2015: In a Nutshell.

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Hello2016

My goodness- here we are again! Another year has come and gone in what feels like the mere blink of an eye and we’ve arrived at another New Year’s Eve, just a few short hours away- where it will be spent reflecting and celebrating the past 365 days and making hopeful wishes and promises for the next 366 days (leap year!)– before 2015 is a thing of the past and a shiny and sparkling brand new year is here with all it’s mystery and endless possibilities.

Indeed, I’m a little anxious for 2016. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I’m eager for it to begin- not only because it marks the year I will be turning thirty (gasp!) and I’m actually quite excited to enter a new decade of my life with all the wisdom I’ve gained over the past ten years of laughter, tears, triumphs, tragedies and PLENTY of mistakes (and believe me- I’ll have a post up with all of those juicy details and some well-intentioned advice within a couple of weeks just for the occasion!) but because, overall- 2015 was a bit rough for me- and I don’t believe it would be an exaggeration to say it was possibly one of the more difficult years I’ve had since my father’s untimely death in 2012.

Don’t get me wrong- 2015 wasn’t all bad. It really wasn’t- and I’m truly grateful that I had/have it considerably better than many others who aren’t as fortunate as I am and who undoubtedly faced way worse circumstances than I did. I’m just summarizing my own personal experiences over the past twelve months. I had my fair share of fun, adventures, and my usual brand of sarcasm and silliness with friends, family, and strangers alike. I accomplished a great deal within my field and at work and pulled off some truly rewarding collaborations with different companies and fellow bloggers here on “Legally Redhead”- but it felt as though the year was also chock-full of more-often-than-usual challenges and maybe a brief bout of bad luck for a short period of time.

I was unexpectedly laid off from my place of employment of just over five years in the midst of budgeting cuts this past Fall (but, on the brighter side- I quickly found employment elsewhere! I’m still currently getting situated within my new office and position), plagued by consistent car issues that required substantial and expensive repairs, saw drastic changes to my love life and personal relationships (I plan to blog more about those experiences in the future), and spent a good portion of 2015 really tackling my anxiety issues head-on- which proved to be utterly exhausting at times (and is something else I plan on blogging about eventually, too!)

… It also didn’t help much that I spent most of the first few weeks/couple of months of this past year completely buried under snow during what was unquestionably New England’s worst winter in a very, very long time. I swear, I was starting to slip into Jack Torrance mode for a little while there. “All work and no play makes Ashley a dull girl…”

But I digress- I endured and emerged unscathed, and I grew more as a well-rounded person with the knowledge I obtained from each experience I went through this past year- good AND bad. I’m ready to begin 2016 with a clean slate- and with new goals and aspirations to work and strive towards. I’m excited, maybe even a little nervous- but ready!

But before I get to my resolutions for the coming year and my final thank you’s of 2015- I wanted to complete a small round-up of some of the biggest news stories, pop culture happenings, trends, and general craziness that transpired over this past year.

This is 2015, in a nutshell:

MassShootingMap

Image via PBS.

Mass shootings occurred ALL THE TIME: As I write this, there have been a total of 355 mass shootings in 2015 within the United States alone. Movie theaters, college campuses, churches, restaurants, medical facilities and most recently- an office building in San Bernardino- which took place just days after an attack on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs that left three dead, including a responding police officer. It seemed that no public place was off limits from attack or truly safe this past year- prompting more heated debates between gun control advocates and those who feverishly support citizens’ rights to bear arms despite the fact that the Second Amendment was written way before assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons were even conceived and muskets that took twenty minutes to load and fire were still a thing.

The seemingly never ending shooting sprees have also sparked controversy as to how the media reports on them- and specifically- the responsible shooter(s.) While violence perpetrated by any non-white person often results in broad generalizations for anyone who looks like the suspect (i.e.- any crime committed by a someone of Middle Eastern descent causes any and all Muslims to be labeled as violent terrorists), white male shooters are often described as “troubled lone wolves” by news outlets and humanized with accounts of their difficult childhoods or marital/financial struggles.

As of now- the final day of 2015- it seems that the heated debates (and ugly Facebook arguments between relatives and former high school classmates) hasn’t made any difference whatsoever, and the push for proactive change will continue on into 2016. The question remains, however- how many more innocent people will have to die before it finally happens?

Image via TIME Magazine.

Image via TIME Magazine.

The United States wasn’t the only place that saw unspeakable acts of violence: All eyes were on the City of Love in 2015 as Paris was attacked by terrorists not once, but twice. The first, a January 7th shooting that took place within the offices of controversial satirical newspaper- Charlie Hebdo- which left 12 dead and resulted in a massive two-day manhunt until the suspects were eventually located in Northern France and killed when they began to fire at approaching authorities.

The second attack, carried out in November with mass shootings and multiple suicide bombings across Parisian cafes, restaurants, France’s National stadium during a soccer match- and the Bataclan Theatre in the middle of a performance by the band Eagles of Death Metal- resulted in 130 deaths and over 300 injuries- marking it as the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II.

Both attacks were carried out by radicalized Islamic extremists, prompting leaders across the globe to come together in the aftermath and attempt to figure out a swift and effective strategy for dealing with ISIL. Meanwhile, horrified onlookers from around the world joined in support and to show their solidarity with France and the people of Paris as they attempted to move forward from such unfathomable anguish and horror.

SyrianRefugeeCrisis2015

Image via CNN.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: With ISIS/ISIL wreaking havoc with coordinated attacks and sheer brutality throughout 2015- civilians in some of the hardest hit areas of Syria began fleeing their homes and families by the thousands- risking their lives as they crossed treacherous territory and oceans to seek safety and refuge in other countries. While many European nations welcomed them with open arms and an overwhelming show of support and compassion- some areas closed their borders to the plight of the less fortunate, citing fear of unknowingly allowing terrorists posing as refugees into their land where they could potentially attack innocent civilians. Following November’s attacks in Paris, when it was reported one of the responsible terrorists was found with Syrian refugee documentation on them- a handful of Governors across the United States also vowed to ban further refugees from obtaining citizenship.

The coverage of the crisis spiked, however- when multiple, disturbing, and sobering photos of small children who had drowned with their desperate families while attempting to cross bodies of water to safer locations and who had washed ashore began circulating among news outlets and on social media- prompting many officials to finally take a long look at themselves, commit to a course of action- and assist those in need. Recently, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, personally welcomed a plane of Syrian refugees to Canada- offering them warm words of encouragement and winter coats as they disembarked to begin their new lives in a new, and safer country.

Image via Business Insider.

Image via Business Insider.

A leathery looking clown with bad hair and an inability to apply bronzer properly decided he wanted to run for President: Donald Trump- of reality TV and gaudy skyscraper fame- and who is no stranger to controversy after openly criticizing and questioning every decision President Obama has ever made throughout the entirety of his term thus far (as well as his citizenship), decided this past year that he was going to “make America great again” and run for President himself in 2016. Although Donald has been incapable of providing a single viable solution to any of the multitude of problems and concerns plaguing the country right now (and no, forcing Mexico to build a wall along the border isn’t a feasible answer to immigration concerns, Mr. Trump)– his campaign has essentially dissolved into nothing more than outbursts of insults, bigotry, racism, and sexism. His most recent proposal- the banning of any and all Muslims from entering the country- drew comparisons to Adolf Hitler and his rise to power, which Trump has since shrugged off as “no big deal.”

Unfortunately, using fear and intimidation tactics has somehow worked in Trump’s favor- and he’s gained quite a fan following despite being a real life version of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ parody character and despite the rest of the GOP collectively shunning him and his antics. Whether he’ll continue onto the actual election remains to be seen (I’m hoping he throws in the towel and soon since I’m sick of seeing him and hearing about him) but he definitely made headlines this past year- and not in a good way.

Image via Vanity Fair.

Image via Vanity Fair.

The world met Caitlyn Jenner for the first time: In a year that saw monumental strides in understanding and acceptance for the transgendered community, perhaps one of the most noteworthy stories was former Olympian and Kardashian-centric reality TV star Bruce Jenner’s public transition from male to female. Following a touching interview earlier this Spring with Diane Sawyer where Jenner discussed the difficulties of protecting oneself, family and friends while struggling with gender identity from an early age- Caitlyn was formally introduced via an editorial and cover shoot by Vanity Fair Magazine. Since then, Jenner has gone on to be presented with the Courage Award at the ESPYs and act as an advocate for transgendered youth while starring in her own reality show/mini-documentary, ‘I am Cait’.

Caitlyn is not without controversy, however- as some of her commentary on same-sex marriage and what she considers to be the priorities of females (i.e. clothes and makeup) have drawn heavy criticism and backlash. While she is still getting used to the media attention and the responsibilities that come with being a champion of transgender rights (like thinking very carefully before you speak or give an interview,) it’ll be interesting to see what Caitlyn accomplishes in 2016.

Image via Washington Post.

Image via Washington Post.

We got to see Pluto up-close and personal: Over the Summer, NASA’s ‘New Horizons’ probe performed a fly-by of everyone’s favorite, forgotten little dwarf planet- a mission over nine years in the making. As the probe passed by Pluto, capturing images while it floated on- what was once just a round and blurry speck in past photographs was now displayed in extensive and intricate detail. Craters, mountains, canyons, and a coloration that resembled a heart (Awww!) meant that the world got to see the surface of Pluto in a new and exciting way.

To make things even more interesting, further research showed that Pluto- like Earth- has blue skies and patches of icy water on it’s surface, which opens the door to even more discoveries that can be made about it’s atmosphere and the possibility of living organisms beyond our own planet. There’s still no definitive proof that extra terrestrials exist out there, but I’m going to go into X-Files mode and just say “I want to believe…”

Image via NY Daily News.

Image via NY Daily News.

Some people needed a reminder that the South lost the war: Following the June 17th mass shooting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a 21-year old white supremacist- which left nine churchgoers dead- multiple images of the shooter were promptly found depicting him posing while holding a handgun and/or the Confederate battle flag. While the subject of gun control was once again discussed at length in the aftermath of the attack (and again- nothing was done to change the current laws and regulations)– the topic of the Confederate Flag and it’s racist symbolism in American history was also brought to the forefront of controversial debates. Many agreed that the flag represented a dark and despicable time in the South’s past during the Civil War- but others argued that removing it from the front of the South Carolina State House was insulting to those who viewed it not as a flag celebrating racism- but as a relic from our Nation’s history.

Eventually, the South Carolina Senate caught up with the North- and the flag was removed from the State House in July (not counting activist Bree Newsome scaling the flagpole and removing it herself in late June before being arrested by officers who had been waiting below)– and major retailers pledged to stop selling items that featured the flag emblazoned on them.

BostonJuryVictory2015

Images via CNN & The Boston Globe.

2015 was the year Massachusetts’ jurors were NOT screwing around: If anyone living in or visiting Massachusetts this past year considered committing any type of violent and/or depraved crime while within state lines- all they had to do was tune into any of the three major trials that unfolded in the state throughout 2015 to realize that it probably wasn’t the best idea. April saw the conviction of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (and May saw his being sentenced to death for his federal offenses), only to be promptly followed up by the conviction and maximum sentencing of former New England Patriots’ tight end- Aaron Hernandez- for the 2013 murder of his friend and former football player, Odin Lloyd. Hernandez will be facing a second trial and additional charges in the coming months for his part in an unrelated 2012 double homicide.

Finally, the trifecta of justice was completed with a ‘GUILTY’ verdict for Philip Chism- a high school student who stalked, raped and murdered his math teacher- Colleen Ritzer- in October of 2013. The details surrounding Chism’s gruesome crime were especially disturbing- as was his “insanity” plea where he attempted to delay his trial for as long as possible with bizarre courtroom behavior. His sentencing for the first-degree murder conviction is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

Well done, Massachusetts jurors. Well done. Please continue the diligent work throughout 2016 and keep monsters like these off the streets.

Image via Tumblr.

Image via Tumblr.

The Kim Davis memes were fantastic: After June’s Supreme Court ruling that finally legalized same-sex marriage across the country, most of the nation celebrated the monumental equal rights win accordingly (and with a LOT of rainbows!) but all was not sunny and cheery in Kentucky, where county clerk, unapologetic bigot, and possible real life bridge troll- Kim Davis- found herself in some hot water by defying the ruling and denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, citing her religious beliefs as an excuse to not do her job.  Davis was promptly hit with multiple lawsuits by couples she had turned away, and was eventually found to be in contempt with the court’s order and taken into custody. Since her release and return to work under the stipulation that her office MUST issue marriage licenses to any and all couples- including same-sex couples- Davis and her legal team have filed appeal after appeal to stall the process- all of which have been shot down.

During Pope Francis’ visit to America in September of this past year, it was reported that he’d met privately with Davis. While Davis’ lawyer gave details of the meeting- insinuating that the Pope supported her actions and encouraged her to “stay strong”, the Vatican wasted no time in shooting down those rumors- and even went as far as to state that the meeting may have been manipulated by Davis and her Attorney.

The internet had a field day with Kim- be it for her unfortunate haircut and wardrobe choices, or the fact that it was revealed she has been married four times to three different men (making her more than a little hypocritical, no?) but the resulting memes were a hilarious highlight in an otherwise infuriating situation.

DeflateGate2015

Image via The Daily News.

Everyone was talking about Tom Brady’s balls: In one of the only NFL scandals in recent history that didn’t involve murder, rape, and/or domestic abuse- 2015 brought us “Deflategate”, AKA- the most unintentionally hilarious controversy in New England. Following the Patriots’ 45-7 annihilation of the Indianapolis Colts in mid-January, an unfounded accusation that the footballs used in the game had been deflated by the Patriots and/or their staff- thus giving them some sort of advantage over the Colts- began to fly. The rumors eventually grew serious enough that a full investigation was launched, resulting in quarterback Tom Brady giving the best press conference ever where he told a room of reporters just how he liked his balls to feel (and those of us in Massachusetts who are perpetually immature took it and ran with it.)

After the dreaded Wells Report was released, condemning Brady for having knowledge of misconduct- he was suspended for four games in what would be the 2015’s regular season. Brady went on to fight the decision- all the way to Federal Court- where his suspension was eventually thrown out in September. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has a lengthy history of poor decision making and questionable choices- once again was made to look like an incompetent fool- and The Patriots began what has since been dubbed their 2015/2016 Revenge Tour just a few days after the decision.

InMemorium2015

Collage compiled from images obtained through CNN, MSN, HTV, and E!

We lost a few folks along the way: Just like every year before this one, some familiar and beloved entertainers, musicians, and public personalities left us behind in 2015. Although the list is lengthy, and I acknowledge that I’ve unfortunately omitted quite a few names- a handful of celebrities who passed away this past year include classic film star Maureen O’Hara (aged 95), the King of slasher flicks, Wes Craven (aged 76), Whitney Houston’s only daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown (aged 22), the logical Mr. Spock – Leonard Nimoy (aged 83), the very funny comedienne Anne Meara (aged 85) and soul-singer Ben E. King of ‘Stand By Me’ fame (aged 76).

Image via Google.

Image via Google.

– HONORABLE MENTIONS – 

– Rachel Dolezal lied about her race, and the backlash was hilarious: When it was revealed that the the former president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, was not actually a black woman as she’d been portraying and promoting herself as- but of German and Czech descent- the fallout was a delicious blend of insanity, confusion, and hilarious reactions from social media (the #AskRachel tag was one of the best Twitter trends of 2015.) Dolezal, who resigned from her position shortly after being called out and confronted on her deception- maintains that she is a woman of color- attempting to make terms like “transracial” an actual thing while childhood photos of her with blonde hair and blue eyes have been plastered everywhere- but the internet doesn’t forgive so easily- and it certainly doesn’t forget.

– We bid farewell to David Letterman, ‘Mad Men’, and ‘The Daily Show’: 2015 was, in many ways, the end (and beginning) of a few TV eras. David Letterman retired from late night, passing his chair to Stephen Colbert who took the reins of ‘The Late Show’ in September. Over at AMC, the Emmy-winning powerhouse and 1960s drama ‘Mad Men’ aired it’s last- and slightly confusing- episode in May. And finally, Comedy Central saw a shift with it’s brilliant news program ‘The Daily Show’ when longtime host Jon Stewart stepped down from the program- giving newcomer Trevor Noah the chance to take over (and so far- it’s been pretty good!)

– The world collectively hated a dentist from Minnesota: When it was revealed in July that Cecil, a popular and beloved adult lion in Zimbabwe- had been lured away from his sanctuary and killed by a big game hunter- it didn’t take long for sleuths to track down the man who had paid an exorbitant amount of money to commit the act: an American dentist named Walter Palmer. It took even less time for Palmer and his practice to feel the wrath of the media- who condemned his multiple big game hunts and briefly sent him into hiding until the initial outrage blew over. Palmer’s Yelp page for his practice continues to receive negative ratings and reviews on a daily basis.

– Robert Durst “killed them all, of course”: With the staggering success of murder mystery podcasts like ‘Serial’ and real life crime dramas like ‘Homicide Hunter’, it was no surprise that all eyes were on Andrew Jarecki’s HBO miniseries- ‘The Jinx’- earlier this year. A 6-part documentary, ‘The Jinx’ detailed the bizarre life and trail of even more bizarre crimes that have followed eccentric real estate heir- Robert Durst- since the still-unsolved-disappearance of his first wife in the 1980s. What WAS a surprise, however- was Durst’s chilling confession (made unbeknownst to him when he failed to turn off his microphone post-interview with Jarecki after he was faced with severely damning evidence.) In the confession, Durst- between burping and mumbling- admits he had “killed them all.” He was arrested on first-degree murder charges a day before the finale- which featured the startling confession in it’s final minutes- aired.

– What color was that dress, anyway?: The nation has never been more divided than it was back in February, when a photo of a dress and accompanying question- what color was it?- went viral out of nowhere. While many agreed that the dress was blue and black (which it clearly was)– SOME PEOPLE (see: people who were wrong) argued that they saw gold and white when they looked at the photo. Thus, the debate to end all debates was kicked off- and everyone from celebrities, politicians, scientists, and even my own mother- weighed in on it. I don’t think any resolution was ever reached- but it sure was fun while it lasted.

– ‘Jurassic World’ was awesome, and ‘Prattkeeping’ was my favorite meme of 2015: ‘Jurassic Park’ was the first movie I ever saw in theaters as a kid, thanks to my dad disregarding the PG-13 rating- and it blew me away. I’d been anxiously awaiting the release of ‘Jurassic World’ earlier this Summer- and wasn’t disappointed in the least when I saw it during it’s opening weekend- but perhaps one of my favorite memes that resulted from the movie’s success was when zookeepers around the country uploaded photos of themselves posing with their animals, mimicking Chris Pratt’s iconic “raptor taming” pose. If you haven’t seen it- simply Google “Prattkeeping” and try your best not to laugh out loud.

And there it is- 2015 in a nutshell! As you can see, a lot has happened over these past twelve months- even more so when you take into consideration that my review barely scratched the surface of the year that was.

We now come to the trickiest part of preparing for a new year- and that’s the resolutions. I personally think I did a decent enough job at keeping most of my promises to myself in 2015- but as with anything else in life- there’s always room for improvement. After much reflection and careful review- taking many things into consideration- I think I’ve compiled a pretty good list and one loaded with things that I can actually accomplish in 2016!

1. Take better care of myself: Taking care of myself isn’t just limited to eating healthy, exercising, or getting enough sleep- although those are all things I plan on doing in the coming year, too. To me, taking better care of myself involves strengthening myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, too. I want to meditate more. I want to put myself and my feelings first now and then. I want to rid my life of people and things that bring me unnecessary stress and/or negativity- and instead surround myself with people and things that build me up, support me, value me for all my strengths and flaws, inspire me to be the best version of myself I can be- and encourage an overall healthy and stress-free lifestyle. I want to move forward and stop giving third, fourth or fifth chances to people who have hurt me- and I don’t want to let people take advantage of me. All in all, I want to be more confident in myself, stronger, and in a more peaceful and zen state of mind.

It won’t be easy, but 2016 and turning 30 means an all new chapter for me- one I’m determined to begin writing the right way.

2. Thrive at my career: I’ve only been at my new job for a few short weeks now, but I’m already really happy there. I love the laid-back environment. I truly enjoy the people I work with. I’m very appreciative of the benefits and the perks I receive- and I’m even more grateful for how fair and fun everything is thus far. 2016 is the year I plan to fully thrive within my new position and work hard to be the best employee I can be for an already established business that is looking to expand it’s horizons and grow. I’m excited to chase new opportunities and learn all that I can!

3. Relocate: I love where I live right now. I love who I live with, and I love my location- not only because it’s conveniently close to anything and everything from my job, restaurants, shops, music venues or even nature trails and hiking paths- but also because my city is sort of ingrained into who I am as a person. I have a lengthy history here. I have so many fond memories- but as I get older, I’m hoping to make a fresh start somewhere else and provide a different backdrop for that aforementioned new chapter in my life I’ll be writing in 2016. It could be anywhere from beautiful Western Massachusetts to somewhere as far as San Diego (or Las Vegas! You never know!) but I’m hoping to seek out a change of surroundings in the coming months.

4. Finally get my first tattoo: Long before my father passed away, I had wanted to get a tattoo. Of what, I wasn’t sure- since my ideas changed constantly- which is exactly why I hadn’t sat down and gone through with one yet for fear I’d regret it a week later. Since his death- I’ve had one single idea that has stayed consistent for a few years now. A subtle and small way to pay tribute to him on the inside of my wrist. In 2016, I’m hoping to finally get the ink done at one of the three local parlors I’ve been researching for a couple of months now. While I won’t give away too much- the tattoo features Beatles’ lyrics from one of the songs he and I used to sing together all the time.

5. Visit New Orleans!: Finally, I’d like to take a real, legitimate vacation in 2016 and visit one of the locations on my travel bucket list that I haven’t had the chance to see yet- New Orleans. I already have an itinerary of things I want to do/see, including a cemetery tour and attending a jazz performance since I’m such a big fan (and also eating so much food!) but I keep adding more and more to my plans so it’s shaping up to be a pretty busy week if and when I do decide to go. I’m thinking of heading down in mid-September, after the crowds disperse just a little bit- but we’ll just have to wait and see!

And with all that being said and all my resolutions, hopes, and aspirations in writing- I’m off to bid farewell to 2015 and welcome 2016 with wide, open arms! I’ll be ringing in the New Year in Nantucket this evening with my best friend- where we’re attending a 1900’s themed costume party. I’ve got my pearls and my crystals ready to go- but I’ve got to head out to catch the Ferry to the island!

I hope you all have a safe and wonderful New Year. I’ll be seeing you all in 2016!

xox

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