Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Encyclopedia of Me - L (Stacy)

Neville Longbottom & Luna Lovegood - They are my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series (note: I like them as individuals. I do not like how they contrived a supposed romance with them in the final movie -- what was that?!?). I can't help but smile at just about anything Luna says and her whimsical, dreamy nature is something I find refreshing. And Neville . . . well, to me, he's one of the biggest heroes in the series. Over and over and over again. He is not particularly athletic or organized or brave, yet when it comes down to it, he is more courageous than most anyone else. I love Neville and cry every time he rallies for what he believes to be right. One of my favorite lines from Harry Potter is when Dumbledore says, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr Neville Longbottom."

Ladybugs - I don't know what it is about them, but when I see one, I feel happy. They're cute and it's always fun to find one in our house. Also, my mom says there is a Portuguese folkloric belief that when a ladybug is in your house, it means good luck related to money. They're great for gardening, because they naturally eat aphids. We've learned at several wildlife lectures that the true name of a ladybug is actually "Ladybird Beetle." They are everywhere in the autumn here (another lovely "L" thing -- leaves! We live in a great place for fall beauty). I love catching them as a family and then letting them go. The picture above is from a time our family played in the beautiful autumn leaves our 2nd year here and we found all those ladybugs in a tree. It was so neat! (Less neat was how my engagement ring flew off my cold fingers and into said leaves - after MANY tears, we rented a metal detector and found it, thankfully! Now my ring has a "guard" on it that I can adjust for when it's cold).

Life -I value life. I know that might sound like a simplistic statement, but it's something that I've recognized about myself in the past several years -- that so many of the decisions I make and the things I believe and the principles that drive me stem from that simple tenet. It's part of why I don't fit neatly into any political category. I don't quite understand how someone can be against abortion and for the death penalty or against the death penalty and pro-war. I often think that if everyone shared this one principle, that there would be more peace and harmony in the world. I value life -- the here, the now. I don't even squash bugs if I can help it -- I take them outside when they're in the house (spiders, stinkbugs, etc.). Even flies (oh, I can't stand flies!) -- I try to get them to fly outside if I can. I think this is part of why I love birthdays so much -- it's not a celebration of an achievement or promotion or accomplishment. Birthdays celebrate someone because they ARE, because they EXIST. And isn't that amazing and worth honoring? I think so!

Love - I'm a romantic. I cry when I see something touching. I love how love FEELS. I love the relationships that stem from love. I feel things very deeply. So much so, that it's almost scary sometimes. I love love. I love that it's an accepted convention that marriage is based on love, instead of a dowry or some kind of business deal. I love that I am married to someone I love and who loves me. I love being a mother and I love my children. I love my friends. I love feeling loved by others. I love simple things like take out and watching something funny as a family and everyday celebrations and music and good food. I love love.

Lisbon -I've said it before, I think you can fall in love with a city. I fell in love with Lisbon 17 years go. What an amazing city! So beautiful -- modern in spots, but so old world in others. The cobblestone streets are lined with shops and homes and breathtakingly gorgeous cathedrals and bakeries that fill the air with the warm, comfortable, mouthwatering smell of freshly baked bread. The food is incredible, both savory and sweet. When you ferry across the river that runs through the city, there is a street merchant there that sells the most decadent, dark-chocolate-covered Belgian waffles. Oh, are they ever good! There is a section of Lisbon called "Belem" and they are known for the most amazing pastries. Google them. Delicious! There are a variety of landscapes to see -- gorgeous ocean coasts, green plains and rustic villages, old city charm. The people there dress to run any errand, the gentlemen tip their hats and wish you "bom dia" as you pass, they host you like you are the ultimate guest of honor. One of my favorite things to do there is to visit the castles. I'm not much of a hiker or an outdoorsy person, but if I had castles to explore, I'd quickly become one. Lisbon is an amazing city. If we were ever to live outside the U.S., Lisbon would definitely rank as a place to live.

I Love Lucy -This is my all-time favorite television show. This show was like a friend to me as a child. I remember being so sad when I heard that she had died. I can so easily get sucked into any old episode that's on. I love Lucille Ball in that role -- her antics, her crazy scheming, her expressiveness. I love how far she'll go to get what she wants. I love how excited she gets to try anything, no matter how nuts it sounds. I think I can sort of relate to her in some ways. I love the relationship the Ricardos have with the Mertzes. I love the old black and white nature of the show. We own every season of this show on DVD and can watch them again and again. Happily. I used to say, growing up, that I wanted "I Love Lucy" playing in the hospital room whenever I was in labor, so that I could laugh and relax. That's how I feel when I watch it. I know all kinds of crazy trivia about the show and the characters and actors. As I write this, I am wearing my "I Love Lucy" lounge pants, I kid you not. Back in 2004, our family visited Jamestown, NY, birthplace of Lucille Ball, and I had a perpetual grin on my face the whole time. We visited the museum, took pictures outside the house where she was born and the house where she grew up, found every Lucy mural in that town, visited her grave, visited the park named after her, and visited her favorite bakery and bought the rye bread that she loved so much, she had it mailed to her in Hollywood. It was delicious. That was a very memorable trip and it was like a dream come true to see all of it.

I almost put "loquacious" as one of my L words, because I'm a talker, but I think the post speaks for itself. :P

Also, in honor of this letter, I include this famous toast. Stupid video won't embed, so you have to click over to see it. Just be sure to come back and comment! :)

Encyclopedia of Me - L (Mark)

LEGOs: I have always loved LEGOs. I remember spending hours constructing space ships and landing sites and battle fleets and all kinds of awesome things. We would spend just as long on a Sunday afternoon creating adventures for of them as well. It's so cool to see our kids playing with them now, and I can't believe how many kinds there are. Plus all the video games! Even as an adult I like playing those!

Languages: Learning a new language has always been a fun thing. I'm also fortunate that it's one of those things that has come relatively easy to me, all things considered. I learned a lot of French for a 2-year high school class. Then I learned Japanese, which ended up being my college major as well. I don't get to use it that much now, but I still love it. Marrying Stacy I took up Portuguese as a survival skill, so now I'm fairly functional; and people can't talk about me when I'm in front of them, or nearby. I'd also love to learn Latin, just because it seems like something that would be cool. I wouldn't mind knowing a bit of Irish Gaelic. And someday we'd like to go as a family to Europe, so learning a few other languages, at least a little bit anyway, would come in handy.

The Lord of the Rings: I remember as a kid my mother would tell us the Tolkein stories. She started with The Hobbit and moved on to the classic trilogy. I love fantasy adventure books and these are the classics. I've been listening to an audio version with the kids lately and we are all loving the stories together. If it weren't for the huge time investment I'd love to watch the movies all over again, but I have a hard time watching movies again when there are so many things to see out there. I am looking forward to the adaptation of The Hobbit that is coming out soon.

Lionel Hampton: I don't know if I'll always have a jazz musician on here, but they just keep coming to mind. My freshman year in college our ensemble went to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, ID. Look it up. It's way up there. And cold. I got to see him live on his vibraphone, which was incredible. I also have fond memories of Pullman, WA and the Washingon State University creamery. Those dinky agricultural towns can make some mean ice cream. Hampton's live performance of "How High the Moon" is one of my favorite jazz recordings. This comes from his 1954 concert at the Apollo Theater.

Little League Baseball: From the age of 9 I've been hooked on baseball. I remember the thrill of my first home run, an inside-the-park jobber where I ignored the third base coach, ran right up on the player ahead of me, and slid in for the score. I have a lot of fond memories of Maria and Ribiero fields in Benicia, probably because I spent a lot of hours there as a kid. I also treasure all the time I spent there with my family, especially with my father. I appreciate all the times he left work early, only to have to make it up later, in order to coach me and my brothers. Getting the chance to coach Thing 2's little league team last year was a highlight of 2011. It was coach-pitch and I don't even want to think about how many pitches I threw. I needed a manager to put me on a pitch count!

Letters: If it weren't for weekly letters over a three-and-a-half year stretch in the early 1990s, I don't know what Stacy and I would have done. We spent a long time apart and it was not easy, but getting those letters made a huge difference. I love how we saved all of them, too. There are a few binders in our library filled with everything we were thinking and doing over that stretch. A big part of me thinks that as hard as the time apart was, those years of letter writing strengthened our relationship like nothing else could have.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Concert #3 - Moves Like Jagger

Back in August, we and some friends decided to attend a concert together at Hershey Park. The line-up was too good to pass up! Not 1, not 2, but THREE great bands! Plus, the tickets were VERY reasonable (maybe because it was outside?).

The opening act: Gavin DeGraw
The main acts: Maroon 5 and Train

Amazing, right?!?

Only, there was one odd glitch. Two weeks before the concert, I was reading the news (daily habit) and couldn't believe my eyes. The opening act had been attacked! What the heck are the odds of that?! And it was a crazy story, too.

He was randomly attacked by thugs on the street. They beat him up. They had no idea who he was or that he's famous. He had a concussion, a broken nose, and several facial lacerations.

The story is insane. AFTER he got beat up, he didn't know where he was, so he was dazed and walked over a mile away from the attack.

That's when he stumbled and got hit by a taxi.

I kid you not.

I was pretty sure when I read the news that he wouldn't be able to heal in time to perform at the concert, but he is a professed lover of live performances, preferring that to the studio, and he vowed to return by mid-August.

Alas, it was not in time for our mid-August concert, as his doctors told him he needed more time to recover.

So, the night of the concert, they pulled some guy from one of the bands and had him perform. Meh. I was really sad that it wasn't Gavin DeGraw -- I really like his stuff.

Here are the eight of us on our lawn seats.
IMMEDIATELY after that picture was taken,
it started to rain.

See? Christie was being Zen about it.
Dave was not.

Our family in the rain.

Me and my sweetie

Our cute kids!!

First up was Train. Everyone went nuts when they came out. And they were great. They have SUCH great songs.

The plus about their concert was that they are great with the audience: they had images on the screen from local places that made the audience go crazy, they called people up on stage, they walked through the crowd, they talked to the audience, they yelled out things about Hershey, etc.

All of this was intertwined in their performance of all their songs. It was AWESOME to sing along to their songs (and, yes, we belted out the words to "Save Me, San Francisco").

(I know. It seemed so self-explanatory).

Tons of local pictures --
I was trying to get a more obvious
"Hershey" picture, but it'll do.
It's the Bears (Hershey's Hockey Team).

Patrick Monahan was great. Very personable and fun.

Mother and daughter enjoying Train
Thing 1 is even wearing her microphone
concert shirt. :)

Next up was Maroon 5 and OMG, what a show!! They are incredible! I love to sing and dance and cheer at concerts. That being said, we were, at times, stunned silent by Adam Levine's utter raw talent. At one point, he played the most amazing guitar solo -- it was so good, I didn't even think to take a picture or video. I was just watching with my jaw dropped open.

Maroon 5

Mark and Thing 2 enjoying Maroon 5

Adam Levine is crazy talented.

It was a great concert. We really enjoyed it, despite the rain. The weather cleared toward the end of the concert and we made our way to a local restaurant for some hot cocoa and goodies to eat.

I'm really glad we got to this concert. I love that our kids are old enough to attend with us. We love introducing them to all kinds of music, so this was a lot of fun. Very different from Michael Bublé -- nothing can touch him. But great, nonetheless.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Several New Posts . . .

Just a heads up. Scroll down below to see a post from Mark and a post from me. Then head over to the kids' blogs (listed on right side of blog) to see their "Encyclopedia of Me" posts, too!

Encyclopedia of Me - P (Mark)

Peter: We were talking the other night and realized that we've known each other for almost 30 years. Even though we don't keep in touch too well, any time we talk it's like we've picked up a conversation mid-thought. I also love how Peter is so expressive and honest. He's a great friend to have.

Pizza Pirate: It's been years since I've been back, but I will always have fond memories of baseball team parties, late night "dinners" watching "M*A*S*H" while eating a slice, and being the first person up in the morning and by default getting to finish off the leftovers for breakfast. It's still easily one of the top three pizzas I've ever had.

Psych Patients: I've been fortunate to be "moonlighting" at a psychiatric hospital for over three years now. I do all the medical care for the inpatients. I've come home with plenty of stories and variety in my workday is a definite plus.

Potter, Harry: Ms. Rowling has provided our entire family with countless hours of enjoyment and entertainment. I remember reading the first half of the first book at a friend's house in Pennsylvania while we were here checking out the state before moving. Stacy was sleeping since she was so tired during her pregnancy with Thing 2. Thing 1 was napping as well so I thought I'd give Mr. Potter a try. Love the books. Love the movies. Again and again.

Portugal: My awesome wife is 100% Portuguese, and the food is 100% great. I have a daily appreciation for this overlooked gem. One day we'll get there.

Parker, Charlie: I love all jazz music, no matter who's playing. I may be a trombonist, but I love bebop and a lot of what I listen to and play is from that era. One of my fondest memories is of our high school jazz combo playing my arrangement of "Scrapple from the Apple" during a competition. We ended up placing first and bringing home a nice award.

Encyclopedia of Me - P (Stacy)

Paula Abdul - She is the perfect person to put on here to represent my love of pop music (yes, really) and all things 80s. While she may not be my all-time favorite singer, I have always loved Paula Abdul ("Straight Up," "Forever Your Girl," etc.) and I still do. Remember her video for "Opposites Attract?" with the animated cat? Oh, I love the 80s! That's when music videos were awesome. I also love watching shows like American Idol (and now X Factor) as a family, so much so that I even write snarky reviews of the shows after viewing. My daughter has also picked up this hobby, so now I do AI reviews and she covers X-Factor. We're like our own entertainment review empire here. I love that Paula isn't afraid to show emotion, I love the ten-dollar words she uses when praising a contestant, and I think she's totally petite and adorable. Represent!

Pixar - Ah, I love Pixar! The sight and sound of that jumping lamp, the music, the animation . . . I get so excited when their movies start! It's an annual family tradition of ours to go to the movies every spring to see the Pixar movies in the theater. We tend to watch most movies on DVD since it's cheaper (or free, since we use our library so much), but for Pixar, we splurge. And it's always worth it. My all-time favorite Pixar movie is Toy Story 2, but I love all three of them. Our family has also watched the documentary "The Pixar Story" and it's an amazing, inspiring, compelling story about how the company started. Watch it if you get the chance - it's on Netflix.

Politics/Peace - When Mark and I started college, we were both enrolled as political science majors. Over time, we both switched majors and neither of us has pursued legal or political careers, but my enjoyment of politics continues. I'm a news junkie and while it can often be aggravating and tedious (and way too long), I do like the excitement of election season -- everything from the debates and the news stories to the SNL parodies and Jon Stewart. Also, I've always been someone who does not like contention and fighting. I am a big fan of peace.

Pereira - This is my Vavô's last name, my mother's maiden name (don't worry - I don't use that for password protection), my dad's middle name, and so on. I love my Vavô dearly. I miss him. He was a wonderful grandfather to me. I used to love to sit and cuddle with him and I liked to kiss his bald head. It's great that I'm wearing so much purple (another P-word) in that picture (that was also very me as a kid - I loved purple!). My son's middle name is a variation of this name, after my grandfather. I love that this name represents to many things to me. It's not a very common name, so I also think it's pretty cool that Thing 2 and his best friend share the same middle name.

Potstickers - I love Asian food, all kinds. I especially love Japanese food, but I also love Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. We have pork potstickers (only we call them gyoza) from Trader Joe's for dinner now and then and they are always a part of our big, annual, Asian New Year's celebrations. Dumplings? Filled with goodness? Rolled in a soft wrapper? Dipped in delicious sauces? Eaten with chopsticks? I'm in!

Puzzles -I love puzzles. I especially enjoy 500-piece jigsaw puzzles that are collections of things (teddy bears, ice cream sundaes, buttons, etc.). Jigsaw puzzles calm me when I'm feeling anxious. I remember when my Dad was dying and we were trying to tie up loose ends here (we had just moved, just opened our business, etc.) so that we could get up there and see him. I could barely concentrate on anything, I was so nervous and worried. I worked on a 1000-piece "12 Days of Christmas" puzzle and it was the only thing that could hold my attention and calm my worry a little bit. We usually have a puzzle going on our dining room table and it's fun, relaxing, and calming to work on together. I also enjoy crossword puzzles, fill-in puzzles, and pretty much any kind of word puzzle.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Plague of Technology

I am generally a fairly optimistic person who loves everyone and likes feeling all mindful and zen and grateful.

Today isn't one of those days.

Today is one of those days where people are flaky, everyone irritates me, and I feel like I'm surrounded by morons.

Today is one of those days where I texted my holed-up-at-home friend to say, "Be glad you can't go out among humans today. Idiots. All of them."

Maybe it's the in-the-crapper economy, but there are times, like today, when I am driving around in the gray, cold weather through several towns, and looking at foreclosed homes, bankrupt corporate closings, and boarded up small businesses that prompt me to look at my husband and say, "Do you ever feel like you're living in a post-apocalyptic world?"

It's like the freaking Hunger Games out there! Except it's not fantasy and it's not in a novel. It's the 21st century and it's real life. This is not what Marty McFly told us would happen. Where is my space suit? My flying car? The dust-repellent paper?

Yes, dust-repellent paper. Look it up. That's what they had invented. Dust-repellent paper. For books.

You know, books? Remember them? Weighty in your hand, cute covers, a summary blurb on the back, pages you could flip, words on paper?

Now I hear people saying things like, "Uh-oh! I can't read my book. I have to charge my reader!" Bah. (Cue geezer voice) Back in my day, we didn't need those new-fangled contraptions and wires and chargers. We just read books! Books don't need batteries!

Welcome to 2012. Books are disappearing. Movies are disappearing. Book stores are disappearing. Video stores are disappearing. You get the idea.

I feel like life is changing SO fast.

Don't get me wrong. Netflix is great. And instant downloads from Amazon and iTunes are handily instantaneous. But I used to LOVE walking through Blockbuster and browsing through all the movies (back in my day, they were VHS tapes, eventually they were DVDs, now they're intangible download files) and picking them in my hands, flipping them over, reading about them, looking at the pictures on the cover, and deciding if I'd take a chance on that film and maybe get a winner for movie rental night.

Now we look at computer screens and browse through lists and pixelated images. Again, I love that I can read reviews, check out what others have to say, and see the star rating on IMDB (one of my very favorite websites). But there are no more video stores.

We got to take our kids to Blockbuster when they were about 2 and 5, but not really since then, because all the stores went away. So, they're growing up not getting to know what it's like to stroll down those blue-carpeted aisles and browse those long, filled shelves.

There are wonderful things about everything going digital, to be sure. And I try to embrace that. But I also get nostalgic for the old days. I'm still in denial about digital photos vs. prints and I'm barely getting over the transition from tapes to CD. I miss my cassette walkman and now it's all about mp3 players. Handy and amazing and can do so so much more, but I miss holding the music in my hands.

That's another thing I used to love - browsing record stores. Yes, records. They had dust jackets, too. Hmph.

As of two months ago, we now live in a county with NO bookstore. Not a single one. And those lame-o, piddly nothing offerings at Wal-mart hardly count.

(Don't get me started on Wal-mart).

No movies, no tapes, no books, stores closing, no more browsing . . . everything is going onto individual electronic devices. Everyone is walking around with headphones in their own worlds, apart from everyone else. People don't even watch television together anymore!

We're pretty old-fashioned that way, I guess. We watch shows together as a family-- Amazing Race, X-Factor, Modern Family (HILARIOUS episode yesterday, by the way - I laughed so hard when they auto-tuned Phil), American Idol, and yes, even Netflix streaming (great documentaries and movies and now we know what "Phineas and Ferb" is since we don't have cable) -- in the same room, sitting on the same couch, watching the same screen. And a little shout out for TiVo -- best. new. digital. invention. ever.

Again, there are up sides of the new technology, but I miss so much about the "olden ways." The days when you could hold the books, the movies, the music. The days when you could browse the shelves and shelves of options. Now we click a mouse.

We are living in a world where every store makes you apply for those stupid little keychain cards to shop and get discounts (I think I may have more of these stupid keychain tabs than keys on my ring). Why can't they just keep the stupid little cards and give me the discount?!? That would be a WHOLE lot more impressive.

Oh, but wait. Then they wouldn't be able to garner my information and track my shopping and habits. Big brother and all of that. See? Post-apocalyptic. Bleh.

So, whine, complain, moan. I miss book stores and video stores and books and paper and CDs. It's inevitable. It's all going digital. And I long for dust-repellent paper, so I can hold books in my hands. And walk through a bookstore with my husband and kids.

Maybe I just need a DeLorean and Mr. Fusion.

Our Kids' Blogs

Just a quick note that our kids have been writing and updating their blogs -- both their personal ones and their joint book/movie review one (and there's more to come!).

I've put the links to their blogs on the sidebar of this blog -- they'd love to hear from you! And thanks to those who have already commented!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Doctors are Broke

Well, according to this article more and more doctors are broke. I know, it sounds crazy. When Stacy started telling me what the article said I could sense the collective incredulity of this nation rising all around me. Here are a few actual comments (grammatical errors and all) that appeared below the article. By now they're almost certainly buried beneath the other comments that have been coming in fast and furiously.
"It's amazing that Doctors complain about their salaries. Who asked them to go to school for 12 extra years after high-school, take out hundreds of thousands of dollars for tuition, and start working in their mid thirties. They put themselves in this situation."
"What a shame they will have to sell their homes and by a cheaper 20 room house, trade in the Rolls Royce for a Hummer."
"Complaints about their 9-room million dollar home (for just him and his wife), not being able to afford that 4th porsche he just bought his wife for christmas (really?), not being able to go to the bahamas because the two week trip to Italy and Spain cost more than he thought."
This article caught Stacy's eye and piqued my interest because we are discussing this all the time. We're not so worried about our Rolls and Hummer, though. Our Saturn has been with us since 1998, broken dome light and all, and our Dodge minivan is almost 10 years old. And we are happy to drive each into the ground. We've always opted for utility over luxury. And yes, we own a nice home, a home that is large enough to house our small business. It is wonderful to have such a short commute and to be able to live true to our own values and goals. And it is liberating to know that every choice we've made has been because we have felt it was right for us and our family.

Before I get into saying much else on the subject I have a couple of caveats.

  1. Our path is our own choice. We own that 100%.
  2. We recognize how fortunate we are to not only have a business that we built the way we wanted to, but also to be able to support our family, even in difficult economic times.
  3. We are incredibly grateful that we've both had the opportunity to get both undergraduate and graduate degrees. There are a lot of people who'd probably like that chance but don't get it.

A few things came to mind as we read and talked about the article. There is a huge discrepancy between the stereotypical well-to-do physician of a few decades ago and the "newer" doctors of today. A lot of us live in "normal" homes, drive "typical cars," and shop sales and bargains. Receiving our degrees did not give us the combination to the bank vault.

While there are definitely physicians that are doing very well, and that may even flaunt it a bit, that minority is shrinking rapidly. Most of the doctors I know do well but are not rich. The doctor you deal with most frequently, your primary care doctor, is probably paying a lot more for overhead like malpractice and supplies and receiving far less back in return for his or her services. I knew that Medicare tries to reduce reimbursement to physicians every year, but the article pointed out that the law expects Medicare to act this way. Private insurers tend to follow Medicare's reimbursement practices so that means most insurance providers are trying to give less and less to doctors each year. What other job can you think of where the expectation is that a worker is likely to take a pay cut every single year?

One benefit of doing more complementary medicine is that we rarely have to deal with insurance companies to get paid. Our patients and clients pay us when we are done and that's that. This means that we aren't listed in any insurance plan's list of providers so we need to find other ways to bring people in the door, but simplifying our billing is worth it. Plus, we get to practice without too much interference from third parties. We get to treat patients by talking to them and deciding together what the best course is. I never have someone reviewing charts to make sure I'm hitting my goals for treatment success, or auditing if I'm using the proper number of needles and then adjusting my reimbursement accordingly. If I do well, people keep coming, and they bring friends.

The cost of a medical education is huge today, and the reimbursements to physicians in practice are decreasing each year, so it is no longer a given to tell someone "don't worry about the debt." It has taken us into our mid-to-late 30s to get to the point where we can find enough money to save for retirement and our children's educations. We've always done something, no matter how tight our money has been, but we lost out on 10+ years of early retirement savings, so anything we make above an average salary is already earmarked for student loan repayment and saving for the future.

Lost in all of these complaints about doctors' salaries is the fact that most of them work a lot of long hours to make that money. I was talking to a friend of mine whose wife is a pediatrician. He mentioned that her hours haven't been that bad. She works about 50 or so hours a week. How many people out there are dreaming of the 50-hour work week? We both thought it was a little humorous that after the insane hours of residency we are calling 50 hours "not bad." And the hours just to get through medical school are incredible. I figured out once that during my first two years of med school I took over 120 credit hours of classes. I graduated with my bachelor's with about 130 credit hours of classes--in four years! And the third and fourth years of med school are like "residency light." You work full-time hours and then some.

I guess my point in all of this rambling is to say that none of this is simple. I wish the formula was take out loans/get a great job/make lots of money/live securely forever, but it's not. There is no formula, even for those of us trying to make wise financial decisions. And the Suzy Ormans of the world don't have a simple solution for us either. We're the financial oddballs, and it can be frustrating at times, but things could be a lot worse. I just wish people would stop misplacing their frustrations with our system of healthcare delivery and start looking deeper for the larger problems. I'm still waiting for that article that tells me how those poor CEOs at big insurance companies are going broke.

I have a feeling I'll be waiting for a long time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A glimpse into this past November - NaNoWriMo

I haven't posted pictures in a while, so I thought I'd do a post about this past November through pictures and words. Here is part 1 - NaNoWriMo.

November is when our family participates in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), so we all write novels in 30 days. We go to a local coffeehouse often and write, write, write with friends. Okay, so there's a lot of talking and playing mixed in, too. :P

First, proof of writing/working while at the coffeehouse:

Thing 2 hanging out with the boys and writing
(or possibly playing Minecraft)

Thing 1 doing pass-along stories with some of the girls
(one of their favorite things to do at write-ins -- lots of giggles!)

And proof of playing while there, too. :)

Of course we need sustenance to fuel our creativity.

She looks pretty happy with that ice cream.

We love our local coffeehouse/theater. But we do write in other places, too.

Like at home with a cute puppy snuggled on our legs
but under our laptop . . .

At Starbucks
(where I get distracted by looking at my cute husband).

At home, we track our progress on these
nifty charts Mark makes us.
(Mark and I wrote a novel together this year
and the kids each wrote their own).

The kids won!
Thing 1 surpassed her goal of 35,000 words.
Thing 2 surpassed his goal of 4,000 words.

And Mark and I wrote our first novel together!

At our celebratory TGIO party (several people were missing - I don't think there was a time when ALL the writers were together at once the whole month) :

Awesome kids

No rabbit ears! :P

Zombie picture

I forget what we were doing in this picture -
getting the zombies maybe?

I honestly don't know how we weren't kicked out.

And the faithful adult writers
(again, several were missing).
Yay us!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kid Interviews - Favorites of 2011

Today, I'm interviewing our kids to journal their favorites of 2011.

Thing 1 - Age 11, 6th Grade

Favorite Color - Yellow
Favorite Food - Sushi
Favorite Drink - Pink Lemonade
Favorite Board or Card Game - Settlers of Catan (Cities and Knights)
Favorite Wii Game - Horse Life Adventures and Order Up!
Favorite Online Game - Webkinz
Favorite DS game - Harry Potter Lego Games
Favorite Hobby - Reading, Writing, and playing with Scout, Thing 2, and the family, and friends
Favorite non-electronic thing to do - Reading, Writing, and playing with family and friends
Favorite thing to do outside - Capture the Flag
Favorite Book - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Favorite Movie - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Favorite TV show or Cartoon - Winx Club and Wizards of Waverly Place and Modern Family
Favorite Restaurant - Kugo's Steakhouse (for sushi)
Favorite Outdoor Spot - The climbing tree at the playground
Favorite Animal - Puppy
Favorite Fruit - Kiwi
Favorite Flower - Sunflower
Favorite Tree - Weeping Willow
Favorite Vegetable - Creamed spinach
Favorite Snack - Popcorn
Favorite Stuffed Animal - Menedy (stuffed cat)
Favorite Sport - Baseball
Favorite Dessert - Chocolate-based cookies with peanut butter chips
Favorite Place to Vacation - Disney World or The Beach
Favorite Houseguest - "Johnsons and Grandparents and Ada and Cathy and friends . . . I pretty much like everyone that comes. Our house is a hotel."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor - Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Favorite Smell - Baking cookies
Favorite Aisle in Department Store - Books, Toys, or Writing Supplies
Favorite Song - "Radio, Radio" by Brooke White, "White Horse" by Taylor Swift, and "Who Says" by Selena Gomez
Favorite Group or Singer - Brooke White, Taylor Swift, and Selena Gomez (Taylor Swift especially)
Favorite Season - Summer
B.F.F. - Kirsten
Favorite Room of the House - Our bedroom and the library
Favorite Day of the Week - Friday
Favorite Event of 2011 - All the concerts we went to
Favorite Errand to Run - Shopping for someone else's birthday present
Favorite Outfit - Jeans and my long black and white shirt with ruffles on the bottom, and pajamas
Favorite Instrument to Play - Violin
Favorite Phrase - "Foopaloopa!" (Kirsten says it; she made it up. It's sort of like "darn.")
Favorite Thing about Daddy - "He's hard-working to get everything done around the house and really fun to play video games with."
Favorite Thing about Mommy - "She gets all the INCH stuff together so everybody can enjoy and play and I like reading stories with her."
Favorite Thing about Your Sibling - "He's funny. When I'm sad or mad, he can usually cheer me up. When something exciting happens, he calls out to me to tell me."
Favorite Thing about Scout - "She cheers me up when I'm sad and is always up for snuggling."
Favorite Christmas Gift of year - My iPod Touch, but I loved everything
Favorite School Subject - NaNoWriMo
Favorite Family Tradition - Our Christmas Traditions and our new one -- Elf of the Shelf!
Favorite Homeschool Group Activity - Park Days
What do you want to be when you grow up? - An author and the way things are going, probably one of the singers of a homeschool band
If you could change anything about the world . . . - "No more war and I'd find something better to use than money so there'd be less of a hassle." ("Same as this past year, because it still hasn't happened. I need a magic wand.")
If you could have any superpower . . . - "Flying."
Weirdest thing you can do - "I can turn one foot backward and one foot forward at the same time."
Best thing about you - (She felt a little uncomfortable with this question). "I'm funny and I give good advice to my friends."

Thing 2 - Age 9 (newly 9!), 3rd Grade

Favorite Color - Silver
Favorite Food - Pizza
Favorite Drink - Birch Beer
Favorite Board or Card Game - Yu-Gi-Oh!
Favorite Wii Game - Super Smash Brothers
Favorite Online Game - Wizard 101
Favorite DS game - Pokemon Heart Gold
Favorite Hobby - Dueling/Playing Yu-Gi-Oh! (the card game)
Favorite non-electronic thing to do - Play Yu-Gi-Oh!
Favorite thing to do outside - Zombie Tag
Favorite Book - Rave Master 19
Favorite Movie - Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie
Favorite TV show or Cartoon - Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
Favorite Restaurant - Infinito's (All-You-Can-Eat Pizza and Salad)
Favorite Outdoor Spot - Park
Favorite Animal - Bald Eagle
Favorite Fruit - Asian Pear
Favorite Flower - Nightshade
Favorite Tree - Dead Tree
Favorite Vegetable - Celery
Favorite Snack - M&Ms
Favorite Stuffed Animal - Zip (stuffed eagle)
Favorite Sport - Watching Hockey/Playing Baseball
Favorite Dessert - Mint Oreos
Favorite Place to Vacation - Anywhere the Johnsons are
Favorite Houseguest - "Johnsons . . . and the same thing Thing 1 said."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor - Mint Chocolate Chip
Favorite Smell - Spearmint
Favorite Aisle in Department Store - Toys and Trading Cards
Favorite Song - "Girl From Lebanon" by Europe and "Grenade" by Bruno Mars as well as "It Will Rain" also by Bruno Mars
Favorite Group or Singer -Europe and Bruno Mars
Favorite Season - Fall
B.F.F. - Rich and Brennan
Favorite Room of the House - Our bedroom
Favorite Day of the Week - Friday
Favorite Event of year - Hanging out with the Johnsons
Favorite Errand to Run -Going to a Trading Card Store
Favorite Outfit - Ripped jeans and a t-shirt and backwards baseball cap
Favorite Instrument to Play - Synthesizer
Favorite Phrase - "Johnsons are here!"
Favorite Thing about Daddy - "He's hard-working and he works for the family and he doesn't stop until he gets it done. And I love him."
Favorite Thing about Mommy - "She's fun, nice, hard-working computer-wise, and I love her."
Favorite Thing about Your Sibling - "She's nice. She plays with me. She's hard-working. I like how she plays with me. And, UGH, why can't I think??"
Favorite Thing about Scout - "She's cute, furry . . . she's staring at me. Sometimes I like how she's feisty. Cute, furry, and I love her."
Favorite Christmas Gift of year - Rainbow Dragon Tin
Favorite School Subject - Math
Favorite Family Tradition - Sushi for New Year's, Going out to eat for birthdays, Opening presents on Christmas Eve . . .
Favorite Homeschool Group Activity - Roller Skating
What do you want to be when you grow up? - A game designer
If you could change anything about the world . . . - "No smoking. No wars. No global warming. And everything's free."
If you could have any superpower . . . - "To be transparent, because you can turn invisible and put illusions so it looks like part of your body is gone or you can just see legs walking. I think it's kind of cool."
Weirdest thing you can do - "Make it so both of my eyes are just white."
Best thing about you - "About me? That's kind of selfish. It's like, 'Hey, I'm so great!' I think I'm a good duelist in Yu-Gi-Oh! I make friends easily. I'm nice. I'm funny. Oh yeah, I'm a good friend."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

100 Foods (and a Facebook rant, apparently)

I wasn't going to blog today, but I've got the flu and feel just sick enough to not be able to do much of anything and just well enough to want to do something. And I'm kinda grumpy from the body aches, so lucky you, you get a snarky post.

Apparently there is a Facebook app making the rounds that has a list of "100 Foods To Eat Before You Die." I don't like Facebook and I don't particularly trust it -- they play pretty fast and loose with private information, spammy ads, and invasive apps.

Plus, every time I try to like Facebook, I grow tired of it very quickly. It's tedious to me and after spending any significant amount of time on it, I walk away feeling empty and thinking, "There's time I'll never get back." It'd be different if items of substance outweighed the fluff, but it doesn't.

So, bah humbug, I'm a Facebook grump. Turned my account off over 2 years ago and haven't missed it.

And the kids and I are wrapped in blankets on the couch with a space heater aiding the radiators in trying to heat this room. The draftiness of an old house cannot be good for our health.

Holy tangent. Back to the food list . . .

So the Facebook app's list has been replicated online for people who also don't trust Facebook. I found it and copied it. Apparently, the initial prediction says that of the 100 foods listed, most people have tried about 20 or less of them. I'm curious to see how many I've tried.

My number: 78

Not bad. I LOVE trying new foods. And strange doesn't scare me. It entices me all the more. Bring it. (Unless it's that fish in Japan that could kill you. I'd pass on that.)

I woke up from a dream this morning where I was tasting copious amounts of middle eastern foods and noodles. It was supposed to be a pre-field trip snack, but in the dream, everyone in our group had left and I hadn't even realized they'd gone. My main concern was trying all the food. So, I shrugged and kept eating. I love food.

1. Abalone - Yes! Live mussels in a shell barnacle. Only I called them "lapas." And ate them raw on the beach to the wonderment of my elementary school classmates on school field trips. Ah, the benefits of being the immigrants' kid.

2. Absinthe - not exactly a drinker, but even if I were, anise and fennel? So liquid licorice?

3. Alligator - Yep. As a kid. And again, on a stick in Florida a few years ago. Delicious.

4. Baba Ghanoush - LOVE this stuff. I like it even more than hummus. So stringy and eggplant-y good. Plus, it's fun to say.

5. Bagel and Lox - I've had the smoked salmon variety, but not the more proper brine type. I'd love to try those.

6. Baklava - Yes, but I don't love it. Too sweet.

7. Barbecue Ribs - Yes, usually with a fork. Don't like getting messy (though my daughter LOVES making a mess when she eats).

8. Bellini - Virgin Bellini, yes.

9. Bird's Nest Soup - have not had the pleasure. Apparently, it's one of the most expensive foods in the world and it's made from bird saliva. I'd totally eat it.

10. Biscuits and Gravy - Yes! My husband's favorite breakfast food. Would love to try this in the South someday. Did have a true Southerner make us some at our house. It was awesome.

11. Black Pudding - Also called blood pudding. I REALLY love this stuff. My Dad used to fry this up and the smell was sooooo good. Yes, it's really made of blood. Yes, it's really yummy. (Snarky side note: I love how some Americans wrinkle their noses in disgust at something like this while simultaneously popping Cheetos, Pop-Tarts, and Pepsi in their mouths, as if that is less disgusting).

12. Black Truffle - Love these! They're mushrooms that are kind of slimy and chewy all at once. Divine!

13. Borscht - I don't think I've had this, but I'd try it. I'd prefer the tomato-based ones to the beet-based ones. Not a big fan of beets.

14. Calamari - Love, love, love calamari. Any way it's cooked is fine with me. YUM. One of mine and Thing 1's favorite foods.

15. Carp - Yep. I love fish. I could ditch all other meats in the world if I could keep eating fish.

16. Caviar - Salty. Love fish eggs on my sushi, though.

17. Cheese Fondue - It's on our menu for this week! Dipping little foods in melted cheese? Um, yes, please!

18. Chicken and Waffles - Sounds weird, but is actually quite good. Another thing I'd love to try in the South (I really love eating regional foods in their respective regions - Italy, someday, here we come!).

19. Chicken Tikka Masala - Oh yes! Love this stuff. Thought it was an Indian dish, but apparently it's the most popular restaurant dish in the UK. Still thought to have originated in India, though, which explains the British connection.

20. Chile Relleno - Yes. And yum again. We're big fans of Mexican food around here.

21. Chitlins - I have eaten intestines MANY times. My favorite meal as a kid was "cassoula" - a stew of all kinds of cow parts, including stomach, lungs, tongue, etc. (my favorite part was the lungs - they were so spongy and squishy - really held the flavor). I later learned that it was really dangerous to eat those parts and the butcher pretty much had to sneak them to us when they'd slaughter our cow every year at the slaughterhouse. Did NOT know that. Kind of freaky. All that being said, I have not yet tried Southern Chitlins. We may have to make a food trip to the South soon . . .

22. Churros - Meh. Fried dough with sugar. Every culture has it. I prefer Portuguese malasadas or American yeast donuts (NOT Krispy Kremes, though -- too sweet). We like our hole-in-the-wall place in our town.

23. Clam Chowder - I'm from Boston. It'd be some kind of crime to not have had it. It's what I ordered at Cheer's in Boston when I visited there with Mark years ago. I love New England Style best, but have also tried the others (Portuguese, Manhattan, etc.). For me, creamy trumps tomato-based. A splash of wine vinegar in your pot of chowder is the secret to REALLY yummy soup.

24. Cognac - Seriously? I'm starting to get annoyed that drinks are being placed on this list of FOOD. I have not tried cognac. I have, however, poured an almost-full bottle of it down the sink as a kid. My dad was patient with me, but not amused.

25. Crab Cakes - Don't love these unless they're 99% crab and 1% bread crumbs/filling. I really don't see the appeal. I'd rather eat straight crab meat dripped in LOTS of drawn butter. But the discussion of crab cakes between Jay and Manny on Modern Family? Hysterical. And oft-quoted.

26. Crickets - No, but only because I've not yet had the opportunity. I totally would try them (cooked and crispy, please). I love the food challenges on The Amazing Race.

27. Currywurst - Sounds like hot dogs in ketchup. I'd try it, just to cross it off the list, but it's German food and very little German food makes me want to jump up and scream, "I HAVE GOT TO HAVE THAT!"

28. Dandelion Wine - Nope. Interestingly, it's a non-grape wine made from, well, dandelion petals.

29. Dulce De Leche - Yes, but my favorite kind was in Portugal where it is called "Baba de Camelo," or "Camel's drool." It's basically a can of sweetened, condensed milk placed in a pressure cooker. Seriously. That's it. It turns all caramel-y and delicious. But very sweet. So, good, but not my favorite.

30. Durian - I don't think so. Apparently, this "king of fruits" in Southeast Asia is used in Yule Logs, so maybe I . . . oh wait. I don't eat things with the word "log" in it. Yuck. (I would try the straight up fruit, though).

31. Eel - Yes. Good in sushi, too.

32. Eggs Benedict - Oh gods, yes. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to eggs, but when it comes to this meal? Mm-mmm! Eggs covered in Hollandaise Sauce, Canadian Bacon, and sometimes avocado? On a couple of crunchy English Muffins? Yes, please!

33. Fish Tacos - YES! We love these and make them regularly. We first learned of these while living in Arizona and they sounded odd, but oh were they ever good, especially at Rubio's with baja sauce. And cabbage (which I also really like)! YUM!

34. Foie Gras - I don't think I've tried this, but I would try it if the duck or goose had been fattened humanely. I have a conscience, you know.

35. Fresh Spring Rolls - Love these! Especially at Houlihan's with their 4 different dipping sauces. It's all about the sauces, but these are REALLY good.

36. Fried Catfish - Yes, and I like it very much. But it's another thing I'd like to try in the South itself.

37. Fried Green Tomatoes - We made these ourselves. Probably not correctly. They were okay. (Christie is probably flipping out if she's still reading . . .).

38. Fried Plantain - Yes! And they're very good. But that's how they try to fill you at those all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouses (churrascarias). Look out. Don't fall for it!

39. Frito Pie - I think I tried this early in our marriage when we shopped at Food4Less. What I wouldn't give for a Trader Joe's. So, yeah, I've tried it. No, I wouldn't seek it out again.

40. Frogs’ Legs - Yes, crispy. Not a lot of meat. Must take oldest child to try it; she's been asking for some time now.

41. Fugu - Oh! Oh! The deadly Japanese pufferfish! No way. Not worth the risk. I value life more than playing Russian Roulette with my food.

42. Funnel Cake - A local delicacy at street fairs. Around here, because of our proximity to Hershey's, they are often drenched in chocolate syrup and peanut butter as well as powdered sugar. Another fried dough thing.

43. Gazpacho - Yes, but I prefer warm soup.

44. Goat - Oh yes! I have a picture of me as a little girl standing next to a slaughtered goat in our backyard (yes, I was one of those kids). We love goat! It's delicious. We ate it as recently as this past summer when my brother came to visit while my mom was here. It was basically "killing the fatted calf," if you will.

45. Goat’s Milk - Yes. Yum.

46. Goulash - I'm sure I have in some form or another. There is a Portuguese version of this, too. I mean, it's stew with paprika. Not rocket science.

47. Gumbo - Yes. Paella, Gumbo, Jambalaya, etc. Have had all of them. Had a bad experience with paella while pregnant, though, so I don't crave it anymore.

48. Haggis - Not officially, though I have had pig's stomach locally, which is essentially the same thing. I have seen "So, I Married an Axe Murderer," though.

49. Head Cheese - Yes. And it's not cheese. It's cow tongue. In jellied meat made from the flesh of a cow's head. My mom would slice that into sandwiches for me as a kid. Cafeteria time in school was always a big hit. This is why I never had PB&J growing up. I was eating cow tongue (though that's honestly probably tastier).

50. Heirloom Tomatoes - Yes. Weird thing to have on the list. I think anyone who has ever gardened or belonged to a co-op has had these, no?

51. Honeycomb - Yes. Good for you. Sweet.

52. Hostess Fruit Pie WHY?!? WHY is this on this list?!? Who wrote this list? I've had one before. Yes, ew, gross.

53. Huevos Rancheros - Yes, but I prefer my eggs pure.

54. Jerk Chicken - Yah, Mon.

55. Kangaroo - Um, no. Didn't know you could?

56. Key Lime Pie - Yes. Eh.

57. Kobe Beef - I've probably had the more accessible Kobe-style beef in the states. I guess. Not sure.

58. Lassi - No, but I'd love to! Yogurt-based drink with butter and spices? Sounds yummy.

59. Lobster - Um, yes. One of my favorite foods!

60. Mimosa - Another drink?!? Urgh. And no. Though it would be easy enough to make a virgin mimosa. Kind of like delicious European sodas (no HFCS).

61. MoonPie - No. I think it's an Elvis thing? But the Marshmallow fluff? Now, that I've had. Fluffernutters were a common sandwich in the 80s in New England. Weirder than PB&J.

62. Morel Mushrooms - No, but I have a friend who gets them from her foraging husband and his family. If she's reading this, I'd love to try one next time you get a batch. :P

63. Nettle Tea - Yes, either made by my mother or my awesome hippie neighbor down the street. Or both.

64. Octopus - Yes and often! It's a common Portuguese dish. Thing 1 had about 5 servings of it at her 8th birthday party that my Uncle threw for her in MA.

65. Oxtail Soup - Yes, but again, Portuguese-style. My Mom likes to suck the marrow out. Moist.

66. Paella - Yes.

67. Paneer - Technically, no. But the other varieties and versions from other parts of the world? Yes.

68. Pastrami on Rye - Yes! Mustard, please.

69. Pavlova - No, but it looks good. It's a dessert, so it's not as high on my list as, say, foie gras.

(Strangely, I'm still not hungry. I hate being sick). Sniff.

70. Phaal - Nope. It's apparently VERY SPICY curry. I like curry. And I like spicy. So, I'd try it.

71. Philly Cheese Steak - Well, of course! The best ones come from the greasiest dives.

72. Pho - Oh my, yes. Just had some with friends, not 5 days ago. YUM! Also? The "Pho" scene in Modern Family is one of our most quoted (along with a bazillion others). I love having older kids who can watch these shows with us (most of the episodes, anyway)!

73. Pineapple and Cottage Cheese - Why this is on the list is beyond me totally.

74. Pistachio Ice Cream - Yep. One of the signature 31 flavors.

75. Po’ Boy Yes. We used to get these at a local BBQ place. That place had great food, but horrible luck. First location burned. Second one was flooded. We haven't had Po' Boys in a while.

76. Pocky - We love these! Especially the chocolate ones!

77. Polenta - Yep. So many ways to prepare it. This is a side we make fairly often.

78. Prickly Pear - We've had it in a jelly. They grew right outside our AZ window.

79. Rabbit Stew - Yes, probably weekly as a kid. At least. We raised the rabbits and we ate them.

80. Raw Oysters - Yep. They're okay.

81. Root Beer Float - Yes. Served best with strong, homemade Amish root beer.

82. S’mores - They're okay. Sticky. Sweet. Eh.

83. Sauerkraut - Yes. And I like it. It's big around here (German influence) and often served on hot dogs.

84. Sea Urchin - Yes, on sushi.

85. Shark - Yes, often. But I prefer flaky fish to steak-like fish, so it's not one of my favorites. Thing 1 loves it, though.

86. Snail - One of my VERY favorite European snacks. I could spend all afternoon sitting and eating a huge bowl of them.

87. Snake - Yep. It's okay. Kind of fatty/chewy.

88. Soft Shell Crab - Oh! I love these! In sushi, in a sandwich, on a plate, on the beach, whatever! YUM.

89. Som Tam - Yes. Thai food. Can't remember what I thought of it, since all Thai food at the time was new to me.

90. Spaetzle - Yep. For some reason, Hungarian noodles at religious fairs and local, amusement parks are big around here.

91. Spam - Yep. Pan fried with eggs. Big Hawaiian specialty, I understand. Why, I do not.

92. Squirrel - Have not had the pleasure, but if it's up to Scout, we may try some soon.

93. Steak Tartare - No. I have absolutely NO problem eating raw fish at all. But raw beef? Brrrrrrr! Who? Who thought of this? "Hey, I know! Let's not cook it! Just stick it on a plate with some garnish and call it a specialty!"

94. Sweet Potato Fries - LOVE these!!

95. Sweetbreads - No. And I don't eat veal either.

96. Tom Yum - Yep. As part of our "try everything Thai" adventure. It is yum.

97. Umeboshi - No, but Mark has.

98. Venison - Yep. From friends and family who hunt and share.

99. Wasabi Peas - Yes. Used to love them. Got sick of them.

100. Zucchini Flowers - Did not know they were edible! Will have to try!

How did you fare? What odd things have you eaten?

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 in Review

Thanks AGAIN to my SIL Emily's for reminding me about this awesome blog meme. I can't resist these. I love writing prompts!

  1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before? Watched my daughter play violin in Carnegie Hall in May and then with the Hershey Symphony in December, took our kids to a Michael Bublé concert in June and an Elliott Yamin concert in September, watched our son read his winning poem at a reception for contest winners in May, celebrated 15 years of wedded bliss in December, endured a flood and other natural disasters, wrote a novel with my husband . . .

  2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Pretty well, yes, using a "phrase of the year." And yes, I did pick a new phrase for 2012 (but haven't blogged about it).

  3. Did anyone close to you give birth? 3 of my 4 sisters-in-law on my husband's side all had babies this year.

  4. Did anyone close to you die? No. Thankfully, no.

  5. What countries did you visit? We visited New York City and spent a week at the beach in Delaware. We took the kids to Wilkes-Barre for the aforementioned Michael Bublé concert and Magiquest. We were going to spend a weekend in CT looking at fall foliage, but I got sick. :( Oh, and we also hosted A LOT of house guests.

  6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? A maid?

  7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    Aside from the usual ones, February 23rd. It's the day we met some new, wonderful friends.

  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Living in the moment and enjoying the great relationships that now stem from that. Watching all 7 Gilmore Girls seasons in a few months' time (I know, important achievements, eh?). Also, writing a novel with my husband.

  9. What was your biggest failure? Eh, I don't like to think in terms of failure. It is what it is.

  10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Again, thankfully, no. Some unusually bad allergies, but otherwise fine. My mom is another story . . . :P

  11. What was the best thing you bought? I don't know. Probably some much-needed new clothes? I hate shopping.

  12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Dave and Christie's, and their boys.

  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I plead the 5th.

  14. Where did most of your money go? Mortgages, student loan payments, malpractice insurance, general bills, retirement, Thing 1's orthodontic work, and various car repairs this past year.

  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our New Year's Eve weekend visitors, what my husband did for me/us for our 15th wedding anniversary, the Michael Bublé concert, meeting Elliott Yamin (haven't blogged about that yet), the beach, just our general family and day-to-day life. I'm genuinely happy.

  16. What song will always remind you of 2011? Maybe "Feelin' Good" since it's the AWESOME opening to the Michael Bublé concert or "Misery" by Maroon 5 since I made it my ring tone ("Why won't you answer me?") in anticipation of their outdoor concert with Train that we got to see with friends (haven't blogged about that yet either)! Also, our daughter's budding fascination with Taylor Swift has us hearing many of her songs (and I like them!).

  17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) happier or sadder? If it's possible, happier. Also, a little restless (in a good way).
    b) thinner or fatter? The same.
    c) richer or poorer? Financially? About the same. In life? Richer all the time.

  18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Again, it is what it is. I'm content. But I'll say blogging.

  19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Hmmmm, ADD-induced distracted thinking? :P

  20. How did you spend Christmas? Here with my beautiful family, enjoying good food and a really nice holiday. Lovely!

  21. Did you fall in love in 2011? Again and again.

  22. What was your favorite TV program? Gilmore Girls and Modern Family. X-Factor is good, too. And Amazing Race is always a favorite.

  23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I honestly don't hate anyone.

  24. What was the best book you read? Water for Elephants and The Help.

  25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Learning more about Taylor Swift. What an impressive girl!

  26. What did you want and get? The chance to take the kids to see Michael Bublé in person on his Crazy Love tour. Also, I was craving new, deeply-meaningful friendships in addition to those we already have in order to add greater richness to our lives. Got that in spades, more than I had allowed myself to imagine.

  27. What did you want and not get? That maid.

  28. What was your favorite film of this year? The Muppet Movie and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

  29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 37 and I spent the day with my family. Also, a friend of mine took me to lunch and Color Me Mine and we had a nice day together.

  30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? The ability to teleport.

  31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? Layers. And better-fitting clothes.

  32. What kept you sane? My family, my friends, and therapy skills. And Scout. Oh, and texting. And Gilmore Girls. And Modern Family.

  33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Michael Bublé and Elliott Yamin. Also, Taylor Swift.

  34. What political issue stirred you the most? Civil rights/Prop 8.

  35. Who did you miss? The Johnsons, when they were in Arkansas for 4 months.

  36. Who was the best new person you met? The Johnsons.

  37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011. Open your home to new friends and new possibilities. Get together often. Eat out (for dinner and then again for dessert). Stay up late talking and laughing. Never be too old for "weekend frat parties." You'll get behind on things and pay for it later, but it will be totally worth it.

  38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
    "It's like you're always stuck in second gear,
    Well, it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.

    But, I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour.
    I'll be there for you, like I've been there before.
    I'll be there for you, cause you're there for me too."