January 13, 2015

Looking back and Looking forward

December 2014 was a very full, overwhelming month. Chris was in Africa for work for nearly half of it, during finals week and beyond. This made my final grading period (which is an already stressful time) feel that much more intense. Then a few days after he returned, we flew to Disney World. It was a lot of fun but corresponded with one of Disney World's busiest times of year. We were home just in time to celebrate Christmas, which was wonderful. But soon after Chris began a renovation project that involved moving everything out of our bedroom (where almost all of my clothes and accessories reside). I was grateful to save on labor costs but it was a lot to manage in part because I had a lot of work to do removed from this. I am teaching two new classes this semester so I had a great deal of course prep to complete. I also was trying to finish the revision plan for my book project (which is progressing thanks to the university press who solicited it!!). And even now that I am one week into the new semester, my bedroom remains a work in progress.

Despite this busy time, the end of the holiday season always brings a little sadness. The house feels so empty after we take down the tree. I tried my best to brace Emilia for the change since she loves the decorations. It seems to have helped her understand because I've heard her say, "Christmas over. I sad." Me too, my dear. Me too.

Looking back, 2014 was a very full and at times overwhelming (but mostly great) year. I passed my pre-tenure review. I helped start a company that secured angel investment and launched a mobile app. I received an award for my dissertation and presented my work at conferences. I visited Cleveland, Anna Maria Island, Ft. Lauderdale, Washington DC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Orlando. I learned that I can manage parenting and running the house while Chris is literally an ocean away because of work (thank goodness for extended family who live nearby, especially my mom, sister, and mother-in-law). I was contacted by a university press about my research. And so I proposed and thankfully heard favorable word about my dissertation book project. I congratulated loved ones who got married, were promoted, became engaged, were pregnant, had babies, and more. My own mother retired from her career of 37+ years to pursue many interests, including helping me balance my own career with motherhood. She now watches Emilia for me which has been amazing.

There was a lot to celebrate. And most excitingly perhaps, I saw Emilia, my completely delightful, terrific 2 year old, grow, change, learn, and revel. With every passing moment I marvel over how she is my favorite, right here, right now. She just keeps being my favorite with every development and change. Chris and I are in awe over our fun, sweet, smart, and cool kiddo. And after getting through this year, particularly during the difficult periods when we were apart due to his often stressful, intense job, I grew that much more in love and in like with Chris. It is very hard to be apart, particularly because I see how confusing it is for Emilia. Even now, almost a month after his most recent return, she asks me with much worry "where's daddy?" if she can't find him in the morning. But even with the travel, we are so lucky that he has this job. We are lucky that we both have jobs that enable us to live near our extended families and in a city we love so much. Considering that we're both academics, it feels that much more fortunate to have chosen where we get to live and work. I hope we continue to be so fortunate.

Looking forward, I want to keep perspective. I want my gratitude to neutralize my stress completely, but for me, that's unrealistic.  At minimum, I hope that I don't lose sight of the good when I am in the inevitable throes of overwhelm in 2015. There were times during 2014 when it was difficult to see the forest. Especially when Chris was half a world away from us. But toward the end of Chris's second trip to Africa, I really began to get a footing. It also helped that his wifi in the hotels got subsequently more consistent with each trip. Facetime was our lifeline. This year when he goes, I will have my own little routine of how to run things alone. It won't be easy while teaching two new classes, revising my book manuscript, and taking care of a 2 year old and an elderly dog. But I know from experience that we will get through it. Hopefully we will thrive. Happy (belated) new year!

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