Many people believe this was the first day of the 3rd millennium. Most of us got way too excited about the Y2K, but apparently this date was the calendar equivalent of counting to 10. I don't remember much about this day, personally, other than spending the day hanging out with family at my grandparent's farm in Texas. Things were quite different then. My grandparents -- Big Mama and Big Daddy -- were still living in their house on the farm, they could drive pretty much anywhere they wanted, and they still hosted large family gatherings. There were no great-grandkids in the picture, and only one of the Gooch cousins was even married. I was about to finish a Master's degree at Colorado State, and I had no idea what I was going to do after that. There was also about 3 inches of snow on the ground, which is pretty remarkable for Texas. I had tried to drive to a New Year's Eve banquet the night before in Plano, but I almost slid off the road, so I turned around and came back to my Aunt Kay and Uncle John's house to celebrate the New Year with board games, good food and conversation. Not much else happened on this day, other than a young, brash wide receiver from Oregon State, Chad Johnson (i.e., Ochocinco), repeatedly mocking the Notre Dame players in a 41-9 rout of the Irish. Now Ochocinco is Johnson again, he can't find a team, and ND is set to play for a national championship in less than a month.
I was a sixth grade teacher in Casper, Wyoming, my hometown. I had recently bought a home and just moved in. In fact, this day would have been my first morning waking up in my new crib. I celebrated by running a 5K race, part of the Windy City Strider's Winter Series. The race series consisted of a 2 mile, 5K (3 mile), 4 mile, 5 mile, and 10K(6 mile) race over the course of eight weeks. I took second in the 5K, running the course along the Platte River in 18:45 and getting edged out at the finish line. I ended up being one of about 10 runners to run in every race, which earned me a spiffy knit hat. I think I still have it somewhere. The country was still in shock over the events of the Enron scandal, and the next day the New England Patriots, led by no-name backup quarterback Tom Brady, would upset the "Greatest Show on Turf," the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
I was coaching soccer with one of my good friends at Kelly Walsh High School. We were the defending Class 4A State Champions, and we were about to begin the season that would lead to our second state championship. In a few weeks, I would lose my Aunt Kay to cancer, the end of a valiant fight and a beautiful life. A couple of weeks after that, my grandfather, PawPaw, would also pass away. Under very sad circumstances, I made two trips down south that spring. However, this dark cloud did have its silver lining. While at my grandfather's funeral, I found out I had inherited my great-grandmother's ring, and I was able to talk to Don and Karen Johnson about taking their daughter's hand in marriage. We were married that November, and she wears that ring to this day. In world news on March 3, 2003, North Korea was still attempting to flex its international muscles, this time by sending 4 fighter jets to intimidate an unarmed U.S. spy plane flying in international air space over the Sea of Japan. As is the case today, their antics reaffirmed what everyone already knows: They are crazy.
Gina and I were still getting used to married life. We had tied the knot about 5 months prior, and everyday was a new adventure. She worked about two blocks away from my school, and we would eat lunch together everyday. Gina had just interviewed for a teaching position at Casper College, and she won the job. This was her first introduction to teaching, and the beginning of her career in Nurse Education. I took a year off from coaching soccer, which turned out to be a wise choice. This also happened to be a leap year, and Gina helped me celebrate my 8th birthday with a surprise party. The U.S. was still occupying Iraq, even though they finally admitted there was no threat of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Border Patrol began using unmanned drones to police the border, and Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat were the two leaders trying to figure out who really "owns" the Gaza Strip.
Gina and I had just made the announcement that we were leaving our jobs and life in Casper, Wyoming to pursue doctorate degrees at the University of Virginia. I'm pretty sure everyone thought we were crazy. I had that same thought myself quite a few times. The Kelly Walsh boys' soccer team was about to win its 3rd state championship in 4 years. I was recognized by my school district as an Influential Educator, and the clock I got as an award still sits on my desk. In Kansas, law makers, educators and religious leaders sat to discuss whether or not Intelligent Design could be presented to students as an alternative explanation for the origin of life. It was found to be not supported by the First Amendment and subsequently banned. Our country refuses to acknowledge the presence of God in schools, and we are starting to see what has replaced Him.
Gina and I were living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we just finished our first year at the University of Virginia. We also just completed our first cycle of IVF, which we learned was not successful. I was teaching a technology workshop in Bedford, Virginia, and Gina came with me to enjoy the mountains while I taught a group of teachers how to make digital movies and podcasts. In sports, a relatively unknown relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jason Grimsley, had his house searched for performance enhancing drugs in an ongoing BALCO investigation. He quit baseball the next day.
Our niece, Joella Gale Murray, had been born a few weeks earlier, and she was being cared for at Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Ella, as we like to call her, was born with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a rare genetic skin disease in which the body doesn't produce vital proteins that hold the layers of skin together. People born with this disease get deep, painful wounds and blisters from seemingly everyday bumps and friction. We had been up there a couple of times to see Ella, and my sister and brother-in-law were going there every day to hold her, watch the bandage changes, sing to her, read from the Bible and make sure she knew there were many people outside the walls of the hospital who loved her and were praying for her. On July 7, 2007, the New7Wonders Foundation announced the winners of its massive poll, in which people could vote by phone or internet for their favorite existing world wonder. The New Seven Wonders of the World were The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, Machu Picchu in Peru, Mexico's Chichen Itza Mayan site, the Colosseum in Rome and the Taj Mahal in India. I tend to think Ella should be on this list. She is amazing and most definitely wonderful.
Life in the Alexander home had changed quite a bit by the time this date rolled around. What used to be a small house at the end of the street occupied by two grad students and a dog was now a crowded, joyful, amazing, busy, sleepless, who-knows-what-will-happen-next home full of laughing, tickling, crying, diapers, bottles and love. Sam and Nate had arrived the previous February, and Gina and I were completely caught up in the wonder of raising twin boys. We were also in the beginning stages of researching and writing our dissertations. On this particular night, after we put the boys down for bed (yes, they were sleeping through the night by now), we took some time away from our busy lives to celebrate "higher, faster, stronger" with the rest of the world. It was the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, and it was inspiring. We would need inspiration, as well as Olympic-level endurance, to get through the next several months.
We were no longer living in Charlottesville. Our graduation from UVa and subsequent job search brought us to Springfield, Illinois, where I had just begun my first faculty position at the University of Illinois Springfield. We still had a house in Virginia, no money, one car, or no friends in our new city but I still look back on this time as one of the most joyful in my life. The boys were in full-blown toddler mode. They were running everywhere, saying more words every day, and something as simple as walking down the sidewalk was an adventure. On this day, U.S. Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina interrupted a speech by President Barack Obama by screaming, "You lie!" This was in response to the impending health care reform the president was trying to -- and eventually did -- push through. The representative's lack of etiquette caused quite a stir, and it became yet another sign that Democrats and Republicans might be losing their desire to even appear as if they were getting along with each other. Now, there is very little doubt about that.
This day held special meaning for many people around the world. Couples from the U.S. to China to Australia to Norway rushed to get married so their anniversary would be on 10.10.10. In England, a massive celebration was held for a boy who turned 10 on the 10th minute of the 10th hour of the 10th day of the 10th month in the 10th year of the new millennium. As for us, there were no celebrations on this day. We had just moved back to Texas, and Gina had just started a new faculty position at TCU. I was working part time at UNT as a lecturer and research associate, and part time at Good Shepherd Episcopal School as a Technology Specialist. This day was a Friday, which meant I left my house at 6:00 to be at Good Shepherd by 7:30, then I left Dallas at 3:30 so I could be at Pebbles by 5:00 to pick up the boys. Life was pretty hectic, but we were happy to be back in Texas with friends and family (and warmer temps).
I was still working at UNT, teaching two classes and continuing to help with research projects. There had been rumors of new faculty positions opening up, one at UNT and one at TCU, but neither had materialized. I had also just interviewed for, and been offered, a position at Tarrant County Community College as a Faculty Technology Director (or something like that). As far as I was concerned, this was going to be my next job, and I was looking forward to it. The last year and a half had been a whirlwind, career-wise, and I was ready for some stability. Internationally on this day, the popular first-person shooter video game Modern Warfare 3 had just been released and sold 6.5 million copies almost instantly. Considering the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, this seems very disturbing and dark-hearted. I wonder if our culture should reconsider shooting people (even virtual people) as a form of entertainment?
This will be the last date like this in my lifetime. Honestly, I hardly paid attention to most of these dates. But it's still strange to think that something will never happen again. Our lives are quite different than they were on January 1, 2001. Some people would call us lucky, others might say we're blessed. I choose to believe the latter. Both Gina and I are on faculty at TCU, and the boys go to school across the street. I often walk over to pick them up, and we walk together back to my office. We stop at the big swing in front of Jarvis Hall to play if the weather is nice. The boys watch cartoons on my iPad under my desk while I finish up e-mails or lesson plans. We then take the shuttle to my parking lot and come home around 3:00. The weather today was cold, quite a shock compared to the mild temps we've had this fall, so we didn't get to swing. I know it won't be long before they don't go to school across the street, and they won't care about the swing. They will stop thinking the space beneath my desk is a fort, and I will ride the shuttle alone so I can drive to pick them up wherever they attend school. Just like our culture has a tendency to count days, I count my blessings. They are never to be taken for granted. Simple blessings are among the few sacred things left in our culture, for those who choose to acknowledge them. The big news on this day was a charity concert given by many big name stars (many of who I did not even know) to raise money for families and communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Celebrities blessing ordinary people. Also, for the first time in history, the Pope sent a tweet all by himself. Like me, he wants to connect with people, even when it means adapting to a new technology to do it. His message seems like a great way to end my story, "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart."