Sunday, January 18, 2015

Looking Forward: A New Year's Goals Post for 2015

2015. What does this year have in store? So much of life is unpredictable. Some of it good, like promotions or marriage. Sometimes it's something that has the potential to be devastating, like car wrecks or cancer. There can be 'lucky' opportunities that come up, and there can be unfortunate setbacks. There's a lot that it is outside of our direct control.

Last year, I had a combination of both with my youngest sister coming back into my life after speaking up about the abuse she also suffered at the hands of our mother. My father got temporary custody of her, and for now she is safe. But it wasn't easy to achieve that. From me, it required a lot of mental anguish, painful decisions, and ultimately having to face my mother again - this time, by testifying against her in court. The experience was unpredictable, but yet there is no doubt that God's hand was in this. It was necessary for my sister's freedom, yet difficult as a painful reality had to be faced and handled wisely. It brought me back to face my past again, this time with the maturity of an adult but also the lingering fear of the helpless child of long ago.

I believe that God can ultimately turn any experience into something good, even when it seems nearly impossible. Even the entire experience of humanity, which has its moments of joy and happiness but is marred by suffering and eventual death, will be transformed into something beautiful by Him. It will end well because it leads to His glory.

Speaking of individual experiences, it's time to look forward to what's next in 2015. So much cannot be planned, but some of it can be, and I want to seize the opportunity to do what I can with what is within my control.

A Goals
    1) Finish the first draft of my memoir. A manuscript ready to send in to publishers would be even better. This means I will need to spend a good chunk of my free time working on it. No big new projects until this one is done.
    • Key metric: Chapters with the bulk of their content completed (i.e. the main stories I want to include in the book) by the end of July shutdown. July-Dec: Editing, editing. 
    2) Invest in my important relationships. Husband, nieces, nephews, sisters, brother, parents.
    • Seeing my core family (brother & sis-in-law, parents, younger sister, older sisters and their families) several times this year. So far I have seen my mother, sister, brother-in-law, 2 nieces and 2 nephews so far this year, and it's only January. Plans include (in chronological order):
      1.  Visit to see my sister in February
      2.  Celebrating my oldest sister's 40th birthday in Las Vegas with her, her husband, another older sister, and her husband. I've never been to Vegas so it will be interesting to experience a new place.
      3. My college friend's wedding, which is near my sister so I will get to see her as well 
      4. Celebrating the same sister's birthday with my mom and sisters  for a girls' weekend in Asheville, NC
      5. Spending a long weekend with my brother, sister-in-law, husband, and sister this summer. I love hanging out with them, and want to be proactive about making that happen.
      6. Thanksgiving with my parents in SC
      7. Christmas with my husband's family in AR
      8. Probably another visit to see my brother around the holidays
    • Sending birthday cards to all those whom I can't celebrate with in person. I know it feels so nice when I get cards on my birthday. It's a simple thing to do to remind those I care about that I love them.   
    • Continuing to be a part of my little sister's life, and witnessing her journey toward recovery. I will help where I can, but I acknowledge every recovery is different.  
    • Dates with my husband, spending dedicated time for conversation and reflection. Also, hiking, particularly some overnight hikes. Something special to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary this year. Every year I realize more and more how blessed I am to have him.
    B goals
    • Be more caring and helpful at work, and invest in relationships with my coworkers. Continued technical competence and learning is important too. 
    • Continued involvement in our church, particularly our small group. 
    • Switch to a project-based role in my department in May/June. Work days will be much more predictable and less chaotic than they are with my current production-based role
    • Work less when possible. I spend too much time at work. We don't need the money, and it doesn't make me more productive.  My goal is to take at least 15 vacation days in 2015, which will require me to use some of my overtime for vacation time, instead of getting paid for it like I did in 2014.
    • Begin planning a trip for 2016 to Napa Valley with my husband for our anniversary.
    • Train for and run another trail race. Not a big deal if I don't do this, but it would be nice.
    • Possibly going to court again to testify on my sister's behalf
    • Possibly moving to a slightly larger house that is hopefully closer to work. 
    • More Japan travel, including a hike to the summit of Mt. Fuj!
     This is the last year of my twenties - I hope it is a good one and I intend to try to make it so.

    Thursday, January 1, 2015

    2014 Reflection

    2014 was a good year in some ways, and a tough year in others. Let's get through the tough first:

    The tough:
    • I "volunteered" (aka said 'yes' without fully understanding the extent of what I was undertaking) to coordinating our entire 300+ person departmental portion of our plant's open house. It was an overwhelming task that took hundreds of hours from my already overburdened work responsibilities. It was incredibly stressful and there was not much benefit to my professional growth nor really a significant long-term contribution to my department. I did get to meet and work with more people than I normally would have, which was good. Overall, it was not a great experience though, despite some positives. In the future, I will be much more careful before jumping to commit to something in an attempt to please.
    • Testifying on court about the abuse on behalf of my little sister. 
    • Might seem like a small thing but I got my hair cut WAY to short. Never again!

    The good:

    My little sister
    • My 13 year old sister, with whom I had no contact for 7 years for a complicated set of reasons, came back into my life due to her courage in speaking the truth. Her bravery motivated me to speak my own truth on her behalf and confront some of my demons. And now, she is in my life again, by the grace of God. I did not expect this blessing this year, and I receive it - her- with gratitude.   
    • Hugging her again for the first time in 7 years.
    • Rollerblading for the first time together. Independently, this was one of our favorite past-times that we didn't even know we shared.  
    • Getting to know the incredible, funny, smart, and strong girl she is. I am blessed to witness her own journey toward freedom and recovery.
    My brother and sister-in-law
    • My relationship with my brother deepened. I really came to a better understanding that his experience growing up was different than mine, and that was OK. It didn't threaten my memories or sense of what's real. 
    • Wedding dress-shopping with my sister-in-law-to-be, and the next day early morning coffee and conversation with my brother.
    • Their wedding in May. My brother was SO happy, and having this lovely lady as a sister-in-law has been a huge blessing to me. I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness as I watched my sister-in-law walk down the aisle. They are perfect for each other, a love story that was fifteen years in the making. 
    • Having my brother and sister-in-law over and laughing and playing games until late at night.
    • Pre-Christmas get-together at their house. Playing with their pets. Sitting on the couch until the wee hours of the morning laughing hysterically at funny TV shows. 
    My husband
    • He quit his job and came back home. OK, this warrants some explanation: We had been separated due to his job during the week since August 2013, and it was really hard to be apart. After some prayer and reflection, he left the job in October 2014 (it was supposed to be a year-long gig, so it was time). Having him home has been comforting. We don't want to be apart like that again.
    • Continue to learn how to love and how much I love my husband. God was very good to me in giving me him.
    • Enjoying wine and live music with my husband. We found a nearby winery we really like, and sharing that time and conversation with him is a very pleasant past time we've both come to enjoy.
    • Christmas break together. We had a stay-cation and I enjoyed a routine of sleeping in, drinking gourmet coffee, making pancakes, writing until lunch, working out, more writing, then evenings binge-watching TV shows with my husband. So pleasant. 
    My job/career
    • I continued to learn and do reasonably well in my 'new' job (I had started in Sept 2013). There was internal and external confirmation that this role is a good fit for my skills and ability. After a few years of trying things after college, it seems that I've narrowed down what is a good match.
    • Getting better at my job and getting positive feedback from multiple people. There is a lot of satisfaction in doing good work.
    • Two mentoring relationships at work that helped me grow.
    • Going to a nearby university with some coworkers to talk about careers in engineering with students 
    My spiritual health:
    • We began to get involved in a small group at church, which had been one of our spiritual/community goals for a while. It's been slow, but we are forming relationships with other believers. I particularly enjoy the conversations we had regarding what we were studying. It feels good to be part of a community.  
    • Continuing to work with my counselor on recovery and healing. Despite the relapse, I did make progress in my emotional and spiritual health 
    My fitness
    • Hikes. Lots and lots of hikes with my husband
    • I began doing a lot more trail-running, including one race. I really enjoy it, and it doesn't hurt my hip as much as regular running. Some of the happiest times I had were cruising down a trail, navigating the terrain and anticipating what's around the next bend
    My family
    • Having fun at a family wedding with my husband, sisters, brothers-in-law, parents, nieces, and nephews
    • Sleepovers with my niece. They are so much fun.
    • Having our Christmas meal at out house with my husband, parents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew. It was so fun. I really enjoyed preparing the house and meal for everyone. It felt so peaceful and perfect, from playing Go Fish with my nieces to laughing at dinner with the adults. I love my family.
    • My sister's courage also enabled some healing in my relationship with my father. The relationship is still tenuous but it is better, and helped me learn to extend the same grace that has been extended to me.
    • One of the girls that was in the youth group I co-led when I was 19 moved to the same city as me, and it was really neat to reconnect with her. She has been a source of encouragement to me. 
    • Becoming friends with one of my coworkers who went through some similar experiences as I did. We connected before we knew that about each other, but we have a deep bond now.
    It was a difficult year in some ways, but listing it out, I can definitely see the good far outweighs the tough. I can definitively say that 2014 was a good, blessed year.