Year 2011, End.

I feel the need to reflect on 2011 and look forward to 2012, as I’m sure many other people do.  Isn’t that why making resolutions is a general activity and topic of conversation at this time of year?

2011 made me crazy.  I felt that so much had been thrown at me in both my professional and personal life I might have jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge at some point during the year.  I failed at several things: a 365 photo project, Post A Day 2011, my 2011 Reading Challenge (15/40), and giving attention to those who needed it most from me.  But, 2011 brought some pretty amazing moments that challenged me and taught me more about myself than I have learned before.  There were several work emergencies in March that, while I wish that they had not happened at all, I learned that I can handle lots of intense issues thrown at me in a short amount of time.  During the spring break at the university at which I work, I was alone in the office while Japan experienced an earthquake and there were two very serious personal issues having to do with our students.  I learned that not only do I do well in emergency situations that require quick thinking, I actually love it.  I made big decisions without being able to consult with anyone and took actions that protected the students.  (Pats own back here.)

I also worked hard on a grassroots campaign against Initiative 26 in Mississippi.  We won!  I canvassed neighborhoods, attended fundraisers, talked with anyone and everyone I could about the negative consequences of the initiative had it passed.  Here is how I felt about it.  While the fight is never over, we showed that in this conservative state (perhaps the most conservative state in the US), Mississippians are not fooled by the fearmongering and hatred spread by the Yes on 26 campaign.

I also got my first wedding photography gig in New Orleans!  New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and to take photos there of a lovely couple was just a great experience.  I’m very happy with how they turned out.  You can see them on my photography Facebook page, if you’re interested.  We also were introduced to the amazing and healing power of totchos (tater tots dressed as nachos).  Oh yeah.

While much of the rest of the year has now dropped out of focus due to the last, most important part of the year, the hubs and I did start a garden, made pickles, I finished several knitting projects, went to Paris, Aarhus, and Copenhagen, discovered Phantogram, began to love Twitter, and other fairly meaningless activities.  The best part of 2011 was that on December 3, 2011, my family got the call that a liver was donated that matched my father.  He has been on the waiting list for just shy of 2 years, and he has not been feeling good for the past year.  It was such an amazing gift from the donor and his or her family, and while he isn’t yet his old self, we are all so thankful for the donor, the doctors, the hospital, the nurses, the transplant institute administration, everyone.  Everything pretty much pales in comparison to what our family has experienced over the last month.  DONATE LIFE!

So, for 2012, keeping in mind what successes I did have in 2011, here are some goals.  I hesitate to call them resolutions, really only because I don’t like to conform.

– Instead of trying a 365 project that will inevitably end up having lots of pictures of my bedside table taken with my iPhone because I had forgotten by the end of the day, try to be more focused in my photography.  Create a series or study that is focused – quality over quantity.

– Continue to build on the work I’ve done this year – more portraits, more weddings, more video.

– Write an academic paper in my field drawing upon the emergencies with which I dealt in March 2011.

– Be there, as in be present, in everything I do.  Have a more focused attitude at work, at play, with this blog, with the people and dogs I love.  Mindfulness!

– Focus on my health.  It’s pretty tough to replace an organ, so I’d prefer never to have to.

– Focus on my brain – feed it good things, like books, bridge, and water.

It looks like I have a lot of focusing to do in 2012.  Maybe I’ll finally finish those damn bar chairs, too.

Liver Alone*

Today is the 5th day since my father’s liver transplant.  He has been on the waiting list for a transplant for just shy of 2 years.  Over the past 2 years, I have seen him become increasingly despondent about the prospect of actually getting one in time, in addition to having the hellish symptoms that NASH (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis) carries with it.  Not until the surgery has my outlook on my own health changed.  His end-stage liver failure has never had an official cause.  He has suffered from manic depression since 1969, and it is possible that years of medicine (strong stuff back in the day, too) caused the cirrhosis; however, it is more likely that a poor diet caused his NASH.  The funny thing is that I never thought of him as unhealthy.  He was strong, always fixing engines, showing me how to weld, how to work with wood, fixing boats, fishing, shooting guns (always showing me how to handle them properly).  He was always overweight and only exercised in phases, but I guess I just didn’t see him as living an unhealthy lifestyle since he could do anything.

Whether or not liver problems are genetic, the thought of living the way he has for the past few years is enough to give me a swift kick in the you know where.  Funny thing I didn’t feel this way when it first started.  It took a 2-foot-long incision, staples, and ICU to give me some motivation.

I am still vulnerable right now, prone to sporadic tears of joy, thankfulness, and fear, and still traveling back and forth to Methodist Hospital in Memphis.  My father is healing very well, tolerating his new liver, and has started the long road to recovery.  He will be able to do anything again, very soon.

*Props to anyone who knows from where the title of this first blog post comes.