welcome ... enjoy yourself

Monday, December 31, 2012

the best of 2012

Yesterday I shared the top 12 highlights from my 2012, and today I'm sharing the 2012 highlights of Finding Joy.  I have had so much fun with this blog over the past six months and have been so grateful to all those who have     read and commented.  It's been an unexpected surprise how much I've enjoyed this creative outlet and how exciting it's been to connect with new readers and other bloggers.  Thanks to everyone who has helped make this such a joyful experience.

Here are my top five favorite posts along with a few other favorites that I've featured here this year.
F I V E     F A V O R I T E     P O S T S
Gratitude: My Grandpa

Family Recipe Book: a great gift from my sister

Project Gratitude recap (and really all my Project Gratitude posts)

Five years later: reflection on  being a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
100 Things That Make Me Happy
F A V O R I T E     B O O K S
F A V O R I T E     M O V I E S
F A V O U R I T E    T V     S H O W S
(Were almost all British)
H A P P Y    N E W     Y E A R !

Sunday, December 30, 2012

top 12 from 2012

Welcome to my top 12 highlights from 2012!  I've chosen a photo from every month to share with you.  Some months were really difficult to choose a highlight photo because I had so many and some months were really easy to choose because I barely had any photos at all.  It's inspired me to take more everyday pictures in 2013

January: our wedding - obviously!  It was such a special day, and amazingly everything seemed to go just right.    It was magical and hectic and crazy, and I loved it.  The only thing that could possibly top my wedding was my sister Libby's birthday which just happened to be the same day.  

February: trip home to St. Louis.  I had the first trip home in almost a year that didn't have anything to do with planning for the wedding.  My mom and I saw the orchid show at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and I got a little taste of spring to get me through the last few brutal months of winter. 

March: the beginning of the community garden!  I helped start a community garden this year, and we kicked off our season with a potluck and container gardening workshop.  My friend Mike did a presentation and put together great instructional handouts.  The community garden has been such a cool, challenging project to be a part of, and I was so proud of how much we accomplished in our first season.  We created a great space, harvested a surprising amount of delicious vegetables, and established a new community.  Woo-hoo!

April: another trip home for Easter.  By the time April rolls around, Milwaukee is still dreary and cold.  BUT - St. Louis is already sunny and warming up.  Flowers were in full bloom everywhere, and it warmed my heart to see signs of new life.  The weekend was a great chance to spend some quality time with the family.  

May: trip to Portland, OR with my brother and sister.  What a trip it was.  My favorite part of this trip to Portland was experiencing an adult vacation with (most of) my siblings.  My siblings and I really enjoy each other's company and have grown closer as we've gotten older.  I really appreciate that we can be friends and survive a cross country trip with each other.

June: Honeymoon!!!!  Paul and I postponed our honeymoon to Quebec until June so we would have nice weather to enjoy (as you can probably tell, I'm really into nice weather).  One of the best parts of this trip was just getting to relax together.  We also love exploring new cities by foot, and Quebec City and Montreal are perfect cities for that. 

July: JVC reunion at a Denver wedding.  We travelled to Colorado for the wedding of one of Paul's JVC roommates.  We had the chance to catch up and make new memories with old friends.  "Reunited and it feels so good."

August: another trip to Portland!  This time my dad and my youngest brother Pat met us in Portland.  We saw A LOT of sights and ate A LOT of food.  Pat and Dad were even adventurous enough to try sushi for the first time.  The best of this trip, hands down, was going to the Portland Timbers game together.  Four months later, we're still singing the Timbers' chants to each other.  We're that family. 

September: meeting Dory (the one on the right).  Yes, my sister's dog made the 2012 highlight list.  She's just that special.

October: all things Fall.  I loved Fall this year.  For whatever reason, I was really in tune with the changing of the season - the cooler weather, the colorful leaves, the autumn traditions.  I think it might be because I was trying to appreciate every last bit of sunlight and warmish weather before the winter set in.  Six months of crappy weather really makes you appreciate nice temperatures and being outside. 

November: spending time with Papa.  It's still hard to believe that Papa's gone.  I am so grateful for the time we spent together - over the past 27 years of course - but especially the last few weeks when he was so sick.  After all he's done for me, it was nice to be able to be present when he needed us.  We were still making memories almost until the very end.

December: Christmas vacation.  After a very full year of travel, events, and transitions, I felt that we really had a lot to celebrate this Christmas.  It's been a whirlwind travelling adventure that's not quite finished - it's definitely a gift to have so many people to enjoy the holidays with.   

Traveling and spending time with family and friends - and ridiculously cute dogs - were themes of mine for 2012.  What were some of your 2012 highlights?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

(most of) my christmas vacation: in photos

What a week!  Saw friends in Seattle and more friends and family in Portland.  I am so lucky to feel at home with Paul's family - it makes the Christmas homesickness a lot easier to handle.  

A stomach bug delayed my trip to St. Louis causing me to miss a wedding I really wanted to attend, but luckily I'm feeling better today and will get to see the family soon!  Christmas vacation part two is about to begin!

Friday, December 28, 2012

final advent reflection

The final week of my Advent reflection focused on these thoughts: we all leave precious things behind either because life forces us too or because we choose to in order to grow.  Change can be a source of bitter stagnation or embraced as a source of creative good.  How am I being called to move beyond my comfort, security, and fear?  What is my spiritual journey this Advent?   

My spiritual journey has been almost as crazy as my physical journeys this Advent.  This Advent, Paul and I travelled to the Pacific Northwest and will travel to St. Louis before heading back home. We left Milwaukee behind and were affirmed on our journey by many of Paul's family and friends.  My spiritual journey was influenced by saying goodbye to my grandpa and seeing my mom become the unofficial matriarch of her family.  Paul and I have discussed our future and our transitioning role in our community.  I left a wonderful job due to a lay off that came at a time when I was in need of a change.  I said goodbye to my coworkers and will begin a new position in less than a week.  I've had difficulties with my health but am taking steps to help myself heal.  I have begun to have freedom from anxiety and have grown in confidence and self-respect.    

As Advent comes to a close, I feel invited on a journey to a new job, a new era in my family, a new stage in my relationship with Paul, a new understanding of myself, a new trust and openness in the direction of my life. I risk discovering new life so that I can fully live my calling and live my life to its fullest potential. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

4 simple goals (before 2013) recap

In September, I joined Elsie Larson's 4 simple goals challenge.  Elsie posted the challenge on her blog A Beautiful Mess to choose four simple goals to meet by the beginning of 2013.  As a fellow list lover, I gladly accepted the challenge!  Here's my four goals and how I did with them in the last four months of 2012: 

1. Meet with a nutritionist: Accomplished!!  I met with a nutritionist and gained some good skills to build a healthier diet for myself.  I'm hoping to put some of these skills to better use in 2013.  

2. Exercise once a week: My goal had been to really exercise once a week by getting my heart pumping and my body sweating.  I'm embarrassed to say that I only think I did this about 1-2 times in the past four months, BUT I did take Pedro on long walks and took lots of walks during my lunch break at work.  So though I didn't technically reach it, I think I accomplished the spirit of this goal.   

3. Finish four paintings: This one was the only true fail on the goals list.  I did start a painting and am actually close to finishing it, so I'm still better off than I've been all year with my goal to paint more.  I'm hoping more painting will happen in 2013.  

4. Meet with a spiritual director: Done!!  This is the goal I feel proudest of accomplishing.  I had been wanting to meet with a spiritual-counseling type mentor for a while, and making this list finally gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get the ball rolling.  My ongoing meetings with my counselor have been so rewarding and such a source of joy.  I am VERY happy I took care of this. 

So in summary, I met about 3/4 of my goals.  My approach to goal making is to remember that I'm still better off at the end accomplishing only half of my goals than I would have been if I hadn't made any goals at all.  Even when I don't get 100%, my life is still richer and fuller at the end.  

This recap has inspired me to write a few goals for 2013.  Look for my goals list next week!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

repeat the sounding joy

As Paul likes to remind me, Christmas day is just the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas.  That would make today the second day of Christmas and would mean that Paul owes me a couple of turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Celebrating the spirit of Christmas beyond the actual day of Christmas reminds me of my favorite Christmas song lyrics: repeat the sounding joy.  Hope your Boxing Day is filled with repeating joy!
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing!

Let us their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

merry christmas eve

Merry Christmas Eve from my favorite little elf!  Can you tell how much he loves when I dress him up for Christmas?  I'm pretty sure he actually loathes it - you can practically see it in his face.  He does look pretty adorable though.  

Hope you have a wonderful day celebrating, relaxing, or spending time with family and friends!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

vacation has begun

After one of the craziest weeks in recent memory and a very long flight to the west coast, vacation has begun in Seattle!!!  I had to share this picture (even though its slightly obscure) because it captures something amazing - AN OPEN WINDOW IN WINTER.  Yes, the weather is nice enough here to have the windows open.  The fresh air is so refreshing, I decided it was picture worthy and special enough to share with you all. 

Hope you are having a wonderful pre-holiday weekend! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

a new beginning

It's my last day at my job, the darkest day of the year, the end of the world, and the beginning of my Christmas vacation.  Here's to caring about people and places enough to make goodbyes hard.  

There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.  -- Joseph Campbell 

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Tomorrow is my last day at my current job.  I've been busily finishing up my work and tying up lose ends.  The atmosphere at work feels very strange and sad since staff lay offs will change the dynamic of our department and organization.  It's a time of transition for all of us.  

I'll miss many things about my job - especially my coworkers and working downtown.  I got to used to seeing this picturesque site everyday at work.  I'm glad I snapped this photo last week since the weather today is less than ideal!  That's me, always thinking ahead ... (not really me at all).  

The new year will bring a transition to a new job and will bring new developments for our community and my family.  I love the feeling that a fresh start and new adventures lie just around the corner. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

back home

Paul and I flew back home today.  The days we had in St. Louis were really wonderful even in the midst of grieving   We said goodbye to someone we loved, and we spent such good time with family and friends.  

I feels slightly relieved to settle back in for a few days and get back to my routine.  The best part of coming home (besides sleeping in my own bed) is being welcomed back by a beautiful snowy day.  I love how old timey this picture turned out.  Makes me want to watch a good movie and snuggle up with some hot cocoa. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

a time to every purpose

The night before we got the news about my grandpa, I had a conversation with Paul about having a hard time being patient as my grandpa approached the end of his life.  As those who have had a loved one on hospice know, the journey can have many emotional ups and downs, and unlike many other things in life, there is no way to predict what will happen or to make any definite plans.  I was feeling anxious about the timing of my grandpa's death: Would I be able to take off work?  Would it happen while we were travelling for the holidays?  These seemingly superficial concerns took precedence over the more emotional concerns for my grandpa because they were easier to feel and comprehend.  

I can plan out blog posts.  I can plan out the last days at my job.  I can plan my community's December schedule.  I can plan out Christmas shopping and flight plans.  But I can't plan when I'll lose somebody.  For the most part, you can't plan when you enter the world or leave it.  

This is a necessary reminder during the time of Advent.  In the flurry of Christmas plans, I can get lured into thinking that life will occur exactly how I plan it.  I can check things off my Christmas gift to-buy list, I can check events off my Christmas social calendar (which is obviously very extensive).  While I am empowered to make goals and decisions for myself, there are some things that are simply out of my hands.  And that is ok.  Things still usually turn out well, even when I don't have control over the outcome.  

There is a time for everything.  A time to trust.  A time to be patient.  A time to mourn.  A time to laugh.  A time to remember.  A time to celebrate.  A time to be present. 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

no real post today

My papa passed away yesterday.  Time to be together with family for remembering, reminiscing, and therapeutic cookie baking.  So grateful that I was able to spend time with my grandpa before he passed away and to be with my family now.  Thanks to all of you for your support and love.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children

I decided I needed a little break from all the holiday posts, so today I'm sharing one of my favorite new books: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  The book is narrated by 16 year old Jacob who grows up listening to his grandfather's stories of the very peculiar children he lived with in Britain during the second world war.  Jacob whole heartedly believes the stories as a child, but begins to doubt that his grandfather ever really lived with an invisible boy. a girl who could float, or any of the other strange children.  The book becomes creepily exciting when Jacob travels to Britain to uncover the mystery surrounding his grandfather's death and to decide once and for all whether his grandfather's stories were true.  

For full effect, I advise reading this book home alone on a dark, spooky night.  While the story really isn't that scary, it does have a few creepy sections and the book also includes a few pictures of the peculiar children that had me sufficiently freaked out.  For all the delightful creepiness the beginning of the book contained, it becomes more of an action-packed-adventure story as mysteries are revealed.  The "known" always feels a lot less scary than the possibilities your imagination can come up with for the "unknown."  

I recommend Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children for pre-teen/teenagers as well as adults.  The book has a coming of age element but has enough suspense and mystery to keep adults entertained. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I got very crafty over the weekend and made this beautiful wreath using Smile and Wave's tutorial.  My friend Mary and I had a crafting date complete with Christmas tunes and hot chocolate!   We did a slight variation on the wreath using a 12" foam circle from Jo-Ann's ($5 each), mini metallic ornaments from the $1 bins at Target ($3 for 3 tubes), and tinsel I bought at Value Village ($2).  I'm really pleased with how it turned out and even happier that it cost me about $10 with the floral wire I used to tie the ornaments onto the wreath.

I've really enjoyed adding little details to our apartment to make it feel festive and cozy.  I don't have a large decorating budget, but even a little tinsel, a few stockings, and a couple of hand towels make the house feel a little more special in some of these dark December days.

What are some of your favorite holiday decorations?

Monday, December 10, 2012

our finished christmas cookies

The cookies from our cookie baking party turned out deliciously - and beautifully I might say.  Above are the sugar cookies we baked and decorated.  Below are the coconut covered thumb print and mincemeat cookies.

And of course my favorite: snowballs.  They remind me of Christmases at home.  I included the recipe for you as well.  They're officially known as Pecan Sandies or just Sandies, but Snowballs sound so much more festive. 

Have you baked any Christmas cookies yet?