Without further ado, here is my 2011 review!
1. What was the single best thing that happened this year?
We grew our family of 3 to a family of 4 in November of this year. Miles was born November 12, making Norah a big sister for the first time. I can’t say how much I have enjoyed getting to know my new little guy and getting to see Norah grow into her big girl, big sister role in our family.
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened this year?
Daniel’s job was probably the most challenging aspect of our lives as a family this year. For the first time he has a job that requires him to travel for a week at a time. It has been hard for him to be away from home and it has been really hard for me to care for a toddler 24/7 by myself for a week straight. That’s just too much sometimes.
He also has felt very overwhelmed by the job’s expectations, and the sheer amount of work he is expected to do in the limited amount of time given to him. It just isn’t his favorite line of work, and he has not enjoyed this job. This definitely carries over at home, and it has been a challenge for all of us.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
In May of this year my sister got engaged to the man of her dreams. I have never seen her so happy and sure of someone, and I’m so excited and happy for her. She is getting married in February, and I am confident that sharing in her wedding and getting to witness and hear about the beginning year of her marriage will be one of my joys for 2012.
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Developing pre-eclampsia during my pregnancy was definitely unexpected and definitely an obstacle. Because of this, we were unable to use the birthing center we had chosen and didn’t have the birth we really would have like to have had.
Another unexpected obstacle this year was that people I know have been fighting cancer. Michelle’s close friend Teresa battled breast cancer this year. She’s only 48. It has been a scary time, but she is cancer free and healthy now. My uncle has also been fighting cancer this year. Unfortunately, he is not cancer free yet. I’m still hoping hard for his recovery. I’ve recently started sending him my pumped breast milk because I have read that it can help with side effects of cancer treatment, rebuilding the immune system, and fighting the cancer. I’m so hopeful that it makes a difference for him. And it’s so apropos – his wife (my aunt) was a La Leche League leader for 10 years, and they are the ones who gave me money for my breast pump when I was pregnant with Norah.
5. Pick 3 words to describe 2011
Exciting, loud (I have a toddler), and freeing
6. Pick 3 words your spouse would use to describe your 2011
Changing, sleepy, busy
7. Pick 3 words your spouse would use to describe their 2011
Stressful, teaching, joyful
8. What were the best books you read this year?
This could be a whole blog post in itself (and my goal is to make it one ), but the books I enjoyed most this year were:
The Ender Quartet (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) by Orson Scott Card
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Love Wins by Rob Bell
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Room by Emma Donoghue
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachmann)
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson
I participated in a reading challenge this year with a goal of reading 17,000 pages. I didn’t quite make it, but I did read an impressive 13,500. For 2012, my goal is to read 10,000 pages.
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
The more I thought about this question, the luckier I have felt. I have had so many valuable relationships this year. A lot of relationships have been in a state of change, and that has made for an interesting year as well. Some cool people who made my year better include (in no particular order):
*Michelle – I love having a sister, and this year has been a great year for us both. Michelle gets my humor and never lets on that she thinks I am weird. And she agreed to take my placenta home for me. People don’t just do that, KWIM?
*Erica: This year I started meeting regularly with Erica on Tuesday afternoons for sewing and chatting. This has worked out so well for us. Our kids play together so sweetly, and we’ve both gotten motivated to finish / work on sewing projects we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. We’ve also had great conversations about books, parenting, spirituality, family life, and other good stuff.
*Sarah – a lot has changed for Sarah this year and I was really afraid of how that would change our relationship. I was afraid I would get left behind, or something, or that when she started dating whoever she met might not like having me around. Well, I didn’t get left behind, and so far Nicole (her new squeeze) and I seem to have hit it off. I really like her, anyway, and she hasn’t let on to me that she feels differently. Sarah is still my go-to girlfriend who gets the ‘my children are horrible and I want to smash my head into a wall’ phone calls, as well as the ‘if I don’t get to a drag show I will die, so get your butt over here’ calls. It has been another good year of having her for my ‘person’, Grey’s Anatomy style.
*The Tuesday Night Crew – What can I even say? It has been a year of transformation for so many of these people whom I love so dearly. I’m so happy and excited for Curt that he is so happy with Mike – I’ve never seen him actually happy in a relationship before. I’ve gotten to know Mallory and Meghan better this year as well. And I have had so many good talks with Cy, and seen so much of his awesome photography.
*Teresa – This year I was so lucky to have gotten to know my sister’s friend Teresa better. I have gotten to know her by doing senior portraits for her sons and by working with her to help Michelle plan her wedding. Teresa has been just wonderful. She is always so gracious and so eager to help. She never seems to judge and she always laughs with us rather than at us. Erica and I have both been fortunate to have her parenting and marriage guidance this year. She is just enough older than us that she remembers exactly where we’ve been, but that she isn’t there anymore and can offer perspective and advice from what worked for her. I have really enjoyed getting to know her this year.
*Beth & Crew – This year I was also fortunate enough to get to spend time with the Ritzmans as they have been growing their business, BabyEtte. Not only did they give me a job I could do entirely at home during naps and such, but I have learned so much from them about parenting, living holistically, and about good food. Beth is so gracious and always accepting of me, even when I can’t shut up even though my brain is going, “for the love of god, stop talking, you sound like an idiot!!” Spending time with the girls has also helped me to understand better what I want for my children in regards to education, discipline, and home life. And of course I have enjoyed getting to know Mike as well.
Of course, this wouldn’t be complete without me saying that, first and foremost, my most valuable relationships have been with my loves – Dan and Norah and the little dude. We’ve done a lot of growing this year, for sure.
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I stopped working at a regular job in February of this year, and I feel like, for the first time since Norah was born, that I’m really happy with what I’m doing with my days. Yes, there are difficult days. It certainly isn’t perfect. But I really like being a stay at home parent and being able to focus on my house, my family, and my other relationships.
Working while trying to keep up with everything was difficult for me, particularly because I worked from home and didn’t employ child care. My job took up my time, but then I was also expected to keep up with all the housework, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. while also taking care of Norah. Dan just couldn’t seem to grasp that my job was still actually a job, even if I did it at home, and that it still took up large chunks of time, even if that time was working at our house. With me no longer working, I feel like that has really balanced things out better and I am much, much happier now.
It feels really good to be in a place where I don’t wish I was doing something else because I’m very happy with what I am doing.
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
This year I learned to start walking away from some of the conversations that stress me out. There are certain people in my life who consistently add to my stress level and I’ve decided to avoid conversations that bother me and end these conversations abruptly if they can’t be avoided. I think I’ve hurt some feelings over this, but my stress level is so much better for it. I have mixed feelings about this because I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I also feel that if I ask not to talk about something and the other person pushes it, then they’ve got coming whatever I decide to do with that.
Adding to that, I’ve been very conscious of the fact that I am not responsible for other people’s emotions, psychological states, or reactions to my life. I’m done being guilt-tripped by this crap and I’ve decided not to be manipulated by it.
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
In 2011, I was able to really address some of my feelings about the religious holidays celebrated in our culture. I have really struggled with these over the past several years since leaving the church, and I never know quite how to respond or whether I should celebrate. This year I feel like I learned a lot about being able to value and celebrate the Jesus story for what is beautiful in it without having to participate in the religion surrounding it, and that feels really good. I’ve also pondered the importance of celebrating the holidays that are significant in our culture, regardless of my personal feelings about the religious aspects of them.
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
Uh, I grew a baby. And I’m larger now than before I got pregnant, for sure. I’m hoping 2012 sees some of that baby weight disappear.
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
This is a weird question for me. I met with people and talked to them and listened to them. I’m not sure how else I would go about growing in relationships with other people.
15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
This year I really got to know Norah as her own little person and come to genuinely enjoy her company. I love that I can have conversations with her now and that we can mutually enjoy each other. Spending time with her and watching her grow have been so enjoyable this year.
I don’t have a “job”, per se that is a full time job or anything, but I have been doing a lot of sewing this year, much of it for BabyEtte, but some custom orders as well. I just enjoy sewing, so this has been a great fit and an enjoyable way to earn a little income.
16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)
I have a toddler. Whom I am home with 24/7.
Do I have to say anything else? Learning to have more patience, to adjust my expectations, and to just walk away when I can’t deal have been a challenge for me this year.
Sewing challenges have included the limitations of my sewing machine, as well as learning what kind of limitations to set on custom orders so that I have time to complete them without taking away from my family.
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
The interwebz – facebook and forums and email and the like.
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Raising my daughter has been an awesome use of time, as well as gestating the wee one and, oh, you know, giving birth. Not bad as far as time management goes.
I have also worked this year on setting up a more organized cleaning schedule for the house, and I feel like that has helped me to manage my time better as well. The house is nowhere near spotless, and at any given time something is a mess, but I feel like things are better under control and that housekeeping causes me less stress this way.
19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
To slow down and take things as they come. Life is slower when you have small children. It just is. It takes a day and a half to do a load of laundry, or it takes 3 hours to get everyone through the grocery store, or I may sit down to sew and have to tend to a catastrophe 5 minutes later. Things don’t get done quickly – or at all, sometimes. I have had to do a lot of learning this year about being present in what really matters and accepting that I have limitations on how productive I can be in this stage of my life.
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.
2011 was a year of change and growth for our family.