Novice author chronicles ups and downs of ‘COVID 2020, A Year Like No Other’
Dawn O’Bar’s professional career spans more than 25 years as a nonprofit leader in local and international organizations, an adjunct professor at a private college, a trainer of secondary and post-secondary educators at an academic publishing company, a travel agent, an instructor of weight management classes at Sansum Clinic and a trainer of health and fitness programs at the YMCA.
The Santa Barbara resident also volunteers for several organizations including Nature Track, Rotary, Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara and Goleta Presbyterian Church.
Despite this impressive list of achievements, the mother of two and grandmother of two still had one thing on her bucket list.
“I always wanted to write a book, but I felt I had nothing important to say,” Ms. O’Bar told the News-Press during a phone interview from the home she shares with her husband Kevin O’Bar.
That was before the death of her father, Paul Michaels, in October 2020 in Clearwater, Fla., motivated her to write “COVID 2020, A Year Like No Other: A roller coaster ride of losses, challenges and opportunities.”
“As I watched and waited for him to go — it took 10 agonizing days — I contemplated what I still wanted to do with my one precious life. . . . It was not long after I returned home, I got quiet and listened to the small voice inside me saying, ‘You can write a book.’ … Then, it was like a light bulb illuminated my way. I could write about what I was experiencing during the most unusual time in my life and the lives of others,” writes Ms. O’Bar in the introduction to her self-published 139-page softcover book that sells for $14.95.
“Proceeds are going to support two organizations I strongly support — Get Focused, Stay Focused National Resource Center and Rotary EClub of One World,” said Ms. O’Bar, who was born in Mission City, Ind., and came to UCSB in 1976 to earn her bachelor’s in law and society.
Part One of her book is the chronicle of her personal experiences during 2020, and she has added questions and space for readers to process their own thoughts and experiences. Part Two is a series of interviews and contributions from local business people and others from all over the world.
“When I began reflecting on 2020 and re-reading the journals I kept, I realized that it was a year of losses and challenges, but there were also opportunities,” said Ms. O’Bar.
Among the losses, of course, was the death of her father, not from COVID, loss of a job because she couldn’t travel, loss of yoga classes at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club, loss of her church community and loss of family reunions.
The biggest challenges were staying healthy and not being able to see her daughter, Kelly, who lives in Nashville, and son, Scott, who lives in Peru, and elderly relatives, who live in Florida.
There were also day-to-day challenges like getting groceries and wearing masks.
“But my attitude about wearing masks changed when I realized I didn’t need to wear lipstick anymore. If I had a cold sore, no one would see it. I couldn’t eat with a mask on my face. If there was food in my teeth — no worries — no one could tell,” said Ms. O’Bar with a chuckle.
On the other hand, she found the opportunities that opened up were “amazing.”
“I can now watch my own recorded yoga classes and have become a better teacher knowing how I want to project. I have spent more time reaching out to neighbors, making new friends and finding community. My golf game is a little better. Proficiency with technology has been an acquired skill. Editing the family home movies and sharing them on my YouTube Channel with everyone was a highlight,” she said.
Reflecting on what she learned during the “roller coaster year” in 2020, Ms. O’Bar writes:
“On a personal level, I have gotten to know myself in ways I never expected. I have had moments of irritation, frustration and sadness. However, I am flexible, adaptable and resilient. Those qualities served me well in 2020. … I learned how to do my own taxes and saved my mother $350 by preparing hers. … I met and interviewed complete strangers for the book. …
“And I have written my first book.”