best of 2009...

the following is adapted from gwen bell's best of 2009 challenge
trip. definitely milos
restaurant moment. so many to choose from (i’m not the holly homemaker i thought i was!) probably bedford (in the heights) with my family…we ate out on the patio, gorgeous summer night, delicious wine, perfection.
article. i am a ripper…from my magazines i tend to pull out the articles that i connect with…and if it’s online i’ve taken to printing out the keepers. there were so many in 2009 it’s hard to pick just one. (this may give me an excuse to look through them again!)
book. i’ve barely FINISHED a book this year, mostly picking over a bunch of books on writing. one of my faves has to be writing to change the world by mary pipher.
night out. david and i, at that hillside restaurant overlooking the port in adamas. we had the balcony to ourselves (only 3 tables fit there anyway)…we shared the most incredible meal, watched the boats out in the harbor, it was amazing. then we walked through the city, holding hands, enjoying the vibrant nightlife.
workshop or conference. having difficult conversations. this was a lunch training (we get food AND continuing ed credits!) done by a fellow social worker, and i loved the message. basically, that our job is to tell people really terrible things but in a way that is kind/compassionate/strengths-focused.
blog find of the year. ALL OF THEM! can you believe i had only visited 2 blogs (my cousin and my college friend) before this year!?!? but the winner of this category must go to ordinary courage, since this was the jumping off point for all the rest…
moment of peace. ahhh, i talked about this one here.
challenge. take a creative writing class.
album of the year. i’m more of the “download-one-song-off-the-album” type. artists i added to my ipod this year include: adele, barefoot truth, brett dennen, matt nathanson…
the best place. the boom boom room. hands down.
new food. jamaican
what's the best change you made to the place you live? in our bedroom: taking down the china theme and putting up our milos photos/mixed media art! it doesn't look like much, but i love looking over and picturing us on a greek island!

when did you get your best rush of the year? mountain biking. particularly the muddy buddy!tea of the year. tazo wild sweet orange. well, it’s the tea of the last many years, and i heard that sbux is getting rid of their bag teas…not happy.
word or phrase. 2009 was "crazy-fun.”
shop. it’s not a shop, but i spent most of my money this year on airplane tickets.
car ride. this still makes me laugh out loud: david and i attempting to navigate the ridiculous greek hills in a tiny red stick shift.
project i’m proud of? you’re lookin’ at it…
learning experience that changed me? this happens DAILY...don't make me choose just one.
gift i gave myself. books. lots and lots of books.
insight or aha! moment. there were so many…definitely this one, and you can see the rest here.
social web moment. When sami at life, laughs & lemmings…. posted my letter on her blog (and the lovely comments that resulted)
biggest belly laugh. probably following a road trip when I tried to climb through david’s legs to get into the bathroom first. or dancing to 80’s youtube videos in his studio…
advertisement. it was more a combination of ads that got me thinking this.
resolution you wish you'd stuck with. F@#? resolutions…read my post tomorrow for more on this subject!


a trip down memory lane...

the phone on loud-speaker...too many voices screaming, laughing, remembering...us here and everyone else there. we called ourselves "small but mighty" this year...just my husband and my parents in the house over the past few days. we made christmas eve a party, lots of snacks and cocktails...but the call to all of our cousins/aunts/uncles in illinois just proved how small our party of four really was. i was reminiscing with my cousin over the phone: remember those christmas eve's with the care bear sleeping bags and santa coming to visit???

so many years ago, yet so crisp in my memory...the smell of cookies lingering in the kitchen, newly made (matching!) outfits for me and my sisters, taking our shoes off on grandma's "new" carpet! there were whiskey sours for the adults--sometimes a sip for us older kids--and all the hors d'oeuvres you could imagine...standing around grandma's dining room table, laughing way too loud.
my sister and her husband were there at grandma's this year...they promised to give us the play-by-play when they got back to houston. and my cousin agreed to post lots of pics on facebook, but it's just not the same. i want the sounds of babies crying and my uncles laughing and glasses clinking in the kitchen. i want the hugs and smiles and wrapping paper in my hands. i want the cozy warmth of grandma's living room with the fire roaring, tree lights twinkling and all of us squished in a circle on the floor. this is the christmas i remember.


autumn in december

who says texas doesn't have seasons? so we may be on our own unique calendar...snow and THEN leaves changing...but i don't care. walking around my neighborhood on december 20th and capturing THIS...i wouldn't want to be anywhere else! enjoy!


lovely overlaps

photo of stained glass from a trip to chicago

lately i have been noticing a lot of overlaps. i'm not sure how to describe it, but it seems that the various pieces of my life are coming together in unique ways. some might call it coincidence, others kismet, or even divine intervention. i don't know what to make of it, but it sure is lovely. it feels a bit like all of the crazy pieces of this puzzle i've created are finally fitting together. maybe i am actually defining what is important in my life and those things are uniting somewhat seamlessly. perhaps this is just a part of growing up.

any way i look at it, it makes me smile. books i'm reading echo the thoughts i've been having, co-workers referencing something i just read in an article, my husband experiencing similar cases through his work at a different hospital... and i am noticing them everywhere. which shows me that my discovery project is WORKING...my awareness has heightened, and i am fully engaged in my life and thoughts. it's like a game of sorts, seeing how my yoga practice intersects with my hectic workday; how the inspiration i find on artistic blogs relates to my own growth with mixed media; how history repeats itself.

today was the last class in my creative writing workshop and we read a piece written by, and about, a physician. one of my classmates is an MD, and shared about her experiences as a young resident. we talked about how our professions influence us, as well as our writing. i have realized that not only am i a social worker by profession, but more importantly, in my heart. i believe that to do what we do, one must LIVE the values...and not just 9-5. one of my favorite overlaps these days is the way i see that side of myself in everything i do.

and, like through a crystal ball, i am seeing a strong connection between my writing and my academic training. i am starting to gain ideas for future articles and exploring avenues for publication. i am drawn to the concept of community and how this relates to my personal and professional lives. i am hoping that the harmony of these two parts of me can create something beautiful, and uniquely my own.


my apologies...

i have been using david's computer and his screen shows the photos looking good, but when i pull it up at work i can see they look TERRIBLE. i promise to be getting a new computer soon, and hopefully a better quality camera too...patience.


discovery #20

how long it takes to make sufganiyot (and the reason bakers wake up at 2am!?!)

david and i were going to dallas to celebrate hanukkah and he asked if i would make a recipe he found to take with us. i love trying new things--and had the day off on friday--so i agreed. we had gone to the grocery store together the night before and collected all the kosher ingredients. i had a few things to get done and didn't get started until about 3:00pm (thinking i'd whip them up before happy hour!).
it started out innocent enough...yeast, water, sugar. although they wanted the water "warm (105-115 degrees)"...hmmmm, a thermometer would have been helpful at that point.

but the dough worked out well, and after sitting for an hour and a half "in a warm place (80-85 degrees)"...this took some creativity...turn on the oven for a little bit, then off, and pray it was somewhere close to this range. okay, back to sitting...then it was ready to be cut with a "3-inch round biscuit cutter." cue the blue moon pint glass--perfect. have you noticed that i did NOT read the recipe prior to starting this project. so....

they sit for ANOTHER hour to rise before cooking. (and i cannot lie...they sat for 3 hours and 45 minutes while i enjoyed real blue moon at the pub!) at which point i gained a pastry chef to assist with the final 8 steps of the recipe....

oh, the oil needed to heat to 375 degrees...which i happened to read prior to happy hour, so we stopped for a thermometer on the way home. (note: it takes approx. 30 minutes to do this!)

to fill we were supposed to use a pastry bag and tip...we instead used: a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off, and a chopstick.

and you may have noticed i look really happy (and overdressed) in the final photo above...but this is what my kitchen looked like:

but they were delicious...i must have eaten 3 that night (we finished a little before midnight!)...and couldn't bring myself to have any during the actual party. but dallas was wonderful: amazing food, friends, and music!

happy hanukkah!


discovery #19

my true feelings about christmas

as i have said before in this blog, i am not religious. and according to several bumper stickers i have been seeing around town...i am apparently missing the REASON for the season. i have struggled in my adult life to reconcile the hypocrisy i feel when sitting down to christmas dinner-- or celebrating Easter--with my family, knowing we have completely abandoned the religious aspects of these holidays.

but i have to admit: i love christmas. and i have to be very specific here: i love the way I celebrate christmas. there are a few non-negotiable, absolutely, critically essential aspects to the holiday tradition that i have created for myself in adulthood. this list includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  • hot chocolate. as often as possible. and sometimes spiked with peppermint schnapps.
  • the advent calendar my mom and i sewed together. a re-creation of the one she's had since we were kids and would fight over who got to put up santa on christmas eve.
  • twinkly lights. particularly INSIDE the house. i am also partial to icicle lights on the outside of homes, which leads to...
  • at least one nighttime drive through (any) neighborhood to enjoy the lights.
  • holiday tunes. beginning on--and not before--dec. 1. (unless at my parent's house, which can generally begin on or immediately following thanksgiving.)
  • making cookies with my sister and remembering the dozen+ different types my grandma would bake/decorate each christmas eve.

now, the tricky part has been combining MY non-negotiables with my husband's tolerance of my secular celebration. being married comes with compromise, and on this issue there has been much struggle for common ground. but, like always, david never ceases to amaze me. the other night he broke out the twinkly lights and created the cozy holiday scene i crave every december. we are working toward an artistic "tree of life" that can incorporate some of my beloved ornaments, each a gift from grandma or handmade by my mom through the years, and the new tradition we are learning together.

throughout the past few weeks i have truly reflected on what's important to keep, and what can be modified for my new life with david. we both learned a lot about honoring each other's traditions and creating new ones just for us. and i have reconciled within myself that i can have a different type of connection to the holidays, and that's okay. so for now, i raise my mug of minty hot cocoa and say "happy holidays," for whatever you are celebrating this season...

may it be truly unique. (and perhaps a little more snow on christmas eve wouldn't hurt either)

(yes, this was last week's snow in houston!?!)


caring is sharing

image from here

i am good at sharing. i grew up as one of three girls...we shared EVERYTHING. dolls, clothes, my parents' affection. even birthday parties were shared with my sister--our b-day's were only one day apart. then when i got married, i learned to share with a boy. i shared my bed, my bar of soap, garbage duties...and even some of my secrets. we even did the unthinkable (in texas anyway) and became a one-car family. we learned to plan ahead, be patient, and even drive a little slower sometimes.

but i have to put my foot down this time. a one-computer household is not acceptable. this is one thing i am not willing to share. my laptop was officially declared dead on friday. i contemplated doing a full obituary, but it was just too painful. we had been together for five lovely years--she recorded the memories during a six-week roadtrip with my sister casey, got me through dozens of grad school research papers, and most recently, held the first story i've written about my sister jamie's death.

fortunately, when she started getting sick i bought an external hard-drive to back-up all the photos and documents i wanted to keep...but i am still grieving the loss. photoshop and quark are gone. all of the "favorite" websites i've collected over the years, gone. the photos i've taken since the last back-up was completed. it hurts. but i have to move on.

this weekend i will begin researching new laptops, and saving my pennies for this unanticipated purchase. and although i don't like it, i will continue to share david's clunky old pc until i find a suitable replacement for my dear friend.


discovery #18

first, i must share some very sad news: my laptop is in critical condition. she began feeling the effects of old age a few months ago, but has recently experienced a sharp decline in health. this has resulted in numerous symptoms for the silver beauty, including, but not limited to: slow movements, increasing time to process simple commands, occasional outbursts, and a tendency toward sleep. i regret to say that over the holiday weekend things took a turn for the worst, and she is now in a coma. the light in her screen has gone out, but there is a faint glow...i can see the icons, but they are very dim. we have been hoping that with rest she will come back to life, but so far: nothing. we will seek medical intervention very soon and keep you posted on her recovery.
this discovery is almost 2 weeks late, but important to my growth as a writer, nonetheless...

how to handle a critique (without crying)

i'm sure it's a similar exercise in most creative writing workshops, sitting with a group of strangers, listening to their feedback on your most personal thoughts, and not being able to utter a single word. don't get me wrong, i think it is helpful that the writer in the hot seat is not able to respond, but for me, it was a nearly impossible task.

first, i love to talk. second, they were asking me QUESTIONS...how do you expect me to sit there in silence? third, i already KNEW some of the criticisms, i felt the same way...couldn't i at least agree with them? but all in all, it was a great first experience. i was nervous the whole week leading up to it, and then it was over so fast! i wanted MORE! (more compliments anyway)

but i did have some written feedback as well...i finally got through all of the comments the other day. overall, it was a pretty positive critique of my first "story." this is something i probably shouldn't get used to, if i'm planning to start submitting my writing for publication. i'm guessing most editors aren't as kind as my classmates...

so, despite my discomfort with the process--or at least the anticipation of it--i really gained some valuable insight for the story and hopefully a future book. (everyone seemed to agree that short story is not the appropriate format for such a complex narrative.) i also learned a lot about writing in general...some of the take-aways included:
  • know your audience. and ensure every word is tailored to the reader.
  • build your characters. readers are interested in details. and be clear on who's who!
  • stick with action. stay in the moment...reflection can become redundant.
  • don't use italics for emphasis. if the writing is good, you shouldn't need to emphasize your words.

once i get my external hard-drive hooked up to this computer i'll get some photos up...and if my trusty old laptop goes to the grave, it will be the best money i ever spent!!! thank god for back-ups.