2016 Highlights - Bullet Point Style

For so many 2016 was an awful year.

As the year ended, it seemed I agreed, it was not the best of years. I mean, my Dad died, so yea, not a great thing to remember a year by.

But, as December 31 drew nearer, I found myself anxious about turning the page on the calendar. And I couldn't quite put that anxiety into words.

Then, a few of my friends started sharing how 2016 was such a blessing year for them, and I found myself recalling the good things that happened last year.

So, what were the highlights, both happy and sad, by which 2016 will be remembered?

  • As I was contemplating the both/and of good and bad of 2016 it occurred to me what the anxiety was. Yes, 2016 was the year in which my Dad died. But, turning the calendar over from 2016 into 2017 felt kind of like leaving him behind. For, in 2016 he was here, alive and our relationship was healing. But now, in 2017, he's not here. It was just one more experience of mourning that I have not experienced prior to the loss of a parent. So, yes, in 2016 my Dad died and all the sorrow associated with that will also be associated with 2016. But, also, 2016 will always have a special place of joy because in it is also my Dad still on earth.
  • 2016 also brought with it a new home, and settling into being a stay at home mom. For nearly the first 6 months of Sugarbeet's life, R was home with us while he was job hunting. In February, he started his new job just days after we moved into our townhouse. And suddenly, he was gone all day. For a year we had spent our days together; for 6 months he had also been a full-time parent to Sugarbeet. We both missed him. Sugarbeet and I quickly settled into our routine and, much to my surprise, I really enjoy being a SAHM. I always went back and forth between thinking I'd love it and thinking I'd hate it, and so came the test. Certainly there are days, I count the hours until R gets home, but they are few and far between. We have our weekly and daily routines and with a good balance of staying home and getting out of the house and it's working for us. I find myself realizing how fast time moves and it seems like she'll be off to school tomorrow and I beg time to please slow down.
  • 2016 brought a return to running, and I'm planning to continue that return this year. I am signed up for the Pittsburgh half marathon in May and I'm looking forward to a training schedule again. Soon after Sugarbeet was born, I heard or read somewhere that it takes a year for the body to recover from pregnancy, and just based on how I felt as I started and failed to get moving again a couple of times, that was my experience. As Sugarbeet turned 1 and also dropped almost all of her daytime nursing sessions, it seemed my body changed drastically and suddenly, while I was running I recognized my body again.
  • 2016 also brought with it Sugarbeet's first birthday, and the beginnings of her personality shining through! One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was from an NFP class I used to teach, in which new parents were encouraged to ask "Who are you, little one?" and get to know their child instead of imposing strict schedules or routines upon him or her randomly. For me, asking this question daily, and just getting to know this sweet child. For example, she takes time to warm up. She does not like to jump into new situations head first, she'd much prefer to sit back and watch and then engage on her own terms. This makes doctor visits very challenging, because the doctor does not have time to play with her gently for an hour before looking in her ears, and so we do our best to get through them quickly. This, also makes new toys fun, because she explores them and learns to play with them in more complicated ways as the time goes. Each day our schedule is "whatever it will be today" and on days I am able to remember this and follow her lead for eating and napping, stress for both of us is much lower. On days that it isn't possible to follow her lead, whether because of appointments or other things that need done, I am {usually} able to be more patient and aware of what may trigger a meltdown. All things I knew as a teacher, but with the added intensity of needing to maintain the awareness 24/7. 
  • A return to Confession and Eucharist in May, are certainly other wonderful blessings of 2016. Another was going to Midnight Mass by ourselves while my stepdad stayed home with a sleeping Sugarbeet. While I have loved being a SAHM, I miss Daily Mass so much. Our parish is 45 minutes away with Daily Mass only offered at 8:00 and a toddler who sleeps in until after 8 most mornings, it just doesn't work. But, through prayer and spiritual direction, I've come to realize just how important the rhythm of Daily Mass is for my spiritual life and renewed my Magnificat subscription to be able to participate in the Daily Liturgy that way. And it was at Midnight Mass that I realized just how much I miss being still during Mass. I am frequently reminding myself of 2 things during Mass - 1) that even if I don't hear a single word, I'm there, participating as fully as I can and therefore receiving the graces of the Mass and the Eucharist as I receive (even though some Sundays I'm surprised to find myself in the communion line, feeling like I've missed everything since the Processional Hymn started) and 2) that I prayed to be the person wrangling a child during Mass for so many years, and then, in turn, to offer it up for any one in the church who may be watching my child wiggle and squirm and thinking to her(or him)self "I would give anything for that". And so, somehow attending Mass with a wiggling toddler has become so much a source of dying to self for me, more than I ever expected. Sacrificing being still and being able to be attentive, it is certainly not a cross of motherhood that I expected. I am grateful to have the Magnificat to be able to not only prepare for Mass by reading the Sunday readings ahead of time, so that when I do catch snippets of the homily it makes sense, but also to be able to read the Daily readings and reflections. I feel that rhythm coming back and I am grateful for it. 
So, yes, 2016 certainly had its challenges and there will be a sadness associated with it unlike the sadnesses of any other year, but somehow, with the sadness there is joy. Not happiness or a feeling, but rather, real, true, joy that is only found in knowing and believing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; joy that somehow remains present despite deep sadness.

Happy New Year, friends! May your 2017 be full of joy.