2016: Reflections & Revelations, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

I really appreciate those of you who take the time to write Christmas letters, so I'm sitting here still in my pajamas on New Year's Day, creating a photo album of highlights of 2016, trying to create an end-of-the-year letter.

I'm listening to my favorite show, CBS Sunday morning, give the rundown of who passed away im 2016. Rather than focusing on their death, Jane Pauley is describing their lives. It is not lost on me that two just mentioned in the past 5 minutes were Janet Reno and Muhammad Ali, giants in their fields who are remembered for what their lives meant, not their fight with Parkinson's Disease. 

 I am trying to not let myself get wrapped up in making that our story, and it is one of the reasons I haven't blogged lately. I just have on my mind how it has changed our life, but I certainly can relate to Elie Wiesel, who passed in 2016,  saying, "I write to understand as much to be understood."  My mind is very crowded with what the Fall of 2016 taught and brought us --  the revelation that our family will be moving to Centerville, TN the summer of 2017.  I have struggled with the decision, but my prayer today is "let there be peace. . .and let it begin with me." 

I don't want our family's story or our decisions to be defined by our trials, and when I reflect on these stories and pictures of the past year, indeed I see the good times aren't shadowed by the challenges, that even the hard times are not all dark.  The light of love, joy, hope and faith shine through in the faces of family and friends. 

2016: Reflections

We rung in the New Year last year in a beautiful state park in West Virginia with friends.
 Whitney is more than a friend really, more like a cousin, and through a twist of fate or divine intervention, her career and BJ's health has intersected. She introduced us to his Georgetown neurologist and spends her career focused on Parkinsons.
Her family is charming and fun!
 In January, we enjoyed  a whale of a snow storm, providing fun and calmness.

Molly tried basketball and this year both girls will do it.
March brought fun birthday celebrations: Molly celebrated her 6th birthday with a jump party.

Anna Cate's 10th birthday was an amazing trip to New York with her and my dear  friends! 

As a family, the Social Studies teacher in me,  tried to involve the kids in the election process by having family dinners learning about the states who were hosting primaries and caucuses.  Like most things, it is my idea but BJ makes it happen. Among the highlights for me were shrimp and grits for South Carolina, hot dogs for Iowa, Clam chowder for New Hampshire. 

One of my favorite memories was when we did breakfast and poker for Nevada. 

 I trained for and our family raised money for a half marathon to raise funds for Team Fox, a foundation dedicated to research. 
We went camping with Sarah, Greg and Graham. . . and their dogs. 
We celebrated an early Mother's Day at a winery with Mom (and Dad) and our friends, Geoff, Dorinda and Jackson.
I got to accompany Anna Cate on her field trip to Jamestown.
 Her Science project showcased the sugar levels in drinks, and it was so good, her PE teacher asked to keep it to make her point to students. 
Molly had a speaking part in the Kindergarten musical.
We enjoyed the performance of the Lion King and got to stick around and meet some of the cast. 
My parents came up for the USO dance at my school for 6th grade US History students. 

The end of the school pics made us realize how the girls have grown!
I turned 40 the last week of the school year, and BJ treated me with celebrations all summer long.

I enjoyed some time with dear friends, who have been brought into my life in all sorts of ways. 

My kindred spirit Nicole,with whom I spent some of my wild 20s in Russia, flew out for a wonderful week for us together in Alexandria! 

For the girls, summer brought good times with their best friends, camps, swim team, and family trips. 

For some reason, the girls not doing swim team is what rips my heart out the most about moving. I think it represents what I love about our summers here, our neighborhood, and what I did not have growing up. 
 When I shared this with Anna Cate, she said, " Oh I get it, Mom, you want to give us opportunities. . .but we are the opposite of you -- we want you had; we just want to be near family." 

We tie-dyed our 4th of July shirts.

We went to the beach and visited my dear friend, almost a second mother, Mary Helen Smith, who called our visit Camp All Things Homey. The girls got  cooking lessons and I got some plants to put in planters. 

And then our summer ended with the girls trip to Tennessee where they were treated to a couple nights in Gatlinburg with my Aunt and Uncle.  

 Anna Cate and Molly then went to Centerville to be with Nana and Daddy Doug  while BJ and I had the trip of a lifetime to Paris.  In just one week after the above picture was taken, Anna Cate got sick. 

BJ and I returned from Paris August 20, and I flew to Nashville August 21st to be with her for her first hospital stay. She was hospitalized 5 times in all, and with trial and error and the compassion and wisdom of some wonderful doctors (including her primary care physician Dr. Purcell and Dr. Martinez at Vanderbilt), she is back to herself.  In looking back on it all, I am glad my heart and mind went into functioning mode because if I focus on it too much right now, I want to throw up.  

So as summer seeped into Fall, it seems a little like a blur. Anna Cate was sick, BJ had his surgeries, and has been home while his doctors program his device. 

 Yet the scenes aren't just of hospitals, I will remember friends and the dozens of meals, cards and love  provided to us in our dark days. 

Anna Cate spent most of the Fall with my parents;  my Dad wholeheartedly believes that horses helped Anna Cate heal, so both girls are taking lessons at a nearby farm. 

A couple weeks ago, BJ came in the door and said, "Sarah, I have no idea what this is, but I bet it is going to be good! It is from Jill Baffert." 

Jill grew up in Centerville, and her sister was a classmate of mine, her niece has babysat the girls. She was always gorgeous but more importantly, she is kind and a lot of fun!  In fact the name of this blog is credited to her -- she once asked me how the queens of the king family are. I have lost touch with her personally (so I am in such awe of how she got my address) but we have kept up with their success and cheered on American Pharoah's success last year.  She wrote Anna Cate the most beautiful note, sent her a gorgeous book signed by her husband and included a piece of American Pharoah's mane in the card. She wrote, "I heard you have been brave and strong like American pharoah," and signed it Jill (from Centerville).  

Daddy said horses helped heal Anna Cate; I say Centerville helped heal her, too. She came home this Fall and said, "Centerville feels like home already."  This gift is the grandest gesture of such love from Centerville and of horses. Jill,  who even though quite a celebrity, signed a note to my girl,  "Jill (from Centerville)".  The night before both BJ's surgeries, another friend from Centerville, my dear friend, Dorinda, hosted us and gave him a wonderful home-cooked Southern meal.  In the hardest days of our life, we have been loved by Centerville even though I haven't lived there in 15 years, (and please know that I don't mean we haven't felt love and support by family and friends not in TN). 

In the trajectory of our story,  just like in 2016, I have faith my family will be loved. So when my mind worries that my kids won't have swim team,  I need to remind myself to appreciate the gifts we have had here in Fredericksburg,
and to anticipate the gifts that lay ahead after we move. 

Molly got schlepped around and I must say she got quite some perks. . .a trip to the Northeast in the Fall, a lot of extra love from her current and former teacher, and special alone time with friends. 

On her trip to the Northeast, she became friends with a delightful lady, Nancy, who is now special to all of us. 

We finished off the Fall with a lovely Thanksgiving with Greg, Sarah, Graham and Nancy.

I went yogaville one more time this year. 

The first weekend in December,  Molly, BJ and I went to Centerville for our niece's baptism (Tallulah is my god-daughter)

And we have enjoyed Christmas festivities despite more sickness (strep and stomach bugs).
Anna Cate had a fun part in the 5th grade musical -- a dancing reindeer who showed us all that SHE IS WELL!
 Molly got her ears pierced. 
 We found the emotional energy to appreciate the season.
 And of course, we loved being home with family this past week. 

So, 2016 brought us good times and good lessons in the face of hard times.

"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."- Leonard Cohen