Some things I'd like to do in 2011

I'm not much for New Years Resolutions, mostly because I don't find it necessary or particularly motivating to start something at the beginning of a year. If I need to start doing something, I start doing it. January 1 is arbitrary. For me at least.

But this coming new year feels a little different to me. I've begun to think about what 2011 could mean for me, professionally, individually and maritally. I have a lot of ideas. And what happens when I get a lot of ideas? I make lists.

Home/Work Life
I'm back at home, with a vision for what being 'at home' means to me. Taking care of my home and my little family - me included - has become important to me. Yes, these are things that I've always valued and felt drawn toward, but right now I am feeling an urge to prioritize home life - to devote my energy and a large part of my days to holding down the fort. Sustaining this is also important to me. I want to find some work this year, yes, but I know now that I want to be working from home. Freelancing is an obvious first step in that direction, as is looking for work-from-home positions. I may also look at smaller side hustles like Etsy. And I have a few other small and medium projects on file too - mostly involving liquidation of assets (in other words, I'll be in charge of selling our car, our spare washer and dryer, and some high-end clothing that it turns out I like to look at but never wear).

To that end, there are some specific things I think I'd like to do this year:

  • Finish unpacking from our move 3 months ago, for the love of Pete
  • Set up the 'man cave' so that it looks like an actual man cave, and not a girly collection of miscellany (first step: get a rug that isn't pink and swirly)
  • Repaint the guest bathroom (and take down the wooden hand-painted shells tacked on the walls...)
  • Revamp my ailing professional website. Maybe even come up with a logo (gasp!) And then put the she-bang to use.
  • Flex my bulky but unused social media muscles.
  • Find a nice balance of minimalism/simplicity and organized abundance at home.

Brian has been going to the gym pretty steadily for oh, maybe 6 weeks now? He is being proactive. It's starting to show, too. I really admire him for doing this. I've thought about shelling out a second membership to go to the gym with him. It's fairly frequently that he tells me he's heading to the gym and it occurs to me that, hey, I could go to the gym now too and not be too bothered by it! But then I wonder if that $25 a month could be put to better use, when I have walking shoes and a bike (not to mention a few workout dvds) that are already paid for. To increase our food budget to include grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. To go to the Chiropractor and/or get the monthly massages that keep my hip and shoulder in working order (because what good is a gym membership if it hurts too much to walk there, and then it hurts too much to do anything with the upper body?). To take a ballet class instead. We have to make these choices more carefully now. 

Same goes for food. We need to make more deliberate choices. And a large part of my role in that is making sure we have good options on hand. I also want to do even more cooking at home. This year may be the year of mastering high altitude bread-baking. There are some things I've always wanted to do in the kitchen, and now is as good a time as any to make that happen (hello, New England Clam Chowder Served In A Bread Bowl). This year may also be the Year of the Garden. If I can work up the nerve.

So here's the next part of the list:
  • Bake consistently good bread. Primary targets include sandwich bread that Brian will eat, and dinner rolls.
  • Reach for healthful snacks and lunches more often than less good options. 
  • Grow, and then eat, something. Maybe a few different kinds of somethings. 

Money and Travel
Because no amount of introspection is done without consideration of The Bottom Line, I of course have a section on money here. It's not that detailed yet - I feel like we are still in a financially shifting stage of life right now, so setting big goals there isn't something I want to do. I did come across the 20 Financial Milestones to Reach in Your 20s, though, and I'm looking to them for guidance. I'll share the specifics here when I figure them out, in case you're interested. 

But really what our financial goals will boil down to is likely to be "Save for Traveling." We are going to Israel in June, and saving up to pay for it in cash - a goal made doable only because the church is paying for Brian's trip. Brian is also hoping to go to Haiti in March, which may be fully or partially covered by the church as well. We've recently been invited to a destination wedding in Costa Rica(!!!) in the fall, which we are hoping to swing without dipping into savings. If the Costa Rica trip doesn't pan out, I think I'm going to put together a little road trip to Austin, TX. I may even go to Vegas in a few weeks with my mom and her friend, depending on how some 'professional inquiries' shake out (I've never been to Vegas, have you?).

I love the prospect of traveling. We haven't had a chance to do much of it in our 3 years of marriage. We had our belated honeymoon in Hawaii, we had a fun road trip moving out to Colorado, and there were other road trips from the home base in Richmond, but those were all to see family, rather than pure, raw vacationing. So having these trips on the horizon is really exciting. And hey, if we can put away 4 Grand in 10 months to go to Israel, maybe we can keep saving at that same rate and finally get to Ireland in 2012. I traveled a lot with my family before I went to college, and Brian has a big travel bug too. It's good for us and our marriage to get out of town whenever we can.

And then I'm reminded: we have student loans. And maybe we should focus on paying those down faster, not on taking these trips everywhere. And there are other things we need to be thinking about too, like retirement accounts (uh...we don't really have those yet) and saving up to pay cash for a car in the event that we need one (the Highlander is coming up on 10 years old). It will probably be a while before it would make sense for us to buy a house (have you priced houses in Denver lately?) so a down payment is not even on the radar yet. We live below our means and build our general savings every month on top of the Israel trip savings, but is that good enough? This is the year to figure it out.

So with all of that rambled said, the third prong of things to do in 2011 is as follows:

  • Fund Israel trip with cash - enough cash to bring home a really special thing or two
  • Take one other trip in the fall
  • Contribute to Brian's 403(b) and open an IRA for me
  • Develop a budget that both of us can stand, and stick to it

Random Misc
Every time I've moved, I pack more boxes than I'd care to admit labeled "Random Misc." It started in college, before I realized that the phrase is redundant, and the label has stuck. These are the boxes that rarely, if ever, get unpacked. I'm pretty sure that the reason I was able to unpack every single box from our move out here a year ago is that we had packers for that move, and none of their boxes were labeled 'random misc.' But, what's a list of things to do without a little bit of random miscellany thrown in?

Here are some of the other random things I'd like to do this year: 
  • Take a class in something. ballet, pottery and foreign language are top contenders
  • Dig into my 'special' yarn and fabric stashes and start making things with them
  • Make butter and see if it's worth it
  • Get someone else to help me decorate (any volunteers?)
  • Make curtains for the tall, skinny, off-center window over the bed
  • Read 52 books - one for each week of the year. Unless it turns out I read more than 52 books this year, in which case, read more books this year than last year. 


Irish Fireside Secret Santa

It should be no surprise that I celebrate Christmas. This year's was great. Really really great. I'm here this morning to share a small piece of it.

Do you know the Irish Fireside? It's a great website and podcast dedicated to Ireland. I've been a listener for years. I just love it. 

Last year the guys at Irish Fireside, Corey and Liam, put together a Secret Santa exchange. I participated, and it was kind of fun but kind of not. I was really excited about the gift I'd sent to my person, but I never heard from her. No response to my emails, no thank you note. It was a real let-down. But that didn't stop me from playing along this year, and I'm so happy I did. 

My gift-giver is a lady in Texas named Judy, who is a crocheter. In her card to me, she mentioned that she crochets things to send to a nun friend of hers in Ireland who sells them for the orphanage (at least, I think that's how the story goes!). She sent me three crocheted ornaments for the tree (two angels and a snowflake) and a celtic cross pendant to boot. I really like the ornaments - they add some personality to our tree. And the pendant is just perfect. Presbyterians, of which I am one, incorporate the Celtic cross in worship (meaning, decor). I like the symbol, and I've been looking at Celtic cross pendants for a little while now, but I haven't found one that I really like. Until now, that is! I really like how the knots in the design mimic the ones in my wedding rings. So cool. These are really special gifts that I plan to treasure for a long time to come. I think Judy and I may keep in touch, too - and that's pretty cool!

Anyway. On to the photos!

What's the best Secret Santa gift you've ever received?


Emmanuel: God with Me

In case you didn't know

I'm surfing a major wave of doubt. Not necessarily doubt in God or the existence of God...it's more about the parameters of faith, specifically MY faith. I'm coming from a fairly conservative background and currently in a pretty liberal setting, so there's a lot of input to sort.

In talking to, and reading from, others who, like me, have undergone radical shifts in their understanding of Christianity, I've found a common theme: doubting almost always comes with a sense that God is not near. When your faith is strong, you feel close to God. When you begin to falter, or question, or re-evaluate, God feels further off.

Faith is more than feeling

I won't heartily sing praises for every aspect of my faith upbringing, but there are some important foundational things that my family and my church got right. One of these is the understanding that God isn't the one who moves closer and grows distant. It is we who are moving. We shift, and so our perception of God shifts. But I was always taught that, no matter what, God is here, right here, and that we either live in that truth or fail to see it.

I remember sharing this with friends when they would lament about God's distance. I would read the Psalms wherein David was wailing about how God had left him, and I would hope that somewhere, at some point, David would have realized that what had changed wasn't God's distance, but David's ability to see God in his circumstances.

Back in 2006, I learned some lessons about God's faithfulness - big, huge, life-altering lessons that had an immediate and lasting impact on me. Though I can't say I never doubt the existence of God or the role of the Bible, I can't conceive of God without faithfulness. If there is a God, then he(/she/it) is faithful.

The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.

For years, and maybe since day 1, I've included a statement from St. Teresa of Avila somewhere in the layout of this blog. (For a while now it's hung out in the About Me section.) I don't remember where I first read this statement, but it has served as a comforting reminder for years now.

Not only is God faithful, but God is on this journey - every journey - with me. If I could ever be sure of God, I would be sure of this.


regarding the future

A couple of weeks ago I asked for input. I got some feedback. Thanks. 

I did some thinking and sorting and imagining and maybe a little bit of yelling, and finally, some deciding.

This isn't really monumental or anything, but I think I should at least mention the result of the thinking and yelling and ultimate deciding. I don't plan to start blogging anywhere else, that any issues I write out will be here. Occam's razor.

In case you were wondering.



I'm feeling a little disoriented this Friday morning. Our Thanksgiving travel really threw me for a loop, capped off with a lavish Christmas extravaganza with my family that still leaves me a little bewildered (hello, new 15 inch MacBook Pro!). Good things, but I still haven't caught up.

I returned to work for what turned out to be a somewhat frustrating but productive three days, capped off with learning that my position is no longer needed and my last day is Dec. 23. 


Surprised? Kinda. When I was brought on this summer, it was in an odd sort of 'temporary part time' thing to get the organization over the hump of two long-time staff people retiring this year. I worked 20 hours a week and we planned to re-evaluate my position at the end of the year when there was a better idea of what was needed. For a long time, it was expected (and assumed) that I'd be starting full time, or close to it, in January. 

Then three major things changed. And the leadership has recently had to reevaluate not only my position, but the direction of the organizational staff as a whole. With some projects axed and others reorganized, there ended up not being enough work for 3 admins, which meant one admin needed to go. And because I was decidedly low man on the totem pole, and I was in sort of a nebulous job anyway, I got the cut. 

I've been thinking about how to posit this on my resume. I wasn't fired. I might have been laid off, depending on how you define lay-offs (how do you define lay-offs, anyway?). But since the entire position and expected outcome were undefined from the get-go, I've decided to call it a long-term temp position that failed to materialize into a permanent placement. 

Sounds good, right?

To be honest, I've been stuck in a 'where do we go from here' loop since 2:30 yesterday afternoon. 

My paycheck helped us get ahead, financially. We'll have to tighten our belts and slow down our student loan payments, but as long as we're careful (and nothing goes horribly wrong) we'll still be able to meet our savings goals and continue to pay off our debt with Brian's salary alone. So money isn't exactly a worry - a frustration, maybe, but not a worry.

There are whispers of a new job at the national level of the nonprofit I left when we moved to Colorado. I will pursue it (and have already done some leg work), but I know I'm going to have some pretty stiff competition so I can't, or won't, count on it. If that job pans out, I'll likely have the month of January 'off' and will start working again in February. 

In the meantime, I need to revamp my professional site. I will either move it to Wordpress or I will re-do it in the web design software that came with my new laptop. I'll have to get a feel for that to see if it has what I want (or need) for SEO. I'll start advertising and seeking clients, and developing a niche market for myself a la Ramit Sethi (who is brilliant, by the way). 

All in all, I'm ok with how this has turned out. I've added some cool stuff to my work experience, which will serve me in personal and professional endeavors in the future. I've also been wondering lately what exactly I would be doing at my job, because it's seemed like there wasn't a whole lot for me, so wrapping it up was kind of a surprise but not really. I'm really happy to be back at home primarily, and I feel much more equipped to make something of myself as a freelancer than I was a year ago.

Today, Friday, is my usual day off. I plan to finish decorating, do some more unpacking and organizing (because we still aren't really settled here, three months in) and find some blue string lights for our tree, which is going to have a new 'theme' this year. That's the plan, at least. Later today there's a luncheon for the sewing ministry at the church (we make baby baptism quilts) so I've got some baking to do for that. 

And then, I'm going to come home and take care of my house, and my dogs, and my husband. Because that's what I like to do best. 


december already

So, the past week kind of flew by, didn't it? Please feel free to blame my week-long hiatus on cross-country air travel with a small dog. I'll be blaming two Thanksgiving dinners and ensuing leftovers for my closet full of ill-fitting pants.

Anyway. Yesterday was my third wedding anniversary. Brian and I both kind of forgot about it, what with all the aforementioned travel, etc. So 'celebrating' was kind of an afterthought.

We ended up spending the evening doing a whole lot of nothing. When I got home from work, I got the car and drove down to a place in Centennial to get my new sewing machine (!!!). On the way home, I stopped at our favorite Italian place and got a pizza.

Random aside: I don't do a whole lot of driving anymore. I've also found that the less I drive, the more stressful it is when I do drive. I am really considering using public transport almost exclusively, much to the delight of minimalists everywhere. All I know is, it took me way too long to calm down after my latest bout with busy streets. There's a reason we moved so close to our jobs. It's a jungle out there! (Note: this is not to say I'll never drive again, or that I want to sell both of our cars.)

Back to our anniversary. It was pretty much as low-key as things get around here. Pizza and NCIS - what more could a girl want?

Do you do much to celebrate anniversaries? Are you guilty of one of my biggest pet peeves, saying 'three-year anniversary' instead of 'third anniversary' and the like? What's your take on a no-car lifestyle?


giving up on books

Have you ever read pretty far into a book and then decided you couldn't bear to continue?

I've done that. Three times in a row, in fact.

Sometimes it's the author's style or tone  that puts me off (Too many adverbs. Too many asides. Too many SAT words crammed together...what was she trying to prove?) Sometimes it's the subject matter that, despite my reading more than half of the 200 pages was too dreary or so-not-me (Sorry Francis Chan, two times over)

Once it was sheer number of typos that caused me to put a book aside in disgust. By the time I'd read the intro and the first page, I'd found 3. That's the danger of self-publishing, I guess. 

It took me a while to let myself off the hook about finishing books I simply do not care to finish (I used to muscle through, no matter what). But still, three in a row (and the one I've just picked up may become the fourth) is a bit excessive. I've got to find something that I can finish before I give up on reading all together!

OK so maybe that was a little dramatic. Fat chance, me not reading. But still. It's kind of frustrating! Of course, I'm sure some of the dissatisfaction I'm finding with my book choices probably has something to do with my general angst as of late. Angst, though, has usually made me more likely to read and enjoy reading (a favorite escapism technique of mine). So this is new territory. It's not like I don't have a billion titles to choose from on my shelves. And then there's no small amount of books (22) from the library sitting at my house (I know. I know.) You'd think I could come up with something tolerable.


Do me a favor? Recommend something GREAT to read! I need your help!


E-book review: 1,000 creative writing prompts

While I've never considered myself anywhere near a decet fiction writer, I like writing, and imagining, and (let's be real) making stuff up.

I'll bet you do, too.

And if I'm right about you, I've got something you might love. It's an e-book, and it's awesome. (Note: I get no benefit for posting this. No affiliate links, no nothing. Except eternal gratitude from the author.)

Enter: 1000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stores and More, by Bryan Cohen, the mastermind behind Build Creative Writing Ideas.

If you like writing, at all, whether it's just for you, for practice, or for an audience, you need to take a gander at this. The title is no joke. There really are 1000 writing prompts, and they aren't lame. Bryan did a fan-freaking-tastic job of pulling these together.

The prompts are sorted by category or topic, and there's an index at the front to help you. For example: today is Wednesday, November 24. Thanksgiving is tomorrow. And there's a whole page of funny, interesting prompts just about Thanksgiving. My favorite at the moment:

42. You are visiting four thanksgivings in one weekend (a la "Four Christmases"). How do you eat all that food? Which one is the best? Who are these people you're visiting?

The particularly great thing about these prompts is that they are a mix of fiction and nonfiction ideas. Some ask you to draw on memories. Some ask you to imagine yourself in new situations. Some are kind of out in left field and have nothing to do with you at all, which is useful for any writer who wants to grow.

I'll be honest - I didn't read every single prompt. Is it safe for your 9 year old homeschooling cousin who can't leave his typewriter alone? I don't know, but you could ask Bryan. A lot of the prompts would be good for younger writers. And for you: is it full of ideas to get you started when your mind is completely blank? Absolutely.

I am so happy to recommend this book. Writer's block? What writer's block?

To pick up your copy, visit the product page. Go fast, while the introductory rate of $10 still applies!
Want more good news? It's Kindle-ready.


comment on this post!

I recently ruminated on some of the high dollar questions that have been rolling around in my mind lately. I thought I could dig for answers and remain engaged here at this blog. I've been rethinking that, though, and for a few different reasons.

I've outlined a few of the talking points in my head below, with reasons to STAY (here at this blog) and to GO. Lists are my favorite organization tool, so I guess it's natural that I'd employ one here

First off, I find it valuable to work through some things in writing, and this is my go-to place for that. I have a lot of things I'm working through right now, so I know the desire to write is going to crop up.

  • STAY: Beyond the exercise of writing sharing, I find value in the input I get from the little community here, too. 

Second, I've been boning up on social media and blogging smarts for the past year-ish. While I've been learning, I've never implemented many of the would-be-necessary changes here. To be honest, I never really wanted the pressure of building, and reaching, a huge audience. This space is, first and foremost, meant to be a low-key web log, not a money-maker.

Given that, I'm thinking about taking a bigger step. Things are happening in my life, and I can't help but wonder if my (anticipated) months-long question and answer session might be of any value to people like me. I have the know-how to promote a blog, now, and the mojo to write content that I think might be worth sharing.

  • GO: A fresh start might be good. A lot of what's going on in my head is of a consistently serious nature, which isn't what I've generally presented here at Sidetracked. I'd move to Wordpress and get an address that is more reflective of the struggles I'd plan to document. Insert delusions of wide audiences and general grandeur here.
  • STAY: There's nothing wrong with making changes to this blog. If I'm growing and changing, wouldn't it be better to do that here, where I've been documenting growth and changes for years? Besides, I'm in the process of moving my professional site to Wordpress, and that's probably enough scratch to satisfy the new platform itch.

Third is a little more complicated. I read books and highly successful blogs written by people who went through, and are continuing, the process I've just begun. My story is different from theirs, of course, but I might have something to contribute to the conversation. While I don't really broadcast my identity here and I try to maintain privacy for anybody who is not me, Brian, or the dogs. I do know that my family reads here, as do some in-laws, and that people who know me in real life could sometimes identify folks in some of my entries. I think that's only natural.

Part of what I'm wrestling with and would like to share, if I commit myself to a focused blogging effort (which is increasingly becoming my inclination), invovles family stories. There are things that are integral to my journey, and if I really do decide to 'go for it' there are events that may be painful for my family to have broadcasted for public comment, and/or weird for my in-laws to know about or deal with. Then again, if I commit, I am all in. Some of my questions are direct results of my experiences, which involve other people and which must be plumbed if I'm to make any real progress.

Initially, I thought I could maintain Sidetracked here, and start an anonymous blog somewhere else - not telling my immediate family, and maintaining strict anonymity as a blogger. I've also tried to convince myself that what I write doesn't have to be 100% full disclosure, and I could omit some of the more unsavory facts. While this may be true and possible, the very 'unsavoryness' of some facts is a central issue. How can I tiptoe around them and still be honest?
  • STAY: This is my blog, and the only person who gets decision-making abilities about content is me. My family's story is an integral part of my story, and if I need to wrestle with that part of my experience, so be it. As stated above, I value the input I receive as a result of writing here, through comments and personal interaction. Writing here could open the door for input from people who know me well and could offer pertinent advice. Also, maintaining two blogs, a professional site, and everything else I do (including an actual job!) is more than I care to juggle right now. The content here might suffer and what's the point of keeping the blog if it's going to be lame?
  • GO: Being able to write anonymously, without the worry of familial reactions, could be freeing. Would that perceived freedom be worth the complication?


making changes

I haven't been around here much. Not really. Not real-ly. I know it, and you probably know it too.

I don't plan to apologize, because there's nothing wrong with my mental, if not literal, absence. (It's my blog and I'll write if I want to, and all that jazz.) There are some things I'd like to offer, though.

I've been blogging since 2001. I had a livejournal, which I loved, and browsing the archives is one of my favorite things to do. I blogged there all through college, and it's so neat to go back and reacquaint myself with the girl I was pre-TBI. Dang, I was funny, y'all. When I wasn't taking stupid quizes.

I did the myspace blog for a little while after college to satisfy my world-citizen cousins who were all over myspace with their global friends, but...ugh, myspace. I grew tired of that medium pretty quickly, but I still wanted to blog. Enter: makeway4ducklings.blogspot.com, aka Sidetracked.

This blog and I go back a while. It's carried me through some major life transitions, including a marriage, two big moves, and more than one job change (see: two big moves). It should go without saying* that I am not the same person I was when I began writing here. I'm certainly not the same person I was when I began blogging.

Not only am I not the same, I would venture that I am extraordinarily different. And yes, there's the head injury, the impact of which still brings me to tears occasionally (it took me 3 minutes and a buddy to come up with the word synthesize yesterday, and then I couldn't even pronounce it correctly). But there's more. I compare my current situation, lifestyle, viewpoint, even spiritual position, to the ones I thought I would have had by now, and there are vast differences. Gaping differences.

My adult life doesn't look anything like the adult life I'd envisioned for myself. And for some odd reason, this is difficult to accept.

That's not to say I'm disappointed. On the contrary, I'm still deeply content. But wrestling the who-I-was and the who-I-am to figure out the who-I-will-be is challenging. It's demanding and engaging and, above all, a deeply internal process.

As is writing. And lately, I've found I don't often have the stamina to do both.

Until I do. And when that's the case, I can do nothing but write. Take now, for example. I've got a big meal in the oven that will be served in an hour, and no kitchen table to serve it because my table is currently piled in onions and jars and jackets and dead hairdryers. (Well, just one dead hairdryer) Yet here I sit, typing. I dare you to pull me away. (warning: DON'T)  (Note: other examples of Gotta Write Syndrome here and here.)

In general, though, writing has been difficult. For months, I struggled with the changes I'd begun to notice in myself. Putting them in writing took too much effort. Now, finally, I can accept that I am changing, and that soon, the time for deliberate changes may come. I can roll with it now, instead of suffocating my thought life in panic and fear. In the meantime, there are questions. So many questions. Big questions. Specific questions.

The answers will need to be specific, too. I'll have to combat the navel-gazing with action. Books. Conversations. Trips to Goodwill. Lifestyle changes. Real ones. Noticeable ones.

I can feel a shift inside of me. A paradigm shift, one friend called it. She was referring to a spiritual shift, but I've recently realized that while this journey began with spiritual questions, it certainly won't end there.

As in a store-closing sale, everything in my head and life is up for grabs. Kids: have 'em, or not? Cars: should I swear off them as a means for transportation? How much do I really care about the environment? Political affiliation: what do I really think? If what I think and what I think is possible are two different courses taken by two different parties, should I affiliate at all? Lifestyle: which values are my priorities, what are Brian's, and how will we get them off the paper and into our day-to-day living? How will those decisions impact our choices about spending, saving, giving, travel and/or home ownership? What about food and diet changes?

Even my theology is under intense scrutiny right now. Who, or what, is God? What are God's attributes? Do I really buy into Jesus? Am I a Christian with doubts, or an agnostic with hope? (Does that even matter?) Will I be a church-goer this time next year? As a self-professed lifelong Christian, new questions about God, Jesus and the Church are troubling, to make a delightfully inadequate understatement. (See aforementioned panic and fear.)

Ultimately, there are no guarantees. I'm traveling without a map, unsure of my destination.

Systemic change. It's happening. And when I'm through, I won't be the same.

So what does all of that mean for this space?

To begin, I think all of the above could be pointed to as the cause for the swings in my presence here. I've struggled to maintain the conversation, and I find myself swinging from intense and deep discussions to menial fluff. This is another, albeit less pressing, recurring debate: I know enough about social media to know that this is not how to build and engage an audience. On the other hand, this is just a cat blog, not the launch pad for my world domination.

Questions aside, I intend to stick around. There's a lot more to process. I invite you to witness this journey, however it unfolds.


Notes from the commute: vintage dustpan

The photo above is from our chaotic laundry nook, which is where I stash my bike gear. This little dust pan was left here by the previous tenants (or maybe the owner?). For no good reason, it reminds me of my grandmother. I don't know if she had one like this, or if it's the colors, or design, or even the 'old'ness of it, but every time I see this goofy remant of someone else's life, I flash back to my own childhood.

Have you ever kept something that belonged to someone who lived in your home before you did?



In my line of work, I end up talking to a lot of people. And I talk to people who talk to a lot of people, too. I have a modest collection of funny stories and odd 'workisms' that I've been privileged to hear.*

Today, I'm going to share a recent one with you.

I am one of three admins where I work, and I share 'technology' responsibilities with another person. I am generally, though not always, the most tech-savvy of our staff of 7.

So when a coworker got off the phone after having what was apparently a very confused conversation with someone, naturally I dropped in. She, my coworker, was trying to get him, the guy on the other end of the phone, to bring her an electronic copy of a document or presentation or something when they were meeting the following week. (This, and not emailing the file to her, made sense in the context.)

He wasn't sure what she meant.

She explained that she needed him to bring the files with him, not just a paper copy but the files, stored on something, so that they could be loaded into the system at the site.

That's when he asked if she meant he should bring the documents on his flash pod.

We decided that we thought he was talking about a thumb drive. And I thought that calling it a 'flash pod' was endlessly amusing.

Which is why I no longer carry a thumb drive. I carry a flash pod.

What's your best workism? 

*Remind me to tell you about the erotic Norwegian love poetry sometime.


more on radical honesty

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a little bit about my thoughts, past and present, on something I'm calling radical honesty.

Many of us have what is generally known as 'trust issues' and I am admittedly one of the many. I've been in relationships, romantic and otherwise, that have been strained, if not decimated, by dishonesty. (I've also been guilty of being 'that girl' - the one who won't cut a guy loose when she's not interested, and instead tries to give him hints to get him to go away, because she doesn't want to be mean. Many thanks to my friend Gary for setting me straight.)

Where was I? Oh yeah...trust issues. I acquired mine through the normal circuits. Knowing firsthand the damage dishonesty can do, I've avoided it for a while now. It was never a deliberate decision of mine to "be more honest" or anything like that. I just recognized how I didn't want to be and lived accordingly. 

And since there was no big 'moment' that shaped my view of secrecy and white lies, I've never really thought much about how different I might be in my (lack of) permissiveness toward white lies and hidden behavior.

Let me magnify that. I hate white lies. I hate secrets. And it infuriates me when people lie to me or hide things from me - especially if they're doing it "for my own good." No thank you, I'll be the judge of that. 

Does all of that mean I'm heartless and rude, saying anything that comes to mind and not accounting for anyone else's feelings? Probably not. I'm sure there are times when Dr. House might call me "CB" and I've had more than one conversation with my husband about how to be empathetic because empathy doesn't come naturally to me. In general, though, I really think a lot of what comes across as me being negative has more to do with my social awkwardness than any truth-driven abrasiveness. And here's hoping that doesn't happen too often either.

I've never been exceptionally "good" at "people." My head injury hasn't helped matters.

In looking at my recent shift, I can see that it wasn't a big stretch to go from thinking it's important to be 'more honest than most' to considering radical honesty as an approach to life and, particularly, marriage.

Part of what I want/expect/hope for my marriage is that we deliberately strengthen our bond by sharing ourselves with each other. An integral part of that, for me, is not keeping secrets. Sure, there are things about Brian that I don't necessarily 'need' to know about. I think that's true of any relationship.

But if I ask my husband questions about something, I want (and expect) straight answers. We both have access to all credit cards and bank statements, phone records, etc. I don't even hide my journal from him, and it can get pretty real in there sometimes.

I am not down with the secrecy. Not no way, not no how.

Do I practice radical honesty? No, I can't say I do. I can't say I never, ever, ever lie or mislead. But I do make an effort to be pretty close to radical.

A lot of people think it's normal to tell white lies, keep secrets, and generally mislead when it works out to their favor. What's your take?



Last week was a long week, culminating in a three-day fundraising dinner/national council meeting/board meeting extravaganza. And this part-time gal on a full-time schedule is tiiiiiiiired. At least the first day after a major event is slow as molasses!

 What do you mean, my lip is stuck on my tooth?

 It'd be great if you'd stop laughing at me.

 I'm telling you, there is nothing wrong with my face!

Stop giggling, or I'll stab you with my lip.



I am an introvert. Did you know that?

At least, I think I'm an introvert. Many signs indicate as such, and I've never been an E-anything on the many Myers-Briggs tests I've taken.

I am an introvert. I'm ok with this. Most folks seem to be.

The thing is, I'm also something of an internal processor.*

What I mean is, I internalize things and spend some time, sometimes a lot of time, processing them. I can get upset, know it, and know what made me upset, but it sometimes takes days for me to know why. And deep down, I'm totally envious of people who know things about their reactions on the spot.

I mean, just today, in the middle of a day-long meeting at work, I had this flash of brilliant insight as to why something someone mentioned to me, in passing, a few days ago, REALLY irritated me. It only took me what, four days to figure it out?

Processing is a lot of work. And I'm telling you this because I am doing lots of processing right now. Things are shifting, internally and externally. Lots of things. Things with significant impact, and not just on me. Things that are riddled with challenge, ultimately beneficial, and absolutely necessary.

It's a lot to process.

Eli and Rory agree.

Enough thinking, it's time for a nap.

Are you more introverted or more extroverted? How do you think that affects your emotional response timeline?

*entirely made up term, right there**

**which kind of makes me think of 'intel pentium processor'***

***do you remember when there was just an intel pentium processor? now we're up to what, pentium IV? pentium V? if I weren't so tired right now I'd look it up.


boy you must be crazy

When I was in the third grade, my class took a field trip to an aquarium downtown. Or a fish store? Or maybe it was a swimming center. I don't remember much, just that there was water and maybe fish involved. I rode with a couple other kids with one of the moms. As we were making our way back to school, the kid whose mom was driving (Chris F, for my Res friends who might be reading) put a CD in the player. (You remember CDs, right?) It was music I'd never heard, by a band I'd never heard of. I liked it, mostly because it was Christian but it 'sounded cool' so - apparently - I told my mom about it. That year for Christmas, I received my very first CD: dcTalk's Free at Last.

This song is from that CD. There's a part in it where a girl says 'Boy you MUST be crazy.' I admit, I have been known to say this phrase, sometimes with the same inflection, on occasion (though not in the circumstances depicted in the song). It's amazing how some aural things stick with you for so long.


Notes from the commute: checker cab

I left my house the other day and noticed this guy a few spots down, FOR SALE signs adorning a few windows. I was in a little bit of a hurry, so I figured I would get a photo on my way home. Actually, I had lots of magnanimous plans of cool 'old car' photos to complete a sort of 'series' I started back in college and have slowly built since then.

Well, not 5 hours later, the cab was gone. Whether it sold or simply found a new temporary home, I do not know. Fortunately for y'all, Brian managed to get a picture of it before its disappearing act. Sadly for me, I'll never have the neat images I spent all day musing.



One of the rad things about my library is its set of bloggers. Recently one of them put out this gem, called Libraries are a smart investment.

It talks about all the benefits the library system here in Denver provides. And I can vouch for their widespread use - I've regularly frequented two branches, and they are both regularly packed. I've never been to either of them - and I've been at all hours - when the parking lot wasn't nearly full during open hours. It's remarkable!

This library system is great, too, because they have just about everything. And if I can't find something at the Denver library (rarely happens, and when it does happen, it's usually a little-known Christian-y book), about 80% of the time I can get it through the Colorado library loan 'conglomerate' called the Prospector. I've also been known to request the acquisition of a title, if nobody has it and I think it's something that fits here. (Meaning, I don't request the random little Christian-y books. Or at least not all of them...

I have probably expounded upon the virtues of the DPL here before, so I won't tell you more. But I do encourage you to check out that link up there. It's compelling, if you're into (and worried about) libraries the way I am. 


yesterday's troubles

Yesterday was trash/recycle pickup, so naturally we set out our trash and recycling. And since we just moved, we have about 3000 boxes that need to be recycled. I left the house that morning, ready to see the pile of cardboard go far, far away.

I came home to a giant pile of cardboard.

Right. So apparently the recycling people are way picker here than they've been anywhere else I lived. I don't know how I'm supposed to get these boxes picked up. Maybe cut them down and stuff them in the supercan. Because that sounds like a lot of fun. Anyway. So instead of pouting and feeling really embarrassed in front of the neighbors, I tried to pick myself up by going out back and taking pictures of this:

After doing all the procrastination I could muster, I went to the front to start reigning in all the stuff. Box-wrangling done, I headed to the front door to pick up the mail, where I noticed this:

Sometimes you just can't win, beautiful foliage and all. There will always be squirrels to eat your giant pumpkin.


sick day

Because I spent the vast majority of yesterday in sickie mode, there's no real post for today. Instead, I'll leave you with this video, which depicts Rory's reaction to her new snowshoeing gear:

What's your favorite remedy for sick days?


pupdate: the mopey puppy

Rory and Eli on our trip to Mt. Evans in July

Rory is a year old now. In fact, she was one of those very special babies who celebrated her birthday on 10/10/10. Her actual birth date is a guess, since she's a shelter dog, but our best estimate is that she was born on or around October 10 last year.

She's grown a lot since we brought her home last November. (So has my patience.) And even though general consensus is that a puppy becomes a dog when it's a year old, actual 'youth' varies from breed to breed. And despite having completed a trip around the sun, Rory is still very much a pup.

One of her favorite games is 'tug'

One of the benefits of our new (rental) house is that it is across the street from the church where Brian works. Every morning he leaves out the front door. And every morning, Rory spends a little quality time moping by the front window.

Sooooooooo sad and lonely

Eli, on the other hand, prefers that his beauty rest go undisturbed.


The Maybe-Minimalism Project: kitchen utensils

I know I promised last time that the first thing I'd tackle is clothing.

But I changed my mind. I have too many ideas for clothing reduction and I lack any of the tools necessary to implement them (ie, mental capacity shelving).

Instead, I decided to go straight to the heart of the matter our home for my first Maybe-Minimalism step.

The Kitchen!!

Now, our kitchen isn't as bad off as the kitchens of other people. I have a pretty good idea of what all is in there, where it is, and just how often I use something (or don't use something). I have a few pretty serving dishes and party trays and special dessert presentation things that were wedding gifts, that have pretty much gone unused for the past 3 years. I am putting off tossing those things just now because we are, for once and finally, in a position to entertain, and I want to see what ends up seeing the light of day in the next several months. I know this doesn't really fall in line with 'minimalism' per se, but since I'm afraid of "real" minimalism at the moment, I'm going with this plan anyway.

Justifications aside, my kitchen could use a reduction in inventory. And the biggest culprit at the moment is my stash of utensils. You know the ones - the spatulas and spoons of various plastics, metals, woods, and rubbers. We have way too freaking many. And it's time to cut back.

Here's the plan:

1. Take ALL utensils (I'm just taking about the cooking/baking things, not the pizza cutters and vegetable peelers and the like) and put them somewhere they don't normally reside. For me, that means they are sitting in a pile on the counter. Lovely. You might have an empty drawer (ha!) or at least a nice basket you can leave on the counter.
2. Designate a home for the utensils you do use. For me, that means the stainless steel crock next to the stove.
3. When you go to cook something and you need a utensil, get what you need: FIRST check the utensil home for whatever it (for me, the crock) and THEN, only then, check the holding place if you don't find what you need.
4. After you've used something, wash it and put it in the home spot.

After a week or so of cooking (assuming you cook at home every night like I do) you'll have a pretty good idea of what you use regularly (aka NEED) vs. what is unnecessary.

I think it's also important to give yourself a decent time frame for deciding what utensils to keep vs. what gets tossed. I'm planning to keep my pile of utensils on the counter for two weeks (which actually ends today, October 15).

At the end of my two weeks (meaning, this evening) I will put the unused ones in a small box for a month, to allow time for my husband to adjust to the change. And if, after the combined 6 weeks, we don't use something, it will make its happy little way to Freecycle or the nearest donation center.


too deep for a wednesday: radical honesty

Radical honesty. You know, never lying. About anything. Not even a little bit.

What's your reaction to that concept?

I first read about the idea of radical honesty in a marriage book. The therapist advocates radical honesty with his clients, and he says it has neve been a mistake. That's not to say it's always easy for his clients, but it never ended in divorce and always led to the couples feeling closer and that much more bonded.

To be honest, I scoffed. I had a hard time with the notion of being 100% honest, always, about everything, with Brian. Who does that? Nobody, right? You're rushing to get out the door, and your spouse asks if he/she looks ok. Yes, the answer is always yes...even if really the answer is maybe or even no. Pure honesty doesn't really matter, especially when it comes to trivial things.

And that's just the little stuff. What about the big things? What if you've been married for 25 years and have a great life, but there was that business trip you took 17 years ago that maybe wasn't all business. Is it really important that you tell your wife that you cheated on her, once, a billion years ago? Should you tell her, causing her to suffer for your regretted indescretion from long before? No. If it were me, I wouldn't want to know.

But then I thought some more. About my past, about marriage, about what my faith teaches, and about the kind of legacy I might want to leave. And I might have changed my mind about radical honesty.

I'm probably going to keep reflecting on this for a while, but I'd love to hear your thoughts today.

Update: Read part two here.


Craigslist + Ignorance = Peril!

We recently bought a new mission-style coffee table and matching end tables off craigslist. They're heavy, and sturdy, and the right size and height, a style we like, and they fit other 'wants' we had for a coffee table.

Before buying, I checked and found that the set is made by a 'real' furniture place. Not shoddy. We picked them up in great condition for 1/6th the current list price. Not bad, right?

Well, the lady who sold them to us kept tauting the fact that they are 'real wood' and 'not veneer.'

I guess a few weeks sitting in the heat of a Denver garage in September proved her wrong.

Now if I could just find the box with the super glue, maybe my table would stop grabbing my leg every time I walk past it!!


early morning bible study

My husband is a youth minister. You might have figured that out by now.

A new school year recently began. You probably knew that too.

This year's youth group has a great crop of seniors. These kids are friendly, inclusive, outgoing, and all around nice to be with. What's more, a few of them are really motivated, faith-wise. So Brian decided to capitalize on that.

Wednesday morning, two days ago, a group of high schoolers gathered at our house at 5:45. (I would like to note that the sun didn't even gather at our house for another hour.) Their purpose? Studying the bible together.

Cool, right?

Even cooler is, Brian made blueberry muffins, from scratch, all by himself. My Brian, my Brian who does not bake, my Brian who has baked maybe two times since I've known him, including these muffins.

So many people being so impressive, my head might explode.

What's been impressing you lately?


Notes from the Commute: my new ride!

Here's kind of a 'new feature' I thought up this morning. I have, for the first time in ages, a cell phone with camera capabilities. Also, what with our recent move and all, I am now biking to work every day. I see things. Sometimes odd things. And that means I need an excuse to post cell phone pictures on the blog.

Thus, Notes from the Commute. To appear whenever interesting stuff happens. That is to say, irregularly.

Today's note is regarding my 'new' ride.

My new ride came to me courtesy of a gal who goes to my church. She and her husband are pretty involved too; we used to carpool for Bible study, her husband was head of the committee that hired Brian, etc. They are all around cool folks. Made exponentially more cool when I mentioned that I was thinking about getting a bike for running errands, and she offered me her old bike! She was planning to donate it, but hadn't scheduled the pickup yet...and next thing I knew, I was in possession of a 20+ year old, great condition 7-speed mountain bike.

NICE. Bike, I mean. Not picture quality. Sorry about that. Note to self: photos taken in shadows will likely be dark.

After repurposing a few things I already had and making a couple stops at REI for a helmet and panniers, I am close to having a full outfit. I could use a mirror to look behind me, something to tie around my leg so my pants don't get caught in the gears (R.I.P. FAVORITE 8 YEAR OLD EXERCISE PANTS) and I'm thinking about getting one of those blinky sleeve light things, just to look ridiculous.

I also need to get the brakes replaced, but that's not really a big deal, right?

So there's my new ride. I'm stoked about all the fresh air I'm getting. And I can already tell a difference in my recovery time when I get home! But more on that later.



We survived the move!

And we even got our internet set up. Aren't you relieved?

There are a couple more car loads of things to bring back, but we'll be doing that today and tomorrow.

The unpacking is going fairly well. The boxes aren't so overwhelming anymore, and a lot of the furniture is likely in place. Tonight's big adventure will be putting together the new futon.

Having season one of Community show up on Thursday has made a big difference, I think. We love that show!!

In the Challenges column, we have realized that one downfall of having a dog that lived her entire life thus far in an apartment is that she will only potty on a leash, or inside. That has led to some unpleasantries. We're doing whatever we can think of to teach her, and hoping she'll figure it out soon. (She'd better!)

Nevertheless, it feels good to be 'home' again.


Happy Rotting Stuff!

Being the crazed hippie creation care advocate that I am, I have long considered composting as a 'thing to do' at home. I never bit the bullet, though, for a few reasons:

1. When I first heard of composting, it involved worms. Couldn't get over that.
2. When I then leanred about non-wormy composting, I wanted to try it! But I was living in Richmond, with no money, thinking I would probably be moving soon. So I decided to delay the decision until more money and more permanence allowed.
3. When we moved, thereby acquiring semi-permanence as well as more money, we were living in an apartment complex. Composting was outlawed. LAME.

Which brings me to now....

I have my Top Three Reasons Why Our New Rental House Is Awesome (back yard; room to entertain; close enough to work to downsize a car) and I have my list of smaller reasons to look forward to being in the house. Having a yard will be nice. There's a cute little sunroom that will be great. Line-drying clothing will be easier. I can tinker with a garden. I can tinker with growing flowers! I can do all those goofy little housewifey things I like to do.

AND. I can compost.

So the price tag on compost bins is a little high. I'm looking at startup costs maybe around $100. Suckzorz.


So this next part is a little bit of a detour. There's kind of a weird hedgey thing running along the back fence, overgrown with some kind of viney thing that I don't recognize. There might be much pruning and whacking of weeds when we move in. It's particularly jungle-y behind the garage.

Which is why I never noticed something before:


It is completely overgrown and has all kinds of who-knows-what growing up and reaching out of all its lids and drawers and openings... but it is THERE. And now, it is MINE.

The only composting start-up cost I'll have will be factored in manual labor. Because there will be some labor involved in getting this thing in working order.

In fact, it's so overgrown I can't really even tell what kind of bin it is. It's tall, and probably black, and I'm guessing it's probably one of these or maybe one of these. Extricating it from the jungle will be tough, and I'm guessing it will weigh a whole freaking lot. But that's what we have husbands for, right?

I can't wait to get it cleaned up and start composting.

Once I figure out how to start composting, that is....

What's the weirdest thing you ever got excited over?


have a lovely day!

Check out this video for a fun dose of goofy 90s wardrobe and bad 90s music videos. Have a lovely day, everyone!

When I was in high school, I loved the song Lovely Day by a CCM group called Out of Eden. One summer I spent a week or two in Florida for a ballet intensive, and every day on the way to the studio my group of friends listened to this song. It brings back good memories and I'll still listen to it every now and then.


Today I'm thankful for:

I'm linking up with Company Girl Coffee this morning. Come play along!

1. Being able to work part-time. Brian makes enough to support both of us, and this is kind of a big deal to me. My part-time income is completely voluntary and it helps make our life a little easier. I'm not sure I'm cut out for full-time office work, as we've learned over the past three years. I'm so grateful to have a husband who provides enough for us. I'm not sure I tell him this enough. 

2. NOT living near forest fires. Tornadoes are scary, but they're here and gone in a flash. You know whether you were hit or not, pretty much immediately. Hurricanes are scary too, but you generally get lots of warning, and they can be tracked. Forest fires don't work that way. They move slowly and are difficult to monitor. You might not know for days or weeks whether your house survived. We see and smell the smoke from the nearby Boulder County forest fires, but the fire isn't a threat to our home. I hear stories every day from people who have lost their homes, who don't know if their houses are even standing, and who don't know what is going to happen to their family when they can access their property and learn the damage.

3. The chilly mornings and evenings. Midday here is still a little swampy and miserable, but the mornings and evenings are nice and chilly. I love old sweatshirts, and there is now a place for them in my wardrobe again. Another thing I love: walking on the cold, dew-covered grass in the morning. My Grandovie used to fuss at me for going around barefoot when it was chilly (for the love of Pete, you'll catch your death of cold) and she bought me I-don't-know-how-many slippers. But to no avail. I'm still that girl who won't wear slippers in the morning.

What's ringing your thankfulness bell this morning?


Time keeps on slipping

I've mentioned here that we're moving, right? In something like 10 days.

We've hardly begun to pack!!

And I am kind of freaking out a little bit. Just not enough to start packing.

I think the dogs know something is going on. They've both been extra-neurotic lately.

Lord help us all.


Assume Love - a blog reco

Do y'all know the Assume Love blog written by Patty Newbold?

Her posts are a leetle sporadic (sound familiar?) but the concept and content are both great - no filler, which is awesome. I read her most recent post and got motivated to share.

The name of the blog, Assume Love, is the gist of Patty's relationship advice too. When your spouse does something you just can't understand or rationalize, assume that his (in my case) motivation is love, and go from there to look for your answers.

She has three 'tools' to help you have a happier marriage when there's conflict or hurt: assume love when upset, expect love when in need, and find third alternatives when you disagree.

Today's post gives a real example of how to use these three tools. Sometimes it can be easy to 'learn the tools' without actually learning how to use them. Having examples makes it easier to remember how to incorporate the tools in your own life. At least, it's helpful to me!

So if you're like me and still trying to figure out this whole 'marriage' thing, now is a good day to go check out Assume Love by Patty Newbold.


One Book, One Denver

A couple of months ago I was getting to know my library's redone web page, and I stumbled across something called One Book, One Denver.

According to the DPL website,

One Book, One Denver is Mayor Hickenlooper's citywide book club created to build community and stimulate people to read.

(Yes, our mayor's name is Hickenlooper. Watch out, he's running for gub'ner!)

So what happens is, the mayor sets out three books, and then there's a popular vote done on the library website. The choice is chosen but kept secret for a couple of months, while people add their names to the Holds list. I think something like 1100 people put the OBOD on hold this year, sheesh!

The choices this year were:

It's probably a surprise to no one that The Help was chosen. It's the book with all the buzz, at least from what I can tell. I read it about a month ago (it was great!) and Brian started it, but he wasn't able to finish before it was due back. So now he has at least 3 more weeks to get through it. 

In the next few days I'm going to look at the schedule of events and see what discussion groups and activities I might want to check out. I'm from the south (though not as deep as Mississippi, where the book takes place) and now living in a place where race, at least the black/white perspective, doesn't seem to be much of an 'issue' on the list of top issues. 

Aside: did I ever tell you about the time Chapel Hill was considering changing the name of the main street from Airport Blvd. (which had local historical significance that was meaningful to longtime residents) to MLKJ Blvd.? The opponents gave their arguments, which had a lot to do with the financial hit to business, which needed HELP, and suggested more appropriate, more meaningful, less costly ways ($50k to get the street signs changed, for starters) to celebrate/honor Dr. King. The local NAACP leader then got up and said, pointing fingers, that they were all racist. "You a racist, and you a racist, and you a racist." I'll never forget that moment Even in supposedly-enlightened, progressive Chapel Hill, North Carolina, community leaders will point their fingers and call each other racist. 

To contrast, the apparent lack (at least from my very limited perspective - my circles right now are still very small) of 'blacks vs. whites' mentality out here is startling to someone who grew up surrounded by that mentality. I'm really curious about the Wild West's take on racial reconciliation, the theme of the book. It really is a different world in the South. Could everyman Coloradans have anything meaningful to contribute to the discussion? I'll find out soon enough, I guess. (I wonder how many times I'll hear someone refer to 'those people' and what kinds of Southerner stereotypes I might hear about.)

Does your city do something like this? Have you ever gone to 'discussion groups' for a massive reading effort? What's the most troubling thing you can remember happening in your community?


book-ular housekeeping, part 2

Some more book-related housekeeping on this here little blog of mine.

Back last November I told you, the world, that I was taking part in the TBR challenge. 

I made this proclamation, and promptly forgot. Until now.

So of the 24 books (12 picks and 12 alternates) I said I was going to read this year, I have read...

....drumroll please...


(You thought I was going to say zero, right?)

One book is on the original list, and two are alternates.


The calendar says I am probably not going to be able to finish nine of the remaining 12 books and still get everything else done that I need to get done this year, so I am going to pretend this little challenge thing never happened.

Hey, at least I'm reading something!


book-ular housekeeping, part 1

I was updating my Goodreads bookshelves the other day and I realized that I never did my 2009 Books Read list. I emailed it to myself, at least.

So, with no further ado, here's the list of books I read in 2009. More stats and info follow, as well as the link to the 2008 list. To see the books I've read so far this year, check the right side. If you're reading this in a reader or email, you'll have to come on down. 

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much*
The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Summer at Tiffany*
To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever*
Mermaid Chair
Hospitality Commands
One Big Happy Family
Tyranny of the Urgent
Nine Kinds of Naked
The Peep Diaries*
Busy Woman Seeks Wife
Stolen Innocence
A Gate at the Stairs
Here if You Need Me*
The End of Overeating*
Skinny Bitch
The Inner Voice of Love
What's Submission Got to Do with It?
Such a Pretty Fat
Love and Respect
The Frugal Duchess
Bitter is the New Black
His Needs, Her Needs*
The American Porch
Richest Man in Babylon
Wife Living Dangerously
Good In Bed (a novel)
It's Easy Being Green
Self Help (a collection of short stories)
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life*
The Marriage of True Minds*
The Amateur Marriage*
Catherine, Called Birdy
Self-Made Man (some, not all)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society*
The History of Love
Happy Housewives
The Rural Life
Sidetracked Home Executives
The Way We Never Were
Water for Elephants*
Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman*
The Time Traveler's Wife
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
How the Irish Saved Civilization*

*Denotes books I liked a lot

SO. The 2008 list is here for your perusal. In 08 I read 34 books, and I was stoked by this number. I had set aside my reading habit for a while because of the head injury, and 2008 proved a nice, easy way to sort of ease back into the reading lifestyle. Most of the titles were not particularly heady or challenging (most of them still aren't, hah) BUT I was reading, and I was happy about that. 

In 09, I read 50 books. (Only 48 appear above - omitted for personal reasons.) Look at that! Progress!! There are also books that never appear on the list because they aren't the kind of book that you 'read' - cookbooks, pattern books, etc. So I cracked open quite a few more but they don't really count.

So far in 2010 I've read 43 (and a half) so I'm confident I'll have read even more. In the back of my head, I was hoping to reach 52, which would be equal to a book a week. 

For me, reading a book a week is a lot. For some, a book a week is probably not possible, for time/interest/other priority reasons. Other folks probably blow through 150 books a year, easy. Where do you fall?


The Maybe-Minimalism Project

For a long time I've thought about becoming a minimalist. Not a scary owning-50-things minimalist with a mattress, a laptop, and a fridge, sleeping with one sheet and eating a raw diet and having nothing in my life solely for the purpose of bringing beauty on the scene. I always thought of a minimalist as the creepy bald dude who wears only white and entertains himself by chanting and is so focused on simplicity and meditation and becoming one with the air that you can hardly hold a conversation with him.

Right. Not so much me.

In my efforts to pare down the embarrassingly huge amount of stuff in our belonging, I became drawn to blogs about organization, and later, minimalism.

The organization blogs never really cut it for me. There's only so much organizing you can do. My obvious problem was organization, yes, but my real problem was having too much to organize. As Flylady says, you can't organize clutter. And that's so true.

Having too much stuff is frustrating! Knowing I have something but can't find it, or not being able to use closets or entire rooms in my house because they are too packed full of stuff, tripping over things, not having any floor space.... It wears on you. There's the physical inconvenience, which is frustrating enough. But then there's the guilt. Guilt for having so much that isn't used. Guilt for wasting all that money. Guilt for repurchasing things because you cant find the original one you know you bought. Guilt over the CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) and the fun times you know you're missing. Wasted time, wasted money, wasted energy, wasted life.

That was me for years.

Moving to our current place and having to unpack each and every belonging was the fresh start I needed. Making countless tiny decisions to 'keep, sell or toss' made me feel like I was getting my (OUR) life on track, maybe for the first time ever. We've taken truckloads to donation centers and more belongings leave every couple of weeks.

It's like losing weight, or like coming out of hibernation.

We're moving again next month, and our sum total of possessions will be reduced even further.

We've trimmed so much that at this point that I can see - feel - the benefits. I keep wanting to trim more, and more and more and more.

Hence the consideration of minimalism. And I'm talking pragmatic minimalism, not radical minimalism. I'm married to a collector, after all, and there's only so much I could do away with without landing in divorce court crossing some boundaries. My stuff, however, is under review. Same goes for general house stuff, as long as I consult Brian before tossing.

Whenever I touch something or see something around the house, I wonder how easily I could do without it. Most of my paring down efforts are in the kitchen and in my wardrobe. Those are tough!!

Will I ever have a minimalist wardrobe with 30 clothing items to my names? No, probably not. But I certainly don't need everything I have - wardrobe and beyond.

It's time to change.

I'm going to be giving period updates here among the random whatnot on the blog. I invite you to join me on this journey if you're in the same place. You can do a search for the minimalism tag any time to find posts on this particular topic.

I'm excited! The idea of having less to pack is a nice one!

Up first, clothes. Oy.

(This post is a part of Company Girl Coffee. Click here to play along!)


brief life update

News! We have news!

We're moving! We are leaving our apartment and moving into a house across the street from the church.

It's a little 3br ranch, within walking distance of Brian's job and about a half mile from mine, which is technically also walking distance although it will likely be biked rather than walked by yours truly.

It is partially tiled (yay!), partially carpeted (ick from me, yay from Brian), and partially hardwoods (yay again!). The owner thinks it was built in 1952, and I'd believe him judging by the funny closet built-ins and the sorta-arched threshold from the living room to the back bedrooms.

This is possibly the last place we'll rent before we buy, which also makes me happy.

But you know what makes me the happiest girl in the world?

IT HAS A FENCED BACK YARD. And I have a border collie puppy who has to go outside approximately every 5 seconds.

We'll be landing there just in time for it to get cold. Just in time for us to have a true appreciation for not having to bundle up every time the dog has to pop a squat.

I am so excited. I've been prepping the dogs daily, telling them each morning that in just a few weeks, we won't have to go through this old routine anymore. I can let them out of their crates, not mess with leashes, not mess with commands and fussing and Rory's early-morning hyperactivity...I will just open their crates, they will run, and I will open another door. It sounds like potty heaven, if you ask me.

We are liking the anticipation of moving, talking about the new layout and thinking about what furniture will go where. Redecorating isn't far from my mind, though the budget says otherwise, so for now it's fun to imagine what we'll do 'next year.' In the meantime, we'll have gatherings! Parties at our house! We've never been able to do that before.

Needless to say, stoked.

We take possession on Sept. 24. The heavy lifting of the move will be done on Saturday, Sept. 25. I haven't put a call out to the troops yet, but oh boy is that coming.

And packing, you ask? Well...we have a packing game plan, yet to be implemented....oops. Better get started on that.

Packing will go hand in hand with a new project I've been meaning to tell y'all about, too. So look for more about that on Friday.

In the meantime, happy Wednesday!


undecoratable quilts

Dear Everybody:

I am pleased to present...


My very first quilt!

It is finished, and I am so very happy with it. I am also so very happy to be done with it. 

I really liked most of the process of making it. I don't know if I am now 'a quilter' by any stretch, mostly because decent quilting materials are kind of expensive and I am kind of a miser. But I loved the project, start to finish. I loved the fabric-fondling, and tossing the ideas around, and all the goofs and gaffes in planning, and putting patches together. All in all, a great first experience. 

I can offer but few specifics on this baby. I didn't buy the fabric so I don't know about its origin, but the 'solids' came in a jelly roll and the batiks came in a pack of 20. (Thanks, Cathy!!!!!) I was determined to use the batiks as soon as possible, because I am a little bit obsessed with batiks. 

What I do know: It's a square (90ishx90ish) 9-patch patchwork quilt. The batting is bamboo...Quilter's Dream, I think? and the backing is light blue with a Chinese motif. I'll show it to you later when I make curtains from it. I started the first 9-patch squares back in September, before we even knew we were moving. With the move and the unpacking and the lack of a flat surface, it took me a while to get back into the groove. I finally finished a couple of weeks ago, in July. 

Right now it lives on our bed. It's a big quilt, but it's lightweight. Now that fall is beginning to think about rolling in, and the nights are really cool, it's almost too chilly for this, and soon I'll be changing it out for something a little heavier. 

Now, my question for you is this:

How do you coordinate bedding for something so colorful? 

(As you can see, I went with the off-white sheets and pillowcases.)

I have a kit waiting to become my next quilt. I'm taking a little break from quilting to do some knittingand some other stuff, but it's nice to have my next project lined up. And the project after THAT will be made of some fabrics that my cousin recently sent me from Japan. Because she is awesome. And I am so in love with these fabrics that I am afraid to cut into them. So I need some space between the arrival of the fabrics and the use of them. (Thanks, Jackie!!!!!!!!!)

(They might be sitting on the mantle so that I can admire them all day, every day, by the way.)

So what I want to know is this: what's the latest project you've finished that makes you ridiculously proud?


New York, New York

Last month, Brian and I headed East for a family thing. The 'family' is loosely based in Albany, NY.

I've never really been to New York City, but I have loved the City from afar for a number of years now. (Full disclosure: we had a 4 hour layover in Trenton the summer of 2002, so we took a cab to the City, visited Ground Zero, ate a pizza, and went back to the airport. That doesn't count.)

Brian has said for a while now that he would take me to NYC the first chance he got. And when we headed to Albany in July, he made it happen.

We flew to La Guardia and were picked up late that night by Tim and Katrina, Brian's cousins who live in Brooklyn. We stayed at their apartment that night and got up the next day to spend our 6-ish hours packing in as much of Manhattan as we could before catching a train to Albany.

It was awesome.

Tim showed us around and hit the highlights for us. We went to Times Square, Bryant Park, the NY Public Library (supposedly it has lions at the front of it, but they were being cleaned or fixed or something and the whole facade was covered), Union Square (with the farmers market!) (it turns out I hate wheatgrass) and Battery Park, where we could see the Statue of Liberty, etc. Katrina met us for lunch and we got some pizza (duh) and spent some time sitting on park benches. We did a lot of poking around, really. We poked around the library. We poked around Battery Park. We poked around Union Square. When we weren't busy poking around, we were hauling it to the next spot.

This trip wasn't about tourism. We didn't go to Central Park, we didn't ride to the top of the Empire State Building (but we were close to it!), we didn't see any shows or concerts, we didn't go to the Smithsonian or the MOMA, there weren't any 11pm dinner reservations at happening restaurants. All of those things will happen when we have more time there. (Except maybe for the dinner reservations. You can take the girl out of the budget, but you can't take the budget out of the girl.) We didn't want to be tourists. We wanted to see the city, to see what it might be like to live there. Some of the pleasant points, at least. I still have a 'maybe someday' recurring fantasy about living in the City for a while. At this point I doubt that will ever happen, and that's ok. But I'm not sad to have family there, so I can live vicariously through Tim's blog!

It was really great to get to know Tim and Katrina better. Brian has known them his whole life, but I've only been around them a couple of times each and haven't had much time to get to know them. So that was great.

I took my camera, yes, but I didn't get many chances to take photos. This wasn't a photography trip. And I didn't want to look like a gawking tourist all during my first real trip to the City. So I really only thought about two kinds of pictures: 'portraits' of Tim, Katie and Brian, and 'architecture' for lack of a better term - I wanted to take cool pictures of buildings. All told, I probably only got 20 images total, and after whittling those down, I have about 7 saved from our New York City trip.

I'm only going to share photos of the buildings, here. I forgot to have Tim and Katie sign the release forms. (kidding!) All photos were taken using my Nikon D50 and a 50mm lens.


The building reflected on the left is the Empire State Building. I never found out what the other building is, but it looked church-y and very brown with some gold trim.


The tall building to the far left is the Empire State Building. The guy in the foreground is my husband. I took a bunch of these while we were walking down....6th Ave I think...toward Bryant Park. I was using my 50mm lens and finding it surprisingly difficult impossible to get both Brian AND the entirety of the Empire State in the frame. I was holding my camera down at my hip for this one.

 We had just left the library and were walking down 42nd St, past what I kept referring to as Union Station, which is actually Grand Central. (It's Union Station here in Denver.) The Chrysler Building is probably my favorite New York City landmark, thus far, and I was playing with reflection again. We were walking at medium/fast speed the whole time and the sidewalk was a little busy so I didn't have the time to get the exact framing I wanted. Either way, you get the idea. And it was really cool to be walking this street, watching the reflection move and change in the building to the right, while the building itself loomed larger on the left.


This arch is the Washington Square Arch. You may recognize it from the movie August Rush. And again, that's the Empire State poking out. 

So there you have it. Our trip to New York City.