What a difference a year makes, right? A year ago, I was recently divorced. I spent the early hours of Christmas morning with my daughter and then sent her off to St. Louis with her dad at 9:30 a.m. The rest of the day, I drove around aimlessly listening to Christmas songs and crying. I capped the night off with takeout Chinese food, cheap wine and endless episodes of Law & Order. It is not my happiest holiday memory, to say the least.

This year, I spent Christmas with Ruby, my mom, my fiancé, his son and my soon-to-be in-laws. Instead of Law & Order alone, I watched Barbie in: A Christmas Carol with Ruby snuggled into the crook of my arm. And perhaps the best part: Instead of cheap wine, I drank seltzer with lime out of a wine glass. Well, no. I love seltzer, but the seltzer wasn’t the best part; the best part was the reason for the seltzer. I am expecting another daughter in May, and she spent much of Christmas Day kicking and poking and rolling around inside. 

I would not have believed this a year ago. Even when I’m at my mopiest, I’m not the kind of person who thinks I’ll be unhappy forever, but I still didn’t imagine so much could change in just 12 months.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that I am now deliriously excited and rushing to reassemble a brand-new family and that we’re all going to live happily ever after. There is nothing easy about blending families, about trying to amicably co-parent with our exes, about finding our boundaries with each other’s kids, about all of the layers of hurt and history that accompany us. I don’t think I ever really expected to be someone’s stepmother or to have this super-21st-century domestic mélange of half- and stepsiblings. I wanted what probably everyone wants, and I wanted it perhaps even more than most because I didn’t have it growing up. I didn’t necessarily care about the white picket fence, but I wanted the rest of the package. Having to give up on that dream is, without a doubt, one of the most painful experiences of my life thus far.

But that said, with the life I never anticipated shaping up around me, I am happier than I’ve been in a really long time. Ruby is thriving. She has close relationships with me, her dad, my fiancé and her dad’s live-in girlfriend; she adores her soon-to-be stepbrother; and she is absolutely thrilled about becoming a big sister. (For her reaction to the big news and perhaps one of the cutest videos ever created, click here.) My soon-to-be stepson, who I am quite sure never wanted a stepmom even more than I never expected to be one, is an amazing kid, and getting to know him better has been one of the highlights of the past year – it’s been a crash course in Legos and Xbox and Nerf and the Cartoon Network. I am excited and nervous and honored and humbled at the idea of finding my role in his life as he grows up.

And then there’s this new baby on the way. The family she will be born into will be a lot more complicated than the family Ruby was born into, but oh, my goodness, there will be so much love for her.

And I’m getting married in a week. A week. It’s going to be a very small ceremony, just a judge and some food and our parents and kids, but I’m still overwhelmed at the amount of planning required.

I had to have the seams in my (very simple) wedding dress let out, and the tailor patted me on the shoulder and said in her accented English, “Ohhh, good, now it hide the belly!” This also isn’t what I planned. I am not all that hung up on traditions and social conventions, but “Get Knocked Up” wasn’t on my to-do list either.

Yet that’s where I find myself at the edge of 2012, at the intersection of what I thought I wanted and the joyful chaotic reality of what I have. And honestly, it’s a pretty great place to be.

I am wishing all of you the same happiness in the coming year!