Looking Backward at 2012– Moving Forward to 2013

I can’t believe 2012 is coming to an end. It sounds cliche, but the time flew! When I look back at my last blog post for the end of 2011 I realize how anxious I was to bring on a new year. 2011 had its own challenges so I was happily looking forward to starting anew. That’s the thing about blogging, it keeps me accountable to my own life, and my own words. In reviewing 2012, I can honestly say it was better than 2011, it many ways, but it was not as good as I hoped it would be.

There have still been the regular stresses of living with teens, which seem to be amplified when you factor in the multiple households that come with our blended family situation. The living arrangement that I hoped to return to hasn’t materialized–Erica still lives most days with her mom and Olivia is full-time with us. I miss having the consistent routine of shared custody, (that’s an oxymoron). The transitions we experience when Erica returns for all too brief periods, are difficult, especially for Diego, who misses his sister’s regular presence.  But, Olivia seems to have benefited greatly from living with us full-time. She finished the important junior year in high school with exceptional grades, and seems content. At least, as content as any 17 year-old anxious to leave the nest and escape her parents’ clutches. The fact that Olivia is now a licensed driver helps to ease her restlessness and gives her some independence, at least temporarily until she sets off to college in the Fall.  She’s already been accepted to two of her top colleges and is waiting to hear from a third. 2013 should be a good year for her.

Olivia earned praise for her hard work this year.

2012 marked a huge transition for Nico and Erica. They graduated from junior high and have started high school. Both are finding their way through the academic challenges of Freshman English and Algebra I and they are loving the social life and “big pond” experience they have gained moving onto high school.  Having spent 9 years at the elementary school and junior high with essentially the same kids, they are both enjoying maintaining friendships with some of their former classmates who are attending the same high school, and they are thrilled to be making new friendships too. As for me, I love seeing them expand their universe with new friends, and new experiences. I know 2013 will be an enriching year for them too.

Erica and Nico at one of the last events of Junior High.

For Diego, 2013 will probably be more of the same,  I hope. After all, he is only 8 years old, and I don’t expect a new calendar to rock his world too much. He’s (finally) in the second grade, and happy to be there. His Spanish is improved, and he is a strong reader.  He consistently drops in a Spanish word or phrase when he talks to me or Juan, and he is proud of his expanding vocabulary. I am convinced that sending him to the Spanish immersion program in our public school district was a good idea. Sure there have been things he’s missed out on not attending the Catholic school that his older siblings attended, but he is gaining a language. How can you beat that? We manage to help him fill in the gaps with his participation in our church childrens’ choir, soccer and little league baseball. He’s looking forward to moving up a division in soccer this year. So, for Diego 2013 should be just fine.

Diego enjoyed his first season of baseball in 2012.

As for Juan, I think 2012 was a very satisfying year, professionally.  He was rightfully recognized by my alma mater,  Loyola Law School and the Criminal Courts Bar Association for all the hard work he did on a case involving a wrongfully convicted defendant. He was in his element this political season, since he loves politics. He followed all the pundits and devoured all kinds of blogs, and news shows during the elections.  His two worlds collided this year, when our boss, the District Attorney for Los Angeles, did not seek another term, and we had to elect a new top prosecutor. Ultimately, we are very happy with our new DA, and look forward to the changes in our workplace that a new administration will bring. I think 2013 will be a very good year for Juan too.

Juan earned the Ignatian Award, in service towards others.

When I started writing this post I wasn’t sure how it would go. I realize I didn’t have any time this year to write my regular Christmas newsletter, like I have done in our 2006 Family Newsletter, and in 20072008, 2009, and in 2011, so I wanted to write a kind of retrospective on the year, but there is just too much to say. That’s another perk to blogging, I can post another day. For now, for me, 2012 had some high points, and some very definite low points. It wasn’t the year I hoped it would be, but it wasn’t a year to frown upon either. I think 2012 was probably a transitional year–one which I hope will lead me to an even better year in 2013. Happy New Year. 2013. Bring it!

How was your 2012? Are you looking forward to a New Year?


Outward Bound – Making 2012 a Better Year

I was going to write another 50/50 Friday post to update you on what I’ve accomplished since I last posted about my list of 50 Things I Want to Do Before my 50th Birthday, except that apart from a lot of cooking and wine drinking (numbers 19 and 20 on my list), I really haven’t done much. Besides, the cooking and wine drinking part has more to do with the holidays than anything really intentional on my part.

So instead of posting about my 50/50 list I thought I would share how my approach to the new year is going. I mentioned before that 2011 was not a very good year for me. I decided that this year was going to be better. I looked at what might have contributed to making 2011 such a bad year and I think  the fact that I focused so much more  inwardly, made me feel isolated and sometimes hopeless. Duh. 

I had begun 2011 managing a personal crisis so I felt like I needed to circle the wagons. Consequently, I didn’t nurture the connections I had with anyone. Rather than reaching out to community for support, I dwelt with life in kind of a crisis mode. 

This year I am purposefully extending myself beyond my comfort zone, reaching outward and trying to do things a bit differently. It’s only the second week of the new year and already I have a lot on my plate as a result. It’s a little intimidating but already I am finding 2012 to be a lot more promising.

One thing I have done recently is get together with more friends. Last week Juan and I took up a friend’s invitation to cook us dinner. It was a midweek invitation and something we normally wouldn’t have done. But, we did and we had a great time.  I have also made plans to go to a work out class with a couple of friends, and I am getting together with my besties this weekend. That’s a lot of socializing for me, but I need it.   I have also committed to be on my church Vestry. When I was approached to take this on, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to stretch myself this way, but I prayed about it and found myself committing to it. I don’t know how I am going to manage it all, but it’s another way to face the new year with an openness and outwardness.

As I was meditating on what the new year was going to hold for me, I found that I didn’t have a concrete plan how to implement this “open and outward” approach. This is very unsettling to me. Those who know me, know that I like some predictability. Despite my Gemini tendencies, I am a control freak  planner.  So, the idea that I did not have a plan to make 2012 more “outward and open” got me thinking. Before I knew it my meditative state was disrupted by my mind, making lists, checking off ways to improve my life in 2012. Then I stopped. I realized that, most of all I just needed to open myself up to the universe. In the midst of my meditation, my direction came to me with these words, “Have and open mind, an accepting heart, and ready hands.”  So, that is what I am going to do. I am going to keep my mind open to new things, allow myself to accept things that I may not be completely comfortable with, and prepare myself for the tasks that are ahead of me in 2012.

Let’s do this.

Everything Old is New Again

The first day of 2012 was a bit like many nights in 2011 and yet, it was different from many days in 2011.  It was different in the sense that Juan and I hosted an open house for the New Year, something we haven’t done before.  In previous years, we entertained a lot, hosting  a big Christmas open house, and several dinner parties throughout the year.   2011 came and went, and except for a family dinner in September and Thanksgiving, we did not have anyone over for dinner, or drinks, not even a sandwich.  I realized that I needed to change that so, at the last minute, we sent out E-vites and invited people to come over. It was a really good time. Even though we did not have as big a turnout as we would have liked (I think something went wrong with the emailed invitations), we had a nice mix of people from our church, our work, and even our neighbors.  I made black-eyed peas for New Year’s luck and we had a good spread of appetizers and drinks.

January 1, 2012 was also a bit like many of the nights we had in 2011. In 2011 we spent a lot of time at doctor visits, and waiting rooms in hospitals and urgent care centers.  About halfway through our open house, Erica started feeling really bad, with symptoms she had experienced before.  She toughed it out for a couple of hours, and as soon as I was able, I left our party and took her to the ER. Luckily, all the guests that were still at our party, were very understanding and gave me the excellent advice to go to a different hospital, away from the craziness of Pasadena on the night before the Rose Parade. Erica was treated quickly and we got out of the ER in about 3 hours. Unfortunately, by the time I returned to my party, it was over. Ah well. I heard from all the guests, and Juan who stayed behind to continue hosting, that the party was a lot of fun. I just hope that we can get through 2012 with more parties, and fewer hospital visits!

During our party, one of our guests invited Juan to go to the Rose Bowl.  Juan accepted, but after the last guest left and the party clean up was over, he felt tired enough that he began to regret that he committed himself to getting up early and going to an all day event.  I told him that expanding our social circle was one of our goals for 2012 so he had to go, and he had to have a good time. When he came home from the game, his voice was hoarse and his face sunburned, but he had a fantastic time. Even though he didn’t have a favorite team to cheer for, the friends he went with were Oregon fans, so Juan ended up sitting with the Duck fans, and cheering right along with them.

Juan and friend in a sea of Ducks.

While Juan was enjoying his first ever Rose Bowl game, I stayed home and tried to get some house projects done. I was feeling the anxiousness that I usually experience when I have to return to work after a long weekend, or the end of a vacation, and I realize I haven’t accomplished what I planned on getting done.  I spent most of my morning packing up Christmas, grateful that we had pared down on the decorations this year. It only took 6 plastic bins to contain all my Christmas decorations.  Despite the fact that it was a gorgeous day, with temperatures in the mid 80’s, I stayed indoors, packing up decorations, doing laundry and cleaning. Then, Diego asked if I could do something special with him.  He wanted to take a ride on his scooter.  I thought to myself, it’s a new year, and there was laundry and cleaning to do in 2011 and there will be laundry and cleaning to do in 2013–I need to do something different, now. So, he got on his scooter, I got on my bike, and we took a ride around our neighborhood with our neighbors.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

We ended up a our local gourmet ice cream shop, Carmelas. The place has all kinds of interesting flavors, Salted Caramel, Spicy Strawberry Sorbet. I had the Meyer Lemon, and Diego had a cup of Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean. At $3.50 a scoop, it isn’t cheap, but it’s not everyday, that you break out of the old habits, and get a fresh start on a New Year.

Diego at Carmelas.

 Two days into 2012. How’s your New Year going?

Good-Bye 2011…Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Generally, I don’t have much affection for New Year’s Eve. I think it’s an overrated, hyped-up holiday. I usually don’t do much on this night, other than maybe pour myself some champagne at the stroke of midnight and then go to bed.  However, this year, New Year’s is different. That’s because I am happy to see 2011 go.  I am starting off 2012 doing something different. I am setting up my karma for a good year. I hope.

2011 was not a banner year for me. Wait, that’s a drastic understatement. 2011 sucked. I think just generally a lot of stuff in my life accumulated and overwhelmed me. Probably the biggest challenge this year, was losing my grandmother and the months leading up to her death. There were blessings in being able to care for her, but there were a lot of stresses too, including watching the toll it took on my mother.  It wasn’t my grandmother’s failing health alone that was difficult. In the first few months of 2011, Juan and I spent days at three different Kaiser hospitals, and spent regular nights at urgent care for our kids.

This year also brought a change to our living arrangements. Over the summer Olivia began living with us full time and since October, Erica has been staying with her mom more often. I will spare you the details, but I am sure you can imagine that the circumstances leading up to the changed living arrangements were not pleasant. Something about teenagers and parent/child conflicts contributing to family tension.  Add the unique challenges of living in a blended family and our home was not the sanctuary for me that it has been in the past. We are working on changing that, and I hope that our shared custody living arrangements will resume in 2012.

Looking back on this year, there were other events which contributed to the malaise of 2011. Diego had a difficult time in school, I spent over three months studying for that damn exam, and I experienced more than a few challenges parenting teens in a blended family.  I intended for 2011 to be a year of compassion for me, but I don’t think I was too successful with that. I don’t like resolutions so I don’t make them, besides I have enough to do on my list of 50 Things I want to Do Before My 50th Birthday.

I want 2012 to be a better year for me and my family.  Last year I approached the beginning of 2011 differently. I was in a funk.  As is typical for me I didn’t do anything too special to end the previous year and didn’t really celebrate welcoming in the New Year. So, I am approaching 2012 with my heart, mind and arms wide open. Tonight, Juan and I are going to a special New Year’s service at our church, then we are heading out to enjoy a nice dinner.  Tomorrow, we are hosting an open house for anyone who wants to drop by and I am serving all kinds of New Year’s good luck foods.  I can’t help to hedge my bets a little.

Happy New Year. Hello 2012!

What about you? Are you happy to start a New Year? How do you celebrate?

Kinecting with My Inner Athlete, and My Kids

Every New Year brings with it a set of resolutions. In my case, those reolutions usually go something like this:

  • Eat better.
  • Lose Weight.
  • Exercise.

I almost never make it past January on the Eating Better or Losing Weight part, but last year I made it to September on the Exercise part.   I worked out (almost)  weekly in a Pilates class and in a Mexican folk dancing class.  It was as fun as any exercise can be, but then my schedule got out of control and I couldn’t find time to get to the classes regularly.  I have decided that I am a social exerciser.  I need to exercise in a group, preferably a group with many people for me to  hide behind, in a class that plays good music.

I have also decided that I am not an athlete. As a child I didn’t know there was such a thing as girls sports. My parents signed my brother up for little league football, baseball and basketball, and my sister and I became cheerleaders, or we took dance classes.  In high school I decided to try team sports so I joined the badminton team. BADMINTON! After one season which confirmed to me that I am not an athlete,  I joined the drama club and drill team.  As I have grown more,  (ahem) , mature in my years  I have not acquired a passion for exercise. I look at it more as a necessary evil.  I now understand that in order to make exercise a part of my life, I really need to enjoy the activity. DUH! But as much as I enjoyed the pilates and dance classes, that wasn’t enough. Exercise also takes time. And time is one thing that a working mother of four kids in a blended family is short on.  So my exercise routine puttered out as 2010 came to a close.  New Year, new me.

Yesterday, as I was polishing off the last of the Christmas food gift basket,  I heard my boys in the family room yelling and jumping around as they played with their new X-Box Kinect.  The X-Box Kinect is a video game which uses your body as the video controller. Players stand in front of the video console while watching the television screen and react to the video game being played.  I decided to give it a try. First, Nico and I played the bowling game. I reached out for the digital bowling ball seen on the screen, took my bowling stance , and swung my arm, releasing the ball. The ball appeared on the TV rolling down the lane and hitting one of the pins. Ok, so bowling isn’t my sport either.  The next game we played was beach volleyball.  I jumped, and dove, mimicking a real volleyball game. I knew there was a reason I went out for badminton and not volleyball. It’s hard.  I swear, I got sand in my eyes, I was playing so hard! But, we were also having great fun, playing together and laughing at ourselves!

This morning as I got out of bed my calves burned. I went to brush my hair and my arm was stiff. Diego came hobbling into my room complaining of  pain in his calves.  That’s when it occurred to me what happened. I had finally discovered an exercise which I could enjoy, and spend time with the family. Beach volleyball. On the Kinect. If only they made a badminton game.