Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye to 2010

I thought I would be sad to see this year go, but I'm ready to welcome 2011 with open arms.

2010 taught me some lessons. Showed me what I was made of. Taught me I could conquer some fears and sent me running from others. I explored new places. Made new friends. Blogger friends became real life friends. I tried. Sometimes failed. I screamed. Cried. Laughed. Forged new bonds. Broke others. Drank a lot of wine. Heard new stories. Stretched my heart. Questioned my beliefs,what I really wanted. Still don't have all the answers. Dreamed bigger. Loved me first.

While it was a great year, I'm ready for more. Ready for what's next. Ready for new dreams, new adventures with friends, and new lessons.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year. Here's to new beginnings, new dreams, and new adventures!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: The Secret Gift

From the book: Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered $10, no strings attached, to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author’s grandfather Sam Stone was inspired to place this ad and assist his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever witness.

Moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope contained in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase 75 years later, Ted Gup initially set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives all over the country who could help him flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that Mr B. Virdot’s gift had on each family. Many people yearned for bread, coal, or other necessities, but many others received money from B. Virdot for more fanciful items-a toy horse, say, or a set of encyclopedias. As Gup’s investigations revealed, all these things had the power to turn people’s lives around- even to save them.

But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable- retiree persona he’d always shown his grandson. Gup unearths deeply buried details about Sam’s life-from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to felonious efforts to hide his immigrant origins from U.S. officials-that help explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need. Drawing on his unique find and his award-winning reportorial gifts, Ted Gup solves a singular family mystery even while he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. In A Secret Gift, he weaves these revelations seamlessly into a tapestry of Depression-era America, which will fascinate and inspire in equal measure.


My grandfather was a child during the Great Depression and only recently have I heard him discuss a little of what life was like during that time period. As a history major in college I studied the Great Depression, but never had I read such personal accounts of how people were so affected until I read this book. Gup beautifully and eloquently captures the stories of several people and their families during this dark period of our nation's history while unraveling his own family history. 

This book takes the reader back to those hard times when parents had to choose between food and clothing for their children. The reader learned about sacrifices made, the absolute desperateness of situations that many families faced. The Depression had a lasting impact on families for generations. While not solely a Christmas story, its a story that shows the kindness and compassion of individuals that grows out of tough times.

Disclosure: I was provided this book from the publisher to review. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Wishes For You

I had grand plans for blogging this week but I've been completely swept up in the holidays -- buying last minute presents, wrangling rolls of wrapping paper, baking one last batch of cookies (which I've done no less than five times now), and trying to get my dog to wear her ridiculous antler headband. I wanted to share some favorite holiday cookie recipes, tell you what my next few days are going to involve (wine, family, food, games -- not necessarily in that order), and write about some favorite holiday memories. Instead, I'll leave you with a few simple Christmas wishes that I have for each of you....

I wish for you moments of pure joy with your family and friends. Moments where you are no where but the present moment experiencing emotions in their truest form. Laughter, happiness, and innocence.

I wish for you moments of peace. Quiet reflections in a dark room with only a glow of light from a fireplace or the twinkling lights of a tree to soothe your soul. Peace within your heart if there are any conflicts fluttering about. Peace of mind that things are just as they should be. 

I wish for you the power to believe. In yourself. In the kindness of others. In the magic of the holiday season. 

Merry Christmas, friends! 

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometimes I...(Holiday Edition)

Sometimes I have really good intentions to blog every day but then get distracted by things like baking Christmas cookies, shopping online, writing out Christmas cards, and watching fun Christmas movies.

Sometimes I turn off all the lights except the Christmas tree lights as they glow against the ornaments, then sit with a glass of wine thinking about the past year, reflecting, and wondering what next year will bring.

Sometimes I get all swept up in fun holiday plans with friend and family. Wine dates? Yes please. Breakfast with long time friends? Sign me up. Movie and game nights? You bet. I love spending time with my favorite people, especially during the holidays.

Sometimes I am in awe at how much butter I use when baking Christmas cookies. A few weeks ago my 14 year old cousin and I did the holiday baking in one day. Over eight hours of mixing, rolling, sugaring, kiss unwrapping, etc. The end result is a freezer full of cookies to give away to friends, take to holiday get togethers, and to the office.

Sometimes I still can't believe that my best friend is getting married on New Year's Eve, I'll be ringing in the new year with some of my favorite friends.

Sometimes I drive past my great grandma's grave at the cemetery to visit her because she was such a huge part of my Christmas Eve memories as a child. I miss her this time of year more than any other.

Sometimes I get teary eyed when I hear certain songs on the radio like a wistful rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I think its lines like "next year we all will be together, if the fates allow." A subtle reminder to soak up every last wonderful moment because no one knows what the next year will bring.

Your turn, fill in the blank Sometimes I________________________ .

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I spent the majority of last week in a bit of a fog. Early last week, due in large part to a virus, I passed out, cracking my temple extremely hard on a porcelain bathtub knocking myself unconscious which resulted in  a concussion.

I spent the majority of the week sleeping, fighting against debilitating headaches, and counting down the hours until I could take the next dose of pain meds.  Focusing on one task at a time was taxing, multi-tasking was out of the question. Looking at a computer screen exacerbated the headaches and watching television provided little comfort because it simply moved faster than my brain could keep up.

By the end of the week, the headaches had subsided somewhat but I was still feeling a bit disoriented. I felt as if I was physically there but I wasn't really present, a completely disconcerting feeling.  It was as if I was gazing though  a thick fog. People and details were hazy.  I was seeing, but not really. Showing up but not really participating.

In the past few days, things are becoming clearer again. The headaches are almost gone and being in front of the computer doesn't make me want to cry. Prior to last week, I never realized how serious a concussion could be. Its frustrating to not be able to perform simple tasks such as checking your email or driving a car. Its horrible to have a sharp, stabbing pain on the side of your head for several days. Its downright scary to not be fully aware of what's going on around you.

I'm still trying to play catch up and make up for lost time. (Being taken out for a week in December isn't optimal -- there are Christmas cards to write and address, Christmas presents to buy and wrap, and numerous other tasks that need to be accomplished.) I'll be taking some of the reverb10 posts that I missed and writing about them as I can. The plan for the next few weeks is to take it easy and cut myself some slack for the things that I don't get done. And of course, to enjoy the holiday season that seems to be fully underway (while dodging all the hard headed jokes from family and friends).

Have you ever had a concussion, how long did it take you to fully feel back to normal? What have you been up to the past week?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Letting Go: Smashing and Burning

Over Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to spend time with some of my closest friends. On a frigidly cold Saturday night I stood with four other women around a fire ring, watching one my friends past go up in flames. Fueled by an overwhelming need to set fire to some particularly painful memories, boxes of mementos were pulled from the attic. One by one, she opened them pulling out bit and pieces of her life that she completely needed to let go of. Pictures, clothing, knickknacks from trips, one by one she tossed them into the pile periodically stopping to douse them in gasoline and strike a match. Wine glasses with names and dates were thrown over the hill, smashed against trees, shattering and splintering into pieces representing promises broken.

Standing there in the cold November air, while I didn't physically burn any mementos there were some things in my heart that I needed to release. Watching my friend go through the pain of physically burning and smashing pieces of her past gave me the freedom to release some of my own. Seeing the ashes burning and smoldering reminded me that we can let go and start over again any time we choose.

Moments and Wonder

The last few reverb10 posts deal with cultivating a sense of wonder and moments in life where one feels absolutely alive. Personally for me the two sort of go hand in hand.

I spent a lot of time feeling alive this past year. Quiet moments in deep reflection where I was so in tune to my needs it shocked me, laughing with friends or my younger cousins while being completely spontaneous, meeting up with blog friends for a bit of an adventure.  I also don't take myself (or life for that matter) seriously. Sure there are instances that demand absolute seriousness but more often than not, in the grand scheme of life, most moments aren't as serious as we make them out to be. When you let go of that seriousness, it lets a bit of childlike wonder seep in and take hold.

Yesterday evening was spent with my 15, 14, and 10 year old  cousins laughing, shaking my head while completely taking part in their shenanigans. While meandering through the Target Christmas section, the two oldest spontaneously decided to purchase four foot pre-lit Christmas trees and the decorations to adorn the branches. It made me incredibly happy to hear their giggles and excited voices as they made plans to string popcorn. Lately things have been a bit serious for them, so I was glad to be a part of that childlike wonder and excitement they felt.

Later that evening well after midnight, I was standing out on my deck amid swirling snow. The big fat fluffy kind that when they land allow you see every little intricacies of each individual flake. I recalled a childhood memory of running around my grandparents big yard with my grandpa, our tongues sticking out in an attempt to catch a snowflake or two. On a whim, I threw back my head, stuck out my tongue and proceeded to try to catch snowflakes on my tongue. If you've never stood outside in the black of night and tried to catch snowflakes on the tip of your tongue, I highly suggest it.

What sorts of events made you feel alive this year, how did you cultivate a sense of wonder?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Exploration and Advancement

During this next month I’ll be taking part in Reverb10, a project about devoting some time to reflect on the past year and manifest for the year to come, to send some reverberations into 2011. I tend to become really introspective the last few months of the year, so it all seems quite fitting. There are daily prompts, some of which I’ll use, others I probably won’t, but I do hope that you will follow along. Today’s prompt is one word, choosing one word to sum up the past year and finding a word that I might want to define the next.

In the beginning I thought 2010 was going to be a big year of these huge sweeping changes. If you follow along with this blog, you know that wasn’t necessarily the case. Instead, this year was more about exploration. Not so much physical exploration (although there was a bit of that) but rather serious internal exploration.

There was profound exploration into my heart and soul, delving deep in an attempt to decipher the thoughts and feelings that have been taking shape. It left me attempting to map out a course I want to plot toward a future that’s still currently unknown. There has been a tour of what works and what isn’t going to work (probably a bit more of the latter), sacrifices I’m willing to make and those I’m not, how much work still needs to be done and what might be left for another day. I’ve explored my heart in an effort to find what makes me truly happy, how that happiness might be best achieved, and what I can do to hold on to that happiness that sometimes seems to be too quickly fleeting.

I’ve hunted down what really, truly matters to me and the sort of things I absolutely need in my future life and career– writing, creative thinking, other artistic souls. I’ve dug deep, put myself out there and explored new friendships, found people that share some of the same thoughts, ambitions, passions that I feel. I’ve explored the boundaries of some long time friendships, seeing how far they might let me grow and change or if our friendship will continue on what used to be, our pasts so intertwined that there’s no unraveling those bonds regardless of what the future holds. I’ve started to cautiously explore some familial bridges that haven’t been traversed in quite a while, lightly stepping in a surprising direction I haven’t considered for some time.

Internally exploring to keep my head, heart, and feet all in alignment.

As for physical exploration, there was some scouting out of new places and a revisiting of old stomping grounds. Digging around to see if maybe, just maybe, one of those places might be somewhere I want to further explore and possibly live. Of course there’s always the possibility that where I end up might be someplace that’s never appeared on my radar, a wholly unexplored territory I’ve never considered.

The word that I hope to define the up coming year is advancing, advancing forward with these explorations that have taken place, these dreams that have taken hold, and the thoughts that have lifted my spirit. Advancing ahead with plans to make some changes, move someplace new, find a new career to sustain me, to keep trying new things and facing my fears. Advancing the talents I've been been given to somehow make a difference in a way I don't even know yet.

To keep advancing onward to become more of the person I want to be.

What would your words be? Did you do any exploring this year or do you have any plans for advancing in the next year?