Friday, December 28, 2012

Changes ahead . . .

So, 2013 approaches. 

The world didn't end on December 21st, much to everyone's dismay . . . joy? Sometimes, I'm not sure.

Last entry, I promised to fill you in on changes . . . so here it goes:

The hubs is currently in Cali . . . and I'm not . . . .

He's out training for his new position and looking for a place to live. He'll be home in about four weeks for a company meeting and, hopefully, ready for us to move out there.
He called me this afternoon--perkier than I've heard him in a while--to tell me how beautiful San Francisco is, even at night, that he at an awesome sandwich, and that he's going to be in a wedding since one of his pal's groomsmen fell through. Oh, and he found an awesome jacket for the cooler weather we'll be inhabiting . . . and it was half off . . .

Me? I refuse to put on pants.
I'll let you interpret that as you may.

Dinner date the night before he left . . . and before we took down our tree . . . which, FYI, resulted in a  MOUNTAIN of needles and a naked tree. Apparently, it was dead.
And he's adorable and I miss him. Like lots.
He just sent me this in a text . . . Doesn't he look adorable in a tux? And a little like Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords?

My last day at work was December 21 . . . coincidence? Or just the most convenient Friday before Christmas?

We were always under the agreement that it was a temp position, and they weren't expecting me to stay past December, so I requested my last day be the 21st. That Tuesday, they threw me a surprise party. I mean, really--so SWEET. I was shocked. Like I stood there looking around wondering who on earth the cake was for . . . ME!!! It was really, REALLY nice.  I worked at a great place, great people, but, with the move looming and we-don't-know-when, I thought it was best be home on call, getting ready and all that.
I think . . .

And, now, for the big reveal . . . .

My sis-in-law is prego!
This is good news--great news--but shocking. I still haven't fully processed it . . . You see, for the past five years, she has said to everyone, "Oh, no, kids? Nope. Not for like ten years. If ever. Kids? No. Not even. Nope."

Two weeks ago, she texts me asking for a movie night.  She hands me a Christmas gift. "Happy early Christmas!"
I'm confused . . . and wondering if there was a gift exchange that I forgot about . . . and if there's something I have hiding in the bedroom that I could throw in some wrapping paper or a ziplock or something . . . but I say, "Oh . . . thanks!"
I open it, and pull out a little pink box. Confusion--multiplied hundredfold. "Pregnancy tests?"
"Turn it over! Turn it over!"

And this is what I see:

"Wait . . . you're pregnant?"
She nods, clapping.
Commence screaming. And hugging. And jumping around.

She's due in August. "It's the first family birthday in August," she says, because on my in-laws' side, birthdays are a clan affair, and most of theirs are in May. Apparently, her husband has gone into full prego-research mode and is just as excited as he can be.

My mother-in-law is ecstatic. For years, she has been begging her two married children for grandbabies.  The woman loves babies and was DYING to be a grandmother. One day, Julie shows up with a little box and hands it to her dad. Inside, there's a cupcake with a pacifier on top and a note reading, "Something sweet is coming in 2013."
MIL went nuts. Started screaming and hugging (you know, the normal female joyful reaction--we don't just shake hands like guys or anything).  "I thought it'd be Chris and Sarah! I thought it'd be Chris and Sarah! But it's YOU!!! A BABY! OH MY GOSH A BABY!!! A BAAAAABYYYYY!!!! A BABY!"
Apparently, it went on and on like that for a while.

My FIL, Steve, was in shock, but he's excited. Hasn't stopped talking about it at the office (I worked down the hall from him), and he's beaming.

Her grandparents are "over the moon," according to Steve, so happy for a great-grandbaby that's local (the others live in Texas). They all LOVE babies. Like lots. Like don't stop asking people to produce offspring.

I asked her--I had to--later that evening. "Julie, I thought you didn't want to have kids. Every family get-together, all you did was say how much you never wanted kids."
"Well, Mom asked the same thing, and I said, 'You ever think I was lying to surprise you?'"
"Yeah, I've wanted kids for a few months, now, and Ryan decided a month ago that he did, too, and now we're pregnant!"
"Well, congrats! I'm so happy for you!"
And I am. Really :]  
But I don't know if I can ever get used to calling myself an "aunt." Doesn't "Aunt Sarah" sound like someone who sells packaged chocolate chip cookies or something?

Oh, and P.S I hope everyone had a simply FABULOUS CHRISTMAS!! Yaaaaaay!!!
We did. :] 

On to a happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sometimes, you come back to the same old thing

You know, I will spend hours--nay DAYS--tweaking my blog design, and, when I pull it up for my husband and siblings to admire, they look puzzled. "Isn't that they same thing you had last time?"

"No! ... I mean, yeah the background's the same, but I change the font and the header and the layout here and--" I stop talking because their eyes have glazed over in an attempt to sound interested.

"Oh, well, it looks good." Then they walk off.

So I TRY to do things differently. I went all blank and white and sleek and minimalist like all these awesome blogs do, and it just seemed . . . empty . . . so I try a few new things, learn a few new tricks, and it still just didn't feel right. So then I try a new background, and it seems too busy and then--doggone it--the editor freezes and won't let me change a darn thing for two days.

  • FYI -- if the blogger editor every does that to you, save your layout as text in a document (go to TEMPLATE and click EDIT HTML and it brings up a text box), then go back to the TEMPLATE editor and go to a default layout.  It should clear things up. If you just had a minor change to your layout, just plug your saved code back into the EDIT HTML box and then tweak what you need to in the template editor. Or start from scratch, it's your call. 
 I spend forever editing this image, trying to get it the way I'd like . . . but it just didn't seem to work . . . it was too . . . busy  . . . despite being awesome and involving squid, one of my favorite animals . . .

If you think this one looks better . . . let me know . . . I'm quite attached but just not sure it fits . . . plus it took me FOREVER to get the image edited correctly . . .

So, in the end, I tweak and I edit and I search and I plug stuff in and I edit some more and I alter more text and more images in PIXLR (seriously, it's my new favorite online photo editor--LOVE IT). Finally, I look through all the art and pictures and I come back to this one:

And, doggone it . . . it just fits . . .

So, the blog has been evolving in appearance for a month, now . . . . and it looks almost exactly like before . . .  *sigh . . . Well, if it's not broken, don't fix it, right?

Oh, I'm thinking about starting a 30 Day Link-Up with some writing and/or photo prompts.  Thoughts?  I'm considering some sort of "get to know you" prompts. When Chris and I first started dating, we'd exchange emails with all sorts of wacky questions like "if you could create a planet, what would it be?" or "What color would you be and why?" It was loads of fun, and I thought it would be a great way to get to know some more bloggers and help with writers block.
I'd love to get your opinions! Throw them at me!

I have great big news . . . lots of it . . . but I'm saving that for the next post or two, which will hopefully be up right after Christmas :]

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which I nerdishly rave about one of my all-time favorite books EVER!

In true nerdish fashion, we have tickets to the midnight premier of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I’m ridiculously excited.  I didn’t do midnight premieres for any of the LOTR films, so this thing—this is huge.  Everyone has SOME book they’d love to see turned into a movie, but this book literally changed my life.  
I remember, as a little kid, dusting my parents’ bookshelves and coming across this large, beautiful, green book with a dragon on the cover.  He was red, with one golden eye glaring out at the world, smoke curling from his nostrils, as he clutched at the mound of gold that was his bed.  I wasn’t allowed to watch movies or read books with magic or dragons, so I would stare at it in wonder before putting it back, wondering why my parents had something “evil” in their bedroom.

Illustration by Michael Hague

Week after week, I dusted, eying the strange book, until finally I pulled it off the shelf and, stealthily, began turning the pages.  Inside were the most beautiful illustrations of a small man with curly hair and stocky fellows with beards. They carried swords, fought wicked goblins, talked with a pale, shriveled thing in caves, soared on eagle wings, wrestled giant spiders, and, finally encountered the great dragon.
I was in awe.
I’d read little snippets, trying to understand the pictures (especially the one of the skinny creature with giant eyes in the cave), then shove the book back on the shelf, terrified of getting caught, wondering if it really was a very bad book. 

Illustration by Michael Hague

The secret picture-gazings became a habit; until, finally, I took the book off the shelf, put it under my arm and carried it away.  I was going to read it, dagnabbit, and no one would stop me.    
I swept away in a world that I knew, then, had always been calling to my heart.  It had sung to me from that dusty bookshelf, forgotten.  Sometimes, you find words that unlock something inside you, something secret even to you.
Illustration by Michael Hague

I’ve read it maybe a dozen times since that first time, thirteen years ago.  I have taken it with me everywhere, like a security blanket, and it has been present for so many life changes.  After my family moved, I sat down on my frameless mattress that was my bed for a week, and I read the book through in a matter of hours, finding comfort in the familiar.  A paperback version traveled with me to Nicaragua, and was lost somehow on the bus taking us home from Miami, after I proved I knew the book so well I could read it upside down. I took my beloved green hardback to college then to London, despite the luggage weight limit—I just couldn’t imagine going to its birthplace without it, without the guarantee that I had something brilliant to read when I was lonely. Finally, I took it out of my parents’ house into my own when I was married.  

Illustration by Michael Hague
 Technically, it’s not “mine.”  It was a Christmas present from my mom to my dad during their early married years.  She thought he had read it, and bought it for him hoping to read it with him.  This is an incredibly sweet offer from my mother, who, until this past year, is such a realist she couldn’t get past the third sentence, in which the hobbit’s glorious, round green door is introduced.  “There aren’t round doors,” she said. “He’s a little person who lives in a hole. No one does that. I just can’t, Sarah. I can’t.”  As it turns out, my father had never read it, and, really, has shown no real interest in reading it, though I get my love for the imaginary from him. I think the LOTR movies’ Ringwraiths put a bad taste in his mouth.
Still, I see it as part of my inheritance. I was the first to read it, after all.  I read it aloud to my little sister at bedtime when she was six.  I will never forget how she ran from her room to my mom’s, begging for a later bedtime so I could read the last chapter to her, then darting across the house, squealing, “SHE SAID YEEES!!!”  I passed it on to my brother, and, from that point on, we were true nerds together, in love with Star Wars and Tolkien.  It led me to one of my great heroes, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the father of the modern fantasy epic, who has so hugely influenced my own writing and creativity. 
One day, I hope to read it to my children—to laugh with them as the dwarves demolish Biblo’s kitchen, to shudder at Gollum’s riddles, to feel the fear, the curiosity, the wonder, the tragedy, and the victory of one small man’s journey from a predictable dud to a wielder of swords and riddles, a legendary hero who changed the world.
I know that there are “greater” books—books upheld by literary scholars, by people far smarter than I am—but this has earned a very special place on my shelf and in my heart.  It opened the world of fantasy for me.  We met in secret, and we fell in love.  “In a whole in the ground, there lived a hobbit,” and the world grew a little bigger, a little brighter.


So, yeah, I'm a little excited.
Just a tiny bit.
And I'm a nerd in love with a book. Yeah . . . . just a tad . . . but, to be fair, I'm in love with lots of books . . . they're just not midnight premiers tomorrow ;]

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Just Around the River Bend!"

My gosh.
It cannot be December.
I won’t let it.

Despite my love of Christmas carols, Christmas trees, and Christmas lights, I will simply not allow it to be December. November’s supposed to be here for three more weeks, I swear. Thanksgiving was NOT a week and a half ago simply because I refuse to believe it.
“Honey, if I let you think that, I’d be allowing you to live in denial,” the hubs said.
“Well, I’m happy here.”
“Oh, good grief.”
Issues? I have them.

But, the truth is, YES, Thanksgiving has come and gone. I hope you all had lovely ones. If you don’t celebrate, then I hope you had a lovely third-Thursday-of-November.

Our married Thanksgivings are all lovely clones of each other--lunch with my relatives, dinner with his, all with too much food--Thanksgiving with my parents hasn’t changed at ALL since I was a little kid . . . well, except that one of my aunts has decided to dominate the holiday hostings for the past . . . five years? More? ANYWAYS.

The real adventure happened the next day.
And, no, I’m not talking about shopping.
It would take something masterfully desperate for me to shop Black Friday only because I hate shopping and crowds more than I love deals. The end.

Instead, the hubs and I went kayaking with my fam down Weeki Wachee Springs.

 When I was a kid, this place was famous for mermaids. They had a theme park where you could view these beautiful women with fish tails swimming and dancing. Oh, how desperately I wanted to come face-to-face with my idol, my ambition, as a small child. Mermaids! They do exist! “No, sweetheart, they have air-tubes hidden in their sea shell bras so they can breathe. They’re just ladies in suits, Sarah.”
Thanks, Mom.
Dreams? Shattered. Again.

While the mermaids might still be there, the REAL highlight is the journey down the river/springs. It doesn’t matter that my fairytale dreams no longer live there—this place is heaven. Crystal blue-green waters, shade beneath armies of cypress and oak, and all the swampy wildlife WITHOUT gators and snakes (YAY!). Best part? It's a hot spot for wild manatees. Plus, the weather was PERFECT—mid-seventies with a hint of a breeze. This is Florida at its finest, folks. It doesn’t get much better.
Well, for us, it didn’t.

While most of us were having a grand time, my mom and younger sister shared a kayak, which is often nicknamed "the divorce boat" . . . for reasons none of us understood until these two were teamed up . . . all in good fun, of course . . .
While the rest of us were newbies, Catherine had gone kayaking ONCE. This, naturally, made her a pro, she claimed.
Then she fell getting IN the kayak.
And I, the awkward klutz, did NOT.

No, there’s no healthy sibling rivalry going on here. Why do you ask?
Ok, FINE—Catherine and I, while great buddies, have always been in a bit of competition . . . Mostly because, when she was two, all the boys I had a crush on were already making over her. I am not even kidding.
 “Hi, Kyle!”
 “Huh? Oh, hey, Sarah. CATHERINE!!! What a pretty dress you have on! You’re just so cute! Want a piggy back ride? Who’s the prettiest little redhead, ever?!”
This isn’t an exaggeration. Not even a little. At age TWO, people.

 From that point on, a rivalry was born.

You must imagine my joy as I was dry in my kayak, and she sitting in her bum in the shallows. She clambers into her boat, soaking wet, and exclaims. “Let’s race! I’ll win!”

She didn’t. Not by a long shot.

She blames Mom . . . but all of us know better. For the first hour, you could hear them shouting at each other (not meanly, by any means . . . just the exclamations you might exchange while running into low-hanging branches filled with imaginary spiders). My brother, in the kayak beside ours, just kept chuckling, “Man, I am SO glad I’m not in that boat. SO. GLAD.”

Through the three hour trip, we saw four manatees—three adults and a baby (EEEEEE!!!)—and really had just the best time enjoying nature. Chris and I decided that, if ever we’re back in Florida during the cooler months, we’re renting a kayak and coming back to Weeki Wachee.

You should, too, if you’re ever in town.

My brother, Matt, and the fam's holiday homestay student, Myu.


My fearless navigator!

The gang beached for a snack :]
So, on the drive over, Chris and I stopped at an Albertsons or something to grab water and snacks, and Chris comes out with this pepperoni, cheese, and cracker box. "We can't eat that! we don't have a cooler!"
"It's cool enough outside. It will be fine."
Guess what the best fueling and most popular snack was? Chris's pepperoni, cheese, and cracker box. The man knows.

MANATEE!!!!! This was seriously the coolest. She was almost close enough for you to touch!

Mama and baby :] You can see just how huge they can be. They're not very fast and don't really seem afraid of anything . . . kind of like the watery elephants