Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Once you sang creation's story;
Now proclaim Messiah's birth!
December 28, 2021
Dear friends and family,
I hope you're all enjoying the Christmas and New Year holiday season. My Christmas letter is a bit later than usual this year because I've been hibernating the last couple of days. I took off of work Thanksgiving week, a much needed break at the time, but when I came back a bunch of problems had piled up for me to help solve, and more kept coming each week. This week everyone at VMware has off, and for me this second break is even more needed!
It's no news to anyone that 2021 was still much affected by the COVID pandemic. My building at work was still closed for most of the year and I continued to work from home. VMware decided to remodel that particular building for "the future of work", anticipating that many people will continue to work most days from home. The remodel delayed the reopening even more. I was slightly involved with the work: As a representative of the engineering folks who have computers in the building that we use remotely even when working from home, I participated in the planning to move those computers around (out of the way of the workers, and then back), and I went in a couple of times to help get the machines back up and running properly again after the moves. That was not at all a normal part of my job, but as I have one of the most complicated and quirky setups, I knew I'd need to go in and fix it myself anyway, so why not help others too?
As a bit of a celebration for our Palo Alto buildings being reopened, we got the VMware house band "Elastic Sky" back together to record some songs, with video. The video was broadcast to the whole company along with a segment about the art on our corporate campus. Because the amount of time we could spend together was very limited, we did the video and sound separately. We had one day taking video and singing/playing along to the songs we were going to cover, and then we each recorded our own renditions of our parts at home, using the original songs as guide tracks. A couple of folks with the right expertise took our parts, mixed them down, cut the video together, and finally combined it all. It came out remarkably good! Unfortunately we couldn't put the videos on YouTube — apparently we followed the originals so closely that YouTube's copyright infringement detector flags them. You can find the one I sang lead on here: https://tim-mann.org/music/Get Together 2021.mp4. The others are also on https://tim-mann.org/music.html.
Still, despite all the VMware moving efforts and the celebration, I continue to find myself working from home almost every day. So few people have started going into the office again that the building is still pretty empty. When I do go in, those that are there are always glad to see another person to talk to and have lunch with, so I'll be trying to go in a bit more after the break.
Tree of Life Bible camp was planned for 2021, but we ended up canceling, as it would have been way too difficult to run it with the COVID masking requirements still in effect in July. We would have had very low attendance from both campers and staff. We're going to try again to bring camp back in 2022. I'm still camp treasurer and am still excited about leading music again whenever we're able to restart.
The only travel I did during the year was for a sad occasion. My grandnephew Sasha's wife Anna passed away suddenly and unexpectedly (not COVID-related). All the family who could make it gathered in Minneapolis for her memorial. Fortunately there are quite a few family members (mostly on Anna's side) living in the area who are able to help Sasha with his small daughter Marit. My sister Mary (Sasha's grandmother) is thinking of moving to Minneapolis at some point too. She's the only one of our close family left in Milwaukee.
My church is back to in-person worship, but we also continue to livestream the services so that people can participate from home. (See our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWLjulEeGcgSlXk31h8awfg.) I occasionally play and sing something with my guitar, and sometimes lead a whole service that way. Over Christmas weekend, since Christmas eve was on a Friday, Christmas day on Saturday, and a regular Sunday service on Sunday, we decided to make the Christmas day service prerecorded and online-only. Various congregation members recorded the readings and some of the music, with the rest of the music filled out by recordings from WELS Lutheran groups Koine and Branches Band. You can still find the service on our channel (go to the link above, click VIDEOS, and look for 12/25/2021). For that service I recorded one reading and one hymn. Then on Sunday the 26th I led all the hymns and liturgy live on guitar. That was really fun, but a bit tiring — another part of why I was hibernating the first couple of days of this week! The quote at the top of this message is part of one of Sunday's hymns.
For more musical fun, I bought myself a nice ukulele for Christmas and am learning to play it. You can see the model I bought here: https://www.cordobaguitars.com/ukuleles/20tm-ce/. It's turning out to be easier to get started than I expected. Some of the chord shapes are the same as on guitar; they just sound a fourth higher. So I could play a G chord right away by fingering what on guitar is a D chord.
The very latest news is that I got another PET scan for my follicular lymphoma yesterday. The results look very good, showing no clearly active cancer, just residual scarring. So the medication I'm on is still working great. It's a fantastic blessing to be doing so well more than 8 years after I was first diagnosed.
Blessings to all in Christ,