I honestly thought about not writing a year-end recap for the first time in the 15 years of running this blog. 2021 brought far too much sickness, sadness, anxiety and general malaise for everyone I know, and wouldn’t we rather just pretend like 2021 never happened?
But I write these year-end recaps every January for me just as much as anyone. This blog is the best form of a journal I have, and it’s interesting to go back year after year and see how I’ve changed and where I was at any point in my life and career. I started this blog at 24 years old, and now I’ve just got one year left of my 30s! Plus, I’ve always considered it a boon to my mental health to look at all the things and people I have in my life for the true blessings that they are.
2021 in Work
Perhaps the biggest shift of all last year was in our work. No one is hiding the fact that the travel industry is in shambles, scrambling to figure out how to move forward, and there are many places it’s simply not safe to travel to right now. But you know I’ve always preached diversifying your income, right? 2021 was the year I was especially glad that I took my own advice.
Eighty percent of the client work we do never appears on this blog. It’s high-level copywriting, corporate SEO, consulting, brand photography. I love all of it for different reasons. But the fact that we’ve never relied solely on travel to pay the bills was definitely a good thing these past two years.
I’ll probably do a pie chart breakdown of where our money came from last year at some point—because who doesn’t love a good visual representation, especially as it pertains to income?—but without even looking at our financials, I can say that the bulk of it was in the home renovation space. They say that an entrepreneur can never have a hobby, and that’s 100 percent accurate in our case. Our love for transforming spaces not only spawned a nonprofit, but also gigs as writers and experts in the home renovation space.
Last year, we worked for a major fintech company that went public in Q2, and we essentially took on a full-time workload with Angi (formerly Angie’s List) in the second half of the year. We’re writing about everything from financing real estate purchases to pouring an epoxy floor, and as much as I never thought I’d say it, I love this kind of work.
I also did more than 40 family and kid shoots, which were a lot of fun, as well as two weddings. Doing smaller photography projects was never a reality for me when I was on the road 200 days a year, and it’s something I hope to continue to be able to do more of in the future.
Of course, we had some great DMO clients who we are grateful to have worked with even in a terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad year for tourism; among them, New Orleans, Huntsville, the Natchez Trace Parkway, North Alabama, Tennessee Whiskey Trail.
Even though I didn’t get to attend as many in-person events as possible, I did squeeze in two speaking gigs in the last months of the year. In September, I spoke at STS Connections in Spartanburg, South Carolina and in October at the Rural Tourism Conference in Sweetwater, Tennessee. My schedule this year is a bit up in the air with this new variant, but I’m definitely speaking at TravelCon again, this time in Memphis in April.
I did a whole lot of TV appearances and even more podcasts, all of which were made easier by Zoom—and many of which I never even had to change out of my pajamas for!
2021 in Travel
While I feel like we didn’t *really* travel in 2021, my calendar says otherwise. After getting both initial rounds of the vaccine in February, we went to Palm Springs in March for six days.
In May, we visited Philadelphia for the first time, and in June, I traveled to D.C. solo to see good friends. In July, we went to Oklahoma City to see Lemon and her husband Chris, and in August, we spent 11 days in California visiting SVV’s family and taking a road trip up the Redwood Coast.
In November, we went to Iceland with my mom and our good friend Em, a trip that we thought wouldn’t happen given the current state of travel, and then I eked out a solo trip to Austin for four days at the very end of the year.
So while maybe I feel like I didn’t travel much compared to past years, we still got some excellent trips in—and all of them were for fun, not work, which is a novelty I’m not accustomed to these days.
2021 in Art
Our public art nonprofit, DMA-events, is still very much alive and thriving. Somehow, we managed to start a graffiti remediation program and install seven large-scale murals—three in Tullahoma, one in Columbia, one in Viola, two in Sweetwater—across Tennessee last year.
Murals by Kim Radford in Sweetwater and Tullahoma
In 2022, we already have projects in a couple different cities on the docket, though this is the slow time for mural painting with Southern weather so precarious and unpredictable.
Mural by Megan Lingerfelt in Viola
Our quarterly board retreat is in St. Petersburg later this month, and I look forward to making even bigger plans as we inch toward kicking off our fifth year as a nonprofit. I can’t believe that DMA-events has been going for so long in a project that we thought at the time was just going to be a single mural.
2021 in Real Estate
We made a lot of headway on the Cedar House this past year. We got most of the exterior stained, ripped out the backyard, started working on the landscaping and completely gutted the kitchen. SVV’s health had us push pause on projects the past couple months, but I’m looking forward to continuing the work we started last year, as well as tackle new projects like completely build out all of our closets, which are currently just boxes, and maybe even putting the pieces in place to add an addition next year.
The Victorian is still occupied by wonderful commercial tenants in the healthcare space. They’re in year three of their lease, and I hope they’ll continue to occupy the house for as long as they can as they seem to love this old gal as much as we do.
We sold Myrtle, the rental property we owned behind the Victorian, which is set to close next week. We’ve both been looking forward to that freeing up funds for us to possibly purchase a commercial space this year or next. Who knows—the real estate market is crazy right now, and you know we’ll only buy something that’s a fixer, a steal of a deal and in need of some TLC!
We’ve owned our two Nashville condos for eight years now, and they’re both thriving as long-term rentals. We get a lot of doctors, a lot of Vanderbilt professors, and a lot of families or couples relocating to Nashville who are looking for a temporary home for a few months until they purchase something of their own.
If you own rental properties, let me just say that having long-term rentals sure beats vacation rentals in terms of management, though it does require a lot more maintenance and replacing things if you’re renting it out furnished.
2021 in Relationships
2021 was the year we dropped relationships that weren’t serving us, the year we leaned into our inner hermits, the year we learned to just be and not need to be stimulated at all times. As an extroverted ENTJ and 2w3, it’s been a fun challenge embracing being an introvert!
It was a year of growing closer to the people we truly need in our lives—the ones we can trust; with whom I text all day, every day; with whom we can have happy hour in our athleisure and know we’re not going to contract a virus—which has been the happiest byproduct of this social exercise.
It was also the year we realized that many people weren’t who we thought they were, namely science-disavowing conspiracy theorists, and I’ve quietly pushed those people out of our lives or to the periphery at the very least. I don’t have time or the mental energy to constantly combat such recklessness—if you’ve seen Don’t Look Up, you know exactly what I’m talking about—and having fewer but more meaningful close relationships in our lives.
2021 in Family
I’ve written enough about my dad and SVV’s health woes these past years—not to mention, the RSV and various other viruses that have torn through our houses—so I’ll just put a bow on that and say I’m grateful everyone is still alive, doing OK-ish and triple-vaxxed (except the kids).
Without a doubt the best part of the past two years has been the added time I’ve had with Charlotte and Mac. They’re just so cute, sweet and absolutely hilarious. Charlotte will say things to me like, “Kiki, do you hear my tummy talking? I think it’s saying: ‘I NEED A COOKIE.'”
Charlotte turns four (how???) in less than two months, and Mac will be two in May. My mom still keeps them five (sometimes seven) days a week, and I try to see them at every spare chance I get. We’ve watched Moana approximately 23,678 times in the past 18 months and Encanto at least 40 in the past few weeks.
We’re coming up on three years of living in the Cedar House, and I’m so grateful we’re basically in the same neighborhood as Kari and Josh and my mom and dad. It makes it easy to zip over when, say, Dad falls (there have been a lot of those) or Kari and Josh need childcare for a minute.
It’s also made it convenient to help each other out with home tasks. Last spring, we finished Kari and Josh’s new kitchen for them (with their help), and Josh has been helping us with our kitchen, tree removal and other home renovation chores. It sure is nice having family willing to chip in at any time when needed!
We’ve also seen a lot of my cousin Coco and her family John, McKayla, Margaret and Mason. Not only did we visit them in Memphis three times last year, but the girls came for a few weeks in the summer as they always do, and the whole family came for both Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. Gosh we’re lucky to call this crew family.
2021 in Self-Care
I took a lot of naps this last year. I learned that I don’t have to work eight- to 10-hour days seven days a week to be productive, financially successful and fulfilled. I read 52 books. I took full weekdays off.
Now, for the new year, if I could just spend less time on my phone scrolling mindlessly, I’ll consider it a win.
So thank you, 2021. You sucked royally at times, but you also put a lot of things in perspective for a lot of us—we’re more grateful than ever for the people in our lives. But seriously, 2022, could you consider cutting all of us some slack?