It hasn’t been easy for me to find time, or energy, or words, or creativity inspiration or motivation or whatever this year to be present in this space, to think and write and share life. But as 2016 draws to a close and I’m peeking into 2017 I thought it was worth taking note of how I’ve been shaped by this past year.
I actually really relish the new year for this prescribed reflection. And to really reflect, thoughtfully, about the year, I need to remember what this year held.
– Mark got to show off his work to the whole family when we took a trip into the city to see the luxury apartments at the top of Liberty 2. Big, big project for him; hard, hard work. To see it in person blew me away. The view from the 57th is probably worth the steep price tag of these apartments, and to think it was he view every day for a long time.
– We had one lone snow storm, though it was colossal. Two feet, plus, of snow, all at once. We shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled. Then we played.
– Mark learned how to brew beer with Mike, our brother-in-law. It’s challenged their creativity and problem solving in the ever-evolving process, and given them a whole new level to find connection.
– My cousin, Jess, turned 40. Again, another moment to pause and reflect, to honor and exhort. Above all else, to celebrate.
– My own birthday initiated a “Supper Club” with dear friends that are just like family to us. Super thankful for the mostly once-a-month chance to connect with people who have been part of our lives a very, very long time, but who live too far away to be part of our everyday lives.
– We cheered Tobin’s rugby team into playoffs, and our hearts broke when they lost in the semi-finals. The grit and heart and sportsmanship that these women display in inspiring.
– Emily graduated from Temple. Not only did she graduate, but she was the speaker for the School of Education graduation! So many big feelings on this day. So, so glad to watch in happen.
– Mark and I celebrated 14 years of marriage. We took a hike, just the two of us, and had a mediocre super-expensive steak. We keep walking, one foot in front of the other, to the 15 year mark. Some days are better than others, but they are our days, and trade them I would not.
– We traveled, and traipsed, and traversed. We adventured and explored. Camping at Hickory Run, beach time in Avalon and Long Beach Island. Setting out to the mountains of Vermont. Like most adventures, these were all punctuated with moments of true glory and joy, though sometimes it was real work to get there (Looking at you, six hour car drive. And you, too, thunderstorms).
– We had small adventures, too. Taking local hikes, playing and sliding and climbing at Kids Castle, tasting fresh-off-the-conveyor belt potato chips at the Herr Factory, making our own art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
– By far one of the highlights of this year was the giant 200 foot Slip and Slide down the hill at the Connetts, with my bible study women and our families. I love the ingenuity and creativity that made it come together, and the spirit of fun and play. What a gift to have the freedom to be silly and brave, together with my family, but also with these grown women that are dear to me. But, oh the bruises I had the day after! My body is not as resilient as those of the kids.
– I attended Hippocamp 2016. I don’t even know how to talk about this, honestly. It was such a stretch for me to say yes to this writing conference, to take the time and money away from the family and do something that was so clearly just for me. But I am so glad that I did. I felt like a grown up. A person with interests and opinions and a brain of my own. Mary Karr signed my copy of her book, and took a picture with me. I came home with pages of notes, validated and inspired to write.
– I’ve continued to be on the reading panel for Hippocampus Magazine, as I did for part of last year. I’ve taken on increasing responsibility with Hippocampus, and now also serve as a copy-editor for the press side of things. Turns out, I really love the behind-the-scenes business of what makes a literary magazine, and I especially love the online community of readers as we hash out pieces. There is brave, life-affirming art being done in these quiet places and I’m honored to have a small part in giving breath and space to this art.
– In the Fall, Grant began third grade; Renee, first; and Griffin, pre-k. I cried when the big kids climbed the school bus steps, not because I’m sad that they are growing up, but because I truly miss their company when they are gone all day. And so does Griffin.
– We made dreams a reality by enclosing our front porch and adding space to our family room. This project certainly will carry into 2017, but I am proud of our vision and our bravery to commit to this house, to this space. I’m proud of my do-it-all husband, and the amount of time and energy he has poured into our home. It’s a happy home.
– There was the the disaster of the 2016 election. I rode a roller coaster of emotion that day and the days that follow, and I’m proud to have saved my Hillary Clinton yard sign. We at least have each other, people.
– I took on a chairperson role in the Angel Committee at the elementary school. I’m super thankful for my co-chair, Danielle. We made a really good team, and I’m really proud of the work that we did – organizing the food drive to make Thanksgiving baskets for families within our own school community, and the gift drive to so that these families can be blessed at Christmastime. I’m thankful for the generous spirit of our school, and I’m proud of our work.
-Mark has continued to lead in his work, I think surprising even himself when he steps out of his comfort zone to tackle new types of construction projects. His success caught the eye of his big boss, which is always a good thing.
– We continue to deepen our roots and relationship in our own small community. Often it’s been by investing in the relationships inspired by the kids’ own friends. I love that I almost never go to the grocery store without running into a familiar face. We now know our neighbors on our road, which is kind of a miracle considering the busy road we live on! And an old, old friend moved close enough to be considered an almost-neighbor (at under a mile away, I think it counts).
Something that stands out to me about 2016 is how important our relationships are and how we continue to prioritize them above most other things. Whether it’s committed family time, date nights, backyard barbecues, or impromptu play-dates our time reflects our desire to see and to know each other and the people in our lives. I hope we continue in this vein in 2017.
Another thing that is less obvious from this list, but obvious to me as I look back on our pictures and stories of 2016, is our continued love for being outside. Our backyard, the woods, camping, hiking, playing soccer, sitting on the sand next to the ocean, exploring tidal pools in the back bay, bundled up in cooler weather – it remains our happy place, the pure drug of fresh air and vitamin D.
A list of events and accomplishments, even one as diverse as this, only gives a certain two-dimensional picture of the year. It’s helpful to look at these black and white, concrete things to get a sense of growth and find appreciation and gratitude for where we’ve come. But it fails to color-in the nuance of our emotional, mental, spiritual, psychological energetic growth and challenges, which often don’t match up to the more black and white picture of things. This is where I get to do my own deeper thinking and reflecting. I have felt a sort of psychological itching and discomfort this year, and I think I’m on the edge of some sort growth spurt, something like a cocooning before a metamorphosis.
Cheers to 2017, friends.