Stoked: 2017 in Review

Had I stayed in Girl Scouts beyond the third grade, perhaps I would have learned the proper techniques to starting and maintaining a fire. However, due to an unfortunate overnight camp trip that involved a rogue raccoon, thousands of spiders and a trip to the ER I did not last very long with the green-sash-club. Set-free from peddling cookies I was left to learn fire mastery via trial and error.

Growing up, so long as the weather wasn’t terrible, bon fires were the ritual closings to our days. We’re not talking some little elevated patio fire pit. What started out as a dug-out hole in the far end of the yard had, over the years, turned into more of an ash-filled crater. We burned so frequently that the fire never really went out, smoldering on for nearly 10 years, permeating my childhood with a sweet, smoky scent.

We had no official guide on how to create ‘log cabins’ or ‘tipi’ structures for the fire, but had some intuition – perhaps primal? – that we needed fuel, oxygen and heat. Heat and oxygen were our constants, while the fuel varied. More often than not we burned logs, branches, sticks and leaves collected from the yard, but on several occasions we took a more liberal approach to the meaning of ‘fuel,’ using large boxes, paper files, the old wicker furniture, and so on.

All of this to say that at a young age I became somewhat of a fire-guru, amazing my friends at my ability to conjure up towers of flame from the smallest of sparks. Patience, focus and determination were instilled in me at these nightly pyres, as I stoked, fed and watched the embers coaxing them into flames.

Looking back over 2017, as I re-read my first post last January where I describe hitting Rock Bottom I’m taken aback by how quickly time has passed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ever so grateful for the speed, as time is often the only salve for a broken heart and with each passing day I felt myself grow stronger and more at peace. If 2016 was the year of Rock Bottom, then 2017 was the year of being stoked.

The past 12 months were full of fierce determination and focus as I fed and kept a close eye on the ’embers’ that were my life. While there were a few times that I thought the flames would catch and explode into a glorious roar, alas they did not. But, ever the optimist, that’s not to say that they won’t. I’ve kept my nose to the grindstone and worked hard this past year, stoking the fire as I poured myself into my graduate studies, my books, my jobs, my family and myself.

After slogging though writing my first academic book and completing my first semester of graduate school, I slogged my way through the mountains of Peru – you know, to bring some balance to my life. I figuratively felt crushed by my work/school schedule and then was literally crushed by the atmosphere at 15,000 feet on Salkantay. Then, because I obviously love torture, I began summer classes. Mid-semester I broke up the monotony with a 7-day, 500 mile bike ride across the state of Iowa, because who doesn’t love working on papers after riding 90 miles in the baking sun?

The day after summer semester ended I was off to my motherland (Poland) for two weeks. Back in January I somehow managed to find time in-between writing papers, writing a book and writing curriculums, to write a grant proposal to attend the International Federation of Library Association’s World Library and Information Congress in Wroclaw, Poland. Truth be told, I had forgotten I even submitted the proposal, but was tickled pink to find out that I had received the grant. *Poland posts to come. 

I began the fall semester while still in Poland, and submitted my last projects right before the holidays, which brings us up to date. As I mentioned earlier, this year was not full of any big announcements, but I remained diligent, got a lot of work done and learned a great deal.

I danced the night away in Wroclaw with people from 120 countries to traditional Polish music, learning that rhythm and smiles are universal languages. I walked ancient Inca trails with my sister in the Amazon Jungle, learning that nature is both beautiful and terrifying. I read a mountain of books with hundreds of children at a job I love with co-workers I adore, learning that great joy can be found in a passion realized. I pedaled my way across an entire US state with my sister, uncle and 30 thousand friends, learning the power of mind over matter. I shared meals with family on a regular basis, learning how fortunate I am to have gotten this time to be with them.

I also grieved with them, as there were several unexpected and sudden deaths of loved ones this year, which taught me the power and necessity of family and friends in holding one another up. I saw the world torn apart by hate, difference, intolerance, and natural disasters, learning that despite all of the negativity, there are a great deal of everyday heroes still fighting the good fight.

I struggled and survived, studied and wrote, read and spoke, climbed and fell, ate and drank, loved and lost. I have no regrets for 2017, as I lived each moment to the fullest and in technicolor. It took me 30 years to get here – to living a life realized, but man alive, was it worth it! I’ve got around six thousands irons in the fire, and as I continue to stoke and fan the embers, the flames are not far off. 2018 will be a definitive year, as several projects will come to fruition and my life could swing in a wild variety of directions, and for that I am positively stoked! Wherever I end up, I’m sure adventure and stories will be had, and to the blog I will turn!

Cheers to you, dear reader. May 2018 bring much happiness, adventure and health your way! Thanks for all the love!


The Wild Rose

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