June 5th is my birthday. A lot has happened since the last time I celebrated another year of life. There have been some challenging moments, to be sure. I continue learning how to navigate through episodes of depression and anxiety attacks. I’ve experienced disappointments both personal and professional. But as I look back on the last year, the positives far outnumber the negatives. I think it’s safe to say that 37 really has been one of my best years yet!
. . . whether it was taking a cruise of the beautiful Charleston Harbor with friends from church, or hosting a cookout on my back porch for some of my favorite people and their dogs.
And I got to make some great new friends along the way, too, like my wonderful roommate Charlotte . . .
. . . and Zack and Rodney, a really fun couple of guys I met through my aunt and spent a lovely day with in Boston.
Boston was a new adventure for me in itself. I had never been to New England before, and I spent a wonderful week there. I loved walking the beach in Gloucester, seeing the historical sites of the famous witch trials in Salem, hanging out in the bar frequented by fishing boat captains like the ones in The Perfect Storm, eating lobster (and enjoying the way the locals pronounced the word), walking the Freedom Trail and riding the Swan Boats in Boston, spending time with family and friends. We even got to see a couple different kinds of whales on our whale watching excursion, something I had always wanted to do.
But as much as I love traveling, it’s always good to come home, too. This past year gave me plenty more opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry where I make my home. I do my best never to take for granted the beautiful sunsets over the Cooper River . . .
. . . or the dinners with friends on Shem Creek,
or the frequent walks on the beach I get to take with my wonderful dog, Hurley. Speaking of Hurley, he became a calendar model this year! This photo of him on an evening beach walk was one of the winners in a local contest to be featured in a calendar to raise money for animal rescue. And even better, he was the featured dog for the month of June, when he and I both celebrate our birthdays. I love that I’ll be seeing this happy picture of him all month long.
Autumn brought some fun and exciting developments last year. For the first time, I entered one of my crochet projects in the Coastal Carolina Fair. My handmade Baby Groot won an honorable mention ribbon, and looked adorable on display.
By this time, things were moving along in the process of getting my first book published – definitely a dream come true! So for the first time, I had my makeup done professionally and a photographer friend of mine did a photo shoot for my official author photo. It was a lot of fun! I brought Hurley along with me, and though he didn’t always cooperate, we did get at least one good photo of the two of us. I ended up using that one to make a photo Christmas card to send to friends and family, something else I had never done.
Once the new year began, things moved very quickly. My editor at Harrelson Press and I were working hard to get my manuscript ready for e-book publication on Amazon in January, and planning a launch party for the print version in early March. I hardly had time to think about anything else but the book, and yet in the middle of all that blur, another exciting thing happened, very unexpectedly. I went on a first date, which turned into roses and a second date on Valentine’s Day, which turned into an introduction to my parents a few weeks later, and before I knew it, I realized I was crazy about this guy. And amazingly, he seemed to feel the same about me. So there I was, at my first book signing, introducing people to my boyfriend for the first time. It still seems surreal, all of it. It’s a good thing I have photographic proof, really.
And as if that weren’t surreal enough, one day I stepped onto the elevator at the hospital where I work as a chaplain and I saw a poster with my picture on it. They were all over campus, and I got a few double takes from people who were trying to figure out where they had seen me before. I had known that the hospital news service was doing a story about my new book, but the posters were a surprise! It was a cool little brush with fame – and I was glad Hurley made the poster, too.
Responses to the book have been wonderful. Even if it isn’t the international bestseller I had hoped it would be (hey, a girl can dream!), it has touched readers far beyond my small circle of influence. People I have never met have sent me emails and cards and Facebook messages letting me know that my honesty and vulnerability encouraged them, and gave them hope that God is still at work in the midst of our messy, doubt-filled faith journeys. That’s a great gift for any author to receive.
I would never have guessed a year ago that my journey would bring me to the place I am right now. (If you don’t believe me, just read my birthday post from last year!) But as I prepare to celebrate this birthday with good friends and the man of my dreams, and gear up for another book signing in just a couple of weeks, all I can say is I’m incredibly grateful. And 38, you’ve got a tough act to follow! I’m excited to see what’s next.