Yes, my first “real” post of 2011 is of course a 2010 retrospective. Here are the Top 10 events of 2010 for me, based on importance, enjoyment, and gravity. The year was a collage of metamorphoses for Melissa and me – perhaps the most transformational year for either of us. Here are the highlights:
1. Melissa giving birth to William Isaac Mandy on August 4. Of course this topic deserves a variety of posts on its own, but this was a seminal event for three people. Melissa has given you the details in earlier posts, and I’ll probably post more on it later. But for now I will say that Liam’s birth was the closest I’ve felt to Melissa since we’ve been married, and the proudest I have ever been of her, or anyone for that matter. She mapped out the course of her labor and Liam’s delivery before she was even pregnant; she knew exactly what she wanted and why. When we moved to Destin and the details of the big day began to fall into place, they were essentially window dressing on a much more concrete plan. Melissa knew she wanted to give birth naturally (ie, without medication), wanted to breastfeed immediately, and wanted a relatively short labor (who wouldn’t).
By the grace of God, all of these things fell into place with almost eerie perfection. Melissa labored for just under 9 hours, did not take any medication, and only pushed for about 10 minutes before Liam arrived. He breastfed immediately, including an hour and forty-five minutes of the first two hours of his extra-uterine life. There were no complications whatsoever, and Melissa was up walking around without difficulty hours after the delivery, prompting the midwife to ask her to at least act like she’d just given birth. We left the hospital with Liam almost exactly 24 hours after he was born.
I’m proud of Melissa because she knew what she wanted and made it happen, even if it wasn’t easy. She read the books, talked to the right people, watched the videos, and experienced a textbook labor and delivery. Not many people can do what she did, and many others aren’t blessed with a complication-free labor. For Melissa and I it was the birth of our child, a defining moment both in our marriage and in our individual lives. And of the course it was all a pretty big deal for Liam as well.
2. Liam. The past 150 days have been exceptional. William Isaac was born almost exactly 5 months ago, and I can’t believe how much I love the little guy, and how much I adore our family. I’ll post a detailed follow-up to my On Fatherhood post reflecting on the actuality of being a dad, but for now I’ll say that I’m eternally grateful for my little boy. It hasn’t been an easy 5 months but it has been wonderful, and I look forward to many years of getting to know him. I’m convinced a person can’t understand the love a parent has for their child until they have a child of their own; I certainly never thought I could love a baby this much. I enjoy our time together immensely, and miss him when I’m away, even for a few hours at work. I know my love for him is unconditional: no matter what happens in the future, I will always love and be proud of my son.
3. Leaving New York…If you read the earliest posts on this blog, you know the original intent – at least in part – was to describe life in the world’s greatest city. Indeed, moving from NYC to anywhere else is a step down in prestige, uniqueness, and energy. But New York is by far my favorite place to live, the place where I feel most comfortable, and the place I hope to live permanently one day. I miss the weather, I miss the food, I miss New Yorkers, I miss walking the streets, I miss the history, I miss the perpetual motion – I miss everything about it. Above all I miss our friends and our church. The friends we made in NYC were the closest I’ve ever had – I loved spending time with them and experiencing the city with them. We attended a Bible study with many of them, so we grew close on a spiritual level as well as a social level. Melissa and I miss them all terribly.
And we miss our church. Redeemer Presbyterian is, in my view, one of the great churches in the world today, and in the final analysis might be remembered as one of the most influential in Protestant history. Redeemer’s senior pastor, Tim Keller, is a preacher and leader par excellence. The church has grown from a few dozen to nearly 6,000 regular attenders in just 20 years, having an impact in a city where it’s hard to make an impact, especially for a Reformed church. The church planting center has placed churches around the globe, and Dr. Keller’s books have hit the best-seller lists. But what I miss is the worship, the quality and pure reverence of the music, the impeccable Gospel-centered preaching, the almost unfathomable diversity of the congregation, and the authenticity of the church leadership. Our experience at Redeemer deserves a post of its own, but for now I’ll say that it was perhaps the cornerstone in our lives during our time in New York. It cannot be replaced.
4. …and moving to Destin, Florida. There’s nothing wrong with Destin, and I’ll post about the town extensively in the coming weeks. But it can’t come close to NYC, and in that regard we have found it difficult to adapt on a variety of levels. We are blessed with a beautiful condo with a gorgeous view, and the town has great beaches, good restaurants, and nice people. But there’s basically no diversity, minimal change, little if any forward thinking and innovation, and almost painfully bland daily living. The passivity here takes some getting used to, and the small town feel is suffocating at times. The realness, the vitality, the verve of New York is absent here – that has been a jarring change.
5. Finishing general surgery residency at Beth Israel. It was a long, difficult, enjoyable, and ultimately highly rewarding and satisfying 5 years. I met some great people, treated some crazy patients, and learned more than I thought possible. Being a resident was a way of life for those 5 years, consuming much time and energy and mental effort, affecting my life and Melissa’s life in myriad ways. I enjoyed many high points, made plenty of mistakes, and ultimately look back on the entire experience with fondness and happy memories. I am thankful for my attendings and teachers,for a wonderful group of residents, and for a hard-working administrative staff. In some ways it felt as though it would never end, but during that graduation banquet I couldn’t believe 5 years had already flown by. I would start all over again in a heartbeat.
6. Starting back in the Air Force. Joining the military was, without question, the biggest mistake of my life. Of all the major decisions I’ve made, this is the only one I regret. I’ll leave it at that.
7. Traveling to San Diego with Melissa. In early May I attended a transplant conference in San Diego, and Melissa spent the weekend with me in what turned out to be a wonderful get away. We visited a new, beautiful place together, went to the zoo and Sea World, ate good food, and stayed in a nice avant-garde hotel right in the Gaslamp Quarter. It was the last time we’ve been alone, just the two of us. It was an excellent weekend – one of my favorite times with Melissa.
8. Living with the Turnboughs. We spent approximately 219 days in 2010 (60% of the year) living with Melissa’s parents, Jeff and Susan. Most of that was in Destin for their stint back in the U.S. to visit churches, and some was in New York at the end of our time there. Living with them has given me a new appreciation for them and has allowed me to grow close to them in a way that most other people can’t experience with their in-laws.
I better grasp their selflessness and love for others, so it’s not hard to see why Melissa is such a giving, selfless person. Susan (I call her Mom), has been invaluable in helping care for Liam. She has helped Melissa with cooking, shopping, cleaning, washing clothes, etc. She is a tireless worker and has had many sleepless nights with the baby – grand-parenting is supposed to be all fun and with minimal work, but she has gone above and beyond in helping care for Liam. I am very thankful for her and am humbled by her tireless work ethic. While there are disadvantages in living with in-laws for that length of time (not being able to walk around naked, watching a few too many Hallmark movies), I am grateful for them as family and as people. They were a major, positive aspect of our lives in 2010.
9. Thanksgiving with the Mandy side of the family, Christmas with the Turnbough side of the family. For the first time in probably 20 years, all seven of my maternal grandmother’s grandchildren attended Thanksgiving in Atlanta, in addition to her daughters and their husbands. Not only that, but all the spouses of the grandchildren and their children attended as well. Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bonnie’s in Atlanta was an unfailing annual event growing up, a source of many happy memories through the years; as far as I know, I’ve only missed Thanksgiving in Atlanta twice. This year was particularly special because of the perfect attendance. It was good to see some family members I haven’t seen in years, and to meet some people – especially the kids – that I’ve never met. And of course it was fun showing Liam off and introducing him to the clan. The opportunities we have for that kind of gathering – especially on Thanksgiving – are scarce. I am thankful we were able to make it.
Likewise, it was great seeing Melissa’s side of the family at Christmas in Nashville. I saw snow on Christmas Day for the first time ever, and of course it was a thrill watching Liam experience his very first Christmas. It was fun seeing everyone on the Crowson side of the family, some of whom I had never met and others I hadn’t seen since our wedding. Matthew and Brooke and their kids made the trek from Spain, so we had a fun but short time with them in Huntsville. As with my side of the family, opportunities to spend time with everyone at Christmas are harder and harder to come by. So this was a special Christmas because we were able to spend it with them, and initiate Liam into another family tradition.
10. Trips to Rome and Las Vegas. Other than New York, the places I enjoy visiting more than anywhere else are the spectacularly different Rome and Vegas. I’ll devote an entire post to Las Vegas and why I love it, but I made two trips this year, one in February with our friends Tania and Vincent, and another with Vincent in December. Vegas is an other-wordly place, a nexus of suspended reality and sensory overload. I hadn’t been in 5 years – it was great to get back. And we visited Rome with the Turnbough family in late June. Rome is a history book come to life – I love the ancient Roman ruins as well as the Baroque art and architecture; a Rome-devoted post is forthcoming. I had a wonderful time sharing the experience with a very pregnant Melissa and the Turnboughs. I can see the sites of Rome again and again, and will never tire of them.
So there it is – the 10 big events of our lives in 2010. It was a monumental year, one that will prove to be vital in our lives. As we leap forward to 2011, I’m excited to see what the future will bring…