What I Learned About True Happiness Writing My Year In Review

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My first fiddle fig earlier this year.  RIP. On to No. 2.

SPOILER ALERT: Not sure about 2017?  You can do the same thing I did without writing a blog. But go and ahead and finish reading this first!

The week between Christmas and New Year’s was always a popular time to reflect back on the last year.  I wasn’t sure what I thought of 2017 when I sat down to write this blog. The year included so much change – at times it was just too much!  It featured a move across the country (technically on Dec. 15, 2016), buying a house (technically the next day) and then a major remodel, a successful job search and then the mountains and valleys of a new work place, trips, including two that required passports, boat rides, meeting new people and saying final goodbyes to two loved ones.  It also included another year of praying every day for family and friends, but especially for my husband, who continued to stay in remission while battling stage 4 prostate cancer.

Honestly, the last few days I still wasn’t sure what I thought of 2017.  Sure, I found a job in record time and My Man took like a duck in water to his transfer with CDW.  We worked hard and embraced the Bay Area when we bought season tickets for USF Football (10-2!).  We met many new neighbors who were fast becoming our friends, hosted a number of gatherings as well as out-of-town visitors, saw my parents in Melbourne Beach more often and travelled many miles and back home again to our house in The Cloister.  Our remodel was even featured in a magazine! But, thinking back, I didn’t feel like it was the best year.  I felt like something was missing.  At times I was lonely this year and couldn’t figure out why.  For some reason, I was still looking at the year as a glass half empty, instead of a glass half full.  I saw myself having too much of a fixed mindset and not enough growth mindset!

weddingWhen I married Nick Young on Dec. 21, 2013, I thought we would be together for forever. And then two years later, he was diagnosed with cancer and that changed everything.  Read more about his diagnosis.

One thing I learned from that diagnosis in 2015: treat every day like it was special.  Crying was ok, but smiling and laughing were truly the best medicine.  Maybe in the last year, I had gotten away from that feeling and spent too much time worrying about the small things.  I spent too much time worrying about work or too much about how I would fit in to this new town, this new state.  I wanted things to be perfect too soon.

IMG_3345But something changed when I sat down to write. I stared out the window, trying to decide what direction to go, which road to take – I didn’t know what to say.  After some soul-searching, I knew I had taken a lot of photos and decided to look through those.  As I scanned the pictures from the past year, I was surprised.  Looking through the hundreds of pictures on my iPhone, a thought popped in my head, “While every day hasn’t been perfect or easy, we sure have had fun!”  I was smiling a lot.  Nick was smiling a lot.  We accomplished so much, together as a couple and as individuals! There were a variety of different places, people and opportunities to learn and love.  An hour passed quickly, reflecting back on the year through many of the photos.  It finally dawned on me – 2017 was pretty dang awesome! I learned there really was a lot to love about the past year, warts and all.  I learned in the future I needed to celebrate all the ups and downs and quickly made a resolution for 2018 – stop worrying so much, and smile more.

Without more reflection, take a look through the lens of my iPhone 7 Plus! Even before we began the new year in 2017, we moved to Tampa on Dec. 15, 2016 and closed on our house the next morning.




While much of January was spent working with the contractors and painters on our house remodel, we also hosted Brainard Cooper over New Year’s.  It was also our pleasure to host a house full of CLEMSON fans for the National Championship. IMG_1468IMG_1588

I flew to Columbia in early January to say goodbye to Emily White and catch up with friends.  I spent a few special hours with two very special people in my life, Mike and Ginger McGee.  Emily would certainly have laughed, watching Mike edit the reflections Ginger and I helped him prepare for Emily’s memorial.

Each day in January, our house was being transformed, down to the studs.


In February, the house remodel continued and so did the trips to Sherwin Williams to find a color that would work in the kitchen and living room (settled on On The Rocks)! Heather Larkin came up from Miami and we swam with the manatees.  Amazing experience!

I also took a trip to New York City with DeDe Ebner, to write another chapter in our own version of Thelma and Louise.  Visiting the 9/11 Museum was an experience every American should have.  I realized even more how special life was.  Because of the predicted snow, I went a day early and had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite people, Kaitlin Fuelling.  Click here to read the blog.


Nick Jr.’s visit at the beginning of the month included a lot of time exploring, including Siesta Keys and two spring training games (Yankees and Phillies), but it also featured a yard work project for he and I! Read the blog.

Our visit back to California was quite the whirlwind, with doctor’s visits, friends and family meals and a trip to Napa with the Young Men.  The time I spent in Santa Clara with former co-workers and student-athletes was so special.  We even squeezed in some time in the city — I loved walking across the Golden Gate Bridge one morning!

A hike on the Los Gatos Trail was also one of the highlights of the week!


On the 20th of March, I started my new job at USF.



In April we kept exploring the new Bay Area, including time on the Reddish’s boat on Easter Sunday.


Our house was finally taking shape! After a photo shoot in April, it was also featured in Home Trends magazine.  For more on that, click here.



May was FUN! I started it by working five of the six USF graduation ceremonies the first weekend.  The next weekend, we went to Columbia for the SEC Track and Field Championships.  We caught up with so many friends and former athletes, coaches, etc.: read the blog!

Saturday night Susan Edwards hosted an amazing dinner party – one for the ages.  Read the blog on that night!


We were fortunate enough to be invited to Daufuskie Island to spend Memorial Day weekend with the Griffins.  It was such a special weekend with that trio!  We also spent a few amazing hours in Bluffton, SC.



In June we hosted a lot of visitors! It was so much fun having my parents here, along with my Aunts (Dorthy and Eleanor), cousin (Diane) and kids (Lucas and Mason).

We also hosted Kim Margarite, Brainard Cooper, and DeDe and John Ebner at different times during the month!  And because we hadn’t had workers in our house for a month or so, the contractor began the three bathroom remodels that would stretch on for almost three months.





July featured a visit from my cousins Vonda and Diane and their husbands, Rob and Jim.


We also spent more time on the Reddish’s boat!

Our master bathroom remodel neared completion.   For more on the bathroom remodel, click here.  We played a lot of golf in the crazy humidity, new members of the Carrollwood Country Club.


The month began with another boat adventure with the Reddish’s along with our neighbors and new friends, the Roders.  It was HOT on the BEACH that day!

Before everyone went back to school, we teamed up with the Reddish’s and went to unchartered territory. Flying nonstop to Havana, Cuba, we spent five days of non-stop activity and discovery.  We all took hundreds of pictures!


When we returned home from Panama, the next day we flew to Chicago for 48 hours to attend the funeral and life celebration of my cousin Jamie’s husband, Chris Paez. His battle with Leukemia was over. It was such a sad time, but I was glad we could spend time with my mom’s side of the family. It again reminded me that life was short.


We kicked off September by hosting Eric Reddish’s surprise 50th birthday party and then spent another afternoon on the boat!

We ventured out to a few new restaurants and began attending USF football games as season ticket holders (club level!)


September 4 began a week of Hurricane watch for Irma!  The meme summed it up, but it did swing by Tampa on Sept. 10.  I FREAKED OUT for a few hours at 4 am on Sept. 9 (poor Nick, Heather and Patsy) and we did board up and move every piece of furniture inside, hammering tarps inside the house (what the heck Michelle??).



A few days later, we hosted a ‘We Survived Hurricane Irma’ party, inviting a bunch of neighbors. It was nice to get together and laugh about all the Irma antics at our households.

Later in the month, we painted our front door blue!



We started the month at the Sarasota Ritz Carlton, celebrating our sixth anniversary (first date).

We enjoyed a special evening chatting with Jack Easterby and then attended the Patriots-Bucs game the next night.

The big fun in October happened when DeDe Ebner and I hit Charleston together, laughing, biking, talking, drinking and eating for four days – writing another chapter in the Thelma and Louise diaries.



We also hosted our inaugural Halloween party (Wilma and Fred) in Tampa and a few nights later, spent our first Halloween passing out candy (disco kids).






We hit the Reddish boat, bringing our new friend Cindy Greco along with us (above).  I had to travel to Panama for work with USF Health Panama and Nick tagged along for a few days (below).



Thanksgiving weekend, we made a trip up to Columbia! While the Carolina – Clemson tailgating was a lot of fun, the game wasn’t.  But we were thrilled to see the Carolina women’s soccer team advance to the Final Four, do some hiking and visit with friends!


We started off the month by driving over to the Final Four in Orlando to watch Carolina play Stanford (bummer!)

One of the true highlights of the year was hosting Nick’s son and my parents for the Christmas holidays. It started off with an amazing day in St. Pete with Braden and ended with Nick, Jr. surprising his dad for the holidays!

During their visit, we did just about everything!


The year will end with a New Year’s Eve party at our house with neighbors and friends.  In the last few months I have hosted our neighbor ladies for drinks and have formed a walking group at 5 am (four days in!) with a couple of neighbors.


Wow! What a year!  I saw lots of smiles, lots of laughs and lots of memories made as well as many changes and many new friends.  I didn’t see a lot of cranky pants.   In 2017, I acknowledge there were valleys, tears, fears, mistakes, loneliness, some shouting, a bad haircut, bouts of opposition to change and self-doubt, but my life was frequently a lot better than I thought.

My New Year’s resolution, a couple of days early: live life to the fullest every day in 2018.  Sounds cliché? Maybe, but it’s worth a try.  And for the heck of it, I also plan to start running again.

My suggestion if you made it this far, take your own phone out and look over the last year’s snaps.  I hope you see a lot of smiles, laughs, and silliness too. 

Happy New Year! Let’s start by making 2018 the best year ever!



  1. Great blog! Damn girl, you had a lot of fun and were uber social in ‘17! My fave part of the post (along with your lively writing) as watching Nick reunite with his son. :)))))
    Happy 2018 my friend!


  2. You guys are so so strong and I’m so blessed and proud to know you ❤ . Here's to an amazing year ahead and keep doing what you're doing. I love all the adventures and smiles you guys share!! So glad you were able to visit me in NYC and I hope to make it out to Florida soon 🙂


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