hold until further notice.
Thankfully my husband was working from home during that time so the kids weren’t left to fend for themselves. They also spent a lot of time at my mom’s house or playing a game on some device.
Not gonna lie, finishing out Garrett’s 6th grade school year virtually was one of the worst part of quarantine for us. The teachers did their best but it was super overwhelming for everyone involved. There were lots of tears shed. It was ROUGH, but we made it through.
We were so grateful when school ended and we were not working full-time jobs and trying to keep seven teachers assignments straight as well. Caroline missed out on her preschool graduation ceremony, but at least they mailed us her cap and gown photos.
On the weekends when we got bored sitting at home, we drove down to the lake and worked on finishing the room remodels.
By late April, we turned the master bedroom into a cozy retreat that makes me happy every time I walk through the door.
We gave the loft bedroom a serious makeover using an old wooden beam from the 1800’s and some shiplap. Breezy curtains added some extra privacy in that space.
By May, we had finished our biggest remodel project at the lake house. Painting the kitchen cabinets and replacing the upper cabinets with open shelving and V-groove paneling gave us a whole new kitchen. Since the budget was so slim, we did it ourselves. It was a ton of work, but I am SO happy with how it all turned out. Read all about the green kitchen makeover here.
We were mid-way through the year when the wheels started to come off.
My family went through some seriously hard stuff in May that I won’t share publicly, but trust me when I say it was a very dark time, full of uncertainty about my relationship with several close family members.
Then, in the middle of all that major heartache, my husband lost his job without any warning. We lost our health insurance in the middle of a global pandemic. My paychecks from HGTV had stopped and my freelance design work had dried up because I’d put it all on the back burner for so long.
We had never suffered a job loss like that before, and it was tough. We had emergency savings and could last a while without a paycheck, but there was absolutely no way we could be without health insurance.
I will spare you my rant about the fact that health insurance is tied to employment in this country,* but I will say it is incredibly stressful to have that threat of no insurance coverage looming over you when you have serious prescriptions that need to be refilled and the potential for a deadly virus to be coughed on you in the Walmart checkout lane.
So, I got on Indeed and started job searching.
By the first of July, I had found a job with an awesome construction firm in Birmingham, and back to the 8-5 grind I went. They were aware of the HGTV announcement and were willing to be flexible with my schedule.
My new coworkers made me laugh every single day, and for that I was so grateful. You know that saying people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime? That good team of folks came into my life for a reason and I appreciate them so very much for helping me stay sane and laugh so much during such a dark period of my life. It was also nice to get out of the house and see the world again.
Thank goodness I got our health insurance back, because my husband and I BOTH went to the ER with kidney stones just weeks apart. I’ll spare you the gory details of that, but somewhere between getting the IV inserted and the CT of his kidneys, Jeremy had to ask the nurse to step out of the room so he could take a call to accept a job offer that finally came through!
He literally got a job offer while lying on the exam table in the emergency room, y’all. It was crazy.
I’m so thankful that it didn’t take too long for us to find jobs, but those months of uncertainty, no insurance coverage and receiving unemployment checks was sobering and scary. So many people in America are still facing this exact same thing, and it is stressful beyond compare. My heart goes out to everyone in this situation.
But with every cloud there is a silver lining. We spent our free time in June and July at the lake house, swimming and soaking up sunshine.
On the 4th of July, while we were watching the fireworks over the lake, we had a sweet kitty cat show up at our lake house, yowling and rubbing all over anyone who she could find. Turns out she had been living under the house for a while, scavenging lizards for food because she was starving.
We asked all the neighbors if anyone was missing her and nobody claimed her, so the next weekend we brought her to her forever home with us. Since our sweet dogs Gus and Woodrow passed away a few years ago, we have not had any pets in our home.
We have also never been cat people but she is the most loving cat I’ve ever met. She immediately stole all of our hearts and I’m so grateful the kids have her to snuggle with right now.
Here’s a video I made showing how she came into our lives:
Sometime between July-August I got addicted to Tiktok and it has literally saved my sanity during this hot mess of a year. I have guffawed at funny videos and cried over heartbreaking stories. It has been my lifeline to humanity. I love Tiktok.
I have documented little snippets of our life over there, so if you’d like to follow along you can click here to follow me on Tiktok. Here is one of my favorite videos from the summer:
August came and we celebrated Caroline’s birthday with a Jumanji themed jungle pool party in Grandma’s backyard. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was her favorite movie so she loved it! HAPPY 5th birthday to this fearless cutie who constantly needs a bandaid after some adventure.
Also in August I got the call that Home Town Takeover was a go for filming, so I headed down to Wetumpka to finally meet Erin and Ben and the rest of the crew.
This team was simply AMAZING. We all clicked instantly and to answer the question everyone asks- YES. Ben and Erin are just as friendly in person as they are on the show. Just truly wonderful people!
Caroline started her first day of Kindergarten while I was in Wetumpka, but we decided to pull her out after she was exposed to Covid on her very first day of school. We couldn’t take the chance of her bringing it home to us or my parents.
Instead, we arranged to pay her preschool teacher, Lindsey, to bring her kids over and teach all four of our kids at the house together. Garrett and her son are doing 7th grade and 4th grade virtually and the two girls are being homeschooled for Kindergarten and 1st grade.
It’s a good thing we remodeled our basement a few years ago, because Bryan Basement Academy has most definitely been needed this year.
We are now halfway through the school year and it is still going great! Caroline is thriving and has learned how to read and write lots of words. She brings me little notes that say “Wow mom I love you!” ❤️ and my heart melts in a puddle. She has absolutely blossomed in this environment.
When the weather is nice, it becomes the Bryan Backyard Academy since they spend hours outside on the back porch learning and riding bikes and jumping on the trampoline and taking nature hikes. It’s been SUCH a huge blessing for both of our families to have our homeschool pod. I’m so thankful for Lindsey being such an excellent, patient teacher for these kids.
The start of school ushered in the beginning of fall. As the sap, leaves and temperature started falling, so did my hopes that this Pandemic would be ending any time soon. I read obituary after obituary of people dying from Covid, but still see people who believe it is a hoax. I am grateful for Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey (aka “Meemaw Ivey”) who has kept the state under a mask mandate all year long.**
September brought more tragedy when my brother-in-law passed away at the age of 47. I had known Chris since I was 7 years old, when he fell in love with my sister in middle school. Life took them apart and brought them back together. They were soul mates, like twin flames that could never have been separated. They were married for less than 4 years when he was taken from her. Heartbroken.
This year has brought so much death for so many people, and sometimes I feel like the sadness is just too much to bear. Caroline and I pray every night for everyone who has lost a loved one this year. It’s been so very hard for so many and there will never be enough words to console or repair the damage. The final death toll came in at close to 350,000 Americans lost to Covid in 2020. Devastating.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” doesn’t quite cut it. What can be said? I don’t really know. There are just not enough words.
October brought a bright spot for us as we took our only family vacation of 2020 at our favorite condo in Destin for a few days. It was a much needed trip for all of us to unwind and relax. We swam in the pool even though it was ice cold and built sand castles on the beach. We got take-out from our favorite restaurants and ate them on the balcony overlooking the lazy river. It was glorious.
When we got home, Hurricane Zeta hit our area and took down giant swaths of trees across the state, knocking out power for over a week at our lake house. Yep. I said Zeta. Of course 2020 brought a record breaking hurricane season with it.
Even though the power was out for a week, the weather was beautiful on Halloween we still got to go out on the boat so we could trick-or-treating at the lake! We had a blast visiting all the lake neighbors who were dressed up and handing out candy from their piers. This was the ultimate social distancing Halloween and it was FANTASTIC. 10/10 would recommend.
November came and I decided that I needed to choose between the home builder and other opportunities that came my way. My boss had been so understanding with all my trips to Wetumpka, but it wasn’t fair to them to have an employee miss so many days of work. So, I turned in my resignation to finish up my contract with HGTV and now have my eyes set on a new big venture that’s still in the works.
In early November, I spent a week in Wetumpka helping put the final touches on everything to be ready for some big reveals. It was completely exhausting and so very fun and rewarding all at the same time.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were super low-key affairs with close family only, not very noteworthy but mostly stress-free, which made them some of the best holidays ever.
My kids have matured and grown so much this year. That sweet little boy from that viral Christmas tree picture in 2010 towers over me now. I’m so proud of the man he is becoming and the joyous little girl standing beside him. These two give me life.
As I type this, the clock is about to strike midnight on New Years Eve and we will finally see the end of this hellacious year. We absolutely cannot wait.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this excruciatingly long post, I salute you, but only with my right hand because I fell and broke my left wrist last week!
One more trip to the ER and yet another copay that made me thankful for good health insurance. What a fitting way to end this crazy roller coaster of a year.
Pretty sure my 2020 Bingo Card is now complete!
Still, we are blessed. We are thankful.
3….2….1…..HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Here’s to a MUCH better 2021 for all of us! Sending out so much love to all of you who have read this silly blog of mine over the years.
I hope this note finds you well. ♥️ I’d LOVE to hear how you are doing these days. Please leave a comment so I can say hello!
PS- If you haven’t noticed, I changed my blog name. Out with the old UnskinnyBoppy.com and in with the new BethBryan.com. It was just time. I’m still transitioning over my social media accounts but will get it all sorted out eventually.
PPS- *I refuse to discuss politics on my blog. I take the Dolly Parton stance on this. Be kind.
**Sometimes I can’t help myself, Willard.