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  • Writer's pictureDakota J.

My First 2021 Joy Report: Nearing Normalcy

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.

– Wess Stafford

Since I haven’t been able to write a monthly Joy Report recently, I decided to write one for the first part of 20201 and, what seems to be, the approach towards normalcy once again.

A Big Move

If you read my January 15th post “From Rags to Riches: Our First Remodel“, you learned that over the past four years, my husband and I had been remodeling our first home, only to decide to move to a new state. With all of the uncertainty surrounding my future as an English as a Second Language instructor, I decided to make a career move into instructional design at the end of 2020. (You can read more about that journey here!)

Upon accepting a new job in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, we made the decision to move to Champaign, Illinois to be closer to my possible on-site location. While this decision was not easy, it has proven to pay off.

At the end of January, starting the evening of January 27th to be exact, we began loading a 26-foot Penske moving truck. Just to be clear, we had never moved completely on our own before, and neither of us had experience loading a moving truck… so this was a new (and stressful) experience for both of us. Throughout the process, we learned a lot about each other, and how much sh*t can be gathered and stored in closets over the course of four years. Honestly, there were times that we just felt like things would never stop showing up!

The two of us, Jeffery and myself, spent a day and a half loading up our collective 20 years of live in Iowa City with no help in the middle of a pandemic. Now, I’m not here to complain about not having help, but rather to say how proud I am that we were able to pull it off. Of course, a last-minute run to the recycling center with leftover boxes by our friend, Michael, proved to be immensely helpful.

On January 29th, we woke up at 5:00AM to finish loading the final things, such as plants and food/beverage items that could not be packed the night before. By 6:00AM, we were ready to leave Iowa City, but there was one problem… one of the cars wouldn’t start. The battery had died while we were loading it up due to the very cold weather. Luckily, a neighbor was leaving for work and was able to help us get it jumped. By 6:30AM, we were on the road for our 4-hour drive to Champaign, IL. I was in a fully-packed 26-ft moving truck towing Jeffrey’s car (also packed to the brim) with our two dogs sitting in a little dog bed up front with me. Jeffrey, on the other hand, was in my fully-packed car with a trailer in tow and our two cats in a kennel in the back.

This was all an experience to say the least.

By 11:30AM, we were pulling-up to our new home in Champaign, IL for our final walkthrough. The drive took longer than expected because I was not able to get the truck to go much more than 60-65 MPH on the interstate for the drive. (To be completely honest, driving the big truck kind-of reminded me of my Cambus days during undergrad at the University of Iowa.) I can’t even begin to explain the emotions that I felt when I pulled in front of our new house in Champaign.

It was probably 10 or 11 PM by the time we finished unloading all of the cars, trucks, and trailers. We had a beer, and fell asleep in our new house. It was that moment that I knew, everything was going to be alright.


A Vaccination

I’ll never forget mid-March 2020, when I was prepping for “at least two weeks” of virtual instruction—something of which I had never done before—not knowing that the next year, or more, would be one of the hardest and strangest things I’d ever experience. I haven’t hugged my grandparents. I’ve been surrounded by more death than I ever wanted to be. I even contracted the contagious virus myself. Honestly, I never thought this would end. March, though, brought me hope. When I got my frirst COVID-19 vaccine dose, I felt hope. I felt that the right now isn’t forever, and that normalcy is on the way!


A Family Gathering

I’m not going to lie, I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to my brother’s wedding at the beginning of April, but I’m so happy we were able to have it. To go to an event where the vast majority of people were vaccinated, and to be able to hug and spend time with relatives was so much fun. Not to mention, there’s nothing like coming out of quarantine into a big family gathering with everyone all dressed up!

Of course, the biggest of congratulations go to my brother, sister-in-law, and niece. They make such an adorable family, and I can’t wait to see what is next in store for them!


A Start on Remodeling

One of the joys of our new house has been being able to begin to remodel a space again. In our first house, we did a lot of remodeling but were learning the skills at the same time. Now, we are able to utilize all of the skills we built up during our last remodel and do things even better this time. So far, in the first four months of occupancy in this house, we have remodeled most of the main floor including:

  1. Bar

  2. Half-Bath

  3. Laundry Room

  4. Foyer

  5. Living Room


A New Piece of Art

One of the best decisions I made in our new house was to have portraits made of each of our pets. Reminiscent of growing up with my school photos being hung on the stairs of our house, I wanted the same for my kids (pets). That’s when I went to Etsy and found Portrait of Pet. They provide very nice and affordable services of taking a photo of your pet and making a custom portrait of it. To the right, you can click through and see each of ours: Charlee, Oscar, Rosco, and Tyra. I am so in love with each of them, and they are now matted and framed on our stairs leading from the main floor to the upper level of our house!


All in all, the start of 2021 has been amazing. The summer weather is starting to roll in, and more and more people are getting vaccinated. I have a feeling that this summer is going to be much better than last! How has the first few months of 2021 been treating you? Share in the comments below!

If you want to see what shenanigans I’m getting into on a daily basis, including some of my favorite memes and TikToks, follow me on Instagram!

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