Kicking out the Old

It’s a gray morning. Birds are chirping. Coffee is brewing. My house is quiet for a bit longer, and I’m taking some time to reflect on the year that is drawing to a close. It’s been a year of extreme highs and extreme lows.

When I began this blog at the beginning of the year, I was at a crossroads. I had applied to graduate school and was giving up hope of being accepted. I needed a creative outlet and decided to try my hand at blogging. I wasn’t looking to become famous from it. I just needed a place to say what I needed to say. And then the acceptance letter arrived, and as they say, be careful what you wish for.

Graduate school is no joke, ladies and gentlemen, especially when it is juggled with a career and four kids. I’m pursuing my MA in history, and I was completely unprepared for the amount of work that it requires. To say that this has been an uphill battle would be an understatement. I survived the spring semester, but it took a major toll on my health and well-being. I struggled with summer courses, and finally, fell flat this fall. I took an incomplete with the hopes of finishing what I could over the Christmas break, but that hasn’t worked out either. I’m back at a crossroads. I’m just not certain I can pull this off, after all, but I don’t know where I go from here if I can’t.

Going back to school exposed some deep cracks in my marriage. Although my husband loves me in his own way, he has been unable to provide me with the support I need to make this happen. By support, I mean both emotional and practical. It has brought to light the unevenness of our relationship. While my house is far from immaculate and bills sometimes get paid late, I bear the largest burden of keeping our home running. Requests and pleas for help have not always been met with an open heart and mind on his side. It has forced an evaluation of our marriage and ourselves. Try as I might, I cannot be everything to everyone and still accomplish my goals too. To that end, I’ve had some people in my life actually imply that I’m selfish to even try this while others cheer me on. I’m living the classic female dilemma: trying to have it all.

My children have been my saving grace and greatest frustration. They are growing up so quickly, and our first family vacation in years this summer made me more acutely aware of this. My oldest daughter turns 17 in a few weeks and has struggled to survive her junior year of high school. This year we will begin looking at college options and preparing for senior year. My second daughter turned 13 two months ago. She is the epitome of a teenager, and I’m struggling with knowing how to deal with her. I’m hoping that things will even out as she finishes middle school. My third daughter is 7 1/2 now. She is as cute as cute can be. She’s smart, artistic, and creative. She’s a force of nature but doesn’t know it just yet. My son, our unexpected blessing, is a gorgeous, spoiled 3 1/2 year old. He loves helping around the house and adores his sisters. He has made our lives infinitely richer.

These kids are one of the reasons why I want to earn my MA degree. I want my daughters to see that a mom can accomplish things. I want my son to see women as capable beings outside of motherhood. I want the extra financial security and career possibilities that this degree will bring for me as well. If I don’t succeed, I will feel as if I failed them as well as myself.

This year has been all about relationships for me. My relationship with my husband is evolving, hopefully for the better. My relationships with my children are growing as they grow. This year has brought new, long distance but very important friends into my life while nearby friends have proven to be either unreliable or life saving. I’ve had a chance to reconnect with aging relatives who I have missed and cousins who were once very important figures in my life. At the same time, the year has proven how sadly tenuous the bonds with other family members are especially in my husband’s family. His sister still has not seen our son. She lives three hours away. My children’s only grandparents are willfully absent from lives, a fact that continues to gnaw at me.

It has been a year of fun too. My husband and I went to Little Rock to see Tom Petty and do some kid-free sightseeing. As I mentioned, we took out first real vacation in years this summer. We traveled back home to Illinois for our niece’s graduation party and then visited other friends and family. We took the kids to Chicago for a day and went to the Field Museum. On the return trip, we stopped in Springfield and visited Lincoln’s tomb. It was exhausting but more than worth it. In October, Jack White came to town, and my oldest daughter and I went. It was my first general admission show. We ended up in the second row just right of center. I couldn’t hear properly for two days. Needless to say, it was a hell of a lot of fun. He is in my top five favorites now.

I’m hoping for a better year in 2013. I hope to continue working on my MA, but I have an opportunity to receive some training funded by a federal grant that could bring in some much needed extra money. We need to get our financial house in order too. As of right now, tax increases are looming because of our ineffective Congress. I’m truly fearful of what this will mean for our family if our paychecks shrink further. Our 20th anniversary is in June, and I want us to find a way to celebrate it. My husband also turns 40 at the end of the year and that deserves some celebration too. Our 25 year old house is starting to show its age and needs some attention. I’m also cautiously optimistic that a new U2 album will see the light of day, and I’m already looking at saving for the next tour. It’s a sickness, I know, but I don’t want a cure. 2013 will be nothing if not expensive.

I don’t know what this new year will bring. No one does. I know changes need to happen in my home. Changes need to happen in the world. I hope for happiness, peace, and prosperity for everyone. Let’s kick out the old and welcome the new with open arms!

Happy New Year!

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