Thursday, December 30, 2010

Read this Book Now

2010 wasn't really my year as far as books go. Sometimes I have such luck at finding amazing books and diving into them and loving them and finishing them at warp speed and then finding another book that is just as delightful and also finishing it at warp speed..... and the cycle continues. But this year my book selections have been hit or miss. {The Help and Girl with a Dragon Tattoo being notable exceptions}

When I was in Maine for Christmas I grabbed a book off the shelf before heading to the airport on Sunday in case the blizzard of 2010 made it impossible for me to get home. {It didn't, but I'm so glad I grabbed the book anyways.}

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I won't tell you much about the book. In fact, I can't:

"We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again -- the story starts there.... Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds."
Ok Ok, that's a really cheesy and gimmicky way to sell a book, but if I tried to tell you I'm not pulled in by a completely cheesy and fake-emotional review then I'd be lying.

I really really adored this book. Honestly - gimmicky tag line or not - the book is real, emotional, heartbreaking and uplifting.

PS. Not up for reading an entire book at this point and time? Might I recommend entertaining yourself at this site. My sister Laura sent me the link, and I've been LOL-ing all over the place ever since.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reverb 10 Day 29 - Defining Moment

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

I've struggled this month with Reverb 10, mostly because I am unsure of how I want my responses to read. I don't want them to be journal entries (I can do that in a more private forum), but I do want to use them to dig deep into the marrow of something important.

I want to use this blog to reach out. To become more connected to you. To be a part of a larger collective of folks who care about this world and the people in it, and who dream of becoming more on the inside and having less on the outside.

Which means that I read this prompt for the day:

December 29 – Defining Moment
Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

and I think: what is my defining moment/series of moments? At the same time I also think: why should you care, and how will my response allow me to connect with you?

And so I have struggled. Some of the posts this month have been intensely personal, and I have decided not to share them here. Not because I am modest and nervous of over sharing (I am), but because I am unsure of what you can glean from a post that is Dana-centric and only relates to me.

I guess, in the end, we can all relate to each other in some way. We are all human, and the threads that hold me together also reach out to you. When I read your stories, when you tell me your story, when we share stories together, it resonates with me. In the same way, I hope that my stories resonate with you.
I could tell you again in great detail how the most defining moment/series of moments of my year all relate to this blog. Starting this blog, maintaining this blog, sharing myself on this blog, have changed my life. Before this year I don't remember ever reading another blog. Now I read several daily. I am getting to know people that I have never met in my life, simply because I read their stories every day, share their hopes, cry with them and watch their children grow.

Participating in this virtual community has changed me, has given me new ideas and has inspired me.

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this space for me, for giving me words when I am feeling empty, for supporting me and for being here.

My most defining moment this year was not one moment at all, but a series of moments that grew into something more. A new perspective, a new stage of growth, a new Dana.

This community has sustained me. What has sustained you? Are you being sustained? If not, what could you do about it in 2011?

PS. Happy Birthday to my amazing father!

tea time!

I made a quick side gift for crafty Christmas 2010 this year that was simple, cute and useful.

When I got the tea dish it had a sticker in the middle of it with the name of a man and woman that I've never met, and the date of a wedding I didn't attend. My coworker gave me this used-tea-bag-holder from her daughter's wedding. The dishes were given out at their wedding as favors along with a sample of organic green tea. Since I've never met the lucky couple, I wasn't attached to the dish emotionally, but I definitely saw potential.

Step one: Remove the sticker with the wedding details on it. A little Goo Gone and some elbow grease and that sticker was gone pecan.

Step two: Monogram the dish. I purchased some porcelain paint at Michaels (I don't remember the cost, but I think it set me back less than five dollars).

Step three: Find the right 'R' online. I went to google images and typed 'r' into the search engine. I wish I remembered which R I used, but I can't seem to find it again.

Step four: Transport the R to the dish. I've seen people monogram white coffee cups using porcelain paint (another great idea!), and they usually print out the image they want to use, trace it onto tracing paper (the paper that has graphite on the back), and then trace that onto their dish, but I skipped a few steps. I found the R online, held my paper up to the computer, and then traced the image. I cut the R out and used the porcelain paint to trace the R onto the dish. It worked OK for me, but please do whatever works best for you.

Step five: Finish. Fill in the image with the paint, and then bake the dish in the oven for 30 minutes. This makes the tea dish dishwasher safe.

Step six: Gift it! I used a ribbon to tie the dish to a box of pretty tea* and gifted it as-is. Now my Mom has a fancy pants {and monogrammed!} place to put her used tea bag. It took almost no time and very little money. Perfect-o!

*If you want this tea too, don't pay 17 dollars on amazon! I paid much less at Starbucks (go figure)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reverb 10 Day 28 - Achieve

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 28 – Achieve

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.
This topic is timely, it resonates within me, it says with a whisper 'yes now you will do that little thing that you have been wanting to do.' Only the thing is not so little. It is big. Very big. It carries with it my dreams and ambitions and being and hopes. In 2011 I will take steps toward this thing - this thing that I want to call my purpose but dare not because it seems too cliche - and embrace it as reality instead of as dream. This thing will start to take shape through the fog that lies between myself and it. At the end of 2011 this thing may not be fully visible through the fog, but the outlines will be. Or better yet, I think that the insides will be drawn in - the heart of the matter - but the outlines will be fuzzy. I'm not sure what the bounds of this thing is, but I will not try to define it just yet. I will give it - and me - time.

And since right now I am still looking at the fog - I do not have the heart of the matter or the outlines or even the shading figured out - this blog post must also be just as fuzzy. I have not defined my action steps or goals or pathways, I only know that I am going to do something about this next year.

All that I can tell you right now is that my lifetime dream is to be a sheep farmer, a shepard, an owner of flocks, a sheerer of sheep, a knitter of wool. These things will find their way into my life. I am sure of it, but I am unsure of when and am certainly unsure of how. Next year, in 2011, I will simply pick up the pencil, sit at the drafting table, peer into the fog, and draw what I see. Next year I will try to color in the heart of the matter - without actually making an outline - and then I will pick up my feet and walk towards that image.

And as for the second part of the prompt 'how do you imagine it will make you feel and write down ten things that will make you feel that way today,' I'm going to skip it. I love the exercise, but it isn't appropriate for this thing that is too big and too murky for me to describe here. I am at the beginning of process, and am going to sit with it for awhile, research it, toss it from one hand to the next, form it and shape it. I cannot begin to imagine recreating this feeling that I get when I imagine taking it on as my own. This is one thing that I do not want to make into a list, and for this reason only - if you know me at all - you must know that this thing is truly big.

pictures from here here and here

What do you hope to achieve next year??

home for the holidays

Every time I sat down to write a blog post while I was in Maine, I was interrupted by something else. The something else was always something wonderful. My sister coming down the driveway, a good long chat with my parents, listening to my new CD over and over (with this song on it), a lunch date with my best friend of 23 years, snow falling out the window, an invitation to help trim the tree. Sometimes, interruptions are welcome. Sometimes they are even necessary, perfect, and needed. I intended to spend a good bit of time writing in this blog over the past week. Instead, I spent time crafting {last minute!}, laughing, baking, catching up, taking silly pictures, playing with a crazy cat, and watching movies. I apologize for my absence, but....

Coming to Maine was a breath of fresh air. Just when I needed it most, I stepped off the plane into the crisp cold dark air and knew that I had arrived. In Burnham, Maine I know that I am among my people, and that I am truly home. My Maine home makes me remember, causes me to reflect on what used to be and what now is. Our quirky Christmas traditions are truly ours, and making the annual trek north helps me to realign my compass.

From the {perfectly} imperfect Christmas tree cut from our land and decorated with the same ornaments we have been using for nearly 30 years....

To the popcorn balls that my Mom made......

To the family mascot all dressed up in Santa garb....

To the {extremely} off-key carols we sang during Christmas Eve service at the tiny church down the street...

To eating my favorite 'Maine snack'......

To the most touching moment of the week, when my sister opened her crafted gift from my mother to find that the box contained a gorgeous handmade quilt.....

To the fried partridge (shot by my father this fall) that we ate late one night....

To the mimosas on Christmas morning.....


These moments (and many others) made the week for me. From our home to yours, and from Georgia/Maine to wherever you are, Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and I hope the new year brings happiness, health, and a breath of fresh air that realigns your own internal compass.


I really wish that Tom could have been there. He works 6 days a week during December, and always works on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so holiday travel is never an option. We sent him a little inspirational picture on Christmas Eve, in hopes that maybe (just maybe!) he could join us in 2011.

{It took some pretty intense engineering to get this shot, and it ended up coming out a bit grainy. If you can't read the sign my sister is holding, it says "Held for Tom 2011...."}

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reverb Ten Day 22 - Travel

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 22 – Travel
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
2010 was my year of travel, as I mentioned in this post. Travel is one of my favorite things, and I subscribe fully to the theory that the happiest people are those that spend their money on experiences and not things. So spending {a great deal of!} my money on travel this year is something I definitely don't regret. My travels were a healthy mix of family-, friend- and work-related, and I learned so much about myself and the world.

That being said, next year I am craving some home time. Time of not travelling and time of just being. 2010 has made me realize how thoroughly I enjoy my time at home, and I hope to make lots of home time happen in 2011.

Speaking of home, I am very much enjoying my Maine time. One sister is here, and another will be here Christmas Eve. I'm going to go back to trimming the tree, listening to holiday tunes, and swapping stories. I hope you are having a fantastic holiday!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Maine Event

Presents are being wrapped, bags are being packed, and someone is ready to check out of work and fly to Maine.

Downside: I'm leaving the boy and the dog.

Upside: Ohhhhh the upsides. Family, friends, food, crafts, {snow!}, meeting my BFFs new baby, seeing sisters, meeting sister's boyfriend, seeing my friend that I met through craigslist, laughing, snowshoeing.....

And while I'm there, I'll be making a thing or two..... Here's hoping this list will inspire you too.

1. Chai Gingerbread Bars.... need I say more?

2. Paper ornaments - These are too cute to pass up. Go here to learn how to make 'em.

3. My sister got it in her mind that we would make these. They are super cute, and I will try my absolute best to cut these tiny things out.....

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday..... {and paying it forward}

Tom was in line at the Chik-fil-a drive-thru this morning and ordered his chicken sandwich {with extra pickles naturally}. When he reached the window to pay, the cashier told him that the lady in front of him had paid for his food. The kind stranger had a message for him: Merry Christmas, and pay it forward.

Such kindness gives me the warm and fuzzies, and works to offset my negative feelings of the Christmas rush. Paying for someone else's meal costs only a few dollars, but the generosity it passes on - the shear weight of it - lasts so much longer.

This is also a call to action for me. As many of you may know, I have a list going at the day zero project. 'Pay for someones food at the drive-thru' is number 24 on my list, but I have yet to follow through with it.

I'm going to remedy that ASAP.

In the spirit of the season, I'd also like to challenge you - my lovely readers - to pay it forward as well. Spread some cheer in some small - or big! - way, and if you'd like, let us all know how it goes. You just might cause us to spring into action.

Happy Friday!

PS. Check out my new lap dog.

the princess is perfectly happy to sit like that all day......

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reverb Ten Day Sixteen - Friendship

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 16 – Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
I'm tired today, and was tempted to not even post. I went directly from work to home depot to barnes and noble to hobby lobby to REI to home to crafting to..... well, here I am. I am feeling good about my xmas preparations, but my bed is calling my name.

Today's post has to do with friends, and I fear that I am too exhausted to do the topic justice. After all, who would we be without our friends? Mine have saved me, challenged me and comforted me. Most of them live far away, but a few are near and dear. All are close to my heart.

I'm just going to be honest and say that nothing is coming to mind on a way that "a friend has changed my perspective on the world this year." Isn't that sad? Because all of my friends have impacted me and shaped me dearly, and each has impacted my world in her own special way.

I usually read the reverb prompt in the morning and mull it over during the day and then write at night before I go to bed. I read the prompt this morning, but have had no time to mull. I will mull as I fall asleep this evening, mull about my beautiful amazing friends. How lucky I am to have them.....

*I'm going to be making a craft tomorrow that looks amazingly easy and will work great as a gift for coworkers or as the topper to a wrapped present..... or simply as a tree ornament! Check back tomorrow for the deets.

*Maybe its just because I have Christmas on the brain, but when I saw these today I nearly jumped for joy. They will be the perfect tags to accompany my homemade gifts.... Go here for the {free!} download, and don't forget to give the gal some love!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reverb Ten Day Fifteen - 5 Minutes

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 15 – 5 Minutes
Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

So many wonderful/intense/scary/beautiful things happened this year.

I went to a beautiful cabin in the North Georgia Mountains for Tom's 30th and to another cabin in North Carolina for Thanksgiving. I went to San Francisco, Ireland, Turkey, Paris, the beach of South Carolina. I spent quality time with my family, my friends, my love, my Barley. I went on a 100 mile bike ride, I hiked mountains, and I ran a marathon. I spent two gruelling weeks at a Basic Officer Course in DC, met the Surgeon General and the Assistant Secretary of Health, worked my butt off on a project that tested my capacity for scrutiny, and met people - real people - that made my work real to me. I got engaged, I cut off my hair, I started a blog {this blog!!}, and I started my bucket list. I moved to a new house, learned how to can apple butter, went to two weddings (last year I went to six!).................

Five minutes? I read the prompt and thought they were out of their mind. How would I summarize the year? How could I choose five minutes? Should I spend a few seconds on each big event and remember each one until the five minutes were up?


If my mind were about to be erased, and I could only hold five minutes close to my heart and keep them forever, I would choose the five most peaceful moments of my year. I would remember my stillness, the feeling of warm air on skin, looking at Tom across the cushions, eating cucumber and feta and tomatoes meal after meal. I would lie back in the warmth, hold the Efes in my hand, breathe in and out, look at the people in the courtyard that represented country after country talking with each other, playing ping pong, sipping beer, heading out for a walk to the Mediterranean. I would capture this moment of being in Turkey with Tom, sitting still and enjoying the moment, not being a tourist or an American or a person with a list, but just being. I would close my eyes, listen to the different accents commingling to form a perfect harmony, and I would smile.

If this were all I could remember of 2010, I would be happy. I would be content. I would remember it as the year that I didn't do much, but felt it all.

*Curious about this trip to Turkey? I spent much of my time in Istanbul, but we started our vacation with a three-day stay in Olympos, one of the most relaxing places I've ever been. Go here if you'd like to read a bit more about the trip

And as for that relaxing bit in the beginning, I'll post some pics to elaborate.....

{little relaxing oasis in the trees}

Reverb 10 Day Fourteen - Gratitude

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 14 - Gratitude
What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?
{The original title for this prompt was 'Appreciate,' but I decided to change it to 'Gratitude.' To me, appreciate is superficial, and gratitude is miles deep. You can use appreciate in your prompt if you'd like.}

Gratitude is an important part of my life, and I think I do a pretty good decent job of being grateful. Grateful for friends; for family; for clean laundry; for the fact that I came home from work yesterday and Tom had cleaned the kitchen, poured me a glass of wine and had dinner almost ready. I am grateful for my life, even when it seems that it isn't going my way.

When Tom and I thought of the four things that we would most want to pass on to our children {yes he tolerates my love of lists very well}, gratitude was at the top of my list. If my children are grateful, I feel that I will have succeeded.

That being said, I know I'm not always 100% grateful, and like everyone else I'm sure I have a long ways to go. When I first read this prompt the first thing I thought of was 'sleep.' Never before this year was I so grateful for real, deep, dreamless sleep. I cherish it, long for it, and try to cancel things that interfere with it. Eight hours of sleep is my always-goal.

After I sat with the prompt for a while longer, however (I am a day late in posting this, so I've been thinking about it quite a bit), I realized that for 2010 I really need to be grateful for process.
This year hasn't gone how I thought it would in a lot of ways. Minute-to-minute I sometimes find myself stumbling over my words and actions and self. Many times over this past year I have been struck by the feeling that I am wandering in circles... in the dark. My favorite quote used to be that one by Robert Frost about taking the road less travelled and how it makes all the difference. Now I find myself thinking 'No, I'm pretty sure I want to be on that other path. The one over there with all the people on it.'
I also know that when you get off a path like that, when you emerge from the woods all dusty and scratched and blinded by the suddenly-there sunshine, you are able to look behind you and say 'I came from there, and now I am here, and I am grateful.' More grateful than if you had taken the well-travelled path in the first place.
Though I want to be on that well-travelled path with all the people on it, I'm grateful to be on this one. This one that is teaching me about process, and waiting, and opening up a new piece of myself to a new piece of the world.
I am here - part of a process that is bigger than my hopes and dreams and worries and joys - and am grateful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reverb 10 Day Thirteen - Action

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 13 – Action
When it comes to aspirations, it's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen. What's your next step?
I think this prompt was written just for me. I am the queen of aspirations and big ideas - and I am quick to jump from one to another. Rather than tame my ambitions, I try to define them, write them down and complete them. I write lists. More than the everyday to-do list (buy milk after work) and less than the all-important Bucket List (visit every continent), my inspiration lists fall on a weekly, monthly, or yearly time frame (send care packages to three people I love this month).

I find that these 'inspiration lists' propel me into action much more than my to-do lists and bucket lists do. That being said, I still find myself flying from one ambition to the next, oftentimes leaving the last project unfinished. The end of the year seems like the perfect time to evaluate what's working, what's not, and where to go next.

Tying up loose ends.

As easy as it is for me to write my ideas and inspirations and then cross them off when they are complete {oh I love lists!}, it is equally as difficult to remain grounded in a certain truth that ties my inspirations together and keeps me focused. What I am missing is a focal point - a point from which all other inspirations spring.

Currently, I have this:

What I am aiming for is this:

pottery barn

This may be a silly analogy, but I also think it is an accurate one. And I like that the second picture allows me to continue going off in a million directions all at once.

Acting on my ambitions is not a problem. Making sure that those ambitions are in line with my true self - and then following through on those ambitions - is more of a challenge day-to-day.


My action is to find that center point that keeps all of my wild ambitions and off-the-wall inspirations in check. I am happy to entertain even the oddest wish from the most far-reaching portion of my brain, so long as that wish springs from and relates to my focal point. Finding this center point (whether it be a word, an idea, or a feeling) will allow me to remain grounded {with feet in the air!} in this wild and precious life.

What is your next action?

Monday, December 13, 2010

getting in that holiday spirit

It may or may not be snowing where you are. It is snowing where I am, and now I feel fully authorized to be in the holiday spirit. Woo hoo!!

Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree and decorated it. We listened to Christmas music, had festive drinks, and watched a movie all cozy on the couch. And outside the snow was falling. {sigh}

You're probably already in the holiday spirit. In fact, you probably got in the holiday spirit somewhere between turkey and early am shopping. But just in case you are a late-to-the-party gal like me, here are some great ways to enhance your festive mojo.

1. Cheer up your desktop with a cute {free!!} background. I just found this one, and am loving its cute retro simplicity.

2. Cinnamon coffee. My sister let me in on this secret when I was in San Fran. Add a few shakes of cinnamon to the grounds in your coffeepot, and then brew as usual. The light cinnamon taste will have you sipping Christmas cheer in no time flat.

photo from thewildernesschilde

3. Take time to recall your memories and make new ones. Write them down. Put them in a jar. {And while I was there getting the link for the jar I saw this truly fantastic idea!}

4. If you need festive cheer as well as a good dose of laughter, you might want to buy one of these.... or at leat peruse the website.

Do you have any wonderful ideas for bringing on the holiday cheer?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reverb 10 Day Twelve - Body Integration

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 12 – Body Integration
This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
October 31, 2010. Marine Corps Marathon. Washington, DC

I'm not as prepared as I want to be - as I was last time - but I am here and am committed to finishing. The energy surrounding me is excited, intense.

Mile 0-12: I'm excited, my muscles aren't too tired, I'm able to run without thinking about the physical part. It feels easy. I'm probably going too fast. I'm not pacing myself like I should be. I am happy. People are cheering, the world feels alive, I fly down the streets of DC.

Mile 12-20: This hurts. I don't remember it being this difficult this soon in the race. I'm questioning my decision to run. I'm not happy about the lack of cheering crowds on Hains Point. Was it this hard two years ago? I don't think so.... My feet pound on the pavement, and my steps don't seem to be in rhythm with my breathing. My body and my mind are fighting.

Mile 20-26.2: Running doesn't become less painful at this point. The very act of running and breathing and hurting and continuing on enters both my body and my mind in just the same frequencies, and I pound the pavement and breathe in and think out all with the same inhale and the same exhale. Breathing in and out, in and out, my mind also breathes in and out, in and out. At this moment, we are one. Body and mind, acting together with one common goal. Finish.... finish..... finish.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reverb Ten Day Eleven - 11 Things

I'm participating in Reverb 10, a fantastic month-long initiative for reflection. Here I will be responding to one prompt every day.

December 11 – 11 Things
What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?
1. Blogger - I love blogging, {and communicating with you!} but dealing with this site is becoming quite a pain. My technical issues with blogger are all small, but as I'm now spending so much time here I figure I either need to learn more about blogger so I can use it better or find another site entirely. (Don't worry, I'll let you know if I change sites!) {and if you use another site or have bought your own, please lend me a little advice!}

2. My blackberry - i "need" it for work (or at least that's what my boss told me) but I'm ready to give it the boot. I've become one of those people who check (and sometimes even respond to!) work emails in the evenings and on weekends. As I write this my blackberry is sitting right next to me on the couch. This really has to stop, and next year I'm going to focus on being fully present at home when i am home.

3. Facebook - Facebook has actually really enhanced my life in a lot of ways, either through reconnecting with old friends or getting to know new ones. But as I mentioned above, being constantly connected to technology is really starting to take its toll on my life. For the month of December I am doing a 'facebook fast', and I'm enjoying my time without the social network. When I start using facebook again in the new year, I'm going to be more mindful of how I use the site, how much time I should allow for different activities, and who my virtual friends are.

{time out! i just realized that so far all of my items have to do with technology. i've got to explore this theme in more depth i think....}

4. Snarky people - this is a tough one, and one i've already been working on for awhile. i try to surround myself with positive people - people who aren't going to shoot me and others down. I've been working on not gossiping, and like to be around people who try to avoid dragging people down.

*disclaimer - we can all be negative at times. I know I certainly am. I'm not saying I cut out my friends who have bad days/months. I'm saying that I don't like being around people who relish in the negative and emphasize others' bad points. I've got some friends who are realists/are sarcastic/have a dry sense of humor, and I love them to bits!!

5. Clean laundry on the bed - I want to let everyone out there know that Tom is the most patient human on earth. I use our guest bed to store all of my clean unfolded laundry. It goes directly from the dryer to the top of that bed and stays there until I wear it, and Tom is probably ready to have a conniption. I probably don't even blame him. Its a bad habit. Its got to go.

6. My commute - Enough said. i need to either a) move b) start working from home a day or two a week or c) change jobs. I am tired of getting up at 5am every morning so I can drive into town before 6:30am rush hour. I'm going to work on this in 2011.

7. Tension - I'm about as flexible as your average 2x4, and for several years I've been meaning to start yoga or something equally as noble. Even if I don't make it to a yoga class every Sunday, I'd still like to work on stretching my muscles. Goal: touch toes without bending knees by year's end. You may think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. Running my marathon was difficult mostly because I could feel my muscles tightening at the idea of a breaking into a full stride. Oh the shame.....

8. Piles of clutter...... This isn't one I would have put here myself, but as I'm writing this Tom insists I add it. So yes, I'll try to remove piles of clutter from my life (and his) in 2011. Sometimes the people closest to us have a better idea of how we can improve than we do. When I asked him what I need to get rid of, he said 'piles of clutter' without batting an eye or taking his attention away from the movie we're watching right now.

9. Mounds-o-items - When I moved from California to Georgia on Memorial Day weekend in May of 2007, I packed my car. If it didn't fit into my car, it didn't make the cut. Whatever fit in my little 4-door Kia Spectra drove with me across the country. San Diego to El Paso to Lafayette to Atlanta. {Home to Cheap Hotel to Cheap Hotel to New Home.} Three days on the road to a new land, and then car unpacked into unfamiliar apartment with unfamiliar roommate. And now? All of my stuff wouldn't even fit into an SUV. I have suddenly accumulated stuff. Things. Material Objects. I know that I can't live my life by keeping everything down to an area equal to the size of a Kia Spectra, but attempting to do so certainly couldn't hurt......

10. Writers Block - I really really wanted to do National Novel Writing Month this month. And I didn't. Because I was afraid I didn't have anything important to say. I'm proud of myself for starting this blog and for writing in it semi-regularly, but I want to push myself more and get rid of my restraint when it comes to writing. Putting some effort into the development of my writer self would really make my year, and I'll try to do just that in 2011.

11. Soap. In 2011, I vow to use the things that I think are too beautiful to touch. I will drink the good wine, steep the fancy tea, use the smelly soap, and wear my nicest jewelry to the grocery store. I will keep nothing packaged or behind glass simply because it is too nice for the occasion. I will make sure that the 'right occasion' occurs in the right now, and I will not wait until tomorrow to unwrap the expensive chocolate. I will get rid of my nice things, and I will relish in doing so.

How will getting rid of these 11 things change my life?

I want to simplify the physical aspect of my life (things, objects, belongings).

I want to add to the emotional/mental aspects of my life (more writing, more stretching, more meditating)

I hope that this simplification and addition will equal an ability to be more, do more, live more, give more. For these eleven things that I get rid of, I know that I will gain so many more.

alcatraz made me smile...

Oh San Francisco! What a lovely time I had in this strange, hilly, beautiful city. Lets run down the highlights. In list form, naturally.

1. Finally getting to meet my sister's (Laura) boyfriend's (Romey) son (Taj). The kid is cute, no joke. I probably could have hung out with him all day. He likes playing games just like me (score!).

The great thing about Taj is that he is super cute, so he fits in great with the adorable couple. Seriously, these three make great pictures

Here they are in Laura's super cool old fashioned elevator

Romey, Taj and I also went to the Oakland Museum of California together on a free ticket day. The museum has an area where the kids can 'paint' a portrait on a screen, and when the image is submitted it gets put on a screen on the wall.

2. Eating amazing food. This is always the best part of travelling (for me). We ate Indian food, tapas, sangria, Chinese food, Italian coffee/pastries and French breakfast. Yum. Double yum. You can tell that I was amazed with the food, because I didn't actually take that many pictures of it. {sorry}

sangria at Cha Cha Cha

I also had another food experience that I have been waiting to have for 3.5 years. I forgot about it. But when Laura came and picked me up at the airport and I looked out the window on the way to her house I saw it. I may have screamed. Tears may have come to my eyes. I forgot that with California comes.....

I love in-n-out! Seriously, its a real love. Look how thrilled I am here.

It was amazing. If you go to California, might I also recommend a stop at in-n-out. It can't be described here, so I won't even try. I will leave you with these images....

3. Color. I think I walked around San Fran on the most beautiful day. The sky was blue, not a cloud to be seen. It was a bit chilly, but perfect weather for climbing those giant hills. I did my touristy walking on a random Monday morning in December, and I was one of the only people on Lombard Street, Telegraph Hill, and in Grace Chapel. The perfect weather really added to the lighting, and enhanced some of the color I saw during the day.

                           East meets West

And I'll throw this picture in for good measure. Taken on the day I left, this felt more like the San Francisco I was anticipating. Rainy and cloudy, farmers market in the square, everyone has an umbrella.

4. Recreating Laura and Romey's first date. Turns out their first date was absolutely adorable. He took her to the House of Nanking (fabulous Chinese food) and then to Mara's (cutest Italian coffeeshop with the yummiest pastries ever). I'm glad I was there on this re-creation so I could snap pics of them at each stop. Also, Romey was probably glad that he forgot his wallet and Laura had to pay this time. :)

House of Nanking


5. Alcatraz. I loved it. It was really cool. I think I could hear Sean Connery talking to me..... Ok, maybe not on that last one, but I've been dying to go to Alcatraz ever since I saw The Rock. I love love love that movie, which is saying something because my other favorite movies are Anne of Green Gables, Amelie, Ever After and Dead Poets Society. I think you would agree that one of these things is not like the others, and that thing is probably The Rock. Anyway, Laura and I scored tickets to the night tour (usually there's a wait, so we got lucky by finding some available tickets the night before). If you decide to go on the night tour, I would recommend buying your tickets online well in advance of your trip.

Since it was a clear day, and since we left at sunset and came back after nightfall, we saw the most amazing views of the city.

Even if we didn't have the views, Alcatraz was a pretty amazing experience.

6. Sisters. Mostly though, I would have to say that SF was amazing simply because I got to hang out with this amazing lady for five days. {smile!}

Romey and Laura took me to the airport {thanks!!} and when they dropped me off we got a few pics together. When Romey said "be California girls" this is what we did. Naturally right?

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