Monday, December 20, 2010

Two More Posts

I'm pretty sure that I won't be able to catch up by skipping weekends, and only doing two at a time, but I'm still going to keep on it! :)

December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)
People smiling while wearing masks = win!
My family. Hands down. Back when we first moved into the Money Pit, people would say to us, well it's good you have so much family. Which completely confounded me, because before embarking on this "adventure" the idea that we'd have "tons of help from our huge families" never crossed my mind. What's the big deal? It's nothing the two of us can't handle? Until the demo started... and the day my brother Kevin, and Nick's stepdad Dave came over, and the four of us accomplished more in 1 day than the two of us had accomplished in two weeks. Oh. This is what they meant. Even so, the fear of needing and the guilt of asking for help kept most of the demo to a two person job... until March... when we got the dumpster. Suddenly, with a deadline, and with WAY more work than we'd initially anticipated, we needed help. A LOT of it. And people came. Without question. Friends, neighbors, but most of all, my family. In the words of my Dad, on the day I begrudgingly called him to admit I needed help, he said, "Family first. If you need to, we'll rally the troops." And they did. We filled a dumpster with 10 tons of debris (mostly thrown, by hand, out of the second and third floor windows.) At which point I said, ok, we've got this now, thanks for the help guys, we'll take it from here. Wrong. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, and we're up against another deadline... the one where the bank says, ok time's up, if your contractors want to get paid, you need to be done with this work. Now. Except it was work WE had to finish, not the contractors. In comes my dad, again; he measured, sawed, routed, and installed 20 window sills and frames. And brought contractor friends to help. And the rest of the family; my sisters came for my birthday to paint. Dave, Paul and Megan helped install the wood floor. Nick's brothers Tyler and Carl removed all the remaining debris. Like, all of it. In like, an hour. (Boys: "What should we do now?" Alyson: "Uh, you did that way faster than I thought you would..." Carl: "We're athletes." Tyler: "SPARTAN athletes.") Kevin and my friend Chaz cut and installed a carpet and pad... Matt and Katie tackled the woodwork. Drew and Nick's dad installed a railing that could hold the house up if it had to... I mean, everyone did MORE than this, but these were the things they OWNED. And how to I express my gratitude? The way Italian-Irish know how... with food and beer? Weak, I know. And some thank you cards. And hopefully, some day, being able to return the favor in some way. Nothing seems like enough to express the immense amounts of gratitude we both feel. We know we couldn't be doing this, AND BE ALMOST DONE WITH THIS, without our incredible families, and close friends that we consider like family. Our home will truly be the house that love built, and every time I walk through it's rooms I remember that. 
December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)
Office Space
This is a question some (namely my in-the-moment husband) say I ask too much. WHAT'S NEXT?! Perhaps the action I should focus on most in 2011 is taking a moment to appreciate the action I've already accomplished, instead of so hurriedly moving on to the next... but that seems like a sentiment for another post. The ACTION I'm going to take to make my ideas happen in 2011 is definitely with rust belt love. Growing a business into something self sufficient has seemed like an insurmountable task until very, very recently. Insert cheesy motivational speaker quotes here, like "the only thing standing in your way is you," and "your only limitations are the ones you put on yourself," but I'm realizing it's true! To do what you love, and be your own boss doing it, has seemed like an unreachable pipe dream until this year, when I asked myself, "Why not?" Why couldn't I do it? We're successful on a small scale, which means we must have something going here, we just have to take that and scale up. An easy feat by no means, but an impossible one? Nah. So that is my action for 2011. This is the idea I am going to make happen. Grow my mini-sized successful business into a super-sized one large enough to sustain myself and my business partner full time. I mean, the only thing standing in my way is me... right?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Keep On Keepin On...

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)
WARNING: This one may not be for everyone. Like, I wouldn't have wanted to read it pre-pregnant-state. Just thought I'd give you a heads up.
My biggest fear.
(YES, THIS is my biggest pregnancy fear, not the baby having a cleft palette, or being born with it's organs on the outside, this creepy Alien-like scariness happening tops the list... It IS all about me, you know.)
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I would have to say that getting pregnant was probably the most in-touch with my body I've ever felt. And not exactly in the best way. After getting back from our trip to Lebanon I contracted campylobacter, which is basically a mutant strain of e.coli. From sushi. In NYC. Not okay. I ended up in the emergency room for the first time in my entire life, hooked up to fluids, and getting my first dose of morphine, the abdominal pain was so bad. The recovery involved eating nothing but clear broths and laying on the couch, for an entire week, due to a complete lack of energy. The first day I was better I had some drinks with my sister, didn't feel right, did some calendar counting and the next day went out for a peestick test. The rest is history. So, after basically giving my body a complete blue-screen-of-death-restart I felt EXTREMELY in tune with what was going on. And it was strange. I specifically remember one morning driving to work, and feeling things I'd never felt before, like my insides were stretching. Kind of in auto-pilot, I spent most of the drive drawing my attention to different parts of my body, like an exercise I'd done in yoga. I "felt" each part of myself, and knew it wasn't just mine anymore, that most of what WAS mine was now existing to sustain and protect something else... What that something else was I hadn't quite wrapped my brain around (and still perhaps haven't) but I just knew my body was suddenly solely responsible for more than trying to look good in the right clothes and getting me from home to work to out with my friends. It's daunting. It's not beautiful and wonderful, and a magical moment (I mean crap, Britney Spears did it... twice... how beautiful and magical can it be?) but at that moment I was definitely an alive, cohesive, present version of myself. 
December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)
Oh boy.... ELEVEN things?? Ok in the interest of time and catching up, I think I'll copy Shoe and do five... let's try this...
Breakfast yesterday. (The orange makes it okay... right?)

1.) Junk in the Trunk. The past few years I've been pretty good about trying to BE healthy. I don't obsess about my weight, but I don't eat fast food, I don't "junk out" a lot, and my husband and I do not have a "sweet tooth," so there's never sugar in the house. At least... there wasn't. Until 3 months ago, when I suddenly COULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT IT. Hooray for pregnancy cravings and changing body chemistry. I ate an entire bag of Halloween candy in the 2 weeks leading up to Halloween. Which for some may be no big deal, but for me, who just hasn't WANTED any in YEARS, it seemed obscene. With NO APPETITE in my first trimester I told myself to just get the sustenance anywhere I could, with whatever I could keep down, but now all that's over, it's time to right the ship. In 2011, for the last 6 months of the pregnancy, and obviously BEYOND, I need to focus on going back to my vegetables and lean meats, and away from the ice cream and Whopper Jrs...
2.) Bad Attitude. If I had a nickel for every time my sister and I told each other "You have a bad attitude," I could build an institute for people with bad attitudes. Its funny at the time, but it's true, in reality. And not a good thing. I need to focus on being more positive and proactive, and less pouty and complainy.
3.) DUST. Weird. I know. Everything I own is covered in a fine (or not so fine in some places) layer of dust. Plaster dust, drywall dust, or saw dust, take your pick. And ACTUAL dust in some cases! And I never want to see it again. Work is done, at least the hard stuff, I'm done living in a demolition zone, I'd like to go back to the time when I could walk around my house without brushing my pants legs off. 
4.) Clutter. The only thing scarier than gut renovating 2/3 of your house, is the realization that when you're done, you're going to have to FILL IT. So my solution was to become a massive hoarder. In the 1/3 of my house that we're ACTUALLY living in, we currently have 5 dressers, 4 easy chairs, 3 bikes, 2 "box rooms" (aka - rooms full of all the shit still not unpacked from moving in over a year ago) and a partridge in a pear tree. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.) And it's a disaster. Now that I've officially been given the doctor's order NOT to lift ANYTHING heavier than a dinner plate, it should make clearing the clutter interesting, but I'm still determined to do it. 
5.) Compulsive Worry. I'm a planner. I'm a list maker. I'm a doer. And somewhere along the way, this turned me into a worryer. I don't really like it, I kind of have enough going on without the added drama of worrying about everything all the time. Plus, it's not me. Some people are wired like that, and I truly believe the world needs those people to make it, you know, go forward. But in my little corner of life, I don't need it. So I'm gonna let it go. At least, as best as I can. (This may not be the most realistic ambition for someone about to have a kid...)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time to Catch Up!!

Okay... fallen completely behind... but in the spirit of the initiative I'm going to try to catch up... here are days 9 and 10...

December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)
#virtualcheers [and the sushi that tried to kill me]
Sad, but I've realized I didn't get out much this year. I took some trips, and met a lot of new people, so I think I'd rather talk about that, more of a recurring group of people, food, drinks, and shenanigans... rather than one night. It all began when I did something I don't think I'd ever done before in my life... agreed to meet a total "stranger" for a drink. [Wow, I am sounding more and more dull as I go along...] But seriously, I forget which of us proposed the "tweetup", but one beautiful Friday afternoon I found myself rushing to the Wine Thief (LATE, as per usual) to meet a lady whose only communication between us had been this new-fangled Twitter. [To my husband's great dismay, when, running late, I called him in a panic from my ancient flip phone, to talk him through sending a "I'm running late!" DM on his our iphone...]
With the ridiculous feeling of showing up for a blind date, I got to the Wine Thief and easily found my "date," since I was told to look for "the only girl with the shaved head." I instantly felt foolish for being nervous, what followed was some of the easiest, most enjoyable one on one conversation I had had in a long, long time. After much talk of pups, work, and relationships, she said she was meeting some other folks that I recognized from "the local twitterverse." Emboldened by my new independence and two glasses of wine on an empty stomach, I basically invited myself to this fairly large group already waiting at Toro. Where, over the course of the evening, I managed to make a complete fool of myself by smacking the arm of a lovely gentlemen I had just met and launching a glass of wine into another lovely gentleman's lap. And either no one seemed to care, or this group was classy enough to pretend not to care. Either way, I was smitten, and while I made very few of the following newly established "happy hours" [like I said, I didn't get out much this year] I definitely enjoyed joining via the interweb as often as I could with a #virtualcheers. These meetups with this group of new friends has definitely been the social gathering highlight of my year, and I look forward to many, many more in 2011. [Even if I am only having soda.]

December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

This year, I decided to finally take my freelance business to the next level. For years I've been doing work outside of my FT design job on and off, for people here and there, doing all sorts of odd jobs that came to me. But my favorites, and the area I've been wanting to focus on for years now, is invitation and event design. Not "event coordination," more of designing the look and feel of - namely - weddings. I realized I couldn't do it by myself, not while I was working full time, so when my sister [and best friend] said she wanted to do it with me, it was like all the stars aligned. She could be the left side of the brain, while I was the right. And it worked beautifully! We've spent much of the year growing professionally and personally, and I feel amazing about what 2011 has in store for us. But mostly I feel so lucky to have such a dedicated, organized, awesome person to work with. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 8 - Beautifully Different

Let's try this again...

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)

Okay, I think I just need to jump into this with both feet... #creepyjonlithgowdexterreference. What makes me different... there's a lot of nice things I like to think about myself that "make me different," but I know some would disagree. BUT I guess I can't worry about the haters. Something I like to think about myself is I will do just about anything for you if you need me. Whether that goes back to being the oldest of 6 kids, and growing up always taking care of others, or a narcissistic need to be needed, I will give to others until I have nothing left. Time, sanity, money (when I have it), if I'm physically able, I will do it. In fact, I'm more likely to flake out on a social gathering than I am to a family or charity event ("they NEED me there.") I also have a total fear/inferiority/guilt complex about NEEDING or asking for help. Not great when you go from big wedding to massive fixer upper to prego, all within 20 months. Because you need people... a lot... during those times. So I don't think any of that makes me beautiful, but, maybe it's different? #promptfail

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 7 and 8!

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)
the folks that finally actually convinced me to go camping

I've been extremely fortunate this year to connect deeply with a community online and in person. I know everyone's saying it, but this year I got really involved in Twitter, especially the local community, and I've found friends - online and "in real life" {especially happy hour :)} - who are awesome people, that I truly enjoy spending time with. I was also lucky enough to strengthen my immediate community, and spent much of the spring and summer months (as is tradition in Buffalo) with my neighbors. We have amazing people on both sides of us, and most evenings and weekends were spent standing in the driveway drinking wine and grilling Korean food with Sun, Grey, Erin, and watching her dog Brindley play with Brick for hours. Or entire weekend days spent on Matt and Katie's porch drinking "porch beers" with Drew and Christian, watching their dog Jake play with Brick for hours. Or playing bean bags or can jam with Dan and Ashley across our front yards, and Brick just hung out because they have cats. We are literally surrounded by the best kind of people you want to spend time with, and it has truly made me appreciate living in the heart of "the city of good neighbors."

December 8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. (Author: Karen Walrond)
This one is really hard!!! How do you answer that?? I'll have to come back to this, haha...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 6 - MAKE

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
(Author: Gretchen Rubin)
Sidenote about the author: I love Gretchen... my parallel and I followed her very closely for quite a while trying to master "The Happiness Project" before realizing we just weren't that good at it. :)
The last thing I made is actually KIND of easy for me because I make things all the time... but the last thing I made FOR ME... that didn't involve a trip to a hardware store... is probably my ginormous painting in my dining room. 
 Additional sidenote: going through old pictures really drives home how many projects I idiotically start at once... probably explains all the NOT FINISHED projects hanging around...
I had a ginormous canvas that I bought for a commission for a restaurant that fell through. I've been told the photos are deceiving, so to be clear the canvas is about 6ft tall and 8ft wide... the largest painting I'd ever made was 18"x24"... and that was in college... so this was just, insane. But the thing cost me $80 and I had no where to put it, so I dove in sort of just to clear up some of the clutter... I figured if I painted something I could hang it and it'd be one less thing without a home.
Looking back if I'd put more thought into it I probably would have panicked and been paralyzed by the fear of screwing up such a huge and expensive canvas, and never started. But a snapshot into where we were at at this time: our mortgage application had just fallen through, 3 months after our scheduled closing date, for the house we'd already moved into after being told it was a "done deal." It was October, starting to get cold, and we had no working furnace...

I just realized... just this moment... this painting was an escape, a release... everything was going wrong... terribly, horribly wrong (someone actually brought up the point, "What if you just packed up and left? You could just leave, like in the middle of the night without telling anyone, companies and restaurants do that sometimes...") so I chose to do the one thing that I knew I could do right.
Hm. Wow. Yup. This is my painting. It's not perfect, but I like it. And I'm really proud of it. And now I'll think of it way differently every time I see it. 
I'll make something new in 2011. It's going to be a big year, but if I start to feel like I'm losing my grasp on it, I think I'll start a huge, insane painting for the big blank wall on my second floor. :)

I'm A Bad Weekend Blogger...

So since my weekends are usually spoken for, I will catch up with Saturday and Sunday's #reverb10 posts here, quickly...

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
I hang out with kids. Namely my nephews. Okay, only my nephews. {Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a huge fan of kids... although they swear you like your own} My nephews are pretty cool... even the one that doesn't talk yet. The oldest, Paul Jr., the one that does talk, LOVES animals. Like, L.O.V.E.S. them. Can tell you the difference between a howler monkey and a mandrill (or as I call it, "the monkey with the blue cheeks from the Lion King.") Oh, and he's four. You want to see TRUE wonder, take a four year old to the science museum. Or make his birthday party an "Animal Party." Or do what I do; every Monday night, put out a handful of markers, open up an 18"x24" pad of paper and say, "What are we going to draw today?" We do one drawing a week. We're on page 13, and we haven't replicated a scene yet. We have an animal school, a farm, a jungle, a dessert, a rain forest, an ocean, a "dangerous reef" (yes, they're different), a swamp (with "bullrushes," his request, not mine), dinosaurs, and a circus, just to name a few. And lately, I don't do the drawings anymore. He does them... I might prod here and there, ("Who is the tiger having dinner with?") or help with an especially tricky animal here or there ("You draw the clown fish, Aunt Aly.") but he's the one drawing the majority of the time. And you can really see a difference from the front of the book to the back. It's pretty cool. 

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I sort of let go of this "idea" of who I thought I was. At one point this past summer, a few months after my 1 year wedding anniversary, I had a brief out of body experience where I looked in at my life from the outside. I was loading lumber into a pickup truck, wearing paint splattered jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, a baseball cap, with work gloves in my back pocket. As I climbed in next to my bulldog sitting on the passenger seat, I laughed out loud at the "sight." Merely a year before I wouldn't have dreamt of leaving the house in anything less than a 2 inch heel and a full face of makeup... when I was picking nail polish colors instead of paint swatches... And I realized I could be both. Now I drink beer (or at least I WOULD) and install hardwood floors, but I still go out to Aroma and have a glass of syrah (siiiigh I miss wine) all done up like a lady... I don't have to be embarrassed that I want to have a kid just because some people think they know me as "someone who hates kids... "  And one of the great things I've learned about that this year is the people who get it stick by you... 
"The people who matter don't mind, and the people that mind don't matter."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 3: Moment

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.

One moment. Out of a whole year. Gah. Well my mind immediately goes to our trip to Lebanon, which truly was life changing for me. Most notably the day we went to Baalbek.

From the moment I got there, I was struck by the sheer enormity of it. The sun was SO warm, but it didn't feel oppressive... It was just nice... We walked through this huge, old temple, and I was just SO HAPPY to be sharing this with my husband Nick. Nick's a homebody, that is happiest camping in the snow (no joke) so talking him into a 10 hour flight to the Middle East was not the easiest feat... But the look on his face as we walked through 3000 year old ruins, seeing stones so large and so heavy it seems absolutely impossible to imagine humans without machines ever moved them, architecture so exact that it could not be replicated today with all the world's computers and lasers... My whole chest filled with such love and warmth, I grabbed his hand and said something like, "isn't this cool?" He leaned over and kissed the side of my head and said in my ear, "I'm so happy to be doing this with you."
Baalbek changed from Greek to Roman to Christian to stripped of most statuary during the world wars. It has symbolism from the star of David before it was the symbol for Judaism, to the swastika, symbol for eternity, before it was stolen by the Nazis. To see something so important, and so much bigger than yourself with the person so important and big in your life has a strangely calming effect - and immediately snaps things into perspective.
I have been hugely lucky to have experienced this this year, just thinking about it makes me feel alive all over again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Writing, Day 2

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

[I'm going to substitute "creating" for "writing" since I'm more of a visual artist than a writer.] My days mostly consist of work/creating, working on the house, and maybe an hour to unwind/decompress in front of the TV. If I'm home after work. Most nights I am either at meetings, with family, or running errands. So I guess I don't do a ton of "unnecessary stuff" ... that being said, I do have a huge amount of guilt if I HAVEN'T done at least one über productive thing with my day. I micromanage, make lists, and over-plan. So, boring post, there's really not much in my day that doesn't contribute to my life in a way I could eliminate. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reflect and Manifest... Day 1

So as this year is drawing to a close (I'm still quite shocked that it's actually DECEMBER) I've decided to take the month to participate in #reverb10. And for day one, I am supposed to sum up 2010 in one word. Crap.
My family, who I am thankful for everyday.

No, that's not my one word, I just hate summing up something huge with something so small... This year was... insane. Closing on the house in April after 9 months of chaos (including half a winter in Buffalo with no furnace) went right into 8 months of tearing it apart and putting it back together. Sprinkle in the highlights of new friends and volunteer opportunities, with people and organizations that love and want to support the city as much as I do; a new puppy that we adore more than people should love an animal; an amazing trip overseas with friends I so wish I could see more than once a year; and the most recent surprise of finding out we're expecting (oh yeah, we're expecting... like, a baby), and I think the best word for this year is probably overwhelming. Everything I've done and taken on, everywhere I've gone, and seen, has all seemed so much bigger than me and more than I could handle. Khalas.

The word I want for myself for 2011 is content. I want less "I wish I could/would/had/did..." thoughts, and more "I'm happy with/for/because..." thoughts. I want control, peace, and contentment.