What A Decade It's Been

With the end of 2010 comes the end of a decade and the starting of a new one.   The majority of this decade wasn't the happiest for me.  Let's re cap shall we:
  • 2000-I am two years post college graduation and working in claims.  I dislike my job but in the years to come I will grow to HATE it.  I'm living with my fiance who also happens to have been my first boyfriend in our 2nd tiny apartment in as many years.
  • 2002- After 4 years dating and 3 years engaged we finally make the mistake of getting married.  The seven years spent procrastinating on said action should have been a hint of things to come. 
  • 2003-I am miserable and become very depressed.  My marriage sucks.  We don't communicate and we don't even like each other anymore.  I'm still working in claims and hating life more and more with each passing day.  The job is killing me but I would be taking a huge pay cut if I left and I had no idea what else I could do.
  • 2004-Right before Christmas we separate.  I am too thin and he accuses me of having an eating disorder.  My weight hits an all time low.  We agree the relationship has run it's course.  I am on anti depressants, going to therapy and am sad and exhausted all the time.  We actually had a deposit down on a condo but I had to call and cancel everything. 
I spent a lot of nights at home alone

My cozy condo
  • 2005-I buy a condo on my own and move into my own place in February and start to rebuild my life.  I'm living alone for the first time and I like it.  I can't take the stress anymore so I walk into work one day and quit my claims job of 6 years with no gig lined up and no plans.  What was I thinking?  I am too broke to buy a single Christmas present for anyone.  This is also the year I meet MT and we begin a sort of relationship.  I am still often sad and isolate myself alone a lot in my condo.   The divorce is finalized.
    First portfolio shoot 2006
  • 2006-I finally had the time to pursue modeling, which I'd been wanting to do for a while.  Turns out I was so beloved at my claims job they didn't want to let me go.  They offered me a part time position temporarily that stretched into a whole year.  I make so much that my hourly rate is still enough to keep me going along with modeling gigs.  I call the shots.  I work 24 hours a week for the next year and model.  Uh...working part time is awesome!  I'm so glad I had a chance to do that.  My big sis and I get out and do a lot of fun things together.  I didn't have a lot of friends so it was great having her as a best friend.  She moved out of state for a boy at the end of the year.  I smiled on the outside but no one really knew the extent of my sadness.  I was (and still am) so hard on myself.  I felt like a bit of a loser for wasting so much time in claims, not having a career, and for not really doing as well in modeling and acting as I'd have liked.  It felt like nothing I did was ever good enough. 
From Top Left Clockwise:  Vegas, Cruise with big sis 2006
  • 2007-The money is running out and my part time position has ended-I stayed there for 7 years in all!  I haven't hit the big time and I need health insurance.  It's time to go back to full time work.  I find an office job at a college making about $12,000 a year less then I did working full time in Claims.   I am bummed out to have to quit modeling and lingering depression still haunts me.  After two years of sort of dating MT I find out he is totally married, and I totally end it with him.  He is only the second guy I have ever dated in my life so I really just didn't know any better.  There is a phone conversation with yelling and hanging up.  Such drama.  He helped me through a hard time and is still a friend to this day but I am not the home wrecker type.  End of story.  I meet a hot guy from Atlanta on My Space.  We meet up in Vegas for the first time and he flies me out to visit him in Atlanta.  Potentially scary and creepy but it actually turned out ok.  He was not "the one" but he helped me get over Married guy and was a big confidence booster.  My big sis got married and had a small wedding in Vegas.
Clockwise from Top Left:  2008-Camping Trip, Casino Weekend Getaway,
 Las Vegas, County Fair
  • 2008-I meet the love of my life in March.  The man who would change my life.  He spoiled me.  We went camping, we went to Vegas, and he bought me things.  I was having the the best time ever getting to know him but even still I tried to push him away.  I still don't like myself enough to believe that I am worthy.  We find out he will be deployed and Eight months after meeting he leaves for a year overseas.  We had already decided we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.  The guy gave me a giant promise/engagement ring after four months!  Smitten much?  Well so was I!  And the happiness that has eluded me for so many years is finally mine for the taking.  After Christmas he's gone.  All of our plans have come to a screeching halt.  I won't see him again for 7 months. 
Christmas 2008
  • 2009-I basically spent this year missing Mj, trying to keep busy and missing Mj.  I'm beginning to hate my job again so I  transfer to a new office.  I keep myself occupied by starting this blog.  I wrote away happily even though I had no followers and I worked on learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone.  I visit my big sis in NC, I hang out with friends and family.  My illustrious modeling career is capped off with a Top 5 Finish in the Joe's Next Model contest.  A memorable experience and a welcome distraction.  Mj comes home for a visit in July and then onto the home stretch until he is home for good in November.  I turned in my 2nd leased Jeep and bought a Honda in cash causing a near nervous breakdown.   I am overcome with anxiety and I'm not sure if it's because I've been without Mj so long, I'm afraid of all the changes that happen when he gets back or both.  What if I can't shake these awful feelings?  How are we going to accomplish everything we want to in the coming year? When he finally came home he made everything ok.  He moved in with me and talked me down from the ledge.  We went to Delaware in December where I met his parents for the first time and we set about building our life together.  

My B day with the 'rents  April 09.
    Visit with Big Sis N. Carolina May 2009

    We meet up with J who also lives in NC. 
    She's the one who hooked up me and hubby.

    July 2009 Visit.  We go to Vegas and enjoy every day we have together
    My baby is home for good!!  Nov 2009
    If you are still reading you now know everything you wanted to know about the last decade of my life and more.  I am a totally different person today then I was 10 years ago.  I beat my depression, and still err on the side of thin but I feel much better about myself and my life in general and I finally know what it's like to be happy.  What a freaking concept!  2010 clearly deserves it's own post so I won't touch on that here but suffice it to say that since 2008 things just got better and better for me.  

      I LOVE Christmas

      I don't care how old I get I always feel like a kid on Christmas morning.  As soon as we get out of bed it's time to open presents.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Go to the bathroom if you must but after that the Christmas Carols are on and we are at the tree because it's present time!  I am almost more excited for him to open his then I am to open mine.  I got my i phone 4 early because my Razor was pissing me off so badly and I am so broke that I threatened to go out and get whatever free phone T Mobile was offering.  To avoid this tragedy Mj gave me my phone Tuesday and I am already madly in love with it.  He even got me the pink case t go with it.  I still had one more gift left for Christmas day.  I opened the box and the distinctive bag alone told me I was in store for a real treat.  As soon as I un cinched it my nostrils were massaged by the aroma of leather and my eyes feasted upon an absolutely exquisite black Coach Purse!!  He got me a great brown one two years ago which is still in great condition so it was time for a black one.  He wasn't sure if I would like the style but it was perfect.  He did an amazing job picking it out himself.  For someone without a wish list I think I did pretty good!  I got everything I've been wanting but has just been too expensive for me to go out and get for myself. 
      YES!!  I love it.

      Mia Collection Maggie handbag by Coach [Photo Source]

      Mj loved his bike trainer.  It's basically a contraption that allows him to turn his actual bicycle into a stationary bike so he can exercise in the house or just outside without actually having to ride anywhere.  I also got him cycling arm and leg warmers and threw in some boring socks too just because he needs them.  

      Our first tree and first Christmas in our new house
      I love Christmas!  I was so excited to go up and spend the day with my family.  As soon as I walk in the door I grab DJ because I can't help myself.  He was so cute in his little "My First Christmas" Santa outfit.  

      Grandpa and Dj

      The guys go straight to the TV for the basketball game and my big sis and I head in to see if mom needs any help.  There is lots of chatting and sitting around until dinner time.  My mom just didn't really feel like inviting a bunch of people over so it was just us this year. Of course there was way too much food.  We all packed some to go.

      Mom and Mj dishing it out
      Big Sis, Mom, DJ
      The gang
      After dinner and dessert we exchanged gifts.  My dad had me for Secret Santa and got me this stylish animal print cap and scarf and some fuzzy socks.  My mom sent him off to the mall by himself to pick it out and he did an awesome job.  That he picked it and my mom didn't pick it and just put his name on it makes it so special.  Mom also got me an interactive gaming mat.  I'm not sure exactly what that is yet but it looks cool.

      My dad picked it out for me all by himself!!
      After dessert and presents my big sis, brother in law, Mj and I played Yahtzee.  When we were younger my big sis and I used to play this for hours and hours at a time while listening to and 80's band called "Men at Work."  I have absolutely no idea why we did this but I won't ever forget how much fun we had.  The only one missing this year was little sis so I called her on my brand new i phone and we did face time so we could see her and she could see us.  

      Did I already say how much I love Christmas?  It is such a happy and festive time.  I woke up in such a jolly mood just because it was Christmas day.  Even the next day I am still feeling the glow.  I was in such a good mood in fact that I made pancakes for breakfast.  Mj just finished using his bike trainer and now he wants to know if he can keep his bike in the house.  Uh....no.  I plan to break out that exercise mat but today is basically just going to be a relaxing day after Christmas at home.

      A cute little video of my nephew

      It's Christmas Eve

      I was reading People or Us magazine the other day, I can't remember which, but there was an article asking celebrities what was on their wish list for Christmas.  I thought it was sort of funny in a way.  Everyone has wishes and/or wants but rich celebrities for the most part don't really have to want for anything.  They can just buy it.  Of course it's nice to receive a gift from someone special but it's also nice that if you don't get what you want you can go out and get it yourself no wishing required.  It also must be nice to have the money to fulfill those wishes for friends and family too.

      I myself didn't have a wish list.  I hardly ever do.  I usually don't know what I want and I also feel strange telling someone what they can buy me.  This year our family kept it simple and budget friendly by doing a Secret Santa gift exchange.  We set a $50 limit and wrote down three things we wanted.  I got a flat tire on Monday AND just discovered last week that I am going to have to evict my tenant.  I won't be getting a rent check this month so I've had to re work my budget to include an extra mortgage.  Needless to say, there isn't much room in the budget left for any shopping so it's a good thing we are doing it this way.  I got Mj's gift online and did the rest at one store in about 30 minutes.  Aside from Mj and the family gift the only other person I shopped for is my baby nephew.  I like it that Christmas is simple.  I'm not running around like crazy trying to buy something for everybody I know or spending lots of money.  Christmas itself should never get lost in hustle and bustle, stress, or overspending.

      Wednesday was my first day of Christmas break and I did absolutely nothing.  It was raining and even the fact that I needed to get my flat tire taken care of couldn't get me out of the house.  Luckily, Thursday the rain stopped. The sun finally came out and so did I.  I did my errands, a speed round of Christmas shopping, and spent $132 for a new tire.   This morning I went to the gym which is practically a miracle and then my mom came down to visit.  We went to see Black Swan which I've been dying to see.  I love Natalie Portman and Ballet so I could not wait for DVD on this one.  It was so, so good and it was a nice little outing for my mom and I.  The chef otherwise known as my husband already made five Applesauce cakes for work and to send to out of state family and he's at it again.  He made sweet potato pie yesterday and another Applesauce cake today for Christmas.  Every time I turn around he's either in the kitchen baking, washing dishes or running out to the store again for more flour, sugar and eggs.  Unfortunately, he left today's cake in too long and he's actually making another one!  Back to the store.  Oh, and he still has homemade bread to make.  You will never catch me in the kitchen doing all that baking.  I just don't have it in me.  I made dinner last night and that was plenty!

      We finally got some presents under our pretty tree.  Tonight we are relaxing at home, well once Mj gets out of the kitchen that is-and then Christmas day at mom's house tomorrow.   Looking forward to it.  Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!!

      Lady of Leisure

      The Good Life.  [Photo Source Here]
      As I drove to work this rainy Monday morning I thought to myself, "Why oh why didn't you just put in for vacation days so you could stay in bed?"  I tend to hoard my vacation hours and we get so much time off this time of year anyways that going to work on Monday and Tuesday didn't seem so bad.  I was fine with it...until I got there.   Well, I've just about made it.  I've got one more day of work and when the clock strikes 5pm tomorrow my Christmas Break is officially on.  I don't have to go back to work until NEXT YEAR on January 3rd so that's 12 days of freedom.  No vacation days required.  My job shuts down for the holidays.  So much so that they have to give us our monthly paycheck for December two weeks early because there isn't anyone working to process payroll.  Last year we traveled to Delaware between Christmas and New Year's Eve but this time every last day is mine to do with whatever I want right here at home.  Which more then likely won't be all that much and that is fine with me.  Whenever I get time off like this that's more then a long weekend where I'm not on vacation and I'm just home I refer to myself as a Lady of Leisure.  It's silly I know, but it's fun to think of myself that way even if it's only temporary. 

      A Lady of Leisure doesn't have to go to work.  She gets to spend her days going about her day to day life without a pesky 9-5 getting in the way.  Her time is really hers and she doesn't have to ask permission or put in a request to do anything.  She gets up when she wants to and can go to bed late without worry.  Her entire day is her own every day and not condensed into 4 1/2 hour increments before bedtime during the weekdays into which everything must be crammed.  She can reasonably make time to cook.  It may not be her "thing" but she's not too tired to get in the kitchen and do it.  She has time to go to the grocery store to pick up extra ingredients and doesn't have to rush home and into the kitchen at 5:30-5:45pm to try to get dinner done by 7pm.  Weekends are never a blur of cleaning, laundry and errands.  A well organized Lady of Leisure can spread all of that throughout the week at her leisure and never really feels too overwhelmed by the crush of backed up chores.  She doesn't have to wait until the weekend to go to her preferred car wash that shuts down at 5pm during the week.  When the car is dirty she goes...and even better she beats the weekend crowd.  A lady of leisure is usually available for all doctor, car, home delivery and home maintenance appointments.  She doesn't have to schedule an appointment to fix the shower door a month ahead for when her next weekday off day rolls around.  If some kind of unexpected errands or a medical issue pops up taking care of them is not a juggling act nor does it require a permission slip.  She does not wait for a 4pm dentist appointment opening and rush from work to make it in time.  Those appointments, like everything else are scheduled at her leisure.   Exercise is not some annoying activity that she has a hard time comfortably fitting into her schedule.  It does not encroach upon her precious free time to the point where she avoids it all together and it's actually an enjoyable part of her life.  Without a one hour time crunch to get back to work she can leisurely meet friends for brunch or lunch.  Happy hour is lovely and all but it's nice to change it up a bit.  If a friend or family member is in town or there is some spur of the moment activity she wants to partake in it's no problem.  On a weeknight?  Ok.  She will probably be there.  She has time for hobbies and/or classes.  A more flexible schedule allows for greater options and without 40 hours spent at work she actually has the energy for it too.  And just think of all the books she can read!

      Might a Lady of Leisure become bored or listless after an extended period of time without work?  Perhaps.  But if her life of leisure becomes unsavory she can always go back to the working woman life.  There is a huge difference between HAVING to work and DECIDING to.  I could go on and on really about the wonders of not having to work for a living.  I haven't even mentioned the opportunity for travel.  The simple day to day things alone make the Lady of Leisure lifestyle an absolutely wonderful prospect.  But where does said Lady of Leisure get her paycheck?  Unless she is independently wealthy, retired or something else in between this lifestyle will not be possible for any extended period of time.  For this unfortunate reason, after 12 days it ends for me and I will be headed back to work.  Nope, I'm technically not a permanent and true Lady of Leisure but it's certainly going to be fun pretending.


      Ready For Some Football

      I always thought football was boring and watching it was mostly a confusing experience that I only went along with because everyone else was so annoyingly captivated.  About three years ago I figured if you can't beat 'em join 'em and put my mind to it to discover the magic and joy of football. Ok, so I wouldn't go that far but I started watching it with people who know football which is mostly everyone and asking questions until I finally got the gist of what the heck was going on enough to enjoy it. I may have been a cheerleader in high school, but up to that point the only thing I knew was that a touchdown was worth 6 points and that they usually kick the ball for a field goal after scoring one.  Now I can partake in all the fun social gatherings surrounding this popular game with actual interest in what's going on.  When people stand up and cheer or boo I know why whereas before I was always a few seconds late and cheered just because everyone else was.  I am not a fanatic.  I find myself spending many a lazy Sunday's alternately watching and falling asleep to whatever football game is on, but now that I have a clue as to what the heck is going on it is fun to watch.
      Pre game.   "Foreigner" sang the national anthem

      Thursday night I went to my first NFL game ever.  It was so cool seeing the ABC booth where Deon Sanders and company provide live commentary for TV.  Being December there was a really fun holiday vibe going on.  The Charger girls were decked out in blue Sexy Mrs. Claus outfits and they had Santa Claus as their cameraman. It was comical and slightly odd watching them gyrate their booties suggestively to "Santa Baby."  I saw something I have never before seen in my entire life.  A line for the men's bathroom.  I looked back and forth between the entrance to the men's bathroom and the trail of men curving around the corner several times in disbelief before I believed it to be true.   That's what they get for drinking all that beer!  I only had about three ladies in front of me in our line.

      It was cold.  So cold that I could not drink a beer even though I wanted one and I didn't bat an eye at spending $5 on hot chocolate.  It actually saved me money because the beers were $10 and it was well worth it for the rush of warmth it sent through my body, if only temporary.  Being at the game was fun and exciting.  The stands were packed, the crowd was pumped, and the home team beat the 49ers 34 to 7.  It can be hit and miss with the Chargers, so I'm really glad we picked a game where they blew the other team out of the water and got to experience a winning game.  These games are loud and you get to yell and scream as much as you want without anyone looking at you sideways...as long as it's for the home team.
      The trolley line
      On our walk back to the trolley my toes were actually numb.  I know that Cali weather's got nothin' on all the madness that's going on in the Midwest but so what.  I'm a Cali girl and I was freezing.  We packed ourselves into the trolley like sardines in a can for the ride back to our cars.  It smelled like stale beer and I almost fell over a couple times, but at least it was warm.

      It sure is different watching the game live.  At first I felt a lost without the running expert commentary and bright blue line showing me where the next down is, but my efforts have paid off.  I am a football fan now.  Kind of.  I know enough to follow along, MJ filled in the blanks, and fun was had by all.

      Love & The Holidays

      There is something about the holidays that makes us love being in love.  The chilly air makes you want to cuddle close.  The pretty twinkly lights beckon for someone special to share them with.  The beautiful Christmas songs suggest love and togetherness with lyrics like, "I'll be home for Christmas" and "All I want for Christmas is you."  We see it on TV too.  The Lexus commercial that shows the beautiful wife come out of her equally beautiful home to find a brand new Lexus with a bright red bow wrapped around it.  A gift from her loving husband.  In the Zale's commercial we see the guy dangling a sparkly diamond necklace outside the window for one lucky woman.  This may or may not cause us to turn and smile expectantly at the man sitting beside us.  And we all know that "Every kiss begins with Kay."  How many women have hoped upon hope to find that diamond engagement ring underneath the tree?  A lot of them do because come January newly engaged couples come out in droves to nail down that wedding venue. 

      The Christmas tree, holiday decorating, chilly weather, sounds of the season, family bonding and ongoing festivities causes some kind of chemical reaction in our brain that makes us want to love and be loved.  We want someone to get all dressed up for and go to holiday parties with.  Someone to take home to our family.  We take such delight in shopping for our significant other and receiving something special in return.  When the clock strikes 12 am on New Year’s Eve it's just not the same without a date.  Even better if that date is your partner in life and that kiss represents the hope and promise of a fresh new year that you will share and look forward to together.  The holidays are a magical time.  Love and festivities are in the air and we all want someone special to hold onto as we enjoy everything going on around us.

      Six years ago right after Thanksgiving I found myself suddenly single after nine years.  It was difficult enough without having it coincide with the full swing of the holidays.  I really wanted to be happy during this time but my life was literally falling apart and I was too busy trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces to be festive.  I took my big sis to the holiday party that year.  It was a blessing in disguise that the relationship ended and I embraced being single and starting fresh.  I love my family but something about the holidays still made me long for companionship and feel like something was missing.  I had a happily single but open to the perfect man attitude all year long but when the holidays rolled around being single suddenly felt depressing and lonely.  The only thing worse was Valentine's day.  My perfect man did come along four holiday seasons later and I now relish the opportunity to share traditions and festivities of such a fun time with my husband.  He was deployed for most of last year but he made it back just in time for Thanksgiving thank goodness because it just wouldn't have been the same without him.   

      There are a lot of break ups just prior to Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced this phenomenon.  Sometimes it's just to avoid spending money on a gift for someone you're not really sure if you like all that much and what could be awkward family meet and greets.  For some, being alone is preferable to the false and empty feeling of being mismatched for the holidays and feeling obligated to go through the motions.  There is also the opposite effect.  Engagements and heartfelt proclamations of love when people realize they don't want to spend another holiday without this amazing person in their life.  The holiday season is powerful.  It serves as a lens through which we view our life and our loved ones taking stock of where we are where we have been and where we are going in the new year.  It is a time of reflection, fun, giving and family.  The holidays may not be about falling in love but there is something about this time of year that makes us want that all the same.

      I Love A Good Holiday Party

      When Mj was interviewing for his current job in January among other questions regarding pay, benefits, location etc one of the first things I asked was, "Do they have a holiday party?"  You see, I have a thing for holiday parties.  I love it that they are during such a fun and festive time of year.  I love it that they give me an opportunity to dress up and go out on a fabulous free date.  Throughout the year it is rare that a dress up occasion comes up aside from something like this. When I worked in insurance I may have hated my job but I loved the holiday party.  I saw it as my reward for the pain and suffering of working there and I never missed a single one.  My current job does a holiday luncheon during the work day which doesn't really count so I was excited that his job goes all out and does the full shebang.
      This tree was probably a good 30 ft tall
      The party was at the Hyatt Hotel and we decided to get a room for the night so we could party as long and as hard as we wanted and not have to worry about driving home.  We don't live that far and it's really not necessary but I love staying the night.  It totally rounds out the full "holiday party experience."   I recycled a dress from who knows how many years ago and I was so glad to have a chance to wear it again.  Hubby looked so fine in his suit. 
      Our new Christmas tree ornaments
      The party set up was a very elegant winter wonderland.  Every couple got four drink tickets, though we managed to get our hands on more, and each employee was entered into a raffle.  There were 10 really great prizes including an iPad, wine country tour and $75 Nordstrom gift certificate.  Unfortunately, Mj didn't win any of them.  We didn't win the actual centerpiece either but we did score 3 additional ornaments for our tree by taking the parts surrounding it.  It was pretty cool to meet his co workers and very surprising that with a few of them it was like they already knew me.  Apparently, I'm just so awesome that Mj talks about me at work-even if it is just to tell them that I fell down the stairs or cut my finger chopping vegetables.  The food was really good and buffet style so we could get as much as we wanted of whatever we wanted-not a good thing for me!   They had the obligatory hokey band doing cover songs from the 80's and beyond.  Why do people insist on bands?   Bands look cool and all and do add to ambiance but for dancing...not so much.  When the DJ was spinning the floor was packed and we got out there too.  The last time we danced together was at our wedding and we had a special song just for us.  Not this time!  We got no special attention which is fine with me since we weren't picking up the tab. 
      On the dance floor
      Acting Silly
      I've been looking forward to this party ever since I found out about it and it did not disappoint.  Mj got tired first.  He may have done a 14 mile bike ride that day but I cleaned the house so I happily took advantage of the the chance to call him an old man.  I cannot say enough about my sexy, strappy, high black heels.  No foot pain whatsoever at the end of a long night.  We both had a blast and then strolled up to our hotel room and slept like rocks.  I love a good holiday party.

      Our First Tree

      I HATE errands.  There are so many other things I would rather be doing on my precious Saturday off then run around to place after place dropping off money getting the car washed, buying groceries, or picking up this or that.  I start out with my list of places to go and it's not uncommon for me to chop of the last stop or two and just get the hell home.  Saturday was different because Mj came along.  Running errands with him is actually fun because we are spending time together.  He sort of got stuck with me for the whole day because his morning flag football game and evening poker game got canceled.  "Sorry baby," I said but inside I was happy that I'd get him all to myself for the whole day.

      blank canvas
      add lights
      The only thing worse then errands is errands on an empty stomach so our first stop was out to breakfast.  Then we headed to Walmart and got ornaments.  At Pier One we got some more goodies for the house then Cost Plus World Market where I spotted an adorable bench that would be perfect for our hallway entry.  Then it was off to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  I decided to chop JC Penny's off and get onto the stop we'd been waiting for all day.  Christmas tree shopping!  There was a bit of a debate over size.  I wanted to get a smaller one but Mj insisted it at least be taller then him.  No Charlie Brown Christmas tree for him.  It just seemed so darn huge.  I've never had space for a tree at all let alone one this size so what do I know?  After getting it into the house I could see that he was right and I love it.

      I played Christmas songs and with a glass of wine nearby had a lot of fun decorating it.  Mj did the lights and I put on the rest of the bulbs while he started dinner.  Mj already had the lights and all the non edible ornaments are from Walmart and Big Lots costing us a grand total of $19 bucks.  I love using real candy canes.  It's like having a candy tree in my own house but since those candy canes don't actually grow I'll probably be buying more to replenish the supply since I plan to eat them right off the tree whenever I want.
      Add ornaments...and there you have it.  Our pretty tree
       I've lived on my own for eleven years and this is the first time I have ever had a tree!!  For mostly the same reasons I'd never had a party.  The studio was too small.  My former apartments were pretty small too not to mention drab.  I just didn't care .  Bah Humbug!  But times have changed.  I have a house and a great husband that makes me want to do things I was too miserable to care about before.  I received some Christmas ornaments here and there over the years as gifts.  It looked everywhere for them but I couldn't find them.  They may show up some day but I suspect I may have gotten rid of them.  I probably figured that I would never be happy enough to want a tree.  I'm so grateful that life is different now.  Real trees can get messy but it's worth it just to have that wonderful pine smell in our house.  It smells like Christmas.

      Cyber Monday Shopping

      Our new bedding
      Macys.com-Calvin Klein
      Mj has been saying for a while that we need a duvet cover for our King down comforter we got as a wedding gift.  When he says we need a duvet cover or anything else housewares related that usually means that I need to find it.  Not in a huge rush to spend more money I kept forgetting to check it out but it has been getting colder so I finally remembered last night.  I browsed a few websites and then it dawned on me.  It's Cyber Monday!  Anyone who has ever bought bedding knows how ridiculously expensive it can be. King sized bed sets can cost $300 or more!  The way it usually works is, I scroll through the inventory and when I find something I like I ask Mj if he likes it.  If he says no then I keep looking until I find something he says yes to. 

      I'm not really into the whole holiday shopping craze. I haven't seen anything I want or don't even know what I want.  I'm just not motivated to expend the energy it takes to get out there this time of year.  Sometimes it's even hard to know if you are really getting a special deal or not.  I  mean, it's probably going to be on sale for the same old price tomorrow and this whole Cyber Monday or Black Friday thing is just the store's way of increasing urgency to bring customers in.  Well, I guess this Cyber Monday thing is for real.  At least for what I got at Macy's.com.  Mj finally said yes to this bedding set so I ran out to my car where I keep all my coupons and dug out a $50 off coupon on $200 + purchase. I resisted the urge to buy those cute little decorative pillows that match.  We only have two with our other bedroom set and they spend most of the time in the corner on the floor.  So this is what I got. 
      • Calvin Klein Cut Flowers Duvet set (Duvet + 2 shams) $99.99
      • Calvin Klein Cut Flowers King Sheet Set ( 1 flat/fitted, 2 cases) $59.99
      • Calvin Klein European Sham $24.99 ea X 2 $49.98 
      Total: $209.96.  I paid $182.53 total with tax including $17.95 for shipping.

      I log onto Macy's.com today to check out prices and these are the post Cyber Monday prices I found:
      • Cut Flowers Duvet $162.99
      • King Sheet Set $89.99
      • European Sham $32.99 X 2 $65.98
      Total:  $318.96

      It was the real deal!  I saved a whopping $109 with Cyber Monday prices and another $50 on top of that with the coupon I had.  Not bad for someone who wasn't even planning on buying anything.  So I'm loving that I got such an awesome deal on an amazing 300 thread count complete bedding set but a little bit disgruntled over the fact that I just spent almost two hundred bucks on our second set of bedding when there are still so many other things we need for the house.  We STILL have mostly blank walls and have hardly any decorating done.  I still need to get that darn patio furniture set I want from Walmart!  Jeez....maybe I should have checked out the Cyber Monday prices on that.

      It's so strange how I was totally shopped out feeling broke and didn't really have any desire or sense of urgency to do any more shopping (even though the house still needs work) but with this one purchase my shopping juices got flowing a little bit and now I want to stop at Pier 1 TODAY to get something I saw online.  Le sigh.

      Relationships are so Hard

      I was reading a friend's facebook status.  She posted "Relationships are so hard."   It's almost a no brainer to me as to why.  She sort of signed up for hard.  She is a 20 something who has shouldered the burden of being the main provider for herself and her 40 something year old boyfriend.  Not only can her boyfriend not fully take care of himself he is also unable to take care of his eight year old daughter so guess who supports her too?  Not only that but there is a crazy baby mama in the mix.  Then she tells me that she is actually the instigator in a lot of their fights.  I guess they deserve each other.  No wonder her relationship is hard but it got me thinking....are relationships really that hard?  Is my relationship "hard?"

      My two previous relationships were in fact very hard but I have since come to realize the reason for that is because I was with the wrong person.  With both relationships they either started out hard or got there pretty quick which was clearly a sign even though I didn't want to see it.  Thank goodness those days are over.  My relationship with Mj has been smooth sailing from the start.  We met, we clicked and we were together.  No trust issues, no petty arguments and no ridiculous miscommunication blunders.  No drama.  We compliment each other and are on the same page.  When I am in a bad mood and feeling like a total bitch I just tell him not take it out on him.  He let's me get through my "mood" and to this day we have never had an argument.  We also keep the lines of communication open.  Our relationship is still young but the same is true of my friend and her boyfriend.  If you can't manage to get along and find a solid level of bliss early on do you really think it's magically just going to come later?  If it's "hard" now then what will it be in five years?  People who struggle and remain in difficult relationships are mostly kidding themselves.  I know because I did it myself.  If he doesn't call you, if you can't trust him, if you argue a lot for no reason or if every other day feels like a new battle then consider the possibility that this is not the person for you.  Unless some major things change the relationship certainly is not going to improve and if you can see that there are no changes taking place then it's probably best to move on.

      Find someone who is right for you and eliminate the struggle.  Someone you don't have to question or wonder about. Someone who doesn't add stress to your life.  Everyone says relationships are hard work and I believe it but am happy to say that thus far mine has not been hard or work at all in any way. Unless you count having to be apart for 11 months which was indeed hard but had nothing to do with flaws in our relationship or how we interact with each other.  That separation presented many challenges but we dealt with them well.  Together.  Given time we may find that things become harder and we have to put in some of that work I keep hearing about to stay strong but I'm really glad to say that at least we didn't have to start out that way.  This reconfirms for me just how right for each other we are.  We have an amazing foundation and when the going gets rough we can draw on that to get through it.  In the meantime I will enjoy my not hard relationship and continue to tell my friend that unless they can change the dynamics of their relationship she needs to move on.  Chances are she will continue to not listen to me and I can only hope that one day she wakes up and realizes it doesn't have to be that way.  Like I did.

      This whole weekend has been great.  Fri-Sun we mostly just hung out, watched movies and watched TV together with just a few little errands and outings and some housework thrown in here and there.  Today was yet another example of a wonderful day with hubby.  We were practically attached at the hip all day as we lounged around, cuddled and watched football all day enjoying our last day of the long weekend.  I love being with him.  There is nothing hard about that.

      Thanksgiving Day Shenanigans

      I love my Cousin B but let's just say that promptness is not one of her strong points.  She arrived at our wedding AFTER the ceremony and normally shows up to family gatherings a couple hours late.   It was with the expectation that nothing would go according to plan that I arrived on her doorstep and I was not disappointed.

      Our presence was requested at 3:00 pm for Thanksgiving dinner.

      2:10 pm- Mj is rushing to finish his bread dough and we make it out of the house only 10 minutes late. We have the furthest drive so my mom offered for us to drive to their house and they would drive the rest of the way to B's.  They want to leave the house by 2:45 pm.

      2:25 pm- I get a call from my mom informing me that we would not be riding with them after all.  My aunt, uncle and nephew have asked to ride up with them and we have just been bumped.  Annoyed, I get the address from my mom and punch it into the GPS so we can just continue on and drive straight there.  I am even more annoyed to find that dad is just waking up and my aunt and uncle are getting dressed.  Uh...how were they supposed to leave at 2:30???  I already know dinner won't be at 3pm.  We could've taken our sweet time instead of rushing out of the house.

      3:30 pm- We arrive at my cousin's house just as my sister, husband and nephew do as well.  Cousin B answers the door in her bathrobe and is still finishing up with her cleaning.  We walk in, take a seat and wait.

      4:00 pm-The hors d'oeuvres are put out for us to munch on.  They obviously just came out of a very low temperature refrigerator and some of them are slightly frozen.  Mj won't eat the wraps.  He eats four of my sister's deviled eggs instead but I love wraps and a little ice doesn't bother me so I eat them anyways.

      4:30 pm-My mom, dad and the rest of the gang FINALLY arrive with the rest of Thanksgiving dinner and more deviled eggs.  They sit down and we chat. Our hostess has gone up to take a shower and get dressed.  We sit and chat and continue to munch on hor's dourves while watching the rest of the football game.

      5:30 pm-My dad is shaking his head and complaining loudly about how he should have stayed home because she doesn't even have the NFL channel and now he can't watch the Bengals VS The Jets. According to my dad if she agreed to host Thanksgiving she should have had the right channel.  So as to not upset the masses my cousin gets on the phone in a jiffy and calls Direct TV to order the channel so that dad will not be deprived of watching a second game on Thanksgiving.

      Meanwhile, we still don't know what's going on with dinner.  The kitchen is suspiciously absent of any food aroma's, the hostess is no where near the kitchen and all the food we brought is still sitting there. We wander in to figure out what we can do to facilitate the process of eating sometime soon. In the kitchen we find Cousin B's boxed mashed potatoes sitting on the counter and corned beef and green beans sitting on the stove.  Big sis and Mj cook and season up the mashed potatoes to try to give them some flavor and fire up the stove to start heating up everything else. Mom brought turkey, corn bread and cranberry sauce.  She realizes that she forgot to bring the yams. My sister brought greens and my aunt brought mac and cheese.  Our contribution was three desserts and homemade bread.  Turns out Cousin B didn't get a chance to make the boxed stuffing she bought.  I don't like stuffing so I don't care but everyone else is a fan so we had to use the stuffing that my mom brought from home especially for Mj.

      Mom and I
      6:30 pm-  Due to the time delay Mj's bread has swelled to 2 times it's expected size.  He realizes that it's still sitting there so he goes in and turns on the oven so he can get it baked.  Unfortunately,  the oven is in some state of disrepair and won't get hot.  The oven is on and he still can touch the grate with his bare hand!  The bread doesn't turn out as well as he wanted it to but we make do.

      Aunt B is asking about the frozen wantons and crab cakes she'd left out.  I had already crammed them back into the shockingly packed fridge.  It was well past appetizer time and if she hadn't made them yet there was no reason to do so now.  We didn't need to make one more thing that would delay dinner. Besides....I don't even know if her oven would have cooked the darn things and the microwave was being used as storage.

      7:00 pm-My younger cousin was so hungry by this time he had a headache. We finally find ourselves standing around the kitchen table saying a blessing so we can eat.  We were all starving so we dig in and go to town on filling up our hungry bellies with some good food.  We can only wonder what she will do with the left overs considering her refrigerator is packed with not even an inch to spare.

      Big sis and lil nephew
      The whole situation was more funny then anything else and I just couldn't resist sharing such a comedy of errors.  Cousin B is smart and capable but hostessing just may not be her thing.  I'm still not sure why she wanted to host Thanksgiving.  I have never seen a house so crammed with extra stuff, her kitchen wasn't exactly functional, and she didn't do much cooking. She has a heart of gold and she means well so ultimately I didn't let anything about the sequence of events leading up to dinner bother me too much.  There may have been a few bumps along the way but she was still nice enough to invite everyone over so I can't be too mad about it.  I still had fun.  I was with my family hanging out and I got to hold my little nephew half the night.  We were all together and even though it took a while we still enjoyed some good food and each other which is really what matters most.

      Giving Thanks

      This is the time of year that we all need to take stock of what we have in our lives that we are grateful for.  Making a list like this is probably harder for some then others.  There are a great many people in this world who are unhappy, struggling, and simply got a raw deal in life.   When I think about all the bad there is in the world out there I know that no matter how far I am from where I wish I was I am damn lucky to be where I am and have plenty to be thankful for.
      • My husband:  I seriously don't know where I would be without this man.  He changed my life.  This time last year he was just coming home from a long 11 month separation.  I'm glad he's home for good...at least for now.
      • My family:  I love them so very much.  I am grateful  that my big sis lives closer now for at least the next five years and that we will get to watch my nephew grow up and that my mom is the best mom I could ever ask for.
      • My job:  I have been so hard on myself in the past for not "being" something better then I am.  But really, when it comes down to it I am lucky to have a job that I like with great health insurance benefits, all the holidays off AND that keeps the bills paid.  Getting a promotion has been a much needed boost for my self confidence and my wallet.  I can only be grateful for that.  There are people in their 6o's working low wage manual labor jobs that basically keep them in poverty.  How difficult must it be to get out of bed and face that every day? I am glad that I don't have to.
      • My health:  I don't get sick a lot.  I don't put into my body everything I should.  I don't exercise enough and I am ever critical of it's appearance but even so it has never failed me. 
      • My home:  Even when I was bursting at the seams in my tiny studio I was always grateful that I had a roof over my head.  Many people in this world dream of having any home at all and I feel so fortunate that we were able to buy our first house together.
      • Finances:  Of course I wish I were rich but I am glad that my finances are in order enough to the point that I have good credit, money saved, and a 403b.  Despite what a big year we had with the house, wedding, and honeymoon we are debt free.  No drowning in debt or high interest rates for us.  I have always lived within my means and didn't have to learn that lesson the hard way.
      I'll be spending Thanksgiving with almost my whole family.  We will miss lil' sis.  She couldn't make it down here again for today but hopefully we will see her at Christmas.   My cousin wanted to host this year so we will be making the drive up there to her house.  I am still in my pajamas and I'm looking forward to a wonderful day of relaxation and hanging out with family.  If I feel this relaxed now...wait until the food coma hits!!

      Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

      Wedding Wednesday: The Reception

      We've arrived!  Let's get this party started

      My little do it yourself centerpieces turned out OK
      [July 10, 2010] The reception was truly the funnest part of the whole day.  By the time we were standing outside the doors waiting for our "grand entrance" I was so ready.  We danced into the room after our bridal party to the tunes of "I Gotta Feeling" and it just got better and better as the night went on.
      Greeting our guests
      We both sat down and ate dinner.   I wouldn't have it any other way as we did in fact pay for it!  I loved sitting there at the front and watching everyone eating and chatting and enjoying themselves.  Then we went around the room to every single table and greeted our guests while everyone was finishing up dinner which was really fun.  I am not normally a social butterfly so I can't believe I did this!  On your wedding night you kinda have to be social and I actually found that it came naturally and I enjoyed it.
      Cheers to US
      After dinner we went right into open mic for toasts. Often times only designated people make speeches during the reception and for some reason it didn't really cross my mind to do that.  I just told the DJ to open it up to anyone who wanted to speak which could go really badly....but in our case it worked out fine.  It went on longer then we expected but it was really special to hear what people had to say.  And the tears just kept on flowing. I absolutely did not realize just how emotional this would be.  Having people you know and love stand up there and share there well wishes on your wedding day is awesome.  You know people care about you but how often do those words actually come out? Not very often, so it was just awesome to give everyone that chance here.
      Toast time was emotional.  I was sobbing!
      After that we went straight into the cake cutting.  I simply had to ignore the fact that my cake was the wrong color or else I would have been mad and I did not want that emotion to invade my wonderful time.  No cake shoving allowed but we did have fun feeding each other.

      That's not my cake!

      Nice and easy
      One of my favorite moments of the entire reception was our dance. I felt like we were in our own little world even though everyone was watching. We whispered, laughed, kissed and hugged through most of it and enjoyed it to the very last note.  The words from "I Turn To You" (Whitney Houston) were PERFECT!!

       Savoring The Moment

      After that I danced with my dad to "Can You Feel The Love Tonight."  Mj and his mom joined in about 1/3 of the way through the song.  Then, we opened the dance floor up to everyone and boogied the night away.  It was the most magical night of my life and I didn't want it to ever end.