Happy COVID Birthday: The year that changed everything

Birthday Cake from Michelle and her family

This post is a little different than I usually write. But as it is my birthday, I can do what I want. This is not a milestone birthday for me, although it leads up to a big one next year. Things have changed quite a bit this year for me as it has for everybody. Heading into a new year, I’m reflecting on all the changes I’ve made, how I’m reacting to the world situation always in flux during 2020, and my birthday wish. You might not agree with my opinions or thoughts, and that is perfectly okay. I hope that you at least consider that having a different view is what makes this world special.

Birthday Cake from Michelle and her family

A Year AgoMichelle and Heather at Lindsey Stirling Concert in Strasbourg, France

A year ago, I was in Strasbourg, France. I was exploring the city with my good friend, Michelle, and her family. We visited churches, bakeries, museums, and even went to a Lindsey Stirling concert in a stadium packed with cheering fans. I had so much fun with them, and it made celebrating my birthday abroad truly special. Who knew that would be the last normal we would experience for a long while. Lindsey Stirling Concert in Strasbourg, France

Life as a Horse Ranch HandNeesa and Heather on Auld Macdonald Farm Arabians

This year I got the fantastic opportunity to work as a horse ranch hand for several months on a farm that has beautiful Arabian and Appaloosa horses. It was humbling work, but rewarding. Spending time with these gorgeous animals was a lot of fun. Even at its worse, when I got kicked by a horse (huge bruise – now healed), I felt I was finally fitting in and no longer feeling like a tourist hanging out with the horses. I even got to expand my photography skills, which is something I’ve been actively working on.

The year of COVIDHeather wearing a mask on the Amtrak train

My traveling has changed drastically this year due to COVID. I am no longer jetting over to Europe or backpacking through Asia; I’m homebound for the duration. However, I have taken a couple of trips to Arizona on the Amtrak train. It is pleasing to see all the preventative measures they have taken and how they have changed from pre-COVID to during COVID. It has been relatively easy to travel this way, and I’ve managed to do it safely. There are some extremely vocal people on social media, saying that everyone should stay home. I can’t entirely agree with this. COVID isn’t going anywhere and will be here for a very long time. We need to figure out how to bring some normalcy back to our lives, no matter how small. And I’m of the mind that you can travel if you can do it safely and responsibly. Janet and Heather by Amtrak TrainHeather getting on Amtrak train

As an avid traveler, it has been disheartening to see how COVID has ravaged cities that depend on tourism dollars and businesses in the travel industry. Not only in what I do, as my website traffic tanked and is just starting to go back up again, but in people’s lives who depend on the travel industry for their livelihood. I talked with so many Amtrak employees on how they were dealing with what was happening, and on each train ride, I heard more discouragement on the future of their business. Their concerns ranged from routes being discontinued to layoffs. My sincere hope is that the government does more for these employees for the long term. And on the restaurant side, I cannot count how many of them I have seen closed in towns permanently. How can restaurants stay solvent when their whole business model is based on bodies in seats, and they can’t do that right now? As this pandemic continues, more and more employees in the travel and hospitality industry need help.Empty Tucson Street

Black Lives MatterBlack Lives Matter Street Art in Tucson, Arizona

I haven’t written anything on this as it was hard to put my thoughts on paper to how I felt about what happened and continues to occur in cities around the United States. I, regrettably, was one of the people that used to say All Lives Matter. To me, every life is precious no matter what color, race, religion, or sexual orientation they are. When the Black Lives Matter movement began anew this summer, I no longer said that. I have since realized how careless it was to dismiss saying, Black Lives Matter. Saying it doesn’t mean you are putting Black Lives over any other; it states that they are just as important as you and me and anyone else. Nobody deserves to have their lives taken violently or prematurely.

As to the voices that defunding the police is the answer to the problem, I can’t see that as the solution. I’m all for having the bad cops answer for their actions, and not moving between stations without any repercussions. But taking money away from first responders doesn’t seem like the right answer. Instead of taking money from the police, take money from those silly pet projects that seem to find their way into bills/budgets.Black Lives Matter with Mask Street Art in Tucson, Arizona

The Aftermath of the Riots Months LaterBoarded up Stores in Tucson, Arizona

I full-heartedly agree that Black Lives Matter and peaceful protests are a right and can be the catalyst for positive change. What I don’t agree with is the rioting that happened after many of the protests. Selfish and inconsiderate people took advantage of these situations and destroyed businesses, buildings, and took lives. What I don’t understand is how people can set fire to an apartment building with a child inside and block firefighters from doing their job or shooting and killing a retired police officer protecting a friend’s business? The thoughtless destruction and vandalization of these businesses hurt everyone. And the cities government officials that have allowed this violence to continue or not let first responders do their job, shame on you. I have walked in town’s months later after the protests and riots, and windows and doors are still boarded up. How did this help anybody?Boarded up Buildings in Tucson, Arizona

Some people say that violence is necessary to get people to change. I don’t see it this way. The owners and the employees of these businesses destroyed are not the ones that can make a change. All the rioters did was take away their livelihood and put more of a burden on an already strapped economy. Violence never solves anything. To make a change, you need to make a positive impact and make a difference where you can by adding to the greater good. Not by taking stuff away.

Life in St. LouisEmpty Plaza in St. Louis

Life in St. Louis has been quiet. I spend most of my time writing or taking photographs. I have started to explore some of the surrounding areas of Illinois and Missouri. It has been fun finding new places that I’ve never heard of before. Most of the places I have explored have been outside, allowing more of a sense of freedom from mask-wearing.

Although COVID has restricted several aspects to life for the residents in Illinois that have not been limited on the other side of the river, and it is frustrating for many to have this disparity between areas that are so close to each other. Having the option only for takeout or eating outside here in Illinois and then going 20 minutes over the river to St. Louis, where you can dine indoors, doesn’t make any sense.

In the meantime, I’m making do. I’m staying busy writing and picking up freelance photography gigs. Although I miss the camaraderie of working in cafes with other digital nomads, I have found a couple of spots around the house that I feel productive, including sitting outside on the deck. Working RemotelyRemote Working Outside

Birthday WishBe Kind street art

My birthday wish this year is for everyone to Be Kind. There is so much hate and negativity in the world. I’m sure it will ramp up even more in the coming months. I wish that we could take a step back and realize that having a different opinion is not a bad thing before jumping down people’s throats. Everyone has a reason for believing in something, and nobody has the right to tell you whether it is wrong or right. So, Be Kind to Everyone!

For myself, I’m going to spend my birthday being kind to myself. I’m going to take a road trip and see some areas of Illinois that you might haven’t heard before. Stay tuned for those articles. Happy COVID Birthday to me! And here’s to hoping the next year will be better for all of us!


  • Andrea 22September2020 at 1:23 AM Reply

    Happy COVID birthday! I’m glad you are making the most of the current situation and staying safe and healthy. I like your birthday wish and hope for more peace and love and empathy from everyone.

    I wanted to invite you to do one thing… I suggest looking at some of the ways being proposed as “defunding” police when they really mean reimagine or reallocate the funds to things like mental health responders and social workers. More non-violent ways to approach non-violent problems… I just thought I’d mention it because I too used to not fully understand how important it is to support the Black Lives Matter movement right now.

    ☮️ ?

    • Heather 22September2020 at 10:42 AM Reply

      Thank you, Andrea! I totally agree with giving more funding for mental health responders, social workers, and better training for officers. I meant the funds should come from the government official’s pet projects (referring to lobbyist items that don’t help the local neighborhoods) instead of first responders.

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