The Year in Review - 2021
Anne & Stewart French

523 Seeport Drive
Allen, TX 75013


2020 was strange and historic and now here we are, 2021. This year has been crazy up and down, with the introduction of the vaccines, coming out of lock down, then the discovery of the Delta Variant and its quick spread. We also lost our beloved fur buddy Tootzak but gained 3 kittens.

Late in 2020 the COVID vaccines became available. Hurray! Since Anne was 65 years old she was eligible (Stewart had to wait till his 65th birthday in March). Anne spent hours in the "Hunger Games" trying to get scheduled : All area counties, hospitals, and fire stations. She developed a spreadsheet. The Allen Fire Department system was very much like trying to get tickets to Hamilton: go to the website and hit RETURN over and over, trying to get a date/time slot. If you didn't get a slot, well, you can start again tomorrow. Good luck.

Anne got her first Moderna shot in Arlington in late January, the second a month later. Stewart turned 65 in March and started hunting. CVS had recently come online with shots and he got signed up for his on 3-March in Mesquite, TX, 2nd shot a month later. Much easier than Anne's experience. Then in September we both got our Moderna boosters at the local CVS. It was simple and mostly painless. Neither of us had much reaction to the shots, a bit of soreness in the arm, and that's it.

Once vaccinated we started traveling a bit more doing hikes and bird watching at Connemara Conservancy near our home, at the John Bunker Sands Wetland south of Dallas, visiting the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Texoma west of Sherman, and doing local walks with our friends Maria & Ethan. It was so good to get out of the house and back into nature.

In February we got hit with SnowMageddon, a two week winter storm that shut down the Texas power grid for many, crippled the internet and cell towers, and generally made life difficult. Temperatures went as low as 5 below. We were very lucky in that we only lost power for about 45 minutes. Some of our friends lost power for days, some lost water and gas too and had to move to a hotel (which weren't immune to power loss!). Stewart rigged up a heating pad under one of our birdbaths to help the birdies stay hydrated during the deep freeze. It worked great keeping the water from freezing. We were intrigued by an irruption of Pine Siskens and saw hundreds more Robins than usual during the event.

We had a lot of fun with neighbors in March snapping photos of the quadruple planetary convergence. Right at sunset we could see Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the western sky. Our old outdoor furniture was starting to show its age so we brought it all into the garage, sanded, stained, and put several layers of varnish on it. Hopefully good for another 10 years!

On Friday April 2nd our sweet fur buddy, Tootzak, crossed the rainbow bridge to join his brother Seebie. Our hearts were wrenched. He was a huge bundle of dog-like cat, Maine-Coonish and squeezably huggable, giving us 15 1/2 years of love. We miss him terribly.

Later in April Emily, Andrew, and Mia came for a visit. Dinners, walks, games of 10,000 and Phase 10, and excellent conversations kept us all entertained for the weekend.

In May Anne finally got to see live Painted Buntings up close. Dr Jim Bednarz and a crew of Eco Science majors from Univ. of North Texas let us tag along to watch them net, size, sex, band and release Painted Buntings, in addition to some Northern Cardinals, Dickcissels and one Common Yellowthroat.

May was the perfect time to head to Houston to see family. We got to visit with niece Meredith, Tommy, & their two sons Ben & Gabe. Then over to see niece Melanie, Brad, & son Charlie, sister Trina, nephew Russell, Glenda, and sons Everett & Auggie, and nephew Doug & Manasi. This was our first time meeting Covid babies Charlie and Gabe. The visit was a wonderful Good-Bye to Covid, or so we thought.

Anne and her sisters, Trina, Trese and Kath, visited Acadia National Park in June for another Sister's Vacation. From all their different cities, they met up in Boston where Trese got to co-pilot the 10-seater CapeAir flight from Boston into Bar Harbor. Once settled in the nice VRBO home they went bird watching, saw Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, Asticou Azalea Gardens, Seal Harbor, harbor seals, and Puffins. They ate Lobster and Popovers, and with a little wine, formed a Mermaid Gang with its own Gang Sign. They highly recommend Oli's Trolley as well as the coastal and Puffin boat tours.

Our bud Jay invited us to a fun pot luck picnic at the "Treehouse" near his home to hear his band play classic rock and folk tunes, including some original work. We got to meet his fun Plano neighbors and hear the three of them Rock On!

During Covid Anne rediscovered a passion for playing her old Buffet clarinet. In June she took it to a local repair shop and had some work done. While there she discovered her clarinet is a 1947 pre-R13! She got it from an instructor in 1974 and played it in college. YouTube clarinet lessons and synthetic reeds are a godsend. It's a joy and Stewart is thrilled that Anne's new music room (the upstairs media room) is nearly soundproof.

In 2020 we had planned to return to Evergreen, CO for a family vacation. Covid forced us to postpone that trip, moving it to 2021. Since we were all now vaccinated we made it to our favorite mountaintop retreat "Above The Clouds" in July. We had an excellent crew of family and friends including Trina, Manasi & Doug, Emily & Andrew, Mia, Melanie & Brad & Charlie, Brandi & Lamar, Manisha & Freddy. Nephew Russell, Glenda and family had to pass because they were greeting their new arrival, Sophie Elizabeth, a 7 lbs 1 oz bundle of joy.

We had a beautiful and serene time sitting out on the back deck looking at the mountains over the forest, hiking the many trails in the area, star gazing with Freddy's spotter scope and Anne's telephoto lens. We scheduled a Thursday morning bird walk the Evergreen Audubon Society and Manisha & Freddy joined us. The early evening thunderstorms were stunning from the back deck as they rolled in over the mountains and forests.

Unfortunately, on the first day of the trip, Stewart started having double-vision. Trips to Care-Now and the ER at Swedish Hospital in Denver, an MRI, CAT Scan, blood tests, turned up nothing. Neurologist suggested he get an eye patch and get on with the vacation, which he did (Pirate Stewart!). It was challenging hiking with no depth perception. Back home, afterwards, his doctor diagnosed "Idiopathic 6th Nerve Palsy". After 2 1/2 months of no improvement, it suddenly started recovering and within 4 months he was almost fully recovered.

In August, Anne traveled to Indianapolis for a week to help her sister Trese while she had foot surgery. Sister Kathy also visited which led to long games of Rummikub and 10,000 as Trese recovered. Although she couldn't walk much it didn't stop them from visiting Eagle Creek Park for bird watching. There was also lots of time spent petting cats and watching hummingbirds out the back windows.

Unfortunately, about that time, the Covid Delta Variant was identified and became widespread. The spike in cases and virulence caused many businesses to increase masking and distancing requirements.

In September, we decided it was time to visit Operation Kindness in Carrollton, TX to see if we could find some new kittens. We walked into the first room, turned right and looked down, and there they were. Three little kittens, 3 months old, picked us out from the crowd and told us to take them home and we did. Marley, SeaBreeze, and Professor Cooper now run the house, a tortoiseshell female and two orange males. Oh my goodness, it is busy and fun around the house. We now spend our days saying "Get out of the washing machine!" "Don't swallow that!" "Who started the Roborock?" "Why is the piano playing?!?" But, awwww, so cute!

Halloween was fantastic fun this year. We set it up like we did last year with a one way path up the sidewalk, across the porch and on to the driveway so people didn't cross paths. This worked great again this year. We had 205 trick-or-treaters visit, better than last year. Among the most interesting costumes was a Whataburger complete with drive-thru menu and a Chik-fil-A cow begging "Eat mor ckikin" while carrying an actual live chicken (unrestrained, named "Macaroon") in a KFC bucket.

Later in October we hosted an "Old Farts Club" party with long-time friends from work. We're all starting to get a bit older so we put up an "Aches And Pains" whiteboard. If you mentioned an ailing body part you had to initial it on the stick figure. Apparently, Blannie's halo got broken and it looks like Jay "won" the contest.

Anne's brother Glenn & Mina live near us in Frisco, TX. We visited them in November for Glenn's birthday, picking up wonderful Hutchin's BBQ brisket & ham & fixins and heading to their house for a Sunday lunch. We had good eating and conversation with them and son Andrew.

Also that month, niece Emily & Andrew were in the area to see a show in Dallas, "Whose Live Anyway?" at the Majestic Theater. They stopped by to meet the kittens. We had an early dinner at Two Rows with lively conversation before they headed to the show.

For Thanksgiving, Stewart stayed home with the kittens. Niece Mia came down from Denton on Wednesday then she and Anne drove to Houston for a celebration with family and a nice Thanksgiving meal. Anne got to meet Sophie and catch up with niece Melanie (Brad, Charlie), nephew Russell (Glenda, Everett, Augie), sister Trina, niece Brandi & Lamar, niece Emily, and nephew Doug & Manasi.

The next day, Trina joined Anne and Mia on the trip back home to Allen. We got a chance on Saturday to drive to Southmayd, TX and visit with Trina's daughter Brandi. On Sunday we had a nice Thanksgiving at Glenn & Mina's house. Mina loves to cook and we all ate like experts. It was a beautiful day so we took a nice walk in Frisco Commons Park near their home before packing it in and heading home to the kittens (who got Fancy Feast Chunky Turkey Dinner).

In mid december we attended the wedding of friends Mike & Linda's daughter, Kimberly, in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony in Aubrey, TX. Then Stewart scratched his itch to replace his 17 year old bicycle! So Merry Christmas to him on his new Trek with electronic shifting, disc brakes, and tubeless tires.

Once vaccinated we decided to return to step classes at LA Fitness. Throughout 2020 we had been doing them in the garage using our instructor's YouTube videos. It was really great to get back in it after a year, to catch up with all our stepping buds. Turned out our garage workouts were perfect to keep us in the stepping groove and we settled right back into it. We also kept up our indoor biking using Zwift and trainers. We biked together (Anne in the front bedroom on her trainer, Stewart in the study on his) for the first time up the iconic french mountain, Mont Ventoux. Three hours in the saddle made this an epic ride. We'll do it again some day, but not soon!

Anne continued her activities with the Allen Public Library Endowment Fund board, the Newcomer Friends of Greater Plano (membership chair duties, walks, happy hours, book club, etc), monthly catch-ups with TI DLP buds, and the neighborhood women's Seeport Darlins group. We both enjoy our weekly lunches with work buds from early days at TI and Raytheon thanks to our friend, John Hendrix.

The neighbor girls were looking to make some money this year and wanted to do odd jobs for us. They offered to replace our old plant marker labels with nicely painted rocks. They first practiced up by painting emojis on smaller rocks and hiding them all over our front porch then taking Anne's list of plants in the yard and painting beautiful label rocks. In the fall they raked our leaves using rakes, leaf blowers, and vacuums, packing it all into the paper lawn bags. It was hours of work and they did a fantastic job.

We hope next year's Year in Review starts out "Remember Covid? It's gone now." Stay safe and have a kind and connected 2022.