Kevin Lewis gaming with his son Nathaniel, 7.

Kevin Lewis gaming with his son Nathaniel, 7.             

The end is near.

Thankfully, as apocalyptical as 2020 has been, this phrase is a welcome one when pertaining to the winding down of this most alarming and aggravating year.

Despite the death and dismay however, there have been some delightful diversions that have nonetheless helped me make it out to the other side of it, relatively sane.

I share, because I care, and in no particular order here.

One of the hottest things to help me coast through quarantine was the Nintendo Switch, and since I already had one commandeered by my 7-year-old son, I got myself a Nintendo Switch Lite.

It’s amazing.

With lots of time to play as most other things were closed, gamers like myself grabbed this little gem partly because it was available in larger quantities than the regular Nintendo Switch, and partly because of the improvements: better D-pad, longer battery life, smaller form factor.

For me, the ability to play quality games on a hand-held system was a no-brainer; play anywhere, anytime.

Game on, and game I did.

And since we’re on the subject of Nintendo goodness, please get the Nintendo Switch Online service once you get a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite.

Ranging in price from $3.99 for a month, $7.99 for three months, $19.99 for a year, or even a one year family plan at $34.99, this service does more than allow you to play others online.

By having this, users currently have access to a curated and routinely updated list of Nintendo and Super Nintendo titles to play, and as I discovered this year, the ability to rewind your games will extend your life in it and enjoyment of it.

Just died again trying to defeat that boss you couldn’t beat when you were younger?

Simply rewind the action this time, till you get it right!

Beat that Konami code...

The next new item occupying my time was an app that I installed to my iPad Mini last year, but fully utilized this year to my literary happiness.

Hoopla is a free library app that links to your local library, and allows you to borrow up to 21 titles per month -- whether music, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, e-books, or even comic books -- safely from your home.

I’ve read a huge backlog of comics this year, downloaded children’s books for my son to read at bedtime, and my wife has even got her hands on some instructional books.

It’s an amazing resource for us, as we would normally go to our local library monthly to grab some titles, but now with social distancing guidelines, we can still support our neighborhood branch.

So if you already have a library card or are interested in getting it, visit your closest library, get your card for free, and then use it to download the app; it’s incredible how much is available on it for you to peruse.

Speaking of apps, streaming services gained a huge amount of customers this year.

Between Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc., users who missed movie theaters (like myself) indulged in many film choices and other entertainment options on them.

And although I’ve had some of these for a while, I honestly wasn’t one to binge-watch.

All that definitely changed this year though, as my chances of checking out movies at my favorite spots became slim, and I came to realize what many have already discovered: bingeing is beautiful.

With so many options to choose from, I worked my subscriptions for every dollar I spent on them, and didn’t feel guilty over one second or cent of them.

I’ve enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

Along the same lines, I also started to enjoy something I had heard about for years: podcasts.

My weapon of choice is Spotify, and I’m loving the sci-fi dramas on it; I started with “The Left Right Game”, continued to “Limetown”, and am currently listening to “The Bright Sessions”.

If you’ve found yourself in a rut with bingeing, try out the enormous selection of podcasts exploring every possible genre -- from the ones I’ve mentioned, to podcasts from musicians like Chuck D and Shirley Manson, to Michelle Obama’s new podcast highlighting her thoughts on current events and everyday topics -- there are as many different podcasting apps as there are podcasts on them too.

Regarding other collections, did you know you could make YouTube playlists?

As a child of the 80’s, mixtapes were my jam!

YouTube takes this a step further and allows you to make lists or folders for anything you would want to save and playback later.

This year, I added folders for artists like Rancid and Run The Jewels (amazing album this year, by the way) to movie soundtracks for Inception and Tron: Legacy (listening to it as I write this now) in addition to other favorites, and even a folder for live cameras all over the world.

It’s always nice to find a new way to use a piece of technology, so this was a welcome discovery: thanks COVID-19.

Now when it comes to health, reverting to a home virtual office was the smart and safe thing, but it would probably have become

unhealthy if not for my activity tracker.

I succumbed to the need for one, once I realized I just wasn’t moving around as much as I used to in an office.

And while my 40-90 minute commute has now been wondrously shortened to several steps, these were sometimes the majority of the steps I would take all day; the activity tracker has changed that.

With daily reminders to move, updates on my progress, and even information on my sleep patterns, my Fitbit Inspire HR allows me to stay on top of my health, while also getting me text info when necessary.

Yes, it’s not an Apple smartwatch, but I’m home and have other Apple products, so I don’t need to have every gizmo on it Another piece of healthy quarantine tech that’s helped me manage this year, is my smoothie blender.

Even though I got it in November, this baby has been my little green angel, blending all kinds of fruits, vegetables, juices, and yogurts into tasty treats.

I didn’t see the appeal of it before, but once I peeled a banana and threw it in with some other choice ingredients, I became smitten with it and I don’t care who knows!

So good…get one...

Following along on the taking care of me train, a daily facial cleanser has entered the station of my life.

With all the stress of pandemic living, you’d be surprised how taking care of one’s face has become more difficult in our new normal.

Coupled with the increased snacking and maskne, my face got a little rough for a bit.

Thankfully, my beautiful and  glowing wife hipped me to one of her secrets, after catching me washing my face one morning with foaming antibacterial hand soap.

“That’s not for your face,” my sweetness shrieked, “why would you use that?!”

Not realizing the error of my ways, she showed me a facial cleanser that she used, and explained it’s not the creamy pungent beauty mask I thought it was: it’s similar to a CeraVe hydrating cleanser, made by Walgreens, and has zero perfumy fragrance.

Just manly enough for me.

She even blessed me at Christmas with a beard set for softening up my face spikes, that actually smells like a cedar forest, and includes a boar bristle brush to tame ‘em.

She’s awesome.

Lastly, I would be lying and wrong if I didn’t include my favorite safety precaution this year: custom face masks.

My mother-in-law has been making them from old shirts, pants, jeans, and other materials for the whole family.

We’ve got matching Star Wars, Batman/Joker options, a denim set, and even a suede set that makes us feel all kinds of fancy.

Nothing better than a bespoke face mask to make you wear one, at a time when so many unbelievably just won’t wear any kind of personal protective equipment.

Anyhow, and even though prayer and whiskey is still on the docket, these previously mentioned uncovered treasures have made this year that much more tolerable for me, at a time when it hasn’t been easy.

Hopefully this list made you think about some things that did the same for you and yours, and made you realize it hasn’t been all bad.

And while they are just possessions, maybe they helped you also possess a peace of mind, during an unpeaceful time.

So here’s to the end of it, cheers, and on to the next one -- Happy New Year!

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