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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dark Days

Today is my parent's 37th anniversary. I'd show you a photo, but I lost my digital scans of the originals when my hard drive crashed the week of our wedding.

Thirty seven years. Sometimes I think they've made it this far only through stubborn resolve not to quit. The years immediately after dad was fired were hard on all of us, and especially hard on their marriage.

They seem to have come through it though, and both of them take a quiet, deep pride in the accomplishments of the other person. They are good people, and I am grateful to have them in my life.

Today is the winter solstice; the shortest day of year. The longest night. We woke up this morning to a snowstorm, and I told Dusty and the dog "Guys! It's the shortest day of the year, which only means that tomorrow is a little longer, and the next day even longer. Spring is on its way!"

I think I've been mildly depressed this fall. There are many potential causes: the shortening days, the health of my grandparents, the post-trip blues and the impact the trip had on our finances. The Next Big Thing on the horizon, but a difference of opinion in when and how to get there. Career expansion that's both thrilling and intimidating.

I just haven't felt very sparkly, you know? It's manifested in two drinks a night (more on the weekends), falling into tears easily and serious apathy at work.

It finally poured out to Dusty last night, and he asked all the right questions. "Do you want to go talk to someone about it?" (No, I think once we get through Christmas and the days start to get longer and I'll be so busy that I don't have time to be sad it'll lift).

DJ mentioned that he's always thought that January and February sucked too, and asked "what we can do during those months as a preventative measure?" (Since a trip to Mexico isn't possible, date nights, using our new cross-country skiis on sunny mornings to get me outside, getting big projects done around the house).

My family has a history of depression. Whose doesn't? My grandpa gets particularly owly in the winter, when he's cooped up inside and its dark out. I suggested a light box for him a couple of weeks ago, and now I think it might be on my post-Christmas purchase list.

I've told Dusty about this many times, and given him permission to ask probing questions if I start getting overly crabby at any time. He asked all the right questions last night. He kept asking, "are you okay," to which I kept replying "I will be."

Because it gets brighter from here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cheer

Inspired by this post by one of my favorite bloggers, I tried my hand at photographing our Christmas tree tonight. Harlow-dog was, as usual, a very excellent helper dog. She especially excelled at being the dark dog head-like mass in front of the camera.

Like Linda (the blog attached above), I like Christmas ornaments with stories. As such, when I give an ornament as a gift I try to link it to something I've experienced with the person.

This is from 2009, when I was working for Montana Gift Corral.

My parents have a long tradition of giving my sister and I an ornament every Christmas. They say its because in their first Christmas as a married couple, they had no ornaments. I received my ornaments as a wedding gift. I'm not entirely sure, but I think my dad is the ornament-buyer. He usually gives pretty sentimental gifts.

My dad gave me the doll-house ornament below when I was 15 or so. Its a reflection, or, almost an exact replica, of the doll house that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was two or three.

It even opens in the back like my childhood dollhouse did.

I try to buy an ornament for Dusty and I every time we travel. This one is from our Hawaii trip in the spring of 2009.

And, I think my mom gave us this one, a photo from our wedding.

This is another parent-gift ornament. My parents were trying to sell their house when I was three, but had mice in the kitchen. Apparently a would-be buyer arrived, and I was giving them a tour. I asked them to "come see my kitchen, where my mices live!"

This isn't really an ornament. But I'm making it one. My parents are hugely generous this year, which is humbling. After wanting a road bike for nearly a decade, my dad insisted on buying me one as a Christmas gift. I can't wait to ride it on the bike trail at the lake, and have promised my dad (a road biker for over 20 years now) that we'll go together.

It seems to me like the Holidays are mostly about channeling your inner child, aren't they? Kind of a time of nostalgia and looking forward. All of the ornaments on our tree make me smile.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I want a new car. Today.

I purchased my 2005 Nissan Altima in 2004 (yep, brand new) during my senior year of college. It's the first major purchase I ever made, that I ever paid off (early!). The odometer just rolled over 80,000 miles. In reality, we "should" own the vehicle for another 5-6 years/ to 200,000 miles.

It also lacks Anti-Lock Brakes, All Wheel Drive and has $5,000 worth of hail damage. My ride, it ain't so pimp.

DJ and I are pretty financially conservative people, though you might not see that from our decisions over the past two years. We've jumped from one big purchase to another: a house, a wedding, a Europe trip. In almost each situation, we anxiously awaited our Tax Return to pay off the credit card which funded said Big Purchase.

Neither of us "like" to do things this way, and we're breaking the cycle with this tax return. Seriously. Our plan is to be consumer debt free by March, and then start stockpiling away money for a hefty down payment on a new (to us) vehicle that has AWD (or front wheel drive with studded snow tires), ABS and will last us for the next decade. If we could make my car last long enough, we might be able to pay cash for such a vehicle.

Except that my car doesn't seem to be lasting long enough. I've gone through 5 headlights in the last 18 months. Assuming it was just the bulbs, we kept replacing the damn things. I finally called last Tuesday and made an appointment with the shop. And then the other headlight went out on Wednesday. No headlights during literally the darkest part of the year. >>>Enter four letter word here<<<

It's apparently a wiring problem, but the shop hasn't figured it out yet.

I also mentioned to them that the fuel door is getting harder and harder to open and close. It had a big ding from hail damage, and I swear, the wind speed from interstate driving has sculpted the thing closed. Is that possible? Because I practically need a pliers to open my "auto-open" fuel door. The dealership today said they'd have to replace the entire fuel door, and custom paint it to match the car. Oh hell no. I'd rather buy a $10 set of pliers for the next 9 months.

I haven't told DJ that little jem yet.

I hate spending money on a car we're going to be getting rid of. But more than that, we don't have the kind of down payment we are comfortable with to purchase a new vehicle. So what can you do, right? Grr.

I wonder if we should re-evaluate the "Single Car Family" model?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hard to find the words

Sometimes I fall off the blogging wagon and struggle to get back on.

There have been a lot of things going on lately, and yet... not much to write about. Or, not much I can adequately put to words. Maybe a good way to do it is go through the recent cell phone photos and tell you the stories behind them?

Lets start with this one: of my mom's birthday dinner at my grandparents house.
It's a blurry cell phone picture. If I could set up this picture again, I'd have a nice DSLR camera, with a timer on it. I'd put the camera on a shelf facing the dinner table, set the shutter on continuous mode, and the camera would capture images of the lit candles, the smile on my mom's face, and my grandparents singing "Happy Birthday" to her as she blew the candles out. Somehow the camera would capture the sound of my Grandma's light (alto? soprano?) and my Grandpa's deep baritone.

The camera would not remember the shit storm of an argument Gretchen and I walked in to that Sunday afternoon, as we came over to make a Sunday birthday dinner for my mom. I think all families have this argument at some point; failing health, elderly grandparents, working adult children, lack of in-home care in rural America, the difficult decisions that must be made. What we don't talk about is the fear of losing the ones we love, losing the traditions and memories and institutional family knowledge that comes with their impending death.

It is hard.

I was in eastern Washington that weekend, over Veteran's Day, to visit my sister for "Dad's weekend" at Washington State. Since dad was a little busy playing at Sacramento, I was the stand-in. We ended up down on the field before the game, due to Gretch's participation in a student booster group. My mom was in the area too, so we were able to snag tickets from a friend on the WSU coaching staff and all sit together for the game. In a snowstorm that looked like this:
Pretty epic. The best part was the come-from-behind victory.

And... less than a month later, 'Cougar football has reminded me why sometimes college football can be cruel. You see, the 'Cougs head coach used to work for my dad. He stayed on at Eastern Washington University when my dad left for MSU. After his first wife died of a brain tumor, he remarried and now has a son and a stepdaughter. In 2007 WSU fired their football coach (whose wife, ironically, had died of ovarian cancer the year before) and our friend was hired at his alma mater and where he played, WSU. Four years later, and about 3.5 weeks after this picture, Paul was fired from WSU.

I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to people we know being fired. Seriously, all last week I was weepy and had a chest ache every time I think about it. It makes me sick.

And so, it seems the only thing to do is come home and cuddle this furball, who never fails to make me laugh:

(Don't fear, she punished me for this indignity by eating one of the glass ball ornaments the next day). 

At least the doggie knows how to hang out and roll with the punches.