As the sun sets on 2011, it is only natural to reflect while looking forward to the new year. One cannot help but wonder whether this was a good year for other DeKalb residents and what plans or resolutions they have made for 2012.
Gelia Dolcimascolo described 2011 as “a productive year.” Among other accolades, she won poetry prizes from the Atlanta Writers Club and Kennesaw University’s the Art of the Golden Generation competition.
For more than two decades, Dolcimascolo has worked as a writing tutor at Georgia Perimeter College’s Dunwoody campus. She also facilitates the college’s Writers’ Circle, a group of writers that she said ranges from published authors, those “on the cusp” of getting published and beginning writers. Though several of her poems have been published, Dolcimascolo is a new writer of sorts.
This year she completed a 15-year labor of love: a fairytale book for adults. “I’m slow,” she admitted, “but steady when it comes to working on longer pieces.”
In 2012, Dolcimascolo looks forward to exhibiting her work at the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art and the Poetry Pallet at Georgia Perimeter College. Now in her “upper 60s,” she also plans to get back into the ballet studio to take classes, after her sprained ankle heals.
A native New Yorker, Dolcimascolo began dancing when she was 12 years old. The former professional modern dancer described dancing as “part of her ID.” After reaching a certain age, she said it is important to stay physically active. In addition to dancing, she plans to do more swimming and walking in 2012.
Another DeKalb educator made a significant mark in 2011. Redan High School language arts teacher Julius Thompson published the final installment of his trilogy this year–Ghost of Atlanta–and won the 2011 National Gold Medal award for it. His mission to compose the trilogy began in 1995.
“I’ve waited for over 15 years for a chance to see my novels recognized on a national level,” said Thompson, who also teaches creative writing courses at Emory University. “Now I could use the phrase ‘award winning author’ in my description.”
Thompson also finished writing his fourth novel this year. The former sports reporter for The Philadelphia Bulletin completed Purple Phantom, a story about the haunting of a mythical high school basketball team, which he said is now on his editor’s desk.
He is thankful for all he achieved this year and expects an equally fruitful 2012. “My mother used to tell me, ‘Reach for the berries on the highest branch. They are closest to the sun and the sweetest,’” he recalled. With that advice in mind, Thompson plans to reach higher and achieve greater things as he pens 10,000 to 15,000 words next year for his fifth novel. In 2012, he also plans to have a closer spiritual walk with God and maintain great health.
At 64, he is preparing for retirement in three years and plans to work earnestly in the mean time to prepare his students for college. Although Thompson has retirement in sight, he is “still going strong.” He stays young by coaching basketball and heeding the twin admonishments of a friend who lived to 104 years old: “Don’t let stress get to you and drink a glass of cabernet every day.”
For some of our neighbors, 2011 has been a year of significant career advancements mingled with difficult personal challenges. Barbara Emmanuel, a psychotherapist with an addiction and recovery-focused practice in downtown Decatur, became president of the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work this year. In 2011, she also learned that a close family member has an aggressive form of cancer.
“This experience has taught me how important it is to live each day by appreciating our loved ones,” Emmanuel said. “I resolve in 2012 to cherish those I love and to appreciate life.”
Professionally, she plans next year to learn and ultimately teach a method of stress and anxiety reduction called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. This method, she explained, involves meditation (sitting or moving) with light yoga.
For Debra Kelley, owner of Decatur Yoga & Pilates, 2011 had its trials. Surgery sidelined the yoga instructor. Consequently, she has not been able to practice fully the exercises and postures of the discipline. And the death of her beloved pet boxer created not only personal grief but also a void in her life.
But Kelley is resilient. She adopts the practical Buddhist view of accepting life as it is—not how one thinks life should be—while moving forward.
Accordingly, she now works with Atlanta Boxer Rescue, a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and finds homes for unwanted or abandoned boxers in the metro area. Kelley temporarily provides foster care for two boxers that have brought joy to her life.
Although she is moving toward a full yoga practice again, her recent surgical recoveries have led her to offer therapeutic yoga classes and private therapeutic sessions as a bridge for those who are on a healing journey. “I am so grateful that I’ve created this business,” she said. “It is a labor of love.”
Still, Kelley expressed the need for balance between her professional and personal life. “In 2012, my goal is to move forward by slowing down,” she said. “I need to carve out more time for myself, and I am taking the responsibility to do that.”
In a quintessentially Eastern way of approaching this type of challenge, Kelley explained that moving forward and slowing down are not contradictory. Rather, these opposites balance each other to create harmony.
With classes at her studio becoming more popular, Kelley has plans in 2012 to expand into a space across the hall at the current downtown Decatur location. She stated: “I want the business to grow in an organic way by addressing needs as they arise.”
For many DeKalb families, financial hardships in 2011 created numerous difficulties. Yet this year offered reasons to cheer, said DeKalb State Rep. Stephanie Benfield. The Democrat stated that, though her party was in the minority during the legislative session, they heard the outcry from families and teachers when the GOP pushed a plan to make cuts to the state’s pre-kindergarten program. She said her colleagues successfully pressured the governor to salvage full day pre-K.
The lawmaker, a mother of two, said in 2012 she plans on spending more time with her family. A longtime proponent of pre-K, Benfield added that she will focus on a handful of issues next year: promoting full pre-K funding, improving the quality of school lunches and expanding recycling in DeKalb schools.
Shortly, 2011 will appear in the rearview mirror. For DeKalb residents it was a year of highs and lows. But many are driving into the new year with confidence.