Here we are on the very last day of 2014: my house is a colossal mess (which somehow seems appropriate for the end of this year), my toddler is playing in the bath (french doors to the bathroom are open and I can see him), and I can hear my sweet hubby concocting a dinner in the kitchen in between asking me what I am doing. But I wanted just to take a few moments to simply ignore the mess, take advantage of my hubby’s patience (once again), and let the bathroom get soaked head to toe by my busy 2-year old, so that I can acknowledge and wave good-bye to our amazing 2014 – the things that went well and that I will wave good-bye to with fondness, and the low times that I will gladly let sit behind me.
It has been a year of wonder, challenge, health (and learning more about health), forgiveness, self-acceptance, new beginnings, and learning. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars in self-improvement study and courses that have been life-changing. In addition to running my photography business, I became certified in professional coaching and launched my life-coaching business (a more formal addition to something I have been doing all my life!). Beginning the life coaching was one of the most personally rewarding things I have done in a long time (aside from photography, which always feels like an act of love and creation through honoring life and connection). It was also a year where I was personally challenged with several pretty major upheavals spread throughout the year. It is a year that in many ways will serve as a marker: an end-point and a starting point for many things. It is a year that I am not sad to see go. Some years are like chocolate and you just want to savor them and relish in the wonder of all that went right. This was not one of those years! As I mentioned briefly in our family holiday card: think kitchen lights out (electrical craziness that went on for weeks), stepping in dog poop on the floor, followed immediately by my toddler throwing his glass bottle on the floor. There is nothing like cleaning up poop and glass in the dark to teach you about the need for a sense of humor! And it has seemed to be mostly moments like THOSE that made up this year. And looking back, it’s okay. I’m not fighting it or sorrowful even that we had such a year – I have been around long enough now to know that some years just go like that.
That said, this year also had it’s amazing highlights: it reaffirmed for me the absolute importance of family and especially the bonds that exist between sisters, the healing power of gratitude even in the lowest lows, it reminded me of the significance of the journey of self-acceptance (and that it is a LONG journey!), and allowed some big “aha” moments which included some new beginnings, including in my most important relationships. I got to work with some amazing clients and be of service to people in ways that fulfill my calling in life as I witnessed them make significant changes in theirs. I was filled with excitement in ways I haven’t known before this year for my journey ahead and my place in the world. I held myself to new standards, learned a phenomenal amount, and at times fell back into some patterns that don’t work for long periods of time (including too much coffee, not enough sleep). I got to know more about my role as a mother, and my individual needs as a person when it comes to finding balance that works in the context of full-time motherhood and busy working-hood, too.
Some days being a mom was harder than being anything else, especially patient or nice. I definitely would not have won my mom’s smiley-face contest on the hardest days, and there were plenty of those. And many days being a mom brought me more joy than I’ve ever known.
Together my hubby and I have continued to learn how to relate – how to support a spouse through tough stuff, how to apologize, how to co-parent, how to nurture our own relationship in the context of overworked days and underslept nights, how to fall out of balance, and how to find it again and again. We are learning how to listen, how to forgive ourselves, how to start over each day with our rambunctious little munchkin, with ourselves, and with each other, and try to be at least a bit better than we were the day before.
This year was rich, rewarding, extraordinarily trying, and is now complete.
Below are just a few highlights, in pictures and words, of our year. Big thanks to family, friends and clients who have all been a part of it!!
January was a big month! I made the decision to start a new business (professional coaching). For many of you (my friends), you also know that I am an attorney. In many ways the coaching seems like a natural extension of my legal career (if not a way to conclude my legal career and continue “counseling” clients). All in due time, but as with much of what I undertake in life, I jumped in with two feet and started my training.
My little guy was 18 months in January and provided endless challenges and fun. He turned into a daddy’s boy at 14 months, and there were some really rough times there in the middle of his second year that were hard on mommy! But, one thing we always enjoy as a family is time outside. Photos below from Golden Garden Beach in Seattle.
Despite the gloomy weather, we got lots of time together at Greenlake (walking, playing at the playground, and time exploring, too). Our little guy also got to celebrate Valentine’s day with us, which he thought was pretty exciting because he is obsessed with balloons, and daddy got him his very own heart balloon for the special day.
Our big boy got his first umbrella. He was obsessed with them for awhile before we got him his own (calling them “cinder-umbreya” (like Cinder-umbrella, which he couldn’t separate from Cinderella because it rhymes, and which he pronounced with a “y” sound instead of an “l” sound). You can see, big or small, there was not an umbrella he didn’t want to hold …. all. the. time.
April was rough. We endure miscarriage number 3. It was an immediately throwback into the fear and pain I experienced with the first two, before our little munchkin arrived. I returned to feelings of gratitude for the little family I have, and as we always do, sought healing time in nature. We spent the time immediately after our loss exploring the Skagit valley, soaking in the beauty of the tulips (and Tulip Festival), and visiting nurseries. Later in the month, we launched into some really good times with the Norovirus when all of my extended family got together in Walla Walla for a weekend. All five siblings + spouses + kiddos, + grandparents, i.e. 20+ people got it within 24 hours of each other. Our weekend of family fun turned into one big long race to the toitey, the towel closet, and the washer and dryer. You can imagine the joy that comes with 20+ people all throwing up every 15 minutes for hours on end. It was a sight to behold, and by that I mean that I hope that you never have to behold such a sight yourself!! The amount of laundry done that weekend in one household I think has probably never been equaled anywhere in the world.
Apparently May was not a personally photographic month (no personal photos to share). It was a lowlight – another difficult month as we continued to deal with our loss. On the family front, most everyone healed up from the virus that rhymes with toro that starts with N and slammed into us at the end of April, except for my herneated stomach. So May was the beginning of a long journey this year dealing with a bit of heat in my esophagus, and by a bit of heat, I really mean a barrel-load! Next time this happens (should it happen again), I would just forget about all that “figure it out yourself”/”try natural remedies”/”totally revamp your diet” nonsense, and hook myself right up to the omeprazole (stomach acid blocker) hose! Wow, what a hard lesson learned! (In the following months I learned that I am not very good at feeling crummy for months on end. And I was further reminded of the immense feeling of gratitude that comes with a clean bill of health despite some (painful) hiccups.)
Our little nut turned two. To celebrate, we took our first REAL family vacation and decided upon the travel method favored by all parents of toddlers: road trip hell. What could be more fun than hours and hours on the road with a squirmy, screamy monster yelling “no no no!” every five seconds at the top of his lungs. The only thing that made the trip better was camping in a major rain storm (everybody does better without any sleep). We basically created the perfect formula for NEVER TAKING ANOTHER VACATION. We arrived in Bend, Oregon, and checked in to our motel, which just happened to smell a wee bit like smoke. I knew the motel was in trouble when steam started pouring out of Phil’s ears … long story short, we ended up in a pretty plush spot (budget-be-damned!) where we spent the rest of our vacation swimming in the pool and getting take-out from the same hole-in-the-wall mexican restaurant so that we never had to spend more than one minute in public with a screaming toddler. Our evenings were spent taking mommy and daddy time-outs, where one of us stayed with the screamer locked in the hotel room and the other nearly insane adult left to drive around for 20 minutes before returning to the hotel to swap shifts. It was like our little guy knew he turned two on the trip and wanted to do something about it! Although we all considered ourselves pretty lucky to survive, we still managed to take in loads of gorgeous country, amazing weather and even got a few pictures too. 🙂
July brought heat, which turned into naked babies, and was a time for fun with family and cousins. At a low time, and in the midst of several months of some depression (health, motherhood, family trip from hell), I was super grateful for the laughter that always comes with family time. And now, every time we return to Walla Walla, Aiden says “no fireworks please.” Apparently watching them old-school style next to the wheatfields from the back of a pick-up truck on the 4th of July wasn’t as much of a hit as we thought!
The highlights of August included more time in nature: time next door with Ben, our favorite 94-year old man anywhere, who gives gift after gift from his garden to our little curious cutie. The second weekend of August I was treated by my sisters to a “cheer Heather up” weekend, thoughtfully planned by all of them (they even attempted to secretly abduct me so I wouldn’t know where I was headed) that included lots of girls, lots of laughter, a few babies (though not my own!), and a lot of sunshine (in all forms). It was amazing. And I left feeling more grateful than ever for the amazing people I call my sisters (including sisters-in-law), and their love for me. And of course Phil participated at the end of the month in his annual run with a really fun name: the Cutthroat Classic. This is where he runs 11 miles up over the top of the Cascades while trying not to sprain an ankle or get attacked by wasps outside of one of our favorite places in the world: Mazama. Our little munchkin loves it there, too, calling the lodge where we stay, “Aiden’s house.”
Aiden enjoyed every minute of the warm weather we had – including our lovely, long, late days of summer this year. Getting a big head start on our big DIY project this year, we launched into putting a new roof on approximately 3 days before the rain arrived in full force! But we were ever so thankful again for family, who showed up to help kick-start our project into gear!
On October 1, just days after tearing our roof off (followed by the rain arriving, followed by our purchase of the largest tarp in the world), I went in for my first ultrasound in pregnancy number 5 (our second this year). It was the 14th anniversary of my mom’s death, and I was both excited and nervous about the ultrasound, but based on my early extensive blood and hormone tests was feeling pretty positive about everything. And then I laid there on the ultrasound bed while the ultrasound tech asked me if I was sure that I was pregnant and indicated she couldn’t find “the pregnancy.” Tears and more tears while I spent the remainder of the afternoon going from exam room to exam room, resulting in an emergency surgery being scheduled that night to remove an ectopic pregnancy. There was a strong heartbeat, but it was in the wrong location. We scrambled to find last-minute care for our munchkin, I anticipated losing a fallopian tube, and we headed off to the hospital to end our 5th pregnancy. A twenty or thirty minute procedure turned into several hours, and Phil was informed that I had a very rare form of ectopic pregnancy (less than 1% of all ectopic pregnancies, which make up less than 1% of all pregnancies) called a cornual pregnancy, where the embryo implants right where the fallopian tube meets the uterus. So an orthoscopic surgery turned into a full abdominal c-section requiring the removal of my left fallopian tube and removal of part of my uterus. This was the start of a long, busy month. But thanks to good friends and my sweet sister Audra and her family who made the trip to Seattle just to help us out, for those first few days following my surgery Aiden was well-taken care of, if not short on naps, but for which we will be forever grateful. I was able to get some much-needed rest while my body and heart ached. Phil, on the other hand, spent the next three weeks getting up at the crack of dawn and working his day job from 6 am to 3 pm, racing home and spending the remaining daylight hours working on the roof (untarping and retarping the house every time). We finished the roof the day before the largest rain storm of the year, and celebrated by laying on the floor and watching the ceiling to make sure no water drips showed up anywhere. Phil’s knees vowed never to roof again, but together we vowed not to have a c-section and a new roof scheduled in the same month ever again. We ended the month with a magical weekend in our favorite spot, Mazama, and watched as our little munchkin trick-or-treated for the very first time. I hand-stitched his costume on the drive between Seattle and Mazama just on the “off-chance” that there might be something fun for kids to do in the wilderness involving getting candy from stranger, so the stars aligned and granted our wish.
October turned to November the same weekend we were in Mazama, and on November 1 we celebrated Phil’s birthday surrounded by exquisite beauty. As always, our time in nature was healing, and on this trip, magical. In late November, we joined family in Walla Walla for an annual or semi-annual tradition of packing as many toddlers approximately the same age all into one house and seeing what happens. Like previous times, they all ended up in diapers on the couch for the traditional “crying babies in diapers on the couch” image that Bumpa (grandpa) loves so much. The image below caught most of them not crying, but the photograph taken approximately 1.4 seconds later shows about 70% of them showing utter distress. In a moment of madness, we also rounded up the troops and gathered the Pearce clan (kids and spouses and grandkids) together and created a family portrait in the snow. It is probably my favorite image of the year, simply for it’s spontaneity and showing the beauty of non-planning (although it did require two toddler headswaps). And our little guy got to play in the snow, which was a mixture of excitement and crying, but mostly excitement.
Aside from an early trip to WW to get rid of a storage unit full of who-knows-what there, December was spent getting Phil’s mom all settled in – we moved her from Cincinnati to Seattle just before Thanksgiving. We are so happy to have her close, especially since her health really slipped in December and she spent much of the time here in and out of hospitals. But we believe she is getting good care, and she is now settled into a nursing home for rehabilitation. On December 11, Phil got up early to go to the gym only to discover that our family vehicle had driven away in the middle of the night. We learned the next morning that we have very good taste. The turbo engine from our Subaru is a popular one for thieves to steal and put into racing cars. So without a family vehicle, we began driving Phil’s mom’s car full-time while Phil worked in the dark and the rain to replace the brakes and wheel-bearings on my old Volvo so that we had another reliable car to drive. We stayed in Seattle to be near Phil’s mom for Christmas, which was the perfect plan: it gave us a lovely few days to frantically get our tree up, and get all of our present purchased just days, if not hours before Christmas arrived. We did spend a great Christmas here with Phil’s mom and his sister and brother in law – we have the pictures to prove it. Needless to say, we can’t remember if Christmas actually came, it arrived and went so quickly. It is almost New Years, but I am planning to keep our tree and lights up for at least another month to really soak in the holiday magic!!
Well, there are a few of the highlights and lowlights from our year, in a very big nutshell. We are grateful for the magic and the grace, as we wave goodbye to the rest! We love you dear friends, family, colleagues and clients.
Happiest of New Years to you and yours!!!