2011 and the overdue update.

This is probably the longest hiatus ever from Parasol Party, so I’m going to break my update down into categories for simplicity’s sake!  And I’m going to use a “continue reading” break below, since I’ve gotten into using those on Tumblr.

The house.

Construction is very close to being done.  We’ve been living in the house for a couple of months, and it’s finally starting to feel like home.  I’m really enjoying Church Hill and, surprisingly, all the changes that living in a new neighborhood brings.  I love finally getting to reap the benefits of the endless string of choices we made, and settling into our very comfortable closets, kitchen, etc.  Dan has worked so hard and made everything so beautiful.  And for the first time in about a decade, I’m enjoying the luxury of central air.  Whatever witchery they use to keep your house temperate all year long is truly amazing.  The dishwasher I’m still suspicious of though.

So the only room that’s really still half-finished is the dining room, and that’s on a little break until after the holidays.  The house exterior still needs to be painted and the backyard has a major overhaul in its future.  And of course almost none of our wallhangings are up yet.  So those things will all unfold whenever we get there.  You can read OH so much more about the whole thing on our renovation blog.

The jobs.

You know that part in the job life cycle where you start to see how things really work and start to get disenchanted and hate your job a little bit?  Yeah, that’s hasn’t happened for me yet.  And I feel very lucky about that, since I’ve been at Tumblr for almost a year.  We work really hard and have a lot of fun, and the people I’ve met have astonished me by being such fantastic colleagues.  The office here in Richmond has such a diverse group, and we have the most interesting conversations together.  They’re the kind of people you’d hang out with anyway, not just because you’re at work.

In addition to my regular tech support duties, I’ve been in charge of office life in general, ordering snacks, supplies, and even furniture for the space, and planning outings and parties and all of that stuff — which you know I love to do anyway.  I also just found out yesterday that I’m being promoted, and I’m very excited about it.  In the new year I’ll be managing several employees, and I’ve found myself racking my brain for all that business school management technique stuff.  Turns out, I actually need it.  It all feels like a really beautiful dream and I’m grateful for my job every day.

Dan has begun a new job recently at a company called Electro-LuminX, which manufactures a cutting edge lighting technology called Light Tape.  It’s this thin, flexible stuff that lights up and is able to be used pretty much anywhere.  It was used on the costumes in the Tron remake, etc.  Very versatile and just really interesting work, and I think Dan really likes that he’s always working on a different project.

It’s been a huge relief to have us both gainfully employed in jobs we like.

The extracurricular activities.

Pretty much everything was put on hold in 2011 because of the house, and we’re starting to ease back into things.  I’ve been writing regularly at RVANews again for a while now.  I’ve been back on a good workout regimen in the mornings.  We’ve gone to a few parties.  We’ve actually shown up at church a few times, not just when I’m on nursery duty or Dan is running sound.  I indulged in one of my long-walks-with-podcasts-and-a-camera a few weeks ago, and it felt wonderful.  I’m cautiously beginning to cook again.  We will start attending the City Group in our neighborhood after the holidays, and I will start volunteering at a local organization that tutors and teaches life skills to kids who desperately need it.  I will start crafting again.  Day trips are in the works.

Slowly, life is coming back to us.

But I want to be careful not to take the relative peace we have now and turn it back into an overscheduled grind, like I’m wont to do.  I want to remember that I need plenty of rest and focus in order to run this household well and to realize our major goal with the renovation, which is to be able to extend hospitality to others.  We want to be here with our doors open when people need a place to stay, we want to offer up our table as a place to eat, drink, laugh, and converse, and we want to make people feel welcome.  So in 2012 I’m hoping that we find a balance between all the activities we want to participate in and making this home a calm, unrushed oasis for us and others to enjoy.

The online presence.

I think I’ve figured out a bit more concretely what exactly is going on in my corner of the blogosphere.

As it stands right now, Parasol Party will continue for general updates like this one.  They will happen more frequently, I swear!  Tumblr is more day-to-day tidbits and stream-of-consciousness type stuff, and just sharing fun and interesting things I find online (much like my old lists of links at the end of Parasol Party entries used to be).  And other blogs and sites still exist of course for specific areas, like the house, photography, what books I’m reading, journaling about faith and other thoughts, crafts and inspiration for crafts, collecting images, adventuring, etc. etc. etc.  And all of that, and any link of any consequence that pertains to me, can always be found on Flavors.  You can’t say I don’t at least keep it all in one list somewhere!

Another thing of note that happened this year is that I discovered Pinterest, which I have to point out as particularly useful.  I’ve basically extracted everything remotely visual that I’ve been saving on Delicious for all these years and organized it better on Pinterest, so that at a glance I can see everything I’ve saved in a certain category for the past few years.  I get tons of ideas for ways to make stuff, to reuse things, to entertain children (friends with kids, I see how creative you’re getting and I like it!), and a million other things, and it’s very encouraging.  So besides Tumblr, Pinterest is the main thing I want to recommend to anybody looking to organize their thoughts more clearly and more visually on the internet.

BYE 2011.

My heart is very full when I think about this year and how hard it has been and how many people have labored to get us through it.  I can say that 2011 was the worst year of my life so far, a year marked with despair and mistakes and absolute powerlessness.  I like being the one that people run to; I like being the calm one that is ready to help and listen and set things right.  And even though on a deeper level at my core I still am and want to continue to be that beacon of calmness, this year a lot of that was peeled back to reveal the helplessness a situation can wreak.  But it’s also been a year marked with growth, sacrifice, forgiveness, and learning.  And I know it’s been good for me to just be imperfect and be vulnerable and be reminded that we’re all a part of something way bigger than ourselves, and that we are connected to others and we do need them.  And to partake of the grace so freely given to me.

Family and friends have provided a roof over our heads, they’ve fed us, they’ve entertained us, they’ve loaned us embarrassing sums of money, they’ve checked in on us, they’ve known when to not check in on us and just leave us alone, they’ve swung a hammer or a paintbrush, they’ve picked up our slack, they’ve prayed for us, they’ve left gifts on our porch, they’ve given advice without passing judgment, and they’ve just listened to us while we (okay, while I) wept and lamented and questioned.  This idea of community and of mutual support that we’ve been talking about for years but never really had cause to use much — well, this year, we used it to the fullest.  We saw it in action.  And it worked.  It carried us, and my only hope is that we can keep contributing to this awesome community and have the honor of carrying others when they need it too.

Thank you, really, truly, thank you all.  Every day I wake up and can’t believe how blessed I am.

Thanks to love and grace and as Thomas Jefferson would say “a benevolent arrangement of things,” I already feel a hundred times better than I did just a month ago, and a month ago I felt fifty times better than I had a month before that, and I can’t wait to continue this upswing in 2012.

I’m back, y’all.

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