Saturday, December 31, 2011

7 Songs for Singing.

I do love a good song, and I am of the belief that most songs are better when performed live. One exception being Taylor Swift songs because y'all...painful. PTL, the one time I did hear her live she was only singing a couple of songs and Snoop Dogg quickly came to the rescue of our bleeding ears. However, I'm not here to bash a young girl who made more money in the first 15 minutes of her career than I will ever make in my entire 51 year career as an indentured servant.

It really is a shame that I have zilcho musical talent, but for those of us who aren't athletes, we can be athletic supporters, right? [Name that movie.] There's a lot of pressure to list just 7 songs in a blog post when it's supposed to be a capstone post of sorts for the entire year. So I narrowed down my selections based on the fact that I had to have heard these songs performed live this year. Here goes:

1. The Once and Future Carpenter - The Avett Brothers

2. Ten Thousand Words - The Avett Brothers

Have I mentioned that I saw the Avetts perform for the third time this year just last night? [Well, I am actually writing this in advance but the plan is to see them on the 30th.] Love them. Their energy is crazy good.

3. Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars

4. Poison and Wine - The Civil Wars

I saw them just a couple of weeks ago, and I was absolutely entranced the entire time. Awesome. Even if Joy's weird awkward hand motions made me uncomfortable. She needs a guitar in her hands or something. Yet, they performed in a chapel so I feel like we were a tough crowd for them. The behavior of the audience was like people behave in church [you know, really quiet and reserved] so these two were getting zero reaction during the show. I felt the need to write a written apology afterwards.

5. No Means No - Striking Matches

The group formerly known as Common Thread. Their closest friends call them Justin and Sarah. I'm entitled because I endlessly humored half of this duo for hours when he was a mere toddler and I was a way too cool for school 4th grader. Y'all. If you haven't made it to one of their shows yet, GET THERE. I suspect that soon I will no longer be able to afford tickets to their shows so I feel the need to see them as often as possible. Because they really are THAT awesome.

6. Colder Weather - Zac Brown Band

I technically saw them on NYE, but the show continued into the wee small hours of January 1 so technically I saw them this year. I love a good technicality as much as I love a good song.

7. Waiting Here For You - Christy Nockels

She has the voice of an angel. Well, maybe not because I suspect that the angel Gabriel's voice is loud and booming and all sorts of intimidating. Why else would he preface all of his remarks with "Fear not!"?

If only I had been able to score tickets to Mumford & Sons when they played at The Fox in Atlanta this year, my year in music would have been complete. Darn those scalpers. Darn them all! I'll see them eventually though. Mark my word.

Friday, December 30, 2011

6 is for Saturday.

Do you know how I know that I'm old? It happened this year so I feel that it's necessary for me to document this milestone for the sake of posterity. I started waking up early on Saturday. On purpose. Because I enjoy it.

Now for those of you who know my family and how I was raised, this is kind of a big shift for me. By nature, we're night people. I always tell folks that I didn't have a bed time whenever I was a kid, and well honestly, I didn't really have a strict bed time. What? You mean it's not normal for a 6 year-old to stay up and watch 20/20 and then Friday night videos? Anywho...

Saturday morning is my time to recharge after a long work week. Previously that meant sleeping until oh, 11 or so. Now it means waking up by 6:45 or 7:00, walking the dog, making some coffee, and then spending a couple of hours reading and drinking said coffee. I love it. My inner introvert is coming out by talking about this. The sixth day of the week has definitely become my favorite for this very reason. And yes, I realize some of you are laughing at me because the definition of "early" pre-parenthood is much different than the definition of early when there are kiddos in the house. Unless it was my house because when you put your kids to bed late, they tend to sleep late!

So, what do you all do to recharge? Can you think of the last time that you've spent time doing this? We all need it. I think that not only do we feel better, we treat others better when we are feeling our finest. If you currently don't have a routine to restore your energy, then perhaps 2012 will be the year you find one. There's still time to make your resolutions!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

5 Words Make a Handful.

Throughout this year, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about and determining what these words mean to me. While words are flat and one-dimensional, the meanings behind them are anything but flat. One of the reasons why I used the Christmas card design that I did is that I truly hope is that each and everyone of you has a year filled with love, joy, and peace.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

4 Years in Athens.

How in the world have I managed to live in Athens for 4 (actually 4.5) years?!?! It's the town that I never really wanted to live in in the first place. When I left my little mountain town of Dahlonega for the big city in July 2007, I was only going to live there until I finished graduate school. Well, that whole ordeal ended up taking longer than I had planned for it to. Now that I've been done with school for a whole year though, what's my excuse for still being there? [Other than being gainfully employed in a job that I happen to enjoy, of course.]

As it turns out, I really sort of like Athens. In fact, I would go so far as to say now that I love it. What? Me? It's amazing how attitudes and perspectives can change when one isn't so bull-headed for no apparent reason. During this last year of not "having" to be there for school, I've done things like started volunteering at church. Which I happen to really enjoy. I've dropped the "as soon as I'm done with school, I'm out of here" mentality. And now given recent and exciting developments with my job effective January 1, it looks like that I will definitely be here awhile longer. How much longer? Oh, I don't know but there are certainly worst places to be.

Hmmmm..."to be". No worries I'm not going all Shakespearean here, but this year I think I've really begun to understand the value in just being. By that, I mean being completely there wherever I am instead of being so focused on where I'm not or where I think that I would rather be. A couple of months ago I was sought out by a company and had a couple of calls with the hiring folks. The opportunity sounded really exciting and really good and would have been pretty great. Except for I wasn't so on board with the location. I didn't even know there were states in the lower 48 with only a total of 3 Target stores in them, did y'all? Crazy. So that opportunity wasn't to be. In the meantime I'll stay in my little town of Athens with a Target store less than 2 miles from my home and all of those other creature comforts that I've come to really love in the place that I currently call home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

3 Orange Balls.

This is the year that Cash, the Wonder Lab, celebrated his third year of life. Throughout these three years it has been visual reminders like this:
...that has kept me from selling him to the lowest bidder in moments like this:
Had I read all the books that I read about raising Chocolate Labs prior to getting him, there's a 92% chance I would have gotten a hermit crab instead. Who knew that male Chocolate Labs tend to have the most energy of all the Labrador Retrievers in the land? "They" say that age three is when male Chocolates calm down and are usually okay to be left uncrated for long periods of time. My shoes and throw pillows would disagree with them.

He really is the greatest dog in the world though, and he has taught me so much about discipline, patience, and loyalty. As in, I need to exhibit more of all three of those traits. He is quite loyal to me, but sometimes I wonder if it's because he sees me as his source for three meals a day and the essential ingredient for seemingly never ending games of fetch. 2011 though was the year that he abandoned his first love, the tennis ball, for a new and improved model:

See that poor, dejected tennis ball off to his right? Once he was introduced to the greatness that is the orange Chuck-It ball, tennis balls were so last season. He "acquired" his first orange ball at the dog park. He's pretty much a thief. Thank goodness the original owners are friends and they were kind enough to let him have it. I can't say that I blame them though since it was covered in dog slobber and prying it out of his mouth would have been akin to prying it from a piranha. He did not put this ball down for days. Literally. I had to trick him at bedtime to get it away from him. [No comments about who is the alpha in our master/canine relationship, please.] Speaking of bedtime, they also function as a breadcrumb trail of sorts just in case he forgets his way:
The way the other two made their way into his life was at Thanksgiving when I had all sorts of baking to do. I needed him to be entertained and distracted because no one likes it when dogs serve as taste-testers for baked goods. Bleh.

Sometimes I feel guilty that he does not spend his days duck-hunting or swimming and all of the other things that his breed was bred to do. [Remind me to one day tell you all about the time he killed my mom's neighbor's chicken. It was quite possibly his proudest moment.] But as far as he's concerned, he's living his purpose each and every day. Sure, it's a simple purpose: chasing orange balls and carrying them around wherever he goes, but he does it with the energy and devotion of a Lab who spends hours on end hunting and swimming. Hmmm...that's one more thing that he has brought to my attention that I need to improve upon: living out my purpose with energy and devotion even if it's not the most "glamorous" purpose out there. However, if I forget my own agenda, then my purpose does contribute to something grand. And that is a good thing.

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” -John Grogan

Monday, December 26, 2011

2 Plane Trips.

It's no secret that I love airplanes and airports and all of the things that come with both of those things. [Look, I never guaranteed new information in my 12 Days of Christmas blogging.] A decade ago when I took my very first flight as a college senior on a mission trip to Mexico, I decided that I would fly somewhere new very year. And I have managed to do so with the only exception being the year that I got Cash. His arrival resulted in a depleted cash flow between the puppy shots, crates, treats, and excessive trips to the after hours emergency vet when he would do things like fall asleep in his water bowl and swallow dog chews whole. [God bless my future children.]

When 2011 began I wasn't sure if and when I would be flying the friendly skies, but glory be, I took not just one but two plane trips this year. First stop - Ft. Lauderdale. I don't consider myself a beach person, but after this trip, I think I'm a beach person. I remembered to reapply sunscreen. I allowed myself to do nothing by sit and read. Or sit and nap. This relaxation mode was just what the doctor ordered because in the days and weeks leading up to the trip, my left shoulder blade hurt so badly that I seriously considered having it removed. Ok, that's extreme, but my left shoulder blade is the spot in my body where I carry all of my stress. So it's never a good sign when I wake up in the morning and my left shoulder blade is already hurting. I digress. To summarize...

I enjoyed green palm trees, blue skies and really blue water.
I made new friends who gave me great fashion advice.
I chased boys on the beach.
And I drank.
Just a typical week in July.

In November, I had the opportunity to head to Chicago to present at a conference for work. My initial thought was "Chicago in November...I'm going to be one big hive." [Because I'm so awesome that I break out into hives when I get cold as opposed to hot like the normal population of weirdos with unsightly skin conditions.]However, it was a great opportunity because I got to actually use my research from graduate school. It wasn't all work though as we did manage to make a little time for sightseeing.

It was really cool to see the downtown Macy's all decorated for Christmas.This is the only photo evidence that I was in fact there. I promise that I went beyond this one block in the city. If only I had thought to get someone to take a candid of me stuffing my face full of some yummy deep dish pizza. Y'all. That stuff is filling. Cold temps and deep dish pizza would be an inevitable lifetime membership to Jenny Craig for me if I lived in that town.
Now accepting recommendations for trips to take in 2012. Maybe NYC. I think it's kind of weird that I haven't made it there yet. That's probably why Lorne Michaels hasn't called to offer me a job yet. How can I live and work in a city that I've never actually visited?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

1 Gift for All People.

Merry Christmas! I suspect that by the time you read this, all the gifts that you have spent days, weeks and for the over-achievers out there, months shopping for and wrapping will have been opened. Isn't it a little bit crazy that we spend so much time looking for just the right gift(s) for our loved ones which leads to us spend even more time wrapping it up nicely and adorning the package with ribbons and bows, only to have them rip the paper to shreds and tear open the box to see what's inside in a matter of about 30 seconds flat before moving on to the next gift? Why do we do that? Because we love our people, that's why!

I've never really been a person who shows excessive amounts of emotion over anything. Even as a kiddo, I can remember numerous times when my mama would plead with me to yell because I was frustrated or jump up and down because I was excited, etc. I can't confirm, but I suspect that my only response was an eye roll. One Christmas in particular though I can remember being SO! EXCITED! I could not sleep because the anticipation over what Santa was going to leave for me in the living room was too great. Finally after mom and dad made countless trips into my room warning me that if I didn't actually go to sleep, Santa wouldn't deliver, I somehow managed to drift off because suddenly it was Christmas morning. And I was wide awake! I can't confirm, but I suspect that my poor parents had slept all of zero minutes thanks to little ol' me.

I still remember that feeling of walking into the living room and seeing all of my loot laid out before my eyes. Not one, but TWO Cabbage Patch Clown Kids! A stroller for my baby dolls! A million color stick crayon in my stocking! [Weird, I know, but that crazy crayon was one of my favorite things ever.] I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's just say that it was crazy insane and my expectations had been exceeded. I really could not grasp the concept that Santa had left all of that stuff just for me even after I had been such a pain by not going to sleep in a timely manner so he could get on with his Santa Claus business. I'm sure that there were other things on my list that I had requested that I did not get. [Let's be honest, I combed through the JCPenney's and Sears Wishbooks each year with the precision of a neurosurgeon in order to make Santa's job easy.] Yet, on that morning, and still to this day, I cannot recall those things. I can only remember the things that I did get. Why? Because those things surpassed my expectations. Santa knew best.

So let's look at this story from a grown-up perspective. Don't get me wrong, I love Santa, and I believe that he absolutely has a place in the magic and wonderment of Christmas. Let's replace Cabbage Patch Clown Kids with experiences, opportunities, and relationships and Santa with Christ though. After all, He is the reason why we are all gathered around our decorated pine trees that we annually bring inside for the sake of fighting a losing battle against falling needles. Aren't our expectations surpassed? Doesn't Christ know best? Yes, and yes.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the gift of salvation through Christ. Yet, just as I could not understand why oh why Santa chose to leave all of that stuff for me on that Christmas morning, I will never be able to fully understand and grasp why oh why God sent his one and only Son for all of my sins. But I do believe that it's important not to get hung up on the understanding of it because there are some things we are not meant to fully understand. As children, did we take the time to think "Now I really need to know why this toy was given me" before we started playing with it? Nope. We received those toys willingly. Why is it so hard for us to willingly receive the greatest gift of all?

There are people who are much more gifted at communicating this than I am so I would encourage you to check out Andy Stanley's series called "An Unexpected Christmas" here or Louie Giglio's series called "Anticipation" here. Don't get me wrong, they are people just like we are so it's not their word but God's word. But don't just take my word for it.

Merry Christmas.

"...I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." -Luke 2:10

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Dozen Days of Blogging.

Call it a temporary lapse of sound judgment, or perhaps, it was a momentary bout of ambition, but it seems that I have committed to blogging for 12 days straight. This is what happens when I let myself get caught up in the Christmas spirit: I order printed Christmas cards in which I encourage people to read my blog between December 25 and January 5 for HP's 12 Days of Christmas and I devote 20 minutes of each day to Jillian Michaels mocking me through the television as I shred away all the pumpkin cake and cookies that I consumed over Thanksgiving in order to make room for all the red velvet cake and Oreo balls that I plan to consume over Christmas. [I should have shredded that sentence down a bit.]

For those of you keeping score at home [first of all: if you're keeping score about this kind of stuff at home, for the love of Pete, get a hobby] I have blogged a total of 12 times since July. This means that while I've set the bar high, I am also setting the bar pretty low as to the actual content of these pending posts. Hopefully though the 12 days will be a little encouraging, a little inspiring, somewhat informative, and a little bit of a look back at this most recent trip around the sun. Hopefully. But don't get your hopes up.

So. All of that to say "Merry Christmas!" "I hope you are enjoying this season!" and "I'll be back here in a couple of weeks!" In the meantime, if you need me I'll be in Santa's Workshop hammering out a dozen or so posts. ...Or maybe I'll be tied up in traction once I finally work up the nerve to advance to Level 2 of The 30 Day Shred.