Did you know that The U.N. General Assembly designated 2016 as the International Year of Pulses, a grain legume known for its high protein and nutritional content as well as being a hearty crop.

OH. MY. GOD. LEGUMESSSSSS!!!!!! (Psst. That’s just a fancy word for beans.)

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Mindblowning fact, I know.

On to a teensy bit more fascinating info: This is my 7th year in review! Lucky number 7. Where’s memory lane, you ask? This way: Here’s one. And this. And see this one too.

But… I’m about to get real here… I didn’t think I was going to do one this year. NSTATMT (That’s No Such Thing As Too Much Truth), but between thinking no one was going to read it to that orange dude that is taking over our country soon, I wasn’t feeling sassy enough to celebrate.

But then I stood up (Kinda, it’s more like I sat up straighter. I was in the car. I was driving to Trader Joe’s when I came to this internalized debate. I was desperately craving their Peppermint Candy Joe Joes cookies . They’re like Oreos, but with peppermint filling. I’m obsessed with them and they only make them during Christmas time which is kinda cool because, I mean, hellllllo let’s eat the whole box in one sitting! And if they were available all year long I’d basically either a blood sugar level of Willy Wonka or rolling through town like that giant boulder from Indiana Jones which means I wouldn’t fit in any of the new pants I just got and I like these new pants — they’re soft. So, thank you Trader Joe’s marketing people for making these cookies last for only a month. ) and thought what Jack McFarland says below:

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And that just isn’t an island I want to live on… unless there’s a bar… annnd limbo competitions. Then I could probably get by… for a few months.

Anyway,  I decided that THE SHOW MUST GO ON.

So, tadaaaaaaaa…

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It was the Chinese year of the monkey, the year Harriet Tubman was announced to be on the $20 bill (!!!), Taylor and Kanye West got in to a ridiculous Snapchat feud, and when Hamilton DOMINATED theater and politics in a way that should be a reminder that art is what makes life matter. (So keep on going to art/music/acting/collage-making school, kids  — we NEED YOU.) It was the year Full House made a comeback as Fuller House and the same year we all wondered WHEN WILL THE FELICITY REUNION HAPPEN? Ohhh. No one else was wondering that? Kay. Cool.

It was the year the summer Olympics gave TONS of medals to USA and then drowned us in swimmer drama aka #Lochtegate. It was the year we entered in to a Leap Year then Brexited with so much political trauma in the world — London’s divided vote, endless terrorists takes around the world and of course, our brand new “president” — that made that extra day in leap year seem wayyyy longer then it needed to be.

It was the year the first ever flower grown in space (a zinnia!) bloomed, the Zika virus from South America became a terrifying concern, and the first solar powered plane around the world — but, don’t worry, I’m totally sure baggage fees still apply.

It was the year the Cubs won the World Series!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was the year Beyoncé surprised us with another album and made people (just me?) DROP EVERYTHING and buy HBO for a month even though I don’t watch HBO I’d watch HBO for Beyoncé. Let’s be honest, I’d even pay for PBS if it meant I got to see something special by Beyoncé. Which reminds me, we should all donate to PBS — it’s super important and they have amazing swag bags. I mean, just look at her go:

It was the year I also fell in love with this song:

And this song pretty much changed my life forever:

I fell for this book.

This show.

This Installation artist:

 

It was the year we lost countless talent. I mean, the list is so long it hurts to even put my fingers on the keyboard to start typing the names. And while great talents are forever gone, what is even more tragic is that it was the year we lost countless lives to violence, senseless angered violence that is becoming the norm. Shootings. Mass shootings: Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, and Orlando. Orlando. The largest mass shooting victim count was at a gay bar in Orlando. 53 people were killed. 53 people that were in a bar to feel safe had their lives taken. This is not OK… none of this is OK.

We had to find light in the dark of this year. This year, man, has had some darkness. So sometimes we have to find things that make us laugh. Luckily the freedom of expression though GIFs hasn’t been outlawed by our president elect’s freedom of speech amendment concerns shut down like Vine was this year. This particular one had me living for obvious reasons:

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It was the year Nate and I made it to Bangkok, Thailand and began realizing how spirituality can make you feel:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-2-13-49-pmAnd Phuket, Thailand

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And Big Sur where I learned nature is spirituality:
screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-1-41-34-pmAnd Chicago is flawless:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-2-12-34-pmAnd Palm Springs is my spirit animal:

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It was the year I started my 2nd year of teaching 4th and 5th graders. A job I have never been more thankful to work within these walls. These kids are carving me in to a better human. It’s a true gift to be their teacher.

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It was the year I sat so close with Beyoncé during her Lemonade tour that I could have smelled the finger polish on her toe nails. Wait, ew. Was that too much? Sorry.

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It was the year I fell for the cult Soulcycle which has put my body and health in the best shape it’s been…ever.

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It was the year I got to be my little bro’s best man — an honor I’ve been waiting to hold for so many eons. Being his best man reminds me of how lucky I am to have a brother and a family I adore and whom adores me.

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It was the year I celebrated 3 years married and 7 years together with a guy that makes me more patient, smile bigger and a better dishwasher filler.

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While I was fortunate that much of the year was beautiful in my personal life, the year still ignited many conflicted feelings in me. It was a really long, awkward and confusing year. It was emotional. It was overwhelming.

See, our new president scares me. There’s a lot of people saying “Give him a chance!” or “We’ll be fine!” or “Stop whining about losing!”  — but it’s bigger than that. It’s about complacency and lack of truly educating ourselves on the perspectives of others and the needs of all. I know many feel better standing for what they believe in a Facebook post or debating with like minded or not-so-like minded individuals, but my weapon against what has happened is teaching.

I believe that teaching using our actions and living what we want to see will inspire others so others and is the best way we are going to truly evolve and survive. It is my goal to teach my little students to be the best humans they can be — to live with their hearts open, but to guide their heart with authentic and studied facts. I am teaching them to read EVERYTHING so they have many sides to a story and can talk to anyone without a lack of the aforementioned knowledge. I am teaching them that they will never always agree with everyone but that it is their job to see both sides of a coin in order to be more critical and compassionate thinkers.  I am teaching them that it hurts when you don’t agree with someone you love/admire/have known for years and that sometimes growth means changing your views on others and growing in to those new views with a keen and watchful eye. I am teaching them to stand up for what they believe in with passion and confidence and backing those feelings with facts. I am doing the best damn job I can to teach them that their voice is loud enough to make a change No one’s voice is worthless and we need to stop silently implying that instead of admitting me are scared of what our voice might say or how others may react. I am also teaching them that the things I am teaching them are things I am still learning and practicing myself.

I believe in teaching. That is my vow for 2017 and as long as I can.  I believe in teaching for change.

So let’s keep it clean, 2017. Let’s do more, see more, feel more, love more, educate more, push ourselves more, hug more, laugh more, snuggle with puppies more…

and eat more Trader Joe’s Peppermint Candy Joe Joes cookies. Seriously, they ARE SO DAMN GOOD.

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Did you know that there’s a Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Years Eve in order to solidify twelve happy months in the new year? Sooooooo, um, do you think twelve bottles of wine count?

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I’m leaving the grape-eating tradition to the Spaniards (unless that whole wine ideas counts, then I’m in.) and, instead, going to keep up with my six-year-long tradition of recapping the year. SIX YEARS! I’ve done this SIX TIMES (See! See! AND SEE!)! The only other tradition I’ve ever maintained longer than this one is dancing to Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” at every wedding I’ve ever attended. That’s about thirty times.

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I’m not joking.

Be jealous.

Let’s do this: It was the Chinese year of the Ram, the year Cuba was kinda lifted off the U.S. Travel Restriction List, and when Steve Harvey messed up a itsy-bitsy bit at the Ms. Universe competition. It was the year of Uber, the year Kermit the Frog broke up with Miss Piggy, Brett Favre shaved his nose hairs was welcomed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the year a 14-year-old solved a Rubik’s Cube in five seconds breaking a world record and my ego in to a billion little pieces.

It was the year gay marriage was made legal in all fifty states, ISIS became the new four letter for fear, Hilary Clinton‘s emails got some readership and Trump stirred up such hideous hatred/idiotic/just plain evil in to a presidential race that has people tempted to apply for Canadian citizenship.

It was the year NASA found liquid water on Mars. It was the year a new early-human species was discovered as were the pieces of the mysteriously vanished Malaysian plane crash from 2014.

It was the year we lost WAY TOO MANY lives to gun violence, racial intolerance, and confusing acts of political terror. Way too many lives. WAY. WAY too many lives. It was the year we continue to ask ourselves, “What will it take to make this stop?”

It was the year we bid adieu to Chris Pratt on “Parks and Recreation”, but it was also year we gained hunky Pratt on “Jurassic World”.  It was the year that “Mad Men” said goodbye but Adele said “Hello”.  We also got to greet Apple Music, another Royal Baby,  Caitlyn Jenner and a new Janet Jackson — and I got to check her off my “MUST SEE THESE DIVAS BEFORE I DIE” List. It’s also the year I became ridiculously addicted to “Scandal” and said goodbye to any kind of social life because of it.

It was the year Amy Schumer made us laugh and the death of Bobbi Kristina Brown made us cry. It was the year Viola Davis’ Emmy Speech made us laugh AND cry.

It was the year I fell in love with this song:

This song:

This song:

This album and this one.

It’s when I adored this book:
This one and this one.

It was the year of this EPIC GIF:

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This one:

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And this one:

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It was the year I graduated with my masters in education. A MASTERS! Finally, done. Doctorate next? Yes.

It was the year I found my calling: I became a full-fledged teacher at a school that I adore and changes then challenges me and then makes me a better person every single day where I get to work/collaborate/laugh/invent with such a passionate and creative team whom truly believe in changing education to make for a better future. I have co-workers whom are friends — real friends. Friends that make me feel loved.  I get to work with kids. Smart kids. Kids with passions. Kids with big hearts. Kids that make me laugh and want to learn even more than I have ever known. When you find your place, your people, and your calling all in the same place, you are truly destined for happiness.

I got asked to be the best man of my little brother’s wedding! My little brother is getting married in 2016, and I get to share in that joy. Love is cool. Little brothers are cool.

I got to tell a story at Comedy Central (WHAT?!?!?!):

It’s the year I celebrated 2-years of marriage and adventures and love with this guy:

And love with this family:

It was the year we visited Cuba:

Yucatán Peninsula:

Napa Valley:

Chicago, IL:

Muir Woods, CA:

Gulf of Mexico:

San Diego, CA:

San Francisco, CA:

Palm Springs:

It was the year Pope Francis changed both Catholic and non-Catholic hearts, Dodger fans cheered to two gay men kissing on the Kiss Cam, a trans teen became the face of a mainstream facial cleansing company, Marvel created a black super hero girl, and there was an announcement that a woman will be the face of the newly updated $10 bill which makes me believe in this world and that with all the awful things that we tend to focus on that there is push and movement and evolution and change and challenging of social norms and love and authenticity and pride and growth. (CHECK OUT THIS SITE TO SEE ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN 2015)

Speaking of good: I believe 2016 should be the year you hug more people, hold doors for strangers never expecting a thank you, research (RESEARCH!) and read and think and discuss and then research more and then read more and then reflect more before you begin to glue together an opinion of others or about others’ lives and then express it to the public.

2016 should be the year we save lives. I believe 2016 is the year people stop calling others and themselves “fat” and also accept that it’s OK to start calling boys “pretty” as often as we tell girls they are pretty. Maybe 2016 can be the year more start looking at colors, descriptive words and gender roles as social constructs that hinder some being their true selves. 2016 should be the year we stop losing our minds over store’s toy aisles going gender-less and that Starbucks cups aren’t Christmas-y enough. Instead, we should use that powerful rage to shake the underlying plate tectonics of society to make an earthquake of change all across the world.

2016 should be the year we write thank you notes or letters or just use our handwriting instead of always using a damn emoji to express ourselves to others. BTW: Nothing against emojis! I especially enjoy you, poop.

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But, really, 2016 should be the year we all stop living in the house of fear and start living in the mansion of love. That’s my goal, and I hope you move in there with me.

And if you do, I get the bigger bedroom.

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It was awesome.

I WAS ON THE SAME STAGE SARAH SILVERMAN STOOD ON.

Bucket list, CHECK.

[NOTE: “Prestine” is the same as “pristine” but better because I made it up and it means prettier than pristine. So bye.]

Did you know that the United Nations designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography? MmmHmm. True Story. I don’t know what the hell “Crystallography” is either, but WOAH (Psst. It’s the study of crystals.).

Did you also know that it was the year The United Nations also celebrated the five-year anniversary of me mocking up this little cute year reviews.

Thank you. Thank you.

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Thank you, Mr. President, thank you so very much.

OH MY GOD STOP IT. I SAID THANK YOU. UGH.

It was also the year of the horse, the year the word “culture” went all pop culture, Ebola went airborne and Malaysia Air vanished mid air. It was the year this infamous selfie broke the internet and so did Kim Kardashian’s booty (Supposedly.).

It was the year of The Beyoncé And Solange And Jay Z Elevator Situation went down. It was the year of the ALS challenge, U2 snuck on our smart phones without asking, and the unauthorized “Saved By the Bell” documentary dropped. It was the same year I dropped all my “Saved By The Bell” knowledge like a boss over at MTV!

It was the year Korea was all “NOT THAT MOVIE OR ELSE SONY GETS IT”. It was the year “The Comeback” came back! It was the year READING RAINBOW ALSO CAME BACK!

It was the year we lost Robin Williams, Shirley Temple, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Joe Rivers. It was the year Anti-Taylor-Swift fans were rebirthed in to SWIFTIES FOR LIFE because of her new pop album that blows minds like bullets in to watermelons.

It was also the year scientists went the utmost depths of the ocean and discovered a new species of ghostly fish we didn’t even know existed, Curiosity made it to Mars, and proven facts that HIV can be removed from DNA cells were unveiled.

It was the year I fell in love with this song:

This song:

And this song:

And this one and this one.

It was the year I LIVED for this gif:

This gif:

This one:

Oh, and SO SO this one:

Are These The 43 Funniest GIFs Of All Time?

It was the year this vine was on repeat:

And this empowering statement by Academy Award Winner Lupita Nyong’o was my mantra:

“May winning remind me and every little child that no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid. “

It was the year I shared my 1-year wedding anniversary with this hunk:

Climbed elevations and grand heights to see some of most awe-inspiring relics in Machu Picchu:

Got to see our nation’s capital for the first time:

Hit up St. Maarten for some airplane close ups:

And also made some stops in St. Kitts, Haiti, and Arubu. We said “HI!” in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Miami.

Then I moved in to this gem of a vintage masterpiece:

With this ***flawless family:

And made the place look like this:

And I’d be remiss to forget that it was the year I GOT TO SEE BEY THIS CLOSE IN CONCERT:

It was the year we learned that racial divides/sexual identity misunderstandings are still terrifyingly alive. It was the year that we learned such lives are taken because of those misunderstandings. It was the year we learned new vocabulary when speaking about such differences so we can motivate change in ourselves and others. It was the year that so many of us fought for understanding, enlightenment and courage to overcome hate and death and violence and our own biases so we can stop repeating such horrid mistakes in the world.

It was the year personal, professional, and emotional challenges pushed me and my family in to stronger and more forgiving people.It was the year of unveiling new life-long friendships, celebrating those that have lasted over the years, and appreciating the moments of connectivity offered to us so we can stay in touch with those afar.  It was also the year of learning that not all motives of others are what they seem, and yet, it was the year to forgive those whose motives were spiteful in order to spend time concentrating on the good around us we so often ignore.

It was the year I finished a draft of my first book,  learned the excitement of becoming a teacher and the education field and also the absolute terrors of facing a new career in the new future. It was also the year I taught a child to read when her struggles were making it an absolute nightmare. It was the year she hugged me and said, “You made me all better.”

It was the year I can confidently state that I believe I have found my purpose as a person: To teach. To inspire. To promote individual beliefs through discover, thinking, and reflecting. To write to make others laugh. To create to make others feel. To slow the eff down and look at each day with a sense of HOLY KAPOW I GET TO DO THIS ALL AGAIN WITH ALL THESE GREAT PEOPLE IN THIS GREAT PLACE IN MY GREAT HEALTH.  #Lucky

I hope 2015 brings everyone that same discovery. Through fear, frustration, fun, and fedication (sorry, dedication doesn’t start with an “f” but alliteration is my favorite!), I hope all of you find that place I have slowly started to settle in to: Happiness in the heart. Happiness in the home. Happiness in the life.

I’m sorry. Did Taye Diggs start following you on Twitter? CAUSE HE JUST STARTED FOLLOWING ME. The end.

Can we talk about why this infamous wisdom isn’t on a poster yet?

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by
scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own meandering
experience…I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you
imagine. Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing everyday that scares you Sing Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with
people who are reckless with yours. Floss Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes
you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with
yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you
succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe
you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t
congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your
choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body,
use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people
think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever
own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for
good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live
in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund,
maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one
might run out. Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will
look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than
it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen…

My first book as an itty bitty infant. If you listen closely you can hear it “coo” out “I have all of Byron’s secrets right in these here pages.” Hear it?

he squeezes the Sriracha bottle and it makes that wet-fart splashy FFFFBLERFFFFPTTT noise and he looks at you with the same kind of fear you’d think he’d look at you with if the world had just announced that no more fresh water existed on the planet and that we were all going to dry up like banana peels in the sun in only a matter of days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then he says, “We do have back up of this stuff, right?”

You nod with a “We just won the war on taste” confidence because after you read an article about the Sriracha plant possible going down for a while, so you stocked up like it was the last bottled water on Earth.

You then see his fear subside as he smiles a all-spicy-is-safe-and-sound smile and enjoys his last bit of Thai food sans any fear.

Maho Beach in St Maartens, 2014 [ AKA,THE COOLEST BEACH EVER.]

OK, like, I put plants in the ground.

OK, like, I put two plants in a ground.

OK, like, I put two plants in the ground that had already biodegradable soil pots. So I barely got my hands dirty — maybe a bit of soil under the nails.

But, technically, I planted a garden. I FELT THE EARTH IN MY HANDS.

Sure, I was a 4-H kid and grew up in Wisconsin, but it’s been years (20!?!) since I’ve confidently made something bust through dirt and ate it that I planted on my own. I’ve spent fifteen years of my adult life in a city where there’s more concrete than trees and more cabs than cows. I literally used to use my oven as a wine holder in my studio apartment off Lake Shore Drive back in Chicago.

So, here I sit IN MY OWN BACKYARD imagining what a conversation would be like between me now and the ten-year-ago-me:

Me Now: “Hi, I’m your future Byron.”
Me 10 years ago: “Hey, I’m hungover want to get brunch?”
Me Now: “Nah, I’m busy starting a garden at our new house.”
Me 10 Years Ago: “Wait. You don’t want brunch… so you aren’t having vegetables delivered to your studio apartment that come pre-chopped anymore?! AND YOU HAVE DIRT TO PUT STUFF IN TO? Where do they have that in Chicago?”
Me Now: “Oh, ha. You don’t live in Chicago anymore.”
Me 10 Years Ago: “Wait, I don’t live… well then where do I live??!”
Me Now: “In LA with your husband?”
Me 10 Years Ago: “Oh, wow… LA, huh… that’s… WAIT — A HUSBAND!??!”
Me Now: “Yup.”
Me 10 Years Ago: “This is all too much… I can’t compute this. I can’t even wrap my head around any of this because time travel does not work on my brain after last night’s 4am party fest. Seriously, you don’t want brunch ’cause I’m, like dying. Then you can tell more more about my future?”
Me Now: “Nope, sorry I have tomato plants to hover over. Bye!”
Me 10 Years Ago: “Well come back and visit me when you learn how to grow Bongo Room’s white-chocolate-pretzel packages in your backyard. Wait, before you go! Can you tell me something:  Is my husband hot?”
Me Now: “Uh, Duh.”

The end.
*bows*