28 things that made my 2018

This year wasn't one of the best on record for me. Between current events getting me down, car trouble, house trouble, interpersonal trouble, and dog trouble, there were a lot of low moments. But this year was also the first year I made gratitude a regular habit, and flipping through my 2018 notebooks reveals that through it all, there is still plenty to look fondly back at:

  1. Removing the last four walls of wood paneling in our forever-in-progress house! The back room (affectionately known as the Pool Party Room, since it looks out into the backyard) had multiple layers of fake wood paneling that needed to be stripped back. We also added in some recessed lighting, removed some cabinets that shabbily covered what was basically a hole in the side of the house, drywalled, patched, and painted! My favorite part was getting to launch myself (Kool-Aid Man style) through the plastic sheeting we had over the doorways to protect the rest of the house from layers and layers of drywall dust when we were finished.
  2. The Platinum Preppy fountain pen. I can honestly say I'm not sure I've ever loved a pen more. I doodled pictures of myself hugging my pen incessantly over the course of the year.
  3. The Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour that I dragged Shawn all over Los Angeles to attend. I'm a sucker for garden inspiration and beautiful city views any day of the week.
  4. Setting up some Nest cams, which mostly get triggered by random neighborhood cats. I sometimes get paranoid when a Nest alert pops up on my phone, but it's nearly always replaced with delight when I catch a fuzzy black cat trying to break into our garage or sunbathing near our front door.
  5. Our first trip to Whistler and staying slopeside on points! Shawn's first caesar, happy hours in the Village, riding snowmobiles while waiting for snow, sushi and poutine, enjoying a Canadian pow day, and the very scary glass-bottom Peak2Peak Gondola.
  6. Getting back into a fiction groove close to the end of the year, starting with Dorothy B. Hughes' In A Lonely Place, followed by An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Looking forward to more in 2019.
  7. Building this peaceful little corner in the yard. It's a nice spot for your eye to land when you're sitting on the brand new benches we also built this year on the other side of the yard, and it gives me a great excuse to experiment with pond plants. We joke that its purpose is solely for Emerson to have a nice place to pee, but that's actually not a joke at all.
  8. Exploring the Jim Henson exhibit at Skirball Cultural Center. Slimey's circus was a highlight.
  9. My first time in Atlanta, where I got to hang with a few fun MeetEdgar faces in a potentially haunted Airbnb for a few days. The meal itinerary was on point, including my very first ever Waffle House visit! They played me many Waffle House songs in honor of my first time, including this catchy little jam.
  10. Drip irrigation, which has quickly become one of my new favorite conveniences of all time. I set up most of our backyard containers on drip, using Laura from Garden Answer's recommendations. (Her channel is one of my top picks to binge on lazy Saturday mornings.)
  11. Making time every day to sit outside in the sun for at least 10 minutes. Even Especially on my busiest, most harried days.
  12. Realizing that I ended 2018 7 pounds lighter than I started it. I'd gone into my year-end recap feeling like I had a throwaway fitness year this year. I didn't feel like I'd gotten much better at anything, and it didn't feel like progress during the course of the year to just see the scale wiggle half a pound here, a few pounds there, in both directions. But looking at a full year's history of weigh-ins reminds me that small improvements over a long period of time can make an impact. It's a reminder for me in 2019 to keep showing up and doing the work, even when it doesn't seem like it's enough.
  13. Working remotely in pretty places. But also working remotely in totally ordinary places, like my home office and my dining room table. Being able to get things done from the comfort of my own home environment keeps me productive, well-rested, and happy.
  14. Stardew Valley on Nintendo Switch. At some point, I started naming all of my animals variations of Shawn's name and nicknames, and now I ride around on a horsey named Shigallion.
  15. Reflecting and practicing gratitude. I know, I know, I feel queasy just typing this out. But the question prompts in the Full Focus Journal I was gifted early in the year made it fairly quick and easy. The journal itself is gone now, but the questions have followed me into every notebook I filled in 2018. Reading more over the course of the year about gratitude's impact on perseverance (especially this article about how to quit bad habits without relying on willpower) helped me keep the habit up fairly regularly all year.
  16. A lot of trips to get Mexican food at Salsa & Beer. Frequently followed by buzzed trips to the Home Depot across the street, wandering until the margaritas wear off.
  17. The surprisingly empowering Magic Mike show in Las Vegas. I got tickets just for kicks with some coworkers one night during our company retreat, and we all left totally entertained, feeling... um, somehow heard, and unexpectedly not skeeved out at all.
  18. Planting more edible things in my backyard garden. This year, I experimented with Chocolate Sprinkles tomatoes, passionfruit vines, and various kinds of strawberries and hot peppers. And finally (!) our blood orange tree produced an edible blood orange.
  19. A great hike with my best bud.
  20. Staying at this wacky Tiki House in Joshua Tree, but having to hide a clown painting because it was staring at us. Rock scrambling, hot tubbing under a billion stars, poking around in tiny places, eating tater tots in the car, and dinners with the whole gang.
  21. Reminding myself that you are not your thoughts during times of distress, anger, frustration, and panic. This year, the idea that your thoughts don't define you really resonated with me. I loved the freedom of accepting that you don't actually need to agree with or even like your own thoughts. You can just hear them and then decide what to do with them (and dismissing them and moving on without shame is often a totally valid decision to make).
  22. A big ol' birthday bloom! The dragon fruit also flowered and fruited later in the summer, so overall, a great year for the epiphyllums.
  23. Taking advantage of more trips back to the mountains. Made some visits to Mammoth in every season this year to relax, snowboard, paddle on the lake, and celebrate with good friends.
  24. Finally buying a new car, after stalling and procrastinating all year. Driving the car farther than the grocery store was ruled out of the question in November, after overheating on the way to Emerson's first oncology appointment. And then the final tipping point was the day we to drove to the grocery store only to get a flat tire, then a flat spare tire. In the rain. With the check engine light taunting us.
  25. Brining and roasting my very first Thanksgiving turkey.
  26. Having a date night at Descanso Gardens' Enchanted: Forest of Light. Hot tip: the spiked hot cocoa is incredibly strong. Pre-gaming not recommended.
  27. Hanging out with my nieces and nephew at Disneyland. Seeing the Haunted Mansion in its full Halloween form. Eating pumpkin spice beignets, then later feeling the sugar coursing through my veins in line for Splash Mountain. Seeing the exact moment my nephew realized he was standing next to his hero Lightning McQueen, IRL. Ā 
  28. That one night we ate mad churros at a food truck at the park.