Jan 04

Image by Viktor Nagornyy

I know I’m not the first or the only person moved at the beginning of January to reflect on the year that just ended. But, when I saw Tsh’s list of 20 questions for reflecting on 2011 over at Simple Mom, I knew I wanted to stop and write on them.

What can I say? Cliche, thy name is Kristen!

So here goes: Tsh’s questions and my responses…

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

A no-brainer: my daughter was born on February 4, 2011, completing our family and bringing us boundless joy with her gaping grins, hearty laugh, and rolls and rolls of fat.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

I spent the weeks before my daughter was born in the hospital on bed rest due to a placental abruption.  Having to leave home – and especially having to be away from my sons – was emotionally devastating, even though I knew that being in the hospital was the best thing for me and my baby.  Luckily, my husband, my mother, and our terrific babysitter rallied together to shower our kids with love and attention so that that wild month now feels like a wacky memory instead of a wound.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

I’ve found the transition from having two kids to having three much easier than I found the transition from having one to having two (and much easier than the transition from being childless to being a mother).

I’ve also discovered a heretofore unknown love for – wait for it – crossword puzzles.  That’s right: I am a wild child.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

I developed shingles when my daughter was six weeks old. Trying to find ways to care for her, her brothers, and myself, all while recovering from a c-section, presented me and my husband with another unexpected medical challenge.

5. Pick three words to describe 2011.

Chaotic, surprising, exciting

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don’t ask them; guess based on
how you think your spouse sees you).

Busy, overwhelming, successful

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2011 (again, without asking).

Hectic, exhausting, fun

8. What were the best books you read this year?

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kenison

The Blue Jay’s Dance, by Louise Erdrich

Abide With Me, by Elizabeth Strout

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

My husband, my kids, my parents, my sisters-in-law, my local friends (That last one was a bit of a revelation for me. Since moving to the Midwest four years ago, I have sometimes resisted the idea of creating a life here. This year, though, I felt increasingly attached to and grateful for the handful of good friends I’ve made here.)

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

I went from being a full-time stay-at-home mom of two to a part-time work-at-home mom of three.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

I think I’ve gotten more resilient this past year, more willing to really be okay with “good enough,” to strive for excellence rather than perfection.  There are still days when I want to throw up my hands and go back to bed, but there are more than ever before when I look at the chaos, sigh, and smile.

“Oh well” has become a mantra of late.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

That’s a tough one and an area of my identity I struggle with. I continue to be fascinated by spiritual memoirs (Dani Shapiro’s Devotion is one of the few books I read and reread) and resonate deeply with stories of people of faith who are trying to forge new paths of devotion for themselves and their families.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

I became a runner – and continue to challenge myself daily by lugging around the world’s largest 11 month old baby!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

The challenges of the past year have only strengthened my relationship with my husband. After years of dating and years of marriage (Sunday was our 8th anniversary!), I can honestly say that I am more in love with him now than ever before. I’ve said it before: there is something profound and magical about seeing your partner as a parent to your kids that deepens and expands the contours of your love for him.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

I cherish the balance that my writing gives to my life. Making time for myself and my words each day brings a dimension to my life that I deeply value.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

Having been a teacher for nine years before having my kids, I am unused to the uncertain pitching life that freelance writing dictates. Also, working part-time and at-home, I sometimes struggle with flipping the switch between being a mommy and being a writer. Not surprisingly, I suppose, these two critical parts of my identity aren’t really separate, even if I’d like the time that I devote to each one to be delineated somehow.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

That’s easy: the Interwebs! (How is it that I go online to look up a recipe for whole wheat bread and end up researching which one of our hand soaps has parabens in it?!)

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

This summer, my husband and I started going on weekly date nights. We put the kids to bed, our babysitter arrives, and we head out for a late dinner. Having that time to catch up with each other – and to eat a meal in peace! – has been a tremendous gift to me and to our relationship.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

There is enough of me to go around for all of us – including myself. (Thank you, Rebecca, for helping me see that.)

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2011 for you.

All you need is love – and a good night’s sleep.

May your new year be filled with good stories: the ones you live, the ones you read, and, where applicable, the ones you write.