Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Defining Character- Thoughtfulness and Giving Update

The month is almost over, so I thought I would give you an update on how the Thoughtfulness and Giving thing went. I did something special for almost everyone on my list. They weren't all as meaningful as I might have wanted (baked goods are always thoughtful right?) I even sent the gift (along with a letter) to the Ex. I heard through a friend that still works with him that he got it and wasn't too weirded out by it. He didn't call and thank me or anything, but that's ok. Overall I did pretty darn good and I am pleased with myself.

I also managed to figure out a way to work in "giving" with my family's Christmas presents. In addition to some doggie treats, my mom's dog also received a donation to puppiesbehindbars.com in her name. In addition to a passport cover and other gifts, my uncle got a water bottle and a donation to charitywater.org in his name. For my mom, in addition to her cashmere sweater and other gifts, I got her the Willow Tree Angel of Health and donated 2 chickens in her name through worldvision.org and two insecticide-treated mosquito nets through malarianomore.org.

I plan to continue this throughout the new year. I am going to start giving at church more (I just cannot tithe 10% right now...still living paycheck to paycheck for this twenty-something!). When I give gifts, I am going to take the time to really think about what would make a difference to that person instead of getting something generic. I'm also going to try to write more thank you notes to take the time to recognize when someone has done something special for me. It really does make you feel good when you slow down and focus on thoughtfulness in your giving. Try it!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

All By Myself

I marked something else off my list today. I went to see Marley and Me at the theater...alone! I don't know why I thought this was such a big deal. Did I feel uncomfortable walking into the theater by myself? Yes. Would it have been better to go to the movies with someone? A friend or perhaps a boy? Probably. Would it have been better to stay home in my pajamas all day? No.

It was a movie I really wanted to see. I knew I was going to cry because I had read the book and I know how it ends. And I am NOT a public crier. So I was glad to be by myself. I was boo-hooing at various parts throughout the movie, but didn't have to feel self-conscious because there was no one I knew there. The movie was pretty good, but the book was WAY better (by the way, the book is almost always way better than the movie.) Really, going by myself was no big deal once I stopped worrying about other people judging me and feeling uncomfortable being alone.

It motivated me to come home and take my dog to the dog park. Alone. Well, me and him, but still. It was great. I got out the house and had an active full day because I wasn't waiting around on other people to hang out with.

I hate that being alone makes people (including me) feel uncomfortable. I think a lot of it is imposed upon us by society. One is the loneliest number and all that crap. But you know what, I am going to try to embrace it more. I think that's what this exercise was all about. I am going to get more comfortable being by myself. It's ok. I don't need to feel any "less than" because there is not someone by my side. Next time I find myself wanting to do something and having no one to do it with, I am just going to push away that uneasiness and do it. Because it is ok to be a party of one sometimes.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Love and Loss

I apologize for this post in advance. I don't know why I am writing this on my blog as opposed to some journal I can hide deep in my dresser drawer. Maybe it is because maybe someone out there has been through something similar and can feel better knowing that someone else feels this way too. Maybe it is because it is such a big part of who I am, how can I hide it.

I am thinking about Josh tonight. Josh was the first and probably only guy I have ever loved. He was killed in a car wreck over 11 years ago. I have a framed picture of him in my bedroom to this day. I also have a scrapbook of all the newspaper articles about his death. There are 3 articles and his obituary. That is how much of an impression he made on people. The articles are not so much about his death, but of the person he was. Almost all of the articles talk about how he was unanimously elected by his teammates as captain of the soccer team. I remember the day he told me he was elected captain. He told me how he couldn't believe it because he was just a junior. He was so humble. The articles talk about how he was liked by everyone, about his passion for soccer, and how he was always poised and positive. He was the best person I have ever known. I was blessed to have the opportunity to love him.

I also have pictures of him, of us. I have postcards he sent me from his trip out west telling me about his adventures and how much he missed and loved me. I have the most beautiful poem he wrote me telling me I had everything he would ever need or want and calling me his "Juliet". I have all the cards I gave him that I found in his room after his death telling him how much I loved him and to have fun at soccer camp and on his trip out west. I look at this book sometimes when I want to remember.

His death was the defining moment of my life. I think the reason his death has affected me more than anything, including my dad's death, is because I feel like my future died with him. Even though I have lived the last 11 years without him, it doesn't feel like I have. The first 4 years were the worst. I was practically asleep. Just going through the motions of life. I still feel like that sometimes now.

I don't know why I am still here sometimes. I keep telling myself that God must have some big plan for me. I'm not sad, just frustrated. Frustrated by the things in life we can not change. Frustrated with not knowing what the future holds. Frustrated with not knowing why I am here.

I often wonder if I would feel this way without this defining moment in my life that I keep coming back to. I am an optimist and usually just roll with life's punches. I am the one who always tells my friends "just let it go" when some little bump comes along. But right now I feel kind of like a hypocrite realizing that is easier said than done sometimes.

I don't feel this way all the time. Most of the time I don't think about it. Just live life and don't think about the past or the future too much. But I get reminded of it every once in a while and tonight was one of those nights.

Tomorrow will be a new day and I will go back to enjoying the rest of my Christmas vacation like I have for the last week (WOO HOO! The break from work was much needed.) And I am especially looking forward to the new year and getting to have more adventures marking things off my list. Because that is what gets me through life, little adventures shared with people I love. From the big ones- like on my list- to small ones like oohing and ahhing with my friends over a house covered in flashing lights choreographed to Christmas music or laughing at getting my butt kicked playing Wii for the first time. Little happy moments like those make the big sad moments that much more bearable.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tag- you’re it!

Oh yes, the bloggy world has games too and I am so excited because I have been tagged by the lovely Cyndi over at Just an Everyday Bitch. The assignment is to name 6 things that make me happy. Just thinking about these has made my day a little more happy:

1. Traveling/Vacations

I love traveling! I love packing up my suitcase. I love travel sized toiletries. I love all the planning. I love seeing new places and having new experiences. I love breaking the everyday routine. Every year my friends try to plan one big vacation so that we can have something to look forward to all year. I don't know if we will be able to do that this year with the economy in a tailspin and our jobs possibly at risk, but at least I have the small ski trip to look forward too and I am sure there will be lots of weekend beach get-aways this summer!

2. Carolina Hurricanes Games (live- not on TV)

I love live sporting events in general. The excitement, the tailgating, the suspense, the camaraderie all make for a great fun. But something about the Canes games are just wonderful. I became a Caniac the year they won the Stanley Cup- I even got to see game 7 live! Unforgettable! I named my dog after my favorite player- Cam Ward. I used to get free tickets through my work and my ex-boyfriend used to take me a lot, but this season I have no free tickets and no one to go with. Which makes me sad, but hopefully I will have a chance to go to one again soon.

3. Lakes

My dream in life is to one day own a house on Lake James in Morganton. I love that lake. But really I love all lakes. I love being on the water. I love the nature that surrounds lakes. I love the peacefulness and fun that can be found at the lake. I even love little Lake Lynn (the small city lake I jog around in the summer). Being at the lake just makes me happy.

4. Cam

This dog brings me more joy than I can put into words. He is my best friend and constant companion. I love the crap out of him!

5. A good book

I love to read. I love escaping into other people's worlds and using my imagination to envision what is written on the page.

6. God

I feel kind of cheesy saying this- like a rapper thanking God for his Grammy during his acceptance speech, but God does make me happy. When I stop to think about how much God loves me, to offer me salvation through the death of Jesus, it is overwhelming. I don't have to worry about saving myself because the price has already been paid. Everything I can't comprehend about life is going to work out just fine because of God. When I put all my trust in Him, it's hard to be sad.

Now for the 6 people I tag (friends and the blogs I most enjoy!):

Carrie at The Domestic District

Magda at Thunderstorms Highly Likely

Jane at The Diary of Jane

Ashley D at Turquoise Ribbons

Hollie at All Things in Moddy

Heather at Colormehazel

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Defining Character: Thoughtfulness & Giving

Since this is the Christmas season I thought a good character trait to develop would be Thoughtfulness and Giving (because who doesn’t want to be known as thoughtful and giving?) But I have to admit this has been hard. It’s hard because it takes time and money- two precious commodities in this economy and during this time of year. It’s also hard because there are so many people I want to do something for and I don’t want to leave anyone out.

I started with making a list of people who really influenced my life over the last few years. I tried to limit it to no more than 25. Then I picked the people from that list who I probably wouldn’t have normally done something for at Christmastime. These people were the people who would probably be shocked to get something from me and I feel really awkward about sending something to. I started with an easy one. I sent a gift basket to the marketing team at my old job. They were a great team and I miss them a lot. They were appreciative to get the basket and I am going to try to go have lunch with them next week.

Now for a really weird one: I got a present for my ex-boyfriend. He really did have a big impact in my life and our relationship ended really weird (He just stopped talking to me when we were in this weird “friends” stage). I got him a funny t-shirt and I wrote a little letter about how I wanted to show him some appreciation for the impact he had on my life. I am sending it today and I am little scared about how that one will be received.

And that is as far as I have gotten with the Thoughtfulness part. I have lots of ideas for the other people on my list, but I have no time because I want it to be something really thoughtful because these are the people I see on a regular basis and something ordinary like a picture frame or candle just isn’t right. Also, I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I don’t want to give something just out of obligation. Like at work, I don’t want to give something to some people because they haven’t made an impact on my life really (at least not in a good way), but there are other people I would like to give something to, but then I would feel bad if someone found out and felt left out.

Now for the Giving part: giving gifts to the people in my life fits in to this category also, but I want to do something for people who are less fortunate and really need it. I got a Glamour magazine and it had a list of 31 ways to give this season. I went through the list and tried to pick out 10 things that I could do. For example:

Give up bottled water for a week; donate the savings to charitywater.org, where $20 can give one person drinking water for 20 years!

At inspiredgifts.unicefusa.org, $35 buys a bike to get a health worker to remote areas.

Each dollar donated to roomtoread.org promotes child literacy in the developing world.

At malarianomore.org, $10 will buy one insecticide-treated mosquito net—enough to protect at least one child from malaria for up to five years.

Give $25 to puppiesbehindbars.com and help an inmate train a puppy to be a service dog.

If you want to see the whole list from Glamour click here

Then I thought about just donating $5 for every charity that asked this month. But this economy is making me nervous about money. I heard a rumor at my workplace that layoffs could be coming and I don’t want to be giving away all my money only to be left unemployed next year. Plus, if I am applying to grad school in the coming month, I need to set aside at least $500 for that.

So far all I have done for the Giving aspect of this is to donate $100 to my church’s Christmas Missions Offering. This is the biggest gift I will give to anyone this year, so I feel good about it, but I can't help but want to do more.

I have less than half a month to work on this one some more, but it is hard. Maybe I should focus my time more on things like “Thank You” cards and donating my time or stuff, something that doesn't require much money. Either way at least it has me thinking and will hopefully make me more conscientious of these areas in the future.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Design

My blog got a make-over! I was so frustrated these last few months about my blog looking so blah. So for part of my Christmas present to myself I decided to pay for a little re-design. The wonderful Shauna came up with this awesome design based on my love for pink and longing for something cute, clean, and fun. She even made a matching one for my Bookshelf Blog, loaded them for me and fixed my menu bar buttons! She is great and I would highly recommend her if you are looking for a blog make-over. Check her out here:

What do you think of the new look?

Also, go check out the new header on my Bookshelf Blog and my review of Candace Bushnell's One Fifth Avenue.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My First 5K

I had been freaking out over this 5K for the last month or so (starting about the time I realized how far off my training program I’d fallen.) Well, it was definitely an experience. I actually completed my first 5K, The Jingle Bell Run, in Raleigh last Saturday. I was going to wait for a picture to post with this, but pictures are overrated and I’m impatient.

I had a really bad night the night before the race. I woke up not wanting to go at all. I mean AT ALL. I was in a funk and I knew I was going to suck and I just felt drained. But I had friends that were running in this just because I convinced them to. One even tried to back out the night before and I wouldn’t let her. So I knew I had to go.

The race was in downtown Raleigh and it was chilly out. My friend B had made us these funky scarves for the race. Everyone was in envy of them and kept commenting on them. I wore the dorkiest blue headband to keep my ears warm, gloves, a long-sleeved t-shirt and my typical black pants. I was cold at first, but it warmed up quickly and during the race I was downright HOT. I had to tie the scarf around my waist, take my gloves off, and push up my sleeves to keep from burning up.

It was a very festive atmosphere. Everyone tied jingle bells to their shoelaces. Some people were dressed up in funky Christmas attire. Some people wore reindeer antlers or santa hats. One guy was in a full out santa costume. (He was annoying before the race, but actually motivated me during the race). There were also intimidating people in hard core running gear. I tried to ignore them in their shorts and sleeveless shirts in 40 degree weather. Were they crazy??

When we lined up for the race I was starting to freak out. I HATE crowds and this was a crowd. On top of that I was getting ready to run 3.1 miles. What the heck was I thinking!?! I turned on my I-pod and tried to disappear into my own little world. We were right in the middle of the pack so when the gun went off I tried to ignore what was going on around me and just keep my pace. (Although it was hard to ignore the guy that ran by juggling bowling pins. Yeah, running and juggling the whole way. Show off.)

It was a long run, but flat for the most part. I had to take quite a few walking breaks. But when I was about at the 2 mile mark I ended up near this family that inspired me. The dad was pushing a stroller and he had his two girls, about 6 and 10, running with him. The younger one was feeling it like I was. She kept whining “Daaaadddd, I can’t.” He would stay positive and slow down to walk with her for just a bit, but then say “Ok, we are in the home stretch, you can do it, let’s go.” The older sister would turn around and say “Come on Ella!” encouragingly and the younger one would start running again. For some reason this inspired me. I imagined they were encouraging me too in my head.

My final time was 37:21- under the 40 min mark I was going for. But I did not feel like a success that day. I had come in last out of all my friends. I didn’t feel good about my performance and I just wanted to go home and sulk.

Five days later I feel ok about it. I’m glad I did it. I will do another one and I will beat my time. Heck, I will probably even do this race again because it was very festive and fun. I will just be better prepared physically for the race and I’ll do something light but fun the night before so I am in a good mood on the day of the race. Because it’s just as much mental as it is physical.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Polite Practitioners

Lots and lots of list activity this weekend! I bet you all are wondering how my 5K went. I did it and I promise to do a whole post on it, but I am waiting for a picture to post with it, because it just wouldn't be complete without it. I of course didn't take a picture because I hate pictures (because I'm not happy with the way I look right now) so I didn't bring my camera. But the ever prepared Brooklyn did, so as soon as she sends them to me I promise to tell you all about it.

On Friday I had a doctors appointment. I have been having problems with insomnia lately. And before I found the Melatonin supplements (which aren't working anymore) I called to make an appointment at Duke Medicine at Brier Creek because I had heard such good things about it from a couple friends. I was lucky that they were accepting new patients and I only had to wait a month to get in to see the doctor.

I had high expectations from this place because of all I had heard. Let me tell you, they did not disappoint. The doctor really listened to my problems and gave her recommendation and an optional plan and let me decide. She asked lots of questions and made a follow up appointment for next month to see how it is going.

But the biggest factor in my experience was the politeness of the whole staff. From the receptionist to the nurse to the check out man, everyone was so polite and nice. I had to wait in a line to check out and when it was finally my turn the guy apologized and thanked me for being so patient. He explained they had 3 people out and a doctor on maternity leave. He worked with me to get an appointment in the late afternoon so that I wouldn't have to miss so much work and he explained how my Duke medical ID worked and how to access my info online. He thanked me and welcomed me to their practice.

It made a world of difference from the experiences I have had at other doctor's offices where they barely look up at you and rush you around just to have you wait forever in the waiting room, exam room, ect. and then rush you out and never follow up after that.

So, I just may have found a doctor I can trust! They sure made a great first impression, so we shall see how the follow-up goes!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jingle Bell Run...jog...er....walk?

Saturday is the Jingle Bell 5K. I don't know what the heck I was thinking signing up for a 5K in the middle of winter, right in the middle of the Holidays, which everyone knows is the busiest time of the year. If I didn't have people signed up to do this with me, I would just not go. I am not ready physically or mentally for this. Here is what is probably going to happen:

I start off the race jogging with my friends and slowly lag behind until everyone is in front of me so they can't see my miserable failure. Eventually my side will start to hurt and I will start walking. As a ten year old and a grandma jog past I start cursing myself. Suddenly the cold air is getting hard for me to breathe. I start hacking up a lung. Eventually I come to a water station and decide to take a little break. The water break gives me a little renewed energy and I start jogging enthusiastically. As I am jogging I realize my little jingle bells are the only ones I hear. I try to shrug it off and realize my stomach is starting to get a little bubbly. I try to ignore the trauma my intestines are in, but am forced to walk again. I am encouraged because I hear more bells! Suddenly a big heard of people passes me going in the opposite direction. I see a water station ahead and ask the skinny little teenager working it how much further I have. She looks annoyed and says "You're not even halfway through." and rolls her eyes. I jog off just to show her I am not a lazy fatty but as soon as she is out of sight I cut down a back road and hightail it to the car. When my friends ask why they didn't see me cross the finish line I tell them I couldn't find them, so I assumed they were all at the car already. Then I'll go home and cry for the rest of the weekend.

Either that or I will just have a heart attack trying to keep up with everyone which actually might be a little less painful than option A.

Oh well, there's no getting out of it now. I will let you all know how it goes.

And if you are interested in donating or signing up to run with us here is a link to our team page:

Jingle Joggers

Even a $5 donation would help us get closer to our goal! And even though I mainly signed up for this to mark something off my list, it is a good cause and Christmas is the giving season!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just a Normal Girl- Sort of...

Today I want to say Happy Birthday Britney! I know, I know, she was a hot mess for the last few years, but she is making a comeback! Now that she got all those loser-womanizing men out of her life, got on anti-depressants (this may or may not be true, but evidence points to true) and got Daddy Spears to keep her in line, she has managed to pull herself together and get her pop-star princess career back on track!

Sunday night I watched the Britney Spears- For the Record documentary on MTV. It was really good. She was very genuine and open. I think she is a happy-go-lucky girl that lives a very different life from the rest of us and is having a hard time dealing with it. I think she has a big heart and wants more out of life, but had been burned by bad people. She is human and probably has very similar wants and desires in life as you do.

She has gone through a lot and I do think she lost her mind for a while there, but she had reason to. We all get thrown off course in life. Most of us just don’t have millions of people watching our downward spirals. Think about it, she broke up with her childhood sweetheart, started partying too much and making stupid decisions (like getting married in Vegas for like 24 hours), fell in love with a loser (don’t hate, it happens), married the loser, had 2 babies back to back with the loser, and finally went through a divorce with the loser- which sent her over the edge into “I’ve lost my mind” land.

Not only that, she has to deal with 50 or more photogs following her every move, invading her privacy, and trying to snap a pic at the exact moment she looks her worst or makes a mistake. Then that picture get plastered everywhere and millions of people start criticizing her every move. I’d loose my mind too.

She can’t take a walk on the beach. She can’t take her kids to the park or grocery store. She can’t go for a jog outside. She can’t sit on a park bench and read a book. She can’t go camping. She can’t go for a bike ride. She can’t go anywhere in public without fearing for her safety. She can’t have fun, spontaneous adventures that we all take for granted sometimes. Heck, she couldn’t do half the things I have on my 30 Before 30 List without some major coordination and security detail!

It’s like she is a prisoner in her own little world. She is lonely and sad and I can relate to that.

But she is also fierce! I mean I would kill to have her body back in her “I’m a Slave for You” days. Heck, even now, she has got her body back in shape after having 2 kids and a mental breakdown. She is creative, funny, adorable and sexy all at the same time. She loves her job and she is good at it. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m a fan. And if she can ever shake that annoying paparazzi, she is more than welcome to come hang out with me and my friends and have wild, goofy, crazy, stupid adventures with us!

Happy Birthday Brit! And I am so looking forward to hearing the rest of the songs on your new album!