Before we start, I have to prepare you that this post is going to be heavy at the beginning, but I am going to to my best to climb up to the lighter fare by the end.  Spoiler alert, it involves the Thriller dance!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I'm not sure if you noticed that I haven't been posting at the rate I produced in past years.  In fact, it was maybe a quarter of previous years, so yeah I definitely feel like I'm in an inspiration funk.  And I think that this year, while it has had some great moments, a consensus might agree that the good times got overshadowed in the last few months here in the U.S.. When I saw this cartoon in The New Yorker on December 8th and thought it was both funny and distressingly accurate for me at this moment:

This has been quite a year, especially with my proximity to the Nation's capitol.  It's hard to hide from the black cloud of what is mistaken for democracy and politics today.

OK, warning, I'm now going to step up onto my dais for a moment.  Skip this and the following 2 paragraphs if you're not into politics, the one after gets back to business. Alright, you're still here? Can we all agree that the Presidential election took a huge toll on 2016?  I'm not going to lie to you, I am seriously dismayed by all that occurred and all that continues to occur.  I know this isn't the forum for political discussion, but I am legitimately affected by the uncertainty that has been created by the election outcome and the behavior being displayed during this transition period, by my elected leaders and by casual citizens.  I am adapting to a position where, unlike every other election in which I voted, the person taking office (regardless of party affiliation) is someone that I don't respect as a person, is a blatant serial liar with no remorse, has not demonstrated a fitness or a willingness to become fit for the job of President, and has questionable motivations.  The elected President has promoted himself as a superior businessman when facts do not support that statement, has consistently shown his inability to read a news report and make an educated assessment as demonstrated by his moronic comments on Twitter of all places, surrounds himself with alarming advisors, stubbornly refuses to condemn the bad behavior of his hate-based extremist supporters, and in general does not seem to be taking the new position seriously.

Before Nov. 8th, as an independent person not registered with either the Democratic or Republican party I had voted in 5 elections for the person I felt best fit the role at that time, but I can say I've been aware of the President and the importance of the position as early as the 1988 election (who could forget those bushy Dukakis eyebrows!). Of those 5 elections in which I previously cast my vote, my preferred candidate did not always win. But despite not being on the side of the winning candidate, I still respected all of my President elects' fitness for the job, appreciated their consistency for acting maturely and thoughtfully with others and during public speeches, and had the confidence that they had the intelligence to comprehend and respect the severity and consequences of classified information, sensitive foreign policies, and expected norms of behavior when it comes to being gracious in other cultures.  The elected President hasn't even been sworn into office and my confidence in my country's future is dashed and my pride for my country bruised. Instead of surrounding himself with the best and the brightest to accommodate for his political (and general) shortcomings, he is identifying people with questionable histories and motives for the top positions who are unqualified. Meanwhile the rumors around D.C. suggest support staff who traditionally would jump at the chance to serve their president are apprehensive of the day they actually get the phone call to come interview. So basically, the best and the brightest are refusing to work for the administration.  No Toby,  no Josh, no Sam, and no CJ.  (Yes, I've been binge watching The West Wing this month.)

Perhaps this is why I'm feeling a bit melancholy because I spend so much energy trying to keep up with it all and educate myself on the policies and history behind the issues, being often crudely discussed over Twitter by the President elect, due to the shift in my perceived security. I can no longer profess confidence that my Executive Branch of government is capable of having "my back" in a crisis because the assembled team is so lacking and even if it wasn't, the final call comes down to someone who, thinking he's already in charge, is playing a game of "I'm not touching you" with China for the fun of it inappropriately over social media. Stepping off of dais now because it's starting to feel a very superficial in comparison to the atrocities happening just this month in Syria, the loss of life in some of my favorite European cities because of selfish terrorists, and the tragic losses of life here at home from gun violence and other unprovoked attacks.  Yeah, while not the worst year ever when put into centuries of perspective, it sucked!

Now that I'm back on the ground from my soap box, those who skipped the previous paragraphs were probably wise.  It was depressing!  To counter, 2016 was definitely not all doom and gloom, and it had some intensely bright highlights for me.  While adding to my tally of lifetime Mumford & Sons concerts attended (+4 and a solo Marcus performance!), my friends and I were shocked and amazed to see a photo posted after one of the concerts showing us cheering in the front row.  Ty Johnson is a fantastic photographer that often shoots the shows for the band, and it was at a concert in Queens, NY where he got the perfect audience perspective and captured pure joy on all of our faces.  I can't thank him enough for taking this shot and for sharing it with me.

Ty wasn't the only one getting some fun shots at the concerts.  I got some from my view as well!

I also got to further explore one of my other obsessions, Hamilton: an American Musical, by not only seeing it two more times on Broadway but sharing the "first timer" experience with my cousin and one of my best friends.  On top of the show itself, and I may have to say an even better experience than seeing the show again, was going to see Lin Manuel Miranda perform with his friends and improv group: Freestyle Love Supreme.  I had only seen one other member of the group perform before, the beatboxer Shockwave, and I was just blown away with Utkarsh (UTK) and Anthony (Two Touch) as well as Arthur Lewis and James Igleheart.  Chris Jackson, another founding member of the group, couldn't make it to the show because he was still performing as George Washington in Hamilton.

Rounding out the entertainment recap, what an enormously fun opportunity to see another of my favorite bands back performing in a small club where they toured in the early 1990s.  Yea Green Day!

Last year, I didn't really have a normal set of resolutions, rather a five item to-do list that I thought would generate big personal returns.

1. Travel to new places - check
2. Cancel my cable TV account - sort of check
3. Create a website for my photography - check
4. Bake more - I'm in a baking funk
5. Get healthy - sort of check

Hopefully you've seen my posts about these places already, but I'll give the quick and dirty review. This year I finally got to see, first hand, the beautiful Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada for the first time after lusting after photos for years on Instagram.  I went there expecting to be wowed by all of the turquoise lakes like Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and Lake Louise.

But, the photo I love the most from that week was from atop the Canadian Rockies, with Mt. Assiniboine peeking out from behind two peaks.  If you read my post from the other day with my favorite photos from the year, you may have already known this.

The year started off weird because I went back to the Sundance Film Festival and the vibe was really off compared to previous years.  The ticketing process was new and broken, so we weren't able to get passes or film screening tickets. The actors wandering about were scarce. The non-actor people visiting were there even less for the films and more for the Hollywood spectacle. At least the snow conditions were good, and as a bonus my friend and I missed out on having to dig out of 20+ inches of snow back home! The winter also provided a couple of other opportunities to get my skis onto some fresh snow, so I was really happy about that - especially considering that it was my first season back on the slopes after having ACL replacement surgery last Spring.  New knee worked just fine!

Let's see...Canada, NYC, Colorado, Hawaii, Nashville...yeah pretty awesome year for traveling. And the year rounded out with another new stamp on my Passport from New Zealand.

Cancel Cable:
I said this was a sort of checked box because my bill was cut in half.  Alas, I still needed internet, so there was a great package for super fast internet with standard definition basic TV that I chose.  I do find myself watching less live TV because I no longer have a DVR, so I have to watch all the commercials AND be home at the time the show.  Starting new shows basically presents more hassles and timing issues, which has resulted in less shows to watch.  Except for "This is Us" on NBC.  That show is outstanding!  Watch it if you haven't already!

Photography Website:
Here it is!  Please check it out.  I put new photos on there as much as I can.  I will post the New Zealand ones sometime in January.

Bake More: 
No really, I can't explain this one.

Get Healthy:

As is always the case, some progress made, but no goals met.

Starting Fresh in 2017

How cute is this planner??!!

It's got a monthly set of daily fitness and food trackers, places to set short- and long-term goals, and spots for inspiration and assessments.  It's also very aesthetically pleasing.

Here are a few other things I want to add to my to-do list for 2017:

I want to learn the Thriller dance

I want to take a storytelling class

I want to learn something new....maybe tap dancing?

I want to incorporate yoga more into my routine, or stretching at the very least.

And I want to get my belay certification at the local rock gym so I can climb again.

Then, of course, the standard annual goals for travel (I want to get more stamps on my passport and visit more national parks) and fitness still apply.  Currently, I'm getting into the workouts at Orange Theory Fitness, so that will probably dominate the first half of the year.  I've got a few other goals for 2017 that I can't share now, but I hope they will have some huge impacts!

Thanks as always for joining me on my journey.  Maybe some of my adventures and other posts have inspired you in 2016 or may make their way into your ideas for 2017.  Feel free to ask me questions and travel advice if you need some.  And now it's time to head to Disneyland to finish off 2016 at the "Happiest Place on Earth" and start 2017 with a little magic courtesy of Harry Potter and a mug of butterbeer.