Thursday, November 11, 2010

How not to get your chores done


Perhaps this explains why I never get all the laundry folded and put away.  

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Persistence

I never set out to be a cat lover, but some 20 plus years ago a beautiful white cat walked into my arms and into my life and suddenly there I was: instant cat fan. Spaz and the second cat that followed him some seven years later, Calvin, were both strays that I could not resist. They adapted easily to the household and let me pet them, pick them up, hold and snuggle them to my heart's content. Although there were some bumps along the way, I could always count on their affection and company.

My current cat companions did not get that memo. You know--the one about how fabulous it is to be held and snuggled by their owners and to openly give and receive affection. Instead of being strays, all of my current felines were once feral who missed out on the socialization necessary to become well-adjusted pets. At random times they will all run through the house as if they were a herd of gazelles chased by a lion, and after they have knocked over everything in their path I come to discover the source of their panic was a random noise or a book falling off a shelf. It has taken years of work to get two of them at the point I can pet them at will, but picking up and holding my kitties is a gamble at best.

One of the cats, Simone, caught my eye years ago with her long white fur and big blue eyes. She looks like one big ball of fluff and the only thing that has stopped me from nuzzling my face in her tummy is the image of a late-night trip to an emergency room full of bites and scratches. I took her in when she was about 3 or 4 years of age, and that was 5 years ago. Although she has spent more than half of her life in my house, it feels either like an arranged marriage or some form of kitty d├ętente.

She is a beautifully well-mannered house guest. No accidents, no destructive behaviors just lots of love and affection…towards the other cats. Prior to my decision to take her in, if I had known the likelihood of taming an adult feral cat was so slim, I probably would have made a different decision. But, I took her in…for better or worse…and although the majority of time we have little or no contact, there are small glimmers of light.

Right now, she sits perched on the edge of the desk, not so much out of a need for companionship but instead looks dismayed that I came and disturbed her perch. In these rare scenarios, I use every form of bribery imaginable. Treats, wet cat food, catnip, diced chicken…you name it, I'm there. As my reward, she occasionally lets her guard down, and allows me to pet her. On a good day, she'll roll over and reveal her tummy while purring loudly. On a not so good day, she sits tense and anxious as I pet her, just waiting for the moment I will walk away. Last night, she let me have my way with her…and didn't run away.

So, as your reward here is a short clip of Simone (all in white) relaxed and sleepy with Matilda, my capricious little calico sitting on the corner of the desk. Yep, five years of hard work and persistence can lead to one immensely rewarding scratch under a chin.

video

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm sure there is a lesson in here somewhere...

The most simple tasks, at times, can be the most difficult.  Or perhaps, what I envisioned as a simple task was grossly underestimated.  In any situation, this weekend was a comedy of errors, mistakes and minor bursts of frustration.  It all started with a desire to clean, which turned into an idea of rearranging furniture, which then created a domino effect throughout the house.  And now, tonight, it looks like the entire contents of a study were thrown up in the living room...which they were.

The expiration date on my computer has come and gone, and although I managed to eek out a year of use beyond my original plans, the last few months have been slow going.  That is, in terms of opening files, navigating the web and even turning on my laptop.  I hesitated at spending the extra money right now since I've been working on paying off bills but I realized my productivity at home was terrible because of the lumbering speed of my current computer.  So, there I was one night...on the phone with a stranger overseas...and yes, he sweet talked me into a new laptop, complete with a 20" monitor.  Did I feel guilty, used or a little dirty after our hour-long chat the night before?  No, in fact I felt giddy with excitement over the pending arrival of my goodies.  The only problem was the space or lack thereof in my study.

The study unfortunately has become more of a catch-all space.  So I decided it was time to get the nursery in order for the new baby arriving within the week and set my sights on doing it in one day; Saturday.  Friday night, I left work and headed off to IKEA with dreams of a new desk running through my brain.  I found it, fell in love with it and happily headed off to the car.  At which point I discovered my new desk top was about 4" wider than the interior of my car (who knew?)  I tried the trunk (with the fold down back seat), I tried every iteration of shoving it through the door and was almost on the verge of heading back in for a refund when I thought of opening the back windows.  With some maneuvering and a little pushing, I finally managed to wedge the desk top in the back seat, and out the passenger rear window.  The drive home was muggy, I was sweaty and tired, but thrilled at my resourcefulness.

I opted out of taking a shower on Friday (big mistake) and instead decided to move absolutely everything in my office out and into the living room.  I brought in boxes, shoved my papers and other junk inside and laid havoc on my once organized and spacious living room  The cats were in shock, I had to jump over boxes to sit down but my desk was safely inside the house and Saturday's plans were set.  The only thing left to move was the wooden frame couch that had been tucked into the study for years, and up until recently served as the home for a futon.

Saturday morning, before starting assembly of the desk I decided that bookcases were needed...two more to match a pair that I bought earlier in the year.  And that large bookcase that now looked out of place?  Well, I decided it would go out to the living room to replace a really bad and beat up bookcase that had migrated there in an earlier frenzy of redistributing household pieces.  I also decided that the bare bulb fixture in the study needed a new cover.  Off I went, to Target for bookcases and Home Depot for lamp parts.  When I lugged the over sized boxes for the bookcases into the car (thankfully fitting in the trunk) I kept thinking they didn't look like the same ones.  Same name, same price...but something didn't seem right.  Home Depot did not leave me feeling any more cozy.  The guy who helped me find the pieces for the light seemed helpful, but I kept thinking his solution was a little sketchy.  What the heck?  I was tired, hungry and really sweaty at this point and besides...he was the Home Depot guy, right?

Well, wrong.  The bookcases were close...but not the same as the ones I had.  I wrestled with the idea of going back to the store, but just could not bear another trip out.  I thought they were close enough, and the difference will not keep me up at night.  The light cover however was tragically wrong, although the size of the bolt was almost there...so close that it made me sniffle a bit.  And then, because I love to add drama to any event I decided to make a quick alteration to my original plan and move a chest of drawers into the study to serve as a pseudo linen closet for the bathroom.  Off I went to dump the contents of the chest onto the bed, and floor and back I headed into the study.  At some point I realized that I smelled, really smelled.  Not in the mild perspiration, dewy post-workout smell but rather the OMG I have not had a shower in two days and things are going funky...fast....smell.

But, I pushed my personal hygiene aside and plodded along.  That is until I went to assemble the bookcases and realized that although I have a cordless drill that works as a screwdriver...I no longer had the power cord to recharge the drill.  Why?  Because the men who came to my house in April to fix a simple door had absconded with the charger...not the drill...but the god damn charger!   My sweaty state was not helped by the next few minutes of jumping around cursing and my only consolation was the fact that the instructions for the bookcases advised against the use of power tools.  Two bookcases and one very sore arm and hand later, I had those puppies in place.  Now it was time to move the odd bookcase out...into the hallway...transfer all the books and goodies out of the old one and into the semi-new one.  The old one went out to the porch along with the old desktop (which truthfully was a door) and a door from the closet that I choose to remove.  Two doors and one bookcase later, I only needed the couch so I could move things into the garage.

At this point, the nagging frustration of my missing drill parts and the light fixture that seemed to taunt me with it's nakedness overcame my sensibilities and I decided to head off to Home Depot for another round of shopping.  I bought what I thought would be the solution for the light, and in a moment of sheer inspiration bought another light fixture.  I figured that changing it out would be less painful than the current game of finding the right size part (which...oddly enough is called a nipple...and the ones I had were too big...so who says the Universe does not have a sense of humor?????)  I also found in another moment of inspiration, a universal charger that promised the ability to charge any size cordless battery.  It was cheaper than a new drill, so off I took my sweaty, smelly self.

Despite near-sheer exhaustion, I decided to push through and happily plugged the battery into the universal charger (with a promise of a 45 minute charge) and headed off to fix the light.  New hardware?  Nope, no such luck.  Plan B, replace fixture?  Nope, no luck either since I managed to pick up the one and (most likely) only package wherein someone had removed the fixture and repackaged the light cover only. Yeah, that meant another trip to HD in the morning. So, I turned my sights on moving the couch out of the room, down the hall and into the garage outside.  One attempt through the door made me realized why that couch had sat where it was for so long.  Why?  It barely fits through the door and to move it outside would require me moving things out the hallway, from the closet entrance, and from a large portion of the living room where I of course had put all my boxes of....well...crap.  Despite my best intentions I still knocked over things, ran into the wall and left a few bruises on my self.  However, everything made it to the garage--the doors, the bookcase, and the couch frame.

Now, I could focus on the desk and practically crawled on my knees back to the battery...hoping it had sufficiently charged.  What I discovered was that my universal charger did not include my battery in it's universe.  All I got was enough juice for one screw and as dirty as that sounds, it was just plain pitiful.  Can you imagine me sitting on the floor begging the drill to work just a little harder because I had to set 24 screws in the desk before it was ready.  And, at 45 minutes to do one...my weekend task seemed doomed.  Undaunted I choose to hit the shower, grab some ice cream (as a consolation prize) and head to bed.

Sunday morning took a turn for the best when I discovered that my universal drill charger needed a bit longer with my drill.  Happily, I had all four desk legs up and attached in minutes.  I made quick work out of unpacking my new notebook docking station and second monitor and got ready to plug everything in.  Until I realized that there were only two plugs in the entire study (okay, there are three...but one dates back to the twenties and doesn't function) and those plugs are not on the wall my new desk sat.  At this point, I was ready to either dig a hole into the floor to run an extension cord or punch a hole in the wall to install another wall outlet.  However, with the help of a really long cord on my surge protector and a lot of masking tape I managed to snake the cord down one wall, around the corner and back under the desk.

At this point, I was feeling cocky.  I had overcome any and all obstacles (okay, minus the light that still is naked) for the weekend.  My new computer will have a lovely new home, everything is prepped and ready for it's arrival and all I need to do is clean and organize the clutter I managed to create in every other room of the house (you want a count...living room, closet, kitchen, bathroom [don't ask], bedroom, garage and utility room).  Yes, Internet I managed to clean up one room in the house while simultaneously destructing every other available space.  All, in the name of organization.

But that wasn't the last glorious moment from this weekend.  After a well deserved and leisurely lunch, I stopped at Office Max to peruse the office goodies they had.  What caught my eye?  Well, I have a file cabinet (inherited) that has no frame on which to hang file folders.  (I may want to add a little note here about the wheels for the file cabinets that I cannot attach to the file cabinet because I lack the right hardware....but I won't go there today...although I did go there while in HD.)  Imagine my surprise when I found a replacement frame...reasonably priced...to fit securely in my file cabinet.   And in that one moment of great American consumerism, I realized that all the pains and mishaps of the weekend could be replaced with this frame, I made the purchase.  I know I may not have the house in order but, I will have a place on which to rest my file folders.

The only problem with this ending?  Did you guess it?  Yep Internet, wrong size...so now I have a stack of things to return to stores and with those returns go my dreams of an easy task to install a new computer.  Hopefully when it actually arrives this week, we'll have a happy ending.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This really doesn't help the morning people among us.

I am not a morning person, and people like myself often get a bad rap for not being perky, upbeat and excited to head out bright and early.  We do get perky and upbeat but later in the day, when the rest of the world slows down a bit.  Unfortunately, videos like this do not make a case for staying in bed.  My plan?  Tomorrow morning, I go through the same affirmation that Jessica does....just from the bed, in a deep and delightful slumber!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Freckle Recall

Today I learned that I have skin cancer which kind of makes your Monday really suck. Good news is it is a basal cell carcinoma which is the least invasive, dangerous type and recovery rates are very high. But this is happening quite fast. I went to the doctor on Friday; today is Monday and that one phone call from my doctor just shifted everything in my life.

I've always been good about medical screenings, and hit the doctor, eye doctor, dentist, acupuncturist, chiropractor and gynecologist on a regular basis. I get regular screenings for everything and ask my doctors lots of questions...but the dermatologist has never been on my list. Call it vanity, but up until about three years ago I never went to get my skin checked out. Considering my very fair skin, light blue eyes and propensity to burn you would think that skin care check ups would be top on my list. But, no they were not. And even when I went for the first time to the doctor, I did not have them conduct a skin cancer screening. Really. Friday was my first and only screening but surely not the last one.

It was vanity a few years ago when I took my first trip the dermatologist, and that same vanity (and a recent birthday) that made me finally schedule another visit. My primary goal was some prescription strength skin care drugs (hello Retina-A). And, on a whim I agreed to a skin cancer screening. Even after the doctor checked me over, I hesitated a bit and finally asked about one errant freckle on my chest. She didn't think anything of it, until I told her it was not there a few months ago. And then, she said she would take it off, just to be on the safe side.

That one little freckle that looked as if had been colored in by a dark brown pen turned out to be cancerous. The scary part is it does not look like any pictures I have ever seen of skin cancer, especially this type. Even the doctor passed it over at first. Truth be told, I've looked at that little guy for months...wondered why he did not look very familiar...but put it out of my mind. I've always been good about using sunscreen on my face, but I've been careless on my neck, back and chest. Now I know that this type of cancer is 100% preventable if you use (and reapply) sunscreen, and take care of your skin.

The universe must have been conspiring because suddenly in the last two weeks I felt very motivated to get an appointment, and have someone else confirm that this little spot was nothing. In my heart, I realize that the appointment for skin care was just a guise to put me face to face with someone who would look at this mark that stood out ever so slightly from the rest of my freckles. Now, I see it was a wise choice even if it makes me stare at marks on my body for days on end...examining each and every freckle.

Next week, I go in for further treatment. When my doctor described my options it was quite a blur. There was something about freezing and burning it off, which would lead to a scar; scooping out the tissue, which would leave a dent; using a cream for 2-3 months daily, which would cause a rash and general scaliness for the duration; or another type of excision which would require two layers of stitching. It seemed a lot to consider until she told me the success rates which ranged from about 80% to 97%. I'm going with the procedure boasting a 97% success rate...two layers of stitches, and a minimal scar.

I know this will not be the last step in this process, and the chance of finding another cancerous spot is quite high. But I do know that I will never go without sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and other protective items again. And you all should adopt the same practice!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ode to Walter

Yes, I know he's grown quite attached to me. And I fully acknowledge that I shouldn't be feeding him treats like bananas and tostada shells, but when he shows up and politely knocks on the door, who could really resist this guy?


video

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

There was no room at the brunch table

Who knew that all of Austin was going to participate in celebrating my birthday week. All I know is that it was darn difficult to find a spot for a Sunday brunch for me and about a dozen or so friends. I went through four locations before finding one that was 1) open for regular business 2) available on Sunday and 3) had room for all of us. My favorite rejection was a polite but short note from one restaurant that said they were sorry but they did not have room for me. I wasn't sure if I should be offended, put off...or tickled by the fact that they could not accommodate all the potential merriment of my friends. All I know is that I did find a lovely spot that I think will be the perfect place for some relaxation, love and laughter.

On another note, April always seems to be the month of exceptions and indulgences for me. It's not that hard to twist my arm to splurge or indulge on many things, but boy-o-boy in April I take it to another extreme. Here we are, 7 days in...and this is my shopping spree so far:
  1. Four (oops...actually five) new pairs of shoes. Two fit into the sensible, gotta replace the old pair category. One...kind of fits there, but barely. And the other two really do hit the completely indulgent and unnecessary purchase, but I had to take them home with me.
  2. Two new bras and three sets of panties. Okay, these were technically necessary...but still felt fairly indulgent. If you see me in the near future...take a peek at how well the 'girls' are holding up.
  3. Completely indulgent and pricey skin care peel and exfoliation set from Sephora. I now own more make up and skin care product than I care to reveal...I think it's my new version of a crack-addiction.
  4. Do-hickey device that allows me to play my I-Pod while driving. Haven't quite mastered the knack of finding the clearest FM channel for it...simply because my drives have been so short lately, but I can't wait. One more way to play all my belly dance music (which by last count was close to 4,000 songs....).
  5. More make up from another online store...two types of powder, eyeliner and a fabulous eye brow stencil kit that makes me realize that one of my eye brows is crazily crooked!
  6. New jeans...new tops...
  7. New swim suit
  8. Three new belly dance DVDs
  9. Three pots of herbs for the front porch, plus one big pot of strawberry plants to share with the birds and Walter the raccoon.
We won't count the new red velvet skirt that arrived at the end of last month...nor will we count any future belly dance purchases I have my eye on. What I will count on is a delightful month of indulgences, friends and celebration!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let the wooing begin

Up until last week I had a steady relationship with my local Einstein’s deli. We were pretty tight, saw each other at least once a week and it was a fulfilling relationship. I thought was getting my needs met. But last week changed everything. It was a dreary rainy day. Parking and traffic sucked. I was chastised by the manager on duty because I didn’t give her my order properly. (Who knew that naming your bagel first and meat second was such an offense). And, when I got back to my office discovered my turkey sandwich was missing a key ingredient. Turkey.

Now I understand people make mistakes, it happens and even the best businesses fumble on occasion. For me, it’s not about the mistake; it’s about resolving the issue. So I called and they offered me another sandwich and a cookie. I drove over to get sandwich #2, only find out it was inadvertently given to another customer. *sigh* As sandwich #3 was being prepared, my hopes of a happy lunch dwindled when the stringent shift manager displayed indifference and annoyance over my situation. *grumble*

I came back to the office, went online to complain and found their website wouldn’t accept comments. *snarl* Two days later, I finally called and got a direct email to their company’s customer service department. And lo and behold, within minutes I get a sweet letter apologizing and promising me the local manager would contact me directly within 48 hours. I felt special, valued and happy…until…no one called, no one emailed. No contact, no apologies, nothing.

So today, instead of my usual weekly Einstein’s run, I chose another location and headed out to Jason’s Deli. Upon arrival, I felt courted…wooed…adored. I got a free cookie, a coupon for another free cookie, my lunch exactly as I ordered it…and a mint. Don’t know if I’ll patch it up with Einstein’s, we’ll have to see. All I can say is when you start dating around it makes it a lot harder to stay with the same old relationship, especially one that forgets the heart or ‘meat’ of the matter.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Artists Way, Redux

Last fall I worked my way through the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It's an amazing book at process geared towards finding inspiration and discovering (or rediscovering) your inner artist and creative child. I had heard many people talk about how beneficial the book was to them, so I was naturally curious especially since I had been in a creative rut.

And when I made the decision to start the book, magically I found a group on Meetup.com that was starting the book at the same time I had planned. It was a small, but close-knit group and only a handful of us made it through all twelve weeks, but the experience was well worth it. I haven't blogged much about the process because I'm still processing what occurred. I'm not sure if I was looking for a nudge to move a different direction in my life and the book came along or if the book came along and I started to shift. All I know is the book and the process really were transformational. Not in a fireworks, explosive kind of way but in a deep, grounded reality shifting way.

During the twelve week process I became the ad hoc leader of the group, and of the meetup program. In the midst of the process I didn't think much about what would happen beyond December, and apparently I didn't need to make that decision. The Universe had it all planned out. With urgings from several members of the group, I initiated a monthly Artist's Way support group. From that group, a subdivision of individuals also decided to start the book. And in the middle of it all, I'm still the leader and the facilitator.

Instead of feeling like this is another task or drudgery I have to endure, I am really enjoying the process again. Not only of exploring my creative side more fully, but also helping guide others on the same path. Here's my confession, I love to facilitate...and when people trust me to take the lead, I'm good at it. Actually, scratch that....Damn Good and downright inspirational. Tonight we had a group of eighteen amazing, funny, witty creative individuals and two hours with them didn't seem long enough. I laughed so hard I cried (several times) and several comments and stories took my breath away or left me on the verge of tears.

As part of a group exercise, I had everyone write a positive review of their art and read it to each other. It was illuminating, awkward and amazing to hear what people will reveal about themselves when they are given the opportunity to praise versus criticize their own work. We did this exercise as part of a discussion on affirmations. The author has a list of twenty in her book, some of which I struggle to accept or use. There are a few that resonate with me and I think I'll ponder these for a bit:
  • As I listen to the creator within, I am led.
  • I am willing to be of service through my creativity.
  • I am willing to experience my creative energy.
So, why am I sharing this now? Well, I decided to tonight to do the book again...not so much for me, but for the other in the group and what they give me in return. And if I'm lucky I can pass onto others in my life as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Feet confessions


Back in October I was inspired to take a picture of my feet every day for one year and post this on my facebook account. I was out of the gate strong before the holidays, but ever since the new year my feet postings have been erratic. It's an easy process, just snap a picture with my camera phone and email it to myself. The only problem is my lack of recent creative inspiration.

I figured out what was causing the block, it's my lack of shoes. Really, maybe not so much a lack of shoes (you should see my closet) but rather the lack of variety of winter, sensible, warm shoes. And frankly speaking, they are just not that interesting to look at in every picture. So, my option is to either take lots of pictures of bare feet in interesting settings or buy new shoes. I'll let you guess which option I'll be exploring :-)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Extensive Vamping


Lately at work, I’ve been turned onto Pandora, an internet radio station, which allows you to tailor the music you hear based upon multiple selections. It is part of the Music Genome Project that was started about ten years ago to create a database of music based upon various attributes in songs. I have no doubt this started with a group of engineers, who on the side played in bands, and also had a geeky love of spreadsheets and databases. This project quite possibly was the ultimate wet dream for them. And, for the rest of us it’s a nice way to learn about other artists and music similar in style to those we already enjoy.

You pick an artist or a genre, and then as each song plays you can either rate it, pass on it or move it to another station if it’s not the appropriate mood or style in that moment. So, the more you listen, the more you tailor the music to songs that appeal to you. My favorite little tool is the button that tells you why that song was selected. You have predictable categories such as acoustic rhythm piano, pop rock qualities, and major key tonality. But then there are a few unexpected ones, such as “extensive vamping”.

When I first saw the category I misread it to be “excessive vamping”, which begs many questions by itself. I’ve since learned that vamping is actually a musical term used to describe a repeating musical figure which would make sense for this site. For me, vamping inspires images of a sultry, saucy woman who is actively seducing or entrapping men. It’s got stiletto heels, cleavage and lush red lips written all over it. And, whether or not it’s excessive or extensive vamping, these songs are keeping me quite inspired while typing away on otherwise mundane tasks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Martial Arts Love Triangle?

I'm not really the cheating kind. I've never been able to juggle two men at a time and never had the inclination to work at acquiring that skill. I'm very loyal and committed to most everything I love. But, I may be cheating this week...by going back to an ex without telling the current one.

Yep, I'm headed back to my old martial arts Dojo and my original Sensei. And no, I haven't told Tai Chi guy anything about this yet...in fact, I've been a little absent from his class over the last few months. Very mixed feelings, not sure what to expect. But I learned something really important tonight. My old gi pants don't fit...in a really bad, I've eaten way too much kind of way.

Why go back? Well, a good friend and fellow class mate wanted to go back and take their martial conditioning class, which really does kick your butt in a good way. And she convinced me to try it out as well. I do miss the sweating, hitting, kicking and occasional grunting. And I miss the effect on the size of my hips and waist. So, I agreed to go take the conditioning classes only...or that was my original plan.

What I didn't expect was the Dojo's change in schedule and classes that left me with only one alternative...go back to the regular classes. So tomorrow night, I step back onto the mat (although not back into the pants) and we'll see what happens. I still want to take my Tai Chi classes so I'm hoping that the combination of the two will be a nice mix of hard and soft skills, as well as sweating and breathing.

I may be inspired, I may be challenged, and hopefully I'll sweat at the dojo. I may even get to grapple or punch some really big guy. And, who knows, maybe this is the year that I learn to juggle two men...or at least two martial arts classes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking Forward



Each year I resolve not make New Year's resolutions. I prefer, instead, to think of setting goals for the months ahead. Kind of like taking stock and thinking about you want to order for the spring, summer and into fall. For me, goals are more organic and often beg for re-writing, revising and re-evaluating. Resolutions--not so much. They are, by nature, more rigid, with an official start date (January 1) and the almost inevitable decline that follows.

Last year, some of my goals included writing more, and breaking out of the creative rut I had found myself dwelling in. I started the year off slow, but by mid-summer things began to spiral into control and into focus. It started with a decision to take a sabbatical from Mirage, the dance troupe to which I dedicated a great deal of time and energy. That small step quickly turned into an official resignation from the troupe after eight and a half years of involvement. I made conscious choices to stop over scheduling and over booking myself. Instead, I picked events and performances that kept me more focused and inspired.

I joined an Artist's Way group with the intention of writing more--but much to my delight discovered I wanted to draw, paint and work with pottery. Most of all, I learned to really listen to my inner artist and inner child. I stepped away from people who were negative and sapped my creative juices and instead surrounded myself with people who are enthusiastic, encouraging and inspiring.

A friend of mine said that I've always been able to grow even in rocky soil, but imagine what I could do if I were planted in rich, nurturing, fertile ground instead. Well, I can imagine that now and I see a year ahead filled with joy, inspiration, love and eternal gratitude.

And what are my goals for this year? Quite simple--I plan to take the seeds that the universe planted for me this last fall and winter and watch them bloom!