Okay, one more for 2011. Are you surprised in the slightest?

My sister picked that shirt out for me last week. She said it’s basically my theme shirt and I should wear it all the time – especially with my friends.

I wrote once about the time I Skyped with someone, got off the phone with them and a girl in the hostel looked at me. “You smile alone. You’re funny.”

A friend would later say that should be the title of my self-help book or autobiography.

“I Smile Alone.”

I ended up wearing that shirt for the first time as a pajama shirt rather than out and about with friends. When I looked in the mirror the next morning, not only did I see myself, but I could read the message perfectly. I’d put the shirt on inside-out, so looking back at me – Myself, and “You Make Me Smile.”

And it made me smile, and it made me laugh.

When I was talking to the writer and photographer at the castle in Sintra, Portugal, the ones who scoffed when I said “I’m trying to be both of you,” one of them heard about my four-month trip and with a smirk asked, “So did you come here to find yourself?”

He said it as though I must have been running, or must have had baggage at home. Yes – I changed. Immeasurably. Yes – I found out more about myself than I could have thought possible.

Did I go over to smirk-worthy “find myself” as though something in my life had been missing prior? As though I was longing to find my spot in the world because I’d previously been feeling lost? Alone?

I told him, “No, I felt pretty good before. I just came to see, learn and tell stories.”

To have had the year and the experiences I’ve just had was such a blessing. To share it – in person, on the phone, in the blog… to have people to share it with. To have people to call the second I have good news, or when I need them because I have bad news. To giggle with, to goof around with, often to overanalyze with…

There was a post Freshly Pressed the other day, and this guy is having a good week. Over 500 bloggers have “liked” it so far- my high was 130!

Five Ways to Find Your Future.

Your future is about people not projects or accomplishments. Current relationships tend to maintain stability; new relationships disrupt. Treasure both.”

I didn’t go to Europe to find myself. I know where home is, and geographically, there are a few. More importantly, I know what makes me happy and I wish for everyone that they find that place. And hell, if you have to go somewhere to find yourself – take risks to find yourself – Do it! Maybe guy on the top of the castle, so sure of himself, hasn’t reached his potential. I think you’d be so boring if you didn’t think you could improve.

Life would be boring.

But none of the best of 2011 would have happened if I didn’t have these people.

Just a few of the best. Thanks, everyone.

Can’t wait to share 2012.

Now I’m done for the year.

One More Day

I just went eight days without writing, and I left you all hanging with a classy one. I know.

This past week has been filled with flights and food, friends and family. Ups and downs. Excitement and worries.

Reuniting with past. Living in the moment. Planning the immediate future.

Reliving 2011. Daydreaming of 2012.

I spent the Friday before Christmas in Central CA with family.

I got to celebrate the magic of Christmas with someone celebrating for the first time. There’s no better way to do it.

I returned to my house for Christmas and had the major food groups: Carbs, Coca-Cola and Champagne. I’ve undone any “best shape ever” I had when I got back to the United States. Don’t ask me about my January 7 half-marathon. That will get accomplished solely due to the “I can’t tell the blog I failed” fear.

A few days later, I landed in Albany, NY. Today, Saratoga Springs. Past home, future home.

One more day of 2011. I assume this is my last post of the year. Had I written the past few days, I might have hit 24,000 hits, but in time…

2011. I feel as though I should be terribly sad to see it go. In mind, body and spirit, I’ve been changed for the better… for the better than ever. I’ve been blessed to see places and do things of wildest dreams.

Moreso, 2011 was about people. Family, old friends. Strangers, new friends. People who expressed more faith in a 22-year-old girl than any 22-year-old-girl (woman?) could believe. People who have pushed me to be better. To appreciate, listen, understand, observe, but most amazingly, imagine better.

And because of that, I’m not sad to see 2011 go.

I am so excited for 2012.

Thanks, everyone.

I’d Like To.

Oh, I’d like to do a write-up of what it’s like to take a trip to the salon to get waxed.

For appropriate blog material, I’d write about the time I got my eyebrows waxed.

I’d like to do a write-up about the relaxing music in the background and the little waxing woman’s hug as I entered the room.

I’d like to write about how she laughed at me because I didn’t know I had to remove the relevant clothing (you know, the kind you take off to get your eyebrows waxed).

I’d like to write about the feeling of removing said attire, taking position on the reclined seat and realizing I’d left my white socks on and look like a dweeb.

I’d like to write about the conversation we had. The questions she’d ask me, and how as I started to answer, she’d rip the burning wax away.

Are you going anywhere for the holidays?
Yeah, I’m going to New York for (rip) NEW YEARS TO SEE A FRIEND.
Do you have a boyfriend?
Well not exactly but that friend in New York, I (rip) THINK HE’S ALRIGHT.
What does he do?
He must be pretty talented.

I’d like to tell you she told me I was all done by saying, “Okay, Merry Christmas!”

I’d like to tell you far more than that, but no one would ever publish my children’s books.

No one would ever hire me.

I’d certainly never get to be President.

So I won’t.

Occupying Orange County

For anyone who got this post in his or her e-mail and was confused as to why it was titled 2510, I forgot to title this one before hitting publish. WordPress came up with the number.

A commenter today asked me what it’s like to be home. Six days in, here are some basic thoughts:

I keep focusing extra for conversations I expect to occur with a language barrier. Turns out the girl working the register at Target does in fact speak English perfectly. I get myself ready to explain and clarify simple concepts, speak slower, speak louder. My first dose of this was when I got on the plane from Barcelona to London, said to the flight attendant as I got on the plane “Im in 32C” in a slow drawn-out voice and she simply responded, “Smashing.”

Speaking of Target, I find it weird I was wandering a small little dark corner market looking everywhere for a notebook in Lisbon and now I’m back to one-stop shopping under bright lights.

I’m rather happily reunited with my smart phone (Shall we finally marry my social media use? Find me on Twitter @JCDeRusso), and am knee-deep in job searching. New résumés, cover letters, updated LinkedIn, research on freelancing… You get it.

I’ve begun to harness the 6a.m. energy I still have every morning. Due to the fact I’m used to not sleeping much or all that well, I don’t need eight hours of sleep anymore. I applied to a job this morning before I poured my first cup of coffee.

Then I went and played reporter.

I’d seen Occupy Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Lisbon. It was time for Occupy Orange County.
I’d driven by it a couple times but had never pulled over. That’s another change – seeing a sunset but not being able to take a picture of it because I’m driving 50mph in the opposite direction. I rather liked walking everywhere. Picturesque spontaneous moments were much easier to capture.

Side note, I tried going to the gym a few days ago – I am afterall signed up for (power-walking) a half marathon on January 7 and felt pretty good after walking all those miles day after day. Never had a blister or sore foot in Europe, right? First time in good sneakers in four months and at the slightest treadmill incline, my ankles felt like they were going to break off. We’re going to have to figure that out. It was stressful, made more stressful by the movie star female next to me, long ponytail large chest bouncing as she ran like… a gazelle? That’s the word that comes to mind. She kicked her legs up behind her as high as they’d go. Bounce, leap, bounce, leap.

Occupy Orange County has been there for over two months. The group of guys sitting at the information table said that, as a smaller Occupy campsite, they serve more for promotional purposes of the movement than the change vehicles that are the bigger sites such as Wall Street. Occupy Orange County has 20-25 people who camp there every night, with more on weekends and some that come and go as their jobs and time allow. Occupy Los Angeles had gotten recently raided and the conversation drifted to talk of other sites. The boys were from Los Angeles, Long Beach and Irvine.

They said Irvine has asked the movement to cease all overnight camping by January 11. The boys said they could be like other Occupy sites and refuse to leave, but that Irvine has been extremely respectful of the movement in the past two months. “Conversations with the police here generally end with police asking, ‘Is there anything else we can do for you?'” Occupy Orange County will reciprocate that respect and move at the requested time. Local churches, with privately owned land and parking lots, have expressed support of the movement.

I said I’d seen a few of the Occupy sites in Europe and they asked, “Oh, so what is the news over there?” In my conversation with them, I realized how serious and organized Occupy is, and I didn’t have a good answer to that question. The truth was I hadn’t followed all that much or done enough investigating. They asked if I’d be coming back to camp out. I hedged, not staunchly against the campaign but not sure if I was ready to join this movement (or any movement, I just got my bed back), but they were a nice, well-spoken group and I’m glad I stopped by.

That said, today I remembered two fundamental rules of journalism:

Come with questions.

Bring a notebook.

Today, I received the fantastic news that Kickstarter accepted a proposal I submitted. In early 2012, I will launch a page supporting the funding of the illustration, self-publishing and promotion of two children’s books I wrote while in Europe. More to come on this…

I am extremely excited.

Simply Having a Wonderful, (Versatile?) Christmas Time

While I was in Europe, I wrote a lot but read very little. I got behind in responding to comments and questions, and I am still catching up. I wasn’t following a single other blog – I’m working on it.

That said, it’s about time I responded to one fun thing. In the past three weeks, fellow bloggers have nominated my blog for the Versatile Blogger Award three times. It’s a fun way bloggers recognize other writers they follow and help spread followers and awareness of the work out there, and I’m so thankful for the mentions in the following posts:

Rory Alexander (Dec. 1)
Ms. Christine R (Dec. 14)
Kat (Dec. 20)

Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

Nominate 15 fellow bloggers
Inform the bloggers of their nomination
Share 7 random things about yourself
Thank the blogger who nominated you
Add the Versatile Blogger Award Pic on your blog post.

I’ve just recently followed the following blogs (I’ve yet to catch up or do much serious reading, but these are the ones I look forward to reading):

Sweet the Sound – Check the end of the linked post out, she’s been pretty great to me!

restlessjo – “Roaming, at home and abroad”

Paperballpotluck – Mattie and I met two and a half years ago, and she’s been a wonderful friend to me.

We are all oddities – One of the more brilliant writers I’ve ever had the joy of personally knowing.

That’s not 15. That’s why they’re not numbered. I promise to fill you in on more as I start reading.

7 Random Things About Myself

1. My childhood bedroom was decorated in I Love Lucy collectible items.
2. As a child, I hit parked cars twice with my bike.
3. At :45 on this clip, that’s me!

4. I’ve been to the capital of 18 countries, but I’ve never been to Washington, D.C.
5. I’m at least 4.5 inches taller than anyone else in my immediate family.
6. Shania Twain’s Come On Over album (specifically songs 2-4) has been a constant in my life since its release in 1997.
7. I had to wear headgear as a pre-teen, and it was awful.

Tonight, I took the kids to Balboa Island to see the houses dressed up for the holidays. There’s nothing better than hanging with this group. Especially when the ride home is five kids singing along to Christmas carols and then Nirvana.

Simply the best.