Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Single at Christmas

I've got Christmas spirit coming out my ears right now, friends.  The tree is up, the house is decorated, presents are being wrapped, I've made my shopping list for cookie ingreedients, christmas music is playing, and I have drunk an inordinate amount of Candy Cane Lane tea (that stuff is good - now, could someone get me a bottle glass of red wine?).  I'm happy to be home for the holidays and to be getting ready to celebrate and say goodbye to the last crazy (but usually great!) year. 

(Yes, the bottom 1/3 of our tree is nearly bare.  This is because someone can't be trusted with low-hanging lights and ornaments...)
However, it seems like everyone and their brother is getting engaged/married/pregnant right now and, I'm not going to lie, as a single lady ("all the single ladies...") at the holidays, it's not always easy to watch friends run off with the person of their dreams, while I'm still waiting for mine to come sweep me off my feet.  You might guess that I've been down in the dumps, wishing the holidays away, becoming bitter, drinking myself to sleep and eating myself into a food coma - ok, maybe that's a little extreme...  But, I'm not!  I'm perfectly fine.  In fact, I'm better than fine.  I'm actually sort of HAPPY to be single right now. 

Let's get real for a moment, folks.  For the last 5 years (except for that one year where I broke up with a certain someone 2 weeks before Christmas - that sucked), while Christmas time has been wonderful, it's also been filled with the stresses that come with being in a serious-but-not-super-serious relationship.  First of all, I'm the kind of person who racks her brain for WEEKS, trying to come up with the PERFECT present for the person I'm dating.  It should be just the right amount of expensive, thoughtful, meaningful to him, and should make me appear to be the best girlfriend in the entire world.  Then, once said gift is found, I scour the aisles of Target to pick out the exactly perfect wrapping paper and bow.  (Raise your hand if you think I need to get a grip.)  Wow.  Second, when you're in a serious-but-not-super-serious relationship, your significant other is bound to want to see you on Christmas Day.  This is, of course, lovely, but also requires a whole heck of a lot of planning and coordinating.  It also means that both parties inevitably have to split time with their families.  Finally, holiday time usually makes everyone who is in a serious-but-not-super-serious relationship wish and hope that very soon the "-but-not-super-serious" gets dropped from the relationship status.  That's not stressful, is it?

This year, with all of those stressors gone, I'm focusing my energy on enjoying my close friends and family.  I have extra money to spend on my chubby little nephew and other family members' gifts.  I have the entire day of Christmas to spend lazing around with said family, being as informal as I want (hold onto your hats, family!), maybe going to a movie with my mom and sister, and just generally soaking up as much family Christmas love as possible.  I figure that, as the years pass, the chance that I'll be snatched up by a wonderful fellow, who is willing to put up with my crazy and follow me to obscure locations around the world, increases exponentially (duh).  So, I should enjoy this holiday, when I have no commitments to anyone but myself, my family and my close friends.  And that's exactly what I'm doing!  I'm enjoying the crap out of it.

I hope very much that you are all having a wonderful holiday season as well and that Christmas cheer has taken you over and subsequently shoved plenty of butter- and sugar-laden cookies down your throats.

Oh, and please spread the word:  I am currently taking applications for New Years Eve dates.  The pile of applicants is getting pretty tall, but I'm still willing to consider more.  (I mean, let's not go crazy with all of this "I love being single around the holidays" stuff.)

Now, someone turn up the Christmas music and bring me that wine!

Merry Christmas to all...

Love, Katie

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reflecting on 2011: My Favorite Books

Hello, all.  Well, it's a Monday night.  I worked and ran errands all day, went to a killer (but so fun) Ashtanga yoga class tonight, and am now watching White Christmas with a glass of red wine while I cuddle up to a bowl of this soup. (This is some of the best soup I've had in a while and, bonus, it sort of doubles as a comfort food that is also healthy.)  I don't have a whole lot of interesting stuff to tell you tonight.  I have been very un-exciting lately.  I've been working a whole lot, seeing friends in Columbia, trying to brainstorm an amazing, earth-shattering idea for a dissertation topic, getting back into the swing of exercise things, and just generally readjusting to life in Columbia (right before I leave for the holidays...). 

I've also started to reflect a little on the last year.  I love Christmas time and all that comes along with it, but one of my favorite things about December is that, as it brings the year to an end, it allows me an opportunity to think about all that has happened over the year.  I like to spend time thinking about the good and the bad, what I've done well and what I might have done differently, things I'd like to leave behind in the upcoming year and lessons I've learned that I'd like to carry with me into the new year.  As I was thinking a little about 2011 the other day, I realized that one thing I did very consistently throughout the year was read.  I love to read and always have.  But it is something that one can let slip very easily as a graduate student.  I mean, so much of my homework involves reading academic articles and it's not hard to convince myself that the last thing I want to do in my leisure time (i.e. the 10 minutes before bed) is more reading.  But, back in January, I stocked my bookshelves and made an effort to read for fun every night before bed.  I'm happy I made the effort.  I ended up reading a lot of great books this year (and a few that were just so-so), so tonight, I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you.

1.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This was the first book I read in 2011.  I am a total sucker for stories set duing WWII.  This is the story of a group of neighbors on the German-occupied island of Guernsey and a London-based author who begins corresponding with one of the members of the Guernsey literary society.  The entire book is written as a series of letters exchanged among friends and complete strangers alike.  When I finished this book, I had a burning desire to start writing letters to friends.  I also felt that familiar sadness creep in towards the end, thinking, "I'll NEVER find another book as good as this one!"  That's how you know you really liked a book.

2.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

So, I actually read this book in 2010 and read its sequel (The Weed that Srings the Hangman's Bag) in 2011.  They're both great, but I recommend starting with Sweetness.  The series features 10 year-old heroine, Flavia de Luce, who has a passion for poisons of all kinds and for solving mysteries.  These books are wonderfully descriptive, fun, funny, and suspenseful.  They are a great way to escape.  I have already purchased the next book in the series, A Red Herring Without Mustard, and I can't wait to dig in!

3.  Love Walked In and Belong to Me

Another pair.  These books were wonderful and unique.  Cornelia Brown is the main character in each and de los Santos does a fabulous job of weaving all of the characters' lives together, while always keeping Cornelia's story at the forefront.  I read Love Walked In immediately after returning from Florida last January and bought Belong to Me as soon as I was finished.  These are the kinds of books that made me start to slow down as the end neared.  I wanted to savour every last word and make the book last as long as possible because I was just dying to see where Cornelia's life would go next. 

4.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Another World War II story.  Although, this one is a combination of past and present.  It is about a forbidden love between a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl in Seattle just before thousands of Japanese were taken away to internment camps (of sorts) in the US.  As an old man who has just lost his wife, the Chinese man remembers and reflects on his childhood love.  I smiled, I cried, I couldn't put it down. 

5.  The Help

Do I really even need to introduce this book to you?  By now, many of you will have read the book and probably more have seen the movie.  But, if you haven't read the book yet, do it.  Do it, like, yesterday.  In fact, stop reading this blog right now and go out and buy it.  I promise I won't be offended.  This was one of my favorite books of all time.  I literally cannot wait until Kathryn Stockett writes her next book.  This story was so engaging and vivid, I felt like I knew Skeeter (and like I wanted to punch Hilly in the face).  I think it took me 4 nights to read the entire book - and the last night I stayed up until 3 in the morning to finish.  This is a story of friendship, dreams, and bravery. 

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  What were your favorite books in 2011?  I've got to start building up my library for 2012...