Thursday, December 30, 2010

[2010 Was Not] A Very Good Year

We are only a few hours away from sending 2010 packing. And I don't think I have ever been so glad to see a year go. For those of you who had a great 2010, I'm truly happy for you. For me, however, 2010 was not a very good year. Which is the opposite of what Frankie is singing here. But I take creative freedoms.

I turned 30 in 2010. It's a milestone. And I'm nowhere where I wanted to be. In any aspect of being. I guess I could be grateful that I am still upright. But beyond that, I am not at all where I thought I would be at 30. And that is hard. Because I'm not even close.

I applied for 11 jobs this year. Both in-state and out-of-state. Both within my field of education and out of it. I got called to interview for one. I got offered none.

The health insurance costs at the library job have started going up. So my paycheck has started going down. And since my hours at the funeral home are now going down too, in the name of the bottom line, that check is shrinking also.

My 16 year old car is starting to really fall apart. And it's not just cosmetic anymore. I spent $500 on snow tires. I spent almost $700 on new brakes. And it's still leaking coolant somewhere, so I drive around with 2 gallons of coolant in my car, because I have to refill it about once a week. Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote that it took me 10 minutes to get into my car because of the hard freeze that wouldn't allow me to even unlock my doors? Well that happened again last night. Only this time, when I managed to get the driver's side door open, something happened with the lock or the latch freezing in place, and it wouldn't shut, but would slam against the hook thingie and open back up. Makes it kind of hard to drive around when your door won't shut. And I lost it. I stood out there in the freezing cold morning with my car running and a door that wouldn't shut, and I bawled my eyes out. Thankfully Lea worked the same shift, so she came and picked me up. And thankfully her husband was off today, so he came over and looked at it. And he fixed it. And bought de-icer and lubricant. Which I had to use again tonight, since the door did the same thing, since it is again way way below freezing. I think I will eventually be climing in and out of the passenger side. It gets more ghetto by the day.

And let's not even get started on the drama that is living near family.

Overall, I did not enjoy 2010. It has been a very hard and trying year for me. And I'm not sure what to do with that.

The year wasn't a total bust, though. There were highlights. Like a new friendship that brought new traditions and people who are so willing to help when I have issues like frozen door locks. Like a trip to the Oregon Coast with my mom. Like a trip to Savannah, Georgia with Julie. Like getting a job with health insurance. Like managing to achieve several of the goals I set for myself this year, including getting out of debt.

So it's not that my 2010 was completely void of good moments. It's just that those good moments are quite overshadowed by the really dark hard moments, of which there were so many.

As I was pondering all this today at the library, I had the thought that perhaps life would be easier if we just used seashells for currency like they do on The Flintstones. And then I laughed to myself as I thought, "Shoot, I'd be having a yabba dabba do time too if I could pay with seashells!" Granted, a lot of issues can't be solved with money. But a lot of them can. And right now, this economy could use some seashell currency.

The truth is, whenever I write a blog post like this, I feel guilty. I know I should be grateful for the things that are "right" and not be so concerned with what, in my opinion, isn't. But the other truth is that these things I have written are as much a part of me and my life right now as anything else I've ever written. And maybe one day, hopefully with the good fortune of perspective, I will be able to read over this blog post and remember how I felt, and maybe -- hopefully -- I will be able to understand why I had to endure a year such as this. So whether I feel guilty for writing it or not, I'm leaving it. Because you get the whole Nilla Life. Crazy and all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pieces of Me

So one of my "projects" of late has been to organize paperwork. Gasp! Funny how I sort of do that for one of my jobs, but I allow my own personal paperwork to exist in such disarray! And, as with many of my projects, this one has been put to the back burner, brought to the front, put back to the back... You get the picture. Monday night I pulled it back to the front. And let me tell you that it's quite the undertaking. I have a file box into which I just shoved stuff. Pay stubs (from 4 different jobs now so far...), tax papers, dental records, medical records, etc etc etc. Plus various greeting cards I've received. They are all just thrown into this box that I tote around with me from home to home. I guess, in a sense, it's the minutiae of me. Or pieces. I actually changed the title of this blog post just so I could make it a song title post ;). It was a hard choice, actually. I could either make my title alliterative, which I love to do; or I could make it song-ative ;). Which I also love. Music won out. It usually does.

Anyway, so here are a few of the treasures that came out of "the box" that I was surprised to see. Mostly because I forgot about most of them. And because some of the others I would like to forget... Hahaha.

"Fun" item number 1: My divorce decree. Now there's a good time. I have read more than one divorce decree in my life (only one of them being mine -- but it's amazing what they have in some cemetery files...), and I'll tell you what: I don't believe there exists a divorce decree that doesn't leave you feeling empty inside after you read it, even if you don't know the person(s) to whom it applied. The most ironic statement in mine states that it will be as if the marriage never existed. Well, obviously they are speaking of legally and financially. Because for the rest of my life, no matter what else happens, I will have always been married and I will always be divorced. I wouldn't mind if that piece of paper had some magical power to undo the past and make it a true statement emotionally and mentally as well. But it doesn't. So I snub my nose at that ridiculous statement in my divorce decree. Because, again, no matter what else happens, there will always be that sore spot in my heart created by a divorce that did break my heart. And I can never undo that or pretend it didn't exist.

Fun item number 2: A very small receipt that fell out of some tax papers from the years I was in Tuscaloosa (which makes it even more baffling). It's from June 2, 2005 at 9:29 (I assume in the morning) and is from the TSUD bookstore. Which no longer exists (to my knowledge anyway) since they turned that into Barnes & Noble (I think) when TSUD became part of "One Great University" now known as Troy University (where Spring Break never ends, if you believe their radio advertisement from a few years back... I'm not really sure that's something I would advertise...). Hahaha. Anyway, I don't know what I bought there, but it was $45.00. Plus tax. And I'm sure it was a textbook for one of my classes.

Fun item number 3: A printout of my blog post for March 5, 2008! I was once toying with the idea of printing my blog. For keepsake purposes, since it was sort of like a journal. I mean, I used to post daily! So I printed out that blog post to see how long it would be and what it would look like. Well, I realized quickly this would be something that would be costly and use up way too much paper and ink. Maybe if I was less wordy...? Anyway, but I kept the one I did print. It was fun to read over it (even though I could always go back and read my own archives online). I wasn't living in Washington yet, and I was missing my family terribly. My movie quote for the week was from Pretty In Pink. I was in the middle of Strive For Five and had lost a cumulative of .8 pounds by week 8. And my quote of the day (I was changing quotes daily back then) was all about family. And Elka had left something like 4 comments on that post trying to guess what "Baby's" (from Dirty Dancing) real first name was in the movie.

Fun item number 4: My MAT scores. I had totally forgotten I took the MAT for graduate school! MAT stands for Miller Analogies Test. So I took a test with a bunch of analogies with everything from math to English to History to Science. Fun stuff. But I heard that was better than the GRE, so I opted for the analogies! I scored in the 80-something percentile, which doesn't seem too great to me, but I guess it was good enough ;). I also found the letter I had written to attempt to be accepted into the online MLIS program in early 2006. I was not admitted to the online program, of course. My life took a different path altogether and I ended up moving to Tuscaloosa. And I found a letter announcing the bestowal of a scholarship for Graduate School plus a letter announcing my raise of merit for the school year 2007-2008 (for my job at UA).

Fun item number 5: An assignment from Graduate School. I had to prepare a curriculum assignment and I'm thinking it was for Materials and Services for Children. I chose to do a program on America's Declaration of Independence. I had to lay out activities and objectives, mention books I would use, and assignments I would give in various areas such as creative writing and research. Reading it over tonight, I was pretty surprised I had produced such an item! It sounded really good to me! Hahaha. Maybe I copied some smart teacher's plan... ;).

Of course, I haven't finished going through the box of treasures yet. But I'm done for the night. I am trying to decide how long I should keep past insurance claims (dental and medical). And old check stubs. I know they say to keep tax stuff 7 years back. Would work paycheck stubs fall into that category? Any thoughts?

So there you have it. A few pieces of me. Some of which even I had forgotten ;).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas seemed to come fast this year. And now it's gone. Seems weird. One reason it was particularly nice was because of the days Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fell on. I am enjoying a 4-day weekend from the library job and a 3-day weekend (which is now wrapping up) from the funeral home. I house-sat for Bob Friday and Saturday nights. He and his wife gave me a gift card to Target. Ben, Michele, Tony, and Royce came by on Friday for us to exchange gifts. They got me this really cool gardening book, which I am sure I will be referring to often in the upcoming year! I also made the beginnings of cinnamon rolls that have to sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Saturday morning I woke up around 8 and got dressed and ready for the day. I pulled out the cinnamon rolls and the glaze and headed to Lea's house. They had invited me over to exchange gifts and eat breakfast and I offered to bring homemade cinnamon rolls. So Lea got me a hair crimper for the next time I rock the 80s. And her whole family got me a travel-crock pot! It's nice and big (6 quarts) and it has a sealed locking lid with big side handles so that you won't spill soup on your car!!! (I did that once on a Monday Meal night...)

I got her family and also Dan each a place setting. Again inspired by Marvelous Monday Meals. Lea has always said the pictures in the facebook album all have her old chipped plates. So I got new plates for everyone (including myself). They thought this was a really cool gift. So that was neat.

We enjoyed hot-out-of-the-oven, homemade cinnamon rolls on our new plates.

And then we watched about 3 or 4 episodes of the new season of Glee. I was a little behind because of the fact I had to wait for it to come from the hold list at the library.

I opened all my packages and stuff I've been saving for Christmas. Sue (I work with her at the funeral home and walk with her as well) got me nifty mittens/gloves. They are really cool, because you slide them on as fingerless gloves and then there's this "pocket" thing you turn over onto your fingers so it's more like a mitten. Very cool. April sent 2 boxes of Jelly Bellys. One with the possibility of getting either the normal flavor or a look-alike that is actually gross. Like buttered popcorn/rotten egg; chocolate pudding/pencil shavings; or strawberry jam/centipede. I got enough gross ones to last me tonight, so I stopped eating those ;). The other has 5 specialty mixes like all berry; soda shoppe; Coldstone Creamery; Smoothie Blend; and Citrus mix. I really like the berry ones. I love Jelly Bellys as a whole though :). She also sent this awesomely 80s book that looks like a trapper keeper (it opens up like one) and has articles (witty funny ones) about all these 80s toys and cool stuff. Think He-Man; She-Ra; Pogo Balls; Garbage Pail Kids... I don't know where she finds all this 80s stuff she sends, but it's awesome! And from Julie, I got a "Peas in a Pod" box for memories. And the box itself is a memory! Since she and I used to refer to ourselves as two little peas in a pod (the grey, slightly misshapen ones ;)). She also sent a cookbook, and two "fru-fru" things for when I have my own place. (She has to be my interior decorator, because I have a huge hole where that gene is supposed to be....). One is a framed picture of The Lord's Prayer and the other is a 3-candle holder with a scripture verse on it. Very pretty and I think they will match whatever style I manage to have ;). And I'll put vanilla candles in those holders, Julie ;). You did give me permission in the card :). So yeah, some very awesome gifts!

Then it was time for family Christmas. We opted to do finger foods. But I think we still went overkill. Here's our spread. We had pigs in a blanket, cheese olivettes, empanditas, spinach dip with veggies, cheese spreads with crackers, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, oreo truffles, red velvet truffles, puppy chow, pigeon poop, almond roca, and cinnamon gingerbread muffins. I was going to make the bacon cheese mini appetizers, but I think we had plenty of food even without them. Those will be made another day, since the filling is all mixed and the dough is bought...

Here are Brad, Tarylyn, Saria, and Benjamin eating.
Then it was present time. I didn't end up getting a good shot of Samuel that wasn't sideways (and therefore requiring more work to upload here since I'd have to put it on my computer and flip it, so I just included him in a group one). Here is Emily with the Sing-a-Majig I got her. Those things are asesome.
Christina and Nick. I got Christina a book. She likes the murder mystery types, and I read this one years ago, so thought I'd buy it for her and hopefully she will like it. She reads really fast, so if nothing else, it's something for her to try.
Here is Desiree with all the flower clips Aunt Tarylyn made for her and Emily. She is such a pretty little girl.
And here are 4 of the 5 kids watching presents get opened. I think this was Saria with her Justin Bieber bear with money stuffed in it (by my mom). Which, now that I've thought about it, that's kind of funny. I will have to ask my mom if the bear stripped for her ;). If I spelled his name right. She's "in love" with Justin Bieber (Saria is, not my mom).
Benjamin (and Samuel) got nerf guns.
Saria (and Desiree) got these pink educational laptops. So did the boys (only they were blue) and Emily got one too for her age.

I got new scriptures and a tote for them, pajamas, and a box of chocolates, and goodies made by Tarylyn. After we were done with Christmas and cleaning up, I went back to Bob's and chilled and enjoyed control of the tv remote. The cats don't seem to mind ;). So we watched Scrooged.

And because I think I love this version of the song by the Glee cast (probably means more if you have seen the episode), listen here to I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Today I...

...slept until I woke up on my own. Which was at 9:00.

...didn't go to work (either of them), because I had a dentist appointment.

...spent 10 minutes trying to get into my car. We had a hard-freeze last night, and the locks to my car were frozen. Fun.

...bought a black blazer from St. Vinny's for $2.50. And by blazer, I mean the jacket variety. Not the awesome 4-wheeled variety. But if they had one of those for $2.50, I'd have probably bought that too :).

...went to the dentist and got a tooth yanked out of my head. My other top wisdom tooth (well, the other other one got pulled years ago in Dothan for the same reason) had a cavity and they recommended pulling it, because where they are tends to make them prone to cavities (since they are hard to reach). It cost me $1 less to pull it than fill it, and if I filled it and then had more problems later, that would make it even more costly. So I pulled it. This was a much better experience than last time. The had the tooth out in less time than it took the Counting Crows to finish singing Round Here on my Zune. Seriously. Sure, I heard a little bit of stuff and felt them pulling a bit. A small bit of pressure. But I'd had the procedure done before, so I was totally anticipating the horrible cracking sounds by my ear that I experienced last time. I was pleasantly surprised :). Less than 3 minutes. Worst part was getting the shot in the roof of my mouth. Well, and then the changing of the gauze stuff afterwards. Gross. But now I just have a hole in my mouth. Which will heal in time.

...stopped by Brad and Tarylyn's since I was over on their side of town and saw the kids for a few minutes. They had half day today since it is the beginning of Christmas Break for them.

...went to the Temple with Janise and Wendy and met up with Amalea there.

...went to the Cheesecake Factory on the way home from the Temple. Tried a new cheesecake (in the interest of not having hard stuff that might be detrimental to the hole in my head that had stopped bleeding by this point... I didn't want to start that process again, trust me). I had the chocolate peanut butter one with the chocolate cake layer. It's yum. I never finish all my meal or cheesecake, so I brought the leftovers home to my mom. I got the cajun chicken littles like I usually do, but I'm definitely not getting those again. They have changed the recipe and they are more bland. But dessert was awesome. As always. And the food wasn't bad. Just not as totally awesome as it used to be -- as far as that meal is concerned. But I did learn that they make awesome sweet potato fries!!! I will be getting those in the future.

...want to read some more in The Dead and the Gone, which is the second book in the series about the moon getting hit by a meteor and gets knocked closer in orbit to the Earth and this changes everything... Am loving this series. tired. And so I will stop blogging. I will read from the above-mentioned novel. And I will go to bed. done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmases of Yore

I don't know why, but sometimes when I listen to Christmas music, I get flashbacks of Christmases of yore. And so I thought I'd share a few...

Helping the Boy Scout Troop (of which Brad was a part) selling Christmas trees on Albrook AFB in Panama. Outside for hours. Bored. And it wasn't cold at Christmas time in Panama. So I was also sweaty. And a teenager. You can imagine the complaining :).

Having the day off of work from Troy and putting up the Christmas decorations on Veteran's Day. That is the earliest I think I've ever decorated (or my family, for that matter). But that was the year we were coming to Washington for Thanksgiving, so I figured that would give us a few extra days to enjoy the Christmas feeling. And it was nice, to tell the truth.

HLML Christmas party in the community room -- potluck -- with gift wrapping of Angel Tree presents afterwards. And shopping for those Angel Tree presents, for that matter. I remember going with a few other library folk one year and picking out presents at Wal-Mart (could there be any other place for our shopping needs!?!) I'm pretty sure we took Big Blue the station wagon, too...

Christmas Decorating Day in Panama. This was the day we got the tree (if we opted for real) or put up the artificial tree. And we decorated. The tree always stood in the same general area. Slightly to the right of the living room air conditioner. Some years we would put out the little village with Christmas lights that would make them light up. Some years we wouldn't. But we always pulled out all the Christmas boxes from the walk-in closet. (That walk-in closet is a memory for another time... But that little room was awesome. There were treasures in there, let me tell you. Treasures in my own house...). And we always put up my mom's special crystal ornaments. And I think this day is the reason Christmas music makes me think of this day. Because out would come the Christmas music. Records for the first several years of my life (and memory). And then CDs as the years went on. Never much of the cassette tapes, except in the car. (And mostly from that I remember a song with someone screeching 'I wanna bicycle!' and hearing that from the way back of the Pinto...). But always on Christmas Decorating Day my mom would put on Christmas music the whole day. Some days I wish I could go back and drink it all in.

Sleeping on the futon mattress in front of the Christmas Tree. And being woken up in the morning by the mailman delivering last-minute Christmas gifts we had ordered.

I think it's true what Oscar Wilde said: "Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us." Because these are certainly written on my heart forever.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Box of Chocolates

So little miss Emily turned 2 today. She is so funny. I took a few pictures, but here are two of them to represent :). I gave her this toy camera. It makes plenty of noise, which is the kind of gift parents love to have their children receive :)).

And here's the face of a kid who doesn't like to be told no. Or don't. Hahaha. Poor thing. Actually, I was feeding her cake (her own piece, mind you) and then her daddy sat down on the couch and she wanted his, so I said, "No baby girl, this one is yours." This face was the result. She got over it in a jiffy when Christina pointed to the bite I had on her spoon for her and said, "Bite!" She ate her bite and was happy again. But I do love her facial expressions!

As for the rest of life... It's been an interesting week. There has been a lot of rain falling. And I mean that totally literally. No metaphors this time ;). In fact, there are flood warnings for all the rivers in Western Washington tonight and tomorrow. And generally speaking, I'd prefer to have the rain than the snow. Of course, this also brings the flooded floorboard in my ghetto car. Oh my poor car. It's so old. And it's now costing me a lot of money. Today I took it in and got the brakes done. And that was expensive. Very. When they called and gave me the estimate, I was so frustrated. And wanted to cry. But the good news is that I do have the money saved up. And financially, this is the best time in my life for it to happen. I'm out of debt, and I have the money to pay for it. It's just frustrating to save up money for other things and then have to spend it on "necessary" things... But, oh well. At least I'm driving around safe now. And then, when I got home from my day of shopping, I had a check in the mail for participating in healthy living habits stuff through my library job. So the insurance pool pays people who participate $125. Woohoo! So I kind of got back some of the money from the brakes! And since I had won $50 in gift certificates last night at the Christmas party for the funeral home... Well, I didn't spend any money today except on my car. The Christmas party at the funeral home was really fun. We had awesome food. We did a potluck, except the location bought a ham and roast. We had a great turnout and just enjoyed phenomenal food (scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, punch, apple crisp, pumpkin pie, apple pie, jello, cheesecake, baked beans, cole slaw, rice, spring rolls, deer sausage with cheese and crackers, rolls, green bean casserole...). We played a couple of games at the end. One of them was called Noah's Ark where everyone got a slip of paper that had an animal written on it. We had to go around and act like that animal and find our match and be the first in line with Noah. Hahaha... I got pig! My mom got ape. Other funny ones were monkey and chicken. We laughed so hard! We also played a game where you pass a quarter from hand to hand with the people next to you. The people on the other side of the table say when to stop and then guess who has the coin. It was pretty hilarious. Then a few of us stayed and cleaned up and visited for about an hour afterwards, and we told stories and laughed even more. So all in all, it was a great time!

Today I took the day off work from the library. Because I wanted to. Just needed a break. Plus I needed to take my car in, because it needed a brake (or three ;)). okay, okay, bad joke. So sue me. So after taking my car in, my mom and I went to a sports compound here where my friend's daughter works concessions and we bought smoothies (cold drinks on cold days... weird, but yummy). We went by the funeral home to pick up something I forgot last night. We went to the bank and stood in line for what seemed like forever. We went to Costco, which was a madhouse... And I didn't even end up buying anything, because I wasn't impressed with their selection of "select Disney DVDs" that I could get for $6 off. And then we went into Best Buy to see my sister and say hi. Then to Fred Meyer to do some grocery shopping (mostly for Marvelous Monday Meals). Then home for a bit until my car was ready.

I finished another book last night. It's called An American Summer. I loved it. The language in it was rough, and there was a pretty horrible scene in it. Not graphic in description that much, but definitely a horrible thing. But the book was really great. It had some very poignant moments and I think one of my favorite lines from the book is when Christy (a 14 year old boy) realizes through his friendship with Kathryn (a 23 year old woman who got polio and was now in an iron lung), "I was amazed at how wonderful I felt because I really hadn't understood, until that moment, how I had it in my power to make happy another person on the face of this Earth." In spite of the rougher parts of this novel, this was a feel-good story, and I'm so glad I read it.

Anyway, it's been a good week. Good, but interesting. My life is looking like it's going to take some interesting turns. And so I will agree with Forrest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates... You never know what you're gonna get." Stay tuned...

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Well this is mostly just a picture dump. More pictures from Thanksgiving. From Christina's camera. These are all from after dinner. I did some filming of the kids (aren't you proud, Dad?), and they were very excited to get to watch the video we had just filmed. So we sat on the kitchen floor and watched it on the mini-screen. And they thought it was so hilarious.
Emily had been wearing this necklace around her neck. I don't know if it is a pen or something. But it lights up. Anyway, so she brought it to me, so I tried to put it around my neck. Alas, my head is melon-size, and it didn't fit. So we ended up with this.
Saria and I talked books. And I talk a lot with my hands, as evidenced in this picture.
And then we all posed with plastic vampire teeth. Even me. And even Emily. Which was hilarious.
Toddler hugs and kisses sure are sweet.
And the Christmas parties begin... Which is why it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas :). Tonight was the library Christmas party. We were a small group, but we had fun. We did a potluck, which was delicious; an ornament exchange; a cookie exchange, which is always awesome; and played Apples to Apples and had a lot of fun with that! Here we all are posing with out ornaments.

Deep Thought as I spent time looking at the pictures from Christina: though I imagined my life at this point as being quite different than it actually is, it occurred to me this week that if I was married with children as I always dreamed of being by 30, I would not have the relationship I have with my nieces and nephews. They bring such joy to my life. And you know what? I wouldn't trade it for anything. There is still time for me to be a mommy one day. Until then, I will enjoy being the cool aunt. Because seeing the joy in the eyes of these beautiful children and knowing them as well as I do... It is so worth it :).