The First Post of the Year!

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplashI’ve been blogging a little over a year now, but 2019 makes for the third calendar year I’ve been writing and throwing it all out there for everyone to see. It wasn’t lost on me this go around that the first post of the year is kind of a big deal, ya know? It has the ability to set the tone for the year, you see.

It’s like that scene with Santa at the North Pole in The Polar Express, when he presents the first gift of Christmas.

No pressure or anything. It’s just, you wonder if you should be able to hear the elves cheering at the North Pole here in Ohio when you hit the “publish” button.

Is it a wee bit ironic that this particular blog post is not the first post of the year? I digress….

It’s January 11 and our Christmas decorations are still up. Don’t judge! I suppose I could be removing Christmas ornaments right this very moment but I am choosing instead to write. Priorities, priorities… There is so much to catch you guys up on!

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a big blur and a big ball of stress but somehow I wake up on Christmas Day and everything is right with the world. Sure, we didn’t get to see everyone we wanted to this year, but the day was fun and relaxed.

One of my favorite weeks of the year is that time between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Like that line from the Chicago song, does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? It doesn’t matter if I’m working or not, it’s a pretty relaxed week and quiet at work if I do, and there is simply no pressure to do anything if you don’t want to. Talk about blessed.

I wish people weren’t in such a hurry to rip down their decorations that week. I think we should all just hit the snooze button on life and take a lesson from the Danes and embrace hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”).

Hygge is kinda hard to explain, so I’m told. It’s a state of being. I suppose you can describe it by saying it’s the cozy feeling of contentment that overcomes you when you just hang out at home in PJs and fuzzy slippers, feed the fireplace, drink hot cocoa, snuggle, and be happy. I even got a book about hygge this Christmas. Can’t wait to crack it open this winter and enjoy. Hygge is my favorite state of being. I inherently knew what hygge was before I knew there was a word for it.

Perhaps if I got a tattoo, it should say “hygge me” inside of a heart. I might be onto something there…


We sent our Christmas cards to family and friends but this year, I took the unprecedented step of writing a letter to go along with it. Let that sink in for a moment: I love to write but I never did that before. Isn’t that funny?

It was pretty well received. A few people contacted me to say they enjoyed it. What they didn’t know is that I wrote it off the top of my head and the original version was six – count them, SIX – pages long! It hit me that 1) no one wants to read six pages about the five of us, and 2) that gets a little costly for the number of cards we mail, so I was forced to play editor and whittle it down to just two pages.

Do you know how hard that is? I mean, I had YEARS worth of news to catch people up on, people I don’t get to see very often if at all.


I’ve had a lot of thoughts and content bubbling up inside for the last few weeks but I just couldn’t find the time to get it written down. Instead, I’ve been on the prowl for a puppy.

Yes, a puppy. Our oldest seems to be allergic to big dogs, so this makes the effort a little challenging. We would love to welcome a pet into our lives but we’re all allergic to cats. It’s been over five years since our angel of a basset hound, Monk, passed away. I’ve been researching breeds and we think we are ready to move forward with a Maltipoo, a low-shedding, hypo-allergenic cross between a poodle and Maltese. Part of me is a little anxious about having to train a puppy but “designer dog” rescues are hard to come by although not impossible. We may have found a rescue, actually. We need to do more research on that but at least we’re aware of one.

<<< Isn’t this little guy cute? Be still my heart. I want to hygge him.

But these last three or four weeks? I’m exhausted. It occurred to me today that I am “puppy pregnant”, which is not to say I’m actually pregnant. Oh, no…. Mama Louie’s uterus is closed for business, shall we say! ūüė≥

But seriously, I’m scanning puppy sites in my every spare moments. I’m scrolling through endless dog names. I notice everyone who already has a dog. I’m wondering if the dog we get will look like my husband and the kids (dark-haired) or more like me (returning to the blond of my toddler years)? I’m starting to buy things to nest. The kids can not wait to add to the family. Our youngest is looking forward to no longer being the youngest. ūü§£

Did I mention I’m tired, oh so very tired? This past Monday wasn’t even my first day back at work but midway through an afternoon meeting I wanted to grab a pillow, curl up in a ball, and nap.

Will it be a boy or a girl? Will it be a colicky baby or sweet? Will it come “late” or “early”? We’re not even sure when we’re “due”.

Puppy pregnant is a real thing.

I need a nap.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

 

New Year Blessings

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Image courtesy of Ian Schneider on Unsplash.com

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018. It’s my sincere hope that you be happy, healthy, and prosperous in the new year. Count your many blessings.

Following the example of a relative of mine, I thought I’d recap the top highlights of 2017 concluding today. Earlier this afternoon we held our family meeting, the Louie Scoop, and recounted 219 celebrations we acknowledged as a family over the year.

219!

Items both big and small. It brought smiles to our faces to remember the wonderful things that happened. In a year when so many crummy things can bring us down, whether it is the state of politics (I’m really struggling with this), natural disasters (how horrific), or other matters of chance that bring bad luck, it’s imperative that we remember the things that make us happy and bring joy. They are everywhere.

So here’s my personal year in review…and an attempt to look at the bright side of things…COUNT MY BLESSINGS.

1) Celebrating my 50th birthday first with family at one of my all-time favorite restaurants Gervasi Vineyard, then with my husband on a last-minute cruise to the Bahamas, beating the hurricane the entire time. Relatively healthy and happy. Living in a warm, welcoming home in a charming, safe, small town. Blessed beyond measure with my family. Working professionally in a job that I mostly enjoy at a good company.

2) Traveling with my oldest son to Seattle for a special mom-son getaway. Eating dinner at the Space Needle, catching the Seattle Sounders play, and seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors in person at the Pacific Science Center. It was so good we may make it an annual event each year he is in high school.

3) Celebrating a dear friend’s¬†successful battle against ovarian cancer with a girls’ weekend trip to Bedford Springs. You MUST celebrate moments like that.

4) Connecting and reconnecting with so many friends this year, most involving travel and trips of some kind…a high school friend I haven’t seen in over 30 years. A couple of friends from my Pittsburgh days that I have lost touch with over the years. A couple of friends locally whose friendships have strengthened.¬†Thank you all. You have no idea how you warmed my heart and I hope that I can return the favor. After years of intense loneliness and honestly wondering why can’t I be “normal”, it was a huge relief to just be me around these friends of mine, not having to worry about putting on an act, if I’m talking too much, or not enough, or wondering if I’m likable enough…. These friends of mine, God bless them, love me for exactly who I am. What a gift!

5) Taking that amazing 9-day California trip we took with the kids to Los Angeles and San Diego in the summer. I didn’t think I’d enjoy LA since I didn’t particularly love it during my prior work trips out there but through the lens of my kids it was incredible. How I love the internet and the ability to search where to go at the touch of a button! True to form, I reconnected with a couple of other friends I haven’t seen in years (I kinda do have friends all over the country). We jammed so much into that time: the film studios, Hollywood, USC and UCLA, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, Zuma & Huntington Beaches, the USS Midland, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado…and it was incredible. Tried an AirBNB condo for the first time in LA and it was huge, clean, tastefully appointed, the right price, centrally located, just PERFECT. Breaks my heart to think about how much of this area was caught up in the wildfires…

6) Watching our kids excel in something they love. The oldest playing snare in the marching band as a freshman, our daughter dancing her heart out and performing her first duet, the youngest learning the piano and loving every second….and performing an accidental solo without missing a beat (since we forgot his music book at home and I ¬†didn’t realize he was performing at all that day!)

7) Having Easter dinner with my three siblings and three cousins at one cousins’ home for the first time together in 40 years. Our mothers were sisters and we seven cousins may as well have been siblings, we spent so much time together. This was true until I turned 10, when my aunt died. Most of my cousins and siblings are much older than me, so they were adults then or almost adults. Two of the cousins and two sibs moved away, then it was my turn. So not only did we have a death to change the family dynamic, we had distance to do it too. Now all of our parents are long gone, and most of us have married with kids of our own, and now some grandkids in the bunch. I don’t know how many of us gathered at the home….40-some people? Tables everywhere. Some tears of remembrance. It was¬†pretty old school and awesome having the seven of us cousins all together like that, like we haven’t really done in 40-some years. Plus watching my brother and my youngest play baseball together was priceless.

8) Welcoming one of my nephews back to Pittsburgh from Colorado just last week. He moved away for college, traveled in Europe, moved to Austin, and then Loveland for the 13 years or so. As an extended family we get together for holidays but there were many times he wasn’t there, and I definitely felt his absence….I’m so glad he’s back among family and we can see him more.

9) Finally buying a new car, a white Honda CRV after nine years of driving Rocket, my red Jeep Patriot (Rocket was named by my oldest, using Little Einsteins as his inspiration…) . “Puff Betty” is her name, a mash-up of contributions provided by my kids and friends. ¬†“Puff” because being white, the car reminds my kids of a cloud. “Betty White” was the suggestion of my friend. I decided to pull a Sean Combs and call her Puff Betty. My heart was originally set on “Bianca” which is white in Italian but I decided that a Honda CRV wasn’t nearly sexy enough for that kinda name. Maybe one of these days I’ll drive a sports car and name her Bianca or something even better.

10) Starting this blog. 33 followers so far after three months. I warned you guys I would be all over the place in terms of what I write about. Hopefully you like what you’ve seen so far.

So take a moment and count your blessings from this past year. Wish a happy new year to the people you love the most. Kiss. Hug. Mean it. And give 2018 all you’ve got!

My Intention for 2018

It seems like the thing is to have a one word intention to set the course for the year ahead. Author Gretchen Rubin talks about this on her Happier podcast. Also I keep seeing ads for this company called MyIntent.org where you can make a bracelet or necklace with your one word for the year. This is the coolest idea! I really like the idea of the bracelet: something I would wear daily to constantly remind me of where I want my focus to be. I’m going to suggest this to my family so maybe we can all get bracelets and cheer one another on as the year advances. Seriously, how cool would it be if our entire family wore “matching” bracelets? I mean, everyone would have their own word but the fact that we did it together? Priceless.

One word! It’s harder than it should be to come up with one word. Maybe that’s because when I think through my goals for the new year, I look at several different angles of my life and while definite themes arise, I can’t find one word that does justice. Plus a year is a long time, and as humans, we are infinitely capable of far more if we put our minds to it.

You need only look at the ten resolutions I made for 2017 to know that I’m ambitious but I do want to pare down my focus a bit this upcoming year and significantly advance on a couple of things. Master them, if you will.

After careful thought I’ve whittled my intention for 2018 down to three words: very fitting for me as three is my favorite number. They are breathe, connect, and nest.

Breathe – My daily reminder to pray, meditate, set my intention for the day, and journal. To choose food that will nourish and heal me. To think before talking. To think before ariel-lustre-242326spending. (God help me if I spend one more dollar on a piece of clothing for myself.) To walk 10,000 steps daily and stand instead of sit for half of my workday. To stretch and strengthen this body, be very mindful of the state of my physical, spiritual, and mental health and work to keep all three vibrating positively.

Connect – To celebrate the big birthdays in my family this year. We have a child going into double digits (woo hoo!) and a new octogenarian mother-in-law. My husband turns 50 and two nieces turn 30. These milestones are very big deals and we should celebrate them.

My oldest and I had such a wonderful time last year on a special, long weekend trip to Seattle, I’ve decided we will make it our thing each year he is in high school. It was an amazing way to connect with him and there is just no way I will limit our time to just one trip. He wants to go to Chicago this year. I’m down with that. We’ll get our picture taken at the “bean” and catch an MLS game. Maybe Taste of Chicago will be going on while we’re there. Whatever he wants to do. He loves his mom and I love him. It will be amazing…isaac-benhesed-70642

I want to give more to charity – sure we give to our church and to the United Way, and I often contribute to the Red Cross during times of crisis and support other people in their various causes, but this year I want to think deliberately about the causes I personally want to support and I will give to them. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to figure that out!

Connecting also means making more of an effort to resurrect old friendships and strengthen new ones. If you saw one of my last posts, you know how much I need a community. It’s scary to open myself up to new people so I tend to gravitate toward the ones I already know even though none of them live by me. But open ourselves up we will and host brunch every now and then…opening up our house like we used to do when my husband was in the Air Force and 30-some people would descend upon the house, or like I used to do when I was single and hosted parties with 70-some people. It feels like a lifetime ago how I used to be a connector for others, even a matchmaker for a couple of marriages, and I do nothing of the sort now.

But that’s not all. Connecting means reading even more books, blogging routinely here and on LinkedIn, and even learning a new language, starting with Spanish. The Coffee Break Spanish is a fun podcast for that! ¬†Connecting also means grounding myself with nature by hiking more, and sketching…trying something altogether creatively new.

Nest – And this is where I let the floodgates open to some additional home improvement. I consider the home a sanctuary, but we’ve put so many changes on hold forever. It’s time to make our house as cozy as possible. Every thing in it beautiful and functional. Not too much, and not too little. In this context, nesting is not mutually exclusive of connecting. They go together, actually.logan-nolin-347104

Do you have an intention for 2018? Are you a believer in the “one word” approach? What works for you? I’d love to hear from you on this topic so we can support one another.

Happy new year. I am definitely ready to flip the page to something new.

 

Photo credits in order of appearance, all courtesy of Unsplash.com: Ariel Lustre, Isaac Benhesed, and Logan Nolin