Rockville Diaries

A (Lighthearted) List of Comforts that Helped Us Get Through 2020

2020 followed a strange curve. First: the promise and plans of a new year (albeit an election year, with inevitable drama on the way). Hats and gloves and winter sniffles and new releases, as usual.

Then the news out of China, and the concern, the fear, the snatched-away Spring, the devastation.

Followed by an uptick: the coming together of communities. #AllInThisTogether. Encouraging notes in sidewalk chalk. Kind signs in windows.

Then all of that camaraderie proven tenuous by violations of agreements we’ve made—or should have made—as humans. Bias, bigotry, racism, brokeness. Losing Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many other fellow citizens. Come, Lord Jesus. Help us rebuild. Help us do better.

Churches, community leaders, and workplaces taking a harder look at the conversations organizations like Arrabon and initiatives like The 1619 Project had been facilitating. Maybe we really can make things better—right?! Lamentation over injustices families and communities have experienced across generations. Come, Lord Jesus.

I haven’t touched this blog since December 2019. Perhaps I just couldn’t focus, perhaps the things I had to say were too trivial, perhaps I let my boys stay up too late too often. And yet, wrapping up this weird, terrible year feels like cause for reflection and recognition of things that helped us get through.

Favorite Books

  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – This has been on my list since 2015 when a client raved about it, but I’ve been too afraid to read it. Being able to pick it up felt like a milestone in my cancer recovery, and I’m so glad I did.
  • The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo – A spirited, immersive read in the genre of magic realism, The Night Tiger weaves together the lives of several characters in Malaysia, three of which I missed terribly post-conclusion.
  • David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – I couldn’t get enough of the chapter on relative deprivation in David and Goliath, and Talking to Strangers offers timely, fascinating insights on breakdowns in human interaction.
  • Compassion (&) Conviction: The AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement by Chris Butler, Justin Giboney, and Michael Wear – This book convinced me politics are to be engaged with rather than avoided.
  • The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch – I will be the first person to tell you my family has a screen time problem, and this book inspired me to set new goals and parameters. (Which were then thrown out the window #because2020, but will be resumed.)
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Ta-Nehisi Coates approaches the Underground Railroad—and stories of its conductors and passengers—with beautiful prose and a side of magic.

Favorite Pick-Me-Up Songs

As an extrovert, I find working from home tough. My energy levels dip. Music gets me through days when the human connection just isn’t there. Play these in your kitchen with the volume up.

  • Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby, “Levitating”
  • Sandra McCracken, “Send Out Your Light (Psalm 43)”
  • The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
  • Robyn, “Get Myself Together”
  • Kirk Franklin, “I Smile”
  • Beyoncé, “Find Your Way Back – MeLo-X Remix”
  • Natalia Lafourcade, “Hasta la Raíz”

Favorite Documentary

Director Ava DuVernay, 13TH

Favorite Films I Saw in the Theatre…in January

  • Director Destin Daniel Cretton, Just Mercy
  • Director Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Favorite Silver Linings While Furloughed

  • Helping the boys with virtual school
  • Making 25 spring wreaths
  • Working on a challenging writing opportunity and then another wonderful short-term assignment I wouldn’t have taken on otherwise

Most Eye-Opening Piece I Read About #RVA

The Atlantic, “Richmond’s Confederate Monuments Were Used to Sell a Segregated Neighborhood

Favorite Bible Verses

Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm 51:17: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Best Canceled Vacation: “The One That Got Away”

Spring Break trip to Massanutten, with a water park for the boys, a walk around JMU, and Kline’s ice cream. It just wasn’t meant to be…

Funniest Message on a Card I Received

“I love you and your tummy.” Love, Hyatt

Favorite Art Exhibit

Edward Hopper and the American Hotel at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Favorite Community Art Project

All In Together at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture

Favorite Culinary Escapades

I took the boys to Carter Mountain Orchard, and they hated it. (Okay, it was cold and windy—I will give them that.) Hyatt asked why we couldn’t just get apples at the grocery store. Blah.

Around Thanksgiving, I learned WHY THE TRIP WAS WORTH IT. Those semi-local apples tasted amazing in this pie. Don’t be distracted by the charred crust. We scraped off the burnt parts, and the filling was pure redemption of attempted family bonding that failed miserably.

Who Won 2020 at Our House

  • Stuffed animals. Hand-me-downs, those in need of stitches, carnivores, villains—all are welcome here.

Two of them even got married.

  • Author and artist Mo Willems
  • A bunch of horrendous YouTubers Lincoln and Hyatt like. Ew, the worst.
  • The compost we got from a neighbor in exchange for two loaves of cinnamon banana bread. The compost was so rich we grew a jungle of flowers, veggies, and weeds—so many weeds! A new favorite is the Teddy Bear Sunflower, selected and nurtured by Bryce.

Best (Only) Live Music

We visited the Outer Banks and had the opportunity to eat outside at a restaurant, which felt like a really big deal at the time. Even bigger deal—they had a musical duo, the Red Staplers. I’m pretty sure this is the only live music outside of our church worship teams we’ve heard all year. Worth every penny.

Best Local Hang 

The creek across the street

Best Family Dog


Favorite Purchases

  • About 7 months into working from home I formally acknowledged my ironing-board-as-standing-desk wasn’t cutting it, and neither was my dining room chair. A stipend provided by my workplace motivated me to buy a better chair and an adjustable desk. (Hats off to employers who made it easier for their team members to invest in such things.)
  • In April we pulled my bike down from storage, and I took it for a tune-up. Riding my bike was a great way to break out of cabin fever and see some lovely sunrises and sunsets.

Most Skilled at Avoiding Injury

During our quarantine, Hyatt broke his arm. Then Lincoln broke his nose. I broke a toe. Bryce was the only person who made it out unscathed.

Best/Worst/Only Family Photo

Some of you had absolutely delightful Christmas cards, and I loved receiving them. As I pondered my capacity to send Christmas cards this year, I looked to see if we had any cute photos of of us all. Well, we didn’t. This is it, folks. Merry Christmas from the Grissom family.

The Real MVPs

Some of you reading this have worked tirelessly to provide patient care, education, food, spiritual direction and discipleship, safe workplaces, and encouragement to others. Big thanks to the pastors, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, nurses, PTs, OTs, doctors, teachers, first responders, exercise instructors on Zoom, and the scientists and leaders who have pivoted hundreds of times this year trying to discern what’s best. I pray you know your worth and find moments of peace.

2019 Reflection: Lovers and Bedtime Fighters

In 2019 Taylor Swift released an album called Lover. Lover is also the term ascribed to boys ages 5-8 in the book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas: Continue reading “2019 Reflection: Lovers and Bedtime Fighters”

“Even when it’s not pretty or perfect, even when it’s more real than you want it to be, your story is what you have. It’s what you will always have. It’s something to own.”

Michelle Obama, Becoming

I’ve been thinking about a theme word for 2019, something that will serve as a reminder to me when I get busy, distracted, or listless.

My first impulse was to pick the word creativity.

Creativity in parenting. Creativity in service to my job and the clients I get to support. Creativity (painting, writing) instead of Netflix couch-sitting or social media scrolling.

Continue reading “Word(s) for 2019”

19 Styles and Counting: Hair Regrowth After Chemo

A year-and-a-half ago I started chemotherapy, and one of the first things people think about when they hear the word “chemo” is hair loss. When I learned I would be losing my hair, I Googled like a madwoman to figure out how to cope. I didn’t want to look sick–mostly because I’m vain, and I didn’t want people to feel bad for me.

During my crazy late-night research I learned about wigs, cold cap therapy, scarves, and hats. Below is a photographic journey of my style ups and downs throughout cancer treatment. I hope this helps someone out there on the Internet. Continue reading “19 Styles and Counting: Hair Regrowth After Chemo”

2017: A Year In Pictures

The year 2017 was crazy, am I right? Political drama was everywhere. I had three surgeries and was declared cancer-free. We started a garden. We pulled out all the potty-training stops. My sister had ACL surgery. The boys joined our church community preschool. I started a new job. I finally saw Kirk Franklin perform.

I was so busy riding the rollercoaster that I forgot to work on Christmas cards. (Honestly, I forgot to do a lot of things.) But, it brought me a lot of joy over the holidays to sit and reflect on the year.

Here’s a visual retelling of notable highlights and lowlights. Continue reading “2017: A Year In Pictures”

I’ll Raise a Glass to That

I’ve heard the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, “Drinksgiving,” is the biggest bar night of the year. Which is funny because I’m at home on the sofa in sweatpants, crocheted blanket over my lap, toying with the idea of turning on a Hallmark movie and calling it a day. It’s 8:20 p.m., y’all. Lincoln and Hyatt are playing in their room, still going strong, and I am D-O-N-E.

Continue reading “I’ll Raise a Glass to That”

Grace-Based Parenting and Redirection

Redirection as a behavior management technique worked well when my boys were early toddlers. I’d point out a plane in the sky so they’d drop their fascination with that sharp nail in the driveway. I’d talk up a game of hide-and-go seek to get them to stop fighting over blocks.

Then, two things happened: they got a little bit older, and I got a little bit lazy. (I meeean, I had a few good reasons.)

I didn’t want to come up with something cool and exciting every time I needed to get them from Point A to Point B. I just wanted them to listen to me and respect me. Done. End scene. I was tired.  Continue reading “Grace-Based Parenting and Redirection”

Peer Pressure

I absolutely love watching my boys interact in different scenarios. It helps me learn more about them, and sometimes it just makes me laugh.

This morning we went to a playground near Trader Joe’s. The idea being that once they’d had a chance to play, they’d be more affable at the grocery store and MAYBE hungry enough to be interested in healthy stuff.  Continue reading “Peer Pressure”

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