“Count your blessings.” It’s cliche, but true. And that’s where I’m starting in this very first blog post on my new site! I’m excited to get this project launched. I’ve been blogging since 2014 at Gazette665 and Emerging Civil War, but have struggled through some brand identity crisis this year and took slow steps to fix it.
While it’s delightful to be opening a new chapter and site, I have to confess first and just offer the reminder that we’re all in this year together. 2020 has been hard. Special events for my family were canceled or transformed. Research has felt as slow as Burnside’s Mud March. Travel, research trips, and conference lectures have been off the table. I hear similar experiences from friends and colleagues across the history field. That’s okay. We’re surviving. We’re navigating. Wherever you’re at the moment in this process of coping, keep going. There is so much that we can learn through these challenging and difficult times.
And now, we find ourselves between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day…a season of gratefulness. Here are a few of my thankful thoughts this November, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments:
- My faith
The lyrics from “Grace” by Carolyn Hamlin are a little summary of my faith and feelings this year:
“Your will cannot lead me
where Your grace will not keep me.
Your hand will protect me.
I rest in Your care.
Your eyes will watch over me,
Your love will forgive me.
And when I am faltering,
I still will find You there.”
2. Opportunities to innovate
This has been particularly true at work as in-person events were canceled. Thanks to technology and innovation, I was able to help host the first-ever online, live fundraiser event for the preservation nonprofit I work for.
Oh, and my brother taught me to use video calls to day to day “hello” with the family, something I wasn’t too sure about until 2020 arrived.
3. Those phone calls (or Zooms)
It’s been the best way to stay connected and close to my family. Also, several of my history buddies and I have had specific days that we check-in with each other and see how research is going. Colleagues have made efforts to reach out and talk through the challenges rocking the history field this year. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to stay connected and encouraging, even when we have to stay apart.
4. Online archives
Not the same as going to a library, but newspapers.com and Library of Congress’s digitized materials have been wonderful!
5. Historic greenspace
So grateful for the preserved battlefields with trails, historic sites with park benches, and state parks with biking paths. It’s made such a difference to have safe options to visit and enjoy the great outdoors.
6. Opportunity to follow the trailblazers
It’s been great to follow in the footsteps of others in the modern era or historical eras for ideas and examples of responding to the crazy year. It’s also that reminder that even though it might feel lonely, we create or follow a trail through life that can impact others.
7. 1000 Page journals
Mary Chesnut and George Templeton Strong. Need I say more? Reading their huge volumes of observations during the Civil War era has helped to put modern moments of crisis into perspective.
8. Wit and complaining from the past
I love finding historic words that express what I’ve struggled to put into words this year. Here’s one of my favorites from Union General Francis C. Barlow in a moment of uncertainty about decisions and directions:
“…at least face us in the right direction, so that we shall not march away from the enemy, and have to go round the world and come up in the rear.”
9. Graciousness & understanding
What I continue to strive for, and grateful for the opportunity in difficult times to grow in this area of character and life.
10. Sunrises & sunsets
They mark the days, but the colors in the sky are often breath-taking. A wonderful reminder to slow down, think, and then carry on.
11. Examples of courage
In dark moments, I think about the men and women that I’ve researched. How did they respond? What can we learn from their examples?
12. Learning to listen
I’m grateful for the time to step back this year—partly by necessity and partly by choice. Watching unfolding perspectives and stories on the national scene and evaluating personal goals while taking a break from “talking” or interacting on the internet has been helpful. I hope it will help me re-approach research and conversations with a better understanding.
So maybe I don’t have a completed manuscript this year. Maybe I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted. But…I know the lessons this year are valuable. Maybe I can be a better researcher and strong writer because of the experiences and observations from this year.
For these blessings and with the hope that I will look back and see that I learned something through this year, I’m thankful.
What’s your story? What are you grateful for?