Thinking about this past year is quite the endeavor. The world on a macro level seems even more dangerous than before. Russia has been accused of committing cyber warfare against our country and interfering with our elections. President Obama has refused to veto a United Nations resolution which called Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal. Donald John Trump shockingly won the Presidential election and many are pessimistic about the direction and future of our country.
Celebrity deaths were in the news, seemingly, the whole year: David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and others (certainly not a comprehensive list). These included one of my childhood heroes Carrie Fisher (tragically at age 60) and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, a few days later who heartbreakingly stated, “I want to be with Carrie.”
If we take a step back though, famous personalities die every year. On this fallen planet, there are always narcissistic, megalomaniac personalities or lying bureaucratic politicians competing for leadership roles. Refugees will still struggle to escape national hells. Israel and the Palestinians will continue to fight. There will be war, brief moments of peace and then more conflict. When I think that way, 2016 doesn’t seem like such an outlier. Greed, partisan rage, violence, poverty, refugee crisis’, oppression, abuses of leadership and other injustices still dominate our headlines. There is a decent chance that the media will print similar headlines next year which will still reflect a similarly troubled reality. Besides the international calamity, many people I know personally have also had a hard year in their more localized universes.
I feel a little guilt, thankfulness, and a heaping fortune of luck that my year (and my family’s) has been good. A day before my birthday, on January 20th, I found out that we were expecting our son. Michelle couldn’t wait till my birthday( the 21st) to tell me. Reuben (or Roo) joined us on September 30th and while bursting into the world did not even cry. Not a symbol that anything was wrong, he cried later when doctors removed him from his mom and examined him on a nearby table (per the protocol or whatever). This was by far the highlight of the year. Meeting my son for the first time at Northwest Hospital was a staggering moment in my life and one that will be with me as long as my brain neurons are functioning.
Along those lines, when we brought Reuben home in the afternoon of Sunday, October 2nd, Naomi was just waking up from her afternoon nap. Emerging from her bedroom at the end of a hallway leading to our living room, she walked slowly, thumb in mouth, and looked suspiciously at me and the grandparents with phone cameras at the ready. I called out: ‘Naomi, would you like to meet your baby brother? He is here.’ Her pace down the hall quickened and she came into the living room laying eyes on Michelle and a new little person sitting on the couch. ‘I want to see him,’ Naomi exclaimed, ‘I want to kiss and hug him!’ She did just that and we have the pictures to prove the moment.
For those reasons alone, 2016 will be a year that I will always come back too. In the future, I can know this span of time will become a period that I wished I could go back too in order to experience these moments again. That time of reminicising is already upon me.
Other highlights of the year include:
–In March, for Michelle’s birthday, we took a trip to San Diego (Oceanside to be more specific) without Naomi. Aunt Jane was gracious enough to let us stay in her condo which was extremely close to the beach. We explored the Safari Park seeing many different kinds of animals in very large spaces. We also saw a cheetah run where the animals ran at full speed which was humbling to witness. Drama was in the air at the gorilla cage when we got there late in the day. A younger male had slept with a female which was designated for an older (more dominant male). The older male gorilla stalked the younger male for probably a good 30 minutes while we were there. I thought there was going to be a serious beat down but turns out this was all more intimidation than anything else.
Back at Aunt Jane’s place, we swam in her pool and enjoyed the hot tub on a warm SoCal spring evening. We awoke to enjoy a breakfast at one of Aunt Jane’s favorite places where we met her son (Ben) his wife (Chara) and their child (Jackson) as well as an energetic Yorkie.
The trip was over to quickly. Walking the beach and then the Oceanside Pier, we had lunch at the greasy spoon of Ruby’s Diner and could see up and down the coast as people swam and surfed in the waters below.
Our final trip was to La Jolla (a little ways south) where we saw the latest Coen Bros farce in the theater (‘Hail Caesar’) and then walked along the unique coastline in the city. Where the city meets the Pacific Ocean is a mixture of sandy beaches and rocky terrain. There were also many seal congregations giving the air an original smell. We ate dinner (I had steak) about three stories up from the beach, overlooking this scene, with the ocean sprawled out beyond.
–Easter was out at my parent’s house aka Lester Park and we were joined by Michelle’s parents (or Nana and Papa) and my Uncle Ron. There is always a good, home-cooked meal to be had in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection but this year would feature a memorable Naomi episode. I call it “happiness convulsions”. The grandparents had placed several colored Easter eggs in the grass of the backyard. Naomi, upon stepping outside for the festivities, saw the Easter eggs and began running around exclaiming, “Oh my goodness sakes”, laughing continually, and making other happy sounds. At times, I thought she may pass out from sheer otherworldly joy. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I have ever seen another person that happy before.
–In what is becoming an annual family tradition, our crew (myself, Michelle and Naomi) went north to a friend’s cozy condo that is literally the last development of civilization before driving up the Mt. Baker. I wrote about past experiences at this place here. Besides going up to the summit and frolicking in snow that was still hanging around in late May, we went on a gorgeous hike through a valley with mountain ranges on both sides of us. We arrived at the trail summit after miles of driving on a pothole-laden dirt road which seemed to go on forever. I’m always surprised at how being in nature really can reset one’s mind and put us at ease. Science actually backs me up here.
During the evenings, when Naomi was asleep, we went through the entire “11/22/63” Hulu series starring James Franco. I was a huge fan of the Stephen King book which I called a masterpiece. The series did not at all live up to the towering bar set by the book but was entertaining enough for late nights at the base of the mountain.
–Another tradition we partook in (one that we have been doing for 3 or 4 years now), is going out to Fox Island for the 4th of July. Family and friends gather at a very humble rambler for a meal and hanging out by the Puget Sound waters. The home is near the bridge to arrive on Fox Island from the mainland and is on the shoreline of Hale’s passage. One of Michelle’s best friends usually makes the trip from her home in Texas and this is always a fun social time.
–Michelle and I’s anniversary is during a perfect time on August 25th toward the end of summer. Some generous friends at church let us go to their cabin at Ocean Shores (for free!). We stayed a few days with Naomi hanging out with grandparents back home. I have always complained about the restaurants in Ocean Shores (let me know if anyone knows of other good places) but Michelle and I experienced Galway Bay Irish Restaurant and Pub on one of the evenings there. It was excellent and had a great ambiance and vibe. The only disappointment is that we had missed a live Celtic music performance which had happened the night before.
While we were at the ocean, we did the predictable walk on the beach, saw “Pete’s Dragon” (which was a fun remake) and explored around town. The highlight of the time away though was kayaking along the Ocean Shores Freshwater Ways (the cabin is on the shoreline of this water way). Exciting to be out on the water, paddling around in narrow channels with mostly humble homes (for water property anyway) on either side of us. We actually went a fair amount of miles around the channels.
At night, we sat on the dock and bats flew all around us. That was pretty great.
The remainder of the year was enjoying the presence of Reuben in our home and adjusting to life with an infant and two year old running around. Definitely a decent amount of hardwork (and Michelle has been the best mom imaginable) but we are thankful.
Going into an unpredictable world in the New Year, we have a place where we can place our hope. Politics and macro-happenings in the world we obviously don’t have much (if any) control over. We have a say about how well we love our neighbors around us and contribute generously (in whatever way we can) to our local communities.
Ultimately, I still believe we can find joy in the risen Christ and trust in Him regardless in what direction our nation or the world at large travels. I hope we all can find that hope and joy as we start our journey into 2017.