Monday, January 31, 2011

In 'high test mode'

There's about 3 weeks left for my husband to prepare for his next big exam, so we are in high test mode.
Things are looking positive.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.

We have again taken a break from almost any extra activities that we ever allow ourselves because there is just no time right now.  We miss our band and our dance club friends thought that maybe we had already moved away without letting them know...
Meanwhile, the one thing my husband allows himself as a 'break' is his bowling leagues.  He bowls twice a week.  He's done it since he was eleven.  He is pretty darn good.  He is currently averaging 221.  This is also a good sign for the upcoming test.  It seems the better he is bowling, the better he tends to perform on his exams.  A funny coincidence? 
Hey, maybe if this actuarial thing doesn't work out, he could join the PBA tour...

Meanwhile, we have put in the word with the recruiters that we would like to look at anything along the gulf coast area that is within a reasonable distance to a beach- no more than about 3 hours for us.
Our first choices are in Texas of course- Houston, San Antonio or Austin.
Also anything in Florida, except maybe Miami because of higher cost.
Finally, anything from Florida to South Carolina.
We'll have to look at details of individual places to see what we think as we go along, but I sure hope this makes for a quicker departure to warmer weather.  Soon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Rest Of The Vacation Pics., as promised

...picking up where I left off, in Joshua Tree National Park:

Do you see two birds?

                           Very cool rock formations and loads of Joshua trees

It snowed in the high elevation areas, tiny little perfect star shapes
that never amounted to any real accumulation.
The only kind of snow I feel any love for...

Ya gotta' love a place where flowers continue to bloom right on through winter.

Palm Springs had a sense of fun, including their cute
'starbursts' over the main street in town.                                      
                                                                                                  I know it's hokey, but I love palm trees with Christmas lights!

Speaking of hokey, our hotel really was 'tiki' in every possible way:

Lastly, we did get to Disneyland for a day right before New Years Eve.  It was packed, but I'm so glad I got to see the park all done up for the holidays.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

14 Years

Its that time of year again, when my husband and I share a month of celebrations.  Both of our birthdays and our anniversary fall in January.  This was not by design, but it has turned out to be a great way to get through long winters.  January is also when we take a sort of inventory of our lives.  We look at everything, the big picture and the mundane- like insurance.  (My husband IS in insurance after all.)

Its kind of a yearly life evaluation that we started back on our 2nd anniversary when we went to Manzanita Beach on the Oregon Coast.  It was really nasty weather and we ended up watching the waves from a high bluff, crashing onto the shore during a big storm.  I guess it made us think about different possibilities and making plans for the future. 

Up until I met my husband back in October of 1995, nothing in my life was very stable.  Since we were married 14 years ago (we picked the next available 3 day weekend and eloped.), some really amazing transformation has come into my life. 

Some of these things are small: 
I have had the same last name for 14 years now.  Up until we got married, I had used 3 different last names and I had never been married before!  My mother had been married twice after I was born and subsequently changed my name along with hers each time as she didn't want me to feel left out.  (Funny, I still felt left out.)  Not a great plan! 
I have lived in only 4 different homes over the last 14 years.  We have lived in our current home for 8 and a half years!  Longer than I have ever lived in any other home.  Sure beats the 16 moves I made by the time I was 9 years old...

Some of the things that have changed in my life since I married my husband are HUGE:
What a true gift it has been to know him.  My husband has allowed me to be safe enough, to be open enough to discover who I am, and should have been, if I had never been through so much.  It has been an amazing sort of do over.  Before I knew my husband I never would have acknowledged that I needed a do over.  I was tough.  I was strong and I had made it through just fine.  Ha!

This is sort of what I tried to get at in my last post, but missed.  I've been left feeling guilty lately for all that I have in my life.  We've discussed it and my husband believes that this is part of what makes passing his exams so difficult.  With each one passed comes much reward in the form of compensation and relative freedom.   The actuarial field is very tight and those who can do the work well are highly prized.  Sometimes it's hard for him to remember that his success doesn't take away from anyone elses' chances.  It can be so hard not to worry about others who are just as deserving, yet haven't been in the right 'place'in their life- emotionally, spiritually or otherwise.  How long will they have to wait?  There are those who seem to suffer needlessly no matter how hard they try and those who seem to bring it on themselves.  Though it may not be our business to try to take care of, it is especially hard to let go of poor choices that people we love have made. 

My take on all of this is that yes, there will be guilt.  Anyone who gets through tough things can't help but feel for others who may get left behind in some way.  At the same time, the world is better when people use the talents they have to their fullest.  We all owe it to society to give freely what we have to offer.  Holding back not only hurts ourselves, but everyone in some way.  It will never be easy to see others suffer, but our own suffering does not necessarily save anyone- unless we do something bigger once we get through whatever life deals us.

So for anyone who might be curious, here's the plan for this year:  (knowing of course that there may be unforeseen bumps in the road), we have made the following plans for the coming year and the future in general:
Next (and hopefully last of the high level calculation multiple choice type) test- February 22, 2011
After that, relative free for all- meaning we concentrate on getting ourselves to the sun in one way or another!  We will add as many possible locations to the list as we can with the criteria being that said places have these qualities:  warm weather place, very little or no snow, low cost of living, have larger property casualty firms that my husband may find jobs with, prefer laid back people and lifestyle.  So far we have added Charleston, SC, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Tallahassee, FL. (Of course, we still really want Texas.)
Get ourselves to one of these places by Fall 2011.
Move on to the essay type tests that I am just sure my husband will be fabulous at in November 2011.
As always, will keep you updated.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Finally, Some Vacation Pictures As Promised... and then I'm gonna' get all intropective or something up in here...

So first things first-  I needed some sun.  I got some sun.  My husband and I took a little jaunt to Palm Springs.  We had never been there before.  We were there for over a week during New Years and the temperature didn't get over 65.  People in town couldn't remember a New Years this cold in at least 10 years.  Most of the time it was only about 55.  I know, poor me.  But really, next time I put in a request for sun I'm going to be a little bit more specific.  Anyway, as you know already if you've read my stuff before, I enjoyed the sunshine and I drank in as much as I could.  So here's the proof:

Yes, Palm Springs is a desert.  It is surrounded by mountains and is full of beautiful golf courses.  No, we don't golf, but the views are nice.

This is the pool that I intended to spend a lot of time in.  This is the hot tub that I actually did get into.

After seeing this pet area, we really wished we had taken at least one of our dogs with us!

We visited a 'Cactarium'.  It was actually pretty cool.

Some of the cacti were just beautiful.

Some were scary lookin'!

Some were fodder for my husband and his weird photography humor...
(Palm Springs really did have some of the bluest skies I have seen in a long time.)

Speaking of weird humor-  Here is how one of the signs in
Joshua Tree National Park appears to most people:

Here is how my husband sees it:
Yeah, you're welcome...
More photos to come, if you can stand it!

So here's the deal.   Along with having a good time, which is what we truly did, this trip served to remind us of two very different and distinct things.  1.) that we are really fortunate to be able to get away and just kick it around and be forced to shop in cool boutiques and eat at yummy restaurants in town because it's too cold to swim.  Especially when others around us are struggling so mightily lately- our friends with the special new little lady have discovered that her diagnosis will require MUCH more treatment than doctors had initially thought before she was born.  For many people we know, this would be a dream trip of a lifetime.  Or they may never get to do something like this at all. 
So..... that makes the second thing we learned seem like small potatoes. 
Still, here goes 2.) that we really need to move to a warm weather place, ASAP.  The time has come and that's all there is to it.  We are happiest in the bright warm sunshine.  My husband and I want very badly to be in Texas.  We have visited many places and that is the one that feels most like home to us.  However, the current economy, housing market and job market are complicating our plans.  We have had many leads for jobs evaporate on us.  Employers end up deciding that they want a different type of position in the end, or none at all.  Worse, they want a person who is more local.  Hello, we'd be local, if you'd let us!  We don't even care if moving expenses are not paid for.  We just want to get there.  We can't sell our house without taking a huge loss, so we have made plans to rent it out using a management company.  Yes, we have heard the horror stories of what renters will do.  We're willing to live with that too. 
So it seems as if it all comes down to this-  What are we really willing to do to change things?  Staying here in the cold, long, rainy Northwest winter is yet another reminder that this is not what we want.  It seems it's time to go out on yet another limb of this here tree of life.  After much discussion, a decision has been reached.  My husband is going to greatly expand his job search to include many other warm weather type places!  Who says a stop along the way in some other city for a year or two would be a bad thing?!  After reading other blogs and seeing what many of you have done, by choice or not, I figure we need to give this more of a real try.  What do you think?  Are we nuts?

Monday, January 10, 2011

It Doesn't Have To Be Pink

Whew!  Catching up with all the great blogging that went on while I was away has been exhausting.  But I just couldn't stand to think that I might miss out on some parts of the 'stories' that I am now happily wrapped up in...
Anyway, whilst I clean up my way overloaded hard drive in an effort to share some vacation photos with y'all, here is the gift that I made for my friends new baby.  Yes, the special little one that was born more unique than most that I wrote about in an earlier post: To The Third Power.
I love giving girlie gifts that are NOT pink at girl baby showers.  Don't get me wrong, I love pink.  But it's fun to give something that will stand out among all the pink that is naturally given.  Besides, I don't really dig baby showers in general because of all the ooohing and aaahing so this way I don't add to that reaction in general.
The material for this project was purchased on a whim the day after Christmas and then when this baby arrived 5 weeks early on the 27th I knew just what that material was meant for.  I added some very soft white material and it became just right for a nursery that is done in a ladybug theme.  I gave the blanket as the gift for the baby and the pillowcase as a surprise for the 'big sister'.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What I learned from a 'Sun Break'

Boy do I feel like I missed a bunch while I was away!  My friend had her baby, a month prematurely and now I need to get crackin' on that blanket I was planning to make.  (I'm really good with a project that only requires straight seams.)  The baby is well.  All the bloggers seem to be up to so much what with the New Year here and all.  It was worth it though, to be in sunny weather like I won't see here in the Northwest until at least May.  It wasn't quite summer weather, but I'll settle for warm spring-like temps. instead of the freezing cold we had here.  I will post some pictures from the trip as soon as I get them loaded up onto my computer. 
So I learned a few things from this little get away:
It turns out this was just the right time to step out of my 'real life' for a moment.  I missed out on some family holiday drama that ended up taking care of itself.  Seems I keep getting the message that sometimes it's best if I just leave things alone.  My worrying doesn't often change things, at least not for the better.  Maybe I can finally stop getting that message, if I will just heed it.
I also really experienced first hand that, at least for me, waking up to the sun shining makes a real difference.  I've never thought of myself as having Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I could be wrong.  All I know is that even though it was still a bit chilly that sunshine just made my heart sing.
Just a little indulgence and luxury really does do me some good. 
If you do a ton of walking (like at least 5 miles a day) you can eat out a whole bunch and come back a pound lighter than when you left!  That, my friends, is amazing.
Lastly, petsitters who leave my bathroom and kitchen trashed will NOT be hired again!  I always make sure the house is spotless before I leave for a vacation so I can relax upon my return, not needing to clean things up right away.  I am a bit of a domestic goddess and don't appreciate those who can't see that their mess does not belong in my domain.
Happy New Year, everybody!  Here's to a fabulous 2011 that I hope will find everyone just where they want to be, doing just what they want to do with those that they cherish!
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