Why yes, my astute and observant blog readers, I did blow right past my Thanksgiving Day blog this year, and waved farewell to my Christmas Day blog,* but I will not—WILL NOT, I TELL YOU—neglect my decade-long tradition of the New Year’s Day blog!
*in an ironic twist, I found a Taylor Pork Roll section at the supermarket less than a mile from my house, so the Taylor Ham Saga was far less exciting this year.
If you haven’t seen the barrage of my social media posts this year, you might not know that 2021 has been an eventful year. And while there are many ways to slice this pie, I’m going to try to capture the major moments as concisely as possible. So, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson, “Hold onto your butts” because this list is going to be a doozy. I give you:
The Top 10 Noteworthy Life Events of 2021
In November of 2020 I listened to a sermon by Christine Caine about St. Paul’s journey to Rome. “Take me to Caesar!” Paul had said, as this was his destiny of sorts, but little did he know he must first be shipwrecked off Malta because the captain and crew ignored his advice to stay on Crete (advice that I, too, would have given, but for different reasons). In short, God brought this sermon to mind in January in order to speak to my circumstances and ask me to stop staring at the remnants of my broken -ship; instead, I needed to be present on Malta. Perhaps like St. Paul, by serving the people of Malta—where I had also been metaphorically stranded—God would supply a new ship to take me to Rome.
This was an important, and ultimately prophetic, moment that set the stage for the entire year.
2. Wrote a list
Nothing is more romantic in the month of St. Valentine than to write a list of impossible characteristics you’re looking for in a partner. At the suggestion of two friends, I wrote such a list, taking tips from Sandra Bullock’s character in Practical Magic who asks for a guy with one green eye and one blue. I wrote down “Half-Greek, half-Scottish,” and a myriad of other very specific traits, including: a graduate of seminary, someone who loves God, has blue eyes and brown hair, reads my writing, is self-aware and willing to communicate about his thoughts and emotions,*** etc. You see the impossibility of such a list already.
***I wouldn’t dare use the phrase “emotional intelligence” after Bachelor contestant Taylor used it so excessively I wanted to take off my shoe and throw it her, but this quality is so rare that anyone who desires it might as well be asking to date a polka-dotted unicorn with stars for eyes and glitter that shoots out of its horn.
3. Celebrated a Golden Anniversary
That’s right, my cute little parents have been married for 50 years! We spent the weekend together in Santa Fe, had wine every day at happy hour, went skiing (me and Dad), got our nails done (me and Mom), ate delicious food and drank dark sipping-chocolate, and even went to an Orthodox service.** If you want the full story, you can check out their anniversary blog, where you’ll also find a link to the video I compiled for them, from 60+ friends and family members who sent messages of love and congratulations. It is the pinnacle of my video achievement (followed closely by the Scavenger Hunt video I made en route to Egypt).
**now that I think about it, this sounds more like a trip for Jenny than for my parents.
4. Sent a friend request
Facebook may be the devil’s handiwork, but God sure used it to aid in my insanity/desperation to find a man. I’ll just let you watch this video to see what I mean. (Also, if Stavronikitas is out there reading this, I’m sorry I creeped on your profile like stage-four clinger, and thank you for bringing me and Rob together.)
5. Experienced my first Greek Pascha
Remember that time I flew Frontier and our airplane had no door? That was my Pascha trip. (Pascha means “Passover,” which is where we get the phrase Paschal Lamb, and is also used to mean Easter.) Over the course of four days, I spent roughly 18 hours in church, but I realized the Orthodox know what’s UP. Ain’t no party like a resurrection party! Flowers! Laurel leaves! Bay leaves! Candles! Bells! Singing! It was definitely the most profound Easter experience I’ve had to date, and not just because I got to listen to Rob chant through it all…but that certainly didn’t hurt 😉
6. Wrote a cover story
It’s safe to say that for 34 years and 11 months of my life, I knew nothing about American barbecue, and when I was asked to write a cover story for Providence Monthly about the BBQ scene in Lil’ Rhody’s capital city, I feigned interest and said I’d love to. That incited a full-blown panic attack in which I hyperventilated on the phone to my boyfriend and posted urgent requests for help on Instagram until I received many assurances that I could do this and friends would be willing to come alongside me and eat smoked meat.
The print issue is beautiful, but you can read the online version here. FUN FACT: a friend named Svetlozar Zhelev asked if he could include this story in his global anthology about food. His book Опитай това (“Try This”) is available online, though I’m pretty sure everything has been translated into Bulgarian. But look, Ma, I’m an internationally published author!
7. Lost an appendix
Although I claimed it was because of an overabundance of cheese, I think cheese was only a coincidental factor (as my appendicitis was far more likely due to a chimi crawl I did for the sake of magazine research). You can follow the link above to the full story.
8. Got engaged!!!!!!!!
This ought to be its own blog, something titled, How to Prod and Question Your Boyfriend Until You Guess Part of His Secret Proposal Plan, but the nutshell version is this: Rob flew into Rhode Island eight hours earlier than I expected, surprising me at my office and taking me out for a day in Providence—including lunch at Aleppo Sweets, a restaurant I have a special connection to, and a walk through downtown, a gondola ride along the Providence River, and a sunset proposal in Prospect Park…overlooking the city I love. Although I might have pieced together Rob’s early arrival time due to the fact that “hopeless romantic” and “borderline psychopath” are synonymous descriptions for the way my mind operates, he still caught me completely off-guard with the proposal.
The caption for my social media post after his proposal was, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes,” and Rob has continued to ask me every day, sometimes multiple times a day, if I will marry him—in an effort to reach a thousand. Consider this as 100 more yesses, Robert ❤
9. Became Orthodox
This is a journey I began last summer, in July of 2020. It’s funny: I know a lot of men who went to church for the first time because they had a crush on a Christian girl; I guess I can say I first went to the Orthodox Church because I had a crush on an Orthodox boy. Perhaps it’s not the most noble of reasons, but if God can use “Christian, Greek, and Single” to get me into the doors, He’s probably got a plan for all y’all, too.
One could argue that my journey actually began six years ago on the balcony of Archodissa in Greece, when my friend Nina said, “Jenny, I think you’re Orthodox. Have you ever considered attending the Orthodox Church?” (to which I promptly replied, “No, I’m good, thanks”). In any event, my parents and I began the year of 2021—as in, January 1st at 9:00am—with the liturgy of St. Basil at St. George’s church in Albuquerque, and I even had my first Vasilopita! (I did not get the slice of bread that had a coin in it, which was disappointing since I thought it would confer luck for the rest of the year…).
So it was, on October 10th I became christened Genevieve and was welcomed into the Orthodox Church, supported by Rob, my mom, the aforementioned Nina, my sister Zemen, and friends and family from Rhode Island and across the country. I felt so loved and supported, and I’m grateful to everyone who walked with me on the way.
10. Jumped out of a box
This may not rank high on anyone else’s list of noteworthy life events, but if you’ve ever imagined an event, and it is executed EXACTLY the way you hoped it would be, it is the most extraordinary experience! That’s what happened for Rob’s birthday (which also happens to be his roommate Q’s birthday, too!)
I thought it would be fun to return the show-up-at-the-workplace surprise for him on his birthday, especially since he wouldn’t be expecting it as I had just traveled to Orlando the week before for Thanksgiving. The first person I contacted was Q, and then his landlord, and then the people at his office. By the time I actually arrived in Orlando, everyone except Rob knew I was coming, so I’m really impressed by the level of secrecy everyone maintained.
The day before I arrived, I had this wacky idea that a box could be “delivered” to his office. The admin could call him to the front door, bada-bing, bada-boom, Jenny is inside. Surprise! But Q helped me take it to the next level. She not only found the box, wrapped the box, stored the box, and picked me up from the airport, she also filmed the entire thing. Here’s the beginning-to-end surprise, but if you want just the “jumping out of a box” part, it’s at min 6:57.
BONUS CONTENT: The Notable Lasts
I’ve noted this in a previous blog, but I once read a story in which the author asserts that “firsts” are always known, marked, photographed, noted: our first words, our first steps, our first recitals, our first graduation. But our lasts are often given no ceremony, no recognition, until they have passed and exist only a memory; it’s hard to plan ahead for lasts.
But as my time as a single person ends, and my time in Rhode Island ends, heck—even my time as a nearly blind person ends (I’ll be getting corrective eye surgery in January!), I’ve been acutely aware of the lasts. The last Motif article I submitted, the last food tour I gave, the last day at work with Armanda, the last Christmas in Roswell with my parents. There are some that have already passed without my realizing it (my last Black Raspberry ice cream scoop from Lincoln Creamery, my last 8-mile run on the bike trail, my last Rhode Island beach day) and there are more “lasts” to come in the next few weeks.
This brings to mind some advice from an old friend, that whether or not time feels like it’s passing quickly or slowly, what’s important is that it passes beautifully. When life feels sweet, time seems to move so quickly, and when things are difficult, time could not. possibly. move. slower. But here’s what 2021 taught me: even if I begin the year thinking, “This is not at all where I want to be…shipwrecked off Malta,” God shows me that great things can come from unexpected or unwanted detours. In fact, maybe even the best things.
Therefore, if you find yourself on Malta this year—and for the record, I have no beef with Malta (in fact, I’d love to visit someday!)—the metaphorical Malta of your life, I hope that you can find a way to be present and see what God has for you to do in this place. He might just surprise you.