gapmuse Year in Review: Best Stories & Moments of 2021

Collage of beautiful moments in 2021

Vaccinated, boosted, in-person dance and school for kids, family hangouts, catching a pint (read having a drink) with friends, dining out, and so much more good stuff! What a difference a year makes! While there are similarities between 2020 and 2021 – masks and lingering COVID – we can all agree that this year brought some welcome changes and relief from isolation, uncertainty, and unimaginable loss of life.

Looking back, it’s hard not to be grateful for how much good old science changed our lives for the better.

From seeing loved ones, traveling, dining with friends and family in restaurants, celebrating milestones and special occasions, to in-person school and events, 2021 reminded us what normal felt like and gave us much to be thankful for.

Though my expectations for the year were small (all I asked was for it to be kinder and gentler), it surpassed my expectations in many ways…

  • Celebrated Mother’s Day with my girls with brunch at one of our favorite restaurants, our first in over a year!
  • Took a much-needed 4-day spring break vacation to beautiful Mendocino where we enjoyed horse riding on the beach!
  • Sent my kids for a Kenyan summer vacation for the first time.
  • Visited Disneyland (after 7 years), and did some college touring for my older daughter.
  • Allowed my little one to go trick or treating with her friends for Halloween!
  • Took my daughter to her first music festival to see one of her favorite musicians, HER, at the Lights On Festival (what a blast and special mother/daughter moment)!
  • Celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday at one of her special dining spots (unreal that she’s an adult now!)

Mostly, we were excited for her to be able to perform in person for her last Nutcracker show since she’s a high school senior and college-bound in the coming year!

Doing in-person events with family was not the only thing that was exhilarating. For the first time in 2 years, I was able to go wine tasting at La Crema, a beautiful and scenic winery in Sonoma to celebrate my birthday with two of my dear friends! Happily, I was able to honor their special days with dinner and drinks a few months later as well! One of my other close friends was even able to host a fantastic party to celebrate a milestone birthday!

On the professional front, we cannot forget that many women were able to get back to work after a brutal 2020 that forced many of us out of work. It was such a dire situation it was referred to as the Shecession because of the mass exodus!

While the pandemic had many horrors, we can point to a few things that changed our lives for the better. For instance, it helped us rethink how we work and forced companies to reckon with whether the current model of in-office work was working or necessary. For many, especially for women, who value flexibility, remote work or the hybrid model were a welcome change. It meant fewer commute hours, cost savings in gas, more time with kids, and less stress managing both work and family. Many were even able to go out and start businesses.

On our end, we were excited to tell more of our stories here on our blog, to chat with some phenomenal guests on our HerCanvas podcast, and to share our musings on our social media. And for the first time, we were able to welcome two amazing women and writers, @abgragnolati and @ilmachairani, who published two phenomenal posts that made it to our most popular 2021 list! One of the posts was a personal story of the importance of educating girls, while the other focused on the value of exploring our passions.

Although we would have loved to do more (hey life happens!), including having more guest blog writers, we’re still grateful for what we were able to share with you throughout the year.

While the new COVID Omicron variant is threatening to upend the progress we made on all fronts in 2021, it cannot take away the richer experiences we had and our appreciation for the things we were able to accomplish. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

Here are our best stories and moments of 2021:

Most Popular Blog Posts

1. 9 Things I learned From Sending My Kids On A Kenyan Summer Vacation Without Me [+Stunning Photos & Videos]

Promise me you won’t cry mama, my little said to me. I looked at her speechless trying to mask my welling emotions of sadness and angst, reminding myself to keep my composure. “I will try hard but I can’t promise anything,” I responded, knowing the possibility of not crying was virtually impossible. “Just don’t cry mama,” she reiterated. We were about to enter our Uber ride headed to the airport where she and her older sister would board a flight across the world for their first month-long summer vacation to Africa, specifically, Kenya, on their own.

As we settled into our seats and the car powered off for our 45-minute ride to the airport, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could hold it together. I needed to be strong for both of them, especially my little one because if I showed strength, it would give her the liberty to fully enjoy her upcoming adventure. See, it had taken me 3 full weeks of all kinds of coaxing and cajoling to convince her to go without me. And guess what finally did it, her love of animals! I had convinced her with images of Amboseli, the beautiful national park she was going to visit during her first week in Kenya. She had spent a few days researching animals and learning everything she could from Google. Read on…

2. 11 Women Who Inspired Us In 2020; Profiles In Resilience, Leadership & Compassion You Can Mirror In 2021 [+Video]

Collage of women - Sarah Blakely, Sallie Krawcheck, Abby Phillip, Stacey Abrams, Mackenzie Bezos, Women Presidents across the world
The epitome of leadership, resilience, and compassion

2020 was the year of the woman…but not in the way we hoped it to be. She-cessiondomestic violencecaretakingessential workers. What do these words have in common? They were all the challenges women faced (and continue to face) because of COVID-19. It seemed like everywhere you looked women were dealing with one pandemic-related problem after another!

Mind you, it is not that these issues were new. They are the same problems that cause the insecurity and instability that women and girls face every day (abusefinancial insecurityinequality). The pandemic amplified them for all to see, especially for black and brown women. It’s no wonder studies show women had higher stress levels than men and were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Read on…

3. Why You Should Explore Your Passions (Whether You’re Paid For Them Or Not!)

Image of woman smiling in front of a beautiful hand made flower heart

In life, we’re often told to focus on one thing. If we’re in high school, we’re told to focus on our grades and SAT scores so that we can get into the best college possible. If we’re in college, we’re told to remain focused on our chosen major and keep our eyes on the prize of landing a “good” job after college. When we start our careers, we focus on making a good impression and working towards promotions.

Maintaining focus towards a singular goal is often necessary and it is an incredible skill to have, but throughout life, it seems society often tells us to focus on ONE thing only. If we start to do more than one thing at a time (or anything outside our paid jobs), society seems to get confused, wondering how and why we are focused on more than just one thing at a time. Read on…

4. gapmuse Year In Review: Stories and Moments That Got Us Through 2020

Typically the title for this blog would be “gapmuse Year in Review: Best of 2020.” But “best” just didn’t seem appropriate for 2020! The most fitting was “stories and moments that got us through 2020” for a year where most everything seemed to go to hell in a handbasket and stayed there!

From the worst pandemic of our generation that took millions of lives and infected more, saw millions unemployed, hungry, evicted, and helpless, forced us to stay home, wear masks, socially distance and accept virtual meetups as our new normal; to the ugly truth of racial injustice in America where black men and women were brutally murdered by police, it seemed that everywhere you looked, 2020 was a sh*t show! (We can all agree that niceties just won’t cut it here.) Read on…

5. Guess Who’s 1? Our Hercanvas Podcast! [Thank You For Listening!]

We’re one baby! Can you believe it! Our HerCanvas podcast is one year old today! When I added “podcast” to my first-ever vision board 4 years ago, I honestly didn’t have a clue when I was going to find time to bring it to life. But then, the pandemic happened. Suddenly, we all had to stay home 24/7 with literally nowhere to go. It was then I decided maybe just maybe I could do this podcast thing! Who knew a year later we would be celebrating our first anniversary!

With the help of good old Google, Youtube videos, a dear friend who had a podcast of his own, my daughters, and lots of bootstrapping, HerCanvas podcast was born. It was truly a family affair. My older daughter illustrated the cover art and my little one helped to select the podcast intro music. It was only fitting my first episode with a guest featured both of them discussing how COVID impacted their lives and how they were coping with it. The episode remains one of our most popular and one of my proudest moments because we had to bootstrap our setup in my workspace (which also happens to be my bedroom), with only one microphone! Read on…

6. 5 Must-Add Books to Your 2021 Reading List [From Our 2020 gapmuse Bookshelf]

Image of woman holding a book and looking up at a stack of books

Happy New Year gapmusers! Hope your 2021 is off to a great start!

We’ve resolved to roll into this year setting goals as we always do but with a caveat; we’re rolling into it ready for whatever. I mean, can you blame us given what happened last year?

If you recall, 2020 started like any other; with the enthusiasm for a new year and new goals, including for me, a determination to read more, specifically two books per quarter. I even declared my goal in our yearly book list post published here in January 2020! But we all know what happened! COVID-19 showed up and by March had disrupted our lives in ways no one could have ever predicted.

Suddenly, we were all quarantined at home, kids were home-schooling, pets were confused wondering why in the heck we were home all the time, and we were all scrambling to figure out how to balance our new normal. Read on…

7. How To Be An ally To The Black Community [To Help Us Breath]

“Did you watch the video?” No, I said to my friend. It’s the same answer I give for any video released this year of innocent black men being brutally murdered in the hands of police or white men.

Why? You might ask? Because as a black woman who is a mother, sister, auntie, cousin, and friend to black boys and men, I want to honor their memory by remembering them as they were when they were alive – healthy and treated with dignity. I don’t want the last image imprinted in my mind to be one of them suffering. I want to honor them the same way I celebrate my family members who have passed. Wouldn’t you? I don’t memorialize my dad, sister, or three brothers who have died the way they were while they were ravaged by disease. I think of them and see images of them as they were healthy and vibrant. Read on…

8. Why Every Mother Should Have a Life Outside of Her Children [Without Guilt]

It’s back to school again (can you believe it!) and you’re busy juggling your kids’ schedules, last-minute shopping, transportation, lunches, and anything else that needs to happen for a successful school year. Some of you may be sending your kids to pre-k or kindergarten, some to elementary, and others to middle school or even high school.

For moms in the latter category, you’re probably starting to grapple with the idea of becoming empty nesters. Yikes! And if you have an 8th grader or high schooler, you might even be feeling like one already since he or she may have declared their independence and spends less time with you.

It’s a scary thing to go through. One minute you have this little person hovering around you and hanging on to your every word and the next, you have a young adult. Read on…

9. Why Education is Key to Women’s Independence & Happiness [a Personal Story About The Power of Investing in Girls]

Image of school girls in uniform at a school parade
Image of school girls in uniform at a school parade

According to UNESCO, “of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults, two-thirds are women.” I grew up in Indonesia where I discovered that uneducated parents raise many girls who grow up to become poverty-stricken. It was the norm for girls not to pursue higher education because they were expected to receive financial support from future husbands. This mindset led women into forced marriages at an early age without the financial stability or chance to form any marriage ideals of their own. 

They are clueless until specific marriage problems, such as domestic violence, polygamy, or emotional abuse arise. Feeling utterly helpless and unable to stand up for themselves, women often give in to the social pressure to avoid divorce and end up staying in unhealthy relationships. Read on…

10. How To Keep Your Face Clean [Helpful Skincare Tips From A Certified Beauty Expert]

Photo of beautiful young black woman with flawless skin looking at the camera
Photo by: Jessica Felicio

A few months ago, I was watching one of my favorite talk shows when I heard one of the invited skincare experts mention that women should cleanse their skin with a cleanser once a day (during nighttime) because doing it regularly strips the skin of essential oils and nutrients. I was perturbed because most of my adult life I had been advised to clean my face with a cleanser at least twice a day. Looking for clarity, I decided to conduct a quick Google search on skincare. Unfortunately, I came away more confused by all the conflicting information from my search.

Fast forward to a month ago, I reached out to my good friend, Anna, a licensed and certified skincare expert to clear up my confusion. She’s also a certified Dermalogica expert and a lash artist from Borboleta. Anna operates her beauty bar, Anna’s Beauty Bar, which she opened last year.

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We hope you have enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane with us.

Thank you for sticking with us throughout the year, liking our posts and sharing your comments both on our blog and social, and listening or our podcast. Your support means the world to us. 🙂

Here’s to an even better 2022!

Happy New Year gapmusers!

What were your most notable changes in 2021? Share in the comments below.

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