December 31, 2010

Best Moment of 2010

I dyed my hair this week   Don't worry, it's still my natural color; I just do it to cover my grays.  Yes, at 28 years old, I have grays.  What can I say?  I am my father's daughter.  It's nothing a $2.99 bottle of hair dye can't manage.

I gave myself a pedicure yesterday and did a pretty good job... it only took me about 90 minutes.  OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark Suede, if you are wondering about the color of choice.  I highly recommend it.  

I went to the nail salon for a manicure last night because I cannot, for the life of me, paint my right hand with any color darker than clear.

While I was there, I also got my eyebrows waxed, which I have to say I really preferred over my threading experience.  It's faster, cheaper, and far less painful.  Also, I didn't walk around for the rest of the evening with bright red marks above my eyes.  That's a plus.  It''s decided... I'm going to be a waxing girl. 

After the salon, I came home and shaved.  Yes, this deserves mentioning.  Because it's Decemeber, and my legs are always covered anyway, right?

And then I straightened my hair.  Contrary to what pictures of me may show, this doesn't happen nearly as often as it once did.  It's a process.  But it always looks photo-worthy when it's done.

And when I was done, around midnight, I began tracking a flight.  And I tossed and turned all night long in anticipation of it's arrival because this isn't just any flight; it's THE flight.  The one that is bringing my love home to me today!

Yes, my man is on his way home, and in less than two hours, I will be able to look into his gorgeous eyes and give him the world's biggest hug... for the first time in EIGHT months. 

THAT right there, folks, is going to be my best moment of 2010.

What's yours?

December 29, 2010

Saying Thanks

When we were kids, my mom my always forced us to write thank-you notes after birthdays and Christmas.  Truth be told, it was like pulling teeth around here (as I'm sure it is in many families) to get them done.  Finally, she wouldn't let us have the gift (usually money) until we sent the card - hello, motivation!


I'll be honest, though, and admit that I couldn't tell you the last time I wrote a thank-you note, slapped a stamp on it, and put it in the mail.  I still think it's important to acknowledge a gift (or special meal or visit) in some way, but I can't help but think that these formal thank-yous are very passé. 

In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, I think it's much more reasonable to expect a phone call, e-mail, Facebook message, tweet, text, etc. than a hand-written note in the mail.  And I think there are a lot of people who would appreciate the immediacy of these options over waiting a week (or more) for a note to arrive in their mailboxes.  Also, odds are much better that I have your e-mail address than your street address. 

I'm just being honest here... unless it's for my grandparents, a card is probably not going to happen.  (Unless, of course, it's for a formal event, like my wedding.  A formal event calls for a more formal thank-you, in my opinion.) 

I also have to say that I don't ever expect or keep track of who sends me a thank-you.  This may not be a very popular opinion, but to me, expecting a thank you is like expecting to be praised for being nice or thoughtful - and that just seems silly.  We should be nice and thoughtful of others because it's the right thing to do, not because we want to be acknowledged for it.  

December 22, 2010

Be The Change. Save a Life.

I wouldn't say I'm a fan of the Colbert Report, but when I came across the video, Jesus is a Liberal Democrat, I knew I had to share it.  The part that I liked about this video had absolutely nothing to do with the politics at all.  My favorite quote comes at the end when Colbert says,

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition — and then admit that we just don’t want to do it. 

Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, we can all afford to be more charitable this holiday season.  And yes... we can all afford it.  Because, as I learned on Friday's episode of 20/20, it doesn't take much to make a difference.  In the episode, Be the Change. Save a Life, Diane Sawyer took a look at world health stories from across and the simple, life-changing, affordable solutions to help our global community.

One of the things that really struck me was how basic the needs are for so many people.  Yes, we have poverty here in the United States, but even our poorest families have access to clean drinking water and basic medical care.  I can't imagine living in a world where I have to question each sip of water and wonder if that will be the drink that kills my child.  No one should have to live like that!

The other thing that really struck me was how easy many of these problems are to treat.  For only $11, you can provide birthing kits to three mothers, providing them access to basic things like a bar of soap and latex gloves.  A $14 donation provides 2,000 chlorine tablets to ensure safe drinking water.  An Embrace infant warmer costs only $20 and is often the difference in whether a baby survives past his or her first month.

I could go on and on about the heart-breaking stories and simple solutions shared on the show.  The point is, though, that we have no excuse not to do something about it.  Please, take a moment to visit their website and consider the many ways you can help.

December 19, 2010

Belonging

Remember the television show Cheers?  While I was definitely too young to be a true watcher of the show, my dad was a fan, so I often overheard the theme song and learned the tune myself.

(Sing it with me now...) 

"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You wanna go where everybody knows your name."

From what I can recall, the show centered around the lives of the bartenders and regular patrons of a local (whole-in-the-wall?) bar.  As indicated in the theme song, it was a place for them to belong.  A place to be surrounded by like-minded people who know and care about you. 

I realized today how much my Zumba class has become my "Cheers" after attending a two-hour master class this afternoon.  I love, love, love my instructor and the many friends I've made since joining this class nearly five (!) months ago.  The fact that I have them has been a huge motivation for me to keep going.  I know that if I miss a class, someone will notice... and they will care!  I love catching up with them each day and sharing parts of our lives, and I love how many of those relationships have extended beyond the walls of our gym. 

This group is so important to me now that I don't have a real teaching job because I lost that sense of belonging when I had to sub.  Even in my long-term positions, it doesn't feel the same because I know it's still only temporary.  At Zumba, though, I'm an equal.  I'm not there filling in for the day or even for the semester. 

I belong.

And I love it!  :)

December 14, 2010

The Marvels of Modern Medicine

Today, I learned about the first man to be cured of HIV, and I am so excited about what this means for the future of medicine.  Timothy Ray Brown, the patient, received a stem-cell transplant in 2007 after being diagnosed with leukemia. 
 
I know that a stem-cell transplant is a very risky procedure and that this is certainly not the cure for HIV... but it is certainly a milestone.  And I can't help but think about the hope this must bring to those that suffer from this debilitating disease. 

I know it will take time, but I hope this is the beginning of the end. 

This will change lives, people!

December 5, 2010

OMIGOD You Guys!

Yesterday, Amy and I took mom to our favorite sushi buffet and then to see Legally Blonde, The Musical for her upcoming birthday.  (Don't worry, Ma, I won't divulge your age!)  One of the great things about living here is the ability to take advantage of Broadway in Chicago, and I knew this was exactly the type of musical mom would love!

I have to say, not only did mom love it, but I also loved this musical!  I already knew the story was good, and I was pleased to discover how much I also enjoyed the music, the dancing, and the acting.  The actress who played Elle Woods did a fantastic job with this role- and that's coming from a huge Reese Witherspoon fan!

The script was funny and relatable.  They stayed true enough to the original story that fans would appreciate the musical, but there were some changes - ones I actually appreciated.  They even made some obvious modifications to include one-liners that reference things like "Glee" - making the audience burst into laughter in even unexpected times.

My personal favorite part when the lawyers were trying to figure out if the pool boy was gay or just European.  The song that accompanied this scene was just too funny.  I couldn't stop laughing!  Here's an excerpt from the song for your enjoyment:

Elle:
Of course he's gay.

Calahan:
Or European?

All:
ohhhhhh.
Gay or European?
It's hard to guarantee
Is he gay or European?

Warner:
Well, hey don't look at me.

Vivian:
You see they bring their boys up different in those charming foreign ports.
They play peculiar sports.

All:
In shiny shirts and tiny shorts.
Gay or foreign fella?
The answer could take weeks.
They will say things like "ciao bella"
while they kiss you on both cheeks.

Elle:
Oh please.

All:
Gay or European?
So many shades of gray.

Warner:
Depending on the time of day,
the French go either way.

I'm not sure where the tour is headed when they leave Chicago, but if you get a chance to check out this musical, I highly recommend it.  It's a great event for a girls' night out (or a fun date with your gay boyfriend)!

December 3, 2010

Just Like I've Always Imagined

I've had a secret fear that my family... my whole family.... was over Christmas.  Everyone, that is, except for me.  I love everything about it... our annual cookie day, the music, the lights, the trees, the presents, the flavors.... it all just warms my heart.
My family, though, has slowly started to do less and less for the holiday.  I couldn't even tell you the last time my dad put lights on the house, and the only reason we had any outdoor decoration at all was because I bought my dad a twinkling snowman (who is super-cute, btw).  He says it's too cold, that he doesn't have the time, or (his newest line) that he doesn't have a ladder that will reach high enough anymore.  Excuses, excuses, I say! 

Then, last year, my family didn't even have a tree (well, Grams gave us a cute little one... but it just wasn't the same, you know?), and I couldn't help but feel a little sad without it.  We propped our tree on a TV tray in the living room, tree skirt and all, and kept our presents on the floor beside it.  It just didn't have the same effect, if you know what I mean.

Decorations and a tree... it's just stuff, right?  Yes... but it matters to me!

Today, I was overwhelmed with joy when my parents came home with a beautiful, tall, and full Christmas tree!  Even better than the tree itself was the effect of said tree.  Immediately, everyone began pitching in to assemble the tree, and mom and I ran down to the basement to get out our ornaments and decorations.  And then, we spent hours... together... decorating our home for Christmas. 

It was just like I've always seen on TV... a family coming together, reminiscing about the ornaments that adorn each evergreen branch, hanging stockings and wreaths, and we even found a new, perfect place for Grandma's old tree. 

Our house looks like it's been sprinkled by the magic of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  It looks better than I can ever remember! 

And as I sit here, sipping on my cinnamon apple tea, I can't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside about what I hope will become a new family tradition.       

December 1, 2010

Gifts

It seems that every year, around the holidays, I hear more and more people complain about the gift-giving process and all that comes with it.  I understand that times are tough for many families these days (I lost my job too, remember?), that we should strive to keep consumerism and materialism from running our lives, and that contemporary celebrations often miss the true meaning of Christmas. 

But...

As a person who really, really loves gifts, it makes my heart sad when people say they'd prefer to forgo them each year.  I know it can be a lot... especially if you have a large circle of loved ones, and everyone should set their limits, but isn't it worth it in the end? 

I always fear people will assume my preference for gift-giving is because I'm materialistic or selfish.  Today, though, I came across a great reminder that gift-giving (and receiving), for many people, is a love language.  And I am here to declare that it is mine! 

I get that warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I receive a gift.  It doesn't even have to be anything of monetary value... just something to show someone was thinking of me.  My mom said she could bake a dozen cookies, but if she put a couple "special ones" on a plate for me, I felt loved.  To me, a gift says you care... and that's why I like them!

In the same way, I get really excited about giving gifts.  I spend a lot of time searching for the perfect gifts for my loved ones; I always try to think of something My mom can attest to the fact that it's extremely hard for me to hold on to a gift.  I always want to tell the person early because I'm so excited to share my "love" (because that's really what I'm doing).

It's not just about getting and giving presents... it's about sharing love.

So, before you go around asking friends and family to stop the gift-giving tradition, consider, for a moment, that you might be denying someone their love language.  Instead, consider setting spending limits or drawing names if there are too many people for your budget.  But don't take away someone's ability to share their love!