Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Most Memorable Moments

2011... Where do I begin to describe 2011? It was a year of uncertainty, certainty, risk and reward. It honestly was a year I wasn't sure I'd make it through. But here I am, standing on the other side, and so glad I made it.

As a tribute to the year's most memorable moments, I put together this post of photo collages highlighting the things I think of most when I think of 2011. I should preface it by saying that the first thing I think of, I don't have photos for. Most of you know this part, but whenever I think of this year, I can't help but think of it.

On December 30, 2010, I lost my job in Denver. This set a tone for the entire year, and led to one of the lowest points I'd been in since mid-2009. It was a day that reminded me I have absolutely no control over my life's circumstances. All I have control over is how I respond to those circumstances.

On the other side of this year, I know things couldn't have gone as well as they did if I hadn't lost my job. I needed to lose my job; it had to happen for the rest of the year to go the way it did. With that being said, here is my first collage representing one of the reasons I was glad I lost my job and moved from Denver to Iowa in January.

My Grandpa Smith passed away in April. It wasn't a simple process, it was long and hard and complicated. But suffice it all to say, my lack of a job gave me plenty of opportunities to help my family. I also got to be there for every part of his funeral. I was able to contribute, to be a pall bearer, and to capture each of the photos above. Each represents a moment, a memory of my grandpa, that I will never forget.

This next collage represents all the family birthdays we celebrated this year. They're pretty well spread out, with Michael's in January, mine in March, Dad's in June and Mom's in December. Every birthday is different, but most involve the world's best chocolate cake, made by my mom (except on her birthday, we don't let her make her own cake).

In May, I got hired back at the Clinton Herald as a reporter. Then in August I was promoted to the new position of Digital Content Editor. I absolutely love my job. It's so much fun, yet challenging as it evolves to fit the needs of the paper. I love being able to maintain our online presence through the website and Facebook. I've gotten to do some really cool things and meet some great people since being back.

In June my cousin Jenae got married and my dad and I were both in her wedding. My dad officiated for a portion of the ceremony and I was one of the bridesmaids. It was a really special day and I absolutely loved being a part of it. From special cousin time (I stayed with Jenae for a couple of nights in her apartment), to the bachelorette party, to the ceremony and partying at the reception, it was a great weekend.

In August, our church had baptisms in the Mississippi. It was so awesome to see some of the high schoolers and middle schoolers get baptized. (As well as the adults, of course!) :)

In September I took a long weekend trip out to Denver and the Springs to celebrate my dear friend Jessica's birthday. We had such a great time staying in a swanky hotel, eating at some scrumptious restaurants, bashing around downtown Denver, dancing the nights away and cheering for the Rockies. All of it, of course, in honor of one really special girl's birthday. :)

In October, I threw my first party in my new apartment. It just so happened to be a Halloween party, which was perfect because it's one of my favorite holidays, after Christmas. It was so fun seeing everyone's costumes. John's took the cake for artistic creativity with all his zombie-fied makeup. Chris' was definitely the most hilarious (he wore a dinosaur onesie, originally intented for a toddler). And Lindsay, Sterling and Jay were the most coordinated with their Rocket Power costumes.

This fall included a TON of time spent with "the interns." If you've kept up with my blog so far, you know a lot about them already. I spent most weekends hanging out with Chris and Mason (two of the most hilarious people I know), finding various mischief or adventure to get into. They also helped to bring our church's 20s group together, mostly through Sunday ultimate frisbee matches.

Other activities we did together are included in the next few collages...

First, we took a day trip to the home of Lindsay's alma mater, Dubuque. This was a really fun day. We hiked around, planked on a lot of things (and took a million photos), ate a ton of food, and otherwise had a great time together.

Then, more recently, we took a trip to the Quad Cities for Disney on Ice...

In case you can't tell from the photos, this trip included fake mustaches and hipster glasses. And LOTS of Disney songs. I think we sort of regressed into a childlike state, but isn't that what Disney is for?

A couple of weekends ago, we also took a day trip to the home of my alma mater, Chicago. The trip was so much fun because we got to ride the Metra into downtown, ride the El, explore the streets, and ride to the top of the Sears Tower. We topped it all off with Chicago's best deep dish pizza from Giordano's. The trip reminded me how great the city is, and how easy it is to fall in love with its grandeur.

Finally, I have a collage of photos from the past few weeks of Christmas celebrations and family time.

It has been a really fun time spent with friends and family, remembering why this time of year is so important. I have loved the "break from life." It's been great to kick back, sleep in, eat delicious food and hang out with the cousins I've grown up with.

Looking over all of these photos just reminds me how great a year it has been. In closing, here is a collection of other special moments from 2011.

Oh, and Happy New Year! :)

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 31

It's finally here, the last day of my Thirty-One Days of Photos challenge. Crazy! Without any further hoopla, here is today's photo! :)

I had my family pose for a mini photo-shoot to capture today's photo of the day. I figured a picture to ring in the new year would be an appropriate way to end this series since it's New Years Eve. I wanted to include my family in my last photo because they have all graciously been my subjects multiple times, and supported my work from day one.

I also took some individual shots that I edited into a collage. It's best viewed in a larger size, so I recommend clicking on the photo.

I'm also working on a special 2011 wrap-up post, which will hopefully be coming before midnight. I'm still working on it as I type, so I will post it as soon as I'm done.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me throughout this photo challenge. It meant a lot to know that my friends and family were following my posts and keeping up with my pictures. I appreciated the feedback, and I was glad to know that you all enjoyed my work. Until the next challenge! :)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 30

Is it really day 30 already? This month has seriously flown by. I'm almost sad that it's over, but I'm definitely looking forward to the New Year.

Anyway, here is today's photo of my cousin's daughter and my grandma.

Today was another day full of family and lots of good food. We got to see some of my dad's side of the family too, which was great. This was definitely one of the best days we've had during this trip.

A few more days with the family, and then it's back to the real world. I'm actually looking forward to getting back to work, eating a normal amount again, and seeing my friends. Until then, I'm slipping into another food coma, and I'll see you all tomorrow when I post the day 31 photo!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 29

Tonight was game night.

Other than Sequence, we played Bananagrams and Farkle. It was definitely fun.

So with only two days of this challenge left, I'm trying to decide what to do next. I think I'm going to take a break from the photo-a-day thing, but I would like to come up with something new to try. If you guys have any suggestions, let me know!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 28

Today we got to hang out with my cousin Crystal, her husband and two kids. Her daughter Olivia really likes Michael, which made getting today's photo of the day so easy. :)

Besides hanging out with Crystal and her family, we polished off most of the Christmas leftovers (yay!) and did some more shopping. It's becoming a shopping/eating marathon, but I guess that's what vacation is for...

Later my aunt and uncle stopped by and brought their adorable dog Lacy. She's a Westie-Poodle mix and just about the cutest thing ever, so I had to have two photos of the day. :)

When she arrived, my grandma fed her some turkey, after that she was in love. Every time she heard my grandma talk, she freaked out. It was pretty stinking cute.

Other than family time, I've been learning a lot from TLC. So far I've discovered the world of Toddlers and Tiaras and Cheapskates. I'm slightly disturbed. But we also watched Elf tonight, and that helped balance things out. :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 27

Today we actually got some snow! I was pretty excited when I woke up and looked outside. Sort of felt like being inside a snow globe, only less wet.

Today was a pretty good day. More shopping (though I was good and didn't buy anything... minus one little cup of Starbucks gold), lots of driving around, and both versions of the Willy Wonka movies.

I was realizing tonight that I always conveniently forget one minor detail prior to visiting relatives. That being my relatives' interest in asking about or commenting on my dating life, or lack thereof. I was trying to figure out why this sort of bothers me, and I think it's because of all the places I'd like to be able to forget about it, it's with family. But of course it really is the last place I can forget about it.

Once you reach a certain age (around 22 or whenever you cross the milestone of college graduation), the next--and possibly last--milestone on the horizon is marriage. And of course relatives always want to know when to expect to meet Mr. Right, celebrate with you on the big day, and see photos of the new baby.

Alas, I have managed to disappoint in this area for the last three years (soon to be four, but who's counting?), so now the comments are ever-so-subtly changing. Now it's not always when, but if.

But I digress. My main point in bringing this up was to explain why I feel so disappointed in the fact that I can't forget about my non-existent dating life around family. Or more accurately, to try to understand why I feel disappointed. You know when you have those off days and you can't put a finger on why you feel that way? Well, this was one of those days. And I'm partly assuming my disappointment has something to do with it.

I think it comes on the heels of last week's comments on my singleness from one person who shall remain anonymous. Ultimately, why such comments bother me I don't completely understand. All I know is, they do. I think it has something to do with making me feel like a societal screw-up, or a disappointment. But I think I already realized I can be both of those things at any given time, despite my current relationship status.

So really, I arrive at nothing. No reason why I should feel disappointed when people point out the obvious. It's not a crime to observe what's really going on. Except when it pops my bubble of oblivion.

I've done a dang good job of making myself forget the parts of my life I can't control (virtually all of it) and strongly dislike (my relationship status could or could not be one such part). Of course that's not to say there aren't times it isn't glaringly obvious, even when no one's commenting on it, but those times are less frequent than my times of happy oblivion. So when oblivion shatters into reality, it's safe to say I get in a funk, at least for a day, until I can get myself back into the bubble.

This week has been an on-again, off-again battle between oblivion and glaring reality. The only thing I can say is, I've learned there is no safe place. At work, it always comes up in conversations that even remotely relate to men, singleness, marriage and/or dating. Among friends it's less frequent, but still surfaces in the token rant. And during the random social setting where someone feels the need to point out the obvious at every single person's expense. In all these, there is one reality: there is no safe haven for the single adult.

Well, that's pretty much all I had to say. I feel a lot better having gotten all of that out. Should anyone read this and feel guilty for past comments, don't. This wasn't meant as a guilt trip. Every person (me especially) needs a moment where brutal honesty reigns supreme and they can say whatever the heck they want. That, my friends, is why I keep this blog.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 26

Today we did some post-Christmas shopping, and found some pretty good deals too! We had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, where this photo was taken.

I would say this has been one of the nicest Christmas seasons I've had in a long time. There is definitely a hole without Grandpa here, but I think we're all a lot closer now because of it. We've banded together and we're keeping on, and enjoying each other all the more. That's the thing about losing someone, it makes you appreciate the people that you do have all the more.

I'm looking forward to spending the rest of this week with additional family members who I didn't get to see on Christmas, and getting lots of rest and relaxation. For some reason when I come here, I sleep a ton. It's like I'm in a permanent food coma, which wouldn't be surprising considering how much we eat around here.

Also, my phone has been acting weird today and not getting messages, so if anyone's been trying to text/call me and I haven't responded, that's why. It seems to be working now though, thank goodness. I hate feeling disconnected.

Anyway, hope you all are having a great post-Christmas Day! :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 25

Merry Christmas everyone!!! It's been a great day with family, filled with lots of laughter and fun moments. That being said, I have another collage for today because I couldn't pick just one photo. Maybe it's cheating, but I suppose since this is my blog, I can do what I want, right? :)

I really enjoyed going to church this morning, it was a great way to focus on what Christmas is all about. I used to not like when Christmas fell on a Sunday, but now I'm thinking it should always be on a Sunday. It really is the perfect way to start the day, not with presents but with songs and Scripture and focusing on Jesus as the real reason for the season.

I hope all of you enjoyed the day. If you're friends with me on Facebook, make sure to watch the video I posted late last night/early this morning, titled "The Christmas Story." Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas, again! :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 24

I decided I'd try something different and make a collage of photos from today...

Michael, Dad and I went to the mall to do some last-minute shopping and kill some time. We ate lunch at Chipotle, played with big kid toys in the Apple store, and sipped some Starbucks. I shopped at H&M, which I always have to go to when I'm in town, as well as Sephora and Bath and Body works. I wasn't planning on spending any money on myself, but of course I did. :P

Now we're getting ready for family time, and a dinner of chili, and probably some games. I hope everyone is having a great Christmas Eve! :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 23

After a whirlwind 4 hours of work, today consisted of lots of driving.

We drove over the river and through the woods and arrived safely at Grandma's house. We sang Christmas songs, watched a movie and my mom and I slept a bunch. It was nice after a long, crazy week.

I'm excited to be back in Michigan, though unfortunately it's not supposed to snow while we're here. But seeing family will of course be the best part. :) More updates and photos coming soon!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 22

It's Christmas traveling time.

I managed to get everything wrapped and packed (minus the things I need for tomorrow morning) on time. A little early, actually, which is rare for me. I'm the worst packing procrastinator of all time. Tomorrow it's off to the chilly North, which hopefully means some snow.

Tonight was the last 20s Bible study of the year. This would otherwise be uneventful, save for a few things. First, it was Chris' last night, probably forever. Saying good-bye still sucks, even when you're not the one doing the leaving.

Also, the fact that this was the last study of the year leaves me realizing I never really thought beyond this year. This year was the mountain I was struggling to climb since the night before it began. It was the wall I couldn't see around, and somehow, I made it through. This realization is sort of odd.

Normally I look forward to each new year with thoughts of what it will bring. I think about the things I want, both to receive and to accomplish. I think about the goals that I should have, the plans I want to make. This is the first time I haven't thought about any of these things. It's as though I never looked beyond 2011, and now that 2012 is almost here, it's like I don't know what to do.

In realizing this, I also realized I like it. I think it's a good place for me. I went into 2011 with barely an expectation for the next day, let alone the year as a whole. I went into it blind, with nothing to cling to but my faith in the promise that God would never leave me. In the end, I made it out better, happier and more fulfilled that I would've ever dreamed for myself.

That is how I want next year to be, a blank canvass, ready and waiting for the stories it will hold. I want it to be a surprising web of adventures that I didn't attempt to plan out. I want to go along for the ride and then look back, just like now, and see that it was all about the journey and not at all about the destination.

P.S. - Tomorrow's photo will undoubtedly be somewhat, if not VERY, late due to traveling. I apologize in advance. I will post it as soon as I am able (aka, when Grandma turns her wi-fi on). :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 21

Tonight we had a little Christmas party for the youth group kids. This included a white elephant gift exchange. This is what the lovely Ashley Kramer got... :)

Not only is it a framed 8x10 of the great Lindsay Bonnell and myself, it's also autographed so that when we're famous, it will be worth lots of money. It's also very festive for this time of year, given our very Christmassy outfits.

I have to say, I absolutely love the high schoolers at our church. They're so great and fun to be around. They make me laugh and think and want to be a better person. I'm really blessed to be able to be a small group leader, sponsor, and friend. I think life would be a lot less interesting if I didn't have them around.

I should get some more packing and present wrapping done tonight. Merry Christmas to all of you! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 20

Today was sort of our Christmas celebration at work. This included the culmination of lots of time spent decorating. This was part of my handiwork...

We basically got started decorating, and it eventually turned into the "North Pole News" theme. I cut out all the lettering and snowflakes, and made our little North Pole pole. The twinkling lights definitely made the entire thing come together.

We're competing against the other departments in the building, and we're supposed to find out who won tomorrow. Here's hoping all our hard work, money and energy pays off. (The winner gets a pizza party.)

Otherwise, I'm trying to get a jump on packing and preparing to head off to Michigan for Christmas. Trying being the key word. :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 19

Today, I honestly didn't think of anything to photograph all day, so my picture is kind of a cop-out...

This is the cute little built-in shelf in my living room. I think it actually used to be a doorway because the back paneling matches my bathroom door. I like it because it adds character to the room--something unique to break-up the sameness of the walls.

It's sort of decorated for Christmas now, with snowy garland, pine cones and little fruit-like pods from a silk floral arrangement. The top photo is of me with my friends Gracie and Heidi during our sophomore year of college before a night out at the Grand Lux. The middle picture is a candid of my bestie, Brandi, on the roof of our college dorm in downtown Chicago. The bottom pictures are of my dog, Mimi, and my family, both taken circa 2008.

I have another, deeper shelf in my living room, it's built into the old dumbwaiter shaft. I remember the first time I learned what a dumbwaiter was, thanks to the book Harriet the Spy. Harriet is spying in someone's house and uses the dumbwaiter to hoist herself from one level to the next. Unfortunately, she is discovered by the maid. I've always had a sort of fascination with dumbwaiters since then.

That's all I have for today. I'll try to have a better photo for tomorrow, hopefully of our workplace Christmas festivities. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 18

It was a self-portrait/editing photos kind of afternoon (plus some Pirates of the Caribbean for swashbuckling entertainment).

When I haven't had anyone to take portraits of for a while, I get a little bored and practice on myself. I actually hadn't taken any self-portraits in my apartment, until today. I usually shoot a couple, then spend a lot more time playing with edits, mixing colors and otherwise messing around.

(As a side note, I've been inspired by a photographer named Lissy Elle for a long time. She's in the middle of a 365, which is like what I'm doing, only it's a photo a day for an entire year. She, however, is 17 and homeschooled, so she has lots more free time. And her dedication to crazy Photoshop art is at a whole new level. You can check out her 365 Tumblr, or her Flickr; some of her photos are definitely unconventional, so use discretion.)

Anyway, if anyone wants to pose for me (and in return get some cool photos that always work for Facebook profile pics), let me know. Since college I wanted to start a black-and-white "faces" gallery, but that has yet to even begin. Maybe that can be a good project for next year.

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 17

Sorry for posting really late this time. Saturday nights are killer for this thing. Plus my internet is patchy at best, so even publishing this post was a challenge. Anyway, enough of that and on to (technically) yesterday's photo...

I'm one of those people that likes to save little mementos from trips and events, places I've gone or things I've attended. This is one such memento from the last vacation I took. It hangs out on my mirror at present, reminding me of one of the best trips I've taken.

I got that card when I went to Colorado in September to visit my dear friend Jessica for her birthday. On my first night there, we went to a contemporary little Mexican restaurant, Lime, in LoDo, with a former co-worker of mine.

It just so happened that night there was a magician there, and he came to our table and showed us a few basic tricks. Then he pulled out the eight of clubs and told me to write my name on it. He did a few things, like making it disappear in the deck and reappear on top. Then, he put it back in the deck and pulled out his wallet. Why he would need his wallet was a mystery to us until he unzipped an inside compartment and there was my eight of clubs, folded up in a little square, with my name on it.

He let me keep the card (he no doubt had plenty to replenish his deck), and I brought it back as a souvenir. When I look at it now, I mostly remember the amazing time Jessica and I had bashing around downtown Denver, meeting new people, shopping, going to a Rockies game and staying in a snazzy hotel. It was definitely one of the best trips I've taken on my own, and something that will probably end up becoming a tradition.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 16

Today is my mom's birthday, so we went to the Quad Cities for a girls' day to celebrate.

We ate Chick-fil-A, did some shopping, had delicious Starbucks and got manis/pedis. Then, tonight we went as a family to Rastrelli's for dinner before coming home to open presents, eat cake and play Wii bowling.

Today all I could think was that I am so glad I live close enough to be able to spend the whole day with my mom on her birthday. Last year I was about 1,000 miles away, calling my mom on the phone and wishing I could be there, even for part of it. This year, I got to spend the entire day with her.

It was a good day. :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 15

Tonight we had our 20s group Christmas party. It was also our last night to have all the interns there...

So here they are, Katelyn, Chris and Mason, with Sterling's "Beautiful" sign. It's so weird to think that this is the last time we'll have them all together. Katelyn will be back this summer, Chris is here for one more week, and Mason is leaving on Saturday. They've become such a part of the group; it's going to feel like there's a huge hole once they're gone.

But on a happier note, we had a really fun Christmas party (more pics on Facebook in this album)! A few of us dressed up, we had tons of great food, and we played lots of fun Christmassy games... As well as the not-so-Christmassy game Katelyn taught us, "Connection." Don't ask how it's played, it's nearly impossible to explain but really addicting once you understand it.

Anyway, I'd better make this short. I couldn't get an internet connection at my apartment, so I had to turn my phone into a wi-fi hot spot. Sort of random, but supposedly it drains the battery or something. Go figure. :P

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 14

I'll be the first to admit, this is a pretty low-quality picture, but sometimes you've got to work with what you've got. Tonight, it was just the cell phone.

Clinton High School's A Capella Choir performed at our church tonight. It was fun to see Hannah, Lindsey and John, and the group sang beautifully. Of course, free pie Wednesday at Village Inn afterward was the best part. :)

I don't have much else to add. I'm about to pass out in my bed, so I'll have to save the reflective part of the post for later. Thanks, as always, for keeping up with my blog entries. I love hearing from you that you're checking my pictures and reading my posts. It means a lot!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 13

On Day 13, I am featuring the best 13-year-old I know...

Tonight was another home game for my brother's basketball team. This time we played West Carroll, a public school team, and dominated. The boys led for most of the game, finishing with a score of 33-28. It was pretty exciting and intense at times, and needless to say, my mom and I were yelling... a lot.

I'm pretty sure Michael knew I was taking this picture, hence the hint of a smile on his face. He also knew I was yelling the whole time, but isn't that what big sisters are supposed to do? Or maybe it's just me, because sports bring out my bad side.

So you know those moments where you wish you could freeze time? This month has been made up of a lot of those moments. There have been so many instances where I wish I could just stop time and keep that moment forever. I guess it's good I'm keeping this photo-a-day blog, because in some ways I'm getting to do that.

It's true that the older you get, the faster time goes. And while granted, sometimes I just want to get through life, other times I can't get it to slow down. Every little moment, every conversation, every relationship is so important. None of them can last forever it seems, but I can't help myself in wanting them to.

So I'll go on keeping this little treasure trove of moments, the precious memories that have made this year one of the best.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 12

I know today's photo isn't overly exciting, but I do have a surprise as well.

I finally started reading this book today. It's the third and final book in the Hunger Games series, and though I finished the second one a while ago, I didn't have a chance to start this one until today. I finished the first chapter between coming home from work and heading to my brother's basketball game.

I really like Suzanne Collins' writing style in these books and the way she makes the main character (and narrator) reason and process the situations around her. She's also had good character development and conflict, so I'm looking forward to finding out how she finishes the series.

My surprise is that I also have a guest photo for today! This next photo was taken by my mom (and edited a little by me).

We went to Manny's Too in Fulton tonight after my brother's basketball game. On the dining room side of the restaurant, there are always senior pictures and portraits on display by a local photographer. My mom started talking about how she wants to take photos of hands and feet. I happened to have my digital SLR in my bag, so I dug it out and passed it over to her.

Being anti-flash, she got stuck with my pre-set options, but I thought this one turned out really great. I liked the lighting, the depth of field and the composition. So, as a way to make up for having a fairly blah photo for today, I decided I'd make it a guest photo and share it with you all.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 11

Today's photo is of one of my favorite ornaments on my tree. I love it not so much for what it is, but what it reminds me of when I look at it.

This ornament was given to me by my "first Denver friend," or at least that's what I call her. Her name is Margaret. She was the first person that reached out to me before I even moved to Colorado in 2009. And she was one of the few people who stuck beside me after everything sort of crashed and burned in my life.

You could say she took me under her wing that year. She invited me to church, had me over, and her family invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them that year so I wouldn't be alone. They celebrated the holiday up in Estes Park, and it was my first time going up there. The elk love that area and roam freely around Rocky Mountain National Park which is nearby.

Margaret bought me this ornament as a reminder of that Thanksgiving, but it also reminds me of another time we went up to Estes Park. She and her husband Jon took me on my last camping trip in October of last year. It was unseasonably warm up in the mountains, so we took advantage of it and met up with a group of their friends in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The elk were in mating season mode and bugling all night long. I remember the sound echoing across the park, and I remember the stars, so many of them. I was trying to take timed shots, but I only captured a fraction of what you could see. I remember that trip every time I look at this blog; my header picture was taken the next morning. You can see a hint of smoke from the breakfast campfire, the sun just beginning to peek over the mountain tops.

And I remember that trip when I look at my ornament. I remember feeling unlovable, but friends like Margaret reminded me that there was more to my life than my mistakes. I remember feeling alone, but not when Margaret and I would go out for a girls' night and dance away our worries. I remember the snowy night I lost my job, and Margaret drove 30 minutes just so I wouldn't be alone.

Sure, when I look at the ornament I think of a quaint little mountain town. That's what it's all about at face value. But there is so much more behind it. There is the reminder of a true friend, what one looks like, and what I hope to be.

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 10

This is a new level of lateness for posting, and I'm sorry. We went to Chicago yesterday and it was after midnight by the time I got home. By that time, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed. It was a fun, yet exhausting day.

The Bean. Or the "Cloud Gate" as it's supposed to be called. No one calls it that, it's always the Bean. We had to take Mason here (since it was his first trip to Chicago), it's one of the biggest tourist attractions of the city.

We rode the Metra into the city, walked down Michigan Avenue, went to the top of the Sears Tower (Now Willis Tower, but who honestly calls it that?), and ate delicious Chicago-style deep dish pizza at Giordano's.

Going to Chicago reminded me how beautiful it is, especially looking down over the sparkling lights at night from 103 floors up in the Sears Tower. How can you not fall in love with this city, even a little bit?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 9

Once again, sorry for posting a photo late... Friday nights get away from me and then before I know it, it's Saturday morning. This photo was, however, taken on Friday.

Tonight my brother had his school Christmas program. Along with singing, he also played in the band (he's the one hiding to the far right). He's really good at playing percussion and usually gets to add in the fun details of the piece.

Today felt insanely long, like the day was stretched over more hours than normal. But it was also a good day. We decorated the newsroom for Christmas in hopes that we'll win the annual department decorating contest at work. Then I got to film one of the reporter's interviews with Texas Gov. Rick Perry's wife, Anita. I got to talk with her on a personal level, which I loved. She complemented my outfit, we laughed about shoes and of course talked about politics a little.

I had lunch with my mom at Yen Ching. Friday lunches have become a tradition since before I moved to Denver. After I moved home, we sort of picked back up where we left off. It's nice to have girl time, even if it's only for an hour once a week.

After my brother's concert, I ran into my writing friend, Claudette. We determined that our lives are too insanely busy (without us even trying to make them that way), projects must be selected based on simplicity, and that it is perfectly acceptable to wear pirate costume boots to church.

I have also decided that some relationships are impossible to describe. Like why "liggity" meaning "left" is hysterically funny, an irrational fear of mustard tempts me to obnoxiously play with it, and indecision is the capstone of time spent together. Essentially, why try to put some things in a box when they are far too impossible to contain.

Tomorrow, I and my friends shall venture to Chicago. I haven't been there since April (to see my beloved Rockies play the Cubs, as a matter of fact), so I'm looking forward to it. I'm slightly dreading the process of getting there since transportation is iffy at best, but like the old adage says, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

I'm sure I'll have at least one great photo to share tomorrow.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 8

Today was Chris' birthday, so I made him pose with his Taco Bell Big Box Meal for my photo of the day.

We (Mason, Chris and myself) have made a habit of carpooling to Thursday night Bible study together. Then we usually find someplace to eat afterward. Since it was Chris' day, we made him pick.

Tonight we talked about how life works out, how you happen to meet people because all the right details fell into place at the right time. If I hadn't moved back to Iowa, I would've gone on living my life in Colorado, never knowing that the guys I call my "little family" existed. But that's the thing with life, it's not random chance or fate, it's God working out those details, making things exactly how he wants them.

We're all glad we met this fall. We've shared some good times and I think we felt a little introspective since their time in Clinton is drawing to a close. Pretty soon our nights spent laughing about silly jokes, goofy movies and (as I like to remind him) Chris' weirdness, will be just a memory. Life will keep going, filled with more of those little details that come together at the right place and the right time.

That's why I love photography. And writing. They're small ways to preserve nights like these, nights you don't want to end and you definitely don't want to forget. Nights that are so simple, yet so good. December 8, 2011, was one of those nights.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 7

Today I took some Christmas card photos for my co-worker Angie Bicker and her dog Cordy.

This obviously isn't the cover shot, but if you know me, you know I have a love affair with candid moments and natural lighting. We were trying to get Cordy to sit up and look at the camera (which she eventually did after I threw out key words like "bone" and "lettuce"). I love the expression in her eyes on this one, like she's saying, "Mom, who is that strange girl and what is she holding?"

Angie is one of the editors I work with. She does a lot of page layout and editing of stories for the paper. She also writes a weekly column that appears Wednesdays in the print edition and online. I really enjoyed her column from this week, and I got to read it before it hit the press. Angie has quite a following, and people seem to especially enjoy reading about her adventures as a chicken farmer.

I got a little taste of said chicken farming today when I took Angie's photos. I got to see her state-of-the-art chicken house and some of her "girls" as she likes to call them. They were pretty interested in checking me out too, or at least seeing if I would let them fly the coup. We regularly buy eggs from Angie, so it was fun to see where they come from. I'll be honest, I don't think I'd have the patience or dedication to raise chickens like she does.

In the newsroom, we like to tease Angie about all the chicken dishes she could make and share with us once the hens have seen their last egg. (What can I say, we're food-driven. We have "doughnut parties" after we get a certain number of likes on our Facebook page.)

Other than the photo shoot, it was a fairly average day. I hope you all are having a good week, and thanks as always for checking out my photos and reading my posts!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 6

Today was Katelyn's birthday, so we went to a Mallards/Rush game to celebrate.

There was hardly anyone at the game, so we moved down and sat behind the Rush bench (since they're from the town where the interns go to school and we were subsequently cheering for them). It was fun sitting close to the action, and we had a good time even though the Rush lost.

At the end, one of the trainers gave me and Chris a puck, so today I'm posting two photos. :)

I've always wanted to get a baseball at a Rockies game, but I suppose this is the next best thing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 5

It was a data-collecting, number-inputting type of day.

Thanks to Google Analytics, gaining access to web statistics is fairly simple. It mostly becomes a matter of determining which stats you want or need to look at.

At the beginning of each month, I add data from the previous month to this lovely little spreadsheet I have open on my computer. The main things I track are visitor numbers, as well as referral sources. And Facebook data, of course. (Which if you haven't visited our Facebook page, you should!)

Alright, I admit this pic is fairly boring, but after the craziness of this weekend, I was feeling a little lackluster in my desire to find an amazing photo op. At the same time, each photo shows a different "view" from my life, and this one is no exception. However unfortunate it may be, some tasks are in fact boring and lackluster. (Though I will be honest, I kind of enjoy lining up all the numbers from month to month.)

Anyway, that's all I have for tonight. Thanks for keeping up with my photos and reading my posts!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 4

I call this one "The View from the Front Row."

Our family always sits on the absolute front row in church. The obvious reason is because it's a lot easier to get up on the stage quickly if you're sitting right by it. I also think we sit there because all of the other seats are claimed. For some strange reason, no one wants the front.

It's actually pretty nice up there. If the sound goes out, you can still hear what's being said. You don't have to worry about anyone tall sitting in front of you and blocking your view. And it's like sitting court-side, you're close to all the action.

Today the Christmas season officially started at church. All the decorations are out, we sang Christmas songs, and the sermon was the first in a series called "An Angelic Christmas" (just in case the huge slide didn't give it away). The sermon was a great reminder to stay the course and not falter, even if life is challenging and confusing.

Oh, and just in case you don't know who that dashing gentleman is, that's my dad. Or Pastor Tom, as everyone else calls him. He's pretty cool, if I do say so myself. :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 3

Today... I saw my first live figure skating performance.

Yup, today I went to "Disney on Ice." It's a perfectly normal thing for a bunch of 20-something-year-olds to go to without children in tow. Or so we tried to convince ourselves, while wearing silly hipster glasses and fake mustaches. The kids liked it, they kept staring at us. :)

My favorite "scenes" from the performance were from The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. And this photo, taken at the end when all the Disney princesses made an appearance with their prince.

Thirty-One Days of Photos: Day 2

I know that technically, it's Saturday. But, I promise I took the day two photo on day two.

Basketball. One of the best games ever invented. Or so Hoosiers taught me as I diligently watched it repeatedly, then acted out the moves with a little foam ball. I was just like Jimmy Chitwood, complete with an epic soundtrack until the credits ended.

This was Michael's first home game of the season. Being in 8th grade, he's on the 7th/8th grade team this year. I try to make it to as many of his games as possible, mostly so I can embarrass my family by heckling the refs. Not really. I go because when I decided to move home, one of the reasons was so that I could go to things like this.

I used to get picture messages from my dad on my cell phone. Michael before a band concert. Michael playing in his soccer game. Michael singing in choir. I hated that I was missing everything, because getting a pixilated image doesn't count for much of anything.

Now I get to take the photos. I get to sit on the sidelines and cheer. I get to listen to the tinkling of the bells in band and the serenading of the choir. And I really am one lucky girl.

Oh, and he made the basket. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thirty-One Days of Photos

I decided that I would start a photo-a-day challenge for the month of December. I will take one photo each day and upload it here, with a brief description or post about the day and the photo. Honestly, I'll probably end up shooting most of them with my phone, but it takes pretty decent pictures.

Here is today's photo:

I had to take a webinar today titled "The New Business of News" and these were my hurriedly-scribbled notes.

It's sort of funny that they're written on actual paper, because the beginning of the webinar was all about the future of technology and how soon we won't even be using paper in schools. I guess I'm sort of old fashioned in that I still love paper and pens and writing things by hand. There's that certain smell of paper, the smooth glide of a pen across it, that you really can't replace.

For now, I'm keeping my tablet (the non-electronic kind) close-by and my writing utensils stocked. Everyone may embrace the up-and-coming "e-paper" eventually, but I think I'll always like the original, made-from-trees paper product.
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