Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hello, 2009!

I can’t help but get a little sentimental about a passing year. This past year, by almost all accounts, was a great one. In fact, I’d call 2008, the year of dreams coming true. Husband and I moved to a new place, we purchased our first home together, I finished my Master’s degree, I trained for a marathon, and I went on the trip of a lifetime with my mom. My resolutions for 2008 were two pretty big goals: Marathon and Master’s (M&Ms?). I’d call both of them a success, even though the marathon training didn’t turn out how I hoped. I learned a lot through both, most notably that I can accomplish more than I ever thought. (I also learned that knees are vital to the anatomy, but that’s another story.) I’ve been struggling in trying to decide what I want my resolutions to be for 2009. I’d like to pick another big challenge (or two) to focus on, but there’s nothing that I’m really shooting for at the moment. And I guess that’s ok. I’d like to write more, worry less, and enjoy each day. But mostly, I want to be open to what the new year brings. And I start this year feeling both content and hopeful. (Although, if you want to get technical, I’ll probably start the year asleep on the couch next to Husband because I don’t think I'll stay awake long enough to see midnight. Tell me I’m not the only one…)

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Sweet Christmas

Our Christmas was low-key, relaxing, and enjoyable. It only takes having a few friends deployed to realize how lucky we are to be able to spend the holiday together. And we were equally blessed that some family could visit us. Christmas week seemed to go by so quickly. When I look back, it’s a blur of laughter and (lots and lots of) food. In other words, it was glorious. I’m also impressed that we figured out a way to incorporate sweets as a part of every meal: cinnamon muffins, chocolate chip scones, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, fudge, chocolate-dipped marshmallows, caramel-covered marshmallows, apricot bread, fried sweet dough, and chocolate cake. That’s not to mention various types of candy, but I’m not sure if this blog post can hold much more sugar. Husband and I have big plans this week of a whole lot of nothing. It will be the perfect time to reflect on all of our blessings of the past year…in between eating the leftover sweets.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa is Held Captive!

Last night our commander’s wife hosted a Christmas social for all of the spouses. She made a full sit-down dinner for all of us. I was totally amazed because: a) there were a LOT of us, and she managed to feed us all, with plenty leftover, b) the food was all homemade and absolutely delicious, right down to the melt-in-your-mouth dinner rolls, c) she somehow was able to make this dinner while also taking care of her five children, and d) she appeared totally calm, and not once did I see her crying in the corner (which is how I probably would have handled the stress of such an event). Part of the festivities included an ornament exchange. I gave my friend a ride home last night, and this morning I noticed she left her Santa ornament in my car. I could have simply called her to tell her that she forgot it. (But what fun is that?) Instead, I had “Santa” send an e-mail to her, in which he pleads for her to take him home: Subject: It’s Me, Santa. Please Save Me! I was so excited you chose me last night. My wish was coming true after so long... I finally would fulfill my duties as a Christmas Ornament (C.O.), and I would be displayed on a real Christmas tree! I had been waiting for this moment my whole life! My excitement soon turned to disappointment and terror when you left me in a cold, dark car last night. I was scared and alone, and my little heart was broken. Would I ever escape? Would I ever see my Christmas tree home? And most importantly, would there be a Christmas without me, Santa?? I managed to flee the vehicle, and I found this computer, where I'm writing this message. I'm attaching a picture of myself for proof. Please save me…if not for my sake, for the sake of Christmas and children all around the world. (No pressure.) love, Santa P.S. HO HO HO I know that Santa will make his way home. It might be through the magic of Christmas…or because I’m a big softie, and I make the worst hostage-taker.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome Home: Plans vs Reality

Husband came back this weekend after being gone for six weeks for some military training. Not surprisingly, I had a perfect plan in place to clean the house and welcome him home. Also, not surprisingly, things didn’t go as I planned. Notice the stark contrast between my plans and the reality… The plans: Husband called and said he would be home “around 3:30” on Saturday afternoon. I planned to run a few errands in the morning, and then I’d have a solid three hours to make it seem like I hadn’t totally neglected cleaning the house for over a month and a half. I’d clean the floors, then tackle the bathroom, and then vacuum the rest of the house. Then I’d finish baking some cookies for church on Sunday, change into a cute outfit, and be ready for him to arrive. When he walked in the door, I’d give him a big hug and tell him how glad I was that he was home. The reality: I did manage to clean the floors, and I put some cookies in the oven. While they were baking, I scrubbed our grimy bathroom sink, while wearing some equally grimy clothes. It was around 1:30PM, when I heard the timer ringing, signaling that the cookies were done. I ran into the kitchen, noticing that the cookies were almost to the point of being burnt. I removed them from the oven, and just then, I saw a person standing a few feet away from me. I jumped and screamed. My heart was racing, and it took me at least 2 seconds to realize that it was Husband. It took my mouth another 2 seconds for it to stop screaming. I held my hand over my heart and breathed deeply, like I was having a heart attack. “You scared me!” I scolded him. I took a few more deep breaths, recovering from the scare. Then, I realized that this moment, although certainly not what I planned, was what I was waiting for. I finally ran up to him and gave him a belated hug, telling him “welcome home.” I asked him why he told me that he wasn’t coming home until 3:30, when he knew he’d be home so much earlier. He smiled and said, “Because I wanted to surprise you.” Mission accomplished.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lost: Master's Degree

A few months ago, my University rep asked for my mailing address, so she could send me my diploma. I’d been waiting for this moment for a long time. I was excited (almost giddy) to finally see the proof that I actually finished my Master’s degree, confirming that it wasn’t just a hazy memory of papers, quizzes, and tests. The day before Husband and I were going out of town, I got a slip to pick up a “large, oversized envelope” at the post office. I called the post office and told them that we were going out of town, and I asked them to hold this “large envelope” with our other mail. When we got back, I went to the post office and picked up our mail. All of our mail was there, except for the “large envelope.” They gave me the name and phone number of the woman at the post office that handles the packages, and they told me to call her later that afternoon. I got in touch with her, and I explained the story. She said, “Oh wait, was it a large, oversized envelope?” Yes, I replied. “And it was from a university? It looked like a diploma, maybe?” Yes! That’s the one! “Well, I’m sorry, ma’am, but because no one picked it up, I sent it back yesterday.” Noooooo! I contacted my University rep, explained the situation, and apologized profusely. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sending it back, once it was returned to her. I offered to pay the additional postage. She said not to worry, and she’d send it back. After six or seven weeks (I’ve lost count), she still hasn’t gotten it! I can only wonder if someone intercepted my diploma and sold it on the black market. (And, if such a market for advanced degrees exists, how much would it take for me to pick up a PhD?? I’d be willing to pay top dollar. Kidding, of course.) Anyway, she is going to re-order my diploma and send it to me. Remind me not to go out of town when it’s supposed to arrive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Home Tour

Last weekend I went on a tour of holiday-decorated homes with some friends. It really should be called “Snoop Legally in Other People’s Homes!” or “Poke Around Someone’s House Without Getting Arrested!”
I figured the tour would be interesting, and best of all, the proceeds went for local scholarships.
By the way, I learned that it must be more appealing for women to tour through homes because Husband was confused by the concept.
“You mean you just walk around their houses?”
Yes, I replied.
Because it’s fun for nosy, I mean, curious people like me.
The homes were beautiful, and the decorations were exquisite. Almost every room looked like it was lifted from the pages of a magazine. The Christmas trees were styled perfectly with a theme and color-coordinated ornaments. Some homes had fresh greens and gorgeous wreaths. And, of course, each home was immaculately clean.
Towards the end of the tour, I thought of our own home and how our decorations look nothing like those in the homes I saw. Most of our Christmas decorations are hand-me-downs from family members or things that we bought at a discount store.
I almost laughed to myself when I imagined what people might say if they toured around our house (besides, “Why is this house on the tour? I want my money back!”).
“Wow! Look at those dollar-store ornaments! They’re simply divine!”
“My word, is that a genuine plastic wreath? How lovely!”
After the tour, I returned to our house, and I expected that I would feel that our decorations were lacking in comparison.
Instead, when I looked around, I realized how lucky we are.
I saw the snowman that my dad made for us. It’s a one-of-a-kind treasure (that only an avid golfer could create) that you can’t buy from a store.
I saw the stockings that Husband’s mom gave us one year for Christmas.

I saw the Nativity scene that I bought recently with my mom.

Each decoration carries its own special meaning and memories. None of them will qualify us to be in a holiday home tour. But who would want to do all that cleaning anyway?

Friday, December 5, 2008

O (Husband) Christmas Tree

This is our first Christmas in our new house. Last Christmas (our first one together), we had room for only a small, Charlie Brown tree. (It did make for a cute tree, though.) Now, for the first time, we can finally put up a full-size tree! I was anxious to go shopping to find the (fake, but full-size!) tree that we would call our own. I went to a few different stores and noted the different options and prices. I finally found one that I thought would work. It was pre-lit, tall, and reasonably priced. I gave Husband all the details on it. He said, “Sounds great. Why don’t you buy it?” I told him, “Well, the only thing is that it’s not as full as some of the other trees. It’s tall and skinny.” Husband said, “What’s wrong with tall and skinny?” We both paused for a second and then laughed in unison when we realized that the description also fits Husband perfectly. I bought the tree. For the first time in my life, I do not have a Charlie Brown tree. Instead, we have a [Husband’s full name] tree. So, tall and skinny it is. If it can work so well for marriage, I think it can work for Christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deployed Greetings

When I was deployed, I love perusing through the pile of greeting cards that were written to “any service member.”
The Chaplain’s office at my deployed location always displayed the cards, and they encouraged us to look at them and take any that we wanted.
Some were store-bought cards with handwritten greetings, some were simple letters, and others were colorful cards that children made. All were equally touching and uplifting. It reaffirmed to me how good and generous people can be.
One letter, written by a 12-year-old girl, especially touched me. She asked in her letter for a response and included her address. So, for a brief time, we became pen pals. We stopped writing after my deployment, but I saved her letters (among others I received) and I’m still grateful for them.
This year it was my turn. I found the address through the Red Cross where you can send holiday wishes to “any service member.” (They are collecting letters until December 10th, and their website has further info.)
My family thought it was a neat idea, and we all wrote a holiday card after Thanksgiving. (And although I consider myself a pretty good letter-writer, I think Husband’s message actually turned out to be much more heartfelt than mine!)
I hope that those currently deployed experience the same kindness that I did through these letters, and maybe for a few moments they will feel “home.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turkey Cooking 101

My turkey cooking class was a success. And by success, I mean that I didn’t pass out at any time during the instruction, and no family members (the poor, taste-testing guinea pigs) gagged on the turkey dinner that I helped prepare. I’m not entirely confident I could make one quite as tasty without my two cooking instructors (my parents) present, but I am confident that this is an experience that neither my parents nor I will soon forget. As soon as I got up on the morning before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve?), my dad told me that it was time to prep the turkey. I insisted that I first eat breakfast, by quickly making up a rule of “no touching uncooked poultry before breakfast.” He shrugged and conceded. After breakfast, he brought the turkey over to the sink and instructed me on how to remove the “stuff” inside the turkey. (By the way, I’m being gracious with the word “stuff,” which sounds much more pleasant and sterile than it actually was.) I’ll admit that I felt uncomfortable digging around in the inner cavities of a turkey I just met, but I was just following orders. The experience that followed was much messier and grosser than I imagined, and my subsequent sound effects (“Ewww!” and “Aaagh, disgusting!”) reflected this. I also noted that nowhere in my mom’s previous descriptions of turkey cooking (“You just put it in a bag and throw it in the oven!”) did she mention fumbling around with cold, uncooked turkey organs. Next, my parents told me to take out the neck of the turkey. I fished in the turkey and pulled it out, revealing quite possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen or felt. I screamed and tossed it to my dad like a hot potato. My parents offered me additional instructions but I couldn’t hear them over the sounds of my own continued screams and shrieks. (By the way, it’s too bad that a casting director wasn’t on site to see it because I would have easily secured the leading role in the next horror film.) Though it was horror to me, it was all comedy to my parents. My dramatic yet authentic screams made them laugh so hard that they couldn’t speak. I started laughing, too, and we all ended up gathered around the sink, roaring with laughter, with tears streaming down our faces. After a few minutes, we collected ourselves and the class continued. And, actually, the rest of the turkey prep was mostly scream-free. I did get grossed out a few more times, especially when I realized that some of the turkey “parts” end up (on purpose!) in part of the stuffing and the gravy. I nearly committed myself to lifelong vegetarianism at that point. But, I had no recollection of any unpleasantness when I saw the perfectly golden turkey emerge from the oven on Thanksgiving Day. It was a beautiful sight. I devoured the turkey dinner (turkey, gravy, stuffing and all), and I enjoyed every morsel. I felt thankful just like I do every thanksgiving, except this time it was for the funny memories of my first turkey cooking experience - and for complete amnesia of it all while eating it.