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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Do You See What I See?

I hate taking pictures, damnit!

December 25 - Photo - a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.  (Author:  Tracey Clark):

Okay, I hate taking pictures.  I can't take them of other people either; I just don't have the skill, artistry, nor patience.  And pictures of me?!  Forget it!  Yes, it is because I am fat and old; I just can't get around that fact.

But, if I had to choose one photo of me that captures my very essence and that I can tolerate looking at it would have to be the picture of my eye.  Yes, I've been told it is creepy.  I've also received compliments and have received flirtatious comments from strangers while playing Zynga Poker on Facebook.  Some people have even guessed my age wrong based on the appearance of my eye...they thought I was almost 20 years younger.  I know, I'm either really naive or they were really desperate for conversation.

I took the picture of my eye during 2009 when I was experimenting with my digital camera and faced with having to put a profile picture on my Facebook page.  I knew there was no way I would put my entire face never mind my entire body.  So, I chose my eye because that is one body part that I've always kind of liked about myself.  I like to say my eyes are green.  They are not brown; they are not blue;  they're not really hazel.  So, I like to say they are green.  And, since not many people have green eyes, it makes me somewhat unique.

The eyes are the window to the soul and if you look into my eye you may see a woman who is a deep-thinker, honest, emotional, and serious.  I like the picture of my eye such that I choose to use it as my avatar for other social websites, my AVON website, and my blog picture.

Maybe I'll update the picture of my eye soon but I'm afraid of all the wrinkles that have appeared since it was originally taken.  Or, maybe I'll choose another body part to identify with?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gifts That Keep on Giving

This is probably a bad day to have such a question posed in my direction but I'm going to be honest and go with my gut.

December 24 - Everything's OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author:  Kate Inglis):

Is everything really going to be okay?  Today, I am very doubtful.  I am overwhelmed and stressed out by all of my past and upcoming financial obligations.  Is it because it is Christmas Eve and Scrooge has taken over my body?  Is my humbug attitude just an innate characteristic or a persona I embrace to reinforce my misery?  Boy, I better shake this off quick.  It has become so hard to conjure up some joy and anticipation for the holiday.  I really just look forward to January 1st when all of the previous year is safely in the past and I am issued a fresh slate by the new calendar.  I have yet another chance to make good on the promises I made to myself.  I have another year of creating dreams that I get one whole entire year to achieve.

Okay, back to the prompt...there are two best moments that come to mind that serve as proof that everything is going to be alright.

The first moment is watching my oldest son, Justin, graduate from high school.  Tears of joy and pride streamed simultaneously down my cheeks that June day.  I was comforted by the feeling that he made it through the first phase of his life and was transitioning to the next phase of independence, adulthood, and decision-making.  I felt confident that, as parents, my husband and I gave him all of the tools needed to prepare him and to shape his future.

The second moment that proved everything is going to be alright was when Nicolas, my youngest son, secured a two-year exclusive contract with a talent agent.  Again, the feelings of joy and pride, made me so elated and left me with the belief that humans can achieve anything they set their mind to.  This accomplishment confirmed that what I saw in my son all of these years was visible to others as well.

The discovery and relative confirmation that I am a decent parent, with wonderful kids, and a keen intuition boosted my confidence such that I am better prepared to take on the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2011.  When times get tough in 2011, and they will, I will have the sense to recall the vivid memories and sense of pride that 2010 gave me in a nicely wrapped box with a fancy bow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's In a Name?

This is an easy one!

December 23 - New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?  (Author:  Becca Wilcott):

If I could introduce myself to strangers by another name for just one day it would be Buzz Buckingham, of course!  Buzz Buckingham is the name of my blog and pseudonym.  It is my new persona.  It is my "stripper" name; it is derived from the name of my first pet and the street I grew up on.

I'm not ready to discard my real name as of yet but I would consider adopting Buzz Buckingham for future endeavors.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spreading My Wings

Today's prompt actually puts a smile on my face because for the first time in years I did a bit of traveling.

December 22 - Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author:  Tara Hunt):
Okay, so I am not much of a traveler to begin with.  It is not that I am opposed to exploring new places mind you.  I have a number of cool places on my bucket list like:  Venice, Italy for a gondola ride; Acupulco, Mexico to watch the cliff-divers; and Tahiti to sleep in a hut cabana over the water.  It is not new places I shy away from, but the transportation and time it takes to get there. 

When it comes down to it, I am afraid of flying.  The last time I took an airplane flight was two weeks after 9/11/2001.  Not exactly the best time to fly.  We had an all-expense paid trip to Disney World for ten days.  This was the first time our boys had the pleasure of visiting Disney and we had to go.  Their excitement and sense of wonder in being on an airplane for the first time ever calmed me down and erased my sense of fear once we were up in the air.

During 2010 I did not go on an airplane but I did travel by car and stayed within the confines of the state of North Carolina.  And, I was happy with that.  The most extensive trip this year involved our college-visit road trip.  We visited Greensboro, Boone, and Cullowhee over the course of four days.  No, it wasn't a fancy trip; we didn't go to the spa or an amusement park.  What made this trip memorable was the purpose and the people.  

The fact that my son, Justin, was accepted to college(s) was a wonderful accomplishment.  It was refreshing to have a choice of universities to go to.  I must recommend that you visit the college campus before you make a decision of where to spend four years of your life.  It is preferable that you visit while the school is in session so that you can get a feel for the student population.  This will give you a feel for whether or not you will fit in with the environment.

Greensboro exceeded my expectations.  Before we even left I had a pre-conceived notion that it would end up last on my list.  Surprisingly, it ended up first on my list.  I loved the diversity of the student population, the feeling like the campus was a community within a larger community, everything was within walking distance, the proximity of being in a city with all of the amenities, and the fact that it was only one and one half hours away from Raleigh was a bonus.

I had high expectations of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.  I  heard a lot of great things from my dental hygenist and strangers I met.  It was the most academically competitive school from our list of options and had the specialized major of Music Therapy.  Boone is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is about three hours from Raleigh.  I anticipated that the scenery would be breathtaking.  But, it really didn't impress me.  The green mountains in Vermont are much prettier.  The quad area where all of the students hang out between classes was filled with preppy white students throwing frisbees and playing hackey sack.  I felt like I was back in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  The only friendly students were the handful of minority students that we encountered.

Western Carolina University is in Cullowhee, North Carolina which is about an hour from the Tennessee border.  It is not high on a mountain like Appalachian State, rather it is in the valley.  The campus was nicely organized and buildings and amenities were in good shape.  Unfortunately, we visited during their spring break and we were not able to see the students in action.  On our long drive home we all realized that the school was just too far away and beyond a comfortable driving distance for holiday pick ups.

After Justin chose the University of North Carolina in Greensboro we adopted Greensboro as our weekend getaway city.  We visited a number of times throughout the year. We stay in the same Best Western,  in the same room.  We go to the same restaurant when we visit, Smokey Bones.  By joining their 'clubs' we have already benefited from some of the perks.

When Nicolas and I travelled to Charlotte a couple of weeks ago for his first paid acting gig, I was able to use the points I accumulated for a free night at the Best Western.  This was another trip we made that encompassed the weekend but was a memorable experience.  At the last minute we hopped into the car at 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night and drove three hours.  We arrived at our hotel by 11:00 p.m. and after working a long day all day Saturday decided to stay another night to rest for the ride back home.

While we didn't make it to the east coast of North Carolina this year it is definitely on our radar for next year.  I anticipate that we will visit Wilmington for an audition or two.  We'll probably take a weekend to go to our favorite hotel on the beach at Carolina Beach, The Golden Sands.  It is definitely possible that we will visit one or all of the following cities:  New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles.  When that happens, I'll just have to suck it up, hold my son's hand, close my eyes, and open them when we arrive at our destination.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Back to the Future - Forward to the Past

 Why must I get so deep today?  Because the #reverb10 project has requested that I do some self-reflection with today's prompt:

December 21 - Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)  (Author:  Jenny Blake):

Five years from now?  My first thought is that I hope I am around. My second thought is that I will be the big 5-0, and, no, I don't mean Hawaii (although I guess I'd like to see it some day).  Other than the age and the question of whether I will be on this earth I would envision that I am financially secure in my chosen profession as a writer.  Although I may be an empty-nester at that point I would have a sense of satisfaction that my boys are eagerly pursuing their education and chosen fields of interest.  I can visualize myself in the midst of writing my fourth novel from my private office in my beach house with the panoramic ocean views.

When I am at this point five years from now I would impart these words of wisdom to my current self for the year 2011:  WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!  Get off your ass, stop making excuses, and just do it already.

Ten years ago I was 35.  My kids were four and eight and one half respectively.  If I could go back and impart some wisdom to my younger self it would be this, 

"Live each day as if it were your last; treat your body with respect; your health is the most important thing so take care of YOU; get the most out of life that you can; live in the moment; enjoy every trial and triumph;  stop putting off what you can do today; YOU have more power and control of your future than you realize; be positive; visualize your ideal future; and, finally, appreciate the power of your mind!".

Come to think of it, everyone needs a little pep talk now and then.  Who says I can't listen to my own words of encouragement?  I better start practicing what I am preaching!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saving My Life By Avoiding The Traditional

Avoidance - the act of keeping away from; preventing the occurrence of; refraining from.
Procrastination - the act of putting off; dawdling; delaying.
Oh, okay, now I see the difference.  Avoidance has a sense of dread attached to it while procrastination is more like being lazy about doing something.

I hate 'shoulda, coulda, woulda's'.  They always make me feel inadequate and less than.  But maybe not so much as it relates to the following prompt from the #reverb10 project:

December 20 - Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)  (Author:  Jake Nickell):

What SHOULD I have done?!  Get a job, of course!  Why didn't I?  Well, duh, it should be obvious!  But let me list the excuses, anyway:
1.   Unemployment, throughout the United States of America, is hovering around 10%.
2.   I am competing with people who have already been in the job market and gainfully (until recently) employed.
3.   I despise corporate America and all of it's backstabbing, politics, and employee disloyalty.
4.   I have been out of the traditional job market for so long (14 years) that my skills are antiquated, at least when it comes to technology.
5.   I can't handle being politically correct; it masks the real me.
6.   I can't just be a follower like the other worker bees and be happy about being told what to do step by step; it stifles my creativity.
7.   Holding my thoughts and feelings inside takes too much energy and I might just explode in an office setting.
8.   I am too scared to be sucked back into the daily 9 to 5 grind where you are the puppet in someone else's play.
9.   I am worried that since I am so desperate for money that I will take the first crappy job that comes along and then seriously consider suicide.
10. I am too busy with writing, AVON, and my managerial and motherly duties to take on a full-time job.

I am not sure if these are valid reasons to avoid dipping my toe into the traditional job market but they are truthful.  Once leaving the corporate world and venturing out on your own as an 'entrepreneur', it is difficult to take a step back in time and then take on the role of the obedient team player and execute the play per the coach's call from the sideline.  I've dabbled in so many different ventures these past 14 years.  I've worn many different hats including:  Organizer, Mortgage Broker, E-bay Seller, and Independent AVON Sales Representative.  They were all growing experiences.  In the end I realized I am not much of a salesperson; I take it way too personally.  But, I've also learned that I can do whatever I put my mind to.
So, the question is, will I get a job in 2011?  Probably not.  Will I begin a financially profitable career as a writer?  Yes!

Body, Heart, and Mind

If I am in control of my own destiny then this makes sense.

December 19 - Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?  (Author:  Leoni Allan):
When it comes down to it, we must take responsibility for ourselves.  We must love ourselves enough to know that only we can initiate the positive changes with ourselves from within.  And, by positive changes I mean things we do to heal ourselves whether it's physically, emotionally or intellectually.
To heal my physical self I began an exercise regime.  I thought about it all year.  I would sit on the couch, eating my bon-bons, and think to myself, "Gee, it's a nice day.  I should really take a walk around the neighborhood.".  I finally 'woke up' in October.  I got myself off the couch, put on my sneakers (after dusting off the cobwebs), and got myself a walking buddy.  I was proud of myself that I pushed myself on days that I really didn't want to do it.  And, yes, I did feel better afterward.  I will continue to heal my physical being in 2011 (see previous post).
In order to heal myself emotionally I knew that ideally, if I had an unending cash-flow, I could enlist the help of a professional with ears to listen to all my childhood turmoil and triumphs.  But, with the economy the way it is and my wallet as empty as ever, I had to rely on myself to begin the healing of my emotional wounds.  I would have to lay it all out there for me to acknowledge, process, and in most instances, learn to let go.  So, I started this blog, Buzz Buckingham, to be my pseudonym, my persona, within my mind.  She was hired to take the thoughts and memories that I have locked away in the file drawers of my mind and told to purge.  Basically, Buzz Buckingham is professional organizer.  She helps me sort my thoughts, keep the good and positive memories, donate my stories so that others may learn from them, and throw away the negative (thoughts, feelings, and memories) that have been holding me back from healing. 
Intellectual healing?  Well, yes.  I have never shied away from learning something new.  I gladly take my continuing education course every year to fulfill my real estate broker license requirements.  I attend seminars and workshops.  But, this year I found most of my intellectual growth the old fashioned way.  By opening a book I discovered different philosophies, personal stories, and ideas for actions plans to help stimulate my growth.  Through reading self-help books, autobiographies, and some fiction I devoted myself to opening my mind to adopting different approaches to healing.
What is my plan going forward in 2011?  Well, healing is a long process and I am just at the beginning.  I will continue my health improvement plan by increasing my commitment to exercise.  I will continue to enlist the help of Buzz Buckingham because with every blog entry and writing endeavor I feel myself one step closer to happiness.  I will continue to seek and hear the words of wisdom of others by reading more books of inspiration and self-healing.  The year 2011 will be the year of progress and achievement through renewed dedication.




I Will Attempt To Try To Do

Sounds like I must summon my adventurous spirit.  It's in here somewhere, isn't it?

December 18 - Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it? (Author:  Kaileen Elise):

What did I 'try' in 2010?  Starting an exercise regime, of course.  I got started late in October 2010.  It involved walking about three times per week for 1/2 hour.  Once the weather got too cold at 7:30 a.m. I put it on hold.  Overall, a lame attempt but better than nothing.

The thing that bothers me a little about this prompt is that the word 'try' is non-committal; it is a little wishy-washy.  What is that saying, "there is no 'try', only 'do'"?  I think I will adopt the word 'DO' for this prompt because it is more energizing, focused, and requires a dedicated attempt at something.

So, what will I do in 2011?  Well, I will, at a minimum:

1.  Walk for 30 minutes four times per week.
2.  Play the following three exercise tapes in their entirety:  Pilates, Yoga, and Dancing With The Stars.
3.  Complete an exercise tape of my choice for 30 minutes three times per week.

With this plan to 'DO', I do not feel I am over-committing myself into a state of failure.  It is more than I am doing now and the benefits will make a significant difference in my health.

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's All About Me, Isn't It?

Everyone needs a pat on the back, so to speak.  Here's an opportunity for me to give myself some kudos for a change.

December 17 - Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?  (Author:  Tara Weaver):

Over the last few months I have devoted myself to making changes to improve my life.  I immersed myself in reading a number of self-help novels.  I even took notes on some of the books that really clicked with me; treating them as a valuable resource with lessons to remember.  I spent some time purging my thoughts via my blog.  Writing my blog has been a source of cheap therapy for me.  I really made an effort to forgive myself and my part in creating such a painful past.  I gave up being a victim.  I've learned to let go of the negativity.  I've learned to embrace the power of my mind in creating the future I want.  I've asked the universe to help me visualize and create the image of my ideal life.  I've learned the importance of gratitude; acknowledging what is 'right' in your life and showing appreciation for the things or people you value in your life.

For a long time, years, I've been stuck in this mode of negativity and depression.  I felt like I was stuck in quicksand and the more I reached my hand out for help, the more I sunk, deeper and deeper.  But, I learned this year that if you dig deep and scream loud enough, you can change your situation.

The best thing I learned about myself this past year is that when I develop a goal, and use the power of my mind to visualize the end result, I can achieve many things.  The Universe recognizes our request and feeds on the energy that we put on things.

Going forward, I am confident that the goals I put much value in and great energy towards are achievable.  I will apply the lessons I learned about:  healing, letting go, gratitude, and positive imagery.  I realize I have more power and control on the outcome of any situation in my life.  I will view my future positively and utilize the resources to create my ideal life and achieve what is important to me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From One Coast to Another

When reading the prompts from the #reverb10 project, I typically go with my first instinct and the following is no exception:

December 16 - Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?  (Author:  Martha Mihalick):

When I first signed up for Facebook in 2009 I had a list of people I wanted to search and find.  Carolyn was one of the people on the top of my list.  We became friends in 6th grade and maintained our friendship throughout high school.  We went to different colleges and that's when we lost touch.  Even though more than 20 years have passed since we talked, I thought about Carolyn often during those years when life was happening to me.  I always hoped that she was happy, successful, and having a great life.

I can not explain the joy I felt the day we found each other on Facebook.  I don't remember who requested who's friendship but, either way, I was ecstatic to rekindle our communication.  Carolyn and I shared a lot of experiences growing up; a lot of firsts.  We went to my first concert (although I don't remember if it was her's).  We talked about crushes we had on boys.  We shared the awkwardness of not being one of the 'popular' kids.  We weren't the 'nerds'; we weren't the 'stoners'; and we weren't the 'preppies' (70's jargon).  We were what I'd like to call, 'independents'.  We stood on our own and were friends with people that represented all of the clicques. By doing that, we shared a common bond.

I was amazed to find out that Carolyn had saved the letters that we would pass back and forth during our boring history class in high school.  Within a week of us re-connecting I received a package from Californina; a huge manila envelope.  Along with those letters, Carolyn included a detailed summary of how her life transpired after she graduated college up to the present day.  I was amazed to find out about her travels and different careers.  I couldn't get over the fact that she is a mother to three daughters under the age of eleven!  As a mother of two boys in their teens I just had no clue.  My life had been action figures, video games, and legos.  Her life is dress-up, Barbie dolls, and sister-fights.  We both married men named David.  I'm on the east coast and she is on the west coast.  The similarities and differences are pretty visible.

But the thing that Carolyn has done to enlighten me and change my perspective on the world is to document her life, in all of it's rawness, in her blog.  She has shown commitment and persistence by completing 100 blog entries.  She has become a better writer because some of her entries have touched my heart and made my eyes swell with tears.  She has described life as a mother to daughters in such detail that I've overcome some of my disappointment at not having a daughter of my own.

While we differ in some of our opinions what Carolyn has done most for me is to reassure me that I am not alone.  Carolyn has inspired me to start my own blog and to continue to work on my writing.  As some of my blog entries have been painfully revealing while I try to heal from my past, Carolyn has personally wrote to me to share her experience.  We have a lot in common.  We've both been through pain when it comes to some of our family relationships.  Carolyn made me feel like I was not alone.  She reached her arms to me, stretching from one coast to another, through her writing and sharing.

Thank you, Carolyn, for your friendship and support.  Thank you for writing your blog; it reinforces my connection with you.  I appreciate your words and honesty.  I appreciate your perspective. 

Looking Back on 2010

 The following prompt beckons the assembling of a quick list of sorts with highlights of flashbacks!
December 15 - 5 minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.  (Author:  Patti Digh):

1.  Filling out the FAFSA on January 1st so that Justin can get college funding.
2.  Organizing the college campus visits during spring break.  Visiting the colleges.
3.  Preparing for the inevitable departure of my first born to college.
4.  Nicolas securing a talent agent with a two-year exclusive contract.
5.  Taking Justin to college and visiting him during parents weekend.
6.  Endless stays at Best Western.
7.  Nicolas' first excellent report card (all A's except one B).
8.  Nicolas' first paid job in acting as an extra in a national Toyota/Nascar commercial.
9.  My husband, David, turning 50 years old.
10. My mother turning 70 years old.
11. Starting my exercise regime by walking in my neighborhood.
12. Realizing my list revolves around my family primarily.
13. Making a commitment to writing my blog, Buzz Buckingham.

Yes, as a mom, my highlights revolve around the proud moments I have of my children.  And while I came in last on the list it is still a good note to end on!

The One Constant in My Life

I've got to go with my first instinct when addressing the following question:

December 14 - Appreciate. What's the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?  (Author:  Victoria Klein).:

The one thing that I've come to appreciate most in the past year is my relationship with my mother.  Don't get me wrong, I have always been thankful for my mother and our relationship.  My mother is my best friend and has been for a long time.  I probably came to realize the importance of our relationship and our special connection when I was a teenager.

Yes, I've had friends growing up.  Girls from the neighborhood, girls from school that I hung around with, but my mother has always been there for me.  When I was young we went through growing pains.  We had a traditional mother daughter relationship where she was the parent and I was the subordinate.  But our closeness evolved over the years.

In middle school we had our weekly luncheons at Bloomingdales and Lord & Taylor.  I had a half day of school on Wednesdays and my mom would pick me up and treat me to a fancy meal.  We had our shopping expeditions on Saturdays.  After working as a team and splitting the housecleaning chores we would reward ourselves with a visit to our favorite department stores.  In eleventh grade my mom and I started a weight-loss program with the Diet Center and we buddied up to take the journey of losing weight together.  We were each other's support system.  When my mother was struggling in her marriage, I was her confidante.

Not much has changed over the years.  My mom is not only my best friend but she is a wonderful Nana to my two boys.  In fact, she has taken the roles of both grandmother and grandfather in my father's absence.  There is nothing my mother wouldn't do for me, my husband, nor her grandkids.  My mother is the most generous and self-less human in our lives.

This past year we have all hit some milestones.  Her first grandchild started college and my mother turned 70.  I realize that time has caught up with each of us.  I am more aware of how integral my relationship is with my mom.  She is a huge part of my life.  She is my best friend, my confidante, my support system, and my angel of hope in times of need.  I realize how lucky I am to still have her here on this earth.  I remind myself everyday of how much I appreciate my mother.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Can I Get There From Here?

Every year, around this time, I develop my goals for the upcoming new year.  This prompt is asking me to take those ideas and attach an action to the goal.

December 13 – Action.  When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

 An effective goal must have an action or actions with it.  It must be measurable so that we can evaluate whether or not it's been accomplished.  It also helps to have a time frame attached to the goals and actions as well.

1.  Health.  For years, like many other folks, I've listed losing weight as a goal for the new year.  I've shot for losing a certain amount of pounds, inches, and sizes.  I've tried to do it like:  2 pounds per week, 10 pounds per month, or 60 pounds in six months.  So, this year, I'm trying something new.  I purchased a zebra- print, one-piece bathing suit from Old Navy for $1.  I have it hanging in my closet.  My goal for 2011 is to 'fit' in the bathing suit by 6/1/2011.  I also bought a nice pair of jeans two years ago and I would love to fit into them by September 2011. 

2.  Writing.  For years, I've wanted to write a book.  I have many different ideas, I have written them down.  They have been hanging over my head like a monkey on my back.  Yes, I've made great strides in writing my blog this year.  And, while I signed up for NANOWRIMO I didn't type one word.  So, for 2011, I plan to have at least a total of 365 entries in my blog.  I plan to fully participate in NANOWRIMO; this means writing 50,000 words in the month of November.  I also plan to write my first novel by December 31, 2011.

3.  Income.  With the combined efforts from selling AVON, playing the lottery (ha, ha), writing, and 'other ventures' I would like to make more than enough money each month to pay for our fixed expenses.  This is a vague goal, yes, I know, but it is a difficult one to commit to since our economy is still in shambles.  Ideally, in order to achieve this goal, I would need to get a salaried job in order to realistically accomplish this.  I just hate the idea of putting on my 'game face' in order to be 'accepted' in the 'real' world.  I just want to be myself but the pressure of money trumps my selfishness.  This does not sound like a measurable goal as it is written so I may have to work on tightening up this one.

I probably should have more goals and visions for my future.  As it stands now, I'd rather have a handful of important, achievable goals that on their own will make a significant impact on me and my loved ones in 2011.

Why Didn't I Start Sooner?

Better late than never is my credo.  I am more in tune with my body this year out of sheer necessity.  So, this prompt  speaks to me in a supportive-coach kind of way.  Someone in the background, cheering me on through all my little efforts to improve my health.

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

 It wasn't until late this year that I made a commitment to start moving my body.  I actually set aside a time each day to make an effort to walk.  I recruited a walking buddy.  We set aside an agreeable time.  I warned her that I would need to start very slowly because I haven't moved my body in so long.  Having a tumor that exacerbates and elevates adrenaline and my blood pressure has intimidated me and made me wary of how much my body could handle.  I had visions of me walking down the block, having a heart attack, and not being able to make it home.  I've made it a habit to carry some water and a cell phone with me.

Yes, I started very slowly.  As I ascended the hill I was definitely out of breath.  I had to take a break.  Through my heavy breathing and trying to catch my breath I took a sip of water.  I pushed my body to walk to the next block.  I did it, walked down the hill (much easier) and recovered at home.  It was only a half hour walk but it was a start.  Every day I tried to push myself a little farther.  We even took different routes to break up the monotony and offer a little more challenge with different course difficulties with more or less hills depending on the route.  We did this for about a month at least three times a week.  I felt my endurance improving. 

When the weather got so cold at 7:30 a.m. in the morning that my chest hurt when I walked we put our commitment on hold until the weather improved.  My body felt the difference.  It actually wanted to go for a walk.  I recruited my son to accompany me one Sunday afternoon.  With the onset of the holiday and shopping season I've been able to move my body throughout the stores and to extend my shopping experience.  This time, last year, I could probably only make my way through one store and then I was exhausted.

This past weekend I pushed my body to the limits.  It was out of necessity.  While I was pushing my body up the hill I reflected on how grateful I was to myself that I had at least started an exercise regimen this year.  If I hadn't started moving my body even the little bit that I had, I wouldn't have made it through Saturday.  I was able to ascend a huge hill three times and stand on my feet while freezing my butt off for three hours.

Yes, there is so much more work to do.  No, I'm not read for my first 5k, half marathon, or triathlon.  I am listening to my body, fueling it with healthy food, and moving it on  a frequent basis.  During 2011 I hope to venture out and begin pilates, yoga, and dancing.

Simplifying Your Life For The Better

For the last few years I've 'simplified' my life in major ways so I'm not sure if I can come up with enough content to fulfill this prompt but here it goes:

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

Like I said, the last few years have required me to make some significant changes to how we live day to day.  Most of these changes were a result of the bad economy and our efforts, as a family, to survive and keep a roof over our heads.  So, to satisfy this prompt, I'd like to reflect on what we've 'given up', it's effects, and to note if there is anything left we can do going forward.  These efforts will make up the eleven things.  We'll consider this entire list a recipe for change and simplification in one's life during hard economic times.  This concoction can also be used to arrive at a greener environment or a healthier you.  Just pick your favorite cause, mix the ingredients, and bake until a new level of happiness is attained.

1.  Downsize the amount of vehicles in your family.  Since November 2007 we have been a family with one car.  Three years!  Oh, such a tragedy...not really.  When we were getting crushed with every possible obligation to Tom, Dick, and Harry (of Chase, Citibank, and Credit One) we really had to evaluate what was important.  Just like every other family we struggled to fill the gas tank when the price hit $5.00 per gallon.  Let's see, should we feed our family or drive to work, to get paid, to feed our family and keep a roof over our heads?  Decisions, decisions.  At the beginning, it was difficult to maneuver every day life and deal with the restrictions of having one car.  It has gotten progressively easier over the years.  I 'work' from home and 'get' the car maybe one day a week whereby I 'run' all of my errands.  I plan my routes carefully so as to optimize the usage of gas.  I've utilized my mother and her car on the weekends to make extended trips to places like:  the library, grocery shopping, and retail shopping.  The overall positive effects to such a change is a greener environment (one less car on the road), appreciation for what we do have (hey, one car is better than none), and closeness to family (an increase in time spent together even if it is just running errands on a Saturday morning).

2.  Elimination of coffee.  Okay, some of you may totally disbelieve that one could actually eliminate coffee from their daily menu.  You might be thinking, 'How does this girl function?'.  Well, I wonder myself how I am able to get through the day but then I think of the reason why.  When I had my first 'episode' (read previous blogs) I was inhaling at least four cups of coffee a day.  I would grace Starbucks with my presence at least three times per week (or more if I had the money).  Those days of 'venti white mocha' are so distant right now.  It was crazy to think how much money I spent every year just going to Starbucks.  Hundreds of dollars; sickening when I think about it.  But, in August of 2009 when I had my health scare I knew that caffeine contributed to high blood pressure and I completely cut the coffee out of my daily routine.  Nowadays, I treat myself once a week to a 'grande chai tea latte'.  Yes, tea has caffeine in it and it isn't exactly cheap.  The change in comparison from today versus a little over a year ago is so drastic it must be noted.  I feel so much better, have more energy, and I am not indebted to Starbucks.

3.  Basic cable.  Yes, only the very basic in my house.  No HBO, MTV, Cartoon Network, CNN (ouch), or ESPN.  Everyone in my house made a sacrifice when I cut our cable bill down to the very basic service.  I did this about three years ago when, yes, we were hard up for money to pay the mortgage.  More importantly, I had to evaluate our dependence, as a family, on television for entertainment.  I was probably the biggest culprit of sitting on the couch, clicker in hand, waiting to be entertained by the same crap, channel by channel, on cable.  I knew my kids' dependence on t.v. for entertainment was lessening as they got older.  They either played video games or watched shows on the internet.  I also hoped that by getting rid of the cable we would not only save $50 per month but I could possibly start writing and the kids would study more and improve their grades.  This is a sacrifice that paid off in every way possible.  Although, my husband has suffered with the loss of his sports options, like no Monday night football.

4.  Land line telephone...gone!  Funnily, this probably should have been one of the first things to go but I'm still kind of old fashioned when it comes to the power of new technology.  We were down to just local service with again the very basics but it was costing us $30 a month and most of that was taxes and fees.  We were using our cell phones to place long distance calls.  I still believed in my heart that we 'had' to have a land line home phone just in case there was a fire or medical emergency.  Finally, I bit the bullet and waved AT&T goodbye.  It got to the point that the only people calling me were bill collectors, anyhow, so I am really enjoying the peace and quiet these days!

5.  Haute couture?  I think not.  I've always been a frugal retail clothes shopper.  I get a thrill when I find the item marked down three times to less than half of its original price.  I know that most retailers have 100% markup or more so I know when I'm getting a deal.  I was never a mall shopper but would go maybe once per month.  I used to go to Target at least once per week.  Those were the days of old.  For the last three years there are only a few retailers that I frequent:  Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross.  I only look on the clearance racks.  Even if I'm shopping for Christmas gifts and the only thing on clearance is short sleeved I will still pick up the items because where I live winter lasts only a few months.  My favorite place to shop is Old Navy, hands down.  I can (and have) picked up tank tops and bathing suits for less than a dollar.  I have spent $20 and gotten at least six different outfits.  The other great thing about Old Navy is that you can fill out a survey and receive 10% off your next purchase.  This incentive runs various times throughout the year.

6.  AVON.  When I first found out that AVON sold more than just lipstick it piqued my interest.  You mean I could sign on to become and Independent Sales Representative and get a discount on sandals, clothes, and accessories?!  I could have my own website where people could go and shop, pay online, and have the items shipped directly to them?  Okay, let's do it.  Well, I did this about two years ago.  I have never been a pushy sales person and I did not plan to be the person saying, "AVON calling".  I just wanted to shop for reasonably priced stuff so I could get a discount.  Recently my husband and my mother, who work at state offices with hundreds of employees, have increased my client list.  I really appreciate all of their efforts to hand out the books, take the orders, and make the deliveries.  I must develop a plan for 2011 whereby I can increase my internet sales.  By having just one person order online using my website every month, it should pay for the monthly fee.

7.  Drama.  I can hear Mary J. Blige in the background singing, "no more drama".  I just can't deal with drama.  An over-exaggeration of insignificant events is just not worth the elevation of blood pressure.  So, how can I eliminate exposure to these unnecessary events?  I guess I can avoid situations that I know will be drama-filled.  I can physically remove myself from potential blow outs.  I can take a moment to breath.  I can take a moment to think about the repercussions of my actions.  I can have a more positive outlook on people and their intentions. I can remind myself of what is important in life.

Okay, so I didn't really follow the prompt exactly as it was written.  My bad (I hate that saying).  But, I did take time to reflect on some great changes I've made in my life, things I've gotten rid of, and I took the time to look at things that can be improved in 2011.  So, it's not eleven but it's a start.  I'm sure I can come up with more and perhaps you will see them in future blogs.

Friday, December 10, 2010

If You Got IT, You Got IT

Maybe it's the timing of this question, but the only thing that comes to mind is what is primary on my current agenda.

December 10 - Wisdom.  What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?  (Author:  Susannah Conway).:

Whether or not this decision I made this year was wise or not is yet to be determined.  But, while in the midst of the effects of this decision, it appears our choice to pursue an opportunity has paid off.

When Nicolas was a baby we were approached by strangers and passersby who were impressed enough by our youngest child to stop, say a kind word, and encourage us to pursue modeling.  We knew he had an interesting look and with his warm brown skin and light hazel eyes it was a unique combination which made him ethnically ambiguous and stand out from other children.

At the time, we were located in the best possible region to pursue such an endeavor, less than one hour from New York City.    I did some research on my end, bought a book on children's modeling and took a couple of photographs.  I knew that you only needed to send a candid photo, some information on the child's appearance and size, and a cover letter.  I mailed out about ten or so letters to agents within the tri-state area.  I received five letters of interest and invitations to audition or attend an open call.

One agency said to comeback when he wore size 2T, another agency was located in Staten Island and I just didn't feel adventurous enough to go, and another agency wanted us to sign a two year contract and that scared the crap out of me; I just didn't know enough at the time.  Another agency was in New Jersey and kept our photo on file but I was not diligent in updating his pictures.  We ended up working with an agency in Connecticut about 20 minutes from our home.  At eleven months old Nicolas booked his first job and was a paid model.

We moved to another part of the country and put his 'career' on the back-burner, so to speak.  It wasn't until I heard one of those commercials on television advertising that a talent agent would be in town scouting for new talent in our area.  It was an open call.  I ended up taking both of my sons thinking nothing ventured, nothing gained.  About a week later we received a letter inviting Nicolas to a call-back; my other son did not receive an invitation.  While I did not pursue this opportunity it did, however, reinstate that there was something 'special' about my kid and other people could see it.

It wasn't until last year, 2009, that I approached Nicolas and asked him directly if he wanted to be entered into a tween model search contest.  He was open to it and agreed to do the photo shoot and participate in the contest.  He's been taking acting and improvisation classes as electives throughout his elementary and middle school years so I knew he had an interest in the industry.  As luck would have it he was one of the winners of the Soul Fusion Tween Model Search Contest for 2009.  He won a free two-hour photo shoot and a free photo.

He completed his photo session and were were very happy with the results.  It was difficult to pare down the choices for the photos we wanted to purchase.  I fell in love with a picture that captured his beautiful eyes and spirit.  I purchased two extra 8x10's.  I did some research into local talent agents and chose two that I would submit his photo, resume, and cover letter.

And, as I do in a lot of things, I procrastinated and waited to send them out.  I wanted to make sure that we were prepared for the outcome of such a solicitation, both the positive and negative.  I had to map out the repercussions of what would happen if we pursued it and were successful.  Would we be able to devote the time, effort, and expense?  Most importantly, would Nicolas want to do it?

I bit the bullet and mailed off his package to the prospective agents on July 1st.  By July 27, 2010 Nicolas had a two-year exclusive contract with a talent agency.  Since that date there were many decisions to be made.  Which photographer to use for head shots?  What pictures to choose for his official head shot? 

Was it a wise decision to pursue this opportunity that not many kids get?  I guess it is fair to say 'yes' because Nicolas has his first commercial, with pay, tomorrow.  Let's just say, he's on his way!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who Needs a Big Party When We Have Each Other?

This may be an exercise in grasping at straws to see what I can come up with to even do this reflection a smidgen of justice.  But, here it goes.

December 9 - Party.  What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010?  Describe the people, music, food drink, clothes, shenanigans.  (Author:  Shauna Reid).:

Can I just say that we never go out?!  I mean we, as a couple, do not socialize.  So, we are not party people.  We barely even celebrate birthdays, even our kids' birthdays.  Very rarely did we have a party which extended beyond our immediate family.  Mostly it is due to the timing of the kids' birthdays.  Justin's birthday is during the summer, near the fourth of July, when schools are closed and people are on vacation.  Nicolas' birthday is two days after Christmas; again, during the holidays and when people may be traveling.  So, we never went crazy having a bunch of kids over the house or picking a venue with an extended guest list.

There is a day this past year that does come to mind, however, which was quite memorable and special in its own little way.  Even with limited funds (which is always the case) we were able to have fun and incorporate most of the elements of a well-rounded social gathering.

September 24th was my mother's 70th birthday.  We had quite a day planned and the schedule was tight.  In the morning I took my mother to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) just as a fluke and to fuel our bodies for the busy day ahead.  We had never been to this particular establishment although we had been to other IHOP restaurants years ago.  We were happy to see a portion of the menu applicable to Senior's and a lower-calorie option listing for me on the menu as well.  When we were initially greeted and seated at our table the hostess asked us what brought us to the establishment and I innocently mentioned that we were celebrating my mom's birthday.  After we enjoyed our healthy breakfast and before we received our check we heard a commotion in the restaurant.  The other patrons started clapping and so my mom and I joined the other's while looking around to see what was happening.  Before we knew it, our waiter and his peers arrived at our table with a hot fudge sundae and one lit candle in the middle of the dish.  My mom and I looked at each other in disbelief and amazement.  We started laughing and I think she even got a little teary-eyed.  Hot fudge sundae happens to be one of my mom's favorite desserts and she willingly shared her sweet birthday treat with me.

I took some pictures of her enjoying her special moment at IHOP with my cell phone camera.  We got a kick out of taking them and then sharing the pictures with the rest of the family.  We still can't get over the surprise and fun we had that day.  Was it a party?  No, but it was a wonderful celebration of a special birthday with yummy food and an unexpected birthday wish sung by complete strangers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Every Shade In Between

I'm not really feeling this prompt because we are told that it is our similarities which hold us together as a human race.  Being unique and different is almost passe.  In fact, the more you are exposed to people on the internet and expand your social circle you begin to realize that in the end we are more the same than different.  Nonetheless, here it goes:

December 8 - Beautifully Different.  Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up.  Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.  (Author: Karen Walrond).:

If I am pushed to contemplate how I am different than other people I can easily defer to my physical appearance, but this does not necessarily make me beautiful.  My wrinkles, blemishes, and imperfections are definitely my own and no one else's.  But beautiful?  No way.  I am morbidly obese and so is 30% of American adults; unfortunately, not a noteworthy difference.  So, for the purpose of this reflection, let's forget the physical differences which make us 'beautiful'.

Another thing I thought about which makes me beautifully different is my choice in people whom I've gotten to know and even fell in love with (but is this really a choice?).  I guess what I'm trying to say is that ever since I can remember I've been intrigued by people who are different than me.  I've allowed myself to think outside the box and got to know people of different religions, cultures, and races.

I was raised a Roman Catholic, in a middle-class white neighborhood, in Stamford, Connecticut.  It wasn't until third grade that kids from the other side of town were being bused in our elementary school.  So, I was lucky to be immersed in a diverse educational community at such a young age.  While some folks may have been uncomfortable, I was intrigued.  At first, I was the victim of bullying.  It seems that the black girls always threatened to 'kick my butt'.  I'm not sure why I was sought out specifically but, in the end, we became friends.

A lot of my friends, growing up, were Jewish.  I was lucky enough to be invited to their Bat Mitzvah's.  I even wanted to convert.  Their religion seemed so much cooler than mine.  I was impressed with the synagogue, ceremony, and celebration.  Being Catholic seemed so boring in comparison.

In fifth grade I had my first kiss with a boy who was Portuguese.  He was beautifully brown-skinned with warm brown eyes.  Yes, he was beautifully different than all of the other boys.  My brother teased me by saying, "Spic and Pam".  It was horrible to hear a racially-charged nickname.  And, I knew even at that tender age, that it just wasn't right (besides the fact that the Portuguese speak Portuguese, not Spanish!).  It was sad to grow up with such ignorance.

In middle school, during the Iran-hostage crisis, I became friendly with a young man who happened to be Iranian.  He went to my school, he looked a little different, and had a great sense of humor.  It caused a problem at home when he called and I had to explain who he was to my parents.  I didn't see what the big deal was but now I realize that my parents came from a different generation with different ideas about appropriate interactions.  Unfortunately, my friend moved to California but he made it a point to keep in touch with me and wrote me quite a few letters.

In college, I soared and met so many new people from such vast backgrounds that the energy and excitement of learning went beyond the classroom and my curiosity was filled in the relationships that formed.  I met people from different parts of the United States, Brazil, Germany, and Jamaica.  All of these people brought with them different accents, languages, attitudes, and cultural habits.  I thrived on learning how we were different but what brought us together, ultimately, was our similarities.  This was a beautiful discovery!

I fell in love with a black man who was born in Germany.  This was not intentional or on purpose.  You really can't help who you fall in love with and my relationship with my husband, David, is proof.  When we met, in my twenties, we were both unemployed, unattached, and vulnerable.  We were each others' cheerleader and biggest supporter.  We grew up together emotionally.  While my family did not approve of our relationship, at first, I did not care.  It was David, the human being, whom I fell for.  His race, his color, and his religion did not matter.

What makes me beautifully different?  It is the relationships I form with people from many different religions, races, and cultures.  What do I do that makes others 'light up'?  It is my appreciation for the differences and similarities we share.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How Can My Friend Be My Enemy?

For someone who is pretty much a hermit, introvert, and basically an anti-social person, 'community', in the true sense of the word, makes me cringe.  When I saw today's prompt I kind of dreaded the task of devising a response.  But here's my attempt at the following challenge:

December 7 - Community.  Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010?  What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I actually started participating in the Facebook community during 2009 but I intentionally decided to expand my 'reach' during 2010.  Facebook has been a savior of sorts to me.  I have reconnected with some fantastic people from my past.  People who I shared a lot of childhood memories and 'first' experiences have accepted my Facebook friendship.  Some of these rekindled connections have been extremely positive and supportive.  They have made me feel like I was a 'part of' something great.  For a person who 'works' from home, a connection to the outside world is sometimes crucial for one's piece of mind.  It breaks up the monotony and predictability of being a stay-at-home mom.

Yes, there have been some surprising 'de-friending' situations which do have me baffled and, yes, I did take this personally.  There have also been some friendship requests initiated by me that are still out there in cyberspace, dangling on a leash, and waiting for acceptance.  Yes, I still take it personally.  But there are a few Facebook friends with whom I've shared quite a bit of my life and while they've retained my status as 'friend' (at least virtually) there has been no reciprocation of 'reaching out'.  I mean a total dismissal of an e-mail with well-wishes.  This pisses me off.  Situations like this only reiterate the positives of being a recluse with limited friends.  Basically, it lessens the probability of getting hurt.

Facebook has eaten up a lot of my precious time that I could spend blogging or writing my first novel.  Specifically, I tend to procrastinate with the virtual games that offer the fake pleasures of:  working my farm, clearing my frontier, honing my poker skills, and bejiggling the bejesus out of bejeweled blitz.  This is stuff that is under my control, though.  I can purposely change my behavior and schedule, with a little commitment on my part, and control the time I spend on Facebook.  This is one of my goals for 2011:  to adjust my time on Facebook doing frivolous, fun stuff.

I've enjoyed joining some groups and participating in writing challenges like Nanowrimo and #reverb10.  During 2011, I hope to expand my horizons and concentrate on:  following more blogs, writing more blogs, and reaching out to the writing community both virtually and within my region.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Out of Love or Necessity?

Okay, now I'm finally caught up on my prompts and am running on real time!  This brings us to prompt number six on the #Reverb10 writing challenge.

December 6 - Make.  What was the last thing you made?  What materials did you use?  Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?  (Author:  Gretchen Rubin).:

At first this threw me off because I immediately thought, crafts.  And I'm really not a 'crafty' person so I was like, 'Hmm...let me think'.  And then I was like oh yeah, I make things every day.  For instance, I just made a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  Do you really want to know how I made this?  Okay, short version.  Two pieces of bread, butter one side on each.  Place one piece of bread, butter side down, on a medium high heated frying pan.  Place the yellow American cheese then one slice of ham then another slice of cheese.  Place the other piece of bread, butter side up on top.  Then flip when nice and golden brown.  Cook until both sides are golden brown.  Then mange, Luigi!

But, then I realized there may be a qualifier that should be attached to this prompt.  When you do something out of love versus necessity it makes a big difference on how memorable the process is and sometimes how much the end product is valued or revered.

So, yes, I cooked yesterday.  I made pot roast.  It was easy and smelled great.  It was the perfect dish for a cold, Sunday afternoon.  The difference for me was who was involved in the process and the joy of teamwork.  Yes, I said 'joy of teamwork' (this was not your corporate setting, by the way).  My son Nicolas has been a wonderful sous chef for the last two years.  I realized that once I involved him in the process of cooking he took ownership of his contribution and was more willing to try the end product.  Cooking has improved his math skills and self-confidence.  I even think Nicolas enjoys being a part of the whole creation.  We even got David, my husband, involved and while we usually end up arguing (playfully) it was fun to have him do his part.  For this cooking venture, yes, it was a necessity (because we had to have dinner) but there was love involved in the process.

Something totally unrelated to cooking that is not a necessity but I do out of love is painting.  The last painting I did was in the summer.  It was of a stylized flower that I have been drawing since I was a little girl.  Yes, it sounds childish and immature but it is something that comes from within.  This is the difference between when you do something from inspiration (within you) versus doing something because you HAVE to.  I wish I painted more often.  While I know I'm not a great artist, it makes me feel good.  The element of concentration and thought that I put into it is like a shot of adrenaline.  I get excited about the color choices and yes, I do pay attention to coloring within the lines, most times.  It is not so much about the end product (because there is always room for improvement) but it is more about the creative process as it happens.  The momentum that makes the brush, guided by the hand, move with the strokes created by the mind.

I would love to make more paintings and should designate a day and/or time where I devote myself to indulging in this guilty pleasure.  I always liked Sundays and feel very creative after I watch an episode of my favorite show, "CBS Sunday Morning".  They have such a variety of topics and always highlight a story in the world of art or music.  I must make a commitment to listening to that spark of inspiration and translating it into a painting of my own creation and interpretation.

Please Release Me, Let Me Go

If you've read all of my blog entries then you'd know I am going through a transitional phase of my life where I am letting go of the past and creating my future (with the help of positive thought and the universe).  So, the fifth writing prompt of the #Reverb10 project wants to know:

December 5 - Let Go.  What (or whom) did you let go of this year?  Why? (Author:  Alice Bradley).:

Ouch!  This prompt hurts a bit.  It conjures up a bunch of feelings that I've just spent months trying to purge.  Yikes!  So this 'person' (insert derogatory name here) has asked me to rehash the stuff I've been trying to clear from my life.  To relive the pain?  Okay, maybe not, but why am I getting so bent out of shape about this one?  Well, they do say, 'the truth hurts'.  So, maybe there is some truth to that statement.  Oy vey!

So, here it goes.  Here's what comes to mind without having to actually delve into all this crap again.  I will just scrape the surface so as not to bore you nor to inflict pain, yet again, to myself.  The main thing that comes to mind that I actually regret and will work to repair is how I fucked up my relationship with my brother.  Basically, I hadn't seen him in years, he came down to visit, and I guess I had all this resentment built up for YEARS and years and it basically spilled out in one of my maniacal rages.  Unfortunately, he was an innocent victim and I feel terrible that I treated him this way.  Especially since he doesn't know who I am as an adult and how out of control I could (used to?) get.

A person or relationship that I totally let go of was someone who I was 'expected' to be friends with.  Well, actually, I wrote this person off a long time ago but what I held on to (up until this year) was the resentment I felt.  Yes, I was probably hurt as well.  But, I should have known better.  I knew who she was, the kind of person she is, and I should have known better.  Never mix business with pleasure (another saying that holds true).  Basically, shame on me for knowing who she is (her moral character) and expecting that she would act differently knowing her actions and words in other scenarios.  There really is nothing lost since we never had a deep connection.  Besides, I always felt like she was putting on an act and was just fulfilling her wifely obligation (since our husbands are the true friends in this relationship).  Ultimately, I'm just angry at myself for knowing better from the beginning yet still working for free out of the goodness of my heart.  And, then in the end, getting my ass burned.  It still sucks but instead of blaming her I just blame myself and have learned the lesson to go with my instinct next time and not mix business with pleasure.

The final relationship that I let go of this year was with my father.  It is the most painful relationship of my past and every time I tried to repair it, it was like opening up a new wound.  Through the explicit honesty of some of my previous blog posts and confessions to the hell he put me and my family through I feel a little better.  At least I feel like the sore that would never heal has finally scabbed over and  is just about to fall off on it's own.  It is sad that I don't have a relationship with my father but it is necessary.  For a long time I was pissed that he did not make an effort to be a part of his grandchildren's lives and then I realized something so important.  Why would I want inject the person to cause me pain throughout my life into the lives of my children?  The people who know them and love them unconditionally are the ones that have been there from the beginning.  And they are the ones that matter.  Protecting my kids is my number one responsibility and shielding them from my father is of the utmost importance.  They don't need the drama and neither do I.

So, as sad as it is to be compelled to cut out people from your life (or to 'let them go') it is sometimes necessary for one's growth and prosperity of spirit.  I am in such a better place mentally and spiritually than when I first started Buzz Buckingham.  I am still on a journey to positivity and self-awareness and acceptance.  I am grateful that these folks provided an opportunity for me to learn about myself.

Creating Something Amazing - I Wonder

Hmm...this one has me stumped.  Yes, I had to consult the dictionary to see what "wonder" truly meant.  So, my interpretation is amazement.  Which leads me to the fourth prompt from the #Reverb10 challenge:

December 4 - Wonder.  How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author:  Jeffrey Davis).:

Okay, first, let me say that the reason this one threw me off a bit is that I thought to myself, "Who am I to think that I can actually do something to cause a sense of wonder or amazement?  I'm not all that and forget the bag of chips.  I'm just me."

So, I thought about it a different way and since writing, at this point, is really just for me to help me cope with my thoughts and feelings and because it is a form of cheap therapy it makes sense that my answer to this question has to relate to me.  Damn, am I selfish.  Oh well, tough shit.  If I'm not gonna think about myself, then who is?

The answer to the question is that I am the one that cultivated the sense of wonder in my life this year and I did it, amazingly, through writing.  I did the proverbial shit and got off the pot.  I started a blog and began purging my thoughts.  And let me tell you, it is a wonder I didn't do this years ago (thank you Mr. Procrastination).  It's not that I didn't want to.  Believe me, writing has been a goal of mine for the last 15 years.  I've dabbled in it but became more serious this year. 

2011 will be the year that I fully commit to writing.  I already set in place a schedule of which I plan to follow (see previous post) and I may even start today, amazingly!  This is my fourth blog post today and I am amazed that I actually did it.  I wonder if I will be able to complete another two...yes, I definitely will!

Gee, I wonder why I never thought that I, little old me, could not develop and grow something so marvelous and amazing.

I'm Alive - That Amazing Feeling

There's a song by E.L.O. (Electric Light Orchestra) that comes to mind when deliberating over the next prompt on the #Reverb10 reflective writing project.   I believe it's called, "I'm Alive".

December 3 - Moment.  Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year.  Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author:  Ali Edwards).:

If you are a mother who has actually given birth (think about it) there is an indescribable feeling you get that consumes your entire body once you first lay your eyes on your newborn baby.  It is what I choose to call "JOY".  Joy, in my mind, is the feeling I had when I first laid eyes on my first born son, Justin.  It is the culmination of every single entire emotion possible and covers the entire spectrum of possible feelings.  Joy is so consuming that it fills every inch of your body and electrifies every neuron and electron.  Joy brings tears to your eyes and pastes a smile on your face at the same time.  Joy tightens your throat and makes your heart pound.  Joy is LOVE.

We were approaching the dorm on September 24, 2010, my mom's 70th birthday.  We were all in my mom's 1995 Beige Toyota Camry and drove the one and a half hours to Greensboro, NC.  It was parent's weekend at the college and while David was home working, my mom, Nicolas, and I decided to take a long weekend and visit Justin for the first time in six weeks.  We had gone six long weeks without seeing Justin; the longest it's been for everyone.

It is crazy to think that one day you are holding your child for the first time and eighteen years later you are letting them go on their own.  You somehow have to trust within yourself that you did everything you could as a parent to protect them and prepare them for the world beyond your borders.  They are now at the mercy of the 'real' world and themselves.  You hope that you've equipped them with the proper skills to make moral decisions and at times you fear that they will be gobbled up by the overwhelming sense of becoming a follower just to 'fit in' and be accepted.  Perhaps I was projecting my own sense of fear brought on by my insecurities and lack of self-confidence which made me fall prey to outside influences during my freshman year of college?

But as we parked the car in front of the dorm and texted Justin to let him know we'd arrived I couldn't control my anticipation of what he'll look like, how he'll act.  It was almost as if he was being re-born.  Not as a baby, but as a man.  What should I expect?  How will he look?  Will he appear happy?  How will I know if he's been well-nurtured?

The day was sunny, warm, with a bright blue sky.  As Justin ascended the steps and recognized our car.  I just couldn't control myself.  My body took over and I leaped out of the car, got to the sidewalk and hugged my son with wreckless abandon and was completely oblivious to the public display of affection of which I initiated.  It was instinctual, it was emotional, and raw.  I cried like a baby.  Relived that I had accomplished my goal.  My child had made it to college!  The icing on the cake was he looked GREAT!  He let me hug him and actually reciprocated.  He was dressed nicely in a tangerine, collared, short-sleeved shirt with new shorts.  His hair was cut short and shaped beautifully.  His beautiful brown skin was clean-shaved, smooth, and glowing.  He smiled and then I knew he was doing well.  I had done a great job as a mother.  I loved him and he knew it.  And I might even be so bold as to say, he missed me and he loved me.  Boy, I'm getting choked up even as I confess this realization.

It is the best feeling to recognize yourself, pat yourself on the back, and sincerely know that you've done a wonderful job in raising a beautiful person.  This is what successful parenting is all about.

Procrastination Station - Next Stop? Facebook!

Why, oh why do I procrastinate?

December 2 - Writing.  What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing - and can you eliminate it? (Author:  Leo Babauta).:

Day 2 prompt of the #Reverb10 writing project really hits home with me.  Perhaps it is an example of why I am completing day 2's writing assignment on day 6!?  What do I do each day that doesn't contribute to my writing?  First thing that comes to mind is...Facebook!  While Facebook has been a blessing to me ever since I signed up over a year ago it is a source of my procrastination especially with respect to my efforts in writing.  Specifically, those damn games!  I know, I know, what is a 45-year-old woman doing playing games on Facebook?  Well, I'll tell you (and here's where the excuses/explanations come in).  Farmville, Frontierville, Zynga Poker, and Bejeweled Blitz are my de-stressers.  They enhance my creativity (where oh where should I place my new gingerbread house?), strengthen my reading skills (does that guy have a flush or is he bluffing?), and create an outlet for me to be number one among my friends (or at least try).  Yes, these all sound like reasonable pursuits but, really?  I mean really!  Yes, I am guilty of playing games and I am addicted to Facebook.

So, an addiction is getting in my way of writing.  Yes, I could spend less time eating (another addiction of mine).  I could shut off Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, The View, and All My Children (my daytime television addictions).  But, will I?  Could I? Should I?   Hmmm...let me think....let me write....Please help me eliminate these addictions which are disguised as roadblocks to my ACHIEVEMENT (see previous blog entry and writing prompt for December 1).

Okay, yes, I think I can reduce or try to control these addictions.  I can map out a schedule for writing time, Facebook time, eating time, and t.v. time.  Yes, it will take commitment on my part but that is what New Year's resolutions are for, right?

So, let me get a general outline of my time commitment to writing:

Monday through Friday:  5:30 a.m. to 10; 12:00 p.m. to 1; 2:00 p.m. to 4; 6:00 p.m. to 8. = 9.5 hours!
Saturday:  4:00 p.m. to 10. = 6 hours
Sunday:  10:30 a.m. to 1; 6:00 p.m. to 10. = 6.5 hours
TOTAL per week = 60 hours

60 hours a week sounds like a full-time job to me!  So, if I can really stick to this schedule I can make a career out of writing?  I guess the true test will be to complete a novel, find an agent, and get it published?  No problem, only every one and their mother wants to be a published author, right?  Well, we'll see.

If Snooki can publish a book, can't we?

In One Word?...Relief!

Okay, so I signed up to participate in a writing project called "#Reverb10".  Why?  Well, I was inspired by my long-time friend and former college roomie, Lisa, who has accelerated leaps and bounds in her creative writing efforts this year.  I also thought making this commitment to write would help me leave my procrastinating behavior in the dust and help me to begin, yet again, my efforts to sort my feelings and purge my thoughts through writing.  I also appreciate that each day we are given a prompt that helps us reflect on the past year.  As it turns out, in December, I always tend to reflect on what went well, what were my challenges, and how I can make the upcoming new year a fresh start and opportunity to accomplish some of my goals.  So, at this point being that it is December 6th, I am a few days behind but I plan to play 'catch up' today so bear with me.

December 1 - One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word.  Explain why you're choosing the word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author:  Gwen Bell):

After a couple of days of ruminating over this first prompt in the #Reverb10 challenge the one word that encapsulates 2010 for me is:  RELIEF.  It feels like I am breathing much easier in 2010 than the previous year of 2009.  I can't help but compare where I was in 2009 versus where I ended up in 2010.  No, things are by no means 'perfect' but, as we all know, they never really are.  In 2009 I was facing some serious health problems and embroiled in my eldest son, Justin, and his senior year stressors like graduation and college applications and acceptance.  Once January 2010 hit I pretty much had my shit together.  Basically, there was no other choice.  I had completed my FAFSA application on New Year's Day, the first day that it was available.  I busted my butt to get my taxes done so that, if and when we found out where Justin was accepted, we would know our financial obligation and potential award.

The next big hurdle was finding out where Justin was accepted and planning college visits during spring break.  We had a lovely trip and I was able to organize the entire adventure with visits and hotel logistics in place.  And, we actually had a good time!  Bonus.  Justin was able to decide where he wanted to start his college career and we were all happy and comfortable with his decision.

The third hurdle to overcome was Justin's graduation in June.  It may not sound too difficult considering Justin is a good student and quite committed to continuing his education.  But, the thing is, in September 2009 when I had my serious health scare, I seriously doubted that I would ever make it til June 2010.  In fact, I actually prayed every day that I would live long enough to see Justin graduate.  And here I was, sitting in the audience, proud as ever that Justin was graduating and I was there, alive, to see it!

I had been concerned in anticipation of Justin leaving for college that my younger son, Nicolas, would have an extremely difficult time dealing with Justin's absence from home.  The thing is, Justin and Nicolas are not only brothers but they are best friends.  Yes, there is four and a half years between them but they are extremely close.  They have always respected and loved each other and I never, ever had to break up a physical fight.  They are brothers, they are each others' protector, and they love each other.  So, I wondered what I could do to help Nicolas get involved in something that was his own.  Something that would keep him busy and focused on himself rather than the fact that his best friend was away.

Since Nicolas was a baby we were encouraged by complete strangers to get him into modeling.  He had an agent when he was eleven months old and did a print job.  I took him to New York after agencies expressed an interest and even declined offers for contracts.  I just didn't see myself making the commitment to commute from Connecticut to New York as a young mother with a toddler in tow.  Looking back now, I wish I had, but, I digress.  So, over the years we tinkered with the idea of getting back into it.  When we moved to Raleigh, NC I knew we left THE market for major opportunities in the industry.  But, as a result of Nicolas being on the City of Raleigh swim team, Nicolas' picture was used in a marketing campaign for the City of Raleigh Department of Parks and Recreation.  His image was used in their brochure, a magnet that was sent to residents, and believe it or not, it was used in a poster that is framed at our local Applebee's restaurant!  When I was very new to Facebook last year I heard of a Tween Model Search contest sponsored by a local photography studio.  Nicolas agreed to participate, did the photo session, and we solicited and campaigned for online votes.  Nicolas was one of the 2009 Soul Fusion Photography Tween Model Search winners.  We won a free photo session.  We ordered some 8x10's.  Then, I thought, I should send out his photo and resume to some local agents.  In July we were invited to audition for a local agent and Nicolas was signed to a two-year contract.  He's done his first taped audition reading for a major cable television show.  He's taken a class.  He is on his way; pursuing his career and one of his passions.  Yes!

As for me?  Well, I finally started my blog.  No, I don't have any/many followers but I did start the healing within myself and my soul.  Writing for me is therapy.  I may be the only one listening (or reading) but I am definitely inspired by my writing. 

As an aside, I am relieved that my husband is employed.  This economy has been disastrous for close friends and strangers.  Every one is struggling.  My husband works his ass off and while it has not been recognized financially, we are grateful that he has a place to go every day and make a contribution.

Looking ahead to 2011 I anticipate that the word to summarize the year will be:  ACHIEVEMENT.  I know Justin will do well in college and anything he puts his mind to.  I just want him to be happy and fulfilled with whatever he chooses to pursue.  Nicolas will take some classes to hone his craft.  Nicolas will book print jobs, commercials, and participate in movies and television.  He will be a paid actor and model.  I will continue to blog (more diligently and frequently) and write my god damn novel!  David will be financially recognized for his hard work in 2011.

Final words:  Believe and Achieve!