2020 Year in Review

I started to think about writing this post in September. It’s a daunting task to wrap up a year like this one, but I’ll do my best. The pandemic flipped our metaphorical snowglobe upside down and the flakes are not done swirling and falling into place yet. Even though the calendar has flipped to a new year, the catastrophic global event that touched all of our lives is ongoing, and there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. Will we come out on the other side of this with a new appreciation for real-world, deep connection with other people? Has the veil finally been pulled off our eyes regarding social media? Have we learned to listen and be more open to people whose experiences are different from our own? Have we learned to be content with doing less? Have we learned to be alone with our thoughts? What is the ultimate, definitive, absolute best way to make sourdough? Time will tell, but one thing is certain—we’ll remember this year for the rest of our lives. 

It’s easy to write off a year like 2020. Parts of it were hard and painful. Many of us were forced to face uncomfortable truths as the things we put our trust in or found comfort in were stripped away from us. But even though I’m happy for it to be over, I don’t want to forget the Lord’s faithfulness to me this year in the face of loneliness and suffering. There were so many ways that he provided for me and took care of me. I came face to face with some of my own failings this year, and found God to be gracious and kind in response, and I experienced his love in ways I never knew were possible. And I do believe that this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen. 

And so, shall we reflect? This is my eleventh year-in-review. Can you believe it? From the Olympics in Vancouver to the COVID-19 pandemic and everything in between! For Auld Lang Syne’s sake here are the posts from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Arguably the best photo I took this year, at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park.

What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?

  • Wore a face mask grocery shopping
  • Cancelled a flight
  • Brought an aloe vera plant back from the dead
  • Voted by mail 
  • Attended my first Boodle Fight 
  • Went to an MLB Spring Training Baseball Game
  • Worked from home for 170 days 
  • Went inside a substation and touched the (unenergized) inside of a 69kV transmission cable 
  • Camped in my car
One of the many thing I can fit in the back of my little Honda Fit: an air mattress and sleeping bag.
With my teammate Olga in our super stylish PPE about to do a site visit at a substation.

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My purposely vague new year’s resolutions from last year were as follows:

  • Read 30 books. Done! I read 32 and would like to do a stretch goal of 35 next year. 
  • Ride my bike more and regularly do my posture exercises. Done! According to Strava I rode 285 km on my bike this year. Once I got my Apple Watch I started stretching every day and doing exercise videos to close my rings. 
  • Save money. Actually, let me give you the direct quote because you can’t make this up: “… I will try to stick a bit closer to home this year so I can save money.” Done and done. Not only did I not travel outside of Western Canada this year (except one trip to Arizona that I squeezed in the week before COVID hit), working from home helped me to save a ton too. I ate out less, barely drove my car (and therefore didn’t have to pay much for gas/parking) and stopped going to movies and concerts. 

Other than reading 35 books, I’d like to keep my resolutions abstract again, because if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to hold onto your plans loosely.  So, next year I would like to continue to be more active. Success would look like any of the following: being able to do 10 real pushups without my knees on the ground, biking at least 350 kms (cumulative), being able to touch my toes while standing, making it through a boxing class with Mel and/or going on a >5km hike/run. 

I’d like to continue to build up my savings, in the hopes of one day owning property somewhere (other than Vancouver because HA HA HA) or paying for a future master’s degree. Success would look like: curbing my online shopping and increasing my monthly saving contributions, increasing my charitable giving by 15%, and/or learning more about investing. 

In 2021, I will aim to reduce my screen time. I know this one will be hard since I’m likely going to be working remotely for awhile yet. For the first time this year I noticed the physical toll screen time was having on me: headaches when a zoom call goes too long, sore eyes, insomnia, etc. I’d like to be more intentional and consistent about staying off screens when I can. Success would look like: spending less time checking Instagram and Twitter; consistently leaving my phone out of my room at bedtime; and staying off my phone in the evenings. 

One of many physically distant bike-and-get-croissants-at-Matchstick hangouts this year.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Basically everyone I know had a baby this year, and most of them were girls! Ariana kicked things off with a bang and had twin baby girls in early June, Steph had Elijah in mid-June, Chars had Cassian three days before my birthday in August, Raurie had Zetta in October and Mel had Bianca in late October. Phew did I miss anyone? Tiff is about to have a baby but she will have to wait until next year’s post!

Did anyone close to you die?

No, and considering there was a pandemic going on, that is quite the miracle/blessing. That being said, my Great Uncle Fred passed away from COVID late this year at the age of 94. I wasn’t very close to him, but it was very sad for my extended family and my Dad. He was one of the many people who died in a long term care facility. One of the great tragedies of the past year is that so many people have had to die alone, and their families have been unable to grieve or mourn the loss of their loved ones together.

What countries did you visit?

I managed to squeak in one trip to the U.S. in early March, spending a week in Arizona with my parents. My Dad and I went to a spring training game, we hiked in the desert and ate dinner at our favourite Mexican restaurant in the world in Cave Creek. I wish I’d stocked up on Trader Joe’s salsa while I had the chance.

At a spring training game between the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies at Surprise Stadium, AZ.

I flew back just before the mandatory 14 day quarantine was put in place for travellers returning to Canada from the U.S. I vividly remember getting food in the Phoenix airport before my flight and feeling nervous every time I touched a surface or someone stood too close to me. My plane home was a giant dreamliner that normally flew the routes in Asia, because at that point all the Canadian airlines had stopped service there. I had an entire row to myself, as did most other people on the plane. Ten days after I returned from that trip, we were all sent home from work and the first lockdown started.

My only other trips this year were driving back to Alberta (x2) and an amazing group camping trip to Golden Ears in August with my brother, sister in law and a bunch of close friends. I miss international travel a lot, but it was a blessing to rediscover places I haven’t been to since I was a kid. Both times I visited my family in Edmonton, I stopped in Banff on the way home. How blessed are we to have the Rockies so close? I’ve always taken it for granted, and frankly avoided going to Banff because it’s usually a zoo—packed with people and tour buses from all over the world. But this year provided a rare opportunity to visit when the park was quieter.

Banff in the pouring rain with Douze and Lynn in June.
Lake Louise in early October. I managed to make it right before the first snow of the year.
A magical sunset in Banff National Park.

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

More hugs! More in-person church services! Concerts! Live Sports! Trips across the border to Trader Joe’s! International Travel! Celebrating holidays with all your nearest and dearest!

Matching plaid with Mylon and Ollie at our much-smaller-than-usual Friendsgiving dinner.

What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • March 17 – my first day working from home
  • June 8 – The day I was supposed to leave for the U.K. with my Mom (also Chars’ birthday)
  • August 23 – The day Cassian was born. I remember this one (of all my friends’ births) most because he was born on my Grandpa Miller’s birthday, three days before my own birthday. Because of Covid I was the only person who could come into the house and take care of the older boys while Marc & Chars went to the hospital, so I got the 6 a.m. “I’m in labour” wake up call.
Waiting with the boys for their parents and new baby brother to come home.

What were your biggest achievements of the year?

Before diving into this section, let’s make a caveat that we all need to be gracious with ourselves in the achievement department. When COVID first hit in March and we went into lockdown, I think a lot of us (myself included) thought: “Great! I will finally have time to _______.” But then the pandemic wore on and wore us down. Things seemed to change every day and there was so much competing for our attention, it left a cacophony of noisy, worrying thoughts ringing in our ears. Most of us were fighting a mental health battle of varying intensity this year, and so it’s an achievement simply to have made it through.

All that being said, I’m very proud of the work I did this year. Anyone who works in communications will tell you that 2020 was their busiest year ever. With things changing every day (especially early on), there was so much important information to get out to people. There was also a lot of fear and uncertainty, and communicating things in the right way, with the right words and tone became even more important than usual. Our team at work put in a lot of hours to make sure that everyone had the right information to continue doing their jobs. In addition to all the COVID stuff, we were in the middle of a big redesign project for an internal site, which was especially challenging to do remotely. Looking back over the year my job was one of the biggest blessings (even on the long, stressful days). I got to work with a great team of people I truly like and respect, and the work kept me constantly learning. 

Filming for the Westside Christmas special with Cory and Grace. This was such a fun project with so many talented, creative people involved. It was a joy to play a small part in it.

What was your biggest failure?

I lost touch with a lot of people that I care about. As my world got smaller and some of those regular touch-points (Sunday morning church services, bigger social group gatherings) were removed because of physical distancing restrictions, there are a lot of friends that I just fell out of contact with completely. 

I’ve never been particularly good at reaching out first and initiating conversations or hang outs, but this year as mild pandemic-induced depression set in, everything felt like it took monumental effort and I just stopped. I turned into someone who is bad at answering text messages—something I’ve always found hurtful and frustrating in others. I know it’s important to cut ourselves some slack in the mental health department, but I do genuinely regret how little I was able to give of myself to others this year. My hope and prayer is that next year will be full of reconnections. 

Also, I had the worst fantasy football season of my entire career. It’s a small thing but it was a categorical failure.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I did not! But I did do a drive through test for COVID once because I was having headaches and shortness of breath which I think was actually just from exhaustion/anxiety. Fun.

What was the best thing you bought?

I finally bought the expensive curling iron that I’d been dreaming about for years! It’s ironic that I shelled out for it during a pandemic when the only people who will even see my hair will be on a screen, but honestly I have no regrets.

I also bought an Apple Watch in the fall and it has been a real game changer. Closing those rings—and knowing your friends will see if you don’t—is super motivating for me. Since I got the watch I’ve been exercising and stretching regularly, and I’ve noticed that I have a lot more strength and endurance. My neck and back also haven’t been bothering me as much. When I told Grace this she laughed at me because she basically spends all day telling people that the more they move the better they’ll feel—DUH. For me it took getting a smartwatch to actually listen and stick with it.

Whose behaviour merited celebration?

I think we can all give ourselves a round of applause for getting through this year. It was a tough one, and it was tough for everyone in different ways, so it’s hard to pick out one person to celebrate. When I look around at my own group of close friends, everyone dealt with their own struggles and some were bigger than others but we all supported each other with love and prayer. I remember one particular walk that I took with Steph in the early fall. She’d been dealing with a lot of hard things all at once, but even in the middle of her own suffering, she was able to offer up an encouraging word that spoke to my situation. We prayed for each other, and each left feeling a little lighter, even though the burdens weren’t totally gone.

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

When I first started answering these New Years questions eleven years ago (!!!), I always struggled to come up with an answer to this one. Lately, I have a list running through my head of people (usually infamous people or politicians) who could fit the bill. But I’ve also started to feel less “appalled and depressed” and more sad. We have so little compassion and empathy for other people these days, and it’s heartbreaking. My prayer for this year and beyond is that we could practice more kindness and love for one another, and instead of defaulting to being appalled and depressed by someone else’s behaviour, we could try to understand where they’re coming from and acknowledge their humanity even if we might fundamentally disagree.

Where did most of your money go?

Online shopping, saving and paying off the last of my debt. I upgraded all my tech this year: new phone, new laptop, Apple Watch. It was all overdue (for the laptop in particular, my Macbook was 12 years old). 

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

  1. Finding toilet paper in the grocery store in early April. 
Word to the wise: the IGA on Robson always has toilet paper.

2. When they lifted some of the original lockdown restrictions in mid-May and allowed us to create a bubble of safe contacts. I remember a couple of particularly low points during March and April, where I signed off of a video call and burst into tears thinking that I’d never get to hang out at Marc & Chars’ house again and just watch a movie.  Getting to spend time inside with the Willertons and have one friend family I could interact with normally was a TSN Turning Point for me. Also it was my first hug (and physical contact with another person) in two months. 

One of our first bubble hang outs after lockdown eased up.

3. Hockey coming back in the summer. I couldn’t wait. I was so sure that the Oilers were going to be good. I couldn’t wait to see Connor and Leon light it up in the playoffs and…we all know how that ended.

A few nervous Oilers fans before they lost to Chicago.

What songs will always remind you of 2020?

Let the Ground Rest and Not Finished Yet by Chris Renzema, and Dust Settles by The Lone Bellow. Grace and I went to see The Lone Bellow in concert in March and it was one of the last things I did before the lockdown. 

My first and last concert of 2020, the Lone Bellow at the Imperial.

Favourite albums

Favourite podcasts

Compared to this time last year are you:

  • Happier or sadder? Definitely sadder.
  • Thinner or fatter? A bit fatter (aren’t we all?) but I’m a lot stronger than I was at the beginning of the year, so I’m trying to be ok with it. 
  • Richer or poorer? Incredibly, richer.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Praying, reading my bible, talking with friends, trusting the Lord.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Zoom calls, online shopping, eating my feelings, listening to the news, staring at screens, worrying about the future.

How will you be spending Christmas?

Thankfully, the restrictions here in B.C. let single people who live alone (me!) join with another household so I spent most of the holidays with the Willertons. We ate a ton and watched a lot of movies. Other than not seeing my family, it was a great holiday—my first time not travelling at Christmas since I moved to Vancouver fourteen years ago.

My mom sent us these festive scarves to wear for Christmas dinner. The pom poms had jingle bells in them.
Very proud of how this turned out, considering I’ve never made it before. This photo was taken before I slathered it with ketchup.

On Christmas Eve, Chars and I made Tourtiére—both Marc & I grew up with francophone grandmothers so this was a tradition in both our families—and we watched the Westside Christmas Eve special

A physically distanced friend photo, taken on one of the filming days for the Christmas special. I love that Tiff, Steph and I are wearing no shoes and Grace is wearing THE BEST shoes.

On Christmas Day I had a four hour (!!!) zoom call with my family to open presents. Then in the afternoon I went to the park with the Willertons to test out the stomp rocket that I got for Elliot. 

Miller Family Christmas ONLINE
Testing out the stomp rocket in the park. The entirely matching outfits were their own idea and not coerced.

On Boxing Day we drove to the Schroeders’ house to exchange presents on their doorstep in the pouring rain. Our original plan before the stricter health restrictions came in place had been to celebrate and have a big turkey dinner with both families, but after that was disallowed we improvised a drive-by Christmas. Ryan had my name in the grown-up gift exchange and he got me lights for my bike, and I’m pumped to be able to bike in the dark this year.

Did you fall in love in 2020?

Sigh, No. Still holding out hope for one day.

What was your favourite TV program?

  • I watched all seven seasons of Brooklyn 99 during the first lockdown. 
  • Once we were allowed a “bubble” again, Marc, Chars and I watched The Mandolorian and Ted Lasso together. Five enthusiastic stars to both. I resisted watching Ted Lasso at first because I don’t normally like Jason Sudeikis, but he plays against type in this and his character is a Very Nice Man. 
  • Tehran – This show had serious Homeland vibes, but I think I liked it better than Homeland. 
  • The Right Stuff – I add this with the caveat that I will watch and love basically anything about space.
  • Young Wallander – I liked this so much that I watched a Swedish show with the same lead actor (called Before We Die in English – highly recommend it as well).
  • I also watched a LOT of National Geographic nature and travel shows during the first few months of lockdown because it was all I could mentally handle.

What were the best books you read?

  • Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – This was my book club selection for the year and I loved it. 
  • The Switch by Beth O’Leary – This was an easy, delightful read. Exactly what you want to read in the middle of a pandemic.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

Switching to Spotify from Google Music. I held out for a long time because I’d had Google Music so long I was grandfathered in at a cheaper monthly rate, but my goodness Spotify is FAR SUPERIOR.

What did you want and get?

A new computer, an Apple Watch, a camping trip with friends, a way-too-expensive curling iron, summer hockey to watch.

What did you want and not get?

A vaccine. Kidding! My Mom and I were supposed to go on a trip to the U.K. and Normandy/Belgium in June. Obviously that was cancelled along with everything else this year, and it’s one of the things I was the most sad about.

What were your favourite films of this year?

What did you do on your birthday?

I had extremely low expectations for my birthday, what with the pandemic and all, but it ended up being surprisingly wonderful. Tami Knepper invited me to join her and West for the drive through PNE. We had corn dogs, potato tornadoes, butterbeer soft serve, cotton candy and watched super dogs through the sunroof of their jeep. 

The butterbeer ice cream was my particular favourite.

Then, Tiff, Steph and Grace set up a fancy taco dinner for me in the park (Chars was absent because she’d just given birth but she sent me ginormous bouquet of purple flowers), complete with a homemade earl grey cake. There was also a rugby practice going on in the park while we were eating, which added to the overall ambiance. 

(Grace was taking the photo)

I actually got to celebrate twice this year because my present from my friends was a trip to “London” (High Tea at the Secret Garden) with my friends, complete with a wander around “Borough Market” (Granville Island). And it was October before we could find a Saturday that worked for everyone! 

On our way to “Borough Market” – is this photo a snapshot of life in the time of COVID or what?

Edited to add: Ariana pointed out that I forgot to mention that we also celebrated my birthday with an outdoor hangout in Maple Ridge. Jared barbecued hot dogs and she made me an Amazing Strawberry Cake. I can honestly say it was one of the best cakes I’ve had, even though she pressured me into putting it in the blog post.

Strawberry cake complete with impressive cursive frosting.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

“Do I have to turn my webcam on for this meeting?” Practically this meant leggings, big sweatshirts and little-to-no makeup.

What kept you sane?

Lots of prayer. Taking breaks from social media and the news. Seeing one household of friends inside, in-person. Walk-and-talks with close friends. A supportive and sometimes hilarious group text. Exercise.

Outdoor hang outs became essential this year. This camping trip with friends felt almost normal, except for all the hand sanitizer.

Which celebrity or public figure did you fancy the most?

James Acaster and Leon Draisaitl.

What political issue stirred you the most?

To be honest, my greatest political desire was just for the U.S. election to be over. I hope over the next four years we can live in a world where we’re not forced to think about what the President of the United States is doing every day. 

Here at home, I voted by mail for the first time in our B.C. provincial election. But I didn’t have particularly strong feelings about any of the election issues and am happy to stay the course with this government for now.

Who did you miss?


I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with my nephew this year, and sad there wasn’t more of it. Here we are on his first birthday in Edmonton.

Who was the best new person you met?

I actually don’t think I met any new people this year?! Other than all the babies, of course. What a tragedy.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020?

As I said in the introduction, it’s hard to point out one thing you’ve learned after a year like this one. The pandemic forced us all to slow down and be still. We came face to face with our own frailties and the limits of ourselves, and even though it’s been so hard, I do think that the Lord was gracious to us in this. I’ve learned to be ok with doing less and to be more gracious with myself. I’ve learned how much it affects me when I skip my time with Jesus in the morning. I’ve learned that I’m an emotional shopper. And I’ve discovered that even I—a Level 5000 Introvert—can get to a point where I’ve had too much time alone! 

My world got a lot smaller this year. I spent more time than I ever thought possible in my little apartment. I didn’t leave my neighbourhood much and have come to love it even more than I did before. I went for a lot of walks (didn’t we all?) and learned that exercise can be life-giving.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

Pain like thorns
Growing in a garden
One by one
Removed by careful hands
‘Til everything else is gone
And all that remains is beautiful
You’re not finished yet

You’re making all things new
You’re not finished yet
A marvel from the marble
A garden from the bramble
You’re making all things new
You’re not finished yet

3 Replies to “2020 Year in Review”

  1. As always very Well written! Onward and upward to 2021!

  2. Ingrid Greig says:

    Hi Sarah, Thank you for posting this, it is wonderful and has so many deep insights into this crazy year! I think you coped very well! I thought about you a lot and prayed for you because I thought about how difficult it would be to live alone in this time of isolation. Trust the Lord, he will never let you down. He brings good out of every situation! God bless you in 2021! Ingrid ❤️

  3. Well written Sarah. A tumultuous year. So glad you didn’t dwell on US politics! We have had enough of our own country’s. We can only go onward and upward from here.

    It has been a privilege to pray with you and walk with you (at a safe distance) this year. My prayers and love are with you in 2021 as well.

    p.s. I also lost a brother in 2020, though not to Covid.

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