Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Last Post

Sometime last year, I stumbled across a blog filled with misspellings that was written by a woman who wrote about her bipolar disorder.  I thought, well, gee whiz, if she’s brave enough to write about her bipolar disorder, maybe I could be brave enough to write about being a former bed wetter with a craniofacial syndrome who can’t smell and is afraid of fax machines.  And oh yeah, share one or two of my insecurities.  I mean, how hard could it be?  An added bonus, I knew how to use the spell-checker.
And so, exactly a year ago tonight, I sent a draft of my first post to a trusted friend and told her, I’m thinking of doing this blog thing.  Her response?  Do it!  It’s so cathartic.  
I’m not going to be all humble and say, I never expected anyone to read my blog.  I wanted people to read it.  No.  I needed people to read it.  That first post, at least.  I needed people to read what I hadn’t been brave enough to say out loud, except to a few people.
For most of my life, I felt like I was walking around living a lie because of the things that I was too scared to share or admit.  Telling my story was a release.  I began to let go of a lot of stuff that I probably shouldn’t have been holding onto in the first place.   As I wrote, and later began talking, about my insecurities, I realized that I’m not so different from everyone else.  I’m trying to figure stuff out just like the rest of the world.
Cathartic?  You have no idea. 
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about where I go from here.  Where this blog goes from here.  My life isn’t very exciting and the things about me that used to bother me, don’t so much anymore – even when I find myself in seasonal ruts.  Do I keep writing?  Or do I let Tulips and Togas stand as a testament to a really good year – a year of growth, a year of changes, a year of experiencing life?
I am, like this blog, a work in progress.  In this coming year, I want to continue on the path that I started on in 2011.   And there are so many fun things to look forward to in 2012 – a wedding (not mine), babies (not mine), vacations (mine!), and a roller skating birthday party (mine!).  I’m not planning on disappearing from anyone’s Google Reader quite yet.  I hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy writing them. 
That first post was the hardest thing that I've ever done.  As I write this post, the last post of 2011, I can look back and say, yes, it was the hardest thing that I've ever done but it was also the best thing that I've ever done.  Thank you for joining me on this journey.  It's been quite the ride.     
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in Review

Sure, there were those seven goals that I tried to accomplish this year but there was so much other stuff that happened in 2011.  Some of it was a little crazy, some of it was a lot unexpected but it all made for a very interesting year of life.
In 2011, I…
1.      Greeted the New Year watching fireworks atop a rooftop deck.
2.      Started a blog.
3.      Started – and actually completed – a scrapbook.
4.      Co-planned and co-hosted an awesome surprise party.
5.      Went to Spring Training.
6.      Celebrated my birthday with friends and a lot of elderly people.  
7.      Stood on a beach in Florida.
8.      Stood on a beach in Delaware.
9.      Stood on a beach in California.
10.  Swam in the Atlantic Ocean.
11.  Dipped my toes in the Pacific (maybe?) Ocean.
12.  Watched dolphins swim in the ocean.
13.  Went on a sail-boat (kinda).
14.  Went on a water-taxi.
15.  Flew to the West Coast twice.  And came back both times.
16.  Waited in an airport because of flight delays. 
17.  Drove up – and down – a mountain. 
18.  Got to ride on one of those airport tram cars.
19.  Walked in the rain.
20.  Saw Haystack Rock, up close and personal.
21.  Climbed 164 steps to the top of the Astoria Column.
22.  Drove across the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.
23.  Went to a cheese factory.
24.  Partied with friends at the third annual CatchCon.  And lived to tell the tale.
25.  Spent half an hour in Music City.
26.  Walked around the Gaslamp Quarter with one of my favorite cousins.
27.  Shared a hotel room with someone I didn’t know very well – and made a new friend.
28.  Danced the night away with a bunch of crazy bloggers. 
29.  Saw a flash-mob up close and personal.
30.  Ate at a Swedish smorgasbord.
31.  Rented a beach-house with friends.    
32.  Managed to actually light barbecue on a tiny grill – yea for teamwork! 
33.  Walked on two boardwalks in two different states.
34.  Drove past The Stone Pony.   
35.  Got the two most surprising phone calls of my life.
36.  Survived an earthquake.
37.  Survived a hurricane.
38.  Dog-sat for the cutest beagle you ever did see.
39.  Engaged in a bidding battle during a silent auction.
40.  Won the battle but lost the war and was outbid in the last five minutes.   
41.  Figured out that I’m a spring runner.
42.  Went to the doctor. 
43.  Made scrambled eggs for the first time.
44.  Adopted two cute kittens. 
45.  Took a job that I didn’t want only to find it was exactly what I needed.
46.  Went to a couple concerts in the local park. 
47.  Ate Oreos for breakfast.   
48.  Went to advance screenings for two movies. 
49.  Hurt a friend.
50.  Was hurt by a friend.
51.  Did more public speaking than I ever thought possible. 
52.  Taught training classes.
53.  Was a burr in people’s side – and helped get something accomplished despite annoying bureaucracy.    
54.  Donated to the Salvation Army.
55.  Helped assemble IKEA furniture. 
56.  Cooked in a Crock-Pot.
57.  Found out two good friends were pregnant.
58.  Received an award at work. 
59.  Cried a ridiculous amount.  Like all of April.
60.  Wore dresses in the spring and summer. 
61.  Wore leggings went it got colder.
62.  Ate outside on my new patio set.
63.  Spent lots of summer evenings lounging on my deck. 
64.  Went to my first HOA meeting. 
65.  Squeezed 17 people into my kitchen for the second annual Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.
66.  Celebrated St. Lawrence Day with my colleagues. 
67.  Watched a highway being built.
68.  Drove on that new highway when it was completed.
69.  Went on a date.    
70.  Went to a baseball game.
71.  Was unknowingly on TV (?) as I “watched” that baseball game. 
72.  Cat-sat for friends.
73.  Made sweet potato fries.  From actual sweet potatoes. 
74.  Bought an iPhone. 
75.  Discovered Pinterest.
76.  Lost – and replaced – three recycling containers.  The fourth one has been labeled!
77.  Came home to find that one of my kittens had taken a flight from two-stories up.  She’s fine.
78.  Completely cleaned my entire car out.  And it stayed clean for about two months.  Wow.
79.  Went out to lunch entirely too much.  Noodles, anyone?
80.  Laughed a lot. 
81.  Attended my first ever Rosh Hashanah dinner.   
82.  Got a lot of advice.  And I even followed some of it.
83.  Bought really expensive running shoes.
84.  Went pumpkin-picking.
85.  Went on a hayride.   
86.  Learned to waltz. 
87.  Saw the Presidential Christmas card before most people. 
88.  Explored Harper’s Ferry.
89.  Cleaned out my fridge. 
90.  Organized my closets. 
91.  Joined a credit union. 
92.  Got up early four Saturdays in a row to go running. 
93.  Dashed through sprinklers. 
94.  Decorated a Christmas tree.
95.  Ate ice cream for dinner.
96.  Went to a street fair.
97.  Watched fireworks on the Fourth of July. 
98.  Tripped up stairs and cursed a lot. 
99.  Started writing a novel.
100.  Looked in the mirror every morning and liked the face staring back at me.  
 What’s in store for 2012?  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Goal Post

If you're looking for some goals,
there's a few under my desk!

So, whatever happened to that whole 7 in ’11 thing?  You know, the seven goals that I wanted to accomplish this year that I posted on a dry erase board.  Forget the goals – what happened to that dry erase board?! 
In May, it fell off my cubicle wall (that’s a story in and of itself, involving a very recent widower and a very bad day when nothing seemed to be going right!)  Anyway, I don’t have much wall space in my cubicle and it was too much effort to get the required property pass permitting me to remove it from the building so it was relegated to the place where I relegate all of my miscellaneous crap like old files and various pairs of shoes – under my desk.  So, the dry erase board and the colorful goals were shoved in a dark corner.  And you know what they say – out of sight, out of mind. 
But compared to Men in Twenty-Ten, I actually think 7 in ’11 was fairly successful.  About those goals?  Well, here’s how they panned out:
1)   NASCAR Driving Experience – I didn’t end up doing this.  I did pretend to be a NASCAR driver on a new highway that they opened near me.   That, and the speeding tickets that I got throughout the year, fulfilled my need for speed.  I’m hoping my brother and I get to do this in 2012 because it would be cool.    
2)   Hot Air Balloon Ride – This started off as a really great plan – I even had tickets from a Groupon deal.  But whenever I called – a few times in the spring and later in the fall – I only got their voicemail and they never returned my messages so I kinda gave up.  And now the tickets are expired.  Maybe it wasn’t my time to go up in a balloon. 
3)   Try one new food a week – I wish I could tell you that I tried 52 brand new foods but I can’t.  Food Friday as an event fizzled out but I still tried to be open to trying new foods.  Sure, sometimes I still need to be reminded to just stick it in my mouth and chew – like a recent episode involving cashews – but I think I’ve gotten a lot better.  Now, I eat burritos, paninis, and tomatoes – basically anything ending in a vowel!  Well, except for tacos. 
4)   Regular doctor/dentist appointments and taking a vitamin once a day – I gotta check under my desk for that bottle of vitamins.  Whatever happened to them?!  I did go to the doctor, took a vitamin once, and looked up a dentist.  I have to get better about the whole health thing though.  Next year, next year. 
5)   Run a 5K – Wow.  This actually happened.  Not once but twice.  Okay, okay, I didn’t actually run the entire 5K (either time) but as one of my favorite quotes on Pinterest points out – I still lapped everyone on the couch.
6)   Slow dance to Eric Church’s “Love Your Love the Best” – I’m still waiting for my cowboy to slow dance with but I did dance with a hot salsa dancer in San Diego and then there was that whole awkward date thing at the dance school so I’m going to beg for mercy and ask that you consider this goal accomplished.    
7)   Go to a non-English speaking country – Darn, I totally missed my chance to cross the border when I was in San Diego!  I didn’t get to do any foreign travel this year – my fall turned out to be a bit busier than I expected so I wasn’t able to plan my European vacation.  But I got a great big suitcase for Christmas and I’m itching to check it and hop on a flight somewhere.  Just not Paris.  See, some things never change. 
So, I only accomplished three or four of the goals I set for myself.  I’m kind of disappointed but you know what?  I did a whole lot of other stuff this year that’s worth mentioning.  Tomorrow – all that stuff and more. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Downside

Lately, every visit with my parents seems to remind me that they are getting old.  They're not just getting old; they’re turning into old people.  I mean, they’re not decrepit.  But it’s just a fact of life -  there are more aches and pains, the gray strands of hair finally outnumber the non, and sometimes it's too cold to go out.  And then there are other moments that cause me to worry because, well, they’re on the downside of the hill. 
Like when I was home at Thanksgiving and I found my mom sitting at the computer without her pants on.  Mentally, I went through my Dr. Oz-certified Alzheimers’ checklist:  did she forget to put her pants on?  Does she know she’s not wearing pants?  Does she know how to put pants on?  Does she know what pants are?  I stated the obvious first, “Mom, you don’t have any pants on!”  Now, my mom's far from having dementia or Alzheimers so she was well aware of her pantsless outfit.  I forget why she didn't have pants on but I'm sure there was a reasonable explanation.  The explanation isn't important.  What’s important is that she knew she wasn't wearing pants.  So hooray, my mother isn't suffering from dementia.  But she is getting old and I’m starting to worry about the stuff that happens to parents when they turn into old people. 
I’m starting to worry about when they’re not here anymore. 
I’m starting to worry about being left behind. 
So, there’s all that.  Then there are all the family and friends who seem to be going through major life changes recently – engagements, babies, Facebook relationship status updates.  They’re all moving forward in their lives.  And here I am stuck in a rut in a holding pattern.  A rut pattern of my own making, I completely admit.  A rut pattern that I can’t seem to get out of. 
Everyone’s getting older, everyone’s moving forward, and me? 
I’m starting to worry about being left behind.
I’m starting to worry about never catching up. 
But most of all, I’m starting to worry that there won’t be anyone to worry about me when I’m on the downside of that hill and not wearing any pants.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tis the Season

It’s the season to be jolly!  There’s presents and mistletoe and holly!  But yet, every year, I find myself feeling more melancholy than jolly.  I think it’s a hard time of year for a lot of people – people who have lost loved ones, people who aren’t with their families, people who don’t have anyone.  I know that I’m luckier than many…this weekend I get to go home and celebrate Christmas with my family.  But still those moments of melancholy pop up every now and then – and not just when that thoroughly depressing Christmas Shoes song plays on the radio!
One of the things that always makes me sad is decorating my Christmas tree by myself.  There’s no one to share in the stories or the memories or to climb up the ladder to put the star on top.  It’s just me.  Kinda sad. 
So, I figured I’d do the next best thing and have a virtual tree-trimming party and share all those memories with you!  Grab some nog and join me!  I’ve already done the hard part – the tree’s up and the lights are untangled!
The major theme of my tree seems to be all the places that I’ve traveled to over the years.  There are multiple ornaments from Seattle, an ornament from Victoria, British Columbia, and one from Vancouver.  There’s also the ornament that I got the time that I went to Chicago and met Oprah Oprah’s garage attendant.  There’s the ornament from Boldt Castle which is either in the Thousand Islands or the Thousands Lakes.  I can’t remember which but I do remember that there’s a tragic love story associated with the castle. 
Despite my aversion to zoos, there’s an ornament from the San Diego Zoo.  And one from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway that I visited with my mom and my cousin a few years ago.  My absolute favorite ornament is from that same trip to California – a hand-crafted tiny nativity scene that I picked up in Balboa Park in the midst of an argument with my mom.    
But not all of the ornaments associated with my mom involve arguments.  There’s the one commemorating our trip to see the Radio City Rockettes and the Phillies 2008 World Series ornament that, for me, doesn’t commemorate the Phillies’ World Series win but rather the crazy trek that my mom and I made down to watch the victory parade and the even crazier trek back home.  And then there’s the little teapot ornament that I got when we went to see an exhibit of First Ladies’ dresses at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. 
If you have First Ladies, you’ve gotta have Presidents right?  Don’t worry – they’re well-represented.  Ornaments from the Truman Presidential Library and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s retreat in Gettysburg hang proudly from the branches.  The brass drum ornament from the John F. Kennedy Library that I bought while I was an intern there reminds me every year that dreams really do come true. 
There’s an ornament from the World War I museum in Kansas City that I visited with colleagues while we were in town for a business trip.  And there’s an ornament from the World War II museum in New Orleans that my dad and I visited the day that we left on a cruise.  We spent so much time in the European Theater section talking to a veteran who landed at Normandy that we had to rush through the Pacific Theater section so that we could get to the ship in time!
Talking about cruises!  There’s the ornament that I got when I went on a cruise with my cousins on the Serenade of the Seas.  And two separate Grandeur of the Seas ornaments – one from a cruise my family took out of Baltimore and the other from that New Orleans adventure.  Yep, same ship, two different cruises, two different ornaments.
There’s a ballerina ornament that my aunt gave me for Christmas one year.  My aunt used to make gingerbread men for all of the cousins and present them to us at dessert after Christmas dinner.  It was a lovely gesture except that the gingerbread men were practically inedible!  My aunt passed away a few years ago but that ballerina ornament always makes me think of her and those gingerbread men.    
And of course, a tree wouldn’t be a proper tree if there wasn’t a pickle hidden in it!  This is one pickle that I won’t give away!
And there’s an ornament with a simple command – believe.  Believe that anything is possible.  Believe that dreams do come true.  Believe in the magic – and meaning – of the season. 

Time to turn on the switch!
What a lovely tree!  Thank you for sharing in my memories and helping me decorate!