Saturday, 19 December 2009

2009 - A year (and a decade) in review...


And a good evening to you on the last day of 2009. This particular blog is one that I've been working on for some time now, and my only fear had been that it would accidentally publish before I had the change to complete it properly.

Despite some challenges and some serious emotional heartache, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that 2009 has been the best year of my life. There have been some hurdles, to be sure, and every day has not been a picnic (even if I am absolutely "livin' the dream," which for the record I feel I am. However, the joy that this year has given me (not just from the travel and the work) has been more than any man deserves or could ever hope for.

For starters, my wife and I are more in love than ever. Every day I wake up and look at the woman I married and cannot believe that a) she chose me and b) this is the life we have together. And the fact that marrying her gave me such a wonderful family (Bob, Jan, Kim, Sara, Steve, etc.) is an even greater bonus.

Second, after years of hoping and dreaming, I've slain a dragon and accomplished the goal of living abroad. This experience has been incredible, as evidenced by the 130+ blogs that accompany it. The work, the people, the travel, and the beer - all of it has been more than I could have ever hoped for. I think my buddy BJ said it best: "Taylor's packing 25 years of retirement into 1 - all while STILL getting a paycheck." Truly - it has been a blessing, and I owe a lot of folks for helping me to get here, most notably the Hitman for making it all a reality. Thanks, brother.

Third, I feel closer to my family than ever. Despite the miles, in fact because of the miles, I think I realize now more than ever the value of family and that you should never take family time (be it dinner, a phone call, an email, etc.) for granted. Life moves too fast, and you will regret any chance you pass up to talk to the people who made you who you are and who love you more than anything (no matter how you act). Also, I think of this year as a special year because it is the one where Pattie (my sister) and I have truly developed a friendship. PR - I'm so proud of the young lady you are and that you've got the maturity to make the decisions you've made and are smart enough to know to enjoy your life.

In that same vein, this year has been a huge one for me and Johnny. Not only because of Sam and being a godfather (which is still something too big for me to get my head around), but because, outside Allen Funeral Home at my Grandfather's reception, both crying as it snowed around us, we confirmed once and for all that you don't have to have the same parents to be brothers through and through. I love you, man.

And then there's been the travel, the new experiences, and all that come with it. Laughter, tears, frustration, growth, you name it - there is no substitute for the education and the life experiences travel gives you, and I feel like I've grown in leaps and bounds this year (although, Puma, I STILL wish we'd gone first class on that train in Tunisia).

And I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention some huge milestones for my family as well. Adam graduated college. Pattie started high school and was the only freshman named to the varsity basketball team. And in one of the most shocking twists of the year, my dad FINALLY got a cell phone (although the Taylors of Cain Mill Road continue to be the only household in America WITHOUT call waiting).

2009 wraps up a decade, and there's no question it's been a big one for us. Jenny and I graduated college, moved to Charlotte, met each other, made out on Jacqueline's couch with about 400 of our closest friends on the floor around us, got married, bought a house, and moved abroad (twice). Within all that, I honestly think that I've figured out who I am and my place in life, and for that I am eternally grateful. More importantly, I've found my soulmate and some AMAZING friends spread out across multiple continents, the former being the single most important thing in my life.

And so, in the spirit of lists that dominate the life of a project manager, I thought that I'd lay out 2009 in review with the 10 memories that stand out in my mind. And so, in no particular order:

1. Watching John Rice knock a FOOT of snow off a grill and then work for 20 minutes (while all I did was drink Fat Tire) to light a grill and cook THE BEST STEAK I'VE EVER HAD in 4 degree weather in Boone, NC (SO GLAD we didn't have to use the oven).

2. Melissa Robinson crying in her cube when we told her that Jenny and I were moving to London (Melissa - you were the first to know, for the record).

3. Staring at an American flag with a cloudless azure sky in the distance, listening to 3 volleys of gunfire - one of youth, one for old age, and one for life eternal. We miss you, Granddaddy.

4. Standing on a balcony you could launch a SPACE SHUTTLE FROM, looking at the CN Tower and Lake Ontario, all while Roger Tise tries to light a grill and cook steak in 15 degree weather (it was snowing, for the record). All I did was drink Stock Ale during this tribulation (see a pattern forming here?).

5. An extra side of bacon at Original Pancake House, trying to absorb the amazing moment of having my mom, dad, and sister all around me.

6. An email from my dad telling me that a generation was over, and realizing that I'd never again see Useless curled up under the stove.

7. A text from Johnny saying: "She's here."

8. The look on Jenny's face (wearing that cute green shirt) when we first dropped our bags at Flat 303, 10 Weymouth Street.

9. Dice in my hand, folks chanting my name (all while wearing a "Price is Right" nametag), taking some joker betting with the house for all his money, rolling back to back 11's at Bill's Gamblin' Hall, and then looking over to see my wife killin' the table at Pai Gow (with 4 drinks in front of her, for the record).

10. Watching a horse race with my dad, experiencing both a childhood full of memories at the track while at the same time finally being about to truly enjoy the highs and the lows with him.

11. Steve Markham sipping on a Spitfire, telling us how amazing it was to have family like this. We love you, brother - don't forget we're always here for you (even if you are a Gator).

12. Dinger walking down the steps of Chuck's place with a tub of frozen cool whip in his hand, finally cooling off the burn that was the Habanero pepper.

13. Seeing Rice holding Sam on Skype and realizing that, at long last, it's happened.

14. Galatta Tower at Sunset, watching Istanbul light up for the evening.

15. The look on Tait Robinson's face when we walked into the Hard Rock Cafe in Denver to surprise him for his graduation.

16. The look on GC Robinson's face when Tom and I stood up in the middle of his wedding to sing "Carolina in my Mind."

17. A flash of images - Mom's eyes, the words "He didn't make it," a mother's hug, and then my stepdad blocking my path to my room and giving me a hug.

18. Singing "Rocky Top" at the Grand Ole Opry with the cat WHO ACTUALLY WROTE IT.

19. Sitting in our "Old Familiar" in Brussels, drinking a triple and thinking about how insane it is that a guy from East Tennessee has a "local in Brussels."

20. Hearing Alice tell someone about a GREAT weekend that dad and I spent together in March (basketball, wings, and even a Science Hill vs. West tournament game), and agreeing with dad's statement that "It felt just like old times."

You will notice that, despite the AMAZING places we've been and things we've seen this year, almost all the memories that stand out are those involving our family and friends on this side of the continent. I take that as all the proof one ever needs to know that there's no place like home, and no substitute for family and friends.

To close, for all those that have been reading the blog - thank you for reading and for all the pings, comments, and emails. I love writing this thing, but there are days when it's tough, and your encouragement and enjoyment keeps me going.

For all those I know and love (whether you read this thing or not) - know that I love you, can't wait to see you again, and wish you a 2010 filled with more than you could ever hope or expect.

To BJ Freidinger - thanks for the advice on the foot. Much appreciated. But for the record - Gunther and Farouk were both WAY out of line.

That's all the news that's fit to print this year! Chat with you in 2010!


(A very blessed) Sam and Jenny

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