I had every intention of penning one last 2015 post before the ball dropped, but a year-end cold took up all the room in my head. Let’s just say all the gunk in there impeded the creative juices. No coherent thoughts whatsoever. A thrice-daily cocktail of Whatever Cold Remedy You Can Get Your Hands On will do that to you. I barely even remember the week of Christmas and have only a scant recollection of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For that, I blame Whatever Cold Remedy You Can Get Your Hands On and champagne. Lots and lots of champagne.
So here I am feeling 100% again and the first full week of the New Year is almost over. With a clear head, I’m finally able to imagine the possibilities in store for 2016. But first, a reflection on my year past:
La Vie Joie Marie! An Autobiography
(A Summary of Selected Chapters from Part 2015)
Chapter 1: In Which I Watch “Just One More Episode”
This chapter finds me at once lamenting the invention of Netflix and Xfinity On Demand and wondering how I ever lived without them. No number of seasons is too intimidating. Sense 8, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Continuum, The Walking Dead. And many others. I begin referring to shows by their initials. Promises to watch only one episode per sitting are not kept. Two hours of viewing becomes three, then four. Six. After weekend binges of entire seasons, I know what it feels like to be one of the walking dead. I decide to stop watching so much television. Then I compromise with myself and decide that for every half-hour of television, I will do 10 sit-ups. I don’t honor either commitment.
Chapter 3: In Which I Get Squeaky Clean
A friend raves about something called the Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Cleanse. I’m feeling a little sluggish and my stomach is a helium balloon, so I give it a go. Not only do I lose the bloat, I gain energy and adiós a few pounds. I decide to incorporate this raw cleanse into my wellness regimen. But only every six months. By my best guess, this is how long it will take for me to work up the courage to guzzle eight ounces of olive oil again.
Chapter 4: In Which I Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
This chapter begins with me being afraid to try the Zumba class at my gym. I know I have rhythm, but Zumba requires both rhythm AND coordination. The latter is not one of my gifts. The summer of 2015 is one of the hottest I’ve experienced as an outdoor runner and eventually, I must seek air-conditioned ways to get my cardio. Because I hate the treadmill, I settle on indoor cycling. One day, unable to resist the siren call of pulsing, high-energy music wafting from the Zumba studio, I decide to take the next class. It’s easy enough at first. A little grapevine here, a shimmy there. Not so hard. Then the warm-up is over and the instructor is all over the place. The other attendees—all of whom have clearly done this before—are in sync. They look amazing. The instructor even encourages everyone by saying, “You all look AMAAAAZING!” in an adorable accent I’m unable to place. Surely she isn’t including me in that declaration. I’m the only one who can’t seem to make my arms do one thing while my feet do another! I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. A chance look in the mirror reveals my red face and flopping appendages. Still, I’m determined to keep up. I look RIDIIIICULOUS! But I am having fun. I’m sweating. My heart is pumping. It may be that I burn more calories laughing at myself than I do dancing, but I don’t care. I’m a convert. Zumbalo! Zumbalo! Zumbalo!
Chapter 6: In Which I Click “Publish”
In this chapter, I realize my long deferred dream of creating a website and starting a blog. On the recommendation of a blogger friend, I hire a web designer and spend months conceiving my first website. The night of the launch, I worry about how people will respond to my writing, both fiction and non. I wonder if anyone will even bother to read my words, and whether or not I can truly connect with an audience. After the launch, I am surprised and flattered by the kudos from friends and am encouraged to continue blogging. I realize I needn’t have worried.
Chapter 7: In Which I’m Spanish Fly
In July (Joily), my husband and I travel to Mallorca for my 40th birthday. We stay in a castle. Every morning, we breakfast with a panoramic view of the island below us, then lounge for hours by a turquoise pool. In the afternoons, we head to a different beach and wade in crystalline water. We spend long days and nights exploring the island. We take a train to Sóller, coax a tiny Citroën up to the Cap de Formentor, and visit the village of Deià to wander its meandering, cobbled streets. In this paradise called Mallorca, wild goats eat from our hands, we go boating with Europeans from three different countries, we drink our weights in sangria, and binge on veggie paella. I get sick from the intense sun, but I slather on more sunscreen and kept it moving. From the deck of a boat on the Mediterranean, I throw food to greedy fish and watch the sun set. Of all we see and do in Mallorca, I conclude that the best is hiking down to Cala Figuera. I’ve never seen a more stunning vista and wonder if I ever will again.
Chapter 10: In Which My Hips Don’t Lie
This chapter sees me having a come-to-Jesus with my weight. I stop stepping on the scale because every time I do, it sucks out a little of my essence. Too bad essence is weightless. I start to rely on the fit of my clothes to keep me honest. Until I split a pair of skinny jeans on Thanksgiving. Before dinner. How’s that for honesty? I dust off the scale and discover I've gained 13 pounds in eight months. I’m dejected until I remember I gained the weight celebrating my milestone birthday, as well as the birthdays and weddings of friends. Each pound gained tells a story of time spent with loved ones, of adventure, travel, and plentiful food and drink. Wider hips and thicker thighs mean I was fortunate to have been able to indulge in it all. I recall what it was like to be truly overweight in my mid 20s through my early 30s and vow to stop calling myself fat.
Chapter 11: In Which I Do My Duty
Late in the year, I receive a jury summons and am ultimately selected to serve on a grand jury. Twice a week. For three months. I quickly realize how little I know about the criminal justice system in my fair state and am eager to learn. Along with 11 other jurors, I hear hundreds of felony cases and help decide whether or not there is probable cause for indictment. I discover a lot of people in Houston like drugs. I mean, seriously—crack pipes are the accessory du jour! I also find out most career criminals are mind-numbingly stupid. Since examples would violate my confidentiality agreement, just think of that show America’s Dumbest Criminals and know those people are not an anomaly. I’m dismayed to see the high number of felons in their early twenties, many just out of high school. Sad. Even though I’ve heard it before, I now know for sure most victims of domestic abuse recant. Double sad. I watch a lot of Dateline, but I’m still astounded by the atrocious things people do for money. And the unspeakable things they do to children. Sometimes I go home so emotionally bereft, I wish I’d never been chosen for the jury; still, I serve proudly and without (much) complaint. When the three months are up, I feel honored and proud to have done my duty.
Chapter 12: In Which I Go Home
I have a new nephew I want to meet and grandparents I haven’t seen in three years. I’m also anxious to see the revitalization happening in the city of my birth. My husband and I visit Detroit over Thanksgiving week. We take morning runs around the lake in the township where my grandparents live and spend cozy afternoons in their living room. I can’t stop hugging and kissing my nephews. My brother AJ and I create a new cocktail—the Detroit Donkey (recipe: make a Moscow Mule and pour it into a Red Wings mug)—and talk life and politics. We share our dreams for the future and reminisce about our shared history. I realize we have the same laugh.
I marvel at the changes in Detroit. There is a profusion of youthful energy and Motown music reverberates from the speakers in buzzy restaurants and bars—a nod to the past and also reverence. I dine at a vegan soul food joint and eat White Castle veggie burgers (and immediately wish I hadn’t partaken of the latter). There are a lot of hipsters. I have the bizarre experience of being the only black patron at a bar on Michigan Avenue, in the heart of the city.
When I leave, I do so with a heavy heart. I’ve missed my family and the distance is harder now that my grandparents are elderly and my brother is growing his family. I didn’t know how connected I still felt to a city I hadn’t lived in since 1994. Houston is my home, but Detroit is my soul.
I know, I know, you’re wondering about those missing chapters. Check out my older posts for more of my 2015 story. By the way, my goal in 2016 is to post more frequently, so you’ve also got that to look forward to. Lucky!
It seems I learned a few lessons and tried some new things in 2015. What about you? Your turn to write.