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Austin moms reflect on a 2020 like no other year in parenting, hopes for 2021

2020 was a year that challenged many a parent. In a matter of minutes, kids were home from school, home from college. Older kids sometimes were furloughed or laid off and also moved back in with parents. Grandparents often were separated physically from their children and grandchildren. 

We discovered how to learn virtually, how to connect virtually, how to air hug from our patios and in our Zoom screens. 

2020 was a year of woe as well as whoa. We mourned the lives lost, but we also slowed down.

We learned the value of family togetherness and patience with the people we love the most, and how to carve out space in every corner of what feels like a shrinking home.

We also learned the value of getting outside, taking a walk, watching the sunset, pausing for a moment each day to see the beauty that's around us. We found gratitude in many small things. 

We asked Austin moms and female thought-leaders what they learned from 2020 and what they hope to bring into 2021. 

May your 2021 be filled with gratitude and moments of joy. 

Cristina Bocanegra says of her family, husband Michael and sons Bowie, 4, and Grey, 2: "I’m so happy to be able to work from home and be with these boys."

Cristina Bocanegra, wardrobe stylist, creator of Mini Market, Love Child online magazine and Current Conference for women: What I've learned: to let go of words like selfless and perfection, especially when it comes to motherhood. I'm neither, and that's OK.

To go with the flow! Two of my three businesses rely on in-person events (not great for a global pandemic) ... or so I thought. When we switched to a virtual format for both Current Conference and Mini Market, I was so surprised by the positive response and support from our attendees. 

I learned how to be a more present mother, wife and friend by simply disconnecting. Removing apps on my phone that otherwise distract me from growing those relationships is a new weekly practice of mine. 

I learned just how important it is to support small businesses. I committed to shopping small and local back in March and have loved getting to know the people and their stories behind the businesses. 

My hopes for 2021: to carry the gratitude I feel right now, at the end of the wildest and hardest year, into the next one. 

Nakeenya Wilson is the executive director of Black Mamas ATX.

Nakeenya Wilson, executive director of Black Mamas ATX: I have learned that “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:19). A lot of people set New Year's resolutions, professional goals and travel plans, but we had to abandon our plans for COVID-19. We are not in control; God is.

My hope for 2021 is that collectively we have learned to be more compassionate, giving and mindful based on all of the lessons learned in 2020.

Bethany Hegedus' latest is "Huddle Up, Cuddle Up," which is partly inspired by her and her husband's own struggle to get their 5-year-old son, Taru, to bed.

Bethany Hegedus, children's books author and founder of the Writing Barn: 2020 schooled me as a mom. It taught me messes are OK, that adventure lies in our own backyards, and talking to a 5-year-old about systemic racism is scary, but what is scarier is if we as parents don't address the hard stuff — inside and outside our homes — and that we are NOT meant to do this alone. Or perfectly. Ever. 

My mama hopes for 2021 are simple: more hand-holding, an abundance of hugs outside our home circle, and high-fives to those of us who learned that surviving is sometimes what thriving really looks like. 

Simone Talma Flowers is the executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas.

Simone Talma Flowers, executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas: Even though 2020 stretched many of us to the limits, with loss, grief, loneliness, isolation and uncertainty, we learned that we did not break — we bent, contorted, adjusted, learned new ways of being, and did what was necessary to keep ourselves, loved ones and our community safe.

I look forward to learning how we can be more flexible with each other in building a stronger and safer community.

Allison Chase is the regional clinical director of Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center and Eating Recovery Center.

Allison Chase, regional clinical director of Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center and Eating Recovery Center:  While 2020 has been beyond challenging in both our personal and professional worlds, it is those silver linings that we cannot lose sight of. 2020 has forced us to slow down and appreciate the things we so often took for granted like our health and our family connections.

It is my hope that as we move into 2021 and this pandemic gets under control and life’s activities pick up again, we can take the time to slow down for a moment and remember who we are and what is important to each of us.

Gerry Tucker is the author of "Bedside Chat: A Book of Meditation and Inspiration."

Gerry Tucker, author of "Bedside Chat: A Book of Meditation and Inspiration": This past year taught me the importance of personal time alone and self-care. As a mother and employee, I rarely spent time alone or time attending to my physical, mental and spiritual health. However, I have learned the importance of exercise, meditation, massages and journaling.

During this year I experienced stress and anxiety, and self-care was the only relief. I learned to first take care of me, and I can then take care of everything and everyone else. 

I am hoping for a spiritual evolution in 2021. It will be a time of metamorphosis when communities and society will change into the humanistic, generous, law-abiding, tranquil and blessed nation that our forefathers envisioned. 

This requires that each of us be loving, respectful of others, supportive and tolerant of others. I am also hoping for a government of and for the people — for all individuals. 

Andra Liemandt founded the Kindness Campaign and is also the drummer for the band The Mrs.

Andra Liemandt, founder and CEO of the Kindness Campaign: Connection has to be intentional, and five words can make all the difference. “How can I support you?”

For 2021, I hope we can use the rawness of this past year to go deeper with our relationships. And here’s the thing: We have the perfect opportunity to do so. A lot got stripped away in 2020, leaving us with bare truths, pain and exposed cracks — cracks that were there all along, in our larger society and in our interpersonal relationships. Now, I truly feel we can lean into those truths and be radically honest about what we all need to thrive. 

I do believe 2021 will be a year of healing; 2020 set us up for that. In this new year, we can cultivate relationships and systems that nourish us. We can be more honest, more precise in the ways we give. The outcome will be more authentic connections, which are hard-won and oh-so-precious, because we had to get super vulnerable to achieve them.

Renee Peterson Trudeau is the author of "Nurturing the Soul of Your Family."

Renee Peterson Trudeau, author of "Nurturing the Soul of Your Family": What I learned: I am stronger and more resilient than I realized. Just when another piece of devastating news would arrive in my inbox (my senior in high school will not have a graduation ceremony, all my 2020 self-renewal retreats have been canceled, etc.), I would pause, find inner strength, reach out to my backbone friends and discover a “reframe” for what I was experiencing. 

Sometimes this looked like a creative hack (offering a retreat online) or a redirect (my son’s piano teacher rocked it online), and often it meant having the courage to release expectations and just let go.

Resiliency is a choice, it’s a perspective, it’s a skill you can cultivate, and it’s about choosing to be bigger than the issue that is causing you stress. In our house, we constantly reminded ourselves, “Go easy on yourself; we’re in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Gifts from 2020 include clarity. This time has been illuminating for me around life purpose/work, relationships, where/how I want to live and how I want to BE in the world. I’ve also cultivated a deeper, wider gratitude practice (the fastest way to feel better fast), have gotten clearer around which friendships nourish me and how to cultivate these. Through my work with women/moms across the U.S., I heard a resounding theme: We want to simplify. We’re less interested in shopping and stuff and more interested in creating a life that is centered on our values — for ourselves and for our children.  

My greatest hope for 2021 is that people will stay awake and actively keep working for change. I think we’re just starting to get traction and have much work to do — especially around social/racial injustices and climate change work. I really hope we can all stay engaged, alive, aware and keep asking, “How can I keep these issues at the forefront and what is uniquely mine to do in 2021?”

Brobe creator Allison Schickel with her husband, Matt, daughters Mackenzie and Monya, and son Evan have found new ways to be together as a family.

Allison Schickel, founder of the Brobe post-surgical clothing: Take it a day at a time. Trying to juggle it all is impossible and WILL eventually catch up with you. 2020 has taught me to TRY and slow down a bit. Three kids at home, virtual learning, a first-responder husband, and me keeping my business afloat forced me to “go with the punches” and made me realize that I didn’t have to DO IT ALL.

The world was not going to collapse because the dishes didn't get done or the laundry didn't get folded. With all the horrible things that 2020 brought, I feel it also brought unexpected friendships with neighbors, long walks with family just talking, and actually getting a nap in every once in a while.

My hope for 2021 is that we continue to not move at 1,000 miles per hour and can still enjoy those family walks, Saturday night game night with the kids, the fun cul-de-sac happy hours with neighbors, and for me personally, to focus more on my own health and taking time for ME every single day.

Reenie Collins is the executive director of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.

Reenie Collins, chief executive director of Health Alliance for Austin Musicians: As a mother with grown children, 2020 has made me realize just how important “home” is for all of us. I have realized that home is much more than a physical space. As mothers, we help create home by the traditions and simple daily things we do to keep our family together — even if we are apart. 

Holly Christine Hayes has built Sanctuary Project jewelry to help other women who have been trafficked.

Holly Christine Hayes, founder of Sanctuary Project jewelry line made by survivors of sex trafficking: In the rush and busyness of life as we knew it, moments of motherhood drifted by without much thought. The entrance of 2020 forced a slowness we never knew we needed. We took time to be with our loved ones and treasure the quiet and the mundane — reading books, cooking together, staying home. I pray we carry this intentionality and slowness into 2021 and all the years to come! 

Elaine Garza, owner of Giant Noise, at the Hotel San Jose, which was one of her favorite places to hang out during South by Southwest.

Elaine Garza, principal of Giant Noise, public relations firm: I just asked my husband what I have learned and he said, "That your husband is awesome."  Of course, that made me laugh, but it also solidified my theory that attitude really makes a huge difference in not just my environment but the environment of those around me.

I live with my husband and two teenage girls, and I think we could have all had a miserable year had we let ourselves get caught up in all the sadness and fear in the/our world. 

If I feel down or worried, I stop and think about all that we do have and all that I am grateful for, and it truly changes my state of mind. That might sound corny, but it's true for me.

For 2021, I hope for an end to COVID-19, I hope kids can get back to school safely, that teachers can feel safe at work, that our incredible health care workers can rest and get the recognition they so deserve, and that our beloved restaurants, hotels and live music venues can prosper.

Judy Knotts is a parishioner of St. John Neumann Catholic Church and former head of St. Gabriel's Catholic School and St. Michael's Catholic Academy. Her newest book, "You Are My Brother," is a collection of past American-Statesman faith columns.

Judy Knotts, author of "You are My Brother: Lessons Learned Embracing a Homeless Community": Being elderly and living alone, I discovered I missed hugs. So I had to improvise. In this socially distancing environment, I would frequently touch my fingers to my mask and toss an imaginary kiss in the air that sometimes was caught. And when sending emails to my faraway family and friends, I learned to say what was truly in my heart — "I love you."

What is my wish for 2021? That we would ignore all labels of race, skin color, ethnicity, gender, religion, political persuasion, sexual preference, economic status, employment rank, citizenship standing and education level, and imagine instead that each person we meet is a pilgrim, just like us, taking up space on our planet Earth.

Kathy Terry started the app inLieu, which allows people to make a donation instead of giving a hostess gift or birthday gift to the recipient's favorite charity.

Kathy Terry, founder of inLieu charitable giving app and co-founder of P. Terry's Burger Stands: I think for me, 2020 has been the year that has confirmed my belief that we are all in this together. I want my kids to learn to see the world through the eyes of others: A world where we can all be successful. Where everyone has access to basic needs, love, compassion and happiness.  

In order to do this, we have to open our eyes and our hearts and get out of our bubbles to witness all the amazing people right next to us. In the end, we all just want to be seen and to be heard — we want to know we matter and have value.  

My hope for 2021 is that we move away from the “me world” we have created and build a “we world.”

Barbara Frandsen wrote about her experiences with death in "Dignity in Death: Accepting, Assisting, and Preparing for the End of Life."

Barbara Frandsen, author of "Dignity in Death": Love and forgive yourself so you will be able to keep loving your children.

When you need to cry, do so. If you slip into dark humor, go with it (but maybe privately). Laugh at your own jokes, even if they are terrible. 

Even the greatest moms need to rely on a spiritual power beyond themselves.  

Your children are not you. They are the arrows that will live in a future you cannot even imagine.

Allow children to develop their own courage and grit. They will need it to take care of you later. 

Susan Hawkins Sager is a fellow seeker who is ordained as interfaith clergy.

Susan Hawkins Sager, interfaith clergy member: 2020 has been a trust walk that’s involved our feeling our way in the dark. Sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

A trust walk is an exercise used in team building. With all of the polarization around us, we might seem further from this vision than ever. However, trust and unity are what we need  most now.

Embedded in our challenges are our blessings. We’ve had the profound opportunity to go inward and expand our inner life. For many, this has meant overcoming their basic suspicion that any mention of inner life is sheer pretend and make-believe.

2021 is about sharing what we've found inside on the outside — sharing who we are in what we do. 

Niyanta Spelman is the founder and CEO of Austin nonprofit Rainforest Partnership, which works with communities in the Amazon Rainforest to prevent the cutting down of old wood trees.

Niyanta Spelman, founder of Rainforest Partnership: 2020 is full of lessons: That we are resilient, that we can get tired of sitting in one place endlessly going from one Zoom call to the next, that we enjoy being together as a family unit, that we can be content not interacting with the outside world.

We planted together, we cooked dinners together more intently, we played our favorite board games far more. Several birds were born in our central Austin Hyde Park urban yard, and somehow as the world slowed down, we saw more of the world around us, and in a house we have lived in for more than 20 years.

One of my favorite outcomes of this year is the long walks my husband, my younger son and I do together every weekend. It really started out of my need to get out into an expanse, to get us to fresh air, to get our limbs moving, to be in nature. We soon ran out of places that were close in where the trails were both beautiful and didn’t have too many people. So, we started to really use our state parks pass. With packed chai in a thermos along with sandwiches or hummus and apples, carrots and crackers, our weekend walks routinely got to 6 to 7 miles, each walk saved on RunKeeper app, enshrined in memory, along with endless pictures I take as a matter of course.

Looking ahead to 2021, this is one incredible habit that we won’t lose. My son used to often ask if he could skip the weekend walks; he no longer does so.

There is something about appreciating nature together, walking and talking together, sitting down as the sun sets overlooking a beautiful forest, a lake, the hills as we have our tea and munchies. Our natural world comes to the rescue balancing a world that seemed to close in in ways that none of us could have ever predicted.

Beauty and hope abounds all around, and it always did. We just needed to actively go out seeking it.