As the red curtain falls on 2012, we tend to focus on the future and begin making promises to ourselves about how we can be better beginning Jan. 1.
In 2013, we resolve, we're going to exercise more, eat less, improve our outlook on life, start recycling, floss before bed every night and remember to brush the family dog daily. (After all, matted fur is no fun for anyone.)
In the midst of all this New Year's resolution-making, what needs to be better about our lives often overshadows what's been good about them over the course of the prior 365 days.
In the spirit of remembering what's been good about the past, rather than fixating on what needs to improve in the future, The Inter-Mountain asked its readers to share some of the highlights of their 2012. Here's what they told us.
Receiving the gift of giving
After her mother died in 2011, Buckhannon resident Elissa Mills found that moments of joy were few and far between throughout most of 2012. The grief over the loss weighed her down, as if a concrete block had been set on her chest.
"Since my mom, Pauline Linger, passed away, it has been a real challenge for me to find 'high' points in my life," Mills said.
However, during this Christmas season, several events happened that led to a turnaround and reminded her of what a joy the gift-giving can be.
One involved the animal kingdom.
As a volunteer, Linger rescues abandoned or abused animals and helps place them in nurturing homes; she also serves as a foster "parent" to many creatures in need.
"When I foster, it's very hard for me to give them (animals) to a forever home, as I become attached," Linger said. "Well, imagine my surprise and delight at receiving not only a Christmas card, but also a picture and 'note' from Duffy, who was one of the last foster (animals) that Mom and I did together."
In the card, Duffy and his new owner, Mia, wished Linger a merry Christmas and told her that they were so grateful to Linger for her role in uniting the two.
"Duffy loves Mia and Mia loves Duffy and the two of them cannot imagine being without each other," Linger said. "I only wish that every homeless/abused pet could be so very lucky!"
Mills' mother had laid the foundation for the joy her daughter was finally able to find in giving.
"I was taught as a child that it's more important to give than to receive," Mills said, "and therefore I love to give things, especially if it's something that's wanted or needed."
Saying yes to the wedding dress
Alderson-Broaddus College student Hillary Ong and her boyfriend, Robert Woofter, were picking out Christmas presents for their loved ones when he revealed she was the woman he'd picked to be his wife - and popped the question.
"He took me by total surprise when we were out Christmas shopping on Dec. 13," Ong said. "I can't even begin to describe to anyone just how happy this has made us and our families."
Ong said Woofter has served as her "motivation and unfaltering support system" during her last several years studying at A-B.
"I'm so joyful that I get to marry my best friend," she continued, "and I am beyond happy for his commitment and dedication to me and am eager to start our life together."
Woofter and Ong are contemplating wedding dates, and if finances allow, they'd like to get married in August 2013, which is the two-year anniversary of when the two said "I love you" to one another.
But Woofter's marriage proposal wasn't the only highlight of Ong's year. A senior natural sciences major, Ong was selected by her division chair, Tom Berlin, to work on an undergraduate project funded by the Appalachian College Association. The upshot of that opportunity was the chance to present her research at an ACA symposium in Asheville, N.C. in September.
"My research discusses the importance and role of aesthetics in nature, and why we should be more inclined to protect the natural beauty surrounding us," Ong explained. "Given the splendor of West Virginia, this topic is especially important to me in bringing awareness to preserve our state's wilderness."
Not everything has been wild and wonderful for Ong over the past year; however, despite worsening health problems, she's resolved to count her blessings and adopt an attitude of gratitude.
"2012 brought with it many blessings for me and my family, and while this year has been tougher on me physically due to increasing health problems," Ong said, "I always find it necessary to remind yourself of the good in your life so you never lose sight of what is most important: family, love and friends!"
Opening 'a place of her own'
Tucker County resident Jenny McCrum has had a hankering to open a restaurant in Parsons for quite some time. And in 2012, with a hearty helping of hard work, her dream transitioned into a reality.
On July 1, McCrum opened the doors to Jen's Place, a restaurant in downtown Parsons that serves up quality quesadillas, steak hoagies, chicken salads and "rat" burgers, in addition to an array of other items. ("Rat" burgers, she is quick to add, are merely named after a family member and not indicative of what's between the top and bottom of the bun.)
"One of my dreams that I have wanted for a long time is to have opened my own restaurant in Parsons," McCrum said. "That has been a great thing that I have done this year."
Jen's Place employs six people, in addition to McCrum, her mother and her brother. McCrum can't foresee the future, but she's optimistic and determined.
"I do not know what may happen in 2013, but I will have been open a year (on July 1, 2013), and if all I can do is only be here for one year," she said, "then I hope that I will be able to open another place in the upcoming year. I have the best employees in the world, and I hope that I can keep them employed."
Pumping up the jams
Like McCrum, Philippi native Wayne Ross - now a Clarksburg resident - took a leap of faith and started up his own DJ-ing business, Ross Productions LLC, an accomplishment of which he's extremely proud.
He's also living out his childhood dream in the wrestling ring.
"I started my own business this year as a DJ, and I also continue to live my childhood dream of doing professional wrestling in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio," Ross wrote in an email to The Inter-Mountain. His success as a wrestler has enabled Ross to meet - and on occasion work with - many of the wrestlers he idolized as a child, who were, after all, the people who inspired him to explore the sport in the first place.
"Along the way, in both cases (starting a business and wrestling), I have been privileged to meet some of the greatest people I think I could ever meet some of whom are my closest friends now," Ross said.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at email@example.com.