Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Ends of 2016

Greetings faithful blog readers!

It has been a couple of weeks, but I'm still here and wanted to play catch up on the end of the year.

After a busy long weekend in Midland, we headed to Austin with Lola and Zoe.

The next day, I took my mom to see Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker for her Christmas gift. It was awesome to relive a childhood favorite that I hadn't seen in years and spend the afternoon with my mom.

The next day (and the day after), I got to see Cole (one of my best friends from high school). I only got a picture with his puppy, Da Vinci (a "foster" dog, but we've heard that before ;)

That evening, we hosted the annual Austin family Christmas party. We had about sixteen guests over for dinner, and Brendan made a simple version of last year's trifle.

My Family

My Cousins :) 
The following morning, it was time to celebrate "fake Christmas" 

I wore my Mimi's (mom's mom) Christmas pajama top for the sixth year. She wore it every Christmas since my grandfather gave it to her on their first Christmas together. Kenzie enjoyed his first fake Christmas, and it was a first for Erynn to be there as well.

It was a fun morning with the six of us plus Lola, Zoe, and Kenzie. As usual, Brendan and I were spoiled, and we got some gadgets for our home (Ring and The Nest) that we're looking forward to having. 

The next day was Christmas Eve, and Brendan and I were off bright and early for Connecticut. We left at 7:00AM, landed at 2:30PM, attended a Christmas Eve party at his cousin's house, and went straight to midnight mass at church. We were absolutely exhausted by the end of the day! Luckily, we could sleep in and enjoy a leisurely start to a perfect Christmas morning. We were literally wrapping our gifts the morning of! 

Our cute little family (cats, Princess and Max, not pictured): 

This was Dan's first time celebrating Christmas with us, and it was such a spectacular year. We opened our presents at a leisurely pace and enjoyed turnovers for breakfast. I received many wonderful gifts, including a monthly sticker subscription service that I was extremely excited about (my 2017 LifePlanner is going to be amazing). I also got my first American Girl doll. Brendan's mom found Felicity and remembered that I never had an American Girl doll, so I received one finally at age thirty! 

After unwrapping presents, Brendan and I played Ticket to Ride with Annie and Dan (Dan's Christmas gift from us). Brendan slaughtered us all, but Max showed us who was really the boss in the end. Brendan's parents made the traditional Christmas dinner, which was amazing as usual.  

We ended the evening by playing Cranium, which Brendan and I won by a landslide (we got all bookworm questions for the most part!) 

The next evening, we went out to dinner with Brendan's grandparents and aunt and uncle. 

The following day was Brendan's 35th birthday. Lucky for us, his parents treated us all to dinner at The Oyster Club (just what Brendan had been craving). I loved spending a day celebrating my favorite person. Words cannot express just how grateful I was to have him this year. We switched up Cranium teams that night and Annie and Tim won (with many star performer questions). 

We had a great rest of the week in Connecticut: we saw Annie and Dan's new place and had an excellent meal prepared by Dan and game night at their house, ate dinner with Brendan's grandparents, visited with family friend Gail, shipped ourselves some of Brendan's dad's paintings (something we always say we're going to do but never get around to), and saw the new Star Wars movie. The week couldn't of gone better, and though we were sad to say goodbye, we were so happy to have had the week together. 

Today, we took a super early flight (Thanks to Brendan's Dad for making this absurdly early airport run) and landed in Austin before noon. Lola and Zoe seem very happy to see us, and we are very tired. We spent the day doing laundry, resting, and watching TV. My parents are on a cruise, so it was a quiet day. Tonight, we have 10PM dinner reservations at our favorite Austin restaurant (can you guess where?) and will ring in 2017 the way we ring in most years: eating a fabulous meal together.

I couldn't end this post without taking some time to reflect on 2016. It's hard to talk about the year because it was such a mixed bag for us. On the one hand, it was a year of great loss: I lost my Mimi (dad's mom) in July and with her lost my last living grandparent. Due to being in Africa, we were unable to attend her funeral, which was also just really hard. I miss her everyday. 

There were other great losses too, and of course, politically, it was just a very strange year for the world at large. I feel that there is a loss in the connection we have to one another in this country; I hope to see this change in the coming year, and I'm willing to work hard for it. 

On the other hand, 2016 had so much joy and happiness and success that just cannot be overlooked. In January, we took a ski trip with friends. In February and May, we were able to see Mimi (and I'm so thankful because she died just five weeks after our last visit). In March, Brendan and I had a phenomenal spring break in Alpine, Big Bend, and Marfa. In May, Brendan was awarded his five year pin, and we took a trip to Lake Charles to enjoy an extremely special reunion weekend with our MFA friends. In June, I turned thirty(!) and a few days later, we headed northeast to visit Brendan's family, celebrate my dear friend Tara's wedding, and celebrate our own three year anniversary. In July, we took an incredible and life changing road trip in Namibia, Africa for three weeks. We saw elephants, giraffe, zebra, rhinos, ostrich, antelope, beautiful birds, wildebeest, etc. and developed a deeper appreciation for this beautiful world and all the creatures in it. In August, we spent a relaxing week in Maine with Brendan's family, and in October, we flew to Virginia to see Brendan's cousin Aaron tie the knot. We hosted my family for Thanksgiving and had an amazing Christmas in Connecticut. That is a lot of highlights despite the hardness of this year. 

Another surprise about 2016 was that I had publication successes. After 4.5 years of rejections piling up (so many rejections, seriously), I had four stories accepted for publication. In November, PANK emailed me to notify me that I was a finalist for their Prose Chap[BOOK] contest. They wrote "we were impressed by the range of your work and how cohesive this book felt throughout the stories and voices. Your writing has pace and verve, and neither of our three editors could put it down (or close Submittable's window)." The words were so uplifting to me and came at a time when I was struggling. A few weeks later, I found out that I was one of two writers that would have my Chapbook published, and I felt immensely happy. I also found out that I'll start next year as a guest editor for an issue of Driftwood Press. At the start of 2016, I had one publication to my name, and I could have never imagined how much this year would turn things around and inspire me to continue working and submitting no matter what. To say that I am grateful for these opportunities is an understatement; I feel a renewed energy, and it truly is a great gift. 

So I end 2016 feeling so humbled by all the year taught me about living after loss, coping with the unexpected, and perseverance. I have been so lucky to have Brendan and our families by my side this year. I needed their love more than ever, and it was there for me in abundance. 

May peace, love, joy, and creative energy be with you and yours in abundance in 2017, dear friends. Happy New Year. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Winter Break Upon Us

The Fall 2016 Semester is behind us! Grades were submitted last night, and so far, my only emails are "happy holidays" messages, and 85% of my developmental students passed Composition I with a C or higher, so I'm calling that a victory. 

Yesterday, we set our alarms early despite having a work from home day, and we moved our old couch to the curb. Three hours later, we had our new couch delivered, and the old one had been picked up by the city. I know it sounds silly, but it was a bit sad to say goodbye to the old couch: I do most of my writing and grading on the couch, so I've spent more hours there than I care to admit. I had that couch before I got married, and it was in no fewer than three apartments before it was in our home (that's a lot of moves!). However, the new couch is much more comfortable and also is a queen sleeper sofa, so I know we're going to enjoy it and get a lot of use out of it. 

The cats seem happy too (and more importantly, are not scratching it yet!): 

After I submitted my grades, I made dinner, did some writing work, and ended the evening by watching The Muppets A Christmas Carol before passing out. It was awesome to finally sleep in this morning and wake up to winter break. We have a friend's going away party tonight and friends coming over for dinner tomorrow night. We're looking forward to a few relaxing days at home before heading to our other homes for the holidays. 

Goodbye old couch from Craigslist. It was a good eight and a half years! 

Here's to moving on. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winter is Coming

Greetings faithful blog readers!

I don't mean to be such a neglectful blogger. We're nearing the end of semester, and grading is occupying most of my time these days!

We also managed to attend Reinbeer (the beer tasting/fundraiser at the Museum of the Southwest) and THREE work holiday parties, make gifts for our co-workers (candy bags), send holiday cards, and shop for kiddos our school adopted for Christmas, so I'd say we've been getting into the holiday spirit despite the workload.

Last week, I snapped a few photos of the season's first snow:

I loved how our roses looked in the snow. So beautiful.

It's funny how winter comes and basically destroys all the hard work of spring, but I don't even mind. I love this time of year as there is something to be said for warm baths before bed, reading by the fire, and enjoying the lights and our tree.

Last weekend, we checked out a new to us restaurant in Midland: Pho Street. It was really tasty (I had the tofu spring rolls and the tofu pho bowl), but a little on the pricer side for an ordering at the counter place. Apparently there are now two pho restaurants in Midland? We'll try the other one and report back with a comparison soon.

On Saturday, Brendan was good sport of the year when he dressed up as Santa for the Museum's 5K Ugly Christmas Sweater Run. The adorable thing was some kids were quite taken with him and watching them tell him their wishes was pretty adorable and kept me warm despite the cold. Zero kids were scared of him, so I'd call it a win.

With the weekend and last week behind us, we're counting down the days (3!) until the semester ends, and we can enjoy a few weeks off. Thursday, we get our new couch that we ordered in October (finally!) and I'm excited to spend some quality time relaxing on it!

Before signing off, I want to share the best part of last week:

I'm extremely excited to say that come fall 2017, you can read my short collection published by PANK Books. The news was a wonderful surprise and a great way to end the semester.

We hope your semester (or year) is ending on a great note as well.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Greetings, faithful blog readers.

Another week has come and gone: only one more week of classes remain before finals, and we're taking an opportunity to rest up a bit this weekend before the real grading marathon begins.

Last Friday, when my parents were here, we decorated our home for the holidays so we'd have a full 3.5 weeks to enjoy our decor before traveling.

My dad and Brendan did the outside lights. It was much faster than doing a roof line, but I think it has a nice effect.

The cold fronts this week gave me plenty of excuses to start up the fireplace, light a balsam fir candle, and get cozy. 

This is the first Christmas since we lost Mimi, and it made me happy and sad to add this ornament we gave her last year to our tree. 

This time of year goes too fast. In two weeks, my classes will be over; in three weeks, it will be Christmas Eve. I'm trying to take in the magic I love about the season one cozy evening at a time. 

Happy weekend everyone! Hope it's a cuddly one and time slows down a bit for us all. 

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