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My 2017. A year of yawns … a year of surprises

Of late, I’ve taken to writing annual update letters. Here’s the one I wrote for this year.

So how was this past year for me? At first glance, I thought, Eh, it was fine. I mean, my life, overall, is pretty good because my head, heart, mind and soul are in a pretty good place. I’m 54, more mature, less easily thrown off kilter. I know myself better, so I can manage my life better. But at first glance, there seemed to be a lot of the same ol’, same ol’ when looking back at 2017. Still living in same ol’ Columbia; still working at the same ol’ digital marketing company; still, still, still….

However, as I thought back more, I realized this year had some pretty big surprises in it for me.

Done with #HoCoSocialMedia

I surprised myself by being DONE with Howard County social media stuff. You may or may not know, but I was a loud, incessant advocate of social media use—particularly on the local level—harkening back to the days when social media was so nascent that few knew what it was or what form of social change was right around the corner. I did. I felt it. I knew it. I understood. And then I proceeded to dedicate thousands of hours of volunteer time over the next decade: co-hosting local, social media-focused parties; starting a network and website for local bloggers (in 2007); building that network up to over 500 local bloggers at one point; and hosting many (and at one point monthly) blogger events to connect local social media enthusiasts, elected officials and everyday citizens.

I advocated for local hashtag use, created numerous social media sites and three years ago, created a robust, online local calendar, and once again, put thousands of hours into a community-focused social media project.

And then one day, in the summer of 2017, I was DONE. D-O-N-E. I’ve since transitioned all the #HoCoSocialMedia digital assets to others. And I am done, done, done.


One of the sweeter surprises of this year was witnessing the total solar eclipse down in Charleston, South Carolina. I’d never tuned in to the eclipse phenomenon before and didn’t understand why the eclipse was that big of a deal. Then I read a blog post written by someone who’d seen over a dozen total eclipses, and I realized there was something more to this phenomenon, but, and understandably, I still wasn’t quite sure what it’d be like.

Now that I’ve witnessed totality, alls I’m gonna say is GO! Be there. See it! Totality is much, much more than what you see in the photos. It’s an experience, a phenomena…and it’s absolutely worth any travel or expense to see it. My heart was completely opened by this portal in the sky, and I found myself laughing fully in a way I hadn’t laughed in a long, long time … perhaps never before. I was so full of joy from witnessing this incredible SURPRISE God and the Universe shows us during totality. Experience at least one total solar eclipse in your life. April 8, 2024 is the next one in the U.S.; 2033 is when the next-next one is happening.

Down 15 and stable

I surprised myself by losing 15 pounds…and keeping it off. Menopause did a number on me with incremental weight gain these past eight years, and I’d reached a point of acceptance with it … until one day I didn’t. I wasn’t okay with the ongoing weight gain anymore. I googled “how to burn fat,” discovered intermittent fasting, started doing it right around the winter solstice of 2016 and have since dropped–and kept off–15 pounds.

Another book (and website)

I wrote another book. This one is called Surviving Burning Man: A Packing List for First-timers. When I went to Burning Man for the first time in 2010, I was a nervous wreck. It took me weeks and weeks to pack. Afterward, I debriefed myself and made a packing list spreadsheet, neatly ordered by tabs. I shared my packing list with a few people, then with more people. Eventually, it became “a thing.” and I realized that the “thing” I’d really been wanting to do was to write a book and create a website about preparing for Burning Man.

If you were thinking, Isn’t that a huge project, Jessie? The answer is, why, yes, it is. Bigger than I ever thought it would blow up to be. Yet, the Burning Man culture is something I believe in. For some, Burning Man is a bucket-list item. For others, it’s a life changer. For both of those audiences, my book is super-helpful, and I’m very happy to have created this resource for others.

My dad died

Yeah, my dad died. Wow, was that ever a surprise. I mean, I knew and could see he was rapidly becoming more frail and winded, and I knew for as much as he wanted to live independently, those days were starting to become numbered. The surprise was in the depth of experience in his death… how I was flooded with such an unexpected and beautiful sense of forgiveness to him, from him and, probably most importantly, for myself. I was surprised by how fiercely and dearly I suddenly needed to make sure that his memorial was wonderful and lovely and rich. I was surprised by how many people shared stories about my dad, stories with the same general theme: he was kind, he was gentle (and a gentleman), and he was generous with his knowledge, time and concern for others’ well being.

I was surprised by the love and support from my family, friends and community … not only in the calls, conversations and condolences, but also with the many hours friends contributed in helping me sort through my dad’s house, office and seven storage units worth of intensely disorganized, hoarder-personality stuff.

I was surprised at how I knew in my heart–in an instant–that I needed to gift my father’s possessions. How I needed to transform a hoarder’s seemingly endless accumulation into useful items for others to have and enjoy. And so I hosted The Great Gifting.

And I was surprised by the level and depth of grief that a human being could experience…and survive. I had no idea until I felt it, full, raw and real. In experiencing such grief I understood it to be both a 100 percent individual and unique experience and, concurrently, that grief is a universal human experience.

I’ve written on FB quite a bit about my experience of his death. And my sister created an absolutely lovely video and photo montage of my father’s life from infancy through to his death. It’s quite touching. Also, if you’re interested, his obituary is here and details about the memorial are here.


Well, I have not surprised myself by writing a lot. 🙂

And I probably won’t surprise you also by saying my books are all on free downloads for a few days after I send out this email. Links below.

Much love to you all and, as they say, “hug your loved ones, because once they’re gone, they’re gone.” …Though I will say I had no idea the relationship with someone who has ascended doesn’t end when their body dies… and the relationship can actually improve and get even better. Again, another surprise.

With that, Happy Lunar New Year (year of the dog). I’m wishing you a year of awesome surprises too!



Free Book Download Links

Available February 20-23, 2018

You don’t need a Kindle to download the free Kindle books. Amazon provides a free Kindle reader. The downloads (and reviews) help my book in Amazon’s ranking system. And clicks, comments and shares of my website are always a help.

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