2014: The Year That Really, Really Sucked.

2014 has been the worst year of my life. No really, it has been.

“Life,” of course, is lived more in stages and vignettes than in a totality of lived days. So when I say 2014 has been the worst year of my life, I don’t mean it’s been worse than the year my son passed away, or the times from my life I was completely destitute, or any other terrible year from a prior life of mine. I mean instead that 2014 has been the worst year in this stage of life—the stage in which I’m in my thirties, married with (what to me is) lots of kids, and have lived out one career and am in the early days of another.

But to be honest, 2014 is the only year that has been so consistently bad from start to finish. Rather than a series of vignettes, 2014 has been a 1.2-million-word Mission Earth kind of year.

“Why,” you may ask, “has this year been so bad?”

To which I respond, “it’s complicated.”

Complications aside, the simplistic glory of a bad year is how the good times shine all the brighter through the dark and mired days, such as:

–joyfully celebrating a fairly stress-free Christmas.

–seeing my oldest walk towards me, suitcase in hand, smiling and ready to stay a while.

–finding four walls to call home.

–witnessing a four-year-old’s first snow.

What I mostly see as I look for the constellation of pinpoints from 2014 is family. Lots and lots of family. Family gathering at the dinner table (always my favorite thing), singing in the van, packing boxes, and, yes, even saying goodbye.

Instead of a dearth of community, I see within those shining lights a husband and wife determined to make a go of it, walking hand in hand into new churches, a new neighborhood, a new town.

Instead of a lost career I see an exciting opportunity to be more, live more, create more.

Instead of children separated by miles, I see joy-filled, tear-filled reunions, brimming with tickles and stories and glitter and Elsa… so much Elsa.

Instead of overwhelming sadness, I see through always-threatening tears a friend’s newfound dedication to living a lovehard life, searching for her own pinpoint-constellation in this darkest of years.

Although I’ve always made them, I’ve never really believed in New Year’s Resolutions. If you have a goal, why wait for January 1? Why not start now? But this year I’m convinced that January 1, 2015 will start something new. Something wonderful, full of laughter and friendships and loving hard. A year in which I fail at times to exhibit patience and grace, but will succeed in forgiving myself, determined to try again. A year in which goal setting is less important than life living, and playing trains and creating crafts become my be all and end all.

Today isn’t the day to start. I have a cold. I’m tired and I’m cranky and the kids’ schools have been closed for what seems an eternity. But in these last two days, whether my family believes it or not, I will be working on building up a reserve of all the things I know I’ll need in the year to come. Should you have any of these things to spare—love, patience, grace, serenity, humor, wisdom—please feel free to send them my way. Your kindness may just help me close out 2014 with a happy bang, and usher in 2015 with the strength of community—virtual or otherwise—propelling me forward into my fresh start in a new place, shaking off the vestiges of west coast living to embrace fully this new chapter of east coast life.

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Inbetween the Cooking, Resolving to Do it Right

Ah, a new year. The perfectionist’s dream come true. Totally clean slate, lists aplenty, and lots of fellow passengers on the get-‘er-done crazy train.

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’m more a fan of deciding something needs to be done and then doing it, no matter the date. If you decide on March 18th that you need to watch less TV, then put that into effect on March 18th, not on Sunday (to start the week right), on Monday (if you’re a Monday-starter instead), or on Jan. 1. Just, you know, do it.

Nonetheless, I do tend to make a resolution or two. Last year I made exactly one, which was based on Philippians 4:11—I resolved to be content no matter my circumstances.

The resolution was meant to apply to the big things. Instead of bemoaning very real non-first-world-problems, I was to accept them in stride, recognizing them as part of a grand plan about which I can know nothing. Now, a year later, I can say that I followed this part of the resolution pretty well, and learned a thing or two about contentment, acceptance, trust, and faith along the way. I’m very happy with this, and I plan to keep this one going indefinitely.

But I can also see where I allowed my resolve to “be content” to take over the day-to-day of life, and how I somehow turned finding contentment in the big things to letting myself be lazy in the little things.

It started off slow. I’d catch myself getting upset that the craziness of life was taking over things—such as healthy meals, exercise, and routines for the kids—then I’d remind myself that it’s all part of life and that instead of stressing I should be content and go with the flow.

Some of this was good: I learned that it’s okay to use paper plates sometimes, even when guests come over, and that if life mandates that I use a store-bought pie crust or frozen biscuits, then so be it.

Some of this was not so good. I learned that, in the fatigue-induced haze of the middle years, I find it exceptionally easy to convince myself the kids don’t really need a bath every day every other day, and that given the overwhelming love of literature in our household, an hour hours of Baby TV probably won’t be too detrimental to the little guy.

So after 12 months of seeing how I balance going easy on myself with going too-easy on myself, I’m going to try a new way of doing things. I don’t know if you’d call this decision a “resolution,” so much as a column-style list of things broken down into what it’s okay to be a bit lax about and what it isn’t, and then living accordingly. For instance, if I don’t have time to read the 27 tabs that are open on my screen—generally consisting of humorous blog posts linked to by friends on Facebook—I think I can live guilt-free. If I don’t have time to listen to NPR while I make dinner, thus stopping me from keeping up with important news in the world, I may want to reprioritize a bit. If I haven’t bathed either kid in over a week, I’d say it’s time to reprioritize a lot.

My husband and I have a lot of good things coming up in 2014, most of which will probably end up being written about here. It’s going to be really easy to get overwhelmed, overworked, stressed out, and bogged down. That’s what the global we tend to do—take our blessings and make them self-inflicted curses of overwork. A good friend of mine wrote recently about this, reminding us all that we must enjoy our good things as gifts.

So in the end, if I have to make a list of resolutions, I think these are my three:

— keep the contentment ball rolling
— re-prioritize to give scarce energy to the important things and don’t feel guilty for neglecting the not-so-important things
— and enjoy my good things as gifts

Here’s hoping!