Saturday, November 29, 2008


It's been a rough year. It's been an especially rough month. It's been kind of difficult to get into any kind of holiday spirit.

That's not to say that there haven't been bright spots, and things to be thankful for, because of course there have. We had a nice dinner with Bob's family on Saturday night -- turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes (that I peeled and boiled, but neglected to start early enough, so they were a little lumpy) and gravy (that Bob made). We had a dinner on Thanksgiving day at my brother's house -- my brother and sister-in-law and niece and nephew, me, our parents, my sister and her boyfriend and my niece and her boyfriend. Bob had to work -- he worked 1-7:30 on Thanksgiving day, and 5:00 a.m. to 3 on Friday, and he just left for work. Today he works 2 - 10:30. But, of course, we're thankful that we both have jobs!

My sister-in-law goes all out as far as decorating for Christmas; she had a lot of things already out, but she said she hadn't yet taken the pictures off the walls and wrapped them up like presents and put them back up. I don't intend to do that, but I decided that this year I'm going to go all out, too. I'm going to do my best to make this a really special Christmas. The last couple of years I've kind of slacked off on it, not made any particular effort, but this year I'm going to.

I'm going to send out Christmas cards early, not make it into a last-minute chore like I have the past few years. I'm going to make an effort to watch my favorite Christmas movies, and the ones I don't have on DVD, I'm going to find out when they're on television so I don't miss them (and I'm going to buy a TV Guide). I put up a wreath outside the front door this morning, and one on the downstairs bathroom door, and as soon as Bob goes to work I'm going to go to the basement and bring up more Christmas decorations. I might put the stockings up on the fireplace, too.

I cooked a big breakfast this morning--bacon and eggs and fried potatoes--and while I'm not sure if I'll be able to sustain this one, I'm going to try to cook more. I might even bake cookies if I get really ambitious. I'm making a list of things that I'd like to do this month, and "bake cookies" will be on it.

I've been looking through iTunes to see if there's any Christmas music that I don't have (Los Lonely Boys has a new Christmas CD out, I see), and I'm always on the lookout for Christmas movies. I bought "Die Hard" yesterday at WalMart for $5.00; I'd been wanting a copy of it for awhile, but it's one of those that I find a little hard to justify, but not for $5.00. I had lunch at Panera Bread yesterday and had a wonderful chai tea latte, which felt kind of festive, a little bit extravagant, and Bob and I met for dinner at On the Border for a belated birthday dinner for me.

Some of my favorite things during the Christmas season:

  • Christmas music in the stores
  • Special Christmas flavors of ordinary things, like peppermint McDonald's shakes
  • Christmas-patterned paper goods, like paper towels, napkins, and paper plates (I got Christmas-patterned insulated coffee cups for Bob to take his coffee to work in the morning in)
  • Christmas-patterned plastic ware--plastic storage bags and storage ware
  • Cheap Christmas-themed notepads and pens
  • Special Christmasy scented bath products like peppermint, chocolate and vanilla
  • Spending a long time browsing the Christmas ornament aisles of stores like Hobby Lobby and Target
  • Pine-scented candles (Yankee Candles' "Mistletoe" is the best)
  • Christmas stickers to decorate my planner pages and stick on Christmas card envelopes
  • Christmas movies, and Christmas episodes of television shows (I watched the holiday "Monk" and "Psych" episodes last night)
  • Christmas mugs. I bought a new one from Stash Tea this year, it was on clearance. It's red and has a reindeer on it. I'll take a picture of it when I get back to work on Monday.
  • Buying expensive wrapping paper, cards, and tags for a fraction of their regular price after Christmas and discovering them a year later (like today!)
  • Putting a bowl of Christmas Hershey's kisses on the coffee table
  • Painting my toenails Christmas colors (red and green!)
  • Christmas wallpaper for my laptop and iPhone

I suppose it sounds counter-intuitive, but I'm going to make a big effort to enjoy this holiday season. I've got an idea of something special to do here during the month of December: stay tuned.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hope of a better day

We've spent the last few days getting the office spruced up for our open house on Friday evening, and I've been finishing up decorating my office. I had a windowpane mirror that I bought a few months ago but had never hung, and Kurt hung that for me last night. I'm in the kitchen, and the cabinets are painted white, so my theme has been white and cream. The mirror frame is white, I have a little off-white cabinet, a white painted wooden birdhouse, pale green candles, crystals, seashells.

And plants! The wife of one of the guys who works here runs a college greenhouse, and she brought me a hanging Wandering Jew plant this afternoon, which is hanging from the heat register. The ceilings here are high, and I was standing there holding the plant, trying to figure out what I was going to do with it. I figured if all else failed I could just sit it on a filing cabinet or something, but Aaron came in, stood up on the chair, and hung it from the register. It works pretty well there, actually.

I also repotted a plant that I've had on my desk for awhile. It's a mixture of several different kinds of plants; Bob brought it home from the funeral of one of his friends' mothers, and I brought it in, thinking it probably wouldn't live very long. But it has, so I got a new pot last weekend and potted it today. It looks pretty good. I really like the energy that plants bring to a space, and I used to have a lot of plants at home.

But I kind of got out of the habit of having houseplants, and don't have any at home now. I'm making up for it at the office, though.

I remember seeing Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and being very impressed with him, thinking, wow, he could be president some time. I didn't expect it would be so soon, though.

I've always voted Democratic, and I remember most of the presidential elections, watching and hoping that the Democratic candidate be elected, but most of them weren't terribly important to me. The first election that I really felt "belonged" to me was Clinton/Gore. I felt at that time that I might actually volunteer for the campaign, but I didn't, of course. This election felt like that, too.

I'm so happy, and hopeful for the future. I honestly didn't think it could happen, I thought that when the time came, we'd end up electing another old white man as president. During the convention, when the decision was being made as to whether Obama or Hilary Clinton would be the candidate, I wondered whether it could happen -- could the U.S. elect a black man, or a woman president? I had hopes, I just wasn't confident that it could happen.

But it did. The phrase that struck me the most from his acceptance speech was this:

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

I have hope.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

A good day

It's hard to believe it's the first day of November. I'm not sure how warm it got today, but warm enough that I turned on the air conditioner in the car for awhile this afternoon when I got back into it after shopping. It's supposed to stay nice for a few days, I think. I'll take it as long as I can get it.

We're sprucing up the office a little bit for an open house we're having next weekend. There is a all-female law firm that has offices on one of our floors, and the main lawyer is a plant person. The offices are filled with plants. I went over to talk to her about doing a website for her a few weeks ago, and I was amazed at the plants, and a little jealous. It made me think about getting plants for my office, but I hadn't done it.

I had mentioned to a couple of people that I was thinking about getting plants, and then one day last week she (the lawyer) came over and asked me if I would like to have a ficus for my office. Anna had mentioned my wish for a plant to her, and she had a big ficus that she didn't have a place for. I think she had brought it from her home, where it had been outside, and it needed a place to winter. So she loaned it to me, and I love it.

And just having that plant there made me want to get more, so I went to the nursery today. I'm always looking for a good deal, so I checked out the "scratch and dent" table where they have plants marked down. There were a couple of really pretty ficus trees -- not as big as the one in my office, but really pretty. They had had their trunks trained into curves, and they were $9.99, marked down from $34.99. I'm not sure why, really. They were a little bare of leaves, but not too bad.

So I bought one of them, and I also bought a diffenbachia which really doesn't look bad at all. One of the greenhouse workers came by and said that it was a little sunburned, and that it had also gotten a bit waterlogged the last big rain we had, and they don't like to have their feet wet. So it wasn't perfect, but I'm sure it will be fine with a little time and attention. It was $9.99 also, marked down from $29.99. I was a little concerned about getting the ficus into the car -- it's probably about 5 feet tall, although I don't remember exactly.

I put the front passenger seat down as far as it would go, and leaned the plant down on the seat, and it just barely fit, with just a few leaves peeking out of the sunroof.

I spent a long time looking around in the greenhouse, then spent an equally long time in the bookstore, went to the library to return books and renew my library card, had lunch (a big salad and a bowl of bean soup) at Sweet Tomatoes, and went to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up reed diffusers for the bathrooms at work (and a little one for my desk). It was a really good day.

Then as I was heading to the grocery store, my last stop of the day, Bob called. He asked me where I was, and I said I was just turning into the grocery store parking lot. He said, "What's that tree in your car? You have a tree in your car!" I said, "Where are you??" and he wouldn't tell me. I said, are you going to go to the store with me? And he said he might. "But tell me about the tree!" he said. I said, "I'll tell you about it when I see you."

So I pulled into the parking lot, and I saw his van, but I didn't see him. I parked next to his van and walked up to the store, looking all around, and didn't see him anywhere. When I got to the door, he stepped out of a corner where he'd been hiding. Silly boy. I told him about the tree, and we grocery shopped together, then he left and went home while I stood in line to pay. When I got home I made "hobo dinners," an old Girl Scout recipe -- a pie pan filled with sliced potatoes, onions, and a hamburger pattie on top, salt and pepper and a few dabs of margarine, then covered with aluminum foil and baked at 400° for an hour.

And now I'm sitting in my chair with my new-to-me laptop -- my boss' old (not really old, though) MacBook Pro. He got a new one and handed his previous one down to me so that I can be mobile. It's been difficult lately, with the work I'm doing, to stay synced up between home and office. I've been emailing stuff to myself, or saving things on a thumb drive, but envariably I forget something. So he asked me if I'd like to replace my desktop iMac with a laptop, and I said sure.

I spent most of the afternoon at work yesterday transferring the applications and files from the iMac over to the MacBook, and quite a bit of time yesterday evening getting familiar with everything so I can jump into it on Monday.

It was a good day.

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