31 Candles.

Birthdays are so weird. Especially in today’s age of constant connectedness with cell phones and social media. Your phone goes off like crazy all day… calls, texts, 1000 Facebook alerts from people that you rarely hear from. Unexpected sweet messages. Unexpected, sweet phone calls that make you feel like you are doing something right. It’s weird, but it’s nice to have an excuse to feel important for a day.

Again on my birthday this year, I found myself thinking back to when I turned 29. That was the year that winter never really showed up, and on March 22 spring was in full bloom. I was working my 9-5 job, and was about to enter into a summer that I knew would change my life. I worked on my birthday, then went to my favorite cemetery afterwards to take pictures. (I know… Who spends their birthday alone in a cemetery, right?) I wandered around thinking about what was about to come: putting in my notice at work, leaving my job, embarking on my biggest (and possibly craziest) adventure yet. So many doubts had started to kick in at that point. This is one of my favorite photos that came out of that day:

Year 30 was a pretty big one for me. It’s mind-boggling to sit here and think about all of the things that have happened. This was my first entire year of being a self-employed artist. My little Etsy shop is creeping towards 900 sales. Then will come 1000. It’s truly astonishing to me, to think that weird little things I make in my studio are admired enough by people that they purchase them, and hang them in their homes. They give them as gifts. Sometimes people ask me to include little notes to the recipient, and being able to do something so personal and special is overwhelming. And that’s my job? Wow.

This year I crossed some things off of my bucket list, including taking a road trip up the west coast. I had never even seen the Pacific Ocean before! My friend Amber and I flew into LA and made our way up Highway 1 to Portland. We saw the Hollywood sign (and oh yes, totally sang the Miley Cyrus song quietly in the back of our taxi), visited wine country, saw Big Sur, hiked in an Oregon forest, saw the Mrs. Doubtfire house in San Francisco… Made memories that will last a lifetime.

This year I got to travel with my family to New York to visit all of our extended family. It was the first time in years that all five of us went together – family road trip! That car ride brought back so many memories; we used to drive every summer from Springboro, Ohio to Schenectady to visit our family after we moved away from Syracuse. Then being in my Grandmas’ houses is like being in a memory tornado. We have a big awesome family full of gifted story-tellers, so there is always laughter. Especially when my mom’s brothers get together. Watch out.

I also went to the Outer Banks for the second year in a row with my brothers and their friends. This trip is also special to me because the first time I went, it was right after I quit my job. I packed up my office, left the building, and went straight to my brother’s place and we started to drive. I could go on and on about the symbolism… but I won’t 😉

The summer of my 30th year was one of the best summers of my life. Not because it was a constant party full of drinking and minor criminal mischief like the summers of my earlier 20’s, but because I spent it taking little weekly adventures to take photos. Metro parks, state parks, gardens, arboretums – you name it. I sketched by the pool, I walked by the river at night. I lived slowly, and purposefully. Not just letting the days go by, but being sure to live all of them. And never forgetting to be grateful that I am doing what I love.

This year I also opened my heart to someone, for the first time in ages. It was kind of a weird crazy whirlwind: two completely different people living two completely different lives. When it came down to it, we actually had next to nothing in common except for this electric attraction to each other. There’s this old Indigo Girls song that says, “The dice were loaded from the start. And I bet… And you exploded into my heart.” It’s a pretty terrible song (although I do love the Indigo Girls), but those words sum up this situation so well. These situations tend to end badly, and this one definitely did. And I am definitely still reeling from it, trying to process everything that happened, and sort through everything that I am feeling. As much as it sucks right now, I don’t regret a thing.

This year I traveled to Chicago a bunch of times to visit my friend Amber. The local photo lab that processed and printed all of my photos closed its doors. (Shoutout to Cord Camera on 5th Avenue in Grandview. You guys were awesome to me. Thank you.) I saw two wonderful friends get married (okay… I saw the reception because I missed my flight which caused me to miss the wedding). I got through my first big Etsy holiday rush. My microwave exploded when I was standing five feet away from it. Someone tried to break into my apartment for the first time ever – when I was home too! I designed a tattoo for a friend I met through Etsy. My work was published in a book for the first time. I experienced my first case of crappy internet backlash about my work – and I survived it, let it go, and moved on.

It’s crazy to think about. One year.

And now I can’t stop wondering what this year will bring. It is starting off pretty awesome, with a cruise for my mom and I in April! We both have never been on a cruise before and are super excited; we’ll be visiting Belize, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Honduras. All new places for me. Spring is taking its sweet time this year, but I think that yesterday was the last of the snow that we will see, and today looks like it may be the last bitterly cold day. I cannot wait to be able to work with the windows and my patio door open.

Speaking of work. I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, and will end with the last creations of my 30th year: