I decided not to make an actual New Years resolution this year. Doing so has never really been my style. And when I have made some public or private resolution, it has never stuck and I've just ended up momentarily disappointed. It's good to have goals and it's good to have benchmarks, but January 1st is just not good timing. I may change my mind by next year at this time, but we will see how that goes.
That all being said, I did plan to do a lot more writing this year. I even thought that perhaps I'd aim for at least one blog post per day, or more conservatively one post per week. But now we are
a week,.. two weeks, three weeks, worth of days into the new year and I've not published a thing... At least, not here on my personal blog (more on this later).
It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I've been rather busy these last few weeks. Stick with me a moment and I'll get a good retrospective on my life and my family's life for last year put together and that will be a good starting point for this new year.
If you recall, one year ago was when it seemed that everyone -- and I do mean EVERYONE -- got Facebook for Christmas. As a blogger, web site hobbyist and general technological snob, I'd resisted the lure of both Facebook and Twitter with a bit of misappropriated disdain. I thought,
Why would anyone who already has a blog or website (or multiple blogs and websites) need a micro-blogging service? I used social bookmarking through Delicious and StumbleUpon but that was it. Up until January of last year, I'd lumped them in with MySpace and ignored them.
But then my wife signed up for Facebook. Her coworkers were on it and had
bugged her enough that she signed up. I soon followed and I felt like a bit of a sheep to do so. And I have regretted my previous snobbishness on many different occasions. The site provides a simple way of reconnecting with old friends from college, high school or wherever. But it also has a lot more than that. And it's free. I haven't used my dumb Classmates.com account in years, for the simple fact that every other feature I tried to use they asked me to sign up for their paid service. Facebook is free and it really is the "database of everybody" in addition to all the fun integrations, games and applications that exist there. For instance, a link to this blog post will appear on my wall moments after I publish through Blogger. My Delicious and StumpleUpon accounts are also integrated.
It's cool. But in fairness, one of my first posts was to reference that Facebook as a website had become THE biggest name on the Internet, just like AOL was 8 years ago. Everyone has an account on Facebook, just like AOL 8 years ago. And Facebook will be around forever, just like ...Oh, oops.
Okay, enough about that. The other much more important thing that happened in January was that Lisa and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. That evening was entirely too awesome for words. Whereas I had help with some of the arrangements --my dad got us the room at Harrah's using his club points-- I planned the whole darn thing and it turned out pretty well. As I sit here typing away, the next big item on my to-do list is to plan our 11th anniversary for two weekends from now, which probably won't be quite as involved but to my mind still needs to be special for my special lady. &heart;Lisa&heart;
My niece Lillian and I both have our birthdays in February. Lilly will soon be THREE YEARS OLD! I'll be turning 34 this year, which is much less exciting compared to three. I'm not really bothered this time around by getting older. I think it bugged me last year and even the year before, more than it ever had before. But this year all I can muster up is a shrug for reaction. Meh! Perhaps I'm just happy with where my life is right now.
More birthdays for our extended family happened in March. Both Linda K. and Zöe V. share this month. Lonny and Tami had their son Bryce, so there is one more birthday. Additionally, both of our kids got invited to birthday parties for their friends at school. On some weekends they were double-booked! There was also an awesome Orchestra concert for Reese.
It's getting to be a regular thing that both Lisa and I sing in the Easter Cantata every year. I never thought of myself as a singer, but it's fun. Also in April of 2009, as in 2008, we had a day at the cemetery celebrating Lucas on his birthday.
More birthdays happened in May. I still can't believe this, but my oldest child turned 10 years old! Olivia had her Girl Scout Bridging ceremony and then school went to break for the summer.
Although Lisa and I knew for a few weeks, May was when we announced that God had answered a prayer we'd had for several months. Lisa was once again pregnant! So began a whole new journey and chapter of our lives that I'd given up hope of coming true. There was a lot of worry and trepidation that immediately settled into my mind, but trust and faith have been carrying me and still do.
For more global news, May was when the news regarding Swine Flu, the vaccine that was being developed for it and possible shortages started making the rounds everywhere you looked. My dad had some ruminations on the news and how it echoed the 1976 flu season. I came to understand that my parents' experience of the vaccine from that year was rather negative. I'd vaguely heard the story before as a youngster, but suddenly it was topical again.
I also took a day off work to be one of a dozen Career Day Presenters at the elementary school where my mom is the counselor. This was a really fun, empowering day for me.
Right before May ended, my brother and his wife Kelly had a new addition to their family, Sophia Louise Arconati. She was so adorable and it was starting to look like a really good year for new babies.
We began going to very regimented doctor appointments for Lisa that would eventually get as regular as every two weeks and more. Due to Lisa's diabetes, previous c-sections and so on, she has one of the best medical teams due to her high risk status. Still, not a day went by without a few moments of worry.
This is always a busy month for birthdays in addition to Independence Day. Lonny, Kelly, Lisa and my great-aunt Ruby all celebrate their birth in July. Lisa's folks came down to visit us for about a week and to see the fireworks. For the very first time, Reese went away to summer camp for an entire week! My mom, my wife, my kids and I also spent an entire week at the time-share at Lost Valley Lake. Come to think of it, we were also joined by my aunt and uncle for a few days.
My step-brother Lonny and his wife Tami came into town from New Jersey for a baby shower for their son Bryce, who was born in March. Lisa's dad and her twin siblings Kate and Nate have a birthday in August. My little brother Jon also was born in August. If you want to know a weird coincidence, Jon and my wife's siblings were all born on the same day. Of course, Jon was born years earlier but they all three share a birthday. And yes, I'm aware of the fact that twins are normally born on the same day. The coincidence is that my little brother ... oh, nevermind!
Going back to Lost Valley Lake for a moment, you may have seen the news in August when the news was the fire at the main sports complex. It's a pretty big deal for them and a little weird considering that they had another large fire that gutted an entire building back in 2004. It's bad luck and they are just in an area of the county that fire departments have trouble getting into. A lot of people in St. Louis have been to LVL over the years. But for our family it was a little more eye-opening to see because we had just been swimming and playing mini-golf at that very building only a few weeks earlier.
Lisa and I had planned a second trip to LVL for a weekend in early September. It was just us four: Lisa, myself, Reese and Olivia. Well, four and a half, if you count the pregnancy. We got a chance to see the completely destroyed building. We spent hours swimming at the pool and had tons of time for fishing. Both my girls caught fish. Even my wife caught a fish with my pole while I was walking back to the car to fetch the cooler. I caught nothing except mud and weeds! At night, we slept in a rented trailer and told ghost stories around the campfire. I told a few that I know, but Olivia made one up completely on the spot that was very involved and in depth. I wish I'd written it down.
By this point in the year, it was clear that Lisa was growing with pregnancy and this was really going to happen. I mean, we had been watching the baby's progress on regular ultrasounds and everything was going smoothly. But in the back of both of our minds, it still seemed so unreal. We waited silently for the joke to be revealed. We waited for some sort of tempering mildly bad --or really bad-- news. We held our breath and waited for the other shoe to drop...
Something I should mention is that when you have infant loss, there is a blissful ignorance that you no longer possess. The veil of security, the idea of invincibility and the boastful claim that "this will never happen to me" is no longer possible. We'd experienced loss of an infant, and we'd also experienced miscarriage. So we could no longer be blissfully ignorant, even if we wanted to be.
Near the end of September, I was let go from my job at Network Solutions. My former coworkers and supervisors may still read my blog, as so many of them are still my friends on Facebook. I'm not going to bad-mouth or complain about the company, though others have done so both privately and publicly. Things happen and (allow me this analogy) like a recently divorced marriage, accusations of blame could be tossed around recklessly. In reality, it may have been time for both parties to part ways. But hey, that's just the truth for me and should not reflect on the confidence of my buddies in their jobs or of any of NetSol's clients (who hopefully don't read my blog anyhow). For my own personal reasons, this change to my life might be the best possible news in the long term.
The first financial thing we did prior to wading through the unemployment benefits stuff, was to call our mortgage company and reapply for the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan. We had initially applied back in the summer at some point, but our combined wages were too high. Now that I was not gainfully employed, it was very simple to ask them to reprocess our original application and we got a positive result quickly. Our monthly payment was reduced by about $400/month. By the end of the month, I was also earning unemployment benefits through Illinois and it was a good percentage of my previous wages. I haven't computed it to the exact dollar, but I feel like I'm actually ahead if you don't consider the medical and other associated benefits.
In the job market, I knew before I started looking that things weren't great. But I began to find some new avenues that I hadn't considered before on various smaller job boards as well as Craigslist. Realistically reevaluating my skills, I've begun to look at my favorite role as more of a designer, developer and consultant with tons of small business expertise that I have not yet been able to fully wield. This is opposed to or in addition to my more limited role as a technical support software expert. I've mentioned that I'm reading Covey's First Things First and using it to Dream Big. This is only one of many reasons why.
Halloween was lots of fun. Thinking historically, this holiday is becoming less of an open door-to-door kind of day and more of a closed party style of day. We hung out with the VanMeters for a little while once again this year and then we gathered candy. There are two houses around the corner from me that throw a combined open house. They barbecue hot dogs, have a half-barrel of punch and some teenagers actually put together one of the worst punk-rock bands I've ever heard. They have a "stage" and even closed off part of the one cul-de-sac for a mosh pit of sorts.
My dad, my mother-in-law and my daughter Olivia all have November birthdays. I believe that both Ryan and Heather also have their birthdays in November in addition to their wedding anniversary. Against our better judgment, we caved to Olivia's request to have her birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. We celebrated Thanksgiving at my Aunt Jeannie's house with the traditional hike.
During the hike, Olivia was complaining that her feet hurt and she wanted me to carry her. In a joke, I said something about Bilbo not needing to be carried for his whole adventure to reach the Lonely Mountain. One of my cousins asked with some suspicion if she would even know what I was referring to. And that's something else I'm proud of from the last year. By Thanksgiving, I'd been reading to the girls from the Hobbit every night. We normally read something right before bedtime, but this was the biggest and longest book we've read so far. I started reading from J.R.R. Tolkien's great work after Reese had gotten so excited about the Percy Jackson series that she found. Reese likes Tolkien just okay and usually it lulls her to sleep. But Olivia listens with rapt wide-eyed attention! She asks questions too and is so taken with the characters that she is writing her own version in a little pocket notebook, which she calls the "girls version".
Lisa continued to grow more pregnant and the baby continued to grow in complete health. After a minor scare which proved to be nothing, we decided to find out the gender of the baby. We had originally planned to wait until the end and be surprised. But we changed our mind and until the technician confirmed otherwise, I thought we were going to have a third girl. Instead, I was floored that we would have a boy! I would have been happy either way, but admittedly we wanted a boy.
My mom has a birthday early in December. My son, who's name was going to be Samuel, was also going to be born in December. Plans for the cesarean section and the hospital stay were firmed up. A last few ultrasounds and other tests were performed and everything was great.
An interesting scheduling act was performed as the date approached. Lisa's due date was the 20th, but the doctor we prefer was only available on Wednesdays, so that meant scheduling the birth for the 16th which was a perfect time for us. However, we were also going to be singing in the Christmas Cantata, which was scheduled for the 13th, the previous Sunday. Lisa even asked to do a short solo. In the past, my wife had scheduled c-sections for both girls, but she went into labor a few weeks early with Lucas. There was a very real possibility that Lisa would go into labor early and we'd miss it.
Ultimately, the day of the performance came, we sang and when the service was over, Lisa was still pregnant. The last few weeks of pregnancy are always the most uncomfortable and seem to take the longest. Even so, the feeling that this was all so unreal and precarious made the whole nine months actually fly by way too fast. It seemed like I was still reeling from the fact that the tubal ligation reversal was in fact successful, and then to learn the news that we were going to have another son... and then:
He's pretty dang handsome isn't he? Samuel Joseph Arconati was born 21.5in tall and weighing 8lbs 5.1oz. And he just keeps on growing.
In the days that followed, Lisa's mom and sister came down from Chicago to see Sammy and to stay with us through Christmas. They arrived two hours early, Lisa was still in the hospital with Sammy and I'd had about four hours of sleep. My mother-in-law, who I adore on most occasions, immediately started barking orders at me in regards to home maintenance. In the end, it was all sorted out and all was forgiven. I did get some sleep later on and I got a cleaner house in the bargain, just in time for Samuel to come home.
The girls spent the night with my mom on New Year's eve (a tradition, it seems) and Lisa, Samuel and I spent it with each other just doing nothing but a bit of cuddling.
Throughout the entire year in 2009, there was much more involvement with all kinds of activities for the girls. In addition to Pioneer Club, the girls were both involved in Girl Scouts and Reese joined chorus and Celebrate Children (think show choir) at school, in addition to Cello in Orchestra.
We continue to read from the Lord of the Rings series at night among other books, and I'm eagerly anticipating the day we complete them so they can watch the extended edition DVDs. I've been watching the bonus features when the girls go to sleep and it's really sinking in how huge these stories are.
So it was a pretty great year throughout. The highlight was getting to hold my son for the first time and to realize that he is alive and healthy and vital. And the moment I saw his face I knew he was not Lucas. I'm still worried, and I will likely continue to be until his first birthday. But I'm not as panicked as I expected to be. Our little family of five is complete and blessed and together. I will continue to thank God every day for these "small" miracles, which by my account are not small in the least.
If you've really read this far, it should be counted a Herculean task for which you should be proud... or perhaps ashamed, depending on your perspective. I can just hear you saying "There's 20 minutes I'll never get back!" Thanks for your time and I pray also that God blesses you this new year at least as much as he's blessed me in the old.
Now to see about getting some sleep...