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?