(I shared a modified version of this post on Facebook earlier today; thought I’d also share on my blog.)

This year. Where do I begin?

2016 was one of the most personally and professionally rewarding years of my life. It also was one of devastating, seemingly unending, loss in my family(ies). I had some dark moments, thinking that I didn’t deserve such happiness in a time of so much grief. But all we can do to stay afloat is to celebrate what we have … and continue to celebrate those we lost, rather than focus on loss itself.

xmas-kids

Two of my losses were my cousin Aaron, second boy in back row, and my aunt Theresa, the girl next to him. Both died, unexpectedly this year at 38. This photo is from the late 80s.

 

2016 was my first full year of being self-employed, and it was successful beyond my wildest dreams and more rewarding than I’d even imagined — my goal was seriously to make enough money to eat and pay for my car/rent/student loans. I’ve had my creative/journalistic work published in dream publications, and I’ve worked on some incredible content projects in the higher ed, B2B, and community-benefit organization arenas. And I was honored to speak at a dozen or so conferences/writing residencies, and join the faculty at two colleges. It was also a busy, busy year, but I’ve built something special, I think. And met so many wonderful people/collaborators along the way.

2016 was an incredible year for Hippocampus Magazine and Books. The ability to set my own schedule has allowed this project to flourish more than ever before. Our second conference was a smashing success, and we’re planning for year three. We’re launching our books division, and our first title is out in early February. We’re getting more involved with our local literary community–and the greater writing community. Usually, it’s just business-as-usual, pushing forward, but when I really stop and think about how my vision came to life — and grew and grew and grew — I just, well, I cry.

mary-karr-us

Mary Karr was HippoCamp 2016’s headlining keynote.

2016 was not as productive with my own creative writing pursuits, but I have many new essays started, several finished, and I just came back from a private writing retreat where I made some serious headway on memoir revisions. (This is one area to which I must refocus some of my energy!)

In 2016, I traveled more than I have in any other year. And, often with new and life-long friends. I cannot pick a highlight or a favorite because all were special in their own way. Some places I’ve been: Oklahoma (family and old friends), LA, then LA again, Florida, then Florida again, Bahamas, Hawaii, Memphis, Philly (yes, it’s close to me, but it counts), back to NEPA.

bahama-shot

Bahamas. My first cruise … not my ideal vacation, but I’d try it again!

hawaii-hakeakala

At a pool at Haleakala National Park on Maui.

 

graceland-heweb-16

Graceland. I have a greater appreciate of Elvis. What an incredible story.

In 2016, I’ve made new friends, grew closer to other friends, rekindled with family members I haven’t seen in some time, and made memories with Kevin, my family, and friends. I laughed. A lot. And, with friends, I also had moving experiences. The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis was life-changing, and a moment I won’t forget: in Hawaii, in early November, with Jasmine Pollock, where someone came up to us and gave us the biggest, tightest bear hug because he saw our safety pins.

And I shouldn’t avoid mentioning how 2016 was a year filled with much turmoil, destruction, and just plain meanness in our country and the world at large. But everything I mentioned above — the success, the friendships, all of these silver linings — remind me that things can and will be OK as long as there’s hope and love and perseverance.

2017 calender pages

I can’t wait to fill up the pages of my 2017 refill datebook pages.

2016 was a year of mixed emotions and was, frankly, exhausting at times; but, it was a year that, overall, has treated me well (again – with so much loss, I feel guilty saying that).

Thank you to everyone who was part of my 2016.

I am excited about what 2017 has to bring.

Some things to look forward to:

–Alaska
–Iceland (for TWO weeks!)
–Book launch at AWP in February
–HippoCamp 2017
–Re-committment to the writing life
–Greater involvement (as me, not Hippocampus) in my local literary community

Happy New Year, everyone!

XOXOXO

P.S.So much about this year and this post was because I took a risk — a big risk — in 2015. Maybe 2017 will be the year you surprise yourself too, whether a bold professional move, a daring personal dream, or just doing something, anything, to get out of your comfort zone — hobby, experience, travel, whatever! Be bold. Be spontaneous. And don’t settle. We get one life.