For the past couple of weeks, I have waffled back and forth whether or not to write a 2016 review post. The latter half of the year was... interesting. December knocked the stuffing out of me and sadly culminated in the passing of my husband's dear nephew. As a family, we have shed many tears this month both individually and collectively. I didn't know what I could write about this year that wasn't overly depressing. Ultimately, I am a chronicler of life, and that includes documenting the difficult as well as the joyful. Of course, I carefully curate what I share online, but I also want to be authentic and it would be disingenuous to gloss over some of the stretching moments we've had. To that end, here is a review of our 2016.
Some years are joyful experiences filled with an endless litany of delights. Other years are filled with growth opportunities, some pleasant and others painful. 2016 was a growth year for our family and in the spirit of sharing wisdom, we would like to present some of the lessons we have learned both collectively and individually.
1) Hard work and effort doesn't always equal "success" but often the journey is more important than the end anyway.
Trent isn't the most athletic kid in our family and yet, he has persisted in joining the wrestling and track teams at his school. He hasn't won a race yet, and more often than not, he gets pinned during his matches, but he continues to keep trying his hardest. He may not be successful in the traditional sense by winning, but I think he is learning more important lessons about endurance, perseverance, and personal effort.
Josef's first love has always been basketball. He joined a city league at the end of 2015 and played on a team that consistently won. Sadly, at the end of the season, his team lost by a point in the championship game. It was a hard blow, but he recovered from the disappointment. In the fall, he joined modified soccer and worked as hard as he could. Soccer isn't the most natural fit for him, but he worked hard regardless. In the winter, he tried out for the modified basketball and came close to making the team, but fell short. Again, I was impressed with Josef's resilience as he dealt with that disappointment.
2) We have to endure what we don't always understand.
Poor Walter has struggled mightily with some unrelenting health challenges. We still don't have answers or relief, but he continues to do the best he can in the situation. I have been less than patient, anxious to find help for him. There are times I am so frustrated with the situation and the lack of answers and relief. I think Walter has been more patient and enduring than I have. I know well from experience that patience and endurance count for a lot and most things don't last forever.
3) Treasure time with family and friends.
This summer we broke from our usual pattern of visits to Wyoming and came over the 4th of July. (Usually we go every two years. Because we visited in 2015, our next visit wasn't slated until 2017, but we broke with tradition and went anyway.) I'm so glad we did. We had a wonderful time with a huge reunion with Brent's family. I saw many of my sisters and my parents. On the way home, we took the long route to see Brent's sister and her youngest son, Tucker, who was recovering from surgery. We also saw my great-uncle Bud at a McDonalds for an hour. I'm so glad we took that detour because that was the last time we saw both Tucker and Uncle Bud. Uncle Bud passed away in November and our sweet Tucker died in December.
The day after our beloved Tucker died, we packed our car and drove three days to Wyoming to be with family for the funeral. It was unbelievably difficult and sorrowful, but being with Brent's family was the most important thing. We mourned together and also held onto the hope of family. Tucker left a legacy of kindness, happiness, joy, and I have resolved to carry that forward in my own life.
3) When life is hard, don't try to get through it alone.
I have been so overwhelmed with all the help we have been given this year. Friends online have reached out to me in private messages, phone calls, and encouraging words when I struggled. Friends brought us dinner when we needed it. When we left, friends took care of our bunnies and cat. School teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, and the staff at our pediatric office have done all they could to offer help to our family and offered counsel, advice, and suggestions when we didn't know what to do in certain situations. In times like this, knowing so many people care about us has made a tremendous difference.
4)) Celebrate the triumphs and joys in life--the big and small moments.
Brooke had an amazing year and has continued to develop her talents. She has no fear of performing and performed her role as Annie in the elementary school musical with perfect confidence. It was absolutely delightful watching her on stage singing "Tomorrow". This spring, she has a small role in "Shrek, the Musical".
Jonathan and Brooke did great at their swimming lessons and worked so hard to improve their swimming skills.
We took some delightful trips to Philadelphia, Albany, Connecticut, Wyoming, the Adirondacks, and Kentucky.
Winter and Jonathan still snuggle and love on me and are the cutest kids. And, you could never be as excited about a swimming suit as Winter is.
4) Challenging times don't last forever.
If you are human and have any kind of interaction with other humans, you know that tough times are naturally going to occur. When I was younger, it was hard to see that they would someday end. I'm really happy to have enough experience that I know bad times don't last forever.
Brent has had a tough time at work with a difficult manager and co-workers. He was patient and persevered. This year, he moved to a new group with a much more supportive and helpful manager. His co-workers are interested in teamwork and collaboration instead of back-stabbing competition. He feels like he is really part of a team really trying to work together--they even play ultimate Frisbee a couple times a week at work which makes him really happy.
5) Families can be messy, difficult, and ridiculous and that's ok.
We don't have a perfect family. We fail a lot in our relationships with one another. I fail a lot as a mom. My biggest challenge as a mother is how much I want to control things to make them perfect, but trying to do that just about broke me. So I'm embracing a messier life (and snapchat) as a parent and as a person. Learning to let go is also great because that gives more time to pursue some personal goals. In mid-January, I begin a genealogy certification course online through Boston University. I'm excited for the challenge and the opportunity.
6) Love is everything.
It's cheesy but it is the most true thing I know. The love I have felt from Brent has sustained me this year. He is an amazing man and I couldn't ask for a better partner through this crazy journey of life.
Love for family, friends, neighbors is probably the most powerful tool we have to carry us through in this crazy world.
My love for God and the love I have felt from Him has probably been the greatest blessing I have experienced this year.
Thanks for letting me share these random, rambling thoughts with you. I hope you have had a good year filled with good things.
Come what may in 2017, it's going to be alright.