Every year I choose a word to set an intention for that year. I don’t often set resolutions, but when I first heard about the idea of a word for the year, I grasped the idea and ran with it. Some of my previous words include shine, focus, joy, and badass.

This year my word was IGNITE. I chose this word because I wanted to get this new chapter of my life (as a newly single mom) started. I wanted to spark my fire, and I believe I succeeded.

During the course of this year, I have set out to meet new people, find new hobbies, and rekindle my enthusiasm for old hobbies. I wanted to find the elements that were fully me with no external input — the activities, ideas, and habits that were true for me.

Meetup was a huge help in finding activities and people to do them with. Through Meetup, I joined a monthly book club, which is something that I really missed from my previous locale. I love this group of people and, regardless of whether I liked the book, I always look forward to great conversation with these new friends.

When I decided I wanted to hike and felt safer going with other people than alone, I searched Meetup and found the Women’s Hike and Write. This group really couldn’t have been more perfect for me. We go on moderate hikes, then pause to journal, then continue back. I never would have imagined someone else would like to bring a journal with them while hiking, let alone the number of women who have actually participated. Plus, the organizer of this group and I have become close friends.

I met with another temporary book club throughout the summer as we read Think and Grow Rich together and discussed a few chapters each week. We reunited this fall over dinner, and it was so fun to see what everyone was continuing to think about the book. There is talk about perhaps reading another book together in 2017.

I continue to check Meetup for new groups and events to join. I tried a meditation group (and would have returned if my schedule allowed), and I am now keeping my eye on photography groups, writing groups, and a social group for introverts.

Outside of Meetup groups, I have made a point to strike up conversations with parents of other children, with neighbors I see outside when I walk my neighborhood, and with the people I encounter as I run errands. Sometimes the conversations go somewhere, sometimes they dead-end. I don’t consider myself to be great at talking to people I don’t know well, but I am proud that I am trying more often. Some of the local shop owners and employees recognize me when I walk in. It feels so good to be welcomed by them.

I took advantage of programs at my local library, like a one-night watercolor class.

I hosted my first party at my home. And people came. Lots of them. As I looked around at all of their friendly faces introducing themselves to each other, it occurred to me that every person there is someone I met in the past year since moving to this home and town. I thought I was just hosting a party; I didn’t realize that it would become a milestone marking how far I have come in one year.

I went kayaking.

I went to a Yanni concert.

I attended children’s birthday parties where I was the only separated/divorced mom.

I joined in meditations, Reiki circles, and discussion groups hosted by my dear friend and Reiki master.

I drove almost two hours to see Glennon Doyle Melton speak.

I read more than 80 books in one year. I didn’t even know that was possible. It helped that I began receiving books for free to review — another new venture.

I became a regular visitor of Longwood Gardens with my camera and journal (and sometimes a book) in tow.

I completed my Hospice volunteer training at the beginning of the year and have spent the rest of the year visiting patients and assembling packets the nurses need for patient care.

I learned how to set my hair in victory curls. I don’t think I learned all the right words for that, so perhaps that statement doesn’t make any sense at all. Being that a fancy hair day for me means that I blow-dried it rather than letting it air dry, this was quite a feat. And, dangit, I walked into that 1940s-themed party looking the part.

This year marked the first time I flew with my son by ourselves. We survived (obviously). He now looks forward to air travel and is quite good at it.

This year also marked my first solo vacation — a quick weekend to New York City for Book Riot Live.

I submitted articles to two publications. Neither have been accepted, but I wrote them and submitted them, and I’m proud of that.

I heard one of my poems read in front of an audience for the first time. The audience responded with “that’s right” and “yes” and “mm-hmm.” The second time, they cheered.

I started a new full-time job after 6 years of freelancing.

I got a dog.

I hired my amazing friend, Amy Pinard, to photograph this new version of our family.

With my son’s help, I chased rainbows. They appear in my home on sunny mornings, and we have made a ritual of seeking them each morning and sometimes making our own if there aren’t any. (See them by following me on Instagram @livewonderstruck.)

I joined a gym, and I continue to go three times per week. I swam laps for the first time since I was about 10 years old. I bumped the treadmill up to a running pace for two minutes. (As I have never been a runner, this is a huge step for me.)

I survived divorce. Again. (That’s twice.) I am slowly learning to accept that number. It carries a stigma, and it makes me feel like a miserable failure, like I have made poor choices. Then I think, Oh no. I’m Ross. (Ross from Friends, that is. He was worried about life after three divorces.)

I learned how to peacefully coparent with my ex-husband. I even (sort of) befriended his new girlfriend.

I cried. A lot. But I smiled more than I cried. This has been a hard year, yet overall a good one.

This new chapter has been full. I could have squeaked by. I could have hidden under the covers. Instead, I chose to step out of all of my comfort zones and see what might happen.

My life as I write this looks very different than it did one year ago. Keeping the word “ignite,” and more specifically, the phrase “ignite my life” top of mind throughout the year, I experienced many things I otherwise may not have. I showed up, whether or not I felt ready. I tried. That has made all the difference.

As I sat on the train in November for my first solo vacation and pulled out the book I brought to read, I had to laugh. The book was called Burning Woman. I do believe I am on fire now.

Looking ahead to 2017, I have my new word ready. I have been trying it on for size, and it feels right. That word is SACRED.

As I continue to live a life that is fully me, fully mine, I want to make intentional, delicious choices that will serve my highest and greatest good. Choices that will serve my family, that will nourish my body, that will allow me to send goodness and happiness out into the world. Choices that will enrich our (my and my son’s) experiences. Sacred choices.

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December 28, 2016

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