I chose this reflection guide because it seemed a little shorter than last year’s; however, now that there’s a blank screen in front of me, the guide suddenly seems incredibly long. 2015 was kind of an uneventful year- no real estate transactions, no duplexes, no major life events. It was….peaceful. I do think it’s good to look back at the year and try to gain some perspective looking forward.
- I managed to write more this year. 2014 ended with me lamenting the three measly blog posts I managed for the year. 2015 comes to a close with this one – my 8th for the year. I almost tripled the count. Not too shabby. One post was read thousands of times in several countries, and it even got me some hate mail (which is not a highlight, but it did make me feel very official). If you stop and consider the fact that I added to the Lent post pretty regularly for 40 days, the amount of time spent writing is even more impressive. Still, if my fingers found their way to the keyboard every time I thought about it, my blog would be a hoppin’ place, and I’d be a happier person. Increasing my word count is definitely in order for 2016.
- I managed to read more this year. This time last year, my book log (yes, I am that nerdy) showed I had read 14 books – just two over my goal of 12. This year, the count is currently at 31. Similar to writing, reading is therapy for me. The ability to get lost in someone else’s words has been such an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. In the new year, I hope to continue to make time for my favorite hobby.
- I finally went back to grad school. Surprisingly, it is far easier the second time. I do not mean to diminish the rigor of my courses; instead, I am saying that (among numerous other attributes) my first masters program did an excellent job of preparing me for my second. While my classmates are panicking and asking a thousand questions, I have hopped right back in to the work. I suppose working at that level is a little like riding a bike – one’s brain doesn’t just forget these things. Also surprisingly, what began for me as a means to obtain grad hours and therefore a raise in pay has turned into a pretty serious career aspiration. Formerly someone who swore I would never want out of the classroom, I honestly look forward to working as a school library media specialist. My coursework has not only provided me with the knowledge of how to do the job, but it’s also given me an appreciation and enthusiasm for it. I graduate in December, and then we’ll see what happens, but I am absolutely glad I got started.
- I returned to high school for the busiest semester of my career. While I was glad to be in my comfort zone, my move involved some huge changes: I regained the yearbook responsibility, took on 3 new classes, mentored a novice teacher, took over a mentoring program with the kindergarten students, and supervised an intern. Looking back, it was probably for the best that I was (am?) so busy because it gave me less time to think about how different high school is without my best friend (more on that later). Being someone who has to be coaxed into change, I was glad to see that I fit back nicely into the goings-on at high school, even if I do miss the laid back feel of junior high. The move and the changes that came with it did show me that I’m a better teacher when I’m not comfortable, that maybe I wasn’t so terrible after all in 8th grade, that change isn’t always a bad thing, and there are always good and bad aspects to every teaching assignment. Maybe I’m a tiny bit more flexible than I thought?
- Joe started a new job in February. Initially it was a lateral move that would allow him better pay and benefits; however, it ended up being a huge promotion. With huge promotions comes more demanding work, and he’s really risen to their expectations for him. It is so nice to see him come home from work not physically exhausted, but happy. I am so proud of the leadership skills he has and is finally able to use. It is absolutely priceless to love what you do every day, and I am so glad Joe does.
- Like previous years, we spent an extensive amount of time at the ballpark. I still love that place and those people. Unlike 2014, Talan’s team didn’t win state. Tessa’s team was put out of district pretty quickly. But there is something so comfortable and happy at that ballpark. This is coming from a person who’d rather not leave her house, so you know I’m being honest. Time spent there is time with happy children, and therefore, time well spent.
- Tori grew up. She signed to play college basketball, played her last high school game, went to a senior prom, graduated, and moved away. Such a whirlwind year for her. She is learning sooner than we hoped that life doesn’t always go as planned (second ACL surgery is soon), but she is such a strong, patient, and graceful person. It’s been a big year for her, and it’s been such a blessing for those who love her to watch.
- We changed cars again. Not really any surprise for those who know us well – we’re very fickle car owners. I can say that 6 months into this very large SUV, I have not regretted the purchase once. Size and room are nice with the size of our children and the amount of kids and equipment we haul around. Maybe we’ll keep this one? The purchase was also a lesson for me (I’m pretty sure there’s blog post about it?) about how obsessed I tend to be with the reactions of others. This aspect of my personality drives Joe nuts, but buying this car really highlighted it for me. I worry needlessly about things that do not matter. It’s nice to look in my garage at a reminder to do what I want and what is best for my family without letting the opinions of others matter.
- The kids are having good school years. Talan won the Principal’s Award for the first 9 weeks. Tessa was crowned Princess of her class for the Winter Carnival. Both have decent grades and nice friends. They seem to like their teachers. Talan floated from baseball to soccer to basketball without much drama. Tessa is softball obsessed and cannot wait to play basketball next year; she also enjoys being in the school choir. All fairly normal stuff, but normal is good. Normal is what we aim for.
- We made it to the beach. I think we only missed one summer in the last 5 years, but it was enough to make me realize that any year we make it, I should be thankful. From the second we pull into the parking lot at the condo until the second we set out to head home, I experience a peace there that I haven’t known anywhere else. It is valuable time to relax and recharge and just enjoy each other. This year I got strep throat while we were there, and even sick, I was still so happy to be there. I took my antibiotic, laid in the shade, and read my book until I was feeling 100% again. At the risk of sounding like a corny internet meme, it absolutely is my happy place. I hope to find our way there again in 2016.
- We’ve been in our house for a year, and still no play room. We’ve had builders ready to get started twice, and it just hasn’t worked out. I know we will look back on the decision to postpone building as a wise financial decision, but it’s hard to not have things go according to plan. Those kids need their own space, and I need to feel like this house is complete. I know it will happen, but there is a tiny part of me that wants to house shop until we’re totally settled here. I need that part of me put to rest. I need to feel like it is finished. All in good time….Maybe this year?
- People will let you down. I admit I haven’t had my fair share of this, partially because I keep a small circle. No expectations, no disappointment, right? However, this year some of my toughest lessons came through the way people behave. The reality is that with people, it’s behavior more than words that count. And behavior that sends the message that you don’t matter hurts. And with this year’s disappointments I’ve had to learn to move past these hurts without any closure, apology, or discussion. Maybe they don’t think they owe me an explanation? Maybe they really don’t. Sometimes friendships are just……done. And I have to be at peace with that because it will weigh me down to be anything else.
- I spent a lot of time this year on things that don’t matter. I lost sleep over things that ultimately had no effect on me. It’s a part of my personality I’m forever working on, but it’s one I seem to have little control over. I am forever worried about something I said, the way it was taken vs. the way it was meant, the results of situations for the kids or myself….I am sorry for this wasted time. I am disappointed I let worry occupy my thoughts, that I gave up valuable happiness and peace this year stressing about the inevitable. It is truly a waste of joy and one that I can hopefully improve in the coming year.
- The world is a mess. I realize that every generation has thought that, but I am just so afraid that my grandchildren will see this era in the history books and be appalled. We do not check our sources and allow ourselves to only hear what we want from terribly biased media. We get upset about the words on coffee cups but ignore mass shootings. We refuse to acknowledge racism and injustice because talking about it makes us uncomfortable. It’s unacceptable to question the way things are because it’s “the way things have always been,” and while I am often leery of change myself, it’s exactly what our world needs.
- I am always disappointed to have not written as much as I would have liked. While I did write more this year than last, I sat on some pretty big issues, and a few people noticed. But there are only so many ways to say, “Here’s what I think and why it makes sense,” and there are only so many times I can say it without throwing in the towel. Often, I’m too angry, discouraged, or hurt to know where to begin. Current events this year have, at times, broken my heart, and I stewed instead of reflecting. The latter would have been far better.
3 Game Changers:
- When I planned my birthday celebration this year, it was also meant to be a celebration of my coming back to high school to work with my best friend. Plot twist: he accepted a job in another part of the state, and I, for the first time in my career, have had to learn to work without him. Don’t misunderstand; I have some really great coworkers. What I miss is having total transparency with someone at work. I had grown used to knowing there was someone in a faculty meeting who was correctly analyzing my facial expressions, to venting to someone who listened without judgment, to knowing exactly what my lunch plans would be…. For the first time in 10 years, I am flying solo at work, and it is interesting to see how I react and adapt when I’m not part of a team. What we’ve started referring to as my “work spouse separation” has taught me a lot about myself. I’m still not completely used to it, but I’m dealing.
- Talan was given the opportunity to play ball for a new team this fall. I won’t go into a ton of details about the chain of events which lead to this, but I will say that I had a less than positive attitude going into the season. What happened was proof that sometimes less than ideal situations are actually blessings. The coaches were excellent with Talan. As a result, he played more confidently and showed growth in his abilities. Most importantly, he had fun. It was like watching him learn to play all over again. I am so thankful for the opportunity, even if it was stressful to begin with, and what we all learned from it.
- The decision to go back to school was huge for me this year. Along with the addition of much work to my schedule, I was also surprised at the responses from others. I think my favorite was one person’s pure shock that school librarians would need any additional training or advanced degrees. Like any teacher could walk in with the knowledge of a single subject and a little instruction experience and be qualified to lead the information center of a school? Next was probably people who had the idea that because I want to pursue this degree that I’m unhappy as a teacher, which is far from true. I think the library would give me an excellent opportunity to reach more than my own students and have an effect on their learning. Most significantly, I’ve been surprised to learn a lot about myself. – my ability to make time for things, my strengths and weaknesses as a student, and my love of learning. I may never be hired as a librarian, and that will be okay too, but I am glad I went after this because I have learned a lot.
3 Areas of Focus:
- I don’t think that anyone could argue that the primary area of focus in my life has been family. I do not anticipate this changing. Joe and the kids should be the center of my life and decisions. Looking back, this natural tendency of mine is a big part of who I am, but it is also a convenient one because it lets me be introverted and stay home. My kids are young, they’re still pretty high maintenance, and this is the appropriate time to be totally consumed with them. As they gain independence, my focuses can shift. But right now, like last year, it’s really all about them.
- You would be hard pressed to find a good teacher who isn’t focused on their job. We cannot leave the work at school. Even when I make a conscious decision to bring nothing home with me, I still find myself focused on school – I browse Pinterest for lesson ideas, I click links on social media a think might be useful, I brainstorm ways to use a book or TV show in the classroom, I talk about students, I dream about school… Looking back, this focus on education is all I saw growing up with teachers for parents, so it’s the norm to me. Do other careers become such a huge part of who you are?
- Grad school again. Though in my mind it’s an extension of my work, it really was a big part of what I did this year from May to December. And if I’m honest, I registered in February, so the worrying actually began then. Please trust me when I tell you that grad school will not be a focus on a year-end reflection after 2016. That is for sure a goal of mine.
3 Things You Forgot:
- I think this made an appearance on last year’s reflection: In 2013, I resolved to date my husband. It hasn’t happened yet. I see other couples who do a monthly date night or couple vacations and truly don’t know how they do it. Joe and I probably squeezed in three dates in 2015. I’d even go as far as saying that two of those were accidents (kids ended up spending the night with friends, etc.). Life is so busy, and apparently our together time is where we cut corners. I will admit that it is usually because we don’t want to ask someone to keep the kids. But really, our relationship should be more of a priority. We should make more time for each other this year.
- Similarly, I haven’t been a good friend this year. It wasn’t a conscious decision to avoid my friends….I just forgot. It’s so strange to me that I am the first to get my feelings hurt when I haven’t heard from someone in a while, but I am absolutely the LAST to make decisions about plans. In a perfect world, a friend would text me and say, “Want to meet up at this time and this place?” That frees me from any sort of decision-making. However, I know that’s not fair and I should make an effort too. I want to try to be better at this than I was this year.
- In addition to being so bogged down with life that I neglected relationships, I also neglected activities. There just is NOT ENOUGH TIME. I want to read and write and exercise and cook and shop and make crafty things…. I really need to set aside some time where I can make sure to work these in. I keep the schedule wrapped so tightly; I am hoping for more flexibility in 2016.
Looking over this, I’m not surprised by any of it. My 2015 was full of family, school, and busyness. I am sad to see that much of the time I was busy stressing over things which are beyond my control. I am happy that I remain content with things that really matter – family and work. Looking toward 2016, it seems what really needs work is my time management. I need to make conscious efforts to allow time for the other “stuff” which makes me happy – marriage, friendship, hobbies, health, etc.
While my ability to complete a task with focus and efficiency is certainly not a bad thing, I think I’d be less stressed if I’d embrace the idea of down time. Perhaps this year, I could focus a little less on what has to be done and focus a little more on what I want to be done. I should take my own advice and be more mindful about choosing to spend time with people I care about. I don’t want to look back at my life and say “I was very thorough in the way I organized my paperwork and I was always on time for a meeting.” Instead I’d like to be able to say that I spent it doing things I love with the people I love. Here’s to more of that in 2016.
And just for fun, because I’d like to see how many of these goals I can meet… (There’s nothing like public accountability, right?) This year, I’d like to work on the following:
- Up my fitbit goals and exercise more
- Make better choices with food
- Be more patient with the kids
- Try a new recipe a week
- Go on a monthly date
- Attend a social activity once a month
- Finish decorating the house
- Spruce up flower beds
- Maybe, hopefully, possibly get started on the playroom and fence?
- Read 40 books
- Write 15 blog posts
There. It’s in writing. Let’s see how it goes….