the end.

This year feels different.

I know the beginning of every year always feels fresh, new. Like a new notebook on the first day of school. But this year feels new in a different way. Like I’ve entered not only a new year, but a new phase. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I feel like I’ve entered a distinctly new phase of life. Adulthood? Maybe. Or maybe we’ve finally accepted that––at least for the time-being––we’re here in DC to stay (at least for awhile). We’ve stopped looking for where the path is going to take us eventually and are trying to look around at where the path has us right now. We’ve stopped looking for the path and are trying to focus on making the path.

Which is why I’m excited to say that I’ve decided to stop blogging here at “talitha cum” and move over to a brand new site! It feels a little sad, as the close of any chapter does, but I’m also really excited.

For those of you who are following along via email updates, I hope you’ll click through to the new site (click here!) and, once you get there, click the “Follow!” button on the right to stay updated the way you have with this blog. The content will be similar––hopefully better!

For those of you who are visiting, feel free to peruse what’s here on this blog. I decided not to move it over to the new one (new phase, new blog, new content). But I do hope you’ll join me over here in my new online home: made by walking.

why can’t it still be christmas?

This morning, I hooked my camera up to my computer to download pictures I’d meant to upload on to the blog several days ago. Last weekend, some friends came over for a little Chinese New Year dumpling-making celebration, kicking off the real theme of my year, the Year of the Potluck (I’ll explain more later…).

That’s when I realized I’d never downloaded my pictures from Christmas (besides the chicken one). Watching them upload one by one brought back such a warm feeling of being home and surrounded by family. So the Chinese New Year pictures are on hold; I thought I’d share these instead.

On another note, big blog-related news coming this week! Get very excited!

Happy weekend!

a part of DC in my dining room.

Recently, Jon and I decided to check out domku cafe in the Petworth neighborhood based on the recommendations we’d been given that said the food was good and that it felt like you were having lunch in anthropologie. Two thumbs up! The food was delish (I had the swedish-inspired “salmon pyt i panna”), the atmosphere was great, and as we basked in the sunlight of the unseasonable warmth and sipped our coffees, something caught my eye.

The ease with which a furniture/antique/junk store can seduce me is actually remarkable (the patina of age! the stories it must have!). I can’t control it. Which is why I made the list of antiques I’m “allowed” to buy (because a person only needs so many trays). But the old chests and chairs and mirrors spilling onto the sidewalk across the street were impossible to resist.  In theory, the list eliminates the impulse purchases…until we found the pew.

The antique dealer had picked it up a few weeks ago from a church on H St that was about to be razed (the next day!).  His eyes lit up when he talked about it, full of pride for having saved this beautiful piece from demolition. But I wasn’t in the market for a church pew. It was not on the list and almost certainly would not fit in the disproportionately small rooms of our little apartment. So I walked away.

And within an hour of getting back home––and doing some furniture rearrangement––Jon had left a message for the antique dealer asking if they’d give us free delivery.

So here it is:

Oh my. So beautiful. I love to sit in it at dinner, wrapped up in a quilt with my feet hanging over the side (though, despite my hard-pewed Calvinist background, I do think it needs a cushion). But the thing I love most about it is that, to me, it represents a piece of DC. We know where it’s from. We actually know part of it’s story. I’ve bought antiques/junk/used-furnishings before and love imagining the stories, but with this, we actually know part of it. In a way, it’s part of DC’s history, just like someday DC will be part of our history.

One of my big goals this year is to love DC. I have some plans to make that happen, but this was an unexpected step in the right direction.

a roadmap for the year.

Wow––January 11. Somehow that happened. In December, I had all sorts of high hopes for 2012 (as everyone does at the start of a new year, I guess) and how I was really going to get myself together here. Get on top of my life. Start doing the things I always say I want to do.

And now it’s the second week of January (“January’s already one-third over!” as one of my colleagues put it). I feel like I somehow missed the gun that indicated the start of the race and now need to catch up. I blame the fact that I was reading the Hunger Games trilogy, which was all-consuming for a week. But now moving forward…

Over the course of the last 6 weeks, I’ve been working to set goals for my Year of Presence. As I mentioned in December, I was using this Annual Review worksheet to help guide my goal-setting for the year. I identified 9 categories to set goals for:

  1. Travel
  2. Health
  3. Writing
  4. Learning
  5. Relationships
  6. Work
  7. Spiritual
  8. Financial
  9. Service

After entering those 9 categories into a spreadsheet, I had a look at my bucket list because I want my goals, for the most part, to point towards the things I know I want to do at some point in my life. And with that, I started making my goals for the year, identifying at least 2 things in each category that I want to work towards. I used the SMART goal methodology to help me set goals that are concrete and achievable, rather than nebulous resolution-type goals, and found it really helpful in making my goal list. Here’s a Top 10:

  • Visit friends in at least 3 other cities who I don’t get to see enough (travel)
  • Complete the “DC 25” list (travel)
  • Run a race (health)
  • Publish 2 blog posts per week (writing)––I know I haven’t started off well on this one, but I’m persisting!
  • Submit something for publication (writing)
  • Sign up for a photography class (learning)
  • Complete 12 DIY projects––1/month (learning)
  • Complete the 52 Book Challenge (learning)
  • Send birthday cards to my friends (relationships)
  • Make one new recipe per week and have a nice long sit-down dinner (relationships)

So there (some of) they are. My roadmap for the year. And even though it really snuck up me, I can tell 2012 is going to be a good one. The next step for goals is determining the first step is towards accomplishing each one (to make the goals bite-sized). I’m nearly done with that part, but still have a little ways to go. So that’ll have to wait for next week… 🙂

Question: Did you set goals this year? What are some you’re really excited about?

2012: the year of…

2009 was (unintentionally) the Year of Firsts. 2010 was the (undeclared) Year of Stability and Re-exploration. And 2011 was the Year of Intention.

When I got back from India at the end of November, I started thinking about what theme would sum up my goals for 2012. After I finished my 2011 annual review, I made a list of things I wanted to do this coming year (nothing too specific to start, just a general list of ideas). Here’s what I came up with:

  • I want to keep learning about intention, especially because I didn’t commit to the theme as well as I’d wanted to this past year. The idea of living with intention, of living everyday of your life, of being present in your own life––I want to keep these things at the forefront in 2012.
  • So many of my friends and family are scattered around the country, and increasingly the world. I want to find ways to be more present in their lives, even though we can’t be with each other in person.
  • I’ve lived in DC for 3 years now, and I’ve been pretty vocal about not loving it (I love my job, but DC as a city…not so much. Some call this Chicago-snobbery, but that is yet to be confirmed). Regardless, I’ve decided that I need to give DC a better chance. I need to learn more about it. Learn to love it. Learn to be where I am. Because it’s looking like we might be here a little while.
  • In college, when I was playing basketball, I was in the best shape of my life. And I’ve sort of let that….slip a little (or…a lot). I loved the presence and confidence that being fit gave me, and I want that back.
  • I want to commit to photography. I realized how much it means to me––how it centers and focuses me––when I was traveling this fall, so I really want to dive into it this year.
  • I want to watch less TV and read more books. Because TV is mindless, and I waste too much time with it (surprising, since we don’t even have cable…darn you, Hulu).
  • I want to volunteer in my community because we love the community we live in and we want to be an actual presence there, not just people who live there for a few years and move away without making an impact.

After I made the list, it was pretty clear what 2012 would be:

2012 is the Year of Presence.

It’s a year to explore my surroundings. To slow down and see what’s around me. To take advantage of opportunities, unexpected or untimely as they may be. To make more time for relationships and even for myself. To be present in my own life.

When I sat down to write out some of my specific goals for the year, I wrote “2012: The Year of Presence” at the top of the page. It was amazing how easily the goals came out after I’d established the focus. I’ve identified goals in nine categories (travel, health, financial, spiritual, family/friends, learning, service, work, and writing), as well as several potential goals. Many of them will help me work towards the stuff on my bucket list, though there are some new things in there too that feel appropriate for this season. Once the list is finalized, I’ll share it with all of you.

Cheers to a new year––it’s looking like it’s going to be pretty awesome.

Question: What’s your theme for the year?

why this christmas was one of the best ever.

I thought this Christmas was going to be really weird because this was the first year my family has celebrated Christmas in a new home. My parents moved out of my childhood home this fall, and the sentimental heart in me was a little nervous that the change of scenery would be too uncomfortable at a time when traditions feel like the most important thing. But it was wonderful. The house was filled with the laughter of family that you don’t see often enough, the aromas of delicious meals, and the sketching out of new memories.

This morning, I was flipping through the pictures I took over the weekend of what seemed like endless Christmas festivities. When I got to this one (which I just snapped with my phone), I stopped. Because this picture, oddly, captures exactly what made this Christmas one of the best ever:

Christmas Dinner for 17 People

Sorry to people who are grossed out by meat.

That’s chicken to go in paella for 17 people, which is roughly the number of people who were staying in my parents’ house this weekend. So much family! Now, my family can be crazy––dinner often degenerates into a dance party, usually to David Bowie. We are boisterous Argentines and stubborn Dutch. We are also blessed with a lot of people gifted in hospitality. So the food is incredibly prepared, the tables elaborately adorned. Dinner is loud and long and full of laughter.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Christmas than having my whole family (faux-family included!) spread around a giant table with great food, good music, and conversation that ranges from the apparent pecan shortage (who knew?) to everyone’s top 5 Led Zeppelin songs. It was an opportunity to put aside everything else––work commitments, deadlines, cell phones, email, lists of things that still need to be moved from the old house, lists of presents that still need to be bought, sadness and sickness and stress––and just be in the company of family, which, no matter how crazy, is irreplaceable.

What a wonderful weekend––it was perfect in every way.

As a runner-up for favorite picture: 

Chicago from the plane

Gratuitous Chicago love. I couldn’t resist.

Next post will be about my theme for 2012. This year was the Year of Intention, and I’m really excited about the 2012 theme! If you missed my 2011 annual review last week, you can check it out here.

Question: Is there an image (an actual picture or just an image in your mind) that sums up your Christmas?

2011 : a year in review.

Last year, I came across this annual review template by writer/traveler Chris Guillebeau. I wasn’t able to pull together a review last year or set goals for 2011, but it is what inspired the Year of Intention.

I’ve been excited to return to the tool and actually use it. So with that (*drumroll*)…my first ever annual review! Woot!

So with that (*drumroll*)…my first ever annual review! Woot!

The first step is to make two lists––things that went awesome this year and things I wish had gone better. Here are some selections from those lists––

Things that went awesome this year (aka. “the nice list”):

  • At work last year, I was critiqued in my performance review for having bad work-life balance, which was a totally legit critique. I worked way too much. I was stressed and tired and totally lacking in perspective. This year, I’m really happy with the way I turned it around. I’m working reasonable hours. I’m getting better at recognizing my insignificance. And I’m much happier, which is awesome.
  • As I was reviewing 2011 blog posts, I realized a trend was emerging this year that differed from the past: so much more photography (including weddings!)! I didn’t learn to use my SLR the way I’d wanted, but I’ve gotten so much more into just taking pictures, which I’m excited about.
  • We joined a CSA farm share! Definitely a highlight of the year for me (including discovering kale), even though it was definitely a learning experience for me (we wasted a lot of vegetables I just didn’t know what to do with). But I’m so excited to sign up for next year and learn more!
  • Travel––this was obviously a huge year for travel for us! We made it to two new states and three new countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland (UK), and India).

Things I wish had gone better (aka. “the naughty list”):

  • Writing (*sigh*). I had all sorts of high hopes for writing that I just didn’t do. Argh. I’m trying to think about ways to improve blog posting, as well as work on a couple other writing projects. The hardest thing is finding the time! But I’m committed. I always feel best when I’m writing, so I need to make it happen.
  • Exercise––I knew this would make the naughty list when my mother-in-law asked me last time I came home how much I was exercising. Yikes. But it’s time to turn my monthly donation to the gym into something I’m actually getting in return (and by “getting,” I actually mean “taking” since no one is stopping me from going).
  • This year, I spent way too much time freaking out about graduate school. I’m really excited about eventually going (and I feel good about the direction I want to go). But I need to stop STRESSING OUT about it. This year, I really want to focus on investing really deeply in what I’m doing now and really try to get the most out of all my current opportunities.
  • More reading. That’s all.
Yay! Overall, 2011 was an awesome year. A lot of new stuff, new places. There are things I want to do better at next year, but overall a great year. The Year of Intention theme, even though I didn’t focus on it as much as I had wanted to, was helpful for me, even just to come back to every once in a while. I plan to keep thinking hard about what it means to live with intention and to keep exercising the things I learned this year.

The next step of the review is setting goals for next year. I’ve already got some ideas brewing; what I’m aiming to do is identify goals in 9 categories: travel, health, learning, finances, service, family/friends, work, writing, and spiritual. Hoping to blog on several of these, and hoping people will keep me accountable! I’m also excited about the theme I’ve decided on for 2012––but that’ll have to wait for another post.

Question: How was 2011 for you? What could’ve gone better and what was awesome?

since when.

When I was in elementary school, my parents’ rule for me and my three siblings was that there had to be some fever or some throw-up if you were going to stay home from school. The rule was hard and fast. And if you did have a fever or had thrown up the night before, no school for you, regardless of whether you had a math test or Field Day. It was a good rule, especially for a family with four kids––objective, measurable, fair.

But sometime between high school and now––the ripe age of 25––I stopped believing in that need for rest.

When I got to high school, my parents added a layer: one “mental health day” per year. You couldn’t miss tests, and you couldn’t do extracurriculars if you didn’t also do class. You had to make up all missed work, which we always diligently did. And once you used your mental health day for the year, it was back to fever and puke. But for that one day, you could take a day of rest. It was progressive parenting, I always thought, and I intend to do the same with my kids.

But sometime between high school and now––the ripe age of 25––I stopped believing in that need for rest. Or at least believing in it enough to actually prioritize it. Whereas I could always make up a math test after a sick day, now even the most menial tasks at work can’t seem to wait.

Yesterday, I asked my boss if I could come in late to the office so I could go to the health clinic about a cold/flu/infection that’s lasted two weeks. Without hesitation, she said, “Definitely!” (progressive bossing, which I also intend to emulate). When I got back to the office, shockingly (not really), nothing had fallen apart without me.

It’s an important lesson I need to keep learning. A lesson in humility. A lesson that living intentionally also means being intentional about rest.

the love they bear.

Two weeks ago, a very dear friend of mine got married in a beautiful little church in Holland, Michigan, followed by a party of a reception on the beach. I arrived two nights early for bridesmaids’ festivities, but weighing heavily on me was the fact that this was also the beginning of a long two week stretch of travel and events for work. Gwen had been there for me during all the prep for these work events in the same way that I tried to help (sadly, from afar) in the preparations for her special day. So with my bridesmaids dress and work computer in tow, I boarded the plane with a confusing mix of elation and anxiety.

But there couldn’t have been a more perfect way to start the trip than this beautiful wedding––and important reminder of the good, of the important things.

This was the quote that graced the cover of the ceremony programs. Couldn’t be more apt:

…that the love they bear one another, and the joy they take in one another, may help them grow in love for this whole troubled world.

-Frederick Buechner


Much love to you, G (and more pictures here).