The News.

I’ve had an incredibly hard time focusing at work this week. I think it has something to do with my time on Whidbey Island and my fabulous trip to the Grand Canyon to celebrate my friend Jenny’s fortieth birthday. I think it also has to do with approaching my thirty-ninth birthday, which is in just over a week, and Christmas and New Years, which tend to get me into a little bit of a funk. This morning though, a big part of my mood is tied to the news.

I read an article about a female cyclist who was badly injured in Austin this morning. Immediately, I was tempted to start texting all my cycling friends to make sure they are all okay, but I can’t do that. There are too many, and I don’t even know all their numbers. I also read an article about a shooter in a Connecticut elementary school. It terrifies me that kids aren’t safe in schools. 

I need to focus on something positive, so I’ll think about Pflugerville Independent School District. I read in the local paper that this community, which neighbors Austin, will be offering domestic partner benefits to its employees beginning in January. A member of the board of trustees brought a motion to rescind those benefits, but his motion didn’t pass. According to the article, Pflugerville is the first school district in Texas to offer those benefits. I don’t live in Pflugerville, but I am proud of that district for leading the way in Texas.

This Week’s Wednesday List.

I’m still processing the beauty and adventure of the Grand Canyon. Plus, it’s been a wonderful couple of days back home. So many good things are happening.

  1. Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, and I got to have coffee with her in the morning. I also got to watch “The Voice” with her in the evening. Who knew Mom would ever be into that show? Like me, she adores the coaches, especially Adam.
  2. Today is Jenny’s birthday.  She was the reason for the Grand Canyon trip. I don’t know how I will ever be able to appropriately thank her for that journey, but I look forward to a lifelong friendship during which I will try. Happy birthday, Jenny! (I’ve included a picture from our trip. That’s Jenny on the left, Sarah in the middle and Julie on the right.)
  3. Today is my cousin Tina’s birthday, too. Tina is a bit younger than I am, but we click. If she lived near me, I’m pretty sure we’d talk often and hang out as much as possible. I’d get her running, and she’d make me watch terrible vampire movies. Happy birthday, cousin!
  4. My friend Andy from middle school camp and his wife had their sixth child today – a daughter. I haven’t met his family yet, but I love them. Andy and Laura Lynn are both gorgeous, but the kids? Oh my. They are stunning. Just stunning. Check them out, minus their newest addition. I can’t wait to meet the clan in 2013.
  5. It’s Christmas card season, and I’m having a ball replacing the cards on my refrigerator with new ones as they come in. After nearly a week away, last night I opened a ton of them. Two blew me away. One was my friend Meredith’s. She has three kids, and they are spunky and gorgeous, just like her. The other was from my friends Walter and Holly. Their card shows their little red-headed daughter kissing their baby boy. I want to squeeze them both and take them home with me. Goodness. I love getting these cards. Keep them coming.
  6. This morning, I had breakfast with my friend Erin who will be leaving us for Barcelona soon. I was ridiculously late, and she waited patiently for me to arrive. Erin challenges me every time I see her. She’s my visionary friend. I love my time with her and so look forward to exploring Spain with her in just a few months.
  7. I get to see my friend Rey this weekend. She moved to Washington in 2010 and is spending some time in South Texas with her family this week. I’ll be driving down to Corpus Christi on Saturday to have lunch with her and hopefully see another friend while I’m down there. Rey is like no one else I know. She is cheerful even in the face of adversity. I love being in her presence and am thankful for the chance to be there again for a bit this weekend.
  8. Speaking of adversity, one of my high school tennis coaches was recently inducted into the Texas Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame. I was at the Grand Canyon, so I missed the ceremony, but we have connected on Facebook. He and I didn’t always see eye to eye in the year we worked together. In fact, he wore these reflective sunglasses that drove me crazy because I couldn’t see his eyes at all. Looking back though, I am grateful for the chance to have worked with him. He knew how to extract the best from his players. That extraction hurt sometimes, but we were all the better for it. I am better for it. So thank you, Coach Cass.
  9. I’m still floating and, more importantly, still writing from the Aldermarsh experience. Yesterday, I received in the mail a candle like the one we used in the center of the circle during that retreat. I learned that sometimes lighting a candle can be a good way to start writing time. It helps frame the time and keep you in the seat for as long as the candle is burning. I’m planning to try that tonight when I write.
  10. In ten days, on my 39th birthday, I’ll be hiking Enchanted Rock. As I enter my 40th year, I’m determined to make it a year of firsts. Enchanted Rock is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time and never have, so that seemed like a good start.

That’s it for now. Once again, I hope your Wednesday is as sweet as mine has been. 

A Poem I Didn’t Write.

I spent this weekend at the Grand Canyon. With three dear friends, I hiked from the South Rim down to the Colorado River, camped one night, and then hiked back up.

It’s going to take me more than a few days to process what we saw and did. For now, I offer this poem written by my wonderful and talented friend, Maria Rivera. It sums up the joy of this trip just beautifully.  She calls it, “You’re Not a Monkey.”

You’re not a monkey.
But sometimes,
when you’ve
finished all you have to do,
Words like “wheee” and “free” and “sway” and “play”
Reach out,
telling you it’s time
To find the nearest tree.

To pick out a branch
Around which to wrap your tail
and swing
like there’s no
tomorrow.

A Wednesday List.

Something has shifted in me since my wonderful retreat to Whidbey Island. I’m home and feeling grateful for the women I met there – the friends I made. I am feeling grateful generally and thought I’d take a few minutes to make a list of wonderful things happening right now.

  1. I’m writing again. My silent time on the island kicked that off.
  2. I spent a wonderful evening on the phone last night reconnecting with a dear one. And if that wasn’t gift enough, Bread insisted on sitting on my lap the entire time.
  3. I had coffee at home with my mom this morning before heading in to work.
  4. I was able to attend Toastmasters today after more than a month of missing meetings.
  5. I just made plans to meet my friend Erin for a run and breakfast before she heads to Barcelona next week.
  6. I’m meeting a friend I’ve known for years but don’t often get to see for dinner tonight, in part to celebrate how close she is to having her first child.
  7. Tomorrow, I get to meet with my financial advisor, who has become a most trusted friend, to talk about retirement planning and goal setting for 2013.
  8. I leave for the Grand Canyon on Friday to celebrate the fortieth birthday of one of my favorite people in the world. (Happy birthday, Jenny!)
  9. I finally know exactly what I’m doing for my mom for Christmas. I owe my new friend Gretchen, from Whidbey Island, for the gift idea.
  10. I made my Christmas card list on my way up to Whidbey Island last week. Looking at it – and realizing now that I have some additions to make after last week’s retreat – I’m reminded at how rich my life is in friendships.

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I hope yours is as sweet as mine has been.

Off the Island.

I’m back home after an incredible week on Whidbey Island. I joined a remarkable group of women there and spent the week talking about our stories and writing some of them. After we wrote, we read to one another. Through the readings, we offered the circle of women a piece of ourselves, and those pieces were received and celebrated in the most loving way.

I told the group this morning, as we were saying goodbye, that I had entered the island determined to spend a week alone. The reality though is that I was never truly alone. I did have my own room. I also had quiet mornings to myself before the house woke up. I took time to run by myself to the beach. And we agreed, as a community, to have an extended period of silence so that we could write without interruption. But I was never truly alone. These women entered my heart within the first couple of days, and I carried them with me the entire week – when I slept, when I read, when I ran, and when I wrote. I carried them with me off the island, and I will carry them with me going forward.

I will also carry with me the freedom of this moment on the ferry back to the mainland.

Thank you, ladies. I will carry you with me wherever I go.

The Beach.

This morning, I woke up excited to run to the beach. Aldermarsh sits inland, about three miles from the shore. I had been told the beach was a nice run from here, but I hadn’t tried it, mostly due to time. But since today was an unscheduled day for writing, I decided to give myself a couple of hours to make the journey.

It was cold and rainy. Normally, that would have kept me indoors, but I’ve gotten more used to wandering around in the rain just in my week here. Also, I knew that I could wear the rain cycling jacket Erin gave me for Christmas last year. It would keep me dry, and it’s bright yellow, which gave me confidence that any passing drivers would see me. So I put that jacket on over my long-sleeved layers, and I set out for the shore.

I didn’t know the terrain or how long it would take me to get there. But that didn’t matter. The run felt good on my legs. I noticed the barns and fields along the way. I saw some small roads but only one major intersection with stop signs – no light. My mind was on my writing project as I ran and before I knew it, I was at the beach. When I got there, I realized the rain had stopped.

I was running with my phone in a plastic bag in my pocket, largely because I didn’t know exactly where I was going. I thought I might need to call for a ride if I got lost. I didn’t, but the phone came in handy because I was able to take this picture.

Now, I’m back at the house drinking a cup of tea and working up the courage to dive back into my project.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a good day.

Aldermarsh.

Last time I checked in, I was writing early in the morning. I can’t believe that was just yesterday. I’ve been through two days of workshops since then, and now we are in a period of silence. From this evening until Sunday morning, we are not disrupting one another with conversation. The idea is that we get into the flow and just write.

Talk about pressure.

Today I outlined the project I have in mind. Tomorrow, I have to start writing. Not brainstorming. Not outlining. Actually writing. I have all day with nothing on the program to serve as an excuse. It’s me and my laptop, and we’re off.

I expect to have a full productivity report late tomorrow or early Sunday. In the meantime, check out one view of where I am.

This place is called Aldermarsh. It’s a stunning piece of property on Whidbey Island. Just stunning.