2018 Review – Three Things 2018 Taught Me

Vivatera made the Wall of Awesome in 2018

I don’t often do end-of-year posts…

I’m not a big resolution person, because I know myself really well. I have zero discipline when it comes to likes and dislikes. In my daily thoughts about how to sum up the year, I just started to complain. Well, my favorite glasses just broke and are super-glued together, the optometrist suggested bifocals, my cat died, I haven’t been writing much, we unexpectedly bought a business and now are painfully in debt, I’m gained five whole pounds over the holidays… I KNOW. So much to complain about. But Saturday, the LAST Saturday of 2018, something happened and has shaken me awake, and for the past few days I have been deep-thinking and contemplative, and this thinking has led me to typing out thoughts about what this year REALLY has done for me.

1. Portugal and My Own Insignificance

This June and July I spent two weeks traveling Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, and the tip of Africa. Before you think I am terribly spoiled, I had never traveled anywhere. I’m very content in my cottage. I’d never even been out of the country until June. I had to get a passport. So, spending two weeks traveling without my daily comforts or routine made me very nervous and completely overwhelmed. This trip was THEE trip, the one we had been planning for always. And I wanted to make it before I could no longer climb up mountains or castles or walk miles a day, and while I still looked good in a swimsuit. 🙂

I am a wide-eyed child when traveling. I became curious and observant of the little things. I took a little journal with me where I pressed flowers and wrote poetry. Several of my poems from my trip got thrown into my Wandering Beautiful, released in September 2018. The places we visited were so deep in history that I felt overwhelmed by time itself. My current little spot on the world was built in 1974, and before that it was a farm, and before that it was wilderness, and before that the dinosaurs were around. I know that history. So, here I was, walking on roads Romans built, or trudging up castles the Moors built, or seeing the End of the World and where Columbus sailed, ALL OF THIS made me feel so insignificant. My world perspective changed, and a strange sense of being human, really human, came over me. Tastes are different. Languages are different. But eating, drinking, walking, working, finding a way through, wherever you are on the planet, is the same. The first thing I witnessed when I got off the plane was a crying kid pestering his mother for attention. I turned to my husband and quipped, ” I guess kids get sad in Europe too.” We are sharing a planet and experiencing at the same time. I found a profound gratitude in Europe that I would never have learned if I hadn’t had visited. It was made of magic

2. Ironsoul – A Book Can Change You

Book love

The year started with a new editing job – Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul. I know author Ben Ireland well. I had worked with him on the other Billys, so I understood his writing style, and thought I had a good idea about the series. The first book, Billy Blacksmith: The Demonslayer, is the perfect introduction to a fun, imaginative world of this overweight teenage boy, who with his friends and help of his demonblood, attempt to save his school from gigantic, demonic spiders. The second book, Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged, was a thrill ride, just the funnest adventure I’ve had in a book in a very long time.

So, when Ben sent me Ironsoul, I had no clue what to predict for it, but I thought it would be similar to the others. I’ve blogged about it here, and don’t need to reword the post, so please read it when you can.

Ironsoul was a very big surprise. The book brought me back to a place I never expected to be – facing my own teenage demons, the ones that question your worth, your value, your likability, your comeliness. Not that I re-felt all those sad emotions, but rather, the familiarity of them hovered around each page. I could tell it was a tough book to write, I could feel the punch of emotion surrounding these characters. The bad guy, Mr. Fingers, is a demon that feeds on human emotion. The build to the climax of the book was a frightening reality of real emotion, well-blocked into a well-crafted fight scene.

I bring up Ironsoul because I have a 15 yo daughter, who started high school this year. She’s a feather of a thing, and attending a huge high school was daunting. She’s unique and quirky, loves anime and writing songs, and she is a walking, talking version of Pidge from Voltron, and has been a Billy fan from the start (check out her YouTube Billy Fan Video here).

Ironsoul came out in September. Ben, being the awesome guy he is, gave her a Proof copy to read before anyone else. She started, but then school started, and quickly felt swallowed by high school. I would gently prod her to read, but I made an agreement with Ben not to bug her, to let her read it on her own. She’s a savorer and takes her time with things, so sometimes it was absolutely driving me crazy. But we had several good discussions about it.

When she finished, she turned to me and said, “I should have read this book sooner.” I knew this, but told her I couldn’t interfere. We had a big discussion about the core concept of the book – What does it mean to have an Ironsoul?

In the book, an Ironsoul is someone that is so convicted in what they believe in that they could not be persuaded otherwise. It’s such a powerful message and something my daughter needed in the moment. Teen years are about finding yourself and defining who you want to be. This book lifted her on its shoulders when she needed it. Teens need more books that do this very thing. They need strong literature that encourages bravery, and teaches them that what they are feeling is important and normal, and true friends empower you and believe in you no matter what.

I can’t tell you how important this book is to me, not only on a professional level (being so proud that I got a chance to work on it), but on a personal level. To have a book change my daughter so deeply, is the best feeling. Books can change people, better people, without doing anything but taking you on a ride. Words amaze me.

3. The Other Candice

The third thing is what happened on Saturday. I know, since it happened near the end of the year, does it really count? But I think this is the culmination of everything I have been feeling this year.

My dear friend Candice, the other Candice in the Candace club ( though she spelled her name wrong), the one that married one of my favorite cousins, one of the funniest people I had ever met, and the one that I’ve loved since the moment I met her, passed away Saturday night from a three year fight with breast cancer.

Words to paint a picture of my friend are skittles scattered with sunshine. She was fun. Her laugh lit up the room, and was infectious. She was always happy, and positive. I never saw her have a bad day. She loved her family fiercely and always thought of others. And she was so, so very funny. Her sharp wit fit so well into our zany family.

It had been years since I had last saw her. We chatted a few times on Facebook. We followed each other on Instagram. Our kids are the same age. We were connected, sort of. But we were both busy living, doing our thing. Candice and her family live fifteen minutes away from me. And so many times I had thought about visiting them. So many times I thought about calling and inviting her to come with us to a geeky movie or to come hang out and play games. But, she was sick, and I thought she wouldn’t want me bugging her.

These thoughts are plaguing me. Haunting me. I knew she had gotten worse, and several times I had a nagging tapping of my shoulder telling me I should go see her. I should reach out, if not just to talk. Maybe she just needs talk. And every time I dismissed it.

If this isn’t my lesson, I don’t know what is. I’m so upset with myself that I didn’t take the opportunity when I should have, that this headache that I have created for myself has not gone away.

How many times do we get before people are gone from our lives? I don’t think that there are as many as we wished. I’ve had other friends in my life pass away, and the last moments with them run around like an endless carousel. I feel like I’ve been wasting my time with the trivial instead of making precious memories. I’d rather have the last time I saw Candice be one of joy and laughter, where I acted on those nudges and brought her cookies.

I’m not good with resolutions, so I won’t make this a resolution. But what I will do, and what I will continue to do, is be the friend that is there. I don’t want to regret those last moments. I want to spend time and not waste it. There is always a ticking clock. It never stops. And I just don’t ever want to miss my chance to influence and help others if I can. Because you just never know who needs to hear it, or needs the hug, or just needs the cookies. I’m sure I’m driven with grief right now, but I don’t see this going away. This is something that has always been there, it’s just my willingness to act on it that increases its value to me. I don’t want to lose one more second.

Cherish your time here. Spend it well.

Experience it. Feel it. Taste it. Love it.

That’s my year. I’ve learned a lot. I don’t really value the significance of the ending of a year. I actually bothers me because I will have to start documenting “19” on everything. But, I have very high hopes for 2019. I never imagined I would be where I am now. And I’m excited to take charge and face the ticking clock.

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