Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Back In The Drrrrty

I couldn't be happier to be back home in Georgia, especially when my flight yesterday was on time AND arrived 20 minutes early. I mean, what a treat for me and my horrible travel luck. Mom and Dad picked me up at the airport and we went straight to Cracker Barrel where, in true Valerie fashion, I killed a disgusting amount of biscuits and gravy. I felt like someone had to roll me outta there. Anyway, it was awesome that Michael and Wynn had already gotten in town because it's been so long since we've had a nice substantial visit with them here. We had such a great day together, I went for a run while they got the tree, and we all decorated it with each other while drinking wine. Of course, we had the Giants on in the background so it was pretty much a perfect night! They won, too!

Brant and Susanne are having me over for dinner tonight while I wait on Allison's flight and I absolutely can't wait to see them! It's really really hard for me sometimes to come home because my heart just hurts knowing I can't see my parents, friends, and dog more often. So much of my heart is here with them and, while I have a tremendous life in NY, I really do long for the day where hopefully I'll be back, maybe even with a husband or family of my own, to enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with being in Georgia. Anyway, it really is a blessing that I have all that I do in this life and I treasure it, fully.

So, off I go to get myself ready for the movies! If only I could slow the week down, already...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It was cooooold this morning! I think winter is officially upon us and I'm one of those crazy people who loves it. This means it'll be nice and freezing for the race on Saturday though, eeeek. Anyway, I'm SO excited for the weekend, I can hardly stand it. Amanda, Jay, and Neal arrive on Saturday afternoon and I absolutely can't wait to see them. I know the visit will fly by but to have them back in the city with me is just so awesome. The Jets game on Sunday should be nice and freezing as well but man, that will be so fun too.

The plan is to run Saturday morning, head home to shower, and then get to the bar for some celebratory beers. Even if we ran a three mile race, I think we'd all still "celebrate", hehehe. They'll get in around 2pm and we'll have a day/night of catching up on soooo much that's overdue. Sunday morning, we'll be up bright and early and heading into NJ to meet James to tailgate. This will be my first true northeastern tailgate and I'm totally pumped. I'll be dressed in about twenty layers but I couldn't be more excited! After the game, I get to come back home to pack and I'll be on a 6am flight to Atlanta on Monday morning. Talk about a packed weekend! I wouldn't be me though if I didn't do things this way, hehehe.

I do stop to reflect though on this past year and on so much that's gone on in my life. It's absolutely amazing where I find myself currently and I'm so very proud of some changes I've made and lessons I've learned. I feel like life is about learning and growing and, if I can always take something away from each experience I have, then I know I'm really living. Life is a blessing and I pray so much that, as we enter a new year, I'll completely be out of the box I've kept myself in for a long time. I want to begin doing all the things I talk about, like taking trips, and I want to spend time with the people who really matter to me. I want to open my life up to new experiences and challenges (the NY marathon!) and continue following the 'straight and narrow' as a very unique and rare individual. I strive to be different than all the rest and I hope that I can humbly continue on that path, always. It's been a very significant year for me and, no matter what I've gone through, I am blessed.

So, I'm more than ready to get into the weekend and to finally fly home! I cannot wait to see my family, friends, and my dog! I'm already anxious to take him for a few runs as I know he's missed them as much as I have. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What A Weekend!

You know how there are just times in life where you really truly love where you are for that moment in time? Well, that was Saturday night for me. Let me back up though and begin with Friday night. The big project I've been working on at work has been overseeing the family holiday party for our company. It's been months of planning and organizing and it's been super stressful for me since this is the first huge company-wide thing I've been in charge of. Anyway, the event happened on Friday night and it was absolutely fantastic. Every single detail was perfect and the party planner I had been working with was truly top notch. I got more compliments than I could count including a rave review from our president. I was so relieved and felt honored to have been asked to handle such a huge event. I really feel like it gave me the chance to shine. Over the weekend, I got emails from our CFO, the president's wife, our head of HR, our head of Investor Relations...I mean, I seriously feel SO great and totally blessed. While everything went perfectly smooth, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't completely thrilled that it was over, hee hee.

On to Saturday. I was up at 6:45am and it was a freezing cold morning. It was 27 degrees and the wind was cooooold. I met Allison and we headed up to the park for our 8 mile run and I did surprisingly ok. I wasn't properly hydrated and I knew the run would be tough for me but it was decent and I got it done which was all I cared about. Afterward, we went straight to Allison's and cooked/party prepped alllll day long. It was so tiring but the apartment looked beautiful, our food was amazing, and we threw one heck of a party! I had so much fun and everyone was dressed so festive and in the holiday spirit. I dunno, it was just a perfect party with such wonderful friends and all of our hard work totally paid off. My sweet friend, Amanda, was even in town from Atlanta:
There are so many photos that I really couldn't begin to pick but I had to put one of the best ones up:
Yes, of course those are jello shots! We're so cute, I swear. ;) Anyway, it was the most tremendous night and it went until 5am! We were completely exhausted but it was the greatest evening filled with fun, laughter, and memories. I really think I'd like to do it again next year. The weekend really got me in the holiday spirit and I'm even more excited to go home for Christmas. I went to counseling last night after a week break and, while I had some struggles over the week, I think my spirits have been lifted and I'm getting back on the right track of trying to remember that god has everything laid out for me and I don't need to freak out about controlling it. Part of the struggles I faced this past week had a lot to do with that so meeting with Cori last night was needed and appreciated. We've decided to take two weeks between our next session and I must say, I'm really proud of myself. I'm just trying to stay strong and keep the proper frame of mind that I should to help me keep growing and moving forward. Above all, I am so very blessed and I continue to be so humbly grateful for all that I have.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Almost Par-tay Time!

It's been another CA-RAZY day at work and I'm so ready for this week to end. Actually, I'm wanting the project at work I've been slaving over to end and that happens on Friday. So, I'd be one happy gal if this week could quickly pass and the weekend could begin! Our holiday party is this Saturday which is just so nuts. I mean, I remember planning with Allison a month ago and bam, here we are! It's that whole 'time is quickly passing' thing I keep referencing. I'm so freakin' excited about the party though, woooo!

Anyway, the weekend was excellent and I finally feel like I caught up on some much needed down time. I got laundry done Friday, kicked back with a little vino, and slept in on Saturday. It was cold and rainy here so I actually allowed myself to relax and watch some tv, heehee. I got a new running shirt/jacket and went over to Allison's in the afternoon to put our menu together for the party. Man, I'm already drooling thinking of all the fun appetizers we'll be making! I ran a couple of miles when we finished and then headed home (in the first snow of the season!) to cook what would turn out to be one of the best pasta dishes I've made in quite some time. I don't wanna brag buuuut...! :P I drank a bunch of water and got in bed at a decent time so I could wake up super early and get myself all ready for the race!

I left the house Sunday morning around 7:15am and froze my little toosh off. Of course it would be the first below freezing morning we've had yet. Despite that, I ran an awesome race and ended up beating my last 10K time by NINE minutes! I was so proud of myself and felt strong and solid about it. I finished in 54 minutes and couldn't have been happier. :) From there, I actually ran home from Central Park (seriously to keep warm), showered, and went on to Westchester with Allison and Theo to do all the party shopping. Theo was so gracious in driving us out there so we could hope to save a little money...and boy did we! Overall, the party is costing about $300 less than we thought and that just makes me beyond happy. After shopping, I went straight to Citibar in time for kickoff and watched the Giants put a hurtin' on the Cowboys. That, my friends, completed a nearly perfect weekend.

Sadly, I was woken up at 2am by one of the most real dreams I've had in a couple of years. It was basically Tom and I meeting up to talk about where we both are in life right now and what we see happening in the future. We confessed strong feelings for one another and how much we still love each other. Even in my dream, I said this is really not happening and I'm going to wake up from this dream just devastated, aren't I? I mean, talk about the subconscious working overtime. I dunno, it affected me a lot and it's taken the better part of the day for me to shake it off. It's ironic (actually, more coincidental than anything) that I'm not going to counseling tonight and I seriously feel like I'm being more 'attacked', if you will. I'm just doing my best to deal with this sadness and to work through it as it comes. Today is just one of those days where the huge question lingering is why can't we just be together. It's tough when these days happen because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we shouldn't be together right now. It's just the mind tricks that get so hard and, for all I know, he's frolicking around with some new gal. But, you know what? I can't even go there. So I won't. It's just been a tough day and I gotta push on.

I'm just going to enjoy my evening "off" tonight and do a light workout, eat the rest of my delicious pasta, and watch the season finale of Dexter. Onward and upward...

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Been A Good Week

I'm so excited that it's Friday! I've been beyond slammed at work this week but I really enjoy those kinda days. Before you know it, it's quittin' time and that's how each day has gone. Anyway, I've had a great week that started off with a pretty tremendous counseling session. Cori told me that she feels I'm at a place where I can take a little break from counseling. She said, with the work and effort I've put in, I've done extremely well and she feels that it's time for me to step out and begin really applying what I've 'learned' by myself. So, I'm not gonna go next week and we'll see how it is. I felt SO proud and just elated because I really have poured my energy and heart into this process. It's been incredibly painful and tough at times but the reward has far outweighed the risk. I was scared at first when she said that thinking can I really be ok if I take a break? but you begin to realize that even counseling sessions can become a crutch if you're not careful. There's only so much that you can discuss before it's time to believe in yourself, believe in the process, and step out in faith. I'm nervous feeling that anxiety and fear will come rushing back into my heart but I squash that pretty quickly, knowing full well that it will get me nowhere. So, I feel truly proud of myself and I'm excited to see how things go for me next week as I skip a session. :)

On a side note, this week in my Esther study has been awesome. Just thought I'd share that.

Last night was our work holiday party which was so lovely! We have a second office in Tarrytown (about 25 miles outside the city) which was the location for the party this year and it was so beautifully done. The decorations were amazing and it was so classy with how they did the catering/bar, etc. It was a "no spouse" event this year which was neat since it gave us all a chance to really mingle with the other office. Each year, John (the owner of our fund) pulls a name out of a hat and gives that person an allotted amount of money to give to the charity of their choice. The amount this year is the highest it's ever been...$100,000...and guess what? He chose my name! I about had a heart attack and almost fell out of my chair. I feel SO blessed and cannot wait to sit down and really think about where I want to allocate all the money. I am literally going to have a hand in changing peoples' lives and that feeling is incredibly overwhelming and joyful. I feel so honored and I feel like this is a chance to serve the lord in a mighty way that I could never ever do on my own. It's just awesome and a truly priceless blessing.

So, to say that my week has been good is a bit of an understatement. :) Praise god for the ways he works 'behind the scenes' in life. It's just so powerful. I'm so ready for a good weekend and a solid run on Sunday morning (I have my 10K race in the park!). Now, if the Giants can only pull off a big win, it'll round out a fantastic week for sure. Go Blue!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm Still Full...

I mention a lot in things I write that time passes so fast and I'm certainly feeling that way today as Thanksgiving is just about a week behind us. I think part of why I get stuck thinking about this is because I've got this huge desire to do something great and make a difference in this world somehow and I feel like the days are going by too quickly to make that happen. Ok, that would be a post for another time. Let me stay on track with talking about how tremendous Thanksgiving was this year!

Allison and I stuck to tradition totally and it proved to be yet another delicious feast. This was our 8th year cooking together and both of us agree that this was our best yet! I had gotten out of work early the day before so, after a two hour phone date with Amanda, I finally got the rest of our errands done and went over to Allison's to spend the night. I made quiche for dinner (really so we could have leftovers for breakfast to expand our stomachs for the day, of course), we drank wine, and talked about things we are thankful for this year. Come Thanksgiving morning, we were up early to get the turkey in the oven and begin the day:
You see all that garlic on the outside? He's also stuffed with it underneath the skin and it turned out freakin' delicious. We were quite proud of the turkey this year. I won't be over the top in uploading food pictures (even though I want to) but take a look at that bird:
Yum yum! We had this awesome goal of eating early so we weren't too stuffed for pumpkin pie but that so didn't happen. We didn't make pie last year either because we were so full and I swore that would never happen again, since pumpkin pie is one of my favorite things. went the same way this year, boooo! Anyway, we did our usual menu consisting of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle, and stuffing - everything homemade of course - and it was just so good. I love the joy that comes from Thanksgiving dinner and honestly the comfort of tradition. Growing up in my house wasn't the easiest thing but we established traditions early on for Thanksgiving and Christmas that I absolutely cling to every year. I think that's because those were two times in our house that were truly happy and I equate the holidays with laughter and love, probably more than the average person would. At any rate, the tradition Allison and I have of cooking with one another is so very special to me and I know one day it will have to end (should I ever get married in this lifetime) so the two of us just hold dear the memories we make and the blessings that come from it. So, another Thanksgiving down and onward we head towards Christmas! I go home to GA in less than three weeks and I'm so excited, I might just explode. I'm ready to sit by the fire, drink wine, and be with my family, dog, and dear sweet friends. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One More Day...

I absolutely cannot believe another Thanksgiving is upon us. This last year has passed by in a blink and I realize more and more everyday how necessary it is to just slow down. I'm known to be a meticulous planner and one who needs everything lined up, organized, and thought out. I have a really hard time being spontaneous (looks like this will be a new years resolution!) and just allowing myself to "be". This is actually one huge point of focus for me as I go through counseling because, if you're not careful, life WILL pass you by. Quickly.

At any rate, on the eve of another Thanksgiving celebration, I find myself really and truly thankful for so much. I'm not sure that I've ever felt a peace in my heart the way I do this year and I think that's opened several more doors of opportunity to feel humbly grateful for many things in my life. It's so easy in life to become cynical, bitter, hopeless, full of resentment...the list could go on. Far too often, we skip right over the truly simple pleasures of life that are like tiny individual blessings. Instead, our minds go straight to the things we don't have or to the things that aren't "fair". We look at other peoples' lives and covet what they have and we measure ourselves to a standard of the 'world' that is both unattainable and, quite frankly, shameful. I've always found it so fitting that our faith is often related to being child-like. Kids are so innocent, joyful, and simple. It requires next to nothing to make them happy and they believe in miracles in a way that should really teach us adults a lesson. They love freely, give openly, and want nothing more than to be happy. What a lesson to learn! If only we could apply the example of being child-like into each and every day we live. Can you imagine what joy there would be around every corner?

This year, I am so humbly thankful for where I am and, at times, I feel like my heart might bust into a million pieces with how overwhelmed I am with blessing. I'm working really hard to get back to a place of simplicity, where love, acceptance, and patience are the virtues I live by. I've become hardened and callous to so much and my biggest prayer is that god would melt down the cynicism and open my eyes in a new way to what it means to live by love. A friend I know through Tom wrote me yesterday and posed this question:

Am I too much of a romantic and/or naive to think that, regardless of age/our station in life/goals etc., that love IS enough and that the heart CAN dictate what we end up doing...?

Granted, we were catching up about what had happened between Tom and I, (he had just found out that we broke up) but this question holds so much more weight to me than in what context it was posed. It is the first time in so very long that I've heard like this with a belief in love/the heart that outweighs logic and analysis. It forced me to think seriously about what it is that I DO really believe. Years ago, I would have been the one posing that question to someone else. Over the course of time, many painful and wrong choices, and lots of heartache, I have become hardened to the ability to think with the heart. I've become too logical in ways and lost some of the magic that comes along with thinking with my heart. I used to be so carefree and giving of love and the years have eroded the bank of joy that's produced through feelings. I talk here about being child-like and letting go of trying to control each outcome, yet do I really take the time to let my heart do some of the talking every now and then? Of course as you get older, decisions become harder and choices hold more weight, but I wonder if some of the 'secret to life' IS to believe that love is enough and that love has that much power. Needless to say, Dave gave me a big fat chunk of something to ponder and it's aroused a way of thinking for me that's been dormant for a very long time. The funniest part is that I never would have pegged Dave for being such a romantic, ha! It's funny what you can learn about people when you just begin to engage interest in who they really are.

I have no idea what lies ahead for me but I do know this...I would so much rather believe in love and in the magic of what it can do in life than remain hardened. This ties completely into my faith as well since, as Hebrews states, faith is being "sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". Doesn't love operate on the same illogical basis and doesn't it require faith, too? Hmmm, something very very real to think about and I am quite grateful for all the ways in life that things like this are revealed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dave. I'm thankful that you did.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Countdown Has Begun

I came into work this morning already mentally checked out for the week. My boss doesn't come in until later this afternoon, I've gotten totally caught up on work, and I can only think of Thanksgiving food. This is gonna make for a looooong day. However, I'm still smiling from having such a fun weekend! I had beers with friends, did all the Thanskgiving shopping with Allison, heard an awesome sermon at church, and had the greatest football Sunday to date. First off, Allison and I did great this year not going overboard with the food shopping. Most people know that we cook enough to feed an army each Thanksgiving so we made it a goal not to go crazy this time. However, there will still be enough stuffing made to feed us for a week. :D That's become my favorite dish over the mashed potatoes so, since it's Allison's favorite as well, of course you know we have to make a gluttonous amount. Anyway, I'm absolutely counting down for Thursday and I'm just so excited to eat delicious food, thank the good lord above for so very much, and to share an eight year old tradition with my sister.

Back to Sunday. We do football every week at a little bar called Citibar in my old neighborhood. The manager, Derrick, has been so good to us since the first day we came in. I love getting people together there to bring him business and we've gotten a nice little crowd of regulars together for Sundays. Anyway, the owner is friends with retired Giants punter, Sean Landeta, and he actually agreed to do an appearance there yesterday afternoon:
Derrick had told us about this last week but I'd never have thought it would be so much fun. Sean brought his Superbowl and other championship rings for people to see and he had his original jersey and helmet. I mean, we were like little kids playing around, taking pictures, was honestly so fun. He spent the most time with our group and it didn't hurt for him to see us gals representing in our jerseys either, hehe. It was a blast:
I just had to make a note of all this because we really spent the day laughing and enjoying being together. It seemed to be fitting as a way to kick off Thanksgiving week and I was able to just smile as I went to bed last night knowing just how blessed I am with the people I have in my life. So, that said, I begin the countdown to turkey day and can already taste the stuffing. 3 more days...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Introducing Gianna...

Let me just say that I am beyond blessed with the friends I have in my life. Not only is my sister one of the closest people to me, but I have the most amazing girlfriends too that are honestly like precious jewels in the crown of life. One of them, Erica, had her first child, Gianna Marie, back in May of this year. I couldn't resist posting a photo of her while she was pregnant, this time last year:
Isn't she beautiful? :) Anyway, Erica is my first very close friend to have a baby and it's been so much fun for me to be a part of. I was actually fortunate enough to meet sweet Gianna, or Gia as we call her, two weeks after she was born! I went down to GA for Ami's wedding (another precious friend of mine!) the weekend of May 22nd and I was lucky enough to spend an entire afternoon with Erica, her husband Austin and sweet Gia. It will always be one of my favorite memories:
Anyway, as the year has gone on, I've had to deal with being a thousand miles away and watching Gia grow in photos. She's already been on a plane a couple of times, she's had her first Halloween, her first tooth is coming in...I mean, she's already growing like a weed! Ok, I just have to brag on her and post a couple of my favorite photos of her so far:
I mean, how cute is she?!? I just want to squeeze her. I write all of this today because, as of this morning, she is officially starting to crawl! I swear, I get so excited about every Gia update, you'd think she was my kid. I had to dedicate a post to this sweet little girl because, even though she doesn't know it, she's brought a smile to me on some of my toughest days. So, I had to 'celebrate' her a bit this morning and share exactly why she is so dear to my heart. :) Happy Wednesday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's A New Day

Another weekend has quickly passed but happily not without laughter and fellowship. I had a wonderful time on Friday cooking, sipping wine and chatting with my girls. I honestly just cherish those evenings. It brings me joy whenever I'm able to cook for people and I seriously wish that was my job. I realllly need for Allison and I to get this personal chef business off the ground, hee hee. Anyway, it's been so long since I had chicken and dumplings so I enjoyed every bit of the dinner myself:
I'm proud to say that it was delicious. :) I had an awesome six mile run on Saturday and had a blast doing Sunday football ritual. I did meet Kristine for church before football but it was funny because neither one of us got anything out of the sermon for some, nothing big to report there, haha! Can't win 'em all though, right?

I also finished 'The Shack' over the weekend and just loved it. It's the most wonderful portrayal of the lord's presence in our lives and it conveys who he is in the most unexpected of ways. I felt a variety of emotions as I went through the story, each one sort of 'teaching' and reminding me that there is just so much to experience and absorb about god. We have the most limited viewpoint as humans of who he is and what he can do. It was refreshing to read a story that not only allows the imagination to run free but that conveys the most important of all things about god - love. Thanks for the recommendation, Erica! I'm passing it on to Allison to read next.

I worked more in Esther as well and we're beginning week three already! I absolutely love Beth Moore and I seriously wonder how I've never done a study of hers before. I forgot how great it is to get into the "meat" of scripture by way of a bible study like this. I'm enjoying it so much! I think it's exactly the right study for myself, Erica and Allison to be sharing together and god is sure to do some awesome work in the three of us as we go forward. Such a sweet blessing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Love Friday!

I know I know, we all love Friday...but this has been a particularly long week for me. I've been slammed at work and trying to keep my head above water and I'm also staying strictly in line with my running schedule. Combine the two and I've just been exhausted. My shins have been acting up this week and it's made for a couple of stressful runs. Back when I first started running I had issues with my shins. I grew out of it but I felt discouraged this week with feeling pain again, as I haven't in quite some time. I have file miles scheduled for tomorrow so hoping I can knock it out with ease.

Anyway, back to being happy that it's Friday! I'm having sweet friends over for dinner tonight and I'm cooking homemade chicken and dumplings. This dish brings back such warm memories of growing up. My mom would make this for us as a treat and, each year when the weather turns colder, I instantly think of it and long to be near her. That said, I thought it would be so fun to cook it for my friends and share a little piece of home with them! It's windy and cold here today so I really look forward to some red wine, comfort food, and laughter with my favorite people.

Allison and I also finalized our holiday party invites and got them sent out yesterday. They are SO cute and I'm totally excited to finally throw a party after four (yes four!) years of talking about it. We've gotten great responses so far and I even have a couple of friends who had already planned to be in town the weekend we're having it. So, I really can't wait to share some of the holiday season with people dear to my heart. I absolutely love the holidays and I'm totally one of those people who want the tree to stay up for months, hee hee. So, this plus getting ready for Thanksgiving in LESS than two weeks has me all buzzing with excitement. I love it! :D

On a side note, I read a verse this morning that I thought was so neat. It's from Ecclesiastes 9:4 and it says, "Anyone who is among the living has hope". I mean, wow! That is just the most uplifting 'promise' to reflect on and I share it because I've had a smile on my face since reading it. I love how some verses in the bible are incredibly short "but sweet" and that one is no exception. So, as we go into yet another much needed and deserved weekend, I'm excited by such hope and feel a bit giddy by it, too. I have just a few hours to go before I leave the office, throw my apron on, and get to cookin'. Hooray for Friday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

God Works In Mysterious Ways

You always hear people say that "god works in mysterious ways" and I've literally scoffed at that in the past. These days I feel differently. Yesterday, I was privileged enough to get the most thoughtful and encouraging note from an old high school friend. She had come to read my blog and was able to catch up on where I am in life and she empathized completely. She shared a bit of her heart with me about a similar experience she'd had with a breakup and how she found herself feeling empty, lost, alone. She told me how painful it was and how she felt she'd never go on. Then, she told me that she DID find strength through faith to carry on and that life took a totally different turn than she thought. That turn lead her to her terrific husband and the life she leads now. What a glorious blessing! Out of the blue, this gal literally reached out to me to share her sorrow in hopes that I could take comfort in the place I find myself currently. I thought it to be so touching and a complete gift from god. She encouraged me to press onward and to not lose faith, assuring me that god has something greater in store.

How often do we pray for a "sign" from god or for an answer to let us know he hears us? I have asked over and over for the lord to hold me up and sustain me in this time of change but I've mainly asked for a way to "see" him here on earth. I cannot even list all the little things that have been happening to me lately that are absolute examples of his presence. I'm being strengthened daily in the strangest of ways but I truly believe that my prayer is being answered. This is not coincidence. To receive that note from sweet Amanda yesterday was another completely unexpected (yet tremendous!) way that I know god is listening. In moments like these, I know truly that god very much does work in mysterious ways.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Does The Weekend Fly?

I'll never be able to understand how Monday comes around so fast. I'd gladly work a ten or even twelve hour day just to have three day weekends. Sigh. Anyway, I had a terrific weekend. My friend, Patrick, came through town with some buddies on Friday and I was so thrilled. It's been about five years since we've seen each other! He and his friends were heading up to Niagra and I was lucky enough to have him pass through the city to visit me. Allison joined us and we just spent the evening laughing, trading stories, making memories. It was a good night. :)

Saturday, I went for a run and had an awesome phone date with Brant after. He's one of my oldest friends and has seen me through some terrible times in life. So, it made me feel really great when he commented on seeing some changes in me and feeling as though I'm different. He said he can tell that there's a part of me that's "letting go" and it made me smile. Because I am. Though I already feel this way myself, it's so neat to hear the friends that know me best voice their opinion which kinda allows me to have that validation, in a sense. Right after I hung up with Brant, I got the best call from Ami, too. She was baking with her niece, nephew and step-daughter and they called me on speaker to tell me they missed me. I swear, there's nothing like those sweet little voices yelling WE MISS YOU, VALERIE! to brighten your day. :) Anyway, I met some friends for dinner and drinks that night and had such a great time.

Sunday, I met Kristine at Redeemer for church and it was yet another awesome sermon from Tim Keller. That man is just amazing. I really wish I didn't dislike the church so much as a whole because I'd become a member in a heartbeat. Afterward, we did football Sunday as usual at Citibar and then I invited Allison over for dinner. I cooked shepherd's pie (which I'd been craving for two weeks!) and we had a lovely evening in.

The weather was gorgeous here all weekend, too. It was warm in the sun and cool when the breeze blew. People were out and about sipping coffees, strolling along, sitting out on stoops. Everyone seemed to have one common goal of enjoying the beautiful sunshine and sharing laughter amongst friends. I love these days in NY where it feels like the whole city is on exactly the same page. It was just about a perfect Fall weekend! I really had a great time meeting some new people over the last couple of days and it reminds me of just how many things there are to experience out there. I can only hope that everyone was equally as fond of me. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Fall Y'all!

I so love my sweet banner that Allison bought for me. It allows me to have a little touch of GA in my Big Apple apartment:
Fall is my favorite season. You get that crisp air while the sun's still warm and the evenings are just cool enough to wrap up with a blanket and a nice glass of red wine. I also get reflective every year at this time as some of my most significant experiences in life have happened in Fall. People tend to have a "never look back" attitude in life but I'm so opposite. I love looking back at the mistakes that I've either learned from or not and also at each detail that has brought me where I am. I don't look back with regret, I look back with fondness and anticipation of the future.

This year, Fall is an equal mix of challenge and hope for me. There has been a great deal of change happening in my life recently and, though I feel like I'm balancing it the best I can, sometimes I feel so weary and wish someone could just take sadness, pain, and heartache away. I've gotten very good at stomping out negative thoughts (thanks Cori!) and I know time will only make that better for me but boy, is it exhausting and such hard work. It's funny because I see a mixture of this same challenge and hope in many of my friends presently. Some have gotten engaged to the people they love and some have found new jobs while others are suffering loss of relationships and heartache of trauma in their marriage or work life. It's just a crazy thing to see such contrasts but I'm trying to absorb as much 'education' as I can from others' situations and my own past experience so that I can consistently grow and learn. I really hope this time of reflection can be different for me this year and that I can work hard to just "be", here and now, instead of look too far ahead.

On a brighter note, I sent the cookies to Jack yesterday and got the sweetest 'thank you' from him. It really warmed my heart. I adore him and he's definitely a big gift from my time with Tom, as he introduced me to Jack. :) I definitely saved a few cookies for myself also and ate two for dinner last night, mmm:
They were freakin' good. Now, if I can just make it through the next couple of hours, I'll finally have a glass of sangria in hand and much needed time with my sweet girls. El Faro, here we come!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Esther and The Shack

I started a new Beth Moore bible study last night called 'Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman'. Mom has been doing this very study in a group back home for a few weeks now and thought Allison and I would really enjoy it. She decided to buy us the books, Erica jumped on board too, and the three of us started it officially last night. I had had a very tough day yesterday followed by an intense counseling session so I needed somewhere to put my focus last night. In doing just one day of the study, I'm already excited and hopeful for what I'll learn and take with me!

Additionally, Erica had been talking to me forever about reading 'The Shack' and, after Cori mentioned it to me last week as well, I decided to see if dad had it in stock. He did! He sent it right up to me and I'm 3/4 through already. It's fantastic and I'll probably end up finishing it tonight. I think anyone out there feeling a lack of connection to the lord these days would benefit from being reminded of just how much love he has for us. Check out the book for an easy and quite poignant read:

I'm ready for the work-day to end so I can go for a run, bake my famous chocolate chip cookies (a treat for Jack to celebrate his awesome marathon finish!), and jump into day two of Esther. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marathon Sunday

The New York Marathon happens the first weekend of November every year and it proves to be the most incredible day of the year in the city. 40,000 runners take on the task of completing the 26.2 miles beginning on Staten Island and concluding in Central Park and nearly all residents of the city come out to cheer on and applaud these amazing athletes. It is truly the most touching and unifying day in a city normally so full of selfishness and hardship. I look so forward to this day every year because it personally touches a part of my heart, both because of my love of running, and because of the tremendous support that total strangers show one another. It is awesome. For example, this guy from last year really gave out hugs to runners who were weary and needed a boost:
Another marathon has now come and gone (took place yesterday) and it was another tear-filled celebration that I'm so privileged to be a part of. Shamefully, we took NO pictures this year so here are a couple from last year:
This is at Mile 23 in Central Park:
You can get an idea of how neat it is to be alongside such amazing runners. Marathon day reminds me so much of what hope and opportunity is out there in life. It's such an inspirational showing of dedication, drive, ambition and passion which are things that I strive for in my everyday life. I am a runner myself and, as mentioned, have a love of the "sport" that reaches a place in my heart that's quite personal and moving. I've always placed this stigma on myself that I "can't" do certain things and it's a stronghold in my life that I pray fiercely against. Running a marathon is one of those things I "can't do" and, each year that passes, I swear I'm going to train for it the following year. I've run countless races of all mileage counts, including a half marathon which was one of the greatest days of my life:

I smiled practically the whole race and cheered as people cheered for me:
I finished with a 2:15 time and, for my first half marathon, I was incredibly pleased AND overjoyed to share the experience with Allison:
I point this out because days like marathon day spark a fire in me that is hard to describe in words. But, so much of our walk with god can be compared to that very race. With the marathon, you have to be slow and steady starting out while eating properly along the way, steadily hydrating, and maintaining focus for an extended period of time. This is so like our relationship with god and how he grows us over time as we maintain focus and draw life and strength from his word and plan. We trust blindly and give ourselves over to the lord so that he can shape us into being able to 'run the race of life' with joy and faith. It's such a moving analogy that I identify with completely each and every year as marathon day comes around. As Hebrews (12:1-2) so powerfully says, "...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." If, or should I say WHEN I do run a marathon, I know this passage would play in my mind as it would be a true accomplishment for me in more ways than one. We'll see if this time next year I'll be posting full marathon photos vs. half. ;)

Friday, October 30, 2009

"For I Know The Plans I Have For You..."

I'm inspired to write today for rather sad reasons. I've been reflecting on how much myself and the people I love have been going through recently and it makes my heart heavy. I have friends who have lost their jobs, lost their loved ones, fallen ill and needed surgery, suffered broken many things that are extremely trying and painful. I add myself into the mix when I think of losing Tom and there is just a weight on my heart that seems to pull and tug on me in really exhausting ways. In times like this, I normally would have turned to a variety of different things to find 'healing', if you will, all of them being completely "substanceless" and temporary. So, in efforts to maintain an 'attitude of change', I am going to choose to focus on the words spoken in Jeremiah that have so often lifted me up from super dark places:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future." ~Jeremiah 29:11

For years, I could never grasp the idea that god had plans for me, for my family, for my friends. I often thought there is no way I am that significant that god would give a crap what happens to me. I would pray empty prayers for my friends and family, all the while not really believing that any of them could come true. I would go to god in the same way I would someone whose opinion didn't really matter to me and I always felt worse after doing so. In thinking of my precious friends and family who are enduring so much alongside me now, I can't help but feel overwhelmed with hope in the place I am presently. These words spoken in Jeremiah are so very powerful. The lord DOES have plans for us! He DOES have hope and a future outlined for each and every one of us if we can choose to believe it! Our human minds simply cannot grasp the "whys" of any situation here on earth but that's just it...we're not supposed to! We are but temporary beings here and it's up to us to pay attention to the truth of the word. We must never lose sight of why we're called to be here and what we're called to do. We can only love one another, lift each other up, and walk together through life reminding one another of what god promises us.

So, I hope to always do that for all of these sweet people in my life who are suffering. Together, I really believe we can all get closer to the amazing plans that god absolutely does have in store.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Last year, Allison and I started a pumpkin carving tradition together. We had gone on an amazing hike in the Catskills with friends and stopped at a roadside farmer's stand on the drive home. We picked out perfect pumpkins and got delicious homemade cider doughnuts. It was so great:
I had never carved a pumpkin before and we thought it would be so fun to do so together. I also thought it would be great to cook some sort of pumpkin dish for dinner, thus beginning our pumpkin tradition! So, the following weekend, I made pasta with pumpkin-gorgonzola sauce and mushrooms which was so delicious and we got to carving! Our little guy turned out awesome too, as you can see:
This year was round two and we had so much fun! I cooked pumpkin pasta with shallots, sage, and sausage (so good!) and we went to town on our pumpkins, yet again. These were store bought pumpkins, sadly, but they were just as good:
Mine's on the left. I swear, it really is the little things in life that make it so worthwhile. I'm so blessed by having my sister here in this city with me and all these little things we do together makes life just so fun. Is it wrong that I already look forward to picking out next year's pumpkin recipe...?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's Been A While...

This time last year I was so excited about starting a blog and beginning something for myself that I thought would be a healthy outlet. It seems as though the past year I have been, um, rather distracted. I've been journaling so much recently that I thought I would take another stab at this and hopefully I'll be able to look back on it and be glad that I've captured bits and pieces of my life.

Things have been quite interesting lately. After nearly two years with my boyfriend, Tom, we decided to go our separate ways. This happened on September 17th, just over a month ago. I could never get into all the detail I'd like here, but I can say that the relationship has taught me more than I could have ever hoped for. I believe fully that Tom was placed in my life for a very specific reason and I know we both did incredible things for one another. There isn't a day that goes by where I'm not thankful for certain things from Tom...but I am very aware that the relationship was not right. I felt that way at times as we went along but I never fully realized it until we broke up. Am I sad? Yes. Do I miss him everyday? Of course. But, I have such a deep longing to have a life and love completely governed by the lord. I always have wanted this, I just never had the balls to take a stand and follow down the 'straight and narrow' path. This breakup, while extremely sad and painful, has finally allowed me to see things about myself that I have desperately needed to AND it's allowed me the freedom I need just for me. I love Tom dearly and there is a place in my heart that will always be his...but I have said my "goodbyes" and I have shut the door on a two year chapter that has been joyful, loving, painful, adventurous, trying and so many other equally amazing and hard things for me. Tom might never know the person that he has 'awakened' by this breakup but I will forever be grateful for how he has helped me open my eyes.

Presently, I have been going to counseling for five weeks now. I have been extremely dedicated to the work that's involved in digging deep inside myself and my past. It has been one of the most enlightening and painful experiences of my life. At times, I'm completely overwhelmed but it's the most incredible time of refinement for me. I have absolutely reconnected with the lord in a way I never knew possible and I'm truly rebuilding my life from scratch, if you will. I have faced enormous challenges over the past ten years, all of which have shaped me, and I have no regrets. However, I have sadness, anxiety, fear and worry that stems from so many poor choices and decisions. It was these things that led to mine and Tom's demise, ultimately, and I decided to begin counseling because I have such a deep desire to know the lord in a way that redeems every bad choice I've ever made.

My counselor, Cori, is so wise. She has a gentle spirit that is comforting and inviting. I feel like I can be 'me' with her. I feel like I can speak from a place of pain and heartache and it's not judged nor is it looked down on. I can say things like I feel as though god will never forgive me and not feel stupid or silly. I can talk to her about feelings of worthlessness and fear and she simply smiles and reminds me of god's everlasting grace, mercy and love. We are getting into the meat of things in my life now at the start of six weeks and it's very intense for me. Yes, it's difficult to balance a breakup with the start of therapy but it's also incredibly liberating. I mentioned that I have reconnected with god in amazing ways and that has been awesome. One of the most important parts of my therapy at this point is learning how to trust. I have never really been able to do that, therefore I have never been able to commit my life fully to god and his plan. So, it's like each week that goes by is a new step forward and hopefully one day I will look back at all the 'miles' I have traveled to a place where I feel loved and totally accepted by god. Only then will I ever be able to receive the man that I am meant to be with for the rest of my life because only then will I have god as the true center of my life.

I love being ME, totally and completely, for the first time in my whole life. I have absolutely nobody to please but god and nobody that I WANT to please but god. It is just wonderful. So, at this point, I've done a 180 from where I was this time last year. I re-read my posts from before and, while I felt a sense of peace in ways then, I never felt settled. Presently, I feel hope, passion, motivation and desire like never before to chase after the amazing plan that I know god has for my life. I'm letting go and letting the wind pick me up and swirl me all around like a leaf in the breeze and I say Lord, take my life, all that I am, and do with me what you will.