Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas roundup

I left SJ on the 22nd around suppertime, with a giant container of presents from my Dad for my older brother, SIL, and nephew. Surprisingly, the airline didn't charge an oversize fee, despite the fact that it did exceed the limit. I packed one suitcase inside the other, and with the presents I had to take to SoCal, I ended up packing military-style so I could fit everything in. I arrived in Montreal slightly early, collected my luggage, and waited for my brother to arrive at the airport.

I had a fun time in Montreal, despite not being there very long. I don't normally get to see my brother at Christmas anymore, so it was great to have that as a treat. My nephew seemed happy to see me. Tanq the cat was doing well also, and seemed to continue his enjoyment of my company. Not sure why he likes/doesn't mind me, but he does.

I left Montreal without issue, and thoroughly enjoyed my flight in business class. I was seated on the left side of the plane, which in business class on this plane only had a single seat in my row. I could get up to use the bathroom without disturbing anyone anytime I wanted! It was great! The legroom was also spacious, as you can see. I had a meal of cold cuts & cheese, and like the good old days, it was included with my ticket.

I arrived in Denver early, thankfully. I didn't know I had to switch terminals, and had only been through the Denver airport once before. I ended up having time to hop into the first class lounge, free access included with my ticket. Swanky compared to the usual gate waiting areas.

I left Denver without issue on a first-class United flight to Orange County. Niiiice. They served us a small dish of warmed nuts (no peanuts, of course, but still cool). My meal was a choice of Tuscan wrap or chef salad (I chose the salad) with a chocolate chip cookie, roll, etc. The put out tablecloths and served our meals with real glasses, cutlery, and plates. I have flown first class before, but it had been a really long time since I had the luxury. I now remember why they pull the curtain, because it really is a whole other level of service. The flight attendants are so much nicer and actually seem happy to be doing their job, as opposed to the economy section.

I arrived in SoCal right on schedule. I am still surprised at how smooth my travel went. Despite being wary of flying through Denver (where John's mother was stuck for 2 days on her way to our wedding), it was actually the better choice. I normally end up flying through Chicago, but if I had ended up there, I would have gotten stuck in a storm and likely been delayed. I hope my return flight, which is through Chicago and Toronto, doesn't result in my being stuck somewhere. I need to return home on time for work.

John's tree is perfect for his apartment, as it is basically half a tree that is designed to fit against a wall. He did a great job decorating for my arrival.
On Christmas Eve morning, we decided to head to Denny's for breakfast. We saw this truck in the parking lot, complete with audio. I laughed.

The amount of Christmas decorations in Irvine has been very disappointing. When I was here at US Thanksgiving last year, there seemed to be more in place. This year I have seen very few, and thus do not have many pictures to share. I tried taking a picture of a car with antlers and a red nose, but keep missing the opportunity with my camera.

We attended mass on Christmas Eve, which ended up being standing room only; luckily we got there early and were able to sit. The place was packed and so warm with the huge number of people. We had a good Christmas morning. He bought me items from my wishlist and a couple of surprises, and I surprised him with some items he mentioned he wanted but hadn't specifically asked for. We also opened presents from my brother & SIL. After having breakfast, making some calls home, and getting showered, we headed to the desert to visit with John's mother.

We spent Christmas day with John's mother and had Christmas dinner -- a delicious ham, mmmm. She doesn't normally do much decorating for Christmas, but with my arrival and a party she was hosting, decided to do some this year, which I appreciated. Presents from her included a really nice sweater, an afghan which she made for our bedroom (in purple, of course), and matching hats for John and I. Hey, we're married now, and they say married people grow to look alike. We'll start with hats. :)

On Boxing Day, we headed over the hill to visit with John's dad and stepmother. They were happy we made it out to the desert for a visit. We had lunch with them and talked for quite a while. After receiving a phone call from John's mother, we realized that we had forgotten the afghan and stopped on the way home to pick it up. After leaving there, we headed home, but I insisted on a stop at the Cabazon outlet mall so I could pick up a couple of items at the Jockey store. The mall was very busy, but not as crazy as we thought.

We stayed in on the 27th for the most part because John wasn't feeling well. The desert had been colder than we expected, and the change in climate likely triggered John's cold. On the 28th, John took me shopping to NY & Co. and I bought a bunch of clothes (50% off sale, how can you go wrong?). We had lunch at Olive Garden, and then John really needed a rest, so he had a nap while I did some shopping at the mall across the street and Costco, within walking distance.

Today was his friends' Secret Santa party. We had a good time, even got to watch parts of the Pats game in between socializing. It was good to see his friends again. My Secret Santa present was a green fleece blanket (a new couch blankie, which will match better with the living room and be used when I have the purple one in use elsewhere) and the book form of Wicked.

In amongst our days thus far, we've managed to watch a few movies. Pirates 3 was a huge disappointment and a waste of 3h. Knocked Up wasn't bad, better than I thought it would be. National Treasure, though it left me saying "yeah, right, like that's possible" in a few places, was entertaining and I liked it in the popcorn-movie genre. I will likely see the sequel.

We still have yet to get to Cheesecake Factory, but will try and do that in the next 2 days. We also want to see a couple of movies in the theatre, but that will depend on how we're feeling.

My mother has been writing me emails, telling me of the storms that have hit home. I do not miss the shoveling at all, nor the maintenance of a fire, nor the being alone. I am not looking forward to coming home, but I do need to work and make money. Reality bites.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I am stressed out today.  I didn't sleep well last night due to a nightmare involving someone dying, and I am still feeling kind of disturbed by it this morning.  I have to leave my house for the airport in about 27 hours, and all I have packed are John's presents and a shirt I have to return.  I still need to pack the regular clothes & personal items.  I still need to see my grandfather and install his anti-virus software.  I need to do laundry.  Tonight is Lisa's birthday dinner at Suwanna, which I am looking forward to, but due to the amount of stuff I still have to do, will have to go home right after dinner. 
Tomorrow morning I have to be at my hair appointment for 9:30am.  Dad is now taking me to the airport due to the giant Rubbermaid container of gifts that he needed to send with me to Montreal.  The container is really only half-full, but there was an odd-shaped item for my brother and that container was the only one that would fit things.  I think my mother is a bit disappointed not to be taking me, so I will need to see her before leaving tomorrow.  I can tell she is sad that I'm leaving, but understands that it's only fair that I spend xmas in SoCal this year.  I did actually cry after leaving her house the other night (we had dinner and I opened my gifts).  It's hard to be away from my family at Christmas.  I am trying to switch gears and focus on seeing my husband and my older brother, the two very positive things about this year.  I also don't have to shovel anything or maintain a fire in the stove for the next week... a nice break.
John went out this week and bought a small artificial tree, which he decorated yesterday and Caly has taken to chewing.  John isn't much of a fan of Christmas, so I really appreciate his efforts to make the apartment more festive for me.  I hope Caly hasn't eaten it all by the time I get there.  :P
On another positive note, my younger brother has maintained health and will not be in the hospital over Christmas this year.  He is very excited to be in his own apartment, with his tree, and his health and freedom.  That is the best gift he has gotten this year, and he is very thankful.  I am too, it's good to see him healthier and happy to be so.
I am going to head home for lunch and try and get at least a few more things done/packed in order to take at least a bit of the edge off my stress level.  I know it will all get done, or not, eventually.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The best Christmas yet

I’ve been trying to figure out, during the past few years, why it is that Christmas just doesn’t feel the same anymore. There are many reasons: I am older, I know about Santa, I no longer live at home, most of my grandparents are gone, my parents are divorced, my older brother is living away and no longer comes home for Christmas, the house I grew up in is no longer available to “go home to”.

I have a lot of fond memories of Christmas. I remember the anticipation of waiting for the day. Once I was old enough, I was in charge of some of the decorating. In my usual style, this meant doing things exactly the same as every other year. I find change discomforting, and familiarity and repetition soothing.

There is a part of me who desperately wants to be that little girl, staring out my Christmas-lit bedroom window, watching the snow through the light of the street lamp, just taking the time to look at all of the surrounding houses, streets, hills, and lights. Waking up early, quietly waiting for 7:30am, the earliest we were allowed to go downstairs. My older brother and I taking the “long way around” on Christmas morning to see our gifts, according to the plan we mapped out and then stuck in the secret hiding place (do the people who own my old house even know that that hiding place exists?) Watching my younger brother open his presents, discovering that they were clothes, and chucking them over his shoulder to get to the better stuff. Having my grandparents walk over from their house next door to join us for present opening. The usual post-gift-opening trek to my other grandparents’ house on the East side to see my extended family. Returning home to get ready for Christmas dinner, playing with my new stuff, and wondering what prize my Christmas cracker would contain this year.

A lot of that is now gone: the house, some of the people have passed away, and my immediate family dynamic has undergone a lot of upheaval. I didn’t realize then how much all of that would mean to me later in life. What I wouldn’t give for the chance to relive some of those times, and I feel a big sense of loss in the inability to not go back.

Given all of that, you can imagine how I must feel about flying across the continent for Christmas this year. I get upset about the fact that I am a few km away from what I considered “home” for the majority of my life thus far, let alone being on the other side of North America. What few things that have stayed the same over the years won’t even be there this year. This has been giving me a bit of anxiety. What are the holidays without snow, cold, my immediate family, family parties, my church, and my friends? I will have my husband, for which I can't be thankful enough, but everything else will be different.

I have been away from home for Christmas twice before. Once was not too shocking, as it involved going to Montreal with my mother & brother, and staying at my brother’s house. Still cold, snowy, and family around, though I was sad to have had to leave my then-boyfriend behind. The first time I was away from home at Christmas was when I was 10. My family was in the middle of our trip around the world. We spent Christmas in Melbourne, Australia. Our tree consisted of a decorated plant in the hotel room, and my stocking was a knee-high purple sock. What I remember the most about that Christmas, though, was going to a park to see a fireworks display. It was amazing. To this day, I have never seen anything as spectacular as that, and I will never forget it. That was something I would never have experienced had I not been away from home.

Recent Christmases, though they have been fine, have come with that sense of missing something, whether it be people, traditions, or just the anticipation. They have ended up feeling like a let-down. Maybe this year will be the year that I am able to get some of the special feeling back again. I won’t be at home, wishing for the good old days. I will be in a new place, with new experiences, and no precedents or expectations to live up to, spending it with a loving husband and a ribbon-eating cat. It’s hard for me to let go of the past, but this just might be the jolt I need to get out of my old way of thinking. This can be the best Christmas yet, if I just allow it to unfold.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Decorated tree

I am feeling a bit better today. I am not the human snot factory that I have been the last few days. I plan on rejoining the rest of the world tomorrow.

I managed to get my decorations up this past weekend, and it's giving me some cheer. Here is a pic of my decorated purple tree:
It wasn't a conscious effort, but it has ended up with ornaments mostly from friends. The topper is an ornament Jenn gave me last year. Chris' penguins are there, as well as a snowman/bell from T-L, a star made by Regan, and the angel cat made by Mare. The elephant and flower are ornaments my mother brought back from Mexico and Bermuda, respectively. There is also a gold engraved ornament from Nana, which one year almost got thrown out with our tree, but was rescued in time, thankfully. Rounding things out is my Daffy ornament with his giant stocking (very Daffy, of course) and John's superhero ornament. Minimal for me, but it works nicely and is great to showcase things given to me by friends. I also put some lights on it; purple ones, of course.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sad, but realistic

It's Sunday, and I am still sick. I don't know what has happened to me over the last few years in that when I get a cold, it seems to turn into this giant monster that won't go away. I suppose I am not helping things by not just taking a sick day and resting, but there are things to be done. I am on my own again, and no one else is here to cook meals, do my laundry, and my phone even rang at 10:50pm last night regarding work. Common sense tells me that I need to rest to beat this, but my life is just too busy to be put on hold. I'm doing the best I can.

I made a decision today, one which I am not happy about, but I think it makes the most sense. I am not going to put up outside Christmas lights this year. I seriously debated going outside today to put up what I could without attempting for the gutter I can't reach. When I thought about it in a practical sense, though, I really shouldn't be hanging around outside in the cold while I am still sick. I'm leaving in two weeks, and there's not much point of putting up outside lights at this point. It's stupid, I know, but it just makes me sad. I really enjoy my lights. I regret being lazy earlier in John's visit and not getting them out when it was still a reasonable temperature/snowless outside and he was here to help.

I have the bins out in my living room with my inside lights, so I am going to plow ahead and get those up. I must have some decorations up inside, at the very least. That is one of my favorite parts about Christmas. I am not going to put up everything I usually do, though. I'm not hosting any parties and won't be here through the actual holiday, so I'm just going to put up what I can and what I feel like enjoying. I still have to decorate the purple tree too.

For next year, I vow two things:
1) I will return to having a real tree and look forward to visiting the tree farm with Dad and the family chain saw.
2) John and I will get the outside lights put up in November, on a mild weekend, so that they are in place and ready to turn on when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A little too quiet

After two false starts, John finally made it on the Toronto flight out of Saint John, on his way home to SoCal. I cried pretty hard after leaving him at the airport the first time, and I was so happy to have him for those two extra days, that I didn't end up crying as he left this time. I'm sure it will hit me later, but for now I will be content with the fact that I didn't bawl my head off for once.

It is, though, a little too quiet around here. John is not a noisy person, just the opposite, in fact. What you don't realize is the quiet presence of another person in the house, that feeling of comfort from knowing you're not alone. Now I'm back to being alone again, and I can't say as I like it very much.

I always have a really hard time adjusting back to my single life after he leaves. I got married for a reason, and that reason wasn't to be alone. I have successfully proven that I can be alone, but now that that's over, I really would just like to have my husband around.

He spoils me when he's here, or at least I consider it spoiling. Today, when the plow guy didn't show up, we shoveled the driveway together. The night I came back from a work trip to Moncton, he had dinner ready and on the table (and had even ventured outside to use the BBQ!!) The simple fact that he cleans up after himself, puts dishes away, keeps the fire going: these are all small things that I really value. Being here by myself means I am responsible for everything. That is wearing me down.

Between now and Christmas is going to be a busy time for both of us. John has to book and complete his medical exam. I need to update all of our paperwork now that I have changed my name, review and assemble everything, and have it ready to take with me. I hope we'll be able to sign and mail the paperwork when I come back after Christmas. In addition to that, I still need to finish my shopping, do the wrapping, pack for my trip, and somehow try to get more done at work in the run of a day than is humanly possible. All of those tasks would be a lot less daunting if John were here, just because he makes me happy.

Thankfully there is not such a large gap between visits this time... just under 3 weeks and I will see him again. I miss him already.