highlights of 2016

Hello, hello, my long-lost friends! I feel like the universe is laughing at me, because pretty much as soon as I hit the “publish” button on my last post {oh, you know, the one about how I was aiming to have a minimal, simple holiday season}… alllll of the craziness descended! Isn’t that just the way life works sometimes? I think there were a lot of factors that contributed to my month of extreme overwhelm, including work stuff and my first holiday season as a married woman {!!!}… but, suffice to say, one of my top goals for this next year is to establish a more sustainable work-life balance and to strengthen my boundary-setting muscles!

I can’t believe we are already here, in the first days of 2017. When I think back to my life at this time last year, it is unbelievable how much has changed. What a year it has been! 2016 has been a year of contradicting emotions for me: perhaps the best-ever year in my personal life, but a very rough year as far as our nation and the larger world are concerned. Here’s hoping that 2017 is filled with greater love, deeper connections, and a broad, fierce effort to fight injustice and hatred wherever they rear their ugly heads.

One of my favorite rituals at the end of each year is to look back on my best memories from each month. Here are my highlights of 2016…

January

My sweetie and I moved into an apartment together! It was so exciting to take this big step in our relationship, and to begin building a home together. I love our cozy apartment! If you missed it, here is a little tour.

bookshelves

I also chopped off eight inches of my hair to donate in honor of my dear friend Celine. It was the perfect way to remember her on the one-year anniversary of her death.

for celine

On the last weekend in January, Allyn took me on a surprise getaway to the beautiful Russian River valley celebrate our two-year dating anniversary… and he got down on one knee! Getting engaged to the love of my life was the absolute best way to kick off 2016!

me and al redwoods

February

We drove down to Ventura to celebrate with my family, and began to start planning our wedding! We set the date for September 4th, which is my parents’ wedding anniversary.

Al and I engaged

Also in February… my mom flew up to help me go wedding dress shopping and meet with vendors, and I said “yes” to the dress!

wedding-dress-try-on

March

I flew home to Ventura to celebrate Easter with my parents, and then attended the AWP writers conference in Los Angeles. It was absolutely wonderful to meet up with old friends from undergrad and grad school! And I always find writers conferences so motivating and energizing for my own work. Often, as a writer, you spend a great deal of time in solitude, so it is important to engage with the writing community whenever you are able!

April

Greg was in Berkeley for a work conference, so my parents and I met up with him in San Francisco for a brief little family vacation! It was so fun to spend some time in the city with my fam. We climbed Coit Tower, wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf, sipped famous Irish coffees and ate delicious Italian food.

fam-sf-trip

May

Allyn took me out to dinner in San Francisco and to a concert of one of my favorite-ever musicians, Amber Rubarth — the next day, I wrote her a letter about what her music has meant to me over the years, and to my surprise and joy, she responded!

me and amber rubarth 2

Memorial Day weekend, Allyn and I drove down to Ventura to celebrate my dad’s birthday and my 29th birthday {my long-awaited “golden” birthday!} with lots of cake, delicious home-cooked meals, and a family mini-golf outing! {Allyn got not one, but TWO hole-in-ones! His reign as Mini-Golf Champion continues…}

fam-golf-outing

June

I published the second “Dancing With The Pen” anthology of stories, essays and poetry by young writers! This was a true labor of love and I am so proud of all of these amazing young writers who I feel truly blessed to work with. Such an inspiration!

dancing-with-the-pen-kiddos

dancing-in-my-possession

Also in June, my wonderful mother-in-law threw me a beautiful bridal shower… I felt utterly “showered” with love!

me with aunts

me with sunflower plate

In June, I also began teaching extracurricular high school literature and writing classes through an organization in San Jose, which is something I really enjoy! I have been doing individual private teaching the past several years, but I missed the dynamics of classroom teaching from my grad-school days at Purdue.

July

I took my first-ever trip to Hawaii! It was so fun and relaxing to spend a week soaking up the sun on the Big Island with Allyn’s fam. I also checked off a couple “bucket list” activities like swimming with manta rays and learning to snorkel! It was extra special getting to see the Mauna Kea resort where my grandparents spent so many wonderful vacations together.

shave-ice

From Hawaii, I flew to Southern California to teach two weekends of Summer Writing Camp — one of my favorite teaching gigs each year. The kids have such amazing creative energy, and I love getting to witness their joy and unfettered enthusiasm for writing.

In Ventura, I also hosted a screening of the documentary film Minimalism and was elated when it SOLD OUT. This was an example for me of diving into a new challenge, working hard, and building a success! If I hadn’t taken the risk of volunteering to host the screening, I wouldn’t have gotten to experience our community coming together in such an inspiring way.

minimalism-screening

Speaking of community… one final highlight of July was the surprise bridal shower that my aunt Kymmie threw for me in Ventura! I was utterly shocked and it was absolutely wonderful to get to celebrate with my hometown friends and family who hadn’t been able to make it up north for my other bridal shower. {I know, what a blessed lady I am to have not one, but two amazingly generous showers!} We played some fun and hilarious games, ate scrumptious food, and I felt so filled with laughter and love.

August

I taught summer camps in writing, reading, and public speaking. We attended a beautiful wedding of family friends in the quaint beach town of Bolinas. And the rest of August was a blur of our own wedding preparations!

at-katie-carlos-wedding

September

Besides the day my brother was born, September 4, 2016 was the absolute best day of my life. Allyn and I got married! Celebrating our union with so many of our dear family and friends was incredible. Even months later, I can’t begin to put it into words.

me-and-al-xmas-card

We honeymooned in Yosemite, which was magical and relaxing and everything a honeymoon should be!

me al yosemite

honeymoon dessert

After we returned from our honeymoon in paradise, I began teaching a Creative Writing class for high schoolers every week in San Jose. It has been a great way to flex my teaching muscles, and my students grew so much over the course of the semester!

October

We went to a darling pumpkin patch where we conquered another corn maze, and attended the neat Lumination festival of lights in Gilroy.

Allyn pumpkin patch

dragon lumination

October was also filled with lots of fun travels! We spent a weekend visiting my cousin Arianna at Chico State, where she is a freshman.

visiting-arianna-chico

My dad joined me for a weekend getaway up to Seattle, courtesy of the amazingly generous Bill and Micki, to attend Amber Rubarth’s House Concert at their lovely home! It was a truly masterpiece trip that I will remember for all my life.

me and dad chowder seattle

We also enjoyed exploring Seattle, including the amazing Chihuly Glass Museum — WOW!

chihuly museum

At the end of October, I flew down to Los Angeles, where I met up with my brother to attend a Blind Pilot concert — one of our favorite bands! Greg is such an awesome concert buddy and we had a blast together.

gb blind pilot

That night after the concert, we drove to Ventura and surprised Mom for her birthday! The shock on her face when we walked through the front door was absolutely priceless.

surprising mom

November

The highlight of November for me was spending Thanksgiving in New Orleans with my fam! It was so much fun to take a getaway trip with them to such a vibrant destination. My parents and Greg had never been there before, so Allyn and I had a fun time showing them around the city we had many fond memories of, from back when I visited Allyn during his summer internship there in 2014. We went to jazz concerts every night, followed by a late-night dessert of beignets. We explored the Garden District and the French Quarter. We took a steamboat cruise down the Mississippi, found the former homes of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, cheered on the streets during a parade, and ate Thanksgiving dinner at an Italian restaurant. All in all, it was a perfect trip!

thanksgiving-parade

new orleans architecture

boys eating beignets

December

As I mentioned at the very beginning of this epically long post, December was a whirlwind. The definite highlights were getting to spend time with Allyn’s family and my family: we spent Christmas Eve & Christmas with Allyn’s family, and New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day with my family. It was exciting to share our first holiday season together as a married couple!

me-and-al-xmas-eve

our stockings

christmas list

On to 2017…

I am excited to see what highlights this next year holds! Here’s to making memories with those we love and savoring every minute of this precious life we share together.

happy mother’s day!

I feel so blessed that I am able to celebrate my sweet, kind, beautiful, brilliant mama today!

me and mama

We went for a morning walk at the beach, and now are relaxing on the couch. Later I’m making chili & corn muffins for dinner and pb cup brownies for dessert. Oh, and I whipped up some apple-cinnamon-oatmeal muffins for breakfast this week. YUM!

apple oatmeal muffins

I hope it’s a restful, peaceful day for my mom — she deserves it! She works a full-time job managing her department at work, and my whole life she has been a living example that it is possible for women to have fulfilling careers AND be amazing, full-time mothers too! She is not just my mom, she is my best friend. We have shared so many fun memories, from hiking Mt. Whitney together when I was in high school to driving cross-country together when I moved to Indiana for grad school — plus innumerable shopping trips, girl talks, chick flicks, and lunch dates! I know I can call her anytime and she will always be there for me. I love you, Mom!

What are you doing to celebrate the mothers in your life today? Whatever your plans, I hope your day is marvelous!

goals for 2013

Happy New Year! Wow, I can’t believe it’s 2013 already. I vividly remember driving around town with my parents and brother on New Year’s Eve 1999, when it seemed like all the radio stations were constantly playing Prince’s “I’m Gonna Party Like It’s 1999” and everyone was worried about Y2K… Crazy that was 13 years ago!!

Before I get into my goals for the year, here’s how I did on my goals for the week:

  • revise and update calendar and syllabus for the upcoming semester
  • read & respond to all the workshop stories for the Key West conference {almost done with this!}
  • finish getting email inbox and computer desktop cleaned out and organized
  • write goals for the upcoming year
  • work on short play to submit to festival
  • finish reading The Zero by Jess Walter
  • prepare for my new “Act of Kindness” blog initiative for the upcoming year!

Pretty good way to end the year and gear up for the new year!

Here are my goals for 2013. I organize them into multiple subtopics because it helps me feel like I have more of a handle on the different facets of my life.

Writing Goals
1. Write! 400 words. Every day. No excuses.
2. Revise thesis manuscript and send to agent.
3. Complete YA manuscript.
4. Resubmit story collection to prizes & small presses.
5. Write a new one-act play.
6. Write a full-length play.
7. Finish Verna novella & put out as an ebook.
8. Write three blog posts a week.
9. Read three short stories a week.
10. Read 40 books by end of year.

Write On! For Literacy Goals
1. Send out a newsletter every other month.
2. Teach a summer writing camp.
3. Teach a winter writing camp.
4. Teach a college essay writing camp.
5. Speak to 10 classes/orgs/radio shows.
6. Make Pimple an ebook.
7. Hold a Holiday Book Drive.
8. Compile writing camp ebook/online program.

Professional Goals
1. Apply to fellowships & Ph.D. programs.
2. Submit to a literary magazine every other week.
3. Submit a query for a freelance article every month.
4. Apply to at least 3 conferences/workshops.
5. Submit to Literary Awards.
6. Update & expand teaching website.
7. Put 10% of every paycheck into savings.
8. Put $1,000 into Roth IRA at end of year.

Healthy Life Goals
1. Exercise at least 3 days a week.
2. Do core work 6 days a week.
3. Stretch every day.
4. Continue with meal planning & healthy cooking schedule.
5. Clean apartment every weekend.
6. Chronicle weekly acts of kindness on blog.
7. Send a card/letter to Gramps every other week.
8. Call Grandma & Grandpap every other weekend.
9. Count my blessings every night.

What are your goals for 2013?