2016: What the hell was that?

It’s a universal truth that 2016 can be described as a dumpster fire of bullshit, but it will go down in my personal history as the first year I’ve ever completed a Project 365. Well, 347 out of 365 ain’t bad, right?

Despite not having 365 photos in the set, I’m counting the project as complete. I set a reminder for myself every day at 5 p.m., and that seemed to be the key to me taking a picture. There were a few days (18, actually) where I apparently forgot completely, and instead of going back and trying to fudge something for the day I’m just going to leave it. It’s 95 percent complete. Hooray!

That whole set can be found here, by the way.

The year wasn’t all bad, though it wasn’t all good, either. Let’s recap!

Jan. 2: Hiking with my fluffy-assed companion. #project365
We hiked a lot with Stella, and I decided that cold-weather hiking is my favorite hiking. There tend to be fewer people on the trails, and you don’t tend to get nearly as sweaty. The month ended pretty warmly, but winter reared its head again soon enough.

Feb. 9: We woke up and it was snowing! #project365
Winter showed up with snow, but it was a relatively weak showing as compared to the year before. Still, Stella was happy to eat snowflakes. Ian and I took a trip to Biloxi and found it to be a pretty shitty town with even shittier beaches, although the Beau Rivage was a really nice casino. Luckily it was just a short weekend trip and we didn’t waste any more time there.

March 21: My forsythia is blooming! It's kinda weak, but it's something. #project365
March was pretty warm, and we did some work in our yard. Other than that, it looks like we mainly hung out at home with the animals (besides my monthly trip to the Raven offices). Oh! There was a marathon in town and to show our solidarity, we walked to brunch and then all over downtown to drink. I don’t remember much of the end of that day, but I know it was fun.

April 11: Chicago was windy af today. #project365
In April I got sick but then better, and we traveled to Chicago to visit my mom and sisters—and my sister’s new super-cute baby! Ian drove up with Stella and I, but then took a flight back home. I stayed a bit longer and worked from my mom’s house (and visited the North Shore Distillery, home of my favorite gin!), and then Stella and I drove back together like the traveling companions we are.

We also took Stella camping for the first time, and she did really well. She sorta-barked only once at something outside the tent; otherwise she slept on my leg the whole night (Ian was relegated to the twin-sized air mattress we’d bought for Stella to use, ha!).

We also hosted our first beer-tasting event with friends on April 30, which was a huge success. The hangover the next day was totally worth all of the great beers we got to try.

May 10: This broad was a perfect travel companion over the past couple days. We explored Athens, Ga., patio-by-patio and loved it! #project365
The month started with mourning Gordo being gone for a year on May 4.

A bright spot of the month was when Stella and I traveled to Athens, Ga., for two days to hang out, work and explore the city. I decided it was about time to embrace the benefits of working remotely, and had heard Athens was a dog-friendly city. We rented a small AirBnB near downtown and spent our days working from patios of bars and coffee shops. It got a bit warm, but luckily it was relatively easy to find shade. I was already used to taking Stella around with me in Chattanooga, so I was prepared with plenty of water, snacks and poop bags. It was a fun couple of days, and I was able to get a lot of work done thanks to Stella being happy to chill next to me for the day after our mile or so walk from where we were staying.

The end of the month was capped off by launching a huge project I’d been working on with a team of co-workers for several months. It was a satisfying conclusion to something several people had worked incredibly hard on for quite some time.

June 11: The arcade/pinball expo was a dang good time. #project365
June was likely the most exciting month of the year for us, starting off with getting Stella’s DNA test results back, which were a mix of surprising and why-didn’t-we-see-that obvious breeds.

Then Ian and I traveled to Atlanta for the Southern Fried Gameroom Expo, a two-day pinball and arcade machine convention. Friday night was lighter on people so it was more fun; the lines to play pretty much any game by Saturday afternoon were incredibly long. There was also an issue where a session that consisted of playing the game Quiplash! (which I was very familiar with thanks to months of playing it at Raven on Friday afternoons) got incredibly sexist and misogynistic, and I had to leave the room. It was disappointing, and my feedback to the convention’s organizers went unanswered, so I don’t think I’ll be returning.

June 25: At the top of Sandia Mountain. Where it's harder to breathe but the alcohol works faster. #project365
Later in June we took our yearly “big” vacation. We’d originally thought about going to Canada, but after reading that June is the rainiest time of year there we decided to head to New Mexico instead. And it was amazing! We spent a couple days in Albuquerque, which has an awesome craft beer scene, and then took a train to Sante Fe for a couple days for more sightseeing, brewery-hopping and an incredible visit to Meow Wolf. We came back to Albuquerque and did some hiking just outside the city, both in the Sandia Mountains and at Bandolier National Monument (which was breathtaking). I also met up with my friend Molly, who I hadn’t seen since high school, at Santa Fe Brewing Company in Albuquerque. She and a friend of hers gave us all kinds of advice on cool shit to do while we were in town, and they did not disappoint. People kept asking us why we picked Albuquerque for a vacation and seemed incredulous that we’d visit somewhere just because they had cool scenery and a lot of beer. But why else would you go anywhere?!

While in New Mexico, I had a beer-drinking contest with a friend/co-worker who was on his own vacation in Denver at the same time. The contest was to see who could drink the most unique beers while in our respective cities, and we had to drink at least four ounces of a beer for it to count as an entry. I beat him handily at 102 beers to 69. (He’ll put an asterisk next to my win since I had an extra two days, but he agreed to this as we were negotiating the rules so SUUUUCK IIIIIT.)

July 16: Quality time with the niece today. #project365

July was kind of a shit-show. Ian and I were both sick at the start of it, though the month improved with a trip Stella and I took to Chicago to visit with family again. My two sisters and I got matching tattoos, and for once I’m really happy with a tattoo.

But the month ended with me (and about 80 percent of my co-workers) getting laid off—the first time I’d been laid off in my two decades of working full time. It wasn’t exactly a shock; I’d seen the writing on the wall for a while. I mainly was just sad that my time with the company and my co-workers had come to an end. It was the first job I’d had where I really felt like I fit in, and I was bummed that my time there was over.

Aug. 13: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. #project365
I decided to give myself a couple of weeks to decompress and spent a lot of time walking Stella around town or in the neighborhood. I also started volunteering at the animal shelter in my neighborhood, figuring it was a good time since I was too broke to adopt any new animals that tugged at my heartstrings.

I went to a Railsbridge event sponsored by Code XX, the women’s coding group here in Chattanooga, where I learned enough about Ruby on Rails to inspire me to continue my study of JavaScript.

I took advantage of having dental insurance for another month and got a much-needed crown put on, too. That wasn’t fun, or cheap, but I was glad to get it done while I still could.

I also started working with a career counselor and completely revamped my resume for the first time in years. I realized I didn’t want to leave tech and began a job search—I also started trying to draw unemployment and realized what a racket that whole thing is.

Sept. 13: BFF naptime on my desk. #project365
I took Stella on more walks, hung out with the cats, and cooked a bunch of meals. I realized that cooking was a stress-reliever for me, and a good way to feel useful since I still didn’t have a full-time job. I did do some digital media consulting work for a former employer, which was a fun experience. I learned a lot about freelancing—and myself. I can see myself consulting again on a project-by-project basis, but I don’t think I could make a whole career out of freelancing. I appreciate a steady income and routine—and health insurance—way too much.

Oct. 16: Toronto you have a lot of dogs and that's super cool but so far your people are kinda rude. #project365
This month was one of the best of the year. We started it off with a camping trip to the Chilhowee Recreation Area, and then we headed to Murfreesboro for an Oktoberfest celebration at the famed Green Dragon bar. Unfortunately the bar itself was closed due to the festival, so I still wasn’t able to go inside and experience it in all its hobbit and dragon glory. One day.

In the middle of the month I went to Toronto with two friends/former co-workers to attend Full Stack Toronto, a development/UI/project management conference that we were planning on attending back when we were all at Raven still. We attended sessions during the mornings and early afternoons and then explored the gorgeous-yet-rainy city of Toronto.

Oh, and Stella turned three!

At the end of the month I started my new job as a quality engineer at Emma, Inc.! They’re based in Nashville but are remote-friendly, and there were already two other folks on the engineering team living in Chattanooga. Emma is known around Nashville (and beyond) as being an incredibly smart and fun company to work at, and my experience so far has exceeded my expectations. It was a strong way to finish out an already great month, and left me feeling energized and ready for what was to come.

Nov. 9: I can't believe what happened last night. Still. #project365 #imwithher
Despite such a great month before, November sort of descended into madness with the election turning out worse than I think everyone expected. We hosted some friends at our house for Election Night, and an evening that started out jovial and hopeful ended in sadness and incredulity. I’m still not sure I believe the country will survive the next four years, but a small positive is that—prompted by not knowing how to live in a country that so obviously does not care about the rights, health and safety of women or minorities—I finally started seeing a therapist again.

After my initial couple weeks of despair, I left Facebook (yeah yeah, I’d return in December) and started focusing on things that made me happy and feel good, like hanging up “mental health” lights in my house and walking shelter dogs and learning to code. I went into the end of the year feeling nervous, but ready to take action.

Dec. 13: Old Broads Club. #project365
December started off good but stressful. I accidentally fell in love with, and then we adopted, a 13-year-old dog that I’d walked at HES one day. And then I had to head to Nashville for a week at my new job, leaving Ian home to handle all that goes along with bringing a new dog into a house that already has one dog and three cats. (Sorry about that again, guy.)

But by the middle of the month Star Fox was fitting in nicely, Stella’s emo-ness was subsiding and all of the cats (even King Boo) had gotten fairly used to her.

We were planning on renting a car and driving to Chicago for the holidays, since it had been about five years or so since I’d been home at Christmas. Our plans were set, presents were bought, car was rented. And then, two days before we were supposed to leave, I slipped off our back deck and broke my right ankle (officially I broke off the bottom of my lateral malleolus—into several pieces—and sprained the entire ankle) and royally beat up my left knee.

Dec. 27: Today is one week since I broke my ankle, and I had my follow-up with an orthopedic doctor. It's hard to believe that some small, broken, floating around bone fragments are what's causing me so much pain. #project365

I’d never broken a bone before, but the pain was so bad that I couldn’t get up for fear of passing out or vomiting. Within minutes my entire ankle was swollen to the size of a fist, and Ian took me to the ER. I suppose I should be proud of making it to 37 before breaking a bone (not counting the pinky toe I likely broke when I smashed it into the coffee table one drunk evening years ago), but it sucked. It still sucks. I likely won’t be off crutches until mid to late February, and based on the little range of motion I have after three weeks I’m guessing I’ll need physical therapy, too.

Before breaking my ankle, I had been hesitant to talk too much shit about 2016 as a whole. Sure, a lot of people had died and we elected a literal dumpster fire to lead the country, but I wasn’t taking it personally. Until that night. Narcissistic or not, on that night I decided 2016 could go fuck itself.

So here’s to 2017. Here’s to the country surviving, to famous people not dying in droves, and to my ankle healing up nicely. Here’s to a relatively safe, happy and healthy year for myself and my family, and for you and yours.

2014 in review: What a great year

This was a year of big changes, but they were positive and exciting ones. We had a big 2013, too, with moving to Chattanooga and learning our way around a new city in the latter half of the year, and for the most part 2014 still felt very exploratory and adventurous.

But it also felt like we’re getting settled here. We’re making friends and getting invited to parties, we’ve got our favorite bars and restaurants pretty much hammered out, and we have a home that we hope to stay in for many years to come. We’ve gotten most of our things unpacked and we’re finally getting around to hanging things on the wall. I drive to Nashville every month for work, but my heart doesn’t feel weird when I drive through Murfreesboro anymore. 2014 was a year of starting to really feel at home in this city.


Blue House snow

We started the year out by closing on and moving into our cute little house in January, and then we got snowed in—twice (though the big one was in February). It was a pain to move twice in one year, but we love our house and where we’re located and don’t plan on having to move for a very, very long time. I write love letters to this house in my head all the time, which I think comes from years of waffling on whether to buy a house in Nashville and really learning what we wanted and didn’t want. So, hooray for being patient and getting it right.


Not too shabby for a first-timer, if I do say so myself.

March marks the first time I ever shot a gun. My in-laws took me to a gun range and taught me how to hold one, how to stand, and how to shoot. For most people this sounds simple and silly, but I grew up in a place where only bad people (and cops) had guns and have always had kind of a phobia of them. I decided that 2014 would be the year I got over that, and had a great first experience shooting in a totally empty range where I didn’t have to worry about noise around me or what a n00b I looked like.


It's been a fun morning. Bringing this girl back from Atlanta now.

April brought what was arguably a bigger change than buying a house—we adopted Stella! At six months old she was still very much a puppy, and the cats had no idea what to do about her. And, quite honestly, neither did we. She wore us out every day and we quickly realized we had to get her into obedience classes since we’d never trained a dog before.

But man, what a welcome addition she’s been to our family. She is the friendliest, funniest dog I’ve ever met. And she’s so good with the cats. Sure, she gets amped up sometimes and will try to chase or play with them, but King Boo keeps her in check and for the most part she’s very respectful of them. Gordo will seek her out just to punch her in the face and she just walks away like nothing happened.

We’ve been taking her to day camp once a week, and she’s become the star camper due to her sparkling personality and the way she can get even the shyest of wallflowers to come out of their shells and play. She runs all the dogs ragged, comes home covered in spit and dirt and collapses on the couch, happy as a clam. It’s the best $20 I spend every week.

I do still look forward to the days when she’s a bit calmer and I can sit in front of the TV for more than 15 minutes without having to get up to let her outside or back inside (or back outside again), but I’m trying to enjoy her puppy energy as much as I can. She certainly made me more active this year; she will never say no to a walk or a hike, no matter the weather outside.


Today was gorgeous

In May my mom and I visited Ireland, a trip we’d talked about taking for years. I kept meaning to blog about it after I got back, but I never could put into words how special it was for me. Not just getting to spend time with my mom, who I don’t get to see often enough, but being in a country our ancestors came from and seeing so much beautiful history preserved. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I definitely need to get back there to explore other parts of the country we didn’t make it to.


Look whose backpack came in the mail today

In June I finally bought a new camera—a Canon 70d—although I’m still working out how to use it and I’m not sure I’m actually happy with it. I probably should have kept saving for a few years and just made the jump into full-frame photography, so we’ll see if I keep this sucker around for as long as I did the last one.

We also bought Stella a backback in June and started taking her on hikes just about every weekend in the summer and fall. She gets so excited when she sees that thing, though at this point she’s gained some more weight and we’re going to need to buy her a new pack pretty soon.

June also marked the time when King Boo stopped kicking Stella’s ass every day and started laying next to her on the floor. It was the beginning of their friendship—which is ever-evolving and at times still volatile, but is a constant source of amusement around the house.


#100happydays Más béisbol

July was filled with fireworks (and learning Stella isn’t afraid of them but isn’t exactly a fan, either) and baseball—a very American month, I suppose. We had tickets to seven Lookouts baseball games last season and packed them all in during July and August.


5th Ave Apple Store. So cool. #100happydays

In August I visited New York City for the first time ever—alone. I was going for work but went up a few days early to explore the city. I lucked out and got perfect weather, so I traipsed all over the city looking for food and landmarks and I was not disappointed.


Twenty one pilots from afar #musicmidtown

In September Ian and I cheered on two of our friends who ran the Iron Man, and really enjoyed spectating a ridiculously difficult sporting/fitness event while drinking beer on the street outside.

The month also held our third visit to Music Midtown. Unfortunately they changed the lineup this year so that it featured newer, poppier acts instead of the 90s/rock vibe the festival has had in the past, and I think it will have been our last time at this festival—at least for a while.


La Perla

October was a great month. We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with a trip to Puerto Rico, and I swear I find myself at least once a week wishing we were back there. After my friend and her husband helped me figure out how to get Internet on my phone (thanks for nothing, Verizon!), the trip was so relaxing. Ian and I travel so well together, and we don’t ever really need a schedule or plan to have a good time. We stumbled into so many great restaurants and bars there, and had a great time just chilling on the beach with some beers (even though the sea stole my sunglasses, that sonofabitch). Ian and I are coming up on 11 years together (holy crap), and I know I am lucky that I get to spend most of my time with someone so perfectly suited for me and my weirdness. He’s really my favorite person in the world.


Getting ready to hit the trail

November was kind of scary because Gordo got sick, and at the vet we realized he’d lost quite a bit of weight. Although he’s been losing it steadily over the past few years, it seems to be a more rapid loss lately and we’re really having to keep an eye on him.

But November was also a lot of fun—Ian and I continued to explore Chattanooga’s hiking trails and bars, and we hung out with new friends and old. My sister Emily came to visit, too, and we took advantage of the sunny (but cold) weather and did a photoshoot down by the river and took Stella for a hike.


These cookies look much better with striped kisses.

And here we are in December. We started out the month at a cabin in Gatlinburg, and though it rained it was a much-needed getaway. I baked a lot of Christmas cookies, and we were back in Murfreesboro and Mt. Juliet to celebrate Christmas with family.

Looking back on the year, it was a really, really good one. I traveled a lot, but we also had lots of friends and family come and stay with us for several weekends. It was a good mix of being at home with the family and getting out and exploring our city—and the world. Even though I know we worked hard for what we have, I feel really lucky to have had the opportunities that I did, the job that I do, and to be surrounded by the people that are in my life.

2015, you’ve got your work cut out for you.