2018: A Year In Review

I’m writing this year in review as encouragement to myself (and to you) to blog, and blog more. We did a lot of great things this year, and when I sat down to review the year at once I can see more easily what a joy 2018 was.

It didn’t start out that way, though.

In late 2017, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer again. She decided to wait until after the holidays to have surgery. So in January 2018, she had a mastectomy to remove a stage 0 breast cancer. She moved in with us so we could help take care of her while she recovered.

I’m very glad that we caught this occurrence early.

While mom was recovering here, we all came to the decision that she would have a better quality of life living with us, rather than in assisted living. In March after her drains were out and healed, she moved back to her assisted living center for a few weeks, then back in with us for good.

Also in January, the great team at Cook and Mess Orthodonitics placed braces on Nila’s teeth. It was kind of amazing to see how quickly her teeth began to move and her face changed shape. She gets them off in about two weeks.


Later in March, my dad had a heart attack. Bob and I quickly got ourselves together to drive to Norfolk, VA to see him, just in case his condition got worse. It was a very quick trip there and back over two days, but I’m glad we went.

He had been dismissed from the hospital by the time we got there. We hung out with him for the better part of the first day, bouncing between his house, a car shop and a bar. He shared stories of his days building ships and hotrods, and showed us the Shelby 65 Coupe he’s building in his garage.

At that point, his doctor’s hadn’t quite decided what to do to help him move forward. Now it seems like they have a good handle on it and he’s doing much better. He sent Nila and Mom Christmas presents this year which is funny since he can’t remember Nila’s or Bob’s names. At least he is trying.

Before we left Virginia, Bob and I drove a few minutes down the road to Virginia Beach. It has changed quite a bit since we lived in Virginia. I wouldn’t mind going back on vacation sometime. I showed Bob the houses and neighborhoods in Hampton and Newport News where we lived when I was little. Those…pretty much looked exactly as I remembered.

In April we went to San Diego for a week to celebrate Bob’s 40th birthday. It was our first vacation as a family (that’s 12 years in case you’re counting).

Eight months later, I’m almost done writing the blog post about it, so I won’t recap the entire trip here but one of the highlights of the trip for me personally was seeing Jason and Jenell Coker. Oh, and seeing ground squirrels for the first time ever.

Sorry Jason and Jenell to put you on the same level as ground squirrels but I’ve never seen anything like them!

We had a great time and obviously, shouldn’t wait another 12 years to take a vacation.

California. *dreamy sigh*

In early June, we traveled up to Michigan for Tough Mudder. I wrote about it here, answering the question, “Is Tough Mudder Worth It?” Though you can’t tell from my face in the picture below, the answer is yes.

When Tough Mudder was over, we kept driving north to Canada and spent a day there. Mostly because Bob wanted to visit an ice cream shop that sells ice cream wrapped in cotton candy. Yes, I get the irony in finishing a race and then going for ice cream. I wasn’t the one eating that beast. I did have a scoop of Butter Pecan, though.

On the way back to Michigan, we stopped at the beach (Lake Huron) and let Nila dip her toes in the icy cold water. I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I’d never actually had my feet in sand at ANY of the Great Lakes before this trip.

While visiting this same park, we learned that squirrels in Canada are jet black. It was like the summer of meeting squirrels.

Nila was out of school by this point, and summer was in full swing. We tried to get to the pool as much as possible by pushing my work schedule around to mornings and evenings, but it never felt like enough time together.

She and I also spent some time in the local parks exploring and just appreciating nature.

We even went fishing a few times, which Nila loved. She said, “Fishing should be a required course at school.”

Spending time with Nila outdoors during summer is one of my absolute favorite things to do with her. I’m hoping that summer 2019 affords us the opportunity to do even more exploring, perhaps on some road trips ourselves. 

Also in June, I flew to Cancun, Mexico for a week retreat with the rest of the staff at Awesome Motive.

I’d never been to Mexico before. From what I saw of it from the plane and resort, it’s every bit as beautiful as it has always seemed in pictures and magazines. Granted, it poured rain for almost the entire trip, it was still lovely and I had a great time playing games and chatting with the rest of the team.

Before June wrapped up, I drove up to WordCamp Grand Rapids to have lunch with Chris Lema, who was speaking at the conference. Every time I get to see Chris, I’m challenged by the things he has to say and this time was no different. 

JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is definitely a city I’d like to return to, and will probably plan a trip there for WordCamp Grand Rapids again next year, except this time I’ll bring the whole family and we’ll head to western Michigan afterwards to spend some time at the beach.

On the way home from Grand Rapids, I stopped in Toledo to see Pastor Brad, my pastor from high school, later turned colleague. We have known each other since I was 14 years old, and every time I see him, it’s as if we were just together yesterday.

That brief visit led to some conversations over the next few months about the possibility of moving to Toledo to work with his church. As you can probably guess, we didn’t feel like that was the right thing to do but the conversation alone was encouraging.

In July, I spoke at the Shopify Meetup Columbus, about how to grow your email list. Chase is doing some great stuff with that meetup, and Shopify is a VERY intriguing community and platform.

In early August, Nila’s friend Heath shared that he was moving away, so we spent the day with him and another friend, Kyra, traipsing around Columbus taking pictures and generally goofing off. Heath was Nila’s first real crush and is a sweet boy that makes her snort laugh (which is probably why she liked him). 

Later in August, Nila started middle school (sixth grade). For many years, her “I want to be…” has been a forensic scientist but this year, it morphed to being a photographer. 

Last year was kind of rough academically, if I’m honest. Her grades were great, but homework was a beast and staying organized was very difficult. This year has been a breeze and she seems to be totally enjoying both of her teachers. She swapped orchestra for choir, which corresponds with a near obsession with musicals that started after we saw Little Shop of Horrors last fall.

For her 11th birthday in September, she opted to invite just a few friends to join her on a road trip to Cleveland. We packed Kyra and Stella in the car and headed up to Cuyahoga National Forest to ride the train through the park.

Afterwards, we surprised them and stopped at Lake Erie to go swimming. Nila REALLY liked that part of the trip, and I suspect we will end up taking a short weekend trip up there in late summer again this year. 

Bob and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary in late September. We had dinner at the Asterisk Supper Club then went to see Big Fish at Otterbein University in Westerville. Big Fish is one of my favorite movies, so it was a very sweet present to surprise me with tickets to the musical. 

In October, my mom rewarded herself with a hard-earned weeklong trip to see my brothers in Louisiana and Texas. Considering the state she was in five years ago when she got here, it’s nothing short of amazing that she is able to travel freely now without us. She had a great time with my brothers and their many kids and talks often of wanting to go back to visit again.

Every fall, we take a trip to a local farm and this year was no different. We took Nila and a friend to Pigeon’s Roost, which I would say has the most to offer as far as things to do on the farm. Also, it was so hot. I think it was in the 90’s and super humid, which is unusual for October.

In late October, Bob’s grandpa passed away. I’ve mentioned before that when we told him that we were pregnant with Nila he cried. And when we told him we were taking her to Iraq, he cried again. I don’t know if he was a particularly sentimental person, but these moments stick out to me.

In November, I turned old and got glasses. I had been thinking for awhile that things were getting blurry, and I was right. I can see so much better now, but wearing glasses has produced some sort of subconscious tick where I crinkle my nose to push them up.

In early November, we went to a Hamilton sing along at the Short North Stage. Think musical karaoke. 

Nila went to her first middle school dance in early December, but I was out of town at WordCamp US in Nashville, TN. Big thanks for Aunt Biwi for coming over to do her hair and makeup. 

WordCamp US is the national WordPress conference. I was one of about 35 speakers at this year’s camp. I spoke about marketing your software to users, not developers (which can be hard for developers). You can watch the session here:

Also at WordCamp US, I had the pleasure of spending some time with my colleagues at OptinMonster. Since we all work remotely, that’s a treat. I’m still writing a full post about my trip, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Before we leave the topic of Nashville, though. Did you know how grand it is? It’s kind of fantastic and I think we’ll head down there for a weekend this summer to spend more time there as a family.

For my 40th birthday, we headed back to the Short North Stage for more musical karaoke, except this time Bob, Nila, my mom and I all sang a few songs from a variety of musicals including The Waitress, The Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked.

Video exists of this event but I’ve sworn not to share it publicly so you’ll just have to imagine that we were awesome.

Of course, Christmas and New Year’s came and went as usual and the time off with family was much appreciated. We capped off the year with a chinese food dinner with our whole family. My fortune for 2019 was “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

What I take away most from 2018 is how much we traveled. We traveled more this year than the previous 12 years combined, I think (with the exception of our trips to Iraq). Without a doubt, I NEED to do more of that in 2019. 

I’ll save some thoughts and reflections of 2018 for another post, but these are the highlights of what we did. 

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