Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jackie - Happy Birthday to Me!

That's right, it was my birthday this week. And this birthday was unlike any other I have experienced, but I mean that in a good way. Generally, I hate my birthday. As a friend of mine put it, it falls in no-man's land. It's a few weeks after Christmas, long enough that everyone is in a dull zone of life. There's been actual research presented about how depressed everyone is during the middle of January. Translation: People aren't in the mood to celebrate. Like I said, generally, I hate my birthday.

But this year was different.

I had originally planned to spend my birthday in Portland with Sarah, but all that stuff with my car was time consuming and cost me the money I had saved for the trip. When plans changed, I moped. In fact, I moped a lot. I thought about just forgetting my birthday. I thought I'd stay home and maybe hang out with Harry Potter all weekend. Then it dawned on me that I was being ridiculous. [Not about the Harry Potter part, of course. Just about all the moping.]

Turns out, I had the best birthday ever. Seriously. My friends and family made me feel loved and celebrated. My cup runneth over.

In the past when I made resolutions for myself, I usually measured them from birthday to birthday -- it felt more personal to me that way. But this year, I still have 6 weeks left to Shake the Dust. I have a lot to say about what a year of trying to shake the dust has been like. It's been challenging, good, hard, long, surprising. But I'll save that for a sappy end-of-the-year post.

Instead, I'm adding a goal. Ok, not a real, measurable, Shake the Dust goal; it's a little more abstract. My birthday this year taught me something, it taught me that I've been missing. Not that I've literally been unable to find, but that I'm missing details, nuances and generally good things in life. It was the details that made my birthday special - each individual well-wish, a ridiculous amount of laughter with friends, noisemakers and a CD, homemade cakes [thick yarn and all], phone calls and thoughtful gifts, countless hugs. Little things with lots of meaning.

I don't want to keep missing.

Here's to being more grateful and paying attention to the small things on a daily basis.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sarah Checks In

Fair Warning:  This will not be an informative, enlightening, or exciting post.  But read to the end if you want to feel a little bit better about yourself.

As our year here at Shake the Dust comes to a close (a little later than every one else's), I've been examining my goals, figuring out which ones to power through and which ones need to be let go.  As it turns out, I think I'm going end up doing pretty well.  But at the risk of counting my chickens, I'll just leave it at that.

Here's where I'm at and what I'll be working on in the next couple of weeks:

  1. Weight Loss: Still feelin sassy- and that's what counts!
  2. Incorporate Artist Dates once a week- I'm on one right now.
  3. Finish one of my two writing projects- I plan on spending the entire day at this coffee shop, hashing out this short story.  No telling where that'll leave me, but the hope is that I'll be finished in the next couple of weeks. 
  4. Get something published- I have some ideas about this that I'd rather not share just yet...
  5. Get out of the city once a week, out of the state once a month, out of the country once a year- There are talks of going to Canada.  Stay tuned.  
  6. Read through all of Austen- Half way through Emma at present.  Two more to go after that! 
  7. Complete my Denver Bucket list before I leave:  Check!
  8. Minimize- Check!
  9. Find somewhere to volunteer at in Portland- Emily and I are pursuing an opportunity at a women's shelter.  I'm looking at working in their children's program.
  10. Get in contact with Heartline and others to solidify a plan for Haiti for next summer- I know of at least one person, potentially two, who absolutely want to go next year.  I've emailed a few contact and have been referred to a few other people.  Now it's just up to finding a need we feel comfortable fulfilling and working out logistics.
  11. Embrace my crafty side.  Learn to sew, crochet, paste, and spread glitter around on construction paper- My wonderful friend Katrina and The Penny Farthing has offered to help me with some hand made gifts for my beautiful niece-to-be.  If you check out Katrina's blog and see all the beautiful creations she has posted there, you'll know I am in good hands!
So that's where I'm at!  I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for sticking with us through this process.  You didn't have to read about us talking about our lives every week- but you did.  And the stories of how we have inspired you have been invaluable in keeping us going at Shake the Dust.  We love you.  You're wonderful.  And keep reading!  We have still have a few weeks to go :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Waiting in Lines at H&M: Where Sarah Learned the Art of Letting Your Mind Wander

Today I went on an artist's date.  I woke up a little panicky.  About what, I'm not sure.  Taking myself on a date isn't exactly like going on a typical date.  I mean, I'm pretty comfortable with myself, I don't mind if I don't shave my legs, and I don't have to worry if I think my jokes are funny or if I have food in my teeth- because I know my jokes are hilarious, and so is having food in my teeth.  But seeing as I get panicky over most things, I rolled out myself out of bed and told myself to got over it.  I showered, dressed, procrastinated, brushed my teeth, and procrastinated some more.  I trudged downstairs and said a disgruntled goodbye to Emily.  I headed downtown to Powell's for some quiet reflection surrounded by my three dearest friends- words, characters, and can't-turn-the-page-fast-enough plots.

I perused the variously themed rooms- Rose, Purple, Green; Children's, History, Classical Literature.  After searching in vain for this beautifully illustrated copy of Emily Dickinson's My Letter to the World and purchasing a short book about writing novels, I perched myself in the cafe against the wall of windows, across from the Buffalo Exchange.  In front of me was a vanilla latte and a copy of Emma.  To my right was a devout chemistry student taking up three seats with her work and listening to Lil Wayne at a level most otolaryngologists would disapprove of.  The garbled hip hop did not frame my reading of Jane Austen well, but there wasn't anywhere else to sit, and after a while you just get used to things like that.  It wasn't until she left to go to the bathroom, and my brain let out a sigh of relief, that I realized I wouldn't be able to ignore her quite as successful when she returned.  So I packed my things, took a final sip of that vanilla latte, and headed to Antrhopologie to see what sorts of inspiration awaited me.

I love Anthropologie, to point of hating Anthropologie.  I used quite a bit of restraint, but seeing that "Sale" sign by the front door was rather ominous.  Artist dates are not excuses to buy things you don't need, however, so I kept myself to the books and little trinkets that tend to set my imagination afire.  There's something about perfume puffs and the tinkling of those delicate tea cups that I simply can't resist.  Surrounding yourself with beautiful things can do nothing but aid in the creative process... Right?  I left with beautiful copy of Anne of Green Gables, a book of inspirations by Paulo Coehlo and a delicate, tinkling tea cup.  

Next I took myself (and my newly acquired books and china) to H&M, where I had a gift card to work my way through.  People in Portland are a little intense when it comes to H&M.  Really, the dressing room lines, the clothes scattered every which way and the dazed looking employees are a little silly.  But I struggled through it, finding some very preppy things to wear to a "Soul Dance Party" tonight (very well then, I contradict myself).

I should mention that I forgot my phone this morning.  At first blush, this was a panic-worthy revelation.  But a few hours and some deep breaths later, I realized that I could, in fact, get along fine without it.  It wasn't until I stood in line for a dressing room at H&M that I really started to miss the little guy.  But, as 5 minutes turned into 15, which turned eventually turned into 30 and so on, I noticed something odd taking place.  Rather than distracting myself with Facebook statuses and Twitter updates, I was... thinking, imagining, conjuring and creating.  Recently I've been worried about my lake of creativity and increasingly shortened attention span.  But just 3 hours without my phone, and I was coming up with ideas for a novel, framing new blog ideas, and thinking of how very much Emma and I are alike.

I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be getting out of these artist's dates- I'm not exactly short on alone time and the concept was beginning to feel a little trivial.  But the process of intentionally carving out a block of time where you are forced to communicate with no one but yourself- even if you're doing something you might be doing otherwise- can be truly monumental.  It's just like creating space and time for a couple to come together to reconnect, communicate, and get to know one another again.  I had almost forgotten how wildly my mind can work when it's allowed to wander at will.  It was refreshing and encouraging to know that I am always a fountain of new ideas, I just need to allow opportunities for my imagination to do what it does best.

What started as an apathetic attempt to fulfill a goal I'm being held accountable to, turned into a really beautiful experience of getting back in touch with the parts of myself- my nuances- that are lost, forgotten, and overlooked  on a daily basis.  This is an artist's date at the core and I highly recommend them for anyone wanting to recharge, reconnect and remember the little qualities that make them extraordinary.