Another year is in the books, and as expected, it was a blur more brief than those before it. I think that’s one reason I make the time to sit down every December and do these retrospectives; the older I get, the faster the years go, and it pays to slow down and think about each one.
As with most years, there were highs and lows. We found out Dolly was pregnant in the spring, and we had the amazing blessing of spending a month out West in the summer. Though we battled more sickness than usual, Blaise continued to grow and flourish in his second year of preschool. Without further ado, a summary:
2022 started with a thud as we tested positive for COVID on New Year’s Day. We had avoided the scourge up to that point, but it slowed us down for a couple of weeks. My parents also had it around the same time, and though it hit them hard, thankfully everyone made a full recovery.
In February I got the opportunity to change jobs and join a startup based in Nashville. I learned a lot in my year at Scott’s Cheap Flights, but I realized that something closer to home and faith-based is a better fit for me. Plus I get to spread my wings as the lone backend engineer at Tether.
March was largely a time of getting settled after the job change, although I did get to go to my first concert since 2019 and see one of my recent favorite bands, Earth Groans.
Early in April we all traveled to Pittsburgh, partially for my birthday, and partially because Dolly had a branding shoot there. I had never been to the city, so it was very much an enlightening experience. Also, Blaise got sick, so he and I stayed in the Airbnb all day on my birthday while he puked. At least I got to see my lifelong friend Kyle while we were in town.
We continued to go deeper at our church this year, including the big Easter egg hunt with the children’s ministry.
I got into home-brewing kombucha this year, which was a fun hobby I can actually devote time to – about 30 minutes every two weeks. Some batches turned out better than others.
Around this time we also learned that Dolly was pregnant with our second child, a huge answer to prayer! That news would affect much of the rest of the year.
Not much stood out in May until the end when we joined my family in Ohio for Momocation at Lake Erie. Although I had to work some of the days, we also got to (very briefly) visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park and also Cedar Point where I hadn’t been in almost twenty years. Riding all those coasters with my nieces and nephews made me feel both young and very old at the same time.
June began our least-favorite time of year, summer in the South. Dolly and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with a weekend at a rural bed and breakfast (and seeing the new Top Gun). Then we tested positive for COVID again as soon as we got back. Thankfully this time was more of an inconvenience than the January round.
I spent Fourth of July weekend assembling a wooden swing set for Blaise. It was the most manual labor I’ve done in years, all in sweltering heat. While the end result turned out alright, it wasn’t quite the hit I had hoped, even if he does like to race cars down the slide sometimes.
Speaking of Blaise, by this point in the year he had really nailed potty training when it came to #1. He would conquer #2 in the fall, and we celebrated big time.
Much of the year was spent building up to the big trip we had planned for August. We drove from Nashville to Montana, stopping to visit some national parks in South Dakota. Once in Montana, I worked during the week from our Airbnb, and we ventured out further on the weekends. We didn’t escape the heat as much as we had hoped. It was often near 100 degrees where we stayed, but the cooler nights and camping trips made up for it. We also got to visit the following places: Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier. For us, it was one of those experiences we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives, and it was a reminder that working remotely is a huge blessing.
We headed back to Nashville Labor Day weekend, just in time for Blaise to start his second year of preschool. He never tells us much about what happens at school, but his teacher is great, and he continues to learn a lot.
By this point in the year, we were mostly focused on preparing for the new baby to arrive. We had learned just before our trip that he would be another boy, so we spent time over the next few months getting everything ready.
Fall in Nashville included all the usual fun with seasonally-mild temperatures throughout October, which was another blessing. Blaise was Dash from The Incredibles for Halloween this year, a fitting choice since he runs pretty much everywhere he goes.
Everything after that was a fog as life accelerated toward the holidays and baby’s arrival, which we knew would probably be around the same time.
We hosted Thanksgiving for Dolly’s mom and step dad once again since we weren’t allowed to travel anywhere. By this point I’m halfway decent at making a turkey.
This Christmas season was truly fun and magical with Blaise. He learned a bunch of songs for his preschool Christmas program, and he went around everywhere singing them. Even though it was a very hectic few weeks, and a record-breaking freeze and snow hit Nashville making our house uncomfortably cold just before Christmas, it was so sweet seeing his excitement on Christmas morning as he opened his gifts and stocking.
Perhaps the biggest news of the year is that Jack Isaac Scott DeLong was born on December 27th. Because this pregnancy was harder for Dolly, she was induced, and the labor and delivery went smoothly, thanks be to God. We were able to come home after just a couple of days, and we’re currently adjusting to life as a family of four.
As I’ve gotten older, my ability and desire to seek out new music continues to wane. Mostly I find things I can listen to while I work, which is often extreme or instrumental metal, due to their mathematical nature. So I enjoyed the following this year:
Bought a new-to-us car for Dolly and our growing family
Laying it all out like this, and even paring it down some, it’s a good reminder that God has blessed me and our family immensely. Though there are frequent frustrations with parenting, things breaking, jobs, and the spiraling culture around us, He is good, and He has provided all that we need and more. As we try our best to be a light in the darkness, I am more thankful than ever for the spiritual gifts He has given to sustain us now and for the promise that He will one day judge the world and make all things new for those who put their faith in Jesus. May His truth and grace bless us all in the year to come.
I was about to start this post by saying what a year of change and transition it has been, but then I realized that I say that pretty much every year. To live is to experience change. For us, 2021 kept pace in that regard, even as society has struggled to move on from the year before.
Most notably, this year brought a job change for me, the purchase of a house, and Blaise starting preschool. The spring was a whirlwind with all of the employment and housing activity, though things slowed down for another sweltering summer in the South. The fall brought our annual “Tiger Family Trip”, and we have loved celebrating the holidays in our new home.
Early in January, my previous employer Kindful was acquired by a larger company. It was big news since I had been with the company for nearly seven years. Though I took a “wait and see” approach, major changes eventually led me to find a new job within a couple of months.
February brought a massive snowstorm to Nashville, and it was so much fun to get out and play in the snow with Blaise after work that week.
By March, our house search was in full swing, including numerous showings and lots of research.
Around this time we placed membership at Donelson Church of Christ. We had been looking for a new church home for a while, and it has been great to get plugged in, especially for Blaise.
In April I turned 35 – another less-than-amusing milestone.
Three days later I began my new job as a backend software engineer for Scott’s Cheap Flights. It has been an interesting challenge learning a new industry, company, and business model.
Eight days after starting my new job, we closed on our house in Mt. Juliet. We didn’t move in for another few weeks, but it has been such a blessing to have a comfortable home with a nice yard in a wonderful community.
May was mostly a blur with house repairs and and preparing to move.
In June, Dolly and I celebrated five years of marriage with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and a couple other spots in Colorado. It was so nice to get away, especially since Blaise stayed with his grandparents for several days in a row!
July included a quick trip to Ohio for Independence Day, and after that mostly wishing it would stop being so hot.
In early September, my new employer took the whole company to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for a company retreat. It was quite an experience, especially since a hurricane hit our last day there.
That same week, Blaise started preschool. It’s run by our new church, so it has been a great extension of that world. Plus, he is learning and growing a lot.
October brought our “Tiger Family Trip” (family vacation named after an episode of Daniel Tiger). We first swung through Asheville, North Carolina. After that we spent time exploring Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We finished up by stopping for a day in Kingsport, Tennessee. It was a good bit of driving, but still easier than navigating air travel restrictions with a toddler.
The rest of October was filled with the usual fun fall activities including trunk-or-treat and Blaise’s first real trick-or-treat in the new neighborhood.
We hosted Thanksgiving for my in-laws – once again thanks to the current difficulties of air travel.
While they were visiting, Blaise turned three! It’s hard to believe he’s been a part of our family for that long, yet the actual memory of his birth feels like it was forever ago.
The holiday season was that much more fun with Blaise this year since he really seemed to grasp all the concepts, and he didn’t even cry in his Santa photos.
Overall, it was a year full of blessings for us. Now that we own a house again, and one where we plan to stay for a while, it feels like we have a foundation to build upon. At the same time, the cultural climate seems more precarious than ever. Things have certainly shifted since the pandemic, and it hasn’t been for the better.
That is one big reason we chose to settle our family in a community that uplifts traditional values and liberty. We want to strive toward that which is ultimately, biblically good, even if society at large is headed in a different direction. We pray that God will fill our lives (and his world) with more of that goodness in 2022.
What can be said about 2020? Clearly it was a year that no one expected. Do you remember those social media posts about a year ago saying how awesome 2020 was going to be? Those did not age well.
Despite the chaos of this year biologically, socially, and politically, I’m thankful to say that our family was largely protected and blessed. I got to spend a lot more time at home with Dolly and Blaise. We traveled some and saw our beautiful country. Although we sadly grieved the loss of my grandmother, we stayed healthy and have a roof over our heads.
In January I fully began my role as a team manager at Kindful. It has been a challenging step in my career, but most days I’m writing code as much as ever.
At the end of February, we took a little family weekend to Chattanooga. The aquarium and hiking were a welcome escape, even if we didn’t know what was about to hit the world.
By mid-March, I was working from home as the country began shutting down due to COVID. Those first few weeks were unsettling; I’ll never forget my first foray out to the grocery store wearing a mask. I’ve been to the office exactly once since March, but the business adapted quickly to the switch.
In April I turned 34. I appreciated that my sisters and several friends drove by to wish me a happy birthday, a sign of the bizarre times.
Since late 2019, my grandmother’s health had been declining. This was especially true after she was forced into isolation due to the pandemic. She took a turn for the worse in April, and sadly she passed away in May. I’m thankful that my mother got to spend about a week at her bedside despite restrictions, though I know that doesn’t make it any easier. We were not able to meet for her memorial service in Ohio until July, and it felt like a sea change losing my last grandparent.
I shaved my face for the first time in May. It looked weird, so I grew a beard again immediately.
Dolly and I celebrated four years of marriage in June with a getaway to Cookeville. It may not be the most exotic destination, but we enjoyed good meals, sleeping in, and some hiking all the more since we had barely left the house this year.
My dad also turned 70 in June, and we were able to celebrate him with a weekend at the lake. I’m more thankful than ever for the time we get to spend together.
Summer in Nashville was hot and miserable, as usual. We made the best of it with sprinklers and occasional runs to Janarty’s Homemade Ice Cream.
All year Blaise kept growing and learning. He took his first steps in January, and by the end of the summer he had quite a vocabulary. At this point he is constantly telling us “I want…” or reciting parts of books from memory.
September was a big month as we took a family trip to Olympic National Park in Washington. It was no small feat flying with a nearly-two-year-old, especially under the conditions, but goodness was it refreshing to be in the cool climate of the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, rainforests, rocky beaches, and drive-thru espresso stands were perfection. Blaise did really well, especially if we had time to let him throw rocks into a body of water.
October finally kicked into fall mode in Nashville, and I must say that the weather this year was particularly good. Often it goes from stifling heat to cold without much in between, but we were graced with several weeks in the 50s and 60s. More than ever, it’s the little things. We did trunk-or-treat, pumpkin patches, and jumping in leaves. You really can’t ask for much more.
I don’t remember much from November. We hosted Dolly’s mom for Thanksgiving, and Blaise turned two with a small party to commemorate.
December was a total blur with the usual holiday commotion (sans parties), but we got to visit my parents in Ohio where we had a real white Christmas.
And at the very last minute, Dolly and I hit our savings goal for buying a house! So we will be starting that process early next year. That is a huge gift after working to become debt free in 2018 and renting (and borrowing) houses since then.
I know many are anxious to put this year behind us and get back to “normal,” and I am right there with them all. It’s a year of hardship that exposed and widened the deep divides in our culture and world. Frankly, it was disheartening, especially while raising a small child. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As historian Tom Holland points out in Dominion, these are the foundations of Western civilization, even if Western civilization no longer thinks much about who laid that foundation. My prayer for the year to come is that the wisdom and grace of Jesus will shape my family, your family, and our world if we let it.
2019 was a year of adjustments. I guess most years are in some way, but this one felt like a big one as Dolly and I settled into parenting. As it turns out, having a baby at home affects every aspect of life – sleep, free time, travel, worship, work, social life, and everything else. Because of that, this year doesn’t feel as flashy on the surface, although we did experience some awesome things as a family of three. Here are some of the highlights:
At the end of January, I “retired” from my part-time job on the Ethos Church tech team. I helped set up and tear down at The Cannery for nearly a decade, so it was bittersweet to see that chapter end. That said, I do not miss waking up at 5 AM on Sundays.
Truthfully, I don’t remember much from January, February, or March aside from caring for Blaise around the clock, and Dolly did more of that than I did.
For my birthday in early April, we traveled to Indianapolis and Indiana Dunes National Park. It was a nice getaway for the most part (except the weird Airbnb run by a Polish family), but also an eye-opening experience of what vacations will look like for a while.
Later that same month we all traveled to West Virginia where Dolly was shooting a wedding. It was another fun trip with a few bumps and blowouts.
May was mostly a whirlwind as we packed and prepared to move on Memorial Day weekend. We are so thankful for the year and a half we got to rent my sister’s family’s house (while they moved away for a job), and we are equally grateful they are back in Nashville so Blaise can be near more of his cousins. We are now renting my parents’ condo in Nashville as we continue to save up for a house.
June started off with a bang as we drove to Florida to visit Dolly’s family, and also to partake in Momocation 2019 (our family vacation planned by my mom). We got to spend time at Universal Studios and Legoland with the whole DeLong / Belville / Irvine crew of sixteen people – great memories and lots of sweat.
For July 4th we once again visited Ohio to see my grandma. It was good to spend a little bit of time with her, even if Blaise ate too much soft serve and puked in the parking lot of Chilly Willy’s, the local ice cream and burger place.
All year Dolly poured herself into her photography business. She did portraits for over fifty families, a number of weddings, and even a few branding sessions for local business owners. Her determination is impressive as she grows her business and juggles full-time motherhood.
On a related note, we did a Grow Class over the summer with Ethos which was focused on the practice of sabbath. Since then, we have been trying (with mixed results) to truly rest on Sundays and follow the rhythm of slowing down once a week.
In August we were counting down the days until we could escape the Nashville heat and go on our family trip to New England. At the end of the month we visited Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Highlights included Acadia National Park and a maple syrup farm in Vermont. Once again, heading north was just the thing to revive us from summer in the South.
In early fall, the opportunity fell in front of us to once again lead an Ethos house church and partner with Siloam Health to welcome a refugee family in Nashville. As everything lined up, we thought for sure it had to be God’s hand opening the door for us. To this point, things haven’t turned out quite how we had envisioned, but we’re hoping that rebooting in the new year may yield more fruit.
Late in September, we had to put my step-cat Bella to sleep due to a number of chronic health issues. She lived fourteen long years. A part of me was sad to see her quirky personality go, although I don’t miss cleaning her litter box or paying for her prescription food.
In October I was promoted to leading a small team in my job at Kindful. The team will focus on our API, partner integrations, and data services. We’ve been transitioning over the past couple of months to fully launch the new structure in January.
Fall with Blaise was a lot of fun – pumpkin patches, playing in leaves, trick-or-treating, and all the rest. I think it will be even more fun next year when he understands a little more of what’s going on.
I got to see a few great shows this year – Earth Groans and Oh, Sleeper at The End, August Burns Red at Marathon Music Works, and Empty, Comrades, and My Epic, also at The End. Going to shows always awakens a little part inside me that doesn’t stir much these hectic days.
In November we visited Dolly’s family in Florida once again, and Blaise turned one the day before Thanksgiving. He celebrated by downing unhealthy amounts of frosting and cake.
Looking back, I did not invest much in friendships this year, and I miss that. Working friendships into the life of a parent is another adjustment I will have to figure out in the year to come.
The holidays were similarly fun with Blaise in tow. Now that he has more of a personality, I really enjoy seeing him experience new things like Christmas lights, Santa, and hot chocolate.
I’m certain that 2020 will be a year of even more adjustment as we figure out what life looks like with a toddler. We have been abundantly blessed by God in every way, so I pray that in the coming year we primarily find contentment with all we’ve been given, even in a culture that tells us to always strive for more.
This year was a landmark year in every sense of the word. It is strange looking back to last January just how drastically our lives have changed. We no longer have to give huge sums of money to lenders each month, Dolly is getting to pursue her passion of photography full-time, and of course we are now parents! (For that last reason, please excuse any typos here. I am trying to bang this out while Blaise naps.)
That said, here are the highlights of 2018 as I sit, reflect, and down some coffee:
In January, we became debt free! There is much more detail in the link, but now it’s almost easy to forget how much that journey affected our day-to-day life, and how free we have become since shedding that burden.
In February, we once again participated in a month of prayer and fasting (in various forms) with our church family, Ethos. It was a challenging month of opening up a lot of space for silence (no Netflix or social media, among other things), but we believe that God drew us closer during that time.
In March we took a long weekend trip to St. Louis as a sort of debt-free getaway celebration. It was a well-timed and delightful stay in a new-to-me city.
All along, our plan had been to try to have children once we were debt free. With the blessing of hitting that goal sooner than anticipated, we were even more blessed to learn late in March that we would have a baby this year!
Around the same time, we realized that would also mean enacting the next phase of our plan: Dolly focusing on photography full-time while staying home with the baby. She began transitioning out of her role at Lipscomb University and dove full-force into her business in August. She has done great building it into a successful venture.
In April I turned 32. Each birthday seems to get less remarkable, but I do remember eating at Freebirds World Burrito for the first time and taking a long nap after that.
We had the chance to visit Colorado in June to celebrate our second anniversary, and it was awesome. Denver was a little busy, but Pike’s Peak, St. Mary’s Glacier, and Garden of the Gods were spectacular.
Around July 4th, I had the chance to visit my grandparents in Ohio. They had moved into an assisted living apartment in June after my grandfather fell and needed some more help. I’m so glad I was able to make the trip to see them, as it was the last time I saw my grandfather in this life.
At the end of August and into September, we took our “babymoon” out West – Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. (That deserves its own blog post, but I didn’t do it back then.) I can’t describe how wonderful that journey was, even though we calculated that I drove (since my name was on all the rentals) about 3,000 miles in 16 days. I’m not the kind of person who ever says, “OMG we are going to move here!” when on vacation, but let me tell you, if a real opportunity ever arose to live in Montana, I would absolutely take it. (Not so much Utah or Arizona.)
When we got back from the trip, it was all about baby preparation until he came. October and November were pretty much a blur. We dressed up like avocado and toast for Halloween.
Throughout the year, my 97-year-old grandfather, Willard McCrone, had been dealing with numerous health issues. My saintly parents devoted so much of their time to his care and recovery. On November 9th, he passed away peacefully at home in his bed. I’ll never forget the phone call from my mom telling me the sad news, but we celebrate his incredible life and the legacy he left behind.
A little over two weeks later, we welcomed our son, James Willard Blaise DeLong into the world on November 27th. It was so bittersweet to hold him so shortly after losing my grandfather, but Dolly pushed through the trials of labor like a champ.
Truthfully, nothing has been the same since Blaise arrived. We love him to pieces, and we also have a new perspective on sleep, free time, and life in general.
Throughout the year, I read the following excellent books:
I continued growing as a software engineer Kindful, where I took on some additional responsibilities
I don’t really know what 2019 holds, and none of us do, of course. Our family will likely move houses again in May or June, but that’s about the only thing on our radar. We are adjusting to this new life of parenthood, and I get the feeling that now, more than ever, we may have plans but God will ultimately guide our path. May you and yours be blessed in the year to come.