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First Quarter of 2021 - Monday, May 3, 2021
Well, it's been a pretty eventful four months into 2021. We're still in the midst of a global pandemic, but places are starting to reopen and life is starting to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

So far, 44% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, with 31% fully vaccinated. In California and most other states, vaccination appointments are now available to anybody who wants them; I got my first dose last week. Daily infection rates in the US have been hovering around 50k, down from a high of 300k in January. Around the world, the situation is still more dire. Right now, India has it the worst with daily infections having ballooned to around 400k, and with only 9% of the population having had at least one dose of a vaccine and 2% fully vaccinated. Of course the western countries would get faster access to vaccines than the rest of the world. It's especially ironic that India is the world's largest producer of vaccines. The inequality is real, sometimes seemingly unreal, and visible. We have so many blessings living here that we must not take for granted.

One thing we're grateful for is the ability to attend church in-person with others again. Our church resumed in-person gatherings in February, and we've been meeting outdoors so as to not be limited by the capacity and singing restrictions for indoor services. Each family sits in their own socially-distant space in the parking lot and brings their own chairs, so there's a bit of setup involved each Sunday morning. We have to be there at the unbearably early hour of 9am for the morning service, and 8am on days when we help with worship, but I don't have a good excuse to not be waking up early anyway. The livestream (which we still have) is so much more convenient, but there's no substitute for meeting in person. Sometimes it feels like a drag to get myself there, but I know it's a good thing.

As for the two of us, Priscilla and I took a short trip at the end of March to hike at Pinnacles National Park, California's newest national park and the closest one to the Bay Area. We visited on a Monday, and we ran into a fair number of people but not a lot of people. Because I underestimate trail distance and difficulty, we ended up hiking for 8 hours and did nearly 14 miles over 4,000 feet of elevation, which included going a good ways up the side of a hill where there was no marked trail (I saw a sign saying there was a vista point and I thought it was at the top of the hill, but it was actually refering to an observation spot nearby which didn't register in my mind as an actual spot with a view). Priscilla was extremely tired through the latter third of the hike, but she very graciously put up with me.

I really enjoyed the relative solitude of Pinnacles, seeing a few condors on the Condor Gulch Trail, and visiting the scenic reservoir towards the end of the day (I ran there while Priscilla hiked back to the car). Because of COVID, the two caves at Pinnacles were closed - quite a bummer since they're supposedly awesome to visit. Hopefully we'll be able to visit again when the caves are open, and I'm sure that the hike will be better planned the next time around...

So during that trip, we stayed overnight in Hollister, which is a 30-mile drive to Pinnacles. This allowed us to save some money (hotels near Pinnacles are pricey) but still be able to get to the park early-ish without having to drive too far. On the way to Hollister, we visited the Gilroy Ostrich Farm, which Priscilla particularly enjoyed, and Casa de Fruta, where we didn't buy anything and spent more time walking around outside than looking at goods inside the shop. After Pinnacles, we ate at Carpo's Restaurant and stayed overnight in Capitola (Soquel, technically) and walked around Capitola and the beach the next day. The coolest part there was walking along the old railroad trestle (the rail line is no longer active, so no chance of getting flattened by a train) high above across Soquel Creek. This trip was our first since the start of the pandemic where we stayed in a hotel (wow!).

Then at the end of April, we drove down to LA to see family. We hadn't seen them since Thanksgiving; we didn't visit during Christmas because of the increased travel restrictions at that time. Our visit was pretty low-key, but it was good to see everyone, and Aaron's kids are a little older and the older one seems slightly more comfortable with me now and couldn't stop pointing out what color everything is. It's pretty cool (and a big relief!) to see her opening up, because before she would always just stare blankly at me, not wanting to engage.

Finally, Priscilla will be going through a career transition soon. She and her coworkers have been having a rough time due to the new CFO who's been difficult to work with. Priscilla was experiencing a lot of stress that was taking a toll on her mental health. Finally, she asked to work from home until the company found a replacement, after which she would leave. For reasons, her last day was supposed to be last Friday, but the new person hasn't started yet, so the company asked Priscilla to continue working another two weeks, which she agreed to because she knows how overloaded her team is. After she leaves, she wants to learn about self-employment and will be going down to LA for 10 days to help her parents sort out their finances, which they will pay her for - they gift her money every year anyway, but she wants to use this as a way to make self-employed contributions into a 401k. Later, she's planning to find a job with another company, ideally part-time and remote. It'll be good to see her more and for her to have more time to help me with things around the house that I don't have time for. Her sleep cycle got really messed up due to the stress she was experiencing, and she still can't help but wake up at 3:30am many days, but she's had more free time as a result and has been using her time more fruitfully.

I too need to better learn to carve out time for the things that matter. I think the pandemic has made me better in this area, but I'm still very much a work in progress. You never know how life is going to go or what day is going to be your last. If there's one thing that this time has taught me, it's that life is a gift and should not be squandered. As our modern-day millennial philosophers so eloquently put it, YOLO.
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