Hello, 2016

New Years

So, you know. I ended 2015 how I wanted to spend most of it, the most life-changing year of my life: asleep. Despite a valiant effort to stay up with Spencer to welcome 2016 at my in-laws’ home, I passed out on the couch . . . at 8:30 p.m.

I mean, I am 30 now.

In my defense, I’d been up since 4:30 a.m. with the little guy — and I did wake up 15 minutes before the official ball drop, so I was technically awake at midnight. I just . . . can’t remember much before or after that.

New Year’s always tastes bittersweet to me. I always find it a little . . . melancholy. Saying goodbye to another year; heading into an unknown future. Trading the sparkle and glitz of Christmas and an action-packed December for the cold, empty calendar of January.

But 2015? It was the year I became a mother: the year I found out we would welcome a son, grappled with his premature birth and settled in as a family of three. Becoming a parent pushed me to my absolute edge — physically, mentally, emotionally — and there were times when, yes, I worried that this much-longed-for child would have me packing a passport, dying my hair blonde and changing my name.

But that was the exhaustion talking.


It was a tough year, a great year, a joyous year, a terrifying year. I experienced moments of pure happiness and bouts of fear and guilt so intense they threatened to carry me away. In 2015, I was the happiest I’ve ever been: the moment Oliver first offered his first real smile; coming down to find my amazing husband cradling our child in his arms, both asleep on the couch; watching Ollie’s face light up with pride when he rolled over on his own.

But I was the saddest I’ve ever been, too: sitting desolate in the hospital before he was born, a tight blood pressure cuff’s readings sealing my fate; the agony of childbirth; being discharged without Oliver. I have never cried as I did the first night spent without his kicks as he lay in an isolette in Baltimore, hours away. I have never felt that broken. The weight of that fear and despair? Not something I can articulate, really. It was . . . heartbreak.

Life pushed forward, however. Ollie got stronger (and cuter! sweeter!), and our Ollie came home. I don’t take that for granted — not for a second. We got through it and, with time, I’m learning to get past it. But I don’t punish myself on the tough days when I can’t, either.

In all, 2015 was the year I learned I’m made of some pretty tough stuff. When I became a mother, my heart grew ten sizes — and so did my backbone.

Honestly, the year was a blur — a hazy, lazy, dreamy and overwhelming mix of 2 a.m. feedings, diaper blow-outs, baby giggles, lots of snuggles and days spent in my pajamas. I barely read, tried to clean, didn’t vacation . . . but the little corner of our living room where I first held my baby boy at home became our haven, and it’s where we sit together every day.

And through it all, I continued to work full-time. Becoming a working mom has added an entirely new dimension to my stress, but it’s a challenge I’ve accepted — and can manage. Our newspaper was sold over the summer, followed swiftly by many changes in just a few months. After many friends were laid off in October, I’ve had to tackle entirely new challenges — and have adapted. Pressed forward.

I have grown.

In an attempt to not set myself up for failure, I’m not making “resolutions” for 2016 — but I want to continue to grow. And cut myself some slack. As a lifelong perfectionist, it’s hard to admit when I need help . . . but I don’t scold myself when I get behind on emails, let the dirty bottles wait until morning or choose to knock out some shows on the DVR rather than vacuum. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter.

Making “time for myself” is something of a misnomer, but I am finding ways to slowly return to the hobbies I’ve shelved since Oliver was born. Now that we’re all sleeping more, I have renewed energy to read — and plan to knock out some books that have been languishing in the library for years in 2016.

Ollie will turn 1 in April. We’re going to have a hell of a party. Spencer turns 30 in May, and I’ll be 31 this summer. Though our plans lately have, for the most part, centered on just getting through each day, I want to return to healthier habits and start meal planning again. I haven’t decided if I’m ready to recommit to Weight Watchers but, after experiencing much success in 2013, it’s definitely an option. We’ll see how it goes.

Regardless, I do want to get healthy again. In my post-preeclampsia life, I know how important it is for me to lose weight and get my blood pressure under control — and that will be a focus as I move forward. I want to choose my health. I’m just afraid of putting any hard-and-fast rules on myself, as with Weight Watchers, because I don’t want to ride the accompanying waves of guilt if I “fail.”

Progress, not perfection.

We have so many milestones to come with Ollie: talking, crawling, walking, running. He’s already changed so much in the last nine months — I can’t wait to see more of his little personality develop. He’s already so funny, quirky and sweet. Even on the dark, tough days, I adore being a mom. His mom.

But I’m also a wife, daughter, sister, employee, friend. A writer, reader, photographer and serious coffee drinker. These roles have changed dramatically in the last 12 months . . . and I’m still discovering new facets and challenges for each. But it’s okay to learn as we go.

Isn’t that what we all must do?

As I plod back into work tomorrow morning to sift through emails, clear out the residual holiday decorations and hang up a shiny new calendar, I’m ready — and eager — to push forward.

The best, as they say, is yet to come.

So this is the new year

Tinsel and ornament

Happy, happy 2014! Something about a fresh, sparkly year makes me feel so inspired and excited and ready. And though I’m not making official resolutions this year, I definitely enjoy the process of reflection . . . and the idea of tweaking my habits to help build a more fulfilling life.

If 2013 taught me anything, it’s that I can do much more in an average day than I once believed. Post-college life has made me a little lazy. Back when I was a student? Well, I commuted to school, took a full course load and worked at least 30 hours a week in the evenings and on weekends. In between my time at the craft or book store, I studied and wrote papers and read, read, read. It was challenging at points, but I got it done.

When I got promoted at the paper in 2009, I quit my second job at Borders and, for the first time in my adult life, found my nights were actually my own. I had time. I started reading and writing more, then really committed to this blog. I took up photography, put myself back into the dating scene, started my Etsy shop. I got hobbies, basically. I got a life.

Then I got engaged.

Last year was consumed by wedding planning. When I wasn’t working, I was typing into spreadsheets and designing invitations and searching for the perfect red shoes. I moved, then had to regroup and reorganize. And then it was Thanksgiving and Christmas and there was so much to do, and I didn’t have time to think about what was next . . . because I had presents to wrap, cookies to bake. You know completely. You understand.

But the tinsel has been swept up with the crumpled ribbons and bows. The holidays are over. We’re taking down the Christmas tree this weekend, a ritual I find both sad and refreshing. I’m sitting in our apartment with my newly-chopped-off hair (y’all, it is short!), listening to our downstairs neighbor’s rock music pour through the floor, and it’s a strange but brave new world.

And what now?

The time I spent endlessly arranging the details of Katie’s wedding and my own is now crisp and fresh and ready to be filled. Though I’m working my full-time schedule, like always, my evenings are once again my own.

I feel the possibilities, tingly and exciting.

I’m daydreaming about upping my ante with photography, getting into a light exercise routine, expanding our healthy-meal repertoire, doing some traveling. I also want to recommit to my writing and start working on the book I’ve had floating around in my brain for years, always buried and hidden under “someday.”

I want someday to be now.

Last year was filled with high highs and low lows, a year of uncertainty and deep love and change. It feels good to finally be settled, even if being settled can be unsettling, too.

But I’m going to get going. Get gutsy. Keep trying.

This will be our year.

An exciting and complicated and beautiful year

ChampagneI always find New Year’s Eve to be a little melancholy.

Maybe that’s just my own issue — and my own predilection to see the glass as half empty. Though  I consider myself a happy person, it’s easier for me to lean toward gloom-and-doom than sunshine. It’s not something I like about myself, and I’ve worked hard to become more positive since going through Some Issues as a teenager.

Though 27-year-old me is very far from the 14-year-old version. Thank goodness.

Despite some great things that happened in 2012, I’m not sorry to say goodbye to a year that was both exciting, challenging and heart-wrenching. With the death of my uncle in January came my first metallic taste of real, visceral loss. I was lucky to make it to my late twenties before losing an immediate family member, I know, but it didn’t make it any less difficult. We all miss him.

I tried hard not to let that early devastation color the entire year. I made it my mission, actually, to continue moving forward and try to be a better person — a better sister, daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend. I will remember this year as one in which I really grew up — and not just because I ended it with a ring on my finger. I tried to comfort those who needed comforting, aid those in need of help. I tried to be strong when others needed me to be — even if it meant stuffing down my own feelings. We do that sometimes, don’t we? For the people we love.

New York CityBut this wasn’t a dark year. I won’t remember it that way. My sister and I made a memorable weekend jaunt to New York City to see “Newsies,” which was awesome, and I loved getting away — just the two of us! — in the spring. Spencer and I took our first trip together in May, hitting Northern California, and I fell in love with Yosemite National Park — and more in love with him. In June, my entire family took our annual trip to the Outer Banks — and in August, Spence and I went to New York to spend time with his family.

I spent time with loved ones, tried to keep in touch with friends, worked hard. I took my first hot air balloon ride, snapped tons of photos and read lots of books. In December, my sister and I both got engaged — I know, you’re already sick of me talking about it! — and I’m grateful that we’re planning our nuptials at the same time . . . because I’m finding it hard to think about my little sister growing up. My own crush of wedding plans will distract me from the sadness I’ll inevitably feel as we both move out of our childhood home, something that weighs heavy on me.

But on New Year’s Eve, a day we bid goodbye to one year and welcome another, I’m feeling calm — and inspired. Though I’m not sure what 2013 will hold, I know it will be a big and bold and exciting and complicated and beautiful one. I’m not making any formal resolutions, but will plan to try and stare down the challenge I’ve faced for a decade: living in the moment. In 2013, I hope I can slow down and breathe, choosing to take it all in, and find pockets of time to just be.

Now who’s got the champagne?

The Year I Read Whatever I Want

If Lynn weren’t my middle name, I’m pretty sure it would be “Competitive.” For the most part, I’m completely unable to do things halfway — and once I’ve signed my name to something, you’d better believe I’ll come through. I’m not one to commit to a project without a clear intention of finishing, and that’s why it pains me to say . . .

I’m dropping out of all my reading challenges.

Yes, friends, the pressure has officially gotten to me. After years (years!) of trying to wrap up certain bookish competitions, I’m wiping the slate clean. Gone is my goal of reading 100 books in a year (I’m at 83 — and more on that in the future). I’ve said adios to reading more young adult, chick lit or historical fiction . . . just because. In a post from January, Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog called 2010 her “year of reading deliberately,” and I’m pretty much in love with that phrase. That’s what 2011 will be for me.

That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy seeing others complete challenges — or value them myself! In trying to complete reading challenges since I started blogging in 2008, I’ve had tons of fun reading new authors and setting goals for myself. I like goals — I enjoy goals — but I’ve decided I need a break. I need to relax and not be so . . . intense about my reading schedule. I need to allow myself to start a large book if I want to, never fearing that I won’t be “reading enough” and filling a book quota if it takes me a week or two to complete one novel rather than my standard two or three days.

As I’ve said: I’m super competitive. Once I start something, I want to win, darn it! I want to vanquish — and conquer! I’m a sore loser and, occasionally, a bad sport. And I know myself well enough to understand that in order to recover a modicum of my sanity, I need to make 2011 The Year I Read Whatever I Want.

I’m not going to stop accepting review copies, taking suggestions or welcoming new books into my home; I’m humbled and grateful for those sent for my consideration. But what I am going to do is strike more of a balance between reading what I want — books I’ve chosen — and those sent for review. I’m going to work steadfastly to clear some space in my super-tall bookcase, which is now at capacity once again. I’m going to grab novels that strike my fancy and buy a book at a bookstore Just Because. I’m not going to check a thousand and one reviews of it first, then weigh the pros and cons of making an “investment” in a paperback.

I’m just going to buy the darn book.

Or, you know, borrow it. That’s something else I’d love to do more of in 2011: visit my local library, which can be a treasure trove of both lesser-known and new books. I want to wantonly choose a novel and finish it whenever I feel like it (without accruing library fines, of course).

In short, I want to read Whatever I Want.

How about you — are you making any reading goals for 2011? Planning to participate any challenges that might make me re-think my whole “OMG No Challenges!” thing? Are you going to Read Whatever You Want, too?

Hoodie love

Happy New Year! I hope everyone managed to get some rest last night, didn’t find themselves in any sort of trouble and woke up today ready to tackle a fresh year of new challenges. Or… you just had a good time! You know, whichever.

terps_hoodieI’m off today and plan to spend most of it cleaning up around the house, going back through all of my great Christmas gifts and pondering when to take down all of the decorations. And I’m going shopping, too. Some of these gift cards are burning a hole in my pocket… and I could really use some new casual clothes. Since I became one of the legions of women sauntering around in “business casual” clothes a year and a half ago, I’ve been stocking up on dark separates, slacks and boots ever since. The problem there? I’m managed to completely overlook my “evening wear.” I wear silky tops and heels all day long, and when I get home I just want to throw on something and be comfortable. This usually results in that most dreaded of all pieces of apparel post-college: the hoodie.

In my pink Maryland hoodie... and being beat up by my dog

In my pink Maryland hoodie... and being beat up by my dog

Let’s be honest: hoodies are great. In the fall, walk around any university campus in the country and you’ll be assaulted by the fleecy goodness of school pride. The first crisp day in which you can wear your school sweatshirt is a very happy day — and college freshmen everywhere make purchasing their school’s hoodie one of their first orders of business. And what’s not to like? They’re warm, they’re comfortable, they allow you to express your collegiate pride or joy about a band or remind you of a great vacation you took. On our way to Europe in May 2007, my sister was freezing during a lay-over in North Carolina. What did she buy on our way to Italy and England? A North Carolina hoodie! With flip-flop decals! So now when she wears that N.C. sweatshirt, I think of Europe. See? Memories!

But I’ve been told by friends — and, well, Stacy and Clinton on TLC’s “What Not To Wear” — that the modern woman can’t survive on hoodie apparel alone. I would never go out for a family function or an evening out or some sort of “sophisticated” gathering in one of my many UMD hoodies, but the fact is that when I get home at the end of the day, that’s the first thing I’m pulling on. Usually with pajama pants, no less.

No, I’ve got to class it up a bit. I have a few gift cards, some free time and the will to make a positive change in my appearance this year — and I’m going to put it all to good use at Kohl’s, I suspect. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get really crazy and cut my hair — or try to lose some weight. Anything is possible!