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Jan. 21st, 2011

Every time I step outside I find myself counting down the days to Spring. I could care less about the warm weather, being a rain-and-racing-clouds sort of girl, but I'm really looking forward to spending time in my patio garden. Unfortunately, it's almost completely barren right now. A lot of my plants ended up in the trash heap following the first hard freeze of 2010. Well, more than a lot, really. I managed to save my three avocado seedlings by bringing them into the house. (They were my babies, raised by hand first in an old tomato can, I couldn't let them freeze.) But the rest of the plants . . . well, they just weren't as important. I left them outside hoping for the best. At some point, though, everything started going brown, and I finally just said to hell with it and turned it all out into the garbage. I wish I'd taken a photo before everything died, because some of the flowers were lovely. The best picture I can manage is this one (taken months ago), which sort of gives you an idea of what it looks like today:

It's a great patio, full of light even though it's hemmed in on two sides by trees. There's plenty of space for the table and chairs, pictured above, plus an old wooden rocker and a vintage metal stool we're using as an end table -- and that's not counting all the pots and plant stands. This year I'd like to hang some lights or paper lanterns around the ceiling, maybe bring in a few more decorative pieces: broken china to arrange half-buried in the dirt; a frame filled with stained glass; bits of architectural pieces or statuary (Hugh donated a statue of Saint Peter that will look beautiful surrounded by small white flowers). I'm also pondering the idea of an indoor herb garden, but I don't know if this will happen or not. There's not a lot of room left in the kitchen, and the cats chew on anything they can get their paws on. Here's how I'll do it, if I do it:

Once everything's in place outside, I'm hoping to start reading there at night or on weekends. I have a small lamp I can set on the table, and some floor pillows for the iron chairs. My first goal is to finish The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. I've been moving through it at a snail's pace, savouring the language, trying to keep the huge cast of characters arranged neatly in my head. It's very good, but it's also very dense. I wish Byatt would've focused on five or six or ten characters rather than, oh, thirty? There must be thirty main characters. It certainly seems like it sometimes. Also on my list:

- The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
- Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen)
- Falconer by John Cheever
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I need to remember to stack all these near my bed so I don't pick up other things instead. The good news is that I've made myself stop buying books for a while until I finish some of the ones that are just sitting around collecting dust. This never used to be a problem (er, the dust part, not the buying books part). I blame peer pressure video games. Speaking of, and if you don't care about these things skip ahead. . .Collapse )

It'll probably be a month or two yet before I feel safe buying anything for the patio. I don't want another week of cold nights to come sweeping in for the kill. In the meantime, I'm nursing the avocado trees and dreaming about one day having a real yard in which to plant them. Until then, the patio garden will have to do.
Two weeks (almost) into the new year and so far things seem to be edging upwards. I know it's way too early to tell what 2011 will bring. Way, way too early. But this year my philosophy is all about taking it one good day at a time -- even if I have to make it good -- and building up to one good month, one good half-year, and so on. I spent a lot of 2010 struggling with stress. So much stress over so many minor things. And it's ridiculous, because I put that anxiety there with my own two hands. I made mountains out of molehills. I refuse to do that again this year. I know life isn't going to get any easier anytime soon, but I certainly don't help by worrying about things that are out of my control, or freezing in place when I could be taking action. This year I mend where I can, and where I can't? I move on.
Christmas crept up on me this year and then was over before I even knew it. I think it was the weather -- warm and muggy one day, freezing the next. You could wear shorts for a while there, right up through mid-December. That was troubling. It's tough celebrating winter holidays in 70-degree weather, no matter how hard you try (see: Katherine Clifton). Luckily for us, we had a bit of a cold snap on Christmas Eve, which made dinner at my parents' quite pleasant. My sister and I did the majority of the cooking, although Hugh stepped in to help toward the end. As usual, there was enough food to feed a small army: stuffed mushrooms and finger sandwiches, spinach spread and chili-cheese dip, cocktail sausages, meatballs, four different kinds of chips, cookies and frozen yogurt, etc., etc., ad nauseum. After we ate we all hunkered down to watch It's a Wonderful Life. We made it about halfway through (right up to the part where George lashes out at his astonished family), then Hugh and I decided to head back home.

Christmas Day was ours, briefly. We slept in late, made our customary pot of coffee, and snuggled up in our robes on the couch to exchange gifts. I've spent the past, oh, three or four Christmases with Hugh, and I can say without a doubt that he is the best gift-giver on the planet. I kid you not. Everything he gives is incredibly personalized. I struggled to shrug off the huge flush of embarrassment I felt over my meager gifts for him. They really paled in comparison to the ones he gave to me.

Sunday we woke up relatively early and started on the drive up to Jackson to stay with Hugh's family. At just over three hours, it's a pleasant weekend trip. The road there meanders down gently winding roads and hills, through lanes hedged with bristling pines, past sleepy, dilapidated towns. Halfway there we stopped at a gas station and were treated to a few tiny snowflakes, the only ones I've seen this season -- and sadly so. There was no snow in Jackson, but Hugh's sister's place felt warm and Christmasy just the same. We were able to fit a surprising number of things into this visit. Chitchatting, shopping, the Natural Science Museum. I've come to really enjoy spending time up there for the holidays. It's a tradition I hope we continue to keep over the years.

The rest of the break went by really quickly after that. We played video games (I'm working on Final Fantasy XIII now), ate loads of horrible holiday food, played board games with friends, watched movies, and generally had a grand time Not Being At Work. It was lovely. Going back to the office this Monday was pretty tough, but not as stressful as I'd anticipated. One of my resolutions for this year is to let go of some stress. I stress over everything, work included. So far this week I've tried to just let things be and not worry that I'm not doing a good enough job or I'm forgetting something or I'll never finish on time. It's helped, I think. Other resolutions include:

1. Read more. I'm truly ashamed of the number of books I read last year. I can't even tell you how few I read. Maybe six? I used to read three times that many a year, maybe more. This has got to change, especially if I'm to go back to school.

2. Journal more. I've posted a few times this year, but not a lot. And my paper journal . . . yeah, like two entries there.

3. Write more fiction. I've been working on a story for Hugh for years now, not even kidding. That needs to be wrapped up. And I'd like to try my hand at a short story or novel. Stay tuned for that.

4. Get in better shape. I was doing really well for a while, going five times a week for six months or so, and then . . . I was not. Time to get back on track (er, no pun intended).

5. Figure out law school. I'm so torn on this one. I'll have my LSAT results next week, and then . . . I guess depending on my score, I need to either start the application process or retake the exam. I love learning. I loved my undergraduate education. But I don't know that I'll love law school and working full time. Lots of thinking to do on this one.

6. Travel with Hugh. The boyfriend and I talk about traveling a lot, but we are so pitifully poor, even with our master's degrees. If he gets a promotion this year, we might be able to take one really nice trip in 2011. Japan always comes up on the top of our list. I think it's more likely to be a U.S. trip, though.

7. Stress and spend less. Easy enough, right? I hope so. Money stresses me out, and stress stresses me out. It'd be nice to go back to being that even-keel girl I was a few years back. Where did she go?

There are probably definitely more things I can work on in 2011, but those are the big ones. Here's hoping we're all successful this year!
After weeks of internal agonizing, nights of tossing restlessly under the covers, days of solving logic puzzles on bits of random scratch paper at work . . . I'm happy to report that yours truly can finally relax. The LSAT is under my belt, and now it's just a three-week waiting game for the results. I think I did ok. I certainly didn't do well (I didn't study enough to do well, I'm afraid), but I'm hopeful I scored high enough to get into the program of my choice. I can always retake the test in February, I guess. Or reassess my decision to attend law school in the first place, if my score comes back horrendously low. Much to my disappointment, I feel no closer now to making a final decision than I did prior to sitting for the exam. Maybe that will change when I see how I did. I think it will.

One and a half more weeks of work, then I've ten days off in a row, more or less. It'll be nice to lounge around in a robe with the boyfriend and watch silly movies and play video games and just enjoy the end of the year. Hugh doesn't like to celebrate Christmas like I do, which dampens my holiday cheer a little. Decorating the apartment and setting up the tree alone this year was, well, lonely. Secretly I would've loved for him to turn on some Christmas music and kiss me sweetly on the cheek and ask if he could join me. Loved. But that's Hugh for you, and I can't change him. We'll still have fun on our break and do non-Christmasy things. At least my family is there to share the warm-and-fuzzy spirit with me. And perhaps Hugh and I will make a drive down to the beach for New Year's like we did last year, shoot some fireworks off into the stars. I've got resolutions to make for 2011, things I'd like to work on, but I suppose those are for another post.
Sometimes I have these little dreams of going back through my account (all the way back, to the very first entry) and transferring everything to a real journal - page by page, line by line, until it's all right there in my hands: a real thing, a book I can cherish, not code on a server somewhere. It'd be a monstrous undertaking, this project. Even if I skip over all the memes and photo posts and forgettable asides, I'm still looking at hundreds of entries, some of them quite long. It might take months to capture it all. But what a fascinating bit of nostalgia to carry with me as I move around this strange world. And what fun, as I work on it, revisiting things from past.

Nov. 7th, 2010

While there are still a lot of kinks to work out regarding law school, things are slowly grinding ahead. I applied for the LSAT last week and will be taking the exam in December. I also spoke to our department head about tuition reimbursement, and although I don't have it from her in writing that my company will pay for school, I do have her assurance that it's been done before and can almost certainly be done again. We're going to revisit it in the new year, since the application isn't even due until May. In the meantime, I'll take the exam, continue to do my research, and hope for the best. If nothing else, I'll have LSAT scores that will be good until December 2016 ( . . . you know, in case I have to postpone for a year or two).

It feels good to be moving forward again. Really good. These past few years I've been living the same basic week over and over again: rushing down the same paths, experiencing the same triumphs and miseries, banging my head against the glass. It's been infuriating. There's been no room to thrive, not at work or at home or in my relationships. Nothing's sparked my interest. I've been slowly turning into a blank-faced, brainless automaton. And now . . . I don't know. I got tired of it. I wanted something. And now life is changing, and I'm bringing that change about. That makes me very happy.

To be fair, though, that's not the whole of it. Some of it has been about acceptance, too. Accepting that I can't pack my bags and move tomorrow, and I can't afford to vacation in Japan in 2010, and I can't squeeze into that size six dress by next Friday. Things things I want won't just happen, not overnight. They take work, actual sweat equity. And nothing will ever come of me sitting here feeling sorry for myself -- for still being in this town, for not making enough money, for failing at exercising every day and not eating junk food and being the perfect girlfriend. It's easy enough to say things won't change if you don't put any effort into fixing them. Everyone knows this. The hard part is actually putting in the time, and changing, and being ok with yourself if you can't fix everything. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I find that last part very hard to do. But I'm working on it. And myself.
I've been thinking a lot about going back to school. It seems like a good idea, given the state of the economy. Aside from that, my company reimburses tuition, which is lovely and generous and just perfect for someone like me, who could never afford it on their own. At first I was leaning towards a paralegal program. That's essentially what I am now -- minus the certificate, of course. But then I started thinking bigger, and wouldn't you know it? I found a part-time law program offered at a nearby university. Better yet -- and really, this would've been a deal-breaker -- it's a night program. In four years, provided I'm accepted and ultimately pass the state bar, I'd be a lawyer.

I still need to do some research and take the LSAT and get recommendations and all that. Nothing is set in stone. I don't like the idea of living in this town I hate for another four years. That's a kick to the gut if ever there was one. I worry too that I'm out of practice with school. That and working full time might very well turn me into a zombie. And then there's Hugh. (I wouldn't mention him, but I don't think he reads this anymore anyway.) I worry that he'll find work out of state and have to (or want to) leave his student-girlfriend behind. That would totally knock me off my feet. Hugh's not only my boyfriend, he's my best friend. My foundation. He frustrates me and we have our moments, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that he's my world. If he left and I was here alone . . . well. Not a good situation.

So yes, there are fears associated with this decision. Lots of fears. But the potential benefits outweigh them. And I think . . . well, I think I could do it. If I really wanted to, I could do it. I loved the Media Law course I took in graduate school -- all the research in the library and wrapping my head around new things and reading. Oh, the reading. Plus I have some experience now working on actual legal cases, and I have to say, I enjoy it. Granted, what I'm doing now and what I'd be doing as a lawyer would be entirely different. There's a chance I'd hate prosecution and litigation work; there's no guarantee I'd like tax law or family law or business law. No problem, my brain says, that's when you combine your graduate degrees and become a law librarian! The possibilities are truly endless.

Next week, it's off to speak to the head of the department. I at least need to see if the funding is there (it should be there). And once that's settled? I put one foot in front of the other and keep marching towards my goal.
What a tease to be in the mood to write and yet totally unable. All day long my heart thumps "want, want, want," and meanwhile that creative part of my brain is looking off in the other direction, distracted by god knows what. It grows larger every day, this desire. Yet even that's wrong. Desire's too pretty a word for this affliction. What I'm talking about is hideous. It's grasping and it's ugly and it's . . . tumorous -- there it is. Tumorous is a good word for it. A cancer that's rendered me utterly inarticulate. I can't even eek out short stories anymore, and they were my bread and butter in college. These days they all end up fragmented and nonsensical. Of course that's if they even take off at all. To be honest, the only thing showing promise has been sitting in draft form in my inbox since last Christmas, gathering ye olde proverbial dust. Bloody pathetic, that.

I know what those of you familiar with this business will say: sometimes you have to write around the story to get at it. You have to hide in the bushes and wait for it and pounce. So that's what I'm doing, updating this blog instead of staring blankly at the screen. I don't know if it'll work, but I suppose it's worth a shot. An update is past due anyway.

Hugh and I are settling into the new apartment nicely. It's been a few months now, I suppose. It feels like less and more than that at the same time. Funny how that works. This place is such a step above our last one that it's almost laughable. No drunk neighbors, no loud teenagers, no dead bodies in the trunks of car (yeah, not kidding about that one). We've still got a few boxes to work through, but those are low on the priority list. We're mostly unpacked.

My favorite space here has got to be the patio. There are plants and herbs there now -- lovely clumps of basil, a yellow-petaled cactus, delicate tendrils of mint that can't decide if they want to live or die. And others, plants I have no name for but love just the same. I have to admit that I haven't spent much time out there lately, what with the heat being so ridiculous here in the summer. Luckily we've had a cold snap of late, so that should change. Next weekend I plan to spend my mornings out on the patio enjoying coffee and making some headway in my Byatt book. She's wonderful, isn't she?

On an entirely unrelated note (and really this is just me rambling, so don't look for any coherency here), I finally beat Mass Effect and have moved on to Mass Effect 2. It was an enjoyable game -- lots of nifty-looking alien races, weapons galore, and a sex scene between my female character and her sensitive, blue-skinned lady friend. Up next? Fallout New Vegas, which is set to be released in a few weeks. Cannot. Effing. Wait. I'm so ready to set out across the desert blowing the heads and legs and arms off of things. I logged over 150 hours in Fallout 3. I'd like to spend at least that much time on New Vegas. Ah, video games. Yes, dad, I still read books.

Work has been good. The new job was scary at first, like all new jobs. I had moments where nothing made much sense no matter how long I stared at it. I dreamt dockets for a month straight and talked casework in my sleep, much to Hugh's amusement. But it's getting easier. I find I can handle things by myself without bringing them to the attention of my boss or co-workers. Speaking of the people I work with, it would be no small exaggeration to say that everyone here has been awesomely supportive. I feel very lucky to be employed -- and even luckier to be learning a new skill set.

I don't think there's much else to say. No giant epiphanies here. I don't feel any closer to knowing what to do with my life. Maybe no one ever really does. I envy those rare few who come into life equipped with talents to match their deepest passions. If only it were the same for us all.

Jul. 4th, 2010

What a whirlwind these past few weeks have been.

The insanity started in May, when I decided to apply for a new job at my company. I've been a contractor here for over three years, first as an analyst in the information services department, then as a file clerk in the law department. It wasn't that I wanted to change departments again, but I was burnt out as a file clerk. Maybe that's an understatement, actually. Day in and day out, there I was with my master's degree and my pride, pulling files for people and printing labels and hating my life. It was way past time to move on.

Before I could move on, though, several things needed to happen. One of these things involved informing my current boss of my desire to leave the department. This was necessitated by HR and definitely not something I wanted to do. Luckily, it turned out even better than I hoped. When I sat down with my old boss, she got a very shocked look on her face and said she hoped I hadn't accepted yet. A position had apparently opened up and they were in the process of writing me into it. No one had told me because it wasn't finalized, but they had no doubt it'd fall into place. I thought about it for a second, weighing the pros and cons, and then said I'd love to stay.

After that, it was a waiting game. In the meantime, the lease came due on our old place and we signed a lease at a new place. Hugh decided it was a good idea to do some of the moving ourselves, so for two weeks we spent our nights loading things into the car, down the street, and upstairs to the new apartment. Did I mention it was 93 degrees outside with a humidity of, oh, about 75%? Total hell. Also totally worth it, seeing as how when the movers finally did come, they took three hours to move what amounted to mostly furniture.

Then, after waiting a bit more and getting a physical exam and filing out gobs of paperwork and unpacking, I started the new job. That first week was rough -- what do I know about intellectual property? and why isn't my apartment ready yet?? and where did I put my shoes??? -- but I'm settling in now and enjoying it thus far. We still have quite a few boxes to unpack, and decorating to finish, and some additional moving (Hugh's awesome mom gave me free reign to "shop" for stuff at their house). And it'll be about six months before I settle in at work and feel worthy of my IP Administrator title. But at least things have slowed down a little.

Next on the agenda? Deciding if I want to pursue a paralegal degree or a J.D. My company pays for tuition, and in this economy it'd be stupid for me not to branch out. After that . . . more reading, more writing. Gardening on the patio. I'd like to post some "friends-only" photos here of the new place when it's finished, so stay tuned for that. For the most part, life right now is pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. It's nice to finally be able to say that.

May. 3rd, 2010

Typical me, saying I'll update more and then totally failing. At least some things never change. Everything else? Well, everything else is sort of up in the air these days. I suppose that's your 20s for you. One month you're scraping together pennies for rent, the next you're sleeping in an eiderdown bed. Or something like that.

Housing has been on my brain a lot. Last week I put in notification to vacate the old apartment, giving us sixty days to pack and move into a new place. It's wonderful and frightening at the same time. Wonderful because we're so cramped there and frightening because . . . yikes, sixty days?! We have to be out by June 28, but we've already signed a new lease and are simply waiting to be approved. And oh my goodness, is the new place an improvement over the old! To wit:

1. Giant screened balcony off the kitchen and master bedroom. I'm already planning potted gardens in my head. Herbs, check. Succulents, check. Sweet-smelling flowers, check.
2. Two full baths. No more fisticuffs over who gets the sink in the morning!
3. Two bedrooms with walk-in closets. I have to keep my pajamas in a basket right now because there's just no room.
4. Fireplace! . . . in southern Louisiana. Yes, well. Ask me about this in November.
5. Dining room and a breakfast nook. I'm really looking forward to more shelves for cookbooks and kitchenware. Every time I open a cabinet at our current place, a piece of Tupperware flies out and thwacks me on the head. Unpleasant, that.
6. Washer/dryer connections. No more loading clothes into the car and doing laundry at my parents' place! This is a huge plus.
7. Quiet neighbors. Our building is off the main street and backs to a wall of pretty trees. I imagine being in the balcony will feel a bit like being in a tree house.
8. Five-hundred more square feet of actual living space!

I'm going to be thrilled if we get it -- and even more thrilled if we can actually afford it. I'm also waiting to see if this promotion at work is going to happen. It seems like a done deal, but you never know. And while it still isn't where I want to be, exactly, it's at least more relevant to my degree. Plus there's promise of an even better position looming on the horizon, and if that happens . . . well. Drinks are on me.