Yikes! Last year’s reflection was pretty dramatic but I’m afraid to echo it slightly. 2016 was the last year for a lot of people. Some well known celebrities, others just as important to people close to me. 

Three 35 year old women, three different ways of death. When January brought a home invasion shooting death of a former student, it was an eye opener of how bad Rockford can be. I would think of the small acts of kindness I extended, like the nights I’d bring her home instead of letting her ride the bus. A couple trips to the store to pick up a random item. I’d smile thinking about that one time she’d stood a little TOO close to the Walmart bag carousel…or the way she’d say ‘You better tell Joe to lay off those cigarettes!’ 

The second woman died by suicide. I would think of the small acts of kindness I could have extended. I’ll smile when I remember the moment I saw her as a little spunky child dancer and years later when our paths crossed when I had my own little spunky child dancer….or the surreal talk show phase we went through. Her talent and how hard she must have fought to be here in this world is not lost on me.  I think about her family still in this world and all those individuals affected by mental health. Which is basically ALL of us…everyday in some form or another.

The third woman lost her life to cancer, and though I didn’t know her well, she was like a sister to my sister. I think of the kids she left behind. I think of how hard it is to watch a gradual decline of health.

Still many others, a teenage cousin, a cousin and aunt in their 90s, a childhood friend’s father, pets in a house fire.

The list of celebrities is long. Icons from our childhood. Then the local headlines with the shooting death of 15 year olds becoming more common when bullets fly overhead like mosquitos. News that has made me more aware of social cultural issues and crime. 

But a glimmer of hope always as I look ahead to 2017. Yes, death is inevitable so life is precious. Might be short, might be long. Each of us has a different story. 

So, what’s in store for 2017? Some things we can control, some we can’t. 

 Oh wait…how did the Presential  election slip through my blog post cracks? Hillary Clinton the first female candidate and President elect Donald Trump. It gave everybody something to talk about.

And the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years! Game 7 captured the attention and hearts of so many die hard and even the fickle at of fans. So exciting to see the joy that brought.

My own personal 2016? Things that happened directly to me? I started (another) job in February. Working in the mother/baby unit of a hospital allows me the chance to see new life and new beginnings every day. Even the smallest preemies in the isolettes working hard to be here. 

I turned ’40’ which I graciously do realize it is a milestone. My kids are all a year older and they are healthy. We got a kick out of watching our oldest dance his way to 2nd place at the school district talent show and now he’s driving (though not but himself until June which buys me some time!) My nine year old made his First Holy Communion, 12 year old smack dab in the middle of middle school, and as the youngest turns 7 I realize that time does pick up.(..you just have to wait until after preschool mamas). We’ve taken a few local trips, overnight at Galena, couple at the Dells. Just enough to have some time away but come home to our 3 dogs who anxiously await us.

My family, friends, neighbors, even the random people I encounter during the day, at work, out with the kids, on social media. The connections that I gain to counterbalance the disconnect. The neighbors who drop off Christmas treats the day home repairs make me grumpy. The student who shows up dilligently to my class, despite being relocated to a hotel due to a house fire. The other student who shares a personal story of her sister’s drunk driving death with me after class, reminding me why I stay in adult education. It’s not always about the topics in the syllabus. 

As we flip the calendar (and maybe the bird) from 2016 to 2017, I pray that you and I will be open and present in 2017. Aware of our blessings, gracious during our setbacks. 

Happy New Year!💜