Moving Forward

It’s been a bit challenging for me to write my first post for the New Year.  After a bitter battle with returning breast cancer, my mother slipped away from us on December 28th.  The hole she has left behind is massive, and for now, it is hard to imagine moving past the pain of losing her.  Yet I know somehow I will.

So how to begin the New Year, focus on my writing, and think about writing for children is the task at hand.  One thing that came to mind as I mulled over the possibilities was to write about how my husband and I end each year and begin the New Year by writing and reviewing the last 364 days. 

Throughout the year, Tom and I make our daily and weekly notes of appointments, travel, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc., in our little pocket calendars.  We also both keep journals.  And we both are active in social media and our blogs.  Each of these avenues presents opportunities to record happenings in our lives, from mundane to extraordinary and unexpected occurrences. 

Finally, when December 31st rolls around, we set aside some time to scan over the year’s calendar entries, Facebook, Blog posts, and journals and make a list of the monthly highlights.  Either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, we sit down with a glass of wine and read each other’s Year-in-Review lists.  It’s always a happy and reflective experience.

We started this tradition about 6 years ago when we were snowbound in our home and had no desire to be out in public celebrating New Year’s Day.  The process was enjoyable, so we decided to make it an annual tradition.  Several things make the Year-in-Review such fun.

1.) Looking at everything you’ve done over the year really shows you how much you can accomplish and how fast time flies.

2.) You have a record of triumphs, failures, surprises, sad events, and other important turning points.

3.) Small events or happenings that might otherwise be forgotten are there to remind us of life’s daily sweetness.  e.g., “Today I picked eggplant from the garden, and tonight we will enjoy eggplant parmesan.  Or “Today I sat on the porch, and a hummingbird hovered in front of me, pondering the feeder hanging near where I sat.”

4.) Sometimes, we remember events differently.  Often this makes for some laughter, as my husband and I recount the same incident perceived in radically different ways.  However, we also find we fill in the blanks with each other’s accounts, enhancing the other.

5.) Reflecting on all that has occurred builds our gratitude for each day.

6.) Reviewing the year together strengthens our bond to one another and makes us happy to be partners in our life’s journeys.

It strikes me that such an activity would be a good thing for families to adopt.  Why not keep a family journal, where someone in the family or several people could write quick notes about each day?

There will be many days when not much happens.  And there may be other days where so much excitement happens that everyone wants to put down an entry.  A family could also make it into a privileged game.  Each week, someone is designated to be the memory keeper and writes something down for the days in that week.  Then on New Year’s Eve, make some popcorn and hot cider and sit down to read the Year-In-Review together.  Enjoy the memories of what you’ve shared together.  Both good and bad times will make you even stronger as a family.

Admittedly I did not want to participate in our Year-In-Review this year.  My mother’s passing left me feeling too sad to go through the process.  My grief over losing her and my memory of all her struggles seemed to overshadow everything.  But my husband encouraged me to try anyway, so I did.  And much to my surprise, it helped me.  While the calendar and journal entries documented my mother’s sad decline, they also showed me something else.  I saw that peppered throughout the year; there was still beauty.  There were still pleasant surprises and kind acts from friends, family, and neighbors.  There were still magnificent sunrises and sunsets, changing seasons, growing seeds, and singing birds.  Of course, life is sometimes harsh, bumpy, even nightmarish.  We all take our turns walking through dark valleys.  But life is also always beautiful around this.  We can return to beauty while we grieve.  And we can hope for and believe in better days. I believe my mother would want her family and friends to have such hope and live as much as possible with grateful hearts for all life’s wonders.

This month, my Recommended Read for Children is an older children’s book about entering a new calendar year:  The Stars Will Still Shine by Cynthia Rylant. I have found the sweet and simple lyrical words to be a comfort at this time in my life. In fact, any family looking past difficult times and trying to move forward in this New Year will appreciate the book which reminds us to be joyful for all the world’s beauty that still surrounds us.

Published by littleseedsread

Hello, my name is Julie Lerczak. For over twenty-five years I worked as an educator in a variety of art, history, and anthropology museums in Illinois, Iowa, and Virginia. Then, for the last five years of my career, I was an environmental educator. I am now retired and am pursuing my dream of being a children's book author. I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I live in Illinois with my husband Tom and our rescued pet turtle "Tootles." When I'm not writing stories I enjoy gardening, painting, making pottery, beekeeping, photography, hiking, and traveling.

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