Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Unyielding Beast

This is a writing exercise done in class for my senior seminar, Writing as Resistance. It appears here unedited, just as I wrote it in class—only typed, of course. The way she walked us through the exercise was very broad, so I find it interesting that this is where my pen took me.

I could still feel the hot embers burning my nose. I thought if I opened my eyes, I'd see what I'd been so afraid of. But as my clammy hands went to my sides to steady myself, they met with the cool familiar leather of my couch and pulled me back into myself. Blinking, I looked around. The hum of the air conditioner kicked on and made me jump. I hadn't realized how heavy the silence had been.

In the corner, married to shadow, stood the grandfather clock. It towered over me as I approached it. It was cold, smooth against my fingertips, its face eyeless yet staring as seconds became minutes, and minutes hours. The sharp angles of its frame, the once white face now yellowed with age, thrust me back to that day. The funeral. The will. The clock was the only thing he'd left me, a tired reminder of how time marches on. And time runs out. It runs out for everybody.

My hands shook as I pulled back the glass, exposed the face. I wanted to go back. Again the feeling rose in me to run. To run back. I placed my finger down, a roadblock for the ever-moving second hand. It ticked, ticked, then met my finger, stubborn and unmoving. I felt it fight against me; such a small pressure, such a feeble resistance. And that's how it was the last time we spoke, he and I. His body was tired, his spirit broken, his will to fight and live was waning. That's how it was when he told me about the clock and how it only moves one way, always one way. I remembered the light in his eyes, I remembered how fast it faded and how empty he seemed once it was gone. A shell.

Only one way, he'd said.

I heard small wheels inside the clock ache and strain, but I wouldn't relent. Instead, I pushed back. Time, the unyielding beast, was forced back, the minute hand rewinding second by second, hour by hour. It weighed too much. Time bore such a heavy load.

Then, without warning, the minute hand snapped.

I thought I'd won, but the gears shifted and the jagged black claw of the second hand pushed forward. Time could not be defeated. Time could not be stopped.

Though I had pushed back the hands, though the hour the clock boasted was wrong, time itself was a bigger monster, bigger even than that massive grandfather clock with its unforgiving face and empty heart. It was the true adversary, never to be conquered.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Four Years Later

This is a non-fiction piece that I wrote for my senior seminar, Writing as Resistance. In class we read Suheir Hammad's poem, First Writing Since—the first writing she did after September 11, 2001; her reaction to it. Our written response was supposed to express a way in which we are broken.

I had the idea for this—really, the inspiration, if you want to call it that, since it's not fiction—quite some time ago. About four years ago, actually. But I shoved it aside. I knew it was worth writing, but I didn't want to write it.

Then, in 2009, it came again. The same sensation, the same realization. And I thought, "I should write this. It means something. I needs to be written."

But I couldn't. It was still too hard.

Then I started this class. The first day. The first assignment. Four years later, it was time. I don't know what to title it. I don't know what fits it yet, or if I ever will. Or if it will move anyone but me; they're my thoughts, emotions, and fears, after all.

Still, it was worth finally writing, and it's worth finally sharing. For whatever it's worth.

I don't know why, but I feel like it's important—or at least relevant—to mention that while I wrote this, I listened to "After the Storm," by Mumford & Sons, on perpetual repeat. Somehow it just evoked the right emotion in me, one that really married how I felt when I first had the urge to write this and how I needed to feel to actually write it. Either way, I feel since I listened to it while writing this piece, if you wanted companion music for it, I'd recommend that song.

When you’re little, there is no death. Death is just one of those things that we learn about as we go. My first experience with death that I really remember was the death of my granddad. But for some reason, his isn’t the death that broke something in me. Really, there were two deaths—both recent—that caused the break. 

The first was my grandpa’s, my mother’s dad. Strangely enough, it wasn’t his passing that caused such a change in me; it was seeing my mom. Seeing how hard it was for her. At the end of his funeral, we all rose to walk past the coffin and pay our final respects. As I stood in line behind my parents, behind my mother and her three siblings, I was struck by how small she looked. She leaned over my grandpa’s coffin—the final goodbye. As I watched, I realized that I wasn’t looking at my mother, not as I knew her. I was looking at a little girl saying goodbye to her daddy for the last time. A small, heartbroken little girl. It was a shock to me because I had never seen her like that. For some reason it hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that the loss of my grandpa was not the same as her losing her father. Though they were the same man, our sense of loss was very different.

The second death was the death of my grandmother, my dad’s mother. My whole life, I had known her as Super Granny. A great moniker for an extraordinary woman. Her death was very unexpected. Though she was in her mid-eighties, she was in good health. On one of my dad’s frequent trips to her house to check on her, he found her in bed, as if merely sleeping. Again I was shaken by the sensation that I wasn’t watching my father handle things, that I wasn’t comforting and hugging my father, but rather that I was trying to console a little boy who couldn’t quite believe that he really wouldn’t ever see his mommy again.

These two deaths caused something inside me to change, to see things differently. It was like a last veil had been lifted—the image of my parents as indestructible, the same image many children have of their parents when they’re young, gone. I began to realize that my parents are next in line, morbid as it sounds. The older generations are nearly gone. Time is, indeed, marching on—no matter how much I wish it would stop. Shortly after my grandmother’s funeral, my dad was trying to describe to me how it felt having both parents gone. Both of my parents have now lost both of their parents, and my dad described it like being orphaned. I realized then that planning, growing up, preparing—none of those things are foolproof. No matter how old you get, there are some things you’ll never be able to prepare for. 

Since these experiences and the subsequent conversations, there’s a new kind of sadness in me. Not a weeping, overwhelming sadness, but one that comes with the realization that one day I’ll lose my parents, too. No matter how old I am, I’ll be jolted back to childhood, to feeling lost and scared with no more mom or dad to turn to. And no matter when it happens, I won’t be ready for it. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rusty's S.O.S.

I don't normally do this, but as an avid dog lover (just look at my frequent mentions of my own dog, Tucker) I thought it couldn't hurt to share this with you guys.

I was reading a recent post over at A Dog In My Car, one of the blogs I follow, when I learned about Rusty's plight. Rusty is a sweet little dog, only a year and a half, who is hoping to get transferred from Bully Breed Rescue to Spirit Sanctuary. Bully Breed Rescue is trying to raise money to send him there.

I don't want you guys to feel pressured, or feel like you have to contribute. That isn't what this is about. And as a college student, I absolutely understand wanting to help but just not having money to spare. If that's the case, you'll find no judgements here. None at all. But for Rusty, simply spreading the word could be a huge help.

If you'd like more information on how you can help, check out his ChipIn page, "Help Rusty get to Spirit Sanctuary, NY."

I've also added a widget at the top left corner of my blog.

If you have anything to spare, feel free. If not, consider just sharing the link.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Better Idea

Anyone who says that dogs can't talk has obviously never met my dog, Tucker. He is just as capable of communicating with me as anybody else I know. His methods are merely a bit different.

A brief demonstration. The following exchange took place with myself seated at my desk and Tucker sitting at my feet, big brown eyes gazing longingly up at me while I tried to concentrate on my homework.

Big brown eyes are very distracting.

Our conversation went something like this—

"Are you sure you have to do your homework?"
 "I mean, are you really sure?..."

"...'cause I have a better idea."

How can I be expected to say no when those eyes are so full of hope...

Homework, let's be honest—
you don't stand a chance.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Class

The kind people at First Class Award have done me the honor of choosing me as one of their First Class Blogger Award recipients! Pretty cool, huh?

It may sound cliché, but I am genuinely honored. When I started this blog back in 2008, I had no idea it would reach so far. Or even that I would keep it up for so long.

I started it to work on my voice as a writer, to develop my non-fiction prose. I've loved writing as long as I can remember, but I had only really written fiction; I had a diary, of course—I still journal a lot. But as far a sitting down and putting pencil to paper, it was always to create. To imagine. I wanted to stretch my legs and nurture the other side of my writing aspirations; I wanted to work on learning to use the written word to better express myself, my emotions and opinions, experiences, my fears. And I wanted to learn how to write in a way that is easy and open; a way that would give others a sense of connection, familiarity, conviviality.

It's been truly amazing to watch the community here on my blog grow so much in the past year. What started out as a small cluster of readers has become a much larger following. Yet the conversations that come from comments have continued to feel very friendly and intimate. That is always what I wanted for this blog. I have met so many wonderful, kind-hearted, and talented people here. I consider myself very lucky to have such great and fun-loving people continue to visit, read, and comment.

Thank you all for dropping by and sticking around. I'm excited to see what's in store. I look forward to what lies ahead and I can't wait to continue sharing it with you guys.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Best Laid Schemes

I don't always have things planned out. Especially not planned out really well. This semester, I did. I had everything all figured out, and a lot of plans laid out ahead of me.

But, as Robert Burns so eloquently puts it, "The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go often askew" —And indeed they do.

Very askew.

I was going to graduate in May. I was already registered for the last classes I needed here at A&M, with the exception of one. Business Math. I tried to take it here last semester and it totally ate my lunch, so I dropped it. This semester, I planned to take it online at the same place I took my last two Spanish classes; Midland College.

Which should have worked out fine. I had the go-ahead from my advisor and knew the credits would transfer. Piece of cake, right?


When it came time to register, I didn't have my student ID. It took me several days and even more phone calls and emails before I was finally able to get in touch with someone who would email me back. No one ever answered the phone—I left three or so voicemails—I have yet to hear back from them, even now. When I finally did find someone who could provide me with my student ID, I instantly logged on to register. Only to find that the class was full.
Maybe Midland college employs sloths.
This would explain why they can't reach the phone before it rolls to voicemail.

I went into panic mode. Without this class, I wouldn't be able to graduate in May. I started sending more emails, making more phone calls, and being just as frustrated at the lack of response I was getting. Then on Thursday, I had the good fortune to call and actually reach a person on the phone instead of an automated message. He was very helpful and gave me the email address and phone number of the professor teaching the course I needed so that I could contact him and ask if he'd be willing to take one more student. I emailed him promptly.

But by the time I heard back from him the next day (he said he was unable to force me in, and that I'd need to call the Dean), I had learned that I didn't have the pre-requisite to take Business Math at Midland College. Which I still think can't be right because I had no trouble signing up for it here—It was just the passing it here part that I couldn't do. But I had been checking back to see if the class ever opened up, and lo, and behold! It did! It was when I tried to register for it that I got a pop-up saying I couldn't.

So I made more phone calls and sent more emails, but ultimately nothing came of it. The last possible day to register came and went. And I still have not once had someone return my phone call. Any of them. I must have left about six or seven, and their message swears they'll return the call within 48 hours.

Apparently that's a flat out lie.

I turned around and tried to sign up for another Business Math class online through a different school, with slightly better luck. The advisor there was very helpful and tried very hard to get me in, but all of the people she contacted said it simply wouldn't be possible to fit me in.

So my plans? Down the drain. May graduation? Not so much.

I don't know whether I'll take the class over the summer and graduate in August or just wait until next semester and graduate in December. I'm leaning more toward December because honestly? I have things to do this summer. And I want a formal graduation—I've worked so hard to get this degree; well, to almost get it. When I do finally walk across the stage and get my diploma, I don't want it to be in a speedy end-of-summer graduation. Which is why May was ideal. But between August and December, December is closer to what I'm wanting.

I just don't know. I suppose I'm still sort of reeling from the fact that my plans went so completely awry in the first place. At first I was livid. Beyond livid. Just ask my Mom; she had to listen to my tears and my rage and my fist-shaking fury. But now I'm trying to look at it positively.

Everything happens for a reason. Ultimately it's all in God's hands anyway, so who am I to assume that everything is all wrong? In this, I'm trying to find the plus side, the benefits, the bright side. They're there, they really are. For one, I'll be able to focus more on my writing this semester. I'm taking two writing intensive courses. In just one of those, I'm expected to write a grand total of 150 manuscript pages, which is no small task. With the schedule I have this semester, I should really be able to spend good quality time on writing and revising and perfecting. And that's pretty exciting.

Also, though less importantly, I'll be able to graduate with my Aggie ring. When I was going to graduate in May, I was going to have to wait until after graduation to order it since I have to have X amount of completed hours. Not that it would kill me to wait, but as far as looking for the positive, it'll be nice to actually order and receive my ring while I'm still here in Aggieland.

I can spend more time at the career center, working with people who'll help me figure out where to go from here and what I can do with my degree. Aggies have some serious advantages when it comes to networking, so it's a huge benefit to have this at my fingertips. And considering I really don't know what I want to do after I graduate, as far as what kind of job I want to get, this is a definite bonus in having a surprise extra semester.
At least he has a plan!
Overall, I think I'm happy. Not so much that everything got mixed up and rearranged, or that things deviated so completely from my original plans. But happy that I do have a peace about it, and that I can see the silver lining.

Though it may not be my last semester here after all, I'm really looking forward to this semester. And it's always nice to start out a semester with a positive outlook—especially when so much has been altered.

This is what they call adjusting, right? Improvising? Rolling with the punches?

Oh yeah.

I got this.

If you think these cartoons are funny, you should browse the rest of Natalie Dee's site. She is the artist of these comics and I am in no way, shape, or form deserving of any credit for them. Check out her site! Hours upon hours worth of belly-laughs up for grabs!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Know That You Like My Style

It has been brought to my attention that I am a stylish blogger. I was flattered and honored to receive the Stylish Blogger Award from not one but two equally fabulous bloggers.

Genuine thanks to both noobventures of pen, paper and a mouse as well as smilelikewoe of Smile Like Woe.

As I understand it, there are four little things I must do along with accepting this award. They are as follows:

  • Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Award 15 or so recently discovered great bloggers.
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

I can already check #1 off of the list. On to the second.

7 Things About Myself

  1. Despite serious anxiety about visiting the dentist, I'm so paranoid about my teeth that I visit the dentist at least twice a year typically.
  2. I have never eaten a PB&J sandwich. Ever.
  3. I'm so emotional that a mere thirty second television ad can make me cry. I mean, if it's sad, of course. Those SPCA commercials get me every time.
  4. I think I could probably live off of pizza forever. Pizza and chocolate. Pizza and chocolate and Starbucks. And bread.
  5. I've never owned any other kind of computer besides a Mac. And I never want to.
  6. When I was a kid, I desperately wanted my parents to buy me a boa constrictor. But they weren't having it. So I wrote and illustrated a small novella (okay, several sheets of notebook paper stapled together and colored with marker) explaining precisely why they should indeed get me one.
  7. I never did get a boa constrictor.

I'm passing the Stylish Blogger Award on to these bloggers, listed in no particular order, of course! Check them out!

Fabulous 35mm — Audree is the queen of movie reviews and red carpet features. But that's not all. She also shares her opinion on books, music, you name it.

Ariel WritesAriel is a delightful young woman and aspiring author of young adult fiction. She blogs about her experiences with writing, among other things.

Mary Malcolm's Awesomely Ordinary Blog — Though I am a contributor on this blog, Mary is the real brains behind Awesomely Ordinary. Mary is a writer, and her blog is indeed awesomely ordinary.

Mus(eum)ings — I love the name of Samantha's blog. The posts are good, too! She's an intern and a museum. How cool is that? It's like a sneak peek behind the scenes.

Starbucks MelodyMelody is a true Starbucks enthusiast and brand ambassador. Her blog is chock full of coffee and coffee related posts. She has tons of great pictures, on top of it all, and is all around a friendly and fun person. Her blog reflects that a hundred times over.

Miss Woodhouse's Musings — Miss Woodhouse is an absolute doll! She's a Starbucks enthusiast and fellow English major. Not to mention an avid reader.

A Dog In My Car — As a dog lover, I particularly appreciate the purpose of this blog. Christine started this blog to help support dog rescue. She shares posts about dogs who need homes or need to be fostered, or both, as well as other related information. It's a great blog.

June's CornerJune is a fabulous woman and her blog is a lot of fun. A fellow book lover, she'd love for you to come hang out in her corner for a chat.

Maggie The ArtistMaggie's blog is full of fun and creative tips and photos. She also blogs about art, being an artist, and life in general. Her blog is a ton of fun.

The Misadventures of a TaschaBear — This delightful blog is maintained by the mythical Reading Bear. It's loaded with book reviews and recommendations. Useful and fun to boot!

All of the above bloggers are definitely fabulous, and totally deserving of the Stylish Blogger Award. I hope you give them all a visit!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Broken Bells

I love music. All kinds, all the time. I would definitely call my taste in music eclectic. I have a little bit of everything. But my favorite CDs are the ones I can listen to all the way through and love from start to finish.

Even better is when I stumble across a gem one way or the other. It's like finding buried treasure. Only, unlike a chest full of gold, this treasure I like to share. Family, friends, anyone who will listen.

So that's what I'm doing right now.

I discovered Broken Bells sometime in mid-2010. I heard "The High Road" on a shopping trip in Hastings, meandered over to the screen that was playing the video so I could catch the name of the band. I realized I recognized the name—I'd seen the CD only a few days before next to the register at Starbucks. I decided to take that as a sign.

I immediately went over to the music department and found a copy of the CD. I forked over my money (Okay, you got me—I used my credit card) and popped the disc in my car as soon as I got in. I was enjoying it so much that when I got back to my apartment, I didn't want to get out of the car.

Since then, I've only grown to love it more.

I'm terrible at describing or categorizing music because I like so many different genres. So instead of trying to explain it only to fail, I recommend heading over to iTunes and previewing Broken Bell's self titled CD. I don't imagine you'll regret it.

I know I didn't.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Night Santa Came

Christmas at my house is always my favorite time of year. I love the way my Mom decorates our house. It's the epitome of warm and cozy, inviting and festive.

But on Christmas morning, there's something extra-special about it. It's a little warmer, a little more vibrant, a little more exciting. And it doesn't matter where we are. It's been this way at each house we've lived in. It's not about the place; it's about the people who inhabit it, and who make it what it is. Ever since I was a little girl, the room with the Christmas tree has been the room. When the Christmas tree isn't up, it becomes the room that the Christmas tree will be in. There's something about Christmas that's just particularly special to me.

And Christmas Day 2010 will definitely go down in the books as one of the top five best Christmas Days yet.
Tucker is ready to open presents.
It started out like any other Christmas does for us. The first thing I did upon waking was look for my Christmas stocking. Because that's where the candy is! I said good morning and Merry Christmas to Mom and Dad, got Tucker all excited at the prospect of opening his presents, and ogled the wrapped boxes, gift bags, bows, glitter, and tissue paper spilling out from under our tree.

We had a relaxed breakfast, all of us anticipating the soon-to-come gift unwrapping extravaganza. In my family, the actual unwrapping takes much longer than it would if not for the fact that each of us—myself, my Mom, and my Dad—have cameras. We're like the ultimate picture-taking family. While one of us opens a present, the other two snap away. If two of us start to open presents at the same time, one will inevitably slow down, so that the actual present-reveal isn't simultaneous, thus making it difficult to capture the moment on camera.

There really isn't a downside to this unique Christmas Day tradition; at least not that I can see. It in and of itself makes the whole present-unwrapping last longer, and we never find ourselves lacking in the photo memories department.

I'd guess between the three of us, we have at least three hundred pictures*. Overkill? Perhaps. But better too many than too few. You might think I'm exaggerating, but...I'm not.

*Upon uploading and sorting through pictures for this post, I have learned that we have 354 photos from this Christmas. 
I am not joking.

I was the most excited for Mom to open the silver scarves I got her. It had been my mission—a few days before Christmas, I was frantically searching. Mom's only stipulation for the scarf she wanted was that it be silver. I ended up finding two. I bought them both. One is a more understated silver scarf. The other, a fun sequined scarf. Not only was I excited for her to open her present and find that I had managed to come up with a silver scarf, but I was also excited for her to find out she got not one, but two of them. (Fortunately, she liked them both!)
Scarf #2.
Scarf #1.
It was a great Christmas for us. We all got stuff we wanted, with a great mix of stuff we weren't expecting. None of it was unwanted or disliked.

All of us were having a great time. All three of us are huge fans of goofing off. Christmas is no exception.
When the package is just as fun as the present.
I was doubly excited when I got a brand new bottle of my favorite perfume, J'adore. I had run out a while ago, but still had plenty of some other scents, so I didn't think I could justify spending the money for a new bottle. But I'm so happy I got more! I absolutely adore J'adore. No pun intended.

I also got an adorable shirt from my Mom! A shirt boasting the Greek letters of the International English Honor Society I was inducted into last semester. I really love it. It is too freakin' cute!
Sigma Tau Delta, represent!
But more than the perfume, more than the pile of video games, the candy, the clothes, the highlight of my day—my season, in fact—was the letter.

The letter from Santa.

How many of you guys can say you got one of those?

After we had finished opening presents, and were re-examining our loot, we heard the doorbell ring. Confused as to who would possibly be dropping by unannounced on Christmas, I went to the door. It was there that I found the letter.

Apparently, Mr. Clause and Tucker became acquainted when he was entering the house through the chimney to deliver presents. Tucker, the lucky pup that he is, had a delightful conversation with Santa and he got to meet Rudolph. In all the excitement, as he was leaving, Santa realized he'd forgotten my present in his sleigh. Already running behind schedule, Tucker quickly informed him that it would be alright for Santa to leave my present in my car, and that the faithful pup would let me know to look for it there.

Sure enough, when I went out to my car, I found my last two presents!

What I found in them blew me away. Santa really outdid himself this year.

It was a brand new iPad, and a case to boot!

I was floored.

I had mentioned wanting one, but in no way shape or form expected to get one. Especially not so soon.

But my favorite part is the inscription on the back.

I may as well go ahead and admit that I totally teared up a little when I read it. My parents have always been so wonderful and so supportive of my ambitions to write, and I never cease to appreciate the fact that no matter what, I know they back me up one hundred percent.

As excited as I was about the iPad—and let me tell you, it's no exaggeration to say I was doing a happy dance and jumping for joy—I think the most heart-warming and meaningful part of it is the inscription and the meaning behind it.

I'm undeniably thrilled with all of the presents I got this year, but most of all I am thankful—so thankful—for my parents, and how much they love me, and the fact that I was able to spend this Christmas with them again.

After all, Christmas isn't really about presents anyway.

Though it's several days late—more than that, really—the sentiment is still close to my heart; I hope all of you had a wonderful and very merry Christmas.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Eve: Lights, Presents, Action!

This Christmas has been so wonderful. As well as a delightful combination of busy and laid back. I'll only briefly apologize for the lateness of this post, which I meant to have written up within a couple of days of it happening. But I'm a college kid reveling in a break from course work and class attendance, so I got lazy and am just now getting to writing it up.

I had been looking forward to Christmas Eve almost as much as Christmas Day for several months. My best friend Matt was flying in from NYC for break and we have a tradition to go Christmas-Lights-Looking and have a present swap the night before Christmas. We'd been talking about it for awhile now. Living in Texas, we've spent some Christmas Eves bundled up in the car, cranking the AC so we can pretend it's actually really cold outside, but this time Mother Nature took care of the AC for us. The fact that it was raining a little didn't dampen our spirits at all.

We convened around six to swap our presents, which is always a blast.

Our presents, about to be swapped!

We had quite the haul this year. A few things we each were expecting, but several great surprises as well! And, of course, as is typical with our escapades, we documented the whole event on camera.

Matt tackles the task of unwrapping.

Official NY Starbucks card! Straight from The Big Apple!

Custom coffee mug. Thank you, Hyperbole and a Half.


Our collective haul.
I'd like to note that the whipped cream and pie crusts are particularly exciting.
We've been talking for years about throwing pies in each other's faces.
This year, it will happen. Obviously.

Up next on the agenda—Christmas-Lights-Looking. We piled into my car and headed out. Our first order of business was looking for a place still open and selling hot chocolate. Unfortunately, Starbucks was already closed. So we drove to Sonic to ask if they had hot chocolate. If not, we had decided, we would be getting chocolate shakes and pretending. Ironically, when we were informed that they did indeed have hot chocolate, we were disappointed we wouldn't be getting shakes.

But it's Christmas. Well, Eve. But still. So we got both.

Can I just say, Sonic hot chocolate has got nothing on Starbucks hot chocolate. It was more like drinking a thin, liquified snicker-doodle. Not sure what made them think they could call it chocolate. Our shakes, however, were quite tasty!

Then we spent an hour or so driving around to look at Christmas lights. We subtly took pictures of our favorites. Most of the pictures are blurry since we hated to be obvious about it—I know I'd feel a little weird seeing someone taking a picture of my house, even if I did have pretty Christmas lights up. But our intentions were pure—no ulterior motive. Just a few blurry reminders of some of our favorite light displays.

Then we headed home. I dropped him off at his house to spend time with his family and I went home to my own.

I know a lot of families open presents on Christmas Eve. Mine is not one of them. When I was a kid, I was allowed one present early, then on Christmas Day came the miserable wait between waking up at the crack of dawn because IT'S CHRISTMAS MORNING, GUYS! and the moment when my Mom, Dad, and Super Granny were up, finished with breakfast, and ready to gather in the living room by the tree. Looking back, I'm not sure how I survived. So many hours of anxiously staring at the presents in hopes that the time would pass magically and we could open the presents right away.

At least I had my stocking to tide me over. Candy, candy, candy. And usually a horse figurine and some Lip Smackers. I kind of miss using that stuff.

All in all, Christmas Eve was a complete success. And I went to sleep eager to greet Christmas morning.