December 31, 2014

Flipping Through the Photo Album of 2014

Oh gosh - I bet a bunch of these new kids don't even know what a photo album is.  Sad, so very sad.

Well here it is!  The last day of 2014!  The time flies by so quickly... it seems like only a year ago I was in Rhode Island with my Knight, saying farewell to 2013.  It was a good year, overall.  There was definitely plenty of stress and tension and difficulties, but there was a lot of good that came through.  I grew up, learned a lot, made a lot of memories.

In celebration of 2014, I am linking up with House Unseen. Life Unscripted (which I found via Miss Iris at The Starving Inspired) for a look back at my year in photographs!

January was an exciting start to the year.  In the first few days I had not one, but two flights canceled, which caused me to miss my dad's birthday =(  but did allow me to spend two extra and unexpected days with my Knight =).  Then not two weeks later I was off on another flight to Minnesota for my dear friend's wedding.  She holds the honor of being my first close friend to get married, and the wedding and trip was awesome!  Above you can see a photo of myself and a group of our friends that are normally scattered across the country, gathered together for a few days.

February was COLD, and a lot of snow and MORE COLD... but it made for good ice skating weather, and we got to take Sister T's friend (far left) ice skating for the very first time.  Good times all around.

In March I turned twenty two (GUYS I'M GOING TO BE TWENTY THREE IN A FEW MONTHS HELP) and had an awesome birthday.  I got to Skype with my Knight that day, and I had a birthday party at what is now my favorite Irish pub ever with some dear friends. Things weren't all awesome in March though... a plan for a visit with my Knight fell through, which turned into six months of not seeing each other.  It was really rough, but it helped us to grow closer to each other and more dependent on our faith to support and strengthen us.  (Oh yes - and March was when my blog got a remake!)

I must dedicate April to this dear new friend of mine... I think it was the end of March/beginning of April that we started piecing together that we knew some of the same people and after a string of Sundays where we showed up for choir with coordinating outfits we had officially become good friends by Easter.  Funny story - when we were taking this picture, our fellow choir member taking it asked if we had known each other before Kathryn had joined choir back in January.  We said no, as a matter of fact we hadn't.  It was only after several more months that we slowly remember that yes, we had met before then - several times in fact!

May was  the month when at last I was able to go visit my Knight again, and be there as he graduated from his college. I was so proud of him, and it was such a joy to be there and watch him walk across the stage.  It was also the month that my grandparents celebrate 50 years of marriage to each other - which of course was celebrated with a great party!  And in May I started my new job at the hotel, and it's the best job I've ever had.

June was more graduations... my big little brother graduated from eighth grade (where has the time gone?)  and it was the month when what would have been my class graduated from the school I had to leave.  I watched my brother with pride, and I finally was able to let go from the past.

Ah, July.  That was a good month.  I flew out to the East Coast for a beautiful week during which my Knight and I celebrated three years of dating.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am to have him as my boyfriend.  Given the choice of anyone in the whole world, I would always choose him.

In August I got to spend some family time... we had our second year of doing a "staycation/weekend at the lake" vacation where we biked through the *ahem* scenic city we live near.  Most of it was through very nice nature preserves, but there was that nice little tour of the place by the highway/under the highway where the hobos live (because shopping carts don't walk that far alone) and then the part where the bike trail merged with the shoulder of a very busy trucking route and then went down along a stagnant and smelly canal.  We are skipping that part next time.  But the part where we went to the Lake and started our Pineapple tradition was fun!

I went back to school for my third semester at my community college, quit the job at the chiropractic office that I'd had for two and a half years and watched as three of my siblings tried out soccer for the first time.  That's Brother A in the green shirt above, Sister MR and Sister R played as well and they were all pretty good at it!  Brother T tried out flag football, and we are all hoping that next year we can find a football team for him to play on - with my cousins all graduated from college now, we miss our football games!

After almost a year of absence from the Midwest, my Knight finally was able to come back and visit (my brothers were ecstatic, haha).  It was a blessing that he was able to come out over the weekend that marked the one year anniversary of my grandpa passing away... we had a memorial mass said for him, and then dinner with the family at my grandma's house.  It's still really tough, but we laughed and it was good to be together and remember him.  The pumpkins in the photograph are ones my Knight and I picked out together. He couldn't take his on the plane so I kept it and carved out the Bruins logo on his, and the Blackhawks logo on mine.

November started off with the wedding of my cousin and the really great guy who was brave enough to join our crazy family!  The wedding was beautiful and the party was a blast.  It was wonderful to have everyone together to celebrate the new life together of two pretty awesome people.  The rest of November saw a bit of stress as I balanced two jobs (I started up my second one the last week in October) and increasing assignments from school as the semester got to a close.  Oh yes, and I got my wisdom teeth out!

And that brings us to December!  I will admit - while I was relieved to be on Christmas break, I was a little sad to say goodbye to the semester.  I had some really awesome classes (See above? That was me serving wine as a school assignment) and I got to know a really incredible teacher, whom I am very much looking forward to having more classes with next semester.  Advent came and went - too quickly, I think - and Christmas was beautiful, as always.

Now the year is drawing to a close... and I am very excited to see what 2015 holds.

December 27, 2014

The Last Goodbye

If you haven't heard the song that graces the credits of the final Hobbit film.... you are missing out.  I have never had a song that moved me so much.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I cry every time that I hear it.  I've just spent the last twenty minutes listening to various covers on YouTube, and each one keeps making me cry over again.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings where very much a part of my childhood.  I discovered the Hobbit when I was 12 or 13 and fell in love... I read and re-read The Lord of the Rings every year for a good five years before I hit college and somehow life ended up getting too hectic.

I will admit along with anyone else, that the changes to The Hobbit trilogy haven't exactly been my cup of tea.  The second movie in particular, I cannot stand... the first was alright, and the third I actually enjoyed.  But this song - it is the perfect ending to the last visit to Middle Earth.

When Bilbo returned to the Shire, I was crying in the movie theater.  Knowing that this was the last time we would see the green hills of Hobbiton for many a year, having them end with the same lines as starting out Gandalf's visit in the Lord of the Rings... having things come full circle like that.... and then hearing the beautiful, haunting melody of The Last Goodbye play.

If that all wasn't enough, it's sung by Billy Boyd, by Pippin.  I can picture Pippin singing this song, surrounded by the Fellowship, this being a folk song of the Hobbits, sung at gatherings and goodbyes throughout the years.  It's not just Bilbo saying goodbye to the dwarves, it's Middle Earth saying goodbye to us, the fans who have watched and loved it throughout the years.

And.... I just watched the Official Music video for the first time, after I wrote that last paragraph above... and yeah.  I'm going to have to stop now because I'm losing it.

Here are some lovely covers if anyone is interested in joining me in bawling their eyes out.

The Last Goodbye - Original, not music video version if you can't handle the music video

The Last Goodbye - Rachel Hardy

The Last Goodbye - Piano/Cello cover, Peterr Khan

The Last Goodbye - Juggernoud1 and Karilene

The Last Goodbye - Violin, Taylor Davis

The Last Goodbye - Rock version, Phedora

December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas to All!

Christmas came and went in what felt like a blink of an eye, and yet there are still eleven days left to celebrate!  We didn't have snow this year, but that is alright.

Because we did have Christmas lights...

And a lovely tree...

 and more Christmas lights...

And family...

And fun gifts...

And we had Jesus.

Have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas season!

December 16, 2014

Maybe People Aren't That Bad After All

I am still more or less in the "honeymoon" stage of my job - as in, I don't hate humanity yet... well...  some of the time. There's been days.  I've heard that working in Hospitality really makes you hate people, and I can believe it.  I could tell you about some guests that we've had... yeah.  I don't completely hate humanity yet, but I'm well on my way.

To be fair though, the majority of our guests are really awesome people.  They are friendly, kind, easy to please.  The ones who come back for multiple visits get to know us, and it's always a pleasure to look up and see a familiar face walking through the doors.  We've made some good friends from our guests, and it's usually these guests that remind us that warm, wonderful human beings aren't mythical creatures after all.

My example for you today...

Last night, one of our frequent guests checked back in for his last visit before Christmas.  As I was getting the keys for his room, he pulled out a small stack of envelopes and handed them to me, asking if I would mind giving them to our sales manager and assistant general manager, and the staff.  And then he handed me my own envelope and one for the girl that I had been working with earlier that night.

Inside, I found a $10 gift card to Starbucks and just the sweetest note.  It said:

Thank you for your warm and inviting welcome each week to my second home for the past 6 months.  You have truly made these trips more enjoyable. You and others on this staff are one of the only things I look forward to when travelling here each week. Keep flashing me that beautiful smile and I will be sure to continue having wonderful stays. Thank you very much.  Wishing you a warm and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my house to yours.

It's guests like that who make dealing with the problem guests all worth it, and really make me love my job.

Maybe people aren't that bad after all. =]

December 13, 2014

Before Scrooge: A Short Story

This is a short I wrote as part of an online writers group.  If anyone has any feedback or suggestions, I'm open to revisions!

“Now please, do try and remember to keep straight the list of people you have to visit tonight… Christmas Eve only comes once a year and ‘twould be disastrous if you were to make a mess of things.”
“Of course Father, you know that I am organized and thoughtful and…”
“Far too prone to dwelling on the past for a tad too long, my dear Ghost.  Now go along.”

                She took a breath and stepped into the room, glancing lightly around as she did so.  Christmas Eve was always such a busy time.  A busy time, but an exciting time.  A time when lives were to be changed.  Her eyes fell on the figure sleeping in the bed, widening slightly as they took in the disheveled, dirty covers, the paper thin clothing, the pale, drawn skin.   The story Father Christmas had outlined for her had not quite prepared her for the poverty that she saw.
                She had taken a look into the past, and was saddened by the pain that she saw there in this once beautiful young woman.  To grow up such an unhappy child, so neglected and abused… and then to become such a hopeless young woman.  To be scorned and rejected by a suitor she loved, who could not face her past. To think that the only life she had open to her was one of selling her services to men who cared nothing of her… To be so hardened to happiness, and to hope.
                The figure in the bed stirred and then sat up with a start, eyes wide and blinking in the radiant white light that danced about the room.
                She took another breath, smiled gently and took a step forward.  “Do not be frightened child.  I am the Ghost of Christmas Past…”

“Now my dear, you remember who you are to visit?  Your elder sister is finishing her time with the first, please do not allow yourself to become distracted and caught up in the moment.”
“I know Father – but it is so difficult to be focused!  Christmas is such a bright, happy time and it is so easy to just be swept along in it all and the sights of all the red and green and the snow and the smells of the turkeys and hams and puddings and pies… and oh the sound of the caroling!”
“Yes, I know what joy this day brings to you my child, and it is good to enjoy it all.  Yet you must remember!  This is an important day for those you are to visit.  Now hurry, it is your time….”

She burst into the room, twirling around and admiring the golden glint of her new gown as it made a delightful swish around her ankles.  A laugh of delight bubbled up to her lips and she clasped her hands eagerly, looking about to admire the decorations for Christmastime.  The laugh quickly died as she realized that the brick room was bare and cold.
                Sadness touched her eyes briefly as she recalled circumstances of this poor woman she was visiting.  As quickly as it came, it was gone and with a merry laugh bursting forth she snapped her fingers at the corner of the room.  A massive, gaily decorated Christmas tree appeared with a pop and silver glitter rained down, coating the room.
                The young woman she had come to visit shot up out of bed with a gasp and stood, frozen, her eyes darting from the tree and back again to herself. 
                She watched the young woman, clapping her hands together in delight.  Oh, what wonderful things they were about to see…. As sad, and desperate as this poor girl’s past had been, she would soon realize there were still those who cared about her.  Far away, across London, was a family who still loved and cared for her.  In an apartment just ‘cross from the Cathedral was a young man who had never visited this young woman, but whose heart had been captured by a rare smile.
                “Greetings, my child!  Do not be frightened – laugh, be happy!  I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!”

“And now, for your tasks this day, the youngest of my children.  You are aware of the missions you must complete?”
“I am.”
“This is not an easy task, I realize, and every year I feel sorrow for what you must show to those that you visit.  You must not forget though, my dear,  that your task is in some ways the most important… for it is you who causes your charge to decide the road they will take.”
“Yes, Father.”
“It is time…”

                The air in the room fell several degrees colder as she entered, an effect she was well aware followed her wherever she went.  Her lips pressed in a thin line as she surveyed the room from the depths of her dark cloak.  As dreary and sad a place as any she had visited.
                Her task was the most unpleasant of the three she and her sisters were assigned to every Christmas Eve.  Yet that was the way of the world, and it must be done.  There was no choice but to continue from year to year, until such time that her prophecies became truth and her role was handed on to a younger ghost.
                The young woman she had come to see was already awake, a shawl wrapped around her thin shoulders as she sat shivering at the edge of her bed.  The woman looked warily at her, but said nothing.  Waiting for her to speak first.
                She would say nothing, only lead her forth and show her the shadows that may come to pass should nothing change.  More men, more money, more heartbreak, more pain.  A child, a birth alone in this cold room.  The death of a child.  Alcohol.  Sickness. More men.  Then finally, a young death, alone.  It was bitter and cold, but it was not her doing.  She only showed what may lay ahead.  She was the Ghost of Christmas Future.

December 9, 2014

The End is Near!

You know, I was doing pretty good with the whole blogging consistently thing for a while.  And I still have quite a few ideas floating around up in my head... but no time!  Just no time!

School is winding down to a close - much faster than I expected.  I am still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that tomorrow is my last day of class, and then it's finals.  There is a lot to do (more in the time consuming department than actual volume) and it doesn't seem as if there will be enough time to get it all done. But by Monday it should be all done, and then I'll have a very short month break until I head back in January.

I have to say, after a semester of drinking wine every Monday and going on field trips to Eataly and working a wine festival, learning about cost control and professional development doesn't seem like it will be quite as exciting....

And, hopefully!  Once finals are done and over with, I will have the mental energy to write out all those blog posts I have filed away.  Or, more likely, I will get caught up in the planning and thrill of Christmas.  We shall see.

Until then!

December 4, 2014

We Just Want To Be Heard

I have noticed myself lately typing up statuses on Facebook and then deleting them with the thought, "Well, know one wants to read that."  They have been a mixture of random thoughts, things I've been doing, small observations that I have happened upon.  I suppose you could say I have been trying to post only meaningful statuses, and share information that people actually care about.

Catching myself with a thought of, "I'm not going to post this, who even cares?" made me start to wonder... why do we share random thoughts and observations on Facebook?  Why do we scroll down our newsfeed and find a plethora of statuses about the pretty tree we walked past, the fact that we stubbed our toe on the counter, that we just bought a zucchini for dinner tonight?  Why do we post the much reviled, vague statuses that just barely indicate that something is going on, but without sharing any information at all?  Why do we update with every thought that pops into our head?

There are countless articles out there about types of Facebook statuses that need to stop, and how we need to stop throwing personal information that no one cares about out there. Social media gets a lot of bad rap for destroying true socialization and creating a false front of "Hey, look at my perfect life!" intermingled with a healthy dose of "Oh gosh - can you just see all the drama I have to deal with???"  We all know this, we all jump in to roll our eyes and remark how annoying it is... so then why does everyone still do it?

I think the simple answer is that we just need to be heard.  We are lonely, we want someone to pay attention.  We share our random thoughts because there isn't anyone to speak them too, we want someone to hear and tell us we are funny, or profound, or smart.  We post vague, cryptic statuses when something is wrong because we want someone to know that we are hurting or upset, but we are afraid to open up and be completely vulnerable.  We share information online, because it's safer.  We could talk to someone, but it's easier to share pieces of yourself when you are face to face with a screen rather than a real person.

Opening ourselves up in person is a risk.  We might end up being laughed at  - or maybe we'll find out the hard way we aren't as funny as we think we are.  Maybe the eyes of the person we've dared to confide in will glaze over, or respond only with an awkward "Oh, I'm sorry" when we are looking for sympathy and understanding. We might end up wishing we'd never said anything at all. When we share online, the worst that can happen to us is that no one clicks the "like" button.

You can argue that social media is what caused our loneliness and insecurity and if we didn't have social media we wouldn't feel the need to over-share or under-share or sort of share on it.  Or maybe, our loneliness and insecurity was all there before and now, now it simply has a place to be let go.  You can look at it either way.  Whatever the cause, the need to be acknowledged is there.  Maybe that's why, as we continue to complain and make lists of all the Facebook statuses that need to go away, we don't stop making them.  Maybe we all just want to be heard.