Y2K + 20

I have made a habit of posting on December 31, if for no other reason to ensure that I've posted at least yearly on this blog since 2001. I found an old post titled "Y2K + 10" that I wrote 10 years ago, so the logical title for this post must be "Y2K + 20." I only have a few hours before the year, and the decade, comes to a close, so I'll try to pick a highlight from each month to show what I'll remember most from 2019.


Midwinter skies from the new apartment
A year ago I was closing the door on my old apartment at CU Boulder, bringing to a final close my long tenure there as a graduate student. And what a wonderful tenure it was! That meant I spent a lot of January trying to get settled into a new apartment. In hindsight, it's been a really good move for me. I do miss aspects of Boulder, but I have a more comfortable living space here and it's cut my commute by about 15 minutes.


I was on the road quite a bit for work in February, something that's continued throughout the year. There was a computer science meeting in Idaho Springs, an item writing workshop for our state standardized tests, a board meeting for our math teachers professional organization, a day delivering professional development in Colorado Springs, a two-day performance assessment workshop, and a two-day math conference. None required me to travel very far, but it was far enough to keep me out of the office more than I was in it.


One last family photo
My father had been diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2018 and the doctors had given him about 6 months. His grand plan was to sell the house and move to Colorado so that mom would be near my sister and me after he was gone. After about four months, a horrible Iowa winter, and the effects of cancer and chemotherapy, my parents' progress towards getting moved did not look good. I took time off towards the end of the month to make a trip to Iowa with my sister to help them organize and pack. Ever try to move someone out of a house they've lived in for 50+ years? It's a lot of work. With a lot of help from friends and family, we packed a big trailer and pulled it to Colorado. I did most of the driving with dad in the passenger seat and his brother and my sister sitting behind us. Dad wasn't in great shape to travel, but as we went I could see how this wasn't just a moving job, it was a chance to take one last road trip with his little brother and his kids.


San Diego
I began April in San Diego, where I spent nine days attending and presenting at math education conferences. I thought I was going to have to leave mid-trip when dad's health took a bad turn, but thankfully I was able to complete the trip as planned. I don't get to attend all the math conferences I'd like, but this big week-plus string of conferences each spring has done so much for me personally and professionally, as it gives me time to meet new people, catch up with old friends and colleagues, and get exposed to a lot of new ideas.

I got home from San Diego late on a Saturday only to get back on a plane and fly to Iowa for another three days to pack and bring a not-quite-final load of stuff to Colorado. Dad was on some pretty serious painkillers at this point and it was clear that he wasn't going to get any better, but he and my mom did finally say goodbye to the house and move to an apartment near my sister. I had two days of work between that trip before flying to Chicago for a Cubs game, courtesy a kind member of my dissertation committee who got me tickets as a gift. I really didn't need the extra travel, but I wasn't going to turn down a trip to Wrigley.


Goodbye, 330 Jason. Goodbye, dad.
Despite our best efforts, there still remained some things left in the house in Iowa and it had been sold, so my sister and I drove to Iowa and back over a three-day weekend at the start of the month to empty the last bits out. Saying goodbye to the house that we grew up in was really sad for both of us. Dad started receiving hospice care, which was a great help for mom, but also a sign that the end for my dad was near. I stayed busy the first full week of May, with visits to an elementary school, my graduation ceremony, and Math Day at a Colorado Rockies game that I helped with. The whole family gathered together for Mother's Day on the 12th, and just as we finished breakfast and a hospice worker showed up, dad died. I took the next week off and spent a lot of time with mom as we wrote dad's obituary and made arrangements for his cremation.


June started with a two-day trip to Rocky Ford to deliver professional development to teachers in that part of the state. The rest of the month was relatively quiet, and my schedule finally freed up enough to spend quality time on my bicycle. And in the absence of quality time, I put miles in biking home from work along the South Platte River (which totally stinks next to the sewage treatment plant and other industrial areas), Clear Creek, and the Highway 36 Bikeway.


Hot air balloons over Indianola on RAGBRAI
I headed to Iowa again, this time for RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. I was undertrained compared to prior years, but this was going to be my 5th trip pedaling across the state and getting from one side to the other was not much of a concern. I enjoyed RAGBRAI -- don't get me wrong -- but by the end of this one I couldn't help but think that the ride, for me, had gotten a little routine. I love the daily routine of the ride: wake, pack, ride, eat, ride, eat, ride, unpack and set up camp, shower, eat, relax, sleep. But somehow the experience as a whole felt routine, and I decided the problem wasn't RAGBRAI, it was me, and I needed to expand my cycling horizons to include more new places and new experiences.


Colorado National Monument
Right after RAGBRAI, I came home to do a morning of professional development in Douglas County, a day and half of presenting and volunteering at our state math teachers' conference, and then traveled to Grand Junction to present at another conference. Although I was tired from the travel, I threw my bike in my car so I could take an extra day to ride Colorado National Monument. It was spectacular! For one, my fitness was quite good with 500 RAGBRAI miles in my legs, and two, the landscape was like nothing I'd cycled through before. This was the break from the routine that I'd been missing, and now I wanted to find more events and places to ride, which was a lot different from previous years where I'd come home from RAGBRAI and was happy to set my bike aside for a while.


Pedal the Plains
My next cycling adventure was the Buffalo Bicycle Classic, a local scholarship fundraiser organized by CU Boulder. I was well aware of the ride from seeing signs and riders in previous years, but I'd never actually participated. My thinking was, why pay to ride the same roads I ride all the time for free? Answer: Traffic control and aid stations! I was feeling fit so I went big and registered for the "Buff Epic," a 100-mile ride up into the mountains with 7800 feet of climbing. It was hard, but great. I'm certainly not the fastest going uphill, but it turns out that I'm not the slowest, either, and with enough training and proper fueling I can ride something like this and stay well within my comfort zone. The Buff Epic was great preparation for Pedal the Plains, a three-day ride the following weekend. This year PtP was held in southeast Colorado with overnight stops in Lamar, Holly, and Springfield. The middle day was century day and I mentally prepared myself for the heat and the headwinds. What I didn't realize was that, unlike the previous weekend's ride up and down the mountains, when you're on the flatlands of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, you have no hills to coast down and you have to pedal the entire time. Combine those conditions, and I do think it was harder than the Buff Epic, and the dozens and dozens of bikes and riders that had to be hauled in by the sag wagon suggested as much. But I made it without incident (unless needing to drink over two gallons of fluid over 10 hours is an incident), and was rewarded on the last day by tailwinds and almost 25 mph average speeds. Fun!


I spent a lot of October in the office and weekends off the bike after somehow aggravating a knee. At the end of the month I made a week-long trip to southwest Colorado to visit three different school districts. It was hugely informative for me, and I hope the advice I was able to give while I was there is serving those districts well.


Sister and dad, from before my time
I started November finishing my SW Colorado trip, spent a lot of time in the office in the middle of the month, and finished it with four days off for Thanksgiving. I got to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, something I had done the first few years I moved to Colorado and bought a house, but I wasn't able to do in my tiny Boulder apartment. I started a major project to scan and catalog all of my parents' photos. I have no idea how long that will take, but as I know from my own photos, it's worth the effort to preserve them and make them easily shareable.

Oh, and I reached my goal of paying off all my student loans within one year of my Ph.D. dissertation defense. I'm not sure which one feels like the greater accomplishment.


This month included a lot of routine days in the office and an extended amount of time off between Christmas Eve and New Year's. The downtime has been nice. But even with this blog post, and the family photo scanning I've been doing on nights and weekends, I think I finish this year (and decade) looking forward more than I do looking back. What new people and places will come my way in 2020? Time will only tell, but with school behind me, debts behind me, and a steady and rewarding career, I think it's time to think about new challenges. I squeezed a lot into 2019, some of it happy, some of it sad, but all of it just part of being human. 2020 could be much the same, but I'm ready to make it better. I'm in pretty good health (and about 10 pounds lighter than I was a decade ago), but I want to stay more active more consistently. I have pretty good personal relationships, but it's time to think about expanding my social circle and deepening some of those connections. I'm in a pretty good financial situation, and I look forward to being able to save more in the new year. A lot of good things could come in 2020, and if recent history is a guide, you may see me back here a year from now making sense of how it all turned out.

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