Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oh Happy

So, a new year is upon us. Oh happy day. We’re nearing a decade in this new millennium, and it’s about time that I get into some serious goal-making. I don’t do resolutions anymore because it’s like a promise – you can break it, and it’s over. But a goal? A goal can be worked toward and achieved. There’s no way to “achieve” a resolution. Either you break it or you keep it, and I tend toward the former.

So, with that, I give you my goals for 2009:

1. Paint our bedroom. Make it soothing and pretty and a place that I love to be.
2. Buy (or borrow) a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook and work through it, recipe by recipe. Make notes in the margins (but only if I didn't borrow it) about when I cooked it, who I made it for and what the result was.
3. Work on that whole “not sweating the small stuff” thing.
4. Continue to make our home a place that fills me with comfort and love, so that when Greg and I spend time there together, we can’t help but to be happy.
5. Love my husband like he’s never been loved before. (I know it sounds dirty, but it’s not supposed to be, so stop.)
6. Find a workout pattern that suits me, whether it’s mornings, evenings or lunch hours. Find one I’m happy with and do my best to stick to it.

That’s it. Happy New Year, if I don’t see you before then!

The pre-pubescent teen in me speaks

Please pardon me while I turn into a teeny-bopper for the next seventy-eleven minutes. It’s going to be a little messy. I promise to clean up after myself.

I was gifted this amazing thing for Christmas:

Before you judge, you have to understand. Maybe you can’t understand. But I’m going to try to ‘splain. You see, when I started reading this book, this Twilight, I was skeptical. A year ago, one of my campers (I was a camp counselor for a summer, but that’s a whole different story, and one I will have to tell at a future date) was reading this book. She tried to explain it to me.

“It’s about vampires. And one falls in love with this human girl, who he wants to eat.”

Hmm. Not really my style, I thought.
It was the summer of the last Harry Potter book, and my attention wasn’t going to be swayed to some lesser form of Harry Potter’s magic. But as more and more people told me how addictive the books were, I couldn’t help but be curious. So, when I got the book for Christmas, I opened to the first page and began reading. At first I felt somewhat Meh? about the whole thing. But I spurred myself on, thinking that surely something was coming that would draw me in. And it did. And in two days, I was done with the book. Two days during which I still managed to make Christmas dinner, spend nearly every waking moment with family and actually contribute to conversation. But in those two days, I realized something.

I had never once gotten a recommendation to read this book from a boy. No, no. It’s true. This is a girl book. Chick lit of the highest order. It sets off a sea of butterflies in my tummy. It sends me over the moon with glee. It makes me remember what it’s like to be 17, reading into every word and action of that beautiful boy you think you’re falling in love with. For most of us, that beautiful boy turns out to be a jerk, and our dreams are dashed and the feeling never returns quite like it did back then. It’s for that reason that living vicariously through Bella as she falls deeper in love with a tragically beautiful and dangerous vampire makes us women all sigh contentedly.

I won’t mince words here: I don’t think these books are as good as Rowling’s. The writing is definitely nothing spectacular. The characters are not as well-developed. And the plot lines are sometimes….thin. But the age-old idea that you will inevitably fall in love with the “bad boy” and somehow make him good is mouthwateringly awesome. It’s that element that keeps the book in my hand for hours on end. It’s that element that prompted me to order the remaining two books from Amazon without hesitation.

So, not to sound like an episode of Reading Rainbow, but if you need something to perk you up about the world of men and boys, read it. Read it now. Don’t even look back. Give in to the need. And just try not to fall in love. I dare you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Success!

Christmas is over. And I survived.

Six words I wasn’t sure I’d be able to utter after this, our first year to host Christmas at our house.

We kept it simple. I hijacked recipes from
The Pioneer Woman left and right, and wound up with a very simple, delectable meal, as previously planned. Everything was cooked (almost) to perfection. The ham tasted wonderful. I couldn’t get enough of the pineapple dressing. And Pearl’s rolls were dense and delicious.

After dinner, we opened presents for six hours (or at least it felt like it), and I scored some pretty sweet stuff. Of the things I asked for, I got a jewelry box, Sleeping Beauty, socks (though they weren’t the kind I really needed, but cute all the same), office supplies and pashminas. Two separate people looked for Wii Fit, but were unable to find it. I figure the things I didn’t get will go on my Birthday wish list in six months. Well, except for gloves. Don’t know what I would do with gloves in June.

By 7:30 on Christmas Day, both Greg and I were exhausted. So I, being the loser that I am, settled into bed at 7:30 with Twilight, and counted on falling asleep no later than 9:00. Instead, at 10:30, I was still engrossed and had to force myself to stop. I finished the book on Saturday, and Greg and I immediately went out to buy the next in the series. I think I’ll be ordering the last two from Amazon, which is running a special on them.

All in all, the last five days have been exhausting, fun-filled and family-oriented. I’m looking forward to a week of Greg and I enjoying the quiet of our house, cleaning up the Christmas fallout, and eating things that are not leftovers from Christmas dinner.

Cheers to another successful year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

There are no words.

I have discovered I world where a poodle could end up looking like this:

The only thing more wrong in this picture than the fact that the poodle has been made into a camel, and looks like it is plotting a messy demise for the three women pictured, is that the Amazon thought it would make things better to wear an "Arabian Princess" costume. Let's hope she doesn't think she could ride the camel. Things would end very, very badly.

And then there's this. I try to imagine that after this picture was taken, the dog proceeded to open its mouth and consume the hand posing his head at that angle. Who knows -- maybe when the owner gave him the lobotomy, he stopped caring what cartoon character she made him into each time his hair grew to a shapable length. Perhaps he enjoys living the life of a topiary.
If you haven't had enough, there are a few more pictures here.

Bah Humbug.

It’s the day after Christmas and where am I? I am sitting at my desk, not working. But not “not working” in the way I wish I were “not working.” You see, I knew I had to come in to work today. But I had imagined I would be alone. Like last year. Just me and 25 empty cubicles. Answering the phone that doesn’t ring the day after Christmas.

Instead, Mary Tyler Moore and her unshakable work ethic are both here. Sitting three feet away from me, in her cubicle which faces mine. Our arrangement is somewhat like this:

(Please ignore the lack of skills I have for drawing in paint. I got my point across, right? Right?!)

So, she faces me, I face her. She can’t quite see my computer screen (the little gray box), but she can see practically everything else on my desk and what I do. It’s insufferable. So the only solace I have is the illegal internet surfing I do today.

I had such a beautiful day planned. I brought in my Nintendo DS, ready to slack and play games all day. I brought Miles Davis for some background music, because usually it’s quiet as a tomb in my area. No music allowed. And with the phone ringing all day, I can understand that. But when I imagined I’d be alone, I had my plans. I would draft two letters (illustrating that I could do some work when alone), and then spend the remainder of the day building up the house for my Animal Crossing character while listening to Miles Davis play “Freddie Freeloader” like only he could.

Now, I’m stuck. I can’t do much of anything, other than stare at my computer, and pretend to work by typing away on my blog.

If there was any fairness in this world, I would be home right now, staring at the mess that is my house, eating leftovers all day long, and playing the new Wii games Greg got for Christmas. Or watching Greg play while I hungrily finish Twilight, which really is like crack for bookworms. But we all know that life isn’t fair. Especially those of us who work in healthcare

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Serious Slackage

My brain is on vacation today. I finagled my way into getting out of work early, since I will be the only one of the assistants to be here both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. Because of that, when I got here at 8:00 a.m., my brain had already retreated to 2:30 today, when I will jet and get some last-minute things done.

On the list for today:

- Get Cheese, bread and veggies for a fondue night with Greg.
We decided that since we’ll be with family from Wednesday evening on, we’d have a night for ourselves, complete with fondue, a little gift exchange and a movie while comfy-ing it up on the couch together. Someone may even get lucky if he plays his cards right.

- Pay my car tags
That my car tags expire in December must be the world reminding me I still have bad karma from killing that deer with my car when I was 17. Who has time to go to a tag agency in December?!

- Begin cooking for Christmas Day.
I’m hoping to have dessert made, a lot of chopping and dicing done, and things portioned out and ready for final preparation, which will make life a heck of a lot easier on Christmas Day. That way I can start hitting the egg nog as soon as I wake up, and have less of a chance to screw up the meal.
And, if I have enough time, I’m going to splurge and go buy a sweater for Christmas Day. Everyone will be at our house, so I want to look a little bit fabulous. Like I’ve got it all together, and I didn’t just burn the ham, scorch the potatoes, and hide my mess under the bed in a last-minute cleaning frenzy. Sweaters can do that, right?

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Whine

One of the hardest transitions about the non-academic world is the holiday schedule.

When I worked my previous job at the University of Oklahoma, we had a glorious vacation from work every holiday. Christmas and New Year's usually warranted a week and a half. All major holidays were also included – Good Friday, MLK Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July. But the best part was always Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was nice to get such a good break during the winter months. Time to spend with your family. Time to recoop and reenergize and start the year fresh.

When you work in healthcare, holidays almost don’t exist. I’m lucky because I work in healthcare administration, and not as a nurse on the floor. Those poor saps are lucky if they have any holiday off ever. I at least get one day each for Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Yes, that’s right. One measly day. So this year, because of the way the calendar fell, that means I have three Thursdays off, three months in a row, and then have to be back in on Friday morning. It’s a total drag. I’m not going to lie. And I hate it almost as much as I hate the sound of someone spitting or the guy who stands too close to you when you’re in line at the bank.

The one good thing about all of this is that most of the higher-ups will also be out of the office, so rather than apply myself on those quiet days, I will take full advantage of my ability to slack off. I will bring my Nintendo DS (lay off – I’m a nerd, and the games are totally fun), and I will play Brain Age and Animal Crossing and ignore the fact that the rest of the free world is doing what is only right and sleeping off the egg nog from the night before.

Image from Studio583art's photostream

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ahead of the Game?

You know how I said I would be productive?

Well, I came, I saw, and I was indeed productive.

So productive, in fact, that I am now decidedly without a list of things to do at work. This is what happens when I am productive. The next few days become an exercise in extreme boredom. So, today, to battle this extreme boredom, I am planning next week.

This year, since Greg and I are married, we decided we wanted to share our first Christmas as a family with both of our extended families. So on Christmas Day, both sets of parents will be coming to our house and enjoying Christmas with us. We’ve been decorating the house, cleaning the corners and wrapping gifts for the last couple of weeks. And I have been scouring the Pioneer Woman’s
webpage, carefully crafting the Christmas menu. This is a woman who knows how to celebrate her holidays.

Our menu so far:

Pineapple Dressing**
Whiskey-Glazed Carrots

Fresh Corn with Wild Rice
Turnip Gratin (The alternative to potatoes this year.)
Pearl’s Rolls***
Caramel Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake

Pecan Pie (courtesy of Greg’s grandmother)

The only thing missing is “something green” as my mother says, so I’m thinking either this asparagus
or these green beans. The jury is still out on that one.

I’m looking forward to cooking this year. It’s going to be quite a task, as I work every day but Christmas Day, so I’m going to enlist Greg’s able hands to do some of the prep work while he’s relaxing around the house those days. Wish me luck. This has all the potential to be a great disaster.

* I have no recipe for ham yet. I had planned on getting a honey-baked ham, but after looking at the prices, I quickly retreated from that one. Let me know if you have a good suggestion!
** The recipe for this comes from a woman I called my “second mother” in high school. She passed away recently, so I feel that the only tribute I can truly give her is to continue to make this recipe over and over, remembering how wonderful it was when she made it with her own two hands. My real mother couldn’t get over how much she enjoyed it. It’s that good.
*** Pearl’s rolls are a family tradition. They’ve been passed down from grandmother to niece to daughter to distant cousin. The recipe is probably no different than most rolls, but just knowing that it was scratched out by my Great-aunt Pearl makes them taste just a little better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Business Time

Today, I will be productive. For a whole day. I was not productive yesterday. I was not productive the day before that. So today, I’m going to be productive. Here are some of the things I’m going to accomplish:

At work –
1. I will write the bazillion letters I’ve been putting off drafting for my boss.
2. I will empty out my inbox so that it is sparklingly clean.
3. I will empty out my “pending” file, insofar that it can be emptied.
4. I will review my email inbox and try to empty it, as well as my “follow-up required” emails, so I will have fewer of those lying around.

At home –
1. I will finish my laundry.
2. I will clean the mess that I call “My side of the bed.”
3. I will write at least 5 thank-you cards for the wedding, address them and get them in the mail tomorrow.

This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is more than I’ve been able to accomplish lately, so I’m thinking it’s pretty good. On the list of things that I will do if I am successful in my productivity, and still have some time leftover:

- Begin putting together a Christmas cooking schedule
- Make a grocery list for next week; shopping to be executed no later than Thursday, in order to make the rice and corn casserole I’m making for Friday’s staff potluck
- Go through my stack of papers and whatnot that awaits me in the kitchen (nothing gets put off more than me filing papers and old mail)
- Take wedding money checks to the bank for deposit in Greg and my joint account

I know blogging isn’t necessarily a productive use of my time, but it is the only way I can hold myself accountable. I’ll think later today, “But three people (yes, I’m being optimistic) know I’ve made this commitment; I can’t back out now!!” I’m being optimistic. I’m being bold. I’m going to commit to doing something today.

Wish me luck.
Photo via Dispair.com

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A look back

So, before the wedding, I was writing a lot in my spare time. Well, I was writing a lot even when I didn't have spare time. Writing would center me, would help me think about what was coming next, so I let it take over anytime it needed to. I was rereading some of the writing I did, and wanted to post this piece, which I thought turned out kind of sweet and interesting:

There are 19 days left in my life that I will still be a single woman.

I don’t scare easy, but this is a little frightening. Not in the “I’ll never sleep with anyone else!” sense or the “What if we hate each other?” sense, but more in the “I’ll always be part of a pair” sense.

Thinking about it now, the scariest thing about getting married is that one day you won’t be. And whether that’s sooner or later, it won’t be any easier on either of us. Because either a) one of us has died or b) we are going through a messy divorce, during which he tries to take our kitschy and wonderful camper away from me.

Getting married – it’s saying to the world that I’m okay with never being alone again. I’m okay with every day being part of a unit. Being gregandjennifer or jenniferandgreg, but never just Jennifer any more. That in itself makes me a little woozy. The two of us together? Pretty awesome. The two of us each on our own? Also awesome. The two of us together forever? Awesome, but will the world be able to handle it? Will we?

I look at the lady I work with, who had been married to her husband for almost 32 years when he suddenly died of a very short illness. Unexpected doesn’t even begin to describe how this happened. And devastated doesn’t cover how she looked afterward. Her Bobby, snatched from her after 32 years together. And with only a month of sudden illness which robbed his voice, his movement and his comprehension before he finally left the world. She is the epitome of strength, because if I were her, I’d still be in bed, wondering how life can keep going when the love of my life isn’t.

So, to me, that’s the scariest part of getting married. I’m hopelessly attached. Even if I were to run away right now, my heart would still be with him, so it would be a pointless endeavor. Wherever I go in life, I’ll only be a part of the whole we’ve become. It’s not so much Jerry Maguire situation as it is a Lego situation. I was complete on my own, but when you put the two of us together, we became a whole new creation, and we don’t look right without one another anymore.

So here’s to 19 more days of being single, so I can begin a lifetime of worrying I’ll never have enough time with my Goyo.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Today I have a sinking feeling.

Maybe it’s the dream I had last night; I spent most of it trying to help build a door with my coworker’s adult daughter. Monica Gellar was complaining that no one gave her any advance notice that she would be building a door, and I snapped at her that none of us got advanced notice, and she needs to just needed to chill out and roll with the punches.

Or maybe it’s the weather. It’s rainy and wet, with a few flurries fighting their way to the earth. It’s overcast and dreary outside, and there’s not even the sparkling snow that makes an overcast, dreary day kind of special. It’s just… blah.

Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s (men cover your ears) that time of the month. When it feels like someone is stabbing me repeatedly in the abdomen all day long, and everything makes me angry, upset and nervous. To top it off, I’m bloated and my pants seem to be sucking the life out of me. Usually this falls on a Sunday, but it bled over into today (no pun intended), and I realized just how hard it makes it to have a good day at work.

Or maybe it’s the realization that I officially did not win at NaNoWriMo. I am just over 30,000 words of the 50,000 I was supposed to write. Sadly, it’s not enough. So, this year I didn’t win. But, I am going to finish it anyway, and I’m going to finish it my way. Slowly. With feeling.

Whatever it is, it’s got me down.
via Flickr