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Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2016 began?
At home!

Who were you with?
Close family – we smashed our gingerbread house and Eli played on his new toy horse.

Was 2016 a good year for you?
It was, sort of. It was pretty rough. It was long. It was life changing.

What countries/states did you visit?
We visited Alan, Mandy and Ethan in Oklahoma as a family first half of the year.  Then Justin and I took an awesome mini-vacation where we drove through Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
I did not make any, so, yes. One of the interesting things, when I was asked last year what I wanted in 2016 that I lacked in 2015 I said more camping, more friends and a church home.  Luckily, I can add all of those to my list of accomplishments. We went camping 3 times (spring break, summer, and thanksgiving), found a new church home, and I’ve developed some friendships at work.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Cory and Erin added baby David, aka Boog, to the family!

Did anyone close to you die? 
No.  Lots of other people did, though, it was a rough year.

What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 1st, 2016, the day Lilly came to live with us AND the day that I started my new career at the Police Department.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
We took my niece in for the school year to help her out.  Justin and I got to visit the east coast, which was pretty awesome.  I became the Accreditation and Compliance Coordinator at my job, which is a completely different job than dispatching.

Did you have fun in 2016?
I believe the phrase that best sums up this year is: “All joy and no fun.”  We did get some good camping trips in this year.  My new job is pretty amazing, too.  I enjoy it a lot.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d spent more time living instead of responding and surviving.  I wish I’d been more empathetic and given more grace to Justin.  It’s been a pretty rough year.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d been less judgmental, less controlling, less bossy.  I wish I’d spoken less and listened more.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 32! I worked, because the last few birthdays have kind of sucked and I was tired of trying to do something special.  So my brother-from-another-mother Gabe and some of the other guys took me to lunch.  That evening was our very first Community Group with our new church, and that was a pretty great birthday present.  That’s been a worthwhile and awesome investment.

What did you want and get?
A break from dispatching. Leslie got me a really awesome coffee mug from my Pinterest wish list, too!

What did you want and not get?
Debt free.  And I see no sign of that in the near future.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
My families. Lilly has shown a willingness to grow and change and become more self-aware, which for a 13-year-old is pretty incredible. Justin has stepped up and really helped mitigate some of these changes with grace I can’t comprehend. Benjamin has taken on the task of having a big older sister with a good sense of humor and a willingness to grow.  It has been QUITE an adjustment for him, but he’s done amazing.  Eli has kept everyone smiling and shows compassion that I didn’t think a 2 year old was capable of, but there he is every day asking me how my day was.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
People who put their needs over the needs of others, people who refuse to listen to loved ones, people who won’t change. People that choose to take dark paths because they’re easy. People that scream that they’re being judged and no one will tolerate them, when they’re the ones who aren’t tolerating others.  Also my own behavior, which was characterized by impatience.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2016?
Yeah but I probably deserved at least some of it.

Who were some new people you met?
Beth!!!!!!!

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2016? 
That is actually easy this year.  April we went to go visit family in Oklahoma, I was given an award at work for my work to help victims of domestic violence, I got to teach at the APCO/NENA conference, AND we got to go to NASA. Oh, and I had a lady’s weekend with my family.  I’m gonna have to go with April!!!

What was your favorite moment of the year?
The entirety of Justin and I’s vacation together. Also, Benjamin learning how to ride his bike. That was a pretty incredible experience with him in front of the house.  He just kept trying and trying until he could do it. And then, he did!

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
There are a lot of least favorite moments this year.  Most of them involved dealing with things out of my control.

What was your favorite TV program? 
One Piece!

What was the best book you read? 
Hmm. Tough decision, as always.  Non-fiction I really liked “Drive” by Daniel Pink. Fiction I really liked “We’re all Damaged” by Mathew Norman.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
The new Star Wars!

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
I haven’t played any this year.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My fitbit was pretty awesome for most of the year!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Aviccii.

What was the best thing you bought? 
New tires for the truck #oldlady

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
I took in a teenager. Pretty much everything pales in comparison to that.

What was your biggest failure? 
I could be doing better at the teenager thing.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Not really.  Luckily I paid attention to my body a lot better this year and didn’t have any major injuries.  Eli had a lot of illness, but he’s doing good on his medicine this fall so we haven’t had nearly the sickness we did last year (thank you Jesus).

Where did most of your money go?
Kids and gasoline.

What kept you sane?
I’m not sure I kept it…

Who did you miss?
My husband.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
CAMPING!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Sadder
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? POORER!

Did you fall in love in 2016? 
Yes, with a temporary daughter!

Did you lose anything important this year?
Yes.  We lost the previous family dynamic. But, it’s being reshaped into something new and different, and sometimes losing something important isn’t a bad thing, just a thing.

What was your proudest moment of 2016?
Listening to Benjamin try to teach Lilly about God. Getting my new job.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2016?
Telling my boss he shouldn’t worry about being sloppy with his Y’s, as long as he’s not sloppy with his wives *facepalm*

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Fairly good
• Emotional Health – Fairly bad
• Physical Health – Good
• Social Health – Fairly good (this has consistently been bad, but this year we really improved it)
• Spiritual Health – Good
• Intellectual Health – Very good!!! This new job is really helping that!!!
• Financial Health –  Bad. Almost very bad. But not quite!

It seems to me, each year, that one of these things is bad. Balance is a terrible, terrible thing.

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
We already had it! We spent Christmas Eve at our house, and it was absolute chaos. It wasn’t nearly enjoyable enough considering how much effort was put into it! Next year: everyone opens presents ONE AT A TIME.  Christmas morning we were at Aunt Tina and Uncle Scott’s and we had a great time.  The kids got some really fun presents.

How will you be spending New Years? 
Already done (I am totally late this year filling this out).  We went to visit Aunt Charla and Uncle Brad and Alexis in Bastrop where they camped, and then drove over to Gabe and Rachel’s house for the nights.  We rang in the new year with all the kids and I kissed my husband at midnight.  We hung out with friends, laughed, talked, snorted with laughter and made some great memories.  I loved it.

What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016? 
More organization in the house. I would really like it a lot if Justin and I could work out a way to balance and prioritize our life a little more.  Adjusting to this year has been ridiculously difficult, and while I know we’ll come out stronger on the other side of this, it’s definitely been a challenge.

What are your plans for 2017?
To spend a lot of time outdoors, to get Eli potty trained, to log more time on my bicycle, to get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese). To improve my relational and emotional health to the “very good” categories.

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2017?
Yeah – I gave up candy, cakes, and cookies for the first 11 months of the year, with a few exceptions (like the kids birthday).  I gave up candy in 2015 and it helped a lot with my awareness.  This is a big more extreme, but I think it will be a good experiment.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016: 

I am still learning it.  I think it’s something about the importance of listening, and shutting up, and servant leadership.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: 

I have two:

All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
Please don’t make any sudden moves
You don’t know the half of the abuse

And:

You’re the reason that I feel so strong
The reason that I’m hanging on
You know you gave me all the time
Oh, did I give enough of mine?

Hold on, darling
This body is yours,
This body is yours and mine
Well hold on, my darling
This mess was yours,
Now your mess is mine

 

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2015 began?
At home, with family.  We were celebrating Eli’s first birthday the next day!

Who were you with?
The Sullivan family, Scott family and Breese family!

Was 2015 a good year for you?
Yes.  I had a great year! Not being pregnant, not working night shift, and not having a new baby does wonders for the ability to rest.  There was a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, isn’t there always though? But it was a great year!

What countries/states did you visit?
Justin and I took a cruise with some family to Cozumel, Belize and Honduras.  It was an awesome, relaxing, revitalizing experience.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions? 
Sort of. Yes, mostly. I wanted to go a year without eating candy – which I mostly did! No candy at Easter or Halloween, which are my two big holidays with stuff I love to eat. However, I did take a day off in May so everyone in the family could eat Wonka candy while watching Willy Wonka – Benjamin and I read the book, and followed it up with the movie.

Did anyone close to you give birth? 
Finally, NO. But next year Cory and Erin will be adding a new baby to the mix!

Did anyone close to you die? 
Not particularly, but one of the Lieutenants that retired from Cedar Park passed away, and that was very sad because he was really an amazing guy.  Also, we lost one of the Fire Department administrators at work, her name was Debbie and she was SO incredibly sweet.  They both will be missed!

What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don’t think I have had any particularly standout dates.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Taught my first “Train the trainer” in February for SAFVIC, which was an AWESOME experience!! Took both boys to their first baseball game in April. Sent my son to school – although that’s really more of a first for him than me!  We bought a truck!

Did you have fun in 2015?
Yes!

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Found more time to be a Husband and Wife instead of just Mom and Dad.  Being married is a lot of fun, but if you don’t take time to have dates you really miss out on connecting.  I exercised a lot, but I wish I had done more, more consistently.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I’d been injured/sick less.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31! We drove out to Houston to visit family. It was a quick turnaround trip, and I ended up offending one of my family members inadvertently, so I spent most of my birthday feeling like absolute crap over a breakfast plan misunderstanding.  That’s the second year I’ve had a bad birthday experience for at least part of the day, so I think next year I’m going to make my husband take me away for the day!  This year he bought me (besides the truck) a nice flannel shawl.

What did you want and get?
Justin and I have needed a vehicle with one more seat for some time, for the times we need to transport 4 kids and 2 adults (which is more often than you’d think). So we debated what to buy and finally pulled the trigger on a 2013 Chevy Silverado with low mileage and leather interior.  I’m in love with it and we’ve already been camping once in it!

What did you want and not get?
Debt free. But my priorities shifted this year, and it is worth it to remain in debt because now I have the vehicle necessary to go camping.  Also, did not get to spend more time outdoors. Spent a lot of time the end of the year working, and unfortunately all the days off I did get were usually bad weather days!

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration? 
Amanda. She doesn’t see me watching, but she’s turning into an incredible young lady.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
All the folks that left dispatch (Vanna, Charitie, Jared, Jen, etc) made me very sad.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2015?
Not particularly. I think there were a few situations where Justin wasn’t treated like he expected, and that had a significant impact on me since we’re married – so, sort of, but only as a bystander.

Who were some new people you met?
Vanna, Ginger and Jono.

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2015? 
Probably August.  We took the kids to the beach, Benjamin started school and Justin and I started our cruise (and finished it in September).

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Probably Benjamin starting school, when he looked at me and said he was good for us to leave him. So big!  I’d also have to list Eli finally saying “I love you” back to me!  Also, buying the truck with Justin!

What was your least favorite moment of the year? 
Taking Eli to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathing.  That was stressful and terrifying.

What was your favorite TV program? 
STARGATE! Who’d have thought?

What was the best book you read? 
Tough call. I read a BUNCH of books this year – it’s been really awesome having the kindle, I read so much more.  The most EDUCATIONAL book I read this year was “Parenting your powerful child” by Kevin Leman.  The most ENJOYABLE book I read was Ready Player One. And the book that was the most well written was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

What were your favorite films of this year? 
Big Hero Six (I know I technically saw it for the first time the year before, but I watched it a LOT this year) I also really enjoyed Age of Ultron and Inside Out….I really missed a lot of good movies this year though due to schedule, so hopefully  next year we can watch a few more.

What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Diablo III!

What was your favorite new technology/application?
My fitbit! I got it at Christmas – so not much time to use it – but it’s already been well appreciated!

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really enjoy the following songs this year:
Maps – Maroon 5
Let her go – Passenger
Honey I’m Good – Andy Grammar
Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Shut up and Dance with me – Walk the Moon
Thinking out Loud – Ed Sheeran

What was the best thing you bought? 
THE TRUCK!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
I made some good strides in priority evaluation and I lost quite a bit of weight.  I also received an award at work for “Distinguished Leadership” which is an amazing honor that made me feel recognized in my efforts at improving relations between employee and employer.  I’m so blessed to work where I am, and this award means quite a bit to me.

What was your biggest failure? 
I just can’t eat healthy for nothin’! At least, not consistently.  I keep trying!

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
I got most of my PF under control but broke my ankle (well, hairline fracture, but it still hurt a lot!).  I also got sick ALL of November and half of December with Bronchitis and sinus infections that would NOT end.  Then I had tinitis (ringing in ears) until Christmas morning.  However, it did make me more greatly appreciate my health and I’m going to try really hard next year to spend more time appreciating my good health when it’s around.

Where did most of your money go?
Medical bills. We were crazy sick this year, especially the boys.  School starting and allergies did a number on our wallet!

What kept you sane?
The boys.

Who did you miss?
Friends. All of them.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
CAMPING!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner!
iii. richer or poorer? POORER! But – happier. I’m willing to make the trade off.

Did you fall in love in 2015? 
I usually say “over and over again” but I would have to say no – this year was one of the years where we worked hard to maintain – not in a bad way, just in a “we’re in this for the long haul and not every year is all roses” kind of year.

Did you lose anything important this year?
My church.  I’m still feeling the effects. I’m heartbroken and I believe this is the right decision for my family, but it’s not an easy one and I’m so very, very sad.

What was your proudest moment of 2015?
Benjamin’s first piano recital!!!

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2015?
Calling someone “Fellatio” over the radio

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Good
• Emotional Health – Good
• Physical Health – Fairly Good
• Social Health – Very Bad (My status did not change AT ALL in 2015, so I’m downgrading this and planning on working to address this next year!)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly bad
• Intellectual Health – Good
• Financial Health –  Fairly good

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas? 
Already had it! We spent it at home, with the family, and it was awesome.  Aunt Lynn, James, Teresa and Amanda joined us and there was lots of presents and lots of fun.  We spent the day playing with the boys playing with all their new toys/games.  I got a new Fitbit Charge HR, which I’m looking forward to having!

How will you be spending New Years? 
Not sure – I work at 6am New Year’s day, so we will probably stay in with the family, maybe play some games, and enjoy time with them.

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? 
Hmmmm.  I would like some more friendships.  I would like to have a church home – which I did have for most of 2015, but lost at the end.

What are your plans for 2016?
To spend more time outdoors, to get Eli introduced to the potty (not trained, persay, but at least on his way), to get Benjamin riding a bicycle with no training wheels, to log more time on my bicycle, to get my BMI to 27.4 (170 lbs, right in the middle of “overweight” instead of obese. I previously set a goal at the start of 2015 to be at 185 by the end of 2016, but since I made it to 208 by the end of this year I decided to go ahead and aim for lower for the end of next year…we will see!

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2016?
Maybe. I don’t know yet – I am seriously considering taking a year long social media break.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015: 

You only have one life to live. This is it, folks, a few trips around the sun and then you’re dead. I believe this life is just a jumping off point for eternity, and I know not everyone believes that, but either way I believe and really learned this year that you have to make the most of it. Live hard, love harder, work hard, and push yourself. This is the only chance. You’re worth it to make the most of it.

So worry less about the bank account, but save as much as you can.

Try to be as healthy as you can, but enjoy a piece of cake now and again.

Set goals, push yourself, and strive for greatness.

I know that’s all really cliché advice but this year I really realized how true it is.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard,
Said, no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars, yeah we’ll be counting stars

Last years, if you’re so inclined.

Initial Summary:

Where were you when 2012 began?
At Uncle Scott and Aunt Tina’s house.  Benjamin stayed up almost to midnight and LOVED the fireworks.  He kept calling them BOOM.

Who were you with?
Justin, Benjamin, Tina, Scott, Serena, Logan and Mandy.  We had a LOT of fun!

Was 2012 a good year for you?
Mostly. It was a pretty insane year – LOTS of changes – LOTS of projects – LOTS of weddings – Did I mention lots of changes? Yeah. BUSY.

What countries/states did you visit?
California to see my sisters and best friend get married, and Mississippi to visit some of Justin’s family.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions?
YES! I am SMOKE FREE! Yee-haw!!! But, I’m not really sure I did very well with living a life of balance. This year was really, really crazy.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Jake and Reba had their baby Feb 14th, 2012!  No one else super close to me, but there’s some friends I have made at church with young ones, but the babies were born before I met the parents, so I’m not counting those.

Did anyone close to you die?
For the first time in a long time, no deaths of anyone close to me.

What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hm, Teresa and James got married March 3rd, and Amy and Keith got married May 5th, so I think those days will be remembered fondly each year.

Experiences:

What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Matron of honor (x2!), flew with a 2 year old, become an instructor, taught an 8 hour class, served as a vice-chair on a committee, attended my first “gala”, received my first real promotion, became a supervisor, ran a food truck at a charity event, stood by my husband while he quit a job he had grown to be dissatisfied with, and most recently I sat on the couch while someone I love very, very dearly told me they had been diagnosed with cancer. 

Did you have fun in 2012?
Yes. Definitely. I also spent most of it exceptionally tired.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I had trusted God more with my money. I’ve stressed out unnecessarily.  No, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not terrible either.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Eating unnecessarily! 🙂

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, and I worked, and my birthday this year sucked pretty royally.  My coworker was irritated at me, which made me irritated at her.  The only upside was that my husband bought me a really awesome old desk. 

What did you want and get?
To find Cherry Lake!!!

What did you want and not get?
To put some work into my savings account. Life happens though.

Others:

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Two people come to mind.  My husband, for being my rock, my motivator, and my calm in the storm.  My husband, also, for having the strength to quit his job and step out in faith to be the best stay-at-home-dad that Benjamin could have.

This year I’d like to add my mother-in-law, who is an incredibly strong woman who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis with grace and trust in God.

Whose behavior made you appalled, depressed, or sad?
I’m usually very non-specific here.  However, I’ve witnessed so many people recently be so ugly and judgmental in a negative way. I’m still not getting specific, on purpose. Can we just agree to love and respect each other despite our differences? Respect means the most when it’s towards someone you disagree with. Anyone can love someone who agrees with you. It takes real strength to love – truly love – someone who vehemently disagrees with you.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2012?
Not really.

Who were some new people you met?
New coworkers, new church people. 

Favorites/Least Favorites:

What was your favorite month of 2012?
May. My trip to California took up half of that month and it was pure awesomeness.

What was your favorite moment of the year?
Again, as usual, several:
Toasting James and Teresa at their wedding. I cried, but only a little.
Toasting Amy and Keith at their wedding. I cried, again.
Finding Cherry Lake with my sister Jean. That priceless moment when she screamed out the window of her car in excitement.
Finishing up my first SAFVIC for TCPs class. It was pretty amazing.
The look of relief on my husband’s face when we finally decided it was time for him to quit his job.
Getting the phone call with my promotion job offer.
Any of the number of times my son squeezed me and told me he loved me soooo much!

What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Listening to one of my officers call for assistance.  It was a recording, and I already knew the outcome when I heard it (that they were all OK), but listening to it gave me goosebumps and shook me to my boots. I love these guys, especially the ones in that recording, and hearing it made me realize how close I came to losing one of them. 

What was your favorite TV program?
I worked my way through Monk this year, and I have to say, it was awesome. I totally loved it! Very well acted and scripted.  Got a little boring at parts, but not too bad overall.  I tried working through the Mentalist next, and while it’s good it wasn’t able to hold my attention in the long run. Now I’m happily watching Dr. Who reruns, when I get the chance.

What was the best book you read?
I reread the Hobbit and that was pretty awesome.  I read several training books at work and enjoyed those, but other than work related stuff and blogs I haven’t really had a chance to read anything. 

What were your favorite films of this year?
The Avengers and The Hobbit, and yes, I know how nerdy I am.

 What was your favorite video game you played this year?
Borderlands 2. I really like Tiny Farm too (I play it on my phone) but Borderlands 2 is the game I play with my hubby, so it wins.

What was your favorite new technology/application?
No clue. I’m getting too old/busy/bored to keep up with it…

What was your greatest musical discovery?
KRISPY KREME! Just kidding. Epic Rap Battles of History! I show everyone when they come visit at my house. It’s becoming a tradition.
 
What was the best thing you bought?
My desk, and my hubby bought it, not me. I love it!

Self-reflection:

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Promotion at work!!! I have worked very, very, very hard for this position and I’m VERY proud of myself.

What was your biggest failure?
Gaining back all the weight I lost last year. Fail.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah. I messed my leg up at the end of the year, and allergies continue to be the bane of my existence certain times of the year.

Where did most of your money go?
Family.

What kept you sane?
Love.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Meh. Pass.

Who did you miss?
My sisters and Amy. Leaving them in California is very difficult each year I get to visit.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Weddings!

Compared to this time last year, are you:
I. happier or sadder? I don’t know, but I never know. This has been a pretty stressful year, and my mother-in-law is facing lots of health issues.  I’m about the same, I suppose.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. Ugh. So mad at myself.
iii. richer or poorer? Definitely poorer.  But, we’re a 1 income family and still surviving. It’s worth the trade-off.

Did you fall in love in 2012?
Every year I say “over and over and over again” but every year it’s true.  I love my husband so much, he’s my best friend.  I am incredibly blessed.

Did you lose anything important this year?
Immediate family being cancer free, I suppose.

What was your proudest moment of 2012?
My husband deciding to quit his job. It took a lot. I’m very proud of him.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2012?
Having to admit that the reason for my ankle injury is because I made a stupid, stupid decision to run in the dark in the grass.

Gauge your:
(On a scale of: Very Good, Good, Fairly Good, Fairly Bad, Bad, Very Bad)
• Relational Health – Very Good
• Emotional Health – Fairly Good (less good than last year. Too many little things stressing me)
• Physical Health – Fairly bad (Ankle. Nose. Headaches. Need to visit a chiropractor. Weight gain. Lack of exercise most of November/December due to ankle injury.)
• Social Health – Good (I’ve hung out at least a few times a month with at least 1 friend, and participated in several church functions.)
• Spiritual Health – Fairly Good (I’m still a lame slacker, but I’m learning to trust God more.)
• Intellectual Health – Good (Teaching and attending training FTW)
• Financial Health – Fairly Bad (I’ll just say, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do to help this one – maybe next year!)

In the future:

How will you be spending Christmas?
At least part of it at the hospital with my mother-in-law. We’ll bring the presents to her!  The rest of it with my brother and his wife and my niece.

How will you be spending New Years?
Working the day before and the day of… so… sleeping!

What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Haha, a second kid, maybe? 

What are your plans for 2013?
Get back on track with my health.

Will you make any new years resolutions for 2013?
Last year I resolved to stop smoking, and I did. This year, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll resolve not to buy any candy at the store. Or something like that. Something else challenging and health related. Maybe do 20 push ups a day?  Hmmm. We’ll see.

In Conclusion:

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

The world is broken. Evil exists in this world. There is not really a whole lot we can do on a legislative level to stop evil.  We can’t increase laws and get evil people to stop being evil – sorry, but we just can’t.  It won’t work.  On an individual level, I think we all need to do our very best at trying to saturate the world around us with as much love and goodness as is possible.  You can turn something like the Newtown tragedy into a sound bite for a law you want to pass, but I don’t think that’s the best we can do.  I think we can do better.  I am choosing instead not to debate gun control (or even mental health, in spite of how much as I am passionate about it) and choosing instead to try to increase my output of good into my community.  We can debate gun control and mental health another day; I think an appropriate response to this type of evil is not legislation, but love.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Today is my first day back to technology for almost 3 weeks.  The vacation was amazing and lovely, and I came to work with 1000+ on my Google Reader and over 600 work emails.  As I work through the deluge of information I came across one scripture listed two different places (here and here).  I really, really, really like the scripture – which is one of the types of scriptures that you’re just going to read over until someone makes you stop and see it for the first time all over again.  Here is the scripture in its entirety:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)

There is one other part of the bible in the New Testament that sums up what we should do:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40, NIV)

I like how it’s worded in both portions of scripture.  The second one is much more well-referenced, and for good reason since Christ says it is the greatest commandment.  But the first – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly – I think it sums up a lot of what we need to do now.  But when I think about how much outrage and judgement I see on a daily basis (not just from Christians, mind you) I think that the first scripture from Micah is a good reminder that we maybe should see a bit more often.  Because loving mercy is hard.  Walking humbly is difficult.  Acting justly – while loving mercy – now THAT is tough.  If we can maintain love throughout it all I think the world would be pretty amazing.

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1979 Book of Common Prayer (source)

My prayers are tiny and my soul weary; I look forward to Lent for the renewal of my spirit.

I think this year I will observe Lent.  I found a great set of questions on Rachel Held Evan’s blog that helped me make the decision to do so.  I really like her (and her blog), even more now that I know she agrees with one of my basic tenets I hold close to my heart: that really, everyone is broken

I had already been thinking about Lent this year, thinking about changing a behavior, thinking about the timing, thinking a lot of things.  When I saw that RHE’s feed had a post on ideas for Lent I was all ears.  The first question I read on her list almost knocked the breath out of me:

When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?

Well.  In all the times I have observed Lent, I don’t think I ever took the time to ask myself that question.

Growing up in a Pentecostal church gave me a pretty decent grasp of the bible, but did not help me learn anything about the history of the church.  I mean that seriously.  We never learned about the differences between catholic and protestant, or about how communion is different in different churches, or why some people baptise and some sprinkle.  For the most part that stuff wasn’t even on my radar at all.

Over the past, say, 10 years or so, I have met many people who have opened my eyes to a different way of looking at my faith: a way that is steeped in history and culture.  While I find it creates for a much messier faith, I think it is also much more beautiful.  Over those ten years I have attended pentecostal churches, non-denominational churches, emerging churches, catholic churches, episcopal churches, baptist churches, and methodist churches.  Each one had its purpose to increase my education and help shape me into the person I am now.  Each church helped shape my faith in a different way.

So now, even though I attend a baptist church, I still keep in mind the little bit of education on Church traditions and history I’ve gotten over the years.  For instance, even though my current church doesn’t follow it, I love the church calendar.  I fell in love with it when I attended one of the Episcopal churches in Houston.  I love how each church season creates a new focus in your walk with Christ.  How we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice building up to Easter and we celebrate his birth in Advent.  The first time I received ashes on Ash Wednesday I spent the rest of the evening feeling like I was walking on holy ground – or better yet, as if my body was marked as holy.  I never knew there could be so much holiness in an action, but I found that there was. 

While I try to observe the church calendar I don’t always have it all figured out.  Like others, I’m sure, I am learning as I go.  I always viewed Lent as a way to put myself in Jesus’ shoes when he fasted 40 days in the wilderness.  I knew it was supposed to make me a better person and draw me closer to God, but those goals have always been pretty undefined. 

The question: “How will I be different?” makes me look at Lent as more than just the very generic “self-improvement” or “exercise in holiness.”  Suddenly I don’t want to look at Lent either of those things, or even as a time for me to give up my bad habits (I should give those up anyways) but more as a time to remove something from my life in the hope that after 40 days without it I might possibly be more Christ-like.  Suddenly my priority has shifted from looking internally in a selfish way, but looking internally in a holy way.  I like this.

With all this in mind, I’ll spend the next few days praying and trying to decide what to “give up.”  I think I’m going to go to one of the local churches that has a Ash Wednesday service, too, since I don’t think mine will have one.  I don’t know that I necessarily “look forward” to the next few weeks, but I do hope they are helpful to me in the long run.  We shall see.

Last week was not a good week for working on my balance.  However, it was an amazing week for working on my work-related development!  I was able to take an instructor course that helped me learn how to create lesson plans, match a power point to said lesson plan (which I pretty much knew, but the review was beneficial) and teach within a certain amount of time.

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear the hardest part for me was keeping it within a certain amount of time 😉

Usually training is not very energy-consuming, but this class took up all of my time/energy/brain power to pass.  It was very informative and definitely worth the effort, but I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with the family.  I’m really looking forward to next week, which will be much less stressful and unbalanced.

It’s interesting how much more mindful I am of the “balance” of my life now that I’ve listed that as my word to focus on this year.  I always had issues with resolutions, and this is much less of a resolution and much more of a constant reminder – it seems to be working so much better.

I have grown to love bath time with Benjamin when he’s not being a complete and utter pain.  He eagerly wants to help us wash him, as long as it’s not behind his ears.  And I know I posted this on facebook, but it bears repeating:

Justin and I tend to give Benjamin baths together.  It is one of the few, precious moments where we can be together and enjoy each other’s company without someone running away (ahemBenjamincough).  One of our favorite things to do with Benjamin is teach him words.  Words, my friend, are power.  Words help people communicate and ask for their way!

So we teach him words, especially animals because that is the age he’s at right now.  And he loves it.  He loves horses, dogs, frogs, fish, turtles, sheep, pigs, cows, bunnies, dogs, bears, monsters, and did I mention dogs?  So we’re in bath, and Benjamin has this mat from Target (which I love because of the Octopus, which is sadly not pictured).  We ask him, where’s the shark? He points to the shark.  Good job, Benjamin! Where’s the fish? He points to the fish.  He also identified the octopus and the yellow fish (hey, it’s never too early for colors!)…the yellow fish thing might have just been a good guess, though, because he couldn’t find the green fish (or red fish, blue fish, haha, just kidding Dr. Seuss).

Then Justin asks him to find the frog.  He starts looking.  I get a bit confused – I’m looking at this very clear underwater sea diagram and thinking “oh no, am I losing it? I don’t know where the frog is!”

But then I spot a frog, beautiful and tiny and green, on the washrag floating in the water by Benjamin’s left foot.  I look at Justin. He grins.  “Snnneeeaaakky!” I tell him with a smile.  He shrugs, “I know. I want to see if he’ll find it.”

Benjamin, meanwhile, is staring furiously at the bath mat looking for the frog.  He finally expands his search, his eyes travelling around the length and width of the bathtub.  His eyes dart back and forth, his tiny perfect hands still with dirt under their nails searching the air and water for the frog.  He is still at this age where he searches with all of his being.

Finally… he finds it! He points to it triumphantly and says “FROG!”

My heart swells.  Such joy from such a tiny creature, such love in these tiny moments.  When this stuff happens, when my heart grows to bursting and my tears want to fall at the beauty of everything… it is in these brief moments that I feel the most balanced.

p.s. If you have a child (particularly a son) I highly recommend reading this.

Yesterday we really wanted to go eat out with a friend (who we randomly ran into) for dinner but we couldn’t because we hadn’t budgeted for it.  I’m not going to lie, it sucked.  If not for the strength of my husband, I would have caved and put it on a credit card. 

So we didn’t eat out and the credit card was saved that expense.  We went home and ate hamburger helper. And today, when we got paid, I sat down to pay bills saw how much money I had for groceries the next two weeks… and I was thankful my husband talked me out of eating out yesterday. 

See, we are really trying to get our finances under control after all the health issues we had last year.  Rebuild our savings, pay off the credit card (whoops), etc.  It would be much easier if we didn’t have three weddings – two of which I’m an integral part of – and a new dog.  Trust me, I am not complaining, I’m blessed to be a part of this important day for two people I care deeply for.  And the new dog is adorable to watch.  I’m just saying, it’s hard to save money when you want to spend extra money on fun stuff.  Saving money is not fun.  But sparkly things (and things that go ruff! ruff!) are definitely fun.

Luckily, my husband is a strong man who stands by me as I pout about not eating out.  And pout about not buying cute shoes. And pout about not eating steak anymore.  In the long run, he makes my life much, much more rich!

She is running
A hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction

I would like someone to write a song, please.  I don’t have the skill for songwriting.  I would like you to model it after “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns.  I would like you to tell a different side of the story.

She is trying but the canyon’s ever widening
In the depths of her cold heart

The song is about a broken woman who wants love and acceptance and help from the people of the church but does not get the help she needs.  I would like you to write a song about the people who offer love and acceptance and help to a broken person… to no avail. 

So she sets out on another misadventure just to find
She’s another two years older
And she’s three more steps behind

I would like you to talk about how heartbreaking it is to sit beside them and watch them run in the wrong direction.

Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today?

I would like you to talk about having an opportunity to help them.  About how scary it is when they move in to your world and how happy and hopeful you are that this time, this time it will be different.

Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her? Can anybody see?

Sometimes we do see.  Sometimes we see the hurting, and the broken, and the bruised.  Sometimes we say to ourselves: Hey, we should be like Jesus and try to help them.  Sometimes they ask for help and you see an opportunity.

 She is yearning for shelter and affection
That she never found at home

So we invite them into our world.  We take them to church.  We hug them and cry with them.  We feed them and clothe them and pray for them and with them.  Sometimes it works for a while. 

She is searching for a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day

Sometimes you tell them their worth and they nod, and they smile, but they don’t believe it.  You tell them to have faith in their own worth.  You tell them that they are God’s precious and loved child, and their lips say “I know” while their heart can’t believe it yet.

You pray for them.  You kneel at your bed and you cry for their soul.  You pray that God will give you the words you need to reach them in the midst of their brokenness. 

And in walks her prince charming
And he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason
And she gives herself away

And then… then they tell you that they’re leaving.  That they’ve found another path, another way out, one that doesn’t involve the hard work of facing the pain.  They’re leaving so they don’t have to deal with someone loving them, but telling them that they need to make better (and admittedly more difficult) choices.

If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can’t see past her scarlet letter
And we’ve never even met her

You watch them go.  Despite the sacrifice of time and energy you watch them leave.  You know it’s fruitless.  You know they’re not ready to change.  You’ve seen for some time now that your argument was ineffective. 

One of the worst parts about this, in my opinion, is that when it’s all said and done there is a small part of you that is relieved it’s over.  Don’t get me wrong: the overwhelming emotion is grief and sadness.  But there is also relief tinged with guilt – relief that your time of sacrifice is over, and guilt at being relieved.  How can you be relieved they’re going back to their broken life?  But you’re human, and you’re glad that this means less stress and sacrifice to you and your family.

And there’s a bit of doubt.  Did I try hard enough? Did I show them enough love? Could I have changed the situation a bit and had more success?

The important thing to remember here, and the thing I have to remind myself, is that I can’t fix anyone.  I can’t make them better.  Only God can.   That is what I hold on to.  When I feel all these emotions so strongly, I remind myself that God is the great physician and we are his broken church.  Ultimately, He is the one who heals.  We just point people in His direction.    

So, dear reader, if you decide to write a song about one of the other sides of “Does Anybody Hear Her” then please make sure you talk about how in the end, God is the great transformer…not us.  I know I’m asking a lot, and I know you probably won’t write a song about such a sad and helpless place, but my request has been made. 

I’d like a song that reminds me that sometimes we fail, but at least we tried.

(all italicized words from “Does Anybody Hear Her” by Casting Crowns from their album Lifesong.)

Two things. First: today is a good day.  Not only did my wonderful, amazing, fantastic husband sleep slightly-less-comfortable last night so that I could get a good night of sleep (by sleeping with the bed at an angle, which makes me sleep deeper and him sleep lighter for some reason), but the visit with the doctor seems to have actually helped my breathing.  A steroid shot in the hip seems to have reduced the swelling in my nose to the point that I can, once again, breathe.  That plus two new prescription allergy medicines (xyzal and singulair) and I have FINALLY.. FINALLY woken up without feeling like I needed to immediately take a pain killer for the pressure in my head. Thank you Jesus!! Modern medicine once again helps!
 
Waking up able to breathe, feeling like I got enough sleep, it’s amazing what those two things can do for a person.  I feel brand new.  I feel like if this keeps up, I’ll be ready to start working on some other projects.  Projects to help me get more balanced.
 
I initially thought that my primary goal this year was to get to my target weight.  However, the more I think about it, the more I realize it is much more than that. When I think about how much work the weight loss is going to take, I realize that my REAL goal this year is to obtain a little bit more balance in my life.
 
See, I want to get down to my target weight (160) and I was doing REALLY good until December.  Have you ever made 500 cookies over the course of a month and NOT put on a few extra pounds?  So I was at 190 (I am putting my numbers on the internet, WHAT!) and now that the holidays are over I’m back up to 200. 
 
200 isn’t bad – still better than my max weight of 250 (ohmywordIjusttypedthat) – but I have a extra problem there that has prevented that number from going down in the first half of the month.  I’m going to say it. Are you ready? I quit smoking.  Yes, yes, I smoked. I’m not proud, and most of you probably didn’t even know.  It’s terrible, I know, but I honestly enjoyed it.  I didn’t smoke around Benjamin, and I had quit when I was pregnant, but I didn’t stay quit.  So anyways, I finally made up my mind that even though I enjoyed smoking, it was going to slowly kill me (and I didn’t want to die from something so stupid), so I quit.  I’m done. No more. Not another single one in my life, I hope, so help me God.
 
But with me quitting smoking I’ve been having a very hard time controlling my eating.  It’s kind of like, I finish a meal and I really want a cigarette but I can’t have one, so I think: “Oh, I’ll just have seconds, or maybe I can have something sweet to reward myself for not smoking!”… yeah.  Not good.  So one of the ways I have tried to cut down on my calories is by drinking more coffee in the morning.  I’m up to about 4 cups before 10am on the days I work.
 
Do you see where the balance thing comes in?
 
I’ve been trying to be cognizant of these issues, even if I haven’t really taken much action to prevent the overeating.  I’m self-aware enough to know that I can’t just change all my bad habits overnight.  It’s frustrating, but luckily I can be patient.  I have to ease in to this or I’ll stress myself out to the point that I cave and smoke.  I don’t want that, but I also don’t want to be overeating. 
  
Balance.
 
I think if I can figure it out, 2012 may be my best year yet.