Thanksgiving in Florida, 2014

We’re kind of foodies at our house, so Thanksgiving is generally a gala affair. (See Last Year’s Menu and the Even More Dramatic Year Before) However, I’ve noticed that since I started working full time, I have less and less of a desire to spend my entire day off cooking when it’s a holiday. Go figure. Tony has even less of a desire to cook a big Thanksgiving, possibly due to the fact that nearly all of the everyday cooking at our house currently falls to him.

So this year we’ve decided to pare down Thanksgiving a bit. No, make that a lot. In fact, I’m embarrassed to even say what we’re contemplating, nay have actually determined to do. Suffice it to say that our plans for Thanksgiving do not involve either brining the turkey, wrapping it in bacon, cooking it upside down, or even stuffing it. In fact, they don’t involve a turkey at all. Are you ready for it? We’re going to pick up a rotisserie chicken. It was Tony’s idea, since I wouldn’t have been able to bear coming up with such an travesty. However, once he brought it up and I weighed the merits of a rotisserie chicken against the hours of preparation and the reality of turkey leftovers in the freezer for the next several months, I could see he had a point.

But his next idea was the real bombshell: Stovetop stuffing. I was not amused. Stovetop stuffing is too far even for me. I think he was mainly attracted by the ease of preparation, but he claimed (out loud!) that he actually prefers it to homemade stuffing. I was offended. Was he referring to the Leek and Wild Mushroom Stuffing I made last year? Or the  Apple, Sausage & Parsnip Stuffing the year before? Only when I promised to make a completely normal and unadventurous stuffing this year (and reminded him that I’d already consented to rotisserie chicken) did he relent and agree to the compromise.

So I am passing over recipes like Spinach, Fennel, and Sausage Stuffing with Toasted Brioche, Rustic Bread Stuffing with Red Mustard Greens, Currants, and Pine Nuts, and Masa Cornbread Stuffing with Chiles with many a sigh and backward glance. Instead, I have chosen the irreproachable “Simple is Best” Dressing, featuring those old staples of Thanksgiving and Simon & Garfunkel, parsley, sage, rosemary and time. Per the reviews on Epicurious (which one should always, always read, for entertainment value as well as culinary wisdom), I’ll double the herbs and add more broth, especially since I’ll probably sub in sourdough bread if I can get away with it under the nose of Tony, the Thanksgiving Grinch.

High on Axa’s list of important foods for Thanksgiving dinner is pumpkin pie. In fact, she’s been asking if we could have pumpkin pie this year since early October. Pumpkin pie is not my favorite thing, but since it doesn’t have a top crust, it is a candidate for my secret weapon/pie crust dodge (aka the easiest French Tart Crust recipe I have ever encountered). She’s looking forward to making it from an actual pumpkin, so there’s no cutting corners there. I am thinking of using this recipe, which includes white pepper, since I love using pepper in desserts and getting away with it. We fell in love with white pepper when we discovered it in Italy, and started putting it in everything. Everything was better with white pepper, until Tony put it in the breakfast oatmeal one morning. It took me awhile to figure out what the weird taste was, but I could barely choke down my oatmeal. We’ll have whipped cream (NOT the kind from a can) with the pie.

Pineapple bacon wraps are a Bringhurst family tradition. We used to make them for Christmas Eve, but since we’re so often out of town at Christmastime, we make them for Thanksgiving now. They are as easy as they sound–just slices (or half-slices) of bacon wrapped around chunks of pineapple. I think we sometimes might have used canned pineapple growing up, but we always get a fresh pineapple now. Tony learned how to efficiently cut up a pineapple on his mission in the Philippines. Here’s Benjamin managing to burn the pineapple bacon wraps when we invited him to Thanksgiving at BYU eight or nine years ago. No, that’s not a bad quality photo. It’s the smoke in the air.

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True to form, Tony suggested that we just buy rolls this year, and get berry jam instead of making cranberry sauce. So no recipes to post for that. And our final menu item is roasted veggies, which we usually cook without a recipe, and are somewhere along these lines. And that’s it; the entire contents of our Thanksgiving spread this year.

What are you planning for Thanksgiving? Is your turkey already marinating? Will you be making homemade rolls, mashed potatoes from scratch, and fourteen kinds of pies? Or will you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did? Remember,

My Favorite Walks Around the World

I found this post mostly completed in my drafts folder, and thought I’d share, since it’s been awhile since I did a nostalgia post. One of the beautiful things about moving often is that you experience the “little things” of life in so many different ways. Like the smell of the plants outside your window. Or the way different fruits taste when they’re in season. Or the cadence of stray overheard phrases in different languages.

Among the constant yet changeable things in my life is the evening walk that Tony and I have taken ever since we got married. Besides being a great time to reconnect as a couple, talk about what’s on our minds, and get some fresh air, our walk also helps to explore whatever neighborhood is ours at the moment. Since we so often view the outside world through a car window, walking lets us take a slower, more intimate look at the scenery and notice things we wouldn’t otherwise see.

We have lived in so many places and become acquainted with so many evening walks that I can’t list them all. These are just a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

Our walk in Tunisia began like this:

And ended like this:

Or on very special nights, like this:

Another favorite walk was in Ireland. We’d walk out to (I kid you not) the most idyllic cow pasture in the world. It’s funny to me how fondly we still speak of “our” cow pasture.

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Our route left town just a block or two from our apartment in Mullingar, where we took a path that paralleled the Royal Canal.

1989

At the time, we were reading Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children, and I thought about it every time the train went by. This walk and the picnic we usually had at the end of it always made me feel like we were re-living some lost Victorian country childhood. This photo makes me remember so many things about Ireland: the authentic Irish brown bread that I always made, the wellies my kids lived in, and how very little they were back then.

1977

And then there was our beautiful little Italian village. Here’s how our walk started out there:

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And then, you know those stock photos of the road between trees that converges on the horizon with a perfection that looks like it can’t possibly really exist? Ours did in fact exist, although this photo is less about the perfection of the road than the exuberance of a very pleased little Axa.

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After the tree-lined walk, it opened out into beautiful Alpine fields backed by mountains.

2002

We had similar beautiful walks in Vancouver, Washington, where the spring was a delicious parade of different flowers that seemed to go on for months, and in Carmel Valley (San Diego, California), where we lived in a neighborhood where all the houses followed a strict Spanish-style architectural code, the sidewalks were always perfectly swept, and there was nary a blade of lush green perfect lawn out of place.

In La Jolla, we walked by the Mormon temple every night, enjoying its dramatic beauty and our memories of getting married there. Even here in Florida our walks through our little suburban neighborhood are nice, although it’s sometimes so hot and muggy we only make it once around the block. We’re looking forward to beautiful walks on Kea, where the walking paths date back to the ancient Greeks, and the Mediterranean is visible from all over.

Silence in the Library

As per our usual Saturday routine, I took the children to the library this morning. Upon walking in the door, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a book sale going on in the Book Nest, our library’s resident book store. It was one of those $3 per bag sales that I absolutely love, because I don’t have to weigh the relative merits of each book–I simply have to concentrate on stuffing as many books as possible into my allotted grocery bag. I’ve become quite an expert at this. Here’s my haul for today:

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I always hit the classics shelf first. The librarian working in the store was surprised and delighted to find that I was buying the large, ancient tome of Plutarch that she thought nobody read anymore. It’s true that I do have another edition of Plutarch, also the Dryden translation, but it doesn’t contain nearly as many lives. And now we can read it as a family. I also netted a more modern Penguin Classics edition of Plutarch containing just six lives: Sulla, Crass, Cicero, Pompey and Caesar, complete with copious notes.

I got nice hardback copies of Milton (Complete Poetry and Selected Prose)Pride and Prejudice, and Far From the Madding Crowd, along with a paperback of Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami, which I haven’t read (although I did see the rather silly film adaptation with Edward-the-Vampire in the title role). Also Beowulf, since the kids have been listening to a kid version on Librivox.

The drama shelf gave me Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, as well as Hamlet, The Tempest, and Much Ado About Nothing in the “No Fear Shakespeare” editions that my homeschool friends are always raving about. I already have at least one Complete Works of Shakespeare as well as each play in adorable pocket-sized hardbacks, but one can never have too much Shakespeare.

Poetry was a bit sparse today, but I did net The New Oxford Book of English Light Verse.

I’m of course on the lookout for anything to do with Greece these days, and was pleased to find a Collins Pocket Greek Dictionary, although Tony rightly pointed out that one’s pockets would have to be unusually large to accommodate it. Will Durant’s 1939 The Life of Greece (part of his Story of Civilization series) looked promising, as did Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, since I’ve read and loved her previous book, The Greek Way. I don’t typically buy random books I’ve never heard of at book sales, but The War at Troy by Lindsay Clarke sounded interesting, and also Greek, so I popped it into my now nearly overflowing bag.

My library usually does not have very much good children’s fiction at book sales, but today I was pleased to find a darling edition of The Wind in the Willows. I already own two copies of this book, but it’s such a lovely book, and the illustrations in this particular copy were so sweet that I couldn’t resist. I also found Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, along with its three sequels, all matching.

A heavy-duty Childcraft Children’s Dictionary rounded out the kids books, unless you count 100 Heartbeats, which I got for Axa because the author, Jeff Corwin, is her hero, and possibly also her first crush. In a similar vein, we also picked up Among the Great Apes, for more nature-related reading.

By this time my bag really was splitting at the seams, but I managed to cram in a final book: Literary Houses, a sort of idiosyncratic old fashioned coffee table book about ten iconic houses in famous literary works, and their real life inspirations, among which Manderly from Rebecca, Satis House from Great Expectations, and Northanger Abbey from Northanger Abbey.

I’m seized by a sort of madness when I go to these book sales. For years, I’ve been collecting books because I knew someday we would move far away from the library, to somewhere where the only books my children would have in their native tongue would be the ones I had collected.

That original impetus for my book collecting is still in force–we are indeed moving to a Greek island next year. But the drive to collect books has become something more for me now. I can feel the relevance of good, old fashioned books slipping away. It’s not that I oppose the digitization of books; I love my Kindle and can’t get enough of sites like Gutenburg and Librivox. These days I’m as likely to read a book on my Kindle or listen to it on my phone as read the printed page. Not that I’ve given up the printed page either; I’ve just learned to be omnivorous. I love having a book by my bed, but I love being able to access my whole Kindle library on my smartphone too.

I’m all for every book ever written being available online to anyone in the world who wants to read it. But at the same time, I can’t help being affected by the prognostications that printed books and libraries are becoming obsolete, and pretty soon everything will be digitized. I’m not a luddite. I want them all digitized. But I want them as books too, real books that I can touch–the bodies that hold their souls.

And so I continue on in my melancholic mania, buying so many books that my shelves are overflowing with printed bounty. It’s my own little way of holding back the dark. When I’m old (and wearing purple, of course, with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me) I won’t be a cat lady, I’ll be a book lady. And then again, maybe the doom-sayers are wrong, and there are enough people who just like books, real books, that they’ll never go out of fashion or completely out of print. Maybe the Doctor is right when he says in Silence in the Libary,

“People never really stop loving books. Fifty-first century. By now you’ve got holovids, direct-to-brain downloads, fiction mist. But you need the smell. The smell of books.”

Here’s hoping. But I’m keeping my own book collection, just in case.

Getting Stuck with Needles for Fun

acupuncture

Over the past couple of years, I’ve done acupuncture several times for anxiety and insomnia. It’s extraordinarily effective. But we always seem to move after a couple of treatments. Not strange; we move a lot. But acupuncture is most effective when you have several treatments close together to deal with the acute problem, and then taper off slowly to ensure long-term effectiveness. So this has become yet another plus side to living somewhere for more than a few consecutive months.

For my latest foray into acupuncture, I looked up providers covered by my insurance. There were two within 100 miles of my house. One 45 minutes away, and one an hour and 45 minutes away. So I picked the one that was 45 minutes away (toward downtown Orlando). It was totally worth the drive, especially since our insurance paid the whole thing, even covering the copay.

I spent a couple of months going to my acupuncturist twice a week, and then once a week. The difference in how I felt was apparent immediately. The obsessive worrying, anxiety, and resultant irritability and inability to concentrate were gone. It was like the constant static in my head had been suddenly turned off. The insomnia took a little longer, but it eventually went away too. By the time I went out to California last July, I was feeling lots better.

When I came back and started my job, though, I couldn’t keep going to acupuncture. I work in Palm Coast, which is an hour north of where we live, and my acupuncturist was 45 minutes south. It was logistically impossible. This didn’t matter for the first couple of months, because I was still feeling pretty good. However, eventually I started to feel the anxiety creeping up on me again. It wasn’t as bad as before. Yet. I could still sleep at night. But I knew I needed to hunt down an acupuncture solution. To make matters worse, we were switching insurance, and our new insurance didn’t cover acupuncture at all. I didn’t know how I was going to afford it without insurance coverage.

Enter the blissfully beautiful idea of community acupuncture. Acupuncture in the United States has traditionally been a sort of high-end boutique alternative medical treatment, performed in private, hour-long sessions that cost you $75 to $100 and/or your insurance $300. Several years ago, an acupuncturist clinic in Portland, Oregon had the idea of treating people in recliners in one big communal room so they could charge less and make acupuncture available to anyone who needed it. They called the idea “Community Acupuncture” and offered a sliding payment scale of $15-$35 per treatment. It turned out to be wildly successful, with the increase in clientele more than making up for revenue lost by lowering the price. The idea caught on, and now there are Community Acupuncture clinics all over the United States, and abroad.

Ours is called Deland Community Acupuncture. I’ve been going once a week for several months now, and it’s absolute bliss. MacKenzie, my acupuncturist, is also very artistic, so her clinic, decorated in vibrant greens, is like a mini Zen-retreat, complete with music, white noise machines, and at least 1000 paper cranes. My stress levels drop the moment I walk in the door.

As well as anxiety, depression, and other psychological complaints, she says she treats a lot of back pain and other chronic pain issues. It’s a very non-invasive way of treating these types of conditions (the needles are no big deal, I promise!), and most people, including me, fall asleep during treatment. And the only side effects I’ve noticed are improved digestion and a general feeling of well-being. So if you deal with a chronic health issue and would like another effective and inexpensive treatment option (it works fine in conjunction with other “natural” or conventional treatments), go ahead and check out Community Acupuncture. And if you live near me, I’d love to introduce you to MacKenzie!

And no, she didn’t pay me to write this. I’m just a very happy client, and I think everyone should have a chance to give acupuncture a try.

Endings and Beginnings

coexist

What do you think about the new theme? Since my blog is my home on the web, I like to rearrange the furniture once in a while. I hope you enjoy the clearer text, cleaner layout, and larger header photos. I only have a few up so far, but I’ll be adding more headers into the rotation–at least one for every place we’ve ever lived, and maybe one for every place we’ve ever visited.

In other news, the weather is hot, the kids are enjoying going to the pool several times a week, and we’ve decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from the Mormon church. I won’t bore you with all the details, since the story would take at least a dozen blog posts, if not a book, to convey. Suffice it to say that despite the many years and many hours we’ve invested in the Church over the course of our lives, it currently doesn’t feel like a place where we want to raise our children. I do want to say that we love our ward and everyone in it, and our decision to leave has nothing to do with any type of personal conflict.

We have a number of concerns, but the most serious–and the ones that finally prompted us to leave–have to do with Mormon teachings and social norms about gender roles. You may have heard in the news about the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, a prominent Mormon advocate for the ordination of women to what is now an all-male Mormon priesthood, in which nearly every male over 12 but no females of any age are presently included. Although her excommunication is not in itself the reason we are leaving, it is somewhat indicative of the general climate in the Church right now, and certainly influenced the timing of our decision. We may come back some day, but for now what our family needs is to take a step back from all the difficult and haunting aspects of our childhood faith.

Obviously, this is not a decision we’ve made lightly. We are saddened by the distress our leaving might cause our families and other Mormon friends. However, we’d love to maintain our relationships with all of them (you). I’m not at all open to reconsidering our decision, but I am very open to answering any questions you might have, so long as they are respectfully phrased.

We like having a church community, so for the past several weeks we’ve been attending our local Unitarian Universalist church. We’ve felt very welcomed there, and really enjoy going every Sunday. The openness to different faith traditions is refreshing, and I’ve loved learning a whole new set of hymns. Every day reconfirms to us that we have made the right decision, and we’re so grateful we had the courage to do it, even though it was hard.

The Lonely Weeks

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Tony and the Bobbles have been in California for three weeks. I could have been blogging all this time, I suppose, but it would probably have been three weeks worth of this, so it’s probably better that I didn’t. How’s it been going? Yeah. Not really that well.

I love my children, and have had momentary stabs of missing them, but I’ve been perfectly fine chatting with them a few times and getting regular reports that they are happy and greatly enjoying their stay. If it makes me a bad mother that I don’t miss them too terribly much, then I am a bad mother.

The way I feel about Tony being gone is completely different. It’s a persistent ache that never goes away. It’s a dark room I can see out of the corner of my eye all the time, and have to constantly talk myself out of going into and banging the walls and screaming.

I could say that I didn’t really think it would be this bad, but I’d be lying. I knew it would, because we did this last year too. I hate not being with him. I hate not running my hands through his hair, and not kissing him goodbye in the mornings, and not talking to him for hours about nothing at all. Most of all, I hate not sleeping with him. And by sleeping with him, I mean sleeping with him. I hate not doing other things in bed with him too, but it’s literally the sleeping that unhinges me.

I’m used to eight hours of sleeping snuggled up to him every single night. Not doing that is kind of like deciding I don’t need to breathe or eat this week. When I get in bed, I can feel every atom of my body asking me where he is and yearning to reach out to him. I have my 12-foot body pillow, five other assorted pillows, and the shirt he wore the day before he left all piled around me, but it doesn’t really help. Every night I sleep a little less, and lie in bed awake, wanting him, a little longer.

It’s not that I sit at home all day just missing him. I go to work every day, and several hours of church functions on the weekends.  I have a new gig editing a great book. I’ve been to more dinners and activities with friends in these few weeks than I normally go to in months. But it’s been rough.

I’ve tried some coping mechanisms. Mostly I’ve done the same coping mechanisms over and over and over:

  • Trolled Goodreads for dozens of quotes on love and loneliness and posted them daily on my Facebook wall.
  • Let the house get messy.
  • Read melodramatic YA novels.
  • Cleaned the house.
  • Listened to Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” dozens of times. In a row.
  • Made cookies.
  • Watched 59 episodes of Doctor Who. Yes, 59. So far.

And yeah, the Doctor Who thing is kind of becoming an obsession. Because this abandoned-by-my-lover situation makes me revert to a teenage emotional state. And a teenage emotional state and spending my nights all alone with David Tennant . . . well you can guess where that leads.

dr who

We Got Our Christmas Letter Out Before Christmas This Year!

Barely.

Special Note: I know that a lot of you are also on our mailing list (I mean email, of course; you didn’t think we were organized enough to actually mail something out, did you?). I apologize for the duplication and will eventually be able to bring myself to forgive you if our letter is not interesting enough to read twice. For those who are not on our email list of people who like us and would like to be (if such exist), it is not because we don’t love you. Give me your email, and I will add you.

Dear Friends, Family and other Special People,

It’s been one of those years where nothing happens. No moving, no international adventures, no exotic new pets, literally nothing, people. You know when you’re actually considering mentioning the fact that you’ve instituted a weekly family sushi night in your Christmas letter that it’s been a truly, madly, deeply boring year.

Still, we’ll see what we can dredge up other than the fact that we’re all still alive, and (yes) still living in Florida. Although it was already news last year that we were setting a record for longest time living in one place since we got married. That means that by now we’ve been living in Florida for about five decades in Familia years. During that time, we’ve managed to make it to three out of four Disney World theme parks, thanks to the kind intervention of the Grandparents, who took us to the Magic Kingdom when they came out for Axa’s baptism in February. It was a lovely baptism, and Axa is now officially Mormon. We’re not sure how our little girl grew up so fast.

Early in the year, we added two darling little sugar glider girls to our family, which now consists of as many sugar gliders as people. Following the Lord of the Rings theme, we named them Galadriel and Nimrodel, appropriately shortened to Gala and Nim, to match their diminutive stature. And really, they only answer reliably to the same name as our other sugar gliders: “do you want a yummy?”

Axa and Raj both started Irish Dance (think Riverdance), and participated in their first Feis (Irish Dance competition), garnering medals, experience, and confidence. We made it out of Florida briefly in July for a Familia Family reunion in Angel’s Camp, California, where we participated in such exciting activities as blackberry picking, water fights with the cousins, and exploring a cave discovered by gold-diggers.

Sarah recently landed a job as Marketing Coordinator for a small company in Palm Coast, and spends most of her time these days immersed in website design, SEO, and blogging (but not on her personal blog, alas!). Yes, I know you were dying to ask: the sugar gliders do go to work with her almost every day. Tony has achieved the level of Domestic God as a stay-at-home dad with a laundry, meal, and cleaning schedule that puts his predecessor to shame. So yeah, we’ve pretty much attained the coveted status of Typical Suburban Family.

Goals for next year: move to Europe, and get a puppy. In that order.
We hope you’ve had a wonderful year, and wish you all the best in the coming new year. Let us know what you’ve been up to lately, and if you want to escape the winter weather, our guest room is always open!

Love,

Sarah, Tony, Axa & Raj

(+ Merry, Pippin, Gala & Nim)
P.S. Yes, I know the photo formatting is really wonky, but fixing it would probably cause the subject line of this post to become untrue.

 

Home Alone

Yes, I’ve been home alone, childless and husbandless for exactly two weeks now. During our almost ten-year marriage, Tony and I have been apart for a couple of days on a handful of occasions. But this is the first time we’ve tried it for an extended period of time. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since this is the first time I’d be the one without the children.

I kind of thought it might be fun to try out, since I have never lived alone before in my entire life. Literally. I lived at home, and then I went to college and had roommates, and then I went on a study abroad to Syria and had more roommates (and we had a safety rule that we could never go out alone), and then I went on a mission and had a companion (and even more stringent rules that we always had to be together). And then I got married.

I love my life, and I certainly can’t say I haven’t traveled or done adventurous stuff after having gotten married (relatively) young, because Tony and I went right on doing that after we got married, and dragged our kids along too. But I look at my single friends sometimes and wonder what their lives are like. Specifically, what it’s like to come home to your house and find everything eerily as you left it, and nobody there to greet you (except the pets).

I don’t at all pretend to now understand what it’s like to be single, since I do have a husband and children, and speak to them over the telephone or video chat daily at least. But it was interesting and different to be alone doing all the mundane, everyday tasks of life. All those house chores that we have divided up fell exclusively to me (although minus the ones that involve children, so I think I actually came up on top there, aside from my battles with the lawn).

When my brakes started making a weird noise, I kind of panicked. Who would pick me up from the auto shop? Turns out the auto shop had a complimentary shuttle service in the person of a very chatty elderly man named Max who spends all day long chauffeuring people around Palm Coast in a leisurely, friendly way. In fact, the man he was dropping off after he dropped me off at work had a list of errands Max had cheerfully acquiesced to take him on.

Then there was the time (it was the very day I flew home to Florida by myself) I locked myself in the garage. It was easy enough to get out of the garage by opening the garage door, but how was I going to get back into the house? There was nobody inside to let me in, and nobody outside with his own house key to let me in when he came home. I eventually recalled that I’d left the bedroom door that goes onto the screened-in-porch open. The door to the outside world from the screened-in-porch happened to be unlocked too, so I was saved.

When I told Tony about the incident, he reminded me of the spare key he’d carefully hidden outside before he left. Am I this pathetic of a person when left to my own devices? Or is it just that I’ve unconsciously adapted to being part of a twosome?

To say nothing of the fact that even with my 12-foot body pillow taking up more of the bed than Tony does, I couldn’t help feeling alone and unsnuggled at night. When I went to pick up some DVD’s from the library to make the house seem less empty and silent, I made the mistake of getting romantic comedies that only made me feel lonelier. Switching them out for action movies helped, although not much.

You know the things you picture you could do if you just had a weekend to yourself? Well, I couldn’t remember any of them, or I didn’t feel much like doing them. This is my third solo weekend, and I am tired of having a weekend to myself.

I know multiple married people who have done the long-distance relationship thing for a summer, or just coming home on weekends, and it worked for them. I am pretty sure it would not work for me. I like having my people around. I like to hug them and go places with them and watch movies together. I do NOT like coming home to an empty house or waking up in an empty (besides me and my body pillow) bed.

Here’s to Monday night at 11:15 p.m. when I pick them up from the airport and get my normal, hectic, happy family life back.

photo credit

My New Job – One Week In

I’ve successfully completed one whole week of work at my new job, and here’s the verdict: this is a pretty cool job. As the new Marketing Coordinator, I am in charge of a marketing department that before I arrived really did not exist, and is now made up exclusively of me. So the job training on the ground has been pretty thin; i.e. nonexistent. At first, that was a little disconcerting, but once I got used to it, I started really enjoying it. After all, my preferred method of learning how to do something is to figure it out as I go along. This probably stems from my homeschool past, where I never had a chance to get used to being told what to do or how to do it.

In the same vein, there’s not really a whole lot of supervision, nor is there much procedural red tape. The CEO (to whom I report) pops in on me every once in a while to see if I need anything, but other than that, I just work away, doing whatever I think is best. So in the absence of anyone breathing down my neck, I’ve developed my own system of reporting on what I’m doing, which has been deemed satisfactory by the powers that be.

So now all that remains is for me to roll out an internet marketing and social media strategy for the company and implement it. Which is all kinds of exciting, and will be great experience. I’ve done a lot of this before, but have spent most of the past couple of years focusing on copywriting and editing. The internet marketing scene changes so rapidly that things go out of date after a couple of years, so I am excited to be getting back in the loop and figuring out what’s hot in SEO and social media right now.

There are a few downsides, I guess. The commute to work is an hour, which would be pretty normal in Southern California, but is long for Florida.  Between NPR and a constant supply of library audiobooks, I get by pretty well, though. And four minutes from work, within perfect lunch hour striking distance, is this:

The only thing that’s been a little overwhelming is the fact that I am all alone out here in Florida. Tony and the children are still in California until the first week of August. Which is terribly lonely. Is it possible to become seriously ill from snuggle deprivation?

Also, all of the jobs at home fall to me when I get home from work. So, for example, when I came home after two and a half weeks in California to my foot-high jungle lawn, it was up to me to mow it. Which has taken me three days so far because the combination of very long grass and very small short person trying to manhandle the lawnmower through the jungle keeps overheating said lawnmower, and results in what looks like the most amateur, uneven haircut ever. Plus, we’re in the Genesis-Device monsoon season, so the parts I mowed three days ago are already looking ready to be mowed again. If Tony can’t find me when he comes home, he should look for me outside, where I may have fallen to the ground in exhaustion and been quickly buried in waves of madly growing lawn.

photo credit

In Which I Immediately Crash Our New Car

Tony’s already broken this story on Facebook, which I guess is appropriate, since he’s kind of the hero, and I’m kind of the villain. And our car is kind of the victim.

About a month ago, we were in the market for a new car. “New” as in “new to us.” Since, as you know, Craigslist is our preferred place to get stuff we can’t get for free, Tony spent a good several days checking out the used car market in Orlando. Our basic criteria were that it be under $2500, run reliably, and not be a gas guzzler.

Really, is that too much to ask? Apparently, mostly yes. It seems that we were not the only people in Orlando in search of a cheap commuter car. In fact, demand seemed to be seriously overtaking supply. We kept looking at cars that were either over 200,000 miles, ripped to shreds inside, or reeking of cigarette smoke. Or all three.

One day as he was browsing through cars yet again, it occurred to Tony that there were quite a few relatively inexpensive PT Cruisers, and that they tended to be newer, in better shape and with lower mileage than the bottom of the line sedans we had been looking at. We went out and looked at a few, and had a great time test driving. In fact, with its retro feel and appearance (even more so inside than out) driving a PT Cruiser is like being in an old movie. We liked it.

And then a few days later, we found THE CAR. It was a powder blue 2007 PT Cruiser listed for half the blue book price.

As soon as it popped up on Craigslist (late on a Friday evening), Tony texted the owner and fixed a time to see it the next morning. We arrived at his small auto dealership south of Orlando first thing on Saturday morning. He turned out to be a German who exports American-made cars to buyers in Germany. I guess nobody there wanted a PT Cruiser, so he needed to get rid of it quickly to make room for new arrivals.

It was our best Craigslist coup in at least a month. We bought it on the spot, and happily drove it home.

A few days later I was going 65 on the highway when the car suddenly started to bump violently. Incredibly, it was a familiar feeling to me. Several years ago when I was eight months pregnant with Raj, the wheel of our Mazda fell off the car (also on the highway during rush hour).

In what must be one of the most surreal moments of my life, I watched my wheel go rolling down I-15 all by itself. Of course it managed to roll under the most expensive car that happened to be driving by, a tiny yellow sports car. Fortunately, we were all unhurt. Unfortunately, the loss of a wheel totaled our car.

So when I felt that familiar bumping, I knew to pull right off onto the shoulder. I was happy that this time I was neither eight months pregnant nor toting a toddler in the back seat. I wasn’t so happy that our tire had exploded and torn the bumper and left headlight completely off the car.

I didn’t even have to try to decide whether I could change a tire or not. The Florida highway patrol has some special vehicle assistance people who I guess drive up and down changing tires all day. It took him all of three minutes to change my tire and send me on my way. Yes, I cried, but not until I was telling my mom the story later that day.

So, our lovely new car was reduced to this:

Sad times. Very sad times. And given that we are the type of people who hunt around for used car deals on Craigslist, we’re also the type of people who don’t have hundreds (or thousands) of dollars lying around to get a new bumper installed.

And this is where I indulge in some of the conjugal bragging that Tony and I usually agree to eschew because it’s so incredibly annoying to listen to people coo about the awesomeness of their spouses. But I really can’t help myself.

He fixed our bumper. All by himself. Well O.K., with a little help.

In fact, take another quick look at the very first photo, which is actually post-reconstruction. And tell me Tony hasn’t missed his calling in life as an auto body repairman.

Here’s a closeup of the scientific precision of his repair job.

So, it’s a bit of a Frankencar. But I think it’s adorable, and has so much character. And as a friend reminded me, that’s exactly what they would have done in Tunisia (or any number of other developing countries): fix anything, any way. So hurrah for our new car, my handy husband, and me surviving yet another car tire incident without a scratch.