This coming Saturday not only denotes the birth of Santa and Jesus, but yours truly as well. This will be my 45th Christmas skulking round these parts. The first was a but traumatic, but things have been on an upswing since.
It’s probably wise to take stock this time of year. Thinkin’ folks suggest there is value in such practices. I don’t trust much in wisdom, but it spares us all from another blog post ranting about parking. So here goes.
I know the world mostly hated 2021, I can’t help but feel like it was pretty dope. I am not sorry my experience didn’t line up with consensus. I recognize that learning the Greek alphabet by way of mutations and variants is not ideal and did we really need another Tom Brady Super Bowl victory? Enough pal, give it a rest already.
Some good things happened. Taylor Swift continued to bring joy into my life. Baseball stadiums filled up again last spring, except for the Pirates. Our kids went off to school in August and have managed to remain there! Ted Lasso, live concerts, dine-in restaurants, community events, The French Dispatch. 2021 wasn’t so bad.
I am grateful for a sublime year and appreciate everyone that made it possible. Thank you to the kind people of Hammond, Louisiana, and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for inviting me in to your communities. I won’t soon forget my two hour midnight Uber ride out of the New Orleans airport where I witnessed a young man, who also happened to be my driver, consume an unfathomable amount of marijuana. Thanks to the Louisiana Main Street Program, Florida Main Street Program and Oklahoma Main Street Program for bringing me to your state. Thank you to the Virginia and Alabama Main Street Programs for asking me to host virtual trainings. Thank you to the Community Heart & Soul organization for having me on as a coach and for Beaver Falls, Tideoute, Rochester and Youngsville for having me as your coach. Thanks to Ben Muldrow and Joe Borgstrom for continuing the Downtown Happy Hour and finding a way to make drinking during the work day, socially acceptable.
2021 was an exceptional endeavor in so many ways. As I started writing this, it dawned on me that outside some heavy travel periods, I have written a new blog post nearly every week this year. I didn’t know it was possible to say the same thing 40 different ways, but the proof is in the posts. This year, I set out to write a book, a dream I have long felt impossible. As of today, I am just one chapter shy from being able to say I did it. Anyone have any publisher contacts out there? Seriously.
I had the chance to work with some of the most inspiring people as well. People across the country who put their whole hearts and minds into their work and are helping people live better lives because of it. Thanks Jaime, Bernice, Phil, Jen, Ryan, and Chet.
A bit of professional success afforded us some personal indulgences as well. After four cramped, and awkward years of our family of six sharing a one bathroom rental, we were able to buy a place in the neighborhood. Now we are rich in toilets! We got a tip from a neighbor in January that a house a couple blocks away was likely coming available. We left a note on the door and completely forgot about it. Two months later, we get a call and to have the chance to tour the place. Holy shit. The house looked like Game of Thrones had a baby with flower patterned doily. It was far more of a project than we anticipated, but in the end, we realized we had on obligation to preserve this eccentric house that found its way to us. A million pieces had to fall into place for this all to work out, so we set our intentions, remained optimistic, paid little attention to the obstacles and in June, we become just the third owners of this home since it was constructed in 1937. It’s perfect.
While wiser folks remained home, we fulfilled some travel desires. We took the kids to Puerto Rico in late winter and showed them firsthand that culture exists outside of Pittsburgh. Nothing makes me feel more fortunate than having the opportunity to show our children what life is like outside of our bubble.
We took a family trip to the Thousand Islands in July. One island with 20 members of the Siegler family must be against some sort of code, or at the very least, is in poor taste. My daughter’s first venture into another country just so happened to be when she was driving the boat and illegally crossed over into Canada when they were on lockdown. We are fortunate to have a big, loud, loving family and we all enjoy each other so much. I think my favorite day of the year was the Sunday we played Thousand Island Olympics and three generations competed in a full day of island contests including bocce, corn hole, volleyball, basketball and tennis.
In September, Amber and I took advantage of the pandemic discounts and got a couple of tickets to Paris. We had talked of visiting since we were wed and couldn’t pass up the cheap fares. We spent two weekends in Paris, a couple days biking down the Loire River and a few more touring about Normandy. Not only is my wife the perfect travel partner, but France was the ideal destination. Wine, walkable streets, cheese, public transportation, pâté, no Dollar General, oh my! Spending time in France solidified some long lingering thoughts. More than anything though, we left with an understanding of what it feels like to experience a place that prioritizes people. We realized that our own country could easily model European cities and elevate the pedestrian experience, but chooses not to. For all I read and watch on the subject, it’s hard to fathom until you experience a place in person. Truly, place has the power to transform our lives. It was the adventure of a lifetime.
Of the embarrassment of good fortune I experienced throughout 2021, the thing I am most thankful for, was the opportunity to do what I love and getting the chance to make a difference. Thank you to all the people that have emailed me kind messages throughout this year. Thanks for everyone for following my work and sharing my posts and idiotic memes. Thank you Joyce in Union Springs for letting me know how my words had made a difference to your town this holiday season. For all the fun I have had, nothing compares to learning that Revitalize, or Die.’s message is making a difference.
My most sincere appreciation to all of you that have afforded me the chance to follow my life’s passion. Thank you for reading, sharing, hiring, following, complaining, spell checking, angrily commenting and being a part of this. I am thankful to have shared my year with you and I hope you all have the most happy of holiday seasons.