10 January 2012

2011 in review, Part I

I must have skipped last year, but I dug up my old internet meme post with all the year-in-review questions and thought I'd try it again, especially after a friend mentioned it recently. 2011 was a really amazing year, these last couple of months in particular. So much of it didn't get blogged, I'm realizing as I look over my archives, because I (deliberately) let the blog slide while I worked on the dissertation. It makes me worry that I'm forgetting important details of the year, and even before, because I see that I basically stopped blogging in October 2010! Maybe I can catch up on a few stories in this way, however, and remind myself of some of the more momentous experiences of the 2011. (This might get a little long, so hold on to your hats [actually, I've broken it into two parts so it's a little more digestible...part II to come tomorrow.])

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

Unfortunately, moving internationally was not a novel process for us. Although it seems as dauntingly new as it did the first time, I've now moved from Bloomington to Brussels, from Brussels to Barcelona, from Barcelona to Bloomington, and from Bloomington to Belgium (there are too many B-places in my life, methinks, and that list doesn't even include Boston or Burlington).
I weaned my son, definitely a novel process and an involved one.
I went to the MLA conference in LA. I wish I could say that I had some job interviews, but in the end it's better that we could head to Belgium without any conflicting job decisions to make.
I got one of my poems published in a book.
I finished my PhD!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Ah, here's a happy story. I don't remember if I made resolutions, but I certainly made wishes. Last Christmas in Barcelona, the adults were lolling about after a huge meal and the kids were getting antsy. M's mom, creative as always, came up with a project for them that involved taking a stack of empty jewelry boxes from her soon-to-close boutique (she retired this year) and making "wish boxes" out of them for each one of us. The girls dressed up as Santa-fairies and delivered them with orders for us to write down our secret wishes for 2011 and seal them in the box with stickers.

Fast forward to last week. On New Year's Day, M's mother unearthed those boxes, and we opened our wish boxes to read out the scraps of paper (the girls hadn't left a lot of room for big wishes). I had written:

acabar la tesi (finish my thesis)
un germanet o una germaneta pel Gabriel (a little brother or sister for Gabriel)
feina pel M. i per la Robin (work for M and for Robin)

Not bad, eh? We're still baking up that little brother or sister, and of the two of us only M has work, but I'm still pretty happy with the outcome of this year's wishes.

As for the coming year, I haven't made any grand resolutions, but I do wish to do the following (in keeping with last year's "wishes"):

achieve basic proficiency in Dutch
rent or buy a bike and get used to riding around town with Gabriel
revise the dissertation and get it published (I first wrote "attempt to get it published" but one should be more assertive about one's wishes, right?)
publish an academic article and a poem or poems
get a postdoc, a teaching job, or something similar
find a prenatal yoga or exercise/movement class
blog more actively now that the diss is done
adjust to being a family of four (this one, I think, we will have to do in any case!)
(there are a whole category of wishes surrounding the birth and newborn months of this new baby, but I'm sort of thinking of that in its own separate category right now, so...I'll leave it at that)

Plus, there are a few more resolution-y type things that are only worth mentioning because it's always better to write them down: floss teeth every day, go to sleep earlier, and clean the house (especially the bathrooms) more often.

And! for Christmas, my mom gave me and my sister and sisters-in-law each a five-year diary, the kind where you jot down just a line or two each day but then get to review each year as you build the diary. I'd like to see if I can maintain that all the way through the year. I haven't kept a diary since high school, but this seems doable and I love the idea of thinking about where I was a year or two or five ago (once I manage to complete them, first!).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My friend Ashley had a baby just a couple of days before we left Bloomington. I'm so glad we were still there when her baby was born! [Edited to add: I forgot about my dear friend Sara, who had a little girl, her third baby!]

4. Did anyone close to you die?

M's grandmother passed away on Christmas day. We will miss her so much.

5. What countries did you visit?

Belgium doesn't count because it's home, and neither does Spain or America, because they're home too. So...Holland, I guess, is it! We visited a few towns across the border while my parents were here in November and had a rental car. We especially liked Maastricht and would love to go back.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

A job--an official, even if part-time or adjunct or temporary one. A bit more published material to put on my CV. A squishy little baby! A bike. A Belgian driver's license. Time to write more poetry.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

December 9: the day I defended my dissertation. It was such a happy event, my committee so warm and encouraging and altogether palpably proud of me. I felt such a sense of achievement and completion even as I handed the set of signed papers in, somewhat anticlimactically, at the Graduate School. I wandered around town in a happy daze, just absorbing it all, and bought myself a book and earrings. Then I celebrated with my friends by eating cupcakes and going out for a fancy dinner, where I ran into my dissertation director, of all people, who then proceeded to say such kind and humbling things about me and my defense/work that I still get all fuzzy thinking about it.

Let's see...there aren't any other particular dates that stand out, except maybe February 15, the day my no-so-little babe turned one, and Christmas, the day iaia died. Everything else was a blur of our usual comings and goings, moving out and moving in, work and meals and walks, the daily trials and charms of life with a small child.

Ah yes, one more date: October 5, the evening it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't gotten my period yet. I had discounted getting pregnant that month due to a previous pregnancy test a week or so prior, but I leapt out of bed anyway and fumbled open the second-to-last pregnancy test in my stash, eking out what little pee I could since I had already gone before getting into bed. A rapid, resolute plus sign: we were pregnant! M. was coming up the stairs after locking up the front door and I sort of jumped out at him and speechlessly showed him the test. I had imagined a romantic surprise reveal but in the event there was no other thought but: !!!! Then I proceeded to get worried because the test was technically expired, so I got out the very last test, a digital one, and had to look up on line how to use it, and of course found myself completely unable to pee. I had to glug water, and think of waterfalls, and there was a lot of jumping nervously back into bed and out of bed while I waited for the water to take effect, and then more waiting while the test turned its little digital cogs, and finally we got that unmistakable confirmation: PREGNANT.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Um, duh. Those three additional letters after my name stand for a lot of hard work and a long, long effort of perseverance (and amazing support from the Mister and our families).
After that, there's getting pregnant again, which didn't happen quite as quick as last time.
Weaning Gabriel ranks up there, too, because of how hard it was and how long it took.
Then, there was packing up a household and moving back to Europe, this time with toddler in tow for added excitement. M getting a new job wasn't my achievement, but it was a great day for us, a solid career step for him, and a big relief to end the uncertainty--which eats away at him even if I'm usually able to blithely focus on the day-today--of what we would be doing next.

9. What was your biggest failure?

There are many failures, I know. Laziness is always at the top of the list, as is procrastination and fretting about unnecessary things. Failure to listen fully to my husband. Failure to push myself out of my comfort zone, whether in making friends or follow-through on career-related possibilities. In terms of parenting, I feel a continual sense of failure to do "activities" with Gabriel...I always aspire to do crafts and come up with games or age-appropriate learning activities but most of the time I fail pretty badly to do so. And I completely and utterly failed to exercise, although I walk around an awful lot pushing a really heavy kid in a really heavy stroller.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Last winter, on the iciest day of the biggest snowstorm that blew through Indiana, I wondered whether it was safe to even walk outside for an appointment I had with Gabriel, especially considering I'd be holding him. So I stepped out onto the walkway leading to our front door to test the ice, and immediately slipped down the ice-coated step and crashed hard onto the cement, catching my weight with my left-hand wrist (thank heavens I hadn't attempted it with the baby!). My wrist was badly sprained, and I had to wear a brace for a long time. It took forever to heal, mostly because I still had to pick up/hold/nurse Gabriel.

As for illness, nothing major, except for an extremely unpleasant bout of achy-flu-ish cold coinciding with Gabriel's start of daycare, the beginning of my pregnancy (before I knew I was pregnant), and the final countdown for finishing my thesis. There was a day when, trying to get Gabriel to sleep in his stroller walking up and down the street in the sun, I could barely stand up or open my eyes in the bright light, and the kid just refused to sleep. I finally gave up after an hour of dogged pacing and went home, bursting into tears which Gabriel had never seen me do so he laughed and giggled. Which made me cry more. Which resulted in me calling the Mister and asking him to come home from work. Which of course, he did.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets are always worth it, getting us back to our families. I think, judging from a few weeks' use, that our new camera was a great purchase. That really good knife. My mom and the Mister convinced me to buy a goose down winter coat at the end-of-season sales last year and I have been SO grateful for that coat.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Plane tickets and moving expenses, especially new furniture for our new home in Leuven (still slowly working on that to spread out the damage). Rent and mortgages. Food.


OK, OK, so this is getting ridiculously long. I'll publish in two parts, first one today and second tomorrow. I guess I have a lot of processing to do about the past year and a lot to write about.

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