Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

Well, I considered naming this entry 2010: The Good, The Bad and The ugly....but I don't have many bad things or ugly things to recall. Sure 2010 had its Ranger getting all matted with his own poop that he had to be shaved...right before snowmagedon. I mean Ranger was pretty ugly and he smelled bad...but he was really cute in that lion cut.

I looked back on my January 1, 2010 entry...the resolution blog to see if I had accomplished anything I had set out to accomplish in 2010. Surprisingly, I really did.

In 2010, my big focus areas were: Relationships, Personal Growth, Financial and Travel:

Relationships: I really wanted to get myself more inline with God's will for me. So often we are swimming against the current because the darn current is taking us where we didn't want to go. Its exhausting...and when we finally let go and float, not drown, but lay our heads back, rest and float...the current takes us for an interesting ride. We start to see that the places the current is taking us aren't too bad. This was the year I finally embraced my singleness. Not sure how God is using it but I'm feeling very blessed in the freedom it provides me. Oh, and peace...I am feeling more at peace. Maybe I'm seeing how God is working everything out and I'm learning to trust Him more. I'm liking the ride and look forward to how I'm going to be shaped and what things I'm going to learn in 2011.

Getting to know the women in my small group better...while I haven't felt closer to a group of women, than I do with the women in my small group, I think this is still an area I can work on in 2011.

Getting to know my co-workers better...also another area I need to work on. I'll be honest, I don't walk around and socialize much...I sit down and work. I'd like to get to know folks better as they are all pretty cool.

Personal Growth: The big goal was to get into better shape and be healthier, maybe lose a few pounds. I haven't lost any weight, yet. However, I have been working out regularly since June and have seen strength improvements. While I have seen results, not as impactful as I had hoped so for 2011, I'll be changing some things up to improve on what I've done in 2010.

I wanted to take dance classes, photography classes and maybe an improv class. I took dance classes and really learned I like rumba and cha-cha. While I have taken the past six months off, I have signed up for rumba and cha-cha classes in January and I hope to stick with them for the next year. Dancing with the I come! Didn't take the photog or the improv class...but hey I have 365 days in 2011.

Financial goal: Pay off the darn Credit Card. Oh I was so close! But Snowmagedon took its toll on my 10 year old Honda and the transmission started to go at the end of February. Half the money I was going to use to pay off the credit card went as a down payment on a new car. I'm really happy with my new car, a Subaru Forester. So nice to not be dropping $1000 every other month to get something fixed. So the Credit Card was not paid off...but, if all goes as planned, which it most likely won't because nothing ever goes as planned, it should be paid off this March.

Travel Goal: Do more travel, internationally and locally. So one word here: Bali.

Yes, I went to Bali at the beginning of the summer. I also checked out a few more places locally, not as many as I would have liked. There are plans for 2011 so stay tuned!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baltimore Adventure #3: Fort McHenry


Above, Fort McHenry around 9 a.m. in the morning.

This is a statue of Orpheus and it was erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. A little boy walking to the visitor's center with his family caught sight of Orpheus and started to scream "Its a naked man!Completely naked!" And he burst out laughing.


Orpheus isn't exactly naked. He does have a leaf covering his private parts...barely. Interestingly, according to park lit, many people think this is a statue of Francis Scott Keys, the author of our National Anthem. Ha! Would Keys have objected?

Below, detail of the stone foundation of the statue, its face, foot and lyre.





Friday, October 29, 2010

Baltimore Adventure #2: The American Visionary Art Museum


From the top of Federal Hill, you can see a lot. The American Visionary Art Museum was right next to the hill. Like when I say next to was at the foot of the hill. I could have rolled down the hill and onto the museum's grounds.

What caught my eye was the amazing mozaic, glittering in the sun.


I am attracted to sparkly things and bright colors...I had to get a closer look. Was this a restaurant or a museum or both?


Well, as it turned out, it is an art museum with a cafe on the top level. One of these days I will have to make a return visit and check out the cool things inside and eat up at the cafe.

I didn't have a lot of time so decided to check out what was outside. Admission to the museum is $15.95 for adults, a very reasonable price. However, I'd want to get my full $15.95 out of my visit and really get a chance to linger at their exhibits....if they are as cool as what is outside, I think I could spend several hours there. They are open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

So here is what I did see:


Is this not a fantasy garden? That "play house/tree house" is so cool. If I were a kid, I'd embarass my parents and immediately take up house and start playing pretend. I just imagine tree nymphs and faeries all over this garden.


The detail of the house is just amazing a true work of functional art.


Some of the magical critters, a pink donkey, I think. Much of what I saw outside was fresh and childlike. I mean childlike in the best of ways. The things I saw were right out of a young imagination that hadn't been stuffied up by what grown-ups consider art or beauty or a technique or the fact that in reality donkeys aren't pink (well why not?)


Now I just loved, loved, loved this sculpture! A bird and her nest. Talk about an industrial size bird...and a musical one at that.


Here is her beautiful egg. I love these glass mosaics. It reminds me of a place near my home. Maybe some of my homies may remember the house on Hayes Avenue up by Speigal Grove where they had these towers of cement with pieces of beautiful glassware, plates and mirrors pressed into them. I'm sure many adults may have thought the elderly couple's "glass and cement garden" an eye sore but I thought it was the lovliest thing. I always wanted my mom to stop to let us look through the chainlink fence at the sparkling, colorful rocks. The elderly man's works were no comparison to this egg or the mosaics around the museum buildings.


So back to the mosaic that caught my eye...oh, the balcony above is the restaurant.



Now is that a school bus or is that a school bus?! Below, close-up of the outer wall mosaic.


Biker chick is right over the entrance, you can't miss her.


This glittery mirror tree is right in front of the main building. I can't imagine how cool this must look if it gets hit directly with sunlight. It certainly sounded pretty, tinkling in the soft breeze that afternoon.


This is a close-up of some of the glass and mirror leaves on the tree.


Now, if something can be judged by its 'cover', I have to think the stuff on the inside is pretty cool. The welcome mat for the museum was made out of brightly colored tooth brushes, so who knows what other fun, imaginative, out-of-the-box stuff is inside. If you are in Baltimore, visit the American Visionary Art Museum...if you go, take me with you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Balitmore Adventure: Freedom Hill

Can I just tell you I hate driving in a city. It was almost a disaster for me as I almost got in a car accident trying to find my hotel. I was in the wrong lane so at the last minute I attempted to change lanes (often done in city, right). Since it was the weekend, there wasn't a lot of traffic so people were driving much faster than the speed limit. Before I committed to my lane change, I checked my rearview mirror to see a VW coming up at high speed. I stopped where I was. Lots of room for her to get by on my right but she still layed on the horn and screached to an almost stop and shot me a snotty look. So that's how it started.

After locating my hotel, but it being too early to check-in, I headed to the Inner Harbor. I went to check out Federal Hill which is on the other side of the Harbor, a view I've not really seen before.

What is Federal Hill?


Federal Hill was discovered by Captain John Smith in 1608 on his first exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. It earned its name in 1788, when thousands of Baltimoreans marched from Fells Point to the hill in celebration of the Maryland General Assembly's ratification of the Constitution. (Residents of the neighborhood reenacted the parade 200 years later.) Subsequently it was the scene of other civic celebrations. Shortly after Independence, an observatory was erected on the hill so merchants could get advance warning of the arrival of their vessels. The hill gained notoriety during the Civil War. Federal troops occupied the hill and trained their cannon on the city, whose loyalty to the North was in some doubt.


The city government acquired the hill in 1875 and made it a park. The marine observatory was discontinued in 1899. For much of the 19th century the Federal Hill shore shared with Fells Point the city's thriving shipping trade and related industries. Federal Hill itself was mined for sand for a nearby glassworks, leaving behind some caverns which exist to this day and are a favorite subject of legends.


Modern Federal Hill was born around 1960, when a few hardy pioneers bought and began renovating homes in what had become a dowdy neighborhood. But the existence of the neighborhood was threatened in the mid-60's by a plan to plow through it with an interstate highway, part of a complex of connecting freeways that would have demolished the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The residents rebelled, joined hands across the harbor, and eventually defeated the plan. The rebuilding of the Inner Harbor area in the late 70s and early 80s greatly increased interest in Federal Hill as an enclave of intimate residential streets within minutes of the city's business and entertainment heart.


Below are some views of the Inner Harbor from the hill.




Monday, October 18, 2010

Holy Muscle Failure, Batman!

Just when my muscles were getting used to the killer tri/chest/abs workout my co-worker created two months ago, we switched it up with one I put together. What was I thinking?!?

Well, I was thinking muscle failure actually. The creation of this three part circuit was intended to cause failure for a particular muscle area. I was not expecting it to feel like this. My arms were jiggly at the end of the first set and the skull crushers almost became true to their name.

Here is the workout. It is a circuit, so each exercise should be done right after the other with minimal rest. Rest for a couple minutes at the end of the set. We have been able to make it through the circuit two times in 40 minutes. If you have more time, you could do this 3 times. However, I can tell you that your arms will want to fall off after the second set.

Standard push-ups (as many as you can do)
Supinating dumbbell chest flye (10-15)
Skull crusher back and cross alternating (total of 30 or 15 of each)
Bench press (10-15)

Knee tucks (as many as you can do)
Military push-ups (as many as you can do)
Triceps push-downs (10-15)

Plank (1min)
Wide push-ups
Side Plank (30- 60 sec on each side)
jumping jacks (30)

After doing our other killer workout for two months, I was not expecting this to be that hard. Just doing the push-ups in a different order from our other workout made a BIG difference. I'm a little afraid of my Bi/Back/Abs workout...I hope that one doesn't make me want to throw-up.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Skyline Drive Mid October 2010

Where the heck are the fall colors?

Yes, I do know this is a pine tree and it should remail green all year long. Look at the surrounding mountains and hills, green.

Only when you get to the higher elevations are the rusts showing. They don't think we'll have a very bright fall this year because of the drought at the end of the summer.


This milkweed pod is my favorite photo of the day. There was a whole field of milkweed all bursting with their fluffy seeds. The field was backlit by the sun so the white fluff sparkled like monster size, silky, snowflakes. I wonder how this got the name milkweed and not snowweed?

Here are some red leaves backlit by the setting sun, maybe a sampling of what is yet to come?


A lonely bench. This was at one of the first visitor's centers at the northern most part of Skyline Drive. The bench is facing a clearing in the mountain that overlooks the Shenandoah valley, its the perfect place to sit to watch the sun set. Maybe I'll make a return trip later in the month and I'll see not only a red tree but a beautiful sunset.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Some of my favorite photos from the Frontline retreat


Jesus is my Lifeguard.

It was a beautiful morning, crisp and cool but not chilly. Lots of people, mostly women, out and about doing their quiet time. I really liked the photo below.


For the sports pictures, I was pretty excited about this "catch". I think I took over 200 photographs.


I liked this one because the intensity on the face of the guy rusing the quarterback was pretty intense. To see the rest of the photos in this set, follow this link to the album Frontline Retreat 2010.


Matthew 13:22

"...all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life."'


This verse is from the parable of the man sowing seeds and refers to the seed thrown into the thorns. How fitting for this to be the key verse in my morning devotional, this morning, the day after the church retreat.

Am I going to let me to-do list crowd out what I learned, what I still need to reflect on and unpack? Oh, but only if there were not cares in this world.

What were my take-a-ways from the weekend?
  • Be a servant like the Lord (I GET to serve because I am a Christian)
  • Love others but most importantly, love those in the church
  • I was put here, now, for a reason
  • God has put me in difficult situations so I could work through things.
  • Holy discontent should lead us to action, it may be what God intends for us to change about our church.
  • Am I serving where I can make the biggest impact for Christ?

Am I going to find myself lost in the weeds?

I will admit, I am already struggling with the first bullet point...being a Christ-like servant.

What things has God wanted me to work through? Entitlement, envy, jealousy, worldly expectations, dealing with mean people, boundaries, trust, understanding men better, realizing my worth, finances, life balance...this list could go on and on.

Reflecting, since hind sight is always 20/20, I can see how God was working on me. I have struggled, stumbled, wrestled with many of these things, Maybe some of them I've worked out maybe others (most of them) I'm still working through.

God put me here, at this time and place for a reason and he put the people in my life for a reason. I think I struggle with this statement the most because I often feel like I should have been born at a different time. Sometimes I have even doubted if I should have been born at all. The Purpose Driven Life helped me to realize that God doesn't make mistakes.

Where is my Holy discontent. I'm not sure. Right now, I'm feeling pretty content. I don't like hypocracy, for instance, people in the church acting all righteous about things. We are all sinners. All sin has the same concequence with God...death. One thing I was convicted of was my friendliness toward new people. I want to feel welcome in my church, but do I make people feel welcome? I really think I need to engage more with people outside of small group or Sunday.

Am I serving where God wants me to serve? I think there are a couple things I need to pull back from and I have made the decision to do so. I really feel called to do a mission trip but I can't do that with my commitments to work, fitness, the museum, being a small group leader, church and animal rescue stuff. Like the weeds...all of these activities have "pretty flowers" but they can become over grown and take over.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fallen Off the Face of the Earth?

No. I have not fallen off the face of the earth.

It feels that way sometimes.

I can not believe that today is September 1st already! Where has the time gone. I commented on my Facebook that it seemed like the older you get the faster time flies but the slower your metabolism gets. Hardly seems fair.

I also can't believe I have not blogged since June. Much to catch up on before my memory goes the way of my metabolism.

It has been a busy summer and I will admit that my once vibrant and regular blogging has turned into quick two second status updates on FB and that is about it.

Stay tuned...if all goes well, I'll blog tonight.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bali Day 7: Bali Beach Club Dinner, New Friends, and Over the Rainbow


For our final night in Bali, we headed down to the Bali Beach Club (BBC). Above is a photo of one of the hosteses. Hundreds of tables line the beach. Not all of these tables belonged to BBC, every restaurant on the beach had tables in the sand. Amazingly, there weren't any bugs. At least I don't remember bugs. There were jumping fish and that was quite interesting to watch later in the evening.


Strolling the beach was a band of musicians. Our tour leader told us that most of the singers probably learned the songs by listening to them on the radio. The first song they came over to sing for us was Johnny Be Good. Its interesting to hear that song in a Balinese accent. Very fun.


Here, they perform Hotel California for us.

This was my dinner. I had to consult this picture on my camera as I ate because it was so dark, I had a hard time seeing what was on the plate. I accidently ate too far up on the fish and got a nice mouth full of glad I didn't get the gills and eyeballs. We also didn't get any utensils to crack the crab we were all improvising and adapting by crushing the legs with spoons. That could occassionaly send pieces of crab meat shooting across the table or into one's own lap. The squid patay was very good.


Below, a self portrait of myself. Behind me is a stage at a neighboring restaurant where child dancers were performing traditional Balinese dances.


J from Hong Kong and D from Florida purchase freshwater pearls from a vendor strolling the beach. To authenicate that the pearls were real, he held them in a flame so they could see that they didn't melt. I didn't have enough Balinese money left at this point or I may have purchased a necklace...I love pearls.


Now for last photos with my new friends. In keeping with my blog policy of not publishing names, unless people are public figures or business operators, I'll mostly be providing first initials.

Below, I am with our tour leader Halle from Spirit Quest Tours. She did a great job and was very helpful. I loved listening to her stories and she taught me a technique to help me when I have problems sleeping. I would go on another tour operated by Spirit Quest in the future and recommend them to my blog readers and to my friends.


This was the first vacation that I have taken with a tour group. They have probably spoiled me and I'll expect any future tour groups I go on vacation with to be much like them. Halle and her partner Greg were fabulous in how they interacted with they had known us all for years and were just bringing a group of their friends along on a vacation. I can't say enough good things about my experience.

Oh, and apparently, I was looking a lot like the real Elizabeth Gilbert (except I probably weigh 30 pounds more than she does)...kind of weird that I would be 'channeling' the author of the book our tour was based upon. Halle and Greg told me that a couple times (they've met Gilbert in person) and I didn't know what to say to that...Gilbert's obvioulsy a pretty lady (hahaha!), no I didn't say that. I'd actually never seen any pictures of Gilbert, until I came home and googled her...and yes, I look like a meatier version of her.

Below is my awesome roommate J from New Zealand. Such a nice lady and she put up with me locking her out of the room the first night. Whooops! I really enjoyed chatting with her and hearing about her life in New Zealand, her sons and grandchildren. She is an avid photographer (did Spirit Quest do a good job matching us up or what?) and I loved seeing some of her picutres she had taken. (I fell asleep while watching her edit photos one night so I have been enjoying looking at them in detail on her facebook).


Below is my new friend A from Australia. She decided to come on the trip at the last minute. I also enjoyed listening to her stories. She's a midwife and she quit her job to go on this vacation because the hospital she worked for wouldn't let her have the time off. What a gutsy lady!


Below is K from the US. She is a mystical healer and counselor who helps people who are making big transformations in their lives find themselves and their calling. I really enjoyed chatting with her on our car ride back from the Elephant Park. She told me about her life raising her family, at one time living in a tent when they were part of a co-op and were waiting to build their house. She was so excited on our visit to the Artist Colony because she found a beautiful painting of a Hindu goddess she just loved....I can't wait until she shares photos on facebook of the painting in her office!


Next, this is my fellow Washingtonian and talk about a small world, she used to also attend the same church I currently attend. She is a massage therapist and has her own spa in the Washington DC area. She was such a great person to chat with. One thing she learned a few years ago during a career/personal coaching seminar, was how to find your strong suits...the characteristics about you that you eminate. She was telling me that knowing our strong suits can help us find the types of careers we should be in or understand how we ended up in our careers as well as understand how people relate to us. On the flight back to DC, she interviewed me and helped me make a list of some of my strong suits and boy was that enlightening. I hope to stay in touch with her as she is in the DC area and she was such a nice person.


This is G, also from the US. She once worked in Marketing and sold her firm a few years ago and now raises horses.


Below is L from Australia and D from the US. L has a daughter the same age as I who has had similar bad luck experiences with men and relationships. D was one of the first people on the tour that I met. She and I have a lot of shared experiences on this trip ...from the long line to go through immigration in Bali, the elephant ride, and the temple visits.


This is J from Hong Kong. I didn't get much of chance to hang out with J on the tour. She and D really hit it off. D, J, M and I spent time hanging out in the Denpensar airport with J helping us by-pass the really long line to check-in. Once at the Hong Kong airport, she gave us some tips for spending our time before our next flight.


This is another J from the US. I also enjoyed learing about her life experiences. She was one of the ladies on the Elephant Park trip as well as to Tanah Lot temple.


So many strong, independent, beautiful women on this trip, exactly what/who I needed to experience in my life. Everyone of them is a person I'd love to get to know better. Before I went on this trip my friends and I prayed knowing that God had selected each person for this trip and that all of us would have a wonderful time being touched by each other. While I know not everyone on this trip were Christian, I know that we are all God's children and my faith has been strengthened so much by this experience. Seeing how much He loves us that he put the right mix of people together so that we could enjoy His beautiful creation was just incredible.

The final morning before we boarded the bus to head to the airport, the sun illuminated the Hindu temple on the hillside across the valley from our resort.


About half an hour later, I heard gasps. When I looked up, I saw this huge rainbow ending over the temple. What a great ending memory of this trip.


One of my take-a-ways from this trip was wanting to celebrate more. Celebrate all that God has given me. Almost everyday we were passing through a village and the entire village was out in a parade celebrating and giving offerings to their gods. One thing that really stood out to D and I at Tanah Lot was all of the families that were coming together to different the US would be if our families and towns came together to worship and celebrate what God has given us. The Balinese have so little in material things compared to us in the US, yet they celebrate and give offerings with open hearts of what they have. We in the US complain way too much and ruin what we do have. At Tanah Lot temple, I actually was overwhelmed with a feeling of saddness. God just put it on my heart that I needed to celebrate and praise Him for what I've been given...and it has been a lot.

Celebration...that is my theme for the rest of the year...and hopefully, celebration becomes a habit and I learn to celebrate all of my life's blessings everyday.