We Totally Aced This Year

It’s kind of amazing what a difference a year can make.

I started 2013 with some sparkly shoes. They were irrational. No walking can take place in these shoes. None.  But I loved them, so I bought them.

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Dawg was just a little thing, when this year started. He has always been this sweet.  This was during the not-sleeping-through-the-night phase, though.  Wow. That was, like the first three months. But seriously. Look at that face.

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He was worth it.  The sleepless nights were also the least of my problems.

I’d said goodbye to a year full of conflicts and drama, worked my way through a knee injury, took unpaid leave from a job with terrible insurance and no sick days to recover, and gotten an MRI for Christmas. That, and a big pile of bills. When 2012 groaned its way to the finish line with the wheels coming off, the sole proprietor of the business for which I worked was in critical condition after a stroke, unable to speak.  I was not the only one among my crowd who’d been battered by a rough year, and when we counted down to midnight, a few of us did it with tears in our eyes, and we didn’t exhale until the calendar flipped over into 2013.

I was sitting at my desk, that first week of January, waiting for the announcement that our business was closing (nobody ever actually made that announcement, though close we did indeed), when I came across some suggestion on a blog somewhere that instead of making a huge resolution each year, we should all make a lot of tiny resolutions.  Like 100! 100 tiny resolutions.

100 anything, in the face of unemployment, was a bit daunting.  I e-mailed a couple of friends and cajoled them into a group list.  We looped in a few more, and then a few more, until we had a pretty good sized group, and wow, the tiny resolutions poured in. We made some rules (well, I made some rules, as I am a former schooteacher and thus I am an expert at rules) and we started checking things off.

We rode some carousels.

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We went to Merlefest.

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We found the best empanada in the Triangle (Oakwood Cafe, IMHO, and I think I tried 8 different places. That was harder than I thought.)

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We camped more.

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We rode the Bridge Bus to a fabulous night out in Durham.

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I took Dawg to a show at Sadlacks. Well, three or four shows, but this was my favorite.

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We went dancing at Neptunes. I did not last very long. Because OMG.

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photo credit:  Jessica Cochran

Jason brewed some beer.  He’s talented like that.

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Photo credit: Jessica Cochran

A bunch of us went to Kirby Derby.

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Photo credit Paige Presler-Jur

Dawg got bigger.

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Four of us. FOUR of us got new jobs. Several people checked off “date someone great.”  Several people ran 5ks. Then triathlons. Then marathons. Willow bought a new house, which came with this gorgeous tree:

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PJ and JJ ate at SoCo.

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Photo credit: Paige Presler-Jur

I saw a pirate invasion.

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It was lame. But then we went to Fire on the Mountain. I invented a cocktail for it. We made a bar of bottlecaps and watched fireworks and our car got stuck and we thought we’d never have to leave.

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Hope not only finished her MBA, but was elected by her classmates to give the graduation address.

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Tate started a nature club.

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Photo Credit: Caroline Tatum-Carter

And by then it was time for Hopscotch.

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I went to my first ever NCSU football game, because although I’m an alum, we never got to leave the studio to do anything like that.

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Two of our people got married. Which is of course huge. Some people got engaged, too. Also huge.

There was Cooke Street,

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Photo Credit: Jessica Ruhle

And the Oakwood Tour,

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Photo Credit: Jessica Cochran

and the Wild Turkey Lounge,

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and about ninety other items on the list.  We checked some things OFF, people. We hit 99 on the list at my birthday dinner with the girls at Mecca, before the Chatham County Line Christmas show. Hope made her aunt’s Turtle Candy Tart, with the double gift of birthday dessert and checking off a list item. It was as good as I hoped it would be.  (Willow also brought unbelievably good tiramisu cupcakes, so that was a pretty great dinner.) There are rumors that we’ll actually finish 2 more items before midnight on the 31st.  Either way, I’m counting it as an A+ already.

There were a lot of things I hadn’t counted on, good things and hard things.  We said goodbye to the Berkeley although nobody likes change, and don’t even make me talk about Sadlacks yet,

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and some people had some breakups which we never even have to mention again, and there were some rough family, health, and work situations here and there.  We didn’t know North Carolina politicians would take leave of their senses, and we’d spend a good bit of 2013 protesting in the streets.

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I did some traveling I didn’t expect; Budapest, on kind of a whim because family travel took me within striking distance anyway.  You should probably go, too.

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And there was Charleston, and Philadelphia, and Brooklyn, all of which were lovely.  Oh, and Nashville,

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and of course, Route 66.

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At the hardest part of the year, when it was all up in the air, when I knew things couldn’t possibly continue as they were but nobody was giving me any real information about what was happening, I was taken completely out of commission by back spasms so bad I couldn’t walk. I spent two or three hours hanging on to the door frame in my kitchen, and it was so painful that things were going grey around the edges and my vision narrowed down to two little tunnels of light for a few minutes, and I stayed upright only because I knew how much MORE it would hurt if I actually passed out. After all of that- things got better in a big hurry.  I quit struggling to be in control of a situation I couldn’t control. The office closed. I took a week or two to breathe, regroup, and sleep.  I fell into a routine, one which I really enjoyed, with long walks and puppy school and drinking coffee on sidewalks.  In the end, it took just seven weeks of applying for intern architect jobs before I landed a much, much better job.

As a writer.

Curve ball! Left turn! Game changer! That was a nebulous idea in the, oh, twenty-year plan. I had no idea anyone could be convinced I had any writing ability. From application to interview to job offer was something like seventy-two hours, working for an architecture firm where I still get to be licensed, and work with kindhearted and reasonable people, and do something I enjoy all day. With a gorgeous view.

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So, yeah. I didn’t know what 2013 was going to be about, when it started. I had a sense things were going to work out ok, though, even when I didn’t know what was coming next.  Things worked out way better than ok this year, in a lot of ways. What I knew at the beginning, though, was that I couldn’t face it alone.  I also knew I didn’t have to.  Not with my crowd.

Which brings me to my favorite to-do list item of the year, which was Country Western Fire Pit Music Night.  I’ve already told the whole story, and I won’t do it again here, but a few of us had a band,

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Photo Credit: Jessica Cochran

and we worked really hard,

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and we sang for our friends, and I have stage fright so we planned it so it would be pitch black dark. Like, this dark:

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Photo Credit: Jessica Cochran

and it was hugely fun.  I have a particular affinity with the song “Lonesome Fugitive” by Merle Haggard, as I was actually pulled over (for the second time in a week) by a police officer in Oklahoma while that song was playing, and I was sort of proud of my multi-state crime spree, and I consider that to be totally my song.  So I sang that song at music night, and somewhere towards the end beyond the crackling fire and the occasional sound of a bottle cap being pried off and the wind in the trees and the murmuring crowd, there were gunshots off in the distance.  Gunshots, as I wailed “I’d like to settle down, but they won’t let me; a fugitive must be a rolling stone. Down every road there’s always one more city; I’m on the run, the highway is my home.” And I finished the song, and had a moment of pure joy there in the dark with my friends that someone sent me gunshots on a fall night to harmonize with my outlaw country song.  (Gunshots at a reasonable, but not too safe distance. Perfect.) Sometimes magic moments happen; sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time; sometimes things work out exactly as they should. Thanks, with all of my heart, to the people who played along with the list this year.  There was a lot of magic in that, for sure.

Dawg is still kind of a puppy, but he’s fully grown now. I have a job I love, friends I love more, and things are not perfect, but they’re a lot closer to being right than they were a few months back.  This year doesn’t need a tearful countdown or a major overhaul. I bought another pair of shoes, still too tall and with shiny flashes of gold on the inside of the high heels, and I can totally walk in them. This year just needs a few tweaks.

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And maybe another insane plan of some kind.

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