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Closing the door on 2011

December 31st, 2011 1 comment

I have a private journal I’ve kept up since 2011. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years its just become a place to dump my Twitter feed to for safe keeping. But once upon a time, I wrote in it daily. A few years, I would take the last week of December to do a year-end wrap-up. I’d write about what happened in each given month of the previous year, taking a trip down memory lane.

Eventually, however, that ceased to happen. And since then, I have given each year end a little bit of a cursory nod, but never the kind of attention I once gave. I’d like to say that this year will be different, that I’ll go month-by-month again. But, I can’t say that, because I, frankly, just don’t have time to go that in depth. I do, however, want to give this year some closure.

My  mom sent me an email with a newsletter giving ways to bring closure to the year. In it, Mike Robbins writes about how we need to give one year closure before we jump into the next one with all these hopes for where it will lead.

Last year at this time, we were in the process of moving. I was forced to find closure on the previous three years of living in the house we were in, and I embraced 2011 with hope and optimism as change was going on all around me. My address changed, and so did many ways I viewed various things. This year, though, I feel like I’m just rolling into 2012 without much fanfare. Its just another year. January 1st, just another day. I don’t really have optimism, but I don’t feel dread either. I’m a bit ambivalent to the whole thing.

So perhaps I am one who has a bigger need to find closure to 2011 than I would normally be as a year comes to a close. I thought I’d tackle the four questions found in Robbins’ newsletter.

1) What were my biggest lessons in 2011?

Absolutely the strong difference between want and need was my biggest lesson. This past year was a rebuilding one, financially, for my husband and myself. With that, I also learned the deep satisfaction that comes with paying for items with cash. I learned how to NOT live on credit and instead was reminded what it meant to put your money in a jar (or in my case, a big envelope) until you’d saved up enough money to purchase that great big WANT.

I learned my love for photography really can be more than just a hobby. I found a deep interest in the creative process of bringing music to life, and I discovered a potential market for documenting that process. I caught myself critiquing other’s photos with a better eye than just, “Oh that’s pretty!” and I soak in how other’s approach photography — both in what to do and what NOT to do.

On the writing side, I finally learned and held my first giveaways. I learned about how social networking in person can help you in the online world. I discovered even more strongly the kindred spirits I have in other bloggers.

Medically, I have learned an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If I will stay on a strict regimen for my sinuses, I won’t be so crippled by infections. You’d think I’d have known that already, but I REALLY learned it this year.

2) What am I most proud of from this past year?

See question 1. I am most proud of the fact that my husband and I ended the year without accruing any new debts. (Outside of an ER bill.)

I am proud that I have embraced myself as a writer and a photographer, not just as “trying to get into it.” I am proud that I’ve kept this blog going and its continuing to pick up traffic and grow consistently. I am super proud of the work I did on Rick’s CD, leading me even deeper down the photography path.

Finally, I am proud of becoming a biggest piece of our work-puzzle. Working more consistently has given me a nice feeling of satisfaction. I’ve met so many interesting people, many of which I’d have never met had I not been behind the bar this year.

3) What were my biggest disappointments in 2011?

I set the bar high for myself. I may not admit that out loud to anyone, but deep down I always set it high. While my blog does continue to grow, its growing slower than I’d like for it to grow. I am disappointed that I haven’t gone to any blogger conferences, nor attended any photo walks. I once again failed to complete NaNoWriMo.

I fully thought I’d be further in making photography profitable for myself, but I have to acknowledge there is still a lot more expense I need to go into first to really get that off the ground. Baby steps… even if I don’t want them to be.

On a personal note, I do wish we were closer to being able to purchase our own house, or maybe be back to two vehicles. And I had hoped we’d be more solidly ready to take steps towards starting a family.

4) What am I ready to let go of from this past year?

My disappointments for the year. They are heavily outweighed by the lessons and successes of the year. When many people look back on 2011, they call it a bust. When I look back on it, I call it a success. Maybe I didn’t grow to the levels I had hoped I would, but I sure didn’t backslide for a change!

But perhaps that is where I don’t feel this big surge into the new year. I didn’t necessarily grow “big time” this past year, but I didn’t backslide. I didn’t stagnate, but I think I easily could do that right now. Just go with the status quo as it stands now, content with where I am for awhile. But I don’t WANT to do that. I want to keep striving forward. I want to keep pushing. I want to build a positive momentum from here on out. And maybe… maybe I am afraid I won’t do that?  Hmm…

5) What else do I need to do or say to be totally complete with 2011?

This might sound bizarre to some people, but I need to clean out my closet. I need to clear out old things physically to be ready to clear them out mentally and emotionally. I may have to actively do this on the 1st since I won’t have time today to do it. But, I need to do something like that…I need to physically let go of things. I need to clean. I need to rearrange a room. Something like that.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you all in 2012…

Texas Christmas wrap-up

December 30th, 2011 2 comments

We made it home to Nashville from Texas yesterday morning. The 13 hour drive seemed longer than usual, and I attribute that partly to our lack of being in any hurry to come back. We just had that fabulous of a time!

Our plans to head to Oregon for Christmas were canceled thanks to budget concerns and the crazy-high prices of flights at the holidays. So we instead headed to Texas to spend the holiday with my family. Amusingly, the weather, for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, was all Oregon. Misty rain and cold. But our visit ended with warmer temps and sunshine.

I have to say… there was just something about this Christmas. It was so relaxed! It was just filled with this wonderful peace and joy. Its impossible to explain, but it was a special trip for sure. And while my husband and I knew we had to make the trip back home to Nashville to work this weekend, we just couldn’t get motivated to actually leave. We put it off as long as we could before making the long drive back.

Now, any time I am back in Texas, I have this little (okay maybe its kind of long) list of places I’d love to visit and things I’d like to do. I usually do good to knock one or two of the items off the list. This trip? I knocked off more than my fair share of things!

I got to see family, of course. Quality time with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew is priceless, and always at the very top of the list. I have cousins I’d really like to get to spend time with as well, but those visits tend to be rare just due to time constraints. I got to see one of my girl friends to do a quick gift exchange. But friends’ visits will have to wait until I am down for an extended period of time for tax season. And that’s okay… we can spend more time than the rushed visits of the holidays.

Food: Whataburger! Freebirds! Mexican food in general! Green’s Sausage House! Czech Stop! Hiway 77 Cafe! Blue Bell and Dr Pepper! (Granted I can get both of those in Nashville, too, but they just taste better when actually IN Texas.) Places: Aggieland! Frenstat, where my husband and I got married, and where my grandparents are all buried. Cavender’s Boot City!

I got to do all of these things! Crazy cool, I gotta admit. Oh, I always leave things left undone. We wanted to go for a drive in my old truck from high school. There are various people we would love to go visit. And there are locations we always want to take time to explore, but we rarely have time to do so.

But you know, that’s a good thing. I would hate to ever leave not wanting more time.

Time visiting Texas is precious to me. Nashville is definitely home, but I’m a Texan at heart for life. And a Texas Christmas? Well… that’s just something super special to me. Now I look ahead to a planned trip to Oregon in the next couple of months. Ready to go experience my husband’s home with him and embrace his list of things to do. Bring it on!

And then I saw it…

December 27th, 2011 1 comment

Ornaments

My Christmas is not over. Not until I say it is. And I’m not saying it yet.

No, in my family, we usually kept Christmas alive until at least January 1st. The tree stayed lit. There were Christmas goodies left to eat. All the presents were just as new as the day we opened them. Christmas was not over just because the calendar said so.

I am not a fan of starting Christmas too early. Stores start stocking Christmas decor before Halloween, and that is just WRONG. Thanksgiving deserves its own attention, and Christmas can get its own attention in turn. Again, I do not want to rush Christmas… neither in starting it, nor in ending it.

So yesterday, as we took off on a ride through the country, the adventure felt just as much a part of Christmas as did wrapping presents and baking cookies. In fact, we picked up a gift for the people watching our house for us while we are away. (Hey, I do NOT leave my house unattended for an extended period of time… robbers take note. I have people watching over my house, and they have guns and know how to use them. So there.) We even went to look at Christmas lights on the way back home!

But it was while we were shopping that I saw it. I saw the biggest travesty of them all.

VALENTINE’S DAY THINGS ARE OUT ON STORE SHELVES!

There was a lady stocking the card section of the grocery store and I really wanted to go over, yank the cards out of her hands and give her a big, “What. The!?!?!?” if I didn’t know she was just doing her job and probably found the action just as stupid as I did.

I mean. I love Valentine’s Day. Sure. But its DECEMBER 26th!!!! No one has ended their Christmas goodies hangovers yet! Heck some of us are still working on them! And we still have New Year’s Eve to celebrate! And… and… just… c’mon! Really!?

(Can you tell by the sheer use of exclamation points above how very, very wrong I find this entire thing to be?)

I’m appauled. I’m disappointed. I’m reaching for another sugar cookie and peppermint schnapps flavored hot chocolate to drown out my sorrows. Christmas isn’t over to me, yet. We aren’t even in the next year yet. Please don’t rush the next holiday.

Please?

Weekly Winners (December 18 – 24)

December 25th, 2011 No comments

Weekly WinnersWeekly Winners is a fun little thing bloggers do to showcase some of their favorite photos from the previous week. It is brought to you, me and everyone by the lovely Lotus, aka Sarcastic Mom. Visit her site and find all the participants. See some amazing photos brought to you by bloggers around the world. Leave a little love when you do — its like food for the soul!

Photos taken using my Droid Incredible or a Sony DSLR A230.
View all of my photos on my Flickr stream.

♥♥♥

Merry Christmas!!!

041: New keychain bokeh pretties

Initial keychain

Pondering, naughty or nice

Naughty? Or nice?

043: Nature in Lights @ BLORA

Peace

BLORA: Nature in Lights

Blessings

BLORA: Nature in Lights

Tunnel

JOY

JOY

044: Bokeh glass

Bokeh glass

Candy cane and christmas ball

Red and green

Ornament reflection

Reflected

Rocking horse decoration

Rocking horse

My stocking is hung

My stocking hung

Red hat photographer

Red hat photographer

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons…
May you be safe in your travels, full of great laughter, and your heart over flow with joy.

Thinking about those lost

December 24th, 2011 1 comment

Christmas is a joyous time of year. Celebrating the birth of Jesus. Enjoying time with family and friends. Finding a moment of peace here on Earth. However, this Christmas I’ve acknowledged the sting of loss during this season. Just yesterday, I learned of two deaths, and my heart ached for their families left behind.

One was a regular at the bar I work at… a kind man who you could depend on for anything. He was our resident carpenter. Sometimes I think the bar was still standing thanks to him. He took many under his wings, standing in as a father figure to many. He had a genuine smile, and was quiet. Often times you didn’t know what he was thinking, but when you’d get to talk to him you’d be revealed a wealth of knowledge. He and my husband became friends after learning they were both Freemasons. When I would work in the hot dog stand, he’d come buy out the candy bars, often leaving me a nice tip. (Even when I’d carefully return him change to avoid it, he’d chide me and tell me to break the big bills down into smaller bills.) His want to buy all the candy to give to the bartenders and waitresses next door made me smile… his kindness unmistakable.

When I received word that he had a massive stroke, with 0% chance of survival, my heart stopped for a moment. And when I heard word he had been taken off life support and had passed away, my heart ached deeply for his children, left two days before Christmas without their Dad… a man who was truly an angel walking here on Earth.

Then later, I learned a woman who graduated a few years ahead of me — her sister a classmate of mine — passed away suddenly yesterday morning. Scouring Facebook for more details, my heart once again ached for the two beautiful little girls left this Christmas without their Mom. This woman posted just Tuesday that she couldn’t wait for Friday, I presume to start her Christmas celebrations. I was struck by life’s cruel irony that Friday would instead be her last day here on Earth. I dropped a note to her sister, but words just seemed cheap at this moment.

This all comes on top of learning about deaths in car accidents (specifically a Texas A&M football player earlier this week), and loss of homes. Death. Loss of any kind. They all sting. But their sting is just a bit sharper. Just a bit more bitter in this time of joy all around.

I pray for strength for these families dealing with their losses. I pray they can still find joy in Christmas, even if its a bittersweet joy. Similarly, I hope those who lost loved ones throughout the last year can find ways to honor their lost loved one, but still see the peace of the holiday. The hope and joy its meant to bring.

My grandma always loved Christmas. The family would gather. Songs were sung; poems were read. Gifts were shared, and food… oh all the food. My parents now live in what was my grandparent’s house, and even though they’ve been in this house for 10 years now — it being my home as well for over half that time — I still will get a moment of pause remembering memories of times lost past, especially here at Christmas. Just today I had one of those brief moments walking through the dining room. For a split second it was as if I stepped back in time, and instead of at Mom and Dad’s house, I was in Grandma’s house and it was time to start preparing for our Christmas dinner soon. I didn’t want to shake the feeling off. I wanted to revel in it. I wanted to remember with a smile.

I hope those facing their deep loss this Christmas will one day do the same; they’ll not look at Christmas with sadness but with the joy of those beautiful memories made before this sadness hit them. God Bless them all and give them strength.

Let’s all take a moment this Christmas to enjoy those we love a little more than usual. To file away those happy memories for the future. They are more priceless than any physical gift could ever hope to be…

Santa letter

December 23rd, 2011 No comments

038: Dear SantaDear Santa,

Tomorrow your big night arrives. Hope you are ready!!

Sorry to be writing so late. That seems to be a trend for me this season. My Christmas Cards will go out days after Christmas, too. So I guess I’m doing good to write this before the big day at all!

I have so much to be thankful for this year. It’s been a wonderful rebuilding and healing year for us. We are entering 2012 with a confidence we haven’t had in a few years. I am excited to see where this year takes us… I am so very optimistic!

So I write to you with a heart full of hope and the belief that the magic of Christmas will continue to hold true. That it will be as amazing as it ever has been!

Christmas isn’t just for little kids. They, of course, have a far more innocent view of it. I miss that innocence, that feeling the big day will just never get here. These days, the holidays sneak up on me and I’m left lamenting how I am not ready! How I need more time to prepare, to get into the spirit of the season.

Luckily, despite being amazed Christmas is already here, I am sufficiently into the spirit of the season. I’m ready for lots of food, gifts, carols, laughter, and the birth of baby Jesus.

If you have a little room in your sleigh, could you hook me up with some more camera gear? Lenses, flashes, etc. I want it all! And some jeans? Maybe some cute sweaters and new boots? Could you throw a receptor in for my husband? He’s been wanting one for years now. If you can’t do the camera gear and receptor, could you slip some plane tickets to Oregon for us for February? Or just some money towards it? It’s been three years since we got to visit friends and family up there. We are long over due for it. I’d love a few new CDs or just an iTunes giftcard. Finally, we are due some new phones. In fact, we can upgrade our phones next week, but if you wanted to throw a couple iPhones in your bag for us… I wouldn’t complain one bit.

You know what, though? If you just take good care of my niece and nephew, I’ll be happy. Spoil them tomorrow night. We’ll figure out the rest.

Safe travels, Santa. I’ll be going to midnight mass, and I’ll look for you in the skies on my way home afterwards.

Love,

Denise

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