year in review: my 2016 alphabet

You know how I said 2015 was a long year? I think 2016 took that as a challenge because WHAT 👏🏻 THE 👏🏻 HEY 👏🏻 EVEN 👏🏻 WAS 👏🏻 THIS 👏🏻 YEAR. Too much has happened for this to have just been one calendar year.

And personally, it’s been a good year. My own personal 12 months has been pretty dang awesome, especially compared to 2015. It’s just that my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been spitting raging dumpster fire at me the whole time. Living in that tension has been…interesting.

But my year in review posts are for me to talk about my personal year, so let’s all just enjoy that insulated self-indulgence for a few hundred words, shall we?


You may have noticed, but I didn’t make any official New Year’s Resolutions this year. After getting knocked down pretty badly by 2015, I just wanted 2016 to be free of any specific expectations. I just wanted to be happy, healthy, and headed in a positive direction. (That’s some good Southern Baptist alliteration right there, if I do say so myself.)

So since I decided not to give myself any one particular direction for the year, it makes sense that this blog post wouldn’t organize itself into one coherent thing either. So I decided to wrangle it via the oldest sorting hack in the book: the alphabet.

Jackie’s ABCs of 2016

Arc Stories
As in, I got to be a storyteller for them! Arc Stories is a Birmingham storytelling organization that encourages real people to tell their real stories to real audiences. I first went to one of their events in December 2013, and I’ve wanted to tell a story for them ever since. I was so excited to be chosen for this year’s Christmas event; it was an absolute dream come true for me. My story was actually streamed on the Arc Stories Facebook page, so you can watch it yourself here. Warning: There’s a lot of lactose involved.

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Books
As in, I read a lot of them. But not as many as last year or as many as I planned to read. But that’s all cool because I still read some great stuff. You can see all of what I read this year on my 2016 Bookshelf over on Goodreads. For my favorite books of the year, head on over to my Top 5 Reads of 2016 post.

Children’s Choir
As in, I somehow got put in charge of this year’s Christmas musical?? I’ve been helping out with the kid’s choir since 2013, but with the departure of our children’s minister (we miss you, Pavlicks!), I stepped into the musical director role this fall. And it was…woo, boy, it was a journey. Being around the behind-the-scenes of church and church productions since infancy gave me a bit of a grip on how to pull one of these things off, but the learning curve is real, y’all. But now that we’re on the other side of it, I’m so proud of our kids and volunteers and the musical we were able to present.

Doughnuts
As in, I entered into a committed relationship with Hero Doughnuts this year, and we are very happy together. Hands down the best dough in the ‘Ham. Even my father, the staunchest of Krispy Kreme loyalists, is a believer.

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Engagements
As in, both my brother and my best friend got engaged this year! And, like, a lot of other people I like, too. But I’m a little closer to those two, so they’re the ones that make my personal ABCs.

Full-time
As in, it took 2.5 years, but my job was finally advanced to full-time this summer! So now I’ve got my own insurance and a 403(b) and all that other fun stuff that comes with full-time employment.

Gilmore Girls
As in, we got to go back to Stars Hollow for a few more hours. And it was…weird. There are a lot of feelings involved here, you guys.

Health
As in, mine is better than it’s been in years. And I’m talking all the years, not just 2015 (which, as we’ve previously established, was the wooorrrrssssttttt health year of my life). I started eating more vegetables, stopped eating as much ice cream, and actually focused on cultivating personal responsibility for how my body felt. I look in the mirror now and actually like the body I see. Even if it’s not always where I want it to be, I worked for this.

And as for the MS? My one (!) MRI in April was “very positive,” so I don’t have to go back until this April. I’ve had zero symptoms of anything MS-related. Honestly, I forget Lenny the Lesion even exists most of the time. #blessed

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*Honorary mention for Hamilton which I’ve basically just let run my life since Fall 2015*

Intention

As in, I wanted to use “self-discipline” but the S spot is occupied by a higher authority. Essentially, I started being more conscious of my personal habits and how they affect my life. Specifically, I started making my bed every day, weaning myself off my snooze button habit, washing my makeup brushes regularly…it’s a whole thing now.

Joining small groups
As in, it’s the best thing I did for myself this year. I’ve known for ages that I needed to branch out in making friends, but I finally took that step this fall, and I am so, so grateful I did. The ladies I spent Monday nights with did wonders for my soul, and the crazy people I spent Friday nights/Sunday evenings with did wonders for my extraversion and my laughing muscles. I can’t begin to count the ways I have been blessed through the people I’ve met in these groups.

5 and 10 K races
As in, I ran them. And I’m not dead. In fact, I actually enjoyed myself, and I’m already signed up for my first 5K of 2017. If you had told 2015 Jackie that 2016 Jackie was typing all of this in complete seriousness, her head would have exploded.

Livetweeting
As in, I did a lot of it. #sorrynotsorry

Makeup
As in, it all started with trying to figure out how to work a winged eyeliner look with deep-set eyes, and now my counter is covered in finishing powder and my lipstick collection has its own shelf in my medicine cabinet. It’s a rabbit hole, my friends, a beautiful, colorful rabbit hole that sucking up my time and money. I love it.

But seriously, I’ve rarely felt the level of confidence I do when I’m rocking a bold matte lip with a sharp wing. I highly recommend it.

Nature
As in, I didn’t spend as much time in it as I would have preferred. But the times I did find my way out to my favorite trails were some glorious hours. If you’re ever looking for a buddy for an easy/moderate hike, I’m your girl.

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Olympics
As in, it’s an honor just to have been alive to witness the greatness of Michael Phelps. I truly love international sporting events, and, boy howdy, the 2016 festivities did not disappoint. And especially in a year of so much general negativity, it was wonderful to have those two weeks of respite into which we could escape.

Podcasts
As in, I’ve  fully hopped on board this audio train, and my life is better for it. Particular favorites from 2016 include: The Popcast, Shmanners, The West Wing Weekly, Arc Stories, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and Presidential.

Gray sQuirrel
As in, it’s officially my patronus, confirming what I predicted in college. Thanks, J.K. Rowling ☺️

#Rude
As in, my standard clapback to just about everything in 2016.

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Star Wars
As in, I have willingly given my heart and soul over to this franchise for now and always. Between the residual high from The Force Awakens, the casting of Donald Glover as young Lando in the upcoming Han Solo standalone, and now the avalanche of feelings Rogue One continues to give me, 2016 belonged heavily to Star Wars. The force is with me. I am one with the force.

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Tater Tots
As in, there’s a food truck that specializes in them in Birmingham now, and oh my word, it has enhanced my life so greatly by its sheer existance in the world. Get yo’self to The Tot Spot ASAP.

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Ulta
As in, it’s where all my extra money went. See also: Target, StitchFix, Sephora

Visits
As in, I made a few. To Charlotte to see Shea. To Atlanta on multiple occasions to see Megan and Marshall (and run races). To Dahlonega to see Jay and Lacie graduate. To Greene County and Macon and North Carolina to see family. To Gainesville to see Rachel’s ordination. For happy reasons or sad, it’s always good for the soul to see favorite faces.

Wicked
As in, I FINALLY GOT TO SEE IT LIVE OH MY GOSH! Even without a friend to go with me, I wasn’t going to let myself miss another chance to see this show. So I nabbed a ticket on my own and finallyfinallyfinally got to experience the green-skinned goodness that is Wicked. It was magical, y’all.

EXpectations
As in, I didn’t start out with many in January and instead let myself build goals and steps to those goals naturally as my year progressed. Some were met, some were surpassed, some fell apart, but I think that in all it was the right approach for me in 2016.

Yellow butterflies
As in, I let them (virtually) adorn my head many times this year via my favorite Snapchat filter. Which I also made into my Halloween costume, naturally.

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Zubats
As in, I stopped catching them out of pure spite. We only played this game for a month and yet that was more than enough time for me to hate the darn things.


I can never quite capture everything about a year in my wrap-up post, but this is my best attempt for 2016. It’s honestly been the best personal year I’ve had since college, and I am extremely grateful for everything it has brought and taught me.

But maybe 2017 can be nice for me and for the world in general at the same time? I’m keeping my fingers crossed (which we finally have an emoji for, thank goodness).

Peace out, 2016.

2016 bookshelf update: october

The end of October and beginning of November were rough, y’all. So, ya know, we’re just not going to talk about how late this post is. Nope. Not at all.


Good as Gone, by Amy Gentry

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The Book of the Month Club picks for October were all too, too interesting. But I was good and restrained myself to only ordering one and putting the other two I was most interested in on my library hold list. Good as Gone was one of those.

This story is a family-based mystery/thriller. 13-year-old Julie is kidnapped from her bedroom one night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Despite the best efforts of Julie’s parents and the police, no trace of her is ever found. Until one day, many years later, the doorbell rings. It’s Julie.

And though the family is thrilled to have her home, Anna (the mother) begins to have doubts. Is this really Julie? And if she’s been alive all this time, why has it taken her so long to come home?

The book alternates between Anna’s search for the truth in the present day and the backwards chronological story of Julie/”Julie’s” past. This style of storytelling is one of my favorites, and it helped me speed through the book in an afternoon.

The central turning point of the plot (that I am obviously not going to reveal) makes me curious about the author’s personal experiences with the topic, but it’s not enough to distract. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it was quite enjoyable and quick-paced.

[3.5/5 stars]


The Mothers, by Brit Bennett 

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[Book of the Month Club pick]

I chose this one as my official BOTM pick because the cover is prettiest. In my world, that’s the most valid of selection criteria.

This story begins with high school senior Nadia Turner and her brief love affair with Luke Sheppard, a 21-year-old former football star and the pastor’s son. But an unexpected pregnancy and the decisions that follow throw both of their futures into hurt confusion.

The novel is partially narrated by a Greek chorus made up of the church mothers. These women tut tut and comment on the lives of Nadia, Luke, and Nadia’s best friend Audrey as they each navigate the years that continue to march on and the situations that arise.

I found this to be a really unique and intriguing story, especially from a debut author. There were parts that could have been stronger, characters that could have benefitted from some more texture and depth, but I’d still definitely recommend it.

[4.25/5 stars]


The Wangs vs. the World, by Jade Chang

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I wasn’t exactly sure how much I would like this one going in, but it turned out to be really unique and fascinating.

The story follow the Taiwanese-American Wang family as they travel across the country toward upstate New York. Charles Wang, the patriarch and founder of a cosmetics empire, finds himself bankrupt after a bad business deal and the Great Recession collide in the worst of ways. So they pack up the old powder blue Mercedes and hit the road toward the countryside home of the oldest Wang daughter, Saina. As they travel, we learn more about each of the members of the family and how they each reached the point where they are. And even once they reach their destination, there’s more to discover about Charles’ motivations and the family history.

While I wish the ending had been resolved somewhat differently, this was definitely a book I appreciated reading. There was a specificity to how each member of the family was drawn and a cultural grounding that planted the novel in reality while allowing for exaggeration and some flights of outlandishness. Really a solid, solid read.

[4.25/5 stars]


Favorite book this month: The Wangs vs. the World

Most likely to re-read: The Mothers

Most likely to recommend: The Mothers, The Wangs vs. the World


So that’s October’s round-up. November’s not going so hot right now, so who knows if I’ll even have something to report in a few weeks. *facepalm*

Keep reading, and support your local libraries, y’all.