Mike, 50, Raleigh, NC, USA

Dear Friends and Family,

Let’s get this part out of the way: This has been a cluster–uh, a mess of a year, as you well know unless you’ve just emerged from hibernation under a rock in the Mariana trench.

Although I’m not big on arbitrary, manmade delineations of time, and don’t see any reason 2021 will be any different than 2020 just because we increment the number, I won’t be sad to see it go. So here’s some quick individual updates:

·         Mike was lucky enough to get a new job as a contractor in 2019, so after 20 years with a dwindling company specializing in service desk software, the last 2 ½ of which he worked from home, he went back to a cubicle in Big Corporate. After six months there, the pandemic happened, so he went back to work from home in March and has been there ever since. The people at his company are fantastic; diverse, professional, and intelligent. But he does not miss the commute one iota. This whole quarantine thing has not affected him much at all, being somewhat of a recluse and mild misanthrope by nature. However, without the outlet of cycling and running/walking (mostly walking these days), he would be a little more existentially bored. Visiting the gym is out, so he bought a power cage and weight set for he and the kid to use in the garage. He probably should have written another novel or two by now; he blames the tendinitis from working, weights, and guitar, but it’s probably that he’s just not that prolific or dedicated. The guitar playing has improved with the addition of the Ibanez his wife and son got him for the previous Christmas; he can almost solo in key now. Almost.

·         Lily has been doing fantastic with her job at a pharmaceutical clinical study management company. It is hard and frustrating work at times, but she has a great bunch of people working with her and has made great friends. Another promotion for her this year. She worked from home already anyway, so nothing changed for her in that regard with the pandemic. She’s immuno-compromised and is the most social one in the family, so the cabin fever struggle is real for her. Wine, home remodeling shows, and the occasional craft are her big comforts.

·         Zack has been doing remote schooling since the pandemic really hit in March. His school gives kids the option of in-person or remote attendance for each quarter. We’d prefer he be not remote his entire senior year of high school, but so far it just doesn’t seem safe to us for him to go to classes in person. It might be better for him academically and socially, but we have determined it’s not worth the risk. Also, there have been positive test results in his school and others in the same private school system. He inherited some of his dad’s reclusive and misanthropic tendencies, so the isolation hasn’t really affected him that much. Gaming and metal are his chief outlets. Still an avid Lego enthusiast and Star Wars super-nerd, he manages to keep relatively busy. The college application process is nearing its end, and we are all curious to see where it leads him.

·         Spooky, affectionately known as “Doodie,” may not understand his good fortune, but revels in it nonetheless. This dog (our black lab mix, adopted from some old friends’ foster clutch) has barely been alone a moment since he came into our lives as a pup in November 2018. Mike was working from home, then Lily, then the pandemic happened and everyone was at home all of the time. We think of our previous hound, the redoubtable Thunder, who had to be alone for 8-10 hours every day, and wonder at Spooky’s good fortune. But he’s our good fortune, too. How much harder would these days of quarantine and isolation be without his happy frolics and enthusiastic licks? He is an avatar of joy and brings constant smiles.

So for the first couple of months, weekly happy hour Zoom calls with different groups of friends were a great distraction. Those kind of petered out to an intermittent thing, but connecting, even digitally, was always pleasant.

Other pleasant distractions included of course watching a lot of series together, the highlight being, of course, The Mandalorian, watching Bayern München (OK, only for Mike), cooking new and long-forgotten dishes to accelerate packing on that quarantine fifteen (or twenty), and many house projects. Probably not that much different than most folks. A few too many drinks and too much food… hey, we all need to deal with stress, right?

Enough with the updates. We must acknowledge our good fortune. Although our perambulations are limited because of a compromised immune system, we are extremely fortunate to be able to all work and attend school from home without much adjustment, have a stable income, and a fairly large house we were fortunate to trade up to in 2018. We are doing much better than a lot of people and do not take it for granted. We try to help out others where and when we can.

High honors and praises to the nurses, doctors, scientists, and technicians doing the big work and figuring this thing out. More hails to the police, firefighters, linemen, delivery people, food service workers, and customer reps who still have to go to their jobs every day and work through this mess of a situation.

As to the situation, we won’t belabor the politics as most of you know where we stand, but let’s just say none of this was unpredictable (except for maybe the intensity of the pandemic itself); we’re just glad we can now have hope things will change for the better.

We’ve blathered on about ourselves enough, and bless you if you’ve read this far. We wish you grand holidays and that 2021 brings all of us enough enjoyment and fulfillment that we can bid goodbye to 2020 with relish.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Share your 2020

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