Reflections on this winter

I am not at home.  I am at a friend’s house, having escaped the storm and coming straight here from work, rather than wait for aforementioned friend to get out of work before coming here.  Nope.  I may be a New England girl, but I do not chance the snowstorm.  Said friend was justly rewarded for my intrusion by a straightened bedroom (I was bored, Yule is Saturday and there are only so many days and so much time left) and a cup of hot white chocolate peppermint tea (still obsessed) upon her arrival.  Life is good.  Very shortly, we will bake — bread (me) and cookies (her).  I just love the week leading up to Yule.

Yule, for those of you playing the home game and who may not have been here last year, is a very special holiday that my friend Jess has thrown every year since 2006.  Well, to be fair, 2006 was a hastily thrown-together joint year.  The five of us who attended were all horribly poor, our fare was a pork roast that my mother had charitably given me, and we gave each other the smallest, barest Yule gifts because that was what we could afford.  We made up lyrics to Christmas carols and decorated a Charlie Brown-esque “Yule tree.”  It was wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

In the eight years since then, Yule has become bigger and better, as we’ve become older and wiser.  Since Yule ’08, the Yule party has always been held at Jess’s house, and she acts as hostess.  I pitch in with the cooking (which we maintain is the best part of Yule), but it’s Jess’s show.

The point of Yule is a non-denominational celebration of friendship, the holidays, and the return of the light.  I am Catholic, and Jess is pagan, and our friends come from all walks of life in between.  Yule does not align itself with anything other than the winter solstice.  We do not have rituals, and religion is not forced on anyone.  We celebrate each other, our friendships, our triumphs and struggles, our love for each other, and the return of brighter days.  We eat food, play games (mostly horrible ones like Cards Against Humanity) and exchange presents.  Dinner is always as sumptuous an affair as we can make it without breaking the bank.  2010 was the infamous “Turducken Yule” — and yes, Jess did make a turducken.  It was masterful.  This year is going to be beef Wellington (Jess) and roast chicken, for those who don’t like beef (I am providing the chicken, but she will be seasoning it).

Yule is wonderful, it is exciting, it is exhausting — it is my favorite time of the holiday season.

Last year’s Yule:

Clockwise from R: Sam, Jess, Tina, Drea, Christina, Joe, and me.

Four more days.  I can’t wait.

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Nope Nope Nope

Well, that was a kick in the teeth.

My adviser was stunned, and pleased, when I dropped the final 62 pages on her desk yesterday. Work clocks in at 122 pages (two more than necessary, how about that?) and I was kind of…thrown? I mean…don’t give me an assignment that you don’t expect me to finish. I am a force to be reckoned with.

What stunned me, and upset me, was when she told me that, even though I am AHEAD of schedule, that wonderful six week Christmas break she promised? Not going to happen. Because in order to STAY on schedule, I need to have the 10-20 page literature review finished by January 15th.

Which is BEFORE Christmas break ends.

That six week Christmas break? Is going to be about one week.

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I’m all right. I’m disappointed, but really. In the great scheme of life, is this really that bad? No. I’m dog-tired and I’m frustrated as all hell, but…it is what it is.

I thought about starting today, but even looking up sources made me want to flip my desk, sooooo figured that was a bad idea. I’ll start on Saturday. The good news is, I already have part of it done because I needed to write a lit review for my prospectus, so that’s a good thing.

The OTHER good news: I no longer have to pay tuition. To stay as a continuing student, working on my thesis, I have to pay a $40 “matriculation fee” (translation: please give us more money and we’ll continue to provide you access to the computer lab and parking lots. Dickbags) per semester until I am done. Which will be one semester. It will be. I refuse to believe that I will be doing this a year from now.

Class of Spring ’14 or bust.

 

In happier news, once I got over my frustration and rage yesterday, I had a lovely evening Christmas shopping with Ryan and Jess.  We went to Blueback Square in West Hartford, ate at Cheesecake Factory (and yes, I have a whole lunch in the fridge at work because damn those portions are ridiculous), went shopping (I got two presents yesterday, one for Drea and one for Christina, and I am done shopping for both of them now), went to Meriden Square to get cheap wrapping paper, and then to Hubbard Park to look at the Christmas lights.  It was a fun evening, which was just what I needed after the disappointment yesterday.

Today: more Christmas shopping (I have switched from debit to credit card, not necessarily thrilled with that but running out of options) and tomorrow is just going to be a nice, easy wrapping and tea evening.  This weekend we’re supposed to get a blizzard, so I’m planning on bunking down wherever and getting some knitting done.  I have only one real Christmas knitting project left, so there’s that.

Sure, it’s not going to exactly be the relaxing Christmas break that I thought it would be, but…it’s STILL a Christmas break, and it’s not the worst thing that’s happened to me this year BY FAR.  So there’s really not much to complain about.

So this is Christmas

As of 4:30 PM (approximately) today, I will be on Christmas break for six weeks.  Six lovely weeks.  And they are already jam-packed with excitement and plans and I just know it’s going to fly by as if it never was.  But I don’t care, because it will be delicious, every minute of it.

The funny thing is, I love Christmas, but I can’t remember a time when I was less in the Christmas mood than this year.  And it has nothing to do with my mood; I’m happier than I’ve been in years.  I just have my brain going in every single direction lately, and it is impossible for me to pin it down and turn it into a Christmas mindset.   I can pretty much chalk that up to two things:

Time: I haven’t had any.  I’ve been so incredibly focused on thesis and just GETTING IT DONE, I haven’t even thought about Christmas or the fact that it is now two weeks away (*shudder*).  I haven’t baked, I haven’t even played Christmas carols in the car, I’ve seen two Christmas movies (“The Holiday” — which was okay — and “Home Alone”, which I love), and my Christmas shopping?  Well, I made a list today.  That’s progress, I suppose.

The book.  Or books, really, as there will be five eventually.  Two are finished.  Well, finished in the rough draft sense.  Book One has had two thorough edits done by me, and is waiting for Jess to get through it with her own editing.  Book Two is on the shelf for now until I finish Book Three, which is in progress.  Book One was written from August – October, Book Two was written (in part) for NaNoWriMo, though I had some chapters done already when I started (that I didn’t count towards my word count, lest any of you think I cheated at NaNoWriMo — I will assure you, I won on my own merits).  I am so thoroughly wrapped up in this series, it has become a massive part of my day-to-day life, and I’d much rather listen to the “book soundtrack” on my iPod than Christmas music (do other people have this?  I’ve heard it’s a thing, but I definitely do it — pick out “perfect” songs and put them on one playlist).

But I am seriously behind on Christmas and that ends today.  After the thesis meeting I am doing some serious Christmas shopping.  And I am doing more tomorrow.  And Christmas crafting is also happening.  Every year I tell myself that I am not doing Christmas knitting, I am not, and somehow, it always ends up happening.  I have two projects, both about three-quarters done, that need to be finished by next weekend.  Piece of cake, really.  And then a couple of other projects that need doing.

For those of you playing the home game, my lungs are still shit — I woke up gasping in the middle of the night last night, which is new and different — and all tests have come back normal.  Sweet.  Of course, I’m happy that there’s apparently nothing horribly wrong with me, but at the same time, it is frustrating when people say you are “Fine” and you feel anything BUT fine.  I’m on a new anti-inflammatory so I am hoping that does the trick.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the first Christmas tree I’ve had since 2011, and my little Fontanini creche from the early ’90’s.  I’m missing a couple of ornaments, which bums me out, and I need to search the house a little better, I guess.

So the Irish could not rule the world

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, one and all!

I am 25% Irish (on my mother’s side), so this is a pretty big holiday to me.  I’ve been baking since yesterday and have barely stopped.  My two staples on St. Patrick’s Day are Irish car bomb cupcakes and Irish soda bread.  I make both.

The car bomb cupcakes are a ton of work, but soooo worth it, and everyone likes them.  The best recipe I’ve seen for them can be found here.  If you try them, I would recommend making a double-batch of the cupcakes, and one batch each of frosting and ganache.  The quantities in the recipe are more than enough for two batches of cupcakes.

I’ll share my Irish soda bread recipe.

Honestly Irish Soda Bread
5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 stick of butter, cubed.
1 tsp. salt
2 cups raisins (or Craisins, as I did not have raisins and thought what the hell)
3 tbsp. caraway seeds
2 and 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread some vegetable or olive oil on the bottom of a cast iron skillet (or grease a cake pan, your choice).  Mix together dry ingredients.  Blend in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.  Add raisins and caraway seeds.  In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and egg, whisk together, then pour into dry mixture and stir until well blended.  Put into skillet, bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.  Serve with butter.

And the luck of the Irish is absolutely with me today!  My old car sold for $3,000, which is twice was I was hoping for!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours!

Little Victories, Week Seven

For 2013, I’m going to have a Friday post every single week, for positive victories in my life.  They may not be big things, but they will be things that I am proud of, things I did in the past seven days.  I’m hoping this will keep me focused on the positive, all the good things that are going on in my life.

Told my boss that I was getting divorced and planning on applying for an annulment.  This may not seem like a big thing, but it definitely was.

– Finalized payment schedule and plans for buying my dad’s car (should be happening after he gets back from Florida next weekend).

– Made it through my first Valentine’s Day single since 2008 (yes, I’m considering this a victory, and I think anyone else who is getting divorced or is divorced would understand).

– Found my class ring from Salve Regina University — it had been lost for the better part of two years.

– Applied for a trainee position at Wildfire Retreat in August!  This will be my fourth Wildfire, and I’m really hoping I get the position…I think volunteering will be a lot of fun and really good for me to concentrate on.

That’s pretty much it for little victories.

I spent the rest of my evening last night at my friend Jess’s house…she made beef Wellington and some delicious potatoes and we watched stupid movies and laughed a lot.  I got my Partylite stuff in from her party on Super Bowl Sunday.  I didn’t spend a ton because I really didn’t have a lot of money to spend that weekend, but here’s what I got:

A tealight holder shaped like a little bird (I love birds):

A GloLight pillar candle in “Apple Blossom”:

And a set of tealights in “Calm” (lavender/rosemary-scented):

Christina’s hosting another party this week.  I’m already looking at new stuff.

This weekend, I’m going to see my friend Jackie tomorrow (we’re going to go to Sephora and do some major damage), and then (hopefully, if it doesn’t snow) to my friend Leanne’s birthday party Saturday night.  Sunday my dad leaves for Florida for a week.  And Monday I’m going to dinner with my high school friend (and senior prom date) Rob.

Have a good weekend and a happy Friday, everyone!

Can’t Take That Away From Me

When I was a teenager, going through my first breakup (oh, the angst), I was absolutely addicted to Mariah Carey’s “Can’t Take That Away From Me.”  Back then, when I was seventeen, the worst thing that could happen to me was a breakup.  I can’t get angry with my young, innocent self, because when you are a teenager and so blessed, you of course don’t know any different.

My 20’s were a violent, difficult, turbulent decade.  I have no idea what is in store for the remaining years of my life, or even for the last nine months of my 29th year, but I imagine that I will not be too sorry to shut the door on my 20’s on September 12th, 2013.  Or to embrace my 30’s.  When I was 21, a car accident nearly ended my life…and that set the tone for my 20’s.  There have been some soaring highs, and some crushing lows, but there has been turbulence through it all.

This year…this year has been difficult.  2012 was a year of unhappiness.  There were some bright spots, of course, but most of the year was difficult, and dark.  There are some happy pieces of it that will remain etched in my memory forever:

– Watching the sun rise over the Gulf of Mexico from the decks of the Carnival Imagination, hot chocolate in hand.
– The feeling of dumb, blind joy when the Patriots made it into the Super Bowl (they didn’t deserve to go, I fully cop to that).
– Going back to graduate school in January.
– Spinning fire poi for the first time at May Wildfire.
– Having my thesis idea approved and getting my adviser assigned.
– My first-ever straight-A, 4.0 semester.

And there’s where it is.  In the last few days (after I emerged from the worst cold on record in the history of ever), every time I think about that 4.0, I get a little misty.  Because, for the rest of my life, no matter what happens, nobody can take that away from me.  Not ever.  I did that.  Me, on my own.  Nobody helping me, nobody assisting.  Just me.  Despite the hardships, despite the emotional pain of losing my husband in extraordinary fashion…I did that.  It wasn’t even so much getting the 4.0…that was big enough.  But doing it in spite of everything else that was going on in my life, that was the biggest accomplishment.

Early in my 20’s, I attempted graduate school.  In spite of some MAJOR red flags, I enrolled in graduate school a mere four months after my car accident, while still suffering physical debilitation and accident-related post-traumatic stress disorder.  You should have seen my grades, guys.   People this year have given me a lot of shit for “being too hard on myself” and being surprised that I have managed to pull off nothing lower than an A- since returning to school, but you should have seen my report cards from 2006 – 2008.  My finest semester was a string of B+’s.  I don’t think I ever even saw an A.  And a 4.0?  Not even on the radar.

There is no way I could have gotten through this year without medication (been on the same thing for two years and it still works like a charm), therapy (my therapist, Crazy Bruce, is pretty much my favorite human being ever), and the love and support of my friends, who have stood by me through thick and thin, fielded some pretty epically terrible 11 PM crying phone calls, and encouraged me the entire way.  True, this will be the last full year in which I was married (at least, this marriage) but I didn’t just survive it, I succeeded in school when years ago I would have broken if faced with this same situation.

No matter what happens for the rest of my life, I did this, and nobody can take it away from me, ever.

Let’s move into 2013 with hope, love, laughter, and light.

On Yule, With Joy

The last entry (hell, the last couple of days) have been rough, so I wanted to post something a little happier.

Today is Yule, the winter solstice, and this is the day my friend Jess throws her annual Yule party.  It’s a winter celebration of all faiths, where 10 of us will get together, exchange presents, cook and eat delicious food, and just altogether have an amazing time.  It’s the high point of every year, and we look forward to it.  This is the seventh year that we’ve had Yule (although only Jess and I were part of the original and have been to every single one).

2006: Paul, me, and Jess, with the World’s Ugliest Yule Tree.

 

2007: Ryan, Jess, Paul, Rain, Katie and me, just before dinner.

 

Unbelievably, I don’t have a single picture from Yule 2008, but that was the day my Aunt Nancy died, so I think I just forgot to take pictures.

2009: I don’t have a group shot but this one is hilarious. Drea and Jess opening presents.

 

2010: The TURDUCKEN year! Jess (right) made a turducken. It was amazing.

 

2011: David, me, and our friend Jim.

I’m very much looking forward to tonight…good food, good friends, and commemorating another trip around the sun.

And the fact that the Mayans were wrong.

Now The Days Seem To Fly

I am DONE with this semester!

(Happy Rapunzel gif totally appropriate right now)

I’m not 100% bouncing off the walls because I’m nervous as hell about my grades.  I never got a grade in one of my classes, and I never got a grade in the other class that was below an A-…but I’m still freaking out.  I have NO IDEA how this is going to pan out.  Especially when, in both classes, the final paper counts for 60% of the final grade.

I have no idea when final grades are due in to the registrar, or when they’ll be posted, so THAT’S FUN.

I will be okay with straight A-‘s.  I will be fine if I get two B+’s.  If I don’t get a B+ in 501, it means I have to retake the course this upcoming semester.

…I can’t find a gif for that.  There is no gif labeled “crawl into a hole and die.”

But this one?  Is pretty close.

ANYCRAP.  This means that I have from now until January 14 for blessed, blessed freedom.

(Side note?  What is this January 14th shit?  Since when do colleges and universities open BEFORE the MLK Jr. holiday?  I miss undergrad.  For more reasons than one.)

I’m moving out of my apartment in three days.  My grandparents are coming up to spend Christmas with the rest of the family and they’re going to be staying in my place, with my girl kitties.  I’m moving into my parents’ house for the duration.  I’m trying not to be too apprehensive about this.

Tonight is going to be dedicated to shopping, wrapping, baking cookies, and watching “Home Alone.”  I am so excited about the next few days.  This week is going to be fantastic.

Another One Bites The Dust

One paper down, one to go!

(Granted, this one is bigger, and more important, but it’s already finished except for the revisions, which I NEED TO WORK ON)

I don’t have that much to write about, so we’ll do bullets.

– Adult cooking.  I discovered potato gnocchi and holy hell, my life will never be the same.  DELICIOUS.  I boiled them for 2 minutes, then tossed them in melted butter and roasted garlic, sprinkled them with Parmesan cheese, and had grilled chicken with Montreal seasonings on the side.  OH MA GA.  New favorite meal ever!  I seriously can’t get enough, and I’m going to gain like 10 lbs.

This is my REALLY PROFESSIONAL picture (i.e. taken with my Samsung Stratosphere) of my dinner from two nights ago.

dinner

Could seriously eat it any day of the week.

– School is so close to being done!  At some point I have to do the aforementioned edits, but I am getting so close!  There is a bottle of moscato in my fridge AS I TYPE THIS, waiting for December 18th and the end of the semester.

– Snow.  Look, white crap.  We’re scheduled for an unwelcome visit from you and I DAGF how many New Englanders sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, as far as I am concerned YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE at least until December 23rd.  This Christmas is going to be difficult enough.  Snow before or on December 22nd means that my grandparents will more than likely cancel their flight and won’t be in on Christmas, and…yeah.  I just can’t do that.  Please.  This year has been sucktastic enough.  The promise of the entire family being here for Christmas was the thing that was keeping my Christmas spirit going.  Please please please please don’t come next weekend.  Please.

The 10 day forecast says that we only have a 10% chance of snow on the 22nd.  Please stay that way.  (I feel like I can’t stress this enough)

Shopping.  I am ALMOST done!  A couple of friend presents and putting together the finishing touches on my last family presents, and then I’m set!  Pretty happy with what I put together this year.

I also got my package from Sephora yesterday!  Because of the Beauty Insider $15 off a $50 purchase, I was able to justify picking up Clinique Even Better Eyes Dark Circle Corrector (I got a sample in my It Kit a month ago and after squeezing the last little bit out of it, realized that I can’t live without it) and the Sephora Collection Smoothing Translucent Setting Powder.

My only complaint about this is the packaging, not the product.  This is TINY.  You’d think I wouldn’t be such a moron about reading the amount in the packaging, but I am.  For almost $40, this should be a much bigger product.  The good thing is that a SAMPLE of it lasted me a month, so this should last me quite a bit longer.  It’s amazing the difference.  I don’t usually get massive dark circles but a lack of sleep (and let’s be honest, crying in the last few weeks) has wreaked havoc on my eyes, leaving them dark and puffy.  A tiny little dab of this stuff (applied with the ice-cold metal applicator) de-puffs and lightens my undereye circles.  It’s brilliant. (Rating: 8/10, mainly because of the package)

The powder was a gamble because I’ve been having issues matching face powders to my incredibly pale skin (increasing since my already-less-than-impressive “summer tan” has faded).  I decided to take a chance on the translucent powder because it was supposed to just matte-ify my face, not put color into it, and figured I’d compensate with blush.  Well, this is a winner!  It matte-ifies my face, seals my makeup, and doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing a mask.  Bonus: the container is BRILLIANT.  When you pop the lid open, it allows just a small amount of powder free into the top level for brushing.  If you need a little more, close the container, turn it upside down and then back up, and re-open, to replenish the powder.  Love it!  (Rating: 10/10!)

– Knitting.  I have two projects that DEFINITELY need to be finished, one for this weekend, and two for next Friday.  I have one more that I MIGHT do for actual Christmas, but we’ll see, since it’s not a big deal if it isn’t done, I have other gifts for the recipient.  We’ll see!  I’m going to Knit Night tonight and hopefully I’ll bang out the last few rows of the one I’m working on for Saturday!

And I think that’s all the news that’s fit to print.  We’ll see how the weekend pans out!

When Being Strong Is the Only Choice

I didn’t expect to feel as raw as I did after this holiday.  I didn’t expect to fall apart.  I didn’t expect so many people around me to fall apart.  I didn’t expect my views of people to change.

I miss my happy little life.  The least productive thing I could do is daydream about waking up, and having it be Christmas 2010, and none of this has happened, and oh, somehow I’ll be able to prevent it from happening.  At the very least, I have time to prevent it.  I would think of some way.

My husband is a shadow of his former self.
My MIL tried not to cry on the phone over Thanksgiving.
My mom and dad are on the outs.

I’m just…lost.  It’s so hard.  And I miss the joy, the love, the happiness that I used to have.  I miss it.

But I don’t have the luxury of falling down and crying and waiting for someone else to pick up my pieces.  That’s life.

I just keep hoping and praying and trying to trust that there will be an end and a peace and the right decision made.