How We’re Moving Forward After A Year Of Setbacks: Our Goals for 2019
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
― Edith Lovejoy Pierce
I’m going to come right out and say it: 2018 was pretty much the worst year of our lives.
I’m not complaining, and I’m still very grateful for all of the good things I have in my life: A sweet, kind, smart, beautiful daughter; A hard-working, devoted husband; A beautiful new home that provides us with warmth and a roof over our heads; Family and friends who we love and who love us in return; The ability to pursue passions like homesteading and creating and building a career as a writer, and of course so much more.
But if I’m being brutally honest, 2018 was a rollercoaster with some of the lowest lows we have ever experienced (and we’ve been through some shit, pardon my French).
Topping the list for us this year was when we lost our son at 24 weeks gestation. Then we lost another baby at 8 weeks (just days after our first son was due). And finally, my husband lost his job 10 days before Christmas which really put the cherry on top.
The year started well enough, with all the hope that new years naturally bring.
At the turn of 2018, I was dedicated to focusing on making my own health and wellbeing a priority, and I made a resolution to cultivate peace in all that I did throughout the year.
While I can honestly say that getting into a mindset of peace and calm really did help me get through the many challenges we’ve faced this year, I found it almost impossible to really take care of myself and my family the way I had intended to last January. Life just seemed to take every opportunity to knock us down this year, and so my strategy by the end of the year has turned to one of survival; To do whatever we need to do to push forward and live to see another day.
But that’s just the thing: We’re still here. We still have air in our lungs and every day, every minute, every second we are given the gift of a fresh start and another chance to get things right. So that’s what we’re going to do this year. But first, let me tell you my story.
It All Started Last January
Just a few weeks into the new year we found out I was pregnant. We were elated! We’d been trying to get pregnant again ever since our daughter was born and were so excited to be adding to our family and giving her a sibling. But something seemed wrong from the very beginning.
To start, I had horrible morning sickness with our son, which I didn’t experience with our daughter. I was overly emotional and I was worried from day one that something would go wrong. I also got really sick about 5 different times with everything imaginable between January and April, thanks in part to working full time as a teacher during that period.
In the end, I had a chest cough that was so relentless and so awful in April that I ended separating some of my ribs from my spine from coughing so hard. It was the worst physical pain I have ever experienced, hands down. Worse than childbirth.
So my midwife ordered me onto sick leave from work so that I could recover and keep myself and our baby healthy, and I had to go for multiple sessions with a chiropractor to realign my back. I was almost 5 months pregnant at this time.
Meanwhile we were also in the process of buying and renovating our first home, and money was flying out of our pockets left, right and centre, so when I had to pay back half of my paycheque that I had already earned and been paid out from the last month I worked because I had to leave before the end of the school year, well let’s just say that’s where our money troubles started to snowball.
But money wasn’t our focus at that moment in time, because while all of this was happening, I was on my way for my 19-week ultrasound and was just focused on the baby growing in my belly and excited to find out the gender. We were really hoping for a boy!
But things took a turn for the worse very quickly after that ultrasound in May.
I got a call from my midwife letting me know that our baby’s legs were crossed so we were unable to determine the gender. Worse than that, she said the ultrasound technician couldn’t get a clear view of all four limbs, and while it could be nothing, it could also be something quite serious.
I went in for blood tests to test for genetic abnormalities the same day and then I sat home biting my nails while I waited for the results.
Finally I got a phone call from my midwife letting me know that all my blood tests came back normal. I was relieved to say the least, but I asked for another ultrasound anyway because I still wanted to know the gender.
Luckily I did get another ultrasound done, because we quickly learned that our baby was missing a large chunk of his lower spine and back and this had affected all of his development in the lower half all of his body, resulting in clubbed feet and complete paralyzation below the waist.
The perinatal specialist we saw couldn’t even diagnose our little one because he said that he had never seen a case quite like ours in his 30+ years working in the field. He did, however, make sure we knew very clearly what we were up against. There was no good outcome from this point forward, and after many, many tears and phone calls to family and friends, we decided the best, most compassionate thing to do was to terminate the pregnancy and spare our child a lifetime of physical and emotional pain and suffering.
I gave birth to our stillborn son on June 15. We named him Phoenix Rain: Phoenix to rise from the ashes and rain for the sadness that washed over us when we lost him.
I was sure at this time that we had endured the worst that 2018 had to throw at us, but the challenges only continued from there.
As we worked to convert our garage at our new home into a laneway house to rent out to help out with the mortgage (a condition of our mortgage, which was now eating up the better part of our single income), we were met with red tape and thousands of dollars of extra expenses at every turn.
The building was literally one centimetre too close to the edge of the property which cost us extra to sort out and have it resurveyed. And we were literally one minute too far from the fire department, which is now going to cost us a few thousand dollars extra to re-side the building in fireproof siding.
These are just two of many examples, but let’s just say that we still haven’t finished that laneway house and we are way over budget because of doing it the legal way and getting all the right permits (which we’ve quickly learned is why most people around here build illegally if they’re not planing on selling). But we’re still determined to do it the right way, so here we are.
Then, back in early September, we got the happy news that we were pregnant again! I felt in my heart that it was meant to be, and I even convinced myself that Phoenix was truly an angel who had been holding space for this new baby until it was ready to be conceived.
All somehow felt right with the world again, and we pushed forward with a positive attitude despite the trying year we had had up until then. Until…
In early October, four days after Phoenix was due, I miscarried and lost that baby too.
I took the miscarriage pretty hard after having already lost a baby just months before. So my husband encouraged me to go for counselling. After all, his work insurance plan covered it.
I found a counselling service that sounded great. They incorporated yoga and meditation into their counselling, and this seemed like just what I needed. And while it was great while it lasted, I was shocked when, after making it very clear multiple times that I needed a receipt to submit to insurance (which was guaranteed on their website), my counsellor turned out to not be registered and I was now on the hook for $400 worth of counselling fees that I couldn’t afford.
After a week of fighting and getting all of my legal documents in a row, the owner admitted their fault and refunded our money. It was a struggle, but I was happy to finally get a win after experiencing so much loss and financial headaches throughout this year.
And then, the next day, my husband went off to work in the morning as he usually did and returned home just 45 minutes later with news that he had been let go.
A new manager had started at the hardware store where he worked in October and had already let a number of people go. Still, we were shocked and dismayed that he was being let go just 10 days before Christmas with no other reason from the manager other than that he is “going in a different direction.”
Ryan managed three departments at the store and brought in over a million dollars for the company in the last year alone. He had started in one department and was promoted to managing all three (flooring, kitchens and appliances) about a year ago. He also received a good raise when that happened which is what allowed me to stay home with my daughter after our son died and work on building my blog and -hopefully someday soon- my business. So being let go for seemingly no reason right before what was already a difficult Christmas was definitely a shock, and being given only two weeks of severance pay means that as of yesterday (Dec. 28) we have no more steady income coming in.
Luckily, thanks to his vacation pay, we have a few thousand dollars to help us get by until the end of February if we are extremely careful and don’t stray from our very strict budget at all, but needless to say we are ending 2018 on a stressful note and we are definitely ready for this year to be over.
All Dark Clouds Have A Silver Lining
As hard as this past year has been though, and as terrifyingly uncertain as our future seems right now, we are hopeful and excited and, most importantly, more determined than ever to make 2019 the year that we rise above the hardships and achieve all of our goals.
Because if this year has taught me anything, it’s that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I actually have a quote written on my whiteboard in my office. I can’t remember who said it, but it says that “storms make trees take deeper roots.” I have it written in big, bold writing to remind myself to stand tall and grounded, well-rooted but also flexible like a tree in a storm. And if we can just make it through, the storm will eventually pass.
Related: Thoughts On the Seasons Of Life
I’ve also been visualizing wave after wave headed straight for me, and then I dive under the water as the waves barrel over top of me, the way surfers do when they’re trying to get past the surf. This, some focused breathing and remembering my original resolution to cultivate peace in 2018 has really been helping me to keep going even when all seems hopeless. I know that if I just keep pushing forward, even when I’m exhausted and want to give up, eventually I’ll be able to relax in calmer waters. Things will start to get easier, eventually. They just have to if we work hard enough, right? Isn’t that the American dream we all believe in?
But right now we’re in the storm, and there seem to be rogue waves heading straight for us every time we pop up long enough to catch our breath. And so we have a choice to make: Keep fighting or give up and drown.
On the bright side, all of the challenges we’ve faced together have actually brought Ryan and I closer together, and they’ve forced us to become stronger and more resourceful and self-reliant because we’ve had to be.
I’m also more grateful than ever for our daughter and for our close family and friends who have been there to support us (because we all need love and community, especially during hard times).
And finally, I’m grateful for for all of the good things in our life, including all of the food and provisions we put up earlier in the year that are helping to carry us through hard times. In fact, in some ways I feel like I’ve been preparing for this exact situation we’ve found ourselves in, and I’m so thankful now more than ever that we do things like grow and put up food to last us into the winter, or to sit on our shelves for emergencies just like this. It certainly helps to ease the financial burden when you’ve got a well-stocked pantry!
And, at the end of the day, I know that despite everything else, sticking together as a family is the most important thing.
That being said, I am determined to keep a roof -this roof- over our heads this year if it’s the last thing we do. We’ve worked too hard to get this home and to turn it into a beautiful space. It’s been our sanctuary through all of the turmoil and quite honestly, I’ll be damned if we don’t hold onto it with everything we’ve got.
Where We Go From Here
The misfortunes of 2018 have lit a fire under our butts that is going to make us unstoppable in 2019, because now our backs are against a wall and we have no choice but to rise above it all. Well, I guess we could lay down and give up…
I could quit writing and blogging about homesteading (something that has yet to pay a full-time income, but that motivates me to get up and work hard every single day because I LOVE what I’m doing). I could go back to my underpaid, under-appreciated teacher job or back to waitressing at a local bar to make ends meet.
Ryan could find a mediocre job in our little town that helps us pay the bills (nothing that compares to what he was doing is even available at the moment).
I could go forward fearing future pregnancies and continuing to put my own health and wellbeing on the back burner as I continue to go through my days anxious, exhausted, gaining weight and feeling more and more uncomfortable as the stress and overwhelm continues to mount.
And then we could lose our jobs again and any sense of security we had left would be gone once more.
But no. Not this time. We are more determined than ever to hit the ground running in 2019, and to push forward no matter what life throws at us. We want more than ever to become as self-sufficient as possible, and that means we want to earn our own way through life through doing work that truly inspires us and that we can’t get fired, laid off or put on sick leave from, because we’ve both decided to go into business for ourselves.
Isn’t that the strange truth? Back in the day, you got a job working for someone else because there was more security in that than there was working for yourself. Today it seems the opposite is true in many cases.
So one of our big, HUGE goals for 2019 is to forge ahead with our own businesses. I’ve always loved writing and have dreamed of writing books since I was a little girl, so I’ve decided there’s no better time than now to grab that dream and go for it. I’ve already got a plan for my first ebook and will be going hard to get it together over the next month or so. I’ve scheduled time every single day to work on it, because I owe it to myself to see that goal through.
And I want to build this little blog into a full-time income-earning business. I did the numbers yesterday, and I lost about $1,500 building and running this blog last year. But I’m going into my third year now and I feel momentum picking up. Yes, this year will be different. This is the year I make this little blog of mine help to pay our bills, because I simply won’t accept the alternative. Not when this is what I feel called so deeply to do.
I know in my heart that I was called to write. Why? I’m not completely sure of that yet. But I know I was gifted with this ability so that I could use it for good, and I’m going to do that any way that I can. Even if it’s just sharing recipes and helping others to learn new skills and hoping that maybe someday someone else will benefit from the wisdom I’m able to share about the big life lessons I’ve learned along the way.
As for Ryan, he’s felt under-appreciated working for other people for a long time, and this is finally the push he needed to go out on his own. He’s already got a business plan to start a handyman service (something he’s wanted to do for years), and with the skill set and natural talent he has in his hands, the tools in his work shed and the business know-how from years working as a manager in the building industry, he has all the right stuff to make it work.
Still, it’s terrifying to be without an income while we push forward with our dreams with no guarantee we’ll make enough to cover our mortgage payments by the time our savings run out. But the upside to weathering the storms that we have is that we know we are strong and have what it takes to make our dreams come true if we just dig in and stay laser focused. And to trust our journey, because I truly do believe that everything happens for a reason, and that this is but a chapter in the story of our lives.
That being said, I decided to make some other HUGE goals for 2019, because this is the year we go big or go home!
Other Goals for 2019
Aside from writing a book, turning my humble little blog into a full time business, getting through the hard times and keeping up with our mortgage payments AND paying off all of our non-mortgage debt by December 2019, aside from all those lofty, perhaps even overambitious goals, I have also made a goal of losing 50 pounds and getting back down to my pre-baby weight.
I’ve struggled with my weight ever since our first daughter was born, but the pregnancies, losses and stress of 2018 really did a number on how I feel in my own skin. I’m tired, overweight and some days, quite honestly, I feel like I’m 100 years old. I can definitely see and feel the toll that the last few years (2018 in particular) have taken on my physical body, and since I’m determined not to allow life’s misfortunes to rob me of my spirit, I’ve decided I’m not going to let them rob me of my health either.
As you probably know, I’m a huge advocate of eating real, whole, healthy, from-scratch organic foods, so I can’t exactly cut out many processed foods (although I’m not perfect and I do grab a burger or a processed freezer meal here and there). But I do have a weak spot for dairy, sugar and carbs that I need to get in check this coming year.
My focus when it comes to food is to choose more fruits and veggies and less breads, sweets and creamy sauces. Of course, with our financial situation, I also need to keep our grocery bill to a minimum, so I’ll be focusing on frugal but healthy meals heading into the new year (with a few little indulgences here and there;)
Fitness is where the real changes need to be made. I haven’t committed to a regular fitness routine since I was seeing a personal trainer and was in the best shape ever before we got married over 4 years ago. Life got busy immediately after we tied the knot and blocking out time every week to exercise ceased to be a priority.
But I know that it’s important now more than ever to get back into shape and work hard to shed fat, gain muscle and strengthen my mind and body through the discipline of scheduled workouts and sticking to a healthy eating plan. Not only is this the year that we’ve decided we are going to crush our goals no matter what, but with so little security in our lives and no extended health insurance through an employer anymore, the last thing we need is to get sick or injure. That could be the nail in our coffin! So it’s important to stay on top of our health right now.
As we forge ahead, determined to make our own way and to continue down the path of self-sufficiency, I recognize that taking full responsibility for my own health and fitness is perhaps the most important thing I can do to become more self-reliant and better able to care for my family. That and creating a source of income out of a business I’ve had the privilege to build with my own hands from the ground up; One that I can never get let go from because I am my own boss. Ha!
And that’s what I say to life. Ha! You thought you had us. You knocked us to our knees more than once this year alone, and you may very well knock us down again. But every time we get knocked down, we will get back up again and work even harder.
That famous quote from Rocky keeps playing over and over again in my head:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
This is the year we will win. This is the year we redefine what it means to be self-sufficient in today’s world. This is the year we create a life we love on our own terms. This is the year that we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
Yes, we have lofty, terrifyingly huge goals for 2019. But as one blogger I follow often says, “if your goals don’t scare you, they’re probably not big enough.”
I hope that this is the year that you set big scary goals for yourself too. I hope that, if nothing else, my words have inspired you to get up and commit to keep moving forward, no matter how hard you get hit, no matter how many times you get knocked down.
This is the year we get up, dust ourselves off and keep moving forward no matter what. Because that’s how winning is done.
Will you join me?
What are your goals for the new year? I’d love to hear them. Maybe we even have similar goals! Drop me a note in the comments to let me know what you’re working towards in 2019.
Wishing you health, wealth and new beginnings,
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