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A positive look back at 2021 and a hopes for an exciting 2022

A year of milestones and first times!

It seemed like 2021 started in the vaccination line or at least anticipating it. It was awe inspiring to see FEMA turn Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan into a vaccination center. Having the U.S. Space Force sign me in for my shot, while a member of the military administered it was surreal. Much of 2021 felt surreal. When we gathered for the 4th of July with family, it was special, yet overwhelming. Eating pizza in the backyard with a few friends seemed fantastical. It seemed magical watching the kids hunt for Easter Eggs. Plenty of negative things happened in 2021, but those can be put on hold for another post.

Welcoming a new family member

My niece, Ottilia was born in February, and it too was surreal wearing masks when we visited. What a joy it was to see her unmasked for the first time for Father’s Day. She has grown so much – she started walking right before Christmas.

Cycling through 2021

Andrea, my partner, decided she wanted bicycles so we could ride with my daughter. I hadn’t rode a bike since I was 16. The joy of riding a bike seemed as palpable as the first time. More magical as my daughter trailed behind with her training wheels. Two months later she was riding without them. Then a month after that she was biking the trails. It’s cliche, but it’s truly fantastic how fast they learn and grow.

Cycling is the exercise I can embrace happily. There is mostly joy alongside the pain. It’s introspective, adventurous and in the process I ended up losing 40lbs. There were three trails I completed over the course of 2021. The Clinton River Trail, Paint Creek Trail and the Macomb Orchard County Trail which stretched 23.5 miles. I never imagined being able to bike 23.5 miles through multiple cities. Seeing orchards, cider mills and even a part of the Underground Railroad. During this process I was able to submit my first record to the Michigan Herp Atlas, my first freelance project since 2017.

Kid under an overpass with chalk art Bike on a highway overpass Adams Rd and Clinton River Trail City of Richmond Entry from Clinton River Trail Farm house on orchard county trail Kayak launch clinton river trail

No gain without pain

I forwent treatment for rotator cuff tendinitis during the first wave of the pandemic. 2021 was a time for healing that with physical therapy, and while it’s not perfect, I’ve made good progress. Also, while pushing myself with cycling I ran into some medical issues that felt negative at the time, but ended up making me feel more comfortable with my doctor. This enabled me to be more proactive with my health. I will elaborate on that more at another time, but I felt for the first time I didn’t have to have a buildup of anxiety around visiting the doctor.

LaRose Family Pizza

My family and I spent much of 2020 delivering homemade pizzas during the pandemic. For Christmas 2020, my friend decided to get me an Ooni Pizza Oven. What an incredible gift. It was on back-order and delivered at the end of March, 2021. What an epic feeling it was to make a naturally leavened Neapolitan pizza for the first time. I’d say half of 2021 was perfecting and experimenting with pizza, and it’s become quite a family tradition.

Pizza with Pea Shoots Margehrita Pizza Cheese Pizza Chris holding a uncooked pizza on a pizza peel

My Dad’s mini-album, Picture Elsewhere by Tawas, was recorded and released during the pandemic.

My Dad started Tawas when I moved back down-state after finishing school at NMU. These are musical vignettes and ideas he always wanted to record, but never had the means to. It’s always fun building these ideas into something that holds so much meaning. Not only the memory of recording the songs with him, but knowing that a dream of his is being realized. You can hear Tawas, MI here and here.

Picture Elsewhere by Tawas
I bought a Grandmother

I don’t know what happened, but amidst Delta’s arrival, I decided to realize my dream of owning a Moog Synthesizer. I applied for a credit card (very irresponsible considering my partner was still unemployed). Little did I know it would be called the Grandmother, a monophonic modular synthesizer that, because of its design, has taught me so much about how synthesizers work. It encouraged me to learn more about music theory and I was able to create a series of vignettes for this year’s Mocktober entry. It’s been a lot of fun and I am eager to get back to playing it at some point.

I decided my overall health was more important than avoiding a case of COVID

It seems selfish and counter intuitive, but I enrolled at a gym after my daughter became fully vaccinated. It was important to get enrolled because I started gaining the weight back I lost with cycling. No way I was going backwards this time. The gym is transparent and takes covid seriously. I have been able to go when no more than a person or two is there. While it’s not as engaging or as fun as cycling I now feel like I am building onto something. I will be able to travel faster and further when the cycling season resumes. This cycling season had soooo many weather events and having the gym to fall back on will be wonderful to make 2022 a transformative year for me.

My favorite albums of 2021

I feel like 2020 was the year of nostalgic listening. A lot of new music that came out in 2020 ended up getting more of my attention in 2021. I was making this list and over half the albums were released in 2020, which surprised me. So I’ve split this list out into my top albums released in 2021 and then the albums from 2020 that I spent a ton of time listening to.

Low Hey What Cover

Low: Hey What

This album surprised me. It’s a blanket of sound both cathartic and meditative. It’s tough to explain. It’s like the album captures the liminal space many of us experienced throughout 2021 and communicated it through music. It’s worth a listen if you like atmospheric and experimental music.

Cassandra Jenkins

Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

The song that captured my attention on the album was Michelangelo, but Hard Drive ended up being the song I listened to the most in 2021. It captured a feeling I find hard to explain. The album is best in its entirety, but if you had to listen to one track I think Michelangelo will perk your interest with the track Hard Drive being something you mull over in your mind over and over.

Little Simz

Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

The NPR performance blew my mind. It felt immediate. It captured the moment and its universality. I felt as excited listening to her as I did when I heard the Roots and Saul Williams for the first time. It managed to be both epic and intimate at the same time. Watch the NPR performance and if not that, give the track Introvert your attention.

Bachelor - 'Doomin Sun' - Album Art

Bachelor: Doomin’ Sun

I love this style of music. If I was in a rock band this is the type of sound I’d want to capture. The content matter captures the uncertainty of love and falling for someone who isn’t going to love you back or even worse devour you. I can’t help but think of the line from the Perks of Being a Wallflower, “we accept the love we think we deserve”. It’s an album hope and hopelessness with a fraught tension. It’s a pleasure hearing these two voices rock so confidently from the speaker. I’d rock Stay in the Car first and go from there.


Deafheaven: Infinite Granite

My dad was lamenting about the lack of good rock music. This being both a little bit of man-freeze and a little bit due to his lack of technology. I was like bruh, hold my beer, and we listened to this album as loud as my speakers would go. We were both satisfied – he got his rock and roll and I got to prove my point. I do miss going to record stores with my dad and checking out the wall of recommendations or buying music solely on the album cover. I miss the time you had to dedicate to those choices. Our attention spans for music has definitely changed, but I use those moments to remember to listen to the album 2 or 3 times. If I love it I buy it. To see what this album is about I’d give In Blur a listen.
Sidenote: This Christmas I got him a bluetooth speaker and set up Pandora with an old iPad for him

Lucy Dacus: Home Video

Lucy Dacus: Home Video

This was my most anticipated album of the year. Dacus crafts her own nostalgia and introspection into intimate and anthemic songs. The album encourages me to address my own memories as they flood back alongside hers. In a time where grappling with memory plays out like both pillow and cage fight its nice to be in the ring with Dacus. If you wanted to get hooked with one track I’d suggest Hot and Heavy.

Other great music in 2021 and from 2020

Billy Strings new album Renewal is great, but I haven’t listened more than three times yet. More than likely I would have elaborated more if I did. The new Billie Eilish, Tyler the Creator, Madlib, Jeff Rosenstock, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis all had outstanding albums. And there are plenty more I just haven’t taken the time with yet like Adele and Jasmine Sullivan’s new albums.

Albums that carried over from 2020 were Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, Haim, Adrien Lenker, Vince Staples and Big Thief.

The Herp Atlas

This was a fun project that launched in May. It felt like a breath of fresh air from the typical work I do. A non-profit with a mission I could really get behind. You can check out the project here, but while it was stressful doing this freelance project it also felt like the right thing to do.

Reconnecting with an old friend

I was able to reconnect with an old friend over Facebook and talk about music and fatherhood with them. It left an impression on me, but also that I need to do more to stay in contact with people I care about. My daughter not being able to be vaccinated until the end of the year restricted some of our choices, but I look forward to 2022 and the relationships we can restrike and invest our love into. One of the tracks he shared with me was Goodnight Moon, the story book, interpreted by a choir.

Watching my partner conquer her migraines and shift career paths

My wife started taking a medicine that caused her suicidal thoughts. It was a startling life event that culminated a stressful year. It all unfolded during a very stressful point of the year. It was scary enough that she decided to treat her migraines without medicine. Upon doing research she found that tiramine was causing massive migraines for a lot of people. We altered our diets significantly and while there was not immediate results. A month later she went from 24 migraines a month to 4-6 migraines. Now she has on average 2-3 migraines a month, oftentimes she can attribute them to deviations from her diet. Once she kicked the migraines she was able to get off her blood pressure medication. It’s been a big year for health in this family. We’ve sunk a lot of time into it, but we’ve been rewarded too. During all of this she also did some soul searching to figure out what she wanted to do in this next phase of her career after losing her job due to COVID upheaval. She is at an interview as I am writing this

Andrea holding weird carrots

Building a portfolio

It’s been 10 years since I started at Elegant Seagulls and 8 years since I graduated from NMU. The last time I touched my portfolio was 8 years ago in preparation of moving closer to home.

At the time I developed my portfolio, I didn’t know that Elegant Seagulls would offer me the ability to work remote for them. And here I am, a decade later, rockin’ it at Elegant Seagulls.

It is also important for me to have a place to write about my own experiences, for my daughter and myself to look back on. Reading what you’ve written in the past is always uncomfortable and awkward, but it’s a sign of change and personal growth. It’s important to embrace it.

At Seagulls, I’ve developed and designed less and less over the years. Instead, I’ve been maintaining top client accounts and focusing on the UX & Strategy for new clients.

It has been great designing and building from scratch again. I am proud of what I have accomplished and I’m excited to see what I can build next in my free time.

Cheers to 2021

This year had its ups and a downs for everyone. Read about our ER visit here and my experience with imposter syndrome here. I hope you weathered 2021 as best you could. I feel like 2022 should be different and I look forward to reading this then.