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In advance of the Fargo Marathon

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

In less than a month, I’ll be running the Fargo Marathon.

Now before you go trash-talking Fargo, let me tell you something. I drove through last September, and was immediately smitten by the small town feel. The tallest building downtown was… not tall. Several stories, maybe? I found shops and boutiques and restaurants, a brewery, a bike shop, and an Amtrak station. My experience was brief, but I found Fargo to be a sweet community, with affordable real estate, a growing economy, and a great arts scene. It just felt so live-able. I have a crush on it.

Plus, dontcha know their marathon is flat as a pancake? And since this is my first 26.2, that sounded great to me.

Being nearly 17 weeks into a 20-week training plan, I’ve reached the point where I’m just sort of over it. This Friday, I’m slated to run 20 miles — the longest distance so far — and lest you think I’m a confident runner these days, know that I will spend every moment between now and then in utter anxiety. These long runs are brutal, because while I know I have all of the physical and mental stamina necessary to finish the race, I didn’t anticipate that it would be so painful.

It just hurts. Oh my →SWEAR WORDS← goodness.

But no matter how my 20-mile run goes, and no matter how the full marathon goes, I will always be proud of myself for deciding to do this and then just doing it. I haven’t had a training partner or a running club; every single run has been by myself. Whether running 18 miles on a deadline (rushing before picking someone up at the airport) or 3 miles in the pouring rain the morning after a delicious yet irresponsible night of Scotch (whoops!), I’ve just kept getting out there, with no one motivating me but me.

I’m not a good runner. I don’t love it. I’m not fast. I’m not leggy and lithe (if you want to know how much weight I’ve lost, the answer is +7 lbs). But I was ready for a challenge, and chose my challenge, and have followed through on the challenge. What more can one ask of oneself?

I’ve been largely absent online these days — quieter than usual on social media, and nearly non-existent on this blog. I’m under no delusion that people notice, because the Internet is a loud, loud place where anyone’s absence is immediately filled by a hundred other voices. But since hootenannie.com is my party and I’ll talk if I want to, I’ll say this: the past four quiet months have been so good and so necessary for me. They’ve been fertile soil, and good things are growing. The 362 miles I’ve run so far have been a big part of that, and I never want to forget it.

Anyway, I’ll letcha go (just practicing my Fargoan). But just as a poll, do you know what hotdish is? I had never heard of hotdish before I moved to Minnesota — but you guys, it’s a casserole topped in TATER TOTS. What the heck. It’s either a nightmare or a dream-come-true. You decide.

Consolation and New Year’s resolutions

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Over the past month or so, I’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night with a sudden panic that I’ve left Foxy outside in the cold. I sit up straight and call her name, scared to death that she is [morbid alert] frozen to death out in the yard. And each time, I’m relieved to find that she’s right there by the bed. Of course she is.

My lifelong propensity towards anxiety paired with a winter that’s already more extreme than the entirety of the 2015-2016 season is doing dismal things to my brain. It’s not so much the temperature as it is the wind chill, and it isn’t so much the wind chill as it is the darkness.

Winter in Minnesota, man. Only the strong survive.

But regardless of how I feel about the weather, I find myself living in Minneapolis for my second January. Take four degrees and subtract them from zero, and that’s the temperature at this very minute – and it doesn’t even seem all that unreasonable, given the stiff and hypothermic potential. My survival strategy is to just keep living – and in January, I’ve decided that life will be made up of only two things: working, and running on the treadmill.

It happens to all of us at the start of every new year, doesn’t it? Making resolutions, resolving to re-solve what we’ve deemed wrong about our lives. As usual, I’ve decided that the root of all that’s wrong with my life is not, in fact, my fallen nature, but the circumference of my thighs. My re-solution? To run.

To run a freaking marathon.

Ha. That was actually my New Year’s resolution – to run 26.2 miles, twice as far as I’ve ever run, twice as far as I’ve ever wanted to run. Annieeeeeee. Why must your goals always be so extreme??

But since then, some thoughts.

First, last week I listened as a wonderful dinner companion shared about the Ignatian method of discernment called Examen, a prayer-fueled mindfulness that involves the idea of consolation and desolation. Each night, one is to review the events of the day and pinpoint the moments that were consoling (life-giving, inspiring, connecting) and the ones that were desolating (draining, despairing, isolating); in other words, consolation is movement toward God, and desolation is movement away.

As patterns begin to emerge, the idea is to orient one’s life toward consolation as a way forward. It’s not about making the “right” concrete decisions or checking items off a list, it’s about moving toward the things that stir us up and send us out, strong, tender, and present.

A few days later, I listened to an episode of Steve Wiens’s podcast in which he makes the case for “change that actually changes you.” So much of what he said parallels the idea of Examen. You should listen to the full episode, but for now, I’ll share the simple daily prayer offered by Steve at the end: “God, I want to experience life in all of its fullness today. Please lead me there.”

Do you feel how different this way of life is from our crazy New Year’s resolutions, those hard-hitting, full throttle plans that we think are going to turn our sorry ass luck around?

At the Christmas dinner table, I told my sister-in-law Ashley that I am thinking about training for a marathon, but that I’m nervous that if I commit to it and say it out loud that I won’t actually be able to do it and then I’ll be a total garbage person failure. She said, “I guess that you’d need to know that the process of reaching the goal would be just as worthwhile as achieving the goal itself.”

This morning at the gym, I ran for 45 minutes while staring at a poster in front of the treadmill that said, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” That’s a preposterous notion, really, since we can and do fail all the time. So I changed it in my mind to, “What would you do if you knew you might fail, but you’d kind of like to give it a shot anyway?”

Here’s the truth about today: I’m glad I ran for those 45 minutes. I feel awesome. That run felt like consolation. I want more of that feeling.

Here’s another thing that’s true: I was not well in 2016. The quiet stress I experienced during the first half of the year wreaked havoc on the second, health-wise. I had an eye infection that lasted for two months. I got shingles. My body harbored infection, I was sick over and over again, and I couldn’t sleep. But in November, when I started getting back into running after years of not running, I started to feel better. The beginning of 2017 finds me quite well, physically. I credit much of this to running, which is reason enough to keep doing it.

I don’t know if I’ll run a marathon this year. But at the risk of feeling stupid later, I’ll say it anyway: I’m going to try. I’m going to follow this training plan day by day, as far as I can take it, and give it everything I’ve got.

Maybe it will result in the torturous achievement of running 26.2 miles all at once, or maybe I’ll find that running 26.2 miles via multiple runs spread out over a week is a pretty cool accomplishment, too. Last week, my new friend Barnabas said something like, “What if running 15 miles 10 times is just as big an achievement as running 26.2 once?” I like that. When we drop our rigid expectations, the world opens up to us (the most Oprah thing I’ve ever said); success can take so many different forms.

(But I really am going to try for a marathon.)

I hope 2017 finds you experiencing life in all its fullness and moving toward consolation, New Year’s resolutions or none. And if you’re dying for a getaway, please come visit me in Minneapolis. I have a brand new furnace.

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All the shingle ladies

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seat, just dying to know WHAT ON EARTH has transpired since my last blog. Here’s the answer:

1) I had to replace my entire HVAC system.
2) My abdominal pain turned out to be shingles. Because I am 72-years old.

The first thing makes me want a drink. The second thing means I can’t have one. A big old SIGH to all of it.

But despite it all, I recently told a friend, “I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” And in that moment – not spectacular or special or particularly noteworthy in any way, just a regular moment – I really meant it. This fall has been so good to me. I’m well-rested, working only part-time (and loving it), taking the dog on so many walks, and peppering my schedule with life-giving people and events. It’s quiet a lot of the time, but it’s okay. My life is lacking nothing (except skinnier thighs, but what a stupid thing to let ruin my contentment).

On my birthday back in August, I realized that I only get a good year every three years (22, 25, 28, 31). This year, 34, I’m due. I’m happy to report that the pattern continues.

I don’t know what happens next or how long this particular day-to-day will look like it does right now, because I don’t know that my current circumstances feel all that permanent. But I’m grateful, and I want to remember it, shingles and all (except not the shingles).

Old enough

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

I only slept for five hours. When I woke, it was to a frigid house and a dull ache in my lower right abdomen.

Foxy was on the bed with me, curled up like a coyote, snout tucked beneath her tail. While she’s welcome on the bed, she usually doesn’t choose to be there. She’s independent and she needs her space. We’re a lot alike.

This morning, I was glad to find her on the bed. I wasn’t alone. I was freezing and weirdly in pain, but I wasn’t alone.

I picked up my phone and typed it in — abdominal pain lower right side — and it spit out the answer, the authoritative answer: Appendicitis. Go to the hospital immediately, it said. It will burst within 24 hours, it said. Once it bursts, it’s too late. You are dead, it said.

Appendectomy cost, I typed. I found a story about a Reddit post in which the bill for a 20-year old guy totaled $55,000. “I guess I’ll never afford that wallpaper,” I thought. Mentally subtracting my very high insurance deductible from my bank account, I decided that before driving myself to the hospital, I should try drinking some Metamucil, which I stock in my cupboard because at some point, I became old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard.

I got out of bed and put on a down jacket and wool socks. Why was the house so cold? I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Two rounded teaspoons of orange powder in a tall glass of water, then down the hatch. Within 30 minutes, I felt fine.

Appendectomy averted.

But the furnace. The furnace wasn’t working. The thermostat read 50 degrees. I texted Dane next door and asked him if he knew anything about furnaces, and he said he didn’t, but came over to look anyway. We took the panels off the machine and looked inside with flashlights — for what, we didn’t know.

I found a big cricket dead beside the furnace, and then realized it wasn’t a big cricket but a tiny mouse. Not an insect. An actual mammal with bones. How long had it been there? Did whatever killed the mouse kill the furnace, too? I grabbed it in a dryer sheet and threw it in the dumpster.

I called an HVAC repairman, and he showed up in the afternoon. I left him in the basement. Later, he called me downstairs. “What I’m about to tell you will make you want to tell me to get the hell out of your house,” he said.

The furnace is shot. I need a new one. They recommend also replacing the AC unit at the same time, especially since my AC unit is already over 20 years old, on its last legs. I thought about telling him to get the hell out of my house. When he gave me the estimate, I stared at him, and then said, “I want to curl up in a ball on this basement floor.” He laughed. I didn’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever spent on anything, even a car, save this house itself.

But my house is so cold.

I almost did it. I almost signed on the dotted line, which would have guaranteed me a brand new HVAC system by Tuesday. But at the last minute, as the salesman was walking around my house counting and measuring the windows in order to file the permits, my defeated, slumped shoulders straightened up.

If I’m old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard, then God knows I’m old enough to have learned to seek a second opinion, and probably a third. I’m also old enough to know that money is just money, so even if it’s worst case scenario, well, oh well. I’m old enough not to panic at a financial gut punch. I’m old enough to look a man in the face and let him know that I will not be pressured into anything.

And if I’m that old, then I’m definitely old enough to sit at my dining room table at 8pm on a Saturday night just typing out the events of the day.

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My favorite words, via Emily McDowell

Live frugally on surprise

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Write in the middle of it.

That’s what someone told me to do. As an introvert, my inclination is to wait until things are settled, processed, and sorted before sharing news in any kind of broad way — but I’m realizing that it might be awhile before things are settled, processed, and sorted, so OH WHAT THE HECK.

A year after moving to Minneapolis (Sunday was my Minneversary), I’ve decided to leave my job, the one I moved across the country for. There are a lot of factors that went into this decision, and it was not one that I made lightly. That said, I have a lot of peace about the decision itself, even though it leaves me staring into a future I can’t yet see.

From a job to the city in which I live, everything feels very much up for grabs right now — and while I’m experiencing a sense of possibility and potential, every idea I explore has a cost, a rub. My friend Leigh Kramer once wrote about the “jar lid click” — the moment when everything lines up — and so far, none of my ideas have led to that intuitive sense of alignment.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I am not the “leap and the net will appear” girl. I am a planner, a preparer, a “that’s not in the budget” pragmatist. The fact that I quit a job without a new plan in place is so out of character, it makes me question everything I thought I knew about myself. (What if I start liking board games?)

But you know what? The best stories of my life have been the things I could never have predicted or manipulated into happening — like once writing a song about a snack bar that landed me a job, or buying the first and only house I looked at (happened in both Denver and Minneapolis), or meeting people I had no idea would change my life (I’m looking at you, Keri Alexander, Kari Medina, Katie Freeze, Carin Towne, a whole slew of folks in Nashville, gal pals in Denver, my nephews, Foxy Brains, and, okay, EVERYONE).

Here is an idea I like:

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I don’t know what’s coming next. But I’m going to try living frugally on surprise, the rhythm and simplicity of the unknown, and see what happens.

Or I might buy a bed & breakfast. (I’ll add it to this list.)

We can never go back

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

A week in Hong Kong

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Back in January, I had to run through the Denver airport like the Home Alone family to catch a flight. I made it onto the plane in the nick of time, and as I settled into the middle seat, I realized that I was completely out of breath.

I’ve lost my Colorado lungs. I had already said goodbye to my Colorado house, Colorado friends, Colorado hikes, Colorado weather — but my Colorado lungs? That’s a low blow, Minnesota. Luckily you’re the state that brought us the Bundt pan, so we’re even.

I have not, however, lost my Colorado hiking haunches. Oh hell no. My general thigh-rump area is as sturdy (read: un-dainty) as ever, meaning that when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to get out into the jungle coated mountains to explore the trails. I mean, these glutes have got to be good for something — and in a world built to favor girls with skinny thighs, I take a lot of solace in the fact that I can out-hike them. It’s my only power.

So imagine my surprise when, there on the trails of Hong Kong, I finally met my hiking match, and an unusual suspect at that. When it comes to hoofing it, I now know my primary competition to be… the old Chinese man.

There he was, in his seventies, slight of frame, wearing nylon khaki pants and a little daypack — hauling ass up those hills. “Surely I can keep up,” I thought, and made it my personal aim to stay in step with him for the 1,800’ elevation gain of The Peak and beyond. But just like the time I tried to race a Segway up a hill on my bike (you’ve now heard the entire story, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds), I labored in vain. I couldn’t keep up. The old Chinese man is the most hale and hearty person in the world.

Some might think “old and fit” to be a contradiction — but my way-too-short week in Hong Kong exposed me to all sorts of contradictions. Hong Kong-tradictions? (I’ll stop.)

Truly, Hong Kong is a mix of east and west, rich and poor, city and jungle, poodles and porcupines, glitz and grit. It’s fake Louis Vuitton and real Louis Vuitton. It’s skyscrapers surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It’s cosmopolitan and outdoorsy, Maseratis and taxis, people toasting champagne on rooftop decks and people living in rural fishing villages. I ate dim sum and curry and noodles, but also McDonalds and Starbucks. You can find Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. There are tensions that I don’t fully understand, political rumblings with the potential to be seismic shifts, and just like anywhere, situations that need prayer and action and attention.

I soaked every single bit of it in. I explored and adventured and rested and basked in the presence of my dear friends like it was the world’s greatest gift, because it was. And I can’t wait to go back.

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The best seat in the sky

Friday, February 19th, 2016

It is exactly 24 hours from my door to Alia’s, and 16 of those were spent on a 777 from Chicago to Hong Kong. I had never been on such a long flight before, nor in such a gigantic bird. (That’s an industry term, you know — pilots call them “birds.” Wait. Do they?)

On a massive airplane with nine economy seats across, lumped in threes, an aisle between each set, I’ve decided that the best option is to sit in an aisle seat of the middle set. Here’s the logic:

  1. No matter what, the middle seat is the worst.
  2. On a regular domestic flight, I opt for the window. But if you choose the window on a flight around the world, you’re forced to watch the ground below, which on a global journey is really just ocean, inducing panic attacks and visions of Tom Hanks as the only survivor in a life raft in Castaway, which is by far the scariest movie of all time. Also, if you need to get up for the bathroom, you have to step over two people.
  3. The aisle seat on the right or left set of seats is okay, but if either of your two row mates needs to get up, you’re standing every time.
  4. But the aisle seat on the MIDDLE set… you can stand up whenever you want. You don’t have to look out the window hyperventilating. And if the person in the middle seat needs to get up, there’s only a 50% chance they’ll choose to go your direction.

Voila — the best seat in the sky. That is, unless you can afford to fly first class. By the time I boarded, those ballers already had free drinks!

Speaking of free drinks, you do eventually get those in economy, too. Time does not exist whilst in international flight zones, so when the alcohol tray comes through at 2pm, 3pm, 8pm, 12am, and 2am, just say yes, man. You paid good money for those free drinks.

Here’s another perk about such a long flight: the movies. The movies! I’m so glad I never paid to see The Martian in the theater, because after spending more money I’ve ever spent on a flight, I got to watch it for free! I also watched The Intern and Infinitely Polar Bear; in other words, it was the day you want every Monday morning when you actually have to go to work. I guess that someone’s gotta bring home the bacon and all… but what good is bacon if it isn’t paying for Netflix?

One thing I was ill advised about: there are no power outlets in economy. I was counting on an endless power supply for my laptop so I could write my memoirs. Alas, this blog is what I wound up with.

I am learning to accept my writing style for what it is. It’s difficult not to compare when reading other people’s words, blogs, and books, especially when I love someone else’s writing. Some of my friends have made a genuine living out of writing, and occasionally I think, “I wish someone would pay me to just be myself” — you know, as if all they have to do is write whatever they want that morning, and then get paid millions and millions of dollars for it. (I do know better, writer friends, you work hard. I’m just jealous.)

Anyway, everyone has a natural “voice,” and mine just so happens to be riddled with capital letters and parentheses and dumb jokes and a tiny bit of cynicism but also a genuine love for stringing words together and telling stories. I like to think that I write like I talk, but the truth is that I write better than I talk. Which is probably why I love to write.

I hope that you’re doing what you love, even if you don’t get paid for it, and even if you don’t do it as well as other people, at least in your opinion. One’s own opinion isn’t always the best judge, anyway. Judge Judy is the only judge for me.

Okay, back to this ultra mega flight. I was worried that they wouldn’t feed us and I would arrive in Asia an emaciated shell (as if). I am very afraid of being hungry, so I packed Larabars, an open-face turkey sandwich, an apple, and a baggie of almonds — and while it all went to good nutritious use, it was largely unnecessary. Here are the things we were offered on the flight: sundried tomato bruschetta crackers, sweet wafery cookies, manicotti, green tea sorbet, wasabi rice snack mix, and scrambled eggs. I didn’t partake in everything because with the exception of Ritz Crackers, mass-produced foods generally taste like sadness — but I’m serious, the crew was through over and over again with something new.

If you’ve made it this far, you know I’m just a wide-eyed country bumpkin on a major international adventure — par for the course for many of you, but out of the norm for me. I know that this week will be full of amazing experiences, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. And just to give you an idea of the length of the journey, here was our progress two and a half hours into the flight:

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The whole rest of the world to go. I can’t wait.

My winter wardrobe

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

You know your heart is shifting in a hearty direction when you say “It’s only 10 degrees” and then go walk your dog because “It’s only 10 degrees” means “not that cold.”

But honestly, my first Minnesota winter has not been bad. November and December were almost warm, most days in the 30s and 40s; it snowed once or twice, but then melted (an anomaly, so I hear). Some lifelong Minnesotans have said that it’s been the warmest winter they can remember.

But it is only January 5.

I had a hunch that when I came back after the holidays, winter would really start — and I was right. We’re staring down a high of 1 degree (one singular degree) on Sunday, and in preparation, I’ve been doing some online shopping. I got almost everything on sale, because is pays to shop post-holidays.

So without further ado, I present to thee: Annie’s Winter Wardrobe (most of which has yet to arrive and thus be tried on, so there’s a chance I might not keep something).

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I am over-the-moon excited to receive this Patagonia parka. It looks to be crazy warm, and the wind/waterproof layer is going to save my hide. Plus, how cute is the grey/green combo?

boots

I purchased Sorels two years ago, and last winter the rubber split open, rendering them a tiny bit useless in the snow. Given that I had just passed the 12-month warranty mark (13 months, to be exact), they wouldn’t replace them (cool, Sorel). I’ve been limping through with an extra pair of wool socks, but it’s time for new boots. I like this North Face pair because they are basic and have zero fur. No boots with the fur for me.

gloves

I have CHAT (Cold Hands All the Time, copyright me), so I got these. They also come in neon green and I thought maybe I should get those so I would always be able to find my hands, but then I thought… they’re my hands. (SO DUMB PLEASE FORGET I EVER SAID THAT.)

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I got this pom-pom hat last week and basically haven’t taken it off since. I’m wearing it right now. I will be wearing it tomorrow. I never want to be without it. Ashley knitted me an cream-colored infinity scarf a few years ago, and I’m living in that, as well.

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And since one can never have too many pom-pom hats, this one is on the way. The little metal plate will be removed immediately because it is dumb.

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And I’ve decided to wear more fuchsia, so here you go.

Bonus items: I got a down blanket for Christmas (my heart’s desire), and also a microwaveable rice bag from Aveda from a gift exchange. If you come over, chances are I will be wrapped in one or both. I’m also traveling with a down sleeping bag in the trunk of my car. I’m also hanging tough — as is Foxy.

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2015: Everything Changed and I Cried

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

There is no better summation of my 2015 than this: Everything Changed and I Cried.

I should caveat this by saying that right now, in the last days of the year, I am steady and stable and grateful for my life and current situation. It took a little while, but here I am.

But for the last 363 days until now, 2015 has been a doozy. One year ago today, I lived in Denver and had no inkling I was about to turn my entire world upside down with one little job application. Fast forward until now, having made it through five months of an interview process, an eventual job offer, the selling of one house, the purchasing of another, a cross-country move, the beginning of a new job (in a new role with new people and new responsibilities), and all that goes along with “starting over” in a new city, and here I stand, scratching my head and wondering where the year went.

Given that the last 12 months were a blur (I don’t remember the first half of the year at all), I figured I’d take a page from my girl Dani’s book and reflect via a listicle. If you’re a blogger (or even just a journaler), feel free to lift these questions — I found it to be a helpful way to sort out the past year.

:::::

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
I sold a house, moved for a job, mowed a lawn, and helped harvest honey on a friend’s farm.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
In the name of self-acceptance, I didn’t make any resolutions at the beginning of 2015. I am now feeling snarky about that concept, and would like to change everything about myself in order to be better, cooler, and prettier in 2016. My goals for the coming year will flow from this place of self-loathing.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Just about everyone, it feels like. Welcome Willa, Arthur, Adelay, Blake, Harriet, Autumn, Jenna, Griffin, Hank, Ramona, and many others! (Theo, Teddy, and Eliza just missed the cut, arriving in late December 2014.)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, not even my car, thank God.

5. What countries did you visit?
USA all the way.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you didn’t have in 2015?
The runner’s booty.

7. What dates from 2015 will be etched upon your memory, and why?
July 3. I left Colorado and didn’t stop until I got to Minnesota.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Accepting the fact that people do what makes sense to them, and it’s useless trying to control them. It’s even okay to forgive them.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I let my heart get entangled with someone who didn’t like me as much as I liked him. Such is life. I definitely wouldn’t call it a “failure,” though, since given the option, I think it’s always best to use one’s heart instead of protecting it. #noregrets

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I have been consistently dizzy for the past month, experiencing about two bloody noses per week (one of which occurred five minutes after I finished singing “Breath of Heaven” for my mom’s church on Christmas Eve — happy holidays). I am not dehydrated, so the only other option according to WebMD is that I have a fatal disease. Stay tuned!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new house, obviously. But I’m also quite fond of my new pom-pom hat.

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12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Kristen, who quit her comfortable life in Denver to take a really difficult but important job in Jackson, Mississippi. Kayla, who went beast mode on her dreams and started a non-profit initiative designed to empower women. Anna Talley, who drove Foxy from Denver to Minneapolis. Becca Groves who, after being 10 days overdue, made it through a 54-hour labor to deliver sweet baby Hattie. Glennon Doyle Melton & friends who took actual action to assist with the refugee crisis. The guys with the eagle.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Donald Trump.

14. Where did most of your money go?
My fence. RIP, money.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I was really, really, really excited when I was offered the job I am now in. I also was really, really, really excited when Foxy finally arrived in Minnesota, bringing our month-long separation to a close. And I bought a ticket to Hong Kong for a trip that’s now only seven weeks away!

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
I wish I had a cooler answer, but “Stay a Little Longer” by the Brothers Osborne.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Sadder (only slightly). Fatter (only slightly). Poorer (but more money always comes). But I never want to say the sentence “I am sadder, fatter, and poorer than I was last year,” so let’s forget this ever happened, shall we?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Hiking while I lived in Colorado. I did a lot, but it’s never enough — especially now that I live in a less hike-worthy state (but nonetheless pretty and explore-able).

I also wish I had written more.

I also wish I had cooked more actual dinners.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Wasting time on social media.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I woke up and drank coffee with my mom, then took Foxy on a walk, then read for a while, then ate grilled chicken and salad, then went to see Joy. No presents — that will happen tonight.

21. Did you fall in love?
No, but I suppose I could have if circumstances had been different. Ain’t that always the case.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Broadchurch. I started watching The Man in the High Castle this week (halfway through the short season), and can’t stop thinking about it.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate’s a very strong word, and I don’t hate anyone. No.

24. What was the best book you read?
My favorite book always tends to be the one I’m currently reading — which right now is All the Light We Cannot See.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Sean McConnell.

26. What did you want and get?
A house with a guest room, a yard, a front porch swing, and a basement.

27. What did you want and not get?
I can’t be trusted to answer this question. I could share an entire Rolodex of the things I wished for, but then Garth Brooks would start singing “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers” and I would be totally pwned.

28. What was your favorite film of 2015?
I watched so few movies in 2015. I never saw Inside Out, Star Wars, Creed, Trainwreck, Steve Jobs, Still Alice… in fact, the only movie I saw on this list of Top 100 Movies of 2015 is Selma. So I guess Selma? (To be fair, Selma was very good.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went to work, had a visit from my mom and nephews at the office, and ate salmon and salad for dinner. I am now 33, the same age as Bridget Jones and Jesus.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
The runner’s booty.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2015?
Lazy and generally misguided.

32. What kept you sane?
Long walks and the occasional anti-anxiety pill (honesty is the best policy).

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
Gun control. There is absolutely zero reason why a civilian should have access to an assault rifle.

34. Who did you miss?
My girlfriends from Denver.

35. Who was the best new person you met?
Maia Tarrell.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Don’t leave Foxy at a friend’s house with white carpet.

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
When you see the one you used to love
Beneath the mistletoe
With a girl you’ve never seen before
Who’s dressed just like a ho-ho-ho

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All in all, 2015 was an exciting but stressful, transitional year that was a necessary step in order to get to a new chapter — one that I believe was the next right step. I am ready to see what 2016 holds, and I really hope it doesn’t include Donald Trump as president. Kumbaya.