Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reflections and Gratitude from 2016

Although the children are still on holiday, we've put up the Christmas decorations and are focusing on the New Year. Every year Adam's office shuts down entirely for the week between Christmas and New Year's. Every year I am extremely grateful for this time of retreat and family bonding. We stay home and do whatever suits our fancy. We play games, read books, stay up late and sleep in. This year we also went on a hike at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Paul, Adam, and Claire have worked on mastering our original Nintendo Mario Brothers and I've read almost a book a day. Because our schedule is so busy and inundated during the rest of the year, I treasure this time every year.

I've compiled a list of 2016 gratitude and reflections. Here it is, in no particular order:

1. Emotionally and physically healthy children
The kids are growing rapidly. Claire has inherited my large feet and is now firmly in the women's shoe section. Paul is still long and lean and in constant motion. They are both healthy and active and I am so grateful. I'm also grateful for their emotional health and ability to navigate the world. Regularly we are in situations with unknown people and instead of retreating, the children engage. They make friends everywhere we go and learn about others' stories. Every time I see situations like that, I know that we have done well and that no matter what the future holds, our children will march forward with flying colors.

2. My husband
Adam and I have been together since college, and I am constantly grateful for our shared history and partnership. I love having jokes that are almost 20 years old and that no one else in the world would understand. I love how he both understands me but also sees the world from a different angle. My right-brained leanings balance out his left-brain strengths and vice-versa.

3. Pokemon Go
We have had so much fun with Pokemon Go this year. The kids don't have their own phones yet, so we all use my phone. Claire, Paul, and I pass the phone back and forth. I have enjoyed learning a bit of the intricacies of the Pokemon world. More than that, I am grateful for the sharing and teamwork that playing this encourages.

4. Books
For Christmas, Paul received the Platypus Penguin Detective series. This in itself just makes me smile. Over the holidays I reorganized several of my bookshelves and read so many books that have been sitting around collecting dust. I have always been a reader and I'm so thankful for the wide-variety of books that we have around the house. I had my nose in a book almost the entire break.

5. Interactions with the homeless
Several years ago, our church had a ministry for homeless women. Once a week during the coldest and hottest months of the year, we would host 12 women for an overnight stay. Our family loved this program because we were able to interact and build relationships with homeless people in a comfortable setting. We had a few favorites that the kids looked forward to seeing. One of these favorites was Terry. Just before Christmas, I began to see Terry around our neighborhood. I spoke with her every time. I don't know if she remembered us or not, but when I saw her a couple days before Christmas, I handed her some money and called her by name. She accepted with gratitude and wonder.

This week we took Adam to lunch one day. As we were waiting at a red light, we watched a man pick up a half-eaten tortilla off the ground. He began to eat it. He then found another tortilla and then an empty to-go box also on the ground. He began wiping the tortilla on the box, trying to mop up any sauce that was there. We all had compassion for that man. After lunch the kids boxed up their leftovers, made sure to get a fork, and we went back to find the man. We were unable to find him. However, we did find another homeless man and offered our leftovers to him. He accepted with thanks.

I'm not sure if some policy changes have sent more homeless people to the streets or if I am just noticing who has always been there. However, every interaction I have with a homeless person reminds me of how small my problems are. I'm also always filled with a desire to do more.

6. Family exercise
The kids are in running club at school. I join them every Wednesday and we are training for the Cowtown 5k. I had planned on doing some running, but it hasn't worked out that way. Instead, I'm part of the walkers group. I love watching my own children race ahead of me and run with confidence. I also love walking and occasionally jogging with other children who like to share whatever's on their minds. I feel honored that they trust me enough to share and grateful for the opportunity to listen.

We went on a family hike on New Year's Eve. That was fun as well. I'm always grateful for our family adventures, especially when they take me places I wouldn't have chosen myself.

7. Seminary
I am in the middle of my Master of Divinity program at Brite Divinity School. Several times this fall semester I felt overwhelmed and defeated. It's such a long process. However, I kept working hard and even though I threw my hands in the air at my finals and settled on "good enough," I earned an A in both my classes. I also received encouragement over the holidays and am now ready to tackle the spring semester. I am grateful for my particular seminary in all the ways I am challenged to rethink and listen to other viewpoints. The metaphor I can best describe it is that seminary is like a new pair of glasses. You don't even think about how you see things normally until you receive these special seminary glasses. Now all the sudden you see the world with new eyes. This changes and challenges much of what was taken for granted before, even my own self-knowledge.

8. Implementing life skills in the children
This fall, I taught my kids how to do their own laundry. That doesn't mean they will do it all the time, but it does mean that if they are asking if some particular item is clean, I can tell them to go start a load. More than not, they are washing and drying their own clothes now. I'm taking care of the bleach and whatever lands in my hamper.

Because my job at the Wesley includes some nights away from the family dinner table, Claire has stepped up her cooking skills and began providing dinner. She enjoys cooking and is increasing in skills and confidence. Not to be left behind, Paul is working on his culinary skills as well. Last night he made chicken tacos for the family.

I am so grateful for kids that are smart, confident, and capable. By the time they are off to college, they will be ready.

9. Our pets
Capt. Midnight Sugar Dot Express is currently snoring on the couch. He's been a good dog. This past year we also added two  hamsters and a fish to our pet list. The kids bought the hamsters and fish with their own money and the best part is, they take care of them as well! I haven't had to clean one fish bowl or hamster cage. I can just pet them when I like and leave the rest to the kids.

10. Holiday reconnections
Over Christmas break, we have seen so many people we love and don't get to see normally. More than once on Christmas Eve I looked around at the family gatherings and was filled with gratitude. Christmas is so nice because no matter how much we are rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off, at some point we all stop, and join together to celebrate and share love. I am grateful.

As we put both feet in 2017, I've looked back on the past year with gratitude, but now I am looking forward with that same gratitude. I'm anxious to see all the ways we will grow and change in the new year.
Our family hike at Dinosaur Valley State Park.

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