Friday, November 21, 2008

Meeting the Neighbors

I successfully delivered the brownies to the new neighbors yesterday. The wife was really gracious, and I think she was happy to get them.
(Side note: I found out later that she used to be a newscaster. That would explain why she was also so poised and polished!)
I think it was worth the risk of becoming a near-stalker to meet and welcome them. And I learned that a good way to meet your neighbors is by bringing them baked goods.
Unfortunately, this morning I also learned the way that you definitely don’t want to meet your neighbors: while wearing your pajamas. More specifically, your red pajama pants with polka dots.

Exhibit A.

So, this morning I wanted to go outside (just for a minute!) to water the plants. It seemed like a waste to change clothes, go outside, then shower, and change clothes again.

I took a quick peek outside and didn’t see a single soul. I asked myself, “Really, who am I going to see?” (I should know better than to tempt fate like that.)

I decided it was safe to go outside in my pajamas.

As soon as I got outside and turned on the hose, our street turned into Grand Central Station.

First, the neighbor that lives two houses down from us that I had never seen before walks right by me! It’s a mystery to me why I never saw her on one of the 300 occasions I was outside in normal clothing during the seven months we’ve lived here. How nice that she’ll probably remember me forever as the gal in the red and white-polka-dotted pajamas.

Less than five seconds later, the neighbor across the street came out of her house. Then a truck started to drive by.

Before my plants could get their fill of water, I had my fill of humiliation. I turned off the hose and ran inside.

It seems that pajamas, even more than brownies, are a sure-fire way to guarantee seeing your neighbors.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Honest, I'm just trying to welcome the new neighbors

One of the nicest surprises when we first moved here was a military wife showing up on our doorstep with a plate of freshly-baked cookies welcoming us to the neighborhood. This simple act of kindness left such an impression on me that I decided to try to extend the same hospitality to any new people that move near us. I got my chance this week. A new military family, assigned to Husband’s same unit, recently moved into a house on our street. I decided to bake some brownies to welcome them. (Of course, I had to sample one to make sure they were up to brownie standards. They were. But I had to eat a few to make sure.) The only problem is that I’ve stopped by twice to deliver the brownies in person, only to find that there is no one home. (I would call first, except I don’t know their phone number. Or even their name.) I fear that all of my trips to their house are quickly moving me from “Hi, I want to welcome you to the neighborhood” to “Hi, I’m the neighborhood stalker.” And I can only imagine what our other neighbors think when they see me traipsing back and forth to this house with a plate of brownies. I was hoping to deliver the brownies soon, so they would still be fresh. Because I’m assuming that a plate of nice and stale brownies says a lot of things, except probably not “welcome.” I’m going to stop by just one more time tonight. If I’m not successful, I might as well surrender to my stalker status. Or, I’ll just have to sample a few more brownies to check their freshness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Never Too Early For Christmas

Ok, so the title of this post has become my new motto. It’s what I’m saying to myself to rationalize why it might be ok for me to put up just a few* Christmas decorations around the house….today.
I love everything about Christmas: the music, the decorations, the movies, the goodies, etc.
And here’s a true confession. I was in a store on Halloween (still technically October!), when I saw the workers taking the Halloween candy off the shelves with one hand and putting up the Christmas candy with the other. Just then, I heard the distinct sound of Christmas music playing overhead.
I know I should have been appalled by this, and I should have engaged in the obligatory complaining to a friend (“It’s too early for this! It’s October!”).
But instead, I smiled to myself. Inside, I was cheering, “Hooray! It’s almost Christmas!”
Earlier this week I visited a friend (another military spouse), and I saw her Christmas tree completely decorated and lit in her living room. I complimented her on her tree, and she quickly explained that they would be out of town visiting family for a few weeks and they wanted to enjoy the Christmas tree while they could, since they were going through the trouble of putting it up for their kids.
I wanted to say, “It’s ok. You don’t need to explain. I love Christmas, too.”
Husband is not as crazy about the Christmas hoopla. Sure, he likes the holiday, and he’s definitely no Scrooge, but he thinks that Christmas decor and music should wait until at least after Thanksgiving. Like most (normal) people.
He doesn’t quite understand why I get downright giddy when regular radio stations morph into the “all Christmas, all the time” stations.
And he probably wouldn’t quite get why I feel the need to put up a few Christmas
Thankfully, I’ve checked with the Commander of the House (that’s me) and also the Chief of Home Decor (also me), and we all agree that it’s ok to start putting up Christmas decorations.
Since we won’t be here for Thanksgiving, we can skip any Thanksgiving decorations we might have** and dive right into Christmas. Plus, putting them up now will save time later when we get back after Thanksgiving.
Or, I just love Christmas.
*This might or might not equate to all the Christmas decorations that we currently own. **I don’t think we have any Thanksgiving decorations.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Look! Cheap Gas!

I was so excited about the falling gas prices that I had to take a picture. This means that our wallets finally get a little break.

But, it also means that I’ve somehow turned into one of Those People that Take Pictures of Gas Prices.

I’m not exactly sure what’s involved with this new identity, but I think that soon I’ll be talking about the “good old days” and I’ll say things like “I can remember when I paid less than [insert ridiculously low price here] for gas!”

By the way, a man saw me taking pictures of the sign, and I think he laughed to himself. I have proved once again that I am willing to embarrass myself for good blog material. You’re welcome. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marathon Training: The End

I always imagined that my marathon experience would end with me triumphantly crossing the finish line. Instead, it ended unceremoniously a few weeks ago when a long run became a very short run because of some knee pain. When I got back from my trip, my knees were feeling quite a bit better. But, I couldn’t, in good conscience, keep going with my long runs and risk permanent damage to my knees. (Because, after having them my whole life, I’ve grown rather fond of them.) So, I quit marathon training before my knees could quit on me. Thankfully, I have a wonderful family that supported me with the crazy idea to train for the marathon in the first place, and they have been equally supportive when I decided to stop. I’m so very lucky. I am a bit bummed about not being able to do the marathon, but I know in my heart that I am making the right decision. And I am still so glad that I did the marathon training, even with knowing how it ended. My goal, in starting it, was to prove to myself that anything is possible, and there’s no way I could deny achieving that! Before I started this, I could barely run 2 miles, yet somehow I made it to 16 miles - twice! Every mile was a victory, and it made me realize that we can do so much more than we think we can. I know that this lesson from marathon training will impact other aspects of my life. Marathon training has proved to me that the challenges or goals in my life that once seemed impossible are actually in reach. I only hope that my experience has inspired someone else along the way to run after their big dream, no matter how difficult or crazy it seems. I can’t wait to dream more big dreams. (My knees just hope that the next ones don’t include them.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Turkey Cooking School

A few weeks ago, Husband asked me what our plans were going to be for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t really given it much thought before he asked. I knew that we didn’t have any family that was planning to join us, so I told him that we’d probably just have our own little celebration. Maybe we’d even invite another couple or two. We even talked about the potential menu we’d want. It all sounded great, until I realized a very scary thought: I’d have to cook the turkey! And I have no idea how to cook a turkey! My only vague recollections of turkey-cooking have come from watching my parents. And apparently I was more consumed by the, well, consuming of the turkey than the actual cooking of it. I only really remember that it involves getting up early and what sounds like a very complicated mathematical equation involving cooking hours and the turkey weight. I panicked and called my mom. “Help! How am I ever going to cook a turkey? On the most important eating-day of the year??” “Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s easy. Really. Once you make it, you’ll realize how easy it is.” Forgive me, but I was still skeptical. Especially since she kept emphasizing how “easy” it is. (“So easy!” “It’s easy!”) I’m practically an expert on not being able to figure out “easy” things. (Just like my desk-assembling disaster.) And I cringe inside whenever someone gives me directions and they say, “You can’t miss it!” Because, trust me, I’ll miss it. But, Uncle Sam unknowingly intervened. Husband recently found out that he will be TDY (away on military duty) around the time of Thanksgiving. We decided that the most convenient option for Thanksgiving would be to visit family. I’m excited about it. (And not just because it postpones my solo turkey-cooking for another year.) I think my mom is excited, too. In fact, I just got an e-mail from her this morning about Thanksgiving. At the bottom of the e-mail, she wrote: “P.S. Guess you will have turkey cooking school. :)” Sign me up. I’m ready to learn. But only if I’m allowed to boast afterwards about how easy it is.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sharing Stories...In English

My favorite volunteer experience was teaching English (called ESL or English as a Second Language) to refugees and immigrants in the last state we lived. I taught a night class for adults once a week. Over the course of the year I volunteered, I came to know people from over twenty different countries and four different continents! The experience was rewarding, humbling, inspiring, and sometimes comical (especially when I’d have to resort to using charades to explain something). A few weeks ago, I saw a sign in our local library advertising a new ESL class that was starting. I called the point of contact and asked if they needed any help. She laughed and said, “Of course!” And now I’m happily teaching ESL again, one night a week at a nearby church. Though the people are different, their enthusiasm to learn English is much the same. This week they learned about the past tense. One of the suggested activities in our book was to discuss how they met their spouse, and each student shared her story. The result, surprisingly, was a lot of laughter.

We laughed at one woman’s story, where her poor husband had to ask her father 4 times before finally getting his blessing to marry his daughter. Another woman made us laugh as she explained how she rejected her husband on 2 separate occasions before she even considered dating him.

I’m looking forward to hearing more of their stories and learning more about them. And they might just (hopefully!) learn a little English in the process.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Pocket Full of Memories

The trip that my mom and I recently took was a family trip in every possible sense. We went with a few other family members (my aunt and two cousins). We visited the place where our family lived a few generations ago. And we even met some long-lost relatives in a tearful, but joyous reunion. The memories of one particular family member became especially close to us, too. On the first day of our trip, my mom’s cousin wore a shirt that he evidently had gotten for Christmas a few years ago from his mother, but had never worn. After breakfast, he reached into his shirt pocket to get his room key, but instead he found a note and a crisp $20 bill. The note said simply, “I love you. Love, Mom.” It all had so much meaning, since his mother passed away a few years ago. We all teared up, and we imagined her watching over her son on the trip. (I also, jokingly, imagine her saying, “What took you so long to wear the shirt??”) This was such a nice reminder that the memories of those we’ve lost are never very far from us. And some lucky times, the memories are right in our front pocket.