Friday, December 16, 2005

The Home Alone Survival Plan

When Jeff left, I was a little bit apprehensive. I don't really like staying by myself. I have an overactive imagination and am quite good at scaring myself senseless imagining terrifying scenarios. I was afraid I would get no sleep the whole time he was gone and my heart would be constantly racing. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and I ended up quite impressed with myself. I had to make changes to my habits, but they worked and I don't think I ever freaked out once the 6+ weeks I was alone at home. These changes included:

1. Always keeping the door locked. Usually when we are out, we only lock the bottom lock, but I took to locking both, and as soon as I got home, I would lock all the locks plus put on the chain, which we usually never do until we're heading to bed.
2. Not watching shows that would stir up my imagination. I planned to really limit my TV watching while Jeff was gone, but I ended up watching as much, if not more, than when he's home. The house just seemed so quiet there by myself that a lot of the time I had it on just for some company. But I was picky about what I watched. NFL and college basketball. Some funny/family sitcoms. Some reality TV. The Daily Show. Definitely no crime type shows. Normally, I enjoy the show Medium, but I didn't watch it once while Jeff was gone because it can be kind of creepy. What I did realize as I monitored my TV was how many commercials are inappropriately placed. For instance, I'd be watching a show like Amazing Race or NFL football, which I consider to be family friendly, when a commercial for CSI or some other crime show comes on showing some grisly footage. Or a commercial for an upcoming horror film. Not appropriate. Thank goodness for DVR, so I could speed through most commercials.
3. Falling asleep on the couch. The first night, Jeff was gone, I went to bed as usual and ended up laying there most of the night unable to sleep. I wasn't scared really, but my mind was just overactive. So after that I started laying down on the couch with the lights off and the TV low and falling asleep there. There was no pressure to fall asleep and the TV kept my mind from wandering other places. Then when I woke up, usually around 12:30 or 1:00, I was tired enough that I could just go back to bed and fall right to sleep.

I think those three things really helped me get in a routine that worked, keeping me from freaking out. That's not to say that there weren't times when I checked under the bed or in the closets, but I didn't have to sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed, which was Jeff's original suggestion when he left.

The good news, however, is that I can go back to my old ways today because Jeff is getting home in less than three hours! I can't wait to see him. It will be so nice to have him back home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Follow-Up on the Chips

This is a follow-up to the post below, so read it first.

Seriously, the Chip thing is so surreal, that I had to Google it to see if maybe I was completely making that one up. But, no, I'm not. In fact, here is an article about the last Charles Chips delivery men, who were in fact still delivering in PA in 2003. Apparently, however, the chips no longer come in tins because they are too expensive, but you can order them through a catalog for about $13.95. I wish Mom had kept one of those. What a collector's item!

How Bizarre

Last night, I had a number of Christmas carols in my head, and this led me to remembering going Christmas Caroling as a child. I had to then wonder if there were still people who do this. It seemed so unreal to me that it was almost as if I were making up the memory. I can't imagine it happening today, but really it wasn't all that long ago that we got together with family and friends, bundled up against the cold, carried photocopied booklets of Christmas carols, rang the doorbells of people all around the neighborhood, and sang to these people (primarily strangers) when they opened the door. How very warm, cozy, and completely surreal.

This train of thought led me to thinking about other things from my past that at this point just seem bizarre. For example, when we were in grade school, we had to take fluoride once a week. Every Wednesday, one student from each class went to the Teacher Aid room and brought back fluroide for the whole class. When it first started it was in small plastic cups, and then later it came in little packets. On the teacher's word, each student had to put the fluoride in his/her mouth and swish it around for one minute before spitting back into the cup or packet. Then one really lucky student got to come around with a bag and collect all the swished and spat fluoride. How absolutely weird! Enforced dental hygiene at school. It seems so 1950s or so Communist or something.

And the other thing I thought of was how we used to have potato chips delivered to our house. The chips came in a large yellow-brown tin, and my mom kept it in the cabinet where the Tupperware now is. They were called Charles Chips, and I think that was all the man delivered. Maybe pretzels or other chip-like snacks, but he wasn't like one of the more current delivery services such as Schwann's or the grocery-store delivery options that offer a wide range of products. Just chips. As if you couldn't just go to the grocery store and buy them. As if they were a delicacy. So so so strange.

Isn't it amazing how quickly the world changes? I'm not even 25 yet, but I can still look back at things in the span of my lifetime and be incredulous that they actually happened.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tree Photos

My beautiful tree, lit and decorated. 

You can see how much bigger the tree is than me. And it's the picture that's crooked, not the tree. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas

When Jeff figured out that the time he needed to be in Sweden was during the run-up to Christmas, I was not particularly happy. The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year, and I wanted him to be around to share it with me. I was also exceptionally upset about the Christmas tree I doubted I was going to be able to get. Last year, Jeff and I went out and cut down our own tree. It was all quite an adventure trying to get it home, get it in the house, get it in the stand, and get it stable (it fell over one day after already being fully decorated). So realistically it seemed there was no way I'd be able to handle this all by myself, and I refused to go the artificial route out of fear that I'd be stuck with a fake one forever. I would just have to be tree-less this year.

So on Saturday, I set out to decorate for Christmas sans tree. I hung our handmade Santa stockings on our ice-cube snowman stocking holders. I got out the creche I had bought in Germany. I put out candles and figurines. And it all looked nice. But it also looked incomplete.

So on Sunday, I got up, put on windsuit pants, a snow jacket, and gloves and headed out before I could think clearly to a parking lot I'd seen on my way to the grocery the day before where trees were being sold for $25. Pulling into the lot, I walked into the fenced-in enclosure, where I was the only customer. I told the man selling the trees that I wanted a small, easy to handle tree. So he pulls one out that fits my description, I look at it for half a second and decide it's a bit too small, a bit too Charlie Brown. He shows me another slightly bigger and then another. They're all okay, but just don't feel right. So then he pulls one out that's perfect. It's full and straight and even has little pinecones on it. I decide that it's the one but look at a few more just to be sure. Certain that I'd picked the right one, I pay and let the man load it into my trunk. I then drive home with one eye in the rearview mirror the whole time to make sure my tree doesn't fall out on the Beltway.

Fortunately, the tree makes it with no problem, and I find a parking spot in our lot that lines up perfectly with our back porch. All I have to do is get the tree out of the trunk and over to our door. So I begin to pull on it. Then I begin to pull harder. Then I re-grasp, bend my knees, and really pull. I probably should have tried to pick up the tree myself before I bought it. It's heavy. Really heavy. Finally after some serious heave-ho-ing, I get it out of the trunk. I then grab it by its trunk and drag it over to our patio, where I hoist it onto the picnic table. Now what, I think?

Knowing that I ultimately had to get the tree standing up, I let myself into the house, grab the tree stand, and come back outside to evaluate. I stand it up for a minute, remember how heavy it is, and decide there's no way I can lift it into the stand and then tighten the stand without ending up under the tree. I decide the best method is to put the tree stand on with the tree laying on the picnic table. Clever, huh? Since I did pick a tree with a fairly straight trunk this works out pretty well, but when I stand it up, it's not quite perfectly upright. So I bend down and slightly loosen the stand with one hand while desperately holding on to the tree with another. My body is mashed into the tree to keep it from falling, and I have some nice scratches on my face and neck and arms to prove it. After some adjusting, little tiny bits at a time so that I don't ever have to support too much weight at once and end up crushed under the Christmas tree, I get it up straight and it looks good. It seems steady too as I give it a few pushes and shoves, but being a little nervous, I leave it out on the backporch for an hour to make sure it doesn't topple over.

After an hour, I'm satisfied with the stability of the tree and decide it's time to bring it inside. I lay down an old blanket between back door and the corner where the tree is to be located, and then go to pick up the tree with the stand attached. Damn, it's still heavy. With some straining and heaving, I somehow manage to get it inside and in the corner and then all I'm left to do is twist it until the best side is showing. Stepping back, I take a look at the tree and realize why it was so heavy. The tree is only a few inches from the ceiling, and it's incredibly full. It's a big, beautiful Christmas tree. And it smells so delicious. The whole house radiates Christmas. Now tonight, I'll light and decorate it, and with the snow coming down outside, it will really feel like Christmas is on its way.

In summary:
1. It's hard to judge the size of a Christmas tree in a parking lot. In a big open area, the tree looks much smaller than it does in a closed in room.
2. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Something to Look Forward To

I already know what I'll be doing the last week of August 2006. Last night, I reserved spots for Jeff and I on a six day rafting trip through the upper portion of the Grand Canyon with an outfitter called Moki Mac. Ever since I was twelve and stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, peering down at the tiny stream that the mightly Colorado appears as from that height, I've known I've wanted to go down into the Canyon. A few years later, I watched a program on the different ways to explore the Canyon - hiking, riding donkeys, and rafting - and I knew that rafting was what I wanted to do. It's always been on the to-do list but more as a vague one-of-these-days type of activities. The relocation of my friends Megan and Bryan to Arizona made a visit to Arizona more realistic, and as Jeff and I explored the options, one-of-these-days became next August. It's going to be a great adventure.

The trip starts out at Lee's Ferry and over the course of six days, we progress 89 miles in an oar powered raft to Phantom Ranch, deep in the middle of the Canyon. Each day, we'll spend a few hours on the water and a few hours on hikes to waterfalls, Anasazi ruins, and stunning vistas. Each evening we'll set up camp and spend the night under the stars. It will be somewhat primitive, with the river for washing and makeshift toilets, but we get three meals cooked for us a day and from what I've read, they're pretty good meals. When we reach Phantom Ranch, we'll have to hike up, up, up and out of the Canyon, which takes people anywhere from 6-9 hours. I'm so excited.

The trip runs from Friday to Wednesday, so we'll have a few days at the end of our trip to do other things, especially considering that next Monday is Labor Day (and Jeff's birthday). I'm not sure what else we'll do. Maybe we'll try to hit up some of the other sites like the Painted Desert or Petrified Forest. Maybe we'll visit the Navajo nation or relax in Sedona. We'll definitely see Megan and Bryan. It will be a great trip, especially since Jeff has never been to any of these places, and I've only visited some of them briefly, and that will have been 13 years ago by then. I can hardly wait...But really, I'm glad we're not going until the end of the summer, because we're going to need some time to break in our boots and backpacks. Six to nine hours uphill is a long way!