mexico vacation recap

Mexico was absolutely beautiful.

mexico sunset

It was a relaxing week spent talking and laughing with my mom’s family. I ate tons of fresh seafood, lounged in the sand reading good books, and sampled all kinds of margaritas {including coconut!} Every morning I went for an hour-long power walk on the beach with my mom and my aunt … such a fun workout! I feel so grateful that I got to go on this getaway with my wonderful relatives. It was the perfect pre-holiday battery recharger.

beaching
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Hope you’re having a wonderful Wednesday! ūüôā

Questions of the morning:

  • What has been a memorable vacation you’ve taken?
  • What is a dream vacation spot for you?

thanksgiving + goals for the week of 12/1

happy thanksgiving

Happy December, friends! How was your Thanksgiving? I wanted to take a moment to say how thankful I am for all of YOU. Thank you for your kind comments and emails and “likes” and for taking the time to visit my little corner of the blogosphere. It is a privilege and joy to be part of your lives!

Thanksgiving in the Woodburn household was chaotic and wonderful. A bunch of my brother’s friends from business school came home with him for Thanksgiving dinner, so my mom and I made a TON of food to make sure all those boys got their fill. My favorite Thanksgiving dishes are always the sides: sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries … yum! And don’t forget about the pumpkin pie {leftovers of which I have been eating for breakfast the past few days, not gonna lie!} Everyone was so grateful and complimentary and they all definitely left our house with happy bellies. The house feels quiet now without them, and Mr. Mur-dog is exhausted from all the excitement.

murray exhausted 

Yesterday I headed over to my cousin Amanda‘s new apartment to watch the USC football game. I brought “lucky” rice krispies treats decorated with USC cardinal-and-gold M&Ms … but unfortunately they weren’t so lucky, as our Trojans lost big-time to rival UCLA. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all! And I still had a lovely catch-up visit with my cousins.

cousins!

Today has been a relaxing Sunday. I had brunch with Erica and her boyfriend and sister … we made pecan cinnamon bun pancakes = aaaamazing! Now I’m planning to curl up on the couch with Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses. But first, goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from two weeks ago:
write 15 pages of new material
submit fellowship application
–¬†exercise at least twice
–¬†finish reading¬†Happier Endings: a meditation on life and death
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for the week of 12/1:
– write 15 pages of new material
– prepare for Steinbeck Center reading on Wedsnesday
–¬†exercise at least twice
–¬†finish reading¬†Girls in White Dresses
– order holiday cards
– publicize Winter Writing Camp
– connect with two friends

Questions for the afternoon:

  • How was your Thanksgiving?
  • What are you thankful for in your life?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?

marvelous monday: finding balance

Happy Labor Day, everyone! According to a quick Wikipedia search, Labor Day was created to celebrate the “social and economic contributions of American workers.” Hope you are enjoying a day of rest and relaxation!

I really love my job, but teaching is something that it can be hard to leave at the office. I’m always bringing home papers to respond to and also thinking about future assignments and lesson plans. Today, I’m celebrating Labor Day by taking a day off from grading and thinking about my classes, and instead just relaxing and enjoying myself. I’m having some friends over for dinner tonight — planning on whipping up a big batch of white chicken chili and corn muffins {recipe post coming soon!} and maybe some lemon bars for dessert. YUM!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance. One of my favorite quotes {which I might have shared on here before, I can’t remember} is from the late, great coach and teacher John Wooden. He said the two most important words in the English language are “love” and “balance.” I think that is so true, and yet balance can be really difficult to achieve. Especially in the fast-paced, multi-tasking-obsessed, constant-communication world we live in these days. It’s so easy to get sucked into the void of doing, doing, doing; more, more, more; faster, faster, faster.

Balance is something I am continually striving for. My work ethic is a quality I am really proud about, yet this is something that can easily slide off-balance. When that happens, I become a stressed-out, perfectionist workaholic. That is not who I want to be or how I want to spend my time!

So I’ve been taking some time each day to focus on balance. Find my center. Close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think of all the things I love about my life. I think about who I want to become. The hard work I plan to put in, the goals I want to accomplish–but also the fun things I wish to do, too. The places I want to travel. The fun books I want to read and movies I want to see and concerts I want to go to. The random treasures I want to take advantage of in everyday life: the awesome pinball arcade Mike & I stumbled upon, the nature trail along the river, the plethora of local restaurants we want to try out.

I’ve started to think about balance as a day-by-day thing, something I am working towards each and every day. For me, a good day does mean putting in two or three or four solid hours of work on my thesis draft. But it also means other things, too: relaxing with my sweetie on the couch watching an episode of The Wire; letting my mind wander while I try out a new dish in the kitchen; going for a long walk around the neighborhood; catching up with my family or friends on the phone; laughing till my stomach hurts over a hilarious video on YouTube; making my way through the stack of good books on my bedside table; and on, and on. A truly good day, to me, means a balanced day. I have discovered that I feel the most fulfilled and joyful and content when my life is balanced.

I saw this cartoon in a recent issue in The New Yorker and I wanted to share it here because it seems super appropriate not just to the theme of this blog, but also to the idea of balance.

cartoon from The New Yorker 2012

This cartoon made me smile, but it also gave me pause. I started this blog because I wanted to become more organized in my daily life, while also saving money and time. But I never want organization to become a source of stress, or to feel pressure for perfection. My life and my apartment have become a little more organized in the past few months. I’m making progress. I’m trying new things and cooking more meals at home and flexing my newly developed decorating muscles. But my life will never be perfectly organized. I will never be that woman in the cartoon.

And I think that’s a good thing.

I’m not striving for perfection. I’m striving for balance. To me, love + balance = happiness.

What’s your happiness equation? How do you find balance in your busy life?

-Dallas