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The adventures of 2020, or lack thereof?

For the past decade, every year I’ve written an End of Year blog post. I list the places I’ve traveled, my talks, and then generally reflect upon other milestones in the year.

2020 was a very different year for all of us due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amusingly, at the beginning of 2020 I made a decision to really own my travel schedule, and not lie to myself about how I’d stay home more. I had my first international trip since Adam was born, to Australia, and penciled in trips to Singapore and Amsterdam. I had lined up trips across the country for events during the first six months of the year, and we even had flights booked for an early spring trip to our place in Philadelphia.

So to begin my post like I usually do for these year wrap up posts, we did get some adventures in!

The January trip to Australia was one I’d longed for. I spent a long weekend in Brisbane doing some tourist stuff, and then took the train down to Gold Coast for the annual Linux Conf AU event where I gave a couple talks. COVID-19 was not even on my radar.

Tourist in Brisbane!

IBM pals at Linux Conf AU

As we entered February, we took our first agenda-free (no wedding, funeral, visit to Philly, etc) family vacation with Adam! It was to Las Vegas, which we figured would be an easy way to start vacation-wise. We were able to get a large suite so Adam could have a place to sleep separate from us, and we were able to take advantage of a bunch of perks we had accrued over the years and our previous trips to Las Vegas. A few murmurs here and there had begun about COVID-19, but it felt more like the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s: a serious outbreak, but not something we factored into our lives.

On a walk down the Las Vegas strip, Adam enjoys the fountains at the Bellagio

As March approached international travel started tightening up for work. My trip to speak at a conference in Singapore in mid-March was canceled by management, and all other travel started getting looked at with more scrutiny. Still, we had a trip to Pasadena planned for SCALE18x the first week of March which MJ, Adam, and I were all going to. As I boarded the plane with the family on March 4th I still had the green light to attend.

I’ll be honest, I still wasn’t taking COVID-19 entirely seriously at this stage. At the conference the hugs were limited, though many still happened. Several companies had pulled out at the last minute, leaving the expo hall a bit more sparse and the conference scrambling to fill slots left by missing speakers. The conference venue was filled with hand sanitizer, and as one of the track leads I dutifully wiped down microphones and surfaces between speakers, but there were no masks in sight.

Adam’s first conference!

It was only by the end of the conference as we saw cancellations for upcoming events piling up and the number of COVID-19 cases climbing in coastal hotspots that I fully came to the realization that this was really serious, and this may be my last conference for a while.

Everything really changed for us on March 16th when the entire bay area fell under Shelter in Place orders and all but essential businesses closed. Suddenly, both MJ and I were 100% work from home, and all of our travel plans were canceled.

And then we learned I was pregnant!

I’ve written a fair amount over the year about how COVID-19 has impacted our life and family, for good and bad, so I won’t repeat that here, but it has been quite a different year.

“Big things” this year began straight away, with Adam’s first birthday on January 6th!

We also started on a few major projects on the house. We unexpectedly needed the dishwasher replaced after a major failure caused it to leak and soak through the floor into the garage (also prompting some immediate remediation and eventually drywall work, too). We finally got almost all the closet doors hung, and they look fantastic! Our solar was completed and finally went on-line in December, with an array of 48 panels on our roof and four Tesla Powerwalls in our garage. The fence project is going a bit slower, but after several quotes and chats with the four neighbors we share a fence with, we finally have a path forward, so the materials will be ordered soon should be available for installation in the first quarter of 2021. The family room upstairs is constantly evolving with new configurations and storage solutions for toys as we cater to the needs of a playful child who spends most of his time at home due to the pandemic.

The year concluded with the birth of our second son, Aaron! He was born on December 2nd and aside from his parents suffering from a bit of sleep deprivation, everything is going very well and he’s very healthy.

Finally, on the work front I had a really exciting year with several work projects and events coming together with impressive results. I briefly mentioned my ability to do talks all year with events having gone virtual. I ended up with a pretty standard schedule of talks as a result, and some new opportunities in the mainframe space, which was a lot of fun. I’m still learning a lot in the realm of IBM Z, but this year I finally feel like I’m making the connections I really need to succeed long-term. IBM has been very good for me, I’m looking forward to my return when my maternity leave concludes in early April.

Talk roundup for the year:

2020 has certainly been a difficult year, but it’s also been rewarding as the family got more time together and my work is thriving in spite of changes we’ve had to make. I miss traveling, I miss my friends and family. I am deeply saddened that we couldn’t make it back to Philadelphia this year, especially with Adam growing so quickly we would have loved to have him spend more time with our loved ones back east. It’s been hard to welcome Aaron into our lives with so few people around to welcome him, but we’ll just have to make up for lost time in the years to come.

Stay healthy, my friends, we’ll see each other again soon.