2012: A Year in Pictures

It’s time for the annual year-in-review blog!

The best thing about 2012 was that it was as good and amazing as the last two years have been hard and grief-stricken.  While I was so relieved for 2011 to end last year, I savored every moment of 2012.

The year always starts with my niece’s birthday!  Here is Jessica when she turned 5, and we did some serious homeschooling with letters and words.  That’s how we discovered reading is way more fun with playdough.

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I took the Mutch kids to the zoo, and didn’t lose any of them.  I did, however, lose my ATM card.  The kids insisted it was eaten by a monkey.  I told them I knew who the real monkeys were.

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Then I found out that my little baby (old) puppy, Neitzsche (on the left) is getting old.  He has little tumor cysts on his head and in his chest near his heart, as well as a heart murmur.  It was only a few months since my father and three of my friends died, and I couldn’t handle the grief of it.  So I just cried that he couldn’t run with me anymore, and now keep him at home unless I carry him on a walk.

Rilke (on the right), however, is so good at running with me that I do not even need to put him on a leash (except to obey leash laws, of course).  He stays with me and doesn’t run off, and I have never had a dog who did that.  Maybe he knew that’s what I needed in my life.  He is hyper-crazy, but so very sweet.

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February was amazing!  I ditched several months of a series of bad dates to take myself to Israel for my birthday.  I got to tour all the holy sites with Steve Kapp Perry, the land mines in Syria, meet church members in the stake and districts there, float in the Dead Sea, pray at the Temple site, eat a lot of dates, survive some scary checkpoints between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and West Bank, and hike Masada:

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March was Super Sunday, an annual event that is a United Way fundraiser for TSHA, the non-profit that serves the Deaf community in Oklahoma.  Here I am with Kirsten, the TSHA secretary and my friend and neighbor:

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Then my nieces, Billie and Jessica, came for Spring Break, and we had some serious fun!

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We even played Angry Gummies with my nephew, Zac!

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I saw more than twenty deer when I was sent out into no-man’s-land to give a talk for the church:

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My niece Rilie won with her school in the flag corps competition:

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And that’s when we realized Zac was finally taller than Sarah!

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And Jess came back “to babysit Rilke”.

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In April, Jess was back again!  She and Mom took me out to dinner to celebrate winning a contract with the government to work in rural Oklahoma for five years in exchange for paying back my school loan (which was $1,200 a month).

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We celebrated six months since mom’s spine surgery with her walking all the way around the pond at Centennial Park!

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That also meant it was six months since my father had died, and it was a very hard time for me.  I was sad, and wanting so much for mom to be well, and working hard at learning how to care for Jess.  Running in the sunshine on mornings like this helped keep air in my lungs… or at least give me a legitimate reason not to have any.

Later that month, I met Deaf friends at the temple.  They and their children play some of the parts in the sign language version of the temple movie.  It was an amazing and incredible experience!

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At the end of the month, our whole family had a Family Home Evening about the temple at the brand new Kansas City temple!  In the picture is my niece Rilie (16), my nephew Cobie (13), my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew Zac (14), my niece Sarah (15), and then in the front is my mom, Billie (7), and Jess (5).   We all got to tour the whole entire temple together, and it was a very special experience.

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Then it was Easter!

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We had lots of appointments with my doctor last Spring.  This is the same doctor that cared for my mother during her pregnancies with me and my brother, and found my mother’s cancer and got her in surgery right away.  He was concerned about some high CA-125’s I got, and did a great job with extra testing and putting me through the ringer to make sure I was cancer free.  He told me to stop trying to date boys that were no good for me or losers, and find a good husband quick if I wanted to have children.  He is concerned about cancer because of my mom’s history and my high CA-125’s that remain consistent instead of going down.  But he pronounced me cancer free each time I went back for follow-ups in 2012, and I was glad I had a doctor who takes good care of me.  Not all doctors will do the CA-125, but that’s the only test that can catch ovarian cancer early.  I am grateful to him, and to my mom, for teaching me about it, advocating for me, and getting me good treatment.

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By the end of April, my garden was planted:

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And I started working out of the Bartlesville office, serving the Pawhuska, Bartlesville, Copan, and Dewey areas:

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By the first weeks of May, my little seeds grew into the first sprouts of the season, and I cried and cried with joy and relief.  It symbolic to me, like new life after the year of grief.  It was hope, it was fresh, it was life.  There was good-ness in my life, nourishment, and sunshine.  I was starting to be happy again.

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All the nieces and nephews came for Mother’s Day to celebrate my mom, and I cooked them a giant breakfast just like our grandmother used to make for us:

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After that was the dedication of the Kansas City temple, for which my nieces and nephews performed in the cultural celebration the night before.  Mom went with us, and we all got to see the kids perform and hear President Monson speak to us:

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President Monson spoke of obedience and faithfulness and promised blessings.

And then, just like that, I found Nathan.

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The dogs were excited:

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I played it cool, trying to function in real life while enduring the torture of Nathan using secret powers to melt me into a girl.

The next big event was Relay for Life, where I hung out with the Kneibs and mom.  The Kneibs lost their son Andrew, who worked locally at our mission center while battling cancer.  It was because of his work there tracking files that made sure I was not lost.  If it were not for Andrew, I would have slipped through the cracks instead of getting baptized.  I am so grateful to them, and try to tell them often.  We are also friends from working at the temple together, but I wouldn’t be a temple worker if it weren’t for Andrew.

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I tried to focus on Relay for Life, and my mom’s fancy walk that always makes us laugh and cry all at once, but I had to keep going outside to get signal to check my phone, in case this Nathan fellow had sent me any texts or emails.

The same thing happened when I went to the roller derby to see my interpreter friend Amy and my Deaf friend Kristina battle it out.  I tried to pay attention to the derby, but there was a boy texting my phone!

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But then something legit-exciting happened!

My brother, who is serving his church mission on the tech team for the church, got to baptize his daughter, Sarah!

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In the middle of May, I got to speak at the Children’s Behavioral Health Conference about adolescent sex offenders.  This was exciting especially because it followed my dissertation, which had just been bought and published!

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Did I mention that Jessica was still around?!

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And still around…

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And still around…

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But life was suddenly easier, better, happier, shinier, and strangely exciting because I knew I was falling for this guy, and falling hard:

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And Jessica was still around.

So I made her run a 5K with me.

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But she still stayed…

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And stayed…

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And stayed….

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She sure was helpful while she was here!

She worked in the garden:

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And helped me put together the new pool:

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And she babysat the Perkins kids:

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And she checked the city pipes to be sure they were working:

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And she made sure I was driving safely:

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She kept me and Grandma laughing:

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And she was always entertaining:

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It would have been the Year of Jessica, if it were not the Year of Nathan.

This was her response the day we told her about Nathan:

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We were celebrating that night, because my doctoral dissertation from years ago had been officially published:

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And to look the part, my eye doctor politely informed me that I was “getting old” and needed glasses:

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Glasses were a good idea, since it was finally time to check out Nathan in person and see if he was a keeper.  I was delighted to discover a yarn bombing installation in Bartlesville, and surprised Nathan with it one morning:

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That was our first full day of being together after having met, talked with each other’s parents, and knew this was for realz serious and amazing.  It was a great day, a great week, that unfolded into fairytale months and a fairytale wedding.  We are our own happily ever after.

After we got Jessica’s approval, of course:

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I knew very early on that Nathan stirred something within me that I had never felt before, and that I wanted to keep him for always, but it was the first night we went dancing that I realized he had melted me into a girl.

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It also made us happy that our parents were happy:

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All this monkey business naturally led to our engagement:

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So began the miracle of our story, the beginning of our reunited joy in mortality, and even the painful pattern of repeated separations. I thought my new-found girl-heart would break each time he left, and yet we had such specific promises and such complete comfort that we found strength in being obedient and following the plan given us.  One of the best things from these long months of back-and-forth-ness was a deep and sincere appreciation for the presence of the other, and an increased capacity not to take each other for granted.  We continue to cherish and notice and soak in every moment together, knowing it is truly a gift no matter what else is swirling around us.

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I tried to make time pass quickly by keeping busy.

There were engagement pictures to share:

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And rocks to climb:

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a Jessica to entertain while trying to finish Isaiah blogs:

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We went to a baseball game with my brother and his wife:

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And paper flowers to finish:

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And Jessica and I had the goal of her finishing the Book of Mormon before kindergarten:

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She also went with our ward’s primary to the temple for Pioneer Day, and got to wash the steps of the temple:

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For our dad’s birthday, my brother and I took his kids to visit where dad is buried, sharing lots of funny stories and enjoying happy laughter in between tears:

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And dad made his presence known, so that we are grateful for the atonement and the Savior’s work being big enough and complete enough for all of us, and grateful also for the restored priesthood and temple ordinances that we may be a family forever:

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In August, I went to the temple with Nathan’s parents for the first time.  It made me miss him more, and feel closer to him all at the same time.

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Jessica and Billie came back for one last visit before school started:

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And while I had them to help, they drew and colored the illustrations for the wedding reception skit:

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I was so grateful for all those who worked so hard to help me get ready for the wedding!

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I felt as crazy as in this hilarious picture, when there was a wedding to prepare, Isaiah blogs to finish, mom to move, and the fall garden harvest to bring in:

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But it did all get done, and the dress did finally arrive:

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That meant it was time for me and mom to fancy up for the wedding showers:

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And time to finish the slideshow of baby Nathan:

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I was so glad my nieces came to visit and keep me sane!

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But mostly I just missed Nathan.  When he flew home for another visit, I cried so hard when I picked him up at the airport that the lady in line by us cried, too.  I was so-so-so happy to see him!  We took our first temple trip together that visit, on the very first day before the chaos of wedding planning could invade:

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It was while I was distracted after Nathan left again that my oldest two nieces got sneaky and turned into teenagers, just like that:

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Then, while Nathan was on retreat with his composer (an award for one of their musicals),

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Jessica had her first day of kindergarten (here with Billie on her first day of second grade):

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By then all of us, each in our own way, knew the Year of Grief had transformed into the Year of New Beginnings.  Even though the two years before had been some of the hardest of my adult life, they were good and refining, tilling my soul for the seeds of happiness planted in 2012.  Even my body knew life was back to normal, my head now fully healed from my surgeries and my training at the gym consistent enough that I returned to my 5k races.

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Life was bursting forth all over the place, with even my nephew Zac deciding to be baptized:

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Just a week before the first anniversary of my father’s death, I saw my brother dancing with his daughter, and cried and cried and cried like never before.

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The week after, Collinsville’s event “Taste of Collinsville” used Nathan’s mystery for their fundraiser.  I loved the adventure of it, and was so proud of the cast from Collinsville High School!

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But nothing was as amazing as landing in New York to visit Nathan for a weekend!  I got to stay at his bishop’s home, and Nathan’s sister and her husband were in town, and we had such amazing adventures!

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We went to the temple in Manhattan, took a “chocolate crawl” tour, saw the Statue of Liberty, went to the Deaf ward, walked a million miles to see all the tourist stuff, had a carriage ride in New York, enjoyed a reception by his friends and a visiting wizard, went to an inventor’s fair, and spent hours without my cochlear implants to see how we did using sign language only.  It was amazing! We were so happy.

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I got home just in time for us to FaceTime through General Conference, and then it was wedding week!

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The week before the wedding, mom decided we should have our own space and announced she had found a home of her own just one street over.  We are grateful for the healing of her back since surgery a year ago, and grateful for so many who helped her move and settle in.  What a gift of love for her!

And a gift of love to us, for so many who helped with the wedding and reception!  We are so grateful!

It was very exciting to meet the rest of Nathan’s family, have my family on their way to visit, and do the big things like get our marriage license!  We had a family dinner the night in Oklahoma City the night before:

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And then, just like that, it was wedding day!

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We were so glad for so many to join us at the temple:

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It was so special!

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Even Jessica gave her approval:

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It truly was the happiest day of my life… except that each day since has been better and better.

We were promised that we would be happy even when we are sad, and already we have felt these blessings.  Our honeymoon was tender and sweet and lovely, and the first time we had ever been in the same time zone for more than a few days.  It was so good just to be together without having to part!

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But the days flew by quickly, and our homecoming was bittersweet as Nathan boarded the plane back to New York city – and this time to survive Hurricane Sandy.  We have been so grateful for technology this year, with FaceTime and Skype and email and texting giving us access to each other from so far away:

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While I worked hard receiving Nathan’s things as they were shipped home, so many friends helped mom move into her new place!

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Nathan did, indeed, finally move home!  I was so excited, even in the boring mundane moments when we were just working int he office together:

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He is good to me, sweet and kind and servant-hearted.  He does so much for me, and is so thoughtful and gentle.  One of my favorite things is how he leaves little sweet messages for me on the chalkboard coaster on my nightstand each morning.  I share the ones that are blog-appropriate.

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We returned to my brother’s ward for my nephew’s confirmation, and this was right after we told my mom that we were pregnant with a little honeymoon baby:

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We would not have told anyone so early, except that I had testing done to be sure it was not whacky ovaries and that I was still cancer free.  So once it was confirmed, we let mom know so that she would not be worried about cancer.  But then we lost the baby Thanksgiving week, miscarrying after a difficult start and just barely knowing.  We were sad, and it was a hard experience so early together.  But Nathan was a comfort to me, and we are grateful for our faith that does give a context and purpose for hope and understanding.

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And Jessica came for her Thanksgiving break to cheer us up:

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Did I mention that Nathan is amazing?

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So is Neitzsche, who is an old-man-puppy now, with cysts on his head and in his heart, and a heart murmur to match.  My little baby puppy and I have been through many, many adventures.

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It took me a little while to feel like myself again, and Nathan was good and helpful and patient and kind.  I do love him so much, and am so grateful for him in my life.  And it is true: we are happy, even when we are sad.

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And then suddenly, it was Christmas.  Nathan played a violin solo at the Bartlesville chapel:

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While my nephew Zac was in the Broken Arrow parade:

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My other nephew, Cobie, was sweet enough to let me sit by him for pizza after our temple trip this weekend:

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It was a busy season, with work parties and FHE with mom and visiting friends and my brother’s family coming home for Christmas.  What great memories, all of it!  There were so many new things.

I made Nathan an apron on my sewing machine:

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And I began writing for Deseret:

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And we turned in our application to be foster parents.  Crazysauce.

2012 feels to me as if it has been as good as the previous years were hard, as if the other years were the weeding and tilling and sewing of the seeds we got to see shoot up into little plants this year.   Maybe 2013 will be about the budding of those plants, the warmth of spring that has come after frozen years, and the happiness of dancing in the rain and sleeping in the sun.  There will be storms, and challenges, and tests – we know this because it’s a necessary, even good  part of life and its progression.

But we are happy, and we will be happy – even when we are sad.

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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