BACKGROUND

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review of 2007 - You Won't Be Tested on This Material

I'm stealing this idea from CS over at Another Tangential Thinker. You take the first sentence of the first blog for each month of the year and put it together in a paragraph. It makes for some interesting paragraphs. Here's mine:

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..." This morning, I took our boys in to the vet to be groomed. I spent Thursday and Friday in all-day CLEs. I recently took a job working overnights two days a week. Hi, my name is Shelley and I'm a scrapbook addict. It's been an interesting week. I got a new job this week. I have a new addiction. Since my last blog was such a downer, I decided a blog was in order about the lessons we can learn from our canine companions. It's been a good weekend. Peanut and I had a great weekend at my dad's house. It's been a crazy holiday season.

The first sentence really sums up the whole year. It was indeed the best of times and the worst of times in many ways. Here are the things that happened through the year:

January: I quit my job at the law firm after deciding that they were unethical and I could no longer work for such people. My friend, Angel, was in a terrible car accident and then fired from her job.

February: Peanut became a part of our family, I turned 31 and I had the worst food poisoning I've ever had. I was terribly dehydrated and sick. Dear Husband's grandfather died as did a wonderful priest I knew from my childhood.

March: My friend Angel was hospitalized with pneumonia for five days and then spent three weeks recuperating at my house.

April: I took a job working overnights at my gym. It didn't last long because it took too much out of me to work the night shift. We let Peanut sleep in our bed with us through the night for the first time. She's been there ever since. I finished my first scrapbook project and I flew to Oregon to attend my best friend's graduation. She got her M.A. degree in teaching. I was very proud! We took on a foster dog.

May: Peanut was spayed and I was very worried about her. It was hard to leave her by herself at the vet's overnight. I bought a Butler Bag, which I absolutely love still.

June: I got a job working at Curves as a fitness trainer. This didn't last long since I ended up going on an emergency trip to Oregon when my mother was hospitalized and placed in the ICU. Our dog, Chip, had surgery to remove the lump from his head. I started watching Army Wives, which is a fabulous show and should be on again this Spring.

July: I got another job working at a printing company. My best friend came to visit me for a week and we had SO much fun together. I was officially accepted to my M.A. program in Counseling Psychology.

August: My nephew came to stay with us for three weeks. I quit the printing company job. Peanut got her first grooming. I started classes for my M.A., which involved driving to Victoria (155 miles one way) every Saturday. Our foster dog attacked Chip and caused a lot of injury to his back and also to my thumb. Chip and I both had stitches. By law, the foster dog had to be taken to Animal Control.

September: I started a new job as an executive assistant. I finished a pro bono divorce case that I had been working on for 18 months. Peanut went to her first birthday party at her friend, Spike's, house.

October: I got tired of driving to Victoria and started listening to books on tape. Peanut celebrated her first Halloween by helping me hand out candy and dressing up like a Princess:) I quit the job as an executive assistant.

November: Peanut and I went to her grandpa's house in San Antonio. It was her first trip there. We returned later in the month for Thanksgiving. Dear Husband was in the ER on Thanksgiving Day with bronchitis.

December: We celebrated Peanut's first birthday on December 9 (she was born December 1) with friends and family. I got a job as an International Adoption Caseworker. I took my first spinning class. My friends, Mike and Elizabeth, adopted their son after waiting for 18 months. Dear Husband and I went to Oregon to spend Christmas with my mom. It was a great time.

Whew. So to recap, I quit four jobs and got a fifth. That is more jobs in one year than I've had in my entire life. We adopted Peanut who has been the love of our lives. I took three trips to Oregon. My best friend came to visit. I started school for my M.A. degree. DH and I were both ill for several varying months.

Through it all, I learned a lot and I wouldn't trade the experiences, good or bad, for anything. Thanks for the memories 2007 and may 2008 be a year of happiness, prosperity, and growth for all of us.

Messy...and Then Not Messy

Dear Husband went to the Wings place tonight to celebrate his friend's birthday. This gave me some uninterrupted time to complete home projects that I've been putting off. I got a ton of things organized, put away, and just generally cleaned up.

The big accomplishment was getting the kitchen cabinets organized. They were a huge mess. Items were stuffed in there in no particular order and when I had to use something, it was a hassle to move things around and they would fall off the shelves. ARGH. So annoying. I've been wanting to clean it out for ages. I finally did it today and it's SO nice. I got rid of a lot of stuff that we have never used and organized the things we do use. I can now find and use things without fear of avalanche and personal injury.

The other major accomplishment for me was the organization of my craft room, where I do my scrapbooking, gift wrapping, and so forth. I've had gift bags for various occasions on the floor, tissue paper on the floor, cards on the table, and other rampant disorganization. With the help of a 7-drawer cart I purchased from Wal-Mart, I got everything cleaned up and organized. I now have all my tissue papers, gift bags, boxes, and ribbons organized and easily accessible.

It feels really good to get things done that have been on my list forever. In addition to the two large projects already mentioned, I also got some correspondence written and ready to mail. Little things like that can linger on the list forever so it was nice to complete them as well.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

We're Home and There's Room in the Freezer.

Dear Husband and I returned home Wednesday night. Our luggage on the other hand decided to stay in Denver for an extra day. That was actually ok with me because if we had collected it at the airport, I would have felt like I needed to do the laundry, put away the gifts we brought back and so on. We got home around 11:30 p.m., totally exhausted so I was glad not to have to deal with any of those things.

Besides being totally exhausted, I was also sick. Still am actually, but I'm better than I was on Wednesday night. I had caught a cold on Monday before leaving Oregon. Yes, my second illness in less than a month. Anyway, the plane ride home on Wednesday did nothing to help me. I got off the plane with both my ears clogged. The plane ride caused tremendous pressure in my ears. I was unable to "pop" them for two days. TWO DAYS! One of them popped Thursday, the other today (Friday). They still hurt a little bit, but not too badly. I spent Thursday night coughing and sneezing. I couldn't sleep well so I went to the grocery store at 11:30 p.m. Might as well put the inability to sleep to good use.

Today, I feel better, having gotten to take several naps and generally rest throughout the day. However, I also did something I've been meaning to do FOREVER: I cleaned out the freezer. It was desperately in need of it. I had bought some frozen foods last night and had to stuff them in there. Every time I went grocery shopping in the last six months, I kept thinking that I should clean the freezer out. Finally, I just did it. It is so much easier to see what we have, which means we will eat it and not waste so much. That's always a good thing.

Oh, I forgot to report on our Christmas Day. We had a great time at my mom's house! We came over early and I easily fell back into my role as official taste tester as the food was being made. YUM! I hadn't gotten to eat my mother's Christmas cooking since December 2002. For the math challenged, that's 5 YEARS. 5!!! That was way too long.

We opened gifts, which was fun for all of us. I got a lot of nice stuff as did Dear Husband, my mom, and my nephew who was there as well. The dinner was wonderful and so was the night...cool and rainy, very Christmasy weather as opposed to the humidity we often get here in December.

All in all, it was a wonderful visit. I love Oregon and I miss it a lot. It was nice to be near the ocean, hearing the fog horns at night, and listening to the rain hit the windows. I plan to visit again soon. It's tough to stay away.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A True Gift

I mentioned in one of my recent blogs that my friends Mike and Elizabeth were awaiting the birth of their son, whom they are adopting. Well, the little guy gave Mike and Liz the best Christmas gift ever by arriving on Christmas morning. I cannot imagine the overwhelming joy that the new parents are feeling and that their little boy is feeling as well bonding and connecting with his parents. They have decided to name him Mark Garrett - a beautiful strong name for such a lucky baby.

I wish the new parents a baby who sleeps through the night right away, eats all his food, never spits up, and always realizes how much he is loved.

Merry Christmas to the new family and to everyone reading this. Be thankful for the gifts in your life, not just today, but every day of the year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Live from Oregon

Dear Husband and I left for my hometown in Oregon on Friday morning. It was an early flight out of Houston and a rather exhausting trip, but it's been so much fun. We had dinner on Friday night at Chan's Chinese (my very favorite Chinese Restaurant) with my mom, cousin, and my nephew. I haven't laughed so hard in a very long time. I really needed that.

Saturday, I drove Dear Husband around town to see some of the places that were important to me when I was growing up. He had never been to my hometown before so he was seeing these places for the first time. It was nice to share that part of my life with him.

My mom and I had a great breakfast and did some shopping then returned to her house for a fantastic spaghetti dinner. No one makes spaghetti like my mom. Home cooked meals really hit the spot especially when you haven't had one in SO long.

Today, we slept in and then I took Dear Husband to Wild River Pizza for lunch. It's my favorite pizza place here and it is very, very good. It's been around since I was very young and is just the absolute best pizza on the planet, bar none. After lunch, I headed out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. I think I am done now. If I've forgotten someone, they will just have to get over it.

Happy Holidays Dear Blog Readers. May Santa bring you all you wish for and if you get a lump of coal, may it turn into a diamond.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Circle of Life

I've been thinking this week about the circle of life. I got two pieces of news this week that represent the circle. The first piece came from Kitty, the leader of the Bible study class that I took last year. Her husband, George, was diagnosed with cancer last December. It is a blessing from God that they live in Houston and have access to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which is one of the best cancer treatment hospitals in the world. Unfortunately, even access to top treatment and care does not afford this story a happy ending.

George underwent treatment for the cancer of his lung. He had the lung removed and went through chemotherapy. A biopsy Monday revealed that the cancer has returned aggressively and the doctors give him weeks to live. It is a sad piece of news anytime, but particularly during the holidays. George and Kitty have a great faith in God and they know that this is His will. They are forging ahead with amazing faith and fortitude.

The other piece of news is much happier and I am thrilled to be able to post about it. My friend, Elizabeth, and her husband Mike have been waiting for almost 18 months to be matched with a birth mother so that they can adopt a child. They are wonderful people in their late 30s who cannot have children of their own. They have an adorable sailboat-themed nursery, clothes, and other baby supplies. All that was needed was a baby. Liz was sad that another Christmas would pass without a child of their own. Little did she know, God had other plans. On Tuesday, they found out they were matched with a birth mother!

They left on Thursday to travel to Indiana from Houston to begin the process of adopting their son. I am beyond happy for them and I can guarantee that this child will be loved beyond measure and he has not even been born yet. He was due this week, but if he hasn't arrived, his birth mother will be induced on Christmas Day!! Is that a sign from God or what?

Both pieces of news, though one was sad, made me realize that it's all about God's plan. There is a circle of life, an infinite birth and death cycle that allows us to realize how much we are all connected. No matter where you live in this world, birth and death are celebrations of life, though in very different ways. When someone dies, we celebrate what their life was; when someone is born, we celebrate what their life will be. I like to think that those who pass on guide those who are getting ready to be born.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mildly Cold

This weekend has been cold in more ways than one. The temperature has finally dropped here in Houston, which is nice. Wearing shorts at the Christmas tree lot is just not right. Besides the temperature, a cold also settled into my lungs. This was a problem because I can't take any medications at this time due to an issue with my liver being able to process them. My doctor said my liver was "irritated" and that I needed to refrain from making it work harder than it has to. This was weird to me since I do not drink, take steroids, or do anything else that would bother my liver, but there you have it.

So, I had to tough it out with no medications, using instead a lot of Vick's VapoRub and Halls drops. I also found a great deal of relief with the SudaCare Advanced Vapor-Plug. You plug it into an electrical socket and it fills the room with menthol. it helped me to sleep. I have to say that I have so much respect for our ancestors who toughed it out through colds, flus, and worse ailments without even Vick's VapoRub. Those people are my heroes because it isn't easy.

In any case, I feel better today, which is good because I start my new job tomorrow as an International Adoption Caseworker. I am excited and looking forward to it. Hours are great, virtually no commute, and the people seem great. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Britt!

Today is my best friend, Britt's, 34th birthday. I thought it only fitting to post a blog about her today. I have known Britt since 1994 when I was 18 and she was 20. We met at the University of Oregon where we were both living in the International dorms in Hamilton Hall. Ah, memories.

That was an interesting first year at UO. We met three other girls: Nami (who was Britt's roommate), January (my next door neighbor) and Jen (who lived at the end of the hall). For some reason, the five of us gravitated to one another and spent that year together. We loved each other, fought with each other, ate together, played together, studied together. After that first year, we all went our separate ways to some degree, but at the end of the day, Britt and I were the ones still standing.

Britt is my kindred spirit, the person in this world who knows who I really am and still loves me anyway. We share a love of chips & salsa, useless trivia, idle chat, gymnastics, figure skating, and Corn Pops...all the staples of life. Britt has been a part of every big event that has happened in my adult life and I have been there for hers as well. I remember the first time I met her now-husband, I remember her telling me she was pregnant with her son and then later, her daughter. I knew she would make a wonderful mother and I was not wrong about that. Her children are great examples of what happens when you've got good parenting skills.

I've always admired Britt's patience and her ability to forge ahead no matter the circumstances. She is a person for whom the glass is always half full. And even when the glass is empty, she sees the possibility of it being full. She is always learning, always seeking out ways to do good in this world. She is just an awesome person and I am so glad to be a part of her life.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRITT!

Here's to many more years of full glasses and chips and salsa!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spinning

I went to my first spinning class tonight at 24-Hour Fitness. My friend, Cassie, was teaching for the first time so I went to support her and also because I've always wanted to try it, but was a bit afraid of intense coaches. Cassie is a nice, sweet person so definitely a good person for the first try at it.

Cassie did an excellent job teaching. I enjoyed it, but wow! It is tough. It was an hour-long class and I was only able to survive for 30 minutes. I am terribly out of shape these days. I need to get back into my regular gym schedule, I've been such a slacker in recent months. Anyway, it really is an excellent workout. I'm going to be hurting tomorrow, but it will be the good kind of hurt where each stab of pain will remind me that I've done something good for myself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Party Dogs!

On Sunday, we celebrated Peanut's 1st birthday. Peanut is so special to us and such a joy that we only feel it right that she get a celebration of her first year. Her actual birthday is December 1, 2006, but we celebrated on the 9th since that was the first date we were able to put it together.

Peanut had so much fun! Several of her doggy friends showed up: Spike, Tiger Bob, Gretchen, and of course her brothers, Chip and Norman. She had a fantastic time running around the yard with all her friends. She got lots of cute gifts from everyone including squeaky toys and treats. We had a doggy cake made out of Milk Bones and peanut butter for the four-legged guests and of course, a regular chocolate cake for the two-legged guests. All the four-legged guests got doggy bags with treats and a card filled with pictures of Peanut's first year. Everyone seemed to like that.

Peanut was so pooped at the end of the day that she took a nap in her little room (her crate in our bedroom) in the early evening, which she almost never does unless she's totally exhausted.

Here's to all the dogs, cats, and other animals that make our lives more joyful than they otherwise would be!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Crazy Holidays

It's been a crazy holiday season. I ended up in the emergency room on Thanksgiving day with Dear Husband. He had been coughing and stuffy the week preceding the holiday. The day of Thanksgiving, he wasn't even able to go to the dinner at my family's home. My dad and I went and brought him back a plate. When we got home, I decided to take him to the ER because he sounded horrible and hadn't been getting any better even though he'd been sick for about 6 days at that point. I told him I thought he had bronchitis and he should go to the ER.

Of course, in typical man fashion, he protested, but then finally gave in. We went to the ER at a small hospital in a town called Hondo as it was the closest one. The doctor diagnosed him with...guess what...bronchitis. Yup, I was right. Which Dear Husband later admitted and that was quite the major event since he has such a hard time admitting it when I am right;) Anyway, he got a shot at the hospital and a couple of prescriptions, which my dad and I retrieved, driving 60 miles round-trip because the only open pharmacy on the holiday was in San Antonio. Dear Husband is doing much better now.

In other news, I have finished a presentation and two testing/reports I had to do for my psychology class. The only things left to do now are the final exams for the two classes I am taking. I will take one of those exams this week and the last exam next Saturday. I'm looking forward to not having to drive to Victoria every Saturday (155 miles one-way). Although, I have to say that I have listened to several good books on tape during the drive. These three are worth mentioning:

Quentins by Maeve Binchy. This is the story of a restaurant, Quentins, in Dublin, Ireland and the many people who have passed through it. Ella Brady, who has known the restaurant since childhood, sets out to do a documentary of the restaurant and its stories.

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. Midwife Sybil Danforth takes desperate measures to save a baby's life on an icy winter night in rural Vermont. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of a stroke. But was the mother dead or did Sybil inadvertently kill her? Questions of morals, ethics, and midwifery versus modern medicine are raised as Sybil goes on trial for the killing of her patient.

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux. Three best friends, all with the same birthday, are about to turn forty. Celebrating at a summerhouse in Maine, Leslie Headrick, Madison Appleby, and Ellie Abbott are taking stock of their lives and loves, their wishes and choices. But none of them expect the gift that awaits them at the summerhouse: the chance for each of them to turn their "what-might-have-beens" into reality.