Retrospective: 2010

The Aughts are over, and we move into the 20-teens. A new decade, with new challenges and objectives. With the beginning of this new year, and new decade, it’s time for me to take a look back at the past year, and to reflect on what’s happened, and to look forward to what the new year holds in store for me.

Our Home

We entered 2010 looking forward to buying our first house. We were saving money, and living with Jenny’s grandparents in order to save up. By March, we started to evaluate our situation, and realized that a house wasn’t a good decision at the time. Jenny wants to go back to school, even considering returning to Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, TX. With the uncertainty that the economy holds, and our future plans still marginally unsure, we decided to put the house plans on hold.

Once we made our decision to wait on the house, we quickly chose to seek an apartment. We missed having our own place, with central heat and air/conditioning, and more than one bathroom. The claustrophobia setting in didn’t help matters either. Living in a 12′ x 20′ room for nearly a year took its toll, and we realized we needed our space badly. Though Jenny and I really liked the Spring and The Woodlands area, the sheer costs involved in commuting made that area less desirable to us. We toured a few places in Katy, and at last settled on Kingsland Ranch Apartments. We put down our deposit on February 20th, signed our lease on April 10th, and officially completed our move-in on April 11th. We were both excited to be in our own apartment again. We felt bad about taking the dogs away from the backyard that they loved so much, but it was unavoidable. We made the right decision though, I think.

Weekend Trips

2010 saw us make not one, but two weekend trips. On May 14th, we traveled to Lubbock, Texas (located in the panhandle) to attend Jenny’s brother Steven’s graduation from Texas Tech University. It was a LONG drive of about 9-1/2 hours, but we still enjoyed it. The day after driving up, we attended Steven’s graduation at the University, then decided to make a slight trip. We were a couple hours south of Amarillo, where we knew there was a restaurant called The Big Texan, which is famous for its free 72 oz. steak dinner. Jenny and I are big fans of the Man Vs. Food television show, and this restaurant was featured on it. Considering we were so close, and would likely never be back in this part of Texas again, we decided to go.

On our way to Amarillo, we detoured to Palo Duro Canyon, which is essentially a miniature Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we arrived shortly before sunset, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time there, but we came to the conclusion that it’s a place we’d like to return to, and spend a weekend exploring it. We got some nice photos, and overall enjoyed our foray.

Once we arrived at The Big Texan in Amarillo, we wasted no time enjoying one of the finest meals either of us has ever had. We picked up souvenir glasses to bring home, along with a Route 66 sign that hangs in our dining room today. To date, I have not had a better steak, and I’ve eaten at some high-end steakhouses.

The next day, we returned to Houston, after another excruciating 9-1/2 hour drive. It was a long, expensive weekend, but it was highly enjoyable.

In August, Jenny and I took our next weekend trip. We spent the weekend in New Braunfels, Texas, and went to Schlitterbahn (a water park). I had only ever been once, and only to one section of the park, so it was a fun trip. We ate at another Man Vs. Food restaurant called the Salt Lick, which is an amazingly good barbecue restaurant. Surprisingly, their food was even better when re-heated. Though it’s way out in the middle of nowhere, it’s a place I’d highly recommend, and can’t wait to go back.

The Dawn of 3D Film

On January 5th, I saw “Avatar” in theaters and in 3D for the first time. I would go back to see it once more, and later buy the movie on DVD. It was a movie I had been reading about and anticipating for some time. Everything I’d heard about it indicated that it would change filmmaking forever, and after viewing it, I was very impressed. The technology allowed for some amazing visuals, and it made me a believer.

Puppies!

On January 8th, we got confirmation that our dog Kirby was pregnant, so we were excited to be looking forward to puppies. Just a short time later, on February 6th, Kirby gave birth to four healthy puppies via caesarian section, one male and three females. Sadly, one puppy was deformed, and had to be put to sleep. They became the very focus of our lives for six short weeks, while they became more and more active, and brought enormous amounts of entertainment to our lives.

We sold three of the puppies over March 18th and 19th, and kept one for ourselves. Our new addition to the family was nicknamed Freckles, due to the way her black spots grew in on her snout, but once she started responding to the nickname, it was clear that it would stick. Though her freckles are mostly gone, she’s still affectionately called Freckles. So we have two little girls in our family: Kirby Abigail and Freckles Elizabeth.  Freckles has very little of Kirby’s affectations, and resembles her mother in coloring only. For the most part, she takes after her father, Buddy, in nearly every aspect. Kirby and Freckles LOVE to play together though, and it’s clear they that they love each other very much.

Freckles had surgery on May 17th, to tack down a cherry eye (another thing she has in common with her mother). She handled the surgery well, and we had her spayed at the same time. She recovered pretty quickly, and really has been a good dog, though difficult to train.

Loss in the Family

On the same day the puppies were born, my grandfather, Harold Mills, passed away. I hadn’t seen him in person in several years, but the loss was still painful. Of all my grandparents, he was the one I was closest to. We shared a love of baseball, jokes, and funny sayings, and he will be greatly missed. In many ways, it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. I didn’t get to see him very much, and his health wasn’t good enough to allow him to attend our wedding, despite my continued requests otherwise. Fortunately, Jenny was able to meet him (before we were even engaged), and I’m thankful that they met. I’m not sure when it will truly sink in that I’ll never see him again, but I miss him; he was a good man, even if he preferred his solitude most of the time. It’s sad that you really don’t know what someone means to you until they’re gone. I love you, Grandpa, and miss you tremendously.

My Nephew

Joshua Ryan celebrated his first birthday on January 5th, a milestone that came and went all too quickly. In fact, his second birthday is rapidly approaching. He really became a whole person this year, as his personality has started to appear, and he learns to walk, talk, and cause havoc on the world around him. He truly seems to like his Uncle Brad, and I find it fun to spend time with him.

End of an Era (or three)

2010 also saw the end of a couple of my favorite television shows of all time. Lost and 24 both saw their series finales in May, and I found both of them rather anticlimactic. Seriously, after the finale of Six Feet Under, I’m not sure any show can ever end in a way that will approach that level of closure. Still, it was sad to bid those shows farewell. Both of them had been a part of my life for many years.

I also had to bid farewell to a couple of baseball stars of my hometown Houston Astros. After seeing Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio retire over the past few years, Houston traded Roy Oswalt, and Lance Berkman away. It was a strange feeling to attend a game, knowing that neither of them would appear, and even stranger to watch Oswalt make his first start as a Philadelphia Phillie on July 30th.

Add to all of this the announcement that Drayton McClane is putting the Astros franchise on the market, and that we will likely be looking at a new owner within a year. It really is the end of an era, and sends a profound sense of change to the fans of the Houston Astros; not only are our biggest stars gone, but our owner is moving on as well. After growing up watching this team, run by this owner, it’s truly a sign that life goes on, and significant change is a fact of life.

Technology Upgrades

On February 19th, Jenny and I both invested in MacBooks, and we moved to laptop lifestyles. I truly love my MacBook Pro, and have used it more productively than nearly any other computer I’ve ever owned. Jenny also loves her MacBook, and can usually be found with the glowing Apple logo nearby.

Strangely, though I adopted the Apple product into my life, and even learned to appreciate Mac OS X (though I still use Windows 90% of the time), I grew tired of Apple’s restrictions when it came to my cellphone. On July 19th, I dropped my iPhone, and invested in the Android platform, by purchasing my Motorola Droid X phone. I really do love my Android phone, though there are a few things I still miss about my iPhone, namely the music sync simplicity. Though Android is a great platform, it is seriously lacking in the sync respect. I also chose to invest in only a 1-year contract, so my options are much more open than they have been in the past.

NaNoWriMo

My biggest project of 2010 was most definitely my participation in National Novel Writing Month. The writing bug had struck me several times throughout the year, but I could never find the determination to actually write. On September 22nd, I officially signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo during the month of November, dedicating myself to the 30-day challenge. On November 1st, I began writing my novel, with the goal of reaching 50,000 words by November 30th. I made quick progress, and exceeded the 50,000 word mark on November 27th, and finished the month with 51,880 words on November 30th. Since then, I haven’t written any more, and the novel remains unfinished, but I hope to continue writing, especially in light of recent events (more on this later).

This was a huge undertaking for me, not only due to the time dedication it took to write 50,000+ words in a month, but also because of the changes it made to my writing process. In the past, I’ve usually relied on writing on paper, in a notebook, then transcribing it to computer via a word-processing program. Due to the time constraints, that wasn’t really an option this time around, so I took the opportunity to test some new software, specifically designed for writers, called Scrivener. It has allowed me to achieve my goals for NaNoWriMo, and to come to the conclusion that I CAN write, if I put my mind to it. I still have a long way to go on my novel, but I can honestly see myself finishing it.

Other Events of Note

October 20th: Jenny and I celebrated our 3rd Anniversary by dining at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse in Houston, which–though expensive–was an enormously exciting experience. We gorged ourselves on innumerable foods, and learned about the ‘meat hangover’ the next day. It was a memorable evening, made more special by the event we were celebrating: three wonderful years of marriage.

October 23rd: I attended my first-ever football game at Reliant Stadium, where we watched Stephen F. Austin defeat Sam Houston State University. Jenny was super-excited to attend the game, and it was a fun experience. The stadium seemed less impressive to me than I expected, but it was still fun.

November 8th: I was assigned a huge project at work. I am the Project Manager for the division’s Office 2007 rollout, which will impact something like 3,000+ users. It’s a big task, but one that I’m excited about, and have been working hard on being successful at.

November 14th: I finally convinced Jenny to start using an Amazon Kindle. We purchased her the latest version Kindle, and she has been reading on it almost exclusively ever since. In fact, it’s made me want to get the latest Kindle myself, and it has become a forgone conclusion that I will receive one for Christmas. We also picked up a Microsoft Kinect on this date.

December 15th: I finally found a solution that will allow me to integrate my library with my blog, and to consolidate my web presence to a single system. I’ve been using WordPress to run my blog for some time now, and with the release of version 3.0, it allows for a lot more content than previous versions. I have begun compiling our movie database, and my book database into my WordPress installation, and will eventually have a single repository for everything Brad. Though it will take significant time to finish, I believe it will be worth it in the long run.

December 18th: This date will forever live in my mind as the day I wrecked my knee. I managed to tear my ACL, part of the meniscus in my knee, and fracture a portion of my knee. I am on crutches and will require surgery. Total recovery time: more than 6 months. The initial accident will cause me to miss 4 weeks of work, and then who knows how much time after the surgery. There’s no doubt that this is by far the most serious injury I’ve suffered, at least certainly in my adult life.

Looking Forward

Because of my knee injury, 2011 will most likely be a recovery year for me. I’m going to be limited for the duration, and so will likely be unable to accomplish much of what I have in the past; the year has certainly taken on a different feel and direction than I’d anticipated only three weeks ago. I am thankful that I wasn’t hurt more badly, and that my health is relatively good, but I need to modify many of my habits, in order to adopt a healthier lifestyle. I made the joke that I’m 31 years old, in a 40 year-old body. Sadly, there is more honesty in that joke than there should be, and I need to work to make this body last longer–that’s my primary resolution for 2011. Being that I’m going to be limited for a while, it’s a good opportunity for me to get more writing done though; I have a novel to finish.