2020 Retrospective: Merry Christmas!

2020 Retrospective: Merry Christmas!

I saw a tweet this morning from my nephew, Chris, about how this will be the first Christmas without his grampa, my father, Vitauts. That struck me and inspired me to write a holiday note. I didn’t want to send an email and spam people on Christmas. I wanted more than a Facebook post, so I decided to create a 2020 Retrospective in photos and such… a highlight reel of “Jeff’s 12 Things of 2020 that were Good”.

I hope you and yours are safe and sound. Peace on earth. Good will to all!



Looking back at the year, I saw that Karu bought me a used record for Christmas 2019. The record is a Yugoslavian band from way back called ABC… they would quickly become one of our favorites. We now have 3 of their catchy records with a combination of English, Russian and other language hits! 


Back Surgery and Recovery

After a year, it is almost hard to remember how I spent the first 3 months of 2020 standing up. I was much thinner. Maybe I should think about the standing-up, recovering from surgery heath plan for 2021.



2020 was the year we brought Hanna home from Bauska. I show her here with a photo of her mother because no one believes that she is 50% Jack Russell. She has become a central figure in all our lives, and despite my uncertainty, I am coming to believe that dogs are generally good creatures.

Saying Goodbye

This was the last time I saw my dad in person. He was in a retirement home that was locked down first because of regular seasonal flu, and then Covid. I saw him in February, and he died in March. I still feel the loss and the lack of closure, but we carry on and do what we can. He was an amazing person, and he will me missed.


New Babies

Kyle Summer Quincy Zoey

Kyle and Summer had a baby, Quincy Grinvalds, in February. A few months later, my niece Savana gave birth to a beautiful girl named Arija. Both of these blessings have brought new life and light to the world. I am a grandfather. I need to keep reminding myself of that. Kyle also got married this year. So many great things.



Karu and I both share March birthdays, so I show their cake and mine. And with this, I include Rita’s October birthday with my first attempt at a healthy watermelon cake. It was a wonderful year for birthday cakes and candles!



This was the year that I stopped teaching full time and took a job at a Latvian company called Adaptive Media helping to launch our new TestHut site. It is still a work in progress, but I have loved testing electric toothbrushes and frying pans. I have done more and learned more about myself and how things are made this year than ever before. My passion for taking things apart and figuring out how they work… and breaking things… and questioning things… these passions now have an outlet!

New Friendships

I was really blessed in 2020 to join an expat book club and meet some new wonderful friends. We celebrated my birthday the very night before Covid became everything. We had some online zoom meetings, a few real meeting, but overall, it has just been a joy to find kindred spirits thousands of miles away from home.

Karu Graduated

Graduation Party

In Latvia, the transition from 9th to 10th grade is a big deal. It is when students go from being children in middle school to almost adults in high school. Many take the decision very seriously as to which school they will attend for the final 3 years of their standard education. It is competitive and stressful. Karu was happy to be able to continue at the Riga French Lycée where they are currently loving learning about history.

4th of July

In the interim between Covid waves, we had a genuine gathering with friends and family to celebrate an American 4th of July! It was a wonderful summer day spent discussing freedom and awesomeness!

New Flat and a Sofa

We moved to a new flat, and we bought a sofa. This is an unbelievable achievement and a comfortable place to sit.

Latvian Christmas Tree


Thank you to my friend Nadia for driving Karu and I to the woods and helping us find a Latvian Christmas tree. According to the rules, each family is entitled to one tree if that tree meets certain specifications (public land, crowded, etc.). After going to the woods and sawing this one down, I realize now the tree aesthetic that Vitauts and Liesma had been seeking in America all those years. Someone called it a Charlie Brown tree, and I, for one, will take that as a compliment from now on!

Final Note

I didn’t count, but I tried to find about 12 things to write about. The formatting is not great, and the stories are mostly banal, but hopefully the spirit behind the words is what counts. For an exercise, I thought it would be fun to send people virtual gifts, since it is supposed to be the thought that counts! How many people could you choose the perfect gift for in your life? Send them a photo of the thing they dream of. Bring them virtual joy if you cannot be there in person!


Money Trees


Here is my money tree. 2019 and 2020. Hmmmm…. I thought it was supposed to grow.


Somehow this got out of order, and I have no patience to fix it… so I am just leaving this here. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Despite all the restrictions. We were still able to travel. I went to Estonia for the first time, stayed in a haunted manor, and we had plenty of day trips to beaches and other parts of Latvia. We saw concerts, went to museums and looking through the photos for the year, I am pretty amazed at how much we did despite the restrictions and lockdowns and rules. Let us just hope soon things return to mostly normal, and these are fading memories of a year on hold.









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