It seriously seems like I just wrote my last New Year’s post. Do you know why? It’s because when i looked back to see if I accomplished everything I hoped for in 2014, it was only 3 blog posts ago. Three. When I consider that I love writing more than just about anything except spending time with my family, that’s a dangerously low number. I’ll have to do better, and that starts today.
I found this reflection guide on Pinterest. That’s right. I made time for Pinterest but not for writing (Priorities!). But it seemed appropriate to look back at this busy year before making grand promises about the new one. Plus, if I sit down at my computer today, I can avoid going to Wal-Mart and starting several crafting projects.
So l’m going to reflect — by my rules. I may not meet the required number of highlights or disappointments, but I can’t cram my year into someone else’s guidelines, especially when being at the computer is such a rare occurrence this year already. So here goes…….
- I began 2014 by focusing on my 3rd Ayer Pageant. It went off without a hitch, and I only had about five stress-induced canker sores and two patches of psoriasis to show for it. Though I loathed this project, I was getting pretty good at it. And I love crossing things off a to-do list.
- Joe worked in Texas for much of the beginning of 2014. Despite it bringing back flashbacks of his time in Tonapah and reminding me that I’m a dreadful single parent, we all survived and were especially glad to see him get some work in Morrilton and Conway later this year.
- We adopted Timothy Andrew Riggins, Jr.. “Starbucks”, as he was originally named, first came to us in the summer of 2013. He was an adorable Chocolate Lab puppy who would wander into our neighborhood. He was sweet and submissive, although covered with ticks and bites. Our neighbors called the dog catcher on him several times. Here’s where social media becomes a wonderful thing. I follow a local animal rescue group on Facebook, and when they posted Starbucks as an owner surrender approaching his put-to-sleep date, I had to get involved. I agreed to keep him until a Lab rescue group from Oklahoma could come through and grab him. “Just a temporary foster,” I told Joe, who was in Texas. Ha. In the two days we fostered, the kids fell in love with him. And by “kids,” I mean mostly myself, but the kids did shed some tears at the idea of him leaving. I called the local rescue (who called off the Oklahoma rescue), paid the adoption fee, and changed his name to Riggins (after my favorite Character on Friday Night Lights) all before Joe got home for the weekend. We have never regretted the decision. He is the sweetest most loving dog we have, even if he is a little wild. And even if Joe did put a prompt end to my volunteering as an animal foster parent, we gained an irreplaceable member of our family. We love our furry brown boy.
- Tessa had a great softball season. Her little team that only won two games last year began by placing second in the preseason tournament. In her first game, she hit a home run and caught a pop fly. Though softball has proven much more dramatic than baseball, it was so much fun to watch her get better at something she enjoys. Her team even placed second in the district tournament. Those little girls became best friends, and it really was a great time for her.
- Talan had a great baseball season. He seemed to really discover his bat this season, and his team became much more competitive as they won preseason tournament, took second in another midseason tournament, and went on to win district and state. His teammates are his favorite people, and their families are some of ours. People ask me all the time if I ever get tired of being at a ballpark, and the answer is no. If the kids love to be there, so do I. There are great people at the Plumerville ball park, and they are such a blessing in our lives.
- I got the opportunity to teach at Morrilton Junior High School. This will probably make several lists, as it has been such a huge change. The blessing in this change — the highlight, as we’re calling it — has been to know how many people believe in me as an educator. Even people who do not like me personally have welcomed my teaching skills to MJHS or expressed that they miss them at MHS. If the move has done nothing else for me (and his has done other things; I’m just addressing them elsewhere), it has boosted my confidence to know that people believe in me as a teacher.
- We sold our house! Moving to Country Estates was a spontaneous decision. Seriously. We’d sold our house in Plumerville, and Joe was leaving to work out of state, which wouldn’t allow us time to buy land and build right then. We’d narrowed our search down to two: a house with land that needed a lot of work, and a house at the Country Club that was move-in ready. Joe said, “If I gave you 10 seconds, and you had to decide, which would you pick?” I picked the country club, and we moved in. For the record (and for any former neighbors who may be reading this): I can see what people love about living there. It’s community living for all ages. People are always together, kids are always playing, there’s always someone to talk to, etc…..if you like and are used to that kind of thing. We just aren’t those people. Much of the time, we’re on the go and our house is just where we sleep on breaks. On the rare occasion that we are home, we crave peace and quiet which a neighborhood that social just doesn’t allow. So after toying around with selling it for months, I stuck a sign in the yard one Sunday afternoon while Joe was at work. A lady came to look on Wednesday, came back on the next Sunday, and we had an offer Monday. The whole thing went so quickly, smoothly, and easily. It was a lesson for us that God’s timing is perfect.
- We lived in a duplex for a month and a half. “Why is that a highlight?” you may be asking. Besides that it was fodder for some pretty comical posts on social media, it was an excellent lesson for us as a family. Our time in that apartment was a reminder to be thankful for what we have — such as a roof over our head, even if it was a roof attached to the roof of the most obnoxious pet in the history of pets. And honestly, that duplex wasn’t THAT bad. It reminded us that there are people who would love to have what we were taking for granted. It allowed us some “closeness” that we’d only experienced in beach condos. It helped us get creative in finding things to do outside our home. It also prepared us to love whatever we found (more on that later).
- We found a house! Determined to tough it out in the duplex until we could build our dream home, we stalked land constantly. It seemed cruel that we couldn’t find a lot we were satisfied with at a time when we were prepared and eager to buy and build. Enter a friend looking for nice neighbors. Our friend said there was a house for sale by owner in her neighborhood that was very nice and it wouldn’t hurt to look. I told Joe. He agreed to look because there was a nearby lot he wanted to see as well. Now we had looked at several other houses, and all of them just felt wrong- too big, too small, not a practical floor plan for our family, not enough yard- So we went into looking at this house as a way to get a better feel for what we wanted to build. What we found was another lesson in God’s plan and sense of humor. The floor plan was exactly what we’d picked to build(except for two minor changes). I don’t guess I’ve ever seen Joe Bratton so in love (except for maybe when we were dating – ha). We moved in about a month later, and we’re HOME. I haven’t been truly home since we lived in Plumerville, and it’s a great feeling. I deleted the Realtor.com app off my phone if that tells you anything. I think we’re going to get comfortable here.
- We’re together and healthy. I cannot put enough emphasis on this. I get news about friends and family going though terrible experiences every day it seems. I do not take our happy family and good health for granted. We have been so blessed this year.
- We’ve established that I didn’t write as much as I should have.
- I didn’t speak up when I should have. (This is for you, Rachel Sidney, if you’re reading this it means you haven’t given up on me. Thank you.) Our world is so full of injustice, and it seemed there was (is) much more of it this year than in years past. What did I do with this injustice? I can tell you what I didn’t do. I didn’t use it as material to speak out in favor of rational change. Here’s what I did do: I did sit and stew on my feelings, cry while I watched news coverage of such events, talk Joe’s ear off while he nodded quietly, tweet passive-aggressive ramblings, and basically not write. I didn’t write about it. I think I avoided blogging because I was afraid of the response. But what I see looking back is that being afraid doesn’t do me or anyone else any favors. For example, one person told me that even though she rarely agrees with me, she likes to read my blog because it “helps her understand the other side.” And I didn’t do that for her this year. I’ve GOT to do better. I want my children and grandchildren to know where I stood on historical and social issues, and putting my thoughts here is probably as close as I’ll ever come to getting published. So I’d better do it. I’m sure Joe would appreciate the silence too.
- The move to MJHS has shown me that I’m not superteacher. There is nothing to take your ego down a few notches quite like being changed back into that 2006, first year, terrified, “What am I going to do with them today?” teacher. And that’s who I am. Yikes. Prayers for my students in the coming semester as I learn right along with them.
- The world is full of crummy people. And I mean this from the big picture on down. The injustice that I alluded to in #2 is a constant disappointment for me, but even on a more personal note. People act crazy — they will bash you for thinking differently, they will wrongfully accuse, they will be hateful in the most inappropriate of places to the most undeserving of people, they will steal your back-pack and your jeep, they will break a teenager’s spirit just to show they can….I could go on. And I should learn to stop letting the craziness of others surprise me. But this year, I didn’t. They got me every time.
- The poor health and personal troubles of my friends and family are disappointing to me. And I don’t mean this in a preachy way. Stuff happens. But I am genuinely saddened when I hear news like I’ve heard this year. And because I’m an under-reactor (is that a thing?), I am equally disappointed in my failure to love in these situations.
- I admit right here that part of me will always see not building my own home as a missed opportunity. But I sit typing this in a place that is less than a year old and know I am right where I need to be, and that is enough. I figure God knows Joe and I would kill each other in the process of home-building, and my marriage is more important.
- I have planned to register for additional grad classes and printed National Board standards every year since I finished my master’s degree in 2010. Once again, I didn’t go through with it. Much of my decision not to return to grad school or seek NBPTS certification this year had to do with the move to junior high, but at some point I should stop finding excuses and just do it.
- I couldn’t follow through with my commitment to the Prius. Goodness, I loved that car. I loved that it saved me so much money just as much as I loved feeling like I’d reduced my carbon footprint. I loved that my car screamed “Nerd!” way before my personality had the chance. I loved being the butt of redneck’s jokes because I hate redneck’s jokes. I loved that I never had enough space to be the one who drove. But having two kids who tote numerous friends and plenty of sports equipment much of the time, it wasn’t practical anymore. 2014 put me back in an SUV for the foreseeable future. RIP CaPrius. You are missed.
- I don’t see nearly as much of my friends as I’d like. This extends to all my friends. The friends I went to high school with, the friends from my fun group text, the friends I left on the high school faculty, friends I’ve made since graduating college….. Life is busy, but it’s too short not to make time for friends.
- At some point I made a resolution to date my husband. Maybe 2013? Who knows, but it hasn’t happened. Much like #9, life is also too short not to nurture my most important relationship. And the two occasions we made time to actually go out alone this year probably weren’t enough to consider “nourishment.”
Game Changers (unexpected events that shifted my priorities)
- Asher’s Accident — I’m not going into detail here because it’s not my story to tell. However, this year my family was faced with the very real possibility of losing a friend we love very much. Most children love their friends, but it’s worth saying again to say that my kids LOVE the Hogan kids. Like, if it were up to Talan and Tessa, they’d move them in our house and never let them go home. And that terrible night, we briefly felt the profound sadness that would come with losing a dear friend. Thankfully, we did not have to fully experience that grief because Asher is fine, but it did give us reason to pause and reflect. There is so much we do not think about or say daily: how much we love our children, how much we love their friends, how thankful we are for good friends, how quickly we can lose a loved one, how every single milestone is such a blessing, how each day is a gift….. I could go on and on about the lessons we learned after Asher got hurt. While we do not talk about it every day anymore, I still think about it all the time and what it has taught us. He is a walking miracle, and how often do we get to love and laugh with and chase and clean up after one of those?
- A reminder of timeless friendship — A friend recently went through a very hard time. Like #1, it is not my story to tell. However, when she needed our group of friends for old-fashioned girl-time therapy, there we were. And I found that even though I was not the one going through a difficult time, I came away from the night refreshed and renewed from having spent time with them. Though we’ve known each other for years and have become very different people, when we’re together, we can drop all pretenses and truly say whatever we want. In life’s craziness, despite whatever is thrown our way, I have to cling to such a friendship. I can walk a little taller knowing such unconditional love exists (outside of more traditional places like family and marriage) even if we can just see each other a couple times a year. I should pour energy into the relationships that mean the most and renew my soul.
- The Housing Situation — I can reflect upon this only because I am sitting in what I believe will be my last home looking out the window at the beautiful view and enjoying complete silence. If I were ringing in 2015 from my duplex, I might not be seeing things so clearly. There is nothing like real estate transactions to teach you patience. In 2011, when we begin the process of selling our first house, we had this “plan.” We would sell and build and live happily ever after in our dream house. That quickly. Well, as the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him you have plans. Now, 4 years later, I can see God working through each of the places we’ve lived. Most of all, house hopping has been a reminder that He has something perfect in mind if I’ll just chill out and wait on it. Oh, and that HOME is really wherever my people are. I learned that through this experience too.
Things I Focused On (what I put most of my time into)
- These little people who call me mom — While some part of me realizes that it’s wrong to say this, my life really does revolve around them. And I think my feeling this way is part of the reason they’re incredibly spoiled. However, for the purpose of being positive in this post, we’re going to call it “well-loved.” I get asked all the time, mostly by people who don’t have kids, if I get tired of the constant ballpark, sport after sport, having friends over, several birthday parties in one weekend, all-around busyness of parenting. And don’t get me wrong, it is COMPLETELY EXHAUSTING. But no. Because reality is that Talan and Tessa will be adults in just 10 and 11 years (YIKES!), and as they become more independent, the focus can shift back toward me. But not right now. Right now, it’s all about them.
- Those medium-sized people who call me Mrs. Bratton — I worry about school. Too much. I began the year stressing over Ayer Pageant, and I’m ending the year thinking about 8th grade. It would be a lie if I said that some part of every day in between wasn’t spent planning, thinking, stressing, or worrying about my job or my students. And in a way, I’ve doubled my load since I still worry about my high school students now that I’m at junior high. I even spent my vacation this summer in a chair on the beach reading a book for school. I call Joe a workaholic, but in reality we both are. The difference is that I carry my work around outside of work, and this year was no exception.
- Home — As established in several other points, this has been the year of house hunting and buying and selling for us. And this is a focus I’m glad to leave behind in 2014. Thinking about where we were living or going to live monopolized much of my thinking this year. Realtor.com and the tax assessor’s records will see far less traffic in 2015. I am home. Now to decorate…..Maybe the home focus won’t go away completely, haha.
Three Things I Forgot
- We’ve established twice that I forgot to write.
- I “forgot” to exercise. I should be fair and mention that I’ve yet to find an exercise that I like enough to stick with. I loathe running. Like, I’d rather die than feel that burning in my chest ever again. I made it a few months doing an early morning set of exercises, but it got pushed aside also. For a few weeks, Tessa and I walked a mile three times a week, but life got in the way of that too. If there is something out there that I enjoy, I haven’t found it yet. I am open to exercise suggestions in 2015.
- I forgot to read. I let things like Pinterest, moving several times, constant ballgames, Trivia Crack, changing jobs, Netflix binge watching, and Days of Our Lives get in the way of my second favorite escape mechanism — reading. I set the (admittedly low) goal of 12 books for 2014. I read 14. And while I met my goal, I can do better.
I think I did ok this year. Being alive and able to type this is a blessing in itself that shouldn’t be overlooked. I am able to see the areas that need work — more time for the things that I love, less time for the things that I don’t. At the very least, I should blog about the things I don’t love, and that will kill two birds with one stone. We are abundantly blessed by a loving God with a healthy family, some fantastic friends, a new home, and more than enough life to keep us busy. It is our prayer that each of our loved ones experience lots of love and laughter in 2015, and what doesn’t fit into the love and laughter categories can go into the lessons category. Happy New Year!