Sunday, August 28, 2011

What's in YOUR mailbox?

I'm not one to make a big deal about my own good fortune, but the mail I have been receiving lately is so outstanding that I feel the need to gloat share just a little.

First, I received some postcard love from Lee (who lives in Canada), over at Defining Me, in exchange for one my stitched postcards:
In the front is an original postcard, with many fabulous layers of collage and paint, while in the back is a postcard print, which Lee used for writing her  message to me.  Many thanks to Lee for sharing her personal style and her art with me!

Christel (who lives in the Netherlands) and I also decided to do a swap.  When I found her blog, I discovered that #1) I couldn't read a word of it, and #2) she had done one of the projects from Jason Thompson's Playing with Books--so she is a kindred spirit in any language!

Here is what Christel shared with me, in exchange for a stitched postcard:
She included mail art envelopes, interesting papers, and stickers for me to use in my own art journaling and projects.  Many thanks to Christel for sharing her mail art, and giving me some new "raw materials"!

Recently, I discovered the blog of F.M. (who lives in Germany), over at La Wendula.  She creates the most wonderful collages, finds amazing historical papers and ephemera for her work, and hosts a frequent paper swap that I am going to participate in this September. 

In a recent post, she created a "Nonsense book" from vintage library cards she received from a friend who works in a library.  When I commented on how great they looked, and how difficult they are to come by here in the U.S., she was kind enough to send me a stack of them!  I love that generosity of spirit that "shares the wealth" with like-minded individuals.  Now I have to find something fun and interesting to send her way in return!

And finally (Can you believe there's more!  I told you, it's been an amazing couple of weeks for mail!), I visited the blog of Karenann, a collage artist (who lives in Arizona) who makes the most wonderful Rolodex card collages.  I bought an "old-school" Rolodex a couple of months ago, and have begun dabbling in some collages, but was having trouble cutting out the indentations where the card fits into the Rolodex itself.  In a comment to Karenann's blog, I asked her what her technique is for getting such neat cuts.  She didn't just answer me; check out what she sent:
In a beautifully decorated envelope, she sent me a six page letter, describing not only how she cuts the holes in her cards, but also her preferences for adhesives, tips for caring for scissors and punches, and tricks for punching through papers of varying thicknesses and painting on glossy surfaces.  Additionally, she sent me a Rolodex card to use as a template for punching holes AND an original piece of Rolodex art that she created just for me!  I can't even tell you what an unexpected treat her package was for me.

I've said it before, the very best thing about maintaining a blog is the relationships that develop as people come to visit mine or I go to visit theirs.  Having mail arrive at  my house from Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and the other side of the US would be highly unlikely if I didn't have this online artistic community to enjoy.  So in the spirit of gloating sharing, I ask you:

What's in YOUR mailbox?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Fun Update: Excursions!

With a hurricane bearing down on my region, I thought I'd reminisce about the summer fun I've been having with my girls, specifically some of the places we've gone over the past few months to get out of the house.

Back in May, I followed the example of Tammy (of Daisy Yellow) and created a list of summer activities and excursions that might entertain the girls and I over the summer months.  I have been careful not to consider it a checklist, with the attending pressure to complete every item, but rather to see it more as a menu of options. 
Whenever the days started moving a little slow, or there was nothing on the calendar for yet another day, I would go back to my journal spread and see if there wasn't something to spark a good plan for the afternoon.

On another day, I'll post some of the art and crafts projects we worked on.  For now, I'll share some of our excursions:
We took the girls to the Disney store for four Saturdays in a row to enjoy a half-hour of activities related to the release of Cars 2.  They are nowhere near ready to sit in a movie theater, or to handle a spy show (even if it IS a cartoon), but they had fun with the in-store activities related to their two favorite "movie stars", Lightning McQueen and Mater the Tow Truck.

We took the girls to the Delaware Museum of Natural History for their Turtle Travels exhibit.  Bayla still talks about it, only she calls it the "turtle bazibit"!  She would love to go back, but it sure wasn't much to see from an adult's perspective!

  July 4th brought a local parade.

We enjoyed a couple of kiddie concerts at the zoo, before walking around to enjoy the animal exhibits.  I loved sitting out on the blanket, watching the bands, and enjoying a picnic lunch in the shade.  But Katy asked me, "Could we come back to the zoo, and NOT hear the music?"  Guess she's not a fan of concerts yet!
Though, doesn't she look like she's having fun?
Bayla likes to put on Mommy's sunglasses...all by herself.  Can you tell?

We took a great road trip to Kentucky to visit my mom.  I have a great photo of the girls playing out back in a plastic kiddie pool, naked as jaybirds, but decided it probably wasn't appropriate for world-wide exposure!

We took the girls to the American Helicopter Museum.  The girls were fascinated to climb up in some of the copters on display, but they were pretty quick to want to climb back out again.  They've seen so many helicopters in their books and way up in the sky; I think it was hard to reconcile that understanding of "helicopter" with these huge things on display at the museum.

We went to Longwood Gardens, and explored some new areas we had never visited before, as well as enjoying all their favorite fountains and the Children's Garden.

We visited their "Marmar" out in Kennett Square and enjoyed lunch out after church to celebrate her birthday.
The girls participated in a May-pole dance at the
Enchanted Gardens of Winterthur.  Bayla is wearing her
fairy wings for the occasion.

And there were other excursion, where we did not bring out the camera:  library storytimes, music class, the shopping mall, the book store, the craft store, the pet store (a BIG fan favorite), playdates at friends' homes, backyard picnics, and visits to various playgrounds.

Sometimes it feels like things run a little slow when I'm "home all day with the kids."  It doesn't hurt to put together a little retrospective like this post to realize just what a good time we really manage to have!

What was YOUR favorite summer excursion from the past three months?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Finishing Up My Journal In the Sun

Though the sun is still blazing hot, and kids around here still aren't back to school, there is a definite sense that summer is drawing to a close.  And with it, Natalie Malik is bringing an end to her art journaling eCourse, "In the Sun." 

I went back to create a cover for my journal after completing most of the prompts:
{paper tape, acrylic-painted paper, magazine image, rub-on, stickers}

Here are some of the final pages I completed by following her journaling prompts:
{Dream job:  travel writer for a magazine, one summer only, please.}
{Positive changes I've made this summer: 
they definitely include starting my Happiness Project!}
{Favorite memory of the summer:  Road trip to see my mom in Kentucky...who knew I could drive for so long?!}
{What can I do to make next summer better?  This one has been great;
I want to remember the benefits of planning some activities and
excursions ahead of time, so I have the same kind of "menu" of
options to pick from next time around.}
{Resolutions Re-Vamp:  Natty wanted us to look back at our 2011 resolutions to see what we wanted to update and change...I couldn't even find where I had written them!}
{Resolutions Re-Vamp continued:  I made some new resolutions,
focused on the month of August.  This list came pre-Happiness Project,
but most of them still stand.}
{Natty asked us, "What would you do with five more minutes in your day?"  I decided to respond to, "What CAN you do with five more minutes?" and brainstormed as many things as I could think of as I made this page.}

There are a few more blank pages in my journal, and a few more prompts I haven't responded to yet, so I imagine I will do just a little more work before I put this journal to rest. 

I have appreciated "In the Sun" as my first try at an eCourse, and I've seen the pluses and the minuses involved in me trying to follow prompts created by someone else for the creation of my journal.  I've also seen the pluses and the minuses of my own self-created parameters--a smaller book size, mainly dry media, quick page creation instead of laboring for fancy lettering and that sort of thing. 

And I already have in mind my next creative eCourse to take...but more about that later!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Creative Neuroses

I try very hard not to pass my various neuroses along to my children, who are currently 2- and 3-years old.  Sadly, I fail.  Often.

And sadder still, my failings often revolve around arts and crafts time.  Case in point:  Our first foray into painting this morning.
I have collected all kinds of acrylic and poster paints, with the intention of introducing my girls to the fun and wonder of painting.  But then I continually put off the Big Day because of my fear of absolute mayhem and messiness.
Yesterday I finally let on that we would paint today.  At 7:30 this morning, the girls began to pester me to paint.  I planned to do it SOMETIME today, and I saw no good reason to put it off, so I bit the bullet and pulled out dollar store paint pots, small paintbrushes, and fresh white paper. 

The girls were still in their pajamas, but I put their aprons on and set them up in their booster seats at the breakfast table, with the usual vinyl “crafting tablecloth” in place.  
My three-year-old took one look at the paint pots (all the colors of the rainbow, mind you!) and started complaining that there wasn’t enough paint.  It’s never a good sign when Art Time starts off with a lecture on gratitude and being happy with what you’ve got!  The whining continued when the dinky little paintbrush couldn’t stand up to her vigorous “paint scrubbing.”  Note to self, beware of inferior supplies sold at the dollar store.  “Going cheap” really doesn’t do anyone any favors!
Once the painting got underway, Neurotic Mommy entered the building.  On the one hand, I’m telling my older daughter, the “neat freak”:  “Paints are messy!  That’s part of the fun!”  On the other hand, I’m telling my younger daughter, the “messy one”:  “Try not to touch your face so much.  You’re getting paint everywhere.  No, no, don’t spill the cup of water.  Let me roll up your sleeves so you don’t get paint on your pajamas.”
My girls won’t ever need to take a Psych. class;  they have a real-life, honest-to-goodness example of split personality at their own art table!

When my older daughter finally got over her concerns that there wasn’t enough paint, and the paintbrush wasn’t getting clean enough in the water cup, and the paint was going where she wanted it to on the page, she set her paper aside, and started scooping globs of paint directly into her rinsing cup and swirling it around.
My first reaction—joykill that I seemed intent on being—was to say things like, “You’re supposed to put the paint on the paper.  If you’re going to just waste the paint by putting it directly in the water, we’re not going to be able to paint again.  You can’t waste paint like that.”

And do you know what she said?
“But I’m painting the water.”
And that totally stopped me in my tracks.  I thought it was a little bit of brilliance.  If we paint the paper, why on earth shouldn’t we paint the water, too?
She was looking intently to see how the paint reacted with the water, and how each additional glob of color changed the overall color of the water in the cup. 
Once again, I got so focused on getting that finished picture to hang on the fridge, that I almost missed the point, the true benefit of the painting experience from the point of view of a three-year-old little girl who is FINALLY given paints, a paintbrush, and a cup of water for her experiments.

So I let her be, with her glopped-up mess of paint pots and her ever more-dismally colored cup of rinse water.
Afterwards, the girls faced the barrage of Mommy Questions:  “Was that fun?  Did you like it?  Do you want to paint again sometime?”  More than anything, I know I was seeking reassurance that I didn’t totally ruin the experience for them!

My older daughter was reasonably satisfied with the experience (she’s going through a “practiced lack of enthusiasm phase” that could rival any pre-teen!), and my younger daughter, who cares very little for the arts and crafts projects I foist upon them, declared that she loves to paint!
I’m calling the experience a success all ‘round, creative neuroses be damned!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Art Swaps!

During this most recent Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap, the postcard above should soon be arriving to my swap partner in Argentina, while I received this lovely work of art from Moni of Leeds:

Many thanks to Moni for her stitched postcard!  I will definitely be participating in future Great Big Stitched Postcard Swaps, as paper stitching is now at the top of my list for art-making pasttimes.
{Here you can see that I've been sewing more postcards!}
I think I like this one (above) more than any other one I've created. 
It is already on its way to a friend!

Here is another, in a similar vein:

And the last of what feels almost like a "set":
I am thinking of making some pieces in this same style, of a larger size, maybe suitable for framing.

I also recently did a little one-on-one ATC swap with April Cole out in California.  I neglected to take a photo of the ATC I made before mailing it out, but here is the colorful, fun card I received in return:
{You can also see her adorable business card in the background.}

Be sure to visit April's blog for beautiful art,
creative projects, and fun links.

Here's hoping you can take a little break today for some creative happiness!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Next 100 Blog Posts

On Saturday, I posted my first set of Happiness Project resolutions, and noticed that it was my 100th blog post.  You'll notice from the archive that I had two "false starts" at keeping a blog back in 2008 and 2009; I kept insisting on trying to "birth a blog" each time I birthed a child. 

Not a good idea.

But here I am, on the other side of 100 blog posts, ready to head into the next 100.  It doesn't hurt to stop a moment to thank you for coming along with me on the journey. 

Thank you!

Most of the time, I write for a small group of people who share my interests and are kind enough to stop by to check out my latest projects.  There is a core group who take the time to leave comments, and whose blogs I also enjoy visiting.  I know they are out there, and I know who they are (in a "virtual friendship" sort of way), so I think of them as I am writing and posting. 

It was a little disconcerting--though in a good way!--to have classmates from high school tell me at my 20-year reunion that they visit my blog.  I had no idea that I was writing for them, as well. 

And then an interesting thing happened this weekend. 

Gretchen Rubin posted a link on her Happiness Project blog to my blog post from April where I recorded 38 things I have learned in my first 38 years of life

Now, Gretchen has 40,000 followers on Twitter, and 43,471 people "like" her Facebook page.  Having the link on her blog brought 1,983 people to my blog just yesterday alone.  That's almost 1/5 of the visits I've had in all the months I've had a blog--1/5 of the visits came on a single day! 

I don't have a grand conclusion to draw with all of these statistics; I just find it fascinating to watch the internet and networking work its magic to connect people to one another. 

Most of the people who came by from Gretchen's page did not leave a record of their visit and will never visit again.  Some left a comment to let me know that they were here.  Others have become Followers and will return.  I am appreciative of and thankful for anyone who takes the time to visit and read and share their thoughts on what I have to say. 

It is what makes 100 blog posts possible, and it is what will keep me here for the next 100. 

And perhaps 100 after that. 

But let's just take this one step at a time!

P.S.:  I also found out that Blog Rehab has quoted a portion of my 38x38 list in a guest post she has written today for Tribal Blogs.  Blog Rehab began a blog recently in response to her reading of Gretchen's Happiness Project; she offers help and advice to bloggers, especially about issues of grammar and word choice.  Her post at Tribal Blogs today focuses on the power and benefit of making an emotional connection with your readers through humor, friendliness, intimacy, and empathy.  Check it out!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Happiness Project: Resolution Area #1

On Thursday, I shared my plans to begin a Happiness Project after reading Gretchen Rubin’s account of her own project.

When Gretchen began her project, she decided to focus first on how to boost her energy and vitality in order to be able to sustain all of the resolutions that would follow.  I was tempted to follow suit, but I have some more immediate concerns that inspired resolutions I got underway prior to “officially” deciding to conduct a Happiness Project.  I decided to focus on “mindfulness” for my first set of Happiness Project Resolutions. 
Resolution Area #1:  Mindfulness
Breathe deeply and mindfully.
In response to some of the outbursts of irritation and anger that I’ve been feeling for many, many months now, I was advised to try some deep breathing.  Like you, I have read about deep breathing in a zillion articles in various magazines over the years, and nothing, you would think, should come more naturally than breathing.  But I can’t tell you the number of times that I am driving down the road or sitting on the sofa and realize that it has been a LONG time since I’ve drawn a breath.  And when I do breathe, it is pretty shallow stuff. 
When I take a really deep breath, I feel immediately different.  I almost feel light-headed at first, and then I immediately feel more settled and energized.
I was absolutely astounded to see how often a fit of irritation, frustration, or anger was immediately—and I mean IMMEDIATELY—nipped in the bud with three or four deep breaths.  Something so simple is really pretty life-changing. 
In the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, he explains that it takes one conscious breath to be back in contact with yourself and everything around you, and three conscious breaths to maintain the contact.  I had noticed even prior to reading this that I easily calm right down with three or four deep, conscious breaths. 
I’m not proud to say that I sometimes yell at my 2- and 3- year olds.  Even as I do it, I feel ridiculous, because they are so little and young.  The deep, mindful breathing gives me a moment to realize how inappropriate a yelling response is, and I can compose myself to respond in a much more even-tempered way.  Does it work all the time?  Certainly not.  There’s more work to do.  But it is making such a big difference.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a suggested technique:  He advises to keep a pebble in your pocket.  Periodically you should feel the pebble, touch it, hold it gently, practice mindful breathing, and smile.  The pebble allows you to pause and return to your breathing.  I thought I might give it a try as part of my Happiness Project.  I collected some rocks on the beach at Cape May on our recent vacation, and I have chosen a smooth, black pebble for my pocket (when my clothing has pockets, at least!).  Then, on top of remembering to practice mindful breathing, I’ll be able to call to mind happy, contented memories from the beach.
Eat less, eat better, eat mindfully.
Through my reading, the idea of breathing deeply and mindfully led me to discover the idea of mindful eating.  I like cooking, and I REALLY like eating, but I have a tendency to eat quickly and rush through the experience.  I notice that I like the taste of the food, and I even take notice of interesting textures.  But “noticing” and really “enjoying” are two different things.  I would like to spend some time considering how eating mindfully can both increase my enjoyment of eating, lead me to eat more healthfully, and eat less. 
In the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, I found the idea that we really only need half the amount of food we actually eat every day.  I think we are so busy shoveling food into our mouths that we don’t pause to determine when we have had ENOUGH.  (That reminds me of a quotation I love from Susan Susanka:  “…what would happen if we stopped to consider the possibilities inherent in the word ‘enough.’”)
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we should chew our food 50 times before swallowing.  He advises us to chew mindfully, being aware of every bit of food, and eating/chewing with joy.  Be aware of each movement of your mouth.  Based on his writings, I created the resolution: “Eat less, eat better, eat mindfully.” 
On a related note, I just read an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz in the August edition of O magazine that says we should chew 20 times before swallowing and follow the Japanese practice of hara hachi bu, meaning “eating until you feel 80% full,” since you are probably 100% full, and your stomach just doesn’t know it yet.  Does anyone really count how many times they chew each bite before he swallows?  I think it might turn me neurotic, and it would most certainly stand in the way of meaningful dinnertime conversation.  But I appreciate the spirit of the suggestion to chew more times than I might be naturally inclined to chew.  And in the meantime, I want to be mindful of good tastes, interesting textures, and even the movements of my own mouth to better appreciate what my body is capable of doing for me. 
All that chewing and paying attention hopefully will lead me to eating better.  I’ve noticed that it’s a lot more fun to pay attention to foods that are crunchy and interesting (like dishes with fresh ingredients, things that are chopped into different sized pieces, and have different textures, like beans and vegetables) rather than things that are processed to the same basic texture.  As part of this resolution, I will be investigating some new recipes and some new places to shop for groceries.
Begin the day with a morning prayer.
I say a morning prayer with my girls every day before we eat our breakfast.  When they were going through a kind of “negative phase” with lots of whining and crying, I started incorporating something along the lines of, “Lord, help us to find joy and happiness in this day.”  The energy of the house really started to shift when we put the focus on joy and happiness each morning.
The Associate Pastor of our church has told us that if nothing else, she begins each day with the simple prayer, “Lord, direct my thoughts today.”  I’ve thought a lot about the simplicity and power of that request.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing, he talks about offering a stick of incense to the Buddha each morning, and promising himself that will enjoy every minute of the day that has been given to him to live. 
All of this taken together leads me to resolve to say a personal prayer each morning before I even get out of bed.  I want to take just that first moment upon waking to greet God, thanking Him for the day He has given me, and to ask Him to help me live it according to His will.
In about a month, I’ll check in and let you know how my resolutions are going.  Then, while continuing to employ my resolutions related to mindfulness, I’ll describe the next area of resolutions. 
If you were going to begin a personal Happiness Project, where do you think YOU would begin?
P.S. I just noticed that this is my 100th blog post!  Thank you for sharing part of this journey with me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Introducing: My Happiness Project

After years of hearing about Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I finally picked up a copy to read on the airplane to and from my 20-year high school reunion a couple of weekends ago. 

I was immediately inspired to pursue a Happiness Project of my own. 

Like Gretchen, I’m not interested in “extraordinary change”; I don’t need to change careers or move to a different country.  And like Gretchen, I don’t want to “reject my life”; I’ve got a good thing going here! 

As she puts it, “I [want] to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen.” 
It sounds like just the thing I need to do right now. 
I’ve been a stay-at-home for four years now, and, while I am fortunate to feel totally comfortable in that role, rather than conflicted with a desire to return to work, I can see how some small changes to my life could really increase my everyday contentment and engagement with what is going on around me. 

I find myself to be much more impatient and prone to angry outbursts than I ever have been in my life before.  I’ve got the little aches and pains that start to plague a body heading very quickly toward age 40.  I’ve got two little children whose upbringing and well-being are central to my concerns, and my own life is very focused on doing this motherhood thing “right”.  I have a deep and abiding love for and faith in God, but feel that I do not necessarily reflect that day-to-day or maintain relationship-building with the most important Person in my life.  I have the most amazing husband I could have ever hoped for, and with two little children in the house, I want to guard against our marriage turning into a co-parenting relationship. 

These are the features of my life that make me think a Happiness Project could make a real difference.
Whenever people write about their efforts to increase their happiness, they always subject themselves to criticism that they are being “self-indulgent” and “whiny.”  I have spent too many of my adult years being overly-concerned with what other people think of me, seeking approval outside of myself, and fearing criticism.  (You’ll probably see something about that in my Happiness Project down the road!)  So, I will put all of that aside, because I think this project could really hold some solid benefits for me.  However, I DO welcome your thoughts and feedback along the way!
On Saturday, I'll share with you my first set of Project Resolutions!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Organizing with Materials Pages

As part of Moira’s Craft Cleanse eCourse, she challenged us to not only inventory our crafts stash, but also to create materials pages as a way to make art during the process.  Mind you, she’s on Mission Thirteen for the course, and here I am blogging about Mission Two!  (That’s what happens when I decide not to “pressure myself.”)
Materials pages show you a small labeled example of everything you have in your stash—the colors of your pens and pencils, or small swatches of fabric or washi tape, for example.

These pages can help you make sure that you don’t purchase materials you already have, and they also help you plan projects, because you are able to see what colors look like together or on the page.  It takes your inventory beyond a list, and becomes a visual reminder of your materials and supplies.
Shortly after Moira posted this Challenge, I read this fantastic post by Lori Vliegen at Elvie Studio.  She turned watercolor paint splotches into adorable chickadees (and pigs and mice and bunnies).  It occurred to me that I could use this great idea to add some interest to my materials page for some new markers I had purchased. 

Markers notoriously look completely different on paper than the color of their lids, so I am able to look at my Marker Materials Page to see the true colors of these marker sets.

I also made a materials page for my decorative edge scissors, and discovered patterns that I really like that I had no idea I own!
Even though I haven't given 100% to the Craft Cleanse course, it has helped me greatly reduce my buying/spending tendencies, and I no longer feel a sense of obligation to use every craft coupon that shows up in my inbox and my mailbox!  I am also continuing to organize and streamline my craft spaces. 

Check out Moira's free Craft Cleanse missions to bring some order to the chaos of YOUR art and crafting life!

Happy art-making!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stitching Up Postcards

I've been spending time in front of the sewing machine doing one of my new favorite things--sewing paper!  I have been making a few postcards, candidates for the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap being hosted by Beth at Do What You Love.
She reports that around 180 people from 20 countries across the world have signed up for the swap.  This marks the fourth swap she has hosted, and the theme this time around is "bloom." 

Truth be told, I kind of forgot about the theme while I was making the postcards.  Thank goodness, I think they still qualify!

My swap partner lives in Argentina.  Take a look at my three candidates, and let me know which one you think I should send to her!

Here's Postcard #1:
And a detail:
Here's Postcard #2:
And a detail:
Here's Postcard #3:
And a detail:
Which of the three postcards do you think should be on its way to Argentina?

If anyone is interested in swapping with me for the other two, we can do a little "mini-swap".  Let me know if you're interested!

There will be another Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap sometime in the fall, so if you want to participate, keep your eye on Beth's site.

EDIT:  I almost forgot to mention my huge debt of inspiration for the postcards, which came from the article, "Scrappy Paper Quilting" in the Winter 2011 edition of Sew Somerset.  I fell in love with Jane Eileen's work there, and couldn't wait to get behind the sewing machine to try out some scrappy paper quilting for myself!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reunion Reflections

I spent this past weekend attending 20-year reunion festivities for Churchill High School in San Antonio, Texas.

My former classmates and I all agreed that our class had "aged well" (though, truth be told, we women thought we've got a little bit of the edge over the men.  But don't tell THEM that!)

It's tense times getting ready for a reunion:  You've settled into adulthood, you know who you are, you're busy living life, and then suddenly you find yourself worrying that your weight or your hair or your wrinkles or your clothes might be scrutinized and judged by the very people who saw you during your most awkward teenage years. 

What a relief to finally get together and realize that none of that "appearance stuff" is the focus at all.  We discovered that we've all been going through "real-life" for the past 10 years since our last reunion:  marriage, divorce, births, adoptions, deaths, job changes, cross-country moves, weight loss triumphs, injuries, child-rearing challenges, personal self-discoveries.  I loved that we were willing to be "real" for one another; no one seemed bitter or complain-y about life, yet no one seemed to sugar-coat life for a new audience.

And best of all was the reunion of my closest friends.  When we graduated, one of our friends' moms bought us all a little book of poems and wrote inside a list of all our names--"friends forever".  We have a photo at our 10-year reunion--all five of us back together again:
{Elizabeth, Valerie, Gerri, Christina, Andria; 2001}

And here we were this weekend, the five of us together again for another group photo before heading off to the Saturday evening festivities.  I wish I had a copy of the photo to share with you here, but in addition to all the fantastic friends and acquaintances I reconnected with this weekend, I want to say a particular and special "thank-you" to Christina, Valerie, Elizabeth, and Gerri for being my "friends forever." 

EDIT:  Here's the photo of the five of us from our 2011 Reunion:
{Gerri, Andria, Valerie, Christina, Elizabeth; 2011}
If I'm not mistaken, I believe my friends actually look YOUNGER than ten years ago.  (Me, not so much!)

How amazing it is to get together again and feel no different than we did when we were 17, even falling into our old roles and recalling old jokes. 

It is that--and not $100 rubber chicken, loud DJ music, and small talk--that makes a high school reunion worthwhile!