Top 10 Helpful Discoveries of 2020

All year I have completed hundreds of 10 Good Things Lists. At the conclusion of 2020, I’m writing a series of blog posts on some of the best things that got me through this year. The next list that is up is my Top 10 Helpful Discoveries of 2020. Think of this as kind of an awards ceremony of the things I’ve found or learned about and categorized as the winners, or Best of the Best.

The following is a list of resources, ideals, and philosophies that have helped get me through this year and given me both great joy, been a source of inspiration or education, and have made life during a pandemic easier to get through.

Quit Fighting So Hard Against Nature, or Gray Hair is Here to Stay* (Winner in Just Be Yourself Category)

Oh what a year for all of our collective hair maintenance. I had a nice trim and color back in February not knowing what was coming. During the stay at home orders I didn’t touch my color. I wish I could say the same for the length, but alas I ended up giving myself not one, but two haircuts. The first was decent and it gave me false confidence in my skills. The second was a disaster. I had one final hair appointment the day we drove away from Fort Polk to shape up my mess and attempt to color MONTHS of gray roots. The color didn’t last long…as it doesn’t these days. Since that time and arriving to Fort Campbell and finding a new stylist, I have made the decision to quit completely covering my gray hair. I’m getting some highlights put in here and there but no more “all over root coverage.”

I am so exhausted from trying to mask what my hair naturally wants to do. New strategy going forward: don’t mask it–just let it blend in. (*I reserve the right to change my mind about this at any point.)

I Can’t Control Other People (or what they say or think), Only My Reactions and Responses (Winner in Welcome to Adulthood Category)

In a year that has had record high tensions with the pandemic, racial injustice, the election, and more, I have had a lot of opportunities to practice not being reactive to other people who think and feel differently than I do. Sometimes it is a daily battle to turn the other cheek, be quiet, speak out, bite your tongue, delete Facebook, leave the room, or smile and save your opinions for your innermost circle. I have done a lot of what I call the “Triple S.” Stay Silent and Smile. Obviously there is a time and place to speak up on things that matter, but I’m talking about using discretion and realizing that most of the time, I won’t change someone’s opinion with a Facebook post, an argument, or a fight.

Views about the pandemic. Views about a vaccine. Views about who to vote for and why. Views about masks. Views about just about anything in the news. Views about the media. Views about when _______ should or shouldn’t reopen. Views about rules, regulations, freedoms. Not everyone is entitled to access to my thoughts, opinions, and views.

Stay Silent and Smile. See it works.

Good work begins in my own heart and mind. Then it can begin to change my outward behavior. Then I begin to see it show up in how I treat my neighbor.

The entire year has been a huge lesson in relinquishing the perception of control. Letting go of other people’s expectations, getting drawn in to other people’s drama and emotional reactions ISN’T MY BUSINESS. I’ve definitely felt a shift and I hope it’s here to stay.

Go Clean Co. (Winner in Household Category)

By FAR, one of the most practical, helpful, and dare I say LIFE-CHANGING discoveries I made this year was following Go Clean Co. on Instagram. I learned the art of stripping our towels and clothing. I learned about The Trifecta (recipe) of hot water, bleach, and Tide to clean just about anything. Deep cleaning things around our house was often a great way to pass the time productively. When it was time to PCS and do our move out clean, I felt empowered to do a really thorough job by using the most efficient methods. (Honorable mentions: Begin at Home, Once Upon a 1912, A Small Life, New York Times Cooking.)

Budget Girl (Winner in Personal Finance Category)

Speaking of social media follows, Budget Girl has been one of my favorites to watch on both Instagram and YouTube. She is house-hacking her way to FI/RE. She is kind, transparent, and real. I find myself anticipating her new YouTube releases where she shares all about her various side-hustles, service projects, home renovations, and budget updates. She’s single and making small, but steady money moves. (Honorable mentions for other IG #debtfreecommunity folks I’ve learned from Nicole Walters, Marissa Lyda, The Financial Diet, LA Minimalist, Better Wallet, and Personal Finance Club.)

Hooper Fit (Winner in Health and Fitness Category)

If there’s ever been a year to invest in our health, both mental and physical, it’s been 2020. Like many, I started off the year with tons of motivation and inspiration. I think I set a goal for something like 150 cardio sessions for the year. If I count rigorous outdoor walks, I’d say I exceeded that number greatly. That said, this was also a year for a lot of emotional/boredom eating and baking–especially during the spring and more emotional/stress eating–especially during our PCS when we were on the road something like 48 days. This fall, I discovered Leslie Hooper and her Fat Murder podcast. I’ll be brief and simply say she’s transformed the way I think about food, dieting, restriction, and intuitive eating. Hopeful for lasting changes in my life around this new mindset.

(Honorable mentions: MadFit YouTube Workouts, BodyBoss, and several pairs of good tennis shoes that have provided me adequate foot support for miles and miles and miles of outdoor sanity walks over the past year.)

Prayers From Terry-Terry Stokes (Winner in Faith and Inspiration Category)

A few years ago, my friend Breanna, got the the Every Moment Holy book of liturgies. It has been one of my most favorite ways to pray since. My roots are Pentecostal but the older I get, the greater my appreciation grows for the richness of liturgy. Terry Stokes shares some of the most beautiful prayers that have been perfect for just about every crazy thing this year has brought. I continue to “pray without ceasing” in my own voice and my own words to God, but specific written prayers have been a balm. Thanks, Terry!

(Honorable mentions: Lore Wilbert, EJ Gaines, Rich Villodas, Roots Counseling Center, Liturgies for Parents, and Eugene Cho.)

iMovie (Newly Learned Technology Category)

This year as we all slowly watched the world go digital and “remote,” we all turned to Zoom meetings, live-streamed worship services, and more. I began to play around with iMovie on my phone to capture weekly 10 Good Things videos I’d edit and add text to for Instagram Stories. I would also put together a video with music of weekly photos from “Quarantine.” It was such a helpful, creative outlet. I even recorded a few videos that I might one day put up on YouTube if I get brave enough.

Dirt Cheap (New Favorite Store in Town Category)

I didn’t really do any shopping from January until July. We went from the post-Christmas-we-don’t-need-anything-season-INTO stay-at-home-orders-can’t-go-anywhere-to-buy-anything-anyway RIGHT INTO PCS-purge-everything mode. Once we got to Fort Campbell though, that all changed. With every new house, there’s a lot to buy to get the house completely outfitted as bedrooms and bed use shifts, different sized curtains are needed, furniture pieces to fit the new space are required, plus the “fluffing of the nest” with odds and ends. Enter Dirt Cheap. I won’t go into detail about how it works and the amount of good things you can find there, but if you know, you know. I’ve got an entire highlight on my @home_sweet_military_home IG account with all of my finds from there.

(Honorable mentions: being overjoyed to be back in a town with TJ Maxx, Ross, Publix, Hobby Lobby, a nice Goodwill, and Aldi!)

Using a Lesson Plan Book for Goal Setting (Best Practical Productivity Category)

When the kids all started public school back in August I *almost* had a moment of panic wondering what on earth I was going to do with myself roughly eight hours each day after spending the past many years NEVER ALONE. I had decided in advance that I wanted to let this school year be a gift to myself of not rushing to find fulltime work, not overcommitting to volunteer work, but also not watching hundreds of hours of Netflix with nothing to show for my time.

I always buy a blank lesson plan book for homeschool planning and even used the same one the year I taught at FTCA. I had a blank one for this year knowing good and well I wouldn’t use it in the traditional sense. Then it hit me that I could use it to help loosely organize my time during each week. Each day there are six blocks (or “subjects) for planning. I used the following categories to help me focus and assure myself that the way I was spending my days was clearly reflecting my values:

Bible Reading (used this to keep a 90 Day Read Through the Bible plan on track)

Personal Development (listed out titles or at least genres of books I was reading, journaling)

Physical Activity (some weeks it was “Fresh air and sunlight,” others it was 10K steps a day, and others it was to complete a yoga or YouTube workout)

WORK (this was the slot for writing, editing, or doing back end work for paid writing assignments as well as recording and planning podcast episodes)

Household CEO (this was where I listed out week-at-a-glance chores like cleaning, reconciling budgets, prepping meal plans, sending emails and clearing out my inbox)

Errands + Appointments (this has been a helpful way to make sure I wasn’t running out every day with errands that could easily be grouped into one or two mornings per week)

(Honorable mentions: Single-tasking, using the BeFocused app, and aiming to plug up my phone every night by 8:00.)

Fetch Rewards (Best App Category)

I’ve added and deleted a LOT of apps on my phone this year. By far, the one I have used the most and had the most fun “collecting” with is my Fetch Rewards app. I attached my Amazon and Target accounts to it and collect points for every dollar I spend at those stores through email as well as physically scan hard copy receipts from other stores. With the rewards I earn I can redeem them for ACTUAL GIFT CARDS (my goal is to save up all 2021 rewards!) or redeem them for things like free magazine subscriptions.

(Honorable Mentions: Wooduku, Little Caesars, Google Sheets, and Compounder.)

Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Maybe this seems like a silly or insignificant list. In the grand scheme of life I guess it is. However, life seems to be made up of many small moments and the people, accounts, and help I gained from this list made up many of mine.

If you have any great recommendations or discoveries you’ve made in 2020, I’d love to hear about it.

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