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The Cost of Dreaming

30 Jan

photo from soul meets body

So I was looking back over my wishes for 2012 and saw that I wrote, on this very blog, that I would live to cross 15 of the 25 remaining items off of The List this year. That’s 15 things in 12 months. Or, more accurately since I haven’t accomplished any this month, 15 things in 11 months. Holy crappers, people, that’s a lot of things to do!

As I look over my list, the thing that strikes me most is that crossing things off my list is going to cost me. Why didn’t that occur to me, in a real dollars and cents way, before now? A and I do just fine, thankyouverymuch, but most of our money isn’t liquid. As A likes to put it, we’re house-poor. Even more so with our water heater basically exploding last week. The more I work on crossing off the list, the more I realize that even having a list means accepting cost. It has a tangible monetary cost, but it also costs time, it costs effort, and I can see why people put off their dreams because, at the end of the day, dreaming is costly.

A few months ago I was at a lecture by Kathi Lipp where she talked to women about finding their dream. One of the things I remember her saying the most was (and I’m heavily paraphrasing here) that lots of women don’t know how find their dreams, and those who do let the excuses of time or money get in the way of pursuing their dreams. My 30 before 30 list is an excercise in dreaming, and there’s no way I’m going to get 15 things crossed off in the next year, let alone 25 in two, if I don’t plan for it. Make the time, set aside the money, and just balls-to-the-wall go for it, baby.

When A and I decided it was time to put aside excuses and have me start Christian counselling, we did it not knowing where the money was going to come from. All we knew was that we’d prayed for assistance, it hadn’t come, but that we’d waited long enough and it was time. After we took the leap and I started meeting with a counsellor, the financial help appeared. Our prayers were answered. But we had to take the leap first.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that was a special case. I don’t think God’s going to show up if I pray hard enough for the money to appear so A and I can learn to make sushi. My point it that dreaming takes planning, intention, and making a choice to go for it, come what may. So this month I’m starting a 30 Before 30 fund. I’m lucky enough to work at a job where I get reimbursed a bit for the endless amount of commuting I do. With A’s blessing I’m now going to save up my mileage and designate it my dream fund – a little bit above and beyond our normal income that I can put towards my dreams guilt-free. But if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t let that stop me. I’d find another way to cut a corner: forego my Friday latte, reduce my cell phone’s data plan, nix Netflix, something. Because as nice as those little luxuries are, they’re nothing compared to seeing a dream become reality and being able to look back and say “yeah, I did that. I went for it.”

If you’re waiting on someone to hand you the golden ticket to  make all your dreams come true, I have three words for you: Get Over It. No one will care more about your dreams than you will. No one has the capacity to make them happen like you do. No one else will hunger to see them come to life, and darn the cost. Because it will cost you: effort, time, willpower, maybe even money, but as someone working through her own mini-bucket list I’m here to tell you that it’s worth every bit of it.

So that’s my pledge for this next chapter of my life: to go forward with no excuses. If I can’t afford it, I’ll save up or find a way to make it happen for less. If I don’t have time, well, we always make time for that which is most important to us, don’t we? If I don’t have the drive, I have a friends and a loving husband to help keep me accountable. I’ll be intentional, and make it happen.

Do you ever let outside forces stand in the way of your dreams?

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Friendship Without Food Dates #1 and #2

24 Jan

my friends and i totally look like this when we hang out. from the girl with the popped collar on tumblr

So far my year of intentionality is going well, but wouldn’t you know it? I’m having to intentionally make an effort to make it happen. Funny how that works. 🙂

One of my stated goals for this year was to find ways to hang out with friends that don’t revolve around food, which coincidentally helps me with my goal to nurture the relationships I have. I thought this one was going to be a slam dunk, but it’s hard to think of fun things to do that don’t revolve around food! I didn’t set this goal because I’m anti-food. Far from it! I just grow tired of our collective cultural obsession with food, and how it seems like we don’t get together anymore without the interaction revolving around what we’re going to eat. What to hang out after church? Let’s grab lunch! Haven’t had time to catch up with a girlfriend for a while? Meet for coffee! Want to move that friendship with the new-ish friends in your life forward? Invite them over for dinner! What to go catch a movie? Might as well grab dinner beforehand! All in all I don’t think this focus on food is inherently bad, but since several of my goals for living intentionally this year is to focus on relationships I want them to be the focus, not where and how and when we’re going to eat.

So I had two successes this week. For my first Friendship Without Food date I met up with a friend who is fun and outdoors-ey, who loved to run before I learned how fun it could be (I believe I called her ‘stupid’ when we met and she told me she loved to run. Oh, the Lord has a sense of humor.) and who’s fairly new to the area and has many trails yet to explore. I’m blessed to live anywhere from walking distance to a ten-minute drive from three excellent trails that exist to give walkers, runners, bikers, dog walkers, and stroller-moms a place to get some exercise. Most follow some kind of creek, and are pretty freaking scenic for being in the middle of heavily populated cities. So I took my friend to a new (to her) trail. We did an easy three miles – out and back from the park to a nice bridge that does a great job as a 1.5 mile marker. Good sport that she is, we brought my raggety-taggity dogs along, and walked most of it because my pooches be lazy. The conversation was fluid and easy. We stopped to take pictures of a white heron and when I got a rock in my shoe. Our talk matched our walking pace, and wasn’t interrupted by us shoveling food into our mouths or making the “sorry, I’m chewing, but I so have a comment to make” face we women are so good at. We both felt great afterwards, as we’d gotten to be lazy and sleep in on our day off but also were active and got in our exercise. I call unequivocally successful Friendship Without Food date.

FWF date #2 was with my bff, and here’s where the water gets a little murky. We had food during our date. (Cue dramatic music: Dum dum DUMMMMM!) We had dinner with her family (and her kids, whom I adore) before settling in for one of our long catch-up nights. I’m still calling this a successful FWF date, because our interaction didn’t hinge on whether or not we ate. We would still have had a great evening had I showed up an hour later and not been around for the meal, but as it was dinner was a nice (and delicious) bonus to an evening that was about us hanging out and catching up. With really great friends you don’t need much more than their company to make it a great night.

So that’s where I’ve come to on my quest to do friendship without food: that food can still be around, so long as our time doesn’t hinge on it. Meeting for lunch to catch up doesn’t count. Going for a run and deciding to grab a bite afterwards because we’re both starving does. Going to Monterey to walk along the coast and grabbing dinner while we’re there counts. Going to Monterey because we want to have dinner at that one place we went to once and loved doesn’t. It’s a fine line, and I intend to spend the rest of this year walking it.

Do you have ideas for FWF hangouts? I’ve been trying to come up with some creative ones, and it’s tough! How do you and your friends enjoy each other’s company without food?

An Excercise in Intentionality

16 Jan

Scene – Thursday night:
A’s first day back to work after a week off. Unbeknownst to me he is mad stressed out, realizing that the work he thought he had a few weeks of grace to finish is due, like, yesterday. Coincidentally, this is the night I decide to implement my long-awaited plan to live intentionally by increasing our intimacy and enjoyment of the time we spend together over dinner. My plan was three-fold:

1. Taking the suggestion of a featured chef in Runner’s World to take time to savor a glass of wine with a light snack – in this case spiced nuts – before dinner.
2. Heat dinner – in this case yummy leftover carrot ginger miso soup with pain de levain and butter – while we enjoy wine and snacks.
3. End with a tasting of good cheese – in this case a 5-year aged gouda from whole foods ($3.62 for 5 oz.) with rosemary flatbread crackers – as a dessert alternative to finish the meal on a decadent and satisfactory note.

I felt this plan was very French; spread the enjoyment of a meal over a longer period of time, eat less because you’re less ravenous, and reap the benefits of an evening filled with good food and conversation instead of spending another night rushing through dinner before watching the newest episode of Biggest Loser.

Act 1 – my car, between school campuses. I dial A on my cell. Split screen to show conversation.

Me: “Hi sweetie! How’s your day?”

A: “Fine. Busy.”

Me: “Oh, sorry. I won’t keep you then. I just wanted to let you know I had an idea. Tonight we are going to do an experiment to increase our intimacy and enjoyment of dinner!”

A: “…..”

Me: “Honey?”

A: “I’m here. That sounds…nice…”

Me: (Not sensing the tone) “Great! It’s going to be really good, honey, trust me.”

A: “Ok…I’m going to try and work out when I get home, so I’ll be later for dinner.”

Me: “That’s fine! We’ll make it work. I love you.”

A: “Loveyoubye.” (click)

Now, for the uninitiated, A gets pretty hungry after a workout. I briefly thought about putting off my experiment since A tends to come in from workouts hungry as a bear and lingering over a glass of wine and a bowl of nuts just might not cut it. However, I decided to trust in A’s love of snacking to get him through and get on with the plan.

Scene – Our living room.
A comes in sweaty after a workout. He asks me if he can shower before we sit down to eat (yes, please!) and heads off to get clean. I insist he eats a banana before he showers to ward of the hungry bear effect, which he does. While he’s scrubbing up I set out a small bowl of spiced nuts, two glasses of a yummy pinot grigio, and put the Feist station on Pandora. (I told you I was obsessed. It’s the perfect soundtrack: mellow, yet interesting with a touch of whimsy music for an intimate evening in.) A gets out of the shower and dutifully asks if he can put a load in the laundry before sitting down.

Fast forward 30 minutes:
A and are sitting in the Talking Chairs, feet up, wine in hand. Our glasses are mostly empty, and the nuts have done their job. A’s shoulders aren’t hunched with tension as they were when he came through the door. We talk about our day and share anecdotes and thoughts we’d had that would interest the other. Just before I get up to take the bread out of the oven, A heaves a deep sigh and says “you know wife, I was sceptical about this ‘intentional night’ of yours, but this is really nice. I was stressed out today, but now I feel  a lot better.”

We start dinner, nothing special since it’s leftovers, and a funny thing happens. Since we’d already talked about our days, we get to talk about other things. Goals, dreams, plans for keeping our spiritual intimacy while A’s going the rigors of tax season. Thanks to the pre-dinner wine and snack we’re not ravenously chowing down our food as we usually would – we’re tasting, savoring, and enjoying both our time together and the conversation that’s flowing like honeyed wine between us. Adele, The Postal Service, and, of course, Feist is playing in the background, adding to our mellowness.

I clear the plates, put away the leftovers (both usually A’s job since I ‘cooked’, but I was feeling very mellow and loving towards A.) and set out the gouda and crackers. We both have three small satisfying bites (even though there is much more cheese to be had) and declare ourselves sated. A gives me a more in-depth view of how stressed out he’s been all day. He tells me that the workout helped, but coming home to this purposefully relaxed evening really undid his tension.

The Difference:
Usually we rush through dinner, or even eat it in front of the tv, then watch different shows to unwind before ultimately getting tired enough to go to bed. That night A suggested that after dinner we just read together on the couch for awhile. He didn’t say it, but I knew what he meant: he didn’t want to break the tranquility of our evening with canned laugh tracks and a contrived plotline. So we curled up on the couch with our two lazy dogs and read. After awhile A got up to change the laundry and do the dishes without me having to ask, with a smile on his face and relaxed shoulders. All in all, the night turned out better than I’d hoped.

It wasn’t my intention to de-stress my husband (mostly because I didn’t know when I planned this that he was stressed), but I feel my intentional evening did exactly what I wanted it to:

– Brought us closer together emotionally and spiritually.
– Created an environment of intentional enjoyment, of each other and of the food God has provided.
– Gave A a respite from his day.

Now before you think I’m all pie in the sky, I’m a realist. I know we’re not going to be able to do this every night. But on the nights we’re home with enough time to sit down to dinner, I want to work on making a habit of taking it slowly, enjoying our food, our evening, and each other. This is especially important since A’s heading into the worst tax season he’s seen in his career.

I figure I’ll continue with my experiment for the next two weeks – a good trial period to see if the wine-before-dinner-cheese-after thing can be sustainably successful – but if Thursday night is any indication, we are well on our way to making 2012 a year of intentionally enjoying each other.

And we didn’t even miss the tv.

Friday Five – A Week in Gratitude: Frugality, Food, Free Time, and Fire

13 Jan

Five things from this week that I’m grateful for:

freshly baked cookies await upon check in

1. (Frugal) Time Away With My Husband

A few weeks ago A called me at work, saying he got an email from one of our favorite Inns in Carmel offering rooms at 60% off. He asked if I’d like to go away for a weekend before tax season got started. My response? “Are you kidding me?!? Of course I want to go! How soon can we get a room?”

a little wine, sipped in a garden, with an artisinal cheese plate at georis

2. Good Food and Good Wine

We go to Carmel a lot, so this trip we wanted to do something different. It was unseasonably sunny and warm (mid-60’s all weekend) so we decided to explore Carmel Valley instead of doing our usual downtown/beach routine. We sampled offerings from local wineries and ate an amazing lunch crafted to pair with the wines in the area. Food in Carmel never disappoints, and I am always grateful to God that not only are we so richly blessed to have food to eat, but that it’s good food, our choice of food, prepared with care.

see that sink on the right? next to the microwave? saved our lives

3. An Opportunely Placed Sink

Our last night at the Inn, we decided to have a classic Aylesworth night in after dinner and enjoy champagne and popcorn while watching a movie. Except the microwave was faulty. And burned our popcorn. And when I say burned, I mean burned, as in caught fire. Thank the Lord I was standing right there and saw the bag ignite. I had a split second’s hesitation of “holy crap, what do I do?!?”  before I glanced down and remembered that because we were in the deluxe suite there was a deep metal sink right next to the microwave. One faucet blast later and we were staring down in shock at the charred, soggy mess that was our popcorn. We chose to use the stove to pop the corn after that.

buy local, eat local

4. Living in California, Where Good Local Produce is Always Available

While we were driving to Carmel Valley from Carmel-By-the-Sea (yes, it’s actually named that. Because it’s not a place, it’s a lifestyle.) we drove past a lot of farm land. As we came upon a sign for one of the farms, A and I pointed to it at the same time, because we recognized the logo as our preferred brand of leafy greens for salads. I try to buy local as much as possible, so I’d known that this farm was near our hometown, but actually seeing the sign pop up on our weekend getaway made it all so much more real. Not only does my food not have to make the trek across state lines, (using up fuel, oil, and being harvested prematurely so that it will survive the trip) but when I buy from this company I’m putting money back into the pockets on people in a community I love. It was a great reminder of the importance of buying locally, and a wonderful edification of my goal to live intentionally this year. I’m so grateful that it’s so easy to buy local in California, where we can grow fruits and veggies year round because our state freakin’ rocks.

give us a place by the sea, and we'll be happy

5. A Well-rested Hubby

A is an accountant. He works very hard all year round, but never more so than between January and April. Those months take the work load from steady to extreme. This year, he’s been working near-tax season hours since October, and it’s been really tough on him and on us. Right before he got the offer from the Inn in Carmel, he decided that despite the work piling up, despite the busyness, despite the crazy pace he and his co-workers were keeping, he was going to take the first week in January off. He’s taken some time to rest and renew, sleep in, gotten some housework done (but not too much!) and spent a lot of time conquering the universe on his games. He’s taken care of dinner the last few nights, letting me have time to fit in a run, and turned into the extra-wife-pampering husband he always becomes when he has some time off. I’m so grateful he has a job, especially one that recognizes the value of rest and let him get away before he burned out.

What are you grateful for today?

2012 – The Year of Living Intentionally

4 Jan

 

photo from goawaycomeback on tumblr

in·ten·tion – noun
1. the act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.
2. the end or object intended; purpose

For the past two years my blogging friend, Katie of Cakes Tea and Dreams, has inspired me with the idea of holding on to one little word for a year. This is the first year my blog has been in a position where I can publicly give voice to mine. I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, as I prefer to set goals and dream big on my birthday. But I appreciate the simplicity of giving a name to a year, of distilling all your hopes and wishes for the following 366 days into one little word. So this year my one little word is “Intention.”

This word is actually a declaration of all that I wish I’d accomplished in 2011. As I may have mentioned before, 2011 was a year where A and I looking down on ourselves from above, seperate and circling our own lives in a holding pattern. We had great plans for moving forward, for working on our marriage, our finances, our faith walks, but due to setbacks, business, and basically getting hit from all sides we did nothing. Nada. But hey, 2011 could have seen us ending up in so much worse shape than just being in stasis; given the relational alternatives stress can have on a marriage, I’ll take maintaining any day. But this year will be different. I will be different. I won’t be stuck in a holding pattern, I will be intentional.

Here is what I intend to work towards:

  • Pursuing the Lord’s heart like I did when I first loved Him
  • Moving into a season of greater spiritual and emotional intimacy with my husband
  • Moving forward with the ministry God’s put in front of me
  • Making the most of the relationships I have, and taking time to nurture them
  • Tackling some of the harder things on The List, especially the ones that scare me
  • Having more people over for dinner, and not letting time/stress/money get in the way of my love of being a hostess
  • Finding ways beyond words to show people that I love them
  • Buying locally as much as possible
  • Finding fun, creative ways to get together with friends that don’t revolve around food
  • Reading challenging, empowering, quality books instead of solely feeding my brain a mental fast food diet of chick-lit
  • Putting my health first and making the time to exercise

That’s my word, that’s my plan, and hopefully that’s my 2012.

If you were to choose a word for 2012, what would it be? If you blog about it, drop me a line and let me know!

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