Monday, December 30, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 30 - BFF

Prompt: Did you find a new beat friend? Delve deeper into a relationship? Break up? Get back together? Tell us about who you added – or subtracted – from your life. Why?

Right around this time year, I was full of backflips in my tummy as I was officially welcomed into the One Kitchen Many Hearts Gang. We ride around on our Kitchen Aids and beat up any Hamilton Beach appliances we find. We have matching jackets, an intervention banner in the top drawer, and we go through a highly evolved initiation process. Okay, most of that is an exaggeration. Except some of us really do have matching leather jackets… I actually knew Megan already, and she kept talking about how I would really Love everyone and how sometimes they tweet things that could have been me and OHMYGOSH the sass.  I started to hang out with them on The Twitter, but this time last year I still didn’t really Know them. I’ve actually met two more of these ladies, but with the help of our chat app, we never go a day without chatting. We’ve leaned on each other through the hard times, celebrated each other’s achievements, and generally avoided a little bit too much work by chatting together. All of our husbands know when we’re chatting.

My hubs definitely knows; when I start to giggle, he asks “What did The Girls say now?” I’m either talking with these girls, or on group-text with Megan and our two closest trouble makers: Jackie and Taryn.

Speaking of… those are two more friendships which have really flourished this year.

We were starting to get close last year, and Jackie has been with us for a while now. But earlier this year, she agreed to run in the CCFA’s Team Challenge Half Marathon with me and it brought us to a new level together. We spent A LOT of time together this year, and I loved every minute. We’ve had Bubbie-Counseling with each other, consumed more than our share of bubbles, and loved some nerdy BBC specials of The Doctor and Sherlock. It’s been a wonderful year with her and she adds so much to my relief!

And then there’s Taryn… I’d always liked Taryn since I met her, but I didn’t really have a strong connection with her. We were friends, but we weren’t BEST friends. We got closer over the year, and then this fall, in a really embarrassing night that I won’t go into, we both had quite a bit of wine and ended up on the floor talking (and maybe crying just a little). And suddenly I consider her one of my best friends. Just when I thought I was getting too old to make friends like that…

These are not the only wonderful people I’ve added to my life over the year – I’ve already mentioned a few that met in Israel. But it definitely has been a year full of joy and love, and I feel very blessed to have these people let me in their lives, too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 28 - Alligator Tears

Prompt: What moment in 2013 brought tears to your eyes? Are you usually a crier? Or did tearing up take you by surprise?

Let me start by saying that I don't like dealing with emotional extremes. I don't like the vunerability of an ugly cry (or of being sad in general). And while I don't know anyone who does enjoy it, I'm not as prone to the emotional extremes because it takes me out of control and it shouldn't surprise anyone by now to learn that I may have some mild control issues in my life.

That being said - I am a human woman with a beating heart. So sometimes I feel things.

With my grandmother passing, I haven't been surprised by any of the tears this year, and most of it has been cathartic. Except once. I'm not going to divulge everything, but this moment caught me by surprise.

At Thanksgiving, I was in Denver with my parents and grandfather. After some wine, they decided to share what will be printed on Bub's headstone at the unveiling next year. Now - I'm a practical person. Headstones seem very practical, and I hadn't pictured them as something terribly emotional. The unveiling is still about 8 months away, so I won't share what will be on it, but when I saw the words written down, and what they will be in stone forever? That got me so suddenly and so hard that I started sobbing so much it disrupted conversation on the other end of the table.

I had cried for her already. I cried for her, for me, for strength, and for the loss of everyone else. I cried for what was, what could have been, and what never will be. I didn't think I had any tears left to cry this year. And then a big one snuck up and caught me. I'm not sure when the tears will dry up for her. But I'm not sure they ever will.

When I was younger (especially in the dark times of high school puberty), I saw tears and emotions as a weakness. Girls cry. Women don't. As I get older, I'm realizing that tears are not always weakness. I mean, crying over a printer jam in the middle of the office doesn't exactly scream feminism, but otherwise it's not the weakness I once imagined.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 27 - I Peed a Little...

Prompt: What was the funniest thing that happened this year? Was it funny when it happened? Or was it one of those things you laughed about later?

No moments like this really stand out in particular - which is strange because I remember this year to have a lot of laughter in it. But there were also a lot of tears, and I remember those more vividly this year. While I see the year as whole on the bright side (because lessons learned, maturity, circle of life, blah blah blah), the lows were lower than the highs were high. And I can never quite remember what was so dang funny!

I remember standing in my grandmother's kitchen laughing and crying about all the other times we'd laughed and cried and woke her up.

I remember girly laughs over wine tasting and cooking adventures (and mis-adventures).

Game nights with so much swearing, insults, and short fuses. Why are someone else's temper tantrums so funny?

More than a few times at my desk where I caught up with the OKMH "Chat Room" and had to cover my snorting from laughing so hard.

And I remember when one friend started dating a guy who is a strangely accurate doppleganger of another friend's husband. And it makes us think of this clip of Gregory Peck from Family Guy and sends me on the floor in tears, Every. Single. Time.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 26 - Momento

Prompt: Tell us about five moments you don't want to forget from 2013.

  1. The sense of joy, wonder, and faith that filled me at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
  2. The brief moment during my time of unemployment where I was able to let go of all the stress and enjoy the nothingness of my days.
  3. The joy I get every time I get to see my husband after a long business trip.
  4. Walking to breakfast and the farmer's market with the hubs.
  5. The hug of a long-since-seen family member.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 25 - Want

Prompt: What did you covet this year? Are you working towards getting that or just admiring it from afar? Is it a tangible thing or just an idea? Tell us about what you’ve got your sights on.

Home ownership! This is easy for me. It is a hard thing to work towards. Two siblings bought houses this year, and the independence and equity they are now building instead of just throwing money at someone else’s equity. I know it’s not all fun-and-games, but it seems to be the last big corner-stone of adulthood that I’m missing. Oh, and it’s a gate-keeper on the way to kids (according to some, anyways).

We are working on saving now and taking care of debt to make it more and more tangible. I don’t expect we’ll be able to even put an offer down in 2014, but we should be REALLY CLOSE. Squee!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 24 - Cray-Cray

Prompt: What one little thing drove you crazy this year? Was it unique to this past year or has it been buggin’ you for a while? How do you intend to get rid of it or resolve it in 2014?

I’ve noticed that as I age, I get more and more crazy about clutter. Dust and things and clutter and just busyness all around me. Mental, emotional, and literal clutter. The Things we carry with us. Why so many things? Why do I attach value to things? Why give power to it? I’m critical of my home’s clutter, but more and more so of my own emotional clutter. Why let these dramatic people influence my life? Why do I torment myself with things that could have, would have, or should have ended differently. I’ve purged my closet, and parts of my room. I’ve tried parts of my life, but the hardest ones to change are the emotional clutter of “hanging on”.

The physical clutter is noticeably easier to get rid of. It will probably be one of my big goals in the new year to continue to declutter and organize (in baby steps and tangible goals). The emotional stuff is more of a work-in-progress. I don’t know how to go about changing it, but the more I can consciously live in the moment, the more I can slowly let go of my imperfections of the past and forgive myself.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 23 - Le Race

Prompt: Tell us about how you’ve been running along in 2013 and the race(s) you intend to run in 2014. These can be literal races or just the road of life. What did you path look like this year, and are you choosing the same for 2014?

My literal race was incredible. A (mostly) flat course with beautiful scenery. The entire time was filled with relaxing, would-be-friends, and only a little worry about my ankle. At the end was a great party and a nap.  My Life Race was very different… full of ups-and-downs, the view really sucked sometimes. There was a LOT of stressors, the loss and gain of some friends, and the occasional worry about my health. But at the end, there will be a great party, and then I’ll get a ton of sleep (I hope… but my cats have other plans…).

I keep going back and forth about whether or not I want to continue in competitive running. Although I’m quite slow and not really competing for any sort of place, I enjoy not coming in last place. Some days I’m not even sure if running for exercise is something I can maintain. But then I tie my laces a little tighter, turn up “Mr. Blue Sky”, and take a breath before putting my feet over another mile. That’s how I approach most days, too. Sometimes it really is just Too Much, but I can usually fake it a little and jam through another day.

That all being said… 2014 is proving hard for me to predict. I already have plans into April. I will have a new nephew to visit a lot. I have a growing career that will (hopefully) still involve quite a bit of travel. I hope we get to follow-through on our (very) tentative trip to Paris. And the hubster and I may, or may not, be able to take the first steps towards home ownership. But 2013 was such a… wreckage that I am actually glad that 2014 is such a blank canvas. I hope my race in 2014 is more like a minimalist painting.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 22 - The Uphill

Prompt: What uphill battle did you keep fighting and fighting in 2013? Are you going to keep fighting or let it go? Why?

Battles… Even the idea of picking battles is hard for me (I work to overcome my impulsive need to be right all the time…), but I think the biggest battle was fighting for myself professionally. The idea of standing up to leaders (whether they know my work or not) and defend my value as either a current employee (deserving raise or promotion) or as an up-hire deserving of a chance even if I don’t 100% match the qualifications. Professional risk is a big chance for me – and as I’m married as much to my work as my husband sometimes, it’s important to me that my career, in turn, adds value to my life.

I had an opportunity to learn from myself a tackle the battle approach on both sides of this. It took a battered ego to go 6 weeks without a call back from anyone except recruiters. As I accepted a position with a very generous task scope, I also fought to get recognition I deserved – and then I GOT IT.

The satisfaction I got by having a boss that would fight to keep me was just an incredible feeling. I have learned a lot through these battles (about the right and wrong way to sell oneself, without selling out) and as I will continue to be a career-woman, these are battles that I will need to become more versed at (Ignore the terrible sentence structure, please). These are the fights that every woman deserves to win!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 21: Encounters

Prompt: What thing did you keep encountering this year over and over again? Was it something you learned from or just a strange coincidence?

2013 was the Year of Jews. Everywhere I’ve turned, I feel like I’ve turned into Jews. From finding out that friends are going on the same Israel trip (just 2 months apart), to sitting on a random flight next to the only other Jew on the plane, to meeting a nurse who “just had a feeling” that I was also Jewish like her.

I’m not sure there’s much to learn from it, except to embrace the madness about attracting forces.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 19 - Innie or Outie?

Prompt: Were you an extrovert or an introvert this year? Why? Is that normal for you? Or a switch from previous years?

I want to first make clear how I am defining this Innie vs Outtie question. And Extrovert (Outtie) is someone who draws their energy from the people around them. Going to a party isn’t work for them, it’s a way to get energized and jazzed about life. When they leave the party, they feel more vigor and liveliness. Sure they can be tired, but they crave to be around people.

Introverts, or Innies, like their alone time. They draw their energy from their own thoughts. Being around other people, and going to big parties is stressful for them. Because they get their energy from their alone time, when they leave the party, they usually feel more tired and will need time to recuperate from the stress of going.

These two types do not even show up in extremes. And it may be years before someone figures out which side of the spectrum they are on.

That being said – I am a thru-and-thru introvert. That is not unusual for me – if anything, I’ve come to better terms with it to actually embrace it and take breaks when I need to. What IS different about this year is that I have better utilized, even welcomed, the help of a few friends. I have a handful of very near-and-dear friends. The important thing that many introverts forget is that while big crowds are exhausting, some good therapy sessions with friends can be invigorating and even life changing. Embrace it when you need it – it made all the difference for me this year. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 18 - Fashionista

Prompt: What piece of clothing did you wear again and again all through the year? Why? Is it all worn out? Are you going to replace it or keep wearing it?

It’s not a surprise to anyone that knows me that I love my clothes. But the one piece I’ve worn out this year is not actually a piece of clothing, it is a pair of shoes. Getting office-appropriate shoes is hard for me because I have a wide toe-box. And more and more, designers are limiting their wide-shoe selection. When I can find a nice pair to go with any office outfit, I grab on and wear them into the ground. I’ve reached the age where I wear heels often enough that I’m done with finding mediocre shoes that “will stretch”. I’m now at an age where I can accept that most designers will never stretch enough to “make do”.

And then I found The Pair. Chocolate brown with a subtle texture. Pointy toe, but not too exagherated. Mid-height heel to go with most of my pant lengths. In stock in an 8W, and perfect fit from Day 1.

The tip of the point is now worn down, and the fabric has worn off most of the brown. The same wear is showing on the inside near my big toe. The rubber stopper on the end of the heel has worn through and I can see the tip of the nail head (which also makes this slippery to wear). All traction on the bottom has worn off, and the inside lining is no longer independently attached to the sole. These shoes are no longer functional as shoes. I think there’s even a hole at the bottom to let rain in. They literally no longer perform the function a shoe is meant to. They will be thrown out in January.

And yet, despite looking for replacements as early as over the summer, I have yet to find a replacement. The designer, Nine West, no longer makes this shoe. In fact, this 8W might have been a magical unicorn because wides are not stocked in their store, in Macy’s, or online. I’ve turned to others for help, but with no luck. For example, Ivanka Trump has a line of shoes at Nordstroms. It’s a flat leather, pointy toe, and a slightly shorter heel. It’s even available in the perfect chocolate brown. But she only makes wide shoes in 1 or 2 colors. I got the pair in black, but it simply isn’t made in the brown or in other fun colors. The same is true for many designers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been able to find other shoes in other colors and styles to work. But this simple brown bump for my strange feet will be my unicorn. And when I see it, and it fits and the stars align and angels sing out from above about the beauty of my toe cleavage, I will get them. They might not even be on sale when I do.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 17 - Habits

Prompt: New Habit! They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. What did you start? What did you quit?

This is a hard topic for me. Mostly because self-accountability around this sort of thing is difficult. The best example for me is hitting the snooze button. But I have a few bad habits I tried to conquer this year.

The first was from March until May during the dark days of unemployment. I tried cleaning. Full disclosure – I am a messy person. I will clarify to say that being “dirty” and being “messy” are different. We’re not talking a hoarders situation, but as my stress level goes up, my organization decreases in an inverse relationship. For the 7 weeks I was out of work, I cleaned every day. I found cleaning schedules from the 1950’s (mostly for the laughs), and I did things like deep clean my oven (twice), take out every piece of glassware and hand-dust everything, steam cleaned the carpets, and took q-tips of windex to the window tracks. This was in addition to the daily cleaning, dusting and washing that I did. It was incredible how all that kept me so busy. And, clearly, it was not sustainable after I started a really stressful workload. And my old habits returned. For the most part I am better at maintaining this than before, but I won’t lie that there are times where guests surprise me and I am downright embarrassed by the state of things.

Then, in November, a small group of girls tried out this Game On challenge. In its original form, it was designed as a competitive lifestyle challenge with a weight-loss component. We adjusted it, and made it mostly about the lifestyle component, and trusted that any habits we kept up with would help us lose weight eventually. The biggest aspects of this game were (aside from the diet): (1) Water consumption (~2 L per day), (2) Working out for at least 30 min 6 days per week, (3) maintain one new good habit, and (4) break one bad habit.

(1)    I have, historically, been very bad about my water consumption. I battle fatigue so much that I got hooked on caffeine, and was basically constantly in a state of dehydration. I met the water goal, even on days off, almost every single day. I think in the whole challenge there was only 1 day where I missed water points. I didn’t notice a ton of restorative benefits that a lot of other people talk about, but I did notice that with all the water intake, I have less room for all the coffee I used to drink, so in two-fold it has been a good thing.

(2)    I didn’t really succeed at this. What this made me do in the challenge was to THINK about working out an awful lot. It definitely increased my movement from 1 per week to a better 3 days per week. But I am still not at the fitness level I’d like to be at. Between still recovering from my ankle injury for running, and later this winter getting bronchitis just as I was hitting a good habit-forming-swing of increased workouts, I’ve just fallen off this wagon in the last few weeks. This is something that I need to get better about. It helps me feel more alert, concentrate better during the day, it’s the best cure for my fatigue, and (relating to #4) helps me get up in the morning. I just feel better when I do it. The biggest reason I don’t is because of planning. When I plan properly and have (i) my workout gear at work and (ii) have snacks to fuel me, I have no other excuses.

(3)    My good habit for the whole 4 weeks of The Game was to turn to meditation instead of stress eating. I was successful in this, but with the other changes in the game, my urge to stress eat generally decreased. The meditation was not really life-changing event and I probably won’t keep this up.

(4)    My bad habit was to quite hitting my snooze alarm. When the alarm goes off, I will get up. This, boys and girls, is probably the single hardest part of my day. Hands down. Even when I get 7, 8, or 9 hours of sleep. Getting up, sitting up and putting that first foot on the ground, is hard. It’s always been hard for me. The morning is not a time that I particularly enjoy taking my time and reflecting on the day. I’d rather sleep until 7:30, spend 20 minutes for shower, dressing, and making coffee, then running out the door. For a brief period (maybe 3 weeks) over the summer, I was great about getting up at 6:30. I would then spend 45 minutes to an hour drinking my coffee, catching up on news from the interwebz and social media, and then spent 20 minutes showering, dressing, and dashing out the door. I don’t know what triggered me to start it, or why I fell off the bandwagon. I was successful with getting up most days with the alarm. But it was begrudgingly, and only to avoid losing a few stupid points. Honestly, if my work day could be 10 am to 7 pm, I would be supremely happy. I’ve even read lots of studies about how to sleep and starting at the end of the day – those things don’t help. Because even on the weekends, when I sleep until I want to get up, it’s STILL hard to get up. I’ve read other papers that study the difference between being a “Morning Person” and a “Night Owl”. Turns out, there are real biological differences. Even with practice, it is almost impossible for a Night Owl to change enough to enjoy the mornings as much as they enjoy their evenings. And that is my curse… But I can do things that help, but it is helpful for me to know that I can only do so much before I just have to accept that mornings will always suck for me.

And that’s my year in habits.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 16 - 1,000 Words

Prompt: There's the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words. Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2013, or give us 1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2013.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 15 - Tethered

Prompt: What kept you tethered in 2013?

In short: leaning on the people around me.

I have developed and fostered new relationships, and cherished older ones, as I’ve needed people more this year than ever before. Not in the way that I’m slowly becoming an extrovert, but in a way that allows me to better define the difference between intro/extrovert, and really about drawing strength from one, three, or six friends at a time when I need it. That has not been something that I’m usually good at – I’m very much the “Bottle-it-up-until-you-explode” type person. Or, in my case, until I give myself a flare. Getting to know some of these fantastic people in my life – from a handful of new friends from Israel, to new work colleagues, new boyfriends of old friends, and especially “The Kitchen” gals (as The Hubs calls them). Focusing on these friendships, and even listening to their problems from time to time has truly made all the difference in what could have been (and kinda has been) a really terrible year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 14 - OM NOM NOM

Prompt: What was the best meal you had in 2013? Was it slurped standing over the kitchen counter? Was the menu written in a language you understood? Were you alone? Or at a table filled with family and friends?
This meal for me came in two times.

The first one was in Israel. Instead of going out to party on the streets of Tel Aviv with the other kids, 6 of us from Birthright went to a relatively high end Kosher restaurant. Instead of with a huge group trying to yell over load thumping music, we sat around as an intimate group and talked about our lives. We talked about some incredible things. To top it all off, we had some incredible food. It was the kind of food that changed my mind about how amazing Kosher food could be. I had incredible pasta dish with mushrooms, pesto, and feta. I tried some fried haloumi (type of cheese), some cream filled beet gnocchi, fettuccini alfredo, mocktails around, and I lost track of what else. It was all so amazing. It was a combination of the amazing food, incredible company, and the exoticness of being in a foreign country. I can understand the letters – like any grown adult Jew, I know the Hebrew alphabet and can read along with the prayers. But when it comes to translation or comprehension? HA! That’s a no. We were with one person who knew enough Hebrew to get us through any tricky parts, but I can definitely appreciate the ubiquity of the English language. In many cases, it’s a commonality shared between two non-English speaking countries, because they can’t possibly accommodate all foreign speakers. Especially in Israel, I’m lucky that English and hand-gestures is nearly universal.

I’m sitting here on a transatlantic flight, and I just want to interject to say that the flight attendents are walking around and turning off the overhead lights of the passengers who have fallen asleep. It’s actually very sweet.

The other meal was nearly as emotionally inspiring, but it was one of the more palette-arousing experiences of my life. It was a tapas restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. Here’s a picture of the menu. I had a variety of tartar, cold-smoked fish, mind blowing balsamic mushrooms, and a wine variety that must be called “OMG This Is a Great Red.” Culinarily speaking, it was one of the most impressive meals I’d ever tasted. Although I was traveling for work, and was dining with two colleagues that I knew just as long as I knew my Israeli dining companions. We had more in common over work than strangers, and yet I had so much more fun with the strangers in Israel.

They were both memorable and impressive for different reasons.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 11 - Fail

Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days. The point is to remember, revisit, reframe, reexamine the past year and share stories.

Prompt: Fail! What just didn't work out this year? Is that okay with you? Or are you going to try, try again? 

To start, one of the first words I read when I received this prompt was "fail". And that stuck with me. Did I fail this year? No. Many things happened to me, around me; none of them were my fault. I didn't do something wrong, leading directly to these events. Despite my sour mood and general lack-luster, I still don't feel like a failure. And yet, the word "fail" sticks with me, even though the prompt is more about not going right the first time? The idea of "failure" seems permanent to me. If you have failed, it not only points blame, but also implies that you cannot go back and change the outcome. I was raised with the idea that if things weren't right, I would fix them. The idea of failure without permanence is hard for me to accept - if you can still change things, why wouldn't you? 

But there's a difference in "fail" compared to "Plan A didn't succeed, so I'm going with Plan B". In that case, you as a person didn't "fail" so much as you were able to adapt, heal, and move on. Failure seems so negative, even if Plan B was a huge success.

The second part of the prompt is easy for me - being "okay with things not working out in the first plan" and "still trying to succeed" are not mutually exclusive. Example: I couldn't run my half marathon in July. But I could walk it. Is that a failure? No - it certainly is not. And I'm okay with walking it. Not only that, but I'm getting back into running, and I will continue to work towards my goal of running one. That single event in time may be over, but I'm still working towards me as a person. 

As I work to manage anxiety and being a bit of a control freak, the idea of "going with the flow" is something that I will need to continue to work on. But I'm getting better. And the idea of me as a person is not a failure. Things are different this month than they were in January, and they are different than I had planned for them to be now. But I'm okay with it. Because mis-steps along the way (not just this year, but in all the years), have still shaped who I am right now. I'm funny, strong, driven, and smart. I'm also anxious, stubborn, and a bit controlling. I have funny stories - sometimes from "failures" or missteps. I am strong and driven from what I have learned from these mistakes. I am okay with my mistakes, and the things that have gone wrong this year. But that doesn't mean I need to give up on anything.

Truly I think that the only real failure would be if I weren't "okay" with myself and if I'd stopped "trying".

Now, this song has got me pumped up. And it might be from the Karate Kid, but I've never seen it, and I only know this from Barney Stinson's Get Psyched mix. The message seems particularly appropriate... failure isn't an option!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reverb 13: Day 10 - Spark

Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days. The point is to remember, revisit, reframe, reexamine the past year and share stories.

Prompt: What inspired you this year? How do you think this will impact the year to come? 

Riding a roller coaster. Is it terrifying for you, too? First, you wait for near an hour, letting the mix of anxiety and boredom build around you. Some people are excited for the upcoming ride, some people don't know if they should be excited or terrified given that they almost peed themselves on the last ride, and some are just terrified. 

Once you're on the ride, there's a bit of anxiety. Is my safety bar really safe? Is my belt buckled all the way? That guy didn't check me! What did he say? 

And then you start climbing that first slope. It starts out so slow, and with the anticipation of what's to come, it drags on just a bit. And now you're in the front seat, cresting over the edge looking down on Earth as the rest of the ride catches up... and suddenly you're plummeted through twists and turns; you're moving so fast but yet, still seems slow in the moment. 

When suddenly... it's done. Your hair is standing up on end; you can't believe you just survived. It went so much faster than all the build-up.

And you either get off thriving on the exhileration of it all, or you're left shaken and off kilter for the rest of the day. It's hard to even keep your churro down.

That was my year. It was wild, full of anticipation, pit falls, and loop-di-loops. It's over now, I'm a little a lot frazzled by it.

And I did it all while being terrified of roller coasters and generally not really feeling inspired by any of it. I know it's weird... So, I hate roller coasters. But, with few exceptions, I will almost always let myself be talked into them. I let the adrenaline get me, and I even enjoy a few parts. But the falls hit me hard, and I can't always cope with the loop-di-loops. And I'm not inspired on roller coasters. I leave them feeling exhausted, not excited.

And that's where I'm left. I was briefly inspired by some things this year... But they ended when I came back from Israel. The trauma and very rawness of the job loss took the spirit I had gained. The stress and frantic-ness of the new job has left little time to breath, let alone rekindle my own spirit. I'm just tired. And it's a little sad.

Despite all that, I'm hopeful for next year. I need to focus on staying re-energized so that I don't feel even more drained with each passing day.
By the end of February, I will have traveled on three different personal trips - a week-long vacation and some short weekend trips. First priority for next year is to own my inspiration. And it's lookin' good.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 9 - Surprise!

Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days. The point is to remember, revisit, reframe, reexamine the past year and share stories.

Prompt: What surprised you the most this year?

How kind strangers can be. 

I'm sure I could come up something deep and prophetic about how I surprised myself. But in this instance, I was moved by the kindness of a few girls I barely knew as I struggled through my biggest crisis ever.

The dead horse I keep beating is the loss of my job this year. But it hangs over me like a dark spot on the first half of my year. It was the first time I'd ever left a job that wasn't by my own choice, and as I've mentioned, I was woefully unprepared for it.

I started to write a lot of detail about how two women on my trip really defined how I started to heal after it. But then I deleted it and decided to take a less-is-more approach.

There were two moments in the trip where I felt the most emotional about the situation. The first was when I found out about the lay-off. The second was when I had a panic attack on the plane about what happens when the plane lands (answer: find a job). Two different women, women I couldn't possibly have known well enough, were caught with me in those moments. And instead of running away or offering placating statements and then finding someone to actually help, they both jumped in without hesitation. They opened their own wounds to offer support of mine. Their hearts bled with mine. I would not possibly know how to offer support to someone one week into our relationship - and yet somehow they did, with great success. I thanked them as best I could, but when you live on opposite coasts, you can't really make it up to them, either.

Speaking as an introvert, who sometimes needs people despite my best efforts, the idea of reaching out to a near stranger in times like that is hard for me to relate to.  I can honestly say that whatever my best intentions might be, I don't know that I would have been able to reach out to me, were I in their situations. That's the most selfish, simple explanation - I am surprised by it because I would not have been capable of the same response. I needed someone in those moments (even if I didn't know it); but they knew it, and they both answered the call without pause. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 8 - Adventure

Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days. The point is to remember, revisit, reframe, reexamine the past year and share stories.

Prompt: Did you go on an adventure in 2013? What sort?

Frankly, this was hard for me to answer. So I took the literal approach...
Short answer: Yes. Yes, I did. I enjoyed both literal and emotional adventures.

Long Answer: This year has been such a physical and emotional whirlwind that there are literally entire months that I barely remember. Below is a short account of my adventures: 

January: Tubing in Oregon

February: Mind-blowing dim sum meal

March: Israel 

This was maybe THE adventure of the year...
April: The Dark Time of Unemployment (or: How I Cleaned Every Inch of My Apartment)

May: NEW JOB and Vegas

June: Prague, Melbourne, and Canada for work

July: Weekend on the Washington coast and The Half Marathon

August: Coordinating a Wedding!

September: Arizona to meet an Internet Stranger (Or: How I Didn't Get Chopped to Bits)

October: The Month I Forgot Even Happened (Or: That Time I Had a Panic Attack And Almost Died At Work, OR: All I Remember Is Eating At One Amazing Italian Restaurant For Megan's Birthday)

November: Denver for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

December: Reverb! Introspective Adventures...

I really can't pick just one. There are moments that stick out to me as both near and far away, but so much is lost in the blur. The year as a whole has been a brand new adventure in patience, wellness, and mindfulness. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 7 - Victory

Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days. The point is to remember, revisit, reframe, reexamine the past year and share stories.

Prompt: What was your biggest accomplishment of 2013?

I was in high school when I started watching The West Wing, and yet, to this day, I cannot think of Victory without thinking of this...

But I digress.
I was lucky (blessed?) enough to have many victories this year. I got a new job. Very recently, I even got a stellar promotion.  But how many times can I talk about work here? I spend enough of my life at and about work. 

So, for my victory that I want sealed as my 2013 Victory? Which occassion made me feel like I drank from the keg of glory?

It was in March, in Israel. We had woken up very early, after spending the night camping. We traveled by bus to base of Mt Masada. It was still dark out when we stumbled out of the bus, trying to decide whether or not we were cold. We climbed up the steep hill as the sky faded from pitch black to a hazy grey and orange. We were slowed behind a troop of 3 dozen Israeli soldiers in full packs doing their training. We got to cheer them on and make sure everyone got to the top. And then, after a few moments of rest, and a bit of a story, we all paused as we watched the sun rise over the beautiful desert expanse.

We sat there, no longer a bunch of strangers, watching the day begin in our corner of the world. We sat, soaking in the quiet beauty as the light reached and stretched to touch all places on Earth. And then we walked down the crazy, scary mountainside to tackle the rest of our day. But in that brief moment, we had conquered the mountain, and we sat on the edge of history.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 6 - Birthday

Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days. The point is to remember, revisit, reframe, reexamine the past year and share stories.

Prompt: How did you celebrate the passage of another year? Did it turn out the way you had hoped?

In short, it did not turn out how I hoped. Kind of... Okay, well let me back up. When I was growing up, the tradition in our home was that the birthday kid (or adult) gets to pick dinner. It doesn't matter what anyone had to make or go out for, that was it. And some special gifts. But birthdays were much more for us about who remembered and making us feel special than about the gifts.

When I married my husband, I learned for him that birthdays were not necessarily special. So we sometimes struggle with... matching expectations. I don't need (or expect) him to drop everything and dote on me and make my birthday the BEST DAY EVER, but I do loves birthdays...

This year, the month before my birthday I was in Israel. So with the cost of that, I didn't expect anything lavish or even any gifts. But then I was also laid-off. So everything went right out the window. Spending any money on anything seemed silly and irresponsible. Honestly - I don't even remember what we did for my birthday. I DID, however, get a job offer on my birthday. And 10 days later I was working again. And a few weeks later I was in Vegas with my family celebrating my cousin's birthday so I got a little special time, too.

Looking back it sounds a little sad, but in that moment I wasn't that sad. I have had enough travels and other special moments to make up for it. And next year for my birthday, I'll get to spend it with a brand new nephew. It's getting less sad, and more about how the meaning of birthdays is changing to me. I'm now at the age where I get carded less and less, and my actual age means less to me than the decade I'm still in. I'm sure that will change in the next few years, but for now... I'm simply at peace with the birthday situation.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 5 - Challenges

Prompt: Did you take on a new challenge in 2013? Was was it? Are there challenges you deliberately avoided? What do you want to do to challenge yourself in 2014?

I love challenges. And not just in the "Challenge Accepted!" sort of way, although I do. My mom did a great job of teaching me to overcome obstacles, or "challenges" by saying little mantras like "Challenges and opportunities!" - meaning that things aren't hard for the sake of being hard. Any challenge we face becomes an opportunity to succeed, to become stronger, to make the next step a little less brutal. Things do not get easier right away, and I learned to stick with (out-stubborn, if you will) some of the crummier things I have come across.

And it's because of this attitude that she's taught me, I certainly do my best not to avoid any challenges. And I can't think of any that I've avoided this year, or that I was able to avoid. Avoiding things doesn't make them go away! The bills won't, the personal problems won't, the health challenges won't go away.

I have done a few things to challenge my health this year. For example, I took my second attempt at running a half marathon. This was a huge challenge for me given (1) I really hurt myself the last time I tried and (b) I am not really an athletic person. This half marathon also included a fundraising aspect to benefit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. And putting myself "out there" is an added challenge. Countless strangers across the internet, including many of you, and the support was incredible.

But the thing is, I learned to love running. I took my time with the schedule. I tried to get back on track and the mileage ticked up almost easily. Soon I was up to 3 or 4 miles at a stretch. As the weather warmed, I made it up to 5, 6 and 7 miles at a time. I made it as high as 8 miles this round of training before I re-injured myself. It wasn't even fun like a gravel trail. I was warming up with the running group, heading up a long hill. I was focusing on my chi running form, letting the music guide my intervals as needed. One step - I was great. The next step - failure. Okay, well it's not like I failed, but my body did. Which has always been an emotional challenge of mine - finding the balance and better defining "failure". Can I have really failed if my body simply wasn't ready? Can I have failed if I didn't have control? Well, I made it to the half marathon. I walked it - which was a physical challenge in itself - I didn't quite feel like I "succeeded".

For 2014, I'm trying running again. I'm starting over. From scratch. Even if I feel like I can go further or faster (which I don't), I'm starting over. I got used to the "Runner's High", to the alone time with my thoughts and my music, the selfishness I needed to set the time aside and get away (this is not something I'm usually successful at). Last year I had a high mileage count for this year as a resolution. I didn't make it. Is that a failure? How can it be if I wasn't physically able? It's a question I ask myself a lot.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Whipped Goat Cheese Spread

Oh hai.

So this summer I met my sister-in-law for happy-hour on the roof of a restaurant in Seattle. Just your run-of-the-mill afternoon in Seattle where you wander into a traditional French cafe and watch the sunset over the Puget Sound while you sip champagne cocktails.

I was meeting her to catch a ride to Portland during The Dark Days of Unemployment - I was taking the short ride to see if it would broaden my potential job options. But obviously we needed nourishment before hitting the road.

I have long-since forgotten most of what we ate, but one dish has stuck with me over the months. We enjoyed whipped goat cheese spread with crostini and crudites. The cheese was light and mousse-y; salty and tangy, and utterly addictive.

This spread takes about 3 minutes to whip together if you have a food processor and at least 30 minutes to set up in the fridge. Aside from prepping the sides, this comes together so quickly that it will be easy to add into any holiday party line-up! Also consider adding in a few tablespoons of chopped herbs to any batch. The original recipe calls for chives, and I've seen basil used in other variations. Chopped rosemary, parsley, or even cracked pepper.

As you can imagine, any sort of toppings will work well with this. I chose to make mine with some cracked pepper in the spread, and a light dusting of smoky spicy paprika on top. I shmooshed it on some lightly toasted baguette and topped it with prosciutto or thinly sliced radishes.

It tasted surprisingly like summer, and with the variety of toppings, can be a great all-season party treat. Or, if you're ambitious, great for two people with a bottle of bubbles and your next holiday movie marathon.

Whipped Goat Cheese Spread
Adapted from The Internet

Serves 4 as an appetizer

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 Tbls milk
4 oz. soft goat cheese
1 - 2 Tbls mix-in of your preference

  1. In a bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, add all the ingredients.
  2. Pulse the ingredients until combined. Turn the blade on and whip until light and fluffy - only about 30 seconds.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a ramekin - mine came straight to the rim. Top it with a piece of parchment and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. Serve with crackers, bread, veggies, meat, and/or spoon.

Reverb 13: Prompt 4 - Hindsight

Prompt: Is there one moment you wish you could do over?

In short? No. Not because there aren't moments I wish I could change, but because there's not ONE moment.

I suffer from acute Analysis Paralysis. It's a term my mom and I tease each other about to, endearingly, refer to the family tendency to over-think many situations. Sometimes the over-analysis helps - considering all possible outcomes of a situation can help you be prepared for every possibility. However, as the nickname implies, this process can lend someone to be paralyzed by the sheer volume of decisions to make and plan-for. I suffer from this in both past and future events. I continue to embarrass myself over little things that no one else even remembers, let along thinks less of me for. 

It's a habit that doesn't prepare me for moving forward, and it doesn't fix anything in the past. 

The only thing that really comes to mind that would change anything is finding out I was laid-off while in Israel. I wish I hadn't turned on my data. I wish I would have been okay without trying to check work email. I wish I could just turn off my workaholic brain long enough to truly enjoy and embrace that one trip to that impossible place and save the emotional trauma for when I got home. Because the trauma and the hurt was coming. I don't even want to undo the getting laid-off. I just want to delay finding out so that in 5 years when I look back on the trip I won't think "Can you believe what an incredible trip that was? Oh, and can you believe I was laid off in the middle of it?"

I want to remember The Wall. And the food. And the history and emotions and the people. And I do now. But I also remember The Text followed by The Phone Call. And it doesn't change anything and it won't change anything.

I could (and do) hope to change other things, of course. The little tone I used - I could have taken 5 second to take a deep breath and be a little kinder. I could have called more. If maybe I'd just done this differently... But I'd beat myself up (and I do) imagining all the different scenarios and it makes me sick. And I try to cut back - because the older I get, the more futile I find the Analysis Paralysis to be (unless, of course, you're analyzing vacations...).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 3 - The Brave

Prompt: What was the bravest thing you did in 2013?

Bravery is a hard one for me. I recall a risk-management class I took in grad school that started by asking us to consider the riskiest thing we had ever done.

I'm not that kind of person. I don't take huge risks with wild abandon. But because I'm not in risky situations, I'm also not in a place where "bravery" is really required. I even had to look up the literal definition of bravery to help me here.

Looking at it literally, it is difficult for me to be very public with my Crohn's disease. Sure I have posted about colonoscopies, but it remains to be a great challenge for me. And in July of this year, I attended a half marathon (difficult on its own) that had the added challenge of asking me to associate with a bunch of strangers (have I mentioned only a hundred times that I'm a wild introvert?) and discuss my journey with Crohn's disease.

The fundraising was a journey itself. To ask so many people to donate so much was very challenging for me. So many heart warming stories of people in the same boat. And then to travel to California to do the same thing but in front of actual people... and then to run and SWEAT in front of them? I don't know if I would call it "Brave" persay, but it was one of the most difficult and emotionally challenging events of the year.

The SECOND bravest moment is when I encountered a scorpion in Arizona when I went down to meet a (sort-of) internet-stranger. I didn't get bit. But it was LITERALLY millimeters from my foot. I could have DIED. Obviously I didn't. And the weirdo from the internet didn't even try to chop me up!

Reverb 13: Prompt 2 - The Best

Prompt: What was the best moment of 2013?

This will be short. And not just because I wrote a novel for Prompt 1. Because it shines in its simplicity.

The best moment was August 1st when I found out that I'm going to be an aunt! My husband's brother and wife are expecting - the first in our little clan. I'm in over-planning mode - and I love every crazy second of it. 
Nothing more, nothing less.

Reverb 13: Prompt 1 - The Year

Prompt: Where did you start 2013? Give us some background on the year.

I almost didn't take this Reverb on - this year has been... One of Those Years. I was traveling for the first few days of the month, but I want to catch up and I want to follow through on this Reverb because I've had trouble following through on a lot of things recently and I'm hoping and searching for ANYTHING to take me out of my slump.

So let's try this.

January 1, 2013 had me at home, sleeping off a food coma from an awesome New Year's party. I had so many hopes about my career, a half marathon, and a trip to Israel... I started the year with a lot of hope.

In March I went to Israel on a trip with 2 dozen other young professionals. It re-awakened a side of my religion and spirituality that I had lost a long time ago between relationships and career choices. It was an amazing adventure. I had a lot of anxiety as I entered the trip... even though I'd traveled a little bit for work in the past, it was never for so long, and never with so many peers. I knew how to act in a group of professional peers. But what about kids my age? I'm alarmingly lost in that area. But I was also anxious because I was 1/3 of my work department, leaving for almost 2 weeks without cell reception. That's a lot for this work-a-holic to swallow.

Turns out my workaholism could take a break (and should have) because just over half way through my trip (my trip of a lifetime, a trip where it took me a week to stop checking work emails, where I was finally starting to act my age and let go a little bit), a rogue text found me and told me I had been laid-off. SO! You take a workaholic with mild anxiety, stuck in a foreign country... and lay them off. Social experiment? Aanndd... go! Luckily, with the help of some truly wonderful new friends and a few mid-flight panic attacks... I survived and even occasionally enjoyed the remainder of my trip. 

I came home to some of the most humiliating and liberating weeks of my life. To sit home all day, every day, for 7 straight weeks, obsessing over the number in your back account, how many jobs you applied to that day, is that a new one or a repost? Have I cleaned enough to value-add to my house-hold? Did I miss Price-Is-Right?? This period of the year, although short (thankfully), helped me learn a lot about myself (good and bad) and about my career aspirations (sometimes desperate). The "Value-Add" to the household was difficult for me... Without a paycheck, how do you quantify a person's value to the home? I know how many households manage with stay-at-home parents, and so on. But how much am I worth without a paycheck? I didn't bother my husband nearly as much as it bothered me.

All of this brings us just to May. In May I started a new job. Didn't love it. Sometimes hated it. And I am still learning to live day-to-day in this situation. It's new and it's weird and it's affecting me in ways I never knew a job could bleed into the rest of one's life.

I went to Vegas with family. I walked a half-marathon (after hurting my ankle. AGAIN). And then I lost one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and strong women I knew. My grandmother passed away and I had to choose between her funeral or my father-in-law's 60th birthday bash in Vegas. I missed the birthday, and had an impossible time during the weekend. I don't know how else to verbalize this in this space except to say that there is a void that I cannot process, even 4 months later. 4 months, 4 days, 4 years... day-to-day it can flux between. Like this weekend during the holidays, it seems impossibly close. But a few short weeks ago, it seemed impossibly far away. How can life just move on without her? And then it does. It moves on. We move on. The world moves on even if we don't. 

Things happen in my day and I think of her. Little things... like how I can't bring myself to change the contact name in my phone to delete her name. How when she was around there were plenty of photos, but now that there will never be another new photo, there doesn't seem to be enough of the old ones.

I just celebrated a fantastic Thanksgiving and Hanukkah with my parents in Denver (our first one there... ever? It's been ages since I've been home for Thanksgiving...). There were lots of tears of sadness, but we spent a fair amount of time looking towards the future, too. We will move on. But moving on means nothing about forgetting.

A novel later... This year was a whirlwind. I remember it in a few poignant pieces and the rest is a blur of emotions. And I cannot wait for the relief of 2014 to come. Where new whirlwinds and emotions await; a time when I can move on without forgetting, but without always feeling, too. To a time when I can remember without the hurt of missing her. Or when I can recall the incredible trip to Israel without always tying it to the loneliness of being at home afterwards. That's the only thing 2014 can really promise us, isn't it? The progression of time.