Thursday, February 12, 2015

What I Want for Valentine's Day

I will preface this post with saying that Valentine's Day is a stupid holiday. I think it started out okay - a special day to show people that you love them. Except then, like most holidays, Hallmark got ahold of it and turned it into a chocolate-eating, flower-sniffing, pink-and-red-heart-obsessing, let's-think-of-more-ways-to-spend-money kind of day. I'm happy to take the opportunity to tell my family and friends that I care about them. It's an excuse to spend the day doing nice things for people. I don't have a problem with that in theory. But too many people take it to the extreme.Thankfully my DH shares my opinion on this holiday. We spent the first few years together spending a stupid amount of money on a mediocre meal with poor service because we went out on the same night as everyone else. So we have spent the past several years just enjoying dinner out (usually a week before or week after V-Day) and giving each other inappropriately funny sentimental cards. We don't do gifts. But this year, instead of dinner and a card, I'm providing my family with a complete and detailed list of how they can show me I'm loved on Valentine's Day. 

1. To Parker, my darling little boy - Please let me eat all of my pop-tarts for breakfast without you sneaking over and stealing pieces of them. I know you love pop-tarts. You can have your own - you don't have to eat mine. And while we're at it - the water in my bottle tastes exactly the same as the water in your bottle. You wonder why we keep passing a cold around the whole family? Please let me enjoy my own water bottle on Valentine's Day. 

2. To Ainsley, my bubbly attention-craving daughter - As much as I love watching you and listening to you, I think on Valentine's Day you can tell me a story just two times instead of the usual five times. I really did hear you the first time. 

3. To my DH - It would be totally awesome if you would continue to send me messages like this before I come home. It helps me mentally prepare for the battle-zone. 

4. To Dixie, my lovable-yet-slightly-stupid dog - When food spills on the floor it would be incredibly kind of you to clean it up. You live in a house with two children and you spend a good deal of time sitting under the kitchen table. I'm not quite sure what you're doing when you are under there, but you are clearly not cleaning crumbs off the floor. You need to earn your keep. I am not spending Valentine's Day vacuuming cereal off the floor again. 

5. To the person who built my house - if you could find a way to get rid of things like this I would greatly appreciate it. You have no idea how much stress this causes me on a daily basis. Also I've lived in the house for 18 months and I'm still not sure what one of the switches does. I would like to avoid dealing with this on Valentine's Day. 

6. To both of my imaginative children - I do so appreciate when you try to let me continue sleeping on the weekend. However please remember that Parker's bedroom is directly above mine. If you are going to pretend to be elephants or cowboys or have a dance party on Valentine's Day, it might be best to play in Ainsley's room instead. Or the basement. Or outside. Even down the street would be fine...

7. To my family - in addition to the things mentioned above, the best way I can think to celebrate Valentine's Day is for us all to go to Waffle House for breakfast to visit our favorite waitstaff; followed by a day of fun and play outside (without whining or fighting); long naps in the afternoon for the whole family; and a yummy dinner that I don't have to cook myself. And yes... maybe some chocolate too. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Outlander Obsession

Many of you know that I like to read historical fiction. History books? Boring. Romance novels? Monotonous. Mysteries? Predictable. Put them all together into historical fiction and I feel like I'm learning something worthwhile while enjoying a good story. So if you haven't read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I highly recommend it. Better yet, if you haven't watched the new Starz TV show that is based on the books, I recommend that even more! Sure, there are now eight novels to the series, plus eleven novellas, a graphic novel, and a few non-fiction references tossed in there. It's a lot - but having read every single one of them (in the past 4 months), I can say they've been very educational as well. Who wants to take a trip to Scotland with me?

If you haven't read the books and have a Nook, let me know and I can share them with you. I also have the first two books in paperback (if I ever get them back from the friends who borrowed them...) For those of you who have not yet watched the TV show, the first half of the season is now available on iTunes and Amazon Prime -- or on the DVR in my living room - bring a bottle of wine or a dram of whiskey and you can watch it for free with me! Bear McCreary's Outlander soundtrack is available now too and it's A-mazing.

How can you NOT want to watch these two fight for Scottish independence?

Read no further if you haven't read the books or watched the show - the rest is just for my fellow Sassanachs who are going through Droughtlander until the season returns on April 4th. As requested by several of you here is some fun reading for you, courtesy of some of the other bloggers that I follow. 

Highlights and Lowlights of Jamie Fraser's Hair 

Outlander Anatomy - some really educational anatomy lessons based on clips from the show. One of my favorites is Jamie's Thighs or Ode to Joy.

Want to learn how to say all those words in Gaelic? Speak Outlander videos are awesome (at the bottom of the page) and this site also provides some neat background for the language. The videos featuring Sam Heughan are my favorites, ya ken. 

Outlander TV News - has all your newest gossip on the TV show and actors. 

And of course I would be remiss not to mention the link to Herself's website Diana Gabaldon - in which she also posts daily lines from the new book she's writing (#9 in the series).  I actually recommend that you follow her on Facebook because she's always posting interesting articles and history (and even replies to fan's comments quite often). It's kinda weird to think that a woman who hold three science degrees in Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, could be such an amazing historical fiction author. But it just means that every book is full of interesting and fascinating details. 

So there's my public service announcement for the day, mo charaid. Dinna fash - you may return to your regularly scheduled non-Gaelic-speaking programs. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Today I attended a memorial celebration for one of my college roommates, Mellissa. After bravely battling cancer for 18 months, she passed away on New Year's Eve. She left behind a husband, two step-children, and loads of family and friends across the U.S. I hadn't seen her in many years; she had moved to Seattle but we managed to keep in touch. Mellissa was part of our 'family' of six color guard girls. We were all inseparable through college and managed to remain friends through the past 17 years. Sure, we've all had our ups and downs, and gone through our life stages at different times or on different coasts. But somehow the six of us have managed to keep up contact over the years, going to weddings, celebrating new babies, and checking in along the way. Mellissa's passing was sudden and sad and a vivid reminder that, even at age 36, cancer can be a temperamental and illogical disease.

And so today we went up to Northern Virginia to celebrate her life, most appropriately, with lots of alcohol, good food, and lots of family and friends. Four of our 'family' went together (the fifth just had a baby). We laughed, we cried, but most importantly, we remembered. We may only see each other a few times a year, but when we're together we are 21 again. The family of six is now a family of five. We've lost one of our own, but she will always be fresh in our memories when we are together.

As it often happens, death forces you to look at your own life. What better way to honor Mellissa's smile, her laugh, her sense of humor, than to cherish the happy memories with our own families. We have five husbands and nine children between us now. And with all five of us within 90 miles of each other, we can look forward to continued friendship and laughter through many more years. It was such a blessing to share the day with them today, and I'm reminded how rare and precious true friends are. Driving down the street to my house on the way home, this song came on the radio. I had never really listened to the words before but was struck by them on this particular day. It's called "I Lived" by One Republic.  Mellissa definitely lived.

Hope when you take that jump 
You don't fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wall

Hope when the crowd screams out
They're screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don't suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You'll say...

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Hope that you spend your days 
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup

I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I'll say...

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Educational Videos by Ainsley, part 2

Just another lesson that Ainsley wants to share. This week she learned about London!