2014: My Year in Review and the Lessons I Learned

Any year that begins with a polar vortex and an amount of snow not seen since 1978 can only improve, right? Unfortunately, 2014 brought our world missing planes, racial tensions, the spread of Ebola and many, many questions. Personally, 2014 delivered challenges, setbacks, opportunities, growth, and a few valuable lessons. Through it all there was love. Lots of love.

My year began with the loneliness that always follows the departure of my girls immediately after Christmas. Courtney returned to Paris to complete her internship and negotiate her dream job. Lindsay returned to Nashville to begin saving for her own dream—an entire year of travel.

Christmas Eve 2013 with my daughters, Lindsay and Courtney.

After a successful first year of business, my partner and I were discovering that we had different ideas about how we wanted the business to grow. In April, just as the Polar Vortex finally ended, we parted ways. It was a bittersweet transition but it made me more determined than ever to realize my original vision for my company.

Courtney returned home to wait for a work visa that never came. Her silver lining was meeting the man who just might be the love of her life.

Lindsay became distressed that social media, which she saw as a medium for connection and understanding, was being used to promote fear and hate. She decided to create her own ripple effect in response and The Small World Project was born.

Rob and I were ships passing only in the night for the first few months of the year. He was painting a body of work for a show. We were both working many nights and weekends. In April, Rob’s dedication paid off as he earned first place at ArtExpo New York. Courtney and I were there to cheer him on, and we spent several days traveling around New York City together.

The husband, ArtExpo New York. April, 2014.

The husband, ArtExpo New York. April, 2014.

I was becoming aware that life events that at first seem like setbacks or worse, difficult endings, are often just new beginnings filled with more amazing opportunities and experiences. But we must be looking forward to see them.

I took a course (and read several books) on positive psychology through SOMO Leadership Labs and was reminded that we choose fear or hope every day. ‘I choose love’ became a mantra- one I was present to when I decided to name the new site for my blog.

In June, Rob and I drove my parents and Courtney to spend a week at the beach with my aunt’s family. Fresh from my course, I took pads of post it notes, and every day each person wrote their favorite thing about the day and posted it on the refrigerator. The children tried to outwit each other and the activity became a touchstone for us all, keeping us present to the simple gift of time together.

Best thing experiment. Lorraine Schuchart.

Rob’s niece was married and we spent some wonderful days with his family. In October, the two of us took our first vacation (just us) since 2010. We traveled to Charleston and Savannah and had an incredible week. And then it was back to our crazy schedules.

In front of Forsyth Fountain, Savannah.

We are fortunate to have all four of our parents living—Rob’s in Oxford, Maryland and mine just a mile down the road. But as we actively engage to help them with some difficult decisions, we are very aware that the cycle of life is filled with both joy and heartache.

And so we came into the holidays as perhaps you did as well, feeling tired yet yearning to make the celebrations meaningful. I host Christmas Eve and honor our family tradition of making seven fishes. We go to 6 p.m. mass, so I do my best to have everything ready to cook fresh the minute we walk in the door. It’s not terribly practical, but it’s familiar and comforting at a time when so many other things are not. It’s one way I can choose love and connect the past and the present in a meaningful way for the people I love most.

My daughters, parents and sister (and me) on Christmas Eve 2014.

My daughters, parents and sister (and me) on Christmas Eve 2014.

And perhaps that is the greatest lesson I learned this year. There is balance in life and we can disrupt it or strengthen it though our attitudes and our actions. We can exit gracefully and begin again. We can give each other time and space to grow and find our way back. We can push back against injustice but let go of petty expectations of how things ‘should’ be. We can give more and expect less. We can seek justice and love kindness regardless of what others are seeking and loving.

To do this is work. Sometimes we fail. But setbacks are only opportunities in disguise. And each day we begin again.