It's been no surprise to anyone who knows me that this year more or less ran over me, backed up, and then ran over me again. It has nothing to do with terrorist attacks, celebrity deaths, or the presidential election. It was just a year when a lot of things in my life fell apart or stayed frustratingly the same. I wrote a lot about the hard times. I know that's not popular in the blogging world, but I'm not a fan of sugarcoating hard things or ignoring them. Writing about them is free therapy for me, it helps me process them, and often times I read those posts months later and laugh so hard I cry over my 19 mosquito bites and falling down the stairs. It helps me turn those awful days into something I can appreciate. It's like a weird form of closure.
However, I think we've all heard enough about the sad parts of this year. I'm going to only talk about the happy parts now.
YOU WILL NOT WIN, 2016.
In January, I read Little Women for the first time. It was borderline life-changing for me, and I'm on the verge of reading it again. I had my first skin cancer scare, but everything turned out fine. I got the call while at my favorite Mexican place with Gracie and my mom, and we celebrated with a new pair of shoes. James took a few days off, and we spent a day shopping and hanging out as a family. We're doing it again next week, so I'm going to make this a new tradition.
In February, I made my annual Valentine's post, which is my favorite thing to do every year. I giggle to myself for weeks while working on them. I read The Nightengale, which has become one of my favorite books. We didn't have the funds or resources for a fancy date and a babysitter, so I made us an extravagant Valentine's Day feast instead. We stayed home and ate roast and potatoes and chocolate cake while it snowed outside. James made me a heart-shaped pizza for lunch. Another new tradition, I think.
In March, I turned 27. I celebrated with my mom and Gracie by going out for Greek food and macarons for dessert. James brought me Pad Thai for dinner, and we watched Brooklyn on the couch while we ate. On Easter, my parents came over for lunch, and we had an Easter/first birthday party for Gracie. She turned one a few days later and wore the dress I wore on my first birthday.
In April, I ventured onto the OSU campus to visit a used records store. I felt a little strange amongst the young hipster clientele and older washed-up hippies while I had a baby strapped to me, but I was there for hours. I found an Ella Fitzgerald record I've been hunting for for years. And I found it for $1! It got a lot of mileage this past month. I fell in love with the bookstore down the street in the old church, and it's become one of my favorite places to visit when I need to get out of the house.
In May, we celebrated 5 years of marriage. We went out as a family for Mexican food and ice cream, and it was perfect. We took the summer off house hunting, and we spent a weekend planting flowers and making our place as homey as we can. Whitney's sister knocked on my front door on a Saturday morning holding gifts and Facetiming Whitney. It was the best surprise of the year/my life.
In June, I visited Sarah for a few days. It goes down as one of the best memories of the year. The night we ate hot artichoke dip and watched The Bachelorette late into the night while our girls slept was hands down the most fun I've had in a long time. Let's do it again asap, Sarah. My best friend from college came to town, and we visited bookstores and ate Mexican food and ice cream. Mexican food and ice cream is becoming a theme of the year, I think. She's one of the only people who shares my desires to homeschool and own a goat someday but also likes to get down to some rap music. Our time together is never dull.
July was my favorite month of all. It started with a trip to Toledo to see The Avett Brothers up close and personal with two of my favorite people. I was floating around on cloud 9 for weeks after that show. I still kind of am, to be honest. The next weekend I was in one of my dearest friend's wedding. It was surprisingly fun to catch up with some old friends from high school and dance to the Backstreet Boys while getting ready. Two days later I drove to Iowa for the first time alone with Gracie. She was a perfect angel the whole way there. We had the best week exploring the area and visiting my family for the first time in months, and I got my first haircut in a year. I fell a little bit in love with Iowa and that whole area of the country.
In August, my friend Bethany came to town. We spent the whole day in a coffee shop talking about life while Gracie snoozed on me and crawled around. She's one of those rare friends who I can talk to about super deep things and see eye to eye. Gracie took my phone one day and sent her very first text. With the help of autocorrect, she sent James a text that said "Oats. Dude" We still laugh about it. We went on a family date downtown for grilled cheese, ice cream, and exploring vintage stores. I got ridiculously into the Olympics. I spent nap time streaming gymnastics and stayed up late to catch swimming and beach vollyball.
In September, we spent Labor Day weekend with a family from our church who has become very special to us. Gracie stole my phone again and texted my dad a picture of her foot. I'm still not sure how she accomplished it, but it still cracks me up. We went back to Iowa and visited all the apple orchards in the area, the parks, and the coffee shops.
In October, I took Gracie to the zoo for the first time with some friends. My mom came to visit, and we had the best week hitting all our favorite places. She even took some family pictures of us. I can't think about that week without crying. It was so wonderful. Gracie took her first step one morning while I was sipping on some coffee in the kitchen. The weekend before Halloween, we went on a family date to a pumpkin patch. We picked pumpkins, ate donuts, and washed them down with an apple cider slushy. The trees this fall were prettier than I've ever seen them. We spent most mornings at the park playing in the leaves. I read Rise of the Rocket Girls, and I still can't stop talking about it.
In November, my best friend and her husband offered to come up and watch Gracie so James and I could go on our first date in NINETEEN MONTHS. That was probably the best day of the whole year. It couldn't have been more perfect. The food, the snow, the Christmas decorations, the movie, it couldn't have been better. And Gracie did amazing without us. Anytime you want to do it again, Joellen, we're ready ;) My parents came up for Thanksgiving. We spent a couple days eating delicious food and watching Christmas movies with the fire blazing. It was a different Thanksgiving than usual, but possibly my favorite.
And December. It snowed more than usual, we listened to Christmas morning every day during breakfast and lunch, and I got all my shopping and wrapping done weeks ahead of time. We drove to Iowa for Christmas, and it was delightful. Walking finally clicked for Gracie, and she started taking more than a couple steps at a time. She's now walking everywhere and doing so great, and it's the perfect way to end the year.
Other things to note:
+ I've read 55 books this year. That's definitely a record for me and way more than I expected.
+ Gracie went from having no desire to be mobile and only saying a few words to walking and starting to speak in little sentences. It's crazy how much babies change in a year. She's also ridiculously tall and looks like a three year old.
+ I faced my fears multiple times and roadtripped alone with a toddler. I'm not saying I recommend it, but I'm saying I did it and I'm so proud.
+ I published 109 blog posts this year. My blog has been one of my favorite parts of the whole year. I cherish the emails and comments and messages from people who read my ridiculous ramblings like you would not believe. The fact that it's brought me close friendships with people I never would have otherwise met never fails to boggle my mind. Thank you all for being here, listening to me, and being such good friends. You have been a huge part of my life this year.
I'm not one for resolutions, because the only way I accomplish a goal is when I start when I'm ready, and not by forcing myself on January 1st. The biggest thing I've been working on lately is not striving. That's counter-cultural, I know, but I've learned that striving and trying to will something to happen or not happen will never work. I have to do the best I can with what I have, and trust God with the rest. I had an epiphany about this a few months ago, and it's brought me so much more peace since. He is the one who holds my future.
"Many are the plans in man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." -Proverbs 19:21
I can't sum it up better than that. I'm cautiously optimistic about 2017. I'm going to focus on the things I can control, like redecorating my bathroom and dying my hair blue.
Or am I?