2015 Christmas Letter

One thing I love about this time of year is the chance to reflect back on the year that was, and think ahead to the year that will be. This is the reflecting back – that public facing summary of what the year has done and been; of how we’ve all grown and changed. Some years I look back and feel like I have nothing to say. Some years the news is sad. Some years I worry that I’ll sound braggy if I’m honest. My mother-in-law gave us some old Christmas letters my husband’s father wrote during the Gulf War. They are a lovely snapshot of my husband’s family at a pivotal point. I can only hope that writing down what I see from the vantage of the end of the year eventually feels the same for my children!

The Johnstone siblings
The Johnstone siblings

The year started in Washington state, in the only cold weather they got last year. We were all together for over a week – a very unusual thing for us. We were celebrating my brother’s wedding, and thoroughly enjoying being together as a family. We hiked in the winter woods. We took a trip to Portland. We went to the Mineral Headquarters Tavern for the first time ever in our lives. Every time I am with my family, I’m forcibly reminded how much I like them. I often wonder why we live so far apart, but then I remember the family ethos of adventure and independence and have a sneaking suspicion I’m also training my children to move continents away when they’re older.

While I was in Washington, I got a call about an interview at Google. It was extremely exciting even to make it to the interview round. Since I was working in staffing and recruiting software, I knew by reputation that Google was one of the hardest places in the US to get to interview at. Over the next few months there were back and forth conversations with them.

Hijinks. They kept coming by with plows, so eventually the police asked us to go inside. Then they stopped plowing.
Hijinks. They kept coming by with plows, so eventually the police asked us to go inside. Then they stopped plowing.

Meanwhile, shortly after a Patriots vs Seahawks Superbowl where I couldn’t figure out who I wanted to win, the snow started to fall. You might have heard that Boston had just a dusting of snow this past year. (AHAHAH! Yeah.) It was epic, as week after week another foot would fall on banks where the last snow had not melted a jot. By the time of the last major storm, as we dug out, I had the incredibly uncomfortable feeling that if we got another major storm I would not be able to dig out because there would be nowhere to put the snow. The claustrophobia got so bad we rented snowshoes so that we could be outside, with horizons wider than the trapping paneled walls of our house. Even when spring should have been advancing – on the last weekend of the maple tap – we walked the woods in the snow and had an epic snowball fight.

Which meant that on the first week of March, when I went into Cambridge for my interview with Google, what should have been an hour long trip took about two. I’d given myself extra time, and I needed every second of it. The interview went very well, and not too long after, I found myself signing an offer and planning to work in Kendall Square. I still can’t believe my amazing luck and good fortune!

There was a little time before I had to start, though… so we took an impromptu trip to Cozumel to celebrate.

The dolphin's name was Merina
The dolphin’s name was Merina

Ahhhh… there is something about a tropical island vacation that is everything you want out of a tropical island vacation. Thane opened the door on chapter books. Grey read extensively. The kids learned how to snorkel (on the surface). Adam and I got some quality snorkeling time together too. We played games. The only even minor blot was that on one of my dives I seemed to come up with water that wouldn’t leave my ear. It was actually a barotrauma (very rare in snorkeling) and I have since permanently lost very high notes in my left ear. (Or rather, I have them all the time as a persistent and extremely annoying ringing.) I still think it was probably worthwhile!

They're all kind of smiling
It didn’t rain all the time, which meant we could use the hammock

The summer was absolutely full of camping, the way I like my summers. I went camping five times – our standard three trips, plus a camping offsite for work, plus a week long trip with just my husband to New Brunswick which was very cold and very wet but where we went sea kayaking and saw some really really cool fossils. Camping with the kids has only gotten more fun. They read and play and hiked and rode bikes. I love camping, and camping with these guys continues to improve.

9 mile bike ride in Boston
9 mile bike ride in Boston

Which was another cool thing about this year – the kids both really learned how to ride their bikes! We went on a bunch of bike rides this summer, and watched them as they went from wobblers who fell down all the time, to fast and confident riders. We did a nine mile bike tour of Boston (which Thane was truly not ready for and which took years off my life) … but we did it! I feel like bikes are truly resurging. My children will be more independent for this skill!

Insulation, check. Vapor barrier, check. Strips, check.
Insulation, check. Vapor barrier, check. Strips, check.

During that trip I took with my husband to New Brunswick, we had lots of quality time together in the car. (We listened to some awesome podcasts together!) But then we got to talking about “what we wanted to do” yadda yadda. And at some fateful point, Adam announced that he was going to do a renovation of our dining room. We got a great deal on our house, in no small part because the decor was disastrously 70s. Drop ceilings and cheap paneling covered the 120 year old plaster walls. We just needed to take down the paneling and drop ceiling and maybe redrywall. Might take a couple weeks. It actually took three months of Adam working nights, weekends and taking Fridays off to work more. It turns out there was no insulation in those walls (despite our having hired a company to blow in insulation – they drilled holes and messed up our siding, but didn’t blow in any insulation). So that added a bit. He reframed a wall. Drywall is hard. But it looks amazing now. And makes our living room look bad….

Three fine young men
Three fine young men

Around the time the drywall was being mudded and sanded, my brother came to live with us. The wedding that had kicked off the year was not a durable match, and his contract in Denver had come to an end. On the drive back from New Brunswick my husband invited him to come live with us and as the summer crossed to fall he did. He’s been kicking off his Steampunk Vicar officiating services and is looking for a IT helpdesk type job while he contemplates the next chapter in his life.

Mind. Blown.
Mind. Blown.

Another new start in the life of the Flynns. I won’t pretend that Grey’s decision to play trumpet hasn’t made me extremely pleased. Even better – he’s been incredibly dedicated in his practicing. He’s practiced on average once a day since Thanksgiving. He can now play “Ode to Joy” very well (which is *not bad* for two months in on a new instrument!) I’m trying VERY HARD not to get ahead of myself with this one.

We were working on the Magnificat
We were working on the Magnificat

There has also been a lot going on in the life of the church. This year I am teaching 2nd – 5th grade Sunday School (which is usually pretty fun). I’m also running a mission study taskforce. We’re using the New Beginnings process, which is a significant investment in prayerful thought and time. Because I’m crazy, I’m also running the Christmas Pageant this year. If your Christmas Card is late this year, that’s why.

This year has been a phenomenal one for me. It’s been full of the kind of adventures I like best, the people I love and new opportunities. I think 2016 is going to have a very tough time topping it, but I’m willing to give it a chance!

May your reflection on your year be filled with as much joy, and may your year ahead be even better!


I usually select about 100 pictures to choose from when I’m making my calendar. Here are this years top pictures!

Odometer moments

I’m a big fan of this time of year, media-wise. My non-internet media consumption is pretty much limited to NPR, the Economist, and Dirty Jobs marathons on Discovery (watched while folding the laundry). This time of year NPR starts running stories you KNOW they recorded in October about breeding stocks of White Rhinos and the Economist totally throws in the towel, writes four page spreads on the history of Rice in Japan or the Ponzi Scheme that is the US (all actual examples) and takes a week off.

We’re all given this odometer moment, as the number ticks over, to think back and head. Given that most folks consider this the end of the decade, it’s a bigger odometer moment than usual.

So here I am, taking stock of the year past and the decade past.

The decade past is pretty much my adult life. I think about where I was 10 years ago. I was about to get married, just finishing college, and completely unclear about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Now, I’m happily married, two kids, decent career, and completely unclear about what I want to do when I grow up. In the last ten years I got married, stayed married, have gone through three jobs, and three new homes, bought a house, bought two cars, got pregnant four times and gave birth twice. Since 2003, I’ve documented every detail in painful minutia.

In those 10 years I’ve made mistakes and grown oh-so-much, but I regret pretty much none of it. I’m not sure there’s a single thing I’d go back and make totally different.

Then there’s the looking ahead. Where will I be in 2020? I mean, we’re already impossibly into the future. Will I have my flying car yet? Or at least an electric/hybrid? But in many ways, the outlines of my hopes are much clearer than they were in 2010. I entirely anticipate still being gaga for my husband. My eldest son will be 14, and we will have some insight into what kind of man he is growing into. My Thane will be 11, still a child. My mortgage will still be several eternities away from being paid off, but my student loans will be done. Hopefully, I’ll have renovated the bathroom by then. Maybe I’ll have done that master suite that I daydream about. But where will I be professionally? What great surprises will life hold? What labors and joys will the coming decade bring? Will I still be documenting it all in painful detail (probably)?

And of course, there are the great left-turns life takes. You get a phone call asking if you’ve ever considered going to Mozambique. Or it turns out your child is an incredibly gifted, er, something (musician/athlete/web entreprenuer/face painter) that requires lots of practice (as long as it doesn’t involve ice rinks, I’m happy.). Or an opportunity comes that cannot be passed by. Or a tragedy visits. Or there’s an unanticipated additional child.

I work full time, am an engaged mom, get together with my friends as often as possible, and do a lot with my church. The result of this is that I feel as though I keep my eyes down, and focused on close objects. My thoughts and speech run with the details of daily living. I try as often as I can to raise my eyes and look to the horizons. It is that rising of perspective that make art, literature, music and philosophy so precious. Writing, for me, offers a chance to step back and examine my own life from the larger perspective. Whenever I do that, I feel much happier. The broad strokes of my life are so joyful, even when I might be tired, sleep-deprived, annoyed and snot-covered.

It was a good decade. It was a good year. Here’s hoping it was for you too. And for all of us, past reasonable expectation, may the coming year and decade be full of joy.

Joy cometh in the morning
Joy cometh in the morning