Greg Rickaby

Full-Stack Developer

· 11 min read · #personal

2020: A Year In Review

Reflecting on the ups and downs of 2020.

Where to begin? A global pandemic, lock-downs, politicians left unchecked, 400,000 dead Americans, an election shrouded in turmoil. From a global and national vantage point, it honestly felt like 2020 would never end.

Personally though? Our family had a pretty good year. I already work from home and Tara is a stay-at-home mom; as one of my friends stated (in reference to being locked-down), "Y'all we're built for this!"... indeed we are.

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Family life

It was quite a year as a family unit. We've been doing our part by staying home, social distancing and wearing masks when we do venture out for groceries. We sure do miss going out to eat though, but there will be plenty of time for after the pandemic.

Wyatt (4)

wyatt fishing

Still rambunctious as ever, 2020 was the year Wyatt was finally potty trained!!

He still loves dinosaurs, heavy machinery, helping me in the yard, and "Mando" from The Mandalorian. Wyatt doesn't really stop talking, ever! (haha) and is drawing people (as stick figures) and can use scissors, glue, and other craft stuff. Wyatt tried playing soccer, however, that was cancelled due to COVID. We were all bummed out by that...however we signed him up for acrobatics class at Center Stage this fall. He loves doing that, we're excited to see his recital in the spring! He's a great kid with a big heart who is ferociously protective when it comes to his family.

Chloe (6)

chloe being sweet

Still dancing and participated in her 3rd consecutive year with the company at Center Stage. Even amid a pandemic the company traveled to Montgomery, Mobile, and Biloxi to compete at dance competitions.

Those dance competitions had to be completely overhauled to meet social distancing requirements. My favorite perk was the grouping of companies in a single time slot. This meant committing to a few hours on a single day, instead of several hours spread across a 3-day weekend.

Tara and I decided to homeschool her this year; we just felt like it was the right choice during the pandemic, plus Tara has the credentials to do so. It hasn't been easy, but Chloe is learning a lot and getting good grades!

Chase (15)

chase in the telephone booth

Still drumming...except now he's on drumming for Enterprise High School's Big Blue Band!

He also earned his learner's permit, however, has shown almost no interest in driving. This is a trend among Gen Z, so it's not surprising since many of his friends don't drive either.

Instead, he spends most of his time with video games including Red Dead 2, Skyrim, Assasin's Creed Valhalla, and Animal Crossing. When he's not playing video games or in school, he's on Instagram chatting away in DM's.

Chase also grew his hair out and is taller than me (good for him!). He did manage, however, to get COVID this past June. It spread throughout his mother's house. Thankfully, his symptoms were mild and he was able to fully recover and is doing fine.

Tara

tara on sand lake in wisconsin

Tara is always busy. Because we're homeschooling, she spends her days teaching the kids and taking them to and from dance practice. She also does a damn good job of running this household.

This past November, we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary! Tara is truly wonderful and we love and appreciate her dearly.

On the side, Tara is still crocheting plushies (including Bernie's Mittens), blankets, and hats for Crochet Creations. In terms of sales, 2020 was her biggest year yet.

bernie’s mittens crochet doll

Gramps

On May 24 we lost Gramps to cancer. He was 88. In all my life I've never known kinder soul and we all miss him dearly. Rest in peace, Gramps.

gramps high school graduation 1950
gramps coast guard alameda california 1951
gramps at a wedding before his death 2020
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Personal Accomplishments and Growth

frosty sunrise

I tried to master two things in 2020: photography and JavaScript.

Photography

I've always been interested in photography, but what really got me going was rebuilding Tara's store for Crotchet Creations. Built from the ground up using WordPress, Beaver Builder and WooCommerce. As such, we knew that high-quality photos help move inventory.

So, I decided to try and master photography. I took dozens of LinkedIn Learning courses and read 8 different books about the subject. I also purchased a couple mirrorless cameras and some gear, and took advantage of my Creative Cloud subscription to learn Lightroom Classic and some advanced Photoshop techniques. Photography has become another creative outlet for me and it's always fun to get up early and go shoot a sunrise.

Check out some of my favorite photos.

JavaScript

By the time we were locked down, I was going full tilt learning JavaScript and React. Almost every hobby app I've shipped since then, has been built with Next.js. Here are some of them I've shared on Github:

I also contributed to Next.js...specifically the docs, and the WordPress and Blog Starter examples. In all, I made 4,952 contributions to 7 organizations on Github in 2020.

my github contributions in 2020

Health Stuffs

I have an Apple Watch and wear it all day. In 2020 I averaged:

5,974 steps per day. This is down slightly from 6,095 in 2019, but way up from 3,806 in 2018. 510 active calories per day. This matched 2019, and is down from 590 in 2018. 13 minutes of excersise per day. This down from 19 minutes in 2019.

Other cool averages my wearable tracks:

  • 132 standing minutes per day
  • 59 BPM average resting heart rate
  • 4 flights of stairs per day
  • 7 hours of sleep per night
  • 13 seconds per attempt at washing hands (I'm impatient, sorry!)

...and pretty much stayed the same weight, around 175lbs.

Social Media

This is mega: I finally deactivated both my Facebook and Instagram accounts! I really only spend time on Reddit and occasionally Twitter, although I was glued in November as I doom-scrolled through the election coverage.

Music

I was the regular bassist at Wiregrass Church up until COVID-19 shut things down last spring. I am embarrassed to say that I haven't really picked up my bass since focusing on photography and JavaScript. As soon as things get back to normal, I'll probably start playing again!

Serving Our Community

As a family, we continued to volunteer at Wiregrass Church until the lock-down. We also volunteered our time with the Big Blue Band Boosters by selling concessions at home football games this past fall.

volunteering in our community

We got to meet a lot of nice people and one special pup, Jake the K-9!

lt. billy, jake, chloe and wyatt
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Professional Accomplishments

WebDevStudios

Early on in 2020 my engineering manager had some major health issues. He's doing a lot better now (which is amazing, he's truly a remarkable human being) but these issues caused him to miss the first half of the year. I had to fill in and was asked to lead several projects again. I didn't realize how much I missed the thrill of leading projects again!

Here are some of the sites my team shipped:

At WebDevStudios we also renewed our focus on continuing education for the engineers in 2020. I put together a 3-phase plan to become "The Best Damn Gutenberg Shop Out There".

In addition to projects and Cont. Edu initiatives...we also rolled out a new Website Migration boilerplate, re-wrote the website audit documentation, migrated and re-wrote most our internal documentation, updated our security policy and I hired 4 new engineers!

Side Hustles

My wonderful retainer clients: Bluewater Broadcasting, Wiregrass Church, Bainbridge Church, Jerome Jackson, and Margaret Barber all stuck with me in 2020. I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve them and am looking forward to our continued partnership in 2021.

Books

I was fortunate enough to be asked to provide technical editing services on not one, but two books in 2020:

  1. Professional WordPress Plugin Development
  2. WordPress for Dummies
wordpress for dummies cover
professional wordpress plugin development cover

These are both major titles in the WordPress space, and I'm thankful to Brad and Lisa for asking for my help!

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House Update

our home at dusk

When we moved in 3 years ago this place was a mess. A foreclosed house on 5 overgrown acres. Vines, weeds, and scrub-brush everywhere you looked. This year was all about cleaning up our property. My friend Jeremy stopped by last winter and bush hogged about an acre, and I spent the rest of the year working the rest by hand. Lots of time was spent running a chain saw and burning piles and piles of brush and tree limbs.

yard before and after

Tara and I also painted the living room, breakfast nook, and kitchen...as well as pressure washing the outside of the house, front porch, and pool enclosure. We also leveled up our swimming pool area and bought a nice swing, a picnic table, and had Amerigas plumb a couple of permanent gas lines for the grill...the pool deck is really coming along nicely!

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Family Travel

Even though I didn't travel for work, we did travel plenty as a family. All of these trips were planned and paid for prior to COVID. We masked up and took the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and others safe.

Biloxi

biloxi beach

Normally when Chloe has a regional dance competition, I stay home with boys. Nationals are a different story though! Last year we headed to Savannah, GA and had an amazing time. This year was no different! We headed to Biloxi, MS and stayed at a lovely beachside hotel. Thanks to the new COVID-way of doing dance competitions, we only needed to be on site for a few hours on Saturday and we were done!

The company did really great, coming in 2nd to a dance company from New Orleans. They were runners-up last year to a team from St. Louis, MO. It's amazing that a dance company, from a small town of 30,000 people, can hold their own against teams from major cities! Proud of you, girls!

bailey, ellie, and chloe at elite dance cup in biloxi, ms

Northern Wisconsin

keys lake florence wisconsin

We've been going up north during the summer to visit my parents the last few years, taking in the beautiful weather and outdoor activities in Florence County. My folks finished building their cabin, which meant we finally had our own place...so we stayed for two full weeks!

We visited Escanaba, MI, went fishing, made some amazing meals, visited several parks and a zoo. It was an amazing trip and really recharged our batteries.

in the boat on keys lake

Back to Wisconsin for Duck Hunting

My buddy Clint and I had been talking about this trip for a while. 2020 was the year we finally went. We were originally going to fly up and duck hunt with my dad, uncle, and cousins in Wisconsin. The flying plans were scrapped and we drove up to instead.

It was both Clint and Chase's first time duck hunting, so it was a real thrill for Dad and I to share the experience. We did pretty well, Clint shot a duck on his very first try and I shot a couple more and a goose throughout the week. Even Chase (who doesn't enjoy waking up early) had a blast and can't wait to go back.

myself, chase, and clint in front of our ducks

Disney World

This was our 3rd trip to Walt Disney World and 2nd time staying at Disney's Art of Animation resort. Initially, we were worried about being in a crowded theme park during a pandemic, but to our relief, Disney was not playing around with guest safety. Masks and social distancing were required--everywhere. Violators were asked to leave. There was also extra sanitization going on... industrial sized Lysol spray and cast members constantly wiping down hard surfaces. I can honestly say, we felt safer at the theme parks than at our local Wal-mart.

We visited Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. With the lower crowds, we were able to see and ride just about everything! With the kiddos being a little older (and experienced) this added to our enjoyment. It was the best Disney World trip yet.

drinking the blue milk
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Goals

Here are a few things I'd like to work on in 2021:

  • Continue getting up early and taking photos
  • Continue to push myself with JavaScript
  • Spend less time on Reddit
  • Spend more time blogging
  • Finish cleaning up the yard (I'm getting too old for this!)
  • Finally buy a zero-turn lawn mower
  • Finish painting the master bedroom, dining room, and upstairs
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Wrap Up

rickaby family 2021

I've been saying for years that our family is blessed, and if anything, 2020 proved that statement to be true.

We are forever thankful to God for our health, steady work, and financial security.

As I stare down the barrel at 2021? I'll be turning 40 and can't help but think the best is yet to come!

As always, I'll end with my favorite verse:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? --Matthew 6:26 NIV

Stay safe 🍻

Greg is the Director of Engineering at WebDevStudios. He also moonlights at Dummies writing and editing books. Follow him on Twitter for lots of pictures of pepperoni pizza and tidbits about Next.js.
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