2018 was a year of transitions. We spent January packing and repacking suitcases for Italy, trying to balance what our rapidly-growing baby would need over the course of three months and changing seasons. One year ago today we boarded a plane to Italy. We lived on a hillside just outside of Florence in a 15th century villa with 33 students, teaching courses and taking side trips to Rome, Paestum, Capri, and L’Averna. At the end of the trip, just as spring was finally taking hold, we traveled south to visit my host family for the first time in 11 years. It was a joyous reunion with them and other friends and professors, as well as a bittersweet departure.
Sometime in March, I was offered a full-time professorship that I’d interviewed for before going abroad. I began phasing out my editing business and thinking about book orders. Chuck, too, was thinking of the upcoming academic year—he’d accepted a position in the Department of Communication to start a film major, teaching a new set of classes in film production, editing, etc.
Returning to Conway, then, was both a homecoming and a farewell. We’d been weeding out our possessions since before I was pregnant, but there’s nothing like a move to force you to make hard decisions. We gave away furniture to family and had a big garage sale. We left our home semi-furnished for our renters, and there’s still a big, bad back closet of stuff we need to go through. It’s like the pink spot in The Cat in the Hat—it keeps getting pushed around from one part of the house to another. One day, maybe, it’ll vanish.
In July we moved an hour up the road to a two-bedroom apartment on Harding’s campus. The cabin is now only four miles away and living there is still our ultimate goal. But without daycare for Ariel, it has been convenient to be on campus to trade off watching her with my husband. A couple days a week when I finish my last class, Chuck hands her off to me to go teach his afternoon and evening classes. Ariel—always ready for an adventure—loves outings in the stroller. She lights up when she sees the students from our Italy trip, some of whom even babysit for us.
Ariel turned one at the end of September and we used the opportunity for an Italy reunion. A week later Ariel was walking, and she hasn’t slowed down since. That has dramatically reduced the amount of work I can do from home—now, at 16 months, she is into everything. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s doing everything she can to figure out this world and how it all works.
If 2018 was a year of transition, then perhaps 2019 will be a year of arrival, of becoming. Many times in 2018 I did not know where I would find the strength for the task ahead. The checklist of things that had to happen seemed impossible in the time allotted. And yet here we are. More than once I cried out of sheer exhaustion, so one of my resolutions this year is to build in more time for R&R. But more than that, I want to live in a mindset of slowing down rather than speeding up. I’ve never trusted that I could accomplish what I need to get done by slowing down; now I think that may be the one thing I’m meant to learn. Like faith, I may not be able to see it until I’ve lived its truth, and even then I may not believe it’s possible.
Chuck has been out to the cabin a few times. The rain barrels are full of water; the bathroom has a stack of tile waiting. We’d like to be done ASAP, but we’re also happy with our current living set-up. We want to add onto the cabin so Ariel can have space to move around as well as a private room of her own. But for now we want to finish the “tiny” cabin and camp out there on weekends as we perfect the amount of water and solar power we need.
Next week Chuck is taking a group of students to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival, and we have a couple other trips in the works later in the year. Mainly we are looking forward to settling into our teaching positions, watching Ariel grow, seeing good movies, reading great books, and spending time with the wonderful people in our life.