The closing of the year.

In the last few days of 2011, I wanted to take a look back on the year, and provide some commentary on the major events of my life. First of all, I wanted to take a look at the progress I made on my New Year’s Resolutions of 2011:

Complete a half-marathon.

Stacy and I completed a half-marathon.

This, indeed, happened on April 3rd, 2011. After months of painful and dedicated training with the wonderful Stacy Hacker, we managed to run the entire 13.1 miles in the Knoxville Covenant Health Half-Marathon. My time was 2:32:15, which I felt was pretty impressive, considering I didn’t run at all a mere six months before the race. Of course, after the half-marathon was over, I decided I never wanted to run again, and Stacy has had to drag me kicking and screaming to our weekly running dates. (This may have something to do with me gaining back all of the 25 pounds that I lost in 2010.)

Explore locavore options.

I didn’t make as much progress with this as I wanted. I did manage to make it to the Farmer’s Market a couple of times, and even found some amazing bread from a local baker, but I have a long way to go to eating healthier and more locally.

Get married.

Gettin' hitched!

Believe it or not, I managed to pull this one off. Of course, I still suffered from the “Crap! The wedding is a month away and I’ve done nothing!” problem, but fortunately I was able to enlist the help of many wonderful friends and family members who brought the entire shindig together. It really did end up being one of the most wonderful days of my life. If you’re interested in finding out more about our Twitter-themed, budget wedding, you can do so here: http://www.tweetthiswedding.com

Continue therapy and self-healing.

I have continued seeing my therapist, though I confess this is one area I’ve really slacked off in. It’s taken me nearly a year to read a single book, and I still have several “assignments” from my therapist that I desperately need to complete. I have signed up for a mindfulness course in the spring, and I’m very much looking forward to learning more. Hopefully I can bring my focus back around to these areas soon.

Sleep an average of seven hours every night.

Questing for a good night's sleep.

It took me a while to get focused on the goal, but I’ve been doing much better with this the last quarter of the year. In fact, I wrote about my experiences with getting more sleep in this blog post. I still haven’t reached seven hours a night; I’m maxed out at just over six hours a night at the moment. Hopefully, this will continue to improve as time moves on. I definitely feel much more refreshed and relaxed when I get good sleep!

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Secondly, I wanted to take a look at some other major events of 2011, as much more happened than could be contained by my five small resolutions:

I made several major positive career moves in 2011.

I started out 2011 essentially working three jobs — my day office job, writing, and teaching part-time at a local college. I ended up dropping the teaching gig early on in the year because I could no longer take the stress of so much work. However, I moved to a different department at my office job, with a slight raise and a really awesome office, so I felt pretty good about that. I actually became really obsessed with trying to be a “career woman” for a few months, but then I dialed it back when I realized it was taking a toll on my health and my personal life. At the end of 2011, I think I’ve found a nice work-life balance. Here’s hoping I’m able to maintain it throughout 2012!

I watched A. develop, grow, and blossom throughout 2011, and I think I became a better parent in the process.

A. doing homework without being prompted.

It’s amazing how far A. has come in a year. I know I brag all the time in my blog about her, but I want to reiterate just how proud I am of her progress and development. Somehow, I think I became a better parent this year, too. I don’t know if it’s because of the attention I give to her life because I am constantly writing about her, or my involvement in a Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism which has shifted my perspective about many things in relation to autism, or my continual work on mindfulness and reading books like Parenting from the Inside Out by Dr. Daniel Siegel, or taking lessons in parenting from the observation of my husband’s interactions with her, but I feel as if I am much calmer, have much more patience, am much less inclined to enter into needless power struggles, and am much more focused A.’s triumphs and accomplishments than the frustrations and setbacks. It’s been a great year for A. and I’s mother-daughter relationship.

We bought a new car.

Me & Romana, together for the first time.

At the beginning of 2011, I was still driving Astrid, my 1998 Nissan Sentra with nearly a quarter of a million miles logged on its tachometer. She began giving off some pretty concerning death rattles about the time my husband paid off his car, so we took some of our savings to put a down payment on a 2010 Nissan Cube. I have christened the car Romana, and she is definitely bigger on the inside.

I continued teaching Sunday School.

Our classroom covenant.

This is my third year as a volunteer Religious Education teacher at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and it’s still an element of constant learning and celebration in my life. I’ve come to feel very attached to the kids who attend my class, and it’s amazing to watch their brains work, to watch them grow and develop, to watch them discover the world, and to throw out things for them to think about. This year, we’ve even gone on a few field trips, which has been a real treat for everyone involved. Every year, I think to myself that I’ll take a break from teaching, but then every year, I get excited all over again about being involved with these kids and continuing to learn from their questions and curiosity. Also, it’s getting a lot easier, just because I feel like I’ve finally locked into a rhythm and style of teaching that works.

I gave blood.

Working through my fear.

Despite my recently-awakened fears of needles and blood-giving, I forced myself through the process of donating blood this year. I was really proud of myself, because I was able to share my fear with complete strangers, to be intimate and vulnerable about my fear, and then to work through it. I won’t go into detail, because I wrote a long Google Plus post about it here, but it was a really positive experience for me, in addition to being an act of love for others.

We got a puppy.

Meet Pippin!

Thomas has wanted a puppy for a long while, now, so we decided to start looking around on the Internet for a Corgi we could rescue. When we saw this puppy’s profile, we both fell instantly in love. I even started having dreams about the dog before we met him! He was a Corgi/Jack Russell Terrier/Who Know What Else mix, and we rescued him from the Grainger County Humane Society. When we went to adopt him, I held him nuzzled against my neck for about half an hour — then was horrified when I broke out in itchy red welts! I wasn’t about to let that stop us from getting the puppy, however, because I’m stubborn like that! We named the puppy Pippin (specifically so we could exclaim “Fool of a Took!” whenever he did something ridiculous) and he’s an adorable addition to the family. Thankfully, my allergies have subsided somewhat, as well!

We took an awesome family vacation to the beach.

Catching the rays and the waves.

As a brand new Alley, I was introduced to the traditional Alley Vacation at Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Despite the fact we spent most of it in the middle of a tropical storm, we all had a fabulous time. I documented our adventures here, here, and here.

I got published for the second time in an actual printed book.

My name in print.

One of my entries from my blog about A. was tooled into an essay and selected for publication in the book A Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. I really could not be more proud to be a part of an anthology than this one. This book really is the number one resource I would recommend to a parent of a freshly-diagnosed autistic child, or for anyone wanting to know more about autism. It’s wonderful, positive, honest, and fact-based, and it has been created by a community of amazing people that I’ve been honored to be involved with over the past year. It’s really helped shape my perspective and ideas and has been a wonderful experience. I had previously written a very small article for The Encyclopedia of Appalachia, so this is the second time in my life that I’ve had the privilege of seeing my work in print.

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From flipping through my Instagram feed, I can also see that I drank a lot of wine, took many bubble baths, and ate a lot of Nutella in 2011. It was obviously a very good year.

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For 2012, I want to experiment in letting go of my goals. This is inspired by a movement I’ve seen in minimalist circles where part of living a meaningful and purposeful life involves living without goals. I still feel as if I need to keep track of my projects and also continue to make my visual schedule, at least for the time being, but my first step in learning to live without goals will be to not create definable benchmarks for 2012. Next year, I’ll simply take note of the accomplishments I made, and we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I will move through my life as mindfully and purposefully as possible, spending a lot of time doing things I enjoy, am excited, or am passionate about. If I spend each moment living in that moment with full intention and attention instead of ignoring the present and focusing on the future, I am guessing I will be happier, healthier, and less stressed. Hopefully, living with intention will help my life fall into a wholesome place naturally and organically.

So, as 2011 draws to a close, I raise my glass to the infinite possibility of 2012, declaring my excitement at what the new year may bring.

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