What a long, strange ride this one has been.
Last year I wrote: "It was the best of years and while I can't honestly say it was the worst of years, we had some pretty awful moments. But who doesn't?"
2008 was an even better year, and a far, far worse year, though the better was very personal, and the worse was more global.
I am so very aware of how unbelievably blessed my little family is: we are surrounded by loving family and good friends; we are driven to do well and do right; and we try to make use of the opportunities given to us. We also have the amazing fortune to wake up in the morning to relative good health, sheltered, fed and safe. I truly wish that each individual could say as much every day.
What is life, indeed? I looked that over a little more than a year ago in the wake of finding a set of notecards I'd filled out as a sort of parlor game in college. While I still have 11-1/2 hours to go without dying in a car crash (you think I'd forgotten about that?! It did make me feel a little better every time I got on a plane this year...), if I've learned nothing else, I've learned to cherish all aspects of my life, from youthful eccentricities to full-fledged "I Am Middle-Aged Woman; Watch Me Run Amok!"
And run amok I did.
April: Puerto Rico and Oklahoma
May: Arizona, Illinois and Minnesota
July: New Hampshire, England, Norway, Iceland, Greenland
August: Shetland Islands, Scotland, and the Netherlands
And while I was running amok, I was collecting my own personal best:
SINGLE MOST AWE-INSPIRING MOMENT OF THE YEAR:
Sailing through a field of icebergs at Cape Farewell. Awe-inspiring, though, isn't always something positive, so second place would go to surveying the breached levees along the Mississippi in June from the air because the flooding was simply incomprehensible. And third? Paddling in a kayak in the middle of an Icelandic fjord and stopping to realize that I was sitting in a freaking kayak in the middle of an Icelandic fjord. Awesome.
SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING I'D LIKE EVERYONE TO CONSIDER DOING IN 2009:
Join the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. I am asking you in memory of Erica Murray, who lost her battle with leukemia earlier this month; I am asking you in hope for a boy named Nico, who is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia and needs a donor; and I'm asking you in honor of my friend C's son, who has been in remission for several years after a generous person made a marrow transplant possible for him.
BEST BOOK I READ THAT WAS ACTUALLY PUBLISHED IN 2008:
When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. Atkinson has long been one of my favorite writers, and her stories are horrifying and sad and violent, and yet, hopeful. And oddly enough, funny. And always well-written.
I read a couple of other note worthy books as well, though neither of them were published this year: Lori Lansens The Girls, a beautifully told story of conjoined twins; and Maggie O'Farrell's first novel, After You'd Gone. Both are well worth checking out.
BEST ALBUMS I BOUGHT THIS YEAR:
Cloud Cult's Feel Good Ghosts. A friend gave me this album for my birthday, and there is a quality to it that is quite charming. I also like the sense of innocence in the way it treats the journey to grace from loss.
Coldplay's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. It's been interesting to watch Coldplay morph from Parachutes to this latest album, and while there's a lot that's overdone on this one, I've gotten a lot of fun from it. At least up until the point that I started hearing "Viva la Vida" all the time. And hearing "Violet Hill" on the stereo in the lobby of a horse farm outside of Reykjavik almost qualified as the year's most bizarre moment.
REM's Accelerate. Plenty of people don't like REM and that's fine. It's one of only a couple of bands that have been on heavy rotation throughout my late teens and adulthood. This album really took the band back to its roots and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Rush's Snakes and Arrows Live. Flat out, it rocks. Hard. Loud. Some of the best memories, ever.
BEST PLACE I STAYED WHEN I WAS AWAY FROM HOME:
The Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City. Elegant as can be and the nicest staff ever, including the dearest man who brought me a case of bottled water at about 1 am.
The Radisson on John Deere Commons-Moline was an unexpected pleasure, with lovely grounds right along the Mississippi River. After an absolutely lunatic day of flying all over the Midwest, nothing was nicer than to don my running shoes and take off along the river path for a brief but very relaxing trek in a very beautiful area.
SINGLE MOST BIZARRE MOMENT OF THE YEAR:
Being referred to as a blogger. Moi? Got to admit that I really don't think of myself as such.
And I can't overlook the vast number of people who visited my blog to look at the photo of my Birkenstocks. Honestly, I don't want to know.
BEST CONCERT I SAW THIS YEAR:
Well, yeah, of course it was Rush, but definitely a tie:
Rush, Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, April 26th.
Rush, iWireless Center, Moline, Illinois, May 20.
And a close second: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Pond (or whatever they're calling it these days), Anaheim, California, November 21.
MY FAVORITE PHOTO OF THE YEAR:
I don't like having my photo taken. But this one just spoke volumes.
I can go on and on, you know. I can talk about my best recipe, the most exciting thing that happened in the garden, the most stunning thing the son did, the most outlandish thing the daughter said, or the rap I launched into today when the spouse asked me if I really wanted to be in the position of having to testify at a trial if I didn't stop being such a pain in the rear.
I can talk about the families that I worked with this year, and how I have the uncomfortable feeling that advocating for these kids might become a more formal sort of thing.
I can talk about the fear I felt watching the world implode this autumn, and how I'm clinging to hope.
But perhaps, as the year is finally drawing to a close, the thing to do is to thank you. I appreciate your kind and useful comments and emails, your enthusiasm and support. And to those of you who just quietly show up to read, I appreciate that, too. And thank you as well to those of you I've met in the real world who've been complimentary about what you've read here.
We none of us know what the future might bring. I'm holding on to hope, and my wish for everyone is that we all find a way to weather the difficult times and come out shining on the other side.
Be safe, be good and remember to eat your black-eyed peas.
...with hope in your hands
and air to breathe
Go listen to some good music: "An End Has a Start" from the album An End Has a Start by Editors.