For 2017, I did a new thing for every letter of the alphabet. It was a close call on some of them but it allowed me to call upon old friends for new adventures. (Yeah, it's that cheese ball.) Obviously, it was all organized on a spreadsheet and it was infinitely more enjoyable than my #stephstewart year. What story does the alphabet tell?
Check out past annual goals.
I learned the term abecedarium from Edward Gorey and The Gashleycrumb Tinies story. I still have the whole thing memorized and it's what I recite to myself when I can't sleep. "A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears..." I'm not nearly as clever as Edward Gorey and I admit there was a bit of fudging to make a couple letters work out. The tasks varied in size from viewing Roller Derby to seeing Hamilton. A huge thank you to all the people who helped me, supported me, experienced with me, inspired me, and loved me. Here's the quick and dirty of what I did, with the annotated list following below.
Ancestry, Bees, Charity, Drive-In, Escape Room, Fluff Festival, Garden, Hamilton, Ink, Jet Ski, Karaoke, Longitude Line, Marathon, Newport Folk Festival, Oscars Party, Paris, Queer Rally, Roller Derby, Skateboard, Tatting, Underwater Breathing, Vineyard, Weehawken Crying Bench, Xylography, Yellow, Zion National Park.
A is for Ancestry
I researched my family tree. Turns out, both sides of my family are Polish-- I had always been told that my Mom's side of the family was English. I found some cool, old yearbook photos of relatives and this Quaker learned that my relatives were mostly in the service... Things get murky about 5 generations back, but it is a project I hope I can continue. Maybe even plug myself into the global family tree.
|Right My great-great grandmother|
B is for Bees
My dear Melly-Jo went through bee school with me. If you're thinking about getting honeybees, I highly recommend looking up your local bee club (you have one! really! just look!) and seeing whether they offer a course over the winter for new beekeepers. A lot of clubs also offer mentors. I learned so much from that class and it proved invaluable to caring for my bees. I got two packages of Italian honeybees and fell in love with them. I had a hive swarm, I had a hive get bee diarrhea, I got stung a couple times, I learned the different sounds and smells they make, I learned the different colors of pollen they bring in. I didn't harvest any honey from them because I wanted them to have enough for winter. Ultimately, the varroa mites took down the colony over the winter and the bees hardly used their honey stores. For 2018, I have more bees using the work of their deceased sisters. I hope I never have to live without helping out bee families, it is such a gorgeous adventure. Bees are fascinating and I've loved their matriarchy ever since I read Hattie Ellis' stunning book Sweetness and Light. P.s. If you ever come across a bee swarm, call a local beekeeper! They will come and get the swarm, some even remove colonies from buildings for free.
C is for Charity
I'm super bad at charity and general giving back to the world. But I donated some money, did some volunteer hours, and donated about 20 trash bags of clothing and things I didn't need to Goodwill.
D is for Drive-In
I also joked that D is for Divorce... Because I also got divorced in 2017. I ended up going on a date with a guy to the drive-in to see Grease, which seems appropriate. We have a few drive-ins around here and I'd never been to any of them, so it was the time to do it! It was fine. I think we could have planned it better and gotten some better seating arrangements, but I'd go again!
E is for Escape Room
Nothing like some post work bonding time! It was very silly and we had too many people, frankly. But we did it. Nearly beat the room record.
F is for Fluff Festival
Did you know that in Somerville, MA, the home of Fluff, they have a Fluff festival each year?! Turns out that 2017 was the centennial. We got to see Fluff musical chairs, eat Fluffernutters, and hear a Fluff themed band.
G is for Garden
I put in raised bed gardens and got to have my own tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, and strawberries.
H is for Hamilton
It was cheaper to fly to Chicago and see the play than it was to go see it in New York. So we did. And it was great! I had heard accolades after more accolades about the music... but I was actually blown away by the choreography most of all. I loved the staging and the movement. The music was actually hard for me to follow because I had to focus so hard on every word to make sure I understood what was happening. I hadn't know that the entire show was the music, that there is no dialogue outside of the music.
I is for Ink
I got a new tattoo to commemorate the fact that I ran a freaking marathon. (See M.) Mat at Midnight Moon did a beautiful job on this one.
J is for Jet Ski
I thought I was going to run out of time for this one, but then I ended up going to Mexico and staying with an old friend. Turns out that you can just rent jet skis on the beach in Mexico! It was more fun than I thought it would be and I'm glad that my friend did some of the driving because I was too slow and timid to really get a full experience.
K is for Karaoke
Saved the best for last. I dreaded this one. I put it off until the end of December. It was very not for me. I ended up doing karaoke at a local turkey restaurant and I didn't even get drunk to do it. I just bit the bullet and went for it. I picked a song that I know and love and isn't a bummer ballad- Different Drum by the Stone Poneys. You might say you don't know the song, but you probably do, it's Linda Ronstadt's band and a classic tune. I must say, I don't think I actually sounded bad! What's funny is that in 2014 I had written in my Music Listography a single thing for "Karaoke Songs" and it was Different Drum. I had kept that one keep in the ol' brain bank, apparently.
L is for Longitude Line
We went to see where they made time a constant, consistent, construct! I had no idea how much of cartography was developed only after a consistent concept of time was developed and understood. Ships could suddenly have the ability to navigate consistently! The museum at the longitude line was not something I expected to care about and my friend was a little miffed that I dragged her so far out of London to see some weird global demarcation, but we were both surprised at what a great day it was.
M is for Marathon
The biggest thing and the thing I never thought I would do... I trained and I trained and I trained and one of my training partners had to drop out and I got stung by a yellow jacket at mile 16 of an 18 mile run and suddenly there were days when we only had to run 12 miles and I trained and I trained and I doubted myself and then the day came and I stood outside in the cold with my dear friend and we crossed the start line. We don't need to talk about how long it took me to complete the marathon. Because the point is that I managed to drag my body across the finish line and get that medal handed to me! There were hills and there were blisters and my clothes chaffed so bad that I got scabs all along my back from the open sores. I don't expect I'll run another marathon, half-marathon is a much more enjoyable distance for me, but I am so proud of myself that I ran a marathon. It's a small club of people who can say that and I worked so very hard to earn it. When I started running, if you had told me that one day I would run a marathon, I wouldn't have even bothered to laugh at you because that idea would have been beyond absurd. When pigs fly. My running spirit animal is zorro, the fox, because I kind of trot when I run, like to run alone, and can run down hills very, very, fast. Do you get the tattoo now?
N is for Newport Folk Festival
Newpork Folk Festival has been around since 1959 and is held at the same beautiful park each year. Every year I would hear about gorgeous performances and lovely views and the music bleeding out of the fest. The Newport Folk Festival is also special because it grows and changes in its iteration, but because of the venue, its numbers don't really grow. It's just a small festival where once tickets sell out, they are gone and that's that. For me to be able to be a part of that history and I got to see Ben Gibbard sing Such Great Heights... dream realized.
O is for Oscars Party
We had our picks for winners and we all came up hopelessly short in accuracy. Part of why I picked watching the Oscars is because I don't understand the people who are really excited to watch award shows. I still do not understand these people. However, seeing the award for best picture go to La La Land and then having Moonlight actually sweep it out from under them.
P is for Paris
One of my oldest and dearest friends and I made it to Paris, by way of London and Brussels. Our time in Paris was mostly damp and cold, it was November. However, we got to go to the Louvre at night when it was comparatively empty, we had an amazing Air BnB host who got us fresh bread and made us jam for breakfast. We got to eat macarons straight from Pierre Hermes. We went up in the Arc and saw the love wall. It was lovely to walk around and we got to use our French, take buses and the metro, and explore the bakeries. Between our Air BnB hosts and my dear friend, the enthusiasm for the city was inspiring to be around and the culture of such a place was impossible to escape.
In Washington, DC there was a huge march to show support for the LGBTIA+ community and I got to go with some of my favorite people in the whole world, who also happen to be other gays! I wore my giant pride flag like a cape and the day was hot and beautiful. It was a laid back crowd and it was just nice to be surrounded by such a wonderful crowd of queers and allies.
R is for Roller Derby
I am nowhere near cool enough to actually participate in roller derby. However, Gabe and I went to go see a roller derby competition and I had never been to one. It was awesome. The coaches all had killer dresses (solar systems and whatnot), the teams had the fun names one expects from roller derby teams (cosmonaughties, wicked pissahs), the ladies were freaking CUT and took some hard falls, and incredible gams were in high supply. I was so rapt by the competitions all afternoon that I somehow have no photographic proof that I was there?
S is for Skateboard
I sadly have no proof of this one either. My goal was just to be able to kick off and stay on a skateboard, like, be able to go down a sidewalk. And I did it! Despite all the jokes from my friends about how X was going to be for X-ray. But I didn't look as cool as I hoped I would while I was out there. Sigh.
T is for Tatting
Tatting is the art of lace making. It's kind of like crocheting, apparently. One uses string and a small hook attached to a shuttle and an odd hand strategy to make a series of knots and loops in particular ways and off of one another in order to create the pattern. The patterns I followed were rudimentary (I WAS LEARNING) but I did get the hang of it and it's really fun. It requires less "stuff" than knitting and I decided that it's probably a really great thing to do on a plane. The block of wood in the picture is related to the X item.
U is for Underwater Breathing
I went to Mexico and went scuba diving. What? If you've never been, GO! People are allowed to do shallow water dives with a dive master without needing certification. I can't wait to go again. It was incredible.
V is for Vineyard
We went to a local winery and did a tasting, Coffin Cellars. I guess it wasn't technically a vineyard because it is a place that does all fruit wines? But it was fabulous. They have a great wooden shack they do tastings in, we tried a jalapeno wine (it wasn't great...), and the guy running it was wicked nice and not pushy (which we deeply appreciated being two introverts).
W is for Weehawken Crying Bench
Comedian Chris Gethard told an incredible story on the Risk! podcast. That story went on to be born into a divine one man show called Career Suicide which my dear friends and I went to see, after I made them listen to the podcast, and now you can watch it on HBO. I can't recommend this story enough. It's fucking hilarious and is such a painfully real depiction of depression that I think all world citizens should benefit from it. There's a part of the story where Gethard explains crying on a bench in Weehawen, New Jersey and that's where this item came from. Please listen to his part of this Best of Risk! episode (Gethard starts at about 1:20:00, but the whole podcast is incredible if you have time). We were pleased to find that this place is the best view of NYC you can get. Believe it or not, Gethard's story is hysterically funny and so memorable that I didn't even have to goad my friends into randomly driving to New Jersey with me for the weekend and staying in an obligatory sketchy af New Jersey hotel.
X is for Xylography
The art of woodcarving for prints! Not quite as easy as those linocuts I was used to. I... also have no proof of this, except what I posted with the tatting. Did I mention I moved and got divorced in 2017?
Y is for Yellow
"How about yellow? Then you can have some options!" she helpfully pitched... She was wrong. I struggled all year to think of what do to. I ended up baking a yellow cake (how had I never baked a yellow cake before!?), while drinking yellow & blue tea with goldenrod honey in it, while wearing a yellow dress, and listening to Coldplay's Yellow.
Z is for Zion National Park
Ok, so here's the other thing about pictures of Zion... I brought my DSLR but had neglected to put the battery in the camera after making sure I had charged the battery the night before and my cell phone pictures were lost as part of the divorce. But that said, my dear friend and I made our way from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, to Bryce and Cedar Breaks and Las Vegas (to see the Backstreet Boys, obvi), Zion to to horseshoe bend, and back to Phoenix where it was so hot that birds were falling out of the sky. It was a tremendous trip with my best friend who melted in the heat right along with me and didn't mind driving like, 3k miles in 6 days. (Shout out to Abzdafab for 📸)