Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blogging From the Heart - In the Year 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, I, like so many other bloggers, have been reflecting over the year as a whole. Perusing. Contemplating. Deleting. Cringing. Smiling. Laughing. Giggling. Sharing.


In that vein, I'd like to share some photos + words on the most memorable moments of 2011. While this past year can be most aptly characterized as challenging, in many ways 2011 also brought a multitude of happy, positive, wonderful and exciting opportunities. After culling through my daily planner, iCalendar and thousands of photographs, I humbly offer the Best of 2011.

10. Hilton Head, South Carolina
 Good friends + beach + continuing medical education = funnest business trip ever!

9. The "Dream" Journey
For the past 12 months, my One Little Word has been dream. This word has guided much of my thoughts and reflections in 2011. Each month I completed specific prompts, participated in a blog hop and spent a great amount of mental energy identifying and documenting my dreams. One of the things I felt was so special about this journey was that it was devoted to my dreams - not dreams for my family, not dreams for my marriage or my husband, just my dreams. I have found in my life and heard from many others that women have a particularly difficult time focusing on themselves. It has certainly been true in my life. I loved how easy it was to spend a few hours focused on me. I am very excited to see where my dreams are going in 2012...I will be revealing my OLW for 2012 tomorrow morning as part of the OLW Blog Hop. Be sure to check back at 10:00am CST!

8. This Boy's Smile
Although he has had his share of struggles in 2011, this amazing, talented, creative, loving boy has brought me so much joy. His smile is infectious. His zest for life is inspiring. He helps me see the little things, the small every day details that add up to a full and happy life. He makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

7. Reconnecting
I feel blessed to have reconnected with extended family...just in time for a very special 90th birthday.

6. A Visit From The East

We were so excited to host Jim's sister and family this past July. It is the first time they've come to Nebraska since Jim and I married. We explored the city, discovering new places together and sharing old favorites. One of my fondest memories is straddling the state line between Iowa and Nebraska while standing atop the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge and marveling at the flood waters that were so prevalent this spring.

5. This Girl
Jim & I are so lucky. We have the absolute best circle of friends, both as a couple and as individuals. Deana has been my best friends since we met when I was 18 years old. That we've remained so close is a miracle. That we've celebrated birthdays and holidays with each others' families is a gift. That we are godparents to each others' children is a wonder. That we've spent the majority of 2011 laughing is the greatest thing of all.

4. My Mother
The more years go by, the greater my appreciation for my mother. She is my everything.

3. October in Hong Kong
This trip to visit friends in Hong Kong was the highlight of the year.

2. This Man
Jim is the best thing that ever happened to me. I say a little prayer for this man every day. He is everything that a husband should be. He is my partner, my lover and my very best friend.

1. Graduation Day
I have never felt prouder than when my son received his high school diploma. He worked so hard and at times it seemed as if he would never reach the stage. But he never gave up. When several of his friends dropped out or decided the getting a GED would be easier, he stayed the course. Even when he was sad.  Even when he was unsure of the future. Even when he was ready to rip out his hair in frustration. He never gave up. This says so much about his heart and his level of determination. This says so much about who he really is. This says so much about his intelligence and abilities. He never gave up.

I hope that each of you had moments to celebrate in 2011. I hope each of you learned something valuable in 2011. I hope each of you laughed and cried, sang and danced, read and wrote, created art and let go of trouble in 2011.

And I wish you the very best as we prepare for 2012. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post-Holiday Musings

I've been doing a bit of reflecting on this past holiday season - this past year really. There were so many lovely moments and a few things that stressed me out, but overall I am left with so much gratitude.

I am grateful for my husband. As I've mentioned before, my husband is, ahem, enthusiastic about Christmas. This is such a blessing to me. Every year, we not only host a holiday party/birthday party for moi, but also host my extended family for celebration on Christmas Eve. This season, both events were totally successful. We added an extra element to the holiday party this year but having a "Mad Men"-themed party. It was quite glamorous, with family and friends alike dressing in retro '60s fashion. Here we are, looking both lovely and in love:

I am grateful for my son. As some of you may be aware, my son is battling with substance abuse issues. I am so proud of him. He is still struggling, but he is taking responsibility for his choices. He is working to stay sober, though not always succeeding. He is living life honestly, sometimes asking for help, more often than not avoiding those who could most help him but always being truthful about his choices. Believe me when I say, this is a major change and has gone a long way toward mending our little family. The truth is a soothing peace in this case, even when I know he has relapsed I am so grateful for the truth. He is addressing his legal problems with courage and grace. It is so, so hard...standing by and watching him battle his demons is the most difficult thing I have ever done. But all of that seemed somehow removed this Christmas. This Christmas he was affectionate, funny, sweet, helpful and comfortable in his own skin. He joked and laughed with family. He shared loving sentiments. He was generous and wonderful. We love him so much.

I am grateful for my job. I work outside of our home - and I love it. I am a physician assistant, working for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Each time I go to work, I encounter people who have served bravely, served loyally, served compassionately, served without reservation, served humbly, just served. I am blessed in that every day I am able to give back. I am pictured below with a World War II veteran, Bill, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. I'd like to thank him again for sharing his amazing story, as well as permission to use his photograph on my blog.

 I am grateful for family and friends. I am amazed by the support that has been offered to us over this past year - which has, frankly, been a bit more arduous journey than in years past. I have not come close yet to understanding all the ways that we are changed as a family, I am changed as an individual...but I am quite certain that we could not have done it without the support of our family and friends. I am particularly thankful for our mothers.

I am grateful for each and every breath. I have severe asthma. This past year has also been a challenge on the health front. I have been hospitalized several times, struggling to get and stay well. I have been alternatively hopeful and frustrated. At this moment, the entire year seems like a repetitive cycle of illness and (relative) health. I am really struggling with these limitations right now...but I have hope for the future.

 I am grateful for my dreams. For 2011, my one little word has been dream. I've blogged monthly about my dreams using prompts from Ali Edwards' One Little Word class at Big Picture Classes. You can read all my previous posts related to OLW here. I have really grown comfortable with the word dream. In fact, I am even more certain now than one year ago that this word chose me. Between the stress of our family situation and the limitations of my health, much of this last year has been spent in meditation and contemplation, allowing me to fully flesh out my dreams. I have great plans for the coming year to take action on these dreams. I am quite excited about it.

I am grateful for you, dear readers. I look forward to sharing the coming year with you.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Discovery - Jewelmint, Baby!

As I was catching up on my blog reading earlier today (serious understatement, I haven't even opened my laptop in at least a week), I read a great post on Elizabeth Kartchner's blog about a new jewlery website.

It's called, Jewelmint. And it's totally awesome.

Jewelmint is a new concept for a website selling jewelry. Fashionista Kate Bosworth and celebrity stylist Cher Coulter started the website, which customizes a style profile specific to your taste based on a style profile that you complete when you reigster. The site is a membership site, so every month a new piece of jewelry picked just for your style is emailed to you. You do not have to buy it, but if you don't opt out between the 1st and the 5th of the month then you will be charged for it. Check out the site

Check out my style, baby...

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I am a sucker. Not only did I register for the site today, but also I bought my first piece of jewelry today! These awesome Crystal Cascade earings were too amazing to resist.

May you find chic style and kick-ass jewelry - and just in time for a post-holiday gift to yourself.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Free Holiday Printables

Oh my, oh my, oh my - the Holiday joy is spreading. The Creature Comforts blog featured amazing *free* printables that you can download for all of your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus projects!

Check it out here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Little Inspiration...

Here are some random things I've seen around the interwebz this week that I am loving.

This calendar by etsy seller Alexander C Sprungle reminding you to get your crafty on.
This 5x7 print by etsy seller BookFiend offering the key to happiness (in my humble opinion).
 This totally cute card posted by Amy Tan on Instagram.
This fabulous tag set, plus an amazing giveaway on Janet Hopkin's blog.

And lastly, this title page for my very own December Daily album.

What's inspiring you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gratitude Sunday - I {heart} Christmas

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I know it is hard to imagine, but I haven't always been a big fan of the Christmas holidays. I used to be quite a Scrooge, in fact. But my husband, Jim, is an amazing optimist and Christmas is his favorite time of the year. At first I just tolerated his enthusiasm...but being around him during the holidays is infectious.

And now, I {heart} Christmas.

He's made me a believer in the spirit of Christmas. He's made me look forward to Christmas. He's made me happy and cheerful to be around in December. He's made me anticipate Christmas carols in November. He's made me complete.

I saw this manifesto on Shimelle's blog the other day and it reminded me of everything that Jim has taught me. I am so grateful to have a partner that brings out the best in me. I am so grateful for Jim.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

OLW Blog Hop - Reflections On Dreaming

Here we are again, fellow OLW-ers. Welcome back for this month's One LittleWord Blog Hop. I am so excited to share my thoughts and my project this month. I can hardly believe that a only single month remains in 2011.

For any new readers, One Little Word centers around the concept that a single word can be powerful and enriching, impacting on our lives in ways both large and small. Each year, I for the past several years I have chosen a single word to inspire and guide my journey. For 2011 my word has been Dream. You can see al previous posts pertaining to OLW here.

I was first introduced to the OLW concept by Ali Edwards, who I consider my personal hero. I loved following Ali's journey with her OLW on her blog  so you can imagine how stoked I was when Ali announced that she had teamed up with Big Picture Classes to teach a year long class specifically focused her OLW philosophy. Each month Ali sends out an email of encouragement and reveals a prompt relating to our word. Several of the other ladies in class and I have been posting a report about each month's prompt on our blogs. The clever and amazing Margie organizes our merry band into a cohesive unit for a blog hop where we share our work and support one another through comments.

I cannot thank these women enough.
They always inspire me.
They always support and encourage me.
They keep me accountable in documenting my OLW journey.
They sometimes make me laugh.
They sometimes make me cry.
They never cease to amaze me with their warmth, creativity and insight.
No, I cannot thank these women nearly enough.

This month's prompt brought us back to writing. Oh, the writing. How I love the writing. Ali developed a series of  "I statements" that were starting points for reflecting on varying aspects of our word. I loved this approach as it right away lent focus and direction to my journaling. The different completed journaling will back the nine photos taken for last month's prompt in a divided page protector. Six of the cards were pre-printed with "I statements" but the other three were left blank to allow for individual creative expression. I adore anything that offers a bit of structure but still allows for a massive influx of creativity and arsty exploration.

Here's my completed project for November:
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I was pretty simple in my documentation this month. I used my own handwriting for most of the journaling cards, but I had to break out my trusty vintage typewriter for one card (snatches of a favorite poem). I laid out Studio Calico's butterfly masks and then misted the entire page with Mr. Huey's Custard and a couple of pops of Heirloom Blue. Then I sprayed over the entire page with Mr. Huey's Calico Shine (such awesome stuff!!). I layered varying washi tapes over the center card and added the small canvas letters for my title.
I left two cards wordless, relying the butterfly to convey my sentiment. I have used butterflies throughout my album as symbols of my dreaming.

I am excited to see what Ali has in store for us with the final lesson for 2011. Also, if you've been following my blog and wishing that you would have joined us for this year's OLW journey, I have good news for you. Ali is doing it again! She will be offering another year long OLW class for 2012 through Big Picture Classes. I strongly encourage you to register. It has been an amazing experience.

Next up in the blog hop is Cindy. Check her out her fabulous blog here.