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At home adventures of 2021

Here we are again, my End of Year blog post, even if I’m writing it pretty late.

In 2020 we squeezed in a handful of trips early in the year before the pandemic hit, but we did not have that opportunity this year. We didn’t travel at all. We never even left the San Francisco Bay Area. But with what approaches our second year at home all together, the year was still eventful.

As 2021 began, we had baby Aaron at home and I was on maternity leave. The startup MJ was with had shuttered and he decided to take some time to spend with the family this year instead of jumping right back in to the job market. I’m grateful for this, the kids won’t be little forever and this time together is so precious. Plus, it helped me hit the ground running upon my return to work in April so I could continue working toward a promotion that I’ll be going for in 2022.

It’s hard to stress how much the pandemic has really altered our lives. In the past, MJ had a long commute and worked quite late. He would see Adam in the morning, but it would be pretty rare for him to be around on weekday evenings with us, let alone putting them to bed every night. We developed a lovely routine in 2021, and I’ll be quite sad when things shift back. I suspect when we look back on our pandemic time, we’ll really treasure the opportunity it presented with us with, even if it is hard to be so isolated. But 2021 brought the vaccines for adults! And then for kids over five!

I read more in 2021, concluding the year having read 21 books. It took very conscious effort in the last few months of the year, and I gave up most of my television watching to accomplish it, but I’m glad I did. Curling up with a book is truly one of my favorite things, and I ultimately get more satisfaction from it than I do from watching television or playing video games. I wasn’t totally without screen time though, in April for our anniversary, we rented out the independent movie theater in town and watched Star Wars.

We got several home projects done. We coordinated with all our neighbors to get the fence replaced (no small task!) and also got a deck box to store toys outside, instead of having a bunch of toys we haul out back every time we go out there. I also snagged a plastic slide structure that someone was selling via a local mom group, and a little BBQ-themed play set with a tent over it where Adam can play with water and food toys.

Old fence, new fence!

In the house, we got some new furniture, including a couple kitchen hutches that have expanded our storage and counter space somewhat. I went to a plastics shop and got custom-cut shelves for a metal shelving unit that we inherited from MJ’s grandparents and is now in our downstairs bathroom. We got a big freezer in the garage, which feels like a rite of passage now that we have two kids, we suddenly have so much frozen food!

I took the kids out to lots of parks, playgrounds, and on other adventures outdoors. We spent the summer going to garage and yard sales, outdoor book sales at the library, and the farmer’s market. I took the kids out on a few virtual 5K runs, which were a lot of fun for all of us since we tended to “theme up” during these walks (penguin theme! Star Wars themes!).

Adam and I started doing a lot of “toddler art” together and hanging it around the house. We went to the zoo a couple times, and also made our way over to the A’s stadium twice, where we rented a suite and our immediate family and some close friends could enjoy the game safely.

I lost a bunch of weight (about 50 pounds) and then promptly gained half of it back. It’s a frustrating situation, but I understand how it can happen. Weight management is tricky and managing a healthy diet for myself while I’m working a lot and have two little ones at home is difficult. I also turned 40, which is quite the decade milestone and your body just doesn’t bounce back from having two kids as it may have when I was younger.

Speaking of whom, my life does strongly revolve around my kids right now. Adam turned two in January, and Aaron turned one at the end of the year, in December. Kids change quickly at these ages, at every rapidly approaching milestone their care needs change and so does my schedule and coping mechanisms to manage it all along with everything. It’s been a tough year, especially as our ability to hire external help has been limited and we dealt with the baby’s sleep issues. But in the spring we were able to bring a new au pair into our home, so safe, reliable care for the kids is at least handled while I’m at work, for which I’m grateful for and realize a lot of parents don’t have the luxury of right now.

Still, I’ve managed a few minutes here and there for myself. I got my HAM radio license in August, say hello to KN6QGG! Unfortunately, in spite of the kindness of an acquaintance who gave me a radio, I haven’t made time to begin operating. I also picked up a vintage (1938) typewriter, and then paid to have it fully refurbished at a shop in Berkeley. It’s a beautiful machine and I’ve been using it here and there for artwork with Adam, and most recently to address envelopes for holiday cards. I also started resurrecting my SPARC Ultra10, beginning with replacing its NVRAM chip.

I’ve also done a few crafts of my own. I got some IBM Z models 3D-printed through a service I found online, and got permission to release the 3D-printer files. I also made my own Automan autocar, after falling in love with the silly show from the early 1980s. I concluded the year by making my own punch card wreath, which now decorates my home office door, and I swap out decorations each holiday.

As the year wound down, there was enough of a pause in COVID-19 infections that we felt it was safe enough for my father-in-law and and his wife to visit. This was just before omicron arrived, so things were looking quite hopeful and we went to the zoo and also held a small birthday party for the boys in a nearby park, to which we invited some friends we hadn’t seen in nearly two years.

Finally, I’ve had to get creative at work to meet the needs of the communities I work with as we couldn’t see each other in person for yet another year. I stepped away from some of the general online open source events, because I simply wasn’t getting much value out of them, and it was better to find ways to connect and socialize in non-conference ways. That means my talk schedule, in addition to being virtual, was more focused on IBM events and those with partners, with a handful of notable exceptions. It’s actually been very interesting, because we can craft each presentation more specifically than I might have at a more generalist in-person event. Many of my decks did away with introduction to mainframes text entirely because I was either honed in on just doing my own part of the event (someone else would cover the basics) or I was speaking to an audience that didn’t need a primer. Still, I look forward to getting back out there to see my open source pals again, and to meet my new mainframe friends I’ve bonded with virtually.

So without further ado, my talk rundown! It starts in May because I was on maternity leave until April.

As I said, having another pandemic year was tough, and it definitely caused us to take different paths and try new things, some for the better, others less so. As we dive into 2022, the omicron variant surges and vaccines for the youngest among us are still just outside of our grasp. I’m hopeful that 2022 brings the vaccinations, health, and reunions that we’re all so desperate for. But I’ll continue to look back fondly on the bright side of 2021, and for the closeness it’s brought to our little family.