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Photo Collage of Gabriella van Rij's 2019
Dec 25, 2019

2019 In Review

Why do we review our year before the start of a new one? It is almost as if we clean out a closet… right?

Well, I must be a clean freak as I try to do this at the beginning of each new season. Not only clean the closets and get organized but also give away what we do not need and declutter to tackle the next trimester of life. While doing these tasks, I find that I like to pause and reflect on what I have or haven’t accomplished…

So, with winter solstice just behind us, I look at this entire year and I sigh, even though my face is smiling. It was a tough year with two deaths, but there is finally a sense of peace that comes with the ending of these 12 months. The year has been intense, what with traveling with the tent on top of the roof of my SUV and having never done any camping, I had to learn quickly and stay on my toes. I learned not only to give up what we call “a home” but also to live minimally. Not 10 shoes, but only 2 and 1 pair of boots… A novelty for us women. But you know what? It has been interesting, and I notice every day how little we actually need in material things. We think we need dresses and skirts, etc., but truly I have been doing just fine with very few clothes. I also got good at learning to recycle. I am now a proud member of renting clothes when needed for events. This option is good for the environment and easy for me while on the road. You drop them off at any UPS and voila, they are gone…

Now on a more reflective note, I had a huge dip in both courage and motivation when (a) my father was admitted to a senior home in April, and (b) my best friend a few weeks later died in hospice care in France. Luckily for me, I was already in France for my father and was able to hop over in one of those amazing French bullet trains to Brittany to be with my best friend as he passed away. What I learned is no matter how hard you think it is to sit and be with someone who is letting go of this world, the alternative is worse. I cannot imagine not having been there. It is truly a gift that gives you peace and solace when all else fails.

While flying back to the US, I had a very important meeting with one of my most favorite people in the world, my right hand and editor, Tomoko. It was only the second time we met face to face, but I would not have missed it for the world. And I got a bonus: meeting her sister Yoko who is the artist of all of the illustrations of my books as well as the cover of my fourth book that will come out soon. Because of this special meeting, I drove 1250 miles across Interstate 80, with the ashes of my best friend on my way to meet Tomoko and Yoko, and I realized for the first time in my life what a great comfort nature can be. Being alone in a car surrounded by nature, the majestic mountains of Colorado, beautiful sunsets, and early morning sunrises, made me be one with nature. It is a beautiful way to grieve and respect the life we all have to walk.

I want to thank each and every person who opened their homes to me and the #Daretobekind Movement this last year, whether you were a stranger or a friend. In particular, I want to thank Karen Hoffmann and Lisa Raphael for being amazing and caring friends.

It has been a privilege, and I really mean that, to be able to do purposeful Kind acts in a 2-mile radius around me. This is made possible because I do not hold a 9-5 job, and I know that there are many #D2BK members who wish they could also go on a Kindness tour but cannot due to work obligations. I saw so many people and students who have hopefully been touched by the magic of the #Daretobekind Movement. The tour is taking a winter break but will be back on the road soon.

Lastly, the year ended with the death of my father, my last parent standing. Again, I was lucky to be able to fly out to France during Thanksgiving and to get there in time to hold his hand and help my stepmother. I lay my head next to him on the pillow and felt more connected than any words ever could achieve. No matter how rocky a relationship I have with my family, I was proud of my growth and the closure of a chapter of my life that will never come back.

Two deaths, one funeral, the spreading of a loved one’s ashes, plus being on the road for 11 months has shown me that no matter how many doors close, no matter how lost or lonely we feel, that we can turn any pain or solace into peace. I learned to be Kinder to self!

A big thank you to the students of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline, Illinois, for making Christmas a little bit brighter for Genesis Hospice Care and for the Lutheran Home, both located in Davenport, Iowa. Each student made Christmas cards for people they had never met, all in the name of Kindness. I cannot tell you enough how many people have smiled this season just because of your good deed and hard work. Your act of Kindness was the difference for someone else.

My last five thank yous of the year go to:
• Firstly, Solomon Powell for his dedication to the message of Kindness. You are the best Kindness Instigator and team member the #Daretobekind Movement has ever seen. We are most lucky to have you!
• Secondly, Bobbie Folsom, my manager, who is always there in the background and who without fail is my rock I can turn to when I am simply sad or need to sleep. She is tough and tells me “Enough! Rest!” and “Are you insane?” I listen to these 3 words… A very big thank you for keeping a watchful eye on me!
• Thirdly, Tomoko Matsuoka for being who you are. Encouraging, Kind, and so patient with me when my brain goes faster than my speech capacity. As the editor and my right hand, you are not only invaluable to this team but you are also personally invaluable to me as a human being!
• Fourthly, Wendy de Boer for becoming such a good friend, actually more like a sister to me. Always willing to listen to me and being encouraging from the sidelines. It was a joy to be able to have lunch with you in Amsterdam. I am grateful to have you in my life!
• Definitely not lastly, my dear childhood friend Edith de Jong from grade one. Who says friendships do not last? She is unwavering in her compassion and her friendship. She opened up her home in moments of terrible distress with my father’s passing. Always encouraging and especially clear and focused on all the paperwork that needed to be done in the Netherlands. I thank you for your trust and friendship. I smile from ear to ear just being around you! This is very special to me.
You were once my bestie and always my bestie! I so look forward to seeing you in 6 months.

I end this year feeling totally at peace and incredibly grateful that I get to do what I love, and a tiny bit proud as my fourth book is finished and at the printers as we speak.