Happy New Year!

Ahhh, New Year's. December 31. With over 365 possibilities staring you in the face, it's no wonder people want to have a plan. But I've never been a fan of "resolutions". A resolution is nothing more than a promise to do something. It's the something - the goal - that's important.

I have a lot of goals for 2009. So far there are about 17 and the list is growing. I'm not going to throw them all out on the table now, but they might show up through out the year.

I'm a planner. I love to-do lists, but more importantly I love crossing things off my to-do list. My work life is no different. There I'm driven by the objective (big picture goal) which is supported by strategy (specific details). The strategy is broken down into individual tactics that make it all happen.

So for my top three goals of 2009 I'm making a plan. You know, once I decide what they are. I've never done this before. Never actually written them down. But hey, might as well give it a try. It just might work.

After all, here I am - not even half way through my "project" for 2008. And nothing bothers me more than not crossing something off my list!



After seven months, the basement is FINISHED! Well, almost. One wall in the family room needs trim and my scrapbooking room needs a floor and trim. But for all intents and purposes it's so close I'm calling it. Done.

It all started in June when we had this....

Twice. Ahhh, that was fun. The water was followed by mold... which of course had to be taken out.

There was only 3-5 inches of water but we took the bottom 2 feet just to be safe. And so began the taping, mudding, sanding, texturing and more sanding.

After which came painting. Ryan opted to match the current paint in the family room. I was afraid it wouldn't match since the old paint has probably faded. So Saturday we went to Home Depot. We walked out with a can of "Garden Wall" and it appears to match perfectly!
(I bought a light bluish green - "Herbal Mist" if you will - for my scrapbooking room. But as I said before it's not quite finished yet. So you'll have to wait on pictures of that.)
The next day we crossed our fingers. Ryan's sister and brother-in-law came up to help us re-install the floor. I was hopeful. Our brother-in-law (the architect) was not. Thankfully, he was the one surprised.

Some four hours later the floor was in place. They (Ryan and Tom) were even able to close a few of the gaps that existed previously.

Ryan and I put up the trim after the Wolbers had gone home. It went fairly well, although it never lines up as well the second time. I think it's because the water made the wood swell/shrink. But... what do I know?
Doesn't matter. It's done. :-)
Tracy Anne Photography


Our Christmas

We packed up the car with presents and food to meet Ryan's family at his sister's on Christmas Eve. The kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement. They are what make Christmas so much fun.

Michele introduced us to a new game. Everyone rolls a die (dice? whatever...) and the first to land on five gets to open a gift... using oven mitts. Our nephew Carter was the first to roll a five. It took him a bit to figure out how to use the thumb of his mitt to work the corner of the wrapping paper. He tore open the cardboard box to find yet another wrapped gift.

So everyone rolled again, and Ryan took his turn. The oven mitts were required. The bow was completely optional. And he wonders why there aren't any "normal" photos of him. :-)

Even Grandma Evelyn participated in the fun. She knew how to work those oven mitts and had the third gift opened in no time.

Next up was Joe. Since the presents got smaller and smaller the last ones were even harder to open. But it was worth it. He found a $10 bill in his box.

After the chaos of Christmas Eve, Ryan and I spent the night at his parent's house. The celebration on Christmas Day was in Carroll.
Last year Ryan's family moved the location of Christmas festivities from Grandma Rosemary's house at the farm to the Moose Lodge in town. I'm not sure how many people there are... but it's a lot! Doesn't really matter where it happens, there's always lots of good food and good company.

There were lots of laughs, exciting news and plenty of fun for the kids.

Tracy Anne Photography


A round of the Twelve Days of Christmas led by Aunt Julie.

Little baby Luke with the quilt made by great-grandma Korwes.

As the afternoon went on we started to hear about freezing rain. A few left early to try to beat the weather. They called no more than a half an hour later to say they decided to turn around. The roads were extremely slippery.

Ryan and I weren't planning on leaving until Friday anyway. But his two sisters and their families had intended to go home. Plans changed and everyone ended up at Ryan's parents for a big slumber party. The kids had a great time playing with their new toys. And the bigger kids played a few rousing games of left-right-center and a couple hands of poker.

Calvin read to Aunt Michele for a little while before bed.

We had a great Christmas. It was great to see all of the extended family. We're fortunate enough to see many of them throughout the year, but it's always nice to the whole crew together.
I ate far too much - although that's typical in Jane's house. I couldn't ask for a better mother-in-law, but sometimes I wish she wasn't such a good cook. Uggg, that means a few extra miles on the treadmill this week.

And we found our annual ornament...

Hope you all had a terrific Christmas...
Tracy Anne Photography


Our tradition

Christmas is known for its traditions. The year Ryan and I got married we bought a Christmas ornament to celebrate... getting Gus (our yellow lab). I know, I know. Why not an ornament to commemorate starting our life together? But when we found this yellow lab we just couldn't pass it up. And as it turns out Ryan's sister took care of the wedding ornament for us.

The following year we decided to get another ornament. I really liked this set of three. They represent everything one can hope for in a year. These are 2006.

After that, buying an ornament every year became our tradition. We brought this star home in 2007. It was the year we bought our house. Hallmark came out with a "first home" ornament but I couldn't sell Ryan on a $20 ornament.

I'm not sure what we'll end up with this year. We're trying to find a fire truck as this was the year Ryan finished building his wildland fire engine. But so far we've come up empty handed.
Maybe this year we'll buy a new tree instead... I bought this one with my roommate seven years ago during my sophomore year of collage for $15. The first year we decorated it with blue and silver ornaments and ribbon provided by our roommate who worked at a floral shop.

All of the branches will be bare and the needles will have fallen off before I get rid of our little tree. It's a tradition.
Tracy Anne Photography


Holiday Party

This is the result of combining over 60 financial service employees with some good food, a few drinks and lots of fun. Plus my first attempt at putting together a slide show...


What is it?

I took this tonight. It's straight out of the camera - no editing involved. Any guesses? Here's a hint: I went to a holiday party tonight at the Raccoon River Brewery.


A whole lotta giving going on...

I am a blog stalker. *Gasp* (Oh, stop. You know you are too.) And then I shuffle through the comments jumping from one blog to the next. It’s starting to become a problem. Ryan’s sighs of desperation have snapped me out of my blogging coma more than once.

As I’ve bounced around the blogosphere lately I’ve been inspired. The outcry of compassion this holiday season has been tremendous. There are people donating a canned good to their local food bank for every comment they receive. Photographers are holding contests to give away sessions to a well-deserving family who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Some are choosing to forego traditional holiday giving after learning the amount we spend on Christmas could provide clean water for several hundred villages. Instead they give handmade gifts or donate what they would have spent to charity.

Hmmm... anyone else see a problem with this given our current economy?

Since I'm so deeply rooted in the financial services industry (my 9 to 5) I know that if everyone gives handmade gifts this holiday season we'll be in a world of hurt. Spending oils the market machine. When the money flow slows down, the market comes to a grinding halt. Whew, economy lesson over.

I’m not hating here… anything we can do to help others is phenomenal. If you can - you certainly should! After all there are a lot more people in need this year than there are people who are fortunate enough to be able to give. I’m just asking you to consider giving a little differently.

A few ideas to get you started:

1. Donate canned goods to the local food bank; you’re buying the groceries that someone else can’t afford
2. Buy locally; your purchase could help pay the rent/mortgage for a small business owner
3. Adopt a family/child; buy necessities for those in need rather than "things" for each other
4. Provide heat; many utility companies set up a fund to help low-income people pay their heating bills. (I hate to exclude any potential readers from warmer climates – but it’s impossible for my mind to register “air conditioning” when it’s 20 below and snowing)

It's possible to help others while helping to keep the wheels on the economy bus, which in the long run helps everyone! So go forth and spread a little holiday cheer.


The way it should be

I just spent the afternoon with over thirty people. No, I wasn't amid the mob of people at the mall. We celebrated Christmas early with Ryan's family. Ryan's immediate family... all thirty some of us. It was controlled chaos. I loved it. Every. Single. Minute.

Those in attendance: Ryan's parents, grandma, two sisters, four step-sisters, numerous nieces and nephews and a stray aunt and uncle. We were missing a brother-in-law, a step-brother and his wife plus a nephew and his family.

It just wouldn't be the holidays without being surrounded by family. As a kid we always raced to my grandma's after Christmas Eve mass. Literally raced because the first kid there got to put baby Jesus in the manger of her Nativity set. Even after 26 years I have yet to be the first to Grandma's and get the honor of putting baby Jesus in his bed.

The entire house was filled with laughter and food. Oy the food! Soon after everyone had their fill the kids made the rounds begging someone to announce that it was time to open presents. After a flurry of wrapping paper erupted, the men moved to the upstairs table to play cards. The women fluttered around the kitchen while the young kids played with their new toys in the living room. The older kids took over the pool table.

The celebration continued. For hours. As the younger kids started giving in to sleep, the cars were started and the goodbyes said.

It was loud. It was crazy. It's the way Christmas should be.

**I wish I had pictures to share, but amid making apple dumplings and chocolate covered pretzels - my camera still sits next to the door where I forgot it this morning.


Things I've done

Everything bolded is something I have done in my lifetime. After going through this I think I need to add a few things to my list! Thanks for the idea Em!

1. Started your own blog (obviously)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (I forgot the words – yep that’s right. So I sang the first verse three times)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (still teaching!)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked (scary, no thank you)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (uh… wait, I mean at my old job of course)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb (held, fed, clipped, docked; did I mention my parents used to raise sheep?)
26. Gone skinny dipping (no but it’s on the list)
27. Run a Marathon (whatdya know – this one’s on there too!)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen an eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (I’ll never forget the look on Eli Yoder’s two little boys when he said I could give them a can of pop to share. You would have thought I gave them the world.)
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (does it have to be on real actual rocks – or does a rock wall count?)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (you can bet this one’s on the list!)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (what a cool thing to do… might have to add that one)
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (not me – I rode along with my mom for surgery #2)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud (just last week…)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (three months and counting…)
58. Taken a martial arts class (you’re lookin… uh, reading the ramblings of a yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do. Hae YA!)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (mmm… thin mints. Where can a girl get some thin mints in December?)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (note, I have not gone back after a nurse got the needle in behind a valve and had to dig around to get through it…)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (just keeping it real… I was a poor college kid once)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (hated it. Will never attempt again.)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (apparently you have not met my brother…)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (oooh, this one is bolded, stared and no.1 on the list)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (every week for two years)
85. Read the entire Bible (okay so maybe this one is bolded, stared and no.1 on the list)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (Byron Velvick the bass fishing Bachelor)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (this might be #3)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee


Little Emily: Baby Moments

The day this little girl was born I knew she was going to love the camera. After all, she stole the show from her mom’s maternity pictures by making her grand entrance.

Her parents, Holly and Jeff, are two of my very best friends. And I was honored to document their family for the first time. Little Emily did not disappoint. She made it through four outfit changes, numerous poses, several hand offs and two hours worth of flashes with relative ease.

I could have focused my camera on her all afternoon. But by the last outfit Emily was getting tired. And a tired baby that’s not allowed to sleep amid all the propping and posing is not a happy baby. So we changed her back into comfy clothes, and she fell asleep watching football with daddy.
Holly, Jeff and little Em – thanks for putting up with me for the afternoon. I had so much fun! Enjoy.


The empty box

It’s the strangest thing. Yesterday while I was pondering what to make for dinner, I happened to look at the calendar. I don’t know why the calendar of all things. I obviously wasn’t going to get any inspiration there. But as I scanned the dates I came across this weekend. And there it was…

An empty box! Saturday, December 6th was completely void of any things to do, places to go or people to see. Refusing to believe it, I poked my head past the refrigerator to Ryan who was standing slaving over a hot stove making food for his potluck today. “What do you have going on this weekend?” He paused for a moment, spatula in hand… “Nothing I can think of.”

What?! Could it really be true? Was there really a possibility that we had a whole entire Saturday to ourselves? As I relished at the thought I started to wonder. What on earth are we going to do all day? Then my heart started pounding, my breath quickened. I felt… lost.

Empty boxes on our calendar don’t happen very often. I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Not to worry. Within a few minutes my to-do list kicked in. I thought of the two dozen Christmas cookies in the freezer waiting to be frosted and the numerous other Christmas goodies I want to make. There’s always the basement of course. And laundry. And cleaning the fish tank (Twizzler has been more than a little lethargic lately.) And picking up the house. And playing with the dog. And hanging the Christmas lights I swore would get done before it got this cold. And… well, you get the idea.

I almost wrote “catch-up day” on the calendar, but I like the freedom of the empty box.

Side note:

Check out Danielle Fox. She was featured on the channel 13 news last night for her work with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. It’s an organization of photographers who donate their time to take pictures of newborns that are so special God has bigger plans for them. Oh, how I would love to be a part of this cause, but I’m not sure my heart could take it.


Ready or not... it's coming

Christmas is on its way. Wanna know how I know? I watched the Grinch steal it last night.

For a half an hour I was transformed into a little kid, sitting on my parents gold and brown couch watching the evil Grinch tip toe into Whoville and carry away the Who’s stockings and presents. I was horrified as the Grinch stuffed the Christmas tree up the chimney after telling little Cindy Lou Who he was going to fix a light bulb. I wanted to yell at the TV. What a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing to do!

But I got my redemption when the Grinch still heard singing on Christmas morning despite his evil ways. I may have even hummed along, but you have no proof of that.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always watched the Grinch – the cartoon version of course. And I’ll watch Rudolph run away with Hermey the elf to the Isle of Misfit Toys only to become heroes for taming the abominable snowman and leading Santa’s sleigh. I always liked Hermey. Maybe because we have a kinship. When I was in high school everyone tried convincing me to become everything but a writer. But I'm not bitter. Wait. What’s that…a little middle child syndrome you say?

Anywho. Moving on.

Without a doubt “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is by far my favorite Christmas movie. Of the three it’s always the one they show closest to the holiday... Even the TV programming people know you always save the best for last.

It’s amazing that I still cling to moments that happened so many years ago. I’d call them traditions but there was no grand hurrah, no big announcement. Honestly, it was probably the only thing to watch considering we only had five channels. But even now, it’s never really Christmas until I know the Who’s get to eat their roast beast and Charlie Brown’s tree is decorated.

With every Christmas movie I watch I get infused with a little more holiday cheer. So far we've watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life (a classic that soars above cartoon territory), and of course The Grinch.

Tomorrow Rudolph. Next week Charlie Brown. Christmas here I come!