It helps me to remember where I've been before assessing what's next and moving forward. I have spent several hours doing just that today, and unsurprisingly, I've found that 2023 has been a busy, fruitful, productive, adventurous, tumultuous, unsettling, happy, sad, and bewildering year. So much good mixed with all the other adjectives. For just a few minutes, journey with me through both professional and personal events of this year.
PLACES I'VE VISITED FOR FUN AND TRAVEL WRITING PURPOSES
January's big adventure was a trip back to Ecuador for the first time since we left in late 2006. Ecuador is diverse and beautiful. We have some wonderful friends there. I was surprised by how emotional it was for me to return.
I loved eating and learning my way through this vibrant, revitalized city, the 2nd largest in Georgia. I couldn't believe all the entertainment opportunities.
A colorful and weird bonus was Pasaquan, several miles out of town in Buena Vista, GA. Google it. It's described as a "visionary art environment" created by quirky folk artist Eddie Owens Martin.
Steve and I enjoyed a short anniversary celebration at City Harbor in Guntersville, staying in one of the nice, waterfront condos and eating at Big Mike's.
We took two teenage grandsons to the Great American Ball Park (the Reds were playing the Braves), a big amusement park, a water park, and to eat RIBS!!
For a much-needed change of pace and scenery, we drove a couple of hours to the top of Lookout Mountain, stayed at the peaceful Chanticleer Bed & Breakfast, and saw incredible views at Rock City.
ST. MARYS, GEORGIA
This tiny piece of seclusion, natural beauty, and history in extreme southeast Georgia surprised and delighted us.
I highly recommend visiting Americus. Stay at the historic Windsor Hotel, shop and eat downtown, then drive a short distance to explore the history of Plains and Andersonville.
If possible, go to Natchitoches between the weekend before Thanksgiving and January 6. The lights and displays along Cane River Lake are spectacular. Of course, the meat pies and the crawfish etouffee are ALWAYS exceptional.
ANOTHER BOOK WAS PUBLISHED
I spent the first couple of months of 2023 researching and completing the manuscript for 100 Things To Do In Auburn, Alabama Before You Die. Edits and tweaks went back and forth between Reedy Press and me for the next few months, then it was released in late August. That was when the promotions, presentations, and book signings kicked in. Almost every month in 2023 involved an event promoting this book or my book from 2022,100 Things To Do In Huntsville And North Alabama Before You Die." It's very exciting (and exhausting) to publish a book. So. Much. Work.
PERSONAL EVENTS OF 2023
While I was pursuing my work as a travel writer and book author, LIFE HAPPENED, too. These events are mentioned (mostly) chronologically, rather than in order of importance. They are ALL important.
After 15 years of hosting a yearly Cousins Camp for all grandchildren "at least 4 years old and potty-trained," we transitioned this year to a Skittles Camp for the younger grands. Much to our dismay, the older kids have grown up, graduated from high school (two), married (one), gotten drivers' licenses (six), gotten jobs (four), signed up for camps, plays, mission trips, house-sitting, dog-sitting, you name it. So, we have turned our focus (for camp purposes) to the younger kids, who are not cousins but siblings and who prefer the name "Skittles" over "Littles." Can you blame them?
OUR OLDEST GRANDSON LUKE GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL
Luke graduated from Independence High School in Thompson's Station, Tennessee in May and is now a freshman at U.T. Chattanooga. He made the Dean's List his first semester. :)
OUR OLDEST GRANDDAUGHTER ALLIE GAVE BIRTH TO OUR FIRST GREAT GRANDCHILD
Allie and her husband Zechariah Freeborn had their baby boy Terence Michael (called Teddy) on August 8. They are wonderful parents, and Teddy is thriving. A few weeks before his birth, there was a family baby shower.
In early May, we put our Hartselle house on the market and 3 days later, we had a signed contract! "All the things" involved in buying and selling happened, and we moved to Decatur on June 12. As if that weren't chaotic enough, we then proceeded to change all the downstairs flooring and gut/renovate the kitchen. It was a rough three months. For all the gory details, read about it here.
Some people I dearly love died this year -- more than I can ever remember. Family members, long-time friends. In fact, in one week I attended THREE funerals. That's why I used the word "sad" in my opening paragraph. I have stood by a lot of grieving people this year. It's hard.
I'm sure all of you who are reading this can give your own list of highs and lows from 2023. I truly do praise and thank God for His many blessings. We're still here, aren't we? That means God isn't finished using us on earth just yet. I wonder what my (our) assignments will be in 2024, don't you?
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”