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!

Ghosts of Christmas Past (and a bunch of pictures, too!)

As in, just recently past. As expected, Christmas came and went in a whirl of activity. Remember how I posted about dreading our trip to Texas? I dragged my feet like the sulkiest toddler in the park. I dithered over getting things ready for our neighbor to take care of the pups. I dawdled over packing. I complained (to myself, silently — thank goodness!) all the way to the airport. I grumped through security. I pouted at the gate.

And guess what?

It was all for nothing! I was so silly about the entire thing, and it turned out to be a great and fun trip. We saw old friends. We laughed. We made memories. I had a really nice, albeit quick, visit with my parents. Even my mom seemed more upbeat than she has in quite a while. The only downer was that my husband got food poisoning on the last day we were in Austin, so we had to delay our trip to Kerrville for a half day. As bad as that was, he bounced back quickly. I was thankful for that! By the time we were preparing to come back home, he was feeling much better.

So, this is just a short post to give the universe a shout-out and say, “Okay, Universe! You were right! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And thanks for the memories.”

It was a good Christmas. And even a good New Year’s Day, too. I hope the same is true for all of you guys. I want to close out the post by showing a few of the pictures I grabbed of our tree and other things over the holiday — here and there.

SOME SCENES FROM HOME:

I thought our tree was particularly lovely this year. This is the second or third year we have used colored lights, and I love their soft and gentle glow. I can’t take any credit for the tree, as my daughter and her friend decorated the whole thing for us. I think this made it even more beautiful and special!

I’ve been trying to get in some extra “play time” with my macro lens. And the tree ornaments were willing subjects. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in October, but we have been together for around 28 years. And we have had some of these ornaments almost that long!

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THE TRIP!!

Of course, I had to grab at least one “on the plane” picture. Unfortunately, I had stashed my camera under the seat in front of me. I didn’t want to dig it out, so I had to make do with my phone camera. Still, I think it turned out okay. We left so early that we got to watch the sun rise as we flew across the sky. Pretty special!

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SOME AUSTIN SIGHTS:

We got to visit some of our old haunts in Austin. Weirdly enough, it happened to be raining during most of our visit. We checked the weather before leaving, and the forecast was for temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and sunny weather. That is not what happened AT ALL! We definitely packed all the wrong clothes. But it worked out okay, in the end.

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AND KERRVILLE, TOO!

I think I have mentioned before that my parents live in a small town in the Hill Country. Kerrville has a population somewhere around 23,000 people. I was really proud of myself that I managed to keep up with exercising on this trip. Of course, I ate a lot of terrible things that I would never eat at home. But that’s okay! It was the holidays! And vacation!!

I love to walk all around Kerrville when I visit. In the Summer, my daughter and I stay with my parents for around a month or month and a half. I generally walk every day, either in the early morning or the evening. It was fun to walk my same route on this trip, in the chilly dampness of a winter morning.

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And, really, that’s all I have for this post! I mostly wanted to touch base about our trip and share some pictures. I have thoughts on the New Year, which I hope to share in a post soon. I would like to get back on a more regular posting schedule with this blog in 2019. So I hope to see you guys again soon!

 

A Long Post for a Bad Week

I really wanted to call it a “shitty” week, because there is no other way to describe it. But I felt bad putting that right there in my title. So I put it in the first line of my post, instead. I’m sneaky that way. Whatever. It really was a shitty, shitty week. There’s no point in sugar coating it or trying to make it better or calling it something it wasn’t.

So you guys know my husband is looking for a new job. He has been looking for a new job for over a year. Finding a new job is hard. “Hard” really isn’t enough word to describe it, but it’s what I have in this moment. So we’ll just go with it. Anyhow, I think we all know trying to find a new job is a suck-fest and a half. He has been close several times. Like, so close we felt as if we could reach out and touch it. So close we could imagine ourselves stepping into that new life. So close that it seemed impossible for it not to happen. And yet, somehow, it ended up not happening.

This week, that same, stupid scene was on a never-ending, repeat loop in the movie of my life. I had built my teeny, pathetic hopes and dreams into something coherent and cohesive. Was it a pretty design? No. Was it perfect? No. It was cobbled together with sticky tape and lumps of glue. It leaned in places and caved in at other spots. But it was there, still standing tall and keeping it together. This week came in like Godzilla and smashed it all to pieces.

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There is a large and well-known company in the town where we are from. Last year, my husband interviewed with this company for an executive position. He interviewed and interviewed and interviewed. Over the course of about a month, my husband must have talked with nearly every person in every unit that would possibly come into contact with the position for which he was interviewing.

You might think I’m exaggerating, and I wouldn’t blame you for it. But I’m not. He interviewed over the phone three times. He traveled to the town for interviews three times. The on-site interviews were, literally, all day long, where he shuffled from person to person. Everyone loved him. The hiring managers loved him. The people he would work with loved him. They loved him so much that they flew my daughter and me down to look at houses. The whole way through, he is hearing how people love him and how they are talking about him at all levels of the company and how all the talk is positive. It was a love-fest of gargantuan proportions. Seriously, this hippie love-fest made Woodstock seem like a tiny gathering of a few friends. They flew my daughter and me into town to look at houses. Did I mention that already? Yep. I did. Because this was a huge thing.

Guess what? About a week after our trip to look at housing, the company called my husband and told him thanks, but no thanks. The hiring manager didn’t even have the courtesy to contact him. Instead, it was an HR representative. With no explanation whatsoever.

I. Was. Crushed. I cried for days. I know that sounds stupid. It was just a job, after all. But my husband really needs a new job. And this wasn’t “just a job”. It was a perfect job. It would have allowed us to move back home. It would have provided us with a fantastic income. It would have answered pretty much all of our concerns and problems. Think about it. All those little, niggling doubts and irritations about money … wiped away in one swipe. This is powerful stuff.

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But, you know … Life doesn’t always happen the way you want or expect. And I know that. We all know that, right? Right. So we did what anyone does when life doesn’t work out as we want or expect. We cried a lot. And then, we moved on. We looked for other opportunities. My husband kept interviewing and interviewing and interviewing. And he got close, yet again, on several opportunities. But nothing stuck.

Until, now, a year later, when two other opportunities come up at the same company in our home town. These weren’t executive positions. And, truthfully, my husband was probably overqualified for them. But we felt we could make it work for our family. If it worked out, we would have the opportunity to move home, which would give us a lower cost of living and less bills and the ability to care for our aging parents. And, even more than that, it would give us a fresh start. Do you ever feel like you NEED a fresh start? Because I do. I’ve felt like that for a long time, deep in my heart.

After what happened last year, I was less than enthusiastic about my husband applying for these jobs. But he felt it was worth the chance, and I supported his decision. He applied. He interviewed on the phone. He went to the town, yet again, to interview. Everyone loved him. One of the hiring managers even went so far as to give my husband her direct line and her mobile number, in case he had any questions or concerns. She went so far as to tell him she was eager for him to come to work there. There was an offer. This was a preliminary offer, but, still … An offer! We couldn’t believe it. We were so excited and eager. We started researching schools and places where we should live. I realize now that we jumped the gun too much in this instance, but I’ve never been in a situation where a preliminary offer did not work out. And, in our defense, we are scared and nervous about what might be around the next corner. We needed, so much, to believe in this. We needed, so much, to believe that something good could happen for us.

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And then … Out of nowhere, it all fell apart. When the company HR representative first went over the compensation package with my husband, he talked the salary DOWN from what my husband was told in his interviews. Who does this? It was crazy and unexpected and confusing. My husband went back to the hiring manager to ask about this, and the manager told him she would work with HR to fix it. She did. They came up with a new package, and everything seemed great. The HR rep communicated the new package to us, and it seemed everything was good. This was on a Monday evening, at the close of business. Right after talking to HR, my husband emailed the manager he wanted to work for, asking for a time the next day when they could speak over the phone. He wanted to accept the job offer with her. We went to bed happy, thinking our long job search journey was done. It felt good to know we were moving home, and that what has been a stressful and pretty awful time for our family was, apparently, over.

Except … Unbeknownst to him, my husband failed to say “the magic words” when the new offer was communicated to him. The HR rep met with the two hiring managers on Tuesday morning, before my husband was able to talk with anyone in the company. He told them my husband wasn’t “enthusiastic enough” when they discussed the compensation package. He then went on to tell the hiring managers that it was his impression that my husband was only interested in promotion, and that he would never be happy in the positions for which he was being considered. The hiring managers, including the one who was so eager and excited about my husband coming to work in her unit, apparently got mad. And they rescinded both offers. Out of anger. Without even trying to discover the truth of the matter.

So, basically, the company HR representative got mad that my husband took steps to try and negotiate a better compensation package. And he went into a meeting with the hiring managers. And he did whatever he had to do to tank this entire deal. Which is pretty shitty. But what’s even more shitty is that neither of the hiring managers had the integrity to come back to my husband and hear his side of the story. Neither of them had the integrity to figure out this was, at best, a misunderstanding between my husband and the HR representative … and, at worst, an outright lie.

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WHO DOES THIS?!? I mean, seriously … Who fucking does shit like this? It’s perfectly normal to want the best salary you can get. There is no planet in the known universe where anyone, ever, would be happy with an initial offer that was LOWER than the salary communicated to them during an interview. Also, what’s wrong with wanting to move ahead in one’s career? Again, there is no planet in the known universe where people are happy to sit in a dead-end job for the rest of their lives. Or, maybe there is one place in the universe where that is the case, and we all know where that is. Right? Yeah. Right.

And what kind of manager gets so bent out of shape over the idea of a salary negotiation (which, remember, didn’t even happen; my husband was happy with the offer) that she acts in such a petty and ridiculous manner? This is business. It’s not personal. Well, it’s not personal to her. It’s very personal to us. Because she is playing with our lives and our livelihood. If interviewing for a job is like dating, this manager is the equivalent to the girl who sneaks into your apartment after a breakup and slashes all your dress shirts. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

It’s not even that these were dream jobs. Or, really, even jobs that were all that fantastic. It’s that I can’t believe how mean and petty and outright horrible the HR rep and hiring managers were. And, by extension, the company itself. After all, a company is only as good as its employees. And the message this company is sending, loud and clear, is this: I will screw you over at every opportunity.

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So, yeah. All of this was bad enough to make for a crap-fest of a week. But, wait! There’s more!

My husband had an opportunity with a different company in another state. This particular opportunity has been banging around for a year. For a YEAR, the manager has wanted my husband to come work at this company. They have been talking around this thing for so long, and it always seemed like a good Plan B for us. The manager was eager for him to come work for her. She even went so far as to send housing information and set up calls for my husband with people who live in the city and work for the same company, so he could get a feel for life in this particular city.

Well, guess what? Plan B is now gone, too. After a year of saying how perfect my husband is for the job, that manager now suddenly feels he won’t be happy in the job. Really?!?! Personally, I think she promised him a salary that she found out she can’t deliver. And now, she is too embarrassed to admit it. But whatever … Either way, it’s shitty.

And then, a third opportunity fell through just yesterday. Same song, second verse. Or are we on the third verse by now? Whatever. The refrain is this: People Suck.

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It is hard to see someone you love so much treated so badly. It hurts when you have to stand by and let it happen. It hurts when you feel as if you are free-falling through a major hole in your life, and you have no control over any of it. It beyond hurts. It sucks. Right now, things suck for my husband and for my family. I don’t know what is going to happen to us. I don’t know where we are going to go or what we are going to do. I have to keep believing it is going to get better and that there is something better out there for us. But, truthfully, it becomes hard to believe any of that when so much crappy shit happens in the span of one week. I would say that at least it’s over and a new week is coming. But, honestly, I feel like I am taunting Fate at this point.

This has been one of those weeks where I feel like I’m watching all the Legos fall around me. And they are making a huge sound as they hit the floor.

A Day of Ups and Downs …

Today has been a day of ups and downs. Have you ever had one of those? It’s a hard way to live, even for a day. Because there is something I want so, so badly. And that one thing is so very nearly within reach. But maybe it isn’t possible for me to have that one thing, even though I want it so very badly. Maybe the thing I want is available and there for the taking. But maybe taking it would be a bad choice.

You see what I mean? Up and down. Up and down. Over and over again. Repeat and rewash. Ugh. It’s so frustrating.

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The thing is, I want a change. I need a change. And I think my family needs a change, too. I don’t have any empirical evidence to back this up, but I have a strong gut feeling. I also have a strong gut feeling that change is just around the corner. As a family and with regard to my husband’s job, we are at a point where change NEEDS to happen. We’re talking back up against the wall and nowhere else to go time, here.

It’s scary. And frustrating. And we have been on this train for over a year now.

I can smell change in the air. I can feel it coming toward us at full speed. Will it be our ticket to something better? Or will it just be that same old train, coming to run us under its wheels once again? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess, because we seem to be making progress toward that change … but, at the same time, we are stuck in the same old spot.

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Today, I had a few moments of giddy elation. It seemed like something definite was happening at long last. It seemed like the change we have been seeking and waiting for was right there, right within reach. And it seemed like, for once, it might actually be the change we wanted. I was so excited, my hands were shaking. I wanted to laugh and cry, all at the same time. I was giddy. That’s the only way to describe it: “Giddy”. I haven’t felt truly giddy in a long, long time.

But then, suddenly, it seemed that our coming change might not be coming at all. Within the span of a few hours, my emotions ran the gamut from unfamiliar, dizzy heights all the way back down to stomach-churning uncertainty, stress, and fear. I feel like uncertainty, stress, and fear have been my constant companions for too long. I’m tired of uncertainty, stress, and fear.

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I think that’s it: I’m just freaking tired. I want to feel excited and happy. For once, I want to feel these things without reservation. It’s not that I think things will be perfect once change comes upon us. I’m not that naive. And I don’t necessarily need “perfect”. Just … different. Or, maybe … positive. Those little things would be enough. Or maybe just stable. Maybe it would be enough for my life to be stable and simple and easy.

Change is coming. I can feel it. And I’m ready. Is it the change I want? Or is it the train, coming out of the darkness to run me down, once and for all? I have no idea. But I’m ready.

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 5, Part 2

It is a rainy, rainy night tonight in my corner of the universe. Along with rain, there is occasional thunder. And along with occasional thunder, there are two scaredy-dogs vying for the limited “cavern space” under my desk. All of this makes me wish I was somewhere else. And where might that be?

Yep! You guessed it!! My mind has turned to fond memories from our island adventure in Maui this Summer. So I thought it would be a great time to head in here and FINALLY wrap things up with the second part of my Day 5 post. If you recall, the first part of Day 5 started in the wee hours of the morning with a fairly long drive and the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen in my life. And then, there were pancakes. Which were also pretty darn good. An amazing sunrise and lots of clouds and equally amazing pancakes is already a pretty full day. But our plans for Day 5 had only begun. Because we were headed back to THE ROAD TO HANA!!! (In my mind, I am saying those words in a movie announcer voice. Because, you know, it needs to be that way.)

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So remember how we had already traveled this road? And made it only halfway? Um, yeah. So here’s what we did: We went back to Mile 0 and started all over again. This time, we were better prepared. We had snacks. We had water. We had a full gas tank. Even our Road to Hana description app was in full working order! Of course, we were all exhausted from getting up at o-dark-thirty in the AM. But no adventure is perfect. Our time in Maui was coming to a close. If we wanted to travel down this road in order to see what we might see, we needed to jump on it!

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Originally, I thought I would organize this post in a more or less chronological order of all the sights we saw and the stops we made along the way. But the truth is that there is a LOT to see along the way. And I took a lot of pictures. And it has been quite a while since our trip. And, well, I am feeling lazier than lazy. Which means I am going to head into this post piece-meal and picture-heavy.

There were some things along the way that have stayed with me. Even now, months later, I think about the magic and wonder they inspired in my heart. And this is one of them. As we traveled the twists and turns and peered over the edges of cliffs, I kept seeing these weird, fuzzy-humpy shapes out of my window. It took me a little while to realize they were bamboo — forests and forests of bamboo, growing up the mountains all around us. It rained off and on as we drove, and, once the mists cleared, the sunlight hit the edges of every leaf. It was as if the whole world was chased in silver. Or, maybe, like I had traveled to some strange and unknown planet. It was like seeing LIFE for the first time, ever.

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Of course, there were more waterfalls along the way. Some were hidden away, far off the road and along the untraveled path. It took some hiking to reach these. I was tired that day, from getting up so early, and I didn’t have the mental energy to hike to most of them. But I managed a few. It was worth the extra effort!

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There is something life-affirming about standing under a canopy of green and feeling the world growing around you. If I closed my eyes, I could practically hear the life hum around me as the wind rustled leaves above my head and small, unseen critters rustled through the leaves as we passed. And the rain! Is there anything as beautiful as the sound of rain falling and hitting every single leaf on the way down?

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As expected, there was something to see around every twist and turn. At the bottom of every hill and the bend of every curve, things came to us. Some of them were small and delicate. Grace and beauty, right before my eyes. There were times when I found myself holding my breath as I tried to take all of it in with my eyes and my heart.

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And some of the things were mysterious. Where might they lead? Were there fairies somewhere in there, just waiting to grant wishes? Or, perhaps, biding their time until they had a chance to perform some mischief?

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We visited my beloved Rainbow Eucalyptus trees again. And they were just as incredible the second time!

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We even visited the Garden of Eden. And you know, if it could exist anywhere on Earth today, I think Maui would be the place. At the very least, it was fun to see these little guys owning their little patch of grass. Like a couple of divas or bosses in the making! Of course, they have a great teacher in their Mama. She was beautiful, majestic, and just a little scary. We were careful not to get too close!

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And, of course, there was the ocean — always the ocean. It was our constant companion, visible just over the nearest cliff or next hill. Its moods were varied. Its sound was soothing. And it was always beautiful. I think I could look at the ocean for forever.

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And, at the end of it all, a beach of black sand. It was unexpected. And mysterious. And the ocean seemed intent on taking it back, one grain at a time.

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At the end of the day, we headed for home knowing we had truly seen everything. We had hiked up cliffs. We had felt the rain on our faces. We had walked beneath canopies of lush green. We laughed and told stories. We made memories. It was a good day.

 

The End of Summer

Today is the last day of Summer. Not officially, according to the calendar. And I’m sure the hot weather is going to hang around for a while yet. But, according to the powers-that-be in my daughter’s school system, Summer is kaput. Tomorrow, she starts band camp, and, from there, it’s a quick downhill slide into the school year. It feels like Summer was over before it even began. I am sitting in my parents’ sunny kitchen, frantically typing out this post when I should be doing some last minute packing. In a few hours, my daughter and I will head to the airport, and then, we will wing our way home.

It’s been a good Summer. Busy and full of travel, but also good. I haven’t blogged at all about Maui yet, as I only had a week of downtime in between trips. That week was taken up with appointments and other miscellaneous things that have to happen when one is forced to “adult” for a living. But the Maui trip was a good trip. We reconnected with family we seldom see. We laughed and met new family members, in the form of our new little niece and nephew. We saw spectacular things. We made memories to last a lifetime.

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Kerrville, Texas isn’t nearly as exciting as Maui. I can admit this. There’s not much to see. There’s not much to do. Life is quiet here, and a little bit slow-moving. I don’t think it qualifies as a tourist destination in the least. And yet … There is something about this place that I love. I’m sure it’s not the town, in particular, that captures my heart. It is because my parents live here. But it’s also because I miss my beloved Texas so much. It’s the place where I am from. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.

It’s not necessarily an easy trip in terms of the personalities involved. My daughter is sometimes snarky, as are most teenagers. She also has a tendency toward sarcasm, which I think she inherited from her father … and, possibly, me. My parents are getting on in years, and they are kind of cranky and grumpy. I honestly don’t know if all elderly people are like this. But my elderly people are. They have aches and pains. And they complain a lot about things they can’t control. News Flash: None of us has control over anything. But I wonder if, maybe, you get to a certain age and you feel like you should have control over at least one little thing in your life. I don’t know. My mom also takes things a little too much to heart at times. She gets offended easily and takes joking as being serious. She has always been this way, but it sometimes makes for a touchy situation at the casa.

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Even so, life is relaxing here. It is calm and peaceful. It is the perfect place to sometimes listen to one’s thoughts and to reconnect with a daughter who is becoming an adult right in front of my eyes. In three years, my daughter will be done with high school. I say the words out loud, and I can’t believe they are true. She will leave me in three years. Guys … that’s not a lot of time. It’s really not.

The weather was overly hot this time, so we didn’t get to walk every evening. But we managed it when we could. And that was okay. My daughter and I laughed and told inside jokes. We hunted Pokemon together. We sat quietly at times, each of us reading at different ends of the kitchen table. We talked about hopes and dreams and fears — you know, the BIG conversations. But we had lots of small conversations, too. We went to the movies together. We played a favorite board game with my mom almost every evening. And we all laughed and teased and got loud and rowdy. In short, we had fun. We made memories.

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I feel bittersweet and nostalgic about the ending of Summer this year. Usually, I am already looking forward in terms of planning the upcoming school year and figuring out how to get everyone into their normal routines and schedules. This year, there hasn’t been any of that. I haven’t looked at school supplies or tried to figure out what my daughter might need to start the new school year. I feel much more chill about that whole aspect. Last year, she didn’t have supply lists until the end of the first week of school. Or, maybe it’s more that I’m in no hurry for any of it to happen. In my heart, I feel like I am hanging on with my last shred of strength and dignity to this beautifully sweet and bitter Summer. My parents are getting older. My dad is 87. My mom is 81. My aunts are both gone. My uncles are both in bad health, and so is my brother. Part of me wonders how many summers I will have left to come here and walk the sidewalks of Kerrville in the evenings and look at the deer and tell jokes with my parents and play Pokemon Go with my daughter. Even though there has been a lot of bitter in with the sweet, today I am looking at the sweet parts of it all and thinking, “Yeah. This is all right.”

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I am heading back to a dirty house and a near future that feels uncertain and a little bit scary because of my husband’s work situation. School is coming. Busy schedules and family drama are coming. Feeling rushed and panicked and like there is too much to do is coming. I hope snow is coming, too. I love snow. And winter. But through it all, I will have my memories from this Texas trip. And the sound of laughter ringing through my imagination. And you know what? I think that is pretty good.

The Adventure Season

Summer travel season is upon us. It managed to sneak up on me, just like it does every year. I always feel like I have plenty of time. It seems like school was just out yesterday, but, somehow, a couple of weeks have gone by. And now, my family heads out on our vacation tomorrow morning. EARLY. Like, 3 in the Blessed AM. Yeah. That type of early. For me, I would be perfectly okay with a 3 AM wake-up call if I hadn’t bothered going to bed. I’m a night owl, and will happily stay up until the wee hours of the morning. If I have gone to bed, though, forget about it. I am miserable.

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My family is going to Hawaii. Everyone I have told this to looks at me with a mixture of surprise and delight on their face. “Hawaii!” they say, “You’re so lucky. I wish I was going to Hawaii.” Guess what? I wish they were going to Hawaii, too, and I wasn’t. It sounds terrible when I type it out loud, doesn’t it? I know, it really does.

It’s not that I don’t want to go to Hawaii, specifically. It’s that I don’t want to go anywhere at all. I am tired and grumpy. And I hate traveling. There. I said it. I hate to travel. Once I arrive at my destination, I am sure I will have a great time. But I am filled with dread at the idea of actually getting from Point A to Point B. It will require spending time in large places crowded with people. It will require talking to strangers. It will require being crunched up next to someone I don’t know, all the while acting nice and friendly, when I am really pretending I am alone in my own private space with plenty of leg room. I think I should be able to drive to Hawaii. Yeah. That’s the ticket. We need to make that underwater driving thing happen … or something.

Plus, my daughter is sick. We just found out this morning that she has Strep. And I am sick, too. I hope it’s just an allergy thing. It feels like an allergy thing. Given the multitude of allergies I have, it is likely an allergy thing. But traveling when you feel less than yourself is never fun, even if you love the whole act of going from one place to another. When you’re a fuddy-duddy stick in the mud like me who hates to travel … well, it’s really pretty awful.

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I left my packing to the last minute. I did pick out my vacation nail polish a few days ahead of time, but that was about it. Up until about 10 minutes ago, I was frantically rushing around, getting the last load of clothes dried and tossing the last couple of things into the suitcase. I’m sure I forgot something. But hopefully it’s nothing vitally important.

And, for what it’s worth, my nails look fabulous. So, Hawaii — here we come! Ready or not.

Feeling Sad

 

I live half a country away from the place my heart calls “home”. It’s a 2-day car ride. It’s a 3 to 4 hour plane ride. In terms of quality of life, the place where I live might as well be on the moon. It is that different. It’s more expensive and more stressful and filled with people who are, at best, inconsiderate, and, at worst, downright mean. We’ve been here for fifteen years, which feels like an eternity in exile. In many ways, I feel I have adjusted to living here. There are even things I like about it. But the longing for home and to be with my family is always there. It’s an ever-present ache deep down inside me. Some days, I’m okay. Other days … not so much.

Today was a “not so much” day. It didn’t help that the weather was gray and muggy, threatening rain all day long. Or that I woke up with a headache. Today, my anxiety was through the roof. I felt I couldn’t breathe, like the weight of this place where we live was pressing down and down on me, until I would be ground to dust beneath it. I’m tired. I think that might be the best way to explain it. I’m tired of living here. Not the kind of tired that can be cured with a good night’s sleep, but the kind of tired that makes you feel worn thin in all the important places.

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Today was my daddy’s birthday. He turned 87. And I wasn’t there. I couldn’t be there to eat lunch with him. I couldn’t be there to give him a gift and watch him open it. My daughter and I sang Happy Birthday to him over the phone, but it’s not the same. I’m half a country away, and I miss my family.

A few months ago, it looked like we might be able to move back home. My husband was interviewing for a job in our hometown. He had cleared every hurdle with flying colors. He got nothing but positive feedback at every stage, from everyone in the managerial chain. He was called back for a second interview, and then a third. The company even insisted my daughter and I come to town with him to look at houses. And then … everything went right down the drain. There was some last-minute political maneuvering within the company, and my husband ended up on the losing end. It was one of those “friend of a friend” things.

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It sucked. There’s no nicer way of putting it. It just sucked. It still sucks. It was like, for one moment, the heavens opened up before me. I could look forward and see the future. I could see all of my closely-held dreams, moments away from coming true. It’s stupid and more than a little ridiculous of me, but I can’t let go of it. I still want to go home. I still have that dream. I still feel blindsided by the way the whole thing went down. Months later, and I’m still blindsided by it. I think my sweet husband has moved on from it so much better than I have. But my heart is still grieving.

I want to be with my family. I hate how morbid it sounds, but I want to have time with my parents before it’s too late. I’m lucky they are both in good health. They are rather curmudgeonly and set in their ways, but they are relatively young at heart. But, still … How many more birthdays will there be? Today, it really hit home for me. Just a few short months ago, it looked like we would be packing up to move by the time the end of May and beginning of June rolled around. Instead, it now looks like we are forever stuck in our same, old, fast-paced rut.

Today was my dad’s birthday. He turned 87. I sang Happy Birthday to him on the phone. And then, I hung up and cried.

Hello, Spring!

Spring is officially here. I don’t know what date WordPress will put on this post, but I am sitting here typing it at 8:55 PM on March 21. Which means it is the second day of Spring. I generally don’t enjoy Spring. I am allergic to dust and trees and grasses and weeds and mold and all kinds of flowers and … Well, probably a lot more things than I can remember to list in here. Basically, I am allergic to every single thing Spring brings. Instead of being able to enjoy the warm breezes and the soft sun on my face, I am forced to double and triple up on my allergy medication and drive around with my car windows closed and the a/c blasting full force. On any normal year, I do not greet Spring with open arms or joy in my heart.

But this has not been a normal year. It has been a year of stress and disappointment and worry and more stress. Winter was supposed to bring us mounds and mounds of fluffy, beautiful snow, according to our seasonal forecasts. Instead, it brought us warmer than average days and rain. Lots and lots of rain. Which, in turn, meant all the things I am allergic to bloomed in the Winter, too. There was no relief for this hacking and sneezing allergy sufferer.

I don’t dislike rain, by the way. I am from a place where it doesn’t rain nearly enough, so rain holds a bit of a special place in my heart. There is something kind of magical and mysterious and fun about a gray and rainy day. But … we have had months of these types of days. If I’m being honest, I have to admit I am more than a little sick of rain. I am also sick of my muddy yard and the dog foot prints that are all over my floors.

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So I was ready for Spring this year. The idea that it was quickly on its way, coupled with the unseasonably warm temperatures we have had for most of the winter, had me thinking of pastel colors, flowers, and buzzing bees. I was ready for the smell of fresh earth and green grass, even if I had to enjoy these things in extremely short bursts. And I thought it was beyond time for some bright colors in a world that seems to have gone all too gray.

Today, Spring looks like a fluffy white, slushy mess outside my window. I got so excited about Spring’s arrival that it seems I forgot about our annual March dumping of snow. And it arrived, right on schedule, today — just in time to celebrate Spring. It’s cold. It’s wet. Everything is frozen. In short, things are unexpectedly unpleasant.

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But … school was canceled. And it will be canceled again for tomorrow. My sweet girl and husband were both home today, and we nested inside our house. We laughed and joked. My daughter and I played a video game together. We had home made tortilla soup. I watched the dogs playing in the snow. We were all warm. And safe. And together. In short, things were unexpectedly awesome. I can’t think of a better way to welcome Spring.