Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: Some Highlights.

2014 had some tough times, but overall, it was actually awesome. So awesome in fact that it took me three days to compile this thing. Sorry (to myself) that I've been so slack at actually documenting all of this throughout the year, but here I am now to make up for all those months of silence. Get ready to be OVERWHELMED WITH THE AWESOMENESS of this highlight reel AND ALSO OVERWHELMED WITH HOW MANY TIMES I CAN SAY AWESOME IN ONE POST (it is a lot).

In January, we went to Florida to visit Kathy's brother. I spent a lot of time in Florida as a kid, but hadn't been back in a long time. I went to Disneyworld after graduating college in 2006 but that doesn't really count; Disney is its own state. In terms of an actual visit, it'd been a long time. The trip was great and fun and brought back Florida-y feels that I forgot I had, especially when coupled with family.

Snow! It snowed last winter, a real snow, which doesn't always happen in Portland. We made a (pathetic) (amazing) snowman. We took a walk in the snow with our dog and everything was peaceful and cold.

We won an award at trivia, an award that didn't even make sense because we had no idea people considered us foes. Like, we don't even win that often, you guys. We got trophies. What even. When playing weekly trivia wasn't enough geekery for us, our trivia team had board game nights. Or we just drank and played games at other bars. Because that is what grown ups do.

The Boston Marathon is one of Kathy's and my most favorite things in the world, and the 2013 bombings affected us in a way I can't fully describe. So it was important to us to return again this year, and somehow we made it happen. Plus, the timing of the marathon this year meant that we got to see not only great friends (plus baby!) but also family for Easter. Seeing family for holidays is a rarer and rarer thing these days, so all in all, what a fantastic trip. I will always love that dirty water.

While I've taken many, many trips to the Oregon coast, we took one in the spring that seemed particularly magic: a visit to Hug Point at low tide where there are waterfalls on the beach and caves and all sorts of wizardry, and then an overnight stay in what I believe was my first true oceanfront room. We be fancy!

The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival: be still my little heart, every single time.

I took my first library class at Portland State's Graduate School of Education back in--2008, I believe? I finished all of my regular classes but then took some time off to get another master's and do some classroom teaching and try to make some money and be a writer and who knows what else, because that's the way I am, but this year I finally decided to finish my library degree for real. This meant doing two practicums--one at an elementary school, one at a high school, and then doing an additional practicum this summer at a public library. Along the way I got to visit a bunch of other unique libraries I probably never would have visited before, from the state library in Salem to art museum libraries to medical libraries. A lot of finishing up my degree was really stressful, but a lot of it was also really awesome, and affirming to me that the library just really is where I belong, and probably where I always meant to be from the time I picked up a Roald Dahl book when I was 8.

While I didn't take as many hikes this year as I wanted to, JP and I did take an awesome hike to Dry Creek Falls last new year's day, and Kathy and I hiked Cape Horn in Washington this summer, along with some other shorter hikes we did on trips. I'm hoping to get out more in 2015 and actually document more of my hikes in my seriously nerdy hiking blog.

In early summer, we headed back east to my home state of Pennsylvania for my cousin Brian's wedding to his lovely wife Ann. The wedding was in Lancaster County and Kathy and I arrived a few days early for a mini-vacation for ourselves before the festivities, and we really Amish-ed it up hard. What we learned is that the Amish can be kind of amazing and also that that many horse and buggies alongside cars zooming along roads is really strange. Anyway, the wedding was at a spectacular venue, and I took a lot of pictures, and cried a lot. My family weddings are better than your family weddings. I bet you a hundred dollars. (Notreally)

Kathy's parents came out for a nice long visit during the summer. We ate a lot of food and went to the coast and hung out on Mt. Tabor and I made them my peanut butter chicken, among other things.

Kathy, Manda and I took a day trip to Mt. Rainier, wherein I realized that Mt. Rainier is really too far away for a day trip, and it was hot as eff and the air conditioning in our car doesn't work and also Kathy was really sick for the whole long trip home. BUT! It was a really beautiful day, and we got to drive all the way to Sunrise Visitor Center, where I had never been before. Mt. Rainier is an insane place. The Earth is insane.

Along with the (dude) World Cup happening in 2014, we got to attend a few futbol games PDX style, which, let's be honest, is the best futbol style you can get in the US of A. Kathy and I got free tickets (thank you, Tiffany and Fred!) to a Timbers game, but the real joys of our hearts were the Thorns matches we saw, even if we didn't end up season champions this year. If we can swing it, we're hoping to get season tickets for the Thorns in 2015, because WOMEN'S SOCCER 4-EVAH. 

My mom visited in August, and we went on a rather epic road trip through Central Oregon. We started with a really interesting hike on Mt. Hood, then had lots of good eats and long walks in Bend, and then visited Crater Lake. And JP got to go along for the whole thing!

Speaking of road trips, we took another one to Southern Oregon with Kim to see Bela Fleck perform with the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville. Britt Fest is a music festival set in gorgeous hills that a lot of old white people really love. Like Tanglewood in the Berkshires but in Southern Oregon. So basically, I felt right at home. We spent the rest of the time stuffing cheese and chocolate and ice cream in our faces, as one should always do on road trips in the summertime.

For Manda's birthday, we had a touristy weekend in Seattle since she had never been there, and it was awesome because Seattle is always awesome. Seattle. Is. The. Best. In addition to all the classic stuff, we also did some things I'd never done before, like visiting the salmon fish ladder at Ballard Locks and actually visiting a Top Pot.

Throughout the year, we got to take a few random trips to Eugene/Springfield (really, Springfield) to visit Kim and Cliff, which feels a bit like a second home. Sorry, East Coast, we know you love them too, but man, are we glad that Kim and Cliff are back in Oregon. These trips included staying in their brand new adorable house, going to a Ducks football game for the first time (apparently a good year to do so), getting introduced to Ticket to Ride which has CHANGED MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER, and lots of delicious meals at Plank Town and Addi's Diner.

This fall, to celebrate ten years of being together, Kathy and I went to the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. We stayed on Orcas Island at Pebble Cove Farm, which I almost don't want to tell anyone about because I want it to be OURS. But seriously, it was the type of place where we walked onto the property and said, here, we want to come back here, next year and every year. The whole trip was once of the most peaceful trips of my entire life. The Northwest continues to amaze me with all of its ridiculous Northwesty-ness.

For Thanksgiving, Sam and Steve (plus Desi) flew out from Boston and we all convened in Eugene at Kim and Cliff's for a ridiculously wonderful Friendsgiving 2014, a reunion that we hadn't replicated since Friendsgiving 2007. Hopefully another seven years won't go by until we can all see each other's faces again.

And perhaps the most important part of 2014 was that I started a new job, my first full time job as a teacher-librarian. I'm still not quite sure how to write about this job, or whether I should at all, due to public school privacy and professionalism issues (I know, professionalism, so boring), but essentially, this is my dream job. I cover a middle school and a high school in a small town and I have some really amazing co-workers at each school and each school is really different but I love them both, and am especially excited that I'll get to watch students transition from awkward 7th graders to graduating seniors. I took over for a librarian that had worked in the district to 30+ years, and after walking into her libraries, I now feel much better about my own hoarding tendencies. This fall has been busy with attempting to go through all of her old stuff and plot out how to bring these schools more into the 21st century. I've started graphic novel sections (there were none before), met with the superintendent about some staffing and budget issues and about introducing a programming class run through the library, I've met with the assistant superintendent about upgrading our library management system, I've talked to students about databases and being smart online and copyright, I've started book clubs, I've promoted Banned Books Week and the Young Reader's Choice Awards for what is apparently the first time at these schools, I've given book talks, I have deleted too many outdated books from the system to even count. What I'm saying is I really love my job and I think I'm doing a good job at it, and I'm hoping that I get to keep it for a long time, and that I continue to be better and better at it. I mean, I'm also human, and there are days where all I want to do is go home. But more often than not, I drive home with a warm feeling in my gut that says, I can't believe I get paid to do this.

I also say that it's the most important not because it's actually more important than all the other amazing things I did this year, but because the stability that it's starting to give both Kathy and I (health care? a decent paycheck? get outta here!) will allow us to do even more of the other amazing things, and start working towards some things we've wanted to work towards for a long time. 

After working part-time and freelance and retail jobs my whole life that could often literally entail working 24 hours a day, the privilege of my Real Person Schedule now is also not lost on me. Kathy and I now have every major holiday off together, and I'm still trying to get over the fact that I get winter and summer breaks. I am very lucky and very grateful.

Anyway, I'll stop crying over my job now, and say that this list of awesomeness wasn't even everything that was awesome this year. 2014 on the wider socio-political spectrum was a rough one full of hurt, but personally, this one was really good to me.

2015 holds a lot of things: planning a road trip to California for spring break that already feels like it's going to be the BEST TRIP EVER but I am not over hyping it or anything. Also everyone in the world that I love having babies. Also spending the summer actually learning how to code so that I can teach teenagers how to code. Also writing more and taking more pictures and reading more and being more awesome. 

How many times did I end up saying awesome, by the way? Probably too many. Or, AN AWESOME AMOUNT.

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