2021 Holiday Update

Time to dust off the HTML ... seems every year I have to refresh my old web-page process for the holiday updates. I keep telling myself that I need to update the site as a whole, but ... life. Things get busy ...

Just like everyone else, another pandemic year for us here in NM. Another just strange one.

January brought back in-person school for both Elyce and Gavin (from ‘remote’ the year prior). Elyce opted to remain with ‘distant learning',, as she was in her senior year and just wanted to finish it up. Her curriculum was fairly light at that point with most of her requirements for graduation completed. We felt it important for Gavin to go to in-person, as it was still his freshman year.

With spring’s arrival, I opted for my typical time off during the kids’ spring break … but, of course, it was another ‘staycation’ due to the pandemic. With that, I planned to work on many of the tasks around the house to complete. On the first Sunday of that week, Tina rushed outside to inform me that vaccines were available (this was at the onset of the roll-outs) at the Indian School in Santa Fe - just up the road. At first, I shrugged it off. Thinking the drive there (about 40 minutes) and the demand I was sure that was in play, the likelihood of making the line was small. But ... let's do it. I grabbed the keys and took Elyce with me. She will lie and say I was speeding the whole way ... but we made it. Barely. They had 40ish extra shots and we were car 38.

The line of cars leading to Santa Fe Indian School for vaccines in March. Elyce queuing up for The Jab (and improved WiFi)

In the spring, I had to do some visits up in Grand Junction, CO for work, and opted to drive and take the family – spend a few extra days, circling back through Denver and Colorado Springs to make some fun out of the trip. Seemed as though the pandemic was easing up a bit (before Delta hit). I am (as with so many other vacation videos) still working on the videos/pics taken during the trip, but it was obviously a lot of driving ... more than we planned, actually. During that time, there was a mudslide over I-70 (between Grand Junction and Denver) that had closed the freeway. We had to retrace south and take a much smaller road through the heart of CO. A roughly 4-hour drive to Denver took about 8 hours. I will say - the drive was pretty amazing. Just beautiful. But very long. Driving through rain didn't help, either. And when we finally arrived in Denver, the hotel we had reserved (Brown Palace) had mistakenly only had one room of the two we booked. So Gavin and I ended up staying across the street at some skanky place that I don't want to remember. The next day we toured the Bronco Stadium, did some shopping, and then headed to CO Springs - about 45 minutes south. We had 2 nights at the Broadmoor - a pretty amazing place. Gavin and I went zip-lining in the Pike's Peak wilderness, Tina and Elyce just hung out at the resort.

While Gavin and I were in the mountains, Tina texted me to check in. Reception for me was terrible, but I texted her back that we were hiking back and that Gavin had fallen. Of course, he had fallen and scraped his knee on the trail (which I took a picture of in the text message) - but because of the poor reception the picture did not go through. Tina only saw that Gavin had fallen ... and thought while zip lining. There was a bit of panic on her end, understandably.

Gavin Zip-Lining in CO Springs Gavin's Zip Line 'fall' being treated Breakfast at The Broadmoor Resort in CO Springs

Elyce's first car! Elyce at the newly opened Top Golf in Albuquerque. Touring the Broncos Stadium in Denver

Elyce graduated in May, and just finished her first semester in college and landed Dean's list. She is going to the local community college by choice. Wants to get basics out of the way, locally - then, we'll see where she wants to go. Smart kid. She is gravitating towards Psychology - which, I've told her may me a good field considering the impending, residual mental issues in the world ahead as a result of the pandemic's trail.

In August, Elyce got her first car. She had been searching for a few months and found what she wanted - a '16 Toyota Yaris. There have been a few moments in my life, with kids, where I get a little emotional (first day of school, for example) – and this was one. I was confused by it, as I drove her to the dealer to pick up her car – but reflecting on that emotion later in the day made me realize why. This was another moment in our lives where she was ‘growing up’ and moving forward. These are great moments in one’s life, but unexpected feelings for me as a parent. Now that she had her own wheels, she could go where she wanted and when. I know when I got my first car, I wanted to be anywhere other than home. I would just drive for the sake of driving – often for an entire day (or longer) to escape home. But Elyce has not followed that path – she only ventures out to drive to school, pick up yarn at the local Michael’s, or the grocery store for us. And that’s fine by me – especially knowing of the trouble I got into when I first got that freedom. It’s an odd dichotomy that I’m still coming to terms with. But with the new driver (and another on the way – Gavin got his permit this fall), my insurance agent and I are on a first-name basis. Ugh. Gavin and I will be starting his 100 hours of instruction after he finishes his finals this semester.

Along with the CO trip, I have been traveling (as normal) weekly for work. A lot of driving and some flying. The big meetings have been ‘virtual’ but I still travel weekly for visits to stores and markets. We weren't able to take a lot of trips this year, but tried to have fun locally. Top Golf, Fishing. Nothing too extravagent. We were able to (in June) have a family gathering for Elyce's graduation/birthday which was nice. That very small window of time when the world (or at least the US) seemed to be coming out of COVID was nice to take advantage of and see family in person again, rather than a Zoom call.

The insanity of being an “essential retailer” didn’t’ stop in 2021 … we continue to see surges in pet ownership that are just mind-blowing. Very fortunate with this. Thing literally have only continued with our sales vs forecast. It’s just … surreal. With the spring, every business was pretty much open, but it just hasn’t changed for us. We continue, internally, to be challenged with getting back to some sense of normalcy by ownership; yet, the realities of working during a pandemic continue to be a challenge in the field. It has been a challenge to balance to two. But we carry on. I can’t say this is unmanageable, but is a challenge -pre-COVID- that I would have not imagined. But that’s what we do, right? I continue to remind my leaders that our role is managing through challenges – whether it’s day-to-day, ‘normal’ circumstances or even the madness of a pandemic. Still absolutely love what I am doing and who I am working for.

But like I said last year, people are meaner these days. I know there is a lot of stress – but it’s just an uncomfortable feeling when you’re out shopping, driving, or anywhere in the public. I lamented on last year’s update about how people just need to understand what retail workers were going through – same stands. It was made even more challenging with Mask Mandates being lifted in the spring, then put back into place in the early summer. We’re all tired of it – but I think the govt made mistakes here. The variants have proven to make this longer than any of us would have expected. But -again, like I said last year- I’m not telling you anything you’ve not been experiencing yourself. In New Mexico, we continue to see the counties and urbanicities that live in denial of the pandemic suffer the most with hospitalizations, etc. It’s sadly comical (poor wording, but just is what it is).

Gavin & Elyce, May Gathering in June w/family. Once brief moment this year to be together.

Gavin and I fishing in Pecos, NM Gavin getting his chip upgrade vaccine ...

During the pandemic, real-estate has been crazy. Our area has been building out at a crazy pace. we are now at the point of just a handful of empty lots on our street. Was the opposite prior to COVID – when we moved here 4 years back, there were just 4 homes on our street. It has ballooned in building to this point where there are just 2 spots left. I would venture to say that’s about 20 new homes built during this time on our street alone. The area has just become a hot mess of construction. It's everywhere here. Every day there has been a new lot cleared. It’s hard to keep up … and will admit, Tina and I miss the quiet and peace in our area. Has gotten us to thinking about what we will do once Gavin and Elyce are more independent. We’ll cross that bridge in a few years, I imagine. But space, vistas, and quiet are things we see dissipating as the homes continue to built in our area.

As we have done for years now, we are currently making cookies (er, Tina is) for my stores’ teams – to be personally distributed over the course of the next week leading into Christmas. We’ve been doing this since roughly 1998. When I was a store manager back in the day, we were open 24/7 – including holidays. I remember Tina and I wanted to treat the associates who opted to work on Christmas to a Christmas meal/munchies/cookies while heading out of Santa Fe to the Suina home for Christmas festivities. It stuck and has become a tradition we do every year. This year, seeing how I purchased a 3D printer in the spring, I had the idea to ‘customize’ the cookies with a more personal touch, and have designed and printed a cookie cutter for each store with their store numbers. I've taken to browsing Thingiverse.com for 3D models and contraptions to print ... I'm sure I will be busy with it this year.

3D printer printing cookie cutters Finished building the Firetable ... 6ft long (doesn't look it in the pic). Don't ask me how many times I had to redo the concrete top.

As we say good-bye to another year, we hope you are all safe, well, and COVID-free. Hopefully next year's update will more celebratory with the world maybe overcoming what we've been dealing with.

Have a great holiday -

Dave, Tina, Elyce, Gavin, Wallie, Lucy, and Ozzie.