Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

And yet another year, Gone.

Keeping with tradition, it is time to reflect back on the closing year in order to remind myself of all that's happened and what I have done and achieved. I love New Year's. I have no use for rubbing shoulders with strangers anymore or fighting for a drink. In fact, this year Mike and I will again stay home with a wonderful spread of snacks and a lovely seafood and risotto dinner, as well as some good beer and wine.

What I truly love about the new year is the fresh start. For the first time in three months I feel rested and refreshed. The social calendar has slowed and it's the perfect time to refocus my energy on the goals I was not able to achieve this past year, and really focus on what I want 2013 to be like.

After reviewing 2011's Year in Review post I see that 2011 and 2012 were very different, whereas 2011 was a year of planning and new challenges and ventures, and 2012 was largely a year of execution and settling in and adjusting to those new ventures.

I started school in January at Saint Joseph's University. I would say that the majority of my stress this past year has stemmed from school in one form or another. But I am extremely proud of wrapping up my first year with a 4.0, which will surely only add increased pressure and stress this coming year. Yet I have decided I like the ring 4.0 has to it so I will continue to try my very best to maintain it.

I managed to start the year out right with a five-mile race on New Year's Day. Although I did not achieve a single one of my 2012 resolutions, I have achieved, finally, consistent exercise. After years of practice, I consistently kept active throughout the year with only brief and sporadic periods of inactivity. That's a huge accomplishment, and now simply part of the routine. I also ran Broad Street again, a 10-mile race in Philly, this past May in honor of my 30th birthday. I finished in 1:55:37, shaving a whopping 17 minutes off my time from 2010.

Speaking of my birthday, I turned 30 in style with a Big Birthday BBQ Bash that Mike and I threw at home. It was a blast and I avoided feeling all of the 'boo-hoo I'm 30' nonsense. I reflected on turning the big 3-0 here.

In August, I decided to do something I have always wanted to and signed up for private one-on-one swim lessons. I love swimming so much and I certainly have a knack for it, I've discovered. It is now one of my favorite things to do and I look forward to building up my endurance in 2013.

As for travel and leisure, this year I was fortunate enough to take three vacations, which is totally awesome! In July, Mike and I went to Cape May again with our usual crew for our 4th Annual week in Cape May. The house we rented was huge and had decks and porches everywhere, the weather was great and we had an awesome pool again conducive to hours of pool volleyball. Overall, it was extremely relaxing and we had a great time.

Labor Day Weekend, I took my Mom out to Colorado to see my brother, Joey. I had never been out there so that was really cool. It was great getting to see Joe and where he lives. We hung out in Louisville, Boulder, and Longmont hitting up five breweries (Lililkoi Kepolo at Avery is still the best beer I have ever had) and countless bars. We went hiking and also drove up the highest paved road in N. America, Mount Evans Road, to 14,240 feet. The temperature was in the 80's when we set out and in the 20's at the summit. It was freezing and the drive up was terrifying thanks to my fear of heights and lack of shoulder and guard rails.

Lastly, Mike and I got to spend Christmas in Washington state with my brother, Doug, and sister-in-law, Kristin. What an incredible way to wrap up the year! We truly had an awesome time and made so many memories and got to have so many new experiences. We went to a Seahawks game (it really is as loud as they say it is), ate Moroccan food on Christmas Eve, went snow tubing on Christmas, spent time in Seattle and just laughed our heads off and got to catch up and talk. A lot. I always take away so much more than memories from my visits with Doug and Kristin and my trips out to the Pacific Northwest.

The only major change we experienced this year was an incredible blessing. Mike started a new job after eight years of being with the same company and becoming increasingly unhappy. For the first time since I have known Mike, he is off weekends. This is a total game-changer and the entire quality of our marriage has improved and best of all, he is a happier man, which makes everyone around him happier.

This past year we also maintained our Oktoberfest tradition despite an extremely busy fall. As we and our friends all get older I think it is increasingly important that we maintain these traditions because it would be all too easy not to see one another without events that bring us all together. We are happy to do our part and provide another reason to come together.

This past November we saw two of our dearest friends, Roman and Danielle, tie the knot. Mike was overjoyed to be named Best Man and I was thrilled to be a bridesmaid. The wedding provided many festivities including a fabulous bridal shower in July, bachelor and bachelorette parties in the fall, all leading up to truly fantastic wedding, which included a weekend in a beautiful hotel with many great friends. Overall, their nuptials were great cause for celebration; a whole lot of it, and we are thrilled for them.

Also this past November, Mike and I hosted our very first Thanksgiving and I loved every second of it, particularly the planning and prep. It was a huge success - the house looked gorgeous, the tablescape was stunning and the food was delicious. I very much hope to do it again next year. Thanksgiving, a holiday I didn't care much for, is now possibly my favorite. I guess as long as I can do it my way. ;-)

Overall, 2012 was great. After all, we had one another, a roof over our heads, pillows under them, food in our bellies, and our family, friends and Cooper. Life has been good to us and we are fortunate enough to do many things.

I wish all of my friends and loved ones a wonderful 2013 free from pain and full of love, accomplishments, and good fortune. Cheers.

And now for those resolutions...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Turning 30.......

Today is the eve of my 30th birthday and I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what this means to me, and how I am feeling as I achieve this milestone. The past several years have been really excellent, my 29th year being no exception as I hit the trifecta of new home, job and school. I’ve been running a lot more races and weigh less today than I have throughout the past 3-4 years. I am faster and more active than I have ever been in my adult life and although I have been thinner, I don’t think I’ve ever been healthier. I feel good and I am quite pleased with where I am at this point in my life.

This week I have been burdened by homework and have had little time for self-reflection, yet fortunately my work has necessitated reflection. I have been learning Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics; what he believes happiness is and what it takes to achieve it. One of my tasks was to write about what I believe happiness is. This lead me to contemplate how I define happiness, whether or not I am happy, and how I may be happier in my 30th year.

I am pleased to say that my happiness has increased consistently over the past several years. I believe this comes with age and experience and having an understanding of what makes us happy. I pro-actively seek pleasure, work to improve myself, and my life, to be happier, and to avoid that which does not bring me happiness. Aristotle believes happiness comes with maturity and I agree. I have learned so much about others, life, and most importantly, myself. With this knowledge I feel armed to make better choices and to ultimately live a better life, resulting in a level of happiness.

I often question what the point of living is if you’re not working toward something. I believe it is important we strive for self-actualization although there is no way of ever achieving it. There are a great many things I will continue to work toward this year (my degree, running faster, losing more weight, being a more patient person, improving my home and finances) and there are many improvements to be made (you’re 30 now – STOP SMOKING FOR GOOD ALREADY!). But it is so much easier to do these things feeling that I am not “behind”. I am not overwhelmed by what I want to do because I am always aware of where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am headed.

Ten years ago I felt hopeless, depressed; I was a failure and only valued myself as others valued, or didn’t, value me. I was lost; not good for anything.

Today I am a strong, intelligent, independent woman. I am a good wife to a wonderful man, a great mom (to the most perfect dog in the world), a good daughter and sister, good friend, and a contributing member to society.

In the future I seek to be great.

I am excited about beginning the next chapter of my life. There is a little trepidation in the big 3-0 though, I must admit. Although I have been an adult for several years, now it just seems so much more “official”. Don’t get me wrong - I still plan to call my mother in tears when I’m upset, but there’s something about “30” that says we need to get our retirement plans in order, and get annual physicals and start being really vigilant about our health. The biological clock is also out of the closet. It’s not on the nightstand yet, but it’s in the room. And although this brings me great sadness to think and write, it is also time to really stop taking people for granted, like my Mom for example, because you just never know how much time you have.

But enough of that. 30 is also just another number. This Saturday I will celebrate 30 right with a big bash amongst my parents and friends. I will kick things off with awesome over-indulgence and memory-making. The scene of the first page of the next chapter will be my backyard and the main character of the story will be 30 and drunk. I couldn’t ask for a better beginning and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Wide Open

This is not a post about football. But this afternoon the NY Giants advanced to the second round of the Playoffs and this post is being carefully typed letter by painfully slow letter because I am beyond drunk. But I have something to say, despite all the back spacing.

This afternoon I met a genuinely kind man. I am a skeptical girl from New Jersey so I was not surprised to hear he was from Indianapolis. Hate me or not, kind people are few and far between in New Jersey. After he walked away another guy picked up on the conversation and initiated football chat. I say with full confidence I knew what I was talking about. As he walked away he commented to his friend that talking to me wanted to make him blow his brains out.

He was an incognito Falcons fan. I wanted to start some shit.

It took all my energy to not tell him it was time to blow his brains out after the humiliating blow we gave the Falcons.

This post is not about football. Seriously. I told my husband, Mike, about the awesome Indianapolis fan, and our friend Beater (Jay) visiting from PA. We bumped into him again and he invited us to a party for the Steelers game happening a mere 30 minutes later. We got his name, a vague address, somewhat familiar, and that was it.

I asked my husband if we could please go to the party and not surprisingly, he said no. So naturally, I started fighting for what I wanted, thinking that I know what is best for us.

For example, In Aruba, on our honeymoon I knew we should we leave the resort and see the country. Mike hmmmed and hawwwed and we had one argument on our honeymoon. He didn't want to leave the comforts of our resort and I didn't fly all that way to not leave the comforts of our resort. I was determined to go with or without him and eventually he gave in and thanked me for the best day of our honeymoon; adventure day.

Today was adventure day. In a bar less than a half mile from our house I convinced Mike that today is an impromptu adventure day. How often in New Jersey, of ALL PLACES, will you meet someone that obviously felt some sort of connection and welcomed you into their personal world, by inviting you to a party.

I want to travel. Reading more and more books about travel and humanity I realize you need to accept the kindness of strangers and believe there is good in this world. We are raised to be skeptics; I hate it. I so desperately want to break this barrier down and what better way than to do it with a man from Indianapolis, Peyton country for crying out loud! I fought for what I wanted. I wanted to prove a point that strangers can be kind and welcoming.

Drunkenly, I petitioned Mike and Beater to trust me. I swore no sicko could take all three of us on and that if the party was a bust we could leave. Immediately.

As we looked for the house we could not find the cross street and my heart sank. Was I really given a fake address? I refused to accept it so we went back again and when I saw the cross street I had a renewed faith in humanity.

Long story short, we had a spectacular time! We made new friends a mere mile from home, had a hundred laughs, and experienced trust in strangers. Numbers were exchanged, friends were made, and most importantly I haven't lost faith in strangers. I showed Mike that strangers aren't necessarily bad. We were welcomed into the home of a friend of a guy we met a bar mere hours earlier. We proved the stereotypes wrong - we had a blast and laughed until we cried.

This is the heart of being wide open.