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If I were asked to sum up 2goodbye-2012-300x236012 in one word, what leaps to mind immediately is “hard.” I’m reluctant to put that down in writing, because in the grand scheme, I have such an easy life. First world problems. But c’est la vie – it is what it is.

With that in mind, here are my answers to the annual questions, which I encourage you to answer for yourself, and share with me if you’re so moved – I’d love to hear what you have to say.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Skinny dip in a quarry, get waaaaay too many mammograms, see Van Halen in concert (about damn time!), watch the sun set over Maine while drinking a G&T on the tallest point of the island, surrounded by lovely people, make ten dozen raviolis and recite Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” speech to a stellar group of friends, emcee an event with three world-class speakers, perform a quite lousy synchronized swimming routine on the lawn at Volunteer Park.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My 2013 resolution is to take more risks. (Caveat: this does not mean I’ll be bungee jumping or skydiving anytime soon!)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

YES! Beautiful Margot Louise Jacobs arrived in September.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, but the year ended with a series of horrific gun deaths which must lead to real change.

5. What countries did you visit?

I was within the borders of the USA all year long.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A real date?

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

September 15th – I was privileged to attend a glorious wedding in Maine; September 28th – I got clocked by a very large gate; November 4th – a trifecta of satisfying election outcomes; November 9th – I met someone in my “karass.”

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Leading with empathy, kindness and authenticity.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Leading with arrogance, annoyance and false humility.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Boy howdy. A l-a-r-g-e iron-and-wood gate fell and knocked me over, bruising a kidney, some ribs, and assorted limbs in the process. While it wasn’t ultimately serious, it was painful for a long time and it scared the bejeezus out of me.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Airline tickets to New York, Maine and Washington.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The NRA.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Living a good life.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Willow’s and Karen’s wedding(s). Pub trivia. The election. Future professional possibilities. An email string.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Some Nights – Fun.; American Tune – Paul Simon

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Sadder, but I’m fairly certain that’s temporary

b) thinner or fatter? I think the same….

c) richer or poorer? Well, on paper it looks better….

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spending time with the people that I love.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying about work.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve with friends-who-are-family, eating fabulous food and flirting with the twin two-year-olds. Christmas Day with the fam at my little sis’s home on the family compound. I danced to “Living La Vida Loca” and there’s filmography that I pray never sees the light of day. My bro-in-law’s prime rib and mac and cheese makes me do crazy things.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

With the idea of someone….

22. What was your favorite TV program?

This year Parks & Rec made me laugh out loud most consistently, which is what I’m looking for in TV shows most of the time. But I’ve got to give props to The Colbert Report as well. The man is a genius.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate is a word that I reserve for icky foods and annoying music.

24. What was the best book you read?

I really liked Stephen King’s 11.22.63, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Tia Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette and M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. But my favorite was The  Fault in our Stars by John Green.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Fun.

26. What did you want and get?

A successful conference.

27. What did you want and not get?

A stress-free conference.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Silver Linings Playbook and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I think. It was a great year for film. Also, I saw Brief Encounter for the first time and loved it.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 41 in 2012 and had a series of celebrations with my amazing friends, including one memorable meal at The Pink Door.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

Prozac?

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Skirts and dresses.

32. What kept you sane?

My therapist, 200mg of Zen, exercise, writing, my amazing friends.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

My love for the Obamas is evergreen.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Healthcare, gun control, education.

35. Who did you miss?

For the first time in 15 years, I did not get to see Fred over the summer, and it bummed me out.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

While we met many years ago, there was one person whom I became better acquainted with this year, and that’s been interesting, for sure.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

I am my own worst critic.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused
And I’ve often felt forsaken, and certainly misused.
But it’s all right, it’s all right, I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be bright and bon vivant
So far away from home.

A Very Merry Unniversary

Today is my 22nd unniversary. Let me explain.

After I graduated from high school, I chose not to go to college. I turned 18 in July, decided I was a grown up, and moved out. As the summer wound down and as most of my friends set off for campuses far and wide, I cast about for new ways to occupy my time. I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into the charismatic, evangelical, fundamentalist church where I’d been working as a childcare provider for the past two years.

At a time when every part of my life was changing: my home, my daily routine, my access to friends, my theology – M became my friend. He was a good guy: loyal, reliable and funny. While he wasn’t the type to whom I’m typically attracted, I was attracted to the attention he gave me. Soon we were dating; soon after, engaged. What else did I have to do? I was under-employed and without homework for the first time in years. Planning a wedding seemed like a viable alternative for how to spend my time.

With a diamond ring on my finger and a stack of wedding magazines full of frothy dresses and shiny cakes, I repressed any feelings of doubt and set a date: November 3rd, 1990.

Winter became Spring became Summer and still I pushed onward, despite the myriad signs that M and I were ill-suited for one another.

Then the week of Power Source camp arrived. M and I were both camp counselors at this five-night adolescent extravaganza of rock-n-roll worship songs, gross skits, silly team competitions, barely-held-in-check-hormones, tongue-talking, and lots and lots of sobbing teenage girls. There was little sleep and many “revelations” from God.

I look back now on those times with equal parts nostalgia and horror.

Whatever was really going on there, one of those “revelations” gave me the courage to do the thing I knew needed to happen months earlier: I broke up with M, telling him that I knew that it was God’s will. Regardless, it was the right thing to do. Frothy dress be damned, the two of us should not get married. We were too young, too different, too clueless.

Now, 22 years later, I don’t have any God-sent revelations anymore. But I’ll always be thankful to whomever that I didn’t get married all those year ago. I love my life just the way it is – messy theology and all.

So each November 3rd I raise a glass to M, to my life, and to grace – whatever the source.

Join me.

I rarely crack open a Bible these days; it seems that the older I get, the fuzzier my theology becomes. But there was a long period during which I read from that tome every. single. day. I memorized big chunks, which I used to feel self-righteous and eviscerate anyone who didn’t share my rather literal perspective. While there’s virtually no chapter-and-verse reciting I can do anymore, the pieces that do continue to float around in my brain concern Jesus’ compassion and his focus on serving those on the margins: the poor, the sick, the “sinners.” (You know, the 47%.)

So when I read this article from today’s New York Times, which explains that a fundamentalist evangelical organization is encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school on “Mix it Up at Lunch Day” on October 30th (designed to encourage kids to spend time with a peer they don’t normally interact with, to promote tolerance and diversity and combat bullying) because it “promotes the homosexual lifestyle”, the first images in my head were of Jesus: hanging out with the Samaritan woman at the well, talking Zaccheus out of his tree, healing the centurion’s servant with a word. Demonstrating his love for people, singling out those who society had labeled as “other” for whatever arbitrary and indefensible reason. This is one of the ways I strive to emulate him.

And while I fall short often and repeatedly, I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by top-flight folk who are better than me at this. Some of the best I know are David, Mark, Willow and Karen. I am regularly in awe of each of them as they demonstrate empathy and generosity, and continually see the best in everyone. They are some of the significant manifestations of God in my life.

My heart is heavy thinking about kids being kept at home on October 30th. All I can do is hope that God crosses their paths (and those of their parents) with people like these tremendous friends of mine. Everyone should be so blessed.

A fond farewell to 2011.

As Thanksgiving weekend wound down, I started thinking about how A.W.E.S.O.M.E 2011 had been, and how I might answer the annual quiz. I logged in to start jotting down some impressions and lo and behold, I found a partially finished quiz from 2010 – oopsy.

So, while I’ve missed the official start of the new year, here are some answers for both 2010 and 2011.

Try it out for yourself! I’d love to read what you have to say.

1. What did you do in 2010/2011 that you’d never done before? 

2010: Wreck a car, watch a friend perform on Broadway, pass out in a public restroom, Skype at 7 AM with a wise man from Jordan, eat vegan stroganoff, attend a brit bat, walk on the stunning beaches of La Push, walk in the snow in Zig Zag…

2011: Ride ATVs in the Nevada desert, walk in the rain in the Arizona desert, have my mind blown and my heart filled by a flash mob, sleep in a castle, float in a balloon, hike in Asia, visit Harlem.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

2010: I don’t usually make resolutions in January, but this year I’m resolving to try new things.

2011: Yes! I did LOTS of new things in 2011 – mainly around travel. We’ll see about 2012.

 3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

2010: Oh, yes! In order (I think): Lesley, Noreen, Beth, Jen, Tammy, Julie N, Jenny and Jill. Five boys and four girls, beautiful and healthy all.

2011: Yep! Meredith, Sofia and Julie T – all beautiful boys.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

2010/11: No, and I’m grateful.

5. What countries did you visit?

2010: I’m shaking my head in disbelief as I write this, but I stayed in the US all the live-long year.

2011: Does Las Vegas count? Oh yeah, and Switzerland, France and Turkey (and an airport in England).

6. What would you like to have in 2011/12 that you lacked in 2010/11?

2010: More inspiration for this blog.  [Editor’s note: clearly I sucked at this].

2011: Maybe it’s not inspiration, but discipline that I’m lacking.

7. What dates from 2010/11 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

2010: Huh.

2011: July 23rd – my 40th birthday party. The majority of my favorite people (85+) in the same place at the same time. It was the most enjoyable and humbling night of my life. And the food was incredible. Also September 2nd – 18th: the France and Turkey trip. A life highlight.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Perpetually: Keeping my mouth shut.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Perpetually: Not keeping my mouth shut.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

2010: Well, there was that embarassing incident in the bathroom…. One broken finger and one black eye. The finger is still wonky.

2011: And then came the parasite….

11. What was the best thing you bought? 

2010: Lots of great books, lots of great meals, lots of great sex (kidding!).

2011: Tickets to Lady Gaga, tickets to France and Turkey, tickets to go on a balloon ride….

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

2011: My lovely friends and family. Special shout-outs to the flash mob conspirators: Jen and BJ, Jenny and Aaron, Jenny and Brian. Also Mark, who was the reason and the driver for the extravaganza du Francais. On a global note: the brave men and women of the Arab Spring.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

2010: The U.S. Senate.

2011: The ENTIRE U.S. Congress this year (with a few exceptions, my own reps among them).

14. Where did most of your money go?

2010: Having fun with friends, traveling, reading.

2011: Traveling and a stellar party.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

2010: It was rather a mellow year, but in a very good way!

2011: The Las Vegas trip with Lou and Ty (and Gaga), the 40th bash, the France and Turkey trip, the NYC jaunt.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010/11?

2010: “My Life Would Suck Without You” as performed by the Glee cast. Along with a lot of other great covers they did.

2011: “Firework” by Katy Perry – the anthem for the most spectacular flashmob.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

2010/11: Happier – it just seems to get better and better.

b) thinner or fatter?

2010: Alas, fatter.

2011: Thinner. A great side effect of the parasite.

c) richer or poorer?

2010: Richer, but only on paper!

2011: Poorer, but temporarily so.

[Editor’s note: the rest of these answers are for 2011. I was laaaaaazy last year!]

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Telling people how much I love them.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being scornful and/or derisive.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve with fun new friends, watching them eat fondue (no cheese or chocolate on the parasite diet!). Christmas Day with the fam at my little sis’s new home on the family compound. Fabulous food and a lot of laughing.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

I think I fall in love with the kiddos in my life a little more all the time.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

It’s a tough call, but I gotta go with Modern Family. I heart Phil.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Not a hater.

24. What was the best book you read?

Fiction: Cutting for Stone. Nonfiction: Unbroken. Read them!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Lady Gaga! (I know, I’m late to the party.)

26. What did you want and get?

An epic birthday party.

27. What did you want and not get?

That’s a secret.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Moneyball.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

It was the year of the big 4-0, and I threw myself a ginormous birthday bash! Beautiful people from all over the country joined me for awesome BBQ, plentiful beer and wine, toasts, roasts, dancing and a FLASH MOB. And I’ve got the footage to prove it!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

Congress doing their jobs rather than grandstanding, kowtowing, and generally being a bunch of asses.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Whatever Jen says, I do.

32. What kept you sane?

Fabulous friends (and  my therapist).

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Still crushing on Barack & Michelle.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The whole thing was a cluster. I must say, the Republican primaries are like the best bad theater I’ve ever seen. Pure entertainment.

35. Who did you miss?

I got to see all of my near and far friends this year, except for Paul and Juliana.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

There’s a gaggle of them: my castle mates in France! All delightful. Special shout-outs to the Jeffs, Melanie and Carlos.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Keep calm and carry on. It might just get you to Paris.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon….”

Las Vegas, Day One

Friday:

1. Taking a first glimpse at the lions at the MGM Grand (which is larger than some towns in Nevada, I’m pretty sure).

2. Getting nostalgic for my peeps in NYC whilst traipsing through NY NY. Seeing huge grins on the faces of Lou and Ty as they came off the roller coaster for the second time in twenty minutes.

3. Marveling over the fact that there are FOUR FLOORS of M&Ms crap to be consumed, including a NASCAR race car and a cheesy 3D movie complete with abominably bad live acting.

4. Winning 500 tickets at Gameworks at the Wheel of Fortune game. Elementary schools spelling bee prowess pays off. Sucking at the driving games, which the 15 year old rocked. Playing pool on the crappiest tables ever, having to substitute a spare cue ball for a missing stripe.

5. Splitting ribs and chicken in the Rainforest Cafe back at the MGM Grand, then arriving at the lion habitat just in time for dinner! I can’t figure out how to download the video from my phone, but here’s a not-so-good photo I took when we were standing below them.

6. Making plans for a future stop at the Oxygen bar at Ex Caliber.

7. Walking waaaaay down the strip (it didn’t look that far on the map!) to Paris to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower just in time for the first Bellagio fountain show of the evening. Watched the sun set spectacularly over the mountains.

8. Hoofing ALL THE WAY back to NY NY for the kiddos to experience the roller coaster at night, which was apparently the best way to do it.

9. Trekking for miles through the MGM Grand to the Garden Arena (no garden in sight) to arrive “just in time” for an 8 PM show at which the opening act, Scissor Sisters (two thumbs down from the niece and nephew), started at 8:45.

10. OMFGaga. Stunning. Brilliant. We danced and screamed and clapped and raised our paws and had our ever-loving minds blown. I spent twenty bucks on a “Born This Way” tote bag (yay green-team Gaga!), she was that good. BEST. CONCERT. EVER. I will see her again and again. The two 50-something couples in front of us seemed to enjoy it as well.

Can’t wait to see what day two brings!

Untitled

There was nothing unusual about the day. January in Seattle: grey, drizzly, chill-you-to-the bone. The customary wind whipped my umbrella in all directions as I made the short walk from my office to the bank on First and Pine.

I was in typical midday mode, when hunger dictates that I be as efficient as possible running errands, getting in and out of the bank/post office/Bartell with a minimum of fuss. It was a bank day, which brought special annoyances, since the tellers were uber-chatty and the lingering-too-close security guard had a Davy Crockett-esque toupee.

Check deposited, I set off for my next destination: lunch. Setting as brusque a pace as my short little legs would allow, I mulled the internal debate of “falafel versus sushi” once again. As I stepped onto the wet sidewalk, I brushed by a man in a navy wool skull cap and puffy jacket. We caught one another’s eye, and he launched in.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m trying to get enough money for a bus ticket to go home.” He looked directly at me as he made the inevitable ask. “Can you spare some change?”

“Hang on a second,” I said as I began to root around in my simultaneously annoying and beloved satchel. I knew I didn’t have any bills, but there were bound to be coins in here somewhere.

A woman brushed by us and as our eyes met, it took her a moment to replace the look of disapproval with the standard Seattle “I-couldn’t-care-less” expression. Perhaps she was a tourist.

I’ve had many a debate with people – including myself – about giving money to people on the street. But the author Ann Lamott silenced my internal quandary with a scene in one of her novels, the title of which I’ve long forgotten:

When the narrator, a 1970s tween, sees her mom give a dollar to the town drunk, she protests. “Mom! You know he’s going to use that money to buy alcohol!”

Her mom’s response? “Honey, when Jesus healed the blind man, he didn’t ask him what he was going to be looking at.”*

While I groped around in my bag for my coin purse, coming up with and discarding chapstick, matches, an old almond, I groped around in my mind for an attempt at small talk. “Where’s home?” I asked.

“What’s that?” said the man, and something in his voice made me look up from my baggage wasteland.

“I said, where’s home? Where are you trying to get back to?”

The man hesitated for a second, then, looking right at me again, broke out into a huge grin. “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies” he declared.

Fair enough, I thought, as I fished out the coins and poured them into his outstretched hand.

Our transaction finished, I smiled and said goodbye and he smiled and said God bless and asked me if I wanted to get coffee, and I said no thanks and I started off again, thinking about what had just happened.

Clearly, this man wasn’t trying to get home. I wondered where home was. Was there someone worried about him? Would it make it easier for them to know that in that moment, someone had responded to his need in a small way?

Ooh boy, that made me think about my dad. He reappeared for the final year of his life, and amidst the ferrying to multiple medical appointments and filling out mountains of paperwork, I didn’t have much to give him in the way of smiles. Resentment was manifest physically in the rigidity of my neck and shoulders as we sat in countless waiting rooms.

He never seemed to notice, though, and as his mind got hazier, he recited a handful of stories time and again as we waited. One came to mind as I turned mechanically into the falafel restaurant on Pine Street. The one about the girl at the Wendy’s drive thru, who would always call my dad “honey” and give him a large French fry – even though he’d ordered a small. This story annoyed me each time he told it: his implication that the twenty-something clerk in the window was attracted to him.

As I returned to the office with my falafel, hummus and pita, it occurred to me to be thankful for the Wendy’s woman. Maybe this is how it’s meant to work. She helped my dad, and I helped the guy in the Navy skullcap, who might have a resentful daughter out there, grateful for a proxy who can respond with compassion.

*Sentiment: Ann Lamott. Butchered paraphrase: me.

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Yesterday, whilst hanging with the kiddos, between playing “Trick or Treat’ (during which my skirts brandished as capes and swim goggles and/or sleep masks comprise super hero regalia) and making paper plate turkeys, I dusted off the Christmas Songs playlist in iTunes and we rocked out to “The Beach Boys Christmas Song,” “Christmas in Africa” and “Donde es el Santa Claus?”. Typically, I have a hard-and-fast “no xmas tunes before Thanksgiving” rule, but this year I’m in a festive state of mind and I say go with it, as tomorrow the Grinch could reassert his customary spot in my holiday heart.

So along with buying two-not-one evergreen wreathes and contemplating in what shapes to fold my niece’s and nephew’s cash gifts this year, my thoughts have turned to holiday cards, thanks to my lovely friend Jenny at www.zestyenterprise.com.

I haven’t sent out holiday cards in a long, long time. I bought Christmas cards with the best of intentions about three years in a row in the early nineties, and finally donated them to Goodwill when I moved two years ago. Follow-through (or lack thereof) aside, I’ve thought a good deal about what a holiday card from me might look like, now that photo cards are easy, affordable, and all the rage.

If I were less lazy, those of you who I know and love IRL would be receiving a card that had a photo of me wearing this:

surrounded by these:

But since I am what I am, it’s likely that you’ll be getting no card at all. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t love to receive cards from my friends! Let me recommend www.shutterfly.com, because what I’d like more than a sparkly image of an angel or tree shedding glitter all over my immaculate floors is a cute photo of you and yours. Here are my favorites (click on the card image to go to its page in the Shutterfly site):

Clean lines, nice colors, a great font.

I love the image on this one. Plus, it’s called “Holly Chocolate Christmas.” At first I read it as “Holy Chocolate Christmas,” which I liked even more.

Apparently, I’m attracted to cards with brown backgrounds. I really love the bird in this one.

So there, my bit of holiday advice (also, don’t overdo the nog). I’ll be awaiting your card with appropriate holiday cheer.

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