Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year in Review - 2015

  1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? Started playing D&D in a group with my family and some good friends - so geeky, so fun. Attended a Foley Family reunion in California with all of Mark's side of the family. Loved it. Paddle boarded and kayaked for the first time ever. Spent a week away from Scout while she stayed with friends during our CA trip. We were really sad and I missed her so much. And I was so ridiculously happy to get back to her (our friends are awesome with her and we're very grateful to them for their help, kindness, and love of Scout!). Visited Cape May, NJ. Hosted foreign exchange students - a girl from Paris and a boy from Spain. Saw my daughter off to a week of writer's camp in college dorms. Saw my boy take his first flight. Taught our kids the Portuguese card game sueca and played on the beach as a family. A different kind of therapy - life altering. Sobbed the hardest I have since my father's death due to extreme emotional strain. Am thankfully in a significantly better place and feel happy, content, and hopeful. Situation has improved 20-fold. Hosted Mark's brother's (Greg's) family for a lovely visit during a beautiful fall. Weekly post-therapy lunch dates with my husband. Love them and love him. Saw Benedict Cumberbatch on the London Broadway Stage via satellite. Made a game room in our home (something we've been wanting to do for a while) and we're loving it - pool, ping-pong, air hockey . . . awesome.  
  3. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? For several years, I have wanted to do the same three things - write, exercise, meditate. All things I feel good doing. Like I've said before, "I have this awful habit of wanting everything to be done/caught up/perfect before allowing myself to do something I want, which generally translates into not getting to things I want to do very much. I know better. I counsel people and tell them not to do that. I also tend to run around doing for everyone but myself. This needs to change." This year has had me getting help to overcome some of these self-defeating habits and I'm making progress in my habits, though there are areas where I'm really struggling. I have a ridiculously difficult time allowing myself good things or feeling deserving of good things. It runs deep and involves guilt, shame, and raw emotions. I often feel like there's a major wall/block stopping me from allowing myself good things. I'm still working at it and hoping for progress and trying not to get discouraged. This past year, I lived by the phrase, The Year of Não ("No" in Portuguese)/Now. See, "Não" is pronounced "now." So it has two meanings - saying no more (in order to say yes to myself more - as in, don't overextend and also, make myself a priority) and also doing things NOW - not putting them off. Happy to say I've done better with both. It's been much needed. So this next year? I'm looking to do this: "Less Facebook. More blogging." Facebook sucks me in in a bad way. Truth be told, I much prefer blogging and I miss it, so I'm back (and Jimmy, thank you for the encouragement - it means a lot).   
  5. Did anyone close to you give birth? Ronald and Alena.   

  6. Did anyone close to you die? No. Thankfully, no.

  7. What countries did you visit? No other countries, but we did visit California and had a wonderful time doing that. We also visited Cape May, NJ and we enjoyed our annual week at the beach in Delaware. And while we didn't visit other countries ourselves, we learned more about France and Spain through our great experience with foreign exchange students!    

  8. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? I wouldn't say I lacked these things in 2015, but I'd like to see more healing, more insight, more motivation, more work on projects, more writing, more compassion for self, more peace, more happiness. And it might be time for a new car for Mark. We have a really hard time allowing ourselves to spend money on ourselves, especially on big-ticket items, as we carry these student loans, but when we do (reference: new house, new fridge), OMG, it's so nice and enjoyable and we find ourselves saying things like, "Why didn't we do this sooner?!?" We tend to deny ourselves in the name of "trying to be good financially." So, I think it might be time to get that good feeling with what he's primarily driving (though I loathe car shopping)! 

  9. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Our trip to the family reunion in CA. It was really great. Very grateful to my in-laws for making it possible and to our friends for their help with Scout.

  10. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Emotional Insight and healing. Learning to respect myself and have boundaries. I have been working SO hard. It's difficult to describe, but SO hard.   

  11. What was your biggest failure? Like I say every year, I don't like to think in terms of failure. It is what it is. I like the quote that says, "I never lose. I either win or learn."   

  12. Did you suffer illness or injury? I just reread what I wrote a year ago on this review and it was astounding to read it and think about how much more I've learned this past year. This year has been better. Grueling and a lot of hard work, but I've made progress for sure. There's more to go, of course, but I'm grateful for the progress made. At times I feel frustrated that I'm not better in certain areas or I feel impatient that it's taking a while. I get frustrated in areas where I feel more "stuck," but I think I'm hopeful. How's that for certainty? :P No major illness or injury otherwise, thankfully.     

  13. What was the best thing you bought? Really enjoying our digital frame of rotating inspirational and funny quotes. And the 3-in-1 table (ping pong, pool, air hockey) that we got the kids for Christmas has been a really big hit! 

  14. Whose behavior merited celebration? Mark's. He has worked so incredibly hard to gain insights, take ownership, and get more in tune with himself and his relationships; and the kids and I, in addition to himself obviously, are the ridiculously lucky people who benefit from his unflagging efforts. I love this man more than words can say. When we're good, we're an incredible team. I don't take for granted how lucky we are. It feels like 1+1=3 when we're in sync. I think that's why it's frustrating when we've felt out of sync. We know we're better than that. We're not the most efficient people in the world (because of all the talking and analyzing), but we like the reasons why we're not (you know, the said talking and analyzing). I am truly married to my best friend. I cannot say enough how grateful I am.  

  15. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Several people's.(Buckle up - this is going to be long and I can't do paragraph breaks without it trying to number them, so). I usually try to be vague or sugar coat the answer to this question, but not this year. This has been a year of seeing people's true natures as I discover my own. It has alternated between disappointing and upsetting, and enlightening as well as empowering. I will start by saying that I am not a perfect person (no one is) and that I've said and done plenty of stupid things myself. I have been struggling emotionally for a couple of years now and I've shared that with people close to me, and am grateful for the understanding and support of good friends. Some of my emotional struggles, I've learned, have probably played into some of the stupid things I've said and done. Now that I have learned more and recognize it, I can take better ownership and do better. I've overextended at times. I've done things out of fear. I think I used to let myself get taken advantage of too much because I was acting in an unhealthy, codependent manner rather than one in which I respected myself. I take ownership of that. I'm learning to see the red flags and, instead of doubting them or pushing down the idea of them like I used to, notice them and be more cautious. I've discovered people lying to us, several times over (they think they got away with it, but they are sorely mistaken). I've discovered insecure people who badmouth and gossip and manipulate others in order to feel good about themselves (you know, the old put-others-down-in-order-to-elevate-oneself trick - that never truly works). I've discovered takers/people interested in relationships where the only discussions and activities are about themselves while anyone else's lives are ignored (I'm simply not interested in that kind of relationship drain). And I've discovered (and I don't know if it's this area, a matter of intellect, or what) people who will hear a rumor about a friend and immediately believe it (without ever talking to their friend in order to verify if what they heard was even true) and subsequently dismiss a years-long friendship just like that! Astounding! Between us, Mark and I have lived in 6 countries, 4 continents, 5 states (and a province), and in countless cities with countless roommates, and we've never seen this sort of prevalence before here/now, so I tend to think it's particular to both geography and culture/education level. There is one woman in particular who seems hell bent on being a gossip "in the know" spreading rumors to any who will listen. I am a big believer in this: if you have a problem with someone, go to the person and work it out. Remarkable how many don't do that. Well, I did talk to that woman and even if she backed off, damage done, right? Here's the thing, she seems to have done me a favor of sorts, because it really separated the wheat from the chaff. It's been so telling who has simply believed her and who hasn't. I've had close friends who she tried to poison, come to me and say, "Stacy, how long have I known you?" and go on to explain that there's a strong history there that some stupid rumor would never damage. Again, these are smart, well-read women I'm talking about here. So reassuring. Others, though? Easily swayed apparently. Sadly. This kind of thing used to tear me apart. Now, I'm learning to see what it means and not sweat it like I used to. Anyway, I'm just done with all of that. I'm beyond tired of being a doormat. I'm done. I'm done chasing down someone's affection or even their thoughts on things. I'm not a mind reader. If someone's mad, they're going to have to put on their big girl panties and say something or, as far as I'm concerned, I'll assume everything's fine. I started to ask at one point - even wrote an email to a friend and then decided not to send it. Not chasing that down. They're not chasing me down? I'm not chasing them down. This isn't junior high. I'm not going to be the girl who goes around constantly asking, "Are you mad at me?" If you are, come to me. I might ask once, but if it's not a situation where we're both working together, count me out. (Not to mention, if someone is so freaking moody and irritated all the time that I spend that much time wondering if they're mad, I'm likely not interested in the first place!) Those people. The ones where you find yourself asking, "Who are you mad at now?" Or "You're mad AGAIN?!?" They're such a DRAIN. If they're mad at someone all the time, you can be pretty sure they'll be mad at you eventually. Why it's taken me this long to figure out, I do not know. My good friend Laura shared with me a really good approach - she just figures that if someone is badmouthing her, she doesn't want to know about it because that's their business, not hers. And she's absolutely right! I've no interest in being in a 1-way relationship with people. People are thrilled to have you around when they need you, but the second you have a hard time and aren't there for them because you're suffering? Some are no longer interested. Well, what do you know! I'm a ridiculously forgiving person who overlooks all kinds of things in the name of friendship - I've looked past things with others but sometimes feel like I'm given no wiggle room for screw ups (or even perceived ones) myself. I'm tired. But I refuse to allow myself to be taken advantage of, because I won't devalue myself like that. More and more, I find myself stopping and really asking myself, "Do I even like these people or enjoy this?!?" and going from there (it's remarkable how often in the past I've not asked myself that question - like I was on freaking auto-pilot!). I'm being careful and not allowing myself to get immersed in others like I used to, not spend so much time on people. I'd give my ALL to help people, which sounds noble, but was also unhealthy and self-defeating. Just over a year ago, when I was depressed in bed, a friend I've had for over a decade said to me, "I'd like to see you not get so involved in helping people." It was not the kind of statement I was used to hearing, but it really affected me. It was honest. I saw that my inclination to help SO much was a coping mechanism that seemed like a good thing, but it can be too much. I lost myself in the process. Helping others is fine, but it needs to be balanced and, quite frankly, I appreciate being looked out for, too. I'm also not interested in relationships of convenience. I've allowed myself to have relationships of circumstance for years (you know, you're friends because you work together or you belong to the same group or whatever), but I've been making a conscious effort to both turn inward and branch out. Less is more. I'm enjoying simple pleasures and time at home with family and less commitments while also getting out to some new groups and places, and meeting interesting people and surrounding myself with strong, positive women and men. I've been reading a lot of feminist articles and they are so empowering. I refuse to buy that women are all jealous and catty as a gender group. Some are. Some aren't. I am choosing to be with those who aren't. These are the friendships I value - people who make me think, expand my mind, focus on things that matter, make me want to be a better person, call me on my crap (I especially appreciate a friend of mine who is able to straightforwardly point things out to me without ever using lack-of-understanding phrases like "let it go" or "get over it"), have fun, laugh, love me, gently push me, respect me, are open, are honest, and where we both look out for each other and build each other up. Since this question is more on the negative side, it lends itself to a kind of negative answer, but the truth is that so much good has come from what I've learned, not only in terms of insight, but also in terms of how I spend my time and with whom! My radar has sharpened and I feel better tuned in with more awareness and less fear. Hopefully I'm more empowered and less jaded. I think I used to just take whatever came my way, perhaps feeling that that's all I deserved or that I wasn't worth more. No more. I have value and won't devalue myself by putting up with mistreatment. I want to model these things for my children - good, empowering relationships. Strong women. Strong men. Diversity. I'm just plain old tired of cattiness and pettiness and really want no part of it. Intentional reciprocity? Sign me up. Anything less? Nope. (And bonus! I'm seeing how, by extension, my kids are enjoying great relationships with great kids due to this restructuring/refined approach.) The following are some quotes that have been inspiring me these past several months (I think you'll sense a theme - and though it may seem like I'm pissed at people, I'm really not! I'm simply more self-aware, informed, empowered, clearer, and wiser.):





  16. Where did most of your money go? Two mortgages until September. Fun! After mortgages, it would be probably be student loans. Then maybe food. That's probably followed by homeschooling/enrichment expenses (curricula, monthly fees, apps, books, tickets, lessons, field trips, events, contest fees, etc.). Property taxes is in there somewhere, too. 

  17. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our first trip to CA in 13 years. We hadn't been there since 2002! There were so many years of simply not being able to afford it. We're very grateful to Gary and Vivian for putting on such a great event and helping us all be there together. Our weekend in Cape May, NJ. Our digital frame of rotating quotes. Seeing "Love and Mercy" in the theaters. John Cusack retweeting my picture with a message to me! Podcasts. Lots of dinners and game playing with friends. Our annual off-season trip to the beach. A wonderful, supportive surprise in the mail from Jim. Salsa's Mexican Grill opening right down the street (OMG, so excited)! 

  18. What song will always remind you of 2015? Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" - it really resonates with me and what I've been working on this year. Also, Latin music, thanks to "Jane the Virgin" - such a fun, new TV discovery for us. Thank you, Netflix!   

  19. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder? Happier and more empowered. Making progress.
    b) thinner or fatter? About the same, I think. Maybe thinner. 
    c) richer or poorer? Richer, I suppose, now that we aren't carrying two mortgages, but we lost quite a bit on the sale of the farmhouse, so I'm not sure. Finances are so confusing. Also, costs of all kinds of things have gone up (health insurance, etc.) regardless of the fact that our income has not. Oh, gas prices are cheaper (but we don't really drive that far/that much, thankfully)! Then there's stuff like retirement, college savings, etc. - we've had years where we've been able to save and years where we haven't. I don't know. Like I said, finances are confusing. 

  20. What do you wish you’d done more of? Mmmmm, probably blogging? Mostly, I feel pretty good about how I've spent my time this past year. I know I've been doing the best I can and that I'm healing and making progress. Sometimes I'm frustrated at how long things can take and I'm not always patient about it, but when I step back and look at the big picture, I know I'm doing so much better.  

  21. What do you wish you’d done less of? I'm pretty pleased with how I've spent my time overall, as I've been learning to be gentle with myself and allowing space for learning and healing. That being said, I've noticed how often I operate out of fear and I'd like to do less of that. Less fear, more intention. Along those lines, I can also get sucked into brainless things as a way of avoiding things I *really* want to do, so I'd say I wish I'd done less Facebook. 

  22. How did you spend Christmas? Like we usually do -- here with my fun family, eating great food, playing games, and enjoying how well we all know one another - such thoughtful gifts and so much excitement over giving and gratitude over receiving. We're really enjoying our games as well as our ping pong/pool/air hockey table. Oh, and we made two kinds of octopus (delicious!). My kids jumped in and helped make lunch on busy days leading up to Christmas (gourmet grilled cheese with tomato soup - yum!). We've had great meals. Mark made the most amazing breakfast I think I've ever had - an eggs Benedict bake with hollandaise sauce. It was scrumptious! It's also been so nice to hear from friends and family near and far this holiday season. We love the week between Christmas and New Year's and are super relaxed - sleeping, eating, and playing. Love!

  23. Did you fall in love in 2015? So so so very much. I have literally been moved to tears at seeing how loved I am by my best friend. And on top of that? I love him, too.

  24. What was your favorite TV program? The Goldbergs, The Big Bang Theory, and our new favorite, Jane the Virgin! I've also enjoyed Difficult People, Master of None, and Grace and Frankie on streaming. Oh, and Amazing Race! 

  25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I honestly don't hate anyone. Mostly, I'm simply feeling empowered about who I choose to spend my time with. It has to not be a drain. 

  26. What was the best book you read? This has been a bit of a "bleh" year in the book department. I did like "Calling Dr. Laura" - one of the many beautiful graphic novels Mark bought me this past Christmas. I liked "All the Bright Places." I listened to the audio of "Bossypants" by Tina Fey during our travel to and from CA and I enjoyed that! (Tina Fey is my soul sister). I read a TON of articles (it's seriously crazy). I need to read some better books moving forward . . .  

  27. What was your greatest musical discovery? A Great Big World. I didn't discover them this year, but their new album is great. 

  28. What did you want and get? Insight and healing. My inbox to zero! HUZZAH! (That took nearly all year). Also, a new fridge. It took the old one dying and Mark making it last longer by taking off the freezer panel and blow drying the ice for a while, but eventually, we went for it and it's so great to have room to put plenty of food again as well as have a functioning ice/water dispenser! (Thanks for the help, Mom!) 

  29. What did you want and not get? Woot! Again, we've done well. This past year, I said this: "I'd say more time/support working on taking care of myself." And, to a great extent, I've been getting that! But this question is about wanting something I did not get . . . hmmmmm . . . probably that ever-fruitless desire of wanting others to be more understanding. We can't control others; we are in charge of ourselves. A good life lesson. Also, to be able to do nice things for myself and enjoy myself without guilt. Like I said earlier, I'm struggling in this area and it runs deep so it's not something I can just turn on and off. I'm working on this and I think I'm headed in the right direction anyway. 

  30. What was your favorite film of this year? "Love and Mercy," hands down. I also loved "The Imitation Game," "St. Vincent," and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." 

  31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 41 - the day itself was wonderfully low-key (just what I wanted this year), spent with my family and, of course, it included gifts and good food. We got home just before an ice storm hit and stayed in playing games and talking on the phone with friends, helping them make a pro-con list about which house to buy.  

  32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A lottery win? Student loan debt forgiveness (can you imagine?!?)?

  33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? I've been making an effort to not deny myself or put stuff off (as I'm wont to do), working on not always saving things for special occasions only, but to do it now and enjoy it. Carpe diem and all of that. So, I wear what I want and sometimes that means wearing the nice jewelry or the pretty dress just because (and jeans and t-shirts when I feel like it), not putting off things we want to do, working on projects, etc. Like I said, it feels so good to be in sync!

  34. What kept you sane? My family, Scout, my therapist, friends, the beach, games, and TV.   

  35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? John Cusack (he retweeted a picture of me WITH A MESSAGE!) and Bernie Sanders. 

  36. What political issue stirred you the most? Inequality.

  37. Who did you miss? My dad. Also, the extended Foley clan after our wonderful reunion.

  38. Who was the best new person you met? My therapist. I'm very, very grateful to have found such a good one. Aside from that, we've made several friends in the area with people who share similar interests - tabletop gaming, Dr. Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, food, geekdoms, fandoms, etc. It's been really nice to branch out and meet new, awesome, FUN people. But someone we've specifically met this year? 2015? Hmmmm. Mark and I met a waitress on one of our lunch dates and we really hit it off with her. We've since become Facebook friends (she left her Facebook contact on our receipt) and we've met her husband, who is a really, really cool guy. We don't get together with them a lot, but we've been out twice so far and we enjoy ourselves so much every time. We've also been meeting people through our kids - it's fun to meet their friends and their friends' parents.  

  39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015. That some things run so deep that they affect us emotionally and physically and take a LOT of work to heal. That we have internal family systems that work to protect us but sometimes, well-meaning as they may be, hold us back. That self insight and healing can make a world of difference, even if there's a long ways to go. Oh, and to stop putting off things that I really want to do - hosting foreign exchange students, going to CA, wearing that dress . . .  

  40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
    So much this:
    "Like a small boat
    On the ocean
    Sending big waves
    Into motion
    Like how a single word
    Can make a heart open
    I might only have one match
    But I can make an explosion

    And all those things I didn't say
    Wrecking balls inside my brain
    I will scream them loud tonight
    Can you hear my voice this time?

    This is my fight song
    Take back my life song
    Prove I'm alright song
    My power's turned on
    Starting right now I'll be strong
    I'll play my fight song
    And I don't really care if nobody else believes
    'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

    Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep
    Everybody's worried about me
    In too deep
    Say I'm in too deep (in too deep)
    And it's been two years
    I miss my home
    But there's a fire burning in my bones
    Still believe
    Yeah, I still believe

    And all those things I didn't say
    Wrecking balls inside my brain
    I will scream them loud tonight
    Can you hear my voice this time?

    This is my fight song
    Take back my life song
    Prove I'm alright song
    My power's turned on
    Starting right now I'll be strong
    I'll play my fight song
    And I don't really care if nobody else believes
    'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

    A lot of fight left in me

    Like a small boat
    On the ocean
    Sending big waves
    Into motion
    Like how a single word
    Can make a heart open
    I might only have one match
    But I can make an explosion

    This is my fight song (Hey!)
    Take back my life song (Hey!)
    Prove I'm alright song (Hey!)
    My power's turned on
    Starting right now I'll be strong (I'll be strong)
    I'll play my fight song
    And I don't really care if nobody else believes
    'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

    No I've still got a lot of fight left in me"

    My voice. My story. I will not be silenced any more . . .  

(Mark's) Year in Review - 2015

I think this may be the first time I've done this, and I'm really glad I did. It has been a very interesting experience, trying to be honest with myself about the year and tap into what I'm truly thinking and feeling. It's been hard at times, but so worth it. I'd like to say something like, "I plan on writing so much more this year," and while I do, it also ends up being pressure I place on myself, and then I feel like I have to live up to expectations, and then I freeze up and don't do it. So, with the best possible intentions, I hope this is the first of several more posts for me this year.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Sadly, I don't know that I can even think of that many new things. Also, some may be so mundane that they don't even occur to me. Here are a few that came to mind. Along with Max, I received my Second Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. We hosted foreign exchange students. That was a really great experience, and the whole family really loved it. We sent Kate to her first camp away from home. We took Max to a chess day camp. Oh, and I started going to a therapist regularly for the first time in my life. It shouldn't feel weird to share that, but it does (honestly, just about anyone would benefit from the insights one can gain from therapy). I guess that speaks volumes about how we view mental and emotional wellness in this country.

  (Full disclosure: I wanted to write my post before reading Stacy's so I wouldn't be influenced by her responses, and I didn't. But then I read her responses, and I'm tempted to add more, but I'm not going to. Even though I wish I'd thought of some of her answers.)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Not really. I made a semi-valiant effort to start 2015, but it fizzled. I'll make new ones for 2016, and I'm hopeful that I'll do a better job this time around. At least I'm ready to give it a better effort. I really like the way Stacy has picked a word or phrase for the new year, so I may try and adopt that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
We have some friends who had their first baby this past year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, unless you count my hope for humanity. I feel like I have been shaking my head for most of this year about a lot of issues, and it's hard to feel like good sense and compassion will ever stick around for the long haul.

5. What countries did you visit?
Exotic locales including Cape May, NJ; Calaveras County, CA; and Rehoboth Beach, DE. I know, they're not countries. Hopefully we'll have foreign destinations to add some time soon.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I'd like to have a better ability to finish what I've started. I feel like 2015 has ended on a higher note as far as this is concerned, but I do have an issue with sticking to goals, tasks, projects, etc. This is the year! (He says with the appropriate level of expectations of and compassion for himself.)

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don't have a particular date that will "remain etched," but getting together in CA with my parents, siblings, and all of their families this summer is a memory that will stick. Twenty-nine people under one roof for several days, and we had a blast. A big thank you to my parents for making that happen.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
For the first time in my life I feel like I'm starting to scratch the surface and understand myself. It's been something that I haven't really been able to do, and it's been a challenge (even if at times I didn't realize it). I have a long way to go, but it's a nice feeling to have right now.

9. What was your biggest failure?
"Failure" is such an emotionally charged word, and I think attaching it to anything that's happened in the past year would really be unfair to my own growth and understanding. I will say that if you reference #6 above that would sum up my thoughts.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Thankfully, nothing huge. I did sprain my ankle pretty severely while testing for my second degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I will say that I haven't felt my healthiest for a while (nothing serious, just a general feeling--yes, this doctor has his own doctor), which may not be an illness, but it still has a huge effect on my psyche.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Um, let me see. The game table we bought for Christmas is a big hit, so that was a good purchase. Also, we bought a digital frame that shows tons of quotes that we (and by "we" I mean "mostly Stacy") have collected. It's been a nice source of inspiration, and at times, outright laughter. Setting it up also represents a completed project, so that's extra good for the soul.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My family's, especially Stacy's. Really, they merit celebration on a daily basis. This past year has been so great, and also really difficult at times. Without my incredible family, it would have been a very, VERY different year. I love you all!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I'm just not one that feels comfortable outing anyone here, even though there have been a handful of people who could fit into this answer (reference Stacy's answer in her post). Again, it seems sort of negative, and I've had times where thinking critically of others has significantly obscured the introspective lens I should have been using more efficiently.

I will say this, though: if an advanced species were to arrive on Earth on this day, I would want to hide Donald Trump somewhere far from sight. That dude is a complete blight on humanity and is quite possibly the worst representation of the vast potential humankind has.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Two mortgages, which ended in August. That was a huge relief. Other expenditures that feel like hemorrhaging include malpractice insurance, health insurance, and student loan repayment. We spend a fair amount on homeschooling, but that's money well spent, even if it hurts sometimes to consider how many experiences school children have for free due, in part, to our high property taxes. I always say I have no problem paying into the schools--educated people in the community benefit us all. But when the school buses show up at a performance of Macbeth at a local university, and you know those kids are there for free, and we dropped a few bucks on the tickets for our family, I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Let's see, I'm a really demonstrative person so it should have been really evident . . . ;)

I got really excited to share the new Star Wars movie with Max (and Stacy, and Kate). I was excited to show the kids the home where I grew up. I was really excited to go to the beach on our yearly vacation. What else? Not sure. I get pretty excited for the holiday season. Oh, I was really excited for the next Game of Thrones book, but then it didn't come out. But I'm used to that. Oh, oh. I got excited to see the Doctor Who Christmas special with Kate (so glad we're sharing that now) and I'm VERY excited for the Sherlock special on New Year's Day, and "Galavant." What a nerdy gift, but Sherlock and Galavant don't happen until 2016, so I'm not sure if they should be included.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Honestly, I'm really bad at this stuff. I listen to a lot of music, and I feel like I can very easily go down a veritable rabbit hole of musical discovery. So, I'm avoiding this question since I have no answer.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier, but at times sadder. That comes with self-discovery and emotional work, but that's a good thing.
b) thinner or fatter? I feel fatter. The scale doesn't necessarily agree, but it's an area that will be attacked in 2016.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, but that's a funny term. I would definitely use the term "rich" to describe my life in general, but never my finances. But I'm fortunate--I make a good living and have a really good balance in life when it comes to time with our family. I am not unaware of how lucky I really am.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I'd finished more projects, but not in an over-stressed, "I must achieve" kind of way. Even if it were just one or two things, I wish I'd taken the time to feel that sense of accomplishment (and by extension, let Stacy feel that sense of accomplishment, as well). Also, I wish I'd exercised and meditated more. These are two things that help me so much, but the first two things to go when I feel busy, which is more than always.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Jumping to conclusions. I've done more than my fair share of projecting my own fears and assumptions on to many situations, and more often than not, it's hurt me. I'm learning to step back, breathe, be fair in each situation, and assess them for what's REALLY happening. When I remember to do that, it's been helpful.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Like we always do--together with family, eating, playing games, laughing, relaxing, and feeling infinitely lucky. It's honestly one of my favorite times of the year.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Yes, every day more and more with my soulmate.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Ugh, favorite. I really don't like answering "favorite" questions. I don't like having to pick. Absolute favorite? I'm not sure. I'll just throw out a few and I'm not even sure this order means anything. "The Goldbergs," "Jane the Virgin," "Master of None." Ask me in 20 minutes and I may change my mind completely. (I read Stacy's answer. Can I change mine?)

23.Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate is a really strong word, and I don't really know that I "hate" anyone. I'm going to say "no" and move on.

24. What was the best book you read?
"Best" questions are right up there with "Favorite" questions. As soon as I try and pick one answer, like ten more come to mind. I read a fair number of books this year, and there were some real winners.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman--it's a great urban fantasy, unlike anything I'd read before.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman--it's a middle grade book that I read with Max's book club as well as our adult book club. It's a really fun romp, and a new take on The Jungle Book.

The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett--this is his "Christmas" story set in the Discworld. It touches on belief and human nature and since it involves the character of DEATH, there is so much existential contemplation it's ridiculous. One of my favorites in the series so far.

Colorless Tsukuru Tasaki and His Year of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami--this was on my shelf all year and I finally picked it up. Having spent time in Tokyo and many hours on the subway, the cover caught my eye. It is reminiscent of every novel I ever read in my Japanese literature classes in college. It's my first Murakami book, and I know he's very polarizing, but it makes me want to read another by him.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate--I read this with Max's book club and it was really good. It's based on a true story about a gorilla who was an attraction at a mall. The really cool thing is that the gorilla tells the story.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
First of all, I posted about my year of musical discovery in August. I mention it in that post, but I really had my eyes (and ears) opened by listening to "Rubber Soul" (The Beatles) followed by "Pet Sounds" (The Beach Boys) and then followed by "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (The Beatles). It was a really cool musical journey, and I never fully appreciated how the two groups were so intertwined.

I'll mention Dirty Loops here (even though I mention them in the post) because I was blown away by their sound. Jazz Funk Fusion Electronic Techno Eurobeat? Who would have thought I'd be saying, "Yes, please."

I heard James Bay for the first time this past summer. He's up for a Grammy for New Artist and he deserves the attention. He has a great sound, and definitely has the power to draw you in. The fact that Ed Sheeran is a huge fan does not surprise me in the least.

I had a rediscovery of sorts with Harry Connick, Jr.'s new album. It's the first album he's essentially turned over to outside songwriters and producers, and I think it's one of his recent bests. Stacy and I are already thinking about when and where we'll be seeing him in concert, and it's been a while since we've been saying that.

26. What did you want and get?
I wanted a more relaxed holiday season, and it turned out that way, more or less.

27. What did you want and not get?
I don't know exactly how to express it, but essentially, I had a lot of hopes and expectations at the beginning of 2015 that didn't come to fruition. In the setbacks (as painful as they were at times), there was a TON of self-discovery, so it's a net gain. Sometimes it would be nice if personal growth were less painful, though.

Also, someone to pay off my student loans. It never hurts to fantasize--you just never know.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw several really good ones. Again, you will not get a "favorite" from me! All of these were really great: "The Imitation Game," "Love and Mercy," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and "The End of the Tour" (my thoughts on this one could fill volumes, so maybe I should do something with that . . .). I saw a lot of others, but those were the first that came to mind.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 41 this year and celebrated by hanging out with my fantastic family, eating great food, and relaxing.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not to beat a dead horse, but if I could have checked off a few more things from my project list, I think I would look back with even more fondness for 2015.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
2015 was a repeat of 2014, showcasing the finest in consistency and the mundane. "The intersection of presentability and comfort" was the catch phrase for the past 12 months. Ralph Lauren will not be contacting me anytime soon for advice.

32. What kept you sane?
I'm not sure that I've been sane at any point during the year, but my wife, children, and dog have all helped me keep whatever modicum of sanity I've been hanging on to.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I'd probably say Bernie Sanders. There's something about that guy that draws you in, like he's on the verge of something great.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Interestingly, I recently had a conversation about this very topic (for quite different reasons) with someone. For some reason I've been very moved by discussions of gun violence and racial inequality in particular, with the general idea of "privilege" coming in right behind.

35. Who did you miss?
My "old" self. I've been feeling "off" for several years now, but I'm starting to see glimpses of him, mixed with improvements. Therapy has been a good thing.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I feel like we met several new people this year that have been like good seasonings that don't overpower a dish, but add just the right amount of flavor. We got involved with a group of "geeky" folks who have been really good for empowering that "be yourself" side of me. We have some shared interests and a lot of unshared interests, but mostly we all just like having fun together. They are good, honest, sincere people. Stacy and I also met a really cool couple who have a real thirst for living an authentic life, and that's been really fun to explore. We get together and have no lack of things to talk about. It's been good for the soul. And I have GOT to include my therapist here. What a great guy. He's been enormously helpful and tremendously kind. 2015 would have ended quite differently without his guidance.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
I learned that it is really important to be completely honest with yourself. There are lies we tell ourselves, both conscious and subconscious, that block you from being your true self. And I've also learned that there are experiences in life that can affect you very deeply, and if you ignore the lessons they are trying to teach you, there is a price to pay.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
It's been one of those years where I look back and feel like I'm so incomprehensibly lucky to have Stacy in my life. So, in the words of the incomperable Harry Connick, Jr.:

People stay together forever
And a lot of them mean it, too
But no one does, "I do" like we do
Fireworks fade into fireflies
Once the honeymoon's through
They don't do "I do" like we do

Nobody got a you like me
Nobody got this history
Of the good times, and the hard times
And the wild times we've been through
Nobody got a me like you
And I ain't much but this much is true
No one does "I do" like we do

I tried to keep you guessin'
And you still got me confused
No one does "I do" like we do
Everybody turns out the light, when
The day is through
No one does "I do" like we do

Nobody got a you like me
Nobody got this history
Of the good times, and the hard times
And the wild times we've been through
Nobody got a me like you
And I ain't much but this much is true
No one does "I do" like we do

I ain't knockin' what the others got
Cuz they a good thing, too
But they don't do "I do" like we do
Ramblin' down this same ol' road
We'll find our "something new"
And no one does "I do" like we do

Nobody got a you like me
Nobody got this history
Of the good times, and the hard times
And the wild times we've been through
Nobody got a me like you
And I ain't much but this much is true
No one does "I do" like we do

Monday, October 19, 2015


Well, it's been a week of ups and downs, the ups being our lovely visit from Greg and Jessica and family. I'm hoping to do a post on that soon. We loved having them here in our home, loved visiting with them, and loved sharing our beautiful state with them as well. We're so appreciative that they would come visit us like that, especially with all the sacrifice it entailed - traveling with 3 little kids on a red eye and driving to us from JFK in New York! It was a lot of fun to spend time with them. We love sibling visits! I'm grateful for my brothers-in-law and my sisters-in-law.

While they were here, the fridge and freezer both went on the fritz. That was fun. After moving all the frozen foods to the outside freezer (thank goodness for that!), the fridge started feeling warm/not cool. Eventually Mark looked some stuff up and figured out how to take out the panel at the back of the freezer and see if the fan was frozen - which it was - and he was able to fix it or at least have it hold over a bit longer until we can afford to buy a new one. More on that in a bit.

Kate works weekends mostly, but she also works 4 additional weekdays during the school year around this time of year, so that translates to a couple of work weeks in a row that look like this: Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. And around that we have our usual school, volunteering, work, appointments, errands, etc. stuff, so it gets kind of crazy.

Yesterday (uhhhh, I started writing this on Friday), between various work schedules and appointments and a generally crazy day, we drove over 100 miles even though we didn't ever go farther than 10-20 miles from home. It was harried to say the least.

The kicker is that we're saying "no" to more this year. We're actively trying to not do as much as we usually do. And somehow, it all feels crazy. Part of that is just how it is as kids get older. Needs/activities/jobs are different as they age. When they were little, we could just stay home and play trains and restaurant and that was a full day! It's different now. And we're not even what many would call an over-programmed family. I can hear snickering from behind my computer here, but it's true. As far as regular weekly activities go, they each have one (Kate has violin and Max has taekwondo). The other things are either something they share (like a volunteering shift) or a twice a month art class or a thing here and there. It's just that those things here and there add up.

And honestly? What a wonderful thing! We have a rich, full life full of amazing opportunities and get togethers and fun. We're so lucky! We're also a bit tired. :) All of us like seeing a stretch of days on the calendar with nothing on them. We love evenings where we can make dinner together and then watch our TV shows as a family. Love those nights!

And, during that day of running around yesterday (Thursday), we had an especially frustrating interaction with the bank that is working on our refi. Yep, the refi hasn't happened yet. But wait, didn't you start this process back in July/August, you ask? Why yes, yes we did. We did our research ahead of time and as soon as we settled on the farmhouse (8/31 - rescheduled from a week before that), we didn't waste time and we got to the bank to get the process started. Based on what they said, it would take a couple of weeks. We were hoping it would be done before our annual trip to the beach. It wasn't. We almost didn't go (because psychologically, we wanted this refi done before going), but I'm glad we did.

Well, here we are almost 2 months later and it's not done yet. I got aggravated and said, "This is absurd." We qualified for our new house while owning our farmhouse and not having our rental occupied. Now, we've sold our farmhouse and we have a 3-year tenant in our rental and we've put the money from our farmhouse into our new house. This shouldn't be this difficult! We called several times and they said it was in process and sometimes takes a while, we're a weird case (self-employed, no W-2s), yadda yadda.

So, our customer service representative liaison person pulled up our credit yet again and walked through everything bit by bit. She sees a big amount of debt and asks what it is. Student loans. "Well, could you just get rid of that?" What PLANET is she on? "Just get rid of that??" Sure! Why didn't I think of that?!? I'll just dig in my couch cushions and pull out tens of thousands of dollars in coins and just knock that right out of there. Silly me.

Once she figured out that, no, we cannot "just get rid of that," she asked about another big debt owed that she saw. Guess what it was! No, guess! Nope. Nope. Nope. (You won't guess this). Our mortgage on the farmhouse! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I'll go ahead and wait for that to sink in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . you know, the one WE PAID OFF WHEN WE SOLD THE HOUSE SIX WEEKS AGO.

Even though the bank pulled our credit information a full week AFTER we sold the house, it hadn't yet updated that part for some unknown reason and it looked as if we still owed quite a bit of money and that was hurting our debt to income ratio. I was LIVID! What moron didn't spot that?!? Furthermore, what moron didn't think to ASK, "Hey, why do they have an outstanding mortgage here?" LIVID! And even after they figured that out (when we told them what they'd screwed up) and apologized profusely, they continued to sort of nickel and dime us on things to get this thing approved. Are you kidding me?!? They should be bending over backwards and giving us cupcakes while singing us an "I'm sorry" song IN HARMONY, not making us jump through more stupid hoops.

And what really galls me is that we're not in a position to say, "You screwed this up and we're going to another bank" while flouncing on our heels. They have the best rate, hands down. The best deal. And now that they've pulled our credit, going somewhere else and trying again would hurt our credit score. We need and want this to go through. Like 6 weeks ago.

And while we wait and wait and wait some more for this to go through (hopefully this week), we're paying for things in cash and trying not to use our credit cards for much of anything, because even those charges right now - charges that we WILL pay off when the statement comes - affect us. And that is when the fridge decides to break and also when I look out my bedroom window today and see this for the 5th time this summer/fall:

Yep, that's Mark jumping his car. Again. To get it to run so he can get to work. It is so time to upgrade his car. It has been for quite some time. But every time we think about doing it, other stuff comes up. And hey, it runs! We're entering year 18 of owning that Saturn. Go us! This car situation. And the fridge situation. They will get addressed once this refi happens. And I hope it's soon.

So, in summary, Blergh. And roar. And ugh.

But also, Yay! And Huzzah! And Woot! Because even with all this financial stress stuff and the busyness of life, there are those rays of sunshine and goodness. And this past week, it came in the form of a really nice family visit. I am LOVING getting our kids together with their cousins and uncles and aunts like this. We don't have extended family near us like so many do, but when family comes to visit, there are those few special days when you feel less alone, more supported, a little strengthened. And I think we needed that. The reminder that we're part of something bigger than ourselves - a group, a community, a family. And the reminder that we are not alone. It's a little sad and lonesome whenever guests leave, but for those days that they're here, it's something special.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Random Thoughts - Fall 2015 Edition

If "choosing good friends" is so important for teens and adults,
(and I truly believe that it is)
 because their behavior and choices tend to influence us,
 that certainly applies for little kids, too.
I don't think we can easily dismiss the qualities
 and characteristics of those we choose to spend our time with.


Our family went outside yesterday after 10:30pm
and we all laid down on blankets in our driveway
and looked up at the sky to watch the blood moon
and lunar eclipse. We watched in wonder,
ate snacks together, and laughed and joked while we talked.
I love these moments. They are the best.

As a homeschooling family,
we often travel to neighboring counties for various educational,
fun, and social events and opportunities.
We've taken to listening to podcasts together
and we really enjoy that.
Our favorite show to listen to (especially Max)
is NPR's "Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me."
Our next favorite is probably NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour."
(And I would LOVE that job - being a podcaster/writer for that show).
We also listen to the TED Radio Hour, 
Dear Hank&John, Fresh Air, Radiolab, etc.
There are 3 houses for sale around us.
We live on a corner and the houses across both streets are both for sale.
And there is one 3 doors down that is also for sale.
It's kind of exciting to get new neighbors!

We got to meet the buyers of the farmhouse at settlement
and they were GREAT. 
While it was bittersweet to sell the farmhouse,
meeting them helped.
 We're excited for them to make their own memories there now.
They are super excited.

There is almost ALWAYS a board game out somewhere
 (and sometimes in multiple places) in our house.
I always walk by and smile.
It's a game all set up and ready to play!
And we love playing together.
We have incredibly supportive friends
 who I can tell truly value our children.
I'm very grateful.
They take the time to truly get to know them,
and they send us information they find
 that they believe our kids would enjoy.
We've learned of writing camps
 thanks to our good friend Sherri
and Kate has enjoyed all of them.
We've learned of educational camps
 and writing opportunities
 and all kinds of things!
A friend of ours sends us information on
 books and authors that Max enjoys,
and also told us about a local game making contest coming up.
Sherri visited us before our trip
 and had made individual packs for both kids
for our flight to CA - how sweet is that?!?
Another friend recently took the time
 to write her alma mater and tell them all about Kate.
The college then wrote Kate to tell her
 and to send her information about their college
and writing camps.
We are VERY grateful for these people
 and all who take the time and energy
 to get to know and love and support our children.
It takes a village.

I love our new house. 
It is FLOODED with light and beauty all around us.
So very grateful for this openness and environment.
We feel like we're enjoying it even more
 with the farmhouse sold! :P

I was thinking today that
 there is an argument to having a bigger house
 and things like stairs.
Ever since we bought our townhouse in 2003,
 we've always had a home with stairs.
It's natural exercise!
It's a small hike to get places, 
so you naturally walk A LOT all day long.
I don't love exercise so this helps. :P
I even have this unspoken game with Scout,
who follows me everywhere.
She is FAST,
 so whenever we're climbing the stairs together,
I always try to race her to the top
(no easy feat!).

We tend to eat a lot of vegetarian meals.
We're not big meat eaters and more and more,
 our cooking is lending itself naturally
 to a pesco-vegetarian diet.
That being said, we're not opposed to eating meat
 (just not lots of it),
and as I type this,
chicken and dumplings are cooking in the crockpot.
Welcome, fall!

We've wanted to talk with a financial planner for years,
but have always been scared off because they charge you
 either a fee or a percentage of your investments
 or a commission, or they try to sell you products (I hate that!).
Well, we're in the process of refinancing our home mortgage
 (now that the farmhouse has sold),
and we found out our local bank
 has a guy who does financial planning
as his job there and there is no fee or percentage
 nor does he try to sell any products.
It's simply one of the things the bank has to offer. Woot!

It has been a busy past few weeks
as we're into the new registration period
 with our homeschool group.
13 new families joined up this year
and many of them are all plugging in so well!
We're thrilled!
Our kids both won pretty great prizes this year
for the library summer reading program.

We got season passes to the Renaissance Faire
 for Christmas this year from Mark's parents,
as well as tickets to some other fun events.
The dinner was great and fun as always!
And the Ren Faire has been AWESOME.
With Kate working there,
it's handy to have the passes
(first year we've ever done this)
and go here and there for shorter bits of time
or for lunch or dinner or a few of the shows or whatever.
Such a fun place and welcoming environment.

I am really wanting to sit down
 and write posts about
the foreign exchange students,
our trip to CA,
and our annual trip to the beach.
I keep meaning to do it, but we've been swamped
between work, the clinic, Kate's work schedule,
the kids' volunteering,
 different social and educational events,
homeschool group registration, etc.
A busy time of year, but a renewing one as well.
Trying not to have palpitations
 when I think of how NaNoWriMo
 and the holidays and Max's birthday
 are all around the corner.
Why does time fly so fast?!?
Homeschooling older kids
 is a very different kind of adventure.
So different than with younger kids.
It's more involved, but there's also so much
 they can do independently.
There is a ton we do together, too,
 because let's face it,
it's fun!
We can talk about so many topics
 and enjoy things together,
like lectures and articles and museums.
They're involved in more, so there is a lot more
enrichment and coordination.
It's work, but it's also awesome
 and I'm grateful we get to do this!

The other night, we had no food made
 and we were resisting
 the ever-strong siren call to eat out.
As much as we LOVE to eat out,
we try to do a lot of cooking at home
 as it helps us save money.
So, we whipped together a PHENOMENAL meal.
Mark and I ran to the store for ingredients
while the kids started chopping and cooking.
Max made a delicious side of cheesy, Mexican rice
(that he created and made up himself),
and Kate made a big batch of homemade apple crisp.
Mark and I got home and made chorizo and potato tacos
with cilantro, chopped onion, and hot sauce.
Our meal was INCREDIBLE.
I love working together in the kitchen!

(Though I must admit that
 cooking at home is so much more
time and mess intensive,
 and sometimes I wonder about the savings.
You do save money, but the HOURS that go into
 shopping, cooking, cleaning up . . . 
it makes you wonder when you're already busy
 with so many other things!).
Our next-door neighbors have kids
 and Max LOVES to go outside and play with them.
It is fantastic to be in a younger neighborhood
 with kids who play outside.
The neighbors often tell us how much they enjoy Max
 and how much their kids love his made-up games.
Well, the mom's parents are often there
 visiting their grandkids
and they are friendly and jolly and warm.
The grandpa is SO kind to us
 and speaks very highly of Max
(which is so nice to hear).
They're often there on weekends
 and we've seen them there after school daily
 to greet the kids when they get off the bus.
Well, now they drive 20 minutes daily
 to be at their house at 6:30am
and they drive their granddaughter
 to school (another 20 minutes away)
every single morning.
And they're not young
 and they have health issues and move slowly,
but always, always, always
 with big smiles on their faces and lots of love
for those kids.

I really want to see the movie "End of the Tour"
with Jason Segel.
It's on limited release right now,
so it's mostly playing at indie theaters
that aren't near us.
Hopefully it gets to more theaters soon,
because the reviews are fantastic.