Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve 2015

Welcome back, dear readers!

It's been an entire year since I've bothered to update my blog, so let's get right to it. 

If I had to pick one word to describe 2015 for me, I would say "substantial". 

Early in the year, I made good on last year's New Year's Eve declaration that I would move back into my own place.   Although I moved back to Pittsburgh with the intent to buy within a short time of my return, the very idea quickly became overwhelming and even a bit impractical.  I only really knew the northern suburbs where I grew up, and hadn't really explored different city neighborhoods well enough to know where I wanted to live permanently, so I changed my tactic and decided to take time to get to know the area better and go back to renting.   I went looking for an apartment the way I've always done it for the last 8 years: Craigslist.  Yes, people still use that site!  I have a strong aversion to apartment complexes, but fortunately for me, Pittsburgh has a plethora of single and multi-family homes on offer, and on the very first day of my search, I found a duplex in a fantastic neighborhood that is very walkable and within an easy commuting distance of my office downtown.  For almost the same price as what I was paying in San Diego, it has well over twice the space and I even have my own washer and dryer like a real grown-up!  Starting back over from scratch in terms of furnishing and decorating an apartment has been challenging but fun, and I really like the way it's shaping up.   

Following a painul breakup in the Spring, I started to focus on a couple of different things as a way to cope.  But before I get into those, I'd like to thank everyone who saw me through the aftermath of the early days.   My natural cat-like tendencies are to crawl into a hole alone to die when I'm faced with a tough emotional situation, but I knew I couldn't get through this one alone, and I was right. 

So, this is what I've been up to in 2015. 

#1. Dancing the Blues Away 

After I left my old dance studio and then started grad school a year later, I went on "sabbatical" from belly dancing.  I use that term in quotes because it's not like I was a professional or anything.  At the time that I stopped dancing, I realized that not only did I not have time for it, but I just didn't have the passion for it either.  I knew that I would always go back when I was ready, though, so I hung onto a few costumes and all of my props.  Well, in April that spark came back!  I picked up a search for local dance teachers and found a studio not too far from my work area that had regular classes in a style that I was familiar with, and also did troupe performances.  I showed up for a class the following week, and I felt welcomed immediately.  To say that returning to dancing did me good was an understatement.   Within a few months, my glorious foot callouses returned--a badge of honor among bellydancers--and I was even performing with the troupe.  I've taken lessons with several different area teachers now, and have delighted in learning new techniques and being challenged in styles and movements that weren't in my repertoire.  I've also gained a greater appreciation for the foundational training that I did have, because a lot of things came back in muscle memory, even if my stamina wasn't where it once was.  It's felt amazing physically, but as any dancer can tell you, the emotional benefits are also immense.  Sometimes in those early weeks, the couple hours I spent in the studio were the only break that I got from constantly thinking about my ex.  One of the women I took a workshop with said something once that really stuck with me, "No matter what else is going on in your life, dance is always there for you."  I'm so grateful for everyone that I have been dancing with, and I look forward to continue dancing with you into the new year! 

Gypsy skirts are magic

#2 Literally, Back to the Drawing Board

I used to draw all the time when I was a kid, and carried it well into my adolescence.  I've still got stacks of old sketch books, copies of school concert programs that I designed, heck, even a pen and ink sketch that won me a  ribbon in a drawing contest and hung in the halls of one of my old elementary schools until I went back and retrieved it as an adult.  (To be honest, I just wanted to SEE it, and the front office staff insisted that I take it with me. Haha, were they just tired of looking at the thing?)  I even started out in college as a fashion design major.   I rather quickly realized that I didn't want to make a career of it, and my desire to draw dwindled to the point where I only did it for class assignments.  Ever since then, I was relegated to the occasional doodle and that was about it.  Around the same time that I went looking for the dance lessons, I also bought myself a little sketch book and a set of colored pencils and set about doing a 30 Day Drawing Challenge that I found on Instagram.  It was a bit rough going at first, and there were definitely days when I didn't feel like drawing, but by the time I finished, I was so happy to have reclaimed my artistic side.  I've even given a few drawings as gifts to friends and family this year.  This year for Christmas, I asked for my Secret Santa to give me coloring books, and she delivered not only on that, but a sweet set of all kinds of drawing tools--chalk, markers, oil pastels!  I've never even worked with that last one before, so I'm looking forward to starting to experiment with it soon. 
30 Day Drawing Challenge 1-16

30 Day Drawing Challenge 17-30

#3 Kept on Travelin' 

My perennial travel buddy, Tina, and I had been planning a return to Europe together for awhile now.  I don't rightly recall how we landed on London and Paris, but I'm glad we did because even though I had been to both cities before, it was for such a brief visit that I wanted to return and get deeper into them.  This trip deserves its own post, as my Eurotrips usually get, but, eh, I was busy when I got back.  Or lazy.  Both.  It was less frenetic than our 6-states-in-10-days tour of New England in 2014, but still pretty packed for two major cities in a little less than two weeks.  In this trip, I learned that I am as madly in love with London as ever, and that those French lessons that I took for 3 months after my first trip to Paris actually paid off pretty nicely.  I was able to order most meals entirely in French, which is generally my  measure of success when traveling abroad, haha!  I also decided that if I'm going to visit more than one big city in the same trip again, I'll either take more time in them, or try to actually stick to one country and only one major city, but also see more of the lesser-known areas.  As fun as it was, I was exhausted when I got back home!  Of course, I say that, and then I've already started planning a multi-city tour of Scandinavia for my 35th birthday... 
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

#4 Wormed Through Books 

I was a total bookworm when I was younger.  When I changed my undergrad major from fashion design to English Literature, guess what other  joy got sucked out of me?  That's right: reading for pleasure all but went out the window after that.  It didn't go quite so far away as drawing did. I can say that I did become quite the library junkie for several years that I lived in San Diego, but by and large, I stopped reading with much consistency for much of my adult life.  After the breakup, I started with an embarrassingly large stack of relationship books, including Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.  Don't judge.  I was in a low place.  When I was done going through all of those, that gave way to books on financial planning.  I opened up a Roth IRA.  I re-balanced my budget.  I paid off some old debts.  As of this morning, I re-financed my graduate student loans.  And then when I was satisfied with all that reading for hard knowledge and self-improvement, I simply glided back into for-pleasure endeavors. 

ere are my Top 3 favorite books from the year, not necessarily in ranked order.

  1. Born With Teeth, a memoir by Kate Mulgrew.   I swallowed it whole.  This woman was born for drama.
  1. It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single by Sara Eckel.  She was like the older sister I never had who sat me down for some no-B.S. talk and made me see that  finding meaningful love in life is mostly just timing and luck and nothing is wrong with a person just because they are of  "a certain age"  and single.
  1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I was as crazy about Eat.Pray.Love. as the rest of the basics of the world (p.s. I'm not really basic), but I really began to fall in mad love with Liz Gilbert when I read this book because it's all about working with your creative side, which, as I already wrote, was a big thing for me this year.
This is a LOT of cat for one lap

Other goings-on this year included my acceptance of a volunteer trainer position with my sorority, and I co-organized and attended a 10 year reunion for my chapter's senior class.  I had a visit from my favorite German friend and his sister and got to play tour guide to my lovely city. There have been many great get-togethers with my friends, some of which are rapidly becoming annual traditions.  I saw all four of my Best Friends this year, which is a big deal because two of them live in other states.  

I recently took a different position at my company and effectively changed careers, one that its interesting and challenges me, and that I can see leading to great things.  I adopted a couple of cats that came from different homes, and, mercifully, are getting along pretty darn well. 

In Sum... 

Life has been good.  In the coming year, I mostly just want to keep going on an upward trajectory with the things that I've been doing and maybe get another passport stamp.

And now, off to claim my glass of champagne.  Happy New Year!