It’s 7:30 on New Year’s Eve. Lily and I are alone. We’ve spent the whole day together. She’s in eyeshot now, in the front room watching Dora and singing along while I sit at the kitchen table and type, a new/old Howie Day cd raining down on me from the kitchen speakers. Now she just walked in here with a yellow bowl on her head…the same yellow bowl I gave to her just minutes ago, filled with macaroni.
“I ate it all daddy!” she said before getting distracted and realizing some scotch tape was stuck on the table and trying to scratch it off, bowl still in place.
Then I burst into tears.
I’ve given a million thoughts to how to end this year. One of them was to buy all the 2009 calendars I can find and burn them in a towering, backyard inferno. Or, I thought, I could put each negative experience we had on a different piece of tissue paper, make them into some origami animal and then march them into the toaster oven. Lots of fire. Lots of stress. Lots of negative feelings about 2009.
But you know, when Rhonda and I were deliberating how we would shut down and shut out 2009 never once did we say “…and we should reflect on the positive things too, right?” Never. We haven’t even thought about them, or believed that they even existed for that matter. But then I was sitting here going through pictures from the year. Of course I have literally hundreds and hundreds from each month because that’s what you do when you have kids, right? In the process of trying to catalog and close 2009 I realized that it was, in fact, a very positive year in many respects. Therefore, volatile as I am feeling, I am going to treat myself to a month-by-month recap of this year and pay special attention to not just the challenges, but the successes of 2009. We’ll see how well that works out for me.
After that I am still going to do the origami incinerator thing with the bad shit.
January…the inaugural month of the year in more ways than one. It’s hard to think about January 2009 without being completely consumed by the memory of almost losing Avalena. She was diagnosed with Meckel’s Diverticulum – a congenital condition where stomach tissue exists in part of the intestines. The tissue secretes stomach acid, etc and eats through the intestinal walls, essentially creating bleeding ulcers. Surgery quickly followed…they cut out some of Ava’s belly as well as her appendix. The world was turned upside down for a few weeks when it seemed like our family might be irrevocably altered. But things turned out ok. One year later the only traces of that time are the scars on our brains and one thin line across the right side of Ava’s stomach.
So that was the negative…remember what else was going on in January? Let me not forget how hard I worked to get Barack Obama elected in 2008. The swearing in of the first African America President was a watershed moment in my professional and personal life. That I had to leave the inauguration early to come back to my family was nothing more than an indicator that I know how to prioritize the things in my life. There will always be elections…that’s not changing. And hey…I framed my ball and swearing in tickets…and they sit right here in my office. Good enough for me.
No NOT good enough…my little Lulu turned two in January! Let us not eclipse the memory of my little penguin’s second birthday with all the other things going on.
January Travel: Washington D.C. – Toledo, OH
On a scale of trauma to elation, February was about a pinch in the ass. Poor Bird just couldn’t get a break in the first quarter. There I was, in Vegas, when Rhonda called me to let me know that they were, again, in the emergency room. Jesus Christ my stomach clenched like a fist and I almost vomited in the Mirage casino. Not as dire this time; she’d tripped over the dog and needed her chin stitched up. Still…I wasn’t with her and that was a killer.
But there were positives… For one, hey, I started a new job moving from being the Ohio State Director for America Votes to the National Field Director. It was a good move and it was a calculated move. Rhonda and I talked about the implications a bunch – how much travel I’d have to do, how long I was willing to commit to, etc. Very positive move. I plan on talking about my career a lot this year. Also positive – Rhonda turned 38 and didn’t melt down about it.
February Travel: Washington D.C. – Phoenix, AZ – Las Vegas, NV
March was the dark spot on the sun for us in 2009. We lost a baby at 5 ½ months – Stardust Ariel Nunnery. The name was picked by Avalena who was crushed to learn that she wasn’t going to have a new sister after all. I don’t want to detail what we went through again because I’ve already inventoried and packed that box away. Everything after March has a vandal’s streak of grey painted right through the middle of it and, to be honest, we still haven’t completely recovered.
It wasn’t much of a counterbalance, but we did get to see some friends and family in March. Cory and Troy came out for their birthdays. Also, the sun began to melt away the winter’s nastiness allowing us to stay outside more. We cycled out our cold season menu for the dishes of spring and summer, dusted off the grill and pledged to only eat things that could be cooked over an open flame. We also tried the best we could to chip away at the layer of ice spreading across our hearts.
March Travel: N/A
I turned 38 in April and I didn’t know how to feel about it. Birthdays aren’t a big deal to me but it seems increasingly difficult to view myself as anything other than an aging man. What a ridiculous thing to write, I just thought. But it’s true. I’ve become a life-sized tattoo of myself that’s merely an older version of me. Is it a better version? I don’t know. We took the girls to Chicago in April because we wanted to get a way for a few days. My poor babies wanted to swim on a beach so bad but the frigid lake weather wasn’t having it. They had to settle for flying kites in their bikinis while the wind turned their skin blue.
April Travel: Washington, D.C., Cincinnati – OH, Chicago, IL
May was an action packed month. Rhonda and I went on separate trips to spend some time with friends. She went to Sand Diego to see Pearl and I went to New Orleans with Cory and Troy for Jazzfest and an epic eating tour. Two friends from LA – Jeff & Jaime – came out visit us and Henry…little Henry who I met when he was 16 graduated from law school. Holy Shit. A lot of my May pictures are of food. That’s because, in addition to being a pig, I bought a smoker in May and went on a mission to really learn how to use it. Later in the month we went to Michigan and rented a beach house with Rhonda’s sisters. It’s always good to get away and it’s always better when there is a beach involved. Know what I mean?
As if we needed to be reminded of life’s delicate nature, Lily got sick enough to need to go to the emergency room. Nothing bad, relatively speaking of course, but she had to be put on IV fluids for awhile and (of course) I was out of town when it happened.
May Travel: Washington, D.C. – Silver Beach, MI – New Orleans, LA – St. Louis, MO
My woman and I were married for five years when June 26th rolled around. Half a decade. Honestly…it couldn’t be better. This year has forced us to earn some parent and spouse stripes – that’s for sure. But that’s life now isn’t it? Things aren’t always easy even if that’s what we all strive for. My wife is the best person on the planet for me so five years may as well be fifty because I know I’ll feel the same way then. As a means to both celebrate our anniversary and purge the leftovers from losing the baby in March, we packed up our family and headed to Southern California in June. You can read all about it in my June entries.
June Travel: Washington, D.C. – Las Vegas, NV – Los Angeles, CA – San Diego, CA – Columbia, MO
July should have been a welcomed continuation of the June’s summertime festivities. But the truth is…we had another crisis, albeit a private one. No one knows that we miscarried another baby in July. Ugh…Like the Princess and the Pea, it felt like another heavy layer had been placed on top of us…something else we’d have to remove later when working through the year and attempting to pull out all the thistles. My mom came out for a few days and we took her to Chicago for the Taste of Chicago. Going there makes us happy and, again, it was a nice respite from some of the things swirling through our heads.
July Travel: Washington, D.C. – Chicago, IL – Tampa, FL – St. Louis, MO
I don’t even know what to make out of August. Such a whirlwind. First off was my 20 year reunion in Denver. We took more time than we needed so we could hang out with the family, go to the mountains and make a real vacation out of it. (I have to say…going through these pictures today makes me feel like our whole life is one big vacation. How come it always feels like work?) But Colorado was definitely a good time. It was the right balance of friends, family and respite. Hey, I’ll add a vanity line for good measure…I was happy to be at my 20 year reunion with a laundry list of positive line items. Married, kids, good job, good friends. I don’t say that because I saw a lot of people that didn’t have those things…but because the affirmation to myself that I am doing ok is what keeps me from jumping out of windows. I don’t always remember the positive things, see.
More positives in August…earlier I mentioned my friend Henry who graduated from law school this year and that he was someone I met when he was 16. Another person I met way back when she was in high school hit a huge milestone in August; Helen got married! Bittersweet, yes. One part ‘Look how far she’s come!” Two parts “Holy fuck what have I been doing with my life?!” I traveled to LA for the wedding and made sure to wrap a full-blown friend-and-eating tour around the festivities. Good times.
So far so good in August! Alright! But of course…we hadn’t had any trauma with our two girls in over a month so it was time for God to flip us a bitch card. This time I was in Washington DC when Lily fell down the stairs and shattered her arm, requiring surgery and pins. Poor little girl. She was only on the third or fourth stair and just happened to get spun around and then planted onto the hard tile floor at the bottom. Those little bones just aren’t so durable at two years old. But bad as it was…Rhonda and I couldn’t help but think that it could have been worse. Way worse. All things considered, she handled it pretty well. So did we, now that I think about it.
August Travel: Washington, D.C. – Denver, CO – Los Angeles, CA
Yikes. Both of those things are positive milestones, right? I can’t only focus on me feeling old! Good for Bird! She’s getting bigger, she’s getting smarter and she is getting sassier! Hey…I was sassy…still am. Not going to worry about that right now. I’ve got years ahead me for that. She started school! She’s writing her name now! Reading things! Crying because she doesn’t fit in! Yay! Our master plan is being executed to perfection!
“Ha ha ha! It’s me, God! I’ve got some news my son. I just realized that the second half of your year has been noticeably better than the first half. For that, I must strike you with a bolt of undeserved karmic equilibrium – vengeful God style. BAM! I have just placed a lump in your wife’s breast!”
Yep. Fuck. Talk about a hairy couple of days. Hey, good news – she’s ok. Good for everyone too, because had my wife been bitten by the cancer bug I would have launched a jihad against the G_O_D himself. That couldn’t be good for others. Like all of mankind.
September Travel: Washington, D.C. – Detroit, MI
Positive: I had my hernia repaired!
Flip Side: Hey that’s surgery! Surgery right around my _________. Yeah it sucks.
Positive: My Grandma turned 90! All our family from around the country convened to celebrate her life.
Flip Side: The birthday may have evoked some depression in her. It was hard to not think about the implications (see: this may be the last…it’s definitely close to the last.)
Positive: Rhonda and I started marriage counseling to help cope with all the year’s trauma.
Flip Side: Actually nothing. That’s been completely positive so let’s just end there.
October Travel: Denver, CO
I lost a good friend in November – Eli Senna and he was a good man…a unique man whose place in the world no one will be able to assume. I honestly believe he is finally at peace and, in time, I think his family will be too. Eli had a lot of struggles. It’s been difficult to say goodbye to him…still is. Rhonda and I both made the trek to the very spiritual place of northern New Mexico to bid our farewell. The trip was good for us because it was an emotional time and we got to really bear down on it and be together. And nothing else bad happened to our family either. Such a low threshold, I know. But by the eleventh month of the year our standards weren’t the same as when we started.
November Travel: Washington, D.C. – Columbia, MO
December Travel: Washington, D.C. – Denver, CO – Santa Fe, NM
So here we are…wrapping up 2009 and descending into a new decade. We did our family trip to Denver for the holidays and we will end this year with everyone healthy. I’m ready for it, for a new year. There are a lot of big things on the horizon in 2010: a new career direction for me, the potential of a new baby (or not), deciding whether or not to move, whether or not to build a house, Lily starting school…all that. And then there’s the intangible…the strengthening of bonds between me and my wife, between my kids and their parents and each other…between all of us. I’m happy to wrap this up on an upswing and feeling positive. I’m sure I’ll have more on this later…a lot more. But I’m sick of writing.
So long 2009. Farewell and go fuck yourself.