Hope everyone is staying healthy and doing the best they can. It feels like almost everyone is struggling right now, so take it easy on yourself (and others).
For the last few years, I’ve spent time in the new year reflecting on the prior year and selecting a favorite photo from each month.
I’m a bit late doing that this year as I was under the weather for most of January 2022 — a flu followed quickly by COVID. Feeling much better now and catching up on everything.
2021 as a whole was filled with ups and downs. Losing Gizmo and Tessa was awful, and watching their health deteriorate was perhaps the worst part of the experience. Jan-Apr was especially difficult as much of Berlin/Germany was closed. Paige and I felt (like everyone) isolated.
But, there was also a lot of joy and positives in the year. We spent more time outside than ever before. We were able to get back to the US for the first time in 18 months to see our loved ones. And some friends and family were able to make it to Europe! It was a relief to see people we love on our continent and remember at some point — hopefully — these visits will begin happening more regularly.
Paige got into grad school and left a job she didn’t enjoy. Her program is demanding, and she’s working incredibly hard. She really likes her cohort, and she’s continually pushing herself out of her comfort zone. These photos are of Paige — in disbelief — reading the email that she was accepted into grad school.
We spent three weeks in Western Germany so that Tessa could get a specialized cancer treatment that would reduce her pain and increase her mobility. While we know that the treatment was difficult for her at times, it really improved the last few months of her life. And we also made the most of our time outside of Berlin, exploring smaller towns in a part of Germany we had never planned to visit.
I am very proud of some of the work that I did in 2021; it’s been a high point in my career. I ended the year genuinely loving the people and organizations I work with.
Finally, we also got some travel in for ourselves. The last two years have been an adjustment as part of why we moved overseas was to explore. So it was nice to hop on a train and go somewhere new. It gave us hope for a future when that will be safer and easier.
Below is my favorite photo or video from each month and an explanation! I cheated a few times with extra images.
The first thing I’ll always think about in 2021 is saying goodbye to Gizmo and Tessa, so it’s fitting that the year starts with this. January was remarkably cold in Berlin. So we began putting a blanket on Tessa after some of our walks in the cold/snow. Gizmo loved laying on this blanket and had no problem laying on Tessa.
Berlin had SO much snow. And Tessa loved it, as evidenced in this video.
At this point many businesses were closed in Berlin. Cafes, bars, and restaurants could only sell stuff to go. There were restrictions on alcohol sales at night. You were not supposed to meet with people outside of your home unit. This was hard for everyone, including those who rely on Berlin’s dance club scene for community and mental health.
Paige and I went on many long walks with Tessa on the weekends in the winter. We came across this group of former club-goers who wore headphones synched to the same dance music and just danced their way through the park on one of these walks. It was SO Berlin.
I AM TOTALLY CHEATING THIS MONTH. I flew back to the US in April. It was amazing to see family and friends in person. I’m also grateful for the friends who opened their backyards or met at parks.
Bonus cheating! I had to schedule a second trip back to the US in June. This allowed me to visit additional friends and see my family in Seattle. Everyone was fully vaxxed, so we were more comfortable standing close to one another.
There are many cherry blossom trees throughout Berlin. Due to the variety of trees, climate change, and the eccentricities of Berlin weather, the trees bloomed at very different times of the year in 2021. Some started popping in February. And these cherry blossoms were in full bloom in early May!
We spent late June and early July in Western Germany getting Tessa a specialized cancer treatment to reduce the size of a tumor on her hip.
The treatment was only available in a small town about a five hour car ride away from Berlin. They specialize in horses and dogs at this vet. We spent three weeks living and working from a small farm town near the vet’s office. On the weekends, we took advantage of having a rental car and explored some of Hesse’s smaller towns and cities.
I had trouble picking one photo, so here are three. The first was from the Gay Pride/Christopher Day Parade in Marburg. The second and third photos are from Bad Homburg.
I turned back to running as a helpful mental health coping mechanism in 2021. While staying in Hesse, I explored our little town and the villages nearby on runs. We were at the edge of farmland and forest. These photos illustrated that and were from the same run. And connect to one of my favorite parts of the year. I did A LOT of exploration while running. I spent more time running through parts of Berlin that I’d never been to. It was very enjoyable.
We began the month with a wonderful week in Vienna with dear friends visiting from CA. It was incredibly nice to spend more time with them and explore a city we had only spent two days in. We spent a lot of time waving at trains, exploring museums, and enjoying the food and coffee of Vienna.
Paige’s parents came to visit us in September. Their first trip was canceled in the spring of 2020, so we were overjoyed at their visit.
This is one of my favorite photos from the year as it captures Paige and her parents so well. Paige had just dropped off her final paperwork on the main university campus (not the one that Paige goes to…when she attends in-person); she was relieved (and nervous) to complete another step towards the transition back to being a student. Sue and Ralph were SO happy for her. And it was an excellent time for all of us to be together.
A few days after we said goodbye to Tessa, I wanted to get out of the house. Paige had just finished her work and was about to start school in two weeks. So we took advantage of this gap in our calendar and low Covid rates and spent a few days in Venice.
I had a hard time deciding what photo to use. While we have many more beautiful and touristy images, this one makes me smile. We had talked about going to Venice for eight years. We had planned trips there that were canceled due to Covid. We took a shuttle boat from the airport to Venice. As we walked to our hotel, I stopped Paige on the first bridge we crossed to take a celebratory selfie. We finally made it to Venice!
We spent the trip walking 10+ miles each day, seeing sights, and talking about how to handle all of the changes happening at once. In the prior two weeks, we moved to a new part of Berlin that we weren’t familiar with, Tessa was no longer with us, Paige was starting school, and I was starting a few new work projects. It was a fantastic trip and precisely what we mentally needed to reset and prepare for what was next.
Autumn came and went quickly this year. This photo is from a hike in the forest in the final days of autumn. It was the last weekend before the trees shed their leaves.
We spent the week before Christmas exploring Cologne and nearby towns. This photo was taken from the top of the Cologne Cathedral and captured the city, view, and Christmas Markets below. I enjoy Christmas markets and Cologne, Bonn, and Dusseldorf did not disappoint, but the market at the Cologne Cathedral may have been my favorite (from above and on the ground).
We hope 2022 allows for more time with loved ones and further adventures. Wishing you a healthy, happy, and joyful year.