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Fun thing one: Birthdays!

We’re entering that time of year when the birthdays pile up. Greg was a week ago, Rae and Cara were this past weekend, and upcoming over the next two-three months are Amy, Ella (who will go from my favorite 1-year old to my favorite 2-year old!), Nate, Shelly, John and all sorts of other people.

Makes sense when you think about it–9 months after Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day!!

We had dinner at Greg’s sister’s house for his birthday last Monday night.

Saturday was Rae’s party, with a private catered chef and vodka infusions and everything. Super classy, and tons of fun, though it always reminds me when we hang out with her and Aaron about things like that that John and I are definitely in a lower tax bracket. Still, nice to enjoy it for an evening, and mixed berry vodka infusion is amazingly good!

Cara’s party was Sunday, with sushi followed by seeing a local cover band at a local bar. The two guys in the bad were really good, and really funny. They’ll be playing at James and Cara’s wedding, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. Not quite in the same league as Rae’s party, but Cara’s was very familiar and fun.

Now I’m trying to come up with some fun things to send Amy for her birthday this Friday, other than what she’s asked for. It’s always nice to have some surprises, don’t you think? Any ideas on small, light weight stuff that a person living on their own for the first time could use?

Fun thing two: Vacations!

Man, tons of people are taking vacations at this time of year. Elizabeth and Matt went off on their honeymoon (well, yes, more than a vacation, but still), and Sydney and her boy went to New York and Puerto Rico–I didn’t even get to see her in between her trips, but I’m hoping to catch up with her before we leave soon! James and Cara were up in the Pacific Northwest, and Nate and Shelly are about to head off to Greece.

And where are John and I going? Well, two weeks from Thursday, we leave for 2-3 weeks involving sun, sand, and diving. Here’s a hint: We’re not going to Australia, but we’ll have two 24-hour layovers in Brisbane on the way there and back. Any suggestions for places to eat, things to do, sights to see?

From there we’re off to Papua New Guinea–the last frontier in diving, theoretically. Everyone we’ve ever talked to has said it’s the best diving we’ll ever do. We’ll be at a very remote resort for a handful of days, then 11 days on a luxurious live aboard, diving to our heart’s content. At the resort, we’ll have access to the world’s best “muck diving”–diving to see all the little creatures that live in the silt at the bottom–plus skull caves, amazing hikes, and all sorts of cool birds and animals and fish. My goals, above water, to see a bird of paradise and an echidna–my dad has never even met anyone who’s seen a PNG echidna, so I want to try!

It should be an amazing vacation, full of as much relaxation or as much go-go-go diving as we want it to be. I can’t wait, and there’s still more than two weeks to go!!

Oh well, I’ve got some birthdays between now and then to tide me over. 🙂

You know what breaks my heart faster than anything ever?

It’s that hiccuping, gasping sob as Amy tries to hold back her tears long enough to say hello to me on the phone before she breaks down.

When she’s feeling down and lost, she calls me. And usually only gets out “Hi, how are you?” before she loses her composure.

And even after my moment of panic–what’s wrong? is she okay? are my parents okay?–passes, my heart just aches as I listen to her cry over the phone line, from hundreds of miles away, and all I can do is say “It’s okay!” without really knowing what’s wrong or if it really is okay.

Today, it was mostly low self-esteem/confidence leading her to feel that she wasn’t good at her job, that she was just fooling the people that she works with into thinking she’s competent, and that she’ll never make friends in the tiny town she’s just moved to.

This, from a girl with more friends than you can shake a stick at. From the girl that moved 1800 miles away to go to college, and ever after calling me nearly every night crying her freshman year, stuck it out and ended up loving her life in California. From the girl that then moved 3000 to the opposite coast and started over, making new friends and new contacts, with a new job and a new school and a new life plan and a new boy who is, I hope, going to be the love of her life.

She is strong and competent and smart and funny and friendly and organized. She’s good at her job. I know this without even knowing much about her job–simply because the things her job requires are things she excels at. She always makes friends, even if it takes time and effort–she will in this new place, too. And at the end of the year, if she’s still not happy, she can find a new job back out east, near the boy who she has fallen in love with.

I told her all this, and encouraged her to think positively and to choose to feel good about herself and to go see the boy and to come visit me and to call anytime she needs or wants to and to ask people to do things with her in an effort to make friends and to see that she is good at her job. And. And. And.

I don’t know how much of it broke through to her crying on the other end, but eventually the sobs stopped and she even laughed at a joke or two. It will help, until the next time her self-confidence takes a nose dive.

(As a side note, why are girls cursed with such low self-confidence? If there was one thing I could wish for anyone I knew, any daughter of mine, it would be self-esteem and self-confidence. Alas.)

In any case, I think it helped tonight, and it will help for a little while. And her weekend visit to the boy will help even more, I’m sure.

But sooner or later, my phone will ring again, and she’ll start to cry all over again, and my heart will break all over again. Because when that happens, I want nothing more than to maker her life all okay, to hug her and tell her it will get better, and instead, all I can do is hold the phone and talk to her for however long it takes for her to not cry.

That’s what sisters are for, I suppose. And I’ll be there, on the end of the line, however long she needs me.

My sister graduated from Harvard today with a Masters in Higher Education.

And promptly got a job offer.

I couldn’t be prouder of her and her accomplishments of the past year!

A lot of people have been graduating recently.

A person I know peripherally has graduated from 8th grade.

A person I used to know well in college and still keep in touch with defended his thesis last week, and was out here applying for post-doc positions this week. This was actually great timing–I got together with some other college buddies from the area, and we all hung out and reminisced, eventually shutting down two different bars. (Come to think of it, this is probably why I’m so exhausted this week. Good times.)

Another person I know here just defended her thesis today.

James F just graduated with his teaching credentials this past week–the party starts in a little over an hour!

Plus, a number of my classmates are aiming to graduate this year, and are probably walking at the ceremony here in two weeks.

Biggest and most important of all, my sister graduates next week with her masters degree from Harvard.

I wish them all big congratulations, and luck in all their future endeavors.

Overall, this is giving me hope that some day, I might join their lucky ranks. Maybe even in the not-too-ridiculously-distant future!

I’ve spent a ton of time lately working on a manuscript to give my boss, and the more time I spend working on it, the less time I want to spend sitting around writing other things. So, not so many posts lately.

But now I’m just sitting in front of the computer exporting image files to TIFF files, individually, one at a freaking time, in 5 different color combos, and I’m about to go mad from boredom. I’m really hoping the time this is taking is because John’s old computer is so slow, and thus it’ll be faster if I can find a computer at work, but it may just be the program.

One hour and 47 images down, millions of both to go.

So what have I been up to?

1. We went out and bought a couple hundred dollars worth of school supplies for the school in Fiji–it’s amazing just how much you can get for so little. Now, of course we have the problem of shipping this stuff there. That might actually cost more than the supplies themselves, but it’s a price we all (the people from the trip) are glad to pay. I just feel bad that it took us so long to go and do this!

2. I’ve screwed up my neck/shoulder/side muscles through some random combination of work and diving. The extent apparently has to do with my body trying to compensate for, say, my neck muscle being sore, and thus holding my shoulder funny, thereby injuring it as well. I am not amused. The chiropractor thinks she can help, but if not, I’m off to physical therapy. Grouch. That said, I’d like to be able to dive and bike again soon, so I’m doing what I can. Frankly, there are days when I’d like to take a deep breathe (or sneeze or yawn or whatnot) without intense side pain as if from a stitch. Grouch.

3. We’re going to visit my grandparents this weekend. They’ve been moved down to California, although they would probably term it “they’ve moved to California.” They haven’t done so well this past year, and fall (the month, although it did involve some falls) was hard on them. I couldn’t go help out, as I felt like I’d already taken off so much time to be with my mom, but now I can go and see them and take care of them whenever. Or just visit them. They’ve moved down here to be close to two children and their families instead of just one. Maybe this means my parents will come visit more? I hope!

4. Speaking of which, my mom Facebook’d me. I was amused. And yes, I accepted. I’ve always approached that site with the theory that, if I didn’t want my parents/boss to see it, it wouldn’t be on there. So why not? I’m wondering a bit about my sister, though.

5. We have back-to-back-to-back-to-back scuba classes starting tonight. I didn’t go down to help, but I might get in the pool if I can weasel permission from the doctors. This schedule is going to take the combined work of our entire staff. Le sigh.

6. We had brunch a week or so ago with Elizabeth and Mark, and found an awesome crepe place to add to our list of enjoyable restaurants. Plus, it was just a lot of fun.

7. On the opposite side of the spectrum, James M wanted to get together for dinner Tuesday night. When he was late, I texted. And apparently woke him up. Frankly, we were okay with being stood up. Less awkwardness, as he still hadn’t quite caught on to the fact that most of us are incredibly fed up with him and his lack of help to our scuba staff. Especially with the upcoming classes…

8. My goal for 2009 was to declutter my life. Not so much a New Year’s resolution, which is made to be broken, but a plan to feel better about living in a small apartment with a lot of stuff meant decreasing the amount of stuff. To that end, we took 7 bags of stuff to the Goodwill last Saturday. And that was only one room’s worth!

9. John finally, finally, has a full weekend off this coming weekend. First since December. He still has a job, so I’m not complaining, and I understand that his schedule is wacky because his boss is rearranging the whole schedule to maximize the full-timers, thus (a) protecting them and (b) minimizing the amount of time he has to pay his part-timers. This sucks for them, but not much I can do about it. That said, the lack of weekends off together combined with the number of late nights he’s working isn’t fun.

10. Sydney and I haven’t gotten together much recently, what with her crazy shifts around the holidays, my trip home, and now her trip to Thailand. But she’s home and we’re having dinner Monday! Woot!

Okay, ten seems like a good number. It seems like all I’ve been doing lately is working, going to the doctor, or going out to eat. I’m sure there’s more to my life than that, but maybe not.

Oh, yes, there was the massive Target run and clearing them out of all conceivable school supplies. Fun!

Anyways, John’s almost home and the San Jose Sharks are playing, as are the Stanford boys’ basketball team, so I think it’s officially time to call it a day and shut down the image analysis. Gee, darn!

Each time I’ve talked to my parents lately, it’s been frigidly cold, possibly snowing. I don’t miss that about Iowa.

I am, to be sure, a cold-blooded person. I require external sources of warmth to maintain my body heat, since clearly my metabolism isn’t up to the job. Bah.

That said, when my sister Amy posts a pic of herself making a snow angel in beautiful new foot-deep snow on Faceb**k, and my mom sends me an email about how the sun dogs were out this morning, and I think of how nice it is to play in the snow for a bit before heading inside to sit by the fire and thaw, then I miss Iowa.

Just a teeny tiny bit, but enough.

However, it’s only worth it when you can play outside or stay wrapped up inside. The moment you actually have to go about your daily life, it’s not quite so fun. Alas.

My parents are home, safe and sound, and we’ve had a wonderful two days together. Sadly, John and I are headed home tomorrow, but I may be coming back soon.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time with my in-laws, and with my sister and now my parents, and have had a lovely time. Part of the charm of being with my in-laws was the complete lack of internet, which meant that, while I couldn’t check my email, I also didn’t need to worry about it! It was kind of nice being so sequestered for a week. We did manage to get a few texts in and out of the dead zone, so we weren’t completely without contact, and got to talk to my parents when they were on the way back from The End Of The Earth. In the meantime, my mother-in-law fed us every chance she got, we played lots of cards, and even did some sledding when the wind stopped blowing for awhile.

We came to my parent’s house a bit early to help Amy get it ready–decorated the tree, stocked the fridge, cleaned the house–and then rewarded ourselves with Thai food and “Marley and Me”, which I can highly recommend as an excellent, if tear-jerking, movie! Especially for those of you who’ve ever had a dog to love!

With my parents back, we’ve been to all sorts of doctor’s offices (all things are good!) and done some shopping, as well as quite a bit of fancy cooking. Today we had Christmas celebrations in the morning and New Year’s celebrations in the afternoon–holidays should always be spread out like this!

In any case, I’m off to squeeze in a few last hours of family time.

May 2009 bring you the joys of 2008 but none of the heartache. Here’s to joy and health and love and living life!

I’m having trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year. Not that I’m not excited, but I’m not. Not really. And I think I used up all my useless posting ideas with NaBloPoMo. Ba humbug.

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my parents just left for the distant reaches of the planet, shepherding a bunch of college students, and won’t be back until the 30th. Christmas is just going to have to wait.

They’ve done this several times in the past, and this is the second time they’ve missed Christmas, but it’s a bit depressing.

Yes, we’re going home. Yes, Amy will be there. Yes, we’ll be with John’s family until my parents get back into town.

Right up until we fly home on the 2nd. Thus, I effectively get two full days with my parents. And of course Northwest wanted an exorbitant sum to change my ticket after my parent’s tickets got changed to come back later.

Ba humbug.

Bitchy McBitcherson in full force here, thankyouverymuch! Sorry, I’m off to go get drunk.

Niece/nephew #7 is on the way. This is Niece/nephew #2 from the youngest brother-in-law, following 5 from his slightly older sister (and all 5 before she was 25, too).

And no, this one isn’t planned or accounted for in any way, either, as far as we know.

Just like all the other kids these two have popped out over the years. (Okay, for all I know, SIL’s kids 3/4 [twins] may have been planned. But given that mom and dad divorced before they were born? Bah.)

And no, the prospective grandma doesn’t know yet, either. Joy–do we tattle and tell her, or not?

Meanwhile, Nate and Shelly are starting in on BabyQuest2008 and,given some issues, may or may not ever be successful. These are issues that I theoretically at one time shared (and worry sometimes that I still do), and that Amy does share. Close to home, eh?

Why is it that the people least suited to become parents sometimes seem to be the most fertile??

Because none of these are a “one time oops” story. They’re mostly a “we’re too stupid lazy busy something to go get FREE birth control from Planned Parenthood” kind of story.

Yes, this sort of thing happens, and I get that, but this often to people in a situation less suited to raising children? To people who can’t take care of themselves? To people who social services already visit on a regular basis? To people who are in and out of drug rehab, alcohol rehab and mental care?

God (or someone) help these poor children.

Fiji stories will return when I’m thinking in more than just swear words.

Well, you were all right. My friend and I spent a decent amount of time catching up, with very few lags in the conversation. It was nice to hear how she’s been doing, and what she’s up to now, as well as to catch up on some mutual friends.

We had a lovely lunch, and then I took her by Elizabeth’s place. Elizabeth was actually home, since her class was cancelled, and they invited me to stay and hang out, but I had to throw together social hour for my department. It was my lab’s turn, and no one in my lab cares much, so I always end up doing. It’s not a big deal–that way I get to pick the beer and food (found a lovely apricot ale) AND I get to take home all the opened food that won’t last two weeks until the next social hour. It has it’s own rewards, most of which I took to John’s work place to feed his staff, as they’re having a sale weekend and were running around like crazy.

I actually ended up spending almost the whole of my Saturday at his work place, helping out for free but also getting to gossip with friends who stopped by and schmooze with the reps who came by. It was pretty productive, and the sale was good. I did run home for a few hours to write a character reference for James F, who’s going to be looking for substitute teaching jobs shortly, but that was it.

Right after work, John and I met up with James and Cara and headed to that all-american restaurant, Hooters.

Let me just say, I’ve never been to Hooters before, and it was both better and worse than I imagined. It was Cara’s birthday, and she wanted to go somewhere friendly that served beer and wings. I’m not sure why Hooters came up, but we even managed to talk James into going. Nate and Shelly came, as did the other James and Greg, so we had a nice little scuba gang to hang out with in among all of Cara’s work friends and non-scuba friends. Everyone mixed fairly well, but in the end we all sort of gravitated to the people we knew, so Cara spent a lot of time running between groups.

They did have very good beer and wings, as well as shrimp and onion rings, although their garlic fries left something to be desired. Cara’s parents even picked up the entire tab, as well as ordered 3×50 wings for about 20 people. That was way more than we could eat, but was super generous of them.

Cara had a blast–the tequila shots saw to that–and James managed to get the Hooters girls to sing to her and the other birthday people there. They did the Hooter Pokey (or some such thing)–it appeared to the rest of us as an excuse to wiggle and hopefully improve tips. All I can say is that I hope those girls want to be working there. I wouldn’t, but if they do, good for them.

I haven’t talked to Cara yet today to see how she’s doing, but she was a pretty happy girl when we got back to her place, and James finally put her to bed not to long after. The rest of us continued to celebrate for her in Guitar Hero-style for an hour or so, then went our separate ways.

John’s back at work today, and doesn’t get a day off until next weekend, at which point he gets a 5. day. break. I’d like to take some time off there, too, but I’m waiting to see how radiation goes for my mom this week. If it goes well, I don’t think there’s much reason for me to go home to help, so in that case, I may take a day or two off with him. We’re going camping on Friday and Saturday, then diving Monday. I may need Tuesday to recover, frankly.

And while I’m sure my boss would give me the time to go, I don’t want to abuse that trust and take a week off unless I’m really needed at home. I’ll probably save the time and use it to go to the wedding in October if I can find plane tickets that are cheap enough–my friend who’s getting married will understand the “poor student who can’t afford plane tickets” reason for not coming to her wedding, but if I can make it there, I’d really like to.

The other alternative is to go visit Amy after she moves to Boston, especially if she’s having a hard time settling in. She’s been working in a cooking store, so she has more than enough kitchen gadgets to choke a horse (but thanks for the idea, Renn!), but I’m thinking that a funny care package will be good for just after she gets there, followed possibly by a visit from a friendly face.

At least gas prices are coming down a bit. Now if only plane ticket prices would, too.

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