About pishnguyen

I love photography, writing, anime, my family, and my dogs. And I seem to spend a LOT of time chasing my muses around in circles.

A Week of “Meh” …

Last week was a week of “Meh”. Remember how I mentioned I was doing some contract work for a local nonprofit organization? And remember how I mentioned that I was enjoying the work? And remember how I mentioned that I was starting to feel more alive and better about myself than I had in years?

Yeah. Well … that’s all gone. Thank you, COVID-19. I found out last week that I won’t be getting any more contract work for now. Luckily, the company feels it’s a temporary pause. They didn’t cancel my contract, and they told me they are looking forward to having me back on the team when things go back to normal — whenever that might be.

I’m not mad about getting shut down. I totally get it, and, honestly, I was not surprised. I felt really fortunate to be getting work as this pandemic started rolling across the U.S., but, in the back of my mind, there was that feeling of dread. You know the one I mean: that nervous, sinking feeling that tells you things are going too well, and that you are soon in for some disappointment.

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It sucks. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that. The people I was working with were very apologetic. I know they feel terrible about it. But, really, they have no reason to. It’s not their fault. It’s not my fault. It’s just the way things are for right now. Times are uncertain. We have no idea how long we might have to huddle in our houses. Maybe only until the end of April. But maybe all the way to June. Or maybe even longer. Everything feels uncertain and scary now. Businesses have to cut expenses. And, of course, an independent contractor is the first expense to go. I’m not angry about it. I’m just … sad.

So, my contract work dried up last Monday. Before the pandemic happened, I had applied for a job with a company in our town. Last Tuesday, I got a call from the hiring manager for that job. He wanted to let me know they are dropping me from consideration, although he appreciated my interest in the job, and he said he wants to introduce me to other people in the company’s legal department once we can all leave our houses. I came into the hiring process late, and they already had people lined up for second interviews, so I didn’t have much of a chance, from the start. The hiring manager told me this, up front. I appreciate his candor and his willingness to continue offering me some of his time and assistance. It was incredibly kind of him to make the effort to call me in person, instead of letting the form rejection letter speak for itself. But … getting rejected sucks, too. Even if you weren’t totally sold on the job (which I wasn’t), getting rejected is a blow to the ego. Last week felt like a combination knock-out punch!

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And so, I have been feeling bad about myself. No matter how much I tell myself none of this has anything to do with my skills or qualifications … No matter how much I remind myself no one could foresee how everything has had to shut down due to COVID-19 … No matter how much I remind myself that this is all a matter of bad timing and nothing more … I feel like a big, fat, ridiculous, stupid LOSER.

Depression has joined the party in my head, whispering that I am worthless and making it hard to do anything I want or need to do. It’s hard to get up in the mornings. It’s hard to work up the energy to do even the simplest household tasks. Luckily, I can’t avoid cooking, as my family still needs to eat. And the dogs still need to be fed and loved on. These have been saving graces for me. Even so, I can feel it pushing down on me — that black cloud of self-hate, tinged at the edges with feelings of failure and worthlessness.

Here’s the thing: I need to get my shizzle together and stop whining over what I have lost. Today, I sat down and thought about all the good things in my life: my family loves me, my parents are still in good health, my dogs are a constant delight, and so on. Yes, I may have lost out on something that made me feel good about myself, but my family is still okay. My husband’s job seems stable, and we are (so far) weathering this crisis pretty well. I don’t hate staying at home, which is a huge positive right now. I can still enjoy nail polish and reading and all the little things I love on a daily basis. No one I know is sick with this horrible virus. I am so fortunate in many ways, and I don’t even realize it.

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No, I think it’s not quite that I don’t realize it. I think it’s more that Depression has a way of hiding these things from me. At times when I start feeling down on myself, I have to remember to go looking for them. This isn’t to say that feeling sad over getting rejected or losing work is wrong or anything like that. On the contrary, it’s a valid feeling, and I need to let myself grieve over the things I lost. But I need to remember I haven’t lost everything. I need to remember I have also gained. And I need to remember that this loss, no matter how awful it feels, isn’t the end of the world.

Today, I took a walk in the sunshine. I felt the wind against my skin. I smelled the freshly cut grass. I raised my arms toward the blue sky above, and it was Good.

A New Normal …

So. It’s Spring! Like, officially Spring!

Aaaaand it’s snowing outside my window. Lots and lots of snow, although none of it is sticking to the ground. Talk about a “new normal”.

See what I did there? Smooth segue, right? Right!

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Last week, I was working my way through Blue Bloods on Amazon Prime —  you know, watching it in the evenings when I was done with work for the day. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show, but it’s about a family of NYC law enforcement officers. The father, played by Tom Selleck, is the Police Commissioner for NYC. The grandfather is retired NYPD, and also served as Police Commissioner in the past. The two surviving sons are police officers, and the daughter is an Assistant District Attorney. In one episode, the oldest son’s wife, who is a nurse, suffers a traumatic injury while doing her job. This leads to several episodes where she and the rest of her family have to deal with the mental fall-out from what happened.

There is a point here, I promise. And I’m getting to it. I’m just being slow about it. In one episode after all of this happens, she tells her husband, “I just want everything to go back to the way it was before that day.”

This really hit me hard. It’s funny how you can be humming along with your life and, all of a sudden, a gut punch comes at you out of a dark corner of your mind. For me, this line was one of those unexpected left hooks right to the kisser. It got me to thinking about how often I say these same words, or some version of them, to myself.

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Three years ago this past January, my husband had a heart attack, followed by quadruple by-pass surgery. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than it shook our whole family right to the core. It sounds stupid to say we weren’t expecting it, but, of course, that’s true. I don’t think it’s possible to expect or plan for something like that. At first, I moved from thing to thing to thing, just trying to keep all the proverbial ducks in a row and keep everything going. But then, in the weeks and months that followed, my husband started to recover. And I started to let myself hope and look forward to that one day in the future, when everything would be back to normal. When everything would go back to the way it was, before that day.

Then, of course, my husband’s job change happened. It was a great opportunity, but it meant moving. So I went right from all the heart recovery worries to the finding a job and moving worries. There was a house to get ready and sell. There were plans to make. There was stuff to clear out and pack. There was a teenage daughter to console. There were months of living apart, splitting time between Illinois and Virginia. And, of course, there was the move itself: days of traversing the country like a band of hillbillies, with a car full of dogs and a U-Haul trailer full of stuff. (I can say “hillbillies” because I actually grew up in the Texas Hill Country. So I am, in reality, a “hillbilly”. I say it with love.)

This wasn’t a fun time for me. There was too much to do. There was too much stress. And I was all alone. To a large extent, I feel like I have been in this thing alone ever since the heart attack happened. But, I reminded myself, this is all a temporary thing. Once we are in our new house in our new town, things will settle down. Everything will go back to the way it was before all of this happened.

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But you know what? It didn’t happen. None of it happened. Nothing went back to normal, and nothing went back to the way it was before all of this happened. And, as I sat thinking about it, I realized I need to stop telling myself that it will. I need to stop wishing for something that can’t happen.

Because, of course, Life can’t go back to the way it was before all of these things happened. I’m not the same person I was three years ago. My husband is not the same person he was three  years ago. My daughter is not the same person she was three years ago. Because Life has flowed past us, pushing us in its wake and creating changes all along the way. We live in a different house. In a different town. We want different things than we did three years ago. In some ways, I think we no longer know just what we want. Maybe none of us knew any of that, anyhow. Maybe we never did, and we were only fooling ourselves.

The thing is, “normal” isn’t static. Just when you get to a place where you feel comfortable or like you have everything figured out, the whole thing will shift and slide out from under your feet. Just when you look at your life and think about all the things in it that you love and that make you happy, everything changes. And it’s not just life itself that changes. We change. As people, we are always changing. We are always growing. We are always moving forward. And, sometimes, we slide backward a little bit, too. If we are always changing, then “normal” has to be a shifting thing, too.

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So I’m living in a new “normal”. After so many huge changes in such a short time, I find I can’t feel comfortable in it. I can’t relax and feel happy. I’m not saying that I’m unhappy, exactly. I’m not … not completely. It’s more that I feel like I am wearing clothes that are too small. I’m edgy and unnerved and … Exhausted. I’m just so tired of all of it: grumpy spouse, grumpy child, muddy dogs, filthy floors, a flooded back yard. And blah, blah, blah. On and on and on. Now, of course, I have to include “sheltering in place” in my litany of things I’m tired of. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not tired of sheltering in place myself. I’m tired of doing it with my grouchy husband.

Last night, I was thinking I wanted things to change. But, now, I realize that’s not true. I think what I really want is for things to settle down. I want to finish unpacking all the boxes. I want to finish hanging the pictures. I want everyone to calm the frak down. I want to settle back into life without feeling like I have to look over my shoulder all the time, waiting for the next terrible thing.

I’m ready to find my new “Normal”. And I’m ready to live in it for a little while.

 

Into the Deep End … And Where I’ve Been

Y’all!! It is MARCH!! Even more than that, it is nearly halfway through March. And I have been MIA since the beginning of January. Ugh. This feels like the same song, second verse for the story of my life lately.

(Also, this isn’t part of this post, but I’ve gotta toss it in here: It is freaking SNOWING right now. As in, big, fat flakes floating to the ground outside my window and at least an inch on the ground so far. Crazy!!)

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Anyhow, where was I? Oh yeah. My life and the twisting, turning story of me being “me”. Or something like that. I wish I could come in here with some interesting, funny, and fascinating tale. But, as often is the case, the truth is more than a little boring.

Our move to Illinois is still a work in progress. We are pretty much settled into our house, but we still have a lot of things to unpack. I am amazed, on a daily basis, at how just three people can possess All The Things In The Universe. I swear the movers brought stuff that wasn’t even ours. I swear this every time I go down into the basement and start unpacking boxes. Unfortunately, each time I unpack a box, it turns out all the stuff inside it actually belongs to us. I’m still working on figuring out where to put things. I’m still working on which pictures to hang on which walls. I’m still getting my home office unpacked and put together. Aaaaand, I am still cleaning out my closet. It is all a very slow work in progress. But our new house has kept us comfortable, warm, and dry all winter long. And, apparently, even into the Spring. (Did I mention it’s snowing outside right now? Did I mention how this is crazy?) Our new house is starting to feel like “home”. And that’s a good thing.

But this post isn’t about that, not really. It’s all just background to what I really want to talk about. When you step away from your blog for a long time, you have to do a little bit of catch-up to put things into context.

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Last month, I took a deep breath and jumped, feet-first, into the deep end of Life. I have been thinking about this ever since my husband got this new job. I have been talking to him about this ever since he got this new job. Finally, I did it. I decided to jump back into the work force. Yikes! It feels weird to be typing it out loud like this. And it feels weird to read the words in black and white as they flow from my keyboard. Maybe “weird” isn’t the right word for it. Maybe it’s more that seeing the words here in front of me makes it feel more real and more scary.

I left my last job in 2002. It is now 2020. I’m sure you can do the math and instantly realize I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 18 years. I say “almost” because there are a few months leeway between the date I actually left my last job and today. Eighteen years! It sounds like a lot of time when I type it out loud like this. It sounds like a lot of time when I roll the words around in my head. It doesn’t feel like a lot of time, because all of it passed me by in what feels like the blink of an eye. All those years of laughter and fun and silly memories. All those years of watching my girl grow into a beautiful, thoughtful, amazing young woman. I feel like I turned around three times and, suddenly, I’m a lot older and my daughter is nearly grown.

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I don’t want to face the reality of it, but my little chick is almost ready to fly the nest. I will never be ready for it. And she may not feel she is ready. But she is. I know it, and I have faith in the person she is. Next year, she is a senior, and we are in the midst of SAT preparation, college visits, and dreams for the future. She still needs me. I hope, in some ways, she will always need me: as a friend, as someone to turn to for advice, as a person who will always have her back. But she doesn’t need me to “mother” her any longer.

It was time to do this. It was time for the next step to happen, and my husband’s new job made all of this possible. I never planned to be away from the work force for this long. But I stayed in the background, keeping the home fires burning while my husband built his career. I was the parent on duty, 24/7/365, while he traveled for work and worked crazy hours and we hardly ever saw him. I’m not saying these things to throw him under the bus or anything like that. The way we ran things in our home and our family was something he and I agreed to, from the beginning. And I didn’t mind it. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was giving up anything. Because, of course, I had all those rewards: all the hugs and kisses and laughter and memories.

Now that I’ve decided to go back to work, I am starting to feel the weight of what I sacrificed. Not that I would change it. Let’s get that out and straight right now: I would not change a thing about it. If I had it to do over again, I would still do it. I would still stay home with that little girl and soak up all that love each and every day. I have no regrets about it.

But … It’s scary, going back. The weight of just how long I’ve been out of the game is heavy. And it’s hard to explain away my choices again and again. Not actually hard, but emotionally hard. It feels like being judged, in a way. It feels like people expect you to say you regret what you did, or that you would make a different choice, or that you thought about and missed working every single day that you were gone. Of course, that’s not my story, and that’s not what I have to say when asked the $64,000,000 question.

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In some ways, going back to work feels selfish. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve consciously chosen to do something that is just for me. So there’s that. It’s not like my daughter or husband are going to suffer from this choice. My husband has more regular hours now. A big reason for taking this job was the chance to move to a smaller town and for him to spend more time at home. He has some precious time now to be fully present and share in the laughter and memories. They are teenage memories now, but still just as sweet. My daughter is ready for this, I think. It will be good for her to learn some “adulting” now, before she is out of the house and on her own at college. And yet … that guilt. It is a pervasive thing.

I sucked it up, though. I told myself I needed to look that guilt in the eye and own it so I wouldn’t back away from it. And I started looking for jobs. I redid my resumé, which was a whole ordeal. I drafted a template cover letter. I got a rejection. I moved on from that and kept applying. And I got another interview, which was awesome and exciting. It was just a first-round thing, and I am waiting to hear back. Maybe I will get to move on to step two. Maybe not. But I’m out there. That’s what matters.

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In the meantime, I got a little bit lucky, too. I lucked into an amazing contract gig. I’ve been working at it since the end of February, and it’s perfect in every way. I’m able to work remotely from home. It’s with a nonprofit, and the legal department is small. This is amazing for me, because it means I get to work closely with two fantastic lawyers. It’s a part-time gig, from fifteen to twenty hours a week. This means I still have plenty of time to take care of household chores, pick up my daughter from school, and run her to various appointments. And the best part yet is that I am doing transactional work. This basically means reviewing and drafting contracts. It might sound boring, but it’s pretty exciting to me because I am learning a whole new skills set. I love learning new things!

All in all, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to snag this contract job. It is perfect for me at this moment in time. It’s a great way to ease back into the working world. It gives me some great new and recent experience to put on my resumé. And I am loving having daily chats and contact with colleagues. I feel really good about the work I am doing for them, and it is a huge confidence boost when I am able to have an in-depth legal discussion with one of my colleagues or when they tell me they appreciate my work.

On the slight downside, my new work is forcing me to re-learn how to schedule my time. I am trying to get back into good routines and habits, and it is a little bit of a slog. I will get there, but it might take a couple of months for it to happen. So far, this has meant less blogging time and more “running around crazy” time. But I am trying to settle in more and make time for all the things in my life that are important. That includes my blog, because hanging out in here helps my mental state. For now, I hope that will mean once-a-week entries on Saturdays or Sundays.

And that’s where I am right here and right now. Hopefully, I will see you guys back in here next week: same time … new story. Fingers crossed!!

 

Belated Christmas Cheer

For this post, I wanted to share pictures of some of the Christmas decorations I did for our house this year. This is our first Christmas in this house. I feel like I am still getting to know it and still figuring out what looks best where and what the house likes. This was also the first time in about 16 or 17 years that I was able to pull out all the stops and really decorate the heck out of things for Christmas. We decorated in our townhouse in Virginia, but there wasn’t as much room or opportunity for it due to space constraints and how our rooms were laid out in that house. Anyhow … Let’s just say I went a little “extra” this year. I should be ashamed, but I am NOT. (I bet you guys already knew that, right?)

So … let the post of many pics commence!

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Our Christmas tree falls into the category of “early marriage”, so it is about twenty years old. This is the last year we will be using it, as it sheds needles like crazy. Also, it used to be pre-lit, but none of the lights work any longer. We string colored lights on it every year. We found a great place to put it in our family room, and I think this tree is going out on a high note. It definitely makes our family room cozy on these cold and dark Illinois nights.

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We did net lights for the big bushes in front of our house. The funny thing is that we used to have tons of net lights when we lived in Texas. But, after living in Virginia for so long, we ended up giving them all away. We didn’t have anywhere to use them. This means we had to go out and buy brand new net lights this year. Womp-womp. Other than these and a wreath on the front door, we didn’t do much outside decor this year.

We’ve had snow a few times. I think the biggest snowfall so far was around two and a half or three inches. I thought the lights looked pretty under a blanket of snow.

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This was our entryway this year. Our front door opens right up to the back “wall” of our staircase. The stairs descend down into the family room, which is at the end of the hall to the left of this wall as you come into the house.

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This is above the previous picture. You can see this top banister as  you come into the house from the front door. I wrapped it in garland (fake, since I’m allergic to the real stuff) and lights. In our unpacking, I found some large paper lanterns that are star shaped. I didn’t put lights in them, but I hung them from the banister. The lights are pretty in the dark, and the paper stars are pretty in the daylight.

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The bulk of our Christmas decor was in the family room this year. I decorated the library, too, but I didn’t take many pictures of it. This is our mantel. I feel like I don’t have a ton of space for decorations along the top of the mantel because our TV takes up most of the room. I’m not too mad about this, as it’s a pretty fabulous TV. We spend a lot of time together watching movies or Netflix.

I hope to do a little more with the mantel next year, but I stayed kind of simple this year with just a few “Christmas Llamas” — because they crack me up. The silver deer actually stay there all year, but they feel festive, too. I wanted to put something fun and festive into the little vases, but I never figured out what I wanted to do. Next year, I shall tackle this conundrum!

It’s kind of hard to see in this picture, but I used a silver jingle bell garland for the front of the fireplace, topped off with a cranberry wreath, some Santa ornaments, and a “Noel” sign.

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I am enjoying the heck out of our built in bookcases! These are on either side of the fireplace, and I went a little bit overboard with them. I left a lot of the “everyday” stuff in place and tried to put Christmas decorations in and around them. This is the shelf on the left side of the fireplace, closest to the windows into the backyard and the Christmas tree.

Aaaand, a few detailed, up-close photos of the shelves:

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My daughter and I painted these little plaster buildings. We used to paint one each every year to add to our Christmas village. Sadly, I don’t think anyone makes them any longer. It has been a few years since I have been able to find them in stores, so I think our village is destined to remain small.

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Of course, this is a mix of old and new. I’ve had this blue glass ornament for about forever. When we lived in Virginia, I would consistently forget to put it away after the holidays, and it ended up living on the doorknob of my china cabinet. Hopefully, it will make it into the Christmas ornament box this year. The mirror stars are also old. I have had them packed away for ages, and it was fun to rediscover them this year. The little cardinals are new, and so are the round balls I scattered along the shelves.

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This is the shelving on the right side of the fireplace, closest to the double doors that lead into the library. It is harder for me to photograph, because that side of the room is consistently darker.

And, of course, some up-close photos of those shelves.

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The main thing I LOVED on this set of shelves was the little, wooden village. I find it so cute and kind of nostalgic. Parts of it light up with little battery-powered lanterns, and I could have run a string of white lights through the rest of the village. I chose not to fool with doing that this year, but I might next year. This little village was new for this year. We found it during our Thanksgiving trip to Virginia.

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I also love these little birds. They are fun for the holidays, but I like how they just feel “wintery”. I keep my holiday decor up all the way to the end of January, at least. Sometimes, I keep it up even longer than that! I like to have things that can be seasonal as well as festive. I feel like this makes it easier to stretch things out for at least an extra month.

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I’ll finish out with one last photo of the little village my daughter and I painted. It’s slightly out of order, but I wanted to try and show the whole village, because I was happy with how the different levels turned out. I bought new snow this year, and I really liked how fluffy it was. I think it is going to last for next year, too. Bonus!

I bet you guys know what I’m going to say already. Because I feel like I say this ALL THE TIME, and I sound like a broken record. But I’m going to say it, anyhow: December kicked my butt. Yep. Mark another one in the “win” column for Life and the month of December.

I had so many post ideas for the month. I had so much I wanted to say and share around the Christmas holidays. And yet, I did not do any of it. I was a little bit too busy enjoying the season to take time out for blogging. Maybe that can go into my “win” column …??

Whatever the case, we had a pretty good holiday. It was kind of wild and crazy at times, which will (hopefully) be a blog topic in the near future. We traveled a lot, and it was exhausting. Truthfully, I still feel exhausted from all of it. But I had some really great “family time” with my husband and daughter. That makes it worth every bit of feeling tired now.

 

 

A Christmassing We Will Go

See what I did there? I made up a whole new word. Hear me roar, Universe. Rawr!!

Okay,  yeah. I know, I know. It’s lame. But I’m still rollin’ with it.

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Thanksgiving in Virginia was a success. It was a long drive — 12 hours each way — so that was pretty exhausting. I didn’t even have to drive, luckily. I am such a wimp that I was exhausted and sore just from riding in the car. How dumb and goofy is that? My daughter and I passed a good bit of the drive entertaining ourselves with “Carrobics”. It’s a thing that we invented. I’m not sure yet how to spell it. I think I’ll have to keep working on it for the time being.

“Car-robics” (see what I’m doing there? testing out different spellings — ha!) is when  you jam out like a crazy person to the song that’s on the radio at the time. My husband loves to play dance music mixes when we are on the road. These tend to have a beat that gets right down to the bottom of your soul and refuses to let go. No matter how tired you are, it is nearly impossible to sit still when one of these songs is going. We jumped around and sang along, waving our arms and doing all kinds of crazy gestures. I bet we looked insane to every car and trucker that passed us on the highway. Hopefully we entertained them as much as we entertained ourselves!

Thanksgiving and the trip itself were delightful. We ate with friends who are like family to us. We have all missed them dearly. I was able to see another of my very close friends on the trip, too. And our daughter stacked her visits up on a tight schedule. I think she was the most successful of us all in the visiting department. Her friends even hosted a “Friendsgiving” in her honor. I think she had a great time, although she was sad to leave. We all were — a little bit.

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We are still getting used to our new town and our new house. It is our first Christmas here and our first Christmas in this house. I’ve been excited about decorating for all the seasons, but, in particular, for Christmas. I’m a little nervous about it, because I feel like I don’t yet know all the quirks and “ins & outs” of this house. But I am looking forward to getting to know it better as the years go by. It’s also been a while since I was really able to do things up for Christmas. I decorated when we lived in Virginia, but not that much; we were in a townhouse, which meant we didn’t have a lot of space to display or store decorations. This is another source of nerves for me. I mean, can I even remember how to “Christmas”?

Needless to say, I returned from our trip ready to get my jolly Christmas spirit going full force. And I have been working at it since Monday.

You guys … Like everything else with this move, this whole Christmas thing has turned into a process. A frustrating, maddening process. I feel like my holiday jollies are fighting me every step of the way this year.

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It all started out fairly simply. We bought this adorable little wooden village during our trip to Virginia. So I already knew I wanted to put that out. And I knew we had some decorations all ready to go in the basement. Unfortunately, the decorations that were readily available in the basement weren’t the ones we really wanted. In fact, they weren’t even the ones we use every year. I have a surplus of Christmas stuff. I tend to buy it on clearance because I love this holiday so much. And, over the years, people have given me different decorations and Christmas things. And, of course, there are sentimental family decorations in the mix, too. Most of this stuff has been stored away for the entire time we lived in Virginia. And these were the boxes we had in the basement.

It figures, right? You go into a task thinking it will be a breeze, only to find you don’t have what you need or want to accomplish it. And, then, you realize it’s going to take a lot longer than you planned or expected. Family grumbling happens. And then, an argument or two. Before you know it, no one feels like doing anything remotely holiday-related.

That about sums up what happened for me last night. I was all excited to decorate the tree and really get our holiday fun rolling. I was ready for Christmas music or, maybe, a movie, some yummy snacks, and some fun family time. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. My husband and I got into a huge fight because neither of us could remember where the lights were for the tree. Our tree came pre-lit, but it’s old, which means the “pre-lit” part doesn’t work any longer. Every year, I say we should replace it. And then, I look at the prices on new trees and decide we can use ours for at least another year. And, of course, it’s kind of sentimental for us now. I mean, it’s “early marriage”, after all.

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Anyhow, instead of fun family tree trimming, my husband and I ended up going through boxes in the garage. It was not fun. And it was not pretty. We were both mad at life and at each other. It kind of sucked all the fun out of Christmas for me.

Today, I resolved to recapture some of that Christmas fun and happiness for myself. Even though I didn’t want to go through the boxes in the garage last night, it’s a good thing that we did. It needed to be done. So that’s a positive. We found the ornaments and lights that started all the trouble, so we had those ready to go. All of this was a positive. And, no matter how mad we were at each other yesterday, we both apologized and feel better about stuff today.

So, once hubby was off to work and child was off to school, I put on some Christmas music. I started going through the older boxes. It was so much fun to rediscover treasures I had pretty much forgotten. I laughed. And, yes, I cried a little bit, too. There were some good memories in those boxes. I finally have a place where I can pull some of my beloved things out for display. I put up lights and garland. I put up jingle bells and ornaments. I hung the wreath on our front door. Tonight, after everyone got home, we ordered pizza and put the lights and ornaments on the tree.

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And you know what? It was a good day. And it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas over here. I am loving every moment, too!

November Flurries

Ah, November. You are a month designed to test my resolve, try my patience, and build my character — the hard way. For a rather long month, you tend to fly by in a flurry of activity. We are still getting used to our new town and all of our new schedules. Band has been busy. Hubby’s work has been busy. Our weekends have been filled with activities and yard work. In truth, there has been a LOT of yard work! We had gusting winds recently, and I think every leaf in the neighborhood ended up in our back  yard.

Believe it or not, we are STILL unpacking. When we moved in at the beginning of July, I felt so overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of boxes all around me. There were boxes in the kitchen, in all the bedrooms, in the hall, in the basement, in the garage … Well, you get the idea. There were boxes everywhere! I bet you guys remember. I showed y’all the pictures. I looked around and wanted to cry, but I consoled myself by looking forward in time. “By Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will be all unpacked and settled.” Yeah. Not so much. We are getting settled, though. It is happening. It is just happening slowly.

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In the midst of all this family activity, I have been busy, too. As if I didn’t have enough happening in November already, I decided to jump in and tackle NaNoWriMo. I posted about it the last time I was here in the blog. So, I’ve been writing! Yay!! I have been sneaking in some writing time in the mornings and also here and there between errands and housework.

It’s been good! I can’t say with confidence that my story is any good. Or that my characters are any good. But it feels darn good to be writing again on a regular basis. I am not going to hit my 50,000 word goal. We are traveling, starting tomorrow, and we are going to be visiting old favorite haunts in Virginia and catching up with old friends. I don’t expect I will have time to write over the weekend. But, if I had the weekend to spend writing, I would make it. I’m at 40,812 at this moment.

And you know what? I’m okay with it. I don’t feel bad about not hitting the NaNo goal. Because I wanted this year to be different. We are in a new town, a new house, a new school, a new job. It’s time for a new start, right? And that’s what I wanted from NaNo this year. I wanted to rediscover the joy of writing. I wanted to feel satisfied with the knowledge that I managed to carve some time out of each day to let ideas and dreams flow onto a page. No matter my final word count, I did that. I’ve had fun with it. I’ve started to learn, once again, how to listen to that dreamer inside my head. I think this makes November (and NaNo) a success. I’m okay with that.

NaNo Me!

Y’all!! It’s the end of October. And you know what that means, right?

Well … yes. Halloween and trick-or-treating and scary ghost stories and all of that. But October 31 means tomorrow is November 1. And November 1 means the beginning of NaNoWriMo.

Heaven help us all.

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I think I’m going to give NaNo a try again this year, for the first time in a few years. Just thinking about it makes me alternately excited and nervous as heck. I can feel my fingers shaking just a little bit on the keyboard as I type this thought out loud. To be honest, it scares the hoo-hah out of me. The rational part of my brain knows this is silly. It’s not like anyone is watching or paying attention to what I do or grading my performance or anything like that. It’s not like anyone even cares whether I attempt NaNo. And, certainly, the universe doesn’t give a flying flip about whether I succeed in it or not. Rational me knows this.

But there is another part of my brain where Creative Me lives. She has been locked away for what feels like a very long time now. She has almost forgotten the giddy feeling of ecstasy that comes with writing and creating and bringing a thought to life. Creative Me has forgotten she exists. She has become bogged down in the daily struggle with Life and Depression. She has forgotten how to breathe. She has forgotten how to live.

I need to create. I need to write. I need to watch words fly off a keyboard and onto a computer screen or off a pen and onto paper. I need to feel the joy of that once more. I need it so badly that just thinking about it makes me want to cry. And yet, I sit here every day and waste seconds, minutes, even whole hours. I tell myself, every day, I am going to write. But it doesn’t happen.

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I’m scared. That’s the truth of it all. I am scared to death to sit down and write. I feel this way about pretty much anything, which is why blog posts have been few and far between in here. But the idea of writing fiction scares me so much more. I think it’s because I want it so much more. Or because I need it so much more. What if I can’t? What if my creativity is gone? What if it never existed, in the first place? After all, if it was true and real, would Life and Depression be able to steal it away so easily? What if, all this time, I have told myself I am a writer and that the words will come back to me one day, only to find out I was wrong? Only to find out they are gone for forever?

It’s big stuff, this fear. These feelings aren’t for the faint of heart. I have them every time I sit down at the keyboard. I hear those voices in my head every time I put my fingers to the keys: You are not good enough. You will not succeed. No one believes in you. You are nothing.

But, really, I can’t keep going like this. I need something different. We are in a new town now. We are in a new state. I’m happier, overall, because this town is quieter and more peaceful than our previous home. I feel like I can breathe here, without the trapped feeling that dogged me in Virginia. I love our new house. I’m not working yet, although I hope that will come in a few months.

It’s time. It’s time for me to take a deep breath and give this a try. I still don’t know what I’m going to write. But NaNo 2019 … here I come!

The Mean Grumps

I’ve got a case of The Mean Grumps today. Do you ever feel that way? Like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed … wrong side of your brain … wrong side of the world … wrong side of the universe … wrong side of life … wrong side of EVERYTHING.

That’s me today. I am locked down tight into a funk. I woke up this morning feeling discontent and dissatisfied and discombobulated. I am unhappy being myself. I am unhappy being out of bed. I am unhappy being in bed. I am just … unhappy. And grumpy. And I don’t know why.

Our weather is cloudy and spittin’, as we say in Texas. “Spittin'” means that it is raining, alternating between a little bit and a lotta bit. The sky is gray, and the sun is hiding. For most people, it might be easy to pinpoint the weather as the source of their doldrums. Not for me, though. I like gray and rainy weather. I wish it was a little colder, but, other than that, this is the kind of day I enjoy.

So … why the awful, terrible, no-good mood? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking on it ever since I woke up and realized this was not going to be a happy day for me. And I have come to no conclusions, other than deciding I am not in the mood for introspection. That makes it a fabulous time to write a blog post, doesn’t it?

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Maybe I’m tired. I know I’ve been talking about it a lot in here, but this move has been dragging on and on and on. From last April, when we first came to look at houses in our new town … through the end of that month and on into the beginning of June, when I was dealing with fixing, staging, and selling our house … through the middle and end of June, when I was dealing with packing up the rest of our belongings and traveling to our new state … and right up until now, when I am still dealing with all the unpacking. I feel worn out just thinking about it. I’m not proud of this, but the truth is that I would like to ignore all of it. Not for forever, but for a good, long while. And yet, that is not possible. I feel like I have been “moving” for a thousand years, and I have yet to get to the reward of actually “nesting” in my new house. I’m ready to nest. I’m ready to be done. I’m ready to feel at home.

But I’m certain the moving funk isn’t the only source of my grumbles today. It’s just part of it all. Where the rest is coming from, I don’t know. But I do know I need to take a deep breath and chill out, for my own sanity. My poor husband has already retreated into the basement, after trying (very unsuccessfully, I might add) to have a normal conversation with me. The man has his faults, as do we all. But, mostly, he is a saint. I don’t deserve him. And I will tell him that — but probably not today.

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So, yeah. I’m in A Mood today. If you are out there, and you happen to cross my path …

You’ve been warned!!

The Parentals are Landing …

I have so many posts in my head for this little blog. And yet, I continue to be tardy and (maybe) a little bit lazy about putting my thoughts into words. I’m still unpacking and organizing and all that moving stuff. So, yeah … that’s my excuse. Yep. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! Rawr.

My parents are coming for a visit. They, along with the rest of my family and most of my husband’s family, live in Texas. It’s a little over a thousand miles from our new town to where my parents live in the Texas Hill Country. A thousand miles that, to my homesick Texas Girl heart, feels more like a gazillion. An insurmountable distance. My beloved Texas hills might as well be on the moon for how much I miss them.

It’s not that I dislike our new town. On the contrary, I like it. It is a good size for me, with traffic that isn’t crazy and people who are unfailingly polite and friendly. It reminds me a lot of my parents’ town and of San Antonio, the city I called home when I lived in Texas. But not San Antonio from 2019. Instead, our new town reminds me of San Antonio from my high school days. It might not seem like it, but this is a good thing. Illinois hasn’t been the most welcoming state, due to all the red tape, taxes, and bureaucracy surrounding every detail of life here. But I feel I can eventually be very much at home in our new town.

But I still miss the place I’m from. There is a lot of value and weight to those words: the place I am from. My Texas hills will live in my heart and soul for the rest of my life, no matter where I choose to lay my head and no matter what winding road I travel. One day, maybe I will get to go back home for good. If I am lucky.

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But this post isn’t about my homeward longings or my wandering life. It’s about my parents. So …

As I said, they are coming for a visit. It will be their first visit to our new town and our new house. I have all kinds of nerves about this. It’s silly, because they have seen me at my best and at my worst. And they still claim me. But it’s nerve-wracking to know people you love are coming to visit before you are unpacked and settled into a new place. I only just got the guest room ready. The bed we ordered arrived just in time, and I got fresh linens onto it last night. I got some pretty curtains up in the room, and one cute little night stand. I went this morning to get the second nightstand from our local Home Goods store. And the closet is mostly cleared. It’s a small room, but I think they will have enough space for their suitcases and such. I hope they will be cozy and comfortable in there.

On the plus side, I know they will be more than happy to pitch in and help me get the rest of the boxes unpacked. If I’m lucky, we will get some shelves up and the basement storage somewhat organized. It’s been 17 years since the last time I moved, and my parents aren’t as young as they were. Neither am I, for that matter! Time marches forward and takes all of us along for the ride. I’m not sure how much they will feel up to doing, but having the moral support will help, at any rate.

There will be one bone of contention between us. I know it already. My closet is a mess. It is beyond a mess. I’ve been so busy getting the rest of the house unpacked and fixed for my family that I basically tossed my clothing into the closet and left it. I can’t even get in there. My mom is going to want to help me clean it. Which will, inevitably, lead to a discussion about how she hates all my clothes and the way I dress. And that will, inevitably, lead to her offering to buy me some “pretty” clothes. This translates to clothing that she likes, but that I, typically, do not like. No matter how much I’m looking forward to seeing them, I am also dreading this. There. I said it. I feel much better getting it out of my head.

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So, the closet situation is one source of nerves.

My parents’ mode of transportation is another. They decided to drive. They’ve been planning this trip for at least a month, and I have been worried about it ever since my dad announced they were going to pull out their Garmin and a new road atlas and tackle the highways and by-ways of the US.

My parents are both in their eighties, and I think it’s been about twenty years since the last time they tackled a long-distance road trip. It’s not that they aren’t capable people. They are. They are self-sufficient, in great health, and have been “adulting” since they were teenagers. And  yet … I can’t help but worry. I’m not sure when that switch ticks into place, but at some point, kids start to feel responsible for their parents. For me, I guess that happened around the time my daughter was born. It’s difficult to explain, but it suddenly felt like I needed to take care of them. Maybe it’s a “mom” thing gone into overdrive. I don’t know.

Anyhow … that leads us here. My parents, their little Toyota RAV loaded with stuff, and a thousand-plus miles of blacktop. I hate the idea that they are out there, wandering in the wilds of the world. What if something happens to them? What if they get lost? What if they encounter too much traffic? They are from a small town, after all. What if? What if? What if?

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Of course, I’m being silly. “Borrowing trouble,” as my dad says. My mom just called. They stopped over last night in Little Rock and had a grand time eating out and staying in a motel. They are now about a hundred miles outside of St. Louis, which puts them about 260-ish miles from our town. And they are loving the adventure.

And you know what? My heart feels happy. Because, even though they are in their eighties, it seems like my parents have rediscovered some of their youth and fun. And, really, isn’t that what we are all looking for? That eternal fountain of youth? Maybe it’s there … waiting inside of us … ready to be discovered.

MOVED to Illinois …

I did not plan on being gone for an entire month. But you know that old saying about the best laid plans and all that. Yep. Story of my life. By now, I should know that the only plan I need to make is no plan at all. But some life lessons are hard to learn.

So! We are actually in Illinois. We are actually in our new house. And it has been a series of mishaps along the way. Some of them were funny. Some were not. I’ve intended to sit down and write a post so many times since we arrived in our new town. But life kept getting in the way. Things were too busy. I was too busy trying to figure everything out. For a long time, I didn’t have my  desk or computer set up. And then, when I finally had a space where I could sit down to post, I felt overwhelmed by all that had happened. Have you ever felt like you had TOO MUCH to say? And so, you end up not saying any of it because the saying of it feels too hard and like too much. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s where I’ve been.

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And so, I think I will just start at the beginning and figure out where to go from there. This is as good of a beginning as any other: our new front door. To our new house. In our new town. In our new state.

It feels like it has been a long journey to get here. And I mean long journey in every aspect: emotional, mental, and physical. We closed on our half of the Virginia house sale on June 26. We signed our papers in the morning, and then went back to our house for the last of the packing and loading onto the trailer. Compared to everything the movers took, we didn’t have much left. But we had more than we thought. I bet you guys know how that goes, right? It was not a great day, honestly. It was hot, and my husband was stressed, and my daughter was unhappy. Basically, we all fought and snapped at each other all day long. Well, not ALL day. For half the day, until we got on the road. By then, we were all angry and not speaking, so the first half of our drive to Illinois was fairly peaceful.

I know, I know. It’s awful. And I guess I’m a terrible person for admitting this happened. But you know what? It’s also real. This is Real Life. And, in real life, anxiety and stress have a way of spreading themselves around and oozing downhill into all the nooks and crannies. In real life, we get mad at the people around us, no matter how much we love them. It wasn’t my proudest moment or my best day. But it was Human. Also, we all survived it with our love and our senses of humor intact.

I had all these plans of blogging from the road, because it really was a good trip, in the end. We sang and told jokes and stories. We laughed a lot. The dogs even enjoyed the long car ride, which was a huge relief for me. But the trip was also exhausting, so my keyboard remained silent.

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We drove about halfway (or possibly a little more than halfway) the first night. The second day, we got on the road relatively early and made it the rest of the way. Sadly, we were not coming home to our new house. We arrived in our new town around June 28, and we still had 5 days to wait until we could close on our new house. And so, the local Candlewood Suites became our home away from home.

It doesn’t sound too bad, does it? This idea of staying for a few days in a hotel … not having to cook … not having to clean … and so on. It actually sounds pretty great — like a mini vacation at the tail end of what turned out to be months of non-stop activity and stress. This is what I told myself, anyhow. I was trying to stay positive and look at it as some quality time with my daughter getting to know our new town.

In reality … yeah. It wasn’t quite all that. Our first room, which we camped in for a couple of days, wasn’t even a suite. It was a studio, which means it was bedroom, kitchen, and living room all packed into one tiny space. And into this tiny space, we crammed three people and two dogs, plus our suitcases. Most of the things we brought from Virginia had to stay on the U-Haul trailer out in the parking lot. We arrived to an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures hovering over 100 every day, so my husband and I unloaded some of the most fragile things from the trailer and into a storage unit provided by the hotel. Basically, this meant my anime art collection got unloaded so it didn’t melt. But my nail polish collection had to stay on the truck, along with our furniture and other odds and ends.

By the second day in this tiny room, we were all on each other’s nerves. Even the dogs were feeling it. My boy dog started following my girl dog around the room and growling at her. My girl dog is a nervous nellie, anyhow, and she began slinking around and trying to hide in the bathroom. This led to more growling. Which led to more slinking. And so on. And so on. And the humans in our party weren’t much better. We were all cranky and annoyed with life.

On the morning of the third day, we were able to move into a larger, one-bedroom suite. There was a fold-out sofa for our daughter to sleep on, and space for the dogs to separate from each other. The only drawback was that it was on the third floor. And neither of my dogs have experienced apartment or hotel living in their lives. My girl dog, nervous nellie that she is, turned out to be a total rock star with this situation. My boy dog could not adapt. He is used to peeing as soon as he gets outside the door, and he still wanted to do this in the hotel. I ended up cleaning up on the stairs a few times and on the carpet a few times, too. And we had to basically run down the stairs with him reminding him, “Don’t pee. Don’t pee. Don’t pee,” all the way down to the bottom floor. Good times. Actually, it is pretty funny.

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We closed on our house on July 3. After our townhouse in Virginia and the hotel’s close confines, the new house felt HUGE. Of course, we headed over as soon as closing was done and we had our keys. And we were greeted with clean, empty rooms devoid of clutter. The dogs were in heaven. They had a great time running up and down the stairs and sniffing into every nook and cranny of each room. My boy dog got so excited that he christened our master bedroom the very first day in the house. Yeah. That was not the highlight of the day, for sure. But I guess it’s the little things that makes a house a home, right? Right! *ahem*

Since we were in the house on July 3 and July 4 was a holiday, the rest of our things were not coming until July 5. This meant we had two wonderful and lovely days to enjoy all this empty space. I know that sounds weird. But I really got a kick out of going up and down the hallways and moving from one room to another. We didn’t really have hallways in the townhouse. We had a hallway on our third floor, where the bedrooms were. But the first and second floors were open living space. You guys! I never realized it before, but I really missed hallways and walls and separate rooms.

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Of course, those empty spaces didn’t stay empty for long. And they didn’t feel huge for long. By mid-morning on July 5, they looked more like this, with boxes stacked everywhere. And furniture stacked everywhere. And things stacked everywhere. The movers unloaded the entire day. They started around 8:30 or 9AM, and they left around 5 or 5:30 PM.

I stationed myself in our family room, just off the kitchen. It’s the most central place in our house, and I was the “traffic cop” of the unloading operation. I had the task of catching every person that came through with a load of boxes so I could tell them where to put things in the house. More or less. The way our packers labeled the boxes meant that some things ended up in completely the wrong place, but I did the best I could.

It was a long, hot day. And it was a mess. At the end of it, I stood in my family room, surrounded by stacks and stacks of boxes. Even though I hadn’t carried or lifted a single thing, I felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. I felt like there would be no way I could unpack all of this stuff. I felt like I was in no way equal to the hugeness of the task awaiting me. And I wanted to cry. It was not the joyous homecoming I had expected, that’s for sure.

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So, here we are: a little over a month later. Our daughter is finally registered for school. (This was a huge ordeal; perhaps it will be a blog for another time.) My husband and I finally managed to get our Illinois driver’s licenses and license plates for the cars (Another huge ordeal … are you sensing a theme here?) Our daughter has been attending marching band camp and rehearsals since the end of July, and this is her second full week of school. We are slowly learning our new town and finding favorite places and things like that.

Are we totally unpacked? NO. We are still working our way through boxes and trying to figure out what we want to keep and what we want to donate. We make regular runs to Goodwill and to the recycling center. For the most part, I have unpacked by myself, so it has been slow going. Thankfully, my husband started working on the huge stacks of boxes in our basement storage area last week. He has made a lot of progress down there! Our kitchen is up and running. Our master bedroom is up and running. I have the bare bones of my office space up and running. Our daughter’s bedroom is more or less sorted out and functioning.

We are getting there. But it takes time for a house to become a home. It takes laughter and memories. It takes long, quiet nights enjoying a good book in a quiet room. It takes so many other things that are subtle and gentle and pass you by unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of living. But, one day, all the boxes will be unpacked. All the things will be put away. And, somehow, we will realize our new house isn’t just a “house” any more. Instead, it has become “home”.

I know one thing for sure: I am NOT moving again! (Famous last words …)