#reverb 10 – Dec 27, Ordinary Joy

Two small children kissing.

Image via Wikipedia

Prompt: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

I would like to put two moments out there for consideration, both involving my partner.

I love locking eyes with him, feeling close to him that way, trusting him enough to maintain eye contact where so many others might look away. This is something I look forward to doing with my child, especially as he or she nurses.
My partner and I cuddle often. We often hug, we often brush lips, we spoon in bed, but sometimes we forget to kiss — to really kiss, deeply. It is thrilling to remember this kind of kissing, for our tongues to touch, when we have fallen out of this habit, when we have forgotten about the sensation.


#reverb10 – Dec 18-20. Try, Healing, and Beyond Avoidance.

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)

I want to join a CSA and shop more at farmers markets in 2011. This was something I wanted to try in 2010, but due to the fact that Tim and I were commuting in different directions, it made CSA membership impractical. There was a local farmer’s market in August, but we always had plans that day. The consequences of not doing this were minimal — just some mild guilt. In 2011, I will have an infant, which will complicate things, but I think that joining is still something I’d like to do.

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)

I wish I could say that I reconciled with someone, that we healed our relationship together. I wish I could say that my mom and I are entirely on the same page, with her truly respecting me as a person and as a daughter and an individual, leaving me feeling welcome and loved. That I knew more clearly what she expected from me, and that I could meet those obligations. But that is not the case. I would love for this to be the case in 2011, but I am afraid that becoming a parent myself, and my mother a grandmother will complicate things further.

I wish I could say that healing for me was a revolution, a single moment, but it has been and continues to be a slow evolution. Healing for me began in February when I followed the advice I gave my husband and found a therapist, who directed me to the psychologist in the practice, who found that 20mg of Prozac worked for me. Healing continued when I found a new psychologist to treat me while I am pregnant and will be nursing, and I dropped the therapist that caused upset in planning to go to her sessions. I think I perhaps need a new therapist, one who is feminist, and pro-balance in life, but I think I am mostly healed depression wise, though anxiety sneaks in, especially in medical situations.

I want to say that 2010 was a wonderful year of physical and emotional and mental healing for myself. So that I can be a whole, adult being. I want to be healed as a daughter in 2011, if I can figure that out.

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)

It occurs to me that this time in 2009, Tim and I were terrified that we were pregnant, and this year, we are. I fully suspected that 2010 would mostly be a year of again, avoiding pregnancy because we were scared, despite the fact that we wanted to start a family. Tim and I had talked about beginning to try to get pregnant this December, but I wasn’t entirely sure we would be emotionally ready. Turns out, we are, and now we’re 5 months or 22 weeks pregnant. In 2009 we were too scared to add to our family, and in 2010 we started the process.

In 2010, I suppose one thing I have been too scared to do is to try to reconcile with my mom, to break down the walls in our relationship and rebuild them. On some level, I want to blame her — she would have to cooperate! On the other hand, I know that sometimes in relationships, if one person tries, sometimes the other person responds. I fully believe she is a “difficult” mother — not abusive, but certainly hard to live with. Will I do it in 2011? Probably not. But I think being aware of this as a wound is important.

#reverb10 – Dec 11, 11 things.

Prompt: 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)

1. Illness v. Health First I was just thinking that 2011 needs to be, and should be, morning sickness free. But then I reflected that while Tim and I weren’t physically ill often in 2010, we did deal with some mental health issues. And we can’t discount colds and such as we will soon have a little one, and hopefully I will start grad school. In 2011, I would like to be prepared for the common cold with a well stocked stash of otc meds, be brave enough/have a good enough relationship with medical professionals to ask questions quickly, and continue to maintain our mental healths.

2. Commuting v. Community. I hesitate to put this on here, because I think that commuting will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. I currently commute 140 miles a day by car, all alone. This will continue until the first week in February. Hopefully, in September, I will start commuting a smaller distance to grad school. But for about 7 months, I want to get rid of commuting completely and learn to live in my community. I want to identify local businesses in our new home, walkable parts of it, make friends. In metro Detroit, this might mean familiarity with several towns, but I want to find farmers markets and community supported agriculture and what makes Farmington Hills and its surrounding environs unique.

3. Perfectionism v. Mindfulness. So, perfection was something I learned to let go of in 2010, it stands to reason that 2011 needs none of it. I think this is especially important to remember when you consider the impending arrival of my first child and the potential return to school. To address this, I am going to still research and plan, but forgive myself if things don’t go according to plan.

4. New Things v. Satisfaction. Tim and I tried an experiment for The Compact for about three months between August and October of this year. It was spurred on by a gluttony of new purchases: a new car, new smartphones for the both of us, etc. So, we decided to buy nothing new except for underwear and edibles. It was a pretty successful experiment, overall, to the point where, often, we didn’t realize we were doing it anymore. We’re going to have to acquire some things here in the near future, the necessary equipment to take care of a baby, but I think we’ve pared down the list to a point where it’s manageable — and hopefully some of it can come from the second hand market, instead of new. But, I’d really love to make our family motto, Make it work, use it up, make do, or do without.

5. Expectations v. Mindfulness. Expectations set us up for disappointment. Mindfulness lets us be in the moment without judgment. I want to live 2011 with few expectations. Plans, yes, intentions, yes, but also an understanding that there are things outside of my control. I plan to have a healthy baby, I intend to do what I can to make that happen, but realize, ultimately, that the outcome is mostly out of my control; if it is not perfect, I can still be happy.

6. Clutter v. Ordinary life lived Extraordinarily. Tim and I managed to clean up a lot of clutter in 2010. We pared down our kitchen, we pared down our stored stuff, cleaned out closets, and generally made our lives more functional. But clutter is something that is constantly cropping up, and will especially be so with baby stuff (thinking mostly clothes).

7. Dual income no-kids-hood, to be replaced by a young family of three. What it’ll mean to have one income for seven months or longer, to take fewer financial risks, to save. To take the rhythms of our family, and apply it to three, to celebrate traditions and create new ones.

8. Being bullied and pushed around by our parents and family, and instead working on constructing appropriate boundaries.

9. So many electronic distractions. Tim and I were listening to an episode of Being with Krista Tippet, which was talking about food — ethically, sustainable produced food. One thing the guest said, which stuck with both of us, is that we’ve allowed a lot of feature creep into our lives — we’ve “found” four hours a day to watch TV, and “found” four hours a day to be on the Internet, and we complain we don’t have time to cook. So, Tim and I discussed a designated day of the week to be a digital sabbath, from sun-down to sun-up. A designated day to coo at our baby, cook a complicated meal, talk, read, craft, and listen to music.

10. Sexual Harassment. I was having a hard time thinking of two more things that I didn’t need in my life, and I suppose I need less Sexual Harassment in my life in 2011, but more so, this is an intention I want to spread to all of reality. 2011 needs less rape, less assault, less harassment. I’ll keep blogging against it, keep supporting my family and friends against it, and doing my best to make this a reality.

11. Poverty. Ditto. 2011 needs less poverty — it needs less suffering. I will be intentional with my time and treasure in 2011 to lessen suffering, and work on the underlying issues of justice that cause poverty to be perpetuated.

#reverb10 — December 9, Party!

Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid, reverb10.com)

I really really enjoyed our anniversary party this year.  We held it June 19, 2010, Father’s Day Weekend, and we had a Taco Bar. Tim and I made the taco filling — one vegetarian/vegan, one meat based — and everyone else brought the stuff to make tacos, from the tortillas and shells to the black olives that I never would have served myself, because I’m not a fan.

We filled our sink with ice and water to keep the wine, soda, and beer cold, and set up a drink mixer station on our tiny little bar, serving mojitos, mint juleps, and old fashioneds. The mint for the drinks came from our garden.

Oh! and for desert, we served our wedding cake topper from the freezer. The marzipan was freezer burned (we certainly didn’t wrap it well!), but once the marzipan was cracked off, the butter cream on the inside was still delicious, even if the strawberries between cake layers were a bit funky. Either way, it was a pretty wonderful surprise, and a wonderful way to top off the party.

We invited our favorite fraternity brothers, and their spouses, and my friends — my college roommate, Sarah and Matt, and Katie and her husband Chris. I was really nervous about the two groups mixing, but they generally took well to each other — we had games of Settlers of Catan, Bridge, and the “Divorce Mode” of Mario Brothers.

It made a huge mess, but because we used our fiesta wear and our glasses, it cleaned up really quickly. Fabulous party, and I can’t wait to repeat it in the future.

#reverb10 — December 8, Beautifully Different

Vagina Monologues 2004

Image by Auntie P via Flickr

Prompt: 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, reverb10.com)

Because I’ve made it my goal professionally to help people and fight injustice.
Because I don’t care about my weight, or my make up, and barely care about my hair.
Because I can tell a story, sometimes my story, and help people understand depths of injustice and systematic violence in this world.
Because I’m reassuring to everyone who is helping me, no matter how poor their service, and especially when they’re harried. I try to give them a moment of customer zen in the day.
Because my sense of awe and reverence, especially in terms of religion and faith, is ever evolving.
Because I defend people — their beliefs, their rights, their person-hood.
Because I believe in the right of every person to their own selves, even if I disagree with them.
Because I know that my place on this earth is to help heal it’s brokenness, even just a little bit.

#reverb10 – December 6, Make

Prompt: 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; reverb10.com)

The last thing I completed was a handmade book that was filled with the cards given to us by well-wishers at our wedding. I had started it a long time ago: I sewed the cards together in bundles of five or so, stacked them, bound them together with duct tape instead of proper binding glue, and put some cardboard for the front and back covers. This past Saturday, when I had a lovely craft day with my college roommate Caitlyn, I completed it by putting a craft paper cover on the cardboard cover of X and O print. It looks like a real book now; a little fragile, perhaps, but it puts a collection in a place where it can be enjoyed, instead of in a box in a closet.

I am in the middle of a lot of creating a lot of things, I find, as I made a mental catalog to put together this list. I’m working on a scarf for my sister’s Christmas present, I’m going to put together a cookbook for my sister-in-law’s Christmas present, I’m plotting a date for my husband for Christmas. These are all things that I’ve been making that I know will be completed in due time.

However, is there something I want to make that I need to clear space for? Yes. I’ve been collecting t-shirts for at least the past 10 years, shirts for groups and events and projects, shirts that have a little bit of nostalgia, shirts that are cool colors, etc. At some point in the past year, I cut most of those t-shirts into 12″ squares, with the intention of turning them into two twin-sized throw quilts. A few more t-shirts have come into the collection via Tim cleaning out the clutter he left behind at his parent’s place in Ohio. I haven’t yet made that quilt, but I am looking forward to doing so. It should be a great conversation starter, a great way to talk about things we have done and things we like to do, places we’ve been, another collection on regular display.

Oh, and in terms of collections on display? I want to make a gallery wall of our wedding pictures for our bedroom, and get a photo album of our wedding pictures to go next to the book of wedding cards. I want to do something with the box of proofs, too, even if it is just putting them in a box that is easier to flip through than they are right now.

And, and! (Apparently there’s lots I want to make.) I want to decorate our apartment; Tim and I half conceived of the idea of our living room as a “travel lounge” decorated with postcards and pictures and such. I want to put together a nursery, even if all that’s in the nursery to begin with is a changing table and a lovely mural. (I go back and forth about the nursery also being an office until Rocketship is ready to have hir on room.) I want to make a home, make it so everything has a place. I made a lot of progress on that this year, but soon we’ll be in a new home, with new places to put things. (Yay linen closet! Yay laundry room!)

#reverb10 – December 7, Community

Prompt: 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? (Author: Cali Harris, reverb10.com)

I think for me to fully talk about the idea of community, I have to back to a community that I haven’t fully let go of — I don’t think I’m bitter anymore, but I think that I haven’t let go because to me, the community I built the first semester freshman year of college, and that continued for about a year’s time, that community is still, in many ways, something I wish to emulate.

We called ourselves “The Midnight Society,” ironically after a television show from our youth. We did meet up at midnights on Thursdays into Friday mornings, a time where we all knew would be relatively free of interruptions. We all sat around in a circle, eating pokeystix and talking about “intellectual” questions. We all lived in the same dorm, shared most of the same classes, and as a result, we learned to take care of one another. I know that I personally benefited the morning I slept through a class where I was supposed to turn in a paper — and they came and woke me up at the end of it, so that I wouldn’t be penalized. I broke up with my boyfriend in sophomore year, and let him have my friends in the break up — but the rest of the group turned rather insular, and it seemed that I was not as important to them as they were to me.

I understand that this kind of community is hard to replicate for a lot of reasons. One, we aren’t always so lucky to live in such close proximity. Two, we aren’t always so lucky to have so much in common. Three, there are always going to be division points, as I found — but they don’t always have to be so permanent.

In 2010, I had made community one of my goals. Perhaps you embiggified the giant list that I brain dumped last January, the one I included on my “letting go” prompt, and you saw that community was one of the things I listed — or perhaps I lamented the lack of community. I didn’t look too closely at the picture before I posted it.

I think my attempts at finding and building community in 2010 were mixed. 2010 was much more about becoming comfortable in my own skin, in my own home, in finding routine, about fixing myself before attempting to support others. And 2011 may turn out that way too, with a baby arriving about a quarter of the way in. But that is not to say that community did not turn up.

Actually, I’m having a much harder time writing about community than I thought I would. I think I hold community in too high a regard, set too high standards on it. I think, perhaps, that perfectionism is rearing it’s ugly head again. Maybe I’m thinking about community as spontaneous displays of affection or getting together, or always hanging out. But maybe I can lower my standard here — connect, always connect.

I connected with my old classmate Katie F nee J in 2010. We ran into each other at a conference in 2009, and again in 2010 and for a few months, we were doing lunch every month. She invited my husband and I to her wedding, and I think that we built a small community to talk about the stressors of being twenty-something and seeing the big picture of how the world is imperfect and broken and wanting desperately to fix it — and knowing that we only had so much power individually.

I connected with a writing group, which originated in NaNo2009, particularly with Sarah, and her husband Matt. It hasn’t been the easiest connection to make, as both Sarah and I are more the introverted types, who worry constantly about if someone wants to be friends with us, really, or if we’re being too pushy, or etc. But we’ve slowly been building up a rapport. Sarah takes care of me on Saturdays when Tim is off playing D&D with his friends, and we chat online. As writers, we can cover a lot of different topics — from awesome movies and TV shows, to awful books, to questions about existence and religion and church. I’m going to be part of her group blog, come January, and we’re going to be awesome Geeky Wives together. 😀

I reconnected with my friend from college, Alex, who introduced me to the people she grew up with at her childhood church: now, young adults, spiritual seekers, people willing to become our friends and be understanding of our plights. These young adults, in turn, introduced us to the wider church community at Central Woodward, and as a result, Tim and I joined the church this past Sunday. It seems like a good place to learn, and grow, to explore my relationship with God — and to continue to have supportive people surrounding us, including two other couples expecting children in the first half of next year.

In 2011, I want to reconnect with Katie F. Even if we only get together every other month, I think we can be good buddies about career stuff.

I want to spend more time cultivating the fraternity community — my husband’s fraternity and those men’s wives, and their children. They’re great people, a lot of fun, and they seem to accept kids just fine.

I want to become a contributing member of CWCC, and for the Young Adult group to take off and become really community oriented. I’ve volunteered to become the “point person” for the community, so hopefully I can use that unofficial position to my advantage in making sure the community continues and gets stronger.

#reverb10 Day 5: Let Go

Prompt: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley; reverb10.com)

In the early days of the new year, I had something akin to a panic attack — my anxiety spiked to near epic levels, and I was filled with dread and indecision for the new year. I hadn’t reflected and planned as #reverb10 seems to be allowing me to do, and so I was driving myself crazy trying to do everything, be everything, be independent and part of a community, to figure out how everything goes together.
I filled up the white board in our office with everything that was on my mind:

The pressure I was putting myself under ended up with me in counseling, talking to a woman I didn’t quite like, but was good enough. At one of the first meetings with her, she said to me, “It seems like you’re a perfectionist.”


You see, I had spent some time fighting perfectionism already — one of my personal philosophies was that perfect is the enemy of good, perfect is the enemy of done, and perfect was not something to be striving for. I didn’t want to perfect my writing in this sense, and I had given up being a perfect housekeeper, and forcing Tim to make it so that together we would be perfect housekeepers.

But still, as Laurie the not-so-great therapist pointed out to me, I was expecting a lot out of myself. I was expecting to get up the same time every day, despite being depressed. I was expecting myself to be perfectly efficient at work, despite the fact that I was getting good reviews and everyone goofs off a little, I was expecting myself to regiment my free time and never relax and always be achieving…

So, one thing that I have let go of is perfectionism in 2010. It isn’t a perfect process, but it is a process of doing exactly what I don’t want to do (overloading my schedule, thinking I have to do it all) and then slowly backing down from it (Promised to do a book drive, but don’t stress about writing a novel.) and providing self care (Buy yourself the clothes you want. Relax in the evening).

I don’t want to do it all, anymore, despite the fact that there is a lot that still is worth doing. I want to do what I can. One of my resolutions for 2010 was to declutter our home. Rather than do a half hour each day, I try to do one project in about a 4 hour block, from identifying the clutter to buying the containers to organize, to putting everything back together. It’s certainly not finished, but making it a goal, and continually persuing it — Tim and I have accomplished a lot this year. Perfectionism would demand I be angry or sad that I didn’t do it in the first three months of the year that I wanted, or that I haven’t finished by the end of the year, but when it comes down to it? I have done a lot.

I’ve tried, slowly, to get rid of perfectionism. It isn’t perfect — and if it were, it would defeat the point.

#reverb10 – December 4, Wonder

Prompt: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeff Davis; reverb10.com)

My knee-jerk reaction is to say “cultivating a sense of wonder is the same thing as cultivating mindfulness,” but in reality, that would not be a very mindful answer. It would be an answer from my reaction-self, instead of my observing-self.

It’s the season of the year where everyone talks about child-like wonder, much like the scene in The Christmas Story where Ralphie and his family go to look at the department store window display. “Wow,” the children breathe, and they are in awe and wonder at the spectacle.

I was thinking a couple of Sundays ago, as I was reading “The Heart of Christianity,” I began to think about what it would mean that God is transcendent. The best analogy that I can access, really, is one that exists in one of my favorite series of young adult books. The Young Wizard Books, by Diane Duane, are set in a universe with a Supreme Creator, generally referred to as The One. There are other Powers that Be, and The One is generally left undescribed, but one thing which is generally mentioned is Timeheart.

Timeheart is a place where everything is perfect; everything is perfection. When we die, we go to live in Timeheart — one of the most quoted lines from the books is, “If time has a heart, it’s because other hearts stop.” The idea is that this was the original universe, the one created by The One, by God, and all other universes are reflections and corruptions of that first one. And the wizards, throughout the universes, are working with the Powers that Be, including the One, to restore and repair our universes, so that we may move closer to the perfection that is promised us in the fulfillment of time. Or, at least, that’s how I choose to interpret the books, and how I more easily understand the idea of a Transcendent God.

I think that all of this explanation is to talk about how I experience wonder.

I experience wonder in nature, in perfection. While I drive in my car and observe the landscape that I’m speeding past — the colors of the fall, the skeletons in the winter, the lime green new leaves in the spring. God is in those trees, and through that transcendence, they are perfect.

I experience wonder in change. I went and voted this past November 2, and thought about how the next time I vote — next August, probably, in a primary — I will bring my infant with me. I wondered at time and circumstances marching on, how things we think of as routine can change in texture and meaning as our life marches on.

I experience wonder when I take the time to notice — to notice the crowd at an outdoor concert, and the little girl wearing glittery chuck taylors, knee-high stripped socks and her red hair in pigtails. When I look into my husband’s eyes intentionally, meeting them for long moments, as we both smile and yet don’t look away — wonder and comfort and love from this particular interaction.

I experience wonder when things are no longer abstract, when they become a reality before me. Seeing my baby, my Rocketship, have a head and arms and legs and vertebrae — I fell in love, in open-mouth wonder.

What have I done in the last year to cultivate my sense of wonder? I have quieted my soul, and I have begun to see. I have noticed things as they are, and know that they are fleeting, that moments are not to be grasped.  This isn’t a skill that I have perfected; it’s not a skill I can even claim to be an apprentice in. But it is a practice, and a way of life that I wish to continue in the new year.

#reverb10 Day 3: Moments

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; reverb10.com)

There are many moments in which I felt alive, moments that I have recorded elsewhere, in various states.

  • While commuting to work, observing the fall colors
  • Pondering the nature of a transcendent God
  • After practicing Yoga, dedicating it to compassion towards my husband, kissing him on the lips
  • At the Henry Ford/DSO Celebration of America outdoor concert, listening and watching the crowd
  • The morning I took the pregnancy test that confirmed this pregnancy
  • The ultrasound that showed me my well-formed baby, whom I feel in love with

I think what’s more important here is to reflect upon what I’ve learned about the moments that I’ve felt alive: I have been fully in the moment. I have been mindful. I have opened up my senses not to shutting out the world and all of it’s sensations instead of blocking them out to protect myself from them.

Like at the Concert/Fireworks show, we were having a picnic dinner, and I had brought my knitting to do while we waited for the show to start. I realized, after a bit, that I was using my knitting to focus, and thus to ignore the rest of the proceedings. After I made the conscious decision to look up, watch people, walk around and explore? Then, then I felt alive.

I am so glad I learned to be in the present, to be mindful, to experience the moments that end my list. To write them down, to keep them for future generations, or maybe just for my transient memory, so that I don’t have to grasp at the moment that just passed.