Now that we're well into January, I'm sitting down to write and glance back at the last year. I'm not much of a resolution-maker (not fundamentally opposed, just not for me), but I do find it's healthiest for my heart and mind to reflect and then continue on into the next year. Like every single year, there are good, hard, and in-between snippets and seasons.
As I wrote in my 2019 year in review post, "Once this is done, I can look forward, with clearer eyes, a lighter heart. I so often feel lighter from observing the heavy pieces one last time before putting them to the side, emptying my hands in order to take up the next year in our life." I still resonate with that statement. Knowing that some things are meant to be set aside before proceeding and some might need to be carried on a bit longer.
For ease of reading (and ease of writing!) I group my thoughts about the year into link-heavy sub-categories. The links all direct to original posts that I wrote this year:
Knitting: By and large, not my most prolific knitting year. I leaned heavily into sock knitting, since that's my comfort knitting, a balm as we grieved. I smile as I look at a few tiny knitted things knit for friends' babies. I completed my first test knitting experience, which was really interesting and also, my first sweater knit in pieces on a deadline, without any photos to reference (since the pattern wasn't published at the time that I knit it). And I finally knit that sweater out of lettlopi, and then performed sweater surgery. I knit a planned-out-for-years shawl with special Faroese yarn my brother gave me from his travels. Just the thing to keep my shoulders cozy while boiling water and grinding beans for coffee. I barely bought any yarn this year, apart from some quarantine-esque yarn purchases in March.
Sewing: I sewed several fabric masks for Nicholas and I and my in-laws, as well as some sent to my former coworkers from the hospital in Austin. Despite my big plans to sew multiple garments for myself with fabric I already own, I sewed a whopping total of one garment for myself, a modified Lou box top, made from stash fabric I've had for years. I finally tried the quilt-as-you-go technique and love the resulting projects, including a zippered boxed bottom pouch, a small simple pouch, and a large "mug rug"/potholder. I hemmed some curtains for a friend. Apart from that, my sewing machine didn't see much use.
Work: the first full year that I've stayed home with Cooper. I had days where I felt a little unmoored, not "helping out" as an RN during a pandemic, feeling empathy for coworkers in the midst of it all. I love my time with him and know that it's a privilege to have this as an option. What a gift.
In the kitchen: I tried my hand at sourdough and loved it. I'm not currently keeping up with it, but oh, it was fun. I was more consistent with meal planning, overall, apart from weeks of morning sickness. We focused a lot on protein and fat intake (increasing both) and scaled way back on grain intake. Some of our most-made meals: sweet potato shepherd's pie, almond-crusted chicken fingers, pan-fried fish, lots and lots of sauteed kale (in the cast iron), and roasted veggies with plenty of fat. I made veggie curry and chicken salad a lot for lunches. Our breakfast routine pivoted to fried eggs and bacon or sausage just about every morning, made in a cast iron pan. Speaking of the cast iron pan, a friend nudged me to pull our's out and re-season it, and oh my goodness, I'm glad I did! It's what I cook in 90% of the time now. I did a fair share of baking (some gluten-free, some grain-free), including this amazing almond cake, superhero muffins, kladdkaka, these freezer caramel slices, and these amazing chocolate chip cookies. I baked these grain-free blueberry muffins for Cooper countless times. We switched our primary coffee brewing technique to Palmpress and have been so pleased with consistently good coffee. And for my birthday in September, my in-laws gave me a goose-neck kettle with a built-in thermometer, so we always brew with exactly the right temperature of water (just under boiling). We also made a lot of cold brew in our glass cold brew bottle. I did a little tour of our mug collection, just for fun.
Beauty: I think it's safe to assume this is the year where I've worn the least amount of makeup (I'm guessing I'm not alone in that?) Applying makeup means I have to remove it at some point. If I did wear it, I often only wore concealer, matte powder, and some eyebrow gel. When I really got glammed up, I applied mascara or even a little eyeliner. Only twice did I wear liquid foundation. I still love so many W3ll people and Beautycounter products, and on the recommendation of a friend tried and loved Cocokind Mymatcha overall moisture stick. Only one haircut in 2020, and I wore a lot of headbands. That postpartum hair regrowth did whatever the heck it wanted.
Favorite music: I listened to a lot of the usual favorites, like Gregory Alan Isakov, Tom Rosenthal, and a few others. New artists for me were Midnite String Quartet, Chris Renzema. I had a few weeks where I listened to a lot of Coldplay. Heart-healing songs included Enclosed by you by Josh White and Josh Garrels, Water under the bridge by Amanda Lindsey Cook, Something Always Changes (Spontaneous) by UPPERROOM, and Until these tears are gone by Young Oceans and Harvest. Best Friends by Hillsong Young and Free was a convicting song for me. Here is a playlist of my top listened-to songs on Spotify this year.
Favorite reads: I haven't been a prolific reader in so many years. But I did manage to finish a few books. Risen Motherhood was excellent and I highly recommend. And I read it in mini virtual "book club" with my friend Rachael, so fun! Also read some lighthearted, nostalgic fiction by Jan Karon including Home to Holly Springs & In the Company of Others. I've been working my way through this series for years, just savoring it. I also read and highly recommend Reading to Walk: Meditations for the Life of Faith by Jonathon Parnell.
Traveling: We took a trip with our little family of three to Michigan in September. We made a trip to Minnesota in the fall. And that's it! A lot of time spent at home.
Locally: getting coffee from our favorite local coffee shop, lots of walks outside, visiting my in-law's on the weekends, when we could. Lots and lots and lots of walks. In early January, I did a girl's day trip to Chicago with my sister- and mother-in-law. So fun! A fun outing to a local outlet mall. I did a Board and Brush class with my MIL and really enjoyed it! We went on coffee and park outings with Aunt Katelyn, and met friends for outdoor playdates and porch hangs.
Visitors: My friend Maeve came to visit in February and met Cooper for the first time! My family came to visit for Cooper's first birthday, my dad's birthday, and Father's day, and then visited again in September. Our dear friends visited for a beach day and a few shared meals in early August. My friend Molly came over with her little girl and we had coffee on the porch and the babies played together.
Finances and practical things: We took out a mortgage on our new-to-us house! And we bought a truck, something Nicholas had wanted for some time, and it turns out a truck is super handy. We love it. I implemented a weekly cleaning schedule, and nearly a year later, still loving it. Our home is cleaner overall, and I don't get stressed about cleaning. We bought yard care tools, and Nicholas bought some power tools. We bought some new furniture for our new space. And Nicholas built a new desk! A butcher block top, on steel legs. Turned out so well.
Rest: I wrote about a time of "forced rest" in April, as we intentionally stayed home as much as we could. Morning sickness forced me to rest more, and to ask for help during the summer. After our loss, the morning sickness resolved, but I gave myself some space from writing and sharing, and overall, this year I wrote less.
Movies, TV shows, and other things we watched: I'm not great at recording these, but I'll list what I can remember. TV shows: The Last Dance, Great British Bake Off, and The Queen's Gambit. We love seeing movies in theaters, but didn't make it even once this year. We did see and love Tenet. We watched all the Harry Potter movies in order, and started watching the Lord of the Rings extended versions, which we really do need to continue with. I watched a lot of knitting podcasts on YouTube. Other YouTube channels I enjoyed: Food52, Talasbaun (off-grid living in Sweden), and A Wooden Nest, another homestead vlog, with some knitting and natural dyeing content mixed in. Nicholas and I watched so many videos about Korean street food, and lots of woodworking videos.
Living in light of the seasons: I looked back at the last decade of life that I've spent with Nicholas, as we entered a new decade. I wrote about my thoughts on loving winter. We had the prettiest snowfalls. I wrote about the very beginnings of spring, before the leaves, and the way that mirrored my heart at that moment. I looked for wildflowers on walks with Cooper. I wrote about wearing shorts again and other summer favorites, and about laidback summery things, like blueberry crumble baking and hot, sticky park dates with friends. We did a few fun fall things, like visiting a pumpkin patch, and lots and lots of raking, enjoying fall as the first season in our new home. Come December, I added little bits of Christmas cheer, wherever I could. Cooper loved the snow, and definitely loved helping his daddy shovel. And I wrote a post the week of Christmas, about hope in Jesus, bright little lights of advent, and what brought us joy.
Motherhood: Cooper was 6.5 months at the start of the year and at the end 18.5 months (I understand how a year happens, but so much happens during that amount of time in a child's life). I wrote about Cooper at seven months, I wrote in detail about what my day with Cooper looked like at 8 months: "My hair wasn't brushed, I have dark circles, but the sun was warm, highlighting the joy and beauty in the thick of mothering a babe and figuring things out, highlighting this imperfect and grace-filled moment (this one and others like it throughout our days)." I wrote about Cooper at 9 months, and 10 months, and as his first birthday neared and Mother's Day arrived, I wrote about being his mama, arguably one of my favorite posts of the year. And then I wrote about his first birthday. In late summer, I jotted down our little morning routine. At the bottom of this post, I wrote about friendships in motherhood, and the grounding they bring to me. Cooper started walking! What a gift to see the world through his eyes. To spend literally every day of 2020 with my little buddy by my side.
Love & marriage: We celebrated seven years of marriage! I wrote about my favorite things about our marriage this year. As usual, I wrote him his annual birthday love letter for his thirtieth birthday. He gave me this beautiful book as an anniversary gift. We played a lot of Animal Crossing together, which was surprisingly fun. And as for fun routines, we watched The Great British Bake Off every Friday, alongside some kind of homemade baked treat (naturally). I had to make brownies for chocolate week, etc. And we adopted a fun little routine of Treat Yourself Tuesday, with foot baths and face masks and watching movies that are part of series. Snack plates for at-home date nights. Nicholas worked from home from April (I think?) onward, and is still working from home. We got to see daddy so much more this year. Our dear friends took family photos of us, right after we found out we were pregnant. I cherish these. We took the first vacation as a family of three, and we reaffirmed our love for the Great Lakes, where we live, where we want to flourish. We grieved our miscarriage together, and he baked my birthday cake with me.
Works in progress: I have reduced the amount of food waste we have, and I'm getting better and remixing leftovers to avoid waste, but I could still do more. And as ever, I still acknowledge the ever-challanging balance of staying connected with people I care about via technology, while not letting technology rule my life.
- In response to all the mornings as a mama to a little boy looking the same: "I'm asking myself this: what necessary routines can I dress up in specialness? What slow things can I celebrate for their slowness? There is much about parenthood that is rushed and chaotic, and still more, perhaps, that is slow, methodical, and beautiful. I'm trying to see it all."
- I wrote about my mantra for hard weeks.
- When writing about the nitty gritty of a regular day with an 8 month-old, "The thing about nostalgia, it's so often something we look back on and say those were the days. But what if I look at these days, these imperfect, long days, and say yes, these are the days. I'm going to find the beauty in them while I'm still in them."
- "Take courage. We don't have to be brave to trust Him, He holds us when we aren't and He makes us brave not through the promises of new life on this earth, but through promises in Christ, regardless of the season. One last thing I noticed on that walk yesterday was the new growth evident on the trees. I don't see any new leaves. But. If I truly look, I can see the new growth on the tree, as it prepares to sprout green. The same God who does this miracle every spring can stir up growth in our hearts, in our world, and in this odd season, long before we see the new leaves."
- We walked through miscarriage of our twins and the ensuing grief, and how I can feel more than one thing at home, grief and joy, side by side.
- I wrote about my aim to share the joy often: "I find that it's helpful to share the hard stuff sometimes, but share the joy often. So if you come up to me and I tell you about how I'm loving this stage with Cooper, my intention isn't to gloat or make my life seem perfect or rosy, it's to embrace the wonderful parts of a full, complex life. Ask me about the hard stuff and I will share. But it's healthiest for my heart to look at a normal day and say, God, you were faithful in so many things today. In my own life, I'm finding that a heart of praise isn't blind to struggles, nor is it consistently focused on them."
- the notion that we are His, and He will lead us. "Because whether the hardness of a life stage is poignant and heavy for you today or tomorrow, we can start everyday, not with the assurance of self-reliance and a can-do attitude, but with the notion that We are His, and He will lead us. Through teething, through sleepless nights, through illness, through financial hardship, loneliness, and long seasons of waiting, moves, and heartbreak, and unseen struggles, pray: Let me hear, and lead me on [into the future, with joy]."
- Writing about life in February: "I want to notice the things that bring me to praise. Snow, or baby eyelashes, or the sun through the trees, shedding light that becomes more pink as it lowers. The things that awaken my heart to praise feel like little gifts, little nudges that there is more than wake, eat, sleep each day. The Creator of this earth made slow snow, the kind that takes its time transforming an entire landscape (not unlike heart work that can take years and make us look radically different)."
Big life events: Nicholas got in a car wreck in February (literally yards from home after a snow/ice storm), totaling the Impala (he was unharmed, praise God). I wrote about 19 pockets of joy in response to Covid-19. We found out we were expecting twins, saw their heartbeats and tiny forms, and then weeks later, found out we lost them. I wrote about my grief, and turning thirty, and all the life events that happened simultaneously. We bought a house (our first!) and moved in October. And I wrote about making the house our own.
I think I've been hesitant to write about the year, because for our little family, it hardly feels tidy or wrapped up. Heartache trails into this year too, and I'm reminding myself that is okay. Right alongside the heartache, joy has trailed into 2021 as well. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, "Praise is the rehearsal of our eternal song. By grace we learn to sing, and in glory we continue to sing."
Every January, I assemble a blog post of sorts that catalogs our year. Largely organized in list-form, I touch on the big and little things, events and thoughts and experiences that shaped our life over the last year. I do find this incredibly helpful as a sort of reflection, a glance back on the Lord's faithfulness, to show me, time and time again, that He is a good God. And with that mindset, I feel less encumbered as we continue on into the new year, more ready to face a full year of new, fresh days, with the heart attitude that regardless of what the days will hold, mundane or exciting, difficult or good, I can walk into the future with hope and trust in Him. Plus, I do enjoy looking back on a lot of the little details of our life, the ones that make me smile or think, Oh, yes! We loved that! What a little joy in our life.
Every year, I find it a bit therapeutic to look back on the last year. I know my heart is bent toward nostalgia, and at times, I wonder if that is one of the reasons I find looking back easier than looking forward. That's something for me to mull over, perhaps. All that said, at the close of a year, I find that it is good heart medicine to ruminate over the good, the hard, and the in-between. To think on the things that are the same, things that are wildly different, what didn't produce joy, and what did.
Every January, when many are looking forward to the next year, I like to take a few moments to look back. I dig into what the previous year meant for me personally and what it meant for me and Nicholas in the context our our family and community. After I've done that, I feel like the year has a sort of closure, and I can look forward with clearer eyes. As is usual with my annual year-in-review posts,* I've grouped everything by category and linked to previous pertinent blog posts. This was a big year for us! But I suppose every year feels rather big because every year, in it's own style, is a year of full, hard, beautiful life.