Christmas stuff

I am thinking I might start doing Christmas early in November instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving. That way I would have more time to get everything done that I want to get done. Plus, Christmas is a nice time for me. I like Christmas. Maybe it would help me feel better to be festive.

However, I am wearing shorts today. It seems sort of ludicrous to be thinking about Christmas.

But. Last year I barely managed to get any cards out. I would like to do it properly this year. Maybe finally write a “Christmas letter” like people do. But at least send cards to everyone I usually send cards to. If I can get the cards done in November, I can concentrate on cookies in December.

I thought about starting slow, just getting the card stuff out and putting up the decorations later, but the decorations are taxing enough when I don’t have heart failure, so I think it would be smart to get them out of the way first. I can enjoy them longer, and I won’t have the stress of “Oh no, I haven’t put up my tree yet, am I even going to?”

So long, 2011. You were pretty awesome.

As the new year approached, I saw more and more of my friends posting status updates about how they were ready to see 2011 go. In many ways, I guess it has been a rough year. But I can’t help but think back on it fondly, despite the bad things that happened–the desperate situation our country is in, the hate and pain and suffering and disasters breaking out across the world. For me, 2011 was a year of growth and change and renewal and family and generosity. It was a year filled with love and hope. I want to take the power of what 2011 ignited in me and go out and share it with everyone.

I feel refreshed. I feel empowered. I feel ready.

We started the year embroiled in change. Sean had accepted a new job, and we were in the middle of a long period in which he commuted to Atlanta from Augusta for a week or two at a time. In February I hit the five-year mark at my own job, and wrote about it here. We moved to the Atlanta area at the beginning of March. I took a week off from work to coordinate the move, then went back to Augusta for a week to wrap up loose ends before beginning an approximately three-month-long period of telecommuting. I got a red velvet See You Soon cake :)

red velvet cake
After that week was over, it was back to the new apartment, which I had spent several weeks towards the end of 2010 selecting from the plethora of choices near Sean’s workplace. I wanted new or renovated apartments, nice facilities, a good location, and access to nature. I found everything I wanted, and we’ve been very happy with our new home this past year. Here’s a little something I wrote about it at the end of March.

We slowly started exploring our side of town and discovering new haunts. One of our first discoveries, Hashiguchi, ended up closing, much to our dismay. There are several other Japanese places in the area, but none have the same feel. We also discovered an Italian place, though, Scalini’s, which quickly became a favorite. And at our friend Will’s recommendation we checked out J. Christopher’s, a breakfast and brunch place, and fell in love. It’s currently my go-to restaurant (assuming I break for lunch early enough), just as the Boll Weevil was my go-to restaurant in Augusta. (They even have a door that creaks the same way!)

There’s a lot of shopping in our area as well, and as time went on I started to explore more and more of Vinings, Smyrna, and Marietta. One of my favorite landmarks is the infamous Big Chicken. Sean loves the Micro Center, which is kind of reminiscent of CompUSA. They pricematch, so he can get his quick technology fix.

Of course, there’s plenty to do in the rest of the Atlanta area. We’ve been to a comic book store in Buckhead; a Japanese restaurant, Korean barbecue, and Fry’s in Duluth; Super H-Mart, which is like Walmart for Asian food, off Peachtree Industrial; charming downtown Decatur; the aquarium and the World of Coke; the Atlanta History Center; and more. One day I drove around looking at all the furniture stores I could find, including IKEA…that was an adventure! And still so much more awaits us.

One great thing about living in Atlanta has been seeing our friends Charles and Heidi so much. I had taken several road trips from Augusta to Atlanta to visit them in the past, but now we’re free to do stuff together whenever we want! We have lots of dinners out, and we love going hiking and to cultural or interesting Atlanta destinations as well.

Heidi and Charles
For the next few months, my life consisted of telecommuting, trying to get the apartment in order, and exploring Atlanta. In May, since I was telecommuting anyway, I headed up to Kentucky and surprised Mom for Mother’s Day.

Then, around the middle of June, the station hired my replacement, so I went back to Augusta for my last two weeks to train her. On my way, I took a detour for a weekend in Savannah and had myself a nice little mini-adventure.

It was wonderful to see everyone in Augusta again. I stayed with Sean’s parents, which was really nice. I tried to get together with as many friends as possible. Brandon even managed to pull together some of the old lunch crew from years and years ago…it was awesome.

the old lunch crew
I spent some time on my last day running around getting pictures with everyone. Then, for my last night in Augusta, I spent the night at Brooke and David’s, and had breakfast with them at Cracker Barrel the next morning before heading home to Marietta.

Brooke and David
It was a wonderful last two weeks of work and a wonderful two weeks in Augusta.

Sean’s friend Adam came to visit while I was still out of town, and when I got back we took him around the neighborhood and out for sushi and frozen custard.

After that, I went back to Kentucky for the 4th of July. The fact that I was able to see my family so much was a big part of why last year was so amazing. On this visit I went swimming; I helped my brother with some sod on an area he’d leveled around a tree for seating; I spent lots of time with my nephews, including an awesome camping trip to Natural Bridge with their family; I ate ribs and fried chicken and corn on the cob and watched fireworks; I took a zillion pictures of my niece; I went shopping and out to eat with Mom; I went up to the farm and took awful pictures of the moon…basically, I had the best time ever.

And then I went to New York!

Sean’s job sent him up to the West Point area, and I got to tag along. I spent a week exploring the towns and villages along the Hudson River, including Highland Falls, Newburgh, Fishkill, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie. In Fishkill, I found a sign for the Great Indian Warrior Trading Path, which ends in Augusta. Here’s the sign and its Augusta counterpart:

Fishkill signAugusta sign
I have a few detailed summaries of my adventures around “downstate New York” that I wrote back in July. I will be posting them here shortly. In brief, my first day was spent exploring Highland Falls and Boscobel House; my second day, I went to the West Point Visitors Center and Museum, then Sean and I checked out Washington’s Headquarters. The third day was quite busy. First I went to the Van Wyck Homestead, where the above Warrior Path sign stands, then explored the lovely city of Beacon. After that I headed over to the Samuel Morse house and museum, where I also took in a car show. After that I had the singular moment of the whole New York trip, an unplanned visit to the Eleanor Roosevelt home, Val-Kill. I’ve written much more on that experience in the upcoming post; suffice it to say I’m not the same person I was before I went. I also checked out the FDR Presidential Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion grounds, then finished up my day on the Poughkeepsie riverfront. This day might possibly be the best day I spent in New York state; it is rivaled only by the next glorious day, when I took the train down to New York City.

At Grand Central Terminal, I met up with my friend Matt, who I hadn’t seen since our very first (and my last) Governor’s Scholars Program reunion, a zillion years ago. (Here we are on a boat.)

Matt and me
Matt was an amazing tour guide. I got to see so much. Since we only had one day, we concentrated on Manhattan. Matt’s recommended three-hour boat tour showed us many of the sights with views we couldn’t have gotten up close. The angles we saw of the Statue of Liberty (starting here) were spectacular.

Statue of Liberty
After the boat tour, Matt and I walked and rode the subway to a few places I was interested in seeing. This included…the apartment building used as the exterior shot for Monica and Rachel’s apartment in Friends!

Friends apartment
We also went to Times Square and Central Park, then walked up 5th Avenue to get back to Grand Central Terminal and head off our separate ways.

I hope to write in much more detail about this part of the trip later. It was a long, wonderful day, and an excellent endcap to my time in New York state. I spent the next day relaxing and recovering from two whirlwind days of awesome, then had one more mini-adventure in Cornwall-on-Hudson before Sean and I headed home.

After we got back from New York, Sean’s parents came to visit us for the first time in our new apartment. It was great to show them our place and give them a feel for our neighborhood. We took them around to our favorite haunts, and the next day we did some touristy things. It was a good visit.

Finally, there was a lull in the whirlwind of travel and visits, and I took that time to resume looking into weight loss surgery. The original plan had been to do the surgery once we lived in Atlanta, after all, and various health issues were making it obvious that the time to act was now (if it hadn’t already passed). Unfortunately, just as I started doing the paperwork for a local surgeon, we ran into some difficulties that meant it was impossible to have the surgery done here. This culminated in a trip to San Francisco as soon as I got all my medical clearances out of the way, which ended up being the end of September.

I was blessed to stay with family and thrilled to get to see much of San Francisco before my surgery date. I had never been there before–until then, the furthest west I’d traveled in the United States had been Texas–and I was excited to see everything I could. I was awed by the natural beauty of the Marin Headlands and Muir Woods and the sculpted elegance of Golden Gate Park. My uncle even took Mom and me on a drive down the famous Lombard Street on our way to an open-top bus tour which later offered us an excellent view of same.

One great thing about being in San Francisco was that I got to see my friend Hai again.

Me and Hai
We hadn’t seen each other since our first in-person meeting in Cincinnati back in April of 2008, though we’ve known each other for far longer than that thanks to the AMRN. We met up at Hog Island Oyster Company for lunch, and it was awesome. Hai is a fellow foodie, so he and Mom and I tried oysters, lobster, and a grilled cheese sandwich–an excellent last big meal before weight loss surgery ;)

The next few days were taken up with surgery prep, the surgery itself, and in-hospital recovery. I was eager to go back to my relatives’ house, so I pushed myself to walk as much as I could as soon as possible. The surgery was September 26, and I was released on the 29th.

I wrote a little about what I expected the surgery to be like here. I may write what it was actually like someday, or I may not. I never really have been one to dwell on that sort of thing. I don’t care to write about all my experiences when I had leukemia, either. Frankly, I don’t fully remember them, and I don’t really want to. Yes, I’ve had cancer, heart problems, sleep apnea, obesity, weight loss surgery–but these things don’t define me. They’re just things I’ve gone through. They are a part of what has made me what I am, but what I am has also been a part of what defeated them. Their role in my life is (or will soon be) over.

However, I will probably write about how weight loss surgery has changed me, because my approach to food is completely different now. I have a tiny stomach. I don’t absorb nutrients well, so I need to focus on getting as much protein as possible. Sugar and carbohydrates can shoot my weight loss in the foot. And white bread, white rice, and artificial sweeteners other than sucralose cause unpleasant gastic side effects for me.

These factors mean I don’t eat at all like I did before. Now I go for the meat first. I don’t eat much bread, and when I do it’s whole wheat. I don’t typically have, or even want, dessert, because by the time I’m done eating my few bites of dinner, I’m full. But I’ll get hungry again in a few hours, so I’ve started trying to keep higher-protein snacks around, like nuts and edamame. I also rely on Atkins shakes and bars for the times when I need protein fast. Since an all-protein diet can cause hard stools, I’m working to incorporate fiber when I can. I also have to make sure to drink a lot of water, not only because my new gastrointestinal configuration leeches it away, but because I’m taking a diuretic to treat my pseudotumor cerebri until I’ve lost enough weight to “cure” it permanently.

I also take a lot of supplements to get vitamins and minerals. I have to take a particular kind that my intestines are able to absorb. This will continue for the rest of my life.

Despite these constraints, you have no idea how freeing it is to not be a slave to food. I had no idea how much control food had over me. I thought I did…but I didn’t. I knew I was miserable. I knew I felt trapped. I knew I ate emotionally, or out of habit, or whenever someone else was eating, or because something looked delicious. But it never sank in just how addicted I was to food until, suddenly, I wasn’t anymore.

I told Sean, “I wish there was a surgery to help people stop smoking.”

This is not to say that going through weight loss surgery and recovery is easy. It is not. It is a lot of work, and you have to have the right attitude going in–the attitude that you are going to kick ass and take names because you are awesome. You have to know your stuff. And there will be times, many times, when you don’t want to eat, and you will have to force yourself to do so.

This concept is so alien to the former me that I don’t think I could even begin to explain it to her.

No, it’s not easy, but it works. If you know what you’re doing, if you have the right attitude, if you follow the steps you need to follow…you will lose weight. And you’ll keep losing weight. You’ll feel better than you have in years. The fact that it actually works will keep you positive, and you’ll keep going, and you’ll keep losing weight, until you hit your healthy balance and stop. I’m not there yet, but as of today I’ve lost 64 pounds…more than I’ve ever been able to lose trying to diet on my own. On my own, I had to battle my food addiction every day. Now, with this surgery, that enormous factor is simply gone. I still enjoy food…but I don’t have to have it, and I often don’t even want it.

I’m free.

Immediately after my surgery, I had to rest and recover, but also keep myself moving so I wouldn’t lose muscle strength. I felt good the majority of the time and it wasn’t long before I was off painkillers–a benefit of laparoscopic surgery is that fewer nerves get distressed. Of course, this can also be a con, if you feel so “normal” that you try to do too much too soon and end up injuring yourself. Since I’m the go-getter type, I was in danger of just that. The day after I was released from surgery, I went on a shopping trip with my mom and aunt! It was brief enough, but I tired out extremely quickly. Thankfully I hadn’t messed anything up, but looking back on it now, I’m sort of surprised at myself. I took a weekend off and relaxed with family, but then I went crazy again and accompanied my mom and aunt to Costco! Actually, I did far better than you might expect, and only felt like falling over and dying towards the end of the excursion. We sat down at the little cafe to give me time to recover, then headed back to the house.

After a checkup the next morning, my mom and aunt and I finally got the weather we were after for some Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline shots.

Golden Gate Bridge
After that we sort of just drove around looking at things. We had lunch in Sausalito, which is awesome because I’ve always wanted to say I’ve been to Sausalito (the name is cool!), and then we did a tiny bit of grocery shopping. I was getting stronger and stronger. Still, the next two days were spent relaxing and recovering from all that wandering around. Then my aunt’s dear friend came up for a visit–I’d previously met her on my first trip to Savannah–and we had a lot of fun going around the area with her. (Enjoy this nasty picture of my lunch from our day shopping in Mill Valley…I was still getting the hang of ordering protein-rich food.)

Thus ended my first-ever visit to San Francisco. So much more happened, and there was so much more that I wanted to see. Hopefully someday I will write in more detail about the trip, and I definitely plan to go back!

Obviously, after having surgery, I wasn’t really up to my usual sort of self-reliant behavior. I had to lean on Sean a lot for help with the most simple of tasks, like getting the laundry out of the washer and dryer, putting away the dishes, bringing in the groceries, moving things, etc. It was a little frustrating not being able to just do everything myself, but I persevered. While I wasn’t supposed to carry much weight or reach over my head, I was allowed and encouraged to go up and down stairs, which was good, since we live on the “garden level” (below the first floor). While I recovered I focused on walking for exercise. I did a lot of reading, breaking into the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin for the first time. I also did a little more writing in November than usual.

I did leave the apartment for one event while I was still in the recovery and adjustment period, and that was A Web Afternoon on October 22. I saw my friends Chris and Will, and organizer J. Cornelius apparently recognized me from when I attended the Webmaster Jam Session back in 2008, which is pretty cool of him. The event was really inspiring and interesting; the speakers had somewhat diverse messages and delivery methods, but they were all very enthusiastic about the web.

The end of November heralded a weeks-long flurry of travel for Sean and me. First, on November 22, we headed to Augusta for an early Thanksgiving with Cheryl and Reid, plus Cheryl’s brother Michael and his girlfriend Michelle. I made corn casserole, and I swear Michael ate about half the pan! Michelle is from China, and I got to hear a lot of interesting stories from her past–how she was sent to work on a farm by the government as a child, and how she worked hard to help her family. It was a nice visit, and the food was great. Cheryl really pulled out all the stops.

Sean, me, Reid, Cheryl, and Michael
After a brief stop in Brooke and David’s driveway to say hello, we headed back to the ATL. But I turned around the very next day and drove to Kentucky!

One of the highlights of the visit was seeing my beautiful niece, who turned 1 on November 5. She’s grown so much!

Daphne and Ben

Daphne and Ben

Given my new post-weight loss surgery reality, I wasn’t able to eat much at Thanksgiving dinner–here’s my plate. I ate all the turkey, and maybe half of everything else. It was great to just be there with my family though…I love seeing everyone!

Uncle Steve stopped by during my Thanksgiving visit home, which was great; he’s always a trip.

The day after I got back from Kentucky, I jumped into the car again for a quick weekend in Augusta. I’d been wanting to visit Brooke and hang out with people for awhile, and this was the only weekend left in the year that would work for both of us. It may have been a mistake to try to squeeze it in there–I ended up exhausted and unable to do nearly as much with Brooke as I’d hoped–but I was at least glad to see her, and to visit my friends at the station and have Teresa’s with Brandon, Ed, and Arturo. Brooke and I had dinner with Mari at Kinja, too, which was great.

Mari and Brooke

Mari and Brooke

I squeezed in a quick breakfast with Chris and Kenny and a stopover at the in-laws’ before heading back to Atlanta on Saturday. My biggest regret from the trip is not spending more time with Brooke…that will be rectified next time.

After the Augusta trip, I mercifully had two weeks in which to relax…theoretically. In reality, I had to decorate the apartment, wrap Christmas presents and prepare holiday cards. Yes, even though we were going out of town for Christmas, I still put up our tree. It was beautiful, so I think it was totally worth it! (Technically it still is beautiful…I need to take it down…) These activities brought me much more joy than annoyance. I was thrilled that I could finally give decent Christmas presents to family members; it had really been too long. I had a lot of fun selecting everyone’s gifts.

Sean and I also went to his work Christmas party the weekend of December 10. It was held at Stone Mountain Park, and we decided to spend the night at the hotel and go see the sights the next day. It was an utterly romantic weekend. I’d lost enough weight that I needed to buy a new dress, which I did. I also wore a new perfume, Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Nude, which is now my fragrance–we both love it. The party was elegant enough, and the hotel common areas were beautifully appointed, but my favorite times were when Sean and I were alone–in our room, or out exploring the park. We went down to the village after the party and wandered around looking at all the Christmas lights. The next morning we had room service in bed and a bath in our in-suite jacuzzi. We rode the skyride to the top of Stone Mountain and I got amazing views of the huge carving in the face of the rock. After we’d explored to our hearts’ content, we descended and found hot cocoa for Sean inside an exhibit hall and way too much lunch for us to ever eat at Miss Katie’s.

A particular highlight of our trip was watching a glassblowing demonstration. We saw an artisan create a decorative flower and a very unique vase. We’d already explored the shop, and nothing had quite struck our fancy there. The vase we’d just seen created was unlike anything in the store. Sean asked if we could buy it then and there. It was finished and delivered to us three days later!

After that, we had a snack and then got onto the little train that circles the mountain, watching the lights come on and listening to Christmas carols as the sun went down. When we got back, it was dark and Christmas-y in the village once again. Sean pulled me under a huge ball of mistletoe for a kiss–the perfect end to our romantic weekend away.

The week before Christmas, we headed off to Kentucky. I guess my crazy holiday running around, plus the fact that I was still recovering from surgery, caught up to me, because I felt like I got worn out pretty quickly. Still, I was able to do a lot with my nephews, including getting some one-on-one time with each of them, which I think is important. I also spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad. I didn’t get a chance to go to the farm, but fortunately Ben and Manda and Daphne came down twice while we were there.

I had a wonderful Christmas. I loved seeing everyone open their presents. I think I did well with what I picked for everyone. I had trouble coming up with ideas for a couple of people, but it all seemed to work out in the end.

I love gift-giving. I love how personal it is, how it shows what you feel for the other person. I’m so glad we were able to give gifts this year.

Before everyone dispersed on Christmas Eve, Dan was kind enough to snap some photos of the family for us. It’s hard to get this many people into a picture, but I think it worked out okay :)

my family
Would you believe even that isn’t the end of 2011? After we got home from Kentucky, Sean had his friend William over for a few days of gaming and fun.

William and Sean
William is a charming guest and a funny guy, and it was great to have him around. We’re looking forward to meeting his fiancée when they both come to visit us sometime this year.

After William headed home on the afternoon of December 31, Sean and I quietly rang in the New Year watching Smallville season 10. (I belatedly noticed the clock had ticked over and mentioned something on Twitter; I have no idea if Sean was even paying attention. Similarly, I just realized we both forgot our ninth wedding anniversary, which was yesterday.)

And that was 2011. It was a big year in so many ways, full of friends, fun, travel, and change. I loved it.

Here’s to more of the same in 2012!

Downtown Augusta Christmas extravaganza!

These are all the events going on downtown today. I was going to just link to the Downtown Augusta Alliance, but they didn’t have a description! I got this information from the Support Downtown Augusta Facebook group.

EVENTS:

Most Downtown Businesses Open Late for a Special day of Christmas Shopping – Find Unique Gifts for everyone on your Christmas List and while you are here fill out a wish list for yourself.

Holiday Market on the River 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
8th & Reynolds

Miss Augusta Christmas Parade at 2:00 pm

At 3:30 pm, join us at the Augusta Commons for the Second Annual Christmas Light-Up Spectacular. Enjoy the ice skating rink, Santa, Polar Express, children’s activities and great entertainment by local choral groups. At 6:15 pm, Mayor Deke Copenhaver will officially turn-on the lights followed by a fireworks extravaganza.

JINGLE BELL JAM:
3:30PM: Restoration Praise Band
4:15PM: The Dickens Carolers
5:00PM: Cutno School of Dance
6:15PM: Community Sing
6:20PM: Mayor Deke throws the switch to light up downtown.

OTHER EVENTS AT THE COMMONS:
1. Salvation Army Bell Ringers
2. Food Drive: please bring a canned food item to support the Golden Harvest Food Bank to feed those in need this Christmas
3. Coat Drive: please bring a winter coat to support the Salvation Army’s coat drive. We want everyone to have a warm holiday season
4. Santa Claus: be sure to stand in line and tell Santa himself if you have been good or bad
5. Cookie Decorating: The Junior League of Augusta is calling all artists to decorate your own sugar cookie. take it home or eat it on the spot. Their famous cookbooks will be for sale and make great stocking stuffers.
6. Ornament Making: our christmas elves will be helping children make ornaments that look like Rudolph and his friends to take home and hang on their Christmas tree
7. Enjoy Hot Chocolate & Hot Cidar with St. Pauls Episcopal Church Youth Group. All proceeds will be donated to worthy causes.
8. Face Painting: special elves will be on hand to paint your face with your favorite holiday theme
9. Smores: Join the Exchange Club of Augusta and roast marshmellows over an open fire to make everyones favorite cookie with graham crackers and Hershey Bars
10. Dixie Pig: barbeque for sale
11. North Pole Post Office: kids heres your chance to send your Christmas Wish List before the holiday rush! Write your Christmas wish list and maild it directly from the North Pole Post. Official clocks will be updated during the day to see when Santa will leave for Augusta.
12. Elf School: your children will love solving word puzzles and other holiday games and earn an official diploma from Elf School signed by Santa himself
13. Hot drink & Snacks

Great Christmas movies

All the Christmas stuff going on lately has got me thinking about my favorite Christmas movies. Here’s a list of the ones that get me into the spirit:

Home Alone – The original, of course. Quintessential Christmas.

An Affair to Remember

Die Hard – Yes, Die Hard.

Elf

The Nightmare before Christmas

The Santa Clause

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

While You Were Sleeping

The Star Wars Holiday Special – Okay, this one’s a joke.

What are your favorite holiday films? Here’s a pretty good list if you need to jog your memory.

Infused with Christmas spirit

The Christmas spirit is on overload here at work. There’s a door decorating contest going on and all the different departments are going crazy to try and win. Today’s the deadline, and all of a sudden more and more doors are being covered in wrapping or crepe paper and decorated to the hilt.

I went all out with my office, hanging tinsel and lights, setting out decorative boxes and bows, and bringing in the two little Christmas trees I bought last year. Now that I don’t have a huge desk at home I really don’t have a place to put them, so they’re sitting on the printer table here in my office. I hung stockings from the doorknobs, and as a final touch, I hung candy canes from pretty much every handle in the room.

To complete the look, I turned off one set of lights to let the Christmas lights set the mood, and I’ve been playing Christmas mp3s all week.

My boss has jumped on the bandwagon, and now she has a boom box blasting Christmas songs down the hall.

I don’t remember it being this spirited last year, but I’m glad for it. It’s a lot of fun! I took some time this morning to run around the station with my camera getting pictures of different places in various states of decoration. I’ll add pictures to this post once they’re uploaded.

Christmas decorations

So I spent the day watching DVDs and putting up Christmas decorations. Here’s the Christmas village Grandma Flo gave me yesterday–I love all the trees!

Click here to see the rest of the decorations. These photos aren’t so great with lighting, but you can get an idea of how things look. I’m especially happy with the dining room table (although it looks a bit like a card table, being surrounded by folding chairs) and the ornaments hanging off the chandelier.

I haven’t decided where to put my two little Christmas trees yet. I also have two strings of Christmas lights that I guess Mom left here, because I have no idea where they came from. Not sure what to do with those either, but I’ll keep you posted.

Christmas parties

On Friday Sean graciously agreed to escort me to my office Christmas party, held at the Silver Palms Catering Hall in National Hills shopping center.

I ended up working later than I should have, due to trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible, and when I did finally clock out I still had to change. Once I was in my outfit I realized that my shoes were completely wrong. So on my way home I stopped at Payless to see if they had any tall boots.

They did, but not any that would fit around my huge calves.

Wondering what in the world I was going to do, I got home and dove into the closet. I finally just pulled on some hose and sandals, which sounds freakishly horrible, but just trust me when I say that it was much better with the outfit than the clogs I’d been wearing.

Finally we were off. We ended up arriving somewhere around 8. The party actually started at 7, and dinner had already been served, but people were still in line. We found the only open seats next to each other–at a table with the general manager of the station and the head sales guy–and grabbed some plates and loaded them up with pork, chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, squash casserole, and rolls. Sweet tea was already poured at our table.

The food was okay–not amazingly delicious, but decent. The tea was good, and that’s always important.

After eating, we did superlatives. Yes, just like high school. Last week everyone filled out a form voting for the most spirited, friendliest, wittiest, most intelligent, neatest, messiest, hardest-working, most dependable, most talkative, quietest, best hair, best dressed, and best all-around employee (male and female for both).

I ended up winning neatest and most intelligent. I guess all that office cleaning and rearranging paid off! As for being most intelligent, I don’t know…maybe people are mystified by my job. My prizes were a coupon organizer and a book of sudoku problems.

I actually can’t remember which guy was the neatest, but the guy dubbed most intelligent was my favorite weather guy Adam. He comes and hangs out when he can and we talk about the weather (shock) and married life and whatever else. I figure I’m in good company :)

Wes won friendliest, and Travon won best hair, and no one was shocked at all ;)

After that we had the drawing for door prizes. Neither Sean nor I won any of those, but then one of the sales guys, Robert, said “Merry Christmas” and handed us his prize of a Logan’s gift card!

I had described Robert to Sean as being “the flirty type, but not in a creepy way” while we were in line for dinner. When we got settled at the table, Robert came up and grabbed my shoulders and made one of his comments–I don’t even remember what. So I said, “I just told my husband that you were flirty, but not in the creepy way, and then you had to go and do that!” Teasing, of course. “I ruined it, huh?” he grinned back. And then later he goes and gives us his Logan’s gift card. What a guy.

After that it was time for the white elephant gift exchange. People fought quite a bit over the two sets of lottery tickets, and Wes and his girlfriend fought with Adam and his wife over a Rachael Ray cookbook. I actually can’t remember who ended up with it.

I started out with a Talking Tony doll from Scarface, but Don took that and I ended up with a shower radio, which no one took from me.

While I was doing that, Sean tried the cheesecake, which he said was “okay”. I rejoined him at the table in time to watch Frank from sales sing two Elvis songs, and then they started the music and people started dancing.

Sean and I took that as our cue to leave…it’d been a long night. Even if we were late. Parties kind of take it out of us. So we circled around Bonita and Krusher, who were doing some crazy dance in front of everyone, said goodbye, and headed out.

When we got home, Sean showed me how much he appreciated the outfit I was wearing :>

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to another Christmas party. I was on my way home from a busy day: first a salon visit for my regular Brazilian and then my first-ever eyebrow wax (which I think turned out okay), and then a meeting with Robert (not sales Robert, the Robert I used to work for) to discuss the menu guide. We got a lot worked out, and then I headed down the street to Zaxby’s to pick up dinner. As I headed down Fury’s Ferry to go home the long way (Evans to Lock to Industrial/Belair), my phone rang, and it was the Brookemeister.

She gave me a sob story about how her mom and sister-in-law had stood her up, and would I go to her office Christmas party with her? So I said sure. I ate my Zaxby’s at home with Sean, then made sure I was presentable before heading over to Brooke’s place. She was wearing a beautiful black dress and looked fabulous! After she made several trips back into the house for forgotten items, we headed over to the Quality Inn on Claussen Road.

The difference between the hotel’s reception hall and the Silver Palms was striking. This room was decked out in Christmas trees, and the lighting was low and intimate. There was a dance floor in the corner with strobe and colored lights. I liked the atmosphere a lot better than that of my office party, which was just a huge open room with the lights up all the way, and little to no decorations. The Silver Palms did have real tableware, while the caterers at the Quality Inn–who were actually from Fatz Cafe–simply provided styrofoam, but still.

(I wouldn’t take this as a knock against the Silver Palms by any means. I’m sure the individual companies had people in charge of how the rooms looked. You also have to take into account that my office party was a non-denominational “holiday party” and Brooke’s was an unapologetic Christmas party.)

Since I had already eaten, I didn’t try the food, but it looked pretty good. There were chicken fingers and mashed potatoes and gravy and rolls, and I saw something that looked like either meatloaf or salisbury steak, but I could be mistaken. I did partake of the sweet tea, which was good.

Brooke introduced me to a bazillion people whose names I will never remember. We sat at a table with a girl named Alyssa, her fiance Dave who is former Army, and her mom and dad, whose names I forget. There was also a guy to my right and his girlfriend(?), who was very very late. The biggest character at our table turned out to be Dave, who shared with us some rather interesting terms he’d probably learned in the Army. Sorry, Mom, but I have to share one: “Shut your cock hole.” The best part was when Brooke responded to this with, “Wait, guys said this to each other?” and everyone cracked up.

There was a prayer before dinner, and after dinner they did awards for people who’d hit milestones in their years of service. I thought for sure they were going to mention their outgoing records retention librarian, but nothing was said about Brooke and her imminent move to England. I guess 7 1/2 years isn’t enough of a milestone :>

After that the dancing began. Brooke went up to attempt the Electric Slide; I watched the purses, like a true wallflower. After Brooke came back, we watched more people dance for awhile. Then a slow song came on and pretty much everyone (who had a date) got up to dance, and Brooke and I decided to head out. We’d spent almost two hours there, which is pretty respectable!

“So, what now?” Brooke asked me in the car.

“Let’s drive around and look at Christmas lights.”

So we made a pit stop at a gas station so Brooke could hit the head and get some Tylenol (and I succumbed to a moment of weakness and purchased the most adorable little penguin in winter scarf and cap you have ever seen), and then headed over to the myriad neighborhoods off Pleasant Home, Flowing Wells, and Columbia Road. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures–driving slowly through a neighborhood and having to stop every few seconds kind of precludes using a camera–but we saw quite a few lovely displays.

After we’d exhausted those neighborhoods, I headed up Columbia Road, down through Walnut Grove, and then around to the home of Sean’s friend Paul’s mom and stepdad, whose house is always ridiculous at Christmas. It did not disappoint by any means. (Here’s a picture from last year. This year there was a full-size Santa standing under that arch, dancing.)

By then it was after 10, so most people were turning off their lights. I took Brooke back to her house and stopped in at her parents’ briefly before heading home. I finished off my lovely evening with the rest of my Zaxby’s and the Prince of Tennis live action movie (which could have been better, but was cute nonetheless).

I’m thinking about starting some Christmas cookies today, or at least getting a plan ready. Wednesday is Treat Day at work, and everyone’s supposed to bring something. Cookies would definitely be good!