Cause the new year has a smirk the size of Boston..

I turn over, pulling the white down comforter over me as the sunlight begins to inch its way under the shades that conceal a view of Boston. Sitting up after a few restless attempts to tug at my eyelids and fall asleep once again, I yawn and glance around the hotel room.

A smile tickles my lips. The possibilities are endless I think to myself. Endless.

Now I do not awake like Sleeping Beauty amidst a pile of goose down pillows every morning but 2010 saw it fit to have a birthday party that included a hotel stay and a night out with the girls in Boston.

2010, let me just tell ya, you are looking mighty fine. Is anyone else feeling this  way? A brand new year to fill with whatever we like. Resolution rebels or those rebelling against resolutions, no matter who you are, you officially have an empty calendar waiting to be filled with your hearts’ desires.

The catch is, no one can automatically be granted these next 365 days on the spot. We all know that each day we get is a gift, not a right. But will you choose to treat each one as such? If each day is a gift then why don’t we treat them with the same care that we do our new computers that we got for Christmas or that IPhone that we found under the tree?

If I choose to have one mentality in this new year, it will be the mentality that every single day is precious and new, begging for my attention.

Let’s treat each day, be it January 2 or May 25, as if it is a child- one that wants to be adored and loved.  Let’s fill the days with laughter and smiles, time well spent with those we care about. Let’s fill the weeks  with our deepest passions, the books we have wanted to read, indulgences that tickle our fancy, traveling- doing what we personally want to do. Let’s fill these next twelve months to the brim with good conversation, soul-searching, helping those around us, uncovering or refining a purpose.

I thought this morning, while making the trip back home from Boston, that I will be pretty lucky if last night is any indication of how 2010 will play out. If

Girls just want to have fun

it is, then 2010 will have a healthy portion of laughter that makes my stomach hurt, craziness just for the sake of being crazy, spontaneity: all uses of the noun, a carefree attitude, and fun: a word often approached as foreign.

But then I realized… it is up to me to make my year this way.

We need to purposely set ourselves up for the year that we want to have. Of course setbacks are bound to approach and things will get in the way. But if we set ourselves up to make the most out of the next 12 months, strung perfectly side by side, then who can stop us? If we begin this journey with intent as our compass and our hearts as our road maps than we will ultimately find the place that we are called to be in this year. We will find ourselves in the middle of dialogues that we are meant to exchange, tangled in encounters that we are meant to delight in and amidst events that we are meant to serve our purpose at. We have lots to do. Lots.

2010 has a smirk the size of Boston and I know it has plans, Big Plans, for each of us.

Happy New Year’s to you and yours!



2010, what do you want from us?

One day before we say hello to 2010 and a line is already forming outside the gym. The “healthy food” is flying off the shelves and the message boards are overflowing with hopes and dreams of a new and improved year.

Will this be the year? The year with smaller waistlines and more stable finances? The year of improved relationships or, dare I say, the love of our lives?

Well I have already made it clear that I am anti-resolutions. I don’t like failure and January 1 is not a good enough day for me to change my life.

But I think New Year’s is tricky because I cannot pinpoint where exactly we get these resolutions or what is our main motivation in creating them.

A simple equation: New Year’s resolutions + self transformation = greater happiness

But do we do it for ourselves or because other people feed us this equation day after day, week after week, year after year.

Maybe that is why self transformation is so hard because after a while we stop focusing on helping ourselves and refocus on being socially acceptable, being beautiful to society, having other people like us and enjoy us and want to be around us. I think we all know it, but it is not easy to be happy and it may just be because our standards of happiness are always shifting.

Well let me tell you right now:

Happiness is falling in love, so join eHarmony and make it happen (free communications weekend!). Happiness is losing weight so grab a gym membership and start running. Happiness is making more money so head over to Barnes and Nobles and go straight to the economics section. Happiness is the best clothes so screw the bad economy and start shopping. Happiness is a size four. Happiness is a full head of hair. Happiness is a better computer, a nicer car, whiter teeth. Happiness is a Snuggie. Happiness is unattainable without all these things and improvements. Think we can make this happen in 2010?

But in all seriousness, we will never be happy if we are constantly letting other people define our standards of what happiness is. Self improvement starts with the self, what you personally want.

Sometimes I sit with my feelings as if they are all my dinner guests, gathered around my kitchen table. I identify each one, acknowledge its presence and purpose for being in attendance and figure out ways in which to either help this feeling stay or get it to leave. It sounds ridiculous but as long as I dont actually cook meals for my feelings I still think I am pretty sane. But take for instance the feeling of stress, I search myself to identify it and then I begin to think of why it is there. I have too much going on. I have not had a decent sleep in days. I am not getting to see my friends. And after I know all this, after stress and I have had a complete dialogue, I actively change the circumstances so that stress will find no reason to sit at my table anymore.

I find that focusing on my feelings rather than all the hubub of the media and the magazines I get real results. I inch closer towards full and complete happiness. I never stop questioning my feelings, why I am sad lately or overly content. When we push our feelings to the side to listen to others, something valuable is lost: the self in self improvement.

So perhaps before or even after we have our New Year’s Bash (meet me in Boston for midnight!) we should take the time to acknowledge our self and what we really want and base any kind of goal off of that. Figure out our feelings and seek to change them, rather than running to change the bank account or the physique first.

Here is to happiness in 2010.


Dorothy, you are wrong. I have more than one home.

About 5 steps.

Three sips of my coffee.

One look at my phone.

It is about as much as it takes to get my mind to wander back towards home, the place where I am not right now. I used to think home was this house, with these childhood friends, driving around a familiar town and passing six people I know in one hour or having parties in friends’ basements and backyards. In little ways it still is home to me.

But my real home, in this present moment,  is a place that I have come to love over four years. A place where my best friends are waiting for me, ready to scoot into the car to grab a cup of coffee or anxious to meet me in Chuck’s for lunch.

Does home change one day? Do we look around and see that we have moved on? Or does our heart just shift? Do we begin to love another place with another group of people more?

I am pondering these questions because a friend of mine, whom it takes about 2 seconds on her Blackberry or one sip of a Red Bull for her mind to wander back to home, asked me something last night: “Do you ever feel guilty when you are home? Because you love your friends and they are great people but you miss school so much.”

She struggles with this a lot.

I thought about for most of my night, about how much I love college compared to some of my friends who just see it as place to get a diploma. To me, my college is so much more, the people and place are my everything. But I don’t feel guilty about this and I told her so.

What would life be if we stayed in one place. What would it amount to if I decided to stay in this spot forever and just let that be enough because it has made me happy for so long. Life would be static. We would never grow. We would never learn to be individuals.

I think about the ways in which I once believed I would never want to move forward. I wanted to stay in the second grade forever. I wanted my senior year of high school to last for an eternity. I never wanted to leave my hometown.

There have been times in all of our lives that we have wanted to be shoved in a snow globe with a particular moment in time so we would never have to let it go.

But we eventually move forward, sometimes willingly and other times begrudgingly. We find new places to fall in love with, new faces to fall in love with, new versions of our selves to fall in love with. We fall in love over and over again. All Over The Place.

But this is good. This is the way I see it: We start to love places in childhood, which propel us to love other places even more as we grow older. We reach adulthood and we are really starting to truly love passionately and willingly. We find big loves. But we must thank the little loves that we had as children, the places we were for a while like our hometown or our college, for they are the ones that have inevitably taught us to love our place in the world.

Should we feel guilty when our mind wanders and our heart runs away from the present moment towards a home that “we love more.” No, no. Not necessary. We should just be thankful for all places. All these homes. Be thankful that they have served their purpose. Be thankful that these places gave us their time.

This is your Christmas

Whether you are five years old or have five grand children, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you are surrounded by the ones you love on this day or you have hollowed a hole in your heart for someone this is missing, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you have just tied the knot or you are slowly untying what seems like a lifetime’s worth of knots, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you have a healthy bank account or you are fighting to make ends meet, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you are filled to the brim with happiness and elation as you awaken each day or you are softly crying yourself to sleep each night, wondering how to put yourself back together again, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you are finding yourself smiling over someone unexpected this December or you are learning to let go of someone who once defined your grins, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you are filling the tree and stockings with dozens of gifts or you are giving the gifts that only a tight budget can buy this year, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether you are settled by the fire, enjoying the sights and sounds of a place called “home,” or you are away from your loved ones and missing familiarity this season, either way, this is your Christmas.

Whether a jolly big man in a bright red suit left you treasures to wake up to or a little baby in a manger changed your life with his birth, either way, this is your Christmas.

No matter whom we are, where we come from, the amount we can give and receive this season or what we believe in, either way, this is Christmas.

-Hannah Katy

Wishing you all a beautiful and meaningful Christmas Day. Thank you for the constant support, it means more than you could imagine. This morning I will be sitting by the fire, spending time with family and enjoying the simple things in my life– and I wish for you the same. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers throughout the day. Remember, this is your Christmas. Don’t let it slip away.

Lacing up my sugarplum fairies’ shoes

This time 13 years ago Santa was coming. He was loading up his sleigh and my toys were in his satchel ready to nestle themselves under the Christmas tree. I had set out the cookies for him and a carrot for Vixen (well I did not like Rudolph).

This time 13 years ago I was prancing around my house in a tutu, probably pretending to be Clara from The Nutcracker as I waited for company to show up at the house. I kissed baby Jesus on the forehead as I passed him on our table side nativity.

This time 13 years ago, the magic of Christmas was snug in my heart and no one, absolutely no one, could take away from me the sugarplum fairies that were dancing in my head.

This Christmas season was not all that there for me. Sure, I went through the motions of shopping for everyone on my list, sending out cards, wrapping gifts and baking cupcakes, but the magic that usually accompanies me throughout the 25 days was just not there.

It is not a Scrooge feeling, it is just a different feeling.

As we get older the holidays become more stressful , covered like a sheet of snow by other things that must still take precedence in our lives. The work load. The final tests. The finances. Before we know it, it is gone. In the blink of an eye, the season ends.

24 hours left, a giant Christmas Eve party and a Christmas morning gathering before the season will make its way to the back of the calendar once again.

If you have not already, steal the season back. Don’t rip it from the heart of little Cindy Loo Who like Mr. Grinch but sing your own Who song. Make your own Whoville, someway, somehow.

Let’s acknowledge those who have given us gifts this season. Give gifts to others with every intention of goodness in our hearts. Say Merry Christmas to perfect strangers. Say a prayer for those who may not have as happy of a holiday this season. Light candles. Sing carols. Realize that Christmas is not a noun, it is verb.

Christmas is giving, sharing, loving, spending- not money but time- singing, dancing, recognizing the reason for the season.

Let us refocus for the last 24 hours. Forget the lists that were not quite finished, the gifts we simply could not get our hands on this year, the mounds of calories we are nervous about consuming and just let Christmas take its course. Just let Christmas fill us with wonder and excitement and all the feelings that we once had as little children.

So wait up for Santa. Listen for bells. Go Christmas caroling. Put on your tutu. Fall asleep tonight with visions of sugar plums rocking out in your head.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

The “inbox” is no home for loved ones.

As a little girl, Curly Baby came everywhere with me. Apart from the one time that I threw her out the car window to prove to my mother that she could fly, followed by a panic attack when she surprisingly could not, that Precious Moments doll never left my side. I cuddled her, clothed her, bathed her and would not let anyone else take care of her.

I started thinking today of if I had a companion now that is as constant as Curly Baby; something that I am unable to put down, unable to go anywhere without, something that leaves me full of anxiety when I misplace it. Well now I am not so proud. My cellphone.

This piece of screws and bytes holds my life together. I leave it by my head to fall asleep at night, I check it three or four times in one sitting, I scavenge for it when I hear the text message tone. A lot of us are guilty of this. The rebuttal to the argument that this little gadget owns our lives: it keeps us in touch with the ones we love and the ones that are far away from us.

Call Hallmark because this is about to get touching.

Two summers ago I did some hours at a nursing home where I sat around a table and chatted with the old ladies believing I finally found the place where I fit in. At one point I checked my cell phone and the lady next to me asked what I was doing.

Me: Oh, just checking to see if a friend of mine returned my call.

Lady: I just don’t understand your generation today.

Me: Why? (intrigued per usual)

Lady: When I was a little girl we didn’t have all of these things. My grand children all talk to their “best friends” through a computer screen. That is not a friendship. You need to be able to hug your best friend, kiss your best friend, smell your best friend.

That lady taught me a valuable lesson, that friendship and tight-knit relationships are cultivated through face to face interaction, laughing at one another’s stupid mistakes, being there to actually see those stupid mistakes. We cultivate these lasting relationships through holding hands, seeing the other person cry, hurting their feelings but being able to read from their face that we have hurt them and feeling our stomachs sink.

We don’t get this from a text message. We don’t form lasting connections through an artificial connection. And I realized today that I am tying myself to these artificial connections, binding myself through these 140 character conversations. Taking real and true emotions and forcing them into a small space that travels through hundreds of miles to another person’s screen. And I call this friendship.

Now I am not cursing the cell phone, the Facebook or the email account. These innovations have done wonders for keeping us all in touch with one another and helping us root up buried pasts, but at some point we should draw a line. We should say, “let’s save this conversation for when we talk in person.” Or we should say to someone, “You know, I want to save learning your favorite color or your biggest passions for when I am sitting across from you, where I can see your face light up as you talk about it.” Or “I want to save the I love you’s for when I am lying next to you, feeling your hand slip into mine.”

We should draw these lines and see how much more fruitful life becomes.

And when distance sets us apart and we have to be away from those we love, let’s get a little creative and write a letter. Hand written. About something or about nothing at all. Do me  favor, if I know you, send me your address and I will send you a letter. I want to write you a letter. Heck, even if I don’t know you send me your address and I will write you a letter. But once I write the letter to you, you must pass it on and write a letter to someone else. Deal? But I am serious. Email me your address at hbrencher@live.com, or reply to this post with it.

And if you find the chance, put down the phone and Twitter in the next few days and enjoy those around you, the ones that you are blessed to have. As for me, I will be seeing my best friend tonight for the first time since Thanksgiving and I plan to hug her, and spend real time with her as I sit across from her,  and maybe even smell her.

For-give-ness sake

My father wants gel pens for Christmas. Gel pens. Yes, those things we used to write with in the 6th grade. And we collected them. And nearly had a hernia when they came out with the ones that would show up on black paper. He wants gel pens. Well Lisa Frank, I hope you are not out of business yet because I am coming for you.

This season is about giving but I am starting to believe that I may just gain more this year by giving to myself. I received an email today from an old friend, one in which I have had a falling out with, and it was a moment of peace and clarity. I was not expecting to hear from this person, but this person regarded all that was enclosed in the email as an early Christmas gift to them self, to finally have closure on our crumbled friendship.

Had you asked me yesterday if I thought I needed this, to hear from this person and to really think about everything that had happened to tear us apart into two strangers, I would have not thought twice. I assumed there really was nothing left to say, no more bridge to burn, no wound to care for.

But this person had words for me. Words that I may have been caught off guard to see sitting in my inbox amongst some eChristmas cards and daily fitness tips. These words propelled me to respond and also caused me to think of if there is anyone in my life that I have words for.

We all make room in our minds for the could haves, the should haves, and the would haves. We let them dominate our head, sprawl all over the place and use our brain as a mattress to jump upon. Do your self a favor this Christmas and  kick them out. Is there something you want to say to someone? Did someone hurt you and you feel so inclined to tell them? Did you let someone go that you should not have?

Do you need to forgive yourself?

Take your mind today and treat it like you would a messy desk, clean it up and clear some stuff out. Leave room for the carols, the stories, the ambiance of the holidays. Tidy up your mind and find your peace in the moment at hand.

This person may or may not know it, but they gave me the greatest gift of all this Christmas; a precious chance to salvage a friendship and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness, to me, is more beautiful than the star on top of the Christmas tree. Forgiveness, right now, is filling my cheeks with happiness and elation, warming my heart with so much heat that it has the potential to melt the snow outside.

Forgive someone else. Forgive yourself. Say what you need to say, or listen to someone else. After all, this is the season for giving.

Welcome Christmas season, won’t you please stay with me for the next few days?