There are some much more serious and important pieces that I have been working on that I probably should finish, but I needed a break. From the depressing and enraging and heartbreaking. I needed to focus on something, or many things, good. Because even in light of recent events, there is still so much good in this world. In my life.
So I give you my love list of 2016, a collection of what has made me happy this year and many that have been making me happy for a long time. Things, people, life experiences… you get the idea.
– My big ol’ coonhound, Beau. First and foremost, 2016 brought some new furbabies into our family. The biggest being Beau, the treeing walker coonhound that we adopted. A gentle giant, or what Daniel calls “a beagle on stilts”. Since, ya know, we have a beagle and he’s less than half the size of Beau and twice as stupid. I had originally been looking for a basset hound, which are hard to find at shelters. I came across several different coonhounds, but Beau was the one that I kept coming back to on Petfinder. So I drove over an hour away to a shelter in Muncie to meet him. At only a year and a half old, he was sweet, adorable and full of energy. We instantly fell in love. He is my enormous cuddle bug and loves our family fiercely. He suffers from separation anxiety and we’re doing our best to curb that, since we obviously can’t be with him every moment of every day, like he would prefer. I always say that he loves his people, but his people sure love him, too.
– Wool socks. Bonus points if they are handmade, super soft, or super colorful. You see, as someone who suffers from Raynaud’s, my extremities are always cold. Regular cotton socks are not enough to keep my feet warm during the fall and winter months, so I rely on thick wool socks to keep my toes from feeling like they’re going to fall off. On top of that, there’s something special about wool socks. They give me this feeling of relaxation, of security. Like I’m about the hunker down with a cup of tea and a good book while wrapping myself up in a cozy blanket.
– Kate McKinnon. Few celebrities can make me smile from the inside out like Kate McKinnon does. Of course she’s been on SNL for a few years, but she really gained media attention this year in Ghostbusters, which is what really pushed me over the edge from being a Kate McKinnon fan to being a Kate McKinnon Super Fan. She’s delightfully quirky and true to herself. She seems to radiate joy and has more personality than what her little body can hold. So if I need a distraction, I can often be found on YouTube, watching her interviews or SNL skits. Because she’s guaranteed to brighten my mood.
– Purring cats on my chest. I love all of my pets, but only my cats can lay directly on my chest and purr soothingly until all of my stress melts away. It’s like having a newborn on your chest, but better. Like holding a newborn while sitting on one of those massaging chair backs. My cats help fill the baby void while also providing me with a sort of relaxation therapy.
– Concerts. I have seen so much live music this year that it’s a bit unreal, even for me. Old favorites, bucket list bands, new discoveries, concerts with my kids… there was a little bit of everything. I saw Dave Matthews Band four times, two of which were in another state. And there was Coldplay and The Avett Brothers and Panic! At the Disco and Weezer and Fitz and the Tantrums. And there was LOLO and Rob Crow and the Gloomy Place and Trippin’ Billies. Did I miss any? Maybe? But you get the idea. Ridiculous and wonderful, all at the same time.
– Cat and Jack. Shopping at Target spells trouble all on its own, but now they have added what is probably THE cutest line of kids’ clothes that I have seen in a while. On top of that, they’re reasonably priced. As in, I can buy Calvin’s entire fall wardrobe and not think that I am going to have to sell a limb in order to pay for it. I mean, a yellow and gray sweatshirt featuring a llama wearing nerd glasses? TAKE MY MONEY!
– Kindle Paperwhite. I am a reading purist. The feeling of opening up a paperback book, smelling the paper and feeling the pages between my fingertips, is one that can’t be replecated. Nor is that of walking into a used bookstore and getting lost between the shelves. So needless to say, I was a delayed convert to the e-reader cult. I didn’t want to give up the experience that turned me into a lover of reading when I was just a little girl. But wait, I can have every book that I want at my fingertips at any given time? In the form of this thin, lightweight little piece of technology? I can read at night without a lamp on, thus not to disturb my sleeping husband? And it’s easy on my eyes and resembles the pages of an actual book? And I don’t get any glare when I’m reading outside? These were all the big selling points for me. I was only vaguely interested in the original Kindle and had absolutely no desire to use a Kindle Fire for reading purposes, but the Kindle Paperwhite was too perfect to ignore. So Daniel gifted me one for Christmas a few years ago and it is basically an extra appendage now. I still adore physical books and wandering around bookstores, but from a convenience standpoint, my Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic reading companion.
– Family photos. We had our first family photo session in FOUR YEARS back in October, so needless to say, we were overdue. Our last ones were from 2012 when Calvin was a little bald-headed four month old, so he’s changed just a little since then. One of my dear friends from middle/high school works as a photographer and is who I always go to when I want our pictures done. She’s not cheap, but professional, experienced photographers never are. The first thing to figure out were outfits. Not easy, but I did it. And after a lot of discussion on location, we decided to go to one of the beautiful, historic neighborhoods in downtown Indy. It worked out perfectly and she got some incredible shots that my family will treasure.
– The Hi-Fi. I’m going to share something that you all probably never knew about me… I love going to concerts. Shocking, I know! (If you couldn’t tell that this is sarcasm, either you haven’t been reading my blog or you don’t know me at all.) It was only this year that I discovered this little gem of a concert venue. Nestled in the Murphy Arts Center in Fountain Square, The Hi-Fi is a small, over-21 venue that hosts a slew of lesser known bands as well as some that you may have heard on the radio. The bar offers a handful of local beers on tap. It’s intimate, relaxed, and the sound is great. When I am craving live music and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg or deal with huge crowds, I always check the lineup at The Hi-Fi.
– Green coconut curry. I love almost all spicy food. Mexican, Indian, Thai… you name it. But one of my all-time favorite spicy dishes is green coconut curry, preferably from Siam Square, the best Thai restaurant in town. I always order mine hot, because Thai hot is just too much, even for me. You can get it plain or with your choice of protein, but I always go plain or with shrimp, depending on my mood. It arrives at the table piping hot with a side dish of jasmine rice that I promptly dump into the big bowl of awesomeness. Eggplant, bamboo, fresh basil… need I say more?
– Friends. Yes, this is about as vague, but I can’t possibly list all of the people in my life who I am lucky enough to call friends. And I don’t want to feel like an asshole and accidentally leave someone out. This has been a rough year for so many of us, me included, and they’ve all been there to lend a hand or an ear or pass the wine. I never really needed them to prove how amazing they are, but they did anyway.
– Streaming video services. We got rid of cable over a year ago and before we cut the cord, I was worried that I would miss it terribly. TV had always been one of my favorite ways to wind down and the thought of not having cable was one that I just wasn’t willing to consider for a long time. But the more and more people I saw who ditched it in favor of streaming video, I realized that maybe I could do it, too. We’ve had Netflix for ages, back when streaming took a backseat to the DVDs, but I wanted more variety than that. If we were getting rid of an expensive bill, I might as well spend another $8 a month on Hulu. There are certain shows that I have to seek out from other places, but for the most part, I can get everything I need from Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. So if you love TV so much that you don’t think that you could ever get rid of cable, I dare you to try. It’s much easier than you think.
– Camping with the family. Before this year, we never really had camping equipment. Unless you count a 4 person tent that really sleeps two and some sleeping bags, most of which were the thin kind with cartoon characters. So we decided, in an effort to make family trips a priority, that we would invest in some solid camping equipment. We got an 8 person, two room tent with a screened in “porch”, a bunch of new sleeping bags that are good for cold weather (because Indiana), a camping stove, lots of cooking supplies, some headlamps, and more things that I can’t even remember. Daniel had a lot of fun picking everything out and the rest of us had fun using it. The kids had campouts in the backyard before we went on our first real family camping trip, which was to Clifty Falls State Park. We went the weekend before Halloween and had a blast. We did a lot of hiking, went on a candlelight cave tour, did a few different nature experiences with the ranger, and the kids even got to go trick or treating around the campground. But most importantly, it was a chance for us to spend time together with no outside distractions. No cell service, no social media,, no work emergencies for Daniel. And the cost of the equipment aside, it was a dirt cheap trip. We can’t wait to spend 2017 escaping reality, exploring our state and even the neighboring ones.
– Therapy. In all the years that I have battled mental illness, this is the first time that I have participated in long term, bare your soul psychotherapy. I was in intensive outpatient therapy as well as therapy specific for eating disorders when I was 19, but nothing since. Meds were supposed to fix it all, at least that’s what I had convinced myself. People like me didn’t need therapy. I was FINE. Even in the midst of my own issues, I was still judgmental. Probably to cover up my own insecurities about it. But when I reached the point where I needed help that my PCP couldn’t provide, he referred me out to a behavioral therapist and psychiatrist. And I can’t get the meds that I need without therapy, so here I am, going to therapy once a month. And it’s one of the best things I’ve done. You know how you feel after a massage? Rejuvenated and weightless? That’s how I feel after therapy. After unloading all of these things that anger me or scare me or stress me out onto someone who is paid to let me do it. I feel a lot better and I regret all of my previous misconceptions about what therapy was and who it was meant for. Because it was evidently meant for me.
– Breweries and wineries. Okay, this one is definitely not exclusive to 2016, but at least I’ve been to some this year that I had never before. I don’t visit breweries and wineries to party and get drunk… that’s not the point. I go to try new things, to better educate my pallet, and to support local business. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t strictly drink Indiana beer and wine, but I probably drink more local than anything else. And Indiana offers some pretty fantastic grapes and hops, I gotta say. Breweries and wineries are also just really great place to hang out with friends and relax.
– Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black. The 2016 season of this hit show received a lot of mixed reviews, and I can see why. It was more intense, more controversial than the first three seasons. It was too much for some people, which I get. But for me, that’s what I look for in television and movies. Dark. Shocking. The stuff that feels like it’s stabbing you in the gut. And that’s exactly what this season of OITNB did to me. I was terribly sick when I watched it (not because of the show, because of some awful virus), so I was pretty much bedridden and unable to move. So I laid there and binged the new season, all while simultaneously sweating through my clothes and sheets and falling deeply into delirious fever dreams. But despite all of that, it rocked me to my core more than any other show has in a long time.
– Band of Horses, Why Are You Okay. Lots of great albums were released this year, but I think this was my favorite. Lyrically, it’s emotional and raw. Poor decisions, love lost, internal struggle, regret… all of the things that pull at your heartstrings and dig deep into your soul. And it’s all strung together beautifully with the folk rock sound one would expect from this band. It’s not the album that I go after when I want something uplifting, but like I said before, my taste usually lies in the dark and tortured anyway.
– Meditation. I don’t get nearly as much time to meditate as I would like (do any of us?), but I really don’t know how I would have made it through this rocky year without meditation. As someone who battles anxiety, my brain has a really difficult time shutting off. It requires a lot of effort. And with three kids running around, it requires even more. But it’s become necessary to my survival (and theirs) that I take time to make it happen. So I shut myself away, light some incense, grab my crystals and stones, and get comfortable. Sometimes I’m not successful in getting to the place where I want to be, and that’s okay. At least I’m trying. I recently bought some sage and palo santo and would like to add more to my sacred space. I deserve it.
– Winter solstice. In our house, winter solstice is our reason for the season. I mean, it is scientifically anyway, but we’re not religious and we focus on the darkest night of the year and the light that comes thereafter. We do a solstice craft and this year, we made orange peel bird feeders. The kids had a lot of fun making them and they made a great addition to our trees. This winter solstice was probably the warmest that I can remember, so we spent a lot of time outside. And then we lit our solstice lanterns when the sky went dark. I would always love to add more to our annual traditions, though.