Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: A Look Back

I began this post in mid-December, in an attempt to boost my mood.  I've been trying to jolt my way out of my sadness with cups of hot tea and buttered toast, and by the middle of the day, I decided to do something more intentional.  I finished this post this morning, on the last day of the year and the last day of a decade.

Let me take a look back at 2019.  Let me take stock.


My goal was to read 100 books.  One of the unexpected benefits of increasing my reading amount was that I read so many more good books this past year.  As the year has come to a close, I've been trying to think about what book would take top place, if I had to choose the best book of 2019.  So many choices!  Perhaps I will write a future blog post about all the good books.

I remember the days when I would read 100 books in a summer--of course, they were shorter books when I was a child or a teenager.  I began this year feeling a bit dismayed about how my reading habits were slipping away.  I wanted to be more intentional, and I have been.  Hurrah!


I'm calling this past year a mix of success and falling away from patterns that lead to success.  I'm happy that I started a novel, and I am frustrated at the ways it's hard to stay faithful to novel writing.  At times, I've written lots of poems and had no lack of ideas.  At other times in the past year, I've wondered if I'll ever have even a glimmer of inspiration again.  Most days I write a blog post, some days two--I try not to compare my output to past years when I wrote 2 new blog posts almost every day.

Writing Submissions:

My goal was 100 submissions.  At mid-December, I had 110.  I'm counting all submissions:  poetry packets, book manuscripts, short stories, essays.


I know that some people have seen that their publication rate increases with a goal of 100 submissions.  That's not the case with me, but that's O.K.  This is the year that my book-length poetry manuscript was a semifinalist in not 1 but 2 competitions:  the Wilder Prize (Two Sylvias Press) and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry.

I had a poem included in the Women Artists Datebook, published by Syracuse Cultural Workers group; I bought my first Women Artists Datebook from them decades ago, but never would have thought about submitting there back in those days.  Being included thrilled me.

I am also thrilled to have a poem appearing in Sojourners again.  When I wrote it, I thought it would be perfect for that magazine.  I'm so happy that the magazine agreed.

Culture/Getting Out of the House:

It's been a year of trying to do more cultural stuff.  During the first part of the year, I went to at at least 1 concert a month, from the professional ones (Carrie Newcomer!) to free concerts at the beach.  Summer disrupted that record.  I also went to more author readings:  Colson Whitehead, Te-Nehisi Coates, and Patti Smith, plus too many to list at AWP.

I don't see much TV, even though we're living in a golden age of TV, and some of the stuff sounds good, if I had various streaming services, which I don't.  I also don't make it to many movies.  Most of the movies I don't care about missing. 

I've been trying to stay connected to friends, which seems much harder than it used to be.  Sigh.  It's not that we don't want to be connected.  It was easier when we all worked at the same school and/or lived in the same county.

Cool Events for Students:

I began the year by creating a station in the break room where students could create vision boards.  I created a butterfly garden in late June that captivated us when we had butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.  And then we had a Come Out of Your Chrysalis Party.  We also celebrated the Dog Days of Summer with frozen treats and Pi Day (March 13). I helped with the Teal Takeover which raised awareness for the American Lung Association.  Not all of our events were new:  I'm overly fond of the pumpkin decorating, and it seems to be popular, as is the Halloween costume contest.  The bloodmobile comes to campus every eight weeks or so.  Let me remember that I do these things, and that they are important.

Social Justice

I admire people who write a daily letter in support of their social causes, but I am not that person.  Still, let me remember that I participate in a variety of social justice causes in an effort to build a more equitable world.  I give money on a regular basis, I support our church's food pantry, I show up at various assemblies to show that a critical mass of people demands justice.

And of course, I write letters to those in Washington D.C. who make decisions, but I have done less of that this year.  My representative will vote the way I want, so I tend to write thank you letters instead of letters demanding action.  My senators are not likely to be swayed by my letters.  And it's useless to write to the president of the U.S.

I also continue to go to Publix every Monday to pick up the bread and treats that would be thrown away.  I redistribute them:  I set out treats in the morning and the afternoon for students, and I leave the bread in baskets for anyone who wants them to take them home.  Is this justice?  Charity?  Just my grandmother's instinct to avoid waste?  It feels important, even though I often wish I was offering more nourishing food.

Unexpected Delights

When I started the butterfly garden, I fully expected the plants to be dead by August.  I think of myself as not being good at keeping plants or any living things flourishing.  I need to change that inner narrative.  When I arrived at work yesterday, all the milkweed plants were in full bloom.  Some of the other plants are scraggly, but they may make a comeback.  Yesterday, a monarch butterfly flitted across the plants.

The butterfly garden has given me joy every day.  Setting out bread and treats for students has given me joy most days.  I love creating events and book displays for the library and bulletin boards.  The days when the writing goes well--sheer joy.  Sketching--also joy.  Having bread in the oven and coffee brewing makes me happy--as does a cup of tea at work when the work coast is calm.  Let me keep remembering these delights.

Spiritual Developments:

This past year, our church moved away from the weekly interactive service, which was often a creative activity.  I still miss that service terribly.  It fed me in ways that our current approach does not.

But I did create some creative opportunities for my church.  We did journaling:  a weekly gathering for Lent and a one opportunity for one evening in Advent.  One Sunday when I was in charge, we wrote prayers on scraps of cloth and tied them to a huge hoop.  I continued to help with making the sanctuary more interesting in terms of visual elements.

I went to the Create in Me retreat and a retreat at Mepkin Abbey.  I am the social media coordinator for the Create in Me retreat, and I love elements of that work--should that love be telling me something?  I also love doing that kind of work at school.

I was asked to be part of creating a prayer chapel for Synod Assembly.  I created a station with a weaving frame, and I got good feedback--plus I was asked to be part of the process again.

What feels like the biggest development:  in January, I will begin a certificate program in spiritual direction.

Work for Pay

My online teaching progressed as usual.  In this way, 2019 seemed the same as 2015 or 2013 or any other teaching year.

When I reflect on the situation with my full-time administrator job, it's no wonder that I'm feeling a bit whipsawed.  In the beginning of 2019, we had 3 full-time Program chairs and 2 part-time.  During the first half of the year, 2 of the full-time chairs left; we replaced one but not until September and one full-time position was changed to a shared position with another campus.  In the beginning of 2019, my boss was only on campus one day a week, and now our campus is his only focus.  And of course, we had an accreditation visit which became all-consuming for almost 2 months.

Planning for the Future

The recent flooding reminds me that it may be time to get serious about making alternate plans, but what should they be?  Moving to higher ground?  Giving up on the cottage but enjoy the house for a few more decades?

Let me try the approach which has worked in other settings.  I am in a period of discernment--that sounds better than being paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision.  But let me also get a bit more intentional about actually discerning a good direction.

1 comment:

ren powell said...

Your "unexpected delights" alone are inspiring.