O Holy Night

“Truly he taught us to love one another

His law is love, and his gospel is peace

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother

And in his name, all oppression shall cease”

-Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, 1847

2009 Top 10

I’m rather ready for 2009 to be over, but I thought I’d practice a little gratitude for the good that 2009 brought. Here are the highlights!

1. Climbing Enchanted Rock outside of Austin last January was traumatic (we got stuck in a cave! it was a death-defying stunt to get down the steep part! there was blood!), but I had a wonderful time with my dad, sister, and her boyfriend. The weather was perfect – sunny and cool – the company was good, and the scenery was gorgeous. And I only bled a little bit.

2. I joined the Archer Avenue Community Garden! Until the garden, I killed plants almost immediately upon getting them, and my attempts at growing any vegetables from seed were laughable. But then four of us gathered on a small plot of land in an Oak Cliff back yard and made FOOD GROW. I’m still a little amazed. I’m not a member anymore, but I can’t explain how much I enjoyed the months spent here digging, planting, tending, and harvesting. It was deeply restorative, at least for a while, and I gained insight into the food chain in a very tangible way. It’s an experience I will never forget and that I am immensely grateful for.

3. I found a church that I love with my whole heart! Church in the Cliff is the best bunch of people I’ve met in a really long time, probably since college. Actually, probably ever. They are unique, quirky, fun, honest, authentic, loving, open-minded, fiercely intelligent, creative, wonderful people, and I’m so thankful for them. They make me feel more like myself than I have in years. I have found my people.

4. My grandmother moved from her house in Harlingen and has been living with my parents in Grand Prairie. The reason is sad, of course, that she can’t take care of herself well enough to live alone anymore. And her mental decline has been extremely hard on everyone. That said, though, it has been so wonderful to have her around. We plant flowers, chat about her life, sweep the porch, and sure, sometimes she calls me “Norma,” but I love spending time with her. Her mind is so fuzzy that sometimes she says the most random things, and it’s entertaining to say the least. I could view it as depressing (she’s really not the same woman she was), but I choose to just enjoy the time I’ve got with her.

5. Because Grandma lives here now, in July, we took what was probably our last family vacation to South Padre Island, which we have done every year of my entire life. It’s kind of hard to imagine a summer without it, but we are all striking out in many new directions this year, so who knows where we’ll end up this July? As I’ve said before, sometimes my family makes me crazy, but I love them, and I love the chance to get out of our daily lives and just spend time with each other in a beautiful place.

6. In August, Sarah and I took a weekend trip to Wichita, where she grew up. We spent some time with her grandmother, went to a family birthday party, visited the music building at her college, and went to her favorite independent bookstore, Eighth Day Books. The drive through Kansas and Oklahoma was beautiful, and it was nice to have an adventure with my Soul Twin!

7. Also in August, I got to go to Disney World! I had a shoot nearby for work, so I drove in early the day before and checked out Epcot. The food in the World Showcase was surprisingly authentic, and I had fun wandering around. It really is the happiest place on earth. (I also got to go to Kansas City for a shoot and have some of their famous BBQ – and wander through a few casinos – and it was fun, but that’s not *quite* as cool as Disney World.)

8. In November, I got to help out on a cooking show pilot, which, if you’ve known me for more than a minute, you know is a very big deal. It was awesome to watch the shooting breakdown process, watch the Food Network Dude direct, and eat some seriously good food made by the show’s host. It was pro bono, but I so don’t even care. It was fantabulous.

9. At long last, Jamie moved to Dallas when her job transferred her to a different territory. We’ve been having so much fun, and it’s so nice to have her around for the first time since high school. We’ve kept up rather well over the years, but she’s always lived in the far reaches of Texas (Abilene, Lubbock, Waco). We’ve become professional concert-goers since she got here and seen every movie ever made, although we haven’t cooked or played tennis yet. Don’t know what’s up with that.

10. Also in November, I moved into the CUTEST house with the CUTEST roommate who has the CUTEST son and the CUTEST puppy. Home is serious cute overload for me these days, and I’m extremely happy there. And someday, when we’re fiiiiiiiinally finished painting, it will be even cuter.

Bonus #11. I GOT A NEW CAR! She is still unnamed.

As I said, I’m quite ready to hit the reset button and start 2010, but 2009 wasn’t all bad. In fact, parts of it were pretty darn great. Here’s to a better year for all of us.

Meet My New Love

Yesterday I said goodbye to Samantha the Blazer…

…and hello to a bright, shiny, new Honda CR-V!

She doesn’t have a name yet, and I’ve driven all of 50 miles in it…but this is definitely love! I was nervous about the negotiations, but I think I actually got a pretty good deal. I’m sure I could have done better, but having never bought a car before, I think it went as well as it possibly could have. I just kept sitting there being quiet, and they kept knocking the price down. Then I’d say I was going to go to other dealerships to shop around, and they knocked it down even more. They sent out three different guys to convince me, one of whom was the head of the dealership! It took about an hour just to get the price right. Then the financing guy took forever, too – but I got several APR points below what the credit union would offer out of him. I’m not a yeller or a bitch, which everyone told me to be; I found just being quiet, courteous, and discerning was just as helpful! It was super stressful, but now she’s mine, and I’m so excited!