you say goodbye, i say hello. {alternatively titled: part 3 or 1.5 (not exactly sure) of an extremely long post. sighs of relief that this is the last one}

2011 was a year of extreme highs and lows and a lot of the in-between. I floated on clouds, drowned a littlerefused to drown, lived months in a daze and found happiness in the strangest places at the most perfect moments. And really, this is how every year should be spent, with joy and heartbreak and love and much-needed hugs. Watching cheesy/wonderfully addicting TV shows, screaming and giggling swooning like schoolgirls. Playing board games with your roommates, alternating between hating your opponents for “sorry-ing” you and laughing at how seriously you all take this game. The highest of the high, when you lie warm in bed at night, unable to fall asleep out of wonder at how lucky you are. The lowest of the low when you break down sobbing to your best friends about your worries for the future and the fears that you’ll never be where you want to be in life, only to have them pick you back up and remind you that happiness is a choice, not a goal, and that if you really want something, you must make it happen.
I'll admit I wasn’t exactly happy much of the time this year, but looking back I see that this was actually a pretty good year. There is no way in hell I would do it over again.
But there is no way in hell I would take it back either.
So I’m saying goodbye to the last year of my life and turning my face toward the possibilities of the next. I’m so excited for all the huge adventures and little moments to come.


aaaaaaaand, while i'm at it (living, that is)... {alternatively titled: the more cheerful, less intense 2nd part of an extremely long post}

{Rejected alternative title: this in no way takes away from the soaring declarations of part 1 but instead adds to my decision to live life instead of writing about it. even though i am still writing about it as seen here in the following post. but this is more for documentation, because i'm nothing if not an obsessive note-making, journal-hoarding type A. which is not a bad thing, so don't give me that look, people.}

There are a few wishes I do have for next year. The French make wishes, not resolutions, and I think this is perfect. Instead of changing yourself and your life, wish for experiences, because those are the important things. So here are some hopes for what’s to come.
I wish to hug my family more and just be content to be with them. And to watch our new set of Blu-Ray extended edition Lord of the Rings movies before I leave for England {oh yes}. And to give my dog a bath before I leave, too, just to make sure my family loves her lots while I’m gone {because right now they’re too put out by the smell}
I wish to paint my nails more and worry about my hair less {I have a feeling the England weather won’t be very nice to it anyway}. And to learn to live off of a very limited clothing supply, because I’m not lugging a ton of luggage around Europe for my month-long spring break…
I wish to see the Mona Lisa and the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower, but I don’t want that to be my focus or my goal. Instead I wish to just enjoy the little things of European, to fall in love with the cultures and the food and the people. I don’t want to be a tourist. I think more than anything I want to both be an observer and a participatant in any authentic way I can…
I wish to climb to the very top of Notre Dame to see the skyline from the very heart of Paris and to know enough French {read: at least a few phrases} so I don’t completely embarrass myself. While I’m there I want days filled with pastries and baguettes and lots and lots of olive oil {which I will subsequently work off by climbing to the top of Notre Dame}, and city lights and cobblestone streets and a room with a view {any view, really, I’m not too picky}. Oh, and I want to like wine. I really do, and I’m working on it, but I think I’ll feel a little classless until I do…
I wish to meet new and interesting people, people I will remember for the rest of my life. I want to interact with them, to travel with them, to expand my outlook with them. I want to be friends with them. I want the experience of being forced into a strange and foreign culture to force me out of my comfort zone. I want to ask people to tell me their stories, where they’ve been and what they’ve seen and how they’ve felt. I want to learn from them
I wish to be smitten with a certain city and a certain new summer job. I wish to love what I do and love who I do it with. I wish to go out on the weekend by myself and just explore and not take for granted the beautiful summer weather and to go to the markets and parks and outdoor concerts and to exercise off the weight I will inevitably gain in Europe. But I don’t want to be obsessed with exercising. I just want to feel healthy, because when I’m healthy, I’m happy
And I wish to make the most out of my senior year, and to spend as much time with my friends as possible, to hold on to them while I can, before we all go our separate ways. And I wish to apply for grad school and to not worry so much about my future but trust myself to figure it out as I go along…
And above all I wish for happiness, for my family and my friends and even the strangers that I meet on the year’s journey. And of course I wish happiness to all of you as well.
So a metaphorical toast to us all.
 And to 2012.
And to all of life to come.

life is there, it's just waiting for you to see it {or, alternatively titled: part 1 of an extremely long post}

I am going to admit it. I absolutely suck at keeping my New Years resolutions. Every year, I’ll choose one or two things that I am definitelygoingtodo during the year, and inevitably every year this lasts for about six or seven days. I don’t know why I can’t seem to stick with anything. I always have so many grand ideas, but what I believe is my biggest character flaw is that I often lack the drive and attention to make my ideas a reality. I am always flitting around from one thing to the next, rarely grounding myself enough to breathe and reassess and reaffirm. The last few years I’ve kind of accepted this fact, and I’ve neglected to make New Years resolutions at all, instead just repeating a mantra that I’ll make this year the best year of my life.
But this ends now.
Lately I’ve been writing about lofty goals of changing myself this next year, letting go of my inhibitions and going on adventures that I have been dreaming of since discovering the magic of stories {which I’m pretty sure occurred while I was in the womb}. And the more I talk about it, the more ridiculous I’ve realized it is. Why do I always talk about changing myself? Why do I always talk about being so excited to finally live? I am living. I am alive, and every second I talk about something instead of doing it is a second wasted. Why should my goal be to truly live next year when I should be doing that every moment of every day?
It’s not New Years yet. And really, what is New Years anyway? It’s just another day of my life. So starting now, at this exact moment, I am going to be me. I don’t want to change myself. I want to let my life’s experiences change me and shape me and add to me. I’m just lucky that I have so many opportunities coming up to help me along. I don’t want my semester abroad to be an adventure. I want my life to be an adventure. And it’s hit me that I can’t just have a goal for the next year. This has to be a life-long revolution.
So yeah, that’s it. That’s my resolution, not for 2012 but just for myself. I am going to stop waiting to live and just live. Because that’s all I can really do. Sure, I may slip into melancholia now and again, but that’s part of life. I just don’t want to wake up an old woman to find that I’ve been wishing my life away since I was a little girl. I want to live and I want to be happy about it. I want to stop looking forward for life to start and see that it actually started 21 years ago and has just been waiting for me to realize it.
So here’s to new resolutions. And here’s to all life to come.

And here's to part 2, in which I stop with the existential rant and actually say my real wishes for the next year...

out of the blue.

Lately the thought of moving to New York City after graduation has been so dauntingAlone in a new city, somehow managing to pay for grad school, finding a job, figuring out how to afford to live {on an editors salary} in one of the most expensive places in the United States, if not the world...

And of course, there's this crippling guilt I can't shake, because I know that it will all but kill my parents to let me go.

And then I stumbled across this picture.

This picture means absolutely nothing to anyone else, but for me it is hope. It is joy. It is comfort.

It is belonging.

I took this on my very first night in New York City. I had no idea how to take a photo at night, as you can obviously see, but it is the emotion behind this photo that really grips me. That night, I twirled around starry-eyed on the pavement, barely able to keep my feet on the ground, because New York City at night is the most wonderous, breathtaking, insane, oppressive, magical sight I have ever seen. And I fit. 

Everything within me clicked. This moment was the moment when I knew I would come back to the city, that I would chase after my naive dreams despite the real threat of destruction.

This picture reminds me that somehow, someway, everything will be okay.

In the face of all my fears and doubts and worries and guilt, this dream is worth fighting for.


correction: NOW i am the luckiest girl.

It was the most splendid holiday I could have asked forMore on Christmas later.

And I have to say, I definitely have the best family and friends in the entire world. On the morning of my birthday, they all surprised me with {mimosas and} a trip to Kansas City to go shopping and stay overnight in a hotel on the Plaza. It was absolutely the best birthday I have ever had and could ever ask for.

After lunch at the Cheesecake Factory {or really, after a salad and LEMON RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE} and shopping on the Plaza {H&M, hello my pretty} with three of my best friends, we checked in to our suite {yes, suite, there were actual veranda-esque doors separating the bedroom from the living room}. Then we dressed up fancy and my entire family met McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, where we had our own room and I had the most fabulous mahi-mahi I've ever tasted {and maybe ever will taste...}. Aaaaaand perhaps a chocolate martini. I mean, come on. It was my 21st birthday

I have to admit, I was so blown over by everything that I completely forgot to take pictures. Luckily, Beth was prepared {as always} with her camera. So all birthday scenes brought to you by her.

We forgot to bring candles. So my 21st birthday wish was courtesy of a pocket lighter
But I think this way actually works better. It guarantees my birthday wish comes true, because there's no way I could blow out 21 candles.
I'm getting old.

And then, oh yeah, after supper, my mom had one more surprise. 
A limo ride.
Not. Joking.

I think my family was expecting us paint the town {or at least make a stop at the liquor store}. I must say, though, my friends and I are absolutely awful at being young adults. Instead of raving, we took off our painful high heels and rode around Kansas City for two hours gawking at the mansions and Christmas lights, giggling and talking about the economy and proper pronunciations and our futures, and all the while measuring the size of the mansion by how many cats could fit comfortably inside {because our topics of conversation on my 21st birthday have officially doomed us all to a life of spinsterdom}.

At least we'll be spinsters together.

I think I can speak for everybody when I say that this display was by far our favorite.

And then we went back in the hotel and jumped on the beds.

We are party animals.

I truly love these ladies, to the far side of Pluto and back. They are the most amazing friends, and they get me in ways that I don't think anyone else ever will. As excited as I  am to study abroad, I will be just as excited to come back and be reunited with them again. I never had a sister growing up, but I know these girls will be there for me no matter what, without complaint and without judgment. They will always be on my side. 

They are my sisters.

It was a perfect, perfect day.

The perfect start to what could be one of the best years of my life.


i am the luckiest girl.

So my mother has been buying me these paintings for my bedroom. We didn't talk about it or plan it this way, but we've somehow settled on a traveling theme. Right now I have three paintings on my wall: London, New York and Paris, and my mother just found one for Rome, as well. And as she was telling me this, we both realized...

In the period of one year, I will have been to all of these places.

You guys, by next May I will be a cultured world traveler. And then I run away to St. Paul for the summer. How unbelievable is that??? Six months ago I had never been to any of these cities, and six months from now I will have been to all of them. I just can't believe how luckyluckylucky I am, I really can't. I love the traveling life.

And for Christmas my mother got me the most gorgeous leather journal, the perfect size to fit in a tiny travel bag and traipse across the countryside and document my adventures. 
Oh my stars, there is so much in store for me this year.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope it was the best of Christmases and that you all were filled with that warm mushy feeling you're supposed to have on Christmas. It really was a wonderful holiday this year. 

I'm so so excited for my birthday tomorrow, and I'm so so excited for next semester, and I'm so so excited for my life in a way that I haven't been in a while. And it feels good, guys. 
It feels really good.


this is not really a blog post.

Just wanted to share with you my favorite piece of art in the entire world.

You're welcome.

Merry Christmas, guys!

Brought to you by the St. Louis Museum.


so i will be 21 in three days...

Okay, so I know I posted about freaking out about my 21st birthday, because this is it. This is the last big birthday until I'm 30 {an age I am definitely not able to contemplate right now. I think that can wait a while}. It's just that after this, I really do have to be an adult. Throughout this next year I'll be going off on my own into this gigantic void of uncertainty and possibility. So you have to understand why the thought of my 21st was just an eensy bit terrifying. 

But that's just it.

Now that the time has arrived and in a few days I'll be 21, I've suddenly realized I'm not so scared anymore. I'm ready.

I'm ready for this year, I'm ready for the adventures I've been longing to have since I was a little girl. I'm ready to be on my own, to see if I can hold my own weight, to see if I am as strong as I hope I am.

I'm ready.

I have absolutely no idea what my 21st year will bring, but something tells me it will be the best year I've ever had. And I'm determined to make sure that it is. Maybe I've given up chances before, chances that I should have taken and to hell what everyone else thought. But now, after everything, I know I'm getting another chance. To prove to myself that I can do things right. That I can handle myself. That I'm capable of living for myself for once instead of floating and latching on to whatever comes by.

I have another chance, and I cannot allow myself to float this year.

I know it's more customary to make New Years Resolutions than Birthday Resolutions. But hey, this year I think I'll make both. And really, there's only one phrase I know I must promise to live by for my 21st year. 

So Carpe diem
This year, I'll remember.
And this will be a year to remember.


um, excuse me...

But when did it get to be December 22? I'm still stuck at Halloween. I don't know where the time has gone. But oh, you guys, how I LOVE this season! 
{although I may be a teensy tiny bitty bit bitter about the seriously severe lack of snow so far...}

Look how cute my melting marshmallow-sugar-cookie snowmen are! At first, I took a more traditional approach, as you can see, but he doesn't look like he's melting. Or, at least, he's melting really really gracefully. But my second attempt is when I really hit gold. He has a droopy mouth, his scarf is wonky, his buttons are sliding off {and he has snow hat that got a bit flattened, I think}. 

Christmas snuck up on me this year. I was so busy worrying about finals and study abroad that I haven't really had time to sit back and enjoy the Christmas season. 

Which sucks.

So a night decorating [what I swear felt like hundreds of] sugar cookies with some of my best friends was exactly what I needed to get myself in the Christmas spirit. Just in time, I guess. 

But seriously, you guys. Everyone should make melting marshmallow-sugar-cookie snowmen. It's super easy and super fun, and after you spend some time and decorate a couple really nicely, then you can just go crazy. We were literally not able to decorate all the cookies we had.

Which is what led to that little beauty below...

And I'll be making even more sugar cookies with my family on Saturday.

I love Christmas.

And I really love cookies.

So yeah, I can't claim the pleasure of creating the ax-murdered, broken-armed, blood-vomiting snowman. I guess for him it snowed too close to Halloween this year. 

But a little secret? I think he's my favorite.


oh the possibilities.

My dears, I am done.


Done with schoolwork, done with finals. I survived the last three weeks.

Sighs of relief all around. 

Now all that awaits me is excitement and adventures in a country where wearing UGGs with a skirt would be looked upon with horrorOr really, just wearing UGGs in general.

Please, English folk, live up to this stereotype I have of you. Don't let me down. I just can't look at those monstrosities for another winter.


guys, i had a really good week.

If you ignore the actual school and work stuff. 

Which I usually do. And am choosing to do this week so they won't get in the way of my really good week.

Because, guys?


In St. Paul, Minnesota!!

I'm going to be a copy editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and it's going to be crazy weird hours and tons of work and I am ridiculously ridiculously excited. 
And that has nothing to do with the fact that the Mall of America is RIGHT THERE. 
Nothing at all.

Of course, I literally leave the day after I come back from England, so I'm probably going to be a jet-lagged zombie for the first week.
But hey, I can't exactly complain about going straight from Europe to one of the coolest cities in the Midwest.

Just saying.


My family and I decorated the house a few days ago, a ritual that mainly consists of my dad struggling to get the Christmas tree up without getting needles in his eyes, my mother and brother putting up decorations willy-nilly around the living room, while I follow behind them and move the decorations to their "rightful place."
It's quite a sacred tradition to me.
I've always loved real Christmas trees, especially ours. It's an eclectic mix of blinking strands of lights {only 1/3 of which are actually lit}, plastic strings of beads, dollar-store bulbs and homemade decorations {the very best kind}, all paired with a pine-fresh scent that screams Christmas to the core.

Next week is finals, so I will be incredibly busy with last-minute cramming {because why do things now when you can do them later?} Therefore, I doubt I'll post again until Friday, unless something incredible happens {such as me winning a shopping spree ever so conveniently at the Mall of America}.

Happy holidays, all, and I'll see you soon!


because it's...

Ladies Night at the Newspaper!

And also tacky Christmas sweater night. 

And awesome potluck night. {Never fear. I brought the peppermint bark.}

And, of course, listen-to-Christmas-music-for-8-hours-or-until-you-puke-(whichever-comes-first) night!

I must say, I may miss this a little next semester...


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