Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!!

We had a good Christmas. The week before was a frenzy--shopping, wrapping, baking, laundry, packing--but everything got finished. Everything, that is, except the afghan I am knitting for my brother. It is red. Maybe it will be ready for Valentine's Day? (Sorry, Eric!)

Anyway, Casey and Nathan opened their gifts from Santa on Christmas Eve, then Nathan and I got up early on Christmas morning and drove to Mt. Carmel, Illinois to spend a couple of days with Mom and Dad and Eric and SeDonna. Casey came up separately and arrived much later. But by midnight, we were all together, eating cookies and candy and drinking coffee and eggnog and opening presents. We missed Greg, but enjoyed each other.

This is what Christmas looked like in Mt. Carmel.

A small--and not totally representative--sample of all the goodies we consumed.

Happy, the cat, pretending to be just another holiday decoration.


The snow arrived as Nathan and I headed towards home on Sunday afternoon. It was wet and fluffy and fun. We drove out of it about the time we left Kentucky. Traffic started getting heavy in Nashville, and we heard rumors that it was even worse up ahead. I was already tired, so we stopped and spent the night at the Super 8 in Franklin, Tennessee. That was a good call; I was asleep by 10 and didn't wake up until 8 the next morning. We arrived back mid-afternoon Monday. I wasn't worth much by the time we got here, but it felt good to be home.

I have spent the past couple of days alternately playing Bejeweled on my iPhone and Cafe World on Facebook and catching up on some television and watching movies - and sorting and organizing and cleaning and pondering New Year's Resolutions. I know some people don't believe in them, and I recognize things don't always turn out according to our plans, the year 2009 being a case in point for me - but even though I don't always live up to my own expectations, I do a lot better when I set goals for myself. It keeps me focused on what I really want to accomplish, and leaves me less time for regret and self-pity.

I don't think I made any resolutions last year. Everything was up in the air with my fiance and his children over the holidays, and by the time they arrived in January, I was so consumed with meeting their needs that I failed to take care of myself. During the first seven months of 2009, I gained ten pounds, stopped exercising, and ran up several thousand dollars of credit card debt (after nearly paying those cards off in 2008). Things have improved a lot since school started in August; the depression has lifted, the energy in my home is much better, and I am proud that I am really, truly WRITING. But I want more - and Bejeweled and Cafe World aren't going to get me there.

I thought about all this I was writing my morning pages today - the one good habit I have made and maintained faithfully for several years - and this is what I came up with.

Consume 1200 healthy calories.
Do 3o minutes of exercise.
Write 1200 words.
Do 30 minutes of reading.
Do something creative (even if it's just a row of knitting, or stringing three beads on a wire, or choosing photos for one scrapbook page).

List 10 books for sale on eBay.
List 2-3 articles of jewelry for sale on etsy.
Post 2-3 times to my blog.

Stop buying stuff. (I don't need anything. I have enough books, music, yarn, and beading and scrapbooking supplies to keep me busy for the next ten years; and after I lose a few pounds, I will be able to fit back into some of the cute clothes that are already hanging in my closet.)
Get $1000 in the bank.
Pay off credit cards as quickly as possible -hopefully by the end of the year.
Finish Novel #1 and have it ready to pitch in time for the M&M Conference in October.

Ambitious? Maybe. But I am betting that I will be able to do all this and STILL have time for Bejeweled and Cafe World. Just not as MUCH time.

And now I'm off to do a thing or two to get ready for tomorrow. Nathan and I are going get memberships at the local Fitness 19, I've got to figure out how to set up an etsy account, and I need to stock the refrigerator with fruits, veggies, beans and grains. Eric and Donna are coming over to help us bring in the New Year, and I'm actually going to vacuum and dust before they get here.

And I'm going to make myself a sticker chart, and give myself a shiny gold star or a neon happy face every time I meet one of my daily or weekly goals. It's the little things, you know?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009 Holiday Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

2009 is almost over. I don't know how you feel about it, but I am glad to see it go.

You may recall from my holiday letter last December that I had big plans for my personal life this year. Well, nothing worked out the way it was supposed to. You remember that guy I met on the cruise in 2007? The single dad with custody of his four children? The one I was engaged to marry? Well, there were no wedding bells for us; to make a long story short, our Brady Bunch experiment ended in disaster. If we had had Alice, or if he had had a job -- or if he had actually been divorced -- everything might have turned out differently. As it is, the boys and I are simply relieved to be on our own again, and I have adopted this as my motto: "If he is stupid enough to walk away, be smart enough to let him go." Still, most days I find myself scratching my head at some point, wondering exactly where it all went wrong and whether anyone else will ever be able to fill the void this man left in my heart.

Otherwise, I really can't complain. The economy has been challenging, but I am blessed that my business has not suffered for it. My piano studio remains full, and my students have made me proud in many ways, participating in festivals and concerts and winning competitions and trophies and cash awards and performing for senior citizens at area assisted living centers. I especially enjoy teaching during the month of December, listening to forty-eleven renditions of "Jingle Bells" and "Good King What's-His-Name," although I usually stop my budding musicians somewhere around the seventh day of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Josh has one quarter left at Portfolio Center in Buckhead. He's not sure where he's headed after that -- New York or Los Angeles -- but he is excited about embarking on his career as a fashion photographer. Casey is a joint enrolled senior at Georgia Gwinnett College; Nathan is a public schooled eighth grader at Osborne Middle School. The transition from home school to a traditional classroom was a bit bumpy for both of them, but they were ready to make the change and have adapted well.

Once I was no longer responsible for my children's educations, I saw the way clear to finally make my foray into the world of writing. I just started my third online writing class, and am completing a novel I started over the summer. I also participated in National Novel Writing Month and completed a 50,000 word manuscript -- the roughest of rough drafts, mind you --during the month of November. And I joined Georgia Romance Writers -- the local chapter of Romance Writers of America -- and attended their annual writers conference in October. I have enjoyed meeting others who share my passion for the written word, and I am hoping that by this time next year I will be a published author. As Phyllis Diller said, "Aim high and you won't shoot your foot off." I recognize that I have much to learn and a lot of hard work ahead, but I am finding the process both stimulating and therapeutic.

And now the holidays are upon us. Casey, Nathan and I are looking forward to spending Christmas weekend in southern Illinois with Mom and Dad and Eric and SeDonna. I wish you all the best of luck, the truest of love, and the fulfillment of all your hopes and dreams in the New Year!


Monday, December 14, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Last week was crazy, with my students doing holiday concerts on Tuesday and Thursday and Nathan getting sick towards the end of the week. So we didn't get around to decorating the Christmas tree until Sunday. It was a big job. I had forgotten how many ornaments I have. Two or three of them date back to my childhood; there are a few from my college years. Many were gifts from friends and family members and piano students; my boys made some of them, and I picked up others on trips and vacations. They are all very dear to me.

Over the weekend, I also finished the scarf I was working on for the Red Scarf Project. I love the way it turned out.

I boxed and mailed it this morning, along with a couple of holiday packages for far-away friends and family. And I surprised myself by actually remembering to get Christmas stamps while I was at the post office. I am hoping to get my cards written tonight and in the mail tomorrow. And then I need to get serious about finishing the handful of Christmas gifts I have started for people whose names I cannot mention because they read this blog. But you can be sure I will tell you all about them after December 25th has come and gone.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Concerts

This week my piano students performed holiday music at area assisted living centers.

Courtyard Gardens Assisted Living Center
Lawrenceville, GA

Sunrise at Webb Ginn Assisted Living Center
Snellville, GA

Brookside Assisted Living Community
Buford, GA

Brookside Assisted Living Community
Buford, GA
(Notice I'm with SANTA CLAUS and MRS. SANTA CLAUS--and they are CELEBRITIES!)

Aren't my piano students an unusually handsome bunch? And I can assure you they played as pretty as they looked.

Monday, December 7, 2009

O Christmas Tree

As soon as Nathan got home from school today, we headed to a local Christmas tree lot in search of the perfect tree. It ended up being the first one we looked at. "This seems too easy," I said. But I never found the catch. We paid for our prize and the nice men at the lot trimmed its trunk, put it into a mesh bag, and tied it to the top of my car. The drive home was, thankfully, without incident; then, I watched as my determined thirteen year old hoisted that big tree onto his shoulder into the house and onto the stand; afterwards, he patiently worked with me until the trunk was straight and the best "side" of the tree was facing forward.

Next, we went to Target and bought a new treetop star and four hundred new lights. On my own, I probably would have come home with simple white lights, but my boys have always loved the multicolored variety. Knowing this might be Casey's last Christmas at home, and that Nathan will be grown and gone in the blink of an eye, too, I think I made the right choice.

By the time we got back, we were tired from the day and all our efforts, so we decided to save the egg nog and tree trimming for another evening, and watch some television instead. Which reminds me, I never showed you a picture of the new set-up in our living room.

Again, Nathan deserves most of the credit here. He did the research and price comparisons, and selected a thirty-two inch flat panel television--to replace our very old twenty-seven inch tube television--and a new receiver--to replace the dead one that was a part of the surround sound system I bought back in 2002. (Yes, I realize the subwoofer and the speakers from the old sound systems are a different color from everything else; that doesn't bother me in the least.) I picked out the stand. Nathan loaded the boxes into the car, lugged them in when we got home, unpacked and assembled everything, and figured out where ALL THOSE WIRES were supposed to go. I was impressed.

I am looking forward to many more holiday adventures in the days ahead.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Scrapbooking Retreat

I spent the weekend at a scrapbooking retreat in the mountains of Ellijay, Georgia. For the uninformed, scrapbooking is "a method for preserving a legacy of written history in the form of photographs, printed media, and memorabilia contained in decorated albums, or scrapbooks" (this according to Wikipedia). To be honest, I have long been a scrapbooker wanna-be, meaning I have purchased all the necessary supplies for scrapbooking (albums, pages, decorative paper, cutting implements, stickers, etc.) but have spent very little time actually scrapbooking (arranging the photos in the albums and journaling their stories). But if a person is going to scrapbook, this cabin is THE PLACE to do it.

Jennifer waving hello from the front porch,

There were nine of us splitting the cost of the rental; my portion was less than $100 for the entire weekend. We each brought snacks to share and signed up to provide a meal, paper products, or bottled water. I left my house Friday about two o'clock, with my trunk full of my scrapbooking stuff, a small suitcase, two dozen chocolate chip cookies, and ingredients to make lasagna, a Caesar salad, and garlic bread for Saturday dinner. It was a beautiful afternoon and I had a very pleasant drive, sipping yet another Starbucks eggnog latte, listening to Christmas music, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

There were deer everywhere!

I was the sixth to arrive; the first five ladies were already set up and hard at work in this room.

Tables, chairs, and good lighting.

I unloaded my car, set up my supplies in the adjoining room, similarly equipped, dropped off my suitcase in my assigned bedroom (I had two roommates) and put away my food. Soon, I was joined by friends Marcy, Lisa and Jennifer. That's when the party really started for me.

Marcy, Lisa and Jennifer

I can't tell you all the details of what happened, because there are rules governing these matters.

But I can tell you this: we talked, we laughed, we ate, we stayed up late, and there were margaritas involved. We even did a little bit of scrapbooking.

Marcy, Me, Jennifer. The cats who swallowed the canaries.

The weekend was just what I needed: some time away from work and worry, an opportunity to fully relax and just be with friends. It was my first scrapbooking retreat, but it won't be my last.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

And the winner is...


Congratulations! :)

Please e-mail me your address and I will get your autographed copy of Kate Jacobs' Comfort Food in the mail asap!

Thanks to everyone who commented and/or became a follower of my blog last week, and for your support as I finished the last leg of NaNoWriMo. I couldn't have done it without you!

Now, I am playing catch-up--doing all the cleaning, laundry, paperwork and other assorted chores that piled up while I was busy writing. But I have exciting plans for this week-end. Details tomorrow. And I am really looking forward to Christmas. Not that you can tell by the autumn leaves and pilgrims still on display in my house.

One thing at a time...