I'm sort of stealing an idea from Derry here, but as long as I provide plenty of links to his blog he won't mind.
I wanted to come up with a clever name for this decade to put in the title, but it turns out I'm not all that witty. I did find a website with a long discussion of what the decade should be called here. My personal favorites were ... the Aughts, the Double-Ohs and the Preteens.
However you name it, this past decade has definitely been one to remember (or forget, depending on your perspective). I'm sure it's that way with any given 10-year period of time, but this particular decade has been EXTREMELY significant for me because of the stages of life I went through.
So, here are my best of each year of the Aughts:
By far, without a doubt, the best thing I did in 2000 was get married to Katie Malkewicz. We had a long, sometimes rocky, dating relationship that started in September of 1996. After a break during the summer of 1997 we both decided we were ready to commit to each other for good and it has been an incredible relationship ever since. Our good friends Derry and Janelle were married three weeks before us and we were all in each other's weddings. That was a lot of fun too. Katie and I went to Key West for our honeymoon - a trip we would never have been able to afford without some very generous gifts from family members. While Key West is not a location we are likely to revisit, the time together was amazing and a perfect way to start our lives together.
The first year of marriage was great, and an awesome learning experience. Katie was still in school at Bethel College and I was working full-time at the Niles Daily Star. My schedule there was unique because I worked in the office from 8-11:30 a.m. and then was off until I had to cover sports events in the evening. Since Katie didn't have to be at Bethel all day every day, it gave us lots of chances to be together during the day. Most of the time we would eat lunch and then take a long afternoon nap. We also used that time to do work around the house or exercise together. We actually ran in our first 5K race together that year. We ran in a 5K in LaPorte in September and Katie struggled to finish, which was unusual. Well, we found out a few weeks later that she was pregnant with our first child, which leads me to ...
Our daughter Hanah was born three days after our second anniversary (May 30). We were both completely unprepared for the amount of change that little girl brought to our lives. I remember not really going out unless we absolutely had to for about six months. We wanted to keep her safe and healthy. We didn't know babies are actually very durable and can withstand a lot of things we thought would really damage her. Despite our worries and uncertainties, it was an amazing first year with our daughter. Obviously, our world revolved around her. We learned a lot about babies and about each other.
As we began to settle into our new roles as father and mother, Katie and I also began to settle into our roles as husband and wife. I feel like we hit sort of a sweet spot during this time and this year was very comfortable. I began to think about my future employment opportunities and decided it was time to move on. The only problem was there were no jobs to be had for me this year.
As the job search continued, finally some doors started to open. I nearly landed a job with Ave Maria Press that would have actually placed me in the Notre Dame Sports Information office. After that near miss, I applied for a position at the South Bend Tribune and, in July, left the Daily Star to become a page designer at the Tribune. Before that move, however, Katie and I discovered that we were expecting another child. This one, like Hanah, was completely unexpected. In fact, we thought we were taking measures to avoid pregnancy. However, God had other plans for us and we began to prepare to become the parents of two children. During the pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed a problem with our baby's kidneys. They were not functioning properly and the doctors weren't sure why. Through prayer and talking with each other, we decided to name our baby David. We saw a parallel between the small physical stature and youth of King David and our son's possible kidney dysfunction. We also wanted to see our son overcome the things that were working against him to become a man after God's own heart and do great things. Our son David was born on October 9. There were no signs of the kidney problems and he has never had a problem since that time.
We welcomed the new year with a daughter going on 3 and a nearly 3-month-old son. Unfortunately, the new year also included a severe downturn in the health of Katie's grandfather. We spent much of the early part of that year at her grandparents' house as he spent his last days in the place where he felt most comfortable. I'll never forget eating a meal of corned beef and cabbage that St. Patrick's Day after Ross Eminger went home to be with Jesus. We told Hanah that her great-grandpa went to heaven. A few days later, as we prepared to go to the viewing and told Hanah that we were going to see grandpa, as we approached the viewing room she said, "Is this heaven?"
2005 also held another job change for me. I stayed at the South Bend Tribune, but moved into the Sports Department to become the lead sports designer. Further changes came our way later that year when we pursued and accepted a position with Bethel College. We became the caretakers at Bethel's Retreat Center on Dewart Lake in Syracuse, Ind., in September. The move forced us to leave a great group of friends in Niles, but God soon brought us another solid group in our new location.
Our first winter at the lake was kind of rough for us. I was commuting to the South Bend Tribune (an hour away) four nights a week. The winter weather made the drive quite an adventure at times. The weather also brought down three trees on the Retreat Center property that I had to clean up. That made for some long, busy, exhausting days. But the weather soon cleared and we got to enjoy our first summer at Dewart Lake. It was great to spend time outside in the sun and fishing on the lake. That summer we also started attending Nappanee Missionary Church where we were reunited with Derry and Janelle. In addition, a full-time graphic designer position came open at the church and I looked into it. I started working at NMC on Halloween that year.
Another long winter at the lake gave way to spring and we were able to take our first family vacation. We went to Orlando for a week. It was the first time our children (Then 4 and 2) flew in an airplane and went to Disney World. They loved both experiences and it was a great time for our whole family.
Shortly after our vacation we found out that my grandmother's health had taken a turn for the worse. She was already in pretty bad shape, but now it looked like the days were numbered. I had the fortunate chance to see her the night she died on May 22. I wrote about my grandmother here. There are not many people who I would have no hesitation about giving them this title, but my grandmother truly was a saint.
Later that year we were blessed with some great opportunities to gain some new friendships. Our neighbors at the lake, the Yoders, became a huge part of our lives. They served as mentors and friends to Katie and me and their kids became a huge part of our kids' lives. We both played on a co-ed softball team with friends from church and Katie got involved with student ministries at church. She attended summer camp and led a freshman small group in the fall.
Another vacation marks this year in my memory. Katie, the kids and I joined my parents and my sister on a 12-day trip to San Diego to visit my grandparents. We spent lots of time with them as well as my dad's half-brother and his family and my good friend Chuck. We went to the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, a Padres game and Hollywood. It was a trip I'll never forget.
In the fall of this year Katie began homeschooling Hanah. It had its ups and downs, but overall we've been very happy with that decision. Hanah loves being at home. She's a quick learner - a bit easily distracted - but homeschooling seems to be a good fit for her.
One other thing I'll always remember about 2008 is the incredible crash of the economy. I'll remember it because of the way it effected the people I love. Whether it was lost jobs, reduced income or just a sense of hopelessness, we all felt the hit. It definitely changed our perspective and served as a wake-up call to many of us to re-prioritize our lives.
This year started off pretty poorly in my opinion. A few days after celebrating the new year (which was a blast with our friends Marty & Mindy) my dad called and told me that my grandfather, his father, had died. This was unexpected and came as quite a shock. My grandpa, who was not my biological grandfather, had done much to influence our family and establish a sense of honor, responsibility and heroism in it. You can read my thoughts about him here.
Things didn't get much better in February when Derry suddenly lost his father in a car accident. I was surprised how hard that loss hit me - probably because I knew how much Derry was hurting and I appreciated his dad so much.
As we all dealt with those losses and the new economic reality we were living in, God was preparing to change our hearts as well. I like to say Derry set me up because he always used to ask me when I was going to get involved with student ministries (he's the Sr. High Pastor at NMC) and I would always respond by saying I just didn't think I was ready. Well, he gave me the book Season of Life early that year and it definitely changed things for me. It convinced me it was time to get involved with something that wasn't all about me. Katie and I decided to go to Summer Camp and even more changes came my way. I received a very specific call from God, jumped into the Kids In Need effort at NMC and committed to lead a small group of freshman guys this school year.
Our kids are at a really fun stage of life (not that their whole lives haven't been fun) where they are becoming quite independent, but still want our attention much of the time. They love to read books, draw, play games and wrestle. They love to visit friends and play with their kids. They are even becoming able to focus on things outside of themselves. In an effort to foster that shift, all four of us are going to be part of NMC's Global Impact Team to Juarez, Mexico, from December 17-22. The mission of the team is to pack and deliver Christmas gift boxes to needy families in the greater Juarez area. It falls right in line with our Kids In Need focus and the priorities we are trying to teach our children.
So, there you have it. The story of my life in the Preteens (2000-2009).