What a long strange year it’s been…

inspire-innovation-challenge-way-to-change-to-inspire-innovation-challenge-way-to-change-to-concept-inscription-187529094It’s been a year, huh?

I mean, heck, it started off swell!

We saw in the New Year watching fireworks from the balcony and anticipating what 2020 was going to bring. We made our usual lists of things we wanted to accomplish in the coming year, read our jar full of accomplishments, kissed at midnight, and met the new dawn full of hope and brightness.

Well that didn’t last long.

In January, I was able to go to London, which was an amazing trip to be sure.  I’ve already written about it so I won’t dwell except to say that before I left, Rasa warned me that there had been a new disease she heard about coming from China. She didn’t know too much about it, but admonished me to vigorously wash my hands and maybe be extra careful in Chinatown. I listened to her, but since she’s also a bit over protective sometimes, I didn’t let her fears get me too concerned. Yes, I washed my hands more often and probably a little longer than I had previously, but really, it was no big deal. And when I mentioned it to Lin, she hadn’t heard anything and really, how bad could it be?

Needless to say, it was bad. 

Upon returning home, the new semester started and the year was off and running. We got Monki a fairy door,Fairy Door something I’d heard about and really wanted to try. It worked (and continues to work) right away. The fairies became her friends and left her little presents for things. She always made sure to say thank you or to leave presents for them as well. 

But then the pandemic hit. As I wrote about at the beginning of March, Monki had started at a new school and was there just a few days before everything was closed down for what we assumed would only be a few weeks. Turned out to be a bit longer though. But we’ll get back to that. 

Come April and it was becoming pretty clear things were not getting back to normal anytime soon. With classes moving completely online, I lost out on my one form of consistent exercise – walking. It’s about 3km from the house to the office, and takes about 25 minutes to walk (including a nice long set of stairs). On school days, I was easily getting in my 10k steps (and on the one day a week I was going to Vilnius for work, it was a little over 2km from the train station to the classroom so again, steps). It also gave me time to listen to my books, breathe in the fresh air, all that good, healthy stuff. 

Then that also changed. No going out unless you had to, lots of staying away from other people. You all know the drill. So Rasa decided to do something nice and bought us a stationary bike. This was a way to get at least a little exercise in, which is great. To be perfectly honest, though, while I was using it regularly over the summer, since the bike is on the balcony, it’s cold now that winter is here and I haven’t used it nearly as much as I’d like. I say I, since obviously I’m speaking for myself, but also I since I don’t think Rasa has climbed aboard more than three times since we got it in April. 

That’s okay. We know it’s there. We can’t help but see it every time we look outside. 

Exercise bike

At the same time I was losing exercising, I also lost my hairdresser. Not that anything happened to her (at least I hope nothing has happened to her!) but all non-essential services were closed. And my hair was getting a bit unruly. So again, Rasa decided to do something nice and ordered a decent set of clippers. You can see the complete results on my facebook page but as a sampler, here’s the before and after pictures:


With all this extra time I had in not having to walk more than a few feet to get to the office (see below, when it was taken over by an industrious Monki), I decided to try and get more writing done. So I started the SensaWonder stories. I did a nice handful before the effort fizzled out. Although I still like the idea, and I hope I’ll be able to get back to it at some point in the New Year. 

The office

As the semester ended and we headed into summer, we actually found a lot of activities to keep us occupied. In June, Monki was able to go back to school (which we ended up taking her out of on our own in August for a variety of reasons). We went horseback riding and celebrated our birthdays, went out and kept ourselves socially distant-ish to the lake and on nature hikes. I actually even wrote about a lot of it here

As summer was progressing, it seemed that the virus was getting itself under control and so we risked a couple of outings, going to the beach and taking Monki to see a hot air balloon being inflated (the general flight path is outside our balcony so after seeing them fly by for a while, the idea of seeing one take-off seemed like a good idea.)

I also published a book. Just a little thing, but feel free to pick up a copy for yourself and several for friends. And if you’re the kind of person who judges a book by the cover…well here you go: 

Poppe Culture Cover

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because I used it in the past when I was writing for various motorcycle magazines. And now he’s here, solving crimes and stuff!

We even risked a trip to Mažeikiai for Rasa’s mom’s 70th birthday. It was a good time and even with a horrendous downpour on the way back, it was worth the trip.


And then the autumn came. The new semester started and that pesky virus hadn’t gone away. In fact, it had gotten worse. Infection rates were up, death rates were up, and in person classes were cancelled, yet again. Sure, they had tried to do it but in the end, it just wasn’t worth the risk so this fall semester of 2020, I held my classes completely online. Not something I enjoy doing, to be sure, but it’s nice to know I can. It’s nice to know these things are possible. It was also nice to continue to have a job and to still be working during this whole thing. 

But really, the fall semester is a blur. Monki played and while both Rasa and I worked, we took turns watching her so we could get our own things done. I did take the opportunity here to begin the geekdom indoctrination, however:

So we adjusted. We ordered our groceries online. We signed up for live-streamed plays direct from London. We watched videos and took imaginary trips. We read books and listened to songs and danced and played and just generally did our best to combat the growing restlessness, to acknowledge the crisis and tried (not always successfully) to not let it overwhelm us. 

And then, before we knew it, the holidays were upon us. Now, being clever, Rasa had been ordering gifts for a while so as the world started to close again, with malls and shops being swarmed by angry people who were then interviewed on the news, we were simply stockpiling deliveries and awaiting the various gift giving occasions. 

Rasa took the opportunity to become more clever, designing and making outfits for monki’s dolls, pumpkins out of yarn, and helping monki herself make weepuls and snowmen out of pompoms and googly eyes. 

With Christmas, Monki was finally old enough to partake in several fun traditions, including decorating cookies and building a gingerbread house, the kit for which was brought by Santa. 

Now, understand, we don’t celebrate the holiday religiously, regardless of its origins and overtones. Yup we have a tree and all that, but really, it’s more of a feeling and reason for celebration than anything else. Probably, we’re closer to the pagan idea of celebrating the return of the sun than anything else, but the accoutrements of the holiday, obviously, still remain. Which brings me to an interesting realization. I never understood that kids actually believed in the big, red-suited guy with the white beard. 

But no, Monki is 100% on board with The Claus. Just knowing he might be watching and she rolls over and goes to sleep. Leaving milk and cookies (and carrots for the reindeer). Coming out on Christmas morning and seeing her name on a bunch of packages (still pretty amazed that at 4 1/2 she recognizes her name – maybe that’s normal but I think it’s cool) and that where she left treats there’s no nothing but crumbs and empty glasses. It’s a fascinating process to watch, to see the glow in her eyes when she knows Santa has come. 

So as we say good-bye to the horrible year that was, I’m comforted by the fact that we made it through okay, and that Monki will have nothing but good memories. 

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