Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, Thanks For The Memories!

Happy New Year's Eve!

A part of me can't believe an entire year has come and gone. A year full of challenges and triumphs, growth & healing. And another part of me feels like just yesterday, I was ringing in 2011... a fresh start.

For someone who struggles with change like I do, I'm never nostalgic about New Year's Eve. I'm always ready to usher in a new year.

I guess some of it is knowing it's inevitable; a new year always comes at midnight on December 31st.

And a lot of that comes from a foundation rooted in faith; hope for the future.

My heart could burst today, this final day of 2011, with all of the blessings of the year.

I turned 27.

I adopted a sweet little nugget.

These people... my second family.

I fell in love with a sweet little nugget. 

I swam.

I traveled to San Diego.

It snowed.

I drank (lots of) wine with my best friend.

I watched my baby brother graduate high school.

I produced a variety show.

I baked pies with The Pioneer Woman.

I finished a sprint triathlon.

He turned two.

She turned one.

One year anniversary.

Freelance project.... that continues well into 2012.

What an incredible year!

Goodbye 2011; thanks for the memories.

2012- here we go!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Enjoying The Best Days (Resolution #4)

I feel like I'm living some of the best days right now.

It's not perfect- but life shouldn't be, I've decided. But these days... they're really, really good.

I feel like I'm on the cusp of change; professionally, personally. There are moments I'm living out now, things I'm planning in 2012 that I know are and will be once-in-a-lifetime, and for that... I'm so thankful, so blessed, so happy.

So I'm taking my time. Today, this perfect, beautiful day off, I'm slowly drinking my blueberry tea latte and reading blogs. I'm letting the temperature tick up just a few more notches before I take my beautiful new bike on it's inaugural ride around Tulsa.

I spent the past week spending time with family, catching up with old friends, making plans with new friends. Game nights, coffee dates, lunch breaks, drinks by the river and dinner with dear ones. What a good, good life.

So you can see why I'm in no hurry to speed through these resolutions of mine for 2012; it's hard to think about the future when life in the present is so sweet!

I have my resolutions in a certain order to blog about (surprised, anyone?) but for today, this pretty day with lots of thankfulness in the air, I'm skipping ahead a few resolutions.

Resolution #4: Have A "Me" Day As Often As Possible

That resolution seemed fitting today. Because it's the days you don't have to hurry, hurry, hurry that you have time to reflect on all of the wonderful, good things in life.

I want to do more of that in 2012. I want to remove myself from my "duties"- if just for a day- and spend a little time on the couch. A lot of time outside, running or biking. Have a mid-day mimosa with a friend or just spend some quiet time thanking God for all of it.

I am ending the year with waaaay too many un-used vacation days. That's OK; I wanted and needed to immerse myself in work in 2011. I was licking my wounds, so to speak, after a tough end to 2010. And it was a good thing; I learned a lot about myself in a work environment, grew into my roles in the office. I picked up a freelance project or two and I started the long, steady, uphill climb to making my professional dreams come true.

And in 2012, I want a day- every now and again- to re-center, to enjoy life, to enjoy the perks of working so hard.

With a struggling economy and a single income, it's hard at times to justify those days off. Work hard, and harder still, becomes the mantra.

So taking those days won't come easily to me; but I will do it nonetheless.

Because I'm living some of the best days right now- and I don't want to miss a second of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Outdoor Entertainment (Resolution #3)

The countdown to 2012 is officially on! I somehow have been... tricked? coerced?... into entertaining a few people, so I will spend the next few days in house-prep mode. Cleaning, stocking, liquoring, decorating.

That's the best part about having a house; entertaining.

I've decided not to become particularly OCD about entertaining. (Shocking for me, I know.) A house is just floors and walls and paint; but a home is memories and warmth. This house had 65 years worth of memories before I moved in; who am I to bring that to an end? I love having my tiny house full to the brim with friends and family. Laughter. Good food. Wine.

Even when that wine- red, of course- ends up on my new burlap table runner that I adore.

Actually, when I think about it- I usually stop "entertaining" moments after guests arrive. I make sure they see the food and drink, I take their coat, I point them to the various wings of the house (ahem- Kitchen. Bedroom. Bathroom. The end!) and then we all just enjoy each other's company.

That's my favorite part- the enjoying.

This house lets me enjoy. I can curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee; take a nap in the guest room. I can dance in my kitchen and drink a glass of wine on my back porch.

Which brings me to resolution #3:

Spruce up my backyard and start a garden!

I've spent a lot of time working on my house this year... and in 2012, I'm taking it all outdoors.

New patio furniture. Extended deck? Vegetable garden in far left corner.

I'm taking inspiration from The Pioneer Woman's raised vegetable garden. Surely I can grow the necessary ingredients to make my own salsa?!

It may be a silly resolution- but one I'm going to try my hardest to tackle.

And in 2012, we'll enjoy each other's company outdoors!

A Cinco de Mayo party with fresh salsa... now that's a resolution I can stick to.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Surprises & Blessings

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas!

This has been one of my favorite Christmases to date. I probably say that every year- but we have had such a great few days together as a family.

Six Flags with the siblings... candlelight Christmas Eve service... good food & wine... lots of games... gifts, of course.

One gift being...

.... a "new to me" bike!!

Yes, for those of you following... this was the bike I contemplated buying a few months back. The one I decided to "pass" on for the time being so I could save my moolah.

The bike everyone surprised me with!

I am beyond thankful and happy and excited! I took it for a test ride yesterday... and I can't wait to bring it back to Tulsa and start training for the next triathlon!

Of course Maizy hasn't had it too rough while we've been in Plano. She has had lots of play time with her grandparents, aunt and uncles, ribbons and bows and paper galore. Spoiled much? (Guess I'm one to talk!)

It's been so wonderful to have a few days of much needed down-time. I have eaten too much, laughed too hard and been as lazy as possible- and loved every second of it.

Tonight is our last night together on "Christmas break." (Pesky work!) We're going to see a movie, play another game or two and enjoy being together.

I'll continue my resolutions for 2012 this week; but for today, I'm fully living in the now!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Adventure (Resolution #2)

I've noticed something as I get older.

Yeah, I know- 27 isn't exactly a ripe old age to reflect on lessons learned. But, here's what I know.

As I get older, my gut reflex is to be cautious.

I save extra spending money. I am careful with my heart. I weigh my adventures wisely and thoroughly. I think things through, make lists, analyze the pros and cons. I do a lot of praying- and even when every part of my being says "jump!"- my instinct is to stay on the shore.

It's nice and warm on the shore. And the drinks have umbrellas!

That's not to say I'm always cautious. I have been known to throw caution to the wind a time or two. In fact, I pride myself in following my gut & speaking my mind.

But what about adventure? What about dreaming big and living large?

In 2012, I want adventure. I have some bigger adventures planned; but I have a few very tangible, smaller adventures in mind, too.

And THAT brings me right back to my list of resolutions!

Resolution #2: Go Camping!

Yes, camping! I went as a girl scout. And I vividly remember camping in a friend's backyard at a birthday party once.

My dad came to pick me up halfway through the night.

And I do get scared of pitch black dark and bugs.

But! All these things aside, I want to go camping!
With my new "sporty" attitude in place (ahem) I think the idea of hiking, biking, pitching a tent and braving a night in the great outdoors sounds like just the exciting (and affordable!) adventure I'm after.

I've found a willing group. And we've scouted out a few desirable locations.
I'm in need of a tent (this North Face seems my speed)... and probably a new flashlight.

So let the camping commence!

(And let there be plenty of pre-cooked food!)

(And a bottle of wine or two!)

Adventure + the great outdoors. What could go wrong? :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fit For Battle (Resolution #1)

As this week wraps up, I find myself more & more eager and anxious to be home with my family.

It's been a tough week. Shouldn't the week before Christmas be easy? Everyone in a festive mood, work projects low priority, thankfulness abounding?

Even our beloved family cat Belle ran away for a brief period of time today! But she returned, so all is well.

Oh well- it's not about how we feel, but about the reason for it all, right? When you put it in perspective, it all fades away in light of the glorious gift we received Christmas so many years ago.

On that (lighter) note- let's talk resolutions!

I'm officially kicking off my "12 Resolutions for 2012" and I'm starting with...

....drum roll please...

Resolution #1: Complete A Race Every Quarter

Fitness has become a huge priority for me this year. I found that when I started working out regularly- not only did I lose the pounds I started to begrudge but I also saw instant health benefits. My stress level become lower. My breathing, easier. I felt lighter in general- better able to maneuver the ups & downs of life.

I started to crave the rush of endorphins I felt following a good run, a challenging bike ride or a refreshing swim. Training for a sprint triathlon allowed me to challenge myself in ways I never imagined. Truly- the memories of the day I purchased a helmet and swim cap will forever live with me- first and foremost because this fair-skinned, red-headed non-athlete was, finally, an official athlete.

So in 2012, I want to commit to a race every quarter. So far, I have two lined up: The Indoor Whole Person Sprint Triathlon in January; and the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon in May.

And dual training for those races at the moment? Challenging. But in the best way possible.

Challenges will always come our way- even the week before Christmas. It's how we handle it that matters.

And when I feel healthy & fit- as I hope to in 2012- I feel ready to tackle any challenge that comes my way.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: A Year In Review

OK... I made a liar out of myself.

I was supposed to do a 2011 resolutions recap yesterday...  and begin by "12 Resolutions for 2012" today.

But life got in the way- a blah Monday, need I say more?- and everything got pushed back a day.

Today is a NEW day... and we're going to recap some resolutions from 2011!

As I said the other day, I am a believer that resolutions aren't meant to define us, or confine us, or make us feel like failures. It's just a healthy way to launch a new year with some great goals in mind. I was successful in many of my goals; and I am carrying a few of the important ones into 2012 with me.

Warning: This is a long post. There are many links. But it's a great "year-in-review"- so enjoy!

I'm sad to say I did not find a permanent church home this year. I attended numerous church services, but didn't quite find the right "fit." I'm discovering I might be a bit too picky on the church front; so I'm opening my heart a bit in 2012 with a full list of new churches to try out. (2012 spoiler alert!)

I am happy to say I did grow tremendously in my relationship with the Lord this year. I found a deeper peace & sense of joy this year than I've known in a long time. My dreams have new life, my fears have less weight. I could go on and on about this wonderful relationship- but I think if you've read my blog this year, the proof is in the pudding- er, writing.

I traveled to San Diego this year with my mom & sister in tow! We had a fantastic trip; just the vacation I needed. I also learned a lot, as I attended the BlogHer convention. Next year? A few more trips on the books! (2012 spoiler alert #2!)

While I did not run the Tulsa Run due to a conflict, I did reach my goal weight! 15 pounds lighter this year than last. Swimming, biking, running... oh my! Again, it's all in the blog, folks. :)

OH boy, did I follow through on this one. I was honored to produce a second variety show- "Show & Tell With Peter Bedgood"- in March. I produced an excellent event called "Tulsa Plus" in July. And I started a freelance project- "True Blue" in January. In fact, we are celebrating our one-year anniversary of teaming up in just a few weeks with the premiere of a show we've been working on all year! Details to come!

My financial goals are a continuous work in progress. I'm proud to say I re-started a 401K this year and I made several sound financial decisions.

No and No. But there's always next year...!

This will always be a priority. This year, I watched my youngest brother graduate high school. I took tequila shots with my dad & co-workers. I traveled with my mom & sister. I proudly watched my other brother anchor a sportscast every Friday night. Those are just a few highlights- but nothing matters more than the O'Donnell Six.

I've learned a lot about friendship in 2011. There were ups and downs, but as I get older- I worry less about how many friends I have and more about how many true friends are supporting me. Those are the people I will always give 100% to.

Check and check- and oh so proud! My edits might be... ahem, rough... but I can do it! I can splice, dice and make your videos look nice! (HA.)

This became less important to me as the year progressed; although I still find history fascinating and I'm always willing to learn more about writing technique, I find myself perfectly content to use Google. :)

Many parties were thrown in this house this year! Late-night brainstorm meetings over red wine, backyard cocktails in the Spring, pre-parties before big events. I am so thankful for this little piece of heaven I get to call home- and not just because it's a fantastic place to entertain!

I always strive to do this. If I can find it locally- or homemade- I'm all over it!

Ah, yes. Play the movie forward. It took me the first few months of 2011 to get going on this one. But finding Maizy, a nice date (or two), a slew of new projects and a lot of faith forced me forward. And now, I'm willingly going that direction.

Resolution #15: Hurry Up & Slow Down
Couldn't we all stand to do this more? I am ending the year with over 20 un-used vacation days! I am going to stay... this might be a carry-over resolution, in more ways than one!

There you have it! 2011- a great year in review. Join me tomorrow as I kick off my new resolutions for 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Comfort and Joy

Happy Sunday before Christmas!

This time next week, the O'Donnell family will be in full Christmas mode. We'll be well-rested after a Christmas Eve of music and candlelight at church, cream cheese clam dip at home afterwards. We'll wake Christmas morning and line up at the top of the stairs- youngest to oldest. We'll stumble downstairs in a tradition as old as our house to open presents, eat egg casserole. Spend the day celebrating the birth of our savior and the gift of family.

What a precious day. Hurry up, Christmas!

I have been SO absent lately- I know. This week was busy like no other! Between Christmas get-togethers, meeting up with new friends, working on my freelance project, fixing homemade dinners, Christmas shopping, squeezing in a couple of runs- and a little thing called work-there just weren't enough hours in the week.

But! I come with good news of great joy! (HA.)

Starting Tuesday, December 20th... I kick off my "12 Resolutions for 2012!" Tomorrow, I plan to do a recap of my 2011 resolutions- the successes and failures- and then we'll kick off a fresh new batch of resolutions for the coming year.

I personally love resolutions. Like goals, they motivate me and challenge me. If I don't succeed- I don't beat myself up. But it's nice to have a vision for yourself over a 12 month period. Do you have resolutions? Why or why not?

Lately, I've had a real sense of "everything is as it should be." I feel that way about my job, about my relationships. I feel that way about my finances and what I believe God is speaking into my heart. Just a complete sense of calm- that life is marching forward just as it should. A true sense of comfort and joy, so to speak.

Part of it is the season. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of a baby that saved the world. Comfort and joy takes on a whole new meaning when you let that story soak in.

Another part of it is just knowing- and accepting- that a great year of change is coming. I can feel it.

2011 was a year of stabilization. The things that rocked my world in 2010 were memories of the past; 2011 allowed me to regroup, find a new rhythm.

I think 2012 will bring a lot of change; but for once, I'm ready.

Whether we make resolutions or not, whether we enter a year of great change or a year that allows us to regroup- we have the ultimate gift of comfort and joy that we received that night so long ago.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

To Do, To Don't, To Try

Have you ever had a week that went by so quickly- but the events of the week seem like they happened a year ago?

That's what happened to me this week. Last weekend was Bedlam; it was a sweet 1-year-old birthday party. And I tell ya- those two events could have happened 8 months ago.

In the past seven days, I...

*Had a delicious girls' night Italian dinner
*Had my review at work
*Had a nice sushi dinner with a cute guy
*Went to my work Christmas party
*Held a newborn baby for 3 hours
*Braved the mall
*Ran many miles, biked many miles

Whew! Maybe that accounts for the shortage of blog posts?

I read this article by Michael Hyatt this week on the art of "trying" to do something.

He says, whatever that "something" is- either do it. Or don't do it. But don't just try.

At first read, that article stressed me out. It's hard to commit 100% to something. It's intimidating to go full force ahead into anything- whether it's committing to run a half marathon or test the waters of a new relationship.

But then the alternative- don't do it. That phrase rarely enters my thought process. I hate feeling like I didn't give something my all- or that I quit too early, possibly disappointing someone else- or myself. Ugh, quit- that word really is a tough one.

But on second read, the article was freeing. If you commit to something 100%- and you fail- you didn't really fail. You gave it your all.

And if you decide not to give something 100%- you decide it's not worth any percentage, actually- you're not failing. You're just deciding it's not something that adds to your life.

I'd argue that trying isn't all that bad. He gives a few examples... like are you trying to fix your marriage? Or are you fixing your marriage?

OK, I'll give him that one. But there are many things I try to do every day. I try to blog every day. I try to exercise every day. I try to have quiet time every day.

Sometimes it happens; sometimes it doesn't. It's not a failure in my book either way; it's the heart behind it that matters.

In my opinion? Let's do what we want and need to do to be happy. Let's not do the things that make us unhappy. And let's try to find some middle ground, too- because we're all just human.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Wow... what a weekend! Birthday parties, long runs, plenty of couch time, several Blueberry Tea Lattes and a few surprises mixed in there. December is certainly shaping up to be an interesting month- and if I say so myself, a great way to wrap up 2011- a truly great year!

Tonight, I had a meeting for my freelance project and it hit me just how great his year was. I was sitting there over a glass of wine, chatting with my "client" (who I should really just call a dear friend) and I was struck by life's blessings.

This year could have been really difficult. But instead, it was full of surprises. Mainly, I surprised myself- in the best ways possible. I am so thankful for 2011; what a great year to reflect on.

This weekend, I started working on 2012 resolutions. Like last year, I am going to blog about my 12 resolutions for 2012, a "12 days of Christmas" blog special. I also want to share how my 2011 resolutions shaped up.

Hey, reflection is good for everyone!

Tonight, I want to share an article by Brian Klems I loved this week- 7 quotes from great writers. These inspired me this week, and reaffirmed yesterday's post on writing and blogging.

I especially like #5 by JK Rowling; I think it's inspiring for both writers and bloggers.

“Oftentimes an originator of new language forms is called ‘pretentious’ by jealous talents. But it ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac

“[The writer] has to be the kind of man who turns the world upside down and says, lookit, it looks different, doesn’t it?”
—Morris West

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee

“The only obligation any artist can have is to himself. His work means nothing, otherwise. It has no meaning.”
—Truman Capote

“In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write.”
—J.K. Rowling

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King

“I think I succeeded as a writer because I did not come out of an English department. I used to write in the chemistry department. And I wrote some good stuff. If I had been in the English department, the prof would have looked at my short stories, congratulated me on my talent, and then showed me how Joyce or Hemingway handled the same elements of the short story. The prof would have placed me in competition with the greatest writers of all time, and that would have ended my writing career.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

Hope those quotes give all of you bloggers a bit of inspiration this week!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Blog Challenge Recap

Two days without posting- and I've missed it!

After completing my 30 days of blogging challenge Wednesday (and thank you for all of the sweet notes!) I decided to take a couple of days "off." I didn't commit to how many days off, because I hate that- saying "I need approximately 5 days off from blogging starting now."

So after two days, here I am- back in action. Rested and ready to go!

Throughout this blog journey, I kept a running list of things I learned about the writing/blogging process as I went along. As competitive as I am (once I commit to something, I'm in, no matter what!) I also wanted to learn something, too- I wanted to become a better writer and blogger out of the whole experience.

I say writing and blogging because I think there's a tiny distinction between the two. More on that in a minute.

First, I want to share a quick "state of the union," so to speak. What's up in my world.

*I have yet to decorate for Christmas (today? tomorrow?)
*I am obsessed with Blueberry Tea Latte at QuickTrip
*I LOVE running in the cold, cold weather; bike riding is a different story!
*My late winter/spring is already shaping up with half marathons, projects, trips and showers... oh my!

A quick snapshot of my life at the moment. Now, onto those blog lessons!  Here's what I wrote down during the last 30 days of daily blogging:

-Blog before wine

-Daily blogging is more than just a recap of your day; it’s research & time commitment

-Adding value to other people’s lives- via articles, links, etc.- builds followers

-Engaging in other people’s blogs & lives builds followers

-Building followers is not the end goal

-I am a writer who blogs; this means, I want to write great content

-Sometimes you have no motivation; blog anyways

-Blogging is like doing a sprint tri: you have to put all of the pieces together before the big race

-Finding daily inspiration is key (exercising, reading, TV, prayer, etc.)

-Write for yourself, what interests you

-Writing a day/weekend recap is OK, too

There you have it! My running conversation with myself on daily blogging.

As you can see, I started this project thinking... I hope I gain more followers!

And I ended this project saying... I'm doing this for me.

More on that blogger vs. writer thing: To me, a writer is someone who puts together an educated piece on something. I could be fact or fiction- but there's an element of research to it. A blogger, to me, is someone who writes for herself, and who writes to commune with her followers, and who shares pieces of her thoughts and life with people.

Out of this experience, I felt the need to grow as both a writer and blogger. I want to write thought-provoking things, funny things, personal things. I want to share my passions with the world- whether that's through a well-crafted blog post or a simple picture.

I came to have such a huge appreciation for Lindsay's Lounge. This platform allows me to grow as a writer, a blogger- and a person, too. It's a megaphone for my life.

THANK YOU for reading and commenting and following! My dedication to this little piece of my world has never been greater.

Enjoy your day! I'm off to tackle those Christmas decorations...

or maybe just hunt down a Blueberry Tea Latte instead. :)

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