Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wrangling: {Centered}

(A weekly round up. Once weekly, I am going to “wrangle” the past weeks’ happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days.)

...And, yes, this is totally a Wednesday feature ... Maybe we can think of this as an April Fools' trick -- Surprise! It's Friday! Next week we'll be back to the regular schedule:)

A peek into my life this week:
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Oh my, I live for lazy weekend mornings. This past weekend was filled with caramel sticky buns (recipe here!), bottomless cups of hot coffee, and leisurely catch-up conversations. Hooray that we're almost to another weekend!

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"These Days" (to borrow a phrase from a lovely friend :)

For the past week I've been in a bit of a funk. 2 weeks ago, today, I was riding high: it was a Friday (which never fails to cheer me), and I had finished a whole week of waking early to run & do devotions. I was so proud of myself! I was making positive steps in the right direction ... each day getting a little closer to living my dream. For one hot second, I felt like I had all my (proverbial) balls in the air... and juggling them felt... effortless.

And then the next week they all came crashing down.

Nothing bad happened to cause me to get off track ... life happened. Fatigue pushed, and I didn't push back. I started hitting my snooze button again, and slacking on devotions. ...I knew it wasn't good for me, but, for the life of me, I couldn't manage to get myself out of bed at 5:14... or 5:45 ... or 6:15. Sigh. And the longer I went on like this, the more frustrated I became with myself. ..You know, when you take charge of your life & become the keeper and protector of your dreams, you're really the only one to blame when things start going awry. I felt like I was sabotaging myself. ...Needless to say, this past week was not a great week for my self-esteem.

I haven't talked about it much on the blog, but self-confidence & self-love is something I think about a lot. I think that it's hard not to think about these things (at least sometimes), as we are bombarded daily by both positive (see here!) and negative media influences. I believe that you need to love & respect yourself, so that you can give the best of yourself to others. But we all know that it's one thing to believe in an idea, and another to live it.

I know that what immediately pops into your mind when I say "self-confidence" or "self-esteem" is probably appearance. And while I do deal with periods of self-doubt and negativity about that (i.e.: it was not a good day last week when I shrunk my black "skinny dress pants" in the wash...), for the most part, that doesn't plague me half as much as "life comparison" does. My biggest downfall is when I think, "Boy, she's really got it together..." and I start picking apart my life from there. Rationally, I know that I will never know all the intimate details of someone else's life, and that what I see is, in large part, what they choose to show me. My faith tells me that I am beautiful & unique and loved; perfect in the midst of my imperfections. Yet I falter; and on the darkest days I find myself heartbroken, on my knees and crying out to the universe, "Am I enough?!"

As I "grow up", I am learning how to deal with these situations. It's trial by fire, for sure, but I am learning. I'm learning that it's okay to feel frustrated sometimes, if I allow my feelings to fuel me and push me toward positive changes. I'm learning that sometimes being discontent is a greater power nudging my heart and whispering 'There's something more for you. ... Time to move forward.' ... I decided to let yesterday be the day I turned the corner on my week of "down in the dumps". I'm going to give myself a little grace: no longer dwelling on my failures, but rather, loving myself & paying it forward.

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And now, to pull it all together and wrap this up in true Amy-fashion, here's a Good List for you :)

The "How-I-Pulled-Myself-Out-of-a-Funk" (& other things that just make me happy) Good List:

(Pre-dinner drinks with J. Killians, baby!)

1. Jon, my best friend. Making normal evenings "date night".... chatting together over a drink while we wait for dinner to heat up.

(Most flattering picture ever, hehe. Happy after my run)

2. I came home and went for a tough, but empowering, run yesterday evening. I was determined to sweat out all the 'bad energies' (doesn't that sound very "hippy" of me?) that had been clinging to me for the past week; determined to regain my balance, my center, my focus. I ran my little heart out & returned drained, but peaceful.
And it was good.

3. In the spirit of "loving myself" and paying it forward, I gave myself a manicure last night. Roll your eyes if you must, but having polished fingernails makes me feel a little more polished and together in every aspect of my life. It's the little things that make big differences.

4. Gracie snuggles.

5. Despite the snow that fell Wednesday afternoon and evening, our spring flowers persevere.

6. My present to myself late last week was a frosting bag & tips. (I know this is nerdy of me, but: Squee!!!) This represents so much hope & possibility to me-- I've always wanted to frost the perfect cupcake. I've been stock-piling cupcake recipes from Jenna for who-knows-how-long.... I'm so excited to spend quality time in my kitchen this weekend....

7. {re-focusing} I mapped out my weekend run today. It's a nice little 5k, and I'm excited to run it on Sunday morning!

8. Okay, so, as some of you probably know, yesterday was Opening Day. (Fine, I admit it, I didn't know until my boss came in wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey... bosses are allowed to do things like that, even if it isn't casual Friday... or, you know, Friday ;) Anyway, yesterday afternoon while I was working, he turned on the radio to listen to the game. While this might have been annoying to some people, it didn't bother me at all. In fact, hearing "game audio" reminds me of my childhood: late Saturday afternoons in Carlisle. Of course, with Grandpa it was football, not baseball... but for a girl who hears 'game commentary' much like Charlie Brown hears his teachers ("Wop-wah-wah-wah-wohh..")it's pretty much the same thing. I remember the way soft dusk began to fall outside as my grandma bustled around the kitchen, prompting all sorts of warm & wonderful dinner smells to emanate from the kitchen. We would be upstairs 'playing barbies' (Me & Laurie or maybe even Heidi & my other cousins) and the sounds of the game would drift up. I close my eyes and it takes me back instantly ... and the comfort I feel is indescribable; except perhaps by a deep sigh of my heart.

Love that.
(not quite bread quality, but past when I attempt to eat them)

9. I'm sure you know by now that I am not a fan of bananas. ... But banana bread?! Oh my, Yes! These little babies have been patiently ripening in my kitchen (& actually, it looks like they still have a few days to go!)... just waiting for their minute of glory.

10. Remembering and keeping promises to myself.
"There are few experiences in life in which my physical and psychological abilities are as sharply defined as they are during marathon training and racing...The training and racing experiences have shown me sides of myself that I never knew existed. I've found perseverance, an ability to focus, stubbornness, compulsiveness, bravery, organization, a sense of humor, and a capacity for unbridled joy. "
--Gordon Bakoulis Bloch

Hope you are having a fantastic week, friends.
Any good weekend plans? Do tell!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wrangling: {Time}

(A weekly round up. Each Wednesday I am going to “wrangle” the past weeks’ happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days.)

As I get older and the more life I experience, the more I am humbled by this great mystery of time. How is it possible that our parents were right the older I get the faster time moves?

Every morning this week, I have awakened amazed; incredulous that somehow yesterday is over, and a new day has begun. I think that the very first moments of each day may be the best, because the space between dreaming & waking does not allow any room for doubt or expectations. In these moments there is simply life, and as I breathe in my first cognizant breaths of the day, I am thankful.

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I am especially grateful for these centering morning moments during 'in between' weeks, like this one. In between weeks are those that follow closely on the heels of busy, laughter-filled party-till-you-drop kinds of weeks-- or (more commonly for us), 'in between weeks' are sandwiched between two busy times. 'In between weeks' have a sweetness all their own, but somehow, they seem to pass the most quickly. I'm doing my best to soak it in - reveling in cooking for Jon, writing more & snuggling on the couch with the cats... as well as going to bed a little earlier so that I can read a few more chapters in my book (currently, I'm reading this, recommended by Julie. I cannot put it down.)

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This week my heart & arms are aching for another cat.

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Perhaps our biggest accomplishment of the weekend: hanging the pot rack.

Woah-- can I just tell you how glad I am that I no longer have to rummage through my pantry past my rice & beans to get the the frying pan?!

No cats were harmed in this installation, either (a valid concern, as, if you look in the 2nd picture, you will see that the pot rack is hanging directly over the cat food station. Thank you, Lord, for stud-finders :)

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This afternoon we were treated to a truly spectacular storm-- our first thunderstorm of the year. I love storms. The way the leaves roll over in anticipation and the electric feeling in the air, waiting for that first drop of rain to break the tension. I think observing storms can be a beautiful, moving experience.

But today? Today it hailed ... And instead of being enraptured by the majesty of nature, I worried about Jon's new(ish) car. Phooey. Even still, it was a pretty awesome storm.

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Without getting into any specifics: someone I love had something wonderful happen to her earlier this week, and I received a personal phone call to let me in on the good news. That was definitely a highlight :)

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What I've been meditating on today: (Thank you, Pastor Bud!)
‎"...Take your everyday, ordinary life -- your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life -- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God." Romans 12:1 (The Message)

Amen. Let my Life Song sing to you.

...And now if you'll excuse me, I have a loudly purring Gracie who is begging for my attention... she's been rubbing her face on my computer screen for the last 10 minutes, and has now resorted to gnawing on my power cord :)

How's your week going?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wrangling: {Green}

This is what hope looks like in Central OH.

(A weekly round up. Each Wednesday I am going to “wrangle” the past weeks’ happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days.)

I meant to post this yesterday, I really did, but clearly, it didn't happen. It's been a really frustrating (& for some reason, extremely tiring) week for me, and when it came down to it, it really was the best for everyone if I just threw my hands up in surrender, and went to bed early.

You're welcome :)

But, here I am, fresh & new today, with your Wednesday weekly "ramblings".

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For this week, it actually works out nicely that I'm posting on a Thursday, because I can wish you a Happy St.Patrick's Day!

Actually, St. Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays, although I am sorry to say that is primarily because of the food. When I was growing up, my parents would make a big deal out of cooking up (what I've since learned) the American-ized St. Patty's Day Feast: corned beef & cabbage, potatoes & carrots, huge hunks of Irish Soda Bread slathered in butter, and some kind of green dessert (which varied from brownies topped with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of creme de menthe to a fluffy pistachio pudding based dish. ... Now that I think about it, dessert was typically decidedly un-Irish...)

My favorite was, hands down, the bread. My name is Amy, and I'm a carb-o-holic. ...A carb+butter-aholic, if you want to get technical. I've never attempted to make it in my own kitchen because, quite frankly, I thought it was a yeast bread... (my history with yeast breads is short but brutal. 2 attempts. We'll leave it at that. Someday I'll have to come back around and master the yeast bread, but today is not that day.) But, after my co-worker (ironically, named Patrick...) gently pointed out to me that Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread relying on baking soda to help it rise, I have renewed vigor. I intend to try this recipe this weekend.

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As you can see from the picture above, Spring is spring-ing (finally) in a noticable way in our neighborhood, and in our yard. A little green shoot courageously poking its way into the chilly new year never fails to warm my heart. I'm ready for the sunshine & birdsong & gentle breezes. I'm ready to be happily surprised by the flowers that appear in my flower beds.

...I'm not so ready to be surprised by the weeds that inevitably shoot up in droves. But, I'll take the bitter with the sweet :)

I wish I could rattle on to you about my ambitious gardening goals, but, quite frankly, gardening is not my strong suit. So, this year my goals are to (a) buy enough mulch, and (b) stay on top of the weeding. Oh, and (c) buy a shovel (like this one) sturdy enough to conquer Ohio clay. (Ugh. Ohio Clay is no joke.) Last year I had to dig out a hole big enough to transplant my mums (speaking of which, the verdict is still out whether they survived the winter or not ...).... Darn near killed me.

I think it's a good start :)

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Perhaps my biggest accomplishment this week has been waking early to run. I like to call it "Chasing down the dream", referring, of course, to the dream I shared with you last week.

Running in the morning just works for me. Not only because the older I get, the less I want people to actually see me running (hah! sad but true.) but because I (honest to goodness) LOVE it. To me, the quiet, twilight, waking world is nothing short of magical. I love the feeling of "shaking out the cobwebs" in the first mile, gaining new awareness of my body as a gradually wake through the repetitive movement. I love the perfect, quiet darkness, and the smallness I feel as I move through it. I love the solitude.

How could I have forgotten how much I love this? I hope I never forget again.

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Alternatively, sleeping in (every other morning) and snuggling with this fuzzy face is pretty wonderful, too.

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Happy Thursday, friends. What has been the best part of your week so far? ...Any fun St.Patty's day plans?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wrangling: {Rain & Red Wine}

(A weekly round up. Each Wednesday I am going to “wrangle” the past weeks’ happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days.)

Whew. I cannot believe that it’s Wednesday all ready. We’re getting to the part of the year where things are starting to pick up a little bit, with increased church activities, family birthdays, and just general “holy goodness it’s so delicious outside I want to spend every spare minute out there ...”

..Er... I may have to rethink that last part. For the past couple days it has been doing a whole lot of 40 degree temps & raining. Yick. But the weekend and Monday were absolutely lovely. It’s that enchanting in-between time that only comes once a year, right before the 'spring forward' time change, when the sun starts to rise early again after a long dark winter. I’ve got to say, doing my devotions as the first rays of sun gently usher in the morning adds new sparkle to the tradition.

Spring? Bring. It. On.

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This weekend was an especially nice one, filled with leisurely french toast brunches, serious life altering & encouraging discussions, and heart moving worship. Saturday morning Jon & I lingered together over cups of coffee, discussing our future... our 10 year plan (& actually 50 year plan!) for our family. Our main focus was budgeting (taking cue from this lovely lady & her husband), but we talked about other important things too, including babies (not yet, but we're both really excited for the ‘someday’ :) and Vegas (Fall, 2011. … no details yet... just a basic idea in the works... but I’ll fill you in later as plans unfold!)

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On dreams:
I’ve got a dream to share with you. I’ve been sitting on it for a little while, but … ‘year of honesty’, people... And this is super honest, a glimpse straight into my heart. I wrote this a couple months ago, when I discovered the Lululemon Goaltender tool. (Quick side note: I do not, in fact, own anything ‘lulu’.... but I experience serious clothes lust for it. They just put a store in at Easton mall... so chances of me owning some killer crop pants someday have gone up exponentially :) Anyway, this tool allowed me to focus in on and put on paper some of my deepest, sweetest dreams. You would think that as a writer, this stuff would have been poured out in volumes all ready... but my deepest dreams, the ones I long for the most, have remained quiet, barely dared to be spoken. But this is a year for taking chances, I believe that is some magic in voicing these dreams ...that this is the first step toward me seeing those dreams come to fruition.

So here you go. My prompt was, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

"10 years from now I will have two little boys with blond curly heads. I love my job. It's a perfect fit for me, allowing me to be creative & providing a comfortable salary for our family. My days at home are beautiful chaos: soaking up every spare second with my boys, and writing as I can, sometimes well into the night. I have finally fallen in love with running, and I wake every morning at 4:45 to hit the streets. I just run for me. I return home every morning while the house is still quiet make myself a cup of coffee and sit down with my spiral notebook and devotions. I treasure those quiet moments every morning. Jon and I are into our 12th year of marriage, and, true to the cliche, every day I love him more. I love the time we get to spend together every evening after our boys are in bed. I love snuggling in bed with him on Saturday morning, as wait in quiet anticipation for the boys to wake. I love the way he kisses me goodbye every morning. I love watching him love my sons and teach them about life."

Honestly, as soon as I c&p’d this into the blog, my mind immediately jumped to writing a ‘Disclaimer ‘paragraph to follow. But you know what? These are my dreams. They reserve the right to go uncensored, undiluted and unabridged.

And with that, I’m kind of written out for the night. But I’ll leave you with a good list, for good measure ;)

Good List

1. Jon, my wonderful husband. I am so excited for our life together. Enjoying it as it unfolds, one chapter at a time.
2. My sister April & her sweet baby girl (ETA: 4/2011) are healthy. Thank you, God :)
3. Breathtaking, word-painting posts from one of my favorite bloggers
4. Red wine
5. From my i*Google homepage today: “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” -- Frank Tibolt
… Amen.
6. ‘Chasing down the dream....’ How sweet it is!
7. I would be a terrible friend if I didn’t send you here, to a recipe for some of the best (easy, yummy & healthy to boot!) cookies I’ve ever made....
8. Laughing until tears roll down my cheeks
9. Spiral notebooks
10. The soft, clean scent of spring rain

Your Turn:
How is your week going so far, friends?
Do you have a 10 year dream?

Friday, March 4, 2011


"Love Letters": a series of love letters to the people in my life who have made a big difference in my world, published on their birthdays.

(On our Wedding day: September, 2009)

The tongue-in-cheek comment that is second most likely to be heard when one gets engaged (second, of course to a good natured "Goodbye, freedom!") is, "You're really marrying the family, too, ya know. Hope you like 'em." ... And whenever people told me that, I just smiled because, the thing is: I do.

Ron & Christy, my father & mother-in law, are fantastic.Warm & welcoming, they made me feel like I was a part of the family well before I married into it. I am honored and blessed to be their daughter-in-law.

One of the most valuable things that I have learned from Jon is what it's like to have your family close to you, and what it really means to put them first. I don't mean in any way that I was anti-family before I met & married my husband, but when you grow up seeing your relatives twice a year like I did (more if we were lucky!), you don't really understand what it's like to be able to care for & be there for each other physically... to be able to gather for the non-major holidays and birthdays; to celebrate love and being together.

Some of my favorite family memories from the past few years are of sitting around the dining room table after dinner and laughing together. I just feel so relaxed and authentic when I am around them... it's easy for me to forget that I haven't always been there. I feel that with this new family of mine, who welcomed me with the utmost grace & open arms, another piece of my life's puzzle has locked comfortably into place. I know I belong in this family, and Ron & Christy are at the heart of that.

Of course, I would be untruthful if I didn't say that the biggest thing I am grateful to Ron & Christy for is giving me Jon. As we settle into married life together, I find that one of my greatest delights is really uncovering Jon's heart... what makes him tick... where he is deeply rooted and why he reacts the way he does. And finding these things makes me fall even more deeply in love with him: his values, his compassion, his work ethic. ... All wonderful things that I know he learned from example; from his mother and father. As I begin to think about having children of my own, I grasp more and more the beautiful burden and sacred responsibility that raising a child is. To be entrusted with the care & upbringing of a little soul is (and forgive me, this is so NOT eloquent:) huge, but largely a thankless job-- and good parents deserve to be celebrated.

So today I thank you, Ron & Christy, for all that you have done for us; for all that you have taught both Jon & myself about building & sustaining the love of a family. I look forward to many, many more wonderful years together, filled with beautiful memories.

Happy Birthday to you both, with much love.

(Christy, 3/4; Ron, 3/25)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wrangling: {Good Week}

(A weekly round-up)

Something that I've been struggling with since the beginning of the year, as I revel in the shining reformation of my blog, is this: striking a balance between the profound and the everyday. I believe that there is beauty in both, for sure, but truth be told (and remember, I'm all about the honesty this year) there are a lot of days when I am anything but eloquent, happily schlepping along in the glorious mundane of the every day. Not every experience I have or thought that races through this head of mine can be expounded and twisted and dissected into something beautiful. Sometimes life is just simple, and one word can be just as beautifully enlightening as a page of prose.

I've also been trying to figure out how to put my own spin on "ye old weekly recap" style posts. I want to keep record of how my life is moving forward week-by-week, but I want to do it in an Amy-like way. So here's what I've come up with: "Wrangling". Each Wednesday I am going to "wrangle" the past weeks' happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days. Here is the first installment:

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Today is a good day. For no particular reason, really, though there have been many good and interesting things that have happened over the course of it. Aren't these surprisingly joyful days the best? Perhaps this day seems especially sweet after my roller coaster yesterday.

Yesterday was a frustrating day. Not because anything bad happened... actually, rather the opposite. Some days I get fed up and cranky because I feel like I'm going nowhere. So I stomped home after work & went for a walk with Jon, and came home renewed & refreshed; no longer "in a mood". Sometimes the best way for me to distract myself from my seeming "immobility" is to just get up and move. It reminds me that, even if I am in fact standing still, it's a damn good place to be.

... Of course, today was also good because of these delightfully whimsical (& delicious!) cookies:

I've been itching to write lately, and have been able to sit down to bang out some really good stuff. Really soul-tiring stuff, to tell the truth. I find that when I really open up and let the words pour out from the depths of my soul-- the rawest, most authentic kind of writing-- I am left empty, exhausted, and completely at peace. ...Unfortunately, I can't share any of it... at least not yet. I have these posts shelved, but I am excited to share them with you at some point, but for now the smartest move for me is to keep them tucked away. I promise that when the right pieces fall into place (and I am confident that they will!) I will reveal all...

...Love notes to myself...

I'm loving this fragrance right now. It's very warm & sensual & summery to me, with hints of gardenia. It just makes me happy to wear it.

Lately I've been aching for Carlisle (here, here and here). (Heidi... today I got to thinking, how cool would it be if we could be there at the same time again someday, and run the neighborhoods around Grandpa's house together? I think it would be awesome... although you might have to slow down a little so I could keep with you, hehe :)

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I'll be back on Friday morning with the next installment of "Love Letters" ... But for now it's your turn:

How is your week going so far, friends?