Sayonara, 2008!

I was roused from my two-weeks-of-having-nothing-to-do torpor when I looked at the calendar and realized that today is the very last day of the year. That’s it. Finito. This is 2008’s last hurrah, and I almost missed it because I was too busy trying to get past the exasperating fourth level of BrickBreaker.

Looking back, I can’t really say I’m sad to see 2008 go. It was a very trying year in almost every meaning of the word. It had some good points, sure. Wes and I travelled to Israel, we built a snowman, I quit my evil HR job and jumped ship over to the blogging profession, we remodelled our house, I wrote my first novel. In some ways, it was a great year.

For the most part, though, it was a really hard year. I got laid off, Doc started eating everything in sight and required one major surgery and one almost-surgery and then tore his ACL for good measure, we found out we couldn’t sell our house because the mortgage market went kaplooey and we couldn’t afford to buy a new house, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, there was a sadistically drawn-out election, the US economy went on a trip down the toilet, and Wes and I learned that while we can stand having our house at 65 degrees, we really don’t like it. At all. Not even a little bit.

I have no idea what 2009 is going to bring. I’m inclined to be optimistic, because that’s infinitely more likely to keep me from drinking heavily at 10 in the morning than being pessimistic, but I’m not naive. I know that the first quarter of 2009 is poised to have the US endure one of the worst rounds of lay-offs any of us have ever seen. I know that our currency is in trouble and I worry about what that could mean for us all. I know that we have a President-elect who’s heading into office at one of the worst times in recent history and I wish him all the luck in the world because he’s going to need it.

On a brighter side, I do have some hopes for 2009. Even though I know that it’s likely to be tough, it certainly doesn’t hurt to sprinkle your doom with a little hope, does it? As such, here are my hopes for the new year:

  • I hope that Wes’ new job takes off like wildfire. He started a new job about two months ago and it’s starting to build momentum. He’s been really busy, and I’m hoping all that hard work will pay off for him.
  • I hope my Dad’s cancer runs away screaming with its cancery little head on fire.
  • I hope Doc’s leg doesn’t bother him too much and that we can continue to keep him around for a long while longer.
  • I hope for a nice warm spring and for lots of pretty flowers in our gardens.
  • I hope to continue losing weight, though this might mean I have to start exercising again. Boo.
  • I hope to be able to expand our family.
  • I hope for better pie crusts.

That just about sums it up. I think you’ll agree I’m not asking for the moon here, so hopefully these hopes will all find their way to fruition in some way or another. I decided a long time ago that Resolutions made at New Years are no fun. They’re strict, unbending, and they start the new year out on a very stern note.

Hopes are much more fun, and 100% more likely to not make you feel like a failure should you not meet them. Whatever you’re rocking this year, be it resolutions, hopes, or an action-item list, please share with me. I’d love to know what’s on your radar this year!

Business, and the Taking Care Of

Have you ever been put on hold so long that you started pleading with the awful elevator music to just say something, anything, to let you know you weren’t alone? That was me most of this morning, trying to take care of some business.

You know business, that stuff that builds up when you’re busy and ends up leaving a scattered trail of tiny projects all over your living room when you slow down and take stock of your life. Seeing as how I’m currently warmly ensconced in my solid second week of time off, I figured I’d roll up my sleeves and start checking things off my list.

I re-did all my important filing, cleaned the dog’s outdoor kennel, filled out some forms I’d been procrastinating about, editing and added a chapter to my book, and made some phone calls. Most of said calls went perfectly fine, all save two. Both calls were to our heath insurance company and oh-my-sweet-ever-loving-peaches they took FOREVER to help me out.

Maybe everyone else in the whole world is off work right now and decided to call our health insurance company at the same time, maybe there was a surprise plague of E. Boli, whatever the reason, there was no one to hear my pleas for human contact.

All told, I spent about an hour on hold today. One hour. Now, this may not seem like a long time to you, but when you’ve gotten to (and failed) the eighth level of Tetris four times and also beaten three games of Solitaire, you come talk to me and tell me how long an hour can be.

The thing that gets me the most, though, is that when I actually did get to talk with someone, she had me off the phone in less than a minute. It was an important question, the answer to which I could not have found without her help, but still. An hour of waiting and listening to the same canned message about seniors getting their flu and pneumonia shots was a large price to pay for that tasty little morsel, wouldn’t you say?

The problem is, I have so much free time right this very second that the hour of waiting doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it should. I am literally awash in free time and rolling around in it like it’s the Fountain of Youth. That statement’s probably enough to make the over-worked among you see red, but for the time being it’s the truth.

To be honest, the first week of free time was spent in agony. Having no sense of purpose, an inflated sense of hurry-rush-I-have-too-much-to-do!, and no ability to leave the house, I gestated in my inertia and it nearly drove me mad.

Week two has been much more forgiving. I’ve devoted this week to taking on Projects. I have a long list of projects that I will seek to complete before I return to my (blessed, wonderful, completely necessary for my sanity) job next week. By the time I’m done, there will not be an uncompleted project in this whole house.

After that, I’ll return to work and life as normal. I have to admit, though, it will probably be very strange to return to work and find that I am no longer the absolute captain of my own destiny. I’m assuming my bosses will take none too kindly to a mid-afternoon knitting break or lunchtime showing of Braveheart.

Skeletons Welcome Here

Wes and I have set up this newfangled system with Netflix wherein we can watch movies instantly using our Xbox. It’s a handy-dandy little system that all but guarantees that we constantly have new movies to watch when our mailed DVDs are slow to arrive.

As a result, we’re always combing through Netflix, adding new movies to our “Watch Instantly” queue. Wes and I were hanging out the other day and scrolling through our movie choices. When he got to one of them, he stopped and asked me who had put Dante’s Peak in our Netflix cue.

I quickly confessed and was met with jeering and mockery. Apparently, Dante’s Peak is a bad movie. This was news to me, so I promptly asked Wes, Now, what about a questionable relationship between a divorced mother and laughably hard-core geologist, imminent destruction, and stilted dialogue doesn’t sound like a good time to you?

He just laughed and refused to watch it. Never one to be foiled, I merely watched it by myself while Wes had to work late last night. Even though I haven’t seen it since I was really young, and the dialogue is admittedly not the best, I still had a good time watching it.

I have an embarrassing affinity for natural-disaster movies. If it has a terrible naturally-occurring calamity and ham-handed special effects, chances are good that I’ll enjoy watching it. If it has a brawny male lead who knows the truth but can never seem to just get anyone to believe him, with the exception of his ravishing yet unassuming female lead, even better.

The Day After Tomorrow? Loved it. Armageddon? Sign me up. Twister? I’m along for the ride. Volcano? In the middle of LA, why not?

You see, it’s an embarrassing plight to be sure. Do you have cinema skeletons hiding in your closet? If you tear up every time Drew Barrymore finds out she loves herself just the way she is, or if you’ll watch any movie Hugh Grant slaps together just because you’re a sucker for his British accent, let me know. It can’t get any worse than voluntarily watching Tommy Lee Jones try to hook up with Anne Heche, can it?

LBDs of Delight!

I just had the best. day. ever. I started the day by sleeping in. Then, I made breakfast for the three of us (husband, dog, and myself), toddled about the Internet for a little while, then gave myself a pedicure.

In the middle of said pedicure, my mother-in-law called and asked me if I want to go dress shopping so that I have something cute to wear to Wes’ sister’s upcoming wedding. I thought to myself, the last time I went shopping was in October…of last year. I also haven’t left the house, save once, since Tuesday of last week…Hmm, I wonder if I would like to go shopping…???

My hearty and enthusiastic yes was met with great rejoicing and it was off to the mall we went (we were driven by Wes’ Dad, who is surprisingly fun to shop with. I had thought that the Y chromosome precluded any chance of being fun to shop with but I have apparently been missing something).

We were looking for one black dress and we ended up taking home two little black dresses because they were both awesome and one of them was 80% off. Score! I showed them off to Wes when I got home and they both meet the spousal standards of approval so I get to keep them (and the king said: Hooray!).

After a whole afternoon of shopping, I’m home, cosmo martini firmly in hand, and my legs feel sore and tired from all the robing and disrobing I was doing. Whoever says that shopping isn’t exercise is either lying or broke.

I had forgotten how crowded the malls are during the holidays, though. People were everywhere! I almost never go to the mall, so my senses were delightfully overwhelmed by all the colors, smells, and sounds of so many people crammed into one place.

Now that I’m home, and my new (beautiful! classy! stupendous!) little black dresses are safely ensconced in my closet, I’m thoroughly enjoying sitting in my comfy chair and sipping my martini. Even if my mother-in-law hadn’t bought me two immensely covetable dresses, I’d still be pleased as punch about getting to go shopping.

Alas, never one to miss out on the fun, Doc has decided that he’d like to have a little fun too and has successfully managed to drop his toy down the stairs, onto the hardwood floor, wherein it bounced up and landed with a wet splashy thud in his water bowl. Excuse me while I attend to my soaking wet puppy who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to fish his slippery wet toy out of his water bowl, will you?

Snowman Foibles

We’re still here! We’ve been snowed in for almost a week but we’re still alive and kicking. Wes’ parents graciously allowed us the use of their 4Runner on Saturday, which afforded us the opportunity to venture out to the grocery store to re-stock our dwindling food supplies.

On Saturday, we were warned of a nasty storm heading our way. There were high wind warnings, blizzard warnings way farther north than where we live, and high levels of snow forecasted for everyone. Wes and I live on a tall plateau between two higher mountains, which means things get crazy-windy here, so we were warned to prepare for long-term power outages as a result of the high winds.

They were throwing around words like “50-60 mph gusts of wind” and “life-threatening wind chill” which, of course, put us immediately into survive-and-prepare mode. This may seem like overkill, but if you’ve ever lived in a house with no power for a week you’ll know that it’s better to be prepared than caught by surprise.

A tiny little two-hour blip without power is easy. You whip out a book, light up some candles, and you’re good to go.

A week-long stint without power is something else entirely. Allow me to take you back about two years, when a really fierce storm knocked down a whole host of trees in our area (one of the trees in our backyard fell over and missed hitting our house by a paltry two inches!), effectively taking out the power for the whole county.

The areas closer to the big cities got their power back first, but the outlying areas took longer. Power crews were working non-stop, people were going crazy trying to find gas stations that had power, and our city looked like a ghost town. If you’ve never seen a whole city without power before, it’s kind of eerie. It felt post-apocalyptic.

Wes and I tried to stay at home as long as we could, but eventually it got so cold we couldn’t justify living there. When your house is 42 degrees, there’s really very little you can do to distract yourself from that fact.

We ended up staying with his parents for awhile. They didn’t have power either, but they did have two gas fireplaces that kept their house nice and toasty. We all banded together, keeping food ingredients chilled using ice and making coffee by hand, until the power came back on. Living without power is do-able (providing you have awesome in-laws who will let you come stay with them), but is by no means a walk in the park.

Anyway, long story made way too long, the weathermen were predicting that we were in for another storm of that magnitude. It was supposed to roll in last night and leave us all without power for a long time.

Wes and I prepped the house for power loss. He split logs of wood and cleaned out the fireplace, I made sure the laundry was done and filled all our lighters up with fuel. We went to the store to buy food and happened to arrive at the exact same time as everyone else in our neighborhood.

The lines for check-out wrapped around the store and the shelves were bare. People were crowding into the aisles and I narrowly missed grabbing the very last can of kidney beans. In short, it was madness.

Last night, Wes and I kept an eye on the weather and it sure was windy. The huge trees in our backyard were waving back and forth like it was a rave, and the wind was inconsiderately loud. The power flickered a couple times, but it didn’t go out.

We woke up this morning expecting to have no power and a few trees laying around the lawn but everything was fine. Our power stayed on all night and all our trees are up. In short, the weathermen missed the mark again and I couldn’t be happier. I was really not looking forward to living without power for even a short period of time.

We’re still snowed in, and we won’t be leaving anytime soon, but at least I didn’t wake up with tree branches in my face and a great gaping hole in my roof. In fact, Wes and I made the best of the situation and made a snowman! Behold:
His name is Chester. We’re pretty sure he’s British. He wears a fedora, smokes a pipe, and is a sheriff of some kind (his badge is partly obscured by his pipe in this shot).
We realized after we took this picture that he lacked arms and have since rectified the situation. He’s right in front of our kitchen window and he’s always waving at us…
This snowman has particular significance to me because it’s the very first one I’ve ever built. Growing up in California doesn’t afford one many opportunities to build snowmen, you see.
Wes is somewhat of an expert snowman-builder and he happily assisted me in building Chester. I may not be a snowman expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s a nice-looking snowman. I especially like his pipe, I feel like it gives him a somewhat perplexed air about him, like he’s a bit confused about why he’s wearing such a girly scarf.
Other than our snowman foibles, we’re spending our snowed-in time wisely. We’re watching all six Star Wars movies from beginning to end and reading every book in the house. How do you spend your time when you’re snowed in for weeks unending?