Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Best of In the Warm Hold (and Elsewhere): 2016

{Annie reading the first ever letter I wrote to her almost eight years ago}

Even though these posts are a bit of a labor of love, I enjoy them immensely each year. The reason is twofold.

First of all, even at times when I think the very best writing in this space is mediocre comparatively, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Because these words represent hours of my life. It's something I've worked hard on and I've given myself to it. It used to embarrass me, and I suppose it's a bit vulnerable to admit, but it's a hobby- and if I'm doing well with it, a craft- that I love.

More than once this year, I asked myself if this was worth my energy anymore, worth my limited mental resources. Especially with little to no compensation- even in the form of comments. But the truth is, now more so than ever, this blog is its own reward. 

Secondly, each year, these posts allow me to analyze my writing. This year, I realized my writing leaned even more analytical and introspective than usual. I love creative writing and more essay/memoir feeling posts that read like a story, but this wasn't the year for that. That said, I like to challenge myself to go beyond recaping events and think about what's going on behind them and I certainly think I did it in 2016. It was a very reflective year for me. SD gets meta, WHEW.

I think I often offer some sort of caveat, and really I don't know why I do, because like the blog itself, these posts are mostly for me. That said, I'm linking to more than I feel like I "should". I did try to be discerning and there were some posts I liked that fit what I wanted to share, but I left off because they weren't my favorite. But there are also some posts here that aren't necessarily the "best", I just wanted to include them because they were interesting to me and this is basically where I go when I want to look back at the posts that were important to me. It ends up being a collection of most of the substantive things I've written, rather than truly the best of the best. Maybe next year, I should think of a new way to title this.

I always start the year out doing exactly what I'm doing, so a lot of January on the blog is recaps and goal evaluating and determining. As I mentioned in another post, the focus this past January was on Sister Baby, and on finding out that she was, in fact, a sister baby.
Another Sister or Another Brother?- I wrote about finding out that Babykins #3 was a girl and about our varied reactions to that fact.

In February, I was really trying to shoot out Weekly Happening posts, and monthly letters to the kiddos, and weekly pregnancy posts, and a some Smorgasbords. But I got in a couple of more analytical posts.
13 Things That Are Saving My Life- I wrote about Amazon Prime, my planner, alone time, and God's sovereignty.
Babykins #3: Halfway Home- This was my first "reflection" type pregnancy post. I shared about my thoughts on naming her, on how I was grateful for how difficult the pregnancy had been, and on attempting to find the balance between fully immersing myself in things happening for "the last time" and not obsessing over it.

I finally felt Spring in March and I was able to document it a little. I was also finally able to really share some of the intense emotions having to do with missing New York and how that related to Peyton's disbelief and some of life's other difficulties.
Sidewalk Supper- I wrote this tiny little post because it was one of those nights I wanted to remember for always. It felt good to stretch my writing muscles, if only for about ten minutes.
Darkest of Nights: On Fear and Peace and Welcoming People in Their Pain, Sin, and Disbelief- This was one of the most important posts I wrote this year. I ended up incorporating most of it into a post I submitted to a blog I love. I wrote about Peyton's (lack of) faith and my kids' awful behavior and my own debilitating anxiety and how our church in New York was so kind to meet us right in the midst of all those things.

April was the month we were gone to New York on our babymoon trip and I wrote almost nothing especially insightful. What I did write was clearly exclusively about the trip and the city.
Feelings On Visiting Our Old Home- I shared my feelings on visiting our old home and analyzed if maybe I curated an image of New York to impress other people or even as self-preservation when we lived there.

It's funny I got so much writing done in May since things would have to be put on the back burner for awhile starting in June and just recently experiencing a bit of an upswing. Anyway, in May I wrote some more about my pregnancy and
Babykins #3: Comparisons and Reflections at Thirty Weeks- I shared how hard I was working to be present with the kids but how I felt like I was neglecting them, how I had a big come apart one afternoon and really got myself worked up, and how I asked Carrie to be in the room when the baby was born!
 Life Expectancy (In a World of Expectations): A New York Conference Review (over at MBird)- Having a piece published on Mockingbird was a really big honor. I wrote about NPR, the conference, more on Peyton's disbelief, and the restorative power of a declarative word spoken over oneself.
Live- This post found it's origin in a writing prompt from a friend who suggested choosing verbs that encourage one to live.
Babykins #3: Reflections and Comparisons at Thirty Five Weeks- I wrote about being anxious about not having a doula or a name for Sister Baby and about Annie and Graves's thoughts on the baby.

June was a sweet month to write about some of the most important relationships and events.
God's Continued Provision in Our Marriage- I wrote about all the ways I had seen God bring me and Peyton to agreement on things and how that gave me increased hope for the work He can do in P's life.
The Amazingly Difficult and Beautiful Story of Sarah Lamar's Birth- I shared about the chaotic, terrifying, amazing story that was behind our sweet girl's birth.
{Throwback Thursday} Babykins #3: Reflections and Comparisons at Forty Weeks- It was important to me to remember, so I went back and wrote about that last week before Sallie came.
Baby Blues: Things That Hurt and Things That Comfort- This was the first post that I wrote processing what was going on with me emotionally after Sallie's birth. I shared the hard stuff and the amazing stuff.

The focus, in July, was, predictably, our New Girl.
As Magic as the Smell of Baby Shampoo- Even thought I was struggling in a lot of ways, I was enjoying Sallie's babyhood so much and I wanted to share about how different my perspective was this time around.
Sarah Lamar: Naming Our Sister Baby- This was similar to a birth story in that I wanted to make sure to share it before the details got fuzzy. I went through a long explanation and analysis of the circuitous road that led us to Sarah Lamar's name.

In August, I wrote a lot about my own mental health, as well as about nursing and an opportunity that I was thankful didn't come to fruition even though I wanted it to desperately.
Drowning- I finally shared how much I was struggling emotionally. It did give me quite a bit of relief to write about it.
I Shall Be Well- I wrote about my decision to get on medicine and my feelings surrounding it.
Feeding a Baby the Third Time- I wrote a short post about nursing this go round.
The Best Laid Plans: Remix- I realized, yet again, God had provided for me and I was thankful for a decision I didn't have to make.

In September, I started a monthly process of kind of taking inventory of my own thoughts and feelings, largely relating to our family and family size, as well as my own health and self-image and eulogized one of the greatest women I've had the privilege to love. The post partum reflections became one of my favorite disciplines and I hope I figure out a way to continue this type of "checking in" with myself after Sallie turns a year old.
Post-Partum Check In: Three Months Out- I shared about depression, and how much I love the baby stage, and how I was grateful I had been able to so fully immerse myself in Sallie's babyhood.
Granny: Remembering a Life of Love and Labor- I wrote a post about Granny and how perfectly time her funeral was in that it fell on Labor Day and she was one of the hardest working, and the strongest, women I have known in my life.

We took our big family vacation for the Fall in October, but I managed to write a bit about motherhood and my feelings on family and time.
Heart Attacks and Heart Explosions- I wrote a quick, numbered points post about Sallie and Graves and motherhood.
Post Partum Check In: Four Months Out- another bit of inventory taking, this time about how attached Sallie was, the way time moves, and the sense of closure I was feeling as the chapter on biological babies was closing.

In November, I analyzed the election outcome, talked about messes (those weren't the same post, actually- haha!), and shared more post partum reflections.
Post-Election Ramblings- I shared my thoughts on the presidential election.
Inviting Others Into the Mess- I talked about trying to get comfortable with allowing others into our literal, and figurative, messes.
Post-Partum Check In: Five Months Out- I shared more about feeling a sense of closure; about becoming more healthy; and about how; in my experience, babies get harder with age.

I closed out the year with my most recent self-reflection and my yearly Christmas letter which is always one the hardest things to write and one of my most favorite things to write.
Post-Partum Check In: Six Months Out- I wrote about how six months felt abrupt, how I was surprisingly at peace with it, and more about how I was seeing God's provision.
You've Got Mail: 2016 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter- I shared a lot of the ups and downs from the year. I love these partly because it's a challenge to figure out how I want to articulate everything I want to share in a simple letter.
An Orginization I'm Proud to Be a Part Of- I wrote an impassioned defense of the Junior League. I love it so much and it hurts when people know it.
SD Is Thankful 2016- I finished up the year by sharing my Thankfuls from November.

As I said, it was fun to wade back through these and look back over my thoughts and feelings and all the things we experienced in 2016. I'm grateful for another precious year in the books and for the way I've been able to document it in this space.

The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2010
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2011
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2012
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2013
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2014
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2015

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