After the holidays last year, which were even more draining than usual thanks to a full time job situation that was rapidly deteriorating from bad to worse, I welcomed the new year with extra warmth. During January, nothing changed, but I enjoyed a weekend in Baltimore with three great friends and while I was away I disconnected with my everyday circumstances and reconnected with myself. People who have known you over a period of years are especially good at reminding you of who you are and what matters in your life. It wasn’t as if we had epic heart-to-hearts on this weekend. Mainly, we ate, drank, walked, and joked. We explored the inspiring American Visionary Museum. But it set a tone for me that I kept coming back to through the year. It reminded me of how the people you surround yourself with should make you feel: Inspired, hopeful, understood, and accepted–like you belong.
I resigned from the full time job at the end of January, full of fears and self-doubt but also certain I should not remain in that situation any longer. My last day was February 14. The first week in February, we found out that Dan’s job had been shifted to part-time. His hours were cut by 25 percent at the same moment I was relinquishing my salary. This was a tense time. I was really scared.
We had planned a trip to Iceland with friends back in December, before we realized what a dive our household income would be taking come March. The trip was nonrefundable, so it didn’t make sense to cancel it. And I’m so glad we didn’t. We saw the Northern Lights–a dream of mine–and had a terrific time with our friends. My worries didn’t seem to follow me across the Atlantic Ocean and I came home feeling renewed. On the same stellar March day, I learned I had been nominated for a James Beard award and I went to the Canal House to meet Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton and interview them over lunch for a story I was working on. I felt like I was dreaming that day, and I felt filled with optimism.
By springtime, I was settling into my freelancing groove and I started to feel confident I was going to be able to earn a respectable sum from my efforts. I stopped panicking so much during lulls between assignments. April was the month I reconnected with Nancy Painter, who publishes Edible Hudson Valley and Edible Jersey magazines. She was deciding whether to launch her third Edible, Edible Philly. We had talked in the past about collaborating on this project, and I told her I thought the time right. A few weeks later, Nancy officially offered me the role of editor of Edible Philly. It’s a freelance job, one that lets me pursue my other projects and assignments while working from home. I felt like the ideal anchor gig had fallen into place. I also started to think a bit about my health and well-being in April, and I started attending yoga class a couple mornings each week.
May was a pretty cool month. Dan learned he would be restored to full time at his job (whew!), everything was rolling along well with my freelance writing work, and I attended the James Beard Awards in New York for the first time. I did struggle a lot with some bad body image angst as I tried to find a dress for the occasion. Back in February, I was so upset and stressed out that something very unusual happened to me. I completely lost my appetite and eat very, very little for almost a month. My stomach was in knots and even the smell of food made my feel sick. I was skipping breakfast and lunch and eating just part of whatever I had for dinner. I lost about 10 pounds and then gained 15 when I started eating normally again. In spite of these feelings and in spite of not winning the big prize this year, I had an amazing weekend in New York with Dan and colleagues. I was super proud of being nominated.
During the first weekend in June, I spoke at Eat, Write, Retreat. This conference weekend was extremely motivating and inspiring. I loved sharing what I’ve learned about the power of networking with the group. During my session, I talked about my passion for stationery and thank-you notes and how helpful I have found them in terms of nurturing my relationships, personal and professional. I didn’t know it for a while, but those conversations planted the seeds for my current labor of love side-project, League Street Press, a boutique paper company I’ve started with a friend. You know I will post a link to our online shop when I’m ready to show our first collection of food-themed note cards. (Coming January 2014!)
Eat, Write, Retreat was a great way to kick off the month but the rest of June was an emotional roller coaster. Before it would end, I would be unceremoniously and mysteriously dumped by my literary agent. (Thank you, friends, who met me immediately at a coffee shop and let me vent and cry.) And I’d find out my sister Jill and life-long bestie was pregnant. (Also coming in 2014: my new niece!) In sort, June was a doozy.
I took on an assignment for Shape about women and alcohol, and the process of researching it affected me. I found myself finally motivated to curb my own drinking and started religiously tracking my own alcohol consumption with an Android app. Now, six months later, I’ve cut my typical number of drinks per week from more than 20 to 8. This is a major shift my own well being and I’m extremely happy about this change. Also, I started going to acupuncture weekly in July, which may or may not have helped with the adjustment. Regardless, it was big month for advancements in self care.
I was thrilled to be very busy with assignments in August, though I did carve out time to spend a week in Wildwood with my mom and her sisters. It’s always good for my brain to spend uninterrupted hours staring into the ocean. When I got back, I learned that my work would be featured in Best Food Writing 2013, but I had to keep it a secret for a while.
My biggest achievement for September was probably going to the dentist for the first time in roughly 15 years. I had never had a cavity and was a little disappointed to learn I now I had 3 that needed to be filled. On the other hand, I was relieved–it could have been so much worse. My mom and I also took the train to Virginia to see my sister and her husband. We played Scrabble, petted her two lovable dogs, slept in a super comfy southern B&B, and talked excitedly about our future family member.
October was another month of highs and lows. To celebrate the publication of Best Food Writing, I threw myself a party over Columbus Day weekend. I had a great time hosting my friends and feeding them chili. My sister Jill and her husband Mike traveled to Philly to help me celebrate, which meant the world to me. Shortly thereafter, we learned that what was was supposed to be a minor home repair would actually be major. Basically the whole back of our house was torn down and rebuilt. It was so stressful while it was happening but of course now I’m so glad it’s done. In the midst of that, I took the Amtrak to Boston to spend a weekend with good friends hunkered down in a cozy apartment. We do this annually and it’s pretty epic the number of hours my friends can sit in a room and just talk. I think it’s totally possible we picked out somebody’s husband via conversation and facebook. I was once again awed and humbled by the kind of people I have managed to befriend. Look, as someone who sat through lunch alone in the library through most of high school, I never stop marveling about the friends who love me back. When I was a kid, I never thought I would find them.
This was another big month: the debut issue of Edible Philly published! It’s been ages since I did something so incredibly gratifying for work. Almost as soon as it was done, I got sick with either a mild flu or a terrible cold. Over Thanksgiving, Dan, his mom, and I spent a week in LA with Dan’s sister. We had dim sum, not turkey. There was much driving and restaurant eating. There was bright sunshine and fake snow. There was a Price Is Right Taping! It was fun to visit and good to get home.
And that brings us here, to today. December–the last month of the year. It’s always a busy time. For those of us with breakups and estrangements in our families, it’s a potentially painful reminder of things you used to have or wish you had. It’s a time to worry. I am trying to focus on gratitude. With its ups and downs, 2013 was still a fantastic year. I look at Dan and feel so grateful that I have a strong marriage full of love. I look at my sister and feel so excited about our family growing and the chance to be an aunt. I look at my disappointments and achievements and see how much I have learned. The year still has three weeks left in it, and I plan to continue reflecting with gratitude on everything 2013 gave me. I know I can use these lessons to make the most out of whatever 2014 has in store.