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9 Feb

**** Before I share my Florida trip, I have a shameless plug for Becky’s fabulous husband, Ben! He has entered a contest that could really help his career and get his artwork in front of the right people. In Ben’s words: “The winner gets flown out to pretty much the biggest comic book convention and introduced to all the bigwigs in the comic book, video game, and toy/statue industry which will jump start my career in comics and everything else!  I am so freakin’ excited about this it’s not even funny!  The voting ends on the 14th so it’s a very limited time in which to decide the winner so everything has to be a concentrated effort.  Thank you so much for the support.” So how can you help? Go to this link. Click on “Support Ben,” via the Facebook button. The website will email you when to vote; both views and votes count! *****

So, Florida.

Apart from the chaos that ensued before we actually got there (in a nutshell: Knight’s flight getting canceled, him having to juggle to get on my flights out of StL, dealing with a flat tire in the ghetto of STL, arriving at 1am) and the fact that we got no sleep the night before (hooray for 24 hour amazing breakfast places to kick off the trip), our first vacation was totally ah-mazing.

There was nothing but hugs, love, laughs, holding babies (hers, not mine… duh!), drinking, eating our way through North Florida, laughing some more, watching ridiculous reality TV (hello, Jersey Shore. Nice to meet you, finally. And I may be hooked.)

There was not lovely weather by any means but it was still warmer then this stupid midwest. Like by a lot. And it rained, warm rain. The good kind of rain, you know?

I wore flip-flops and short sleeved shirts. I slept in. I cuddled with Knight and my niece. I sat with my childhood BFF (she needs a nickname, seriously) and laughed, smiled and cried over the pictures and memories of us from the last five years. We hung with my niece and had good life chats. We sat in silence at times and it was more than ok.

I put my toes in the sand despite the insane fog that was covering the Jacksonville beaches. I had to talk to a cop in order to get into the bar since I was a dunce and left my license at home (it worked). I took shots to celebrate my childhood BFF’s birthday, the attainment of my Masters, and friendship and love in general.

Future trips were planned. Tears were shed when it was time to leave. Bonds were strengthened. Knight and I spent five days and six nights together; the most in a row since we’ve met one another and were left hungry for more.

My soul is rejuvenated (again). My heart is soaring (still). There is a smile plastered to my face (like usual). I’m in love with Florida all over again. I fell more in love with myself, with Knight, with life.

When was the last time you fell in love with yourself, your life, your loved ones all over again?


Lessons Learned: Soulful Weekend

1 Feb

Bright and early on Saturday morning I picked up Lisa at a very packed airport (I think everyone was trying to flee this ridiculous weather are getting), greeted her with a classic Midwest Bear Hug, and we were off! This trip has been planned for only a month but it seemed like a long time coming; I think this past weekend was something we both needed: lots and lots of girl time.

Here are some of the things that I learned this past weekend:

* Apparently Mother Nature is nice and graces us with her lovely presence (as in 45 degrees and sunny) for special out-of-town guests. This will lead you to shedding your coat in favor of feeling a bit springlike. Don’t be too fooled, though. The weather will change after the sun goes down.

* Getting to the zoo within 30 minutes of them opening? Best idea ever. No lines to see the penguins!

* You know a lot more about the history and culture of your city than you think, but you always forget the Arch is 630 feet tall.

* Sitting on your bed, magazines askew, Generation X music on in the background? Reminds you both of high school, the days you couldn’t drive, and it is SO much fun. Nothing like just relaxing and being girls for a bit, no worries about driving, bills, plans, boys, nothing beats it!

* Celebrity gossip and looking at fashion is fun at any age. You’re also reminded of why you and Lisa are such good friends: your thoughts and tastes are incredibly similar.

* You might get totally giggly and say something like “smokes like a fish,” when you really meant “smokes like a chimney.” This will become a running joke for the rest of the weekend.

* Introducing your boyfriend to one of your best friends is really fun, especially when they like each other and get along really well.

* Mexican and margaritas is more fun when you’re celebrating a friend’s early birthday (and when the margaritas go down very easy).

* There are some bars in St. Louis that would be ideal for numerous episodes of “What Not to Wear.” We found one of those bars. We also think we should have a stack of Vogues to hand out to people who need some fashion advice.

* Chatting over a delicious breakfast with no agenda on a Sunday? Divine.

* Colin Firth is amazing and dashing, even when he’s playing a King with a speech impediment. (In other words, go see “The King’s Speech.”)

* Sex and the City is a lot funnier than you remember it being; so fun to watch it with a true fan!

* Spinach & feta stuffed chicken breasts are really good; maybe it’s the company (your parents + Lisa), the wine, and the fact that you were totally relaxed, but the recipe is definitely a keeper.

* When going to THE custard place of St. Louis, it’s probably a wise idea to call before you go, just in case they are closed for the season. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

* Sometimes the best weekends are the ones where you put down the camera and only have a few photos to share!

* You are incredibly thankful for the blog world and the best friends it has brought you and you will always wish they lived much, much closer to you.

* It is way more fun to drop a friend off at the airport when you know you’ll see them again soon!

* Fact: You need much, much more girl time in your life than you’re currently getting.

Notes to Self

28 Jan

Hi Self,

Just a few friendly reminders…

Don’t get too caught up in the everyday. Silly things like long commutes to work, ice on the windshield, forgetting to put earrings in? Small potatoes compared to the bigger picture.

Continue to embrace those people and things that you love; remember how delighted and engaged you feel during your creative writing class, connecting with other like-minded individuals, sharing books to read, writing prompts, feeling like you belong to a group? Do more of that. Remember how you feel when Knight wraps his arms around you after being apart for a few weeks. Remember how great it is to live with your parents, two people who would do anything for you since it’s all going to change soon; they are amazing forces in your life.

Really push yourself at the gym. It’s totally worth it and you know it. Enjoy the running high, the sweat dripping down your face, pounding it out on the dreadmill, rocking out to really hardcore rap. Sign up for a few races soon, use that Groupon for the Yoga classes and treat yourself right. You deserve it.

Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep… you’ve treated yourself to some much needed quiet time this week (read: Saying NO to social engagements) and it’s done a world of good for you. Do it more often. Your friends who are your true friends will understand and still be there for you.

Be present. I know things are topsy-turvy for you right now to a degree, but you can only do so much planning for the future. You know what John Lennon said (“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,”) and you know he’s right. Your life is NOW. Enjoy it, you only get one shot at it.

It’s ok to ignore the pile of laundry growing in your closet, the unmade bed, and bathroom that needs to be cleaned every once in awhile. Chances are it means you’re doing something more meaningful and that’s a good thing.

Love hard. I know you’re good at it but just don’t forget to keep doing it. Love your family, your friends, Knight. They are all deserving. Let those walls come tumbling down and just fully embrace love. You know you want to do it. You know you can do it. And you know what will happen when you do.

And above all? This:

 You’ve really been yourself lately (well, ok, for many, many months now) and it shows. Just don’t forget to always be true to you.

What would your notes to self say today?

Things to Remember: 2010 Version

16 Dec

I’m borrowing this idea from the Reverb 10 posts that are floating around; yesterday’s prompt focused on 2010 and the things that you wouldn’t want to forget as you look back or if you lost your memory. This is probably one of my favorite prompts yet so here’s what I don’t want to forget about 2010, in no particular order.

How amazing blog friends are, both near and far, those I’ve met and those I’ve yet to meet. I don’t call them blog friends anymore, either. They are just true, honest, amazing friends. Without you all I’d be totally lost. I don’t want to forget how I feel so alive, vibrant and hopeful when I’m talking to these friends, how fun it is dancing to music while drinking wine, having late night conversations on video chat, the unexpected snail mail and much more.

Pushing through to finish my masters; it wasn’t easy. In fact at times it was incredibly tough but I reminded myself of what I’m capable of, that I can do anything that I put my mind to, and the reward/relief when I finished was well worth it.

Personal growth. There was a lot of it this year. Healing from a broken heart. Figuring out the next steps. Forcing myself into new and unexpected situations. Traveling miles to meet perfect strangers. Becoming a better sister, daughter, friend, employee, believer in myself. I learned how to listen to myself: to listen to my heart and soul, while still following my gut. I found my happy place again. I found my laughter and my smile again. I found myself, the person that I thought was lost. She’s not and it’s lovely.

I don’t want to forget the day I pierced my nose, or the weekends spent visiting my brother in his college town. I don’t want to forget the long walks with Jack during the dead of summer, listening to crickets and gazing at stars. I don’t want to forget the long conversations with friends that rejuvenated my soul. I don’t want to forget the look on my childhood best friend’s face during her baby shower, or the time I saw my faux niece’s photo for the first time. I don’t want to forget the weekend in October that restored my faith in a lot of things. I don’t want to forget the night I sat around the fire pit with my parents talking about my future, laughing and loving every moment of it.  I don’t want to forget the quality time I spent with my Gram where we truly connected. I don’t want to forget the ridiculous-ness that surrounded our Christmas tree purchasing or light hanging. I don’t want to forget the absolute joy I felt when I crossed the finish line of my 10k. I don’t want to forget the butterflies, smiles, electricity and energy of the last few months. I don’t want to forget the feeling of hope and excitement that I’ve had bottled up inside me since this summer when my entire perspective and life started to shift, all for the better.

What don’t you want to forget from 2010?

Grace in Small Things: Week Eleven

19 Nov

* Knowing all week that I’m on vacation all next week.  (It’s been a tough work week but I’ve almost made it through.)

* Making plans with Erin to see her babies this Sunday!

* Finishing one good book (Never Let Me Go) and starting another (Fly Away Home).

* Late night conversations that have me giddy with laughter. (I’ve been ignoring the fact that I’m sleep deprived and have bags under my eyes.)

* Being able to provide solace to my friends from afar.

* Awesome Groupons. (American Apparel and Nordstrom Rack? Yes please.)

* Mentally planning my Christmas shopping list for friends and family.

* Sticking to my new budget for a whole week. (That’s serious progress, people!)

* Homemade chocolate chip cookies two nights in a row.

Where did you find grace this past week?

Grace in Small Things: Week Ten

13 Nov

* Best friends who email with me during the week talking about everything from careers to boys, TV shows to pets and everything in between. Somtimes you really need a shoulder to lean on, a different perspective, or words of encouragement.

* Hugs from the kids in the neighborhood that I babysit for. Even though I haven’t seen them in awhile the fact that they remember my name and take time from their play schedule to talk to me is pretty amazing.

* Raking 17 bags of leaves and feeling accomplished even though more leaves inevitably fall.

* Falling asleep listening to Ray LaMontagne.

* Jack cuddles, which are more prominent now that it’s a bit cooler outside.

* Discovering that I have no late fees at the library when I was sure that I would have one… this also meant that I borrowed three books.

* Snail mail containing birth announcements = pictures of cute babies = win all around.  

What little things made you smile this past week?

Grace in Small Things: Week Eight

29 Oct


* This interview. It makes me smile every time. Fact.

* A very friendly and informative customer service rep at PetSmart this week while shopping for Jack.

* One of my friends who was injured in Iraq last year is coming home on Monday; he’s come so far in his recovery and I’m thrilled that he’s able to come home for a month to be with his friends and family.

* An insanely productive and busy week at work that won’t stop on Friday but leaves me feeling accomplished.

* Nilsa had her baby and he’s beautiful. (Which is a not a surprise; I mean, have you seen how adorable Nilsa & Sweets are?)

* Learning to let go of my past demons and learning to be ok with those that are still sticking around.

* Darling (my mom), showing me her Halloween costume early because she is just *that* excited about it.

* Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies. I’m not normally a fan of peanut butter baked goods but this recipe is delicious. (And yes, I will share. I owe a few recipes to the blog world so I’ll get them out next week!)

* Rocking out to the Black Keys albums that my brother gave me for my birthday. I just love the simple dynamics to their music.

 You know the drill; play along on your blog or join in the comments!

(Also, good luck and early Congratulations to the lovely E.P. who is getting hitched tomorrow!)