packing up the good stuff from 2017 to take with me

Posted: January 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s that time of year again – time to look back and collect up the goodies 2017 gave me that are worth carrying forward, and time to look forward and consider what to aim at in 2018.  Having New Year’s Day off work, giving me a big block of silent time to do so (with an added incentive to stay in, as it is literally dangerous to breathe outside today) is priceless.

Some years I come to this process bristling with ideas; this year I ended up reading through a bunch of the year’s emails to remind myself what even happened, as the cloud of the national political awfulness was almost the only thing that came to my mind when I asked what 2017 had held.  The review of the emails was good – turns out A LOT of other stuff – good stuff – also happened.  Thank God politics is not all there is in life.

Healing Journey

New Year’s Day 2017 was my third day of taking an array of supplements recommended to me by my functional medicine practitioner (I say chiro, for short, as she’s also that) to address what had run into almost two years of increasingly severe-to-sometimes-the-point-of-debilitating fatigue.  By January 3rd I was already getting glimpses of feeling better, and a deliciously shocking series of events followed over the next six months.

A wound on my leg that wouldn’t heal for months suddenly and almost instantly did.

My monthly cycle went from “please kill me now” for at least one day per month to “merely a minor inconvenience.”

The arthritis pain in my feet (something I’ve lived with for I think five years) reduced in severity.

And yeah, my fatigue lifted – I went from needing 10 hours of sleep (and still tired more often than not) to being able to get by on 8.

It wasn’t a perfect journey – I was sick a lot this year, which my chiro attributed to a suppressed immune system.  I was chafing to be instantly better, so I kept sabotaging my healing by overdoing, until finally my chiro whipped out a word that slowed me down – she said I was “convalescing” and needed to act like it.  The seriousness of the word made me cry, but slowing down did help.

The cost of those supplements was $6/day, in addition to regular visits to the chiro; as the year went on I came to realize that we actually don’t have an extra $6/day just lying around.  I’d been pushing back first one bill and another to make it work; by August there was no more room for pushing, so I made the decision to discontinue the supplements that had given me back my life.  We are scrimping and working to get our finances to a better place before I can resume the supplements; I note my body starting to lose ground again on those fronts where so much was accomplished.  I’m doing what I can.


Swearing in a new president who seems to me somewhere between foolishly dangerous and outright evil (if you don’t feel the same, I’m not trying to pick a fight – several of my closest people – GOOD people – think the right choice was made) left me struggling to figure out what MY job was in response to it.

I wanted to go to the Women’s March in January, but my arthritis and fatigue made that impossible, so I cheered on a friend who went.

I attended local rallies, candlelight vigils, protests and various meetings in the first quarter of the year looking for my role.

G and I attended two events at the local mosque, as a we-don’t-all-hate-you and we-need-to-learn endeavor.  I learned a lot and met some great people.

I took an all-day class on communication to learn how to listen better.  I pushed myself harder than ever to listen and read and educate myself on the issues and cultures of people of other races, including listening in spaces where there is little to no patience for nice white ladies like me; as I cross over into 2018 I’m in the midst of a podcast series teaching me about where the construct of “whiteness” came from (the first thing I learned – while “race is real” in its effect, it is utterly unscientific where biology is concerned).

While I support protests and other forms of activism, at this point I find that for me, the best things I can find to do are educate myself aggressively, speak truth in settings where people who look like me will hear from me what they couldn’t/wouldn’t hear from people who don’t look like me, and live out my faith with increasing intention and vigor.

I also started listening to podcasts from perspectives with which I do not agree and cannot support, for the purpose of at least understanding other viewpoints.  As a culture we are forgetting how to hear each other; this is one of my weapons to prevent myself from living in an echo chamber and being useless among those with whom I disagree.

This year afforded G and me a service opportunity when we served at a local meal site, and loved it so much that we took it on once a month, a practice we’re carrying into 2018.  I debated about even listing this, as it can look like patting myself on the back, but also I wanted to note out loud that this is an opportunity available in most communities (maybe even yours), and it is wonderfully practical, if you’re looking for a hands-on good thing to do.

Meanwhile, I continually work to stock the pantry at home and do the things to prepare for a crash of one or more (all?) systems here in our country, since such a thing seems so likely and if it happens, I want to be one of the helpers, not one of the people crying with their hands out because they thought it couldn’t happen.

Spiritual Growth

I read a book this year that you should totally read.  Dr. Kelly Flanagan’s Loveable:  Embracing What I Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life was a life-changer for me.  I wept my way through it, getting confirmations from God at every step in the form of totally unrelated conversations and other readings.

Other books that I read spoke to the electronic overload of our brains due to the internet and all of its shiny goodies – Cal Newport’s Deep Work:  Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World irritated me but made good points, and Greg McKeown’s Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less was helpful along the way.  There were also a handful of church leadership books that left me thinking and worrying about the best way forward for today’s church.

I served on a Walk to Emmaus team – that’s a weekend retreat.  When I went on my first “walk” years ago, it radically changed my understanding of my faith; I’ve served on teams from time to time since then to create the same experience for others.  If you haven’t been, you should totally go!  If you’re local, let me know and I’ll help you get there.  Serving this time was by far the best experience I’ve had at the weekend.

Our annual Royal Family Kids Camp was another stretching experience this summer, leaving more foster kids imprinted on my heart for permanent prayer.  2018 will bring an affiliated monthly “club” meeting and mentoring program starting in the fall – I can’t wait.

For the month of May I fasted from Facebook, Netflix, and added/processed sugars.  This was NOT my idea; it came to me in prayer and I stiff-armed it for all I was worth.  But when I gave it a try, I learned a lot (much of which I pretty promptly put out of my mind, so the review of emails for this blog was a good thing – I can pick some of that back up and use it as I slide into 2018).

And I can’t leave this out:  our pastor did a 3-part sermon on “Crazymakers” very recently, addressing relationships with difficult people.  Part three of that series was one of the most important messages ever for me, empowering me to step out of an exhausting, years-long, continually toxic situation without feeling like I was somehow letting God down.  I recommend it.

Body Stuff

Though I had all that good healing stuff early in the year, this has not been a banner year for Karen’s body.  It’s not all bad – in November I started running again once in a while, to my delight.  But overall I am not in a good zone where the body is concerned – my weight is up to the point of continual discomfort, and something’s gotta change in 2018.  Some of that has come from eating cheap food (read:  crappy processed carbs) to fix the household budget, but mostly as I reread my emails from the year, I see a sugar addict who knows she’s a sugar addict just mainlining sugar continually and acting like it’s okay.

Fun Stuff

I read more books this year than I’ve done in a long time – I don’t even know how many.  I delved back into fiction, and it feeds me in a way that nonfiction does not – like a brain refreshment or something (but there were also a ton of nonfiction books along the way).  I used my library card and my free Kindle books available on Amazon Prime to just relish the joy of reading.

AudioFeed Music Festival was a refreshing few days – fun faithful nonstandard music that you can’t find on K-LOVE, interesting classes, and a departure from everyday life.

We did a seder at my daughter’s house with family for Passover.  We made our annual trip to Chicago so we could do Yom Kippur (funny that this day of repentance is my favorite Jewish festival) at G’s synagogue in Skokie, and we caught up with friends at JPUSA.  We also camped out and enjoyed meals in the back yard during Sukkot, and have great plans for Sukkot 2018.

For our 4th anniversary in August we took a little hiking vacation to Starved Rock State Park.  I want to do that again.  The rest of my “fun stuff” for the year was family stuff  and friend stuff and garden/yard stuff, because I am a real party animal.

I’m glad to see, looking back, that the yuck on the news feed is not all that 2017 contained.  The year hasn’t been perfect, and I’m getting a lot wrong along the way as usual, but overall I note how often I think or say aloud that I’m shocked at how happy my life is – I know for sure I didn’t “earn” this level of joy, fun, peace and purpose.  That’s where I’m choosing to focus – gratitude is ALWAYS the right answer, no matter the question.

If you made it this far (yes, I know I write way too long!)…thanks for hearing me out.  I’d love to hear about the goodies YOU pulled out of 2017.

  1. […] that I’ve gotten 2017 properly processed, it’s time to think ahead to 2018, not to make resolutions (which are made to be broken, am I […]

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