New Adventures

It has been over a year since my last update, but are any of us surprised to see yet another gap in posting here? A lapse here, however, doesn’t mean there was any shortage of events to share, so let’s dig into 2021 and some things on the horizon for 2022.

Surviving Covid

My last post in News and Updates was December 23rd 2020. It had been a hellacious year of quarantines, lost time, high emotions, and general chaos. What I didn’t know when I posted that update was that a week later, I would end up with Covid and the chaos we had lived through thus far was nothing in comparison.

I was a lucky one. I managed to stay out of hospitals and off oxygen, but the experience was no less scary. There were days I couldn’t breathe, there were days I was afraid that if I fell asleep, I would wake up in a hospital or not wake up at all. As I reflect on those two weeks now, I start to feel anxious, especially when I remember how afraid I was at night before sleeping, or how I felt out of breath sitting still.

To be honest, we were lucky. What I feel like I don’t touch on often is that all three of us had covid almost simultaneously; I tested positive December 30th, our son December 31st, and my wife about 12 days later, and all of us had different experiences. While mine was trouble breathing, our son had a headache for a day, and my wife had earaches so bad it made her dizzy and nauseous for five whole days. The diversity of our symptoms still amazes me, but more than anything else I am glad we all made it through our first bout with covid relatively unscathed.

I’ve chronicled all of that in an ongoing post, Survival Mode – My Covid Diary.

Family Trips and Camping

As winter bloomed into spring, there was one goal for the year; travel. No matter what it took, or what it meant, we were leaving the house in 2021 and going places.

In June my sister got married, finally. After multiple delays due to covid, venue changes, and then an actual tornado on the big day, she and my new brother-in-law tied the knot. I’ve got a special spot in my heart for my wedding, as well as my brothers, each was special in its own way. But this wedding is one of the greatest in terms of making the best of things when literally everything goes wrong. It was a true test of spirit, and love!

Before the wedding, us kids talked about making a family camping trip and what that would look like. We are the fifth generation camping at a particular spot near Beulah, Michigan, and it had been well over a decade since we had made the trip together. In late July we made it happen, and 9 of us piled into three tents and a camper for a few days. Kayaking, camp fires, an obligatory rainy day, and beach days. And making the trip even better for us was that generation six got to see a place special to all of us and experience a taste of what our own childhoods were like in the summer.

As we packed up and headed home, however, the decision was made by my wife and I that this would be the last tent camping trip we ever made.

Let’s go back a few steps. We decided this by cutting the supports with a knife and throwing the leaky tent into the dumpster.

We had been trying for weeks leading up to the family trip to purchase a pop-up. After a couple weeks of looking we found our first camper and joined the world of pop-up camping. Our maiden voyage was a two night stay in northern Michigan, but it was exactly what we needed to work out any issues for next summers travels!

We spent Labor Day at Houghton Lake with friends, offroading and braving unseasonably cold weather to go boating. It was cold, but it was still a great time!

In September we made another family trek to the tip of the lower peninsula to take our son to Mackinaw Island for the first time, and to have our first vacation with my wifes family. Unlike Labor Day, we lucked out with the weather and had a great time exploring Cheboygan for the first time between trips to Mackinaw City and the island.

Rounding out the year of trips was a getaway to South Carolina with my side of the family. A week of golf, sitting by the pool, and eating way too well was the perfect cap to a summer spent away from home and enjoying the world once again.

It was also a year of great fishing, here are some of the catches we made!

Unleash The Archers – live in pontiac!

Wrapping up an awesome year of adventures, vacations, and weddings is something truly special for me; a concert for the first time in two years. Making it even more significant is that this was the third time I’ve tried to see Unleash the Archers, but the show had been cancelled for Covid two times prior. At long last, I got to see them, along with Seven Kingdoms, and Aether Realm as they all rocked the Crofoot in Pontiac. Being a general admission show I had some concerns about being too far back in the crowd to see the action, but I was one of the first people in line and had a spot right on the barrier so I could see the show up close and personal.

I’ve been to a lot of great concerts over the years, but this is the first time that I’ve stood in the crowd and been up close to the artists. It really changes the feel of a live show, it felt way more intimate. It may not be something I do at every concert from now on, but I will be doing this again!

Condensing projects

Rounding out this update is some news about this site and the projects it contains. For a few years now I’ve used this as my main base of operations when it comes to planning and sharing projects or updates. Over the summer I reactivated my Facebook to help list some items for sale in the marketplace, but to also reconnect with people and try and be more social. As a result, I’ve been sharing updates there more than here (obviously), but it is time to reign that in.

As of the day this post goes live I will be shuttering my social media accounts again and taking another long break. It’s another mental health break, which should come as no surprise to anyone. I’ve spoken about this before, and I’ll reiterate the broad points once more. Social media is toxic for me, and even the simplest things on any platform can be triggering for my anxiety or depression. I fixate on peoples victories, obsess about my own shortcomings or failures, and then manifest negativity. I had thought that I could take another run at being digitally present and social, but the truth is that it brings me no joy and is more trouble than it is worth.

Instead I will be refocusing my attention to a handful of projects, including more writing and returning to some video game reviews. I’ve removed the MCsquared Customs Hotwheels customs section, and retasked it for projects I do in the garage. Check out the new workbench I built last spring!

Tactical Brick and the Gaming Collection Showcases

About a year ago I had a chance encounter with a group of people that would change things for me quite a bit. We met in an online lobby, I was swept up in a fun little joke they were playing, which led to us sharing Discord names and keeping in contact. What started as a loose group of people that played Grand Theft Auto with one another quickly developed into a close knit group of friends with almost 100 members that play, chat, and hangout with each other across mulpitple games, passions, timezones on a consistent basis.

From all of this I have organized an online entity for myself that I play and share game reviews and news with, and today I get to share that with all of you.

MCsquared Games is now Tactical Brick Gaming. I’ve removed the gaming articles off of this site and moved them to a new site to separate traffic and to maintain a little bit of privacy. Currently I have a monthly feature I work on over there called Hardscope that takes a closer look at games I’ve played over the last 30 days, as well as shows and movies I’m watching. It’s been a great writing and sharing exercise for me, and has helped me to chip away at some of the games I have in a near-endless backlog.

I have also moved another project over there that is in the works with no tentative release date, The Tactical Brick Game Collection Showcases. 11 uniquely themed showcases, over 80 games across a handful of older consoles, a mix of old favorites and new adventures. With all but 8 games physically in-hand, I am excited to start this project (hopefully)in January and share the updates with you as I play. You can check out more details in the latest Hardscope, linked here.

Lay your troubles on me, friend…

I want to close with something a little more heartfelt and important this time around.

This year has been a challenge for me in a lot of ways, and I’m happy to say out loud that, for the first time in a very long time, I am starting to feel okay again. I’m talking more with people, I’m embracing my mental health and it challenges every day, trying to be the best I can be.

I imagine it has been a rough year for you, too. Maybe you’re struggling with your own self, maybe you’ve lost someone you love, or maybe you’ve had to start all over and don’t know what you are doing with your life. It’s been a stressful year, there have been scary points in all of our lives. Nothing has felt normal or easy for quite a while.

I want you, reader, to know that it’s okay for us to feel like that. It’s okay for us to not have the answers for our kids, or even ourselves. It’s okay to be scared. And it is okay to ask for help.

If you’re reading this and you find it hard to relate to what I am saying, I am genuinely happy for you. You are a lucky one, you’ve got good things happening for you and I love that. I only ask that you check on your family, your friends, your neighbors. Make sure they are good, see if they need some of that strength.

Mental health cannot be something we are only aware of, and it cannot continue to be something that is only available to those who can afford it. All of us deserve to be heard, all of us deserve to be happy.

I leave you this time with a song that has become incredibly important to me, and I hope that it resonates with you, too.

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