2021 Year End Reflections

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I started doing this 9 years ago. I enjoy how the practice helps me hold onto the important memories. Being able to read through my reflections from the past 9 years brings it all back! This practice also gives me a chance to be honest about what I’ve struggled with and confront unhealthy patterns I want to change.

If you want to do this also, please refer to my Guide for Year End Reflections!



10 Highlights

In no particular order, here are the top 10 things I want to remember for the good-feels they brought this year.

  1. My first authenticity review! I was contacted by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, to do an authenticity review for a young adult fiction novel coming out in 2022. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope I get more opportunities for this kind of work in the future.
  2. Two trips to Atlanta! I got to be a part of some cool projects that made me feel more important than I consider myself to be. So I’m not ashamed to say I’m relishing the good memories of these trips. During one trip I got to record a podcast in person with Latasha Morrison and that was amazing.

  3. Seeing my first family. My younger brother got married this year and I was able to attend the wedding. Spending time with him and our mom was really important to me. And of course getting to meet his amazing wife!

  4. Family & Friend Vacations. During the summer, the Henness family came to visit. There was epic water balloon fights and seeing my kids get to play with their cousins was beautiful. Then, right after that I was able to head to North Carolina for a friend vacation to meet so many of the ladies I’ve gotten to know via Be the Bridge work.

  5. DEI & Community Service. I got my DEI in the Workplace Certificate and was appointed to the DEI Advisory Committee for our city. I also volunteered with voting and recall efforts and got to know my neighbors better this year.

  6. Six Speaking Engagements & Six Podcasts! This amazed me because I’ve never thought of myself as a speaker. However, in 2021 I spoke at two, local in-person events (local AAPI Heritage Month + The Voices Project) and four virtual ones (Someday Is Here, Lenses Institute formerly ran by CRU, Identity Learning Community, and a LIVE Panel discussion series for Be the Bridge on Colin in Black & White. I was also on (or at least recorded for) six different podcasts.

  7. Chinese geneology progress. Last year I hired a researcher to help me find my ancestral hometown in Taishan. This year I finally got a report back with a promising lead. I’ll need to get more information for the researcher to go further.
  8. Publishing Journeying Home: Advent Readings for Adoptees. The best part of this was collaborating with other adoptees and getting to hear their perspectives on advent. I’m so thankful for the conversations that were started because of it as well.
  9. Home & property upgrades! The best purchase I made in 2021 was an automated irrigation system for our sustenance garden. This is the first year I felt like a real gardener (some have called me a farmer, ha!) and feel like I’m able to really grow foods we need! We also added a wood-burning stove, a live-edge dining table and a closet system for our bedroom to our home this year.

  10. Increased BIPOC community. This year I got to meet many BIPOC I’ve worked or conversed with virtually in real life! But also we had two local AAPI meet-up events and I met some new friends! One new friend is a Black woman farmer who owns Atypical Roots and I’ve been able to help her get her products listed online.

5 Disappointments

I used to write out 10 disappointments, which was challenging. It helped me dive into the smaller things that I regretted. But I really struggled to come up with a full 10. So I started focusing on the 5 biggest disappointments and what I could learn from them.

  1. Running out of time/resources. I started the year pouring a lot into the Adoptee Influencer Network’s behind-the-scenes stuff and had big plans for that. In the end, lack of collaborative support and needing to prioritize my own mental health and family transitions meant letting all those plans go. I struggled feeling like a failure because this but am coming to a place of accepting this isn’t the season and that’s ok.
  2. Not taking care of my body. It’s pretty embarrassing to recall how I used to be known as a marathon runner and personal trainer. But yes…I’m about 30lbs over my previous normal weight range. I’ve given myself grace. I don’t expect this to last forever. I’m not concerned about how I look. However, taking better care of my body will translate to having more mental and emotional health and stamina. And that is the truly important part to me.
  3. All the books I haven’t read. But I own. And they sit on the shelves. I have so many good books. I didn’t find the time to read hardly any this year. Again, I try to think of this as a seasonal thing with young kids who don’t allow me to focus or have a quiet moment. But I do really, truly, want to prioritize reading in 2022.
  4. Difficulties in key relationships. Vague on purpose for the blog post, but some of my key or core relationships aren’t what I wish they were. There is some personal responsibility I take on that and I want to reflect on what I could do better going forward.
  5. Circumstantial let-downs. Several times this year I have identified an obstacle, created a plan to overcome it, and then had my plans fail because of outside circumstances. Specifically, I’m referring to things like finding childcare or high-speed internet so I can work or exercise or have my therapy appointments. But then the people or places I was relying on make some kind of change and those options are no longer available. And I’m thrust back into the struggle bus that makes self-care and chasing dreams feel like a cruel joke.

3 Game Changers


  1. My oldest started Kindergarten. This shifted my husband’s work schedule and our daily life and “routines” in a big way. It’s impacted when and how our toddler gets a nap. It’s impacted when and if I’m able to get work done or run errands. It’s forced us to take more intentional time to check in on our oldest and help him make this big transition. It’s increased my sense of risk related to who and what my child is exposed to at a school that I can’t visit (COVID precautions) and has exceedingly poor communication on all fronts.
  2. We have housemates! In the middle of summer, two friends, plus their dog and bearded dragon, moved in. It’s definitely been an adjustment in terms of sharing space and resources. It’s been nice to have shared pizza nights or nights when they cook a meal for everyone. Our kids certainly love having other people to show off and talk to.
  3. Becoming a TRA Educator with Be the Bridge. While I started out as a volunteer with Be the Bridge, it became contract work in 2020. This year the contract was expanded with this additional role. It’s a game-changer because, for the first time, the amount I’m paid is over and above my cost of childcare, so it has a positive impact on our family’s budget. Also, it’s forcing me to consider how I will spend my time and energy going forward. I have some decisions to make.

3 Things I Focused On

  1. Micro-blogging. A few years ago I transitioned to using Instagram and Facebook to micro-blog more about adoption, race and faith. I’ve kept that up with few breaks, and it’s had it’s rewards. That being said, I feel it’s time to transition out of that. I’ve been thinking how best to use social media going forward and will be making some changes.
  2. My needs. I gave myself permission to do things that were solely focused on me or my interests. I spent a lot of time growing food in my garden and identifying the plants on our property. I also spent my income from speaking engagements on upgrading my phone and laptop. I bought new clothes that fit. I stressed less about how much things cost and focused more on making sure I have what I need. It’s been freeing to operate this way.
  3. Saying yes. A little bit contradictory to meeting my needs, but I said yes to a lot of un-looked for opportunities in 2021. The authenticity review, most of the travel, the speaking engagements. I’m so very thankful for all I got to do this year and yet, I’m realizing that I need to be better at saying no.



3 Things I Forgot

  1. Nature Journaling. I learned about it this year and realized it’s right up my ally. I bought some supplies thinking I’d start nature journaling around our forest. Never happened. I still like the idea but, this may have to stay on the back burner until a future season of my life.
  2. Choosing a new name. I’ve known I wanted to do this for a while. I just haven’t taken the time to research and really consider what name I’d like to choose. I think I’m nervous about not being able to find the “perfect” name and also putting too much pressure on myself.
  3. One-sided relationships. Vague on purpose, again, but there were people I’d invested some time into. In 2020 it was very difficult to see how few of those relationships really showed up for allyship on race or community responsibility for the pandemic. This year, I released myself of any sense of obligation to invest in those relationships any further.

2021 Reflection Summary

To start with, I am super proud of the things I accomplished in 2021. It was a pretty big year in many ways. I challenged myself and took on some things that really stretched me. I recognized some of my self-sabotage patterns and was able to push through them and succeed on some things. I can see growth in my life and I can see healing happening. So I want to celebrate that.

Some good friends.

Being honest, though, it has still been a really hard year. I’ve felt spread thin and exhausted. I made some progress in 2021 toward slowing down and doing less. But not enough. I still spent a lot of time and energy reacting to opportunities; taking them because I was worried I’d become irrelevant if I didn’t. I still lived under a sense that I have to be toiling and striving in the work I’m passionate about in order to be worthy and make my life count.

Many things I’ve said were “important” to me have kept getting pushed to the back. I don’t want to live my life saying “someday I’ll do that”. I don’t want to be reactive but proactive. I don’t want to resent doing for others because I did it at the expense of taking care of my own needs or interests.

My sense going into 2022 is that I’ll continue to let go of more self-imposed obligations. That I’ll learn to leave lots more room for cultivating joy and hope. For reading my books and taking better care of my body. My sense is that in 2022 I’ll be more selective and proactive about what I give my time and energy too.

PEACE OUT, 2021!

A Guide For Year End Reflections

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In 2012 I was blogging under the name “Running Hutch” (a nickname based off my maiden name) and I wrote a post about Year End Reflections. I’ve done this as a personal practice every year since! My original post included a graphic outlining the process for my year end reflections and it has been widely shared (and even copied/remade without attribution) since then. Flattering but frustrating.

As the former blogs I had posted the Year End Reflection guide on are now archived/gone (runninghutch.com, thoroughlythriving.com, and tiffanylavon.com), I figured it was time to update the guide and republish. So here it is!

I don’t often write things that resonate so far and wide. Regardless, it always matters that we give proper attribution to the writers and creators whose work we share or adapt, especially when we’re borrowing from women of color! It’s 2021, people. I’m not going to be shy about demanding acknowledgement for what I’ve created.

What Are Year End Reflections?

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I think we should have resolve to get after our goals regardless of what date it says on the calendar. However, I love the idea of spending the last few days of the year to really reflect on all that has transpired. It feels like a natural time to review things like:

  1. How I spent my year
  2. How my priorities have changed
  3. What slipped through the cracks that is still important to me
  4. What I did accomplish that I’m proud of and want to celebrate

Once I’ve done this, I know I can make more informed decisions about what I want to do in the upcoming year.

Join me in reflecting on the year!


It’s fairly self-explanatory and you can make this what you want or need it to be. However, if you want a little bit more explanation or some of my “pro-tips”, read on.

List your top 10 highlights. 

Did you realize a goal you’d set for yourself? Have a favorite memory from time spent with loved ones? Go ahead and list 10 of your favorite things from the past year. Why 10? Because it forces you to go deeper than the obvious highs of your year and look for some hidden treasures.

PRO TIP: Take a minute to read through these and take in all the good feels. To borrow an idea I first heard from Milton Stewart of Kaizen Careers, take 11 seconds to soak in the feeling of this moment. Acknowledge the warmth of your top 10. Maybe share them with someone?

List your top 5 disappointments. 

What did you do or not do that bothered you? Typically I try to focus more on behaviors and actions that I had control over instead of external disappointments caused by other people or circumstances. For example, did you fail to accomplish a goal you’d set for yourself? Do you regret how you handled a conflict with a friend or colleague? Do you feel like you betrayed the boundaries you set for yourself? These can require some brutal self-honesty.

List your top 3 game changers. 

What unexpected things came along that changed your priorities? Did you discover a passion for pilates? Find out you were allergic to something and needed to change your diet? It’s fair game to list things outside of your control, like a global pandemic maybe? Identify the top 3 things that forced you to pivot in big ways.

List 3 things you focused on.

What are the 3 main areas in your life that you spent the majority of your time on this year? It could be struggling to manage anxiety or depression. It could be finishing a degree or keeping your business afloat.

PRO TIP: look back at your highlights. See any patterns there?

List 3 things you forgot.

What are the 3 main areas of your life that you neglected the most? Self-care? A personal hobby? A key relationship? Maybe you’d really hoped this would be the year that you would do XYZ, but then it just didn’t pan out.

PRO TIP: Check your 5 disappointments and see if they reveal any bigger themes.

Now..write your Reflection.

Read through your list and consider what you’ve learned. How you’ve grown. Where you still need growth. Maybe even take a day or two to let it all tumble around in your mind and settle in your soul.

When you’re ready, write out your reflection on the year. How have the events and actions of the past year brought you to where you are right now, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, physically, etc? What do you think about it all?

Then, finish with considering how you want this reflection to inform your choices going forward. What really matters to you? What do you really want to spend your time and energy on? What changes are you ready to make?

Sometimes, in order to know where we need to go, we need to first look at where we’ve been.

Please share & tag me!

I do hope this guide continues to travel and becomes a meaningful practice for others. I’m certainly amazed when I go back and read through the past 9 years worth of reflections I took the time to write! It’s inspiring and yet also super duper humbling. Haha.

So, please share this far and wide. If you write up your reflections to share on your blog or social media, please tag me! On Instagram, I’m @CoachHenness. On Facebook, my page is Calling In The Wilderness. I’m not really active on Twitter anymore but a link to this blog post is always appreciated!

Fog & Wound Reverse Poem

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I’ve wanted to work on a reverse poem for a while. I finally sat down and made it happen. I have many themes in my head but this one is perfect for the poem structure. By reading down and back up, you journey with me “out of the fog” to face the “wound”.

“Coming out of the fog” is a phrase adoptees use when we begin to confront the reality of how adoption has impacted us. It’s a non-linear experience of grief and loss that can begin at any time in an adoptee’s life. Some adoptees never experience this.

The “wound” refers to the Primal Wound theory by Nancy Verrier, which states that even if a child is separated from the first mother the moment it is born, the infant will register that as trauma in their body, in their nervous system. Though an adoptee like myself may not have a conscious memory of that stress or my struggle to survive without my biological mom, the wound is there. Acknowledging that is part of healing.

Thanks for reading.


Title: Fog & Wound
By Tiffany Lavon

 Adoption is beautiful.
 I can’t honestly claim that
 I need to grieve
 I don't need sympathy
 Focusing on my blessings
 Is how I grow, not
 Lamenting a loss before memory
 Truth is
 I should always be grateful
 It is actually harmful to imply
 Adoption is inherently traumatic
 My adopted family
 Is a deeper part of me than
 My ancestral heritage
 Which will never be part of my life
 The bond with my first mother
 Does not eclipse
 My adopted mother's love
 I have no doubt that
 This was God's Plan A
 I can't imagine how
 My life could be different.

 [read in reverse, line by line]

Better We’ll Be

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Better will not be 
Not for them 
if not by me 
will not all sacrifice 
will not all open their eyes 
Pushing my hopes into their future dreams 
is just passing the stuck of our present reality
naming better evolves naturally 
claiming hate fades as life cycles
is not any relief
I must show mine 
how to blend action and belief
Must summon all that I already am 
to cultivate all that they already are 
but can’t harvest yet
I must make better 
in me 
around me
not just for them
but with them 
so that by them 
better we'll be