So, what else is new?

This is probably the first year in my adult life that I am starting off a new year without even the slightest hint of a resolution. I’m feeling kind of boring and bland without any new goals or ideas for 2012.

Someone asked me this morning what was the best thing that happened in 2011. My struggle to answer doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for absolutely every minute I had breath for the past 365 days. But it also feels like I finished a marathon that left me longing for quiet and solitude over grand plans and big ambitions.

The year had plenty of challenges. And yet the list of things for which I’m thankful is a long one: an amazing husband with a new job that is restoring some normalcy to our schedule, the three big kids who are growing up right before my eyes, the littlest one who gives us all a chance to relive the early years of learning and growing and see the world through those innocent eyes, an amazing community of friends who listen to me and laugh with me, and the chance to work from home doing all of the things I love.

Last year, my goal was to take a photo and blog about it every day of 2011. I made it 109 days. I’m glad for that first third of the year that I tried it and did it, and I’m glad to have those daily “journal” entries in my blog to remember all of those moments of 2011. I’m also glad that I was OK with giving up on that goal when I realized it was weighing me down more than it was lifting me up. My love of taking photos starting becoming a chore when I felt like I had to do it every single day.

At the risk of sounding arrogant or annoying, I decided to make a list of the things I accomplished in 2011. It’s kind of nice to look back at a year that feels like a blur and remember that I’m starting 2012 as a person who is (at least a little bit) different than I was 365 days ago:

I learned a ton of new Photoshop tricks. A year ago, I didn’t know how to “refine edges” or fill using “content aware” or master my “blending modes” or “create a clipping mask” or “rasterize type” or even use the “stamp tool.” I have learned so much, which makes it more fun to build on my base of knowledge to learn even more in 2012.

I also taught myself how to use InDesign. I remember sitting in my bed at night watching tutorials on my iPad so I could work on a project that required it. A few months later, I’m feeling like an expert in InDesign and can do quickly what felt like a monumental task last summer.

I’ve learned a LOT about video editing, thanks to a friend who has given me so many great tips. I would love to graduate beyond iMovie and use some more advanced video editing software this year to see what I’m missing.

I got a new camera lens that has helped me work on my photography skills. I would like to purchase Adobe Lightroom this year and learn more about photo editing, as well as create a better system for storing my photos.

I started shopping at Costco. Doesn’t that sound like the most hilarious thing to include on my list? It’s actually an accomplishment for me because I don’t like to grocery shop. But it’s symbolic to me of the fact that I’ve been more on top of stocking up on the food we need so I can do a better job feeding my family.

I organized a lot of my recipes on allrecipes.com. I started using their more advanced features to create my meal plans and grocery shopping lists. I’m still sporadic in this area, but I feel like by the time my kids all graduate and move away, I will FINALLY be on top of my meal planning. 🙂

I ran nine miles. Yep, that’s right. I ran nine miles in one year. I realize some people like to lump their miles all together and run them all at once. I ran my miles one at a time. I walked and biked a whole bunch of other miles, but for some reason, the ones I ran seem more important. My hope for 2012 is to run more miles than I did in 2011. And, thankfully, the bar is super low, so hopefully, I’ll be able to accomplish that. 🙂

I blogged a lot less in 2011. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I’m working on creating a photobook from all of my photos from 2011, and I love incorporating my blog posts into the book. In that respect, I wish I had blogged more. I would like to post photos and write about my family at least once a week in 2012, but I also realize it’s harder than it looks. I don’t want my effort to chronicle my memories to get in the way of enjoying the moments.

I made some new friends, renewed some old friendships and realized that I need to invest more in the friends I have. The year started with some difficult news for a dear friend. It’s ending with the news that some of our closest friends are moving away. This kind of stuff makes me want to kick the curb, curl up in a ball and yell, “Not fair!” But I know God has a plan with all of this, and I’m trying to enjoy the people He places in my life the best that I can.

I made my marriage more of a priority. I realized how easy it is to get so caught up in the needs of the kids and the demands of keeping things going and forget the one person who is most important to me. This is definitely something I want to keep working on in 2012.

Well, it’s kind of funny that in making that list I realized that I do have some goals for the new year. I’m also starting things off by going on a 40 day spiritual journey with my church. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when I make it a priority to read the Bible and pray every single day.

What about you? Do you have big goals for 2012? Did 2011 turn out the way you had hoped? What’s on your list for the new year?

aug2011emily

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A blog post about blogging

So, I was thinking about my blog the other day.

Some of you probably remember when I started blogging. I would write something nearly every day. It seemed that everywhere I went and everything I did, I was thinking about how I was going to turn it into a blog post. I couldn’t go to sleep at night until I wrote something on my blog. I had to control myself to keep from updating my blog multiple times throughout the day.

Of course, with all that blogging, I was also always hoping someone would read my blog. I would mention it in casual conversation. I would read blog posts about how to attract blog readers. I would read blogs about how to be a better blogger.

Each morning, I would make the rounds of all of the “successful” bloggers, lurking around to try to figure out what made them so popular. I would dream about the day when I would eventually BE a blogger. Someone would ask me what I “do,” and I would say, “Oh, I’m a blogger.” (As if that was an important thing to be.)

I would spend time each day reading blogs and leaving comments, hoping to attract more readers to my blog. Other bloggers would reciprocate by reading my blog, and then I would reciprocate by reading theirs and on and on and on. I would get annoyed and envious when someone else would write a blog post about the most trivial topic and get dozens, even hundreds, of comments.

And eventually, I was trying so hard to be a good blogger that it wasn’t as fun to write on my blog. I started to worry about the topics I was choosing. Would people be interested in reading them? What would people think of me if I wrote about THAT?

The one thing I do miss from that time is the interaction I got to have on a daily basis with readers. I loved my handful of loyal readers. I got to re-connect with friends from my childhood. I made new friends who I will probably never meet in real life. I also made new friends who I have met in real life and are now my real friends. And I got to know some friends on a deeper level from reading their blogs.

I realized that this year, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m almost afraid to blog. This year has been full of trials and challenges. It seems that most people who like my blog like it because it’s funny. And I haven’t felt very funny this year. I ran out of funny things to say. It’s much harder to write about personal topics and do it in a way that doesn’t sound whiny or preachy or annoying.

It’s also hard to write about serious topics and wonder who might be reading. And it’s hard to write about serious topics and think no one is reading because the topic was too serious.

It all became a vicious cycle. I stopped blogging as much. People stopped reading as much. Without the interaction of readers, I wasn’t motivated to blog.

It seems difficult for me to find a middle ground.

I no longer have any interest in trying to “attract” readers or trying to convince people to read my blog.  I’ve finally reached a point where I’m OK to write on my blog just because I want to write on my blog. It makes me feel better to write what’s on my mind. And if someone wants to read, that’s awesome! If they want to interact with me by leaving a comment, that’s even better.

I do love knowing someone might be out there reading. So, I’ll ask this question: Can anyone relate?

aug2011emily

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Reality

Today is 010111. The date alone makes me want to make a resolution.
I was thinking about my proposed resolution up until the final minutes of 2010. I could hear the fireworks exploding in the distance, and my mind was still filled with thoughts of blogging every day in 2011. The idea alone was making me tense. I was starting to panic even before the first day of January officially arrived.
I was thinking about my life. The reality is I home-school about 30 hours a week. I work about 20 hours a week. Part of my job is to write on a blog. I have four children who are hungry all of the time. They also produce a ton of dirty clothes.
I don’t spend enough time reading my Bible or exercising or reading books or grocery shopping or cleaning. My house is cluttered. I need to clean out every closet and take the contents to Goodwill. I have a baby who likes to throw squishy bananas on the floor.
I want to update my blog every day. I can update my blog every day. However, I am choosing not to. (GASP!)
I know. This is so unlike me. I love to have goals and push myself to try new things. But I don’t want the pressure. I don’t want to turn something that is currently my hobby, my outlet, my joy into something I dread.
I am going to take a photo every day. And I am going to put it in a neat little folder on my computer so at the end of the year I can create a photo book with one photo of every day of 2011. I want to challenge myself to be creative with the photos that I take.
I might share some of those photos on my blog, but I’m not making any promises. I want to see how they turn out. And I’m not sure if they will really be that interesting to anyone outside my immediate family. I don’t want all of my e-mail subscribers to leave me because I’m overwhelming them with daily photos in their inbox.
So, thank you to those who encouraged me. I really did appreciate it.
And now, after being inspired by notasupermom, I’m going to post a few other things I plan to do in 2011:
I’m going to check my e-mail as often as I like. I might even put my iTouch in one back pocket, the iPhone in the other and carry my iPad under my arm and then have a showdown to see which one can retrieve my messages faster.
I’m going to drink at least two cups of tea every morning. I will drink my tea with refined white sugar.
I am going to kiss my baby’s bald head every day until she grows some hair. I am going to make her wear little hats with huge flowers and bows. I will talk in my baby voice as long as I can get away with it, saying things like, “You are the cootest wittle baby I evah did see. I wuv oo.”
I am going to be a more daring friend. I am going to take risks and go out on a limb for people.
I am going to let the e-mail pile up in my inbox until I reach my storage limit or Comcast threatens to shut down my account.
I am going to read books to my children in foreign accents. This drives them crazy and they beg me to stop. I am going to try to annoy them as much as possible with this. On some occasions, I will teach them grammar in my deep south accent and give them spelling words in my Chinese accent.
I am going to play lots of board games with my kids. I might even watch a few movies.
I am going to make as many different kinds of soup as I can until winter is over. I don’t care if no one will eat them but me. I will make soup.
I am going to continue to expand my shoe collection.
I will take naps. Lots and lots of naps.
I might update my blog every day some months. Or I might not.
So, 2011, bring it on. We just met, but I’m starting to love you already!

dec2010emily

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Time for a change

We’ve been doing lots of cleaning and organizing around our house the past few weeks, and I finally decided it was time to clean up the blog, as well.
If you are reading on your phone, via e-mail, facebook or your reader, click on over today and say, “Hello” to my new look for winter. I took some photos of the family today and got inspired to dress the blog in the same calm colors.
Remember how the blog looked this morning?

I cleared out some things on the sidebars, too. And I finally added my blog roll back on the right. It was getting so long and unruly last year that I just deleted it completely. For now, I have only listed my friends in real life who have blogs I read. I also only listed people who post on a regular basis. If I forgot you, PLEASE let me know!
Would you do me a favor and let me know if anything is not working for you with the new design? Thanks for stopping! Merry Christmas!

dec2010emily

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You! (and you and you)

A few weeks ago, I took my kids to home school swim at our local aquatic center. I was sitting in the zero depth area trying to hide my very pale legs under the water while I played with the baby.

A woman came running over to me from across the pool. I wondered if she was bringing urgent news that she had an extra bottle of self-tanning cream in her bag.

“Aren’t you the blog lady?!” she asked. (She really did sound excited when she asked, so I’m not exaggerating with the exclamation point.)

“Yes!” I answered. “I mean… maybe.” Was it my imagination or did she just call me “the blog lady?” My mind was racing to try to answer.

“I don’t know…,” I stammered. “I do have a blog.”

“I read your blog all the time,” she said. (Well, she did say something to that effect. Perhaps she said, “I used to read your blog all the time” or “I read your blog a few times.”)

She went on to tell me that I had even convinced her to watch Lost. After reading my Lost posts, she told her husband they had to get in on the series before the show ended, and they actually watched all six seasons in less than a year.

“WHAT?” I was thinking. (No, actually, I think I said, “WHAT?!” very loudly, but you know how noisy it can be at an indoor pool, so I can’t be sure if I said it out loud or just thought it very loudly in my mind.) Anyway, I couldn’t believe that not only did I have a reader I barely knew, but I had influenced her life in some weird, time-consuming, meaningless way.

I had met this woman more than a year ago at a park. It was the day I met my real life imaginary friend, Holly. We were discussing how we got to know each other through our blogs. This woman seemed interested, but I had no idea she had actually gone to the trouble to track down my blog address and had been reading.

She also couldn’t have known how she had made my day.

Blogging can be a tricky hobby. Anyone who blogs will understand what I mean. I write because I need to write. It makes me feel better. I don’t write so people will read. And yet, I want people to read. And when they don’t, or when I think they don’t, then I convince myself that my writing is ridiculous. “Why do I do this?” I ask myself. “Why do I feel I need to write in such a vulnerable, public way, when no one reads but me?”

And at just the moment I have convinced myself that not a single solitary soul on the planet reads my blog and I should delete the whole darned thing off the face of the blogosphere, some woman I barely know runs up to me at the pool and asks me if I am “the blog lady” as if I’m actually a real, bonafide blogger who has real, bonafide readers.

OK. So I know I have a handful of people who read my blog on a semi-irregular, halfway inconsistent basis. And I’ve even influenced a few others to waste a perfectly good year of their lives watching six seasons of Lost all at once.

But it’s so easy to get caught up in comparing myself to the woman who boasts she grew to 1,000 readers in one year or the blah blah blah blogger who gets 562 comments every day. Comparing myself in any area of life always leads me to trouble. I’m trying to stop. Really! I am!

So today I just wanted to say “Thank you” to The Pool Lady. And to the people who now strike up conversations with me about Ugg boots. And the friend who texted me a covert photo of someone wearing Uggs with shorts at the grocery store. And the people who have e-mailed me with the grammatical errors that annoy them most. Those things really mean a lot to me.

So, today, I have a question. I would love to learn more about anyone who might be reading today.

Would you leave me a comment with your name, your blog address (if you have one) and the answer to this question: “Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?”

I don’t have any reason for asking this question other than the fact that I love to know these things about people. Do you find that you are energized by being around people or by being alone? (Just for fun, you also can tell me if you find yourself comparing yourself to others in any ridiculous, unhealthy ways. =] )

If you haven’t left a comment before, just look for the little radio button that says “Name/URL.” You can fill in your first name and leave your comment. You don’t need to have a Blogger account or web site. Thanks!

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Well, Hello!

Hello, Dear Blog,

I’ve missed you!

I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long before without blogging. Thank you to those of you who have e-mailed to ask if I am still living. I know it probably seems that I was so devastated by the end of Lost that I just gave up on life all together.

Actually, that is far from the truth. I have been busier than ever these past few weeks, and I just haven’t been able to take a break long enough to update my blog.

We finished school. We’ve been running around from parks to bike paths to swimming pools. And. I got a job.

I accepted a part-time position as the communication director for my church. I actually get paid to blog, go on Facebook, create visuals, update our web site and just generally “communicate”. I have been spending most of my spare moments getting our brand new web site ready to launch in about a week.

I feel so blessed to be able to use my gifts and all of the things I naturally love to do to serve God and spread the message of our church. Plus, I get to work from home. And they pay me. I know. Crazy.

So, that’s where I’ve been. I will pass along the link when the web site is complete.

Hopefully, I will get back in my blogging rhythm again soon. I’ve missed all of you!

So, what’s everyone else been up to the past few weeks?

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