The Land of Giant Dogs

Holidailies Prompt: Do you still live in the place where you grew up? How far away are you now, and why?

Nope.  Though I’ll be there in less than two weeks!  I miss living in the land of giant dogs.  Well, until I get a giant goober on my pants.  Then I remember why giant dogs aren’t awesome 100% of the time.

According to my friends, I grew up in the middle of nowhere.  Southern Illinois.  Farm country.  I can identify crops and farm equipment and I can tell you the primary animal on a farm based solely on the odor coming from that farm.  Apparently these are strange skills.  Who knew?

I’m now about 800 miles away, in Washington, D.C.  Why?  I ask myself that question at least once a month.  I’m here because I jumped on a job opportunity, and I can’t complain.  It’s not always easy to get into the federal workforce, so it was a chance I just couldn’t pass up.  Plus I just wanted to try living elsewhere for a while.  D.C. is definitely different.  I’m going to get spoiled with all the restaurants and museums so close.  And the metro, for all its faults, is still pretty great.  I haven’t had to get a cab since I moved here.  Plus the people watching on the metro is a lot of fun.

I do find myself missing the midwest though – mostly midwestern sensibilities.  I don’t know if I can explain it, but it’s just a different way of living.  Even when I compare a major city like St. Louis.  It’s a little slower, a little friendlier, a little less ridiculously competitive.  Here, the first question anyone asks is “Where do you work?”  And the reaction that you get when you respond tells a lot about the person asking.  More than once, I’ve seen people say “Oh… that’s… interesting…” and then go and find someone with a more prestigious job to talk to.  It’s all about networking.  And I agree that networking is important, but at some point, I just want to not think about work and have a little bit of fun.

So sometimes I change the subject by talking about the day when people rode tractors and combines and horses to high school one day.  If nothing else, I get some interesting looks.

Santa baby…

Holidailies Prompt:  Letter to Santa … or any other holiday icon you like.

I thought about writing a traditional letter to Santa this year.

“Dear Santa,

I have been a moderately good girl this year, though please do not do any sort of checking up on that assertion.  For Christmas, I would like a million dollars and world peace.  Any special snacks I should leave for the reindeer?  Thanks.”

But instead I wanted to write about something sad I read about this year. 

Mall Santas are used to hearing children asking for “toys and presents and wonderful things” (name that quote) and occasionally, they hear the story of the kid who just really wants a new winter coat because his is small or worn. 
I can’t even imagine what it must be like to hear that all a child wants is a new coat or new sheets for their bed.  These are things that I never had to want for (well, sure, I wanted new Rainbow Brite sheets, but not because my old sheets had holes in them or anything).  But this year, there are a lot of kids who are asking Santa for a new job for their mom or dad, or confiding in Santa that they know their parents are worried about money, but they’re not supposed to know and so if Santa could just bring them money to help out, the child is happy to go without presents.
It makes me want to run out and buy boxes and boxes of toys for those kids.
But mostly, I just want to convey how very impressed I am with all of those Santas who continue to listen to these heartwrenching stories and still keep a jolly smile and always seem to know the right thing to say to these kids.  I don’t know that I could do it day in and day out, but I know that it’s got to mean the world to those families to have hope, at least for that day.

Not a crazy person. Yet.

Holidailies Prompt:  Describe your holiday decorating techniques.

We have joked in the past that Mom’s holiday decorating style is to make it look like Christmas threw up all over the house.  And for the most part, that is an accurate description.  She has seven or eight trees, all fully decorated.  Some themed, some not.  I’m pretty sure that every available surface has some sort of holiday decoration on top of it.  It’s awesome.

Sadly, my method of decorating isn’t quite as awesome.  Mostly because I don’t have enough decorations.  Or a place to store them in the off season.  I have considered keeping the tree up all year, but I think that’s one of those things that gets you classified as a crazy person.  But come on, how fun would it be to decorate a tree for all sorts of different seasons.  Winter and Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, etc.  Of course, I don’t have room to store all those decorations either.  Or the money to buy them.

I can’t say there’s any sort of system to my decorating.  Tree in the corner.  Other things sit on shelves and hang on the wall.  Some things have specific spots, others just get scattered about wherever they fit.  And of course, the decorations seem to multiply every year.  

For me, the most important thing is the tree.  I’ve got a ton of ornaments, and I love putting up the tree every year, even though it’s an exercise in frustration, as I always forget how annoying the tree is to put together.  I’ll probably leave it up til sometime after the New Year and then carefully pack it all away for next year.

Never look back

Today’s Holidailies Prompt:  If you could change, undo or modify one decision in your past, which would it be and why?

I don’t believe in looking back on my life in regret.  Sure, I made mistakes, and perhaps those were mistakes that hurt me or hurt someone else, and for that I am sorry.  And while I do sometimes wish that I hadn’t done things, I don’t look back and think “If only I had done X…”  What’s the point?  I can’t go back and change things, so instead I have to move forward.  I have to learn from what I’ve done, try to make amends for any problems I have caused, and work to do the right thing.  

For example, my current job has turned out to be significantly different from the job I accepted last year.  I could have accepted another job and my life would be very different.  But would it be a good different?  I have met so many great people and had so many great opportunities.  Of course, if I look back at it, I really did make the best decision based on the information in front of me, so it’s hard to regret that decision.  I did the best thing I could based on the information in front of me.

I think the point is to live life without regrets, and while that means not looking back with regret, it also means living life so that you are careful to take actions you won’t regret.  Sure, you can make a wrong choice, but if you do things right, you can look back and know that at that moment, you made the right choice.  Based on the information in front of you, the path you chose was right.

Life should be lived forward.

Vivid Holiday Memories

Your most vivid memory from last year’s holiday season.

Posting two days in a row!  It’s a Christmas miracle!  Though I hope real Christmas miracles are much more spectacular than this post.

Last year was my first holiday in D.C., so it was full of all sorts of new memories.  I feel like I did so much during last year’s holiday season, while this year is just going to pass by in a blur.  Maybe it’s because it was so new back then, or maybe it’s because I have so many more commitments this year.

Two things really stand out from last year’s holiday season.

First was Crystal’s Festivus party.  It was a completely random event, but it was nice to have both Marie and Mary Beth come down for the weekend to hang out, and it was fun to just meet so many new people at the party.  And of course, white elephant gift exchanges are always a great time.  There should be more of those in life.  “Please wrap up some ridiculous item that you have lying around in the back of your closet and gift it to a stranger.”

But the big thing, something I may never get the chance to do again, was the trip to the White House for Christmas.  A co-worker (now former co-worker) was detailed to work on the President’s Budget last winter, and as thanks, he got four tickets to visit the White House in the evening to see the decorations.  Now, that’s not as fancy as it seems.  But it was still a very cool experience, one that not everyone gets.  We got to walk through the White House and see all the Christmas decorations while being serenaded by various choral groups, and possibly most importantly, getting to take pictures.  I wish I were a better photographer, because my photos from that evening are just passable.  What a wasted opportunity.  But the photos are definitely good enough to remind me of how wonderful a day it was.  I’m going to try to work some photo editing magic on the pictures and get them up on Flickr within the next few weeks, though some of you have seen them already.

The decorations were just incredible, and there’s just something a little romantic about the idea of all these beautiful decorations in this gorgeous building with all the antiques and historical portraits around.  It’s one of those things you see on television, but never get to see in person.  I’m lucky and did get that opportunity.  And I suppose it could happen again, but it’s not something I’m going to count on.  I’m just glad I got to experience it once.