– Ben Martens

2020 Year in Review

Some years I start off this “year in review” post and wonder what I’ll say. This year I start it off wondering how I can write it without diving into all the emotions around the global pandemic that knocked us upside the head. In the beginning, we didn’t know what the virus was, how deadly it was, how it spread, or what preventative measures helped. Much of that got figured out but then it became a communication problem. A vaccine was created unbelievably quickly and it looks like the light at the end of the tunnel but there’s still a lot of tunnel left. It feels like the next couple months could be horribly bad with the spike from people celebrating Christmas and all the other factors that are already contributing to the body count. And there we go, it only took a few sentences and I’m getting sucked in. I’ll leave the wrapup of that stuff to Bill Gates who wrote an excellent post about things to be hopeful for in 2021 and what we can learn from 2020.

Let’s back up a bit. Back in February, I had an amazing adventure (business trip) to Israel. The main purpose was to visit a team that I work with closely and spend time on their turf. That created some strong relationships and partnerships that have been incredibly useful and enjoyable. But beyond that, it was my first time really being out of the country (not counting Canada and Caribbean cruises). On top of that, I got to spend a day walking around Jerusalem. That day plays through my mind on a regular basis. I want to go back and see more of the Biblical sites. While we know the city has changed a lot since Bible times, it’s a lot closer than anything I see around Woodinville. It’s neat to read the Bible with those pictures in my head.

That trip was happening just as the first COVID cases were hitting our area and the first Paris case happened on the day we flew through. On the flight from JFK to Seattle, I sat next to a guy wearing a mask, coughing like mad and downing prescription meds. At the time I thought, “Eh oh well, who knows what he has but hopefully I won’t get it.” Now that situation is the stuff of nightmares!

Work has been very good to me. We were one of the first companies to send everyone home and we’ll be one of the last ones back in the office (current estimate is July 2021.) It took a while to adjust to this but I think a lot of us are realizing that it’s pretty great. I don’t spend ~1.5 hours a day sitting in traffic, I save money on gas and I get to spend more time with my family. Now I wake up and wonder why I’m living in a subdivision when I could be doing this job from anywhere with high speed internet. It’s hard to imagine moving and starting over on all the home improvement projects but it’s getting more and more tempting to move somewhere with a little more land whether that’s 5 acres around here or 50 acres in Montana or Wyoming.

Elijah’s school closed down pretty shortly after I started working from home. Thank goodness that Tyla is a trained teacher because she did a great (and difficult) job helping him to finish off first grade. Schooling from home is going to change the scholastic course of a lot of kids, but for Elijah, so far I’d say that it has been a good thing. We put a strong focus on reading and kudos to him because his reading skill level has skyrocketed. Second grade has been mostly in person with lots of rules to avoid spreading COVID and all that extra reading work has been paying off. He loves math and with his solid reading skills, the other classes are going smoothly too.

The lockdown wiped our calendar clean but we tried to fill it up with more family activities. Here’s at least a partial list of the parks that we visited: Langus Riverfront Park, Tahoma National Cemetery, Brickyard Road Park, Lake Easton State Park, Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, Saint Edward State Park, 60 Acres Park, Flaming Geyser Park, Hyak Sno-Park, Marina Beach Park, Lord Hill Park, Seaquest State Park, Rasar State Park, Deception Pass State Park. Many of those were in the rain or very early in the morning to avoid crowds but it was fun to explore. We even got in a couple camping trips.

Early on in the lockdown, I struggled listening to the internetz talk about how bored they were and how they couldn’t find anything to fill their time. I dream of empty time that I can fill with hobbies like woodworking but even with cutting out my commute time, I felt stretched very thin. Work was extremely busy as we worked hard to find extra capacity for everyone who was ramping up their online presence and also provide extra support for all the research teams who were fighting the virus. Before the lockdown hit, I made some coasters for Elijah’s school fundraiser, but the major project was the chest of drawers. That took me an enormous amount of time and it’s still not quite done because I’m working on smell issues with the finish that I used, but I’m happy to be moving on to other projects.

My time has also been filled up with a lot of work for church. Pastor, the organists and I have been working together to pump out online church services every week. I had intended to learn Davinci Resolve to step up my editing game so when these church services popped up, I dove in. It was a very steep learning curve but I’m so glad that I learned it. Pastor and I have been having some editing fun with a few of the children’s sermons like the one on Pentecost when I made a flame appear over his head.

As an elder, I was (and still am) involved in a lot of difficult discussions about whether we should be having in-person services or not. Amidst all that, I tried to really pump up our online offerings beyond just the online services. We started doing member spotlights, sharing pumpkin carvings, posting Christmas music played by members, etc. I pray that it will play some small part in keeping our members close to God’s Word and that when we’ve able to safely worship together again, the church will be full.

One of the other changes from this year just climbed up the curtain: we got two cats! Tyla and I have spent years chatting about whether or not to get a pet and what kind of pet to get and we finally pulled decided to get two cats. We adopted them from a shelter in Stanwood and they have filled our house with joy and snuggles ever since.

So yes, it’s easy to focus on the negatives from this year, but hitting reset on our entire calendar had a lot of benefits to it too. My hope is that as we look back on this year, we’ll remember a lot of fun family times and how we got through it together.

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