“Ends are always followed by beginnings. Something new could start now, right here! There really are so many wonderful things. “
- Tim Walker

Last year I wrote about paying attention. Most of this year felt like a prolonged exercise in attention: the trees in different colors in the neighbouring park, break making, walking the same loop around Helsinki, living on an island in the middle of the city.

I waved and air-kissed a lot. Worked on small, personal projects that gave me joy and prepare me, maybe, if I’m lucky, for something new. Ruby series grew to include a Faroe, Greek, Thai, Turkish and Indian-English versions. I also got a new Chinese publisher and new books were published in Japanese and Italian. Completed my 1000 kilometers a year running goal, but was short two books of the 70 books a year goal.

Found surprising joy amidst a pandemic. Learned to trust.

Here’s 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. And here is 2020:

January

  • Changed the year at R. & A.’s making Korean hotdogs and playing Playstation. Walked to my new home, had a drink at the nearby hotel lobby at midnight and decided 2020 was going to be great.
  • Played Terraforming Mars on several nights. Entertained a lot: friends for tea, lunch, weekend visits, lazy Sundays in bed and book club planning. Loved these moments, especially given how the year would continue.
  • Last stretches of renovation and the excitement of plumbing, electricity and interior decorations all coming together. My brief for A. was: “Make it look like an English arts club where members have forgotten to pay their dues. Also Grey Gardens meets Queen Elizabeth.”
  • Made the same sandwich over and over again: Västerbotten cheese, pumpkin relish and sourdough from the nearby bakery. Attended classical music club and scribbled down life advice: when you change the tempo, you change the rendition.
  • Spent a week in London with E. BETT was massive, V&A’s Tim Walker collection mystical. Saw A’s first exhibition, had breakfast with C. and met with the lovely folks at Wonderbly. And with a wink and a bit of eastwind, my year took a turn into Mary Poppins universe with B. Serious, yet whimsical, lighthearted, yet profound, imaginative, yet practical.
  • Throughout the year hung for some reason on this Guillermo del Toro interview. The themes would reappear over and over again.

Read:

February

  • Flew to San Francisco. Mostly worked with H. Read a lot and did yoga with H.&E. and about 70 other people crammed into a tiny room. Enjoyed the cold, sunny days, running in Presidio (“I am dancing, dancing on the edge of the world.” — Rumsen Ohlone Song) and the smell of eucalyptus. Visited Reno for a lovely teaching session at the Nevada Museum of Art.
  • Thought a lot about Freeman Dyson, who passed away.
  • JOY IS NOT MADE TO BE A CRUMB, told everyone who would care to listen. But/and for the entire year.
  • Did a quick trip to Dubai at the end of the month. Enjoyed examples of Taiwanese and UK teachers using Ruby materials. Started playing Fortnite after reading many essays from Matthew Ball. Watched Giri/Haji and missed both London and Tokyo. Ate blinis, hunted for furniture from Bukowski, attended several birthday parties, saw Parasite in the movies. So many lasts.
  • On February 5th a delegation from China was supposed to visit Finland, but they cancelled. This was my first inkling that things would change.

Read:

March

  • Met baby E. Visited Stockholm and the lovely Tove Jansson Festival. There was already nervousness in the air, a lot of hand sanitisers in use with T. and J., but still went to Junibacken, Millesgård and ordered room service at Nobis. March 11th flew to Copenhagen for the final in-person gig of the year for an empty audience — then, one by one, every single work thing disappearing from my calendar.
  • Started a long-planned egg freezing process with all of the hormones and injections, but had to abruptly stop because of Covid. Luckily, joy was around the corner and I didn’t have a lot of time to feel sad.
  • Drink coffee, write and try not to meet a lot of people.”- Bong Joon-ho. Kale and butternut squash and chickpeas. Coffee and toiletpaper. Cranberry no-knead bread. Blood orange cake.
  • Got a new piece to my Armi Ratia collection, built a Lego lunar lander and bought a beautiful Carolina Herrera gala dress I never got to wear. The days grew lighter and so did I.
  • Loved the pastel aesthetic of old computers. Read several books in Swedish and held story hours on Instagram in the evenings.

Read

April

  • Every calamity opens a new seam and for me it was time. It’s been a decade or more since I’ve spent several weeks in one place. Doing “nothing” became a national moral imperative, and as much as I missed my family, and the pandemic scared me, the pause was much needed. (Here I must say Helsinki has had it quite easy compared to many other cities, I don’t have kids of my own and work, even though completely uppended, could continue in some fashion).
  • Home felt like a remote island, a tiny enchanted diorama. Finished a dream project of building a custom bookshelf. Daffodils grinning on the windowsill. Pancakes becoming a form of meditation. A bench at the nearby park, perfect for reading. Had a patient skateboarding teacher I was learning to trust and enjoyed the Ghibli cloud weather in the evenings.
  • Turned 34. Had one of the best stay-at-home birthdays ever. Went to a Travis Scott concert — on Fortnite, with 12 million others. Listened to Sofia Coppola’s Quarantine playlist and hours on end of Timothée Chalamet New York mixtape
  • Wrote the only column of the year for YLE on Fortnite being a place instead of a game. Thought also about nostalgia and childhood and Solitaire. Watched Unorthodox which fit the strange mood perfectly.
  • A new book buzzing and humming inside of me. Took a Stanford class on narrative non-fiction writing, but failed miserably to work on PST.

Read

May

  • Worked on video productions, math content and a few bigger projects that are not yet out. Had some professional disappointments. Slowly started to believe that the cancellations of international events and teaching might turn out to be a good thing, although at times the spring was financially stressful.
  • Still had my work with Hive, OP Helsinki and Unesco, so got my share of Zoom-fatigue, but probably to a lesser extent than many. Also, writing life prepared me well for days and weeks without workplace contacts.
  • Moisio preschoolers made me smile. Printing presses are giant GPUS 🤯
  • Through work at Hive followed discussions around the future of remote-first university and higher-ed and decided to start paying attention again (after the first wave of MOOCs had all but left the edtech world in disillusionment). CS50 was a constant source of joy and inspiration.
  • Did a joyous Mayday delivery run of pastries for godchildren and met a new group of people I’d grow close to (a feat during a year of social distancing!). Saw B. kitesurfing. Played Peggy Gou instead of being at AfricaBurn.

Read

June

Read

July

  • Summer plans changed quite suddenly and I was alone for most of July, with a slight summertime ennui and endless loops of Taylor Swift. But did enjoy a trip to Lonna island, a walk to Way bakery which felt like a trip to Berlin, as well as making of special signs (“Do not trample the bugs”).
  • Watched Babysitters Club with A. and enjoyed a wonderful exhibition by M. and C. Watched I May Destroy You in awe. Hung out a lot with my goddaughter, literally stopping to smell the flowers and visited the cabins of two friends. Summer felt at times almost normal.
  • Did a talk for CSTA and got quite excited about all the possibilities virtual events offered (and wrote about my thoughts a bit). After a quiet and simmering spring, I was feeling ready to start working in the new normal. Ordered a documentary camera and rolled my sleeves. A typology of dumplings.
  • Something about the lack of touch this year, our focus on wobbly heads on the screen, has made me notice more the connections of movement, language and technology. If language began in the hands, why did it ever leave?

Read

August

  • C and K came to Helsinki. Spent time at our summer house and attended H’s tiny engagement party. B. came back. Had a magical night at Savoy. Went to the Moomin exhibition at National Museum three times and organised a Moomin & pancaked themed 2-year party for A and a graduation party for C. All the time the tingling sensation that this too, was ending.
  • Photographed a ton of electrical boxes to start my outdoors mural project.
  • Started a newsletter, after years of postponing. Wrote about digital pocket treasures and was glad to have a writing rhythm after slacking on the column writing in the spring. Was curious about Walden Pond.
  • Throughout fall joined as many online events as I could: seminars, theater, festivals, exhibitions, Netflix parties, Discord meetups, small classes, concerts, book clubs, Twitch writing sessions, parties on Google Docs, and tried to take notes of every experience. Felt like I was back in school, but instead of paying tuition to someone I was getting paid to learn in public. And all this might become something.. new?
  • Month of big life changes — bonjour l’avenir!

Read

September

Read

October

Read

November

  • Celebrated my first year in Ullanlinna! Did a keynote to Singapore, Sweden, Faroe islands, Estonia and Pori, all virtually. Bought a ring light, that also doubled as a bright light in the darkening Helsinki.
  • Walks in Seurasaari and anxiously waiting for Uunisaari bridge to come back. Purple brussels sprouts. New routine of Sunday breakfasts. Seeing baby I. for the first time on a walk. Father’s day dinner.
  • Enjoyed seeing the work of my Chinese publisher (hope I can share more next year!) and the new Faroese versions of Hello Ruby. Wrote about math and later about drawing. Started an online Reggio Emilia course, something that wouldn’t have been possible before. Read A Critique of Technocentrism in Thinking About the School of the Future by Seymour Papert
  • A worsening Covid situation and general November-ness were starting to get to me. Tried to find wisdom from Moominvalley in November. R’s and A’s small wedding was a source of much joy: participated in bachelor and bachelorette party and the wedding itself. Ebitdad returns.
  • Felt relieved with Biden’s victory and remembering a moment on the South Lawn years ago. Forest floors in Finland’s daycare’s made me smile.

Read

December

Read

I like shiny things and software. Childrens book author at http://t.co/BHa0N4JzUW. Co-founder of http://t.co/u9jfb7qnFB. @Codecademy alumni.

I like shiny things and software. Childrens book author at http://t.co/BHa0N4JzUW. Co-founder of http://t.co/u9jfb7qnFB. @Codecademy alumni.