Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014bound

Ah, 2013. I think my life has changed more in this past year than it has in the past 25 years.

My trip home for Christmas was much needed after my first full week in the middle school. I seem to be building pretty good rapport with most of the kids. Hopefully, I'll be able to accomplish everything necessary during the last half of the school year, starting next week. The company is expecting me to do just as much as the other counselors do in a full school year. I know it's impossible, and I need to accept that, but hopefully my perfectionist tendencies will push me to excel instead of crippling me with anxiety over it :)

This was a very difficult but good Christmas vacation. I am just so glad I was able to spend time with my family. I woke up on Christmas Eve and went downstairs to help my dad with the gravy, when we got a phone call that my aunt had a fatal heart attack. It was completely unexpected. I have been through so many of these phone calls (unfortunately), but it never gets any easier. And this time, all I could think about was how I was supposed to see her the next day for Christmas Day dinner, and that I wish I didn't move so far away from my family. I know I shouldn't think like that, but when this kind of thing happens, I do. What if I wasn't able to make it back to NJ for Christmas? I would have been completely useless in Florida. Unable to attend the funeral. Unable to help my mom. That's what was really bothering me. I want to be there for my family. If I was in Florida at the time, I wouldn't have been able to do anything to help the situation.

I don't regret moving at all. I know I need to live my life and do what makes me happy. I'm just really glad I was with my family when it happened.

So, it was a sad day. I was supposed to go to Eric's family's Christmas Eve dinner for the first time, but I couldn't bring myself to leave my parents. It was a lose-lose situation, really. I knew I would feel awful no matter what I did. My dad and Uncle Al let my cousin and I cook some of the food though, so I was kept busy! We drank wine and only had one slight mishap, so I'm pretty sure we have that shit covered for years to come. And of course it's impossible not to smile and laugh with that crew. I don't think I've ever been more grateful for my crazy Italian family than I was that day.

Besides that, (and me being practically bedridden on Christmas Day due to the worst cold I've ever had in my ENTIRE life, and the funeral, and missing my gathering with the Minties that night), my trip was amazing. Highlights: Dave and Sunny's holiday party/six-pack exchange/delicious food extravaganza, Eric and I making history by placing in both the creative AND traditional categories in Eric's family's gingerbread house decorating competition, seeing Astra and Brandon and meeting baby Bashlyn, partying it up at Speak's house, and just spending time with people in general. Everyone was so generous to us this Christmas. I can't even put in to words how grateful I am. Oh, and the food. Biggest highlight of the trip, obviously...

I definitely would not be where I am today without the support of my family and friends. I know everyone says that, but I literally would not be in Florida, and I would not be the same person. I've changed so much in a year. I've tried really hard to forge a career path for myself, I ran a half-marathon, and I got engaged to a really great guy who loves me for who I am in the moment and continues to love me as I evolve.

And Eric and I both turned our lives upside down practically overnight by moving to Florida. And we're loving it.

So, 2013 has been a whirlwind of good and bad and unpredictable times. I have no clue what 2014 is going to throw at me, but, for once in my life, I'm completely okay with that.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Disney and Christmas Magicalness

Good morning. My throat feels like a million bees flew into it and stung it. It's that time of year again: my semi-annual sickness has arrived! This happens to me about twice a year. Once in December and once in May. I just thought it might stop, living in Florida. Because Florida is magical and warm and nothing bad could possibly happen to me in Florida.

Anyway, so much has been going on. Last weekend was pretty much the best. We went to Eric's company holiday party on Friday night. It was on a yacht, which was pretty surreal for us seeing as it's December and all... So we had fun talking to people and envying all the giant mansions along the water that were decorated for Christmas, palm trees and all.

On Sunday, we woke up super early and trekked up to MAGIC KINGDOM! Our first trip to Disney since high school senior trip, and our first time there together. We met up with Aunt Jen and Uncle Adam and the kids. We rode pretty much every ride. The new Little Mermaid ride? Awesome. Go on it. I decided I'm going to live in Ariel's castle.

Disney is seriously a magical place. It's just a bunch of theme parks, but it manages to feel like you are in a completely different world. This was my first time there as an adult (not a grown up), and it still felt as exciting as it did when I was younger. The only difference was that part of the excitement came from seeing the kids get excited about it. It's like Christmas magic. Like how it feels magical when you are young, because you believe in Santa. Then, you find out Santa "isn't real", but you still think Christmas is fun because you get to keep the magic going for the younger kids who do believe in Santa (plus you still get presents). And THEN, YOU get to BE Santa, or help other people start that magic for their kids. And it still feels magical on Christmas morning, because everyone is all excited and happy and a;slkdjgas; yeah. Basically, Disney is like Christmas, and going there with family and little kids makes it feel even more special. That's what I'm trying to say.

Here are some random pictures!
Cinderella's Castle
Merry Christmas!
On Dumbo
Ariel's Castle a.k.a. My House
MY GINGERBREAD SUNDAE
Christmas Castle
Happy at the Castle Lighting :)
Unfortunately, going to work the day after going to Disney sucks 13908539457 times more than a regular Monday sucks. This was a very anxiety-provoking week for me, because it was my first week in the school. It has been extremely overwhelming, but all of the administration has been very kind, supportive, and helpful. The kids are a handful, but most of them seem to be warming up to me. It helps that I'm young, so I don't seem like a threatening authority figure. They tell me I look nice and pretty :) Haha. I just hope that I can figure out how to work out the timing of finding classes to teach and putting groups together during only electives, no core classes. It is a very strict school, because they need to keep the kids out of trouble and get their grades up.

Overall, the week went well. And now I have one week left before winter break, which consists of school, a staff meeting, and three holiday luncheons. Next Friday will be here before I know it, and then I will be on a plane to NJ for the holidays! Hopefully, I'll be feeling better by then. If not, you'll all get to hear me in my usual state of December voicelessness :)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Okay, this is just going to be a quick little post.

First of all, I just finished my first week of work at the new job. It's been a lot of reading policy manuals. My eyes burn. My brain is fried. I'm overwhelmed and anxious about all the things I need to figure out and accomplish, but I can already tell I made the right decision in coming here. Everyone has been kind and helpful, including my supervisor, which makes all the difference when you work in a field that is stressful no matter where you work or what job you have.

I also shadowed a couple of the other counselors, which has helped me a lot. I really enjoyed the school I was at today. Then again, it was a good school, and I will be in a not-so-good area, to put it nicely, so we'll see how it goes. But you're going to deal with some of the same kinds of issues with any kids in middle school. Which are: the fact that they are dramatic middle schoolers and EVERYTHING is terrible and the end of the world and OMG Johnny said blah blah about me to blah blah and I can't go into the cafeteria to eat lunch with them it's soooo embarrassing I can never go there again! And also my mom took my iPad away and I HATE HER so I'm going to DIE!!!!

... All I have to say is I do not miss being in middle school. At. All.

And I want to laugh at them and their drama, but then I remember how terrible it all seemed to me when I was 12-14 years old, and I feel a million times more empathetic. Because really, think back to when you were in middle school. I don't wish middle school on anybody. And we all looked awkward as hell, which is just the icing on the terrible dramatic cake.

TL;DR I am looking forward to working with dramatic middle schoolers, because it will be funny to me but I can make a real difference to them.

The end.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

TIS THE SEASON...

Happy December! I am writing to you all snuggled up in a fuzzy blanket on my couch. It's 70 degrees outside, and we have the windows open to let some air in, so it's a little chilly in here... brrrr...

Just kidding. I've never felt more comfortable in December than I do right now. Not trying to rub it in your northern faces. My mind is just completely boggled that it feels like New Jersey's early September weather, and it's the Christmas season. I am completely thrown off by the entire thing. It feels like time stopped for me when I moved down here in September, and it kept going for the rest of you. I'm not complaining by any means. It is just very, very strange and doesn't feel like the holiday season at ALL.

For example, I was sitting in my car on my break at work a few days ago, windows rolled down, listening to Christmas music, bright blue sky and palm trees around me. And then, the radio station said, "Tis the season for shorts, sandals, and Christmas stockings! Sunny 107.9, your South Florida Christmas music station!"...

REALLY, FLORIDA?! REALLY?!?!?!

One thing I will say is they try very hard to make it feel Christmas-y here. Some of the lights I've seen are incredible. There is a section of town that has several entrances with pillars and walls, and every entrance is lit up with amazing lights and glitter. Plus, walking into Kristin's house is like walking in to my mom's house at Christmas time.

Christmas explosion.

Christmas EVERYWHERE.

She likes to start decorating for Christmas WAY early, which I normally do not advocate. However, I realized when I walked in on Thanksgiving that I was actually grateful for the Christmas explosion, because it made me feel like it really was the holiday season.

Her house looks like it is a Pottery Barn display, by the way. And she has cinnamon candles going during the winter, so it even smells like Christmas. LOOK:



See? That is a sample of Christmas time in Florida.

P.S. That is not a real fire. People in Florida don't light fires. Let's not be silly...

Anyway, Eric and I went over there for Thanksgiving, which was so much fun. Thank god we weren't left sitting home alone. Both Kristin's and Ben's families came over, there was a TON of delicious food, and everyone had a good time. It was sad and weird being away from our families on a big holiday, but it was actually pretty cool to join in someone else's tradition.

I even made my own cranberry sauce to contribute ;) IT WASN'T BAD. I swear.

Cranberry sauce in the morning
Carving the turkey
Table that looks straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. Seriously.
Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, maple and brown sugar carrots, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes (with marshmallows! My favorite), and stuffing
Thanksgiving with my adopted Florida family! Minus Eric, the talented photographer :P
So you see, there are pros and cons to living here. On the plus side, I don't think I will ever be uncomfortably cold. Although the other night and morning it was 45 degrees... but that still isn't chill-you-to-the-bone cold. That's just LEATHER JACKET WEATHER! On the other hand, the cold is part of what makes it feel like the holidays. When the seasons change, it feels like time is moving and new things are coming. You associate different temperatures and scenery with different feelings and events, like how I associate falling leaves and leather jackets with magic and Halloween, or how I associate the cold and the smell of fireplaces burning with Christmas. It just feels plain wrong to be picking pumpkins and looking at Christmas lights STILL wearing the same t-shirts I was wearing in July. I'm supposed to be freezing my ass off when I do these things.

But, you know, this is one of the main reasons I was excited to live here. Warmth year-round. I'm happy to get out of bed every day, even on the worst days. I think I will find that I am able to feel the Christmas spirit here, even if it is 70 degrees outside. I just need to go Christmas CRAZY with decorations and Christmas music all the time. And I will just have to accept that "tis the season for shorts, sandals, and Christmas stockings"... :)