setting goals.

It's that time of year, and I've been thinking about setting goals for 2009. And I think I'm going to take a different approach this year.

Rather than setting one or two large goals for the entire year, I'm listing 29 things I want to accomplish in 2009. They're smaller goals, things that can be accomplished in a couple months' time. They're realistic and measurable. And I'm also being careful to word them in such a way that if I were to fail once, the entire goal doesn't fail. For example, I don't want to set a goal to work out three times a week, because if I fail one week, I've failed completely (at least with the way my brain works).

I've been working on and praying through this list for a while. It makes me feel a bit vulnerable, putting this list out here. I'm tempted to add explanations, but I won't.

  1. Lose 30 pounds.
  2. Read 10 non-fiction books.
  3. Get a stamp in my passport.
  4. Read through the New Testament.
  5. Run for 2 miles.
  6. Save $3000 in a savings account.
  7. Cut out all sweets for a month.
  8. Teach Harvey and Dakota to walk well together on a leash.
  9. Take Harvey and Dakota to the beach.
  10. Walk the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
  11. See a Grand Illumination (Williamsburg or Norfolk).
  12. Grow out my fingernails.
  13. Try 50 new recipes.
  14. Take an aerobics class.
  15. Refinish dressers (2).
  16. Clean out the garage.
  17. Start recycling.
  18. Entertain once a month.
  19. Watch the sun rise over the ocean.
  20. Get a hammock.
  21. Lead worship at church.
  22. Try 3 new fruits or vegetables.
  23. Post jewelry to Etsy.
  24. Take a training class for work.
  25. Watch Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3
  26. Volunteer at Oasis (food kitchen) 5 times.
  27. Enroll in 401(k).
  28. See 3 live concerts.
  29. Have Jake visit for a weekend.
Update: See the results of my 2009 goals here.

so glad to be home.

I can't tell you how glad I am to be home.

I had a wonderful Christmas. We ate breakfast together as a family, then opened some presents in the morning. After Mom, Dad, and Jon went home to get ready for the family Christmas dinner and the kids left to spend time with their other parents, Katie, Kelli, Vince and I retreated to our own corners of her house for a long and wonderful nap. Then we spent the evening at my mom's house for Christmas dinner. It was fun and lovely and not at all frantic, at least not too much of it, so is a pretty major victory when we're coordinating between so many people.

Saturday night we threw my mom a surprise party to celebrate her 60th birthday - turns out she knew we were planning something, but had no idea when or how big it would be. There was a huge turn-out, and she loved it.

My sister and brother took a ton of photos, so I'm hoping to post some later, once they send them to me. Unfortunately, my camera battery died nearly as soon as I arrived in Frederick, and I didn't bring my charger with me.

On the way home yesterday, I heard this song (How Many Kings by Downhere) on the radio and actually listened to all the words for the first time:

why I give gifts, part 2.

More about my still-evolving policy of giving gifts at Christmas.

It's not about the money.

I'm very careful about how much money I spend at Christmas. I've never gone overboard, and have even scaled back more this year. I count myself fortunate that for all of the people on my gift list, the "perfect" gift (and I admit, that I even put way too much pressure on myself to find it) isn't about the amount of money I spend, but how appropriate the gift itself is. In fact, usually the gifts I'm most excited about, are the least expensive ones of all.

I'm very picky about the gifts I give to the children in my life.

I want to be careful not to be judgemental here, not in the least because I don't have kids of my own. But it's very important to me to choose gifts that encourage play and imagination (which means that I don't give video games, ever). I also like to give things that encourage interaction - games that are played with other people (another reason I don't give video games).

I also know that for most kids who receive gifts from me, they're getting lots of gifts from lots of other people at the same time. So I decided a couple years ago that it made to sense to try to give the best gift, the one that will wow them. That's just setting myself up for disappointment.

why I give gifts, part 1.

Reading this series over the past few days has me thinking about the reasons that I give gifts at Christmas time. Here's what I've come up with so far.


I give gifts every year because it's just tradition to do so. It's always been a part of my family's celebration, and it's a part that I really like. I do it for the same reason that I watch White Christmas at least half a dozen times every year - because at the end, there is a (perhaps naive) part of me that believes that all really is right with the world. And the idea of not giving gifts - well, it really just never occurred to me.

Giving gifts is my love language.

If you've read any of the Five Love Languages books (or ever done marriage counseling, or been around Christian circles at all), you've heard this idea - that there are five languages that people use to give and receive love, and that each person has one or two primary ways that they understand it. Giving gifts is one of my mine - I love thinking and planning the perfect gift for someone, and I love watching them as they open it.

Receiving gifts is the love language of a lot of people on my Christmas list.

It truly is. So if I love my sister, and I know that one of the ways that she best receives and understands love is through gifts, then of course I'm going to give her a gift at Christmas.

this year's christmas decorating.

Most of the time I go a little nuts decorating for Christmas (witness last year, part 1, part 2, and part 3).

Because of how busy I was this year in the early part of December, I scaled way back on the amount of decorating I did. This year I limited myself to the tree and a few other simple things.

And this cute little plate, bought for less than $5 at Ross several weeks ago, sums it up pretty well.


A couple months ago I accepted Nick's challenge to read through the New Testament by the end of the year. Well, I'm still working on it, though I'm way behind. Like, so behind that there's no way I'll get done in time. To date, I've finished Matthew, Revelation, and part of Mark.

But I'm plugging through anyway, even if I finish after everyone else. I tend to read a chapter at a time, sometimes just a few verses, and dig really deep into that. Reading this way, though, I'm finding a lot a value in the big picture.

Here's one thing I noticed last week, for the first time, that's really sticking with me. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of the rich young ruler, who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies with some of the ten commandments, and when the man says he has followed them all, Jesus gives him one more instruction. He tells the man to go and sell everything he has to give it to the poor, and the man walks away disheartened because he was loaded.

I know this story, I've read it before, but this is the part that was new for me. In Mark's version, just before Jesus tells the man to sell everything, it says this:

Jesus looked at him and loved him.
- Mark 10:21

How beautiful is that? Knowing that the man was just looking for eternal life, had just claimed to have kept all the commandments since he was a kid (a pretty impossible task), and cared more about his money than following God, Jesus loved him. Not because of anything he had done, not because of what he was going to do, just because.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. It's as simple as that.

Tonight Nathan (Nick and Heather's son) asked me why I loved him. And I had no idea how to answer him, because the truth is, I just do. I love him when he's funny and sweet and giving and when he's talking back to me.

And to know that Jesus loves us like that, but even more - its a beautiful thing.

featured again.

Another of my ideas was featured on Tip Junkie - this snowman from last year's Christmas decorations.

how to keep ribbon from fraying.

One of things I managed to accomplish last week that was not related to work was creating invitations for an upcoming party. I use ribbon a lot in creating invitations because it delivers a big impact without a lot of work. I also use ribbon when I wrap gifts - not the plastic stuff especially for wrapping gifts, but the real fabric stuff.

The problem is, the real stuff frays. I know there are things you can buy to stop it, but I found a super easy trick online that didn't involve me actually buying anything - I burn it. I just used one of those lighters most people use for candles, and held the ribbon up near the flame for a second or so. It took a few tries to get the hang of it, to learn exactly how close and how long to hold the flame, but once I did - so easy!

Go here for more Works for Me tips.

Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy watching TV and eating room service from the a big king-size bed in a southern California hotel room. And occasionally glancing out the window to the harbor and the sailboats lit up with Christmas lights.

wake up call.

The problem with traveling in California, is that when people on the east coast don't know you're traveling in California, they call you really early in the morning and wake you up.

I'm in California this week on business, delivering Phase 1 of a project I've been working on for the last year. Its the reason that I've been so busy with work over the last few weeks, and I can't wait until its done and I can take a collective breath.

I desperately wanted to come home to at least some Christmas decorations, so I decided to put up my Christmas tree Sunday night. I have an artifical tree, so I dutifully sorted all the branches into the piles according to size, fluffed them, and started putting the tree together. I figured out a few years ago that if you actually string your lights as you go, the process goes much faster. Its much easier to maneuver this way when your tree is in the corner, and if you wrap the strands a couple times on each layer, you actually end up with a lot of depth to the lights, which I love.

The problem was, 3 of my 4 light strands aren't working. And since it was late at night and I couldn't exactly leave all the piles of branches laying on the floor for the dog sitter, I had to put it up anyway. So, I have a tree. Just no lights or ornaments yet.

behold the lamb.

Last night, I drove to Richmond to see Andrew Peterson, Bebo Norman and several others perform Behold the Lamb live. Its been about the only non-work thing I've taken the time to do over the last week, but it was so worth it.

For the first half of the concert, each person sang a couple of their own songs, then they brought everyone out to do the entire CD, straight through. The music and the musicians were absolutly incredible (the two percussionists each played a ton of instruments, and sometimes more than one at a time). But even more than that, it was just wonderful to be remember exactly what Christmas is about - To remember the entire story, the one that started way back in Genesis. To remember that the entire Bible, Old and New Testament, is about Christ. To remember that in the midst of a dirty, smelling stable, something absolutely miraculous occurred. Emmanuel, God with us.

It stirred my soul.

more on the waiting.

I just read this post about the darkest time in Jewish history - the 400 years when God was silent. It reminds me of the some of the things I was thinking about last week.

christmas decorating.

I've been dying to start Christmas decorating, especially as I'm seeing all kinds of pictures of it lately - in stores, on other people's blogs, on TV and in catalogs.

BUT - in just a few days I fly to southern California for a work trip, to deliver phase 1 of a project I've been working on for the last year. And there are still so many little things to take care for this project, so I've been staying busy with that. I keep telling myself that if I can get so many of these things finished, that I'll actually be free to do what I really want to do.

In the meantime, I've contented myself with burning a Christmas scented candle (Jack Frost by Yankee Candle) and pulling out just a few things that were easily accessible - a new kitchen towel and pot holder, the wire card holder tree I found at a thrift store, and the sleigh I repainted to hold small Christmas gifts.

Hopefully, I can really get into it later this week and start taking pictures.

back home.

Well, the pumpkin pie was a success. And even though Katie told me that she liked it, I really believed her when she ate the leftovers.

Jake and I spent all day Friday together - passing out Starbucks coffee to people at Best Buy who had gotten up before dawn to deal with crazy people, helping Grandma clean out the basement, playing Mario Party and eating pizza. I introduced him to a whole bunch of fun Christmas songs, and we ended the day by seeing Bolt at a really, really late showing - so late we were the only people in the theater.

I'm back home now, desperately wanting to start my Christmas decorating, but knowing that I still have a ton of work to get done to get ready for my trip to California for work next week.