Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review

[I have no idea why the formatting on this post is so weird. I've tried to fix it, but I give up.]

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

I got married and I got pregnant (in that order!) Those were two major life-changing events that I had never done before.  By virtue of those two events alone, 2011 was the most significant year of my life so far. Honestly, it's going to be difficult for any future year to ever top this one in terms of momentous occasions. I also honeymooned in three countries I had never visited before and spent part of my honeymoon traveling by RV.  I took yoga classes regularly. I went all urban-pioneer and grew my own herbs and heated my house with a woodburning stove rather than a furnace. I took a show to the Edinburgh Fringe.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make more for next year?
Last year I resolved to "see everything through to fruition,"  by which I meant I wanted to get married and I wanted to finish my dissertation. Well, I accomplished one and a half of my resolutions. The marriage happened without a hitch. I am currently halfway through writing the dissertation--more than halfway finished with it if you consider that the research is basically finished and I am just "writing up" now.
In 2012 I resolve to be the best mother I can be to my son.  I know that 2012 is going to be hectic beyond belief as Penn and I juggle the needs of learning to be parents with my desire to finally finish my PhD once and for all. However, I hope to always keep in mind that my family is my number one priority now and that I chose to become a parent specifically because I want to fully have the experience of mothering someone with all of the ups and downs it will inevitably entail. My goal for the next year is to remember that this baby only gets to be a baby once and that I owe it to him to be available and do the best I can. I will not allow myself to feel (too) guilty over all of the projects I will inevitably not be able to finish in 2012 while I have an infant in the house, and I will remind myself that for the next 20 years raising a good man is the most important project I can do. There will be time for everything time. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Two of my cousins had babies (one of them had a 12-pounder!!), two of my best friends from high school had babies, a friend from my book club had a baby, and about half a dozen friends I now keep in contact with primarily through Facebook had babies this year. And it seems like everyone who didn't have a baby in 2011 got pregnant in 2011 and is expecting babies in 2012. Two of my friends in my department are currently pregnant and due right after me, one of my best friends from college is going to have a baby any day now, and one of my friends from my MA days is due at the end of January. Another good friend can't have biological children but has started the adoption process.  By May of 2012 I'll have at least a dozen friends with babies under a year old.  I only wish we all lived in the same place so I could get everyone together!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Back in March we had a terrifyingly close call when Penn's sister had a brain aneurysm, but she pulled through and her health seems good now. Still, that was a really scary month or two as we waited to see how everything would turn out.  Penn's grandma died in September of this year, and although I didn't know her long enough to become truly close to her I know he misses her a lot and it was a big loss for the family.
5. What countries did you visit?
For our honeymoon we went to New Zealand and Fiji, and we also got to spend a day in Sydney, Australia. It was the best vacation I have ever had, and not just because it was my honeymoon and it lasted a glorious three weeks.  I fell in love with New Zealand. That trip happened almost a year ago and Penn and I still talk at least once a month about how much we miss New Zealand and how much we want to go back someday. It was so beautiful, the people were so friendly and fun, the food was delicious, there were so many crazy activities to participate in but also plenty of peaceful, natural space to just relax.  I can't imagine ever enjoying another vacation quite as much as I enjoyed my time in New Zealand, but that doesn't mean I won't keep traveling the world just to see if it can be topped. :-) [ETA: I completely forgot that I also went to Scotland this year. Whoops!]
6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
All I really want is a healthy baby in my arms.  Everything else is so extremely secondary to that wish that it barely matters.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
January 8th, obviously, since that's the day I married my husband. I know it is a cliche to say so, but it really was the best day of my life. If I only had one day left on earth I would want part of it to be a repeat of our wedding reception: everyone I love in one big room happy and celebrating together. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had that experience.  I hope to also always vividly remember the three weeks of our honeymoon since they were so enjoyable. And I'll always remember July 1st, 2011, the day I peed on a stick in my bathroom at 5 in the morning and then let out a yelp of excitement when I saw two pink lines and realized I was on my way to being someone's mother.
8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Penn and I have (almost) made it through the first year of marriage and I think we have settled into wedded life really, really nicely. Every day that goes by makes me realize how well-matched we are for one another. It honestly hasn't felt like work at all so far!  It's so natural and easy being together, running our home, making decisions big and small, and just generally working together to get through life.  I know we are about to hit what will probably be the biggest challenge of our married lives--the years of having young children in the house--but our first successful year of marriage has me more convinced than ever that as long as we both live we will be supporting each other.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I do wish I had managed to finish my dissertation this year, just because I didn't want to juggle it with the first year of my baby's life. But I have been working on it consistently and I know it is going to get finished eventually, so I wouldn't really call it a failure, just a disappointing delay.  

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had a really rotten cold in October, on top of the cough that lasted two months. It was so bad that one night I was sitting in my steamy bathroom at 3 AM drinking tea that Penn made me and crying because I felt so miserable and nothing was helping.  There was also the Great Mystery Disease of February 2011. When Penn and I got back from the Pacific, we both had the same symptoms: our entire bodies were itchy and burning, especially when they got cold. Standing barefoot on a tile floor, the soles of my feet would feel like they were on fire. Running my hands under cold water was torture.  We never did figure out what caused the symptoms. They were obnoxious, but not so terrible that we couldn't deal with them. We asked our friends and relatives  who work as medical professionals and none of them had the answer. Right about the time that we got completely fed up, the burning and itching sensations just disappeared.   I still wonder what that was all about.  Overall, though, it has been a pretty healthy year for me.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our second basset hound!  Having a second dog has brought so much joy to my life. We got him from a rescue organization but did have to make a donation to get him since he was neutered and vetted. Best $200 I have ever spent!  I just love having two hound dogs lumbering around the house together, and this second dog is so loving and loyal.  I don't know what we did without him!  The second best thing this year is a tie between our woodstove insert for the fireplace and our Nissan.  Both are practical rather than fun purchases, but both definitely improved our quality of life and have been really useful.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My husband's behavior merits celebration. I have friends in great relationships but I also have friends and acquaintances in really terrible relationships, and I feel like I read so many stories online about husbands who are cheaters or emotional abusers or just plain deadbeats who can't (or won't) hold down a job and I can't help but feel really lucky that I chose a good man and he chose me back. Sorry for being sappy, but I just realize how fortunate I am to have a husband who is excited about becoming a father, who works full-time to help to support our growing family, who works out to keep himself healthy, and who spends at least part of every day working on some sort of project that makes our home a better place to live or makes our lives more fun. I'm not saying that I NEVER have those moments when I feel like I'm the one doing all the work (I'm a female, I think it's just in our nature to sometimes have those instances where we feel like we're keeping all the balls in the air while our mates watch Simpsons DVDs and eat cereal on the couch). However, I know that in the rare moments I have that thought it is irrational. I'm married to a hard-working man who loves and respects me and is my equal partner in every way, and I'm well aware of how good I have it. (Especially when I read all these posts online about women and their lame "baby daddies." Gawd. So depressing that people are actually in "relationships" like that!)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Hmmmm...everyone involved in the Penn State scandal. And, to a lesser extent, everyone who is running for the GOP nomination (with the possible exception of Mitt Romney; I am reserving judgment on that one).
14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage and car payment. Most of our fun money was spent on eating out and concerts. And our honeymoon was a good amount of money, but we were able to use some of our wedding gift money for that, which was awesome.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Getting married (obviously), going on our honeymoon (obviously), and finding out I was pregnant (OBVIOUSLY).
16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Honestly, I paid zero attention to music this year. I suppose some of the songs I remember dancing to at my wedding reception will remind me of this year (and, honestly, that is mostly party music by the Black Eyed Peas and Jump Around by House of Pain). There are really no major music-related memories that come to mind. Maybe breaking down in tears at the Black Keys concert because they were out of nachos and I was three months pregnant and irrational.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
A. Happier or sadder?
The same. Very happy and looking forward to the changes to come in the new year!
B. Thinner or fatter?
Much, MUCH fatter, but only because I am currently hefting a 3 pound fetus around in my abdomen.
C. Richer or poorer?
About the same. We're not "ballers," as my husband would say, but we've had a comfortable year financially.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Once again, I wish I'd somehow found more time to work on my dissertation so that I wasn't feeling so behind the ball right now.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I wish I'd spent less time sleeping during the summer, but since I was in my first trimester of pregnancy I couldn't help it. Still, I feel like I lost a lot of potentially productive time. (I know, I know, a PERSON was busy growing a heart and limbs and a brain inside me. I should probably cut myself some slack.)
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We spent Christmas with my family in my hometown. It was a very nice trip home. I basically just stuffed myself full of good food (from restaurants and my parents' kitchen) for eight days straight.
21. How will you be spending New Years?
We are having a low key evening at home. Since I can't drink it didn't make a lot of sense to go out to a crowded, expensive party. So I made a strawberry delight dessert and we bought a bottle of champagne (I plan to treat myself to one glass, better notify the Pregnancy Police!). Penn is enjoying the scotch I brought him back from Scotland that he has been saving for a special occasion, and I suppose we'll watch the ball drop on one of the networks at midnight. Penn is also bound and determined that we will be having sex at the stroke of midnight, something he keeps telling all of our friends when they ask what we're doing for New Year's Eve--much to my embarrassment--so I guess I might as well share it with you as well. Happy New Year!
22. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I fell even more in love with my husband. It has been so great watching him prepare to be a dad.
23. How many one-night stands?
I had a one-night stand with Sydney, Australia since we were only able to spend a single night there. Har har.
24. What was your favorite TV program(s)?
The Colbert Report (I got to be a part of the studio audience at a taping of the show this year, which was awesome!). Other than that, the two shows I was dedicated to watching this year were Breaking Bad and Modern Family.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate at this time last year?
Nope, I have met nobody that inspired my ire this year.
26. What was the best book that you've read?
My favorite read this year was The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I have to say, though, that my most exciting find was Herve Tullet's series of incredibly creative children's books. I have bought three of them for the baby already and he's not even born yet!
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Remember up above where I said I haven't paid any attention to music this year? Yeah. Through Penn's influence I did manage to discover  Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and I like them a lot, and I am also digging El Camino, the new Black Keys album (but who isn't?).
28. What did you want that you also ended up getting?
I now have that marriage certificate with my name and Penn's name on it, and we got doubly lucky and got our positive pregnancy test this year as well. Those were the two major wants that I am so happy were fulfilled. I also got the second dog I have been wanting for quite a while.

29. What did you want that you did not end up getting?
A finished dissertation. Sigh.
30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I'm racking my brain to remember if I even saw any movies in the theater this year other than The Muppet Movie. Since I can't remember anything off the top of my head besides that one, I guess that was my favorite film this year. Oh, wait, I think we saw The King's Speech at the beginning of this year. If so, that one was my favorite.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 29 and Penn gave me a wonderful day. I got a prenatal massage (soooooo gooooood) and then we went to see a play and then we went to dinner at a fine dining restaurant we have been driving past for years but had never had the chance to try before. All of it was a surprise.  I have no idea how I'm going to make his birthday nearly that special since we'll have a newborn baby on his birthday this year, but I'm going to have to try to do something spectacular!
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
My year was incredibly satisfying just as it was. I couldn't ask for more.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Maternity clothes! And, actually, my maternity clothes are surprisingly dressy since they are mostly hand-me-downs from my cousin who has a corporate job, so it's possible that my maternity wardrobe is actually nicer than my regular clothing.
34. What kept you sane?
Prenatal yoga and my hypnobirthing meditation CDs, my husband, my snuggly pets, my covenant group at church, and reminding myself of two things whenever life got hectic:
In five years, will this particular thing matter?
"And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span?" (Matthew 6:27)
35. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Seeing Steven Colbert live was pretty damn cool, but I wouldn't say I "fancy" any public figure these days.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Marriage equality and the Occupy Movement (which, honestly, annoyed me. All those people protesting without a cohesive goal. Ugh. That whole movement could have accomplished so much more than it did.)
37. Who did you miss?
I always miss my parents and siblings. I wish I could force them all to move up here.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
The women in my covenant group and the women in my book club. I have made friends in both groups and am looking forward to getting to know them even better in 2012.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Remember to be thankful every day and don't worry about the future. Surely life will not always be so good, but you can enjoy it while the good times last and stockpile good memories to get through the hard times that will inevitably come.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:It's hard to find something that sums up the entire year since so much has happened, but here is something that has been resonating with me during the second half of the year:
"And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand"-Mumford and Sons

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