Monday, December 19, 2011

2011: The Year in Review

I rang in the new year with some good friends and a night in Old Town to watch the fireworks. Fireworks are one of my absolute favorite things, so I was quite disappointed when there was a malfunction and the show barely started was over early. As I stared intently at the night sky, a golden burst appeared and lit up the night! Then we waited and waited and waited for the sky to sparkle again. Another firework! Yes! But no. That was it. Something went wrong and the fireworks show came to a disappointing end. At the time, I hoped that poor firework display would not be indicative of the year to come. Unfortunately, 2011 has felt analogous to that night. For most of 2011 I have felt like I have been in a holding pattern, but there were certainly some highlights that are noteworthy!

My 29th birthday bash was in the middle of January! My friend, Laura, graciously offered to throw me a soiree to usher in the last year of my 20s and what a blast it was! To have most of my favorite people in one room showering me with love and cheer is quite a blessing. My friends, Brad and Joseph, even flew down from Boston and ensured the whole weekend was extra special.
Then I knocked an item off of my 20 before 40 list by learning how to ski.
 I only wiped out two times, but this photo reminds me of the fun, hard work, and determination that went into this experience. I hope to ski more in 2012 as long as I am recovered enough from my surgery.

In June, I attended the black tie wedding of a high school friend. I took full advantage of the opportunity to get all gussied up! After being a bridesmaid 10 times and going to more weddings than I can count, this happened:
Let's hope that's a good sign for 2012!

Those of you who know me, know I am always on the move! Traveling is my absolute favorite way to spend time (besides music and singing, but that is also done while traveling). 2011 was full of adventures all over the country.
My high school friends. Ocean City, MD. June 2011

UR Reunion, Boston, July 2011
Kerry, Swanville, MN August 2011 
Myrtle Beach, SC. August 2011with my "Moms" 
Hutto/Austin, TX fun with the Fentons, Sept 2011
Not pictured is a quick weekend getaway to NYC with my mom  in September to celebrate FOCUS' 50th anniversary! I was too busy to take photos and am sad about that, but oh well! Mom and I caught "Memphis" on Broadway while we were there and treated ourselves to an extravagant brunch at The Waldorf. The brunch is super pricey, but totally worth it. Dad said to live it up, so I took his advice and made sure to eat 6(!) plates to get his money's worth! I don't think I ate for 2 days after that feast! 

Life came to a screeching halt when I had surgery on Oct 14.
The last 10 weeks have been a slow but steady struggle to heal and be my new and improved self. The road ahead is still long, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me to truly appreciate the life I am living. I started out this blog post thinking the year was awful. And in some aspects, it was. But as I've typed this year in review, I've realized amidst the tough times, there have been some true bright spots and blessings. Most importantly, I am blessed with wonderful friends and family who give me a reason to laugh and smile everyday.

Thank goodness that doesn't change from year to year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A message?

To sum it all up, 2011 has been a pretty crummy year! There have certainly been some highlights that I will talk about in a feature blog post, but for the most part, thumbs down (or at least sideways!) to this year. I've felt stuck. Every attempt I've made to move forward has been thwarted. I pray feverishly to move forward yet constantly feel like I am being yanked back! God and I have talked about it. A lot. But, I've felt like He wasn't listening. I know He was because He always does, but I haven't felt like I've been heard.
When I start to doubt I stop  hoping and dreaming and I start to fear. I fear that despite the fact that my deepest desire is to be married and have a family I will be alone living with 6 cats for the rest of my life. That's so silly. God says in Psalm 37:4 "Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." And, I don't even like cats! So, the chances of that fear actually becoming a reality are slim to none! I also really want to start the foundation for children with disabilities. It seems daunting. I had a friend who was helping and then that support kind of just fizzled away and I felt overwhelmed and set that dream aside for now. But, I want it and know it is going to take a lot of work to make it happen. I also know I have a lot of support from people who actually know what they're doing when it comes to non-profits. So, it's time to "get back on the horse" and get movin'!
Then there's the story of my condo. I wanted to move back in June. I gave my tenant an extension until the end of September. He wrecked the place in that time. I had surgery in October. I haven't been back to the place yet. I've literally been sitting for 9 weeks and am slowly getting back to normal. Needless to say, the three things most important to me right now seem as if they have been removed from my reach.

Yesterday, what I believed to be a random box from Barnes and Noble arrived on my parents' doorstep addressed to me. My mom questioned whether my dad or I had ordered something from there. Recently, I've gone crazy with online shopping, but Barnes and Noble was not a site I visited. I tore opened the box, intrigued by what could be inside. Tucked away in the cardboard was a book from my pastor. The book: "The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears".  The note inside indicated he and his wife were thanking me for a donation I had made. I donated because I believed in the mission of the church, never expecting anything in return. But in my days of doubt, an unexpected surprise, this book, arrives.

I think God is trying to tell me something. I better hurry up and read this book all while continuing to trust Him. He's got something wonderful in store.

And, when I am done, I'll let you know how it is. You might want to check it out for yourself.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Looking for a good book?

Believe me, if I am recommending a book, it must be good. I say that because I don't like to read. My parents, both avid readers, used to get so upset when I would take my summer reading list to the bookstore and ask for the shortest books with the largest print! I didn't care about the subject. The most important thing to me was to tackle the summer reading in the shortest amount of time possible.

Cuddled up in my bed, I tore through this book cover to cover in just one day. So what is this book and what's all the hoopla? Well, let me tell you.... The book that captured my attention is called A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker.

You may pick up this book, realize that it is a story of a family raising a child with Down Syndrome, think that is not relevant to you and your life and put it back down. Yes, it is indeed a memoir about the surprise and challenges a first time mother felt when she learned two hours after her daughter's birth that Penny had Down Syndrome. Amy Julia had always placed high value on education and intellectual ability so this news brought dark days filled with sadness, fear, disappointment and shock that Penny may not live up to the dreams imagined for her while she was in the womb. Not only did the Beckers have to adjust to life with a newborn baby, Penny's Down Syndrome diagnosis ushered in a storm of questions and (perhaps) a dramatic adjustment in the life they had envisioned for their eldest child. More importantly, Penny forced an adjustment in the definition of perfection. Amy Julia candidly recalls her initial disappointment in the diagnosis and takes readers on the emotional and intellectual journey associated with the first two years of Penny's life. She asks uncomfortable questions. "Will I be able to be proud of her? Will I be able to love her?" (page 25) At first, she is not so sure. But as the book goes on, Becker leads the reader to see that these questions are not just those a parent of a child with a disability asks. She examines her own assumptions of "perfection" and challenges the readers to do the same.

Now you say, "Well, Jess, that's great, but this book seems even more irrelevant to me because I am not a parent"

Neither am I, but as a person with a disability I loved this book and want everyone to read it. This book beautifully articulates the struggles many people with disabilities feel. Fully able people often think the biggest challenges a disabled person face are physical or intellectual, depending on the nature of the disability. The truth is the physical (or intellectual) challenges are not high on our worry list. If we don't know how to do something, we will either try to do it a different way or don't know what we are missing anyway so it doesn't really matter. I would argue the greatest obstacle a disabled person faces is getting the world to see them as they see themselves: as a person with a disability rather than a disabled person. 

In A Good and Perfect Gift, Becker takes the readers on her personal journey from seeing her daughter as a disabled person to a person with a disability.
“Can she live a full life without ever solving a quadratic equation?  Without reading Dostoevsky?  I’m pretty sure she can.  Can I live a full life without learning to cherish and welcome those in this world who are different from me?  I’m pretty sure I can’t.” (pg 123) 

If you are a book worm and enjoy well written books, this is for you. If you are looking for an engaging story, pick this up when you have time because you won't be able to put it down. But, if you are interested in growing as a person, do me a favor and read this book. You will be changed -- for the better.

Hopefully, now I have intrigued you and you want to know more about this read. If so, go here. You will find many reviews and may I point out that Becker's book was selected as one of the best of 2011 by Publisher's Weekly!  Now that you're sold, go get it here!    

It's a good and perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas List 2011

Mom handed me a pad of Post-It notes and a pen and asked me to make my Christmas list. In an attempt to get her into the 21st century, I thought I'd post it here too:

iPod nano
My iPod died a tragic death in a rain storm in NYC in September. I have my iPhone that I currently listen to music on, but I like to talk on the phone and listen to music at the same time. The new nano is all jazzed up! In addition to housing my music library, it has FM radio, and the capability for me to track my workouts. Will I really track my workouts? Probably not, but I am itching to get back to the gym! This comes in a number of colors, but I'm thinking of going all girly and asking for a hot pink one!

Tall brown boots
These beauties in dark brown are resting in an unopened box in my room. If they fit, they will go under the tree and wait until December 25th to be worn. I hope they work because I am already planning all of the outfits that would look stunning with these on my "brand new" feet (Well, the right foot is "new").


 It's a tradition in my family to get new pajamas for Christmas. We all get a few pairs each year. Time to get rid of the last year's pjs that are worn out and raggedy and fill the drawer with the new sleepwear.

Hightower Jersey
 I'm not normally a jersey girl. Football is one of my favorite sports, but I normally like to sport my team spirit sans the over-sized shirt with someone else's name on my back. This time I can't resist the jersey. Tim Hightower grew up in my hometown, went to my rival high school, and played football for the Richmond Spiders. Unfortunately, I missed him on campus by a year so I can't really say I know him, but he's now playing for the hometown team! I've just got to show my support and pride for Timmy and the Redskins -- and later on, I'm hoping my future husband won't mind if this gets a prominent place in his man room. 

 I would love this....
but I doubt I am getting it. That's Art Monk. He's my favorite Redskin of all time. Classy dude that can tear up that turf!

And if I am really dreaming....

He'd be nice too!

But, I'd better put all of this on a post-it or there won't be anything under the tree for me for Christmas -- except maybe those boots!
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