#28daysoftshirts – Wrap up

The remnants

I really enjoyed the project of sharing the stories behind my tshirt wardrobe. I’ve been writing for a long time (this blog is over ten years old), and I liked the chance to share and engage daily, but with a low threshold for how much I needed to write. I did learn a few things about myself across the venture, which I am shockingly turning into more blog fodder.

1) I have a lot of tshirts
This is perhaps the least surprising discovery of the adventure, but I was actually rather surprised at JUST how many I have, especially since I just cleaned out my tshirt drawer when I moved up to the attic. I’m guessing a total of 40 tshirts is crammed in that drawer, and find it unlikely I’ll have fewer any time soon. That likely means – given that I wear tshirts on weekends and Fridays – that I wear each shirt about twice a year. I love novelty and variety, so that feels true!

2) My shirts are an interesting reflection of my interests and values
The top themes are: mountains, coffee, Tolkien, roleplaying, work. Those are not a bad summary of the things I am interested in, and that I am willing to share with others. I was particularly intrigued to see how much my love and longing for mountains was reflected in this wardrobe. I suspect that’s particularly acute right now, when I feel like my beloved mountains are a four month journey away on either side. March is as far as you can get from hiking and camping time, and it’s an acute lack.

But there are also some tremendous gaps not reflected in my collection. There’s nothing of the Medieval in my collection. Music is under-represented, especially the early music I love best. I was shocked to realize I don’t have a single faithful/religious shirt of the non-blasphemous nature. My faith is something important to me, and which I would want to share aright. But so much Christian paraphernalia signals exclusion instead of love. And pretty much none of it is funny. What I really want is a funny Christian pride-ally shirt. Is that too much to ask?

3) I’m terrible at taking selfies and didn’t improve
My usually excellent phone camera keeps doing this jiggly refocus thing. I wonder if I need to fix it or something. Also, I’m really not good at taking a flattering selfie that also shows shirt text. I guess the upside is that I’m comfortable enough with who I am and how I look to post 28 days of unflattering photographs?

4) My things all have stories
I somewhat knew this before, but it was particularly interesting to notice. I had invested meaning in each of these shirts. I had a story about origin, or what it meant to me. Some of the shirts that didn’t seem like they could possibly be important, like the Go Climb A Rock tshirt are actually layered with deep meaning and values. This isn’t just a tshirt thing: I could do the same with coffee mugs, objects on my desk at work… honestly, most of the objects I live with. I think that this isn’t a standard and normal way to engage with the physical world (although it’s obviously also not a crazy outlier). I suspect that could lead to some hoarding tendencies, so I need to work to preserve the story and only keep the worthwhile objects. I also tend NOT to keep things that don’t have stories, even if I like them in abstract.

What did you learn about me? If you did this challenge too, what did you learn about yourself? What things do you have that you could tell thirty stories about?

2016 retrospective

I had a very productive close to the year – lots of important work got done on both the home front and the work front. But I didn’t get around to writing my “Christmas letter” blog before the calendar flipped over to a prime number. So in this last day before the real world whirs back up to it’s usual frenetic pace, here’s a look back at the year I had.

2016 was a hard, hard year for many people around me. The loss of seminal artists to our generation was heavy and unrelenting. The division along political lines was hurtful and scary to many. The sense that we’re all in this together fractured. It may never have been true, but it now certainly does not feel true. The future feels unusually unknown and uncertain. Some of the tragedies felt extra close to home to me. Our pastor died of brain cancer. A firefighter was killed on my street when he and a buddy were goofing off with a gun. I watched the ambulances and fire trucks pass. A colleague of mine was brutally murdered. The killer remains at large.

But most of the sorrows and tragedies of the world happened outside my home, my friends, my family. And many of them are tragedies in potentia (obviously not all). It’s fear, not yet fact. So we’ll work to prevent those fears from coming true. And on the whole, 2016 was a good year for me and for my family.

Johnstones in Yosemite
Johnstones in Yosemite

The first big milestone of the year came in February, when my grandmother died after a long and loved life. My family has an odd (and I think healthy) attitude towards death. While we miss grandma, her time had come. If ever anyone had the hope of the resurrection in God’s time, she would. I’ve known very few people of such faith as she was. So when we came together for her funeral, we didn’t mourn as much as we celebrated. I was reminded what a neat family I’m so lucky to have. Does everyone have a blast at a funeral? I sure did! I also got to sneak in my “West Coast Mountain” fix. I had a conference in LA the same week, and got to spend some time in Yosemite with my family, take a weekend to myself in Sequoia (a new one for me!). It was pretty glorious.

Adam had a big year. When I was pregnant with Thane, he started a new job. (I remember particularly because he renovated “the nursery” in his 2 weeks off between the jobs.) Thane is in second grade, and Adam just switched to a company. (The company is curing cancer. He’s writing internal systems for it. I’m trying to convince him that basically means he’s curing cancer!) This has had a huge impact on our family. The work is much faster-paced and intense, and he’s learning a lot. On the personal front, he’s been doing a lot more with wood-working. Ask him about the joint-cutting work he’s doing! For someone who works mostly with their mind, producing something you can feel and touch is intensely satisfying!

Adam and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary this year. It also marks 20 years that we’ve been “an item”. We celebrated by going to Ashland Oregon and catching the Shakespeare Festival. Highlights included Timon of Athens and the Japanese Spa.

Crazy, and awesome
Crazy, and awesome

The boys are crazy. And awesome. Or maybe crazy awesome. Something like that. Grey started Middle School this year. (I KNOW. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN!) He’s doing very well, although still working on the concept of just how badly a 0 for not turning in your homework affects your GPA. (I totally support learning this lesson in 5th grade, when it really does feel like just practice.) The Middle School transition has gone more easily than I expected, frankly!

Thane is in Second Grade and doing a good job there. He’s funny and independent and incredibly loving. Also, his penmanship has improved remarkably. He still enjoys math, although he’s declined to take extra classes to learn more. He reads a lot (mostly at school when he’s supposed to do other things). He’s revisited some prior loves – namely Legos and Scooby Doo.

My kid in a nutshell
My kid in a nutshell

We’ve switched up our childcare situation. After YEARS of going to the Stoneham Y, we switched to a different afterschool situation. The kids have a little more autonomy there, and it’s awesome, but it’s also a lot less controlled. It’s been going really well so far! It feels like a huge deal in the daily life of the family, and like a marker in the “wow, they’re really growing up aren’t they?” page. One change is that childcare isn’t available for the break weeks – like winter break, Feb break and April break. We just worked from home this last week (or took the kids into the office!). We’ll ship them out to Washington in February, and import Meme for the April break!

Christmas Eve Congregation
Christmas Eve Congregation

This was a huge and hard year in the life of my church. Last Christmas Eve was the last time our Interim Minister worshiped with us. We’re coming up on the 1 year anniversary of his diagnosis with glioblastoma. He was gone by Easter. We scrambled to keep things running, and I’m proud of how well we have stuck together. We finished the Mission Study (a process I ran). We finally have started the Pastor Nominating Committee (which I’m chairing). I’m also on Session (our leadership board) right now. Adam is chairing Trustees (the “let’s keep the building and finances in one piece” group). It’s a lot of work in a hard time for the congregation. But it’s meaningful work, and it’s with people I care deeply about.

Still a very serious person
Still a very serious person

For me, this was a good year. I am still obnoxiously happy with my job. I got to travel all over the place this year (which actually gets pretty tiring after a while). I went to Madrid, Chicago, Houston and LA. I am pretty sure I went more places, but I can’t remember them. I’ve continued my faithful once-a-week updating of this blog (although the readership has declined prodigiously, which makes me sad). A new thing for me this year was running. I started running in April, and have gone on 44 runs since then totaling 113 miles. I generally run about a 5k on my runs. I’m slow, but it’s one small fight against entropy.

We have continued many of the rich and wonderful things we usually do. We went camping 3 times this year. We hosted Piemas and Mocksgiving, and added in Flynns Fiery Feast as the third event of the year. We played tons of board games at 9 pm when the kids were finally in bed. We went on hikes. We watched movies. We took trips and had adventures. We visited Quebec City in April, spent Thanksgiving hitting museums in DC, and took the boys to their first gaming convention. We played Pokemon Go. We spent time with our neighbors, fund-raised for a service dog, and stuffed Easter Eggs together around the fireplace. We learned we loved roller coasters and that the kids have absolutely 0 fear of heights.

It was a joyful year. I can only hope that 2017 is also a joyful year – not just for my family, but for yours. May our worst fears evaporate and our greatest hopes come to pass. May the next year find us more peaceful, more joyful and with a bounty of love and sufficiency spread across all humanity!

Here’s a highlight album of some of my favorite pictures from 2016!

Weekend review

These are the days that, in the future, I will look back on as golden. I’m pretty sure I’ll forget the petty annoyances and frustrations and remember the golden times. Memory is a wonderful thing that way.

Saturday was Stoneham Town Day! This is definitely the sort of even that is perfect for a new family with a young child moving to town. Most of the organizations in town had booths there — from the cub scout troup to the “Friends of the Fells” to the candidates vying for election in the primary tomorrow. There was a Kiddy Korner with a big bouncy house, some very tame carnival rides (appropriate for 2 year olds). There was cotton candy and slushies and local talent performing near the gazebo. There were many free give aways and raffles. It was both fun and useful to me. Notably, I got to corner and spend significant time talking to the other candidate running in the Democratic primary, whom I decided I preferred. (Note to voters: if you do not want the government run by the same old good old boys, quit electing people who claim they can get you more pork because they “know people” up on the hill. Kthxbye.) Grey had a fantastic time. He loved the big slide. He loved the bouncy house (he went in three times!) He loved the little airplane ride. He loved the balloons he got. And best of all? It’s 3 blocks to our house so we didn’t need to carry anything and just walked home when he got tired. In fact, people were parking on the street almost right up to our house for the event, so we COULDN’T have driven any closer in if we’d wanted to! I’m really liking our house and really liking Stoneham.

After that, I had a massage. I think I’ve finally found a local massage therapist who works for me — good combination of convenient (once again walking distance!), correctly priced and good at what she does. Mmmmm massage….

Sunday was church. I’m realizing that church is much easier for me to go to in some ways now. With Grey being Full! Of! Energy! we’re often looking for things to do with him during the day. It’s hard to stay home with him all day long. (This will not improve come winter… ugh.) Anyway, in addition to being a wonderful place for us, church is a good activity for him too. This Sunday he went out to Sunday School no problemo — running ahead and leading the pack, actually. I’m seeing all my dire predictions of the last decade come true. Anytime there was some kid cutely speaking out of turn during word for children, or making funny faces, or volunteering irrelevant information I knew in my heart of hearts that eventually it would be MY child doing that. And oh! It begins!

Sunday afternoon was dedicated to detrashing the cars. Seriously, people. When you have a toddler and an hour daily commute, it is very very hard to keep your car in any shape that reasonable adults would consider acceptable. But I removed the trash, vaccuumed the car, organized the toy (his first action of the morning involved dumping all the toys OUT of the nice boxes I had them in — les sigh), and installed the new big boy car seats — the booster+ seats. I also put him to the side, since pretty soon we’ll need to put the infant car seat on the other side. And I dusted the interior of the car and cleaned the inside of the windshield. For the record? This is hard to do 8 months pregnant.

We also did a gigantic avalanche worth of clothes. There was the regular tsnunami of dirty laundry, and in addition a good 3 – 4 loads of baby clothes, blankets, diapers, bibs and toys that needed to be washed. Most of them got washed, dried, folded, carted upstairs and put away in the beautiful baby’s room (which I think is almost ready for it’s formal unveiling pictures!)

And there were some truly wonderful moments. Grey has reached that stage where he can break my heart unexpectedly with an overabundance of love. He did it twice yesterday. We were driving to church and listening to some Gospel bluegrass (seriously, if it weren’t for my positions on, you know, the issues, I could totally pass as Christian Conservative). Grey asked if these were Jesus songs (a taxonomic distinction that interests him greatly) and I said they were. Then he said, “Jesus songs jump in my heart.” There are like 4000 ways you could interpret that, but he said it so earnestly and happily that, I don’t know, it just made me rejoice. (Of course, I teared up like three times on my way to church so obviously some pregnancy hormones were involved.) Then at night, as we were watching our family “Muppet Show” and eating cookies that Grey and daddy made together, Grey turned to me and told me, “Mommy, I love you very very much.” No preamble. Not in response to anything. He knows more or less what it means — at least as much as any of us.

My son is full of joy and he loves me. My husband is full of cookies and he loves me. What more could I possibly ask?