29 November 2007

Celebrating and being celebrated!

It's been a wonderful two weeks. It all began on November 16th with a surprise 30th berfday party pour moi, which included my parents, many dear friends, and an amazing gift: a beautiful blue & white cruiser bike with an "S" on the seat for "Stine" (well, the S is really for Schwinn, but whatever)! I love it! Most of all, I felt loved and honored, which was the best gift a girl could ask for.

The fun continued on to Thanksgiving/my actual birthday and then the ritual of decorating for Christmas! Here are some photo highlights...

First, the surprise party.

After the party, a bunch of people came back to Casa de Bailey where we sat around the firepit in the backyard and talked until 3am. For some weird reason, I still awoke the next morning at an early hour and made my way to the kitchen as I dodged bodies scattered all around the house under mounds of blankets. We gave a wake-up call and decided that brunch was in order. After all, Tara Leigh was staying over, and we know how important brunch is to New Yorkers! Bodies started rustling, doors started opening and closing, and soon enough we were all ready. So we headed to one of my favorite restaurants in Dallas: Breadwinners in Uptown. Our friend Paul generously treated us, too! The food and coffee were scrumptious, and we even saw a woman eating with her toes at the next table over. Seriously.

For some reason, this photo makes me look like I just had Botox. Haha! I know I just turned 30, but I swear I didn't!!!

Random cute hubby pic:

Here I am showcasing a few birthday gifts...an amazing apron from Anthropologie and the book, Eat Pray Love: A Woman's Search For Everything Across Italy, India, & Indonesia from Victoria, and a cute dandelion tee from Amy! Also notice my new favorite pair of footwear, these amazing slippers from Target. I want to wear them everywhere. I tried riding my bike with them and wearing them to bed, but Steven wouldn't let me. Darnit.

On Thanksgiving, we were visited for the third year in a row by our dear friends Chris & Julie Bennett. Here, Julie and I are being domestic and about to go on a sugar binge with freshly baked Yummy Cookies:

...and how could a single holiday go by without the lips face???

A few days later, we spent some family time decorating the tree at my brother's house with my nieces. Here's Ashley with her favorite ornament, the ballerina of course!

We all think my brother looks exactly like Mr. Incredible. What do you think?

My cute mom & sister-in-law...

And each of the girls with their Aunt Stine...

Ashley thought I was turning 13 on my birthday, by the way. 17 years off, but I'll take it! I still feel 13 on the inside, especially when I'm riding my new bike!

Back at the Bailey residence, we decided to spontaneously paint our front livingroom on Saturday! Justin & Autumn helped us, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. It's the perfect brown called "Chocolate Sparkle".

Here's the view from the Chocolate Sparkle room into the Warm Glow livingroom that I posted before...

Then it was time to decorate for A Bailey Christmas!

26 November 2007

"Though I questioned the sky, now I see why..."

"...had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view
Looking back, I see the Lead of Love"

This Caedmon's Call song has meant a lot to me throughout the last decade. It's been blasted from my '86 Oldsmobile with the plush red seats as I left my college home in Nashville for the freeways of Houston. I sang it aloud as I then drove away with Houston in my rearview mirror back to Nashville. And it made me cry a little when I left Nashville for the second time to embrace my grown-up life in Dallas.

On Thanksgiving Day, I said goodbye to the twenties and turned Thirty Years Old. I left behind a decade that has formed me. In my twenties, I became an adult. I have been blessed with friends near and far. I began to find out who I was and what I wanted my life to be about...what my gifts were and how to best use them...how weak I am and how much I need to continue becoming a better person, friend, daughter, wife.

I admit, there is a small aching feeling deep in my chest when I realize I will never in my entire life be Twenty-Something again. I can't ever take back all of the moments I spent in college or living a carefree life of single girl in Houston and Nashville. Turning from 19 to 20 is so different. It's more like, See ya later teenage years, don't let the door hit you on the way out. But turning 30 is such a watershed moment in one's life. I thought I was becoming an adult when I turned 20, but what I'm learning is that I haven't really become a woman until now. Even though it's bittersweet, today I would not trade the confidence I have as a 30-year-old. I do like who I am. I look forward to finding out how God is going to use my little life in this world.

I love this time of year, too. Not only is the weather cooling to the soul, but it's such a time of celebration! I have several friends with birthdays including my mom, sister-in-law, dear friends Jenni and Brett, and new friend Victoria. It's so fun to celebrate them. I remember sitting on the floor of Brett's apartment in Houston in the summer of 1998 when I asked her age. She answered, "25." Nearly 5 years older than I, she seemed so much wiser, more like a mentor than a peer. Now, she is 35, I am 30, and many things have changed. I am blessed with an amazing home, family, husband, doggie, several kindred spirits, and more friends than I can count scattered around this globe.

A few months ago, I started making a list of all the things I've done or accomplished in my twenties...like "Lost 50 pounds," "Bought a house," and "Traveled to India, Kenya, Uganda, France, Italy, Monaco, and Switzerland." I considered posting them all here but decided to keep them in my journal to enjoy on my own. Who am I, if my last ten years is just a list of things I've done and seen? As I was reminded last night while reading When The Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd, who I am is not defined by what I have, what I do, or who is in my life. Because what if it was all taken away? Who would I be then?

I am thankful I can look back and genuinely smile, laugh, and thank God for where I am today. There has been struggle and sadness, and there are circumstances in my life that I would not have chosen on the front end...but everything that really matters, I have securely, and that is a gift. So really, what else needs to be on that list other than "I Learned to Love And Be Loved"? As I face the next thirty years, I hope this is the one thing I keep in sight.

20 November 2007

There's nothing like Autumn in the Northeast (final chapter!).

(See part 1...)
(See part 2...)
(See part 3...)

The rest of our trip was spent in lovely Jersey. My parents took us to Lake Hopatcong and Lake Mohawk which is just a short drive from our house in Madison. It was gorgeous. Many people would be surprised to know a place like this exists in Jersey!

Lake Mohawk looked like it could have been a hamlet in Germany or Switzerland (except for the speedboat - ha!)...

We also got to spend time with my most favoritest cousins in the whole world: Paula and Steve, and their kids Brian, Colleen, and David. Paula is my first cousin. This is me with Colleen and Paula. We are definitely cut from the same cloth!

Me and my Godson, David:

Our mutant family. See where I get it??

This is one of my parents' 3 cats, Sarah, a.k.a. The Fattest Cat You've Ever Seen. She could feed a family of four with plenty for leftovers.

She likes to perch against the arm of the couch and "direct traffic," as my dad says.

Next, we went to the gorgeous Princeton University campus to visit an old dear friend, David "Keas" Keasler. What a wonderful, refreshing time we had - strolling amongst historic buildings, admiring beautiful tall trees, and talking about life and faith. Perfect.

And finally, an autumn walk around my parents' house and the town of Madison, NJ. The backyard of my childhood...

The variety of leaves we found on our walk!

H A P P Y A U T U M N, F R I E N D S !