Friday, December 30, 2005

Nights Of Lights

St. Augustine during this time of year is so beautiful at night. The lights are everywhere throughout the city...It's serene and festive at the same time.

such a cute photo of the j's in st. auggie

we had a great time playing in the town's all about the facial expressions...matt is by far the most creative...craig and tori look so cute.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

now that's chinese food and sushi too

so much food, so little time

shari and ted EATING OUT THERE with Candice Coleman

at IMPERIAL DYNASTY (now that's great chinese and super great sushi)

seasons 52

ted and cathy by the fire at seasons

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

china girl on ice

ice skating with jenny during her visit with ted and i. she's heading back to shanghai next week so we wanted to make sure she did something very non-chinese.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

merry christmas everyone

Auntie Belinda, Michelle and Uncle Mike ready for good tidings of joy!

Josie, Baby Theo (inside tummy) and Auntie Mila having fun, fun, fun!

my uncle Bob and his new bacon band-aids

Elaine and her KFC...Michelle too!

what teddy got me

3 T's - Christmas Day

"Leo", Mommy Glow and Me - Christmas Eve
All words to describe my Christmas Eve and Christmas with Ted and I's family. We arrived at the J's on Friday night...late. I think we went to bed after 1 o'clock in the morning. On Christmas Eve, we got up around 8 a.m. to begin helping in the kitchen. Okay...Ted got up to help in the kitchen. I went ahead and assigned myself a member of the clean up crew. I TOOK TIME FOR ME AND WENT SHOPPING! What a great gift -- taking time for YOURSELF. It felt normal since I haven't exactly been normal for the last few months. I stopped in all of the stores I wanted to and had lunch outside on a perfect day. I meditated on how much I have to be thankful and how God continues to reveal so much to me through others and what happens in my life. When I got back to the J's, I was fully revived and washed every dish in the sink, put them away, helped with laundry, wrapped gifts for both families, blew Trish's hair dry and got myself ready for dinner at Todd and Cindy's. As always, the food was fabulous! The company was great too! Around 11 p.m. we headed over to my Aunt and Uncle's house for the second celebration on Christmas Eve. It was very special...Josie was there with Theo and little Theo. She is a month away from delivery...Can't wait to see the little baby. Presents were everywhere and so were people. Ted and I sat next to each other along with Neil and Mom. I received many nice things including clothes, journals, two copies of Gilmore Girls, Season 4 so I am going to trade one in for season 3 and just overall a great big warm heart from all of the smiles and reactions while everyone was opening their gifts. Bob and Mila had a gazillion desserts as usual. They also made chicken -- adobo and bourbon. YUMMMMMmmmm! There was lots to eat and lots to enjoy. We got back to the J's after 3 a.m. It was a good exhaustion. Christmas morning was busy with all of the preparations for dinner and gifts. I helped by attempting to be available for clean up but Mr. J. kept doing it himself. I would probably be the same way too. Once again, many things were given. Ted got me SIRIUS radio for the car. Todd and Cindy got me a gift certificate to JJill. Trish looked well and very happy. I was blessed by that over and over again throughout the day. We sat down for lunch and prayer was given by Ted, Sr. We all found ourselves a bit emotional...Well, okay, a lot emotional! It's all very intense but everyone has been such great help. It's really out of our control. After enjoying a delicious meal that was very similar to Thanksgiving (THANKS TODD), Ted and I left for Mike and Belin's home. Somehow I drove right to it even though I had no idea where I was going. Everyone was there. The table was set. There was a lot of macaroni. Elaine brought a friend -- Brian. I believe he plays guitar and she jokes around like she doesn't like him at all. Josie was allergic to something in the air. The dog was as cute as ever. Uncle Mike seemed upset...Not sure why. I gave the blessing which was the only moment that the television was muted. The rest of the meal was with Pulp Fiction in the background. It was turned up very loud with surround sound. I've never eaten to so many gun shots or "F" bombs. Regardless, I enjoyed talking with everyone and catching up. Mom seems healthy and happy. Josie and I got to know each other better. They were the first to leave after dinner and dessert. She was so kind to ask me to witness the birth along with her mom, cousin and Theo. I just may do that...Never have before but I figure this is a great time to be there to see a miracle. I have to say that it was a meaningful time all the way around. So much has changed in a year...I know things continue to change. Uncertainty, fear, community, creation and hope is also a part of this year's celebration too.

Merry Christmas to all who are in celebration!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas is here!

So, I am getting ready to go home after a very exciting and very busy holiday season. I am having a moment of sadness because it went by so fast and now, I can hardly remember when it all started. I do, however, remember the kindness and the love that I have felt throughout the last two months from people who are willing to step in and do the impossible not because they have to but because they want to...GOOD STUFF!

Ted and I are off tomorrow morning for family time at the Johnson's and Lay's in Jacksonville. Can't wait to see everyone to celebrate Christmas and the idea of coming together from all different places to share the holiday as families.

Monday, December 12, 2005

brown bag lunch

Unless you walk out into the unknown, the odds of making a profound difference in your life are pretty low.
Tom Peters

One of my favorite memories of my mom is when I was in the 3rd grade. I was in a combination class of both 3rd and 4th graders so it was already an interesting year. Secretly, I was attached to Mrs. Bragg still who was my teacher the first part of the school year but the combo class was something new they were trying...Some kind of experiment that was predicted to help advance learning. At the end of the school year we had testing going on. Instead of getting lunch from the cafeteria that day, we had to bring our own lunch to school -- it was a brown bag day. Well, my mom was not familiar with the "brown bag" concept. She didn't grow up in this country and typically provided money for hot lunch every day. So, I went home and told her that we needed to have a lunch the next day. She made one for me that morning. It was the best lunch ever in a regular size grocery bag. In it was a hamburger the size of a whopper. I had a full bag of chips that you would bring for a group of friends. I had half a poundcake that was homemade. I don't remember the drink. We didn't grow up with soda so the only thing I could think of was she may have packed some fruit juices for me. The reason I feel I remember this is because that day everyone couldn't help but notice my lunch. It wasn't your typical PB&J with a snack pack of chips. It was a picnic for 5. What I love is that my mom wasn't like everyone else which made me different. Strange enough, I was okay with being different when I was young. I have many stories about other ways I volunteered to be different. I loved that my mom didn't know what a brown bag lunch looked like and I am so glad that I had someone who gave it her best effort even when she really didn't know.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

my friend Joe

I live for those who love me,
for those who know me true.
George Linnaeus Banks
So the other day I was remembering a very good friend of mine from the days I lived in Columbus, Ohio. Yes, I lived in Ohio. Hard to believe. Most people ask me when I mention it "why did you do that?" My first response is the most honest...I did it because I was in love BUT that story is for another time. Anyway, while living in overcast Ohio, I met a guy named Joe who ended up being in several classes with me. I enjoyed his company even though he was anti-Clinton, a smoker and on the rebound from a four year relationship with a girl that left him for another guy. We connected. I was the optimist and he was the pessimist. We hardly agreed on any level but somehow we formed a friendship that made attending Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, not so bad after all. It was the first time I lived in the snow or anywhere that you couldn't get to the beach in less than an hour. I had an apartment downtown with a view of the public library parking garage. Joe and I would grab coffee and a snack at a little coffee house two blocks from campus between classes. He was always talking about his family...Lots of brothers and sisters all raised Catholic. His parents were great and still married after so many years. He would talk about his ideas of what he would do after he graduated. Of course, I talked to him for several years after leaving Ohio and he was still in school...Something about the University not counting his credits or classes. He was a bartender, a server, a construction worker, a "joe" of all trades. I returned to Ohio for other reasons a few times after I moved back to Florida and we'd always get together. One night, I was distraught so Joe and I went out downtown. There was confusion with the ATM, then I had to pay but not to worry because he was always there for me whether it was a good or bad day...We both were. On the phone a couple years later, he and I talked of going to Vegas together. He even made me hang up and bought me a ticket. As the week of the trip drew near, Joe had to cancel. We never went to Vegas. I don't know where Joe is today. Everything I've sent has come back and the number is no longer in service. I miss Joe because our friendship was based on a mutual respect and being okay with who we were as individuals and as friends. There were no expectations, no rights or wrongs, just two people who had a connection that in hindsight was such a breath of fresh air...even in non-sunshine Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

bells will be ringing

'Tis the season to give!

Oh the sounds of the bells...Still ringing with me. I have spent the day at the kettle enjoying the company of the ch. 6 news team and the station management. I can say it was one of those days where all of my energy was involved in making sure everything went well and that everyone was happy and thanked and given an opportunity to come back again to help others whether it was for a donation or for those who were volunteering.

Mr. Wonderful and catsitter showed up at the end of the evening and shopped for Santa hats for the kids who will be caroling at the Toy Shop opening. Ahhhh...the help of good people, friends, fellow humans with big hearts. Just lovin' the love!

So exhausted in a good way...So much to be thankful for, so much to be excited about...18 days until Christmas!

I am on for tomorrow with Candice at Aldo's. I've never been there so it should be quite the adventure.

Here's to new adventures! Go people go and give people give!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Being Perfect

Check out kathy who inspires and challenges me every single time...

Thanks Kathy for sharing your life with me at the diner on Monday.

You'll find the following excerpt and other things to know when you visit her beautiful site.

MAY 23, 1999

I look at all of you today and I cannot help but see myself twenty-five years ago, at my own Barnard commencement. I sometimes seem, in my mind, to have as much in common with that girl as I do with any stranger I might pass in the doorway of a Starbucks or in the aisle of an airplane. I cannot remember what she wore or how she felt that day. But I can tell you this about her without question: she was perfect.

Let me be very clear what I mean by that. I mean that I got up every day and tried to be perfect in every possible way. If there was a test to be had, I had studied for it; if there was a paper to be written, it was done. I smiled at everyone in the dorm hallways, because it was important to be friendly, and I made fun of them behind their backs because it was important to be witty. And I worked as a residence counselor and sat on housing council. If anyone had ever stopped and asked me why I did those things--well, I'm not sure what I would have said. But I can tell you, today, that I did them to be perfect, in every possible way.

Being perfect was hard work, and the hell of it was, the rules of it changed. So that while I arrived at college in 1970 with a trunk full of perfect pleated kilts and perfect monogrammed sweaters, by Christmas vacation I had another perfect uniform: overalls, turtlenecks, Doc Martens, and the perfect New York City Barnard College affect--part hyperintellectual, part ennui. This was very hard work indeed. I had read neither Sartre nor Sappho, and the closest I ever came to being bored and above it all was falling asleep. Finally, it was harder to become perfect because I realized, at Barnard, that I was not the smartest girl in the world.

Eventually being perfect day after day, year after year, became like always carrying a backpack filled with bricks on my back. And oh, how I secretly longed to lay my burden down.

So what I want to say to you today is this: if this sounds, in any way, familiar to you, if you have been trying to be perfect in one way or another, too, then make today, when for a moment there are no more grades to be gotten, classmates to be met, terrain to be scouted, positioning to be arranged--make today the day to put down the backpack. Trying to be perfect may be sort of inevitable for people like us, who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and in its good opinion. But at one level it's too hard, and at another, it's too cheap and easy. Because it really requires you mainly to read the zeitgeist of wherever and whenever you happen to be, and to assume the masks necessary to be the best of whatever the zeitgeist dictates or requires.

Those requirements shapeshift, sure, but when you're clever you can read them and do the imitation required. But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

This is more difficult, because there is no zeitgeist to read, no template to follow, no mask to wear. Set aside what your friends expect, what your parents demand, what your acquaintances require. Set aside the messages this culture sends, through its advertising, its entertainment, its disdain and its disapproval, about how you should behave. Set aside the old traditional notion of female as nurturer and male as leader; set aside, too, the new traditional notions of female as superwoman and male as oppressor. Begin with that most terrifying of all things, a clean slate. Then look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: for me, for me. Because they are who and what I am, and mean to be.

This is the hard work of your life in the world, to make it all up as you go along, to acknowledge the introvert, the clown, the artist, the reserved, the distraught, the goofball, the thinker. You will have to bend all your will not to march to the music that all of those great "theys" out there pipe on their flutes. They want you to go to professional school, to wear khakis, to pierce your navel, to bare your soul. These are the fashionable ways. The music is tinny, if you listen close enough. Look inside. That way lies dancing to the melodies spun out by your own heart. This is a symphony. All the rest are jingles.

This will always be your struggle whether you are twenty-one or fifty-one. I know this from experience. When I quit the New York Timesto be a full-time mother, the voices of the world said that I was nuts. When I quit it again to be a full-time novelist, they said I was nuts again. But I am not nuts. I am happy. I am successful on my own terms. Because if your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all. Remember the words of Lily Tomlin: If you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

Look at your fingers. Hold them in front of your face. Each one is crowned by an abstract design that is completely different than those of anyone in this crowd, in this country, in this world. They are a metaphor for you. Each of you is as different as your fingerprints. Why in the world should you march to any lockstep?

The lockstep is easier, but here is why you cannot march to it. Because nothing great or even good ever came of it. When young writers write to me about following in the footsteps of those of us who string together nouns and verbs for a living, I tell them this: every story has already been told. Once you've read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbirdand A Wrinkle in Time,you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had. And that is herself, her own personality, her own voice. If she is doing Faulkner imitations, she can stay home. If she is giving readers what she thinks they want instead of what she is, she should stop typing.

But if her books reflect her character, who she really is, then she is giving them a new and wonderful gift. Giving it to herself, too.

And that is true of music and art and teaching and medicine. Someone sent me a T-shirt not long ago that read "Well-Behaved Women Don't Make History." They don't make good lawyers, either, or doctors or businesswomen. Imitations are redundant. Yourself is what is wanted.

You already know this. I just need to remind you. Think back. Think back to first or second grade, when you could still hear the sound of your own voice in your head, when you were too young, too unformed, too fantastic to understand that you were supposed to take on the protective coloration of the expectations of those around you. Think of what the writer Catherine Drinker Bowen once wrote, more than half a century ago: "Many a man who has known himself at ten forgets himself utterly between ten and thirty." Many a woman, too.

You are not alone in this. We parents have forgotten our way sometimes, too. I say this as the deeply committed, often flawed mother of three. When you were first born, each of you, our great glory was in thinking you absolutely distinct from every baby who had ever been born before. You were a miracle of singularity, and we knew it in every fiber of our being.

But we are only human, and being a parent is a very difficult job, more difficult than any other, because it requires the shaping of other people, which is an act of extraordinary hubris. Over the years we learned to want for you things that you did not want for yourself. We learned to want the lead in the play, the acceptance to our own college, the straight and narrow path that often leads absolutely nowhere. Sometimes we wanted those things because we were convinced it would make life better, or at least easier for you. Sometimes we had a hard time distinguishing between where you ended and we began.

So that another reason that you must give up on being perfect and take hold of being yourself is because sometime, in the distant future, you may want to be parents, too. If you can bring to your children the self that you truly are, as opposed to some amalgam of manners and mannerisms, expectations and fears that you have acquired as a carapace along the way, you will give them, too, a great gift. You will teach them by example not to be terrorized by the narrow and parsimonious expectations of the world, a world that often likes to color within the lines when a spray of paint, a scrawl of crayon, is what is truly wanted.

Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths. Carl Jung once said, "If people can be educated to see the lowly side of their own natures, it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and to love their fellow men better. A little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance toward oneself can only have good results in respect for our neighbors, for we are all too prone to transfer to our fellows the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures."

Most commencement speeches suggest you take up something or other: the challenge of the future, a vision of the twenty-first century. Instead I'd like you to give up. Give up the backpack. Give up the nonsensical and punishing quest for perfection that dogs too many of us through too much of our lives. It is a quest that causes us to doubt and denigrate ourselves, our true selves, our quirks and foibles and great leaps into the unknown, and that is bad enough. But this is worse: that someday, sometime, you will be somewhere, maybe on a day like today--a berm overlooking a pond in Vermont, the lip of the Grand Canyon at sunset. Maybe something bad will have happened: you will have lost someone you loved, or failed at something you wanted to succeed at very much. And sitting there, you will fall into the center of yourself. You will look for that core to sustain you. If you have been perfect all your life, and have managed to meet all the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, your society, chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where your core ought to be.Don't take that chance. Begin to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience. Listen to that small voice from inside you, that tells you to go another way. George Eliot wrote, "It is never too late to be what you might have been." It is never too early, either. And it will make all the difference in the world. Take it from someone who has left the backpack full of bricks far behind. Every day feels light as a feather.

One Thing I Know for Sure: The greatest gift you can give to the world is the gift of being yourself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Weekend Warrior

Treasure the one who lightens the burden of anyone else.
Charles Dickens

Friday with My My...Dinner at home. For the record, I cooked! Yes, it was mac and cheese -- 2 different kinds. She likes the sprinkles. How do they know about sprinkles? She took a huge bubble bath and watched a Disney show. Mr. Wonderful got home and they played for awhile. Bedtime had passed so I read her a nice little story from O Magazine to help her fall asleep.

Saturday morning at First Watch...Always good. Stopped by Alex D.'s Birthday party. Ted's Christmas Party with 2100 other employees. Lynn and Steve were great! The Mummy with both the guys was too much fun!!

Sunday was great...Shopping with at MAM. A quick stop at home and then off to Jax for curry chicken with Trish. I talked to Doris, little brother, Timmy and DBM while heading north for a brief visit with everyone.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Happy Christmas!

There are those whose lives affect all others around them. Quietly touching one heart, who in turn, touches another. Reaching out to ends further than they would ever know.
William Bradfield
Bill Schaefer from WESH who actually came to DragonFLY's school during lunchtime when I was in 3rd grade. I let him know that I never forgot that...He said that was my first debut as a television star. Bill is super cool and brings great news every week to Central Florida.

Love the crunch - meet Mr. Wonderful's fab. father

Thursday, December 01, 2005