Cheers to 2018: Year of the Dog and Love

Oh, 2018: Words can do you no justice, and yet still I try!

What started as an astoundingly dismal, uncertain year quickly blossomed into the greatest love story (so beautiful that I frequently blink back the pinprick of happy tears) that I have ever known.

And I’ve read a lot of trashy romance novels.

I started 2018 freshly divorced and endeavoring to find my own space in this wide world, but content with myself, alone, peaceful in my own skin.

This January first, one year later, my life is unrecognizable in the best possible way.

January, 2018: Nesting in a little space all my own, Denver travels, and holding fast to my beliefs. The hard way and the right way were the same.

 

 

I began 2018 more certain than ever of who I was and what I believed in. I set standards for myself, how I would and would not allow myself to be treated. I reminded myself that what I wanted and what I deserved weren’t necessarily aligned, and held firm in the belief that the easy way and the right way rarely coincided. And so I picked what I deserved (and what was right), no matter how it hurt or how hazy the future seemed.

February: A New Hope – My dear friend and former colleague, Ash, recruited me to form a training program for an up-and-coming startup, ReCharge. I spent this month designing paper airplanes, conquering seven (7!?) phone interviews, traveling to Arizona, and landing the gig, combining my love of teaching with my love of support.

 

 

March: I bid a bittersweet farewell to my Automattic colleagues and began recharging ReCharge’s training.

 

 

Change is terrifying, but lovely in its promise. Progress only comes when chances are taken, when carpes are diemed, and you let go of all that you can lose in favor of joy you can gain.

April: Taking chances to begin my twenty-ninth year. How anyone can pick their ‘top nine’ pictures from 2018 is beyond me this year; when I tried to narrow down the joy that last year brought, I wound up with over one hundred photos.

 

 

May and Beyond – Trials and Tribulations: Every year has challenges, and yet mine this year barely made a dent in my joy.

In Sickness: A week after we adopted Nia, Jason left for a business trip just in time for me to come down with a nasty case of the flu. So, there I was; eight week old puppy so young she couldn’t possibly brave the stairs, waking several times a night to take her on midnight walks in the pouring rain (because of course it would rain the entire. time) while also juggling four birds, the big dog, and my full-time job. That was less than ideal.

Our puppy also learned a hard lesson with our older dog (and learned to mind her manners), but because of her delicate skin and various wrinkles, she swelled up like a balloon. That was a fun vet trip.

We also lost two parakeets, little Beau to a liver infection he’d had (unbeknownst to us) all his life, and later Winston to old age. These were the losses near and dear to our hearts. But the love our two littles shared and the joy they brought us are our ever-present companions, and I am so grateful they were ours for their brief sojourn to this world.

 

 

Perhaps the hardest trial of 2018 was our car accident at the end of May. We were three blocks from home, headed back from the Renaissance Festival, when another driver ran their red-light and T-boned Jason’s tiny Honda Fit at thirty miles an hour, then they fled the scene.

I distinctly remember time slowing down.

They’re not stopping, I thought as they came barreling down the steep hill to our right; Jason cranked the wheel to switch lanes, but it was too late. As they careened off the rain-slicked hill toward us, never even tapping their breaks, I thought, This is how I’ll die, just like my grandparents. In a single flash, I worried for my father, what this would do to him, about our babies at home, and who would love them if I were gone.

My hand held tight to Jason’s as I braced for impact, and in that moment I found the greatest beauty of the year: in that single, crystallized moment, I realized that there was nothing I would change about my life, that I had been living to the absolute fullest. There I was, deliriously in love, convinced that I was about to either pass away (or become grievously injured), and I had no regrets.

 

 

The car slammed into the rear passenger door (missing mine by seconds thanks to Jason’s quick maneuvering). My face met airbag instead of glass (for which I am eternally grateful), the Honda spun all the way around, then screeched to a stop. Dimly, I saw the headlights of oncoming traffic.

Please, please stop. Don’t be looking at your phones. Notice us, I prayed. And they did. Had anyone been texting, they would have hit us head-on, going between 40 and 50 miles an hour.

Ya’ll, don’t text and drive. They didn’t, and they saved our lives.

We managed to move the car to the tattoo parlor parking lot across the remaining lane of traffic while the other car rumbled to the gas station across the street. Jason crawled out first and pulled me to safety after him, as my door wouldn’t open.

This is who they saw crawl out of the car:

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William Wallace face-paint, a kilt, and a chick in a corset. No wonder they ran off.

As we crawled out of our mangled vehicle, the other drivers took the hell off – they hit and run.

But we were ALIVE!

Bystanders were staring, wide-eyed with horror and hands clamped over gaping mouths. All told, we escaped with bumps and bruises, but no worse for the wear. We hold no anger, no resentment, only gratitude.

We have so, so much to be grateful for.

Around August, I found the answer to my endless fatigue, for which I am infinitely grateful. Jason has been healthy and hale in the best possible way (a change from the last several years of his life), and we are embarking on a lifetime of fitness together. Our home is filled with love, laughter, sweet creatures, and treasures from our frequent travels. We have the means to indulge in our wanderlust, but have a cozy home to return to. We are living our authentic lives, being exactly who we are, and loving each other fiercely all the while.

I cannot believe my luck, and yet I am thankful for it with every breath. Captions on each photo tell more of the story:

 

 

Cheers to 2018, the happiest of my life (*so far.) May 2019 bring even more love, joy, adventures, cuddles, and family. Carpe diem, carpe noctem; I resolve to continue living every day with the fullest love and appreciation I discovered last year.

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How Jason started off my 2019 today. It’s happy to see me!

Follow your feet home again.

I love to wander.

Drop me into a strange city, and I’ll meander through the streets, temporarily and deliberately lost, but enthralled.

I’ve found the most magical places that way; from a cozy Scottish tea cafe (where I took shelter from the pouring rain) to a secluded, rocky oasis next to the roaring sea, this is how my favorite memories are made.

IMG_6698Don’t get me wrong — the internet is a fabulous tool when people go a-journeying, yet I find the adventure loses something when you pull up to the latest, greatest “cultural experience” where “all the locals go.”

Traveling by way of TripAdvisor, you build an idea up inside your head, determine how it “should” be and what you “should” feel ahead of time, and then when things don’t go exactly the way you’d planned in your mind’s eye, you find yourself, more often than not, disappointed.

If you follow your feet, you place no expectations on a place, a feeling, a day. Instead, you befriend locals, sample food you feel drawn to, explore little-seen nooks and crannies based on your heart’s whim, taste beverages that come recommended or sound quirky.

Wandering frees you from expectations and opens you up to surprise and spontaneity, the ambrosia and nectar of life.

Some of my wanderings:

The amount of travel I’ve done over the past year(ish) is dizzying. New Orleans & Baton Rouge, Denver, Phoenix, St. Augustine, Asheville, Denver (Again), San Francisco, Los Angeles, and now Cascais & Lisbon in Portugal.

Ultimately, I sat still only long enough to move to the East Coast.

While I covet the novelty of travel, I crave a warm homecoming with fiery fierceness.

The balance of adventuring and nesting is where happiness lies for me. I travel for pleasure and treasure, then lovingly spirit my wander-found totems home.

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I have a space that I can call my own, and it feels like me. The value of ‘home’ can never be measured.

There is something special about making one’s house a home, of turning the lights off on our porch and holing up in our “dark castle”, as my beau likes to call it. Sometimes, I bring treasures I find on my travels back with me; other times, I curate the treasures that remind me of beauty I’ve seen.

In retrospect, I think I may be a dragon.

I like to be a little silly with my decor; I spent my entire childhood dreaming of all the different colors my house would be and how lovely I would make it. I will never understand people who want their houses to look like bland replicas of magazine advertisements; then again, I find joy in whimsy and lore, and choose to surround myself with it.

Knowing a warm space exists in the world, a place where I’m allowed and encouraged to be entirely ‘me’, where my critters wait for my return, where I cook dinners with and for the people I love, where I can nestle down under a mermaid-and-pirate-inspired canopy filled with twinkle lights, where I have lovingly crafted, arranged, and collected my treasures, each one a symbol for something I love… yeah, I’m most definitely a dragon.

Today, I am thankful for my travels, yet moreso for my cozy home.