at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

A Year in Review: Highlights of 2018

As another year comes to a close and a new one begins, I'd like to take some time to reflect on 2018 and some of the highlights from my year. It seems that each year goes by faster than the last, and I think that makes it all the more important to reflect back and really soak in the things that happened. 2018 had its challenges to be sure -- challenges with work, with volunteer work, with health, with home life and family -- but we'll save those for another day! For now, I'd just like to think about the biggest lesson learned through those challenges, and that is about changing my own attitude. When I found myself in less than desirable circumstances, I found myself complaining a lot and stressing or worrying about the situation -- until suddenly a two-pronged lightbulb came on. Firstly, I realized that in all my complaining, I was not stopping to think about what I could do to solve the issue. Wouldn't my time be better spent strategizing and problem-solving (I supposedly love problem-solving!) than complaining and worrying? Secondly, and closely related, was that I needed at attitude shift. I didn't like where my mind was at. I could be more productive in trying to solve or better manage the situations in my life -- but I could not change other people. What I could change was myself. If I put forth the effort to do all I can to help a situation, I can rest content in knowing that I did all I could. The rest is not up to me, and I can choose to either worry or stress over the things I can't control, or I could decide to be content, hopeful an even optimistic about the outcomes. What I really needed was to recapture the joy in my life. A lot of that stems from reframing my state of mind and focusing on the good. There's a Sister Hazel song that includes the following line,

"If you want to be somebody else,
If you're tired of fighting battles with yourself
If you want to be somebody else
Change your mind"

In high school, I once heard this song applied to a Bible verse and it has stuck with me ever since:
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." --Romans 12:2

That's really what this verse is saying. To be somebody else, to be transformed, involves the changing or renewing of the mind. So that is my continued goal going into 2019 -- to change my mindset, to recapture my joy and to focus on that good. And, that is why I am here going to focus on and share 18 super fun highlights of 2018! Ready? Here we go!

1. Florida

Tom and I had the opportunity to do a long weekend in Florida in January -- to get a little sunshine break! We stayed on Sanibel Island for the first time and got a chance to visit some friends who live down that way who we hadn't gotten a chance to see in several years. It was cooler than we had hoped, but we still had sunshine and a great time!

2. Kitchen Remodel is Finished!

Whew! People had told me that a kitchen remodel is a big undertaking (even when you're hiring out most of the work!), and they were not kidding. Fortunately, we only had a few weeks where the kitchen wasn't really usable. It took a while for all of the finishing touches to come together, though. But when they did - wow! I had gotten so used to the 80s laminate cabinets with the strips of fake wood that were peeling off that I kind of tuned out how ugly and falling apart they were. What a transformation with some brighter colors and more functional features in our little kitchen space. I always loved cooking in the kitchen regardless of its appearance, but now it really is my happy place!

3. Rock Climbing Again

Right around the time Tom and I started dating (in 2003!) we went on our first rock climbing date. Tom actually got me all of the essential gear for my birthday. That year, we spent quite a bit of time at the rock climbing gym and I started learning how to do this really cool sport that I'd always wanted to try. A couple years later, after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Disease, I wasn't sure that I'd ever be able to rock climb again. We had gone just a couple of times after my diagnosis, but after my wrists got bad, I really thought this sport was a no-go. Until a bouldering gym opened up in Grand Rapids last year. We decided to give it a try, and I surprised myself by actually being able to do quite a bit (at the beginner level, that is!) and by enjoying bouldering, where we had always done top-rope climbing. We went with friends and even had a couple of my aunts and my cousin come out to join us in our rock climbing escapades. Perhaps most fun of all was the Rabble Rouser redpoint tournament that I decided to join in on at the last minute. Tom had signed up and I was just going to watch, but when I found out there was a fee to spectate, I decided I might as well pay the full fee so I could at least climb while I'm there. I was nervous, but I challenged myself that day and did a couple of routes that I wasn't sure I could do. I started believing in myself and lo and behold I somehow ended up winning the competition for the women's beginner level! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there were only three of us in that category, but hey, a win is a win! What a blast!

4. Copper's Canine Good Citizen

Somehow, against all odds, Copper earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate from the American Kennel Club. We had signed him up for an intermediate class to help him learn to listen and obey in the presence of other dogs. I was wondering if that class was too advanced, as he could not contain himself the first night. Much to my dismay, it was determined that there were too few dogs in the class, so they combined us with the next level up -- the Canine Good Citizen class. Now we were really in trouble. This is the second dog I've had who has been the total naughty boy in class. He made some progress, but each night was a challenge. On the final week of class, I assumed they would do individual tests for all the dogs who were going to test for their CGC. I was not planning on having Copper participate, as he was clearly not ready. However, it ended up being conducted as a group. So, I thought, why not see how far he can get? There were no treats allowed, which was about the only thing we could use to get Copper to pay attention. But that night, he was totally on point, and he did it! I don't know how, but he did it. He cleared all of the requirements to earn his Canine Good Citizen. Like any proud dog mom, I immediately registered him with the AKC and got a printed certificate mailed to me. He may be far from being truly attentive in public, but if and when he does get to the point where I think he's ready, he has the certificate to back him up! In the meantime, we are working on some awesome and fun tricks. Who knows, maybe he'll get his trick title next!

5. Brewski Festival

Okay, so I'm not really into beer. Or standing around in cold weather. But, the Brewski Festival at Boyne Highlands has become a fun tradition with my brother and his wife, whenever we are able to make it. This year, it was also my mom's birthday, so she came with us, and it was some fun family time up north.

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6. Fun with Friends

We did a fun double date night out with our friends at a fancy restaurant. The meal was excellent, as was the company, and we also had some fun taking silly photos in the attached hotel. We've also started doing regular game nights with these friends -- which has been a dream come true. When I was a kid, my parents frequently played cards with friends and with my aunts and uncles. We'd get toted along to said friends' house and be set up with a movie, or if we were really lucky, be allowed to watch the game and try to learn. They always seemed to have so much fun that when I grew up, I always dreamed of having friends we could do regular game nights with. This year, it's been happening, and it has been everything I ever thought it could be!

7. Indoor Gardening

I was so excited to get a grow lamp for Christmas last year -- something that I've wanted for years. I didn't waste any time putting it to the test and seeing what would happen when I tried to grow tomatoes indoors in January! The result was a tomato plant that was bigger than I am before the ground had thawed! Just about as soon as I could get it in the ground outside, I did, and I had cherry tomatoes coming in from June through October! It was glorious. I also grew some greens indoors and started all of my seeds under the grow light. It was a give and take garden year with some wins and some losses, but the grow light gave me a huge advantage and my tomatoes were possibly the best they've ever been.

8. Traverse City Weekend

We got the chance to spend a long weekend with some out of state friends that we don't get to see very often We decided that we should go camping up in the Traverse City area and ended up staying at Leelanau State Park at the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. We toured the area and stopped off for hikes, lighthouses, cideries, wineries and restaurants. We spent one day basically just going all the way from the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula around the bay and over to the very tip of the Old Mission Peninsula (something I had wanted to do last year and we didn't have time for). We did a little hike on Old Mission Peninsula and when we got off the trail and were trying to find our way back, we stumbled upon an owl! 

9. Boating with Friends and Family

We didn't get to use the boat as much as we have in years past, but we still enjoy co-owning a boat with our friends. We had a fun trip out on the lake with our "partners in boat" and also were able to take the boat up north to Ludington for Tom's birthday and tooled around Hamlin Lake with his family. I tried water skiing for the first time, but we'll just say that that was not a highlight of the year. Tom did great, though!

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10. Paying off the House!

That's right, friends, it can be done! We were very fortunate in a number of ways -- firstly that we were given some good financial advice when we were newly married. Tom's parents introduced us to Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University CDs. We mostly followed the "Dave Ramsey" plan throughout the next decade. We were fortunate that when we were ready to buy a house, the housing market was near the very bottom, and since we weren't in a hurry, we were able to take our time and wait for a really good deal. We've been blessed with good jobs and were able to attack our mortgage with extra payments until we finally got it paid off this summer! This house has been a labor of love, and we've spent a lot of time and effort making it our own. Most of the 80s-ness is gone now. There are a few things left we'd like to update, but for now we will simply enjoy owning it free and clear!

11. New (Used) Subaru

I'm not usually one to get overly excited about cars, but we got a new (used) Subaru this year and that means that we now have two AWD cars that are adequately prepared for Michigan winters! Since I was usually the one driving the 2WD car, this is particularly exciting for me. It's extra exciting because Tom's letting me drive the Jeep most of the winter, which has a heated steering wheel -- best thing every for anyone with Raynaud's! However, it was a bit sad in that I had to let go of my beloved Trinity, my old Toyota Matrix. She was a great car and never gave me any problems. It wasn't her fault she wasn't the best in the snow. But, it was goodbye to Trinity and hello to Electra, our Subaru Legacy (Electra is one of the Subaru / Pleiades stars).

12. Ninja Warrior

This was the year of the Ninja if we ever had one! Tom really upped his game this year and has shown some amazing improvement in both skill and strength. He participated in the local Rockford Ninja Warrior event for both the Amateur Team and Individual Competitions. His team one the Amateur Competition, so he ended up getting to compete with the pros in team comp! He also achieved his goal of completing the Individual course, and he did so with a great time! What made Rockford Ninja Warrior extra special this year was that we got asked to host some of the pro ninjas that came in for the event. We readily agreed to host a couple, which soon turned into three, no four, no five ninjas! We had a blast getting to know them a bit and providing lodging during the event. What's more, I even tried my hand at a ninja course this year! I surprised myself with how much I was able to do, even with my bad wrists.

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13. Iceland

We had the amazing opportunity to go to Iceland this year. What an incredible country. The landscape is so diverse across such a small country. They call in the land of fire and ice because of all of the volcanoes and glaciers, but they forgot to mention that it's also the land of waterfalls and rainbows and sheeps! Tom and I really enjoy adventuring together and adventuring in a new land is always incredible. This world is full of so many treasures, and I love uncovering more of them! We had a couple of firsts on this trip, including our first time picking up hitchhikers (I promise, it's safe there!), our first time seeing a glacier, and our first time ice climbing. Be sure to read my Iceland post for more details!

14. Goat Yoga

It was maybe a couple of years ago when I read about something interesting in a magazine: Goat Yoga. Yoga with goats. Because, why not? Goats are amazingly goofy animals and I keep saying that I want to get some someday. If you're wondering why anyone would want goats, please read this. In the meantime, I try to enjoy goats wherever I can and goat yoga just sounded amazing and hilarious. Imagine my surprise when I got a text from my mom about Goat Yoga near her house! I think she sent it to me as a joke, but I said, "we need to go!" Goat Yoga originated in Oregon, and I had no idea that they had a satellite branch in my own state. My mom and I went one Saturday and it was as amazing as I dreamed it would be. Goats hopping around and jumping on your back as you attempt to pay attention to the yoga instructor. It's about 1 part yoga to 3 parts goat therapy. If you ever get the chance: try goat yoga!

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15. A Bridesmaid Again!

I know usually women get tired of being a bridesmaid (always a bridesmaid, never the bride). But, I was married young and a bridesmaid in a few weddings years ago, but with most of my friends married, I thought that would be the end of it. I always enjoyed being a bridesmaid and sharing in the bride's special day. I enjoyed being a part of the ceremony and honoring the vows that the bride and groom made to one another. I want to be a friend who supports her friends in their own marriages, and I was so excited this year when Tom and I were both asked to be in a wedding. These are friends who Tom met through Ninja originally! Over the past year or so we have grown close and have really enjoyed having them in our lives. What a special day it was to see these friends married and to be there with them! It was en extra special wedding, too, as it was at the same location where Tom and I had our own wedding reception.

16. Charity: Water

A life goal that Tom and I have had for a few years was to sponsor a community water project through a nonprofit organization called charity: water. This year, we were able to make it happen! We are so excited to be able to help provide the gift of clean water to a community in southern Ethiopia. If you did not get a chance to read my previous post about this project, you can read more here. We will learn more details about the project as time goes on -- it's a long process of preparation and construction before the project will be complete.

17. Supper Club

We are in our third year with our Supper Club group, and it is still amazing! These friends have become so dear to us and our monthly time together sharing conversation over a good meal is always a highlight. This year, things got really crazy one month when we did lunch instead of dinner, and paired our Peruvian meal with a trip down the Amazon... I mean... the Rogue River! Tom and I got to make an Icelandic meal for the last Supper Club we hosted. We have one more yet this year at the end of the month. We've even started scheduling some family hang out sessions with our Supper Club group so all of the kids can get together, too, and we can enjoy some fellowship in a more causal setting.
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18. Babies!

While we still don't have children of our own, our friends are making up for it! Two of my best friends had babies about a week apart this year. It has been fun to journey with them through their pregnancies and motherhood -- one entering into motherhood for the first time, and the other growing her family. How precious are these little ones! I've enjoyed getting my crafting on and making baby gifts, and have enjoyed even more getting some baby snuggles! I look forward to watching these little ones grow and seeing who they become!

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Wow, after going through all that don't let me tell you nothing interesting happened this year! In the middle of all this, Tom also started a new job, and the company that I've been working for since college was sold and acquired by a new larger company. Lots of changes, plenty of challenges, and more than 18 highlights, but I hope you enjoyed these! There are so many more wonderful things that happened this year, and as we go into 2019, I hope to focus on the joy of life each day and look forward to what the new year will bring! A happy and blessed New Year to you all!

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!