During the beginning part of 2010, I felt a lot like I look here. Only about 72 billion times worse. Times 2.

Plus there were a full 48lbs more of me to love. Which didn’t lighten my spirits any, trust you me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2010. Like most of us, I tend to become introspective at the close of a year.

For example:

I clearly remember at the end of 2006, looking back with Richie at the ups and downs of that year and saying, “Babe, 2007 is going to be OUR YEAR! What else could POSSIBLY happen?!” Then my brother died June 17th 2007 (Father’s Day), and that pretty much threw 2007 (and a good portion of 2008) straight to The Underworld (in a busted up hand basket).

But I survived. Despite (lots more) death, betrayal and huge financial set backs, and despite far more doubt than I’d ever admit publicly, and despite fear, Hell and high water, 2007-2008 were the years I survived. Many times during that period I had wanted to be dead and done, so surviving was all a girl could hope for. I patted myself on the back (wholeheartedly), stood up, and brushed off my back side to face 2009 like any big girl should.

I’m genuinely proud of myself for 2007 and 2008. Sometimes, I wish I could scoop “that girl” (the 2007-2008 Natalie) up into my arms and give her a big hug. To rock her back and forth, and quietly tell her, “it’s going to be all right.” So I’ll say it to you, yes YOU, It’s going to be all right. It really, truly is. Promise.

In 2009 things were looking up. There were still struggles (a’plenty) to be negotiated, but thankfully I’d learned a thing or two or four hundred in 2007 and 2008 and was ready to face difficulty head on. Plus I had a beautiful little bun in my oven!  Who could doubt that things were looking up?! Yahoo!

Well. . . at the end of 2009, there I sat, in a hospital room, with a dying child and bottle of Martinellis (that I had no way of opening). 2009 left without a shred of crowning glory, and 2010 was deemed nothing more than the year my son would get better. I couldn’t see beyond that. Didn’t want to. Didn’t need to. All I needed was for that boy to be well.

So, 2010.

This post is meant to be dedicated to you, so what do you have to say for yourself?

After Gavin died, I had ZERO expectations, so you didn’t have much to live up to. If all you’d done was float me like your baby brothers 2007 and 2008 did, that would have been enough. No one had the right to expect a single thing out of me. If I’d of holed up in my bedroom, with a pillow over my face the entire year, I’d have been pittied, sure, but blamed for it? Not a chance.

Well, here it is. Humbly, and from my heart.

2010 was the year I found my ROAR.

I learned how to laugh, how to cry, how to hurt, how to love, how to believe, how to trust, how to simplify, how to let go . . . how to change.

I learned:

Every.single.morning, the sun will rise.
Circumstance has no power except the power we give it.
Many of life’s largest “problems” are born of thoughts and feelings and have zero basis in reality.
There is always SOMEONE to reach out to.
God can’t sail a ship that hasn’t left the harbor.
I am responsible for my life. No matter what.
I may not be able to choose my circumstances, but I can always choose my reaction to them.
The Savior is not only my Redeember, but my dearest friend.
There is a reason we are commanded to cleave unto one another as husband and wife.
A happy marriage takes real effort. And it’s worth it. 1000%. I love you Richie!
My children deserve all of me, and not what happens to be left over after everything else.
The world will go on spinning without me!!!! Fancy that!
It’s OK to have lofty dreams and ambitions!!!
ANYTHING is possible!
My brother is always closer than I think. I can often feel him in stillness.
Stillness is an essential part of my search for happiness.
Physical and spiritual health are my lifelines to success. If I want to be balanced and successful in ANY other areas of my life, these have GOT to come first.
I have to stay hydrated/I have got to avoid sugar/I need to be well rested/I have to make time for serious exercise at least 5 times a week.
I can’t do everything at the same time: at least not by myself.
It’s OK to ask for help.
Letting go is a wonderful gift.

All in all . . . I learned to BREATHE.

I could write 82 blog posts outlining everything I learned this year, and I could type until my fingers turned blue only to BEGIN to tell you everything I’m grateful for!

Because guess what? And I can say this with ZERO hesitation:

2010 was the best year of my life!

How on Earth can that be?! EVERYTHING was stacked up against me. It’s important remember that not all my living is done within the confines of this here blog. This was a BIG year, Gavin being the biggest part of it, yes, but oh boy was it a big FAT year in just about EVERY other way as well.

and yet. . .

and yet.

and yet.

Gets you thinking doesn’t it?!

Despite it all, oh what a healthy dose of faith and some determination can do!

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Heavenly Father has given US, my family and I, a complete and total miracle in 2010. For that I say, “Thank you. . . THANK YOU. . . THANK YOU!” For lessons learned, tears shed, faith exercised and roar found.

Watch out 2011, here WE come!