I just got in from a birthday stop I made at my favorite bakery in Oak Park, Spilt Milk. I got my coffee, my biscuit and then sat facing out the storefront window. The sun was shining warmly on me as I ate, sipped and read my book.

I was thinking, how was this year for me? What did I learn and what did I unlearn? What books did I read and what were the best movies I saw? What made me happy and what broke my heart? What did I do differently and where am I stuck? There are so many answers to all those questions. So how about I just pound out some scattered thoughts in whatever form about this year.

One of the best new experiences in my life has been art. Mixed media art, to be specific. My super amazing artist neighbor, Sandra Dawson, offered classes to learn collage, encaustic and image transfer. I went to one last March and I’ve been hooked ever since. Why is it good? Mixed media taught me that this scatterbrained mind,  that is always in so many places at once, thinking so many things and forgetting things, it’s not a bad mind. It’s hard to be that mind in our culture, but art opened it’s door to me. The way it is so intuitive and transformational. The way it accepts whatever you come up with and with whatever you have on hand. The way you learn to let go as you build layer upon layer. The way you see how one idea morphed into something totally new.  The way it has given me freedom to love my mind, just for how it is.  Does it suck?  Who cares! It’s all mine and   it’s been beautiful.

I have inhaled podcasts. When I’m driving, running, doing the dishes and folding laundry, always podcasts. Some favorites have been TED Talks, Code Switch, On Being and The Liturgists.   I’ll  go on…Beautiful Stories From Anonymous people, Reply All,  and Death, Sex & Money. I think my hands down fave this year was The Sporkful, or maybe it was Hidden Brain. Oh I don’t know, there are just so many awesome ones out there. (Criminal, The Moth, Pop Culture Happy Hour and I’ll stop.)

I got to see the Eiffel Tower!   I got to make a fool of myself trying to order croissants in a French bakery!  I got to float down a raging river in Asheville, NC with my family and friends and wonder WILL WE MAKE IT BACK TO THE SHORE ALIVE?  (A little lot bit exaggerated, but it was an adventure.)  I swam in the ocean and in the Great Lakes.  I walked, ran, biked, drove, and took the train to so many new and old places.  I went to the mountains of Colorado and hiked with my cousin.   All of it,  it was good.

We actually saw movies this year!   IN the theater!  It was great. I loved Lion with my whole heart. I was moved by Manchester by the Sea and by Hidden Figures. I was surprised by Arrival and how I enjoyed it, it’s not my usual genre. I was broke open by White Helmets and soaked up Dream Big, an IMAX movie we saw at the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago. And last night, I watched the movie Be Here Now.  I decided that if I ever get a tattoo, Be Here Now is exactly what I’d forever ink onto my body.

My favorite books from this year- I loved Circling the Sun, Salt to the Sea, Homegoing and Hillbilly Elegy. When Breathe Becomes Air was another great one and I am in book number 3 of the Inspector Gamache series. All great reads and amazing in their own way. The most transformational has been The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. It’s this simple yet profound idea that all we have is now and we need to slow down and live.

Be Here Now.    The Power of Now.

Now, now, now.

I’ve spent a lot of my living regretting the past and fearing the future. I’ve spent years believing that now wasn’t as important as to what will one day come.   I thought I needed to spend my time finding all the answers and solving my problems.  I’ve thought away so many days and some seriously endless nights.  I’ve forgotten to just be.

It’s  theme I’ve watched thread it’s way through my year.  Live RIGHT NOW!   Get your hands messy with paint and glue.   Rip pages out of magazines and books  . Don’t fret over saving them for a life on the bookshelf.    Run in the blazing heat and in the biting cold.  Hike in Colorado in the snow,  hand out water to marathoners in Chicago,  sit on the front porch and smile at the neighbors.  Don’t feel guilty and take that nap.    Don’t be afraid!   Feel it all, let it go, soak it in, and give BIG hugs to my kids.   Celebrate the big and little things.

Thank you,  God , for another year and another birthday.

Walking this planet is the most difficult and beautiful adventure.

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