Fortunate. Grateful. Humbled.
Those are just a few of the feelings swirling through me as we inch closer to the start of 2017.
Being the sucker for sentimentality that I am, I figured it would not hurt to pause and reflect before moving forward.
As I am sure it was for many others, 2016 was a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
There were many personal highs and more than a few lows. Yet it is those bumps in the road that inevitably lead to smoother, greener pastures.
There were times where I let emotions get the best of me. Was I guilty of having inserted my foot directly into my mouth? You bet. Was I in the wrong when I thought I was clearly in the right? Yes.
Today, my eyes are wide open and gazing curiously toward the future.
Friendship and community continue to keep me grounded. I know, I know. I can hear it now: "Don't get all saccharine and gooey on us, Schoof." Well, it's the holidays and I do enjoy tugging at those proverbial heartstrings.
I have been very lucky to befriend many, many awesome people throughout the Lehigh Valley -- particularly in my adopted home of Easton -- from business owners to musicians, comedians, actors, movers and shakers. All of these folks care deeply about the faces and places around them.
When I was out and about and feeling down, I knew a hug and friendly chat was waiting for me Just Around the Corner, or at Mercantile Home, Suddenly Samantha, Bog Turtle Farm, or any one of the handful of places that became sort of an emotional sanctuary for me. When I needed a swift kick in butt, I got it. And when I needed reassurance that everything was going to be alright, I got that, too.
That appreciation and reciprocation was especially evident earlier this year during the "Easton Rocks!" fundraiser concert at the State Theatre in Easton.
The concert, held in April, featured performances by some of my favorite local musicians: Roi and the Secret People, Acoustic Kitty Project's Carter Lansing and the Alex Radus Duo. My band, Blue Jean, opened the show. (What? Did you think I was going to help organize a concert and not put my group on the bill?)
What started out as an idea Carter and I had been kicking around for a few months blossomed into one of the most fulfilling nights in the 35 years I have been on this planet.
The entire staff at the State Theatre was supportive of the concept from the get-go and were as enthusiastic and excited as we were. It was also the first time local bands took over the stage of the theater's Acopian Ballroom.
We raised more than $2,000 that evening. All of the proceeds, including merch sales, went to the State Theatre's "Get Plastered" fundraising campaign to repair interior plasterwork damage the building sustained from a leaky roof. I am still floored by the show of support.
The camaraderie and positive energy in the room that night was palpable and overwhelming. It really was electric. I remember nearly tearing up, looking out into the audience as Chris -- the other, much more talented half of Blue Jean -- and I played our first song. It was a night I will forever cherish and one I will never forget.
That being said, I would like to thank all of the amazing staff at the theater for the opportunity, for their hospitality and for their support.
Of course, a huge "thank you" also goes out to all of the musicians who donated their time and for putting on one hell of a show: Carter, Mike Roi, Glen Radomski, Craig Martyn, Ed Golden, Jason Hedrington and Alex Radus.
Thank you to all of the volunteers and those who came out to the event. Thank you, Adam Atkinson, for your great photography. And, of course, thank you to my girlfriend Lynn; always my rock and loudest cheerleader.
It was also through the concert where the seeds were planted for my eventual team-up with Gerard Longo and LehighValleyUnderground.com. Gerard and his team are doing great things and I'm very excited for what we collectively have in store in the coming months.
Naturally, giving thanks would not be complete without a shout-out to all of my family and friends and to you, the reader, for visiting this website. I honestly could not and can not do this without all of you.
As I type this, I am reminded of It's a Wonderful Life and the quote inscribed in the copy of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," given to George Bailey by his guardian angel Clarence: "Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends."
See you in 2017.