My 2020 Year In Review

Well that was a garbage filled burning train wreck. I almost dare not look back for fear of being Medusa’d by the wretched catastrophic turd buffet that was last year.

I’ve never written a year in review post before. Why start now? Well a lot happened, that’s why. A lot that I haven’t talked about publicly. I didn’t plan on penning any prose post passing of the previous prolonged period of perpetual problems and unparalleled pain. But for some unknown reason I’ve spontaneously decided to offer my brief recap to the world.

Having never done one of these before, I’m not sure what the best format is. I think I’m gonna just do this chronologically with some tangents.

Here we go.

The beginning of 2020

Recalling this far back is a bit challenging but I remember some important details.

Trip planning

A big part of our focus personally was planning our first trip to Ireland which was scheduled for early March. In 2019 we spent six weeks elsewhere in Europe and decided to do another trip across the Atlantic in 2020, this time to the Emerald Isle where I happen to have many relatives. We were also bringing along an old friend of ours who has Irish roots as well.

At the Cliffs of Kilkee in Ireland with Ellen, Abigail, and Ashley

I was extremely excited about this trip. My grandfather is from a little town in Ireland called Kilrush and I’ve grown up hearing about it. The prospect of getting to meet my grandpa’s family and see the places he’s told tales of all these years had me brimming with anticipation.

Expectations for 2020

One funny recollection: In January last year I gave a mini speech at my Toastmasters club about how much I wished I could just skip 2020 altogether. As I saw it, being an election year, the temperature in our collective dialogue was about to go up and it was almost guaranteed to be unpleasant. I do not see eye to eye with a lot of important people in my life and, being the non-confrontational peace-keeper that I am, a year of constant tension and debates was something to dread.

Fortunately, this prediction was completely off-base. Everyone got along all year and there was no tension whatsoever. Just peace, love, and harmony every day.

Just kidding. It was the worst year ever. “Getting along” has been outlawed.

The band

the Summer Shanties
Me, Ian, and John Paul at one of our last gigs in 2019

My band started the year excited about 2020. We had quite a few gigs booked, including some in new settings and venues. Our set list was getting much better and we were really starting to hone in our identity and sound. Of course, all of those gigs ended up cancelled and we only ended up being able to practice a handful of times this year. Huge disappointment.

RIP Brisa

One of our cats had to be put down. Ash and I have had Brisa and her sister Bella since they were kittens in 2009. I really liked Brisa. She was quirky and lovable. I buried her in the backyard and cried hard while doing it.

New niece

katrina with little ones
Katrina holding Abigail and Irene

On a more positive note, our niece Irene was born. My brother and his wife welcomed their first child into the world and she’s amazing. She’s so perfectly cute and chunky and chill and chatty. They asked us to be her Godparents which was a special honor. I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with her this year as I would have liked to but I’m hoping to be a fun, supportive, and present uncle in the future.

Family podcast project

Early in 2019 I’d conceived an idea to start capturing and sharing audio family stories. I didn’t start with a very specific plan but after I got started I decided to create a private podcast and distribute my interviews through that feed to family and close friends.

Over the course of that year I spent a lot of time meeting with many members of my family and, using my amateur podcasting setup, recording long, personal interviews with them about their lives. I banked a couple dozen interviews and over the holiday break I did some post production and recording of my own to turn the whole thing into what I hoped would be a compelling show.

In January I started releasing weekly episodes to an audience of around 20 subscribers or so. I managed to get a new episode out each week until mid-summer when my availability to work on it…disappeared.

It was received pretty well though. I had siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even some friends tuning in regularly. Many of them sent me helpful feedback and told me repeatedly how much they valued the show. My aunt Susan and uncle Chris even heard me mention in the show how much I enjoy scotch and sent me a package with some handpicked libations. It was amazing!

I intend to pick the show back up soon.

TEDx Cascades Park

At the beginning of the year I found out that some people in Jackson were planning our town’s first ever TEDx event. Turns out I know one of the organizers and she urged me to apply to speak. I eventually did and after a few weeks of waiting, heard back that I my speech had been among the eight chosen.

I’ve definitely wanted to speak at a TEDx event for some time so I was really excited but also anxious. The turnaround time was pretty short and I really wanted to give it my very best. This speech occupied a very prominent space in the back of my mind all winter and spring. I delivered a few rough-draft versions at my Toastmasters club and worked a lot on refining the presentation.

Then the event got postponed another couple months. Then it got postponed to the fall. Then it got postponed indefinitely. At this point, one year later, I still don’t know whether it will ever happen.

Professional

At the start of 2020, I was spending a lot of my time on travel planning for the year for our team. I have for the past few years as well so it was in keeping with my tradition. This year I was really hoping to take our team trips and retreats to the next level and was actively evaluating a handful of exciting, exotic locations to take the team.

None of that came to pass though. Pretty sad.

Besides that, I was starting to really find my groove as Operations Director at Sandhills. I got deep into some really ambitious projects which took many months to complete but, I think, have been hugely impactful here. At the beginning of this year I was already beginning to appreciate what a perfect fit this role was for me.

That’s not to say it was all smooth sailing. There were a couple of occasions early in the year where things really did not go according to plan. I had to help deal with some unpleasant staffing issues and also a very heated kerfuffle involving our leadership team and a project I was leading. I had some stressful days.

The most time consuming thing I worked on over the first few months was hiring. It was intense and I recapped a lot of it on this WPMRR podcast episode.

I did get to have one co-worker visit us in Jackson which was really fun. I love getting to know the people I work with better, working together in person, and showing visitors around our little town. Mandy spent most of a week here and we had some good times.

joe wells mandy jones and kyle maurer
Joe, Mandy, and I co-working at Vito’s Espresso

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus was quickly consuming all the headlines and causing major problems on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. An American co-worker of mine that I’m pretty close with was visiting Hong Kong over the winter when things in the area started to escalate. He was forced to cut his trip short and fortunately managed to book the last seat on the last flight out before everything was grounded.

Spring

Ireland trip

Ireland was amazing. But not exactly in the ways I expected. We did plenty of the tourist things and enjoyed them all, but looking back, they were not the highlights. The best parts of the trip involved getting to meet and spend quality time with family. I was amazed and overwhelmed by how accommodating everyone was. There were so many people who previously had never corresponded with me or frankly had never even heard of me who went way out of their way to greet us and make sure our visit was special. I’m so grateful to all of them and cannot wait to plan our next trip back to Ireland.

While there, we were able to meet Martin, Barry, Deirdre, Mark, Becky, Bronagh, Grainne, uncle Pat, aunt Theresa, Shaun, John, Kieran, Declan, Laura, Kay, and Martin. It was incredible and they are all amazing people.

Here are a few pics from the trip:

Now, the timing of our trip turned out to be a big deal. We had booked the trip so that we’d be there for just over two weeks with the end of the trip falling shortly after St. Patrick’s Day. Our itinerary took us in an anti-clockwise loop around the southern half of the island, culminating in a return to Dublin just in time for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. At least that was the plan.

But then COVID hit.

At the beginning of our trip, the news was coming out and conversations were happening. But we, and most others I think, were still in denial about it ever getting to the point of directly impacting our lives. It came up in our conversations with the locals but it wasn’t until half way through the trip that things started to escalate. Fast.

The news got dire. Infection rates were spiking. Stories about hospitals getting overrun in some European countries were on all the TVs. Then countries started locking down and we started to worry.

Over the span of a couple days we went from eagerly anticipating the climax of our trip in Dublin to planning an emergency escape so we could return home. We were in the small, lovely town of Dingle when all the restaurants and tourist sights in the country were closed down. News broke that there wasn’t going to be a parade at all for the holiday.

We were discussing whether we should prematurely conclude our trip or just hole up in our AirBnBs until it was time to fly home when the US started instituting travel bans from mainland Europe. Ireland at the time had only a few dozen confirmed cases. But we were afraid that if we didn’t get out soon, we could be stuck there for much longer due to a travel ban. We argued amongst ourselves and frantically searched for flights home. It was pretty stressful but we finally found a flight back and booked it. Then we drove all the way across the island to Dublin and flew home.

Sheesh, that’s the short version. It was a pretty intense experience but in the end we made it home safely and quarantined for a couple weeks before seeing anyone.

Chickens

Early in the year, Ash expressed that it would be nice for her and Abigail to have a little more to keep them busy. We decided it would be fun to start raising a small flock of chickens. I spent a month or so building a pretty nice little chicken coop and we picked up a dozen baby chicks. Abigail LOVED them so much.

We let Abigail name every chicken and she did a great job. The names she chose were Cranberry, Cheek Cheek, Chloe, Rosemary, Priscilla, Popcorn, Hamburger, Susan, Clara, Phoebe, Coco, and Reggie White.

Songwriting challenge

Our band spent the whole month of April doing a “One new song every day” challenge. Each of us did our best to write as many new original tunes as we could in a single month. It was meant to just be an exercise in getting better at songwriting but we did actually pen a few that I think will stick around in our set list.

I ended up writing the most new songs among us but still only managed to average one every other day. I’d like to try it again this year.

Miscellaneous Spring changes

The rest of our spring was both quiet and…crazy. A few more notable occurrences:

  • One of my closest friends got cancer. It was pretty scary but he ended up beating it and is now officially a survivor. He also got engaged during that time which made the whole thing even crazier.
  • My wife and I continued working on getting our household licensed for foster care. It’s something we’d looked into in some previous years but never actually did. Over the course of the spring we talked about it a lot, completed our training, signed the paperwork, and prepped our house.
  • We spent a lot of time on Zoom. I’m used to having all my work calls on Zoom but it was weird adjusting to having Toastmasters meetings and local friend meetings and family gatherings and so on all through a screen. Looking back, I can’t believe how sure I was at the time that it was all going to be temporary and over soon.
  • A local acquaintance whom I knew pretty well and greatly admired died of COVID19. A few friends-of-friends also passed away and a fair number of my immediate contacts became infected, some of whom barely survived. It’s been really scary at times.
  • Going into 2020, I had agreed to be the lead organizer for WordCamp Jackson which is an annual event we’d orchestrated each year starting in 2017. It’s something I look forward to every year but sadly, had no choice but to suspend our planning indefinitely. Impossible to say at this point if we’ll ever be able to bring it back.

Professional

With no trips to plan and all conferences being cancelled, I took full advantage of that time and put a lot into some important work projects. Our business got even busier during the pandemic so all of us had plenty of work to do. I helped onboard three new hires (fun!) and offboard one whom we parted ways with (not fun!).

Summer

Interesting year so far, right? Well buckle up because things got even more insane during the summer…

Probably the most bizarre and terrifying event of the year…

While at a bar with friends in San Antonio, the day before she was planning to drive home to Michigan, my sister was shot. A man who was denied entry retrieved a rifle from his truck and opened fire on the bar. My sister was hit twice in the back and then broke her foot falling to the floor. No one was killed but seven other people were injured. My sister was hospitalized for most of the following week before being driven home by a friend. She’s since recovered and is doing well. Needless to say, it was scary and surreal.

Toastmasters club president

I’ve been in a Toastmasters club for about four..or five…or maybe six years and value it pretty highly. I’ve been an officer a couple times but have never, until now, been a club president. In June, another member asked if I would take on the soon-to-be-vacant lead role this year and I was hesitant. It’s a lot of responsibility and I felt stretched thin as it was.

Most long term members of the club have served as president at least once and I knew I’d one day be asked to do it. Eventually, after plenty of encouragement from other members, I agreed to give it a shot. I told myself that now was probably the best time if I was ever going to contribute to the club in this way. Maybe, given my remote-work experience, I could be a good shepherd for the group as we navigated our first year of meeting virtual only.

Besides, how hard could it be to find a little extra personal time?

Oh boy. Turns out hindsight is….well, you know.

Family growth

Ashley and I had for a long time been wishing to have another child. Our daughter Abigail was born in the summer of 2017 and we wanted her to have a sibling. We again entered the pool of families waiting for a child to adopt in 2019 and in 2020 started to separately pursue foster care. Our hope was to one way or another welcome a new baby into our home this year.

After a TON of paperwork and training we were eventually licensed for foster care. Before our final paperwork was even submitted and approved our agency contacted us with a possible placement in our home. The first placement they contacted us about ended up not working out but when that was made known we were immediately offered another placement instead (turns out there is a severe shortage of foster homes so no one waits long). This placement was for two brothers ages two and three. If we accepted, the boys would be dropped off at our house two hours later.

We had to discuss this briefly because it was not exactly what we’d envisioned. Two children, one of whom was older than our daughter, would be a major adjustment. It didn’t take us long though to decide that we should accept the placement and informed our case worker who promptly delivered the two boys to our home with nothing except the clothes on their backs.

I promptly started my paternity leave from work and we began adjusting to life with three toddlers instead of one.

Two weeks later we were contacted by Abigail’s birth mother’s aunt. She asked if we’d be available to talk so that same evening we jumped on a phone call with her. She told us that Abigail’s birth mother was pregnant again and due within the next couple weeks. Wow. Then she asked if we would be open to the possibility of adopting this baby. Double wow. After we got over the initial shock, we quickly told her that we needed no time to think about it. We were in. 100%, no hesitation. This was Abigail’s biological sibling and we simply couldn’t imagine any other option.

Realizing that I was about to need to go on paternity leave again I promptly went back to work with the intention of starting my time off all over when the baby arrived.

One week later the birth mother contacted us again. She had just had her first ultrasound and wanted to give us the latest.

Twins.

She was expecting twins.

We were going to be adopting twins.

We experienced every conceivable emotion. And then, one week later, they arrived. On August 3rd, we got to meet Cecilia and Patrick Maurer at the hospital, shortly after they were born.

Unbelievable.

Ashley’s mom stayed with the other kids at home. Patrick was born with some minor issues which needed to be monitored temporarily so we remained isolated in our room for several days. The hospital forbade us from having other visitors or even leaving the hospital building so it was a long few days but it was also amazing. While the babies napped we read books and even managed to (finally) watch Hamilton for the first time (it is the absolute greatest thing ever).

Watching Hamilton at the hospital while the babies nap

At last we were discharged and brought our new babies home. Our home which only four weeks prior housed two parents and one two year old girl. Now it was (still is) the home of two parents and FIVE children. One kid to five kids in one month with only a couple weeks to prepare.

Holy moly.

I probably don’t need to tell you that life has been different since then. It’s been everything you’d expect plus some.

Exhausting. Rewarding. Grueling. Fulfilling. Overwhelming. All of the “ing”s.

abigail with patrick and cecilia
Abigail with her new brother and sister

Community support

I am not sure we could have survived this period without the support of so many wonderful people. A couple of our dear friends (thanks Angie and Katie!) organized an online meal train through which dozens of friends and relatives signed up to make meals for us. So many people showed up at our house with food, or sent us gift cards for meal delivery services. Lots of friends brought us toys and clothes for the boys. It was overwhelming.

There are so many people to thank but I especially want to recognize the efforts made by our friends the Baltadanos, Marshall Hesslau, Ellen Cole, and the Farmers who all consistently supported us week after week. Also my beloved in-laws who were constantly present to help watch the kids, get groceries, cook meals, clean house, and more.

Deaths in the family

In August I attended my great aunt Ruth’s funeral by myself. I regretted spending so little of my adult life getting to know her better and not getting a chance to see her at all in 2020. She was a fascinating person who grew up in Germany before marrying my great uncle and moving with him to Michigan.

In September my grandfather passed away.

james maurer
Grandpa Maurer holding baby Abigail

His health had been declining for about a year and a half. It was not a sudden shock but it was and is still a great loss. He was a great man whom I’ve always admired. He had a huge personality and a rich life. So much of who I am comes from him, mostly good I think.

I gave the eulogy at his funeral. It wasn’t easy but I’m glad I did. I was able to also take a lot of comfort in the fact that I’d been able to spend a lot more quality time with him during 2019 and some of 2020 than ever before. I was even able to sit down with him the year prior and record several long conversations with him about his life.

I miss him a lot. I knew I would but I think I do even more than I expected. He was just such a unique, unforgettable character. He laughed a LOT and broke into song during literally every conversation.

The twins growth and health

Cecilia and Patrick have always been perfectly healthy and happy, with only mostly minor issues.

patrick and cecilia maurer
Patrick and Cecilia

Patrick was born with club feet. To correct this he needed casts put on both of his legs. These needed to be removed and replaced with new casts every week for about eight weeks. After that he was given braces which he has needed to wear for no less than 23 hours per day ever since. He should be able to transition to just wearing them during naps later this month.

Cecilia turned out to have some dietary sensitivities. She was always very, very cranky and suffered from terrible diaper rashes for quite a while until we figured out the cause. We tried at least five different types of diapers, several types of wipes, half a dozen creams, medications, and four different baby formulas before we figured out that the formula was the culprit.

Racial reckoning

The United States became an even more chaotic place during the summer as demonstrations took place from coast to coast while opposing narratives in the media and from politicians turned communities against each other.

I felt more than a little lost, depressed, and powerless. But I was able to channel much of my frustration into what I believe is the most important foundational action: education. I know that it is no one else’s responsibility to teach me anything. It is up to me to go and learn everything that my privileged life and whitewashed education have kept me blind to.

It’s not much but I hope it is a start. I’ve changed the podcasts and even music that I listen to. I’ve changed the shows that I watch. I’ve changed the newsletters and blogs I subscribed to. I have tried to talk less and listen more. I’ve learned SO much this year.

I have a long ways to go but I’m working hard on being able to better understand the plight of minorities in America and what actions I can take to help put an end to systemic racism and reduce racial inequities.

Meanwhile, it has never been more evident than now that this country is struggling with an identity crisis.

The end of the Jackson WordPress meetup

My good friend Peter Shackelford and I have been co-running Jackson’s WordPress meetup since 2012.  He started the group and taught me so much about WordPress at the beginning. But it wasn’t long before I had learned enough to be able to help others and co-host the meetings.

For over nine years we met every single month to help any local WordPress users solve their problems and learn new skills. There were even a few years that we met twice per month. We had a sponsor who paid for us to have pizza at every meeting.

It was awesome. I got so much out of it and also put so much into it. I look back on my time participating in the group and helping locals overcome their web-related challenges. But this past summer Peter and I agreed that the time had come for the two of us to focus on other things. Both of us have moved on to new roles which don’t heavily involve using WordPress. Our families and personal commitments have also grown and it’s gotten harder and harder to find the time for things like this.

I’ll miss the meetup. My dream is that someday another local WP enthusiast or two will take it upon themselves to start their own meetup, at which time they’ll have our unconditional support. We’ll have to see what the future holds.

Other miscellaneous summer occurrences

  • I took eight straight weeks off of work after the twins were born. That’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from work since I got my first job at age sixteen.
  • Our basement flooded pretty bad. I got to spend several days and late nights hauling buckets of water out and learning how to install a sump pump. Some stuff was damaged but all things considered it wasn’t too much of a loss. Mostly just a lot of back-breaking work.
  • Two different close friends bought their first homes and moved in. I got to help them move in.
  • Several close friends welcomed new babies in 2020. So happy for the families of Rose, Eliza, Isaiah, Elizabeth, and Cambria.
  • While unable to go much of anywhere, we doubled down on a lot of house and yard projects. We painted two bedrooms, painted our basement, built a pergola over the hot tub, laid gravel paths through our yard, built a swing set for the kids, and put down TONS of mulch.
  • Abigail turned three at the end of August. Our celebration couldn’t be quite as elaborate and crowded as it was the previous two years but it was still fantastic. Big thanks to Ellen for helping plan and execute another perfect party.
  • My grandmother experienced some health issues. There was time spent in the hospital for some procedures. It’s been nerve wracking. She’s had to adjust to life full time with an oxygen tank next to her this year and I know it has been difficult. Thankfully, grandpa is the most devoted caregiver anyone could have. For me, being forced to limit contact with my grandparents this year has been a major sacrifice.
ashley and abigail raking
Abigail helping mommy with yard work

Professional

Given the fact that I spent so much time during the summer away from work, it wasn’t as busy or as productive as other seasons. A few things did happen worthy of note though:

  • I organized our first ever virtual team meetup. For most of a week our marketing department met virtually to strategize, get work done, and have a little fun together. Pulling off a virtual retreat which doesn’t suck is hard. I think it went pretty well and recently wrote about one part of the meetup I spent some extra time on.
  • We went live with a brand new compensation system which I’d spent months building. That was quite a challenge to create, especially given my limited relevant experience. But so far I think it’s working pretty well and I’m proud of it.
  • Our company officially sold one of our main brands to another company. This was a pretty major event for the company and affected all of us to varying degrees. Personally, I was and still am very happy that we made that decision because it has allowed us to focus more on fewer things and greatly improve our person-to-project ratio.

Fall

Surgery

I honestly didn’t know, for most of my life, that everyone else breathes primarily through their noses. Somehow the fact that I live with abnormally poor airflow through my nasal passages came to my attention a couple years ago. In 2019, my mom told me that she actually had the same problem when she was young and underwent corrective surgery. I never knew.

With encouragement from my mom, I contacted a local ENT clinic, scheduled an appointment…had that appointment postponed several times…and a year and a half later found myself in the operating room getting a septoplasty and turbinate reduction.

post surgery
New profile pic?

The procedure went smoothly. Recovery was challenging. My instructions were to lift nothing heavier than a jug of milk for a week and take things very slow. That’s not easy to do with five kids in the house, all clamoring for attention and needing help with everything. Credit to my wife for being so supportive and handling the household the whole time with next to no help from her heavily medicated zombie of a husband.

Today the difference is definitely noticeable. I can actually breathe with my mouth closed. I don’t know whether it has affected my ability to taste or smell or sing or run long distances. But I’m glad I did it. Thanks mom!

The election

Politics were the source of much stress and anxiety this year. There could have been thoughtful dialogue, but there wasn’t. Just rage and counter-productive vitriol.

A lot of very important relationships in my life were threatened or damaged by politics. I did my best to gingerly walk on eggshells all year but utterly failed to keep myself out of the turmoil. I fought with a lot of people I love and felt an enormous amount of anger, disappointment, fear, betrayal, and sadness as a result.

During a time when I longed for nothing more than to be able to come together with the important people in my life, political divisions tore us apart at the seams.

It’s been indescribably awful. I wish I could say it’s all behind us but it isn’t. This is my life now. I can’t even talk with my own family and friends without us just hating each other more.

There are reasons to be hopeful about the future. That’s my natural tendency. Deep down I do believe we, as a society, can overcome these challenges and move forward. But right now the pain is very real and it’s not easy to see beyond today’s chaos.

A night on the town

For my birthday my friend Ellen gifted me two tickets for a tour of Detroit City Distillery in November. So that we could really enjoy ourselves, Ashley’s amazing mother and sister volunteered to watch the boys and the babies while my parents watched Abigail that night. I booked a hotel room in downtown Detroit and the two of us got to spend about 24 hours with just each other.

me and ashley at buddys pizza
Date night in Detroit

It was an incredible time. We ate Buddy’s Pizza, toured the distillery, tasted lots of bourbon, walked around downtown Detroit, went ice skating, slept the entire night through uninterrupted, and got some of our Christmas shopping done. Hands down one of the best days of the entire year.

More baby news

We’re very excited about the fact that our kids will be getting a few new cousins and friends in 2021. My sister Maggie and her husband Thane are expecting their first child and so are our dear friends Ian and Clare. My sister Emily is expecting her second child and so is my brother Peter and his wife Katrina.

“The League”

I’ve always liked sports, especially American football. This year, randomly during week six of the NFL season I texted my friends Ian and Marshall my predictions for who I thought would win the upcoming weekend’s games. That sparked a highly competitive challenge which lasted the rest of the season. We named our thread “The League” and set the stakes to be a free lunch for the winner at the expense of the losers.

It wasn’t a fantasy league. Those are altogether too complicated for me. This was simply picking the winning team of each game throughout the regular season. Of course, I made a spreadsheet and tracked all of our predictions, tallied our scores, and reported our individual statistics.

It was actually a ton of fun and a seriously welcome distraction. I’ve been really stressed and discouraged for most of the previous year and I loved having something like this to read about and talk about and think about because it was not controversial and helped me connect with my guy friends.

I was winning going into the final game of the season. But the stinking Eagles went and blatantly threw the game, thereby allowing Marshall to tie my record. Philly’s on my crap list now. And Ian owes me a lunch.

Also, the Packers had an amazing year. They were a very fun team to watch this season. As of right now, they’ve got a pretty good shot to go all the way…and probably lose to the Chiefs in the end.

Let’s just not talk about Michigan football please.

New Maurer homes

My brother Peter and his wife Katrina bought their first home in Eaton Rapids and moved in this October. My brother George bought his first home here in Jackson a month ago. Pretty happy for both of them and excited that all but one of my six siblings now live nearby.

Podcasting

I love podcasting and have been doing it for quite a few years now. Up until the four new kids came along, I was co-hosting a semi-satirical WordPress advice show with my buddy Adam. I had to take a few months off but we’re back up and recording again now. It’s still a passion of mine and I can’t see myself stopping any time soon, though I imagine the topics I podcast about and the shows I participate in will change over the years.

Professional

More of the same on the work front. I organized our first ever virtual all-hands retreat in October which wasn’t awful. We hired a couple new people. Our end of year sale was a success.

This marks the first year in a long time that I attended zero conferences. In recent years I’ve averaged close to ten events per year, most of which involved some out-of-state travel. I really miss in-person events.

The holidays

I guess it goes without saying but the holidays were different this year. Parties and gatherings were limited if they happened at all. Plus, we now had five kids instead of just one.

patrick and cecilia on christmas
Patrick and Cecilia with their new stockings (thanks Momo!)

The kids definitely had a nice holiday season. I took extra time off so they had both of us present for most of the time. They all got to enjoy some fun family activities and received loads of presents on Christmas.

I enjoyed seeing what family I could, especially my sister Maggie and her husband Thane who were both able to fly back to Michigan from their home in Washington for a couple weeks in December.

Final thoughts

There were good things that happened in 2020. Of course there were. I got to go on the trip of a lifetime to Ireland with my wife, daughter, and one of my closest friends. One of my best friends beat cancer and got engaged to an amazing person. My beautiful niece Irene was born. I finally watched Hamilton. The Packers dominated.

And we adopted TWINS. They are beautiful and I love them more than words can say.

And still it was a terrible year. I’ve never experienced more stress. I’ve never so consistently felt discouraged, depressed, and beaten. I’ve never so frequently felt like I do not have what it takes.

This was the hardest year of my life. It was the loneliest year of my life. It was the darkest year of my life.

Some of my struggles might be evident in what I’ve written here. But much of it has to do with personal trials I’m not willing to open up about publicly. Or even privately for the most part. We all have our crosses to bear and, though mine feels heavier than ever right now, I’m still standing. I owe that first and foremost to my wife Ashley who is made of much stronger stuff than I, and also to my daughter Abigail who makes life seem worth living every time I’m with her. I also can’t say enough about the support I’ve had from friends like Marshall who’s presence all year kept me sane, all the other friends in our wine night group, and all the family who stepped up when we needed them most.

Enough words. Time to wrap this up with a gallery of my photo highlights from 2020:

15 thoughts on “My 2020 Year In Review

  1. You are An amazing person and we are so very proud of you and proud of the beautiful family that you have created!

  2. I laughed. I cried. A few times.
    As I’ve said before it’s worth repeating.. both you & Ashley are amazing.
    Happier days ahead.
    -A

  3. Always enjoy reading or listening to your stories. I think I know who the story teller of the next generation will be! I’m sure G is proud it will live on through you.

  4. I don’t see you often, even in the time before pandemic distance, but I always enjoy our interactions. I appreciate your careful and honest sharing of your experiences over the last year, and I look forward to opportunities to connect, have a beer, chat about remote tech work, and generally catch up.

    Cheers, and may your new year be equally wonderful, and the terribleness be negligible.

  5. As your friend from afar even though we live in the same town I have paid attention to many of these life moments that you’ve posted on Facebook. Reading about them in this format seemed a different experience, more immediate, like listening to you talk at cuppa face-to-face instead instead of just reading your words via the Internet. 2020 is over now but the experiences and tragedies and moments will last a lifetime. Also 2021 is here and it is not the year that makes our life but how we spend our time, what happens to us, what we make happen and how we handle it all. I always enjoy reading about you, Ash and your beautiful children. When I heard about your sister my heart broke for you all. I consider her, Kaytie Grace if I recall correctly, a friend and miss communicating with her. She is a beautiful person and writer. I hope to some day hear from her again. Please give her my love and my best. I hope she remembers me. Fringe friendship has it’s benefits. Your whole family is wonderful. I cherish you all and and was glad to have had a chance to read your beautiful blog trials and tribulations and all. So glad you wrote these words and not only survive but succeed and grew, in fact your family is larger and you have gained so much, through these last three hundred and sixty-five days. Thank you.

  6. Thanks Kyle! We understand and share your feelings! God bless you, for still being able to find the multiple bright spots in every day! Love you, G&G

  7. Love you bro. Let’s zoom meeting it up and talk religion and politics ;). Or we could just talk movie ideas. I’m thinking we do a new Incredibly Shorts, Babies Edition. Thoughts?

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