Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry and Bright

While in Louisville for the holidays, I found myself in a couple of situations where I wish I had had my camera. The first was when I drove downtown to purchase the Phantom of the Opera tickets my brothers and I gave my mom for Christmas. It was a dreary day, which made for a fantastic river view, as everything was shrouded in fog except for the very tips of the bridges. Very cool. The second was when my mom and I went to the Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center to browse the studios. In the courtyard, an ice sculptor was at work on an angel, and there were definitely a couple of opportunities for interesting shots. But alas, I didn't have my camera on me, so the only place those images can be found is in my head.

I did manage to take a few pictures though. The first two of are a holiday display on Jefferson Street in downtown Louisville. I thought it had a nice old-timey feel.

It wouldn't be Christmas at the Dowell house without a picture on the stairs. Since time immemorial, all the kids have squished on the stairs for a picture before running down to the living room to see what Santa brought. We all always look beautiful, as you can see.

And here's what the living room looked like before we ransacked it. When I was little, Santa didn't wrap our presents. We'd rush down the stairs to toys everywhere. It was amazing. Now that we're older and have a better idea of just what it is we're getting, the presents are wrapped to maintain some element of surprise. We each have a set spot where our presents are, so we know exactly where to plop down and start the unwrapping. And when it comes to Christmas morning, we're not the one-person-at-a-time type of family. It's a free for all, with everyone ripping their presents open and exclaiming over their gifts. It's also presents first. There would be serious mutiny if anyone even suggested breakfast before presents.

Though Jeff and Matthew got plenty of big boy presents, they seemed to most enjoy this race track, which was a gift from Santa to the whole family. It's a throwback to one of our favorite toys. We used to spend entire days racing cars down the track (which in the old version had only 2 lanes, I think). Each race was a heat of sorts, with the slower cars eliminated and the faster cars moving on round after round until we were left with one car to crown champion. Obviously, the track hasn't lost its allure.

This year we even managed to take a family picture in which everyone looks good. No closed eyes or goofy expressions. It's a Christmas miracle! The tripod and remote we got for Christmas obviously work quite well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where We'll Land Nobody Knows

As Jeff moves into the final* stages of his PhD program, he's starting to think about where to go next. Professionally the next step for him is to take a post-doc position. Since we'll be traveling for a year, he won't move directly on to this step, but will take it on as soon as we return, hopefully. As finding a post-doc position while half a world away in a developing nation with unreliable means of communication could prove difficult (I love to understate things), he's working on making connections and investigating options now. (He's a thinker, I tell you.) Being unemployed and poor is not really something we are aiming for.

So we spend a decent amount of time these days talking about where we want to move, sometimes in a very philosophical if we could move anywhere type of way, but more often in a "there's an interesting program here; what do we think of the place" type of way. Locations that have come up in regards to the second type of conversation have been Memphis (St. Jude's Children's Hospital), Delaware (I can't remember what), and Sacramento (UC Davis program).

I can't say I was doing cartwheels over any of those. In fact, I was almost convinced that Jeff was trying to come up with some pretty bad locations as some sort of psychological tool to make mediocre places seem awesome. I was waiting for him to pull out Fargo, Boise, or Buffalo.

But then I got to thinking. First, a post-doc position usually only lasts 2 or 3 years. Second, I'm willing to travel all over the developing world with nothing but a small backpack, and I'm not willing to relocate with all of my things to any city in one of the most developed nations in the world? Third, is there anything better for a writer than to have a multitude of experiences, to meet all kinds of people, and to observe life in all its different forms?**

So, go ahead and bring it.*** Anchorage or Asheville, Billings or Bermuda, Charleston or Cleveland, Detroit (okay, I do draw the line somewhere) or Dublin....I can handle it.

(And yes, you can go ahead and give me the best wife of the year award.)

*The word "final" should be taken with a grain of salt. Jeff's working hard to finish but a lot of things still have to fall into place and the Neuroscience gods must smile down on us until we can say "absolutely final." We're hoping that's about 6 months from now. It could be 9. It will most certainly happen in 2008.

**What could actually be better for writing, in a weird, messed-up kind of way, is being stuck in a town that really, really sucks. Without anything else to do, there'd be so much more time for writing. And my imagination would really get a work-out.

***This does not mean that I won't come up with all kinds of negative things to say about any proposed place. I will most certainly still whine, moan, and complain. But then I'll buck up and and make the best of it. That's just my style.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Is It Really Almost Christmas?

Hello, anyone still out there?

Sorry I've been neglectful about posting lately. I've been feeling a bit over-committed, and Spargel took the hit.

The holidays are here, and though it doesn't quite feel like it to me (I'm not sure why, but I'm thinking that will change when I head home on Thursday), we've been doing all the typical Christmas things.

Our tree is up. It looks pretty much the same as it does every year.
I must say, however, that I think getting the tree up this year may have been even more difficult than the year I did it myself. We just couldn't find the perfect tree. In past years, we've easily been able to find the right one, but this year, we looked, and looked, and looked, and then finally settled for what seemed best. As you can see, it looks nice.

Unfortunately, however, the tree trunk has scoliosis. It it far from straight. After a bit of struggle, we managed to get it to stand up. But after loading it with ornaments, it was no longer what I would call upright. So we then spent forever trying to adjust, the tree fully decorated with lights and ornaments, and only two set of hands. Jeff would adjust the stand while I held the tree, but we needed a third person to tell us when it was straight. Let's just say there were many, many do-overs, and I was close to throwing the tree on the porch and saying forget it. But I guess we managed to right it well-enough since it has now been standing for one week without any tottering. Woohoo!

In other Christmas news, I spent the weekend doing some holiday baking. I cut back a bit this year, because I was tired and busy, and because, let's face it, we just don't have that many friends around here who we can give our cookies to. So this year we have chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, macadamia macaroons, cookie dough truffles, s'mores bars, and spiced nuts. All but the s'mores are tried and true, and most are different from the ones my mom, the queen of Christmas cookies, makes. Since we'll be home for about a week and can munch on her cookies then, I figured I'd avoid repeats.

My holiday shopping is pretty much complete, although I have two things I need to pick up once I get to Louisville. I know what they are and where to get them, so it shouldn't be hard although I hate not having them yet. I just love to cross stuff off my lists.

Two more holiday parties this week, and then we are done. I've already had two work-related ones (one for the entire Smithsonian and one for my department), and I have one more on Monday (for my specific museum). Jeff has also already had two (one for grad students and one for his entire lab), and he has one more on Wednesday (for his section of the lab). I can't complain about the free food and drink, but it's starting to be a little much. Couldn't we just consolidate them into one fabulous party instead of many mediocre ones?

Does that sound Grinch-y? I really do love the holidays. It's just that right now I feel like we've been squeezing the holidays in between a zillion other things. It'll be nice to be home and not have all those other things to worry about. I'm ready for a break.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, and that Red-Nosed Reindeer

Set your DVRs, VCRs, and Tivos, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airs tonight at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) on CBS. Can it be Christmas without at least one viewing of this classic? I don't think so.