Ever-Changing Reflection

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#reverb10 - Is this it???

I haven't been so great about the second half of this whole #reverb10 deal. I did well the first two weeks, then I just fell off the horse... and the horse ran over me. Seriously, that's kinda how it felt watching those daily prompts gallop into my inbox every morning.

So, I'm a little late to the polo game. What's the big deal? I've been late my entire life, so why make this an exception? I'm dedicated to #reverb10, folks, just not every month in December. I'll complete every prompt, even if it takes me until March 2011 to do it! I do find value in reflecting back on the year, and these prompts challenge me. I believe they are helping me showcase some of my best writing on this blog.

Catch up is starting TODAY...

December 29 Prompt: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

I just mentally went through my entire year, and it's pretty sad that I had a hard time remembering a lot of it! So it is as we get older and less emotionally involved, I suppose.

Then it hit me over the head -- my defining moment that is. After five years at my company, and seven years since I graduated from a prestigious communications college with a bachelor's degree in journalism, I finally got the job I had been wanting! I finally achieved what I had been working toward -- finally would be able to use my skills and do something I loved.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, with all of the downsizing of the past two years comes the upsizing of individual positions. People everywhere do more with less; employers call upon their employees to do the jobs of two or even three people.

So was the case with me.

I love communications. I love telling people what they don't know, or what they don't think they need to know. I love seeing my name in print -- or even just seeing something I had a hand in creating in "print" (since most publications are digital these days). I love working so hard researching and creating something and then watching it go out to the masses. I like publication design, content creation, collaboration and directing. I never thought I was creative until I realized that structuring an entire publication is creating.

But, that's not all my new job of internal communications was -- to my dismay. Also tagged onto the end of my title was sales communications and events.

I'm ok with the events part; it gives me the opportunity to expand my skill set and do something I've been casually interested in for a while. Sure, let's tack that bullet point onto the end of my resume.

Sales. OMG. Ew. LOL... I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but I've been trying to get into "sales" for 11 years -- ever since I started working in retail. It's not for me, friends, sorry. I don't get the thrill of taking money from people -- even if I'm offering them the best product or service in the world in return. I have no interest in convincing someone to choose my offering over someone else's; that's their choice. I have no aptitude for budgets or sales leads or revenue or that dreaded EBITDA. It's just not me.

So, while I finally reached that long-held goal, with it came responsibilities that I... just... am... not... good... at. Not only am I not good at them, but they don't excite me. And, because it's half my job, I don't get to allocate as much time as I would like to the things that do excite me.

I'm trying. I'm trying to learn and grow and "do something different." I haven't quite figured it out yet though. Is this just the way the professional world is, or am I settling? Do you have to take the bad with the good? Is there a way for me to custom-build a job where I only do things I'm passionate about and that inspire me? 

All I know is this is a growing pain. There is a lesson here. There is a challenge here. It is not the end.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#reverb10 - Dear Self: Be patient.

December 21 Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?

Dear 29-year-old self,

You just haven't figured it out yet, have you? Be patient. You are always in such a rush to get to the next big milestone that you never enjoy what you have right now. Enjoy it.

I know you feel like the clock is ticking. I know you feel like you are lagging behind the crowd. You want to get married and have kids. You want to "make it big." You want to travel the world and discover new things. Relax, you will.

You have always wanted these things, and because of that, they will come to you. Just because your friends are married and having kids doesn't mean you need to be, or should be, right this second. Your time comes, don't worry about it. You are exactly where you are meant to be. There is a reason you are not there yet; you have some more life to live as you are first. 

Trust in God. Have faith. Haven't you learned that everything happens in time? Think back to where you were 10 years ago. Yeah, same mindset, right? Take that with you. Learn from that.

Be patient.

Love always,
Your 34-year-old-wife-and-mother self

Saturday, December 18, 2010

#reverb10 - The Grinch Who... Discovered the Meaning of Christmas!

December 18 Prompt: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it?

In 2011, I want to try being more thoughtful and kind. 2010 was a year of me -- honestly, I was selfish. It sounds awful, and when I reflect back on it, I feel pretty awful... but then I remember that I need it. I was floundering by the end of 2009, and I really needed a year to focus on me: my needs, my feelings, my wants, my goals, my life, my dreams, my thoughts.

I'm not sure if this was a conscious resolution for 2010, but I'm going to go with it as something I wanted to try. For once, I wanted to stop giving and giving and giving and wondering what everyone else thought and needed, and I wanted to think about what I needed. I did, and it had its consequences, of course; selfishness always does.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. The collateral damage is on its way to being fixed, and I think I am a better person from the whole experiment. I have learned a lot about myself. Namely, that, inherently, I am a selfish person. I always have been, and I'm sure a piece of me will always look out for numero uno. I learned that it's futile to keep fighting it and pretending I'm not who I really am. Loving ourselves involves loving the not-so-lovable parts too, right?

I also learned that, while this may always be with me, I don't have to be outwardly selfish all the time. I learned that I can look out for me while thinking of others too.

So, next year, I'm going to make sure I take care of myself as much as I need to, but I'm also going to be looking for ways to give -- because nothing makes me feel better than thinking of exactly what someone I love wants or needs and being able to give that to them.

Ah, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Let's go into this last week before Christmas with thoughtful, kind, generous hearts.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

#reverb10 - Party Caribbean Style!

December 9 Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

I have kept you all in the dark long enough, and I am sick of waiting. I am finally posting about my vacation! This vacation was unique in a couple of ways: I crossed a few things off of my bucket list, and I also got to travel with five of my closest friends.

Jed and I joined my BFF and her husband, and another couple we're close to, for a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise on the interesting Carnival Valor. This was, by far, the best social gathering of 2010; vacation is always my favorite part of the year! Beware, this is a photo-filled post!

We started off in Miami for a night before the cruise, 
where we had delicious Thai with BFF's awesome aunt...

... bought wine at Trader Joe's to carry onboard, 
while I was still tipsy from my "flight cocktail of meds"...

... and tried non-beef jerky.

Sail away was exciting as always.

The girls had a "girls' night out" while the boys... went to bed. Hahaha...
We danced the night away with an Asian band playing Pure rock.

I jogged the next morning, overlooking nothing but blue ocean.
Then I spent the rest of the day in my bathing suit...
starting on my tan...
(yes, that's me in the middle reading none other than Walden -- who reads that on vaca?!)

...and going down the water slide (yes, there was a water slide on board!).

Oh, and checking the score of Monday Night Football
on the big screen above the pool.

The next morning, we awoke to board a tender...

... to visit Big Black Dick...

... and marvel at security dogs in booties,
on the reef island of Grand Cayman.

While two of us checked out the seven-mile beach,
this foursome boarded a seaworthy vessel for the chance of a lifetime...

... to play with stingrays at Stingray City...

... to see a live conch...

... and swim among the fish.

All that swimming made us thirsty and hungry, so off to Margaritaville we went,
for margaritas and the best nachos ever...

... and a couple trips down the water slide over the swim-up bar!

The next day, our floating home stopped at the island of Roatan,
off the coast of Honduras,
where that adventurous foursome had a not-so-good experience,
of which there are no pictures to speak.

But the next day we were all smiles to awaken to
the beautiful land of Belize!

Cave tubing was on the agenda for the day!

We all held hands and feet,
while our trusty guide, Tomas, led the way...

... past tarantulas...

... and down a beautiful river, in and out of caves.

"Butts up!"
(I'll let you ponder why!)

In Cozumel, we got a bird's-eye view...

... strapped into a parasail...

... high above turquoise blue sea...

... and our friends' beach chairs 
(second row of blue umbrellas on the left)!

Landing was a little rough when Jed stumbled onto my foot...

But drinks at the bar on a swing make it all ok!

I made some interesting new friends,
to join the old...

... and we all called Valor
our week-long home.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#reverb10 - What makes you different, makes you beautiful!

December 8 Prompt: Beautifully different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.

I am a writer (not one who smokes, but the image struck me). I observe. I form opinions. I hold beliefs and values. I feel. I witness. I hear. I see. I take all of these experiences and I craft words that fit. I piece those words together like a jigsaw puzzle, and people read what I write to learn, to experience, to be entertained, to satiate curiosity.

I am a writer. I write to heal. I write to express. I write because, somewhere deep down inside of my soul, I am egotistical. Oh yeah, I love that byline. I love seeing my name in print, not as the subject, but as the creator.

I am a writer. I create. I make art. I entertain. I am really no different than a painter or an actor or a singer. 

I am a writer. My words make people laugh, cry, get angry, take action. My words make people feel.

I am a writer. I give a voice to those who cannot speak. I witness for those who cannot see. I listen for those who cannot hear. I feel for those who cannot touch.

I am a writer who came so close to not writing this post because I struggled with how I was beautifully different. I wasn't sure how I light people up, brighten their lives. My struggle reminds me of Akeelah and the Bee because the title character had a similar struggle. She tried to hide her light -- what she was best at. I cannot hide my writing. It is my strength, my light, my talent, my gift. 
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?" Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  
~ Marianne Williamson ~  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#reverb10 - My First Community

December 7 Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I feel like I went back to the beginning this year in terms of community. I've discovered that my strongest, most dependable community is the first one I had -- the one I was born into: my family.

As kids grow up and become adolescents, many rebel against their families; they need space to build their own identities. I think this independence continues through the 20's. However, as "the younger generation" reaches their 30's, I think an identity has been formed, and that identity is realized in relation to... the relations. At least, this is what has happened with me.

Especially once I moved out of my parents' house for good, I find myself wanting to spend more time with Mom and Dad. I head to their house just for a visit, just to sit around the kitchen table with a cup of tea and catch up on the goings-on. I love spending time with my Nana. I look forward to family get togethers. I hang out with my aunt and sister more, and I wish I lived closer to all of my family so we could hang out.

I'm figuring out who I am, and I am figuring out that a huge part of who I am is where I came from; my family has shaped who I am today. They find it comical how much I resemble my mother, who has become one of my best friends.

In 2011, I want to focus on rebuilding my friendship community. I have been trying to make more time for friends lately, and I want to continue with that next year.

Between my family and my friends, I am blessed beyond belief to have such a strong, reliable, loving, accepting community.

Who is your community?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#reverb10 - Letting Go and Being Ok

December 5 Prompt: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?


I let go of perfection this year. I let go of the unattainable, impossible to keep up, everyday expectations I had for myself.

Don't worry, I'm not saying I let go of my big dreams or my goals for myself.

Instead, I let go of obsessing over that dust bunny in the corner, having the dishes perfectly lined up in the dishwasher, the couple crumbs lingering on the counter, making the bed everyday so it looked like a picture out of a Pottery Barn catalog. I try not to worry if my desk is slightly awry. It's ok if I wear black sweatpants with a navy blue sweatshirt around the house, or *gasp* grocery shopping. The house isn't going to disintegrate if there are a couple of dirty socks on the living room floor for a day, and the world isn't going to end if the laundry hamper is slightly overflowing.

These things all used to stress me out to no end. I remember actually crying over some of them. Life's too short. My sanity and relationships are too valuable. I would rather enjoy a lazy Saturday morning with coffee and a book than jump out of bed to scrub the shower.

Some people use food to feel in control; I use perfection, everything organized perfectly, exactly as I would like them. Well, that causes some friction when you live with someone else. So, in a way, by letting go of the perfection, I'm letting go of some control. I'm realizing everything doesn't have to be my way all the time, and I'm realizing that the pressure I thought was on me to have the perfect house... really doesn't exist outside my own mind.

I still have to remind myself sometimes to take a deep breath and let it go. When I spot those pesky dust bunnies lurking behind a chair, I have to remind myself to leave it there until I can vacuum without sacrificing something like quality time with friends or reading a book.

I'm not perfect. I don't have to control everything. Everything doesn't have to be my way. And, you know what? That's all ok. It will be ok. I'll be ok.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

#reverb10 - Do you sense wonder?

December 4 Prompt: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

When someone mentions 'wonder' to me, I immediately think of two things: a star-filled night sky and Christmas. I suppose those aren't unusual connotations, but they certainly hold some significance for me.

Let's start with the obvious: Christmas. The season of wonder and awe. I think even more than Thanksgiving, Christmas makes me appreciative. The music, the lights, the quality time with family, even the gifts... I appreciate what I have as it becomes even more clear during the season, and I also find myself in wonder of these seemingly little things that make me feel so good. I always take pause at various times during the Christmas season to let myself wonder at the beauty of it all. I try to carry this with me throughout the year, but it rarely happens, until...

I stand and see a perfectly clear, abundantly starry night. Whoa. I remember many of these nights, where I am somewhere and I look up. I stop dead in my tracks, head craned back as far as I can stretch. I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. I lose track of time. I wonder what is up there, what it looks like from another place around the globe, how it appears if I could get closer. I wonder what else is out there... in that dark abyss speckled with such beautiful little lights.

Wonder is really just our human nature, our connection to each other and our environment. Wonder is nature. It can be easily cultivated daily by 'stopping to smell the roses.' Literally. I really just have to remind myself to do that.

There are moments of wonder. Seeing the first buds of spring while walking the dog, reminding me of new life. Feeling how solidly my feet hit the pavement when I run, reminding me of my strength. Witnessing the innocence and endless discovery of a child, reminding me that there is wonder in everything, everywhere.

The first snowfall of winter, the first thunderstorm of summer, the turning of leaves in the fall, and those beautiful flower buds in spring. Birth, growth, marriage, death -- wonder in our nature and mortality. It's all around us, if we only open, not our eyes, our souls to receive it.

{Image: FREE!!!**asterisks}

#reverb10 - And, I felt alive...

December 3 Prompt: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

I try to feel alive in every day moments: walking my dog and smelling the seasonal air, feeling the rain on my skin, hearing the wind, giving a hug, enjoying a good meal, just laying and doing nothing. While I do find a feeling of mortality in those moments, I tend to feel most alive when I am doing extraordinary things, when I find myself in truly awesome situations.

Yesterday's (a day late, again!) prompt calls for one moment in which I felt most alive; I couldn't pick just one, ok? I'm doing a top three. Deal with it.

#3 The day in July, at what-was-formerly-known-as Great Woods, when I saw Tim McGraw in concert. The chance of a lifetime, and a completely spontaneous day. A friend just happened to have an extra ticket, and I decided to go with only six hours to concert time. First of all, let me tell you about country music shows for those of you who have never been (and I know some of you may be dismissing me as a redneck right now, but I'm really not). Sure, you're going to see a lot of interesting characters at a country music show, just like a lot of other genres bring out the crazies. But, you are also going to experience some of the most fun, loving, open-minded, open-hearted people you will ever encounter. There is a feeling of unity and pride that you can't help but feel at a country concert.

Tim was no exception. In fact, he was probably the perfect example because he's such a living country legend. Everyone loves Tim McGraw. He's a great guy with the perfect family, and he really reaches out to the audience.

I felt so happy... well, minus the sweat since it was the hottest, humid day we had this past summer, and I was outside in the sun. When the sun went down, and Tim really got into some of his best songs, everyone was singing along, and I found I had tears in my eyes. It was such a beautiful sight, all of these people from different places and circumstances, all races and religions and beliefs, young and old, guys and girls, die-hard fans and casual appreciators... all swaying to the music, smiling, singing, bonding.

#2 The day in October, in Grand Cayman, when I held and kissed a stingray. Wow, what a day that was! It was overcast, but warm and humid, and as I lowered myself down the boat's swim ladder onto the Stingray City sandbar, I discovered the water to be bath temperature. Then I felt it, the soft creamy sand my feet were sinking into and a smooth flutter brush past my leg. It was a stingray! I felt a split moment of panic, but then I saw the creature float away in front of me. Magical. Beautiful. The panic dissipated, replaced by calm and awe. 

They swirled around me, some more playful than others bumping up against my legs as if we were playing a game of who could get who to tumble into the water. Our guide called us over and snagged a ray, gently holding her just under the water. Ever so carefully, he slid her onto my bent arms, and she just rested there, slowly fluttering her wings. Her belly felt so smooth and soft, and I could hear her breathing just below the water's surface, pulling water in through her gills. I heard nothing but that breathing, even though I was surrounded by throngs of people. 

The guide told me to crouch down even lower in the shallow water, and he bent her up so I could kiss where her mouth should have been (but wasn't because a ray's mouth is actually on their underside). Salty Caribbean water trickled into my mouth as I kissed her, and for a second, I was part of her world.

#1 The day in February, at Bretton Woods, NH, when I found my skis. Up until last year, I had always rented skis, but my aunt insisted I start demoing to find a pair I liked and could buy. Until that day, I had tried at least a half dozen different skis. After a run or two, I knew they weren't the ones (doesn't this sound like finding Mr. Right? I think it is exactly like that). 

When I clipped my boots into the Elan Black Magic skis and rode up the mountain to attempt them on a beginner/intermediate trail, I knew as soon as I started navigating my way down that these were the ones. I was fast, I was in control, I was on fire! They made me feel invincible, secure, steady. I wasn't so focus on getting myself down the mountain, I could enjoy the ride! 

I was surrounded by the most beautiful snow-covered pine trees; in the distance, I could see the snow-capped peak of Mount Washington. I felt the cold winter air whipping around my face, and I could smell that crisp smell of snow that comes with the season. All sounds turned into white noise as I found myself in this... perfectly balanced place. 

{Image: FFFFound!}

Thursday, December 2, 2010

#reverb10 - Writing vs. My Old Friend

Prompt: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it?

Oh my old friend, Mr. Procrastination. We go way back; I think we meet right around the time I started receiving school assignments requiring projects and papers -- things that involved research, thought, preparation and time. I dreaded them. I didn't know how to start. I had plenty of time to figure it out. I'd push it off. Then, all of a sudden, the deadline was looming during second period tomorrow, and it was 9 p.m. the night before. Mr. Procrastination would laugh and go to bed while I toiled away into the wee hours of the morning... and sometimes during first period after only three hours of sleep... to reconcile for all the time I spent with him.

Even with a project I enjoy and created myself -- like this blog -- I still find myself attracted to Mr. Procrastination's wily ways. Maybe even particularly with my own projects, where there are really no repercussions to not doing (other than maybe feeling guilty to myself), I run away with my old friend and leave my passion or experiment to the next day.

I like writing, right? I'm good at it, it brings me pleasure, it relieves pain and stress... so what is the problem?

The problem is my old friend, Mr. Procrastination, and I think it's about time we had a fight and vow never to speak again. I'll get over it by taking tiny little baby steps every day.

Introducing #reverb10

There are several bloggers out there talking about and participating in #reverb10, including Doniree and Matt, to name a few. I did something similar to this last year, so I am looking forward to participating in a repeat exercise this year. Plus, it will hopefully generate some interesting blog posts here for you all to read! 

#reverb10 is a daily blogging exercise, following the prompt of the day -- posted daily here. The idea is to reflect back on 2010 and to manifest goals and ideas for 2011. Appropriate for the month of December, no? If you're interested in learning more or signing up, you can click that awesome #reverb10 button in my right sidebar. I hope you'll join in because I'd love to read your posts!

I'm already getting off to a bad start because I didn't get a chance to post on yesterday's prompt, even though I read it and started drafting a post in my head. If any of you #reverb10 prompt people are reading this, it would be amazing to get the prompts the night before for those who only have the opportunity to blog later in the day -- we can schedule our posts for the next day. I know, I'm asking a lot. :) 

Ok, so here's day one... posted on day two... and I hope to post day two a little later today.

Prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?


2010 was challenging for me in all aspects of my life: career, friends, relationship, self. I never got comfortable this year; every time I faced a challenge and put it behind me, another came knocking on my door. 

I realized I was hitting a stone wall in my job, and a new position opened that I had been hoping for the past couple years. I managed to get that position, but then I realized I had a lot to learn in that position... endless challenges to tackle, solve, face head on. Now, while I'm challenged and learning and growing professionally, I feel myself at a stand still because I'm not sure where to go next.

My relationship has been a challenge of learning each other and making compromises... deciding when to make compromises. It has been a year of choosing my battles wisely -- or not so wisely as the case may be. I know this is a test. I know this is a exercise in growth, love and trust. I know this is a positive in disguise. The knowing does not make it any easier though.

I have also had to reevaluate friendships this year. People and situations constantly change and evolve, and this impacts friendships on all levels. There have been some people I have decided it best to let go, and there are others I realized I need to make a concerted effort to reconnect with. I try to surround myself with positive people who will help me become a better person.

All of these challenges have led me to challenges with myself. Who am I? What am I doing? What is my purpose? What am I passionate about? Am I doing what I need to? What defines me? What do I want to define me?

Man, I haven't answered nearly all of these questions yet, but they are constantly on my mind.

Which brings me to the word of 2011...


Next year, I want to take control of my life: my goals, my dreams, my passions, myself, my career, my friends, my relationship. I am in charge, me. It is on me to make the difference, take action, initiate change. I am going to lead and let all else follow. It's great timing as this leadership coincides with my 30th birthday. Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend with Family

I didn't post a Thanksgiving post last week with my blessings, but I did reflect upon them, and I cherished my Thanksgiving Day with my family. I also had a great long weekend with my family!

I've been fighting a cold the past two weeks, and I was still sniffly on Thanksgiving Day, but I put on my Sunday best and headed to my parents' house while Jed cooked Thanksgiving dinner at our house for his parents. After greeting my parents, sister and grandmother who was staying at their house for the weekend, I plopped down in my mother's Lazy Boy to watch my Patriots beat the Lions by a hair.

After the game, we, along with my two aunts and two uncles, sat down for our feast. There were two turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, whipped butternut squash, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffed celery, olives and pickles. Oh yeah, and my lil sis made a delish raspberry soup topped with homemade whipped cream, a raspberry and mint leaves! Yummmm! Jed, and Morris, came to my parents' after his dinner for dessert.

I won't even get into dessert... it was another whole tabletop full of food, including my aunt's chocolate Kahlua coffee trifle and my favorite raspberry jam thumbprint cookies. And wine, lots of wine. I was a happy, stuffed Jen by the end of the day. :)

Here's a few pictures from the day -- unfortunately I didn't get pictures of the whole family in attendance.

It's incredible that my mother allows Morris in her house since she is very allergic to animals, but she loves him so much that he is allowed to visit in the kitchen only (and he has to be carried from the front door to the kitchen so he doesn't touch the carpets)!

Morris really wanted to go into the living room and hang out with everyone, but he wasn't allowed. I sat in the doorway between the kitchen and living room keeping him company.
(Outfit: Gap cardigan, Gap army trousers, Chinese Laundry flats)

My mom loves her granddog.

My lil sis, me and Morris. People have thought we are twins (me and sis, not either of us and Morris).

We had Thanksgiving dinner Friday night, Saturday night and last night between my parents' and Jed's leftovers. I think that was the last of it, but I enjoyed every bite.

On Friday, my sister brought my grandmother to my house so she could see it. I've been here for almost a year and a half, and my Nana had never been here! She thought it was "cute" and then fell asleep on my couch watching TV. Oh I love my Nana.

Saturday, I headed to my parents' house once again, early, to join my mom, Nana, sis and sis' best friend on a road trip out to the Yankee Candle flagship store in Deerfield, MA. Oh my, that place is HUGE and oh so much fun. It is such a good thing I live two hours away, because I would spend entirely too much time and money there if I was closer.

The entire building had a huge wraparound porch with painted cows along it. So fun!

We started the afternoon at Chandler's restaurant for lunch. It looks like a huge barn or candlery (is that what a building where candles are made is called?). No electric lights -- all lighting was provided by either candle-lit chandeliers or candle wall sconces! I imagine it would be beautiful at night.

Mom and I both ordered the broccoli and mushroom quiche, which was light and fluffy, along with a side salad with Chandler's homemade apple cider vinaigrette. I would definitely eat there again as the prices were very reasonable for lunch (especially considering we were in a tourist trap, and it was the only restaurant).

Once I walked into the actual store, I think my jaw knocked a jar candle off the shelf it fell so hard! There was the general store, the male store with all kinds of sports memorabilia, the enormous candle emporium (including a section to make your own candle!), the Christmas village Black Forest...
Look at the tiny little ski lift to the left!

... the Bavarian village... 

... the cute carts scattered around the cobblestone-floor food court, a Vera Bradley shop, a Pandora counter, a pet shop and two kitchen shops! We shopped for FIVE HOURS, and I feel like I might have missed something! 

One thing I didn't miss was the snow!
Yes, snow fell from the ceiling every four minutes, and it was beautiful. Little did we know, flurries fell outside the building as well, and the evidence was on the car when we left.

I managed to finish my Christmas shopping for all but three people Saturday, and I only spent $163, about $30 of which was for myself (c'mon, you didn't think I'd make it out without picking up something for myself, did you?)! They're all really thoughtful, unique gifts too, about which I'm super happy. Sorry, I would share what I got with you, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for any of those people on my gift list who might read this blog.

The glorious long weekend closed with Christmas decorating! Mi casa is now officially decorated for Christmas sans tree, which we'll get in two weeks. I haven't taken any pictures yet, but if I remember to, I will post some here. I always hate the shorter, darker days of November until the lights of Christmas brighten the void in December. It just makes me smile.

Wow, this was a long post! I hope I didn't bore you. How was your Thanksgiving and long weekend? What did you do? Have you decorated your home for the holidays?