I learned a few things in 2014

by Janelle Hanchett

In 2014 I learned that pregnancy doesn’t get any shorter even the 4th time you do it, and the last month is still actually 349 days and the weight you gain still isn’t special. I mean it’s just regular old weight. It doesn’t just fall off.

And I learned that babies sometimes come with very little labor, and fathers can catch them in the middle of the living room, and the universe can create for you the birth you wanted but were too afraid to want, alone, with you and your husband and baby.

I learned I will have a son named Arlo.

And I learned that watching that baby with my just-made teenager will hold my gaze as strongly as when the light catches her and her hair falling just so, and the dress and jean jacket and boots, and smile, and I see a woman for a second.


No, her.

IMG_8539I learned I won’t be ready for that moment, when the separation becomes essentially defined and undeniable and I start watching her like a full-grown human with all the lines of her face and the knowledge and wisdom they hold, the creases of her clothes and tones of her voice that don’t involve me. Her beauty. Her wit. I can’t believe she’s mine.

All the way down to the one lying here, nursing. The way his lips splay out, his hand pawing, the little eyes unfocused, or drilling into mine.

I can’t believe he’s mine.

They aren’t mine.

I learned again they’re never quite mine.

And I learned if you live in a home with light and air and wood floors and big old trees and your family in it, you might not want to leave very often, and this is both wonderful and dangerous (because one must get out, you know), but mostly rebuilding and energizing after that 1970s house of burglary, linoleum, drug-addict neighbors and dark.

In other words I learned the wrong house can really fuck things up.

And the right one can really make things shine.

I learned being a stay-at-home-mom is something I can do and love sometimes, and that surprises the shit out of me. Am I getting old? What’s wrong with me?

I never understand myself. That I learned a long time ago.

I learned knowing the songs at the preschool is a level of motherhood that I’m okay with, sort of, and being home every day after school when my kids get home is a gift that busts my heart open to give, when they aren’t annoying the ever-loving shit out of me.

I learned better school districts have more money to provide better services to help dyslexic kids thrive.

And I learned a well-timed nickname can heal tiny souls.

Oh Cricket, I hear you now.


I learned living down the road from your mom is like a small weekly Christmas.

And the happiest place on earth is indeed pretty damn happy. And super freaking clean.

In October I learned some kids get taken by cancer and it’s possible to hold in your chest – the heavy, red, pulsing depths where love and rage exist – the face of a child you’ve never met but somehow watched pass on and cried when she did for her and her mother, and your boy did too, because he knew the story and was crushed too, but barely, compared to those who held her.

It’s possible to have a little girl’s face become the force that drives you to call your toddler “Cricket” instead of turn your back, or punish.

I learned about that power in living. Or maybe dying

I learned I’m not okay with the finality of The Last Child, and I’m really beginning to think there’s something seriously wrong with me.

In 2014 I learned again that yeah, money doesn’t make you happy, but damn it’s hard to be happy when you’re always worried about money. And if you find yourself so broke that your husband starts working 7 days a week to keep your family going, well shit I learned that you’ll get so fed up of that bullshit life that you’ll put together something just at the last fucking minute and I’ll be damned if that something doesn’t work and your life starts making a little sense again, and your husband gets a day off work, and a new life starts to form that’s way more like the one you’ve always dreamed of.


I learned that it isn’t that life doesn’t give me “time” to do the things I’m meant to be doing, it’s that I use my time in ways that negate the possibility of me doing them.

And that’s because I’m afraid.

And I learned once again that I never learn a damn thing until I get so uncomfortable I have no choice but to change.

On Christmas I learned that if your husband buys you a pearl necklace like the one he gave you a few weeks after you met 14 years ago, the one that was stolen in a burglary by your nanny’s meth-addicted son, you will both cry, in fact so will the whole damn family, because it’s just a necklace but it feels like rebuilding, and really kind of the same, because things like necklaces can come, and go, and it’s okay. And that’s what becomes clear.

They don’t hold spaces in the red burning mass in your chest.

Or they shouldn’t, at least.


And at the very end of 2014, about 3 days ago in fact, I learned that if somebody close to me ever gets seriously injured in an accident, it will be the banality of what I was doing that day, in that moment, at that second, that might offend me the most, or hold me paralyzed, until the reality sinks in.IMG_8085

I learned that a severe hand injury on the man you love and with whom you’ve built a life will shake you into a new place more than you might expect, because you realize suddenly he isn’t a fucking necklace or house, but the child lost that you hold in your deepest heart, right there in the center, living and breathing and yours, to call Cricket when necessary, to catch on the living room floor, and watch when the light falls just so, and kiss in the hospital with a breath of relief, and joy, and awe that the sheet metal fell 40 feet and grazed off a hard hat and slammed just a hand, severed the tendon of a finger not the veins of a heart, and left you here, next to me, to move in 2015 with our broken perfection of a family.


We listened to The Ramones and danced last night. Well, the kids did. We watched. Jerry said “If you get confused just listen to the music play.” I don’t have anything else sometimes, you know.

I pulled Thich Nhat Hanh’s Anger off the shelf, again, because my yelling isn’t done yet.

I cleaned up my diet today. I’m tired of my body not feeling like my friend. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again. Maybe that’s my resolution. How clichéd.

There’s a fire raging in the woodstove and the baby has 2 teeth. The dog has finally settled the hell down. The cat still pees in my plant. I sort of want to kill her.

My mom is down the road. My brother a few towns over. My dad makes me CDs of music that formed him. My husband is reading the kids a story with one bandaged hand, while I sit back here in my room with that damn cat, lean against a few pillows and write this to you.

It’s January 1, 2015. And I’m just happy to be here.



29 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | January 1, 2015
  • CDK

    Happy New Year to you and your family. I’m a first time Mom of a 6 month old and your words have brought me comfort and laughter. Keep on doing what you are doing!

  • Sheena


  • Carrie

    That was perfection. OWhat seems like a lifetime ago, I too learned that my children were not my own. I am just a part of them and they are themselves. I live next door to my parents. Something that a teenage me would have found asinine but my mom-self finds helpful (sometimes). But this year sent my emotions reeling with the bi-polar suicides of two people I thought I knew well. I hope your man’s hand heals quickly and that you never lose your spark! Happy 2015 — bring on the hoverboards.

    • Travis

      Oh yeah…Hoverboards!

  • Chainsaw

    Trying not to cry as I read this. 2013 was a tough year, and 2014 may have even been more difficult. Trying to be grateful for what we have while we have it. My girl is almost 18, my son is barely 4, and it’s amazing how fast both are growing up. Thank you for sharing in the joy and pain we all feel, and I wish you a New Year of self discovery and happiness!

  • Tracey

    Happy New Year. Not happy in a “may it all miraculously get better” kind of way. More in a “may you continue to see the happiness through the shit life through you” kind of way. Although, both would be ideal. ♡

  • krisztina

    oh,my, I’m so glad he is ok, that he can read stories,that he is there, I know, bandaged hand, I pray that it heals perfectly, much love to you and your family,

  • aimee

    I am a sobbing mess after reading this. So good. So so good. I relate with all you have written here and I too am just happy to be here.

  • Jenny

    Gah! Crying again! I love the truth in your words. Looking forward to embracing the perfect inherent within the imperfect in 2015. Also planning to get myself a copy of that anger book you mentioned. Thank you!

  • Joy

    You look beautiful, Janelle. Happy new year!

  • Peggy

    Yes dear, all those things. You touch my heart again.

  • Sofia Bruck

    You are a force. An amazing, uber-talented, bad-ass woman. Peace and thank you.

  • Patty

    This is my favorite post of yours so far and they’re all relevant and good, but this one spoke to me loudly. Thank you.

    (Your whole entire family is gorgeous.)

  • Amy

    thank you.

  • Phillipa

    Absolutely fabulous….. Happy New Year to you all. 🙂

  • Renee

    Wonderful post Janelle! Even after you read about all the bad events in your life during 2014, you are left with a feeling of “calm” and “peace” about your family. Funny how great writers can do that for you! Happy New Year!

  • Laura

    I came into 2014 a totally different person, a scared pregnant girl with a whole mess of issues, and into 2015 a crazy-joyful, confident woman, wife, and mom of a sweet six month old and five thousand pounds of stinking emotional garbage left behind me. I don’t know what it is about your writing that always hits something in my “red burning mass,” even though we don’t have the same experiences or background or anything, but I want to say thank you for somehow reaching that place in me every time, and especially with this post. Happy, happy new year to you and your awesome family. =)

  • Megan Kraft

    Beautiful!! I wish the best to come for you and yours this year.

  • Kate A.

    Your words resonant in a part of me that I lately don’t even acknowledge but that is also my most tried and true. Thank you for all these words but mostly thank you for “I’m tired of my body not feeling like my friend.”…. Having had a baby myself in March and finding my skin unfamiliar and a bit betraying, this is a perfect, simple description that I most certainly identify with. Thank you for your unapologetic candor that is truly refreshing in a cyber world full of know-it-all people pleasers.

  • Jill

    Is your husband’s hand going to heal up okay, or is this a permanent loss of function sort of injury? I desperately hope it’s the former. Please give him my best healing wishes!

  • Nancy

    So well put as usual Janelle. You really have a way with words. Thank you

  • Lea

    You have such a gift for writing ❤️

  • Laura

    Also (sorry, I’m aware that the comment-and-then-comment-again-over-a-day-later thing is a skosh creepy…what can I say? I’ve been thinking about you guys!), my dad severed a tendon in his hand a few years back and it healed up nicely. It took a while (and eegad, did it seem painful) but he was back doing his thing and has been at it ever since. Just some encouraging words for you and your husband. I hope he makes a lightning-fast and peaceful recovery!

  • Josie

    I am a new reader (just found your blog a week ago,working my way through the archives) and I generally don’t comment, but I needed to say thank you. You speak through the haze and straight to my heart. God bless you and yours, sister.

  • Cheryl S.

    So much of this is so true for me. Two that stood out:

    In 2014 I learned again that yeah, money doesn’t make you happy, but damn it’s hard to be happy when you’re always worried about money.

    YES. I’m trying desperately to change that this year.

    I learned that if somebody close to me ever gets seriously injured in an accident, it will be the banality of what I was doing that day, in that moment, at that second, that might offend me the most, or hold me paralyzed, until the reality sinks in.

    This brought me back to the day my cousin died, many years ago. My mom called and told me he died, and his funeral would be on NYE 1999. My first thought was “But I’m supposed to go to a NYE party”

    I really believe that my mind couldn’t handle my cousin’s death right then, so it jumped to something stupid. But, still, I’ll never forget it.

  • LaToya

    Your writing is perfect. You are such a wonderful story teller except you aren’t telling stories, you’re telling life, abd you do it in such a magnificent way.

    I don’t always comment but when I see your posts light up my feed, I always read and I always love what I’ve read.

    Thank you for sharing your craft.

  • Elaine A.

    You learned a lot this year, some good, some bad. This life man…

    Happy New Year! 🙂

  • Laura (So Ca)

    Ren Mom,
    You’re spot on. All this child worshipping is turning out self absorbed narcissistic brats born to brat parents, and littering the world with crummy human beings.

    Our neighbor’s 7 yr old queen “chit” daughter brags she teaches Sunday School (wisdom at 7? – oh yeah, it’s superstition and myth) and asks the neighborhood kids what church they attend. And one day this child who is worshiped, will be a suburban “itch w/ a “b”.

    Instead of teaching religion, and the dogma, teach them the 6 pillars of good character, and we’re all in this together.

    Oh yeah, when in public and your brat is screaming and disturbing other people’s life experience, please discipline the brat. Be a parent.

  • Marisa

    Your writing, girl. It’s poetic and funny and real. I just love reading your stuff. How poetic is that?!