Man oh man. Another year has come and gone. Another year with laughter, challenges, love, lessons, grit. Another year with life. This life of mine, it is charmed I tell you. Must be all those angels I have watching over me. So that being said, in no particular order, here are my top ten most remarkable experiences of 2015:
1) Did some adulting. There’s no denying it, kids. I’m officially a grown up. I do turn 47 in a few months, so I guess it was inevitable that I face up to this truth. So in 2015, I decided to take this adult thing by the horns. I met with an attorney, and together we drafted my will, my living will, and my power of attorney for healthcare and finance documents. I grappled with the hard questions, and I gave some careful consideration to my mortality. Which I know is coming, but hopefully not soon. But when it does, I’ve made life for my family a little bit easier. Yaay, me! It feels good to be a grown up….most of the time.
2) Did some experting. It’s been said that to be an expert in one’s field, you must first acquire some knowledge, and then you must travel more than 300 miles to share said knowledge. In February, I did just that. I traveled a whole lotta miles, made my way through customs, drove a couple hours and eventually found my way to Guelph, Ontario. While there, I conducted a series of workshops and a video recording of continuous quality improvement practices in behavioral health settings. It was fun. It was exhausting. It was scary. And I can’t wait to do it again and again.
3) Did some laughing. Anybody who knows anything about me knows that I love my girl Mindy. This past summer, she and I met up in Waterloo, Iowa for a weekend of fun. Is there fun to be had in Waterloo, Iowa, you ask? Why yes, yes there is. That is, if you have Mindy, Jen and the booster powerpack of our friend Mike. Fun, it turns out, can include tractor museums and eating giant tenderloins the size of your head and doing a little late night shopping at the local Kum n’ Go for some swag. I love it when I get sore cheekbones from laughing. Even in Waterloo, Iowa.
4) Did some staycationing. I had a day off this summer where my original plans had fallen through. I could have gone to work, I guess, but – wait, catching my breath from laughing there – no. No I could not go to work. That’s just crazy talk. I decided I had one day and not a care in the world and I was going to turn this town upside down. So one by one, I ticked things off the Milwaukee to-do list and one by one, I realized how much I love this little town of ours. I went to the domes – because they were free that day – and while there I ran into a friend. I had an impromptu lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in forever. I went to the art museum with yet another friend and saw the wonderful Modern Rebels exhibit. I sat by the lakefront and drank local beer. And at the end of the night, I decided I needed custard, because – well, custard. At the custard stand, I ran into yet another friend. This is a city, right? It is – I promise you – it has all the amenities a city should have. But it is a town, too. And that is why it is just right for me. Love you, Milwaukee! Mean it.
5) Did some celebrating. Here is what I believe is a well known fact about me, but lest there be any confusion let me be explicitly clear: I love my birthday! It’s true. I love being the center of attention for one day. Actually, it’s not one day. It is, at minimum, one fortnight. One of those celebratory activities during said fortnight is Birthday Eve. Birthday Eve is, as the name would imply, the night before my birthday. And it is always spent with my work homies, of which I have many. I am lucky in that way – I have really, really great work friends. In fact, I could never survive my job without them. So this year, like every year, we went out for Birthday Eve. But this year, I didn’t feel like talking about work, so I brought a tin with little slips of paper for possible conversation topics. Topics like Burt Reynolds and black jelly beans and people named Larry and traumatic childhood memories. That little tin of random topics made for one energized, hilarious, very different evening. I think it will be a staple at every Birthday Eve. Because Birthday Eve is totally happening every year.
6) Did some dating. Yes, that’s right. You heard it here first. I got myself back in the game. The dating game, that is. Which is not always an easy game to be in, I might add. Don’t get me wrong, there has been much to love about my single life. But, I am finding, there is much to love about not being so single either. So yes, I have been spending time with a thoughtful, funny, affectionate, handsome gentleman suitor for the last few months. And, I would say, it has been good for me. Good because I am reminded that even a 40-something, strong-willed, set-in-her-ways woman like myself has plenty to offer someone who gets to be with me. Truthfully, it’s been a little scary, a little exhilarating, a little challenging, a lot of fun. And, for the record, I’m still all in.
7) Did some friending. There are many things that make my life great. My house, my family, my job, my opportunities. But few things contribute to my life the way that my friendships do. I cherish them and protect them, love them and honor them. This year, I’ve had some friends go through some things. Some things that haven’t been so easy. And the things is, those same friends have turned to me to be there for them. This is not a burden, it is not a chore. Rather, this is a privilege. This is the kind of thing that gives friendships staying power. I love that the foundation we built over time has made me a safe harbor for the difficult times. And I trust that when I need them, they will be there in the same ways for me. That is a good feeling. A feeling so good words can’t do it justice.
8) Did some roadtripping. My friend Danielle and I had been talking about taking a road trip for years. This year, we finally did it. What started off as contemplation of a four day weekend in Kansas City ended up instead as a 7 Cities in 7 Days epic tour all the way to Myrtle Beach and back. Our mantra from the start was “it’s just one day.” So if it’s terrible (like Myrtle Beach) you can laugh it off because it was just one day. (And laugh we did, that place is dreadfully, hilariously awful.) But if it’s amazing (like Charleston) you can only do one or two incredible things because all you had was just one day. (And we did those one or two incredible things as well.) We loved traveling by car, having a cooler at our disposal, being in charge of our own schedule and stopping at any given time to do precisely what we wanted to do. I can promise you this, another epic road trip will be happening and the plans are already underway.
9) Did some lanterning. OK, lanterning isn’t a real word. But it should be! My girl Alex turned 40 this year. She’s a baby, I tell you! She happened to be in town for the big day, so she assembled a group of her best gals for a night out on the town. After a fantastic dinner, one of her friends arranged for us to have dessert and champagne at the lakefront. Now mind you, it was cool, and it was damp. But not just a little damp, the fog was so thick we could barely see. So we walked for what felt like a mile, and there was our little picnic set up. As an extra special part of the plan, there were paper lanterns for each of us to light and send off into the sky as we made a wish. Sounds beautiful, right? Well it was, but part of the beauty was the knock down, drag out, nearly pants-peeing hilarity that ensued as several of us had great difficulty lighting our lanterns and had to chase them as they tumbled across a plot of tall prairie grasses. In the end, the deed was done. The lanterns went adrift in the sky, the wishes were made, and our girl Alex had a most memorable birthday. All without starting the entire lakefront on fire.
10) Did some family bonding. My beautiful little family and I made a big decision this year: No Christmas presents. Maybe it sounds a little harsh, but I assure you it is not. It’s not, because we all have everything we could ever need. How lucky are we? So this year, in lieu of gifts we agreed to make a charitable donation and focus on spending time together. We saw a comedy show. We went out for a lovely dinner. We went to the movies. We played board games. And at the end of it all, I think we all knew in our hearts that we are rich in many ways – but we are especially rich in love.
So that’s a wrap, 2015. Thanks for another great year! Onward and upward for more adventures in the year to come. As usual, I can’t wait.