Well, the end of 2013 is nigh, and soon we’ll be singing in the new year to Auld Lang Syne. Every year, around this time, I reflect back at the previous year and try and proverbially wrap it up in a concise blogpost, you know, the year that was. This was a very hard year to sum up. So, let’s see how this goes.
2013 started off mildly. I was in the midst of working on transitioning out of the coffee industry I’d been in for so long. I knew it was time for a change. I knew I was ready to be challenged. I knew I wanted to be in a place where I could become the student again. I knew I was ready to take the skill set I’d been working on the past six and a half years to the next level. I had no idea where that would take me, or what that would mean for me. The old adage goes “Be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.”
In January, I visited DC to help with the opening of Coffee Bar:DC, and got to hang out with friends there. In February we got to visit our friends Matt and Missy Call in Minneapolis for a few days, enjoying the snow and cold. This was a blast. I took a trip to Baton Rouge to lead a coffee cupping, and got to spend time with my friends Jason Cohen, Vinnie Tran and Eric Zuniga. In March I went to Cincinnati for a mini conference on social media, the “third place” and technology. I also got to visit friends in Columbus, like Beau and Suzie Carlson, and I got to visit Jeni’s Ice Cream and their folks. In April we got to spend a few days in Chicago with our friends Rusty and Emily Angell. We love Chicago, and had a great time. I went to Boston for the annual SCAA show, and left the day before the bombings. Truly surreal. In May, April and I took our first ever cruise. We loved spending time in Cozumel, snorkeling and trying not to melt from the blistering heat.
In June April and I celebrated 11 years of marriage. Just a couple of weeks later and April was undergoing kidney surgery to remove stones that had gotten too big to pass. Normally a simple procedure, when you’ve had 22 kidney surgeries like April has, each one is scarier than the next and runs the chance of kidney failure. Her kidneys have taken a massive amount of abuse from these surgeries over the years, and there’s no doubt at some point enough will be enough with them, and she’ll likely need a kidney transplant. Thankfully, the surgery went well, and our friends came and helped for several weeks by staying over and helping, bringing meals and running errands.
I started a new career, a new life, with a new job at the beginning of July. It was my dream job, with Engauge, a large marketing agency that I had been targeting since I first made the decision to leave coffee. They were the first people I talked to, and I was a huge fan of their client base, many of my favorite brands. To say it was challenging, would be an understatement. It was like trying to swallow water from a fire hose. I was overwhelmed with everything from learning how an agency works to learning each of the clients I worked on, to creating social strategies out of the box, to everything in between.
I made a lot of mistakes, and ultimately learned how much I didn’t know. I decided it best to slow everything down and focus on what I did know, spending a little time each day to work on what I didn’t. I had several people who took me under their wings and helped me immensely, Lindsay Howard and Chelsey Binkley. They did a great job of helping me figure it all out, while giving me room to move and grow. I’d say now I’m leap years ahead of where I was when I first started in July. Engauge has been an awesome place to work at, and I really do genuinely love the people I get to work with on a daily basis. Engauge is loaded with great, talented and funny people who like to work hard and have a great time.
At the end of my first week at Engage, I received a call from my Mom that my uncle (her brother) had passed away. We headed down to help comfort as we could. Richard was a great guy. He taught me how to drive when I was 13, letting me drive his brand new Hyundai Excel, listening to my INXS “Need You Tonight” cassette single. He was selfless and loved by all. While it was a sad time, it was also very good to see cousins and other family members I’d not seen since I was a young child.
In August I got to celebrate turning 40, and many of my friends came out to celebrate at a surprise birthday party my wife threw for me, as well as a great birthday gathering at Brick Store thrown for me by friends. I continue to be extremely thankful for such great friends. I also got to help organize a concert in Atlanta with my friends in Jars of Clay, at REV Coffee, just a block from our home. It ended up being a really nice show, and an amazing little venue for them to play.
In October, I had to rush April to the hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery, where she ended up spending a few days in the hospital there. It came out of the blue, and she had gallstones blocking her bile ducts, which meant the surgery would be to remove the stones and gall bladder, which wasn’t a lot of fun for her. This put her out for a few weeks. Just a couple of weeks later, I bought April a new car, the MINI Countryman she’d been wanting for so long. She definitely had been through a lot this year, and deserved it.
In November, we invited my Mom and sister to spend Thanksgiving with us in Atlanta, and they came. We had a great time. We went to the mountains one day, visited the apple orchards and just celebrated being together. On their way back, I received a call that my Mom was going to be admitted to the hospital with what looked like a heart attack. Thankfully, it didn’t end up being one, but she had to spend close to a week in the hospital. Just a couple of days later, we received the same kind of phone call from April’s Mom about her Dad. It turned out to be a heart defect that to this day is causing high blood pressure and puts him at risk for a stroke. April and I are here with them now, and he seems to be doing well. And I’m thankful the end of this section seems to have turned out okay for now. I’m very thankful.
I’m going to fast forward to today, and yes, I know I’m missing a lot things. I could write tons about what stunk, what was hard, and what was painful. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is what we do have. What I am thankful for, and what remains.
April is doing okay, having some pain in her kidneys from stones moving around, and is undergoing her second of two kidney surgeries January 2nd. They are going to again, try to clean out her kidneys and repair any damage. She’ll be out for a couple of weeks after that, and I’m going to try and take care of her as best as I can with my work. I am doing great health-wise and after losing close to 30+ pounds last year, have kept off half of it. I feel good. I am into a great rhythm at work, doing work for the largest brand in the world, and learning as much as I can.
I could tell you that this has been one of the toughest years April and I have had together, and that would probably be accurate. Not in relation to our relationship, or the things we can control, but the external things that we didn’t have control over, the things we had to react to. But I think you’d be surprised to find out that I’m actually thankful for this year. This year has made us tougher, closer, more thankful, and more grateful for what we do have. What we do have are great family members who love and care for us dearly. We have friends that have shown over and over that they genuinely care for us. At the end of the year, in the midst of heartache, tragedy, pain, struggle and the fight to stay alive in the lives of our dear friends, we have so much to be thankful for. So, thank you 2013. For reminding us what’s important.
R.I.P. Richard Thomas, my uncle. You’re missed already more than you know.
R.I.P. Angela Batts, my dear friend who lost her fight against breast cancer this year. All miss your smile and laughter.
I continue to pray for Ryan Hidinger, who is currently battling stage IV gallbladder cancer. I pray for peace for Jen, and for their family.