I was poolside (well, kind of) in Palm Springs with Bevan when 2014 came to be and I'm bidding it farewell tomorrow night at my parents' condo in Muskegon surrounded by appetizers, champagne and my family. In the time between last January 1st and tomorrow night it will have been a pretty difficult year, to say the least, filled with some of the most sad and terrible days of my life (my mom lost her ability to walk and, for the most part, talk this year) but with a lot of truly good ones, too. Because the tough parts seem to feel especially big to me right now (I think it's the holidays), my parents had to refresh my memory last night about some of the good things that happened in my life in 2014.
The Good Stuff:
Five Things That saved my 2014
For much of 2014 my professional efforts were focused on making sure the company I worked for had enough office space to operate in, which is a tough row to hoe in present-day San Francisco, especially when your company is adding two dozen new employees each month. Throughout the year I led a handful of small to medium office moves followed by one massive 70,000 square foot office buildout and move, which ended up being a success (the office was featured in a number of business and technology publications including Business Insider, Curbed, Inc., Re/code and Refinery29, to name five) and was listed as one of the coolest office spaces in San Francisco by the San Francisco Business Times.
I also got a pair of great job offers at the end of the summer that came just one day removed from each other. The first would have required a move back to the Big Apple for a company that I had previously worked for, but in the end I opted for the second offer which meant staying in the City by the Bay for a little while longer to help grow another tech startup.
4. Gettin' Fit
After almost a decade off, I picked up my tennis racquet again in 2014, first for some private lessons (I refused to suck publicly) and then to join the YMCA Presidio 4.0 team. Although I lost nearly as many matches in this one short season (two) as I did during my entire high school career (three), it still felt great to get out and hit balls and compete again and also to be part of a team, even if we were large to extra large awful.
Additionally, one of my resolutions for 2014 was to improve my 5K time and to complete a race of that distance in under twenty minutes. In March I ended up placing 17th out of more than 2,500 runners in the Bank of the West 5K in Oakland with a time of 18:53, easily my best ever, surpassing my previous PR of 21:04 at the Chronicle Seaway Run in 2008 by two minutes. The best part of that feat was the hat I got for placing third in my age group. It makes me look twelve years old, but I love it anyway. I should note that going gluten free and buying five pairs of snug-fitting running tights (see above photo) made that accomplishment happen.
3. All The Travels
Despite my crippling fear of flying, I logged a ton of miles at 36,000 feet in 2014 en route to quite a few different destinations across this beautiful country of mine, including California (Palm Springs and San Francisco), Florida (Crystal Beach), Illinois (Chicago), Massachusetts (Boston and Provincetown), Michigan (Muskegon, a lot), New York (New York City), Texas (Dallas) and Washington, D.C. I'm probably forgetting one or two spots, but these trips included a few weddings, countless wonderful meals, brilliant art and entertainment and, most importantly, quality time spent with people that I don't get to see nearly often enough.
Oh, and the purpose of one of the aforementioned trips, the one to Washington D.C., was to witness the unveiling of the Harvey Milk Forever stamp in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the West Wing. Nancy Pelosi spoke, Mary Lambert performed and a bunch of politicos talked about Harvey and his impact on the world, which overwhelmed me because of the huge role the movie Milk played in my coming out not too long ago and because of Bevan holding Harvey's seat as the Supervisor of the Castro for eight years and because I once called the Castro home. Afterward I got to eat cake and drink punch in the Indian Treaty Room.
2. Mucho Family Time
I saw my family in real life at least once a month in 2014 (and so much more on FaceTime). Living 2,300 miles and three timezones away doesn't make it easy, but thanks to flexible employers and a shitload of credit card points, I was able to visit home (or wherever else my parents found themselves) every four weeks or so this year.
Also, I saw my nephews Cole and Peyton more in 2014 than I have in far too many years. Those not-so-little boys are beautiful and growing up far too quickly and every moment spent with them feels like a gift.
1. Harrison Mark Ufnal
Far and away the best part of 2014 for me was the birth of my third nephew, Harrison. He's given my family and I more reasons to smile and has brought more laughter to our house this year than I ever could say.
Oh yeah, and he's really freakin' cute.
Other Happy Stuff
I entered my thirties in 2014. And I got kind of into tank tops for a while, which I think is maybe a midlife crisis prelude or something. I also made some wonderful new friends this year, flew first class for the first time, met Michael Greif, saw Idina Menzel in a Broadway show, tried my luck in the stock market and started writing on this web log again.
Here's to a happy and healthy 2015 and also to finding the good all year long.
I hardly slept last night.
I had a lengthy, meandering dream that began, I believe, in an alleyway in New York City and wove through streets and down hallways and into rooms and then moved on to a parking lot and a hospital and finally a house that had a pool that was barely visible through blind-covered windows. Throughout the dream I encountered people from all parts of my life, major players and very minor characters, and at first I was searching for a drink and then a party and then a person and finally a tie to go with a shirt that a friend of mine from Chicago who I have not seen in almost two years appeared out of nowhere to lend me for a gathering that I couldn't remember the details of by the time I had found it (the tie, that is). Anyway, the whole dream felt exhausting and maddening while I was dreaming it and after I'd woken up I grabbed my phone to type it all down and then I couldn't fall back to sleep again. That was around four thirty.
I spent some time on dreammoods.com this morning after I had given up on sleep but that confused things even more, so I'm just gonna chalk the sheer length and randomness of the dream up to being in a bed that's not mine and also to eating a whole bag of Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns before I fell asleep.
If you're reading this and happen to be a dream specialist, feel free to weigh in.
Don't cross me when I'm hungry.
I found a holiday newsletter in the mail pile on my parents' kitchen counter today and its last paragraph made me cry.
"This year I want to close by asking for your prayers for a few special people in my life who are all bearing heavy burdens with grace and dignity, but can certainly benefit from the uplifting power of prayer. Please pray for my dear, lifelong friend Rosemary Lambert and her family, who are using ALS to show the world how to love."
If you haven't already, you should visit my mom's blog. She's very incredible.
Chad and the boys headed back to Texas this morning which means tonight is the first night since I've been home that I'm not having a sleepover in the living room in front of the Christmas tree with Cole and Peyton and my mom. In fact, my dad and I took the Christmas tree down this afternoon while my mom watched from the couch and as I was getting ready to unplug the lights for the last time I looked at her and winked and said something thoughtless like "another beautiful tree" and pulled the plug and my mom started to cry and didn't stop for a long time and again I thought about Jonathan Tropper's words:
"You never know when it will be the last time you'll see your father, or kiss your wife, or play with your little brother, but there's always a last time. If you could remember every last time, you'd never stop grieving."
Anyway, I wanted to write those two things down—the sleepovers in the living room with my mom and my nephews (Cole at twelve and Peyton at ten) and also the part about the Christmas tree—because I never want to forget them.
My mom, Cole, Peyton and I drove to the Cinema Carousel yesterday to see the new Annie movie starring Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz but the parking lot was packed when we got there and we didn't want to navigate a huge crowd with a wheelchair so we went home and rented Belle on iTunes instead.
I'm usually not up for period pieces but Belle was unexpectedly beautiful and interesting and I'm glad it was my mom's turn to choose what we watched. The movie was inspired by the 1779 painting (shown above) of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray which was commissioned by their great uncle William Murray who was then the Lord Chief Justice of England. It's set during a court case dealing with what became known as the Zong massacre, an incident when slaves were thrown overboard from a slave ship and the owner of the ship filed with his insurance company for the losses. Lord Murray ruled on this case in England's Court of King's Bench in 1786 in a decision that contributed to the abolishment of slavery in Britain.
Also, it's got Draco Malfoy (er, Tom Felton) in it. I saw him in line at a McDonald's in Las Vegas at 3:30 in the morning once. My friend Mike took this picture because I was busy being drunk and eating chicken nuggets.
Anyway, if you've got some time, rent Belle.