My dad loves his ladies. He spends hours with them every day. He puts out a lawn chair and sits in the middle of their house, letting them jump all over him. They clamber to him for bread, their special treat. They’ve been taught to perform a trick for it – they jump! He makes them work for the bread, but he throws the rest of the food on the ground and watches them run, pushing each other out of the way to get the food first. And they get fresh water daily. Lucky ladies! They’re a secret. Their house is built in the back of his property, locked and gated away so the neighbors don’t know. But they’re there – and they’re not going anywhere! My dad really, really loves his ladies. Here are the ladies jumping up to get bread from me. A little trick my dad taught them!…

You may have heard of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It came out a few years ago and caused a stir. It’s been parodied in the media, and I know an equal number of people who either benefited from or hated the book. The primary take-away from Marie Kondo (her nickname is KonMari): Decide what items to keep and discard based on their answer to one question: “Does it spark joy?” If it doesn’t, you thank the item for serving its purpose and you get rid of it.

New Year’s Eve inevitably makes us contemplate on the past year and the upcoming one. And I know just about everyone says this every year, but this year was a big one for me, full of many ups and downs.

2017 brought incredibly difficult emotional challenges that I’m still struggling with. 2017 brought new hobbies that helped me explore my creative interests and relieve stresses. 2017 brought the growth of new and old friendships. 2017 brought a huge professional opportunity and a challenge that I’m still shocked I was able to handle. 2017 brought my 10th wedding anniversary.

Here are the big things that shaped my year.

Two years ago, I fell into an amazing job I never would have expected to love so much. I work with botanists. They speak in a foreign language (of Latin names but also very technical science speak). Honestly, I don’t fully listen to a lot of conversations. I’ve learned to pick up what I need to.

And what I’ve learned and seen has transformed the way I view the world.

Where I grew up in Houston, the annual rodeo was, to me, merely a vehicle for concerts. My very first concert was in 2004, and I got to see my favorite artist at the time – John Mayer. At the rodeo… a fact which seems really strange to me now.

My chaperones were brother Brent and his wife Melissa. And I was super annoyed that they made me sit through the, like, rodeo activities before the show. Excuse you, I was just there for John. What’s with all the barrel racing?? What does this have to do with finding out there’s no such thing as the real world, that it’s just a lie you have to rise above?