Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020: Finding comfort in stillness

After a year of traveling in 2019, this past year found us staying home. Yet, we learned to find joy and comfort in the little things: our home, our cats, and each other. We had time to go on evening walks around our neighborhood and connect with our neighbors.

In 2020, James graduated with his MBA and won an award at work. We ventured to Cedar Point a few times and had some safe moments with friends and family sprinkled throughout the year. Matthew celebrated 20 years at Maritz and also discovered some truly delectable dishes this year.

Let’s start at the very beginning of 2020… 

In January, we rang in the New Year with family. We went to a gymnastics meet for our niece, Olivia. James started his final semester of grad school, including a three-hour Wednesday night class. 

All of Matthew’s paternal family came together for a memorial service and gathering for Matthew’s Aunt Diane. It was bittersweet as his family reconnected with cousins not seen in many years. 

February was Oscars month and we enjoyed catching up on movies and watching the Oscars Shorts in theatres, our last movie theatre experience for the year. 

In March, James helped with sound at The Toledo Swiss Swinger’s murder mystery, “Revenge of The Raven,” since he wasn’t able to attend Wednesday night rehearsals. 

Matthew jumped into auditions as director for “Kinky Boots” at Michigan’s oldest continually operating theatre and one of our favorite places, The Croswell Opera House. The casting really came together and we were both looking forward to the exciting, vibrant production; however, the show was ultimately canceled.

As the pandemic began to truly reveal its ugly head, James quickly discovered how to livestream for our church. This was an absolutely crazy learning curve. James set up equipment each week for six months before installing up an automated stream (he had to wait for budget approval and some of the components were on backorder for weeks). Additionally, James was put on UToledo’s COVID-19 response team, meeting seven days a week and sending daily newsletters. Matthew’s job also required extensive work. We were working long weeks (and sometimes weekends) with no break in sight. 

We are thankful, however, during the pandemic not to lose on our jobs, as so many have. 

James moved fully remote until July (with the exception of occasional video projects). He would work at the kitchen counter or table until his home desk setup was in place thanks to Matthew’s parents a couple months later.

April continued the trend. James’ work conference in New Orleans was canceled; he was scheduled to present.

Matthew was playing with Kira, chasing her in our house. He slipped on our hardwood floor, fell, and used his hands to brace his fall. Initially his X-rays were misread, leading to a fear of fractures in his wrist, right ring finger, and right thumb. Thankfully, there were no broken bones! It was still a bad sprain, but no fracture and no surgery. He wore a splint for four weeks.

A bright spot of us both being home is that we were able to enjoy creatures outside our house, including ducks and duckling, geese and goslings, and raccoons and their babies. We also enjoyed spring prep of our house, including mulching.

May was a month of graduations! James officially completed grad school and graduated virtually on May 9 with his Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Marketing. James’ family stopped by the house for a surprise front yard celebration. We celebrated James’ sister Zoe’s socially-distanced high school graduation on May 20. 

May also marked James’ first haircut since January (after 17 weeks). Matthew had to wait longer since his stylist works in Michigan. 

As the weather warmed, we enjoyed our daily outdoor walks. In June, we discovered a wonderful park near our house, Olander, and walking around the lake there, soaking up the summer weather. We also enjoyed many trips to the ice cream stand, Mr. Freeze. 

In mid June, James transitioned back to working on campus and moved to a new office with a view! He went back full-time in July. 

Fourth of July neighborhood celebrations included some fun and safe pool time with neighbors, which was time we truly treasured. And on July 10, Matthew celebrated his 20-year service anniversary with Maritz.

After a year with so many visits to Disney World in 2019, we were really missing it. We had purchased annual passes to Cedar Point and decided to make a reservation and check things out, especially since we had never gone before together and the park was celebrating 150 years in 2020. We ended up visiting North America’s second-oldest amusement park three times this summer, once in July, August, and September. We wore masks each visit, even on the rides, and felt safe each time. We were really impressed by the safety protocols taken by park associates. We rode about one ride per hour (since some required hourly passes). This was fine with James and helping keep his motion sickness at bay. The corn dogs and fresh-cut fries were one of the main perks to going. These visits truly helped save our summer. 

We canceled our long-planned vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with Matthew’s family, out of an abundance of caution. We already have our reservations for July 2021!

James enjoyed tracking the Comet NEOWISE and snapped some memorable shots from our backyard and UToledo’s Main Campus.

Then something pretty incredible happened. James convinced Matthew to have breakfast for dinner, a first for them. 

In August, we were excited for some of our favorite TV shows to be back, including “Love Island” and “Big Brother.” Some other TV favorites of the year include “LEGO Masters” and “Survivor.”

In September, we celebrated three years married — dined in at our first restaurant in six months.

We went to our first theatrical experience of the pandemic, “Chess,” the musical, outdoors in a park. It was memorable to see many people we love and missed seeing.

A highlight of the month for us was taking a Friday afternoon off to do some fall flower and decorations shopping.

One of the coolest things to happen to James in 2020 is being honored at work with the College of Medicine and Life Sciences Dean’s Rising Star Staff Award. “He is always willing to help even if it is not in the scope of his job description. The passion James shows for his job is inspiring,” his nominator shared. 

James joined a political campaign as the Communications Director for Nancy Larson for Ohio House District 47 — it would be a quick and blurry seven weeks with a big learning curve.

In October, Matthew and his colleagues put the pedal to the metal for a virtual version of their annual in-person weeklong training event. The week’s success was a tribute to the hard work and hours of work by the team. A nice touch to end the week was a musically minded film festival with compilation music video from team members from across the U.S. 

In November, as COVID-19 cases surged, James went back to working from home, save for a few video projects. And December wrapped up our year.

The holidays were different this year, with family apart, but we made the most of it, staying connected via brief outdoor visits and Zoom calls. 

As we look ahead, 2021 holds the promise of better times. We’ll still wear our masks, wash our hands, and social distance for much of the year. And the prospects of seeing our family and friends in-person as well as traveling again brings us renewed hope.

We wish you a Happy, Prosperous, and Safe New Year! We thank you for being a treasured part of our lives, even if from a distance.

With love,
Matthew, James, Kitty, Sonoma, and Kira

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