Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! ... and a SHOUT-OUT to my brother, EVAN!

The year is quickly coming to a close. I love reflecting back on 2008 and all that's happened in my life, the lives of my family and friends, and events that have happened in the world. Many news stations play clips with pictures and music highlighting events from the year and unfailingly it brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. (slightly embarrassing when you're crying when you're on the treadmill!)

I feel so much gratitude for my many, many blessings. I KNOW without a doubt that the LORD is guiding my life and that bring me more peace and a feeling of security than I could get from any other source. I KNOW HE does not leave me (or anyone) alone and comfortless. Personally, I am in a much better "place" and mind-set than I was a year ago and I am SOOOOO grateful for that!

Recently I have been reflecting on the many blessings I take for granted each and every day. I recently finished "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch and it is an inspiring and thought-provoking. I look at the "challenges" I face each and every day and they bail in comparison to what others are facing. I have a healthy, strong body. I have a loving family and caring friends. I have a wonderful job and the means to support a comfortable lifestyle, and most of all I have a strong testimony of the LOVE my Savior and Heavenly Father have for me... and yet, WHY am I not jumping out of bed every morning excited to see what the day brings :) Reading his book, and some other recent events in my life, have truly awakened my thinking. I am making a new resolution and pronouncing it to the cyberworld (!!) that in 2009 when I start to feel pressure or stress... or feeling down about something... I am going to do a personal "check-in" with my thoughts and weigh it against what REALLY matters in the BIG PICTURE. And, to do my best to make the most of the time I spend with those I love... and those I don't even know!

2008 was REALLY GR-8!!! But, here's to a 2009 that's 1000 times more than "just fine"! (my PATHETIC attempt at rhyming!)

BUT - CONGRATULATIONS EVAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He found out YESTERDAY that he got an internship at the Treasury Department in DC... and starts in 12 days! I am so proud of him! ... and I look forward to going to visit him soon :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Annual Outdoor Run! And, wind. Add that to the things I am grateful for!

Ha - So this is really silly, but some of you know that I dislike (somewhat strongly) running outside. I'm the type of person who likes to run on a treadmill and watch TV or the news at the same time.

But, over the past few years I have developed a tradition. I take an annual run outside on Christmas morning... partly because my little brother loves his beauty sleep and we don't eat breakfast or do anything before 10:30 AM and I can never sleep past 8 AM no matter how tired I am.

But, I love my annual Christmas day runs because there is NO ONE on the street. It's just me and the pavement. If I want to run down the middle of Mass Ave. I can. Or, on Storrow Drive. Sure, why not?! I LOVE IT! And, the past few years the weather has been sunny and not too cold.

Well, this year I took a different route. My car went in for service on Christmas Eve and I couldn't pick it up before the place closed... so I decided to run and pick it up on Christmas day. It was such a GREAT run but one that I could not do any other day of the year because of the roads I had to run on to get there.

I will never forget this run because it was also REALLY windy. At times it was a battle to run into the wind, but I'll never forget the tailwind that was literally pushing me up the last hill. I have never been so grateful for wind in my life and was amazing at how much I could really feel it pushing me! I'm also really proud of this run because I did it faster than I thought I could do!!

Only 363 days or so till my next one :)

It's Christmas!

I love this time of year. I love the white lights, the holiday music, the Christmas movies, the yummy food, the opportunity to hear from friends near and far... but most of all I love time that is spent with friends and family. In my previous post I talked a lot about "presence" instead of "presents"... and I haven't fully come to a conclusion on my performance in that department yet (!!) but I did want to post some pictures from the past few days and remark on how wonderful they really were!

My roommate and her boyfriend decorated our Christmas tree Thanksgiving weekend and they did a fabulous job. It was a wonderful addition to our apartment and added to the Christmas spirit!

I am so fortunate to live very close to my grandfather for many reasons, but one of them is because that means family comes to ME for the holidays (well, I like to think they come to me because I'm here... but really it's because he's here!) I don't have to travel anywhere... which is so nice, esp. because this year there were lots of problems with travel created by the weather! (see last post for one small example!)

There was a lot of talk about where to have Christmas dinner in the month of December in order to accommodate my grandfather best... but it didn't matter because he kept his tradition of spending Christmas in the hospital for the 2nd year in a row! He even went in on the same day as he did last year... but was released much sooner this year. So, yet again, our days were spent between the hospital and making holiday preparations for a Christmas dinner at my apartment!

We had fun spending time at two friends houses on Christmas eve... and then having my uncle and some close friends over for Christmas day dinner. (Which I would NOT have been able to do if it weren't for my mother!!) But, before everyone arrived my mom, brother and I took some pictures... and then after everyone arrived I completely forgot to take any pictures!
Evan and I

Evan... after everyone left.

Well, on Friday my grandfather was released from the hospital so there's nothing like getting released and then immediately driving an hour to a family party! We went to Holliston, MA to visit my other aunt and uncle and their two kids. It's hard to tell in this picture because I am bending down, but I am the shortest person in this picture and I don't consider myself a short person!
It was fun to be with family and friends and it has been so much fun to have my mom and my brother stay with me. Hopefully one year we can get my other brother and his family to join as well. That would be fantastic!!

I can't believe Christmas has come and gone. It goes so quickly, but it was truly wonderful and I still have another week before I report back to Fox Hill elementary! I'm off to PA for a few days... and the car ride will give me lots of time to think about this past year and decide on some of my new year resolutions... which may include a move from Boston??!! Can I resolve to do something like that? Hmmm.... that will be thoughts for another post. I know I can always move and go anywhere... but what makes the most sense and more importantly, what does the Lord want me to do... rather than what I tell HIM I want to do :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow, snow, snow

"Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow" is a popular song sung at many school-age holiday concerts. Or at least I sung it at my school concerts every year since I was around 7 years old. Well, after 24 hours of snowfall, I was singing "Let it stop, Let it stop, Let it stop"... but it wasn't listening to me and kept snowing for another 28-30 hours!

Now, I know that many people live in areas where snow is quite common and that this post is nothing too extraordinary, but I just had to write about it as my own personal sounding board and pity party :)

This was Boston's first major snowfall of the season. Typically, many, many people get all hyped-up about it. They'll talk about it for days ahead of time, raid the grocery stores like they're going to be snowed in for a week and get ready to "hunker down". And, usually it really isn't all that bad. Some shoveling, yes. But, overwhelming - not usually. Well, this storm was the exception to the norm. There wasn't much time between the first snowflake and the heavy stuff. Fortunately, employers and school administrators heeded the strong warnings this time and sent people home at noon. By 3 PM we were well on our way to having 2 inches on the ground. And, it kept coming, and coming, and coming.

My mom and little brother had driven through the night from PA in order to beat the storm. A friend let us stay in her house since she has a driveway and there's NO WHERE to park in a "snow emergency" in Somerville. ) A snow emergency is declared when there is more than 2 inches expected and you can only park your car on one side of the street. Well, in a town where parking is difficult to find when you're allowed to park on both sides of the street, parking during a snow emergency is like striking a picking the winning ticket in a national lottery (and that's not an exaggeration :) Literally, the town will come and TOW your car after giving you a $100 fine! So, anyway, we were happy to have a spot in their driveway in exchange for some shoveling. And, some shoveling we did. Mounds and mounds of it because did I mention that it just KEPT snowing!

Here's a picture of the house on Saturday morning. It started snowing Friday mid-day.
Lookin' pretty good, eh?!! If there's one thing I am proud of... it's how quickly I learned the importance of QUALITY winter gear after my first winter here of misery in the snow and cold temps. I've got the best gloves (snow doesn't go down your sleeves!) and you can only let your eyes show in Boston because the wind can be so brutal!
These are our piles late Saturday afternoon. Notice... still snowing!!! I have to compliment my mom though. She spent two hours on Saturday morning while I was out doing an errand moving snow and patting down piles so that we could pile more snow on top and it wouldn't slide off
Another pile on Sunday morning... still snowing!
My mom... as we're loading up the car to return back home to my apartment... still snowing and we had just shoveled that driveway 30 minutes before taking this picture! Note, the frustration level in my voice as if I was telling you this story in person. When I shovel I like to have the satisfaction of having a clear driveway even for just a little while.... but not with this storm! However, my mom and I had a wonderful time watching movies, eating good food and just relaxing when we weren't shoveling! That's the magical part about snowstorms. You really can't and don't want to go anywhere... so you can spend quality time together... which we did.

And, a reward for all this hard work? I just found out that we at least have a 2 hour delay tomorrow! WAHOO!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An update... and seeking advice from anyone who reads this blog!

It's been a while. Fall has come and gone. BYU football has come and gone. Thanksgiving has come and gone. ... but all is well and it has been such a wonderful few months. BYU loosing to UTAH was a sad, sad day but I'll never forget watching the game at my friends condo with 50 other BYU grads all shouting the Cougar fight song after BYU scored each touchdown! My heart swells with pride everytime I hear it!

Thanksgiving was perfect. Just perfect. I stayed here in Boston and celebrated with my 2nd family here in Boston, but also spent some quality time with my Dad in RI and other friends. I took a nap each day, continued my tradition of the Macey's day parade (while putting up plastic on our windows), stayed as far away from the malls and shopping as possible, didn't have to cook a thing, and just relaxed. It was perfect! :)

Work has taken on a new meaning for me as I've now become the "head" counselor at school. My co-worker left on maternity leave early and we hadn't hired someone to replace her yet, so I've been filling in for her duties as well... and it's been a little stressful with longer hours than I used to do, but all very rewarding and I LOVE IT! Our long-term sub starts tomorrow so hopefully things will ease soon. If anything, we have the holiday break in just over one week. WAHOO!!! LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT!!!... more details later

But, what I wanted to blog about today was some thoughts on this holiday season. More than anything this year, I've tried to cut down on the things that stress me out (like shopping for the PERFECT gift and trying to get to EVERY social engagement) and to really take time to reflect on the Savior, my religious beliefs, and my life.

Music has such a powerful effect on our emotions and I find that especialy true with religious music, especially those songs that cause us to reflect on our many blessings and the life of the Savior. I've had the opportunity to attend a number of holiday concerts over the past few weeks and it has had a lasting impact on my mood and outlook.

I was reading today in a book that included reflections on Christmas by Chieko Okazaki and she made so many wonderful points. One that struck me in particular was:

`If you feel like a soldier instead of a shepherd, you can remember that we worship at the stable and not at the palace. If you feel that Christmas has you marching in lockstep toward a destination you don't like very much, step out of line. It is more important to be kind than to be on time. It is more important to show love than to show efficiency.... Don't underestimate something as simple as a smile. As one person said, "I've learned that a warm smile beams, 'Welcome to this moment." And someone else noted, "Every moment is a gift from God. That's why it's called the present."

"Presence and presents are homonyms. ...The gift of being fully present to another person--not distracted or simply dutiful but deeply and timelessly loving." During Christmas season we are looking for "the perfect gift" to give a loved one. But, truly the best present you can give anyone is your own presence, your willingness to be fully present for a neighbor, child, family member, or friend. An encounter which is a loving encounter."

WOW - I love that!! Too often I am not "fully present" when talking to another individual. I'm too busy working on "my checklist". And, in the big picture... what's of more value? My checklist or the other individual? I'm going to really focus on this over the next few weeks. Have a daily check-in with myself and I'll report back after the holidays. Can I put my checklist off to the side? It's my crutch... but I really do want to run free without it!!! Let's see how it goes.

So, here's where I seek advice...
Any thoughts on how to do this better???

P.S. - Evan - how will you react if I just give you a card for Christmas with my picture in it just saying you get the gift of having a 'fully present' me in your life!!! :)