The holidays and my birthday (which happen to fall within 3 weeks of each other) have always been a time of reflection and dreaming for me. A time to reflect upon the past year, what I learned, how I grew, and a time to agonize over  "I can't believe I did that" moments. At times it is hard to find space to reflect with cookie baking and gift wrapping, but I always make time to think about where I started and where I finished the year. Dreaming and planning about the future - what my new goals would be, how I would accomplish them, something new I could try, etc. This time last year, I was back in DC at my part-time job. I was in a stressful, anxiety and worry filled place. I felt so alone - who wants to work on NYE? This year has been particularly rough with ending a long term relationship, dealing with my obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis, the passing of my father in November, followed by two months of stress related illness. Although I miss my dad and am grieving, I am thankful for some positive things that happened this year. Here are 10 of the lessons I learned/joys I experienced.
  1. This fall, I started my second school year as a high school advisor, assisting students with the college application process. I am blessed to have work that is meaningful for me where I can impact the lives of teens in DC. I am so passionate about working with youth to achieve their full potential. A little background: This is my second year of being gainfully employed full-time and covered by insurance since I was laid off from my job at the bank in 2007. I am truly grateful for the financial stability and freedom my job provides. God is good!
  2. I started this blog and website! I have only been blogging for a month or so and yet I feel that it has had a huge impact! I can't wait to write my next post (hope to make them more regular). Through this blog I conquer my fears, my voice is heard and I matter - even if it's only to myself. It's become my living journal of sorts. And that feels amazing! Looking forward to blogging in 2013!!
  3. I was reminded that God is always in control. This is the most powerful lesson I have learned this year. I realize that when I see problems around me that are not in my control, I have no choice but to give it to God. I can pray, and try to be helpful, but at the end of the day, God is in charge. Losing my father rocked my world completely, and I am so grateful for my good friend who constantly reminded me of God's sovereignty and control. I learned that God will do things to draw us near to Him, and I admit that I was not as close as I once was to the Lord. Now, I am making it my priority to draw near to Him.
  4. I learned that people will be there for me when times are hard. I learned, albeit painfully so, that I can appreciate the loving actions of my friends and family even in the dark times of my life. Thank you to all of my family and friends who have supported and cared for me this year!!! I cannot thank you enough. From the phone calls, emails, texts, food, gifts, hugs, and conversations - I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
  5. I paid off my credit card debt!!!! For anyone who has ever paid off a debt, you know how this feels! I am glad to be on my way to being completely debt free! This will continue into 2013 as part of my financial fitness goals. This is one of my biggest accomplishments of the year, and I'm proud of it! 
  6. I took responsibility for the mess that was my finances, because I am an adult and that's what adults do. Instead of lamenting over poor financial decisions made in the past, I stopped sweeping my problem under the rug and I took charge! I reminded myself that everything I have is the Lord's and I need to be a good steward over what I have been given. I created a budget plan to save for my goals and pay off my student loans quickly. Now when I reward myself (after meeting all of my financial obligations), it truly feels like a reward -- instead of like cheating! 
  7. I learned how to cherish my "me" time again. I have learned that sacrificing my dreams will do the opposite of making me happy. I learned that sometimes the hard decisions are the right ones, no matter how much it hurts. I am trusting in God that when He brings the right man along, He will make it plain and I will know it, without having to compromise the desires that He has given me.
  8. I got more serious about my yoga practice and improving my health. The fact that I'm even calling it a practice speaks measures. I will continue to strengthen my practice in the new year.
  9. It took all year but I finally did three things that made my heart sing: I started my craft group, I made my bathroom into my private oasis, and I did a second big-chop on my hair!
  10. I started tithing again! Although I did not remain consistent throughout the year, I look forward to improving this in 2013. Reminding myself that all of what I have belongs to Him! In addition to tithing, I became an ExodusCry Partner to help fight human sex trafficking. For once, I am putting my money where my passions are.

I am so thankful for these and the other many blessings that God has given me. After reflecting on the highlights of 2012 in my last post of the year, I look forward to setting goals for 2013! I look forward to sharing those in the next week :) 
What are your reflections on 2012? Any lessons you learned or insights to share? How successful were you at meeting your goals? What helped you accomplish those goals? What are you goals for 2013?


Hey ya'll!

If you haven't heard, my sister-in-law Karen creates made-to-order diaper cakes! She has been crafting innovative diaper cakes for the past five years, and she has fresh ideas for every cake. Please support her part-time business in 2013!!!  If you have not seen her creations, you are missing out.  Please check out her page under "Crafts" on my website to see her diaper cakes come to life. You'll see a slideshow of her past diaper cakes with detailed information about what goes into each cake. You can also see more pictures on her
Facebook Page.

Do you have a friend who is expecting? Are you expecting and want to drop a hint to your friends about potential gifts? If you said yes to either question, then this is the gift for you! Karen's diaper cakes are the perfect addition to any baby shower. She will coordinate her diaper cake design with the theme of the party. Each cake comes with a toy topper, such as the one pictured above. Take her aesthetically pleasing yet functional gift for the mom-to-be! See the excitement on her face as she opens your present. For orders and pricing, please contact her at Karen is offering a special hot discount for all of my blog readers!! Please mention that you saw her diaper cakes on my blog for a 10% discount off of your first diaper cake! First time orders only. Thank you in advance for supporting her awesome talent!!!

I can't believe that 2012 will be over in a matter of days! I feel as if I blinked and the year was over. Just yesterday I was going to my 30th birthday dinner, starting yoga classes, and beginning my second school year as a college high school advisor. Now, there is frost on the ground and it's time to count down to 2013! I have not decided my plans for New Year's Eve yet, but I know that some time will be dedicated to reflection on the past year as well as planning and goal setting for the new year.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be writing on the following topics:
  • My reflections on 2012 and the lessons I've learned, 
  • My goals for 2013, including my 12 for 12 Reading List, and
  • The importance of having a support system in achieving goals.

Any topics you'd be interested in seeing on my blog? Leave a note in the comments section. Looking forward to blogging more in the new year :)

Here are 6 bloggers that I think deserve the Liebster Award! Check out part one of this post to see my responses to questions I was asked as a part of my nomination. As a recap, the Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. I think the following people are definitely deserving of this award (but I confess I am not sure how many followers they have). I will update this post with 4 additional blogger nominations as soon as possible.

Nominations: (the link is having some trouble but you can also find the writer on twitter @greythinking)

11 Questions for the Nominees

1. What's your favorite quote?

2. Do you have a superstition? What is it, why do you have it, and how do you follow it?

3. TIME Magazine just named you "Person of the Year." Why?

4. What's your favorite food?

5. How do you unwind from a stressful day?

6. What inspires you?

7. If you could invent one thing, what would it be?

8. Tell one thing noone would guess about you.

9. What's one "AHA" moment you had?

10. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

11. Give your readers one piece of advice.

*Nominees must post 11 things about themselves, answer the 11 questions I posted, and nominate 11 up and coming bloggers. Congrats and happy blogging!!
If you shop online, do not pass up this hot deal for one free year of ShopRunner membership (regularly $79!). ShopRunner gives you 2 day free shipping, no minimum purchase requirements, and free shipping on returns. Check them out here for a listing of applicable stores. The code is RUNNER and the deal is available until 12/31/2012. Get one for yourself and tell your family and friends!

Thanks Jenn for telling me about this awesome deal!! For more details you can also visit!
I cannot believe it has been over a month since my father has passed.

In the process of my healing, I have been meeting with a pastor to talk

I've learned a few things thus far.

I have learned that grief is a lot lot Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In case you are wondering, no, I am not an alcoholic. I did have to go to an AA meeting as part of my master's counseling training addictions course). It seems everyone is always comforting me with one liners such as: "take it one day at a time" and "be gentle with yourself" and "everything will be okay." Though I am grateful for the words of comfort, I can't help but think how it sounds like I may be on the 12 steps of AA. Once I let go of my grief humor (which is an awesome coping mechanism by the way), I realize that there is a certain process to grief. It's just not as clear cut. And from what I can tell, we don't get any cool coins to commemorate months of surviving the grief, as members of AA get coins to commemorate months of sobriety. 

I have also learned that death changes everything. I feel as if my world has been split into the before and after of my father's life. Plans I made prior to his passing seem frivolous now. 

Grief does terrible things to the spirit, body, and mind. Stress is an interesting thing. And by that I mean I hate it. My pastor said that it is my turn to experience this grief. The funny thing is that in this difficult thing called grief, I have received such an outpouring of love from my family and friends. I realized that were I not in this crisis, It's funny how that works out.

The only thing I have learned about grief, so far, is that it is far from good. But it really does take one day at a time.
Lord, so many of us are grieving the loss of a loved one during this holiday season. Thank you for friends and loved ones who care for us during our time of grief. Please continue to shine Your light into our darkness, just as You did when Christ was born. Amen.
Thanks to my awesome fellow blogger Sara at Fake It Til You Make It, I have been nominated for the Liebster "Up and Coming Blogger" Award! I'm so excited and honored to be nominated :) Here are the rules: Nominees must tell 11 things about themselves, answer 11 questions, then nominate 11 bloggers and ask them 11 questions of their own. Sounds like a lot but I think it's just a big part of the "getting to know you" game. Blogs must have 200 or fewer subscribers. So what are we waiting for - let's get this party started!

11 Things About Me....

1. When I was born, there were 8/9 feet of snow on the ground in Memphis. I don't think this has happened since.
2. I have a weird food thing. I eat raw fruit (apples, cherries, peaches, etc.) but I won't eat baked fruit (apple pie, cherry pie, peach cobbler, etc.). I know it sounds weird but I am NOT a fan of mushy fruit. Just a weird quirk I have.
3. I love Christmas music. Any ol' time of the year :)
4. My dream is to have a massive library in my home one day. Judging by my overflowing bookcase, table, dresser, lamp stand, and bed, I am well on my way.
5. I quote random movies, at random times, often to myself. I can guarantee most people usually don't get my references though. What can I say, I'm a tad eccentric.
6. Apparently I'm a long-winded writer.
7. I like to look up words I don't know. Like Liebster, which apparently is German for "favorite." My favorite new word: mesalliance. Thanks,
Downton Abbey.
8. I love all the Harry Potter movies.
9. I enjoy karaoke but I'm always nervous when I do it! I always want to sing ABBA's Super Trouper (which I tend to forget while I am there) or Gladys Knight's Midnight Train to Georgia LOL.
10. One of my favorite quotes comes from Their Eyes Were Watching God. "Janie's first dream was dead, so she became a woman."
11. I write (but rarely share) poetry.
My 11 Questions

1. Did any blogs inspire me to start blogging? Yes! I started a blog a couple of years ago but I didn't really commit to it, so neglected it was. Recently, I was re-inspired to blog by Sara at Fake It Till You Make It. Thanks for being my blogging inspiration Sara!!
2. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
Hands down, my 
dream trip is to Italy! When I was in high school, my art teacher took us on an  
outing. At the end of the day she gave us a treat - we each got to choose 
one poster to take home with us for inspiration. I chose a beautiful
panoramic photo of Venice. Since that day, I have dreamt of taking that
gondola ride. I want to visit other places in Italy (and the world), but
this is my #1 dream spot.
3. Imagine you have 1 million dollars that has to be given away to one person. Who would that be? My mom of course :) Do you mean other than my mom? Maybe I would give the money all to myself - then I could choose to divide it between all my favorite charities - the church, American Diabetes Association, St. Jude, and Ronald McDonald House Charities. Probably become a sponsor for Generation Hope Scholars. After all, 'tis better to give.
4. What is your favorite movie?
Don't have just one. Top of the list: King Arthur, Nanny McPhee, The Count of Monte Cristo, and of course all the Harry Potter Movies!
5. What is your dream job?
I would love Samantha Brown's job. She gets to  travel to some beautiful places, see historic places, take off the beaten path tours, and report back on luxurious hotel stays! And let's not forget the food. What's not to love?!
6. What is your favorite holiday song? Carol of the Bells.
7. Have you ever had a celebrity crush? Always! Idris Elba, Clive  Owen
8. Salty or sweet? Sweet...unless it's sweet and salty popcorn :)
9. What is your favorite band/artist?
Like the movies, I can't name just one! I love Maroon 5, Katy Perry (no judgment lol), and Ray LaMontagne (have you heard his voice?!)
10. What are you currently reading?
Aside from O Magazine, right now I'm taking it light on reading. The next book I plan to read is Drawing the Circle: 40 Day Prayer Challenge, written by my Pastor Mark Batterson.
11. How has writing a blog helped you personally? 
I'm still new at this but so far it has helped me forge a path to a possible writing career. Some days I think, I want to write something grand that everyone will love. Today I have decided. Writing this blog, is going to be just for me. I may end up with 100 readers or none. But it will be for me, come what may.

So, there you have it! Next post I will nominate 11 Up and Coming Bloggers as well as ask them 11 questions of my own.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years. - Audrey Hepburn
I was inspired to write by my father in the summer of my ninth grade year. I was headed off to a summer program in Tennessee called The Governor's School for the Humanities at UT Martin. It was my first summer away from home. I remember going into a store with my parents and picking up a journal. My dad told me that writing would help me to remember things that happened in my life. That I could look back, remember, and reflect upon the things I had done. Needless to say, I picked up a pen and started writing, and it opened up a new world for me. I didn't know then about the therapeutic and healing qualities writing would have for me. Although I may not write everyday, I always come back to it. It always comes back to the pen and the paper. I have journals upon journals that chronicle my life stories. Some parts I read again. Others I try to forget. But I know that I will always have those memories with me. Is a memoir in the works? Maybe one day in the future but for now they are my private treasures.

After years of journaling, I am now attempting to grow my writing into this blog and website. I am a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn. Not just of her movies, but of her humanitarian efforts. You will probably see more of her awesome quotes on these pages. Like the quote above, I wish to share my passions with you, my readers. I am passionate about so many things - writing, reading, crafting, couponing, natural hair care and more. I am also interested in healthy living as I try to improve my own health. I'm looking forward to the dialogue about these topics as well as the action that will stem from them. Like my father and Audrey Hepburn have inspired me, I hope to inspire you through this space. Welcome to La Mia Passione.
And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. - Habakkuk 2:2 (KJV).