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  • Writer's pictureJMac

2020 is finally in the rear view mirror

Hey friends! Long time no check in. Boy am I glad to be done with 2020.

The year started off equal parts great and frustrating - I was able to confront some past family and personal troubles, get on a good routine of wellness, and start to make some positive and ongoing changes in my life.

My son turned three and had a fantastic birthday party with his friends at Fleetway. I was getting to the gym 6 or 7 days a week and writing daily. We were playing outside with friends. We organized our first dads and kids fitness bootcamps, and were putting teams into the Forest City Road Races and YMCA Sweat For Kids sake. Dads were losing weight and developing a dedicated focus to ongoing physical and mental health. It was exciting times!

Fun with snapchat filters, January 2020

Come February we started hearing some scary stories of virus stuff happening overseas in China and then in Italy. Our leaders promised us everything would be fine here.

We pressed on. We helped the London Police Service with coaching and refereeing in their "Joe League" basketball league for kids from low income housing projects. We sent two kids from the league to summer basketball camp.

We started a year long "no screens" challenge to promote quality time with dads and kids via monthly challenges that celebrated local businesses and opportunities in our community.

I took my oldest to her first basketball game. She loved it so much we went to a few more. We took over Cheer Strike Royals for an afternoon of learning tumbling, cheerleading, and playing.

March came and went. The reports of how bad COVID-19 was becoming overseas were fast and furious. Canada and the US still seemed safe. We had trust that people knew what they were doing and much like Ebola, we would be okay.

This turned out to be our last dad night out in 2020

This was the last time we were able to meet up with other kids and not worry about who touched what and how close they were

Remember being able to be this close to friends without second thought?

One day, in the middle of March, everything changed. COVID-19 officially reached Ontario. We were called in for an impromptu staff meeting and told to stay more than 1m apart. We were instructed to get our stuff and go home and work from home until further notice.

This became my new normal.

Working from home, with three kids at home, while my wife worked on the front lines was incredibly hard. My kids are pretty advanced when it comes to school, and keeping them busy both before and then with the school board support was tough. Worrying every single day about my wife getting infected at work and possibly becoming part of the 10% of healthcare workers in Italy who died from COVID was a living breathing walking nightmare.

As someone with severe generalized anxiety, I can definitely look back and give myself credit for my resilience. We found a way to keep our kids engaged, and that became through routine. We quickly developed an aversion to the endless scavenger hunts sent to them, but found other ways to pique their curiosity and keep life fun despite being so apart.

Dog walks and tree climbs and hikes through nature became our best friends. Staying off playgrounds was incredibly hard, because they were second nature to us and a daily visit all throughout 2019 and early 2020.

Our new playgrounds

I tried the zoom meet ups with friends, and they weren't for me. I tried the zoom live online workouts through my gym, but they weren't for me either. I even went as far as shoulder pressing in my living room without thinking about it and putting a dent in my ceiling with a dumbbell.

Normalcy became dropping coffee and token gifts on porches of friends and having check ins from across the front yard. Normalcy became buying coffee in drive thrus and throwing the lid away right away and exploring the area by vehicle and on foot.

The Living room became our new school yard, learning centre, and gym

My middle child had her fifth birthday via front yard vehicle parade. We bought a digital camera and took an interest in photography. I have 700 pictures for the month of April because the kids took an interest in going for a walk with a camera and capturing what they saw.

A sample of something interesting we found in our neighbourhood that they captured

My three year old took this. Not bad!

Even though we stayed far apart as members of our community, we got closer as a family. We made it work. The lowest point I can remember is when Donald Trump told 3M to stop making N95s for non Americans. Panic set in. I spent two full days buying and collecting and organizing any N95s, half respirators, and filters we could find.

Ultimately we were successful in developing a stash, but the lowest point for me as a protector and a fixer and a solver was resisting the urge to stop letting my wife go to work with 1 or 2 masks available to her for an entire 12 hour shift, and not snatching her and the family up and hiding out in some remote community until things blew over. She went to work day in and out without a second thought, and she's far more brave than I ever could be in confronting something so deadly that we cannot see or feel or predict.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Londoners were so frigging generous in me sourcing out enough reusable masks and filters for my wife's team. Some new, some used haha

We bought and rode bikes and explored on two wheels for the first time as a family.

We experimented in the kitchen.

We called him "meatzilla". One sandwich. Seven different kinds of meat.

We developed an addiction to lego.

We sought out value in supporting local in innovative ways, and exercised it whenever possible.

We became amateur film makers

and architects

We took day trips to places we had never seen before

We helped dads who were struggling with keeping their families fed and housed with the lights and internet on.

Our inability to get haircuts became apparent

But we pressed on. Things got a bit easier and more predictable. Our kids got used to seeing friends from across yards and through messenger kids. They learned how to create our own fun. My wife and I moved mountains to keep them engaged and connected and blossoming. Private tutoring over zoom from Oxford Learning Centre was a life saver in terms of keeping and building upon the progress they made in school pre-COVID.

I struggled. Juggling so many balls and so many feelings was hard. After 8 pm became couch time with an alcoholic beverage in hand. My workouts suffered without a coach and peers there to push and encourage me. The covid thirty crept on. Not seeing friends or co workers in person or being within 10 feet of anyone outside of my house was tough. Seeing that people who could make this better weren't doing more was frustrating.

My father in law being in LTC throughout this was hard on us, especially on my wife. Thank god he stayed safe.

We took every tour we could find.

We took the experience of a racist act by a dad working two jobs to make ends meet during a pandemic and turned it into a $7,600 scholarship for a deserving family, in memory of one of our former members.

We finished school online. They were remarkable in their resilience and flexibility. We are so proud and lucky as parents.

Our street had socially distanced Canada Day fireworks

Our neighbours gave us access to their pool

The concept of bubbles allowed us a week away at a cottage with another family

We still found opportunities to help. When our friends at My Sisters Place needed water, we partnered with Brawny Movers to bring them a moving truck full

After a few months of the same five people in the same four walls, nornalcy was nice. I was confident in the future and excited to continue to reopen my workplace, the schools, and more normal life.

My kid got to go back to daycare. Safely. And see his friends. We were able to keep in contact with the girls' friends during the lockdown because we had ways to contact them. I had one daycare friend's mom on twitter and the rest of them, it was totally unknown as to if they were okay and my son worried about them immensely. Seeing them in person truly lifted his spirits to a whole other level.

We continued to find ways to support our community despite not being able to meet in person

We hit up splash pads and wading pools. We continued to explore school playgrounds and public parks all over the county. We played Mario Kart. We picked berries. We took road trips.

With the COVID situation and the security of our bubble, my wife and I actually took an overnight trip for my birthday without our kids for the first time EVER. It was fantastic.

We picked out our Halloween costumes early and wore them often. Come hell or high water, we went trick or treating.

Case counts continued to rise. But we pressed on, striving for and seeking out normalcy at all times. The kids are in school and have been safe. The girls have been doing piano lessons with masks on and then over zoom if anyone has the faintest throat tickle or runny nose. My little guy has gotten to do swimming and soccer.

We've stayed with as much outdoor time as possible. It's safe, healthy, and important.

We lost our friend Gerry. He was a friend to all, and to honour him we handed out coffee and butter tarts all over downtown London to our friends on the streets. We were also able to raise money for his kids and for his favourite program. the Amputee Program at Parkwood Hospital.

We had to say goodbye to our best friend Tucker. He was almost 13, and kidney failure and a giant tumour took over. We miss him dearly.

Our members continued to generously support our community, despite our level of isolation increasing as restrictions continued to grow.

As a family, we were able to continue our Christmas traditions.

Santa was behind plexiglass this year though

And we squeezed in one outdoor annual Christmas gathering before having to cancel them completely

But Santa still spoiled them though and they pronounced it "BEST CHRISTMAS EVER"

Looking back, in hindsight, it is nice to see in picture and video format that our kids adjusted, coped, and in many ways thrived despite the never ending and constant scary changes being thrust upon them. They still love school, they loved Halloween, they loved Christmas, and they were okay with how modified their birthday parties were this year. They made it work.

I'm also incredibly grateful that my wife and I have made it work. Her and I met 11 years ago last week, and have been married for nine years as of this past month. Prior to her, no one was able to tolerate me romantically for more than six months, nor I them. So being with her has been an amazing experience in general, and I've become even more grateful for her support and presence and stability and love and grit after seeing how many of our friends' relationships and marriages have not survived the pandemic. I'm a lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky lucky man, with much more luck to come still.

Starting in November, a few cool things happened to me. First, I was nominated and voted president of my kids' schools Home and School Association. Then, I was nominated and voted Chairperson of the London Public Library Board of Directors.

These two acts of "normalcy" after going fully back into adult isolation as of September really opened my eyes. They reminded me that there was a real adult world out there, and that pouring everything emotionally into maintaining fun and normalcy for our kids had detracted from my own sense of normalcy as an adult, because my cup at that point was so empty.

One of the most fulfilling things I have done personally in the past few months Was simply going into the library and sitting down with a mask on and signing a giant pile of Christmas cards while chatting with library administration. No kids in tow, just time to adult and do something normal.

That really opened my eyes as to how low I had allowed myself to feel in moments of personal time. My frustration was obvious to many, as I felt it was so obvious that we should as a society have been doing more to stem the tide and not let COVID get to the point it is today in January 2021, compared to the point it was in July 2020.

I'm the kind of person who when people do good things, I tell them and I celebrate with them and encourage them and support them. When people do things that I think can be better, I tell them how and why and hold them accountable to a higher level of success through planning and execution.

This has rubbed some people the wrong way given the hyper frazzled nature of living in COVID times for the last ten months. I've opened my own eyes to the fact that I can't fix everything on my own and in one attempt, and that some people simply don't want to hear what I have to say on certain topics and that change isn't up to me in some areas. I also can't expect them to have the same absurd sense of immediacy and refusal to slow down until things are done and fixed that I do either.

Given the new leadership roles I've taken on, I've tried to be more aware of the things I say and do and put out into the universe, as although anyone who knows me knows I have good intent behind everything I do, people I've never met can take words at face value and form their own concept of intent and subsequent impression behind them. I've tried to make amends with those who I could think I might have formed a not ideal relationship with in 2020 by reaching out privately, and I have decided that in 2021 I will make a few changes: - I will be nicer to myself, and slow down and give myself more credit and less pressure

- I will be cognizant of what I say and do, and whether it is appropriate and necessary, and seek the positive and not dwell in the negative - I will do my best to be present and available for those in my life and not waste time with things that don't have consequence

- I will be open and honest with myself and others and focused on the task or feeling at hand and not turn to stress eating or drinking to help myself pursue balance. I've spent the last 9 months gaining and losing weight repeatedly based on what's happening to me and around me, and it can't be good for me at this point in the long haul

- I will continue to be grateful for everything I have, treasure every day, and share my abundance with those who need it. Today I was named to the Mayor's Honour List for 2021 for humanitarianism.

I knew I was nominated, but I did'n't expect to win. I'm already so incredibly lucky in so many ways and the kind of person who passes the spotlight on to others and deflects the attention whenever I can. But I won.

This told me something.

Despite my gym being closed again. Despite it being more unsafe than ever to see my friends in person. Despite the kids being back to not in school for the time being. Despite the days getting colder and me not being a winter person. Despite everything being closed,. Despite programs being cancelled. Despite everything else out of my control.

People believe in me and appreciate me and recognize the importance of the things that I do because they feel important and I feel I'm someone who can do them. I'm grateful beyond words for that recognition and appreciation. It empowers and motivates me to keep going. To block out the white noise and keep trying and caring.

I appreciate everyone who has shown their appreciation, and everyone who has offered their congratulations. Your support means more to me than you will ever know.

In return, I will continue to offer my family and my community the best me. By focusing on what I can control and letting go of what I can't.

Thank you, 2020. Thank you for teaching me this valuable lesson in gratitude by keeping us safe and healthy and housed and fed. I recognize we are far more lucky than others, and I will keep doing my part to close that gap as much as possible.

Unlike January 1 2020, I'm not going to be unrealistic and put undue pressure on myself and think I can write and post every day like Seth Godin does.

But I would like to recognize how therapeutic and valuable this exercise of self-reflection is and to pledge to myself to seek it out more often in 2021.

Thanks everyone. I'll be in touch.

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