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Gratitude in a year of pain

As I type, we’re 10 days away from kicking 2020 to the curb, and while I can’t wait to welcome in the New Year, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that despite the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, there have been silver linings. When I look back, it’s a blur of sadness, stress, anxiety and total, utter gratitude. When my mom died, I was constantly struck at how I could feel so broken and distraught while also accepting the love and support from people all around and it taught me an incredible lesson... How even in our hardest, saddest, most broken hour, there’s still grace to be found. For Spool, this year brought exciting growth, new clients, partners and the opportunity for me to feel a bit more confident in what we’re doing and how we are going about making Spool a unique agency. We’re growing, adding more people to our team (many of whom are familiar faces I’ve worked with in past career chapters) and constantly pushing ourselves to innovate and collaborate with all who we work with. We are grateful for everyone we’ve worked for and worked with and look forward to great partnerships ahead in 2021 and beyond. As we’ve been winding down the year, I asked my team at Spool to share moments of grace, gratitude and happiness from 2020 and despite all the hardships, gratitude is the thread that connects us all. Here are some of the responses from our team about what was uplifting in 2020:


Laura Schlageter, VP: While 2020 has been devastating for so many for many reasons, I am counting my blessings. This has also been a year of massive growth for me personally, as the lockdowns have given me much needed time for self-reflection and soul searching that I simply would have been too distracted to do on my own time had the world been moving on as normal. Shockingly, I am actually quite thankful for the alone time to clear my ahead, take stock of what's truly important. "Onward. Forward." is my mantra as we close out this year and head into 2021!

Catherine Merritt (hey, that's me!): Being in the Northwoods of Wisconsin for a week in August at Family Camp, watching my two boys get to experience what felt like a real, normal summer. Archie climbed and reached the top of the climbing wall and the entire camp erupted in cheers for him. Teddy took out a kayak and went fishing by himself. Parenthood is such a blur but those were two moments where I literally saw them grow and develop before my eyes.

Gracie Aaronson, AAE: I graduated from college this past June, and even though it wasn't an in-person ceremony with the traditional festivities, I am grateful I was able to celebrate surrounded by family and (socially distant) friends.

Tara Coyle, SAE: The Crown!!! I'm still holding out on the last episode because I don't want it to be over quite yet! My original wedding date was scheduled for this summer, and while it wasn't quite what we planned, my fiance and I woke up early and climbed our favorite mountain in our old stomping ground, Jackson Hole. It was the perfect day, and I still found a way to wear white :) I also had a virtual bachelorette, and my girlfriends put together a video from all of their different locations. I still watch it when I need a little pick me up.

Katie Kierna, SVP: I'm grateful for the extra time I've been able to spend with my kids and husband at home. We were always go, go, go, and it's nice to have a leisurely breakfast in the morning, get to be a "mystery reader" for the girls' little home preschool pod, not always being stressed and late for all of the activities, etc. The kids are also a great reminder on how they can find joy and resilience in everything

Austin McClelland, AS / Sr. Media Strategist: I'm grateful for being let go from a company that required me to sacrifice so much of the creative outlets that drive my happiness in order to be successful. I'm grateful for Catherine and my role at Spool because it showed me how my work actually impacts clients and our larger business in a way that I have never had at any previous jobs - no matter how flashy I once thought they were. Finally, (and most importantly!) I'm grateful for my queens Mariah Carey and Jessica Simpson for reinvigorating their own careers with bombshell personal memoirs and premium streaming content.


Charlotte Murphy, SAE: I also have stopped to reflect on how important it is to slow down in life and am thankful for all the new faces and friends that have come into my life through Spool and beyond (pretty much all virtual! so crazy). I'm also very grateful that I traveled to Nashville in November to visit my grandma for a week to work from her house, cook and bake before she recently passed away.

Kamara Turner, AE: This year made me a much more curious person. Since I had so much free time, I was able to read more, watch informative YouTube videos, documentaries, etc. I have so much more knowledge now that I can share and engage with others.


Caroline Russo, SVP PR: Namely, the birth of my second child, Jack. Conceiving children was a long, tough road for us - a journey of IVF and four miscarriages - the last one coming after our first child, Carter, and happened at a Spool client meeting (love you, Laura, for being so supportive in the moment) in 2019. So when we were blessed the birth of our healthy little Jack this year - we were overjoyed to welcome him to the world. I am grateful for my Spool family - for giving us 3 months of paid leave $$ support - just amazing. And for making my return from maternity leave a joyous and easy transition back to work. You all filled up my confidence cup when I needed it most!

Tanya Silverstein, Freelance I am thankful for the opportunity this year gave me to spend more quality time with my family. Even as a consultant, it was hard to break away from work to give my family the attention I needed. But with us all being at home, screens were the norm and not the privilege that they once were.

Ed Hoffman, Sr. Strategist: I'm grateful for my first nephew who I've yet to meet in person, but love watching him grow through video and FaceTime. He may be the happiest baby I've ever seen, just all smiles and wiggles. And The Crown, season 4....obvi.

Carrie Ingoglia, Sr. Creative Director: Tonight my son was giving me a big hug around the head and bit my ear so hard I had to step away for a moment as my eyes welled up with tears. This feels like a decent metaphor for my experience with being a twin mom of nearly two year olds. So sweet, so surprising, sometimes acutely painful.I'm grateful for the opportunity to keep learning about myself, the expectations I have and constructs I've built without even knowing it. I'm honored to watch these two beans grow into people. I'm impressed by my husband and his caretaking skills - for all three of us.I'm grateful for take out. For technology that keeps us connected. And for the reminders I get to look at autumn leaves more closely and find the moon in the sky whenever you can.

Karen Kaiser, Strategist: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity the pandemic presented to me and my family. It sounds odd but it gave us license and courage to take a giant leap: we packed up and moved to our (my) most favorite place. I am thankful for my larger family for leaping with us. But most of all I am grateful for my husband and his willingness and openness to such an adventure! It is lovely to know that he can still floor me (in a positive way!!) after all our time together. And I love that his actions show our son that playing it safe isn't always the best approach. As I walked along the ocean and marveled at the beauty surrounding me yesterday, I smiled.

Anna McAndrew, Intern: Although 2020 was crazy and unexpected, there are always positives to find. I graduated from the University of Kentucky. Even though my last semester got cut short, UK gave me so many great experiences and friends that I am truly thankful for. I love that I get to call Lexington my home away from home.


Helene Rosenblum, Senior Strategist: I have found this to be such a special year in understanding how very fortunate I am and to find renewed compassion and attention to those who have so much less. Our kids loved just hanging out together and having a '70's summer' of friends, bikes, back yards (oh and yes screens) - no camps, no place to be. I hope as the world begins to return to some kind of normalcy in the coming year our family is able to hold onto some of these simple joys and work harder to be sure more people can have them.

Mary Anne McAndrew, PR Consultant: That saying "you never know how much you miss something until it’s gone” has certainly been tested in 2020! From the simple things we took for granted like giving hugs and dining out (inside a restaurant) to the bigger moments like graduation ceremonies, weddings and vacations, we have had to set aside expectations this year and find ways to “make the best of it.” 2020 provided me more time with our first granddaughter and I count my blessings that I have gotten to be part of many firsts in person, rather than just over FaceTime.


Leslie Clifford, Strategist: It’s been a blessing to reconnect with people and passions lost to daily life demands. I appreciate the resurrection of my favorite book club (paused when women scattered across the country), happy hour zooms with college roommates and work sessions for service projects with former colleagues. Of course I’m also very grateful for the extra family time. Here’s to mixing the blessings of 2020 with new opportunities in 2021!


I hope that you were also able to find glimmers of happiness, gratitude and joy and I look forward to connecting after the holidays! I should also apologize in advance that whenever I see you next, I'll probably give you a big, long, super awkward hug. Lots and lots of love from the entire Spool team!