2014: Reflections

It’s been an interesting year for our family. We began 2014 with uncertainty, as my wife, Jennifer, had brain surgery in January to correct Chiari malformation, a condition in which increased pressure in the cerebral spinal fluid forces brain tissue through the small opening at the base of the skull. At the same time, I was transitioning out of the at-best evolving print-news industry.

Jennfer smiles before being taken back for Chiari decompression surgery in January.

Jennfer smiles before being taken back for Chiari decompression surgery in January.

We’ve had a few setbacks this year, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. My wife’s surgery was a success, though not as decisively so as the first few month had us believing. My career change, though, truly was the bright spot for us in 2014.

I’d worked in the nonprofit sector before, in a few churches across Central Louisiana. This time, I would be working with a national organization based here in the Texas Panhandle that helps at-risk children and families in crisis. It’s been a fantastic change: The work environment itself has been so much better than the war zone that is any newsroom I’ve ever experienced, I still struggle to stifle my astonishment at some of the employee-friendly attitudes, activities and culture. I get to do the kind of work I love and have the added benefit of doing it to positively impact the lives of hurting children.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

God continues to bless us through two of the sweetest, smartest children He’s ever created. Messy rooms notwithstanding, our kids, ages 8 and 6, are pure joy.

It’s been a positive year for Smokey, too. While her build-up hasn’t progressed as quickly as I would’ve liked — largely due to the understandable expenses stemming from that little brain surgery thing — I’ve nonetheless been able to make a few meaningful changes here and there, including new-to-me mud-terrain tires and front sway bar quick disconnects. I’ve won some incredible gear from great companies, such as my Teraflex recovery kit and the awesome Ultra Series front bumper from Crawler Conceptz! Most recently, I’ve acquired a Poison Spyder hood louver to reduce under-hood temperatures.

I’ve managed to put away a little money and I hope to use a portion of Uncle Sam’s annual income redistribution to finally give Smokey the lift she deserves. (I’ll feel much better about taking my daily driver over the rocks with a couple of inches of extra insurance!)

Dakota Jane, or "Cody", lays in my wife's lap in 2010. We said goodbye to our 18-year-old Cocker Spaniel mix this year.

Dakota Jane, or “Cody”, lays in my wife’s lap in 2010. We said goodbye to our 18-year-old Cocker Spaniel mix this year.

We’ve said goodbye to some friends this year, and made a few new ones as well. In January, we lost Cody, our Cocker Spaniel mix, to the ravages of old age. At 18 years old, old Dakota Jane had been part of our family before we were a family. I’d gotten her as a 5-week-old pup from a friend in college, and she grew to be the leather couch-shredding, ball-cap-and-bed-sheet-chewing, finger-gnawing center of our family during a time when we thought we’d never have children of our own. My sweet girl had outlived five other dogs and cats who joined our family during her incredible lifetime.

I could ramble on, but this already is disjointed enough. Suffice it to say, 2014 continued the wild ride that has been our life. As I look ahead to a promising 2015, I’ll close with this wish for you: Life is short — live dramatically! May your life be memorable — and a story worth sharing!

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