It's strange to think that a year ago I was still dealing with a lot of sadness from the deaths of both Ashley and Prince, and struggling to find time to read and write. At the time, I set five goals for myself:
- Find joy, even in the sadness.
- Live a more active lifestyle.
- Visit my brother in Hawaii.
- Find balance in reading.
- Make writing a priority again.
Life is truly beautiful, and even through tragedy, happiness is found. Earlier this month I attended a memorial service for the family and friends of people killed in Washington, DC. After a program presented by the DC police homicide family services, we went to visit Prince's grave. While it was an incredibly sad day, we were also able to share memories of Prince, sing hymns, and give lots and lots of hugs. That day I realized I could even think of Ashley without also thinking of the terrible grief her death left behind--I could pick up her favorite books without wanting to cry and look at pictures of her without getting lost in memories.
As I've recently discovered, lifestyle changes are not easy to make, but they are well worth the effort. I was first diagnosed with IBS when I was 17, and it's been getting progressively worse since. In June, I finally decided enough was enough. Unfortunately, this meant cutting out lactose, corn, beans (including soy) and brassica (broccoli, mustard, cabbage). Fortunately, it also meant getting control of my health by heading to the gym almost every day and visiting my doctor regularly to balance medications and monitor progress. While I've lost a significant amount of weight throughout this process, the best benefit is waking up every morning feeling better than I have in almost 15 years.
A dead computer and other travel obligations prevented me from getting to Hawaii this year, but I don't regret it. I was able to attend my first national SCBWI conference in New York, be at my cousin's wedding, visit the Alamo, enjoy my first snowfall of the year from the Berkshires in Massachusetts, show my best friend around my hometown, visit my friends in North Carolina, and take part in so many YA lit events it's hard to count.
My last post broke down the books I've read this year, and while I'm still 17 books short of my goal of 150, I can't really complain about all the reading I got done. It's been a lot of years since I've explored picture books so thoroughly, and I checked off a lot of classics I've been meaning to read for years. But the most fun I had was becoming more educated about audiobooks, an education that has the opportunity to expand now that I have a longer commute and can take public transportation to work.
Probably the best thing that marked 2011 for me was my decision to attend graduate school for a degree in creative writing for children. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I said I'd never go back to school. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that life never goes as planned. I've also made decent (though not wonderful) progress on a few of my manuscripts, and I have the most amazing writers' group that keeps me improving and thinking and reading critically.
If it's even half as amazing as this year was, 2012 is going to be a good year. How lucky am I?