In the past when I did my year in review post(s), they tended to come out in late December or earlier in January.
But that’s OK – I haven’t done them in a few years, so this turned into a much longer post.
I have a feeling many of us would say 2021 was a year of craziness. Between Covid and all of the other things happening around the world, it was going to be nuts right off the bat.
But, when you get into personal worlds, things can be different. Depending where one lives, you may have been able to do things differently or were able to kind of have a “life” of sorts.
Living in a small area has allowed me to live life a little more loosely, all while making sure I follow the guidelines set in place. So let’s take a peek back at 2021.
To say my life changed on July 2 would be an understatement. That’s when this little furball of a puppy came into my life. We had picked out Harper from a breeder about 1.5 hours away and got her at nine weeks. I had done so much research on dogs and golden retrievers over the past year or two, so I thought I was ready for this.
To a point, I was. But in a lot of ways, I wasn’t even close.
Puppies are a lot of work.
I took two weeks off from work when she came home and I was naive to believe that’s all I would need to get her into being the perfect dog.
I can’t even say how wrong I was.
Let me say this … if I didn’t have the emotional attachment I have to Harper, and I could go back in time knowing everything I know now, I wouldn’t do it. I would likely still be dogless, or would have tried to find a rescue I could bond with. But, I can’t go back in time and with Harper being more than eight months old now, it’s amazing to see how far she has come.
That doesn’t take away how hard it was for a few months, physically and emotionally. I also think it’s quite safe to say I will never go through having a puppy again. One time is enough for me. I was at the end of my rope many times. I questioned if I should keep her or talk to the breeder about returning or maybe rehoming.
Then she’d look at me with that golden look. And she’d sit at my feet.
Like I could get rid of her?
I also was fortunate in finding a great doggy daycare/boarding place. The owner owns goldens, so that was great. And Harper loves going there.
The biggest thing that happened was finding the right trainer. I had one session with a trainer and I just didn’t agree with the style, so I contacted another who was highly recommended.
I truly believe it’s safe to say that if I hadn’t found her, I’m not sure where I’d be. She doesn’t just train the dog, she trains you. She’s always there to help and work with you. She’s also into dog sports and we’ve worked to make sure Harper is, too. While she enjoys everything so far (toss and fetch was the first), it seems her love is dock diving. I want to also try some agility, eventually, with her, but I love dock diving and that’s what I want to focus on. It’s so much fun and Harper showed great strides in the fall. I can’t wait until spring to see where she can go with this!
One thing I’ve learned, however, is this is going to be constant. She will continue to learn and grow. And it’s a constant growing experience for me. We are still working on some things – such as her wanting to jump up on people or trying to get stuff on counters. But that will come in time.
Over the six months she’s been with us, what have we learned? A lot. She’s grown into a great dog. She’s one who will cuddle and snuggle. She loves to play fetch, more with tennis balls. And she will go for a long time if I let her. She’s curious. She’s stubborn. She loves to walk, but she needs a job so she is usually carrying a stick or a stuffed animal.
I’ve been told I seem to smile more and laugh more. I hope that’s true. She’s brought a lot of enjoyment (and frustration at times) into my life, but I’m really starting to have a crazy good bond with her, and I’m trying to plan more places I can go with her. I also love when I come in from work and she comes running to see me.
Where from here?
Well, I want to work on her with photography more. She tends to shy away from “posed” photos, but I can get plenty of sleeping and action photos. The jumping needs to be worked on as well. Finally, the other big thing is working on her in cars more. She gets motion sickness at times and will throw up. I have a lot of places I want to take her, so this is something I need to keep working on. With my 50th coming up in a couple of years, I’m already planning an epic road trip and I want her with me, of course.
I post plenty of things about Harper on my Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/hoohaa29/), and I’m sure there will be posts on here. But, Harper also has her own Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/harper_dublin/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HarperTheGolden), but I need to do a lot more work on that one.
There is no doubt that Harper is my No. 1 item for 2021. I look forward to watching her grow and develop and continue to be part of my world.
2. My health/personal life
I was doing so good.
For the first part of 2021, my A1C continued to go down. It was awesome. And the last 3-4 months of the year changed that. High stress – from work and Harper and the holidays and everything else, I just wasn’t good. I was still working on Harper and walking, so I wasn’t moving as much as I should have been. And I also ate more crap and my portion control went out the window. Thankfully, I haven’t put on a ton of weight, but at the same time my A1C took a jump up (got my results a few days ago).
It’s not an excuse, but I know what happened. And I know the reason. So it’s time to dial it back and get myself on the right path again. I have done it before and know I can do it again.
Harper walking more will help.
I’m also trying to utilize my normal planner into a life journal. The weekly look at things has more on it than just the normal stuff. If all goes well, that will give me some accountability. It won’t happen overnight as I don’t have a ton of self-control at times, but it will happen.
All of my other blood test results looked fine. My blood pressure and such was fine.
In regard to other things, I’m pretty content in life. I was able to travel a little and get out and see things. More on that below.
I think the reality of our current world situation – not just the pandemic, but everything political and all, has made me realize that I need to find the more fun things in life. I have to find the simple pleasures.
Part of that, of course, is trying to find things to ground myself and enjoy the steps in life. That, in turn, should help with my health.
See, I’ve always been a bit high strung when it comes to stressful things. Over the past few years, I’ve worked on that to try and dial it back. Part of my issue is work. I tend not to say no, or take on way too many things. When I was at the newspaper, I rarely turned something down or made a case why I shouldn’t do it. I just did it. I’d have vacation days at the end of the year that I needed to take or lose them because throughout the year, I’d not take them.
In the end, I was laid off due to cuts. The newspaper didn’t show me any loyalty when all was said and done, so what did I get in the end? Notta.
Therefore, as I moved forward, I knew I had to watch for myself. Everybody is replaceable. At my current job. I still push myself probably too far. But I don’t sacrifice “me” time. I take vacations. I take care of myself. And, for the most part, those above me encourage and support employees to take care of themselves. Mental health issues are real and I’m lucky that my employer(s) take things seriously and don’t want to see people have issues.
That means I take vacations and unplug. I try to get outside and explore. I look to see new things and experience different parts of life. With Harper, I like to go and see different things.
And a lot of times, when I do this, I don’t look at my email etc.
Exploring the world around me has been beneficial healthwise. I tend to smile a bit more when I get outside and I’m seeing different things now. Everything is new to Harper, so it’s enjoyable to explore with her and see what she finds interesting.
My health – both physical and mental – are doing much better since the start of 2021. Though I took some steps backward with my diabetes control, everything else seems to be doing better. It’s a long road and I will keep working on it.
What a world in which we live.
COVID has taken over everything. And no matter what side of the fence you are on when it comes to the severity of it, masks, or vaccinations, the reality is we are still deep into it.
And we’re also at a breaking point.
The reality is, the majority of people who are going to get vaccinated have already done so. Those who are against it are likely not going to change their mind. And masks? Those who will wear them do so. Those who won’t, don’t.
We’re two years into this. Almost 5.75 million people around the world have died from the disease, including more than 900,000 in the United States.
People are going to be set in their ways and beliefs. Sure, you’ll get some who might change their minds some. But the reality is, most are staying along the path. At some point, though, you have to wonder when we start coming out of this. Is there herd immunity? Is there something with the variants getting weaker as they come out? Will it become a yearly “flu” shot?
I’m vaccinated. I have a booster. And I wear a mask. I’ve been exposed a couple of times and am thankful I didn’t show any symptoms. I haven’t had to be quarantined because I am vaccinated. But at the same time, it still wears on me. I try to do what I can to stay safe and healthy. And I hope others, even if they are against the vaccine and masks, will take others into consideration when making decisions. The sooner we can all get closer to being on the same page, the sooner we can hopefully move away from this and get back to some sort of normal.
One thing felt a bit normal in 2021 – being able to go to baseball games.
It started in April when we went to a Phillies game. At that point, there were limited seats. Only like 10,000 people were in the stadium, and masks were to be worn.
As the season continued – at the minor and major league levels, more people were allowed in, of course based on where you were. Mask mandates were lifted or softened. By the end of the year, it truly felt like baseball again.
I didn’t make a lot of baseball trips this year. In fact, I only hit four stadiums – Syracuse, Binghamton, Philadelphia, and Aberdeen. The last one was on a late-summer trip to the Baltimore area for geocaching.
It was nice to be back in a stadium for games. I likely would have been to more games, but with getting Harper, it was harder. We did take her to one “Bark in the Park” in Binghamton and will do so again this upcoming season.
The little things truly do help you cope with the bigger picture. Even just a fireworks night at a baseball game can help make you smile a bit.
It’s funny, though. A few summers ago, I was pushing 75 games. At the end of the summer, I was thinking how crazy it was. Fun? Yes. But still crazy. And it wore me out. Then the first summer of covid, where all minor league games were canceled and no fans for MLB came and went. And, shockingly, I didn’t miss being in the stands as much as I thought I would.
It was great to get back to it this summer, though. I’ve realized that if I stay in the 25-40 game range most summers, I’ll be quite content and not feel burnt out from going to games.
It’s only January, but baseball will be back soon enough. Well, hopefully. They still need to figure out the CBA.
Travel returned this year to many people. With the loosening of requirements, people got out and visited friends and family. Went to new places. And tourism started to come back into the world.
I can’t say I went a lot of places, but I got out a little bit, even if just for a few small trips. I had the chance to go see some baseball games this past summer and I also hit up the shore twice, so that was nice.
I will admit that I’m still a little skeptical about flying. I realize it’s probably overall safe, but I’m not sure how I feel about being masked up for a several-hour flight. And remember, I’m pro-mask for myself in most situations – and being in a tube above the world for a few hours would be a place where I’d wear it.
But, as things seemingly start to slowly once again improve (I hope), maybe things will get better.
One other thing to consider moving forward, though, is Harper. I plan to hopefully take her on many trips, which will scratch flying. I am not one to want to put her through that experience if not necessary.
I’ve also realized over the past year, there’s a lot of things within driving range I’d like to see. New York State has a ton of amazing parks to explore. There are different places throughout the Northeast I’d love to see. And heck, there’s much more in the United States and Canada I’d like to see – and it can all pretty much be done via car, which also means being able to bring Harper with me.
Look around your own backyard and parks and such near you – sometimes traveling doesn’t have to be far to find some fun things to do.
6. Geocaching/getting outside
Getting outside was a must in the past two years.
And though I haven’t geocached as much as I once did, it was nice to get out there and do it again. There’s plenty of them to find around me, so it has been good when I’ve needed to do something. I’ve done a few geocaching trips as well, which has allowed me to see some new areas and parks.
In 2021, I found a total of 231 geocaches, which isn’t my best year by far, but also isn’t my worst. The good part of it is that it was toward the end of the year that the numbers started coming around. I did 23 days worth of geocaching, averaging 10 per day.
The good part is many of those caching days were toward the end of 2021, which means I started getting into it again. As 2022 has started, I’ve already started getting some days in, which is great. And I’ve been bringing Harper along, which is even better.
Obviously, Harper won’t be logging in her finds and such, but she seems to enjoy wandering around and exploring as we’re out on the trails caching. It’s just been really nice to get out and find some caches as well as place a few.
I’m in a better place at the end of 2021 than in the beginning, that’s for sure, I’m still not where I probably should be overall, but it takes time.
If you think back to when I came out of college, I went to work for a daily newspaper. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting rich there. Looking back, I have to wonder how some people survived (or still do) working for newspapers. It’s definitely not a way to get rich. Hell, in many cases, it’s not a way to even be middle class. And while I’m currently not on track to be rich, I’m comfortable. And even better? I’m saving for retirement, and doing so rather aggressively.
A few years ago, I opened a new credit card and transferred all balances because it gave me interest free on the balance for like 21 months. I paid that off last January, which was outstanding. That meant I was out of credit card debt.
Now, I use my credit cards sporadically for purchases and then work to pay them off as fast as I can. It was nice because I had a Lowe’s card that I put the fence for Harper on. That will take some time to pay off as it was an investment, but I felt a lot more comfortable doing it with having a clear balance.
I also am adding more to my retirement accounts as I know it’s something I have to keep building. When I started this current job, I had zero savings for retirement. And what little amount I did have, I had to use when I was unemployed.
With working for the state, I have a pension now, which is nice. I also have two retirement accounts I’m building. Who knows where this world will be when I finally can retire, but I want to be as ready for it as possible. I wish I had worked for the state a lot sooner in life, but there’s not much I can do about it now. The end result is I will just have to work until at least 65, if not a bit beyond that, to maximize certain things. I’m OK with that. It’s just nice to know things are building toward that age.
Finances are tricky and always a work in progress. I’m definitely better now than I was 10 years ago, if not just the understanding part of things.
8. Looking back
I know many people will look at 2021 and yell about how bad the year was. With Covid still running rampant, and everything else in my country and the world as a whole, the year was tough for a lot of people.
The one thing with the pandemic is I’ve tried to find the silver linings. I do think when this is all done and past us (and I do believe it will at some point) we will find some positives. I can think of a few. It’s just a shame we’ve had to go through a lot of negativity and a prolonged pandemic to find any of the good things.
And, at the same time, will anything positive from this ever outweigh all the bad that happened? Will we ever have a normal again?
For me, I look at 2021 in a few ways.
I feel I became more in touch with different things and I really think I appreciate things a bit more. The little things, anyway. We’re only here for a short bit of time, so we need to start realizing what is important.
In 2021, I got Harper. For that alone, it’s a pretty good year. Though it’s been hard and frustrating at times, she’s become such a big part of my life. I’ve learned a lot from having her and I know the future with her will be a fun journey.
And 2021 ended with hope. Will we get out of all of this in 2022? Will things start to return to somewhat normal? Time will only tell but we can continue to hope.
Until then, try and be good to one another and yourself. Here’s hoping 2022 is a good year for all of you and that we have a lot to be thankful for when we flip the calendar.