Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

I love this question. It always makes me realize that no matter how old I get there are always going to be so many new things in a given year that I can't manage to list them all. Some immediately memorable new things from this year: jet skiing, visiting Boston when I was old enough to actually remember it, seeing Niagara Falls and visiting Canada, going to a pumpkin-tossing festival. And moving in with my boyfriend, which is of course the biggest "first".

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?

Last year my first resolution was to cook more often, and that one was somewhat successful. I cooked more than I had in the past but still not as much as I wanted to (and in the last few months of this year I really let cooking fall by the wayside). My other resolution from last year was to improve my networking skills and talk more to people that seemed interesting instead of always waiting for them to approach me. I give myself an "A" on that one, mostly because I forced myself to answer the phone when Penn called and gave him a chance, which is something I probably wouldn't have done last year. And it's not because of anything he did or didn't do when we met, but just because I think I would have talked myself out of it for all the weird, random reasons I used to talk myself out of answering the phone when other guys had called in the past. But I had decided to be more open-minded about seemingly interesting people, so I called him back after he called me the first time, and look how well that worked out!

As for this year, I really do want to cook more often. REALLY. Maybe it will actually stick this year, since I think this is the third time I have resolved to do it. Plus now I actually have someone else to cook for, so the incentive is a bit better (it's hard to get motivated when you're just cooking for yourself and you know there are going to be a ton of leftovers). Other than that, I just want to pass my comprehensive exams and write my prospectus. If I can do just those two things, I will consider it a successful year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but a lot of my friends and acquaintances are pregnant right now. (I went to two baby showers last month and have another one to go to in a couple of weeks...I hope it's not contagious...)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?

I finally made it to Canada.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Hmmmm...honestly, I can't think of anything else I need right now. A little more financial security would be nice, since with all the state budget cuts there's always this nagging voice in the back of my mind saying, "Careful, you may not have a salary next semester..." But I don't think that security is going to come while I'm a graduate student, no matter how hard I work and how indispensable I try to make myself. Other than that, I'd be perfectly content if 2009 was more or less a repeat of 2008.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

The day in May that Penn surprised me with roses, a trip to Chocolate World, and delicious Mexican food and then asked if I was his girlfriend. I had no idea back then exactly how much (and how quickly) my life was going to change for the better when I said, "Yes."

There are so many other days, too, though. Jet skiing with Cas, Jay, and Penn. Standing in the pouring rain in the North End with Penn and Kiki, eating calamari from a street cart. Drinking pina coladas at the Bellagio swimming pool in Vegas with Maddi, my mom, and my sister.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

I had a hell of a fall semester: I helped Penn move, I moved myself, I spent three times more weekends traveling than I did at home, I was sick for a month, and yet I managed to get "A"s in all of my seminars this semester. In fact, I would go so far as to say I rocked those classes. I'd say that's a big achievement.
Also, I don't think I can really count my relationship with Penn as an achievement since that's something that just happened due to fate or luck or whatever you want to call it. But I think any successful relationship is an achievement on the part of both people in it, and so far I think we're pretty damn good at this whole thing, and every day I hope we continue like this.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I shouldn't have been such a bitch about my sister's boyfriend at the beginning of the year. I regret fighting with her about him and so blatantly telling her that I thought it was a mistake to date him, especially since a year later he's still in the picture. I spent the whole year trying to be more open-minded about the whole thing, though, and now I realize that they really do love each other and, well, I'm trying. And I'll keep trying. I finally met him, I think he is a very nice guy, and I'm learning the lesson I think I'm supposed to learn from this situation, which is: Just because my sister and I are very different people doesn't mean her decisions are wrong.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had that scary instance at the beginning of the year where I had some abnormal medical test results at my physical, but fortunately that ended up being no big deal in the end and the doctors had freaked me out about what ended up being nothing. Then in October I had a bad cold for a week and then I kind of got better but I had a cough that hung on for about six weeks. In retrospect, I'm fairly certain I had bronchitis, and I think next time I will actually go to a doctor and get a nebulizer treatment and not be so stubborn.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Well, we don't own it, but the condo Penn and I are renting is definitely the best "new" thing I got this year. I love this condo. I just wish we could stay here until we're ready to move, as opposed to having to move whenever the owners decide they want to come back.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I'm proud of Penn for getting his new job, and proud of two of my friends here who have had a really crappy year full of break-ups, divorces, health problems, and trouble in school but have continued to function. I'm sure if I was in their situation I would be a weepy mess who couldn't be coaxed off the couch, and yet they're still trying to salvage something good from their wrecked lives and I really, really admire that.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I'm getting really tired of hearing about corrupt politicians (but that is never going to change), and I'm really, REALLY tired of all the people who work to ban gay marriage. No one will ever be able to convince me that giving two people the legal right to marry possibly has a negative influence on anyone else. If your church wants to keep marriage a union between a male and a female, fine. But there is a reason this country was founded on the separation of church and state, and I hate that so many people seem to be forgetting that.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent (which I hate paying) and travel (which is how I like to spend my money).

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My college roommate's wedding and my trip to Las Vegas, and going to Niagara Falls.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

"Little Sparrow" by Dolly Parton. There was a period this summer where I was listening to that song multiple times a day and I think when I hear it now it will always take me back to June of 2008.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

A. happier or sadder? Happier. I was happy at this time last year, too, but I'm more satisfied now. It seems like 2008 was a lousy year for most people I know: financially it was bad for the whole world, a large amount of the people I know are struggling in their relationships or their careers. Everywhere today people seem to be saying, "Good riddance, 2008." But for me, it was the opposite. 2008 was the year that brought me exactly what I wanted, both in terms of my love life and my career. It was a very, very lucky year for me, and how can you not be very happy about that?

B. thinner or fatter? The same. I am all about maintaining.

C. richer or poorer? Poorer at the moment, despite the large raise I got this year. (Is ANYONE richer this year?) I had a lot of travel and moving-related expenses that have made my bank account pretty sad lately. But now that I'm cohabitating and splitting rent, I'm hopeful that 2009 will be better.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I had worked out more. I'm still working out 20 days a month, but I think I could work a little harder. I also wish I had read more novels.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
The answer to this question is still "messed around on the internet" although I might as well admit at this point that the web is an addiction I'm incapable of giving up. I also wish I had organized my time a bit better so I'd had less nights where I was getting up at 4 AM to finish papers.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my family in my hometown. We kept up all our usual traditions (fondue, cinammon rolls, walking the dogs on the golf course on Christmas morning) and I received some really nice gifts. My favorite was a throw blanket crocheted by my grandma. She made one for all of her "DNA" (that's what she and Grandpa jokingly call their children and grandchildren). I also got a blackberry while I was home for Christmas, and although it wasn't technically a Christmas gift (just an extra phone my dad gave me since he won it in a golf tournament but he already has another one of his own) it has been pretty fun to finally have a phone that gets e-mail.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
Two of Penn's friends are driving down here to spend the night, and the four of us are going to a Robert Randolph concert tonight. Penn and I also bought stuff to make chocolate white Russians for our pre-party. Oh, and I bought a really cute (and cheap!) purple dress for tonight, but now it's snow flurry-ing and super windy so my hot outfit might have to be a no-go. We'll see. Anyway, I'm excited about tonight since my past 4 or 5 New Year's Eves have been pretty lackluster since they were either spent at work or with my parents or at parties with a lot of people I didn't really know. Actually, last year I was with Maddi and that was fun, but this year I actually get to kiss someone I love at midnight, which automatically makes it better. Hopefully!

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Yes. Absolutely.

23. How many one-night stands?


24. What was your favorite TV program(s)?
I love Gossip Girl. I know, I know. I balanced it out by also watching a lot of Deadliest Catch and Whale Wars.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I hate my friend Anna's ex-husband, although technically I already strongly, strongly disliked him at this point last year.

26. What was the best book you read?
Penn lent me Lucky Jim, which I really enjoyed. It's about the career of a young and cynical academic in Britain in the 1950s, and I literally laughed out loud dozens of times while reading it. It was probably the best thing I read (and, sadly, one of the few books I read that was not for a course...although luckily a lot of the books I read for courses are really interesting).

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Rusted Root, another thing Penn introduced me to. I really like them. I realize that the group has existed since, oh, 1994, but I'd never listened to them until I started taking road trips with Penn.

28. What did you want that you also ended up getting?
A healthy relationship. Oh, and about two weeks ago I finally came up with a potentially feasible dissertation topic. I still have to follow some threads and make some contacts and see if my topic is actually researchable, but if this one doesn't work out I also have a decent backup plan. So I made it right under the wire, but I said I wanted a dissertation topic in 2008 and I think I got it!

29. What did you want that you did not end up getting?
That million dollar check is still eluding me...

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
The Darjeeling Limited. I realize that's not actually a movie that was made this year, but I saw it for the first time this year and I loved it.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 26. My birthday felt a little rushed this year because it fell in the midst of moving and all of my conference travel, but it still ended up being good. Penn took me out to dinner at an Italian restaurant the night before my birthday and he surprised me with a gift that was so good it made me cry (and I would tell you what it was, but he might kill me because he doesn't think it was a particularly masculine gesture, haha). It was personal, and romantic, and I'll keep it forever. Then on my actual birthday he surprised me with a bottle of absinthe, which was also a lot of fun. Prior to my birthday my friend Nicole and I threw ourselves a joint birthday/Halloween party, which I think we're going to have to repeat next year, too, because it was fun.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Nothing. It was immeasurably satisfying exactly how it was. I'm completely content right now, and I'm trying to cherish the feeling while it lasts.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
An exact repeat of what I was wearing last year, except that I don't dress up as often because I'm not teaching every week.

34. What kept you sane?
Penn, Kiki, my hound dog, and making an endless series of to-do lists.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I don't really "fancy" any celebrities right now, although I do like the word "fancy" used in this context.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The election, obviously, although I was so damn sick of it by the end that I actually stopped listening to NPR through most of October because I just couldn't stand the pundits anymore.

37. Who did you miss?
I miss Maddi and my family since they're too far away to visit on a whim.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Penn, obviously. (Also, I'm sorry that the vast majority of this year's review is about him but dating him was the biggest thing that happened to me this year.)

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
I am learning to be more of a risk-taker. Life doesn't end when it doesn't go according to a plan or a schedule. In fact, the best things that happened to me in 2008 all happened completely unexpectedly and always when they weren't part of my initial gameplan. I'm still a worrier, and it still takes a lot of effort for me to be spontaneous, but I'm starting to be more open-minded when previously I would have gone, "No way."

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing is gonna be all right."-Bob Marley (what can I say, it was a reggae sort of year around here).

P.S.-Would you click back and look at last year's song lyrics? Strange, isn't it? I spent months in 2007 trying to shake off that West Side Story, "something's comin', something good, maybe tonight..." feeling. It sounds ridiculous to say it, but I had a premonition that 2008 was going to be a big, life-changing year for me. I still can't believe I was actually right.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

And That Haunted Me All the Way Home

Last night I went to a high school reunion of sorts. It was an unofficial thing, organized through Facebook about a week ago, one of those, "If you happen to be visiting your parents for Christmas, come out the day after and drink" things. I'm not sure if I would have gone if Cas hadn't been going and told me to come, and if I hadn't seen the organizers messaging back and forth on Facebook about wanting to do it at my dad's bar, prompting me to jump in and say, "Sure, do it there, I'll reserve space." So, yeah, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about the whole thing, but I went anyway and I ended up being really glad I did. There weren't a ton of people there; probably only 30 or so people cycled through throughout the night (most on purpose, and a few who just happened to show up at the bar and notice a big group of familiar people; the bar is sort of consistently a high school reunion of sorts during the holidays anyway). Fortunately, all of the people who showed up were people I was happy to see. We didn't even have to spend much time playing the, "So, what are you doing with your life now?" game because Facebook means most everyone has at least the basics on each other's lives and we just had to fill in the specific names and details. I found it interesting that everyone who showed up seems to be doing really well for themselves. People are living all over the country (oddly enough, I don't think anyone who showed up last night was someone who still lives here in the city where we went to high school), everyone is either in a good relationship or seems satisfied being single, everyone has college degrees and is starting out on what seem like good career paths. I went home thinking, "Wow, everyone in my class is doing really well for themselves!" And the nicest thing is that the majority of us are doing some version of what we said we wanted to do when we "grew up." I was still thinking about that this morning when it dawned on me that I last night probably gave a slanted perspective because I'm pretty sure that the only people that actually go to reunions are the people who liked high school and the first place and who aren't afraid of the "What have you been doing with your life?" questions. I don't actually have anything to back this up, but I'd venture to guess that if your post-high school life so far involves living at your mom's house and working as a school janitor, you're not likely to want to go to a reunion. (Or maybe that's me. I just know that I wouldn't subject myself to a reunion scenario unless I felt--as I do--that things are going reasonably well for me and there's no way I'm going to become someone else's, "Did you see her? It's really too bad, she had such potential..." stories. Not that living at your mom's house or being a janitor are necessarily bad things for YOU, they are just not my personal idea of a successful life...don't want to offend any janitors or mama's boys out there...) Anyway, it was good to see everyone, and I think maybe I wouldn't mind doing a bigger one of these things in the future. Although do you think people still do class reunions, or has Facebook made them completely obsolete for our generation? Last night proved that it is, in fact, fun to see each other in person, but it's not like we had much actual reuniting to do because most of the people there had commented on my Facebook photos at some point within the past three months.

This morning I went to Cas's baby shower. She and Jay are having a baby in April! A baby that I keep joking was conceived while Penn and I were visiting them over the summer (well, the dates DO more or less add up!), to which Jay always retaliates, "Yeah, we may have been conceiving, but I bet you two were practicing for when you're baby-making, too!" I'm excited for her, and wishing I was closer to where she lives so that a) I could help her get ready and help her after the baby comes and b) so that I could practice a little bit on someone else's infant because, seriously, I've never changed a diaper before in my life. I'm glad I at least got to go to her baby shower. Do you want to know something sad for me, though? Cas is so incredibly tiny and skinny to begin with that her waist size now when she's five months pregnant is the same size as mine! And the only thing I'm pregnant with is burritos and rum balls. Haha. I need to get back into my workout groove this week.

Anyway, I have a plane to catch in the morning. I'm going home to my guy and my pets. Hooray! More about Christmas in the near future. I'm off to go listen to Kanye West's Love Lockdown on repeat about six thousand times and then I'm crashing. I'm addicted, and I don't really know why. I mean, I actually do like Kanye West more than you might expect, but I'm not generally listening to him on a loop. All I know is that this song wrenches my insides because the lyrics and the tone are perfectly descriptive of every failing relationship in the world, or at least every one that has ever failed on me. If this were a different year, I'd probably be listening to it and moping. Instead, I'm just sexy snake-dancing around the bedroom and then hitting play again, because Kanye is definitely not singing about me right now.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marshmallow Shooters

I meant to actually save this as a draft yesterday and not publish it without an explanation. Sorry if you read this yesterday and were like, "What on earth are you talking about?" So here's the explanation.

When I was on the plane the other day I was reading Sky Mall, which I do pretty much every time I fly. It never changes much from flight to flight, but it also never stops being hilarious. I love to imagine the mindset of the people who purchase 95% of the stuff in that magazine. "I'm landscaping my yard right now, and you know what's missing? A gigantic sculpture of a yeti! Or perhaps a sumo wrestler. I think that would tie the whole project together!" or "Ooh, a fully accurate model of a pteradactyl that you can fly around the living room! That will be perfect for little Billy!" As far as I'm concerned, though, it's pretty much the perfect place to buy gag gifts. In fact, they sell this wine rack in the shape of a French waiter that my sister bought me as a joke housewarming gift when I moved into my first apartment...and it has since moved with me three times, once all the way across the country. So, uh, maybe I shouldn't make as much fun of this catalog as I do.
But anyway, I was on the last leg of my flight home the other night when I decided it was time to flip through SkyMall, and one of the first things I came across was this:
"The Marshmallow Shooter"
"This clever pump-action device shoots sweet, edible miniature marshmallows over 30', and-unlike other marshmallow blasters-it come with an LED sight that projects a safe beam of red light to help locate target for accuracy."
What the...? Who shoots marshmallows? Why would anyone make a gun that's made for shooting marshmallows?
I was still pondering those questions when I came across this item, about ten pages later:
"The 40' Marshmallow Bazooka"
"This battery powered bazooka launches edible, full-sized marshmallows up to 40', forever changing the rules of engagement for marshmallow gun confrontations...Simply load a marshmallow into the chamber, wait for the LED on the reticle to illuminate, and pull the trigger to bombard your mark with confections."
When I read that one I literally laughed out loud. First of all, "bombard your mark with confections" is perhaps the best phrase ever written in the history of human language. It definitely trumps "cellar door." Second of all, "forever changing the rules of engagement for marshmallow gun confrontations"? What are these rules? Where are these confrontations happening? Is there some sort of underground society where people are running around shooting each other with marshmallows? I don't get it at all, but every time I think about it I laugh. And if anyone has any insight into why a catalog would be selling not just one but two types of marshmallow shooters, please enlighten me. Also, I know exactly what everyone is getting for Christmas next year!

Here are some other things that happened on my flight the other day:
-When I was getting on the plane, the flight attendant announced, "Don't worry about the fire trucks parked to the left of the aircraft. Some fuel was spilled as we were filling up and there's a crew out there cleaning it up now. The fire trucks are just there as a precaution." The plane was sitting in a lake of jet fuel. Exciting stuff. This is the third time I've been on a plane where fire trucks had to be brought out at either take off or landing "as a precaution" for some reason or another. And it's not like I fly THAT often. Generally half a dozen times a year at most. So statistically, my odds haven't been good on this. You may not want to fly places with me, because apparently I like my flights with a slight risk of combustion.
-As we were waiting for a crew to sop up the jet fuel so we could be on our way, I was looking out my window. Below me was the conveyor belt that they use to load the luggage into the belly of the plane. But was anyone actually loading luggage? No. Instead, some clown was trying to push his buddy up the conveyor belt instead, both of them were laughing like crazy, and the suitcases were sitting in the truck definitely NOT being loaded onto the plane. Apparently the ground crew at my local airport is going out for the Idiots of the Holiday Travel Season Award. (And the only people that might beat them are the idiots at my hometown airport, who somehow managed to take an ENTIRE FUCKING HOUR to deliver the suitcases from our airplane to the baggage claim area after my flight arrived.)
-I got stuck with really annoying seatmates on my first flight. It's as if someone called central casting and said, "Hey, send out two completely stereotypical wealthy southern businessmen and put them on American Airlines flight 1285 in seats 27 B and C. Thanks!" All of the following things happened (I am not exaggerating):
1. It was me, Suit Guy#1, and an old man sitting in my row at first. Then Suit Guy #2 comes back just before the flight begins and says, "Sorry they screwed that up. This airline is really going downhill. I'm going to go ahead and move back here to sit with you in a while since we have those things to discuss. [Addressing old man in the aisle seat] That's fine with you, right? You can take my seat in first class and I'll take this one. I'm just going to wait through a couple rounds of beverage service up in first class so I can get my free Glenlivet and then I'll be back here." (And then the old man on the aisle, who was clearly a little concerned and didn't really want to move, was like "But all my stuff is back here in the overhead compartments..." and SG#2 completely brushed him off and said, "Don't worry about it, we'll figure it out," in a voice that was much more condescending than reassuring).
2. Half an hour later, SG#2 comes back with an armful of beer and two scotch on the rocks, which he hands to SG#1. They preceded to tell me about how they were supposed to be in first class but the airline messed up until I was really, really sick of hearing about it. I get it, dudes, you're first class material. Also, you love having business meetings in the Admiral's Club, but only the one in Terminal D. Noted.
3. The flight was three hours long. By the end of it, they'd had 8 beers and at least 4 scotches between them. They grew increasingly lit. I grew increasingly annoyed.
4. I had to listen to them talk for an hour about their business propositions without ever using a single proper noun, so even though I know that they need to give so-and-so two mil and that so-and-so is upside down on the mortgage and that Fort Whatever needs x number of items and that they're going to let Laura go after the new year, I have no idea what on earth they might actually do for a living other than shuffle huge amounts of money around and fire people.
5. They inexplicably decided to pull out newly-bought jewelry and compare it, saying things like, "Oh yes, she's going to love that. How many karats is it?" Eventually SG#1 goes, "Well, show that young lady, see if she likes it," and SG#2 hands me a box with an enormous diamond ring in it and says, "What do you think?" I murmur something polite like, "That's beautiful, any woman would be thrilled to get it," and SG#2 says, "What size is your ring finger? Do you think you could try it on for me? I got it in such a hurry the jeweler wasn't able to tell me what size it is." So I put the ring on my finger just enough to show him that yes, it was probably going to fit and seemed like a standard ring size, wondering how it's possible to have so much money to fling around that you can buy a diamond ring without knowing exactly how many karats it is or the size of the band. Also, they were talking cryptically so I never could figure out who the ring was for, but the guy was wearing a wedding ring so I really, really hope it was for his wife (but, frankly, from the way they were talking I kind of doubt it).
6. SG#1 pulls out an ornament, brags about getting it at a White House Christmas party, and then (I am not kidding) says, "Isn't this just the most beautiful thing with the little American flags engraved on the sides?" and then leans over and KISSES the American flags engraved on the ornament. Wow, sir. That's some patriotism.
7. Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get anymore cliched and ridiculous, we left the plane and were walking into the terminal and I overheard the following:
SG#1: We have about ten more minutes until Mary gets here. You know what that means?
SG#2: What?
SG#1: We have just enough time to get a shoe shine!
SG#2: I would LOVE a shoe shine!
SG#1: I've been wanting one all week! These shoes look like trash!
SG#2: I love a good shoe shine!
Seriously? "I love a good shoe shine"?! I really wish people like that only existed in the movies. I know I've had moments where I've been guilty of being a bit pretentious, but I've rarely met a person who can be pretentious for three straight hours. That takes skill.

Anyway, my travel was actually pretty good because I had a layover in an airport that happens to be the airport Kiki has to fly to when she goes home to visit her family, and she happened to be flying home on the same day I was so she hung out with me while I was on my layover and I got to see her for the first time since August, which was nice. And with that run-on sentence, I'm out of here.

Pass Around the Coffee and the Pumpkin Pie

I'm back in my hometown for Christmas. It's really nice to be here this year. My sister hasn't blown into town yet, but my brother is already home and my parents are here so we've been hanging out a lot, and Maddi drove out to visit me for a few days, which has been great. She's one of those friends that I'm so close to that every time we see each other it's like no time has elapsed at all even if it has been months. The other thing that's particularly nice about being home this year is that for the first time in...well, in as long as I have been coming home for Christmas...I have no worries at all whatsoever about my ex. There's none of the stress I used to feel when we were dating long distance: the rush to cram in as much time together as possible and then the guilt about choosing to spend time with him over choosing to spend time with my family when I was only home for a few weeks. Even better, there's none of the angst I felt when we were exes, when I'd debate whether or not I should call him when I came back here, always sort of knowing that it would end up being disappointing in some way but not being strong enough to resist the temptation to see him. For three days now I've been trying to figure out why this vacation seems slightly more pleasant in some way, and suddenly it hit me this morning: Ohhhhhh, no worrying about guys! I have nothing to worry about and puzzle over this time! Now I can just relax with my family, knowing that I have a great boyfriend who I will be happy to go home to next week and knowing that I don't have to deal with all the emotional ups and downs of a fundamentally screwed up relationship. I don't think I fully realized until now how enormously grateful I am to be in a normal, supportive relationship instead of one that had me in tears on a monthly basis for a while.* Merry Christmas to me!

I have sort of been taking it easy, in the sense that I've given myself permission to do nothing school-related until January. I have literally no obligations right now, so my biggest task yesterday was deciding whether I wanted my toe nails to be "Red" or "Vodka and Caviar" during my pedicure (obviously I went with "Vodka and Caviar," which was also red, it just had a much better name). But I also don't feel fully rested yet because I keep deciding it's a good idea to go out and close down local bars with Maddi, my brother, and his friends (and, last night, my dad!) before coming home and sitting in the kitchen talking and watching stupid videos on the internet until somehow it's 4 in the morning. It's worth feeling a little tired, though, since I don't get to spend a lot of time with my brother and we've been having a lot of fun together.

On that note, I'm off to have dinner con mi familia. Remind me later to tell you about the plane trip out here. Also, 2008 in Review is in the works. First I need some salsa and more sleep, though.

*Not that I blame ALL of the problems in that relationship on my ex. That wouldn't be fair. I wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs at certain points in our time together, either, believe me. In fact, I could admittedly be pretty damn crazy. Plus I was the one that kept flinging myself back into it and "trying", and it wasn't entirely his fault that he was an asshole about that. Mostly, in my opinion, but not entirely. At any rate, I'm glad you really can live and learn. I feel like I'm a better girlfriend now, and so far Penn is proving to be a better boyfriend than my ex was, and probably both of us have to thank our exes somewhat for that, don't you think?

Christmas Traditions

Everyone else in the world has already done this, I think, but it's appropriate for Christmas Eve. Have a good holiday, everyone!

1. What’s your favorite holiday tradition.

Going to my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve for fondue. We always cook steak in oil and bread dipped in Emmentaler cheese. After dinner we have dessert in the living room and open our presents from our grandparents. We don't really have a specific Christmas day tradition (other than eating cinnamon rolls as we open presents) and the meal changes every year, so when I think about how it's going to feel to celebrate Christmas somewhere else someday, I know that it's the Christmas Eve celebration that I'll miss. Incidentally, my grandmother always claims that fondue is a Swiss tradition and part of our family heritage, which may very well be true. But I also happen to know that my grandparents started doing fondue for Christmas Eve back in the early 1970s when they were stationed in Germany, which is coincidentally right about the time that fondue was suddenly trendy. So really, I think that maybe my grandparents just got into the fondue trend for a couple of years and then when every other American moved on to other food trends, they stuck with it and we're now the only family still having fondue on Christmas Eve forty years later.
2. A favorite cookie recipe?
I can't think of any special Christmas cookies my family makes. The only cookies I make annually are for Valentine's Day. There are these mint chocolate chip things I think are good for Christmas, but I have no idea how to make them.
3. Share a story behind a special ornament on your tree.
My favorite ornament this year is the one Penn and I bought at Punkin Chunkin' a couple of months ago. There was a booth where a woman was selling clay ornaments, so we got a pig in a wreath and she wrote our names and 2008 on it. It's our first ornament as a couple, to celebrate our first Christmas together. Awwwww!
4. All you want from Santa is….?
Everyone to stay safe and healthy for another year. I know that sounds cheesy, but the older I get the more it feels really lucky that I can still get together with my whole family, including grandparents. I know that won't always be the case, so I'm trying to be more grateful for it now. Also, my boyfriend is currently driving my dog to his mom's house for Christmas and it's all cold and rainy up there and thinking about my "boys" doing that drive alone in the dark makes me anxious so I just want them to be okay.
5. What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why?
A Muppet Christmas Carol. I love it. My dad and I watch it every year and sometimes the rest of the family watches it with us. I like it because it's the Muppets, and who doesn't like the Muppets? That, and it has really good songs.
6. Are you doing anything special for the holidays this year?
I'm doing the same thing I do every year: hanging out in my hometown with my family, eating a lot of food, having really inappropriate conversations at the dinner table.
7. What’s the best toy you ever got when you were a kid.
The best thing I ever got for Christmas when I was a kid wasn't a toy, it was the trip to Europe that my grandparents surprised us with when I was 14 (we didn't actually go until June, but we got the plane tickets and brochures and stuff for Christmas). As for toys, I think the most exciting Christmas was when we all got bikes. That was almost 20 years ago, and my sister is still mad to this day that my little brother ran into the living room and yelled, "WE GOT BIKES!" before she could see for herself and be surprised.
8. Why is Christmas special to you?
I know there are a lot of people who are sad around the holidays, and I know there are also a lot of Scrooges out there who get angry about all the commercialism and feeling obligated to spend time with family members who they don't really like and buying gifts for people they barely know and standing in long lines at the store...but I've always liked Christmas, and I hope I always will. I love the Christmas lights, and the feeling when you happen to stumble across something that is going to make the perfect gift, and all of the music, and I realize that most adults get more stressed than excited about Christmas, but I think that's sad. I like that there are a few weeks each year where you're supposed to focus on being kind and generous to others, and I like that people get time off to be with their families and friends. I think that's important.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I should be working on one of two 20-page papers right now, but I'm just not in the mood. (Anyone who has been reading this throughout the 3 1/2 years I've been in grad school recognizes that old refrain. I am NEVER in the mood to write. I always like reading, I don't mind researching, I don't even mind the writing once I get's just getting started that feels so overwhelmingly impossible sometimes.)

I realized yesterday that I was six entire weeks behind on Gossip Girl. I guess that was bound to happen, what with all the travel and work (and moving in with a guy whose entire TV diet is NFL Network, Whale Wars, and Jon Stewart). Fortunately, I'm all caught up now! But when did Jenny Humphrey start looking like Ashlee Simpson? The more important question might be, why do I love this ridiculous show? But mainly I would like to know who decided to style her like Ashlee Simpson. She was much cuter before.

I'm caught up on Gossip Girl because Penn has been in his hometown for the past two nights. He has been finishing up his MA this semester, which involved going home one night a week to go to class. He had his final last night and his last major paper due today, so since we only have one working computer right now (his somehow broke being moved from one desk to another; it's kind of baffling) and since he had so much work to do, he took two days off from work and headed home to his mom's house to use her office. It was probably a good move for both of us because I think we both got more work done on our own (and not just because the two of us would have to share a computer). Still, I'm very glad that he's coming back tonight. It's strange how quickly I got used to living with someone else. It doesn't feel unfamiliar to be alone, but it definitely feels weird to come home and not have him here. And now I feel bad about leaving for ten days at Christmas because this is definitely not a one-person condo.

Speaking of Penn, I met his dad and step-mom for the first time this weekend. We drove seven hours roundtrip to see them, and spent four hours visiting with them. While both of us had way too much to do to justify spending the time on the trip, I'm glad we did it. Now I've finally met his whole family. It's odd meeting families, isn't it? Penn and I are very open with each other so we both know each other's issues with our families. I can't really think of any other scenario where a) you know so much about the people you're meeting before you actually meet them, and b) you're so anxious to have the meeting go well. It should make it easier, knowing that the people you're going to meet aren't perfect, but somehow it doesn't. Luckily, I thought our meeting went well, and so far I get along well with everyone in Penn's family and I think (I hope) they approve of me. Meeting his dad really made me want to introduce him to the rest of my family, though. I mean, here I am living with a guy and my grandparents and my sister haven't even met him yet. I wish they didn't live so far away. I'm going to have to remedy that situation by dragging him to my hometown sometime soon, I think.

And now how about a meme? It has been ages since I did one of these, and this one is sort of fun.

Read the list and bold the things you've done:
(I partially bolded some of them, for various reasons)

1. Started my own blog (OBVIOUSLY)
2. Slept under the stars (actually, I don't think I've done this. I've never been camping!)
3. Played in a band (an orchestra, but I guess that doesn't really count)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity (I don't give more than I can afford to anything)
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (and almost got killed in a lightning storm at the top. Not my favorite memory.)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo (in high school theatre productions)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I've been on the island with it and we were going to go to the top but it was too hot outside so it was closed. The intention was there, though, hence the half-bold.)
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (The only time I went to Paris half the city was on strike so the Louvre was closed. Boo!)
20. Slept on an overnight train (from Paris to Switzerland)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked (No way! I have absolutely no romantic notions about hitchhiking.)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run (Ha. Haha.)
32. Been on a cruise (a river cruise in Europe, I've never been on an ocean cruise)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (so fun!)
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I guess. I don't know what this really means. I 'm content with the amount of money I have, but who couldn't use a bit more?)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Been rock climbing (love it!)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (Why would I do this? Is this a common thing to do? Is the stranger starving? Particularly attractive? I don't get it...)
44. Visited Africa (it's definitely on the list of things I really, really want to do)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted (My grandmother has painted me twice, but only from photographs; I've never sat for a portrait)
48. Gone deep sea fishing (fished in the Gulf of Mexico on a boat, but not way out deep)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (all of the museums were closed, so I did this twice)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (assuming the projects I did in college count...)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China (also on the list of things I really, really want to do)
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia (I'll be able to bold this one in three months!!!!)
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (also on the list of things to do)
63. Got flowers for no reason (I have a good boyfriend...although he did ask me to be his girlfriend that night, so I guess it was sort of for a reason, but it wasn't a special occasion initially)
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (someone is going to have to talk me into this one)
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check (I'm obsessive about not overdrawing my account)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar (I actually like it. One time I had it on pizza!)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London (I've seen them at the palace, I've never watched the actual ceremony)
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (I actually have no desire to ever get on a motorcycle)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (maybe someday...)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper (and in a magazine!)
85. Read the entire Bible (another one of those "someday" goals)
86. Visited the White House (it's too much trouble to visit the inside, but I've stood outside it many times)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (this one can also be filed under "no desire to do, EVER)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life (it wasn't in a big, glorious, heroic way, but yes)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (if we're counting well-known authors and academics...and I once literally ran into Maggie Smith in a theater)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee (a wasp, actually, but that's more or less the same thing, right?)
100. Ridden an elephant

Friday, December 5, 2008

Because I Don't Care About Final Papers

The semester is almost over. Two weeks from today I'll be back in my hometown for Christmas. I'm not really happy about being away from Penn for ten days, but I am getting really excited about seeing my family (last time we were all together was back in March), and Maddi is coming to visit for a couple of days (I haven't seen her in a year!) and I'm going to a baby shower for Cas while she is in town (If I have time I'm going to make her future baby a onesie that says "I only cry when ugly people hold me" because I know Cas will love it). So yeah, I'm getting excited about going home.
But in the meantime it's the same end-of-semester nonsense as usual. I have three 20-page papers due in the next two weeks, and since Thanksgiving was so late this year it has really compressed the end of the semester. I still have my regular class schedule next week, which feels weird to me. I feel like the past two semesters I always had more than a week without classes to do all of my final writing, but that's not how it worked out this time. So I made my End of Semester Gameplan with what exactly I need to accomplish each day to finish everything in time, and so far I'm right on schedule...which is why I feel completely justified in taking twenty minutes to write here.

Other than being really busy with schoolwork, there isn't much going on here. As I mentioned last time, I finally finished organizing the apartment and decorating for Christmas. It's a relief to finally have everything in one apartment and in its proper place, although I have to admit that I was surprised by how relatively low-stress the whole moving process was. I thought it would stress me out like crazy going back and forth between two apartments for a month, but, as usual, I psyched myself up so much beforehand imagining how annoying it was going to be that by the time it actually happened I was like, "Really? That was it?" I still wouldn't recommend moving mid-semester to anyone, but everything worked out okay. The move happened, I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep throughout, and somehow even though I am definitely cutting a lot of corners this semester I feel like I have a pretty solid "A" in all of my courses right now. The one thing that went by the wayside was working out, but since I was doing so much heavy lifting and stair climbing during Moving Month (and so much walking on my two conference vacations), I think that sort of makes up for the fact that my weights and walking shoes were starting to get a bit dusty. But hey, it's December now! Back on track!

Everyone keeps asking me what it's like living with Penn, and all I ever say is, "It's going so well!", because it is. I can't really elaborate more than that because, honestly, not much has changed for me. Living with Penn is pretty much exactly like living by myself, with the following exceptions:
1) When he is home and the TV is on, it's on ESPN or the Discovery Channel. I suppose if I wanted to watch my own primetime TV shows I could use the TV in the office, but I'm generally busy working at night so I don't particularly care what is on the TV. So the background noise is now football as opposed to Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but since as far as I'm concerned TV is pretty much just background to whatever else I happen to be doing at the time, this really makes no difference to my quality of life.
2) Someone else can take out the trash!
3) I have an occasional grocery shopping partner (which makes grocery shopping more fun, although my style is to price compare on everything and his style is to just fling things into the cart, so I've been trying to teach him the benefits of looking at the specials).
4) I get to use him as a pillow every single night (this is my favorite thing).

Really, that's about all I can think of that has changed. Living with him doesn't cramp my style at all. It's exactly like when we first started dating. Back when we first started dating, I made the decision that since I was actually perfectly happy on my own, I wasn't going to get into a committed relationship unless he enhanced my already very good life. And, as it turned out, he did. He didn't complicate my life at all. I was able to keep living the life I had been living, with the added bonus of a companion to share it with. I feel like moving in together has had the same effect. Everything is pretty much just like it was before, with the added bonus of someone at home to greet me at the end of the day. I'm not saying we haven't made small changes and compromises in both of our lives in order to be together, that just comes with the territory of any relationship. But those changes should never feel like a hardship. They should be things that make your life better. And, so far, that has been very true for us.
I think his lifestyle had to change a lot more than mine did, mainly because I think when one of you is naturally a neat freak and the other one is naturally sort of a slob, it's always the neat freak that is going to win. (My reasoning behind this is that it doesn't drive the messier person completely crazy to learn how to keep messes confined to smaller spaces-desk drawers, kitchen junk drawers, etc., but it DOES drive neat freaks utterly insane to be surrounded by a the neat freak is willing to putter around and clean up every night, while the messier person has no real incentive to go around and deliberately trash things, so...) Penn's home is now a lot neater than it used to be, but he hasn't really had to change his behavior at all AND he can kidnap me to the bedroom whenever he wants, so I think that's a fair trade.