A Very Good Year
2015 was a very good year. Here are some of the highlights:
- Visiting four state parks: Tettegouche State Park for an informational hike about ferns (with bonus information about lichens), trip to Tower-Sudan Mine Park with Adam and Lucas, trip to Crosby (Cayuna Recreation Area) to learn about the mining disaster there, and a trip to Moose Lake State park during Agate Days. These visits were fun and informative, deepening my knowledge of ferns, mining, and agates.
- A trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden in August. The highlight of this trip was by far, my visit to Chernobyl. But, I enjoyed Estonia as well, especially the visit to the bog in Lahemaa National Park.
- Graduating from Mankato with my Master’s in Sociology. It took long enough, but I did it. And, as of this moment, my thesis has had 95 downloads. I feel self-conscious about it, as it was certainly imperfect. But, as I was told in my research methods class…the best thesis is a done thesis. My GPA was not perfect either…at 3.91. I learned a lot and was challenged. My imperfect GPA was not for lack of effort. Thesis: http://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/412/
- Student Teaching at Denfeld HS. Teaching sociology and world history to 11th and 12th graders was a wonderful experience. I loved doing creative projects, games, group work, food sampling, station work, and interdisciplinary activities in the classroom with the students. I loved teaching. I loved the opportunity to share my knowledge with the students. I was told by my cooperating teacher that I was her best student teacher and told by my supervisor from St. Scholastica that I was among the top 2% of student teachers (2% was awfully specific, but I will remember it as a great compliment). I suppose that turning in 20-40 page lesson plans helped my cause. Aside from the compliments, I enjoyed teaching week long lessons on the French and Russian revolutions to the 11th grade students. We did both as giant role playing games wherein students invented their own characters and were assessed based upon the memoirs of their characters at the end of the unit.
- Finishing up the GTLE program. One reason I stalled in Mankato was that I embarked on a second Master’s program, which was an accelerated program that gains a person a teaching license. I finished up the licensure portion of the program and will have a Master’s in teaching this spring. Thus far, my GPA is 4.0. I am quite proud of this, as I have been working full time and because the program was…well, accelerated, with two sets of classes each semester. I don’t mind tooting my horn, as I worked hard.
- Working at Safe Haven. Working at a domestic violence shelter can be stressful, but I generally enjoy the work and think that my co-workers are excellent. I am glad to have a job that serves women and I am glad to have a job where it isn’t abnormal to be a feminist.
- Feminist activism. This year I participated in a feminist book club and a counter protest against the 40 Days for Life. I also did a Roe v. Wade protest and International Women’s Day Panel. It felt good to help organize these activities and to work with other feminists.
- Running: I’ve never been all that great at running. In other words, I am awful. Two years ago, I tried taking up jogging at was gasping like a fish out of water at a quarter mile. Suddenly, something just snapped. I didn’t try that hard. I didn’t run consistently. I just did it off and on. Now, this year, I was able to jog for an hour and a half (in September.) That is a long time of jogging! It feels amazing. I still run inconsistently, but I don’t fear it, don’t hate it, and don’t gasp like a fish. I love it. What a liberating feeling! There was no special effort or training…just a slow commitment to run from time to time and push myself to go longer.
- Learning about nature. This ties to going to state parks. I went to various lectures and hikes, mostly at Jay Cooke State Park and Hartley Nature Center. I also purchased a few guide books. The sum of this is that I grew in my ability to identify ferns, trees, butterflies, and wild flowers. I made a goal of learning 15 of each (though I have forgotten some of that knowledge for lack of consistent practice).
- Fun time with friends. I am glad that I was able to convince my friend, Adam, to pal around with me on various adventures (such as the state park adventures, a trip to the Oulu corn maze, outings to the planetarium, hikes, trips to the zoo, etc.). I also had fun when Lucas visited and during my brother’s visit. It was nice to reconnect with Jenny through feminism. I don’t have many friends. I am socially awkward and stand offish. So, I am certainly thankful for the few friends that I have.
- Good books. I read some good books during the year. Some were through the book club. I wish I could remember all of the books that I read. I guess I should have written them down. Highlights include King Leopold’s Ghost, The Sixth Extinction, Education and Capitalism, Belarus: Europe’s Last Dictatorship, Blood lands: Between Hitler and Stalin, I am Malala, a book about the history of travel, and others that I just can’t remember. Terrible! Maybe I should resolve to write down what I read. Anyway, I felt that I read some really interesting non-fiction this year on topics such as feminism, Congo, Eastern Europe, climate change, education, etc.
- Beach Outings: One of my favorite summer things to do was visit Wisconsin Point and walk along the beach, go for a hike in the woods, or read a book. These solo outings were a way to have some fun in the sun and enjoy the lake.
- Star Gazing: There were a few times that I went star gazing, enjoying constellations and meteor showers.
- Various opportunities to wear costumes. I like dressing up. As such, I relished my opportunities to dress up as a Brainy Scarecrow for Halloween and Che of the Dead for Day of the Dead. Costumes are fun. There needs to be more dressing up in my life.
- Adding some acting to my life. I participated in the Douglas County History Society’s living history walk at the Greenwood Cemetery as a Jesse McArthur, a drowning victim from the early 1900s. It was pretty fun, as I hadn’t done any acting since high school.
- Generally good health. I had some minor digestive problems, perhaps due to stress from working at the shelter or stomach bugs. However, generally speaking I didn’t have any terrible health issues aside from some digestive things and various colds.
- Feeling okay about myself. Sometimes I struggle with the nagging feeling that I am a failure, ugly, fat, terrible, incapable of friendship, and all of those other insecurities. I never feel satisfied. I feel that I must do more and be more. I can’t say that I am sated with the accomplishments of the year, but I can say that I put enough effort into enough areas to sate the hungry demons of insecurity.
- Fun clothes. On an entirely frivolous note, I found some cool clothes this year. I really like my dinosaur x-mas shirt, apple hat, pumpkin hat, and a poncho I found at Savers (with built in headphones and an MP3 hook up). It is hard to be depressed/spiral into an existential crisis when you are wearing a pumpkin on your head. Orange is never the new black. A fashion highlight was matching my clothes (apple hat, apple sweater, and apple socks) to some caramel apples I made for a work party.
In all, 2015 was a really good year. I was happy. I kept active. I had some accomplishments and few setbacks. I would say that 2015 was probably one of the best years in my adult life (though it is hard to measure such things. 2010 was pretty good too). 2016 has a lot to live up to. My tip for 2016: wear more orange.