This year showed us–no matter how much chaos is around us–life continues. The year was brutal. Countless losses, “too many funerals,” constant change, and far too much heartache. But, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there’s also been good. As we close out 2021, I’m reflecting as I did last year, on some of my favorite moments of the year–in no particular order.
Street Art. Roaming with my guys anywhere is always a good moment, but when we roamed through downtown Huntsville and found the Clinton Row Art Walk, I was pleased as punch. I shared some of the photos here, but eventually, I’ll share others.
College Language Association (CLA) Annual Conference. This was the first fully virtual academic conference I’d attended. By the time it rolled around [in April], I was oh-so-tired of Zoom, but the conference provided such a rewarding, interactive experience that it didn’t feel virtual at all. I laughed, lauded, and learned.
Joe Wheeler State Park. This work retreat, thankfully, was more retreat than work. I wrote a little about it in Between Water and Trees. I rode the high of all that outdoors for quite some time.
Summer Road Trips! After sheltering-in-place for 16 months, the guys and I hit the road to visit our folks. We went to New Orleans to visit my parents and to Millers Creek, North Carolina to visit Hubby’s parents. Both trips were too short, but it was oh so good to lay eyes on our parents [and siblings] and make sure they’re okay.
English Garden. My in-laws have an amazing English-style garden. When we visited, I stole away often to spend time in the garden. The butterflies loved the garden too, and I have the photos to prove it. 😉
Thanksgiving Road Trip! By November, the benefits of the summer escapes had worn off and we were itching to get out of the bubble of Northern Alabama for just a moment. We took another short road trip to Atlanta to visit my sister and niece for Thanksgiving. Bonus! We also spent a little time with a bunch of nieces and nephews and one of my sisters-in-law! We won’t make mention of the macaroni and cheese that I was compelled to make with the “wrong kind” of pasta and cheese! [Everyone else thought it was good, but it was not my signature mac and cheese!].
Working with Lilith. I had the privilege of editing a book for one of the most pleasant individuals I’ve ever worked with. She has an incredible story. We were acquainted before, but through this endeavor, our friendship has been developing. Although we indeed completed the work, our meetings to review the edits were more like tea with a friend than work.
Dean. Among last year’s “favorite moments,” I listed that I had accepted the role of department chair. Who knew that less than a year later, I’d drop the chair to accept another role—Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences? I seriously resisted at first until I realized I had no logical explanations for not accepting the role. Of course, I am having a blast!
Tell It Slant. The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell It Slant Poetry Festival was everything my writing soul needed and more. I went to seminars, workshops, readings, and Q&A’s. I became acquainted with new poets, acquired new art and books, and most importantly, experimented with new writing techniques. I am certainly looking forward to next year’s event!
World Watercolor Month: Thankfully, my friend Sheila introduced me to this month-long art party. It was fun finding ways to transform my photography into “watercolor” art. If you’re interested, you can find the three #worldwatercolormonth posts by clicking the link.
Time with My Bestie. My bestie came into town to drop off her youngest daughter for college. After the very last minute, her daughter–bound for a university in California–switched course and chose our alma mater (where I now work). So in these “Corona Times” I got to see my bestie! She even bought a sparkling [non-alcoholic] beverage to toast my new role.
Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff’s “Write Together” sessions were among my favorite moments this year and last year. I don’t always get a chance to participate, but the “time out” for gathering, contemplating, and writing is always well-spent.
Birthday Fun. Despite getting horribly sick halfway through my birthday, that was actually one of the best days of the year. As part of my birthday festivities, the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard. Of course, anytime outdoors with my camera and my guys, surrounded by trees, is a perfect day!
A Moment with Dr. Garland. It’s always wonderful when the virtual world collides with the “real world,” so when my blogging friend K.E. Garland showed up as a presenter at the Mellon conference, I was thrilled. We run in similar academic circles, so our encounter “in real life” was just a matter of time. I invited her to present at my university, and we had a moment to connect after her awesome workshop which offered many wonderful tips for surviving the pandemic as an academician. I love her candor and her energy.
Prayer Circle. Just before the academic year began, my colleague Kayla invited a very small group of women to her home for brunch and prayer over the year. After conversation and a good meal, we talked about our intentions and each prayed over the various facets of the university and the academic year. I recalled the good energy of our Prayer Circle when we hit rough spots in the semester.
Books & Tea. The Women’s Ministries Coordinators at my church organized a series of book talks on Chrystal Evans Hurst’s She’s Still There. The weekly virtual talks were soul-stirring, affirming, inspirational, and fun. The talks culminated with a three-day Women’s Empowerment Weekend and an in-person event featuring Hurst. For that event, we dressed in our best and headed to the church, the first in-person event held at our church since the pandemic began. Of course, we had to present negative COVID-19 test results, wear masks, and practice social distancing.
“Max Your Talent” Mini Women’s Retreat. This regional event, held a couple of weeks ago, was just what I needed as I headed into the Christmas holiday. It reinforced my understanding of my purpose, my humanity, and my identity in Christ.
Sunflower Encounters. One of my friends recently marveled that “the sunflowers always seem to find [me].” I think she might be right. I typically have sunflower encounters in unexpected places and moments–like the mini sunflower field my guys found at the beginning of the school year. I shared some of the blooms in “The Gift of Sunflowers.”
Sneaky Sunflowers. I was in the middle of a meeting when my hubby attempted to sneak into my office with a glorious bouquet of sunflowers. He even purchased a vase and filled it with water. The blooms brought so much light and joy to the office and we won’t mention the hundreds of photos I shot as I attempted to recreate some of my favorite Van Gogh pieces with a camera.
Sunflower gifts. My family and friends enjoy surprising me with sunflower gifts, and this year was no different. You’ve seen the sunflower art and the sunflower gift basket from Kelli, but there were other gifts. My [former] student Raven sent a personalized acrylic nameplate for my desk with my new title. Of course, it was embellished with sunflower art. My son gave me a beautiful hand-designed sunflower keepsake box–my new fav! And there were so many more!
Van Gogh Immersive Experience. This! Oh, so much joy! I will talk about it in another post when I have time to manage my photo selection—and when I can avoid “spoiling” the experience for those who have not been yet. I’ll just say this: I waited and waited and waited for the Van Gogh Experience to reach my area. When it finally did, I purchased tickets right away. It did not disappoint!
There were many, many more moments of this year, and these “few” moments show that if we’re paying attention, in spite of a pandemic, we can still find so much good. I hope you this carry with you into 2022.