Musings: Year End Thoughts and Reminiscing: AKA Navel Gazing
These are some things I remember from the year that was. (Old joke: They say the knees are the second thing to go. What’s the first? I don’t remember. Har har har.) 2017 was a weird year for me, for our family, and quite possibly for the entire country and much of the world. So here we go.
First Quarter: And So It Begins
Early in the year, on January 5–I only remember the date because it was the day after my birthday–, I visited a shoulder specialist at the local med center. She told me that the pain I had been living with for the past 12 years was not some character defect, but was actually arthritis caused by the scraping of bone on bone in my shoulder joint. It was a relief to know that my drop in bench press max and inability to do more than 25 push-ups before collapsing was actually a mechanical issue. It was at the some time devastating to learn that my hope of rehabbing my shoulder to normal was never going to happen. “It’s amazing you have the range of motion you do,” she said. “The pain will continue to get worse. When it gets bad enough, we’ll do a shoulder replacement.” Something to look forward to! (Another old joke: A man in ancient Israel came up to Jesus and held up a deformed hand. “Lord, make my hand like the other one!” he begged. Zap! He walked away, waving two deformed hands.)
At the end of January, we went to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. It was an amazing experience. I met a nice man from Arkansas who told me I was abdicating my God-given responsibility to control my wife. I told him she didn’t want to be there but I made her join me. I wonder how he’s doing now? My wife also went back to work at the end of the month, ending her maternity leave for our third son. She actually took longer than is usually allocated (without pay), and it was still not long enough in my opinion. One of the reasons for marching: our country is woefully backwards in regards to maternity and paternity leave. And we claim to be pro-family.
Second Quarter: Finding a Rhythm
The second quarter of the year included a disastrous trip to San Antonio for the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference. My wife wanted to pack coats for the kids, but I said, “It’s Texas. It’s going to be warm.” Well, thanks to a visit from the President and Vice-President of the United States, our flight out of Harrisburg was delayed. We missed our connection in Detroit by minutes (and we ran through three concourses there, lugging our bags and our three children). Literally, the plane was sitting there, the pilot looking at us, as we arrived out of breath and sweating at the gate. After some finagling and a few tears, we persuaded the airline to provide us with lodging and meal vouchers for the night. (Evidently governmental interference isn’t usually reimbursed, even when the airlines know about it for days in advance.) The kids’ teeth were chattering as we waited for the shuttle to the hotel. Spring is cold in Michigan. And we hadn’t packed any coats.
This was also the time I started really freaking out about my dissertation. In large part, this anxiety was caused by the many emails I got reminding me that my financial support for the program would end in June. I managed to complete the manuscript, defend, and graduate. It helped that I had a good supervising professor, a great committee, a strong support system at home, and a case of Jack Daniels.
I had an interview for a professorship at a nearby university. It was an odd experience (probably for them, too). In the end, I didn’t get the spot, which they confirmed both by email and mail. Twice each. Just to make sure I really knew I didn’t get it. They also only spelled my name correctly on 50% of the correspondence. Oh well, just so long as you don’t call me late for dinner! (That’s the punchline of another old joke.)
I started a job as a postdoctoral researcher in the Entrepreneurial Game Studio, which is part of Drexel University’s ExCITe Center. It’s a cool gig and I’m enjoying it. Here’s to hoping the funding comes through so I can continue…
Third Quarter: Endings and Beginnings
We had a great extended family vacation with my outlaws (har har) at the Outer Banks. We saw some wild horses and the kids really got a kick out of it. Not too hard of one, though. Our oldest son especially liked taking the path across the piers to the ice cream shop where we indulged ourselves more than we should. Our daughter enjoyed digging in the sand. And our little guy enjoyed eating food and ants off the floor.
In September, our daughter started preschool. She is, we’re told, quiet in class. She is NOT quiet at home, and I like it that way. She’s a funny, sweet, and sometimes devious kid. For example, when she goes by the Lego creations our oldest son has made, instead of destroying them like her baby brother does, she just takes one small piece off and hides it.
The oldest guy started kindergarten this year. His mom took off work and we tearfully deposited him at the school. He didn’t even look back. Now we’re trying to find the balance between being concerned and invested parents and being those parents. Especially since we are both DOCTORS.
Our youngest son celebrated his first birthday on what was possibly the hottest day of the fall. It was nearly 100 degrees in the shade. But he had fun barreling around–he was already walking–and even ate a bit of his cupcake. And devoured approximately ten tubs of icing.
Fourth Quarter: Losing and Winning
As I’ve been writing, I’ve been thinking of everything I’m leaving out (our trip to Delaware in the spring, my and my wife’s political candidacies, being part of one of the first LGBTQIA+ colloquiums in our county, our creative writing grad school conference/reunion) and imagining all the other ways I could have organized this. For example, Political/Family/Work & School. But at this point I’ve written a lot and, quite frankly, I’m not sure how many people will even read this far, and so I don’t want to go back and change it. If you want more details, though, with multiple organizational structures, diagrams, and even more jokes, send me a self-addressed stamped envelope and I’ll mail you a chapbook.
I ran for a local political office (this encompassed most of the year). In November, I lost. I hate losing. But show me someone who hasn’t lost, and I’ll show you someone who has never risked anything. My wife, however, did make it to the school board. So that’s some consolation.
We had a great holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Year’s Eve. One of the best family events was my wife’s school’s holiday party. They hold it at the Hershey Lodge, and this year they offered discounts for rooms to the school employees. We got one, because they advertised an indoor water park. We weren’t sure how the kids would like it. They didn’t–they loved it! One of the best events of the year. I don’t have pictures, because I was too busy in the moment (and also working with my wife to prevent any of our children from drowning themselves).
With that, I wish you the best in the new year. If you have any great 2017 memories to share–or, even better for my bitter disposition, terrible ones–please do so in the comments. And now, my annual lists (and read all the way to the bottom for my resolutions).
Nonacademic: A Few Books I Read in 2017: And I Only Read a Few
- Danse Macabre by Stephen King
- Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- When They Come For You by James W. Hall
- Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer
- Dead Certain by Adam Mitzner
- Tender Wings of Desire by Harland Sanders
- His Baby Bond by Lee Tobin McClain
- After You by JoJo Moyes
- Chillers for Christmas edited by Richard Dalby
Find the Rest of the Links Yourself: Best Poems I Read in 2017
- “Poem for My Son in the Car” by Jennifer K. Sweeney
- “The Time Machine” by Laura Kasischka
- “I, Too” by Langston Hughes
- “Cachexia” by Max Ritvo
- “He said I wrote about death” by Kim Dower
- “Afterlife” by James Allen Hall
- “Under the Stars” by Dorianne Laux
- “Grotesque” by Amy Lowell
- “The World” by Christina Rosetti
- “In the Desert” by Stephen Crane
- “Fatigue Performance” by Noah Falck
- “Daily Conscription” by Kyle Dargan
- “Saudade” by John Freeman
- “At the Last” by Witter Bynner
- “In the Light of One Lamp” by Sean Thomas Dougherty
In No Particular Order: Best Movies I Watched in 2017
- The Last Jedi
- Baby Driver
- All the Money in the World
- Wonder Woman
- Murder on the Orient Express
I Don’t Listen to a Lot of New Stuff: Songs I Listened to in 2017
- “Shout at the Devil” by Motley Crue
- “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man
- “Sing Sing Sing” by Benny Goodman
- “Pet Sematary” by the Ramones
- “Walk Among Us” by the Misfits
- “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie
Best Concert I Attended in 2017 (See Also: Only Concert I Attended in 2017)
- Guns N’ Roses
My goals for 2018: Do more of the stuff I enjoy and less of the stuff I don’t. Originally, my resolution was “be a bigger asshole,” but when I told my wife she shook her head, smiled gently, and said, “That’s impossible, dear.”