2013 in review

2013 was rough–stressful in both good and bad ways, and looking back I’m floored at the amount of stuff our family has been through. There’s been travel, moving, new additions, injuries, and work–we’ve run the gamut, and I’m proud of all of us for making it through with relative good humor and patience. Hopefully 2014 will go a little easier on us.

A rough timeline of events:

  • A work trip to Hawaii in January made for a picture perfect start to the year
  • In April, we adopted Atticus. I had no idea one puppy could be so much work! But he is a sweetheart, and he’s calmed down quite a bit since we first brought him home. He likes to lay on my feet on the couch at night while I write or work.
  • In May, I traveled to Italy for work. Our team stayed in a rustic countryside villa in the hills outside of Florence, which was as amazing as it sounds.
  • We sold our condo in central Maine and moved north (the nearest Starbucks is in Canada, if that tells you how far north we are), back to my childhood home, to be closer to family. Easily one of the best decisions we could have made. The girls are thriving, and we’re loving all this space.
  • Gwen turned two in September, and boy, did she ever turn two. She owns her two-ness. She climbs, she runs, she’s maniacally happy and sad in one breath, she’s persistent and driven, and she wants to do everything by herself. Yep, definitely two.
  • Speaking of Gwen, we had that burn accident in September, which landed her in the hospital for three days and scared us all pretty badly. Thankfully everything turned out OK, we held it together, and she came out mostly unscathed. Though now she likes to tell everyone, “Mama spill hot coffee on my monkey shirt! Hurt. I cry.”
  • Another trip, this time to San Francisco and Santa Cruz for the Automattic company meetup.
  • We were without regular internet access until November, which made things difficult for working at home, but we managed. Got pretty familiar with the very few free wi-fi spots in town, and drank a lot of Tim Horton’s coffee.
  • I wrote not one but two novel-length pieces of X-Files fanfic, completing my first NaNoWriMo! Woohoo! I’m in the process of publishing the first novel here.
  • November also marked my second European trip of the year, this time to London, and I really want to go back; I feel like I could have spent weeks there.
  • I worked a lot. I may have spent more time in pajamas than is considered socially acceptable. I continue to marvel at how lucky I am to work with the people I do, and to get paid to do the stuff I do. From home. In my pajamas with the Ninja Turtles on them. Yeah. I love my job.
  • I struggled with depression, and it took a lot of time and convincing for me to acknowledge it, but with help from an SSRI and therapy, I’m ending the year from a happier, more balanced place.
  • Ellie turned five in December, which feels like a personal milestone for me. When she was a newborn, I remember thinking of five as some magical, mystical age in the distant future, and now it’s here, and I am so proud of my smart, funny, beautiful little girl. She drives me crazy, but I love her to pieces and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.

Upcoming in 2014? More travel. Potty training (redux). More fanfic writing. Working. Family. And hopefully a happier, more positive outlook on the whole.

2012 in review

More of this deliciousness in 2013

More of this deliciousness in 2013

This year started out a bit rough, but ultimately turned into one of the best yet.

Some of my favorite things:

  • Watching my kids grow. Gwen is running away from babyhood so fast we can barely keep up, and Ellie has grown six inches in the two days it took me to write this. Even more exciting is watching their relationship unfold. Two kids definitely present more challenges, but seeing them play and laugh together makes it all worthwhile.
  • My new job. I felt a little weird leaving the university after so many years, but it was definitely time for a change, and I’ve found a second home at Automattic. It’s humbling, exciting, and some days I even think I kick ass a little (others, not so much, but you can’t win ‘em all).
  • I’ve visited more new places in the last six months than I have in my entire life. Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Winnipeg, plus our family trip to New York… and there will be more in the coming months. As hard as it is to leave my family, travel is one of my favorite things.
  • Creatively, I’ve felt inspired and happy with the work I’ve produced, both in quantity and quality. Most of it was WordPress themes, but there’s been some illustration, too. I always feel happiest when I’m making things, no matter the medium. More of that in 2013, please!
  • It probably qualifies as one of my healthiest years to date, with particular focus on improving on and creating good habits. I floss daily, exercise frequently, and take my vitamins!
  • Celebrating five years of marriage, twelve years of general together-ness, and four years of parenthood with this fella.
  • I discovered the wonder and light that is coffee! This tweet pretty much sums it up.

BFFs

Some challenges:

  • With a lot of new changes (even good ones!) comes stress, which for me translates to anxiety and minor dysphoria. Some of this is seasonal, though, and will probably pass by spring.
  • I’m still not where I want to be, health-wise, despite my progress. Not sure where to go from here, but I’m learning that the result is the process. More doing, less thinking about the doing. I’m starting up Health Month again in January, we’ll see where it leads.
  • Balancing work life and family life is more difficult without clear boundaries between office and home. We’ve made a few changes to cope with that — hiring someone to help clean the house every couple weeks (she’s a lifesaver!), instituting a no-work policy in the evening hours so we can focus on the kids — but I still feel like my attention is in a constant tug-of-war, which creates feelings of guilt on both sides. I can’t be everything to everyone, and I have to learn to accept good enough.

Park with papa

Some favorite photos:

So, what’s next in 2013? I’ve never been much for setting big goals — I don’t fare well under that pressure. But the new year has a number of things in store for us, and given last year’s challenges, I have a general idea of what I’d like to do differently.

  • We’re moving back to northern Maine, in an effort to stay closer to family, save money for travel, and get away from the “city.” This is a biggie, and I’ve been meaning to write about it more, but you know, *insert excuse here*
  • I’d like to take more time for books. I miss reading, and the kids are getting better at entertaining themselves (!) so I think I might be able to pick up the occasional book this year. I have a stack of stuff from Swaptree on the shelf of my bed’s headboard, plus a bunch of ebooks on my iPhone.
  • In an effort to balance myself and my life, I need to be better about living in the present, not trying to live in the future.
  • I’d love to start taking photos again, maybe?
  • In less than a month I’ll celebrate my 30th birthday. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about the big three-oh, but I think it’s going to be positive.

Happy new year, all!

2011 in review

It’s that time again! 2011′s highlights:

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: We had a baby!

serious cute

I spent most of the first nine months of 2011 gestating this cutie, and as such, 75% of the year is a blur. But yeah, she’s pretty awesome. I can officially remove “Have a home birth” from the life list, since Gwen is most definitely our last child and, once again, the home birth didn’t work out. In retrospect, I’m not disappointed with either of my babies’ births. The experiences were just as powerful and life-altering despite having taken place in a hospital–and I got two amazing kids out of the deal so I can’t feel bad about that!

In July Tim started a new work-from-home job, putting his WordPress expertise to work at Automattic. While this isn’t my accomplishment to share, it’s certainly had an impact on our family. Prior to this we worked together in the same office for several years, but he quickly realized he couldn’t keep up with both workloads and resigned from his position at the university in August. The new job also means more travelling and that’s been difficult for both of us. So far he’s been to Montreal and Budapest, and next month he’ll spend a week in Hawaii (the stinker!) Despite those challenges, I really can’t complain–his new schedule offers more flexibility than the university could, the benefits are excellent and it’s a significant step up in his career. We’re still figuring out how to navigate this new world, but I have a feeling it will get easier as time goes on.

I had my gallbladder removed shortly after Gwen was born. Although certainly not something I wanted, in one sense I’m glad it happened. It was the wake-up call that allowed me to take a critical look at my daily habits and take steps to better myself. I bought a Fitbit which motivated me to start exercising and monitoring calories again, and after just a few weeks I feel ten times better about myself and my abilities. It’s a careful balance between doing the work and becoming obsessive about it, and while I don’t always win that mental battle, I’m getting better.

Creatively I don’t have much to show for myself. I’m not feeling the illustration bug, my shops have been dormant most of the year, and I have a few ideas for photo shoots but it’s too darn cold outside and there’s not enough room in our house. Meh. I did spend a few months teaching myself about WordPress theme development and crossed off “learn PHP” from my life list, so that’s something!

Three of my list items had to do with the kids–make their Halloween costumes, make Ellie a birthday cake (I didn’t bake it but I decorated it, so I’m counting this one) and take them to Santa’s Village–so it’s easy to see where my focus was this year. However, Tim and I also took our first “long” trip away from Ellie in April to see Iron & Wine in concert (something I never wrote about due to pregnancy yuckiness) which was fun. And I visited my extended family in North Carolina for the first time, crossing off another state on my “visit all 50 states” goal.

Overall, I would say this was a banner year for personal and family growth, not so much creativity. That’s an acceptable exchange, though. I’ve devoted many years to creative pursuits, so it’s only fair that other things come into focus for a bit. As the kids get older I will have more time to spend with my projects, but right now it’s all about them. Seeing how much Ellie has grown and then having our second child has made me keenly aware of just how fast it goes by.

Next year I’m looking forward to more of the same–more introspection as I get closer to my thirties and more time spent enjoying my family. I’m hoping to travel a bit, too–nothing crazy long distance, but now that we have a bit more disposable income I want to get out of the state occasionally!

Happy new year, all!

visualize whirled peas

I’m not much for resolutions, but I did make one promise this year.  One promise, and I think it’s the key to all the promises.

I promise to be nicer to myself.

I’m going to remember what it feels like to be comfortable in my own skin (not just in body, though that’s a big part, but in mind and spirit, too).  Because there was a time in my life where I was much more appreciative of my strengths, and less debilitated by my weaknesses.

Really, there was!  I swear!

See, I have what I like to call a case of the “shoulds”.  I’m pretty sure most of us have these, actually, to varying degrees.  But I think mine got out of control.

“I should go grocery shopping.”
“I should call my mum more often.”
“I should eat less and exercise more.”
“I should have gotten a better education.”
“I should be working at a better job.”
“I should take more photographs.”
“I should be more outgoing.”
“I should be more adventurous.”

I’ve piled all these expectations on myself – some of which are reasonable (“I should shower every day” – my co-workers probably appreciate this one, and I do, too!) and many of which are not so reasonable (“I should be perfect” – oh, c’mon, perfection can’t be that hard to achieve, right?).  So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that lately it seems I’m drowning in a lake of guilt – guilt for not calling friends, guilt for not eating well, guilt for parting my hair on the left instead of the right, guilt for not being smarter, thinner, prettier, more academic; you name it, I’ve probably felt guilty about it.

I’m going to point out the obvious here:  Too much guilt hurts.  Eventually you start feeling guilty for feeling guilty!  Which makes you feel even more guilty!  Shit!

Last summer I came to a point where I said to myself, “Self, you have everything your little heart could possibly desire.  You have a beautiful life with a wonderful person and two crazy cats, you live in a beautiful house, and you have a stable job that has excellent benefits.  Slap on a white picket fence and you’re living the American dream!  So why, for the love of god why, can’t you just sit back and enjoy it?”

Guilt.  Because I’m trying to meet impossible standards and I haven’t accepted myself for who I am.  And feeling restless and unbalanced inside means feeling restless and unbalanced about everything else in your life, too, no matter how good it is.

So, I declare this the year of getting back to good.  I’m not even sure how I will keep this promise, but the other morning I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, rather quietly, “I like you.  You’re okay.  You’re doing just fine.”  And I’ve repeated it every day since, whispering it to myself as a mantra when I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed.  Reassurance that I don’t have to be perfect, that I can just be me, and that’s enough.

And it’s funny how forcing yourself to let go of some of those expectations really lightens the load.  Enough to, say, start eating healthier, without really having to think about it.  Or wanting to take photographs again.  Or redesigning your Web site for the first time in nearly a year, which is exactly what I did this week.  Not because I felt obligated to, but because I wanted to.

There’s a lot to be said for letting things go, for giving up expectations that may have outlived their usefulness, for letting life wash over you instead of paddling frantically against the current.

I like you, you’re okay, you’re doin’ just fine.

And lo and behold, I am.

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