I’ve never had a better job than this one. Why, in the last year alone I rode in a military Hummer, lovingly restored by Dietmar Herzog; interviewed the inventor of “Operation”; caught a caffeine buzz at the Aroma Coffee Co.; witnessed the resurrection of the Historical Society of Forest Park; learned everything I would want in a kindergarten teacher by attending Jane Mortensen’s class; took a relaxing ride in Rick Carter’s rickshaw; discovered the rich history of Wilbert Vault Co.; practiced some Brazilian JiuJitsu; toured Amber Alonzo’s new Foundations Performance Center in Lyons; finally met the Kiwanis Club crew and panhandled for peanuts on Circle Avenue; went solo at Trivia Night and could only recall the names of five of Santa’s reindeer; sipped spiced wine with singers from the Harlem Maenner und Dammen Chor.

I also interviewed a marathon-loving dentist, bowled at Circle Lanes and didn’t have to keep score, and had our Thanksgiving saved by Norm and Ruth Hopp after our oven caught fire.

I browsed the American Artworks Gallery and got to know two Forest Park artists, observed a conversational English class at the library, discovered Forest Park’s Packer fans, watched my neighbors take their toddler cross-country skiing down Beloit, and finally found some lunch buddies (we’re calling ourselves the Homeys).

I reported the dramatic rescue of Curtis Horras from a muddy infield at The Park; gathered in a 60-yard pass at the Chicago Rush Media Challenge; attended a gala at the Drake Hotel as guest of a delegation from County Cork, Ireland; and got inspired by the environmental activism of Alex Silva and other rain barrel proponents.

I interviewed a cat lady who wasn’t crazy, heard some fiery speeches at a May Day event commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the Haymarket Riot and joined in the celebration of the restoration of the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument, learned some computer skills at the library, and had the pleasant duty of interviewing an 81-year-old babe named Dolly.

My fear, when I took this job, was running out of stories or burning out on the Forest Park beat. Just the opposite has happened. The longer I live here, the more great people I meet and wonderful stories I discover. I find our village to be an inexhaustible subject, though I still appreciate any topic suggestions I can get.

Next to being a columnist, husband and father have been even better jobs. On Dec. 21, 2011, we attended a Christmas service. It was a year to the date that we first learned we were going to be grandparents. Troy was there with us as the choir sang the carols. He was sitting with his parents trying to eat the church bulletin and anything else he could put in his mouth. He would have made it to the end of the service, if he hadn’t gotten hungry.

I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings.