Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31: Is this a kissing book?

December 31 Prompt: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Author: Molly O'Neil)

This prompt, once again, leaves me feeling a little cold. I don't have one central story at the core of me. I am not a fiction. I am not a narrative. I am not one 200 page tale, crafted for public consumption. I am me. I do not have characters and plot twists. I am not an actor or a heroine or a set of traits and motivations used to move along a story. I am myself. I live my own life. I make my own choices. I have a group of devoted and loving friends and family. This is real. This isn't a story. When I fail, there is no omniscient unseen narrator to explain what happened and what comes next.

I'm sure the author of this prompt didn't intend me to take it this way. I'm sure she meant it as a way to summarize how I present myself and my life to the world, and what is important to me. But that seems too easy and pat and contrived. And life isn't easy or pat or contrived. I am not a marketing tool. This blog isn't a marketing tool. I'm not selling anything or myself. And I don't have one driving central story at my core. There is no narrative arc to my life. Thank God. I don't want this adventure to be over in 500 pages. I want more than that. I hope you do too.

I think the tendency to view our lives like a movie, story or a play is almost second nature to most of us. I know it is to me.  But I think that can degrade and reduce what our lives really are, by trying to fit it into some kind of formula. Some unsatisfying and unrealistic happily ever after. I know we communicate in stories. We all do. It takes seconds for an event to occur and to turn it into a story, share it, post it, tweet it, deconstruct it, so quickly that I sometimes wonder if what actually happened was as good as the story version. And though I consider myself a writer, I don't believe that there is a central story to my life. Maybe when I've lived longer than thirty five years I'll be able to view it that way, but right now I just want each day to happen and be filled with the people I love, a delicious meal, more laughter than a person could expect, fuzzy socks, big dreams and someone's hand to hold. I want each day to have a story, so that each day adds and changes and deepens my relationships with my friends and family, new and old, my relationship with myself and my involvement in the world at large. I want more than a central story, I want a life so big and lush and spectacular, a volume of encyclopedias couldn't contain it. I wish that for you too. Happy New Year.

December 30: Not A Flute Kind of Girl

December 30 Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

The most memorable gift I've gotten this year has been new music. In the form of iTunes gift cards from various loved ones, taking strong recommendations from one of my favorite radio shows, All Songs Considered, or my favorite music connection, my brother in law, Jon Sands, new music is the gift this year.

Next to books, music is the one other thing that I probably can't live without. You know other than love, water, food, and the occasional friendly touch. Music is something that I've always needed. Though I lack any discernible talent in that area. I'm not a particularly good singer. I sang in high school choir, but I was allowed in more because I was friends with all of the choir students and the teachers liked me. My voice was mediocre at best. I took piano lessons for several years in grade school and middle school, but rarely practiced and was more interested in sneaking over to the Walden Books around the corner from the Toon Shop and buying illicit copies of VC Andrews books with my allowance, hiding them in my backpack to read secretly late at night under the covers. I can still play the piano a tiny bit, I can still read music, and I read all of the VC Andrews books up until the late 1980's, so it wasn't a total waste of time or money.  I played the flute in junior high and hated every high pitched, whiny minute of it. Do I seem like the kind of girl who should play the flute? Nope. But despite my severe lack of interest in creating or playing my own music, I have an ongoing appetite for listening to music daily and adding in new music to my collection.

Raised on classic oldies from the 1950's and 60's, my parents taught my brother and me all the bands' and singers' names, trained us in the ability to answer almost immediately, when they queried "Who is playing that song?" and then as I got older, my dad took me to a lot of concerts. I remember pilfering his cassette tapes of The Police - Synchronicity, Sting - Nothing Like the Sun, Dire Straits- Brothers in Arms, Bruce Hornsby-Intersections and Paul Simon-Negotiations and Love Songs, I'm sure there were others, and I'm sure he knew I had them. Classic late 1970's and early 1980's singer song writers, my dad had good taste in music, and still does. It's not daring or out there, but he likes music that is solid and carefully crafted and incredibly well written, and it helped instill in me a deep love for the perfect lyric combined with that catchy melody.

Other friends and influences helped me broaden my taste and passion around music over the years. I love Billie Holiday with a deep fidelity that will not change. Nina Simone, The Sex Pistols, Johnny Cash, U2, the modern classics. And much like my dad, I don't have particularly daring or out there taste in music. I've veered toward the indie pop arena in the last few years, thanks in large part to Jon Sands, who tells me who I need to listen to and passes on his recommendations nearly weekly.  But I like to consider myself comfortably eclectic. And this year has been a strong year for new music.

2010 brought me the Avett Brothers, Beirut, a reinvigorated love of the Pixies, Gogol Bordello, Mumford and Sons, The Bird and The Bee, The Very Best, Dr. Dog, the new Girl Talk album, The National's new album, The Andrew Jackson Jihad, She and Him Volume 2, The Suburbs from Arcade Fire and Horchata by Vampire Weekend.  But the Avett Brothers have become my new favorite band, hands down. There is something about their combination of folk, blue grass, rock, a touch of punk, and those devastatingly emotional lyrics that just sits right with me. I listen to them everyday. So it's music with a big bright pink bow as the winning gift this year. That, or my new iPad.  Which ties in, since I can play music on it. Thanks, honey.

What was your best gift this year, tangible or otherwise? New underpants? New baby? That new kidney? Tell me, tell me!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29: Is it January Yet?

December 29 Prompt: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

Really? Man, this is the generic pap we are getting for the last few days of this Reverb 10 project. How bland. And how broadly I could answer this question. I really prefer the tighter and more controlled questions that were scattered throughout the last month. But on a whole this project has been good, since it's forced me to write more frequently. Though I can't help but voice an opinion that most of the questions have bored me and were not particularly challenging. I'm committed to wrapping this sucker up, so I'm going with a list, since I am too complex a person to have one defining moment, or too indecisive, take your pick.

1. Wrote 126 blog posts, liked 50% of them, reached that 100th post milestone and didn't feel like quitting, so looks like you're stuck with me for awhile.
2. Shot some decent self portraits for four of the four 7 Days projects this year. And one with my hair getting shampooed, that was embarrassing and absolutely fun. The whole point, right?
3. Finished 1/2 of the classes I need for my UMKC Fundraising Certificate and signed up for the last couple to be completed by February. Oh, and had the pleasure of auditing my dad's Nonprofit Finance course.
4. One of my best friends had a baby girl, another good friend had twin baby girls, and still another great friend had her second daughter just this month, my nephews turned 1 and 3, and my other best friend's son turned 4! So many kids in our lives now, and it makes me giddy. And Christmas was particularly fun this year because Santa is back.
5. Crossed off 8 items on my Bravely Obey In Action List and made progress on a few others, also added 3 new items.
6. Volunteered with Literacy KC, until I got too frustrated by the constant lack of communication with my students and the constant rotation of students, four in less than four months. I've got my eyes open for another opportunity.
7. I read 47 books this year. I had hoped to reach 52, one a week, but doing the National Novel Writing Month in November cut in on my reading time. Totally worth it.
8. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I wrote 50,047 words of my first novel in November. I keep putting off opening it up and starting the editing process. It's that bad. Makes me want to consider taking up heavy drinking, no wonder so many writer's have drinking problems. A large glass of very old Scotch sounds writerly. Maybe editing will be a good New Year's Resolution.
9. I attended a Writer's Weekend Conference in June, met some other writers, set up my own little home office and stared at a blank computer screen a lot.
10. Grew my first herb garden, and only killed the basil. The rosemary is actually still alive, repotted in the kitchen. I think I'll use it tonight on some roasted potatoes.

So what was the most decisive moment in your life this year? Or are you as indecisive as I am and unable to choose? I don't like narrowing it down. It's hard.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I had a wonderful Christmas. We traveled and visited family in two different states. We ate our weight in popcorn and candy and chicken surprise. We watched kids open presents and discovered the magical beauty of the iPad, and I took a break from blogging. I enjoyed it. I'll blog about Christmas complete with adorable nephew photos this week. But I promised to do Reverb 10 and I wanted to keep my promise. So, ketchup.

December 28 Prompt: Achieve - What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

I would like to start a family in 2011. I'm pretty sure there aren't 10 things I can do or new thoughts I can think to mimic that feeling today. Panic, elation, joy, excitement, lack of sleep, frustration, bliss, poop on my hands, tiny hugs. I'm sure I could conjure up some activities that would feign all of those things, but I'm also certain that there is nothing like having your own children. So whether we whip up our own or adopt, I want to add a kid to the mix in 2011, or shortly thereafter.

December 27 Prompt: Ordinary Joy - Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: BrenĂ© Brown)

Nearly every Saturday when we are in town, Joe and I wake up around 7:30, sometimes he's up earlier, we make coffee, we eat english muffins or the occasional pancake and turkey bacon, we lounge around in our pajamas and watch The Soup and read funny things to each other from the internet. Then we clean up and run errands, do house stuff, read. But those couple of lazy hours are perfection.

I also thoroughly enjoyed babysitting my friends, Kristen and Sean's son, Aedan one night this fall. We brought sponge dinosaurs to life for two hours. It was pretty sweet.

December 26 Prompt: What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth and touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

See these two posts, I've made caramels like eight times since, they keep getting better. And we are planning the next ethnic themed feast, I think we are going with Mexican. Homemade tortillas, a tres leches cake and maybe tamales, I'm still researching. But really any meal spent noshing with people I like is pretty good in my opinion. And the extravagant meal we had at my brother's restaurant in Ft. Myers, The Veranda, was spectacular. And he cooked it.

December 25 Prompt: Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.
(Author: Tracey Clark)

Retro Beach Hair

I shot this with my iPhone Hipstamatic app on vacation in Florida in May. I was relaxed, tan, I hadn't blown my hair dry in a week, wearing no make up and as happy as possible. We are sitting on the beach in Naples, Joe was taking photos of some windsurfers and I was just entertaining myself. I love the soft focus, not over the top facial expression and freckles. I've realized in the last year that I tend to go for the ridiculous goofy smile or kooky eyes tilted upward look. This just looks like me, at my best and softly focused.

December 24 Prompt: Everything’s OK What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)

I feel alright most of the time. I think I do my best to find these little moments even in the middle of chaos. It is one of my strengths. I used to not do this very well. Having struggled with depression all through high school and college and finally tackled it a few years ago, my coping skills are now fine tuned. On my desk at work sits a framed postcard, the Keep Calm and Carry On, that has become so popular. It is my mantra, only slightly altered: Keep Calm, Smile and Carry On. Something good happens almost everyday. Even if it's as small as that guy let me merge in front of him on the highway. I like to focus on those things. Mostly.

December 23 Prompt: New Name Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)

Lame one. I have a couple of names and I like them all. Katherine, Kassie, Kass, Kassie Lou, Sassy Kassie, Aunt Kassie, Baby. I don't want to have a different name, and it's Kassie not Kathy.

December 22 Prompt: Travel How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)

We took some great trips in 2010. Lots of Omaha and Wisconsin family visits, but my favorite was our trip to Florida. So, take a flashback to May 2010, I'm going to. Go read here and pretend that the sun is so hot you need another rum drink to cool you off at the pool.

December 21 Prompt: Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?  (Author: Jenny Blake)

-Go ahead and spend the money on really good bras. You need them and I promise they are worth it.
-You might have a lot of ups and downs this year. I know what you are planning to do and sorry, but you will have zero control over the process. Nature and modern medical science be damned.
-Keep taking pictures and writing and spending time with family and friends, but get your butt off the couch and start moving. Believe me, it's much harder to lose weight as you get older. Do it now.
-Take the dog for a walk. He's stir crazy and energetic now. He won't be forever.
-You aren't self absorbed or particularly narcissistic. Stop thinking it's wrong to put your needs at the top of the list.
-Make sure you pay off that credit card debt and keep it paid off. It severely restricts your freedom and ability to pay for everything you both want to accomplish.
-Those few gray hairs are nothing. It's gets worse. Stop complaining.
-You love Joe even more now. He's as good a dad and husband as a person could dream up. And he's still messy. Deal.
-Those friends of yours aren't going anywhere. Pick up the phone more often, spontaneous plans are good.
-Risk more. Risk it. Keep your eyes and ears open for what's next.
-Mad Men Season 5 is just as good as the previous seasons. Hard to believe, true story.

December 20 Prompt: Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

I think things happen when we are ready to make them happen. If there was something I should have done this year but didn't, I just wasn't ready for it. Or it wasn't a real priority. Or maybe I'm just avoiding the question.

Friday, December 24, 2010

7 Days: 6 and 7 - All Caught Up and Ready for Presents!

7 Days:6- The Snowy North

7 Days: 6 - The Snowy North - posted yesterday from the CRV

Hi! Joe and Mac and I are in the car, as we have been since 7am. About an hour and a half from Madison, WI, our final destination. Home of little nephews, sisters and brothers, parents and car loads of presents. We are a touch stir crazy but photos, Soul Coughing and This American Life are helping. See you all when we arrive. Hope we stop soon, gotta go bathroom.

7 Days: 7 - Christmas Chaos

7 Days - 7 - Christmas Chaos - sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace in polka dot pjs

Merry Christmas Eve!! We are wearing pajamas and hanging out. It might be time to put on real pants and venture out into the WI snow for our traditional holiday sushi lunch. I'll be back soon to catch up on the comment love! Hope you have a lovely relaxing day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

7 Days: 5 - "Sea of swirly, twirly gumdrops."


Today is my last day at work until after Christmas and the idea of six straight days away from the office has made me a little giddy. I ran to Target over my lunch hour to wrap up some last minute shopping, mostly travel size "potions" which I adore picking out for trips, and stocking stuffers for Joe. But then I stumbled upon these delightful giant size gumdrops. And I thought, what says holiday fun more than a big sugary gumdrop? Nothing. So I sit here at my desk, working on databases, listening to the Belle and Sebastian Holiday Spectacular on NPR and popping the occasional gumdrop. They alleviate stress. What? You didn't know that? It's science.

Have you noticed that I haven't been Reverbing quite like I planned? No? Good. But if you have, then know that I'm hoping to catch up and write a bit on each of the prompts I've missed, even the corny, hippie-dippie ones, that's all of them. At some point, probably, sure, maybe after Christmas. 7 Days is just easier and more fun and free of words like manifest and reflect. There is only so much reflecting a girl can handle in one month. Even me. What are you stressing about that gumdrops might help?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

7 Days: Day 4 - 48 Times

7 Days: 4- 48 Times

After a tasty Five Guys dinner with Kristen and her family (this is becoming a tradition,) some last minute shopping, and two loads of laundry, I got down to business addressing and signing Christmas cards. We are a little late this year, but hopefully they'll arrive at least before 2011. Joe's beautiful panoramic photo of downtown Kansas City is the cover and it turned out beautifully. He does good work. So Merry Christmas, I just signed my name 48 times. After this next load of laundry I think I deserve a night cap. Hot cocoa and Starbucks cream liqueur, anyone?

Monday, December 20, 2010

7 Days: Day 3 - Work It

7 Days: Work It

Hey, happy Monday. Here's my 7 Days photo for the day. Not my typical work day. Because today was our office holiday celebration. We started with a team building treasure hunt/present wrapping with one hand activity/cluster. It was hilarious to see how competitive ten women get over who wrapped their gift box more perfectly and quickly. We all won. I think my team was the fastest and neatest. But I'm biased. And then we moved on to pottery painting.

The studio was insanely crowded, so we picked pieces and settled in. Based on Bex's fantastic plate from Day one this round, I tried my hand at a little modified dottery. It looks a little lopsided and slightly squished, but I think I'll like it a lot once it's fired. It will fire up bright red on a slightly off white platter. And should hold a goodly amount of cookies. So thanks for the inspiration, Ms. Bex!

Finished unfired product

We all had a great time, making everything from mugs to cat dishes to ornate floral trays. For a bunch of accountants, I was impressed. Though as the only non-accountant/bookkeeper on staff, I did have to push people a bit to not stress over how perfect everything needed to look. Not that accountants are the only ones who struggle with perfectionism, I do too sometimes. But our family mantra for "don't sweat the small stuff" is "It's not a kidney." I whipped that phrase out a couple of times today. My coworkers might have mocked me at first, but quickly adopted it. These women work hard everyday trying to help nonprofits better manage their organizations, finances and fundraising and we all deserved a little creative release.  Can't wait to see how everyone's pieces turned out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

7 Days: Day 2 - Hollandaise Makes Everything Brighter

7 Days: Sunny Side Up

Hi. How are you? I'm tired and happy and kind of stuffed. We went to Omaha this weekend. We had a relaxing, lively few days with lots of friends and family and since we won't be in Omaha for the holidays it was great to be here for a long weekend. The picture above is my 7 Days portrait for today. The theme was "Bright" and as we all sat down at Joe's grandparents' house for the traditional Christmas morning Eggs Benedict and monkey bread (moved forward a week,) you can see the crazy bright sun blazing through their sliding glass doors.

7 Days: day 2 Alternate

Omaha has a few inches of snow on the ground and the huge panes of glass reflect in all the light from the white expanse of golf course right beyond their backyard. Joe's family were a bunch of troopers. A few questions of, why are you taking a picture of us eating? And this has to be the most photographed brunch in history and are we eating or documenting? They were great. Aunt Lori hates having her picture taken so I liked this one the best. Plus my mouth is open. Which it usually is. The photo above was my alternate. Bit too serious and simple compared to the beauty of a table full of hungry laughing family. Plus hollandaise sauce is bright yellow, so that fits the theme too, sure it does.


I got to drink coffee with a little egg nog. I got to play catch with Jacob right up there. That kid has a serious arm. Might have a future in the NFL. There were several times I had to actually jump up quite high to catch that red plastic football. We got to conversate with Ethan, home from college for winter break, grilling him about school, his lack of shoes, and his strange name change to Arielle on Facebook last week.

Joe and Ethan

We noshed on Eggs Benedict and monkey bread with extra frosting, because why not? Sherry believes strongly in frosting, I concur.  I admit I might have had three Eggs Benedict. It was breakfast and lunch and a delight I only eat once a year. I didn't even feel guilty about indulging a bit.




I got to watch Joe chase Kaleb, into the guest room, scare him so that he burst into tears and then Joe swept him up over his shoulder when he tried to run away. It was funny, once Kaleb could breathe again. They became friends shortly afterward. See above.

Kelsey and Lindsey

We looked through and tried to help Kelsey narrow down the top 51 Senior picture photos that Joe had taken of her over the summer. I think we narrowed it down to 49. She looks so lovely in all of them. Though Janice was happy to cut out any photos deemed too smiley. Grandmother's are helpful like that.

Janice and Gus

I'm telling this weekend backward though. Since the 7 Days photo was the main reason for blogging, I opened with the bright Sunday. Friday night got it's own blog post. But Saturday was one of those easy mellow days that you just shouldn't take for granted. We slept in. We tried out a new Mexican restaurant with Joe's parents, including some yummy table side guacamole.  And then we wandered around in the Old Market. Visited my second favorite place in Omaha.

Wild Eyed Josh

And then met Katrina and Matt and the boys for dinner.

Playing with Joe's iPhone

Triplet six year old boys are loud. They like to scream and climb on you and steal your iPhone to play Angry Birds and eat piles of plain mashed potatoes, smiley face french fries, pepperoni pizza and when they find a Storm Trooper ring on the ground it's like Christmas has come early.

Katrina's 7 Days Alternate

Katrina and I are both doing 7 Days this round. So Matt is helping line up the shot above, which ended up as Katrina's alternate shot for the day. I was feeling uninspired and didn't end up taking any, but here's Katrina's, I love it.

Mr. Sands

We sat around and talked and looked at pictures of their new house. It's perfect and worth the wait and each of the boys gets their own room. Next time we visit them they'll be all ensconced in the new pad. Can't wait to sit around their kitchen table there and talk for two hours while the boys climb around and take pictures of a thousand random things.

Katrina and Josh

I put a lot of photos in this post because I just had to. They were too good not to include and they just capture the weekend for me.

Katrina's smile

Smiles, laughing, and people that I love. I'm tired now. It's almost 11pm and I still have to go share the comment love on Flickr. But here's my abbreviated Reverb prompt

Matt and Alex

Zach and more photos?

The prompt was: What healed you this year?  And I feel pretty whole and healed and satisfied after a weekend like this. I think just driving for three hours in the car with my husband listening to an audio book about the origins of sex and monogamy, (Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan- it's fascinating,) pausing it to laugh and comment and make a list of stuff we need to finish before Christmas, and then spending the rest of the weekend with loved ones is enough. That's enough for me. So that's my post. All healed up, at least for now. So how was your weekend?

Joe with Josh attempting to escape

Some photos by me, but most by Joe, of course.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

7 Days: Day 1 - Crazy Eyed Book Love

7 Days returns. This is the delightful and rambunctious self portrait photo group on Flickr. We take a self portrait every day for 7 days, upload to Flickr and then spread the comment love. I've met some delightful people through this group, enhanced my photo skills and brash public photo ops and have a giddy time every three months. Here's today's shot:

7 Days: Crazy eyed book love

This is my favorite book store in all the land. It is not huge. It does not have every book that I could dream up, but it does smell like musty piles of extravagant tales and towers of thoughts and languages and joy. Today it was particularly full. Packed to the brim, dripping with books in every corner, books exploding from boxes, a legion of stories waiting to leap into your hand and then into your mind, taking you anywhere you can imagine, teaching you anything you care to learn. Jackson Street Booksellers inspires in me the crazy eyed book love. I fill my arms with books as I wander and step over and stretch to reach the top shelf. Then I have to make the difficult decision of what dears to leave behind and who gets to come home with me. Today the Wide Sargasso Sea and a collection of Margaret Atwood short stories made the cut. 

Photo done on iPhone with Diptic ap, because I'm lazy today and just want to climb in bed and disappear to the Dominican Republic in the 1800's.

See you tomorrow! Glad everyone's back! Happy Holidays.

December 18: Reverb Backseat

December 18 Prompt: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it?
(Author: Kaileen Elise)

I feel like some of these Reverb 10 prompts are getting a little repetitive. Maybe it's just me. I feel like the same or similar topics keep coming up and I'm not sure I can make it through the whole month. 7 Days starts today and I'm much more inclined to take a Reverb break or to minimize the amount I'm writing on each prompt. I don't know. I guess I'll just decide as I go.

Try? See here. Those crossed off were done in 2010 and already blogged. 2011, I'm going to try to accomplish a bunch of the rest and get knocked up. And trying to do all that should be a good time. I'll keep you posted.

December 17: Lesson #1-Caperberries and Red Wine Don't Mix

December 17 Prompt: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

I compare myself and my choices to other women much too often. I think it's perfectly normal and healthy to strive to have qualities like people that I admire or look up to. But comparing myself and finding myself lacking is simply a waste of time. I've never wanted to be anyone else. But I have thought on occasion, how do they get so much done in the same 24 hour period that I'm allotted? They ran a marathon, seriously? Three kids and a full time job and you manage to cook elaborate meals every night? How? What am I missing? CEO of your own company by 30? Huh? But instead I've worked on shutting down that nasty jealousy and unfair, unproductive measuring. I've brought my focus in this year. Tightened it around my own ambitions and goals, regardless of what anyone else might think. And it's been freeing. It has made me happier for other people and their achievements and kicked that green eyed monster right out of my house. Lesson learned.

Getting rid of the comparing doesn't get rid of the awe though. I am still constantly amazed by some of my friends, their ability to manage their time and wrestle out every minute into necessary action to accomplish some enterprise or dream. It's all about choices.

The perfect example of a woman that I admire, and whose ability to wrangle and dominate her allotted twenty four hours is unrivaled. Hillary has three young kids, a demanding career, husband, sits on many nonprofit boards and somehow manages to host this kind of party.

Hillary's Holiday PartyHillary's Holiday Party
Hillary's Holiday PartyHillary's Holiday Party

The kind of gathering with a spread of from-scratch delights that left me standing and staring, unsure where to begin. One hand holding a glass (eventually three) of sparkling dry red champagne and the other filled with a plate of roasted shrimp, pears wrapped in prosciutto, baked brie with cranberries, prime rib sandwiches, skewered winter caprese salad, potato and zucchini latkas with rosemary and marscapone cheese. I could go on. So the menu is elaborate and delectable.

Hillary's Holiday Party
That would make the party worth driving up from Kansas City for, in and of itself. But the guests seal the deal. They are eclectic and friendly. Long time friends, new friends, an intimate, chatty gathering of diverse, curious and intellectual compatriots. We talked about children, Morocco, the five hour Carlos the Jackal movie, why women love a bad boy, gumbo, religion, deep knee bends, viscous competitive board gaming, Joe's uncanny ability to win at Battle of the Sexes, Warren Buffett and the fact the foxes love to eat cockroaches. 

Hillary's Holiday PartyHillary's Holiday Party

Hillary and her husband John are fantastic hosts. Hillary is the serious planner, John is her more laidback assistant when it comes to social gatherings. I love this photo of them because thirty seconds before, Hillary was yelling at him for touching her silk blouse with wet hands. And thirty seconds later, they were laughing again. It might have helped that Joe was pointing a camera at them.

Hillary's Holiday Party

We arrived first and left last. Teased Hillary and John about the very classy Barcelona chair that John and Joe love and Hillary detests. Joe emailed Hillary a photo of the ottoman that he thought she might like to go with it, in the middle of the party. He's helpful like that. And worked on finishing off the last of the champagne. You're welcome, guys.

Hillary's Holiday PartyHillary's Holiday Party

Thank you for inviting us, Hillary, and for the being the driven, generous and kind person that you are. The fact that you love to watch Kendra and Keeping up with the Kardashians instead of reading the complete works of Chaucer at night before you fall asleep, makes you real. And letting me tease you about your seriousness regarding the menu. It was all superb. I give you a 10! Inspiring.

Hillary's Holiday Party

Hillary's Holiday Party

Photos by the always festive and inspiring, Joe Sands. He had on a zippy sweater and was looking good. I was tipsy and forgot to take a photo. Shit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16: Cheaper Than Therapy

December 16 Prompt: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

2010 has been my first full year writing a consistent, ongoing, personal blog. I've tried to write at least every week and more than that if I feel like I've got something engaging to share. Though that last part is certainly debatable, especially when I go back to some early posts. How many posts do we need about making caramels? Really? And the few times I might have over shared and regretted it. Once or twice, or try half of these Reverb 10 posts. But I think, slowly over the last twelve months, I've gotten better at this. I love writing in this medium. It has become kind of a constantly updated, living scrapbook of moments and events. Minus any cheesy stickers and fancy edged paper. In many ways it's made my year more challenging, more successful and more fun than I imagined.

So where's the answer to today's prompt, you ask? Stop raving about having your own online soap box, woman, get to it. Fine, fine. The biggest part of the blogging fun is the ongoing conversation I get to have: through witty comment banter, reading other bloggers' posts and seeing their view of the world, talking to friends and family to hopefully inspire other ballsy and outspoken men and women, the shy ones too, to get out here with me, writing and sharing their voices. Reading other bloggers has helped me become a better writer. Seeing how someone can take the same English language that I'm working with and bend it to their will to justify and enlighten a reader about the important, or funny, or terrifying or frustrating or sexy is inspiring. All those disparate and humming voices, looking for someone to acknowledge them or just read their words. Just to take the time to read. People articulating who they are and what they value with every word choice and topic. I'm happy to be their loyal reader and for some, their friend.

I don't want to pick just one friend for this prompt. So some of these folks are my friends in real life and some are people I would love to meet, sit with over a beverage while gossiping and deconstructing the horrors of celebrity face lifts gone wrong.  I want to tell you about a whole cavalry of writing women and maybe a guy or two, sharing their voices and experiences through their words, photography and creativity. But I'm lazy, so go browse and visit some of the other sites in my blog roll over there on the left, and I'm going to highlight a few of the bloggers I know in real life, but come back here please, because I miss you when you're gone.

The Ladies:

One of my best friends, she is sarcastic, blunt, funny, a great mom and professional social media expert.
Kristen at Here's a good post to get you started.

Bethany is a high school friend of Joe's and now one of my dear, dear friends. She just had a new baby! She is crafty, thoughtful and owns and operates Try this one to get a taste of the Actually's world.

Neha is one of my oldest friends, but brand new. She started her blog so recently that this Reverb 10 project is the first time she's written more than a post or two. Go over and take a look at this "paper boy" artist's take on life, creativity and the struggle to find yourself when you move every single damn year. 

Another newbie, Ms. Wendy. My lunch, book talk, and emotionally analytical conversation friend, who I met at work, but is certainly more than just a "work" friend. She's blogging on the down low so she can share all the dirt on being the mom of two teenage boys and a nearly teen daughter. Don't tell her kids, but she's  blogging over here.

Dana just earned her Ph.D. and she's currently growing a second kiddo. I love the way that she shares her family, her work and her passions. Plus, she loves art even more than I do. And she actually knows what she's talking about. Go read her musings here.

And finally..

The lovely Katrina, another familiar face from previous blog posts on pottery painting, and margarita consumption, Katrina is a working mother of three boys, a great teacher and hostess, has an easy laugh and I've loved getting to know her better through her blog. Check out triple the action.

Who are you reading these days? Whose site do you check everyday? Are you a lurker or a commenter? Are you lurking here again? Come on, say something, I dare you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15: Snapshot

Prompt: 5 minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

I've got five minutes. Here's what popped out:

sangria and trivial pursuit with friends ringing in the New Year and wondering why Dick Clark is still on TV,
walking at the mall with Tara and dancing our asses off at Zumba class, sweating is more fun with friends,
dancing and laughing while cleaning the house on the weekends, lots of new concerts Mark Knopfler, Modest Mouse, Vampire Weekend, The Very Best, Zac Brown Band and several others, visiting Florida to see my brother and spend six lovely, perfect days: walking around Corkscrew Swamp, laying on the beach, sunset picnics, walking along Key Wadin, gorging on seafood and collecting more shells than I've ever seen in my life, eating dinner at my brother's beautiful, fancy restaurant and trying ostrich for the first time, coffee with the ladies, cooking a full Italian feast, reading 45 books so far, watching my mom get healthy again, laughing over many many Sunday night dinners, lots of Omaha visits, Joe's photography business expanding and getting to play assistant, evenings of wine and conversation after Aedan gets tucked in, quiet nights at home, listening to Dan Savage on long road trips. And the timer is buzzing, that's all I could cram into five minutes.

2010 was full and vibrant and active and filled with lots of yes. What might 2011 bring?
How was your 2010? What stands out for you if you were about to forget it all, good or bad?

December 14: Bunches

December 14 Prompt: 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)

I turned the car into the driveway at 7:30 last night, tired but invigorated from a late evening of training clients and meetings with prospective clients. Parked in the garage, I sat there for a minute listening to a story on NPR, sniffling and attempting to not cry as NPR stories reduce me to an emotional bag of snot, and dreading having to head inside and figure out dinner. Cereal? String cheese? Wheat thins? Handfuls of white chocolate chips left over from the weekend baking extravaganza? Grabbing my heavy bag, heeled boots clomping up the wood covered basement stairs, I pushed open the door and was hit with the savory intoxicating aroma of tomatoes and olive oil. Standing at the stove, wearing his plaid pajama bottoms, (the favorite house pants with a small growing hole in the knee,) Joe was making dinner.  I came home to delicious chestnut, apple and prosciutto ravioli, thank you Costco, with tomato sauce for dinner. Made even more delicious by the fact that I didn't cook it and I got to share it with the one thing I appreciated the most in the past year, my partner.

Goofy Joe photo by Maranda

I suspect some may think it's cheesy or unoriginal to pick my husband as the thing I appreciate most this year. But they would be wrong. Have you met this guy? He's so choice and he is mine. I appreciate him because of a thousand little everyday things and all of the big, important ones: our love, passion, shared sense of humor, all of the chemical "must sit super close to you and breathe you in" magic. But the small things are those that I appreciate the most.

Cannons for the Win

Because without the little things, the magic can become eroded under the weight of daily struggles and drudgery. The weight of too much laundry, expectations and obligations, the slow disappearance of neck kisses while you do the dishes, tiny arguments over petty differences. We fight and argue. We aren't perfect. But Joe tells me I love you everyday. He is affectionate and handsy, and if I jokingly complain about getting groped he always tells me that if he stops feeling me up then something's wrong. And he's right. I don't ever want to lose that physical connection. I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about the casual back rub, the behind smack, fingers in the hair, that say I'm still into you after twelve years of monogamy.

Likes the other side of the lens better

But the way that Joe puts the two of us as a couple ahead of himself as an individual, is why I appreciate him so much. It's also how I can be absolutely certain he'll be a superb father. Over nine years of marriage we've gotten away from the petty, my petty, tallying of who has done what around the house, who last cleaned the kitchen, put the dog out, in a constant battle to be equal and fair. We each do our part and take care of our share and hold each other up on those days when we need a break.

Joe and Spider

Dinner was cooked when I got home last night. The twelve brown leaf bags were at the curb for this morning's pick up. He knew I would be tired and he anticipated my deep desire to crash on the couch and veg. And that's what I got to do for a bit. I cleaned the kitchen later. We might have bickered over putting together our Christmas card later, and gone to bed about an hour apart. That's ok. We both know when we need a little space and the room to focus on our own thing. We need that space to breathe as individuals. In the middle of the beautiful demands of marriage when your wife is a touch cranky, it's only logical to stay up an hour late and wait until she falls asleep. I was unconscious when he came to bed. But in the early hours of the morning, right before the alarm went off, he asked me to scoot over and lay in the crook of his arm for a few minutes. A brief five minutes to just quietly wake up and begin another day together. I am so grateful for you and all of those little five minutes strung together to make up the best nine years of my life. Thank you.

My paparrazi

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13: Epic Battle of Good versus Cupcake

December 13 Prompt: Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen. What's your next step? 
(Author: Scott Belsky. Once again, a part of the Reverb10 project for December.)

I'm generally a doer. I decide I want to make something happen. I go and figure out how to do that. I have a decent track record of success in that realm. I don't think I would consider myself a dreamer. I think big. But I think realistic. I am generally risk averse, particularly without ample research, thought and time. But I find satisfaction in simple things done well and in setting and reaching small goals that lead to larger payoffs.  I get things done. I like lists and order. I have moderate amounts of willpower and tenacity combined with lots of organization and it works for me. Except. Oh, except this one thing. Have I mentioned this one thing? I have failed to make this happen over and over and over and over again. It embarrasses and humiliates me. I hate admitting this failure or discussing it. It's deeply personal and deeply common. And I fear it's the very first thing people think about me when they meet me. I've written about it off and on before. When I read this question I knew instantly that I was going to have to write about the topic that I've been avoiding for months. Even though I said I was going to use you all to hold me accountable. Can I blame you then? No. Crap. It's all my fault.

What am I talking about? What massive and unexceptional failure am I admitting to once again? The goddamn inability to lose and maintain my weight loss. There is some cruelty that dwells in my head. I have a voice in there, it is my own, that takes a tone with me that I wouldn't allow from anyone else. I've mentioned this venomous judgmental mean girl before. She is not my cheerleader and she is not my friend. I don't like her. I kind of want to kill her if I'm being honest. Yet at the same time I feel like I deserve her. It may be this evil little mantra of abusive self talk that keeps me in this predicament in the first place.   Let me refocus here and stop with any regrettable hand wringing and any semblance of open pathetic pity party festivities.  I hate pity parties.

I'm ok. I'm in good health. I generally like and appreciate my positive physical attributes and I feel deeply connected to the human shell I'm working here. I do not stand in front of the mirror degrading and ripping apart my every feature.  I don't delude myself about who I am or how people perceive me. I am fat. But my body is tall and though big, it's proportional. I have curves and good hair and skin, a bright smile. And all my limbs are in good working order. This shell serves me pretty damn well.  Even my doctor said that I carry my extra weight better than most people. But I'm at a loss for what to do next.

I want to be able to run up four flights of stairs and not be out of breath. I want to take more physical risks. Maybe snow skiing or rappelling, something with a tinge of danger. And I don't. Because of my weight. And I hate this feeling. This sort of incapable, trapped, scared feeling.  I have tried a lot of things. Since the age of fourteen I've tried Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem with my mother in high school, South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers again and then again, read self help weight loss books, some Dr. Phil crap, and Genneen Roth's books. I've talked to a therapist, my doctor, my friends. And I think my hesitation is I'm not sure what to do next.  I'm afraid of failure. Again. More failure. Piles of failure wandering around wearing my old fat jeans.

I lost thirty pounds this year. I've kept off twenty. But I could go through the last fifteen years and list many of those kinds of numbers. That's what I focus on. I count the times I've tried and failed. If I totaled up the amount of weight I've gained and lost in the last fifteen years it would probably equal a small skinny family. Instead shouldn't I be telling myself that over the last eight years I've lost and kept off about fifty pounds from my highest weight? That's a great accomplishment. I have never gained that weight back. But that's not what I tell myself. I say that I'd like to lose at least another fifty plus and what's wrong with me that I'm so lazy and gluttonous that I can't. And since that fifty pound loss, I've bounced around with the same twenty to thirty pounds, up and down, back and forth. I can't break the cycle that I've set up for myself. I can track calories and eat well and work out consistently for about two to three months and then I let old habits creep back in. It makes me want to cry to admit my own short comings and embarrassing failures. I think I'm a smarter, mentally healthier person than all that. I am fixated on the failure and my constant, impotent refrain that I'll get back on track. I'll get back on track and start working out again. Because it feels good when I do. I'll start eating more salads and fewer empty carbs. Because I feel better when I do. I'll get to buy new clothes and be stronger and more active. And I'll feel better when I do. Monday, I'll start Monday.

But there is a disconnect between intention and action. And I don't know how to bridge that disconnect. I just don't. I feel helpless. I'm discouraged and tired of my own empty promises that I'm afraid to try again. And I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't.

So I'm going to think about it. Not the weight loss itself. But what's blocking my path and what new methods and supports do I need to seek out to be successful. Not diets, but methods to change my inner voice and my relationship with cupcakes. And maybe some new advice? You got any tips, you skinny bastards? Doesn't everyone love to give weight loss advice?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12: Ugh.

December 12 Prompt: 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)

Ugh. I like this project, but I don't like this question. I feel like me. I am a cohesive me almost all of the time. Grounded in my body. It may be a body that I'd like to change. It isn't perfect. It could use more exercise and more green vegetables and fewer french fries, and more frequent teeth cleanings. Seriously, it's been awhile.  But it's mine. It serves me well and thinking about it as something separate from my mind is just strange for me. I don't feel like a separate body. A couple of weeks ago I twisted my knee doing yard work and it was frustrating. I felt old, slightly gimpy. But I went about my business. I bitched about it a couple of times to Joe. After about two weeks, it's pretty much back to normal. It was irritating that my body couldn't do exactly what I needed it to, but it's me. It's all me. I'm lucky to be healthy and I can respect the fact that people with serious health problems may not feel grounded in their own flesh and bone, but I don't feel that way. I should treat my physical self better than I do, and I'm working on that. I simply don't have much to say on this topic. For once. Will I feel differently when I'm 70? Probably.

So I open the floor up to you, readers. Do you feel connected to your body? Or does it betray and irritate you? Or does this question seem kind of silly to you too?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11: Joe Said Make the Photos Bigger

December 11 Prompt: 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)

This is a joint blog from the Sands household.

1. Joe's enormous stacks of magazines that are scattered throughout our house, office, and bedroom, that I suspect he may never read.


Joe says," See, now that's not so bad." 
(This is only one select, misleading pile of many. Joe lies.)

2. The textiles and fabrics I bought in Africa in 1998. I don't want to get rid of them, just turn them into something other than a pile of beautiful Kente cloth and batik stacked in the closet.


3. Ugly gifts that people have given us that we will never use. Garage sale time. Your gift is not included in that pile. I promise. It was lovely and we often hold it in our hands and reminisce about the joy we felt when we first received it.

Place Holder

4. Joe's enormous piles of mail scattered throughout our house and office, that I suspect he may never file.

Mail Stack

Joe says, "Yeah, I guess you have a point about this one."

5. CD's. Joe and I are both avid music fans. When we got married and combined our CD collection, we could open and stock our own Best Buy. Now that they are all housed on our iTunes library, they collect dust and take up space in the basement. Lots of space.


Joe says, "If you click through to flickr you can take a closer look and see that a ton of 
these are duplicates that we both have."

6. Books. This one is heartbreaking, but necessary. I own way too many books. Our shelves are heaving with words.  The majority of them will not be reread anytime soon. It is time to cull down. Though the purchasing of new books has tapered off significantly, since I am in a deeply passionate and loyal relationship with the Midcontinent Public Library.


Joe says, "Mostly Kassie......mostly."

7. Joe's enormous piles of stuff in the garage that make it difficult to maneuver in and out of the cars. Every wood working tool, saw, drill etc. ever sold at Home Depot or in the garage sales of former wood workers.

8.  The smoking couch. Don't ask. I said that Joe should explain why he finds the smoking couch to be so superb. His comment, "It's so good, I don't even have to." Then he proceeded to try and convince me, yet again, even though he's had it for over ten years and we have discussed it numerous times, that it's cool because it used to be in the top floor smoking lounge of a downtown Omaha hotel in the 1930's and it has good lines.  He neglects to mention that the fabric is itchy and worn, and it's filled with some kind of dark, strange sawdust that leaks out of it at random times. He loves it more than a person should love old furniture. It's also twice the size of the piece photographed here. And it has built in ash trays. It's weird.

Smoking CouchSmoking Couch

Joe says, "This gets two photos just to show how awesome it actually is. 
It's probably the coolest thing I own and believe me I have a lot of cool things."

9. Unfilled picture frames that we continue to buy and shove in random places. They need to be filled and hung. There is no shortage of super fantastic photography to fill them up. Shockingly we still have some wall space left.

Photo Frames

Joe says, "I'm pretty sure we'll be using some of these for Christmas gifts."

10. The guilt that will overwhelm me in January when I look at this list and realize all of these things still need to be done.

11. The misguided idea that Joe's piles will ever be reduced, filed, read or eliminated. That's ok. I like him enough to put up with his piles of crap. And the smoking couch too, I guess. He's a damn good sport. Though he said something really funny, irritated and racy when I read him all the Joe centric items on this list and he wouldn't let me post it. He got kind of pissy, when I pretended to post it. He put his foot down and it was funny. Ask him, maybe he'll tell you.

Obviously, all photos by Joe Sands. Owner and operator of Joe's Piles of Crap.