December 5, 2023

You’ll hear lots of folks curse 2021, just as they did 2020, just as they do every year.

“Good riddance!” they’ll say.

I don’t get that.

It’s worth reflection and a somber remembrance to honor those we’ve lost in 2021, especially to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to offer positive thoughts toward those who are struggling with it, whether it be with the pandemic itself, mental health, addiction, poor health, poverty, you name it.

It’s important to be respectful.

But I’m grateful for the experiences I had in 2021, the memories my family and I created. I’m grateful for the work, the industry I’m in (journalism), for sports, travels, fancy dinners, nights out with my wife. Grilling, swimming, every new town. Every year is like a mini life unto itself, comprised of 365 days. Each year we try to create for ourselves the best movie possible.

And that year for us unfortunately started with COVID-19. My wife and I started to feel sick on New Year’s Eve night. We ushered in the new year with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen and then, oddly, with Don Lemon wearing silk pajamas on CNN. We were very fortunate in our bout with COVID-19, but it was scary.

At work, we debuted a 9 a.m. newscast. Many of us were still work from home at this point. Kristi and I were doing our best to support our favorite local restaurants ordering curbside as often as we could. For what it’s worth, I don’t mind working from home. It’s a nice respite and provides an opportunity to go heads-down and get some work done. But the heartbeat of journalism starts in a newsroom, and it’s impossible to replicate that energy.

In February, we bought a wine refrigerator (we’re amateurs but learning) and then it snowed. A lot. More than any year in Oklahoma since 2011.

The electricity usage was so heavy in Oklahoma that the powers who be (Southwest Power Pool) had to ration power. We had rolling blackouts in Oklahoma for a couple of days, which was a weird experience. I know this is a regular thing for folks in California, but it caused Oklahomans quite a bit of anxiety.

In March, we visited Kristi’s Grandma Mary to celebrate her 90th birthday, a pre-spring trip to Sutherlin, Oregon, south of Portland. We spent an afternoon in Corvallis and toured Oregon State University. We spent a little time in Oakland, Oregon, at a cool thrift store that has a painting I may try to purchase this year if it’s still available. We spent a lot of time with family, and I got to meet some awesome people. We also went to the beach, an Oregon beach but during winter. It was mighty cold! But it’s a beach, and that made it all good. It made me crave chowder.

Baseball resumed in April, and Kristi and I paid our first visit to the new Texas Rangers stadium, Globe Life Field. It didn’t take us long to figure out why the club decided on a new home. It wasn’t so much the stadium itself. It was all the buildings and the neighborhood they’re building. It reminded me some of what Atlanta did with the Braves’ park albeit not quite there yet.

The most underrated part of this weekender was our morning and lunch in Fort Worth, Texas’ most underrated city. It was a beautiful day, and hardly anybody was out.

March and April also gave us our first and second COVID vaccines, as well as my first of two emergency room trips for the year. A pinched nerve or something in my neck reduced my neck mobility to virtually zero. Some steroids and pain meds, and I was good to go in a week. I get the concern about the neck, but that shouldn’t have had to require an $1,800 ER trip. Emergency rooms: don’t get me started.

And then in May, Kristi went to New York for work and I tagged along. This was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and I loved sharing it with my wife. We stayed in the East Village, and I mostly had weekdays to myself. On one of those days, I decided to walk across half of Manhattan into Brooklyn even.

Energized perhaps by the walk all the way to Brooklyn, I decided to lunch up and walk all the way to Times Square. I was a wee bit tired at the end of the day but made it back to our hotel in the East Village in one piece. And I did get to walk past the New York Times, which was most definitely a bucket list item.

But if I’m being honest, my favorite part of the trip was the rainy weekend we spent together. Kristi and I went to Macy’s on an afternoon where there was a shooting in Times Square. Of course, there’s nothing ‘favorite’ about that part of it, but I got to follow along with the news coverage of that event via WABC’s Naveen Dhaliwal, with whom I worked at KOCO in Oklahoma City many years before. One of my favorite people, and she did a tremendous job on a very tense afternoon.

Being in Macy’s, the energy, the gray, rainy vibe outside. Going to Katz’s Delicatessen afterward. Chef’s kiss, perfect. It’s what you imagine about being in New York City. I’m going to write more about the details of our ’21 NYC trip, so I don’t want to give it all away here eight months after the fact. I’m not exactly blogging with urgency, right? However, the next day, Kristi needed to work and so I joined her on the 21st floor of the hotel where we stayed. There was this work area with an incredible view of the city.

It was rainy. We ordered dim sum. It was glorious. We were there all day. We had the floor to ourselves. Nobody from the hotel even bothered to come up. It’s like we owned the place.

I’ve been to New York City five times now, and this trip was by a mile my favorite.

Our start-of-summer vacation this year again was Gulf Shores, Alabama. But this year we made a stop in Laurel, Mississippi, home of HGTV’s “Home Town.” I’ve already written about that, but I have yet to write about our stop in Tuscaloosa, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Soon!

We got some beach time, and it was glorious. Southern, coastal Alabama is pretty much heaven. Also, we got to see one of our favorite singer-songwriters while we were there, just on the Florida side of the Flora-Bama line. Here’s a link to Christina Christian’s website.

The rest of the summer was filled with grilling, swimming, baseball, even played my first round of golf ever. What I’ll say about that: it’s way more exercise than I gave it credit for. In early August, we got to spend some time with family at ‘The Gathering Place’ in Tulsa, and it was my first experience at one of America’s newest, neatest locales. Absolutely worth a day trip if you’ve got kiddos.

Football returned, and Kristi and I both played fantasy football.

There were a couple of dinners, a fancy event at OU to honor some distinguished Oklahoma journalists, little adventures here and there. But mostly we stayed close to home this fall with an eye on a couple big trips in 2022. Our year started with COVID and our own battle with it, and it ended with the loss of a loved one — incredibly tough.

But in between, I think we created a pretty good year for ourselves. Lots of great memories. Always an adventure of some kind happening.

Onward to 2022!

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