New Years Reflections

It has been a while since we have posted on the blog. I want to apologize to any of you have been following our more regular posts. Since our consultation with Adoptions Together in October, we had felt an incredible time crunch to produce bags that could be sold in time for the holiday season. That also meant figuring out the best ways to inform everyone of this new endeavor in quick, fun, and effective ways. This led to scheduling the Paint Night, sending out letters, creating websites, etc. It was a lot of work that many people helped us with, and we needed to take a month off to breathe and re-calibrate so that we could continue our fundraising for the adoption in a more balanced and sustainable manner. Again, we apologize for the delay and appreciate your patience and continued interest in our adoption journey. Below you will find Ryan’s responses to the New Year’s Reflection.

Matt is being very thorough with his answers, so this post will be updated when he feels the answers best communicate his thoughts and feelings.

** UPDATE** Matt has posted his answers to the questions.

  1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

Matt:

Our anniversary trip was fantastic (technically the ‘trip’ is one thing that encompassed many).  Our trip included a surprisingly-amazing heavy-metal restaurant, a drag show, seeing good friends in Virginia, staying with other good friends at the North Carolina beach, going to a Lindsey Buckingham concert, and finishing off at Busch Gardens for Halloween.  It sounds busy, but the trip was paced well, and we had a great time.  I particularly enjoyed getting away from the house for the week.

Ryan:

The single best thing that happened in 2018 was me breaking and dislocating my arm. I know that is a strange answer, but hear me out. I have a fear of the hospital and have never been to the ER before. Injuring my arm forced me to confront my fears not once, but twice, as I also needed surgery. I have never had surgery before. This was scary as I have never really had surgery that required a hospital (I had my wisdom teeth surgically removed, but I never had to roll myself off of a gurney and onto a cold metal surgical table- so I don’t think it counts). I had to learn how to surrender all control, and life, over to a complete stranger, which was something I had never experienced before.

All of these experiences have made it significantly easier to empathize with some of my clients and even some of my friends, that are having medical issues. Prior to breaking my arm, my empathy had to come from an imagining of how I think I would feel, but now I had some experiences to actually pull from. I feel that the depth of my empathy has deepened.

Additionally, I have a tendency to want to do everything independently. I used to think that asking for help felt weak (despite my telling others that it wasn’t, for some reason I refused to apply that to myself). This way of thinking left me feeling like I was alone (except for Matt) in dealing with any and all of my problems. When I was forced to stay at home and not work and not be able to use my dominant arm, I was forced to ask for help. I was also forced to see how many people cared about me. On one hand, I always knew I had friends I could count on, but now I had proof.

How a physical injury also forced me to start engaging in more self-care. Since I had met my insurance deductible, I went ahead and had a physical and went to the dermatologist for the first time. These things had been on my “to-do” list for years, but I actually did them. In doing so, it was identified that I had skin cancer, and I was able to get that taken care of while it was still early. If it hadn’t been for my arm injury, I probably would have put it off for another year.

While in bed for three weeks, I also learned about the resiliency of my clients. I learned that I could take vacations and engage in more self-care than I had previously. So now I am looking into taking multiple small vacations throughout the year, instead of only getting one break in October.

  1. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Matt:

Ryan damaged his shoulder in February.  After the initial difficulties and recovery, there was the discovery that the damage was worse than originally discovered.  After the surgeries came the medical expenses and the prolonged recovery.  It was hard watching Ryan go through so much pain and frustration during this process.  On my end… well, for the remainder of the year Ryan was largely unable to do anything requiring lifting, pulling, or strength.  This meant that the most-involved set of responsibilities in the house (our trio of dogs), fell almost entirely to me from early February through the end of the year.  Normally I take joy in the sharing of day-to-day operations in our home; I feel that it’s the day-to-day, little stuff that make a relationship.  When that all falls to just one person, those things just start to become chores and tedium.  My home space is usually where I seek to be to relax; for much of 2018 that state ceased to be.

Ryan:

Breaking and dislocating my arm. I am not the best at sitting still. After the surgery (literally still had the hospital bracelets on) Matt caught me trying to do laundry.

  1. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

Matt:

The most I laughed all year happened at the drag show.  The rows of seats were incredibly close to each other, so much so that each row could clearly see the cell phone screens of the row in front of them.  Well, at the intermission, the middle-aged woman in front of us was looking up the… uh… ‘steps’ drag queens take to disguise their anatomy.  At first we though she was looking up something about female anatomy, but as soon as it dawned on us what as actually depicted on her phone… we lost it.  I hadn’t laughed so hard all year.

Ryan:

Sweet-Potato-Pie_EXPS_GHBZ18_1203_B08_15_3b-696x696

We have several neighbors that we really enjoy. That’s one of the great things about living where we do. This one particular neighbor has been having a rough time. She lost her husband a few years ago and has been getting by as best she can. She is still chipper and pleasant (despite working all day as a psychiatric nurse, where she has to maintain that same demeanor regardless of the behavior of those she serves). Well, we ran into each other one day and I suggested that we get together and make a pie (really random suggestion on my part, especially since I really don’t bake all that often). She agreed to the idea and that was that. I fully anticipated that she would have forgotten about the offer. I was wrong. We ended up getting together and making sweet potato pies and really just enjoying each other’s company.

internet-easter-eggs

Matt and I also have a tradition every year of hiding Easter eggs filled with candy in a neighbor’s yard. There is some criteria as to who we choose though. They have to be adults with no children (we assume adults with children would like to hide their own eggs and we would hate to rob them of that). We also try to choose a family who we know may be struggling recently (we hid eggs two years ago for the neighbor previously mentioned). And finally, they have to have a good sense of humor (otherwise this whole thing could take a turn for the worst). Last year we chose a member of the HOA board who is diligent and funny. Her husband had been going through a slew of health issues. We hid the eggs, and we heard nothing about it for almost a full year. After returning from a hiatus on the board (due to her husband’s illnesses and work obligations) she returned and mentioned the eggs. Her face lit up when she learned it had been us who hid them. Evidently, her nephew had been visiting and the surprise visit from an unknown Easter bunny had become a family mystery. It was so cool to hear that they had appreciated our little Easter gag as much as we enjoyed doing it.

IMG_5489

Finally, my winning three third place prizes at the Sheep and Wool festival for two photographs and one pastel drawing I had submitted. This was the first time I had ever put any of my artwork in the position to be judged or seen by the general public. I was very honored and flattered to have placed. It was quite the surprise!

  1. What was an unexpected obstacle?

Matt:

Ryan’s shoulder injury takes the cake.  I don’t believe there was anything else either as unexpected or as much as an obstacle.

Ryan:

I had decided in 2017, that in 2018 I would begin the adoption journey. I didn’t think it was possible to start the journey after the hospital and physical therapy bills drained my savings. We pushed forward anyway, and was told about the $30k that it would cost to adopt and that we would need the money first AND that any loans we received would count against us in being identified as fit parents. Those were several obstacles I had not foreseen.

  1. Pick three words to describe 2018.

Matt:

Tiring.  I don’t know if I have two other words; I found 2018 tiring.  Yes, the enjoyable times were quite enjoyable (Renn Fest visits, a few new friends, some mini-trips, and a couple parties), but overall I found 2018 tiring.

Ryan:

Unexpected. Perseverance. Perspective.

  1. Name at least one thing that you learned last year.

Matt:

I think I learned (or maybe realized) that I am considered valuable to my community/neighborhood.  I have been volunteering/serving on the local HOA for a few years now.  I always thought that I was the ‘silent’ member that weighs-in on occasion.  I think it was only 2018 when I realized how much fellow HOA members value my opinions, knowledge, judgement, and no-nonsense-attitude regarding community issues.

Ryan:

I learned how to better manage my creative anxiety. I have always been nervous about starting a new piece of art. This year I picked up pens as a medium for the first time. I purposely sketched out the image I was going to work on in grey pen first. I did this so that I would be forcing myself to accept and work with any mistakes I may have made. This helped me get over my fear of making mistakes and reduced my hesitancy in starting new work.

On top of learning how to use pen successfully. I also pushed myself to learn how to create pieces made from the French stippling technique. This pushed my patience, but also helped me in slowing down, becoming more mindful, and letting myself trust in the journey of creation.

  1. Identify something that you were proud of in 2018.

Matt:

I am most proud of getting Ryan to submit his artwork to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.  We have attended the event for years, and always comment on the submitted artwork.  Well this year I convinced Ryan to submit photographs and an oil pastel piece… and he placed!  He came home with three winning ribbons.

Ryan:

Just about everything I have listed above. 2018 was very hard for me, but I made it. Going through all the health and financial issues, but still being able to work on art, keep physically fit, engage in my community, maintain friendships, and continue to manage my program at work was incredibly difficult. I am very proud of myself for juggling everything, and then deciding to begin our adoption journey at the tail end of such a stressful year goes to show that I am up for the challenge. All the challenges. Like. Every. Single. One.   :0P

  1. What were the best books you read this year?

Matt:

I didn’t really ‘read’ any books in 2018.  I did get a few new Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks, but those aren’t really things to ‘read’. That said, I used said books, along with my collection of mythology reference books, to continue creating a complex, mythology-woven, fantasy gaming world for my friends and players to participate in.

Ryan:

The Whole-Brain Child. I wrote a review of it under the resourced tab. Very user friendly.

  1. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

Matt:

I began to see my home space as less relaxing.  All my life I have tried to make my home spaces stable, comfortable, and calming.  In college, even, my dorm room was lit with warm incandescent bulbs, had soft furniture, and had extra blankets and wall hangings (interior designers talk about adding soft textures to improve a room… I unknowingly did just that all through college).  Now see my home space more as a place where chores and tasks need to get done, and less a place to relax. This is a huge change for me, and I have never experienced this before.

Ryan:

Learning how to let go of control and trust my support network.

  1. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

Matt:

I have never been a big self-promoter; it makes me uncomfortable.  I prefer to let my accomplishments and actions speak for themselves.  2018 saw me getting more comfortable with this whole self-promotion thing (adoption planning, this site, fundraising, etc.), which is a big change.

Ryan:

I got to see how much Matt loves me in his caring for me while I was down and stepping up to take on more chores to keep the house running. I also deepened my empathy, learned to let go of control, faced my fears, and started to prioritize my needs.

  1. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

Matt:

I don’t believe I have grown spiritually in 2018.  With that said, I have already started spending some time relearning Tarot. I originally started looking into Tarot in college. I have always had an interest in the metaphysical and as an RA I even hosted a psychic fair. I have found that my ability to recognize patterns in life to be well suited for Tarot. Ryan also has been interested in Tarot and I have enjoyed our evenings we spend together learning different ways to read the cards and practicing doing Tarot card readings for each other.

Ryan:

I learned/am still learning how to let go and accept things as they are. This is definitely easier said than done. I can be very idealistic, which can be very motivating, but can also lead to disappointments if I don’t keep my expectations in check.

  1. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

Matt:

I think I ‘expanded’ physically, but not grown.  It is cliché, but I would have liked to have exercised more.

Ryan:

I have consistently been weightlifting throughout the year, even with my arm injured. I went to physical therapy to regain use of my arm. And, I also prioritized my physical health by going to several doctor’s appointments. This was a really good idea, as I also had skin cancer this year, which apparently I had for quite some time. Luckily it was an easy fix, but resulted in a scar on my face. Lesson learned: go to regular doctor’s appointments!

  1. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

Matt:

I feel closer to my sister this past year.  I really can’t pinpoint why; I think it might be being able to see her at some of my favorite events/places this past year (Penn State Arts Fest, Maryland Renn Fest).

Ryan:

My relationship with Matt has grown. When you say “in sickness and in health”, that is often theoretical. It remains that way until that day comes where it is tested. This was the year where it was first tested, and Matt certainly passed the test.

I also allowed myself to be vulnerable with may of my friends. And instead of being rejected, many of them stepped up and helped. Whether that be making food or walking the dogs while my are was out of commission. Others assisted with helping run the Stitch and Bitches, raise money, and were emotionally supportive.

  1. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

Matt:

2018 saw a lot of Netflix screen time.  Granted, I (and we) very much enjoyed the available content, but I had a lot of screen time this past year.

Ryan:

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Waiting to do things I wanted to do because I wanted others to do it with me. In some cases, people said they were interested, but due to various issues, things just didn’t happen. In 2019, I plan on doing things regardless as to whether others can attend. In fact, Matt and I already started doing this. For years I have wanted to go to a drag bingo event. Just this January, we were invited to a fundraiser for the Frederick County Fire Department. And despite many people backing out at the last minute (for various reasons- lots of snow, other plans, etc.), Matt and I went anyway. And we had a blast! I have never had so many female impersonators hitting on me in my life (it probably helps that I am a good tipper).

  1. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

Matt:

Maintaining and improving my company was probably the best use of my time.  From training a new employee, starting to develop new services, to just keeping up with the day-to-day incoming inquiries and needs of clients.

Ryan:

In conversation with my friends. Regardless of what we were doing, the connection was incredibly nourishing to my soul.

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