Grace in the Storm

As we came out of my son’s bedroom closet after we got the all clear from the weather service, I figured most of the action was over. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. While the action was over for us personally, my weather alarm would go off one more time as the storm system that prompted our initial trip to my son’s closet would spin up the tornado that would ultimately hit Wetumpka.

As I looked at the pictures of the devastation, my heart sank. Such beautiful buildings lost. Such history destroyed. But through it all, I took comfort in the fact that no one was killed and the injuries appeared light. This tornado could have been much worse. The people of Wetumpka had plenty of warning and it appears most headed them.

However, due to my heartbreak over the loss of those beautiful, historical churches, I’m ashamed to admit that a part of me wished it would have hit that stupid casino further south. But unlike the churches it demolished on a Saturday afternoon, the casino would have been full of people. The death toll could have been devastating.

Alternatively, if the tornado had gone to the north, it would have taken out the state’s women’s prison. A facility that also would have suffered multiple deaths with a direct hit by what has been ruled a large EF-2 tornado. Despite holding some dangerous killers, those women don’t deserve death in that manner.

This tornado showed us God’s grace. I oppose casinos, but as a Christian I should be reaching out to those who put their faith in gambling. I oppose crime, but as a Christian I should be reaching out to those who have thrown their lives away by breaking the law. However, I can’t save the dead.

So, as weird as it may seem, the tornado hitting those historical churches was the best path for it. It ensured the safety of the people who need those very churches.

2018 Year in Review

As I have gotten older, I have realized one mistake we as a generation make is comparing ourselves to our parents as they stand now instead of comparing ourselves to where they were at this same point in their own lives. Looking around, I’d say I’m trending slightly better than where my dad was when he was my age and so I’d have to say I’m doing well.

I am 36 years old, which means I’ve hit 18 for the second time. To say I have learned more since graduating high school than before would be understating it. The change in 2018 alone would be enough to make my head spin. The year started out with me working as a business analyst, living in an apartment, two kids in public school, and a wife with a single, twenty year old old cochlear implant.

Career

As a male, it is no surprise I find a great deal of my identity from my career. That’s not a criticism or a statement about our culture. It is simply a recognition that God gave man a desire to be productive and our careers are a function of that.

Sign outside the office

As a business analyst at DXC Technology in Montgomery, Alabama, I was responsible for maintaining the document database subsystem. It was a little outside the normal role of what DXC usually requires for their BAs, but it was one I enjoyed. In addition, it came with a ton of paid overtime. My boss recognized that the role was more suited for systems engineers and decided to move me into that role instead.

However, in 2017, I had finished my Masters in Information Systems Management and I had a desire to put that degree to use. When an opportunity came open for me to apply for a project management role within the same office, I let my boss know I was interested. In October, I started transitioning over into the role and in November, the role became official.

That is not to say it was not a rocky start. I jumped right on a project that was running a tad tight on its deadline and there were concerns about having all the required approvals on time. However, everything worked out. I learned a lot and I think I am going to enjoy this new position.

Home

In 2017, we had tried to buy a home but a technicality kept that from happening. While the details of why that occurred is not important, it resulted in us looking again in 2018. This time we took a different approach. We found a new neighborhood that had new construction homes. Located on the northern end of Prattville, the homes are built, contract to close, in about four months. We signed the contract on April 4 and moved in August 3.

Bell Ridge … What I’m currently calling it.

It is a beautiful home with an open floorplan that is perfectly sized for what we want. It is 2,000 sq. ft. as anything bigger would be too much for our family of four. We have two kids at 10 and 9 and they either will be in college or gainfully employed in nine years anyway. Therefore, there is no need for any more room.

With four total bedrooms, I have a dedicated office for the days I work from home and AT&T fiber gives us 1-gigabit download speeds with no data caps. Gas heat and a tankless water heater gives us luxuries we have never had before and we have been a bit spoiled. The garage gives us room to store our popup camper while we decide its fate. The yard is spacious enough but not too large. Which is fine by me, as I hate mowing anyway.

School

As we moved to Prattville, we made the decision that time was right to start homeschooling. While we personally know teachers that we love and respect, the cultures of the public schools themselves were no longer acceptable. Part of this is in part the result of administrators who no longer stick with the tried and true methods of teaching while utilizing suspect resources that result in me telling my fourth grader I work at an actual IT company and I don’t care what her little handout says.

Lincoln’s hat

On the other hand, I believe a major part of the culture problem at public schools are the parents of the other students. Those parents are either so committed to the idea their kids are infallible that the schools have to adopt a policy of universal achievement that nothing is actually learned or those parents are completely not involved and the schools are nothing more than glorified daycare centers.

Schools have to take on so much of the personal development of the students that time is wasted and with the student to teacher ratio continuing to climb, teachers are spread too thin. While I am no child education expert, I just felt that there was a better method. I know personally that I got bored when I was in school being one of the smarter people in class and it, paradoxically, lead to poorer grades.

Private schools end up with better academic achievements because that what parents end up paying out of pocket to get and the teacher to student ratios are smaller. However, private schools were just too expensive for us to pursue and so we went the homeschooling route. We have had a few growing pains, but I think we are starting to get a strategy lined up.

Hearing

What started as a way to get our insurance to cover Angela’s out of network audiology appointments turned into an accidental adventure. During the process, we learned that her non-implanted ear was eligible for cochlear implantation. In fact, it was highly encouraged as the medical science and opinions over the last 20 years had changed. A CT scan and a chewed up deductible later, we decided to pull the trigger and set a surgery date.

Programming the processor

The surgery itself was successful as the doctor was very pleased with how the implant went in. The nerve to the cochlea looked good and the coil on the implant went exactly where he wanted it. The surgical site has healed nicely and compared to her surgery in 1997, this one was minimally invasive.

It was not until after they wrapped up the surgery that things went wrong. Angela had an anaphylactic reaction to what is currently suspected to be the antiseptic they used to store the implant and clean the surgical site. Fortunately, she was still in the operating room at the time and they were able to save her life. If she had been anywhere else, the results could have been deadly. She has an appointment with an allergist in early January to get a definitive answer on the cause.

A month after the surgery, she got her new Cochlear processor turned on. She is still learning to hear with it but is getting more confident with it every day. She enjoys listening to videos over the Bluetooth streaming directly into her brain, something of which I am a little jealous.

Other Events

Of course, we did other things throughout the year.

In February, I went backpacking and realized my mistake doing that. I will likely never be invited again and I am fine with that. Scouts will likely give me more than enough of that than I can handle anyway.

In June, the kids went to DC for a few weeks to visit their aunt and uncle. Jonathan, a bit of a history buff at the moment, really enjoyed the trip and made it a personal mission to see Abraham Lincoln’s hat. Something, I am happy to say, he was able to see. I really enjoyed the tour of the Pentagon by Angela’s brother and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was deeply moving.

We. Have. Made. Fire.

In August, Rebekah joined her brother in Cub Scouts. She was well received and he joined the group feet first. This coming year, we will start a new girl troop under the Scouts BSA umbrella with the intent of going to Summer Camp in June. Lots of details to work out, but hopefully everything will work out. I will say that much of the public outcry against the Boy Scouts of late has been overblown. Criticisms by people who have no experience with the organization who have no do not know what they are talking about.

In November, Jonathan went squirrel hunting for the first time. However, he only saw one squirrel be harvested. It rained the entire time. It has been a rather wet fall and winter by Alabama standards. Since October, I have not had to run the sprinklers on my new lawn because it has stayed wet.

Jones Squirrel Hunt 2018 for the ten seconds it wasn’t raining

Looking ahead

What does this last year of the decade hold? Well, I do know we plan to move towards getting Angela’s older cochlear implant replaced. We also plan to shore up our finances since we did buy a house last year and Angela’s medical expenses did take a chunk out of our wallets. I do not think much movement will happen in terms of my career this year.

I plan to let my weight continue to drop. A medicine I have been put on has caused my appetite to be destroyed. I have lost ten pounds over the last month but I think I will wait until around August before I complain about it. Even then, I will still likely meet paper definition of overweight.

As I mentioned above, I plan to help start up a Scouts BSA troop for girls in Prattville. We think we have enough interested girls to get it going so that we can get into summer camp in June. We just need five girls and I know of three solid. As those girls share the details of what they do, I am confident we can get some more. Getting parental buy-in will be huge.

As for the kids, we will stay the course with homeschool for the rest of the spring and try a new advanced curriculum this fall that will take the weight off Angela’s shoulders. Since we will not do that until August, we have time to prepare for it.

As I hit 37 this year, I will make sure I keep my perspective and remember that I do not need to beat my dad today. I just need to beat his 1991.