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Answers may vary

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Today’s #reverb10 prompt:

Beautifully different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

Originally, I had thought that I would end up making the response to this prompt into a list of things, but it turns out I’ve already done that. More than once, as it happens. And, quite honestly, I don’t know what else to say. What makes me different? Well, actually…the answer is…very nearly nothing. There is likely not a single thing that is not shared by another person in the whole world. Rather than seeing this as a complete dismissal of today’s prompt, let’s think about this. What makes everyone different is never a single thing– it’s always the combination of personal characteristics, personality, and experience that makes up an individual. Yes, sure, we’re all special little snowflakes. But what I find more comforting? The fact that we all have so much in common. Most overwhelming to me is that, in at least one way, we all have at least one thing in common. This is not to say that I am about to sit around a campfire singing songs with everyone I meet (and far from it– I am a jerk! Just ask the internet), but I think this idea of shared humanity is much more intriguing to me than what makes me so beautifully different.

Do I know what it is that makes me different? Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing that, on its own, makes me so drastically different from the rest of the world. Wait, I know: my fancy new Cool Librarian Glasses. That counts, right?

Bonus: this prompt reminds me of a song that I love. You might like it, too.


My friends are your friends, and your friends are my friends…

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Yes, today’s #reverb10 prompt reminds me of that “circle time” song. Want to fight about it?

Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

This year presented several opportunities to further enmesh my various groups of friends. I am generally a one-or-two-at-a-time friend, preferring to hang out in smallish groups or pairs (I’m worried that my rambling gets out of hand and sort of annoying in a big groupand this might be made up– but it is enough to subdue me and make me a little anxious), but I do love to entertain. I love to have people over, I love to have an excuse to hole up in the kitchen for an entire day, making appetizers and bite-size desserts, and I love to introduce friends from various parts of my life to each other. GP and I joke that our friends get along well because they have the same degree of trauma from being friends with a-holes like us, so they bond over that, but really I like to think that we have reached the point where we are each comfortable enough with ourselves and familiar enough with what we want and need in friendships to choose relatively consistent “types” of people as our friends. This is wonderful, because we’ve been able to create a little community (in a less creepy, non-planned sort of way) among our various work, school, and older (college, whatever) friends, and trust that there will be relatively little awkward pausing at our parties throughout the year. (We have a cocktail party in about a week and a half, so I have high hopes!)

Now, for the community that I want to create, or at least take a more active part in. For 2011, I am hoping to become a more consistent part of this online community that I am alternately part of and completely envious of. Over almost ten years of blogging, do you know how many bloggers I’ve met in real life? Zero. Yes, I do have friendships online, send regular emails, and have carried on old-fashioned snail mail correspondence with a few. More than building something from nothing, I am hoping to strengthen my existing online friendships (no pressure, I promise, online buddies) and establish some new ones. With BlogHer in San Diego and school finished up, there is a fairly good chance that I’ll make it down in 2011; the associated goal with that, though? Don’t be completely crippled and intimidated by the fact that the blogs of others are somehow more worthy-of-something than my own. (We’ll see how this goes.)

Making and doing

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Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I know it may seem as though I procrastinated on today’s #reverb10 post just so that I could have a more immediate answer, or one that is a little more impressive than “my first cup of coffee for the day” (though that in itself is a bit of a challenge some mornings), but it should come as no surprise that the last thing I made was food-related. The last thing I made was dinner: coconut chicken curry (a new recipe) and saffron rice (an old standby). Cooking dinner is something that I was able to get out of during the majority of last week, what with an overwhelming amount of Thanksgiving leftovers having taken over our refrigerator, but this week the turkey is in the freezer and I am back in front of the stove. I am happy that, at present, my life is such that I am able to come home at a reasonable hour, relax for a bit, and then spring into action with my knives, cutting board, and a set of ingredients, working through any accumulated stress from the day. Rather than being something that hovers over me like a dark cloud in the early evening, cooking dinner is a way for me to put some distance between myself and whatever anxieties I might have– I love it when the only thing I have to worry about is not burning myself or a meal. While ingredients may (and do, oh yes they do) vary, the patterns and habits that I have created in the kitchen make up a little cocoon into which I can retreat at the end of a workday.

One of the reasons I love to cook is because I am a little impatient. I want to see results, and I want to see them sooner (/immediately) rather than later. One thing that is not about to rush around in the kitchen, though, is bread. I would love (and am working) to become the sort of person who is content to put together a dough and sit patiently while it proofs…and then visits again to punch it down…and then again to shape and bake it… You get the idea, right? Making bread, really good bread, takes forever. And, while I am all right with doing things like pizza crust and cinnamon rolls, which are relatively fast, I am still working on the patience to make things like truly great baguettes and rustic boules. The recipes and ingredients are simple, sure– just a bit of flour, salt, yeast, and water– but that last one, time? I’m still working on the patience to deal with that one.

Let go

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I really wanted to do a good job with today’s #reverb10 prompt, because I am sort of in love with its author, Alice Bradley of finslippy. I don’t know why, and keep it quiet, ok? I’m trying to play it cool. At any rate, here goes nothin’.

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

At the risk of sounding like one of those hippies that has decided to live life with only 100 objects (including, say, socks and teaspoons), I have to say that this was the year I gave up “stuff.” Without veering into the sort of lifestyle in which I am rejecting the notion that things can be imbued with a sense of the life that contained them– especially after an evening partially spent hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree at my mother’s house, little tchotchkes that contain snippets of a life we’d hardly recognize anymore– I can confidently say that I am ready to be a person who collects memories rather than…stuff.

This started pretty early in the year, when we moved into our new place in the middle of January. If there is anything that moving can convince you of, it is that you can– and will! Yes, you will!– make do with less stuff. We heaved things into our apartment Dumpster with abandon: a VCR (much to PaGP’s chagrin), old VHS tapes, papers from a Mexico vacation in 2007, issues of magazines that were at least two years old. Others were packed into paper grocery bags and hauled off to the used book store or Goodwill, to find a good home somewhere else but ours. When we moved into our new-but-actually-a-century-old house, it was with the sense of possibility, the idea that we would be filling it with memories and not piles and piles of paper and junk that we’d never be touching again.

I am not at the point where I can entirely reject the idea that objects contain history; no, I am too sentimental for that. I will save menus and ticket stubs and snippets of a magazine article that really meant something in a single moment…forever, most likely. Sorry, future children! I tried. I really did. And really, in a fairly meaningful way, this was the year that I really did let go of so much that was weighing me down, scraps of paper and all. It added up to much more than the sum of its parts, and though keeping up with it is tricky (hello, tidal wave of stuff that seems to crash around our console table), I am determined to keep fighting the good fight and remember that memories are more often intangible than truly touchable.

Where I keep my awe

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Years and years ago, before Eat Pray Love became an abomination of a movie, I read the book and was generally impressed. One of my favorite passages said something about a Buddhist shrine (or some other such physical manifestation of spiritual belief) being the place where the people of a given town “kept their awe.” I loved that part of the book, the idea that there could be a container that could hold something as abstract as awe. Today’s #reverb10 prompt, in my mind, asks a similar question:

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Beyond simply asking what made me feel a sense of wonder in 2010, I like that this prompt asks what measures I took to make sure that there is a healthy amount of wonder in my life. It’s not enough to notice something that awakens my sense of wonder– I (try to, at least) work to ensure that I’m creating a life for myself that at least occasionally provides me with an entirely new experience, something that takes my breath away, makes me curious, or just plain stuns me (in a good way, hopefully).

So, all right, enough stalling. How did I cultivate this sense of wonder in my life this year? Well, not to be repetitive in all my talk about travel…but really, it was mostly related to travel. Going to a new place, or even someplace I’ve visited before, fills me with wonder both about this new place as well as my home and familiar, everyday life. Traveling gives me a new perspective on the things that I often take for granted, and brings back a curiosity that I sometimes worry is disappearing as I creep closer and closer to being a Real Grownup.

Oh! Here is a non-travel-related thing that helps me maintain a sense of wonder: cooking. Food, really– it doesn’t have to be prepared by me, and in fact I sometimes prefer that it isn’t! After a good solid several years in which I have explored and expanded the boundaries of my cooking skills as well as new tastes, I am still working and able to experience such a huge sense of wonder as I watch things caramelize, reduce, rise, and come together in my oven, on my counter, and when presented to me in a new restaurant or cafc. When we were in London, for instance, we had this (completely insane and simple and delicious) meal that included an ox heart and watercress salad, pheasant with squash and kale, and grouse. Seriously, grouse. It seemed wonderful and like such a privilege to get to eat things that weren’t raised in feed lots, to be able to (actually, yes, truthfully) pick shot out of something and realize how much care can and should be put into food. Oh, and speaking of food…tonight is Official Birthday Dinner at the Chez Panisse café. I. Cannot. WAIT.

This magic moment

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Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Upon reading today’s #reverb10 prompt, I was immediately thrust back to our trip to Yosemite in the spring. I remember sleeping in our tent cabin in Camp Curry, huddling closer to GP under numerous wool blankets because there were actual coyotes yipping outside, breathing heavily and fearing for my life on the Upper Falls trail (I’ll conquer you next time, trail! Mark my words!), and enjoying a well-deserved glass of wine on the deck of the Wawona Inn after a couple days of grueling hikes. But…well, that is not the story I am going to tell. Nope. Instead, my “moment” is going to seem much more mundane than all these sublime visions of terrible/beautiful nature, certainly tame, and maybe even a little bit boring in comparison. What can I say? I am not Jack London.

One moment that I felt most alive in 2010 was the moment that I stepped off our plane in London last October. This was not a novel experience; I had been to London thrice before, GP and I take an international trip every year (that is what we spend our money on…well, that and wine), and I am no stranger to the deplaning/baggage claim, customs-and-immigration rigamarole. But there’s just something about that second that you’re stepping off a plane that has carried you thousands of miles to a place that you’ve been wishing for that just makes you grateful to be alive, and so thrilled with humanity and technology. We can fly, you think. We can fly, and it is like magic. (Yes, I choose to ignore physics. My life is much more whimsical that way. Flying is magic!)

We stepped off the plane, eager to begin our ten-day break from the rigors of commutes, sitting in front of computers all day, and deciding which Family Guy episode to fall asleep to each nice. I walked down the jetway, clutching my sweaterblanket (seriously, this thing is huge and cozy and wonderful) around me, trying to remember where I had stashed my passport upon departure from our connection in Vancouver. Heathrow, like any airport worth its salt, is a cacophonous blend of public address announcements, fast food odors (or odours, if you prefer. They are foreign, after all), industrial grays, and the occasional clank of a moving walkway (which, if you are wondering, is not a ride. Get out of my way!). It is by no means a sensory pleasure cruise, but this particular blend of sights, sounds, and smells, coupled with the sense of quickly approaching vacation! We’re on vacation! was enough to remind me, after a year of local travel and more than enough school- and work-work, that I feel most alive when I’m exploring and revisiting places that I grew to love years ago. I hope I always feel such a sense of joy and possibility when I travel.