My decade: 2009-2019

By Caitlin Kelly

Another one gone.

It was a decade of some major triumphs and some really tough challenges…probably like yours as well!

Here are some of mine:


malled cover LOW



I began working as a retail sales associate in September 2007 for The North Face. I worked one day a week at $11/ hour, no commission. In the holidays, I worked three days a week to make more money, still no commission — even when selling a $400 ski jacket.

I wrote about it for The New York Times, which drew the attention of an agent who helped me polish a sample chapter about this experience. We sold the book to Portfolio on Sept. 11, 2009 and I was sitting at the counter of diner on Lexington Avenue when she called to give me the news.

Now, with a book deal in hand, I took much more detailed notes — not easy when you work under the watchful eyes of security cameras. I would scribble down dialogue or an event on a yellow layaway card and tuck it into the pocket of my uniform sleeve.

I quit that job on December 18, 2009, grateful by then to be earning $450 a month blogging for a website.




My left hip is in agony, with severe arthritis. It hurts to walk even a few steps. I even resort to using short crutches for three months to get some relief. A surgeon gives me steroids to reduce the inflammation — and they destroy the bone in my hip. Now I will need full hip replacement.


I turn in my book manuscript in the summer of 2010 and get “notes” from the editor, who says “I really like Chapters 11 and 12.” I panic, and think I can’t possibly fix all of it. But I do.






In April, my second book is published and, luckily, wins nice reviews from People, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and others.

I get married, for the second time, in a small wooden church on an island in the harbor of Toronto.


Me, a cover girl — even at size 16


Hey, I’m a cover girl…in Arthritis Today! I’m given an outfit to wear (and keep!) and a whole photo crew jams into our small apartment. The photographer (of course!) who flies in from Atlanta to NY is the husband of a friend of mine.




caiti flag

The day after surgery…



Hip replacement gives me back my mobility.




Finally — our renovated kitchen! My design. Seven years later, still loving it.


The left is before; the right is after. I designed the kitchen myself


My book is published in China!


malled china cover
Malled’s Chinese version



Pratt’s library — with one of the many sculptures dotting the campus


I get a teaching position at Pratt Institute, a private college in Brooklyn. I have to be up at 6:00 a.m. to get there by 8:30 and wait 90 more minutes before my class to avoid the worst of rush hour traffic. I teach a blogging class and a freshman writing class. The pay, for an adjunct, is good — $4,500 per class, $18,000 for the calendar year.

Knowing we have a solid income to rely on, I spend a month in Paris and London, three of those weeks staying with friends.



One of the best weeks of my life, working in rural Nicaragua — now still friends with these three


Our van, 95 degree heat, 12 hour days. It was a lot of fun, actually!



I learned how to canoe at camp -- useful when we went to Nicaragua
On assignment in Nicaragua for WaterAid — Jen in the bow of a dugout canoe


In March, all expenses paid and a healthy fee for writing three stories, I fly to Nicaragua with a multi-media team from WaterAid. We work for a week in 90-degree heat and long days. It’s by far the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time, thanks to the high energy, skills and warmth of our team.

Not to mention the dugout canoe!




Time to just sit still and enjoy the beauty all around us



After 31 years as a photographer and photo editor — covering the White House for 8 years, two Olympics, Superbowls and more — my husband retires from The New York Times. He is not retired, but has chosen to take their buyout offer.


Our amazing local bakery, Riviera Bakehouse in Ardsley, NY, made this great cake — on two days’ notice. I wrote the headlines; (Arthur was the publisher; Zvi, a colleague)


In June, we rent a cottage in Co. Donegal and visit friends in Dublin, taking a three-week break in Ireland.



I loved seeing these gorgeous shawls — so much better to take a photograph than buy and regret…




New curtains for the dining room! The floral.







Istria, Croatia






Thankful for decent savings, and celebrating a milestone birthday, I spend six weeks, mostly alone, in Europe visiting Paris-Berlin-Budapest-Zaghreb-Rovinj-Venice-London.





48 seconds a day for 20 days. The radiation machine


Just in time for my June birthday, I’m diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, but will not need chemo. The summer disappears in a blur of tests-anxiety-decent results, then surgery (and decent results), then infection, then radiation.

My husband gets a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.






I finally go to the Met Opera and am dazzled by its beauty.






We revisit my husbands’ hometown of Santa Fe, NM for an eight-day vacation, badly needed and totally restorative.

I get a magazine assignment that’s the most difficult-but-welcome of the past decade. I travel far and wide and spend three months on it, nervous as hell about the final product.

“First-rate” and “great work” are the editor’s reply.



And you?




26 thoughts on “My decade: 2009-2019

  1. I had hip replacement surgery the same year as you, in the autumn, and then again in 2014. My issues were the result of a rollover accident years ago when I was in the military. My new ones are working extremely well but I’m efficient at setting off airport alarms!

    Other highlights are moving from Alberta to BC, losing a job but getting a better one, getting rid of a narcissist out of my house, and marrying the love of my life.

    Good wishes to you Caitlin for the new year – lots of good health and joy. πŸ™‚

    1. Good for you! My right one is now (ugh) painful w some arthritis but I am holding off as long as possible…the pain is nothing serious yet. Oddly, the only airport sensors that pick up on mine are European…

      This sounds like a very good decade!

      Thanks…and always, thanks for being here! You as well.

  2. Reading your wrap-up of the decade makes me realize just how long I’ve been reading your blog. So many of the events you mention are familiar. Glad to have stumbled across your corner of the internet! πŸ™‚

    Highlights of the past decade for me…well, I became an adult (independence!), graduated with an honours degree in linguistics, developed my Spanish language skills, landed myself a good job.

    The not-so-good (pretty terrible, actually) was almost losing my mother to a serious illness and multiple events involved with that. I’m still dealing with anxiety and trauma from that time. Yes, the past is the past, but it definitely affects the way we feel in the present.

    All the best for the next decade! I hope it’s a good one.

    1. I know! I am so delighted you and Rami and many others arrived here and have stayed!

      I am sorry about your mom…I remember this as well. Congrats on al the good things, and hoping for good health for all of us!

    1. Margaret

      Hi Ginny, I was just thinking the same thing. I’ve obviously been subscribed to Caitlin’s blog for some considerable time. Actually, I can’t remember how I even arrived here but there’s always something to keep me coming back, so thank you Caitlin.
      I haven’t had the chance to look back over my decade but I suspect that, like most people, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs. Unlike many others I’ve been blessed with good health (fingers crossed that this continues). Best wishes to all of you.

  3. you have been mighty busy, up and down, in all parts of your life. but you are still standing and that is something! as for me, over the past ten years, I’ve become a happy blogger and enjoy creating the posts and connecting to all kinds of people, I’ve been in love and broken up, my daughters have all had children (2 each, now 6 grannies), I’ve traveled to one of my favorite places, Ireland, survived melanoma, sold my house and moved to a tiny condo exactly where I want to be, simplified my life, walked all 157 parks in Ann Arbor, learned a lot, and kept an open mind

    1. Jan Jasper

      Ahhh…. Ann Arbor! I love Ann Arbor. I grew up there. Do you live there now?
      BTW, I was one of Borders Bookshops’ very first customers when they had a tiny dusty walk up, one room, on Maynard Street in the block just south of State Street. It was in the early 1970s.

  4. I have not been a visitor for a long while…so much gets in the way of my intentions. Your decade sounds like mine a series of ups and downs but mostly ups! I hope the next decade is a good one overall…Happy 2020!

  5. Congrats on the completion of a decade that required professional and personal resilience! I was struck when reading by how many of the events I was already aware of having followed your blogging journey. Hoping the twenties have got off to a roaring start for you! πŸ™‚

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