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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….”

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  Spring is my favorite season, but July is my favorite month.

And not just because of my birthday. Yes, that’s a BIG part of it, and I’m grateful for two women in my life (they know who they are) who get that birthdays are the most important holiday (sorry, Jesus).

But I love July for myriad reasons. Here in the Northwest, July means that the best weather is yet to come. It means fresh raspberries, and evenings that last until after ten. It means burnt orange dahlias at the market, stunning glimpses of the Olympics, sleeping with fewer than four blankets, and visiting with good, good friends.

This July was a great one, from start to finish.

It began with eating THE BEST barbecue — my brother’s-in-law is ah-may-zing — whilst chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school – a boy I had a crush on oh so many years ago. Now he has kids as old as we were when I toilet-papered his house in 1989.

Then the girlies turned two – eegads! I swear it was just a few months ago when I first changed Glory’s diaper; she didn’t yet weigh six pounds, and her buns were the smallest I’d ever seen (they’re still pretty tiny). She and Elena and Manny got bikes from their grandparents, and they puttered around on the playground looking like characters from a Mario Brothers video game, with giant mushroomy helmets on their wee heads.

Vacation was next – hooray! I do love DC. Yes, it was humid. Yes, the temp broke 100 at least once. Yes, there were rain-pouring-down-like-it-only-ever-does-in-Seattle-in-the-movies-or-on-that-stupid-hospital-show thunderstorms. But y’all, I was warm for eight days non-stop! You can’t say that around here all that often. And the city is fabulous – lots of great food, and there’s always something to see.

But while I heart our nation’s capital, it’s the people that keep drawing me back. Megan and Alex, Jill and Brian, Juliana and Paul. These are top-flight people. Beyond.

And they hosted me ever so well. Juliana hardly let me lift a finger, and ferried me around, and helped me pick out the cutest pair of elephant pajama pants. And she thanked me about 55 times for seeing “Eclipse” with her (for the record, I only rolled my eyes once during the movie). Jill and Brian ate the raw pancakes I made without grimacing, and served me yummy and large gins and tonic, and fast-forwarded through the talking-heads parts of SYTYCD, but not the judge’s comments, per my request. Megan was just plain F-U-N. She can pack more into one day than anyone else I know. I saw parts of the city that I hadn’t yet, and found a new favorite cafe with her in the lead. And Paul wrote me a lovely note when I left.

Then back to Seattle just in time for summer to begin in earnest. A lovely evening picnic with yummy Michigan pasties, bing cherries, and fabulous friends. The next day I went to a garden wedding, where there were thirty guests, Dick’s burgers and Molly Moon’s ice cream. The groom was the only person I knew when I arrived, but two straight women got my phone number by the end of the evening. I tell ya, I am something!

And then I hauled my ukulele clear to Very South King County to be surprised by yummy nose-running-spicy Thai food in a strip mall in Bonney Lake, and to be delighted by some time with far-off Fred. Freddy taught me everything I know (which, my friends, is considerable!) about volunteer management and Christian music festivals. He’s also taught me an awful lot about sharing grace and loving people. It was a real treasure to see him and the others in Enumclaw.

Checked in with my therapist (still not crazy), checked in with my financial advisor (still not rich), checked in with my phlebotamist (and stayed conscious the whole evening).

And then it arrived – my 39th. On Friday the 23rd we drank champagne at work and I got a S-T-E-L-L-A-R birthday gift from my smart, sly, generous colleagues and friends. It really merits its very own post. I’ll just say two words: Soda Stream.

The next morning I nearly killed Manny and myself by mishandling the aforementioned gift. He was standing on the step stool next to me at the counter, and after a liter’s worth of flying fizzy water drenched us both, I turned to him with drips coming off my chin, and with big eyes he said, “that was crazy!” The next time I made fizzy water, he went in my bedroom and shut the door, only reemerging when I was well and truly done.

I was still a little damp when Sam, Ang, the kids and I went to eat scrumptious pastries at Macrina Bakery, followed by more bike-riding, and eensy Glory insisting that she could hang from the monkey rings her”SELF!” She did, in fact, for a whole three seconds, then dropped, laughing when her dad caught her halfway to the ground.

Breakfast was followed by lunch at one of my very favorite Seattle restaurants: St. Cloud’s in Madrona. Its backyard is one of the neighborhood’s best kept secrets (Don’t go there! You’ll hate it!). I had a gin and tonic with something delish, got two beautiful birthday cards accompanied by even more beautiful necklaces from Jen and Jenny (who know me so, so well), and answered the modified birthday questions, courtesy of Brian (“tell us about the night you were conceived….”).

A lovely text from another lovely Jenny.

Then Dinner. Yes, I know I capitalized the D. It was the perfect evening. Marilyn picked me up and we arrived right on time at Serafina, where the smartly dressed maitre d’ directed us to the bar for a pre-meal drink (who can guess what I had?), and a shot of the first tequila I’ve had since Mexico, compliments of the bartender.

We sat in the courtyard. If you live in the area and haven’t done that, stop reading and make a reservation now – I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Three courses, all superb. Two pieces of advice: order dessert right away so they don’t run out of what you really want, and get. the. pork.

Oh, wait, more advice: consult with the cute sommolier and make sure you have a charming and flirtatious friend who can coax a great price on the wine with just a smile and a bit of smolder. I said “big with no bite” (about the wine) and that’s what I got. Delicious. I’d show you the photo of the label on my phone, but I’m 39 now, and technology is beginning to stump me. It pains me a little, right there.

I got into bed just before midnight, full of spirits and tenderloin and gratitude and light. And there was still a week to go!

My birthday spilled into the next day with lunch in the sun on the water in Tacoma, watching the Rhododendron come and go with Noreen and little G, who is her father in miniature. Noreen is someone with whom I don’t get to visit nearly enough, so the time was precious.

I saw Inception – worth the IMAX price, and I’m a cheapskate. I was bowled over by astounding beets (dill is the key!) in Lesley’s glorious backyard, while talking with my kick-ass book group about The Brothers K, my most favorite novel ever. I finished it (for the fifth time) a few weeks before we met, lying on my couch with tears streaming into my ears, well satisfied and thanking God for the brilliance of David James Duncan.

Then I met sweet, blue-eyed Iliana, the fifth baby born to my lovely peeps this year. She arrived just a few days before all ten pounds of Isaac, who I also got to meet, while sharing burgers and onion rings with his three big sisters and mom and dad – that kid will never want for cuddles.

And on the last day of the month, we celebrated Marilyn’s birthday. M and I were housemates for three years, and people often asked why we didn’t have joint parties. But really, why just have one day of festivity when you can have two? Marilyn blazed into her 40s with a killer dress, fabulous moves, and aplomb. I aspire to do it as well.

That’s it! My month in a gigantic nutshell. And through it all, I read my way through Harry’s journey once again.

Fin. Bon, bon fin.

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Y’all, I’ve arrived in DC from Texas with a little wistfulness and a touch of a twang. The goings on for work went well, then I got to spend three top notch days in the company of gracious and hospitable Ann and Bob, in their home in West Texas.

I had never been in West Texas before – only the Dallas metro area, and always for work. And being from a so-blue-it’s-green state, I had definite preconceived notions about this “We were once a sovereign nation and if this dude in the White House doesn’t watch his Ps and Qs we might become one again” red state. What I found was a lot of beauty in the landscape, warmth in the people, and vultures.

vulturesYep, you read right. I’m not speaking in metaphors – I saw literally dozens of vultures. Mostly they were circling overhead – presumably searching for their next meal of truck-flattened raccoon (of which there was puh-lenty).

And while I was fascinated, I was also a little creeped out. When we drove  by one sitting on a fence post, I literally shuddered at the hunched shoulders and bare head. Nevermore or not, I’d take a raven over a vulture any day.

Along with vultures, I saw a skunk (on the other side of the glass, thankfully), cardinals, house finches, chickadees, a few varieties of doves (can you say pigeons?) and many, many deer – ten point bucks and teenage spikes and does and even a fawn. They’d come right up to the house to check out the water features and the bird feeders – I spent more than a few minutes sitting at the top of the steps looking out through the wall of windows, admiring the animals.

Oh, and there was one other beast: the Texas Longhorn. While I’ve experienced my share of cows, these are in a league of their own:

Longhorn

Please note: this image has NOT been digitally enhanced! That’s really the rack on this animal. Can you imagine having that thing running, or even moseying in your direction?

As my friend Lisa would say, Oh HELL no!

All in all, my time in Texas was terrifically satisfying. Now I get to spend a week in DC with three of my favorite people. Life is good.

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So I’ve been in Texas for 24 hours now, and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Texans love their flags. I counted no fewer than twenty 20 Texas state flags between the aiport and the hotel – that famous lone star is waving over every corporate park from DFW to downtown. I’m not certain I’ve seen twenty Washington state flags in my lifetime, but Texas’ is snazzier, wouldn’t you agree?

texas-flag  Washington_state_flag

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with the state flag, I’ve seen an abundance of the stars and stripes, one of which was ginormous. Hugemongus. Very, very big.

The second largest flag I’ve seen, which was also mucho grande, was for John Deere. That’s right, the tractor company. Corporations proudly fly their logos (usually just to the right of the Texas flag, which is just to the right of Old Glory). I saw Deloitte, NEC, even Medieval Times was flying their flag.

2. Texans are chatty, y’all! Everyone here (with the exception of a few taxi drivers) has launched right into conversation. No one is a stranger. While I dearly love Seattle, people there aren’t known for their welcoming or forthcoming ways. I’d forgotten how hospitable this region is. And how much they love to talk.

3. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. I’ve seen more than one of these, and I’ve been in three buildings so far:

firearm free zone

Now I’m off for my first Tex-Mex of the trip. See ya later, y’all!

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Last month I had one of the best vacations of my life. I spent a week in Ciudad de Mexico, or Distrito Federal (which, when a friend sent an email wishing me a good trip in the DF, I replied that I was going to Mexico, not the Dominican Republic. Whoopsy.)

And while the food, culture and scenery were all fabulous, what made it such a stellar trip was one of those remarkable women: Megan Elizabeth O’Hanlon Solis. I call her Megs. Or sometimes Weirdo.

Megs and I met in college, and first got to know each other a little bit when she played the doctor in the production of “Shadowlands” that I directed. Megan’s stage presence and terrific timing were crystal clear, and she was incredibly conscientious about showing up on time and knowing her lines. It was a rather small part that she performed with aplomb – except that she couldn’t remember her one piece of business: carrying a chair offstage at the end of her scene.

Megs and I at Teotihuacan. My knowledgeable (and cheap!) tour guide told me that the pyramid behind us was more than a mile away.

Megs and I at Teotihuacan. My knowledgeable (and cheap!) tour guide told me that the pyramid behind us was more than a mile away.

As it was eleven years ago (crikey!), I can only visualize short segments of the rehearsals or performances, but one I do recall is sitting in the seats in Eastvold, stopping the scene after Megan exited, and calling her back onto the stage. “Megan, is there anything you’re forgetting?” I asked. The puzzled look that is now so very familiar appeared on her face. “I don’t think so,” she responded. Classic.

I also remember sitting in those same chairs a night or two later, taking notes during a run through, and writing in six-inch-high letters across the page, “STRIKE THE CHAIR!!!!!!!!!” I’m not sure if she ever did it flawlessly in rehearsal, but I learned during the run of the show that Megs is a pro: not once did she forget during performances.

Megs and I didn’t get really close until after I graduated, wandered in the Oklahoma wilderness, and returned home. My first two months back in Washington were spent living in the Hot Box, a house near PLU that Megan’s mom’s boyfriend owned. “We lived together?!?” Megan asked when the subject came up during my visit. “Yes Megan. It’s when we accidentally set Elvis on fire in the bathroom, remember?”

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