“We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet/For auld lang syne” 

It seems lots of things have happened lately. My parents celebrated 40 years of marriage. I celebrated a birthday. My wonderful and beautiful friend KW visited. My brother, who defies adjectives, also visited. I traveled a fair bit with each of them and am so thankful we got to spend time. The US celebrated Thanksgiving and then went shopping. Or maybe they went shopping on Thanksgiving – I can’t really keep track. I got sick but am better now; please don’t worry. My undergrad alma mater has been in the news lately. The attack happened in Paris, and the aftermath continues. Do you ever feel like there’s too much stimuli, and it’s hard to know where to focus? I almost always feel like that around my birthday.

Eilean Donan Castle – Scotland, taken in Nov 2014

Getting older does not bother me. I embrace it. If you know me, well, you know me and find my tendency toward knowledge and assertiveness endearing (I’m assuming that’s true if you’re here, reading this). If you don’t know me, I’ll tell you: I can tend to be something of an insufferable know-it-all, and a bossy one at that. Age only legitimizes this tendency, which is kind of awesome. If I’m being honest, I was a bossy, insufferable know-it-all by about the age of 4 (my mother will say 2), but it makes more sense on a thirty-something, and I like that. My aunts are all really good at advice, but KB in particular has said that she likes herself better today than she did at 16 or 21 or any other number, and I feel that way, too.

Dunnottar Castle – Scotland, taken in Nov 2014
Tapestry being recreated using traditional methods at Stirling Castle – Scotland, taken in Nov 2014

Lots of people have asked what I did for my birthday this year. The answer is simple: nothing. No, really, I summoned the wherewithal to go to the grocery store two blocks away to get more orange juice because I was sick. That is really all. But I’m not stressed about it. My life is full of ridiculous riches I can’t even explain. Here are just two examples: 1. MD brought me a whole bunch of groceries before she left for her weekend away because a) she wasn’t sure which soup would be better (the labels were in German), and b) she was worried about me. 2. Unbeknownst to me, TN bought candles to put in pastry for my birthday. We haven’t used them yet because of the contagion. But I wasn’t forgotten here. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the scores of messages, texts and FB posts from afar. It’s overwhelming to be so loved.

Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle – Scotland, taken in Nov 2014

I don’t typically do New Years Resolutions. For a few of the last years, I’ve done a Project 365 where you take one photo each day. I found it to be a rewarding and educational experience and recommend it to anyone who loves to take photos but wants to get better. But as a rule, I like to take my birthday to think about the year that’s past and the year that’s coming.

Culloden Moor – site of the last battle of the 1746 Jacobite Rising to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne – Scotland, taken in Nov 2014
Culloden Moor: on this quiet spot near Inverness in 1746 the British victory ensured the Highland way of life died with the Scottish hopes of independence; it was systematically dismantled after the battle  – Scotland, taken in Nov 2014

I believe change is inherently good. Adapting to change makes me feel alive. To that end, I believe in setting realistic, measurable goals for changes that make sense. I have a tendency to select too many changes at once and have to let time and reason winnow them down. I have already embarked on the major change for this year — I’m doing it, and you’ve been reading about it in all these posts. Grad school, traveling the world, writing about it. That’s enough change to be going on about for now. Though when I get home, I’m taking a CPR cert class – KR: you will remind me of this, and I love you for it and for so many other things.

View of Edinburg from Edinburgh Castle – Scotland, taken Nov 2014

But I wanted to take a moment and reflect (publicly apparently) on where I was a year ago. Last year was my first birthday abroad. I spent 5 days driving around the Scottish Highlands, and then 3 days in a rented apartment in Edinburgh. On one of the last days of my trip, I was walking up Arthur’s Seat, which is a smallish mountain just next to the Scottish Parliament building and Hollyrood Palace. A group of protestors were demonstrating about the recent referendum decision – Scotland had voted in a pretty close popular vote against seceding from the UK to form an independent Scotland. But this was less a protest and more of a concert of love for Scotland. It was one of the capsule moments where I stopped halfway up the little mountain and just listened because it was so cool.

Here’s a shot of the protestors with Arthur’s Seat in the background. I’m standing next to Hollyrood Palace – Scotland, taken Nov 2014

Aside: I think of these moments as capsule moments – they’re the times in your life you look back on and think, “did that happen?” Stop and recognize those moments. They matter. And they don’t just happen when we travel. It might be the moment your kid comes in and shows you something they made. Or that time you were part of something of which you’re really proud. They’re about kindness, passion, joy, love, the experience for its own sake. Our lives are full of these moments. /aside

Edinburgh at sunset from Arthur’s Seat – Scotland, taken Nov 2014
Edinburgh at sunset from Arthur’s Seat – Scotland, taken Nov 2014

Anyway. Back to Arthur’s Seat. The last song they sang was Auld Lang Syne (because of course they did), and by this time the sun was setting (because it was like 4:15pm). I stood there, looked out across a golden-pink Edinburgh, listened to the most famous song in the world in the place where it was written and thanked God for my life. And that was the moment where it crystallized for me that I needed to make some major changes in that life. So I came home and started thinking about what I wanted this year to hold. And here we are. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the here-and-now, well, mostly.

Title quote: Auld Lang Syne

A shot some nice Brazilians took of me at Eilean Donan Castle – Scotland, taken Nov 2014

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