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Re-energized by a short lunchtime promenade

I walked with a friend and colleague of mine today for 25 minutes in the courtyard. It was a nice, brisk pace, still optimal for conversation. The air was crisp, but not so cold that I needed my jacket. I had brought my running shoes to work, and they felt comfortable and light on my feet. And just as we were ending our walk, miniscule snowflakes, barely perceptible, unless you slowed down to concentrate on seeing them, had begun to fall. It's amazing how a simple short bout of exercise and some exposure to the fresh-aired world outside of work can cause you to return to your cubicle feeling so energized. I must do more of that. What a great way to stay healthy, possibly lose some weight and improve my outlook.
The oddest thing happened today.

I awakened from a dream about trying to contact my best friend, Irene, a friend I've known since we met as 9-year-olds in Orlando, camping with our families.

The dream was kind of sad, however, because I was dialing her as if I knew how to reach her, and I realized that I did not know her number. I put down the phone.

Then, I woke up. I told Tim all about our friendship and how we'd been through so much together. I began to cry. I told him that I would find her today, somehow, even if I had to try all of the old numbers I had for her and try searches all over the Web; there had to be a way.

And then it was like the Universe opened up for me. I had a hunch about searching her up on MySpace. I had my cup of coffee in my hand, and I was chatting with Tim who was now up and checking his email on his PC. I almost dropped the cup, because there on MySpace (dated Nov. 27, but I hadn't seen it, because it's not a site I regularly log on to) was a message in my inbox that read, "It's Irene. I've found you. Please call me," or something to that effect, and there was her current phone number.

Now, to appreciate the eerie tone of this event, you must know that we have not heard from one another or even kept up with one another for about 7 years, I'd say. We've missed so many things from one another's lives. She is literally a second sister to me. I am still in shock.

I am going to call her and hear her voice for the first time in a long time in just a few moments.

I do believe in synchronicity. That is for sure.
"There's something about seeing the progress you've made toward your goal that takes you to the next level in terms of your effort, ideas, beliefs, and confidence that you normally wouldn't have gotten had you not recorded the progress you've been making.

Take the time to record any progress you've been making, big or small, through any means necessary whether they be through writing, photographs, video, audio recordings, etc.

Progress breeds progress, especially when it gets recorded."

-- Brian Kim
I've been a reading fiend lately, blogging mostly at my new book blog, Observed in Books, and getting a lot of pages read. The combination of keeping a blog and tying it in with my reading is really working to keep me on track, tackling my reading list with zeal. Usually, I'll read a few pages of one book, then lose interest, then a few of another, lose interest and so on... But this year and in 2008, I'm holding myself to the goal of reading and writing a few paragraphs either during or after I read each work.

I like to record what quotes or chapters really meant something to me, what I learned from reading the book, and my reactions to certain characters or occurrences in the story. Reading books and contemplating them, especially afterward, sparks me to examine how I personally relate to what I read, to ask myself why I read it, or why I may have picked up a certain title at a certain time, when it seems to relate to something going on in my daily life.

Plus, it's a good excuse to keep me writing, and choosing one of my favorite hobbies and subjects helps keep that goal in motion.

Reading, as well as being entertaining and a good source of knowledge, also helps to train the writer in good ways to tell a tale. Many successful authors will usually tell you two things that contributed to their attainment of published novels -- that they put in the hard work of sitting down to write each and every day, before they knew the book deals were going to happen; and that they always took the time to keep reading. I'm hoping one day I can dole out that same kind of advice myself.

This Morning's Lucid/Flying Dream

This morning I got out of and then returned to bed, because I still felt exhausted, even after seven hours of sleep. I had been up reading online what the news media is reporting on global warming and how Arctic sea ice and ice at the poles are melting faster than had previously been predicted. I guess it had an impact on me, because it figured heavily into a dream where I found myself standing on a suburban neighborhood street in total darkness. All of the other residents of this community were standing in the street around me, and the air seemed tinged with expectation and uncertainty. Strangely enough, although I was standing on Planet Earth, I could also see it from where I stood, far away, lit up -- the same view you see in photos taken from space, but with deeper, fluorescent tones to it, like a gigantic Christmas ornament blazing in the ether. Most of what I saw became vague in my mind as soon as I awakened, but I remember seeing fire somewhere and hearing a lot of noise -- it was either coming from burning buildings or from meteors entering the atmosphere. Something global was on the verge of occurring. I knew that much.

I recall being among strangers, in their home. I saw strangely colored birds with electric blue and white feathers outside next to an old white van the people owned. These creatures appeared to be from another planet. Then, I noticed that the small children of the strangers I was with had their faces painted and feathers pasted on, to make their faces appear very similar to the birds' faces. The birds and the kids stood right beside one another.

I remember thinking that Tim would worry about me. I had to hurry home soon. Then, I relaxed, smiled and thought 'oh, yeah, no worries. I can stay as long as I want, because this is not reality; it's only a dream.'

It was at this point that I began to get the sensation that since I was dreaming, I had all control over my environment. I suddenly wondered why I was just standing there in this broad, spacious green field, when I could fly. Then, as quickly as I thought about flying, I was in the air, soaring into it with a rush, using only my body, mind and soul to propel myself. Sadly, I'm still not very accomplished at lucid dreaming. It just occurs spontaneously now and then. So I was only able to hold myself in flight for a few moments; but, oh, what a feeling of exhilaration and freedom.

Just as I had made a few attempts at this, I awakened. I'd definitely like to experience more of these types of dreams.

Blue October's Newest Music Video

I absolutely love the music group Blue October. I saw them in concert this past summer in Washington, DC, and they rock even harder in person. They blew my mind.

Here is their new video for their song, Calling You.

Watch. Enjoy.

Food Troubles

I love food, especially gourmet dishes (which, well, I can't admit to ever having known how to cook for myself, but I'll sure shell out some money for a good meal). I'm having a hard time lately, gorging on large portions and doing a lot of evening eating in front of the TV or computer.

For some reason -- not sure why -- I only struggle with eating when I'm in relationships. When I'm single, I naturally stay slimmer without thinking about it, and I don't seem to have these problems (that's not to say I'd EVER give up the happiness I have with Tim now to go back there again).

The holidays are especially trying, however. I've so far put on five pounds in the past few weeks! I'm depressed whenever I pass a Victoria's Secret shop in the mall. I don't dare stick so much as my left toe inside the storefront. I'm ashamed and embarrassed, feeling like a lesser version of who I was just six months ago. It's definitely not doing wonders for the self-esteem, or at least body confidence.

This is not who I want to be, hiding in oversized tee-shirts or sweaters. And I refuse to buy larger sizes of jeans.

I maintain a regular schedule of working out with a personal trainer, and I don't mind being active, but it's the food intake that's got to change -- if I'm ever to have any success. It feels nearly impossible for me to forego a frothy latte or cup of eggnog or cocoa and choose, say a relatively bland (in comparison) cup of tea, especially during the holidays. All I seem to want are comfort foods. I also think much of it is emotionally-based eating, even though while I'm doing it, I'm not sure what feelings brought me to that point, except maybe boredom. I'm fairly calm and happy lately, so why do I keep eating when I know I'm already full!?

I know my weight gain also comes from hitting the restaurants a lot or ordering in pizza and wings and eating more than my share, due to the busy schedules Tim and I keep (school, work, military duties and time spent at appointments and running household errands). We frequently play the "wouldn't it just be easier to order for pick-up or delivery" card.

I know too that I don't drink enough water, and that could be part of the problem. Often, I won't have more than a pint of water for three to four days, just vats of coffee in the hopes of invigorating my tired self for work.

The only veggies I even eat are the occasional banana, guacamole (on a burger, or with chips) or caesar salad. Yes, my diet is pretty pitiful, I think. When I discovered it hurt to button my largest pair of pants, size 10 brown corduroy, that solidified it for me. Beginning tonight, I am going to fight against my tendencies to nosh off and on before and after dinner and to eat large portions at dinner.
Tim and I flew out Tuesday to Branson, Missouri, (the Ozarks) to spend Thanksgiving with his parents. It's my first time to this area of the country. It's really beautiful, and I'm definitely not complaining about getting a break from the massive flow of traffic we're used to on the DC Beltway. I think both Tim and I are relieved to escape the daily grind and the gridlock. We both share the dream to move back toward the Midwest after a couple of years, maybe somewhere where the housing market is actually affordable.

Last night we went with his parents to see a variety show at one of Branson's theaters, the Hamner Barber Theatre, where they knew one guy who was half of the show, Jim Barber. Jim's a ventriloquist, very talented, with a great voice, comedic talent and some pretty nimble dance moves. His family knows him as a member of their local church. There were magical acts, dancing and singing, a bit of everything.

We've done a bit of shopping in the area. I already hit the Liz Claiborne outlet and found three purses and a wallet for less than 40 bucks. Tim's stepdad bought the newspaper stuffed full of Black Friday ads, and we're all set to head out and try our luck at trolling for bargains early tomorrow.

P.S. While Tim and I were in Branson, we also managed to get free last-minute tickets to one of Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff's shows. Very funny guy. He has his own theater there, and he lives in the area. We really enjoyed the show, and noisemakers were even provided to encourage audience participation. "What a Country!"

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