We are approaching two years of living in a global pandemic and, as I look back on 2021, I realize that it was more difficult than the previous year.
My two sons continue to excel at their careers and at life. Tim just passed his 1-year anniversary working at Microsoft. Because he lives in Chicago, I get to see him often. Nick is in his third year as head basketball coach at Kalamazoo College. The pandemic forced him to postpone his marriage by a year, but the wedding is planned for this May.
I was unable to see the rest of my family many times, but we talked on the phone and most of us came together in December to celebrate Christmas.
By taking extra precautions (double masks, avoiding most crowds, COVID tests after each trip) I was able to travel again this year. The most memorable trip was to Croatia, where I visited Dubrovnik, then took a biking tour of the Dalmatian Islands.
In March, I visited Park City, UT, where I went skiing for the first time in my life. I fell down a lot, but I managed to make it down the hill at least once.
I also spent a week in Los Angeles in December, exploring a city that I had not seen in a few years.
As the sports world re-opened, I managed to knock a few stadiums and arenas off my bucket list of attending a home game for every NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB team. I managed to make it to home games of the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Chargers, and Anaheim Ducks. I planned to attend a Rams game while in LA, but the game was postponed due to a COVID outbreak among the team. Next year, I should be able to accelerate my progress on this list.
The concert venues re-opened in Chicago, and I took advantage. In 2021, I saw the following bands live:
The Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw
Los Lobos (twice!)
Nublu Band Ft. Carlise Guy
Asleep At the Wheel
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real
Nick Lowe and Los Straight Jackets
Omnibus String Quartet
The Kinsey Report
A few shows were canceled after I bought tickets (The Wallflowers, a second Los Lobos show, Camp, and Mary Chapin Carpenter), but I was happy to attend as many concerts as I did. Currently, my only committed concert is Elton John, who will pass through Chicago in February as part of his (now multi-year) farewell tour.
It was a challenge to get out and volunteer this year; but, I agreed to mentor Chicago high school students on a STEM project for the fourth consecutive year. Last school year all mentoring was done remotely, which was less satisfying; but this year we are working with the students in their classrooms. I was assigned a school two miles from home, making it easy to bike there and back, weather permitting.
I continued my push to increase my reading. In July, I finished reading every book on Time Magazine's list of the greatest English language novels.
I read 71 books in 2021 - down from the 91 I read in 2020.
You can follow my reading here.
Recently, I upgraded my blog engine for the first time in over a decade. It improved performance and gave me the chance to implement SSL. Sadly, many of the links have changed, so it will be difficult to find old posts via Internet search engines; but, the improvements made it worth this tradeoff.
In October, I celebrated eight years at Microsoft. The journey has been largely positive, but this past year has been the most difficult by far.
At the end of 2020, I recognized that I had fared better than most in dealing with a global pandemic and I felt blessed for this. I knew there was a chance this good fortune would not continue forever. Sure enough, 2021 brought unexpected challenges.
I still have a few ongoing struggles to work through. I had to hire a lawyer to protect myself from someone I barely knew who has been sending me threatening texts; I am working toward making improving my current job; and the pandemic has dragged on longer than I expected.
But a new year is always a good time to mentally create a fresh start. I am confident that 2022 will be better than 2021!