2015 was the year that broke everything wide open. After years of sitting and waiting and
worrying and debating, I risked it all. I quit teaching. My tiny child and I moved to another
country. I published my novel, Reprieve. I got my heart broken by a man who abandoned us in
Seoul. While that did suck, the rest turned out surprisingly well. And as Shakespeare says, “All's
well that ends well.”
The really important part, though, is that this isn't the end. 2016 is just the beginning. There's a
great quote by Marilyn Monroe: “Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall
together.” And Michael Ende says in The Neverending Story, “Nothing ends... Everything
I really like that idea.
Each day, each year, we have the chance to change. And every year, I like to look back at who I
was and who I am becoming. If we don't stop once in a while to have a look around, we may miss
something. So this is me, having a look around.
Traditionally, I make goals in four categories: Health, Travel, Career, and a Reading Goal.
This year, I'd like to add an overall goal to be more generous. We try to give back in as many ways
as we can. This year, I want to explore even more ways to help people, specifically people in the
Here are my goals for 2016. May everyone have a healthy, happy, and blessed year.
1. Continue the Paleo/low-carb diet
2. Running Rewards
3. Daily Meditation
4. Cut back on screen time
When we moved back from Seoul, we moved in with my parents. My Mom's cooking is like some
kind of special witchcraft. Her secret ingredient is bacon grease. With it, she can transform
anything into an amazing southern comfort feast. Alas, it's about as healthy as eating mayonnaise
straight from the jar with a Dorito.
So when we moved in, we made some changes to the menu. We're on a low-carb, mostly Paleo
diet. My Mom and Dad have both lost twenty pounds since last March. I lost about seven pounds,
but I gained it all back during the holidays (curse you Aunt Amy's asparagus casserole!)
Therefore, the goal here is to continue Paleo eating. I have also been running, and I got us
memberships to the Activity Center. I've found that by rewarding myself after a set number of
runs/workouts is a very effective motivator. After every 12 runs/workouts, I get to buy myself
something nice – a nice book or some clothes. Total win-win!
As this category also deals with mental health, I would also like to maintain a state of mindfulness
through the meditation techniques we learned in Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) this fall.
One of my lifelong challenges is agoraphobia (which I'll expound upon in a later post), and I'm
learning that meditation helps me manage anxiety associated with that condition.
With regret, I must admit, I suck at meditation. I seems like a simple thing, sitting still and
quieting your mind, but my mind likes to scamper off in multiple directions, which is fantastic
when I'm writing. Not so great when there's a battle of five armies raging in my head, and I'm
trying to find a sense of peace.
I have three shiny new apps to help on this meditation journey: HeadSpace, Calm, and Stop-
Breathe & Think. It is my hope that these apps will guide me on the meditative path.
Bit of irony between the tools that will help achieve that goal and my final goal for this category.
Through our IOP, I discovered that I spend a lot of time on my phones. Plural. I have two phones
– one for business, one for games – and a third iPod device for books.
I alternate between the three of them, trailing charger cords about the house like I'm the Flying
Spaghetti Monster. I use them for music, Facebook, Solitaire, Words With Friends, videos. The
phones double as alarm clocks, so I am on a device from the moment I awake to the late hours
when I wearily scroll through my Tumblr notifications one last time.
One thing we picked up in IOP is the idea that we should focus on one activity at a time. My
brain loves to multitask, and the phones are perfect little enablers. I'm going to significantly cut
back on the screen time this year. One way to do that is an app called Forest. This app allows you
to put your phone into sleep mode. While its sleeping, a virtual forest grows. If you move to
check your Instagram or answer a text, you kill the forest. This kind of proxy empathy works on
me, so I'll use it.
I'm also going to implement device-free times like 'at the dinner table' or 'during family time'. I
would never text while driving, so that's a given. I just want to be more present and mindful this
year. That means less time looking at a glowy blue screen, and more time looking at the real
1. Plantation Tour
2. Road trip? Book signing tour?
3. Katrina: Hollywood or bust
Definitely on the books for Spring 2016, we have booked a plantation tour in Louisiana. This will
include Katrina's first trip to New Orleans, a city which holds an odd allure for her. It could be in
the name? Not sure, but we'll find out this March.
I also have a growing itch for another Epic Road Trip. This ERT would probably happen in the fall
and would hopefully take us up the East coast to Maine, stopping in North Carolina,
Pennsylvania, and New York along the way. Or, I may take us straight up through North Texas to
Montana and possibly into Canada. This will require more research, something I love to do.
Katrina was invited to attend an acting/screenwriting workshop in Hollywood this July. We really
want to see this happen. Since I'll be working for the San Marcos Parks & Rec department again
this summer, I won't be able to ERT there with her. Nonetheless, it's an awesome opportunity
that she will most likely attend.Career Goals
1. Publish Elsekind
2. Finish The Boy Who Painted Stars
This is one of the widest-openest parts of my life right now. Last year, I made the incredibly
difficult decision to quit teaching. While I loved teaching and I am now and will always be
devoted to my students, I realized last year that if I continue teaching, being an author would
never be a reality. Both paths require the whole of a person's heart. I was still trying to do both
and spinning in circles.
I published Reprieve, and people are reading it. Actually buying and reading it!
So I'm going to continue writing for as long as I can. Hopefully until I'm 140 years old and I ascend
to a higher plane through some kind of virtual upload. That would be freakin' awesome.Reading Goal
I began keeping track of the books I've read after reading On Writing by Stephen King. He reads
in the neighborhood of 80 books each year, and at the time I was struggling to make time for
ten. The first year, my goal was 12 books – one a month – and I read 16.
Last year, my goal was 52 books – one a week – and I read 56. Of course, my own book, Reprieve,
was on that list, but whatever, I read it. It counts.
This year my goal is to read 54 books. Maybe I'll read 60! I cannot wait to dive in to all of these
I track all of my reading on Goodreads. Occasionally, I also post reviews.
So that's it, my first look forward into the new year. May everyone have a terrific time as we
mark another passage around the sun. 2016, this is just the beginning.