Archive for December, 2010

I’m not one for New Years resolutions – I’ve simply come to accept that I might never shed that five pounds that would allow me to wear my skinny jeans without a booty-hiding sweater; it’s not in the cards for me to prepare a healthy, home-cooked meal seven nights a week; and really, much to Shane’s chagrin, I’m just not a punctual person.  Love it or…deal with it.  However, I do believe that the end of the year is a good time to ‘take inventory’ – spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc…  And if I find that my boat is a bit off-course, what better time to redirect it?  As I sit here with my cup of coffee in our quiet home, wrapped up in a blanket while temperatures drop to below-freezing outside, I think, “Life is good.”  And it’s good for reasons beyond just hot coffee and cozy blankies (though those two things rank pretty high on my list of happiness-makers).

Career-wise, this year has been challenging, and frustrating at times, but it has also been the most professionally fulfilling year I’ve had thus far.  I certainly started the year on a high note, when I received word that I had passed my final architectural licensing exam, and then there was a bit of let-down when I realized how little that actually impacted my day-to-day responsibilities, but slowly, throughout the course of the year, I’ve been taking more and more ownership of my project while becoming a more and more integral part of the larger project team. And I like it – I like the balance of ownership and collaboration.  There have been several moments over the past few years when I questioned whether or not I’m really in the right profession, and I’m finding that those “Oh, crap…” kind of moments are becoming less and less frequent.  This is a good thing.

Physically, I’m giving myself a B+.  Still in the routine of running and doing yoga, and all in all, I feel really good.  With the exception of my little fish-taco-induced ‘episode’ in Sayulita, I think I managed to make it through the entire year without being sick.  However, I knocked myself out of A-status due to the fact that I never even came close to accomplishing my monumental 100-push-up goal.  I tapped out at 28, out of sheer wimpy-ness and lack of determination.  I let myself down on that one…  And as I mentioned above, it might be nice to shed just a few pounds, but then again, I have decided that I love chocolate too much to obsess over this elusive weight loss.  Heidi Klum might have a body to die for, but I bet she doesn’t get to revel in an after-dinner bowl of ice cream or few squares of mint dark chocolate.  Bummer for her…  I’m fit, but still allow myself the occasional (read: nightly) indulgences.  And I’m happier for it.

Emotionally, I’m calling myself, ‘content’.  This largely has to do with how well the major relationships on my life are doing.  Shane and I are feeling pretty on-track lately, spending quite a bit of time just hangin’ out and talking with each other – checking in, setting goals, and remembering the importance of laughter.  It’s nice when your spouse consistently makes you smile.  I’m also extremely grateful for family, both mine and Shane’s, and feel very lucky that my biggest concern is just that we can’t spend more time with them.  Our friendships here in Seattle continue to deepen, and I continue to wonder what we would do without this group of people that have become our Seattle family.  So many meals, weekends, adventures, etc. have been shared with our closest friends over the past year.  And it’s been damn fun.

So, I know I’ve painted a pretty peachy picture thus far, but in truth, there are a couple of areas in my life that fall under the ‘Needs Improvement’ heading.  Artistically, I’m feeling rather un-fulfilled.  I had so much momentum and energy going into my artwork several months ago, as I was learning about new media and preparing for my art show.  Then…I fizzled.  I haven’t been to the encaustic or print studio since June.  And I really, really miss it.  But it’s nothing that a little kick in the pants can’t cure, so I’ll probably be enlisting the help of Shane to deliver that kick.  He’s good at doing that, in his stern-but-encouraging sort of way.

And spiritually?  Errrrrr…I’m not even sure how to distill the state of my soul down to a status update.  Is this a bad thing?  Maybe (of course I’d love to be able to say, “Me and God are BFF’s!”), but maybe not (it’s ok to be unsure, as long as I’m fully engaged in the question).  But I’m not engaged – I’ve been playing the old “Catch you Later” game with God for awhile now, and I think “Later” has arrived.

Lastly, some of my old friendships need some TLC.  I don’t talk to my closest, oldest friends in California nearly as often as I’d like to, even though I know that these are relationships worth investing in.  My best friend is engaged and getting married within the next year, and I desperately want to be there for her as she looks at wedding dresses and dreams about marriage and family. There aren’t many people in my life with whom I can reminisce about my teenage years (for better or for worse), and these friends that have seen me through so many stages of life should be cherished and held close.

Much to be thankful for, much to be mindful of.  Bring on 2011.

When my mom bought a couple of picture frames last May and asked me to draw something to put inside of them for her Mother’s Day gift, I gladly obliged.  I love the thought of my art hanging in my parents house – makes it feel like a special little piece of me is gracing their walls. I started on the project right away.  Then I was asked to put together a show for the Q Cafe, so the drawing project took a temporary back seat.  Then we went to Canada for a week.  Then I read some books, took some photos, did some sketches, and earned myself an A+ in the art in procrastination.  Felt like I was in college again…  But finally, after pulling my ideas together, buckling down, and putting pen to paper, I finished up these two pieces, just in time to tie them up with a red and green bow and try to pass them off as Christmas presents (my mom wasn’t fooled for a second).  But I think (hope) they were worth the wait – I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.  The first drawing is of a building in Seattle’s Pioneer Square and the second is of a street in Portland’s Pearl District.  I realized as I was working on these that it’s been a really long time since I’ve worked on a well-crafted drawing, and I really like the crispness of a series of perspectival lines drawn in ink. Anyhow, Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!  Better put your order in now for next year’s Christmas present…

It was indeed a very Merry Christmas, spent cozied up with my family at my brother’s home in Portland.  I spent as much time as possible hanging with my darling little nieces – I was happy to bounce between holding sleeping, peaceful baby Morgan in my arms and playing with chatty, precocious Elise on the living room floor.  There were several moments throughout the weekend when I stopped and thanked God for my growing family.

On Christmas Eve, Shane, Mitch, and I took Elise to Peacock Lane to see the Christmas lights – Elise oohed and aahed at each and every house, exclaiming over the brightly lit reindeer and snowmen.  There is nothing like a child’s unabated Christmas joy.

Christmas morning was full of cinnamon rolls and presents and one particularly thrilled little girl who tore wrapping paper to shreds and exclaimed over each new toy.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying a good dose of Christmas Day laziness – occupying ourselves with cooing at the baby and stuffing ourselves with a home-cooked holiday feast.

Elise has quickly taken to the role of big sister.  This was an attempt at seeing just how much adorable-ness I could pack into one photo.  Answer:  A LOT…

We went out for breakfast on Sunday morning, and then, far too soon, our Christmas weekend was over.  But the joy and warmth that comes with being surrounded by family was so, so good while it lasted…

Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours.  Hope your Holiday was filled with joy, warmth, food, and time with loved ones.  I am feeling particularly warm and fuzzy this Christmas evening, as I spent much of the day with the newest addition to our family cuddled in my arms – Morgan Lynn was born four days ago, and in the words of her Grandma, is “as perfect as perfect can be”.  I am decidedly smitten with her, and ready to take on all of my duties as Aunt:  doting, cooing, cuddling, and when called upon, back-rubbing and rocking.  Mommy and Daddy seem to have a handle on diaper changes, midnight feedings, and spit-up relief, so I’ll leave that fun stuff to them, ’cause I’m in the generous Christmas spirit and all…

God bless!

Yes, the past several days have been filled with a heaping helping of Holiday comfort and joy.  Last weekend, we participated in our C-group’s 4th annual fondue party, complete with gluttonous amounts of melted cheese and chocolate, a white elephant gift exchange in which everyone unloaded their tacky, odd, or just plain laugh-able belongings, and, of course, our 12 Days of Christmas sing-along charade (I played the part of the French Hen; Shane starred as the Drummer Drumming).

The next morning, Shane and I gathered with the tried-and-true few to run our 3rd annual post-fondue 5k, making at least a small step toward offsetting the previous night’s caloric overload.  But any caloric burn was then offset by a post-run brunch at Both Ways Cafe.  Ah, well, we tried…  Much of the remaining weekend was spent enjoying the warmth of our home, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, doing a little baking, and reading by the light of our Christmas tree.

Last night, Shane and I shared an epic steak dinner with Jack and La Verne downtown – three hours after we set foot into the restaurant, we rolled out of there, fatter, happier, and brimming with thankfulness for good food and good friends.  I left work early today to come home and whip up another batch of Christmas goodies, get the family’s gifts wrapped, and generally revel in the joy and anticipation that is Advent.

I will admit, as the wrapping paper littered the living room floor and the batter-caked mixing bowls piled up the sink, my pre-Christmas comfort and joy temporarily turned into pre-Christmas frazzle and backache.  But everything eventually came together, my to-do’s got done, and I’m enjoying the chance for a quiet moment to sit down and re-read the Christmas story.

“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'”  – Luke 2:10-11

Joy, indeed.

The holiday season always seems to throw me into a bit of an emotional whirlwind – lots of high highs and low lows.  I get all gushy and reflective; memories and feelings that might lay dormant for months at a time suddenly surface, making me want to laugh and cry and be alone and be with every single person I love all at the same time.  It’s a tizzy.  But it’s good.  The past couple of weeks, what’s stood out to me more than the joy of Christmas traditions or the melancholy of missing loved ones and loved places is the overwhelming sense that I am blessed.  This realization has hit me again and again and again – I am blessed.  In the middle of the night when I was woken by the sound of monsoon-like rains, I prayed for the thousands of homeless people in my city and thought about how fortunate I am to be able to snuggle deeper under the covers and shun the cold from my warm, cozy bed.  As we sang Christmas carols with our community group, while our dear friends Brian and Nicole listened in from Africa via Skype, I thought, “Thank you, Jesus, for this surrogate family”.  As I eagerly await the arrival of my soon-to-be-born niece, I imagine what it will feel like to hold her in my arms for the first time on Christmas Eve and I want to fall to my knees and praise God for babies and family and brand-new life.  As I sip my cup of hot green tea and read by the light of our gift-laden Christmas tree, I think, “God, you didn’t have to give me all this”.  But He did it anyway.

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”  – John 1:16


Christmas-time baking – I made my first batch of almond butter toffee yesterday, and am on the lookout now for a good cookie recipe to add to my baking repertoire.  Preferably one that calls for massive amounts of both butter and chocolate.  ‘Tis the season…

My new copy of Drawing Now.  Insanely beautiful drawings, from a collection of enviously talented artists.  I love every. single. page.

Holiday movies.  Every December, I pull out Serendipity to swoon over John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale’s fairy-tale romance, and Little Women to cry over the heart-breaking loss of Beth.  Shane and I have also made it a tradition to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy every December – though they don’t fall in the ‘holiday’ genre, these movies feel deeply connected to the Christmas season, as we always caught them in the theater as a family during their late-December releases.

Rainy Sunday afternoons, when I can light a couple of candles, snuggle up on the couch, and munch on holiday goodies while flipping through good books or watching the afore-mentioned movies.  Today was that sort of day, and it was gooooood.

It’s extremely rare that I read the same book twice – I instead tend to focus my efforts on my constantly-growing shelf of unread books, which is the curse (or blessing) of being a person with a book-buying addiction.  But when my book club decided on Traveling Mercies as our latest pick, I felt like I was due for a little time with ol’ Annie Lamott – it had been 3 or 4 years since I’d picked up anything of hers.  And good, good Lord, this is good, good stuff.  Like, speaks-to-my-soul kind of stuff.  Like, makes-me-laugh-out-loud-then-want-to-cry kind of stuff.  Like, ‘Amen, Sister!’ kind of stuff.  She talks about her faith in a way that allows you to understand that it’s entirely possible to be deeply connected to God, but still deeply flawed, whether with anger, bitterness, self-centeredness, or vanity.  Being a Christian and being a person with a closet full of skeletons are not mutually exclusive.  And Anne’s closet certainly has skeletons.  But her life is incredibly rich with moments of finding and being found by God.  He hunts her down in the midst of her drug and alcohol addiction; she accepts His embrace through the death of her best friend; she even takes a moment to talk with God in the midst of the most frustrating circumstances, like her car breaking down while she’s on her way to visit an old friend that’s dying of cancer:

“‘It would be hard to capture how I felt at that moment.  It was a nightmare: Bad Mind kicked in.  Bad Mind can’t wait for this kind of opportunity:  ‘I told you so,’ Bad Mind says.  It whispers to me that I am doomed because I am such a loser…  ‘Will you pray with me?’ I asked Sam…  We said a prayer together that we find a solution, that we feel calmer.  I don’t believe in God as an old man in the clouds – ‘bespectacled old Yahweh’, as the late great John Gardner put it, ‘scratching his chin through his mountains of beard.’  But I do believe that God is with us even when we’re at our craziest and that this goodness guides, provides, protects, even in traffic.”

Amen, sister.

Oh, my, it was a full one but a good one…the highlights:

watched our dancer-friend Donna perform an amazing piece entitled ‘Paper Chase’ at Velocity  |  drank wine, ate cheese, and had a very involved discussion about cars at the Tin Table with Shane, Jack, and La V  |  cut down and decorated what I think might be our best Christmas tree yet  |  ate cherry pie at a little ho-dunk diner in North Bend  |  made egg-nog, spiked it, drank it  |  attended a lovely choral concert at St. Mark’s cathedral  |  ran myself ragged trying to get all 13 of my little preschoolers to assemble ‘Advent paper chains’ in Sunday School this morning  |  sat in a cafe and scribbled in my sketchbook  |  unwound from all the busy-ness with out latest Netflix pick and some quality couch-time with Shane.  and…whew!